1.

It was past noon, and a drove of
sheep lay waiting.

H’s passage was sore. He could do
without more for now.

The river was quiet, and
the air, empty.

2.

H strained his ears. Something was
invisible
in the twilight.

Maug made
a nervous cry. “I never believed
in the beheadings.”

3.

H gave him a deliberate glance and
tried to laugh.

“They’ll be out seeking me,” Maug said.

4.

“What are you going on about?” H said.

Maug answered, “Don’t
laugh at me.”

5.

Standing under the elms, H heard
the door open in his head, as if
he had something to say
but did not know how to begin.

6.

“Father?” H said.

“I don’t know your father,” said Maug.

“Will you promise me?” H said.

Father and son in silence pulled close.

7.

The crab that lies
in its hole is never fat.

H felt
as if he were bleeding.

Was his dazed mind
under the influence of some curse?

8.

He had the eye
of a sailor
accustomed to the darkness of the sea.

But out at sea,
what black thing was there?
A cloud? A storm?

A schooner
tacking against wind
and tide?

9.

It was night.

And H’s destiny hung on it.

Maug’s hand dropped back

like a man who has been dealt a blow.

He said, “Your father’s head

was torn off.”

10.

“Yes, the men
went
down on him,” said Maug.

“The dark
vessel possessed us

and had to be taken.”

 

Continue to Book I, Chapter IX

Return to the Table of Contents