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There Is Sorrow on the Sea   By: (1862-1932)

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By Gilbert Parker


"YORK FACTORY, HUDSON'S BAY, "23rd September, 1747.

"MY DEAR COUSIN FANNY, It was a year last April Fool's Day, I left you on the sands there at Mablethorpe, no more than a stone's throw from the Book in Hand Inn, swearing that you should never see me or hear from me again. You remember how we saw the coast guards flash their lights here and there, as they searched the sands for me? how one came bundling down the bank, calling, 'Who goes there?' You remember that when I said, 'A friend,' he stumbled, and his light fell to the sands and went out, and in the darkness you and I stole away: you to your home, with a whispering, 'God bless you, Cousin Dick,' over your shoulder, and I with a bit of a laugh that, maybe, cut to the heart, and that split in a sob in my own throat though you didn't hear that.

"'Twas a bad night's work that, Cousin Fanny, and maybe I wish it undone, and maybe I don't; but a devil gets into the heart of a man when he has to fly from the lass he loves, while the friends of his youth go hunting him with muskets, and he has to steal out of the backdoor of his own country and shelter himself, like a cold sparrow, up in the eaves of the world.

"Ay, lass, that's how I left the fens of Lincolnshire a year last April Fool's Day. There wasn't a dyke from, Lincoln town to Mablethorpe that I hadn't crossed with a running jump; and there wasn't a break in the shore, or a sink hole in the sand, or a clump of rushes, or a samphire bed, from Skegness to Theddlethorpe, that I didn't know like every line of your face. And when I was a slip of a lad ay, and later too how you and I used to snuggle into little nooks of the sand hills, maybe just beneath the coast guard's hut, and watch the tide come swilling in water daisies you used to call the breaking surf, Cousin Fanny. And that was like you, always with a fancy about everything you saw. And when the ships, the fishing smacks with their red sails, and the tall masted brigs went by, taking the white foam on their canvas, you used to wish that you might sail away to the lands you'd heard tell of from old skippers that gathered round my uncle's fire in the Book in Hand. Ay, a grand thing I thought it would be, too, to go riding round the world on a well washed deck, with plenty of food and grog, and maybe, by and by, to be first mate, and lord it from fo'castle bunk to stern rail.

"You did not know, did you, who was the coast guardsman that stumbled as he came on us that night? It looked a stupid thing to do that, and let the lantern fall. But, lass, 'twas done o' purpose. That was the one man in all the parish that would ha' risked his neck to let me free. 'Twas Lancy Doane, who's give me as many beatings in his time as I him. We were always getting foul one o' t'other since I was big enough to shy a bit of turf at him across a dyke, and there isn't a spot on's body that I haven't hit, nor one on mine that he hasn't mauled. I've sat on his head, and he's had his knee in my stomach till I squealed, and we never could meet without back talking and rasping 'gainst the grain. The night before he joined the coast guardsmen, he was down at the Book in Hand, and 'twas little like that I'd let the good chance pass I might never have another; for Gover'ment folk will not easy work a quarrel on their own account. I mind him sittin' there on the settle, his shins against the fire, a long pipe going, and Casey of the Lazy Beetle, and Jobbin the mate of the Dodger, and Little Faddo, who had the fat Dutch wife down by the Ship Inn, and Whiggle the preaching blacksmith. And you were standin' with your back to the shinin' pewters, and the great jug of ale with the white napkin behind you; the light o' the fire wavin' on your face, and your look lost in the deep hollow o' the chimney. I think of you most as you were that minute, Cousin Fanny, when I come in... Continue reading book >>

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