By Robert Ballantyne
Author of "The Coral Island" &c.
BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED
LONDON GLASGOW BOMBAY
I. THE ROCK.
II. THE LOVERS AND THE PRESS-GANG.
III. OUR HERO OBLIGED TO GO TO SEA.
IV. THE BURGLARY.
V. THE BELL ROCK INVADED.
VI. THE CAPTAIN CHANGES HIS QUARTERS.
VII. RUBY IN DIFFICULTIES.
VIII THE SCENE CHANGES—RUBY IS VULCANIZED.
IX. STORMS AND TROUBLES.
X. THE RISING OF THE TIDE—A NARROW ESCAPE.
XI. A STORM, AND A DISMAL STATE OF THINGS ON BOARD THE
XII. BELL ROCK BILLOWS—AN UNEXPECTED VISIT—A DISASTER AND A
XIII. A SLEEPLESS BUT A PLEASANT NIGHT.
XIV. SOMEWHAT STATISTICAL.
XV. RUBY HAS A RISE IN LIFE, AND A FALL.
XVI. NEW ARRANGEMENTS—THE CAPTAIN'S PHILOSOPHY IN REGARD TO
XVII. A MEETING WITH OLD FRIENDS, AND AN EXCURSION.
XVIII. THE BATTLE OF ARBROATH, AND OTHER WARLIKE MATTERS.
XIX. AN ADVENTURE—SECRETS REVEALED, AND A PRIZE.
XX. THE SMUGGLERS ARE "TREATED" TO GIN AND ASTONISHMENT.
XXI. THE BELL ROCK AGAIN—A DREARY NIGHT IN A STRANGE
XXII. LIFE IN THE BEACON—STORY OF THE EDDYSTONE LIGHTHOUSE.
XXIII. THE STORM.
XXIV. A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS.
XXV. THE BELL ROOK IN A FOG—NARROW ESCAPE OF THE SMEATON.
XXVI. A SUDDEN AND TREMENDOUS CHANGE IN FORTUNES.
XXVII. OTHER THINGS BESIDES MURDER "WILL OUT".
XXVIII. THE LIGHTHOUSE COMPLETED—RUBY'S ESCAPE FROM TROUBLE BY A
XXIX. THE WRECK.
XXX. OLD FRIENDS IN NEW CIRCUMSTANCES.
XXXI. MIDNIGHT CHAT IN A LANTERN.
XXXII. EVERYDAY LIFE ON THE BELL ROOK, AND OLD MEMORIES
Early on a summer morning, about the beginning of the nineteenth
century, two fishermen of Forfarshire wended their way to the shore,
launched their boat, and put off to sea.
One of the men was tall and ill-favoured, the other, short and
well-favoured. Both were square-built, powerful fellows, like most
men of the class to which they belonged.
It was about that calm hour of the morning which precedes sunrise,
when most living creatures are still asleep, and inanimate nature
wears, more than at other times, the semblance of repose. The sea was
like a sheet of undulating glass. A breeze had been expected, but,
in defiance of expectation, it had not come, so the boatmen were
obliged to use their oars. They used them well, however, insomuch
that the land ere long appeared like a blue line on the horizon, then
became tremulous and indistinct, and finally vanished in the mists of
The men pulled "with a will,"—as seamen pithily express in silence.
Only once during the first hour did the ill-favoured man venture a
remark. Referring to the absence of wind, he said, that "it would be
a' the better for landin' on the rock."
This was said in the broadest vernacular dialect, as, indeed, was
everything that dropped from the fishermen's lips. We take the
liberty of modifying it a little, believing that strict fidelity here
would entail inevitable loss of sense to many of our readers.
The remark, such as it was, called forth a rejoinder from the short
comrade, who stated his belief that "they would be likely to find
somethin' there that day."
They then relapsed into silence.
Under the regular stroke of the oars the boat advanced steadily,
straight out to sea. At first the mirror over which they skimmed was
grey, and the foam at the cutwater leaden-coloured. By degrees they
rowed, as it were, into a brighter region. The sea ahead lightened
up, became pale yellow, then warmed into saffron, and, when the sun
rose, blazed into liquid gold.
The words spoken by the boatmen, though few, were significant. The
"rock" alluded to was the celebrated and much dreaded Inch Cape—more
familiarly known as the Bell Rock—which being at that time unmarked
by lighthouse or beacon of any kind, was the terror of mariners who
were making for the firths of Forth and Tay. The "something" that was
expected to be found there may be guessed at, when we say that one of
the fiercest storms that ever swept our eastern shores had just
exhausted itself after strewing the coast with wrecks. The breast of
ocean, though calm on the surface, as has been said, was still
heaving with a mighty swell, from the effects of the recent elemental
"D'ye see the breakers noo, Davy?" enquired the ill-favoured man, who
pulled the aft oar.
"Ay, and hear them, too," said Davy Spink, ceasing to row, and
looking over his shoulder towards the seaward horizon.
"Yer een and lugs are better than mine, then," returned the
ill-favoured comrade, who answered, when among his friends, to the
name of Big Swankie, otherwise, and more correctly, Jock Swankie.
"Od! I believe ye're right," he added, shading his heavy red brows
with his heavier and redder hand, "that is the rock, but a man wad
need the een o' an eagle to see onything in the face o' sik a
bleezin' sun. Pull awa', Davy, we'll hae time to catch a bit cod or a
haddy afore the rock's bare."
Influenced by these encouraging hopes, the stout pair urged their
boat in the direction of a thin line of snow-white foam that lay
apparently many miles away, but which was in reality not very far
By degrees the white line expanded in size and became massive, as
though a huge breaker were rolling towards them; ever and anon jets
of foam flew high into the air from various parts of the mass, like
smoke from a cannon's mouth. Presently, a low continuous roar became
audible above the noise of the oars; as the boat advanced, the swells
from the southeast could be seen towering upwards as they neared the
foaming spot, gradually changing their broad-backed form, and coming
on in majestic walls of green water, which fell with indescribable
grandeur into the seething caldron. No rocks were visible, there was
no apparent cause for this wild confusion in the midst of the
otherwise calm sea. But the fishermen knew that the Bell Rock was
underneath the foam, and that in less than an hour its jagged peaks
would be left uncovered by the falling tide.
As the swell of the sea came in from the eastward, there was a belt
of smooth water on the west side of the rock. Here the fishermen
cast anchor, and, baiting their hand-lines, began to fish. At first
they were unsuccessful, but before half an hour had elapsed, the cod
began to nibble, and Big Swankie ere long hauled up a fish of goodly
size. Davy Spink followed suit, and in a few minutes a dozen fish lay
spluttering in the bottom of the boat.
"Time's up noo," said Swankie, coiling away his line.
"Stop, stop, here's a wallupper," cried Davy, who was an excitable
man; "we better fish a while langer—bring the cleek, Swankie, he's
ower big to—noo, lad, cleek him! that's it!—Oh-o-o-o!"
The prolonged groan with which Davy brought his speech to a sudden
termination was in consequence of the line breaking and the fish
escaping, just as Swankie was about to strike the iron hook into its
"Hech! lad, that was a guid ane," said the disappointed man with a
sigh; "but he's awa'."
"Ay," observed Swankie, "and we must awa' too, so up anchor, lad. The
rock's lookin' oot o' the sea, and time's precious."
The anchor was speedily pulled up, and they rowed towards the rock,
the ragged edges of which were now visible at intervals in the midst
of the foam which they created.
At low tide an irregular portion of the Bell Rock, less than a
hundred yards in length, and fifty yards in breadth, is uncovered and
left exposed for two or three hours. It does not appear in the form
of a single mass or islet, but in a succession of serrated ledges of
various heights, between and amongst which the sea flows until the
tide has fallen pretty low. At full ebb the rock appears like a dark
islet, covered with seaweed, and studded with deep pools of water,
most of which are connected with the sea by narrow channels running
between the ledges. The highest part of the rock does not rise more
than seven feet above the level of the sea at the lowest tide.
To enter one of the pools by means of the channels above referred to
is generally a matter of difficulty, and often of extreme danger, as
the swell of the sea, even in calm weather, bursts over these ledges
with such violence as to render the channels at times impassable. The
utmost caution, therefore, is necessary.
Our fishermen, however, were accustomed to land there occasionally in
search of the remains of wrecks, and knew their work well. They
approached the rock on the lee side, which was, as has been said, to
the westward. To a spectator viewing them from any point but from
the boat itself, it would have appeared that the reckless men were
sailing into the jaws of certain death, for the breakers burst around
them so confusedly in all directions that their instant destruction
seemed inevitable. But Davy Spink, looking over his shoulder as he
sat at the bow-oar, saw a narrow lead of comparatively still water in
the midst of the foam, along which he guided the boat with consummate
skill, giving only a word or two of direction to Swankie, who
instantly acted in accordance therewith.
"Pull, pull, lad," said Davy.
Swankie pulled, and the boat swept round with its bow to the east
just in time to meet a billow, which, towering high above its
fellows, burst completely over the rocks, and appeared to be about to
sweep away all before it. For a moment the boat was as if embedded in
snow, then it sank once more into the lead among the floating tangle,
and the men pulled with might and main in order to escape the next
wave. They were just in time. It burst over the same rocks with
greater violence than its predecessor, but the boat had gained the
shelter of the next ledge, and lay floating securely in the deep,
quiet pool within, while the men rested on their oars, and watched
the chaos of the water rush harmlessly by.
In another moment they had landed and secured the boat to a
Few words of conversation passed between these practical men. They
had gone there on particular business. Time and tide proverbially
wait for no man, but at the Bell Rock they wait a much briefer period
than elsewhere. Between low water and the time when it would be
impossible to quit the rock without being capsized', there was only a
space of two or three hours—sometimes more, frequently less—so it
behoved the men to economize time.
Rocks covered with wet seaweed and rugged in form are not easy to
walk over; a fact which was soon proved by Swankie staggering
violently once or twice, and by Spink falling flat on his back.
Neither paid attention to his comrade's misfortunes in this way.
Each scrambled about actively, searching with care among the
crevices of the rocks, and from time to time picking up articles
which they thrust into their pockets or laid on their shoulders,
according as weight and dimensions required.
In a short time they returned to their boat pretty well laden.
"Weel, lad, what luck?" enquired Spink, as Swankie and he met—the
former with a grappling iron on his shoulder, the latter staggering
under the weight of a mass of metal.
"Not much," replied Swankie; "nothin' but heavy metal this mornin',
only a bit of a cookin' stove an' a cannon shot—that's all."
"Never mind, try again. There must ha' bin two or three wrecks on the
rock this gale," said Davy, as he and his friend threw their burdens
into the boat, and hastened to resume the search.
At first Spink was the more successful of the two. He returned to the
boat with various articles more than once, while his comrade
continued his rambles unsuccessfully. At last, however, Big Swankie
came to a gully or inlet where a large mass of the débris of a
wreck was piled up in indescribable confusion, in the midst of which
lay the dead body of an old man. Swankie's first impulse was to shout
to his companion, but he checked himself, and proceeded to examine
the pockets of the dead man.
Raising the corpse with some difficulty he placed it on the ledge of
rock. Observing a ring on the little finger of the right hand, he
removed it and put it hastily in his pocket. Then he drew a red
morocco case from an inner breast pocket in the dead man's coat. To
his surprise and delight he found that it contained a gold watch and
several gold rings and brooches, in some of which were beautiful
stones. Swankie was no judge of jewellery, but he could not avoid the
conviction that these things must needs be valuable. He laid the case
down on the rock beside him, and eagerly searched the other pockets.
In one he found a large clasp-knife and a pencil-case; in another a
leather purse, which felt heavy as he drew it out. His eyes sparkled
at the first glance he got of the contents, for they were sovereigns!
Just as he made this discovery, Davy Spink climbed over the ledge at
his back, and Swankie hastily thrust the purse underneath the body of
the dead man.
"Hallo! lad, what have ye there? Hey! watches and rings—come, we're
in luck this mornin'."
"We!" exclaimed Swankie, somewhat sternly, "you didn't find that
"Na, lad, but we've aye divided, an' I dinna see what for we should
change our plan noo."
"We've nae paction to that effec'—the case o' kickshaws is mine,"
"Half o't," suggested Spink.
"Weel, weel," cried the other with affected carelessness, "I'd scorn
to be sae graspin'. For the matter o' that ye may hae it all to
yersel', but I'll hae the next thing we git that's worth muckle a' to
So saying Swankie stooped to continue his search of the body, and in
a moment or two drew out the purse with an exclamation of surprise.
"See, I'm in luck, Davy! Virtue's aye rewarded, they say. This is
mine, and I doot not there'll be some siller intilt."
"Goold!" cried Davy, with dilated eyes, as his comrade emptied the
contents into his large hand, and counted over thirty sovereigns.
"Ay, lad, ye can keep the what-d'ye-ca'-ums, and I'll keep the
"I've seen that face before," observed Spink, looking intently at the
"Like enough," said Swankie, with an air of indifference, as he put
the gold into his pocket. "I think I've seed it mysel'. It looks like
auld Jamie Brand, but I didna ken him weel."
"It's just him," said Spink, with a touch of sadness. "Ay, ay,
that'll fa' heavy on the auld woman. But, come, it'll no' do to stand
haverin' this way. Let's see what else is on him."
They found nothing more of any value; but a piece of paper was
discovered, wrapped up in oilskin, and carefully fastened with red
tape, in the vest pocket of the dead man. It contained writing, and
had been so securely wrapped up, that it was only a little damped.
Davy Spink, who found it, tried in vain to read the writing; Davy's
education had been neglected, so he was fain to confess that he could
not make it out.
"Let me see't," said Swankie. "What hae we here? 'The sloop is hard
an—an—'" ("'fast,' maybe," suggested Spink). "Ay, so 'tis. I canna
make out the next word, but here's something about the jewel-case."
The man paused and gazed earnestly at the paper for a few minutes,
with a look of perplexity on his rugged visage.
"Weel, man, what is't?" enquired Davy.
"Hoot! I canna mak' it oot," said the other, testily, as if annoyed
at being unable to read it. He refolded the paper, and thrust it into
his bosom, saying, "Come, we're wastin' time. Let's get on wi' our
"Toss for the jewels and the siller," said Spink, suggestively.
"Very weel," replied the other, producing a copper. "Heeds, you win
the siller; tails, I win the box;—heeds it is, so the kickshaws is
mine. Weel, I'm content," he added, as he handed the bag of gold to
his comrade, and received the jewel-case in exchange.
In another hour the sea began to encroach on the rock, and the
fishermen, having collected as much as time would permit of the
wrecked materials, returned to their boat.
They had secured altogether above two hundredweight of old
metal,—namely, a large piece of a ship's caboose, a hinge, a lock of
a door, a ship's marking-iron, a soldier's bayonet, a cannon ball, a
shoebuckle, and a small anchor, besides part of the cordage of the
wreck, and the money and jewels before mentioned. Placing the heavier
of these things in the bottom of the boat, they pushed off.
"We better take the corp ashore," said Spink, suddenly.
"What for? They may ask what was in the pockets," objected Swankie.
"Let them ask," rejoined the other, with a grin.
Swankie made no reply, but gave a stroke with his oar which sent the
boat close up to the rocks. They both re-landed in silence, and,
lifting the dead body of the old man, laid it in the stern sheets of
the boat. Once more they pushed off.
Too much delay had been already made. The surf was breaking over the
ledges in all directions, and it was with the utmost difficulty that
they succeeded in getting clear out into deep water. A breeze which
had sprung up from the east, tended to raise the sea a little, but
when they finally got away from the dangerous reef, the breeze
befriended them. Hoisting the foresail, they quickly left the Bell
Rock far behind them, and, in the course of a couple of hours, sailed
into the harbour of Arbroath.
THE LOVERS AND THE PRESS-GANG
About a mile to the eastward of the ancient town of Arbroath the
shore abruptly changes its character, from a flat beach to a range
of, perhaps, the wildest and most picturesque cliffs on the east
coast of Scotland. Inland the country is rather flat, but elevated
several hundred feet above the level of the sea, towards which it
slopes gently until it reaches the shore, where it terminates in
abrupt, perpendicular precipices, varying from a hundred to two
hundred feet in height. In many places the cliffs overhang the water,
and all along the coast they have been perforated and torn up by the
waves, so as to present singularly bold and picturesque outlines,
with caverns, inlets, and sequestered "coves" of every form and size.
To the top of these cliffs, in the afternoon of the day on which our
tale opens, a young girl wended her way,—slowly, as if she had no
other object in view than a stroll, and sadly, as if her mind were
more engaged with the thoughts within than with the magnificent
prospect of land and sea without.
The girl was
"Fair, fair, with golden hair,"
and apparently about twenty years of age. She sought out a quiet nook
among the rocks at the top of the cliffs, near to a circular chasm,
with the name of which (at that time) we are not acquainted, but
which was destined ere long to acquire a new name and celebrity from
an incident which shall be related in another part of this story.
Curiously enough, just about the same hour, a young man was seen to
wend his way to the same cliffs, and, from no reason whatever with
which we happened to be acquainted, sought out the same nook! We say
"he was seen", advisedly, for the maid with the golden hair saw him.
Any ordinary observer would have said that she had scarcely raised
her eyes from the ground since sitting down on a piece of
flower-studded turf near the edge of the cliff, and that she
certainly had not turned her head in the direction of the town. Yet
she saw him,—however absurd the statement may appear, we affirm it
confidently,—and knew that he was coming. Other eyes there were that
also saw the youth—eyes that would have caused him some degree of
annoyance had he known they were upon him—eyes that he would have
rejoiced to tinge with the colours black and blue! There were
thirteen pair of them, belonging to twelve men and a lieutenant of
In those days the barbarous custom of impressment into the Royal Navy
was in full operation. England was at war with France. Men were
wanted to fight our battles, and when there was any difficulty in
getting men, press-gangs were sent out to force them into the
service. The youth whom we now introduce to the reader was a sailor,
a strapping, handsome one, too; not, indeed, remarkable for height,
being only a little above the average—five feet, ten inches, or
thereabouts—but noted for great depth of chest, breadth of shoulder,
and development of muscle; conspicuous also for the quantity of
close, clustering, light-brown curls round his head, and for the
laughing glance of his dark blue eyes. Not a hero of romance, by any
means. No, he was very matter of fact, and rather given to meditation
than to mischief.
The officer in charge of the press-gang had set his heart on this
youth (so had another individual, of whom more anon!) but the youth,
whose name was Ruby Brand, happened to have an old mother who was at
that time in very bad health, and she had also set her heart, poor
body, on the youth, and entreated him to stay at home just for one
half-year. Ruby willingly consented, and from that time forward led
the life of a dog in consequence of the press-gang.
Now, as we have said, he had been seen leaving the town by the
lieutenant, who summoned his men and went after him—cautiously,
however, in order to take him by surprise, for Ruby, besides being
strong and active as a lion, was slippery as an eel.
Going straight as an arrow to the spot where she of the golden hair
was seated, the youth presented himself suddenly to her, sat down
beside her, and exclaiming "Minnie", put his arm round her waist.
"Oh, Ruby, don't," said Minnie, blushing.
Now, reader, the "don't" and the blush had no reference to the arm
round the waist, but to the relative position of their noses, mouths,
and chins, a position which would have been highly improper and
altogether unjustifiable but for the fact that Ruby was Minnie's
"Don't, darling, why not?" said Ruby in surprise.
"You're so rough," said Minnie, turning her head away.
"True, dear, I forgot to shave this morning——"
"I don't mean that," interrupted the girl quickly, "I mean rude
and—and—is that a sea-gull?"
"No, sweetest of your sex, it's a butterfly; but it's all the same,
as my metaphysical Uncle Ogilvy would undertake to prove to you,
thus, a butterfly is white and a gull is white,—therefore, a gull is
"Don't talk nonsense, Ruby."
"No more I will, darling, if you will listen to me while I talk
"What is it?" said the girl, looking earnestly and somewhat anxiously
into her lover's face, for she knew at once by his expression that he
had some unpleasant communication to make. "You're not going away?"
"Well, no—not exactly; you know I promised to stay with mother; but
the fact is that I'm so pestered and hunted down by that rascally
press-gang, that I don't know what to do. They're sure to nab me at
last, too, and then I shall have to go away whether I will or no, so
I've made up my mind as a last resource, to——" Ruby paused.
"Well?" said Minnie.
"Well, in fact to do what will take me away for a short time,
but——" Ruby stopped short, and, turning his head on one side, while
a look of fierce anger overspread his face, seemed to listen
Minnie did not observe this action for a few seconds, but, wondering
why he paused, she looked up, and in surprise exclaimed—
"Ruby! what do you——"
"Hush! Minnie, and don't look round," said he in a low tone of
intense anxiety, yet remaining immovably in the position which he had
assumed on first sitting down by the girl's side, although the
swelled veins of his neck and his flushed forehead told of a fierce
conflict of feeling within.
"It's the press-gang after me again. I got a glance of one o' them
out of the tail of my eye, creeping round the rocks. They think I
haven't seen them. Darling Minnie—one kiss. Take care of mother if
I don't turn up soon."
"But how will you escape——"
"Hush, dearest girl! I want to have as much of you as I can before I
go. Don't be afraid. They're honest British tars after all, and won't
hurt you, Minnie."
Still seated at the girl's side, as if perfectly at his ease, yet
speaking in quick earnest tones, and drawing her closely to him, Ruby
waited until he heard a stealthy tread behind him. Then he sprang up
with the speed of thought, uttered a laugh of defiance as the sailors
rushed towards him, and leaping wildly off the cliff, fell a height
of about fifty feet into the sea.
Minnie uttered a scream of horror, and fell fainting into the arms of
the bewildered lieutenant.
"Down the cliffs—quick! he can't escape if you look alive. Stay, one
of you, and look after this girl. She'll roll over the edge on
It was easy to order the men down the cliffs, but not so easy for
them to obey, for the rocks were almost perpendicular at the place,
and descended sheer into the water.
"Surround the spot," shouted the lieutenant. "Scatter
yourselves—away! there's no beach here."
The lieutenant was right. The men extended themselves along the top
of the cliffs so as to prevent Ruby's escape, in the event of his
trying to ascend them, and two sailors stationed themselves in ambush
in the narrow pass at the spot where the cliffs terminate in the
direction of the town.
The leap taken by Ruby was a bold one. Few men could have ventured
it; indeed, the youth himself would have hesitated had he not been
driven almost to desperation. But he was a practised swimmer and
diver, and knew well the risk he ran. He struck the water with
tremendous force and sent up a great mass of foam, but he had
entered it perpendicularly, feet foremost, and in a few seconds
returned to the surface so close to the cliffs that they overhung
him, and thus effectually concealed him from his pursuers.
Swimming cautiously along for a short distance close to the rocks, he
came to the entrance of a cavern which was filled by the sea. The
inner end of this cave opened into a small hollow or hole among the
cliffs, up the sides of which Ruby knew that he could climb, and thus
reach the top unperceived, but, after gaining the summit, there still
lay before him the difficulty of eluding those who watched there. He
felt, however, that nothing could be gained by delay, so he struck at
once into the cave, swam to the inner end, and landed. Wringing the
water out of his clothes, he threw off his jacket and vest in order
to be as unencumbered as possible, and then began to climb
Just above the spot where Ruby ascended there chanced to be stationed
a seaman named Dalls. This man had lain down flat on his breast, with
his head close to the edge of the cliff, so as to observe narrowly
all that went on below, but, being a stout, lethargic man, he soon
fell fast asleep! It was just at the spot where this man lay that
Ruby reached the summit. The ascent was very difficult. At each step
the hunted youth had to reach his hand as high above his head as
possible, and grasp the edge of a rock or a mass of turf with great
care before venturing on another step. Had one of these points of
rock, or one of these tufts of grass, given way, he would infallibly
have fallen down the precipice and been killed. Accustomed to this
style of climbing from infancy, however, he advanced without a
sensation of fear.
On reaching the top he peeped over, and, seeing that no one was near,
prepared for a rush. There was a mass of brown turf on the bank above
him. He grasped it with all his force, and swung himself over the
edge of the cliff. In doing so he nearly scalped poor Dalls, whose
hair was the "turf" which he had seized, and who, uttering a hideous
yell, leaped upon Ruby and tried to overthrow him. But Dalls had met
his match. He received a blow on the nose that all but felled him,
and instantly after a blow on each eye, that raised a very
constellation of stars in his brain, and laid him prone upon the
His yell, however, and the noise of the scuffle, were heard by those
of the press-gang who were nearest to the scene of conflict. They
rushed to the rescue, and reached the spot just as Ruby leaped over
his prostrate foe and fled towards Arbroath. They followed with a
cheer, which warned the two men in ambush to be ready. Ruby was lithe
as a greyhound. He left his pursuers far behind him, and dashed down
the gorge leading from the cliffs to the low ground beyond.
Here he was met by the two sailors, and by the lieutenant, who had
joined them. Minnie was also there, having been conducted thither by
the said lieutenant, who gallantly undertook to see her safe into the
town, in order to prevent any risk of her being insulted by his men.
On hearing the shout of those who pursued Ruby, Winnie hurried away,
intending to get free from the gang, not feeling that the
lieutenant's protection was either desirable or necessary.
When Ruby reached the middle of the gorge, which we have dignified
with the name of "pass", and saw three men ready to dispute his
passage, he increased his speed. When he was almost up to them he
turned aside and sprang nimbly up the almost perpendicular wall of
earth on his right. This act disconcerted the men, who had prepared
to receive his charge and seize him, but Ruby jumped down on the
shoulders of the one nearest, and crushed him to the ground with his
weight. His clenched fist caught the lieutenant between the eyes and
stretched him on his back—the third man wisely drew aside to let
this human thunderbolt pass by!
He did pass, and, as the impetuous and quite irresistible locomotive
is brought to a sudden pause when the appropriate breaks are applied,
so was he brought to a sudden halt by Minnie a hundred yards or so
"Oh! don't stop," she cried eagerly, and hastily thrusting him away.
"They'll catch you!"
Panting though he was, vehemently, Ruby could not restrain a laugh.
"Catch me! no, darling; but don't be afraid of them. They won't hurt
you, Minnie, and they can't hurt me—except in the way of cutting
short our interview. Ha! here they come. Goodbye, dearest; I'll see
you soon again."
At that moment five or six of the men came rushing down the pass with
a wild cheer. Ruby made no haste to run. He stood in an easy attitude
beside Minnie; leisurely kissed her little hand, and gently smoothed
down her golden hair. Just as the foremost pursuer came within
fifteen yards or so of them, he said, "Farewell, my lassie, I leave
you in good hands"; and then, waving his cap in the air, with a cheer
of more than half-jocular defiance, he turned and fled towards
Arbroath as if one of the nor'-east gales, in its wildest fury, were
sweeping him over the land.
OUR HERO OBLIGED TO GO TO SEA
When Ruby Brand reached the outskirts of Arbroath, he checked his
speed and walked into his native town whistling gently, and with his
hands in his pockets, as though he had just returned from an evening
walk. He directed his steps to one of the streets near the harbour,
in which his mother's cottage was situated.
Mrs. Brand was a delicate, little old woman—so little and so old
that people sometimes wondered how it was possible that she could be
the mother of such a stalwart son. She was one of those kind, gentle,
uncomplaining, and unselfish beings, who do not secure much
popularity or admiration in this world, but who secure obedient
children, also steadfast and loving friends. Her favourite book was
the Bible; her favourite hope in regard to earthly matters, that men
should give up fighting and drinking, and live in peace; her
favourite theory that the study of truth was the object for which
man was created, and her favourite meal—tea.
Ruby was her only child. Minnie was the daughter of a distant
relation, and, having been left an orphan, she was adopted by her.
Mrs. Brand's husband was a sailor. He commanded a small coasting
sloop, of which Ruby had been the mate for several years. As we have
said, Ruby had been prevailed on to remain at home for some months in
order to please his mother, whose delicacy of health was such that
his refusal would have injured her seriously; at least the doctor
said so, therefore Ruby agreed to stay.
The sloop Penguin, commanded by Ruby's father, was on a voyage to
Newcastle at that time, and was expected in Arbroath every day. But
it was fated never more to cast anchor in that port. The great storm,
to which reference has been made in a previous chapter, caused many
wrecks on the shores of Britain. The Penguin was one of the many.
In those days telegraphs, railroads, and penny papers did not exist.
Murders were committed then, as now, but little was said, and less
was known about them. Wrecks occurred then, as now, but few, except
the persons immediately concerned, heard of them. "Destructive
fires", "terrible accidents", and the familiar round of "appalling
catastrophes" occurred then, as now, but their influence was limited,
and their occurrence soon forgotten.
We would not be understood to mean that "now" (as compared with
"then",) all is right and well; that telegraphs and railways and
daily papers are all-potent and perfect. By no means. We have still
much to learn and to do in these improved times; and, especially,
there is wanting to a large extent among us a sympathetic telegraphy,
so to speak, between the interior of our land and the sea-coast,
which, if it existed in full and vigorous play, would go far to
improve our condition, and raise us in the esteem of Christian
nations. Nevertheless, as compared with now, the state of things then
was lamentably imperfect.
The great storm came and went, having swept thousands of souls into
eternity, and hundreds of thousands of pounds into nonentity.
Lifeboats had not been invented. Harbours of refuge were almost
unknown, and although our coasts bristled with dangerous reefs and
headlands, lighthouses were few and far between. The consequence was,
that wrecks were numerous; and so also were wreckers,—a class of
men, who, in the absence of an efficient coastguard, subsisted to a
large extent on what they picked up from the wrecks that were cast in
their way, and who did not scruple, sometimes, to cause wrecks, by
showing false lights in order to decoy vessels to destruction.
We do not say that all wreckers were guilty of such crimes, but many
of them were so, and their style of life, at the best, had naturally
a demoralizing influence upon all of them.
The famous Bell Rock, lying twelve miles off the coast of
Forfarshire, was a prolific source of destruction to shipping. Not
only did numbers of vessels get upon it, but many others ran upon the
neighbouring coasts in attempting to avoid it.
Ruby's father knew the navigation well, but, in the confusion and
darkness of the furious storm, he miscalculated his position and ran
upon the rock, where, as we have seen, his body was afterwards found
by the two fishermen. It was conveyed by them to the cottage of Mrs.
Brand, and when Ruby entered he found his mother on her knees by the
bedside, pressing the cold hand of his father to her breast, and
gazing with wild, tearless eyes into the dead face.
We will not dwell upon the sad scenes that followed.
Ruby was now under the necessity of leaving home, because his mother
being deprived of her husband's support naturally turned in distress
to her son. But Ruby had no employment, and work could not be easily
obtained at that time in the town, so there was no other resource
left him but to go to sea. This he did in a small coasting sloop
belonging to an old friend, who gave him part of his wages in advance
to enable him to leave his mother a small provision, at least for a
This, however, was not all that the widow had to depend on. Minnie
Gray was expert with her needle, and for some years past had
contributed not a little to the comforts of the household into which
she had been adopted. She now set herself to work with redoubled zeal
and energy. Besides this, Mrs. Brand had a brother, a retired
skipper, who obtained the complimentary title of Captain from his
friends. He was a poor man, it is true, as regarded money, having
barely sufficient for his own subsistence, but he was rich in
kindliness and sympathy, so that he managed to make his small income
perform wonders. On hearing of his brother-in-law's death, Captain
Ogilvy hastened to afford all the consolation in his power to his
The captain was an eccentric old man, of rugged aspect. He thought
that there was not a worse comforter on the face of the earth than
himself, because, when he saw others in distress, his heart
invariably got into his throat, and absolutely prevented him from
saying a single word. He tried to speak to his sister, but all he
could do was to take her hand and weep. This did the poor widow more
good than any words could have done, no matter how eloquently or
fitly spoken. It unlocked the fountain of her own heart, and the two
When Captain Ogilvy accompanied Ruby on board the sloop to see him
off, and shook hands as he was about to return to the shore,
"Cheer up, Ruby; never say die so long as there's a shot in the
locker. That's the advice of an old salt, an' you'll find it sound,
the more you ponder of it. Wen a young feller sails away on the sea
of life, let him always go by chart and compass, not forgettin' to
take soundin's w'en cruisin' off a bad coast. Keep a sharp lookout
to wind'ard, an' mind yer helm—that's my advice to you lad, as
'A-sailin' down life's troubled stream,
All as if it wor a dream'".
The captain had a somewhat poetic fancy (at least he was impressed
with the belief that he had), and was in the habit of enforcing his
arguments by quotations from memory. When memory failed he
supplemented with original composition.
"Goodbye, lad, an' Providence go wi' ye."
"Goodbye, uncle. I need not remind you to look after mother when
"No, nephy, you needn't; I'll do it whether or not."
"And Minnie, poor thing, she'll need a word of advice and comfort now
and then, uncle."
"And she shall have it, lad," replied the captain with a tremendous
wink, which was unfortunately lost on the nephew, in consequence of
its being night and unusually dark, "advice and comfort on demand,
'Woman, in her hours of ease,
Is most uncommon hard to please';
but she must be looked arter, ye know, and made of, d'ye see? so
Ruby, boy, farewell."
Half-an-hour before midnight was the time chosen for the sailing of
the sloop Termagant, in order that she might get away quietly and
escape the press-gang. Ruby and his uncle had taken the precaution to
go down to the harbour just a few minutes before sailing, and they
kept as closely as possible to the darkest and least-frequented
streets while passing through the town.
Captain Ogilvy returned by much the same route to his sister's
cottage, but did not attempt to conceal his movements. On the
contrary, knowing that the sloop must have got clear of the harbour
by that time, he went along the streets whistling cheerfully. He had
been a noted, not to say noisy, whistler when a boy, and the habit
had not forsaken him in his old age. On turning sharp round a corner,
he ran against two men, one of whom swore at him, but the other
"Hallo! messmate, yer musical the night. Hey, Captain Ogilvy, surely
I seed you an' Ruby slinkin' down the dark side o' the market-gate
half an 'oor ago?"
"Mayhap ye did, an' mayhap ye didn't," retorted the captain, as he
walked on; "but as it's none o' your business to know, I'll not tell
"Ay, ay? O but ye're a cross auld chap. Pleasant dreams t' ye."
This kindly remark, which was expressed by our friend Davy Spink, was
lost on the captain, in consequence of his having resumed his musical
recreation with redoubled energy, as he went rolling back to the
cottage to console Mrs. Brand, and to afford "advice and comfort
gratis" to Minnie Gray.
On the night in question, Big Swankie and a likeminded companion, who
went among his comrades by the name of the Badger, had planned to
commit a burglary in the town, and it chanced that the former was
about that business when Captain Ogilvy unexpectedly ran against him
and Davy Spink.
Spink, although a smuggler, and by no means a particularly
respectable man, had not yet sunk so low in the scale of life as to
be willing to commit burglary. Swankie and the Badger suspected this,
and, although they required his assistance much, they were afraid to
ask him to join, lest he should not only refuse, but turn against
them. In order to get over the difficulty, Swankie had arranged to
suggest to him the robbery of a store containing gin, which belonged
to a smuggler, and, if he agreed to that, to proceed further and
suggest the more important matter in hand. But he found Spink proof
against the first attack.
"I tell 'ee, I'll hae naething to do wi't," said he, when the
proposal was made.
"But," urged Swankie, "he's a smuggler, and a cross-grained hound
besides. It's no' like robbin' an honest man."
"An' what are we but smugglers'!" retorted Spink; "an' as to bein'
cross-grained, you've naethin' to boast o' in that way. Na, na,
Swankie, ye may do't yersel, I'll hae nae hand in't. I'll no objec'
to tak a bit keg o' Auchmithie water [Footnote] noo and then, or to
pick up what comes to me by the wund and sea, but I'll steal frae
[Footnote: Smuggled spirits.]
"Ay, man, but ye've turned awfu' honest all of a suddent," said the
other with a sneer. "I wonder the thretty sovereigns I gied ye the
other day, when we tossed for them and the case o' kickshaws,
havena' brunt yer pooches."
Davy Spink looked a little confused.
"Aweel," said he, "it's o' nae use greetin' ower spilt milk, the
thing's done and past noo, and I canna help it. Sae guid-night to
Swankie, seeing that it was useless to attempt to gain over his
comrade, and knowing that the Badger was waiting impatiently for him
near the appointed house, hurried away without another word, and Davy
Spink strolled towards his home, which was an extremely dirty little
hut, near the harbour.
At the time of which we write, the town of Arbroath was neither so
well lighted nor so well guarded as it now is. The two burglars found
nothing to interfere with their deeds of darkness, except a few bolts
and bars, which did not stand long before their expert hands.
Nevertheless, they met with a check from an unexpected quarter.
The house they had resolved to break into was inhabited by a widow
lady, who was said to be wealthy, and who was known to possess a
considerable quantity of plate and jewels. She lived alone, having
only one old servant and a little girl to attend upon her. The house
stood on a piece of ground not far from the ruins of the stately
abbey which originated and gave celebrity to the ancient town of
Aberbrothoc. Mrs. Stewart's house was full of Eastern curiosities,
some of them of great value, which had been sent to her by her son,
then a major in the East India Company's service.
Now, it chanced that Major Stewart had arrived from India that very
day, on leave of absence, all unknown to the burglars, who, had they
been aware of the fact, would undoubtedly have postponed their visit
to a more convenient season.
As it was, supposing they had to deal only with the old lady and her
two servants, they began their work between twelve and one that
night, with considerable confidence, and in great hopes of a rich
A small garden surrounded the old house. It was guarded by a wall
about eight feet high, the top of which bristled with bottle-glass.
The old lady and her domestics regarded this terrible-looking defence
with much satisfaction, believing in their innocence that no human
creature could succeed in getting over it. Boys, however, were their
only dread, and fruit their only care, when they looked complacently
at the bottle-glass on the wall, and, so far, they were right in
their feeling of security, for boys found the labour, risk, and
danger to be greater than the worth of the apples and pears.
But it was otherwise with men. Swankie and the Badger threw a piece
of thick matting on the wall; the former bent down, the latter
stepped upon his back, and thence upon the mat; then he hauled his
comrade up, and both leaped into the garden.
Advancing stealthily to the door, they tried it and found it locked.
The windows were all carefully bolted, and the shutters barred. This
they expected, but thought it as well to try each possible point of
entrance, in the hope of finding an unguarded spot before having
recourse to their tools. Such a point was soon found, in the shape of
a small window, opening into a sort of scullery at the back of the
house. It had been left open by accident. An entrance was easily
effected by the Badger, who was a small man, and who went through the
house with the silence of a cat, towards the front door. There were
two lobbies, an inner and an outer, separated from each other by a
glass door. Cautiously opening both doors, the Badger admitted his
comrade, and then they set to work.
A lantern, which could be uncovered or concealed in a moment, enabled
them to see their way.
"That's the dinin'-room door," whispered the Badger.
"Hist! haud yer jaw," muttered Swankie; "I ken that as weel as you."
Opening the door, they entered and found the plate-chest under the
It was open, and a grin of triumph crossed the sweet countenances of
the friends as they exchanged glances, and began to put silver forks
and spoons by the dozen into a bag which they had brought for the
When they had emptied the plate-chest, they carried the bag into the
garden, and, climbing over the wall, deposited it outside. Then they
returned for more.
Now, old Mrs. Stewart was an invalid, and was in the habit of taking
a little weak wine and water before retiring to rest at night. It
chanced that the bottle containing the port wine had been left on the
sideboard, a fact which was soon discovered by Swankie, who put the
bottle to his mouth, and took a long pull.
"What is't?" enquired the Badger, in a low tone.
"Prime!" replied Swankie, handing over the bottle, and wiping his
mouth with the cuff of his coat.
The Badger put the bottle to his mouth, but unfortunately for him,
part of the liquid went down the "wrong throat". The result was that
the poor man coughed, once, rather loudly. Swankie, frowning
fiercely, and shaking his fist, looked at him in horror; and well he
might, for the Badger became first red and then purple in the face,
and seemed as if he were about to burst with his efforts to keep down
the cough. It came, however, three times, in spite of him,—not
violently, but with sufficient noise to alarm them, and cause them to
listen for five minutes intently ere they ventured to go on with
their work, in the belief that no one had been disturbed.
But Major Stewart had been awakened by the first cough. He was a
soldier who had seen much service, and who slept lightly. He raised
himself in his bed, and listened intently on hearing the first cough.
The second cough caused him to spring up and pull on his trousers;
the third cough found him half-way downstairs, with a boot-jack in
his hand, and when the burglars resumed work he was peeping at them
through the half-open door.
Both men were stooping over the plate-chest, the Badger with his back
to the door, Swankie with his head towards it. The major raised the
boot-jack and took aim. At the same moment the door squeaked, Big
Swankie looked up hastily, and, in technical phraseology, "doused the
glim". All was dark in an instant, but the boot-jack sped on its way
notwithstanding. The burglars were accustomed to fighting, however,
and dipped their heads. The boot-jack whizzed past, and smashed the
pier-glass on the mantelpiece to a thousand atoms. Major Stewart
being expert in all the devices of warfare, knew what to expect, and
drew aside. He was not a moment too soon, for the dark lantern flew
through the doorway, hit the opposite wall, and fell with a loud
clatter on the stone floor of the lobby. The Badger followed at once,
and received a random blow from the major that hurled him head over
heels after the lantern.
There was no mistaking the heavy tread and rush of Big Swankie as he
made for the door. Major Stewart put out his foot, and the burglar
naturally tripped over it; before he could rise the major had him by
the throat. There was a long, fierce struggle, both being powerful
men; at last Swankie was hurled completely through the glass door. In
the fall he disengaged himself from the major, and, leaping up, made
for the garden wall, over which he succeeded in clambering before the
latter could seize him. Thus both burglars escaped, and Major Stewart
returned to the house half-naked,—his shirt having been torn off his
back,—and bleeding freely from cuts caused by the glass door.
Just as he re-entered the house, the old cook, under the impression
that the cat had got into the pantry, and was smashing the crockery,
entered the lobby in her nightdress, shrieked "Mercy on us!" on
beholding the major, and fainted dead away.
Major Stewart was too much annoyed at having failed to capture the
burglars to take any notice of her. He relocked the door, and
assuring his mother that it was only robbers, and that they had been
beaten off, retired to his room, washed and dressed his wounds, and
went to bed.
Meanwhile Big Swankie and the Badger, laden with silver, made for the
shore, where they hid their treasure in a hole.
"I'll tell 'ee a dodge," said the Badger.
"What may that be?" enquired Swankie.
"You said ye saw Ruby Brand slinking down the market-gate, and that's
he's off to sea?"
"Ay, and twa or three more folk saw him as weel as me."
"Weel, let's tak' up a siller spoon, or somethin', an' put it in the
auld wife's garden, an' they'll think it was him that did it."
"No' that bad!" said Swankie, with a chuckle.
A silver fork and a pair of sugar-tongs bearing old Mrs. Stewart's
initials were accordingly selected for this purpose, and placed in
the little garden in the front of Widow Brand's cottage.
Here they were found in the morning by Captain Ogilvy, who examined
them for at least half-an-hour in a state of the utmost perplexity.
While he was thus engaged one of the detectives of the town happened
to pass, apparently in some haste.
"Hallo! shipmate," shouted the captain.
"Well?" responded the detective.
"Did ye ever see silver forks an' sugar-tongs growin' in a garden
"Eh?" exclaimed the other, entering the garden hastily; "let me see.
Oho! this may throw some light on the matter. Did you find them
"Ay, on this very spot."
"Hum. Ruby went away last night, I believe?"
"Some time after midnight?" enquired the detective.
"Likely enough," said the captain, "but my chronometer ain't quite so
reg'lar since we left the sea; it might ha' bin more,—mayhap less."
"Just so. You saw him off?"
"Ay; but you seem more than or'nar inquisitive today——"
"Did he carry a bundle?" interrupted the detective.
"Ay, no doubt."
"A large one?"
"Ay, a goodish big 'un."
"Do you know what was in it?" enquired the detective, with a knowing
"I do, for I packed it," replied the captain; "his kit was in it."
"Nothin' as I knows of."
"Well, I'll take these with me just now," said the officer, placing
the fork and sugar-tongs in his pocket. "I'm afraid, old man, that
your nephew has been up to mischief before he went away. A burglary
was committed in the town last night, and this is some of the plate.
You'll hear more about it before long, I dare say. Good day to ye."
So saying, the detective walked quickly away, and left the captain
in the centre of the garden staring vacantly before him, in
THE BELL ROCK INVADED
A year passed away. Nothing more was heard of Ruby Brand, and the
burglary was believed to be one of those mysteries which are destined
never to be solved.
About this time great attention was being given by Government to the
subject of lighthouses. The terrible number of wrecks that had taken
place had made a deep impression on the public mind. The position and
dangerous character of the Bell Rock, in particular, had been for a
long time the subject of much discussion, and various unsuccessful
attempts had been made to erect a beacon of some sort thereon.
There is a legend that in days of old one of the abbots of the
neighbouring monastery of Aberbrothoc erected a bell on the Inchcape
Rock, which was tolled in rough weather by the action of the waves on
a float attached to the tongue, and thus mariners were warned at
night and in foggy weather of their approach to the rock, the great
danger of which consists in its being a sunken reef, lying twelve
miles from the nearest land, and exactly in the course of vessels
making for the firths of Forth and Tay. The legend further tells how
that a Danish pirate, named Ralph the Rover, in a mischievous mood,
cut the bell away, and that, years afterwards, he obtained his
appropriate reward by being wrecked on the Bell Rock, when returning
from a long cruise laden with booty.
Whether this be true or not is an open question, but certain it is
that no beacon of any kind was erected on this rock until the
beginning of the nineteenth century, after a great storm in 1799 had
stirred the public mind, and set springs in motion, which from that
time forward have never ceased to operate.
Many and disastrous were the shipwrecks that occurred during the
storm referred to, which continued, with little intermission, for
three days. Great numbers of ships were driven from their moorings
in the Downs and Yarmouth Roads; and these, together with all vessels
navigating the German Ocean at that time, were drifted upon the east
coast of Scotland.
It may not, perhaps, be generally known that there are only three
great inlets or estuaries to which the mariner steers when overtaken
by easterly storms in the North Sea—namely, the Humber, and the
firths of Forth and Moray. The mouth of the Thames is too much
encumbered by sand-banks to be approached at night or during bad
weather. The Humber is also considerably obstructed in this way, so
that the Roads of Leith, in the Firth of Forth, and those of
Cromarty, in the Moray Firth, are the chief places of resort in
easterly gales. But both of these had their special risks.
On the one hand, there was the danger of mistaking the Dornoch Firth
for the Moray, as it lies only a short way to the north of the
latter; and, in the case of the Firth of Forth, there was the
terrible Bell Rock.
Now, during the storm of which we write, the fear of those two
dangers was so strong upon seamen that many vessels were lost in
trying to avoid them, and much hardship was sustained by mariners who
preferred to seek shelter in higher latitudes. It was estimated that
no fewer than seventy vessels were either stranded or lost during
that single gale, and many of the crews perished.
At one wild part of the coast, near Peterhead, called the Bullers of
Buchan, after the first night of the storm, the wrecks of seven
vessels were found in one cove, without a single survivor of the
crews to give an account of the disaster.
The "dangers of the deep" are nothing compared with the dangers of
the shore. If the hard rocks of our island could tell the tale of
their experience, and if we landsmen could properly appreciate it, we
should understand more clearly why it is that sailors love blue (in
other words, deep) water during stormy weather.
In order to render the Forth more accessible by removing the danger
of the Bell Rock, it was resolved by the Commissioners of Northern
Lights to build a lighthouse upon it. This resolve was a much bolder
one than most people suppose, for the rock on which the lighthouse
was to be erected was a sunken reef, visible only at low tide during
two or three hours, and quite inaccessible in bad weather. It was the
nearest approach to building a house in the sea that had yet been
attempted! The famous Eddystone stands on a rock which is never
quite under water, although nearly so, for its crest rises a very
little above the highest tides, while the Bell Rock is eight or ten
feet under water at high tides.
It must be clear, therefore, to everyone, that difficulties, unusual
in magnitude and peculiar in kind, must have stood in the way of the
daring engineer who should undertake the erection of a tower on a
rock twelve miles out on the stormy sea, and the foundation of which
was covered with ten or twelve feet of water every tide; a tower
which would have to be built perfectly, yet hastily; a tower which
should form a comfortable home, fit for human beings to dwell in, and
yet strong enough to withstand the utmost fury of the waves, not
merely whirling round it, as might be the case on some exposed
promontory, but rushing at it, straight and fierce from the wild
ocean, in great blue solid billows that should burst in thunder on
its sides, and rush up in scarcely less solid spray to its lantern, a
hundred feet or more above its foundation.
An engineer able and willing to undertake this great work was found
in the person of the late Robert Stevenson of Edinburgh, whose
perseverance and talent shall be commemorated by the grandest and
most useful monument ever raised by man, as long as the Bell Rock
lighthouse shall tower above the sea.
It is not our purpose to go into the details of all that was done in
the construction of this lighthouse. Our peculiar task shall be to
relate those incidents connected with this work which have relation
to the actors in our tale.
We will not, therefore, detain the reader by telling him of all the
preliminary difficulties that were encountered and overcome in this
"Robinson Crusoe" sort of work; how that a temporary floating
lightship, named the Pharos, was prepared and anchored in the
vicinity of the rock in order to be a sort of depot and rendezvous
and guide to the three smaller vessels employed in the work, as well
as a light to shipping generally, and a building-yard was established
at Arbroath, where every single stone of the lighthouse was cut and
nicely fitted before being conveyed to the rock. Neither shall we
tell of the difficulties that arose in the matter of getting blocks
of granite large enough for such masonry, and lime of a nature strong
enough to withstand the action of the salt sea. All this, and a great
deal more of a deeply interesting nature, must remain untold, and be
left entirely to the reader's imagination. [Footnote]
[Footnote: It may be found, however, in minute detail, in the large
and interesting work entitled _Steveson's Bell Rock Lighthouse.]
Suffice it to say that the work was fairly begun in the month of
August, 1807; that a strong beacon of timber was built, which was so
well constructed that it stood out all the storms that beat against
it during the whole time of the building operations; that close to
this beacon the pit or foundation of the lighthouse was cut down deep
into the solid rock; that the men employed could work only between
two and three hours at a time, and had to pump the water out of this
pit each tide before they could resume operations; that the work
could only be done in the summer months, and when engaged in it the
men dwelt either in the Pharos floating light, or in one of the
attending vessels, and were not allowed to go ashore—that is, to the
mainland, about twelve miles distant; that the work was hard, but so
novel and exciting that the artificers at last became quite enamoured
of it, and that ere long operations were going busily forward, and
the work was in a prosperous and satisfactory state of advancement.
Things were in this condition at the Bell Rock, when, one fine summer
evening, our friend and hero, Ruby Brand, returned, after a long
absence, to his native town.
