Meanwhile, the lighthouse continued to burn, despite the most strenuous efforts made to save it. Had a storm arisen, the seas would speedily have quenched the fire, but unfortunately the weather continued fine and comparatively calm for several days, while the wind was just strong enough to fan the fury of the flames, and at the same time to cause a surf sufficiently high to render a landing on the rock impossible. But, indeed, even if this had been effected, the efforts that could have been made with the small fire-engines at that time in use, would have been utterly useless. The fire gradually descended to the different courses of solid timber, the well-hole of the staircase assisting the draught, and the outside timbers and inside mast, or wooden core, forming a double connecting link whereby the devouring element was carried to the very bottom of the building, with a heat so intense that the courses of Cornish moor-stone were made red hot.
Admiral West, with part of the fleet, happened to be at that time in Plymouth Sound. He at once sent a sloop with a fire-engine to the rock. They attempted to land in a boat, but could not. So violent was the surf, that the boat was at one time thrown bodily upon the rock by one wave and swept off again by the next. The escape on this occasion was almost miraculous, the men therefore did not venture to make another attempt, but contented themselves with endeavouring to work the engine from the boat, in doing which they broke it, and thus all hope of doing anything further was gone. But indeed the engine they had would have availed nothing, even though it had been twice as powerful, against such a mighty conflagration. As well might they have tried to extinguish Vesuvius with a tea-kettle!
For four days and nights did that massive pillar of fire burn. At last it fell in ruins before the most irresistible element with which man or matter has to contend, after having braved the fury of the winds and waves for nearly half a century.
Thus perished the second lighthouse that was built on the Eddystone Rock, in December of the year 1755, and thus, once again, were those black reefs left unguarded. Once more that dread of mariners, ancient and modern, became a trap on the south coast of England—a trap now rendered doubly dangerous by the fact that, for so long a period, ships had been accustomed to make for it instead of avoiding it, in the full expectation of receiving timely warning from its friendly light.
OLD FRIENDS IN NEW CIRCUMSTANCES.
We open the story of the third, and still existing, lighthouse on the Eddystone with the re-introduction of Teddy Maroon—that Teddy who acted so prominent a part at the burning of Rudyerd's tower in December 1755.
Men's activities seem to have been quickened at this period of time, for only about six months were allowed to elapse between the destruction of the old and the commencement of operations for the new lighthouse.
It was a calm evening in the autumn 1756 when Teddy Maroon, smoking a little black pipe, sauntered towards the residence of old John Potter. On reaching the door he extinguished the little pipe by the summary process of thrusting the point of his blunt forefinger into the bowl, and deposited it hot in his vest pocket. His tap was answered by a small servant girl, with a very red and ragged head of hair, who ushered him into the presence of the aged couple. They were seated in the two chairs—one on each side of the fireplace—which they might almost be said to inhabit. Little Nora was stirring a few embers of coal into a cheery flame, for she knew the old people loved the sight of the fire even in summer. On a chair beside old Martha lay the open Bible, from which Nora had been reading, and on old Martha's knee was the valued dictionary, upside down as usual.
"Glad to see you, lad," said old John, with a pleasant smile as he extended his hand; "it does us good to see you; it minds us so of old times."
"Ah, then, I've got to tell 'ee what'll mind you more of owld times than the mere sight o' me face," said Teddy, as he patted old Martha on the shoulder and sat down beside her. "How are 'ee, owld ooman?"
"Ay," replied Martha in a tremulous voice, "you're uncommon like your father—as like as two peas."
"Faix, av ye saw the dear owld gintleman now," said Teddy with a laugh, "ye'd think there was a difference. Hows'ever, its o' no use repaitin' me question, for any man could see that you're in the best o' health— you're bloomin' like a cabbage rose."
The latter part of this complimentary speech was shouted into old Martha's ear, and she responded by shaking her head and desiring the flatterer to "go along."
"Well, John," said the visitor, turning to his father's old friend, "you'll be glad to hear that I've been engaged to work at the new lighthouse, an', moreover we've got fairly begun."
"You don't say so," cried John Potter, with some of the old fire sparkling in his eyes; "well, now, that is pleasant noos. Why, it makes me a'most wish to be young again. Of course I heard that they've bin hard at the preparations for a good while; but few people comes to see me now; they think I'm too old to be interested in anything; I suppose; an' I didn't know that it was fairly begun, or that you were on the work: I'd like to hear what your old father would say to it, Teddy."
"I don't know what he'd say to it," responded the Irishman, "but I know what he threatens to do, for I wrote him the other day tellin' him all about it, an' he bade my sister Kathleen write back that he's more nor half a mind to come and superintend the operations."
"What is it all about, Nora?" demanded old Martha, who had been gazing intently at her husband's countenance during the conversation.
Nora put her pretty lips to her grandmother's ear and gave the desired information, whereupon the old lady looked solemnly at her spouse, and laying her hand on the dictionary, said, with strong though quivering emphasis: "now, John, mark my words, I 'ave a settled conviction that that light'ouse will come to a bad end. It's sure to be burnt or blow'd over."
Having given vent to which prophecy, she relapsed into herself and appeared to ruminate on it with peculiar satisfaction.
"And what's the name of the architect?" demanded John.
"Smeaton," replied Teddy Maroon.
"Never heerd of 'im before," returned John.
"No more did I," said Teddy.
The two friends appeared to find food for meditation in this point of ignorance, for they fell into a state of silence for a few minutes, which was interrupted by the sudden entrance of Mr Thomas Potter. He looked a little wearied as he sat down beside his mother, whose face lighted up with an expression of intense delight as she said, "Come away, Tommy, where have you been, my boy?"
"I've been out on the sea, mother, after mischief as usual," replied Tommy, whose bald head and wrinkled brow repudiated, while his open hearty smile appeared to justify, the juvenile name.
"What! they 'aven't engaged you on the noo light'ouse, 'ave they?" said old Martha, in horror.
"No, no, mother, don't fear that," said her son, hastening to relieve her mind, "but you know the new engineer is gathering information from all quarters, and he naturally applied to me, because I am of his own profession and have known and studied the rock since I was a little boy."
