THE GREAT SEA WATERSGray sky, brown waters, as a bird that fliesMy heart flits forth to these;Back to the winter rose of Northern skies,Back to the Northern seas.
The sea is His, and He made it.
I saw a man of God coming over the narrow zigzag path that led across a Shetland peat moss. Swiftly and surely he stepped. Bottomless bogs of black peat-water were on each side of him, but he had neither fear nor hesitation. He walked like one who knew his way was ordered, and when the moss was passed, he pursued his journey over the rocky moor with the same untiring speed. Now and then he sang a few lines, and now and then he lifted his cap, and stood still to listen to the larks. For the larks sing at midnight in the Shetland summer, and to the music of their heaven-soaring songs he set one sweet name, and in the magical radiance over land and sea had that momentary vision of a beloved face which the second-sight of Memory sometimes grants to a pure, unselfish love. Then with a joyful song nestling in his heart, he went rapidly forward. And the night was as the day, for the moon was full and the rosy spears of the Aurora were charging the zenith from every point of the horizon.
Very early he came to a little town. It was asleep and there was no sound of life in it; but a large yacht was lying at the silent pier with steam visible, and he went directly to her. During the full tide she had drifted a few feet from land, but he took the open space like a longer step, walked straight to the wheel, and softly whistled.
Then the Captain came quickly up the companion-way, and there was light and liking on his face, as he said,
"Welcome, sir! I was expecting thee."
"To be sure. I sent you word I should be here before sunrising. Are you ready to sail?"
"Quite ready, sir."
"Then cast off at once," and immediately there was movement all through the boat—the sound of setting sail, the lifting of the anchor, the rush of steam, and the hoarse melancholy voices of the sailors. Then the man laid his hand on the wheel, and with wind and tide in her favor, the yacht was soon racing down the great North Sea.
"It is Yoden's time at the wheel, sir," said the Captain. "If so be he is wanted."
"He is not wanted yet. I am going to take her as far as the Hoy—if it suits you, Captain."
"Take your will, sir. I am always well suited with it."
Now John Hatton was a cotton-spinner, but he knew the ways of a boat, and the winds and tides that would serve her, and the road southward she must take; and at his will she went, as if she was a solan flying for the rocks. When they first started, the sea-birds were dozing on their perches, waiting for the dawn, and their unwonted silence lent a stronger sense of loneliness to the gray, misty waters. But as they approached the pillars of Hoy, the wind rose and the waves swelled refulgent in the crimsoning east.
Then the man at the wheel was seen in all his great beauty—a man of lofty stature perfectly formed and full of power and grace in every movement. His head had an antique massiveness and was crowned with bright brown hair thrown backward. His forehead was wide and contemplative, his eyes large and gray and thickly fringed, lustrous but not piercing. His loving and vehement soul was not always at their windows, but when there, it drew or commanded all who met its gaze. His nose was long and straight, showing great refinement, and his chin unblunted by animal passions. A wonderful face, because the soul and the mind always found their way at once and in full force to it, as well as to the gestures, the speech, and every action of the body. And this was the quality which gave to the whole man that air of distinction with which Nature autographs her noblest work.
When they reached the Hoy he left the wheel and stood in wonder and awe gazing at the sea around him....