Imágenes de página

fellow as easily as winking!" glad for his sake as well as

They were very keen on their bigger gun: it was, according to their accounts, the most accurate weapon ever cast or wound; history would be made with it at the appointed time.

Many months afterwards we met Brig Y again, and those cheerful souls aboard her were a chastened gathering. They had sighted a submarine; it approached them confidently on the surface, the sea was smooth, and the brig herself was as steady as a rock. At a thousand yards Brig Y got up her guns. The four-inch missed fire eight times, and the U-boat got away!


Still, meeting up with this companion brig showed possibilities. The two skippers got their heads together and evolved an idea of craising in company, giving an imitation of a couple of coasters hanging together for mutual protection. The plan was that, in the event of falling in with the enemy, it would be possible to turn a broadside of five guns on him in a few seconds; and surely, ran the argument, out of five guns some one or two would hit fatally!

Before we could play our part in the scheme, however, it was necessary to land our main casualty, and replace our shattered boat. White was a very sick man-only just alive, indeed, and suffering exoruciating pain. The morphia was losing its bite, and we were

our own to get him ashore to the military hospital there, for more skilful treatment than we could give. In the event, White recovered sufficiently to be moved back to the Base, and at the moment of writing he is still alive, but still an invalid. It is doubtful if he

will ever recover his early strength and vigour,-I dare not mention the number of shell-fragments that were extracted from his wounds.

Getting a boat to replace our lost one was not a simple matter. Such as offered were altogether unsuitable for our purpose: either they were teo big and clumsy to be carried on our deck, or they were so rotten as to be entirely unseaworthy, although the prices demanded would have bought the latest thing in smart motor-launches, with nickeled fittings all complete. The boats which fitted our requirements were not for sale.

In the result, growing despairing, we stole one. It was a reprehensible thing to do, and I hope it will not be counted against our record ; but we had no other alternative. Brig Y helped us in the nefarious work: it was ber boat that towed the loot off to us after dark of the night prior to our sailing. With that stolen boat aboard we put to sea at the first glimmer of dawn, and commenced the next stage of our adventures.

(To be continued.)




this twentieth century beneath a periscope in the Baltie or on the bridge of a battle-cruiser hounding the same ancient prey across the Dogger Bank. There has even been preserved the same brief off-hand turn of speech that so puzzles other nations accustomed to refer to serious things in serious language. Hredlaf explaining

SOME races seem to have been created for blending purposes. They appear in the dawn of history like a potent spirit, strong and heady; they pour into other lands, conquer, dominate-and are absorbed; and all that reappears in after centuries is a strain of singular qualities in the compound. The form of the conquerorstheir institutions and social the chieftain Ingemund's death structure has vanished; their soul alone seems to have been destined to survive.

On the shores of our own land, about twelve hundred years ago, shipload by shipload, the Vikings began to land, until at length they came by fleet-loads, and England had a dynasty of Danish kings. Vid Normandy they came again, and England had Norwegian kings; all the Western Isles of Scotland and parts of Ireland were Norse for centuries; the seaboard counties on the East of England were peopled by the Vikings; and at the end of it all, what outward resemblance is there to be seen to-day, or has there been for centuries past, between a British county and the Sagalands of the North? About as much as between a pinetree and an elm.

The spirit of those sea-rovers, accursed of all good and pious men, might still be found in

to his sorrowing friend in the happy phrase, "He was used as a target "; King Hakon just informed of his uncle's rebellion and awaking his young queen in the small hours of the morning to tell her casually "Small are the tidings; there are two kings in Norway at once". -seem to be acquaintances we have heard converse in many a smoking-room.

But the social system in which the Ingemunds and Hakens were reared-the whole relation of land to people and people to one another-stayed behind in the North. These adventurers seem to have been a people who took on the colour of their surroundings like a ptarmigan or an Arctic fox. Within two centuries the bearded chieftains who followed Rollo were shaven Norman knights, French, feudal, and sophisticated. The Norse conquerors of the Sudreyor appear presently as kilted Hebridean

dhuine-wassels. The descend- of the Viking colonies.

ants of King Sigtrygg of Dublin and his men spoke in a short space with the brogue of Brian Boru.

More or less of the old Northern blood still flows in the veins of most citizens of this kingdom, but as for the old Northern ways of life, one may search Great Britain through without finding more than here and there some fragment—a curious custom or the traces of a tenure-just visible under the microscope. To read such a picture of the ancient Icelandic society as is given by Dasent in his Introduction to 'Burnt Njal,' is to read of a society utterly and fundamentally different from any thing this island has known for many a century.


two centuries or 80 before
their recorded history begins,
their coasts had gradually
been settled by the earliest ad-
venturers. When their Saga
opens, about 860, they had
get an earl of their own
(uncle of Rolle of Normandy),
and under their own earls and
laws, and their ancient consti-
tution and
tution and system of land
tenure, they lived 8 semi-
independent life till they
passed on mortgage to the
Seottish Crown in 1468, and
on mortgage they are still
held by King George to-day.

