to the Orkney Islands
Chapter VIII. Plans Formed
“Now children,” said Mrs.
Morelle, while she and the children were at breakfast, "since we are
safe on shore, we can begin to talk about our plans. It is now about the
middle of June. Mr. Morelle will not arrive in London until September.
So that we have two months and a half to spend in rambling about. And
the question is where we shall go.”
“You must decide that mother,” said Florence,
“Yes,” replied Mrs. Morelle, “I will decide it, but first I wish to hear
what you all have to say about it. You may all propose the plans which
you would prefer, and then I will take the subject into consideration
The children then all began to talk about the different tours which they
had heard the passengers speak of on board the ship, toward the end of
the voyage, when they had become well enough to tak6 out their maps and
guide-books, and to consult together about the tours which they were to
make. Florence said that there was a beautiful region called the lake
country, full of mountains and lakes, which lay to the north of
Liverpool, in the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland. The Isle of
Wight was proposed too, which is a very charming island lying off the
southern coast of England, and a great place of resort for parties
travelling for health or pleasure.
John said that for his part he would like to go directly to Paris. His
motive for this was partly the long and rapid journey by railway and
steamboat which it would require, but chiefly because he wished to see
the performances at the Hippodrome, a famous place in Paris for
equestrian shows, of which he had heard very glowing accounts before he
When it came to Grimkie's turn to propose a plan, he said that what he
should like best, if he thought that his aunt and Florence would like
it, would be to go to the Orkney Islands.
“To the Orkney Islands!" exclaimed Mrs. Morelle in a tone of surprise;
"why they are beyond the very northern extremity of Scotland."
“Yes, Auntie, I know they are," said Grimkie; “that is the reason why I
want to go and see them."
Mrs. Morelle paused a moment, and seemed to be thinking.
“Florence,” said she, at length, “go into our bedroom and get my little
atlas. You will find it on the table there. I took it out of the trunk
Mrs. Morelle always carried a small atlas with her, especially when
travelling with the children, for she found that occasions were
continually arising in which it was necessary, or at least very
desirable, to refer to the map.
Florence went out, and in a few minutes returned bringing the atlas with
Mrs. Morelle took the atlas and opened it at the map of Scotland. After
examining the map attentively, she turned to the map of North America.
“The Orkney Islands extend as far up as latitude fifty-nine and a half,”
said she, “and the lower point of Greenland is only sixty. So that you
would take us to within half a degree of the latitude of Greenland.”
“Yes, Auntie,” said Grimkie, “that is just it. To think that we can go
so far north as that and have good roads and good comfortable inns all
“But we should have to go a part of the way by sea,” said Mrs. Morelle.
“The Orkneys are islands at some distance from the main land.”
“Only six miles, Auntie,” said Grimkie. “It is only across the Pentland
Firth, and that is only six miles wide.”
“But are not the seas in that region very stormy?” .
“Yes, Auntie,” said Grimkie, “they are the stormiest seas in the world.
Those are the seas that the old Norsemen used to navigate, between the
coasts of Norway and Scotland, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands and
Iceland. The Norsemen were the greatest sailors in the world. They lived
almost always on the water, and the harder it blew the better they liked
it. I want to go and see where they used to sail.”
Grimkie had recently been studying history at the Chateau, and it was
there that he had learned about the wonderful exploits which those old
sea kings, as they were sometimes called, used to perform in the ships
in which they navigated these stormy northern seas. They were very rude
and violent men, and they seemed to consider that they had a right to
everything that they could find, no matter where, provided they were
strong enough to take it. The richest or the most daring among them, who
found means to build or buy one or more vessels, would enlist a party of
followers, and with this horde make descents upon any of the coasts in
all those regions, and plunder the people of their cattle, or seize
their little town. Sometimes they would take possession of certain
places on the coast and make agreements with the people living there,
that if they would give them a certain portion of their cattle every
year, they would protect them from any other marauders who might come to
rob them. This the people would consent to do, and thus the foundation
was laid for territorial governments, on the different coasts adjoining
these northern seas.
In process of time the Norsemen and their descendants extended their
incursions not only to the islands north of Scotland and to Scotland
itself, but also to the coasts of England and Ireland, and at last even
of France, where they settled a country, which, from their occupancy of
it, received the name of Normandy, which name it retains to the present
It was among these rude men, and in these boisterous and terrible seas,
where a dismal twilight reigns almost supreme for half the year, and
winds and fogs and ice, and sweeping and impetuous tides, have almost
continual possession of the sea, that the progenitors of the present
race of British and American seamen had their origin. The case is often
referred to in history, as affording a conspicuous illustration of the
effect which the encountering of difficulty and danger produces, in
stimulating the exertions of men, and developing the highest capacities
of their nature.
