The Inchcape Rock by James Baldwin
In the North Sea there is a great rock called the Inch-cape Rock. It
is twelve miles from any land, and is covered most of the time with
Many boats and ships have been wrecked on that rock; for it is so near
the top of the water that no vessel can sail over it without striking
More than a hundred years ago there lived not far away a kind-heart-ed
man who was called the Abbot of Ab-er-broth-ock.
"It is a pity," he said, "that so many brave sailors should lose their
lives on that hidden rock."
So the abbot caused a buoy to be fastened to the rock. The buoy
floated back and forth in the shallow water. A strong chain kept it
from floating away.
On the top of the buoy the abbot placed a bell; and when the waves
dashed against it, the bell would ring out loud and clear.
Sailors, now, were no longer afraid to cross the sea at that place.
When they heard the bell ringing, they knew just where the rock was,
and they steered their vessels around it.
"God bless the good Abbot of Ab-er-broth-ock!" they all said.
One calm summer day, a ship with a black flag happened to sail not far
from the Inch-cape Rock. The ship belonged to a sea robber called
Ralph the Rover; and she was a terror to all honest people both on sea
There was but little wind that day, and the sea was as smooth as
glass. The ship stood almost still; there was hardly a breath of air
to fill her sails.
Ralph the Rover was walking on the deck. He looked out upon the glassy
sea. He saw the buoy floating above the Inchcape Rock. It looked like
a big black speck upon the water. But the bell was not ringing that
day. There were no waves to set it in motion.
"Boys!" cried Ralph the Rover; "put out the boat, and row me to the
Inchcape Rock. We will play a trick on the old abbot."
The boat was low-ered. Strong arms soon rowed it to the Inchcape Rock.
Then the robber, with a heavy ax, broke the chain that held the buoy.
He cut the fas-ten-ings of the bell. It fell into the water. There
was a gur-gling sound as it sank out of sight.
"The next one that comes this way will not bless the abbot," said
Ralph the Rover.
Soon a breeze sprang up, and the black ship sailed away. The sea
robber laughed as he looked back and saw that there was nothing to
mark the place of the hidden rock.
For many days, Ralph the Rover scoured the seas, and many were the
ships that he plun-dered. At last he chanced to sail back toward the
place from which he had started.
The wind had blown hard all day. The waves rolled high. The ship was
moving swiftly. But in the evening the wind died away, and a thick fog
Ralph the Rover walked the deck. He could not see where the ship was
going. "If the fog would only clear away!" he said.
"I thought I heard the roar of breakers," said the pilot. "We must be
near the shore."
"I cannot tell," said Ralph the Rover; "but I think we are not far
from the Inchcape Rock. I wish we could hear the good abbot's bell."
The next moment there was a great crash. "It is the Inchcape Rock!"
the sailors cried, as the ship gave a lurch to one side, and began to
"Oh, what a wretch am I!" cried Ralph the Rover. "This is what comes
of the joke that I played on the good abbot!"
What was it that he heard as the waves rushed over him? Was it the
abbot's bell, ringing for him far down at the bottom of the sea?