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´╗┐Title: The Cruise of the Shining Light
Author: Duncan, Norman, 1871-1916
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "The Cruise of the Shining Light" ***

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THE CRUISE OF THE SHINING LIGHT

BY

NORMAN DUNCAN

AUTHOR OF

"Doctor Luke of the Labrador", "The Way of the Sea"

NEW YORK AND LONDON

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

MCMVII



Copyright, 1907, by Harper & Brothers.

All rights reserved.

Published April, 1907.



TO

MY ELDER BROTHER

ROBERT KENNEDY DUNCAN

THIS BOOK IS

AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED



CONTENTS

   CHAP.                                                          PAGE
      I. NICHOLAS TOP                                                1
     II. AT THE SIGN OF THE ANCHOR AND CHAIN                        10
    III. THE CATECHISM AT TWIST TICKLE                              27
     IV. ON SINISTER BUSINESS                                       38
      V. TAP-TAP ON THE PAVEMENT                                    45
     VI. THE FEET OF CHILDREN                                       54
    VII. TWIN ISLANDS                                               69
   VIII. A MAID O' WHISPER COVE                                     75
     IX. AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART                                     89
      X. IMPORTED DIRECT                                           104
     XI. THE GRAY STRANGER                                         120
    XII. NEED O' HASTE                                             138
   XIII. JUDITH ABANDONED                                          154
    XIV. THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM                                    169
     XV. A MEASURE OF PRECAUTION                                   174
    XVI. GREEN PASTURES: AN INTERLUDE                              188
   XVII. RUM AND RUIN                                              203
  XVIII. A LEGACY OF LOVE                                          219
    XIX. A WORD OF WARNING                                         230
     XX. NO APOLOGY                                                243
    XXI. FOOL'S FORTUNE                                            247
   XXII. GATHERING WINDS                                           264
  XXIII. THE TIDE-RIP                                              276
   XXIV. JOHN CATHER'S FATE                                        290
    XXV. TO SEA                                                    305
   XXVI. THE DEVIL'S TEETH                                         323



THE CRUISE OF THE SHINING LIGHT



THE CRUISE OF THE SHINING LIGHT

I

NICHOLAS TOP


My uncle, Nicholas Top, of Twist Tickle, was of a cut so grotesque
that folk forgot their manners when he stumped abroad. Bowling through
the streets of St. John's, which twice a year he tapped with staff and
wooden leg, myself in leading--bowling cheerily, with his last rag
spread, as he said, and be damned to the chart--he left a swirling
wake of amazement: craning necks, open mouths, round eyes, grins so
frank, the beholders being taken unaware, that 'twas simple to
distinguish hearts of pity from savage ones.

Small wonder they stared; my uncle was a broad, long-bodied, scowling,
grim-lipped runt, with the arms and chest of an ape, a leg lacking,
three fingers of the left hand gone at the knuckles, an ankle botched
in the mending (the surgery his own), a jaw out of place, a round
head set low between gigantic shoulders upon a thick neck: the whole
forever clad in a fantastic miscellany of water-side slops, wrinkled
above, where he was large, flapping below, where he was lean, and
chosen with a nautical contempt for fit and fashion, but with a
mysteriously perverse regard for the value of a penny.

"An' how much, lad," says he, in the water-side slop-shops, "is a
penny saved?"

'Twas strange that of all men he should teach me this old-fashioned
maxim as though 'twere meant for my own practice. 'Twas well enough
for him, it seemed; but 'twas an incumbrance of wisdom in the singular
case of the lad that was I.

"A penny made, sir," says I.

"Co'--rect!" says he, with satisfaction.

There was more to be wondered at: beginning at my uncle's left ear,
which was itself sadly puckered and patched, a wide, rough scar, of
changing color, as his temper went, cut a great swath in his wiry
hair, curving clear over the crown of his head. A second scar, of
lesser dimension and ghastly look, lay upon his forehead, over the
right eyebrow, to which though by nature drooping to a glower, it gave
a sharp upward twist, so that in a way to surprise the stranger he was
in good humor or bad, cynical or sullen, according to the point of
approach.

There were two rolls of flabby flesh under his chin, and a puff of fat
under each of his quick little eyes; and from the puffs to the lower
chin, which was half submerged in the folds of a black cravat, the
broad, mottled expanse was grown wild with short gray beard, save
where, on the left cheek, a ragged scar (the third) kept it bare and
livid. 'Twas plain the man had blundered into some quarrel of wind and
sea, whence he had been indifferently ejected, in the way of the sea,
to live or die, as might chance: whereof--doubtless to account for his
possession of me--he would tell that my father had been lost in the
adventure.

"Swep' away by the third big sea," says he, his face wan with the
terror of that time, his body shrunk in the chair and so uneasy that I
was moved against my will to doubt the tale. "May God A'mighty forgive
un the deed he done!"

"Was it a sore, wicked thing my father did?"

"God forgive un--an' me!"

"Is you sure, Uncle Nick?"

"God forgive un!"

"You're not likin' my poor father," I complained, "for the sinful
thing he done."

"'Tis a sinful wicked world us dwells in," says he. "An' I 'low, b'y,"
says he, in anxious warning, "that afore you goes t' bed the night....
Pass the bottle. Thank 'e, lad ... that afore you goes t' bed the
night you'd best get a new grip on that there little anchor I've give
ye t' hang to."

"An' what's that?" says I.

"The twenty-third psa'm," says he, his bottle tipped, "for safety!"

My uncle would have (as he said) no dealings with a glass. There was
none in the places familiar to his eyes; and when by chance, in the
tap-rooms of the city, he came face to face with himself, he would
start away with a fervent malediction upon the rogue in the mirror,
consigning him to perdition without hope of passage into some easier
state.

'Twas anathema most feeling and complete.

"Hist!" cries I. "You're never so bad as _that_, Uncle Nick!"

"None worse," says he, "than that there ol' lost rascal!"

I did not believe it.

"I isn't took a steady look at my ol' figger-'ead," he was used to
saying, with his little eyes widened to excite wonder, "this five
year! In p'int o' looks," says he, smirking, vain as you please, "I'm
t' windward o' most o' the bullies when I trims my beard. Ah, lad,
they's a raft o' bar-maids an' water-side widows would wed ol'
Nicholas Top. An' why? 'Tain't money, God knows! for Nicholas Top
haves none. Nar a dollar that a lone water-side widow could nose out!
An' if 'tisn't money," says he, "why, Lord love us! 'tis _looks_. It
can't be nothin' else. 'Tis looks or money with the widows; they cares
not which. Come, now, lad," says he, "would you 'low it _could_ be
otherwise than looks?"

I must wag my head.

"Lord love us, Dannie!" says he, so vain--so innocently vain of the
face he would not see--that my lips twitch with laughter to think of
it. "You an' them water-side widows is got a wonderful judgment for
looks!"

By this I was flattered.

"Now, look you!" says he, being now in his cups and darkly confidential
with me, "I'm havin', as I says, no dealin' with a glass. An' why?
Accordin' t' the water-side widows 'tis not ill-favor o' face. Then
why? I'm tellin' you: 'Tis just because," says he, tapping the table
with his forefinger, "Nick Top isn't able t' look hisself in the
eye.... Pass the bottle. Thank 'e, lad.... There you haves it!" says
he, with a pitiful little catch of the breath. "Nicholas Top haves a
wonderful bad eye!"

I must nod my assent and commiseration.

"In p'int o' beauty," says my uncle, "Nicholas Top is perfeckly
content with the judgment o' water-side widows, which can't be beat;
but for these five year, Lord help un! he've had no love for the eye
in his very own head."

'Twas said in such chagrin and depth of sadness that I was moved to
melancholy.

"His own eye, lad," he would repeat, "in his very own head!"

My uncle, I confess, had indeed a hint too much of the cunning and
furtive about both gait and glance to escape remark in strange places.
'Twas a pity--and a mystery. That he should hang his head who might
have held it high! At Twist Tickle, to be sure, he would hop hither
and yon in a fashion surprisingly light (and right cheerful); but
abroad 'twas either swagger or slink. Upon occasions 'twas manifest
to all the world that following evil he walked in shame and terror.
These times were periodic, as shall be told: wherein, because of his
simplicity, which was unspoiled--whatever the rascality he was in the
way of practising--he would betray the features of hang-dog villany,
conceiving all the while that he had cleverly masked himself with
virtue.

"Child," says he, in that high gentleness by which he was distinguished,
"take the old man's hand. Never fear t' clasp it, lad! Ye're abroad in
respectable company."

I would clasp it in childish faith.

"Abroad," says he, defiantly, "in highly respectable company!"

Ah, well! whether rogue or gentleman, upon whom rascality was writ,
the years were to tell. These, at any rate, were the sinister aspects
of Nicholas Top, of Twist Tickle, whose foster-child I was, growing in
such mystery as never was before, I fancy, and thriving in love not of
the blood but rich and anxious as love may be: and who shall say that
the love which is of the blood--a dull thing, foreordained--is more
discerning, more solicitous, more deep and abiding than that which
chances, however strangely, in the turmoil and changes of the life we
live? To restore confidence, the old dog was furnished with an ample,
genial belly; and albeit at times he drank to excess, and despite the
five years' suspicion of the eye in his very own head, his eyes were
blue and clear and clean-edged, with little lights of fun and
tenderness and truth twinkling in their depths. I would have you know
that as a child I loved the scarred and broken old ape: this with a
child's devotion, the beauty of which (for 'tis the way of the heart)
is not to be matched in later years, whatever may be told. Nor in
these days, when I am full-grown and understand, will I have a word
spoken in his dishonor.

Not I, by Heaven!

                  *       *       *       *       *

I came to Twist Tickle, as I am informed, on the wings of a
southeasterly gale: which winds are of mean spirit and sullenly
tenacious--a great rush of ill weather, overflowing the world, blowing
gray and high and cold. At sea 'twas breaking in a geyser of white
water on the Resurrection Rock; and ashore, in the meagre shelter of
Meeting House Hill, the church-bell clanged fearsomely in a swirl of
descending wind: the gloaming of a wild day, indeed! The _Shining
Light_ came lurching through the frothy sea with the wind astern: a
flash of white in the mist, vanishing among the careering waves,
doughtily reappearing--growing the while into the stature of a small
craft of parts, making harbor under a black, tumultuous sky. Beyond
the Toads, where there is a turmoil of breaking water, she made a sad
mess of it, so that the folk of the Tickle, watching the strange
appearance from the heads, made sure she had gone down; but she
struggled out of the spray and tumble, in the end, and came to harbor
unscathed in the place where Nicholas Top, himself the skipper and
crew, was born and fished as a lad.

They boarded him, and (as they tell) he was brisk and grim and
dripping upon the deck--with the lights dancing in his eyes: those
which are lit by the mastery of a ship at sea.

"Ay, mates," says he, "I'm come back. An'," says he, "I'd thank ye t'
tread lightly, for I've a wee passenger below, which I've no wish t'
have woke. He's by way o' bein' a bit of a gentleman," says he, "an'
I'd not have ye take a liberty."

This made them stare.

"An' I'd not," my uncle repeated, steadily, glancing from eye to eye,
"have ye take a liberty."

They wondered the more.

"A bit of a gentleman!" says my uncle, in savage challenge. "A bit of
a gentleman!"

He would tell them no more, nor ever did; but in imperturbable
serenity and certainty of purpose builded a tight little house in a
nook of Old Wives' Cove, within the harbor, where the _Shining Light_
might lie snug; and there he dwelt with the child he had, placidly
fishing the grounds with hook and line, save at such times as he set
out upon some ill-seeming business to the city, whence he returned at
ease, it seemed, with himself and his errand, but something grayer,
they say, than before. The child he reared was in the beginning
conscious of no incongruity, but clothed the old man with every grace
and goodly quality, in faith and understanding, as children will: for
these knowing ones, with clearer sight than we, perceive neither
guile nor weakness nor any lack of beauty in those who foster
them--God be thanked!--whatever the nature and outward show may be.
There is a beauty common to us all, neither greater nor less in any of
us, which these childish hearts discover. Looking upon us, they are
blind or of transcendent vision, as you will: the same in issue--so
what matter?--since they find no ugliness anywhere. 'Tis the way, it
may be, that God looks upon His world: either in the blindness of love
forgiving us or in His greater wisdom knowing that the sins of men do
serve His purpose and are like virtue in His plan.

But this is a mystery....



II

AT THE SIGN OF THE ANCHOR AND CHAIN


The Anchor and Chain is a warm, pleasantly noisy place by the
water-side at St. John's, with a not ungrateful reek of rum and
tobacco for such outport folk as we; forever filled, too, with big,
twinkling, trumpeting men, of our simple kind, which is the sort the
sea rears. There for many a mellow hour of the night was I perched
upon a chair at my uncle's side, delighting in the cheer which
enclosed me--in the pop of the cork, the inspiriting passage of the
black bottle, the boisterous talk and salty tales, the free
laughter--but in which I might not yet, being then but seven years
old, actively partake.

When in the first of it my uncle called for his dram, he would never
fail to catch the bar-maid's hand, squeeze it under the table, with
his left eyelid falling and his displaced jaw solemnly ajar, informing
her the while, behind his thumb and forefinger, the rest of that hand
being gone, that I was a devil of a teetotaler: by which (as I
thought, and, I'll be bound, he knew well I would think) my years were
excused and I was admitted to the company of whiskered skippers upon
a footing of equality. 'Tis every man's privilege, to be sure, to
drink rum or not, as he will, without loss of dignity.

If his mates would have me drink a glass with them my uncle would not
hinder.

"A nip o' ginger-ale," says I, brash as a sealing-captain.

'Twas the despair of my uncle. "Lord love us!" says he, looking with
horror upon the bottle.

"T' you, sir," says I, with my glass aloft, "an' t' the whole bally
crew o' ye!"

"Belly-wash!" groans my uncle.

And so, brave and jolly as the rest of them, forgetting the doses of
jalap in store for me when I was got back to the Tickle, I would now
have my ninny (as they called it). Had the bar-maids left off kissing
me--but they would not; no, they would kiss me upon every coming, and
if I had nothing to order 'twas a kiss for my virtue, and if I drank
'twas a smack for my engaging manliness; and my only satisfaction was
to damn them heartily--under my breath, mark you! lest I be soundly
thrashed on the spot for this profanity, my uncle, though you may now
misconceive his character, being in those days quick to punish me. But
such are women: in a childless place, being themselves childless, they
cannot resist a child, but would kiss queer lips, and be glad o' the
chance, because a child is lovely to women, intruding where no
children are.

As a child of seven I hated the bar-maids of the Anchor and Chain,
because they would kiss me against my will when the whiskered
skippers went untouched. But that was long ago....

                  *       *       *       *       *

I must tell that at the Anchor and Chain my uncle blundered in
with Tom Bull, of the _Green Billow_, the owner and skipper thereof,
trading the ports of the West Coast, then coast-wise, but (I fancy)
not averse to a smuggling opportunity, both ways, with the French
Islands to the south of us; at any rate, 'twas plain, before the
talk was over, that he needed no lights to make the harbor of
St.-Pierre, Miquelon, of a dark time. 'Twas a red-whiskered, flaring,
bulbous-nosed giant, with infantile eyes, containing more of wonder
and patience than men need. He was clad in yellow oil-skins, a-drip,
glistening in the light of the lamps, for he was newly come in from
the rain: a bitter night, the wind in the northeast, with a black
fog abroad (I remember it well)--a wet, black night, the rain
driving past the red-curtained windows of the Anchor and Chain, the
streets swept clean of men, ourselves light-hearted and warm,
indifferent, being ashore from the wind, the cloudy night, the
vicious, crested waves of the open, where men must never laugh nor
touch a glass.

They must have a dram together in a stall removed from the congregation
of steaming men at the long bar. And when the maid had fetched the
bottle, Tom Bull raised it, regarded it doubtfully, cocked his head,
looked my shamefaced uncle in the eye.

"An' what might this be?" says he.

"'Tis knowed hereabouts, in the langwitch o' waterside widows,"
replies my uncle, mildly, "as a bottle o' Cheap an' Nasty."

Tom Bull put the bottle aside.

"_Tis_ cheap, I'll be bound," says my uncle; "but 'tis not so
wonderful nasty, Tom," he grieved, "when 'tis the best t' be had."

"Skipper Nicholas," says Tom, in wonder, "wasn't you give aforetime t'
the use o' Long Tom?"

My uncle nodded.

"Dear man!" Tom Bull sighed.

My uncle looked away. Tom Bull seemed now first to observe his
impoverished appearance, and attacked it with frankly curious eyes,
which roamed without shame over my uncle's shrinking person; and my
uncle winced under this inquisition.

"Pour your liquor," growls he, "an' be content!"

Tom Bull grasped the bottle, unafraid of the contents, unabashed by
the rebuke. "An' Skipper Nicholas," asks he, "where did you manage t'
pick up the young feller?"

My uncle would not attend.

"Eh?" Tom Bull persisted. "Where did you come across o' he?"

"This," says my uncle, with a gentle tug at my ear, "is Dannie."

"Ay; but whose young one?"

"Tom Callaway's son."

"Tom Callaway's son!" cries Tom Bull.

There was that about me to stir surprise; with those generous days so
long gone by, I will not gainsay it. Nor will I hold Tom Bull in fault
for doubting, though he stared me, up and down, until I blushed and
turned uneasy while his astonished eyes were upon me.

"Tom Callaway's son!" cries he again.

That I was.

"The same," says my uncle.

Forthwith was I once more inspected, without reserve--for a child has
no complaint to make in such cases--and with rising wonder, which, in
the end, caused Tom Bull to gape and gasp; but I was now less
concerned with the scrutiny, being, after all, long used to the
impertinence of the curious, than with the phenomena it occasioned. My
uncle's friend had tipped the bottle, and was now become so deeply
engaged with my appearance that the yellow whiskey tumbled into his
glass by fits and starts, until the allowance was far beyond that
which, upon information supplied me by my uncle, I deemed proper (or
polite) for any man to have at one time. The measurement of drams was
in those bibulous days important to me--of much more agreeable
interest, indeed, than the impression I was designed to make upon the
'longshore world.

"No such nonsense!" exclaims Tom Bull. "Tom Callaway died 'ithout a
copper t' bury un."

"Tom Callaway," says my uncle, evasively, "didn't have no _call_ t' be
buried; he was drown-ded."

My uncle's old shipmate sipped his whiskey with absent, but
grateful, relish, his eyes continuing to wander over so much of me
as grew above the table, which was little enough. Presently my
uncle was subjected to the same severe appraisement, and wriggled
under it in guilty way--an appraisement of the waterside slops:
the limp and shabby cast-off apparel which scantily enveloped his
great chest, insufficient for the bitter rain then sweeping the
streets. Thence the glance of this Tom Bull went blankly over the
foggy room, pausing nowhere upon the faces of the folk at the bar,
but coming to rest, at last, upon the fly-blown rafters (where was
no interest), whence, suddenly, it dropped to my hand, which lay
idle and sparkling upon the sticky table.

"Tom Callaway's son!" he mused.

My hand was taken, spread down upon the calloused palm of Tom Bull, in
disregard of my frown, and for a long time the man stared in puzzled
silence at what there he saw. 'Twas very still, indeed, in the little
stall where we three sat; the boisterous laughter, the shuffling and
tramp of heavy boots, the clink of glasses, the beating of the rain
upon the windows seemed far away.

"I'd not be s'prised," says Tom Bull, in the low, hoarse voice of awe,
"if them there was di'monds!"

"They is," says my uncle, with satisfaction.

"Di'monds!" sighs Tom Bull. "My God!"

'Twas boredom--the intimate inspection, the question, the start of
surprise. 'Twas all inevitable, so familiar--so distastefully
intrusive, too. 'Twas a boredom hard to suffer, and never would have
been borne had not the occasion of it been my uncle's delight. 'Twas
always the same: Diamonds? ay, diamonds! and then the gasped "My God!"
They would pry into this, by the Lord! and never be stopped by my
scowl and the shrinking of my flesh. It may be that the parade my
misguided guardian made of me invited the intimacy, and, if so, I have
no cry to raise against the memory of it; but, whatever, they made
free with the child that was I, and boldly, though 'twas most boresome
and ungrateful to me. As a child my hand was fingered and eyed by
every 'longshore jack, coast-wise skipper, and foreign captain from
the Turkey Cock to the sign of The King George. And wherever I went
upon the streets of St. John's in those days there was no escape: the
glitter of me stopped folk in their tracks--to turn and stare and
wonder and pass muttering on.

"Three in that one, Tom," adds my uncle.

'Twas a moment before Tom Bull had mastered his amazement. "Well,
well!" cries he. "Di'monds! Three in that one! Lord, Lord, think o'
that! This wee feller with all them di'monds! An' Skipper Nicholas,"
says he, drawing closer to my beaming uncle, "this here red stone,"
says he, touching the ring on my third finger, "would be a jool? A
ruby, like as not?"

"'Tis that," says my uncle.

"An' this here?" Tom Bull continues, selecting my little finger.

"Well, now, Tom," says my uncle, with gusto, for he delighted in these
discussions, "I 'low I better tell you 'bout that. Ye see, lad," says
he, "that's a seal-ring, Tom. I'm told that gentlemen wears un t'
stamp the wax o' their corr-ee-spondence. 'Twas Sir Harry that give me
the trick o' that. It haves a D for Daniel, an' a C for Callaway; an'
it haves a T in the middle, Tom, for Top. I 'lowed I'd get the Top in
somewheres, so I put it in atween the D an' the C t' have it lie snug:
for I'm not wantin' this here little Dannie t' forget that Top was t'
the wheel in his younger days." He turned to me, and in a voice quite
broken with affection, and sadly hopeless, somehow, as I recall,
"Dannie, lad," says he, "ye'll never forget, will ye, that Top was t'
the wheel? God bless ye, child! Well, Tom," turning now to his
shipmate, "ye're a man much sailed t' foreign parts, an' ye wouldn't
think it ungenteel, would ye, for a lad like Dannie t' wear a
seal-ring? No? I'm wonderful glad o' that. For, Tom," says he, most
earnestly, "I'm wantin' Dannie t' be a gentleman. He's just _got_ t'
be a gentleman!"

"A gentleman, Nick?"

"He've _got_ t' be a gentleman!"

"You'll never manage that, Nick Top," says Tom Bull.

"Not manage it!" my uncle indignantly complained. "Why, look, Tom
Bull--jus' _look_--at them there jools! An' _that's_ on'y a poor
beginnin'!"

Tom Bull laid my hand very gingerly upon the table, as though 'twere a
thing not lightly to be handled lest it fall to pieces in his grasp.
He drew my left hand from my pocket and got it under the light.

"Two pearls," says my uncle, "'longside a emerald. Aft o' that you'll
be like t' find two more di'monds. Them's first-water Brazil, Tom."

Tom Bull inquiringly touched my watch-guard.

"Eighteen karat," says my uncle.

Tom Bull drew the watch from its pocket and let it lie glittering in
his hand; the jewels, set shyly in the midst of the chasing, glowed in
the twilight of the stall.

"Solid," says my uncle.

Tom Bull touched my velvet jacket with the tip of his finger.

"Imported direck," says my uncle, "from Lon'on. Direck, Tom--is
you hearin' me?--direck from Lon'on. Not," says he, with quick
consideration, "that we've no respeck for home talent. My, my, no!
Dannie haves a matter o' thirteen outfits done right here in St.
John's. You beat about Water Street for a week, Tom, an' you'll
_sight_ un. Fill your glass, Tom! We're well met this night. Leave me
talk t' you, lad. Leave me talk t' ye about Dannie. Fill up, an' may
the Lord prosper your smugglin'! 'Tis a wild night without. I'm
glad enough t' be in harbor. 'Tis a dirty night; but 'tis not blowin'
_here_, Tom--an' that's the bottle; pour your dram, lad, an' take
it like a man! God save us! but a bottle's the b'y t' make a fair
wind of a head wind. Tom," says he, laying a hand on my head--which
was the ultimate expression of his affection--"you jus' ought t'
clap eyes on this here little ol' Dannie when he've donned his
Highland kilts. He's a little divil of a dandy then, I'm tellin'
you. Never a lad o' the city can match un, by the Lord! Not match
my little Dannie! Clap eyes," says he, "on good ol' little Dannie!
Lord save ye, but of all the young fellers you've knowed he's the
finest figger of a lad--"

"Uncle Nick!" I cried, in pain--in pain to be excused (as shall be
told).

"Hush, lad!" croons he. "Never mind!"

I could not help it.

"An' talkin' about outfits, Tom," says my uncle, "this here damn
little ol' Dannie, bein' a gentleman, haves his _best_--from Lon'on.
Ye can't blame un, Tom; they _all_ doos it."

'Twas all hands t' the pumps for poor Tom Bull. "Dear man!" he gasped,
his confusion quite accomplished.

"An' _paid_ for," says my uncle.

Tom Bull looked up.

"'Tis all," says my uncle, solemnly jerking thumb down towards the
bowels of the earth, "paid for!"

Tom Bull gulped the dregs of his whiskey.

                  *       *       *       *       *

By-and-by, having had his glass--and still with the puzzle of myself
to mystify his poor wits--Tom Bull departed. My uncle and I still kept
to the stall, for there was an inch of spirits in my uncle's glass,
and always, though the night was late and stormy, a large possibility
for new company. 'Twas grown exceeding noisy in a far corner of the
place, where a foreign captain, in from the north (Fogo, I take it),
loaded with fish for Italian ports, was yielding to his liquor; and I
was intent upon this proceeding, wondering whether or not they would
soon take to quarrelling, as often happened in that tap-room, when Tom
Bull softly came again, having gone but a step beyond the threshold of
the place. He stepped, as though aimlessly, to our place, like a man
watched, fearing the hand of the law; and for a time he sat musing,
toying with the glass he had left.

"Skipper Nicholas," says he, presently, "I 'low Dannie Callaway haves
a friend t' buy un all them jools?"

"This here little ol' Dannie," says my uncle, with another little
reassuring tug at my ear, "haves no friend in all the world but me."

'Twas true.

"Not one?"

"Nar a friend in all the world but ol' Nick Top o' Twist Tickle."

"An' _you_ give un them jools?"

"I did."

There was a pause. Tom Bull was distraught, my uncle quivering; and
I was interested in the rain on the panes and in the foreign
captain who was yielding to his liquor like a fool or a half-grown
boy. I conceived a contempt for that shaven, scrawny skipper--I
remember it well. That he should drink himself drunk like a boy
unused to liquor! Faugh! 'Twas a sickening sight. He would involve
himself in some drunken brawl, I made sure, when even I, a child,
knew better than to misuse the black bottle in this unkind way.
'Twas the passage from Spain--and the rocks of this and the rocks of
that--and 'twas the virtues of a fore-and-after and the vices of
an English square rig for the foremast. He'd stand by the square rig;
and there were Newfoundlanders at his table to dispute the opinion.
The good Lord only knew what would come of it! And the rain was on
the panes, and the night was black, and the wind was playing
devil-tricks on the great sea, where square-rigged foremasts and
fore-and-afters were fighting for their lives. A dirty night at sea--a
dirty night, God help us!

"Skipper Nicholas," says Tom Bull, in an anxious whisper, "I'm tied up
t' Judby's wharf, bound out at dawn, if the wind holds. I 'low you is
in trouble, lad, along o' them jools. An' if you wants t' cut an'
run--"

In the pause my uncle scowled.

--"The little _Good Omen_," says Tom Bull, under his breath, "is
your'n t' command!"

'Twas kind of intention, no doubt, but done in folly--in stupid (if
not befuddled) misconception of the old man's mettle. My uncle sat
quite still, frowning into his glass; the purple color crept into the
long, crescent scar of his scalp, his unkempt beard bristled like a
boar's back, the flesh of his cheeks, in composure of a ruddy hue,
turned a spotty crimson and white, with the web of veins swelling
ominously. All the storm signals I had, with the acumen of the child
who suffers unerring discipline, mastered to that hour were at the
mast-head, prognosticating a rare explosion of rage. But there was no
stirring on my uncle's part; he continued to stare into his glass,
with his hairy brows drawn quite over his eyes.

The blundering fellow leaned close to my uncle's ear. "If 'tis
turn-tail or chokee for you, along o' them jools," says he, "I'll put
you across--"

My uncle's eyes shifted to his staff.

--"T' the Frenchmen--"

My uncle's great right hand was softly approaching his staff.

--"Well," says the blundering Tom Bull, "give the old girl a wind with
some slap to it, I'll put you across in--"

My uncle fetched him a smart crack on the pate, so that the man leaped
away, in indignation, and vigorously rubbed his head, but durst not
swear (for he was a Methodist), and, being thus desperately situated,
could say nothing at all, but could only petulantly whimper and stamp
his foot, which I thought a mean thing for a man to do in such
circumstances. "A poor way," says he, at last, "t' treat an old
shipmate!" I thought it marvellously weak; my uncle would have had
some real and searching thing to say--some slashing words (and, may
be, a blow). "An you isn't a thief," cries Tom Bull, in anger, "you
_looks_ it, anyhow. An' the rig o' that lad bears me out. Where'd you
come by them jools? Eh?" he demanded. "Where'd you come by them
di'monds and pearls? Where'd you come by them rubies an' watches?
_You_--Nick Top: Twist Tickle hook-an'-line man! Buyin' di'monds for
a pauper," he snorted, "an' drinkin' Cheap an' Nasty! Them things
don't mix, Nick Top. Go be hanged! The police 'll cotch ye yet."

