A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE

BY ROBERT T. S. LOWELL

I am a soldier: but my tale, this time, is not of war. 

The man of whom the Muse talked to the blind bard of old had grown wise in wayfaring. He had seen such men and cities as the sun shines on, and the great wonders of land and sea; and he had visited the farther countries, whose indwellers, having been once at home in the green fields and under the sky and roofs of the cheery earth, were now gone forth and forward into a dim and shadowed land, from which they found no backward path to these old haunts, and their old loves:—

At the Charter-House I learned the story of the King of Ithaca, and read it for something better than a task; and since, though I have never seen so many cities as the much-wandering man, nor grown so wise, yet have heard and seen and remembered, for myself, words and things from crowded streets and fairs and shows and wave-washed quays and murmurous market-places, in many lands; and for his ,—his people wrapt in cloud and vapor, whom "no glad sun finds with his beams,"—have been borne along a perilous path through thick mists, among the crashing ice of the Upper Atlantic, as well as sweltered upon a Southern sea, and have learned something of men and something of God.

I was in Newfoundland, a lieutenant of Royal Engineers, in Major Gore's time, and went about a good deal among the people, in surveying for Government. One of my old friends there was Skipper Benjie Westham, of Brigus, a shortish, stout, bald man, with a cheerful, honest face and a kind voice; and he, mending a caplin-seine one day, told me this story, which I will try to tell after him.

We were upon the high ground, beyond where the church stands now, and Prudence, the fisherman's daughter, and Ralph Barrows, her husband, were with Skipper Benjie when he began; and I had an hour by the watch to spend. The neighborhood, all about, was still; the only men who were in sight were so far off that we heard nothing from them; no wind was stirring near us, and a slow sail could be seen outside. Everything was right for listening and telling.

"I can tell 'ee what I sid[1] myself, Sir," said Skipper Benjie. "It is n' like a story that's put down in books: it's on'y like what we planters[2] tells of a winter's night or sech: but it's feelun, mubbe, an' 'ee won't expect much off a man as could n' never read,—not so much as Bible or Prayer-Book, even."

[Footnote 1: Saw.]

[Footnote 2: Fishermen.]

Skipper Benjie looked just like what he was thought: a true-hearted, healthy man, a good fisherman and a good seaman. There was no need of any one's saying it. So I only waited till he went on speaking.

"'T was one time I goed to th' Ice, Sir. I never goed but once, an' 't was a'most the first v'yage ever was, ef 't was n' the very first; an' 't was the last for me, an' worse agen for the rest-part o' that crew, that never goed no more! 'T was tarrible sad douns wi' they!"

This preface was accompanied by some preliminary handling of the caplin-seine, also, to find out the broken places and get them about him. Ralph and Prudence deftly helped him. Then, making his story wait, after this opening, he took one hole to begin at in mending, chose his seat, and drew the seine up to his knee. At the same time I got nearer to the fellowship of the family by persuading the planter (who yielded with a pleasant smile) to let me try my hand at the netting. Prudence quietly took to herself a share of the work, and Ralph alone was unbusied.

"They calls th' Ice a wicked place,—Sundays an' weekin days all alike; an' to my seemun it's a cruel, bloody place, jes' so well,—but not all thinks alike, surely.—Rafe, lad, mubbe 'ee 'd ruther go down coveways, an' overhaul the punt a bit."