“There is another reason," said Grimkie, “why I should like to go now to
the Orkney Islands, and that is because it is so near the summer
solstice. I have a great desire to get as far north as I can in the time
of the summer solstice. Even here the sun rises now between three and
four, and it is quite light at two. In the Orkneys there can scarcely be
any night at all."
Grimkie it seems had been studying astronomy as well as history, at the
Chateau, and so he was quite learned about the summer solstice and other
such things. It may be well, however, for me to explain, for the sake of
the younger portion of my readers, that the phrase summer solstice
refers, for the northern hemisphere, to that portion of the year, when
the sun, in his apparent motion, comes farthest to the north, as the
winter solstice relates to that portion of the year when the sun
declines farthest to the south.
The summer solstice occurs on the twenty-first or twenty-second of June,
and the winter solstice on the twenty-first or twenty-second of
In the summer solstice the days are longest and the nights shortest. In
the winter solstice the days are shortest and the nights longest— that
is, to all people living in northern latitudes.
Now it is a very curious circumstance, the cause of which it would be
somewhat difficult to explain without showing it by means of a globe,
that the difference in length between the days and the nights increases
greatly the farther north we go. On or near the equator the difference
is very little, at any part of the year. The days throughout the whole
year are very nearly twelve hours long, and the nights too. At the pole,
however, if it were possible for any one to reach the pole, the day
would continue during the whole twenty-four hours for six months in the
year, and then the night would continue through the whole twenty-four
hours during the remaining six months. In the latitude of the southern
part of Greenland, the days, at the time of the summer solstice, are
more than eighteen hours long, and the nights not quite six.
There is another remarkable phenomenon too, to be observed in high
northern latitudes, in the time of the summer solstice, which Grimkie
was very desirous of verifying by his own observation, and that is the
long continuance of the twilight, and the very early appearance of the
dawn. The reason of this is that the path of the sun is so oblique to
the horizon, or in other words the sun goes down in so slanting a
direction, that it is a long time after sunset before he gets low enough
to withdraw his light entirely from view.
“I should think,” said Grimkie, “that in the Orkney Islands it would be
light nearly all night. The sun does not set there now till after nine
o’clock, and it rises again before three, and so I should think the
twilight would not be over before the dawn would begin. And I want to go
and see if it really is so.”
“It would be very curious indeed,” said Florence, “to have it light all
night, and no moon I should like to see it myself, if it really is so."
“But then,” she added, after a pause, “we should have to sit up all
night to see it.”
“No,” said Grrimkie. “We might get up from time to time, and look out
the window. Or perhaps we might be travelling all night somewhere, and
then we should see it.”
After some farther conversation, Mrs. Morelle said that she would not
decide at once in respect to Grimkie’s plan, but would wait until she
had obtained some farther information.
“Or rather,” she said, “until you have obtained some farther information
for me. After breakfast you may go to a bookstore and buy a good
travelling map of Scotland, and also a railway guide. Florence and John
may go with you, if they please. Then some time during the day you may
study out the different ways of going, and see which you think is the
best way. You must find out where the steamer sails from too, to take us
across the six miles of water. Then at dinner to-day you can tell me
what you have found out, and show me by the map, exactly which way we
shall have to go, and what sort of conveyances we shall have for the
different portions of the journey. Then when I have all the facts before
me I can decide.”
Grimkie accordingly bought the map and the guide book, and he spent more
than two hours that day in studying them so as to make himself as
thoroughly acquainted as possible with every thing pertaining to the
route. Mrs. Morelle did not assist him in these researches. In fact she
was out shopping during most of the time while Grimkie was making them.
Besides she thought it best to leave him to investigate the case as well
as he could himself, in the first instance, without any aid.
Accordingly, when the party were assembled for dinner that day,,and just
before the waiter brought the dinner in, Mrs. Morelle asked Grimkie what
sort of report he had to make about the way of reaching the Orkney
“I have some bad news for you, in the first place,” said Grimkie. "We
shall have a great deal more than six miles to go in a steamer.” "How is
that?” asked Mrs. Morelle.