THE CAPTAIN CHANGES HIS QUARTERS
It was fortunate for Ruby that the skipper of the vessel ordered him
to remain in charge while he went ashore, because he would certainly
have been recognized by numerous friends, and his arrival would
speedily have reached the ears of the officers of justice, who seem
to be a class of men specially gifted with the faculty of never
forgetting. It was not until darkness had begun to settle down on the
town that the skipper returned on board, and gave him leave to go
Ruby did not return in the little coaster in which he had left his
native place. That vessel had been wrecked not long after he joined
her, but the crew were saved, and Ruby succeeded in obtaining a berth
as second mate of a large ship trading between Hull and the Baltic.
Returning from one of his voyages with a pretty good sum of money in
his pocket, he resolved to visit his mother and give it to her. He
therefore went aboard an Arbroath schooner, and offered to work his
passage as an extra hand. Remembering his former troubles in
connexion with the press-gang, he resolved to conceal his name from
the captain and crew, who chanced to be all strangers to him.
It must not be supposed that Mrs. Brand had not heard of Ruby since
he left her. On the contrary, both she and Minnie Gray got letters as
frequently as the postal arrangements of those days would admit of;
and from time to time they received remittances of money, which
enabled them to live in comparative comfort. It happened, however,
that the last of these remittances had been lost, so that Mrs. Brand
had to depend for subsistence on Minnie's exertions, and on her
brother's liberality. The brother's power was limited, however, and
Minnie had been ailing for some time past, in consequence of her
close application to work, so that she could not earn as much as
usual. Hence it fell out that at this particular time the widow found
herself in greater pecuniary difficulties than she had ever been in
Ruby was somewhat of an original. It is probable that every hero is.
He resolved to surprise his mother by pouring the money he had
brought into her lap, and for this purpose had, while in Hull,
converted all his savings into copper, silver, and gold. Those
precious metals he stowed separately into the pockets of his huge
pea-jacket, and, thus heavily laden, went ashore about dark, as soon
as the skipper returned.
At this precise hour it happened that Mrs. Brand, Minnie Gray, and
Captain Ogilvy were seated at their supper in the kitchen of the
Two days previously the captain had called, and said to Mrs. Brand—
"I tell 'ee what it is, sister, I'm tired of livin' a solitary
bachelor life, all by myself, so I'm goin' to make a change, lass."
Mrs. Brand was for some moments speechless, and Minnie, who was
sewing near the window, dropped her hands and work on her lap, and
looked up with inexpressible amazement in her sweet blue eyes.
"Brother," said Mrs. Brand earnestly, "you don't mean to tell me that
you're going to marry at your time of life?"
"Eh! what? Marry?"
The captain looked, if possible, more amazed than his sister for a
second or two, then his red face relaxed into a broad grin, and he
sat down on a chair and chuckled, wiping the perspiration (he seemed
always more or less in a state of perspiration) from his bald head
"Why, no, sister, I'm not going to marry; did I speak of marryin'?"
"No; but you spoke of being tired of a bachelor life, and wishing to
"Ah! you women," said the captain, shaking his head—"always
suspecting that we poor men are wantin' to marry you. Well, pr'aps
you ain't far wrong neither; but I'm not goin' to be spliced
yet-a-while, lass. Marry, indeed!
'Shall I, wastin' in despair,
Die, 'cause why? a woman's rare?'"
"Oh! Captain Ogilvy, that's not rightly quoted," cried Minnie, with a
"Ain't it?" said the captain, somewhat put out; for he did not like
to have his powers of memory doubted.
"No; surely women are not rare," said Minnie.
"Good ones are," said the captain stoutly.
"Well; but that's not the right word."
"What is the right word, then?" asked the captain with affected
sternness, for, although by nature disinclined to admit that he could
be wrong, he had no objection to be put right by Minnie.
"Die because a woman's f——," said Minnie, prompting him.
"F——, 'funny?'" guessed the captain.
"No; it's not 'funny'," cried Minnie, laughing heartily.
"Of course not," assented the captain, "it could not be 'funny'
nohow, because 'funny' don't rhyme with 'despair'; besides, lots o'
women ain't funny a bit, an' if they was, that's no reason why a man
should die for 'em; what is the word, lass?"
"What am I?" asked Minnie, with an arch smile, as she passed her
fingers through the clustering masses of her beautiful hair.
"An angel, beyond all doubt," said the gallant captain, with a burst
of sincerity which caused Minnie to blush and then to laugh.
"You're incorrigible, captain, and you are so stupid that it's of no
use trying to teach you."
Mrs. Brand—who listened to this conversation with an expression of
deep anxiety on her meek face, for she could not get rid of her first
idea that her brother was going to marry—here broke in with the
"When is it to be, brother?"
"When is what to be, sister?"
"I tell you I ain't a-goin' to marry," repeated the captain;
"though why a stout young feller like me, just turned sixty-four,
shouldn't marry, is more than I can see. You know the old proverbs,
lass—'It's never too late to marry'; 'Never ventur', never give in';
'John Anderson my jo John, when we was first—first——'"
"Married," suggested Minnie.
"Just so," responded the captain, "and everybody knows that he was
an old man. But no, I'm not goin' to marry; I'm only goin' to give up
my house, sell off the furniture, and come and live with you."
"Live with me!" ejaculated Mrs. Brand.
"Ay, an' why not? What's the use o' goin' to the expense of two
houses when one'll do, an' when we're both raither scrimp o' the
ready? You'll just let me have the parlour. It never was a comf'rable
room to sit in, so it don't matter much your givin' it up; it's a
good enough sleepin' and smokin' cabin, an' we'll all live together
in the kitchen. I'll throw the whole of my _tree_mendous income into
the general purse, always exceptin' a few odd coppers, which I'll
retain to keep me a-goin' in baccy. We'll sail under the same flag,
an' sit round the same fire, an' sup at the same table, and sleep in
the same—no, not exactly that, but under the same roof-tree,
which'll be a more hoconomical way o' doin' business, you know; an'
so, old girl, as the song says—
'Come an' let us be happy together,
For where there's a will there's a way,
An' we won't care a rap for the weather
So long as there's nothin' to pay'."
"Would it not be better to say, 'so long as there's something to
pay?'" suggested Minnie.
"No, lass, it wouldn't," retorted the captain. "You're too fond of
improvin' things. I'm a stanch old Tory, I am. I'll stick to the old
flag till all's blue. None o' your changes or improvements for me."
This was a rather bold statement for a man to make who improved upon
almost every line he ever quoted; but the reader is no doubt
acquainted with parallel instances of inconsistency in good men even
in the present day.
"Now, sister," continued Captain Ogilvy, "what d'ye think of my
"I like it well, brother," replied Mrs. Brand with a gentle smile.
"Will you come soon?"
"To-morrow, about eight bells," answered the captain promptly.
This was all that was said on the subject. The thing was, as the
captain said, settled off-hand, and accordingly next morning he
conveyed such of his worldly goods as he meant to retain possession
of to his sister's cottage—"the new ship", as he styled it. He
carried his traps on his own broad shoulders, and the conveyance of
them cost him three distinct trips.
They consisted of a huge sea-chest, an old telescope more than a yard
long, and cased in leather; a quadrant, a hammock, with the bedding
rolled up in it, a tobacco-box, the enormous old Family Bible in
which the names of his father, mother, brothers, and sisters were
recorded; and a brown teapot with half a lid. This latter had
belonged to the captain's mother, and, being fond of it, as it
reminded him of the "old ooman", he was wont to mix his grog in it,
and drink the same out of a teacup, the handle of which was gone, and
the saucer of which was among the things of the past.
Notwithstanding his avowed adherence to Tory principles, Captain
Ogilvy proceeded to make manifold radical changes and surprising
improvements in the little parlour, insomuch that when he had
completed the task, and led his sister carefully (for she was very
feeble) to look at what he had done, she became quite incapable of
expressing herself in ordinary language; positively refused to
believe her eyes, and never again entered that room, but always spoke
of what she had seen as a curious dream!
No one was ever able to discover whether there was not a slight tinge
of underlying jocularity in this remark of Mrs. Brand, for she was a
strange and incomprehensible mixture of shrewdness and innocence; but
no one took much trouble to find out, for she was so lovable that
people accepted her just as she was, contented to let any small
amount of mystery that seemed to be in her to remain unquestioned.
"The parlour" was one of those well-known rooms which are
occasionally met with in country cottages, the inmates of which are
not wealthy. It was reserved exclusively for the purpose of receiving
visitors. The furniture, though old, threadbare, and dilapidated, was
kept scrupulously clean, and arranged symmetrically. There were a few
books on the table, which were always placed with mathematical
exactitude, and a set of chairs, so placed as to give one
mysteriously the impression that they were not meant to be sat upon.
There was also a grate, which never had a fire in it, and was never
without a paper ornament in it, the pink and white aspect of which
caused one involuntarily to shudder.
But the great point, which was meant to afford the highest
gratification to the beholder, was the chimney-piece. This spot was
crowded to excess in every square inch of its area with ornaments,
chiefly of earthenware, miscalled china, and shells. There were great
white shells with pink interiors, and small brown shells with spotted
backs. Then there were china cups and saucers, and china shepherds
and shepherdesses, represented in the act of contemplating the
heavens serenely, with their arms round each other's waists. There
were also china dogs and cats, and a huge china cockatoo as a
centre-piece; but there was not a single spot the size of a sixpence
on which the captain could place his pipe or his tobacco-box!
"We'll get these things cleared away," said Minnie, with a laugh, on
observing the perplexed look with which the captain surveyed the
chimney-piece, while the changes above referred to were being made in
the parlour; "we have no place ready to receive them just now, but
I'll have them all put away to-morrow."
"Thank'ee, lass," said the captain, as he set down the sea-chest and
seated himself thereon; "they're pretty enough to look at, d'ye see,
but they're raither in the way just now, as my second mate once said
of the rocks when we were cruising off the coast of Norway in search
of a pilot."
The ornaments were, however, removed sooner than anyone had
anticipated. The next trip that the captain made was for his hammock
(he always slept in one), which was a long unwieldy bundle, like a
gigantic bolster. He carried it into the parlour on his shoulder, and
Minnie followed him.
"Where shall I sling it, lass?"
"Here, perhaps," said Minnie.
The captain wheeled round as she spoke, and the end of the hammock
swept the mantelpiece of all its ornaments, as completely as if the
besom of destruction had passed over it.
"Shiver my timbers!" gasped the captain, awestruck by the hideous
crash that followed.
"You've shivered the ornaments at any rate," said Minnie,
half-laughing and half-crying.
"So I have, but no matter. Never say die so long's there a shot in
the locker. There's as good fish in the sea as ever come out of it;
so bear a hand, my girl, and help me to sling up the hammock."
The hammock was slung, the pipe of peace was smoked, and thus Captain
Ogilvy was fairly installed in his sister's cottage.
It may, perhaps, be necessary to remind the reader that all this is a
long digression; that the events just narrated occurred a few days
before the return of Ruby, and that they have been recorded here in
order to explain clearly the reason of the captain's appearance at
the supper table of his sister, and the position which he occupied in
When Ruby reached the gate of the small garden, Minnie had gone to
the captain's room to see that it was properly prepared for his
reception, and the captain himself was smoking his pipe close to the
chimney, so that the smoke should ascend it.
The first glance through the window assured the youth that his mother
was, as letters had represented her, much better in health than she
used to be. She looked so quiet and peaceful, and so fragile withal,
that Ruby did not dare to "surprise her" by a sudden entrance, as he
had originally intended, so he tapped gently at the window, and drew
The captain laid down his pipe and went to the door.
"What, Ruby!" he exclaimed, in a hoarse whisper.
"Hush, uncle! How is Minnie; where is she?"
"I think, lad," replied the captain in a tone of reproof, "that you
might have enquired for your mother first."
"No need," said Ruby, pointing to the window; "I see that she is
there and well, thanks be to God for that:—but Minnie?"
"She's well, too, boy, and in the house. But come, get inside. I'll
This promise to "explain" was given in consequence of the great
anxiety he, the captain, displayed to drag Ruby into the cottage.
The youth did not require much pressing, however. He no sooner heard
that Minnie was well, than he sprang in, and was quickly at his
mother's feet. Almost as quickly a fair vision appeared in the
doorway of the inner room, and was clasped in the young sailor's arms
with the most thorough disregard of appearances, not to mention
While this scene was enacting, the worthy captain was engaged in
active proceedings, which at once amused and astonished his nephew,
and the nature and cause of which shall be revealed in the next
RUBY IN DIFFICULTIES
Having thrust his nephew into the cottage, Captain Ogilvy's first
proceeding was to close the outer shutter of the window and fasten it
securely on the inside. Then he locked, bolted, barred, and chained
the outer door, after which he shut the kitchen door, and, in default
of any other mode of securing it, placed against it a heavy table as
Having thus secured the premises in front, he proceeded to fortify
the rear, and, when this was accomplished to his satisfaction, he
returned to the kitchen, sat down opposite the widow, and wiped his
"Why, uncle, are we going to stand out a siege that you take so much
pains to lock up?"
Ruby sat down on the floor at his mother's feet as he spoke, and
Minnie sat down on a low stool beside him.
"Maybe we are, lad," replied the captain; "anyhow, it's always well
to be ready—
'Ready, boys, ready,
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again'."
"Come uncle, explain yourself."
"Explain myself, nephy? I can neither explain myself nor anybody
else. D'ye know, Ruby, that you're a burglar?"
"Am I, uncle? Well, I confess that that's news."
"Ay, but it's true though, at least the law in Arbroath says so, and
if it catches you, it'll hang you as sure as a gun."
Here Captain Ogilvy explained to his nephew the nature of the crime
that was committed on the night of his departure, the evidence of his
guilt in the finding part of the plate in the garden, coupled with
his sudden disappearance, and wound up by saying that he regarded
him, Ruby, as being in a "reg'lar fix".
"But surely," said Ruby, whose face became gradually graver as the
case was unfolded to him, "surely it must be easy to prove to the
satisfaction of everyone that I had nothing whatever to do with this
"Easy to prove it!" said the captain in an excited tone; "wasn't you
seen, just about the hour of the robbery, going stealthily down the
street, by Big Swankie and Davy Spink, both of whom will swear to
"Yes, but you were with me, uncle."
"Ay, so I was, and hard enough work I had to convince them that I had
nothin' to do with it myself, but they saw that I couldn't jump a
stone wall eight foot high to save my life, much less break into a
house, and they got no further evidence to convict me, so they let me
off; but it'll go hard with you, nephy, for Major Stewart described
the men, and one o' them was a big strong feller, the description
bein' as like you as two peas, only their faces was blackened, and
the lantern threw the light all one way, so he didn't see them well.
Then, the things found in our garden,—and the villains will haul me
up as a witness against you, for, didn't I find them myself?"
"Very perplexing; what shall I do?" said Ruby.
"Clear out," cried the captain emphatically.
"What! fly like a real criminal, just as I have returned home? Never.
What say you, Minnie?"
"Stand your trial, Ruby. They cannot—they dare not—condemn the
"And you, mother?"
"I'm sure I don't know what to say," replied Mrs. Brand, with a look
of deep anxiety, as she passed her fingers through her son's hair,
and kissed his brow. "I have seen the innocent condemned and the
guilty go free more than once in my life."
"Nevertheless, mother, I will give myself up, and take my chance. To
fly would be to give them reason to believe me guilty."
"Give yourself up!" exclaimed the captain, "you'll do nothing of the
sort. Come, lad, remember I'm an old man, and an uncle. I've got a
plan in my head, which I think will keep you out of harm's way for a
time. You see my old chronometer is but a poor one,—the worse of the
wear, like its master,—and I've never been able to make out the
exact time that we went aboard the Termagant the night you went
away. Now, can you tell me what o'clock it was?"
"Yes, exactly, for it happened that I was a little later than I
promised, and the skipper pointed to his watch, as I came up the
side, and jocularly shook his head at me. It was exactly eleven P.M."
"Sure and sartin o' that?" enquired the captain, earnestly.
"Quite, and his watch must have been right, for the town-clock rung
the hour at the same time."
"Is that skipper alive?"
"Would he swear to that?"
"I think he would."
"D'ye know where he is?"
"I do. He's on a voyage to the West Indies, and won't be home for
two months, I believe."
"Humph!" said the captain, with a disappointed look. "However, it
can't be helped; but I see my way now to get you out o' this fix. You
know, I suppose, that they're buildin' a lighthouse on the Bell Rock
just now; well, the workmen go off to it for a month at a time, I
believe, if not longer, and don't come ashore, and it's such a
dangerous place, and troublesome to get to, that nobody almost ever
goes out to it from this place, except those who have to do with it.
Now, lad, you'll go down to the workyard the first thing in the
mornin', before daylight, and engage to go off to work at the Bell
Rock. You'll keep all snug and quiet, and nobody'll be a bit the
wiser. You'll be earnin' good wages, and in the meantime I'll set
about gettin' things in trim to put you all square."
"But I see many difficulties ahead," objected Ruby.
"Of course ye do," retorted the captain. "Did ye ever hear or see
anything on this earth that hadn't rocks ahead o' some sort? It's our
business to steer past 'em, lad, not to 'bout ship and steer away.
But state yer difficulties."
"Well, in the first place, I'm not a stonemason or a carpenter, and I
suppose masons and carpenters are the men most wanted there."
"Not at all, blacksmiths are wanted there," said the captain, "and I
know that you were trained to that work as a boy."
"True, I can do somewhat with the hammer, but mayhap they won't
"But they will engage you, lad, for they are hard up for an
assistant blacksmith just now, and I happen to be hand-and-glove with
some o' the chief men of the yard, who'll be happy to take anyone
recommended by me."
"Well, uncle, but suppose I do go off to the rock, what chance have
you of making things appear better than they are at present?"
"I'll explain that, lad. In the first place, Major Stewart is a
gentleman, out-and-out, and will listen to the truth. He swears that
the robbery took place at one o'clock in the mornin', for he looked
at his watch and at the clock of the house, and heard it ring in the
town, just as the thieves cleared off over the wall. Now, if I can
get your old skipper to take a run here on his return from the West
Indies, he'll swear that you was sailin' out to the North Sea before
twelve, and that'll prove that you couldn't have had nothin' to do
with it, d'ye see?"
"It sounds well," said Ruby dubiously, "but do you think the lawyers
will see things in the light you do?"
"Hang the lawyers! d'ye think they will shut their eyes to the
"Perhaps they may, in which case they will hang me, and so prevent
my taking your advice to hang them," said Ruby.
"Well, well, but you agree to my plan?" asked the captain.
"Shall I agree, Minnie? it will separate me from you again for some
"Yet it is necessary," answered Minnie, sadly; "yes, I think you
should agree to go."
"Very well, then, that's settled," said Ruby, "and now let us drop
the subject, because I have other things to speak of; and if I must
start before daylight my time with you will be short——"
"Come here a bit, nephy, I want to have a private word with 'ee in my
cabin," said the captain, interrupting him, and going into his own
room. Ruby rose and followed.
"You haven't any——"
The captain stopped, stroked his bald head, and looked perplexed.
"Well, nephy, you haven't—in short, have ye got any money about you,
"Money? yes, a little; but why do you ask?"
"Well, the fact is, that your poor mother is hard up just now," said
the captain earnestly, "an' I've given her the last penny I have o'
my own; but she's quite——"
Ruby interrupted his uncle at this point with a boisterous laugh. At
the same time he flung open the door and dragged the old man with
gentle violence back to the kitchen.
"Come here, uncle."
"But, avast! nephy, I haven't told ye all yet."
"Oh! don't bother me with such trifles just now," cried Ruby,
thrusting his uncle into a chair and resuming his own seat at his
mother's side; "we'll speak of that at some other time; meanwhile let
me talk to mother.
"Minnie, dear," he continued, "who keeps the cash here; you or
"Well, we keep it between us," said Minnie, smiling; "your mother
keeps it in her drawer and gives me the key when I want any, and I
keep an account of it."
"Ah! well, mother, I have a favour to ask of you before I go."
"It is that you will take care of my cash for me. I have got a
goodish lot of it, and find it rather heavy to carry in my
pockets—so, hold your apron steady and I'll give it to you."
Saying this he began to empty handful after handful of coppers into
the old woman's apron; then, remarking that "that was all the
browns", he began to place handful after handful of shillings and
sixpences on the top of the pile until the copper was hid by silver.
The old lady, as usual when surprised, became speechless; the captain
smiled and Minnie laughed, but when Ruby put his hand into another
pocket and began to draw forth golden sovereigns, and pour them into
his mother's lap, the captain became supremely amazed, the old woman
laughed, and,—so strangely contradictory and unaccountable is human
nature,—Minnie began to cry.
Poor girl! the tax upon her strength had been heavier than anyone
knew, heavier than she could bear, and the sorrow of knowing, as she
had come to know, that it was all in vain, and that her utmost
efforts had failed to "keep the wolf from the door", had almost
broken her down. Little wonder, then, that the sight of sudden and
ample relief upset her altogether.
But her tears, being tears of joy, were soon and easily dried—all
the more easily that it was Ruby who undertook to dry them.
Mrs. Brand sat up late that night, for there was much to tell and
much to hear. After she had retired to rest the other three continued
to hold converse together until grey dawn began to appear through the
chinks in the window-shutters. Then the two men rose and went out,
while Minnie laid her pretty little head on the pillow beside Mrs.
Brand, and sought, and found, repose.
THE SCENE CHANGES—RUBY IS VULCANIZED
As Captain Ogilvy had predicted, Ruby was at once engaged as an
assistant blacksmith on the Bell Rock. In fact, they were only too
glad to get such a powerful, active young fellow into their service;
and he was shipped off with all speed in the sloop Smeaton, with a
few others who were going to replace some men who had become ill and
were obliged to leave.
A light westerly breeze was blowing when they cast off the moorings
of the sloop.
"Goodbye, Ruby," said the captain, as he was about to step on the
pier. "Remember your promise, lad, to keep quiet, and don't try to
get ashore, or be hold communication with anyone till you hear from
"All right, uncle, I won't forget, and I'll make my mind easy, for I
know that my case is left in good hands."
Three hours elapsed ere the Smeaton drew near to the Bell Rock.
During this time, Ruby kept aloof from his fellow-workmen, feeling
disposed to indulge the sad thoughts which filled his mind. He sat
down on the bulwarks, close to the main shrouds, and gazed back at
the town as it became gradually less and less visible in the faint
light of morning. Then he began to ponder his unfortunate
circumstances, and tried to imagine how his uncle would set about
clearing up his character and establishing his innocence; but, do
what he would, Ruby could not keep his mind fixed for any length of
time on any subject or line of thought, because of a vision of
sweetness which it is useless to attempt to describe, and which was
always accompanied by, and surrounded with, a golden halo.
At last the youth gave up the attempt to fix his thoughts, and
allowed them to wander as they chose, seeing that they were resolved
to do so whether he would or no. The moment these thoughts had the
reins flung on their necks, and were allowed to go where they
pleased, they refused, owing to some unaccountable species of
perversity, to wander at all, but at once settled themselves
comfortably down beside the vision with golden hair, and remained
This agreeable state of things was rudely broken in upon by the
hoarse voice of the mate shouting—
"Stand by to let go the anchor."
Then Ruby sprang on the deck and shook himself like a great mastiff,
and resolved to devote himself, heart and soul, from that moment, to
the work in which he was about to engage.
The scene that presented itself to our hero when he woke up from his
dreams would have interested and excited a much less enthusiastic
temperament than his.
The breeze had died away altogether, just as if, having wafted the
Smeaton to her anchorage, there were no further occasion for its
services. The sea was therefore quite calm, and as there had only
been light westerly winds for some time past, there was little or
none of the swell that usually undulates the sea. One result of this
was, that, being high water when the Smeaton arrived, there was no
sign whatever of the presence of the famous Bell Rock. It lay
sleeping nearly two fathoms below the sea, like a grim giant in
repose, and not a ripple was there to tell of the presence of the
The sun was rising, and its slanting beams fell on the hulls of the
vessels engaged in the service, which lay at anchor at a short
distance from each other. These vessels, as we have said, were four
in number, including the Smeaton. The others were the Sir Joseph
Banks, a small schooner-rigged vessel; the Patriot, a little
sloop; and the Pharos lightship, a large clumsy-looking Dutch-built
ship, fitted with three masts, at the top of which were the lanterns.
It was intended that this vessel should do duty as a lightship until
the lighthouse should be completed.
Besides these there were two large boats, used for landing stones and
building materials on the rock.
These vessels lay floating almost motionless on the calm sea, and at
first there was scarcely any noise aboard of them to indicate that
they were tenanted by human beings, but when the sound of the
Smeaton's cable was heard there was a bustle aboard of each, and
soon faces were seen looking inquisitively over the sides of the
The Smeaton's boat was lowered after the anchor was let go, and the
new hands were transferred to the Pharos, which was destined to be
their home for some time to come.
Just as they reached her the bell rang for breakfast, and when Ruby
stepped upon the deck he found himself involved in all the bustle
that ensues when men break off from work and make preparation for the
There were upwards of thirty artificers on board the lightship at
this time. Some of these, as they hurried to and fro, gave the new
arrivals a hearty greeting, and asked, "What news from the shore?"
Others were apparently too much taken up with their own affairs to
take notice of them.
While Ruby was observing the busy scene with absorbing interest, and
utterly forgetful of the fact that he was in any way connected with
it, an elderly gentleman, whose kind countenance and hearty manner
gave indication of a genial spirit within, came up and accosted him:
"You are our assistant blacksmith, I believe?"
"Yes, sir, I am," replied Ruby, doffing his cap, as if he felt
instinctively that he was in the presence of someone of note.
"You have had considerable practice, I suppose, in your trade?"
"A good deal, sir, but not much latterly, for I have been at sea for
"At sea? Well, that won't be against you here," returned the
gentleman, with a meaning smile. "It would be well if some of my men
were a little more accustomed to the sea, for they suffer much from
sea-sickness. You can go below, my man, and get breakfast. You'll
find your future messmate busy at his, I doubt not. Here, steward,"
(turning to one of the men who chanced to pass at the moment,) "take
Ruby Brand—that is your name, I think?"
"It is, sir."
"Take Brand below, and introduce him to James Dove as his assistant."
The steward escorted Ruby down the ladder that conducted to those
dark and littered depths of the ship's hull that were assigned to the
artificers as their place of abode. But amidst a good deal of
unavoidable confusion, Ruby's practised eye discerned order and
"This is your messmate, Jamie Dove," said the steward, pointing to a
massive dark man, whose outward appearance was in keeping with his
position as the Vulcan of such an undertaking as he was then engaged
in. "You'll find him not a bad feller if you only don't cross him."
He added, with a wink, "His only fault is that he's given to spoilin'
good victuals, being raither floored by sea-sickness if it comes on
to blow ever so little."
"Hold your clapper, lad," said the smith, who was at the moment
busily engaged with a mess of salt pork, and potatoes to match.
"Who's your friend?"
"No friend of mine, though I hope he'll be one soon," answered the
steward. "Mr. Stevenson told me to introduce him to you as your
The smith looked up quickly, and scanned our hero with some interest;
then, extending his great hard hand across the table, he said,
"Welcome, messmate; sit down, I've only just begun."
Ruby grasped the hand with his own, which, if not so large, was quite
as powerful, and shook the smith's right arm in a way that called
forth from that rough-looking individual a smile of approbation.
"You've not had breakfast, lad?"
"No, not yet," said Ruby, sitting down opposite his comrade.
"An' the smell here don't upset your stummick, I hope?"
The smith said this rather anxiously.
"Not in the least," said Ruby with a laugh, and beginning to eat in a
way that proved the truth of his words; "for the matter o' that,
there's little smell and no motion just now."
"Well, there isn't much," replied the smith, "but, woe's me! you'll
get enough of it before long. All the new landsmen like you suffer
horribly from sea-sickness when they first come off."
"But I'm not a landsman," said Ruby.
"Not a landsman!" echoed the other. "You're a blacksmith, aren't
"Ay, but not a landsman. I learned the trade as a boy and lad; but
I've been at sea for some time past."
"Then you won't get sick when it blows?"
"Certainly not; will you?"
The smith groaned and shook his head, by which answer he evidently
meant to assure his friend that he would, most emphatically.
"But come, it's of no use groanin' over what can't be helped. I get
as sick as a dog every time the wind rises, and the worst of it is I
don't never seem to improve. Howsever, I'm all right when I get on
the rock, and that's the main thing."
Ruby and his friend now entered upon a long and earnest conversation
as to their peculiar duties at the Bell Rock, with which we will not
trouble the reader.
After breakfast they went on deck, and here Ruby had sufficient to
occupy his attention and to amuse him for some hours.
As the tide that day did not fall low enough to admit of landing on
the rock till noon, the men were allowed to spend the time as they
pleased. Some therefore took to fishing, others to reading, while a
few employed themselves in drying their clothes, which had got wet
the previous day, and one or two entertained themselves and their
comrades with the music of the violin and flute. All were busy with
one thing or another, until the rock began to show its black crest
above the smooth sea. Then a bell was rung to summon the artificers
This being the signal for Ruby to commence work, he joined his friend
Dove, and assisted him to lower the bellows of the forge into the
boat. The men were soon in their places, with their various tools,
and the boats pushed off—Mr. Stevenson, the engineer of the
building, steering one boat, and the master of the Pharos, who was
also appointed to the post of landing-master, steering the other.
They landed with ease on this occasion on the western side of the
rock, and then each man addressed himself to his special duty with
energy. The time during which they could work being short, they had
to make the most of it.
"Now, lad," said the smith, "bring along the bellows and follow me.
Mind yer footin', for it's slippery walkin' on them tangle-covered
rocks. I've seen some ugly falls here already."
"Have any bones been broken yet?" enquired Ruby, as he shouldered the
large pair of bellows, and followed the smith cautiously over the
"Not yet; but there's been an awful lot o' pipes smashed. If it goes
on as it has been, we'll have to take to metal ones. Here we are,
Ruby, this is the forge, and I'll be bound you never worked at such a
queer one before. Hallo! Bremner!" he shouted to one of the men.
"That's me," answered Bremner.
"Bring your irons as soon as you like! I'm about ready for you."
"Ay, ay, here they are," said the man, advancing with an armful of
picks, chisels, and other tools, which required sharpening.
He slipped and fell as he spoke, sending all the tools into the
bottom of a pool of water; but, being used to such mishaps, he arose,
joined in the laugh raised against him, and soon fished up the tools.
"What's wrong!" asked Ruby, pausing in the work of fixing the
bellows, on observing that the smith's face grew pale, and his
general expression became one of horror. "Not sea-sick, I hope?"
"Sea-sick," gasped the smith, slapping all his pockets hurriedly,
"it's worse than that; I've forgot the matches!"
Ruby looked perplexed, but had no consolation to offer.
"That's like you," cried Bremner, who, being one of the principal
masons, had to attend chiefly to the digging out of the
foundation-pit of the building, and knew that his tools could not be
sharpened unless the forge fire could be lighted.
"Suppose you hammer a nail red-hot," suggested one of the men, who
was disposed to make game of the smith.
"I'll hammer your nose red-hot," replied Dove, with a most undovelike
scowl, "I could swear that I put them matches in my pocket before I
"No, you didn't," said George Forsyth, one of the carpenters—a tall
loose-jointed man, who was chiefly noted for his dislike to getting
into and out of boats, and climbing up the sides of ships, because of
his lengthy and unwieldy figure—"No, you didn't, you turtle-dove,
you forgot to take them; but I remembered to do it for you; so there,
get up your fire, and confess yourself indebted to me for life."
"I'm indebted to 'ee for fire," said the smith, grasping the matches
eagerly. "Thank'ee, lad, you're a true Briton."
"A tall 'un, rather," suggested Bremner.
"Wot never, never, never will be a slave," sang another of the men.
"Come, laddies, git up the fire. Time an' tide waits for naebody,"
said John Watt, one of the quarriers. "We'll want thae tools before
The men were proceeding with their work actively while those remarks
were passing, and ere long the smoke of the forge fire arose in the
still air, and the clang of the anvil was added to the other noises
with which the busy spot resounded.
The foundation of the Bell Rock Lighthouse had been carefully
selected by Mr. Stevenson; the exact spot being chosen not only with
a view to elevation, but to the serrated ridges of rock, that might
afford some protection to the building, by breaking the force of the
easterly seas before they should reach it; but as the space available
for the purpose of building was scarcely fifty yards in diameter,
there was not much choice in the matter.
The foundation-pit was forty-two feet in diameter, and sunk five feet
into the solid rock. At the time when Ruby landed, it was being hewn
out by a large party of the men. Others were boring holes in the rock
near to it, for the purpose of fixing the great beams of a beacon,
while others were cutting away the seaweed from the rock, and making
preparations for the laying down of temporary rails to facilitate the
conveying of the heavy stones from the boats to their ultimate
destination. All were busy as bees. Each man appeared to work as if
for a wager, or to find out how much he could do within a given space
To the men on the rock itself the aspect of the spot was sufficiently
striking and peculiar, but to those who viewed it from a boat at a
short distance off it was singularly interesting, for the whole scene
of operations appeared like a small black spot, scarcely above the
level of the waves, on which a crowd of living creatures were moving
about with great and incessant activity, while all around and beyond
lay the mighty sea, sleeping in the grand tranquillity of a calm
summer day, with nothing to bound it but the blue sky, save to the
northward, where the distant cliffs of Forfar rested like a faint
cloud on the horizon.
The sounds, too, which on the rock itself were harsh and loud and
varied, came over the water to the distant observer in a united tone,
which sounded almost as sweet as soft music.
The smith's forge stood on a ledge of rock close to the
foundation-pit, a little to the north of it. Here Vulcan Dove had
fixed a strong iron framework, which formed the hearth. The four legs
which supported it were let into holes bored from six to twelve
inches into the rock, according to the inequalities of the site.
These were wedged first with wood and then with iron, for as this
part of the forge and the anvil was doomed to be drowned every tide,
or twice every day, besides being exposed to the fury of all the
storms that might chance to blow, it behoved them to fix things down
with unusual firmness.
The block of timber for supporting the anvil was fixed in the same
manner, but the anvil itself was left to depend on its own weight and
the small stud fitted into the bottom of it.
The bellows, however, were too delicate to be left exposed to such
forces as the stormy winds and waves, they were therefore shipped and
unshipped every tide, and conveyed to and from the rock in the boats
with the men.
Dove and Ruby wrought together like heroes. They were both so
powerful that the heavy implements they wielded seemed to possess no
weight when in their strong hands, and their bodies were so lithe and
active as to give the impression of men rejoicing, revelling, in the
enjoyment of their work.
"That's your sort; hit him hard, he's got no friends," said Dove,
turning a mass of red-hot metal from side to side, while Ruby pounded
it with a mighty hammer, as if it were a piece of putty.
"Fire and steel for ever," observed Ruby, as he made the sparks fly
right and left. "Hallo! the tide's rising."
"Ho! so it is," cried the smith, finishing off the piece of work with
a small hammer, while Ruby rested on the one he had used and wiped
the perspiration from his brow. "It always serves me in this way,
lad," continued the smith, without pausing for a moment in his work.
"Blow away, Ruby, the sea is my greatest enemy. Every day, a'most, it
washes me away from my work. In calm weather, it creeps up my legs,
and the legs o' the forge too, till it gradually puts out the fire,
and in rough weather it sends up a wave sometimes that sweeps the
whole concern black out at one shot.
"It will creep you out to-day, evidently," said Ruby, as the water
began to come about his toes.
"Never mind, lad, we'll have time to finish them picks this tide, if
we work fast."
Thus they toiled and moiled, with their heads and shoulders in smoke
and fire, and their feet in water.
Gradually the tide rose.
"Pump away, Ruby! Keep the pot bilin', my boy," said the smith.
"The wind blowin', you mean. I say, Dove, do the other men like the
"Like it, ay, they like it well. At first we were somewhat afraid o'
the landin' in rough weather, but we've got used to that now. The
only bad thing about it is in the rolling o' that horrible Pharos.
She's so bad in a gale that I sometimes think she'll roll right over
like a cask. Most of us get sick then, but I don't think any of 'em
are as bad as me. They seem to be gettin' used to that too. I wish I
could. Another blow, Ruby."
"Time's up," shouted one of the men.
"Hold on just for a minute or two," pleaded the smith, who, with his
assistant, was by this time standing nearly knee-deep in water.
The sea had filled the pit some time before, and driven the men out
of it. These busied themselves in collecting the tools and seeing
that nothing was left lying about, while the men who were engaged on
those parts of the rocks that were a few inches higher, continued
their labours until the water crept up to them. Then they collected
their tools, and went to the boats, which lay awaiting them at the
"Now, Dove," cried the landing-master, "come along; the crabs will be
attacking your toes if you don't."
"It's a shame to gi'e Ruby the chance o' a sair throat the very first
day," cried John Watt.
"Just half a minute more," said the smith, examining a pickaxe, which
he was getting up to that delicate point of heat which is requisite
to give it proper temper.
While he gazed earnestly into the glowing coals a gentle hissing
sound was heard below the frame of the forge, then a gurgle, and the
fire became suddenly dark and went out!
"I knowed it! always the way!" cried Dove, with a look of
disappointment. "Come, lad, up with the bellows now, and don't forget
In a few minutes more the boats pushed off and returned to the
Pharos, three and a half hours of good work having been accomplished
before the tide drove them away.
Soon afterwards the sea overflowed the whole of the rock, and
obliterated the scene of those busy operations as completely as
though it had never been!
STORMS AND TROUBLES
A week of fine weather caused Ruby Brand to fall as deeply in love
with the work at the Bell Rock as his comrades had done.
There was an amount of vigour and excitement about it, with a dash of
romance, which quite harmonized with his character. At first he had
imagined it would be monotonous and dull, but in experience he found
it to be quite the reverse.
Although there was uniformity in the general character of the work,
there was constant variety in many of the details; and the spot on
which it was carried on was so circumscribed, and so utterly cut off
from all the world, that the minds of those employed became
concentrated on it in a way that aroused strong interest in every
There was not a ledge or a point of rock that rose ever so little
above the general level, that was not named after, and intimately
associated with, some event or individual. Every mass of seaweed
became a familiar object. The various little pools and inlets, many
of them not larger than a dining-room table, received high-sounding
and dignified names—such as Port Stevenson, Port, Erskine, Taylor's
Track, Neill's Pool, &c. Of course the fish that frequented the
pools, and the shell-fish that covered the rock, became subjects of
much attention, and, in some cases, of earnest study.
Robinson Crusoe himself did not pry into the secrets of his
island-home with half the amount of assiduity that was displayed at
this time by many of the men who built the Bell Rock Lighthouse. The
very fact that their time was limited acted as a spur, so that on
landing each tide they rushed hastily to the work, and the amateur
studies in natural history to which we have referred were prosecuted
hurriedly during brief intervals of rest. Afterwards, when the beacon
house was erected, and the men dwelt upon the rock, these studies (if
we may not call them amusements) were continued more leisurely, but
with unabated ardour, and furnished no small amount of comparatively
thrilling incident at times.
One fine morning, just after the men had landed, and before they had
commenced work, "Long Forsyth", as his comrades styled him, went to a
pool to gather a little dulse, of which there was a great deal on the
rock, and which was found to be exceedingly grateful to the palates
of those who were afflicted with sea-sickness.
He stooped over the pool to pluck a morsel, but paused on observing a
beautiful fish, about a foot long, swimming in the clear water, as
quietly as if it knew the man to be a friend, and were not in the
least degree afraid of him.
Forsyth was an excitable man, and also studious in his character. He
at once became agitated and desirous of possessing that fish, for it
was extremely brilliant and variegated in colour. He looked round for
something to throw at it, but there was nothing within reach. He
sighed for a hook and line, but as sighs never yet produced hooks or
lines he did not get one.
Just then the fish swam slowly to the side of the pool on which the
man kneeled, as if it actually desired more intimate acquaintance.
Forsyth lay fiat down and reached out his hand toward it; but it
appeared to think this rather too familiar, for it swam slowly beyond
his reach, and the man drew back. Again it came to the side, much
nearer. Once more Forsyth lay down, reaching over the pool as far as
he could, and insinuating his hand into the water. But the fish moved
off a little.
Thus they coquetted with each other for some time, until the man's
comrades began to observe that he was "after something".
"Wot's he a-doin' of?" said one. "Reachin' over the pool, I think,"
replied another. "Ye don't mean he's sick?" cried a third. The smile
with which this was received was changed into a roar of laughter as
poor Forsyth's long legs were seen to tip up into the air, and the
whole man to disappear beneath the water. He had overbalanced
himself in his frantic efforts to reach the fish, and was now making
its acquaintance in its native element!
The pool, although small in extent, was so deep that Forsyth, long
though he was, did not find bottom. Moreover, he could not swim, so
that when he reached the surface he came up with his hands first and
his ten fingers spread out helplessly; next appeared his shaggy head,
with the eyes wide open, and the mouth tight shut. The moment the
latter was uncovered, however, he uttered a tremendous yell, which
was choked in the bud with a gurgle as he sank again.
The men rushed to the rescue at once, and the next time Forsyth rose
he was seized by the hair of the head and dragged out of the
It has not been recorded what became of the fish that caused such an
alarming accident, but we may reasonably conclude that it sought
refuge in the ocean cavelets at the bottom of that miniature sea, for
Long Forsyth was so very large, and created such a terrible
disturbance therein, that no fish exposed to the full violence of the
storm could have survived it!
"Wot a hobject!" exclaimed Joe Dumsby, a short, thickset, little
Englishman, who, having been born and partly bred in London, was
rather addicted to what is styled chaffing. "Was you arter a mermaid,
"Av coorse he was," observed Ned O'Connor, an Irishman, who was
afflicted with the belief that he was rather a witty fellow, "av
coorse he was, an' a merry-maid she must have bin to see a human
spider like him kickin' up such a dust in the say."
"He's like a drooned rotten," observed John Watt; "tak' aff yer
claes, man, an' wring them dry."
"Let the poor fellow be, and get along with you," cried Peter Logan,
the foreman of the works, who came up at that moment.
With a few parting remarks and cautions, such as,—"You'd better
bring a dry suit to the rock next time, lad," "Take care the crabs
don't make off with you, boy," "and don't be gettin' too fond o' the
girls in the sea," &c., the men scattered themselves over the rock
and began their work in earnest, while Forsyth, who took the chaffing
in good part, stripped himself and wrung the water out of his
Episodes of this kind were not unfrequent, and they usually furnished
food for conversation at the time, and for frequent allusion
But it was not all sunshine and play, by any means.
Not long after Ruby joined, the fine weather broke up, and a
succession of stiff breezes, with occasional storms, more or less
violent, set in. Landing on the rock became a matter of extreme
difficulty, and the short period of work was often curtailed to
little more than an hour each tide.
The rolling of the Pharos lightship, too, became so great that
sea-sickness prevailed to a large extent among the landsmen. One
good arose out of this evil, however. Landing on the Bell Rock
invariably cured the sickness for a time, and the sea-sick men had
such an intense longing to eat of the dulse that grew there, that
they were always ready and anxious to get into the boats when there
was the slightest possibility of landing.
Getting into the boats, by the way, in a heavy sea, when the
lightship was rolling violently, was no easy matter. When the fine
weather first broke up, it happened about midnight, and the change
commenced with a stiff breeze from the eastward. The sea rose at
once, and, long before daybreak, the Pharos was rolling heavily in
the swell, and straining violently at the strong cable which held her
to her moorings.
About dawn Mr. Stevenson came on deck. He could not sleep, because he
felt that on his shoulders rested not only the responsibility of
carrying this gigantic work to a satisfactory conclusion, but also,
to a large extent, the responsibility of watching over and guarding
the lives of the people employed in the service.
"Shall we be able to land to-day, Mr. Wilson?" he said, accosting the
master of the Pharos, who has been already introduced as the
"I think so; the barometer has not fallen much; and even although the
wind should increase a little, we can effect a landing by the Fair
Way, at Hope's Wharf."
"Very well, I leave it entirely in your hands; you understand the
weather better than I do, but remember that I do not wish my men to
run unnecessary or foolish risk."
It may be as well to mention here that a small but exceedingly strong
tramway of iron-grating had been fixed to the Bell Rock at an
elevation varying from two to four feet above it, and encircling the
site of the building. This tramway or railroad was narrow, not quite
three feet in width; and small trucks were fitted to it, so that the
heavy stones of the building might be easily run to the exact spot
they were to occupy. From this circular rail several branch lines
extended to the different creeks where the boats deposited the
stones. These lines, although only a few yards in length, were
dignified with names—as, Kennedy's Reach, Lagan's Reach, Watt's
Reach, and Slights Reach. The ends of them, where they dipped into
the sea, were named Hope's Wharf, Duff's Wharf, Rae's Wharf, &c.;
and these wharves had been fixed on different sides of the rock, so
that, whatever wind should blow, there would always be one of them on
the lee-side available for the carrying on of the work.
Hope's Wharf was connected with Port Erskine, a pool about twenty
yards long by three or four wide, and communicated with the side of
the lighthouse by Watt's Reach, a distance of about thirty yards.
About eight o'clock that morning the bell rang for breakfast. Such of
the men as were not already up began to get out of their berths and
To Ruby the scene that followed was very amusing. Hitherto all had
been calm and sunshine. The work, although severe while they were
engaged, had been of short duration, and the greater part of each day
had been afterwards spent in light work, or in amusement. The summons
to meals had always been a joyful one, and the appetites of the men
were keenly set.
Now, all this was changed. The ruddy faces of the men were become
green, blue, yellow, and purple, according to temperament, but few
were flesh-coloured or red. When the bell rang there was a universal
groan below, and half a dozen ghostlike individuals raised themselves
on their elbows and looked up with expressions of the deepest woe at
the dim skylight. Most of them speedily fell back again, however,
partly owing to a heavy lurch of the vessel, and partly owing to
indescribable sensations within.
"Blowin'!" groaned one, as if that single word comprehended the
essence of all the miseries that seafaring man is heir to.
"O dear!" sighed another, "why did I ever come here?"
"Och! murder, I'm dyin', send for the praist an' me mother!" cried
O'Connor, as he fell flat down on his back and pressed both hands
tightly over his mouth.
The poor blacksmith lost control over himself at this point
and—found partial relief!
The act tended to relieve others. Most of the men were much too
miserable to make any remark at all, a few of them had not heart even
to groan; but five or six sat up on the edge of their beds, with a
weak intention of turning out They sat there swaying about with the
motions of the ship in helpless indecision, until a tremendous roll
sent them flying, with unexpected violence, against the starboard
"Come, lads," cried Ruby, leaping out of his hammock, "there's
nothing like a vigorous jump to put sea-sickness to flight."
"Humbug!" ejaculated Bremner, who owned a little black dog, which lay
at that time on the pillow gazing into his master's green face, with
"Ah, Ruby," groaned the smith, "it's all very well for a sea-dog like
you that's used to it, but——"
James Dove stopped short abruptly. It is not necessary to explain the
cause of his abrupt silence. Suffice it to say that he did not
thereafter attempt to finish that sentence.
"Steward!" roared Joe Dumsby.
"Ay, ay, shipmate, what's up?" cried the steward, who chanced to pass
the door of the men's sleeping-place, with a large dish of boiled
salt pork, at the moment.
"Wot's up?" echoed Dumsby. "Everythink that ever went into me since I
was a hinfant must be 'up' by this time. I say, is there any chance
of gettin' on the rock to-day?"
"O yes. I heard the cap'n say it would be quite easy, and they seem
to be makin' ready now, so if any of 'ee want breakfast you'd better
This speech acted like a shock of electricity on the wretched men. In
a moment every bed was empty, and the place was in a bustle of
confusion as they hurriedly threw on their clothes.
Some of them even began to think of the possibility of venturing on a
hard biscuit and a cup of tea, but a gust of wind sent the fumes of
the salt pork into the cabin at the moment, and the mere idea of food
filled them with unutterable loathing.
Presently the bell rang again. This was the signal for the men to
muster, the boats being ready alongside. The whole crew at once
rushed on deck, some of them thrusting biscuits into their pockets as
they passed the steward's quarters. Not a man was absent on the roll
being called. Even the smith crawled on deck, and had spirit enough
left to advise Ruby not to forget the bellows; to which Ruby replied
by recommending his comrade not to forget the matches.
Then the operation of embarking began.
The sea at the time was running pretty high, with little white flecks
of foam tipping the crests of the deep blue waves. The eastern sky
was dark and threatening. The black ridges of the Bell Rock were
visible only at times in the midst of the sea of foam that surrounded
them. Anyone ignorant of their nature would have deemed a landing
The Pharos, as we have said, was rolling violently from side to
side, insomuch that those who were in the boats had the greatest
difficulty in preventing them from being stove in; and getting into
these boats had much the appearance of an exceedingly difficult and
dangerous feat, which active and reckless men might undertake for a
But custom reconciles one to almost anything. Most of the men had had
sufficient experience by that time to embark with comparative ease.
Nevertheless, there were a few whose physical conformation was such
that they could do nothing neatly.
Poor Forsyth was one of these. Each man had to stand on the edge of
the lightship, outside the bulwarks, holding on to a rope, ready to
let go and drop into the boat when it rose up and met the vessel's
roll. In order to facilitate the operation a boat went to either side
of the ship, so that two men were always in the act of watching for
an opportunity to spring. The active men usually got in at the first
or second attempt, but others missed frequently, and were of course
"chaffed" by their more fortunate comrades.
The embarking of "Long Forsyth" was always a scene in rough weather,
and many a narrow escape had he of a ducking. On the present
occasion, being very sick, he was more awkward than usual.
"Now, Longlegs," cried the men who held the boat on the starboard
side, as Forsyth got over the side and stood ready to spring, "let's
see how good you'll be to-day."
He was observed by Joe Dumsby, who had just succeeded in getting into
the boat on the port side of the ship, and who always took a lively
interest in his tall comrade's proceedings.
"Hallo! is that the spider?" he cried, as the ship rolled towards
him, and the said spider appeared towering high on the opposite
bulwark, sharply depicted against the grey sky.
It was unfortunate for Joe that he chanced to be on the opposite side
from his friend, for at each roll the vessel necessarily intervened
and hid him for a few seconds from view.
Next roll, Forsyth did not dare to leap, although the gunwale of the
boat came within a foot of him. He hesitated, the moment was lost,
the boat sank into the hollow of the sea, and the man was swung high
into the air, where he was again caught sight of by Dumsby.
"What! are you there yet?" he cried. "You must be fond of a
Before he could say more the ship rolled over to the other side, and
Forsyth was hid from view.
"Now, lad, now! now!" shouted the boat's crew, as the unhappy man
once more neared the gunwale.
Forsyth hesitated. Suddenly he became desperate and sprang, but the
hesitation gave him a much higher fall than he would otherwise have
had; it caused him also to leap wildly in a sprawling manner, so that
he came down on the shoulders of his comrades "all of a lump".
Fortunately they were prepared for something of the sort, so that no
damage was done.
When the boats were at last filled they pushed off and rowed towards
the rock. On approaching it the men were cautioned to pull steadily
by Mr. Stevenson, who steered the leading boat.
It was a standing order in the landing department that every man
should use his greatest exertions in giving to the boats sufficient
velocity to preserve their steerage way in entering the respective
creeks at the rock, that the contending seas might not overpower them
at places where the free use of the oars could not be had on account
of the surrounding rocks or the masses of seaweed with which the
water was everywhere encumbered at low tide. This order had been
thoroughly impressed upon the men, as carelessness or inattention to
it might have proved fatal to all on board.
