CHAPTER XXVIII. 'HOME.'
She comes, majestic with her swelling sails,
The gallant bark along her watery way,
Homeward she drives before the favouring gales.
Now flitting at their length the streamers fly,
And now they ripple with the ruffling breeze.
Wednesday, May 2nd. - Steam was up at five o'clock, the wind being still fair but light. Soon it dropped to a calm, and then went round and blew with great force exactly in the opposite direction, dead ahead. The fires had to be put out, for it was so rough we could do no good steaming against the gale. The screw kept racing round and shaking the vessel terribly. Of course I was very ill; but the maids did not mind, and the children rather enjoyed the tumbling about and the water on deck. We continued scudding along through the water, but not making much progress on our course.
Thursday, May 3rd. - The wind kept on increasing, and at last blew quite a gale. We have gone a long way out of our course to the northward, ready for a favourable change, but we can scarcely make any way to the westward.
Friday, May 4th. - A repetition of yesterday - ,
Beating, beating all the day,
But never a bit ahead.
Saturday, May 5th. - A lull at last, and we are able to have the fires lighted and to steam on our course. We made the Island of Scarpanto in the morning. All the afternoon and evening we have been steaming along ten miles to the southward of Crete. Its outline was very beautiful, surmounted by the snow-capped mountains. I was up on deck just in time to behold the most lovely sunset, with exquisite rosy, purple, and crimson tints on sea and sky.
I have not quite got over my attack in Cairo yet, and for the last three days have been completely laid up with a various mixture of land illness and sea sickness. We stopped steaming late in the day, but fires were lighted again in the middle of the night, as the wind was still ahead. There was a discussion whether or not to go round the north side of the Island of Kandia, so as to have a glimpse of the British Fleet at anchor in Suda Bay, if they have already arrived there.
Sunday, May 6th, and Monday, May 7th. - Early in the morning the snowy mountains of Crete were still in sight. Service was held as usual at eleven, but it was too rough in the afternoon for it to be repeated.
Sail and steam, wind and calm, alternated with one another all day. Tom is anxious to sail every mile he can, and yet not to lose any unnecessary time, and finds it exceedingly difficult to combine these two objects.
Tuesday, May 8th. - A fine morning, with a cold strong head breeze. At noon we rejoiced to think that Malta was not more than a few miles ahead, or we should assuredly have failed to reach our port before nightfall. About three we closed in with the land about Marsa Scirocco and Delamara Point, and, after one or two tacks, rounded the Point of Ricasole, and leaving Port St. Elmo on our right, we swiftly glided into the grand harbour of Valetta. We have been here so often that it feels quite like reaching home. We soon found ourselves in our old quarters in the Dockyard Creek, and had scarcely moored before one of the officers came on board with the usual complimentary offers of assistance, whilst directly afterwards came an invitation to a farewell ball at the Palace, given to the Duke of Edinburgh. Our old boatman, Bubbly Joe, took us ashore to dinner, and we found everything looking as bright and cheerful and steep as it always does and always will do; not the least bit altered or modernised. The landlord of the Hotel d'Angleterre was delighted to see us again, and so were his servants, who came flocking from all parts of the house, nearly pulling the children to pieces, and plying our own servants with questions in their anxiety to know all about us.
We had to go back on board the yacht to dress, and then return for the ball, by which time I was so thoroughly tired, and had so bad a headache, that I could not enjoy it much, pleasant as it was. Very soon after supper we came away and had a charming row across the harbour to our snug quarters on board the 'Sunbeam.' These sudden bursts of dissipation on shore are a delightful change after days and weeks at sea.
Wednesday, May 9th. - I was up soon after sunrise and admired this often-abused creek as much as I always do. The stone houses, the carved and coloured verandahs of bright flowers, the water lapping the very door-steps, the gaily painted boats with their high prows at either end, the women in their black dresses and faldettas, and black-robed priests, all helped to carry the imagination over the Mediterranean and up the Adriatic to lovely Venice. At this hour in the morning there were not many English soldiers or sailors to spoil the illusion.