11,041 vagabonds plus:
tale of long ago - the last voyage
tale of long ago
tale of long ago, part II
the last voyage.....
My Dear Friend,
Maria is dead. After many weeks of begging to be at my side as I sailed she could not bare being apart from me and I too found in the heart of the matter I could never be separated from the essence of her being. It has been a glorious three year adventure. You remember how stubborn she could be in the smallest of incidents. Like the time your carriage overturned in the storm off the road near her castle and she insisted you peel off your soaked muddy garments to hang above the fire upon the mantel and either wrap your shivering self in a horrid pale pink silken night robe or go unclothed. And when you descended the staircase to tea and turned into the wrong doorway of her stuffy parlor full of stuffy Ladies That Looked Liked Well Kept Graves she laughed at the ridiculous site of you until her side hurt so bad she dropped into a chair. I know about it. She wrote me and then recounted it one night under the stars when out tongues were out of interrupted tales. I was always glad. I would stroke my thumb gently across that scar above her eye, this humble sailor's signal to the princess to retire with a solitary lantern to our mahogany cabin below and follow at lights out to bed.
Upon that ship, the pristine Sierra Leone, she wanted to know all I could teach her. To fish with spear and survive with a sharp knife ready at arms length. To steer the ship navigated by the night sky, portable compass, and shifting currents, and to note in the log with small refined pen strokes, her lips carefully reading the entry back to me for my nodding approval, her arm around my neck, my head in her lap. And she taught me the manly art of sewing baring her feminine refinement. That's what she called it...manly art...in that mischievous laugh that would melt rusty anchors. That laugh was never more joyous in that hour a whale followed aft. She buried her face in my chest frightened as it playfully bumped the Sierra Leone once. She never complained all those times spray left her soaked and shivering. And to sail to new worlds of strange peoples. 'They are just like you and me' she would say at a trading post in that tender, melodious voice we would become accustomed to. She felt like a giant and would look at them with wide beguiling eyes patting their heads. They would look up at her, rub their own heads and laugh. Maria must have looked funny to strangers wearing one of my seafaring knitted wool jerseys that could never hide the fact that she was a girl. If she had been a lousy sailor it would have been easy to convince her to return to her snug moated castle.
Yes I am stalling. She is gone..and now I will tell you about the last voyage as precisely as I can. My face has been stone, I've aged a hundred years, and only now I am providing the natural teared watermark to this foolscap.
It was a night like any other against pirates out of the dank fog. White foam waves curling along side my ship were quietly disappearing. The purple sun had sunk an hour before. I sensed danger and shuddered at the cold uneasiness. I don't know how I knew but I waved her below as I ordered men to arms. They crawled up and over on all sides, there was much shouting. They were gaining advantage. She arose from cabin below, my devoted lass, aiming my gun with both hands, confident and steady, firing a single blast to ward off scrounging derelicts in the chaos as we mopped up the attackers. All was silent when I noticed she was bleeding behind the left ear. She fainted briefly when I casually referred to it. We thought it nothing, perhaps a minute fragment from ricochet. But the taciturn doctor looked at me with downcast eyes every time we passed in the days following. Maria became listless, rarely rising from bed, her penetrating purple eyes feverish even when I recounted the story of the whale - Our Whale - I called it. We were so far from any coast even though visibility was excellent and there was a welcoming warm breeze. On October 20th the doctor touched my arm as I stood lost in thought on the quarter deck. I knew what it meant. Maria was smiling at me, called me by my Christian name for the first time ever, and that she was cold, pointing lastly to my wool jersey.
I pulled it on her, kissed her lips twice - once for you - before the doctor assisted me in cradling her into a green canvas. The men were singing about a chariot. It was raining when I released her to the deep.
I've enclosed the log book along with her precious locket. Mr. Goring is so kind to get these to you. You'll notice the journal she secretly kept in the last blank pages. I entrust them to your safe hands upon dry land. I only had short moments to scan them. They seem like love letters never sent.
Venus and the Sailor (1925)
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