Sometimes the notion comes to me while I'm talkin' to people that maybe I don't make myself clear, and it's been so for some time now—the things I see in my mind fadin' away from me at times, like ships in a fog. And that's strange enough, too, if what people tell me so often is true—that it used to be so one time that the office clerks would correct their account-books by what I told 'em out of my head. But sometimes—not often—things come back to me, like to-day—maybe because 'tis a winter day and a gale o' wind drivin' the sea afore it in the bay below there. Things come to me then—like pictures—wind and sea and fog and the wrecks on a lee shore.
In my business—but of course you know—runnin' after wrecks, from Newfoundland to Cuba, I had to be days and maybe weeks away from home—which was no harm when I had no more home than a room in a sailor's boardin'-house, and no harm later with Sarah. Even if anything happened to me, I used to feel that Sarah—that's my first wife—Sarah'd still have the two lads to hearten her and keep her busy; but 'twas different with—but there, my mind's off again....
Maybe some things—comforts, refinements—I might 'a' practised myself in, got used to 'em like, but could I see in those early days that I'd ever have a grand home—me who'd been cast away at fourteen—even if I'd had time? It was to be able to do without comforts—to make a pleasure out o' hardship—that meant success almost as much as knowin' the business. And I did know my business in those days—or people lied a lot. And it always meant more to me—the name of bein' the great wrecker—than all the money I made, and in those last few years I made plenty of it—I did that. Me who once slaved for six dollars a month as boy in a Bangor coaster. And I mind how I used to look back and say—or was it somebody tellin' me?—that 'twas a great day for me and mine when the old lumber schooner wrecked herself on Peaked Hill Bar—because when she was hove down I was hove into a bigger world. Once in my pride I used to cherish praise like that—but sometimes now I'm not so sure.
And this man, an upstandin' handsome man—no one that knew him but spoke well of him, to me anyway, for I would not allow aught else after I come to know him. Since that last wreck it seems to me I've listened to other talk of him, but that's not so clear to me ... my brain, as I say, clouds up like on things that happened since.
No one ever met Her—my second wife, that is—but said she was beautiful and good—said so to me, anyway. It is true—but that came afterward, like the other talk, and it's not too clear in my mind what they did say. But he came to me and I liked him. And he liked me, too ... I think he did. He'd heard of me, he said, and would I examine his yacht—the Rameses that was—to see if any damage had been done—she'd grounded comin' in by Romer Shoal the day before. There'd be too much delay to put her in dry dock, and he wanted to sail soon's could be—if she was sound—on her regular winter West India cruise....