Martin Conisby (Chapter 4, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 4

I found myself still somewhat qualmish next morning but, none the less, got me to labour on the boat and, her damage being now made good on her larboard side, so far as her timbering went, I proceeded to make her seams as water-tight as I could. This I did by means of the fibre of those great nuts that grew plenteously here and there on the island, mixed with the gum of a certain tree in place of pitch, ramming my gummed fibre into every joint and crevice of the boat's structure so that what with this and the swelling of her timbers when launched I doubted not she would prove sufficiently staunch and seaworthy. She was a stout-built craft some sixteen feet in length; and indeed a poor enough thing she might have seemed to any but myself, her weather-beaten timbers shrunken and warped by the sun's immoderate heats, but to me she had become as it were a sign and symbol of freedom. She lay upon her starboard beam half full of sand, and it now became my object to turn her that I might come at this under side, wherefore I fell to work with mattock and spade to free her of the sand wherein (as I say) she lay half-buried. This done I hove and strained until the sweat poured from me yet found it impossible to move her, strive how I would. Hereupon, and after some painful thought, I took to digging away the sand, undermining her thus until she lay so nicely balanced it needed but a push and the cumbrous structure, rolling gently over, lay in the necessary posture, viz: with her starboard beam accessible from gunwale to keel. And mightily heartened was I thus to discover her damage hereabouts so much less than I had dared hope.

So I got me to work with saw, hammer and rivets and wrought so diligently (staying but to snatch a mouthful of food) that as the sun westered, my boat was well-nigh finished. Straightening my aching back I stood to examine my handiwork and though of necessity somewhat rough yet was it strong and secure; and altogether a very excellent piece of work I thought it, and mightily yearned I for that hour when I should feel this little vessel, that had been nought but a shattered ruin, once more riding the seas in triumph.

But now and all at once, my soaring hopes were dashed, for though the boat might be seaworthy, here she lay, high and dry, a good twelve yards from the tide.

Now seeing I might not bring my boat to the sea, I began to scheme how best I should bring the sea to her. I was yet pondering this matter, chin in hand, when a shadow fell athwart me and starting, I glanced up to find this woman beside me, who, heeding me no whit, walks about and about the boat, viewing my work narrowly.

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