Into port she safely glides. VI. Swift, as by good angels carried, Right and left the news has spread. Wives long widowed-yet scarce married-- Brides that never hoped to wed, From a hundred pathways meeting Crowd along the narrow quay, Maddened by the hope of meeting Those long counted cast away. VII. Soon a crowd of small boats flutter O'er the intervening space, Bearing hearts too full to utter Thoughts that flush the eager face! See young Eric foremost gaining-- (For a father's love athirst!) Every nerve and muscle straining, But to touch the dear hand FIRST. VIII. In the ship's green shadow rocking Lies his little boat at last, Wherefore is the warm heart knocking At his side, so loud and fast? "What strange aspect is she wearing, Vessel once so taut and trim? Shout!--MY heart has lost its daring; Comrades, search!--MY eyes are dim." IX. Sad the search, and fearful finding! On the deck lay parched and dry Men--who in some burning, blinding Clime--had laid them down to die! Hands--prayer--clenched--that would not sever, Eyes that stared against the sun, Sights that haunt the soul for ever, Poisoning life--till life is done! X. Strength from fear doth Eric gather, Wide the cabin door he threw-- Lo! the face of his dead father, Stern and still, confronts his view! Stately as in life he bore him, Seated--motionless and grand, On the blotted page before him Lingers still the livid hand! XI. What sad entry was he making, When the death-stroke fell at last? "Is it then God's will, in taking All, that I am left the last? I have closed the cabin doorway, That I may not see them die:-- Would our bones might rest in Norway,-- 'Neath our own cool Northern sky!" XII. Then the ghastly log-book told them How-in some accursed clime, Where the breathless land-swell rolled them, For an endless age of time-- Sudden broke the plague among them, 'Neath that sullen Tropic sun; As if fiery scorpions stung them-- Died they raving, one by one! XIII. --Told the vain and painful striving, By shot-weighted shrouds to hide (Last fond care), from those surviving, What good comrade last had died; Yet the ghastly things kept showing, Waist deep in the unquiet grave-- To each other gravely bowing On the slow swing of the wave! XIV. Eric's boat is near the landing-- From that dark ship bring they aught? In the stern sheets ONE is standing, Though their eyes perceive him not; But a curdling horror creepeth Thro' their veins, with icy darts, And each hurried oar-stroke keepeth Time with their o'er-labouring hearts! XV. Heavy seems their boat returning, Weighted with a world of care! Oh, ye blind ones--none discerning WHAT the spectral freight ye bear. Glad they hear the sea-beach grating Harsh beneath the small boat's stem-- Forth they leap, for no man waiting-- But the BLACK DEATH LANDS WITH THEM. XVI. Viewless--soundless--stalks the spectre Thro' the city chill and pale, Which like bride, this morn, had decked her For the advent of that sail. Oft by Bergen women, mourning, Shall the dismal tale be told, Of that lost ship home returning, With "THE BLACK DEATH" in her hold! I would gladly dwell on the pleasures of my second visit to Christiansund, which has a charm of its own, independent of its interest as the spot from whence we really "start for home." But though strange lands, and unknown or indifferent people, are legitimate subjects for travellers' tales, our FRIENDS and their pleasant homes are NOT; so I shall keep all I have to say of gratitude to our excellent and hospitable Consul, Mr. Morch, and of admiration for his charming wife, until I can tell you viva voce how much I wish that you also knew them. And now, though fairly off from Norway, and on our homeward way, it was a tedious business--what with fogs, calms, and headwinds--working towards Copenhagen. We rounded the Scaw in a thick mist, saw the remains of four ships that had run aground upon it, and were nearly run into ourselves by a clumsy merchantman, whom we had the relief of being able to abuse in our native vernacular, and the most racy sea-slang. Those five last days were certainly the only tedious period of the whole cruise. I suppose there is something magnetic in the soil of one's own country, which may account for that impatient desire to see it again, which always grows, as the distance from it diminishes; if so, London clay,--and its superstratum of foul, greasy, gas-discoloured mud--began about this time to exercise a tender influence upon me, which has been increasing every hour since: it is just possible that the thoughts of seeing you again may have some share in the matter. Somebody (I think Fuller) says somewhere, that "every one with whom you converse, and every place wherein you tarry awhile, giveth somewhat to you, and taketh somewhat away, either for evil or for good;" a startling consideration for circumnavigators, and such like restless spirits, but a comfortable thought, in some respects, for voyagers to Polar regions, as (except seals and bears) few things could suffer evil from us there; though for our own parts, there were solemn and wholesome influences enough "to be taken away" from those icy solitudes, if one were but ready and willing to "stow" them. To-morrow I leave Copenhagen, and my good Sigurdr, whose companionship has been a constant source of enjoyment, both to Fitz and myself, during the whole voyage; I trust that I leave with him a friendly remembrance of our too short connexion, and pleasant thoughts of the strange places and things we have seen together; as I take away with me a most affectionate memory of his frank and kindly nature, his ready sympathy, and his imperturbable good humour. From the day on which I shipped him--an entire stranger--until this eve of our separation--as friends, through scenes of occasional discomfort, and circumstances which might sometimes have tried both temper and spirits--shut up as we were for four months in the necessarily close communion of life on board a vessel of eighty tons,--there has never been the shadow of a cloud between us; henceforth, the words "an Icelander" can convey no cold or ungenial associations to my ears, and however much my imagination has hitherto delighted in the past history of that singular island, its Present will always claim a deeper and warmer interest from me, for Sigurdr's sake. To-morrow Fitz and I start for Hamburg, and very soon after--at least as soon as railroad and steamer can bring me--I look for the joy of seeing your face again. By the time this reaches Portsmouth, the "Foam" will have perfomed a voyage of six thousand miles. I have had a most happy time of it, but I fear my amusement will have cost you many a weary hour of anxiety and suspense.
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