Open main menu


THE BURIED ANCHOR

BY

PERCEVAL GIBBON

THERE was a tale that Oom Piet used to tell, of the days when he showed his back to the tax-gatherers and trekked east to the very edge of the world, where the veld broke into patches of sand and shelved down into the sea. it was the only one of all his stories that did not make him out a hero; the rest were all of war with the kafirs and hunting in new-found lands, where the game was so thick that it jostled for pasture. But this was a tale of wonder, and he wondered over it contentedly till he went to that place where all riddles are answered.

It began always with the long Odyssey of the trek, while the slow wagons drew indomitably to ever fresh horizons and each dawn showed a new country and the fresh spoor of buck. Then there were the mountains, seen afar for days, that stood across his track; he had searched them north and south for more than a month ere he found the winding thread of valley that let him through. Not once but a dozen times in that year-long journey his ripe craft of war had served him well, and the wagons had been laagered in time to stand off an attack of kafirs; each lonely battle was fresh in his memory, and he never omitted to tell how his wife crouched beside him as he fought, loading his spare rifle and passing it into his hand. Sometimes, at this stage in the history, some of his old force would return to him, and one could see all the face harden and grow keen behind the big beard. Oom Piet was very old and much under the dominion of his years; for him one thing in a story was as much as another; and he always carried us through every stage of that trek, from the Bushmen he shot in the mountains to the baby he buried at Weenen Drift.[1]

And thus at last, when they had passed through an easy country, where Zulu satraps from the north ruled the terror-stricken kraals, and nothing any longer had the power to make him wonder, they came upon the sea. It was a still evening when they drew down to its shore, and before them the unimagined ocean filled the world and lay against the sky, and its murmur hushed the long-familiar noises of the veld. A broken reef of rock stood a hundred yards from the beach and the water creamed about it; the crags were like gapped and broken teeth. Oom Piet stood with his wife's hand on his arm and his three sons at his elbow, and all five gazed awhile in silence. The spell of the stillness and the great space worked within them all.

"It is a place of peace, at all events," said Oom Piet, at last.

The hand on his arm tightened. Susanna looked up at him with a smile.

"But I am glad I am not alone here," she answered.

As for the lads, theirs was a bewilderment that stilled their judgment. Klein Piet, the eldest, leaned on his rifle and stared out at the sea with empty eyes, for it spoke to unguessed depths in his soul; and Jan and Andries were both a little afraid. They had nothing to say, and when presently Piet led the way back to the wagons, they followed him hesitating, casting nervous glances over their shoulders as they went. Even by the fires, as they sat together over their evening meal, some constraint remained with them, so that they talked with an effort of trivial things while their thoughts abode elsewhere, and Susanna looked from one to another with a little frown of perplexity. Not one of them could have told what troubled him, or guessed that in his very name of Van Praagh there closed a long tradition of the salt and sound of the sea.

It was when a new dawn had shown them the place in clear light, unwitched by evening shadows and calm, that Piet made his decision. Landward of the sand the veld was rich, with patches of bush; a stream ran through it handily, and to his eyes, wise in a hundred aspects of game land, cattle land, and mealie land, it spoke of security and comfort. He was not a man to be drawn from his sure judgment by trifles of liking and curiosity; he had lived too close to

the real things of life to be deluded by semblances; but none the less, there was gladness for him that all these good things, the materials of a home and a livelihood, lay at the flank of that great tame sea, to whose noise his ears were already become accustomed. There was a welcome in the sound of it; under the morning sun it showed a face as bright as a host's; and when the lads came back from the beach, with their hair blown about their faces and their hands full of shells, they found him sitting on an ant hill, in the middle of a square he had marked out with big smooth stones.

"What is it?" asked Klein Piet.

"Our house," answered his father. "We will build it here, with the stoop looking out to the water. That—" he pointed a line with his finger—"that shall be the front of it, to face the sun each day when he up-saddles. There, yonder, shall be the kraals; and we will live between the sea and the veld and have the best of both. What do you think of it?"

Andries laughed delightedly; a new thing was always a good thing for him. Jan, too, was pleased and curious; only Klein Piet looked grave, but not with any doubt or dissatisfaction. "Well?" asked the father again. "What do you think of it, my son?"

Klein Piet answered slowly. "I think well of it," he said, meeting his father's gaze with his steady blue eyes; "so well, father, that I should have stayed in any case, even if you had turned back."

