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首页 » 儿童英文小说 » The Merman and The Figure-Head » CHAPTER VI. LUCY PEABODY’S DREAM.
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Moby Dick went on his way, “emerging strong against the tide.” A Nantucket ship saw him as he blew, and her boats put out after him.

“Just get off a minute, my dear,” said he to the little mermaid whom he carried. She did so, and then, instead of swimming away from the boats, he put down his enormous head and went straight at them.

“The white whale!” cried the sailors; and they did not throw the harpoon, but went meekly back to the ship. They were bold enough, but they were afraid of the white whale, for Moby Dick had sunk two or three ships in his time and entirely reversed the whalers’ programme.

Moby Dick executed a huge frisk on the surface of the sea, flapped his tail on the water with a noise like thunder, and then dived down to rejoin the mermaid.

“All right, my dear,” he said, cheerfully.

“I’m so glad you are safe,” said the mermaid, patting him with her little hands.

On they went through the water, and the coast was soon in sight. It was growing dusk, and the lighthouse showed its red star over the sea. The mermaid was silent, and Moby Dick did not trouble her to talk.

Suddenly a beautiful woman appeared to them on the crest of a long rolling billow. She made no effort; she did not swim, but moved through the water by her will alone. She seemed a part of the sea, like a wave come alive.

“That is not a human being, surely,” said the mermaid, startled.

“It’s very like that—you know—that wooden thing—that he ran after,” said Moby Dick in a gigantic whisper, “only it’s alive.”

“She don’t seem as though she could ever have been wood,” said the mermaid. “She looks kind. I don’t feel as though she were that—that person. Please ask if she has seen our friend.”

“Yes; my dear child,” said Panope—for she it was—answering the mermaid’s thought, “I have seen him;” and the immortal sighed.

“His family are very anxious about him, my lady,” said the whale, who was conscious of an awe he had never known before, though he felt he could trust the Sea-Nymph.

“They need be anxious no more,” said Panope, gently and sadly.

“What has happened?” asked the mermaid, turning pale, but keeping herself very quiet.

Panope went to her, and the immortal daughter of the sea put her white arms round the mermaid and held her in a close and soft embrace.

“My dear,” she said, very gently, “your old playmate is dead.”

“‘My dear,’ she said, very gently, ‘your old playmate is dead.’”

“You don’t say so, ma’am!” said Moby Dick, with a great sigh; and then he swam away to a little distance and left the mermaid to the care of the Sea-Nymph, for he was a whale of very delicate feelings.

The mermaid looked into the blue eyes of the Goddess, and felt that the countless ages of her being had but made her more wise and kind. She hid her face on the immortal maiden’s bosom.

“My sweet child,” said Panope, after a little while, “I cannot bring your friend to life—it is beyond my power—but if you will, I can give you an immortality like my own. I can carry you with me to a world where death or pain has never come, and keep you young and lovely for ever.”

The mermaid was silent a moment. Then she looked up into Panope’s face.

“You will not be angry with me?” said she.

“Angry, my poor darling!”

“Then, my friends that I have loved have all been mortal. My mother is dead, my twin brother was killed in the war, and now my old companion—and I have known him so long! I think I should rather not be so very different, but go to them when my time comes.”

Panope caressed her hair with a soft hand.

“I don’t know but you are right. Sometimes,” said the Goddess, with a sad, tired look in her eyes, “I think I would be glad to be mortal myself, except that I am glad to be a little comfort to you. I am sorry I came back. Either the world has grown a sad place, or else I had forgotten what it used to be. But I don’t know; I almost broke my heart over Prometheus when I was quite a young thing. I could have helped him take care of his beloved human race a great deal better than Asia, but he never cared anything for me. It is all over long ago. Is there nothing that I can do for you, my dear?”

The mermaid was silent a minute. Then she said:

“I think I should like to take him home to his friends. I know they would wish it should be so.”

“It shall be,” said Panope. “Wait here, and I will bring him to you. But, my dear child, you are so quiet. All the mortal women I ever knew in the old days, in the sea or out, would have torn their hair and screamed, but you are so different.”

The mermaid looked up with a little ghost of a smile, half proud, half pitiful. “I suppose it is because I was born in American waters,” she said.

“Wait but a little,” said Panope. “The whale will take care of you. He is a good creature. His great-grandfathers were pets of mine long ago. I will soon come back again;” and the Nymph was gone.