"Know'd an' studied it," exclaimed Martha with more than her wonted vigour, "ay, an' if you'd said you'd a'most broke your old mother's heart with it, you'd 'ave said no more than the truth, Tommy. It's a wonder as that rock hasn't brought me to a prematoor grave. However, it ain't likely to do so now, an' I'm glad they have not inveigled you into it, my boy; for it's an awful place for wettin' of your feet an' dirt'in' of your hands and pinafores, an'—"
The old lady, relapsing here into early reminiscences, once more retired within herself, while. Teddy Maroon and John Potter, mentioning their ignorance as to the architect who had undertaken the great work, demanded of "Mister Thomas" if he could enlighten them.
"Of course I can," he replied, "for he is well known to his friends as a most able man, and will become better known to the world, if I may venture to prophesy, as the builder of what is sure to be the most famous lighthouse on the English coast. His name is Smeaton, and he is not an engineer."
"Not an engineer?" echoed Teddy and old John, in surprise.
"No, he's a mathematical instrument maker."
"Well now," said John Potter, gazing meditatively into the fireplace where Nora had evoked a tiny flame, "that is strange. This Eddystun Rock seems to have what I may call a pecooliar destiny. The builder of the first light'ouse was a country gentleman; of the second, a silk-mercer; and now, as you say, the third is to be put up by a maker o' mathymatical instruments. I only hope," continued John, shaking his head gravely at the fireplace, "that he won't make a mess of it like the others did."
"Come now, father," returned his son, "don't say that the others made a mess of it. We must remember that Winstanley began his building in what we may call total darkness. No other man before him had attempted such a work, so that he had no predecessor whose good points he might imitate, or whose failures he might avoid. Many a trained engineer might have made a worse mess of it, and, to my mind, it says much for poor Winstanley's capacity, all things considered, that his lighthouse stood so long as the six or seven years of its building. Then as to Rudyerd's one, it was in reality a great success. It stood firm for nigh fifty years, and, but for the fire, might have stood for any number of years to come. It cannot be justly said that he made a mess of it. As well might you say that the builders of a first-rate ship made a mess of it because someone set her alight after she had sailed the ocean for half a century."
"True, Tommy, true," said old John, nodding acquiescence emphatically. On seeing this, old Martha, knowing nothing about the matter because of her deafness, nodded emphatically also, and said, "that's so, Tommy, I always 'ad a settled conviction that you was right, except," she added, as if to guard herself, "except w'en you was after mischief."
"Well, but Tommy," continued old John, "you was agoin' to tell us somethin' about this Mister Smeaton. What sort of a man is he?"
"As far as I can judge, on short acquaintance," replied Potter, "he seems to be a man who has got a mind and a will of his own, and looks like one who won't be turned out of his straight course by trifles. His name is John, which is a good bible name, besides being yours, father, and he comes from Leeds, a highly respectable place, which has produced men of note before now. His age is thirty-two, which is about the most vigorous period of a man's life, and he has come to his present business in spite of all opposition, a fact which is favourable to the prospects of the lighthouse. In short he's a natural genius, and a born engineer. His father, an attorney, wished him to follow his own profession, but it was soon clear that that was out of the question, for the boy's whole soul was steeped from earliest childhood in mechanics."
"I once knew a boy," said John Potter, with a smile, "whose whole soul was steeped in the same thing!"
"And in mischief," added old Martha, suddenly, much to every one's surprise. The old woman's deafness was indeed of a strangely intermittent type!
"Well," continued Potter, with a laugh and a nod to his mother, "no doubt Smeaton had a spice of mischief in him among other qualities, for it is said of him that when quite a little fellow he made a force pump, with which he emptied his father's fish-pond of water, to the detriment, not to say consternation, of the fish. The upshot of it all was that the lad was apprenticed to a maker of mathematical instruments, and soon proved himself to be an inventive genius of considerable power. Ere long he commenced business on his own account, and has now undertaken the task of building the third lighthouse on the Eddystone. I was in London lately, and saw the beautiful models of the intended structure which Smeaton has made with his own hands, and it seems to me that he's just the man to do the work."
At the mention of models, old John Potter's eyes lighted up, for it brought the memory of former days vividly before him.
"He means to build it of stone," said the son.
"Stone, say 'ee? that's right, Tommy, that's right," said old John, with a nod of strong approval, "I've always thought that the weak point in the old light'ouses was want of weight. On such a slope of a foundation, you know, it requires great weight to prevent the seas washin' a lighthouse clean away."
"I've thought the same thing, father, but what you and I only thought of Smeaton has stated, and intends to act upon. He means to build a tower so solid that it will defy the utmost fury of winds and waves. He is going to cut the sloping foundation into a series of steps or shelves, which will prevent the possibility of slipping. The shape of the building is to be something like the trunk of an oak tree, with a wider base than the lighthouse of Rudyerd. The first twenty feet or so of it is to be built solid; each stone to be made in the shape of a dovetail, and all the stones circling round a central key to which they will cling, as well as to each other, besides being held by bolts and cement, so that the lower part of the building will be as firm as the rock on which it stands. But I daresay, father," continued his son, with a glance at Teddy Maroon, "our friend here, being engaged on the work, has told you all about this already."
"Not I," said Maroon, quickly, "I've bin too busy to come here until to-day, and though I've got me own notions o' what Mr Smeaton intends, by obsarvin' what's goin' on, I han't guessed the quarter o' what you've towld me, sur. Howsever, I can spake to what's bin already done. You must know," said Teddy, with a great affectation of being particular, "Mr Smeaton has wisely secured his workmen by howldin' out pleasant prospects to 'em. In the first place, we've got good regular wages, an' additional pay whin we're on the Rock. In the second place, extra work on shore is paid for over an' above the fixed wages. In the third place, each man has got his appinted dooty, an's kep close at it. In the fourth place, the rules is uncommon stringent, and instant dismissal follers the breakin' of 'em. In the fifth place—"
"Never mind the fifth place, Teddy," interrupted old John, "like yer father, ye was ever too fond o' waggin' yer tongue. Just tell us straight off, if ye can, what's been already done at the Rock."