Ralph, who perhaps had stood waiting for the very dismissal that he now got, assented and left us three. Prudence, to be sure, looked after him as if she would a good deal rather go with him than stay; but she stayed, nevertheless, and worked at the seine. I interpreted to myself Skipper Benjie's sending away of one of his hearers by supposing that his son-in-law had often heard his tales; but the planter explained himself:—

"'Ee sees, Sir, I knocked off goun to th' Ice becase 't was sech a tarrible cruel place, to my seemun. They swiles[3] be so knowun like,—as knowun as a dog, in a manner, an' lovun to their own, like Christens, a'most, more than bastes; an' they'm got red blood, for all they lives most-partly in water; an' then I found 'em so friendly, when I was wantun friends badly. But I s'pose the swile-fishery's needful; an' I knows, in course, that even Christens' blood's got to be taken sometimes, when it's bad blood, an' I would n' be childish about they things: on'y—ef it's me—when I can live by fishun, I don' want to go an' club an' shoot an' cut an' slash among poor harmless things that 'ould never harm man or 'oman, an' 'ould cry great tears down for pity-sake, an' got a sound like a Christen: I 'ould n' like to go a-swilun for gain,—not after beun among 'em, way I was, anyways."

[Footnote 3: Seals.]

This apology made it plain that Skipper Benjie was large-hearted enough, or indulgent enough, not to seek to strain others, even his own family, up to his own way in everything; and it might easily be thought that the young fisherman had different feelings about sealing from those that the planter's story was meant to bring out. All being ready, he began his tale again:—

"I shipped wi' Skipper Isra'l Gooden, from Carbonear; the schooner was the Baccaloue, wi' forty men, all told. 'T was of a Sunday morn'n 'e 'ould sail, twel'th day o' March, wi' another schooner in company,—the Sparrow. There was a many of us was n' too good, but we thowt wrong of 'e's takun the Lord's Day to 'e'sself. Wull, Sir, afore I comed 'ome, I was in a great desert country, an' floated on sea wi' a monstrous great raft that no man never made, creakun an' crashun an' groanun an' tumblun an' wastun an' goun to pieces, an' no man on her but me, an' full o' livun things,—dreadful!

"About a five hours out, 't was, we first sid the blink,[4] an' comed up wi' th' Ice about off Cape Bonavis'. We fell in wi' it south, an' worked up nothe along: but we did n' see swiles for two or three days yet; on'y we was workun along; pokun the cakes of ice away, an' haulun through wi' main strength sometimes, holdun on wi' bights o' ropes out o' the bow; an' more times, agen, in clear water: sometimes mist all round us, 'ee could n' see the ship's len'th, sca'ce; an' more times snow, jes' so thick; an' then a gale o' wind, mubbe, would a'most blow all the spars out of her, seemunly.

[Footnote 4: A dull glare on the horizon, from the immense masses of ice.]

"We kep' sight o' th' other schooner, most-partly; an' when we did n' keep it, we'd get it agen. So one night 't was a beautiful moonlight night: I think I never sid a moon so bright as that moon was; an' such lovely sights a body 'ould n' think could be! Little islands, an' bigger, agen, there was, on every hand, shinun so bright, wi' great, awful-lookun shadows! an' then the sea all black, between! They did look so beautiful as ef a body could go an' bide on 'em, in' a manner; an' the sky was jes' so blue, an' the stars all shinun out, an' the moon all so bright! I never looked upon the like. An' so I stood in the bows; an' I don' know ef I thowt o' God first, but I was thinkun o' my girl that I was troth-plight wi' then, an' a many things, when all of a sudden we comed upon the hardest ice we'd a-had; an' into it; an' then, wi' pokun an' haulun, workun along. An' there was a cry goed up,—like the cry of a babby, 't was, an' I thowt mubbe 't was a somethun had got upon one o' they islands; but I said, agen, 'How could it?' an' one John Harris said 'e thowt 't was a bird. Then another man (Moffis 'e's name was) started off wi' what they calls a gaff ('t is somethun like a short boat-hook), over the bows, an' run; an' we sid un strike, an' strike, an' we hard it go wump! wump! an' the cry goun up so tarrible feelun, seemed as ef 'e was murderun some poor wild Inden child 'e 'd a-found (on'y mubbe 'e would n' do so bad as that: but there 've a-been tarrible bloody, cruel work wi' Indens in my time), an' then 'e comed back wi' a white-coat[5] over 'e's shoulder; an' the poor thing was n' dead, but cried an' soughed like any poor little babby."

