The Wreck on Loch McGarry
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
- in The Guards Came Through and Other Poems (16 december 1919, John Murray [UK])
- in The Guards Came Through and Other Poems (1920, George H. Doran Co. [US])
The Wreck on Loch McGarry
If you should search all Scotland round,
The mainland, skerries, and the islands,
A grimmer spot could not be found
Than Loch McGarry in the Highlands.
Pent in by frowning mountains high,
It stretches silent as the tomb,
Turbid and thick its waters lie,
No eye can pierce their yellow gloom.
'Twas here that on a summer day
Four tourists hired a crazy wherry.
No warning voices bade them stay,
As they pushed out on Loch McGarry.
McFarlane, Chairman of the Board,
A grim hard-fisted son of lucre,
His thoughts were ever on his hoard,
And life a money-game, like Euchre.
Bob Ainslie, late of London Town,
A spruce young butterfly of fashion,
A wrinkle in his dressing-gown
Would rouse an apoplectic passion.
John Waters, John the self-absorbed,
With thoughts for ever inward bent,
Complacent, self-contained, self-orbed,
Wrapped in eternal self-content.
Lastly coquettish Mrs. Wild,
Chattering, rowdy, empty-headed;
At sight of her the whole world smiled,
Except the wretch whom she had wedded.
Such were the four who sailed that day,
To the Highlands each a stranger;
Sunlit and calm the wide loch lay,
With not a hint of coming danger.
Drifting they watched the heather hue,
The waters and the cliffs that bound them;
The air was still, the sky was blue,
Deceitful peace lay all around them.
McFarlane pondered on the stocks,
John Waters on his own perfection,
Bob Ainslie's thoughts were on his socks,
And Mrs. Wild's on her complexion.
When sudden—oh, that dreadful scream!
That cry from panic fear begotten!
The boat is gaping in each seam,
The worn-out planks are old and rotten.
With two small oars they work and strain,
A long mile from the nearer shore
They cease—their efforts are in vain;
She's sinking fast, and all is o'er.
The yellow water, thick as pap,
Is crawling, crawling to the thwarts,
And as they mark its upward lap,
So fear goes crawling up their hearts.
Slowly, slowly, thick as pap,
The creeping yellow waters rise;
Like drowning mice within a trap,
They stare around with frantic eyes.
Ah, how clearly they could see
Every sin and shame and error!
How they vowed that saints they'd be,
If delivered from this terror!
How they squirmed and how they squealed!
How they shouted for assistance!
How they fruitlessly appealed
To the shepherds in the distance!
How they sobbed and how they moaned,
As the waters kept encroaching!
How they wept and stormed and groaned,
As they saw their fate approaching!
And they vowed each good resolve
Should be permanent as granite,
Never, never, to dissolve,
Firm and lasting like our planet.
See them sit, aghast and shrinking!
Surely it could not be true!
"Oh, have mercy! Oh, we're sinking!
Oh, good Lord, what shall we do!"
Ah, it's coming! Now she founders!
See the crazy wherry reel!
Downward to the rocks she flounders—
Just one foot beneath her keel!
In the shallow, turbid water
Lay the saving reef below.
Oh, the waste of high emotion!
Oh, the useless fear and woe!
Late that day four sopping tourists
To their quarters made their way,
And the brushes of Futurists
Scarce could paint their disarray.
And with half-amused compassion
They were viewed from the hotel,
From the pulp-clad beau of fashion,
To the saturated belle.
But a change was in their features,
And that change has come to tarry,
For they all are altered creatures
Since the wreck of Loch McGarry.
Now McFarlane never utters
Any talk of bills or bullion,
But continually mutters
Texts from Cyril or Tertullian.
As to Ainslie, he's not caring
How the new-cut collar lies,
And has been detected wearing
Dinner-jackets with white ties.
Waters, who had never thought
In his life of others' needs,
Has most generously bought
A nursing-home for invalids.
And the lady—ah, the lady!
She has turned from paths of sin,
And her husband's face so shady
Now is brightened by a grin.
So misfortunes of to-day
Are the blessings of to-morrow,
And the wisest cannot say
What is joy and what is sorrow.
If your soul is arable
You can start this seed within it,
And my tiny parable
May just help you to begin it.