"Well, well," said Maroon, with a deprecatory smile, "owld father an' me's always bin misonderstud more or less; but no matter. Av coorse we've had the usual difficulties to fight agin, for the owld Eddystone Rock ain't agoin' to change its natur to please nobody. As me father described it in his day, so I finds it in mine. On most of our first visits we got wet skins; but little or no work done, for though it might be ever so calm here at Plymouth, it always seemed to be blowin' a private gale out at the Rock—leastwise, av it warn't blowin', there was swell enough most days to make the landin' troublesome. So we got wan hour's work at wan time, an' two hours, or may be three, at another, off an' on. As the saison advanced we got on better, sometimes got five and six hours on the Rock right on ind, and whin the tide sarved we wint at it by torch-light. Wan week we got no less than sixty-four an' a half hours on it, an' we was all in great sperrits intirely over that, for you see, mister Potter, we're all picked men an' takes a pride in the work—to say nothin' of havin' a good master. Av coorse we've had the usual botherations wid the sharp rocks cuttin' the cable of our attendin'-sloop, an' gales suddinly gettin' up whin we was at the Rock wantin' to land, as well as suddinly goin' down whin we wasn't at the Rock, so that we missed our chances. But such sorrows was what we expicted, more or less. The wust disappointment we've had has bin wi' the noo store-ship, the Neptune Buss. I wish it was the Neptune bu'st, I do, for it's wus than a tub, an' gives us more trouble than it's all worth. Now the saison's drawin' to a close, it's clear that we'll do no more this year than cut the foundations."
"An' that's not a bad season's work, lad," said old John. "Ain't it not, Tommy?"
"Not bad, indeed, father, for there are always unusual and vexatious delays at the beginning of a great work; besides, some of the greatest difficulties in connexion with such buildings are encountered in the preparation of the foundations. I suppose Mr Smeaton means to dress the stones on shore, ready for laying?" continued Potter the younger, turning to Maroon, who had risen and was buttoning up his monkey-jacket.
"Why, yes sur, haven't you bin down at the yard?"
"Not yet. I've only just arrived in town; and must be off again to-morrow. You can't think how disappointed I am at being prevented by business from taking part in the building of the new lighthouse—"
"What's that you say, Tommy?" interrupted old Martha, putting her hand to her ear and wrinkling her brow interrogatively.
"That I'm grieved, mother, at not being able to help in building the new lighthouse," shouted her son, in a voice that might have split an ordinary ear.
Old Martha's visage relaxed into a faint smile as she turned towards the fire and looked earnestly at it, as if for explanation or consolation.
"Ay ay," she muttered, "it would have bin strange if you hadn't wished that; you was always up to mischief, Tommy; always; or else wishin' to be up to it, although you might know as well as I know myself, that if you did get leave to go hout to the Rock (which you're for ever wantin' to do), it would be wet feet an dirty pinafores mornin', noon, an' night, which it's little you care for that, you bad boy, though it causes me no end of washin' an' dryin',—ay ay!"
The old woman looked up in the smiling countenance of her stalwart son, and becoming apparently a little confused by reminiscences of the past and evidences of the present, retired within herself and relapsed into silence.
"Well, sur," continued Teddy, "just give a look down if you can; it's worth your while. Mr Smeaton means to have every stone cut in the yard here on shore, and to lay down each 'course' in the yard too, to be sure that it all fits, for we'll have no time out at the Rock to correct mistakes or make alterations. It'll be 'sharp's the word, boys, and look alive O!' all through; ship the stones; off to the Rock; land 'em in hot haste; clap on the cement; down wi' the blocks; work like blazes—or Irishmen, which is much the same thing; make all fast into the boats again; sailors shoutin' 'Look alive, me hearties! squall bearin' down right abaft of the lee stuns'l gangway!'—or somethin' like that; up sail, an' hooroo! boys, for the land, weather permittin'; if not, out to say an' take things aisy, or av ye can't be aisy, be as aisy as ye can!"
"A pleasant prospect, truly," said Mr T. Potter, laughing, as he shook the Irishman's horny hand.
"Good-bye, John. Good-bye, Nora, me darlin'; Good-bye, owld ooman."
"Hold your noise, lad," said old Martha, looking gravely into her visitor's face.
"That's just what I manes to do, mavoorneen," replied Teddy Maroon, with a pleasant nod, "for I'll be off to the Rock to-morrow by day-break, weather permittin', an' it's little help any noise from me would give to the waves that kape gallivantin' wid the reefs out there like mad things, from Sunday to Saturday, all the year round."
When the door shut on the noisy Irishman, it seemed as though one of the profound calms so much needed and desired out at the Eddystone Rock had settled down in old John Potter's home—a calm which was not broken for some minutes thereafter except by old Martha muttering softly once or twice, while she gravely shook her head: "Hold your noise, Teddy, hold your noise, lad; you're very like your father; hold your noise!"
EXPERIENCES, DIFFICULTIES, AND DANGERS OF THE FIRST SEASON.
While the building of the new lighthouse was being thus calmly discussed on shore, out at the Eddystone the wild waves were lashing themselves into fierce fury, as if they had got wind of what was being done, and had hurried from all ends of the sea to interdict proceedings. In hurrying to the field of battle these wild waves indulged in a little of their favourite pastime. They caught up two unfortunate vessels—a large West Indiaman and a man-of-war's tender—and bore them triumphantly towards the fatal Rock. It seemed as though the waves regarded these as representative vessels, and meant thus to cast the royal and the merchant navies on the Eddystone, by way, as it were, of throwing down the gauntlet to presumptuous Man.
For want of the famous light the vessels bore straight down upon the Rock, and the wild waves danced and laughed, and displayed their white teeth and their seething ire, as if in exultation at the thought of the shattered hulls and mangled corpses, which they hoped ere long to toss upon their crests.
Fortunately, Man was on the "look out!" The Buss was tugging at her moorings off the Rock, and some of the seamen and hands were perambulating the deck, wishing for settled weather, and trying to pierce the gloom by which they were surrounded. Suddenly the two vessels were seen approaching. The alarm was given. Those on board the doomed ships saw their danger when too late, and tried to sheer off the fatal spot, but their efforts were fruitless. The exulting waves hurried them irresistibly on. In this extremity the Eddystone men leaped into their yawl, pushed off, and succeeded in towing both vessels out of danger; at once demonstrating the courage of English hearts and the need there was for English hands to complete the work on which they were then engaged.