"No," says my uncle, gently; "not yet."

Tom Bull stamped out in a rage.

"No," my uncle repeated, wiping the sweat from his brow, "Tom Bull
forgotten; the police 'll not cotch me. Oh no, Dannie!" he sighed.
"They'll not cotch me--not yet!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

Then out of the black night came late company like a squall o' wind:
Cap'n Jack Large, no less! newly in from Cadiz, in salt, with a
spanking passage to make water-side folk stare at him (the _Last Hope_
was the scandal of her owners). He turned the tap-room into an uproar;
and no man would believe his tale. 'Twas beyond belief, with Longway's
trim, new, two-hundred-ton _Flying Fish_, of the same sailing, not yet
reported! And sighting Nicholas Top and me, Cap'n Jack Large cast off
the cronies he had gathered in the tap-room progress of the night, and
came to our stall, as I expected when he bore in from the rain, and
sent my uncle's bottle of Cheap and Nasty off with contempt, and
called for a bottle of Long Tom (the best, as I knew, the Anchor and
Chain afforded), which must be broached under his eye, and said he
would drink with us until we were turned out or dawn came. Lord, how I
loved that man, as a child, in those days: his jollity and bigness and
courage and sea-clear eyes! 'Twas grand to feel, aside from the
comfort of him, that he had put grown folk away to fondle the child on
his knee--a mystery, to be sure, but yet a grateful thing. Indeed,
'twas marvellously comfortable to sit close to him. But I never saw
him again: for the _Last Hope_ went down, with a cargo of mean fish,
in the fall of the next year, in the sea between St. John's and the
West Indies.

But that night--

"Cap'n Jack," says I, "you quit that basket."

He laughed.

"You quit her," I pleaded. "But ecod, man!" says I, "please quit her.
An you don't I'll never see you more."

"An' you'll never care," cries he. "Not _you_, Master Callaway!"

"Do you quit her, man!"

"I isn't able," says he, drawing me to his knee; "for, Dannie," says
he, his blue eyes alight, "they isn't ar another man in Newf'un'land
would take that basket t' sea!"

I sighed.

"Come, Dannie," says he, "what'll ye take t' drink?"

"A nip o' ginger-ale," says I, dolefully.

Cap'n Jack put his arm around the bar-maid. "Fetch Dannie," says he,
"the brand that comes from over-seas."

Off she went.

"Lord love us!" groans my uncle; "that's two."

"'Twill do un no harm, Nick," says Cap'n Jack. "You just dose un well
when you gets un back t' the Tickle."

"I will," says my uncle.

He did....

                  *       *       *       *       *

And we made a jovial night of it. Cap'n Jack would not let me off his
knee. Not he! He held me close and kindly; and while he yarned of the
passage to my uncle, and interjected strange wishes for a wife, he
whispered many things in my ear to delight me, and promised me, upon
his word, a sailing from St. John's to Spanish ports, when I was grown
old enough, if only I would come in that basket of a _Lost Hope_,
which I maintained I never would do. 'Twas what my uncle was used to
calling a lovely time; and, as for me, I wish I were a child again,
and Cap'n Jack were come in from the rain, and my uncle tipping the
bottle of Long Tom (though 'twere a scandal). Ay, indeed I do! That I
were a child again, used to tap-room bottles, and that big Cap'n Jack
had come in from the gale to tell me I was a brave lad in whom he
found a comfort neither of the solid land nor of water-side
companionship. But I did not think of Cap'n Jack that night, when my
uncle had stowed me away in my bed at the hotel; but, rather, in the
long, wakeful hours, through which I lay alone, I thought of Tom
Bull's question, "Where'd ye get them jools?"

I had never before been troubled--not once; always I had worn the
glittering stones without question.

"Where'd ye get them jools?"

I could not fall asleep: I repeated the twenty-third psalm, according
to my teaching; but still I could not fall asleep....



III

THE CATECHISM AT TWIST TICKLE


Of an evening at Twist Tickle Nicholas Top would sit unstrung and
wistful in his great chair by the west window, with the curtains drawn
wide, there waiting, in deepening gloom and fear, for the last light
to leave the world. With his head fallen upon his breast and his eyes
grown fixed and tragical with far-off gazing, he would look out upon
the appalling sweep of sea and rock and sky, where the sombre wonder
of the dusk was working more terribly than with thunder: clouds in
embers, cliffs and mist and tumbling water turning to shadows,
vanishing, as though they were not. In the place of a shining world,
spread familiar and open, from its paths to the golden haze of its
uttermost parts, there would come the cloud and mystery and straying
noises of the night, wherein lurk and peer and restlessly move
whatsoever may see in the dark.

Thus would he sit oppressed while night covered the world he knew by
day. And there would come up from the sea its voice; and the sea has
no voice, but mysteriously touches the strings within the soul of a
man, so that the soul speaks in its own way, each soul lifting its
peculiar message. For me 'twas sweet to watch the tender shadows creep
upon the western fire, to see the great gray rocks dissolve, to hear
the sea's melodious whispering; but to him (it seemed) the sea spoke
harshly and the night came with foreboding. In the silence and failing
light of the hour, looking upon the stupendous works of the Lord, he
would repeat the words of the prophet of the Lord:

"_For behold the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like
a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with the
flames of fire._" And again, with his hand upon his forehead and his
brows fallen hopelessly, "_With his chariots like a whirlwind, to
render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with the flames of fire._"
Still repeating the awful words, his voice broken to a terrified
whisper, "_His rebuke with the flames of fire!_" And in particular
moods, when the prophets, however sonorous, were inadequate to his
need, my uncle would have recourse to his own pithy vocabulary for
terms with which to anathematize himself; but these, of course, may
not be written in a book.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When the dusk was come my uncle would turn blithely from this
melancholy contemplation and call for a lamp and his bottle. While I
was about this business (our maid-servant would not handle the bottle
lest she be damned for it), my uncle would stump the floor, making
gallant efforts to whistle and trill: by this exhorting himself to a
cheerful mood, so that when I had moved his great chair to the table,
with the lamp near and turned high, and had placed a stool for his
wooden leg, and had set his bottle and glass and little brown jug of
cold water conveniently at hand, his face would be pleasantly rippling
and his eyes all a-twinkle.

"Up with un, Dannie!" says he.

'Twas his fancy that he had gout in the tip of his wooden leg. I must
lift the ailing bit of timber to the stool with caution.

"Ouch!" groans he. "Easy, lad!"

'Twas now in place.

"All ship-shape an' cheerful," says he. "Pass the bottle."

He would then stand me up for catechism; and to this task I would come
with alacrity, and my heels would come together, and my shoulders
square, and my hands go behind my back, as in the line at school.
'Twas a solemn game, whatever the form it took, whether dealing with
my possessions, hopes, deportment, or what-not; and however grotesque
an appearance the thing may wear, 'twas done in earnest by us both and
with some real pains (when I was stupid or sleepy) to me. 'Twas the
way he had, too, of teaching me that which he would have me conceive
him to be--of fashioning in my heart and mind the character he would
there wear. A clumsy, forecastle method, and most pathetically
engaging, to be sure! but in effect unapproached: for to this day,
when I know him as he was, the man he would appear to be sticks in my
heart and will not be supplanted. Nor would I willingly yield the
wistful old dog's place to a gentleman of more brilliant parts.

"Dannie, lad," he would begin, in the manner of a visiting trustee,
but yet with a little twitch and flush of embarrassment, which must
be wiped away with his great bandanna handkerchief--"Dannie, lad,"
he would begin, "is ol' Nicholas Top a well-knowed figger in
Newf'un'land?"

"He's knowed," was the response I had been taught, "from Cape Race t'
Chidley."

"What for?"

"Standin' by."

So far so good; my uncle would beam upon me, as though the compliment
were of my own devising, until 'twas necessary once more to wipe the
smile and blush from his great wet countenance.

"Is it righteous," says he, "t' stand by?"

"'Tis that."

He would now lean close with his poser: "Does it say so in the Bible?
Ah ha, lad! Does it say so _there_?"

"'Twas left out," says I, having to this been scandalously taught, "by
mistake!"

'Twas my uncle's sad habit thus to solve his ethical difficulties. To
a gigantic, thumb-worn Bible he would turn, the which, having sought
with unsuccess until his temper was hot, he would fling back to its
place, growling: "Them ol' prophets was dunderheads, anyhow; they left
out more'n they put in. Why, Dannie," in vast disgust, "you don't find
the mention of barratry from jib-boom t' taffrail! An' you mean t'
set there an' tell me them prophets didn't make no mistake? No, sir! I
'low they was well rope's-ended for neglect o' dooty when the Skipper
cotched un in the other Harbor." But if by chance, in his impatient
haste, he stumbled upon some confirmation of his own philosophy, he
would crow: "There you got it, Dannie! Right under the thumb o' me!
Them ol' bullies was wise as owls." 'Twas largely a matter of words,
no doubt (my uncle being self-taught in all things); and 'tis possible
that the virtue of standing by, indirectly commended, to be sure, is
not specifically and in terms enjoined upon the righteous. However--

"Come, now!" says my uncle; "would you say that ol' Nicholas Top was
_famous_ for standin' by?"

'Twas hard to remember the long response. "Well," I must begin, in a
doubtful drawl, every word and changing inflection his own, as I had
been taught, "I wouldn't go _quite_ t' the length o' that. Ol'
Nicholas Top wouldn't claim it hisself. Ol' Nicholas Top on'y claims
that he's _good_ at standin' by. His cronies do 'low that he can't be
beat at it by ar a man in Newf'un'land; but Nicholas wouldn't go t'
the length o' _sayin'_ so hisself. 'Ol' Nick,' says they, 'would stand
by if the ship was skippered by the devil and inbound on a fiery wind
t' the tickle t' hell. Whatever Nick says he'll _do_,' says they, 'is
all the same as _did_; an' if he says he'll stand by, he'll stick,
blow high or blow low, fog, ice, or reefs. "Be jiggered t' port an'
weather!" says he.'[1] But sure," I must conclude, "ol' Nicholas
wouldn't say so hisself. An' so I wouldn't go t' the length o' holdin'
that he was famous for standin' by. Take it by an' all, if I was
wantin' sea room, I'd stick t' _well knowed_ an' be done with it."

"Co'-rect!" says my uncle, with a smack of satisfaction. "You got that
long one right, Dannie. An' now, lad," says he, his voice turning soft
and genuine in feeling, "what's the ol' sailorman tryin' t' make out
o' _you_?"

"A gentleman."

"An' why?"

Then this disquieting response:

"'Tis none o' my business."

'Twould have been logical had he asked me: "An', Dannie, lad, what's a
gentleman?" But this he never did; and I think, regarding the thing
from this distance, that he was himself unable to frame the
definition, so that, of course, I never could be taught it. But he was
diligent in pursuit of this knowledge; he sat with open ears in those
exclusive tap-rooms where "the big bugs t' St. John's" (as he called
them) congregated; indeed, the little gold watch by which Skipper Tom
Bull's suspicion had been excited at the Anchor and Chain came to me
immediately after the Commissioner of This had remarked to the
Commissioner of That, within my uncle's hearing--this at the Gold
Bullet over a bottle of Long Tom--that a watch of modest proportions
was the watch for a gentleman to wear (my other watches had been
chosen with an opposite idea). And my uncle, too (of which anon), held
in high regard that somewhat questionable light of morality and
deportment whom he was used to calling ol' Skipper Chesterfield. But
"What is a gentleman?" was omitted from my catechism.

"An' is this ol' Nicholas Top a liar?" says my uncle.

"No, sir."

"Is he a thief?"

"No, sir."

"Smuggler?"

"No, sir."

"Have he ever been mixed up in burglary, murder, arson, barratry,
piracy, fish stealin', or speckalation?"

"No, sir."

To indicate his utter detachment from personal interest in the
question to follow, my uncle would wave his dilapidated hand, as
though leaving me free to answer as I would, which by no means was I.

"An' of how much," says he, "would he rob his neighbor that he might
prosper?"

'Twas now time for me to turn loud and indignant, as I had been
taught. Thus: my head must shoot out in truculent fashion, my brows
bend, my lips curl away from my teeth like a snarling dog's, my eyes
glare; and I must let my small body shake with explosive rage, in
imitation of my uncle, while I brought the table a thwack with all my
force, shouting:

"Not a damn copper!"

"Good!" says my uncle, placidly. "You done that very well, Dannie, for
a lad. You fetched out the damn quite noisy an' agreeable. Now," says
he, "is Nicholas Top a rascal?"

'Twas here we had trouble; in the beginning, when this learning was
undertaken, I must be whipped to answer as he would have me. Ay, and
many a night have I gone sore to bed for my perversity, for in respect
to obedience his severity was unmitigated, as with all seafaring men.
But I might stand obstinate for a moment--a moment of grace. And upon
the wall behind his chair, hanging in the dimmer light, was a colored
print portraying a blue sea, spread with rank upon rank of accurately
measured waves, each with its tiny cap of foam, stretching without
diminution to the horizon, upon which was perched a full-rigged ship,
a geometrical triumph; and from this vessel came by small-boat to the
strand a company of accurately moulded, accurately featured,
accurately tailored fellows, pulling with perfect accuracy in every
respect. I shall never forget the geometrical gentleman upon that
geometrically tempestuous sea, for as I stood sullen before my uncle
they provided the only distraction at hand.

"Come, Daniel!" says he, in a little flare of wrath; "is he a
rascal?"

"Well," says I, defiantly, "I've heard un lied about."

"Wrong!" roars my uncle. "Try again, sir! Is ol' Nicholas Top a
rascal?"

There was no help for it. I must say the unkind words or be thrashed
for an obstinate whelp.

"A damned rascal, sir!" says I.

"Co'-_rect_!" cries my uncle, delighted.[2]

And now, presently, my uncle would drawl, "Well, Dannie, lad, you
might 's well measure out the other," and when I had with care poured
his last dram would send me off to bed. Sometimes he would have me say
my prayers at his knee--not often--most when high winds, without rain,
shook our windows and sang mournfully past the cottage, and he was
unnerved by the night. "The wind's high the night," says he, with an
anxious frown; "an' Dannie," says he, laying a hand upon my head, "you
might 's well overhaul that there

                 "'_Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me,
                 Bless Thy little lamb to-night,_'

afore you turns in. 'Twill do you good, an' 'twon't manage t' do me no
harm." And this done I would off to bed; but had no sooner bade him
good-night, got my gruff response, and come to the foot of the stair,
than, turning to say good-night again, I would find myself forgot. My
uncle would be sunk dejectedly in his great chair, his scarred face
drawn and woful. I see him now--under the lamp--a gray, monstrous,
despairing man, a bottle beside him, the familiar things of the place
in shadow. The old feeling of wonder and regret returns. I sigh--as
then, a child, bound up to a lonely chamber in the night, I sighed.

"Good-night, sir!"

There was no response; but he would look in upon me on the way to
bed--into the little room where I lay luxuriously, in the midst of
those extravagant comforts which so strangely came to me. And more
often than not he would haul this way and that upon the covers until,
as though by some unhappy accident, I was awakened.

"God bless you, Dannie," says he.

"Good-night, sir."

'Twas all he wanted--a good wish spoken in the night. To his own bare
room he would then be off, a bit uncertain (I recall) in the
management of his wooden leg.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Under my window, at the foot of a short cliff which fell roughly into
the open cove, as shall be told, the sea broke. While sleep waited
'twas my habit to listen to the waves upon the rocks: in that brief
and mystical interval when many truths take shape, definite and
lovely, as in a mist, but are forgot before dawn stirs us, nor can be
remembered. Of still moonlit nights; of windless dusks, with the swell
of past storms sullenly remaining; in clammy, breathless weather; with
fresh winds blowing our craft to and fro on their way in search of the
fish; in blackest gales, when the men of Twist Tickle kept watch for
wrecks upon the heads--forever I listened to the voice of the sea
before I fell asleep. But the sea has no voice, but may only play upon
the souls of men, which speak from the uttermost depths, each soul in
its own way: so that the sea has a thousand voices, and listening men
are tranquil or not, as may chance within them, without mystery. Never
since those far-off days, when the sea took my unspoiled soul as a
harp in its hands, have I been secure in the knowledge of truth,
untroubled by bewilderment and anxious questions. Untroubled by love,
by the fear of hell, 'twas good to be alive in a world where the sea
spoke tenderly below the window of the room where sleep came bearing
dreams.

And my uncle? God knows! The harp was warped, and the strings of the
harp were broken and out of tune....

  [1] 'Twas really "damned t' port an' weather" my uncle would have me
      say; but I hesitate to set it down, lest the more gentle readers
      of my simple narrative think ill of the man's dealings with a
      child, which I would not have them do.

  [2] Of course, the frequent recurrence of this vulgarity in my
      narrative is to be regretted. No one, indeed, is more sensible
      of the circumstance than I. My uncle held the word in
      affectionate regard, and usefully employed it: 'tis the only
      apology I have to offer. Would it not be possible for the more
      delicate readers of my otherwise inoffensive narrative to elide
      the word? or to supply, on the spur of the moment, an acceptable
      equivalent, of which, I am told, there is an infinite variety?
      or (better still) to utter it courageously? I am for the bolder
      course: 'tis a discipline rich in cultural advantages. But 'tis
      for the reader, of course, to choose the alternative.



IV

ON SINISTER BUSINESS


Our pilgrimages to St. John's, occurring twice a year, were of a
singular description: not only in the manner of our progress, which
was unexampled, in view of our relationship and condition, but in the
impenetrable character of our mission and in the air of low rascality
it unfailingly wore. For many days before our departure from Twist
Tickle by the outside boat, my uncle would quit the Green Bull
grounds, where he fished with hook and line, would moor his punt fore
and aft, and take to the bleak hills of Twin Islands, there (it
seemed) to nurse some questionable design: whence at dusk he would
emerge, exhausted in leg and spirit, but yet with strength to mutter
obscure imprecations as he came tapping up the gravelled walk from the
gate, and with the will to manage a bottle and glass in the kitchen.

"The bottle!" cries he. "Ecod! the dog'll never scare ol' Nick Top.
Dannie, the bottle!"

While I fled for this he would sit growling by the table; but before I
was well returned the humor would be vanishing, so that sometimes I
guessed (but might be mistaken) he practised this rage and profanity
to play a part.

"Ol' Nick Top," says he, "is as saucy a dog as you'll find in the
pack!"

'Twas said with a snap.

"A saucy ol' dog!" snarls he. "An' Lord love ye! but he's able
t'--t'--t' _bite_!"

"Uncle Nick," says I, "you're all wore out along o' walkin' them
hills."

"Wore out!" cries he, an angry flash in his wide little eyes. "_Me_
wore out?... Pass the bottle.... Ye'd never think it, lad, an ye could
see me t' St. John's," says he, "at the--"

The revelation came to a full stop with the tipping of the square
black bottle.

"Where's that?" says I.

"'Tis a wee water-side place, lad," says he, with a grave wink, "where
ol' Nick Top's the sauciest dog in the pack!"

I would pass the water for his liquor.

"An' here," cries he, toasting with solemn enthusiasm, "is wishin' all
water-side rascals in"--'twas now a long pull at the glass--"jail!"
says he. "'Twould go agin my conscience t' wish un worse. I really
isn't able!"

By these wanderings on the hills the slow, suspicious wits of our folk
of Twist Tickle were mystified and aroused to superstitious imaginings.
'Twas inevitable that they should pry and surmise--surmising much
more than they dared pry. They were never bold, however, in the
presence of my uncle, whether because of their courteous ways or
because of his quick temper and sulphurous tongue, in respect to
meddling, I am not able to say; but no doubt they would have troubled
us a deal had my uncle even so much as admitted by the set of his eyelid
(which he never would do) that there was a mystery concerning us. The
lads of the place lurked upon the hills when the business went forward,
continuing in desperate terror of my uncle at such times. They
learned, notwithstanding their fright, that he trudged far and hard,
at first smiling with the day, then muttering darkly, at last
wrathfully swishing the spruce with his staff; but not one of them
could follow to the discovery of the secret, whatever it might be, so
that, though 'twas known the old man exchanged a genial humor for an
execrable one, the why and wherefore were never honestly fathomed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Came, at last, the day before our departure, upon which my wardrobe
for the journey must be chosen from the closets and chests, inspected,
scrupulously packed--this for travel, that for afternoon, this, again,
for dinner--tweed and serge and velvet: raiment for all occasions, for
all weathers, as though, indeed, I were to spend time with the
governor of the colony. Trinkets and cravats presented pretty
questions for argument, in which my uncle delighted, and would sustain
with spirit, watching rather wistfully, I recall, to see my interest
wax; and my interest would sometimes wax too suddenly for belief,
inspired by his melancholy disappointment, so that he would dig me in
the ribs with his long forefinger and laugh at me because he had
discovered my deception. My uncle was a nice observer (and diligent)
of fashion, and a stickler for congruity of dress, save in the matter
of rings and the like, with which, perhaps, he was in the way of too
largely adorning me.

"Ye'll be wearin' the new Turkish outfit aboard ship, Dannie?" says
he.

I would not.

"Lon'on _Haberdasher_ come out strong," says he, at a coax, "on
Turkish outfits for seven-year-olds."

'Twas not persuasive.

"Wonderful pop'lar across the water."

"But," I would protest, "I'm not likin' the queer red cap."

"Ah, Dannie," says he, "I fears ye'll never be much of a gentleman if
ye're careless o' the fashion. Not in the fashion, out o' the world!
What have ol' Skipper Chesterfield t' say on that p'int? Eh, lad? What
have the bully ol' skipper t' say--underlined by Sir Harry? A list o'
the ornamental accomplishments, volume II., page 24. 'T' be extremely
clean in your person,' says he, 'an' perfeckly well dressed, accordin'
t' the fashion, be that what it will.' There you haves it, lad,
underlined by Sir Harry! _'Be that what it will.'_ But ye're not
likin' the queer red cap, eh? Ah, well! I 'low, then, ye'll be havin'
t' don the kilt."

This I would hear with relief.

"But I 'low," growls he, "that Sir Harry an' Skipper Chesterfield
haves the right of it: for they're both strong on manners--if weak on
morals."

Aboard ship I was put in the cabin and commanded to bear myself like
a gentleman: whereupon I was abandoned, my uncle retreating in
haste and purple confusion from the plush and polish and glitter of
the state-room. But he would never fail to turn at the door (or
come stumping back through the passage); and now heavily oppressed by
my helplessness and miserable loneliness and the regrettable
circumstances of my life--feeling, it may be, some fear for me and
doubt of his own wisdom--he would regard me anxiously. To this day he
lingers thus in my memory: leaning forward upon his short staff,
half within the bright light, half lost in shadow, upon his poor,
fantastic, strangely gentle countenance an expression of tenderest
solicitude, which still would break, against his will, in ripples of
the liveliest admiration at my appearance and luxurious situation,
but would quickly recover its quality of concern and sympathy.

"Dannie, lad," he would prescribe, "you better overhaul the
twenty-third psa'm afore turnin' in."

To this I would promise.

"'The Lard is my shepherd,'" says he. "'I shall not want.' Say it
twice," says he, as if two doses were more salutary than one, "an'
you'll feel better in the mornin'."

To this a doleful assent.

"An' ye'll make good use o' your time with the gentlefolk, Dannie?"
says he. "Keep watch on 'em, lad, an' ye'll l'arn a wonderful lot
about manners. 'List o' the necessary ornamental accomplishments
(without which no man livin' can either please or rise in the world),
which hitherto I fear ye want,'" quotes he, most glibly, "'an'
which only require your care an' attention t' possess.' Volume II.,
page 24. 'A distinguished politeness o' manners an' address, which
common-sense, observation, good company, an' imitation will give ye
if ye will accept it.' There you haves it, Dannie--underlined by
Sir Harry! Ye got the sense, ye got the eye, an' here's the company.
Lord love ye, Dannie, the Commissioner o' Lands is aboard with his
lady! No less! An' I've heared tell of a Yankee millionaire cruisin'
these parts. They'll be wonderful handy for practice. Lay alongside,
Dannie--an' imitate the distinguished politeness: for ol' Skipper
Chesterfield cracks up imitation an' practice most wonderful high!"

The jangle of the bell in the engine-room would now interrupt him. The
mail was aboard: the ship bound out.

"An' Dannie," says my uncle, feeling in haste for the great
handkerchief (to blow his nose, you may be sure), "I'm not able t'
_think_ o' you bein' lonely. I'm for'ard in the steerage, lad--just
call that t' mind. An' if ye find no cure in that, why, lad"--in a
squall of affectionate feeling, his regard for gentility quite
vanished--"sink me an' that damn ol' Chesterfield overside, an'
overhaul the twenty-third psa'm!"

"Ay, sir."

"You is safe enough, lad; for, Dannie--"

'Twas in the imperative tone, and I must instantly and sharply
attend.

--"I'm for'ard, standin' by!"

He would then take himself off to the steerage for good; and 'twas
desperately lonely for me, aboard the big ship, tossing by night and
day through the rough waters of our coast.



V

TAP-TAP ON THE PAVEMENT


My uncle would not have speech with me again, lest his rough look and
ways endanger the social advantages he conceived me to enjoy in the
cabin, but from the lower deck would keep sly watch upon me, and,
unobserved of others, would with the red bandanna handkerchief flash
me messages of affection and encouragement, to which I must not for
the life of me respond. Soon, however, 'twas my turn to peer and wish;
for, perceiving at last that I was not ill (the weather being fair),
and that I had engaged the companionship of gentlefolk--they were
quick enough, indeed, these St. John's folk and spying wanderers, to
attach themselves to the mystery of old Nick Top's child--my uncle
would devote himself to his own concerns with unhappy result.

The manner of his days of preparation upon the hills of Twin Islands
would return: the ill temper and cunning and evil secretiveness,
joined now with the hang-dog air he habitually wore in the city. And
these distressful appearances would by day and night increase, as we
passed the Funks, came to Bonavist' Bay, left the Bacalieu light
behind and rounded the Brandy Rocks, until, instead of a rotund,
twinkling old sea-dog, with a gargoylish countenance, with which the
spirit had nothing to do, there landed on the wharf at the city a
swaggering, wrathy pirate, of devilish cast and temper, quick to flush
and bluster, mighty in profanity, far gone in drink.

Thence to the hotel, in this wise: my uncle, being clever with his
staff and wooden leg and vastly strong, would shoulder my box, make
way through the gang-plank idlers and porters with great words, put me
grandly in the lead, come gasping at a respectful distance behind,
modelling his behavior (as he thought) after that of some flunky of
nobility he had once clapped eyes on; and as we thus proceeded up the
hill--a dandy in tartan kilt and velvet and a gray ape in slops--he
would have a quick word of wrath for any passenger that might chance
to jostle me. 'Twas a conspicuous progress, craftily designed, as,
long afterwards, I learned; we were not long landed, you may be sure,
before the town was aware that the mystery of Twist Tickle was once
more come in by the _Lake_: old Skipper Nicholas Top and the lad with
the rings, as they called me!

                  *       *       *       *       *

Having come now to the hotel (this by night), where would be a
cheerful fire awaiting us in my comfortable quarters, my uncle
would unstrap my box and dispose its contents in clean and handy
places, urging me the while, like a mother, to make good use of my
opportunity to observe the ways of gentlefolk, especially as
practised in the dining-room of the hotel, that I might expeditiously
master polite manners, which was a thing Skipper Chesterfield held
most seriously in high opinion. I must thus conduct myself (he
said), rather than idly brood, wishing for his company: for a silk
purse was never yet made of a sow's ear but with pain to all
concerned. "An' Dannie," says he, jovially, when he had clapped the
last drawer shut and put my nightclothes to warm at the fire, "if
you was t' tweak that there bell-pull--"

I would gladly tweak it.

"Thank 'e, Dannie," says my uncle, gently. "It'll be the best
Jamaica--a nip afore I goes."

In response to this would come old Elihu Wall, whom in private I
loved, exaggerating every obsequious trick known to his kind to humor
my uncle. I must then act my part, as I had been taught, thus: must
stride to the fire, turn, spread my legs, scowl, meditatively ply a
tooth-pick (alas! my groping uncle), become aware of old Elihu Wall,
become haughtily conscious of my uncle, now in respectful attitude
upon his foot and wooden leg; and I must scowl again, in a heavier
way, as though angered by this interruption, and rub my small
quarters, now heated near beyond endurance, and stare at the ceiling,
and, dropping my eyes sharply upon Elihu Wall, say with a haughty
sniff, a haughty curl of the lip:

"Elihu"--with a superior jerk towards my uncle--"fetch this man a dram
o' your best Jamaica!"

'Twas not hard to do--not hard to learn: for my uncle was unceasing in
solicitous and patient instruction, diligent in observation, as he
cruised in those exclusive places to which (somehow) he gained
admittance for my sake and a jolly welcome for his own. And 'twas a
grateful task, too, to which I heartily gave my interest, for I loved
my uncle. 'Twas his way of teaching me not only the gentlemanly art of
dealing with menials, as he had observed it, but, on his part, as he
stood stiff and grave, the proper attitude of a servant towards his
master. In these days, long distant from the first strange years of my
life, I am glad that I was not wilful with him--glad that I did not
obstinately resist the folly and boredom of the thing, as I was
inclined to do. But, indeed, it must not be counted to me for virtue;
for my uncle had a ready hand, though three fingers were missing, and
to this day I remember the odd red mark it left (the thumb,
forefinger, and palm), when, upon occasion, it fell upon me.