[Footnote 5: A young seal.]

The young wife was very restless at this point, and, though she did not look up, I saw her tears. The stout fisherman smoothed out the net a little upon his knee, and drew it in closer, and heaved a great sigh: he did not look at his hearers.

"When 'e throwed it down, it walloped, an' cried, an' soughed,—an' its poor eyes blinded wi' blood! ('Ee sees, Sir," said the planter, by way of excusing his tenderness, "they swiles were friends to I, after.) Dear, O dear! I could n' stand it; for 'e might ha' killed un; an' so 'e goes for a quart o' rum, for fetchun first swile, an' I went an' put the poor thing out o' pain. I did n' want to look at they beautiful islands no more, somehow. Bumby it comed on thick, an' then snow.

"Nex' day swiles bawlun[6] every way, poor things! (I knowed their voice, now,) but 't was blowun a gale o' wind, an' we under bare poles, an' snow comun agen, so fast as ever it could come: but out the men 'ould go, all mad like, an' my watch goed, an' so I mus' go. (I did n' think what I was goun to!) The skipper never said no; but to keep near the schooner, an' fetch in first we could, close by; an' keep near the schooner.

[Footnote 6: Technical word for the crying of the seals.]

"So we got abroad, an' the men that was wi' me jes' began to knock right an' left: 't was heartless to see an' hear it. They laved two old uns an' a young whelp to me, as they runned by. The mother did cry like a Christen, in a manner, an' the big tears 'ould run down, an' they 'ould both be so brave for the poor whelp that 'ould cuddle up an' cry; an' the mother looked this way an' that way, wi' big, pooty, black eyes, to see what was the manun of it, when they'd never doned any harm in God's world that 'E made, an' would n', even ef you killed 'em: on'y the poor mother baste ketched my gaff, that I was goun to strike wi', betwixt her teeth, an' I could n' get it away. 'T was n' like fishun! (I was weak-hearted like: I s'pose 't was wi' what was comun that I did n' know.) Then comed a hail, all of a sudden, from the schooner (we had n' been gone more 'n a five minutes, ef 't was so much,—no, not more 'n a three); but I was glad to hear it come then, however: an' so every man ran, one afore t' other. There the schooner was, tearun through all, an' we runnun for dear life. I falled among the slob,[7] and got out agen. 'T was another man pushun agen me doned it. I could n' 'elp myself from goun in, an' when I got out I was astarn of all, an' there was the schooner carryun on, right through to clear water! So, hold of a bight o' line, or anything! an' they swung up in over bows an' sides! an' swash! she struck the water, an' was out o' sight in a minute, an' the snow drivun as ef 't would bury her, an' a man laved behind on a pan of ice, an' the great black say two fathom ahead, an' the storm-wind blowun 'im into it!"

[Footnote 7: Broken ice, between large cakes, or against the shore.]

The planter stopped speaking. We had all gone along so with the story, that the stout seafarer, as he wrought the whole scene up about us, seemed instinctively to lean back and brace his feet against the ground, and clutch his net. The young woman looked up, this time; and the cold snow-blast seemed to howl through that still summer's noon, and the terrific ice-fields and hills to be crashing against the solid earth that we sat upon, and all things round changed to the far-off stormy ocean and boundless frozen wastes.

The planter began to speak again:—

"So I falled right down upon th' ice, sayun, 'Lard, help me! Lard, help me!' an' crawlun away, wi' the snow in my face (I was afeard, a'most, to stand), 'Lard, help me! Lard, help me!'

"'T was n' all hard ice, but many places lolly;[8] an' once I goed right down wi' my hand-wristès an' my armès in cold water, part-ways to the bottom o' th' ocean; and a'most head-first into un, as I'd a-been in wi' my legs afore: but, thanks be to God! 'E helped me out of un, but colder an' wetter agen.

