Seldom Come By


Seldom Come By


It would be something, to be able to get up close and have a look at one, don’t you think?

And that was the moment, the seminal moment.

Seldom Come By Excerpts

It would be something, to be able to get up close and have a look at one, don’t you think?

And that was the moment, the seminal moment.

Seldom Come By Excerpts


In the first Seldom Come By excerpt below, meet young Rebecca Crowe on the very day she finds Samuel Dalton adrift in the Atlantic.

Some days she knew they were there, just by a drop in the temperature, if they were close enough.


Some days she knew they were there, just by a drop in the temperature, if they were close enough. But not today. Today she saw them first, not one but two towering spectacles. In the space of one hour they had come drifting casually into sight, carried along on unseen currents, their presence more than anything marking the shift in seasons. And had she had her head down or her back to the ocean she would have missed them. These floating, breakaway giants calved from the glacial north. Frozen formations that enthralled her with their crystal palaces, soaring peaks and mythical creatures revealed in icy magnitude. How they made the seascape come alive.

She was meant to be collecting pine cones but here she was, staring out to sea, tingling in untamed anticipation, as if something monumental was about to happen. Never before had she seen three icebergs in one day.

Two years ago one had sunk the Titanic. Even before that folks called them a curse. But never Rebecca. To her they were a promise from the veiled sea: a sign of a different life beyond the bounds of the tiny island where she had lived all her fourteen years. For they were not from here. And they were not destined for here. Yet, unless she saw them or sensed them, these silent strangers would continue slowly southwards with her being none the wiser.

It was her sense of missing things that most motivated Rebecca: her fear and awareness of missing knowledge, missing signs, missing life. Once, had she not missed signs, tragedy might have been averted. As she grew older she keenly felt the lack of some thing that she could neither define nor describe, but similarly could not deny. All she knew was she had an inexplicable fascination for icebergs, as if they in some way held the key.

One day last summer her father had yelled at her: ‘If you don’t stop day-dreaming about icebergs I’m going to take you out and leave you on the next one that comes along. See what you think of icebergs after that!’

Silas Crowe wasn’t one to make idle threats but on that day Rebecca almost dared him to do it. The thought of climbing on board and seeing where the iceberg might take her was magnetic. If it weren’t for icebergs she didn’t know what she would have to look forward to.

Rebecca lived in a faded, two-storey, saltbox house that clung to the cliffs above their cove, a good three miles from any other house on Second Chance. Once or twice a year, if she was lucky, she’d get to visit Seldom Come By on nearby Fogo Island. Seldom Come By was apt, thought Rebecca. It once had been called Seldom Go By. Boats would seldom go by without calling in, but not so much now. Still, they saw more comings and goings than Second Chance ever had or ever would.

On the westerly point of their cove was a stand of large spruce trees. To Rebecca their existence was so implausible she was convinced they had taken root long before the first wind ever blew across Newfoundland. That these monstrous uprights managed to survive while other trees succumbed was a constant source of reassurance to her; a testament that unlikely things could happen in the most unlikely places. That afternoon after meandering through them she walked to a vantage point where she could see their cove and the neighbouring one to her left. The water rippled below; a glaring platinum-grey, twinkling occasionally in shafts of pallid sunlight. She sighed deeply. Her ocean, her coastline – as familiar as her own hands. She loved them. The vista soothed her, yet it made her yearn for more.

Staring seaward she reminisced about previous iceberg sightings. She recalled one she had seen last week ablaze in the radiant dawn, the sun’s rays painting it in a rich golden halo. She remembered the one she had spotted last May, just on dusk, sliding southwards leaving a silvery trail in the starry moonlit night. She tried to decide which was her all time favourite. Oh how she loved the ones that had waterfalls cascading over the sides! And, even more, those whose melt-pool could be seen above. But whether they had come her way on a bleached summer morn, a day fractured and grey or one rare and azure, she realised she loved them all and perhaps her favourite would always be the last luring one.