"Elihu," says I, "fetch this man a dram o' your best Jamaica!"

Upon the disappearance of Elihu Wall, my uncle and I would resume
intimate relations.

"You done well, Dannie!" cries he, gleefully rubbing his hands. "I
never knowed Sir Harry t' do it better."

We were both mightily proud.

"Dannie," says he, presently, with gleeful interest, "give un a good
one when he gets back. Like a gentleman, Dannie. Just t' show un what
you can do."

Enter Elihu Wall.

"What the devil d'ye mean?" says I, in wrath. "Eh? What the devil d'ye
mean?"

"Yes, sir," says Elihu Wall. "Sorry, sir. _Very_, sir."

"Devil take your sorrow!" says I.

I would then slip the old fellow a bit of silver, as I was bidden, and
he would obsequiously depart.[3]

"You done well, Dannie!" cries my uncle again, in delight. "Lord! but
'twas grand! You done wonderful well! I never knowed Sir Harry t' do
it better. I wisht ol' Chesterfield was here t' see. Ecod!" he
chuckles, with a rub at his nose, gazing upon me with affectionate
admiration, in which was no small dash of awe, "you done it well, my
lad! I've heard Sir Harry say _more_, mark you! but I've never knowed
un t' do it better. _More_, Dannie, but t' less purpose. Ah, Dannie,"
says he, fondly, "they's the makin's of a gentleman in _you_!"

I was pleased--to be sure!

"An' I 'low, by an' all," my uncle would boast, scratching his head in
high gratification, "that I'm a-fetchin' ye up very well!"

'Twas hard on old Elihu Wall--this unearned abuse. But Elihu and I
were fast friends, nevertheless: he sped many a wearisome hour for me
when my uncle was upon his grim, mysterious business in the city; and
I had long ago told him that he must not grieve, whatever I
said--however caustic and unkind the words--because my uncle's whims
must be humored, which was the end to be served by us both. With this
assurance of good feeling, old Elihu Wall was content. He took my
insolence in good part, playing the game cheerfully: knowing that the
hard words were uttered without intention to wound, but only in
imitation of gentlemen, from whom Elihu Wall suffered enough, Heaven
knows! (as he confided to me) not to mind what I might say.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I must tell that, once, taken with pain, having overeaten myself, left
alone in the hotel at St. John's, I got out of bed and sought my
uncle's lodgings, which I was never permitted to see. 'Twas a rough
search for a sick child to follow through in the night, ending by the
water-side--a dismal stair, leading brokenly to a wretched room,
situate over a tap-room too low for frequency by us, where women
quarrelled with men. Here my uncle sat with his bottle, not yet turned
in. He was amazed when I entered, but scolded me not at all; and he
gave me brandy to drink, until my head swam, and took me to sleep with
him, for the only time in all my life. When I awoke 'twas to disgust
with the bed and room in which I lay--with the smell and dirt of the
place--the poverty and sordidness, to which I was not used.

I complained of the housing my uncle had.

"Dannie, lad," says my uncle, sighing unhappily, "the old man's poor,
an' isn't able t' help it."

Still I complained.

"Don't, Dannie!" says he. "I isn't able t' bear it. An' I'm wishin'
you'd never found out. The old man's poor--wonderful poor. He's on'y a
hook-an'-line man. For God's sake ask un no questions!"

I asked him no questions....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Every morning while at St. John's, my uncle and I must walk the lower
streets: my hand in his, when I was a child, and, presently, when I
was grown into a lad, myself at his heels. Upon these occasions I must
be clad and conduct myself thus and so, with utmost particularity:
must be combed and brushed, and carry my head bravely, and square my
shoulders, and turn out my toes, and cap my crown so that my
unspeakably wilful hair, which was never clipped short, as I would
have it, would appear in disarray. Never once did I pass the anxious
inspection without needing a whisk behind, or, it may be, here and
there, a touch of my uncle's thick finger, which seemed, somehow,
infinitely tender at that moment.

"I'm wantin' ye, Dannie," says he, "t' look like a gentleman the day.
They'll be a thing come t' pass, come a day."

There invariably came a thing to pass--a singular thing, which I
conceived to be the object of these pilgrimages; being this: that when
in the course of our peregrinations we came to the crossing of King
Street with Water he would never fail to pause, tap-tap a particular
stone of the walk, and break into muttered imprecations, continuing
until folk stared and heads were put out of the windows. In so far as
one might discern, there was nothing in that busy neighborhood to
excite the ill-temper of any man; but at such times, as though
courting the curious remark he attracted, my uncle's staff would
strike the pavement with an angry pat, his head wag and nod, his eyes
malevolently flash, and he would then so hasten his steps that 'twas
no easy matter to keep pace with him, until, once past, he would again
turn placid and slow.

"There you haves it, Dannie!" he would chuckle. "There you haves it!"

'Twas all a mystery.

                  *       *       *       *       *

My uncle must once get very drunk at St. John's--this for a day and a
night, during which I must not leave my quarters. These were times of
terror--and of loneliness: for it seemed to my childish mind that when
my uncle was drunk I had no friend at all. But 'twas all plain sailing
afterwards--a sober, cheerful guardian, restless to be off to Twist
Tickle. My uncle would buy new outfits for me at the shops, arrange
the regular shipment of such delicacies as the St. John's markets
afforded according to the season, seek gifts with which to delight and
profit me, gather the news of fashion, lie in wait for dropped hints
as to the manners and customs of gentlemen, procure his allowance of
whiskey for the six months to come: in every way providing for my
happiness and well-being and for such meagre comfort as he would allow
himself.

Then off to Twist Tickle: and glad we were of it when the _Lake_ got
beyond the narrows and the big, clean, clear-aired sea lay ahead!

  [3] My uncle would instantly have thrashed me had I approached an oath
      (or any other vulgarity) in conversation upon ordinary
      occasions.



VI

THE FEET OF CHILDREN


Once of a still night at Twist Tickle (when I was grown to be eleven)
my uncle abandoned his bottle and came betimes to my room to make sure
that I was snug in my sleep. 'Twas fall weather without, the first
chill and frosty menace of winter abroad: clear, windless, with all
the stars that ever shone a-twinkle in the far velvet depths of the
sky beyond the low window of my room. I had drawn wide the curtains to
let the companionable lights come in: to stare, too, into the vast
pool of shadows, which was the sea, unquiet and sombre beneath the
serenity and twinkling splendor of the night. Thus I lay awake, high
on the pillows, tucked to my chin: but feigned a restful slumber when
I caught the sigh and downcast tread of his coming.

"Dannie," he whispered, "is you awake?"

I made no answer.

"Ah, Dannie, isn't you?"

Still I would not heed him.

"I wisht you was," he sighed, "for I'm wonderful lonely the night,
lad, an' wantin' t' talk a spell."

'Twas like a child's beseeching. I was awake at once--wide awake for
him: moved by the wistfulness of this appeal to some perception of his
need.

"An' is you comfortable, Dannie, lyin' there in your own little bed?"

"Ay, sir."

"An' happy?"

"Grand, sir!" said I.

He crept softly to my bed. "You don't mind?" he whispered. I drew my
feet away to make room. He sat down, and for a moment patted me with
the tenderness of a woman. "You don't mind?" he ventured again, in
diffidence. I did not mind (but would not tell him so); nay, so far
was I from any objection that I glowed with content in this assurance
of loving protection from the ills of the world. "No?" said he. "I'm
glad o' that: for I'm so wonderful old an' lonely, an' you're sort o'
all I got, Dannie, t' fondle. 'Tis pleasant t' touch a thing that's
young an' not yet smirched by sin an' trouble. 'Tis some sort o' cure
for the souls o' broken folk, I'm thinkin'. An' you don't mind? I'm
glad o' that. You're gettin' so wonderful old yourself, Dannie, that I
was a bit afeared. A baby yesterday an' a man the morrow! You're near
growed up. 'Leven year old!" with a wry smile, in which was no pride,
but only poignant regret. "You're near growed up." Presently he
withdrew a little. "Ay," said he, gently; "you is housed an' clad an'
fed. So much I've managed well enough." He paused--distraught, his
brows bent, his hand passing aimlessly over the scars and gray
stubble of his head. "You're happy, Dannie?" he asked, looking up.
"Come, now, is you sure? You'd not be makin' game o' the old man,
would you, Dannie? You'd not tell un you _was_ when you _wasn't_,
would you? Is you sure you're happy? An' you're glad, is you, t' be
livin' all alone at Twist Tickle with a ol' feller like Nick Top?"

"Wonderful happy, sir," I answered, used to the question, free and
prompt in response; "happy, sir--with you."

"An' you is sure?"

I was sure.

"I'm glad o' that," he continued, but with no relief of the anxious
gloom upon his face. "I'm glad you is comfortable an' happy. I 'low,"
said he, "that poor Tom Callaway would like t' get word of it. Poor
Tom! Poor ol' Tom! Lord love you, lad! he was your father: an' he
loved you well--all too well. I 'low he'd be wonderful _glad_ just t'
know that you was comfortable an' happy--an' good. You is good, isn't
you? Oh, I knows you is! An' I wisht Tom Callaway could know. I wisht
he could: for I 'low 'twould perk un up a bit, in the place he's to,
t' get wind of it that his little Dannie was happy with ol' Nick Top.
He've a good deal t' bear, I'm thinkin', where he's to; an' 'twould
give un something t' distract his mind if he knowed you was doin'
well. But, Dannie, lad," he pursued, with a lively little flash of
interest, "they's a queer thing about that. Now, lad, mark you! 'tis
easy enough t' send messages Aloft; but when it comes t' gettin' a
line or two o' comfort t' the poor damned folk Below, they's no mortal
way that I ever heared tell on. Prayer," says he, "wings aloft, far
beyond the stars, t' the ear o' God Hisself; an' I wisht--oh, I
wisht--they was the same sort o' telegraph wire t' hell! For," said
he, sadly, "I've got some news that I'd kind o' like t' send."

I could not help him.

"I'm _tired_!" he complained, with a quick-drawn sigh. "I'm all wore
out; an' I wisht I could tell Tom Callaway."

I, too, sighed.

"But I 'low," was my uncle's woe-begone conclusion, "that that there
poor ol' Tom Callaway 'll just have t' wait till I sees un."

'Twas with a start of horror that I surmised the whereabouts of my
father's soul.

                  *       *       *       *       *

We were but newly come from St. John's: a long sojourn in the
water-side tap-rooms--a dissipation protracted beyond the habit (and
will) of my uncle. I had wearied, and had wondered, but had found no
explanation. There was a time when the rage and stagger of his
intoxicated day had been exceeded past my remembrance and to my
terror. I forgave him the terror: I did, I am sure! there was no
fright or humiliation the maimed ape could put upon me but I would
freely forgive, remembering his unfailing affection. 'Twas all plain
now: the course of his rascality had not run smooth. I divined it; and
I wished, I recall, lying there in the light of the untroubled stars,
that I might give of myself--of the ease and placid outlook he
preserved for me--some help to his distress and melancholy. But I was
a child: no more than a child--unwise, unhelpful, in a lad's way
vaguely feeling the need of me from whom no service was due: having
intuitive discernment, but no grown tact and wisdom. That he was
scarred, two-fingered, wooden-legged, a servant of the bottle, was
apart: and why not? for I was nourished by the ape that he was; and a
child loves (this at least) him who, elsewhere however repugnant,
fosters him. I could not help with any spoken word, but still could
have him think 'twas grateful to me to have him sit with me while I
fell asleep; and this I gladly did.

                  *       *       *       *       *

My uncle looked up. "Dannie," said he, "you don't mind me sittin' here
for a spell on your little bed, do you? Honest, now?"

'Twas woful supplication: the voice a child's voice; the eyes--dimly
visible in the starlight--a child's beseeching eyes.

"Jus' for a little spell?" he pleaded.

I said that I was glad to have him.

"An' you isn't so wonderful sleepy, is you?"

"No, sir," I yawned.

He sighed. "I'm glad," said he. "An' I'm grateful t' you, lad, for
bein' kind t' ol' Nick Top. He ain't worth it, Dannie--_he's_ no good;
he's jus' a ol' fool. But I'm lonely the night--most wonderful
lonely. I been thinkin' I was sort o' makin' a mess o' things. You
_is_ happy, isn't you, Dannie?" he asked, in a flash of anxious
mistrust. "An' comfortable--an' good? Ah, well! maybe: I'm glad you're
thinkin' so. But I 'low I isn't much on fetchin' you up. I'm a
_wonderful_ poor hand at that. I 'low you're gettin' a bit beyond me.
I been feelin' sort o' helpless an' scared; an' I was wishin' they was
somebody t' lend a hand with the job. I overhauled ol' Chesterfield,
Dannie, for comfort; but somehow I wasn't able t' put my finger on a
wonderful lot o' passages t' tie to. He've wonderful good ideas on the
subjeck o' manners, an' a raft of un, too; but the ideas he've got on
souls, Dannie, is poor an' sort o' damned scarce. So when I sot down
there with the bottle, I 'lowed that if I come up an' you give me
leave t' sit on the side o' your little bed for a spell, maybe you
wouldn't mind recitin' that there little piece you've fell into the
habit o' usin' afore you goes t' bed. That wee thing about the
Shepherd. You wouldn't mind, would you, just sort o' givin' it a light
overhaulin' for me? I'd thank you, Dannie, an you would be so kind;
an' I'll be as quiet as a mouse while you does it."

"The tender Shepherd?"

"Ay," said he; "the Shepherd o' the lambs."

               "'_Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me;
                 Bless thy little lamb to-night;
               Through the darkness be Thou near me;
                 Keep me safe till morning light._

               "'_All this day Thy hand has led me,
                 And I thank Thee for Thy care;
               Thou hast warmed me, clothed and fed me:
                 Listen to my evening prayer._

               "'_Let my sins be all forgiven;
                 Bless the friends I love so well;
               Take us all at last to heaven,
                 Happy there with Thee to dwell._'"

And now the lower stars were paling in a far-off flush of light. I had
been disquieted, but was by this waxing glow made glad that the sea
and rock of the world were to lie uncovered of their shadows while yet
I was awake. 'Twas a childish prayer--too simple in terms and petition
(as some may think) for the lad that was I to utter, grown tall and
broad and lusty for my years; but how sufficient (I recall) to still
the fears of night! They who are grown lads, like the lad that was I,
got somewhat beyond the years of tenderness, cling within their hearts
to all the lost privileges of love they must by tradition affect to
despise. My prayer for the little lamb that was I presented no aspect
of incongruity to my uncle; it left him silent and solemnly
abstracted: the man being cast into a heavy muse upon its content, his
head fallen over his breast, as was his habit, and his great gray
brows drawn down. How still the night--how cold and clear: how
unfeeling in this frosty calm and silence, save, afar, where the
little stars winked their kindly cognizance of the wakeful dwellers
of the earth! I sat up in my bed, peering through the window, to catch
the first glint of the moon and to watch her rise dripping, as I used
to fancy, from the depths of the sea.

"But they stray!" my uncle complained.

'Twas an utterance most strange. "Uncle Nick," I asked, "what is it
that strays?"

"The feet o' children," he answered.

By this I was troubled.

"They stray," he repeated. "Ay; 'tis as though the Shepherd minded not
at all."

"Will my feet stray?"

He would not answer: and then all at once I was appalled--who had not
feared before.

"Tell me!" I demanded.

He reached out and touched my hand--a fleeting, diffident touch--and
gently answered, "Ay, lad; your feet will stray."

"No, no!" I cried.

"The feet of all children," said he. "'Tis the way o' the world. They
isn't mothers' prayers enough in all the world t' change the
Shepherd's will. He's wise--the Shepherd o' the lambs."

"'Tis sad, then," I expostulated, "that the Shepherd haves it so."

"Sad?"

"Ay--wondrous sad."

"I'm not able t' think 'tis sad," said he. "'Tis wise, Dannie, I'm
thinkin', t' have the lads wander in strange paths. I'd not have un
suffer fear an' sorrow, God knows! not one poor lad of all the lads
that ever was. I'd suffer for their sins meself an' leave un go scot
free. Not one but I'd be glad t' do it for. But still 'tis wise, I'm
thinkin', that they should wander an' learn for theirselves the
trouble o' false ways. I wisht," he added, simply, "that they was
another plan--some plan t' save un sorrow while yet it made un men.
But I can't think o' none."

"But an they're lost?"

He scratched his head in a rush of anxious bewilderment. "Why,
Dannie," cries he, "it cannot be! Lost? Some poor wee lads lost? _You_
lost, Dannie? My God! _You_, Dannie--you that lies there tender an'
kind an' clean o' soul in your little bed? You that said the little
prayer t' the tender Shepherd? _You_ lost! God! it _could_ not be.
What's this you're tellin' me? I'm not able t' blaspheme the Lord God
A'mighty in a way that's vile as that. Not you, lad--not you! Am I t'
curse the God that would have it so?" cries he, in wrath. "Am I t'
touch your young body here in the solemn night, am I t' look into your
unspoiled eyes by day, an' feel that you fare into the dark alone, a
child, an' without hope? _Me_ think that? Ol' Nick Top? Not I! Sin?
Ay; _you'll_ sin. God knows so well as I you'll sin. He made you, lad,
an' knows full well. You'll be sore hurt, child. For all he learns o'
righteousness, Dannie, a man suffers; an' for all he learns o' sin he
pays in kind: 'tis all the same--he learns o' good an' evil an' pays
in the same coin o' sorrow. I'm not wishin' you sorrow: I'm wishin'
you manhood. You'll wander, like all lads, as God knows, who made un
an' the world they walks in; but the Shepherd will surely follow an'
fetch home all them that stray away upon hurtful roads accordin' t'
the will He works upon the sons o' men. They's no bog o' sin in all
the world He knows not of. He'll seek the poor lads out, in patience
an' love; an' He'll cure all the wounds the world has dealt un in dark
places, however old an' bleared an' foul they've growed t' be, an'
He'll make un clean again, rememberin' they was little lads,
once--jus' like you. _Why, by God! Dannie,_" cried he, "_I'd do as
much meself!_"

"Ay," quoth I; "but the parsons says they're lost for good an' all."

"Does they?" he asked, his eyes blank.

"Deed so--an' often!"

"Ah, well, Dannie!" said he, "bein' cut off from the discussion o'
parsons by misdeeds, I'm not able t' say. But bein' on'y a lost soul
I'm 'lowed t' think; an' I've thunk a idea."

I wondered concerning it.

"Which is, speakin' free an' easy," said he, "that they lie!"

"'Twill be hard," I argued, "'t save un all."

"'Twould be a mean poor God," he replied, "that couldn't manage a
little thing like that."

My uncle's soul, as I had been taught (and but a moment gone
informed), was damned.

"Uncle Nick," I inquired, "will the Shepherd find you?"

"Me?" cries he.

"Ay," I persisted; "will he not seek till he finds you, too?"

"Hist!" he whispered. "I'm damned, Dannie, for good an' all."

"You?"

"Good Lord, yes!" said he, under his breath. "Hist! Certain sure, I
is--damned t' hell for what I'm doin'."

At this distant day I know that what he did was all for me, but not on
that moonlit night of my childhood.

"What's that?" said I.

"I'm damned for it, anyhow," he answered. "Say no more, Dannie."

I marvelled, but could make nothing of it at all. 'Tis strange (I have
since thought) that we damn ourselves without hesitation: not one
worthy man in all the world counting himself deserving of escape from
those dreadful tortures preached for us by such apostles of injustice
as find themselves, by the laws they have framed, interpreting without
reverence or fear of blunder, free from the common judgment. Ay, we
damn ourselves; but no man among us damns his friend, who is as evil
as himself. And who damns his own child? 'Tis no doubt foolish to be
vexed by any philosophy comprehending what is vulgarly called hell;
but still (as I have thought) this is a reasonable view: there is no
hell in the philosophy of a mother for her own child; and as by
beneficent decree every man is the son of his mother, consequently
there is no hell; else 'twould make such unhappiness in heaven. Ah,
well! I looked out of the window where were the great works of the
Lord: His rock and sea and sky. The moon was there to surprise
me--half risen: the sea shot with a glistening pathway to the glory of
the night. And in that vast uncertain and inimical place, far out from
shore, there rode a schooner of twenty tons, dawdling unafraid, her
small sails spread for a breeze, in hope. Whither bound? Northward: an
evil coast for sailing-craft--cruel waters: rock and fog and ice and
tempestuous winds. Thither bound, undaunted, with wings wide, abroad
in the teeth of many perils, come wreck or not. At least (I thought)
she had ventured from snug harbor.

"Dannie," said my uncle, "you're all alone in the world."

Alone? Not I! "Why, sir," said I, "I've _you!_"

He looked away.

"Isn't I?" I demanded.

"No, lad," he answered; "you isn't."

'Twas the first step he had led me from dependence upon him. 'Twas as
though he had loosened my hand a little from its confident clasp of
his own. I was alarmed.

"Many's the lad," said he, "that thinks he've his mother; an' many's
the mother that thinks she've her lad. But yet they is both alone--all
alone. 'Tis the queerest thing in the world."

"But, Uncle Nick, I _haves_ you!"

"No," he persisted; "you is all alone. Why, Lord! Dannie, you is
'leven. What does I know about _you_?"

Not enough.

"An' what does _you_ know about _me_?"

I wondered.

"All children is alone," said he. "Their mothers doesn't think so; but
they is. They're alone--all alone. They got t' walk alone. How am I t'
help you, Dannie? What can I _do_ for you? Of all the wisdom I've
gathered I'd give you all an' go beggared, but you cannot take one
jot. You must walk alone; 'tis the way o' the world. An', Dannie,
could I say t' the evil that is abroad, 'Stand back! Make way! Leave
this child o' mine t' walk in holiness!' I would not speak the word.
'Twould be hard t' stand helpless while you was sore beset. I'm not
knowin' how I'd bear it. 'Twould hurt me, Dannie, God knows! But still
I'd have you walk where sin walks. 'Tis a man's path, an' I'd have you
take it, lad, like a man. I'd not have you come a milk-sop t' the
Gate. I'd have you come scathless, an that might be with honor; but
I'd have you come a man, scarred with a man's scars, an need be. You
walk alone, Dannie, God help you! in the world God made: I've no
knowledge o' your goings. You'll wander far on they small feet. God
grant you may walk manfully wherever they stray. I've no more t' hope
for than just only that."

"I'll try, sir," said I.

My uncle touched me again--moving nearer, now, that his hand might lie
upon me. "Dannie," he whispered, "if you must sin the sins of us--"

"Ay, sir?"

"They'll be some poor folk t' suffer. An' Dannie--"

I was very grave in the pause.

"You'll not forget t' be kind, will you," he pleaded, "t' them that
suffer for your sins?"

"I will not sin," I protested, "t' the hurt of any others."

He seemed not to hear. "An' you'll bear your own pain," he continued,
"like a man, will you not?"

I would bear it like a man.

"That's good," said he. "That's very good!"

The moon was now risen from the sea: the room full of white light.

"They is a Shepherd," said my uncle. "God be thanked for that. _He'll_
fetch you home."

"An' you?" said I.

"Me? Oh no!"

"He'll remember," said I, confidently, "that you was once a little
lad--jus' like me."

"God knows!" said he.

I was then bade go to sleep....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Presently I fell asleep, but awoke, deep in the night, to find my
uncle brooding in a chair by my bed. The moon was high in the
unclouded heaven. There was no sound or stirring in all the world--a
low, unresting, melancholy swish and sighing upon the rocks below my
window, where the uneasy sea plainted of some woe long forgot by all
save it, which was like a deeper stillness and silence. The Lost Soul
was lifted old and solemn and gray in the cold light and shadow of
the night. I was troubled: for my uncle sat in the white beam,
striking in at my window, his eyes staring from cavernous shadows, his
face strangely fixed and woful--drawn, tragical, set in no incertitude
of sorrow and grievous pain and expectation. I was afraid--'twas his
eyes: they shook me with fear of the place and distance from which it
seemed he gazed at me. 'Twas as though a gulf lay between, a place of
ghostly depths, of echoes and jagged rock, dark with wind-blown
shadows. He had brought me far (it seemed) upon a journey, leading me;
and having now set my feet in other paths and turned my face to a City
of Light, lifted in glory upon a hill, was by some unworthiness turned
back to his own place, but stayed a moment upon the cloudy cliff at
the edge of darkness, with the night big and thick beyond, to watch me
on my way.

"Uncle Nick," said I, "'tis wonderful late in the night."

"Ay, Dannie," he answered; "but I'm wantin' sore t' sit by you here a
spell."

"I'll not be able," I objected, "t' go t' sleep."

"'Twill do no hurt, lad," said he "if I'm wonderful quiet. An' I'll be
quiet--wonderful quiet."

"But I'm _wantin'_ t' go t' sleep!"

"Ah, well," said he, "I'll not trouble you, then. I would not have you
lie awake. I'll go. Good-night. God bless you, lad!"

I wish I had not driven him away....



VII

TWIN ISLANDS


In all this time I have said little enough of Twist Tickle, never a
word (I think) of Twin Islands, between whose ragged shores the
sheltering tickle winds; and by your favor I come now gratefully to
the task. 'Tis a fishing outport: a place of rock and sea and windy
sky--no more than that--but much loved by the twelvescore simple souls
of us, who asked for share of all the earth but salt-water and a
harbor (with the winds blowing) to thrive sufficient to ourselves and
to the world beyond. Had my uncle sought a secret place to foster the
child that was I--which yet might yield fair wage for toil--his quest
fortuitously ended when the _Shining Light_ ran dripping out of the
gale and came to anchor in the quiet water of the tickle. But more
like 'twas something finer that moved him: in that upheaval of his
life, it may be, 'twas a wistful turning of the heart to the paths and
familiar waters of the shore where he lived as a lad. Had the _Shining
Light_ sailed near or far and passed the harbor by, the changed
fortunes of--but there was no sailing by, nor could have been, for the
great wind upon whose wings she came was passionate, too, and
fateful.

If 'tis a delight to love, whatever may come of it (as some hold), I
found delight upon the grim hills of Twin Islands....

                  *       *       *       *       *

They lie hard by the coast, but are yet remote: Ship's Run divides
them from the long blue line of main-land which lifts its barren hills
in misty distance from our kinder place. 'Tis a lusty stretch of gray
water, sullen, melancholy, easily troubled by the winds, which
delight, it seems, sweeping from the drear seas of the north, to stir
its rage. In evil weather 'tis wide as space; when a nor'easter lifts
the white dust of the sea, clouding Blow-me-down-Billy of the
main-land in a swirl of mist and spume, there is no departure; nor is
there any crossing (mark you) when in the spring of the year a
southerly gale urges the ice to sea. We of Twin Islands were cut off
by Ship's Run from all the stirring and inquisitive world.

According to Tumm, the clerk of the _Quick as Wink_, which traded our
harbor, Twin Islands are t' the west'ard o' the Scarf o' Fog, a bit
below the Blue Gravestones, where the _Soldier o' the Cross_ was
picked up by Satan's Tail in the nor'easter o' the Year o' the Big
Shore Catch. "Oh, I knows un!" says he. "You opens the Tickle when you
rounds Cocked Hat o' the Hen-an'-Chickens an' lays a course for
Gentleman Cove, t'other side o' the bay. Good harbor in dirty
weather," says he: "an', ecod! my lads, a hearty folk." This is
forbidding enough, God knows! as to situation; but though the ancient
islands, scoured by wind and rain, are set in a misty isolation and
show gray, grimly wrinkled faces to the unkind sea, betraying no
tenderness, they are green and genial in the places within: there are
valleys; and the sun is no idler, and the lean earth of those parts is
not to be discouraged.

"God-forsaken place, Nick!" quoth Tom Bull, at the Anchor and Chain.

"How was you knowin' that, Tom?" says my uncle. "You isn't never
_been_ there."

"_Sounds_ God-forsaken."

"So does hell."

"Well, hell _is_."

"There you goes again, Tom Bull!" cries my uncle, with a sniff and
wrathful twitch of the lip. "There you goes again, you dunderhead--jumpin'
t' conclusions!"

Tom Bull was shocked.

"Hell God-forsaken!" growls my uncle. "They's more hard labor for the
good Lord t' do in hell, Tom Bull, than any place I knows on; an' I
'low He's right there, kep' double watches on the jump, a-doin' of
it!"

Twist Tickle pursues an attenuated way between the Twins, broadening
into the harbor basin beyond the Pillar o' Cloud, narrowing at the
Finger and Thumb, widening, once more, into the lower harbor, and
escaping to the sea, at last, between Pretty Willie and the Lost Soul,
which are great bare heads. You get a glimpse of the Tickle from the
deck of the mail-boat: this when she rounds the Cocked Hat and
wallows off towards Gentleman Cove. 'Tis but a niggardly glimpse at
best, and vastly unfair to the graces of the place: a white house, wee
and listlessly tilted, gripping a rock, as with expiring interest; a
reach of placid water, deep and shadowy, from which rise the hills,
gray, rugged, splashed with green; heights beyond, scarfed with
clinging wisps of mist.

The white houses are builded in a fashion the most disorderly at the
edge of the tickle, strung clear from the narrows to the Lost Soul and
straying somewhat upon the slopes, with the scrawny-legged flakes
clinging to the bare declivities and the stages squatted at the
water-side; but some houses, whose tenants are solitary folk made
morose by company, congregate in the remoter coves--where the shore is
the shore of the open sea and there is no crowd to trouble--whence
paths scramble over the hills to the Tickle settlement. My uncle's
cottage sat respectably, even with some superiority, upon a narrow
neck of rock by the Lost Soul, outlooking, westerly, to sea, but in
the opposite direction dwelling in a way more intimate and fond upon
the unruffled water of Old Wives' Cove, within the harbor, where rode
the _Shining Light_.

