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´╗┐Title: Doctor Luke of the Labrador
Author: Duncan, Norman, 1871-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Doctor Luke of the Labrador" ***

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[Illustration: "I've a bad son, the day, Skipper Tommy," said my
Mother.--Page 23.]

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DOCTOR LUKE OF THE LABRADOR

BY
NORMAN DUNCAN

GROSSET & DUNLAP

Publishers--New York

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Copyright, 1904, by FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY

New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 63 Washington Street
Toronto: 27 Richmond Street, W
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 30 St. Mary Street

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To
My Own Mother
and to
her granddaughter
Elspeth
my niece

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To the Reader

However bleak the Labrador--however naked and desolate that
shore--flowers bloom upon it. However bitter the despoiling sea--however
cold and rude and merciless--the gentler virtues flourish in the hearts
of the folk.... And the glory of the coast--and the glory of the whole
world--is mother-love: which began in the beginning and has continued
unchanged to this present time--the conspicuous beauty of the fabric of
life: the great constant of the problem.

                                                                 N. D.

College Campus,
Washington, Pennsylvania,
October 15, 1904.

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CONTENTS

I.       Our Harbour                                               13
II.      The World from the Watchman                               17
III.     In the Haven of Her Arms                                  29
IV.      The Shadow                                                35
V.       Mary                                                      48
VI.      The Man on the Mail Boat                                  57
VII.     The Woman from Wolf Cove                                  70
VIII.    The Blind and the Blind                                   79
IX.      A Wreck on the Thirty Devils                              89
X.       The Flight                                               102
XI.      The Women at the Gate                                    110
XII.     Doctor and I                                             115
XIII.    A Smiling Face                                           125
XIV.     In the Watches of the Night                              133
XV.      The Wolf                                                 138
XVI.     A Malady of the Heart                                    150
XVII.    Hard Practice                                            167
XVIII.   Skipper Tommy Gets a Letter                              182
XIX.     The Fate of the Mail-Boat Doctor                         191
XX.      Christmas Eve at Topmast Tickle                          202
XXI.     Down North                                               219
XXII.    The Way from Heart's Delight                             222
XXIII.   The Course of True Love                                  239
XXIV.    The Beginning of the End                                 258
XXV.     A Capital Crime                                          265
XXVI.    Decoyed                                                  287
XXVII.   The Day of the Dog                                       305
XXVIII.  In Harbour                                               320

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[Illustration: SKETCH MAP of OUR HARBOR]

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DOCTOR LUKE of THE LABRADOR

I

OUR HARBOUR


A cluster of islands, lying off the cape, made the shelter of our
harbour. They were but great rocks, gray, ragged, wet with fog and surf,
rising bleak and barren out of a sea that forever fretted a thousand
miles of rocky coast as barren and as sombre and as desolate as they;
but they broke wave and wind unfailingly and with vast unconcern--they
were of old time, mighty, steadfast, remote from the rage of weather and
the changing mood of the sea, surely providing safe shelter for us folk
of the coast--and we loved them, as true men, everywhere, love home.

"'Tis the cleverest harbour on the Labrador!" said we.

When the wind was in the northeast--when it broke, swift and vicious,
from the sullen waste of water beyond, whipping up the grey sea, driving
in the vagrant ice, spreading clammy mist over the reefs and rocky
headlands of the long coast--our harbour lay unruffled in the lee of
God's Warning. Skull Island and a shoulder of God's Warning broke the
winds from the north: the froth of the breakers, to be sure, came
creeping through the north tickle, when the sea was high; but no great
wave from the open ever disturbed the quiet water within. We were fended
from the southerly gales by the massive, beetling front of the Isle of
Good Promise, which, grandly unmoved by their fuming rage, turned them
up into the black sky, where they went screaming northward, high over
the heads of the white houses huddled in the calm below; and the seas
they brought--gigantic, breaking seas--went to waste on Raven Rock and
the Reef of the Thirty Black Devils, ere, their strength spent, they
growled over the jagged rocks at the base of the great cliffs of Good
Promise and came softly swelling through the broad south tickle to the
basin. The west wind came out of the wilderness, fragrant of the far-off
forest, lying unknown and dread in the inland, from which the mountains,
bold and blue and forbidding, lifted high their heads; and the mist was
then driven back into the gloomy seas of the east, and the sun was out,
shining warm and yellow, and the sea, lying in the lee of the land, was
all aripple and aflash.

When the spring gales blew--the sea being yet white with drift-ice--the
schooners of the Newfoundland fleet, bound north to the fishing, often
came scurrying into our harbour for shelter. And when the skippers,
still dripping the spray of the gale from beard and sou'wester, came
ashore for a yarn and an hospitable glass with my father, the trader,
many a tale of wind and wreck and far-away harbours I heard, while we
sat by the roaring stove in my father's little shop: such as those which
began, "Well, 'twas the wonderfullest gale o' wind you ever
seed--snowin' an' blowin', with the sea in mountains, an' it as black as
a wolf's throat--an' we was somewheres off Cape Mugford. She were
drivin' with a nor'east gale, with the shore somewheres handy t'
le'ward. But, look! nar a one of us knowed where she were to, 'less
'twas in the thick o' the Black Heart Reefs...." Stout, hearty fellows
they were who told yarns like these--thick and broad about the chest and
lanky below, long-armed, hammer-fisted, with frowsy beards, bushy brows,
and clear blue eyes, which were fearless and quick to look.

"'Tis a fine harbour you got here, Skipper David Roth," they would say
to my father, when it came time to go aboard, "an' here, zur," raising
the last glass, "is t' the rocks that make it!"

"T' the schooners they shelter!" my father would respond.

When the weather turned civil, I would away to the summit of the
Watchman--a scamper and a mad climb--to watch the doughty little
schooners on their way. And it made my heart swell and flutter to see
them dig their noses into the swelling seas--to watch them heel and leap
and make the white dust fly--to feel the rush of the wet wind that drove
them--to know that the grey path of a thousand miles was every league of
the way beset with peril. Brave craft! Stout hearts to sail them! It
thrilled me to watch them beating up the suddy coast, lying low and
black in the north, and through the leaden, ice-strewn seas, with the
murky night creeping in from the open. I, too, would be the skipper of a
schooner, and sail with the best of them!

"A schooner an' a wet deck for me!" thought I.

And I loved our harbour all the more for that.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, our harbour lay, a still, deep basin, in the shelter of three
islands and a cape of the mainland: and we loved it, drear as it was,
because we were born there and knew no kinder land; and we boasted it,
in all the harbours of the Labrador, because it was a safe place,
whatever the gale that blew.



II

The WORLD From The WATCHMAN


The Watchman was the outermost headland of our coast and a landmark from
afar--a great gray hill on the point of Good Promise by the Gate; our
craft, running in from the Hook-an'-Line grounds off Raven Rock, rounded
the Watchman and sped thence through the Gate and past Frothy Point into
harbour. It was bold and bare--scoured by the weather--and dripping wet
on days when the fog hung thick and low. It fell sharply to the sea by
way of a weather-beaten cliff, in whose high fissures the gulls, wary of
the hands of the lads of the place, wisely nested; and within the
harbour it rose from Trader's Cove, where, snug under a broken cliff,
stood our house and the little shop and storehouse and the broad
drying-flakes and the wharf and fish-stages of my father's business.
From the top there was a far, wide outlook--all sea and rock: along the
ragged, treeless coast, north and south, to the haze wherewith, in
distances beyond the ken of lads, it melted; and upon the thirty wee
white houses of our folk, scattered haphazard about the harbour water,
each in its own little cove and each with its own little stage and great
flake; and over the barren, swelling rock beyond, to the blue
wilderness, lying infinitely far away.

I shuddered when from the Watchman I looked upon the wilderness.

"'Tis a dreadful place," I had heard my father say. "Men starves in
there."

This I knew to be true, for, once, I had seen the face of a man who came
crawling out.

"The sea is kinder," I thought.

Whether so or not, I was to prove, at least, that the wilderness was
cruel.

       *       *       *       *       *

One blue day, when the furthest places on sea and land lay in a thin,
still haze, my mother and I went to the Watchman to romp. There was
place there for a merry gambol, place, even, led by a wiser hand, for
roaming and childish adventure--and there were silence and sunlit space
and sea and distant mists for the weaving of dreams--ay, and, upon rare
days, the smoke of the great ships, bound down the Straits--and when
dreams had worn the patience there were huge loose rocks handy for
rolling over the brow of the cliff--and there was gray moss in the
hollows, thick and dry and soft, to sprawl on and rest from the delights
of the day. So the Watchman was a playground for my mother and me--my
sister, my elder by seven years, was all the day long tunefully busy
about my father's comfort and the little duties of the house--and, on
that blue day, we climbed the broken cliff behind our house and toiled
up the slope beyond in high spirits, and we were very happy together;
for my mother was a Boston maid, and, though she turned to right
heartily when there was work to do, she was not like the Labrador born,
but thought it no sin to wander and laugh in the sunlight of the heads
when came the blessed opportunity.

"I'm fair done out," said I, at last, returning, flushed, from a race to
Beacon Rock.

"Lie here, Davy--ay, but closer yet--and rest," said she.

I flung myself at full length beside her, spreading abroad my sturdy
little arms and legs; and I caught her glance, glowing warm and proud,
as it ran over me, from toe to crown, and, flashing prouder yet through
a gathering mist of tears, returned again.

"I knows why you're lookin' at me that way," said I.

"And why?" said she.

"'Tis for sheer love o' me!"

She was strangely moved by this. Her hands, passionately clasped of a
sudden, she laid upon her heart; and she drew a sharp, quivering
breath.

"You're getting so--so--strong and--and--so _big_!" she cried.

"Hut!" said I. "'Tis nothin' t' cry about!"

"Oh," she sobbed, "I'm _proud_ t' be the mother of a son!"

I started up.

"I'm that proud," she went on, hovering now between great joy and pain,
"that it--it--fair _hurts_ me!"

"I'll not have you cry!" I protested.

She caught me in her arms and we broke into merry laughter. Then to
please her I said that I would gather flowers for her hair--and she
would be the stranded mermaid and I the fisherman whom she besought to
put her back in the sea and rewarded with three wishes--and I sought
flowers everywhere in the hollows and crevices of the bald old Watchman,
where, through years, some soil had gathered, but found only whisps of
wiry grass and one wretched blossom; whereupon I returned to her very
wroth.

"God made a botch o' the world!" I declared.

She looked up in dismay.

"Ay," I repeated, with a stamp of the foot, "a wonderful botch o' the
world He's gone an' made. Why, they's but one flower on the Watchman!"

She looked over the barren land--the great gray waste of naked rock--and
sighed.

"But one?" she asked, softly.

"An I was God," I said, indignantly, "I'd have made _more_ flowers an'
made un _bigger_."

She smiled in the way of one dreaming.

"Hut!" I went on, giving daring wing to my imagination. "I'd have made a
hundred kinds an' soil enough t' grow un all--_every one o' the whole
hundred!_ I'd have----"

She laid a soft hand on my lips. "'Tis a land," she whispered, with
shining eyes, "that grows rosy lads, and I'm well content!"

"'Tis a poor way," I continued, disregarding her caress, "t' gather soil
in buckets. _I'd_ have made enough t' gather it in _barrows_! I'd have
made lots of it--heaps of it. Why," I boasted, growing yet more
recklessly prodigal, "I'd have made a _hill_ of it somewheres handy t'
every harbour in the world--as big as the Watchman--ay, an' handy t' the
harbours, so the folk could take so much as they wanted--t' make
potato-gardens--an'--an' t' make the grave-yards deep enough. 'Tis a
wonderful poor way," I concluded with contempt, "t' have t' gather it in
buckets from the rocks!"

My mother was laughing heartily now.

"'Twould not be a better world, thinks you?" said I. "Ay, but I could
do better than that! Hut!" I cried, at last utterly abandoned to my
imagination, "I'd have more things than potatoes grow in the ground an'
more things than berries grow on bushes. _What_ would I have grow in the
ground, says you? Is you thinkin' I don't _know_? Oh, ay, mum," I
protested, somewhat at a loss, but very knowingly, "_I_ knows!" I was
now getting rapidly beyond my depth; but I plunged bravely on, wondering
like lightning, the while, what else _could_ grow in the ground and on
bushes. "I'd have _flour_ grow in the ground, mum," I cried,
triumphantly, "an' I'd have sea-boots an' sou'westers grow on the
bushes. An', ecod!" I continued, inspired, "I'd have fishes grow on
bushes, already split an' cleaned!"

What other improvements I would have made on the good Lord's handiwork I
do not know. Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, being on the road to Trader's Cove
from the Rat Hole, where he lived alone with his twin lads, had spied us
from Needle Rock, and now came puffing up the hill to wish my mother
good-day: which, indeed, all true men of the harbour never failed to do,
whenever they came near. He was a short, marvellously broad, bow-legged
old man--but yet straight and full of strength and fine hope--all the
while dressed in tight white moleskin (much soiled by the slime of the
day's work), long skin boots, tied below the knees, and a ragged cloth
cap, which he kept pulled tight over his bushy grey hair. There was a
mild twinkle forever lying in the depths of his blue eyes, and thence,
at times, overflowing upon his broad brown face, which then rippled with
wrinkles, from the roots of his hair to the fringe of white beard under
his chin, in a way at once to make one laugh with him, though one could
not quite tell why. We lads of the harbour loved him very much, for his
good-humour and for his tenderness--never more so, however, than when,
by night, in the glow of the fire, he told us long tales of the fairies
and wicked elves he had dealt with in his time, twinkling with every
word, so that we were sorely puzzled to know whether to take him in jest
or earnest.

"I've a very bad son, the day, Skipper Tommy," said my mother, laying a
fond hand on my head.

"Have you, now, mum!" cried the skipper, with a wink. "'Tis hard t'
believe. He've been huntin' gulls' nests in parlous places on the cliff
o' the Watchman, I'm thinkin'."

"'Tis worse than that."

"Dear man! Worse than that, says you? Then he've took the punt beyond
the Gate all by hisself."

"'Tis even worse than that. He's not pleased with the dear Lord's
world."

Skipper Tommy stopped dead and stared me in the eye--but not coldly, you
must know; just in mild wonder, in which, it may be, was mixed some
admiration, as though he, too, deep in his guileless old heart, had had
some doubt which he dared not entertain.

"Ay," said I, loftily, "He've not made flowers enough t' suit _my_
taste."

Skipper Tommy rubbed his nose in a meditative way. "Well," he drawled,
"He haven't made many, true enough. I'm not sayin' He mightn't have made
more. But He've done very well. They's enough--oh, ay, they's enough t'
get along with. For, look you! lad, they's no real _need_ o' any more.
'Twas wonderful kind of Un," he went on, swept away by a flood of good
feeling, as often happened, "t' make even one little flower. Sure, He
didn't _have_ t' do it. He just went an' done it for love of us. Ay," he
repeated, delighting himself with this new thought of his Lord's
goodness, "'twas wonderful kind o' the Lard t' take so much trouble as
that!"

My mother was looking deep into Skipper Tommy's eyes as though she saw
some lovely thing therein.

"Ay," said I, "'twas fair kind; but I'm wishin' He'd been a bit more
free."

My mother smiled at that. Then, "And my son," she said, in the way of
one poking fun, "would have _flour_ grow out of the ground!"

"An' did he say that!" cried Skipper Tommy.

My mother laughed, and Skipper Tommy laughed uproariously, and loudly
slapped his thick thigh; and I felt woefully foolish, and wondered much
what depth of ignorance I had betrayed, but I laughed, too, because
Skipper Tommy laughed so heartily and opened his great mouth so wide;
and we were all very merry for a time. At last, while I wondered, I
thought that, perhaps, flour _did_ grow, after all--though, for the life
of me, I could not tell how--and that my mother and Skipper Tommy knew
it well enough; whereupon I laughed the merrier.

"Come, look you!" then said Skipper Tommy, gently taking the lobe of my
ear between his thick, hard thumb and forefinger. "Don't you go thinkin'
you could make better worlds than the Lard. Why, lad, 'tis but _play_
for _Him_! _He've_ no trouble makin' a world! I'm thinkin' He've made
more than one," he added, his voice changing to a knowing whisper. "'Tis
my own idea, but," now sagely, "I'm thinkin' He did. 'Tis like that this
was the first, an' He done better when He got His hand in. Oh, ay, nar a
doubt He done better with the rest! But He done wonderful well with this
one. When you're so old as me, lad, you'll know that though the Lard
made few flowers He put a deal o' time an' labour on the harbours; an'
when you're beatin' up t' the Gate, lad, in a gale o' wind--an' when you
thinks o' the quiet place t'other side o' Frothy Point--you'll know the
Lard done well by all the folk o' this world when He made safe harbours
instead o' wastin' His time on flowers. Ay, lad, 'tis a wonderful well
built world; an' you'll know it--then!"

We turned homeward--down the long road over the shoulder of the
Watchman; for the evening was drawing near.

"They's times," said Skipper Tommy, giving his nose a puzzled tweak,
"when I wonders how He done it. 'Tis fair beyond me! I wonders a deal,
now, mum," turning to my mother, his face lighting with interest, "about
they stars. Now, mum," smiling wistfully, "I wonders ... I wonders ...
how He stuck un up there in the sky. Ah," with a long sigh, "I'd sure
like t' know that! An' wouldn't you, mum? Ecod! but I _would_ like t'
know that! 'Twould be worth while, I'm thinkin'. I'm wishin' I could
find out. But, hut!" he cried, with a laugh which yet rang strangely sad
in my ears, "'tis none o' my business. 'Twould be a queer thing, indeed,
if men went pryin' into the Lard's secrets. He'd fix un, I 'low--He'd
snarl un all up--He'd let un think theirselves wise an' guess
theirselves mad! That's what He'd do. But, now," falling again into a
wistful, dreaming whisper, "I wonders ... wonders ... how He _does_
stick them stars up there. I'm thinkin' I'll try t' think that out--some
day--so people could know, an' wouldn't have t' wonder no more.
I--wonders--if I could!"

We walked on in silence--down the last slope, and along the rocky path
to Trader's Cove; and never a word was spoken. When we came to the turn
to our house we bade the skipper good-evening.

"Don't you be forgettin'," he said, tipping up my face with a finger
under my chin, "that you'll soon be thinkin' more o' harbours than o'
flowers."

I laughed.

"But, ecod!" he broke out, violently rubbing his nose, until I was
fairly concerned for it, so red did it turn, "that was a wonderful good
idea about the flour!"

My mother looked at him sharply; then her eyes twinkled, and she hid a
smile behind her hand.

"_'Twould_ be a good thing t' have it grow," the old man continued.
"'Twould be far better than--than--well, now--makin' it the way they
does. Ecod!" he concluded, letting his glance fall in bewilderment on
the ground, "I wonders how they _does_ make flour. I wonders ... wonders
... where they gets the stuff an'--an'--how they makes it!"

He went off, wondering still; and my mother and I went slowly home, and
sat in the broad window of our house, which overlooked the harbour and
fronted the flaring western sky; and then first she told me of the kind
green world beyond.



III

IN THE HAVEN of HER ARMS


There was a day not far distant--my father had told my mother with a
touch of impatience that it _must_ come for all sons--when Skipper Tommy
took me with one of the twin lads in the punt to the Hook-an'-Line
grounds to jig, for the traps were doing poorly with the fish, the
summer was wasting and there was nothing for it but to take to hook and
line: which my father's dealers heartily did, being anxious to add what
fish they could to the catch, though in this slower way. And it was my
first time beyond the Gate--and the sea seemed very vast and strange and
sullen when we put out at dawn--and when the long day was near done the
wind blew gray and angry from the north and spread a thickening mist
over the far-off Watchman--and before night closed, all that Skipper
Tommy had said of harbours and flowers came true in my heart.

"We'll be havin' t' beat up t' the Gate," said he, as he hauled in the
grapnel.

"With all the wind she can carry," added little Jacky, bending to lift
the mast into the socket.

In truth, yes--as it seemed to my unknowing mind: she had all the wind
she could carry. The wind fretted the black sea until it broke all
roundabout; and the punt heeled to the gusts and endlessly flung her
bows up to the big waves; and the spray swept over us like driving rain,
and was bitter cold; and the mist fell thick and swift upon the coast
beyond. Jacky, forward with the jib-sheet in his capable little fist and
the bail bucket handy, scowled darkly at the gale, being alert as a cat,
the while; and the skipper, his mild smile unchanged by all the tumult,
kept a hand on the mainsheet and tiller, and a keen, quiet eye on the
canvas and on the vanishing rocks whither we were bound. And forth and
back she went, back and forth, again and again, without end--beating up
to harbour.

"Dear man!" said Skipper Tommy, with a glance at the vague black outline
of the Watchman, "but 'tis a fine harbour!"

"'Tis that," sighed Jacky, wistfully, as a screaming little gust heeled
the punt over; "an'--an'--I wisht we was there!"

Skipper Tommy laughed at his son.

"I does!" Jacky declared.

"I--I--I'm not so sure," I stammered, taking a tighter grip on the
gunwale, "but I wisht we was--there--too."

"You'll be wishin' that often," said Skipper Tommy, pointedly, "if you
lives t' be so old as me."

We wished it often, indeed, that day--while the wind blustered yet more
wildly out of the north and the waves tumbled aboard our staggering
little craft and the night came apace over the sea--and we have wished
it often since that old time, have Jacky and I, God knows! I had the
curious sensation of fear, I fancy--though I am loath to call it
that--for the first time in my life; and I was very much relieved when,
at dusk, we rounded the looming Watchman, ran through the white waters
and thunderous confusion of the Gate, with the breakers leaping high on
either hand, sharply turned Frothy Point and came at last into the
ripples of Trader's Cove. Glad I was, you may be sure, to find my mother
waiting on my father's wharf, and to be taken by the hand, and to be led
up the path to the house, where there was spread a grand supper of fish
and bread, which my sister had long kept waiting; and, after all, to be
rocked in the broad window, safe in the haven of my mother's arms, while
the last of the sullen light of day fled into the wilderness and all the
world turned black.

"You'll be singin' for me, mum, will you not?" I whispered.

"And what shall I sing, lad?" said she.

"You knows, mum."

"I'm not so sure," said she. "Come, tell me!"

What should she sing? I knew well, at that moment, the assurance my
heart wanted: we are a God-fearing people, and I was a child of that
coast; and I had then first come in from a stormy sea. There is a
song----

"'Tis, 'Jesus Saviour Pilot Me,'" I answered.

"I knew it all the time," said she; and,

  "'Jesus, Saviour, pilot me,
  Over life's tempestuous sea,'"

she sang, very softly--and for me alone--like a sweet whisper in my ear.

  "'Unknown waves before me roll,
  Hiding rock and treacherous shoal;
  Chart and compass came from Thee:
  Jesus, Saviour, pilot me!'"

"I was thinkin' o' that, mum, when we come through the Gate," said I.
"Sure, I thought Skipper Tommy might miss the Way, an' get t'other side
o' the Tooth, an' get in the Trap, an' go t' wreck on the Murderers,
an'----"

"Hush, dear!" she whispered. "Sure, you've no cause to fear when the
pilot knows the way."

The feeling of harbour--of escape and of shelter and brooding peace--was
strong upon me while we sat rocking in the failing light. I have never
since made harbour--never since come of a sudden from the toil and the
frothy rage of the sea by night or day, but my heart has felt again the
peace of that quiet hour--never once but blessed memory has given me
once again the vision of myself, a little child, lying on my mother's
dear breast, gathered close in her arms, while she rocked and softly
sang of the tempestuous sea and a Pilot for the sons of men, still
rocking, rocking, in the broad window of my father's house. I protest
that I love my land, and have from that hour, barren as it is and as
bitter the sea that breaks upon it; for I then learned--and still
know--that it is as though the dear God Himself made harbours with wise,
kind hands for such as have business in the wild waters of that coast.
And I love my life--and go glad to the day's work--for I have learned,
in the course of it and by the life of the man who came to us, that
whatever the stress and fear of the work to be done there is yet for us
all a refuge, which, by way of the heart, they find who seek.

       *       *       *       *       *

And I fell asleep in my mother's arms, and by and by my big father came
in and laughed tenderly to find me lying there; and then, as I have been
told, laughing softly still they carried me up and flung me on my bed,
flushed and wet and limp with sound slumber, where I lay like a small
sack of flour, while together they pulled off my shoes and stockings and
jacket and trousers and little shirt, and bundled me into my
night-dress, and rolled me under the blanket, and tucked me in, and
kissed me good-night.

When my mother's lips touched my cheek I awoke. "Is it you, mama?" I
asked.

"Ay," said she; "'tis your mother, lad."

Her hand went swiftly to my brow, and smoothed back the tousled, wet
hair.

"Is you kissed me yet?"

"Oh, ay!" said she.

"Kiss me again, please, mum," said I, "for I wants--t' make sure--you
done it."

She kissed me again, very tenderly; and I sighed and fell asleep,
content.



IV

THE SHADOW


When the mail-boat left our coast to the long isolation of that winter
my mother was even more tender with the scrawny plants in the five red
pots on the window-shelf. On gray days, when our house and all the world
lay in the soggy shadow of the fog, she fretted sadly for their health;
and she kept feverish watch for a rift in the low, sad sky, and sighed
and wished for sunlight. It mystified me to perceive the wistful regard
she bestowed upon the stalks and leaves that thrived the illest--the
soft touches for the yellowing leaves, and, at last, the tear that fell,
when, withered beyond hope, they were plucked and cast away--and I asked
her why she loved the sick leaves so; and she answered that she knew but
would not tell me why. Many a time, too, at twilight, I surprised her
sitting downcast by the window, staring out--and far--not upon the rock
and sea of our harbour, but as though through the thickening shadows
into some other place.

"What you lookin' at, mum?" I asked her, once.

"A glory," she answered.

"Glory!" said I. "They's no glory out there. The night falls. 'Tis all
black an' cold on the hills. Sure, _I_ sees no glory."

"'Tis not a glory, but a shadow," she whispered, "for you!"

Nor was I now ever permitted to see her in disarray, but always, as it
seemed to me, fresh from my sister's clever hands, her hair laid smooth
and shining, her simple gown starched crisp and sweetly smelling of the
ironing board; and when I asked her why she was never but thus lovely,
she answered, with a smile, that surely it pleased her son to find her
always so: which, indeed, it did. I felt, hence, in some puzzled way,
that this display was a design upon me, but to what end I could not
tell. And there was an air of sad unquiet in the house: it occurred to
my childish fancy that my mother was like one bound alone upon a long
journey; and once, deep in the night, when I had long lain ill at ease
in the shadow of this fear, I crept to her door to listen, lest she be
already fled, and I heard her sigh and faintly complain; and then I went
back to bed, very sad that my mother should be ailing, but now sure that
she would not leave me.

Next morning my father leaned over our breakfast table and laid his
broad hand upon my mother's shoulder; whereupon she looked up smiling,
as ever she did when that big man caressed her.

"I'll be havin' the doctor for you," he said.

She gave him a swift glance of warning--then turned her wide eyes upon
me.

"Oh," said my father, "the lad knows you is sick. 'Tis no use tryin' t'
keep it from un any more."

"Ay," I sobbed, pushing my plate away, for I was of a sudden no longer
hungry, "I heared you cryin' las' night."

My sister came quickly to my side, and wound a soft arm about my neck,
and drew my head close to her heart, and kissed me many times; and when
she had soothed me I looked up and found my mother gloriously glad that
I had cried.

"'Tis nothing," then she said, with a rush of tenderness for my grief.
"'Tis not hard to bear. 'Tis----"

"Ay, but," said my father, "I'll be havin' the doctor t' see you."

My mother pooh-poohed it all. The doctor? For her? Not she! She was not
sick enough for _that_!

"I'm bent," said my father, doggedly, "on havin' that man."

"David," cried my mother, "I'll not have you do it!"

"I'll have my way of it," said my father. "I'm bent on it, an' I'll be
put off no longer. 'Tis no use, m'am--nar a bit! The doctor's comin' t'
see you."

"Ah, well!" sighed my mother.

"Ay," said my father, "I'll have that man ashore when the mail-boat
comes in the spring. 'Tis well on t' December now," he went on, "an' it
may be we'll have an early break-up. Sure, if they's westerly winds in
the spring, an' the ice clears away in good season, we'll be havin' the
mail-boat north in May. Come, now! 'twill not be later than June, I
'low. An' I'll have that doctor ashore in a hurry, mark my words, when
the anchor's down. That I will!"

"'Tis a long time," said my mother.

Every morning, thereafter, she said that she was better--always
better--much, much better. 'Twas wonderful, she said, 'twas fair past
making out, indeed, that she should so soon grow into a fine, hearty
woman again; and 'twould be an easy matter, said she, for the mail-boat
doctor to cure _her_--when he came. And she was now more discreet with
her moods; not once did I catch her brooding alone, though more than
once I lay in wait in dark corners or peered through the crack in the
door; and she went smiling about the house, as of old--but yet not as of
old; and I puzzled over the difference, but could not discover it. More
often, now, at twilight, she lured me to her lap, where I was never
loath to go, great lad of nine years though I was; and she sat silent
with me, rocking, rocking, while the deeper night came down--and she
kissed me so often that I wondered she did not tire of it--and she
stroked my brow and cheeks, and touched my eyes, and ran her finger-tips
over my eyebrows and nose and lips, ay, and softly played with my
lips--and at times she strained me so hard to her breast that I near
complained of the embrace--and I was no more driven off to bed when my
eyes grew heavy, but let lie in her arms, while we sat silent, rocking,
rocking, until long, long after I had fallen asleep. And once, at the
end of a sweet, strange hour, making believe to play, she gently pried
my eyes wide open and looked far into their depths--so deep, so long, so
searchingly, so strangely, that I waxed uneasy under the glance.

"Wh-wh-what--what you----" I began, inarticulately.

"What am I looking for?" she interrupted, speaking quickly.

"Ay," I whimpered, for I was deeply agitated; "what you lookin' for?"

"For your heart," said she.

I did not know what she meant; and I wondered concerning the fancy she
had, but did not ask, for there was that in her voice and eyes that made
me very solemn.

"'Tis but a child's heart," she sighed, turning away. "'Tis but like the
hearts," she whispered, "of all children. I cannot tell--I cannot tell,"
she sobbed, "and I want--oh, I want so much--to know!"

"Don't cry!" I pleaded, thrown into an agony by her tears, in the way of
all children.

She sat me back in her lap. "Look in your mother's eyes, lad," said she,
"and say after me this: 'My mother----'"

"'My mother----'" I repeated, very soberly.

"'Looked upon my heart----'"

"'Looked upon my heart----'" said I.

"'And found it brave----'"

"'An' found it brave----'"

"'And sweet----'"

"'An' sweet----'"

"'Willing for the day's work----'" said she.

"'Willing for the day's work----'" I repeated.

"'And harbouring no shameful hope.'"

"'An' harbouring--no shameful--hope.'"

Again and again she had me say it--until I knew it every word by heart.

"Ah," said she, at last, "but you'll forget!"

"No, no!" I cried. "I'll not forget. 'My mother looked upon my heart,'"
I rattled, "'an' found it brave an' sweet, willing for the day's work
an' harbouring no shameful hope.' I've not forgot! I've _not_ forgot!"

"He'll forget," she whispered, but not to me, "like all children."

But I have not forgotten--I have not forgotten--I have never
forgotten--that when I was a child my mother looked upon my heart and
found it brave and sweet, willing for the day's work and harbouring no
shameful hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

The winter fell early and with ominous severity. Our bleak coast was
soon too bitter with wind and frost and snow for the folk to continue in
their poor habitations. They were driven in haste to the snugger inland
tilts, which lay in a huddle at the Lodge, far up Twisted Arm, in the
blessed proximity of fire-wood--there to trap and sleep in hardly
mitigated misery until the kindlier spring days should once again invite
them to the coast. My father, the only trader on forty miles of our
coast, as always dealt them salt beef and flour and tea with a free
hand, until, at last, the storehouses were swept clean of food, save
sufficient for our own wants: his great heart hopeful that the catch of
next season, and the honest hearts of the folk, and the mysterious favor
of the Lord, would all conspire to repay him. And so they departed, bag
and baggage, youngsters and dogs; and the waste of our harbour and of
the infinite roundabout was left white and silent, as of death itself.
But we dwelt on in our house under the sheltering Watchman; for my
father, being a small trader, was better off than they--though I would
not have you think him of consequence elsewhere--and had builded a stout
house, double-windowed, lined with felt and wainscotted with canvas, so
that but little frost formed on the walls of the living rooms, and that
only in the coldest weather.

"'Tis cozy enough," said my father, chucking my mother under the chin,
"even for a maid a man might cotch up Boston way!"

Presently came Skipper Tommy Lovejoy by rollicking dog-team from the
Lodge to inquire after my mother's health--to cheer us, it may be, I'm
thinking, with his hearty way, his vast hope, his odd fancies, his
ruddy, twinkling face. Most we laughed when he described his plan (how
seriously conceived there was no knowing) for training whales to serve
as tugboats in calms and adverse winds. It appeared, too, that a similar
recital had been trying to the composure of old Tom Tot, of our harbour,
who had searched the Bible for seven years to discover therein a good
man of whom it was said that he laughed, and, failing utterly, had
thereupon vowed never again to commit the sin of levity.

"Sure, I near fetched un," said Skipper Tommy, gleefully, "with me
whales. I come near makin' Tom Tot break that scandalous vow, zur,
indeed I did! He got wonderful purple in the face, an' choked in a
fearsome way, when I showed un my steerin' gear for the beast's tail,
but, as I'm sad t' say, zur, he managed t' keep it in without bustin'.
But I'll get un yet, zur--oh, ay, zur--just leave un t' me! Ecod! zur,
I'm thinkin' he'll capsize with all hands when I tells un I'm t' have a
wheel-house on the forward deck o' that wha-a-ale!"

But the old man soon forgot all about his whales, as he had forgotten to
make out the strange way the Lord had discovered to fasten His stars to
the sky; moved by a long contemplation of my mother's frailty, he had a
nobler inspiration.

"'Tis sad, lass," he said, his face aquiver with sympathy, "t' think
that we've but one doctor t' cure the sick, an' him on the mail-boat.
'Tis _wonderful_ sad t' think o' that! 'Tis a hard case," he went on,
"but if a man only thunk hard enough he'd find a way t' mend it. Sure,
what _ought_ t' be mended _can_ be mended. 'Tis the way o' the world. If
a man only thinks hard an' thinks sensible, he'll find a way, zur, every
time. 'Tis easy t' think hard, but 'tis sometimes hard," he added, "t'
think t' the point."

We were silent while he continued lost in deep and puzzled thought.

"Ecod!" he burst out. "I got it!"

"Have you, now?" cried my father, half amused, half amazed.

"Just this minute, zur," said the skipper, in a glow of delighted
astonishment. "It come t' me all t' oncet."

"An' what is it?"

"'Tis a sort o' book, zur!"

"A book?"

"Ay, 'tis just a book. Find out all the cures in the world an' put un in
a book. Get the doctor-women's, an' the healers', an' the real doctor's,
an' put un right in a book. Has you got the dip-theria? Ask the book
what t' do. 'Dip-theria?' says the book t' you. 'Well, that's sad. Tie a
split herring round your neck.' S'pose you got the salt-water sores.
What do you do, then? Why, turn t' the book. 'Oh, 'tis nothin' t' cure
_that_,' says the book. 'Wear a brass chain on your wrist, lad, an'
you'll be troubled no more.' Take it, now, when you got blood-poison in
the hand. What is you t' do, you wants t' know? 'Blood-poison in the
hand?' says the book. 'Good gracious, that's awful! Cut off your hand.'
'Twould be a wonderful good work," the skipper concluded, "t' make a
book like that!" It appeared to me that it would.

"I wonder," the skipper went on, staring at the fire, a little smile
playing upon his face, "if _I_ couldn't do that! 'Twould surely be a
thing worth doin'. I wonder--I wonder--if I couldn't manage--somehow--t'
do it!"

We said nothing; for he was not thinking of us, any more, as we
knew--but only dreaming of the new and beneficent work which had of a
sudden appeared to him.

"But I isn't able t' write," he muttered, at last. "I--I--_wisht I
could_!"

"'Twould be a wonderful fine work for a man t' do," said my father.

"'Tis a wonder, now," said Skipper Tommy, looking up with a bright face,
"that no one ever thought o' doin' that afore. T' my mind," he added,
much puzzled, "'tis very queer, indeed, that they's nar a man in all the
world t' think o' that--but _me_!"

My mother smiled.

"I'm thinkin' I'll just _have_ t' try," Skipper Tommy went on, frowning
anxiously. "But, ecod!" he cried, "maybe the Lard wouldn't like it. Now,
maybe, He wants us men t' mind our business. Maybe, He'd say, 'You keep
your finger out o' My pie. Don't you go makin' no books about cures.'
But, oh, no!" with the overflow of fine feeling which so often came
upon him. "Why, _He_ wouldn't mind a little thing like that. Sure, I
wouldn't mind it, meself! 'You go right ahead, lad,' He'd say, 'an' try
t' work your cures. Don't you be afeared o' Me. _I'll_ not mind. But,
lad,' He'd say, 'when I wants my way I just got t' _have_ it. Don't you
forget that. Don't you go thinkin' you can have _your_ way afore I has
_Mine_. You just trust Me t' do what's right. I know My business. I'm
_used_ t' running worlds. I'm wonderful sorry,' He'd say, 't' have t'
make you feel bad; but they's times, b'y,' He'd say, 'when I really
_got_ t' have My way.' Oh, no," Skipper Tommy concluded, "the Lard
wouldn't mind a poor man's tryin' t' make a book like that! An' I thinks
I'll just _have_ t' try."

"Sure, Skipper Tommy," said I, "I'll help you."

Skipper Tommy stared at me in great amaze.

"Ay," said my mother, "Davy has learned to write."

"That I have," I boasted; "an' I'll help you make that book."

"'Tis the same," cried Skipper Tommy, slapping his thigh "as if 'twas
writ already!"

       *       *       *       *       *

After a long time, my mother spoke. "You're always wanting to do some
good thing, Skipper Tommy, are you not?" said she.

"Well," he admitted, his face falling, "I thinks and wonders a deal,
'tis true, but somehow I don't seem t'----"

"Ay?" my father asked.

"Get--nowhere--much!"

Very true: but, even then, there was a man on the way to help him.



V

MARY


In the dead of winter, great storms of wind and snow raged for days
together, so that it was unsafe to venture ten fathoms from the door,
and the glass fell to fifty degrees (and more) below zero, where the
liquid behaved in a fashion so sluggish that 'twould not have surprised
us had it withdrawn into the bulb altogether, never to reappear in a
sphere of agreeable activity. By night and day we kept the fires roaring
(my father and Skipper Tommy standing watch and watch in the night) and
might have gone at ease, cold as it was, had we not been haunted by the
fear that a conflagration, despite our watchfulness, would of a sudden
put us at the mercy of the weather, which would have made an end of us,
every one, in a night. But when the skipper had wrought us into a
cheerful mood, the wild, white days sped swift enough--so fast, indeed,
that it was quite beyond me to keep count of them: for he was marvellous
at devising adventures out-of-doors and pastimes within. At length,
however, he said that he must be off to the Lodge, else Jacky and
Timmie, the twins, who had been left to fend for themselves, would
expire of longing for his return.

"An' I'll be takin' Davy back with me, mum," said he to my mother, not
daring, however, to meet her eye to eye with the proposal, "for the
twins is wantin' him sore."

"Davy!" cried my mother. "Surely, Skipper Tommy, you're not thinking to
have Davy back with you!"

Skipper Tommy ventured to maintain that I would be the better of a run
in the woods, which would (as he ingeniously intimated) restore the
blood to my cheeks: whereupon my mother came at once to his way of
thinking, and would hear of no delay, but said--and that in a fever of
anxiety--that I must be off in the morning, for she would not rest until
I was put in the way of having healthful sport with lads of my age. So,
that night, my sister made up three weeks' rations for me from our store
(with something extra in the way of tinned beef and a pot of jam as a
gift from me to the twins); also, she mended my sleeping-bag, in which
my sprouting legs had kicked a hole, and got out the big black wolfskin,
for bed covering in case of need. And by the first light of the next day
we loaded the komatik, harnessed the joyful dogs and set out with a
rush, the skipper's long whip cracking a jolly farewell as we went
swinging over the frozen harbour to the Arm.

"Hi, hi, b'y!" the skipper shouted to the dogs.

Crack! went the whip, high over the heads of the pack. The dogs yelped.
"Hi, hi!" screamed I. And on we sped, raising a dust of crisp snow in
our wake. It was a famous pack. Fox, the new leader, was a mighty,
indomitable fellow, and old Wolf, in the rear, had a sharp eye for
lagging heels, which he snapped, in a flash, whenever a trace was let
slack. What with Fox and Wolf and the skipper's long whip and my cries
of encouragement there was no let up. On we went, coursing over the
level stretches, bumping over rough places, swerving 'round the turns.
It was a glorious ride. The day was clear, the air frosty, the pace
exhilarating. The blood tingled in every part of me. I was sorry when we
rounded Pipestem Point, and the huddled tilts of the Lodge, half buried
in snow, came into view. But, half an hour later, in Skipper Tommy's
tilt, I was glad that the distance had been no greater, for then the
twins were helping me thaw out my cheeks and the tip of my nose, which
had been frozen on the way.

That night the twins and I slept together in the cock-loft like a litter
of puppies.

"Beef!" sighed Jacky, the last thing before falling asleep. "Think o'
that, Timmie!"

"An' jam!" said Timmie.

They gave me a nudge to waken me. "Thanks, Davy," said they both.

