Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Kerguelen’s Land
by [?]

“‘Down in the deep, with freight and crew,
Past any help she lies,
And never a bale has come to shore
Of all thy merchandise.

‘For cloth o’ gold and comely frieze,’
Winstanley said, and sigh’d,
‘For velvet coif, or costly coat,
They fathoms deep may bide.

‘O thou, brave skipper, blithe and kind,
O mariners bold and true,
Sorry at heart, right sorry am I,
A-thinking of yours and you.'”


“Father Albatross had been out all day, and was come home to the island which gives its name to this story. He had only taken a short flight, for his wife was hatching an egg, and he kept comparatively near the island where her nest was situated. There was only one egg, but parental affection is not influenced by numbers. There is always love enough for the largest family, and everything that could be desired in an only child, and Mother Albatross was as proud as if she had been a hen sitting on a dozen.

“The Father Albatross was very considerate. Not only did he deny himself those long flights which he and his mate had before so greatly enjoyed, but he generally contrived to bring back from his shorter trips some bits of news for her amusement. Their island home lay far out of the common track of ships, but sometimes he sighted a distant vessel, and he generally found something to tell of birds or fish, whales or waterspouts, icebergs or storms. When there was no news he discussed the winds and waves, as we talk of the weather and the crops.

“Bits of news, like misfortunes, are apt to come together. The very day on which the egg hatched, Father Albatross returned from his morning flight so full of what he had seen, that he hardly paid any attention to his mate’s announcement of the addition to his family.

“‘Could you leave the nest for a quarter of an hour, my dear?’ he asked.

“‘Certainly not,’ said Mother Albatross; ‘as I have told you, the egg is hatched at last.’

“‘These things always happen at the least convenient moments,’ said the father bird. ‘There’s a ship within a mere wing-stretch, untold miles out of her course, and going down. I came away just as she was sinking, that you might have a chance of seeing her. It is a horrible sight.’

“‘It must be terrible to witness’, she replied, ‘and I would give worlds to see it; but a mother’s first duty is the nest, and it is quite impossible for me to move. At the same time I beg that you will return, and see whatever there is to be seen.’

“‘It is not worth while,’ he answered; ‘there was not a moment to lose, and by this time she must be at the bottom with all belonging to her.’

“‘Could none of them fly away?’ the Mother Albatross asked.

“‘No men have wings,’ replied her mate, ‘nor, for that matter, fins or scales either. They are very curious creatures. The fancy they have for wandering about between sea and sky, when Nature has not enabled them to support themselves in either, is truly wonderful. Go where you will over the ocean and you meet men, as you meet fish and birds. Then if anything disables these ships that they contrive to go about in, down they go, and as the men can neither float nor fly, they sink to the bottom like so many stones.’

“‘Were there many on the ship you saw?’ the mother bird asked.

“‘More than one likes to see drowned in a batch,’ said Father Albatross ‘and I feel most sorry for the captain. He was a fine fellow, with bright eyes and dark curly plumage, and would have been a handsome creature if he had had wings. He was going about giving orders with desperate and vain composure, and wherever he went there went with him a large dog with dark bright curls like his own. I have seen the ship before, and I know the dog. His name is Carlo. He is the captain’s property, and the ship’s pet. Usually he is very quiet, and sometimes, when it blows, he is ill; but commonly he was on deck, blinking with the most self-sufficient air you can imagine. However, to-day, from the moment that danger was imminent, he seemed to be aware of it, and to have only one idea on the subject, to keep close to his master. He got in front of him as he moved about, sat down at his feet when he stood still, jumped on him when he shouted his orders, and licked his hands when he seized the ropes. In fact, he was most troublesome. But what can you expect of a creature that requires four legs to go about with, and can’t rise above the earth even with these, and doesn’t move as many yards in a day as I go miles in an hour? He can swim, but only for a certain length of time. However, he is probably quiet enough now; and perhaps some lucky chance has rolled him to his master’s feet below the sea.’