“Because there is no steamer that goes across in the shortest place,”
said Grimkie. “There is a sail boat that goes that way, to take the
mails, but we could not go in the sail boat very well. The only large
steamer is one that goes from Edinburgh. The only places where it stops
are Aberdeen and Wick. Wick is the last place it touches at. And from
Wick to Kirkwall, which is the town where we land in the Orkneys, it is
about sixty miles. So that we should have a steamer voyage of five or
six hours to take.” "That is bad news indeed,” said Mrs. Morelle. "But
then there is one thing favorable about it,” continued Grimkie, “and
that is that there is only six miles of the voyage that is in an open
sea. We should be sheltered by the land on one side all the way,
excepting for about six miles We might at any rate go as far as Wick;
and then see how the weather is. If the sea is smooth and calm, then we
might go on board the steamer. If not we might wait for the next steamer
or give it up altogether. All the way from here to Wick there will he no
difficulty. It will be a very pleasant journey.”
Grimkie then unfolded his map in order to
explain to his aunt the general features of the country so far as they
affected the different modes of travelling to the north of Scotland.
“Here is Wick,” said Grimkie, pointing to the situation of that town on
the northwest coast of Scotland. It lies as the reader will see by the
map, north of a great bay formed by the union of Murray and Dornock
Firths. Grimkie pointed out the situation of Wick and also that of
Inverness, which lies in the bottom of the bay, at the head of Murray
“The steamer,” he says, “sails from Edinburgh once a week. She touches
at Aberdeen, for that is directly in her way, on the eastern coast.”
Here Grimkie pointed out the situation of Aberdeen.
“But she does not go to Inverness,” continued Grimkie, “although that is
a very large and important town, because that would take her too much
out of her way. So she steers right across the mouth of the bay, where
she must be in the open sea for some time, and makes for Wick. There she
takes in freight and passengers, and then sails again north along the
coast to the Orkney Islands. The town where she stops in the Orkneys is
Kirkwall. After that she sails on and goes to the Shetland Islands,
fifty or sixty miles farther over the open sea.”
“But Grimkie,” said Mrs. Morelle, “why did not you propose to go to the
Shetland Islands instead of the Orkneys, while you were about it? You
would be still more among the Norsemen's seas there, and the nights
would be still shorter.”
“Ah!” said Grimkie, “that was my discretion, Auntie. I should like very
much to go on to the end of the route, and to see the Shetland ponies,
but I knew that you and Florence would not like so long a voyage, and so
I only proposed going to the Orkneys.”
“That was discretion indeed,” said Mrs. Morelle. “But tell us the rest
of the plan. How about getting to Wick?”
“The next stage this side of Wick,” said Grimkie, “is Inverness. From
Inverness to Wick we should go by stage-coach. That we should all like.
You said the other day, on board ship, that you would like one more good
ride in an English stage-coach, and here is an excellent chance. The
road winds in and out to pass round the locks and firths, and then
coasts along the sea delightfully. At least so my guide book says. There
is one splendid pass which it goes through, equal to Switzerland.”
“I should like that very much,” said Mrs. Morelle. “And now how about
getting to Inverness?” ,
“There are three ways,” said Grimkie. “We can go by the railroads on the
eastern side of the island, or by coaches and posting up through the
center, or by inland steam navigation on the western side.”
Grimkie then went on to explain what he had learned by long study of the
maps and guide books during the day. The information which he
communicated was substantially as follows: The western part of Scotland
north of Glasgow is so mountainous, and so intersected in every
direction with long and narrow bays setting in from the sea, and also
with inland lakes, that no railroad can well be made there. By
connecting these lakes, however, and by cutting across one or two narrow
necks of land, and making canals and locks along the sides of some rapid
rivers, a channel of inland navigation has been opened, by which
steamers can pass all the way from Glasgow to Inverness, through the
very heart of the country. The route of the steamers in taking this
voyage, for some portion of the way, lies along the shore of the sea,
but it is in places where the water is so sheltered by islands and by
lofty promontories and headlands, that the ocean swell has very little
access to it in any part of the way.
On the eastern coast, on the other hand, the country is comparatively
smooth and well cultivated, and a line of railroad extends on this side
all the way from Edinburgh to Inverness. Thus the party might, as
Grimkie explained the case to them, either go up to Inverness from
Edinburgh by railroad, on the eastern side, through a smooth and
beautiful country filled with green and fruitful fields,, and with
thriving villages and towns,—or by steamboat from Glasgow on the western
side, among dark mountains and frowning precipices, and wild but
beautiful solitudes. Florence voted at once and very eagerly in favor of
“Then there is a third course still that we can take," said Grimkie; “we
can go up through the center of the island."