"An' there she'll lie," he was used to saying, with a grave and
mysteriously significant wink, "until I've sore need o' she."

"Ay," said they, "or till she rots, plank an' strand."

"An she rots," says my uncle, "she may rot: for she'll sail these
here waters, sound or rotten, by the Lord! an I just put her to it."

Unhappy, then, perhaps, Twin Islands, in situation and prospect; but
the folk of that harbor, who deal barehanded with wind and sea to
catch fish, have this wisdom: that a barren, a waste of selfish water,
a low, soggy sky have nothing to do with the hearts of men, which are
independent, in love and hope and present content, of these unfeeling
things. We were seafaring men, every jack of the place, with no
knowledge of a world apart from green water, which forever confronted
us, fashioning our lives; but we played the old comedy as heartily,
with feeling as true and deep, the same fine art, as you, my
gentlefolk! and made a spectacle as grateful to the gods for whom the
stage (it seems) is set.

                  *       *       *       *       *

And there is a road from the Tickle to the sea--to an outer cove,
high-cliffed, frothy, sombre, with many melancholy echoes of wind and
breakers and listless human voices, where is a cluster of hopeless,
impoverished homes. 'Tis a wilful-minded path, lingering indolently
among the hills, artful, intimate, wise with age, and most indulgently
secretive of its soft discoveries. It is used to the lagging feet of
lovers. There are valleys in its length, and winding, wooded
stretches, kindly places; and there are arching alders along the way
to provide a seclusion yet more tender. In the moonlight 'tis a path
of enchantment--a way (as I know) of pain and high delight: of a
wandering hope that tantalizes but must in faith, as we are men, be
followed to its catastrophe. I have suffered much of ecstasy and
despair upon that path. 'Tis the road to Whisper Cove.

Judith dwelt at Whisper Cove....



VIII

A MAID O' WHISPER COVE


Fourteen, then, and something more: a footloose lad of Twist
Tickle--free to sail and wander, to do and dream, to read the riddles
of my years, blithe and unalarmed. 'Tis beyond the will and wish of me
to forget the day I lay upon the Knob o' Lookout, from afar keeping
watch on the path to Whisper Cove--the taste of it, salty and cool,
the touch of it upon my cheek and in my hair, the sunlight and
scampering wind: the simple haps and accidents, the perception,
awakening within me, and the portent. 'Twas blowing high and merrily
from the west--a yellow wind from the warm west and from the golden
mist and low blue line of coast at the other side of the bay. It
rippled the azure floor between, and flung the spray of the breakers
into the sunshine, and heartily clapped the gray cliff, and pulled the
ears of the spruce, and went swinging on, in joyous mood, to the gray
spaces of the great sea beyond Twin Islands. I shall not forget: for
faith! the fates were met in conspiracy with the day to plot the
mischief of my life. There was no warning, no question to ease the
issue in my case: 'twas all ordained in secret; and the lever of
destiny was touched, and the labor of the unfeeling loom went forward
to weave the pattern of my days.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Judith (as I know) washed her mother's face and hands with conscientious
care: 'twas her way. Doubtless, in the way she had, she chattered,
the while, a torrent of affectionate reproof and direction, which gave
no moment for promise or complaint, and at last, with a raised finger
and a masterful little flash of the eye, bade the flighty woman keep
out of mischief for the time. What then, 'tis easy to guess: she
exhausted the resources of soap and water in her own adornment (for she
smelled of suds in the cabin of the _Shining Light_), and set out by
the path from Whisper Cove to Twist Tickle, with never a glance
behind, but a prim, sharp outlook, from shyly downcast eyes, upon all
the world ahead. A staid, slim little maid, with softly fashioned
shoulders, carried sedately, her small head drooping with shy grace,
like a flower upon its slender stalk, seeming as she went her dainty
way to perceive neither scene nor incident of the passage, but yet
observing all in swift, sly little flashes.

"An' a-ha!" thinks I, "she's bound for the _Shining Light_!"

It was blowing: on the edge of the cliff, where the path was lifted
high above the sea, winding through sunlit space, the shameless old
wind, turned skyward by the gray cliff, made bold, in the way the wind
knows and will practise, wherever it blows. The wind cared nothing
for the tragic possibility of a lad on the path: Judith was but a
fluttering rag in the gust. At once--'twas a miracle of activity--her
face reappeared in a cloud of calico and tawny hair. She looked
fearfully to the path and yellow hills; and her eyes (it must be) were
wide with the distress of this adventure, and there were blushes (I
know) upon her cheeks, and a flash of white between her moist red
lips. Without hint of the thing (in her way)--as though recklessly
yielding to delight despite her fears--she lifted her hands and
abandoned the pinafore to the will of the wind with a frightened
little chuckle. 'Twas her way: thus in a flash to pass from nay to yea
without mistrust or lingering. Presently, tired of the space and
breeze, she dawdled on in the sunshine, idling with the berries and
scrawny flowers by the way, and with the gulls, winging above the sea,
until, as with settled intention, she vanished over the cliff by the
goat-path to Old Wives' Cove, where rode the _Shining Light_, sound
asleep under a blanket of sunshine in the lee of the Lost Soul.

I followed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the cabin of the _Shining Light_, cross-legged on the table, in the
midst of the order she had accomplished, her hands neatly folded in
her lap, Judith sat serene. She had heard my clatter on the
gang-plank, my shuffle and heavy tread on the deck. 'Twas I, she knew:
there was no mistaking, God help me! the fall of my feet on road or
deck. It may be that her heart for a moment fluttered to know that
the lad that was I came at last. She has not told me: I do not know.
But faith! my own was troublesome enough with a new and irritating
uneasiness, for which was no accounting.

I feigned astonishment. "Hello!" quoth I; "what you doin' here?"

She turned away--the eager expectation all fled from her face: I saw
it vanish.

"Eh?" says I.

She sniffed: 'twas a frank sniff of contempt--pain, like a half-heard
sob, mixed with the scorn of it.

"What you doin' here?"

I stood reproached; she had achieved it in a glance--a little shaft of
light, darting upon me, departing, having dealt its wound.

"Well, maid," cries I, the smart of her glance and silence enraging
me, "is you got no tongue?"

She puckered her brows, pursed her lips; she sighed--and concerned
herself with her hair-ribbon, quite placid once more. 'Twas a trick
well known to me. 'Twas a trick aggravating to the temper. 'Twas a
maid's trick--an ensnaring, deadly trick. 'Twas a trick ominous of my
imminent confusion.

"Eh?" I demanded.

"Dannie, child," she admonished, gently, "God hates a liar!"

I might have known.

"T' make believe," cries she, "that I'd not be here! How could you!"

"'Tis not a lie."

"'Tis a white lie, child," she chided. "You've come, Dannie, poor lad!
t' be a white liar. 'Tis a woful state--an' a parlous thing. For,
child, if you keeps on--"

She had paused. 'Twas a trick to fetch the question. I asked it.

"You'll be a blue one," says she. "An' then--"

"What then?"

"Blue-black, child. An' then--"

I waited.

"Oh, Dannie, lad!" cries she, her little hands clasped, a pitiful
quaver in her voice, so that I felt consigned to woe, indeed, for this
misdoing, "you'll be a liar as black as--"

There was no more of it.

"You dare not say it!" I taunted.

I did not wish that she should: not I! but still, being a lad, would
have her come close enough to sauce the devil. But I would not have
her say that word. Indeed, I need not have troubled. 'Twas not in her
mind to be so unmaidenly, with a lad at hand to serve her purpose.

"No," says she, "I dare not; but you, Dannie, bein' a lad--"

Her voice trailed off expectantly.

"Black as hell?"

She nodded.

"Come, maid," says I, "you've called me a liar."

"I wasn't wantin' to."

"No odds," says I. "An' if I'm a liar," says I, "I 'low I'm a fool for
it?"

"You is."

"Then, my maid," cries I, in triumph, "you'll be keepin' me company in
hell! You've called me a fool. 'An' whoso calleth his brother a
fool--'"

"Oh no," says she, quite undisturbed. "'Tis not so."

"Not so?"

"Why, no, child! Didn't you know?"

"But it _says_ so!"

"Dannie, child," says she, with unruffled superiority, "I come down
from heaven one year an' five months after God sent you. An' God
_told_ me, Dannie, just afore I left Un at the Gate, that He'd changed
His mind about that."

The particular color of this stupendous prevarication I am still
unable to determine....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Here in the cabin of the _Shining Light_ was my workshop. On the
bench, stout-hulled and bravely masted, was a bark to be rigged. My
fingers itched to be dealing with the delicate labor. 'Twas no time
now, thought I, all at once, to dally with the child. The maid was a
sweet maid, an amiably irritating maid, well enough, in her way, to
idle with; but the building of the ship was a substantial delight,
subject to the mastery of a man with hands and a will, the end a sure
achievement--no vague, elusive thing, sought in madness, vanishing in
the grasp. I would be about this man's-work. Never was such a ship as
this ship should be! And to the work went Judith and I. But
presently, as never happened before, I was in some strange way
conscious of Judith's nearness. 'Twas a soft, companionable presence,
indeed! I bungled the knots, and could no longer work my will upon the
perverse spars, but had rather dwell upon her slender hands, swiftly,
capably busy, her tawny hair, her sun-browned cheeks and the creamy
curve of her brow, the blue and flash and fathomless depths of her
eyes. I remembered the sunlight and freshening breeze upon the hills,
the chirp and gentle stirring of the day, the azure sea and far-off,
tender mist, the playful breakers, flinging spray high into the yellow
sunshine. 'Twas no time now, thought I, to be busied with craft in the
gloomy cabin of the _Shining Light_, which was all well enough in its
way; 'twas a time to be abroad in the sunlit wind. And I sighed: not
knowing what ailed me, but yet uneasy and most melancholy. The world
was an ill place for a lad to be (thinks I), and all the labor of it a
vanity....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Now the afternoon was near spent. My hands were idle--my eyes and
heart far astray from the labor of the time. It was very still and
dreamful in the cabin. The chinks were red with the outer glow, and a
stream of mote-laden sunlight, aslant, came in at the companionway.

It fell upon Judith.

"Judy," I whispered, bending close, "I 'low I might as well--might as
well have--"

She looked up in affright.

"Have a kiss," said I.

"Oh no!" she gasped.

"Why not? Sure I'm able for it!"

"Ay," she answered, in her wisdom yielding this; "but, Dannie, child,
'tisn't _'lowed_."

"Why not?"

Her eyes turned round with religious awe. "God," said she, with a
solemn wag, "wouldn't like it."

"I'd never stop for that."

"May be," she chided; "but I 'low, lad, we ought t' 'blige Un once in
a while. 'Tis no more than kind. An' what's a kiss t' lack? Pooh!"

I was huffed.

"Ah, well, then!" said she, "an your heart's set on it, Dannie, I've
no mind t' stop you. But--"

I moved forward, abashed, but determined.

"But," she continued, with an emphasis that brought me to a stop, "I
'low I better ask God, t' make sure."

'Twas the way she had in emergencies.

"Do," said I, dolefully.

The God of the lad that was I--the God of his childish vision, when,
in the darkness of night, he lifted his eyes in prayer, seeking the
leading of a Shepherd--was a forbidding God: white, gigantic, in the
shape of an old, old man, the Ancient of Days, in a flowing robe,
seated scowling upon a throne, aloft on a rolling cloud, with an awful
mist of darkness all roundabout. But Judith, as I knew, visualized in
a more felicitous way. The God to whom she appealed was a rotund,
florid old gentleman, with the briefest, most wiry of sandy whiskers
upon his chops, a jolly double chin, a sunburned nose, kindly blue
eyes forever opened in mild wonder (and a bit bleared by the wind),
the fat figure clad in broadly checked tweed knickerbockers and a
rakish cap to match, like the mad tourists who sometimes strayed our
way. 'Twas this complacent, benevolent Deity that she made haste to
interrogate in my behalf, unabashed by the spats and binocular, the
corpulent plaid stockings and cigar, which completed his attire. She
spread her feet, in the way she had at such times; and she shut her
eyes, and she set her teeth, and she clinched her hands, and thus
silently began to wrestle for the answer, her face all screwed, as by
a taste of lemon.[4]

Presently my patience was worn.

"What news?" I inquired.

"Hist!" she whispered. "He's lookin' at me through His glasses."

I waited an interval.

"What now, Judy?"

"Hist!" says she. "He's wonderful busy makin' up His mind. Leave Un
be, Dannie!"

'Twas trying, indeed! I craved the kiss. Nor by watching the child's
puckered face could I win a hint to ease the suspense that rode me.
Upon the will of Judith's Lord God Almighty in tweed knickerbockers
surely depended the disposition of the maid. I wished He would make
haste to answer.

"Judy, maid," I implored, "will He never have done?"

"You'll be makin' Un mad, Dannie," she warned.

"I can wait no longer."

"He's scowlin'."

I wished I had not interrupted.

"I 'low," she reported, "He'll shake His head in a minute."

'Twas a tender way to break ill news.

"Ay," she sighed, opening her eyes. "He've gone an' done it. I knowed
it. He've said I hadn't better not. I'm wonderful sorry you've t' lack
the kiss, Dannie. I'm wonderful sorry, Dannie," she repeated, in a
little quiver of pity, "for _you_!"

She was pitiful: there's no forgetting that compassion, its tearful
concern and wistfulness. I was bewildered. More wishful beseeching
must surely have softened a Deity with a sunburned nose and a double
chin! Indeed, I was bewildered by this fantasy of weeping and
nonsense. For the little break in her voice and the veil of tears upon
her eyes I cannot account. 'Twas the way she had as a maid: and
concerning this I have found it folly to speculate. Of the boundaries
of sincerity and pretence within her heart I have no knowledge. There
was no pretence (I think); 'twas all reality--the feigning and the
feeling--for Judith walked in a confusion of the truths of life with
visions. There came a time--a moment in our lives--when there was no
feigning. 'Twas a kiss besought; and 'twas kiss or not, as between a
man and a maid, with no Almighty in tweed knickerbockers conveniently
at hand to shoulder the blame. Ah, well, Judith! the golden,
mote-laden shaft which transfigured your childish loveliness into
angelic glory, the encompassing shadows, the stirring of the day
without, the winds of blue weather blowing upon the hills, are
beauties faded long ago, the young denial a pain almost forgot. The
path we trod thereafter, Judith, is a memory, too: the days and nights
of all the years since in the streaming sunlight of that afternoon the
lad that was I looked upon you to find the shadowy chambers of your
eyes all misty with compassion.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Dannie," she ventured, softly, "you're able t' take it."

"Ay--but will not."

"You're wonderful strong, Dannie, an' I'm but a maid."

"I'll wrest no kisses," said I, with a twitch of scorn, "from maids."

She smiled. 'Twas a passing burst of rapture, which, vanishing, left
her wan and aged beyond her years.

"No," she whispered, but not to me, "he'd _not_ do that. He'd not--do
that! An' I'd care little enough for the Dannie Callaway that would."

"You cares little enough as 'tis," said I. "You cares nothing at all.
You cares not a jot."

She smiled again: but now as a wilful, flirting maid. "As for carin'
for _you_, Dannie," she mused, dissembling candor, "I _do_--an' I
don't."

The unholy spell that a maid may weave! The shameless trickery of
this!

"I'll tell you," she added, "the morrow."

And she would keep me in torture!

"There'll be no to-morrow for we," I flashed, in a passion. "You cares
nothing for Dannie Callaway. 'Tis my foot," I cried, stamping in rage
and resentment. "'Tis my twisted foot. I'm nothin' but a cripple!"

She cried out at this.

"A limpin' cripple," I groaned, "t' be laughed at by all the maids o'
Twist Tickle!"

She began now softly to weep. I moved towards the ladder--with the
will to abandon her.

"Dannie," she called, "take the kiss."

I would not.

"Take two," she begged.

"Maid," said I, severely, "what about your God?"

"Ah, _but_--" she began.

"No, no!" cries I. "None o' that, now!"

"You'll not listen!" she pouted.

"'Twill never do, maid!"

"An you'd but hear me, child," she complained, "I'd 'splain--"

"_What about your God?_"

She turned demure--all in a flash. "I'll ask Un," said she, most
piously. "You--you--you'll not run off, Dannie," she asked, faintly,
"when I--I--shuts my eyes?"

"I'll bide here," says I.

"Then," says she, "I'll ask Un."

The which she did, in her peculiar way. 'Twas a ceremony scandalously
brief and hurried. Once I caught (I thought) a slit in her eye--a
peep-hole through which she spied upon me. Presently she looked up
with a shy little grin. "God says, Dannie," she reported, speaking
with slow precision, the grin now giving place to an expression of
solemnity and highest rapture, "that He 'lows He didn't know what a
fuss you'd make about a little thing like a kiss. He've been wonderful
bothered o' late by overwork, Dannie, an' He's sorry for what He done,
an' 'lows you might overlook it this time. 'You tell Dannie, Judy,'
says He, 'that he've simply no idea what a God like me haves t' put up
with. They's a woman t' Thunder Arm,' says He, 'that's been worryin'
me night an' day t' keep her baby from dyin', an' I simply can't make
up my mind. She'll make me mad an she doesn't look out,' says He, 'an'
then I'll kill it. An' I've the heathen, Judy--all them heathen--on my
mind. 'Tis enough t' drive any God mad. An' jus' now,' says He, 'I've
got a wonderful big gale blowin' on the Labrador, an' I'm near drove
deaf,' says He, 'by the noise them fishermen is makin'. What with the
Labradormen an' the woman t' Thunder Arm an' the heathen 'tis fair
awful. An' now comes Dannie,' says He, 't' make me sick o' my berth!
You tell Dannie,' says he, 't' take the kiss an' be done with it.
Tell un t' go ahead,' says He, 'an' not be afeared o' me. I isn't in
favor o' kissin' as a usual thing,' says He, 'for I've always 'lowed
'twas sort o' silly; but if _you_ don't mind, Judy,' says He, 'why,
_I_ can turn my head.'"

'Twas not persuasive.

"'Tis a white kiss," said she, seeking, in her way, to deck the thing
with attractions.

I would not turn.

"'Tis all silk."

It budged me not, though I craved the kiss with a mounting sense of
need, a vision of despair. It budged me not: I would not be beguiled.

"An' oh, Dannie!" she besought, with her hands appealing, "'tis
_awful_ expensive!"

I returned.

"Take it," she sobbed.

I pecked her lips.

"Volume II., page 26!" roared my uncle, his broad red face appearing
at that moment in the companionway. "You done well, Dannie! 'Tis quite
t' the taste o' Skipper Chesterfield. You're sailin' twelve knots by
the log, lad, on the course you're steerin'!"

So I did not have another; but the one, you may believe! had done the
mischief.

  [4] I am informed that there are strange folk who do not visualize
      after the manner of Judith and me. 'Tis a wonder how they
      conceive, at all!



IX

AN AFFAIR OF THE HEART


My uncle's errand, speedily made known, for Judith's restoration, was
this: to require my presence betimes at tea that evening, since (as he
said) there was one coming by the mail-boat whom he would have me
favorably impress with my appearance and state of gentility--a thing I
was by no means loath to do, having now grown used to the small
delights of display. But I was belated, as it chanced, after all: for
having walked with Judith, by my uncle's hint, to the cairn at the
crest of Tom Tulk's Head, upon the return I fell in with Moses Shoos,
the fool of Twist Tickle, who would have me bear him company to Eli
Flack's cottage, in a nook beyond the Finger, and lend him comfort
thereafter, in good or evil fortune, as might befall. To this I gave a
glad assent, surmising from the significant conjunction of smartened
attire and doleful countenance that an affair of the heart was
forward. And 'twas true; 'twas safely to be predicted, indeed, in
season and out, of the fool of our harbor: for what with his own
witless conjectures and the reports of his mates, made in unkind
banter, his leisure was forever employed in the unhappy business: so
that never a strange maid came near but he would go shyly forth upon
his quest, persuaded of a grateful issue. 'Twas heroic, I thought, and
by this, no less than by his attachment, he was endeared to me.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I sniffed a change of wind as we fell in together. 'Twould presently
switch to the south (I fancied); and 'twould blow high from the
sou'east before the night was done. The shadows were already long; and
in the west--above the hills which shut the sea from sight--the blue
of mellow weather and of the day was fading. And by the lengthened
shadows I was reminded that 'twas an untimely errand the fool was
upon. "'Tis a queer time," said I, "t' be goin' t' Eli's. Sure, Moses,
they'll be at the board!"

"Dear man! but I'm wonderful crafty, Dannie," he explained, with a sly
twitch of the eye. "An they're at table, lad, with fish an' brewis sot
out, I'm sure t' cotch the maid within."

"The maid?" I inquired.

"Ay, lad; 'tis a maid. I'm told they's a new baggage come t' Skipper
Eli's for a bit of a cruise."

I caught a bashful flush mounting to his ears and the rumble of a
chuckle in his throat.

"She've come from Tall Pine Harbor," said he, "with a cask o' liver;
an' I'm told she've her heart dead sot on matrimony."

"Larry Hull's maid?"

"No, lad; 'tis not she. She've declined. Las' fall, Dannie, bein'
wind-bound in a easterly gale, I cotched she at Skipper Jonathan
Stark's. No; she've declined."

"'Tis Maria Long, then," said I.

"No, lad; she've declined, too."

"Elizabeth Wutt?"

"She've declined."

"'Tis not the Widow Tootle!"

"No; _she've_ declined," he answered, dismally. "But," he added, with
a sudden access of cheerfulness, "she come wonderful _near_ it. 'Twas
a close call for she! She 'lowed, Dannie, that an my beard had been
red she might ha' went an' done it, takin' chances with my wits. She
might, says she, put up with a lack o' wit; but a beard o' proper
color she must have for peace o' mind. You sees, Dannie, Sam Tootle
had a red beard, an' the widow 'lowed she'd feel strange with a yellow
one, bein' accustomed t' the other for twenty year. She've declined,
'tis true; but she come wonderful _near_ t' sayin the word. 'Twas
quite encouragin'," he added, then sighed.

"You keep on, Moses," said I, to hearten him, "an' you'll manage it
yet."

"Mother," he sighed, "used t' 'low so."

We were now come to a rise in the road, whence, looking back, I found
the sky fast clouding up. 'Twas a wide view, falling between the
black, jagged masses of Pretty Willie and the Lost Soul, cast in
shadow--a reach of blood-red sea, with mounting clouds at the edge of
the world, into which the swollen sun had dropped, to set the
wind-blown tatters in a flare of red and gold. 'Twas all a sullen
black below, tinged with purple and inky blue; but high above the
flame and glow of the rags of cloud there hung a mottled sky, each
fleecy puff a touch of warmer color upon the pale green beyond. The
last of our folk were bound in from the grounds, with the brown sails
spread to a rising breeze, the fleet of tiny craft converging upon the
lower-harbor tickle; presently the men would be out of the roughening
sea, pulling up the harbor to the stage-heads, there to land and split
the catch. Ay, a change of wind, a switch to the sou'east, with the
threat of a gale with rain; 'twould blow before dark, no doubt, and
'twas now all dusky in the east, where the sky was cold and gray. Soon
the lamps would be alight in the kitchens of our harbor, where the men
folk, cleansed of the sweat of the sea, would sit warm and dry with
their wives and rosy lads and maids, caring not a whit for the wind
and rain without, since they had what they had within.

"I'm knowin' no other maid at Tall Pine Harbor," said I, "that's fit
t' wed."

"'Tis a maid o' the name o' Pearl," he confided; "an' I'm told she's
fair on looks."

"Pearl what, Moses?"

"I disremember, Dannie," he answered, a bit put out. "The lads told
me, out there on the grounds the day, when I got wind of her bein'
here, but I've clean forgot. It won't matter, anyhow, will it, lad?
for, sure, I'm able t' _ask_."

"An' you've hopes?"

He trudged on, staring straight ahead, now silent and downcast. "Well,
no, Dannie," he answered, at last, "not what you might call _hopes_.
So many, Dannie, haves declined, that I'd be s'prised t' cotch one
that wouldn't slip the hook. But not havin' cast for this one, lad,
I've not give up. I'm told they's no wonderful demand for the maid on
accounts of temper and cross-eyes; an' so I was sort of allowin' she
_might_ have a mind t' try a fool, him bein' the on'y skipper t' hand.
Mother used t' say if I kep' on she 'lowed I'd haul one out in the
end: an' I 'low mother knowed. She never 'lowed I'd cotch a perfeck
specimen, in p'int o' looks, for them, says she, mates accordin' t'
folly; but she did say, Dannie, that the maid I wed would come t' know
me jus' the way mother knowed me, an t' love me jus' the way mother
loved me, for my goodness. 'Twas kind o' mother t' think it: nobody
else, Dannie, was ever so kind t' me. I wonder why _she_ was! Would
you say, Dannie," he asked, turning anxiously, "that a cross-eyed maid
_could_ be fair on looks? Not," he added, quickly, "that I'd care a
wonderful sight: for mother used t' say that looks wiped off in the
first washin', anyhow."

I did not answer.

"You wouldn't say, would you, lad," he went on, "that _I_ was fair on
looks?"

An ungainly little man, this Moses Shoos: stout enough about the
chest, where a man's strength needs lie, big-shouldered, long-armed,
but scrawny and crooked in the legs and of an inconfident, stumbling
gait, prone to halt, musing vacantly as he went. He was bravely clad
upon his courtship: a suit of homespun from the _Quick as Wink_, given
in fair dealing, as to quality, by Tumm, the clerk, but with
reservations as to fit--everywhere (it seemed) unequal to its task, in
particular at the wrists and lean shanks. His visage was in the main
of a gravely philosophical cast, full at the forehead, pensive about
the eyes, restless-lipped, covered upon cheeks and chin with a close,
curly growth of yellow beard of a color with his hair: 'twas as
though, indeed, he carried a weight of thought--of concern and
helpless sympathy for the woes of folk. 'Twas set with a child's eyes:
of the unfaded blue, inquiring, unafraid, innocent, pathetic,
reflecting the emotion of the moment; quick, too, but in no way to
shame him, to fill with tears. He spoke in a colorless drawl, with
small variation of pitch: a soft, low voice, of clear timbre, with a
note of melancholy insistently sounding, whatever his mood. I watched
him stumble on; and I wondered concerning the love his mother had for
him, who got no other love, but did not wonder that he kept her close
within his heart, for here was no mystery.

"Eh, Dannie?" he reminded me, with a timid little smile, in which was
yet some glint of vanity.

"Oh, ay!" I answered; "you're fair on looks."

"Ay," said he, in fine simplicity; "mother used t' say so, too. She
'lowed," he continued, "that I was a sight stronger on looks 'n any
fool she ever knowed. It might have been on'y mother, but maybe not.
The lads, Dannie, out there on the grounds, is wonderful fond o'
jokin', an' _they_ says I've a power o' looks; but mother," he
concluded, his voice grown caressive and reverent, "wouldn't lie."

It gave me a familiar pang--ay, it _hurt_ me sore--to feel this loving
confidence vibrate upon the strings within me, and to know that the
echo in my heart was but an echo, after all, distant and blurred, of
the reality of love which was this fool's possession.

"An' she said that?" I asked, in poignant envy.

"Oh, ay!" he answered. "Afore she knowed I was a fool, lad, she 'lowed
she had the best kid t' Twist Tickle."

"An' after?" I demanded.

"It didn't seem t' make no difference, Dannie, not a jot."

I wisht I had a mother.

"I wisht, Dannie," said he, in a break of feeling for me, "that _you_
had a mother."

"I wisht I had," said I.

"I wisht," said he, in the way of all men with mothers, as God knows
why, "that you had one--just like mine."

We were come to the turn in the road, where the path descended at
haphazard, over the rocks and past the pigpen, to the cottage of Eli
Flack, builded snugly in a lee from the easterly gales. For a moment,
in the pause, the fool of Twist Tickle let his hand rest upon my
shoulder, which never before had happened in all our intercourse, but
withdrew it, as though awakened from this pitying affection to a
sense of his presumption, which never, God witness! did I teach him.

"Tis a grand sunset," said he. "Look, Dannie; 'tis a sunset with
gates!"

'Twas so: great black gates of cloud, edged with glowing color, with
the quiet and light of harbor beyond.

"With gates!" he whispered.

'Twas the fancy of a fool; nay, 'twas the fancy (as chanced his need)
of some strange wisdom.

