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The Long Voyage
WHEN the wind is blowing and the sleet or rain is driving against the dark windows, I
love to sit by the fire, thinking of what I have read in books of voyage and travel. Such
books have had a strong fascination for my mind from my earliest childhood; and I
wonder it should have come to pass that I never have been round the world, never have
been shipwrecked, ice-environed, tomahawked, or eaten.
Sitting on my ruddy hearth in the twilight of New Year's Eve, I find incidents of travel rise
around me from all the latitudes and longitudes of the globe. They observe no order or
sequence, but appear and vanish as they will - 'come like shadows, so depart.'
Columbus, alone upon the sea with his disaffected crew, looks over the waste of waters
from his high station on the poop of his ship, and sees the first uncertain glimmer of the
light, 'rising and falling with the waves, like a torch in the bark of some fisherman,' which
is the shining star of a new world. Bruce is caged in Abyssinia, surrounded by the gory
horrors which shall often startle him out of his sleep at home when years have passed
away. Franklin, come to the end of his unhappy overland journey - would that it had
been his last! - lies perishing of hunger with his brave companions: each emaciated
figure stretched upon its miserable bed without the power to rise: all, dividing the weary
days between their prayers, their remembrances of the dear ones at home, and
conversation on the pleasures of eating; the last-named topic being ever present to
them, likewise, in their dreams. All the African travellers, wayworn, solitary and sad,
submit themselves again to drunken, murderous, man-selling despots, of the lowest
order of humanity; and Mungo Park, fainting under a tree and succoured by a woman,
gratefully remembers how his Good Samaritan has always come to him in woman's
shape, the wide world over.
A shadow on the wall in which my mind's eye can discern some traces of a rocky sea-
coast, recalls to me a fearful story of travel derived from that unpromising narrator of
such stories, a parliamentary blue-book. A convict is its chief figure, and this man
escapes with other prisoners from a penal settlement. It is an island, and they seize a
boat, and get to the main land. Their way is by a rugged and precipitous sea-shore, and
they have no earthly hope of ultimate escape, for the party of soldiers despatched by an
easier course to cut them off, must inevitably arrive at their distant bourne long before
them, and retake them if by any hazard they survive the horrors of the way. Famine, as
they all must have foreseen, besets them early in their course. Some of the party die
and are eaten; some are murdered by the rest and eaten. This one awful creature eats
his fill, and sustains his strength, and lives on to be recaptured and taken back. The
unrelateable experiences through which he has passed have been so tremendous, that