Next day Mr Smeaton came off to visit the Rock, and the news of the rescue served him for a text on which to preach a lay-sermon as to the need of every man exerting himself to the uttermost in a work which was so obviously a matter of life and death. It was, however, scarcely necessary to urge these men, for they were almost all willing. But not all; in nearly every flock there is a black sheep or so, that requires weeding out. There were two such sheep among the builders of the Eddystone. Being good at everything, Smeaton was a good weeder. He soon had them up by the roots and cast out. A foreman proved to be disorderly, and tried to make the men promise, "that if he should be discharged they would all follow him." Smeaton at once assembled the men and gave orders that such of them as had any dependence on, or attachment to, the refractory foreman, should take up his tools and follow him. Only one did so—the rest stood firm.
At this time the weather was very unsettled, and the work progressed slowly. Once or twice it was still further retarded, by men who should have known better, in the following manner:
One evening one of the lighthouse boats was boarded by a cutter, the officer in charge of which proceeded to "impress" several of the men into the navy.
"It's to be pressed we are," murmured Teddy Maroon to one of his mates, in a vexed tone, "sure the tater-heads might know we've got an Admiralty protection."
Whether the officer knew this or not, it was evident that he had overheard the remark, for, after selecting two of the best men, he turned, and, pointing to Maroon, said aloud:—
"Let that tater-head also jump on board. He's not worth much, but the service is in want of powder-monkeys just now. Perhaps he'll do. If not, I'll send him back."
Thus was the poor Irishman carried off with his two mates to fight the battles of his country! In a few days, however, they were all sent back, and the indiscreet officer who had impressed them got a reprimand for his pains. After the first season they had no further interruptions from this source.
Large mainsails were given them for their boats, with a lighthouse painted on each, and every man obtained besides a silver medal of exemption from impressment.
But this was only the commencement of poor Teddy's "throubles" at that time. He had scarcely returned to his work when a new one overtook him. This was, however, in the way of business.
"Teddy, my fine fellow," said Richardson, the foreman, as they stood on the deck of the Buss holding on to the mizzen shrouds, "it's quite clear to me that with the wind dead against them like this, the relief boat with Hill's company won't be able to get off, and as we're short of provisions, I mean to take the big yawl and go ashore with my gang. As the best men are always chosen for posts of danger, I shall leave you in charge of the Buss with two hands—Smart and Bowden;—both stanch fellows as you know."
"I'm your servant, sir," said Teddy, "only if the best men are wanted here, hadn't you better stop yourself, an' I'll take the rest ashore?"
Richardson did not see his way to this, though he acknowledged the compliment, and that evening Teddy found himself in command of the despised Buss, with half a gale blowing, and, as he observed, "more where that came from."
Teddy was right, "more" did come, and kept him and his mates idle prisoners for a week. Indeed the whole of that month had been so stormy that from the 16th to the 30th only twenty hours' work had been done on the Rock.
During six days the three men stuck to their post, but at the end of that time Teddy called a council of war.
"Gintlemen," said he, "(for men in our pursition must be purlite to sich other), it's our dooty to stick by this here tub so long's it's of any use to do so; but as she seems to be well able to look after herself, an' our purvisions has come down to the last ounce, it's my opinion— founded on profound meditations over me last pipe—that we'd better go ashore."
To this speech John Bowden replied "I'm agreeable, for it's not my dooty to starve myself."
William Smart, however, intimated that he was "disagreeable."
"Because," said he, "its blowin' great guns, an' looks as if it meant to go on, which is not a state of weather suitable for goin' over a dozen miles of sea in a small open boat, without even a mast or a rag of sail to bless herself with."
"Pooh!" exclaimed Maroon, contemptuously; "a blanket'll make the best of sails."
"Ay," added Bowden, "and an oar will do well enough for a mast—anyhow we'll try, for most votes carry in all well-regulated meetin's."
This plan, although attended with considerable danger, was finally agreed to, and forthwith acted on.
That afternoon the men on shore observed a very Robinson-Crusoe-like boat coming in from the sea with an oar-mast and a blanket-sail, from which landed "Captain" Teddy Maroon and his two mates. The same evening, however, the wind moderated and shifted a little, so that the relief boat, with provisions and the gang of men whose turn it was to do duty in the store-ship, succeeded in getting off and reaching their Buss in safety.
The weather became so bad soon after this that Smeaton thought it wise to bring his operations for that season to a close. Accordingly, on the 7th November, he visited the Rock, which had been cut into a regular floor of successive terraces or steps, and was considerably larger in circumference than the foundation on which Rudyerd's building had rested. On the 15th the Buss sailed into Plymouth, the men having run out of provisions, and having been unable to do anything on the Rock.
A great storm raged on the 22nd. On the previous day Smeaton had gone off in the Buss to attach a buoy to the mooring chains for that winter. The task was laborious, and when it was completed they found it impossible to return to Plymouth, owing to the miserable sailing qualities of their vessel. There was nothing for it but to cast loose and run before the wind. While doing so they snapt the painter of the yawl, and lost it.
Thus they were, as it were, cast adrift upon the sea with neither maps, charts, books, nor instruments to guide them. No alarm, however, was felt, the neighbouring headlands being bold, and all on board having previously been at Fowey, to which port Smeaton now gave orders to steer.
Wet and worn out with labour, he then went below to snatch a few hours' repose. In the night he was awakened by a tremendous noise overhead. The men were rushing about the deck, and shouting wildly. He sprang up without dressing. A voice, exclaiming, "For God's sake heave hard on that rope if you want to save yourselves!" saluted him as he gained the deck. Roaring wind, a deluge of rain, and pitch darkness held revel on the sea; but above the din was heard the dreaded sound of breakers close under their lee. The jib was split, the mainsail half-lowered, and the vessel running gunwale under. By vigorous and well-directed action, in which John Bowden proved himself to be one of those men who are towers of strength in emergencies, the head of the Buss was brought round, and the immediate danger averted, but they had no idea where they were, and when day broke on the 23rd they found themselves out of sight of land! Their last boat, also, had filled while towing astern, and had to be cut adrift. At noon, however; they sighted the Land's End—the wind blowing hard from the nor'-east.