Lost in her iceberg-inspired daze, it took Rebecca some minutes to realise she was looking at something unusual in the distance. Cupping her hands around her face she squinted in the direction of Coleman’s Point, one of the headlands to her west. Within seconds her searching eyes found it: not an iceberg, but a small floating object, possibly a log, maybe a small dory. It was impossible to tell. She wandered along further peering down at the cliffs while she waited for the object to come closer. After a spell she scrutinised the sea again. Yes…a boat…but…no one in it. How odd, she thought.

Suddenly an arm appeared. A flash of white, barely distinct, but movement, someone waving something. Were they waving at her? Taking off her cardigan she waved it high above her head. There was a long wave back. She yelled, ‘Hello’. All she heard in reply was her fading echo.

Still, something was amiss! 1914 was just four months old and already that spring Newfoundland had suffered two horrific nautical tragedies: 78 sealers from the S.S. Newfoundland had perished on the ice after being caught in a chilling blizzard far from their ship. The same unforgiving storm had claimed all 173 lives onboard the sealing vessel, S.S. Southern Cross, which had mysteriously disappeared, ship and men never to be seen again. People everywhere were holding their breath waiting for news of a third disaster.

Rebecca didn’t hesitate. She raced back through the woods to the stony path that led to their beach and small wooden stage. Scurrying down the path, she leapt onto the stage, unhitched their dory, jumped in, fitted the oars and quickly put her back into rowing out to the open water, steering a course by keeping her eye fixed on a point on the cliffs in front of her. Every so often she’d steal a glance over her shoulder to see if her target had floated into view. As she rowed, she coaxed herself, ‘Come on, Rebecca, come on.’

She paused briefly to retie her blond pony tail and lock eyes on the approaching boat still several hundred yards beyond her right shoulder. Ten minutes later she halted again, peered behind her and started yelling. ‘Hello! Hey over there!’ trying to grab their attention. No response. No movement. Total silence. She called out again. All she heard was the wash of the sea and the occasional squawk of a kittiwake. Yet she was certain she had seen something.

With a few more strokes she manoeuvred herself towards the unknown tender. Turning to the side she was momentarily blinded by the glaring sun as she reached for the other boat, knocking it against her gunnel as she brought it close. It was then she knew she hadn’t been mistaken.

Sprawled out on the bottom was a man, painfully thin, salt-crusted, bare-chested, clutching a tatty white shirt in one hand and a brown coat in the other, oblivious to the goose bumps raised all over his body, eyes shut, oblivious to her. His lips were peeling and cracked. His face, half-hidden by his beard and hair, was so blistered and mottled it looked like he could have been a leper. Brown in patches, red and peeling pink in others. ‘Hello,’ Rebecca said in greeting and again, more loudly. She tried French, ‘Bonjour!’ Still no response. She picked up her oar and banged it loudly against his boat. ‘Hey!’

With that he finally stirred. His head jolted, his eyelashes fluttered. He looked up as she, wide-eyed, stared down at him. He made no sound while she, in her anxiety, strangled a gasp deep inside her throat. He closed his eyes, shook his head then opened his eyes again. She was on the verge of saying, ‘I am real, I’m not a ghost,’ when he croaked, ‘Help. Please.’ Then he collapsed.

Without hesitating Rebecca pulled both oars inside her boat, grabbed her painter, climbed across into his boat and tied a clove hitch around his boat’s thwart. Then she pushed her boat behind them, reached for his oars and started the strenuous task of rowing home – all the time staring in fascination at the castaway in front of her. His hair was long and sun-streaked, his eyebrows dark above brown curled eyelashes. His left shoulder had a cluster of scars, his bare chest was tanned and bruised, his nipples raw from his braces. Most alarmingly his ribs were clearly visible. He seemed tall but she couldn’t tell for sure nor could she tell how old he was. She only knew with certainty that she had never laid eyes on him before.

Then, in the second excerpt from Seldom Come By, join Samuel as he finds his bearings and, to his surprise, finds a kindred spirit in Rebecca.

Samuel lay in the dark of night trembling. He wasn’t dreaming. He was remembering.