[Footnote 8: Snow in water, not yet frozen, but looking like the white ice.]

"In course I wanted to folly the schooner; so I runned up along, a little ways from the edge, an' then I runned down along: but 't was all great black ocean outside, an' she gone miles an' miles away; an' by two hours' time, even ef she'd come to, itself, an' all clear weather, I could n' never see her; an' ef she could come back, she could n' never find me, more 'n I could find any one o' they flakes o' snow. The schooner was gone, an' I was laved out o' the world!

"Bumby, when I got on the big field agen, I stood up on my feet, an' I sid that was my ship! She had n' e'er a sail, an' she had n' e'er a spar, an' she had n' e'er a compass, an' she had n' e'er a helm, an' she had n' no hold, an' she had n' no cabin. I could n' sail her, nor I could n' steer her, nor I could n' anchor her, nor bring her to, but she would go, wind or calm, an' she'd never come to port, but out in th' ocean she'd go to pieces! I sid 't was so, an' I must take it, an' do my best wi' it. 'T was jest a great, white, frozen raft, driftun bodily away, wi' storm blowun over, an' current runnun under, an' snow comun down so thick, an' a poor Christen laved all alone wi' it. 'T would drift as long as anything was of it, an' 't was n' likely there'd be any life in the poor man by time th' ice goed to nawthun; an' the swiles 'ould swim back agen up to the Nothe!

"I was th' only one, seemunly, to be cast out alive, an' wi' the dearest maid in the world (so I thought) waitun for me. I s'pose 'ee might ha' knowed somethun better, Sir; but I was n' larned, an' I ran so fast as ever I could up the way I thowt home was, an' I groaned, an' groaned, an' shook my handès, an' then I thowt, 'Mubbe I may be goun wrong way.' So I groaned to the Lard to stop the snow. Then I on'y ran this way an' that way, an' groaned for snow to knock off.[9] I knowed we was driftun mubbe a twenty leagues a day, and anyways I wanted to be doun what I could, keepun up over th' Ice so well as I could, Noofundland-ways, an' I might come to somethun,—to a schooner or somethun; anyways I'd get up so near as I could. So I looked for a lee. I s'pose 'ee 'd ha' knowed better what to do, Sir," said the planter, here again appealing to me, and showing by his question that he understood me, in spite of my pea-jacket.

[Footnote 9: To stop.]

I had been so carried along with his story that I had felt as if I were the man on the Ice, myself, and assured him, that, though I could get along pretty well on land, and could even do something at netting, I should have been very awkward in his place.

"Wull, Sir, I looked for a lee. ('T would n' ha' been so cold, to say cold, ef it had n' a-blowed so tarrible hard.) First step, I stumbled upon somethun in the snow, seemed soft, like a body! Then I comed all together, hopun an' fearun an' all together. Down I goed upon my knees to un, an' I smoothed away the snow, all tremblun, an' there was a moan, as ef 't was a-livun.

"'O Lard!' I said, 'who's this? Be this one of our men?'

"But how could it? So I scraped the snow away, but 't was easy to see 't was smaller than a man. There was n' no man on that dreadful place but me! Wull, Sir, 't was a poor swile, wi' blood runnun all under; an' I got my cuffs[10] an' sleeves all red wi' it. It looked like a fellow-creatur's blood, a'most, an' I was a lost man, left to die away out there in th' Ice, an' I said, 'Poor thing! poor thing!' an' I did n' mind about the wind, or th' ice, or the schooner goun away from me afore a gale (I would n' mind about 'em), an' a poor lost Christen may show a good turn to a hurt thing, ef 't was on'y a baste. So I smoothed away the snow wi' my cuffs, an' I sid 't was a poor thing wi' her whelp close by her, an' her tongue out, as ef she'd a-died fondlun an' lickun it; an' a great puddle o' blood,—it looked tarrible heartless, when I was so nigh to death, an' was n' hungry. An' then I feeled a stick, an' I thowt, 'It may be a help to me,' an' so I pulled un, an' it would n' come, an' I found she was lyun on it; so I hauled agen, an' when it comed, 't was my gaff the poor baste had got away from me, an' got it under her, an' she was a-lyun on it. Some o' the men, when they was runnun for dear life, must ha' struck 'em, out o' madness like, an' laved 'em to die where they was. 'T was the whelp was n' quite dead. 'Ee'll think 't was foolish, Sir, but it seemed as though they was somethun to me, an' I'd a-lost the last friendly thing there was.