"Eh?" The elder man doubted if he heard aright.

Klein Piet seemed to be in a dream. "I only know," he said, in the same slow manner of speech, "that this place I stand on is like a birth-place to me. I must have dreamed of it when I was a child."

The younger boys were watching the pair of them in wonder. Piet put out his hand to his son.

"Then we shall not quarrel," he said. "I cannot say what it is, the finger of God stirring or the lusts of the flesh, but the same thing has hold of me, Klein Piet. I am fallen at the same dyke; I could not leave this place if I would."

Only Susanna was not completely at her ease, Piet found no matter for surprise in this, but looked to see a change when the house should be built and the offices of home-keeping should have set up landmarks in her life. A Boer woman should live between her kitchen and her bed, he was used to say, and he held to this unswervingly even when the kitchen was but the cheek of a wood-fire in the veld and the bed the windy sail of a wagon. So when her face showed that the strangeness of the place did not abate for her, when she shrank from being alone and shivered at the on-coming of the nights that strode in from the sea, he only smiled on her and was careful to be close to her, and was glad, with a mild satisfaction, that the long trek and the fights and the sorrows had left her womanly and soft. She was a De Villiers from the western edge of the Karoo, fair and still as all the women of that stock are; but it never happened to him to think of the dead men and women who had gone to the making of her family, soldiers and gospellers and martyrs, but never a sailor among them. Neither did it happen that he took any account of his kafirs, for Piet was sound Boer to the bone; or he might have seen that they, too, had their fears and misgivings, The black man's solitude is peopled with ghosts and devils; beyond the ring of his firelight, the dark is uneasy with presences; and it waw not fear of the Zulus alone that kept these tremblers close about the camp, and cowed them to an anxious obedience the sjambok could never have commanded.

Indeed, there was no time for Piet and his sons to become infected with doubts, for they set to work at once on the building of their house. The stone thereabouts lay over the face of the land in rounded boulders and splintered cleanly under the sledge-hammer. The house they devised to face the sea was to be of stone from eaves to the foot of the walls and rooted well in the ground. Piet marked it all out with little gutters, and, since he himself was the strongest of them, he set the lads to dig a firm foundation with half the kafirs, while he took the other half to split and carry stone. They had all a good will to work; their task was to justify to themselves their choice of a home, and the skinny kafirs had to bend their naked backs freely to keep pace with the eager work of their masters. The thud of the picks and the ring of Piet's great hammer made a loud answer to the ceaseless murmur and rustle of the sea on the sand; even Susanna was stirred from her cares by the briskness of the work.

The place where Piet labored at the stone was under the bank of the stream, where it ran deep and slow, and curved curiously between little hard headlands of rock and easy bosoms of sand; so that when he was plying the great sledge and cutting out the stone in big, flat cakes, he was hidden from the lads who dug on the foundations of the house, a couple of hundred paces away. There was little enough to fear now, but his old lore of war still governed him, and he carried his rifle to his work with him, and had chosen to work in a spot where he could not be suddenly approached by one coming secretly through the hummocks, Here, at noon, on the fourth or fifth day of the building, he was laboring happily. His was the part to swing the great sledge on the wedges; three, four full-bodied blows, each ringing true as a bell on the iron wedges, and a fat, flat slice of stone jarred loose from the body of the rock, to be hauled apart by the kafirs; and then in with the wedges again. He had joy in his strength, and in the pretty skill of never missing the head of the wedge; so that he worked on without fatigue and did not look about him. It was when another big flake of stone was broken away, that an exclamation from one of the kafirs made him turn sharply to look up-stream.

He was never sure what manner of man he saw, watching him from the far side of the spruit. For one thing, there was sweat in his eyes; for another, he turned to grasp his rifle, and when he turned back, the man was gone. But in the couple of moments that the man was in view, Piet saw that he was white, a short, strongly-built white man, dark against the pale sand. And though he could never find a phrase for the impression in his mind, the thing that puzzled him was the utter strangeness of the man's appearance. Whether it was the fashion of his clothes, his attitude, his looks, or just the mere whole of him, he could never explain. But, "it seemed to me as if he were none of God's making," he always added.

It was a matter of no more than a couple of breaths; then his bewilderment broke up, and caution took its place. He bustled his kafirs together and shepherded them out of the stream-bed and back to the camp, coming last with his rifle cocked in the crook of his arm to guard against any possible danger. He saw that work had ceased in the foundations of the house; the lads and the kafirs were gathered in a knot in the pit, and their voices buzzed in talk. But he gave no notice to that.

