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The Rock
by [?]

“I tell ye I saw it–wi’ these eyes I saw it!”

“You think you seen it.”

“Now I quit. Ye talk like every mate or skipper or Consul I’ve told this to. Just the same, I never git to the end o’ the third day out, either way,–I’m in a six-day boat, ye know–but what the nervousness gits me, an’ I’m no good for twelve hours, until I know we’re past the spot.”

“A rock, you say, in the middle o’ the Atlantic? Why isn’t it known and charted?”

“Because it’s awash an’ visible only at the fall o’ the spring tides.”

“How is it that no one else saw it but you?”

“I was the only man aloft. She was a hemp-rigged old ballyhoo out o’ Quebec, an’ gear was chafin’ through all the time. I was passin’ a new seizin’ on the collar o’ the foretopmast stay, when I squinted ahead through the fog, and there it was black an’ shiny, an’ murderous, about forty feet long, I should judge, and five feet or so out o’ water, right dead under the bow. I could see the lift o’ the water where the current pushed ag’in’ it, and the swirl on t’other side, showin’ it was no derelict, bottom up. No, it was a rock. ‘Starboard!’ I yells to the felly at the wheel. ‘Starboard! Hard up!’ Well, the skipper was below, an’ the second mate, who had the deck, was mixin’ paint under the fo’c’sle; so the wheel went up an’ the old wagon payed off ‘fore the wind. Then I lost it myself in the fog, an’, as I couldn’t point out anything to the skipper when he come up, I was called down an’ damned for a fool. But I saw it, just the same, a big rock halfway across, and squarely between the lane routes!”

“How do you know that?”

“The skipper wasn’t above givin’ me the ship’s position–forty-seven north; thirty-seven twenty west. That’s between the lanes, an’ I’ll bet the Narconic is at the base o’ that rock, to say nothin’ o’ the Pacific, the President, and t’others.”

The wabbly little West Street horse car had reached the White Star dock by this and the two men stepped off. Steamship sailors, I knew. I had never seen them before, and have never seen them since; but their conversation produced a marked impression upon me, and I could not shake off a feeling–not of itself a remembrance, however–that I had heard something of the kind before. A submerged rock in mid-Atlantic. But it was incredible, and at last I put it from my mind as a “galley yarn.”

But next morning it was back, in company with another galley yarn, one I barely remembered as having heard ten years before from an old Confederate man-o’-war’sman who had sailed with Semmes in the Alabama. The yarn pertained to the pursuit of a Northern merchant ship, and I give only the conclusion.

“We were gaining fast,” he had said, “and hoped to bring her to before breakfast; for at daylight she was but three miles or so ahead, every sail drawing and every detail of spar, canvas, and hull showing clear in the morning light. And then, while we looked at her, she quickly settled under, not head first or stern first, as is usual, but on an even keel. They had no time to start a brace or a halyard; there was not time for her to answer to her wheel, if it had been shifted. She just went down as though something had hooked onto her keel and dragged her under. I never learned her name; but she must have been bound out of New York or Boston, for some French port in the Channel. We picked up one of her men, a Dago who couldn’t tell her name, and only this much as to what happened. A ripping, crashing sound began forward and worked its way aft, ending at the stern, and we could only surmise that something–a submerged derelict, perhaps–had scraped the bottom out of her.”