Then I fell asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our folk slept a great deal at the Lodge. They seemed to want to have
the winter pass without knowing more than they could help of the various
pangs of it--like the bears. But, when the weather permitted them to
stir without, they trapped for fox and lynx, and hunted (to small
purpose) with antiquated guns, and cut wood, if they were in the humour;
and whatever necessity compelled them to do, and whatever they had to
eat (since there was at least enough of it), they managed to have a
rollicking time of it, as you would not suppose, without being told. The
tilts were built of slim logs, caulked with moss; and there was but one
room--and that a bare one--with bunks at one end for the women and a
cock-loft above for the men. The stove was kept at red heat, day and
night, but, notwithstanding, there was half an inch of frost on the
walls and great icicles under the bunks: extremes of temperature were
thus to be found within a very narrow compass. In the evening, when we
were all gathered close about the stove, we passed the jolliest hours;
for it was then that the folk came in, and tales were told, and (what
was even more to our taste) the "spurts at religion" occurred.

When the argument concerned the pains of hell, Mary, Tom Tot's daughter,
who was already bound out to service to the new manager of the store at
Wayfarer's Tickle (expected by the first mail-boat), would slip softly
in to listen.

"What you thinkin' about?" I whispered, once.

She sat remote from the company, biting her finger nails, staring,
meanwhile, from speaker to speaker, with eyes that were pitifully eager.

"Hell," she answered.

I was taken aback by that. "Hell, Mary?" I exclaimed.

"Ay, Davy," she said, with a shudder, "I'm thinkin' about hell."

"What for?" said I. "Sure, 'twill do you no good to think about hell."

"I got to," said she. "I'm goin' there!"

Skipper Tommy explained, when the folk had gone, that Mary, being once
in a south port of our coast, had chanced to hear a travelling parson
preach a sermon. "An'," said he, "'tis too bad that young man preached
about damnation, for 'tis the only sermon she ever heared, an' she isn't
seemin' t' get over it." After that I tried to persuade Mary that she
would not go to hell, but quite dismally failed--and not only failed,
but was soon thinking that I, too, was bound that way. When I expressed
this fear, Mary took a great fancy to me, and set me to getting from
Skipper Tommy a description of the particular tortures, as he conceived
they were to be inflicted; for, said she, he was a holy man, and could
tell what she so much wished to know. Skipper Tommy took me on his knee,
and spoke long and tenderly to me, so that I have never since feared
death or hell; but his words, being repeated, had no effect upon Mary,
who continued still to believe that the unhappy fate awaited her,
because of some sin she was predestined to commit, or, if not that,
because of her weight of original sin.

"Oh, Davy, I got t' go!" she moaned, tearing one of her nails to the
quick.

"No, no!" I cried. "The Lard 'll never be so mean t' you."

"You don't know Him," she said, mysteriously. "You don't know what He's
up to."

"Bother Him!" I exclaimed, angered that mortals should thus be made
miserable by interference. "I wisht He'd leave us be!"

"Hush!" she said, horrified.

"What's He gone an' done, now?" I demanded.

"He've not elected me," she whispered, solemnly. "He've left _me_ with
the goats."

And so, happily, I accumulated another grudge against this misconception
of the dear Lord, which Skipper Tommy's sweet philosophy and the jolly
companionship of the twins could not eliminate for many days. But
eventually the fresh air and laughter and tenderness restored my
complacency. I forgot all about hell; 'twas more interesting to don my
racquets and make the round of the fox traps with the twins, or to play
pranks on the neighbours, or to fashion curious masques and go mummering
from tilt to tilt. In the end, I emerged from the unfortunate mood with
one firm conviction, founded largely, I fear, upon a picture which hung
by my bed at home: that portraying a rising from the dead, the grave
below, a golden, cloudy heaven above, wherefrom a winged angel had
descended to take the hand of the free, enraptured soul. And my
conviction was this, that, come what might to the souls of the wicked,
the souls of the good were upon death robed in white and borne aloft to
some great bliss, yet lingered, by the way, to throw back a tender
glance.

I had never seen death come.

       *       *       *       *       *

In three weeks my rations were exhausted, and, since it would have been
ungenerous in me to consume Skipper Tommy's food, I had the old man
harness the dogs and take me home. My only regret was that my food did
not last until Skipper Tommy had managed to make Tom Tot laugh. Many a
night the old man had tried to no purpose, for Tom Tot would stare him
stolidly in the eye, however preposterous the tale to be told. The twins
and I had waited in vain--ready to explode at the right moment: but
never having the opportunity. The last assault on Tom Tot's composure
had been disastrous to the skipper. When, with highly elaborate detail,
he had once more described his plan for training whales, disclosing, at
last, his intention of having a wheel-house on what he called the
forward deck----

"What about the fo'c's'le?" Tom Tot solemnly asked.

"Eh?" gasped the skipper. "Fo'c's'le?"

"Ay," said Tom Tot, in a melancholy drawl. "Isn't you give a thought t'
the crew?"

Skipper Tommy was nonplussed.

"Well," sighed Tom, "I s'pose you'll be havin' t' fit up Jonah's
quarters for them poor men!"

       *       *       *       *       *

At home, in the evening, while my mother and father and sister and I
were together in the glow of the fire, we delighted to plan the
entertainment of the doctor who was coming to cure my mother. He must
have the armchair from the best room below, my mother said, that he
might sit in comfort, as all doctors should, while he felt her pulse; he
must have a refreshing nip from the famous bottle of Jamaica rum, which
had lain in untroubled seclusion since before I was born, waiting some
occasion of vast importance; and he must surely not take her unaware in
a slatternly moment, but must find her lying on the pillows, wearing her
prettiest nightgown, which was thereupon newly washed and ironed and
stowed away in the bottom drawer of the bureau against his unexpected
coming. But while the snow melted from the hills, and the folk returned
to the coast for the seal fishing, and the west winds carried the ice to
sea, and we waited day by day for the mail-boat, our spirits fell, for
my mother was then fast failing. And I discovered this strange
circumstance: that while her strength withered, her hope grew large, and
she loved to dwell upon the things she would do when the doctor had made
her well; and I wondered why that was, but puzzled to no purpose.



VI

The MAN on The MAIL-BOAT


It was in the dusk of a wet night of early June, with the sea in a
tumble and the wind blowing fretfully from the west of north, that the
mail-boat made our harbour. For three weeks we had kept watch for her,
but in the end we were caught unready--the lookouts in from the
Watchman, my father's crew gone home, ourselves at evening prayer in the
room where my mother lay abed. My father stopped dead in his petition
when the first hoarse, muffled blast of the whistle came uncertain from
the sea, and my own heart fluttered and stood still, until, rising above
the rush of the wind and the noise of the rain upon the panes, the
second blast broke the silence within. Then with a shaking cry of "Lord
God, 'tis she!" my father leaped from his knees, ran for his sea-boots
and oilskins, and shouted from below for my sister to make ready his
lantern. But, indeed, he had to get his lantern for himself; for my
mother, who was now in a flush of excitement, speaking high and
incoherently, would have my sister stay with her to make ready for the
coming of the doctor--to dress her hair, and tidy the room, and lay out
the best coverlet, and help on with the dainty nightgown.

"Ay, mother," my sister said, laughing, to quiet her, "I'll not leave
you. Sure, my father's old enough t' get his own lantern ready."

"The doctor's come!" I shouted, contributing a lad's share to the
excitement. "He've come! Hooray! He've come!"

"Quick, Bessie!" cried my mother. "He'll be here before we know it. And
my hair is in a fearful tangle. The looking-glass, lassie----"

I left them in the thick of this housewifely agitation. Donning my small
oilskins, as best as I could without my kind sister's help--and I shed
impatient tears over the stiff button-holes, which my fingers would not
manage--I stumbled down the path to the wharf, my exuberant joy
escaping, the while, in loud halloos. There I learned that the mail-boat
lay at anchor off the Gate, and, as it appeared, would not come in from
the sea, but would presently be off to Wayfarer's Tickle, to the north,
where she would harbour for the night. The lanterns were shining
cheerily in the dark of the wharf; and my father was speeding the men
who were to take the great skiff out for the spring freight--barrels of
flour and pork and the like--and roundly berating them, every one, in a
way which surprised them into unwonted activity. Perceiving that my
father's temper and this mad bustle were to be kept clear of by wise
lads, I slipped into my father's punt, which lay waiting by the
wharf-stairs; and there, when the skiff was at last got underway, I was
found by my father and Skipper Tommy Lovejoy.

"Ashore with you, Davy, lad!" said my father. "There'll be no room for
the doctor. He'll be wantin' the stern seat for hisself."

"Leave the boy bide where he is," Skipper Tommy put in. "Sure, he'll do
no harm, an'--an'--why, zur," as if that were sufficient, "he's
_wantin_' t' go!"

I kept silent--knowing well enough that Skipper Tommy was the man to
help a lad to his desire.

"Ay," said my father, "but I'm wantin' the doctor t' be comfortable when
he comes ashore."

"He'll be comfortable enough, zur. The lad'll sit in the bow an' trim
the boat. Pass the lantern t' Davy, zur, an' come aboard."

My father continued to grumble his concern for the doctor's comfort; but
he leaned over to pat my shoulder while Skipper Tommy pushed off: for he
loved his little son, did my big father--oh, ay, indeed, he did! We were
soon past the lumbering skiff--and beyond Frothy Point--and out of the
Gate--and in the open sea, where the wind was blowing smartly and the
rain was flying in gusts. My father hailed the steamer's small-boat,
inbound with the mail, to know if the doctor was in verity aboard; and
the answer, though but half caught, was such that they bent heartily to
the oars, and the punt gave a great leap and went staggering through the
big waves in a way to delight one's very soul. Thus, in haste, we drew
near the steamer, which lay tossing ponderously in the ground-swell, her
engines panting, her lamps bright, her many lights shining from
port-hole and deck--all so cozy and secure in the dirty night: so
strange to our bleak coast!

At the head of the ladder the purser stood waiting to know about landing
the freight.

"Is you goin' on?" my father asked.

"Ay--t' Wayfarer's Tickle, when we load your skiff."

"'Twill be alongside in a trice. But my wife's sick. I'm wantin' t' take
the doctor ashore."

"He's aft in the smokin'-room. You'd best speak t' the captain first.
Hold her? Oh, sure, _he'll_ hold her all night, for sickness!"

They moved off forward. Then Skipper Tommy took my hand--or, rather, I
took his; for I was made ill at ease by the great, wet sweep of the
deck, glistening with reflections of bright lights, and by the throng
of strange men, and by the hiss of steam and the clank of iron coming
from the mysterious depths below. He would show me the cabin, said he,
where there was unexampled splendour to delight in; but when we came to
a little house on the after deck, where men were lounging in a thick fog
of tobacco smoke, I would go no further (though Skipper Tommy said that
words were spoken not meet for the ears of lads to hear); for my
interest was caught by a giant pup, which was not like the pups of our
harbour but a lean, long-limbed, short-haired dog, with heavy jaws and
sagging, blood-red eyelids. At a round table, whereon there lay a short
dog-whip, his master sat at cards with a stout little man in a
pea-jacket--a loose-lipped, blear-eyed, flabby little fellow, but,
withal, hearty in his own way--and himself cut a curious figure, being
grotesquely ill-featured and ill-fashioned, so that one rebelled against
the sight of him.

A gust of rain beat viciously upon the windows and the wind ran swishing
past.

"'Tis a dirty night," said the dog's master, shuffling nervously in his
seat.

At this the dog lifted his head with a sharp snarl: whereupon, in a
flash, the man struck him on the snout with the butt of the whip.

"That's for you!" he growled.

The dog regarded him sullenly--his upper lip still lifted from his
teeth.

"Eh?" the man taunted. "Will you have another?"

The dog's head subsided upon his paws; but his eyes never once left his
master's face--and the eyes were alert, steady, hard as steel.

"You're l'arnin'," the man drawled.

But the dog had learned no submission, but, if anything, only craft, as
even I, a child, could perceive; and I marvelled that the man could
conceive himself to be winning the mastery of that splendid brute. 'Twas
no way to treat a dog of that disposition. It had been a wanton
blow--taken with not so much as a whimper. Mastery? Hut! The beast was
but biding his time. And I wished him well in the issue. "Ecod!" thought
I, with heat. "I hopes he gets a good grip o' the throat!" Whether or
not, at the last, it was the throat, I do not know; but I do know the
brutal tragedy of that man's end, for, soon, he came rough-shod into our
quiet life, and there came a time when I was hot on his trail, and
rejoiced, deep in the wilderness, to see the snow all trampled and gory.
But the telling of that is for a later page; the man had small part in
the scene immediately approaching: it was another. When the wind and
rain again beat angrily upon the ship, his look of triumph at once gave
place to cowardly concern; and he repeated:

"'Tis a dirty night."

"Ay," said the other, and, frowning, spread his cards before him. "What
do you make, Jagger?"

My father came in--and with him a breath of wet, cool air, which I
caught with delight.

"Ha!" he cried, heartily, advancing upon the flabby little man, "we been
waitin' a long time for _you_, doctor. Thank God, you've come, at last!"

"Fifteen, two----" said the doctor.

My father started. "I'm wantin' you t' take a look at my poor wife," he
went on, renewing his heartiness with an effort. "She've been wonderful
sick all winter, an' we been waitin'----"

"Fifteen, four," said the doctor; "fifteen, six----"

"Doctor," my father said, touching the man on the shoulder, while Jagger
smiled some faint amusement, "does you hear?"

It was suddenly very quiet in the cabin.

"Fifteen, eight----" said the doctor.

My father's voice changed ominously. "Is you listenin', zur?" he asked.

"Sick, is she?" said the doctor. "Fifteen, ten. I've got you, Jagger,
sure ... 'Tis no fit night for a man to go ashore ... Fifteen, ten, did
I say? and one for his nibs ... Go fetch her aboard, man ... And two
for his heels----"

My father laid his hand over the doctor's cards. "Was you sayin'," he
asked, "t' fetch her aboard?"

"The doctor struck the hand away.

"Was you sayin'," my father quietly persisted, "t' fetch her aboard?"

I knew my father for a man of temper; and, now, I wondered that his
patience lasted.

"Damme!" the doctor burst out. "Think I'm going ashore in this weather?
If you want me to see her now, go fetch her aboard."

My father coughed--then fingered the neck-band of his shirt.

"I wants t' get this here clear in my mind," he said, slowly. "Is you
askin' me t' fetch that sick woman aboard this here ship?"

The doctor leaned over the table to spit.

"Has I got it right, zur?"

In the pause the spectators softly withdrew to the further end of the
cabin.

"If he won't fetch her aboard, Jagger," said the doctor, turning to the
dog's master, "she'll do very well, I'll be bound, till we get back from
the north. Eh, Jagger? If he cared very much, he'd fetch her aboard,
wouldn't he?"

Jagger laughed.

"Ay, she'll do very well," the doctor repeated, now addressing my
father, "till we get back. I'll take a look at her then."

I saw the color rush into my father's face. Skipper Tommy laid a
restraining hand on his shoulder.

"Easy, now, Skipper David!" he muttered.

"Is I right," said my father, bending close to the doctor's face, "in
thinkin' you says you _won't_ come ashore?"

The doctor shrugged his shoulders.

"Is I right," pursued my father, his voice rising, "in thinkin' the
gov'ment pays you t' tend the sick o' this coast?"

"That's my business," flashed the doctor. "That's my business, sir!"

Jagger looked upon my father's angry face and smiled.

"Is we right, doctor," said Skipper Tommy, "in thinkin' you knows she
lies desperate sick?"

"Damme!" cried the doctor. "I've heard that tale before. You're a pretty
set, you are, to try to play on a man's feelings like that. But you
can't take _me_ in. No, you can't," he repeated, his loose under-lip
trembling. "You're a pretty set, you are. But you can't come it over me.
Don't you go blustering, now! You can't come your bluster on me.
Understand? You try any bluster on me, and, by heaven! I'll let every
man of your harbour die in his tracks. I'm the doctor, here, I want you
to know. And I'll not go ashore in weather like this."

My father deliberately turned to wave Skipper Tommy and me out of the
way: then laid a heavy hand on the doctor's shoulder.

"You'll not come?"

"Damned if I will!"

"By God!" roared my father. "I'll take you!"

At once, the doctor sought to evade my father's grasp, but could not,
and, being unwise, struck him on the breast. My father felled him. The
man lay in a flabby heap under the table, roaring lustily that he was
being murdered; but so little sympathy did his plight extract, that, on
the contrary, every man within happy reach, save Jagger and Skipper
Tommy, gave him a hearty kick, taking no pains, it appeared, to choose
the spot with mercy. As for Jagger, he had snatched up his whip, and was
now raining blows on the muzzle of the dog, which had taken advantage of
the uproar to fly at his legs. In this confusion, the Captain flung open
the door and strode in. He was in a fuming rage; but, being no man to
take sides in a quarrel, sought no explanation, but took my father by
the arm and hurried him without, promising him redress, the while, at
another time. Thus presently we found ourselves once more in my
father's punt, pushing out from the side of the steamer, which was
already underway, chugging noisily.

"Hush, zur!" said Skipper Tommy to my father. "Curse him no more, zur.
The good Lard, who made us, made him, also."

My father cursed the harder.

"Stop," cried the skipper, "or I'll be cursin' him, too, zur. God made
that man, I tells you. He _must_ have gone an' made that man."

"I hopes He'll damn him, then," said I.

"God knowed what He was doin' when he made that man," the skipper
persisted, continuing in faith against his will. "I tells you I'll _not_
doubt His wisdom. He made that man ... He made that man ... He made that
man...."

To this refrain we rowed into harbour.

       *       *       *       *       *

We found my mother's room made very neat, and very grand, too, I
thought, with the shaded lamp and the great armchair from the best-room
below; and my mother, now composed, but yet flushed with expectation,
was raised on many snow-white pillows, lovely in the fine gown, with one
thin hand, wherein she held a red geranium, lying placid on the
coverlet.

"I am ready, David," she said to my father.

There was the sound of footsteps in the hall below. It was Skipper
Tommy, as I knew.

"Is that he?" asked my mother. "Bring him up, David. I am quite ready."

My father still stood silent and awkward by the door of the room.

"David," said my poor mother, her voice breaking with sudden alarm,
"have you been talking much with him? What has he told you, David? I'm
not so very sick, am I?"

"Well, lass," said my father, "'tis a great season for all sorts o'
sickness--an' the doctor is sick abed hisself--an' he--couldn't--come."

"Poor man!" sighed my mother. "But he'll come ashore on the south'ard
trip."

"No, lass--no; I fear he'll not."

"Poor man!"

My mother turned her face from us. She trembled, once, and sighed, and
then lay very quiet. I knew in my childish way that her hope had fled
with ours--that, now, remote from our love and comfort-alone--all
alone--she had been brought face to face with the last dread prospect.
There was the noise of rain on the panes and wind without, and the heavy
tread of Skipper Tommy's feet, coming up the stair, but no other sound.
But Skipper Tommy, entering now, moved a chair to my mother's bedside,
and laid a hand on hers, his old face illumined by his unfailing faith
in the glory and wisdom of his God.

"Hush!" he said. "Don't you go gettin' scared lass. Don't you go gettin'
scared at--the thing that's comin'--t' you. 'Tis nothin' t' fear," he
went on, gloriously confident. "'Tis not hard, I'm sure--the Lard's too
kind for that. He just lets us think it is, so He can give us a lovely
surprise, when the time comes. Oh, no, 'tis not _hard_! 'Tis but like
wakin' up from a troubled dream. 'Tis like wakin' t' the sunlight of a
new, clear day. Ah, 'tis a pity us all can't wake with you t' the beauty
o' the morning! But the dear Lard is kind. There comes an end t' all the
dreamin'. He takes our hand. 'The day is broke,' says He. 'Dream no
more, but rise, child o' Mine, an' come into the sunshine with Me.' 'Tis
only that that's comin' t' you--only His gentle touch--an' the waking.
Hush! Don't you go gettin' scared. 'Tis a lovely thing--that's comin' t'
you!"

"I'm not afraid," my mother whispered, turning. "I'm not afraid, Skipper
Tommy. But I'm sad--oh I'm sad--to have to leave----"

She looked tenderly upon me.



VII

The WOMAN from WOLF COVE


My mother lay thus abandoned for seven days. It was very still and
solemn in the room--and there was a hush in all the house; and there was
a mystery, which even the break of day could not dissolve, and a shadow,
which the streaming sunlight could not drive away. Beyond the broad
window of her room, the hills of Skull Island and God's Warning stood
yellow in the spring sunshine, rivulets dripping from the ragged patches
of snow which yet lingered in the hollows; and the harbour water rippled
under balmy, fragrant winds from the wilderness; and workaday voices,
strangely unchanged by the solemn change upon our days, came drifting up
the hill from my father's wharves; and, ay, indeed, all the world of sea
and land was warm and wakeful and light of heart, just as it used to be.
But within, where were the shadow and the mystery, we walked on tiptoe
and spoke in whispers, lest we offend the spirit which had entered in.

       *       *       *       *       *

By day my father was occupied with the men of the place, who were then
anxiously fitting out for the fishing season, which had come of a sudden
with the news of a fine sign at Battle Harbour. But my mother did not
mind, but, rather, smiled, and was content to know that he was about his
business--as men must be, whatever may come to pass in the house--and
that he was useful to the folk of our harbour, whom she loved. And my
dear sister--whose heart and hands God fashioned with kind purpose--gave
full measure of tenderness for both; and my mother was grateful for
that, as she ever was for my sister's loving kindness to her and to me
and to us all.

One night, being overwrought by sorrow, it may be, my father said that
he would have the doctor-woman from Wolf Cove to help my mother.

"For," said he, "I been thinkin' a deal about she, o' late, an' they's
no tellin' that she wouldn't do you good."

My mother raised her eyebrows. "The doctor-woman!" cried she. "Why,
David!"

"Ay," said my father, looking away, "I s'pose 'tis great folly in me t'
think it. But they isn't no one else t' turn to."

And that was unanswerable.

"There seems to be no one else," my mother admitted. "But, David--the
doctor-woman?"

"They _does_ work cures," my father pursued. "I'm not knowin' _how_
they does; but they does, an' that's all I'm sayin'. Tim Budderly o' the
Arm told me--an' 'twas but an hour ago--that she charmed un free o'
fits."

"I have heard," my mother mused, "that they work cures. And if----"

"They's no knowin' what she can do," my father broke in, my mother now
listening eagerly. "An' I just wish you'd leave me go fetch her. Won't
you, lass? Come, now!"

"'Tis no use, David," said my mother. "She couldn't do anything--for
me."

"Ay, but," my father persisted, "you're forgettin' that she've worked
cures afore this. I'm fair believin'," he added with conviction, "that
they's virtue in some o' they charms. Not in many, maybe, but in some.
An' she might work a cure on you. I'm not sayin' she will. I'm only
sayin' she might."

My mother stared long at the white washed rafters overhead. "Oh," she
sighed, plucking at the coverlet, "if only she could!"

"She might," said my father. "They's no tellin' till you've tried."

"'Tis true, David," my mother whispered, still fingering the coverlet.
"God works in strange ways--and we've no one else in this land to help
us--and, perhaps, He might----"

My father was quick to press his advantage. "Ay," he cried, "'tis very
_likely_ she'll cure you."

"David," said my mother, tearing at the coverlet, "let us have her over
to see me. She might do me good," she ran on, eagerly. "She might at
least tell me what I'm ailing of. She might stop the pain. She might
even----"

"Hush!" my father interrupted, softly. "Don't build on it, dear," said
he, who had himself, but a moment gone, been so eager and confident.
"But we'll try what she can do."

"Ay, dear," my mother whispered, in a voice grown very weak, "we'll
try."

       *       *       *       *       *

Skipper Tommy Lovejoy would have my father leave _him_ fetch the woman
from Wolf Cove, nor, to my father's impatient surprise, would hear of
any other; and he tipped me a happy wink--which had also a glint of
mystery in it--when my father said that he might: whereby I knew that
the old fellow was about the business of the book. And three days later,
being on the lookout at the window of my mother's room, I beheld the
punt come back by way of North Tickle, Skipper Tommy labouring heavily
at the oars, and the woman, squatted in the stern, serenely managing the
sail to make the best of a capful of wind. I marvelled that the punt
should make headway so poor in the quiet water--and that she should be
so much by the stern--and that Skipper Tommy should be bent near
double--until, by and by, the doctor-woman came waddling up the path,
the skipper at her heels: whereupon I marvelled no more, for the reason
was quite plain.

"Ecod! lad," the skipper whispered, taking me aside, the while wiping
the sweat from his red face with his hand; "but she'll weigh five
quintal if a pound! She's e-_nar_-mous! 'Twould break your heart t' pull
_that_ cargo from Wolf Cove. But I managed it, lad," with a solemn wink,
"for the good o' the cause. Hist! now; but I found out a wonderful
lot--about cures!"

Indeed, she was of a bulk most extraordinary; and she was rolling in
fat, above and below, though it was springtime! 'Twas a wonder to me,
with our folk not yet fattened by the more generous diet of the season,
that she had managed to preserve her great double chin through the
winter. It may be that this unfathomable circumstance first put me in
awe of her; but I am inclined to think, after all, that it was her eyes,
which were not like the eyes of our folk, but were brown--dog's eyes, we
call them on our coast, for we are a blue-eyed race--and upon occasion
flashed like lightning. So much weight did she carry forward, too, that
I fancied (and still believe) she would have toppled over had she not
long ago learned to outwit nature in the matter of maintaining a
balance. And an odd figure she cut, as you may be sure! For she was
dressed somewhat in the fashion of men, with a cloth cap, rusty
pea-jacket and sea-boots (the last, for some mysterious reason, being
slit up the sides, as a brief skirt disclosed); and her grizzled hair
was cut short, in the manner of men, but yet with some of the coquetry
of women. In truth, as we soon found it was her boast that she was the
equal of men, her complaint that the foolish way of the world (which she
said had gone all askew) would not let her skipper a schooner, which, as
she maintained in a deep bass voice, she was more capable of doing than
most men.

"I make no doubt o' that, mum," said Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, to whom, in
the kitchen, that night, she propounded her strange philosophy; "but you
see, mum, '_tis_ the way o' the world, an' folks just _will_ stick t'
their idees, an', mum," he went on, with a propitiating smile, "as you
is only a woman, why----"

"_Only_ a woman!" she roared, sitting up with a jerk. "Does you say----"

"Why, ay, mum!" Skipper Tommy put in, mildly. "You _isn't_ a man, is
you?"

She sat dumb and transfixed.

"Well, then," said Skipper Tommy, in a mildly argumentative way, "'tis
as I says. You must do as the women does, an' not as a man might want
to----"

"Mm-a-an!" she mocked, in a way that withered the poor skipper. "No, I
isn't a man! Was you hearin' me _say_ I was? Oh, you _wasn't_, wasn't
you? An' is you thinkin' I'd _be_ a man an I could? What!" she roared.
"You isn't _sure_ about that, isn't you? Oh, my! Isn't you! Well, well!
He isn't _sure_," appealing to me, with a shaking under lip. "Oh, my!
There's a man--_he's_ a man for you--there's a _man_--puttin' a poor
woman t' scorn! Oh, my!" she wailed, bursting into tears, as all women
will, when put to the need of it. "Oh, dear!"

Skipper Tommy was vastly concerned for her. "My poor woman," he began,
"don't you be cryin', now. Come, now----"

"Oh, his _poor_ woman," she interrupted, bitingly. "_His_ poor woman!
Oh, my! An' I s'pose you thinks 'tis the poor woman's place t' work in
the splittin' stage an' not on the deck of a fore-an'-after. You does,
does you? Ay, 'tis what I _s'posed_!" she said, with scorn. "An' if
_you_ married _me_," she continued, transfixing the terrified skipper
with a fat forefinger, "I s'pose you'd be wantin' me t' split the fish
you cotched. Oh, you would, would you? Oh, my! But I'll have you t'
know, Skipper Thomas Lovejoy," with a sudden and alarming change of
voice, "that I've the makin's of a better ship's-master than _you_. An'
by the Lord Harry! I'm a better _man_," saying which, she leaped from
her chair with surprising agility, and began to roll up her sleeves,
"an' I'll prove it on your wisage! Come on with you!" she cried,
striking a belligerent attitude, her fists waving in a fashion most
terrifying. "Come on an you dare!"

Skipper Tommy dodged behind the table in great haste and horror.

"Oh, dear!" cried she. "He won't! Oh, my! _There's_ a man for you. An'
I'm but a woman, is I. His poor woman. Oh, _his_ woman! Look you here,
Skipper Thomas Lovejoy, you been stickin' wonderful close alongside o'
me since you come t' Wolf Cove, an' I'm not quite knowin' what tricks
you've in mind. But I'm thinkin' you're like all the men, an' I'll have
you t' know this, that if 'tis marriage with me you're thinkin' on----"

But Skipper Tommy gasped and wildly fled.

"Ha!" she snorted, triumphantly. "I was _thinkin_' I was a better man
than he!"

"'Tis a shame," said I, "t' scare un so!"

Whereat, without uttering a sound, she laughed until the china clinked
and rattled on the shelves, and I thought the pots and pans would come
clattering from their places. And then she strutted the floor for all
the world like a rooster once I saw in the South.



VIII

THE BLIND and The BLIND


Ah, well! at once she set about the cure of my mother. And she went
tripping about the house--and tripping she went, believe me, stout as
she was, as lightsome as one of Skipper Tommy's fairies--with a manner
so large and confident, a glance so compelling, that 'twas beyond us to
doubt her power or slight her commands. First of all she told my mother,
repeating it with patience and persuasive insistence, that she would be
well in six days, and must believe the words true, else she would never
be well, at all. And when my mother had brightened with this new hope,
the woman, muttering words without meaning, hung a curious brown object
about her neck, which she said had come from a holy place and possessed
a strange and powerful virtue for healing. My mother fondled it, with
glistening eyes and very tenderly, and, when the doctor-woman had gone
out, whispered to me that it was a horse-chestnut, and put her in mind
of the days when she dwelt in Boston, a little maid.

"But 'tis not healin' you," I protested, touching a tear which had
settled in the deep hollow of her cheek. "'Tis makin' you sad."

"Oh, no!" said she. "'Tis making me very happy."

"But you is cryin'," said I. "An' I'm thinkin' 'tis because you wisht
you was in Boston."

"No, no!" she cried, her lip trembling. "I'm not wishing that. I've
_never_ wished _that_! I'm glad your father found me and took me where
he wished. Oh, I'm glad of that--glad he found and loved me--glad I gave
myself to his dear care! Why, were I in Boston, to-day, I would not have
my dear, big David, your father, lad, and I would not have your sister,
and I would not have----"

"Me?" I put in, archly.

"Ay," she said, with infinite tenderness, "_you,_ Davy, dear!"

For many days, thereafter, the doctor-woman possessed our house, and
I've no doubt she was happy in her new estate--at table, at any rate,
for there she was garrulent and active, and astoundingly active, with
less of garrulence, on feast days, when my father had pork provided. And
she had a way with the maids in the kitchen that kept the young men from
the door (which my sister never could manage); and I have since been led
to think 'twas because she sought to work her will on Skipper Tommy
Lovejoy, undisturbed by the clatter and quick eyes of young folk. For
Skipper Tommy, to my increasing alarm and to the panic of the twins, who
wished for no second mother, still frequented the kitchen, when the
day's work was done, and was all the while in a mood so downcast, of a
manner so furtive, that it made me sad to talk with him. But by day our
kitchen was intolerable with smells--intolerable to him and to us all
(save to my sister, who is, and ever has been, brave)--while the
doctor-woman hung over the stove, working with things the sight of which
my stomach would not brook, but which my mother took in ignorance,
hoping they would cure her. God knows what medicines were mixed! I would
not name the things I saw. And the doctor-woman would not even have us
ask what use she made of them: nor have I since sought to know; 'tis
best, I think, forgotten.

But my mother got no better.

"Skipper David," said the doctor-woman, at last, "I'm wantin' four
lump-fish."

"Four lump-fish!" my father wondered. "Is you?"

"Oh, my!" she answered, tartly. "Is I? Yes, I is. An' I'll thank you t'
get un an' ask no questions. For _I'm_ mindin' _my_ business, an' I'll
thank _you_ t' mind _yours_. An' if _you_ thinks _you_ can do the
doctorin'----"

"I'm not seekin' t' hinder you," said my father, flushing. "You go on
with your work. I'll pay; but----"

"Oh, will you?" she cried, shrilly. "He'll pay, says he. Oh, my! He'll
_pay_! Oh, dear!"

"Come, now, woman!" said my father, indignantly. "I've had you come, an'
I'll stand by what you does. I'll get the lump-fish; but 'tis the last
cure you'll try. If it fails, back you go t' Wolf Cove."

"Oh, my!" said she, taken aback. "Back I goes, does I! An' t' Wolf Cove?
Oh, dear!"

My father sent word to the masters of the cod-traps, which were then set
off the heads, that such sculpin as got in the nets by chance must be
saved for him. He was overwrought, as I have said, by sorrow, overcome,
it may be, by the way this woman had. And soon he had for her four
green, prickly-skinned, jelly-like, big-bellied lump-fish, which were
not appetizing to look upon, though I've heard tell that starving folk,
being driven to it, have eaten them. My sister would not be driven from
the kitchen, though the woman was vehement in anger, but held to it that
she must know the character of the dose my mother was to take. So they
worked together--the doctor-woman scowling darkly--until the medicine
was ready: which was in the late evening of that day. Then they went to
my mother's room to administer the first of it.

"'Tis a new medicine," my mother said, with a smile, when she held the
glass in her hand.

"Ay," crooned the doctor-woman, "drink it, now, my dear."

My mother raised the glass to her lips. "And what is it?" she asked,
withdrawing the glass with a shudder.

"Tut, tut!" the doctor-woman exclaimed. "'Tis but a soup. 'Twill do you
good."

"I'm sure it will," my mother gently said. "But I wonder what it is."

Again she raised the glass with a wry face. But my sister stayed her
hand.

"I'll not have you take it," said she, firmly, "without knowin' what it
is."

The doctor-woman struck her arm away. "Leave the woman drink it!" she
screamed, now in a gust of passion.

"What's--this you're--giving me?" my mother stammered, looking upon the
glass in alarm and new disgust.

"'Tis the eyes o' four lump-fish," said my sister.

My mother dropped the glass, so that the contents were spilled over the
coverlet, and fell back on the pillows, where she lay white and still.

"Out with you!" said my sister to the doctor-woman. "I'll have no more
o' your cures!"

"Oh, my!" shrilled the woman, dropping into her most biting manner.
"_She_ won't have no more o' my cures! Oh, dear, she----"

"Out with you!" cried my sister, as she smartly clapped her hands under
the woman's nose. "Out o' the house with you!"

"Oh, 'tis _out_ with me, is it? Out o' the _house_ with me! Oh, dear!
Out o' the house with _me_! I'll have you t' know----"

My sister ignored the ponderous fist raised against her. She stamped her
small foot, her eyes flashing, the blood flushing her cheeks and brow.

"Out you go!" she cried. "_I'm_ not afeared o' you!"

I stood aghast while the doctor-woman backed through the door. Never
before had I known my gentle sister to flash and flush with angry
passion. Nor have I since.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next morning, my father paid the woman from Wolf Cove a barrel of flour,
with which she was ill content, and traded her two barrels more for the
horse-chestnut, which my mother wished to keep lying on her breast,
because it comforted her. To Skipper Tommy Lovejoy fell the lot of
taking the woman back in the punt; for, as my father said, 'twas he that
brought her safely, and, surely, the one who could manage that could be
trusted to get her back without accident.

"An' 'tis parlous work, lad," said the skipper, with an anxious shrug,
while we waited on the wharf for the woman to come. "I'm very much
afeared. Ay," he added, frowning, "I is that!"

"I'm not knowin' why," said I, "for the wind's blowin' fair from the
sou'west, an' you'll have a fine time t' Wolf Cove."

"'Tis not that," said he, quietly. "Hist!" jerking his head towards our
house, where the woman yet was. "'Tis _she_!"

"I'd not be afeared o' _she_," said I. "'Twas but last night," I added,
proudly, "my sister gave her her tea in a mug."

"Oh, ay," said he, "I heared tell o' that. But 'tis not t' the point.
Davy, lad," in an undertone which betrayed great agitation, "she've her
cap set for a man, an' she's desperate."

"Ay?" said I.

He bent close to my ear. "An' she've her eye on _me_!" he whispered.

"Skipper Tommy," I earnestly pleaded, "don't you go an' do it."

"Well, lad," he answered, pulling at his nose, "the good Lard made me
what I is. I'm not complainin' o' the taste He showed. No, no! I would
not think o' doin' that. But----"

"He made you kind," I broke in, hotly, "an' such as good folk love."

"I'm not knowin' much about that, Davy. The good Lard made me as He
willed. But I'm an obligin' man. I've turned out, Davy, most wonderful
obligin'. I'm always doin' what folks wants me to. Such men as me, lad,"
he went on, precisely indicating the weakness of his tender character,
"is made that way. An' if she tells me she's a lone woman, and if she
begins t' cry, what is I to do? An' if I has t' pass me word, Davy, t'
stop her tears! Eh, lad? Will you tell me, David Roth, _what_ is I t'
do?"

"Turn the punt over," said I, quickly. "They's wind enough for that,
man! An' 'tis your only chance, Skipper Tommy--'tis the only chance
_you_ got--if she begins t' cry."

He was dispirited. "I wisht," he said, sadly, "that the Lard hadn't made
me _quite_ so obligin'!"

"'Tis too bad!"

"Ay," he sighed, "'tis too bad I can't trust meself in the company o'
folk that's givin' t' weepin'."

"I'll have the twins pray for you," I ventured.

"Do!" he cried, brightening. "'Tis a grand thought! An' do you tell them
two dear lads that I'll never give in--no, lad, their father'll never
give in t' that woman--till he's just _got_ to."

"But, Skipper Tommy," said I, now much alarmed, so hopeless was his
tone, stout as his words were, "tell my father you're not wantin' t' go.
Sure, he can send Elisha Turr in your stead."

"Ay," said he, "but I _is_ wantin' t' go. That's it. I'm thinkin' all
the time o' the book, lad. I'm wantin' t' make that book a good book.
I'm wantin' t' learn more about cures."

"I'm thinkin' _her_ cures isn't worth much," said I.

He patted me on the head. "You is but a lad," said he, indulgent with my
youth, "an' your judgment isn't well growed yet. Some o' they cures is
bad, no doubt," he added, "an' some is good. I wants no bad cures in my
book. I'll not _have_ them there. But does you think I can't _try_ un
all on _meself_ afore I has un _put_ in the book?"

       *       *       *       *       *

When the punt was well through North Tickle, on a free, freshening wind,
I sped to the Rat Hole to apprise the twins of their father's unhappy
situation, and to beg of them to be constant and importunate in prayer
that he might be saved from the perils of that voyage. Then, still
running as fast as my legs would go, I returned to our house, where,
again, I found the shadow and the mystery, and the hush in all the
rooms.

"Davy!"

"Ay, Bessie," I answered. "'Tis I."

"Our mother's wantin' you, dear."

I tiptoed up the stair, and to the bed where my mother lay, and, very
softly, I laid my cheek against her lips.

"My sister sent me, mum," I whispered.

"Yes," she sighed. "I'm--just wanting you."

Her arm, languid and light, stole round my waist.



IX

A WRECK on The THIRTY DEVILS


Fog--thick, stifling, clammy! A vast bank of it lay stranded on the
rocks of our coast: muffling voices, making men gasp. In a murky cloud
it pressed against my mother's windows. Wharves, cottages, harbour
water, great hills beyond--the whole world--had vanished. There was
nothing left but a patch of smoking rock beneath. It had come--a grey
cloud, drifting low and languidly--with a lazy draught of wind from the
east, which had dragged it upon the coast, spread it broadcast and
expired of the effort to carry it into the wilderness.

"Wonderful thick, b'y!" was the salutation for the day.

"'S mud," was the response.

Down went the barometer--down, down, slowly, uncompromisingly down!
'Twas shocking to the nerves to consult it.

"An' I'm tellin' you this, lads," said a man on my father's wharf,
tugging uneasily at his sou'wester, "that afore midnight you'll be
needin' t' glue your hair on!"

This feeling of apprehension was everywhere--on the roads, in the
stages, in the very air. No man of our harbour put to sea. With the big
wind coming, 'twas no place for punt, schooner or steamer. The waters
off shore were set with traps for the unwary and the unknowing--the
bluffs veiled by mist, the drift ice hidden, the reefs covered up. In a
gale of wind from the east there would be no escape.

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the dragging day my mother had been restless and in pain. In the
evening she turned to us.

"I'm tired," she whispered.

Tired? Oh, ay! She was tired--very, very tired! It was near time for her
to rest. She was sadly needing that.

"An' will you try t' sleep, now?" my sister asked.

"Ay," she answered, wanly, "I'll sleep a bit, now, if I can. Where's
Davy?"

"Sure, mama," said I, in surprise, "I'm sittin' right by the bed!"

"Ah, Davy!" she whispered, happily, stretching out a hand to touch me.
"My little son!"

"An' I been sittin' here all the time!" said I.

"All the time?" she said. "But I've been so sick, dear, I haven't
noticed much. And 'tis so dark."

"No, mum; 'tis not so very. 'Tis thick, but 'tis not so very dark. 'Tis
not lamp-lightin' time yet."

"How strange!" she muttered. "It seems so very dark. Ah, well! Do you go
out for a run in the air, dear, while your mother sleeps. I'm thinking
I'll be better--when I've had a little sleep."

My sister busied herself with the pillows and coverlet; and she made all
soft and neat, that my mother might rest the better for it.

"You're so tender with me, dear," said my mother "Every day I bless God
for my dear daughter."

My sister kissed my mother. "Hush!" she said. "Do you go t' sleep, now,
little mother. Twill do you good."

"Yes," my mother sighed, "for I'm--so very--tired."

       *       *       *       *       *

When she had fallen asleep, I slung my lantern over my arm and scampered
off to the Rat Hole to yarn with the twins, making what speed I could in
the fog and untimely dusk, and happy, for the moment, to be free of the
brooding shadow in our house. The day was not yet fled; but the light
abroad--a sullen greyness, splashed with angry red in the west, where
the mist was thinning--was fading fast and fearfully. And there was an
ominous stirring of wind in the east: at intervals, storm puffs came
swirling over the hills from the sea; and they ran off inland like mad,
leaving the air of a sudden once more stagnant. Fresh and cool they
were--grateful enough, indeed, blowing through the thick, dead dusk--but
sure warning, too, of great gusts to come. We were to have weather--a
gale from the northeast, by all the lore of the coast--and it would be a
wild night, with the breakers of Raven Rock and the Thirty Black Devils
leaping high and merrily in the morning. As I ran down the last hill,
with an eye on the light glowing in the kitchen window of Skipper Tommy
Lovejoy's cottage, I made shift to hope that the old man had made
harbour from Wolf Cove, but thought it most unlikely.