"We are being watched," he said to them. "Back to the laager and get your guns."

And once again the square of wagons became a fort, and the little family stood to its arms against all comers, for its right to live in the place it had chosen.

Piet told them what he had seen; it was little enough, and he had no key to its meaning. Susanna, having helped to lay the spare rifles and the ammunition ready, had gone back to her fire, for pots must be watched though the veld were alive with enemies. The men, each standing on a wagon wheel, searching the country with keen eyes, turned the thing over in their minds.

"You are sure he was white, father?" asked Jan.

Piet was quite sure.

"And he had no gun?"

"No," replied Piet. "He had nothing in his hands at all."

They spoke without turning their heads or ceasing for an instant in the watch they kept.

"Then," said Klein Piet, with assurance, "it must be the English. Only the English go about without guns in a wild country, and collect taxes."

The explanation seemed reasonable to them all; they would have been less dismayed if a black foe had shown himself in force. The feeling that dragged the Boer people up by the roots and set them trekking into the unknown was no mere antipathy to taxation; it was founded on an abiding mistrust and hatred of the English who were multiplying in the land. Piet's strong face took on an added grimness as Klein Piet's explanation forced itself on him.

"But perhaps," suggested Andries, the youngest, "it is just an Englishman on trek. He would not trouble us."

That was a comfortable thought, too. Piet kept his boys on watch for another hour, but nothing showed, and then they ate quickly, and he disposed them for a search. It was all done in good order and after the approved fashion; as each moved forward, his retreat was covered by another's rifle; and between them they scoured all the broken ground within a couple of miles.

"Well," said Piet at last, when the search was over and they had not found Sb much as a spoor of a foot, "this is a wonderful thing."

"You are sure it was a man you saw?" asked Klein Piet, doubtfully. "The sun plays tricks with a man's eyes, sometimes."

But Piet was not to be shaken. "As sure," he said, "as I am here. But what kind of man—" he broke off, frowning. "There is nothing for it," he added, "but to go on with the work and be wary."

"Yes, the work." Klein Piet turned to him. "When you came back from the spruit, we had just found a curious thing where we were digging."

"An iron cross," put in young Andries.

"A cross?" repeated the father.

"It is not a cross," said Klein Piet, quickly. "It is—something else. Come and see it, father."

They had been talking together outside their laager, and now they went across to the great pit that the lads and the kafirs had dug to plant the house in. The digging was not yet all done, and where the morning's labor had ended, Klein Piet pointed to the thing of which he had spoken. Only a part of it was uncovered—two curving, spade-ended arms of rust-red iron, and a shaft which stuck out of the earth.

"Is that not a cross, father?" cried Andries, "See, it has arms and——"

Piet shook his head. "No, it's no cross," he answered. "How can it have come here? I remember once a man who rode on commando, an Englishman, and he had pictures of such things as this on his arms, pricked into the skin. This is an anchor, a piece of a ship."

Klein Piet, standing by his side, laughed suddenly, so short and harsh a laugh that Piet turned to him in surprise.

"I might have known," said Klein Piet. "Of course it is part of a ship. There have been ships here, once; can't you feel that there have been ships hereabouts?"

At another time Piet would have shown little patience with this manner of talk; but now his mind was full of other concerns, and he let it pass.

"We must dig the thing out," he said. "It will be heavy to lift, though. Take a pair of spades and see how big it is."

Klein Piet and Jan jumped down into the pit and set to work, while Andries and Piet watched. It was no hard matter to unbury the shank of the anchor; the easy earth came away in heaping shovelfuls, and presently the whole of it lay bare, with its great wooden stock rotted to threads and its ring pitted and thin with rust. Jan leaned on his shovel and stared at it; Klein Piet knelt by it and swept away earth with his hands.

"Perhaps there was a wreck here," Piet was saying. "Some ship may have been driven up by a storm and the sea have beaten it to pieces, so that all the wooden parts floated away and this was left."

Klein Piet, on his knees, still grubbing away with his hands, laughed at him.

"No," he said. "That is not so, father. For there is a chain fast to this anchor."

He had worried a hole with his hands, and sure enough, when they came to look, there was a link of a great chain running from the anchor ring into the earth.