Some time after the news had come to Salem of the total loss of the brig Sea-nymph, Lucy Peabody was walking alone along the sands. She felt weary, and sat down under the shadow of a rock to rest. The sun was just setting, the west was suffused with a golden glow, the water lay, hardly rippling to a low whispering wind, a sea of fire and glass. Lucy leaned her head against the rock, and sitting there, she dreamed a dream. Along the sands toward her came old Goody Cobb, whom everybody suspected of witchcraft. She appeared so suddenly that Lucy in her dream thought she had come out of the sea.

“Ho! ho!” said Goody Cobb, with a cracked laugh; “so here is Madam Peabody’s lady daughter come out to cry over her disappointment all by herself? The man was a fool, sure enough, but I wouldn’t mind. Just let me write your name down in a little book I keep, and you shall see our fine young madam dwine away like snow in spring-time, and then we shall see—”

“You are out of your mind, Goody,” said Lucy in her dream; “but such talk as that is not safe, for there are those in town who are silly enough to believe witch stories, and you might get yourself into trouble.”

“Silly, are they!” cried Goody Cobb, growing angry. “But never mind. Just let me have your name, and we shall see what we shall see. Look at the pretty necklace I will give you;” and she drew from her pocket a chain of shining green stones and held it up before the girl’s eyes.

“I will have nothing to say to you or your gifts,” said Lucy, steadily. “Pass on your way, Goody, and leave me alone.”

“So you think yourself too good for me!” said the witch in a rage. “Let me tell you that my family is as good as yours, and better. My grandfather was a minister—ay, and a noted one—while yours was selling clams round the streets.”

It was a very odd thing that while Goody Cobb had become a witch, renounced her baptism and sold herself to the enemy of mankind, she was yet very proud of the eminent divine, her grandfather.

“I’ll be the death of you! I’ll stick pins in you, and set my imps to pinch you black and blue!” screamed Goody Cobb, with the look of a possessed woman, as she was.

Suddenly, as Lucy dreamed—so suddenly that she seemed to grow out of the air—there stood on the sand between herself and the witch a tall and beautiful woman in shining raiment of green and silver, with golden hair that fell loosely to her ankles. She gazed sternly on the witch; a divine wrath made her blue eyes awful.

“You earth-born creature!” she cried as she caught the green necklace from the old woman’s trembling hand. “This girl is a child of the ocean, and is in my care;” and Lucy dreamed that she felt glad to remember how she had been born on the voyage her mother made with her father to Calcutta. “Stay where you are for ever!” continued the stranger lady, raising her white hand with a gesture of command. “You will wreck no more ships—you, nor your sister witch.” And then as she stood Goody Cobb stiffened into stone and became a black rock.

“You need not be afraid of me, my dear,” said the dream lady to Lucy. “I never hurt any one in my life. I am only an innocent Sea-Nymph, and I am—or I was—the helper of all the sailor-folk, and your father is a bold seaman.”

Lucy dreamed that she was very much surprised, which was curious, for in a dream the more remarkable a thing is, the less it astonishes the dreamer.

“But I thought there never were any nymphs,” she said, perplexed.

The sea-maiden smiled a queer little smile—half sad, half amused.

“Do you know,” she said, “that since men left off believing in them and building temples, the gods all declare that there never were such things as human creatures, and that it was all a delusion of ours? Keep this;” and she dropped the necklace into Lucy’s lap. “It belonged to one who will not care to wear it now. Farewell;” and the goddess bent down and lightly kissed the girl’s forehead, and the next instant Lucy was alone. She woke up, as she thought, and sat still for a moment.

“What a singular dream!” she said to herself. Then she looked round, and saw a black rock standing beside her, “Was that rock there? I don’t remember it, but of course it must have been.” She rose to her feet. Something fell glittering on the sand. She picked it up. It was a long, shining necklace of green stones.

“This is very strange!” said Lucy, thoughtfully. “But I suppose I had better take them home. They must have been washed up from the sea and caught to my gown some way. How pretty they are! I wonder if they belonged to some one who is drowned?”

She put the necklace into her pocket, and turned to go home. She had gone but a little way when she met Job Chippit.

“Uncle Job,” she said, “I have found something on the sand. Do you think any one in town has lost it, or that it was washed up by the sea?”