"No chance o' making a British port in this wind with such a vessel, sir," said John Bowden, touching his cap respectfully to Mr Smeaton.
"As well try to bate to win'ard in me grandmother's wash-tub," remarked Teddy Maroon, in a disrespectful tone.
Smeaton, agreeing with them, lay-to the whole of the 24th, and then, casting anchor, debated whether it were better to make for the coast of France or try to reach the Scilly Islands. Fortunately a change of wind on the 25th enabled them to weigh anchor and run back to Plymouth rejoicing; and vowing, as John Bowden said, never more to venture out to sea in a Buss! They reached the harbour at six in the morning, to the intense relief of their friends, who had given them up for lost.
Thus ended the first season—1756.
ACCOUNT OF THE WAR CONTINUED.
"Now then, my lads," said Smeaton, on the 12th of June 1757, "we shall lay the foundation to-day, so let us go to work with a will."
"Faix, then," whispered Teddy Maroon to John Bowden, as they proceeded to the wharf, where the ready-cut stones were being put on board the Eddystone boat, "it's little good we'll do av we don't go to work wid a will."
"I believe you, my boy," replied John, heartily. John Bowden said and did everything heartily. "An' we won't be long," he continued, "about laying the first course, it's such a small one."
"Hallo!" shouted the man in charge of the boat, as they came in sight of it, "come along, lads; we're all ready."
According to directions they ran down, and jumped on board "with a will." Smeaton took his place in the stern. They pushed off with a will; sailed and pulled out the fourteen miles with a will; jumped on the rock, landed the heavy stones, went immediately into action, cleaned the bed, and laid the first stone of the great work—all under the same vigorous impulse of the will. This was at eight in the morning. By the evening tide, the first "course," which formed but a small segment of a circle, was fitted with the utmost despatch, bedded in mortar and trenailed down. Next day the second course was partly landed on the rock; the men still working with a will, for moments out there were more precious than hours or days in ordinary building,—but before they got the whole course landed, old Ocean also began to work with a will, and eventually proved himself stronger than his adversaries, by driving them, in a terrific storm, from the Rock!
They reached the Buss with difficulty, and lay there idle while the mad waves revelled round the rocks, and danced through their works deridingly. It seemed, however, as though they were only "in fun," for, on returning to work after the gale abated, it was found that "no harm had been done." As if, however, to check any premature felicitations, old Ocean again sent a sudden squall on the 18th, which drove the men once more off the rock, without allowing time to chain the stones landed, so that five of them were lost.
This was a serious disaster. The lost stones could only be replaced by new ones being cut from the distant quarries. Prompt in all emergencies, Smeaton hurried away and set two men to work on each stone, night and day; nevertheless, despite his utmost efforts, seconded by willing men, the incident caused the loss of more than a week.
Fogs now stepped in to aid and abet the winds and waves in their mad efforts to stop the work. Stop it! They little knew what indomitable spirits some men have got. As well might they have attempted to stop the course of time! They succeeded, however, in causing vexatious delays, and, in July, had the audacity to fling a wreck in the very teeth of the builders, as if to taunt them with the futility of their labours.
It happened thus: On the night of the 5th a vessel named the Charming Sally, about 130 tons burden, and hailing from Biddeford, came sailing over the main. A bright lookout was kept on board of her, of course, for the wind was moderately high, and the fog immoderately thick. The Sally progressed charmingly till midnight, when the look-out observed "something" right ahead. He thought the something looked like fishing-boats, and, being an unusually bright fellow, he resolved to wait until he should be quite sure before reporting what he saw. With a jovial swirl the waves bore the Charming Sally to her doom. "Rocks ahead!" roared the bright look-out, rather suddenly. "Rocks under her bottom," thought the crew of seven hands, as they leaped on deck, and felt the out-lying reefs of the Eddystone playing pitch and toss with their keel. Dire was the confusion on board, and cruel were the blows dealt with ungallant and unceasing violence at the hull of the Charming Sally; and black, black as the night would have been the fate of the hapless seamen on that occasion if the builders of the Eddystone had not kept a brighter look-out on board their sheltering Buss. John Bowden had observed the vessel bearing down on the rocks, and gave a startling alarm. Without delay a boat was launched and pulled to the rescue. Meanwhile the vessel filled so fast that their boat floated on the deck before the crew could get into it, and the whole affair had occurred so suddenly that some of the men, when taken off, were only in their shirts. That night the rescued men were hospitably entertained in the Buss by the builders of the new lighthouse, and, soon after, the ribs of the Charming Sally were torn to pieces by the far-famed teeth of the Eddystone—another added to the countless thousands of wrecks which had been demonstrating the urgent need there was for a lighthouse there, since the earliest days of navigation.
Having enacted this pleasant little episode, the indefatigable builders set to work again to do battle with the winds and waves. That the battle was a fierce one is incidentally brought out by the fact that on the 8th of August the sea was said "for the first time" to have refrained from going over the works during a whole tide!
On the 11th of the same month the building was brought to a level with the highest point of the Rock. This was a noteworthy epoch, inasmuch as the first completely circular course was laid down, and the men had more space to move about.
Mr Smeaton, indeed, seems to have moved about too much. Possibly the hilarious state of his mind unduly affected his usually sedate body. At all events, from whatever cause, he chanced to tumble off the edge of the building, and fell on the rocks below, at the very feet of the amazed Teddy Maroon, who happened to be at work there at the time.
"Och, is it kilt ye are, sur?" demanded the Irishman.
"Not quite," replied Smeaton, rising and carefully examining his thumb, which had been dislocated.
"Sure now it's a sargeon ye should have bin," said Teddy, as his commander jerked the thumb into its place as though it had been the disabled joint of a mathematical instrument, and quietly returned to his labours.