"Now," said Klein Piet, rising from his knees; "who will tell me what the other end of that chain is fast to?"

It was a strange thing for a house-building Boer to find; their shovels only showed them that there was a long chain there, running level, perhaps six feet below the surface of the ground. They bared a couple of fathoms of it, red as gold with its long burial, and then Piet bade them halt.

"We must cut it," he said. "It will be hard work, but plainer to do than digging up the whole of it. And for to-day, let us go back to camp and leave it."

Piet was a little resentful of these things that had arrived to disturb the course of his work. First, the sudden stranger who left no spoor where he walked, and now the anchor lying where the roots of his home should be—they were beyond the calculations of an upright Boer. Like many more sophisticated men» Piet relied on his environment possessing a certain quality; when foreign elements colored it, when it was flavored with unascertained ingredients, a sort of helplessness sapped his powers; he was like a man walking blindfold. Only his bull-headed pluck served him at such times; and now, when he doubted and was uneasy, he held on without hesitation in the task he had undertaken. A brand-wacht was maintained that night, the four of them taking turns to sit sentry by the great wood fire; and though, during his turn of the watch, the night seemed alive with lurking men who stared and slunk, he faced the new dawn with no leak in his courage.

That day, they set to work at cutting through the great chain that was fast to the anchor ring. Their equipment for such a purpose was poor; there was nothing for it but to flog a cold chisel through the wrought iron; and though the rust flaked from it if one but scratched with a fingernail, the metal below was sound and tough yet, a heartbreaking thing to assault with mere strength of arm. Further, there is a science of cutting with the cold edge which was outside a!i their knowledge. The younger lads took turns to hold the chisel, while Piet and Klein Piet, swinging alternately, rung a strenuous bob-major on its head; but the hot hours passed in sweat and labor, and afternoon was upon them, while the chain seemed scarcely scratched. It was cruel work for all of them, jarring to the arms and stunning to the ears. At last, Piet dropped his sledge-hammer and wiped the wet from his face.

"Honest men made that chain," he said. "We shall be all to-morrow cutting at it. Hullo! What kafir is this?"

None of them had seen the approach of the kafir who now stood on the edge of the pit looking down at them; he carried his hand to his head in a salute as they looked up at him. He was an old kafir, with tufts of white on his chin and a skin hanging on his loins, gaunt and big and upstanding, with a kind of dignity that was new to them in kafirs. He supported their stare with no embarrassment, and gave them back an unabashed regard of quiet curiosity.

"Who are you?" demanded Piet. "Where do you come from?"

But the kafir could speak no Dutch; he made a reply in some tongue of his own, sonorous and full-throated, and raised his hand again in salute.

"We must know where he comes from," said Piet to the lads. "Between ourselves and our own kafirs, we must find some language he can understand."

They came out of the pit and took the kafir back to the camp with them, leaving their tools where they lay. The old man went in obedience to their gestures without demur, and squatted himself on his hams to be talked to. The average Boer knows no native tongues; he will not condescend so far to the kafir; but Piet and his sons had yielded to their vicissitudes, and between them could command quite a number of dialects. Tembu, Fingo and the "kitchen kafir" of the Cape failed to gain any response; Klein Piet's few words of Bechuana only made the old man laugh; the Griqua "clicks" made him laugh more. Then, by an inspiration, Piet put a question in Basuto, the harsh speech of the mountaineers. Up went the black hand in a salute, and the old kafir replied in the same tongue.

"I am a doctor," he told them. "I am of The Men (the Zulus). I am walking north to my own people."

He spoke with a seriousness that was like courtesy, so attentive and gracious. To each of Piet's questions he gave a considered answer, ample and careful. There was no war in these parts, he told them; the nearest kraal was four days away. In any case, his people would not concern themselves with a single family of white people; they had nothing to fear.

"But," said Piet, "since I have been here, I have seen another white man. He watched me at work from a distance. Do you know who he was?"

The old kafir listened to him with a sedulous attention.

"It is said," he answered, "that white men have been seen hereabouts. My grandfather saw them, and his father. But I have never seen them."

Piet stared at him. "Your grandfather?" he cried. "But I saw him yesterday."

The old kafir nodded. "It is a tale that is told," he said. "A very old tale. White men came from yonder—" his lean finger waved to the darkling sea southwards,—"traveling on the water in a——" he paused for a word.

"A ship," said Piet. " I know."

