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mariners who felt the voyage was an adventurous one. The weather was indeed perfectly still, and there was scarcely a faint ripple on the surface of the water, yet the mighty underswell of the Atlantic caused the fragile barks to rock and sway like so many cradles for infant mermaiden.
The transit was however an agreeable, as well as to most of the group, novel experience. The cruise among the uninhabited off-isles was like a dream of loveliness, the varied outline being exquisitely soft, graceful and Southern. Taken collectively, they number forty, though a large proportion are mere barren rocks. Many attract the eye from their fantastic beauty and diversity of form, but they are only tenanted by flocks of seabirds, which construct their nests in the deep wave-wom fissures of the crags. Upon this day everything was as fair as a transparent sky and golden autumn light could render it, and nothing could exceed the delicacy of the water tints as they perpetually changed from lilac to a pale translucent green. The passage only occupied an hour and half, and then the miniature flotilla landed safely on the shore of Tresco. Here all the little ones were soon dispersed, eagerly searching for the almost tropical shells, which abound on that narrow strip of sandy coast, yet are entirely unknown elsewhere in Britain. Whether they could be properly included amongst native specimens, was a point which Lilian and Mabel had debated more than once, and when at length their cabinet was enriched by some small species bearing a close resemblance to the Indian Cowry, Mr. Harland settled the discussion by suggesting that a shelf should be reserved for the Scillonian shells, which might thus form a link between British and foreign Conchology. To render this department as complete as possible, was now a great ambition of the sisters, who could never forget their keen sense of pleasure on discovering that a beautiful impearled shell of pale lilac, might be had by digging deep into the sandy ridge between Old Town and Blue Cam. Mabel longed much for “ learned leisure” upon this occasion, but there were more pressing claims to be considered, the charge of a troop of boys and girls being in fact rarely compatible with the pursuit of science.
After a salutary exercise of patience, the young stragglers were reassembled and began slowly to move inland under Mr. Harland's guidance. Their road lay over a barren sand-down, covered with tufted sea-grass of a light green hue, and a soft silken texture. The peculiar pathos of Scillonian scenery, (if such a term may be applied
to landscape) was more striking here than at S. Mary, or indeed any of the neighbouring islands. Continuing their course, they soon entered upon a level lawn-like meadow, bounded upon the further side by a large pond, which was, as Mabel took care to inform the children, one of twin lakes of Tresco Abbey. A few horses, cows, and sheep, were grazing peacefully on the smooth turf, lending by their familiar presence a more homelike aspect to the scene.
The residence of Mr. Selby, usually known as Tresco Abbey, crowned the highest elevation in the little isle, and, owing to its position in the centre of the group, commanded a view over the entire Archipelago. It was an unique structure, neither castle, hall, nor manor, but a sort of mingling of those three distinct types of domestic architecture. The result was a pile irregular in the extreme, but highly picturesque, being hewn from the solid rock by a slow series of excavations. The foreground was a shelving crag, at certain points nearly precipitous, laid out in the most formal style of an Italian park, and glowing with a rich variety of gorgeous blossoms.
Passing a massive but unornamented gateway, the first welcome to the travellers was bestowed by a tame emu, which with outstretched neck advanced to greet them. His captivity was shared by several fellow-exiles, beasts and birds, from the palm forests of the lower Amazon, and many of the children hailed the sight of these strange foreign creatures, as the crowning pleasure of the expedition. Soon the goodnatured housekeeper, Mrs. Rettallack, sallied forth to meet her master's guests, intent upon discharging to the uttermost the hospitable duties which devolved upon her in his absence.
“Dinner has been ordered at half-past three, Miss Gordon," she began, turning to Lilian, “and meanwhile the little dears will find in the summer-house, plenty of sandwiches, and cakes, and fruit. There are of course refreshments for you ladies and gentlemen, provided in the dining hall."
“ Many thanks," answered Lilian, “but I think we should prefer a luncheon in the open air, with the young people.” There was a general murmur of approbation, and the point was yielded by their cheerful hostess, although not without a few friendly remonstrances.
One of the gardeners was now summoned as a guide through the extensive pleasure grounds, which were indeed well worthy a minute inspection. Artistic taste, strictly so called, was wanting in the curious demesne, but one forgot its absence in surprise at the extraordinary richness and luxuriance of the Tresco flora. The geraniums in the Abbey gardens formed tall hedgerows, one in particular being no less than thirty feet in length, varying from six to eight in height, and gleaming with a scarlet flame amid dense thickets of hydrangea, while the silvery Pampas grass waved overhead, and above all soared the graceful aloe with its tapering spire. The hanging gardens of this fairy isle are swept during the winter by such rude winds from the open sea, that it is often found impossible for any of the workmen to retain their footing on the upper terraces. Miss Lane was much amused on noticing a row of currant-bushes carefully protected by gauze netting, but the gardener informed her that despite every precaution, none of the smaller fruits had yet attained anything like perfection. Strawberries, currants and raspberries, refused to ripen, and grapes would not reach maturity even in the well-ordered forcinghouses. On the other hand, figs yielded an abundant barvest, and even the exotic prickly pear flourished luxuriantly on that alien soil. Melons of every kind sickened and drooped, despite the care which sought to make amends to them for southern sunshine, but cymbelines of immense size might there be seen, arrayed in shining yellow like the fabled golden fruit of classic legends.