He had.

"You got home, Skipper Tommy," I cried, shouldering the door shut
against a gust of wind, "an' I'm glad o' that! 'Tis goin' t' blow most
awful, I'm thinkin'."

My welcome was of the gloomiest description. I observed that the twins,
who lay feet to feet on the corner-seat, did not spring to meet me, but
were cast down; and that Skipper Tommy, himself, sitting over the fire
with a cup of tea on the table at his elbow, was glum as a deacon.

"Oh," said he, looking up with the ghost of a laugh, "I got in. You
wasn't frettin' about _me_, was you, Davy? Oh, don't you ever go
frettin' about me, lad, when--ah, well!--when they's nothin' but fog t'
fear. Sure, 'twasn't no trouble for _me_ t' find North Tickle in the
fog. Ah, me! If 'twas only that! Sure, I bumped her nose agin the point
o' God's Warning, an' rattled her bones a bit, but, lad, me an' the punt
is used t' little things like that. Oh, ay," he repeated, dismally, "I
got _in_."

Evidently the worst had happened. "Did you?" said I, blankly. "An' was
you--was you--_cotched_?"

"Is you thinkin' o' _she_, Davy?" he answered. "Well," in a melancholy
drawl, smoothing his stubble of grey beard, his forehead deeply
furrowed, "I'm not admittin' I is. But, Davy," he added, "she cast a
hook, an'--well, I--I nibbled. Yes, I did, lad! I went an' nibbled!"

One of the twins started up in alarm. "Hark!" he whispered.

We listened--but heard nothing. A gust of wind rattled the window, and,
crying hoarsely, swept under the house. There was nothing more than
that.

"Hist!" said the twin.

We heard only the ominous mutter and sigh of the gust departing.

"Jacky," said the skipper, anxiously, "what was you thinkin' you heared,
b'y?"

Jacky fidgetted in his seat. "'Twas like the mail-boat's whistle, zur,"
he answered, "but 'twas sort o' hoarser."

"Why, lad," said the skipper, "the mail-boat's not handy by two hundred
miles! 'Twas but the wind."

But he scratched his head in a puzzled way.

"Ay, maybe, zur," Jacky replied, still alert for a sound from the sea,
"but 'twas not _like_ the wind."

Skipper Tommy held up his hand. "Ay," said he, when we had listened a
long time, "'twas but the wind."

"Ay," said we all, "'twas but the wind."

"Ah, well, Davy," the skipper resumed, "she cast a hook, as I was
sayin', an' I nibbled."

The twins groaned in concert.

"But the good Lard, Davy," the skipper went on, "had sent a switch o'
wind from the sou'west. So they was a bit o' lop on the sea, an' 'twas
t' that I turned, when the case got desperate. An' desperate it soon
got, lad. Ah, indeed! 'long about Herring Head it got fair desperate.
'Skipper Thomas,' says she, 'we're gettin' old, you an' me,' says she.
'Sure, mum,' says I, 'not _you_, mum! I'll never give in t' that,' says
I."

Our faces fell.

"'Twas what I done," the skipper persisted, with an air of guilt and
remorse. "I just, felt like doin' it, an' so I done it. 'I'll never give
in to it, mum,' says I, 'that _you're_ gettin' old.'"

I groaned with the twins--and Skipper Tommy made a dismal quartette of
it--and the wind, rising sharply at that moment, contributed a chorus of
heartrending noises.

"Ay," the skipper continued, "'twas a sad mistake. 'Twas floutin'
Providence t' say a word like that to a woman like she. But I just felt
like it. Then, 'Oh, dear,' says she, ''tis barb'rous lonely t' Wolf
Cove,' says she. ''Tis too bad, mum,' says I. An' I throwed the bow o'
the punt plump into a wave, Davy, lad, an' shipped a bucket o' water.
'An',' says she, 'it must be lonely for you, Skipper Thomas,' says she,
'livin' there at the Rat Hole.'"

Skipper Tommy paused to sigh and tweak his nose; and he tweaked so often
and sighed so long that I lost patience.

"An' what did you do then?" I demanded.

"Took in more water, Davy," he groaned, "for they wasn't nothin' else I
could think of. 'An',' says she, 'is it not lonely, Skipper Thomas,'
says she, 'at the Rat Hole?' 'No, mum,' says I, takin' aboard another
bucket or two, 'for I've the twins,' says I. With that she put her
kerchief to her eyes, Davy, an' begun t' sniffle. An' t' relieve me
feelin's, lad, for I was drove desperate, I just _had_ t' let the top of
a wave fall over the bow: which I done, Davy, an' may the Lard forgive
me! An' I'm not denyin' that 'twas a sizable wave she took."

He stared despondently at the floor.

"She gathered up her skirts," he went on. "An', 'Ah, Skipper Thomas,'
says she, 'twins,' says she, 'is nothin'. 'Sure,' says she, 'twins is no
good on a cold winter's night.' I'm not denyin', Davy," said the
skipper, solemnly, looking me straight in the eye, "that she scared me
with that. I'm not denyin' that me hand slipped. I'm not denyin' that I
put the tiller over a _wee bit_ too far--maybe a foot--maybe a foot an'
a half, in the excitement o' the moment--I isn't quite sure. No, no! I'm
far, lad, from denyin' that I near swamped the boat. ''Tis gettin'
rough,' says she. 'Ay,' says I, 'an' we'll be gettin' along a deal
better, mum,' says I, 'if you bail.' So I kep' her bailin', Davy," the
skipper concluded, with a long sigh and a sad wag of the head, "from
Herring Head t' Wolf Cove. An', well, lad, she didn't quite cotch me,
for she hadn't no time t' waste, but, as I was sayin', she cast a hook."

"You're well rid o' she," said I.

Timmie rose to look out of the window. "Hear the wind!" said he, turning
in awe, while the cottage trembled under the rush of a gust. "My! but
'twill blow, the night!"

"Ah, Timmie," sighed the skipper, "what's a gale o' wind t' the snares
o' women!"

"Women!" cried I. "Sure, she'll trouble you no more. You're well rid o'
she."

"But I _isn't_ rid o' she, Davy," he groaned, "an' that's what's
troublin' the twins an' me. I isn't rid o' she, for I've heared tell
she've some l'arnin' an' can write a letter."

"Write!" cried I. "She won't write."

"Ah, Davy," sighed the skipper, his head falling over his breast,
"you've no knowledge o' women. They never gives in, lad, that they're
beat. They never _knows_ they're beat. An' that one, lad, wouldn't know
it if she was told!"

"Leave her write so much as she wants," said I. "'Twill do you no harm."

"No harm?" said he, looking up. "No harm in writin'?"

"No," said I. "Sure, you can't read!"

The twins leaped from the corner-seat and emitted a shrill and joyful
whoop. Skipper Tommy threw back his head, opened his great mouth in
silent laughter, and slapped his thigh with such violence that the noise
was like a pistol shot.

"No more I can," he roared, "an' I'm too old t' l'arn!"

Laughter--a fit of it--seized him. It exploded like a thunder-clap, and
continued, uproariously, interrupted by gasps, when he lost his breath,
and by groans, when a stitch made him wince. There was no resisting it.
The twins doubled up in the corner-seat, miserably screaming, their
heels waving in the air; and Davy Roth collapsed on the floor, gripping
his sides, his eyes staring, his mouth wide open, venting his mirth, the
while, in painful shrieks. Skipper Tommy was himself again--freed o' the
nets o' women--restored to us and to his own good humour--once again
boon comrade of the twins and me! He jumped from his chair; and with a
"Tra-la-la!" and a merry "Hi-tum-ti-iddle-dee-um!" he fell into a
fantastic dance, thumping the boards with his stockinged feet, advancing
and retreating with a flourish, bowing and balancing to an imaginary
partner, all in a fashion so excruciatingly exaggerated that the twins
screamed, "Don't, father!" and Davy Roth moaned, "Oh, stop, zur, please,
zur!" while the crimson, perspiring, light-footed, ridiculously
bow-legged old fellow still went cavorting over the kitchen floor.

       *       *       *       *       *


But I was a child--only a child--living in the shadow of some great
sorrow, which, though I did not know it, had pressed close upon us.
There flashed before me a vision of my mother lying wan and white on
the pillows. And I turned on my face and began to cry.

"Davy, lad!" said the skipper, tenderly, seeking to lift my head. "Hush,
lad! Don't cry!"

But I sobbed the harder.

"Ah, Davy," the twins pleaded, "stop cryin'! Do, now!"

Skipper Tommy took me on his knee; and I hid my face on his breast, and
lay sobbing hopelessly, while he sought to sooth me with many a pat and
"Hush!" and "Never mind!"

"I'm wantin' t' go home," I moaned.

He gathered me closer in his arms. "Do you stay your grief, Davy," he
whispered, "afore you goes."

"I'm wantin' t' go home," I sobbed, "t' my mother!"

Timmie and Jacky came near, and the one patted my hand, and the other
put an arm around me.

"Sure, the twins 'll take you home, Davy," said the skipper, softly,
"when you stops cryin'. Hush, lad! Hush, now!"

They were tender with me, and I was comforted; my sobs soon ceased, but
still I kept my head against the skipper's breast. And while there I
lay, there came from the sea--from the southwest in a lull of the
wind--breaking into the tender silence--the blast of a steam whistle,
deep, full-throated, prolonged.

"Hist!" whispered Jacky. "Does you not hear?"

Skipper Tommy stood me on my feet, and himself slowly rose, listening
intently.

"Lads," he asked, his voice shaking, "was it the mail-boat?"

"No, zur!" the twins gasped.

"Is you sure?"

"'Tis not the way she blows, zur!"

"'Tis surely not she," the skipper mused. "In the sou'west she'd be out
of her course. Hark!"

Once more the long, hoarse roar broke the silence, but now rising again
and again, agonized, like a cry for help.

"Dear Lard!" skipper Tommy cried, putting his hands to his face. "'Tis a
big steamer on the Thirty Black Devils!"

"A wreck!" shouted Jacky, leaping for his jacket. "A wreck! A wreck!"

Distraction seized the skipper. "'Tis a wreck!" he roared. "My boots,
lads! Wreck! Wreck!"

We lads went mad. No steamer had been wrecked on the coast in our time.
There were deeds to do! There was salvage to win!

"Wreck!" we screamed. "Wreck! Wreck! Wreck!"

Then out we four ran. It was after dark. The vault was black. But the
wind had turned the fog to thin mist. The surrounding hills stood
disclosed--solid shadows in the night. Half a gale was blowing from the
sea: it broke over the hills; it swooped from the inky sky; it swept
past in long, clinging gusts. We breasted it heads down. The twins
raised the alarm. Wreck! Wreck! Folk joined us as we ran. They were in
anxious haste to save life. They were gleeful with the hope of salvage.
What the sea casts up the Lord provides! Wreck! Wreck! Far-off cries
answered us. The cottage windows were aglow. Lanterns danced over the
flakes. Lights moved over the harbour water. Wreck! Wreck! On we
stumbled. Our feet struck the road with thud and scrape. Our lanterns
clattered and buzzed and fluttered. Wreck! Wreck! We plunged down the
last hill and came gasping to my father's wharf.

Most of our folk were already vigorously underway towards South Tickle.

"Lives afore salvage, lads!" my father shouted from his punt.

My sister caught my arm.

"'Tis a big steamer, Bessie!" I cried, turning.

"Ay," she said, hurriedly. "But do you go stay with mother, Davy. She've
sent me t' Tom Turr's by the path. They're t' fetch the wrecked folk
there. Make haste, lad! She've been left alone."

I ran up the path to our house.



X

THE FLIGHT


It was late in the night. My mother and I sat alone in her dim-lit room.
We were waiting--both waiting. And I was waiting for the lights of the
returning punts.

"Davy!" my mother called. "You are still there?"

"Ay, mother," I answered. "I'm still sittin' by the window, lookin'
out."

"I am glad, dear," she sighed, "that you are here--with me--to-night."

She craved love, my love; and my heart responded, as the knowing hearts
of children will.

"Ah, mother," I said, "'tis lovely t' be sittin' here--all alone with
you!"

"Don't, Davy!" she cried, catching her breath. "I'm not able to bear the
joy of it. My heart----"

"'Tis so," I persisted, "'cause I loves you so!"

"But, oh, I'm glad, Davy!" she whispered. "I'm glad you love your
mother. And I'm glad," she added, softly, "that you've told me
so--to-night."

By and by I grew drowsy. My eyes would not stay open. And I fell asleep
with my head on the window-sill. I do not know how long I slept.

"Davy!" my mother called.

"Ay?" I answered, waking. "Sure, I been asleep!"

"But you're not wanting to go to bed?" she asked, anxiously. "You'll not
leave your mother all alone, will you?"

"No, no, mama!"

"No," she said. "Do not leave your mother, now."

Again I fell asleep. It may be that I wasted a long, long time in sleep.

"Davy!" she called.

I answered. And, "I cannot stay awake," I said. "Sure, 'tis quite past
me t' do it, for I'm so wonderful sleepy."

"Come closer," she said. "Tired lad!" she went on, when she had my hand
in hers. "Sleepy head! Lie down beside me, dear, and go to sleep. I'm
not afraid--not afraid, at all--to be left alone. Oh, you're so tired,
little lad! Lie down and sleep. For your mother is very brave--to-night.
And tell your father, Davy--when he comes and wakes you--and tell your
sister, too--that your mother was happy, oh, very happy and brave,
when...."

"When you fell asleep?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered, in a voice so low I could but hear it. "That I was
happy when--I fell asleep."

I pulled off my jacket.

"I'm wanting to hear you say your prayers, Davy," she said, "before you
go to sleep. I'm wanting once again--just once again--to hear you say
your prayers."

I knelt beside the bed.

"My little son!" my mother said. "My--little--son!"

"My mother!" I responded, looking up.

She lifted my right hand. "Dear Jesus, lover of children," she prayed,
"take, oh, take this little hand!"

And I began to say my prayers, while my mother's fingers wandered
tenderly through my curls, but I was a tired child, and fell asleep as I
prayed. And when I awoke, my mother's hand lay still and strangely heavy
on my head.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then the child that was I knew that his mother was dead. He leaped from
his knees with a broken cry, and stood expectant, but yet in awe,
searching the dim, breathless room for a beatified figure, white-robed,
winged, radiant, like the angel of the picture by his bed, for he
believed that souls thus took their flight; but he saw only shadows.

"Mama," he whispered, "where is you?"

There was no answer to the child's question. The risen wind blew wildly
in the black night without. But it was still dim and breathless in the
room.

"Mama," said the child, "is your soul hidin' from me?"

Still the child was left unanswered. He waited, listening--but was not
answered.

"Don't hide," he pleaded. "Oh, don't hide, for I'm not wantin' to play!
Oh, mother, I'm wantin' you sore!"

And, now, he knew that she would come, for, "I'm wantin' you, mother!"
he had been used to crying in the night, and she had never failed to
answer, but had come swiftly and with comfort. He waited for a voice and
for a vision, surely expecting them in answer to his cry; but he saw
only shadows, heard only the scream of the wind, and a sudden, angry
patter of rain on the roof. Then the child that was I fancied that his
mother's soul had fled while yet he slept, and, being persuaded that its
course was heavenward, ran out, seeking it. And he forgets what then he
did, save that he climbed the broken cliff behind the house, crying,
"Wait, oh, wait!" and that he came, at last, to the summit of the
Watchman, where there was a tumult of wind and rain.

"Mama!" he screamed, lifting his hands in appeal to the wide, black
sky. "You forgot t' kiss me good-bye! Oh, come back!"

He flung himself prone on the naked rock, for the soul of his mother did
not come, though patiently he had watched for the glory of its returning
flight.

"She've forgot me!" he moaned. "Oh, she've forgot me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When, trembling and bedraggled, I came again to the room where my
mother's body lay, my sister was kneeling by the bed, and my father was
in converse with a stranger, who was not like the men of our coast. "Not
necessarily mortal," this man was saying. "An operation--just a simple
operation--easily performed with what you have at hand--would have saved
the woman."

"Saved her, Doctor?" said my father passionately. "Is you sayin'
_that_?"

"I have said so. It would have saved her. Had we been wrecked five days
ago she would have been alive."

A torrent of rain beat on the house.

"Alive?" my father muttered, staring at the floor. "She would have been
alive!"

The stranger looked upon my father in pity. "I'm sorry for you, my man,"
he said.

"'Tis strange," my father muttered, still staring at the floor. "'Tis
strange--how things--comes about. Five days--just five...."

He muttered on.

"Yes," the stranger broke in, stirring nervously. "Had I come but five
days ago."

A sudden rising of the gale--the breaking of its fury--filled the room
with a dreadful confusion.

"Indeed--I'm--sorry--very sorry," the stranger stammered; his lips were
drawn; in his eyes was the flare of some tragedy of feeling.

My father did not move--but continued vacantly to stare at the floor.

"Really--you know--I am!"

"Is you?" then my father asked, looking up. "Is you sorry for me an'
Davy an' the lass?" The stranger dared not meet my father's eyes. "An'
you could have saved her," my father went on. "_You_ could have saved
her! She didn't have t' go. She died--for want o' you! God Almighty," he
cried, raising his clenched hand, "this man come too late God
Almighty--does you hear me, God Almighty?--the man you sent come too
late! An' you," he flashed, turning on the stranger, "could have saved
her? Oh, my dear lass! An' she would have been here the night? Here like
she used t' be? Here in her dear body? Here?" he cried, striking his
breast. "She would have lain here the night had you come afore? Oh, why
didn't you come?" he moaned. "You hold life an' death in your hands,
zur, t' give or withhold. Why didn't you come--t' give the gift o' life
t' she?"

The stranger shrank away. "Stop!" he cried, in agony. "How was I to
know?"

"Hush, father!" my sister pleaded.

In a flash of passion my father advanced upon the man. "How was you t'
know?" he burst out. "Where you been? What you been doin'? Does you hear
me?" he demanded, his voice rising with the noise of wind and rain.
"What you been doin'?"

"Stop it, man! You touch me to the quick! You don't know--you don't
know--"

"What you been doin'? We're dyin' here for want o' such as you. What you
been doin'?"

There was no answer. The stranger had covered his face with his hands.

"O God," my father cried, again appealing to Heaven, "judge this man!"

"Stop!"

It was a bitter cry--the agony sounding clear and poignant above the
manifold voices of the storm--but it won no heed.

"O God, judge this man!"

"Will no one stop him?" the stranger moaned. "For God's sake--stop
him--some one!"

"O God, judge this man!"

The stranger fled....

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh, my dear wife!" my father sobbed, at last, sinking into the great
armchair, wherein the mail-boat doctor had not sat. "Oh, my dear wife!"

"Father!" my dear sister whispered, flinging her soft arms about his
neck and pressing her cheek against his brow. "Dear father!"

And while the great gale raged, she sought to comfort my father and me,
but could not.



XI

The WOMEN at The GATE


By and by my sister put me in dry clothes, and bidding me be a good lad,
sat me in the best room below, where the maids had laid a fire. And
Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, finding me there disconsolate, took me to the
seaward hills to watch the break of day: for the rain had ceased, the
wind fallen away; and the gray light of dawn was in the eastern sky.

"I'm wantin' t' tell you, Davy," he said, in a confidential way, as we
trudged along, "about the gate o' heaven."

I took his hand.

"An' I _been_ wantin' t' tell you," he added, giving his nose a little
tweak, "for a long, long time."

"Is you?"

"Ay, lad; an' about the women at the gate."

"Women, Skipper Tommy?" said I, puzzled. "An', pray, who is they?"

"Mothers," he answered. "Just mothers."

"What they doin' at the gate? No, no! They're not _there_. Sure, they're
playin' harps at the foot o' the throne."

"No," said he, positively; "they're at the gate."

"What they doin' there?"

"Waitin'."

We were now come to the crest of a hill; and the sea was spread before
us--breaking angrily under the low, black sky.

"What's they waitin' for?" I asked.

"Davy, lad," he answered, impressively, "they're waitin' for them they
bore. _That's_ what they're waitin' for."

"For their sons?"

"Ay; an' for their daughters, too."

While I watched the big seas break on the rocks below--and the clouds
drift up from the edge of the world--I pondered upon this strange
teaching. My mother had never told me of the women waiting at the gate.

"Ah, but," I said, at last, "I'm thinkin' God would never allow it t' go
on. He'd want un all t' sing His praises. Sure, they'd just be wastin'
His time--waitin' there at the gate."

Skipper Tommy shook his head--and smiled, and softly patted my shoulder.

"An' He'd gather un there, at the foot o' the throne," I went on, "an'
tell un t' waste no more, but strike up their golden harps."

"No, no!"

"Why not?"

"They wouldn't go."

"But He'd _make_ un go."

"He couldn't."

"Not _make_ un!" I cried, amazed.

"Look you, lad," he explained, in a sage whisper, "they're all mothers,
an' they'd be _wantin_' t' stay where they was, an', ecod! they'd find a
way."

"Ah, well," I sighed, "'tis wearisome work--this waitin'."

"I'm thinkin' not," he answered, soberly, speaking rather to himself
than to me. "'Tis not wearisome for such as know the good Lard's plan."

"'Tis wonderful hard," said I, "on the mothers o' wicked sons."

The old man smiled. "Who knows," he asked, "that 'tis wonderful hard on
they?"

"But then," I mused, "the Lord would find a way t' comfort the mother o'
such."

"Oh, ay!"

"I'm thinkin', maybe," I went on, "that He'd send an angel t' tell her
they wasn't worth the waitin' for. 'Mind un not,' He'd say. 'They're
nothin' but bad, wicked boys. Leave un go t' hell an' burn.'"

"An', now, what, lad," he inquired with deep interest, "is you thinkin'
the mother would do?"

"She'd take the angel's hand," I sighed.

"Ay?"

"An' go up t' the throne--forgettin' them she'd left."

"An' then?"

"She'd praise the Lard," I sobbed.

"Never!" the skipper cried.

I looked hopefully in his face.

"Never!" he repeated. "'Lard,' she'd say, 'I loves un all the more for
their sins. Leave me wait--oh, leave me wait--here at the gate.
Maybe--sometime--they'll come!'"

"But some," said I, in awe, "would wait forever--an' ever--an' ever----"

"Not one!"

"Not one?"

"Not one! 'Twould break the dear Lard's heart t' see un waitin' there."

I looked away to the furthest clouds, fast changing, now, from gray to
silver; and for a long time I watched them thin and brighten.

"Skipper Tommy," I asked, at last, "is _my_ mother at the gate?"

"Ay," said he confidently.

"Waitin'?"

"Ay."

"An' for me?"

He gave me an odd look--searching my very soul with his mild old eyes.
"Doesn't you think she is?" he asked.

"I knows it!" I cried.

       *       *       *       *       *

Far off, at the horizon, the sky broke--and the rift broadened--and the
clouds lifted--and the east flamed with colour--and all at once the
rosy, hopeful light of dawn flushed the frowning sea.

"Look!" the skipper whispered.

"Ay," said I, "the day is broke."

"A new day!" said he.



XII

DOCTOR AND I


How the _St. Lawrence_ came to stray from her course down the Strait I
do not remember. As concerns such trivial things, the days that followed
my mother's death are all misty in my mind; but I do recall (for when
Skipper Tommy had made my mother's coffin he took me to the heads of
Good Promise to see the sight) that the big seas of that day pounded the
vessel to a shapeless wreck on the jagged rocks of the Reef of the
Thirty Black Devils: where she lay desolate for many a day thereafter.
But the sea was not quick enough to balk our folk of their salvage: all
day long--even while the ship was going to pieces--they swarmed upon
her; and they loaded their punts again and again, fearlessly boarding,
and with infinite patience and courage managed to get their heavensent
plunder ashore. 'Twas diverting to watch them; and when the twins, who
had been among the most active at the wreck, came at last to their
father, I laughed to know that, as Timmie said, they had food enough
ashore to keep the wrinkles out of their stomachs all winter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our harbour was for many days crowded with wrecked folk--strange of
speech, of dress, of manners--who went about in flocks, prying into our
innermost concerns, so that we were soon wearied of their perverse and
insatiable curiosity, though we did not let them know it. They were
sorry for my father and sister and me, I know, for, one and all, when
they came to see my mother lying dead, they _said_ they were. And they
stood soberly by her shallow grave, when we laid her dear body away, and
they wept when old Tom Tot spoke of the dust and ashes, which we are,
and the stony earth rattled hopelessly on the coffin. Doubtless they
were well-intentioned towards us all, and towards me, a motherless lad,
more than any other, and doubtless they should be forgiven much, for
they were but ignorant folk, from strange parts of the world; but I took
it hard that they should laugh on the roads, as though no great thing
had happened, and when, at last, the women folk took to praising my hair
and eyes, as my mother used to do, and, moreover, to kissing me in
public places, which had been my mother's privilege, I was speedily
scandalized and fled their proximity with great cunning and agility.

My father, however, sought them out, at all times and places, that he
might tell them the tragic circumstances of my mother's death, and
seemed not to remember that he had told them all before.

"But five days!" he would whisper, excitedly, when he had buttonholed a
stranger in the shop. "Eh, man? Have you heared tell o' my poor wife?"

"Five days?"

"Ay; had you folk been wrecked five days afore--just five, mark
you--she would have been alive, the day."

"How sad!"

"Five days!" my father would suddenly cry, wringing his hands. "My God!
_Only five days_!"

A new expression of sympathy--and a glance of the sharpest
suspicion--would escape the stranger.

"Five days!" my father would repeat, as though communicating some fact
which made him peculiarly important to all the world. "That, now," with
a knowing glance, "is what I calls wonderful queer."

My father was not the same as he had been. He was like a man become a
child again--interested in little things, dreaming much, wondering more:
conceiving himself, like a child, an object of deepest interest to us
all. No longer, now, did he command us, but, rather, sought to know from
my sister (to whom he constantly turned) what he should do from hour to
hour; and I thought it strange that he should do our bidding as though
he had never been used to bidding us. But so it was; and, moreover
(which I thought a great pity), he forgot that he was to kill the
mail-boat doctor when the steamer put into our harbour on the southward
trip--a purpose from which, a week before, Skipper Tommy Lovejoy could
not dissuade him, though he tried for hours together. Ay, with his bare
hands, my father was to have killed that man--to have wrung his neck and
flung him overboard--but now there was no word of the deed: my father
but puttered about, mildly muttering that the great ship had been
wrecked five days too late.

I have said that my father loved my mother; it may be that he loved her
overmuch--and, perhaps, that accounts for what came upon him when he
lost her. I have since thought it sad that our hearts may contain a love
so great that all the world seems empty when chance plucks it out; but
the thought, no doubt, is not a wise one.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor whom I had found with my father in my mother's room was not
among the folk who babbled on the roads and came prying into the stages
with tiresome exclamations of "Really!" and "How in-tres-ting!" He kept
aloof from them and from us all. All day long he wandered on the heads
and hills of our harbour--a melancholy figure, conspicuous against the
blue sky of those days: far off, solitary, bowed. Sometimes he sat for
hours on the Watchman, staring out to sea, so still that it would have
been small blame to the gulls had they mistaken him for a new boulder,
mysteriously come to the hill; sometimes he lay sprawling on the high
point of Skull Island, staring at the sky, lost to knowledge of the
world around; sometimes he clambered down the cliffs of Good Promise to
the water's edge, and stood staring, forever staring, at the breakers
(which no man should do). Often I was not content with watching him from
afar, but softly followed close, and peered at him from the shelter of a
boulder or peeped over the shoulder of a hill; and so sad did he
seem--so full of sighs and melancholy attitudes--that invariably I went
home pitying: for at that time my heart was tender, and the sight of
sorrow hurt it.

Once I crept closer and closer, and, at last, taking courage (though his
clean-shaven face and soft gray hat abashed me), ran to him and slipped
my hand in his.

He started; then, perceiving who it was, he withdrew his hand with a
wrench, and turned away: which hurt me.

"You are the son," said he, "of the woman who died, are you not?"

I was more abashed than ever--and wished I had not been so bold.

"I'm Davy Roth, zur," I whispered, for I was much afraid. "My mother's
dead an' buried, zur."

"I saw you," said he, "in the room--that night."

There was a long pause. Then, "What's _your_ name, zur?" I asked him.

"Mine?"

"Ay."

"Mine," said he, "is Luke--"

He stopped--and thoughtfully frowned. I waited; but he said no more.

"Doctor Luke?" I ventured.

"Well," he drawled, "that will serve."

Then I thought I must tell him what was in my heart to say. Why not? The
wish was good, and his soft, melancholy voice irresistibly appealed to
my raw and childish sympathies.

"I wisht, zur," I whispered, looking down at my boots, through sheer
embarrassment, "that you----"

My tongue failed me. I was left in a sad lurch. He was not like our
folk--not like our folk, at all--and I could not freely speak my mind.

"Yes?" he said, to encourage me.

"That you wasn't so sad," I blurted, with a rush, looking swift and deep
into his gray eyes.

"Why not?" said he, taking my hand.

"I'm not wantin' you t' be."

He put his arm over my shoulder. "Why not?" he asked. "Tell me why not,
won't you?"

The corners of my mouth fell. It may have been in sympathetic response
to the tremolo of feeling in his voice. I was in peril of unmanly tears
(as often chanced in those days)--and only women, as I knew, should see
lads weep. I hid my face against him.

"Because, zur," I said, "it makes me sad, too!"

He sat down and drew me to his knee. "This is very strange," he said,
"and very kind. You would not have me sad?" I shook my head. "I do not
understand," he muttered. "It is very strange." (But it was not strange
on our coast, where all men are neighbours, and each may without shame
or offense seek to comfort the other.) Then he had me tell him tales of
our folk, to which he listened with interest so eager that I quickly
warmed to the diversion and chattered as fast as my tongue would wag. He
laughed at me for saying "nar" for not (and the like) and I at him for
saying "cawm" for calm; and soon we were very merry, and not only merry,
but as intimate as friends of a lifetime. By and by I took him to see
the Soldier's Ear, which is an odd rock near the Rat Hole, and, after
that, to listen to the sea coughing and gurgling at the bottom of
Satan's Well. And in all this he forgot that he was sad--and I that my
mother was dead.

"Will you walk with me to-morrow, Davy?" he asked, when I said that I
must be off home.

"That I will, zur," said I.

"After breakfast."

"Ay, zur; a quarter of five."

"Well, no," he drawled. "Half after nine."

"'Tis a sheer waste o' time," I protested. "But 'twill suit me, zur, an
it pleases you. My sister will tell _me_ the hour."

"Your sister?" he asked, quickly.

"Bessie," said I.

"Ah," he exclaimed, "she was your sister. I saw her there--that night.
And she is your sister?"

"You got it right," cried I, proudly. "_That's_ my sister!"

He slapped me on the back (which shocked me, for our folk are not that
playful); and, laughing heartily as he went, he took the road to Tom
Tot's, where he had found food and housing for a time. I watched him
from the turn in the road, as he went lightly down the slope towards
South Tickle--his trim-clad, straight, graceful figure,
broad-shouldered, clean-cut, lithe in action, as compared with our
lumbering gait; inefficient, 'tis true, but potentially strong. As I
walked home, I straightened my own shoulders, held my head high, lifted
my feet from the ground, flung bold glances to right and left, as I had
seen him do: for, even then, I loved him very much. All the while I was
exultantly conscious that a new duty and a new delight had come to me:
some great thing, given of God--a work to do, a happiness to cherish.
And that night he came and went in my dreams--but glorified: his smile
not mirthless, his grave, gray eyes not overcast, his face not flabby
and flushed, his voice not slow and sad, but vibrant with fine, live
purpose. My waking thought was the wish that the man of the hills might
be the man of my vision; and in my simple morning petition it became a
prayer.

"Dear mama," I prayed, "there's something wrong along o' the man who
come the night you died. He've managed somehow t' get wonderful sick.
I'm not knowin' what ails un, or where he cotched it; but I sees it
plain in his face: an' 'tis a woeful sickness. Do you make haste t' the
throne o' God, please, mum, an' tell Un I been askin' you t' have un
cured. You'd want un well, too, an you was here; an' the Lard 'll surely
listen t' you, an' take your word for 't. Oh, do you pray the Lard,
with all your might an' main, dear mama, t' heal that man!"

       *       *       *       *       *

In our land the works of the Lord are not obscured by what the hands of
men have made. The twofold vision ranges free and far. Here are no brick
walls, no unnatural need or circumstance, no confusing inventions, no
gasping haste, no specious distractions, no clamour of wheel and
heartless voices, to blind the soul, to pervert its pure desires, to
deaden its fears, to deafen its ears to the sweeter calls--to shut it
in, to shrivel it: to sicken it in every part. Rock and waste of sea and
the high sweep of the sky--winds and rain and sunlight and flying
clouds--great hills, mysterious distances, flaming sunsets, the still,
vast darkness of night! These are the mighty works of the Lord, and of
none other--unspoiled and unobscured. In them He proclaims Himself. They
who have not known before that the heavens and the earth are the
handiwork of God, here discover it: and perceive the Presence and the
Power, and are ashamed and overawed. Thus our land works its marvel in
the sensitive soul. I have sometimes thought that in the waste is
sounded the great keynote of life--with which true hearts ever seek to
vibrate in tune.



XIII

A SMILING FACE


"Doctor Luke, zur," I said, as we walked that day, "I dreamed o' you,
last night."

"Pleasantly, I hope?"

I sighed.

"What," said he, gravely, "did you dream of me?"

'Twas hard to frame a reply. "I been thinkin', since," I faltered,
floundering in search of a simile, "that you're like a--like a----"

"Like what?" he demanded.

I did not know. My eye sought everywhere, but found no happy suggestion.
Then, through an opening in the hills, I caught sight of the melancholy
wreck on the Reef of the Thirty Black Devils.

"I fear t' tell," said I.

He stopped. "But I wish to know," he persisted. "You'll tell me, Davy,
will you not? It means so much."

"Like a wrecked ship," said I.

"Good God!" he exclaimed, starting from me.

At once he sent me home; nor would he have me walk with him that
afternoon, because, as he said, my sister would not allow me to bear him
company, did she know as much as I had in some strange way divined.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day, armed with my sister's express permission, I overcame his
scruples; and off we went to Red Indian Cave. Everywhere, indeed, we
went together, while the wrecked folk waited the mail-boat to
come--Doctor Luke and I--hand in hand--happy (for the agony of my loss
came most in the night, when I lay wakeful and alone in my little bed)
as the long, blue days. We roamed the hills, climbed the cliffs,
clambered along shore; and once, to my unbounded astonishment and alarm,
he stripped to the skin and went head first into the sea from the base
of the Good Promise cliffs. Then nothing would content him but that I,
too, should strip and plunge in: which I did (though you may think it
extraordinary), lest he think me afraid to trust his power to save me.
Thus the invigourating air, the yellow sunlight, the smiling sea beyond
the rocks, the blue sky overhead, were separate delights in which our
friendship ripened: so that at times I wondered what loneliness would
overtake me when he had gone. I told him I wished he would not go away
on the mail-boat, but would stay and live with us, that, being a
doctor, as he had said, he might heal our folk when they fell sick, and
no one would die, any more. He laughed at that--but not because of
merriment--and gripped my hand tighter, and I began to hope that,
perhaps, he would not go away; but he did not tell me whether he would
or not.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the mail-boat was near due, my sister said that I must have the
doctor to tea; for it would never do, said she, to accept his kindnesses
and show no hospitality in return. In reply to this Doctor Luke said
that I must present his compliments to my sister (which I thought a
curious way of putting it), and say that he accepted the invitation with
great pleasure; and, as though it were a matter of grave moment, he had
me repeat the form until I knew it perfectly. That evening my sister
wore a long skirt, fashioned in haste from one of my mother's gowns, and
this, with my mother's keys, which she kept hanging from her girdle, as
my mother used to do, made her very sweetly staid. The doctor came
speckless, wearing his only shirt, which (as Tom Tot's wife made known
to all the harbour) he had paid one dollar to have washed and ironed in
three hours for the occasion, spending the interval (it was averred) in
his room. While we waited for the maids to lay the table, my sister
moved in and out, directing them; and the doctor gazed at her in a way
so marked that I made sure she had forgotten a hook or a button, and
followed her to the kitchen to discover the omission.

"Sure, Bessie, dear," I began, very gingerly, "I'm fair dreadin' that
you're--you're----"

She was humming, in happy unconsciousness of her state; and I was
chagrined by the necessity of disclosing it: but resolutely continued,
for it must be done.

"Loose," I concluded.

She gave a little jump--a full inch, it may be--from the floor.

"Davy!" she cried, in mixed horror and distress. "Oh, dear!
Whereabouts?"

"Do you turn around," said I, "an' I'll soon find out."

She whirled like a top. But I could find nothing awry. She was shipshape
from head to toe.

"'Tis very queer," said I. "Sure, I thought you'd missed a button, for
the doctor is lookin' at you all the time."

"At _me_!" she cried.

"Ay, at you."

She was then convinced with me that there was something amiss, and
called the maids to our help, for, as she said, I was only a boy
(though a dear one), and ill schooled in such matters. But it turned out
that their eyes were no sharper than mine. They pronounced her hooked
and buttoned and pinned to the Queen's taste.

"'Tis queer, then," I persisted, when the maids had gone, "that he looks
at you so hard."

"Is you sure he does?" she asked, much puzzled, "for," she added, with a
little frown, "I'm not knowin' why he should."

"Nor I," said I.

At table we were very quiet, but none the less happy for that; for it
seemed to me that my mother's gentle spirit hovered near, content with
what we did. And after tea my father sat with the doctor on our
platform, talking of disease and healing, until, in obedience to my
sister's glance, I took our guest away to the harbour, to see (as I
said) the greatest glories of the sunset: for, as I knew, my sister
wished to take my father within, and change the current of his thought.
Then I rowed the doctor to North Tickle, and let the punt lie in the
swell of the open sea, where it was very solemn and quiet. The sky was
heavy with drifting masses of cloud, aflare with red and gold and all
the sunset colours, from the black line of coast, lying in the west, far
into the east, where sea and sky were turning gray. Indeed, it was very
still, very solemn, lying in the long, crimson swell of the great deep,
while the dusk came creeping over the sea.

"I do not wonder," the doctor muttered, with a shudder, "that the people
who dwell here fear God."

There was something familiar to me in that feeling; but for the moment I
could not make it out.

"Zur?" I said.

His eyes ranged timidly over the sombre waste--the vasty, splendid
heavens, the coast, dark and unfeeling, the infinite, sullen sea, which
ominously darkened as he looked--and he covered his face with his hands.

"No," he whispered, looking up, "I do not wonder that you believe in
God--and fear Him!"

Then I knew that roundabout he felt the presence of an offended God.

"And fear Him!" he repeated.

I levelled my finger at him. "You been wicked!" I said, knowing that my
accusation was true.

"Yes," he answered, "I have been wicked."

"Is you goin' t' be good?"

"I am going to try to be good--now."

"You isn't goin' away, is you?" I wailed.

"I am going to stay here," he said, gravely, "and treat the people, who
need me, and try, in that way, to be good."

"I'd die t' see it!" cried I.

He laughed--and the tension vanished--and we went happily back to
harbour. I had no thought that the resolution to which he had come was
in any way extraordinary.

       *       *       *       *       *

I ran to the Rat Hole, that night, to give the great news to Skipper
Tommy Lovejoy and the twins. "Ecod!" the old man cried, vastly
astounded. "Is he t' stay, now? Well, well! Then they's no need goin' on
with the book. Ecod! now think o' that! An' 'tis all because your mother
died, says you, when he might have saved her! Ah, Davy, the ways o' God
is strange. He manages somehow t' work a blessin' with death an' wreck.
'I'm awful sorry for they poor children,' says He, 'an' for the owners
o' that there fine ship; but I got t' have My way,' says He, 'or the
world would never come t' much; so down goes the ship,' says He, 'an' up
comes that dear mother t' my bosom. 'Tis no use tellin' them why,' says
He, 'for they wouldn't understand. An', ecod!' says He, 'while I'm about
it I'll just put it in the mind o' that doctor-man t' stay right there
an' do a day's work or two for Me.' I'm sure He meant it--I'm sure He
meant t' do just that--I'm sure 'twas all done o' purpose. We thinks
He's hard an' a bit free an' careless. Ecod! they's times when we
thinks He fair bungles His job. He kills us, an' He cripples us, an' He
starves us, an' He hurts our hearts; an' then, Davy, we says He's a
dunderhead at runnin' a world, which, says we, we could run a sight
better, if we was able t' make one. But the Lard, Davy, does His day's
work in a seamanlike way, usin' no more crooked backs an' empty stomachs
an' children's tears an' broken hearts than He can help. 'Tis little we
knows about what _He's_ up to. An' 'tis wise, I'm thinkin', not t'
bother about tryin' t' find out. 'Tis better t' let Him steer His own
course an' ask no questions. I just _knowed_ He was up t' something
grand. I said so, Davy! 'Tis just like the hymn, lad, about His hidin' a
smilin' face behind a frownin' providence. Ah, Davy, _He'll_ take care
o' _we_!"

All of which, as you know, was quite characteristic of Skipper Tommy
Lovejoy.



XIV

In The WATCHES of The NIGHT


At once we established the doctor in our house, that he might be more
comfortably disposed; and this was by my sister's wish, who hoped to be
his helper in the sweet labour of healing. And soon a strange thing
happened: once in the night--'twas late of a clear, still night--I
awoke, of no reason; nor could I fall asleep again, but lay high on the
pillow, watching the stars, which peeped in at my window, companionably
winking. Then I heard the fall of feet in the house--a restless pacing:
which brought me out of bed, in a twinkling, and took me tiptoeing to
the doctor's room, whence the unusual sound. But first I listened at the
door; and when I had done that, I dared not enter, because of what I
heard, but, crouching in the darkness, must continue to listen ... and
listen....

