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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE by ROBERT T.S. LOWELL.
[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 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 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, 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!"