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NIGHTS ON DECK.
struggling at sea against all the elements! How did man ever dare to trust himself to so frail a conveyance ! God had his designs; he purposed to unite the people of the most distant countries. The sea, though often stormy and full of dangers, is become the bond of charity. Alas ! has not charity on land also its storms and its tempests!
11th. The weather continues.
15th. We have at length a fair wind. Be it what weather it will, I am constantly upon deck. I never go below to sleep for a few hours. How can one relinquish the sight of a starry firmament, of a moon reflected in the waves, upon a vessel that is cleaving the sea, to shut one's self up in a little wooden cage, where frequently one is stifled with the heat ! During the heaviest showers, the most boisterous gales, I keep my place upon deck, leaning against the mast, wrapped in my cloak. I admire the Lord in the torrent that inundates me, as I admired him on land in the dew-drop, which, at dawn of day, refreshed the flower of spring.
16th and 17th. Fair weather.
20th. We are in sight of Candia ; wind fair, and weather just such as we could wish.
Never shall I forget these nights which I passed in meditation on the deck of the Ulysses, lighted by the silvery rays of the orb of night, with my eyes fixed on that friend of the traveller, of the unfortunate, and of every tender-hearted being, whom I had learned to love from my childhood, who has always had indescribable charms for me, when she penetrated through
the gilded windows of the palaces of kings, as when in my captivity she visited me between the bars of the keep of Vincennes. What hours have I passed in contemplating her!
I meditated particularly upon the journey which God, in his mercy, permitted me to take. My heart throbbed. I should soon be in Palestine ; I was going to traverse that land thickly strewed with prodigies from the most remote 'ges, that fertile land where Jesus lifted up that divine voice which has given a new aspect to the world. Turning my thoughts to myself, I then asked : Who am I, to be thus favoured ? I am a sinner, and what sinner ? a sinner who, during the greatest part of his life, has offended, reviled his Creator, his benefactor, his father, and his God; and this sinner is permitted to touch the ground over which the feet of the Saviour of the world have passed! The lips of this sinner are about to kiss the manger, the sepulchre, and that blood-stained rock, where, in order to save the human race, the Son of man, the Love of Heaven, expired in excruciating torments ! I am going to see Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jordan, Mount Tabor, the Mount of Olives ..... At this thought my heart burns with love and gratitude; I sink upon my knees, and I adore the thrice good God.
21st and 22nd. The weather has been so fine and the wind so favourable that we have run nearly three hundred miles.
23rd. We are not so fortunate to-day. Assailed by a north-north-west wind, and met by a rough sea coming with fury from the Archipelago, our most experienced seamen know not what resources to call to their aid.
The wind roars among the rigging; we have but one small sail left, and how easily that may be torn in pieces ! The waves dash with violence against our vessel. The Ulysses is become the object of their fury.
There is a saying that if the impious man learns to pray any where, it is at sea. This I can comprehend, especially in one of those awful nights, without any light save the frequent flash, when the cries of the sailors are blended with the roaring of the thunder and of the
Alarmed at his situation, the unbeliever, pale and trembling, looks up to Him who can alone succour and protect. Nature, whose voice is heard in this extremity, impels him to lift up his hands in prayer
-an homage which the affrighted heart always pays to the God whom it had till then forgotten.
For my part, lying upon the deck, still indisposed, fastened by a rope that I might not be swept away by some wave, I said to myself: The hand of God is impressed every where : I shall have the happiness to visit the Holy Land : this happiness must be purchased by sufferings, privations, and dangers. God cannot give to his friends any other lot than he gave to his divine Son. The cross is the coin in which he pays here below those who comprehend and love Him.
Suppose, for a moment, my dear friend, the tomb of our Saviour to be near Paris. There is the Seine turned into the Jordan, Neuilly into Bethlehem, Fontainebleau into Nazareth, &c. Do you not see at once, as I do, a profane people treading disrespectfully that sacred ground, making it the theatre of their diversions, of their guilty pleasures? Do you not hear the strange conversations
of the multitude, that language full of impiety, or at least of a levity not less sacrilegious, which, on the eve of a day devoted to rest by religion, are held by persons who nevertheless call themselves Christians : “ We are going to-morrow by omnibus to Bethlehem ; we shall go to the hotel of the Ambassadors, where you are sure of an excellent dinner; after dinner we shall go to the Manger, and we shall be back in time for the Opera”nay, would not the irreverence, the scandal, go still further than I say, if the holy places were in France instead of being in Asia ? No, no ; this long peregrination full of dangers to reach the Holy Land—that Palestine in the hands of the infidels -- that sacred sepulchre, guarded by feeble mortals at the peril of their lives – that Jordan, which cannot be approached without jeopardy - those scattered Christians who can only go with timid and trembling step to visit the tomb of their God : all this is marked with the seal of a God who was born in a stable, and died on a gibbet: he could do no other than surround the avenue to his birthplace and his grave with thorns and briars, privations and dangers.
24th. Still bad weather.
25th. The weather is more favourable, the ship still làbouring. We have had since yesterday several charming visiters : pretty little birds, frightened by the bad weather, sought shelter in our ship; I remarked, in particular, a beautiful turtle-dove. The sailors would fain have caught it, but I was there to forbid them; and if it had been declared a good prize, I would have paid its ransom. The poor bird was a traveller, like ourselves; it had come to us in quest of an asylum : was it right
that it should make a meal for a sailor, who was not in want of any thing? A magistrate was expelled from Athens for having driven away a bird which took refuge in his bosom; he was a heathen, and there is something in the Christian heart that makes it feel compassion for all the beings created by its kind Maker. We had, , however, on board, a treacherous animal, the symbol of hypocrisy ; I never could like it. The sailors were fond of Rosso. It must be confessed that he was particularly clever at seizing with his claws the poor birds that came to us to demand hospitality. Early in the morning, I heard exclamations of joy; I thought that we had got sight of Cyprus. A sailor handed to me the bleeding wing of the poor dove : Rosso had made it his prey. Is the heart of a cat susceptible of remorse ? Rosso never durst appear in my presence again.
26th. The weather is finer, the sea less agitated. I feel better, but the latitudes in which we are sailing awaken in my heart painful recollections. I see that war of extermination, that frightful struggle between the Turks and the Greeks-a war, marked on either side by acts of cruelty and horrors, from which the imagination turns away in disgust, and which the pen refuses to record. Many a time, in passing some island, the waves seemed to bring with them fragments of human flesh and palpitating limbs; and the wind, howling among the rigging, heightens the illusion. I listen, and fancy that I hear the cries, the moans, the sighs, of the victims.
One evening I was upon deck; I was conversing about this war, about this horrible carnage, with a person who had lived in the isle of Cyprus. He related to us