       *       *       *       *       *

By and by I crept away to my sister's room, unable longer to bear the
awe and sorrow in my heart.

"Bessie!" I called, in a low whisper.

"Ay, Davy?"

"Is you awake?"

"Ay, I'm wakeful."

I closed the door after me--then went swiftly to her bedside, treading
with great caution.

"Listenin'?" I asked.

"T' the doctor," she answered, "walkin' the floor."

"Is you afraid?" I whispered.

"No."

"I is."

She sat up in bed--and drew me closer. "An' why, dear?" she asked,
stroking my cheek.

"Along o' what I heared in the dark, Bessie--at his door."

"You've not been eavesdroppin', Davy?" she chided.

"Oh, I wisht I hadn't!"

"'Twas not well done."

The moon was up, broadly shining behind the Watchman: my sister's white
little room--kept sweet and dainty in the way she had--was full of soft
gray light; and I saw that her eyes were wide and moist.

"He's wonderful restless, the night," she mused.

"He've a great grief."

"A grief? Oh, Davy!"

"Ay, a great, great grief! He've been talkin' to hisself, Bessie. But
'tis not words; 'tis mostly only sounds."

"Naught else?"

"Oh, ay! He've said----"

"Hush!" she interrupted. "'Tis not right for me t' know. I would not
have you tell----"

I would not be stopped. "He've said, Bessie," I continued, catching
something, it may be, of his agony, "he've said, 'I pay! Oh, God, I
pay!' he've said. 'Merciful Christ, hear me--oh, I pay!'"

She trembled.

"'Tis some great grief," said I.

"Do you haste to his comfort, Davy," she whispered, quickly. "'Twould be
a kind thing t' do."

"Is you sure he's wantin' me?"

"Were it me I would."

When I had got to the doctor's door again, I hesitated, as before,
fearing to go in; and once more I withdrew to my sister's room.

"I'm not able t' go in," I faltered. "'Tis awful, Bessie, t' hear men
goin' on--like that."

"Like what?"

"Cryin'."

A little while longer I sat silent with my sister--until, indeed, the
restless footfalls ceased, and the blessed quiet of night fell once
again.

"An', Bessie," said I, "he said a queer thing."

She glanced a question.

"He said your name!"

She was much interested--but hopelessly puzzled. For a moment she gazed
intently at the stars. Then she sighed.

"He've a great grief," I repeated, sighing, "an' he've been wicked."

"Oh, no--not wicked!"

"Ay," I persisted, gently, "wicked; for he've told me so with his own
tongue."

"Not wicked!"

"But he've _said_ so," I insisted, nettled, on the instant, by my
sister's perversity.

"I'm thinkin' he couldn't be," she said.

"Sure, why not?" I demanded.

She looked away for a moment--through the window, into the far, starlit
sky, which the light of the moon was fast paling; and I thought my
question forgot.

"Why not, sister?"

"I--don't know--why not!" she whispered.

       *       *       *       *       *

I kissed my sister good-night, while yet she puzzled over this, and
slipped off to my own room, lifting my night-dress, as I tiptoed along,
lest I trip and by some clumsy commotion awake my friend to his
bitterness. Once back in my bed--once again lying alone in the tranquil
night--I found the stars still peeping in at my window, still twinkling
companionably, as I had left them. And I thought, as my mother had
taught me, of these little watchmen, serene, constant, wise in their
great remoteness--and of him who lay in unquiet sleep near by--and,
then, understanding nothing of the mystery, nor caring to know, but now
secure in the unquestioning faith of childhood, I closed my eyes to
sleep: for the stars still shone on, flashing each its little message of
serenity to the troubled world.



XV

THE WOLF


In course of time, the mail-boat cleared our harbour of wrecked folk;
and within three weeks of that day my father was cast away on Ill Wind
Head: being alone on the way to Preaching Cove with the skiff, at the
moment, for fish to fill out the bulk of our first shipment to the
market at St. John's, our own catch having disappointed the expectation
of us every one. My sister and I were then left to manage my father's
business as best we could: which we must determine to do, come weal or
woe, for we knew no other way. My sister said, moreover, that, whether
we grew rich or poor, 'twas wise and kind to do our best, lest our
father's folk, who had ever been loyal to his trade, come upon evil
times at the hands of traders less careful of their welfare. Large
problems of management we did not perceive, but only the simple,
immediate labour, to which we turned with naively willing heads and
hands, sure that, because of the love abroad in all the world, no evil
would befall us.

"'Twill be fortune," my sister said, in her sweet and hopeful way; "for
the big world is good, Davy," said she, "to such as are bereft."

"I'm not so sure o' that."

"Ay," she repeated, unshaken, "the world is kind."

"You is but a girl, Bessie," said I, "an' not well acquaint with the way
o' the world. Still an' all," I mused, "Skipper Tommy says 'tis kind,
an' he've growed wonderful used t' livin'."

"We'll not fear the world."

"No, no! We'll not fear it. I'll be a man, sister, for your sake."

"An' I a true woman," said she, "for yours."

To Tom Tot we gave the handling of the fish and stores, resolving, also,
to stand upon his judgment in the matter of dealing supplies to the
thriftless and the unfortunate, whether generously or with a sparing
hand, for the men of our harbour were known to him, every one, in
strength and conscience and will for toil. As for the shop, said we, we
would mind it ourselves, for 'twas but play to do it; and thus, indeed,
it turned out: so hearty was the sport it provided that my sister and I
would hilariously race for the big key (which hung on a high nail in the
dining-room) whenever a customer came. I would not have you think us
unfeeling. God knows, we were not that! 'Twas this way with us: each hid
the pain, and thus thought to deceive the other into a happier mood. We
did well enough in the shop; but we could make neither head nor tail of
the books in my father's safe; and when our bewilderment and heartache
came to ears of the doctor he said that he would himself manage the
letters and keep the books in the intervals of healing the sick: which,
with a medicine chest they had brought ashore from the wreck, he had
already begun to practice.

It seemed, then, to my sister and me, that the current of our life once
more ran smooth.

       *       *       *       *       *

And Jagger of Wayfarer's Tickle--the same who sat at cards with the
mail-boat doctor and beat his dog with the butt of a whip--having got
news of my father's death, came presently to our harbour, with that in
mind which jumped ill with our plans. We had dispiriting weather: a raw
wind bowled in from the northeast, whipping the fog apace; and the sea,
as though worried out of patience, broke in a short, white-capped lop,
running at cross purposes with the ground swell. 'Twas evil sailing for
small craft: so whence came this man's courage for the passage 'tis past
me even now to fathom; for he had no liking to be at sea, but, rather,
cursed the need of putting out, without fail, and lay prone below at
such unhappy times as the sloop chanced to toss in rough waters,
praying all the time with amazing ferocity. Howbeit, across the bay he
came, his lee rail smothered; and when he had landed, he shook his
gigantic fist at the sea and burst into a triumphant bellow of
blasphemy, most thrilling (as we were told) to hear: whereafter, with a
large air (as of prospective ownership), he inspected the flakes and
storehouses, heartily condemned them, wished our gaping crew to
perdition, and, out of breath at last, moved up the path to our house,
his great dog hanging like a shadow at his heels--having come and gone
on the wharves, as Tom Tot said, like a gale o' wind.

My sister and I sat dreaming in the evening light--wherein, of soft
shadows and western glory, fine futures may by any one be fashioned.

"'Tis rich," said I, "that _I'm_ wantin' t' be."

"Not I," said she.

"Not you?"

"Not rich," she answered, "but helpful t' such as do the work o' the
world."

"T' me, Bessie?"

"Ay," with a smile and half a sigh, "t' you."

"An' only me? I'd not be selfish with you. Is you wishin' t' be
helpful--only t' me?"

"No."

"T' him?"

"An it please you," she softly answered.

"An' we t' you, Bessie!" I cried, in a rapture, kissing her plump little
hand, which lay over my shoulder, convenient to my lips. "Ay, for your
loving-kindness, my sister!"

"'Tis t' you, first of all, Davy," she protested, quickly, "that I'm
wishin' t' be helpful; an' then t' him, an' then t'----"

"T' who?" I demanded, frowning.

"All the world," said she.

"Very well," said I, much relieved to find that the interloper was no
more to be dreaded. "I'll not mind _that_. 'Tis as you like. You'll help
whomso you please--an' as many. For I'm t' be rich. Rich--look you! I'll
have seven schooners t' sail the northern Labrador, as the doctor says.
I'll never be content with less. Seven I'll have, my dear, t' fish from
the Straits t' Chidley. I'll have the twins t' be masters o' two; but
I'll sail the big one--the swift one--the hundred-tonner--ay, lass, I'll
sail she, with me own hands. An', ecod! Bessie, _I'll_ crack it on!"

"You'll not be rash, dear?" said she, anxiously.

"Rash!" laughed I. "I'll cut off the reef points! Rash? There won't be a
skipper can carry sail with me! I'll get the fish--an' I'll see to it
that my masters does. Then I'll push our trade north an' south. Ay, I
will! Oh, I knows what I'll do, Bessie, for I been talkin' with the
doctor, an' we got it split an' dried. Hard work an' fair dealing, mum;
that's what's t' do it. Our father's way, mum: honest scales on the
wharf an' full weight at the counter. 'Twill be that or bust----"

"Why, Davy," she exclaimed, her eyes flashing, "you're talkin' like a
growed man!"

"Ay, ecod!" I boasted, flattered by the inference, "'twill not be many
years afore we does more trade in our harbour than they does at the big
stores o' Wayfarer's Tickle."

A low growl, coming from the shadows in the hall, brought me to a full
stop; and upon the heels of that a fantastic ejaculation:

"Scuttle me!"

So sudden and savage the outburst, so raucous the voice, so charged with
angry chagrin--the whole so incongruous with soft dreams and evening
light--that 'twas in a shiver of terror my sister and I turned to
discover whose presence had disturbed us.

       *       *       *       *       *

The intruder stood in the door--a stubby, grossly stout man,
thin-legged, thick-necked, all body and beard: clad below in tight
trousers, falling loose, however, over the boots; swathed above in an
absurdly inadequate pea-jacket, short in the sleeves and buttoned tight
over a monstrous paunch, which laboured (and that right sturdily) to
burst the bonds of its confinement, but succeeded only in creating a
vast confusion of wrinkles. His attitude was that of a man for the
moment amazed beyond utterance: his head was thrown back, so that of his
face nothing was to be seen but a short, ragged growth of iron-gray
beard and a ridge of bushy eyebrow; his hands were plunged deep in his
trousers pockets, which the fists distended; his legs, the left deformed
(being bent inward at the knee), were spread wide. In the shadows beyond
lurked a huge dog--a mighty, sullen beast, which came stepping up, with
lowered head, to peer at us from between his master's legs.

"I'll be scuttled," said the man, bringing his head forward with a jerk,
"if the little cock wouldn't cut into the trade o' Wayfarer's Tickle!"

Having thus in a measure mastered his amazement (and not waiting to be
bidden), he emerged from the obscurity of the doorway, advanced, limping
heavily, and sat himself in my father's chair, from which, his bandy
legs comfortably hanging from the table, where he had disposed his feet,
he regarded me in a way so sinister--with a glance so fixed and
ill-intentioned--that his great, hairy face, malformed and mottled, is
clear to me to this day, to its last pimple and wrinkle, its bulbous,
flaming nose and bloodshot eyes, as though 'twere yesterday I saw it.
And there he sat, puffing angrily, blowing his nose like a whale,
scowling, ejaculating, until (as I've no doubt) he conceived us to have
been reduced to a condition of trepidation wherein he might most easily
overmaster us.

"Scuttled!" he repeated, fetching his paunch a resounding thwack.
"Bored!"

Thereupon he drew from the depths of his trousers pocket a disreputable
clay pipe, filled it, got it alight, noisily puffed it, darting little
glances at my sister and me the while, in the way of one outraged--now
of reproach, now of righteous indignation, now betraying uttermost
disappointment--for all the world as though he had been pained to
surprise us in the thick of a conspiracy to wrong him, but, being of a
meek and most forgiving disposition, would overlook the offense, though
'twas beyond his power, however willing the spirit, to hide the wound
our guilt had dealt him. Whatever the object of this display, it gave me
a great itching to retreat behind my sister's skirts, for fear and
shame. And, as it appeared, he was quick to conjecture my feeling: for
at once he dropped the fantastic manner and proceeded to a quiet and
appallingly lucid statement of his business.

"I'm Jagger o' Wayfarer's Tickle," said he, "an' I'm come t' take over
this trade."

"'Tis not for sale," my sister answered.

"I wants the trade o' this harbour," said he, ignoring her, "on my
books. An' I got t' have it."

"We're wantin' my father's business," my sister persisted, but faintly
now, "for Davy, when he's growed."

"I'm able t' buy you out," Jagger pursued, addressing the ceiling, "or
run you out. 'Tis cheaper an' quicker t' buy you out. Now," dropping his
eyes suddenly to my sister's, "how much are you askin' for this here
trade?"

"'Tis not for sale."

"Not for sale?" roared he, jumping up.

"No, zur," she gasped.

"If I can't buy it," he cried, in a rage, driving the threat home with
an oath peculiarly unfit for the ears of women, "I'll break it!"

Which brought tears to my tender sister's eyes; whereupon, with a good
round oath to match his own, I flew at him, in a red passion, and, being
at all times agile and now moved to extraordinary effort, managed to
inflict some damage on his shins before he was well aware of my
intention--and that so painful that he yelped like a hurt cur. But he
caught me by the arms, which he jammed against my ribs, lifted me high,
cruelly shaking me, and sat me on the edge of the table in a fashion so
sudden and violent that my teeth came together with a snap: having done
which, he trapped my legs with his paunch, and thus held me in durance
impotent and humiliating, so that I felt mean, indeed, to come to such
a pass after an attack impetuously undertaken and executed with no
little gallantry and effect. And he brought his face close to mine, his
eyes flaring and winking with rage, his lips lifted from his yellow,
broken teeth; and 'twas in his mind, as I perceived, to beat me as I had
never been beaten before.

"Ye crab!" he began. "Ye little----"

"The dog!" my sister screamed.

'Twas timely warning: for the dog was crouched in the hall, his muscles
taut for the spring, his king-hairs bristling, his fangs exposed.

"Down!" shrieks Jagger.

The diversion released me. Jagger sprang away; and I saw, in a flash,
that his concern was not for me, but for himself, upon whom the dog's
baleful glance was fastened. There was now no ring of mastery in his
voice, as there had been on the mail-boat, but the shiver of panic; and
this, it may be, the dog detected, for he settled more alertly, pawing
the floor with his forefeet, as though seeking firmer foothold from
which to leap. As once before, I wished the beast well in the issue;
indeed, I hoped 'twould be the throat and a fair grip! But Jagger caught
a billet of wood from the box, and, with a hoarse, stifled
cry--frightful to hear--drew back to throw. Then the doctor's light
step sounded in the hall, and in he came, brushing past the dog, which
slunk away into the shadows. For a moment he regarded us curiously, and
then, his brows falling in a quick frown, he laid his medicine case on
my sister's sewing-machine, with never a word, and went to the window,
where he stood idle, gazing out over the darkening prospect of sea and
rock and upon great clouds flushed with lurid colour.

There was silence in the room--which none of us who waited found the
will to break.

"Jagger"--said the doctor.

The voice was low--almost a drawl--but mightily authoritative: being
without trace of feeling, but superior to passion, majestic.

"Ay, sir?"

"Go!"

The doctor still stood with his back to us, still gazed, continuing
tranquil, through the broad window to the world without. And Jagger,
overmastered by this confident assumption of authority, went away, as he
was bidden, casting backward glances, ominous of machinations to come.

       *       *       *       *       *

What Jagger uttered on my father's wharf--what on the deck of the sloop
while he moored his dog to the windlass for a beating--what he flung
back while she gathered way--strangely moved Tom Tot, who hearkened,
spellbound, until the last words of it (and the last yelp of the dog)
were lost in the distance of North Tickle: it impelled the old man (as
he has said many a time) to go wash his hands. But 'tis of small moment
beside what the doctor said when informed of the occurrences in our
house: being this, that he must have a partnership in our firm, because,
first, it was in his heart to help my sister and me, who had been kind
to him and were now like sheep fallen in with a wolf-pack, and second,
because by thus establishing himself on the coast he might avert the
suspicion of the folk from such good works as he had in contemplation.

"More than that," said he, "we will prove fair dealing possible here as
elsewhere. It needs but courage and--money."

"I'm thinkin'," my sister said, "that Davy has the courage."

"And I," said he, "have the money."

I was very glad to hear it.



XVI

A MALADY of The HEART


In the firelight of that evening--when the maids had cleared the cozy
room and carried away the lamp and we three sat alone together in my
father's house--was planned our simple partnership in good works and the
fish business. 'Tis wonderful what magic is abroad at such times--what
dreams, what sure hopes, lie in the flickering blaze, the warm, red
glow, the dancing shadows; what fine aspirations unfold in hearts that
are brave and hopeful and kind. Presently, we had set a fleet of new
schooners afloat, put a score of new traps in the water, proved
fair-dealing and prosperity the selfsame thing, visited the sick of five
hundred miles, established a hospital--transformed our wretched coast,
indeed, into a place no longer ignorant of jollity and thrift and
healing. The doctor projected all with lively confidence--his eyes
aflash, his lean, white hand eloquent, his tongue amazingly active and
persuasive--and with an insight so sagacious and well-informed, a
purpose so pure and wise, that he revealed himself (though we did not
think of it then) not only as a man of heart but of conspicuous sense.
It did not enter our minds to distrust him: because our folk are not
sophisticated in polite overreaching, not given to the vice of
suspicion, and because--well, he was what he was.

My sister's face was aglow--most divinely radiant--with responsive faith
and enthusiasm; and as for me----

"Leave me get down," I gasped, at last, to the doctor, "or I'll bust
with delight, by heaven!"

He laughed, but unclasped his hands and let me slip from his knee; and
then I began to strut the floor, my chest puffed out to twice its
natural extent.

"By heaven!" I began. "If that Jagger----"

The clock struck ten. "David Roth," my sister exclaimed, lifting her
hands in mock horror, "'tis fair scandalous for a lad o' your years t'
be up 't this hour!"

"Off to bed with you, you rascal!" roared the doctor.

"I'll not go," I protested.

"Off with you!"

"Not I."

"Catch un, doctor!" cried my sister.

"An you can, zur!" I taunted.

If he could? Ecod! He snatched at me, quick as a cat; but I dodged his
hand, laughed in his face and put the table between us. With an agility
beyond compare--with a flow of spirits like a gale of wind--he vaulted
the broad board. The great, grave fellow appeared of a sudden to my
startled vision in midair--his arms and legs at sixes and sevens--his
coat-tails flapping like a loose sail--his mouth wide open in a
demoniacal whoop--and I dropped to the floor but in the bare nick of
time to elude him. Uproarious pursuit ensued: it made my sister limp and
pain-stricken and powerless with laughter; it brought our two maids from
the kitchen and kept them hysterically screaming in the doorway, the
lamp at a fearsome angle; it tumbled the furniture about with rollicking
disregard, led the doctor a staggering, scrambling, leaping course in
the midst of upturned tables and chairs, and, at last, ran the gasping
quarry to earth under the sofa. I was taken out by the heels,
shouldered, carried aloft and flung sprawling on my bed--while the whole
house rang again with peal upon peal of hearty laughter.

"Oh, zur," I groaned, "I never knowed you was so jolly!"

"Not so?"

"On my word, zur!"

He sighed.

"I fancied you was never but sad."

"Ah, well," said he, "the Labrador, Davy, is evidently working a cure."

"God be thanked for that!" said I, devoutly.

He rumpled my hair and went out. And I bade him send my sister with the
candle; and while I lay waiting in the dark a glow of content came upon
me--because of this: that whereas I had before felt woefully inadequate
to my sister's protection, however boastfully I had undertaken it, I was
now sure that in our new partnership her welfare and peace of heart were
to be accomplished. Then she came in and sat with me while I got ready
for bed. She had me say my prayers at her knee, as a matter of course,
but this night hinted that an additional petition for the doctor's
well-doing and happiness might not be out of place. She chided me, after
that, for the temper I had shown against Jagger and for the oath I had
flung at his head, as I knew she would--but did not chide me heartily,
because, as she said, she was for the moment too gratefully happy to
remember my short-comings against me. I thanked her, then, for this
indulgence, and told her that she might go to bed, for I was safely and
comfortably bestowed, as she could see, and ready for sleep; but she
would not go, and there sat, with the candle in her hand, her face
flushed and her great blue eyes soulfully glowing, while she continued
to chatter in an incoherent and strangely irrelevant fashion: so that,
astonished into broad wakefulness by this extraordinary behaviour, I sat
bolt upright in bed, determined to discover the cause.

"Bessie Roth," said I, severely, "what's come upon you?"

"I'm not knowin', Davy," she answered, softly, looking away.

"'Tis somewhat awful, then," said I, in alarm, "for you're not lookin'
me in the eye."

She looked then in her lap--and did not raise her eyes, though I waited:
which was very strange.

"You isn't sick, is you?"

"No-o," she answered, doubtfully.

"Oh, you _mustn't_ get sick," I protested. "'Twould _never_ do. I'd fair
die--if _you_ got sick!"

"'Tisn't sickness; 'tis--I'm not knowin' what."

"Ah, come," I pleaded; "what is it, dear?"

"Davy, lad," she faltered, "I'm just--dreadful--happy."

"Happy?" cried I, scornfully. "'Tis not happiness! Why, sure, your lip
is curlin' with grief!"

"But I _was_ happy."

"You isn't happy now, my girl."

"No," she sobbed, "I'm wonderful miserable--now."

I kicked off the covers. "You've the fever, that's what!" I exclaimed,
jumping out of bed.

"'Tis not that, Davy."

"Then--oh, for pity's sake, Bessie, tell your brother what's gone wrong
along o' you!"

"I'm thinkin', Davy," she whispered, despairingly, "that I'm nothin' but
a sinful woman."

"A--what! Why, Bessie----"

"Nothin'," she repeated, positively, "but a sinful, wicked person."

"Who told you that?" said I, dancing about in a rage.

"My own heart."

"Your heart!" cried I, blind angry. "'Tis a liar an it says so."

"What words!" she exclaimed, changed in a twinkling. "An' to your
sister! Do you get back in bed this instant, David Roth, an' tell her
that you're sorry."

I was loath to do it, but did, to pacify her; and when she had carried
away the candle I chuckled, for I had cured her of her indisposition for
that night, at any rate: as I knew, for when she kissed me 'twas plain
that she was more concerned for her wayward brother than for herself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Past midnight I was awakened by the clang of the bell on my father's
wharf. 'Twas an unpleasant sound. Half a gale--no less--could do it. I
then knew that the wind had freshened and veered to the southeast; and
I listened to determine how wild the night. Wild enough! The bell
clanged frequently, sharply, jangling in the gusts--like an anxious
warning. My window was black; there was no light in the sky--no star
shining. Rain pattered on the roof. I heard the rush of wind. 'Twas
inevitable that I should contrast the quiet of the room, the security of
my place, the comfort of my couch and blankets, with a rain-swept,
heaving deck and a tumultuous sea. A gusty night, I thought--thick, wet,
with the wind rising. The sea would be in a turmoil on the grounds by
dawn: there would be no fishing; and I was regretting this--between
sleep and waking--when the bell again clanged dolefully. Roused, in a
measure, I got ear of men stumbling up the path. I was into my breeches
before they had trampled half the length of the platform--well on my way
down the dark stair when they knocked on the door--standing scared in
the light of their lantern, the door open, before they found time to
hail.

I was addressed by a gray old man in ragged oilskins. "We heared tell,"
said he, mildly, wiping his dripping beard, "that you got a doctor
here."

I said that we had.

"Well," he observed, in a dull, slow voice, "we got a sick man over
there t' Wreck Cove."

"Ay?" said I.

"An' we was sort o' wonderin', wasn't we, Skipper Tom," another put in,
"how much this doctor would be askin' t' go over an' cure un?"

"Well, ay," the skipper admitted, taking off his sou'wester to scratch
his head, "we _did_ kind o' have that idea."

"'Tis a wild night," said I: in my heart doubting--and that with
shame--that the doctor would venture out upon the open sea in a gale of
wind.

"'Tis _not_ very civil," said the skipper frankly. "I'm free t' say," in
a drawl, "that 'tis--well--rather--dirty."

"An' he isn't got used t' sailin' yet. But----"

"No?" in mild wonder. "Isn't he, now? Well, we got a stout little skiff.
Once she gets past the Thirty Devils, she'll maybe make Wreck Cove, all
right--if she's handled proper. Oh, she'll maybe make it if----"

"Davy!" my sister called from above. "Do you take the men through t' the
kitchen. I'll rouse the doctor an' send the maids down t' make tea."

"Well, now, thank you kindly, miss," Skipper Tom called up to the
landing. "That's wonderful kind."

It was a familiar story--told while the sleepy maids put the kettle on
the fire and the fury of the gale increased. 'Twas the schooner _Lucky
Fisherman_, thirty tons, Tom Lisson master, hailing from Burnt Harbour
of the Newfoundland Green Bay, and fishing the Labrador at Wreck Cove,
with a tidy catch in the hold and four traps in the water. There had
been a fine run o' fish o' late; an' Bill Sparks, the splitter--with a
brood of ten children to grow fat or go hungry on the venture--labouring
without sleep and by the light of a flaring torch, had stabbed his right
hand with a fish bone. The old, old story--now so sadly threadbare to
me--of ignorance and uncleanliness! The hand was swollen to a wonderful
size and grown wonderful angry--the man gone mad of pain--the crew
contemplating forcible amputation with an axe. Wonderful sad the
mail-boat doctor wasn't nowhere near! Wonderful sad if Bill Sparks must
lose his hand! Bill Sparks was a wonderful clever hand with the
splittin'-knife--able t' split a wonderful sight o' fish a minute.
Wonderful sad if Bill Sparks's family was to be throwed on the gov'ment
all along o' Bill losin' his right hand! Wonderful sad if poor Bill
Sparks----

The doctor entered at that moment. "Who is asking for me?" he demanded,
sharply.

"Well," Skipper Tom drawled, rising, "we was thinkin' we'd sort o' like
t' see the doctor."

"I am he," the doctor snapped. "Yes?" inquiringly.

"We was wonderin', doctor," Skipper Tom answered, abashed, "what you'd
charge t' go t' Wreck Cove an'--an'--well, use the knife on a man's
hand."

"Charge? Nonsense!"

"We'd like wonderful well," said the skipper, earnestly, "t' have
you----"

"But--_to-night_!"

"You see, zur," said the skipper, gently, "he've wonderful pain, an'
he've broke everything breakable that we got, an' we've got un locked in
the fo'c's'le, an'----"

"Where's Wreck Cove?"

"'Tis t' the s'uth'ard, zur," one of the men put in. "Some twelve miles
beyond the Thirty Devils."

The doctor opened the kitchen door and stepped out. There was no doubt
about the weather. A dirty gale was blowing. Wind and rain drove in from
the black night; and, under all the near and petty noises, sounded the
great, deep roar of breakers.

"Hear that?" he asked, excitedly, closing the door against the wind.

"Ay," the skipper admitted; "as I was tellin' the young feller, it
_isn't_ so _very_ civil."

"Civil!" cried the doctor.

"No; not so civil that it mightn't be a bit civiller; but, now----"

"And twelve miles of open sea!"

"No, zur--no; not accordin' t' my judgment. Eleven an' a half, zur,
would cover it."

The doctor laughed.

"An', as I was sayin', zur," the skipper concluded, pointedly, "we just
come through it."

My sister and I exchanged anxious glances: then turned again to the
doctor--who continued to stare at the floor.

"Just," one of the crew repeated, blankly, for the silence was painful,
"come through it."

The doctor looked up. "Of course, you know," he began, quietly, with a
formal smile, "I am not--accustomed to this sort of--professional call.
It--rather--takes my breath away. When do we start?"

Skipper Tom took a look at the weather. "Blowin' up wonderful," he
observed, quietly, smoothing his long hair, which the wind had put awry.
"Gets real dirty long about the Thirty Devils in the dark. Don't it,
Will?"

Will said that it did--indeed, it did--no doubt about that, _what_ever.

"I s'pose," the skipper drawled, in conclusion, "we'd as lief get
underway at dawn."

"Very good," said the doctor. "And--you were asking about my fee--were
you not? You'll have to pay, you know--if you can--for I believe
in--that sort of thing. Could you manage three dollars?"

"We was 'lowin'," the skipper answered, "t' pay about seven when we sold
the v'y'ge in the fall. 'Tis a wonderful bad hand Bill Sparks has got."

"Let it be seven," said the doctor, quickly. "The balance may go, you
know, to help some poor devil who hasn't a penny. Send it to me in the
fall if----"

The skipper looked up in mild inquiry.

"Well," said the doctor, with a nervous smile, "if we're all here, you
know."

"Oh," said the skipper, with a large wave of the hand, "_that's God's_
business."

They put out at dawn--into a sea as wild as ever I knew an open boat to
brave. The doctor bade us a merry good-bye; and he waved his hand,
shouting that which the wind swept away, as the boat darted off towards
South Tickle. My sister and I went to the heads of Good Promise to watch
the little craft on her way. The clouds were low and black--torn by the
wind--driving up from the southwest like mad: threatening still heavier
weather. We followed the skiff with my father's glass--saw her beat
bravely on, reeling through the seas, smothered in spray--until she was
but a black speck on the vast, angry waste, and, at last, vanished
altogether in the spume and thickening fog. Then we went back to my
father's house, prayerfully wishing the doctor safe voyage to Wreck
Cove; and all that day, and all the next, while the gale still blew, my
sister was nervous and downcast, often at the window, often on the
heads, forever sighing as she went about the work of the house. And when
I saw her thus distraught and colourless--no warm light in her eyes--no
bloom on her dimpled cheeks--no merry smile lurking about the corners of
her sweet mouth--I was fretted beyond description; and I determined
this: that when the doctor got back from Wreck Cove I should report her
case to him, whether she liked it or not, with every symptom I had
observed, and entreat him, by the love and admiration in which I held
him, to cure her of her malady, whatever the cost.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the evening of the third day, when the sea was gone down and the wind
was blowing fair and mild from the south, I sat with my sister at the
broad window, where was the outlook upon great hills, and upon sombre
water, and upon high, glowing sky--she in my mother's rocker, placidly
sewing, as my mother used to do, and I pitifully lost in my father's
armchair, covertly gazing at her, in my father's way.

"Is you better, this even, sister, dear?" I asked.

"Oh, ay," she answered, vehemently, as my mother used to do. "Much
better."

"You're wonderful poorly."

"'Tis true," she said, putting the thread between her white little
teeth. "But," the strand now broken, "though you'd not believe it, Davy,
dear, I'm feeling--almost--nay, quite--well."

I doubted it. "'Tis a strange sickness," I observed, with a sigh.

"Yes, Davy," she said, her voice falling, her lips pursed, her brows
drawn down. "I'm not able t' make it out, at all. I'm feelin'--so
wonderful--queer."

"Is you, dear?"

"Davy Roth," she averred, with a wag of the head so earnest that strands
of flaxen hair fell over her eyes, and she had to brush them back again,
"I never felt so queer in all my life afore!"

"I'm dreadful worried about you, Bessie."

"Hut! as for that," said she, brightly, "I'm not thinkin' I'm goin' t'
_die_, Davy."

"Sure, you never can tell about sickness," I sagely observed.

"Oh, no!" said she. "I isn't got that--kind o'--sickness."

"Well," I insisted, triumphantly, "you're wonderful shy o' eatin' pork."

She shuddered.

"I wished I knowed what you had," I exclaimed impatiently.

"I wished you did," she agreed, frankly, if somewhat faintly. "For,
then, Davy, you'd give me a potion t' cure me."

She drew back the curtain--for the hundredth time, I vow--and peered
towards South Tickle.

"What you lookin' for?" I asked.

"I was thinkin', Davy," she said, still gazing through the window, "that
Skipper Zach Tupper might be comin' in from the Last Chance grounds with
a fish for breakfast."

The Last Chance grounds? 'Twas ignorance beyond belief! "Bessie," I
said, with heat, "is you gone mad? Doesn't you know that no man in his
seven senses would fish the Last Chance grounds in a light southerly
wind? Why----"

"Well," she interrupted, with a pretty pout, "you knows so well as me
that Zach Tupper haven't _got_ his seven senses."

"Bessie!"

She peeked towards South Tickle again; and then--what a wonder-worker
the divine malady is!--she leaned eagerly forward, her sewing falling
unheeded to the floor; and her soft breast rose and fell to a rush of
sweet emotion, and her lips parted in delicious wonderment, and the
blood came back to her cheeks, and her dimples were no longer pathetic,
but eloquent of sweetness and innocence, and her eyes turned moist and
brilliant, glowing with the glory of womanhood first recognized, tender
and pure. Ah, my sister--lovely in person but lovelier far in heart and
mind--adorably innocent--troubled and destined to infinitely deeper
distress before the end--brave and true and hopeful through all the
chequered course of love! You had not known, dear heart, but then
discovered, all in a heavenly flash, what sickness you suffered of.

"Davy!" she whispered.

"Ay, dear?"

"I'm knowin'--now--what ails me."

I sat gazing at her in love and great awe. "'Tis not a wickedness,
Bessie," I declared.

"No, no!"

"'Tis not that. No, no! I knows 'tis not a sin."

"'Tis a holy thing," she said, turning, her eyes wide and solemn.

"A holy thing?"

"Ay--holy!"

I chanced to look out of the window. "Ecod!" I cried. "The Wreck Cove
skiff is in with Doctor Luke!"

Unfeeling, like all lads--in love with things seen--I ran out.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doctor came ashore at the wharf in a state of wild elation. He made
a rush for me, caught me up, called to the crew of the skiff to come to
the house for tea--then shouldered me, against my laughing protest, and
started up the path.

"I'm back, safe and sound," cried he. "Davy, I have been to Wreck Cove
and back."

"An' you're wonderful happy," cried I, from the uncertain situation of
his shoulder.

"Happy? That's the word, Davy. I'm happy! And why?"

"Tell me."

"I've done a good deed. I've saved a man's right hand. I've done a good
deed for once," he repeated, between his teeth, "by God!"

There was something contagious in all this; and (I say it by way of
apology) I was ever the lad to catch at a rousing phrase.

"A good deed!" I exclaimed. "By God, you'll do----"

He thrashed me soundly on the spot.



XVII

HARD PRACTICE


I bore him no grudge--the chastisement had been fairly deserved: for
then, being loosed from parental restraint, I was by half too fond of
aping the ways and words of full-grown men; and I was not unaware of the
failing. However, the prediction on the tip of my tongue--that he would
live to do many another good deed--would have found rich fulfillment had
it been spoken. It was soon noised the length of the coast that a doctor
dwelt in our harbour--one of good heart and skill and courage: to whom
the sick of every station might go for healing. In short space the
inevitable came upon us: punts put in for the doctor at unseasonable
hours, desperately reckless of weather; schooners beat up with men lying
ill or injured in the forecastles; the folk of the neighbouring ports
brought their afflicted to be miraculously restored, and ingenuously
quartered their dying upon us. A wretched multitude emerged from the
hovels--crying, "Heal us!" And to every varied demand the doctor freely
responded, smiling heartily, God bless him! spite of wind and weather:
ready, active, merry, untiring--sad but when the only gift he bore was
that of tender consolation.

       *       *       *       *       *

One night there came a maid from Punch Bowl Harbour. My sister sent her
to the shop, where the doctor was occupied with the accounts of our
business, myself to keep him company. 'Twas a raw, black night; and she
entered with a gust of wind, which fluttered the doctor's papers, set
the lamp flaring, and, at last, escaped by way of the stove to the gale
from which it had strayed.

"Is you the doctor?" she gasped.

She stood with her back against the door, one hand still on the knob and
the other shading her eyes--a slender slip of a girl, her head covered
with a shawl, now dripping. Whisps of wet black hair clung to her
forehead, and rain-drops lay in the flushed hollows of her cheeks.

"I am," the doctor answered, cheerily, rising from his work.

"Well, zur," said she, "I'm Tim Hodd's maid, zur, an' I'm just come from
the Punch Bowl in the bait-skiff, zur--for healin'."

"And what, my child," asked the doctor, sympathetically, "may be the
matter with you?"

Looking back--with the added knowledge that I have--it seems to me that
he had no need to ask the question. The flush and gasp told the story
well enough, quite well enough: the maid was dying of consumption.

"Me lights is floatin', zur," she answered.

"Your lights?"

"Ay, zur," laying a hand on her chest. "They're floatin' wonderful high.
I been tryin' t' kape un down; but, zur, 'tis no use, at all."

With raised eyebrows the doctor turned to me. "What does she mean,
Davy," he inquired, "by her 'lights'?"

"I'm not well knowin'," said I; "but if 'tis what _we_ calls 'lights,'
'tis what _you_ calls 'lungs.'"

The doctor turned sadly to the maid.

"I been takin' shot, zur, t' weight un down," she went on; "but, zur,
'tis no use, at all. An' Jim Butt's my man," she added, hurriedly, in a
low voice. "I'm t' be married to un when he comes up from the Narth.
Does you think----"

She paused--in embarrassment, perhaps: for it may be that it was the
great hope of this maid, as it is of all true women of our coast, to
live to be the mother of sons.

"Go on," the doctor quietly said.

"Oh, does you think, zur," she said, clasping her hands, a sob in her
voice, "that you can cure me--afore the fleet--gets home?"

"Davy," said the doctor, hoarsely, "go to your sister. I must have a
word with this maid--alone." I went away.

       *       *       *       *       *

We caught sight of the _Word of the Lord_ beating down from the south in
light winds--and guessed her errand--long before that trim little
schooner dropped anchor in the basin. The skipper came ashore for
healing of an angry abscess in the palm of his hand. Could the doctor
cure it? To be sure--the doctor could do _that_! The man had suffered
sleepless agony for five days; he was glad that the doctor could ease
his pain--glad that he was soon again to be at the fishing. Thank God,
he was to be cured!

"I have only to lance and dress it," said the doctor. "You will have
relief at once."

"Not the knife," the skipper groaned. "Praise God, I'll not have the
knife!"

It was the doctor's first conflict with the strange doctrines of our
coast. I still behold--as I lift my eyes from the page--his astonishment
when he was sternly informed that the way of the Lord was not the way of
a surgeon with a knife. Nor was the austere old fellow to be moved. The
lance, said he, was an invention of the devil himself--its use plainly a
defiance of the purposes of the Creator. Thank God! he had been reared
by a Christian father of the old school.

"No, no, doctor!" he declared, his face contorted by pain. "I'm thankin'
you kindly; but I'm not carin' t' interfere with the decrees o'
Providence."

"But, man," cried the doctor, "I _must_----"

"No!" doggedly. "I'll not stand in the Lard's way. If 'tis His will for
me t' get better, I'll get better, I s'pose. If 'tis His blessed will
for me t' die," he added, reverently, "I'll have t' die."

"I give you my word," said the doctor, impatiently, "that if that hand
is not lanced you'll be dead in three days."

The man looked off to his schooner.

"Three days," the doctor repeated.

"I'm wonderful sorry," sighed the skipper, "but I got t' stand by the
Lard."

And he _was_ dead--within three days, as we afterwards learned: even as
the doctor had said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once, when the doctor was off in haste to Cuddy Cove to save the life of
a mother of seven--the Cuddy Cove men had without a moment's respite
pulled twelve miles against a switch of wind from the north and were
streaming sweat when they landed--once, when the doctor was thus about
his beneficent business, a woman from Bowsprit Head brought her child
to be cured, incredulous of the physician's power, but yet desperately
seeking, as mothers will. She came timidly--her ailing child on her
bosom, where, as it seemed to me, it had lain complaining since she gave
it birth.

"I'm thinkin' he'll die," she told my sister.

My sister cried out against this hopelessness. 'Twas not kind to the
dear Lord, said she, thus to despair.

"They says t' Bowsprit Head," the woman persisted, "that he'll die in a
fit. I'm--I'm--not wantin' him," she faltered, "t' die--like that."

"No, no! He'll not!"

She hushed the child in a mechanical way--being none the less tender and
patient the while--as though her arms were long accustomed to the
burden, her heart used to the pain.

"There haven't ever been no child," said she, looking up, after a
moment, "like this--afore--t' Bowsprit Head."

My sister was silent.

"No," the woman sighed; "not like this one."

"Come, come, ma'm!" I put in, confidently. "Do you leave un t' the
doctor. _He'll_ cure un."

She looked at me quickly. "What say?" she said, as though she had not
understood.

"I says," I repeated, "that the doctor will cure that one."

"Cure un?" she asked, blankly.

"That he will!"

She smiled--and looked up to the sky, smiling still, while she pressed
the infant to her breast. "They isn't nobody," she whispered, "not
nobody, ever said that--afore--about my baby!"

Next morning we sat her on the platform to wait for the doctor, who had
now been gone three days. "He does better in the air," said she.
"He--he-_needs_ air!" It was melancholy weather--thick fog, with a
drizzle of rain: the wind in the east, fretful and cold. All morning
long she rocked the child in her arms: now softly singing to him--now
vainly seeking to win a smile--now staring vacantly into the mist,
dreaming dull dreams, while he lay in her lap.

"He isn't come through the tickle, have he?" she asked, when I came up
from the shop at noon.

"He've not been sighted yet."

"I'm thinkin' he'll be comin' soon."

"Ay; you'll not have t' wait much longer."

"I'm not mindin' _that_," said she, "for I'm used t' waitin'."