[Footnote 10: Mittens.]

"I found a big hummock an' sheltered under it, standun on my feet, wi' nawthun to do but think, an' think, an' pray to God; an' so I doned. I could n' help feelun to God then, surely. Nawthun to do, an' no place to go, tull snow cleared away; but jes' drift wi' the great Ice down from the Nothe, away down over the say, a sixty mile a day, mubbe. I was n' a good Christen, an' I could n' help a-thinkun o' home an' she I was troth-plight wi', an' I doubled over myself an' groaned,—I could n' help it; but bumby it comed into me to say my prayers, an' it seemed as thof she was askun me to pray (an' she was good, Sir, al'ays), an' I seemed all opened, somehow, an' I knowed how to pray."

While the words were coming tenderly from the weather-beaten fisherman, I could not help being moved, and glanced over toward the daughter's seat; but she was gone, and, turning round, I saw her going quietly, almost stealthily, and very quickly, toward the cove.

The father gave no heed to her leaving, but went on with his tale:—

"Then the wind began to fall down, an' the snow knocked off altogether, an' the sun comed out; an' I sid th' Ice, field-ice an' icebargs, an' every one of 'em flashun up as ef they'd kendled up a bonfire, but no sign of a schooner! no sign of a schooner! nor no sign o' man's douns, but on'y ice, every way, high an' low, an' some places black water, in-among; an' on'y the poor swiles bawlun all over, an' I standun amongst 'em.

"While I was lookun out, I sid a great icebarg (they calls 'em) a quarter of a mile away, or thereabouts, standun up,—one end a twenty fathom out o' water, an' about a forty fathom across, wi' hills like, an' houses,—an' then, jest as ef 'e was alive an' had tooked a notion in 'e'sself, seemunly, all of a sudden 'e rared up, an' turned over an' over, wi' a tarrible thunderun noise, an' comed right on, breakun everything an' throwun up great seas; 't was frightsome for a lone body away out among 'em! I stood an' looked at un, but then agen I thowt I may jes' so well be goun to thick ice an' over Noofundland-ways a piece, so well as I could. So I said my bit of a prayer, an' told Un I could n' help myself; an' I made my confession how bad I'd been, an' I was sorry, an ef 'E 'd be so pitiful an' forgive me; an' ef I mus' loss my life, ef 'E 'd be so good as make me a good Christen first,—an' make they happy, in course.

"So then I started; an' first I goed to where my gaff was, by the mother-swile an' her whelp. There was swiles every two or three yards a'most, old uns an' young uns, all round everywhere; an' I feeled shamed in a manner: but I got my gaff, an' cleaned un, an' then, in God's name, I took the big swile, that was dead by its dead whelp, an' hauled it away, where the t' other poor things could n' si' me, an' I sculped[11] it, an' took the pelt;—for I thowt I'd wear un, now the poor dead thing did n' want to make oose of un no more,—an' partly becase 't was sech a lovun thing. An' so I set out, walkun this way for a spurt, an' then t' other way, keepun up mostly a Nor-norwest, so well as I could: sometimes away round th' open, an' more times round a lump of ice, an' more times, agen, off from one an' on to another, every minute. I did n' feel hungry, for I drinked fresh water off th' ice. No schooner! no schooner!

[Footnote 11: Skinned.]