The gull’s cawing woke Samuel. It took some effort, but he managed to prise open his tired eyes, to steer a line through his mind’s haze and focus on the small black eyes of the creature in front of him. How long did he lie there gazing at the seabird gazing at him? No feathers rippling. No breeze. His bleary mind still registering. Just. Did the gull’s appearance signal the proximity of land?

Struggling with untold exhaustion, he slowly raised his head to peer overboard, to stare into the face of nothingness. Nothingness masked as non-descript greyness. Lazy, forlorn, fog. Absolute silence.

Days of drifting helplessly – but not hopelessly – had robbed him of many things. But through it all he still believed. Believed he was too young to die. Too young to be lost at sea. Too young to depart this life when he felt he was only starting to live it. And so he convinced himself that his time had not yet come. And he blocked everything else out. The cold. The aches. The ceaseless hunger. The almost unbearable thirst and willed himself to live. To save himself or be saved.

Samuel lay in the dark of night trembling. He wasn’t dreaming. He was remembering – recalling the random details of his misadventure as they became more and more lucid. He had spent all night and all day rowing around the area where he thought the boat had gone down, but to no avail. He’d only managed to exhaust himself and then he had spent the next day simply lying in the tender, not wanting to row away and give up on his friends but not wanting to admit they had gone. Then on the third day he decided to make a point of rowing towards the Evening Star, towards sunset every night and away from the sunrise, away from the Morning Star every morning, if he could see his bearings through the fog and the mist and the squalls. He believed his salvation lay due west. But he was like a tiny cuttlebone bobbing around in that vast endless sea, helplessly subjected to the errant waves and the currents of the ocean. Eventually it took all his energy just to keep afloat. But movement was good. He could never remember being that cold or hungry. He had a knife, a water canteen and a piece of flotsam he had scooped up which he carved into a rough pail to bail out the water from the waves. He tore part of the sleeve from his shirt, secured it to the pail and an oarlock. Likewise his canteen, afraid he might lose those two pitiful tools overboard, into oblivion, along with his remaining strands of hope.


That message was relatively easy. It was the one to his uncle that he deliberated over. He had never been the bearer of such onerous news. Finally he settled on:


On her way to school Rebecca delivered the messages to their merchant, which served as their local telegraph office. She returned with a pair of crutches from Mr Evans. Samuel thanked her for carrying them all that way particularly through the fresh snow.

‘It’s melting quickly,’ she said with a shy smile. ‘You’d better hurry up and get used to those crutches else you’ll miss it.’

He didn’t feel like trying them out just then with an audience but as she had gone to such an effort he felt he needed to make some attempt. His Friday morning practice around the living room and the kitchen went much better. On Saturday he ventured outside for some fresh air. The last two days had warmed up quickly. Aided by a constant southerly the snow had practically disappeared. They set him up in a chair near the step-less front door. As the day got warmer he started to walk around. He came across a large barn, the smokehouse, the outhouse, the woodhouse and their cellar. Above the barn, working a garden bed, digging in sheep droppings and kelp, he found Rebecca.

‘What are you going to plant there?’ he asked, coming up to her.

‘Potatoes, turnips, cabbage,’ she replied. She looked up at him. ‘Do you have a vegetable garden in Toronto?’

He told her they did but they bought most of their food from the market in town. ‘We’ve got a large herb garden though. My mother uses lots of rosemary, bergamot, thyme and the like in her cooking.’

‘So your mother is French?’

‘Oui. Yes. French Canadian. Some say Canuck.’

‘What about your Dad, is he French too?’


She paused to wipe her right palm on her skirt as she looked directly at him. ‘Most French people are Catholics, are they not?’

Samuel smiled at her mild interrogation. ‘Yes, but we are not strict Catholics and our parents didn’t make us go to Mass that often, only on special occasions.’

‘What about praying? Do you pray in your home?’ she asked.

Was she merely curious or worried about his eternal life? ‘We say grace, but no we don’t pray – not like your family.’ He threw her a sideways glance.

‘Did you pray when you were lost at sea?’

So serious he thought. ‘I was out for most of it and when I wasn’t, I was yelling and begging through the fog to whoever would hear me – does that count as praying?’ He raised his eyebrows at her, a smile toyed at the corner of his mouth.