The doctor came in from the sea at evening--when the wind had freshened
to a gale, blowing bitter cold. He had been for three days and nights
fighting without sleep for the life of that mother of seven--and had
won! Ay, she had pulled through; she was now resting in the practiced
care of the Cuddy Cove women, whose knowledge of such things had been
generously increased. The ragged, sturdy seven still had a mother to
love and counsel them. The Cuddy Cove men spoke reverently of the deed
and the man who had done it. Tired? The doctor laughed. Not he! Why, he
had been asleep under a tarpaulin all the way from Cuddy Cove! And
Skipper Elisha Timbertight had handled the skiff in the high seas so
cleverly, so tenderly, so watchfully--what a marvellous hand it
was!--that the man under the tarpaulin had not been awakened until the
nose of the boat touched the wharf piles. But the doctor was hollow-eyed
and hoarse, staggering of weariness, but cheerfully smiling, as he went
up the path to talk with the woman from Bowsprit Head.

"You are waiting for me?" he asked.

She was frightened--by his accent, his soft voice, his gentle manner, to
which the women of our coast are not used. But she managed to stammer
that her baby was sick.

"'Tis his throat," she added.

The child was noisily fighting for breath. He gasped, writhed in her
lap, struggled desperately for air, and, at last, lay panting. She
exposed him to the doctor's gaze--a dull-eyed, scrawny, ugly babe: such
as mothers wish to hide from sight.

"He've always been like that," she said. "He's wonderful sick. I've
fetched un here t' be cured."

"A pretty child," said the doctor.

'Twas a wondrous kind lie--told with such perfect dissimulation that it
carried the conviction of truth.

"What say?" she asked, leaning forward.

"A pretty child," the doctor repeated, very distinctly.

"They don't say that t' Bowsprit Head, zur."

"Well--_I_ say it!"

"I'll tell un so!" she exclaimed, joyfully. "I'll tell un you said so,
zur, when I gets back t' Bowsprit Head. For nobody--nobody, zur--ever
said that afore--about my baby!"

The child stirred and complained. She lifted him from her lap--rocked
him--hushed him--drew him close, rocking him all the time.

"Have you another?"

"No, zur; 'tis me first."

"And does he talk?" the doctor asked.

She looked up--in a glow of pride. And she flushed gloriously while she
turned her eyes once more upon the gasping, ill-featured babe upon her
breast.

"He said 'mama'--once!" she answered.

In the fog--far, far away, in the distances beyond Skull Island, which
were hidden--the doctor found at that moment some strange interest.

"Once?" he asked, his face still turned away.

"Ay, zur," she solemnly declared. "I calls my God t' witness! I'm not
makin' believe, zur," she went on, with rising excitement. "They says t'
Bowsprit Head that I dreamed it, zur, but I knows I didn't. 'Twas at the
dawn. He lay here, zur--here, zur--on me breast. I was wide awake,
zur--waitin' for the day. Oh, he said it, zur," she cried, crushing the
child to her bosom. "I heared un say it! 'Mama!' says he."

"When I have cured him," said the doctor, gently, "he will say more than
that."

"What say?" she gasped.

"When I have taken--something--out of his throat--with my knife--he will
be able to say much more than that. When he has grown a little older, he
will say, 'Mama, I loves you!'"

The woman began to cry.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is virtue for the city-bred, I fancy, in the clean salt air and
simple living of our coast--and, surely, for every one, everywhere, a
tonic in the performance of good deeds. Hard practice in fair and foul
weather worked a vast change in the doctor. Toil and fresh air are
eminent physicians. The wonder of salty wind and the hand-to-hand
conflict with a northern sea! They gave him health, a clear-eyed, brown,
deep-breathed sort of health, and restored a strength, broad-shouldered
and lithe and playful, that was his natural heritage. With this new
power came joyous courage, indomitability of purpose, a restless
activity of body and mind. He no longer carried the suggestion of a
wrecked ship; however afflicted his soul may still have been, he was
now, in manly qualities, the man the good God designed--strong and
bonnie and tender-hearted: betraying no weakness in the duties of the
day. His plans shot far beyond our narrow prospect, shaming our
blindness and timidity, when he disclosed them; and his
interests--searching, insatiable, reflective--comprehended all that
touched our work and way of life: so that, as Tom Tot was moved to
exclaim, by way of an explosion of amazement, 'twas not long before he
had mastered the fish business, gill, fin and liver. And he went about
with hearty words on the tip of his tongue and a laugh in his gray
eyes--merry the day long, whatever the fortune of it. The children ran
out of the cottages to greet him as he passed by, and a multitude of
surly, ill-conditioned dogs, which yielded the road to no one else,
accepted him as a distinguished intimate. But still, and often--late in
the night--my sister and I lay awake listening to the disquieting fall
of his feet as he paced his bedroom floor. And sometimes I crept to his
door--and hearkened--and came away, sad that I had gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

When--autumn being come with raw winds and darkened days--the doctor
said that he must go an errand south to St. John's and the Canadian
cities before winter settled upon our coast, I was beset by melancholy
fears that he would not return, but, enamoured anew of the glories of
those storied harbours, would abandon us, though we had come to love
him, with all our hearts. Skipper Tommy Lovejoy joined with my sister to
persuade me out of these drear fancies: which (said they) were
ill-conceived; for the doctor must depart a little while, else our plans
for the new sloop and little hospital (and our defense against Jagger)
would go all awry. Perceiving, then, that I would not be convinced, the
doctor took me walking on the bald old Watchman, and there shamed me for
mistrusting him: saying, afterwards, that though it might puzzle our
harbour and utterly confound his greater world, which must now be
informed, he had in truth cast his lot with us, for good and all,
counting his fortune a happy one, thus to come at last to a little
corner of the world where good impulses, elsewhere scrawny and
disregarded, now flourished lustily in his heart. Then with delight I
said that I would fly the big flag in welcome when the returning
mail-boat came puffing through the Gate. And scampering down the
Watchman went the doctor and I, hand in hand, mistrust fled, to the very
threshold of my father's house, where my sister waited, smiling to know
that all went well again.

Past ten o'clock of a dismal night we sat waiting for the
mail-boat--unstrung by anxious expectation: made wretched by the sadness
of the parting.

"There she blows, zur!" cried Skipper Tommy, jumping up. "We'd best get
aboard smartly, zur, for she'll never come through the Gate this dirty
night."

The doctor rose, and looked, for a strained, silent moment, upon my dear
sister, but with what emotion, though it sounded the deeps of passion, I
could not then conjecture. He took her hand in both of his, and held it
tight, without speaking. She tried, dear heart! to meet his ardent
eyes--but could not.

"I'm wishin' you a fine voyage, zur," she said, her voice fallen to a
tremulous whisper.

He kissed the hand he held.

"T' the south," she added, with a swift, wondering look into his eyes,
"an' back."

"Child," he began with feeling, "I----"

In some strange passion my sister stepped from him. "Call me that no
more!" she cried, her voice broken, her eyes wide and moist, her little
hands clinched. "Why, child!" the doctor exclaimed. "I----"

"I'm _not_ a child!"

The doctor turned helplessly to me--and I in bewilderment to my
sister--to whom, again, the doctor extended his hands, but now with a
frank smile, as though understanding that which still puzzled me.

"Sister----" said he.

"No, no!"

'Twas my nature, it may be, then to have intervened; but I was mystified
and afraid--and felt the play of some great force, unknown and dreadful,
which had inevitably cut my sister off from me, her brother, keeping her
alone and helpless in the midst of it--and I quailed and kept silent.

"Bessie!"

She took his hand. "Good-bye, zur," she whispered, turning away,
flushed.

"Good-bye!"

The doctor went out, with a new mark upon him; and I followed, still
silent, thinking it a poor farewell my sister had given him, but yet
divining, serenely, that all this was beyond the knowledge of lads. I
did not know, when I bade the doctor farewell and Godspeed, that his
heart tasted such bitterness as, God grant! the hearts of men do seldom
feel, and that, nobility asserting itself, he had determined never again
to return: fearing to bring my sister the unhappiness of love, rather
than the joy of it. When I had put him safe aboard, I went back to the
house, where I found my sister sorely weeping--not for herself, she
sobbed, but for him, whom she had wounded.



XVIII

SKIPPER TOMMY GETS A LETTER


It came from the north, addressed, in pale, sprawling characters, to
Skipper Tommy Lovejoy of our harbour--a crumpled, greasy, ill-odoured
missive: little enough like a letter from a lady, bearing (as we
supposed) a coy appeal to the tender passion. But----

"Ay, Davy," my sister insisted. "'Tis from _she_. Smell it for
yourself."

I sniffed the letter.

"Eh, Davy?"

"Well, Bessie," I answered, doubtfully, "I'm not able t' call t' mind
this minute just how she _did_. But I'm free t' say," regarding the
streaks and thumb-marks with quick disfavour, "that it _looks_ a lot
like her."

My sister smiled upon me with an air of loftiest superiority. "Smell it
again," said she.

"Well," I admitted, after sniffing long and carefully, "I does seem t'
have got wind o'----"

"There's no deceivin' a woman's nose," my sister declared, positively.
"'Tis a letter from the woman t' Wolf Cove."

"Then," said I, with a frown, "we'd best burn it."

She mused a moment. "He never got a letter afore," she said, looking up.

"Not many folk has," I objected.

"He'd be wonderful proud," she continued, "o' just gettin' a letter."

"But she's a wily woman," I protested, in warning, "an' he's a most
obligin' man. I fair shiver t' think o' leadin' un into temptation."

"'Twould do no harm, Davy," said she, "just t' _show_ un the letter."

"'Tis a fearful responsibility t' take."

"'Twould please un so!" she wheedled.

"Ah, well!" I sighed. "You're a wonderful hand at gettin' your own way,
Bessie."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the punts of our folk came sweeping through the tickles and the
Gate, in the twilight of that day, I went with the letter to the Rat
Hole: knowing that Skipper Tommy would by that time be in from the
Hook-an'-Line grounds; for the wind was blowing fair from that quarter.
I found the twins pitching the catch into the stage, with great
hilarity--a joyous, frolicsome pair: in happy ignorance of what
impended. They gave me jolly greeting: whereupon, feeling woefully
guilty, I sought the skipper in the house, where he had gone (they
said) to get out of his sea-boots.

I was not disposed to dodge the issue. "Skipper Tommy," said I, bluntly,
"I got a letter for you."

He stared.

"'Tis no joke," said I, with a wag, "as you'll find, when you gets t'
know where 'tis from; but 'tis nothin' t' be scared of."

"Was you sayin', Davy," he began, at last, trailing off into the silence
of utter amazement, "that you--been--gettin'--a----"

"I was sayin'," I answered, "that the mail-boat left you a letter."

He came close. "Was you sayin'," he whispered in my ear, with a jerk of
his head to the north, "that 'tis from----"

I nodded.

"_She?_"

"Ay."

He put his tongue in his cheek--and gave me a slow, sly wink. "Ecod!"
said he.

I was then mystified by his strange behaviour: this occurring while he
made ready for the splitting-table. He chuckled, he tweaked his long
nose until it flared, he scratched his head, he sighed, he scowled, he
broke into vociferous laughter; and he muttered "Ecod!" an innumerable
number of times, voicing, thereby, the gamut of human emotions and the
degrees thereof, from lowest melancholy to a crafty sort of cynicism and
thence to the height of smug elation. And, presently, when he had peered
down the path to the stage, where the twins were forking the fish, he
approached, stepping mysteriously, his gigantic forefinger raised in a
caution to hush.

"Davy," he whispered, "you isn't got that letter _aboard_ o' you, is
you?"

My heart misgave me; but--I nodded.

"Well, well!" cried he. "I'm thinkin'," he added, his surprise somewhat
mitigated by curiosity, "that you'll be havin' it in your jacket
pocket."

"Ay," was my sharp reply; "but I'll not read it."

"No, no!" said he, severely, lifting a protesting hand, which he had now
encased in a reeking splitting-mit. "I'd not _have_ you read it. Sure,
I'd never 'low _that_! Was you thinkin', David Roth," now so
reproachfully that my doubts seemed treasonable, "that I'd _want_ you
to? Me--that nibbled once? Not I, lad! But as you _does_ happen t' have
that letter in your jacket, you wouldn't mind me just takin' a _look_ at
it, would you?"

I produced the crumpled missive--with a sigh: for the skipper's drift
was apparent.

"My letter!" said he, gazing raptly. "Davy, lad, I'd kind o'--like
t'--just t'--_feel_ it. They wouldn't be no hurt in me _holdin'_ it,
would they?"

I passed it over.

"Now, Davy," he declared, his head on one side, the letter held gingerly
before him, "I wouldn't read that letter an I could. No, lad--not an I
could! But I've heared tell she had a deal o' l'arnin'; an' I'd kind
o'--like t'--take a peek inside. Just," he added, hurriedly, "t' see
what power she had for writin'."

This pretense to a purely artistic interest in the production was
wondrously trying to the patience.

"Skipper Davy," he went on, awkwardly, skippering me with a guile that
was shameless, "it bein' from a woman--bein' from a _woman_, now, says
I--'twould be no more 'n po-lite t' open it. Come, now, Davy!" he
challenged. "You wouldn't _say_ 'twould be more 'n po-lite, would you?
It bein' from a lone woman?"

I made no answer: for, at that moment, I caught sight of the twins,
listening with open-mouthed interest from the threshold.

"I wonders, Davy," the skipper confided, taking the leap, at last, "what
she've gone an' writ!"

"Jacky," I burst out, in disgust, turning to the twins, "I just _knowed_
he'd get t' wonderin'!"

Skipper Tommy started: he grew shamefaced, all in a moment; and he
seemed now first conscious of guilty wishes.

"Timmie," said Jacky, hoarsely, from the doorway, "she've writ."

"Ay, Jacky," Timmie echoed, "she've certain gone an' done it."

They entered.

"I been--sort o'--gettin' a letter, lads," the skipper stammered: a hint
of pride in his manner. "It come ashore," he added, with importance,
"from the mail-boat."

"Dad," Timmie asked, sorrowfully, "is you been askin' Davy t' read that
letter?"

"Well, no, Timmie," the skipper drawled, tweaking his nose; "'tisn't
quite so bad. But I been wonderin'----"

"Oh, is you!" Jacky broke in. "Timmie," said he, grinning, "dad's been
wonderin'!"

"Is he?" Timmie asked, assuming innocence. "Wonderin'?"

"Wasn't you sayin' so, dad?"

"Well," the skipper admitted, "havin' _said_ so, I'll not gainsay it. I
_was_ wonderin'----"

"An' you _knowin'_," sighed Timmie, "that you're an obligin' man!"

"Dad," Jacky demanded, "didn't the Lard kindly send a switch o' wind
from the sou'east t' save you oncet?"

The skipper blushed uneasily.

"Does you think," Timmie pursued, "that He'll turn His hand _again_ t'
save you?"

"Well----"

"Look you, dad," said Jacky, "isn't you got in trouble enough all along
o' wonderin' too much?"

"Well," the skipper exclaimed, badgered into self-assertion, "I _was_
wonderin'; but since you two lads come in I been _thinkin'_. Since them
two twins o' mine come in, Davy," he repeated, turning to me, his eyes
sparkling with fatherly affection, "I been thinkin' 'twould be a fine
plan t' tack this letter t' the wall for a warnin' t' the household agin
the wiles o' women!"

Timmie and Jacky silently embraced--containing their delight as best
they could, though it pained them.

"Not," the skipper continued, "that I'll have a word said agin' that
woman: which I won't," said he, "nor no other. The Lard knowed what He
was about. He made them with His own hands, an' if _He_ was willin' t'
take the responsibility, us men can do no less than stand by an' weather
it out. 'Tis my own idea that He was more sot on fine lines than sailin'
qualities when He whittled His model. 'I'll make a craft,' says He, 'for
looks, an' I'll pay no heed,' says He, 't' the cranks she may have,
hopin' for the best.' An' He done it! That He did! They're tidy
craft--oh, ay, they're wonderful tidy craft--but 'tis Lard help un in a
gale o' wind! An' the Lard made _she_," he continued, reverting to the
woman from Wolf Cove, "after her kind, a woman, acquaint with the wiles
o' women, actin' accordin' t' nature An'," he declared, irrelevantly,
"_'tis_ gettin' close t' winter, an' _'twould_ be comfortable t' have a
man t' tend the fires. She _do_ be of a designin' turn o' mind," he
proceeded, "which is accordin' t' the nature o' women, puttin' no blame
on her, an' she's not a wonderful lot for looks an' temper; but,"
impressively lifting his hand, voice and manner awed, "she've l'arnin',
which is ek'al t' looks, if not t' temper. So," said he, "we'll say
nothin' agin' her, but just tack this letter t' the wall, an' go split
the fish. But," when the letter had thus been disposed of, "I wonder
what----"

"Come on, dad!"

He put an arm around each of the grinning twins, and Timmie put an arm
around me; and thus we went pell-mell down to the stage, where we had an
uproarious time splitting the day's catch.

       *       *       *       *       *

You must know, now, that all this time we had been busy with the fish,
dawn to dark; that beyond our little lives, while, intent upon their
small concerns, we lived them, a great and lovely work was wrought upon
our barren coast: as every year, unfailingly, to the glory of God, who
made such hearts as beat under the brown, hairy breasts of our men.
From the Strait to Chidley, our folk and their kin from Newfoundland
with hook and net reaped the harvest from the sea--a vast, sullen sea,
unwilling to yield: sourly striving to withhold the good Lord's bounty
from the stout and merry fellows who had with lively courage put out to
gather it. 'Twas catch and split and stow away! In the dawn of stormy
days and sunny ones--contemptuous of the gray wind and reaching
seas--the skiffs came and went. From headland to headland--dodging the
reefs, escaping the shifting peril of ice, outwitting the drifting
mists--little schooners chased the fish. Wave and rock and wind and
bergs--separate dangers, allied with night and fog and sleety rain--were
blithely encountered. Sometimes, to be sure, they wreaked their purpose;
but, notwithstanding, day by day the schooners sailed and the skiffs put
out to the open, and fish were cheerily taken from the sea. Spite of
all, the splitting-knives flashed, and torches flared on the decks and
in the mud huts ashore. Barren hills--the bleak and uninhabited places
of the northern coast--for a season reflected the lurid glow and echoed
the song and shout. Thanks be to God, the fleet was loading!

In the drear autumn weather a cloud of sail went to the
s'uth'ard--doughty little schooners, decks awash: beating up to the home
ports.



XIX

The FATE of The MAIL-BOAT DOCTOR


My flag flapped a welcome in the sunny wind as the mail-boat came
creeping through the Gate and with a great rattle and splatter dropped
anchor in the basin off my father's wharf: for through my father's long
glass I had from the summit of the Watchman long before spied the doctor
aboard. He landed in fine fettle--clear-eyed, smiling, quick to extend
his strong, warm hand: having cheery words for the folk ashore, and
eager, homesick glances for the bleak hills of our harbour. Ecod! but he
was splendidly glad to be home. I had as lief fall into the arms of a
black bear as ever again to be greeted in a way so careless of my breath
and bones! But, at last, with a joyous little laugh, he left me to gasp
myself to life again, and went bounding up the path. I managed to catch
my wind in time to follow; 'twas in my mind to spy upon his meeting with
my sister; nor would I be thwarted: for I had for many days been
troubled by what happened when they parted, and now heartily wished the
unhappy difference forgot. So from a corner of the hillside flake I
watched lynx-eyed; but I could detect nothing amiss--no hint of
ill-feeling or reserve: only frank gladness in smile and glance and
handclasp. And being well content with this, I went back to the wharf to
lend Tom Tot a hand with the landing of the winter supplies, the medical
stores, the outfit for the projected sloop: all of which the doctor had
brought with him from St. John's.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And not only that," said the doctor, that night, concluding his
narrative of busy days in the city, "but I have been appointed," with a
great affectation of pomposity, "the magistrate for this district!"

We were not impressed. "The magistrate?" I mused. "What's that?"

"What's a magistrate!" cried he.

"Ay," said I. "I never seed one."

"The man who enforces the law, to be sure!"

"The law?" said I. "What's that?"

"The law of the land, Davy," he began, near dumbfounded, "is for
the----"

My sister got suddenly much excited. "I've heard tell about
magistrates," she interrupted, speaking eagerly, the light dancing
merrily in her eyes. "Come, tell me! is they able t'----"

She stuttered to a full stop, blushing. "Out with it, my dear," said I.

"Marry folk?" she asked.

"They may," said the doctor.

"Oh, Davy!"

"Whoop!" screamed I, leaping up. "You're never tellin' me that! Quick,
Bessie! Come, doctor! They been waitin' this twenty year."

I caught his right hand, Bessie his left; and out we dragged him, paying
no heed to his questions, which, by and by, he abandoned, because he
laughed so hard. And down the path we sped--along the road--by the turn
to Cut-Throat Cove--until, at last, we came to the cottage of Aunt
Amanda and Uncle Joe Bow, whom we threw into a fluster with our news.
When the doctor was informed of the exigency of the situation, he
married them on the spot, improvising a ceremony, without a moment's
hesitation, as though he had been used to it all his life: a family of
six meanwhile grinning with delight and embarrassment.

"You sees, zur," Uncle Joe explained, when 'twas over, "we never had no
chance afore. 'Manda an' me was down narth when the last parson come
this way. An' 'Manda she've been wantin'----"

"T' have it done," Aunt Amanda put in, patting the curly head of the
smallest Bow, "afore----"

"Ay," said Uncle Joe, "wantin' t' have it done, shipshape, afore
she----"

"Died," Aunt Amanda concluded.

By this time the amazing news had spread. Far and near the guns were
popping a salute--which set the dogs a-howling: so that the noise was
heartrending. Presently the neighbours began to gather: whereupon (for
the cottage was small) we took our leave, giving the pair good wishes
for the continuance of a happy married life. And when we got to our
house we found waiting in the kitchen Mag Trawl, who had that day
brought her fish from Swampy Arm--a dull girl, slatternly, shiftless:
the mother of two young sons.

"I heared tell," she drawled, addressing the doctor, but looking
elsewhere, "that you're just after marryin' Aunt Amanda."

The doctor nodded.

"I 'low," she went on, after an empty pause, "that I wants t' get
married, too."

"Where's the man?"

"Jim he 'lowed two year ago," she said, staring at the ceiling, "that
we'd go south an' have it done this season if no parson come."

"Bring the man," said the doctor, briskily.

"Well, zur," said she, "Jim ain't here. You couldn't do it 'ithout Jim
bein' here, could you?"

"Oh, no!"

"I 'lowed you might be able," she said, with a little sigh, "if you
tried. But you couldn't, says you?"

"No."

"Jim he 'lowed two year ago it ought t' be done. You couldn't do it
nohow?"

The doctor shook his head.

"Couldn't make a shift at it?"

"No."

"Anyhow," she sighed, rising to go, "I 'low Jim won't mind now. He's
dead."

       *       *       *       *       *

Within three weeks the mail-boat touched our harbor for the last time
that season: being then southbound into winter quarters at St. John's.
It chanced in the night--a clear time, starlit, but windy, with a high
sea running beyond the harbour rocks. She came in by way of North
Tickle, lay for a time in the quiet water off our wharf, and made the
open through the Gate. From our platform we watched the shadowy bulk and
warm lights slip behind Frothy Point and the shoulder of the
Watchman--hearkened for the last blast of the whistle, which came back
with the wind when the ship ran into the great swell of the sea.
Then--at once mustering all our cheerfulness--we turned to our own
concerns: wherein we soon forgot that there was any world but ours, and
were content with it.

Tom Tot came in.

"'Tis late for you, Tom," said my sister, in surprise.

"Ay, Miss Bessie," he replied, slowly. "Wonderful late for me. But I
been home talkin' with my woman," he went on, "an' we was thinkin' it
over, an' she s'posed I'd best be havin' a little spell with the
doctor."

He was very grave--and sat twirling his cap: lost in anxious thought.

"You're not sick, Tom?"

"Sick!" he replied, indignantly. "Sure, I'd not trouble the doctor for
that! I'm troubled," he added, quietly, looking at his cap, "along--o'
Mary."

It seemed hard for him to say.

"She've been in service, zur," he went on, turning to the doctor, "at
Wayfarer's Tickle. An' I'm fair troubled--along o' she."

"She've not come?" my sister asked.

For a moment Tom regarded the floor--his gaze fixed upon a protruding
knot. "She weren't aboard, Miss Bessie," he answered, looking up, "an'
she haven't sent no word. I been thinkin' I'd as lief take the skiff an'
go fetch her home."

"Go the morrow, Tom," said I.

"I was thinkin' I would, Davy, by your leave. Not," he added, hastily,
"that I'm afeared she've come t' harm. She's too scared o' hell for
that. But--I'm troubled. An' I'm thinkin' she might--want a
chance--home."

He rose.

"Tom," said I, "do you take Timmie Lovejoy an' Will Watt with you.
You'll need un both t' sail the skiff."

"I'm thankin' you, Davy, lad," said he. "'Tis kind o' you t' spare
them."

"An' I'm wishin' you well."

He picked at a thread in his cap. "No," he persisted, doggedly, "she
were so wonderful scared o' hell she fair _couldn't_ come t' harm. I
brung her up too well for that. But," with a frown of anxious doubt,
"the Jagger crew was aboard, bound home t' Newf'un'land. An'--well--I'm
troubled. They was drunk--an' Jagger was drunk--an' I asked un about my
maid--an'...."

"Would he tell you nothing?" the doctor asked.

"Well," said Tom, turning away, "he just laughed."

We were at that moment distracted by the footfall of men coming in haste
up the path from my father's wharf. 'Twas not hard to surmise their
errand. My sister sighed--I ran to the door--the doctor began at once to
get into his boots and greatcoat. But, to our surprise, two deck-hands
from the mail-boat pushed their way into the room. She had returned
(said they) and was now waiting off the Gate. There was need of a doctor
aboard. Need of a doctor! What of the mail-boat doctor? Ah, 'twas he who
was in need. My heart bounded to hear it! And how had he come to that
pass? He had essayed to turn in--but 'twas rough water outside--and he
had caroused with Jagger's crew all the way from Wayfarer's Tickle--and
'twas very rough water--and he had fallen headlong down the
companion--and they had picked him up and put him in his berth, where he
lay unconscious.

'Twas sweet news to me. "You'll not go?" I whispered to the doctor.

He gave me a withering glance--and quietly continued to button his
greatcoat.

"Is you forgot what I told you?" I demanded, my voice rising.

He would not reply.

"Oh, don't go!" I pleaded.

He turned up the collar of his coat--picked up his little black case of
medicines. Then I feared that he meant indeed to go.

"Leave un die where he lies, zur!" I wailed.

"Come along, men!" said he to the deck-hands.

I sprang ahead of them--flung the door shut--put my back against it:
crying out against him all the while. My sister caught my wrist--I
pushed her away. Tom Tot laid his hand on my shoulder--I threw it off
with an oath. My heart was in a flame of rage and resentment. That this
castaway should succour our enemy! I saw, again, a great, wet sweep of
deck, glistening underfoot--heard the rush of wind, the swish of
breaking seas, the throb and clank of engines, the rain on the
panes--once again breathed the thick, gray air of a cabin where two men
sat at cards--heard the curse and blow and outcry--saw my mother lying
on the pillows, a red geranium in her thin, white hand--heard her sigh
and whisper: felt anew her tender longing.

"You'll _not_ go!" I screamed. "Leave the dog t' die!"

Very gently, the doctor put his arm around me, and gave me to my sister,
who drew me to her heart, whispering soft words in my ear: for I had no
power to resist, having broken into sobs. Then they went out: and upon
this I broke roughly from my sister, and ran to my own room; and I threw
myself on my bed, and there lay in the dark, crying bitterly--not
because the doctor had gone his errand against my will, but because my
mother was dead, and I should never hear her voice again, nor touch her
hand, nor feel her lips against my cheek. And there I lay alone, in
deepest woe, until the doctor came again; and when I heard him on the
stair--and while he drew a chair to my bed and felt about for my
hand--I still sobbed: but no longer hated him, for I had all the time
been thinking of my mother in a better way.

"Davy," he said, gravely, "the man is dead."

"I'm glad!" I cried.

He ignored this. "I find it hard, Davy," said he, after a pause, "not to
resent your displeasure. Did I not know you so well--were I less fond of
the real Davy Roth--I should have you ask my pardon. However, I have not
come up to tell you that; but this: you can, perhaps, with a good heart
hold enmity against a dying man; but the physician, Davy, may not. Do
you understand, Davy?"

"I'm sorry I done what I did, zur," I muttered, contritely. "But I'm
wonderful glad the man's dead."

"For shame!"

"I'm glad!"

He left me in a huff.

"An' I'll _be_ glad," I shouted after him, at the top of my voice, "if I
got t' go 't hell for it!"

'Twas my nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

Tom Tot returned downcast from Wayfarer's Tickle: having for three days
sought his daughter, whom he could not find; nor was word of her
anywhere to be had. Came, then, the winter--with high winds and snow
and short gray days: sombre and bitter cold. Our folk fled to the tilts
at the Lodge; and we were left alone with the maids and Timmie Lovejoy
in my father's house: but had no idle times, for the doctor would not
hear of it, but kept us at work or play, without regard for our wishes
in the matter. 'Twas the doctor's delight by day to don his new skin
clothes (which my sister had finished in haste after the first fall of
snow) and with help of Timmie Lovejoy to manage the dogs and komatik,
flying here and there at top speed, with many a shout and crack of the
long whip. By night he kept school in the kitchen, which we must all
diligently attend, even to the maids: a profitable occupation, no doubt,
but laborious, to say the least of it, though made tolerable by his good
humour. By and by there came a call from Blister Harbour, which was
forty miles to the north of us, where a man had shot off his
hand--another from Red Cove, eighty miles to the south--others from
Backwater Arm and Molly's Tub. And the doctor responded, afoot or with
the dogs, as seemed best at the moment: myself to bear him company; for
I would have it so, and he was nothing loath.



XX

CHRISTMAS EVE at TOPMAST TICKLE


Returning afoot from the bedside of Long John Wise at Run-by-Guess--and
from many a bedside and wretched hearth by the way--the doctor and I
strapped our packs aback and heartily set out from the Hudson's Bay
Company's post at Bread-and-Water Bay in the dawn of the day before
Christmas: being then three weeks gone from our harbour, and, thinking
to reach it next day. We were to chance hospitality for the night; and
this must be (they told us) at the cottage of a man of the name of Jonas
Jutt, which is at Topmast Tickle. There was a lusty old wind scampering
down the coast, with many a sportive whirl and whoop, flinging the snow
about in vast delight--a big, rollicking winter's wind, blowing straight
out of the north, at the pitch of half a gale. With this abeam we made
brave progress; but yet 'twas late at night when we floundered down the
gully called Long-an'-Deep, where the drifts were overhead and each must
rescue the other from sudden misfortune: a warm glimmer of light in
Jonas Jutt's kitchen window to guide and hearten us.

The doctor beat the door with his fist. "Open, open!" cried he, still
furiously knocking. "Good Lord! will you never open?"

So gruff was the voice, so big and commanding--and so sudden was the
outcry--and so late was the night and wild the wind and far away the
little cottage--that the three little Jutts, who then (as it turned out)
sat expectant at the kitchen fire, must all at once have huddled close;
and I fancy that Sammy blinked no longer at the crack in the stove, but
slipped from his chair and limped to his sister, whose hand he clutched.

"We'll freeze, I tell you!" shouted the doctor. "Open the---- Ha! Thank
you," in a mollified way, as Skipper Jonas opened the door; and then,
most engagingly: "May we come in?"

"An' welcome, zur," said the hearty Jonas, "whoever you be! 'Tis gettin'
t' be a wild night."

"Thank you. Yes--a wild night. Glad to catch sight of your light from
the top of the hill. We'll leave the racquets here. Straight ahead?
Thank you. I see the glow of a fire."

We entered.

"Hello!" cried the doctor, stopping short. "What's this? Kids? Good!
Three of them. Ha! How are you?"

The manner of asking the question was most indignant, not to say
threatening; and a gasp and heavy frown accompanied it. By this I knew
that the doctor was about to make sport for Martha and Jimmie and Sammy
Jutt (as their names turned out to be): which often he did for children
by pretending to be in a great rage; and invariably they found it
delicious entertainment, for however fiercely he blustered, his eyes
twinkled most merrily all the time, so that one was irresistibly moved
to chuckle with delight at the sight of them, no matter how suddenly or
how terribly he drew down his brows.

"I like kids," said he, with a smack of the lips. "I eat 'em!"

Gurgles of delight escaped from the little Jutts--and each turned to the
other: the eyes of all dancing.

"And how are _you_?" the doctor demanded.

His fierce little glance was indubitably directed at little Sammy, as
though, God save us! the lad had no right to be anything _but_ well, and
ought to be, and should be, birched on the instant if he had the
temerity to admit the smallest ache or pain from the crown of his head
to the soles of his feet. But Sammy looked frankly into the flashing
eyes, grinned, chuckled audibly, and lisped that he was better.

"Better?" growled the doctor, searching Sammy's white face and skinny
body as though for evidence to the contrary. "I'll attend to _you_!"

Thereupon Skipper Jonas took us to the shed, where we laid off our packs
and were brushed clean of snow; and by that time Matilda Jutt, the
mother of Martha and Jimmie and Sammy, had spread the table with the
best she had--little enough, God knows! being but bread and tea--and was
smiling beyond. Presently there was nothing left of the bread and tea;
and then we drew up to the fire, where the little Jutts still sat,
regarding us with great interest. And I observed that Martha Jutt held a
letter in her hand: whereupon I divined precisely what our arrival had
interrupted, for I was Labrador born, and knew well enough what went on
in the kitchens of our land of a Christmas Eve.

"And now, my girl," said the doctor, "what's what?"

By this extraordinary question--delivered, as it was, in a manner that
called imperatively for an answer--Martha Jutt was quite nonplussed: as
the doctor had intended she should be.

"What's what?" repeated the doctor.

Quite startled, Martha lifted the letter from her lap. "He's not comin',
zur," she gasped, for lack of something better.

"You're disappointed, I see," said the doctor. "So he's not coming?"

"No, zur--not this year."

"That's too bad. But you mustn't mind it, you know--not for an instant.
What's the matter with him?"

"He've broke his leg, zur."

"What!" cried the doctor, restored of a sudden to his natural manner.
"Poor fellow! How did he come to do that?"

"Catchin' one o' they wild deer, zur."

"Catching a deer!" the doctor exclaimed. "A most extraordinary thing. He
was a fool to try it. How long ago?"

"Sure, it can't be more than half an hour; for he've----"

The doctor jumped up. "Where is he?" he demanded, with professional
eagerness. "It can't be far. Davy, I must get to him at once. I must
attend to that leg. Where is he?"

"Narth Pole, zur," whispered Sammy.

"Oh-h-h!" cried the doctor; and he sat down again, and pursed his lips,
and winked at Sammy in a way most peculiar. "I _see_!"

"Ay, zur," Jimmie rattled, eagerly. "We're fair disappointed that he's
not----"

"Ha!" the doctor interrupted. "I see. Hum! Well, now!" And having thus
incoherently exclaimed for a little, the light in his eyes growing
merrier all the time, he most unaccountably worked himself into a great
rage: whereby I knew that the little Jutts were in some way to be
mightily amused. "The lazy rascal!" he shouted, jumping out of his
chair, and beginning to stamp the room, frowning terribly. "The fat,
idle, blundering dunderhead! Did they send you that message? Did they,
now? Tell me, did they? Give me that letter!" He snatched the letter
from Martha's lap. "Sammy," he demanded, "where did this letter come
from?"

"Narth Pole, zur!"

Jonas Jutt blushed--and Matilda threw her apron over her head to hide
her confusion.

"And _how_ did it come?"

"Out o' the stove, zur."

The doctor opened the letter, and paused to slap it angrily, from time
to time, as he read it.

                                                            _North poll_

  DEER MARTHA

  few lines is to let you know on acounts of havin broke me leg cotchin
  the deer Im sory im in a stat of helth not bein able so as to be out in
  hevy wether. hopin you is all wel as it leves me
                                yrs respectful
                                                          SANDY CLAWS

  Fish was poor and it would not be much this yere anyways. tel little
  Sammy

"Ha!" shouted the doctor, as he crushed the letter to a little ball and
flung it under the table. "Ha! That's the kind of thing that happens
when one's away from home. There you have it! Discipline gone to the
dogs. System gone to the dogs. Everything gone to the dogs. Now, what do
you think of that?"

He scowled, and gritted his teeth, and puffed, and said "Ha!" in a
fashion so threatening that one must needs have fled the room had there
not been a curiously reassuring twinkle in his eyes.

"What do you think of that?" he repeated, fiercely, at last. "A
countermanded order! I'll attend to _him_!" he burst out. "I'll fix that
fellow! The lazy dunderhead, I'll soon fix him! Give me pen and ink.
Where's the paper? Never mind. I've some in my pack. One moment, and
I'll----"

He rushed to the shed, to the great surprise and alarm of the little
Jutts, and loudly called back for a candle, which Skipper Jonas carried
to him; and when he had been gone a long time, he returned with a letter
in his hand, still ejaculating in a great rage.

"See that?" said he to the three little Jutts. "Well, _that's_ for Santa
Claus's clerk. That'll fix _him_. That'll blister the stupid fellow."

"Please, zur!" whispered Martha Jutt.

"Well?" snapped the doctor, stopping short in a rush to the stove.

"Please, zur," said Martha, taking courage, and laying a timid hand on
his arm. "Sure, I don't know what 'tis all about. I don't know what
blunder he've made. But I'm thinkin', zur, you'll be sorry if you acts
in haste. 'Tis wise t' count a hundred. Don't be too hard on un, zur.
'Tis like the blunder may be mended. 'Tis like he'll do better next
time. Don't be hard----"

"_Hard_ on him?" the doctor interrupted. "Hard on _him_! Hard on
that----"

"Ay, zur," she pleaded, looking fearlessly up. "Won't you count a
hundred?"

"Count it," said he, grimly.

Martha counted. I observed that the numbers fell slower--and yet more
slowly--from her lips, until (and she was keenly on the watch) a gentler
look overspread the doctor's face; and then she rattled them off, as
though she feared he might change his mind once more.

"----an' a hundred!" she concluded, breathless.

"Well," the doctor drawled, rubbing his nose, "I'll modify it,"
whereupon Martha smiled, "just to 'blige _you_," whereupon she blushed.

So he scratched a deal of the letter out; then he sealed it, strode to
the stove, opened the door, flung the letter into the flames, slammed
the door, and turned with a wondrously sweet smile to the amazed little
Jutts.

"There!" he sighed. "I think that will do the trick. We'll soon know, at
any rate."

We waited, all very still, all with eyes wide open, all gazing fixedly
at the door of the stove. Then, all at once--and in the very deepest of
the silence--the doctor uttered a startling "Ha!" leaped from his chair
with such violence that he overturned it, awkwardly upset Jimmie Jutt's
stool and sent the lad tumbling head over heels (for which he did not
stop to apologize); and there was great confusion: in the midst of which
the doctor jerked the stove door open, thrust in his arm, and snatched a
blazing letter straight from the flames--all before Jimmie and Martha
and Sammy Jutt had time to recover from the daze into which the sudden
uproar had thrown them.

"There!" cried the doctor, when he had managed to extinguish the blaze.
"We'll just see what's in this. Better news, I'll warrant."

You may be sure that the little Jutts were blinking amazement. There
could be no doubt about the authenticity of _that_ communication. And
the doctor seemed to know it: for he calmly tore the envelope open,
glanced the contents over, and turned to Martha, the broadest of grins
wrinkling his face.

"Martha Jutt," said he, "will you _please_ be good enough to read
_that_."

And Martha read:

                                     _North Pole_, Dec. 24, 10:18 P.M.

  _To Captain Blizzard,_
      _Jonas Jutt's Cottage, Topmast Tickle_,
                                  _Labrador Coast._

  RESPECTED SIR:

  Regret erroneous report. Mistake of a clerk in the Bureau of
  Information. Santa Claus got away at 9:36. Wind blowing due south,
  strong and fresh.

                                                    SNOW, Chief Clerk.

Then there was a great outburst of glee. It was the doctor who raised
the first cheer. Three times three and a tiger! And what a tiger it was!
What with the treble of Sammy, which was of the thinnest description,
and the treble of Martha, which was full and sure, and the treble of
Jimmie, which dangerously bordered on a cracked bass, and what with
Matilda's cackle and Skipper Jonas's croak and my own hoorays and the
doctor's gutteral uproar (which might have been mistaken for a very
double bass)--what with all this, as you may be sure, the shout of the
wind was nowhere. Then we joined hands--it was the doctor who began it
by catching Martha and Matilda--and danced the table round, shaking our
feet and tossing our arms, the glee ever more uproarious--danced until
we were breathless, every one, save little Sammy, who was not asked to
join the gambol, but sat still in his chair, and seemed to expect no
invitation.

"Wind blowing due south, strong and fresh," gasped Jimmie, when, at
last, we sat down. "He'll be down in a hurry, with they swift deer. My!
but he'll just _whizz_ in this gale!"

"But 'tis sad 'tis too late t' get word to un," said Martha, the smile
gone from her face.

"Sad, is it?" cried the doctor. "Sad! What's the word you want to send?"

"'Tis something for Sammy, zur."

Sammy gave Martha a quick dig in the ribs. "'N' mama," he lisped,
reproachfully.

"Ay, zur; we're wantin' it bad. An' does you think us could get word to
un? For Sammy, zur?"

"'N' mama," Sammy insisted.

"We can try, at any rate," the doctor answered, doubtfully. "Maybe we
can catch him on the way down. Where's that pen? Here we are. Now!"

He scribbled rapidly, folded the letter in great haste, and dispatched
it to Santa Claus's clerk by the simple process of throwing it in the
fire. As before, he went to his pack in the shed, taking the candle with
him--the errand appeared to be really most trivial--and stayed so long
that the little Jutts, who now loved him very much (as I could see),
wished that the need would not arise again. But, all in good time, he
returned, and sat to watch for the reply, intent as any of them; and,
presently, he snatched the stove door open, creating great confusion in
the act, as before; and before the little Jutts could recover from the
sudden surprise, he held up a smoking letter. Then he read aloud:

  "Try Hamilton Inlet. Touches there 10:48. Time of arrival at Topmast
  Tickle uncertain. No use waiting up.                  SNOW, Clerk."