"Dannie," said he, "they's times when I sees mother's face peerin' at
me from them clouds--her own dear face as 'twas afore she died. She's
keepin' watch from the windows o' heaven--keepin' watch, jus' like she
used t' do. You'll never tell, will you, lad? You'll not shame me,
will you? They'd laugh, out there on the grounds, an you told: for
they're so wonderful fond o' laughter--out there on the grounds. I
lives, somehow," said he, brushing his hand in bewilderment over his
eyes, "in the midst o' laughter, but have no call t' laugh. I wonder
why, for mother didn't laugh; an' I wonder why _they_ laughs so much.
They'd laugh, Dannie, an you told un she was keepin' watch; an' so you
will not: for I've growed, somehow, wonderful tired o' laughter--since
mother died. But 'tis so: I knows 'tis so! I sees her face in the
light o' sunsets--just as it used t' be. She comes t' the gate, when
the black clouds arise t' hide the mystery we've no call t' know, an'
the dear Lord cares not what we fathom; an' I sees her, Dannie, from
my punt, still keepin' watch upon me, just like she done from the
window, afore she went an' died. She was a wonderful hand, somehow, at
keepin' watch at the window. She'd watch me go an' watch me come. I've
often wondered why she done it. I've wondered, Dannie, an' wondered,
but never could tell why. Why, Dannie, I've knowed her t' run out, by
times, an' say: 'Come, dear, 'tis time you was within. Hush, lad,
never care. They'll never hurt you, dear,' says she, 'when you're
within--with me.' An', Dannie, t' this day I'm feared t' look into the
sky, at evening, when I've been bad, lest I sees her saddened by my
deeds; but when I'm good, I'm glad t' see her face, for she smiles,
lad, just like she used t' do from the window--afore they buried
her."

"Ay," said I; "I've no doubt, Moses--nar a doubt at all."

The wind had risen; 'twas blowing from south by sou'east in meaning
gusts: gusts intent upon riot, without compassion, loosed and
conscious of release to work the will they had. The wind cares nothing
for the needs of men; it has no other feeling than to vent its
strength upon the strength of us--the lust (it seems to me) for a
trial of passion, not knowing the enlistment of our hearts. 'Tis by
the heart alone that we outlive the sea's angry, crafty hate, for
which there is no cause, since we would live at peace with it: for the
heart remembers the kitchens of our land, and, defiant or not, evades
the trial, repressed by love, as the sea knows no repression. 'Twas
blowing smartly, with the promise of greater strength--'twas a time
for reefs; 'twas a time for cautious folk, who loved their young, to
walk warily upon the waters lest they be undone. The wind is a
taunter; and the sea perversely incites in some folk--though 'tis
hardly credible to such as follow her by day and night--strange desire
to flaunt abroad, despite the bitter regard in which she holds the
sons of men. I was glad that the folk of our harbor were within the
tickle: for the sea of Ship's Run, now turned black, was baring its
white teeth. 'Twas an unkind place to be caught in a gale of wind; but
our folk were wise--knowing in the wiles of the sea--and were not to
be trapped in the danger fools despise.

"I'm on'y a fool," said Moses Shoos; "but, Dannie, mother 'lowed,
afore she died, that I was wonderful good t' she. 'Moses, lad,' says
mother, on that day, 'fool or no fool, looks or not, you been
wonderful good t' me. I could never love you more; an' I wouldn't
trade you, lad, for the brightest man o' Twist Tickle. Does you hear
me, dear?' says she. 'I wants you t' remember. I loves you,' says she;
'an' fool or no fool, I'd never trade you off, you've been so good t'
me.'"

"T' be sure not!" cries I.

"Not mother," said he; "not--_my_ mother!"

I reminded him that 'twas time to be about his courtship, for the
light was fading now, and 'twould soon be dark.

"Ay," said he; "mother 'lowed 'twasn't good for man t' be alone. An' I
'low she knowed."

I watched him down the hill....

I was but a motherless lad--not yet grown wise, but old enough,
indeed, to want a mother--in some dim way (which even yet is not clear
to my heart's ignorance, nor ever will be, since I am born as I am)
sensitive to feel the fathomless, boundless lack, poignantly conscious
that my poor vision, at its clearest, was but a flash of insight. I
used to try, I know, as a child, lying alone in the dark, when my
uncle was gone to bed, to conjure from the shadows some yearning face,
to feel a soft hand come gratefully from the hidden places of my room
to smooth the couch and touch me with a healing touch, in cure of my
uneasy tossing, to hear a voice crooning to my woe and restlessness;
but never, ache and wish as I would, did there come from the dark a
face, a hand, a voice which was my mother's; nay, I must lie alone, a
child forsaken in the night, wanting that brooding presence, in pain
for which there was no ease at all in all the world. I watched the
fool of Twist Tickle go gravely in at the kitchen door, upon his
business, led by the memory of a wisdom greater than his own,
beneficent, continuing, but not known to me, who was no fool; and I
envied him--spite of his burden of folly--his legacy of love. 'Twas
fallen into dusk: the hills were turning shapeless in the night, the
glow all fled from the sky, the sea gone black. But still I
waited--apart from the rock and shadows and great waters of the world
God made--a child yearning for the face and hand and tender guidance
of the woman who was his own, but yet had wandered away into the
shades from which no need could summon her. It seemed to me, then,
that the mothers who died, leaving sons, were unhappy in their death,
nor ever could be content in their new state. I wanted mine--I wanted
her!--wanted her as only a child can crave, but could not have
her--not though I sorely wanted her....

                  *       *       *       *       *

He came at last--and came in habitual dignity--punctiliously closing
the door behind him and continuing on with grave steps.

"You here, Dannie?" he asked.

"Ay, Moses; still waitin'."

"'Tis kind, lad."

"I 'lowed I'd wait, Moses," I ventured, "t' find out."

"'Tis grown thick," said he. "'Twill blow from the east with fog an'
rain. You're bound home, Dannie?"

"Ay," said I; "'tis far past tea-time."

We got under way.

"'Twill blow an uncivil sort o' gale from the east," he remarked, in a
casual way. "We'll have Sunk Rock breakin' the morrow. 'Twill not be
fit for fishin' on the Off-an'-On grounds. But I 'low I'll go out,
anyhow. Nothin' like a spurt o' labor," said he, "t' distract the
mind. Mother always said so; an' she knowed."

"The maid would not have you, Moses?"

"Mother always 'lowed," he answered, "that 'twas wise t' distract
the mind in case o' disappointment. I 'low I'll overhaul the
splittin'-table when I gets t' home. She needs a scrubbin'."

We came to the rise in the road.

"Mother," said he, "'lowed that if ever I come in from Whisper Cove t'
build at Twist Tickle, she'd have the house sot here. I 'low I'll put
one up, some time, t' have it ready ag'in' the time I'm married.
Mother 'lowed 'twas a good thing t' be forehanded with they little
things." The note of melancholy, always present, but often subdued, so
that it sounded below the music of his voice, was now obtrusive: a
monotonous repetition, compelling attention, insistent, an unvarying
note of sadness. "Ay," he continued; "mother 'lowed 'twas a good thing
t' have a view. She'd have it sot here, says she, facin' the west, if
ever I got enough ahead with the fish t' think o' buildin'. She'd have
it sot, says she, so she could watch the sunset an' keep a eye on the
tickle t' see my punt come in. She was wonderful on sunsets, was
mother; an' she was sort o' sot, somehow, on keepin' watch on me.
Wonderful good o' she, wasn't it, Dannie, t' want t' keep watch--on
me?" Again the note of melancholy, throbbing above the drawl--rising,
indeed, into a wail. "So," said he, "I 'low I'll just put up a house,
by-an'-by, for the wife I'm t' have; an' I'll have it here, I'm
thinkin', for mother 'lowed my wife would want it with a view o' the
tickle, t' watch my punt come in. Think she will, Dannie? Think she
will?"

The mail-boat blew in the narrows.

"I must haste!" said I.

"An you must haste, Dannie," said he, "run on. I'll not make haste,
for I'm 'lowin' that a little spell o' thinkin' about mother will sort
o' do me good."

                  *       *       *       *       *

I ran on, fast as my legs would carry me (which was not very fast).
'Twas the departing whistle; the mail-boat had come and gone--I saw
her lights, shining warmly in the dark, grow small as she fared out
through the narrows to the sea. It began to rain in great drops;
overhead 'twas all black--roundabout a world of looming shadows,
having lights, like stars, where the cottages were set on the hills. I
made haste on my way; and as I pattered on over the uneven road to the
neck of land by the Lost Soul, I blamed myself right heartily,
regretting my uncle's disappointment, in that the expected guest would
already have arrived, landed by way of my uncle's punt. And, indeed,
the man was there, as I learned: for my uncle met me on the gravelled
path of our garden, to bid me, but not with ill-temper, begone
up-stairs and into clean linen and fitting garments, which were laid
out and waiting (he said) on my bed. And when, descending in clean and
proper array, bejewelled to suit the occasion, by my uncle's command,
I came to the best room, I found there a young man in black, scarce
older, it seemed, than myself.

"This here young man, Dannie," says my uncle, with a flourish, "is
your tutor."

I bowed.

"Imported direck," adds my uncle, "from Lon'on."

My tooter? It sounded musical: I wondered what the young man blew--but
shook hands, in the Chesterfieldian manner (as best I had mastered
it), and expressed myself (in such Chesterfieldian language as I could
recall in that emergency) as being delighted to form an acquaintance
so distinguished.

"Well done!" cries my uncle, past containing his pride in the
Chesterfieldian achievement. "Sir Harry hisself couldn't beat it!"

The young man laughed pleasantly.



X

IMPORTED DIRECT


I laughed, too, unable to help it, and my uncle guffawed, in his large
way; and then we all laughed like tried friends together: so that
'twas plain, being thus at once set upon agreeable terms, with no
shyness or threat of antipathy to give ill ease, that we three strange
folk were well-met in the wide world. 'Twas cosey in the best room: a
lively blaze in the fireplace, the room bright with lamplight, warm
with the color of carpet and tapestried mahogany, spotless and grand,
as I thought, in every part; ay, cosey enough, with good company
well-met within, the risen wind clamoring through the night, the rain
lashing the black panes, the sea rumbling upon the rocks below, and,
withal, a savory smell abroad in goodly promise. My uncle, grown fat
as a gnome in these days, grotesquely fashioned, miscellaneously
clothed as ever, stood with legs wide upon the black wolf's-skin, his
back to the fire, his great hands clasped over his paunch, lying as
upon a shelf; regarding the direct importation and myself, the rise of
my admiration, the room, the whole world, indeed, visible and
invisible, with delight so boyish that 'twas good to watch the play
of satisfaction upon his fantastic countenance, which now rippled and
twinkled from his black cravat to his topmost scars and bristles.
Well-met were we three folk; ay, no doubt: I was in a glow of content
with this new fortune.

'Tis strange how the affections fall....

                  *       *       *       *       *

My tutor, John Cather, as his name turned out to be, was older than
I, after all--my elder by five years, I fancied, with age-wise ways
and a proud glance to overawe my youth, were need of it to come: a
slight, dark-skinned man, clean-featured, lean-cheeked, full-lipped,
with restless dark eyes, thin, olive-tinted hands, black hair,
worn overlong, parted in the manner of a maid and falling upon his
brow in glossy waves, which he would ruffle into disorder, with
the air of knowing what he was about. He was clad all in black, for
the reason, he said, that he aspired to holy orders: well-kept black,
edged with linen of the whitest, and not ill cut, according to my
uncle's fashion-plates, but sadly worn at the seams and everywhere
brushed near threadbare. Now sprawled, hands pocketed, in a
great-chair under the lamp, indolent with accomplished grace (it
seemed), one long leg thrown languidly over the other, the slender
foot never at rest, he was postured with that perfection of ease and
gentility into which my uncle, watchful observer of the manners of
the world he walked in, had many a time endeavored to command me, but
with the most indifferent success. I listened to my tutor's airy,
rambling chit-chat of the day's adventures, captivated by the
readiness and wit and genial outlook; the manner of it being new to
my experience, the accompaniment of easy laughter a grateful
enlightenment in a land where folk went soberly. And then and
there--I remember, as 'twere an hour gone, the gale and the
lamplight and the laughter of that time--I conceived for him an
enduring admiration.

Taken by an anxious thought I whispered in my uncle's ear, having him
bend his monstrous head close for secrecy.

"Eh?" says he.

I repeated the question.

"Steerage, lad," he answered. "Tut!" he growled, "none o' that, now!
'Twill be steerage."

It grieved me to know it.

"An' now, Dannie, lad," quoth my uncle, aloud, with a thirsty rubbing
of the hands and a grin to match, "fetch the bottle. The bottle, b'y!
'Tis time for growed men t' pledge the v'y'ge. A bit nippy, parson
man? The bottle, Dannie!"

"Bottle?" cries my tutor. "Why, really, you know, Skipper Nicholas,
I--"

"Is you much give t' the use o' fo'c's'les, parson?" my uncle
interrupted.

My tutor was not.

"Then," says my uncle, grimly, "you'll be wantin' a drap."

'Twas true enough, by my uncle's mysterious perversity: a drop would
be wanted, indeed.

"Dannie, lad," he commanded, "fetch that there bottle!"

Cather tossed his head, with a brief little laugh, and then, resigned
to my uncle's idiosyncrasy--divining the importance of it--gave me a
quick nod of permission: the which I was glad to get, aware, as I
was, of the hospitable meaning of my uncle's invitation and his
sensitiveness in respect to its reception. So I got the ill-seeming
black bottle from the locker, the tray and glasses and little brown
jug from the pantry, the napkin from Agatha, in a flutter in the
kitchen, and having returned to the best room, where the tutor
awaited the event in some apparent trepidation, I poured my uncle's
dram, and measured an hospitable glass for Cather, but with less
generous hand, not knowing his capacity, but shrewdly suspecting its
inferiority. The glasses glittered invitingly in the light of the fire
and lamp, and the red liquor lay glowing within: an attractive
draught, no doubt--to warm, upon that windy night, and to appetize
for the belated meat.

"T' you, parson!" says my uncle.

I touched the tutor's elbow.

"Water?" says he, in doubt. "Is it the custom?"

"Leave un be, Dannie."

"Whatever the custom," my tutor began, "of course--"

"'Tis wise," I ventured; minded to this by the man's awkward handling
of the glass.

"For shame, Dannie!" cries my uncle. "Leave the parson take his
liquor as he will. 'Tis easy t' see he likes it neat."

Cather was amused.

"T' you, parson!" says my uncle.

The tutor laughed as he raised the glass of clear rum. I watched him
with misgiving, alive to all the signs of raw procedure--the crook of
his elbow, the tilt of the glass, the lift of his head. "To you, sir!"
said he: and resolutely downed it. 'Twas impressive then, I recall, to
observe his face--the spasm of shock and surprise, the touch of
incredulity, of reproachful complaint, as that hard liquor coursed
into his belly. 'Twas over in a moment--the wry mouth of it, the
shudder--'twas all over in a flash. My tutor commanded his features,
as rarely a man may, into stoical disregard of his internal
sensations, and stood rigid, but calm, gripping the back of his chair,
his teeth set, his lips congealed in an unmeaning grin, his eyes,
which ran water against his will, fixed in mild reproach upon my
beaming uncle, turning but once, I recall, to my solicitous self. With
no unseemly outbreak--with but an inconsequent ahem and a flirt of his
handkerchief over his lips--he returned to his composure. He would
never again drink rum with my uncle, nor any other liquor, through all
the years of our intimate connection; but this mattered not at all,
since he had in the beginning pledged the old man's health with honor
to himself. I was glad, however, that on the windy night of our
meeting he was no more put out; for I wished him safe within my
uncle's regard, and knew, as I knew my uncle and the standards of our
land, that he had by this gallant conduct achieved the exalted
station. 'Twas a test of adaptability (as my uncle held), and of
manhood, too, of which, as a tenet, taught me by that primitive
philosopher, I am not able, bred as I am, to rid myself to this very
day.

"Parson," said my uncle, solemnly, advancing upon the tutor, "ye
_done_ it, and ye done it _well_! Shake, shipmate--shake!"

The bell tinkled.

"Is that dinner?" cries my tutor. "Jove! but I _am_ on edge."

We moved into the dining-room, myself pitying the man in a heartfelt
way for his stomach's sake. 'Twas unkind in my uncle to sharpen his
appetite with red rum.

                  *       *       *       *       *

My uncle stumped ahead, his wooden leg as blithe as the sound one, and
was waiting in his humble quarters, with a gnome-like leer of
expectation, when we entered. Neither my watch, set with its shy
jewels, nor my sparkling fingers, nor the cut and quality and fit of
my London-made clothes, which came close to perfection, nor anything
concerning me, had caused my tutor even so much as to lift an eyebrow
of surprise; but the appearance of the table, laid in the usual way,
gave him an indubitable fit of amazement: for, as was our custom on
the neck of land by the Lost Soul, at the one end, where sat the
luxurious Dannie Callaway, by no will of his own, was the glitter of
silver, the flash and glow of delicate china, a flower or more from
our garden, exquisite napery, the bounties of the kindly earth,
whatever the cost; but at the other (the napery abruptly ceasing at
the centre of the table because of the wear and tear that might
chance) was set out, upon coarse ware, even to tin, fare of common
description, forecastle fare, fisherman fare, unrelieved by any grace
of flower or linen or glitter of glass, by any grace at all, save the
grace of a black bottle, which, according to my experience, was
sufficient to my uncle and such rough folk as dined with him. 'Twas no
cause for surprise to me, to whom the enigma had been familiar from
the beginning; but my tutor, come suddenly against the puzzle, was
nonplussed, small blame to him.

"Parson," says my uncle, "_you_--goes steerage!"

My tutor started, regarded my uncle with a little jerk of astonishment;
and his eyebrows went high--but still conveyed no more than polite
inquiry. "I beg your pardon?" he apologized.

"Steerage, parson!" my uncle repeated. "Steerage passage, sir, the
night!"

"Really!"

"'Tis the same as sayin'," I made haste to explain, "that you dines
along o' Uncle Nick at _his_ end."

The tutor was faintly amused.

"Steerage the night, parson; cabin the morrow," said my uncle. "Ye'll
live high, lad, when ye're put in the cabin. Lord love ye, parson! but
the feedin' there is fair scandalous. 'Twould never do t' have the
news of it go abroad. An' as for the liquor! why, parson," he
proceeded, tapping my tutor on the breast, to impress the amazing
disclosure, while we stood awkwardly, "Dannie haves a locker o' wine
as old as your grandmother, in this here very room, waitin' for un t'
grow up; an' he'll broach it, parson, like a gentleman--he'll broach
it for you, when you're moved aft. But bein' shipped from the morrow,
accordin' t' articles, signed, sealed, an' delivered," he added,
gravely, "'twouldn't be just quite right, accordin' t' the lay o'
fac's you're not in the way o' knowin', t' have ye feed along o'
Dannie the night. 'Twouldn't be right, 'twouldn't be honest, as I sees
it in the light o' them fac's; _not_," he repeated, in a whisper,
ghostly with the awe and mystery of it, so that the tutor stared
alarmed, "accordin' t' them damned remarkable fac's, as I _sees_ un!
But I've took ye in, parson--_I've_ took ye in!" he cried, with a
beaming welcome, to which my tutor instantly responded. "Ye'll find it
snug an' plenty in the steerage, an' no questions asked. No
questions," he repeated, with a wink of obscure meaning, "asked.
They's junk an' cabbage, lad, with plum-duff t' top off with, for a
bit of a treat, an' rum--why parson! as for the rum, 'tis as free as
water! Sit ye," says he, "an' fall to!" his face all broken into
smiles. "Fall to, parson, an' spare nothin'. Better the salt-junk o'
toil," he improvised, in bold imitation of the Scripture, to my
tutor's further astonishment, "than the ice-cream o' crime!"

My tutor helplessly nodded.

"Ol' Nick Top," says my uncle, "is on'y a hook-an'-line man, an' fares
hard, as fishermen must; but little ol' Dannie Callaway, sittin' there
in that little cabin o' his, is a damn little gentleman, sir, an'
feeds off the best, as them big-bugs will."

We fell to.

"Wild night," my tutor remarked.

'Twas blowing wildly, indeed: the wind come to the east--sweeping in
from the vast gray sea, with black rain to fling at the world. The
windows rattled as the gusts went crying past the cottage. But a warm
glow, falling from the lamp above the table, and the fire, crackling
and snorting in the grate, put the power of the gale to shame. 'Twas
cosey where we sat: warm, light, dry, with hunger driven off--a cosey
place on a bitter night: a peace and comfort to thank the good God
for, with many a schooner off our coast, from Chidley to the Baccalieu
light, riding out the gale, in a smother of broken water, with a rocky
shore and a flash of breakers to leeward. Born as I am--Newfoundlander
to the marrow of my body and the innermost parts of my soul--my heart
puts to sea, unfailingly, whatever the ease and security of my place,
when the wind blows high in the night and the great sea rages. 'Tis a
fine heritage we have, we outport Newfoundlanders--this feeling for
the toss and tumult and dripping cold of the sea: this sympathy, born
of self-same experience. I'd not exchange it, with the riches of
cities to boot, for the thin-lipped, gray, cold-eyed astuteness, the
pomp and splendid masks, of the marts and avenues I have seen in my
time. I'd be a Newfoundlander, outport born, outport bred, of outport
strength and tenderness of heart, of outport sincerity, had I my birth
to choose....

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Dannie," says my uncle, peering inquisitively into the cabin, "how
d'ye like that there fresh beef?"

'Twas good.

"He likes it!" cries my uncle, delighted. "Parson, he likes it. Hear
un? He likes it. An' 'tis paid for, parson--paid for! Dannie," says
he, again leaning forward, eyes bent upon my plates, "how d'ye like
them there fresh greens? Eh, lad?"

They were very good.

"An' paid for, parson--all paid for!"

My tutor, poor man! stared agape, his knife and fork laid by; for my
uncle, become now excited and most indiscreet, was in a manner the
most perplexing--and in some mysterious indication--pointing, thumb
down, towards the oil-cloth that floored the room, or to the rocks
beneath, which the wind ran over, the house being set on spiles, or to
the bowels of the earth, as you may choose. 'Twas a familiar thing to
me--the mystery of the turned thumb and spasmodic indication, the
appearance, too, at such times, of my uncle's eyes: round, protruding,
alight with wicked admiration, starting from the scars and bristles
and disfigurements of his face, but yet reflecting awe, as of some
unholy daring, to be mightily suffered for in due time. But 'twas not
familiar to my tutor, nor, doubtless, had ever occurred to his
imagination, sophisticated as he may have thought it; he could do
nothing but withstand the amazement as best he might, and that in a
mean, poor way, as he gazed alternately upon my uncle's flushed and
deeply stirred countenance and upon my own saddened, aged face,
speaking its ancient bewilderment. I pitied his disquietude, rather:
for he was come from abroad to our coast--and could not understand.

"Dannie, lad," my uncle anxiously inquired, "_can_ it be that you
likes them there fresh carrots?"

It could easily be.

"An' paid for!" my uncle ejaculated, with no abatement of delight.
"Parson," he proceeded, proudly, "good feed that there young gentleman
has in the cabin, eh?"

My tutor agreed.

"None better in the world, eh?" the old man went on. "_You_ couldn't
do no better, could you?"

My tutor said that no man could.

"An' paid for," says my uncle, thumbing down. "Paid for, every bite!"
He turned to me. "Dannie," says he, "how d'ye like them there new
potatoes?"

They were more than palatable.

"Hear that, parson!" cries my uncle. "He likes un! Imported direck,
sir, from Bermuda," says he, with all the vanity of riches. "Ever feed
so high yourself, parson? Consignment arrived," says he, "per S.S.
_Silvia_. You'll see it in the _Herald_ an you looks."

"Really!" my tutor exclaimed, for lack of something better.

"Fac'," says my uncle; "an' paid for--skin an' eye!"

My tutor gave it up--permitted himself no longer to be troublesomely
mystified; but after a quick glance from steerage to cabin, flashed
with amused comprehension of the contrast, threw back his head
with a little laugh quite detached from our concerns, and presently,
innured to the grotesquery, busied himself with relish upon his
salt-junk. Thereafter, the rum buzzing in his head, he ran on in a
vivacious way upon all things under the sun, save himself, so that
the windy night seemed very far away, indeed, and the lamplight and
fire to lend an inspiration to his nimble tongue, until, in a lull
of the engaging discourse, he caught my uncle peering greedily into
the cabin, all but licking his lips, his nostrils distended to the
savor, his flooded eyes fixed upon the fresh beef and vegetables in
manifest longing, every wrinkle and muscle of his broad face off
guard. My tutor--somewhat affected, I fancy, by this display--turned
to me with a little frown of curiosity, an intrusive regard, it
seemed to me, which I might in all courtesy fend off for the future.
'Twas now time, thinks I, to enlighten him with the knowledge I
had: a task I had no liking for, since in its accomplishment I must
stir my uncle unduly.

"Uncle Nick," says I, "'tis like Mr. Cather will be havin' a cut off
my roast."

"The parson?" my uncle demanded.

"Ay," says I, disregarding his scowl; "a bit o' roast beef."

"Not he!" snaps my uncle. "Not a bite!"

I nerved myself--with a view wholly to Cather's information. "Uncle
Nick," I proceeded, my heart thumping, such was the temerity of the
thing, "'tis a dirty night without, an' here's Mr. Cather just joined
the ship, an' I 'low, now, the night, Uncle Nick, that maybe you--"

"Me?" roars my uncle, in a flare of rage and horror. "_Me_ touch it?
ME!"

The vehemence of this amazed my tutor, who could supply no cause for
the outburst; but 'twas no more than I had expected in the beginning.

"Me!" my uncle gasped.

There was a knock at the door....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Ay, a knock at the door! 'Twas a thing most unexpected. That there
should come a knock at the door! 'Twas past believing. 'Twas no timid
tapping; 'twas a clamor--without humility or politeness. Who should
knock? There had been no outcry; 'twas then no wreck or sudden peril
of our people. Again it rang loud and authoritative--as though one
came by right of law or in vindictive anger. My uncle, shocked all
at once out of a wide-eyed daze of astonishment, pushed back from the
board, in a terrified flurry, his face purpled and swollen, and
blundered about for his staff; but before he had got to his feet, our
maid-servant, on a fluttering run from the kitchen, was come to
the door. The gale broke in--rushing noises and a swirl of wet
wind. We listened; there was a voice, not the maid-servant's--thin,
high-tempered, lifted in irascible demand--but never a word to be
distinguished in that obscurity of wind and rain. 'Twas cold, and
the lamp was flaring: I closed the door against this inrush of
weather.

My wretched uncle beckoned the tutor close, a finger lifted in
caution; but still kept looking at me--and all the while stared at me
with eyes of frightened width--in a way that saw me not at all.
"Parson," he whispered, "they wasn't ar another man landed by the
mail-boat the day, was they?"

The tutor nodded.

"Ye wouldn't say, would ye," my uncle diffidently inquired, "that he'd
be from St. John's by the cut of um?"

"A gray little man from St. John's."

"I 'low then," says my uncle, "that he talked a wonderful spell about
a lad, didn't um?"

My tutor shook his head.

"Nar a word--about _any_ lad?"

"I'm sure not."

My uncle tapped the tip of his nose.

"A red mole," said my tutor.

And now my uncle poured himself a great dram of rum. 'Twas a cataract
of liquor! Never such a draught had I known him dare--not in his most
abandoned hours at the Anchor and Chain. 'Twas beyond him to down it
at a gulp; 'twas in two gulps that he managed it, but with no breath
between--and then pushed the glass away with a shudder of disgust.
Presently--when the liquor had restored his courage and begun to fetch
the color to his pallid face--he got his staff in his fist and
stumbled off in a high bluster, muttering gross imprecations as he
went. The door slammed behind him; we heard no more--never a sound of
growl or laugh from the best room where he sat with the gray little
man from St. John's. 'Twas not a great while he stayed; and when he
came again--the stranger having gone--he drew up to the board with all
his good-humor and ease of mind regained. The rum had thickened his
tongue and given a wilful turn to his wooden leg: no more. There was
not a hint of discomposure anywhere about him to be descried; and I
was glad of this, for I had supposed, being of an imaginative turn,
that all the mystery of the luxury that was mine was at last come to
its dreadful climax.

"A ol' shipmate, Dannie," my uncle genially explained.

'Twas hard to believe.

"Sailed along o' that there ol' bully t' Brazilian ports," says he,
"thirty year ago."

I wondered why my uncle had not called for his bottle to be brought in
haste to the best room.

"Still storming," the tutor ventured.

"Blowin' high," I remarked.

"I 'low I'll stay ashore, the morrow," says my uncle, "an' have a
spurt o' yarnin' along o' that there ol' bully."

But the gray little man from St. John's--the gray little red-moled
man--was no old shipmate (I knew), nor any friend at all, else my
uncle would have had him hospitably housed for the night under our
roof.



XI

THE GRAY STRANGER


We sat late by the fire in the best room: into which I must fairly lug
my perverse old uncle by the ears--for (says he) the wear an' tear of
a wooden leg was a harsh thing for a carpet to abide, an' parlor
chairs (says he) was never made for the hulks o' sea-farin' folk.
'Twas late, indeed, when he sent young Cather off to bed, with a
warning to be up betimes, or go hungry, and bade me into the
dining-room, as was our custom, to set out his bottle and glass. I
turned the lamp high, and threw birch on the fire, and lifted his
gouty wooden leg to the stool, and got his bottle and little brown
jug, wondering, all the while, that my uncle was downcast neither by
the wind nor the singular intrusion of the gray stranger. 'Twas a new
thing in my life--a grateful change, for heretofore, in black gales,
blowing in the night, with the thunder of waters under the window, it
had been my duty to stand by, giving the comfort of my presence to the
old man's melancholy and terror. 'Twas the company of the tutor,
thinks I, and I was glad that the congenial fellow was come from a far
place, escape cut off.

"Wonderful late," says my uncle.

"No," said I; "not late for windy nights."

"Too late for lads," says he, uneasily.

I poured his glass of rum.

"Think you, Dannie," my uncle inquired, "that he've the makin's of a
fair rascal?"

"An' who?" says I, the stranger in mind.

