WILLIAM WENTHE e T Th error Alas poor things! how well do I remember the pain it gave me, to be thus obliged to pass and execute sentence upon them. John James Audubon A tiny island off Labrador, throng ed with nesting seabirds. The scrap e of boots, hobbed with heavy nails fo r grip on the slick sea rocks. Gunfire and alar ms, a tempest of wings and cries: Audub on and his team are collecting specimens. Out of the riot one Arctic Tern di ves toward a stunned young man, William Inga lls, young medic, who normally rema ins aboard ship; and the tern lands, crin ging in the instep of his boot. Audubon no tices three things at once: the tern; the invo luntary gesture Ingalls makes—bending forwa rd, hands half-reached, as if to help the bird; a nd— u fl shed in a burst from his memory— himself, eight years old, his younger si ster, father and stepmother in prison in Na ntes, 1793. Stone walls and floor, iron hing es. He hears outside the barked comma nd, the synchronized report of muskets, and k nows from having seen it, what happens n ext: smoke from the muzzles, and the body slum ps against the wall. Now he is loo king from the eyes of the tern looking a t him, to the eyes of Ingalls, looking at him. Audubon recoils, steels himself, relo ads. Later he’ll describe the day’s sho oting in his Ornithological Biograp . h y Later he’ll tell Ingalls there was n othing the young man could do to help.
Manoa – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: May 10, 2019
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