As the leading boat entered the fairway, its steersman saw that more
than ordinary caution would be necessary; for the great green billows
that thundered to windward of the rock came sweeping down on either
side of it, and met on the lee side, where they swept onward with
considerable, though much abated force.
"Mind your oars, lads; pull steady," said Mr. Stevenson, as they
began to get amongst the seaweed.
The caution was unnecessary as far as the old hands were concerned;
but two of the men happened to be new hands, who had come off with
Ruby, and did not fully appreciate the necessity of strict obedience.
One of these, sitting at the bow oar, looked over his shoulder, and
saw a heavy sea rolling towards the boat, and inadvertently expressed
some fear. The other man, on hearing this, glanced round, and in
doing so missed a stroke of his oar. Such a preponderance was thus
given to the rowers on the opposite side, that when the wave struck
the boat, it caught her on the side instead of the bow, and hurled
her upon a ledge of shelving rocks, where the water left her.
Having been kanted to seaward, the next billow completely filled
her, and, of course, drenched the crew.
Instantly Ruby Brand and one or two of the most active men leaped
out, and, putting forth all their strength, turned the boat round so
as to meet the succeeding sea with its bow first. Then, after making
considerable efforts, they pushed her off into deep water, and
finally made the landing-place. The other boat could render no
assistance; but, indeed, the whole thing was the work of a few
As the boats could not conveniently leave the rock till flood-tide,
all hands set to work with unwonted energy in order to keep
themselves warm, not, however, before they ate heartily of their
favourite dulse—the blacksmith being conspicuous for the voracious
manner in which he devoured it.
Soon the bellows were set up; the fire was kindled, and the ring of
the anvil heard; but poor Dove and Ruby had little pleasure in their
work that day; for the wind blew the smoke and sparks about their
faces, and occasionally a higher wave than ordinary sent the spray
flying round them, to the detriment of their fire. Nevertheless they
plied the hammer and bellows unceasingly.
The other men went about their work with similar disregard of the
fury of the elements and the wet condition of their garments.
THE RISING OF THE TIDE—A NARROW ESCAPE
The portion of the work that Mr. Stevenson was now most anxious to
get advanced was the beacon.
The necessity of having an erection of this kind was very obvious,
for, in the event of anything happening to the boats, there would be
no refuge for the men to fly to; and the tide would probably sweep
them all away before their danger could be known, or assistance sent
from the attendant vessels. Every man felt that his personal safety
might depend on the beacon during some period of the work. The
energies of all, therefore, were turned to the preliminary
arrangements for its erection.
As the beacon would require to withstand the utmost fury of the
elements during all seasons of the year, it was necessary that it
should be possessed of immense strength.
In order to do this, six cuttings were made in the rock for the
reception of the ends of the six great beams of the beacon. Each beam
was to be fixed to the solid rock by two strong and massive bats, or
stanchions, of iron. These bats, for the fixing of the principal and
diagonal beams and bracing chains, required fifty-four holes, each
measuring a foot and a half deep, and two inches wide. The operation
of boring such holes into the solid rock, was not an easy or a quick
one, but by admirable arrangements on the part of the engineer, and
steady perseverance on the part of the men, they progressed faster
than had been anticipated.
Three men were attached to each jumper, or boring chisel; one placed
himself in a sitting posture, to guide the instrument, and give it a
turn at each blow of the hammer; he also sponged and cleaned out the
hole, and supplied it occasionally with a little water, while the
other two, with hammers of sixteen pounds weight, struck the jumper
alternately, generally bringing the hammer with a swing round the
shoulder, after the manner of blacksmith work.
Ruby, we may remark in passing, occupied himself at this work as
often as he could get away from his duties at the forge, being
particularly fond of it, as it enabled him to get rid of some of his
superabundant energy, and afforded him a suitable exercise for his
gigantic strength. It also tended to relieve his feelings when he
happened to think of Minnie being so near, and he so utterly and
hopelessly cut off from all communication with her.
But to return to the bat-holes. The three men relieved each other in
the operations of wielding the hammers and guiding the jumpers, so
that the work never flagged for a moment, and it was found that when
the tools were of a very good temper, these holes could be sunk at
the rate of one inch per minute, including stoppages. But the tools
were not always of good temper; and severely was poor Dove's temper
tried by the frequency of the scolds which he received from the men,
some of whom were clumsy enough, Dove said, to spoil the best
tempered tool in the world.
But the most tedious part of the operation did not lie in the boring
of these holes. In order that they should be of the required shape,
two holes had to be bored a few inches apart from each other, and the
rock cut away from between them. It was this latter part of the work
that took up most time.
Those of the men who were not employed about the beacon were working
at the foundation-pit.
While the party were thus busily occupied on the Bell Rock, an event
occurred which rendered the importance of the beacon, if possible,
more obvious than ever, and which wellnigh put an end to the career
of all those who were engaged on the rock at that time.
The Pharos floating light lay at a distance of above two miles from
the Bell Rock; but one of the smaller vessels, the sloop Smeaton,
lay much closer to it, and some of the artificers were berthed aboard
of her, instead of the floating light.
Some time after the landing of the two boats from the Pharos, the
Smeaton's boat put off and landed eight men on the rock; soon after
which the crew of the boat pushed off and returned to the Smeaton
to examine her riding-ropes, and see that they were in good order,
for the wind was beginning to increase, and the sea to rise.
The boat had no sooner reached the vessel than the latter began to
drift, carrying the boat along with her. Instantly those on board
endeavoured to hoist the mainsail of the Smeaton, with the view of
working her up to the buoy from which she had parted; but it blew so
hard, that by the time she was got round to make a tack towards the
rock, she had drifted at least three miles to leeward.
The circumstance of the Smeaton and her boat having drifted was
observed first by Mr. Stevenson, who prudently refrained from drawing
attention to the fact, and walked slowly to the farther point of the
rock to watch her. He was quickly followed by the landing-master, who
touched him on the shoulder, and in perfect silence, but with a look
of intense anxiety, pointed to the vessel.
"I see it, Wilson. God help us if she fails to make the rock within a
very short time," said Mr. Stevenson.
"She will never reach us in time," said Wilson, in a tone that
convinced his companion he entertained no hope.
"Perhaps she may," he said hurriedly; "she is a good sailer."
"Good sailing," replied the other, "cannot avail against wind and
tide together. No human power can bring that vessel to our aid until
long after the tide has covered the Bell Rock."
Both remained silent for some time, watching with intense anxiety the
ineffectual efforts of the little vessel to beat up to windward.
In a few minutes the engineer turned to his companion and said, "They
cannot save us, Wilson. The two boats that are left—can they hold us
The landing-master shook his head. "The two boats," said he, "will be
completely filled by their own crews. For ordinary rough weather they
would be quite full enough. In a sea like that," he said, pointing to
the angry waves that were being gradually lashed into foam by the
increasing wind, "they will be overloaded."
"Come, I don't know that, Wilson; we may devise something," said Mr.
Stevenson, with a forced air of confidence, as he moved slowly
towards the place where the men were still working, busy as bees and
all unconscious of the perilous circumstances in which they were
As the engineer pondered the prospect of deliverance, his thoughts
led him rather to despair than to hope. There were thirty-two persons
in all upon the rock that day, with only two boats, which, even in
good weather, could not unitedly accommodate more than twenty-four
sitters. But to row to the floating light with so much wind and in so
heavy a sea, a complement of eight men for each boat was as much as
could with propriety be attempted, so that about half of their number
was thus unprovided for. Under these circumstances he felt that to
despatch one of the boats in expectation of either working the
Smeaton sooner up to the rock, or in hopes of getting her boat
brought to their assistance would, besides being useless, at once
alarm the workmen, each of whom would probably insist upon taking to
his own boat, and leaving the eight men of the Smeaton to their
chance. A scuffle might ensue, and he knew well that when men are
contending for life the results may be very disastrous.
For a considerable time the men remained in ignorance of terrible
conflict that was going on in their commander's breast. As they
wrought chiefly in sitting or kneeling postures, excavating the rock
or boring with jumpers, their attention was naturally diverted from
everything else around them. The dense volumes of smoke, too, that
rose from the forge fire, so enveloped them as to render distant
objects dim or altogether invisible.
While this lasted,—while the numerous hammers were going and the
anvil continued to sound, the situation of things did not appear so
awful to the only two who were aware of what had occurred. But ere
long the tide began to rise upon those who were at work on the lower
parts of the beacon and lighthouse. From the run of the sea upon the
rock, the forge fire was extinguished sooner than usual; the volumes
of smoke cleared away, and objects became visible in every direction.
After having had about three hours' work, the men began pretty
generally to make towards their respective boats for their jackets
Then it was that they made the discovery that one boat was absent.
Only a few exclamations were uttered. A glance at the two boats and a
hurried gaze to seaward were sufficient to acquaint them with their
awful position. Not a word was spoken by anyone. All appeared to be
silently calculating their numbers, and looking at each other with
evident marks of perplexity depicted in their countenances. The
landing-master, conceiving that blame might attach to him for having
allowed the boat to leave the rock, kept a little apart from the men.
All eyes were turned, as if by instinct, to Mr. Stevenson. The men
seemed to feel that the issue lay with him.
The engineer was standing on an elevated part of the rock named
Smith's Ledge, gazing in deep anxiety at the distant Smeaton, in
the hope that he might observe some effort being made, at least, to
pull the boat to their rescue.
Slowly but surely the tide rose, overwhelming the lower parts of the
rock; sending each successive wave nearer and nearer to the feet of
those who were now crowded on the last ledge that could afford them
The deep silence that prevailed was awful! It proved that each mind
saw clearly the impossibility of anything being devised, and that a
deadly struggle for precedence was inevitable.
Mr. Stevenson had all along been rapidly turning over in his mind
various schemes which might be put in practice for the general
safety, provided the men could be kept under command. He accordingly
turned to address them on the perilous nature of their circumstances;
intending to propose that all hands should strip off their upper
clothing when the higher parts of the rock should be laid under
water; that the seamen should remove every unnecessary weight and
encumbrance from the boats; that a specified number of men should go
into each boat; and that the remainder should hang by the gunwales,
while the boats were to be rowed gently towards the Smeaton, as the
course to the floating light lay rather to windward of the rock.
But when he attempted to give utterance to his thoughts the words
refused to come. So powerful an effect had the awful nature of their
position upon him, that his parched tongue could not articulate. He
learned, from terrible experience, that saliva is as necessary to
speech as the tongue itself. Stooping hastily, he dipped his hand
into a pool of salt water and moistened his mouth. This produced
immediate relief and he was about to speak, when Ruby Brand, who had
stood at his elbow all the time with compressed lips and a stern
frown on his brow, suddenly took off his cap, and waving it above his
head, shouted "A boat! a boat!" with all the power of his lungs.
All eyes were at once turned in the direction to which he pointed,
and there, sure enough, a large boat was seen through the haze,
making towards the rock.
Doubtless many a heart there swelled with gratitude to God, who had
thus opportunely and most unexpectedly sent them relief at the
eleventh hour; but the only sound that escaped them was a cheer, such
as men seldom give or hear save in eases of deliverance in times of
The boat belonged to James Spink, the Bell Rock pilot, who chanced to
have come off express from Arbroath that day with letters.
We have said that Spink came off by chance; but, when we consider
all the circumstances of the case, and the fact that boats seldom
visited the Bell Rock at any time, and never during bad weather, we
are constrained to feel that God does in His mercy interfere
sometimes in a peculiar and special manner in human affairs, and that
there was something more and higher than mere chance in the
deliverance of Stevenson and his men upon this occasion.
The pilot-boat, having taken on board as many as it could hold, set
sail for the floating light; the other boats then put off from the
rock with the rest of the men, but they did not reach the Pharos
until after a long and weary pull of three hours, during which the
waves broke over the boats so frequently as to necessitate constant
When the floating light was at last reached, a new difficulty met
them, for the vessel rolled so much, and the men were so exhausted,
that it proved to be a work of no little toil and danger to get them
all on board.
Long Forsyth, in particular, cost them all an infinite amount of
labour, for he was so sick, poor fellow, that he could scarcely move.
Indeed, he did at one time beg them earnestly to drop him into the
sea and be done with him altogether, a request with which they of
course refused to comply. However, he was got up somehow, and the
whole of them were comforted by a glass of rum and thereafter a cup
of hot coffee.
Ruby had the good fortune to obtain the additional comfort of a
letter from Minnie, which, although it did not throw much light on
the proceedings of Captain Ogilvy (for that sapient seaman's
proceedings were usually involved in a species of obscurity which
light could not penetrate), nevertheless assured him that something
was being done in his behalf, and that, if he only kept quiet for a
time, all would be well.
The letter also assured him of the unalterable affection of the
writer, an assurance which caused him to rejoice to such an extent
that he became for a time perfectly regardless of all other sublunary
things, and even came to look upon the Bell Rock as a species of
paradise, watched over by the eye of an angel with golden hair, in
which he could indulge his pleasant dreams to the utmost.
That he had to indulge those dreams in the midst of storm and rain
and smoke, surrounded by sea and seaweed, workmen and hammers, and
forges and picks, and jumpers and seals, while his strong muscles and
endurance were frequently tried to the uttermost, was a matter of no
moment to Ruby Brand.
All experience goes to prove that great joy will utterly overbear the
adverse influence of physical troubles, especially if those troubles
are without, and do not touch the seats of life within. Minnie's
love, expressed as it was in her own innocent, truthful, and
straightforward way, rendered his body, big though it was, almost
incapable of containing his soul. He pulled the oar, hammered the
jumper, battered the anvil, tore at the bellows, and hewed the solid
Bell Rock with a vehemence that aroused the admiration of his
comrades, and induced Jamie Dove to pronounce him to be the best
fellow the world ever produced.
A STORM, AND A DISMAL STATE OF THINGS ON BOARD THE PHAROS
From what has been said at the close of the last chapter, it will not
surprise the reader to be told that the storm which blew during that
night had no further effect on Ruby Brand than to toss his hair
about, and cause a ruddier glow than usual to deepen the tone of his
It was otherwise with many of his hapless comrades, a few of whom had
also received letters that day, but whose pleasure was marred to some
extent by the qualms within.
Being Saturday, a glass of rum was served out in the evening,
according to custom, and the men proceeded to hold what is known by
the name of "Saturday night at sea".
This being a night that was usually much enjoyed on board, owing to
the home memories that were recalled, and the familiar songs that
were sung; owing, also, to the limited supply of grog, which might
indeed cheer, but could not by any possibility inebriate, the men
endeavoured to shake off their fatigue, and to forget, if possible,
the rolling of the vessel.
The first effort was not difficult, but the second was not easy. At
first, however, the gale was not severe, so they fought against
circumstances bravely for a time.
"Come, lads," cried the smith, in a species of serio-comic
desperation, when they had all assembled below, "let's drink to
sweethearts and wives."
"Hear, hear! Bless their hearts! Sweethearts and wives!" responded
the men. "Hip, hip!"
The cheer that followed was a genuine one.
"Now for a song, boys," cried one of the men, "and I think the last
arrivals are bound to sing first."
"Hear, hear! Ruby, lad, you're in for it," said the smith, who sat
near his assistant.
"What shall I sing?" enquired Ruby.
"Oh! let me see," said Joe Dumsby, assuming the air of one who
endeavoured to recall something. "Could you come Beet'oven's symphony
on B flat?"
"Ah! howld yer tongue, Joe," cried O'Connor, "sure the young man can
only sing on the sharp kays; ain't he always sharpin' the tools, not
to speak of his appetite?"
"You've a blunt way of speaking yourself, friend," said Dumsby, in a
tone of reproof.
"Hallo! stop your jokes," cried the smith; "if you treat us to any
more o' that sort o' thing we'll have ye dipped over the side, and
hung up to dry at the end o' the mainyard. Fire away, Ruby, my
"Ay, that's hit," said John Watt. "Gie us the girl ye left behind
Ruby flushed suddenly, and turned towards the speaker with a look of
"What's wrang, freend? Hae ye never heard o' that sang?" enquired
"O yes, I forgot," said Ruby, recovering himself in some confusion.
"I know the song—I—I was thinking of something—of——"
"The girl ye left behind ye, av coorse," put in O'Connor, with a
"Come, strike up!" cried the men.
Ruby at once obeyed, and sang the desired song with a sweet, full
voice, that had the effect of moistening some of the eyes present.
The song was received enthusiastically. "Your health and song, lad,"
said Robert Selkirk, the principal builder, who came down the ladder
and joined them at that moment.
"Thank you, now it's my call," said Ruby. "I call upon Ned O'Connor
for a song."
"Or a speech," cried Forsyth.
"A spaitch is it?" said O'Connor, with a look of deep modesty. "Sure,
I never made a spaitch in me life, except when I axed Mrs. O'Connor
to marry me, an' I never finished that spaitch, for I only got the
length of 'Och! darlint', when she cut me short in the middle with
'Sure, you may have me, Ned, and welcome!'"
"Shame, shame!" said Dove, "to say that of your wife."
"Shame to yersilf," cried O'Connor indignantly. "Ain't I payin' the
good woman a compliment, when I say that she had pity on me
bashfulness, and came to me help when I was in difficulty?"
"Quite right, O'Connor; but let's have a song if you won't speak."
"Would ye thank a cracked tay-kittle for a song?" said Ned.
"Certainly not," replied Peter Logan, who was apt to take things too
"Then don't ax me for wan," said the Irishman, "but I'll do this
for ye, messmates: I'll read ye the last letter I got from the
mistress, just to show ye that her price is beyond all calkerlation."
A round of applause followed this offer, as Ned drew forth a
much-soiled letter from the breast pocket of his coat, and carefully
unfolding it, spread it on his knee.
"It begins," said O'Connor, in a slightly hesitating tone, "with some
expressions of a—a—raither endearin' character, that perhaps I may
as well pass."
"No, no," shouted the men, "let's have them all. Out with them,
"Well, well, av ye will have them, here they be.
"'My own purty darlin' as has bin my most luved sin' the day we wos
marrit, you'll be grieved to larn that the pig's gone to its long
Here O'Connor paused to make some parenthetical remarks, with which,
indeed, he interlarded the whole letter.
"The pig, you must know, lads, was an old sow as belonged to me
wife's gran'-mother, an' besides bein' a sort o' pet o' the family,
was an uncommon profitable crature. But to purceed. She goes on to
"'We waked her' (that's the pig, boys) 'yisterday, and buried her
this mornin'. Big Rory, the baist, was for aitin' her, but I wouldn't
hear of it; so she's at rest, an' so is old Molly Mallone. She wint
away just two minutes be the clock before the pig, and wos burried
the day afther. There's no more news as I knows of in the parish,
except that your old flame Mary got married to Teddy O'Rook, an'
they've been fightin' tooth an' nail ever since, as I towld ye they
would long ago. No man could live wid that woman. But the
schoolmaster, good man, has let me off the cow. Ye see, darlin', I
towld him ye wos buildin' a palace in the say, to put ships in afther
they wos wrecked on the coast of Ameriky, so ye couldn't be expected
to send home much money at prisint. An' he just said, 'Well, well,
Kathleen, you may just kaip the cow, and pay me whin ye can'. So put
that off yer mind, my swait Ned.
"'I'm sorry to hear the Faries rowls so bad, though what the Faries
mains is more nor I can tell.' (I spelled the word quite krect, lads,
but my poor mistress hain't got the best of eyesight.) 'Let me know
in yer nixt, an' be sure to tell me if Long Forsyth has got the
bitter o' say-sickness. I'm koorius about this, bekaise I've got a
receipt for that same that's infallerable, as his Riverence says.
Tell him, with my luv, to mix a spoonful o' pepper, an' two o' salt,
an' wan o' mustard, an' a glass o' whisky in a taycup, with a
sprinklin' o' ginger; fill it up with goat's milk, or ass's, av ye
can't git goat's; hait it in a pan, an' drink it as hot as he
can—hotter, if possible. I niver tried it meself, but they say it's
a suverin' remidy; and if it don't do no good, it's not likely to do
much harm, bein' but a waik mixture. Me own belaif is, that the
milk's a mistake, but I suppose the doctors know best.
"'Now, swaitest of men, I must stop, for Neddy's just come in howlin'
like a born Turk for his tay; so no more at present from, yours till
"Has she any sisters?" enquired Joe Dumsby eagerly, as Ned folded the
letter and replaced it in his pocket.
"Six of 'em," replied Ned; "every one purtier and better nor
"Is it a long way to Galway?" continued Joe.
"Not long; but it's a coorious thing that Englishmen never come back
from them parts whin they wance ventur' into them."
Joe was about to retort when the men called for another song.
"Come, Jamie Dove, let's have 'Rule, Britannia'."
Dove was by this time quite yellow in the face, and felt more
inclined to go to bed than to sing; but he braced himself up,
resolved to struggle manfully against the demon that oppressed him.
It was in vain! Poor Dove had just reached that point in the chorus
where Britons stoutly affirm that they "never, never, never shall be
slaves", when a tremendous roll of the vessel caused him to spring
from the locker, on which he sat, and rush to his berth.
There were several of the others whose self-restraint was demolished
by this example; these likewise fled, amid the laughter of their
companions, who broke up the meeting and went on deck.
The prospect of things there proved, beyond all doubt, that Britons
never did, and never will, rule the waves.
The storm, which had been brewing for some time past, was gathering
fresh strength every moment, and it became abundantly evident that
the floating light would have her anchors and cables tested pretty
severely before the gale was over.
About eight o'clock in the evening the wind shifted to
east-south-east; and at ten it became what seamen term a hard gale,
rendering it necessary to veer out about fifty additional fathoms of
the hempen cable. The gale still increasing, the ship rolled and
laboured excessively, and at midnight eighty fathoms more were veered
out, while the sea continued to strike the vessel with a degree of
force that no one had before experienced.
That night there was little rest on board the Pharos. Everyone who
has been "at sea" knows what it is to lie in one's berth on a stormy
night, with the planks of the deck only a few inches from one's nose,
and the water swashing past the little port that always leaks; the
seas striking against the ship; the heavy sprays falling on the
decks; and the constant rattle and row of blocks, spars, and cordage
overhead. But all this was as nothing compared with the state of
things on board the floating light, for that vessel could not rise to
the seas with the comparatively free motions of a ship, sailing
either with or against the gale. She tugged and strained at her
cable, as if with the fixed determination of breaking it, and she
offered all the opposition of a fixed body to the seas.
Daylight, though ardently longed for, brought no relief. The gale
continued with unabated violence. The sea struck so hard upon the
vessel's bows that it rose in great quantities, or, as Ruby expressed
it, in "green seas", which completely swept the deck as far aft as
the quarter-deck, and not unfrequently went completely over the stern
of the ship.
Those "green seas" fell at last so heavily on the skylights that all
the glass was driven in, and the water poured down into the cabins,
producing dire consternation in the minds of those below, who thought
that the vessel was sinking.
"I'm drowned intirely," roared poor Ned O'Connor, as the first of
those seas burst in and poured straight down on his hammock, which
happened to be just beneath the skylight.
Ned sprang out on the deck, missed his footing, and was hurled with
the next roll of the ship into the arms of the steward, who was
passing through the place at the time.
Before any comments could be made the dead-lights were put on, and
the cabins were involved in almost absolute darkness.
"Och! let me in beside ye," pleaded Ned with the occupant of the
"Awa' wi' ye! Na, na," cried John Watt, pushing the unfortunate man
away. "Cheinge yer wat claes first, an' I'll maybe let ye in, if ye
can find me again i' the dark."
While the Irishman was groping about in search of his chest, one of
the officers of the ship passed him on his way to the companion
ladder, intending to go on deck. Ruby Brand, feeling uncomfortable
below, leaped out of his hammock and followed him. They had both got
about halfway up the ladder when a tremendous sea struck the ship,
causing it to tremble from stem to stern. At the same moment someone
above opened the hatch, and putting his head down, shouted for the
officer, who happened to be just ascending.
"Ay, ay," replied the individual in question.
Just as he spoke, another heavy sea fell on the deck, and, rushing
aft like a river that has burst its banks, hurled the seaman into the
arms of the officer, who fell back upon Ruby, and all three came down
with tons of water into the cabin.
The scene that followed would have been ludicrous, had it not been
serious. The still rising sea caused the vessel to roll with
excessive violence, and the large quantity of water that had burst in
swept the men, who had jumped out of their beds, and all movable
things, from side to side in indescribable confusion. As the water
dashed up into the lower tier of beds, it was found necessary to lift
one of the scuttles in the floor, and let it flow into the limbers of
Fortunately no one was hurt, and Ruby succeeded in gaining the deck
before the hatch was reclosed and fastened down upon the scene of
discomfort and misery below.
This state of things continued the whole day. The seas followed in
rapid succession, and each, as it struck the vessel, caused her to
shake all over. At each blow from a wave the rolling and pitching
ceased for a few seconds, giving the impression that the ship had
broken adrift, and was running with the wind, or in the act of
sinking; but when another sea came, she ranged up against it with
great force. This latter effect at last became the regular intimation
to the anxious men below that they were still riding safely at
No fires could be lighted, therefore nothing could be cooked, so that
the men were fain to eat hard biscuits—those of them at least who
were able to eat at all—and lie in their wet blankets all day.
At ten in the morning the wind had shifted to north-east, and blew,
if possible, harder than before, accompanied by a much heavier swell
of the sea; it was therefore judged advisable to pay out more cable,
in order to lessen the danger of its giving way.
During the course of the gale nearly the whole length of the hempen
cable, of 120 fathoms, was veered out, besides the chain-moorings,
and, for its preservation, the cable was carefully "served", or
wattled, with pieces of canvas round the windlass, and with leather
well greased in the hawse-hole, where the chafing was most violent.
As may readily be imagined, the gentleman on whom rested nearly all
the responsibility connected with the work at the Bell Rock, passed
an anxious and sleepless time in his darkened berth. During the
morning he had made an attempt to reach the deck, but had been
checked by the same sea that produced the disasters above described.
About two o'clock in the afternoon great alarm was felt in
consequence of a heavy sea that struck the ship, almost filling the
waist, and pouring down into the berths below, through every chink
and crevice of the hatches and skylights. From the motion being
suddenly checked or deadened, and from the flowing in of the water
above, every individual on board thought that the ship was
foundering—at least all the landsmen were fully impressed with that
Mr. Stevenson could not remain below any longer. As soon as the ship
again began to range up to the sea, he made another effort to get on
deck. Before going, however, he went through the various apartments,
in order to ascertain the state of things below.
Groping his way in darkness from his own cabin, he came to that of
the officers of the ship. Here all was quiet, as well as dark. He
next entered the galley and other compartments occupied by the
artificers; here also all was dark, but not quiet, for several of the
men were engaged in prayer, or repeating psalms in a full tone of
voice, while others were protesting that if they should be fortunate
enough to get once more ashore, no one should ever see them afloat
again; but so loud was the creaking of the bulk-heads, the dashing of
water, and the whistling noise of the wind, that it was hardly
possible to distinguish words or voices.
The master of the vessel accompanied Mr. Stevenson, and, in one or
two instances, anxious and repeated enquiries were made by the
workmen as to the state of things on deck, to all of which he
returned one characteristic answer—"It can't blow long in this way,
lads; we must have better weather soon."
The next compartment in succession, moving forward, was that allotted
to the seamen of the ship. Here there was a characteristic difference
in the scene. Having reached the middle of the darksome berth without
the inmates being aware of the intrusion, the anxious engineer was
somewhat reassured and comforted to find that, although they talked
of bad weather and cross accidents of the sea, yet the conversation
was carried on in that tone and manner which bespoke ease and
composure of mind.
"Well, lads," said Mr. Stevenson, accosting the men, "what think you
of this state of things? Will the good ship weather it?"
"Nae fear o' her, sir," replied one confidently, "she's light and
new; it'll tak' a heavy sea to sink her."
"Ay," observed another, "and she's got little hold o' the water, good
ground-tackle, and no tophamper; she'll weather anything, sir."
Having satisfied himself that all was right below, Mr. Stevenson
returned aft and went on deck, where a sublime and awful sight
awaited him. The waves appeared to be what we hear sometimes termed
"mountains high". In reality they were perhaps about thirty feet of
unbroken water in height, their foaming crests being swept and torn
by the furious gale. All beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the
ship was black and chaotic.
Upon deck everything movable was out of sight, having either been
stowed away below previous to the gale, or washed overboard. Some
parts of the quarter bulwarks were damaged by the breach of the sea,
and one of the boats was broken, and half-full of water.
There was only one solitary individual on deck, placed there to watch
and give the alarm if the cable should give way, and this man was
Ruby Brand, who, having become tired of having nothing to do, had
gone on deck, as we have seen, and volunteered his services as
Ruby had no greatcoat on, no overall of any kind, but was simply
dressed in his ordinary jacket and trousers. He had thrust his cap
into his pocket in order to prevent it being blown away, and his
brown locks were streaming in the wind. He stood just aft the
foremast, to which he had lashed himself with a gasket or small rope
round his waist, to prevent his falling on the deck or being washed
overboard. He was as thoroughly wet as if he had been drawn through
the sea, and this was one reason why he was so lightly clad, that he
might wet as few clothes as possible, and have a dry change when he
There appeared to be a smile on his lips as he faced the angry gale
and gazed steadily out upon the wild ocean. He seemed to be enjoying
the sight of the grand elemental strife that was going on around him.
Perchance he was thinking of someone not very far away—with golden
Mr. Stevenson, coupling this smile on Ruby's face with the remarks of
the other seamen, felt that things were not so bad as they appeared
to unaccustomed eyes, nevertheless he deemed it right to advise with
the master and officers as to the probable result, in the event of
the ship drifting from her moorings.
"It is my opinion," said the master, on his being questioned as to
this, "that we have every chance of riding out the gale, which cannot
continue many hours longer with the same fury; and even if she should
part from her anchor, the storm-sails have been laid ready to hand,
and can be bent in a very short time. The direction of the wind being
nor'-east, we could sail up the Forth to Leith Roads; but if this
should appear doubtful, after passing the May we can steer for
Tyningham Sands, on the western side of Dunbar, and there run the
ship ashore. From the flatness of her bottom and the strength of her
build, I should think there would be no danger in beaching her even
in a very heavy sea."
This was so far satisfactory, and for some time things continued in
pretty much the state we have just described, but soon after there
was a sudden cessation of the straining motion of the ship which
surprised everyone. In another moment Ruby shouted "All hands a-hoy!
The consternation that followed may be conceived but not described.
The windlass was instantly manned, and the men soon gave out that
there was no strain on the cable. The mizzen-sail, which was
occasionally bent for the purpose of making the ship ride easily, was
at once set; the other sails were hoisted as quickly as possible, and
they bore away about a mile to the south-westward, where, at a spot
that was deemed suitable, the best-bower anchor was let go in twenty
Happily the storm had begun to abate before this accident happened.
Had it occurred during the height of the gale, the result might have
been most disastrous to the undertaking at the Bell Rock.
Having made all fast, an attempt was made to kindle the galley fire
and cook some food.
"Wot are we to 'ave, steward?" enquired Joe Dumsby, in a feeble
"Plumduff, my boy, so cheer up," replied the steward, who was busy
with the charming ingredients of a suet pudding, which was the only
dish to be attempted, owing to the ease with which it could be both
cooked and served up.
Accordingly, the suet pudding was made; the men began to cat; the
gale began to "take off", as seaman express it; and, Although things
were still very far removed from a state of comfort, they began to be
more endurable; health began to return to the sick, and hope to those
who had previously given way to despair.
BELL ROCK BILLOWS—AN UNEXPECTED VISIT—A DISASTER AND A RESCUE
It is pleasant, it is profoundly enjoyable, to sit on the margin of
the sea during the dead calm that not unfrequently succeeds a wild
storm, and watch the gentle undulations of the glass-like surface,
which the very gulls seem to be disinclined to ruffle with their
wings as they descend to hover above their own reflected images.
It is pleasant to watch this from the shore, where the waves fall in
low murmuring ripples, or from the ship's deck, far out upon the sea,
where there is no sound of water save the laving of the vessel's bow
as she rises and sinks in the broad-backed swell; but there is
something more than pleasant, there is something deeply and
peculiarly interesting, in the same scene when viewed from such a
position as the Bell Rock; for there, owing to the position of the
rock and the depth of water around it, the observer beholds, at the
same moment, the presence, as it were, of storm and calm.
The largest waves there are seen immediately after a storm has passed
away, not during its continuance, no matter how furious the gale may
have been, for the rushing wind has a tendency to blow down the
waves, so to speak, and prevent their rising to their utmost height.
It is when the storm is over that the swell rises; but as this swell
appears only like large undulations, it does not impress the beholder
with its magnitude until it draws near to the rock and begins to feel
the checking influence of the bottom of the sea. The upper part of
the swell, having then greater velocity than the lower part, assumes
more and more the form of a billow. As it comes on it towers up like
a great green wall of glittering glass, moving with a grand, solemn
motion, which does not at first give the idea of much force or
impetus. As it nears the rock, however, its height (probably fifteen
or twenty feet) becomes apparent; its velocity increases; the top,
with what may be termed gentle rapidity, rushes in advance of the
base; its dark green side becomes concave; the upper edge lips over,
then curls majestically downwards, as if bowing to a superior power,
and a gleam of light flashes for a moment on the curling top. As yet
there is no sound; all has occurred in the profound silence of the
calm, but another instant and there is a mighty crash—a deafening
roar; the great wall of water has fallen, and a very sea of churning
foam comes leaping, bursting, spouting over rocks and ledges,
carrying all before it with a tremendous sweep that seems to be
absolutely irresistible until it meets the higher ledges of rock,
when it is hurled back, and retires with a watery hiss that suggests
the idea of baffled rage.
But it is not conquered. With the calm majesty of unalterable
determination, wave after wave comes on, in slow, regular succession,
like the inexhaustible battalions of an unconquerable foe, to meet
with a similar repulse again and again.
There is, however, this peculiar difference between the waves on the
ordinary seashore and the billows on the Bell Rock, that the latter,
unlike the former, are not always defeated. The spectator on shore
plants his foot confidently at the very edge of the mighty sea,
knowing that "thus far it may come, but no farther". On the Bell Rock
the rising tide makes the conflict, for a time, more equal. Now, the
rock stands proudly above the sea: anon the sea sweeps furiously over
the rock with a roar of "Victory!"
Thus the war goes on, and thus the tide of battle daily and nightly
ebbs and flows all the year round.
But when the cunning hand of man began to interfere, the aspect of
things was changed, the sea was forced to succumb, and the rock, once
a dreaded enemy, became a servant of the human race. True, the former
rages in rebellion still, and the latter, although compelled to
uphold the light that warns against itself, continues its perpetual
warfare with the sea; but both are effectually conquered by means of
the wonderful intelligence that God has given to man, and the sea for
more than half a century has vainly beat against the massive tower
whose foundation is on the Bell Rock.
But all this savours somewhat of anticipation. Let us return to Ruby
Brand, in whose interest we have gone into this long digression; for
he it was who gazed intently at the mingled scene of storm and calm
which we have attempted to describe, and it was he who thought out
most of the ideas which we have endeavoured to convey.
Ruby had lent a hand to work the pump at the foundation-pit that
morning. After a good spell at it he took his turn of rest, and, in
order to enjoy it fully, went as far out as he could upon the seaward
ledges, and sat down on a piece of rock to watch the waves.
While seated there, Robert Selkirk came and sat down beside him.
Selkirk was the principal builder, and ultimately laid every stone of
the lighthouse with his own hand. He was a sedate, quiet man, but
full of energy and perseverance. When the stones were landed faster
than they could be built into their places, he and Bremner, as well
as some of the other builders, used to work on until the rising tide
reached their waists.
"It's a grand sight, Ruby," said Selkirk, as a larger wave than usual
fell, and came rushing in torrents of foam up to their feet, sending
a little of the spray over their heads.
"It is indeed a glorious sight," said Ruby. "If I had nothing to do,
I believe I could sit here all day just looking at the waves and
"Thinkin'!" repeated Selkirk, in a musing tone of voice. "Can ye
tell, lad, what ye think about when you're lookin' at the waves?"
Ruby smiled at the oddness of the question.
"Well," said he, "I don't think I ever thought of that before."
"Ah, but I have!" said the other, "an' I've come to the conclusion
that for the most part we don't think, properly speakin', at all;
that our thoughts, so to speak, think for us; that they just take the
bit in their teeth and go rumblin' and tumblin' about anyhow or
Ruby knitted his brows and pondered. He was one of those men who,
when they don't understand a thing, hold their tongues and think.
"And," continued Selkirk, "it's curious to observe what a lot o'
nonsense one thinks too when one is lookin' at the waves. Many a time
I have pulled myself up, thinkin' the most astonishin' stuff ye could
"I would hardly have expected this of such a grave kind o' man as
you," said Ruby.
"Mayhap not. It is not always the gravest looking that have the
"But you don't mean to say that you never think sense," continued
Ruby, "when you sit looking at the waves?"
"By no means," returned his companion; "I'm only talking of the way
in which one's thoughts will wander. Sometimes I think seriously
enough. Sometimes I think it strange that men can look at such a
scene as that, and scarcely bestow a thought upon Him who made it."
"Speak for yourself, friend," said Ruby, somewhat quickly; "how know
you that other men don't think about their Creator when they look at
"Because," returned Selkirk, "I find that I so seldom do so myself,
even although I wish to and often try to; and I hold that every man,
no matter what he is or feels, is one of a class who think and feel
as he does; also, because many people, especially Christians, have
told me that they have had the same experience to a large extent;
also, and chiefly, because, as far as unbelieving man is concerned,
the Bible tells me that 'God is not in all his thoughts'. But, Ruby,
I did not make the remark as a slur upon men in general, I merely
spoke of a fact,—an unfortunate fact,—that it is not natural to us,
and not easy, to rise from nature to nature's God, and I thought you
would agree with me."
"I believe you are right," said Ruby, half-ashamed of the petulance
of his reply; "at any rate, I confess you are right as far as I am
As Selkirk and Ruby were both fond of discussion, they continued
this subject some time longer, and there is no saying how far they
would have gone down into the abstruse depths of theology, had not
their converse been interrupted by the appearance of a boat rowing
towards the rock.
"Is yonder craft a fishing boat, think you?" said Ruby, rising and
pointing to it.
"Like enough, lad. Mayhap it's the pilot's, only it's too soon for
him to be off again with letters. Maybe it's visitors to the rock,
for I see something like a woman's bonnet."
As there was only one woman in the world at that time as far as Ruby
was concerned (of course putting his mother out of the question!), it
will not surprise the reader to be told that the youth started, that
his cheek reddened a little, and his heart beat somewhat faster than
usual. He immediately smiled, however, at the absurdity of supposing
it possible that the woman in the boat could be Minnie, and as the
blacksmith shouted to him at that moment, he turned on his heel and
leaped from ledge to ledge of rock until he gained his wonted place
at the forge.
Soon he was busy wielding the fore-hammer, causing the sparks to fly
about himself and his comrade in showers, while the anvil rang out
its merry peal.
Meanwhile the boat drew near. It turned out to be a party of
visitors, who had come off from Arbroath to see the operations at the
Bell Rock. They had been brought off by Spink, the pilot, and
numbered only three—namely, a tall soldierlike man, a stout
sailor-like man, and a young woman with—yes,—with golden hair.
Poor Ruby almost leaped over the forge when he raised his eyes from
his work and caught sight of Minnie's sweet face. Minnie had
recognized her lover before the boat reached the rock, for he stood
on an elevated ledge, and the work in which he was engaged, swinging
the large hammer round his shoulder, rendered him very conspicuous.
She had studiously concealed her face from him until quite close,
when, looking him straight in the eyes without the least sign of
recognition, she turned away.
We have said that the first glance Ruby obtained caused him to leap
nearly over the forge; the second created such a revulsion of feeling
that he let the fore-hammer fall.
"Hallo! Got a spark in yer eye?" enquired Dove, looking up anxiously.
It flashed across Ruby at that instant that the look given him by
Minnie was meant to warn him not to take any notice of her, so he
answered the smith's query with "No, no; I've only let the hammer
fall, don't you see? Get on, old boy, an' don't let the metal cool."
The smith continued his work without further remark, and Ruby
assisted, resolving in his own mind to be a little more guarded as to
the expression of his feelings.
Meanwhile Mr. Stevenson received the visitors, and showed them over
the works, pointing out the peculiarities thereof, and the
difficulties that stood in the way.
Presently he came towards the forge, and said, "Brand, the stout
gentleman there wishes to speak to you. He says he knew you in
Arbroath. You can spare him for a few minutes, I suppose, Mr. Dove?"
"Well, yes, but not for long," replied the smith. "The tide will soon
be up, and I've enough to do to get through with all these."
Ruby flung down his hammer at the first word, and hastened to the
ledge of rock where the visitors were standing, as far apart from the
workmen as the space of the rock would admit of.
The stout gentleman was no other than his uncle, Captain Ogilvy, who
put his finger to his lips as his nephew approached, and gave him a
look of mystery that was quite sufficient to put the latter on his
guard. He therefore went forward, pulled off his cap, and bowed
respectfully to Minnie, who replied with a stiff curtsy, a slight
smile, and a decided blush.
Although Ruby now felt convinced that they were all acting a part, he
could scarcely bear this cold reception. His impulse was to seize
Minnie in his arms; but he did not even get the comfort of a cold
shake of the hand.
"Nephy," said the captain in a hoarse whisper, putting his face close
to that of Ruby, "mum's the word! Silence, mystery, an' all that sort
o' thing. Don't appear to be an old friend, lad; and as to Minnie
'O no, we never mention her,
Her name it's never heard.'
Allow me to introduce you to Major Stewart, whose house you broke
into, you know, Ruby, when
'All in the Downs the fleet was moored,'
at least when the Termagant was waitin' for you to go aboard."
Here the captain winked and gave Ruby a facetious poke in the ribs,
which was not quite in harmony with the ignorance of each other he
was endeavouring to inculcate.
"Young man," said the major quietly, "we have come off to tell you
that everything is in a prosperous state as regards the investigation
into your innocence—the private investigation I mean, for the
authorities happily know nothing of your being here. Captain Ogilvy
has made me his confidant in this matter, and from what he tells me I
am convinced that you had nothing to do with this robbery. Excuse me
if I now add that the sight of your face deepens this conviction."
Ruby bowed to the compliment.
"We were anxious to write at once to the captain of the vessel in
which you sailed," continued the major, "but you omitted to leave his
full name and address when you left. We were afraid to write to you,
lest your name on the letter might attract attention, and induce a
premature arrest. Hence our visit to the rock to-day. Please to write
the address in this pocket-book."
The major handed Ruby a small green pocket-book as he spoke, in which
the latter wrote the full name and address of his late skipper.
"Now, nephy," said the captain, "we must, I'm sorry to say, bid ye
good day, and ask you to return to your work, for it won't do to
rouse suspicion, lad. Only keep quiet here, and do yer
dooty—'England expects every man to do his dooty'—and as sure as
your name's Ruby all will be shipshape in a few weeks."
"I thank you sincerely," said Ruby, addressing the major, but looking
Captain Ogilvy, observing this, and fearing some display of feeling
that would be recognized by the workmen, who were becoming surprised
at the length of the interview, placed himself between Minnie and her
"No, no, Ruby," said he, solemnly. "I'm sorry for ye, lad, but it
won't do. Patience is a virtue, which, taken at the flood, leads on
"My mother?" said Ruby, wishing to prolong the interview.
"Is well," said the captain. "Now, goodbye, lad, and be off."
"Goodbye, Minnie," cried Ruby, stepping forward suddenly and seizing
the girl's hand; then, wheeling quickly round, he sprang over the
rocks, and returned to his post.
"Ha! it's time," cried the smith. "I thought you would never be done
makin' love to that there girl. Come, blaze away!"
Ruby felt so nettled by the necessity that was laid upon him of
taking no notice of Minnie, that he seized the handle of the bellows
passionately, and at the first puff blew nearly all the fire away.
"Hallo! messmate," cried the smith, clearing the dust from his eyes;
"what on airth ails ye? You've blowed the whole consarn out!"
Ruby made no reply, but, scraping together the embers, heaped them up
and blew more gently.
In a short time the visitors re-entered their boat, and rowed out of
the creek in which it had been lying.
Ruby became so exasperated at not being able even to watch the boat
going away, that he showered terrific blows on the mass of metal the
smith was turning rapidly on the anvil.
"Not so fast, lad; not so fast," cried Dove hurriedly.
Ruby's chafing spirit blew up just at that point; he hit the iron a
crack that knocked it as flat as a pancake, and then threw down the
hammer and deliberately gazed in the direction of the boat.
The sight that met his eyes appalled him. The boat had been lying in
the inlet named Port Stevenson. It had to pass out to the open sea
through Wilson's Track, and past a small outlying rock named
Gray's Rock—known more familiarly among the men as Johnny Gray.
The boat was nearing this point, when the sea, which had been rising
for some time, burst completely over the seaward ledges, and swept
the boat high against the rocks on the left. The men had scarcely got
her again into the track when another tremendous billow, such as
we have already described, swept over the rocks again and swamped the
boat, which, being heavily ballasted, sank at once to the bottom of
It was this sight that met the horrified eyes of Ruby when he looked
He vaulted over the bellows like an antelope, and, rushing over
Smith's Ledge and Trinity Ledge, sprang across Port Boyle, and
dived head foremost into Neill's Pool before any of the other men,
who made a general rush, could reach the spot.
A few powerful strokes brought Ruby to the place where the major and
the captain, neither of whom could swim, were struggling in the
water. He dived at once below these unfortunates, and almost in a
second, reappeared with Minnie in his arms.
A few seconds sufficed to bring him to Smith's Ledge, where several
of his comrades hauled him and his burden beyond the reach of the
next wave, and where, a moment or two later, the major and captain
with the crew of the boat were landed in safety.
To bear the light form of Minnie in his strong arms to the highest
and driest part of the rock was the work of a few moments to Ruby.
Brief though those moments were, however, they were precious to the
youth beyond all human powers of calculation, for Minnie recovered
partial consciousness, and fancying, doubtless, that she was still in
danger, flung her arms round his neck, and grasped him convulsively.
Reader, we tell you in confidence that if Ruby had at that moment
been laid on the rack and torn limb from limb, he would have cheered
out his life triumphantly. It was not only that he knew she loved
him—that be knew before,—but he had saved the life of the girl he
loved, and a higher terrestrial happiness can scarcely be attained by
Laying her down as gently as a mother would her firstborn, Ruby
placed a coat under her head, and bade his comrades stand back and
give her air. It was fortunate for him that one of the foremen, who
understood what to do, came up at this moment, and ordered him to
leave off chafing the girl's hand with his wet fists, and go get some
water boiled at the forge if he wanted to do her good.
Second words were not needed. The bellows were soon blowing, and the
fire glowed in a way that it had not done since the works at the Bell
Rock began. Before the water quite boiled some tea was put in, and,
with a degree of speed that would have roused the jealousy of any
living waiter, a cup of tea was presented to Minnie, who had
recovered almost at the moment Ruby left her.
She drank a little, and then closing her eyes, moved her lips
silently for a few seconds.
Captain Ogilvy, who had attended her with the utmost assiduity and
tenderness as soon as he had wrung the water out of his own garments,
here took an opportunity of hastily pouring something into the cup
out of a small flask. When Minnie looked up again and smiled, he
presented her with the cup. She thanked him, and drank a mouthful or
two before perceiving that it had been tampered with.
"There's something in it," she said hurriedly.
"So there is, my pet," said the captain, with a benignant smile, "a
little nectar, that will do you more good than all the tea. Come now,
don't shake your head, but down with it all, like a good child."
But Minnie was proof against persuasion, and refused to taste any
"Who was it that saved me, uncle?" (She had got into the way of
calling the captain "uncle".)
"Ruby Brand did it, my darlin'," said the old man with a look of
pride. "Ah! you're better now; stay, don't attempt to rise."
"Yes, yes, uncle," she said, getting up and looking round, "it is
time that we should go now; we have a long way to go, you know.
Where is the boat?"
"The boat, my precious, is at the bottom of the sea."
As he said this, he pointed to the mast, half of which was seen
rising out of the pool where the boat had gone down.
"But you don't need to mind," continued the captain, "for they're
goin' to send us in one o' their own boats aboord the floatin'
lightship, where we'll get a change o' clothes an' some-thin' to
As he spoke, one of the sailors came forward and announced that the
boat was ready, so the captain and the major assisted Minnie into the
boat, which soon pushed off with part of the workmen from the rock.
It was to be sent back for the remainder of the crew, by which time
the tide would render it necessary that all should leave.
Ruby purposely kept away from the group while they were embarking,
and after they were gone proceeded to resume work.
"You took a smart dive that time, lad," observed Joe Dumsby as they
"Not more than anyone would do for a girl," said Ruby.
"An' such a purty wan, too," said O'Connor. "Ah! av she's not Irish,
she should ha' bin."
"Ye're a lucky chap to hae sic a chance," observed John Watt.
"Make up to her, lad," said Forsyth; "I think she couldn't refuse ye
after doin' her such service."
"Time enough to chaff after work is over," cried Ruby with a laugh,
as he turned up his sleeves, and, seizing the hammer, began, as his
friend Dove said, "to work himself dry".
In a few minutes, work was resumed, and for another hour all
continued busy as bees, cutting and pounding at the flinty surface of
the Bell Rock.
A SLEEPLESS BUT A PLEASANT NIGHT
The evening which followed the day that has just been described was
bright, calm, and beautiful, with the starry host unclouded and
distinctly visible to the profoundest depths of space.
As it was intended to send the Smeaton to Arbroath next morning for
a cargo of stones from the building-yard, the wrecked party were
prevailed on to remain all night on board the Pharos, instead of
going ashore in one of the ship's boats, which could not well be
spared at the time.
This arrangement, we need hardly say, gave inexpressible pleasure to
Ruby, and was not altogether distasteful to Minnie, although she felt
anxious about Mrs. Brand, who would naturally be much alarmed at the
prolonged absence of herself and the captain. However, "there was no
help for it"; and it was wonderful the resignation which she
displayed in the circumstances.
It was not Ruby's duty to watch on deck that night, yet, strange to
say, Ruby kept watch the whole night long!
There was no occasion whatever for Minnie to go on deck after it was
dark, yet, strange to say, Minnie kept coming on deck at intervals
nearly the whole night long! Sometimes to "look at the stars",
sometimes to "get a mouthful of fresh air", frequently to find out
what "that strange noise could be that had alarmed her", and at
last—especially towards the early hours of morning—for no reason
whatever, except that "she could not sleep below".
It was very natural that when Minnie paced the quarterdeck between
the stern and the mainmast, and Ruby paced the forepart of the deck
between the bows and the mainmast, the two should occasionally meet
at the mainmast. It was also very natural that when they did meet,
the girl who had been rescued should stop and address a few words of
gratitude to the man who had saved her. But it was by no means
natural—nay, it was altogether unnatural and unaccountable, that,
when it became dark, the said man and the said girl should get into a
close and confidential conversation, which lasted for hours, to the
amusement of Captain Ogilvy and the major, who quite understood it,
and to the amazement of many of the ship's crew, who couldn't
understand it at all.
