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with the shore, there was nothing left to try; when I noticed that
some new sensation moved the people on the beach, and saw them
part, and Ham come breaking through them to the front.
I ran to him - as well as I know, to repeat my appeal for help.
But, distracted though I was, by a sight so new to me and terrible,
the determination in his face, and his look out to sea - exactly
the same look as I remembered in connexion with the morning after
Emily's flight - awoke me to a knowledge of his danger. I held him
back with both arms; and implored the men with whom I had been
speaking, not to listen to him, not to do murder, not to let him
stir from off that sand!
Another cry arose on shore; and looking to the wreck, we saw the
cruel sail, with blow on blow, beat off the lower of the two men,
and fly up in triumph round the active figure left alone upon the
Against such a sight, and against such determination as that of the
calmly desperate man who was already accustomed to lead half the
people present, I might as hopefully have entreated the wind.
'Mas'r Davy,' he said, cheerily grasping me by both hands, 'if my
time is come, 'tis come. If 'tan't, I'll bide it. Lord above
bless you, and bless all! Mates, make me ready! I'm a-going off!'
I was swept away, but not unkindly, to some distance, where the
people around me made me stay; urging, as I confusedly perceived,
that he was bent on going, with help or without, and that I should
endanger the precautions for his safety by troubling those with
whom they rested. I don't know what I answered, or what they
rejoined; but I saw hurry on the beach, and men running with ropes
from a capstan that was there, and penetrating into a circle of
figures that hid him from me. Then, I saw him standing alone, in
a seaman's frock and trousers: a rope in his hand, or slung to his
wrist: another round his body: and several of the best men holding,
at a little distance, to the latter, which he laid out himself,
slack upon the shore, at his feet.
The wreck, even to my unpractised eye, was breaking up. I saw that
she was parting in the middle, and that the life of the solitary
man upon the mast hung by a thread. Still, he clung to it. He had
a singular red cap on, - not like a sailor's cap, but of a finer
colour; and as the few yielding planks between him and destruction
rolled and bulged, and his anticipative death-knell rung, he was
seen by all of us to wave it. I saw him do it now, and thought I