A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE
BY ROBERT T. S. LOWELL
I am a soldier: but my tale, this time, is not
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
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 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 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."
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 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."
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
"About a five hours out, 't was, we first sid the blink, 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.
"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
over 'e's shoulder; an' the poor thing was n' dead, but cried an'
soughed like any poor little babby."
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 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.
"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,
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
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
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; 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.
"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. 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.
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 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.
"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
"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 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!
"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
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