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Stories of Mystery edited by Rossiter Johnson
A RAFT THAT NO MAN MADE by ROBERT T.S. LOWELL.
"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
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 clothes--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.