IN WHICH TRUMET TALKS OF CAPTAIN NAT
Summer was over, autumn came, passed, and it was winter—John Ellery’s first winter in Trumet. Fish weirs were taken up, the bay filled with ice, the packet ceased to run, and the village settled down to hibernate until spring. The stage came through on its regular trips, except when snow or slush rendered the roads impassable, but passengers were very few. Occasionally there were northeast gales, with shrieking winds, driving gusts of sleet and hail and a surf along the ocean side that bellowed and roared and tore the sandy beach into new shapes, washing away shoals and building others, blocking the mouth of the little inlet where the fish boats anchored and opening a new channel a hundred yards farther down. Twice there were wrecks, one of a fishing schooner, the crew of which were fortunate enough to escape by taking to the dories, and another, a British bark, which struck on the farthest bar and was beaten to pieces by the great waves, while the townspeople stood helplessly watching from the shore, for launching a boat in that surf was impossible.
The minister was one of those who watched. News of the disaster had been brought to the village by the lightkeeper’s assistant, and Ellery and most of the able-bodied men in town had tramped the three miles to the beach, facing the screaming wind and the cutting blasts of flying sand. As they came over the dunes there were times when they had to dig their heels into the ground and bend forward to stand against the freezing gale. And, as they drew nearer, the thunder of the mighty surf grew ever louder, until they saw the white clouds of spray leap high above the crazily tossing, flapping bunches of beach grass that topped the last knoll.
Three masts and a broken bowsprit sticking slantwise up from a whirl of creamy white, that was all they could see of the bark, at first glance. But occasionally, as the breakers drew back for another cruel blow, they caught glimpses of the tilted deck, smashed bare of houses and rail.
“Those black things on the masts?” asked Ellery, bending to scream the question into the ear of Gaius Winslow, his companion. “Are they—it can’t be possible that they’re—”
“Yup,” shrieked Gaius in reply, “they’re men. Crew lashed in the riggin’. Poor fellers! it’ll soon be over for ’em. And they’re most likely frozen stiff a’ready and won’t sense drownin’, that’s a comfort.”