Sard Harker Author:John Masefield The novel commences with establishing narrative describing the fictional Santa Barbara as being geographically situated "far to leeward, with a coast facing to the north and east." Masefield moves on to describe the background of the protagonist, Chisholm Harker, called "Sard" Harker because he is "sardonic". He is ... more »the son of Chisholm Harker, rector of Windlesham in Berkshire (this suggests that the village is likely to be fictional in that Windlesham village is in reality in Surrey, UK), who died when he was 13 years old. Sard's mother remarried after having been widowed for two years, causing an estrangement that encourages Sard to go to sea.
The story opens on 18 March 1897. Sard Harker is mate on a merchant vessel, the Pathfinder, under the command of Captain Carey, and is probably aged around 30. The ship is in the fictional port of Las Palomas. Exactly ten years previous Sard was serving on another ship, the Venturer, in exactly the same harbour when he had a strange dream that he would meet a girl on the second of three visits to a white house called Los Xicales.
On the Pathfinder’s final day in Las Palomas Captain Carey and Sard Harker watch a boxing match. During the match Sard overhears talk between two other spectators that suggests that a Mr Hilary Kingsborough and his sister will come to some harm. After the boxing match Sard goes off to warn the Kingsboroughs. By coincidence they are renting Los Xicales. The Kingsboroughs do not heed the warning and Sard leaves wondering if he has seen the girl his dream warned him about.
Unfortunately Sard has little more than minutes to keep his passage on the Pathfinder. The adventure commences proper when Sard takes a wrong turning into a swamp and then sustains a stingray injury. He has by this time missed his passage and resolves to make his way to Santa Barbara. His endeavours result in his being assaulted and mugged, and put onto a freight train that takes him far inland. The majority of the novel is concerned with his ever more arduous journey across Santa Barbara, with minor characters and natural hazards endangering his life. Supernatural or starvation-induced hallucinations also feature on three occasions.
Sard is ultimately successful in reaching Santa Barbara, where he learns the fate of the Pathfinder.
The novel concludes with a confrontation with Sagrado B, a practitioner of black magic who wants Miss Kingsborough to complete one of his satanic rituals.« less