About this time also the great shears, by means of which the stones were raised to the top of the building, were overturned, and fell with a crash amongst the men; fortunately, however, no damage to life or limb resulted, though several narrow escapes were made. Being now on a good platform, they tried to work at night with the aid of links, but the enemy came down on them in the form of wind, and constantly blew the links out. The builders, determined not to be beaten, made a huge bonfire of their links. The enemy, growing furious, called up reinforcements of the waves, and not only drowned out the bonfire but drove the builders back to the shelter of their fortress, the Buss, and shut them up there for several days, while the waves, coming constantly up in great battalions, broke high over the re-erected shears, and did great damage to the machinery and works, but failed to move the sturdy root of the lighthouse which had now been fairly planted, though the attack was evidently made in force, this being the worst storm of the season. It lasted fifteen days.
On the 1st September the enemy retired for a little repose, and the builders, instantly sallying out, went to work again "with a will," and secured eighteen days of uninterrupted progress. Then the ocean, as if refreshed, renewed the attack, and kept it up with such unceasing vigour that the builders drew off and retired into winter quarters on the 3rd of October, purposing to continue the war in the following spring.
During this campaign of 1757 the column of the lighthouse had risen four feet six inches above the highest point of the Eddystone Rock. Thus ended the second season, and the wearied but dauntless men returned to the work-yard on shore to carve the needful stones, and otherwise to prepare ammunition for the coming struggle.
Sitting one night that winter at John Potter's fireside, smoking his pipe in company with John Bowden, Teddy Maroon expressed his belief that building lighthouses was about the hardest and the greatest work that man could undertake; that the men who did undertake such work ought not only to receive double pay while on duty, but also half pay for the remainder of their natural lives; that the thanks of the king, lords, and commons, inscribed on vellum, should be awarded to each man; and that gold medals should be struck commemorative of such great events,— all of which he said with great emphasis, discharging a sharp little puff of smoke between every two or three words, and winding up with a declaration that "them was his sentiments."
To all this old John Potter gravely nodded assent, and old Martha—being quite deaf to sound as well as reason—shook her head so decidedly that her cap quivered again.
John Bowden ventured to differ. He—firing off little cloudlets of smoke between words, in emulation of his friend—gave it as his opinion that "war was wuss," an opinion which he founded on the authority of his departed father, who had fought all through the Peninsular campaign, and who had been in the habit of entertaining his friends and family with such graphic accounts of storming breaches, bombarding fortresses, lopping off heads, arms, and legs, screwing bayonets into men's gizzards and livers, and otherwise agonising human frames, and demolishing human handiwork, that the hair of his auditors' heads would certainly have stood on end if that capillary proceeding had been at all possible.
But Teddy Maroon did not admit the force of his friend's arguments. He allowed, indeed, that war was a great work, inasmuch as it was a great evil, whereas lighthouse-building was a great blessing; and he contended, that while the first was a cause of unmitigated misery, and productive of nothing better than widows, orphans, and national debts, the second was the source of immense happiness, and of salvation to life, limb, and property.
To this John Bowden objected, and Teddy Maroon retorted, whereupon a war of words began, which speedily waged so hot that the pipes of both combatants went out, and old John Potter found it necessary to assume the part of peace-maker, in which, being himself a keen debater, he failed, and there is no saying what might have been the result of it if old Martha had not brought the action to a summary close by telling her visitors in shrill tones to "hold their noise." This they did after laughing heartily at the old woman's fierce expression of countenance.
Before parting, however, they all agreed without deciding the question at issue—that lighthouse-building was truly a noble work.
THE CAMPAIGN OF 1758.
The contrast was pleasant; repose after toil,—for stone-cutting in the yard on shore was rest compared with the labour at the Rock. Steady, regular, quiet progress; stone after stone added to the great pile, tested and ready for shipment at the appointed time. The commander-in-chief planning, experimenting, superintending. The men busy as bees; and, last but not least, delightful evenings with friends, and recountings of the incidents of the war. Such is the record of the winter.
The spring of 1758 came; summer advanced. The builders assumed the offensive, and sent out skirmishers to the Rock, where they found that the enemy had taken little or no rest during the winter, and were as hard at it as ever. Little damage, however, had been done.
The attacking party suffered some defeats at the outset. They found that their buoy was lost, and the mooring chain of the Buss had sunk during the winter. It was fished up, however, but apparently might as well have been let lie, for it could not hold the Buss, which broke loose during a gale, and had to run for Plymouth Sound. Again, on 3rd June; another buoy was lost, and bad weather continued till July. Then, however, a general and vigorous assault was made, the result being "great progress," so that, on the 8th of August, a noteworthy point was reached.
On that day the fourteenth "course" was laid, and this completed the "solid" part of the lighthouse. It rose 35 feet above the foundation.
From this point the true house may be said to have commenced, for, just above this course, the opening for the door was left, and the little space in the centre for the spiral staircase which was to lead to the first room.
As if to mark their disapproval of this event, the angry winds and waves, during the same month, raised an unusually furious commotion while one of the yawls went into the "Gut" or pool, which served as a kind of harbour, to aid one of the stone boats.
"She won't get out o' that this night," said John Bowden, alluding to the yawl, as he stood on the top of the "solid" where his comrades were busy working, "the wind's gettin' up from the east'ard."
"If she don't," replied one of the men, "we'll have to sleep where we are."
"Slape!" exclaimed Maroon, looking up from the great stone whose joints he had been carefully cementing, "it's little slape you'll do here, boys. Av we're not washed off entirely we'll have to howld on by our teeth and nails. It's a cowld look-out."
Teddy was right. The yawl being unable to get out of the Gut, the men in it were obliged to "lie on their oars" all night, and those on the top of the building, where there was scarcely shelter for a fly, felt both the "look-out" and the look-in so "cowld" that they worked all night as the only means of keeping themselves awake and comparatively warm. It was a trying situation; a hard night, as it were "in the trenches,"—but it was their first and last experience of the kind.