‘Don’t tell Father that.’

‘Wouldn’t impress him?’

‘Uh-uh,’ Rebecca said, shaking her head and looking back to the garden bed. She slid her hoe under a grey spider crawling over the dirt and transferred it to the grass.

‘Bad luck to kill spiders, eh?’

‘Yes. Though they say if you kill these rain spiders they bring rain – sometimes that might be good luck, don’t you think?’ She smiled, and with her smile something changed.

‘True. Why do they say it’s bad luck to kill spiders? Do you know?’

‘Of course I know. Everyone knows.’

‘I don’t. Tell me.’

She wiped her hand across her brow before glancing at Samuel and looking back to the soil in front of her. ‘It was a spider who saved baby Jesus from Herod’s wrath when he ordered all first-born male children to be killed.’ She took a breath and continued almost as if she were prophesying. ‘After the decree, Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt and on the way they came to a forked road. They went down one road and when they had gone a spider spun her web across the path they had taken. When Herod’s soldiers came to this fork they wondered which road they should take, and while trying to decide they discovered the spider’s undisturbed web. “No one could have gone this way,” they said, so they took the other road, and that’s how Jesus escaped.’ She pressed her lips together and looked at him.

Samuel was six two, although perhaps not today leaning on his crutches. Rebecca was the tallest of her womenfolk but even she was still a good deal shorter than him. He put her at five six. He ran his right hand through his hair. ‘Thank you, for enlightening me. My father was adamant we had a well rounded education but it obviously didn’t cover everything.’ Keeping his voice even he asked, ‘Tell me, do you believe that?’

Rebecca looked straight ahead considering his question. ‘It’s possible,’ she murmured. She turned to him. ‘What do you believe in?’

‘What do I believe in? What sort of question is that?’ He gave way to a laugh, not wanting her to take his response as a put down. He glanced at her and could tell she was waiting for an answer, wanting something from him, but what? He gathered himself. ‘Let me see, I believe in life, that’s for sure. I believe in myself. I believe in the value of education and experience. I believe in possibilities and in being rescued.’ He gave her a warm smile, which she returned in kind. ‘And lucky for you, I believe in questions and the right of people to ask them.’

‘Do I ask a lot of questions?’

‘Does the name Nellie Bly mean anything to you?’


‘Never mind.’ She gazed at him, a puzzled look on her face. ‘Go ahead,’ he said, laughing and opening his hands to her in a welcome gesture.

She averted her eyes. ‘I’m sorry if I’m being rude and impolite. It’s just…well…you are so new and different.’ Her eyes darted to his, darted away. ‘You are the first real visitor we have had to our home in years. And you’ve seen and done much more than I’ve ever done in my life – probably more than I’ll ever do.’

‘Whoa, Rebecca! You have your whole life ahead of you. Anything could happen. Don’t you have dreams? Don’t you believe in possibilities too?’

‘Oh I have dreams.’ She spoke the words with quiet certainty. Then in a resigned voice said, ‘My dreams are way too fanciful that’s all. I doubt anything will ever come of them. It’s just that life here is so…’ she hesitated, searching for the right word, ‘…suffocating at times.’

‘So what are you going to do when you finish school?’

‘Work.’ She quickly added, ‘I don’t have a problem with hard work. I can do it.’

‘I can see that.’

She sighed heavily. ‘Work here though doesn’t inspire me. Maybe if I could do some sort of men’s work it would be different. Like go to sea.’ Now she looked at him, almost in a silent plea.

‘Maybe when you’re older you can.’

She held his gaze for a few moments, glanced away then brought her eyes back as she asked, ‘Did you always want to be a sailor?’

‘No,’ he said shaking his head lightly.

‘What did you want to be?’

This girl, he thought, almost in exasperation. He couldn’t believe that here he was fifteen hundred miles from home and he was still getting asked the same questions. She had her father’s penetrating eyes, but where his were cobalt blue, hers were turquoise, striking in their rarity, but more than that she had this openness and innocence about her that was rendering him completely malleable around her. He’d never felt like this with a woman before, or anyone for that matter. Perhaps he was still suffering from his ordeal, but he could only respond with raw, unmasked honesty himself. Her forthrightness demanded that from him, and he owed her that – hell – he owed her a lot more for saving his life.

