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The Castaway: a modern folktale

by Benjamin Parsons

Copyright 2011 Benjamin Parsons

Smashwords edition, license notes

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Years and years ago, back in the back of Cornwall, a man went beach-combing in a rocky cove renowned for its interesting flotsam. He was often there, as his little cottage was wedged between the sea caves and shore, and he got his living by fishing; but he idly hoped that one day his fortunes would be transformed by some splashed-up treasure. So he scoured the gravelly wash each morning, especially after a night of high weather, in case something valuable should appear.

You may well believe that it would be a rare chance to come across such a life-changing find, whatever it might be, and so, while waiting for it, he made a hobby of collecting bits of glass that had been worn smooth by the waves and jumbled among the grit. These pebbles of sea-glass were the nearest things to gems his luck would let him have, but nevertheless he grew fond of sifting them out from amidst the other stones on the beach, while all were glistened and becoloured by the water. What were once painful shards and littering splinters became to him, with the intervention of the tides, as hoardable as jewels, their sharp edges smoothed and their bottle-colours rendered strangely lambent; and once he had the knack of finding them, he collected and collected, until he had an impressive trove of this detritus, much to his wife’s chagrin.

This particular morning, the fisherman expected great rewards for his searches, as the sea had lashed all night, and even now ground and seethed as he picked along the waterline; but his expectations were soon confounded and over-topped at once. As he stooped to examine a clutch of rubble, his eye was caught by a gleaming white object a short way ahead— it amazed him, both for itself, and for the fact that he had not discerned it before: the cove was small and enclosed, and yet there it lay openly, for anyone to find. It was a naked baby, lying upon a drift of seaweed, just by the water’s edge.

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