At last Minnie bade Ruby a final good night and went below, and Ruby,
who could not persuade himself that it was final, continued to walk
the deck until his eyes began to shut and open involuntarily like
those of a sick owl. Then he also went below, and, before he fell
quite asleep (according to his own impression), was awakened by the
bell that called the men to land on the rock and commence work.
It was not only Ruby who found it difficult to rouse himself that
morning. The landing-bell was rung at four o'clock, as the tide
suited at that early hour, but the men were so fatigued that they
would gladly have slept some hours longer. This, however, the nature
of the service would not admit of. The building of the Bell Rock
Lighthouse was a peculiar service. It may be said to have resembled
duty in the trenches in military warfare. At times the work was light
enough, but for the most part it was severe and irregular, as the men
had to work in all kinds of weather, as long as possible, in the face
of unusual difficulties and dangers, and were liable to be called out
at all unseasonable hours. But they knew and expected this, and faced
the work like men.
After a growl or two, and a few heavy sighs, they all tumbled out of
their berths, and, in a very short time, were mustered on deck, where
a glass of rum and a biscuit were served to each, being the regular
allowance when they had to begin work before breakfast. Then they got
into the boats and rowed away.
Ruby's troubles were peculiar on this occasion. He could not bear the
thought of leaving the Pharos without saying goodbye to Minnie; but
as Minnie knew nothing of such early rising, there was no reasonable
hope that she would be awake. Then he wished to put a few questions
to his uncle which he had forgotten the day before, but his uncle was
at that moment buried in profound repose, with his mouth wide open,
and a trombone solo proceeding from his nose, which sadly troubled
the unfortunates who lay near him.
As there was no way of escape from these difficulties, Ruby, like a
wise man, made up his mind to cast them aside, so, after swallowing
his allowance, he shouldered his big bellows, heaved a deep sigh, and
took his place in one of the boats alongside.
The lassitude which strong men feel when obliged to rise before they
have had enough of rest soon wears off. The two boats had not left
the Pharos twenty yards astern, when Joe Dumsby cried, "Ho! boys,
let's have a race."
"Hooray!" shouted O'Connor, whose elastic spirits were always equal
to anything, "an' sure Ruby will sing us 'The girl we've left behind
us'. Och! an' there she is, av I'm not draymin'."
At that moment a little hand was waved from one of the ports of the
floating light. Ruby at once waved his in reply, but as the attention
of the men had been directed to the vessel by Ned's remark, each saw
the salutation, and, claiming it as a compliment to himself, uttered
a loud cheer, which terminated in a burst of laughter, caused by the
sight of Ruby's half-angry, half-ashamed expression of face.
As the other boat had shot ahead, however, at the first mention of
the word "race", the men forgot this incident in their anxiety to
overtake their comrades. In a few seconds both boats were going at
full speed, and they kept it up all the way to the rock.
While this was going on, the Smeaton's boat was getting ready to
take the strangers on board the sloop, and just as the workmen landed
on the rock, the Smeaton cast loose her sails, and proceeded to
There were a few seals basking on the Bell Rock this morning when the
men landed. These at once made off, and were not again seen during
At first, seals were numerous on the rock. Frequently from fifty to
sixty of them were counted at one time, and they seemed for a good
while unwilling to forsake their old quarters, but when the forge was
set up they could stand it no longer. Some of the boldest ventured to
sun themselves there occasionally, but when the clatter of the anvil
and the wreaths of smoke became matters of daily occurrence, they
forsook the rock finally, and sought the peace and quiet which man
denied them there in other regions of the deep.
The building of the lighthouse was attended with difficulties at
every step. As a short notice of some of these, and an account of the
mode in which the great work was carried on, cannot fail to be
interesting to all who admire those engineering works which exhibit
prominently the triumph of mind over matter, we shall turn aside for
a brief space to consider this subject.
It has been already said that the Bell Rock rises only a few feet out
of the sea at low tide. The foundation of the tower, sunk into the
solid rock, was just three feet three inches above low water of the
lowest spring-tides, so that the lighthouse may be said with
propriety to be founded beneath the waves.
One great point that had to be determined at the commencement of the
operations was the best method of landing the stones of the building,
this being a delicate and difficult process, in consequence of the
weight of the stones and their brittle nature, especially in those
parts which were worked to a delicate edge or formed into angular
points. As the loss of a single stone, too, would stop the progress
of the work until another should be prepared at the workyard in
Arbroath and sent off to the rock, it may easily be imagined that
this matter of the landing was of the utmost importance, and that
much consultation was held in regard to it.
It would seem that engineers, as well as doctors, are apt to differ.
Some suggested that each particular stone should be floated to the
rock, with a cork buoy attached to it; while others proposed an
air-tank, instead of the cork buoy. Others, again, proposed to sail
over the rock at high water in a flat-bottomed vessel, and drop the
stones one after another when over the spot they were intended to
occupy. A few, still more eccentric and daring in their views,
suggested that a huge cofferdam or vessel should be built on shore,
and as much of the lighthouse built in this as would suffice to raise
the building above the level of the highest tides; that then it
should be floated off to its station on the rock, which should be
previously prepared for its reception; that the cofferdam should be
scuttled, and the ponderous mass of masonry, weighing perhaps 1000
tons, allowed to sink at once into its place!
All these plans, however, were rejected by Mr. Stevenson, who
resolved to carry the stones to the rock in boats constructed for the
purpose. These were named praam boats. The stones were therefore cut
in conformity with exactly measured moulds in the workyard at
Arbroath, and conveyed thence in the sloops already mentioned to the
rock, where the vessels were anchored at a distance sufficient to
enable them to clear it in case of drifting. The cargoes were then
unloaded at the moorings, and laid on the decks of the praam boats,
which conveyed them to the rock, where they were laid on small
trucks, run along the temporary rails, to their positions, and built
in at once.
Each stone of this building was treated with as much care and
solicitude as if it were a living creature. After being carefully cut
and curiously formed, and conveyed to the neighbourhood of the rock,
it was hoisted out of the hold and laid on the vessel's deck, when it
was handed over to the landing-master, whose duty it became to
transfer it, by means of a combination of ropes and blocks, to the
deck of the praam boat, and then deliver it at the rock.
As the sea was seldom calm during the building operations, and
frequently in a state of great agitation, lowering the stones on the
decks of the praam boats was a difficult matter.
In the act of working the apparatus, one man was placed at each of
the guy-tackles. This man assisted also at the purchase-tackles for
raising the stones; and one of the ablest and most active of the crew
was appointed to hold on the end of the fall-tackle, which often
required all his strength and his utmost agility in letting go, for
the purpose of lowering the stone at the instant the word "lower" was
given. In a rolling sea, much depended on the promptitude with which
this part of the operation was performed. For the purpose of securing
this, the man who held the tackle placed himself before the mast in a
sitting, more frequently in a lying posture, with his feet stretched
under the winch and abutting against the mast, as by this means he
was enabled to exert his greatest strength.
The signal being given in the hold that the tackle was hooked to the
stone and all ready, every man took his post, the stone was
carefully, we might almost say tenderly raised, and gradually got
into position over the praam boat; the right moment was intently
watched, and the word "lower" given sternly and sharply. The order
was obeyed with exact promptitude, and the stone rested on the deck
of the praam boat. Six blocks of granite having been thus placed on
the boat's deck, she was rowed to a buoy, and moored near the rock
until the proper time of the tide for taking her into one of the
We are thus particular in describing the details of this part of the
work, in order that the reader may be enabled to form a correct
estimate of what may be termed the minor difficulties of the
The same care was bestowed upon the landing of every stone of the
building; and it is worthy of record, that notwithstanding the
difficulty of this process in such peculiar circumstances, not a
single stone was lost, or even seriously damaged, during the whole
course of the erection of the tower, which occupied four years in
building, or rather, we should say, four seasons, for no work was or
could be done during winter.
A description of the first entire course of the lower part of the
tower, which was built solid, will be sufficient to give an idea of
the general nature of the whole work.
This course or layer consisted of 123 blocks of stone, those in the
interior being sandstone, while the outer casing was of granite. Each
stone was fastened to its neighbour above, below, and around by means
of dovetails, joggles, oaken trenails, and mortar. Each course was
thus built from its centre to its circumference, and as all the
courses from the foundation to a height of thirty feet were built in
this way, the tower, up to that height, became a mass of solid stone,
as strong and immovable as the Bell Rock itself. Above this, or
thirty feet from the foundation, the entrance door was placed, and
the hollow part of the tower began.
Thus much, then, as to the tower itself, the upper part of which will
be found described in a future chapter. In regard to the subsidiary
works, the erection of the beacon house was in itself a work of
considerable difficulty, requiring no common effort of engineering
skill. The principal beams of this having been towed to the rock by
the Smeaton, all the stanchions and other material for setting them
up were landed, and the workmen set about erecting them as quickly as
possible, for if a single day of bad weather should occur before the
necessary fixtures could be made, the whole apparatus would be
infallibly swept away.
The operation being, perhaps, the most important of the season, and
one requiring to be done with the utmost expedition, all hands were,
on the day in which its erection was begun, gathered on the rock,
besides ten additional men engaged for the purpose, and as many of
the seamen from the Pharos and other vessels as could be spared. They
amounted altogether to fifty-two in number.
About half-past eight o'clock in the morning a derrick, or mast,
thirty feet high, was erected, and properly supported with guy-ropes
for suspending the block for raising the first principal beam of the
beacon, and a winch-machine was bolted down to the rock for working
the purchase-tackle. The necessary blocks and tackle were likewise
laid to hand and properly arranged. The men were severally allotted
in squads to different stations; some were to bring the principal
beams to hand, others were to work the tackles, while a third set had
the charge of the iron stanchions, bolts, and wedges, so that the
whole operation of raising the beams and fixing them to the rock
might go forward in such a manner that some provision might be made,
in any stage of the work, for securing what had been accomplished, in
case of an adverse change of weather.
The raising of the derrick was the signal for three hearty cheers,
for this was a new era in the operations. Even that single spar,
could it be preserved, would have been sufficient to have saved the
workmen on that day when the Smeaton broke adrift and left them in
This was all, however, that could be accomplished that tide. Next
day, the great beams, each fifty feet long, and about sixteen inches
square, were towed to the rock about seven in the morning, and the
work immediately commenced, although they had gone there so much too
early in the tide that the men had to work a considerable time up to
their middle in water. Each beam was raised by the tackle affixed to
the derrick, until the end of it could be placed or "stepped" into
the hole which had been previously prepared for its reception; then
two of the great iron stanchions or supports were set into their
respective holes on each side of the beam, and a rope passed round
them to keep it from slipping, until it could be more permanently
This having been accomplished, the first beam became the means of
raising the second, and when the first and second were fastened at
the top, they formed a pair of shears by which the rest were more
easily raised to their places. The heads of the beams were then
fitted together and secured with ropes in a temporary manner, until
the falling of the tide would permit the operations to be resumed.
Thus the work went on, each man labouring with all his might, until
this important erection was completed.
The raising of the first beams took place on a Sunday. Indeed, during
the progress of the works at the Bell Rock, the men were accustomed
to work regularly on Sundays when possible; but it is right to say
that it was not done in defiance of, or disregard to, God's command
to cease from labour on the Sabbath day, but because of the urgent
need of a lighthouse on a rock which, unlighted, would be certain to
wreck numerous vessels and destroy many lives in time to come, as it
had done in time past. Delay in this matter might cause death and
disaster, therefore it was deemed right to carry on the work on
[Footnote: It was always arranged, however, to have public worship on
Sundays when practicable. And this arrangement was held to during the
continuance of the work. Indeed, the manner in which Mr. Stevenson
writes in regard to the conclusion of the day's work at the beacon,
which we have described, shows clearly that he felt himself to be
acting in this matter in accordance with the spirit of our Saviour,
who wrought many of His works of mercy on the Sabbath day. Mr.
Stevenson writes thus:—
"All hands having returned to their respective ships, they got a
shift of dry clothes, and some refreshment. Being Sunday, they were
afterwards convened by signal on board of the lighthouse yacht, when
prayers were read, for every heart upon this occasion felt gladness,
and every mind was disposed to be thankful for the happy and
successful termination of the operations of this day."
It is right to add that the men, although requested, were not
constrained to work on Sundays. They were at liberty to decline if
they chose. A few conscientiously refused at first, but were
afterwards convinced of the necessity of working on all opportunities
that offered, and agreed to do so.]
An accident happened during the raising of the last large beam of the
beacon, which, although alarming, fortunately caused no damage.
Considering the nature of the work, it is amazing, and greatly to the
credit of all engaged, that so few accidents occurred during the
building of the lighthouse.
When they were in the act of hoisting the sixth and last log, and
just about to kant it into its place, the iron hook of the principal
purchase-block gave way, and the great beam, measuring fifty feet in
length, fell upon the rock with a terrible crash; but although there
were fifty-two men around the beacon at the time, not one was
touched, and the beam itself received no damage worth mentioning.
Soon after the beacon had been set up, and partially secured to the
rock, a severe gale sprang up, as if Ocean were impatient to test the
handiwork of human engineers. Gales set in from the eastward,
compelling the attending sloops to slip from their moorings, and run
for the shelter of Arbroath and St. Andrews, and raising a sea on the
Bell Rock which was described as terrific, the spray rising more than
thirty feet in the air above it.
In the midst of all this turmoil the beacon stood securely, and after
the weather moderated, permitting the workmen once more to land, it
was found that no damage had been done by the tremendous breaches of
the sea over the rock.
That the power of the waves had indeed been very great, was evident
from the effects observed on the rock itself, and on materials left
there. Masses of rock upwards of a ton in weight had been cast up by
the sea, and then, in their passage over the Bell Rock, had made deep
and indelible ruts. An anchor of a ton weight, which had been lost on
one side of the rock, was found to have been washed up and over it to
the other side. Several large blocks of granite that had been landed
and left on a ledge, were found to have been swept away like pebbles,
and hurled into a hole at some distance; and the heavy hearth of the
smith's forge, with the ponderous anvil, had been washed from their
places of supposed security.
From the time of the setting up of the beacon a new era in the work
began. Some of the men were now enabled to remain on the rock all
day, working at the lighthouse when the tide was low, and betaking
themselves to the beacon when it rose, and leaving it at night; for
there was much to do before this beacon could be made the habitable
abode which it finally became; but it required the strictest
attention to the state of the weather, in case of their being
overtaken with a gale, which might prevent the possibility of their
being taken off the rock.
At last the beacon was so far advanced and secured that it was deemed
capable of withstanding any gale that might blow. As yet it was a
great ungainly pile of logs, iron stanchions, and bracing-chains,
without anything that could afford shelter to man from winds or
waves, but with a platform laid from its cross-beams at a
considerable height above high-water mark.
The works on the rock were in this state, when two memorable
circumstances occurred in the Bell Rock annals, to which we shall
devote a separate chapter.
RUBY HAS A RISE IN LIFE, AND A FALL
James Dove, the blacksmith, had, for some time past, been watching
the advancing of the beacon-works with some interest, and a good deal
of impatience. He was tired of working so constantly up to the knees
in water, and aspired to a drier and more elevated workshop.
One morning he was told by the foreman that orders had been given for
him to remove his forge to the beacon, and this removal, this
"flitting", as he called it, was the first of the memorable events
referred to in the last chapter.
"Hallo! Ruby, my boy," cried the elated son of Vulcan, as he
descended the companion ladder, "we're goin' to flit, lad. We're
about to rise in the world, so get up your bellows. It's the last
time we shall have to be bothered with them in the boat, I hope."
"That's well," said Ruby, shouldering the unwieldy bellows; "they
have worn my shoulders threadbare, and tried my patience almost
"Well, it's all over now, lad," rejoined the smith. "In future you
shall have to blow up in the beacon yonder; so come along."
"Come, Ruby, that ought to comfort the cockles o' yer heart," said
O'Connor, who passed up the ladder as he spoke; "the smith won't need
to blow you up any more, av you're to blow yourself up in the beacon
in futur'. Arrah! there's the bell again. Sorrow wan o' me iver gits
to slape, but I'm turned up immadiately to go an' poke away at that
rock—faix, it's well named the Bell Rock, for it makes me like to
bellow me lungs out wid vexation."
"That pun is below contempt," said Joe Dumsby, who came up at the
"That's yer sort, laddies; ye're guid at ringing the changes on that
head onyway," cried Watt.
"I say, we're gittin' a belly-full of it," observed Forsyth, with a
rueful look "I hope nobody's goin' to give us another!"
"It'll create a rebellion," said Bremner, "if ye go on like that"
"It'll bring my bellows down on the head o' the next man that
speaks!" cried Ruby, with indignation.
"Don't you hear the bell, there?" cried the foreman down the
There was a burst of laughter at this unconscious continuation of the
joke, and the men sprang up the ladder,—down the side, and into the
boats, which were soon racing towards the rock.
The day, though not sunny, was calm and agreeable, nevertheless the
landing at the rock was not easily accomplished, owing to the swell
caused by a recent gale. After one or two narrow escapes of a
ducking, however, the crews landed, and the bellows, instead of being
conveyed to their usual place at the forge, were laid at the foot of
The carriage of these bellows to and fro almost daily had been a
subject of great annoyance to the men, owing to their being so much
in the way, and so unmanageably bulky, yet so essential to the
progress of the works, that they did not dare to leave them on the
rock, lest they should be washed away, and they had to handle them
tenderly, lest they should get damaged.
"Now, boys, lend a hand with the forge," cried the smith, hurrying
towards his anvil.
Those who were not busy eating dulse responded to the call, and in a
short time the ponderous matériel of the smithy was conveyed to the
beacon, where, in process of time, it was hoisted by means of tackle
to its place on the platform to which reference has already been
When it was safely set up and the bellows placed in position, Ruby
went to the edge of the platform, and, looking down on his comrades
below, took off his cap and shouted in the tone of a Stentor, "Now,
lads, three cheers for the Dovecot!"
This was received with a roar of laughter and three tremendous
"Howld on, boys," cried O'Connor, stretching out his hand as if to
command silence; "you'll scare the dove from his cot altogether av ye
roar like that!"
"Surely they're sendin' us a fire to warm us," observed one of the
men, pointing to a boat which had put off from the Smeaton, and was
approaching the rock by way of Macurich's Track.
"What can'd be, I wonder?" said Watt; "I think I can smell
"I halways thought you 'ad somethink of an old dog in you," said
"Ay, man!" said the Scot with a leer, "I ken o' war beasts than auld
"Do you? come let's 'ear wat they are," said the Englishman.
"Young puppies," answered the other.
"Hurrah! dinner, as I'm a Dutchman," cried Forsyth.
This was indeed the case. Dinner had been cooked on board the
Smeaton and sent hot to the men; and this,—the first dinner ever
eaten on the Bell Rock,—was the second of the memorable events
before referred to.
The boat soon ran into the creek and landed the baskets containing
the food on Hope's Wharf.
The men at once made a rush at the viands, and bore them off
exultingly to the flattest part of the rock they could find.
"A regular picnic," cried Dumsby in high glee, for unusual events, of
even a trifling kind, had the effect of elating those men more than
one might have expected.
"Here's the murphies," cried O'Connor, staggering over the slippery
weed with a large smoking tin dish.
"Mind you don't let 'em fall," cried one.
"Have a care," shouted the smith; "if you drop them I'll beat you
red-hot, and hammer ye so flat that the biggest flatterer as ever
walked won't be able to spread ye out another half-inch."
"Mutton! oh!" exclaimed Forsyth, who had been some time trying to
wrench the cover off the basket containing a roast leg, and at last
"Here, spread them all out on this rock. You han't forgot the grog, I
"No fear of him: he's a good feller, is the steward, when he's asleep
partiklerly. The grog's here all right."
"Dinna let Dumsby git baud o't, then," cried Watt. "What! hae ye
begood a'ready? Patience, man, patience. Is there ony saut?"
"Lots of it, darlin', in the say. Sure this shape must have lost his
tail somehow. Och, murther! if there isn't Bobby Selkirk gone an'
tumbled into Port Hamilton wid the cabbage, av it's not the carrots!"
"There now, don't talk so much, boys," cried Peter Logan. "Let's
drink success to the Bell Rock Lighthouse."
It need scarcely be said that this toast was drunk with enthusiasm,
and that it was followed up with "three times three".
"Now for a song. Come, Joe Dumsby, strike up," cried one of the men.
O'Connor, who was one of the most reckless of men in regard to duty
and propriety, here shook his head gravely, and took upon himself to
read his comrade a lesson.
"Ye shouldn't talk o' sitch things in workin' hours," said he. "Av we
wos all foolish, waake-hidded cratures like you, how d'ye think
we'd iver git the lighthouse sot up! Ate yer dinner, lad, and howld
"O Ned, I didn't think your jealousy would show out so strong,"
retorted his comrade. "Now, then, Dumsby, fire away, if it was only
to aggravate him."
Thus pressed, Joe Dumsby took a deep draught of the small-beer with
which the men were supplied, and began a song of his own composition.
When the song was finished the meal was also concluded, and the men
returned to their labours on the rock; some to continue their work
with the picks at the hard stone of the foundation-pit, others to
perform miscellaneous jobs about the rock, such as mixing the mortar
and removing debris, while James Dove and his fast friend Ruby Brand
mounted to their airy "cot" on the beacon, from which in a short time
began to proceed the volumes of smoke and the clanging sounds that
had formerly arisen from "Smith's Ledge ".
While they were all thus busily engaged, Ruby observed a boat
advancing towards the rock from the floating light. He was blowing
the bellows at the time, after a spell at the fore-hammer.
"We seem to be favoured with unusual events to-day, Jamie," said he,
wiping his forehead with the corner of his apron with one hand, while
he worked the handle of the bellows with the other, "yonder comes
another boat; what can it be, think you?"
"Surely it can't be tea!" said the smith with a smile, as he turned
the end of a pickaxe in the fire, "it's too soon after dinner for
"It looks like the boat of our friends the fishermen, Big Swankie and
Davy Spink," said Ruby, shading his eyes with his hand, and gazing
earnestly at the boat as it advanced towards them.
"Friends!" repeated the smith, "rascally smugglers, both of them;
they're no friends of mine."
"Well, I didn't mean bosom friends," replied Ruby, "but after all,
Davy Spink is not such a bad fellow, though I can't say that I'm
fond of his comrade."
The two men resumed their hammers at this point in the conversation,
and became silent as long as the anvil sounded.
The boat had reached the rock when they ceased, and its occupants
were seen to be in earnest conversation with Peter Logan.
There were only two men in the boat besides its owners, Swankie and
"What can they want?" said Dove, looking down on them as he turned
to thrust the iron on which he was engaged into the fire.
As he spoke the foreman looked up.
"Ho! Ruby Brand," he shouted, "come down here; you're wanted."
"Hallo! Ruby," exclaimed the smith, "more friends o' yours! Your
acquaintance is extensive, lad, but there's no girl in the case this
Ruby made no reply, for an indefinable feeling of anxiety filled his
breast as he threw down the fore-hammer and prepared to descend.
On reaching the rock he advanced towards the strangers, both of whom
were stout, thickset men, with grave, stern countenances. One of them
stepped forward and said, "Your name is——"
"Ruby Brand," said the youth promptly, at the same time somewhat
proudly, for he knew that he was in the hands of the Philistines.
The man who first spoke hereupon drew a small instrument from his
pocket, and tapping Ruby on the shoulder, said—
"I arrest you, Ruby Brand, in the name of the King."
The other man immediately stepped forward and produced a pair of
At sight of these Ruby sprang backward, and the blood rushed
violently to his forehead, while his blue eyes glared with the
ferocity of those of a tiger.
"Come, lad, it's of no use, you know," said the man, pausing; "if you
won't come quietly we must find ways and means to compel you."
"Compel me!" cried Ruby, drawing himself up with a look of defiance
and a laugh of contempt, that caused the two men to shrink back in
spite of themselves.
"Ruby," said the foreman, gently, stepping forward and laying his
hand on the youth's shoulder, "you had better go quietly, for there's
no chance of escape from these fellows. I have no doubt it's a
mistake, and that you'll come off with flyin' colours, but it's best
to go quietly whatever turns up."
While Logan was speaking, Ruby dropped his head on his breast, the
officer with the handcuffs advanced, and the youth held out his
hands, while the flush of anger deepened into the crimson blush of
It was at this point that Jamie Dove, wondering at the prolonged
absence of his friend and assistant, looked down from the platform of
the beacon, and beheld what was taking place. The stentorian roar of
amazement and rage that suddenly burst from him, attracted the
attention of all the men on the rock, who dropped their tools and
looked up in consternation, expecting, no doubt, to behold something
Their eyes at once followed those of the smith, and no sooner did
they see Ruby being led in irons to the boat, which lay in Port
Hamilton, close to Sir Ralph the Rover's Ledge, than they uttered
a yell of execration, and rushed with one accord to the rescue.
The officers, who were just about to make their prisoner step into
the boat, turned to face the foe,—one, who seemed to be the more
courageous of the two, a little in advance of the other.
Ned O'Connor, with that enthusiasm which seems to be inherent in
Irish blood, rushed with such irresistible force against this man
that he drove him violently back against his comrade, and sent them
both head over heels into Port Hamilton. Nay, with such momentum was
this act performed, that Ned could not help but follow them, falling
on them both as they came to the surface and sinking them a second
time, amid screams and yells of laughter.
O'Connor was at once pulled out by his friends. The officers also
were quickly landed.
"I ax yer parding, gintlemen," said the former, with an expression of
deep regret on his face, "but the say-weed is so slippy on them
rocks we're a'most for iver doin' that sort o' thing be the merest
accident. But av yer as fond o' cowld wather as meself ye won't
objec' to it, although it do come raither onexpected."
The officers made no reply, but, collaring Ruby, pushed him into the
Again the men made a rush, but Peter Logan stood between them and the
"Lads," said he, holding up his hand, "it's of no use resistin' the
law. These are King's officers, and they are only doin' their duty.
Sure am I that Ruby Brand is guilty of no crime, so they've only to
enquire into it and set him free."
The men hesitated, but did not seem quite disposed to submit without
"It's a shame to let them take him," cried the smith.
"So it is. I vote for a rescue," cried Joe Dumsby.
"Hooray! so does I," cried O'Connor, stripping off his waistcoat, and
for once in his life agreeing with Joe.
"Na, na, lads," cried John Watt, rolling up his sleeves, and baring
his brawny arms as if about to engage in a fight, "it'll raver do to
interfere wi' the law; but what d'ye say to gie them anither dook?"
Seeing that the men were about to act upon Watt's suggestion, Baby
started up in the boat, and turning to his comrades, said:
"Boys, it's very kind of you to be so anxious to save me, but you
"Fail, but we can, darlin'," interrupted O'Connor.
"No, you can't," repeated Ruby firmly, "because I won't let yon. I
don't think I need say to you that I am innocent," he added, with a
look in which truth evidently shone forth like a sunbeam, "but now
that they have put these irons on me I will not consent that they
shall be taken off except by the law which put them on."
While he was speaking the boat had been pushed off, and in a few
seconds it was beyond the reach of the men.
"Depend upon it, comrades," cried Ruby, as they pulled away, "that I
shall be back again to help you to finish the work on the Bell Rock."
"So you will, lad, so you will," cried the foreman.
"My blessin' on ye," shouted O'Connor. "Ach! ye dirty villains, ye
low-minded spalpeens," he added, shaking his fist at the officers of
"Don't be long away, Ruby," cried one.
"Never say die," shouted another, earnestly.
"Three cheers for Ruby Brand!" exclaimed Forsyth, "hip! hip!
The cheer was given with the most vociferous energy, and then the men
stood in melancholy silence on Ralph the Saver's Ledge, watching
the boat that bore their comrade to the shore.
NEW ARRANGEMENTS—THE CAPTAIN'S PHILOSOPHY IN REGARD TO PIPEOLOGY
That night our hero was lodged in the common jail of Arbroath. Soon
after, he was tried, and, as Captain Ogilvy had prophesied, was
acquitted. Thereafter he went to reside for the winter with his
mother, occupying the same room as his worthy uncle, as there was not
another spare one in the cottage, and sleeping in a hammock, slung
parallel with and close to that of the captain.
On the night following his release from prison, Ruby lay on his back
in his hammock meditating intently on the future, and gazing at the
ceiling, or rather at the place where he knew the ceiling to be, for
it was a dark night, and there was no light in the room, the candle
having just been extinguished.
We are not strictly correct, however, in saying that there was no
light in the room, for there was a deep red glowing spot of fire near
to Captain Ogilvy's head, which flashed and grew dim at each
alternate second of time. It was, in fact, the captain's pipe, a
luxury in which that worthy man indulged morning, noon, and night. He
usually rested the bowl of the pipe on and a little over the edge of
his hammock, and, lying on his back, passed the mouthpiece over the
blankets into the corner of his mouth, where four of his teeth seemed
to have agreed to form an exactly round hole suited to receive it. At
each draw the fire in the bowl glowed so that the captain's nose was
faintly illuminated; in the intervals the nose disappeared.
The breaking or letting fall of this pipe was a common incident in
the captain's nocturnal history, but he had got used to it, from long
habit, and regarded the event each time it occurred with the
philosophic composure of one who sees and makes up his mind to endure
an inevitable and unavoidable evil.
"Ruby," said the captain, after the candle was extinguished.
"I've bin thinkin', lad,——"
Here the captain drew a few whiffs to prevent the pipe from going
out, in which operation he evidently forgot himself and went on
thinking, for he said nothing more.
"Well, uncle, what have you been thinking?"
"Eh! ah, yes, I've bin thinkin', lad (puff), that you'll have to
(puff)—there's somethin' wrong with the pipe to-night, it don't draw
well (puff)—you'll have to do somethin' or other in the town, for it
won't do to leave the old woman, lad, in her delicate state o'
health. Had she turned in when you left the kitchen?"
"Oh yes, an hour or more."
"An' Blue Eyes,
'The tender bit flower that waves in the breeze,
And scatters its fragrance all over the seas'—
has she turned in too?"
"She was just going to when I left," replied Ruby; "but what has that
to do with the question?"
"I didn't say as it had anything to do with it, lad. Moreover, there
ain't no question between us as I knows on (puff); but what have you
to say to stoppin' here all water?"
"Impossible," said Ruby, with a sigh.
"No so, lad; what's to hinder?—Ah! there she goes."
The pipe fell with a crash to the floor, and burst with a Bright
shower of sparks, like a little bombshell.
"That's the third, Ruby, since I turned in," said the captain,
getting slowly over the side of his hammock, and alighting on the
floor heavily. "I won't git up again if it goes another time."
After knocking off the chimney-piece five or six articles which
appeared to be made of tin from the noise they made in falling, the
captain succeeded in getting hold of another pipe and the tinder-box,
for in those days flint and steel were the implements generally used
in procuring a light. With much trouble he re-lit the pipe.
"Now, Ruby, lad, hold it till I tumble in."
"But I can't see the stem, uncle."
"What a speech for a seaman to make! Don't you see the fire in the
"Yes, of course."
"Well, just make a grab two inches astarn of the bowl and you'll hook
The captain was looking earnestly into the bowl while he spoke,
stuffing down the burning tobacco with the end of his little finger.
Ruby, acting in rather too prompt obedience to the instructions, made
a "grab" as directed, and caught his uncle by the nose.
A yell and an apology followed of course, in the midst of which the
fourth pipe was demolished.
"Oh! uncle, what a pity!"
"Ah! Ruby, that comes o' inconsiderate youth, which philosophers tell
us is the nat'ral consequence of unavoidable necessity, for you can't
put a young head on old shoulders, d'ye see?"
From the tone in which this was said Ruby knew that the captain was
shaking his head gravely, and from the noise of articles being kicked
about and falling, he became aware that the unconquerable man was
filling a fifth pipe.
This one was more successfully managed, and the captain once more got
into his hammock, and began to enjoy himself.
"Well, Ruby, where was I? O ay; what's to hinder you goin' and
gettin' employed in the Bell Rock workyard? There's plenty to do, and
good wages there."
It may be as well to inform the reader here, that although the
operations at the Bell Rock had come to an end for the season about
the beginning of October, the work of hewing the stones for the
lighthouse was carried on briskly during the winter at the workyard
on shore; and as the tools, &c., required constant sharpening and
mending, a blacksmith could not be dispensed with.
"Do you think I can get in again?" enquired Ruby.
"No doubt of it, lad. But the question is, are ye willin' to go if
they'll take you?"
"Quite willing, uncle."
"Good: then that's all square, an' I knows how to lay my course—up
anchor to-morrow mornin', crowd all sail, bear down on the workyard,
bring-to off the countin'-room, and open fire on the superintendent."
The captain paused at this point, and opened fire with his pipe for
"Now," he continued, "there's another thing I want to ax you. I'm
goin' to-morrow afternoon to take a cruise along the cliffs to the
east'ard in the preventive boat, just to keep up my sea legs. They've
got scent o' some smugglin' business that's goin' on, an' my friend
Leftenant Lindsay has asked me to go. Now, Ruby, if you want a short
cruise of an hour or so you may come with me."
Baby smiled at the manner in which this offer was made, and replied:
"With pleasure, uncle."
"So, then, that's settled too. Good night, nephy."
The captain turned on his side, and dropped the pipe on the floor,
where it was shivered to atoms.
It must not be supposed that this was accidental.
It was done on purpose. Captain Ogilvy had found from experience that
it was not possible to stretch out his arm to its full extent and lay
the pipe on the chimney-piece, without waking himself up just at that
critical moment when sleep was consenting to be wooed. He also found
that on the average he broke one in every four pipes that he thus
attempted to deposit. Being a philosophical and practical man, he
came to the conclusion that it would be worth while to pay something
for the comfort of being undisturbed at the minute of time that lay
between the conclusion of smoking and the commence of repose. He
therefore got a sheet of foolscap and a pencil, and spent a whole
forenoon in abstruse calculations. He ascertained the exact value of
three hundred and sixty-five clay pipes. From this he deducted a
fourth for breakages that would have certainly occurred in the old
system of laying the pipes down every night, and which, therefore, he
felt, in a confused sort of way, ought not to be charged in the
estimates of a new system. Then he added a small sum to the result
for probable extra breakages, such as had occurred that night, and
found that the total was not too high a price for a man in his
circumstances to pay for the blessing he wished to obtain.
From that night forward he deliberately dropped his pipe every night
over the side of his hammock before going to sleep.
The captain, in commenting on this subject, was wont to observe that
everything in life, no matter how small, afforded matter of thought
to philosophical men. He had himself found a pleasing subject of
study each morning in the fact that some of the pipes survived the
fall of the previous night. This led him to consider the nature of
clay pipes in general, and to test them in various ways. It is true
he did not say that anything of importance resulted from his peculiar
studies, but he argued that a true philosopher looks for facts, and
leaves results alone. One discovery he undoubtedly did make, which
was, that the pipes obtained from a certain maker in the town
invariably broke, while those obtained from another maker broke only
occasionally. Hence he came to the conclusion that one maker was an
honest man, the other a doubtful character, and wisely bestowed his
custom in accordance with that opinion.
About one minute after the falling of the pipe Ruby Brand fell
asleep, and about two minutes after that Captain Ogilvy began to
snore, both of which conditions were maintained respectively and
uninterruptedly until the birds began to whistle and the sun began to
A MEETING WITH OLD FRIENDS, AND AN EXCURSION
Next morning the captain and his nephew "bore down", as the former
expressed it, on the workyard, and Ruby was readily accepted, his
good qualities having already been well tested at the Bell Rock.
"Now, boy, we'll go and see about the little preventive craft," said
the captain on quitting the office.
"But first," said Ruby, "let me go and tell my old comrade Dove that
I am to be with him again."
There was no need to enquire the way to the forge, the sound of the
anvil being distinctly heard above all the other sounds of that busy
The workyard at Arbroath, where the stones for the lighthouse were
collected and hewn into shape before being sent off to the rock, was
an enclosed piece of ground, extending to about three-quarters of an
acre, conveniently situated on the northern side of the Lady Lane, or
Street, leading from the western side of the harbour.
Here were built a row of barracks for the workmen, and several
apartments connected with the engineer's office, mould-makers'
department, stores, workshops for smiths and joiners, stables, &c.,
extending 150 feet along the north side of the yard. All of these
were fully occupied, there being upwards of forty men employed
Sheds of timber were also constructed to protect the workmen in wet
weather; and a kiln was built for burning lime. In the centre of the
yard stood a circular platform of masonry on which the stones were
placed when dressed, so that each stone was tested and marked, and
each "course" or layer of the lighthouse fitted up and tried, before
being shipped to the rock.
The platform measured 44 feet in diameter. It was founded with large
broad stones at a depth of about 2 feet 6 inches, and built to within
10 inches of the surface with rubble work, on which a course of
neatly dressed and well-jointed masonry was laid, of the red
sandstone from the quarries to the eastward of Arbroath, which
brought the platform on a level with the surface of the ground. Here
the dressed part of the first entire course, or layer, of the
lighthouse was lying, and the platform was so substantially built as
to be capable of supporting any number of courses which it might be
found convenient to lay upon it in the further progress of the work.
Passing this platform, the captain and Ruby threaded their way
through a mass of workyard debris until they came to the building
from which the sounds of the anvil proceeded. For a few minutes they
stood looking at our old friend Jamie Dove, who, with bared arms, was
causing the sparks to fly, and the glowing metal to yield, as
vigorously as of old. Presently he ceased hammering, and turning to
the fire thrust the metal into it. Then he wiped his brow, and
glanced towards the door.
"What! eh! Ruby Brand?" he shouted in surprise.
"Och! or his ghost!" cried Ned O'Connor, who had been Appointed to
Ruby's vacant situation.
"A pretty solid ghost you'll find me," said Ruby with a laugh, as he
stepped forward and seized the smith by the hand.
"Musha! but it's thrue," cried O'Connor, quitting the bellows, and
seizing Ruby's disengaged hand, which he shook almost as vehemently
as the smith did the other.
"Now, then, don't dislocate him altogether," cried the captain, who
was much delighted with this warm reception; "he's goin' to jine you,
boys, so have mercy on his old timbers."
"Jine us!" cried the smith.
"Ay, been appointed to the old berth," said Ruby, "so I'll have to
unship you, Ned."
"The sooner the better; faix, I niver had much notion o' this fiery
style o' life; it's only fit for sallymanders and bottle-imps. But
when d'ye begin work, lad?"
"To-morrow, I believe. At least, I was told to call at the office
to-morrow. To-day I have an engagement."
"Ay, an' it's time we was under weigh," said Captain Ogilvy, taking
his nephew by the arm. "Come along, lad, an' don't keep them
So saying they bade the smith goodbye, and, leaving the forge, walked
smartly towards that part of the harbour where the boats lay.
"Ruby," said the captain, as they went along, "it's lucky it's such a
fine day, for Minnie is going with us."
Ruby said nothing, but the deep flush of pleasure that overspread his
countenance proved that he was not indifferent to the news.
"You see she's bin out of sorts," continued the captain, "for some
time back; and no wonder, poor thing, seein' that your mother has
been so anxious about you, and required more than usual care, so I've
prevailed on the leftenant to let her go. She'll get good by our
afternoon's sail, and we won't be the worse of her company. What say
ye to that, nephy?"
Ruby said that he was glad to hear it; but he thought a great deal
more than he said, and among other things he thought that the
lieutenant might perhaps be rather in the way; but as his presence
was unavoidable, he made up his mind to try to believe that he, the
lieutenant, would in all probability be an engaged man already. As to
the possibility of his seeing Minnie and being indifferent to her (in
the event of his being a free man), he felt that such an idea was
preposterous! Suddenly a thought flashed across him and induced a
"Is the lieutenant married, uncle?"
"Not as I know of, lad; why d'ye ask?"
"Because—because—married men are so much pleasanter than——"
Ruby stopped short, for he just then remembered that his uncle was a
"'Pon my word, youngster! go on, why d'ye stop in your purlite
"Because," said Ruby, laughing, "I meant to say that young married
men were so much more agreeable than young bachelors."
"Humph!" ejaculated the captain, who did not see much force in the
observation, "and how d'ye know the leftenant's a young man? I
didn't say he was young; mayhap he's old. But here he is, so you'll
judge for yourself."
At the moment a tall, deeply-bronzed man of about thirty years of age
walked up and greeted Captain Ogilvy familiarly as his "buck",
enquiring, at the same time, how his "old timbers" were, and where
the "bit of baggage" was.
"She's to be at the end o' the pier in five minutes," said the
captain, drawing out and consulting a watch that was large enough to
have been mistaken for a small eight-day clock. "This is my nephy,
Ruby. Ruby Brand—Leftenant Lindsay. True blues, both of ye—
'When shall we three meet again?
Where the stormy winds do blow, do blow, do blow,
And the thunder, lightenin', and the rain,
Riots up above, and also down below, below, below.'
Ah! here comes the pretty little craft."
Minnie appeared as he spoke, and walked towards them with a modest,
yet decided air that was positively bewitching.
She was dressed in homely garments, but that served to enhance the
beauty of her figure, and she had on the plainest of little bonnets,
but that only tended to make her face more lovely. Ruby thought it
was perfection. He glanced at Lieutenant Lindsay, and perceiving that
he thought so too (as how could he think otherwise?) a pang of
jealousy shot into his breast. But it passed away when the
lieutenant, after politely assisting Minnie into the boat, sat down
beside the captain and began to talk earnestly to him, leaving
Minnie entirely to her lover. We may remark here, that the title of
"leftenant", bestowed on Lindsay by the captain was entirely
The crew of the boat rowed out of the harbour, and the lieutenant
steered eastward, towards the cliffs that have been mentioned in an
earlier part of our tale.
The day turned out to be one of those magnificent and exceptional
days which appear to have been cut out of summer and interpolated
into autumn. It was bright, warm, and calm, so calm that the boat's
sail was useless, and the crew had to row; but this was, in Minnie's
estimation, no disadvantage, for it gave her time to see the caves
and picturesque inlets which abound all along that rocky coast. It
also gave her time to—but no matter.
"O how very much I should like to have a little boat," said Minnie,
with enthusiasm, "and spend a long day rowing in and out among
these wild rocks, and exploring the caves! Wouldn't it be delightful,
Ruby admitted that it would, and added, "You shall have such a day,
Minnie, if we live long."
"Have you ever been in the Forbidden Cave?" enquired Minnie.
"I'll warrant you he has," cried the captain, who overheard the
question; "you may be sure that wherever Ruby is forbidden to go,
there he'll be sure to go!"
"Ay, is he so self-willed?" asked the lieutenant, with a smile, and
a glance at Minnie.
"A mule; a positive mule," said the captain.
"Come, uncle, you know that I don't deserve such a character, and
it's too bad to give it to me to-day. Did I not agree to come on this
excursion at once, when you asked me?"
"Ay, but you wouldn't if I had ordered you," returned the captain.
"I rather think he would," observed the lieutenant, with another
smile, and another glance at Minnie.
Both smiles and glances were observed and noted by Ruby, whose heart
felt another pang shoot through it; but this, like the former,
subsided when the lieutenant again addressed the captain, and devoted
himself to him so exclusively, that Ruby began to feel a touch of
indignation at his want of appreciation of such a girl as Minnie.
"He's a stupid ass," thought Ruby to himself, and then, turning to
Minnie, directed her attention to a curious natural arch on the
cliffs, and sought to forget all the rest of the world.
In this effort he was successful, and had gradually worked himself
into the firm belief that the world was paradise, and that he and
Minnie were its sole occupants—a second edition, as it were, of Adam
and Eve—when the lieutenant rudely dispelled the sweet dream by
saying sharply to the man at the bow-oar—
"Is that the boat, Baker? You ought to know it pretty well."
"I think it is, sir," answered the man, resting on his oar a moment,
and glancing over his shoulder; "but I can't be sure at this
"Well, pull easy," said the lieutenant; "you see, it won't do to
scare them, Captain Ogilvy, and they'll think we're a pleasure party
when they see a woman in the boat."
Ruby thought they would not be far wrong in supposing them a pleasure
party. He objected, mentally, however, to Minnie being styled a
"woman"—not that he would have had her called a man, but he thought
that girl would have been more suitable—angel, perhaps, the most
appropriate term of all.
"Come, captain, I think I will join you in a pipe," said the
lieutenant, pulling out a tin case, in which he kept the blackest of
little cutty pipes. "In days of old our ancestors loved to fight—now
we degenerate souls love to smoke the pipe of peace."
"I did not know that your ancestors were enemies," said Minnie to the
"Enemies, lass! ay, that they were. What! have ye never heard tell o'
the great fight between the Ogilvys and Lindsays?"
"Never," said Minnie.
"Then, my girl, your education has been neglected, but I'll do what I
can to remedy that defect."
Here the captain rekindled his pipe (which was in the habit of going
out, and requiring to be relighted), and, clearing his throat with
the emphasis of one who is about to communicate something of
importance, held forth as follows.
THE BATTLE OF ARBROATH, AND OTHER WARLIKE MATTERS
"It was in the year 1445—that's not far short o' four hundred years
ago—ah! tempus fugit, which is a Latin quotation, my girl, from
Horace Walpole, I believe, an' signifies time and tide waits for no
man; that's what they calls a free translation, you must know; well,
it was in the winter o' 1445 that a certain Alexander Ogilvy of
Inverquharity was chosen to act as Chief Justiciar in these parts—I
suppose that means a kind of upper bailiff, a sort o' bo's'n's mate,
to compare great things with small. He was set up in place of one o'
the Lindsay family, who, it seems, was rather extravagant, though
whether his extravagance lay in wearin' a beard (for he was called
Earl Beardie), or in spendin' too much cash, I can't take upon me for
to say. Anyhow, Beardie refused to haul down his colours, so the
Ogilvys mustered their men and friends, and the Lindsays did the
same, and they went at it, hammer and tongs, and fowt what ye may
call the Battle of Arbroath, for it was close to the old town where
they fell to.
"It was a most bloody affair. The two families were connected with
many o' the richest and greatest people in the land, and these went
to lend a hand when they beat to quarters, and there was no end o'
barbed horses, as they call them—which means critters with steel
spikes in their noses, I'm told—and lots of embroidered banners and
flags, though I never heard that anyone hoisted the Union Jack; but,
however that may be, they fowt like bluejackets, for five hundred men
were left dead on the field, an' among them a lot o' the great folk.
"But I'm sorry to say that the Ogilvys were licked, though I say it
that shouldn't," continued the captain, with a sigh, as he relighted
his pipe. "Howsever,
'Never ventur', never win,
Blaze away an' don't give in,"
as Milton remarks in his preface to the Pilgrim's Progress."
"True, captain," said the lieutenant, "and you know that 'he who
fights and runs away, shall live to fight another day'." "Leftenant,"
said the captain gravely, "your quotation, besides bein' a kind o'
desecration, is not applicable; 'cause the Ogilvys did not run
away. They fowt on that occasion like born imps, an' they would ha'
certainly won the day, if they hadn't been, every man jack of 'em,
cut to pieces before the battle was finished."
"Well said, uncle," exclaimed Ruby, with a laugh. "No doubt the
Ogilvys would lick the Lindsays now if they had a chance."
"I believe they would," said the lieutenant, "for they have become a
race of heroes since the great day of the Battle of Arbroath. No
doubt, Miss Gray," continued the lieutenant, turning to Minnie with
an arch smile, "no doubt you have heard of that more recent event,
the threatened attack on Arbroath by the French fire-eater, Captain
Fall, and the heroic part played on that occasion by an Ogilvy—an
uncle, I am told, of my good friend here?"
"I have heard of Captain Fall, of course," replied Minnie, "for it
was not many years before I was born that his visit took place, and
Mrs. Brand has often told me of the consternation into which the town
was thrown by his doings; but I never heard of the deeds of the
Ogilvy to whom you refer."
"No? Now, that is surprising! How comes it, captain, that you have
kept so silent on this subject?"
"'Cause it ain't true," replied the captain stoutly, yet with a
peculiar curl about the corners of his mouth, that implied something
in the mind beyond what he expressed with the lips.
"Ah! I see—modesty," said Lindsay. "Your uncle is innately modest,
Miss Gray, and never speaks of anything that bears the slightest
resemblance to boasting. See, the grave solemnity with which he
smokes while I say this proves the truth of my assertion. Well,
since he has never told you, I will tell you myself. You have no
The captain sent a volume of smoke from his lips, and followed it up
"Fire away, shipmet."
The lieutenant, having drawn a few whiffs in order to ensure the
continued combustion of his pipe, related the following anecdote,
which is now matter of history, as anyone may find by consulting the
archives of Arbroath.
"In the year 1781, on a fine evening of the month of May, the seamen
of Arbroath who chanced to be loitering about the harbour observed a
strange vessel manoeuvring in the offing. They watched and commented
on the motions of the stranger with considerable interest, for the
wary skill displayed by her commander proved that he was unacquainted
with the navigation of the coast, and from the cut of her jib they
knew that the craft was a foreigner. After a time she took up a
position, and cast anchor in the bay, directly opposite the town.
"At that time we were, as we still are, and as it really appears
likely to me we ever shall be, at war with France; but as the scene
of the war was far removed from Arbroath, it never occurred to the
good people that the smell of powder could reach their peaceful town.
That idea was somewhat rudely forced upon them when the French flag
was run up to the mizzen-top, and a white puff of smoke burst from
the vessel, which was followed by a shot, that went hissing over
their heads, and plumped right into the middle of the town!
"That shot knocked over fifteen chimney-pots and two weathercocks in
Market-gate, went slap through a house in the suburbs, and finally
stuck in the carcass of an old horse belonging to the Provost of the
town, which didn't survive the shock—the horse, I mean, not the
"It is said that there was an old gentleman lying in bed in a room of
the house that the shot went through. He was a sort of 'hipped'
character, and believed that he could not walk, if he were to try
ever so much. He was looking quietly at the face of a great Dutch
clock when the shot entered and knocked the clock inside out, sending
its contents in a shower over the old gentleman, who jumped up and
rushed out of the house like a maniac! He was cured completely from
that hour. At least, so it's said, but I don't vouch for the truth of
"However, certain it is that the shot was fired, and was followed up
by two or three more; after which the Frenchman ceased firing, and a
boat was seen to quit the side of the craft, bearing a flag of truce.
"The consternation into which the town was thrown is said to have
"That's false," interrupted the captain, removing his pipe while he
spoke. "The word ain't appropriate. The men of Arbroath doesn't know
nothin' about no such word as 'consternation '. They was surprised,
if ye choose, an' powerfully enraged mayhap, but they wasn't
consternated by no means,"
"Well, I don't insist on the point," said the lieutenant, "but
chroniclers write so——"
"Chroniclers write lies sometimes," interrupted the captain curtly.
"Perhaps they do; but you will admit, I dare say, that the women and
children were thrown into a great state of alarm."
"I'm not so sure of that," interposed Ruby. "In a town where the men
were so bold, the women and children would be apt to feel very much
at their ease. At all events, I am acquainted with some women who are
not easily frightened."
