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RANDOM MEMORIES                      77

mtskirts of the crowd, some of the town's children (to
vhom the whole affair was Greek and Hebrew) profanely
laying tigg. The same descent, the same country, the
same narrow sect of the same religion, and all these bonds
nade very largely nugatory by an accidental difference
Df dialect !

Into the bay of Wick stretched the dark length of the
infinished breakwater, in its cage of open staging; the
travellers (like frames of churches) overplumbing all;
ind away at the extreme end, the divers toiling unseen
DB the foundation. On a platform of loose planks, the
assistants turned their air-mills ; a stone might be swing-
ing between wind and water ; underneath the swell ran
gaily; and from time to time, a mailed dragon with a
window-glass snout came dripping up the ladder. Youth
is a blessed season after all; my stay at Wick was in the
year of Voces fidelium and the rose-leaf room at Bailie
Brown's; and already I did not care two straws for
literary glory. Posthumous ambition perhaps requires an
atmosphere of roses ; and the more rugged excitant of
Wick east winds had made another boy of me. To go
down in the diving-dress, that was my absorbing fancy ;
and with the countenance of a certain handsome scamjj
of a diver, Bob Bain by name, I gratified the whim.

It was gray, harsh, easterly weather, the swell ran
pretty high, and out in the open there were  skipper's
daughters,' when I found myself at last on the diver's
platform, twenty pounds of lead upon each foot and my
whole person swollen with ply and ply of woollen under-
clothing. One moment, the salt wind was whistling
round my night-capped head; the next, I was crushed
almost double under the weight of the helmet. As that
intolerable burthen was laid upon nie, I could have found
it in my heart (only for shame's sake) to cry off from the
whole enterprise. But it was too late. The attendants
began to turn the hurdy-gurdy, and the air to whistle
through the tube ; some one screwed in the barred window
of the vizor ; and I was cut off in a moment from my
fellow-men; standing there in their midst, but quite
divorced from intercourse; a creature deaf and dumb.