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Chapter 7
From a correspondent.
One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experienced here,
with results both strange and unique. The weather had been somewhat sultry, but not to
any degree uncommon in the month of August. Saturday evening was as fine as was
ever known, and the great body of holiday-makers laid out yesterday for visits to
Mulgrave Woods, Robin Hood's Bay, Rig Mill, Runswick, Staithes, and the various trips
in the neighborhood of Whitby. The steamers Emma and Scarborough made trips up
and down the coast, and there was an unusual amount of `tripping' both to and from
Whitby. The day was unusually fine till the afternoon, when some of the gossips who
frequent the East Cliff churchyard, and from the commanding eminence watch the wide
sweep of sea visible to the north and east, called attention to a sudden show of `mares
tails' high in the sky to the northwest. The wind was then blowing from the southwest in
the mild degree which in barometrical language is ranked `No. 2, light breeze.'
The coastguard on duty at once made report, and one old fisherman, who for more
than half a century has kept watch on weather signs from the East Cliff, foretold in an
emphatic manner the coming of a sudden storm. The approach of sunset was so very
beautiful, so grand in its masses of splendidly coloured clouds, that there was quite an
assemblage on the walk along the cliff in the old churchyard to enjoy the beauty. Before
the sun dipped below the black mass of Kettleness, standing boldly athwart the western
sky, its downward was was marked by myriad clouds of every sunset colour, flame,
purple, pink, green, violet, and all the tints of gold, with here and there masses not
large, but of seemingly absolute blackness, in all sorts of shapes, as well outlined as
colossal silhouettes. The experience was not lost on the painters, and doubtless some
of the sketches of the `Prelude to the Great Storm' will grace the R. A and R. I. walls in
May next.
More than one captain made up his mind then and there that his `cobble' or his `mule',
as they term the different classes of boats, would remain in the harbour till the storm
had passed. The wind fell away entirely during the evening, and at midnight there was a
dead calm, a sultry heat, and that prevailing intensity which, on the approach of thunder,
affects persons of a sensitive nature. There were but few lights in sight at sea, for even
the coasting steamers, which usually hug the shore so closely, kept well to seaward,and
but few fishing boats were in sight. The only sail noticeable was a foreign schooner with
all sails set, which was seemingly going westwards. The foolhardiness or ignorance of
her officers was a prolific theme for comment whilst she remained in sight, and efforts
were made to signal her to reduce sail in the face of her danger. Before the night shut
down she was seen with sails idly flapping as she gently rolled on the undulating swell
of the sea.