Letters from the Cape

Lady Duff Gordon
Letters from the Cape, by Lady
Duff Gordon

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Title: Letters from the Cape
Author: Lady Duff Gordon
Release Date: April, 1997 [EBook #886] [This file was first posted on

April 24, 1997] [Most recently updated: May 11, 2003]
Edition: 10
Language: English
Character set encoding: US-ASCII

Transcribed from the 1921 edition by David Price, email
[email protected] Second proof by Margaret Price.



Wednesday, 24th July. Off the Scilly Isles, 6 P.M.
When I wrote last Sunday, we put our pilot on shore, and went down
Channel. It soon came on to blow, and all night was squally and rough.
Captain on deck all night. Monday, I went on deck at eight. Lovely
weather, but the ship pitching as you never saw a ship pitch--bowsprit
under water. By two o'clock a gale came on; all ordered below. Captain
left dinner, and, about six, a sea struck us on the weather side, and
washed a good many unconsidered trifles overboard, and stove in three
windows on the poop; nurse and four children in fits; Mrs. T- and
babies afloat, but good- humoured as usual. Army-surgeon and I picked
up children and bullied nurse, and helped to bale cabin. Cuddy window
stove in, and we were wetted. Went to bed at nine; could not undress, it
pitched so, and had to call doctor to help me into cot; slept sound. The
gale continues. My cabin is water-tight as to big splashes, but damp and

dribbling. I am almost ashamed to like such miseries so much. The
forecastle is under water with every lurch, and the motion quite
incredible to one only acquainted with steamers. If one can sit this ship,
which bounds like a tiger, one should sit a leap over a haystack.
Evidently, I can never be sea- sick; but holding on is hard work, and
writing harder.
Life is thus:- Avery--my cuddy boy--brings tea for S-, and milk for me,
at six. S- turns out; when she is dressed, I turn out, and sing out for
Avery, who takes down my cot, and brings a bucket of salt water, in
which I wash with vast danger and difficulty; get dressed, and go on
deck at eight. Ladies not allowed there earlier. Breakfast solidly at nine.
Deck again; gossip; pretend to read. Beer and biscuit at twelve. The
faithful Avery brings mine on deck. Dinner at four. Do a little
carpentering in cabin, all the outfitters' work having broken loose. I am
now in the captain's cabin, writing. We have the wind as ever, dead
against us; and as soon as we get unpleasantly near Scilly, we shall tack
and stand back to the French coast, where we were last night. Three
soldiers able to answer roll-call, all the rest utterly sick; three middies
helpless. Several of crew, ditto. Passengers very fairly plucky; but only
I and one other woman, who never was at sea before, well. The food on
board our ship is good as to meat, bread, and beer; everything else bad.
Port and sherry of British manufacture, and the water with an incredible
borachio, essence of tar; so that tea and coffee are but derisive names.
To-day, the air is quite saturated with wet, and I put on my clothes
damp when I dressed, and have felt so ever since. I am so glad I was
not persuaded out of my cot; it is the whole difference between rest,
and holding on for life. No one in a bunk slept at all on Monday night;
but then it blew as heavy a gale as it can blow, and we had the Cornish
coast under our lee. So we tacked and tumbled all night. The ship being
new, too, has the rigging all
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