Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 28 > Page 20 - George Maxwell Family Stories - Ten Years Before the Mast

Page 20 - George Maxwell Family Stories - Ten Years Before the Mast

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1981/6/1 (412 reads)

I don't know whether that's superstition or not--but you can see that. And some? times when you'll fry pork, you'll notice that it will turn up, curl up in the pan. But not if you kill your own pork at the right time--at the coming of the moon, when the moon is coming full. I really be? lieve in this moon business. Sometimes, you know, you'll wonder when you hear people talking that there's no God and all that, but I don't know--seems to be things that, you know, that point towards there's somebody doing these things. You know what I mean. I know there are smart people in the world putting rock? ets in the sky, but they haven't got any? body to make a rabbit yet. You know what I mean. Or to make a rattlesnake. And differ? ent things like that. Man has come a terri? ble long ways, hasn't he? But God's work is to be seen. In the 1920s, Elsie Clews Parsons was in Cape Breton, collecting old tales. What follows are two stories told to her by the second George Maxwell when he was 43. He would be the father of the man speaking above. Ten Years Before the Mast It was a boy and he was ten years at sea and when he was ten years at sea he got tired and he thought he would go work on a farm. He was eight or nine years on that farm, and he got tired. He was a cook by trade. He told his master one day that he was getting tired on the farm, that he thought that he would go to sea again. This man didn't want him to go, and asked him, "What was the matter?" He packed up his clothes in a bag and he started down to the dock, where there was a big ship. Looking for a chance going down, he saw a gentleman coming up. They said, "Hello Jack!" Gentleman asked where he was going. Going to this big ship, to see if he had chance to go to sea. The gentleman asked what he could do in a big ship. "From the masthead to the fore-castie." The gentle? man said, "Yes, you're the man that I was looking for. I was going upstreet to look for a cook."--"Well I don't think I'll go cook unless you put everything what I want on board."--"What do you want?" He wrote it out. Captain got for him everything he wanted in the line of cooking. Captain told him, "Now you got everything you wanted."--"Now I am going upstreet myself, and the crew, to splice the main brace." The cook was alone on board. The cook saw a thing floating on the water. Got his spy glass, made out it was a man floating in the water. "Too bad for that man to be floating on the water with nobody to bury him." What did he do but launch a boat and got this thing, and right enough he was a drownded man. He took him up and ashore and buried him in the sand. The captain come down and he and the crew were all full. First thing he says, "Loos? en her from the dock." Everyone was to get sails on her. The cook said he wouldn't leave the wharf that night. Captain said he was the boss, not him. Anyway they went to sea. When they came to shorten sails there was nobody to work but the little cook. There was one squall of wind came and took the whole thing overboard, sails and all hands but the little cook. There he was on that wreck, without sails. He took thirteen days floating in that wreck. Nothing to be seen but the skies. At the end of the thirteen days, the old wreck struck on a bar. He could see nothing, but the next morning he was on dry land, the bar was dry. But there was one place and the smoke coming out of it. He said to him? self, "Well, there must be a house or some? body there." Anyway he started to the place where he saw the smoke coming out. When he got there, he couldn't see any? thing but a place same as a hole in the ground. He got a place to go down. When he got down, there was a place the same as a greenhouse. Only one man in the house. The boy could talk three or four languages. Well this fellow was a fearful big man, all hair, like a beast. "Which way you come here?"--"Well," he says, "I was thir? teen days on a wreck, struck on a bar, that's the way I came here.''--"Well, I think the best thing you could do is to go back to the wreck." This man asked him, "What were you doing on this wreck?" Says, "I used to be a cook."--"Nobody in the world ever came to this house that got his life out of it. Well, there are two men yet to come wilder than I am, if you trust yourself, you can stay." Those other two men come, he sits alongside of the door, and soon as they come, they notice him. They say, "There is somebody in here."-- "Yes."--"Where did he come from?"--"0h, he used to be a cook aboard a bark. All got drowned but himself, and that's the way he came here." Those three wild fellows began to talk. 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