The Mysterious Castaway
Based on a Legend from Maritime Canada.
1863 Nova Scotia
It was a misty summer noon. The children playing on shore watched with gaping mouths as a sleek metallic vessel, lines unlike any ship the progeny of experienced seafarers had seen, cruised into Sandy Cove and deposited a man into the water. The gleaming ship sped off into the haze and was never seen again.
They rescued a man a few minutes later. A fine figure of a man, regal face with a Mediterranean complexion but light blond hair. Both his legs had been amputated above the knees, cauterized expertly, the doctor admitted.
When the young man came to he spoke in a language no one understood. The doctor later made notes on the syllables and his peculiar uniform. Once he was made aware of where he was, the mysterious young man never spoke willingly to any adult. They decided to call him Jerome.
For a few years the Acadian villagers tried in vain to get Jerome to speak. He voiced only to children or when surprised by a stern query, and then would give an angry reply in gruff but dulcet tones. They brought in expert linguists from America but the witnessed snatches of words that Jerome used were related to no known language.
He spent most of the rest of his life in a wheelchair doing one of two things: watching the distant ocean vista in all weather conditions, sometimes speaking to children in mellifluous tones when no adults were present; or when the weather was too bad for months at a time he sat before a mirror like a man watching himself being tortured by life’s natural aging process.
Eventually Jerome was put in a pay-to-see exhibit, fierce rage in his eyes, like a man who awakes to find he is displayed in a zoo run by baboons. He died in 1912, an enigma never revealed.
An intriguing tale, CW. I was left with the thought that this is the lot of most people, wanting to communicate, but unable and ending up isolated.
Yes, that’s what struck me when i first read an account of this legend. In my take i want it to seem more than that; that he is purposefully refusing to communicate with the Canadians because he has been stranded from the future for some heinous crime and considers this 19th Century time and place to be a loathsome prison.
Interesting. I wonder what he might have done to deserve his fate?
I wanted to leave it as an open question. Maybe his interest in children is related to his crime. Based on a true story, would be a good source for someone to write a novel speculating on where he was from.
There is the hint of Dorian Gray with the man watching himself in the mirror.
Yes, i’d thought of that too. True that most people look at themselves in the mirror every morning but he reportedly did it for hours at a time every day.