Job examined closely the emerald necklace. “This never belonged to anyone in our town, Lucy,” he said; “most likely the tide washed it up in the last storm. Yours it is by all right if no one comes to claim it; and be keerful of it, for I expect it’s awful valuable. But what’s happened to you?”


“You’ve got an odd look about you, some way, but I never see you look so pretty. Has anything happened?”

“No,” said Lucy, quietly, “only I sat down to rest and fell asleep, and had a very strange dream. Good-night, Uncle Job.” From that evening Goody Cobb was never seen in Salem town.

Job Chippit continued his walk, thoughtfully whittling a little stick. Before long he overtook Master Isaac Torrey, who was walking along the shore with his head down, seeming to notice nothing but the sand at his feet. Master Torrey had quite left off his wild ways. He made no more foolish, fanciful speeches about nymphs and goddesses, and such nonsense. “Anna Jane had made a sensible man of him,” said his father-in-law. “He was greatly improved,” said every one, with the exception of Ichabod Sterns and Job Chippit.

Master Torrey had avoided the wood-carver since his marriage. His father-in-law thought it a good sign. “He had been quite too familiar with that person,” thought the colonel. But this night Master Torrey did not avoid him, though he only nodded without speaking in answer to Job’s “Good-evening,” and then the two walked on in silence.

“That’s an odd-looking thing on the beach,” said Job at last.

They went up to the dark mass Job had pointed out. There on a heap of weed, thrown up by the late storm, lay the wooden nymph, the paint almost washed away, and there, with its arms tightly clasped about her neck, lay a strange creature, half fish, half human.

“As sure as the world, it’s a merman!” said Job; “and there really are such critters, after all! Poor fellow! The human part of him was pretty good-lookin’ when he was alive. See what a dent he’s got in his head!”

“And this is the figure-head of The Sea-nymph,” said Master Torrey. “Don’t you know it?”

“To be sure! Well, it does beat all! What shall we do with the merman? I’d kind of hate to make a show of him. He’s a sort of man, and I ’spose he had his feelings anyhow. Look at the empty scabbard and the sword-belt; and he’s got a ring on his finger.”

Job bent down and tried to unfold the dead hand from its close clasp. At that moment, though it was very calm, a huge wave rose from the sea, and came thundering up the beach, covering the two men with spray. When it retreated the dead merman and the figure-head were gone, and up from the sea came a low sobbing sound.

Master Torrey and Job stood watching, surprised and startled. Another minute, and up came a second huge wave, bearing upon its crest the oaken sea-nymph. On it rolled—a mountain of water. It dashed its burden upon the jagged rocks once, twice, thrice, and strewed the shattered fragments over sea and sand. Job drew a long breath.

“Waal,” said he, “there goes the best piece of wood I ever chipped. Tell ye what, philosophy won’t explain everything. ’Tain’t best to be too rational if you want to have any insight into things in this world. If that wa’n’t done a-purpose, I never see a thing done so!”

They turned back and walked toward the town. Far away in the offing a whale sent up an enormous jet, a sea-gull screamed wildly above their heads.

“Going to say anything about this?” said Job at last.

“What would be the use?” said Master Torrey, sharply. “Half of them would not believe you; and who wants to set all the fools in the place chattering?”

“Not I! I’m not over-fond of answering questions. I’d rather ask ’em,” said Job. “Do you know, putting this and that together, and the story of the queer fish that hung round the ship, I’ve got a notion that poor fishy thing fell in love with that figger-head of ourn? You couldn’t expect such a critter as he was to have more sense than a landsman, and I expect the log fell on him when the brig went to pieces and killed him.”

“So much the better for him if he had given his soul to a wooden image,” said Master Torrey, bitterly. “Good-night;” and he left Job and walked slowly back to his handsome new house. Job looked after him wistfully. Just then old Ichabod came up and saluted the wood-carver.

“Do you know, Ichabod,” said Job, “that Master Torrey and I just found the figure-head of the poor Sea-nymph, all shattered to bits on the rocks? The waves brought her all this way to smash her at last.”

“I wish they had smashed her at first,” said Ichabod.

“Why?” said Job, with a curious look.

“Because,” said Ichabod, “she was an unlucky creature from the first. She was too much alive for a wooden image, and too wooden to be a live woman, much less a goddess.”

The End


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