Aunt Rachel's Curse





On a headland near Plymouth lived Aunt Rachel, a reputed seer, who made

a scant livelihood by forecasting the future for such seagoing people as

had crossed her palm. The crew of a certain brig came to see her on the

day before sailing, and she reproached one of the lads for keeping bad

company. Avast, there, granny, interrupted another, who took the

chiding to himself. None of your slack, or I'll put a stopper on your

gab. The old woman sprang erect. Levelling her skinny finger at the man,

she screamed, Moon cursers! You have set false beacons and wrecked ships

for plunder. It was your fathers and mothers who decoyed a brig to these

sands and left me childless and a widow. He who rides the pale horse be

your guide, and you be of the number who follow him!



That night old Rachel's house was burned, and she barely escaped with her

life, but when it was time for the brig to sail she took her place among

the townfolk who were to see it off. The owner of the brig tried to

console her for the loss of the house. I need it no longer, she

answered, for the narrow house will soon be mine, and you wretches

cannot burn that. But you! Who will console you for the loss of your

brig?



My brig is stanch. She has already passed the worst shoal in the bay.



But she carries a curse. She cannot swim long.



As each successive rock and bar was passed the old woman leaned forward,

her hand shaking, her gray locks flying, her eyes starting, her lips

mumbling maledictions, like an evil spirit, chiding forth the storms as

ministers of vengeance. The last shoal was passed, the merchant sighed

with relief at seeing the vessel now safely on her course, when the woman

uttered a harsh cry, and raised her hand as if to command silence until

something happened that she evidently expected. For this the onlookers

had not long to wait: the brig halted and trembled--her sails shook in

the wind, her crew were seen trying to free the cutter--then she careened

and sank until only her mast-heads stood out of the water. Most of the

company ran for boats and lines, and few saw Rachel pitch forward on the

earth-dead, with a fierce smile of exultation on her face. The rescuers

came back with all the crew, save one--the man who had challenged the old

woman and revengefully burned her cabin. Rachel's body was buried where

her house had stood, and the rock--before unknown--where the brig had

broken long bore the name of Rachel's Curse.





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