"Really, I think it is not fair to interrupt the story in this way,"
said Minnie, with a laugh.
"Right, lass, right," said the captain. "Come, leftenant, spin away
at yer yarn, and don't ventur' too much commentary thereon, 'cause
it's apt to lead to error, an' ye know, as the poet says—
'Errors in the heart breed errors in the brain,
An' these are apt to twist ye wrong again.'
I'm not 'xactly sure o' the precise words in this case, but that's
the sentiment, and everybody knows that sentiment is everything in
poetry, whether ye understand it or not. Fire away, leftenant, an'
don't be long-winded if ye can help it."
"Well, to return to the point," resumed Lindsay. "The town was
certainly thrown into a tremendous state of some sort, for the
people had no arms of any kind wherewith to defend themselves. There
were no regular soldiers, no militia, and no volunteers. Everybody
ran wildly about in every direction, not knowing what to do. There
was no leader, and, in short, the town was very like a shoal of
small fish in a pool when a boy wades in and makes a dash amongst
"At last a little order was restored by the Provost, who was a
sensible old man, and an old soldier to boot, but too infirm to take
as active a part in such an emergency as he would have done had he
been a dozen years younger. He, with several of the principal men of
the town, went down to the beach to receive the bearers of the flag
"The boat was manned by a crew of five or six seamen, armed with
cutlasses, and arquebusses. As soon as its keel grated on the sand a
smart little officer leaped ashore, and presented to the Provost a
letter from Captain Fall, which ran somewhat in this fashion:—
"'AT SEA, May twenty-third.
"'GENTLEMEN,—I send these two words to inform you, that I will have
you to bring-to the French colour in less than a quarter of an hour,
or I set the town on fire directly. Such is the order of my master,
the King of France, I am sent by. Send directly the Mair and chiefs
of the town to make some agreement with me, or I'll make my duty.
It is the will of yours, G. FALL.
"'To MONSIEUR MAIB of the town
called Arbrought, or in his absence
to the chief man after him in Scotland.'
"On reading this the Provost bowed respectfully to the officer, and
begged of him to wait a few minutes while he should consult with his
chief men. This was agreed to, and the Provost said to his friends,
as he walked to a neighbouring house—
"'Ye see, freens, this whipper-snapper o' a tade-eater has gotten the
whup hand o' us; but we'll be upsides wi' him. The main thing is to
get delay, so cut away, Tam Cargill, and tak' horse to Montrose for
the sodgers. Spare na the spur, lad, an' gar them to understan' that
the case is urgent."
"While Tam Cargill started away on his mission, the Provost, whose
chief aim was to gain time and cause delay, penned an epistle to the
Frenchman, in which he stated that he had neglected to name the terms
on which he would consent to spare the town, and that he would
consider it extremely obliging if he would, as speedily as possible,
return an answer, stating them, in order that they might be laid
before the chief men of the place.
"When the Provost, who was a grave, dignified old man, with a strong
dash of humour in him, handed this note to the French officer, he did
so with a humble obeisance that appeared to afford much gratification
to the little man. As the latter jumped into the boat and ordered the
men to push off, the Provost turned slowly to his brother magistrates
with a wink and a quiet smile that convulsed them with suppressed
laughter, and did more to encourage any of the wavering or timid
inhabitants than if he had harangued them heroically for an hour.
"Some time after the boat returned with a reply, which ran thus:—
"'AT SEA, eight o'clock in the Afternoon,
"'GENTLEMEN,—I received just now your answer, by which you say I ask
no terms. I thought it was useless, since I asked you to come aboard
for agreement. But here are my terms:—I will have £30,000 sterling
at least, and six of the chiefs men of the town for otage. Be speedy,
or I shot your town away directly, and I set fire to it. I am,
gentlemen, your servant, G. FALL.
"'I sent some of my crew to you, but if some harm happens to them,
you'll be sure we'll hang up the mainyard all the prisoners we have
"'To Monsieurs the chiefs men
of Arbrought in Scotland.'
"I'm not quite certain," continued the lieutenant, "what were the
exact words of the Provost's reply to this letter, but they conveyed
a distinct and contemptuous refusal to accede to any terms, and, I
believe, invited Fall to come ashore, where, if he did not get
precisely what he had asked, he would be certain to receive a great
deal more than he wanted.
"The enraged and disappointed Frenchman at once began a, heavy fire
upon the town, and continued it for a long time, but fortunately it
did little or no harm, as the town lay in a somewhat low position,
and Fall's guns being too much elevated, the shot passed over it.
"Next day another letter was sent to the Provost by some fishermen,
who were captured while fishing off the Bell Rock. This letter was as
tremendous as the two former. I can give it to you, word for word,
"'AT SEA, May 24th.
"'GENTLEMEN,—See whether you will come to some terms with me, or I
come in presently with my cutter into the arbour, and I will cast
down the town all over. Make haste, because I have no time to spare.
I give you a quarter of an hour to your decision, and after I'll make
my duty. I think it would he better for you, gentlemen, to come some
of you aboard presently, to settle the affairs of your town. You'll
sure no to be hurt. I give you my parole of honour. I am your,
"When the Provost received this he looked round and said, 'Now,
gentlemen all, we'll hae to fight. Send me Ogilvy.'
"'Here I am, Provost,' cried a stout, active young fellow; something
like what the captain must have been when he was young, I should
"Ahem!" coughed the captain.
"Well," continued Lindsay, "the Provost said, 'Now, Ogilvy, you're a
smart cheel, an' ken aboot war and strategy and the like: I charge ye
to organize the men o' the toon without delay, and tak' what steps ye
think adveesable. Meanwhile, I'll away and ripe oot a' the airms and
guns I can find. Haste ye, lad, an' mak' as muckle noise aboot it as
'"Trust me,' said Ogilvy, who appeared to have been one of those men
who regard a fight as a piece of good fun.
"Turning to the multitude, who had heard the commission given, and
were ready for anything, he shouted, 'Now, boys, ye heard the
Provost. I need not ask if you are all ready to fight——'
"A deafening cheer interrupted the speaker, who, when it ceased,
"'Well, then, I've but one piece of advice to give ye: Obey orders
at once. When I tell ye to halt, stop dead like lampposts; when I
say, "Charge!" go at them like wild cats, and drive the Frenchmen
into the sea!' 'Hurrah!' yelled the crowd, for they were wild with
excitement and rage, and only wanted a leader to organize them and
make them formidable. When the cheer ceased, Ogilvy cried, 'Now,
then, every man who knows how to beat a kettledrum and blow a trumpet
"About twenty men answered to the summons, and to these Ogilvy said
aloud, in order that all might hear, 'Go, get you all the trumpets,
drums, horns, bugles, and trombones in the town; beat the drums till
they split, and blow the bugles till they burst, and don't give in
till ye can't go on. The rest of you,' he added, turning to the
crowd, 'go, get arms, guns, swords, pistols, scythes, pitchforks,
pokers—anything, everything—and meet me at the head of
"No king of necromancers ever dispersed his legions more rapidly than
did Ogilvy on that occasion. They gave one final cheer, and scattered
like chaff before the wind, leaving their commander alone, with a
select few, whom he kept by him as a sort of staff to consult with
and despatch with orders.
"The noise that instantly ensued in the town was something
pandemoniacal. Only three drums were found, but tin kettles and pans
were not wanting, and these, superintended by Hugh Barr, the town
drummer, did great execution. Three key-bugles, an old French horn,
and a tin trumpet of a mail-coach guard, were sounded at intervals in
every quarter of the town, while the men were marshalled, and made to
march hither and thither in detached bodies, as if all were busily
engaged in making preparations for a formidable defence.
"In one somewhat elevated position a number of men were set to work
with spades, picks, and shovels, to throw up an earthwork. When it
had assumed sufficiently large dimensions to attract the attention of
the French, a body of men, with blue jackets, and caps with bits of
red flannel hanging down the sides, were marched up behind it at the
double, and posted there.
"Meanwhile Ogilvy had prepared a dummy field piece, by dismounting a
cart from its wheels and fixing on the axle a great old wooden pump,
not unlike a big gun in shape; another cart was attached to this to
represent a limber; four horses were harnessed to the affair; two men
mounted these, and, amid a tremendous flourish of trumpets and
beating of drums, the artillery went crashing along the streets and
up the eminence crowned by the earthwork, where they wheeled the gun
"The artillerymen sprang at the old pump like true Britons, and began
to sponge it out as if they had been bred to gunnery from childhood,
while the limber was detached and galloped to the rear. In this
operation the cart was smashed to pieces, and the two hindmost horses
were thrown; but this mattered little, as they had got round a
corner, and the French did not see it.
"Fall and his brave men seem to have been upset altogether by these
warlike demonstrations, for the moment the big gun made its
appearance the sails were shaken loose, and the French privateer
sheered off, capturing as he left the bay, however, several small
vessels, which he carried off as prizes to France. And so,"
concluded the lieutenant, "Captain Fall sailed away, and never was
heard of more."
"Well told; well told, leftenant," cried the captain, whose eyes
sparkled at the concluding account of the defensive operations, "and
true every word of it."
"That's good testimony to my truthfulness, then," said Lindsay,
laughing, "for you were there yourself!"
"There yourself, uncle?" repeated Minnie, with a glance of surprise
that quickly changed into a look of intelligence, as she exclaimed,
with a merry laugh, "Ah! I see. It was you, uncle, who did it all;
who commanded on that occasion——"
"My child," said the captain, resuming his pipe with an expression of
mild reproof on his countenance, "don't go for to pry too deep into
things o' the past. I may have been a fire-eater once—I may have
been a gay young feller as could——; but no matter. Avast musin'! As
Lord Bacon says—
'The light of other days is faded,
An' all their glory 'a past;
My boots no longer look as they did,
But, like my coat, are goin' fast.'
But I say, leftenant, how long do you mean to keep pullin' about
here, without an enemy, or, as far as I can see, an object in view?
Don't you think we might land, and let Minnie see some of the caves?"
"With all my heart, captain, and here is a convenient bay to run the
As he spoke the boat shot past one of those bold promontories of red
sandstone which project along that coast in wild picturesque forms,
terminating in some instances in detached headlands, elsewhere in
natural arches. The cliffs were so close to the boat that they could
have been touched by the oars, while the rocks, rising to a
considerable height, almost overhung them. Just beyond this a
beautiful bay opened up to view, with a narrow strip of yellow
shingle round the base of the cliffs, which here lost for a short
distance their rugged character, though not their height, and were
covered with herbage. A zigzag path led to the top, and the whole
neighbourhood was full of ocean-worn coves and gullies, some of them
dry, and many filled with water, while others were filled at high
tide, and left empty when the tides fell.
"O how beautiful! and what a place for smugglers!" was Minnie's
enthusiastic exclamation on first catching sight of the bay.
"The smugglers and you would appear to be of one mind," said Ruby,
"for they are particularly fond of this place."
"So fond of it," said the lieutenant, "that I mean to wait for them
here in anticipation of a moonlight visit this night, if my fair
passenger will consent to wander in such wild places at such late
hours, guarded from the night air by my boat-cloak, and assured of
the protection of my stout boatmen in case of any danger, although
there is little prospect of our meeting with any greater danger than
a breeze or a shower of rain."
Minnie said that she would like nothing better; that she did not mind
the night air; and, as to danger from men, she felt that she should
be well cared for in present circumstances.
As she uttered the last words she naturally glanced at Ruby, for
Minnie was of a dependent and trusting nature; but as Ruby happened
to be regarding her intently, though quite accidentally, at the
moment, she dropped her eyes and blushed.
It is wonderful the power of a little glance at times. The glance
referred to made Ruby perfectly happy. It conveyed to him the
assurance that Minnie regarded the protection of the entire boat's
crew, including the lieutenant, as quite unnecessary, and that she
deemed his single arm all that she required or wanted.
The sun was just dipping behind the tall cliffs, and his parting rays
were kissing the top of Minnie's head as if they positively could not
help it, and had recklessly made up their mind to do it, come what
Ruby looked at the golden light kissing the golden hair, and he
Oh! you know, reader; if you have ever been in similar circumstances,
you understand what he felt; if you have not, no words from me, or
from any other man, can ever convey to you the most distant idea of
what Ruby felt on that occasion!
On reaching the shore they all went up to the green banks at the foot
of the cliffs, and turned round to watch the men as they pulled the
boat to a convenient point for re-embarking at a moment's notice.
"You see," said the lieutenant, pursuing a conversation which he had
been holding with the captain, "I have been told that Big Swankie,
and his mate Davy Spink (who, it seems, is not over-friendly with him
just now), mean to visit one of the luggers which is expected to come
in to-night, before the moon rises, and bring off some kegs of
Auchmithie water, which, no doubt, they will try to hide in
Dickmont's Den. I shall lie snugly here on the watch, and hope to nab
them before they reach that celebrated old smuggler's abode."
"Well, I'll stay about here," said the captain, "and show Minnie the
caves. I would like to have taken her to see the Gaylet Pot, which is
one o' the queerest hereabouts; but I'm too old for such rough work
"But I am not too old for it," interposed Ruby, "so if Minnie would
like to go——"
"But I won't desert you, uncle," said Minnie hastily.
"Nay, lass, call it not desertion. I can smoke my pipe here, an'
contemplate. I'm fond of contemplation—
'By the starry light of the summer night,
On the banks of the blue Moselle,'
though, for the matter o' that, moonlight'll do, if there's no stars.
I think it's good for the mind, Minnie, and keeps all taut.
Contemplation is just like takin' an extra pull on the lee braces. So
you may go with Ruby, lass."
Thus advised, and being further urged by Ruby himself, and being
moreover exceedingly anxious to see this cave, Minnie consented; so
the two set off together, and, climbing to the summit of the cliffs,
followed the narrow footpath that runs close to their giddy edge all
along the coast.
In less than half an hour they reached the Giel or Gaylet Pot.
AN ADVENTURE—SECRETS REVEALED, AND A PRIZE
The Giel or Gaylet Pot, down into which Ruby, with great care and
circumspection, led Minnie, is one of the most curious of Nature's
freaks among the cliffs of Arbroath.
In some places there is a small scrap of pebbly beach at the base of
those perpendicular cliffs; in most places there is none—the cliffs
presenting to the sea almost a dead wall, where neither ship nor boat
could find refuge from the storm.
The country, inland, however, does not partake of the rugged nature
of the cliffs. It slopes gradually towards them—so gradually that it
may be termed flat, and if a stranger were to walk towards the sea
over the fields in a dark night, the first intimation he would
receive of his dangerous position would be when his foot descended
into the terrible abyss that would receive his shattered frame a
hundred feet below.
In one of the fields there is a hole about a hundred yards across,
and as deep as the cliffs in that part are high. It is about fifty or
eighty yards from the edge of the cliffs, and resembles an old
quarry; but it is cut so sharply out of the flat field that it shows
no sign of its existence until the traveller is close upon it. The
rocky sides, too, are so steep, that at first sight it seems as if no
man could descend into it. But the most peculiar point about this
hole is, that at the foot of it there is the opening of a cavern,
through which the sea rolls into the hole, and breaks in wavelets on
a miniature shore. The sea has forced its way inland and underground
until it has burst into the bottom of this hole, which is not inaptly
compared to a pot with water boiling at the bottom of it. When a
spectator looks into the cave, standing at the bottom of the "Pot",
he sees the seaward opening at the other end—a bright spot of light
in the dark interior.
"You won't get nervous, Minnie?" said Ruby, pausing when about
halfway down the steep declivity, where the track, or rather the
place of descent, became still more steep and difficult; "a slip here
would be dangerous."
"I have no fear, Ruby, as long as you keep by me."
In a few minutes they reached the bottom, and, looking up, the sky
appeared above them like a blue circular ceiling, with the edges of
the Gaylet Pot sharply defined against it.
Proceeding over a mass of fallen rock, they reached the pebbly strand
at the cave's inner mouth.
"I can see the interior now, as my eyes become accustomed to the dim
light," said Minnie, gazing up wistfully into the vaulted roof, where
the edges of projecting rocks seemed to peer out of darkness. "Surely
this must be a place for smugglers to come to!"
"They don't often come here. The place is not so suitable as many of
the other caves are."
From the low, subdued tones in which they both spoke, it was evident
that the place inspired them with feelings of awe.
"Come, Minnie," said Ruby, at length, in a more cheerful tone, "let
us go into this cave and explore it."
"But the water may be deep," objected Minnie; "besides, I do not like
to wade, even though it be shallow."
"Nay, sweet one; do you think I would ask you to wet your pretty
feet? There is very little wading required. See, I have only to raise
you in my arms and take two steps into the water, and a third step to
the left round that projecting rock, where I can set you down on
another beach inside the cave. Your eyes will soon get used to the
subdued light, and then you will see things much more clearly than
you would think it possible viewed from this point."
Minnie did not require much pressing. She had perfect confidence in
her lover, and was naturally fearless in disposition, so she was soon
placed on the subterranean beach of the Gaylet Cave, and for some
time wandered about in the dimly-lighted place, leaning on Ruby's
Gradually their eyes became accustomed to the place, and then its
mysterious beauty and wildness began to have full effect on their
minds, inducing them to remain for a long time silent, as they sat
side by side on a piece of fallen rock.
They sat looking in the direction of the seaward entrance to the
cavern, where the light glowed brightly on the rocks, gradually
losing its brilliancy as it penetrated the cave, until it became
quite dim in the centre. No part of the main cave was quite dark,
but the offshoot, in which the lovers sat, was almost dark. To
anyone viewing it from the outer cave it would have appeared
"Is that a sea-gull at the outlet?" enquired Minnie, after a long
Ruby looked intently for a moment in the direction indicated.
"Minnie," he said quickly, and in a tone of surprise, "that is a
large gull, if it be one at all, and uses oars instead of wings. Who
can it be? Smugglers never come here that I am aware of, and Lindsay
is not a likely man to waste his time in pulling about when he has
other work to do."
"Perhaps it may be some fishermen from Auchmithie," suggested Minnie,
"who are fond of exploring, like you and me."
"Mayhap it is, but we shall soon see, for here they come. We must
keep out of sight, my girl."
Ruby rose and led Minnie into the recesses of the cavern, where they
were speedily shrouded in profound darkness, and could not be seen by
anyone, although they themselves could observe all that occurred in
the space in front of them.
The boat, which had entered the cavern by its seaward mouth, was a
small one, manned by two fishermen, who were silent as they rowed
under the arched roof; but it was evident that their silence did not
proceed from caution, for they made no effort to prevent or check the
noise of the oars.
In a few seconds the keel grated on the peebles, and one of the men
"Noo, Davy," he said, in a voice that sounded deep and hollow under
that vaulted roof, "oot wi' the kegs. Haste ye, man."
"Tis Big Swankie," whispered Ruby.
"There's nae hurry," objected the other fisherman, who, we need
scarcely inform the reader, was our friend, Davy Spink.
"Nae hurry!" repeated his comrade angrily. "That's aye yer cry. Half
'o oor ventures hae failed because ye object to hurry."
"Hoot, man! that's enough o't," said Spink, in the nettled tone of a
man who has been a good deal worried. Indeed, the tones of both
showed that these few sentences were but the continuation of a
quarrel which had begun elsewhere.
"It's plain to me that we must pairt, freen'," said Swankie in a
dogged manner, as he lifted a keg out of the boat and placed it on
"Ay," exclaimed Spink, with something of a sneer, "an" d'ye think
I'll pairt without a diveesion o' the siller tea-pats and things that
ye daurna sell for fear o' bein' fund out?"
"I wonder ye dinna claim half o' the jewels and things as weel,"
retorted Swankie; "ye hae mair right to them, seein' ye had a hand
in findin' them."
"Me a hand in findin' them," exclaimed Spink, with sudden
indignation. "Was it me that fand the deed body o' the auld man on
the Bell Rock? Na, na, freend. I hae naething to do wi' deed men's
"Have ye no?" retorted the other. "It's strange, then, that ye should
entertain such sma' objections to deed men's siller." "Weel-a-weel,
Swankie, the less we say on thae matters the better. Here, tak' hand
o' the tither keg."
The conversation ceased at this stage abruptly. Evidently each had
touched on the other's weak point, so both tacitly agreed to drop the
Presently Big Swankie took out a flint and steel, and proceeded to
strike a light. It was some some time before the tinder would catch.
At each stroke of the steel a shower of brilliant sparks lit up his
countenance for an instant, and this momentary glance showed that its
expression was not prepossessing by any means.
Ruby drew Minnie farther into the recess which concealed them, and
awaited the result with some anxiety, for he felt that the amount of
knowledge with which he had become possessed thus unintentionally,
small though it was, was sufficient to justify the smugglers in
regarding him as a dangerous enemy.
He had scarcely drawn himself quite within the shadow of the recess,
when Swankie succeeded in kindling a torch, which filled the cavern
with a lurid light, and revealed its various forms, rendering it, if
possible, more mysterious and unearthly than ever.
"Here, Spink," cried Swankie, who was gradually getting into better
humour, "haud the light, and gie me the spade."
"Ye better put them behind the rock, far in," suggested Spink.
The other seemed to entertain this idea for a moment, for he raised
the torch above his head, and, advancing into the cave, carefully
examined the rocks at the inner end.
Step by step he drew near to the place where Ruby and Minnie were
concealed, muttering to himself, as he looked at each spot that might
possibly suit his purpose, "Na, na, the waves wad wash the kegs oot
o' that if it cam' on to blaw."
He made another step forward, and the light fell almost on the head
of Ruby, who felt Minnie's arm tremble. He clenched his hands with
that feeling of resolve that comes over a man when he has made up his
mind to fight.
Just then an exclamation of surprise escaped from his comrade.
"Losh! man, what have we here?" he cried, picking up a small object
that glittered in the light.
Minnie's heart sank, for she could see that the thing was a small
brooch which she was in the habit of wearing in her neckerchief, and
which must have been detached when Ruby carried her into the cave.
She felt assured that this would lead to their discovery; but it had
quite the opposite effect, for it caused Swankie to turn round and
examine the trinket with much curiosity.
A long discussion as to how it could have come there immediately
ensued between the smugglers, in the midst of which a wavelet washed
against Swankie's feet, reminding him that the tide was rising, and
that he had no time to lose.
"There's nae place behint the rocks," said he quickly, putting the
brooch in his pocket, "so we'll just hide the kegs amang the stanes.
Lucky for us that we got the rest o' the cargo run ashore at
Auchmithie. This'll lie snugly here, and we'll pull past the
leftenant, who thinks we havena seen him, with oor heeds up and oor
tongues in oor cheeks."
They both chuckled heartily at the idea of disappointing the
preventive officer, and while one held the torch the other dug a hole
in the beach deep enough to contain the two kegs.
"In ye go, my beauties," said Swankie, covering them up. "Mony's the
time I've buried ye."
"Ay, an' mony's the time ye've helped at their resurrection," added
Spink, with a laugh.
"Noo, we'll away an' have a look at the kegs in the Forbidden Cave,"
said Swankie, "see that they're a' richt, an' then have our game wi'
Next moment the torch was dashed against the stones and extinguished,
and the two men, leaping into their boat, rowed away. As they passed
through the outer cavern, Ruby heard them arrange to go back to
Auchmithie. Their voices were too indistinct to enable him to
ascertain their object in doing so, but he knew enough of the
smugglers to enable him to guess that it was for the purpose of
warning some of their friends of the presence of the preventive boat,
which their words proved that they had seen.
"Now, Minnie," said he, starting up as soon as the boat had
disappeared, "this is what I call good luck, for not only shall we be
able to return with something to the boat, but we shall be able to
intercept big Swankie and his comrade, and offer them a glass of
their own gin!"
"Yes, and I shall be able to boast of having had quite a little
adventure," said Minnie, who, now that her anxiety was over, began to
They did not waste time in conversation, however, for the digging up
of two kegs from a gravelly beach with fingers instead of a spade was
not a quick or easy thing to do; so Ruby found as he went down on his
knees in that dark place and began the work.
"Can I help you?" asked his fair companion after a time.
"Help me! What? Chafe and tear your little hands with work that all
but skins mine? Nay, truly. But here comes one, and the other will
soon follow. Yo, heave, HO!"
With the well-known nautical shout Ruby put forth an herculean
effort, and tore the kegs out of the earth. After a short pause he
carried Minnie out of the cavern, and led her to the field above by
the same path by which they had descended.
Then he returned for the kegs of gin. They were very heavy, but not
too heavy for the strength of the young giant, who was soon hastening
with rapid strides towards the bay, where they had left their
friends. He bore a keg under each arm, and Minnie tripped lightly by
his side,—and laughingly, too, for she enjoyed the thought of the
discomfiture that was in store for the smugglers.
THE SMUGGLERS ARE "TREATED" TO GIN AND ASTONISHMENT
They found the lieutenant and Captain Ogilvy stretched on the grass,
smoking their pipes together. The daylight had almost deepened into
night, and a few stars were beginning to twinkle in the sky.
"Hey! what have we here—smugglers'!" cried the captain, springing up
rather quickly, as Ruby came unexpectedly on them.
"Just so, uncle," said Minnie, with a laugh. "We have here some gin,
smuggled all the way from Holland, and have come to ask your opinion
"Why, Ruby, how came you by this?" enquired Lindsay in amazement, as
he examined the kegs with critical care.
"Suppose I should say that I have been taken into confidence by the
smugglers and then betrayed them."
"I should reply that the one idea was improbable, and the other
impossible," returned the lieutenant.
"Well, I have at all events found out their secrets, and now I reveal
In a few words Ruby acquainted his friends with all that has just
The moment he had finished, the lieutenant ordered his men to launch
the boat. The kegs were put into the stern-sheets, the party
embarked, and, pushing off, they rowed gently out of the bay, and
crept slowly along the shore, under the deep shadow of the cliffs.
"How dark it is getting!" said Minnie, after they had rowed for some
time in silence.
"The moon will soon be up," said the lieutenant. "Meanwhile I'll cast
a little light on the subject by having a pipe. Will you join me,
This was a temptation which the captain never resisted; indeed, he
did not regard it as a temptation at all, and would have smiled at
the idea of resistance.
"Minnie, lass," said he, as he complacently filled the blackened
bowl, and calmly stuffed down the glowing tobacco with the end of
that marvellously callous little finger, "it's a wonderful thing that
baccy. I don't know what man would do without it."
"Quite as well as woman does, I should think," replied Minnie.
"I'm not so sure of that, lass. It's more nat'ral for man to smoke
than for woman. Ye see, woman, lovely woman, should be 'all my fancy
painted her, both lovely and divine'. It would never do to have baccy
perfumes hangin' about her rosy lips."
"But, uncle, why should man have the disagreeable perfumes you speak
of hanging about his lips?"
"I don't know, lass. It's all a matter o' feeling. 'Twere vain to
tell thee all I feel, how much my heart would wish to say;' but of
this I'm certain sure, that I'd never git along without my pipe.
It's like compass, helm, and ballast all in one. Is that the moon,
The captain pointed to a faint gleam of light on the horizon, which
he knew well enough to be the moon; but he wished to change the
"Ay is it, and there comes a boat. Steady, men! lay on your oars a
This was said earnestly. In one instant all were silent, and the boat
lay as motionless as the shadows of the cliffs among which it was
Presently the sound of oars was heard. Almost at the same moment, the
upper edge of the moon rose above the horizon, and covered the sea
with rippling silver. Ere long a boat shot into this stream of
light, and rowed swiftly in the direction of Arbroath.
"There are only two men in it," whispered the lieutenant.
"Ay, these are my good friends Swankie and Spink, who know a deal
more about other improper callings besides smuggling, if I did not
greatly mistake their words," cried Ruby.
"Give way, lads!" cried the lieutenant.
The boat sprang at the word from her position under the cliffs, and
was soon out upon the sea in full chase of the smugglers, who bent to
their oars more lustily, evidently intending to trust to their speed.
"Strange," said the lieutenant, as the distance between the two began
sensibly to decrease, "if these be smugglers, with an empty boat, as
you lead me to suppose they are, they would only be too glad to stop
and let us see that they had nothing aboard that we could touch. It
leads me to think that you are mistaken, Ruby Brand, and that these
are not your friends."
"Nay, the same fact convinces me that they are the very men we seek;
for they said they meant to have some game with you, and what more
amusing than to give you a long, hard chase for nothing?"
"True; you are right. Well, we will turn the tables on them. Take the
helm for a minute, while I tap one of the kegs."
The tapping was soon accomplished, and a quantity of the spirit was
drawn off into the captain's pocket-flask.
"Taste it, captain, and let's have your opinion."
Captain Ogilvy complied. He put the flask to his lips, and, on
removing it, smacked them, and looked at the party with that
extremely grave, almost solemn expression, which is usually assumed
by a man when strong liquid is being put to the delicate test of his
"Oh!" exclaimed the captain, opening his eyes very wide indeed.
What "oh" meant, was rather doubtful at first; but when the captain
put the flask again to his lips, and took another pull, a good deal
longer than the first, much, if not all of the doubt was removed.
"Prime! nectar!" he murmured, in a species of subdued ecstasy, at the
end of the second draught.
"Evidently the right stuff," said Lindsay, laughing.
"Liquid streams—celestial nectar,
Darted through the ambient sky,"
said the captain; "liquid, ay, liquid is the word."
He was about to test the liquid again:—
"Stop! stop! fair play, captain; it's my turn now," cried the
lieutenant, snatching the flask from his friend's grasp, and applying
it to his own lips.
Both the lieutenant and Ruby pronounced the gin perfect, and as
Minnie positively refused either to taste or to pronounce judgment,
the flask was returned to its owner's pocket.
They were now close on the smugglers, whom they hailed, and commanded
to lay on their oars.
The order was at once obeyed, and the boats were speedily rubbing
"I should like to examine your boat, friends," said the lieutenant as
he stepped across the gunwales.
"Oh! sir, I'm thankfu' to find you're not smugglers," said Swankie,
with an assumed air of mingled respect and alarm. "If we'd only
know'd ye was preventives we'd ha' backed oars at once. There's
nothin' here; ye may seek as long's ye please.
The hypocritical rascal winked slyly to his comrade as he said this.
Meanwhile Lindsay and one of the men examined the contents of the
boat, and, finding nothing contraband, the former said—
"So, you're honest men, I find. Fishermen, doubtless?"
"Ay, some o' yer crew ken us brawly," said Davy Spink with a grin.
"Well, I won't detain you," rejoined the lieutenant; "it's quite a
pleasure to chase honest men on the high seas in these times of war
and smuggling. But it's too bad to have given you such a fright,
lads, for nothing. What say you to a glass of gin?"
Big Swankie and his comrade glanced at each other in surprise. They
evidently thought this an unaccountably polite Government officer,
and were puzzled. However, they could do no less than accept such a
"Thank'ee, sir," said Big Swankie, spitting out his quid and
significantly wiping his mouth. "I hae nae objection. Doubtless it'll
be the best that the like o' you carries in yer bottle."
"The best, certainly," said the lieutenant, as he poured out a
bumper, and handed it to the smuggler. "It was smuggled, of course,
and you see His Majesty is kind enough to give his servants a little
of what they rescue from the rascals, to drink his health."
"Weel, I drink to the King," said Swankie, "an' confusion to all his
enemies, 'specially to smugglers."
He tossed off the gin with infinite gusto, and handed back the cup
with a smack of the lips and a look that plainly said, "More, if you
But the hint was not taken. Another bumper was filled and handed to
Davy Spink, who had been eyeing the crew of the boat with great
suspicion. He accepted the cup, nodded curtly, and said—
"Here's t' ye, gentlemen, no forgettin' the fair leddy in the
While he was drinking the gin the lieutenant turned to his men—
"Get out the keg, lads, from which that came, and refill the flask.
Hold it well up in the moonlight, and see that ye don't spill a
single drop, as you value your lives. Hey! my man, what ails you?
Does the gin disagree with your stomach, or have you never seen a
smuggled keg of spirits before, that you stare at it as if it were
a keg of ghosts!"
The latter part of this speech was addressed to Swankie, who no
sooner beheld the keg than his eyes opened up until they resembled
two great oysters. His mouth slowly followed suit. Davy Spink's
attention having been attracted, he became subject to similar
alterations of visage.
"Hallo!" cried the captain, while the whole crew burst into a laugh,
"you must have given them poison. Have you a stomach-pump, doctor?"
he said, turning hastily to Ruby.
"No, nothing but a penknife and a tobacco-stopper. If they're of any
use to you——"
He was interrupted by a loud laugh from Big Swankie, who quickly
recovered his presence of mind, and declared that he had never tasted
such capital stuff in his life.
"Have ye much o't, sir?"
"O yes, a good deal. I have two kegs of it," (the lieutenant
grinned very hard at this point), "and we expect to get a little more
"Ha!" exclaimed Davy Spink, "there's no doot plenty o't in the coves
hereaway, for they're an awfu' smugglin' set. Whan did ye find the
twa kegs, noo, if I may ask?"
"Oh, certainly. I got them not more than an hour ago."
The smugglers glanced at each other and were struck dumb; but they
were now too much on their guard to let any further evidence of
surprise escape them.
"Weel, I wush ye success, sirs," said Swankie, sitting down to his
oar. "It's likely ye'll come across mair if ye try Dickmont's Den.
There's usually somethin' hidden there-aboots."
"Thank you, friend, for the hint," said the lieutenant, as he took
his place at the tiller-ropes, "but I shall have a look at the Gaylet
Cove, I think, this evening."
"What! the Gaylet Cove?" cried Spink. "Ye might as weel look for
kegs at the bottom o' the deep sea."
"Perhaps so; nevertheless, I have taken a fancy to go there. If I
find nothing, I will take a look into the Forbidden Cave."
"The Forbidden Cave!" almost howled Swankie. "Wha iver heard o'
smugglers hidin' onything there? The air in't wad pushen a rotten."
"Perhaps it would, yet I mean to try."
"Weel-a-weel, ye may try, but ye might as weel seek for kegs o' gin
on the Bell Rock."
"Ha! it's not the first time that strange things have been found on
the Bell Bock," said Ruby suddenly. "I have heard of jewels, even,
being discovered there."
"Give way, men; shove off," cried the lieutenant. "A pleasant pull to
you, lads. Good night."
The two boats parted, and while the lieutenant and his friends made
for the shore, the smugglers rowed towards Arbroath in a state of
mingled amazement and despair at what they had heard and seen.
"It was Ruby Brand that spoke last, Davy."
"Ay; he was i' the shadow o' Captain Ogilvy and I couldna see his
face, but I thought it like his voice when he first spoke."
"Hoo can he hae come to ken aboot the jewels?"
"That's mair than I can tell."
"I'll bury them," said Swankie, "an' then it'll puzzle onybody to
tell whaur they are."
"Ye'll please yoursell," said Spink.
Swankie was too angry to make any reply, or to enter into further
conversation with his comrade about the kegs of gin, so they
continued their way in silence.
Meanwhile, as Lieutenant Lindsay and his men had a night of work
before them, the captain suggested that Minnie, Ruby, and himself
should be landed within a mile of the town, and left to find their
way thither on foot. This was agreed to; and while the one party
walked home by the romantic pathway at the top of the cliffs, the
other rowed away to explore the dark recesses of the Forbidden Cave.
THE BELL ROCK AGAIN—A DREARY NIGHT IN A STRANGE HABITATION
During that winter Ruby Brand wrought diligently in the workyard at
the lighthouse materials, and, by living economically, began to save
a small sum of money, which he laid carefully by with a view to his
marriage with Minnie Gray.
Being an impulsive man, Ruby would have married Minnie, then and
there, without looking too earnestly to the future. But his mother
had advised him to wait till he should have laid by a little for a
"rainy day". The captain had recommended patience, tobacco, and
philosophy, and had enforced his recommendations with sundry apt
quotations from dead and living novelists, dramatists, and poets.
Minnie herself, poor girl, felt that she ought not to run counter to
the wishes of her best and dearest friends, so she too advised delay
for a "little time"; and Ruby was fain to content himself with
bewailing his hard lot internally, and knocking Jamie Dove's bellows,
anvils, and sledge-hammers about in a way that induced that son of
Vulcan to believe his assistant had gone mad!
As for big Swankie, he hid his ill-gotten gains under the floor of
his tumble-down cottage, and went about his evil courses as usual in
company with his comrade Davy Spink, who continued to fight and make
it up with him as of yore.
It must not be supposed that Ruby forgot the conversation he had
overheard in the Gaylet Cove. He and Minnie and his uncle had
frequent discussions in regard to it, but to little purpose; for
although Swankie and Spink had discovered old Mr. Brand's body on the
Bell Rock, it did not follow that any jewels or money they had found
there were necessarily his. Still Ruby could not divest his mind of
the feeling that there was some connexion between the two, and he was
convinced, from what had fallen from Davy Spink about "silver teapots
and things", that Swankie was the man of whose bad deeds he himself
had been suspected.
As there seemed no possibility of bringing the matter home to him,
however, he resolved to dismiss the whole affair from his mind in the
Things were very much in this state when, in the spring, the
operations at the Bell Bock were resumed.
Jamie Dove, Ruby, Robert Selkirk, and several of the principal
workmen, accompanied the engineers on their first visit to the rock,
and they sailed towards the scene of their former labours with deep
and peculiar interest, such as one might feel on renewing
acquaintance with an old friend who had passed through many hard and
trying struggles since the last time of meeting.
The storms of winter had raged round the Bell Rock as usual—as they
had done, in fact, since the world began; but that winter the
handiwork of man had also been exposed to the fury of the elements
there. It was known that the beacon had survived the storms, for it
could be seen by telescope from the shore in clear weather—like a
little speck on the seaward horizon. Now they were about to revisit
the old haunt, and have a close inspection of the damage that it was
supposed must certainly have been done.
To the credit of the able engineer who planned and carried out the
whole works, the beacon was found to have resisted winds and waves
It was on a bitterly cold morning about the end of March that the
first visit of the season was paid to the Bell Rock. Mr. Stevenson
and his party of engineers and artificers sailed in the lighthouse
yacht; and, on coming within a proper distance of the rock, two boats
were lowered and pushed off. The sea ran with such force upon the
rock that it seemed doubtful whether a landing could be effected.
About half-past eight, when the rock was fairly above water, several
attempts were made to land, but the breach of the sea was still so
great that they were driven back.
On the eastern side the sea separated into two distinct waves, which
came with a sweep round the western side, where they met, and rose
in a burst of spray to a considerable height. Watching, however, for
what the sailors termed a smooth, and catching a favourable
opportunity, they rowed between the two seas dexterously, and made a
successful landing at the western creek.
The sturdy beacon was then closely examined. It had been painted
white at the end of the previous season, but the lower parts of the
posts were found to have become green—the sea having clothed them
with a soft garment of weed. The sea-birds had evidently imagined
that it was put up expressly for their benefit; for a number of
cormorants and large herring-gulls had taken up their quarters on
it—finding it, no doubt, conveniently near to their fishing-grounds.
A critical inspection of all its parts showed that everything about
it was in a most satisfactory state. There was not the slightest
indication of working or shifting in the great iron stanchions with
which the beams were fixed, nor of any of the joints or places of
connexion; and, excepting some of the bracing-chains which had been
loosened, everything was found in the same entire state in which it
had been left the previous season.
Only those who know what that beacon had been subjected to can form a
correct estimate of the importance of this discovery, and the amount
of satisfaction it afforded to those most interested in the works at
the Bell Rock. To say that the party congratulated themselves would
be far short of the reality. They hailed the event with cheers, and
their looks seemed to indicate that some piece of immense and
unexpected good fortune had befallen each individual.
From that moment Mr. Stevenson saw the practicability and propriety
of fitting up the beacon, not only as a place of refuge in case of
accidents to the boats in landing, but as a residence for the men
during the working months.
From that moment, too, poor Jamie Dove began to see the dawn of
happier days; for when the beacon should be fitted up as a residence
he would bid farewell to the hated floating light, and take up his
abode, as ho expressed it, "on land".
"On land!" It is probable that this Jamie Dove was the first man,
since the world began, who had entertained the till then absurdly
preposterous notion that the fatal Bell Rock was "land", or that it
could be made a place of even temporary residence.
A hundred years ago men would have laughed at the bare idea. Fifty
years ago that idea was realized; for more than half a century that
sunken reef has been, and still is, the safe and comfortable home of
Forgive, reader, our tendency to anticipate. Let us proceed with our
Having ascertained that the foundations of the beacon were all right,
the engineers next ascended to the upper parts, where they found the
cross-beams and their fixtures in an equally satisfactory condition.
On the top a strong chest had been fixed the preceding season, in
which had been placed a quantity of sea-biscuits and several bottles
of water, in case of accident to the boats, or in the event of
shipwreck occurring on the rock. The biscuit, having been carefully
placed in tin canisters, was found in good condition, but several of
the water-bottles had burst, in consequence, it was supposed, of
frost during the winter. Twelve of the bottles, however, remained
entire, so that the Bell Rock may be said to have been transformed,
even at that date, from a point of destruction into a place of
While the party were thus employed, the landing-master reminded them
that the sea was running high, and that it would be necessary to set
off while the rock afforded anything like shelter to the boats, which
by that time had been made fast to the beacon and rode with much
agitation, each requiring two men with boat-hooks to keep them from
striking each other, or ranging up against the beacon. But under
these circumstances the greatest confidence was felt by everyone,
from the security afforded by that temporary erection; for, supposing
that the wind had suddenly increased to a gale, and that it had been
found inadvisable to go into the boats; or supposing they had drifted
or sprung a leak from striking upon the rocks, in any of these
possible, and not at all improbable, cases, they had now something to
lay hold of, and, though occupying the dreary habitation of the gull
and the cormorant, affording only bread and water, yet life would
be preserved, and, under the circumstances, they would have been
supported by the hope of being ultimately relieved.
Soon after this the works at the Bell Rock were resumed, with, if
possible, greater vigour than before, and ere long the "house" was
fixed to the top of the beacon, and the engineer and his men took up
their abode there.
Think of this, reader. Six great wooden beams were fastened to a
rock, over which the waves roared twice everyday, and on the top of
these a pleasant little marine residence was nailed, as one might
nail a dove-cot on the top of a pole!
This residence was ultimately fitted up in such a way as to become a
comparatively comfortable and commodious abode. It contained four
storeys. The first was the mortar-gallery, where the mortar for the
lighthouse was mixed as required; it also supported the forge. The
second was the cook-room. The third the apartment of the engineer and
his assistants; and the fourth was the artificer's barrack-room. This
house was of course built of wood, but it was firmly put together,
for it had to pass through many a terrific ordeal.
In order to give some idea of the interior, we shall describe the
cabin of Mr. Stevenson. It measured four feet three inches in breadth
on the floor, and though, from the oblique direction of the beams of
the beacon, it widened towards the top, yet it did not admit of the
full extension of the occupant's arms when he stood on the floor. Its
length was little more than sufficient to admit of a cot-bed being
suspended during the night. This cot was arranged so as to be triced
up to the roof during the day, thus leaving free room for occasional
visitors, and for comparatively free motion, A folding table was
attached with hinges immediately under the small window of the
apartment. The remainder of the space was fitted up with books,
barometer, thermometer, portmanteau, and two or three camp-stools.
The walls were covered with green cloth, formed into panels with red
tape, a substance which, by the way, might have had an accidental
connexion with the Bell Rock Lighthouse, but which could not, by any
possibility, have influenced it as a principle, otherwise that
building would probably never have been built, or, if built, would
certainly not have stood until the present day! The bed was festooned
with yellow cotton stuff, and the diet being plain, the paraphernalia
of the table was proportionally simple.
It would have been interesting to know the individual books required
and used by the celebrated engineer in his singular abode, but his
record leaves no detailed account of these. It does, however, contain
a sentence in regard to one volume which we deem it just to his
character to quote. He writes thus:—
"If, in speculating upon the abstract wants of man in such a state of
exclusion, one were reduced to a single book, the Sacred Volume,
whether considered for the striking diversity of its story, the
morality of its doctrine, or the important truths of its gospel,
would have proved by far the greatest treasure."
It may be easily imagined that in a place where the accommodation of
the principal engineer was so limited, that of the men was not
extensive. Accordingly, we find that the barrack-room contained beds
for twenty-one men.
But the completion of the beacon house, as we have described it, was
not accomplished in one season. At first it was only used as a
smith's workshop, and then as a temporary residence in fine weather.
One of the first men who remained all night upon it was our friend
Bremner. He became so tired of the floating light that he earnestly
solicited, and obtained, permission to remain on the beacon.
At the time it was only in a partially sheltered state. The joiners
had just completed the covering of the roof with a quantity of
tarpaulin, which the seamen had laid over with successive coats of
hot tar, and the sides of the erection had been painted with three
coats of white lead. Between the timber framing of the habitable
part, the interstices were stuffed with moss, but the green baize
cloth with which it was afterwards lined had not been put on when
Bremner took possession.
It was a splendid summer evening when the bold man made his request,
and obtained permission to remain. None of the others would join him.
When the boats pushed off and left him the solitary occupant of the
rock, he felt a sensation of uneasiness, but, having formed his
resolution, he stuck by it, and bade his comrades good night
"Good night, and goodbye," cried Forsyth, as he took his seat at
"Farewell, dear," cried O'Connor, wiping his eyes with a very
ragged pocket handkerchief.
"You won't forget me?" retorted Bremner.
"Never," replied Dumsby, with fervour.
"Av the beacon should be carried away, darlin'," cried O'Connor,
"howld tight to the provision-chest, p'raps ye'll be washed ashore."
"I'll drink your health in water, Paddy," replied Bremner.
"Faix, I hope it won't be salt wather," retorted Ned.
They continued to shout good wishes, warnings, and advice to their
comrade until out of hearing, and then waved adieu to him until he
was lost to view.
We have said that Bremner was alone, yet he was not entirely so; he
had a comrade with him, in the shape of his little black dog, to
which reference has already been made. This creature was of that very
thin and tight-skinned description of dog, that trembles at all times
as if afflicted with chronic cold, summer and winter. Its thin tail
was always between its extremely thin legs, as though it lived in a
perpetual condition of wrong-doing, and were in constant dread of
deserved punishment. Yet no dog ever belied its looks more than did
this one, for it was a good dog, and a warmhearted dog, and never did
a wicked thing, and never was punished, so that its excessive
humility and apparent fear and trembling were quite unaccountable.
Like all dogs of its class it was passionately affectionate, and
intensely grateful for the smallest favour. In fact, it seemed to be
rather thankful than otherwise for a kick when it chanced to receive
one, and a pat on the head, or a kind word made it all but jump out
of its black skin for very joy.
Bremner called it "Pup". It had no other name, and didn't seem to
wish for one. On the present occasion it was evidently much
perplexed, and very unhappy, for it looked at the boat, and then
wistfully into its master's face, as if to say, "This is awful; have
you resolved that we shall perish together?"
"Now, Pup," said Bremner, when the boat disappeared in the shades of
evening, "you and I are left alone on the Bell Rock!"
There was a touch of sad uncertainty in the wag of the tail with
which Pup received this remark.
"But cheer up, Pup," cried Bremner with a sudden burst of animation
that induced the creature to wriggle and dance on its hind legs for
at least a minute, "you and I shall have a jolly night together on
the beacon; so come along."
Like many a night that begins well, that particular night ended ill.
Even while the man spoke, a swell began to rise, and, as the tide had
by that time risen a few feet, an occasional billow swept over the
rocks and almost washed the feet of Bremner as he made his way over
the ledges. In five minutes the sea was rolling all round the foot of
the beacon, and Bremner and his friend were safely ensconced on the
There was no storm that night, nevertheless there was one of those
heavy ground swells that are of common occurrence in the German
It is supposed that this swell is caused by distant westerly gales in
the Atlantic, which force an undue quantity of water into the North
Sea, and thus produce the apparent paradox of great rolling breakers
in calm weather.
On this night there was no wind at all, but there was a higher swell
than usual, so that each great billow passed over the rock with a
roar that was rendered more than usually terrible, in consequence of
the utter absence of all other sounds.
At first Bremner watched the rising tide, and as he sat up there in
the dark he felt himself dreadfully forsaken and desolate, and began
to comment on things in general to his dog, by way of inducing a more
sociable and cheery state of mind.
"Pup, this is a lugubrious state o' things. Wot d'ye think o't?"
Pup did not say, but he expressed such violent joy at being noticed,
that he nearly fell off the platform of the mortar-gallery in one of
his extravagant gyrations.
"That won't do, Pup," said Bremner, shaking his head at the creature,
whose countenance expressed deep contrition. "Don't go on like that,
else you'll fall into the sea and be drownded, and then I shall be
left alone. What a dark night it is, to be sure! I doubt if it was
wise of me to stop here. Suppose the beacon were to be washed away?"
Bremner paused, and Pup wagged his tail interrogatively, as though to
say, "What then?"
"Ah! it's of no use supposin'," continued the man slowly. "The beacon
has stood it out all winter, and it ain't likely it's goin' to be
washed away to-night. But suppose I was to be took bad?"
Again the dog seemed to demand, "What then?"
"Well, that's not very likely either, for I never was took bad in my
life since I took the measles, and that's more than twenty years ago.
Come, Pup, don't let us look at the black side o' things, let us try
to be cheerful, my dog. Hallo!"
The exclamation was caused by the appearance of a green billow, which
in the uncertain light seemed to advance in a threatening attitude
towards the beacon as if to overwhelm it, but it fell at some
distance, and only rolled in a churning sea of milky foam among the
posts, and sprang up and licked the beams, as a serpent might do
before swallowing them.
"Come, it was the light deceived me. If I go for to start at every
wave like that I'll have a poor night of it, for the tide has a long
way to rise yet. Let's go and have a bit supper, lad."
Bremner rose from the anvil, on which he had seated himself, and went
up the ladder into the cook-house above. Here all was pitch dark,
owing to the place being enclosed all round, which the mortar-gallery
was not, but a light was soon struck, a lamp trimmed, and the fire in
the stove kindled.
Bremner now busied himself in silently preparing a cup of tea, which,
with a quantity of sea-biscuit, a little cold salt pork, and a hunch
of stale bread, constituted his supper. Pup watched his every
movement with an expression of earnest solicitude, combined with
goodwill, in his sharp intelligent eyes.
When supper was ready Pup had his share, then, feeling that the
duties of the day were now satisfactorily accomplished, he coiled
himself up at his master's feet, and went to sleep. His master rolled
himself up in a rug, and lying down before the fire, also tried to
sleep, but without success for a long time.
As he lay there counting the number of seconds of awful silence that
elapsed between the fall of each successive billow, and listening to
the crash and the roar as wave after wave rushed underneath him, and
caused his habitation to tremble, he could not avoid feeling alarmed
in some degree. Do what he would, the thought of the wrecks that had
taken place there, the shrieks that must have often rung above these
rocks, and the dead and mangled bodies that must have lain among
them, would obtrude upon him and banish sleep from his eyes.