"The tutor."

"I'm hopin' _not_!" I cried.

"Ay," says my uncle, an eye half closed; "but think you he _would_
make a rascal--with clever management?"

"'Twould never come t' pass, sir."

My uncle sipped his rum in a muse.

"Uncle Nick," I complained, "leave un be."

"'Tis a hard world, Dannie," he replied.

"Do you leave un be!" I expostulated.

My uncle ignored me. "He've a eye, Dannie," says he, immersed in
villanous calculation; "he've a dark eye. I 'low it _might_ be
managed."

'Twas an uncomfortable suspicion thus implanted; and 'twas an unhappy
outlook disclosed--were my uncle to work his will upon the helpless
fellow.

"Uncle Nick, you'll not mislead un?"

"Bein' under oath," my uncle answered, with the accent and glance of
tenderest affection, "I'll keep on, Dannie, t' the end."

I poured the second dram of rum and pushed it towards him. 'Twas all
hopeless to protest or seek an understanding. I loved the old man, and
forgave the paradox of his rascality and loyal affection. The young
man from London must take his chance, as must we all, in the
fashioning hands of circumstance. 'Twas not to be conceived that his
ruin was here to be wrought. My uncle's face had lost all appearance
of repulsion: scar and color and swollen vein--the last mark of sin
and the sea--had seemed to vanish from it; 'twas as though the finger
of God had in passing touched it into such beauty as the love of
children may create of the meanest features of our kind. His glass was
in his marred, toil-distorted hand; but his eyes, grown clear and
sparkling and crystal-pure--as high of purpose as the eyes of such as
delight in sacrifice--were bent upon the lad he had fostered to my
age. I dared not--not the lad that was I--I dared not accuse him! Let
the young man from London, come for the wage he got, resist, if need
were to resist. I could not credit his danger--not on that night. But
I see better now than then I saw.

"I 'low he'll do," said my uncle, presently, as he set down his glass.
"Ay, lad; he'll do, if I knows a eye from a eye."

"Do what?"

"Yield," he answered.

"T' what?"

"Temptation."

"Uncle Nick," I besought, "leave the man be!"

"What odds?" he answered, the shadow of gloom come upon his face. "I'm
cleared for hell, anyhow."

'Twas a thing beyond me, as many a word and wicked deed had been
before. I was used to the wretched puzzle--calloused and uncaring,
since through all my life I still loved the man who fostered me, and
held him in esteem. We fell silent together, as often happened when my
uncle tippled himself drunk at night; and my mind coursed in free
flight past the seeming peril in which my tutor slept, past the roar
of wind and the clamor of the sea, beyond the woes of the fool who
would be married, to the cabin of the _Shining Light_, where Judith
sat serene in the midst of the order she had accomplished. I
remembered the sunlight and the freshening breeze upon the hills,
the chirp and gentle stirring of the day, the azure sea and the
far-off, tender mist, the playful breakers, flinging spray into the
yellow sunshine. I remembered the companionable presence of the maid,
her slender hands, her tawny hair, her sun-browned cheeks and the
creamy curve of her brow, the blue and flash and fathomless depths
of her eyes. I remembered the sweet, moist touch of her lips: I
remembered--in that period of musing, when my uncle, fallen
disconsolate in his chair, sipped his rum--the kiss that she gave
me in the cabin of the _Shining Light_.

"Dannie," says my uncle, "what you thinkin' about?"

I would not tell.

"'Tis some good thing," says he. "I'd like wonderful well t' know."

I could but sigh.

"Dannie," says he, in his wisdom, "you've growed wonderful fond o'
Judy, isn't you?"

"I'm t' wed Judy," I answered.

'Twas with no unkindness--but with a sly twinkle of understanding--that
he looked upon me.

"When I grows up," I added, for his comfort.

"No, no!" says he. "You'll never wed Judith. A gentleman? 'Twould
scandalize Chesterfield."

"I will," said I.

"You'll _not_!" cries he, in earnest.

"But I will!"

The defiance still left him smiling. "Not accordin' t' Chesterfield,"
says he. "You'll be a gentleman, Dannie, when you grows up, an' you'll
not be wantin' t' wed Judy."

"Not _wantin'_ to?"

"No, no; you'll not be wantin' to."

"Still," says I, "will I wed Judy."

"An' why?"

"Because," said I, "I've kissed her!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

My uncle would have his last glass alone (he said); and I must be off
to bed and to sleep; 'twas grown late for me (said he) beyond the
stretch of his conscience to endure. Lord love us! (said he) would I
never be t' bed in season? Off with me--an' t' sleep with me! 'Twould
be the worse for me (said he) an he caught me wakeful when he turned
in. The thing had an odd look--an odd look, to be sure--for never
before had the old man's conscience pricked him to such fatherly
consideration upon a night when the wind blew high. I extinguished the
hanging lamp, smothered the smouldering coals, set his night-lamp at
hand, and drowsily climbed the stairs, having given him good-night,
with a hearty "Thank 'e, sir, for that there tutor!" He bawled after
me an injunction against lying awake; and I should presently have gone
sound asleep, worn with the excitements of the day, had I not caught
ear of him on the move. 'Twas the wary tap and thump of his staff and
wooden leg that instantly enlisted my attention; then a cautious
fumbling at the latch of the door, a draught of night air, a
thin-voiced, garrulous complaint of the weather and long waiting.

"Hist, ye fool!" says my uncle. "Ye'll wake the lad."

"Damn the lad!" was the prompt response. "I wish he were dead."

My uncle laughed.

"Dead!" the stranger repeated. "Dead, Top! And you, too--you hound!"

'Twas an anathema spoken in wrath and hatred.

"I'm thinkin'," says my uncle, "that ye're an unkind man."

The stranger growled.

"Save your temper, man," my uncle admonished. "Ye'll need the last rag
of it afore the night's by."

The man cried out against the threat.

"I'm tellin' ye," says my uncle--and I heard his broad hand come with
a meaning clap on the stranger's shoulder--"that ye'll be wakin' the
lad."

"The lad! the lad!" the stranger whined. "Is there nothing in the
world for you, Top, but that club-footed young whelp?"

I heard it! I heard the words! My door was ajar--my room at the head
of the stair--my ears wide and anxious. I heard the words! There
was no mistaking what this intruder said. "The club-footed young
whelp!" says he. "Is there nothing in the world for you, Top, but
that club-footed young whelp?" He said it--I remember that he said
it--and to this day, when I am grown beyond the years of childish
sensitiveness, I resent the jibe.

"Nothing," my uncle answered. "Nothing in the world, sir," he
repeated, lovingly, as I thought, "but only that poor club-footed
child!"

Sir? 'Twas a queer way to address, thinks I, this man of doubtful
quality. Sir? I could not make it out.

"You sentimental fool!"

"Nay, sir," my uncle rejoined, with spirit. "An they's a fool in the
company, 'tis yourself. I've that from the lad, sir, that you goes
lacking--ay, an' will go, t' the grave!"

"And what, Top," the stranger sneered, "may this thing be?"

"Ye'll laugh, sir," my uncle replied, "when I tells you 'tis his
love."

The man did laugh.

"For shame!" cried my uncle.

He was taking off his wraps--this stranger. They were so many that I
wondered. He was a man of quality, after all, it might be. "I tell
you, Top," said he, "that the boy may be damned for all I care. I said
damned. I _mean_ damned. There isn't another form of words, with which
I am acquainted, sufficient to express my lack of interest in this
child's welfare. Do you understand me, Top? And do you realize--you
obstinate noddy!--that my heart's in the word? You and I, Top, have
business together. It's a dirty business. It was in the beginning; it
is now--a dirty business for us both. I admit it. But can't we do it
reasonably? Can't we do it alone? Why introduce this ill-born whelp?
He's making trouble, Top; and he'll make more with every year he
lives. Let him shift for himself, man! I care nothing about him. What
was his father to me? What was his mother? Make him a cook on a
trader. Make him a hand on a Labradorman. Put him before the mast on a
foreign craft. What do I care? Let him go! Give him a hook and line. A
paddle-punt is patrimony enough for the like of him. Will you never
listen to reason? What's the lad to you? Damn him, say I! Let him--"

"For that," my uncle interrupted, in a passion, "I'll hurt ye! Come
soon, come late, I'll hurt ye! Hear me?" he continued, savagely. "I'll
hurt ye for them evil wishes!"

I had expected this outbreak. My uncle would not hear me damned in
this cruel way without protest.

"Top," says the stranger, with a little laugh of scorn, "when _you_
hurt _me_--I'll know that the chieftest knave of the St. John's
water-side has turned fool!"

"When I hurts ye, man," my uncle answered, "I'll hurt ye sore!"

Again the man laughed.

"Ah, man!" my uncle growled, "but ye'll squirm for that when the time
comes!"

"Come, come, Top!" says the stranger, in such a whine of terror, in
such disgusting weakness and sudden withdrawal of high boasting, in
such a failure of courage, that I could hardly credit the thing.
"Come, come, Top!" he whined. "You'll do nothing rash, will you? Not
_rash_, Top--not rash!"

"I'll make ye squirm, sir," says my uncle, "for damnin' Dannie."

"But you'll do nothing rash, man, will you?"

My uncle would not heed him.

"I'm a reasonable man, Top," the stranger protested. "You know I'm not
a hard man."

They moved, now, into the dining-room, whence no word of what they
said came to my ears. I listened, lying wide-eared in the dark, but
heard only a rumble of voices. "And you, too--you hound!" the man had
said; and 'twas spoken in the hate that forebodes murder. My uncle?
what had that childlike, tenderhearted old rascal accomplished against
this man to make the penalty of ungodly wrath a thing meet to the
offence? "And you, too--you hound!" I lay in grave trouble and
bewilderment, fearing that this strange guest might work his hate upon
my uncle, in some explosion of resentment, before my arm could aid
against the deed. There was no sound of laughter from below--no hint
of conviviality in the intercourse. Voices and the clink of bottle and
glass: nothing mellow in the voices, nothing genial in the clink of
glass--nothing friendly or hospitable. 'Twas an uneasy occupation that
engaged me; no good, as I knew, came from a surly bout with a bottle
of rum. 'Twas still blowing high; the windows rattled, the sea broke
in thunder and venomous hissing upon the rocks, the wind screamed its
complaint of obstruction; 'twas a tumultuous night, wherein, it seems
to me, the passions of men are not overawed by any display of inimical
power, but break restraint in evil company with the weather. The
voices below, as I hearkened, rose and fell, like the gusts of a gale,
falling to quiet confidences, lost in the roar of the night, swiftly
rising to threat and angry counter-threat.

It ended in a cry and a crash of glass....

                  *       *       *       *       *

I was by this brought out of bed and pattering down the stair to my
uncle's help. It seemed they did not hear me, or, having heard, were
enraged past caring who saw them in this evil case. At the door I
came to a stand. There was no encounter, no movement at all, within
the room; 'twas very quiet and very still. There had fallen upon the
world that pregnant silence, wherein men wait appalled, which follows
upon the irrevocable act of a quarrel. A bottle of rum was overturned
on the table, and a glass lay in splinters on the hearth at my
uncle's back, as though cast with poor aim. The place reeked with the
stench of rum, which rose from a river of liquor, overflowing the
table, dripping to the floor: a foul and sinister detail, I recall,
of the tableau. My uncle and the gray little man from St. John's,
leaning upon their hands, the table between, faced each other all too
close for peaceful issue of the broil. Beyond was my uncle's
hand-lamp, where I had set it, burning serenely in this tempest of
passion. The faces were silhouetted in profile against its quiet
yellow light. Monstrous shadows of the antagonists were cast upon
the table and ceiling. For the first time in my life I clapped eyes
on the man from St. John's; but his face was in shadow--I saw dimly.
'Twas clean-shaven and gray: I could tell no more. But yet, I knew,
the man was a man of some distinction--a gentleman. 'Twas a definite
impression I had. There was that about him--clothes and carriage and
shaven face and lean white hands--that fixed it in my memory.

I was not observed.

"Out there on the Devil's Teeth," my uncle impassively began, "when I
laid hold--"

"But," the stranger protested, "I have nothing to do with that!"

"Out there on the Devil's Teeth, that night," my uncle repeated, "when
the seas was breakin' over, an' the ice begin t' come, an' I laid hold
o' that there Book--"

"Hear me, Top! Will you _not_ hear me?"

"Out there on the Devil's Teeth," my uncle patiently reiterated, "when
the crew was drownin' t' le'ward, an' 'twas every man for his own
life, an' the ice begin t' come, an' I laid hold o' that there--"

The stranger struck the table with his palm. "Hear me!" he implored.
"I have nothing--nothing--to do with the Devil's Teeth!"

"Out there on the Devil's Teeth, when I took the oath--"

"You stupid fool!"

"When I took the oath," my uncle resumed, "I knowed 'twould be hard t'
stand by. I knowed that, sir. I done the thing with open eyes. I'll
never plead ignorance afore the Lord God A'mighty, sir, for the words
I spoke that night. I've stood by, as best I could; an' I'll keep on
standin' by, sir, t' the end, as best I'm able. God help me, sir!" he
groaned, leaning still closer to the gray face of his enemy. "Ye think
ye're in hard case, yourself, sir, don't ye? Do ye never give a
thought t' _me?_ Dirty business, says you, betwixt you an' me! Ay;
dirty business for Nick Top. But he'll stand by; he'll stand by, sir,
come what may--t' the end! I'm not complainin', mark ye! not
complainin' at all. The lad's a good lad. I'm not complainin'. He've
the makin's of a better man than you. Oh no! I'm not complainin'. Out
there on the Devil's Teeth, that night, when the souls o' them men was
goin' Aloft an' Below, accordin' t' their deserts, does ye think I was
a fool? Fool! I tells ye, sir, I knowed full well I give my soul t'
hell, that night, when I laid my hand on the Book an' swore that I'd
stand by. An' I _will_ stand by--stand by the lad, sir, t' the end!
He's a good lad--he'll make a better man than you--an' I've no word
o' complaint t' say."

"The lad, the lad! Do _I_ care for the lad?"

"No, God forgive ye!" my uncle cried, "not you that ought."

"That ought, you fool?"

"Ay; that ought."

The man laughed.

"I'll not have ye laugh," said my uncle, "at Dannie. Ye've tried my
patience enough with scorn o' that child." He tapped the table
imperatively, continuing with rising anger, and scowled in a way I had
learned to take warning from. "No more o' that!" says he. "Ye've no
call t' laugh at the lad."

The laughter ceased--failed ridiculously. It proved my uncle's mastery
of the situation. The man might bluster, but was in a moment reduced.

"Top," said the stranger, leaning forward a little, "I have asked you
a simple question: _Will_ you or _won't_ you?"

"I will not!"

In exasperation the man struck my uncle on the cheek.

"I'll not hurt ye for that!" said my uncle, gently. "I'll not hurt ye,
man, for that!"

He was struck again. "There will come an extremity," the stranger calmly
added, "when I shall find it expedient to have you assassinated."

"I'll not hurt ye for the threat," said my uncle. "But man," he cried,
in savage anger, "an you keeps me from workin' my will with the
lad--"

"The lad, the lad!"

"An you keeps me from workin' my will with that good lad--"

"I say to you frankly: Damn the lad!"

My uncle struck the stranger. "Ye'll mend your manners!" cried he.
"Ye've forgot your obligations, but ye'll mend your manners!"

I marvelled that these men should strike each other with impunity. The
like was never known before. That each should patiently bear the
insult of the other! I could not make it out. 'Twas strange beyond
experience. A blow--and the other cheek turned! Well enough for
Christians--but my vicious uncle and this evil stranger! That night,
while I watched and listened unperceived from the hall, I could not
understand; but now I know that a fellowship of wickedness was
signified.

"I'll not hurt you, Top," the stranger mocked, "for the blow."

My uncle laughed.

"Are you laughing, Top?" the stranger sneered. "You are, aren't you?
Well," says he, "who laughs last laughs best. And I tell you, Top,
though you may seem to have the best laugh now, I'll have the last.
And you won't like it, Top--you won't be happy when you hear me."

My uncle laughed again. I wish he had not laughed--not in that unkind
way.

"Anyhow," said the stranger, "take that with my compliments!"

'Twas a brutal blow with the closed fist. I cried out. My uncle, with
the sting and humiliation of the thing to forbear, was deaf to the
cry; but the gray little man from St. John's, who knew well enough he
would have no buffet in return, turned, startled, and saw me. My
uncle's glance instantly followed; whereupon a singular thing
happened. The old man--I recall the horror with which he discovered
me--swept the lamp from the table with a swing of his hand. It
hurtled like a star, crashed against the wall, fell shattered and
extinguished. We were in darkness--and in silence. For a long interval
no word was spoken; the gale was free to noise itself upon our
ears--the patter of rain, the howl of the wind, the fretful breaking;
of the sea.

"Dannie, lad," says my uncle, at last, "is that you?"

"Ay, sir."

"Then," says he, tenderly, "I 'low you'd best be t' bed. I'm feared
you'll be cotchin' cold, there in the draught, in your night-gown.
Ye're so wonderful quick, lad, t' cotch cold."

"I've come, sir," says I, "t' your aid."

The stranger tittered.

"T' your aid, sir!" I shouted, defiantly.

"I'm not needin' ye, Dannie. Ye're best in bed. 'Tis so wonderful
late. I 'low ye'll be havin' the croup again, lad, an you don't watch
out. An' ye mustn't have the croup; ye really mustn't! Remember the
last time, Dannie, an' beware. Ah, now! ye'll never have the croup an
ye can help it. Think," he pleaded, "o' the hot-water cloths, an' the
fear ye put me to. An' Dannie," he added, accusingly, "ye know the
ipecac is all runned out!"

"I'll stand by, sir," says I.

"'Tis kind o' you!" my uncle exclaimed, with infinite graciousness and
affection. "'Tis wonderful kind! An' I'm glad ye're kind t' me
now--with my ol' shipmate here. But you isn't needed, lad; so do you
go t' bed like the good b'y that you is. Go t' bed, Dannie, God bless
ye!--go t' bed, an' go t' sleep."

"Ay," I complained; "but I'm not wantin' t' leave ye with this man."

"True, an' I'm proud of it," says he; "but I've no means o' curin' the
croup. An' Dannie," says he, "I'm more feared o' the croup than o' the
devil. Do you go t' bed."

"I'll go," I answered, "an you wills it."

'Twas very dark in the dining-room; there was no sight of the
geometrical gentlemen on that geometrically tempestuous sea to stay a
lad in his defiance.

"Good lad!" said my uncle. "God bless ye!"

On the landing above I encountered my tutor, half-dressed, a candle in
hand. 'Twas a queer figure he cut, thinks I--an odd, inconsequent
figure in a mysterious broil of the men of our kind. What was this
cockney--this wretched alien--when the passions of our coast were
stirring? He would be better in bed. An eye he had--age-wise ways and
a glance to overawe my youth--but what was he, after all, in such a
case as this? I was his master, however unlearned I might be; his
elder and master, to be sure, in a broil of our folk. Though to this
day I respect the man for his manifold virtues, forgetting in
magnanimity his failings, I cannot forgive his appearance on that
night: the candle, the touselled hair, the disarray, the lean legs of
him! "What's all this?" he demanded. "I can't sleep. What's all this
about? Is it a burglar?"

It made me impatient--and no wonder!

"What's this, you know?" he repeated. "Eh? What's all this row?"

"Do you go t' bed!" I commanded, with a stamp, quite out of temper.
"Ye're but a child! Ye've no hand in this!"

He was dutiful....

                  *       *       *       *       *

By-and-by my uncle came to my room. He would not enter, but stood
at the door, in much embarrassment, all the while looking at the
flame of his candle. "Dannie, lad," he inquired, at last, "is you
comfortable?"

"Ay, sir," says I.

"An' happy?"

"Ay, sir."

"An' is you content," says he, "all alone with ol' Nick Top at Twist
Tickle?"

I was content.

"You isn't upsot, is you, by the capers o' my ol' shipmate?"

I answered as he wished. "No, sir," said I.

"Oh no," says he; "no need o' bein' upsot by _that_ ol' bully. He've
wonderful queer ways, I'll not deny, but ye're not in the way o'
knowin', Dannie, that he've not a good heart. I 'low ye'll maybe take
to un, lad--when you comes t' know un better. I hopes ye will. I hopes
ye'll find it easy t' deal with un. They's no need _now_ o' bein'
upsot; oh my, no! But, Dannie, an I was you," says he, a bit
hopelessly, "times bein' what they is, an' life uncertain--an I was
you, lad--afore I went t' sleep I--I--I 'low I'd overhaul that there
twenty-third psa'm!"

He went away then....



XII

NEED O' HASTE


When I awoke 'twas to a gray morning. The wind had fallen to half a
gale for stout craft--continuing in the east, the rain gone out of
it. Fog had come upon the islands at dawn; 'twas now everywhere
settled thick--the hills lost to sight, the harbor water black and
illimitable, the world all soggy and muffled. There was a great
noise of breakers upon the seaward rocks. A high sea running without
(they said); but yet my uncle had manned a trap-skiff at dawn (said
they) to put a stranger across to Topmast Point. A gentleman 'twas
(said they)--a gray little man with a red mole at the tip of his
nose, who had lain the night patiently enough at Skipper Eli
Flack's, but must be off at break o' day, come what might, to board
the outside boat for St. John's at Topmast Harbor. He had gone in
high good-humor; crackin' off along o' Skipper Nick (said Eli) like
he'd knowed un all his life. An' Nick? why, ecod! Nick was crackin'
off, too. Never _knowed_ such crackin' off atween strangers. You
could hear the crew laughin' clear t' the narrows. 'Twould be a
lovely cruise! Rough passage, t' be sure; but Nick could take a skiff
through _that_! An' Nick would _drive_ her, ecod! you'd see ol' Nick
wing it back through the narrows afore the night was down if the
wind held easterly. _He'd_ be the b'y t' put she to it!

I scanned the sky and sea.

"Ay," quoth Eli, of the gale; "she haven't spit out all she've got.
She quit in a temper, at dawn," says he, "an' she'll be back afore
night t' ease her mind."

'Twas a dismal prospect for my uncle.

"But 'twould be a clever gale at flirtin'," Eli added, for my comfort,
"that could delude an' overcome ol' Nick!"

My tutor would go walking upon the roads and heads of our harbor (said
he) to learn of this new world into which he had come in the dark.
'Twas gray and windy and dripping on the hills; but I led him (though
his flimsy protection against the weather liked me not) over the
Whisper Cove road to the cliffs of Tom Tulk's Head, diligently
exercising, as we went, for my profit and his befitting entertainment,
all the Chesterfieldian phrases 'twas in me to recall. 'Twas easy to
perceive his delight in this manner of speech: 'twas a thing so
manifest, indeed, such was the exuberance of his laughter and so often
did he clap me on the back, that I was fairly abashed by the triumph,
and could not for the life of me continue, but must descend, for lack
of spirit, to the common tongue of our folk, which did him well
enough, after all, it seemed. It pleased him mightily to be set on the
crest and brink of that great cliff, high in the mist, the gray wind
blowing by, the black sea careering from an ambush of fog to break in
wrathful assault upon the grim rocks below. 'Twas amazing: the slender
figure drawn in glee to breast the gale, the long arms opened to the
wind, the rapt, dark face, the flashing eyes, the deep, eager breaths
like sighs of rapture. A rhapsody: the rush and growl and frown of the
world (said he)--the sombre colors, the veil of mist, the everlasting
hills, rising in serenity above the turmoil and evanescent rage. To
this I listened in wonder. I had not for myself discovered these
beauties; but thereafter, because of this teaching, I kept watch.

Came, then, out of the mist, Judith, upon accustomed business.
"Dannie, lad," she asked me, not shy of the stranger, because of woful
anxiety, "you've not seed my mother hereabouts, is you?"

I grieved that I had not.

"She've been gone," said Judith, with a helpless glance, sweeping the
sombre, veiled hills, "since afore dawn. I waked at dawn, Dannie, an'
she were gone from the bed--an' I isn't been able t' find she,
somehow. She've wandered off--she've wandered off again--in her way."

I would help, said I.

"You're kind, Dannie," said she. "Ay, God's sake, lad! you're wondrous
kind--t' me."

My tutor tipped the sad little face, as though by right and propriety
admitted long ago, and for a moment looked unabashed into Judith's
eyes--an engaging glance, it seemed, for Judith was left unresisting
and untroubled by it. They were eyes, now, speaking anxious fear and
weariness and motherly concern, the brows drawn, the tragic little
shadows, lying below, very wide and blue.

"You are a pretty child," said my tutor, presently; "you have very
beautiful eyes, have you not? But you knew it long ago, of course," he
added, smiling in a way most captivating, "didn't you?"

"No, sir."

I remember the day--the mist and wind and clamoring sea and solemn
hills, the dour, ill-tempered world wherein we were, our days as grass
(saith the psalmist). Ay, an' 'tis so. I remember the day: the wet
moss underfoot; the cold wind, blowing as it listed; the petulant sea,
wreaking an ancient enmity, old and to continue beyond our span of
feeling; the great hills of Twin Islands hid in mist, but yet watching
us; the clammy fog embracing us, three young, unknowing souls. I shall
not forget--cannot forget--the moment of that first meeting of the
maid Judith with John Cather. 'Twas a sombre day, as he had said--ay,
a troubled sea, a gray, cold, sodden earth!

"And has nobody told you that you were pretty?" my tutor ran on, in
pleasant banter.

She would not answer; but shyly, in sweet self-consciousness, looked
down.

"No?" he insisted.

She was too shy of him to say.

"Not even one?" he persisted, tipping up the blushing little face.
"Not even one?"

I thought it very bold.

"Come, now," says he. "There is a boy. You are so very pretty, you
know. You are so very, very pretty. There must be a boy--a sweetheart.
Surely there is at least one lad of taste at Twist Tickle. There is a
sweetheart; there must be a sweetheart. I spell it with a D!" cries
he, triumphantly, detecting the horrified glance that passed between
Judy and me. And he clapped me on the back, and stroked Judith's tawny
hair, his hand bold, winning; and he laughed most heartily. "His
name," says he, "is Daniel!"

"Yes, sir," said Judith, quite frankly.

My tutor laughed again; and I was glad that he did--in that kind way.
I was glad--'twas a flush of warm feeling--that my tutor and Judith
were at once upon terms of understanding. I was glad that Judith
smiled, glad that she looked again, with favor, in interested
speculation, into the dark eyes which smiled back at her again. I
would have them friends--'twas according to my plan....

                  *       *       *       *       *

At mid-day the wrath of the sea began to fail. The racing lop, the
eager, fuming crests--a black-and-white confusion beneath the quiet,
gray fog--subsided into reasonableness. 'Twas wild enough, wind and
sea, beyond the tickle rocks; but still 'twas fishing weather and
water for the courageous.

The fool of Twist Tickle came to our gate. "Mother always 'lowed,"
says he, "that when a man _could_ he _ought_ t'; an' mother knowed."

"You're never bound out, Moses!"

"Well," he drawled, "mother always 'lowed that when a man _could_ pick
up a scattered fish an' _wouldn't_, he were a mean sort o' coward."

"An' you'll be takin' _me_?"

"I was 'lowin'," he answered, "that us _might_ get out an' back an us
tried."

'Twas a brave prospect. Beyond the tickle in a gale o wind! 'Twas
irresistible--to be accomplished with the fool of Twist Tickle and his
clever punt. I left the pottering Cather to put ship-shape his cabin
(as he now called it) for himself--a rainy-day occupation for aliens.
In high delight I put out with Moses Shoos to the Off-and-On grounds.
Man's work, this! 'Twas hard sailing for a hook-and-line punt--the
reel and rush and splash of it--but an employment the most engaging.
'Twas worse fishing in the toss and smother of the grounds; but 'twas
a thrilling reward when the catch came flopping overside--the spoil of
a doughty foray. We fished a clean half-quintal; then, late in the
day, a rising wind caught us napping in Hell Alley. It came on to blow
from the east with fury. There was no beating up to the tickle in the
teeth of it; 'twas a task beyond the little punt, drive her to it as
we would. When dusk came--dusk fast turning the fog black--the fool
turned tail and wisely ran for Whisper Cove. 'Twas dark when we moored
the punt to the stage-head: a black night come again, blowing wildly
with rain--great gusts of wind threshing the trees above, screaming
from cliff to cliff. There were lights at Judith's: 'twas straightway
in our minds to ask a cup of tea in her kitchen; but when we came
near the door 'twas to the discovery of company moving in and out.

There were women in the kitchen.

"'Tis Judith's mother, Dannie," Aunt Esther All whispered. "'Tis on'y
she. 'Tis on'y Elizabeth."

We had found her on the hills that morning.

"She've come t' die all of a suddent. 'Tis another of her spells. Oh,
Lord! she've come t' die."

There was no solemnity in this outer room.

"She've woful need o' salvation," Aunt Esther pattered. "She's doomed,
lad, an she doesn't repent. Parson Stump ought t' be fetched t' work
on she."

There was grief--somewhere there was grief. I heard a sob; it came
from a child's breast. And there followed, then, some strange,
rambling words of comfort in Elizabeth's voice--a plea, it was, to
never mind. Again a sob--Judith's grief.

"'Tis Judith," Aunt Esther sighed. "She've gone an' give way."

The child's heart would break!

"Mother always 'lowed, Dannie," Moses whispered, "that they ought t'
be a parson handy--when It come."

