Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The Wreck of the Christ-Anna
By Robert Louis Stevenson (18501894)
From The Merry Men
SHE cam ashore Februar 10, about ten at nicht, he went on to me. There was nae wind, and a sair run o sea; and she was in the sook o the Roost, as I jaloose. We had seen her a day, Rorie and me, beating to the wind. She wasnae a handy craft, Im thinking, that Christ-Anna; for she would neither steer nor stay wi them. A sair day they had of it; their hands was never aff the sheets, and it perishin cauldower cauld to snaw; and aye they would get a bit nip o wind, and awa again, to pit the empy hope into them. Eh, man! but they had a sair day for the last ot! He would have had a prood, prood heart that won ashore upon the back o that.
We fand her in Sandag Bay, Rorie an me, and a thae braws in the inside of her. Theres a kittle bit ye sae, about Sandag; whiles the sook rins strong for the Merry Men; an whiles again, when the tides makin hard an ye can hear the Roost blawin at the far-end of Aros, there comes a back-spang of current straucht into Sandag Bay. Weel, theres the thing that got the grip on the Christ-Anna. She but to have come in ramstam an stern forrit; for the bows of her are aften under, and the back-side of her is clear at hie-water o neaps. But, man! the dunt that she cam doon wi when she struck! Lord save us a! but its an unco life to be a sailora cauld, wanchancy life. Monys the gliff I got mysel in the great deep; and why the Lord should hae made yon unco water is mair than ever I could win to understand. He made the vales and the pastures, the bonny green yaird, the halesome, canty land
And now they shout and sing to Thee,
For Thou hast made them glad,
as the Psalms say in the metrical version. No that I would preen my faith to that clink neither; but its bonny, and easier to mind. Who go to sea in ships, they haet again
Great waters trading be,
Within the deep these men Gods works
And His great wonders see.
Weel, its easy sayin sae. Maybe Dauvit wasnae very weel acquaint wi the sea. But, troth, if it wasnae prentit in the Bible, I wad whiles be tempit to think it wasnae the Lord, but the muckle black deil that made the sea. Theres naething good comes oot ot but the fish; an the spectacle o God riding on the tempest to be shüre, whilk would be what Dauvit likely was ettling at. But, man, there were sair wonders that God showed to the Christ-Annawonders, do I ca them? Judgments, rather: judgments in the mirk nicht among the draygons o the deep. And their soulsto think o thattheir souls, man, maybe no prepared! The seaa muckle yett to hell!
I observed, as my uncle spoke, that his voice was unnaturally moved and his manner unwontedly demonstrative. He leaned forward at the last words, for example, and touched me on the knee with his spread fingers, looking up into my face with a certain pallor, and I could see that his eyes shone with a deep-seated fire, and that the lines about his mouth were drawn and tremulous.
Even the entrance of Rorie, and the beginning of our meal, did not detach him from his train of thought beyond a moment. He condescended, indeed, to ask me some questions as to my success at college, but I thought it was with half his mind; and even in his extempore grace, which was, as usual, long and wandering, I could find the trace of his preoccupation, praying, as he did, that God would remember in mercy fower puir, feckless, fiddling, sinful creatures here by their lee-lane beside the great and dowie waters.
I observed that they both spoke in a manner of aside, and with some show of embarrassment, and that Mary herself appeared to colour, and looked down on her plate. Partly to show my knowledge, and so relieve the party from an awkward strain, partly because I was curious, I pursued the subject.
He spoke with great vehemence, as though angry; and perhaps I was not very willing to be put down so shortly, for young men are disputatious. At least I remember I retorted hotly, crying out upon childish superstitions.
And ye come frae the College! sneered Uncle Gordon. Gude kens what they learn folk there; its no muckle service onyway. Do ye think, man, that theres naething in a yon saut wilderness o a world oot wast there, wi the sea grasses growin, an the sea beasts fechtin, an the sun glintin down into it, day by day? Na; the seas like the land, but fearsomer. If theres folk ashore, theres folk in the seadeid they may be, but theyre folk whatever; and as for deils, theres nane thats like the sea deils. Theres no sae muckle harm in the land deils, when as said and done. Langsyne when I was a callant in the south country, I mind there was an auld, bald bogle in the Peewie Moss. I got a glisk o him mysel, sittin on his hunkers in a hag, as grays a tombstane. An, troth, he was a fearsomelike taed. But he steered naebody. Nae doobt, if ane that was a reprobate, ane the Lord hated, had gane by there wi his sin still upon his stamach, nae doobt the creature would hae lowped upo the likes o him. But theres deils in the deep sea would yoke on a communicant! Eh, sirs, if ye had gane doon wi the puir lads in the Christ-Anna, ye would ken by now the mercy o the seas. If ye had sailed it for as lang as me, ye would hate the thocht of it as I do. If ye had but used the een God gave ye, ye would hae learned the wickedness o that fause, saut, cauld, bullering creature, and of a thats in it by the Lords permission: labsters an partans, an sic like, howking in the deid; muckle, gutsy, blawing whales; an fishthe hale clan o themcauld-wamed, blind-eed uncanny ferlies. O sirs, he cried, the horrorthe horror o the sea!