At last he became somewhat accustomed to the rush of waters and the
tremulous motion of the beacon. His frame, too, exhausted by a day of
hard toil, refused to support itself, and he sank into slumber. But
it was not unbroken. A falling cinder from the sinking fire would
awaken him with a start; a larger wave than usual would cause him to
spring up and look round in alarm; or a shrieking sea-bird, as it
swooped past, would induce a dream, in which the cries of drowning
men arose, causing him to awake with a cry that set Pup barking
Frequently during that night, after some such dream, Bremner would
get up and descend to the mortar-gallery to see that all was right
there. He found the waves always hissing below, but the starry sky
was calm and peaceful above, so he returned to his couch comforted a
little, and fell again into a troubled sleep, to be again awakened by
frightful dreams of dreadful sights, and scenes of death and danger
on the sea.
Thus the hours wore slowly away. As the tide fell the noise of waves
retired a little from the beacon, and the wearied man and dog sank
gradually at last into deep, untroubled slumber.
So deep was it, that they did not hear the increasing noise of the
gulls as they wheeled round the beacon after having breakfasted near
it; so deep, that they did not feel the sun as it streamed through an
opening in the woodwork and glared on their respective faces; so
deep, that they were ignorant of the arrival of the boats with the
workmen, and were dead to the shouts of their companions, until one
of them, Jamie Dove, put his head up the hatchway and uttered one of
his loudest roars, close to their ears.
Then indeed Bremner rose up and looked bewildered, and Pup, starting
up, barked as furiously as if its own little black body had
miraculously become the concentrated essence of all the other noisy
dogs in the wide world rolled into one!
LIFE IN THE BEACON—STORY OF THE EDDYSTONE LIGHTHOUSE
Some time after this a number of the men took up their permanent
abode in the beacon house, and the work was carried on by night as
well as by day, when the state of the tide and the weather permitted.
Immense numbers of fish called poddlies were discovered to be
swimming about at high water. So numerous were they, that the rock
was sometimes hidden by the shoals of them. Fishing for these
thenceforth became a pastime among the men, who not only supplied
their own table with fresh fish, but at times sent presents of them
to their friends in the vessels.
All the men who dwelt on the beacon were volunteers, for Mr.
Stevenson felt that it would be cruel to compel men to live at such
a post of danger. Those who chose, therefore, remained in the
lightship or the tender, and those who preferred it went to the
beacon. It is scarcely necessary to add, that among the latter were
found all the "sea-sick men!"
These bold artificers were not long of having their courage tested.
Soon after their removal to the beacon they experienced some very
rough weather, which shook the posts violently, and caused them to
twist in a most unpleasant way.
But it was not until some time after that a storm arose, which caused
the stoutest-hearted of them all to quail more than once.
It began on the night of as fine a day as they had had the whole
In order that the reader may form a just conception of what we are
about to describe, it may not be amiss to note the state of things at
the rock, and the employment of the men at the time.
A second forge had been put up on the higher platform of the beacon,
but the night before that of which we write, the lower platform had
been burst up by a wave, and the mortar and forge thereon, with all
the implements, were cast down. The damaged forge was therefore set
up for the time on its old site, near the foundation-pit of the
lighthouse, while the carpenters were busy repairing the
The smiths were as usual busy sharpening picks and irons, and making
bats and stanchions, and other iron work connected with the building
operations. The landing-master's crew were occupied in assisting the
millwrights to lay the railways to hand, and joiners were kept almost
constantly employed in fitting picks to their handles, which latter
were very frequently broken.
Nearly all the miscellaneous work was done by seamen. There was no
such character on the Bell Rock as the common labourer. The sailors
cheerfully undertook the work usually performed by such men, and they
did it admirably.
In consequence of the men being able to remain on the beacon, the
work went on literally "by double tides"; and at night the rock was
often ablaze with torches, while the artificers wrought until the
waves drove them away.
On the night in question there was a low spring-tide, so that a
night-tide's work of five hours was secured. This was one of the
longest spells they had had since the beginning of the operations.
The stars shone brightly in a very dark sky. Not a breath of air was
felt. Even the smoke of the forge fire rose perpendicularly a short
way, until an imperceptible zephyr wafted it gently to the west. Yet
there was a heavy swell rolling in from the eastward, which caused
enormous waves to thunder on Ralph the Rover's Ledge, as if they
would drive down the solid rock.
Mingled with this solemn, intermittent roar of the sea was the
continuous clink of picks, chisels, and hammers, and the loud clang
of the two forges; that on the beacon being distinctly different from
the other, owing to the wooden erection on which it stood rendering
it deep and thunderous. Torches and forge fires cast a glare over
all, rendering the foam pale green and the rocks deep red. Some of
the active figures at work stood out black and sharp against the
light, while others shone in its blaze like red-hot fiends. Above all
sounded an occasional cry from the sea-gulls, as they swooped down
into the magic circle of light, and then soared away shrieking into
"Hard work's not easy," observed James Dove, pausing in the midst of
his labours to wipe his brow.
"True for ye; but as we've got to arn our brid be the sweat of our
brows, we're in the fair way to fortin," said Ned O'Connor, blowing
away energetically with the big bellows.
Ned had been reappointed to this duty since the erection of the
second forge, which was in Ruby's charge. It was our hero's hammer
that created such a din up in the beacon, while Dove wrought down on
"We'll have a gale to-night," said the smith; "I know that by the
feelin' of the air."
"Well, I can't boast o' much knowledge o' feelin'," said O'Connor;
"but I believe you're right, for the fish towld me the news this
This remark of Ned had reference to a well-ascertained fact, that,
when a storm was coming, the fish invariably left the neighbourhood
of the rock; doubtless in order to seek the security of depths which
are not affected by winds or waves.
While Dove and his comrade commented on this subject, two of the
other men had retired to the south-eastern end of the rock to take a
look at the weather. These were Peter Logan, the foreman, whose
position required him to have a care for the safety of the men as
well as for the progress of the work, and our friend Bremner, who
had just descended from the cooking-room, where he had been
superintending the preparation of supper.
"It will be a stiff breeze, I fear, to-night," said Logan.
"D'ye think so?" said Bremner; "it seems to me so calm that I would
think a storm a'most impossible. But the fish never tell lies."
"True. You got no fish to-day, I believe?" said Logan.
"Not a nibble," replied the other.
As he spoke, he was obliged to rise from a rock on which he had
seated himself, because of a large wave, which, breaking on the outer
reefs, sent the foam a little closer to his toes than was agreeable.
"That was a big one, but yonder is a bigger," cried Logan.
The wave to which he referred was indeed a majestic wall of water. It
came on with such an awful appearance of power, that some of the men
who perceived it could not repress a cry of astonishment.
In another moment it fell, and, bursting over the rocks with a
terrific roar, extinguished the forge fire, and compelled the men to
take refuge in the beacon.
Jamie Dove saved his bellows with difficulty. The other men, catching
up their things as they best might, crowded up the ladder in a more
or less draggled condition.
The beacon house was gained by means of one of the main beams, which
had been converted into a stair, by the simple process of nailing
small battens thereon, about a foot apart from each other. The men
could only go up one at a time, but as they were active and
accustomed to the work, they were all speedily within their place of
refuge. Soon afterwards the sea covered the rock, and the place where
they had been at work was a mass of seething foam.
Still there was no wind; but dark clouds had begun to rise on the
The sudden change in the appearance of the rock after the last
torches were extinguished was very striking. For a few seconds there
seemed to be no light at all. The darkness of a coal mine appeared to
have settled down on the scene. But this soon passed away, as the
men's eyes became accustomed to the change, and then the dark loom of
the advancing billows, the pale light of the flashing foam, and
occasional gleams of phosphorescence, and glimpses of black rocks in
the midst of all, took the place of the warm, busy scene which the
spot had presented a few minutes before.
"Supper, boys!" shouted Bremner.
Peter Bremner, we may remark in passing, was a particularly useful
member of society. Besides being small and corpulent, he was a
capital cook. He had acted during his busy life both as a groom and a
house-servant; he had been a soldier, a sutler, a writer's clerk, and
an apothecary—in which latter profession he had acquired the art of
writing and suggesting recipes, and a taste for making collections in
natural history. He was very partial to the use of the lancet, and
quite a terrible adept at tooth-drawing. In short, Peter was the
factotum of the beacon house, where, in addition to his other
offices, he filled those of barber and steward to the admiration of
But Bremner came out in quite a new and valuable light after he went
to reside in the beacon—namely, as a storyteller. During the long
periods of inaction that ensued, when the men were imprisoned there
by storms, he lightened many an hour that would have otherwise hung
heavily on their hands, and he cheered the more timid among them by
speaking lightly of the danger of their position.
On the signal for supper being given, there was a general rush down
the ladders into the kitchen, where as comfortable a meal as one
could wish for was smoking in pot and pan and platter.
As there were twenty-three to partake, it was impossible, of course,
for all to sit down to table. They were obliged to stow themselves
away on such articles of furniture as came most readily to hand, and
eat as they best could. Hungry men find no difficulty in doing this.
For some time the conversation was restricted to a word or two. Soon,
however, as appetite began to be appeased, tongues began to loosen.
The silence was first broken by a groan.
"Ochone!" exclaimed O'Connor, as well as a mouthful of pork and
potatoes would allow him; "was it you that groaned like a dyin'
The question was put to Forsyth, who was holding his head between his
hands, and swaying his body to and fro in agony.
"Hae ye the oolic, freen'?" enquired John Watt, in a tone of
"No—n—o," groaned Forsyth, "it's a—a—to—tooth!"
"Och! is that all?"
"Have it out, man, at once."
"Bam a red-hot skewer into it."
"No, no; let it alone, and it'll go away."
Such was the advice tendered, and much more of a similar nature, to
the suffering man.
"There's nothink like 'ot water an' cold," said Joe Dumsby in the
tones of an oracle. "Just fill your mouth with bilin' 'ot water, an'
dip your face in a basin o' cold, and it's sartain to cure."
"Or kill," suggested Jamie Dove.
"It's better now," said Forsyth, with a sigh of relief. "I scrunched
a bit o' bone into it; that was all."
"There's nothing like the string and the red-hot poker," suggested
Ruby Brand. "Tie the one end o' the string to a post and t'other end
to the tooth, an' stick a red-hot poker to your nose. Away it comes
"Hoot! nonsense," said Watt. "Ye might as weel tie a string to his
lug an' dip him into the sea. Tak' my word for't, there's naethin'
"D'you mean pooh pooin'?" enquired Dumsby. Watt's reply was
interrupted by a loud gust of wind, which burst upon the beacon house
at that moment and shook it violently.
Everyone started up, and all clustered round the door and windows to
observe the appearance of things without. Every object was shrouded
in thick darkness, but a flash of lightning revealed the approach of
the storm which had been predicted, and which had already commenced
All tendency to jest instantly vanished, and for a time some of the
men stood watching the scene outside, while others sat smoking their
pipes by the fire in silence.
"What think ye of things?" enquired one of the men, as Ruby came up
from the mortar-gallery, to which he had descended at the first gust
of the storm.
"I don't know what to think," said he gravely. "It's clear enough
that we shall have a stiffish gale. I think little of that with a
tight craft below me and plenty of sea-room; but I don't know what to
think of a beacon in a gale."
As he spoke another furious burst of wind shook the place, and a
flash of vivid lightning was speedily followed by a crash of
thunder, that caused some hearts there to beat faster and harder
"Pooh!" cried Bremner, as he proceeded coolly to wash up his dishes,
"that's nothing, boys. Has not this old timber house weathered all
the gales o' last winter, and d'ye think it's goin' to come down
before a summer breeze? Why, there's a lighthouse in France, called
the Tour de Cordouan, which rises right out o' the sea, an' I'm told
it had some fearful gales to try its metal when it was buildin'. So
don't go an' git narvous."
"Who's gittin' narvous?" exclaimed George Forsyth, at whom Bremner
had looked when he made the last remark.
"Sure ye misjudge him," cried O'Connor. "It's only another twist o'
the toothick. But it's all very well in you to spake lightly o' gales
in that fashion. Wasn't the Eddy-stone Lighthouse cleared away wan
stormy night, with the engineer and all the men, an' was niver more
"That's true," said Ruby. "Come, Bremner, I have heard you say that
you had read all about that business. Let's hear the story; it will
help to while away the time, for there's no chance of anyone gettin'
to sleep with such a row outside."
"I wish it may be no worse than a row outside," said Forsyth in a
doleful tone, as he shook his head and looked round on the party
"Wot! another fit o' the toothick?" enquired O'Connor ironically.
"Don't try to put us in the dismals," said Jamie Dove, knocking the
ashes out of his pipe, and refilling that solace of his leisure
hours. "Let us hear about the Eddystone, Bremner; it'll cheer up our
spirits a bit."
"Will it though?" said Bremner, with a look that John Watt described
as "awesome". "Well, we shall see."
"You must know, boys——"
'"Ere, light your pipe, my 'earty," said Dumsby.
"Hold yer tongue, an' don't interrupt him," cried one of the men,
flattening Dumsby's cap over his eyes.
"And don't drop yer Aaitches," observed another, "'cause if ye do
they'll fall into the sea an' be drownded, an' then yell have none
left to put into their wrong places when ye wants 'em."
"Come, Bremner, go on."
"Well, then, boys," began Bremner, "you must know that it is more
than a hundred years since the Eddystone Lighthouse was begun—in the
year 1696, if I remember rightly—that would be just a hundred and
thirteen years to this date. Up to that time these rocks were as
great a terror to sailors as the Bell Rock is now, or, rather, as it
was last year, for now that this here comfortable beacon has been put
up, it's no longer a terror to nobody——"
"Except Geordie Forsyth," interposed O'Connor.
"Silence," cried the men.
"Well," resumed Bremner, "as you all know, the Eddystone Rocks lie in
the British Channel, fourteen miles from Plymouth and ten from the
Ram Head, an' open to a most tremendious sea from the Bay o' Biscay
and the Atlantic, as I knows well, for I've passed the place in a
gale, close enough a'most to throw a biscuit on the rocks.
"They are named the Eddystone Rocks because of the whirls and eddies
that the tides make among them; but for the matter of that, the Bell
Rock might be so named on the same ground. Howsever, it's six o' one
an' half a dozen o' t'other. Only there's this difference, that the
highest point o' the Eddystone is barely covered at high water, while
here the rock is twelve or fifteen feet below water at high tide.
"Well, it was settled by the Trinity Board in 1696, that a lighthouse
should be put up, and a Mr. Winstanley was engaged to do it. He was
an uncommon clever an' ingenious man. He used to exhibit wonderful
waterworks in London; and in his house, down in Essex, he used to
astonish his friends, and frighten them sometimes, with his queer
contrivances. He had invented an easy chair which laid hold of anyone
that sat down in it, and held him prisoner until Mr. Winstanley set
him free. He made a slipper also, and laid it on his bedroom floor,
and when anyone put his foot into it he touched a spring that caused
a ghost to rise from the hearth. He made a summer house, too, at the
foot of his garden, on the edge of a canal, and if anyone entered
into it and sat down, he very soon found himself adrift on the canal.
"Such a man was thought to be the best for such a difficult work as
the building of a lighthouse on the Eddystone, so he was asked to
undertake it, and agreed, and began it well. He finished it, too, in
four years, his chief difficulty being the distance of the rock from
land, and the danger of goin' backwards and forwards. The light was
first shown on the 14th November, 1698. Before this the engineer had
resolved to pass a night in the building, which he did with a party
of men; but he was compelled to pass more than a night, for it came
on to blow furiously, and they were kept prisoners for eleven days,
drenched with spray all the time, and hard up for provisions.
"It was said the sprays rose a hundred feet above the lantern of this
first Eddystone Lighthouse. Well, it stood till the year 1703, when
repairs became necessary, and Mr. Winstanley went down to Plymouth to
superintend. It had been prophesied that this lighthouse would
certainly be carried away. But dismal prophecies are always made
about unusual things. If men were to mind prophecies there would be
precious little done in this world. Howsever, the prophecies
unfortunately came true. Winstanley's friends advised him not to go
to stay in it, but he was so confident of the strength of his work
that he said he only wished to have the chance o' bein' there in the
greatest storm that ever blew, that he might see what effect it would
have on the buildin'. Poor man! he had his wish. On the night of the
26th November a terrible storm arose, the worst that had been for
many years, and swept the lighthouse entirely away. Not a vestige of
it or the people on it was ever seen afterwards. Only a few bits of
the iron fastenings were left fixed in the rocks."
"That was terrible," said Forsyth, whose uneasiness was evidently
increasing with the rising storm.
"Ay, but the worst of it was," continued Bremner, "that, owing to the
absence of the light, a large East Indiaman went on the rocks
immediately after, and became a total wreck. This, however, set the
Trinity House on putting up another which was begun in 1706, and the
light shown in 1708. This tower was ninety-two feet high, built
partly of wood and partly of stone. It was a strong building, and
stood for forty-nine years. Mayhap it would have been standin' to
this day but for an accident, which you shall hear of before I have
done. While this lighthouse was building, a French privateer carried
off all the workmen prisoners to France, but they were set at liberty
by the King, because their work was of such great use to all nations.
"The lighthouse, when finished, was put in charge of two keepers,
with instructions to hoist a flag when anything was wanted from the
shore. One of these men became suddenly ill, and died. Of course his
comrade hoisted the signal, but the weather was so bad that it was
found impossible to send a boat off for four weeks. The poor keeper
was so afraid that people might suppose he had murdered his companion
that he kept the corpse beside him all that time. What his feelin's
could have been I don't know, but they must have been awful; for,
besides the horror of such a position in such a lonesome place, the
body decayed to an extent——"
"That'll do, lad; don't be too partickler," said Jamie Dove.
The others gave a sigh of relief at the interruption, and Bremner
"There were always three keepers in the Eddystone after that. Well,
it was in the year 1755, on the 2nd December, that one o' the
keepers went to snuff the candles, for they only burned candles in
the lighthouses at that time, and before that time great open grates
with coal fires were the most common; but there were not many lights
either of one kind or another in those days. On gettin' up to the
lantern he found it was on fire. All the efforts they made failed to
put it out,' and it was soon burned down. Boats put off to them, but
they only succeeded in saving the keepers; and of them, one went mad
on reaching the shore, and ran off, and never was heard of again; and
another, an old man, died from the effects of melted lead which had
run down his throat from the roof of the burning lighthouse. They did
not believe him when he said he had swallowed lead, but after he died
it was found to be a fact.
"The tower became red-hot, and burned for five days before it was
utterly destroyed. This was the end o' the second Eddystone. Its
builder was a Mr. John Rudyerd, a silk mercer of London.
"The third Eddystone, which has now stood for half a century as firm
as the rock itself, and which bids fair to stand till the end of
time, was begun in 1756 and completed in 1759. It was lighted by
means of twenty-four candles. Of Mr. Smeaton, the engineer who built
it, those who knew him best said that 'he had never undertaken
anything without completing it to the satisfaction of his
"D'ye know, lads," continued Bremner in a half-musing tone, "I've
sometimes been led to couple this character of Smeaton with the text
that he put round the top of the first room of the
lighthouse—'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain
that build it'; and also the words, 'Praise God', which he cut in
Latin on the last stone, the lintel of the lantern door. I think
these words had somethin' to do with the success of the last
"I agree with you," said Robert Selkirk, with a nod of hearty
approval; "and, moreover, I think the Bell Rock Lighthouse stands a
good chance of equal success, for whether he means to carve texts on
the stones or not I don't know, but I feel assured that our
engineer is animated by the same spirit."
When Bremner's account of the Eddystone came to a close, most of the
men had finished their third or fourth pipes, yet no one proposed
going to rest.
The storm without raged so furiously that they felt a strong
disinclination to separate. At last, however, Peter Logan rose, and
said he would turn in for a little. Two or three of the others also
rose, and were about to ascend to their barrack, when a heavy sea
struck the building, causing it to quiver to its foundation.
"'Tis a fearful night," said Logan, pausing with his foot on the
first step of the ladder. "Perhaps we had better sit up."
"What's the use?" said O'Connor, who was by nature reckless. "Av the
beacon howlds on, we may as well slape as not; an' if it don't howld
on, why, we'll be none the worse o' slapin' anyhow."
"I mean to sit up," said Forsyth, whose alarm was aggravated by
another fit of violent toothache.
"So do I," exclaimed several of the men, as another wave dashed
against the beacon, and a quantity of spray came pouring down from
the rooms above.
This latter incident put an end to further conversation. While some
sprang up the ladder to see where the leak had occurred, Ruby opened
the door, which was on the lee side of the building, and descended to
the mortar-gallery to look after his tools, which lay there.
Here he was exposed to the full violence of the gale, for, as we have
said, this first floor of the beacon was not protected by sides.
There was sufficient light to enable him to see all round for a
considerable distance. The sight was not calculated to comfort him.
The wind was whistling with what may be termed a vicious sound among
the beams, to one of which Ruby was obliged to cling to prevent his
being carried away. The sea was bursting, leaping, and curling wildly
over the rocks, which were now quite covered, and as he looked down
through the chinks in the boards of the floor, he could see the foam
whirling round the beams of his trembling abode, and leaping up as if
to seize him. As the tide rose higher and higher, the waves roared
straight through below the floor, their curling backs rising terribly
near to where he stood, and the sprays drenching him and the whole
As he gazed into the dark distance, where the turmoil of waters
seemed to glimmer with ghostly light against a sky of the deepest
black, he missed the light of the Smeaton, which, up to that time,
had been moored as near to the lee of the rock as was consistent with
safety. He fancied she must have gone down, and it was not till next
day that the people on the beacon knew that she had parted her
cables, and had been obliged to make for the Firth of Forth for
shelter from the storm.
While he stood looking anxiously in the direction of the tender, a
wave came so near to the platform that he almost involuntarily leaped
up the ladder for safety. It broke before reaching the beacon, and
the spray dashed right over it, carrying away several of the smith's
"Ho, boys! lend a hand here, some of you," shouted Ruby, as he leaped
down on the mortar-gallery again.
Jamie Dove, Bremner, O'Connor, and several others were at his side in
a moment, and, in the midst of tremendous sprays, they toiled to
secure the movable articles that lay there. These were passed up to
the sheltered parts of the house; but not without great danger to all
who stood on the exposed gallery below.
Presently two of the planks were torn up by a sea, and several bags
of coal, a barrel of small beer, and a few casks containing lime and
sand, were all swept away. The men would certainly have shared the
fate of these, had they not clung to the beams until the sea had
As nothing remained after that which could be removed to the room
above, they left the mortar-gallery to its fate, and returned to the
kitchen, where they were met by the anxious glances and questions of
The fire, meanwhile, could scarcely be got to burn, and the whole
place was full of smoke, besides being wet with the sprays that burst
over the roof, and found out all the crevices that had not been
sufficiently stopped up. Attending to these leaks occupied most of
the men at intervals during the night. Ruby and his friend the smith
spent much of the time in the doorway, contemplating the gradual
destruction of their workshop.
For some time the gale remained steady, and the anxiety of the men
began to subside a little, as they became accustomed to the ugly
twisting of the great beams, and found that no evil consequences
In the midst of this confusion, poor Forsyth's anxiety of mind became
as nothing compared with the agony of his toothache!
Bremner had already made several attempts to persuade the miserable
man to have it drawn, but without success.
"I could do it quite easy," said he, "only let me get a hold of it,
an' before you could wink I'd have it out."
"Well, you may try," cried Forsyth in desperation, with a face of
It was an awful situation truly. In danger of his life; suffering the
agonies of toothache, and with the prospect of torments unbearable
from an inexpert hand; for Forsyth did not believe in Bremner's
"What'll you do it with?" he enquired meekly. "Jamie Dove's small
pincers. Here they are," said Bremner, moving about actively in his
preparations, as if he enjoyed such work uncommonly.
By this time the men had assembled round the pair, and almost forgot
the storm in the interest of the moment.
"Hold him, two of you," said Bremner, when his victim was seated
submissively on a cask.
"You don't need to hold me," said Forsyth, in a gentle tone.
"Don't we!" said Bremner. "Here, Dove, Ned, grip his arms, and some
of you stand by to catch his legs; but you needn't touch them unless
he kicks. Ruby, you're a strong fellow; hold his head."
The men obeyed. At that moment Forsyth would have parted with his
dearest hopes in life to have escaped, and the toothache, strange to
say, left him entirely; but he was a plucky fellow at bottom; having
agreed to have it done, he would not draw back.
Bremner introduced the pincers slowly, being anxious to get a good
hold of the tooth. Forsyth uttered a groan in anticipation! Alarmed
lest he should struggle too soon, Bremner made a sudden grasp and
caught the tooth. A wrench followed; a yell was the result, and the
pincers slipped! This was fortunate, for he had caught the wrong
"Now be aisy, boy," said Ned O'Connor, whose sympathies were easily
"Once more," said Bremner, as the unhappy man opened his mouth. "Be
still, and it will be all the sooner over."
Again Bremner inserted the instrument, and fortunately caught the
right tooth. He gave a terrible tug, that produced its corresponding
howl; but the tooth held on. Again! again! again! and the beacon
house resounded with the deadly yells of the unhappy man, who
struggled violently, despite the strength of those who held him.
"Och! poor sowl!" ejaculated O'Connor.
Bremner threw all his strength into a final wrench, which tore away
the pincers and left the tooth as firm as ever!
Forsyth leaped up and dashed his comrades right and left.
"That'll do," he roared, and darted up the ladder into the apartment
above, through which he ascended to the barrack-room, and flung
himself on his bed. At the same time a wave burst on the beacon with
such force that every man there, except Forsyth, thought it would be
carried away. The wave not only sprang up against the house, but the
spray, scarcely less solid than the wave, went quite over it, and
sent down showers of water on the men below.
Little cared Forsyth for that. He lay almost stunned on his couch,
quite regardless of the storm. To his surprise, however, the
toothache did not return. Nay, to make a long story short, it never
again returned to that tooth till the end of his days!
The storm now blew its fiercest, and the men sat in silence in the
kitchen listening to the turmoil, and to the thundering blows given
by the sea to their wooden house. Suddenly the beacon received a
shock so awful, and so thoroughly different from any that it had
previously received, that the men sprang to their feet in
Ruby and the smith were looking out at the doorway at the time, and
both instinctively grasped the woodwork near them, expecting every
instant that the whole structure would be carried away; but it stood
fast. They speculated a good deal on the force of the blow they had
received, but no one hit on the true cause; and it was not until some
days later that they discovered that a huge rock of fully a ton
weight had been washed against the beams that night.
While they were gazing at the wild storm, a wave broke up the
mortar-gallery altogether, and sent its remaining contents into the
sea. All disappeared in a moment; nothing was left save the powerful
beams to which the platform had been nailed.
There was a small boat attached to the beacon. It hung from two
davits, on a level with the kitchen, about thirty feet above the
rock. This had got filled by the sprays, and the weight of water
proving too much for the tackling, it gave way at the bow shortly
after the destruction of the mortar-gallery, and the boat hung
suspended by the stern-tackle. Here it swung for a few minutes, and
then was carried away by a sea. The same sea sent an eddy of foam
round towards the door and drenched the kitchen, so that the door had
to be shut, and as the fire had gone out, the men had to sit and
await their fate by the light of a little oil-lamp.
They sat in silence, for the noise was now so great that it was
difficult to hear voices, unless when they were raised to a high
Thus passed that terrible night; and the looks of the men, the solemn
glances, the closed eyes, the silently moving lips, showed that their
thoughts were busy reviewing bygone days and deeds; perchance in
making good resolutions for the future—"if spared!"
Morning brought a change. The rush of the sea was indeed still
tremendous, but the force of the gale was broken and the danger was
A CHAPTER OF ACCIDENTS
Time rolled on, and the lighthouse at length began to grow.
It did not rise slowly, as does an ordinary building. The courses of
masonry having been formed and fitted on shore during the winter, had
only to be removed from the work-yard at Arbroath to the rock, where
they were laid, mortared, wedged, and trenailed, as fast as they
could be landed.
Thus, foot by foot it grew, and soon began to tower above its
From the foundation upwards for thirty feet it was built solid. From
this point rose the spiral staircase leading to the rooms above. We
cannot afford space to trace its erection step by step, neither is it
desirable that we should do so. But it is proper to mention, that
there were, as might be supposed, leading points in the
process—eras, as it were, in the building operations.
The first of these, of course, was the laying of the foundation
stone, which was done ceremoniously, with all the honours. The next
point was the occasion when the tower showed itself for the first
time above water at full tide. This was a great event. It was proof
positive that the sea had been conquered; for many a time before that
event happened had the sea done its best to level the whole erection
with the rock.
Three cheers announced and celebrated the fact, and a "glass" all
round stamped it on the memories of the men.
Another noteworthy point was the connexion—the marriage, if the
simile may be allowed—of the tower and the beacon. This occurred
when the former rose to a few feet above high-water mark, and was
effected by means of a rope-bridge, which was dignified by the
sailors with the name of "Jacob's ladder".
Heretofore the beacon and lighthouse had stood in close relation to
each other. They were thenceforward united by a stronger tie; and it
is worthy of record that their attachment lasted until the
destruction of the beacon after the work was done. Jacob's ladder was
fastened a little below the doorway of the beacon. Its other end
rested on, and rose with, the wall of the tower. At first it sloped
downward from beacon to tower; gradually it became horizontal; then
it sloped upward. When this happened it was removed, and replaced by
a regular wooden bridge, which extended from the doorway of the one
structure to that of the other.
Along this way the men could pass to and fro at all tides, and during
any time of the day or night.
This was a matter of great importance, as the men were no longer so
dependent on tides as they had been, and could often work as long as
their strength held out.
Although the work was regular, and, as some might imagine, rather
monotonous, there were not wanting accidents and incidents to enliven
the routine of daily duty. The landing of the boats in rough weather
with stones, &c., was a never-failing source of anxiety, alarm, and
occasionally amusement. Strangers sometimes visited the rock, too,
but these visits were few and far between.
Accidents were much less frequent, however, than might have been
expected in a work of the kind. It was quite an event, something to
talk about for days afterwards, when poor John Bonnyman, one of the
masons, lost a finger. The balance crane was the cause of this
accident. We may remark, in passing, that this balance crane was a
very peculiar and clever contrivance, which deserves a little notice.
It may not have occurred to readers who are unacquainted with
mechanics that the raising of ponderous stones to a great height is
not an easy matter. As long as the lighthouse was low, cranes were
easily raised on the rock, but when it became too high for the cranes
to reach their heads up to the top of the tower, what was to be done?
Block-tackles could not be fastened to the skies! Scaffolding in such
a situation would not have survived a moderate gale.
In these circumstances Mr. Stevenson constructed a balance crane,
which was fixed in the centre of the tower, and so arranged that it
could be raised along with the rising works. This crane resembled a
cross in form. At one arm was hung a movable weight, which could be
run out to its extremity, or fixed at any part of it. The other arm
was the one by means of which the stones were hoisted. When a stone
had to be raised; its weight was ascertained, and the movable weight
was so fixed as exactly to counterbalance it. By this simple
contrivance all the cumbrous and troublesome machinery of long guys
and bracing-chains extending from the crane to the rock below were
Well, Bonnyman was attending to the working of the crane, and
directing the lowering of a stone into its place, when he
inadvertently laid his left hand on a part of the machinery where it
was brought into contact with the chain, which passed over his
forefinger, and cut it so nearly off that it was left hanging by a
mere shred of skin. The poor man was at once sent off in a fast
rowing boat to Arbroath, where the finger was removed and properly
[Footnote 1: It is right to state that this man afterwards obtained a
lightkeeper's situation from the Board of Commissioners of Northern
Lights, who seem to hare taken a kindly interest in all their
servants, especially those of them who had suffered in the service.]
A much more serious accident occurred at another time, however, which
resulted in the death of one of the seamen belonging to the
It happened thus. The Smeaton had been sent from Arbroath with a
cargo of stones one morning, and reached the rock about half-past six
o'clock A.M. The mate and one of the men, James Scott, a youth of
eighteen years of age, got into the sloop's boat to make fast the
hawser to the floating buoy of her moorings.
The tides at the time were very strong, and the mooring-chain when
sweeping the ground had caught hold of a rock or piece of wreck, by
which the chain was so shortened, that when the tide flowed the buoy
got almost under water, and little more than the ring appeared at the
surface. When the mate and Scott were in the act of making the hawser
fast to the ring, the chain got suddenly disentangled at the bottom,
and the large buoy, measuring about seven feet in length by three in
diameter in the middle, vaulted upwards with such force that it upset
the boat, which instantly filled with water. The mate with great
difficulty succeeded in getting hold of the gunwale, but Scott seemed
to have been stunned by the buoy, for he lay motionless for a few
minutes on the water, apparently unable to make any exertion to save
himself, for he did not attempt to lay hold of the oars or thwarts
which floated near him.
A boat was at once sent to the rescue, and the mate was picked up,
but Scott sank before it reached the spot.
This poor lad was a great favourite in the service, and for a time
his melancholy end cast a gloom over the little community at the
Bell Rock. The circumstances of the case were also peculiarly
distressing in reference to the boy's mother, for her husband had
been for three years past confined in a French prison, and her son
had been the chief support of the family. In order in some measure to
make up to the poor woman for the loss of the monthly aliment
regularly allowed her by her lost son, it was suggested that a
younger brother of the deceased might be taken into the service. This
appeared to be a rather delicate proposition, but it was left to the
landing-master to arrange according to circumstances. Such was the
resignation, and at the same time the spirit of the poor woman, that
she readily accepted the proposal, and in a few days the younger
Scott was actually afloat in the place of his brother. On this
distressing case being represented to the Board, the Commissioners
granted an annuity of £5 to the lad's mother.
The painter who represents only the sunny side of nature portrays a
one-sided, and therefore a false view of things, for, as everyone
knows, nature is not all sunshine. So, if an author makes his
pen-and-ink pictures represent only the amusing and picturesque view
of things, he does injustice to his subject.
We have no pleasure, good reader, in saddening you by accounts of
"fatal accidents", but we have sought to convey to you a correct
impression of things, and scenes, and incidents at the building of
the Bell Rock Lighthouse, as they actually were, and looked, and
occurred. Although there was much, very much, of risk, exposure,
danger, and trial connected with the erection of that building, there
was, in the good providence of God, very little of severe accident or
death. Yet that little must be told,—at least touched upon,—else
will our picture remain incomplete as well as untrue.
Now, do not imagine, with a shudder, that these remarks are the
prelude to something that will harrow up your feelings. Not so. They
are merely the apology, if apology be needed, for the introduction of
Well, then. One morning the artificers landed on the rock at a
quarter-past six, and as all hands were required for a piece of
special work that day, they breakfasted on the beacon, instead of
returning to the tender, and spent the day on the rock.
The special work referred to was the raising of the crane from the
eighth to the ninth course—an operation which required all the
strength that could be mustered for working the guy-tackles. This, be
it remarked, was before the balance crane, already described, had
been set up; and as the top of the crane stood at the time about
thirty-five feet above the rock, it became much more unmanageable
At the proper hour all hands were called, and detailed to their
several posts on the tower, and about the rock. In order to give
additional purchase or power in tightening the tackle, one of the
blocks of stone was suspended at the end of the movable beam of the
crane, which, by adding greatly to the weight, tended to slacken the
guys or supporting-ropes in the direction to which the beam with the
stone was pointed, and thereby enabled the men more easily to brace
them one after another.
While the beam was thus loaded, and in the act of swinging round from
one guy to another, a great strain was suddenly brought upon the
opposite tackle, with the end of which the men had very improperly
neglected to take a turn round some stationary object, which would
have given them the complete command of the tackle.
Owing to this simple omission, the crane, with the large stone at the
end of the beam, got a preponderancy to one side, and, the tackle
alluded to having rent, it fell upon the building with a terrible
The men fled right and left to get out of its way; but one of them,
Michael Wishart, a mason, stumbled over an uncut trenail and rolled
on his back, and the ponderous crane fell upon him. Fortunately it
fell so that his body lay between the great shaft and the movable
beam, and thus he escaped with his life, but his feet were entangled
with the wheel-work, and severely injured.
Wishart was a robust and spirited young fellow, and bore his
sufferings with wonderful firmness while he was being removed. He
was laid upon one of the narrow frame-beds of the beacon, and
despatched in a boat to the tender. On seeing the boat approach with
the poor man stretched on a bed covered with blankets, and his face
overspread with that deadly pallor which is the usual consequence of
excessive bleeding, the seamen's looks betrayed the presence of those
well-known but indescribable sensations which one experiences when
brought suddenly into contact with something horrible. Relief was at
once experienced, however, when Wishart's voice was heard feebly
accosting those who first stepped into the boat.
He was immediately sent on shore, where the best surgical advice was
obtained, and he began to recover steadily, though slowly. Meanwhile,
having been one of the principal masons, Robert Selkirk was appointed
to his vacant post.
And now let us wind up this chapter of accidents with an account of
the manner in which a party of strangers, to use a slang but
expressive phrase, came to grief during a visit to the Bell Rock.
One morning, a trim little vessel was seen by the workmen making for
the rock at low tide. From its build and size, Ruby at once judged it
to be a pleasure yacht. Perchance some delicate shades in the
seamanship, displayed in managing the little vessel, had influenced
the sailor in forming his opinion. Be this as it may, the vessel
brought up under the lee of the rock and cast anchor.
It turned out to be a party of gentlemen from Leith, who had run down
the firth to see the works. The weather was fine, and the sea calm,
but these yachters had yet to learn that fine weather and a calm sea
do not necessarily imply easy or safe landing at the Bell Rock! They
did not know that the swell which had succeeded a recent gale was
heavier than it appeared to be at a distance; and, worst of all, they
did not know, or they did not care to remember, that "there is a time
for all things", and that the time for landing at the Bell Rock is
Seeing that the place was covered with workmen, the strangers lowered
their little boat and rowed towards them.
"They're mad," said Logan, who, with a group of the men, watched the
motions of their would-be visitors.
"No," observed Joe Dumsby; "they are brave, but hignorant."
"Faix, they won't be ignorant long!" cried Ned O'Connor, as the
little boat approached the rock, propelled by two active young rowers
in Guernsey shirts, white trousers, and straw hats. "You're stout,
lads, both of ye, an' purty good hands at the oar, for gintlemen;
but av ye wos as strong as Samson it would puzzle ye to stem these
breakers, so ye better go back."
The yachters did not hear the advice, and they would not have taken
it if they had heard it. They rowed straight up towards the
landing-place, and, so far, showed themselves expert selectors of the
right channel; but they soon came within the influence of the seas,
which burst on the rock and sent up jets of spray to leeward.
These jets had seemed very pretty and harmless when viewed from the
deck of the yacht, but they were found on a nearer approach to be
quite able, and, we might almost add, not unwilling, to toss up the
boat like a ball, and throw it and its occupants head over heels into
But the rowers, like most men of their class, were not easily cowed.
They watched their opportunity—allowed the waves to meet and rush
on, and then pulled into the midst of the foam, in the hope of
crossing to the shelter of the rock before the approach of the next
Heedless of a warning cry from Ned O'Connor, whose anxiety began to
make him very uneasy, the amateur sailors strained every nerve to
pull through, while their companion who sat at the helm in the stern
of the boat seemed to urge them on to redoubled exertions. Of course
their efforts were in vain. The next billow caught the boat on its
foaming crest, and raised it high in the air. For one moment the wave
rose between the boat and the men on the rock, and hid her from view,
causing Ned to exclaim, with a genuine groan, "'Arrah! they's gone!"
But they were not; the boat's head had been carefully kept to the
sea, and, although she had been swept back a considerable way, and
nearly half-filled with water, she was still afloat.
The chief engineer now hailed the gentlemen, and advised them to
return and remain on board their vessel until the state of the tide
would permit him to send a proper boat for them.
In the meantime, however, a large boat from the floating light,
pretty deeply laden with lime, cement, and sand, approached, when the
strangers, with a view to avoid giving trouble, took their passage in
her to the rock. The accession of three passengers to a boat, already
in a lumbered state, put her completely out of trim, and, as it
unluckily happened, the man who steered her on this occasion was not
in the habit of attending the rock, and was not sufficiently aware of
the run of the sea at the entrance of the eastern creek.
Instead, therefore, of keeping close to the small rock called Johnny
Gray, he gave it, as Ruby expressed it, "a wide berth". A heavy sea
struck the boat, drove her to leeward, and, the oars getting
entangled among the rocks and seaweed, she became unmanageable. The
next sea threw her on a ledge, and, instantly leaving her, she canted
seaward upon her gunwale, throwing her crew and part of her cargo
into the water.
All this was the work of a few seconds. The men had scarce time to
realize their danger ere they found themselves down under the water;
and when they rose gasping to the surface, it was to behold the next
wave towering over them, ready to fall on their heads. When it fell
it scattered crew, cargo, and boat in all directions.
Some clung to the gunwale of the boat, others to the seaweed, and
some to the thwarts and oars which floated about, and which quickly
carried them out of the creek to a considerable distance from the
spot where the accident happened.
The instant the boat was overturned, Ruby darted towards one of the
rock boats which lay near to the spot where the party of workmen who
manned it had landed that morning. Wilson, the landing-master, was at
his side in a moment.
"Shove off, lad, and jump in!" cried Wilson.
There was no need to shout for the crew of the boat. The men were
already springing into her as she floated off. In a few minutes all
the men in the water were rescued, with the exception of one of the
strangers, named Strachan.
This gentleman had been swept out to a small insulated rock, where he
clung to the seaweed with great resolution, although each returning
sea laid him completely under water, and hid him for a second or two
from the spectators on the rock. In this situation he remained for
ten or twelve minutes; and those who know anything of the force of
large waves will understand how severely his strength and courage
must have been tried during that time.
When the boat reached the rock the most difficult part was still to
perform, as it required the greatest nicety of management to guide
her in a rolling sea, so as to prevent her from being carried
forcibly against the man whom they sought to save.
"Take the steering-oar, Ruby; you are the best hand at this," said
Ruby seized the oar, and, notwithstanding the breach of the seas and
the narrowness of the passage, steered the boat close to the rock at
the proper moment.
"Starboard, noo, stiddy!" shouted John Watt, who leant suddenly over
the bow of the boat and seized poor Strachan by the hair. In another
moment he was pulled inboard with the aid of Selkirk's stout arms,
and the boat was backed out of danger.
"Now, a cheer, boys!" cried Ruby.
The men did not require urging to this. It burst from them with
tremendous energy, and was echoed back by their comrades on the rock,
in the midst of whose wild hurrah, Ned O'Connor's voice was
distinctly heard to swell from a cheer into a yell of triumph!
The little rock on which this incident occurred was called
Strachan's Ledge, and it is known by that name at the present day.
THE BELL ROCK IN A FOG—NARROW ESCAPE OF THE SMEATON
Change of scene is necessary to the healthful working of the human
mind; at least, so it is said. Acting upon the assumption that the
saying is true, we will do our best in this chapter for the human
minds that condescend to peruse these pages, by leaping over a space
of time, and by changing at least the character of the scene, if not
We present the Bell Rock under a new aspect, that of a dense fog and
a dead calm.
This is by no means an unusual aspect of things at the Bell Rock, but
as we have hitherto dwelt chiefly on storms, it may be regarded as
new to the reader.
It was a June morning. There had been few breezes and no storms for
some weeks past, so that the usual swell of the ocean had gone down,
and there were actually no breakers on the rock at low water, and no
ruffling of the surface at all at high tide. The tide had about two
hours before overflowed the rock, and driven the men into the beacon
house, where, having breakfasted, they were at the time enjoying
themselves with pipes and small talk.
The lighthouse had grown considerably by this time. Its unfinished
top was more than eighty feet above the foundation; but the fog was
so dense that only the lower part of the column could be seen from
the beacon, the summit being lost, as it were, in the clouds.
Nevertheless that summit, high though it was, did not yet project
beyond the reach of the sea. A proof of this had been given in a very
striking manner, some weeks before the period about which we now
write, to our friend George Forsyth.
George was a studious man, and fond of reading the Bible critically.
He was proof against laughter and ridicule, and was wont sometimes to
urge the men into discussions. One of his favourite arguments was
somewhat as follows—
"Boys," he was wont to say, "you laugh at me for readin' the Bible
carefully. You would not laugh at a schoolboy for reading his books
carefully, would you? Yet the learnin' of the way of salvation is of
far more consequence to me than book learnin' is to a schoolboy. An
astronomer is never laughed at for readin' his books o' geometry an'
suchlike day an' night—even to the injury of his health—but what is
an astronomer's business to him compared with the concerns of my soul
to me? Ministers tell me there are certain things I must know and
believe if I would be saved—such as the death and resurrection of
our Saviour Jesus Christ; and they also point out that the Bible
speaks of certain Christians, who did well in refusin' to receive the
Gospel at the hands of the apostles, without first enquirin' into
these things, to see if they were true. Now, lads, if these things
that so many millions believe in, and that you all profess to believe
in, are lies, then you may well laugh at me for enquirin' into them;
but if they be true, why, I think the devils themselves must be
laughing at you for not enquirin' into them!"
Of course, Forsyth found among such a number of intelligent men, some
who could argue with him, as well as some who could laugh at him. He
also found one or two who sympathized openly, while there were a few
who agreed in their hearts, although they did not speak.
Well, it was this tendency to study on the part of Forsyth, that led
him to cross the wooden bridge between the beacon and the lighthouse
during his leisure hours, and sit reading at the top of the spiral
stair, near one of the windows of the lowest room.
Forsyth was sitting at his usual window one afternoon at the end of a
storm. It was a comfortless place, for neither sashes nor glass had
at that time been put in, and the wind howled up and down the shaft
dreadfully. The man was robust, however, and did not mind that.
The height of the building was at that time fully eighty feet. While
he was reading there a tremendous breaker struck the lighthouse with
such force that it trembled distinctly. Forsyth started up, for he
had never felt this before, and fancied the structure was about to
fall. For a moment or two he remained paralysed, for he heard the
most terrible and inexplicable sounds going on overhead. In fact, the
wave that shook the building had sent a huge volume of spray right
over the top, part of which fell into the lighthouse, and what poor
Forsyth heard was about a ton of water coming down through story
after story, carrying lime, mortar, buckets, trowels, and a host of
other things, violently along with it.
To plunge down the spiral stair, almost headforemost, was the work of
a few seconds. Forsyth accompanied the descent with a yell of terror,
which reached the ears of his comrades in the beacon, and brought
them to the door, just in time to see their comrade's long legs carry
him across the bridge in two bounds. Almost at the same instant the
water and rubbish burst out of the doorway of the lighthouse, and
flooded the bridge.
But let us return from this digression, or rather, this series of
digressions, to the point where we branched off: the aspect of the
beacon in the fog, and the calm of that still morning in June.
Some of the men inside were playing draughts, others were finishing
their breakfast; one was playing "Auld Lang Syne", with many
extempore flourishes and trills, on a flute, which was very much out
of tune. A few were smoking, of course (where exists the band of
Britons who can get on without that?), and several were sitting
astride on the cross-beams below, bobbing—not exactly for whales,
but for any monster of the deep that chose to turn up.
The men fishing, and the beacon itself, loomed large and mysterious
in the half-luminous fog. Perhaps this was the reason that the
sea-gulls flew so near them, and gave forth an occasional and very
melancholy cry, as if of complaint at the changed appearance of
"There's naethin' to be got the day," said John Watt, rather
peevishly, as he pulled up his line and found the bait gone.
Baits are always found gone when lines are pulled up! This would
seem to be an angling law of nature. At all events, it would seem to
have been a very aggravating law of nature on the present occasion,
for John Watt frowned and growled to himself as he put on another
"There's a bite!" exclaimed Joe Dumsby, with a look of doubt, at the
same time feeling his line.
"Poo'd in then," said Watt ironically.
"No, 'e's hoff," observed Joe.
"Hm! he never was on," muttered Watt.
"What are you two growling at?" said Ruby, who sat on one of the
beams at the other side.
"At our luck, Ruby," said Joe. "Ha! was that a nibble?" ("Naethin' o'
the kind," from Watt.) "It was! as I live it's large; an 'addock, I
"A naddock!" sneered Watt; "mair like a bit o' tangle than——eh!
losh me! it is a fish——"
"Well done, Joe!" cried Bremner, from the doorway above, as a large
rock-cod was drawn to the surface of the water.
"Stay, it's too large to pull up with the line. I'll run down and
gaff it," cried Ruby, fastening his own line to the beam, and
descending to the water by the usual ladder, on one of the main
beams. "Now, draw him this way—gently, not too roughly—take time.
Ah! that was a miss—he's off; no! Again; now then——"
Another moment, and a goodly cod of about ten pounds weight was
wriggling on the iron hook which Ruby handed up to Dumsby, who
mounted with his prize in triumph to the kitchen.
From that moment the fish began to "take".
While the men were thus busily engaged, a boat was rowing about in
the fog, vainly endeavouring to find the rock.
It was the boat of two fast friends, Jock Swankie and Davy Spink.
These worthies were in a rather exhausted condition, having been
rowing almost incessantly from daybreak.
"I tell 'ee what it is," said Swankie; "I'll be hanged if I poo
He threw his oar into the boat, and looked sulky.
"It's my belief," said his companion, "that we ought to be near aboot
Denmark be this time."
"Denmark or Rooshia, it's a' ane to me," rejoined Swankie; "I'll hae
So saying, he pulled out his pipe and tobacco box, and began to cut
the tobacco. Davy did the same.
Suddenly both men paused, for they heard a sound. Each looked
enquiringly at the other, and then both gazed into the thick fog.
"Is that a ship?" said Davy Spink.
They seized their oars hastily.
"The beacon, as I'm a leevin' sinner!" exclaimed Swankie.
If Spink had not backed his oar at that moment, there is some
probability that Swankie would have been a dead, instead of a living,
sinner in a few minutes, for they had almost run upon the north-east
end of the Bell Rock, and distinctly heard the sound of voices on
the beacon. A shout settled the question at once, for it was replied
to by a loud holloa from Ruby.
In a short time the boat was close to the beacon, and the water was
so very calm that day, that they were able to venture to hand the
packet of letters with which they had come off into the beacon, even
although the tide was full.
"Letters," said Swankie, as he reached out his hand with the packet.
"Hurrah!" cried the men, who were all assembled on the
mortar-gallery, looking down at the fishermen, excepting Ruby, Watt,
and Dumsby, who were still on the cross-beams below.
"Mind the boat; keep her aff," said Swankie, stretching out his hand
with the packet to the utmost, while Dumsby descended the ladder and
held out his hand to receive it.
"Take care," cried the men in chorus, for news from shore was always
a very exciting episode in their career, and the idea of the packet
being lost filled them with sudden alarm.
The shout and the anxiety together caused the very result that was
dreaded. The packet fell into the sea and sank, amid a volley of
It went down slowly. Before it had descended a fathom, Ruby's head
cleft the water, and in a moment he returned to the surface with the
packet in his hand amid a wild cheer of joy; but this was turned into
a cry of alarm, as Ruby was carried away by the tide, despite his
utmost efforts to regain the beacon.
The boat was at once pushed off, but so strong was the current there,
that Ruby was carried past the rock, and a hundred yards away to sea,
before the boat overtook him.
The moment he was pulled into her he shook himself, and then tore off
the outer covering of the packet in order to save the letters from
being wetted. He had the great satisfaction of finding them almost
uninjured. He had the greater satisfaction, thereafter, of feeling
that he had done a deed which induced every man in the beacon that
night to thank him half a dozen times over; and he had the greatest
possible satisfaction in finding that among the rest he had saved two
letters addressed to himself, one from Minnie Gray, and the other
from his uncle.