“And how shall we travel in that case?” asked Mrs. Morelle.
"There is no railroad yet through the center," said Grimkie, “and no
steamboat route. So we should have to go by coach, or else by a hired
“And what sort of a country is it?” asked Florence.
“Some parts of it are very beautiful" said Grimkie, “and some parts are
very wild. We should go through the estates of some of the grandest
noblemen in Great Britain. The guide book says that one duke that lives
there planted about twenty-five millions of trees on his grounds, but I
don’t believe it.”
“It may be so" said Mrs. Morelle.
“Twenty-five millions is a great many,” said Grimkie.
“I don’t see where he could get so many trees,” said John.
“Probably he raised them from seed in his own nurseries,” said Mrs.
“He could not have nurseries big enough to raise so many,” said John.
“Let us see,” said Grimkie. “Suppose he had a nursery a mile square and
the little trees grew in it a foot apart. We will call a mile five
thousand feet. It is really more than five thousand feet, but we will
call it that for easy reckoning. That would give us five thousand rows
and five thousand trees in a row—five thousand times five thousand.”
Grimkie took out his pencil and figured with it for a moment, on the
margin of a newspaper, and then said,
“It makes exactly twenty-five millions. So that if he had a nursery a
mile square, and planted the trees afoot apart, he would have just
“Never mind the Duke of Athol's trees,” said Mrs. Morelle. “Let us
finish planning our journey.”
But here the door opened and two waiters came in bringing the dinner. So
the whole party took their seats at the table. Afterward, while they
were sitting at the table, Mrs. Morelle asked Grimkie what he had
concluded upon as the best way for them to take of all the three which
he had described, in case they should decide to go to the Orkney
“You see, Auntie,” said he, “we shall of course go by railway from here
to Glasgow, and it will make a pleasant change to take the steamboat
there. It is a beautiful steamboat and excellently well managed. It is
used almost altogether for pleasure travelling, and every thing is as
nice in it as a pin. Then it must be very curious to see the green glens
and the sheep pastures, and the highland shepherds on the mountains, as
we are sailing along. Then when we got to Inverness we shall change
again into the stage-coach, to go to Wick, and at Wick we shall take the
deep sea steamer. So we shall have a series of pleasant changes all the
“I am not sure how pleasant the last one will be,” said Mrs. Morelle.
“If we have pleasant weather and a smooth sea, I think it will be very
pleasant indeed" said Grimkie. “It will be amusing to think how far we
are going away, and also to see what kind of people there will be going
to the Orkney and Shetland Islands.”
“But suppose it should not be pleasant weather and a smooth .sea.”
“Then we will not go,” said Grimkie. “We will stop at Wick and come back
again, if we do not wish to wait for the next steamer. It will be a very
curious and interesting journey to Wick, even if we do not go any
farther at all.”
Mrs. Morelle said that she would consider the subject, and give her
decision the next morning.
The next morning she told the children that she had concluded to go, and
to follow the plan which Grimkie had marked out for the journey.
“But there is one thing that we must not overlook,” said she. “We must
be sure that we have got money enough. So you must make a calculation
how long it will take us to go, and how much it will cost. Of course you
can not calculate exactly, but you can come near enough for our purpose.
When you have made the calculation, put down the items on paper and show
it to me.”
Grimkie made the calculation as his aunt had requested. He did not
attempt to estimate the expense of each day precisely. That would have
been impossible. He reckoned in general the hotel expenses, all the way,
at so much a day, from the number of days which it would require, and
then from the railway guide and other books he found what the fares
would be for the travelling part of the work. He also made a liberal
allowance for porterage, coach hire, and other such things. When he had
made out his account he gave it to Mrs. Morelle, and she' showed it to
the keeper of the hotel, and asked him if he thought that was a just
estimate. Mr. Lynn, after examining it carefully, said that he thought
it was a very good estimate indeed, and that the allowances were all
liberal; and as the total came entirely within the amount which Mrs.
Morelle had with her in sovereigns, she concluded that it would be safe
The party accordingly went to the station that very afternoon and took
passage for Carlisle, a town near the frontier of Scotland, and on the
way to Glasgow.
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