"By Jove!" exclaimed the doctor. "That's jolly! Touches Hamilton Inlet
at 10:48." He consulted his watch. "It's now 10:43 and a half. We've
just four and a half minutes. I'll get a message off at once. Where's
that confounded pen? Ha! Here we are. Now--what is it you want for Sammy
and mama?"

The three little Jutts were suddenly thrown into a fearful state of
excitement. They tried to talk all at once; but not one of them could
frame a coherent sentence. It was most distressful to see.

"The Exterminator!" Martha managed to jerk out, at last.

"Oh, ay!" cried Jimmie Jutt. "Quick, zur! Write un down. Pine's Prompt
Pain Exterminator. Warranted to cure. Please, zur, make haste."

The doctor stared at Jimmie.

"Oh, zur," groaned Martha, "don't be starin' like that! Write, zur!
'Twas all in the paper the prospector left last summer. Pine's Prompt
Pain Exterminator. Cures boils, rheumatism, pains in the back an' chest,
sore throat, an' all they things, an' warts on the hands by a simple
application with brown paper. We wants it for the rheumatiz, zur. Oh,
zur----"

"None genuine without the label," Jimmie put in, in an excited rattle.
"Money refunded if no cure. Get a bottle with the label."

The doctor laughed--laughed aloud, and laughed again. "By Jove!" he
roared, "you'll get it. It's odd, but--ha, ha!--by Jove, he has it in
stock!"

The laughter and repeated assurance seemed vastly to encourage Jimmie
and Martha--the doctor wrote like mad while he talked--but not little
Sammy. All that he lisped, all that he shouted, all that he screamed,
had gone unheeded. As though unable to put up with the neglect any
longer, he limped over the floor to Martha, and tugged her sleeve, and
pulled at Jimmie's coat-tail, and jogged the doctor's arm, until, at
last, he attracted a measure of attention. Notwithstanding his mother's
protests--notwithstanding her giggles and waving hands--notwithstanding
that she blushed as red as ink (until, as I perceived, her freckles were
all lost to sight)--notwithstanding that she threw her apron over her
head and rushed headlong from the room, to the imminent danger of the
door-posts--little Sammy insisted that his mother's gift should be named
in the letter of request.

"Quick!" cried the doctor. "What is it? We've but half a minute left."

Sammy began to stutter.

"Make haste, b'y!" cried Jimmie.

"One--bottle--of--the--Magic--Egyptian--Beautifier," said Sammy, quite
distinctly for the first time in his life.

The doctor looked blank; but he doggedly nodded his head, nevertheless,
and wrote it down; and off went the letter at precisely 10:47.45, as the
doctor said.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later--when the excitement had all subsided and we sat dreaming in the
warmth and glow--the doctor took little Sammy in his lap, and told him
he was a very good boy, and looked deep in his eyes, and stroked his
hair, and, at last, very tenderly bared his knee. Sammy flinched at
that; and he said "Ouch!" once, and screwed up his face, when the
doctor--his gruffness all gone, his eyes gentle and sad, his hand as
light as a mother's--worked the joint, and felt the knee-cap and socket
with the tips of his fingers.

"And is this the rheumatiz the Prompt Exterminator is to cure, Sammy?"
he asked.

"Ith, zur."

"Ah, is _that_ where it hurts you? Right on the point of the bone,
there?"

"Ith, zur."

"And was there no fall on the rock, at all? Oh, there _was_ a fall? And
the bruise was just there--where it hurts so much? And it's very hard to
bear, isn't it?"

Sammy shook his head.

"No? But it hurts a good deal, sometimes, does it not? That's too bad.
That's very sad, indeed. But, perhaps--perhaps, Sammy--I can cure it for
you, if you are brave. And are you brave? No? Oh, I think you are. And
you'll try to be, at any rate, won't you? Of course! That's a good boy."

And so, with his sharp little knives, the doctor cured Sammy Jutt's
knee, while the lad lay white and still on the kitchen table. And 'twas
not hard to do; but had not the doctor chanced that way, Sammy Jutt
would have been a cripple all his life.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Doctor, zur," said Matilda Jutt, when the children were put to bed,
with Martha to watch by Sammy, who was still very sick, "is you really
got a bottle o' Pine's Prompt?"

The doctor laughed. "An empty bottle," said he. "I picked it up at
Poverty Cove. Thought it might come useful. I'll put Sammy's medicine in
that. They'll not know the difference. And you'll treat the knee with it
as I've told you. That's all. We must turn in at once; for we must be
gone before the children wake in the morning."

"Oh, ay, zur; an'----" she began: but hesitated, much embarrassed.

"Well?" the doctor asked, with a smile.

"Would you mind puttin' some queer lookin' stuff in one o' they bottles
o' yours?"

"Not in the least," in surprise.

"An' writin' something on a bit o' paper," she went on, pulling at her
apron, and looking down, "an' gluin' it t' the bottle?"

"Not at all. But what shall I write?"

She flushed. "'Magic Egyptian Beautifier,' zur," she answered; "for I'm
thinkin' 'twould please little Sammy t' think that Sandy Claws left
something--for me--too."

       *       *       *       *       *

If you think that the three little Jutts found nothing but bottles of
medicine in their stockings, when they got down-stairs on Christmas
morning, you are very much mistaken. Indeed, there was much more than
that--a great deal more than that. I will not tell you what it was; for
you might sniff, and say, "Huh! That's little enough!" But there _was_
more than medicine. No man--rich man, poor man, beggarman nor thief,
doctor, lawyer nor merchant chief--ever yet left a Hudson's Bay
Company's post, stared in the face by the chance of having to seek
hospitality of a Christmas Eve--no right-feeling man, I say, ever yet
left a Hudson's Bay Company's post, under such circumstances, without
putting something more than medicine in his pack. I chance to know, at
any rate, that upon this occasion Doctor Luke did not. And I know,
too--you may be interested to learn it--that as we floundered through
the deep snow, homeward bound, soon after dawn, the next day, he was
glad enough that he hadn't. No merry shouts came over the white miles
from the cottage of Jonas Jutt, though I am sure that they rang there
most heartily; but the doctor did not care: he shouted merrily enough
for himself, for he was very happy. And that's the way _you'd_ feel,
too, if you spent _your_ days hunting good deeds to do.



XXI

DOWN NORTH


When, in my father's house, that night, the Christmas revel was
over--when, last of all, in noisy glee, we had cleared the broad kitchen
floor for Sir Roger De Coverly, which we danced with the help of the
maids' two swains and Skipper Tommy Lovejoy and Jacky, who had come out
from the Lodge for the occasion (all being done to the tune of "Money
Musk," mercilessly wrung from an ancient accordion by Timmie
Lovejoy)--when, after that, we had all gathered before the great blaze
in the best room, we told no tales, such as we had planned to tell, but
soon fell to staring at the fire, each dreaming his own dreams.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be that my thoughts changed with the dying blaze--passing from
merry fancies to gray visions, trooping out of the recent weeks, of cold
and hunger and squalid death in the places from which we had returned.

"Davy!" said my sister.

I started.

"What in the world," she asked, "is you thinkin' so dolefully of?"

"I been thinkin'," I answered, sighing, "o' the folk down narth."

"Of the man at Runner's Woe?" the doctor asked.

"No, zur. He on'y done murder. 'Twas not o' he. 'Twas o' something
sadder than that."

"Then 'tis too sad to tell," he said.

"No," I insisted. "'Twould do well-fed folk good t' hear it."

"What was it?" my sister asked.

"I was thinkin'----"

Ah, but '_twas_ too sad!

"O' what?"

"O' the child at Comfort Harbour, Bessie, that starved in his mother's
arms."

Timmie Lovejoy threw more billets on the fire. They flamed and
spluttered and filled the room with cheerful light.

"Davy," said the doctor, "we can never cure the wretchedness of this
coast."

"No, zur?"

"But we can try to mitigate it."

"We'll try," said I. "You an' me."

"You and I."

"And I," my sister said.

Lying between the sturdy little twins, that night--where by right of
caste I lay, for it was the warmest place in the bed--I abandoned, once
and for all, my old hope of sailing a schooner, with the decks awash.

"Timmie!" I whispered.

He was sound asleep. I gave him an impatient nudge in the ribs.

"Ay, Davy?" he asked.

"You may have my hundred-tonner," said I.

"What hundred-tonner?"

"The big fore-an'-after, Timmie, I'm t' have when I'm growed. You may
skipper she. You'll not wreck her, Timmie, will you?"

He was asleep.

"Hut!" I thought, angrily. "I'll have Jacky skipper that craft, if
Timmie don't look out."

At any rate, she was not to be for me.



XXII

The WAY From HEART'S DELIGHT


It chanced in the spring of that year that my sister and the doctor and
I came unfortuitously into a situation of grave peril: wherein (as you
shall know) the doctor was precipitate in declaring a sentiment, which,
it may be, he should still have kept close within his heart, withholding
it until a happier day. But for this there is some excuse: for not one
of us hoped ever again to behold the rocks and placid water of our
harbour, to continue the day's work to the timely close of the day, to
sit in quiet places, to dream a fruitful future, to aspire untroubled in
security and ease: and surely a man, whatever his disposition and
strength of mind, being all at once thus confronted, may without blame
do that which, as a reward for noble endeavour, he had hoped in all
honour to do in some far-off time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Being bound across the bay from Heart's Delight of an ominously dull
afternoon--this on a straight-away course over the ice which still clung
to the coast rocks--we were caught in a change of wind and swept to sea
with the floe: a rising wind, blowing with unseasonable snow from the
northwest, which was presently black as night. Far off shore, the pack
was broken in pieces by the sea, scattered broadcast by the gale; so
that by the time of deep night--while the snow still whipped past in
clouds that stung and stifled us--our pan rode breaking water: which
hissed and flashed on every hand, the while ravenously eating at our
narrow raft of ice. Death waited at our feet.... We stood with our backs
to the wind, my sister and I cowering, numb and silent, in the lee of
the doctor.... Through the long night 'twas he that sheltered us.... By
and by he drew my sister close. She sank against his breast, and
trembled, and snuggled closer, and lay very still in his arms.... I
heard his voice: but was careless of the words, which the wind swept
overhead--far into the writhing night beyond.

"No, zur," my sister answered. "I'm not afraid--with you."

A long time after that, when the first light of dawn was abroad--sullen
and cheerless--he spoke again.

"Zur?" my sister asked, trembling.

He whispered in her ear.

"Ay, zur," she answered.

Then he kissed her lips....

       *       *       *       *       *

Late in the day the snow-clouds passed. Ice and black water mercilessly
encompassed us to the round horizon of gray sky. There was no hope
anywhere to be descried.... In the dead of night a change of wind herded
the scattered fragments of the pack. The ice closed in upon us--great
pans, crashing together: threatening to crush our frailer one.... We
were driven in a new direction.... Far off to leeward--somewhere deep in
the black night ahead--the floe struck the coast. We heard the evil
commotion of raftering ice. It swept towards us. Our pan stopped dead
with a jolt. The pack behind came rushing upon us. We were tilted out of
the water--lifted clear of it all--dropped headlong with the wreck of
the pan....

I crawled out of a shallow pool of water. "Bessie!" I screamed. "Oh,
Bessie, where is you?"

The noise of the pack passed into distance--dwindling to deepest
silence.

"Davy," my sister called, "is you hurt?"

"Where is you, Bessie?"

"Here, dear," she answered, softly. "The doctor has me safe."

Guided by her sweet voice, I crept to them; and then we sat close
together, silent all in the silent night, waiting for the dawn....

       *       *       *       *       *

We traversed a mile or more of rugged, blinding ice--the sky blue in
every part, the sun shining warm, the wind blowing light and balmy from
the south. What with the heat, the glare, the uneven, treacherous
path--with many a pitfall to engulf us--'twas a toilsome way we
travelled. The coast lay white and forsaken beyond--desolate,
inhospitable, unfamiliar: an unkindly refuge for such castaways as we.
But we came gratefully to the rocks, at last, and fell exhausted in the
snow, there to die, as we thought, of hunger and sheer weariness. And
presently the doctor rose, and, bidding us lie where we were, set out to
discover our whereabouts, that he might by chance yet succour us: which
seemed to me a hopeless venture, for the man was then near snow-blind,
as I knew....

       *       *       *       *       *

Meantime, at our harbour, where the world went very well, the eye of
Skipper Tommy Lovejoy chanced in aimless roving to alight upon the
letter from Wolf Cove, still securely fastened to the wall, ever visible
warning to that happy household against the wiles o' women. I fancy that
(the twins being gone to Trader's Cove to enquire for us) the mild blue
eye wickedly twinkled--that it found the tender missive for the moment
irresistible in fascination--that the old man approached, stepping in
awe, and gazed with gnawing curiosity at the pale, sprawling
superscription, his very name--that he touched the envelope with his
thick forefinger, just to make sure that 'twas tight in its place,
beyond all peradventure of catastrophe--that, merely to provide against
its defilement by dust, he removed and fondled it--that then he wondered
concerning its contents, until, despite his crying qualms of conscience
(the twins being gone to Trader's Cove and Davy Roth off to Heart's
Delight to help the doctor heal the young son of Agatha Rundle), this
fateful dreaming altogether got the better of him. At any rate, off he
hied through the wind and snow to Tom Tot's cottage: where, as fortune
had it, Tom Tot was mending a caplin seine.

"Tom Tot," said he, quite shamelessly, "I'm fair achin' t' know what's
in this letter."

The harbour was cognizant of Skipper Tommy's state and standing
temptation: much concerned, as well, as to the outcome.

"Skipper Tommy," Tom Tot asked, and that most properly, "is you got
leave o' the boss's son?"

"Davy?"

"Ay, Davy."

"I is not," the skipper admitted, with becoming candour.

"Is you spoke t' the twins?"

"I is not."

"Then," Tom Tot concluded, "shame on you!"

Skipper Tommy tweaked his nose. "Tom Tot," said he, "you got a wonderful
power for readin'. Don't you go tellin' _me_ you hasn't! I _knows_ you
has."

"Well," Tom Tot admitted, "as you're makin' a p'int of it, I'm fair on
print, but poor on writin'."

"Tom Tot," Skipper Tommy went on, with a wave (I fancy) of uttermost
admiration, "I'll stand by it that you is as good at writin' as print.
That I will," he added, recklessly, "agin the world."

Tom Tot yielded somewhat to this blandishment. He took the proffered
letter. "I isn't denyin', Skipper Tommy," he said, "that I'm able t'
make out your name on this here letter."

"Ecod!" cried Skipper Tommy, throwing up his hands. "I knowed it!"

"I isn't denyin'," Tom Tot repeated, gravely, "that I'm _fair_ on
writin'. Fair, mark you! No more."

"Ay," said the skipper, "but I'm wantin' you t' know that this here
letter was writ by a woman with a wonderful sight o' l'arnin'. I'll
warrant you can read _it_. O' course," in a large, conclusive way, "an
you _can't_----"

"Skipper Tommy," Tom interrupted, quickly, "I isn't _sayin'_ I can't."

"Isn't you?" innocently. "Why, Tom Tot, I was thinkin'----"

"No, zur!" Tom answered with heat. "I isn't!"

"Well, you wouldn't----"

"I will!"

"So be," said the skipper, with a sigh of infinite satisfaction. "I'm
thinkin', somehow," he added, his sweet faith now beautifully radiant (I
am sure), as was his way, "that the Lard is mixed up in this letter.
He's mixed up in 'most all that goes on, an' I'd not be s'prised if He
had a finger in this. 'Now,' says the Lard, 'Skipper Tommy,' says He,
'the mail-boat went t' the trouble o' leavin' you a letter,' says He,
'an'----'"

"Leave the Lard out o' this," Tom Tot broke in.

"Sure, an' why?" Skipper Tom mildly asked.

"You've no call t' drag Un in here," was the sour reply. "You leave Un
alone. You're gettin' too wonderful free an' easy with the Lard God
A'mighty, Thomas Lovejoy. He'll be strikin' you dead in your tracks an
you don't look out."

"Tom Tot," the skipper began, "the Lard an' me is wonderful----"

"Leave the Lard alone," Tom Tot snapped. "Come, now! Is you wantin' this
here letter read?"

"I is."

Without more ado, Tom Tot opened the letter from Wolf Cove. I have no
doubt that sensitive blood flushed the bronzed, wrinkled cheeks of
Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, and that, in a burst of grinning modesty, he
tweaked his nose with small regard for that sorely tried and patient
member. And I am informed that, while my old friend thus waited in
ecstasy, Tom Tot puzzled over the letter, for a time, to make sure that
his learning would not be discomfited in the presence of Skipper Tommy
Lovejoy, before whom he had boasted. Then----

"Skipper Tommy," he implored, in agony, "how long--oh, how long--is you
had this letter?"

Skipper Tommy stared.

"How long, oh, how long?" Tom Tot repeated.

"What's gone amiss?" Skipper Tommy entreated, touching Tom Tot's shaking
hand. "It come in the fall o' the year, Tom, lad. But what's gone amiss
along o' you?"

"She've been waitin'--since then? Oh, a wretched father, I!"

"Tom, lad, tell me what 'tis all about."

"'Tis from she--Mary! 'Tis from my lass," Tom Tot cried. "'Twas writ
by that doctor-woman--an' sent t' you, Skipper Tommy--t' tell me--t'
break it easy--that she'd run off from Wayfarer's Tickle--because o'
the sin she'd found there. I misdoubt--oh, I misdoubt--that she've
been afeared I'd--that I'd mistook her, poor wee thing--an' turn her
off. I call the Lard God A'mighty t' witness," he cried, passionately,
"that I'd take her home, whatever come t' pass! I calls God t' witness
that I loves my lass! She've done no wrong," he continued. "She've but
run away from the sin t' Wayfarer's Tickle. She've taken shelter t' Wolf
Cove--because--she've been afeared that--I'd mistook--an' cast her off!"

"An' she's waitin' there for you?"

"Ay--for me--t' bring her home."

"For her father t' come?"

"Her father."

There was a moment of silence. "Tom Tot," Skipper Tommy declared,
fetching his thigh a resounding slap, "that letter's been tacked t' my
wall the winter long. Is you hearin' me, Tom Tot? It's been lyin' idle
agin my wall. While she've been waitin', Tom! While she've been
waitin'!"

"Oh, ay!"

"I'm fair glad you're hearin' me," said the skipper. "For I calls you t'
witness this: that when I cotches them twins o' mine I'll thwack un
till they're red, Tom Tot--till they're red and blistered below decks.
An' when I cotches that young Davy Roth--when I cotches un alone,
'ithout the doctor--I'll give un double watches."

"We'll get underway for Wolf Cove, Skipper Tommy," said Tom Tot, "when
the weather lightens. An' we'll fetch that lass o' mine," he added,
softly, "home."

"That we will, Tom Tot," said Skipper Tommy Lovejoy.

And 'twas thus it came about that we were rescued: for, being old and
wise, they chose to foot it to Wolf Cove--over the 'longshore
hills--fearing to chance the punt at sea, because of the shifting ice.
Midway between our harbour and Wolf Cove, they found the doctor sitting
blind in the snow, but still lustily entreating the surrounding
desolation for help--raising a shout at intervals, in the manner of a
faithful fog-horn. Searching in haste and great distress, they soon came
upon my sister and me, exhausted, to be sure, and that most pitiably,
but not beyond the point of being heartily glad of their arrival. Then
they made a tiny fire with birch rind and billets from Tom Tot's
pack--and the fire crackled and blazed in a fashion the most
heartening--and the smutty tin kettle bubbled as busily as in the most
immaculate of kitchens: and presently the tea and hard-bread were doing
such service as rarely, indeed, save in our land, it is their good
fortune to achieve. And having been refreshed and roundly scolded, we
were led to the cove beyond, where we lay the night at the cottage of
Tiltworthy Cutch: whence, in the morning, being by that time
sufficiently restored, we set out for our harbour, under the guidance of
Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, whose continued separation from the woman at Wolf
Cove I made sure of by commanding his presence with us.

"You may beat me, Skipper Tommy," said I, "when you gets me home, an' I
wish you joy of it. But home you goes!"

"But, Davy, lad," he protested, "there's that poor Tom Tot goin' on
alone----"

"Home you goes!"

"An' there's that kind-hearted doctor-woman. Sure, now, Davy," he began,
sweetly, "I'd like t' tell she----"

"That's just," said I, "what I'm afeared of."

Home the skipper came; and when the twins and I subsequently presented
ourselves for chastisement, with solemn ceremony, gravely removing
whatever was deemed in our harbour superfluous under the circumstances,
he was so affected by the spectacle that (though I wish I might write
it differently) he declared himself of opinion, fixed and unprejudiced,
that of all the works of the Lord, which were many and infinitely
blessed, none so favoured the gracious world as the three contrite
urchins there present: and in this ecstasy of tenderness (to our shame)
quite forgot the object of our appearance.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Tom Tot brought Mary home from Wolf Cove, my sister and the doctor
and I went that night by my sister's wish to distinguish the welcome, so
that, in all our harbour, there might be no quibble or continuing
suspicion; and we found the maid cutting her father's hair in the
kitchen (for she was a clever hand with the scissors and comb), as
though nothing had occurred--Skipper Tommy Lovejoy meanwhile with spirit
engaging the old man in a discussion of the unfailing topic; this being
the attitude of the Lord God Almighty towards the wretched sons of men,
whether feeling or not.

In the confusion of our entrance Mary whispered in my ear. "Davy lad,"
she said, with an air of mystery, "I got home."

"I'm glad, Mary," I answered, "that you got home."

"An', hist!" said she, "I got something t' tell you," said she, her eyes
flashing, "along about hell."

"Is you?" I asked, in fear, wishing she had not.

She nodded.

"Is you _got_ t' tell me, Mary?"

"Davy," she whispered, pursing her lips, in the pause regarding me with
a glance so significant of darkest mystery that against my very will I
itched to share the fearful secret, "I got t'."

"Oh, why?" I still protested.

"I been there!" said she.

'Twas quite enough to entice me beyond my power: after that, I kept
watch, all in a shiver of dread, for some signal; and when she had swept
her father's shorn hair from the floor, and when my sister had gone with
Tom Tot's wife to put the swarm of little Tots to bed, and when Tom Tot
had entered upon a minute description of the sin at Wayfarer's Tickle,
from which his daughter, fearing sudden death and damnation, had fled,
Mary beckoned me to follow: which I did. Without, in the breathless,
moonlit night, I found her waiting in a shadow; and she caught me by the
wrist, clutching it cruelly, and led me to the deeper shadow and
seclusion of a great rock, rising from the path to the flake. 'Twas very
still and awesome, there in the dark of that black rock, with the light
of the moon lying ghostly white on all the barren world, and the long,
low howl of some forsaken dog from time to time disturbing the solemn
silence.

I was afraid.

"Davy, lad," she whispered, bending close, so that she could look into
my eyes, which wavered, "is you listenin'?"

"Ay," I answered, breathless.

Her voice was then triumphant. "I been t' hell," said she, "an' back!"

"What's it like, Mary?"

She shuddered.

"What's it like," I pleaded, lusting for the unholy knowledge, "in
hell?"

For a moment she stared at the moonlit hills. Her grasp on my wrist
relaxed. I saw that her lips were working.

"What's it like," I urged, "in hell?" for I devoutly wished to have the
disclosure over with.

"'Tis hell," she answered, low, "at Wayfarer's Tickle. The gate t' hell!
Rum an' love, Davy, dear," she added, laying a fond hand upon my head,
"leads t' hell."

"Not love!" I cried, in sudden fear: for I had thought of the driving
snow, of my dear sister lying in the doctor's arms, of his kiss upon her
lips. "Oh, love leads t' heaven!"

"T' hell," said she.

"No, no!"

"T' hell."

I suffered much in the silence--while, together, Mary and I stared at
the silent world, lying asleep in the pale light.

"'Twas rum," she resumed, "that sent the crew o' the _Right an' Tight_
t' hell. An' 'twas a merry time they had at the gate. Ay, a merry time,
with Jagger fillin' the cups an' chalkin' it down agin the fish! But
they went t' hell. _They went t' hell_! She was lost with all hands in
the gale o' that week--lost on the Devil's Fingers--an' all hands drunk!
An' Jack Ruddy o' Helpful Harbour," she muttered, "went down along o'
she. He was a bonnie lad," she added, tenderly, "an' he kissed me by
stealth in the kitchen." Very sorrowfully she dreamed of that boisterous
kiss. "But," she concluded, "'twas love that put Eliza Hare in th'
etarnal fires."

"Not love!" I complained.

"Davy," she said, not deigning to answer me, "Davy," she repeated, her
voice again rising splendidly triumphant, "I isn't goin' t' hell! For
I've looked in an' got away. The Lard'll never send me, now. Never!"

"I'm glad, Mary."

"I'm not a goat," she boasted. "'Twas all a mistake. I'm a sheep. That's
what I is!"

"I'm wonderful glad."

"But you, Davy," she warned, putting an arm about my waist, in sincere
affection, "you better look out."

"I isn't afeared."

"You better look out!"

"Oh, Mary," I faltered, "I--I--isn't _much_ afeared."

"You better look out!"

"Leave us go home!" I begged.

"The Lard'll ship you there an you don't look out. He've no mercy on
little lads."

"Oh, leave us go home!"

"He'll be cotchin' you!"

I could bear it no longer: nor wished to know any more about hell. I
took her hand, and dragged her from the black shadow of the rock: crying
out that we must now go home. Then we went back to Tom Tot's cheerful
kitchen; and there I no longer feared hell, but could not forget, try as
I would, what Mary Tot had told me about love.

       *       *       *       *       *

Skipper Tommy Lovejoy was preaching what the doctor called in his genial
way "The Gospel According to Tommy."

"Sure, now, Tom Tot," said he, "the Lard is a Skipper o' wonderful civil
disposition. 'Skipper Tommy,' says He t' me, 'an you only does the
best----'"

"You're too free with the name o' the Lard."

Skipper Tommy looked up in unfeigned surprise. "Oh, no, Tom," said he,
mildly, "I isn't. The Lard an' me is----"

"You're too free," Tom Tot persisted. "Leave Un be or you'll rue it."

"Oh, no, Tom," said the skipper. "The Lard an' me gets along wonderful
well together. We're _wonderful_ good friends. I isn't scared o' _He_!"

As we walked home, that night, the doctor told my sister and me that,
whatever the greater world might think of the sin at Wayfarer's Tickle,
whether innocuous or virulent, Jagger was beyond cavil flagrantly
corrupting our poor folk, who were simple-hearted and easy to persuade:
that he was, indeed, a nuisance which must be abated, come what would.



XXIII

The COURSE of TRUE LOVE


Symptoms of my dear sister's previous disorder now again alarmingly
developed--sighs and downcast glances, quick flushes, infinite
tenderness to us all, flashes of high spirits, wet lashes, tumultuously
beating heart; and there were long dreams in the twilight, wherein, when
she thought herself alone, her sweet face was at times transfigured into
some holy semblance. And perceiving these unhappy evidences, I was once
more disquieted; and I said that I must seek the doctor's aid, that she
might be cured of the perplexing malady: though, to be sure, as then and
there I impatiently observed, the doctor seemed himself in some strange
way to have contracted it, and was doubtless quite incapable of
prescribing.

My sister would not brook this interference. "I'm not sayin'," she
added, "that the doctor couldn't cure me, an he had a mind to; for,
Davy, dear," with an earnest wag of her little head, "'twould not be the
truth. I'm only sayin' that I'll not have un try it."

"Sure, why, Bessie?"

Her glance fell. "I'll not tell you why," said she.

"But I'm wantin' t' know."

She pursed her lips.

"Is you forgettin'," I demanded, "that I'm your brother?"

"No," she faltered.

"Then," said I, roughly, "I'll have the doctor cure you whether you will
or not!"

She took my hand, and for a moment softly stroked it, looking away.
"You're much changed, dear," she said, "since our mother died."

"Oh, Bessie!"

"Ay," she sighed.

I hung my head. 'Twas a familiar bitterness. I was, indeed, not the same
as I had been. And it seems to me, now--even at this distant day--that
this great loss works sad changes in us every one. Whether we be child
or man, we are none of us the same, afterwards.

"Davy," my sister pleaded, "were your poor sister now t' ask you t' say
no word----"

"I would not say one word!" I broke in. "Oh, I would not!"

That was the end of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Next day the doctor bade me walk with him on the Watchman, so that, as
he said, he might without interruption speak a word with me: which I
was loath to do; for he had pulled a long face of late, and had sighed
and stared more than was good for our spirits, nor smiled at all, save
in a way of the wryest, and was now so grave--nay, sunk deep in
blear-eyed melancholy--that 'twas plain no happiness lay in prospect.
'Twas sad weather, too--cold fog in the air, the light drear, the land
all wet and black, the sea swishing petulantly in the mist. I had no
mind to climb the Watchman, but did, cheerily as I could, because he
wished it, as was my habit.

When we got to Beacon Rock, there was no flush of red in the doctor's
cheeks, as ever there had been, no life in his voice, which not long
since had been buoyant; and his hand, while for a moment it rested
affectionately on my shoulder, shook in a way that frightened me.

"Leave us go back!" I begged. "I'm not wantin' t' talk."

I wished I had not come: for there was in all this some foreboding of
wretchedness. I was very much afraid.

"I have brought you here, Davy," he began, with grim deliberation, "to
tell you something about myself. I do not find it," with a shrug and a
wry mouth, "a pleasant----"

"Come, zur," I broke in, this not at all to my liking, "leave us go t'
the Soldier's Ear!"

"Not an agreeable duty," he pursued, fixing me with dull eyes, "for me
to speak; nor will it be, I fancy, for you to hear. But----"

This exceeded even my utmost fears. "I dare you, zur," said I, desperate
for a way of escape, "t' dive from Nestin' Ledge this cold day!"

He smiled--but 'twas half a sad frown; for at once he puckered his
forehead.

"You're scared!" I taunted.

He shook his head.

"Oh, do come, zur!"

"No, Davy," said he.

I sighed.

"For," he added, sighing, too, "I have something to tell you, which must
now be told."

Whatever it was--however much he wished it said and over with--he was in
no haste to begin. While, for a long time, I kicked at the rock, in
anxious expectation, he sat with his hands clasped over his knee,
staring deep into the drear mist at sea--beyond the breakers, past the
stretch of black and restless water, far, far into the gray spaces,
which held God knows what changing visions for him! I stole glances at
him--not many, for then I dared not, lest I cry; and I fancied that his
disconsolate musings must be of London, a great city, which, as he had
told me many times, lay infinitely far away in that direction.

"Well, Davy, old man," he said, at last, with a quick little laugh, "hit
or miss, here goes!"

"You been thinkin' o' London," I ventured, hoping, if might be, for a
moment longer to distract him.

"But not with longing," he answered, quickly. "I left no one to wish me
back. Not one heart to want me--not one to wait for me! And I do not
wish myself back. I was a dissipated fellow there, and when I turned my
back on that old life, when I set out to find a place where I might
atone for those old sins, 'twas without regret, and 'twas for good and
all. This," he said, rising, "is my land. This," he repeated, glancing
north and south over the dripping coast, the while stretching wide his
arms, "is now my land! I love it for the opportunity it gave me. I love
it for the new man it has made me. I have forgotten the city. I love
_this_ life! And I love you, Davy," he cried, clapping his arm around
me, "and I love----"

He stopped.

"I knows, zur," said I, in an awed whisper, "whom you love."

"Bessie," said he.

"Ay, Bessie."

There was now no turning away. My recent fears had been realized. I must
tell him what was in my heart.

"Mary Tot says, zur," I gasped, "that love leads t' hell."

He started from me.

"I would not have my sister," I continued, "go t' hell. For, zur," said
I, "she'd be wonderful lonesome there."

"To hell?" he asked, hoarsely.

"Oh, ay!" I groaned. "T' the flames o' hell!"

"'Tis not true!" he burst out, with a radiant smile. "I know it!
Love--my love for her--has led me nearer heaven than ever I hoped to
be!"

I troubled no more. Here was a holy passion. Child that I was--ignorant
of love and knowing little enough of evil--I still perceived that this
love was surely of the good God Himself. I feared no more for my dear
sister. She would be safe with him.

"You may love my sister," said I, "an you want to. You may have her."

He frowned in a troubled way.

"Ay," I repeated, convinced, "you may have my dear sister. I'm not
afraid."

"Davy," he said, now so grave that my heart jumped, "you give her to the
man I am."

"I'm not carin'," I replied, "what you was."

"You do not know."

Apprehension grappled with me. "I'm not wantin' t' know," I protested.
"Come, zur," I pleaded, "leave us go home."

"Once, Davy," he said, "I told you that I had been wicked."

"You're not wicked now."

"I was."

"I'm not carin' what you was. Oh, zur," I cried, tugging at his hand,
"leave us go home!"

"And," said he, "a moment ago I told you that I had been a dissipated
fellow. Do you know what that means?"

"I'm not _wantin_' t' know!"

"You must know."

I saw the peril of it all. "Oh, tell me not!" I begged. "Leave us go
home!"

"But I _must_ tell you, Davy," said he, beginning, now in an agony of
distress, to pace the hilltop. "It is not a matter of to-day. You are
only a lad, now; but you will grow up--and learn--and know. Oh, God," he
whispered, looking up to the frowning sky, laying, the while, his hand
upon my head, "if only we could continue like this child! If only we
_need_ not know! I want you, Davy," he continued, once more addressing
me, "when you grow up, to know, to recall, whatever happens, that I was
fair, fair to you and fair to her, whom you love. You are not like other
lads. It is your _place_, I think, in this little community, that makes
you different. _You_ can understand. I _must_ tell you."

"I'm scared t' know," I gasped. "Take my sister, zur, an' say no more."

"Scared to know? And I to tell. But for your sister's sake--for the sake
of her happiness--I'll tell you, Davy--let me put my arm around you--ay,
I'll tell you, lad, God help me! what it means to be a dissipated
fellow. O Christ," he sighed, "I pay for all I did! Merciful God, at
this moment I pay the utmost price! Davy, lad," drawing me closer, "you
will not judge me harshly?"

"I'll hearken," I answered, hardening.

Then, frankly, he told me as much, I fancy, as a man may tell a lad of
such things....

       *       *       *       *       *

In horror--in shame--ay, in shame so deep I flushed and dared not look
at him--I flung off his arms. And I sprang away--desperately fingering
my collar: for it seemed I must choke, so was my throat filled with
indignation. "You wicked man!" I cried. "You kissed my sister.
You--_you_--kissed my sister!"

"Davy!"

"You wicked, wicked man!"

"Don't, Davy!"

"Go 'way!" I screamed.

Rather, he came towards me, opening his arms, beseeching me. But I was
hot-headed and willful, being only a lad, without knowledge of sin
gained by sinning, and, therefore, having no compassion; and, still, I
fell away from him, but he followed, continuing to beseech me, until, at
last, I struck him on the breast: whereupon, he winced, and turned away.
Then, in a flash--in the still, illuminating instant that follows a blow
struck in blind rage--I was appalled by what I had done; and I stood
stiff, my hands yet clinched, a storm of sobs on the point of breaking:
hating him and myself and all the world, because of the wrong he had
done us, and the wrong I had done him, and the wrong that life had
worked us all.

I took to my heels.

"Davy!" he called.

The more he cried after me, the more beseechingly his voice rang in my
ears, the more my heart urged me to return--the harder I ran.

       *       *       *       *       *

I wish I had not struck him ... I wish, I say, I had not struck him ...
I wish that when he came towards me, with his arms wide open, his
grave, gray eyes pleading--wretched soul that he was--I wish that then I
had let him enfold me. What poor cleverness, what a poor sacrifice, it
would have been! 'Twas I--strange it may have been--but still 'twas I,
Davy Roth, a child, Labrador born and bred, to whom he stretched out his
hand. I should have blessed God that to this remote place a needful man
had come. 'Twas my great moment of opportunity. I might--I might--have
helped him. How rare the chance! And to a child! I might have taken his
hand. I might have led him immediately into placid waters. But I was
I--unfeeling, like all lads: blind, too, reprehensible, deserving of
blame. In all my life--and, as it happens (of no merit of my own, but of
his), it has thus far been spent seeking to give help and comfort to
such as need it--never, never, in the diligent course of it, has an
opportunity so momentous occurred. I wish--oh, I wish--he might once
again need me! To lads--and to men--and to frivolous maids--and to
beggars and babies and cripples and evil persons--and to all sorts and
conditions of human kind! Who knows to whom the stricken soul--downcast
whether of sin or sorrow--may appeal? Herein is justification--the very
key to heaven, with which one may unlock the door and enter, claiming
bliss by right, defiant of God Himself, if need were: "I have sinned, in
common with all men, O God, but I have sought to help such as were in
sorrow, whether of sin or the misfortunes incident to life in the pit
below, which is the world. You dare not cast me out!" Oh, men and women,
lads and maids, I speak because of the wretchedness of my dear folk, out
of their sorrow, which is common to us all, but here, in this barren
place, is unrelieved, not hidden. Take the hand stretched out! And
watch: lest in the great confusion this hand appear--and disappear. If
there be sin, here it is: that the hand wavered, beseeching, within
reach of such as were on solid ground, and was not grasped.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, well! to my sister I ran; and I found her placidly sewing in the
broad window of our house, which now looked out upon a melancholy
prospect of fog and black water and vague gray hills. Perceiving my
distress, she took me in her lap, big boy though I was, and rocked me,
hushing me, the while, until I should command my grief and disclose the
cause of it.

"He's a sinful man," I sobbed, at last. "Oh, dear Bessie, care no more
for him!"

She stopped rocking--and pressed me closer to her soft, sweet bosom--so
close that she hurt me, as my loving mother used to do. And when I
looked up--when, taking courage, I looked into her face--I found it
fearsomely white and hopeless; and when, overcome by this, I took her
hand, I found it very cold.

"Not sinful," she whispered, drawing my cheek close to hers. "Oh, not
that!"

"A sinful, wicked person," I repeated, "not fit t' speak t' such as
you."

"What have he done, Davy?"

"I'd shame t' tell you."

"Oh, what?"

"I may not tell. Hug me closer, Bessie, dear. I'm in woeful want o'
love."

She rocked me, then--smoothing my cheek--kissing me--hoping thus to
still my grief. A long, long time she coddled me, as my mother might
have done.

"Not sinful," she said.

"Ay, a wicked fellow. We must turn un out o' here, Bessie. He've no
place here, no more. He've sinned."

She kissed me on the lips. Her arms tightened about me. And there we
sat--I in my sister's arms--hopeless in the drear light of that day.

"I love him," she said.

"Love him no more! Bessie, dear, he've sinned past all forgiving."

Again--and now abruptly--she stopped rocking. She sat me back in her
lap. I could not evade her glance--sweet-souled, confident, content,
reflecting the bright light of heaven itself.

"There's no sin, Davy," she solemnly said, "that a woman can't forgive."

       *       *       *       *       *

I passed that afternoon alone on the hills--the fog thickening, the wind
blowing wet and cold, the whole world cast down--myself seeking, all the
while, some reasonable way of return to the doctor's dear friendship. I
did not know--but now I know--that reason, sour and implacable, is sadly
inadequate to our need when the case is sore, and, indeed, a wretched
staff, at best: but that fine impulse, the sure, inner feeling, which is
faith, is ever the more trustworthy, if good is to be achieved, for it
is forever sanguine, nor, in all the course of life, relentless. But,
happily, Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, who, in my childhood, came often
opportunely to guide me with his wiser, strangely accurate philosophy,
now sought me on the hill, being informed, as it appeared, of my
distress--and because, God be thanked! he loved me.

"Go 'way!" I complained.

"Go 'way?" cried he, indignantly. "I'll not go 'way. For shame! To send
me from you!"

"I'm wantin' t' be alone."

"Ay; but 'tis unhealthy for you."

"I'm thrivin' well enough."

"Hut!" said he. "What's this atween the doctor an' you? You'd cast un
off because he've sinned? Ecod! I've seldom heard the like. Who is you?
Even the Lard God A'mighty wouldn't do that. Sure, _He_ loves only such
as have sinned. Lad," he went on, now, with a smile, with a touch of his
rough old hand, compelling my confidence and affection, "what's past is
done with. Isn't you l'arned that yet? Old sins are as if they never had
been. Else what hope is there for us poor sons of men? The weight o' sin
would sink us. 'Tis not the dear Lard's way t' deal so with men. To-day
is not yesterday. What was, has been; it is not. A man is not what he
was--he is what he is. But yet, lad--an' 'tis wonderful queer--to-day
_is_ yesterday. 'Tis _made_ by yesterday. The mistake--the sin--o'
yesterday is the straight course--the righteous deed--o' to-day. 'Tis
only out o' sin that sweetness is born. That's just what sin is for! The
righteous, Davy, dear," he said, in all sincerity, "are not lovable, not
trustworthy. The devil nets un by the hundred quintal, for _'tis_ such
easy fishin'; but sinners--such as sin agin their will--the Lard loves
an' gathers in. They who sin must suffer, Davy, an' only such as suffer
can _know_ the dear Lard's love. God be thanked for sin," he said,
looking up, inspired. "Let the righteous be damned--they deserve it.
Give _me_ the company o' sinners!"

"Is you sure?" I asked, confounded by this strange doctrine.

"I thank God," he answered, composedly, "that _I_ have sinned--and
suffered."

"Sure," said I, "_you_ ought t' know, for you've lived so awful long."

"They's nothin' like sin," said he, with a sure smack of the lips, "t'
make good men. I knows it."

"An' Bessie?"

"Oh, Davy, lad, _she'll_ be safe with him!"

Then I, too, knew it--knew that sin had been beneficently decreed by
God, whose wisdom seems so all-wise, once our perverse hearts are opened
to perceive--knew that my dear sister would, indeed, be safe with this
sinner, who sorrowed, also. And I was ashamed that I had ever doubted
it.

"Look!" Skipper Tommy whispered.

Far off--across the harbour--near lost in the mist--I saw my sister and
the doctor walking together.

       *       *       *       *       *

My sister was waiting for me. "Davy," she asked, anxiously, "where have
you been?"