"Bumby the sun was goun down: 't was slow work feelun my way along, an' I did n' want to look about; but then agen I thowt God 'ad made it to be sid; an' so I come to, an' turned all round, an' looked; an' surely it seemed like another world, someway, 't was so beautiful,—yellow, an' different sorts o' red, like the sky itself in a manner, an' flashun like glass. So then it comed night; an' I thowt I should n' go to bed, an' I may forget my prayers, an' so I'd, mubbe, best say 'em right away; an' so I doned: 'Lighten our darkness,' and others we was oosed to say; an' it comed into my mind, the Lard said to Saint Peter, 'Why did n' 'ee have faith?' when there was nawthun on the water for un to go on; an' I had ice under foot,—'t was but frozen water, but 't was frozen,—an' I thanked Un.

"I could n' help thinkun o' Brigus an' them I'd laved in it, an' then I prayed for 'em; an' I could n' help cryun a'most; but then I give over agen, an' would n' think, ef I could help it; on'y tryun to say an odd psalm, all through singun-psalms an' other, for I knowed a many of 'em by singun wi' Patience, on'y now I cared more about 'em: I said that one,—

'Sech as in ships an' brickle barks
      Into the seas descend,
 Their merchantun, through fearful floods,
      To compass an' to end:
 They men are force-put to behold
      The Lard's works, what they be;
 An' in the dreadful deep the same
     Most marvellous they see.'

An' I said a many more (I can't be accountable how many I said), an' same uns many times, over: for I would keep on; an' 'ould sometimes sing 'em very loud in my poor way.

"A poor baste (a silver fox 'e was) comed an' looked at me; an' when I turned round, he walked away a piece, an' then 'e comed back, an' looked.

"So I found a high piece, wi' a wall of ice atop for shelter, ef it comed on to blow; an' so I stood, an' said, an' sung. I knowed well I was on'y driftun away.

"It was tarrible lonely in the night, when night comed; it's no use! 'T was tarrible lonely: but I 'ould n' think, ef I could help it; an' I prayed a bit, an' kep' up my psalms, an' varses out o' the Bible, I'd a-larned. I had n' a-prayed for sleep, but for wakun all night, an' there I was, standun.

"The moon was out agen, so bright; an' all the hills of ice shinun up to her; an' stars twinklun, so busy, all over; an' No'ther' Lights goun up wi' a faint, blaze, seemunly, from th' ice, an' meetun up aloft; an' sometimes a great groanun, an' more times tarrible loud shriekun! There was great white fields, an' great white hills, like countries, comun down to be destroyed; an' some great bargs a-goun faster, an' tearun through, breakun others to pieces; an' the groanun an' screechun,—ef all the dead that ever was, wi' their white clothès—But no!" said the stout fisherman, recalling himself from gazing, as he seemed to be, on the far-off ghastly scene, in memory.

"No!—an' thank 'E's marcy, I'm sittun by my own room. 'E tooked me off; but 't was a dreadful sight,—it's no use,—ef a body'd let 'e'sself think! I sid a great black bear, an' hard un growl; an' 't was feelun, like, to hear un so bold an' so stout, among all they dreadful things, an' bumby the time 'ould come when 'e could n' save 'e'sself, do what 'e woul'.

"An' more times 't was all still: on'y swiles bawlun, all over. Ef it had n' a-been for they poor swiles, how could I stan' it? Many's the one I'd a-ketched, daytime, an' talked to un, an' patted un on the head, as ef they'd a-been dogs by the door, like; an' they'd oose to shut their eyes, an' draw their poor foolish faces together. It seemed neighbor-like to have some live thing.