The old man nodded. "This was in the old times, before we Men had come to this country," he went on; "when white men were dreams. Here their ship halted; and that same night, the great wind of the year drove down on them. It was a wind that struck men as with a club and killed them; it lifted the sea as mowers lift hay and stacked it high on the veld, so that here where we sit was all water, and the shore was a mile inland. And with the water, the wind carried their ship, plunging and turning like a cow in a torrent; when the sea went back to its place, it stood here on the land, great and wonderful, with its white men swarming about it. That iron at which you were sweating was the hook with which they held their ship in one place."

Evening had come upon them while they talked; its shadows were cast over the sea and the shore, and the old kafir's strong face was lit by the leaping fire at which they sat. Piet looked over his shoulder at the darkling dome of the night, under which they sat in a hush of solitude.

"Yes," he said. "And what became of them?"

The old kafir spread his hands asunder before him.

"Who can tell?" he answered. "They were killed, of course; the kafirs who had escaped to the hills came back and made war on them. It lasted a while, for the white men fought cleverly; but in the end, there was a creeping by night, a narrowing ring of assegais, the hush of stealth; and last the roar of the warcry and a charge. The kafirs thronged on that ship like ants on a carrion; in the middle of it, the white men put fire to their powder, and all the ship and the fighters vanished in a spring of fire. Yes, all the white men were killed; but still they have been seen, slinking through the hills and returning by the stream. They were killed, but who is to say what became of them?"

The four Boers looked at one another; their breath came short and harsh. Piet recalled all that sense of strangeness with which the sight of the man by the stream had filled him; the growing night was suddenly dangerous and fearful.

Klein Piet turned to the old kafir. "All this was very long ago?" he said.

The kafir considered, with a forefinger that calculated on the fingers of his other hand.

"My grandfather was old," he said. "So old that he was blind. And his grandfather had heard it as a tale of olden times."

Piet was still in thrall to the awe of the thing.

"Then I saw a spirit?" he demanded.

The old kafir shrugged, and a silence fell between them all. Jan and Andries had understood less than the half of what was said, but the ill-ease reached them like a contagion and they sat very close together, their eyes wide open and quick.

Piet was about to ask further questions, when Jan suddenly gripped his brother and started.

"Hark!" he cried. "What is that?"

The quick alarm strung them all to tenseness; only the old kafir cocked his eyebrow humorously and spat into the fire. The others rested where they sat, straining their ears.

"There!" cried Jan again.

It was a dull noise of metal on metal that they heard, a muffled ring and clink; it sounded again and again.

"Someone is cutting at the chains," said Piet hoarsely.

"It is they," said Klein Piet.

Susanna's hand stole into Piet's arm; he had almost forgotten that she was sitting a little behind him, so still had she been. But the touch of her hand made him the equal of his terrors; the man with a wife to shield cannot afford fears. He pressed her hand and rose to his feet.

"We are shivering like old women round a death-bed," he said. "Klein Piet, get your rifle; we will see who is mending our work for us."

Klein Piet obeyed, swallowing to ease his tight throat; the old kafir rose too, and the three of them went forth from the light of the fires and across the crisp grass to that dark pit where yet the "clink, clink" of the unseen work was sounding. Piet and his son-walked abreast, the kafir a little behind them; his bare feet were soundless as he strode. The Boer was conscious of no fear; only of a strange lightening of his senses and a pricking in his skin such as he had known when he had lain on his rifle at night waiting for a charge of kafirs. As they went, the sound of the hammers grew clearer, till they could pick out the heavy note of the great sledge and the lighter cadence of the top-mall. They halted by an end of bush to mark the steady ring of them and make sure of their breath; the old kafir went on a few paces.

"So the tale was true," they heard him say; and then Piet sprang out, with Klein Piet at his heels, flung up his gun, and fired at the pit. The smoke of the shot blew back into their faces; its noise, peremptory and sudden, thrust their alert faculties from their poise; an effort was needed ere they saw clear again. The pit was empty.

"What did you see?" cried Klein Piet.

"I don't know," answered Piet. "I thought—but I don't know. Let us go and see what they have done to the chain."

Klein Piet had his tinderbox in his pocket; by the light he made, they both bent to look at the link on the ground.

"It is deeper," said Klein Piet. "The cut is half through the iron."