Thus foot by foot—often baffled, but never conquered—Smeaton and his men rose steadily above the waves until they reached a height of thirty-five feet from the foundation, and had got as far as the store-room (the first apartment) of the building. This was on the 2nd of October, on which day all the stones required for that season were put into this store-room; but on the 7th of the same month the enemy made a grand assault in force, and caused these energetic labourers to beat a retreat. It was then resolved that they should again retire into winter quarters. Everything on the Rock was therefore "made taut" and secure against the foe, and the workers returned to the shore, whence they beheld the waves beating against their tower with such fury that the sprays rose high above it.
The season could not close, however, without an exhibition of the peculiar aptitude of the Buss for disastrous action! On the 8th that inimitable vessel—styled by Teddy Maroon a "tub," and by the other men, variously, a "bumboat," a "puncheon," and a "brute" began to tug with tremendous violence at her cable.
"Ah then, darlin'," cried Maroon, apostrophising her, "av ye go on like that much longer it's snappin' yer cable ye'll be after."
"It wouldn't be the first time," growled John Bowden, as he leaned against the gale and watched with gravity of countenance a huge billow whose crest was blown off in sheets of spray as it came rolling towards them.
"Howld on!" cried Teddy Maroon, in anxiety.
If his order was meant for the Buss it was flatly disobeyed, for that charming example of naval architecture, presenting her bluff bows to the billow, snapt the cable and went quietly off to leeward!
"All hands ahoy!" roared William Smart as he rushed to the foresail halyards.
The summons was not needed. All the men were present, and each knew exactly what to do in the circumstances. But what avails the strength and capacity of man when his weapon is useless?
"She'll never beat into Plymouth Sound wi' the wind in this direction," observed one of the masons, when sail had been set.
"Beat!" exclaimed another contemptuously, "she can't beat with the wind in any direction."
"An' yit, boys," cried Maroon, "she may be said to be a first-rate baiter, for she always baits us complaitly."
"I never, no I never did see such a scow!" said John Bowden, with a deepening growl of indignation, "she's more like an Irish pig than a—"
"Ah then, don't be hard upon the poor pigs of owld Ireland," interrupted Maroon, pathetically.
"Bah!" continued Bowden, "I only wish we had the man that planned her on board, that we might keel-haul him. I've sailed in a'most every kind of craft that floats—from a Chinese junk to a British three-decker, and between the two extremes there's a pretty extensive choice of washin'-tubs, but the equal o' this here Buss I never did see—no never; take another haul on the foretops'l halyards, boys, and shut your potato-traps for fear the wind blows your teeth overboard. Look alive!"
That the Buss deserved the character so emphatically given to her was proved by the fact that, after an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Sound, she was finally run into Dartmouth Roads, and, shortly afterwards, her ungainly tossings, for that season, came to a close.
THE LAST CAMPAIGN—AND VICTORY!
The campaign of 1759 opened on the 3rd of July with an attack commanded by Smeaton in person in the old Buss.
Previous to this, on March 21st, the coast was visited by a gale of such severity that immense mischief was done on shore. Ships in the port, houses, etcetera, at Plymouth, were greatly damaged; nevertheless, the unfinished tower out upon the exposed Eddystone reef stood fast, having defied the utmost fury of winds and waves.
It was found, however, that some loss had been sustained, the buoy of the mooring chain, as usual, was gone; but worse than that, one of the stones left in the store-room, a mass which weighed four and a half hundredweight, was missing. It had been washed out of the store-room entry by the water!
This was a serious loss, as it obliged the men to retire to the Buss, where they were constrained to spin yarns and twirl their thumbs in idleness till the lost stone was replaced by another. Then they went to work according to custom "with a will," and, on the 21st of July, completed the second floor; a whole room with a vaulted roof having been built in seven days.
At this point they proceeded to fit in the entry and store-room doors; and here another vexatious check appeared imminent. It was found that the block-tin with which the door-hooks were to be fastened had been forgotten!
Doubtless Mr Smeaton felt inclined to emulate the weather by "storming" on this occasion, but that would have been of no use. Neither was it of any avail that Teddy Maroon scratched his head and wrinkled his visage like that of a chimpanzee monkey. The tin was not; the hooks would not hold without it, and to send ashore for it would have involved great delay. Mr Smeaton proved equal to the occasion.
"Off with you, lads, to the Buss," he cried, "and bring hither every pewter plate and dish on board."
"Think o' that now!" exclaimed Maroon his wrinkles expanding into a bland smile of admiration.
"Don't think of it, but do it," returned Smeaton, with a laugh.
The thing was done at once. The "plate" of the Buss was melted down and mixed with lead, the hooks were fixed into the jambs, and the doors were hung in triumph. Solid doors they were too; not slender things with wooden panels, but thick iron-plated affairs somewhat resembling the armour of a modern ship-of-war, and fitted to defy the ocean's most powerful battering-rams.
Progress thereafter was steady and rapid. There were points here and there in the work which served as landmarks. On the 6th of August Smeaton witnessed a strange sight—a bright halo round the top of the building. It was no miracle, though it looked like one. Doubtless some scientific men could give a satisfactory explanation of it, and prove that it was no direct interposition of the hand of God. So could they give a satisfactory account of the rainbow, though the rainbow is a direct sign to man. Whatever the cause, there the glory circled like a sign of blessing on the work, and a fitting emblem of the life-giving, because death-warding, beams which were soon to be sent streaming from that tower by the hand of man.
Three days afterwards they began to lay the balcony floor; on the 17th the main column was completed, and on the 26th the masonry was finished. It only remained that the lantern should be set up. But this lantern was a mighty mass of metal and glass, made with great care, and of immense strength and weight. Of course it had to be taken off to the rock in pieces, and we may almost say of course the ocean offered opposition. Then, as if everything had conspired to test the endurance and perseverance of the builders, the first and second coppersmiths fell ill on the 4th September. Skilled labour such as theirs could not readily be replaced in the circumstances, and every hour of the now far advanced season had become precious. Smeaton had set his heart on "showing a light" that year. In this difficulty, being a skilled mechanic himself, he threw off his coat and set to work with the men.
The materials of the lantern were landed on the 16th and fitted together, and the cupola was hoisted to its place on the 17th. This latter operation was extremely hazardous, the cupola being upwards of half a ton in weight, and it had to be raised outside the building and kept carefully clear of it the while. It seemed as if the elements themselves favoured this critical operation, or rather, as though they stood aghast and breathlessly still, while this, the crowning evidence of their defeat, was being put on. It was accomplished in less than half an hour, and, strange to say, no sooner was the tackling loosed and the screws that held the cupola fixed, than up got wind and sea once more in an uproarious gale of consternation from the east!
