It was his last conscious thought for hours. When morning broke he was but a nerveless figure, with sense enough to cling, and that was all.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE PARCEL
“A man! Haul him in! Don’t leave a poor fellow drifting about like that.”
The speaker, a bluff, hearty skipper, whose sturdy craft had outridden one of the worst storms of the season, pointed to our poor friend Sweetwater, whose head could just be seen above the broken spar he clung to. In another moment a half-dozen hands were stretched for him, and the insensible form was drawn in and laid on a deck which still showed the results of the night’s fierce conflict with the waters.
“Damn it! how ugly he is!” cried one of the sailors, with a leer at the half-drowned man’s face. “I’d like to see the lass we’d please in saving him. He’s only fit to poison a devil-fish!”
But though more than one laugh rang out, they gave him good care, and when Sweetwater came to life and realised that his blood was pulsing warmly again through his veins, and that a grey sky had taken the place of darkness, and a sound board supported limbs which for hours had yielded helplessly to the rocking billows, he saw a ring of hard but good-natured faces about him and realised quite well what had been done for him when one of them said:
“There! he’ll do now; all hands on deck! We can get into New Bedford in two days if this wind holds. Nor’ west!” shouted the skipper to the man at the tiller. “We’ll sup with our old women in forty-eight hours!”
New Bedford! It was the only word Sweetwater heard. So, he was no farther away from Sutherlandtown than that. Evidently Providence had not meant him to escape. Or was it his fortitude that was being tried? A man as humble as he might easily be lost even in a place as small as New Bedford. It was his identity he must suppress. With that unrecognised he might remain in the next village to Sutherlandtown without fear of being called up as a witness against Frederick. But could he suppress it? He thought he could. At all events he meant to try.