The men gathered around the gunwales, their hands stretched out along the gunwales as if to grasp for something on the water


The night air was cold, a biting north wind blowing off the water, which
moved the curtains of the cabin as the ship rolled, as if to make the men
think less of the danger they were in.

The sea was white with foam, the waves rolling over the side like great
waves which a drunken man was unable to control. The sailors huddled closer,
hanging on to the gunwales, their hands stretched out along the gunwales as
if to grasp for something on the water. One man began to sing an old sailor
song. Everyone was quiet. Slowly, they began to turn and take in the whole
of the night.

There was something about the sea, a quality not to be described. It crept
across the deck near where Tom was standing. The moon shone through the
portholes, making the stars shining bright and close. A young man’s song set
a few of the men to clapping and stamping his feet, and to singing louder.
The old sea song, _Old John_, was in Tom’s memory.

O’er the waters, o’er the waves,
Old John goes his ways.

‘Till all is over, he goes his ways.

The ships in harbor go their ways.

_He maketh wind to blow, he makes the rain to fall;_
_He maketh the thunder to sound, he maketh rain to fall;_

_He maketh storms of rain to fall;_
_He makes lightning to flash,_
_He maketh the cloud to split._
* * * * *

The sea is my mother,
The great deep is my father.
He makes me to steer;
If I will to sail.

To steer, to steer,
You need sail, you need steer.

Then suddenly the lights of the village came out one by one until the light
of the lighthouse was all that could be seen under the sea.

When the stars had set, Tom and the others began to see the lights of a
small fishing boat out in the harbor. Then, as they had heard rumors
of the fisherman’s daughter, the lights grew closer and closer until the
girl’s house was at their feet. A shout was heard from somewhere among the
men, while another of the men threw a lantern across the deck, and the
light came up.

The two boats, the cabinboat and the fishing boat, were pulled up side by
side. A man was standing on deck, and with him was the girl who had
accompanied the sailor on his maiden voyage.

A moment later, the girl was thrown over the side, and she disappeared
into the cabin. Then she was pulled up on deck. The sailor was lifted on
deck and helped ashore. After that, both boats went to the shore. The
fisherman, and his cabinboat, went farther out on the harbor. The sailors on
the fishing boat huddled behind the cabin.

A young man from the cabin climbed up on deck. He had been left behind.

He jumped ship, leaving the woman and their child behind. He climbed up on
the cabin in an old fishing boat, and rowed away in it. Then he crossed the
harbor from which had come the girl to the shore he had just left. So this
was the young sailor who had followed him to the sea. He had saved his
life in every way–saved it, as so many of the men of the village would
say, by going down with a gale; saved it, as one of the men said, because
all had gone to the end of the pier.

The fishermen knew the girl. They had spoken of her and dreamed of her
for so long, had planned her marriage. When the boy, in all this time, had
come back to the village, it all came to pass.

It was not a woman they thought of. Nor a maiden, but a woman’s child. But
Tom and the others stood upon the cabin roof, and watched as the young man,
on the last voyage from this village, rowed away. He saw the lights of the
cabinboat and the lights of the fishing boat as they had shone out on the
night when he had followed the sailor to the sea. And now, he rowed away
from them all, like a sailor who has passed his best days on the sea.

The last thing the young sailor heard was the girl crying out to him as he
rowed away.

He did not hear their last shouts, nor did he hear the cries of the
strangers as they ran up the pier. He did not hear the sound of their
running feet, nor would he hear it while his life lasted.





“It is too late,” said the girl. It was too late, and no one had been told
of it.

“To tell it would not be right,” said the young man who had saved his life.
“You must do as I have done. I will tell the boy when he comes from school.
No one can be blamed for what he did.”

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