‘Tis the nicest miss in the world that I was born grandson of my own father’s father, and not of another man altogether. Hendry Watty was the name of my grandfather that might have been; and he always maintained that to all intents and purposes he was my grandfather, and made me call him so–’twas such a narrow shave. I don’t mind telling you about it. ‘Tis a curious tale, too.
My grandfather, Hendry Watty, bet four gallons of eggy-hot that he would row out to the Shivering Grounds, all in the dead waste of the night, and haul a trammel there. To find the Shivering Grounds by night, you get the Gull Rock in a line with Tregamenna and pull out till you open the light on St. Anthony’s Point; but everybody gives the place a wide berth because Archelaus Rowett’s lugger foundered there, one time, with six hands on board; and they say that at night you can hear the drowned men hailing their names. But my grandfather was the boldest man in Port Loe, and said he didn’t care. So one Christmas Eve by daylight he and his mates went out and tilled the trammel; and then they came back and spent the fore-part of the evening over the eggy-hot, down to Oliver’s tiddly-wink, to keep my grandfather’s spirits up and also to show that the bet was made in earnest.
‘Twas past eleven o’clock when they left Oliver’s and walked down to the cove to see my grandfather off. He has told me since that he didn’t feel afraid at all, but very friendly in mind, especially towards William John Dunn, who was walking on his right hand. This puzzled him at the first, for as a rule he didn’t think much of William John Dunn. But now he shook hands with him several times, and just as he was stepping into the boat he says, “You’ll take care of Mary Polly, while I’m away.” Mary Polly Polsue was my grandfather’s sweetheart at that time. But why he should have spoken as if he was bound on a long voyage he never could tell; he used to set it down to fate.
“I will,” said William John Dunn; and then they gave a cheer and pushed my grandfather off, and he lit his pipe and away he rowed all into the dead waste of the night. He rowed and rowed, all in the dead waste of the night; and he got the Gull Rock in a line with Tregamenna windows; and still he was rowing, when to his great surprise he heard a voice calling:
“Hendry Watty! Hendry Watty!”
I told you my grandfather was the boldest man in Port Loe. But he dropped his two paddles now, and made the five signs of Penitence. For who could it be calling him out here in the dead waste and middle of the night?
“Hendry Watty! Hendry Watty! drop me a line.”
My grandfather kept his fishing-lines in a little skivet under the stern-sheets. But not a trace of bait had he on board. If he had, he was too much a-tremble to bait a hook.
“HENDRY WATTY! HENDRY WATTY! drop me a line, or I’ll know why!”
My poor grandfather by this had picked up his paddles again, and was rowing like mad to get quit of the neighbourhood, when something or somebody gave three knocks–thump, thump, thump!–on the bottom of the boat, just as you would knock on a door. The third thump fetched Hendry Watty upright on his legs. He had no more heart for disobeying, but having bitten his pipe-stem in half by this time–his teeth chattered so–he baited his hook with the broken bit and flung it overboard, letting the line run out in the stern-notch. Not halfway had it run before he felt a long pull on it, like the sucking of a dog-fish.