Poison Island eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 327 pages of information about Poison Island.

I will spare the reader a description of our departure and of the passage to Jamaica, not only because they were quite uneventful (we did not even sight a’ privateer), but because they have been celebrated in verse by Plinny, in a descriptive poem of five cantos and some four thousand lines, entitled “The Voyage:  with an Englishwoman’s Reflections on her Favourite Element,” a few extracts from which I am permitted to quote—­

     “We sailed for Kingston in the Townshend packet. 
        The day auspicious was, and calm the heavens;
      Not so the scene on board—­oh, what a racket! 
        And everything on deck apparently at sixes and sevens. 
      Mail-bags and passengers mixed up in every direction,
        The latter engaged with their relatives in fond farewells;
      On the one hand the faltering accents of affection,
        On the other the unpolisht seamen emitting yells,
      With criticisms of a Custom House official
      Whose action for some reason they resented as prejudicial.

     “At length the last farewell is said,
        The anchor tripped, the gangway clear’d;
     ’Twas five p.m. ere past Pendennis Head
        Forth to th’ unfathomable deep we steer’d. 
        The bo’sun piped (he wore a manly beard);
      And while th’ attentive crew the braces trimm’d
        (Alluding to the ship’s), and while from observation
      The coast receded, we with eyes be-dimm’d
        Indulged in feelings natural to the situation.

     “Albion!  My Albion!  So called from the hue
        Thy cliffs wear by the Straits of Dover—­
      Though darker in this neighbourhood—­still adieu! 
        Albion, adieu!  I feel myself a rover. 
      Thy sons instinctively take to the water,
      And so will I, albeit but a daughter.”

A page later, in more tripping metre (which reflects her gaiety of spirits), she describes the ship—­

“The Townshend Packet is a gallant brig
Of one hundred and eighty tons;
’Tis the Postmaster-General’s favourite rig,
And she carries six useful guns. 
As she sails, as she sails
With his Majesty’s mails,
Hurrah for her long six-pounders! 
They relieve our fear
Of a privateer,
But what shall we do if she founders? 
I prefer not to think of any such contingency: 
She has excellent sailing qualities,
And her captain appears to rule with stringency
And to be averse from minor frivolities. 
With the late Admiral Nelson he may not provoke comparison. 
But one and all place implicit confidence in Captain Harrison.”

While Plinny cultivated the Muse—­and with the more zest as, to her pride and delight, she found herself immune from sea-sickness—­I kept up, through the long mornings, the pretence of studying mathematics with Captain Branscome, and regularly at noon received a lesson in taking the ship’s bearings.  Our fellow-voyagers were mostly merchants and agents bound for Jamaica, the trade of which had revived since the restoration of peace; and among them we passed for a well-to-do family travelling partly for pleasure to visit the island, but partly also with an idea of buying a plantation and settling there—­which explained the presence of Mr. Goodfellow.

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Poison Island from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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