The ship was gaining a full hour every three days, and this fellow was trying to make his watch go fast enough to keep up to her.
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This young man asked a great many questions about seasickness before we left, and wanted to know what its characteristics were and how he was to tell when he had it. We saw the usual sharks, blackfish, porpoises, etc.
Some of them were white and some of a brilliant carmine color. The nautilus is nothing but a transparent web of jelly that spreads itself to catch the wind, and has fleshy-looking strings a foot or two long dangling from it to keep it steady in the water. It is an accomplished sailor and has good sailor judgment. It reefs its sail when a storm threatens or the wind blows pretty hard, and furls it entirely and goes down when a gale blows.
Ordinarily it keeps its sail wet and in good sailing order by turning over and dipping it in the water for a moment. Seamen say the nautilus is only found in these waters between the 35th and 45th parallels of latitude. But another persecutor came, and then another and another, and finally believing that the general enthusiasm would permit no one to slumber in peace, I got up and went sleepily on deck.
The passengers were huddled about the smoke-stacks and fortified behind ventilators, and all were wrapped in wintry costumes and looking sleepy and unhappy in the pitiless gale and the drenching spray. The island in sight was Flores. It seemed only a mountain of mud standing up out of the dull mists of the sea. But as we bore down upon it the sun came out and made it a beautiful picture — a mass of green farms and meadows that swelled up to a height of fifteen hundred feet and mingled its upper outlines with the clouds.
It was ribbed with sharp, steep ridges and cloven with narrow canyons, and here and there on the heights, rocky upheavals shaped themselves into mimic battlements and castles; and out of rifted clouds came broad shafts of sunlight, that painted summit, and slope and glen, with bands of fire, and left belts of somber shade between.
It was the aurora borealis of the frozen pole exiled to a summer land! We skirted around two-thirds of the island, four miles from shore, and all the opera glasses in the ship were called into requisition to settle disputes as to whether mossy spots on the uplands were groves of trees or groves of weeds, or whether the white villages down by the sea were really villages or only the clustering tombstones of cemeteries.
Finally we stood to sea and bore away for San Miguel, and Flores shortly became a dome of mud again and sank down among the mists, and disappeared. But to many a seasick passenger it was good to see the green hills again, and all were more cheerful after this episode than anybody could have expected them to be, considering how sinfully early they had gotten up. But we had to change our purpose about San Miguel, for a storm came up about noon that so tossed and pitched the vessel that common sense dictated a run for shelter. Therefore we steered for the nearest island of the group — Fayal the people there pronounce it Fy-all, and put the accent on the first syllable.
We anchored in the open roadstead of Horta, half a mile from the shore.
The town has eight thousand to ten thousand inhabitants. Its snow-white houses nestle cosily in a sea of fresh green vegetation, and no village could look prettier or more attractive. It sits in the lap of an amphitheater of hills which are three hundred to seven hundred feet high, and carefully cultivated clear to their summits — not a foot of soil left idle.
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Every farm and every acre is cut up into little square inclosures by stone walls, whose duty it is to protect the growing products from the destructive gales that blow there. These hundreds of green squares, marked by their black lava walls, make the hills look like vast checkerboards. The islands belong to Portugal, and everything in Fayal has Portuguese characteristics about it.
But more of that anon. We landed under the walls of a little fort, armed with batteries of twelve-and-thirty-two-pounders, which Horta considered a most formidable institution, but if we were ever to get after it with one of our turreted monitors, they would have to move it out in the country if they wanted it where they could go and find it again when they needed it. Great one for expats.
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