Seldom Come By Excerpt when Samuel and Rebecca first talk about icebergs

An iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland near Seldom Come By

‘Rebecca, let’s sit for a while. Too much standing for me right now.’

She helped him onto the grass then sat a little to the side waiting for him to speak.

‘Well,’ he began, ‘as you know, my father is a doctor, so too is my grandfather. My elder brother Matthew is also a doctor – he graduated last year. When I was in my last year of school I felt this overwhelming pressure that I was expected to follow in the family tradition. It was crazy. Now I see the pressure came more from me than them, but I didn’t realise that at the time. I just couldn’t see myself stuck inside four walls dealing with sick people all day. That didn’t seem like living to me. My father had said, “Well, son, the choice is yours. What would you rather do?” And I couldn’t answer him.’ Samuel paused remembering the exchange.

‘I had a schoolfriend, Billy Sarginson, who had distant relatives living up at a place called Thunder Bay. Have you heard of it? It’s almost a thousand miles northwest of Toronto. They work as lumberjacks for most of the year up there. We hatched a plan to run away and live life in the wild and earn our keep felling timber. I was sixteen. I could hunt well enough. Our father taught both my brother and me to shoot when we were growing up. So I started stashing things away, getting ready for our escape when one night my father came into my room, quite unexpectedly and caught me with my kit lying around.’

Rebecca gasped lightly. ‘Did you get into trouble?’

‘No. I thought I would, but he just asked me lots of questions and then he said to me, “I’m not giving this trip my blessing just yet but I promise you, your mother and I will talk about it. Don’t run off until we do.” Then a few days later he said, “We think your going away for a while, having a change from here, is perhaps not a bad idea, though we’d rather you were around people who could keep an eye on you.” He suggested I go and work with my Uncle Michel – he’s my mother’s brother. He lives in Montreal, has a merchant trading business there and in Québec. I had never thought about this option but the idea appealed. So I agreed. I had to finish secondary school first though.’

‘Do you like sailing? Is that what you want to do with your life?’

Samuel brushed his hair back off his face. ‘I’m not sure now’s a good time to answer that.’ He inhaled deeply.. ‘Certainly till now I’ve enjoyed it. It’s hard work and there are many sleepless nights. But I’ve had some great adventures and I’ve met people completely different to those I grew up with. My uncle’s got a few boats in his fleet and after working with him for twelve months I more or less had my pick of jobs. Last summer we sailed this tall ship all the way down to the Bahamas. What a trip that was. Water, the most beautiful teal-colour, so warm you could swim in it all day. Sand like alabaster, glittering like crystal, grove after grove of green swaying palm trees. Great clumps of rainbow coral, tropical fish and food, some of which I’d never seen or tasted before. It was summer there too and I’d never been so hot. The heat of the tropics is a completely different heat to summers in Toronto. A wet, hanging heat. You’re in a sheen all day waiting for the moment when these big dark voluminous clouds burst and the heavens break loose and when it does, the downpour releases you – not just from the heat but from the build-up as well. It’s kind of like a birthing every day. You really have to experience it to know what it’s truly like. It’s… ’

He broke off, suddenly aware of his insensitivity. What was he doing regaling her with such far-away fantasies when she had just told him of her despair with this place? It was the way she had looked at him all the while he was speaking, taking in every word, rolling them around like a ball of twine, building it all up inside her so that any moment she too was going to hurl it out, just like his story – but most likely in tears. How heartless of him. ‘I’m sorry, Rebecca. I got carried away.’

‘No, don’t be.’

‘No, I am. I wasn’t thinking.’

‘No, it’s fine, really. I want to hear all your stories. Promise me you’ll tell me all your stories, Samuel.’ She looked at him in a way he found beseeching.

‘Do you like to torture yourself?’

‘No!’ she shook her head. ‘It will give me something to think about when you are gone.’