'Twas beyond the power of the fool to manage: who was now a fool,
indeed--white and shivering in this Presence. I would fetch the
parson, said I--and moved right willingly and in haste upon the
errand. Aunt Esther followed me beyond the threshold. She caught my
arm with such a grasp that I was brought up in surprise. We stood in
the wind and rain. The light from the kitchen fell through the doorway
into the black night. Aunt Esther's lean, brown face, as the lamp
betrayed, was working with eager and shameless curiosity. They had
wondered, these women of Whisper Cove, overlong and without patience,
to know what they wished to know but could not discover. "She've been
wantin' Skipper Nicholas," says she. "She've been callin' for Skipper
Nicholas. She've been singin' out, Dannie, like a wretch in tarture.
Tell un t' come. She've been wantin' un sore. She've a thing on her
mind. Tell un not t' fail. 'Tis something she've t' tell un. 'I wants
Skipper Nicholas!' says she. 'Fetch Nicholas! I wants a word with he
afore I die.' Hist!" Aunt Esther added, as though imparting some
delight, "I 'low 'tis the secret."

I asked her concerning this secret.

"It haves t' do," says she, "with Judith."

"An' what's that?"

She whispered.

"For shame!" I cried.

"Ay, but," says she, "you isn't a woman!"

"'Tis gossips' employment, woman!"

"'Tis a woman's wish t' know," she answered.

The thing concerned Judith: I was angered....

                  *       *       *       *       *

And now the door was shut in my face. 'Twas opened--closed again. The
fool fled past me to his own place--scared off by the footsteps of
Death, in the way of all fools. I was in haste--all at once--upon the
road from Whisper Cove to Twist Tickle in a screaming gale of wind and
rain. I was in Judith's service: I made haste. 'Twas a rough road, as
I have said--a road scrambling among forsaken hills, a path made by
chance, narrow and crooked, wind-swept or walled by reaching alders
and spruce limbs, which were wet and cold and heavy with the drip of
the gale. Ah, but was I not whipped on that night by the dark and the
sweeping rain and the wind on the black hills and the approach of
death? I was whipped on, indeed! The road was perverse to hurrying
feet: 'twas ill going for a crooked foot; but I ran--splashing through
the puddles, stumbling over protruding rock, crawling over the
hills--an unpitying course. Why did the woman cry out for my uncle?
What would she confide? Was it, indeed, but the name of the man? Was
it not more vital to Judith's welfare, imperatively demanding
disclosure? I hastened. Was my uncle at home? For Elizabeth's peace at
this dread pass I hoped he had won through the gale. In rising anxiety
I ran faster. I tripped upon a root and went tumbling down Lovers'
Hill, coming to in a muddy torrent from Tom Tulk's Head. Thereafter--a
hundred paces--I caught sight of the lights of the Twist Tickle
meeting-house. They glowed warm and bright in the scowling night that
encompassed me....

                  *       *       *       *       *

'Twas district-meeting time at Twist Tickle. The parsons of our Bay
were gathered to devise many kindnesses for our folk--the salvation of
souls and the nourishment of bodies and the praise of the God of us
all. 'Twas in sincerity they came--there's no disputing it--and in
loving-kindness, however ingenuously, they sought our welfare. When I
came from the unkind night into the light and warmth of that plain
temple, Parson Lute, of Yellow Tail Tickle, whom I knew and loved, was
seeking to persuade the shepherds of our souls that the spread of
saving grace might surely be accomplished, from Toad Point to the
Scarlet Woman's Head, by means of unmitigated doctrine and more artful
discourse. He was a youngish man, threadbare and puckered of
garment--a quivering little aggregation of bones and blood-vessels,
with a lean, lipless, high-cheeked face, its pale surface splashed
with freckles; green eyes, red-rimmed, the lashes sparse and white;
wide, restless nostrils. "Brethren," said he, with a snap of the
teeth, his bony hand clinched and shaking above his gigantic head,
"con-_vict_ 'em! Anyhow. In any way. By any means. _Save_ 'em! That's
what we want in the church. Beloved," he proceeded, his voice dropping
to a hissing whisper, "save 'em. _Con_-vict 'em!" His head shot
forward; 'twas a red, bristly head, with the hair growing low on the
brow, like the spruce of an overhanging cliff. "It's the only _way_,"
he concluded, "to save 'em!" He sat down. "I'm hungry for souls!" he
shouted from his seat, as an afterthought; and 'twas plain he would
have said more had not a spasmodic cough put an end to his ecstasy.

"Praise God!" they said.

"'Low I got a cold," Parson Lute gasped, his voice changed now by the
weakness of an ailing man.

I feared to interrupt; but still must boldly knock.

"One moment, brethren!" Parson Stump apologized. "Ah, Daniel!" he
cried; "is that you? What's amiss, boy? You've no trouble, have you?
And your uncle--eh? you've no trouble, boy, have you?" The brethren
waited in silence while he tripped lightly over the worn cocoanut
matting to the rear--perturbed, a little frown of impatience and
bewilderment gathering between his eyes. The tails of his shiny black
coat brushed the varnished pine pews, whereto, every Sunday, the
simple folk of our harbor repaired in faith. Presently he tripped back
again. The frown of bewilderment was deeper now--the perturbation
turned anxious. For a moment he paused before the brethren. "Very
awkward," said he, at last. "Really, I'm very sorry." He scratched his
head, fore and aft--bit his lip. "I'm called to Whisper Cove," he
explained, pulling at his nose. "I'm sorry to interrupt the business
of the meeting, just at this time, but I do not see how it can be got
around. I s'pose we'd better adjourn until such a time as I--"

The chairman would hear of no adjournment.

"But," Parson Stump complained, "I'm the secretary!"

"We'll go right on, brother."

"I can't very well _stay_, brethren," said Parson Stump, chagrined.
"It's a case of--of--of spiritual consolation."

"Ah!" ejaculated Parson Lute.

"And I--"

"Now, Brother Wile," the chairman interrupted, "we're ready to hear
_you_."

"One moment," said Parson Lute, rising. He struggled to suppress his
cough. "Excuse me," he gasped. And, "I don't quite see, brethren,"
he proceeded, "how this meeting can get along without the services of
Brother Stump. It seems to me that this meeting _needs_ Brother
Stump. I am of opinion that Brother Stump owes it to the cause in
general, and to the clergy of this district in particular, to
report this discussion to the conference. It is my conviction,
brethren, that Brother Stump--by his indefatigable industry, by
his thorough acquaintance with the matters under discussion, by his
spiritual insight into problems of this character, by his talent
for expression--ought to be present through the whole of this
discussion, in its entirety, and ought to present the views of
this body to the conference _in person_." And, "Look here, Brother
Stump," he concluded, turning, "why can't _I_ make this call for
you?"

"Well, of course, you _could_, Brother Lute," Parson Stump admitted,
his face beginning to clear, "but really I--"

"Oh, come now, brother!"

"Brother Lute," said Parson Stump, with sincere affection, "I don't
like to think of you on the road to Whisper Cove to-night. I tell you,
it--it--goes against the grain. You're not well, brother. You're not
well at all. And it's a long way--and there's a gale of wind and rain
outside--"

"Come, come, now!"

"A _dirty_ night," Parson Stump mused.

"But it's the Lord's business!"

"Of course," Parson Stump yielded, "if you _would_ be so kind, I--"

Parson Lute's face brightened. "Very well," said he. "It's all
settled. Now, may I have a word with you? I'll need some pointers." To
the five brethren: "One moment, brethren!"

They moved towards the rear, and came to rest, heads close, within my
hearing. Parson Lute put his arm over Parson Stump's shoulder. "Now,"
said he, briskly, rubbing his hands in a business-like way, "pointers,
brother--pointers!"

"Yes, yes, brother!" Parson Stump agreed. "Well, you'll find my
oil-skins hanging in the hall. Mrs. Stump will give you the
lantern--"

"No, no! I don't mean that. Who is this person? Man or woman?"

"Maid," said Parson Stump.

"Ah!"

Parson Stump whispered in Parson Lute's ear. Parson Lute raised his
eyebrows. He was made sad--and sighed. He was kind, was this parson,
and sweetly wishful for the goodness and welfare of all the erring
sons and daughters of men.

"Has the woman repented?" he asked.

"I fear not. In fact--no; she has not."

At once the battle-light began to shine in Parson Lute's green eyes.
"I see," he snapped.

"Rather difficult case, I fear," said Parson Stump, despondently.
"She--well, she--she isn't quite right. Poor creature! Do you
understand? A simple person. Not idiotic, you know. Not born that
way, of course. Oh no! born with all her senses _quite_ intact. She
was beautiful as a maid--sweet-natured, lovely in person, very
modest and pious--very merry, too, and clever. But before the child
came she--she--she began to wait. Do you understand? To wait--to wait
for the return of--of some one. She said--I remember that she
said--that he would come. She was really quite sure of it. And she
waited--and waited. A promise, no doubt; and she had faith in it. For
a long time she had faith in it. Rather pitiful, I think. I used to see
her about a good deal. She was always waiting. I would meet her on
the heads, in all weathers, keeping watch for schooners. The clerk of a
trading-schooner, no doubt; but nobody knows. Waiting--waiting--always
waiting! Poor creature! The man didn't come back, of course; and then
she got--well--flighty. Got flighty--quite flighty. The man didn't come
back, of course, you know; and she had waited--and waited--so long, so
very long. Really, a very difficult case, brother! Something snapped
and broken--something missing--something gone, you know. Poor creature!
She--she--well, she waited too long. Couldn't _stand_ it, you see. It
seems she loved the man--and trusted him--and, well, just loved him, you
know, in the way women will. And now she's flighty--_quite_ flighty. A
difficult case, I fear, and--"

"I see," Parson Lute interrupted. "An interesting case. Very sad, too.
And you've not been able to convict her of her sin?"

Parson Stump shook his head.

"No impression whatever?"

"No, brother."

"How," Parson Lute demanded, with a start, "does she--ah--subsist?"

"She fishes, brother, in quiet weather, and she is helped, though it
is not generally known, by a picturesque old character of the place--a
man not of the faith, a drunkard, I fear, but kind-hearted and
generous to the needy."

"The woman ever converted before?"

"Twice, brother," Parson Stump answered; "but not now in a state
of grace. She is quite obstinate," he added, "and she has, I
fear, peculiar views--_very_ peculiar, I fear--on repentance. In
fact, she loves the child, you see; and she fears that a confession
of her sin--a confession of repentance, you know--might give the
world to think that her love had failed--that she wished the
child--well--unborn. She would not appear disloyal to Judith, I
fear, even to save her soul. A peculiar case, is it not? A difficult
case, I fear."

"I see," said Parson Lute, tapping his nose reflectively. "The child
is the obstacle. A valuable hint in that. Well, I may be able to do
something, with God's help."

"God bless you, brother!"

They shook hands....

                  *       *       *       *       *

My uncle was returned from Topmast Harbor. I paused but to bid him
urgently to the bedside of Elizabeth, then ran on to rejoin the
parson at the turn of the road. By night, in a gale of wind and rain
from the east, was no time for Parson Lute, of Yellow Tail Tickle, to
be upon the long road to Whisper Cove. But the rough road, and the
sweep of the wind, and the steep ascents, and the dripping limbs, and
the forsaken places lying hid in the dark, and the mud and torrents,
and the knee-deep, miry puddles seemed not to be perceived by him as
he stumbled after me. He was praying aloud--importunately, as it is
written. He would save the soul of Elizabeth, that man; the faith, the
determination were within him. 'Twas fair pitiful the way he besought
the Lord. And he made haste; he would pause only at the crests of the
hills--to cough and to catch his breath. I was hard driven that
night--straight into the wind, with the breathless parson forever at
my heels. I shall never forget the exhibition of zeal. 'Twas divinely
unselfish--'twas heroic as men have seldom shown heroism. Remembering
what occurred thereafter, I number the misguided man with the holy
martyrs. At the Cock's Crest, whence the road tumbled down the cliff
to Whisper Cove, the wind tore the breath out of Parson Lute, and the
noise of the breakers, and the white of the sea beyond, without mercy,
contemptuous, confused him utterly.

He fell.

"Tis near at hand, sir!" I pleaded with him.

He was up in a moment. "Let us press on, Daniel," said he, "to the
salvation of that soul. Let us press on!"

We began the descent....



XIII

JUDITH ABANDONED


I left the parson in the kitchen to win back his breath. He was near
fordone, poor man! but still entreatingly prayed, in sentences broken
by consumptive spasms, for wisdom and faith and the fire of the Holy
Ghost in this dire emergency. When I entered the room where Elizabeth
lay, 'twas to the grateful discovery that she had rallied: her breath
came without wheeze or gasp; the labored, spasmodic beating of her
heart no longer shook the bed. 'Twas now as though, I thought, they
had troubled her with questions concerning her soul or her sin; for
she was turned sullen--lying rigid and scowling, with her eyes fixed
upon the whitewashed rafters, straying only in search of Judith, who
sat near, grieving in dry sobs, affrighted.

And 'twas said that this Elizabeth had within the span of my short
life been a maid most lovely! There were no traces of that beauty and
sprightliness remaining. I wondered, being a lad, that unkindness
should work a change so sad in any one. 'Twas a mystery.... The room
was cold. 'Twas ghostly, too--with Death hovering there invisible.
Youth is mystified and appalled by the gaunt Thing. I shivered.
Within, the gale sighed and moaned and sadly whispered; 'twas blowing
in a melancholy way--foreboding some inevitable catastrophe. Set on a
low ledge of the cliff, the cottage sagged towards the edge, as if to
peer at the breakers; and clammy little draughts stole through the
cracks of the floor and walls, crying as they came, and crept about,
searching out the uttermost corners, with sighs and cold fingers.

'Twas a mean, poor place for a woman to lie in extremity.... And she
had once been lovely--with warm, live youth, with twinkling eyes and
modesty, with sympathy and merry ways to win the love o' folk! Ay; but
'twas wondrous hard to believe.... 'Twas a mean station of departure,
indeed--a bare, disjointed box of a room, low-ceiled, shadowy, barren
of comfort, but yet white and neat, kept by Judith's clever,
conscientious, loving hands. There was one small window, outlooking to
sea, black-paned in the wild night, whipped with rain and spray. From
without--from the vastness of sea and night--came a confused and
distant wail, as of the lamentation of a multitude. Was this my fancy?
I do not know; but yet it seemed to me--a lad who listened and
watched--that a wise, pitying, unnumbered throng lamented.

I could not rid my ears of this wailing....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Elizabeth had rallied; she might weather it out, said the five wives
of Whisper Cove, who had gathered to observe her departure.

"If," Aunt Esther qualified, "she's let _be_."

"Like she done las' time," William Buttle's wife whispered. "I 'low
our watchin's wasted. Ah, this heart trouble! You never knows."

"_If_," Aunt Esther repeated, "she's let be."

We waited for the parson.

"Have Skipper Nicholas come?" Elizabeth asked.

"No, maid; 'tis not he, maid." They would still taunt her! They would
still taunt her, in the way of virtuous women; 'twas "Maid! Maid!"
until the heart of a man of honor--of a man of any sort--was fair
sickened of virtue and women. "'Tis the parson," said they.

Elizabeth sighed. "I wants a word along o' Skipper Nicholas," said
she, faintly, "when he've come."

Parson Lute softly entered from the kitchen, wiping the rain from his
face and hands, stepping on tiptoe over the bare floor. He was worn
and downcast. No inspiration, it seemed, had been granted in answer to
his praying. I loved him, of old, as did all the children of Twist
Tickle, to whom he was known because of gentlest sympathy, shown on
the roads in fair weather and foul at district-meeting time; and I was
glad that he had come to ease the passage to heaven of the mother of
Judith. The five women of Whisper Cove, taken unaware by this
stranger, stood in a flutter of embarrassment. They were not
unkind--they were curious concerning death and the power of parsons.
He laid a kind hand on Judith's head, shook hands with the women, and
upon each bestowed a whispered blessing, being absently said; and the
wives of Whisper Cove sat down and smoothed their skirts and folded
their hands, all flushed and shaking with expectation. They wondered,
no doubt, what he would accomplish--salvation or not: Parson Stump had
failed. Parson Lute seemed for a moment to be unnerved by the critical
attitude of his audience--made anxious for his reputation: a purely
professional concern, inevitably habitual. He was not conscious of
this, I am sure; he was too kind, too earnest in service, to consider
his reputation. But yet he must _do_--when another had failed. The
Lord had set him a hard task; but being earnest and kind, he had no
contempt, no lack of love, I am sure, for the soul the Lord had given
him to lose or to save--neither gross wish to excel, nor gross wish to
excuse.

"Daughter," he whispered, tenderly, to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth threw the coverlet over her head, so that only the tangled
fringe of her hair was left to see; and she began to laugh--a
coquettish trifling. Parson Lute gently uncovered the head.

"You isn't Parson Stump," Elizabeth tittered.

"Turn your face this way," said Parson Lute.

She laughed.

"This way," said Parson Lute.

"Go 'way!" Elizabeth laughed. "Go on with you!" She hid her flaming
face. "You didn't ought t' see me in bed!" she gasped. "Go 'way!"

"My child," said Parson Lute, patiently, "turn your face this way."

She would not. "Go 'way!" said she.

"This way!" Parson Lute repeated.

It had been a quiet, slow command, not to go unheeded. The five women
of Whisper Cove stiffened with amazement. Here, indeed, was a
masterful parson! Parson Stump had failed; but not this parson--not
this parson, who could command in the name of the Lord! They exchanged
glances--exchanged nudges. Elizabeth's laughter ceased. All the women
of Whisper Cove waited breathless. There was silence; the commotion
was all outside--wind and rain and breakers, a far-off passion, apart
from the poor comedy within. The only sound in the room was the
wheezing of the girl on the bed. Elizabeth turned; her brows were
drawn, her eyes angry. Aunt Esther All, from her place at the foot of
the bed, heard the ominous wheeze of her breath and observed the labor
of her heart; and she was concerned, and nudged William Buttle's wife,
who would not heed her.

"'Tis not good for her," Aunt Esther whispered.

"You leave me be!" Elizabeth complained.

Parson Lute took her hand.

"You quit that!" said Elizabeth.

"Hush, daughter," the parson pleaded.

Into the interval of silence a gust of rain intruded.

"Have Nicholas come?" Elizabeth asked. "Haven't he come yet?"

Aunt Esther shook her head.

"I wants un," said Elizabeth, "when he've come."

The parson began now soothingly to stroke the great, rough hand he
held; but at once Elizabeth broke into bashful laughter, and he
dropped it--and frowned.

"Woman," he cried, in distress, "don't you know that you are dying?"

Elizabeth's glance ran to Judith, who rose, but sat again, wringing
her hands. The mother turned once more to the parson; 'twas an
apathetic gaze, fixed upon his restless nostrils.

"How is it with your soul?" he asked.

'Twas a word spoken most graciously, in the perfection of pious
desire, of reverence, of passionate concern for the future of souls;
but yet Elizabeth's glance moved swiftly to the parson's eyes, in a
rage, and instantly shifted to his red hair, where it remained,
fascinated.

"Are you trusting in your Saviour's love?"

I accuse myself for speaking, in this bold way, of the unhappy
question; but yet, why not? for 'twas asked in purest anxiety, in the
way of Parson Lute, whom all children loved.

"Are you clinging," says he, "to the Cross?"

Elizabeth listlessly stared at the rafters.

"Have you laid hold on the only Hope of escape?"

The child Judith--whose grief was my same agony--sobbed heart-brokenly.

"Judith!" Elizabeth called, her apathy vanished. "Poor little
Judith!"

"No, my daughter," the parson gently protested. "This is not the
time," said he. "Turn your heart away from these earthly affections,"
he pleaded, his voice fallen to an earnest whisper. "Oh, daughter,
fix your eyes upon the Cross!"

Elizabeth was sullen. "I wants Judith," she complained.

"You have no time, now, my daughter, to think of these perishing human
ties."

"I _wants_ Judith!"

"Mere earthly affection, daughter! 'And if a man'--"

"An' Judith," the woman persisted, "wants _me_!"

"Nay," the parson softly chided. He was kind--patient with her
infirmity. 'Twas the way of Parson Lute. With gentleness, with a
tactful humoring, he would yet win her attention. But, "Oh," he
implored, as though overcome by a flooding realization of the nature
and awful responsibility of his mission, "can you not think of your
soul?"

"Judith, dear!"

The child arose.

"No!" said the parson, quietly. "No, child!"

The wind shook the house to its crazy foundations and drove the crest
of a breaker against the panes.

"I wants t' _tell_ she, parson!" Elizabeth wailed. "An I wants
she--jus' _wants_ she--anyhow--jus' for love!"

"Presently, daughter; not now."

"She--she's my _child_!"

"Presently, daughter."

Judith wept again.

"Sir!" Elizabeth gasped--bewildered, terrified.

"Not now, daughter."

All the anger and complaint had gone out of Elizabeth's eyes; they
were now filled with wonder and apprehension. Flashes of intelligence
appeared and failed and came again. It seemed to me, who watched, that
in some desperate way, with her broken mind, she tried to solve the
mystery of this refusal. Then 'twas as though some delusion--some
terror of her benighted state--seized upon her: alarm changed to
despair; she rose in bed, but put her hand to her heart and fell
back.

"He better stop it!" Aunt Esther All muttered.

The four wives of Whisper Cove bitterly murmured against her.

"He's savin' her soul," said William Buttle's wife.

They were interested, these wives, in the operation; they resented
disturbance.

"Well," Aunt Esther retorted, "I 'low, anyhow, he don't know much
about heart-trouble."

Parson Lute, unconscious of this watchful observation, frankly sighed.
The hearts of men, I know, contain no love more sweet and valuable
than that which animated his desire. He mused for an interval. "Do you
know the portion of the wicked?" he asked, in loving-kindness, without
harshness whatsoever.

"Yes, sir."

"What is it?"

It seemed she would appease him. She was ingratiating, now, with smile
and answer. "Hell, sir," she answered.

"Are you prepared for the change?"

'Twas a familiar question, no doubt. Elizabeth's conversion had been
diligently sought. But the lean face of Parson Lute, and the fear of
what he might do, and the solemn quality of his voice, and his sincere
and simple desire seemed so to impress Elizabeth that she was startled
into new attention.

"Yes, sir," she said.

It appeared to puzzle Parson Lute. He had been otherwise informed by
Parson Stump. The woman was _not_ in a state of grace.

"You have cast yourself upon the mercy of God?" he asked.

"No, sir."

"Then how, my daughter, can you say that you are prepared?"

There was no answer.

"You have made your peace with an offended God?"

"No, sir."

"But you say that you are prepared?"

"Yes, sir."

"You have repented of your sin?"

"No, sir."

Parson Lute turned impatient. "And yet," he demanded, "you expect to
go to heaven?"

"No, sir."

"_What_!" cried Parson Lute.

"No, sir," she said.

Parson Lute was incredulous. "To hell?" he asked.

"Eh?"

"To _hell_?"

Elizabeth hesitated. By some direct and primitively human way her
benighted mind had reached its determination. But still she
hesitated--frightened somewhat, it may be, by the conventionality of
Whisper Cove and Twist Tickle.

"Yes, sir," said she. "Most men goes there."

"But you," said he, in amaze, "are not a man!"

"Judith's father were," she answered; "an' I'm wantin'--oh, I'm
wantin'--t' see un once again!"

The five wives of Whisper Cove gasped....

                  *       *       *       *       *

The outer door was flung open. Came a rush of wind--the noise and wet
and lusty stirring of the night. It broke harshly in upon us; 'twas a
crashing discord of might and wrath and cruel indifference--a mocking
of this small tragedy. The door was sharply closed against the gale. I
heard the wheeze and tread of my uncle in the kitchen. He entered--his
broad face grave and anxious and grieved--but instantly fled, though I
beckoned; for Parson Lute, overcome, it may be, by the impiety of
Elizabeth, was upon his knees, fervently praying that the misguided
soul might yet by some miraculous manifestation of grace be restored
to propriety of view and of feeling. 'Twas a heartfelt prayer offered
in faith, according to the enlightenment of the man--a confession of
ignorance, a plea of human weakness, a humble, anxious cry for divine
guidance that the woman might be plucked as a brand from the burning,
to the glory of the Lord God Most Tender and Most High. Came, in the
midst of it, a furious outburst; the wind rose--achieved its utmost
pitch of power. I looked out: Whisper Cove, low between the black
barriers, was churned white; and beyond--concealed by the night--the
sea ran tumultuously. 'Twas a big, screaming wind, blowing in from the
sea, unopposed by tree or hill. The cottage trembled to the gusts; the
timbers complained; the lamp fluttered in the draught. Great waves,
rolling in from the open, were broken on the rocks of Whisper Cove.
Rain and spray, driven by the gale, drummed on the roof and rattled
like hail on the window. And above this angry clamor of wind and sea
rose the wailing, importunate prayer for the leading of the God of us
all....

                  *       *       *       *       *

When the parson had got to his feet again, Aunt Esther All diffidently
touched his elbow. "Nicholas have come, sir," said she.

"Nicholas?"

"Ay; the man she've sent for."

Elizabeth caught the news. "I wants un," she wheezed. "Go 'way,
parson! I wants a word along o' Nicholas all alone."

"She've a secret, sir," Aunt Esther whispered.

Judith moved towards the door; but the parson beckoned her back, and
she stood doubtfully.

"Mister Top! Mister Top!" Elizabeth called, desperate to help herself,
to whom no heed was given.

In the fury of the gale--the rush past of wind and rain--the failing
voice was lost.

"I 'low," Aunt Esther warned, "'twould be wise, sir--"

"Have the man wait in the kitchen."

Elizabeth lay helplessly whimpering.

"But, sir," Aunt Esther protested, "she've--"

"Have the man wait in the kitchen," the parson impatiently repeated.
"There is no time now for these worldly arrangements. No, no!" said
he. "There is no time. The woman _must_ be convicted!" He was changed:
despondency had vanished--humility gone with it. In the eye of the
man--the gesture--the risen voice--appeared some high authority to
overawe us. He had the habit of authority, as have all parsons; but
there was now some compelling, supernatural addition to weaken us. We
did not dare oppose him, not one of us--not my uncle, whose head had
been intruded, but was now at once withdrawn. The parson had come out
of his prayer, it seemed, refreshed and inspired; he had remembered,
it may be, that the child was the obstacle--the child whom Elizabeth
would not slight to save her soul. "The woman must be saved," said he.
"She must be saved!" he cried, striking his fist into his palm, his
body all tense, his teeth snapped shut, his voice strident. "The Lord
is mighty and merciful--a forgiving God." 'Twas an appeal (he looked
far past the whitewashed rafters and the moving darkness of the
night); 'twas a returning appeal--a little failure of faith, I think.
"The Lord has heard me," he declared, doggedly. "He has not turned
away. The woman must--she _shall_--be saved!"

"Ay, but," Aunt Esther expostulated; "she've been sort o' wantin' t'
tell--"

The parson's green eyes were all at once bent in a penetrating way
upon Aunt Esther; and she backed away, biting at her nails--daring no
further protest.

"Judith, my child," said the parson, "do you go to the kitchen."

"No, no!" Judith wailed. "I'm wantin' t' stay."

Elizabeth stretched out her arms.

"It distracts your mother's attention, you see," said the parson,
kindly. "Do you go, my dear."

"I _will_ not go!"

"Judith!" Elizabeth called.

The parson caught the child's arm.

"You leave me be!" Judith flashed, her white little teeth all bare.

"Do you go," said the parson, coldly, "to the kitchen."

"He'd better mind what he's about!" Aunt Esther complained.

Elizabeth was now on her elbow, staring in alarm. Her breast was
significantly heaving, and the great vein of her throat had begun to
beat. "Don't send she away, parson!" she pleaded. "She's wantin' her
mother. Leave she be!"

The parson led Judith away.

"For God's sake, parson," Elizabeth gasped, "leave she come! What you
goin' t' do with she?" She made as though to throw off the coverlet
and follow; but she was unable, and fell back in exhaustion. "Judith!"
she called. "Judith!"

The kitchen door was closed upon Judith; the obstacle had been
removed.

"Don't hurt she, parson," Elizabeth entreated, seeming, now, to be
possessed of a delusion concerning the parson's purpose. "She've done
no harm, sir. She've been a good child all her life."

"Elizabeth," said the parson, firmly, "repent!"

"What you done with my Judith?"

"Repent!"

Elizabeth's heart began to work beyond its strength. "For God's sake,
parson!" she gasped; "you'll not hurt she, will you?"

"Repent, I say!"

"I'll repent, parson. What you goin' t' do with Judy? Don't hurt she,
parson. I'll repent. Oh, bring she back, parson! I'll repent. For
God's sake, parson!" It may be that despair gave her cunning--I do not
know. The deception was not beyond her: she had been converted
twice--she was used to the forms as practised in those days at Twist
Tickle. She wanted her child, poor woman! and her mind was clouded
with fear: she is not to be called evil for the trick. Nor is Parson
Lute to be blamed for following earnestly all that she said--praying,
all the while, that the issue might be her salvation. She had a
calculating eye on the face of Parson Lute. "I believe!" she cried,
watching him closely for some sign of relenting. "Help thou my
unbelief." The parson's face softened. "Save me!" she whispered,
exhausted. "Save my soul! I repent. Save my soul!" She seemed now to
summon all her strength, for the parson had not yet called back the
child. "Praise God!" she screamed, seeking now beyond doubt to
persuade him of her salvation. "I repent! I'm saved! I'm saved!"