The scene in the beacon when the contents of the packet were
delivered was interesting. Those who had letters devoured them, and
in many cases read them (unwittingly) half-aloud. Those who had none
read the newspapers, and those who had neither papers nor letters
Ruby's letter ran as follows (we say his letter, because the other
letter was regarded, comparatively, as nothing):—
"DARLING RUBY,—I have just time to tell you that we have made a
discovery which will surprise you. Let me detail it to you
circumstantially. Uncle Ogilvy and I were walking on the pier a few
days ago, when we overheard a conversation between two sailors, who
did not see that we were approaching. We would not have stopped to
listen, but the words we heard arrested our attention, so——O what
a pity! there, Big Swankie has come for our letters. Is it not
strange that he should be the man to take them off? I meant to have
given you such an account of it, especially a description of the
case. They won't wait. Come ashore as soon as you can, dearest Ruby."
The letter broke off here abruptly. It was evident that the writer
had been obliged to close it abruptly, for she had forgotten to sign
"'A description of the case'; what case?" muttered Ruby in
vexation. "O Minnie, Minnie, in your anxiety to go into details you
have omitted to give me the barest outline. Well, well, darling, I'll
just take the will for the deed, but I wish you had——"
Here Ruby ceased to mutter, for Captain Ogilvy's letter suddenly
occurred to his mind. Opening it hastily, he read as follows:—
"DEAR NEFFY,—I never was much of a hand at spellin', an' I'm not
rightly sure o' that word, howsever, it reads all square, so ittle
do. If I had been the inventer o' writin' I'd have had signs for a
lot o' words. Just think how much better it would ha' bin to have
put a regular [Square] like that instead o' writin' s-q-u-a-r-e. Then
round would have bin far better O, like that. An' crooked thus
~~~~~; see how significant an' suggestive, if I may say so; no
humbug—all fair an' above-board, as the pirate said, when he ran up
the black flag to the peak.
"But avast speckillatin' (shiver my timbers! but that last was a
pen-splitter), that's not what I sat down to write about. My object
in takin' up the pen, neffy, is two-fold,
'Double, double, toil an' trouble',
as Macbeath said,—if it wasn't Hamlet.
"We want you to come home for a day or two, if you can git leave,
lad, about this strange affair. Minnie said she was goin' to give you
a full, true, and partikler account of it, so it's of no use my goin'
over the same course. There's that blackguard Swankie come for the
letters. Ha! it makes me chuckle. No time for more———"
This letter also concluded abruptly, and without a signature.
"There's a pretty kettle o' fish!" exclaimed Ruby aloud.
"So 'tis, lad; so 'tis," said Bremner, who at that moment had placed
a superb pot of codlings on the fire; "though why ye should say it so
positively when nobody's denyin' it, is more nor I can tell."
Ruby laughed, and retired to the mortar-gallery to work at the forge
and ponder. He always found that he pondered best while employed in
hammering, especially if his feelings were ruffled.
Seizing a mass of metal, he laid it on the anvil, and gave it five or
six heavy blows to straighten it a little, before thrusting it into
Strange to say, these few blows of the hammer were the means, in all
probability, of saving the sloop Smeaton from being wrecked on the
That vessel had been away with Mr. Stevenson at Leith, and was
returning, when she was overtaken by the calm and the fog. At the
moment that Ruby began to hammer, the Smeaton was within a stone's
cast of the beacon, running gently before a light air which had
No one on board had the least idea that the tide had swept them so
near the rock, and the ringing of the anvil was the first warning
they got of their danger.
The lookout on board instantly sang out, "Starboard har-r-r-d! beacon
ahead!" and Ruby looked up in surprise, just as the Smeaton emerged
like a phantom-ship out of the fog. Her sails fluttered as she came
up to the wind, and the crew were seen hurrying to and fro in much
Mr. Stevenson himself stood on the quarter-deck of the little vessel,
and waved his hand to assure those on the beacon that they had
sheered off in time, and were safe.
This incident tended to strengthen the engineer in his opinion that
the two large bells which were being cast for the lighthouse, to be
rung by the machinery of the revolving light, would be of great
utility in foggy weather.
While the Smeaton was turning away, as if with a graceful bow to
the men on the rock, Ruby shouted:
"There are letters here for you, sir."
The mate of the vessel called out at once, "Send them off in the
shore-boat; we'll lay-to."
No time was to be lost, for if the Smeaton should get involved in
the fog it might be very difficult to find her; so Ruby at once ran
for the letters, and, hailing the shore-boat which lay quite close at
hand, jumped into it and pushed off.
They boarded the Smeaton without difficulty and delivered the
Instead of returning to the beacon, however, Ruby was ordered to hold
himself in readiness to go to Arbroath in the shore-boat with a
letter from Mr. Stevenson to the superintendent of the workyard.
"You can go up and see your friends in the town, if you choose," said
the engineer, "but be sure to return by tomorrow's forenoon tide. We
cannot dispense with your services longer than a few hours, my lad,
so I shall expect you to make no unnecessary delay."
"You may depend upon me, sir," said Ruby, touching his cap, as he
turned away and leaped into the boat.
A light breeze was now blowing, so that the sails could be used. In
less than a quarter of an hour sloop and beacon were lost in the fog,
and Ruby steered for the harbour of Arbroath, overjoyed at this
unexpected and happy turn of events, which gave him an opportunity of
solving the mystery of the letters, and of once more seeing the sweet
face of Minnie Gray.
But an incident occurred which delayed these desirable ends, and
utterly changed the current of Ruby's fortunes for a time.
A SUDDEN AND TREMENDOUS CHANGE IN RUBY'S FORTUNES
What a variety of appropriate aphorisms there are to express the
great truths of human experience! "There is many a slip 'twixt the
cup and the lip" is one of them. Undoubtedly there is. So is there
"many a miss of a sweet little kiss". "The course of true love",
also, "never did run smooth". Certainly not. Why should it? If it did
we should doubt whether the love were true. Our own private belief is
that the course of true love is always uncommonly rough, but
collective human wisdom has seen fit to put the idea in the negative
form. So let it stand.
Ruby had occasion to reflect on these things that day, but the
reflection afforded him no comfort whatever.
The cause of his inconsolable state of mind is easily explained.
The boat had proceeded about halfway to Arbroath when they heard the
sound of oars, and in a few seconds a ship's gig rowed out of the fog
towards them. Instead of passing them the gig was steered straight
for the boat, and Ruby saw that it was full of men-of-war's men.
He sprang up at once and seized an oar.
"Out oars!" he cried. "Boys, if ever you pulled hard in your lives,
do so now. It's the press-gang!"
Before those few words were uttered the two men had seized the oars,
for they knew well what the press-gang meant, and all three pulled
with such vigour that the boat shot over the smooth sea with double
speed. But they had no chance in a heavy fishing boat against the
picked crew of the light gig. If the wind had been a little stronger
they might have escaped, but the wind had decreased, and the small
boat overhauled them yard by yard.
Seeing that they had no chance, Ruby said, between his set teeth:
"Will ye fight, boys?"
"I will," cried Davy Spink sternly, for Davy had a wife and little
daughter on shore, who depended entirely on his exertions for their
livelihood, so he had a strong objection to go and fight in the wars
of his country.
"What's the use?" muttered Big Swankie, with a savage scowl. He, too,
had a strong disinclination to serve in the Royal Navy, being a lazy
man, and not overburdened with courage. "They've got eight men of a
crew, wi' pistols an' cutlashes."
"Well, it's all up with us," cried Ruby, in a tone of sulky anger, as
he tossed his oar overboard, and, folding his arms on his breast, sat
sternly eyeing the gig as it approached.
Suddenly a beam of hope shot into his heart. A few words will explain
the cause thereof.
About the time the works at the Bell Rock were in progress, the war
with France and the Northern Powers was at its height, and the demand
for men was so great that orders were issued for the establishment of
an impress service at Dundee, Arbroath, and Aberdeen. It became
therefore necessary to have some protection for the men engaged in
the works. As the impress officers were extremely rigid in the
execution of their duty, it was resolved to have the seamen carefully
identified, and, therefore, besides being described in the usual
manner in the protection-bills granted by the Admiralty, each man had
a ticket given to him descriptive of his person, to which was attached
a silver medal emblematical of the lighthouse service.
That very week Ruby had received one of the protection-medals and
tickets of the Bell Rock, a circumstance which he had forgotten at
the moment. It was now in his pocket, and might perhaps save him.
When the boat ranged up alongside, Ruby recognized in the officer at
the helm the youth who had already given him so much annoyance. The
officer also recognized Ruby, and, with a glance of surprise and
"What! have I bagged you at last, my slippery young lion?"
Ruby smiled as he replied, "Not quite yet, my persevering young
jackall." (He was sorely tempted to transpose the word into jackass,
but he wisely restrained himself.) "I'm not so easily caught as you
"Eh! how? what mean you?" exclaimed the officer, with an expression
of surprise, for he knew that Ruby was now in his power. "I have you
safe, my lad, unless you have provided yourself with a pair of wings.
Of course, I shall leave one of you to take your boat into harbour,
but you may be sure that I'll not devolve that pleasant duty upon
"I have not provided myself with wings exactly," returned Ruby,
pulling out his medal and ticket; "but here is something that will do
quite as well"
The officer's countenance fell, for he knew at once what it was. He
inspected it, however, closely.
"Let me see," said he, reading the description on the ticket, which
BELL BOOK WORKYARD, ARBBOATH,
"20th June, 1810.
_"Ruby Brand, seaman and blacksmith, in the service of the Honourable
the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses, aged 25 years, 5 feet
10 inches high, very powerfully made, fair complexion, straight nose,
dark-blue eyes, and curling auburn hair,"
This description was signed by the engineer of the works; and on the
obverse was written, "The bearer, Ruby Brand, is serving as a
blacksmith in the erection of the Bell Rock Lighthouse."
"This is all very well, my fine fellow," said the officer, "but I
have been deceived more than once with these medals and tickets. How
am I to know that you have not stolen it from someone?"
"By seeing whether the description agrees," replied Ruby.
"Of course, I know that as well as you, and I don't find the
description quite perfect. I would say that your hair is light-brown,
now, not auburn, and your nose is a little Roman, if anything; and
there's no mention of whiskers, or that delicate moustache. Why, look
here," he added, turning abruptly to Big Swankie, "this might be the
description of your comrade as well as, if not better than, yours.
What's your name?"
"Swankie, sir," said that individual ruefully, yet with a gleam of
hope that the advantages of the Bell Rock medal might possibly, in
some unaccountable way, accrue to himself, for he was sharp enough to
see that the officer would be only too glad to find any excuse for
"Well, Swankie, stand up, and let's have a look at you," said the
officer, glancing from the paper to the person of the fisherman, and
commenting thereon. "Here we have 'very powerfully made'—no mistake
about that—strong as Samson; 'fair complexion'—that's it exactly;
'auburn hair'—so it is. Auburn is a very undecided colour; there's a
great deal of red in it, and no one can deny that Swankie has a good
deal of red in his hair."
There was indeed no denying this, for it was altogether red, of an
intense carroty hue.
"You see, friend," continued the officer, turning to Ruby, "that the
description suits Swankie very well."
"True, as far as you have gone," said Ruby, with a quiet smile; "but
Swankie is six feet two in his stockings, and his nose is turned up,
and his hair don't curl, and his eyes are light-green, and his
complexion is sallow, if I may not say yellow——"
"Fair, lad; fair," said the officer, laughing in spite of himself.
"Ah! Ruby Brand, you are jealous of him! Well, I see that I'm fated
not to capture you, so I'll bid you good day. Meanwhile your
companions will be so good as to step into my gig."
The two men rose to obey. Big Swankie stepped over the gunwale, with
the fling of a sulky, reckless man, who curses his fate and submits
to it. Davy Spink had a very crestfallen, subdued look. He was about
to follow, when a thought seemed to strike him. He turned hastily
round, and Ruby was surprised to see that his eyes were suffused with
tears, and that his features worked with the convulsive twitching of
one who struggles powerfully to restrain his feelings.
"Ruby Brand," said he, in a deep husky voice, which trembled at
first, but became strong as he went on; "Ruby Brand, I deserve nae
good at your hands, yet I'll ask a favour o' ye. Ye've seen the wife
and the bairn, the wee ane wi' the fair curly pow. Ye ken the auld
hoose. It'll be mony a lang day afore I see them again, if iver I
come back ava. There's naebody left to care for them. They'll be
starvin' soon, lad. Wull ye—wull ye look—doon?"
Poor Davy Spink stopped here, and covered his face with his big
A sudden gush of sympathy filled Ruby's heart. He started forward,
and drawing from his pocket the letter with which he was charged,
thrust it into Spink's hand, and said hurriedly—
"Don't fail to deliver it the first thing you do on landing. And
hark'ee, Spink, go to Mrs. Brand's cottage, and tell them there why
I went away. Be sure you see them all, and explain why it was.
Tell Minnie Gray that I will be certain to return, if God spares
Without waiting for a reply he sprang into the gig, and gave the
other boat a shove, that sent it several yards off.
"Give way, lads," cried the officer, who was delighted at this
unexpected change in affairs, though he had only heard enough of the
conversation to confuse him as to the cause of it.
"Stop! stop!" shouted Spink, tossing up his arms.
"I'd rather not," returned the officer.
Davy seized the oars, and, turning his boat in the direction of the
gig, endeavoured to overtake it, As well might the, turkey-buzzard
attempt to catch the swallow. He was left far behind, and when last
seen faintly through the fog, he was standing up in the stern of the
boat wringing his hands.
Ruby had seated himself in the bow of the gig, with his face turned
steadily towards the sea, so that no one could see it. This position
he maintained in silence until the boat ranged up to what appeared
like the side of a great mountain, looming through the mist.
Then he turned round, and, whatever might have been the struggle
within his breast, all traces of it had left his countenance, which
presented its wonted appearance of good-humoured frankness.
We need scarcely say that the mountain turned out to be a British
man-of-war. Ruby was quickly introduced to his future messmates, and
warmly received by them. Then he was left to his own free will during
the remainder of that day, for the commander of the vessel was a kind
man, and did not like to add to the grief of the impressed men by
setting them to work at once.
Thus did our hero enter the Royal Navy; and many a long and weary day
and month passed by before he again set foot in his native town.
OTHER THINGS BESIDES MURDER "WILL OUT"
Meanwhile Davy Spink, with his heart full, returned slowly to the
He was long of reaching it, the boat being very heavy for one man to
pull. On landing he hurried up to his poor little cottage, which was
in a very low part of the town, and in a rather out-of-the-way corner
of that part.
"Janet," said he, flinging himself into a rickety old armchair that
stood by the fireplace, "the press-gang has catched us at last, and
they've took Big Swankie away, and, worse than that——"
"Oh!" cried Janet, unable to wait far more, "that's the best news
I've heard for mony a day. Ye're sure they have him safe?"
"Ay, sure enough," said Spink dryly; "but ye needna be sae glad aboot
it, for Swankie was aye good to you."
"Ay, Davy," cried Janet, putting her arm round her husband's neck,
and kissing him, "but he wasna good to you. He led ye into evil
ways mony a time when ye would rather hae keepit oot o' them. Na, na,
Davy, ye needna shake yer heed; I ken'd fine."
"Weel, weel, hae'd yer ain way, lass, but Swankie's awa" to the
wars, and so's Ruby Brand, for they've gotten him as weel."
"Ruby Brand!" exclaimed the woman.
"Ay, Ruby Brand; and this is the way they did it."
Here Spink detailed to his helpmate, who sat with folded hands and
staring eyes opposite to her husband, all that had happened. When he
had concluded, they discussed the subject together. Presently the
little girl came bouncing into the room, with rosy cheeks, sparkling
eyes, a dirty face, and fair ringlets very much dishevelled, and with
a pitcher of hot soup in her hands.
Davy caught her up, and kissing her, said abruptly, "Maggie, Big
Swankie's awa' to the wars."
The child looked enquiringly in her father's face, and he had to
repeat his words twice before she quite realized the import of them.
"Are ye jokin', daddy?"
"No, Maggie; it's true. The press-gang got him and took him awa', an'
I doot we'll never see him again."
The little girl's expression changed while he spoke, then her lip
trembled, and she burst into tears.
"See there, Janet," said Spink, pointing to Maggie, and looking
earnestly at his wife.
"Weel-a-weel," replied Janet, somewhat softened, yet with much
firmness, "I'll no deny that the man was fond o' the bairn, and it
liked him weel enough; but, my certes! he wad hae made a bad man o'
you if he could. But I'm real sorry for Ruby Brand; and what'll the
puir lassie Gray dot Ye'll hae to gang up an' gie them the message."
"So I will; but that's like somethin' to eat, I think?"
Spink pointed to the soup.
"Ay, it's a' we've got, so let's fa' to; and haste ye, lad. It's a
sair heart she'll hae this night—wae's me!"
While Spink and his wife were thus employed, Widow Brand, Minnie
Gray, and Captain Ogilvy were seated at tea, round the little table
in the snug kitchen of the widow's cottage.
It might have been observed that there were two teapots on the table,
a large one and a small, and that the captain helped himself out of
the small one, and did not take either milk or sugar. But the
captain's teapot did not necessarily imply tea. In fact, since the
death of the captain's mother, that small teapot had been accustomed
to strong drink only. It never tasted tea.
"I wonder if Ruby will get leave of absence," said the captain,
throwing himself back in his armchair, in order to be able to admire,
with greater ease, the smoke, as it curled towards the ceiling from
his mouth and pipe.
"I do hope so," said Mrs. Brand, looking up from her knitting, with a
little sigh. Mrs. Brand usually followed up all her remarks with a
little sigh. Sometimes the sigh was very little. It depended a good
deal on the nature of her remark whether the sigh was of the little,
less, or least description; but it never failed, in one or other
degree, to close her every observation.
"I think he will," said Minnie, as she poured a second cup of tea
for the widow.
"Ay, that's right, lass," observed the captain; "there's nothin'
'The pleasures of hope told a flatterin' tale
Regardin' the fleet when Lord Nelson get sail.'
Fill me out another cup of tea, Hebe."
It was a pleasant little fiction with the captain to call his
beverage "tea". Minnie filled out a small cupful of the contents of
the little teapot, which did, indeed, resemble tea, but which smelt
marvellously like hot rum and water.
"Enough, enough. Come on, Macduff! Ah! Minnie, this is prime Jamaica;
it's got such a—but I forgot; you don't understand nothin' about
nectar of this sort."
The captain smoked in silence for a few minutes, and then said, with
a sudden chuckle—
"Wasn't it odd, sister, that we should have found it all out in such
an easy sort o' way? If criminals would always tell on themselves as
plainly as Big Swankie did, there would be no use for lawyers."
"Swankie would not have spoken so freely," said Minnie, with a laugh,
"if he had known that we were listening."
"That's true, girl," said the captain, with sudden gravity; "and I
don't feel quite easy in my mind about that same eavesdropping. It's
a dirty thing to do—especially for an old sailor, who likes
everything to be fair and above-board; but then, you see, the natur'
o' the words we couldn't help hearin' justified us in waitin' to hear
more. Yes, it was quite right, as it turned out A little more tea,
Minnie. Thank'ee, lass. Now go, get the case, and let us look over it
The girl rose, and, going to a drawer, quickly returned with a small
red leather case in her hand. It was the identical jewel case that
Swankie had found on the dead body at the Bell Rock!
"Ah! that's it; now, let us see; let us see." He laid aside his pipe,
and for some time felt all his pockets, and looked round the room, as
if in search of something.
"What are you looking for, uncle?"
"The specs, lass; these specs'll be the death o' me."
Minnie laughed. "They're on your brow, uncle!"
"So they are! Well, well——"
The captain smiled deprecatingly, and, drawing his chair close to the
table, began to examine the box.
Its contents were a strange mixture, and it was evident that the case
had not been made to hold them.
There was a lady's gold watch, of very small size, and beautifully
formed; a set of ornaments, consisting of necklace, bracelets, ring,
and ear-rings of turquoise and pearls set in gold, of the most
delicate and exquisite chasing; also, an antique diamond cross of
great beauty, besides a number of rings and bracelets of considerable
As the captain took these out one by one, and commented on them, he
made use of Minnie's pretty hand and arm to try the effect of each,
and truly the ornaments could not have found a more appropriate
resting-place among the fairest ladies of the land.
Minnie submitted to be made use of in this, way with a pleased and
amused expression; for, while she greatly admired the costly gems,
she could not help smiling at the awkwardness of the captain in
putting them on.
"Read the paper again," said Minnie, after the contents of the box
had been examined.
The captain took up a small parcel covered with oiled cloth, which
contained a letter. Opening it, he began to read, but was interrupted
by Mrs. Brand, who had paid little attention to the jewels.
"Read it out loud, brother," said she, "I don't hear you well. Read
it out; I love to hear of my darling's gallant deeds."
The captain cleared his throat, raised his voice, and read slowly:—
"'LISBON, 10th March, 1808.
"'DEAR CAPTAIN BRAND,—I am about to quit this place for the East in
a few days, and shall probably never see you again. Pray accept the
accompanying case of jewels as a small token of the love and esteem
in which you are held by a heart-broken father. I feel assured that
if it had been in the power of man to have saved my drowning child
your gallant efforts would have been successful. It was ordained
otherwise; and I now pray that I may be enabled to say "God's will be
done". But I cannot bear the sight of these ornaments. I have no
relatives—none at least who deserve them half so well as yourself.
Do not pain me by refusing them. They may be of use to you if you are
ever in want of money, being worth, I believe, between three and four
hundred pounds. Of course, you cannot misunderstand my motive in
mentioning this. No amount of money could in any measure represent
the gratitude I owe to the man who risked his life to save my child.
May God bless you, sir."
The letter ended thus, without signature; and the captain ceased to
read aloud. But there was an addition to the letter written in pencil,
in the hand of the late Captain Brand, which neither he nor Minnie had
yet found courage to read to the poor widow. It ran thus:—
"Our doom is sealed. My schooner is on the Bell Rock. It is blowing a
gale from N.E., and she is going to pieces fast. We are all standing
under the lee of a ledge of rock—six of us. In half an hour the tide
will be roaring over the spot. God in Christ help us! It is an awful
end. If this letter and box is ever found, I ask the finder to send
it, with my blessing, to Mrs. Brand, my beloved wife, in Arbroath."
The writing was tremulous, and the paper bore the marks of having
been soiled with seaweed. It was unsigned. The writer had evidently
been obliged to close it hastily.
After reading this in silence the captain refolded the letter.
"No wonder, Minnie, that Swankie did not dare to offer such things
for sale. He would certainly have been found out. Wasn't it lucky
that we heard him tell Spink the spot under his floor where he had
At that moment there came a low knock to the door. Minnie opened it,
and admitted Davy Spink, who stood in the middle of the room
twitching his cap nervously, and glancing uneasily from one to
another of the party.
"Hallo, Spink!" cried the captain, pushing his spectacles up on his
forehead, and gazing at the fisherman in surprise, "you don't seem to
be quite easy in your mind. Hope your fortunes have not sprung a
"Weel, Captain Ogilvy, they just have; gone to the bottom, I might
a'most say. I've come to tell ye—that—the fact is, that the
press-gang have catched us at last, and ta'en awa' my mate, Jock
Swankie, better kenn'd as Big Swankie."
"Hem—well, my lad, in so far as that does damage to you, I'm sorry
for it; but as regards society at large, I rather think that Swankie
havin' tripped his anchor is a decided advantage. If you lose by this
in one way, you gain much in another; for your mate's companionship
did ye no good. Birds of a feather should flock together. You're
better apart, for I believe you to be an honest man, Spink."
Davy looked at the captain in unfeigned astonishment.
"Weel, ye're the first man that iver said that, an' I thank 'ee, sir,
but you're wrang, though I wush ye was right. But that's no' what I
cam' to tell ye."
Here the fisherman's indecision of manner returned. "Come, make a
clean breast of it, lad. There are none here but friends."
"Weel, sir, Ruby Brand——"
He paused, and Minnie turned deadly pale, for she jumped at once to
the right conclusion. The widow, on the other hand, listened for more
with deep anxiety, but did not guess the truth.
"The fact is, Ruby's catched too, an' he's awa' to the wars, and he
sent me to—ech, sirs! the auld wuman's fentit."
Poor Widow Brand had indeed fallen back in her chair in a state
bordering on insensibility. Minnie was able to restrain her feelings
so as to attend to her. She and the captain raised her gently, and
led her into her own room, from whence the captain returned, and shut
the door behind him.
"Now, Spink," said he, "tell me all about it, an' be partic'lar."
Davy at once complied, and related all that the reader already knows,
in a deep, serious tone of voice, for he felt that in the captain he
had a sympathetic listener.
When he had concluded, Captain Ogilvy heaved a sigh so deep that it
might have been almost considered a groan, then he sat down on his
armchair, and, pointing to the chair from which the widow had
recently risen, said, "Sit down, lad."
As he advanced to comply, Spink's eyes for the first time fell on the
case of jewels. He started, paused, and looked with a troubled air at
"Ha!" exclaimed the latter with a grin; "you seem to know these
things; old acquaintances, eh!"
"It wasna' me that stole them," said Spink hastily.
"I did not say that anyone stole them."
"Weel, I mean that—that——"
He stopped abruptly, for he felt that in whatever way he might
attempt to clear himself, he would unavoidably criminate, by
implication, his absent mate.
"I know what you mean, my lad; sit down."
Spink sat down on the edge of the chair, and looked at the other
"Have a cup of tea?" said the captain abruptly, seizing the small pot
and pouring out a cupful.
"Thank 'ee—I—I niver tak' tea."
"Take it to-night, then. It will do you good."
Spink put the cup to his lips, and a look of deep surprise overspread
his rugged countenance as he sipped the contents. The captain nodded.
Spink's look of surprise changed into a confidential smile; he also
nodded, winked, and drained the cup to the bottom.
"Yes," resumed the captain; "you mean that you did not take the case
of jewels from old Brand's pocket on that day when you found his body
on the Bell Rock, though you were present, and saw your comrade
pocket the booty. You see I know all about it, Davy, an' your only
fault lay in concealing the matter, and in keepin' company with that
The gaze of surprise with which Spink listened to the first part of
this speech changed to a look of sadness towards the end of it.
"Captain Ogilvy," said he, in a tone of solemnity that was a strong
contrast to his usual easy, careless manner of speaking, "you ca'd me
an honest man, an' ye think I'm clear o' guilt in this matter, but
ye're mista'en. Hoo ye cam' to find oot a' this I canna divine, but I
can tell ye somethin' mair than ye ken. D'ye see that bag?"
He pulled a small leather purse out of his coat pocket, and laid it
with a little bang on the table.
The captain nodded.
"Weel, sir, that was my share o' the plunder, thretty goolden
sovereigns. We tossed which o' us was to hae them, an' the siller
fell to me. But I've niver spent a boddle o't. Mony a time have I
been tempit, an' mony a time wad I hae gi'en in to the temptation,
but for a certain lass ca'd Janet, that's been an angel, it's my
belief, sent doon frae heeven to keep me frae gawin to the deevil
a'thegither. But be that as it may, I've brought the siller to them
that owns it by right, an' so my conscience is clear o't at lang
The sigh of relief with which Davy Spink pushed the bag of gold
towards his companion, showed that the poor man's mind was in truth
released from a heavy load that had crushed it for years.
The captain, who had lit his pipe, stared at the fisherman through
the smoke for some time in silence; then he began to untie the purse,
and said slowly, "Spink, I said you were an honest man, an' I see no
cause to alter my opinion."
He counted out the thirty gold pieces, put them back into the bag,
and the bag into his pocket. Then he continued, "Spink, if this gold
was mine I would—but no matter, it's not mine, it belongs to Widow
Brand, to whom I shall deliver it up. Meantime, I'll bid you good
night. All these things require reflection. Call back here to-morrow,
my fine fellow, and I'll have something to say to you. Another cup of
"Weel, I'll no objec'."
Davy Spink rose, swallowed the beverage, and left the cottage. The
captain returned, and stood for some time irresolute with his hand on
the handle of the door of his sister's room. As he listened, he heard
a sob, and the tones of Minnie's voice as if in prayer. Changing his
mind, he walked softly across the kitchen into his own room, where,
having trimmed the candle, refilled and lit his pipe, he sat down at
the table, and, resting his arms thereon, began to meditate.
THE LIGHTHOUSE COMPLETED—RUBY'S ESCAPE FROM TROUBLE BY A DESPERATE
There came a time at last when the great work of building the Bell
Rock Lighthouse drew to a close. Four years after its commencement it
was completed, and on the night of the 1st of February, 1811, its
bright beams were shed for the first time far and wide over the sea.
It must not be supposed, however, that this lighthouse required four
years to build it. On the contrary, the seasons in which work could
be done were very short. During the whole of the first season of
1807, the aggregate time of low-water work, caught by snatches of an
hour or two at a tide, did not amount to fourteen days of ten hours!
while in 1808 it fell short of four weeks.
A great event is worthy of very special notice. We should fail in our
duty to our readers if we were to make only passing reference to this
important event in the history of our country.
That 1st of February, 1811, was the birthday of a new era, for the
influence of the Bell Rock Light on the shipping interests of the
kingdom (not merely of Scotland, by any means), was far greater than
people generally suppose.
Here is a fact that may well be weighed with attention; that might
be not inappropriately inscribed in diamond letters over the lintel
of the lighthouse door. Up to the period of the building of the
lighthouse, the known history of the Bell Rock was a black record of
wreck, ruin, and death. Its unknown history, in remote ages, who
shall conceive, much less tell? Up to that period, seamen dreaded
the rock and shunned it—ay, so earnestly as to meet destruction too
often in their anxious efforts to avoid it. From that period the
Bell Rock has been a friendly point, a guiding star—hailed as such
by storm-tossed mariners—marked as such on the charts of all
nations. From that date not a single night for more than half a
century has passed, without its wakeful eye beaming on the waters, or
its fog-bells sounding on the air; and, best of all, not a single
wreck has occurred on that rock from that period down to the present
Say not, good reader, that much the same may be said of all
lighthouses. In the first place, the history of many lighthouses is
by no means so happy as that of this one. In the second place, all
lighthouses are not of equal importance. Few stand on an equal
footing with the Bell Rock, either in regard to its national
importance or its actual pedestal. In the last place, it is our
subject of consideration at present, and we object to odious
comparisons while we sing its praises!
Whatever may be said of the other lights that guard our shores,
special gratitude is due to the Bell Rock—to those who projected
it—to the engineer who planned and built it—to God, who inspired
the will to dare, and bestowed the skill to accomplish, a work so
difficult, so noble, so prolific of good to man!
* * * * *
The nature of our story requires that we should occasionally
annihilate time and space.
Let us then leap over both, and return to our hero, Ruby Brand.
His period of service in the Navy was comparatively brief, much more
so than either he or his friends anticipated. Nevertheless, he spent
a considerable time in his new profession, and, having been sent to
foreign stations, he saw a good deal of what is called "service", in
which he distinguished himself, as might have been expected, for
coolness and courage.
But we must omit all mention of his warlike deeds, and resume the
record of his history at that point which bears more immediately on
the subject of our tale.
It was a wild, stormy night in November. Ruby's ship had captured a
French privateer in the German Ocean, and, a prize crew having been
put aboard, she was sent away to the nearest port, which happened to
be the harbour of Leith, in the Firth of Forth. Ruby had not been
appointed one of the prize crew; but he resolved not to miss the
chance of again seeing his native town, if it should only be a
distant view through a telescope. Being a favourite with his
commander, his plea was received favourably, and he was sent on
board the Frenchman.
Those who know what it is to meet with an unexpected piece of great
good fortune, can imagine the delight with which Ruby stood at the
helm on the night in question, and steered for home! He was known
by all on board to be the man who understood best the navigation of
the Forth, so that implicit trust was placed in him by the young
officer who had charge of the prize.
The man-of-war happened to be short-handed at the time the privateer
was captured, owing to her boats having been sent in chase of a
suspicious craft during a calm. Some of the French crew were
therefore left on board to assist in navigating the vessel.
This was unfortunate, for the officer sent in charge turned out to be
a careless man, and treated the Frenchmen with contempt. He did not
keep strict watch over them, and the result was, that, shortly after
the storm began, they took the English crew by surprise, and
Ruby was the first to fall. As he stood at the wheel, indulging in
pleasant dreams, a Frenchman stole up behind him, and felled him with
a handspike. When he recovered he found that he was firmly bound,
along with his comrades, and that the vessel was lying-to. One of the
Frenchmen came forward at that moment, and addressed the prisoners in
"Now, me boys," said he, "you was see we have konker you again. You
behold the sea?" pointing over the side; "well, that bees your bed
to-night if you no behave. Now, I wants to know, who is best man of
you as onderstand dis cost? Speak de trut', else you die."
The English lieutenant at once turned to Ruby.
"Well, cast him loose; de rest of you go b'low—good day, ver' moch
Here the Frenchman made a low bow to the English, who were led below,
with the exception of Ruby.
"Now, my goot mans, you onderstand dis cost?"
"Yes. I know it well."
"It is dangereoux?"
"It is—very; but not so much so as it used to be before the Bell
Rock Light was shown."
"Have you see dat light?"
"No; never. It was first lighted when I was at sea; but I have seen a
description of it in the newspapers, and should know it well."
"Ver goot; you will try to come to dat light an' den you will steer
out from dis place to de open sea. Afterwards we will show you to
France. If you try mischief—voilà!"
The Frenchman pointed to two of his comrades who stood, one on each
side of the wheel, with pistols in their hands, ready to keep Ruby
"Now, cut him free. Go, sare; do your dooty." Ruby stepped to the
wheel at once, and, glancing at the compass, directed the vessel's
head in the direction of the Bell Rock.
The gale was rapidly increasing, and the management of the helm
required his undivided attention; nevertheless his mind was busy
with anxious thoughts and plans of escape. He thought with horror of
a French prison, for there were old shipmates of his who had been
captured years before, and who were pining in exile still. The bare
idea of being separated indefinitely, perhaps for ever, from Minnie,
was so terrible, that for a moment he meditated an attack,
single-handed, on the crew; but the muzzle of a pistol on each side
of him induced him to pause and reflect! Reflection, however, only
brought him again to the verge of despair. Then he thought of
running up to Leith, and so take the Frenchmen prisoners; but this
idea was at once discarded, for it was impossible to pass up to
Leith Roads without seeing the Bell Rock light, and the Frenchmen
kept a sharp lookout. Then he resolved to run the vessel ashore and
wreck her, but the thought of his comrades down below induced him to
give that plan up.
Under the influence of these thoughts he became inattentive, and
steered rather wildly once or twice.
"Stiddy. Ha! you tink of how you escape?"
"Yes, I do," said Ruby, doggedly.
"Good, and have you see how?"
"No," replied Ruby, "I tell you candidly that I can see no way of
"Ver good, sare; mind your helm."
At that moment a bright star of the first magnitude rose on the
horizon, right ahead of them.
"Ha! dat is a star," said the Frenchman, after a few moments'
observation of it.
"Stars don't go out," replied Ruby, as the light in question
"It is de light'ouse den?"
"I don't know," said Ruby, "but we shall soon see."
Just then a thought flashed into Ruby's mind. His heart beat quick,
his eye dilated, and his lip was tightly compressed as it came and
went. Almost at the same moment another star rose right ahead of
them. It was of a deep red colour; and Ruby's heart beat high again,
for he was now certain that it was the revolving light of the Bell
Rock, which shows a white and red light alternately every two
"Voilà! that must be him now," exclaimed the Frenchman, pointing
to the light, and looking enquiringly at Ruby.
"I have told you," said the latter, "that I never saw the light
before. I believe it to be the Bell Rock Light; but it would be as
well to run close and see. I think I could tell the very stones of
the tower, even in a dark night. Anyhow, I know the rock itself too
well to mistake it."
"Be there plenty watter?"
"Ay; on the east side, close to the rock, there is enough water to
float the biggest ship in your navy."
"Good; we shall go close."
There was a slight lull in the gale at this time, and the clouds
broke a little, allowing occasional glimpses of moonlight to break
through and tinge the foaming crests of the waves. At last the light,
that had at first looked like a bright star, soon increased, and
appeared like a glorious sun in the stormy sky. For a few seconds it
shone intensely white and strong, then it slowly died away and
disappeared; but almost before one could have time to wonder what had
become of it, it returned in the form of a brilliant red sun, which
also shone for a few seconds, steadily, and then, like the former,
slowly died out. Thus, alternating, the red and white suns went round.
In a few minutes the tall and graceful column itself became visible,
looking pale and spectral against the black sky. At the same time the
roar of the surf broke familiarly on Ruby's ears. He steered close
past the north end of the rock, so close that he could see the rocks,
and knew that it was low water. A gleam of moonlight broke out at the
time, as if to encourage him.
"Now," said Ruby, "you had better go about, for if we carry on at
this rate, in the course we are going, in about an hour you will
either be a dead man on the rocks of Forfar, or enjoying yourself in
a Scotch prison!"
"Ha! ha!" laughed the Frenchman, who immediately gave the order to
put the vessel about; "good, ver good; bot I was not wish to see the
Scottish prison, though I am told the mountains be ver superb."
While he was speaking, the little vessel lay over on her new course,
and Ruby steered again past the north side of the rock. He shaved it
so close that the Frenchman shouted, "Prenez garde", and put a
pistol to Ruby's ear.
"Do you think I wish to die?" asked Ruby, with a quiet smile. "Now,
captain, I want to point out the course, so as to make you sure of
it. Bid one of your men take the wheel, and step up on the bulwarks
with me, and I will show you."
This was such a natural remark in the circumstances, and moreover so
naturally expressed, that the Frenchman at once agreed. He ordered a
seaman to take the wheel, and then stepped with Ruby upon the
bulwarks at the stern of the vessel.
"Now, you see the position of the lighthouse," said Ruby, "well, you
must keep your course due east after passing it. If you steer to the
nor-ard o' that, you'll run on the Scotch coast; if you bear away to
the south'ard of it, you'll run a chance, in this state o' the tide,
of getting wrecked among the Farne Islands; so keep her head due
Ruby said this very impressively; so much so, that the Frenchman
looked at him in surprise.
"Why you so particulare?" he enquired, with a look of suspicion.
"Because I am going to leave you," said Ruby, pointing to the Bell
Rock, which at that moment was not much more than a hundred yards to
leeward. Indeed, it was scarcely so much, for the outlying rock at
the northern end named Johnny Gray, lay close under their lee as
the vessel passed. Just then a great wave burst upon it, and, roaring
in wild foam over the ledges, poured into the channels and pools on
the other side. For one instant Ruby's courage wavered, as he gazed
at the flood of boiling foam.
"What you say?" exclaimed the Frenchman, laying his hand on the
collar of Ruby's jacket.
The young sailor started, struck the Frenchman a backhanded blow on
the chest, which hurled him violently against the man at the wheel,
and, bending down, sprang with a wild shout into the sea.
So close had he steered to the rock, in order to lessen the danger of
his reckless venture, that the privateer just weathered it. There was
not, of course, the smallest chance of recapturing Ruby. No ordinary
boat could have lived in the sea that was running at the time, even
in open water, much less among the breakers of the Bell Rock. Indeed,
the crew felt certain that the English sailor had allowed despair to
overcome his judgment, and that he must infallibly be dashed to
pieces on the rocks, so they did not check their onward course, being
too glad to escape from the immediate neighbourhood of such a
Meanwhile Ruby buffeted the billows manfully. He was fully alive to
the extreme danger of the attempt, but he knew exactly what he meant
to do. He trusted to his intimate knowledge of every ledge and
channel and current, and had calculated his motions to a nicety.
He knew that at the particular state of the tide at the time, and
with the wind blowing as it then did, there was a slight eddy at the
point of Cunningham's Ledge. His life, he felt, depended on his
gaining that eddy. If he should miss it, he would be dashed against
Johnny Gray's rock, or be carried beyond it and cast upon
Strachan's Ledge or Scoreby's Point, and no man, however powerful
he might be, could have survived the shock of being launched on any
of these rocks. On the other hand, if, in order to avoid these
dangers, he should swim too much to windward, there was danger of his
being carried on the crest of a billow and hurled upon the weather
side of Cunningham's Ledge, instead of getting into the eddy under
All this Ruby had seen and calculated when he passed the north end of
the rock the first time, and he had fixed the exact spot where he
should take the plunge on repassing it. He acted so promptly that a
few minutes sufficed to carry him towards the eddy, the tide being in
his favour. But when he was about to swim into it, a wave burst
completely over the ledge, and, pouring down on his head, thrust him
back. He was almost stunned by the shock, but retained sufficient
presence of mind to struggle on. For a few seconds he managed to bear
up against wind and tide, for he put forth his giant strength with
the energy of a desperate man, but gradually he was carried away from
the rock, and for the first time his heart sank within him.
Just then one of those rushes or swirls of water, which are common
among rocks in such a position, swept him again forward, right into
the eddy which he had struggled in vain to reach, and thrust him
violently against the rock. This back current was the precursor of a
tremendous billow, which came towering on like a black moving wall.
Ruby saw it, and, twining his arm amongst the seaweed, held his
The billow fell! Only those who have seen the Bell Rock in a storm
can properly estimate the roar that followed. None but Ruby himself
could tell what it was to feel that world of water rushing overhead.
Had it fallen directly upon him, it would have torn him from his
grasp and killed him, but its full force had been previously spent on
Cunningham's Ledge. In another moment it passed, and Ruby, quitting
his hold, struck out wildly through the foam. A few strokes carried
him through Sinclair's and Wilson's tracks into the little pool
formerly mentioned as Port Stevenson.
[Footnote 1: The author has himself bathed in Fort Stevenson, so that
the reader may rely on the fidelity of this description of it and the
Here he was in comparative safety. True, the sprays burst over the
ledge called The Last Hope in heavy masses, but these could do him
no serious harm, and it would take a quarter of an hour at least for
the tide to sweep into the pool. Ruby therefore swam quietly to
Trinity Ledge, where he landed, and, stepping over it, sat down to
rest, with a thankful heart, on Smith's Ledge, the old familiar
spot where he and Jamie Dove had wrought so often and so hard at the
forge in former days.
He was now under the shadow of the Bell Rock Lighthouse, which
towered high above his head; and the impression of immovable solidity
which its cold, grey, stately column conveyed to his mind, contrasted
powerfully with the howling wind and the raging sea around. It seemed
to him, as he sat there within three yards of its granite base, like
the impersonation of repose in the midst of turmoil; of peace
surrounded by war; of calm and solid self-possession in the midst of
fretful and raging instability.
No one was there to welcome Ruby. The lightkeepers, high up in the
apartments in their wild home, knew nothing and heard nothing of all
that had passed so near them. The darkness of the night and the
roaring of the storm was all they saw or heard of the world without,
as they sat in their watch tower reading or trimming their lamps.
But Ruby was not sorry for this; he felt glad to be alone with God,
to thank Him for his recent deliverance.
Exhausting though the struggle had been, its duration was short, so
that he soon recovered his wonted strength. Then, rising, he got upon
the iron railway, or "rails", as the men used to call it, and a few
steps brought him to the foot of the metal ladder conducting to the
Climbing up, he stood at last in a place of safety, and disappeared
within the doorway of the lighthouse.
Meantime the French privateer sped onward to her doom.
The force with which the French commander fell when Ruby cast him
off, had stunned him so severely that it was a considerable time
before he recovered. The rest of the crew were therefore in absolute
ignorance of how to steer.
In this dilemma they lay-to for a short time, after getting away to a
sufficient distance from the dangerous rock, and consulted what was
to be done. Some advised one course, and some another, but it was
finally suggested that one of the English prisoners should be brought
up and commanded to steer out to sea.
This advice was acted on, and the sailor who was brought up chanced
to be one who had a partial knowledge of the surrounding coasts. One
of the Frenchmen who could speak a few words of English, did his best
to convey his wishes to the sailor, and wound up by producing a
pistol, which he cocked significantly.
"All right," said the sailor, "I knows the coast, and can run ye
straight out to sea. That's the Bell Rock Light on the weather-bow, I
"Oui, dat is de Bell Roke."
"Wery good; our course is due nor'west."
So saying, the man took the wheel and laid the ship's course
Now, he knew quite well that this course would carry the vessel
towards the harbour of Arbroath, into which he resolved to run at all
hazards, trusting to the harbour-lights to guide him when he should
draw near. He knew that he ran the strongest possible risk of getting
himself shot when the Frenchmen should find out his faithlessness,
but he hoped to prevail on them to believe the harbour-lights were
only another lighthouse, which they should have to pass on their way
out to sea, and then it would be too late to put the vessel about and
attempt to escape.
But all his calculations were useless, as it turned out, for in half
an hour the men at the bow shouted that there were breakers ahead,
and before the helm could be put down, they struck with such force
that the topmasts went overboard at once, and the sails, bursting
their sheets and tackling, were blown to ribbons.
Just then a gleam of moonlight struggled through the wrack of clouds,
and revealed the dark cliffs of the Forfar coast, towering high above
them. The vessel had struck on the rocks at the entrance to one of
those rugged bays with which that coast is everywhere indented.
t the first glance, the steersman knew that the doom of all on board
was fixed, for the bay was one of those which are surrounded by
almost perpendicular cliffs; and although, during calm weather, there
was a small space between the cliffs and the sea, which might be
termed a beach, yet during a storm the waves lashed with terrific
fury against the rocks, so that no human being might land there.
It chanced at the time that Captain Ogilvy, who took great delight in
visiting the cliffs in stormy weather, had gone out there for a
midnight walk with a young friend, and when the privateer struck, he
was standing on the top of the cliffs.
He knew at once that the fate of the unfortunate people on board was
almost certain, but, with his wonted energy, he did his best to
prevent the catastrophe.
"Run, lad, and fetch men, and ropes, and ladders. Alarm the whole
town, and use your legs well. Lives depend on your speed," said the
captain, in great excitement.
The lad required no second bidding. He turned and fled like a
The lieges of Arbroath were not slow to answer the summons. There
were neither lifeboats nor mortar-apparatus in those days, but there
were the same willing hearts and stout arms then as now, and in a
marvellously short space of time, hundreds of the able-bodied men of
the town, gentle and semple, were assembled on these wild cliffs,
with torches, rope, &c.; in short, with all the appliances for saving
life that the philanthropy of the times had invented or discovered.
But, alas! these appliances were of no avail. The vessel went to
pieces on the outer point of rocks, and part of the wreck, with the
crew clinging to it, drifted into the bay.
The horrified people on the cliffs looked down into that dreadful
abyss of churning water and foam, into which no one could descend.
Ropes were thrown again and again, but without avail. Either it was
too dark to see, or the wrecked men were paralysed. An occasional
shriek was heard above the roar of the tempest, as, one after
another, the exhausted men fell into the water, or were wrenched
from their hold of the piece of wreck.
At last one man succeeded in catching hold of a rope, and was
carefully hauled up to the top of the cliff.
It was found that this was one of the English sailors. He had taken
the precaution to tie the rope under his arms, poor fellow, having
no strength left to hold on to it; but he was so badly bruised as to
be in a dying state when laid on the grass.
"Keep back and give him air," said Captain Ogilvy, who had taken a
prominent part in the futile efforts to save the crew, and who now
kneeled at the sailor's side, and moistened his lips with a little
The poor man gave a confused and rambling account of the
circumstances of the wreck, but it was sufficiently intelligible to
make the captain acquainted with the leading particulars.
"Were there many of your comrades aboard?" he enquired.
The dying man looked up with a vacant expression. It was evident that
he did not quite understand the question, but he began again to
mutter in a partly incoherent manner.
"They're all gone," said he, "every man of 'em but me! All tied
together in the hold. They cast us loose, though, after she struck.
All gone! all gone!"
After a moment he seemed to try to recollect something. "No," said
he, "we weren't all together. They took Ruby on deck, and I never saw
him again. I wonder what they did——"
Here he paused.
"Who, did you say?" enquired the captain with deep anxiety.
"Ruby—Ruby Brand," replied the man.
"What became of him, said you?"
"Was he drowned?"
"Don't know," repeated the man.
The captain could get no other answer from him, so he was compelled
to rest content, for the poor man appeared to be sinking.
A sort of couch had been prepared for him, on which he was carried
into the town, but before he reached it he was dead. Nothing more
could be done that night, but next day, when the tide was out, men
were lowered down the precipitous sides of the fatal bay, and the
bodies of the unfortunate seamen were sent up to the top of the
cliffs by means of ropes. These ropes cut deep grooves in the turf,
as the bodies were hauled up one by one and laid upon the grass,
after which they were conveyed to the town, and decently interred.
The spot where this melancholy wreck occurred is now pointed out to
the visitor as "The Seamen's Grave", and the young folk of the town
have, from the time of the wreck, annually recut the grooves in the
turf, above referred to, in commemoration of the event, so that these
grooves may be seen there at the present day.
It may easily be imagined that poor Captain Ogilvy returned to
Arbroath that night with dark forebodings in his breast.
He could not, however, imagine how Ruby came to be among the men on
board of the French prize; and tried to comfort himself with the
thought that the dying sailor had perhaps been a comrade of Ruby's at
some time or other, and was, in his wandering state of mind, mixing
him up with the recent wreck.
As, however, he could come to no certain conclusion on this point, he
resolved not to tell what he had heard either to his sister or
Minnie, but to confine his anxieties, at least for the present, to
his own breast.
OLD FRIENDS IN NEW CIRCUMSTANCES
Let us now return to Ruby Brand; and in order that the reader may
perfectly understand the proceedings of that bold youth, let us take
a glance at the Bell Bock Lighthouse in its completed condition.
We have already said that the lower part, from the foundation to the
height of thirty feet, was built of solid masonry, and that at the
top of this solid part stood the entrance-door of the
building—facing towards the south.
The position of the door was fixed after the solid part had been
exposed to a winter's storms. The effect on the building was such
that the most sheltered or lee side was clearly indicated; the
weather-side being thickly covered with limpets, barnacles, and short
green seaweed, while the lee-side was comparatively free from such
The walls at the entrance-door are nearly seven feet thick, and the
short passage that pierces them leads to the foot of a spiral
staircase, which conducts to the lowest apartment in the tower, where
the walls decrease in thickness to three feet. This room is the
provision store. Here are kept water-tanks and provisions of all
kinds, including fresh vegetables which, with fresh water, are
supplied once a fortnight to the rock all the year round. The
provision store is the smallest apartment, for, as the walls of the
tower decrease in thickness as they rise, the several apartments
necessarily increase as they ascend.
The second floor is reached by a wooden staircase or ladder, leading
up through a "manhole" in the ceiling. Here is the lightroom store,
which contains large tanks of polished metal for the oil consumed by
the lights. A whole year's stock of oil, or about 1100 gallons, is
stored in these tanks. Here also is a small carpenter's bench and
tool-box, besides an endless variety of odds and ends,—such as
paint-pots, brushes, flags, waste for cleaning the reflectors,
Another stair, similar to the first, leads to the third floor, which
is the kitchen of the building. It stands about sixty-six feet above
the foundation. We shall have occasion to describe it and the rooms
above presently. Meanwhile, let it suffice to say, that the fourth
floor contains the men's sleeping berths, of which there are six,
although three men is the usual complement on the rock. The fifth
floor is the library, and above that is the lantern; the whole
building, from base to summit, being 115 feet high.
