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ENGLAND TO THE CAPE.
Dec. 21st, 1872.–At length we are ready, the last packingcase of science on board, the last good-bye said, the last hawser cast off, a tug tows our bows round, "Full speed ahead!” and hurrah! we are off on our cruise round the world. We steam out of Portsmouth Harbour, through the “Needles,” and down Channel with a smooth sea and a light head wind, not long to last though, for in two days' time we got a heavy gale, which shook us all nicely down into our places; close-reefed topsails—ship rolling like mad -sleep at a minimum-scientifics sick-stand up meals -crockery smashing—perfect misery—attempted joviality, &c. And so with a persistent foul wind, blowing sometimes very hard, and sometimes lighter again, and with until the last day or two a heavy, confused sea and swell, we jogged uncomfortably on, now beating about under sail, and now steaming head to wind, until Jan. the 3rd, when we arrived at Lisbon.
Our tentative dredging labours can so far hardly be called successful, but“ experience teaches,” and doubtless we shall soon become first-class dredgers. We commenced by a sounding in 1,125 fms.; but the line, when being hauled
in, parted, and away went the afore-mentioned length of rope, a thermometer, and a sounding-machine. And then we put the dredge over, which came back upside down, and the last fifty fathoms of rope in a hopeless tangle; so over it went again, coming up all right next time, with some starfish, one fish, and a shrimp—all very rare indeed ! Everybody, officers and men, came on deck to see it come in, and there was much excitement, though a cynical whisper did go round that we should have plenty of time and practice to lose this excitement before we had finished the cruise. Then again we lost a sounding-line in 900 fms., the dredge coming up empty too; and yet once again, in deeper water, we lost sounding-line, thermometers, &c., and this time the dredge also with 2,500 fms. of dredge-rope.
We stayed at Lisbon till the 12th, having been detained by such cloudy wet weather that the necessary “sights for rating chronometers could not be taken. The King and suite paid us a visit, and were much interested in things scientific. Two of us drove to Cintra on a disagreeable day, thick mist hanging over the country with occasional showers. Our driver was much too fond of getting wet inside; to make up, doubtless, for his getting wet outside. The scenery is neither pretty nor interesting -brown fields between high stone dykes, and dilapidated windmills on the round bare hilltops. Fine houses fringe the town of Lisbon, with orange-trees laden with fruit in the gardens.
Arriving at Cintra after a three hours' drive, we alighted at a nice little English hotel, and went for a stroll: a heavy mist hanging over the hills, and dampness paramount in the air. Lovely roads through old cork-tree woods, full of beautiful ferns, and ivy, and green shrubbery. An ominous drip, drip we heard from our beds next morning, and our fears were painfully confirmed by seeing heavy rain, and yesterday's mist still hanging about. But breakfast cheered us, and soon the weather did clear up a little, gleams of sunshine flooded occasionally the lower land, and the mist stole slowly upwards and past us. And so we mounted our donkeys (Cintra donkeys are famous, and, accompanied by a guide walking, rode off, first going to the famous villa of Mr. Cook, in whose exquisite garden we strolled about for a long time. It is a paradise of vegetation, palms, tree-ferns, and pines, among waterfalls, rockeries, and grottos—an enchanting place! Then up the hills to the “ Cork Convent," the mist gradually becoming thicker as we mounted higher, until we could not see a hundred yards ahead, while out from this white mist there looms occasionally a large black cross—the scene of murders. In less than an hour we arrived at the Convent -a relic of the first Franciscans—half the cells being underground and lined with cork, to keep out the damp, I presume; but why they did not add that one to their other voluntary miseries, I cannot say. We are shown also a cell hewn out of a rock underground, outside of which an inscription tells us that “ Here Honorius lived and died in the service of God.” Poor man! he must have led a wet, dark life, to say the best of it. Query, who was the most senseless, the aërial living St. Simeon Stylites or this grubbling Honorius ? As I thus moralized my donkey fell and stood on his head, which made me of necessity do likewise, but we both got up uninjured and proceeded, till a shout from my guide made me turn back, when I found him busy picking up silver coin which I had dropped. “A poor but honest man,” as he very properly described himself. And so to the palace of Dom Fernando, ex-king of Portugal, he having abdicated in favour of his son, the present King.
The castle is perched on the top of a rock, and that again on the top of a wooded hill, laid out in walks and gardens. It is a grand picturesque old palace, built in the semi-Moorish style, on the highest peak of the Cintra hillrange, and from a long way out at sea its roofs and towers are seen white and sparkling, crowning the purpled hill. The mist was thieker than ever up here, so we lost the view,