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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE by ROBERT T.S. LOWELL.
[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; an' once I goed right down wi' my hand-wristes an' my armes 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 handes, 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.