At the time when Ruby entered the door of the Bell Rock Lighthouse,
as already described, there were three keepers in the building, one
of whom was on his watch in the lantern, while the other two were in
These men were all old friends. The man in the lantern was George
Forsyth, who had been appointed one of the light-keepers in
consideration of his good services and steadiness. He was seated
reading at a small desk. Close above him was the blazing series of
lights, which revolved slowly and steadily by means of machinery,
moved by a heavy weight. A small bell was struck slowly but regularly
by the same machinery, in token that all was going on well. If that
bell had ceased to sound, Forsyth would at once have leaped up to
ascertain what was wrong with the lights. So long as it continued to
ring he knew that all was well, and that he might continue his
studies peacefully—not quietly, however, for, besides the rush of
wind against the thick plate glass of the lantern, there was the
never-ceasing roar of the ventilator, in which the heated air from
within and the cold air from without met and kept up a terrific war.
Keepers get used to that sound, however, and do not mind it.
Each keeper's duty was to watch for three successive hours in the
Not less familiar were the faces of the occupants of the kitchen. To
this apartment Ruby ascended without anyone hearing him approach, for
one of the windows was open, and the roar of the storm effectually
drowned his light footfall. On reaching the floor immediately below
the kitchen he heard the tones of a violin, and when his head emerged
through the manhole of the kitchen floor, he paused and listened with
deep interest, for the air was familiar.
Peeping round the corner of the oaken partition that separated the
manhole from the apartment, he beheld a sight which filled his heart
with gladness, for there, seated on a camp stool, with his back
leaning against the dresser, his face lighted up by the blaze of a
splendid fire, which burned in a most comfortable-looking kitchen
range, and his hands drawing forth most pathetic music from a violin,
sat his old friend Joe Dumsby, while opposite to him on a similar
camp stool, with his arm resting on a small table, and a familiar
black pipe in his mouth, sat that worthy son of Vulcan, Jamie Dove.
The little apartment glowed with ruddy light, and to Ruby, who had
just escaped from a scene of such drear and dismal aspect, it
appeared, what it really was, a place of the most luxurious comfort.
Dove was keeping time to the music with little puffs of smoke, and
Joe was in the middle of a prolonged shake, when Ruby passed through
the doorway and stood before them.
Dove's eyes opened to their widest, and his jaw dropt, so did his
pipe, and the music ceased abruptly, while the faces of both men grew
"I'm not a ghost, boys," said Ruby, with a laugh, which afforded
immense relief to his old comrades. "Come, have ye not a welcome for
an old messmate who swims off to visit you on such a night as this?"
Dove was the first to recover. He gasped, and, holding out both
arms, exclaimed, "Ruby Brand!"
"And no mistake!" cried Ruby, advancing and grasping his friend
warmly by the hands.
For at least half a minute the two men shook each other's hands
lustily and in silence. Then they burst into a loud laugh, while Joe,
suddenly recovering, went crashing into a Scotch reel with energy so
great that time and tune were both sacrificed. As if by mutual
impulse, Ruby and Dove began to dance! But this was merely a spurt of
feeling, more than half-involuntary. In the middle of a bar Joe flung
down the fiddle, and, springing up, seized Ruby round the neck and
hugged him, an act which made him aware of the fact that he was
"Did ye swim hoff to the rock?" he enquired, stepping back, and
gazing at his friend with a look of surprise, mingled with awe.
"Indeed I did."
"But how? why? what mystery are ye rolled up in?" exclaimed the
"Sit down, sit down, and quiet yourselves," said Ruby, drawing a
stool near to the fire, and seating himself. "I'll explain, if
you'll only hold your tongues, and not look so scared like."
"No, Ruby; no, lad, you must change yer clothes first," said the
smith, in a tone of authority; "why, the fire makes you steam like a
washin' biler. Come along with me, an' I'll rig you out."
"Ay, go hup with 'im, Ruby. Bless me, this is the most amazin'
hincident as ever 'appened to me. Never saw nothink like it."
As Dove and Ruby ascended to the room above, Joe went about the
kitchen talking to himself, poking the fire violently, overturning
the camp stools, knocking about the crockery on the dresser, and
otherwise conducting himself like a lunatic.
Of course Ruby told Dove parts of his story by fits and starts as he
was changing his garments; of course he had to be taken up to the
lightroom and go through the same scene there with Forsyth that had
occurred in the kitchen; and, of course, it was not until all the
men, himself included, had quite exhausted themselves, that he was
able to sit down at the kitchen fire and give a full and connected
account of himself, and of his recent doings.
After he had concluded his narrative, which was interrupted by
frequent question and comment, and after he had refreshed himself
with a cup of tea, he rose and said—
"Now, boys, it's not fair to be spending all the night with you here,
while my old comrade Forsyth sits up yonder all alone. I'll go up and
see him for a little."
"We'll go hup with 'ee, lad," said Dumsby.
"No ye won't," replied Ruby; "I want him all to myself for a while;
fair play and no favour, you know, used to be our watchword on the
rock in old times. Besides, his watch will be out in a little, so ye
can come up and fetch him down."
"Well, go along with you," said the smith. "Hallo! that must have
been a big 'un."
This last remark had reference to a distinct tremor in the building,
caused by the falling of a great wave upon it.
"Does it often get raps like that?" enquired Ruby, with a look of
"Not often," said Dove, "once or twice durin' a gale, mayhap, when a
bigger one than usual chances to fall on us at the right angle. But
the lighthouse shakes worst just the gales begin to take off and when
the swell rolls in heavy from the east'ard."
"Ay, that's the time," quoth Joe. "W'y, I've 'eard all the cups and
saucers on the dresser rattle with the blows o' them heavy seas, but
the gale is gittin' to be too strong to-night to shake us much."
"Too strong!" exclaimed Ruby.
"Ay. You see w'en it blows very hard, the breakers have not time to
come down on us with a 'eavy tellin' blow, they goes tumblin' and
swashin' round us and over us, hammerin' away wildly every how, or
nohow, or anyhow, just like a hexcited man fightin' in a hurry. The
after-swell, that's wot does it. That's wot comes on slow, and
big, and easy, but powerful, like a great prize-fighter as knows what
he can do, and means to do it."
"A most uncomfortable sort of residence," said Ruby, as he turned to
quit the room.
"Not a bit, when ye git used to it," said the smith. "At first we was
rather skeered, but we don't mind now. Come, Joe, give us 'Rule,
Britannia'—'pity she don't rule the waves straighter', as somebody
So saying, Dove resumed his pipe, and Dumsby his fiddle, while Ruby
proceeded to the staircase that led to the rooms above.
Just as he was about to ascend, a furious gust of wind swept past,
accompanied by a wild roar of the sea; at the same moment a mass of
spray dashed against the small window at his side. He knew that this
window was at least sixty feet above the rock, and he was suddenly
filled with a strong desire to have a nearer view of the waves that
had force to mount so high. Instead, therefore, of ascending to the
lantern, he descended to the doorway, which was open, for, as the
storm blew from the eastward, the door was on the lee-side.
There were two doors—one of metal, with thick plate-glass panels at
the inner end of the passage; the other, at the outer end of it, was
made of thick solid wood bound with metal, and hung so as to open
outwards. When the two leaves of this heavy door were shut they were
flush with the tower, so that nothing was presented for the waves to
act upon. But this door was never closed except in cases of storm
from the southward.
The scene which presented itself to our hero when he stood in the
entrance passage was such as neither pen nor pencil can adequately
depict. The tide was full, or nearly so, and had the night been calm
the water would have stood about twelve or fourteen feet on the sides
of the tower, leaving a space of about the same height between its
surface and the spot at the top of the copper ladder where Ruby
stood; but such was the wild commotion of the sea that this space was
at one moment reduced to a few feet, as the waves sprang up towards
the doorway, or nearly doubled, as they sank hissing down to the very
Acres of white, leaping, seething foam covered the spot where the
terrible Bell Rock lay. Never for a moment did that boiling cauldron
get time to show one spot of dark-coloured water. Billow after billow
came careering on from the open sea in quick succession, breaking
with indescribable force and fury just a few yards to windward of the
foundations of the lighthouse, where the outer ledges of the rock,
although at the time deep down in the water, were sufficiently near
the surface to break their first full force, and save the tower from
destruction, though not from many a tremendous blow and overwhelming
deluge of water.
When the waves hit the rock they were so near that the lighthouse
appeared to receive the shock. Rushing round it on either side, the
cleft billows met again to leeward, just opposite the door, where
they burst upwards in a magnificent cloud of spray to a height of
full thirty feet. At one time, while Ruby held on by the man-ropes
at the door and looked over the edge, he could see a dark abyss
with the foam shimmering pale far below; another instant, and the
solid building perceptibly trembled, as a green sea hit it fair on
the weather-side. A continuous roar and hiss followed as the billow
swept round, filled up the dark abyss, and sent the white water
gleaming up almost into the doorway. At the same moment the sprays
flew by on either side of the column, so high that a few drops were
thrown on the lantern. To Ruby's eye these sprays appeared to be
clouds driving across the sky, so high were they above his head. A
feeling of awe crept over him as his mind gradually began to realize
the world of water which, as it were, overwhelmed him—water and foam
roaring and flying everywhere—the heavy seas thundering on the
column at his back—the sprays from behind arching almost over the
lighthouse, and meeting those that burst up in front, while an eddy
of wind sent a cloud swirling in at the doorway, and drenched him to
the skin! It was an exhibition of the might of God in the storm such
as he had never seen before, and a brief sudden exclamation of
thanksgiving burst from the youth's lips, as he thought of how
hopeless his case would have been had the French vessel passed the
lighthouse an hour later than it did.
The contrast between the scene outside and that inside the Bell Rock
Lighthouse at that time was indeed striking. Outside there was madly
raging conflict; inside there were peace, comfort, security: Ruby,
with his arms folded, standing calmly in the doorway; Jamie Dove and
Joe Dumsby smoking and fiddling in the snug kitchen; George Forsyth
reading (the Pilgrim's Progress mayhap, or Robinson Crusoe, for
both works were in the Bell Rock library) by the bright blaze of the
crimson and white lamps, high up in the crystal lantern.
If a magician had divided the tower in two from top to bottom while
some ship was staggering past before the gale, he would have
presented to the amazed mariners the most astonishing picture of "war
without and peace within" that the world ever saw!
MIDNIGHT CHAT IN A LANTERN
"I'll have to borrow another shirt and pair of trousers from you,
Dove," said Ruby with a laugh, as he returned to the kitchen.
"What! been having another swim?" exclaimed the smith. "Not exactly,
but you see I'm fond o' water. Come along, lad."
In a few minutes the clothes were changed, and Ruby was seated beside
Forsyth, asking him earnestly about his friends on shore.
"Ah! Ruby," said Forsyth, "I thought it would have killed your old
mother when she was told of your bein' caught by them sea-sharks, and
taken off to the wars. You must know I came to see a good deal of
your friends, through—through—hoot! what's the name? the
fair-haired lass that lives with——"
"Minnie?" suggested Ruby, who could not but wonder that any man
living should forget her name for a moment.
"Ay, Minnie it is. She used to come to see my wife about some work
they wanted her to do, and I was now and again sent up with a message
to the cottage, and Captain Ogilvy always invited me in to take a
glass out of his old teapot. Your mother used to ask me ever so many
questions about you, an' what you used to say and do on the rock when
this lighthouse was buildin'. She looked so sad and pale, poor thing;
I really thought it would be all up with her, an' I believe it would,
but for Minnie. It was quite wonderful the way that girl cheered your
mother up, by readin' bits o' the Bible to her, an' tellin' her that
God would certainly send you back again. She looked and spoke always
so brightly too."
"Did she do that?" exclaimed Ruby, with emotion.
Forsyth looked for a moment earnestly at his friend.
"I mean," continued Ruby, in some confusion, "did she look bright
when she spoke of my bein' away?"
"No lad, it was when she spoke of you comin' back; but I could see
that her good spirits was partly put on to keep up the old woman."
For a moment or two the friends remained silent.
Suddenly Forsyth kid his hand on the other's shoulder, and said
impressively: "Ruby Brand, it's my belief that that girl is rather
fond of you."
Ruby looked up with a bright smile, and said, "D'you think so? Well,
d'ye know, I believe she is."
"Upon my word, youngster," exclaimed the other, with a look of
evident disgust, "your conceit is considerable. I had thought to be
somewhat confidential with you in regard to this idea of mine, but
you seem to swallow it so easy, and to look upon it as so natural a
thing, that—that—Do you suppose you've nothin' to do but ask the
girl to marry you and she'll say 'Yes' at once?"
"I do," said Ruby quietly; "nay, I am sure of it."
Forsyth's eyes opened very wide indeed at this. "Young man," said he,
"the sea must have washed all the modesty you once had out of
"I hope not," interrupted the other, "but the fact is that I put the
question you have supposed to Minnie long ago, and she did say
'Yes' to it then, so it's not likely she's goin' to draw back now."
"Whew! that alters the case," cried Forsyth, seizing his friend's
hand, and wringing it heartily.
"Hallo! you two seem to be on good terms, anyhow," observed Jamie
Dove, whose head appeared at that moment through the hole in the
floor by which the lantern communicated with the room below. "I came
to see if anything had gone wrong, for your time of watch is up."
"So it is," exclaimed Forsyth, rising and crossing to the other side
of the apartment, where he applied his lips to a small tube in the
"What are you doing?" enquired Ruby.
"Whistling up Joe," said Forsyth. "This pipe runs down to the
sleepin' berths, where there's a whistle close to Joe's ear. He must
be asleep. I'll try again."
He blew down the tube a second time and listened for a reply, which
came up a moment or two after in a sharp whistle through a similar
tube reversed; that is, with the mouthpiece below and the whistle
Soon after, Joe Dumsby made his appearance at the trapdoor, looking
"I feels as 'eavy as a lump o' lead," said he. "Wot an 'orrible
thing it is to be woke out o' a comf'r'able sleep."
Just as he spoke the lighthouse received a blow so tremendous that
all the men started and looked at each other for a moment in
"I say, is it warranted to stand anything?" enquired Ruby
"I hope it is," replied the smith, "else it'll be a blue lookout for
us. But we don't often get such a rap as that. D'ye mind the first
we ever felt o' that sort, Forsyth? It happened last month. I was on
watch at the time, Forsyth was smokin' his pipe in the kitchen, and
Dumsby was in bed, when a sea struck us with such force that I
thought we was done for. In a moment Forsyth and Joe came tumblin' up
the ladder—Joe in his shirt. 'It must have been a ship sailed right
against us,' says Forsyth, and with that we all jumped on the rail
that runs round the lantern there and looked out, but no ship could
be seen, though it was a moonlight night. You see there's plenty o'
water at high tide to let a ship of two hundred tons, drawin' twelve
feet, run slap into us, and we've sometimes feared this in foggy
weather; but it was just a blow of the sea. We've had two or three
like it since, and are gettin' used to it now."
"Well, we can't get used to do without sleep," said Forsyth, stepping
down through the trapdoor, "so I'll bid ye all good night."
"'Old on! Tell Ruby about Junk before ye go," cried Dumsby. "Ah!
well, I'll tell 'im myself. You must know, Ruby, that we've got what
they calls an hoccasional light-keeper ashore, who larns the work out
'ere in case any of us reg'lar keepers are took ill, so as 'e can
supply our place on short notice. Well, 'e was out 'ere larnin' the
dooties one tremendous stormy night, an' the poor fellow was in a
mortial fright for fear the lantern would be blowed right hoff the
top o' the stone column, and 'imself along with it. You see, the door
that covers the manhole there is usually shut when we're on watch,
but Junk (we called 'im Junk 'cause 'e wos so like a lump o' fat
pork), 'e kep the door open all the time an' sat close beside it, so
as to be ready for a dive. Well, it was my turn to watch, so I went
up, an' just as I puts my fut on the first step o' the lantern-ladder
there comes a sea like wot we had a minit ago; the wind at the same
time roared in the wentilators like a thousand fiends, and the spray
dashed agin the glass. Junk gave a yell, and dived. He thought it wos
all over with 'im, and wos in sich a funk that he came down 'ead
foremost, and would sartinly 'ave broke 'is neck if 'e 'adn't come
slap into my buzzum! I tell 'e it was no joke, for 'e wos fourteen
stone if 'e wos an ounce, an'——"
"Come along, Ruby," said Dove, interrupting; "the sooner we dive too
the better, for there's no end to that story when Dumsby get off in
full swing. Good night!"
"Good night, lads, an' better manners t'ye!" said Joe, as he sat down
beside the little desk where the lightkeepers were wont during the
lonely watch-hours of the night to read, or write, or meditate.
EVERYDAY LIFE ON THE BELL ROCK, AND OLD MEMORIES RECALLED
The sun shone brightly over the sea next morning; so brightly and
powerfully that it seemed to break up and disperse by force the great
storm-clouds which hung about the sky, like the fragments of an army
of black bullies who had done their worst and been baffled.
The storm was over; at least, the wind had moderated down to a fresh,
invigorating breeze. The white crests of the billows were few and far
between, and the wild turmoil of waters had given place to a grand
procession of giant waves, that thundered on the Bell Rock
Lighthouse, at once with more dignity and more force than the raging
seas of the previous night.
It was the sun that awoke Ruby, by shining in at one of the small
windows of the library, in which he slept. Of course it did not shine
in his face, because of the relative positions of the library and the
sun, the first being just below the lantern, and the second just
above the horizon, so that the rays struck upwards, and shone with
dazzling brilliancy on the dome-shaped ceiling. This was the second
time of wakening for Ruby that night, since he lay down to rest. The
first wakening was occasioned by the winding up of the machinery
which kept the lights in motion, and the chain of which, with a
ponderous weight attached to it, passed through a wooden pilaster
close to his ear, causing such a sudden and hideous din that the
sleeper, not having been warned of it, sprang like a Jack-in-the-box
out of bed into the middle of the room, where he first stared
vacantly around him like an unusually surprised owl, and then,
guessing the cause of the noise, smiled pitifully, as though to say,
"Poor fellow, you're easily frightened," and tumbled back into bed,
where he fell asleep again instantly.
On the second time of wakening Ruby rose to a sitting posture,
yawned, looked about him, yawned again, wondered what o'clock it was,
and then listened.
No sound could be heard save the intermittent roar of the magnificent
breakers that beat on the Bell Rock. His couch was too low to permit
of his seeing anything but sky out of his windows, three of which,
about two feet square, lighted the room. He therefore jumped up, and,
while pulling on his garments, looked towards the east, where the sun
greeted and almost blinded him. Turning to the north window, a bright
smile lit up his countenance, and "A blessing rest on you" escaped
audibly from his lips, as he kissed his hand towards the cliffs of
Forfarshire, which were seen like a faint blue line on the far-off
horizon, with the town of Arbroath just rising above the morning
He gazed out at this north window, and thought over all the scenes
that had passed between him and Minnie from the time they first met,
down to the day when they last parted. One of the sweetest of the
mental pictures that he painted that morning with unwonted facility,
was that of Minnie sitting at his mother's feet, comforting her with
the words of the Bible.
At length he turned with a sigh to resume his toilette. Looking out
at the southern window, he observed that the rocks were beginning to
be uncovered, and that the "rails", or iron pathway that led to the
foot of the entrance-door ladder, were high enough out of the water
to be walked upon. He therefore hastened to descend.
We know not what appearance the library presented at the time when
Ruby Brand slept in it; but we can tell, from personal experience,
that, at the present day, it is a most comfortable and elegant
apartment. The other rooms of the lighthouse, although thoroughly
substantial in their furniture and fittings, are quite plain and
devoid of ornament, but the library, or "stranger's room", as it is
sometimes called, being the guest-chamber, is fitted up in a style
worthy of a lady's boudoir, with a Turkey carpet, handsome chairs,
and an elaborately carved oak table, supported appropriately by a
centre stem of three twining dolphins. The dome of the ceiling is
painted to represent stucco panelling, and the partition which cuts
off the small segment of this circular room that is devoted to
passage and staircase, is of panelled oak. The thickness of this
partition is just sufficient to contain the bookcase; also a cleverly
contrived bedstead, which can be folded up during the day out of
sight. There is also a small cupboard of oak, which serves the double
purpose of affording shelf accommodation and concealing the iron
smoke-pipe which rises from the kitchen, and, passing through the
several storeys, projects a few feet above the lantern. The centre
window is ornamented with marble sides and top, and above it stands
a marble bust of Robert Stevenson, the engineer of the building, with
a marble slab below bearing testimony to the skill and energy with
which he had planned and executed the work.
If not precisely what we have described it to be at the present time,
the library must have been somewhat similar on that morning when our
hero issued from it and descended to the rock.
The first stair landed him at the entrance to the sleeping-berths. He
looked into one, and observed Forsyth's head and arms lying in the
bed, in that peculiarly negligent style that betokens deep and sweet
repose. Dumsby's rest was equally sound in the next berth. This fact
did not require proof by ocular demonstration; his nose announced it
sonorously over the whole building.
Passing to the kitchen, immediately below, Ruby found his old
messmate, Jamie Dove, busy in the preparation of breakfast.
"Ha! Ruby, good mornin'; you keep up your early habits, I see. Can't
shake yer paw, lad, 'cause I'm up to the elbows in grease, not to
speak o' sutt an' ashes."
"When did you learn to cook, Jamie?" said Ruby, laughing.
"When I came here. You see we've all got to take it turn and turn
about, and it's wonderful how soon a feller gets used to it. I'm
rather fond of it, d'ye know? We haven't overmuch to work on in the
way o' variety, to be sure, but what we have there's lots of it,
an' it gives us occasion to exercise our wits to invent somethin'
new. It's wonderful what can be done with fresh beef, cabbage,
carrots, potatoes, flour, tea, bread, mustard, sugar, pepper, an'
the like, if ye've got a talent that way."
"You've got it all off by heart, I see," said Ruby.
"True, boy, but it's not so easy to get it all off yer stomach
sometimes. What with confinement and want of exercise we was troubled
with indigestion at first, but we're used to it now, and I have
acquired quite a fancy for cooking. No doubt you'll hear Forsyth and
Joe say that I've half-pisoned them four or five times, but that's
all envy; besides, a feller can't learn a trade without doin' a
little damage to somebody or something at first. Did you ever taste
"No," replied Ruby, "never."
"Then you shall taste one to-day, for we caught fifty birds last
"Caught fifty birds?"
"Ay, but I'll tell ye about it some other time. Be off just now, and
get as much exercise out o' the rock as ye can before breakfast."
The smith resumed his work as he said this, and Ruby descended.
He found the sea still roaring over the rock, but the rails were so
far uncovered that he could venture on them, yet he had to keep a
sharp lookout, for, whenever a larger breaker than usual struck the
rock, the gush of foaming water that flew over it was so great that a
spurt or two would sometimes break up between the iron bars, and any
one of these spurts would have sufficed to give him a thorough
In a short time, however, the sea went back and left the rails free.
Soon after that Ruby was joined by Forsyth and Dumsby, who had come
down for their morning promenade.
They had to walk in single file while taking exercise, as the tramway
was not wide enough for two, and the rock, even when fully uncovered,
did not afford sufficient level space for comfortable walking,
although at low water (as the reader already knows) it afforded fully
a hundred yards of scrambling ground, if not more.
They had not walked more than a few minutes when they were joined by
Jamie Dove, who announced breakfast, and proceeded to take two or
three turns by way of cooling himself. Thereafter the party returned
to the kitchen, where they sat down to as good a meal as any
reasonable man could desire.
There was cold boiled beef—the remains of yesterday's dinner—and a
bit of broiled cod, a native of the Bell Rock, caught from the
doorway at high water the day before. There was tea also, and
toast—buttered toast, hot out of the oven.
Dove was peculiarly good at what may be styled toast-cooking. Indeed,
all the lightkeepers were equally good. The bread was cut an inch
thick, and butter was laid on as plasterers spread plaster with a
trowel. There was no scraping off a bit here to put it on there; no
digging out pieces from little caverns in the bread with the point of
the knife; no repetition of the work to spread it thinner, and, above
all, no omitting of corners or edges;—no, the smallest conceivable
fly could not have found the minutest atom of dry footing on a Bell
Rock slice of toast, from its centre to its circumference. Dove had a
liberal heart, and he laid on the butter with a liberal hand. Fair
play and no favour was his motto, quarter-inch thick was his gauge,
railway speed his practice. The consequence was that the toast
floated, as it were, down the throats of the men, and compensated to
some extent for the want of milk in the tea.
"Now, boys, sit in," cried Dove, seizing the teapot. "We have not
much variety," observed Dumsby to Ruby, in an apologetic tone.
"Variety!" exclaimed Forsyth, "what d'ye call that?" pointing to the
"Well, that is a hextra morsel, I admit," returned Joe; "but we
don't get that every day; 'owsever, wot there is is good, an' there's
plenty of it, so let's fall to."
Forsyth said grace, and then they all "fell to", with appetites
peculiar to that isolated and breezy spot, where the wind blows so
fresh from the open sea that the nostrils inhale culinary odours, and
the palates seize culinary products, with unusual relish.
There was something singularly unfeminine in the manner in which the
duties of the table were performed by these stalwart guardians of the
Rock. We are accustomed to see such duties performed by the tender
hands of woman, or, it may be, by the expert fingers of trained
landsmen; but in places where woman may not or can not act with
propriety,—as on shipboard, or in sea-girt towers,—men go through
such feminine work in a way that does credit to their
versatility,—also to the strength of culinary materials and
The way in which Jamie Dove and his comrades knocked about the pans,
teapots, cups and saucers, &c., without smashing them, would have
astonished, as well as gratified, the hearts of the fraternity of
tinsmiths and earthenware manufacturers.
We have said that everything in the lighthouse was substantial and
very strong. All the woodwork was oak, the floors and walls of solid
stone,—hence, when Dove, who had no nerves or physical feelings,
proceeded with his cooking, the noise he caused was tremendous. A man
used to woman's gentle ways would, on seeing him poke the fire, have
expected that the poker would certainly penetrate not only the coals,
but the back of the grate also, and perchance make its appearance at
the outside of the building itself, through stones, joggles,
dovetails, trenails, pozzolano mortar, and all the strong materials
that have withstood the fury of winds and waves for the last
Dove treated the other furniture in like manner; not that he treated
it ill,—we would not have the reader imagine this for a moment. He
was not reckless of the household goods. He was merely indifferent as
to the row he made in using them.
But it was when the cooking was over, and the table had to be spread,
that the thing culminated. Under the impulse of lightheartedness,
caused by the feeling that his labours for the time were nearly
ended, and that his reward was about to be reaped, he went about with
irresistible energy, like the proverbial bull in a china shop,
without reaching that creature's destructive point. It was then that
a beaming smile overspread his countenance, and he raged about the
kitchen with Vulcan-like joviality. He pulled out the table from the
wall to the centre of the apartment, with a swing that produced a
prolonged crash. Up went its two leaves with two minor crashes. Down
went the four plates and the cups and saucers, with such violence and
rapidity that they all seemed to be dancing on the board together.
The beef all but went over the side of its dish by reason of the
shock of its sudden stoppage on touching the table, and the pile of
toast was only saved from scatteration by the strength of the
material, so to speak, with which its successive layers were
When the knives, forks, and spoons came to be laid down, the storm
seemed to lull, because these were comparatively light implements,
so that this period—which in shore-going life is usually found to
be the exasperating one—was actually a season of relief. But it was
always followed by a terrible squall of scraping wooden legs and
clanking human feet when the camp stools were set, and the men came
in and sat down to the meal.
The pouring out of the tea, however, was the point that would have
called forth the admiration of the world—had the world seen it. What
a contrast between the miserable, sickly, slow-dribbling silver and
other teapots of the land, and this great teapot of the sea! The Bell
Rock teapot had no sham, no humbug about it. It was a big,
bold-looking one, of true Britannia metal, with vast internal
capacity and a gaping mouth.
Dove seized it in his strong hand as he would have grasped his
biggest fore-hammer. Before you could wink, a sluice seemed to burst
open; a torrent of rich brown tea spouted at your cup, and it was
full—the saucer too, perhaps—in a moment.
But why dwell on these luxurious scenes? Reader, you can never know
them from experience unless you go to visit the Bell Bock; we will
therefore cease to tantalize you.
During breakfast it was discussed whether or not the signal-ball
should be hoisted.
The signal-ball was fixed to a short staff on the summit of the
lighthouse, and the rule was that it should be hoisted at a fixed
hour every morning when all was well, and kept up until an
answering signal should be made from a signal-tower in Arbroath
where the keepers' families dwelt, and where each keeper in
succession spent a fortnight with his family, after a spell of six
weeks on the rock. It was the duty of the keeper on shore to watch
for the hoisting of the ball (the "All's well" signal) each morning
on the lighthouse, and to reply to it with a similar ball on the
If, on any occasion, the hour for signalling should pass without the
ball on the lighthouse being shown, then it was understood that
something was wrong, and the attending boat of the establishment was
sent off at once to ascertain the cause, and afford relief if
necessary. The keeping down of the ball was, however, an event of
rare occurrence, so that when it did take place the poor wives of the
men on the rock were usually thrown into a state of much perturbation
and anxiety, each naturally supposing that her husband must be
seriously ill, or have met with a bad accident.
It was therefore natural that there should be some hesitation about
keeping down the ball merely for the purpose of getting a boat off to
send Ruby ashore.
"You see," said Forsyth, "the day after to-morrow the 'relief boat'
is due, and it may be as well just to wait for that, Ruby, and then
you can go ashore with your friend Jamie Dove, for it's his turn this
"Ay, lad, just make up your mind to stay another day," said the
smith; "as they don't know you're here they can't be wearyin' for
you, and I'll take ye an' introduce you to my little wife, that I
fell in with on the cliffs of Arbroath not long after ye was
kidnapped. Besides, Ruby, it'll do ye good to feed like a fighting
cock out here another day. Have another cup o' tea?"
"An' a junk o' beef?" said Forsyth.
"An' a slice o' toast?" said Dumsby.
Ruby accepted all these offers, and soon afterwards the four
friends descended to the rock, to take as much exercise as they
could on its limited surface, during the brief period of low water
that still remained to them.
It may easily be imagined that this ramble was an interesting one,
and was prolonged until the tide drove them into their tower of
refuge. Every rock, every hollow, called up endless reminiscences of
the busy building seasons. Ruby went over it all step by step with
somewhat of the feelings that influence a man when he revisits the
scene of his childhood. There was the spot where the forge had stood.
"D'ye mind it, lad?" said Dove. "There are the holes where the hearth
was fixed, and there's the rock where you vaulted over the bellows
when ye took that splendid dive after the fair-haired lassie into the
"Mind it? Ay, I should think so!"
Then there were the holes where the great beams of the beacon had
been fixed, and the iron bats, most of which latter were still left
in the rock, and some of which may be seen there at the present day.
There was also the pool into which poor Selkirk had tumbled with the
vegetables on the day of the first dinner on the rock, and that other
pool into which Forsyth had plunged after the mermaids; and, not
least interesting among the spots of note, there was the ledge, now
named the "Last Hope", on which Mr. Stevenson and his men had stood
on the day when the boat had been carried away, and they had
expected, but were mercifully preserved from, a terrible tragedy.
After they had talked much on all these things, and long before they
were tired of it, the sea drove them to the rails; gradually, as it
rose higher, it drove them into the lighthouse, and then each man
went to his work—Jamie Dove to his kitchen, in order to clean up and
prepare dinner, and the other two to the lantern, to scour and polish
the reflectors, refill and trim the lamps, and, generally, to put
everything in order for the coming night.
Ruby divided his time between the kitchen and lantern, lending a hand
in each, but, we fear, interrupting the work more than he advanced
That day it fell calm, and the sun shone brightly. "We'll have fog
to-night," observed Dumsby to Brand, pausing in the operation of
polishing a reflector, in which his fat face was mirrored with the
most indescribable and dreadful distortions.
"D'ye think so?"
"I'm sure of it."
"You're right," remarked Forsyth, looking from his elevated position
to the seaward horizon. "I can see it coming now."
"I say, what smell is that?" exclaimed Ruby, sniffing.
"Somethink burnin'," said Dumsby, also sniffing.
"Why, what can it be?" murmured Forsyth, looking round and likewise
sniffing. "Hallo! Joe, look out; you're on fire!"
Joe started, clapped his hand behind him, and grasped his
inexpressibles, which were smouldering warmly. Ruby assisted, and the
fire was soon put out, amidst much laughter.
"'Ang them reflectors!" said Joe, seating himself, and breathing hard
after his alarm and exertions; "it's the third time they've set me
"The reflectors, Joe?" said Ruby.
"Ay, don't ye see? They've nat'rally got a focus, an' w'en I 'appen
to be standin' on a sunny day in front of 'em, contemplatin' the face
o' natur', as it wor, through the lantern panes, if I gits into the
focus by haccident, d'ye see, it just acts like a burnin'-glass."
Ruby could scarcely believe this, but after testing the truth of the
statement by actual experiment he could no longer doubt it.
Presently a light breeze sprang up, rolling the fog before it, and
then dying away, leaving the lighthouse enshrouded.
During fog there is more danger to shipping than at any other time.
In the daytime, in ordinary weather, rocks and lighthouses can be
seen. At nights lights can be seen, but during fog nothing can be
seen until danger may be too near to be avoided. The two great
fog-bells of the lighthouse were therefore set agoing, and they rang
out their slow deep-toned peal all that day and all that night, as
the bell of the Abbot of Aberbrothoc is said to have done in days of
That night Ruby was astonished, and then he was stunned!
First, as to his astonishment. While he was seated by the kitchen
fire chatting with his friend the smith, sometime between nine
o'clock and midnight, Dumsby summoned him to the lantern to "help in
catching to-morrow's dinner!"
Dove laughed at the summons, and they all went up.
The first thing that caught Ruby's eye at one of the window panes
was the round visage of an owl, staring in with its two large eyes as
if it had gone mad with amazement, and holding on to the iron frame
with its claws. Presently its claws lost hold, and it fell off into
"What think ye o' that for a beauty?" said Forsyth. Ruby's eyes,
being set free from the fascination of the owl's stare, now made him
aware of the fact that hundreds of birds of all kinds—crows,
magpies, sparrows, tomtits, owls, larks, mavises, blackbirds, &c.
&c.—were fluttering round the lantern outside, apparently bent on
ascertaining the nature of the wonderful light within.
"Ah! poor things," said Forsyth, in answer to Ruby's look of wonder,
"they often visit us in foggy weather. I suppose they get out to sea
in the fog and can't find their way back to land, and then some of
them chance to cross our light and take refuge on it."
"Now I'll go out and get to-morrow's dinner," said Dumsby. He went
out accordingly, and, walking round the balcony that encircled the
base of the lantern, was seen to put his hand up and quietly take
down and wring the necks of such birds as he deemed suitable for his
purpose. It seemed a cruel act to Ruby, but when he came to think of
it he felt that, as they were to be stewed at any rate, the more
quickly they were killed the better!
He observed that the birds kept fluttering about, alighting for a few
moments and flying off again, all the time that Dumsby was at work,
yet Dumsby never failed to seize his prey.
Presently the man came in with a small basket full of game.
"Now, Ruby," said he, "I'll bet a sixpence that you don't catch a
bird within five minutes."
"I don't bet such large sums usually, but I'll try," said Ruby, going
He tried and failed. Just as the five minutes were expiring, however,
the owl happened to alight before his nose, so he "nabbed" it, and
carried it in triumphantly.
"That ain't a bird," said Dumsby.
"It's not a fish," retorted Ruby; "but how is it that you caught them
so easily, and I found it so difficult?"
"Because, lad, you must do it at the right time. You watch w'en the
focus of a revolvin' light is comin' full in a bird's face. The
moment it does so 'e's dazzled, and you grab 'im. If you grab too
soon or too late, 'e's away. That's 'ow it is, and they're capital
heatin', as you'll find."
Thus much for Ruby's astonishment. Now for his being stunned.
Late that night the fog cleared away, and the bells were stopped.
After a long chat with his friends, Ruby mounted to the library and
went to bed. Later still the fog returned, and the bells were again
set agoing. Both of them being within a few feet of Ruby's head, they
awakened him with a bang that caused him to feel as if the room in
which he lay were a bell and his own head the tongue thereof.
At first the sound was solemnizing, then it was saddening. After a
time it became exasperating, and then maddening. He tried to sleep,
but he only tossed. He tried to meditate, but he only wandered—not
"in dreams", however. He tried to laugh, but the laugh degenerated
into a growl. Then he sighed, and the sigh ended in a groan. Finally,
he got up and walked up and down the floor till his legs were cold,
when he turned into bed again, very tired, and fell asleep, but not
to rest—to dream.
He dreamt that he was at the forge again, and that he and Dove were
trying to smash their anvils with the sledge-hammers—bang and bang
about But the anvil would not break. At last he grew desperate, hit
the horn off, and then, with another terrific blow, smashed the whole
affair to atoms!
This startled him a little, and he awoke sufficiently to become aware
of the fog-bells.
Again he dreamed. Minnie was his theme now, but, strange to say, he
felt little or no tenderness towards her. She was beset by a hundred
ruffians in pea-jackets and sou'westers. Something stirred him to
madness. He rushed at the foe, and began to hit out at them right and
left. The hitting was slow, but sure—regular as clockwork. First the
right, then the left, and at each blow a seaman's nose was driven
into his head, and a seaman's body lay flat on the ground. At length
they were all floored but one—the last and the biggest. Ruby threw
all his remaining strength into one crashing blow, drove his fist
right through his antagonist's body, and awoke with a start to find
his knuckles bleeding.
"Hang these bells!" he exclaimed, starting up and gazing round him in
despair. Then he fell back on his pillow in despair, and went to
sleep in despair.
Once more he dreamed. He was going to church now, dressed in a suit
of the finest broadcloth, with Minnie on his arm, clothed in pure
white, emblematic, it struck him, of her pure gentle spirit. Friends
were with him, all gaily attired, and very happy, but unaccountably
silent. Perhaps it was the noise of the wedding-bells that rendered
their voices inaudible. He was struck by the solemnity as well as the
pertinacity of these wedding-bells as he entered the church. He was
puzzled too, being a Presbyterian, why he was to be married in
church, but being a man of liberal mind, he made no objection to it.
They all assembled in front of the pulpit, into which the clergyman,
a very reverend but determined man, mounted with a prayer book in
his hand. Ruby was puzzled again. He had not supposed that the pulpit
was the proper place, but modestly attributed this to his ignorance.
"Stop those bells!" said the clergyman, with stern solemnity; but
they went on.
"Stop them, I say!" he roared in a voice of thunder. The sexton,
pulling the ropes in the middle of the church, paid no attention.
Exasperated beyond endurance, the clergyman hurled the prayer book at
the sexton's head, and felled him! Still the bells went on of their
"Stop! sto-o-o-o-p! I say," he yelled fiercely, and, hitting the
pulpit with his fist, he split it from top to bottom.
Minnie cried "Shame!" at this, and from that moment the bells ceased.
Whether it was that the fog-bells ceased at that time, or that
Minnie's voice charmed Ruby's thoughts away, we cannot tell, but
certain it is that the severely tried youth became entirely oblivious
of everything. The marriage-party vanished with the bells; Minnie,
alas! faded away also; finally, the roar of the sea round the Bell
Rock, the rock itself, its lighthouse and its inmates, and all
connected with it, faded from the sleeper's mind, and
"like the baseless fabric of a vision,
Left not a wrack behind."
Facts are facts; there is no denying that. They cannot be
controverted; nothing can overturn them, or modify them, or set them
aside. There they stand in naked simplicity: mildly contemptuous
alike of sophists and theorists.
Immortal facts! Bacon founded on you; Newton found you out; Dugald
Stewart and all his fraternity reasoned on you, and followed in your
wake. What would this world be without facts? Rest assured, reader,
that those who ignore facts and prefer fancies are fools. We say it
respectfully. We have no intention of being personal, whoever you
On the morning after Ruby was cast on the Bell Rock, our old friend
Ned O'Connor (having been appointed one of the lighthouse-keepers,
and having gone for his fortnight ashore in the order of his course)
sat on the top of the signal-tower at Arbroath with a telescope at
his eye directed towards the lighthouse, and became aware of a
fact,—a fact which seemed to be contradicted by those who ought to
have known better.
Ned soliloquized that morning. His soliloquy will explain the
circumstances to which we refer; we therefore record it here. "What's
that? Sure there's something wrong wid me eye intirely this mornin'.
Howld on" (he wiped it here, and applying it again to the telescope,
proceeded); "wan, tshoo, three, four! No mistake about it. Try
agin. Wan, tshoo, three, FOUR! An' yet the ball's up there as cool as
a cookumber, tellin' a big lie; ye know ye are," continued Ned,
apostrophizing the ball, and readjusting the glass.
"There ye are, as bold as brass—av ye're not copper—tellin' me that
everything goin' on as usual, whin I can see with me two eyes (wan
after the other) that there's four men on the rock, whin there
should be only three! Well, well," continued Ned, after a pause,
and a careful examination of the Bell Rock, which being twelve miles
out at sea could not be seen very distinctly in its lower parts, even
through a good glass, "the day afther to-morrow 'll settle the
question, Misther Ball, for then the Relief goes off, and faix, if I
don't guv' ye the lie direct I'm not an Irishman."
With this consolatory remark, Ned O'Connor descended to the rooms
below, and told his wife, who immediately told all the other wives
and the neighbours, so that ere long the whole town of Arbroath
became aware that there was a mysterious stranger, a fourth party,
on the Bell Rock!
Thus it came to pass that, when the relieving boat went off, numbers
of fishermen and sailors and others watched it depart in the morning,
and increased numbers of people of all sorts, among whom were many of
the old hands who had wrought at the building of the lighthouse,
crowded the pier to watch its return in the afternoon.
As soon as the boat left the rock, those who had "glasses" announced
that there was an "extra man in her".
Speculation remained on tiptoe for nearly three hours, at the end of
which time the boat drew near.
"It's a man, anyhow," observed Captain Ogilvie, who was one of those
near the outer end of the pier.
"I say," observed his friend the "leftenant", who was looking through
a telescope, "if—that's—not—Ruby—Brand—I'll eat my hat without
"You don't mean—let me see," cried the captain, snatching the glass
out of his friend's hand, and applying it to his eye. "I do
believe!—yes! it is Ruby, or his ghost!"
By this time the boat was near enough for many of his old friends to
recognize him, and Ruby, seeing that some of the faces were familiar
to him, rose in the stern of the boat, took off his hat and waved it.
This was the signal for a tremendous cheer from those who knew our
hero; and those who did not know him, but knew that there was
something peculiar and romantic in his case, and in the manner of his
arrival, began to cheer from sheer sympathy; while the little boys,
who were numerous, and who love to cheer for cheering's sake alone,
yelled at the full pitch of their lungs, and waved their ragged caps
as joyfully as if the King of England were about to land upon their
The boat soon swept into the harbour, and Ruby's friends, headed by
Captain Ogilvy, pressed forward to receive and greet him. The captain
embraced him, the friends surrounded him, and almost pulled him to
pieces; finally, they lifted him on their shoulders, and bore him in
triumphal procession to his mother's cottage.
And where was Minnie all this time? She had indeed heard the rumour
that something had occurred at the Bell Rock; but, satisfied from
what she heard that it could be nothing very serious, she was content
to remain at home and wait for the news. To say truth, she was too
much taken up with her own sorrows and anxieties to care as much for
public matters as she had been wont to do.
When the uproarious procession drew near, she was sitting at Widow
Brand's feet, "comforting her" in her usual way.
Before the procession turned the corner of the street leading to his
mother's cottage, Ruby made a desperate effort to address the crowd,
and succeeded in arresting their attention.
"Friends, friends!" he cried, "it's very good of you, very kind; but
my mother is old and feeble; she might be hurt if we were to come on
her in this fashion. We must go in quietly."
"True, true," said those who bore him, letting him down, "so, good
day, lad; good day. A shake o' your flipper; give us your hand; glad
you're back, Ruby; good luck to 'ee, boy!"
Such were the words, followed by three cheers, with which his friends
parted from him, and left him alone with the captain.
"We must break it to her, nephy," said the captain, as they moved
towards the cottage.
"'Still so gently o'er me stealin",
Memory will bring back the feelin'.'
It won't do to go slap into her, as a British frigate does into a
French line-o'-battle ship. I'll go in an' do the breakin' business,
and send out Minnie to you."
Ruby was quite satisfied with the captain's arrangement, so, when the
latter went in to perform his part of this delicate business, the
former remained at the doorpost, expectant.
"Minnie, lass, I want to speak to my sister," said the captain,
"leave us a bit—and there's somebody wants to see you outside."
"Ay, you; look alive now."
Minnie went out in some surprise, and had barely crossed the
threshold when she found herself pinioned in a strong man's arms! A
cry escaped her as she struggled, for one instant, to free herself;
but a glance was sufficient to tell who it was that held her.
Dropping her head on Ruby's breast, the load of sorrow fell from her
heart. Ruby pressed his lips upon her forehead, and they both rested
It was one of those pre-eminently sweet resting-places which are
vouchsafed to some, though not to all, of the pilgrims of earth, in
their toilsome journey through the wilderness towards that eternal
rest, in the blessedness of which all minor resting-places shall be
forgotten, whether missed or enjoyed by the way.
Their rest, however, was not of long duration, for in a few minutes
the captain rushed out, and exclaiming "She's swounded, lad," grasped
Ruby by the coat and dragged him into the cottage, where he found his
mother lying in a state of insensibility on the floor.
Seating himself by her side on the floor, he raised her gently, and
placing her in a half-sitting, half-reclining position in his lap,
laid her head tenderly on his breast. While in this position Minnie
administered restoratives, and the widow ere long opened her eyes and
looked up. She did not speak at first, but, twining her arms round
Ruby's neck, gazed steadfastly into his face; then, drawing him
closer to her heart, she fervently exclaimed "Thank God!!" and laid
her head down again with a deep sigh.
She too had found a resting-place by the way on that day of her
* * * * *
Now, reader, we feel bound to tell you in confidence that there are
few things more difficult than drawing a story to a close! Our tale
is done, for Ruby is married to Minnie, and the Bell Rock Lighthouse
is finished, and most of those who built it are scattered beyond the
possibility of reunion. Yet we are loath to shake hands with them and
to bid you farewell.
Nevertheless, so it must be, for if we were to continue the narrative
of the after-careers of our friends of the Bell Rock, the books that
should be written would certainly suffice to build a new lighthouse.
But we cannot make our bow without a parting word or two.
Ruby and Minnie, as we have said, were married. They lived in the
cottage with their mother, and managed to make it sufficiently large
to hold them all by banishing the captain into the scullery.
Do not suppose that this was done heartlessly, and without the
captain's consent. By no means. That worthy son of Neptune assisted
at his own banishment. In fact, he was himself the chief cause of it,
for when a consultation was held after the honeymoon, as to "what was
to be done now", he waved his hand, commanded silence, and delivered
himself as follows:—
"Now, shipmates all, give ear to me, an' don't ventur' to interrupt.
It's nat'ral an' proper, Ruby, that you an' Minnie and your mother
should wish to live together; as the old song says, 'Birds of a
feather flock together', an' the old song's right; and as the thing
ought to be, an' you all want it to be, so it shall be. There's
only one little difficulty in the way, which is, that the ship's too
small to hold us, by reason of the after-cabin bein' occupied by an
old seaman of the name of Ogilvy. Now, then, not bein' pigs, the
question is, what's to be done? I will answer that question: the
seaman of the name of Ogilvy shall change his quarters."
Observing at this point that both Ruby and his bride opened their
mouths to speak, the captain held up a threatening finger, and
sternly said, "Silence!" Then he proceeded—
"I speak authoritatively on this point, havin' conversed with the
seaman Ogilvy, and diskivered his sentiments. That seaman intends to
resign the cabin to the young couple, and to hoist his flag for the
futur' in the fogs'l."
He pointed, in explanation, to the scullery; a small, dirty-looking
apartment off the kitchen, which was full of pots and pans and
miscellaneous articles of household, chiefly kitchen, furniture.
Ruby and Minnie laughed at this, and the widow looked perplexed, but
perfectly happy and at her ease, for she knew that whatever
arrangement the captain should make, it would be agreeable in the end
to all parties.
"The seaman Ogilvy and I," continued the captain, "have gone over the
fogs'l" (meaning the forecastle) "together, and we find that, by the
use of mops, buckets, water, and swabs, the place can be made clean.
By the use of paper, paint, and whitewash, it can be made
respectable; and, by the use of furniture, pictures, books, and
baccy, it can be made comfortable. Now, the question that I've got to
propound this day to the judge and jury is—Why not?"
Upon mature consideration, the judge and jury could not answer "why
not?" therefore the thing was fixed and carried out and the captain
thereafter dwelt for years in the scullery, and the inmates of the
cottage spent so much of their time in the scullery that it became,
as it were, the parlour, or boudoir, or drawing-room of the place.
When, in course of time, a number of small Brands came to howl and
tumble about the cottage, they naturally gravitated towards the
scullery, which then virtually became the nursery, with a stout old
seaman, of the name of Ogilvy, usually acting the part of head nurse.
His duties were onerous, by reason of the strength of constitution,
lungs, and muscles of the young Brands, whose ungovernable desire to
play with that dangerous element from which heat is evolved,
undoubtedly qualified them for the honorary title of Fire-Brands.
With the proceeds of the jewel case Ruby bought a little coasting
vessel, with which he made frequent and successful voyages. "Absence
makes the heart grow fonder," no doubt, for Minnie grew fonder of
Ruby every time he went away, and every time he came back. Things
prospered with our hero, and you may be sure that he did not forget
his old friends of the lighthouse. On the contrary, he and his wife
became frequent visitors at the signal-tower, and the families of the
lighthouse-keepers felt almost as much at home in "the cottage" as
they did in their own houses. And each keeper, on returning from his
six weeks' spell on the rock to take his two weeks' spell at the
signal-tower, invariably made it his first business, after kissing
his wife and children, to go up to the Brands and smoke a pipe in the
scullery with that eccentric old seafaring nursery-maid of the name
In time Ruby found it convenient to build a top flat on the cottage,
and above this a small turret, which overlooked the opposite houses,
and commanded a view of the sea. This tower the captain converted
into a point of lookout, and a summer smoking-room,—and many a time
and oft, in the years that followed, did he and Ruby climb up there
about nightfall, to smoke the pipe of peace, with Minnie beside them,
and to watch the bright flashing of the red and white light on the
Bell Rock, as it shone over the waters far and wide, like a star of
the first magnitude, a star of hope and safety, guiding sailors to
their desired haven; perchance reminding them of that star of
Bethlehem which guided the shepherds to Him who is the Light of the
World and the Rock of Ages.
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
At the Villafield Press, Glasgow, Scotland