On the 18th a huge gilt ball was screwed on the top by Smeaton's own hand, and thus the building of the Eddystone lighthouse was finished.
There still remained, however, a good deal of copper and wood-work to be done in the interior, but there was now no doubt in Smeaton's mind that the light would be exhibited that season. He therefore removed his bed and stores from the Buss to the lighthouse, and remained there, the better to superintend the completion of the work.
One evening he looked into the upper storeroom, where some bars were being heated over a charcoal fire. He became giddy with the fumes, staggered, and fell down insensible. Assuredly poor Smeaton's labours would have terminated then and there if it had not been that one of the men had providentially followed him. A startled cry was heard—one of those cries full of meaning which cause men to leap half involuntarily to the rescue.
"Och! somebody's kilt," cried Maroon, flinging away his pipe and springing up the staircase, followed by others, "wather! wather! look alive there!"
Some bore Smeaton to the room below, and others ran down for sea-water, which they dashed over their master unmercifully. Whether or not it was the best treatment we cannot say, but it sufficed, for Smeaton soon recovered consciousness and found himself lying like a half drowned rat on the stone floor.
At last, on the 1st of October, the lantern was lighted for trial during the day, with 24 candles. They burned well though a gale was blowing. On the 4th an express was sent to the Corporation of the Trinity House to say that all was ready. A short delay was made to allow of the lighting-up being advertised, and finally, on the 16th of October 1759, the new Eddystone lighthouse cast its first benignant rays over the troubled sea.
It chanced on that day that an appropriate storm raged, as if to inaugurate the great event. Owing to this, Smeaton could not get off to be at the lighting-up of his own building. From the shore, however, he beheld its initiative gleam as it opened its bright eye to the reality of its grand position, and we can well believe that his hardy, persevering spirit exulted that night over the success of his labours. We can well believe, also, that there was in him a deeper and higher feeling than that of mere joy, if we may judge of the cast of his mind by the inscriptions put by him upon his work during progress and at completion.
Round the upper store-room, on the course under the ceiling, he chiselled the words:—
"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."
And on the last stone set, over the door of the lantern, was carved:—
The lighthouse, thus happily completed, rose to a height of seventy feet, and consisted of forty-six courses of masonry. The internal arrangements will be understood at once by reference to our engraving, which exhibits a section of the tower. There was first the solid part, 35 feet in height and 16 feet 8 inches in diameter at the top, the base being much wider. Then came the still very solid portion with the entrance-door and the spiral staircase. Above that, the first store-room, which had no windows. Next, the second store-room, with two windows. Next the kitchen, followed by the bed-room, both of which had four windows; and, last, the lantern. The rooms were 12 feet 4 inches in diameter, with walls 2 feet 2 inches thick, and the whole fabric, from top to bottom, was so dovetailed, trenailed, cemented, inter-connected, and bound together, that it formed and still continues, a unique and immoveable mass of masonry.
There were others besides Smeaton who watched, that night, with deep interest the opening of the Eddystone's bright eye.
In a humble apartment in the village of Cawsand Bay an aged man stood, supported by an elderly man, at a window, gazing seaward with an expression of intense expectation, while a very aged woman sat crooning over the fire, holding the hand of a fair girl just verging on early womanhood.
"D'ee see it yet, Tommy?" asked the old man, eagerly.
"No, not yet," replied Tommy, "not—yes—there—!"
"Ah! that's it, I see it," cried old John Potter, with a faint gleam of his old enthusiasm. "There it goes, brighter than ever. A blessed light, and much wanted, Tommy, much, much wanted."
He leaned heavily on his son's arm and, after gazing for some time, asked to be taken back to his chair opposite old Martha.
"What is it?" inquired Martha, bending her ear towards a pretty little mouth.
"Grandfather has just seen the new Eddystone lighted up for the first time," replied Nora.
"Ay, ay," said Martha in a moralising tone, as she turned her eyes towards the fire, "ay, ay, so soon! I always had a settled conviction that that lighthouse would be burnt."
"It's not burnt, grannie," said Nora, smiling, "it's only lighted up."
"Well, well, my dear," returned Martha, with a solemn shake of the head, "there an't much difference atween lighted-up an' burnt-up. It's just as I always said to your father, my dear—to your grandfather I mean— depend upon it, John, I used to say, that light'ouse will either be burnt up or blowed over. Ay, ay, dear me!"
She subsided into silent meditation, and thus, good reader, we shall bid her farewell, merely remarking that she and her honest husband did not die for a considerable time after that. As she grew older and blinder, old Martha became more and more attached to the Bible and the dictionary, as well as to dear good blooming Nora, who assisted her in the perusal of the former, her sweet ringing voice being the only one at last that the old woman could hear. But although it was evident that Martha had changed in many ways, her opinions remained immoveable. She feebly maintained these, and held her "settled convictions" to the last gasp.
As for Teddy Maroon, he returned to Ireland after the lighthouse was finished and quietly got married, and settled on the margin of the bog where the Teddy from whom he sprang still lingered, among his numerous descendants, the life of his juvenile kindred, and an oracle on lighthouses.
Time with its relentless scythe at last swept all the actors in our tale away: Generations after them came and went. The world grew older and more learned; whether more wise is still an open question! Knowledge increased, science and art advanced apace. Electricity, steam, iron, gold, muscle, and brain, all but wrought miracles, and almost everything underwent change more or less; but, amid all the turmoil of the world's progress and all the storms of elemental strife, one object remained unaltered, and apparently unalterable—the Eddystone Lighthouse! True, indeed, its lantern underwent vast improvements, the Argand lamp and lens replacing the old candle, and causing its crown to shine with a whiter light and an intensified glory as it grew older, but as regards its sturdy frame, there it has stood on the rugged rocks amid the tormented surges, presenting its bold and battered, but undamaged, front to the utmost fury of blast and billow for upwards of a hundred years.