They went back to the camp in a silence of utter bewilderment. To his wife's look and the questions of the younger boys, Piet only answered that he had found no one. The old kafir had gone off without a word to his place among Piet's kafirs, and presently Susanna moved off to her bed in the wagon. Piet packed Jan and Andries off after her, and remained smoking by the fire with Klein Piet opposite him.

"Now," said Klein Piet, when they were alone; "what was it you saw?"

Piet took the pipe from his lips and gazed at him across the fire.

"As sure as death," he said, "I saw the pit swarming with men like birds over a wheat-field. And you?"

"I saw it too," answered Klein Piet. "And the men with the hammers—they were naked to the waist and hairy like baboons."

They stared at each other stupidly, half-aghast at the knowledge they shared. Their faces, in the firelight, were white and hard.

"Have we trekked too far?" said Piet, almost in a whisper. "Can a man trek to hell? God, there are those hammers again."

Clink, Clink! they sounded, pounding away in the night, clear and even as the ticking of a clock.

"They will have it cut by morning," whispered Klein Piet. "What will happen then?"

Piet was listening to the sounds, with his pipe poised in front of his mouth. He shook his head.

"I don't know," he answered. "But we will see. Klein Piet, you and I will keep the brand-wacht to-night. If anything is to happen, we will be awake for it."

"Yes, father," answered Klein Piet mechanically, and then the talk between them dropped. On either side of the fire they sat in long stages of silence, listening to the hammers plying in the night, their noise making a rythm above the slow murmur of the water on the beach. A little wind got up, blowing from the north; it carried the scent of the seaweed and the damp sand to their nostrils and fanned their smoldering fire to a clearer glow. Somewhere in the bush a jackal sobbed like a lost child; the wood ash clicked and rustled as it burned out and settled down. And through it all, like the dominant of a harmony, the hammers spoke their unceasing clink and the darkness stirred like a windy arras.

Perhaps the rythm lulled him somewhat; perhaps he was but sunk in a deeper thought; but Piet did not notice his son spring to his feet. Klein Piet shook him from his stupor; he came back to himself and to the agitated face of the young man leaning over him.

"The hammers have ceased," he shouted.

Klein Piet gabbled the words with lips that puckered and sagged in an ague of excitement. The elder man rose forthwith.

"Now we shall see!" he said.

He went down to crawl under one of the wagons into the open, but remained on his knees under it. Klein Piet, on all fours at his side, shivered and gulped. Their eyes wrestled with the baffling dark, and their pulses checked and raced; for something was moving out yonder. They could see but the loom of a great bulk, a blackness blacker than the night, something vast and tall—and it moved. As their eyes grew familiar with the darkness, they could see plainly that it moved; it seemed to slide slowly. Then, delicate but quite clear, some voice called and others answered. The sliding bulk took on an outline; it made a vague tracery against the faint sky as it neared them; each instant it was plainer to see. Piet, intent, every faculty set like a cocked pistol, noted a long flank, a tall, window-pierced structure that sloped. Old pictures and forgotten names fermented in his memory.

"Allemachtig! It's a ship," he cried.

Superbly she passed them, that lost galleon of the young world, slipped from her age-long anchorage. Her high sides were a-bristle with her guns; her sails were sheeted and her head was to the east. There was a great company of men on board of her; on her high poop, rising like a citadel, a little group of them was black and busy. As she passed down the beach, she dipped and lifted like a burdened ship in a seaway. It was then Klein Piet had his moment of madness. Suddenly he screamed like a girl and began to scramble forward. "Wait for me!" he cried. "I will go with you. I am a sailor too."

He would have run down towards her, but Piet grasped him and held on. He struggled and they rolled together on the grass, fighting with one another. Then Klein Piet ceased as suddenly as he had begun.

"I am better now," he gasped, and Piet let him rise. They stood up together and gazed seaward. A squall was blowing in from the east, thick and black, with a gleam of white water under it. Was it a sail they saw, a ship that heeled to the brisk wind and was screened from sight by the rain? They crawled back under the wagon as the first wetness lit on their faces, and sat there together.

"If you tell me you saw a ship," said Piet suddenly, " I will call you a liar."

"Yes," said Klein Piet. "I must be a liar, for I saw one."

When Oom Piet finished this tale, he was wont to knock out his pipe on the heel of his boot.

"But in the morning, when we went back to our work," he always added, "there was the chain—cut through!"


  1. The Ford of Weeping.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1926, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.