Experience in travelling is like most other things in life, comparative. The vividness and the fulness of our impressions, must depend partly on what we may have seen elsewhere, and still more on our innate powers of appreciation. A cultivated mind, linked with a habit of intelligent and ready observation, is the grand essential. There are some persons who acquire a larger stock of fresh ideas by visiting a town of no especial note, twenty miles distant from their home, than others will derive from a voyage up the Nile. It is those of the former class who introduce variety and freshness into the most common-place existence. They have the enviable gift of making small events, and keeping upon the surface of life's stream that gentle ripple which shall prevent its waters from subsiding into sluggishness. We cannot hear them speak of a new book, or take the most familiar walk with them in town or country, without feeling that the contact with their rich redundancy of thought, has acted as a stimulus upon our own inferior, or perhaps jaded energies.
Lilian was rather lacking in this faculty, which Mr. Harland possessed to an unusual extent, as also did Miss Lane and Mabel in a less degree. The governess, indeed, required little to make her con
tented, for her life was so barren of social pleasures that she had learned to value the most trivial, as the dwellers in some sunless clime prize the stray beams which pierce their leaden skies. Unquestionably Miss Lane was the happiest of the group that day assembled in " the Place of Elders,”l and as her features beamed under the influence of harmless recreation, even the youngest and most timid lost sight of her dignity, and came confidingly thronging around her.
"Two hours until dinner!” observed Mr. Harland, when they were finally left by their guide upon the highest terrace, which commanded a fine view over the island.
“Some of the little ones are very tired,” said Miss Lane. “Those who would like to rest, may stay with me and I will read aloud a pretty tale.” Millicent, whose face really looked white and exhausted, gladly crept to her teacher's side, and nestling amid a pile of shawls and cloaks, seemed to have no desire beyond the luxury of rest. Emily, who was also delicate, sat down at Miss Lane's feet, and Rosa an inseparable younger sister, was content to follow her example. One little boy, whose love of books was stronger than his fondness for exploring, also joined the group, but the remainder of the children were quite too excited to subside into quiet enjoyment. Under these circumstances Mr. Davidson, the kind-hearted Custom House officer, obligingly came to the rescue.
“By Mr. Harland's leave I will unfold a project,” he exclaimed in the commanding and yet jovial tones which so endeared him to the young “ Which of you boys would like to cross with me to Bryher ? It is close at hand, and while these lazy folks are sauntering about the gardens, we stout-hearted adventurers shall have explored another island before dinner-time."
“Will it be uninhabited, please, sir P” inquired several ardent admirers of the renowned Robinson Crusoe.
“No, quite the contrary, it is a grand centre of civilization,” was the laughing answer. “It contains at least six houses and a shop, to say nothing of an educational establishment for infants, which for aught I know, may be the germ of one of the most famous Universities of future ages."
“I do not care for such an island !” exclaimed Neddy Dawes, "but please sir, I should like to see it, all the same.' This qualified acceptance of a friendly offer, was reproved by Mabel and Miss Lane, and playfully defended by the good-natured champion of boyhood.
1 The name Tresco signifies “the place of Elders.” VOL. VIII.
“Only four volunteers !” resumed the latter, glancing at his small complement of adventurers, “but happily they are among the most turbulent spirits. Now, fellow-voyagers, since we are not steering for the Arctic sea, try if you can persuade one or more of these ladies to bear us company."
Happily, Mabel's eye was just then fixed upon Miss Lane, and she could not help being struck by a wistful eagerness in the expression of the parish governess. To escape altogether for one day the labours of tuition, could not fail to prove of benefit, and at once Mabel resolved to take her place. All was soon satisfactorily arranged, and when the boating party, which included Lilian, had pushed from the shore, Dr. Lawson kindly took three of the children for a ramble; Mr. Harland set out to call at the Parsonage, and Mabel, with the now diminished troop, seated herself upon the warm smooth sand, secure of being able to preserve order and happiness by the united aid of story-telling, castle-building, and shell-seeking.
Tresco and Bryher are, as Mr. Davidson had said, near neighbours, and it was not long before the young group leaped forth joyously upon the latter strand. On landing, the first aspect of the island was as uninhabited as even Neddy could desire. Path there was none, and the delighted boys eagerly clambered up the face of a steep cliff, whence they were able to discern at one glance the entire extent of the small terra incognita. Morass and moor, with little yellow patches of ripe grain scattered at intervals, composed the chief varieties of colouring in the somewhat map-like picture. A nearer view would have brought out greater diversities, for Bryher forms no exception to the other islands in the richness of its floral treasures.
Mr. Davidson took his young friends to visit every point worthy of note. They called at several of the cottages, and purchased some choice flowers for “Miss May Bird.” They then opped at a farm to see a little boy with a remarkable talent for wood-carving, and on finding he was not within, they strolled down to the shore to inspect the church and infant school, which stood together close upon the beach. The school-house, modern structure, was surmounted by a slender Latin cross, while the adjoining fane, antique and hoary, reared aloft the same eternal symbol of salvation, mellowed by age into a tender grace in keeping with the memories which cluster round it. One could not gaze without blessing