So that there is one corner of Great Britain where even now may be seen things still existent which are Norse in all their essentials, and which when you look through them in the light of records, like gazing into a telescope, reveal vistas reaching right back to the Sagas. There you are in the actual land of the Vikings, where they lived for centuries undiluted by subjeet races, "carrying on" as they began in their northern homelands; and these vistas show how

But there are certain islands, now for more than four hundred years part of Scotland, and separated from her only by a few miles of restless water, where even to-day very plain vestiges of the old Norse society may be seen, and where, down to the middle of the sixteenth century, it was living under its own laws, a trifle that sea-roving, free-speakruinous but essentially unchanged. The Orkneys and Shetlands were among the first, possibly the very first,

ing, liberty-loving society flourished for a space in spite of its defeets, and decayed at last in spite of its virtues.


The islands' past is not upon steads, wide moorland spaces the surface. Driving along on the one hand rising to a mile after mile of blue-grey line of rounded hills, and on Orkney road that dips and the other a long straggling rises through stretches of looh or the shining island-set green dotted with small farm- sea, no hedgerows or wood

lands anywhere, and only a stunted tree or two occasionally to be seen under the lee of a low farm, the eye of the traveller looks a little hopelessly for some perceptible relio of the romantic Viking past.

The lichened stones that tower solitary above a field of oorn, or stare silently at one another across a circle of moor, stood there for ages before the first Viking landed; nor does any record so much as corroborate the tradition that their descendants used them as their trysts when "things and courts were held. Even at Tingwall, in Shetland, where a circle of great stones are very specifically stated by report to have marked the site of the old Lawthing, the earliest actual record of that court shows it sitting in 1307 beneath the roof of Tingwall Kirk.

[ocr errors]

The broohs-those strong towers of stone whose stumps form the kernel of mound after mound in every parish, and, where the spade has been at work, show a grey rim of fortalice, were built and lived in and deserted by a race who fled before the Northman or fell beneath his sword.

The rare ruins of an ancient gabled or castellated manorhouse, very occasionally found in the islands, can always be traced to some sixteenth- or seventeenth-century local magnate; and, apart from churches, the only buildings at all of earlier date than that still standing were the creation of bishops-imposing people, but

somewhat flavourless when one is looking for Vikings.

Still more rarely nowadays, long low farmhouses with fireplaces in the middle of the floor and a smoke-hole in the roof above may be discovered by the eurious inquirer; but any practical mason could tell him, from a glance at the loose ramshackle walls, that these relics can never have weathered more than a century or two of Orkney gales. As old buildings go, they are in fact merely wizened-looking youths.

And yet, right under the curious inquirer's eye, for mile upon mile on either side of the road he is driving along, lies the very thing he looks for.

He would probably be still more disappointed if he were told what it is, and that that is all he could hope to see; still, there the legacy of the Vikings is, unsensational though it be.

This undramatio feature can be seen frem some roads quite distinctly. Driving northwards, for instance, from the shores of Scapa Flow into the heart of the Mainland of Orkney, the country for miles is a patchwork of alternate brown and green. The read runs through a district of small farms, with a loch on one side and moers on every other; across the loch lies another and separate large green patch; then comes heather on either side of the road; and then again, at the head of the valley, a fertile slope; over the watershed lies the moorland vale of Summerdale,

where the Caithness men bit the dust four centuries ago; and then the road winds through green fields till it reaches the heather on the farther side.

Keeping ever northwards, this goes on for several miles, till at last the green all runs together. But even here a traveller fifty years ago would have seen the same thing. Only the districts lay oloser, and now they have joined company; and, except in some of the North Isles and a few parts of the Mainland, this is what one finds all over the Orkneys: the arable lands still lying in patches of, say, 200 to 400 acres, or else else the patches have run together of comparatively recent years. And these arable patches or districts are still distinct entities, termed in Orkney "towns" or "townships."

Occasionally one large farm will dominate such a township, still mere rarely it will simply consist of one farm; but in the vast majority of cases small irregular fields are sprinkled fairly regularly with olusters of low buildings, sometimes quite bare, sometimes huddling under a belt of bourtrees, or of late years-even boasting a sycamore or rowan or two. There may be four or five; there may be a dozen, or, in exceptional cases, even more such modest farms.

Constantly, if you watch closely, you will see in the outskirts of these green towns a fragment of an odd sort of wall, a dyke of turf and heather sloping to an apex at

the top and now very much dilapidated. Sometimes one even gets a suggestive glimpse of a long stretch of one of these turf dykes curving round the outskirts of the fields like a protecting boundary (which it once was). And another feature to be seen now and then is the great mound that holds the remnants of a broch.

If the intelligent inquirer were to study a large-scale map, he would occasionally notice among the names of these modest farms one with a very imposing sound, "The Hall" of Yenstay or Ireland, or whatever the township was called; or it might bear the mysterious designation of "the Bu" of the town, and he would probably wonder how the modest farm came by such a high-sounding title. These names are met with seldom nowadays, but if our inquirer were to wade for a few weeks through the Register of Sasines he would find that in the seventeenth century "the House of So-and-So ("Soand-So" being the name of the whole township) was a very common feature. Many a township had its "house" or "head house," occasionally also called "the manor-house," and the Halls and Bus to-day are the survivors of this once large family.

[ocr errors]

How this township system of land-cultivation came into existence in the precise form it assumed in Orkney seems distinctly hinted at by the constant presence either of a broch or what was once the site of one in the midst of the

« AnteriorContinuar »