And that was the moment, the seminal moment. Years later he would look back and remember that moment, remember the two of them sitting side by side, their eyes searching, he deciding to stay, rather than rush away as soon as he was well, as a kind of a thank-you gift to her, hoping his presence would postpone her passage into a life of dreary domesticity. Exhaling, he turned to gaze at the sea. ‘It’s not that bad here. The air is clean and fresh. You’re surrounded by nature. Trees, ocean, sky, wide-open spaces. It’s got its own kind of beauty.’ He thought briefly of quoting a few lines of Keats’ To Solitude but having never lived in a city the distinction would probably be lost on her.

Rebecca sighed heavily. After a few moments she said, ‘Yes, it is beautiful, particularly this time of the year. Winter sure drags on though and the fog can weigh you down, weigh everything down. But it’s sometimes on the clearest, bluest days, when the whole world is fully revealed, that you most feel it calling.’

Samuel sat there pondering her words, but he was no longer looking out to sea. He was staring at Rebecca, amazed at this girl, young woman rather, who could speak of such longing and such loss for things yet to be discovered, yet still mourned for. How was it that he should find such a kindred soul here in the midst of nowhere? Or was it merely the voice of youth, echoing his own sentiments?

After a little while, he returned his gaze to the ocean and in the far distance saw a vague white spot where the sky and the water fused.

‘Hey, is that fog rolling in over there do you think? Or is it a cloud? Maybe even an iceberg? Just before that headland to the right.’ He raised his hand and pointed to the east.

‘I see it,’ she said staring hard at the skyline. ‘I think it might be a berg, but it’s too far away to tell right now.’ She paused, her eyes far off, peering at the horizon. ‘That’s how I found you, you know?’

‘No. How? Tell me. Was I carried here on an iceberg?’ He smiled faintly.

She laughed softly. He liked her laugh. It was gentle and assured. He wanted to hear more of her laughter. He hadn’t heard enough laughter lately.

‘I don’t know about that,’ she replied. ‘No, watching icebergs is my favourite past time. It’s what spring and early summer are all about. I just love them. They’re the slow-moving mistresses of the sea, don’t you think? Ancient and wise yet graceful and unique. It’s as if they each have their own story to tell about what they are, where they’ve come from, where they’re going. It’s almost like I hear them calling for me to climb on board, “Come sail the seven seas with me”,’ she gushed. Then she stopped. ‘You probably think I’m foolish, childish,’ she shrugged, looking uncomfortably at the grass.

‘Not at all.’ He wanted her to lift her head, to look at him, to know he did not think her callow. ‘So did an iceberg tell you where to find me?’

‘No.’ She threw a twig at a small stone and watched it bounce away. ‘I was scanning the sea for icebergs and that is when I first caught a glimpse of your boat, near Coleman’s Point.’

‘Where’s that?’

‘Over there.’ She pointed her face and hand to the left. ‘I’ll show you one day.’

‘Did you see me on board?’

‘Yes, you were waving your shirt. I thought perhaps you had seen me on the headland?’ She looked at him, her expression hopeful.

He almost hated to disappoint her. ‘I have no recollection of that,’ he said at last.

‘Maybe one day you will.’

‘Have you ever been up close to an iceberg?’

She shook her head. ‘I heard tell how some folk on Fogo, that’s an island not far from here, well they had their bay sealed in one year when a giant iceberg ran aground. They had to wait three months till it melted enough before they could get their fishing boat out into the open sea. They weren’t too happy apparently.’ That half-laugh again. ‘What about you?’ she asked turning towards him.

‘No.’ His gaze still levelled at the horizon. ‘I’ve only had about eighteen months at sea and this is my first time this far north. Our major objective was to steer clear of icebergs. But you know it would be something, to be able to get up close and have a look at one, don’t you think?’

‘Yes,’ she sighed, in a way that was more an inhalation than an exhalation.


Seldom Come By Excerpt revealing Rebecca's fascination with icebergs

If you love family dramas or historical fiction with well written characters who make you feel their joy and their sorrow, you won’t go wrong with Seldom Come By.

Mel Kettle


Seldom Come By

Continue the Journey …

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Come Full Circle, the third and final book in The Iceberg Trilogy