"So I kep' awake, sayun an' singun, an' it was n' very cold; an' so,—first thing I knowed, I started, an' there I was lyun in a heap; an' I must have been asleep, an' did n' know how 't was, nor how long I'd a-been so: an' some sort o' baste started away, an' 'e must have waked me up; I could n' rightly see what 't was, wi' sleepiness: an' then I hard a sound, sounded like breakers; an' that waked me fairly. 'T was like a lee-shore; an' 't was a comfort to think o' land, ef 't was on'y to be wrecked on itself: but I did n' go, an' I stood an' listened to un; an' now an' agen I'd walk a piece, back an' forth, an' back an' forth; an' so I passed a many, many longsome hours, seemunly, tull night goed down tarrible slowly, an' it comed up day o' t' other side: an' there was n' no land; nawthun but great mountains meltun an' breakun up, an' fields wastun away. I sid 't was a rollun barg made the noise like breakers; throwun up great seas o' both sides of un; no sight nor sign o' shore, nor ship, but dazun white,—enough to blind a body,—an' I knowed 't was all floatun away, over the say. Then I said my prayers, an' tooked a drink o' water, an' set out agen for Nor-norwest: 't was all I could do. Sometimes snow, an' more times fair agen; but no sign o' man's things, an' no sign o' land, on'y white ice an' black water; an' ef a schooner was n' into un a'ready, 't was n' likely they woul', for we was gettun furder an' furder away. Tired I was wi' goun, though I had n' walked more n' a twenty or thirty mile, mubbe, an' it all comun down so fast as I could go up, an' faster, an' never stoppun! 'T was a tarrible long journey up over the driftun ice, at sea! So, then I went on a high bit to wait tull all was done; I thowt 't would be last to melt, an' mubbe, I thowt 'e may capsize wi' me, when I did n' know (for I don' say I was stouthearted); an' I prayed Un to take care o' them I loved; an' the tears comed. Then I felt somethun tryun to turn me round like, an' it seemed as ef she was doun it, somehow, an' she seemed to be very nigh, somehow, an' I did n' look.

"After a bit, I got up to look out where most swiles was, for company, while I was livun: an' the first look struck me a'most like a bullet! There I sid a sail! 'T was a sail, an' 't was like heaven openun, an' God settun her down there. About three mile away she was, to nothe'ard, in th' Ice.

"I could ha' sid, at first look, what schooner 't was; but I did n' want to look hard at her. I kep' my peace, a spurt, an' then I runned an' bawled out, 'Glory be to God!' an' then I stopped, an' made proper thanks to Un. An' there she was, same as ef I'd a-walked off from her an hour ago! It felt so long as ef I'd been livun years, an' they would n' know me, sca'ce. Somehow, I did n' think I could come up wi' her.

"I started, in the name o' God, wi' all my might, an' went, an' went,—'t was a five mile, wi' goun round,—an' got her, thank God! 'T was n' the Baccaloue (I sid that long before), 't was t' other schooner, the Sparrow, repairun damages they'd got day before. So that kep' 'em there, an' I'd a-been took from one an' brought to t' other.

"I could n' do a hand's turn tull we got into the Bay agen,—I was so clear beat out. The Sparrow kep' her men, an' fotch home about thirty-eight hundred swiles, an' a poor man off th' Ice: but they, poor fellows, that I went out wi', never comed no more: an' I never went agen.

"I kep' the skin o' the poor baste, Sir: that's 'e on my cap."

When the planter had fairly finished his tale, it was a little while before I could teach my eyes to see the things about me in their places. The slow-going sail, outside, I at first saw as the schooner that brought away the lost man from the Ice; the green of the earth would not, at first, show itself through the white with which the fancy covered it; and at first I could not quite feel that the ground was fast under my feet. I even mistook one of my own men (the sight of whom was to warn me that I was wanted elsewhere) for one of the crew of the schooner Sparrow of a generation ago.

I got the tale and its scene gathered away, presently, inside my mind, and shook myself into a present association with surrounding things, and took my leave. I went away the more gratified that I had a chance of lifting my cap to a matron, dark-haired and comely (who, I was sure, at a glance, had once been the maiden of Benjie Westham's "troth-plight"), and receiving a handsome courtesy in return.