A BOAT'S-CREW landed one time upon one of the stacks [a] with the intention of attacking the seals. They had considerable success; stunned several of them, and while they lay stupefied, stripped, them of their skins, with the fat attached to them. They left the naked carcases lying on the rocks, and were about to get into their boat with their spoils and return to Papa Stour, whence they had come. But just as they were embarking, there rose such a tremendous swell that they saw there was not a moment to be lost, and every one flew as quickly as he could to get on board the boat. They were all successful but one man, who had imprudently loitered behind. His companions were very unwilling to leave him on the skerries, perhaps to perish, but the surge increased so fast, that after many unsuccessful attempts to bring the boat in close to the stacks, they were obliged to depart, and leave the unfortunate man to his fate.
A dark stormy night came on, the sea dashed most furiously against the rocks, and the poor deserted Shetlander saw no prospect before him but that of dying of the cold and hunger, or of being washed into the sea by the breakers, which now threatened every moment to run over the stack.
At length he perceived several of the seals, who had escaped from the boatmen, approaching the skerry. When they landed they stripped off their seal-skin dresses and appeared in their proper forms of Sea-Trows. Their first object was to endeavour to recover their friends, who lay stunned and skinless. When they had succeeded in bringing them to themselves, they also resumed their proper form, and appeared in the shape of the sub-marine people. But in mournful tones, wildly accompanied by the raging storm, they lamented the loss of their sea-vestures, the want of which would for ever prevent them from returning to their native abodes beneath the deep waters of the Atlantic. Most of all did they lament for Ollavitinus, the son of Gioga, who, stripped of his seal-skin, must abide for ever in the upper world.
Their song was at length broken off by their perceiving the unfortunate boatman, who, with shivering limbs an despairing looks, was gazing on the furious waves that now dashed over the stack. Gioga, when she saw him, instantly conceived the design of rendering the perilous situation of the man of advantage to her son. She went up to him, and mildly addressed him, proposing to carry him on her back through the sea to Papa Stour, on condition of his getting her the seal-skin of her son.
The bargain was soon made, and Gioga equipped herself in her phocine garb; but when the Shetlander gazed on the stormy sea he was to ride through, his courage nearly failed him, and he begged of the old lady to have the kindness to allow him to cut a few holes in her shoulders and flanks, that he might obtain a better fastening for his hands between the skin and the flesh.
This, too, her maternal tenderness induced Gioga to consent to. The man, having prepared everything, now mounted, and she plunged into the waves with him, gallantly ploughed the deep, and landed him safe and sound at Acres Gio, in Papa Stour. He thence set out for Skeo, at Hamna Voe, where the skin was, and honourably fulfilled his agreement by restoring to Gioga the means of bringing back her son to his dear native land.
[a] Stacks or skerries are bare rocks out in the sea.