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DANGERS OF THE SEA-SHORE. It is very pleasant in the summer-time to visit the sea-side, bathe in its waters, breathe its fresh air, walk over the sands, and get among the low rocks after the tide has gone down, seeking for curious weeds and shells. But yon must always be careful and mind where you go; and above all things remember that when the tide has gone down it will soon come up again. Not long ago a young gentleman, at low water, was walking along the sands of the shore reading a book. He came to some rocks and sat down. There he sat reading his book, when he heard some boys shouting to him from the cliff above; and lifting up his eyes he found that the rock on which he sat, not a high one, was surrounded with water. He tried to escape, but the water was too deep, and not being a good swimmer, he was drowned.
Here is a tale of danger by a writer in a late number of Chambers Journal:
“The cliffs here sink into the depths with scarce a slope, but round them has been dug a broad safe walk-the work of one old man in the years between his seventieth and his eightieth birthdayma'mile in length, and seats of stone along it, above which, as we sit, the sea gulls bark like hounds at fault, crossing and re-crossing with their snowy wings, or peering from the dizzy crevices: they think perhaps I have designs upon their nests, poor things, and very much overrate my power of climbing.
I cannot express the horror that comes over me whenever I get crag-tast,' or seem to be so, above any great height:
my brain wheels, my limbs droop powerless, and my tongue itself is paralysed with excess of terror. This is partly constitutional, and partly, I think, occasioned by a frightful adventure that happened to me lately near this very place. A zigzag path leads down from one of these rocks to the beach below, the only bay just there which is thus approachable from the land, and I descended it one early morning in search of shells for my little girl. Finding scarcely any booty of that kind, and observing the tide to be going out still, although it was nearly at low-water mark, I ventured round the point into the next cove, wetting my boots slightly in the attempt. The pools left here by the tide were as clear as crystal, the sand was whiter, and the shells easily to be seen; but a vast cavern, such as I had never before known of, so red as almost to appear red-hot, took my attention away at once, and induced me to explore it. It ran straight inward, as though bored by some enormous augur, for a great distance, and then sloped a little upwards. The water that dripped down from the roof with a dreary continuous sound was of the colour of blood. I scrambled over some of the recumbent rocks, each resembling in its fantastic hideousness some petrified wild monster of the sea, and pushed on through the gloom to the very end of the cavern : its great mouth seemed from thence quite a moderate-sized aperture. I climbed up its little curve, which had no outlet of its own whatever, and could thence see only the faintest glimmering of daylight. This took me some considerable time, but still I remained sitting there for several minutes longer, enjoying the horror of the situation, the luxury of a melancholy not procurable at my house in Cecil Street, Strand, till it struck me on a sudden, like a blow, that the sea might then be cutting me off from the point. I ran out from the cave like a greyhound, topping this obstacle and clearing that, for I felt that I was running for my life. Yet, as I ran, I remembered, for the first time, an awful story told
Ι of this very place, of a poor fisherman whose hand was held by a huge crab under a stone until the tide came up and drowned him. I seemed to see him as he was found, days afterwards, with wrist half severed by his own clasp-knife, in the desperate and futile hope of ridding himself in that way from his terrible jailer. My fate, alas ! was as surely fixed. There were six feet of foaming wave about the precipitous height round which I had come, and I could not swim a stroke! A semicircle of cliffs, from 80 to 200 feet in height, hemmed the bay closely in; and except a fissure here and there, and a narrow ledge upon which scarcely a goat could have found foothold, their sides were one unbroken steep; while the glorious sun overhead, just beginning to run its course, was gilding the town upon the opposite shore, and awakening its inmates to life and happiness. I was sentenced-I felt it to die in a few hours. The waves whose play and murmur I had watched and listened to before with such delight, seemed to ride sparkling in with a terrible joy, and to threaten grimly as they creamed upon the beach. The glittering shore which had first tempted me to my doom was becoming narrower and narrower, and the mere strip that was left to me for standing-room had changed to shifting quicksand. I waved my hat and handkerchief, and shouted to the vessels as they went gallantly by before the freshening breeze; but my voice was lost at once in the tumult of wind and wave, and my signs, if they were seen, were unattended to. How could it be otherwise, I reflected, when I myself have often given the same salutes for very joy, and to please my child; and why should I be now regarded more than then? Seeing my real danger, and expecting death indeed as I fully was, it was singular-it seemed so even at that time—that I should fall to reason with myself in this fashion, and that my thoughts should wander back to trivial circumstances of my past life, rather than dwell upon the present horror, or presage my future doom. The spray dashing on my face as I stood helpless with my back to the cliff, first aroused me to action, and recalled the cavern to my mind. It would afford a little longer space for existence, and there was a hope-shadowy enough, but still a hope—that the tide might not always penetrate to its extreme end. The floor was a gradual-slope until it took a sharp turn upwards, as I described ; but the roof, which was at first as lofty as a cathedral, sank and contracted almost at once, so that I could touch it, and the walls also, with my outstretched hand. Both were wet and slimy, but whether from the tide or the damp I could not tell. I drew out my watch, and calculated that in about four hours and a half I should be in safety, or a dead man; then I watched the cruel waters gradually usurp the cavern, and retreated step by step before them. When it grew almost pitch-dark from the waves filling the entire aperture, I crept up as high as I could possibly go, and with my head in a
fissure of the rock, and the rest of my body gathered up together in a heap, I listened with straining ears. I knew that I must be suffocated there long before the sea could come up and drown me; but instinct seemed to have overcome reason, and I acted as probably an animal would have done in such a plight. The roar of the billows as they broke against the rocky sides in the darkness, 'the scream of the maddened beach dragged down by the wave' as they returned, and the solemn sough when a huge mass of water swelled from time to time, unbroken, into the cavern, were hideous to hear: it seemed as if some terrible conflict was going on between earth and sea for this disputed territory, wherein light had declined in any way to interfere. Now the tumult seemed a little to subside, and my heart began to resume something like its usual pulsation—now to increase in fury, and all my little edifice of hope went down again at once. At length, and after what seemed hours of suspense, I came to be sure that the flow had ceased—that the tide was going down. When I knew that this was so, indeed, and that the sea could come no further, but must needs retreat hundreds of yards before it returned again, I could scarcely wait until the passage was sufficiently shallow for my exit; it was, in truth, a resurrection from the tomb. With how light a heart I ran up the zigzag path, and back along the cliff walk! -how thankfully I passed by the churchyard, with its many tablets to mariners drowned at sea !-how doubly dear my little daughter seemed to me!-how sweet a home appeared that terrace lodging !-the milk had quite a creamy taste at tea!"