Jethou eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 204 pages of information about Jethou.

Away into the darkness of the night I steered my little bark, among the big hills and vales of the pathless deep.  When I had gone as far as I judged it prudent to venture, I thought I would drop anchor and down sail, and accordingly hove the anchor overboard; but somehow the sail would not descend.  I had therefore to climb over my passenger and go to the foot of the mast with the lantern to see what was amiss.  I found the halyard had jammed in the sheave, and in trying to release it, as the boat slid down the side of a great black wave, she gave a tremendous lurch, and I thought was about to capsize, but she righted quickly as the yard came down on my head by the run.  I gathered in the canvas and turned round to see how I could make room for the yard to lie safely when, presto, the dead man was gone!  It certainly made my heart give a big thump, but a moment’s reflection shewed me that the rolling of my boat had caused the body to shoot off the boards, feet downward, thus saving me the trouble of having to tip it off the planks.

The boat was now in good trim, and I had no fear for her safety nor my own, so placing the lantern on the floor, I sat down and read by its uncertain light the stirring service for the “Burial of those who die at Sea.”  Fervently I said those prayers as the salt spray, mingling with my tears, ran down my face, and when I pronounced the words, “I therefore commit his body to the deep,” I looked around fearfully, as if the man might still be near me, but I saw him no more.

The bell of St. Peter’s struck twelve o’clock just as the service was finished, sounding as I had never heard it sound before—­so solemn and full of meaning as it tolled out in the still midnight air.

I pulled back with great effort, by reason of the heavy roll of the sea, and landed by the ruined boathouse, with great risk of losing both myself and boat.  When safely ashore at last I was thankful to have accomplished my dread mission without accident.  As I hauled my boat up I felt as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and was quite happy again; probably at having acted the Good Samaritan to a man who, like the one in the Bible, was not of the same country or creed as myself.

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CHAPTER XI.

     CLIMATE IN WINTER—­VISION OF MY FATHER—­A WARNING
     VOICE—­SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS—­THE FALLING ROCK—­MY LIFE SAVED
     BY MY DOG.

Winter was now come, but a very different atmosphere prevailed to what I had been used to in my Norfolk home.  There I was accustomed to see the broads and rivers frozen over, and the means of communication by boat between the various rivers completely stopped.  There we dreaded the marrow-piercing north-east wind which, coming straight across the cold North Sea from icebound Norway and the frozen Baltic, caused everything, animal and vegetable, to be cut and chilled, so that frequently both man and plant succumbed to its penetrating rigour; but here the north or east wind is not nearly such a dreaded visitor, and it is only on exceptional days that its biting power is felt.

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Jethou from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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