"On the hills," I answered.

For a moment she was silent, fingering her apron; and then, looking
fearlessly into my eyes--"I love him," she said.

"I'm glad."

"I cannot help it," she continued, clasping her hands, her breast
heaving. "I love him--so _hard_--I cannot tell it."

"I'm glad."

"An' he loves me. He loves me! I'm not doubtin' that. He _loves_ me,"
she whispered, that holy light once more breaking about her, in which
she seemed transfigured. "Oh," she sighed, beyond expression, "he loves
me!"

"I'm glad."

"An' I'm content t' know it--just t' know that he loves me--just t' know
that I love him. His hands and eyes and arms! I ask no more--but just t'
know it. Just once to have--to have had him--kiss me. Just once to have
lain in his arms, where, forever, I would lie. Oh, I'm glad," she cried,
joyously, "that the good Lord made me! I'm glad--just for that. Just
because he kissed me--just because I love him, who loves me. I'm glad I
was made for him to love. 'Tis quite enough for me. I want--only this I
want--that he may have me--that, body and soul, I may satisfy his
love--so much I love him. Davy," she faltered, putting her hands to her
eyes, "I love--I _love_--I love him!"

Ecod! 'Twas too much for me. Half scandalized, I ran away, leaving her
weeping in my dear mother's rocking-chair.

       *       *       *       *       *

My sister and I were alone at table that evening. The doctor was gone in
the punt to Jolly Harbour, the maids said; but why, they did not know,
for he had not told them--nor could we guess: for 'twas a vexatious
distance, wind and tide what they were, nor would a wise man undertake
it, save in case of dire need, which did not then exist, the folk of
Jolly Harbour, as everybody knows, being incorruptibly healthy. But I
would not go to sleep that night until my peace was made; and though, to
deceive my sister, I went to bed, I kept my eyes wide open, waiting for
the doctor's step on the walk and on the stair: a slow, hopeless
footfall, when, late in the night, I heard it.

I followed him to his room--with much contrite pleading on the tip of my
tongue. And I knocked timidly on the door.

"Come in, Davy," said he.

My heart was swelling so--my tongue so sadly unmanageable--that I could
do nothing but whimper. But----

"I'm wonderful sad, zur," I began, after a time, "t' think that I----"

"Hush!" said he.

'Twas all I said--not for lack of will or words, but for lack of breath
and opportunity; because all at once (and 'twas amazingly sudden) I
found myself caught off my feet, and so closely, so carelessly,
embraced, that I thought I should then and there be smothered: a death
which, as I had been led to believe, my dear sister might have envied
me, but was not at all to my liking. And when I got my breath 'twas but
to waste it in bawling. But never had I bawled to such good purpose: for
every muffled howl and gasp brought me nearer to that state of serenity
from which I had that day cast myself by harsh and willful conduct.

Then--and 'twas not hard to do--I offered my supreme propitiation: which
was now no more a sacrifice, but, rather, a high delight.

"You may have my sister, zur," I sobbed.

He laughed a little--laughed an odd little laugh, the like of which I
had never heard.

"You may have her," I repeated, somewhat impatiently. "Isn't you hearin'
me? I _give_ her to you."

"This is very kind," he said. "But----"

"You're _wantin'_ her, isn't you?" I demanded, fearing for the moment
that he had meantime changed his mind.

"Yes," he drawled; "but----"

"But what?"

"She'll not have me."

"Not have you!" I cried.

"No," said he.

At that moment I learned much wisdom concerning the mysterious ways of
women.



XXIV

The BEGINNING of The END


From this sad tangle we were next morning extricated by news from the
south ports of our coast--news so ill that sentimental tears and wishes
were of a sudden forgot; being this: that the smallpox had come to Poor
Luck Harbour and was there virulently raging. By noon of that day the
doctor's sloop was underway with a fair wind, bound south in desperate
haste: a man's heart beating glad aboard, that there might come a tragic
solution of his life's entanglement. My sister and I, sitting together
on the heads of Good Promise, high in the sunlight, with the sea spread
blue and rippling below--we two, alone, with hands clasped--watched the
little patch of sail flutter on its way--silently watched until it
vanished in the mist.

"I'm not knowin'," my sister sighed, still staring out to sea, "what's
beyond the mist."

"Nor I."

'Twas like a curtain, veiling some dread mystery, as an ancient
tragedy--but new to us, who sat waiting: and far past our guessing.

"I wonder what we'll see, dear," she whispered, "when the mist lifts."

"'Tis some woeful thing."

She leaned forward, staring, breathing deep, seeking with the strange
gift of women to foresee the event; but she sighed, at last, and gave it
up.

"I'm not knowin'," she said.

We turned homeward; and thereafter--through the months of that
summer--we were diligent in business: but with small success, for Jagger
of Wayfarer's Tickle, seizing the poor advantage with great glee, now
foully slandered and oppressed us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Near midsummer our coast was mightily outraged by the sailings of the
_Sink or Swim_, Jim Tall, master--Jagger's new schooner, trading our
ports and the harbours of the Newfoundland French Shore, with a case of
smallpox in the forecastle. We were all agog over it, bitterly angered,
every one of us; and by day we kept watch from the heads to warn her
off, and by night we saw to our guns, that we might instantly deal with
her, should she so much as poke her prow into the waters of our harbour.
Once, being on the Watchman with my father's glass, I fancied I sighted
her, far off shore, beating up to Wayfarer's Tickle in the dusk: but
could not make sure, for there was a haze abroad, and her cut was not
yet well known to us. Then we heard no more of her, until, by and by,
the skipper of the _Huskie Dog_, bound north, left news that she was
still at large to the south, and sang us a rousing song, which, he said,
had been made by young Dannie Crew of Ragged Harbour, and was then
vastly popular with the folk of the places below.

  "Oh, _have_ you seed the skipper o' the schooner _Sink or Swim_?
  We'll use a rope what's long an' strong, when we cotches him.
    He've a case o' smallpox for'ard,
    An' we'll hang un, by the Lord!
  For he've traded every fishin' port from Conch t' Harbour Rim.

    "T' save the folk that dreads it,
    We'll hang the man that spreads it,
  They's lakes o' fire in hell t' sail for such as Skipper Jim!"

My sister, sweet maid! being then in failing health and spirits, I
secretly took ship with the skipper of the _Bonnie Betsy Buttercup_,
bound south with the first load of that season: this that I might surely
fetch the doctor to my sister's help, who sorely needed cheer and
healing, lest she die like a thirsty flower, as my heart told me. And I
found the doctor busy with the plague at Bay Saint Billy, himself
quartered aboard the _Greased Lightning_, a fore-and-after which he had
chartered for the season: to whom I lied diligently and without shame
concerning my sister's condition, and with such happy effect that we put
to sea in the brewing of the great gale of that year, with our topsail
and tommy-dancer spread to a sousing breeze. But so evil a turn did the
weather take--so thick and wild--that we were thrice near driven on a
lee shore, and, in the end, were glad enough to take chance shelter
behind Saul's Island, which lies close to the mainland near the
Harbourless Shore. There we lay three days, with all anchors over the
side, waiting in comfortable security for the gale to blow out; and
'twas at dusk of the third day that we were hailed from the coast rocks
by that ill-starred young castaway of the name of Docks whose tale
precipitated the final catastrophe in the life of Jagger of Wayfarer's
Tickle.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was only a lad, but, doubtless, rated a man; and he was now sadly
woebegone--starved, shivering, bruised by the rocks and breaking water
from which he had escaped. We got him into the cozy forecastle, clapped
him on the back, put him in dry duds; and, then, "Come, now, lads!"
cried Billy Lisson, the hearty skipper of the _Greased Lightning_,
"don't you go sayin' a word 'til I brew you a cup o' tea. On the
Harbourless Shore, says you? An' all hands lost? Don't you say a word.
Not one!"

The castaway turned a ghastly face towards the skipper. "No," he
whispered, in a gasp, "not one."

"Not you!" Skipper Billy rattled. "You keep mum. Don't you so much as
_mutter_ 'til I melts that iceberg in your belly."

"No, sir."

Perchance to forestall some perverse attempt at loquacity, Skipper Billy
lifted his voice in song--a large, rasping voice, little enough
acquainted with melody, but expressing the worst of the rage of those
days: being thus quite sufficient to the occasion.

  "Oh, _have_ you seed the skipper o' the schooner _Sink or Swim_?
  We'll use a rope what's long an' strong, when we cotches him.
    He've a case o' smallpox for'ard,
    An' we'll hang un, by the Lord!
  For he've traded every fishin' port from Conch t' Harbour Rim.

    "T' save the folk that dreads it,
    We'll _hang_ the man that spreads it,
  They's lakes o' fire in hell t' sail for such as Skipper Jim!"

"Skipper Billy, sir," said Docks, hoarsely, leaning into the light of
the forecastle lamp, "does you say _hang_? Was they goin' t' hang
Skipper Jim if they cotched him?"

"_Was_ we?" asked Skipper Billy. "By God," he roared, "we _is_!"

"My God!" Docks whispered, staring deep into the skipper's eyes, "they
was goin' t' hang the skipper!"

There was not so much as the drawing of a breath then to be heard in the
forecastle of the _Greased Lightning_. Only the wind, blowing in the
night--and the water lapping at the prow--broke the silence.

"Skipper Billy, sir," said Docks, his voice breaking to a whimper, "was
they goin' t' hang the crew? They wasn't, was they? Not goin' t' _hang_
un?"

"Skipper t' cook, lad," Skipper Billy answered, the words prompt and
sure. "Hang un by the neck 'til they was dead."

"My God!" Docks whined. "They was goin' t' hang the crew!"

"But we isn't cotched un yet."

"No," said the boy, vacantly. "Nor you never will."

The skipper hitched close to the table. "Lookee, lad," said he, leaning
over until his face was close to the face of Docks, "was _you_ ever
aboard the _Sink or Swim_?"

"Ay, sir," Docks replied, at last, brushing his hair from his brow. "I
was clerk aboard the _Sink or Swim_ two days ago."

For a time Skipper Billy quietly regarded the lad--the while scratching
his beard with a shaking hand.

"Clerk," Docks sighed, "two days ago."

"Oh, _was_ you?" the skipper asked. "Well, well!" His lower jaw
dropped. "An' would mind tellin' us," he continued, his voice now
touched with passion, "what's _come_ o' that damned craft?"

"She was lost on the Harbourless Shore, sir, with all hands--but me."

"Thank God for that!"

"Ay, thank God!"

Whereupon the doctor vaccinated Docks.



XXV

A CAPITAL CRIME


"You never set eyes on old Skipper Jim, did you, Skipper Billy?" Docks
began, later, that night. "No? Well, he was a wonderful hard man. They
says the devil was abroad the night of his bornin'; but I'm thinkin'
that Jagger o' Wayfarer's Tickle had more t' do with the life he lived
than ever the devil could manage. 'Twas Jagger that owned the _Sink or
Swim_; 'twas he that laid the courses--ay, that laid this last one, too.
Believe me, sir," now turning to Doctor Luke, who had uttered a sharp
exclamation, "for I _knowed_ Jagger, an' I _sailed_ along o' Skipper
Jim. 'Skipper Jim,' says I, when the trick we played was scurvy, 'this
here ain't right.' 'Right?' says he. 'Jagger's gone an' laid _that_ word
by an' forgot where he put it.' 'But you, Skipper Jim,' says I, '_you_;
what _you_ doin' this here for?' 'Well, Docks,' says he, 'Jagger,' says
he, 'says 'tis a clever thing t' do, an' I'm thinkin',' says he, 'that
Jagger's near right. Anyhow,' says he, 'Jagger's my owner.'"

Doctor Luke put his elbows on the forecastle table, his chin on his
hands--and thus gazed, immovable, at young Docks.

"Skipper Jim," the lad went on, "was a lank old man, with a beard that
used t' put me in mind of a dead shrub on a cliff. Old, an' tall, an'
skinny he was; an' the flesh of his face was sort o' wet an' whitish, as
if it had no feelin'. They wasn't a thing in the way o' wind or sea that
Skipper Jim was afeard of. I like a brave man so well as anybody does,
but I haven't no love for a fool; an' I've seed _him_ beat out o' safe
harbour, with all canvas set, when other schooners was reefed down an'
runnin' for shelter. Many a time I've took my trick at the wheel when
the most I hoped for was three minutes t' say my prayers.

"'Skipper, sir,' we used t' say, when 'twas lookin' black an' nasty t'
win'ard an' we was wantin' t' run for the handiest harbour, ''tis like
you'll be holdin' on for Rocky Cove. Sure, you've no call t' run for
harbour from _this here_ blow!'

"'Stand by that mainsheet there!' he'd yell. 'Let her off out o' the
wind. We'll be makin' for Harbour Round for shelter. Holdin' on, did you
say? My dear man, they's a whirlwind brewin'!'

"But if 'twas blowin' hard--a nor'east snorter, with the gale raisin' a
wind-lop on the swell, an' the night comin' down--if 'twas blowin'
barb'rous hard, sometimes we'd get scared.

"'Skipper,' we couldn't help sayin', ''tis time t' get out o' this. Leave
us run for shelter, man, for our lives!'

"'Steady, there, at the wheel!' he'd sing out. 'Keep her on her course.
'Tis no more than a clever sailin' breeze.'

"Believe _me_, sir," Docks sighed, "they wasn't a port Skipper Jim
wouldn't make, whatever the weather, if he could trade a dress or a
Bible or a what-not for a quintal o' fish. 'Docks,' says he, 'Jagger,'
says he, 'wants fish, an' _I_ got t' get un.' So it wasn't pleasant
sailin' along o' him in the fall o' the year, when the wind was all in
the nor'east, an' the shore was a lee shore every night o' the week. No,
sir! 'twasn't pleasant sailin' along o' Skipper Jim in the _Sink or
Swim_. On no account, 'twasn't pleasant! Believe _me_, sir, when I lets
my heart feel again the fears o' last fall, I haven't no love left for
Jim. No, sir! doin' what he done this summer, I haven't no love left for
Jim.

"'It's fish me an' Jagger wants, b'y,' says he t' me, 'an' they's no
one'll keep un from us.'

"'Dear man!' says I, pointin' t' the scales, 'haven't you got no
conscience?'

"'Conscience!' says he. 'What's that? Sure,' says he, 'Jagger never
_heared_ that word!'

"Well, sir, as you knows, there's been a wonderful cotch o' fish on the
Labrador side o' the Straits this summer. An' when Skipper Jim hears a
Frenchman has brought the smallpox t' Poor Luck Harbour, we was tradin'
the French shore o' Newfoundland. Then he up an' cusses the smallpox,
an' says he'll make a v'y'ge of it, no matter what. I'm thinkin' 'twas
all the fault o' the cook, the skipper bein' the contrary man he was;
for the cook he says he've signed t' cook the grub, an' he'll cook 'til
he drops in his tracks, but he _haven't_ signed t' take the smallpox,
an' he'll be jiggered for a squid afore he'll sail t' the Labrador.
'Smallpox!' says the skipper. 'Who says 'tis the smallpox? Me an' Jagger
says 'tis the chicken-pox.' So the cook--the skipper havin' the eyes he
had--says he'll sail t' the Labrador all right, but he'll see himself
hanged for a mutineer afore he'll enter Poor Luck Harbour. 'Poor Luck
Harbour, is it?' says the skipper. 'An' is that where they've
the--the--smallpox?' says he. 'We'll lay a course for Poor Luck Harbour
the morrow. I'll prove 'tis the chicken-pox or eat the man that has it.'
So the cook--the skipper havin' the eyes he had--says _he_ ain't afraid
o' no smallpox, but he knows what'll come of it if the crew gets
ashore.

"'Ho, ho! cook,' says the skipper. '_You'll_ go ashore along o' _me_, me
boy.'

"The next day we laid a course for Poor Luck Harbour, with a fair wind;
an' we dropped anchor in the cove that night. In the mornin', sure
enough, the skipper took the cook an' the first hand ashore t' show un a
man with the chicken-pox; but I was kep' aboard takin' in fish, for such
was the evil name the place had along o' the smallpox that we was the
only trader in the harbour, an' had all the fish we could handle.

"'Skipper,' says I, when they come aboard, '_is_ it the smallpox?'

"'Docks, b'y,' says he, lookin' me square in the eye, 'you never yet
heard me take back my words. I _said_ I'd eat the man that had it. But I
tells you what, b'y, I ain't hankerin' after a bite o' what I seed!'

"'We'll be liftin' anchor an' gettin' t' sea, then,' says I; for it made
me shiver t' hear the skipper talk that way.

"'Docks, b'y,' says he, 'we'll be liftin' anchor when we gets all the
fish they is. Jagger,' says he, 'wants fish, an' I'm the boy t' get un.
When the last one's weighed an' stowed, we'll lift anchor an' out; but
not afore.'

"We was three days out from Poor Luck Harbour, tradin' Kiddle Tickle,
when Tommy Mib, the first hand, took a suddent chill. 'Tommy, b'y,' says
the cook, 'you cotched cold stowin' the jib in the squall day afore
yesterday. I'll be givin' _you_ a dose o' pain-killer an' pepper.' So
the cook give Tommy a wonderful dose o' pain-killer an' pepper an' put
un t' bed. But 'twas not long afore Tommy had a pain in the back an' a
burnin' headache. 'Tommy, b'y,' says the cook, 'you'll be gettin' the
inflammation, I'm thinkin'. I'll have t' put a plaster o' mustard an'
red pepper on _your_ chest.' So the cook put a wonderful large plaster
o' mustard an' red pepper on poor Tommy's chest, an' told un t' lie
quiet. Then Tommy got wonderful sick--believe _me_, sir, wonderful sick!
An' the cook could do no more, good cook though he was.

"'Tommy,' says he, 'you got something I don't know nothin' about.'

"'Twas about that time that we up with the anchor an' run t' Hollow
Cove, where we heard they was a grand cotch o' fish, all dry an' waitin'
for the first trader t' pick it up. They'd the smallpox there, sir,
accordin' t' rumour; but we wasn't afeard o' cotchin' it--thinkin' we'd
not cotched it at Poor Luck Harbour--an' sailed right in t' do the
tradin'. We had the last quintal aboard at noon o' the next day; an' we
shook out the canvas an' laid a course t' the nor'ard, with a fair,
light wind. We was well out from shore when the skipper an' me went down
t' the forecastle t' have a cup o' tea with the cook; an' we was hard at
it when Tommy Mib hung his head out of his bunk.

"'Skipper,' says he, in a sick sort o' whisper, 'I'm took.'

"'What's took you?' says the skipper.

"'Skipper,' says he, 'I--I'm--took.'

"'What's took you, you fool?' says the skipper.

"Poor Tommy fell back in his bunk. 'Skipper,' he whines, 'I've cotched
it!'

"''Tis the smallpox, sir,' says I. 'I seed the spots.'

"'No such nonsense!' says the skipper. ''Tis the measles. That's what
_he've_ got. Jagger an' me says so.'

"'But Jagger ain't here,' says I.

"'Never you mind about that,' says he. 'I knows what Jagger thinks.'

"When we put into Harbour Grand we knowed it wasn't no measles. When we
dropped anchor there, sir, _we knowed what 'twas_. Believe _me_, sir, we
_knowed_ what 'twas. The cook he up an' says he ain't afraid o' no
smallpox, but he'll be sunk for a coward afore he'll go down the
forecastle ladder agin. An' the second hand he says he likes a bunk in
the forecastle when he can have one comfortable, but he've no objection
t' the hold _at times_. 'Then, lads,' says the skipper, 'you'll not be
meanin' t' look that way agin,' says he, with a snaky little glitter in
his eye. 'An' if you do, you'll find a fist about the heft o' _that_,'
says he, shakin' his hand, 't' kiss you at the foot o' the ladder.'
After that the cook an' the second hand slep' in the hold, an' them an'
me had a snack o' grub at odd times in the cabin, where I had a hammock
slung, though the place was wonderful crowded with goods. 'Twas the
skipper that looked after Tommy Mib. 'Twas the skipper that sailed the
ship, too,--drove her like he'd always done: all the time eatin' an'
sleepin' in the forecastle, where poor Tommy Mib lay sick o' the
smallpox. But we o' the crew kep' our distance when the ol' man was on
deck; an' they was no rush for'ard t' tend the jib an' stays'l when it
was 'Hard a-lee!' in a beat t' win'ard--no rush at all. Believe _me_,
sir, they was no rush for'ard--with Tommy Mib below.

"'Skipper Jim,' says I, one day, 'what _is_ you goin' t' do?'

"'Well, Docks,' says he, 'I'm thinkin' I'll go see Jagger.'

"So we beat up t' Wayfarer's Tickle--makin' port in the dusk. Skipper
Jim went ashore, but took nar a one of us with un. He was there a
wonderful long time; an' when he come aboard, he orders the anchor up
an' all sail made.

"'Where you goin'?' says I.

"'Tradin',' says he.

"'Is you?' says I.

"'Ay,' says he. 'Jagger says 'tis a wonderful season for fish.'"

Docks paused. "Skipper Billy," he said, breaking off the narrative and
fixing the impassive skipper of the _Greased Lightning_ with an anxious
eye, "did they have the smallpox at Tops'l Cove? Come now; did they?"

"Ay, sir," Skipper Billy replied; "they had the smallpox at Tops'l
Cove."

"Dear man!" Docks repeated, "they had the smallpox at Tops'l Cove! We
was three days at Tops'l Cove, with folk aboard every day, tradin' fish.
An' Tommy Mib below! We touched Smith's Arm next, sir. Come now, speak
fair; did they have it there?"

"They're not rid of it yet," said Doctor Luke.

"Smith's Arm too!" Docks groaned.

"An' Harbour Rim," the skipper added.

"Noon t' noon at Harbour Rim," said Docks.

"And Highwater Cove," the doctor put in.

"Twenty quintal come aboard at Highwater Cove. I mind it well."

"They been dyin' like flies at Seldom Cove."

"Like flies?" Docks repeated, in a hoarse whisper. "Skipper Billy, sir,
who--who died--like that?"

Skipper Billy drew his hand over his mouth. "One was a kid," he said,
tugging at his moustache.

"My God!" Docks muttered. "One was a kid!"

In the pause--in the silence into which the far-off, wailing chorus of
wind and sea crept unnoticed--Skipper Billy and Docks stared into each
other's eyes.

"An' a kid died, too," said the skipper.

Again the low, wailing chorus of wind and sea, creeping into the
silence. I saw the light in Skipper Billy's eyes sink from a flare to a
glow; and I was glad of that.

"'Twas a cold, wet day, with the wind blowin' in from the sea, when we
dropped anchor at Little Harbour Deep," Docks continued. "We always kep'
the forecastle closed tight an' set a watch when we was in port; an' the
forecastle was tight enough that day, but the second hand, whose watch
it was, had t' help with the fish, for 'tis a poor harbour there, an' we
was in haste t' get out. The folk was loafin' about the deck, fore an'
aft, waitin' turns t' weigh fish or be served in the cabin. An' does you
know what happened?" Docks asked, tensely. "Can't you see how 'twas?
Believe _me_, sir, 'twas a cold, wet day, a bitter day; an' 'tis no
wonder that one o' they folk went below t' warm hisself at the
forecastle stove--went below, where poor Tommy Mib was lyin' sick.
Skipper, sir," said Docks, with wide eyes, leaning over the table and
letting his voice drop, "I seed that man come up--come tumblin' up like
mad, sir, his face so white as paint. He'd seed Tommy Mib! An' he
yelled, sir; an' Skipper Jim whirled about when he heard that word, an'
I seed his lips draw away from his teeth.

"'Over the side, every man o' you!' sings he.

"But 'twas not the skipper's order--'twas that man's horrid cry that
sent un over the side. They tumbled into the punts and pushed off. It
made me shiver, sir, t' see the fright they was in.

"'Stand by t' get out o' this!' says the skipper.

"'Twas haul on this an' haul on that, an' 'twas heave away with the
anchor, 'til we was well under weigh with all canvas spread. We beat
out, takin' wonderful chances in the tickle, an' stood off t' the
sou'east. That night, when we was well off, the cook says t' me that he
_thinks_ he've nerve enough t' be boiled in his own pot in a good cause,
but he've no mind t' make a Fox's martyr of hisself for the likes o'
Skipper Jim.

"'Cook,' says I, 'we'll leave this here ship at the next port.'

"'Docks,' says he, ''tis a clever thought.'

"'Twas Skipper Jim's trick at the wheel, an' I loafed aft t' have a word
with un--keepin' well t' win'ward all the time; for he'd just come up
from the forecastle.

"'Skipper Jim,' says I, 'we're found out.'

"'What's found out?' says he.

"'The case o' smallpox for'ard,' says I. 'What you goin' t' do about
it?'

"'Do!' says he. 'What'll I do? Is it you, Docks, that's askin' me that?
Well,' says he, 'Jagger an' me fixed _that_ all up when I seed him there
t' Wayfarer's Tickle. They's three ports above Harbour Deep, an' I'm
goin' t' trade un all. 'Twill be a v'y'ge by that time. Then I'm goin'
t' run the _Sink or Swim_ back o' the islands in Seal Run. Which done,
I'll wait for Tommy Mib t' make up his mind, one way or t' other. If he
casts loose, I'll wait, decent as you like, 'til he's well under weigh,
when I'll ballast un well an' heave un over. If he's goin' t' bide a
spell longer in this world, I'll wait 'til he's steady on his pins. But,
whatever, go or stay, I'll fit the schooner with a foretopmast, bark her
canvas, paint her black, call her the _Prodigal Son_, an' lay a course
for St. Johns. They's not a man on the docks will take the _Prodigal
Son_, black hull, with topmast fore an' aft an' barked sails, inbound
from the West Coast with a cargo o' fish--not a man, sir, will take the
_Prodigal Son_ for the white, single-topmast schooner _Sink or Swim_, up
from the Labrador, reported with a case o' smallpox for'ard. For, look
you, b'y,' says he, 'nobody knows _me_ t' St. Johns.'

"'Skipper Jim,' says I, 'sure you isn't goin' t' put this fish on the
market!'

"'Hut!' says he. 'Jagger an' me is worryin' about the price o' fish
already.'

"We beat about offshore for three days, with the skipper laid up in the
forecastle. Now what do you make o' that? The skipper laid up in the
forecastle along o' Tommy Mib--an' Tommy took the way he was! Come, now,
what do you make o' that?" We shook our heads, one and all; it was plain
that the skipper, too, had been stricken. "Well, sir," Docks went on,
"when Skipper Jim come up t' give the word for Rocky Harbour, he looked
like a man risin' from the dead. 'Take her there,' says he, 'an' sing
out t' me when you're runnin' in.' Then down he went agin; but,
whatever, me an' the cook an' the second hand was willin' enough t' sail
her t' Rocky Harbour without un, for 'twas in our minds t' cut an' run
in the punt when the anchor was down. 'A scurvy trick,' says you, 't'
leave old Skipper Jim an' Tommy Mib in the forecastle, all alone--an'
Tommy took that way?' A scurvy trick!" cried Docks, his voice aquiver.
"Ay, maybe! But you ain't been aboard no smallpox-ship. You ain't never
knowed what 'tis t' lie in your bunk in the dark o' long nights
shiverin' for fear you'll be took afore mornin'. An' maybe you hasn't
seed a man took the way Tommy Mib was took--not took _quite_ that way."

"Yes, I has, b'y," said Skipper Billy, quietly. "'Twas a kid that I
seed."

"Was it, now?" Docks whispered, vacantly.

"A kid o' ten years," Skipper Billy replied.

"Ah, well," said Docks, "kids dies young. Whatever," he went on,
hurriedly, "the old man come on deck when he was slippin' up the narrows
t' the basin at Rocky Harbour.

"''Tis the last port I'll trade,' says he, 'for I'm sick, an' wantin' t'
get home.'

"We was well up, with the canvas half off her, sailin' easy, on the
lookout for a berth, when a punt put out from a stage up alongshore, an'
come down with the water curlin' from her bows.

"'What's the meanin' o' that, Docks?' sings the skipper, pointin' t' the
punt. 'They're goin' out o' the course t' keep t' win'ard.'

"'Skipper Jim,' says I, 'they knows us.'

"'Sink us,' says he, 'they does! They knows what we is an' what we got
for'ard. Bring her to!' he sings out t' the man at the wheel.

"When we had the schooner up in the wind, the punt was bobbin' in the
lop off the quarter.

"'What ship's that?' says the man in the bow.

"'_Sink or Swim_,' says the skipper.

"'You get out o' here, curse you!' says the man. 'We don't want you
here. They's news o' you in every port o' the coast.'

"'I'll bide here 'til I'm ready t' go, sink you!' says the skipper.

"'Oh, no, you won't!' says the man. 'I've a gun or two that says you'll
be t' sea agin in half an hour if the wind holds.'

"So when we was well out t' sea agin, the cook he says t' me that he've
a wonderful fondness for a run ashore in a friendly port, but he've no
mind t' be shot for a mad dog. 'An' we better bide aboard,' says the
second hand; 'for 'tis like we'll be took for mad dogs wherever we tries
t' land.' Down went the skipper, staggerin' sick; an' they wasn't a man
among us would put a head in the forecastle t' ask for orders. So we
beat about for a day or two in a foolish way; for, look you! havin' in
mind them Rocky Harbour rifles, we didn't well know what t' do. Three
days ago it blew up black an' frothy--a nor'east switcher, with a
rippin' wind an' a sea o' mountains. 'Twas no place for a short-handed
schooner. Believe _me_, sir, 'twas no place at all! 'Twas time t' run
for harbour, come what might; so we asked the cook t' take charge. The
cook says t' me that he'd rather be a cook than a skipper, an' a skipper
than a ship's undertaker, but he've no objection t' turn his hand t'
anything t' 'blige a party o' friends: which he'll do, says he, by
takin' the schooner t' Broad Cove o' the Harbourless Shore, which is a
bad shelter in a nor'east gale, says he, but the best he can manage.

"So we up an' laid a course for Broad Cove; an' they was three schooners
harboured there when we run in. We anchored well outside o' them; an',
sure, we thought the schooner was safe, for we knowed she'd ride out
what was blowin', if it took so much as a week t' blow out. But it
blowed harder--harder yet: a thick wind, squally, too, blowin' dead on
shore, where the breakers was leapin' half-way up the cliff. By midnight
the seas was smotherin' her, fore an' aft, an' she was tuggin' at her
bow anchor chain like a fish at the line. Lord! many a time I thought
she'd rip her nose off when a hill o' suddy water come atop of her with
a thud an' a hiss.

"'She'll go ashore on them boilin' rocks,' says the cook.

"We was sittin' in the cabin--the cook an' the second hand an' me.

"''Tis wonderful cold,' says the second hand.

"'I'm chillin', meself,' says the cook.

"'Chillin'!' thinks I, havin' in mind the way poor Tommy Mib was took.
'Has you a pain in your back?' says I.

"They was shiverin' a wonderful lot, an' the cook was holdin' his head
in his hands, just like Tommy Mib used t' do.

"'Ay, b'y,' says he.

"'Ay, b'y,' says the second hand.

"'Been drilled too hard o' late,' says the cook. 'We're all wore out
along o' work an' worry.'

"I didn't wait for no more. 'H-m-m!' says I, 'I thinks I'll take a look
outside.'

"It was dawn then. Lord! what a sulky dawn it was! All gray, an' drivin'
like mad. The seas was rollin' in, with a frothy wind-lop atop o' them.
They'd lift us, smother us, drop us, toss the schooners ridin' in our
lee, an' go t' smash on the big, black rocks ashore. Lord! how they
pulled at the old _Sink or Swim_! 'Twas like as if they wanted her bad
for what she done. Seems t' me the Lord God A'mighty must 'a' knowed
what He was about. Seems to me the Lord God A'mighty said t' Hisself:
'Skipper Jim,' says He, 'I'm through usin' _you_. I've done all the
damage I want done along o' you. I've sent some o' the wicked t' beds
they chose t' lie on; an' the good folk--all the good folk an' little
kids I couldn't wait no longer for, I loved un so--I've took up here.
Ay, Jim,' says the Lord God A'mighty, 'I'm through usin' you; an' I got
t' get rid o' the old _Sink or Swim_. I'm sorry for the cook an' the
second hand an' poor Tommy Mib,' says He, 'wonderful sorry; but I can't
run My world no other way. An' when you comes t' think it over,' says
He, 'you'll find 'tis the best thing that could happen t' they, for
they're took most wonderful bad.' Oh ay," said Docks, with a gentle
smile, "the Lord God A'mighty knowed what He was about.

"I went for'ard t' have a look at the chain. Skipper Jim hisself was
there, watchin' it close.

"'She's draggin',' says he. But I wouldn't 'a' knowed that voice for
Skipper Jim's--'twas so hollow and breathless. 'She's draggin',' says
he. 'Let her drag. They's a better anchorage in there a bit. She'll take
the bottom agin afore she strikes them craft.'

"We was draggin' fast--bearin' straight down on the craft inside. They
was a trader an' two Labrador fishin'-craft. The handiest was a fishin'
boat, bound home with the summer's cotch, an' crowded with men, women,
an' kids. We took the bottom an' held fast within thirty fathom of her
bow. I could see the folk on deck--see un plain as I sees you--hands an'
lips an' eyes. They was swarmin' fore an' aft like a lot o' scared
seal--wavin' their arms, shakin' their fists, jabberin', leapin' about
in the wash o' the seas that broke over the bows.

"'Docks,' says the skipper, 'what's the matter with they folk, anyhow?
We isn't draggin', is we?' says he, half cryin'. 'We isn't hurtin'
_they_, is we?'

"An old man--'tis like he was skipper o' the craft--come runnin'
for'ard, with half a dozen young fellows in his wake. 'Sheer off!' sings
the old one. He jabbered a bit more, all the while wavin' us off, but a
squall o' wind carried it all away. 'We'll shoot you like dogs an you
don't!' says one o' the young ones; an' at that I felt wonderful mean
an' wicked an' sorry. Back aft they went. There they talked an' talked;
an' as they talked they pointed--pointed t' the breakers that was
boilin' over the black rocks; pointed t' the spumey sea an' t' the low,
ragged clouds drivin' across it; pointed t' the _Sink or Swim_. Then the
skipper took the wheel, an' the crew run for'ard t' the windlass an' jib
sheets.

"'Skipper, sir,' says I, 'they're goin' t' slip anchor an' run!'

"'Ay,' says Skipper Jim, 'they knows us, b'y! They knows the _Sink or
Swim_. We lies t' win'ard, an' they're feared o' the smallpox. They'll
risk that craft--women an' kids an' all--t' get away. They isn't a craft
afloat can beat t' sea in this here gale. They'll founder, lad, or
they'll drive on the rocks an' loss themselves, all hands. 'Tis an evil
day for this poor old schooner, Docks,' says he, with a sob, 'that
men'll risk the lives o' kids an' women t' get away from her; an' 'tis
an evil day for my crew.' With that he climbed on the rail, cotched the
foremast shrouds with one hand, put the other to his mouth, an' sung
out: 'Ahoy, you! Bide where you is! Bide where you is!' Then he jumped
down; an' he says t' me, 'tween gasps, for the leap an' shout had taken
all the breath out of un, 'Docks,' says he, 'they's only one thing for a
man t' do in a case like this. Get the jib up, b'y. I'm goin' aft t' the
wheel. Let the anchor chain run out when you sees me wave my hand. See,
lad,' says he, pointin' t' leeward, 'they're waitin', aboard that
fishin' craft, t' see what we'll do. We'll show un that we're men!
Jagger be damned,' says he; 'we'll show un that we're men! Call the
hands,' says he; 'but leave Tommy Mib lie quiet in his bunk,' says he,
'for he's dead.'

"'Skipper Jim,' says I, lookin' in his blood-red eyes, an' then t' the
breakers, 'what you goin' t' do?'

"'Beach her,' says he.

"'Is you gone an' forgot,' says I, 'about Jagger?'

"'Never you mind about Jagger, Docks,' says he. 'I'll see _him_,' says
he, 'later. Call the hands,' says he, 'an' we'll wreck her like men!'"

Docks covered his face with his hands. Place was once more given to the
noises of the gale. He looked up--broken, listless; possessed again by
the mood of that time.

"An' what did _you_ say, lad?" Skipper Billy whispered.

"I hadn't no objection," sighed the lad.

The answer was sufficient.

       *       *       *       *       *

"So I called the hands," Docks went on. "An' when the second hand
cotched sight o' the rocks we was bound for, he went mad, an' tumbled
over the taffrail; an' the cook was so weak a lurch o' the ship flung
him after the second hand afore we reached the breakers. I never seed
Skipper Jim no more; nor the cook, nor the second hand, nor poor Tommy
Mib. But I'm glad the Lord God A'mighty give Jim the chance t' die
right, though he'd lived wrong. Oh, ay! I'm fair glad the good Lord done
that. The Labradormen give us a cheer when the chain went rattlin' over
an' the _Sink or Swim_ gathered way--a cheer, sir, that beat its way
agin the wind--God bless them!--an' made me feel that in the end I was
a man agin. She went t' pieces when she struck," he added, as if in
afterthought; "but I'm something of a hand at swimmin', an' I got ashore
on a bit o' spar. An' then I come down the coast 'til I found you lyin'
here in the lee o' Saul's Island." After a pause, he said hoarsely, to
Skipper Billy: "They had the smallpox at Tops'l Cove, says you? They got
it yet at Smith's Arm? At Harbour Rim an' Highwater Cove they been
dyin'? How did they die at Seldom Cove? Like flies, says you? An' one
was a kid?"

"_My_ kid," said Skipper Billy, quietly still.

"My God!" cried Docks. "_His_ kid! How does that there song go? What
about they lakes o' fire? Wasn't it,

  "'They's lakes o' fire in hell t' sail for such as Skipper Jim!'

you sung? Lord! sir, I'm thinkin' I'll have t' ship along o' Skipper Jim
once more!"

"No, no, lad!" cried Skipper Billy, speaking from the heart. "For you
was willin' t' die right. But God help Jagger on the mornin' o' the
Judgment Day! I'll be waitin' at the foot o' the throne o' God t' charge
un with the death o' my wee kid!"

Doctor Luke sat there frowning.



XXVI

DECOYED


Despite Skipper Billy's anxious, laughing protest that 'twas not yet fit
weather to be at sea, the doctor next day ordered the sail set: for, as
he said, he was all of a maddening itch to be about certain business, of
a professional and official turn, at our harbour and Wayfarer's Tickle,
and could no longer wait the pleasure of a damned obstinate nor'east
gale--a shocking way to put it, indeed, but vastly amusing when uttered
with a fleeting twinkle of the eye: vastly convincing, too, followed by
a snap of the teeth and the gleam of some high, heroic purpose. So we
managed to get the able little _Greased Lightning_ into the thick of
it--merrily into the howl and gray frown of that ill-minded sea--and,
though wind and sea, taking themselves seriously, conspired to smother
her, we made jolly reaches to the nor'ard, albeit under double reefs,
and came that night to Poor Luck Harbour, where the doctor's sloop was
waiting. There we bade good-bye to the mood-stricken Docks, and a short
farewell to Skipper Billy, who must return into the service of the
Government doctors from St. Johns, now, at last, active in the smallpox
ports. And next morning, the wind having somewhat abated in the night,
the doctor and I set sail for our harbour, where, two days later, with
the gale promising to renew itself, we dropped anchor: my dear sister,
who had kept watch from her window, now waiting on my father's wharf.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seemed to me then--and with utmost conviction I uttered the feeling
abroad, the while perceiving no public amusement--that the powers of
doctors were fair witchlike: for no sooner had my sweet sister swallowed
the first draught our doctor mixed--nay, no sooner had it been offered
her in the silver spoon, and by the doctor, himself--than her soft cheek
turned the red of health, and her dimples, which of late had been
expressionless, invited kisses in a fashion the most compelling, so that
a man of mere human parts would swiftly take them, though he were next
moment hanged for it. I marvel, indeed, that Doctor Luke could resist
them; but resist he did: as I know, for, what with lurking and peeping
(my heart being anxiously enlisted), I took pains to discover the fact,
and was in no slight degree distressed by it. For dimples were made for
kissing--else for what?--and should never go unsatisfied; they are so
frank in pleading that 'twould be sheer outrage for the lips of men to
feel no mad desire: which, thank God! seldom happens. But, then, what
concern have I, in these days, with the identical follies of dimples and
kissing?

"'Tis a wonderful clever doctor," said I to my sister, my glance fixed
in amazement on her glowing cheeks, "that we got in Doctor Luke."

"Ah, yes!" she sighed: but so demure that 'twas not painful to hear it.

"An', ecod!" I declared, "'tis a wonderful clever medicine that he've
been givin' you."

"Ecod! Davy Roth," she mocked, a sad little laugh in her eyes, "an'
how," said she, "did you manage to find it out?"

"Bessie!" cried I, in horror. "Do you stop that swearin'! For an you
don't," I threatened, "I'll give you----"

"Hut!" she flouted. "'Tis your own word."

"Then," I retorted, "I'll never say it again. Ecod! but I won't."

She pinched my cheek.

"An' I'm wonderin'," I sighed, reverting to the original train of
thought, which was ever a bothersome puzzle, "how he can keep from
kissin' you when he puts the spoon in your mouth. Sure," said I, "he've
such a wonderful good chance t' do it!"

It may have been what I said; it may have been a familiar footfall in
the hall: at any rate, my sister fled in great confusion. And, pursuing
heartily, I caught her in her room before she closed the door, but
retreated in haste, for she was already crying on the bed. Whereupon, I
gave up the puzzle of love, once and for all; and, as I sought the windy
day, I was established in the determination by a glimpse of the doctor,
sitting vacant as an imbecile in the room where my sister and I had
been: whom I left to his own tragedy, myself being wearied out of
patience by it.

"The maid that turns _me_ mad," was my benighted reflection, as I
climbed the Watchman to take a look at the weather, "will be a wonderful
clever hand."

