The White Seal

childe-hassam-moonlight-isle-of-shoals

The White Seal (356 Words)

The moon shone bright between a web of clouds. No one visited the island on nights like that, when the sea was a silver mirror. Stories surrounded that patch of rough land that sent shivers around a campfire. And yet there was a fire burning , the barest glow of gold under the dappled sky.

The pirates huddled around their small fire. It had been a successful run, but even so their tempers were muted. Only one of them scorned his companions’ nervous looks and low voices.

“I don’t know what we’re doing here,” said Danny. “What are we waiting for? These goods should be out of sight. We don’t want to be caught, do we?”

“Settle down, boy,” said a gray-haired sailor. “We’ll be done soon enough. But the best of our treasure goes to the White Seal.”

The young man snorted. A low call roused everyone, and instantly the pirates were on their feet, fumbling for the offerings they had brought of gold cups, silver plates, and fine wine.

A shadowy gray figure was walking towards them. Squinting, the young man saw not a white seal but a young woman. In her arms she carried a reed basket. The pirates, unquestioning, put their gifts inside.

She stopped in front of Danny. Danny refused to give her anything.

“What’s the matter with you?” he said to his companions. “You’re scared of a girl?”

The young woman smiled. She touched Danny’s arm, her fingers cold and clammy.

“I will take him as my due,” she said.

Danny suddenly found himself looking up at her from the ground. He flopped helplessly, unable to stand or breathe. His companions shrank from him in horror, seeing not a man but a large silver fish.

The woman caught him and threw him to the open water. She turned to the men watching her, to the silent captain who did not shrink from her gaze. Wordless, she returned to the water with her basket.

For a moment the pirates stood transfixed. The gray-haired sailor broke the silence.

“You can cheat others and yourself,” he said, “but you can never cheat the sea.”

***

Written in response to Childe Hassam’s beautiful painting Moonlight, Isle of Shoals, 1892. Check it out and support the artist! Image (c) Art.com.

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