       *       *       *       *       *

Unhappily, there had been no indictable offense in Jagger's connection
with the horrid crimes of the _Sink or Swim_ (as the doctor said with a
wry face): for Docks would be but a poor witness in a court of law at
St. Johns' knowing nothing of his own knowledge, but only by hearsay;
and the bones of Skipper Jim already lay stripped and white in the
waters of the Harbourless Shore. But, meantime, the doctor kept watch
for opportunity to send frank warning to the man of Wayfarer's Tickle;
and, soon, chance offered by way of the schooner _Bound Down_, Skipper
Immerly Swat, whom the doctor charged, with a grim little grin, to
inform the evil fellow that he was to be put in jail, out of hand, when
first he failed to walk warily: a message to which Jagger returned (by
the skipper of the _Never Say Die_) an answer of the sauciest--so saucy,
indeed, that the doctor did not repeat it, but flushed and kept silent.
And now the coast knew of the open war; and great tales came to us of
Jagger's laughter and loose-mouthed boasting--of his hate and ridicule
and defiant cursing: so that the doctor wisely conceived him to be upon
the verge of some cowardly panic. But the doctor went about his usual
work, healing the sick, quietly keeping the helm of our business, as
though nothing had occurred: and grimly waited for the inevitable hour.

Jonas Jutt, of Topmast Tickle, with whom we had passed a Christmas
Eve--the father of Martha and Jimmie and Sammy Jutt--came by stealth to
our harbour to speak a word with the doctor. "Doctor Luke," said he,
between his teeth, "I'm this year in service t' Jagger o' Wayfarer's
Tickle; an' I've heared tell o' the quarrel atween you; an'...."

"Yes?" the doctor inquired.

"I've took sides."

"I rather think," the doctor observed, "that you can tell me something
I very much want to know."

"I've no wish, God knows!" Jonas continued, with deep feeling, "t'
betray my master. But you--_you_, zur--cured my child, an' I'm wantin'
t' do you a service."

"I think you can."

"I knows I can! I know--I _knows_--that which will put Jagger t' makin'
brooms in the jail t' St. Johns."

"Ah!" the doctor drawled. "I wish," said he, "that I knew that."

"I knows," Jonas pursued, doggedly, though it went against the grain,
"that last week he wrecked the _Jessie Dodd_ on the Ragged Edge at
Wayfarer's Tickle. I knows that she was insured for her value and
fifteen hundred quintal o' Labrador fish. I knows that they wasn't a
fish aboard. I knows that every fish is safe stowed in Jagger's stores.
I knows that the schooner lies near afloat at high tide. I knows that
she'll go t' pieces in the winter gales. I knows----"

The doctor lifted his hand. He was broadly smiling. "You have told me,"
said he, "quite enough. Go back to Wayfarer's Tickle. Leave me," he
added, "to see that Jagger learns the worthy trade of broom-making. You
have done me--great service."

"Ah, but," cried Jonas, gripping the doctor's hand, "_you_ cured my
little Sammy!"

The doctor mused. "It may be difficult," he said, by and by, "to fix
this wreck upon Jagger."

"Hist!" Jonas replied, stepping near. "The skipper o' the _Jessie
Dodd_," he whispered, pointedly, solemnly closing one eye, "is wonderful
weak in the knees."

Doctor and I went then in the sloop to Wayfarer's Tickle (the wind
favouring us); and there we found the handsome _Jessie Dodd_ lying
bedraggled and disconsolate on the Ragged Edge, within the harbour:
slightly listed, but afloat aft, and swinging with the gentle lift and
fall of the water. We boarded her, sad at heart that a craft so lovely
should come to a pass like this; and 'twas at once plain to us
sailor-men that 'twas a case of ugly abandonment, if not of
barratry--plain, indeed, to such as knew the man, that in conspiracy
with the skipper Jagger had caused the wreck of the schooner, counting
upon the isolation of the place, the lateness of the season, the
simplicity of the folk, the awe in which they held him--upon all this to
conceal the crime: as often happens on our far-off coast. So we took the
skipper into custody (and this with a high hand) unknown to Jagger--got
him, soon, safe into the sloop: so cowed and undone by the doctor's
manner that he miserably whined for chance to turn Queen's evidence in
our behalf. 'Twas very sad--nauseating, too: so that one wished to stop
the white, writhing lips with a hearty buffet; for rascals should be
strong, lest their pitiful complaints distress the hearts of honest men,
who have not deserved the cruel punishment.

Jagger came waddling down to the landing, his great dog at his heels.
"What you doin'," he demanded, scowling like a thunder-storm, "with that
man?"

"I next call your attention," the doctor answered, with a smile of the
most engaging sort, like a showman once I saw in the South, "to the most
be-_witch_ing exhibit in this vast concourse of wonders. We have
here--don't crowd, _if_ you please--we have here the skipper of the
schooner _Jessie Dodd_, cast away on the Ragged Edge at Wayfarer's
Tickle. He is--and I direct your particular attention to the astounding
fact--under arrest; being taken by a magistrate duly appointed by the
authorities at St Johns. Observe, if you will, his--ah--rather abject
condition. Mark his penitent air. Conceive, if you can, the--ah--ardour
with which he will betray----"

Jagger turned on his heel--and went wearily away. And I have never
forgiven the doctor his light manner upon this wretched occasion: for
it seems to me (but I am not sure of it) that rascals, also, are
entitled to the usual courtesy. At any rate, in uttermost despair we
paid for the lack of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

I copy, now, from the deposition of Allworthy Grubb, master of the
schooner _Jessie Dodd_, Falmouth, England, as taken that night at our
harbour: "The 'Jessie Dodd' was chartered by Thomas Jagger, doing
business at Wayfarer's Tickle, to load fish for across.... I do hereby
make a voluntary statement, with my own free will, and without any
inducement whatever.... Thomas Jagger offered me, if I would put the
'Jessie Dodd' ashore, he would give me half the profits realized on ship
and cargo. This he promised me on a Sunday morning in his fish stage
opposite to where the ship was put ashore. After the ship was put ashore
he no longer discussed about the money I was to receive.... Two days
before the 'Jessie Dodd' was put ashore I broke the wheel chain and tied
the links with spunyarn. I showed the broken links to Mr. Jagger. The
day we were starting there was rum served out to the crew. Mr. Jagger
supplied it. When the vessel started, nearly all the crew were drunk. I
had the wheel. About five minutes after she started I cut the spunyarn.
The vessel began to go on the rocks. One of the crew shouted,
'Hard-a-starboard!' I shouted that the port wheel chain was broken.
Then the vessel went ashore.... Mr. Jagger sent a kettle of rum
aboard, which I had served to the crew. No attempt was made to get the
vessel off.... When I saw Mr. Jagger he told me I was a seven kinds of
a fool for putting her ashore where I did. He said it would be all
right, anyhow. He said they were all afraid of him. He said no one would
give it away.... I am guilty of putting the 'Jessie Dodd' ashore, for
which I am extremely sorry of being prompted to do so by Thomas Jagger,
and to be so sadly led away into such depravity. Had it not been for
such an irreproachable character, which I have held previous to this
dreadful act, ten minutes after the occurrence I would have given myself
up. Not one hour since but what I have repented bitterly...." I present
this that the doctor may not appear unfairly to have initiated a
prosecution against his enemy: though that were a blessing to our coast.

"Davy," said the doctor, briskily, when the writing was done, "I must
leave Captain Grubb to your hospitality for a time. It will be necessary
for me to go south to the cable station at Chateau. The support of
Lloyds--since Jagger has influence at St. Johns--will be invaluable in
this case."

He set sail in the sloop next day.

It was now late in the fall of the year. Young slob ice was forming by
night in the quiet places of the harbour. The shiver of winter was
everywhere abroad.... For a week the weather continued ominous--with
never a glint of sunshine to gladden us. Drear weather,
treacherous--promising grief and pain. Off shore, the schooners of the
great fleet crept by day to the s'uth'ard, harbouring by night: taking
quick advantage of the variable winds, as chance offered. 'Twas thus
that the doctor returned to our harbour; and there he was held, from day
to day, by vicious winds, which the little sloop could not carry, by
great, black seas, which she could not ride.... One day, being ill at
ease, we went to the Watchman, that we might descry the first favourable
sign. In the open, the wind was still to the north of east--but wildly
capricious: blowing hither and thither; falling, too, to a sigh, rising,
all at once, to a roaring gust, which tore at the whisps of grass and
fairly sucked the breath from one's body. Overhead, the sky was low and
tumultuous; great banks of black cloud, flecked with gray and
white--ragged masses--went flying inland, as in a panic. There was no
quiet light in the east, no clean air between; 'twas everywhere
thick--everywhere sullen.... We left the Watchman downcast--each, too,
preoccupied. In my heart was the heavy feeling that some sad thing was
about to befall us....

       *       *       *       *       *

I must tell, now, that, before the smallpox came to Poor Luck Harbour,
the doctor had chartered the thirty-ton _Trap and Seine_ for our
business: with which Skipper Tommy Lovejoy and the twins, with four men
of our harbour, had subsequently gone north to Kidalik, where the
fishing was reported good beyond dreams. 'Twas time for the schooner to
be home. She was long overdue; and in great anxiety we awaited her
return or news of her misfortune: the like of which often happens on our
coast, where news proceeds only by word of mouth. 'Twas in part in hope
of catching sight of her barked topsail that we had gone to the
Watchman. But at that moment the _Trap and Seine_ lay snug at anchor in
Wayfarer's Tickle: there delayed for more civil weather in which to
attempt the passage of the Bay, for she was low in the water with her
weight of fish, and Skipper Tommy had a mind to preserve his good
fortune against misadventure. And, next day, the wind being still
unfavourable, he had Timmie row him ashore, that he might pass an hour
in talk with the men on Jagger's wharf: for there was nothing better to
do, and the wreck of the _Jessie Dodd_ was food of the choicest for
water-side gossip. To him, by and by, came Jagger's clerk: begging that
the _Trap and Seine_ might be got under weigh for our harbour within the
hour, for Jagger lay near death (having been taken in the night) and
sorely needed the doctor, lest he die.

"Die!" cried Skipper Tommy, much distressed. "That's fair awful. Poor
man! So sick as that?"

"Ay," the clerk replied, with a sharp little look into Skipper Tommy's
mild eyes, "he'll die."

"Ecod!" the skipper declared. "'Twill make the doctor sad t' know it!"

Skipper Tommy remembers that the clerk turned away, as if, for some
strange reason, to get command of himself.

"That he will," said the clerk.

"'Tis awful!" the skipper repeated. "I'll get the schooner t' sea this
minute. She's wonderful low in the water," he mused, pulling at his
nose; "but I'm thinkin' the doctor would rather save a life than get a
cargo o' green fish t' harbour."

"Dying, tell him," the clerk urged, smoothing his mouth with a lean
hand. "Dying--and in terror of hell."

"Afeared o' hell?"

"Gone mad with fear of damnation."

Skipper Tommy raised his hands. "That's awful!" he muttered, with a sad
shake of the head. "Tell that poor man the doctor will come. Tell un,
oh, tell un," he added, wringing his hands, "_not_ t' be afeared o'
hell!"

"Yes, yes!" the clerk exclaimed, impatiently. "Don't forget the message.
Jagger lies sick, and dying, and begging for help."

Skipper Tommy made haste to the small boat, the while raising a cry for
Timmie, who had gone about his own pleasure, the Lord knew where! And
Timmie ran down the path, as fast as his sea-boots would go: but was
intercepted by Jonas Jutt, who drew him into the lower fish-stage, as
though in fear of observation, and there whispered the circumstances of
the departure of the _Trap and Seine_.

"But do you tell your father," he went on, "that Jagger's not sick."

"Not sick?" cried Timmie, under his breath.

"Tell your father that I heared Jagger say he'd prove the doctor a
coward or drown him."

Timmie laughed.

"Tell un," Jonas whispered, speaking in haste and great excitement,
"that Jagger's as hearty drunk as ever he was--loaded t' the gunwale
with rum an' hate--in dread o' the trade o' broom-makin'--desperate t'
get clear o' the business o' the _Jessie Dodd_. Tell un he wants t'
drown the doctor atween your harbour an' Wayfarer's Tickle. Tell un t'
give no heed t' the message. Tell un t'----"

"Oh, Lard!" Timmie gurgled, in a spasm of delight.

"Tell un t' have the doctor stay at home 'til the weather lifts. Tell
un----"

In response to an urgent call from the skipper, who was waiting at the
small-boat, Timmie ran out. As he stumbled down the path, emitting
guffaws and delicious chuckles, he conceived--most unhappily for us
all--an infinitely humorous plan, which would still give him the delight
of a rough passage to our harbour: for Timmie loved a wet deck and a
reeling beat to windward, under a low, driving sky, with the night
coming down, as few lads do. Inform the skipper? Not Timmie! Nor would
he tell even Jacky. He would disclose the plot at a more dramatic
moment. When the beat was over--when the schooner had made harbour--when
the anchor was down--when the message was delivered--in the thick of the
outcry of protest against the doctor's high determination to venture
upon the errand of mercy--_then_ Timmie Lovejoy, the dramatic
opportunity having come, would, with proper regard for his own
importance, make the astounding revelation. It would be quite thrilling
(he thought); moreover, it would be a masterly joke on his father, who
took vast delight in such things.

"The wind's veerin' t' the s'uth'ard," said the skipper, anxiously,
while they put a double reef in the mainsail. "'Twill be a rough time
across."

"Hut! dad," Timmie answered. "Sure, _you_ can make harbour."

"Ecod!" Jacky added, with a grin. "You're the man t' do it,
dad--_you're_ the man t' drive her!"

"Well, lads," the flattered skipper admitted, resting from the wrestle
with the obstinate sail, and giving his nose a pleased sort of tweak, "I
isn't sayin' I'm not."

So, low as she was--sunk with the load in her hold and the gear and
casks and what-not on her deck--they took the _Trap and Seine_ into the
gale. And she made brave weather of it--holding her own stoutly,
cheerily shaking the frothy water from her bows: though 'twas an unfair
task to put her to. Skipper Tommy put the first hand at the mainsail
halliards, the second hand at the foresail, with orders to cut away at
the lift of his hand, lest the vessel get on her beam's ends and
capsize. 'Twas thus that they drove her into the wind--stout hearts and
stout timber: no wavering or weak complaint, whatever the wind and sea.
But night caught them off our harbour--deep night: with the headlands
near lost in the black sky; no more than the looming, changing shadow
of the hills and the intermittent flash of breakers to guide the way.
They were now beating along shore, close to Long Cove of the mainland,
which must then have lain placid in the lee of Naked Point. At the cry
of "Hard-a-lee!"--sung out in terror when the breakers were fair under
the bow--the ship came about and fell off towards the open sea. Then
came three great waves; they broke over the bow--swept the schooner,
stem to stern, the deck litter going off in a rush of white water. The
first wrenched Jacky from his handhold; but Skipper Tommy, standing
astern, caught him by the collar as the lad went over the taffrail.
Came, then, with the second wave, Timmie, whom, also, the skipper
caught. But 'twas beyond the old man's power to lift both to the deck:
nor could he cry for help, nor choose whom to drop, loving them alike;
but desperately clung to both until the rush of the third wave tore one
away.

It was Timmie.

       *       *       *       *       *

Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, making into our harbour, by way of the Gate, in
the depths of that wild night--poor old Skipper Tommy, blind and broken
by grief--ran his loaded schooner into the Trap and wrecked her on the
Seven Murderers, where she went to pieces on the unfeeling rocks. But
we managed to get the crew ashore, and no man lost his life at that
time. And Skipper Tommy, sitting bowed in my father's house, told us in
a dull, slow way--made tragic, from time to time, by the sweet light in
his eye, by the flitting shadow of a smile--told us, thus, that Jagger
of Wayfarer's Tickle lay at the point of death, in fear of hell, crying
for the help of his enemy: and then put his arm about Jacky, and went
with him to the Rat Hole, there to bury his sorrow, that it might not
distress us the more, who sorrowed, also.



XXVII

The DAY of The DOG


I was awakened at dawn. 'Twas by a gentle touch of the doctor's hand.
"Is it you, zur?" I asked, starting from sad dreams.

"Hush!" he whispered. "'Tis I, Davy."

I listened to the roar of the gale--my sleepy senses immediately aroused
by the noise of wind and sleet. The gathered rage was loosed, at last.

"'Tis a bitter night," I said.

"The day is breaking."

He sat down beside me, gravely silent; and he put his arm around me.

"You isn't goin'?" I pleaded.

"Yes."

I had grown to know his duty. 'Twas all plain to me. I would not have
held him from it, lest I come to love him less.

"Ay," I moaned, gripping his hand, "you're goin'!"

"Yes," he said.

We sat for a moment without speaking. The gale went whipping
past--driving madly through the breaking day: a great rush of black,
angry weather. 'Twas dim in the room. I could not see his face--but felt
his arm warm about me: and wished it might continue there, and that I
might fall asleep, serene in all that clamour, sure that I might find it
there on waking, or seek it once again, when sore need came. And I
thought, even then, that the Lord had been kind to us: in that this man
had come sweetly into our poor lives, if but for a time.

"You isn't goin' alone, is you?"

"No. Skipper Tommy is coming to sail the sloop."

Again--and fearsomely--the gale intruded upon us. There was a swish of
wind, rising to a long, mad shriek--the roar of rain on the roof--the
rattle of windows--the creaking of the timbers of our house. I trembled
to hear it.

"Oh, doctor!" I moaned.

"Hush!" he said.

The squall subsided. Rain fell in a monotonous patter. Light crept into
the room.

"Davy!"

"Ay, zur?"

"I'm going, now."

"Is you?"

He drew me very close. "I've come to say good-bye," he said. My head
sank in great misgiving against him. I could not say one word. "And you
know, lad," he continued, "that I love your sister. Tell her, when I am
gone, that I love her. Tell her----"

He paused. "An' what, zur," I asked, "shall I tell my sister for you?"

"Tell her--that I love her. No!" he cried. "'Tis not that. Tell her----"

"Ay?"

"That I loved her!"

"Hist!" I whispered, not myself disquieted by this significant change of
form. "She's stirrin' in her room."

It may be that the doctor loved my sister through me--that I found some
strange place in his great love for her, to which I had no title, but
was most glad to have. For, then, in the sheltering half-light, he
lifted me from my bed--crushed me against his breast--held me there,
whispering messages I could not hear--and gently laid me down again, and
went in haste away. And I dressed in haste: but fumbled at all the
buttons, nor could quickly lay hands on my clothes, which were scattered
everywhere, by my sad habit; so that, at last, when I was clad for the
weather, and had come to my father's wharf, the sloop was cast off.
Skipper Tommy sat in the stern, his face grimly set towards North
Tickle and the hungry sea beyond: nor did he turn to look at me. But the
doctor waved his hand--and laughed a new farewell.

       *       *       *       *       *

I did not go to the hills--because I had no heart for that (and had no
wish to tell my sister what might be seen from there): but sat grieving
on a big box, in the lee of the shop, drumming a melancholy refrain with
my heels. And there I sat while the sad light of day spread over the
rocky world; and, by and by, the men came out of the cottages--and
_they_ went to the hills of God's Warning, as I knew they would--and
came back to the wharf to gossip: but in my presence were silent
concerning what they had seen at sea, so that, when I went up to our
house, I did not know what the sloop was making of the gale. And when I
crossed the threshold, 'twas to a vast surprise: for my breakfast was
set on a narrow corner of the kitchen table (and had turned cold); and
the whole house was in an amazing state of dust and litter and
unseasonable confusion--the rugs lifted, the tables and chairs awry, the
maids wielding brooms with utmost vigour: a comfortless prospect,
indeed, but not foreign to my sister's way at troublous times, as I
knew. So I ate my breakfast, and that heartily (being a boy); and then
sought my sister, whom I found tenderly dusting in my mother's room.

"'Tis queer weather, Bessie," said I, in gentle reproof, "for cleanin'
house."

She puckered her brow--a sad little frown: but sweet, as well, for,
downcast or gay, my sister could be naught else, did she try it.

"Is you thinkin' so, Davy?" she asked, pulling idly at her dust-rag.
"Ah, well!" she sighed.

"Why," I exclaimed, "'tis the queerest I ever knowed!"

"I been thinkin'," she mused, "that I'd get the house tidied up--while
the doctor's away."

"Oh, _was_ you?"

"Ay," she said, looking up; "for he've such a wonderful distaste for
dust an' confusion. An' I'll have the house all in order," she added,
with a wan smile, "when he gets back."

'Tis the way of women to hope; but that my clever sister should thus
count sure that which lay in grave doubt--admitting no uncertainty--was
beyond my understanding.

"Does you think," she asked, looking away, "that he will be back"--she
hesitated--"the morrow?"

I did not deign to reply.

"May be," she muttered, "the day after."

'Twas hard to believe it of her. "Bessie," I began, ignoring her folly,
"afore the doctor went, he left a message for you."

Her hands went swiftly to her bosom. "For me?" she whispered. "Ah, tell
me, Davy!"

"I'm just about t' tell," said I, testily. "But, sure, 'tis nothin' t'
put you in a state. When he come t' my room," I proceeded, "at dawn, t'
say good-bye, he left a message. 'Tell her,' said he, 'that I love
her.'"

It seemed to me, then, that she suffered--that she felt some glorious
agony: of which, as I thought, lads could know nothing. And I wondered
why.

"That he loves me!" she murmured.

"No," said I. "'Tell her not that,' said he," I went on. "'Tell her that
I loved her.'"

"Not that!" she cried. "'Twas that he loves me--_not_ that he loved me!"

"'Twas that he loved you."

"Oh, no!"

"I got it right."

"Ah, then," she cried, in despair, "he've no hope o' comin' back! Oh,"
she moaned, clasping her hands, "if only I had----"

But she sighed--and turned again to her womanly task; and I left her
tenderly caring for my mother's old room. And when, at midday, I came up
from the wharf, I found the house restored to order and quiet: my
sister sitting composed in my mother's place, smiling a welcome across
the table, as my mother used to do. And I kissed her--for I loved her!

       *       *       *       *       *

It blew up bitter cold--the wind rising: the sea turned white with
froth. 'Twas a solemn day--like a sad Sunday, when a man lies dead in
the harbour. No work was done--no voice was lifted boisterously--no
child was out of doors: but all clung peevishly to their mothers'
skirts. The men on the wharf--speculating in low, anxious voices--with
darkened eyes watched the tattered sky: the rushing, sombre clouds,
still in a panic fleeing to the wilderness. They said the sloop would
not outlive the gale. They said 'twas a glorious death that the doctor
and Skipper Thomas Lovejoy had died; thus to depart in the high
endeavour to succour an enemy--but shed no tears: for 'tis not the way
of our folk to do it.... Rain turned to sleet--sleet to black fog. The
smell of winter was in the air. There was a feeling of snow abroad....
Then came the snow--warning flakes, driving strangely through the mist,
where no snow should have been. Our folk cowered--not knowing what they
feared: but by instinct perceiving a sudden change of season, for which
they were not ready; and were disquieted....

What a rush of feeling and things done--what rage and impulsive
deeds--came then! The days are not remembered--but lie hid in a mist, as
I write.... Timmie Lovejoy crawled into our harbour in the dusk of that
day: having gone ashore at Long Cove with the deck-litter of the _Trap
and Seine_; which surprised us not at all, for we are used to such
things. And when he gave us the message (having now, God knows! a tragic
opportunity, but forgetting that)--when he sobbed that Jagger, being in
sound health, would prove the doctor a coward or drown him--we
determined to go forthwith by the coast rocks to Wayfarer's Tickle to
punish Jagger in some way for the thing he had done. And when I went up
the path to tell my poor sister of the villany practiced upon the
doctor, designed to compass his very death--ah! 'tis dreadful to recall
it--when I went up the path, my mother's last prayer pleading in my
soul, the whitening world was all turned red; and my wish was that, some
day, I might take my enemy by the throat, whereat I would tear with my
naked fingers, until my hands were warm with blood.... But it came on to
snow; and for two days and nights snow fell, the wind blowing mightily:
so that no man could well move from his own house. And when the wind
went down, and the day dawned clear again, we put the dogs to my
father's komatik and set out for Wayfarer's Tickle: whence Jagger had
that morning fled, as Jonas Jutt told us.

"Gone!" cried Tom Tot.

"T' the s'uth'ard with the dogs. He's bound t' the Straits Shore t' get
the last coastal boat t' Bay o' Islands."

"Gone!" we repeated, blankly.

"Ay--but ten hours gone. In mad haste--alone--ill provisioned--fleein'
in terror.... He sat on the hills--sat there like an old crag--in the
rain an' wind--waitin' for the doctor's sloop. 'There she is, Jutt!'
says he. 'No,' says I. 'Thank God, Jagger, that's a schooner, reefed
down an' runnin' for harbour!' ... 'There she is!' says he. 'No,' says
I. 'Thank God, that's the same schooner, makin' heavy weather o' the
gale!' ... 'There she is, Jutt!' says he. 'Ay,' says I, 'God help her,
that's the doctor's sloop! They've wrecked the _Trap an' Seine_'.... An'
there he sat, watchin', with his chin on his hand, 'til the doctor's
sloop went over, an' the fog drifted over the sea where she had been....
An' then he went home; an' no man seed un agin 'til he called for the
dogs. An' he went away--in haste--alone--like a man gone mad...."

The lean-handed clerk broke in. He was blue about the lips--his eyes
sunk in shadowy pits--and he was shivering.

"'Timmons,' says he to me," he chattered, "'I'm going home. I done
wrong,' says he. 'They'll kill me for this.'"

"An' when he got the dogs in the traces," Jonas proceeded, "I seed he
wasn't ready for no long journey. 'Good Lord, Jagger,' says I, 'you
isn't got no grub for the dogs!' 'Dogs!' says he. 'I'll feed the dogs
with me whip.' 'Jagger,' says I, 'don't you try it. They won't _eat_ a
whip. They can't _live_ on it.' 'Never you fear,' says he. 'I'll feed
them ugly brutes when they gets me t' Cape Charles Harbour.' 'Jagger,'
says I, 'you better look out they don't feed theirselves afore they gets
you there. You got a ugly leader,' says I, 'in that red-eyed brute.'
'Him?' says he. 'Oh, I got _him_ broke!' But he _didn't_ have----"

"And with that," said the clerk, "off he put."

"Men," cried Tom Tot, looking about upon our group, "we'll cotch un
yet!"

So we set out in pursuit of Jagger of Wayfarer's Tickle, who had fled
over the hills--I laugh to think of it--with an ugly, red-eyed leader,
to be fed with a whip: which dog I knew.... No snow fell. The days were
clear--the nights moonlit. Bitter cold continued. We followed a plain
track--sleeping by night where the quarry had slept.... Day after day
we pushed on: with no mercy on the complaining dogs--plunging through
the drifts, whipping the team up the steeper hills, speeding when the
going lay smooth before us.... By and by we drew near. Here and there
the snow was significantly trampled. There were signs of confusion and
cross purposes. The man was desperately fighting his dogs.... One night,
the dogs were strangely restless--sniffing the air, sleepless, howling;
nor could we beat them to their beds in the snow: they were like wolves.
And next day--being then two hours after dawn--we saw before us a bloody
patch of snow: whereupon Tom Tot cried out in horror.

"Oh, dear God!" he muttered, turning with a gray face. "They've eat him
up!"

Then--forgetting the old vow--he laughed.

       *       *       *       *       *

... And this was true. They had eaten him up. The snow was all trampled
and gory. They had eaten him up. Among the tatters of his garments, I
found a hand; and I knew that hand for the hand of Jagger of Wayfarer's
Tickle.... They had turned wolves--they had eaten him up. From far
off--the crest of a desolate hill--there came a long howl. I looked
towards that place. A great dog appeared--and fled. I wondered if the
dog I knew had had his day. I wondered if the first grip had been upon
the throat....

       *       *       *       *       *

When we came again to our harbour--came close again to the grief we had
in rage and swift action forgot--when, from the inland hills, we caught
sight of the basin of black water, and the cottages, snuggled by the
white water-side--we were amazed to discover a schooner lying at anchor
off my father's wharf: the wreck of a craft, her topmast hanging, her
cabin stove in, her jib-boom broke off short. But this amazement--this
vast astonishment--was poor surprise as compared with the shock I got
when I entered my father's house. For, there--new groomed and
placid--sat the doctor; and my dear sister was close to him--oh, so
joyfully close to him--her hand in his, her sweet face upturned to him
and smiling, glowing with such faith and love as men cannot deserve: a
radiant, holy thing, come straight from the Heart of the dear God, who
is the source of Love.

"Oh!" I ejaculated, stopping dead on the threshold.

"Hello, Davy!" the doctor cried.

I fell into the handiest chair. "You got home," I observed, in a gasp.
"Didn't you?"

He laughed.

"Sure," I began, vacantly, "an', ecod!" I exclaimed, with heat, "what
craft picked _you_ up?"

"The _Happy Sally_."

"Oh!" said I. 'Twas a queer situation. There seemed so little to say.
"Was you drove far?" I asked, politely seeking to fill an awkward gap.

"South o' Belle Isle."

"Ah!"

The doctor was much amused--my sister hardly less so. They watched me
with laughing eyes. And they heartlessly abandoned me to my own
conversational devices: which turned me desperate.

"Is you goin' t' get married?" I demanded.

My sister blushed--and gave me an arch glance from behind her long, dark
lashes. But--

"We are not without hope," the doctor answered, calmly, "that the Bishop
will be on our coast next summer."

"I'm glad," I observed, "that you've both come t' your senses."

"Oh!" cried my sister.

"Ecod!" the doctor mocked.

"Ay," said I, with a wag. "I is _that_!"

The doctor spoke. "'Twas your sister," said he, "found the way. She
discovered a word," he continued, turning tenderly to her, his voice
charged with new and solemn feeling, "that I'd forgot."

"A word!" said I, amazed.

"Just," he answered, "one word."

'Twas mystifying. "An' what word," I asked, "might that word be?"

"'Expiation,'" he replied.

I did not know the meaning of that word--nor did I care. But I was glad
that my dear sister--whose cleverness (and spirit of sacrifice) might
ever be depended upon--had found it: since it had led to a consummation
so happy.

"Skipper Tommy saved?" I enquired

"He's with the twins at the Rat Hole."

"Then," said I, rising, "as you're both busy," said I, in a saucy flash,
"I'll be goin'----"

"You'll not!" roared the doctor. And he leaped from his seat--bore down
upon me, indeed, like a mad hurricane: my sister laughing and clapping
her little hands. So I knew I must escape or have my bones near crack
under the pressure of his affection; and I was agile--and eluded him.

       *       *       *       *       *

I found Skipper Tommy and the twins at the Rat Hole--the skipper
established in comfort by the stove, a cup of tea at his hand, his
stockinged feet put up to warm: the twins sitting close, both grinning
broadly, each finely alert to anticipate the old man's wants, who now
had acquired a pampered air, which sat curiously upon him. "Seems t' me,
Davy," he said, in a solemn whisper, at the end of the tale, new told
for me, "that the dear Lard took pity. 'You done pretty well, Tommy,'
says He, 't' put out t' the help o' Jagger in that there gale. I'm
thinkin' I'll have t' change my mind about you,' says He. 'The twins,
Tommy,' says He, 'is well growed, an' able lads, both, as I knowed when
I started out t' do this thing; but I'm thinkin',' says He, 'that I'll
please you, Tommy,' says He, 'by lettin' you live a little longer with
them dear lads.' Oh," the skipper concluded, finding goodness in all the
acts of the Lord, the while stretching out his rough old hand to touch
the boys, his face aglow, "'twas wonderful kind o' Him t' let me see my
lads again!"

The twins heartily grinned.



XXVIII

IN HARBOUR


When the doctor was told of the tragic end of Jagger of Wayfarer's
Tickle, he shuddered, and sighed, and said that Jagger had planned a
noble death for him: but said no more; nor has he since spoken the name
of that bad man. And we sent the master of the _Jessie Dodd_ to St.
Johns by the last mail-boat of that season--and did not seek to punish
him: because he had lost all that he had, and was most penitent; and
because Jagger was dead, and had died the death that he did.... The last
of the doctor's small patrimony repaired the damage done our business by
the wreck of the _Trap and Seine_: and brought true my old dream of an
established trade, done with honour and profit to ourselves and the folk
of our coast, and of seven schooners, of which, at last, the twins were
made masters of two.... And that winter my sister was very happy--ay, as
happy (though 'tis near sin to say it) as her dear self deserved. Sweet
sister--star of my life!... The doctor, too, was happy; and not once
(and many a cold night I shivered in my meagre nightgown at his door
to discover it)--not once did he suffer the old agony I had known him to
bear. And when, frankly, I asked him why this was----

"Love, Davy," he answered.

"Love?" said I.

"And labour."

"An' labour?"

"And the Gospel according to Tommy."

"Sure," I asked, puzzled, "what's that?"

"Faith," he answered.

"'Tis queer!" I mused.

"Just faith," he repeated. "Just faith in the loving-kindness of the
dear God. Just faith--with small regard for creeds and forms."

This he said with a holy twinkle.

       *       *       *       *       *

But that was long ago. Since then I have been to the colleges and
hospitals of the South, and have come back, here, in great joy, to live
my life, serving the brave, kind folk, who are mine own people, heartily
loved by me: glad that I am Labrador born and bred--proud of the brave
blood in my great body, of the stout purpose in my heart: of which
(because of pity for all inlanders and the folk of the South) I may not
with propriety boast. Doctor Davy, they call me, now. But I have not
gone lacking. I am not without realization of my largest hope. The
decks are often wet--wet and white. They heave underfoot--and are wet
and white--while the winds come rushing from the gray horizon. Ah, I
love the sea--the sweet, wild sea: loveliest in her adorable rage, like
a woman!... And my father's house is now enlarged, and is an hospital;
and the doctor's sloop is now grown to a schooner, in which he goes
about, as always, doing good.... And my sister waits for me to come in
from the sea, in pretty fear that I may not come back; and I am glad
that she waits, sitting in my mother's place, as my mother used to do.

And Skipper Tommy Lovejoy this day lies dying....

       *       *       *       *       *

I sit, a man grown, in my mother's room, which now is mine. It is
springtime. To-day I found a flower on the Watchman. Beyond the broad
window of her room, the hills of Skull Island and God's Warning stand
yellow in the sunshine, rivulets dripping from the ragged patches of
snow which yet linger in the hollows; and the harbour water ripples
under balmy, fragrant winds from the wilderness; and workaday voices,
strangely unchanged by the years that are passed, come drifting up the
hill from my father's wharves; and, ay, indeed, all the world of sea
and land is warm and wakeful and light of heart, just as it used to be,
when I was a lad, and my mother lay here dying. But there is no shadow
in the house--no mystery. The separate sorrows have long since fled. My
mother's gentle spirit here abides--just as it used to do: touching my
poor life with holy feeling, with fine dreams, with tender joy. There is
no shadow--no mystery. There is a glory--but neither shadow nor mystery.
And my hand is still in her dear hand--and she leads me: just as she
used to do. And all my days are glorified--by her who said good-bye to
me, but has not left me desolate.

       *       *       *       *       *

Skipper Tommy died to-day. 'Twas at the break of dawn. The sea lay
quiet; the sky was flushed with young, rosy colour--all the hues of
hope. We lifted him on the pillows: that from the window he might
watch--far off at sea--the light chase the shadows from the world.

"A new day!" he whispered.

'Twas ever a mystery to him. That there should come new days--that the
deeds of yesterday should be forgot in the shadows of yesterday--that as
the dawn new hope should come unfailing, clean, benignant.

"A new day!" he repeated, turning his mild old face from the placid
sea, a wondering, untroubled question in his eyes.

"Ay, zur--a new day."

He watched the light grow--the hopeful tints spread rejoicing towards
the higher heavens.

"The Lard," he said, "give me work. Blessed be the name o' the Lard!"

All the world was waking.

"The Lard give me pain. Blessed be the name o' the Lard!"

And a breeze came with the dawn--a rising breeze, rippling the purple
sea.

"The Lard give me love," he continued, turning tenderly to the stalwart
twins. "Blessed be the name o' the Lard!"

The wind swept calling by--blue winds, fair winds to the north: calling
at the window, all the while.

"The Lard showed Himself t' me. Oh, ay, that He did," he added, with a
return to his old manner. "'Skipper Tommy,' says the Lard," he
whispered, "'Skipper Tommy,' says He, 'leave you an' Me,' says He, 'be
friends. You'll never regret it, b'y,' says He, 'an you make friends
with Me.' Blessed," he said, his last, low voice tremulous with deep
gratitude, "oh, blessed be the name o' the Lard!"

The wind called again--blithely called: crying at the window. In all
the harbours of our coast, 'twas time to put to sea.

"I wisht," the skipper sighed, "that I'd been--a bit--wickeder. The
wicked," he took pains to explain, "knows the dear Lard's love. An',
somehow, I isn't _feelin'_ it as I should. An' I wisht--I'd sinned--a
wee bit--more."

Still the wind called to him.

"Ecod!" he cried, impatiently, his hand moving feebly to tweak his nose,
but failing by the way. "There I been an' gone an' made another mistake!
Sure, 'tis awful! Will you tell me, Davy Roth, an you can," he demanded,
now possessed of the last flicker of strength, "how I could be wicked
without hurtin' some poor man? Ecod! I'm woeful blind."

He dropped my hand--suddenly: forgetting me utterly. His hands sought
the twins--waving helplessly: and were caught. Whereupon the father
sighed and smiled.

"Dear lads!" he whispered.

The sun rose--a burst of glory--and struck into the room--and blinded
the old eyes.

"I wonder----" the old man gasped, looking once more to the glowing sky.
"I wonder...."

Then he knew.

       *       *       *       *       *

How unmomentous is the death we die! This passing--this gentle change
from place to place! What was it he said? "'Tis but like wakin' from a
troubled dream. 'Tis like wakin' t' the sunlight of a new, clear day. He
takes our hand. 'The day is broke,' says He. 'Dream no more, but rise,
child o' Mine, an' come into the sunshine with Me.' 'Tis only that
that's comin' t' you--only His gentle touch--an' the waking. Hush! Don't
you go gettin' scared. 'Tis a lovely thing--that's comin' t' you!" ...
And I fancy that the dead pity the living--that they look upon us, in
the shadows of the world, and pity us ... And I know that my mother
waits for me at the gate--that her arms will be the first to enfold me,
her lips the first to touch my cheek. "Davy, dear, my little son," she
will whisper in my ear, "aren't you glad that you, too, are dead?" And I
shall be glad.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ha! but here's a cheery little gale of wind blowing up the path. 'Tis my
nephew--coming from my father's wharf. Davy, they call him. The sturdy,
curly-pated, blue-eyed lad--Labradorman, every luscious inch of him:
without a drop of weakling blood in his stout little body! There's jolly
purpose in his stride--in his glance at my window. 'Tis a walk on the
Watchman, I'll be bound! The wind's in the west, the sun unclouded, the
sea in a ripple. The day invites us. Why not? The day does not know
that an old man lies dead.... He's at the door. He calls my name. "Uncle
Davy! Hi, b'y! Where is you?" Ecod! but the Heavenly choir will never
thrill me so.... He's on the stair. I must make haste. In a moment his
arms will be round my neck. And----

Here's a large period to my story! The little rascal has upset my bottle
of ink!

THE END

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THE ADVENTURES OF

BILLY TOPSAIL

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hundred ways. He's a good chum, in calm or gale, on water, ice or
shore--that's what Billy Topsail o' Ruddy Cove is.

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By NORMAN DUNCAN

_Doctor Luke of The Labrador_

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year's fiction that there is little likelihood of its being
overshadowed."

_London Punch_: "Since Thackeray wrote the last word of 'Colonel
Newcome,' nothing finer has been written than the parting scene where
Skipper Tommy Lovejoy, the rugged old fisherman, answers the last call."

_Saturday Evening Post_: "There is enough power in this little volume to
magnetize a dozen of the popular novels of the winter."

_Sir Robert Bond, Premier of Newfoundland_: "I shall prize the book. It
is charmingly written, and faithfully portrays the simple lives of the
noble-hearted fisher folk."

_Brooklyn Eagle_: "Norman Duncan has fulfilled all that was expected of
him in this story; it establishes him beyond question as one of the
strong masters of present-day fiction."

_26th 1000_

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

THE HUBBARD EXPLORING EXPEDITION

By DILLON WALLACE

_The Lure of the Labrador Wild_

ILLUSTRATED 8vo CLOTH $1.50 NET.

_New York Sun_: "A remarkable story, and we are much mistaken if it does
not become a classic among tales of exploration."

_Chicago Evening Post_: "Two continents became interested in the stories
that came out of the wild about the hardships of the Hubbard expedition.
Wallace's story and record--they are inseparable--possesses in its naked
truth more of human interest than scores of volumes of imaginative
adventure and romance of the wild."

_Review of Reviews_: "The chronicle of high, noble purpose and
achievement and it appeals to the finest, best, and most virile in man."

_Chicago Record-Herald_: "One of the most fascinating books of travel
and adventure in the annals of recent American exploration. Every man or
boy who has ever heard the 'red gods' of the wilderness calling will
revel in these graphic pages, in which the wild odor of the pines, the
roar of rapids, the thrill of the chase and of thickening dangers come
vividly to the senses."

_New York Evening Post_: "The story is told simply and well. It may be
added that for tragic adventure it has scarcely a parallel except in
Arctic exploration."

_New York Evening Mail_: "A chronicle of the expedition from first to
last, and a fine tribute to the memory of Hubbard, whose spirit
struggled with such pitiable courage against the ravages of a purely
physical breakdown. The story itself is well told."

_Chicago Inter-Ocean_: "In the records of the explorations of recent
years there is no more tragic story than that of Hubbard's attempt to
cross the great unexplored and mysterious region of the northeastern
portion of the North American continent. Wallace himself narrowly
escaped death in the Labrador wild, but, having been rescued, he has
brought out of that unknown land a remarkable story."

_Brooklyn Eagle_: "One of the very best stories of a canoe trip into the
wilds ever written."

_FOURTH EDITION_

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Transcriber's Notes:

1. Punctuation has been normalized to contemporary standards.
2. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
3. Unusual formatting of chapter titles in text has been retained.





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