"Praise God!" Parson Lute shouted.

Elizabeth swayed--threw up her hands--fell back dead.

"I tol' you so," said Aunt Esther, grimly.



XIV

THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM


Faith, but 'twas a bitter night! Men were drowning on our coast--going
to death in the wreck of schooners. The sea broke in unmasked assault
upon the great rocks of Whisper Cove; the gale worried the cottage on
the cliff. But 'twas warm in the kitchen: the women had kept the fire
for the cup o' tea to follow the event; 'twas warm, and the lamp made
light and shadow, and the kettle bubbled and puffed, the wood
crackled, the fire snored and glowed, all serenely, in disregard of
death, as though no mystery had come to appal the souls of us.

My uncle had Judith on his knee.

"I'm not able," she sobbed.

"An' ye'll not try?" he besought. "Ye'll not even try?"

We were alone: the women were employed in the other room; the
parson paced the floor, unheeding, his yellow teeth fretting his
finger-nails, his lean lips moving in some thankful communication
with the God he served.

"Ah, but!" says my uncle, "ye'll _surely_ come t' live along o' me!"

"No, no! I'll be livin' where I've always lived--with mother."

"Ye cannot live alone."

"Ay; but I'm able t' live alone--an' fish alone--like mother done."

"'Twas not her wish, child," says my uncle. "She'd have ye live along
o' me. 'Why, Judy,' she'd have ye know, 'do ye live along o' he. Do ye
trust, little maid,' she'd have ye t' know, 'that there ol' Nick Top.
He've a powerful bad look t' the eye in his head,' she'd say, 'an'
he've the name o' the devil; but Lord love ye!' she'd say, 'he've a
heart with room t' contain ye, an' a warm welcome t' dwell within.
He've took good care o' little ol' Dannie,' she'd say, 'an' he'll take
good care o' _you_. He'll never see ye hurt or wronged or misguided so
long as he lives. Not,' she'd say, 'that there damned ol' rascal!' An'
if ye come, Judy, dear," my uncle entreated, "I won't see ye
wronged--I won't!" My uncle's little eyes were overrunning now--the
little eyes he would not look into. The parson still paced the floor,
still unheeding, still muttering fervent prayer of some strange sort;
but my uncle, aged in sinful ways, was frankly crying. "Ye'll come,
Judy, will ye not?" he begged. "Along o' ol' Nick Top, who would not
see ye wronged? Ah, little girl!" he implored--and then her head fell
against him--"ye'll surely never doubt Nick Top. An' ye'll come t' he,
an' ye'll sort o' look after un, will ye not?--that poor ol' feller!"

Judith was sobbing on his breast.

"That poor, poor ol' feller!"

She wept the more bitterly.

"Poor little girl!" he crooned, patting her shoulder. "Ah, the poor
little girl!"

"I'll go!" cried Judith, in a passion of woe and gratitude. "I'll
go--an' trust an' love an' care for you!"

My uncle clasped her close. "'_The Lard is my shepherd,_'" says he,
looking up, God knows to what! his eyes streaming, "'_I shall not
want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside
the still waters._'" By the wind, by the breaking of the troubled sea,
the old man's voice was obscured. "'_Yea, though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with
me: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me._'" Judith still sobbed,
uncomforted; my uncle stroked her hair--and again she broke into
passionate weeping. "'_Thou preparest a table before me in the
presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup
runneth over._'" Returned, again, in a lull of the gale, my fancy that
I caught the lamentation of a multitude. "'_Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house
of the Lord for ever._'"

"Bless God!" cried the parson. "Bless God, brother!"

"Ay," said my uncle, feelingly, "bless God!"

The parson wrung my uncle's hand.

"That there psa'm don't seem true, parson, b'y," says my uncle, "on a
night like this here dirty night, with schooners in trouble at sea.
Ever been t' sea in a gale o' wind, parson? Ah, well! it don't seem
true--not in a gale o' wind, with this here poor, lonely little maid's
mother lyin' there dead in the nex' room. It jus' don't seem true!"

Parson Lute, poor man! started--stared, pained, anxious; in doubt, it
may be, of the Christian congeniality of this man.

"It don't seem true," says my uncle, "in the face of a easterly gale
an' the death o' mothers. An', look you, parson," he declared, "I'll
be--well, parson, I'll jus' be _jiggered_--if it do! There you haves
it!"

"Brother," the parson answered, accusingly, "it is in the Bible; it
must be true."

"'Tis _where_?" my uncle demanded, confounded.

"In the Bible, sir."

"An' it--it--must be--"

"True, sir."

My uncle sighed; and--for I know his loving-kindness--'twas a sigh
that spoke a pain at heart.

"It must be true," reiterated the wretched parson, now, it seemed,
beset by doubt. "It _must_ be true!"

"Why, by the dear God ye serve, parson!" roared my uncle, with healthy
spirit, superior in faith, "I _knows_ 'tis true, Bible or St. John's
noospaper!"

Aunt Esther put her gray head in at the door. "Is the kettle b'ilin'?"
says she.

The kettle was boiling.

"Ah!" says she--and disappeared.

"'_Though I walk,_'" the parson repeated, his thin, freckled hands
clasped, "'_through the valley of the shadow of death!_'"

There was no doctor at Twist Tickle: so the parson lay dead--poor
man!--of the exposure of that night, within three days, in the house
of Parson Stump....



XV

A MEASURE OF PRECAUTION


With the threats of the gray stranger in mind, my uncle now began
without delay to refit the _Shining Light_: this for all the world as
though 'twere a timely and reasonable thing to do. But 'twas neither
timely, for the fish were running beyond expectation off Twist Tickle,
nor reasonable, for the _Shining Light_ had been left to rot and foul
in the water of Old Wives' Cove since my infancy. Whatever the
pretence he made, the labor was planned and undertaken in anxious
haste: there was, indeed, too much pretence--too suave an explanation,
a hand too aimless and unsteady, an eye too blank, too large a flow of
liquor--for a man who suffered no secret perturbation.

"In case o' accident, Dannie," he explained, as though 'twere a thing
of no importance. "Jus' in case o' accident. I wouldn't be upset,"
says he, "an I was you."

"Never you fear," says I.

"No," says he; "you'll stand by, Dannie!"

"That I will," I boasted.

"Ye can't delude _me_," says he. "I knows _you_. I bet ye _you'll_
stand by, whatever comes of it."

'Tis quite beyond me to express my gratification. 'Twas a mysterious
business altogether--this whim to make the _Shining Light_ ready
for sea. I could make nothing of it at all. And why, thinks I, should
the old craft all at once be troubled by all this pother of block and
tackle and hammer and saw? 'Twas beyond me to fathom; but I was
glad to discover, whatever the puzzle, that my uncle's faith in
the lad he had nourished was got real and large. 'Twas not for that
he bred me; but 'twas the only reward--and that a mean, poor one--he
might have. And he was now come near, it seemed, to dependence upon
me; there was that in his voice to show it--a little trembling, a
little hopelessness, a little wistfulness: a little weakening of its
quality of wrathful courage.

"_You'll_ stand by," he had said; and, ay, but it fair saddened me to
feel the appeal of his aging spirit to my growing years! There comes a
time, no doubt, in the relationship of old and young, when the
guardian is all at once changed into the cherished one. 'Tis a
tragical thing--a thing to be resolved, to be made merciful and
benign, only by the acquiescence of the failing spirit. There is then
no interruption--no ripple upon the flowing river of our lives. As for
my uncle, I fancy that he kept watch upon me, in those days, to read
his future, to discover his achievement, in my disposition. Stand by?
Ay, that I would! And being young I sought a deed to do: I wished the
accident might befall to prove me.

"Accident?" cries I. "Never you fear!"

"I'll not fear," says he, "that ye'll not stand by."

"Ay," I complained; "but never you fear at all!"

"I'll not fear," he repeated, with a little twinkle of amusement,
"that ye'll not stand by, as best ye're able."

I felt now my strength--the greatness of my body and the soaring
courage of my soul. This in the innocent way of a lad; and by grace of
your recollection I shall not be blamed for it. Fourteen and something
more? 'Twas a mighty age! What did it lack, thinks I, of power and
wisdom? To be sure I strutted the present most haughtily and eyed the
future with as saucy a flash as lads may give. The thing delighted my
uncle; he would chuckle and clap me on the back and cry, "That's very
good!" until I was wrought into a mood of defiance quite ridiculous.
But still 'tis rather grateful to recall: for what's a lad's boasting
but the honest courage of a man? I would serve my uncle; but 'twas not
all: I would serve Judith. She was now come into our care: I would
serve her.

"They won't nothin' hurt _she_!" thinks I.

I am glad to recall that this boyish love took a turn so chivalrous....

                  *       *       *       *       *

When 'twas noised abroad that my uncle was to refit the _Shining
Light_, Twist Tickle grew hilarious. "Laugh an you will, lads," says
my uncle, then about the business of distributing genial invitations
to the hauling-down. "'Tis a gift o' the good Lord t' be able t' do
it. The ol' girl out there haven't a wonderful lot to admire, an'
she's nowhere near t' windward o' forty; but I'll show ye, afore I'm
through, that she'll stand by in a dirty blow, an I jus' asks she t'
try. Ye'll find, lads," says he, "when ye're so old as me, an' sailed
t' foreign parts, that they's more to a old maid or a water-side widow
than t' many a lass o' eighteen. The ol' girl out there haves a mean
allowance o' beauty, but she've a character that isn't talked about
after dark; an' when I buys her a pair o' shoes an' a new gown, why,
ecod! lads, ye'll think she's a lady. 'Tis one way," says he, "that
ladies is _made_."

This occurred at Eli Flack's stage of an evening when a mean, small
catch was split and the men-folk were gathered for gossip. 'Twas after
sunset, with fog drifting in on a lazy wind: a glow of red in the
west. Our folk were waiting for the bait-skiff, which had long been
gone for caplin, skippered, this time, by the fool of Twist Tickle.

"Whatever," says my uncle, "they'll be a darn o' rum for ye, saved and
unsaved, when she've been hauled down an' scraped. An' will ye come t'
the haulin'-down?"

That they would!

"I knowed ye would," says my uncle, as he stumped away, "saved an'
unsaved."

The bait-skiff conch-horn sounded. The boat had entered the narrows.
'Twas coming slowly through the quiet evening--laden with bait for the
fishing of to-morrow. Again the horn--echoing sweetly, faintly, among
the hills of Twin Islands. 'Twas Moses Shoos that blew; there was no
mistaking the long-drawn blast.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Ah, well! she needed the grooming, this _Shining Light_, whatever the
occasion. 'Twas scandalous to observe her decay in idleness. She
needed the grooming--this neglected, listless, slatternly old maid of
a craft. A craft of parts, to be sure, as I had been told; but a craft
left to slow wreck, at anchor in quiet water. Year by year, since I
could remember the days of my life, in summer and winter weather she
had swung with the tides or rested silent in the arms of the ice. I
had come to Twist Tickle aboard, as the tale of my infancy ran, on the
wings of a nor'east gale of some pretensions; and she had with heroic
courage weathered a dirty blow to land me upon the eternal rocks of
Twin Islands. For this--though but an ancient story, told by old folk
to engage my presence in the punts and stages of our harbor--I loved
her, as a man, Newfoundland born and bred, may with propriety love a
ship.

There are maids to be loved, no doubt, and 'tis very nice to love
them, because they are maids, fashioned in a form most lovely by the
good Lord, given a heart most childlike and true and loving and
tenderly dependent, so that, in all the world, as I know, there is
nothing so to be cherished with a man's last breath as a maid. I have
loved a maid and speak with authority. But there is also a love of
ships, though, being inland-born, you may not know it. 'Tis a
surpassing faith and affection, inspired neither by beauty nor virtue,
but wilful and mysterious, like the love of a maid. 'Tis much the
same, I'm thinking: forgiving to the uttermost, prejudiced beyond the
perception of any fault, savagely loyal. 'Twas in this way, at any
rate, that my uncle regarded the _Shining Light_; and 'twas in this
way, too, with some gentler shades of admiration, proceeding from an
apt imagination, that I held the old craft in esteem.

"Dannie," says my uncle, presently, as we walked homeward, "ye'll
'blige me, lad, by keepin' a eye on the mail-boat."

I wondered why.

"You keep a eye," he whispered, winking in a way most grave and
troubled, "on that there little mail-boat when she lands her
passengers."

"For what?" I asked.

"Brass buttons," says he.

'Twas now that the cat came out of the bag. Brass buttons? 'Twas the
same as saying constables. This extraordinary undertaking was then a
precaution against the accident of arrest. 'Twas inspired, no doubt,
by the temper of that gray visitor with whom my uncle had dealt over
the table in a fashion so surprising. I wondered again concerning that
amazing broil, but to no purpose; 'twas 'beyond my wisdom and
ingenuity to involve these opposite natures in a crime that might make
each tolerable to the other and advantage them both. 'Twas plain, at
any rate, that my uncle stood in jeopardy, and that of no trivial
sort: else never would he have employed his scant savings upon the
hull of the _Shining Light_. It grieved me to know it. 'Twas most sad
and most perplexing. 'Twas most aggravating, too: for I must put no
questions, but accept, in cheerful serenity, the revelations he would
indulge me with, and be content with that.

"An' if ye sees so much as a single brass button comin' ashore," says
he, "ye'll give me a hail, will ye not, whereever I is?"

This I would do.

"Ye never can tell," he added, sadly, "what's in the wind."

"I'm never allowed t' know," said I.

He was quick to catch the complaint. "Ye're growin' up, Dannie," he
observed; "isn't you, lad?"

I fancied I was already grown.

"Ah, well!" says he; "they'll come a time, lad, God help ye! when
ye'll know."

"I wisht 'twould hasten," said I.

"I wisht 'twould never come at all," said he.

'Twas disquieting....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Work on the _Shining Light_ went forward apace and with right good
effect. 'Twas not long--it might be a fortnight--before her hull was
as sound as rotten plank could be made with gingerly calking. 'Twas
indeed a delicate task to tap the timbers of her: my uncle must
sometimes pause for anxious debate upon the wisdom of venturing a
stout blow. But copper-painted below the water-line, adorned above,
she made a brave showing at anchor, whatever she might do at sea; and
there was nothing for it, as my uncle said, but to have faith, which
would do well enough: for faith, says he, could move mountains. When
she had been gone over fore and aft, aloft and below, in my uncle's
painstaking way--when she had been pumped and ballasted and cleared of
litter and swabbed down and fitted with a new suit of sails--she so
won upon our confidence that not one of us who dwelt on the neck of
land by the Lost Soul would have feared to adventure anywhere aboard.

The fool of Twist Tickle pulled a long face.

"Hut, Moses!" I maintained; "she'll do very well. Jus' look at her!"

"Mother always 'lowed," says he, "that a craft was like a woman. An'
since mother died, I've come t' learn for myself, Dannie," he drawled,
"that the more a woman haves in the way o' looks the less weather
she'll stand. I've jus' come, now," says he, "from overhaulin' a
likely maid at Chain Tickle."

I looked up with interest.

"Jinny Lawless," says he. "Ol' Skipper Garge's youngest by the
third."

My glance was still inquiring.

"Ay, Dannie," he sighed; "she've declined."

"You've took a look," I inquired, "at the maids o' Long Bill Hodge o'
Sampson's Island?"

He nodded.

"An' they've--"

"_All_ declined," says he.

"Never you care, Moses," said I. "Looks or no looks, you'll find the
_Shining Light_ stand by when _she_ puts to sea."

"I'll not be aboard," says he.

"You're not so sure about that!" quoth I.

"I wouldn't ship," he drawled. "I'd never put t' sea on she: for
mother," he added, "wouldn't like t' run the risk."

"You dwell too much upon your mother," said I.

"She's all I got in the way o' women," he answered. "All I got,
Dannie--yet."

"But when you gets a wife--"

"Oh," he interrupted, "Mrs. Moses Shoos won't mind _mother_!"

"Still an' all," I gravely warned him, "'tis a foolish thing t' do."

"Well, Dannie," he drawled, in a way so plaintive that I found no
answer to his argument, "I _is_ a fool. I'm told so every day, by men
an' maids, wherever I goes; an' I jus' can't help _bein'_ foolish."

"God made you," said I.

"An' mother always 'lowed," said Moses, "that He knowed what He was up
to. An', Dannie," says he, "she always 'lowed, anyhow, that _she_ was
satisfied."

'Twas of a Sunday evening--upon the verge of twilight: with the light
of day still abroad, leaving the hills of Twin Islands clear-cut
against the blue sky, but falling aslant, casting long shadows. Came,
then, straggling from the graveyard in the valley by Thunder Head, the
folk of our harbor. 'Twas all over, it seemed; they had buried old Tom
Hossie. Moses and I sat together on the hill by Old Wives' Cove, in
the calm of the day and weather: there was no wind stirring--no drip
of oar to be heard, no noise of hammer, no laughter of children, no
cry or call of labor. They had buried old Tom Hossie, whom no peril of
that coast, savagely continuing through seventy years, had overcome or
daunted, but age had gently drawn away. I had watched them bear the
coffin by winding paths along the Tickle shore and up the hill,
stopping here to rest and there to rest, for the way was long; and
now, sitting in the yellow sunshine of that kind day, with the fool of
Twist Tickle for company, I watched them come again, their burden
deposited in the inevitable arms. I wondered if the spirit of old Tom
Hossie rejoiced in its escape. I wondered if it continued in pitiable
age or had returned to youth--to strength for action and wish for
love. I wondered, with the passionate curiosity of a lad, as I watched
the procession of simple folk disperse, far off, to supper and to the
kisses of children, if the spirit of old Tom Hossie had rather sail
the seas he had sailed and love the maids of our land or dwell in the
brightest glory painted for us by the prophets. I could, then, being a
lad, conceive no happier world than that in which I moved, no joy
aside from its people and sea and sunlight, no rest apart from the
mortal love of Judith; but, now, grown older, I fancy that the spirit
of old Tom Hossie, wise with age and vastly weary of the labor and
troublous delights of life, hungered and thirsted for death.

The church bell broke upon this morbid meditation.

"Hark!" says Moses. "'Tis the first bell."

'Twas a melodious call to worship--throbbing sweetly across the
placid water of our harbor, beating on, liquidly vibrant, to rouse the
resting hills of Twin Islands.

"You'll be off, Moses?"

"Ay," says he; "for mother always 'lowed 'twas good for a man t' go t'
church, an' I couldn't do nothin', Dannie, that mother wouldn't like.
I seem, lad, t' hear her callin', in that bell. 'Come--dear!' says
she, 'Come--dear! Come--dear!' Tis like she used t' call me from the
door. 'Come, dear,' says she; 'you'll never be hurt,' says she, 'when
you're within with me.' So I 'low I'll go t' church, Dannie, where
mother would have me be. 'You don't _need_ t' leave the parson scare
you, Moses,' says she; 'all you got t' do, dear,' says she, 'is t'
remember that your mother loves you. You're so easy to scare, poor
lad!' says she; 'but never forget _that_' says she, 'an' you'll never
be feared o' God. In fair weather,' says she, 'a man may need no Hand
t' guide un; but in times o' trouble,' says she, 'he've jus' got t'
have a God. I found that out,' says she, 'jus' afore you was born an'
jus' after I knowed you was a fool. So I 'low, Moses,' says she,
'you'd best go t' church an' make friends with God, for then,' says
she, 'you'll not feel mean t' call upon Him when the evil days comes.
In times o' trouble,' says mother, 'a man jus' can't help singin' out
for aid. An' 'tis a mean, poor man,' says she, 'that goes beggin' to a
Stranger.' Hark t' the bell, Dannie! Does you not hear it? Does you
not hear it call the folk t' come?"

'Twas still ringing its tender invitation.

"'Tis jus' like the voice o' mother," said the fool of Twist Tickle.
"Like when she used t' call me from the door. 'Come, dear!' says she.
Hark, Dannie! Hear her voice? 'Come--dear! Come--dear! Come--dear!'"

God help me! but I heard no voice....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Well, now, my uncle was in no genial humor while the work on the
_Shining Light_ was under way: for from our house, at twilight, when
he paced the gravelled path, he could spy the punts come in from the
grounds, gunwale laden, every one. 'Twas a poor lookout, said he, for
a man with thirty quintal in his stage and the season passing; and he
would, by lamplight, with many sighs and much impatient fuming,
overhaul his accounts, as he said. 'Tis a mystery to me to this day
how he managed it. I've no inkling of the system--nor capacity to
guess it out. 'Twas all done with six round tin boxes and many sorts
of shot; and he would drop a shot here and drop a shot there, and
empty a box and fill one, and withdraw shot from the bags to drop in
the boxes, and pick shot from the boxes to stow away in the bags, all
being done in noisy exasperation, which would give way, presently, to
despair, whereupon he would revive, drop shot with renewed vigor,
counting aloud, the while, upon his seven fingers, until, in the end,
he would come out of the engagement grimly triumphant. When, however,
the _Shining Light_ was ready for sea, with but an anchor to ship for
flight, he cast his accounts for the last time, and returned to his
accustomed composure and gentle manner with us all.

I lingered with him over his liquor that night; and I marked, when I
moved his lamp near, that he was older than he had been.

"You're all wore out, sir," said I.

"No, Dannie," he answered; "but I'm troubled."

I put his glass within reach. For a long time he disregarded it: but
sat disconsolate, staring vacantly at the floor, fallen into some
hopeless muse. I turned away; and in a moment, when I looked again, I
found his eyes bent upon me, as if in anxious appraisement of my
quality.

"Ye _will_ stand by," he cried, "will ye not?"

"I will!" I swore, in instant response.

"Whatever comes t' your knowledge?"

"Whatever comes!"

He held his glass aloft--laughed in delighted defiance--tossed off the
liquor. "Ecod!" cries he, most heartily; "'tis you an' me, ol'
shipmate, ag'in the world! Twelve year ago," says he, "since you an'
me got under way on this here little cruise in the _Shining Light_.
'Twas you an' me then. 'Tis you an' me now. 'Twill be you an' me t'
the end o' the v'y'ge. Here's t' fair winds or foul! Here's t' the
ship an' the crew! Here's t' you an' here's t' me! Here's t' harbor
for our souls!"

'Twas inspiring. I had never known the like to come from my uncle.
'Twas a thrilling toast. I wished I had a glass.

"For it may be, lad," says my uncle, "that we'll have t' put t' sea!"

But for many a month thereafter the _Shining Light_ lay at anchor
where then she swung. No brass buttons came ashore from the mail-boat:
no gray stranger intruded upon our peace. Life flowed quietly in new
courses: in new courses, to be sure, with Judith and John Cather come
into our house, but still serenely, as of old. The _Shining Light_
rose and fell, day by day, with the tides of that summer, kept ready
for our flight. In the end, she put to sea; but 'twas not in the way
my uncle had foreseen. 'Twas not in flight; 'twas in pursuit. 'Twas a
thing infinitely more anxious and momentous. 'Twas a thing that meant
much more than life or death. In these distant days--from my chair,
here, in our old house--by the window of my room--I look out upon the
water of Old Wives' Cove, whence the _Shining Light_ has for many
years been missing; and I remember the time she slipped her anchor and
ran to sea with the night coming down and a gale of wind blowing
lustily up from the gray northeast.



XVI

GREEN PASTURES: AN INTERLUDE


In all this time Judith dwelt with us by the Lost Soul. When my
uncle fetched her from Whisper Cove, he gravely gave her into the care
of our maid-servant, long ago widowed by the sea, who had gone
childless all her life, and was now come to the desolate years, when
she would sit alone and wistful at twilight, staring out into the
empty world, where only hopelessly deepening shadows were, until
'twas long past time to light the lamp. In the child that was I she
had found no ease or recompense, because of the mystery concerning me,
which in its implication of wickedness revolted her, and because of
my uncle's regulation of her demeanor in my presence, which tolerated
no affectionate display; but when Judith came, orphaned and
ill-nourished, the woman sat no longer in moods at evening, but busied
herself in motherly service of the child, reawakened in the
spirit. 'Twas thus to a watchful, willing guardianship, most
tenderly maternal in solicitude and self-sacrifice, that Judith
was brought by wise old Nick Top of Twist Tickle.

My uncle would have no misunderstanding.

"Uncle Nick," says I, "you'll be havin' a chair set for Judy in the
cabin?"

"No, lad," he answered; "not for little Judy."

I expostulated most vigorously.

"Dannie, lad," said he, with a gravity that left me no stomach for
argument, "the maid goes steerage along o' me. This here little matter
o' Judy," he added, gently, "belongs t' me. I'm not makin' a lady o'
she. She haves nothin' t' do--nothin' t' do, thank God!--with what's
gone afore."

There was no word to say.

"An ye're wantin' t' have Judy t' dinner, by times," he continued,
winking a genial understanding of my love-lorn condition, "I 'low it
might be managed by a clever hand."

I asked him the way.

"Slug-shot," says he.

'Twas the merest hint.

"Remove," says he, darkly, "one slug-shot from the box with the star,
an' drop it," says he, his left eye closed again, "in the box with the
cross."

And there I had it!

                  *       *       *       *       *

You must know that by my uncle's severe direction I must never fail to
appear at table in the evening save in the perfection of cleanliness
as to face and hands and nails and teeth. "For what," says he, "have
Skipper Chesterfield t' say on that p'int--underlined by Sir Harry?
Volume II., page 24. A list o' the ornamental accomplishments. '_T' be
extremely clean in your person._' There you haves it--underlined by
Sir Harry!" He would examine me keenly, every nail and tooth of me,
accepting neither excuse nor apology, and would never sit with me
until I had passed inspection. In the beginning, 'twas my uncle's
hand, laid upon me in virtuous chastisement, that persuaded me of the
propriety of this genteel conduct; but presently, when I was grown
used to the thing, 'twas fair impossible for me to approach the meat,
in times of peace with place and weather, confronting no peril,
hardship, laborious need, or discomfort, before this particular
ornamental accomplishment had been indubitably achieved with
satisfaction to my uncle and to myself.

My uncle had, moreover, righteously compelled, with precisely similar
tactics as to the employment of his right hand, an attire in harmony
with the cleanliness of my person. "For what," says he, "have bully
ol' Skipper Chesterfield t' say on that there little p'int? What have
that there fashionable ol' gentleman t' hold--underlined by Sir Harry?
Volume II, page 24. 'A list o' the ornamental accomplishments (without
which no man livin' can either please or rise in the world), which
hitherto I fear ye wants,'" quotes he, most glibly, "'an' which only
require your care an' attention t' possess.' Volume II., page 24.
'_An' perfeckly well dressed, accordin' t' the fashion, be that what
it will._' There you haves it," says he, "an' underlined by Sir Harry
hisself!" 'Twas a boresome thing, to be sure, as a lad of eleven, to
come from boyish occupations to this maidenly concern for appearances:
but now, when I am grown older, 'tis a delight to escape the sweat
and uniform of the day's work; and I am grateful to the broad hand
that scorched my childish parts to teach me the value and pleasures of
gentility.

At the same time, as you may believe, I was taught a manner of
entering, in the way, by the hints of Sir Harry and the philosophy of
the noble Lord Chesterfield, of a gentleman. It had to do with squared
shoulders, the lift of the head, a strut, a proud and contemptuous
glance. Many a night, as a child, when I fair fainted of vacancy and
the steam and smell of salt pork was an agony hardly to be endured, I
must prance in and out, to please my fastidious uncle, while he sat
critical by the fire--in the unspeakable detachment of critics from
the pressing needs (for example) of a man's stomach--and indulged his
artistic perceptions to their completest satisfaction. He would watch
me from his easy-chair by the fire as though 'twere the most
delectable occupation the mind of man might devise: leaning forward in
absorption, his ailing timber comfortably bestowed, his great head
cocked, like a canary-bird's, his little eyes watchful and sparkling.

"Once again, Dannie," says he. "Head throwed higher, lad. An' ye might
use yer chest a bit more."

Into the hall and back again.

"Fair," says he. "I'll not deny that ye're doin' better. But Sir
Harry, lad," says he, concerned, with a rub at his weathered nose,
"uses more chest. Head high, lad; shoulders back, chest out. Come now!
An' a mite more chest."

This time at a large swagger.

"Very good," says he, in a qualified way. "But could ye not scowl t'
more purpose?"

'Twas fair heroic to indulge him--with the room full of the smell of
browned meat. But, says I, desperately, "I'll try, sir."

"Jus' you think, Dannie," says he, "that that there ol' rockin'-chair
with the tidy is a belted knight o' the realm. Come now! Leave me see
how ye'd deal with _he_. An' a mite more chest, Dannie, if ye're
able."

A withering stare for the rocking-chair--superior to the point of
impudence--and a blank look for the unfortunate assemblage of
furniture.

"Good!" cries my uncle. "Ecod! but I never knowed Sir Harry t' do it
better. That there belted rockin'-chair o' the realm, Dannie, would
swear you was a lord! An' now, lad," says he, fondly smiling, "ye may
feed."[5]

This watchful cultivation, continuing through years, had flowered in a
pretty swagger, as you may well believe. In all my progress to this
day I have not observed a more genteelly insolent carriage than that
which memory gives to the lad that was I. I have now no regret: for
when I am abroad, at times, for the health and pleasure of us all,
'tis a not ungrateful thing, not unamusing, to be reminded, by the
deferential service and regard this ill-suited manner wins for the
outport man that I am, of those days when my fond uncle taught me to
scowl and strut and cry, "What the devil d'ye mean, sir!" to impress
my quality upon the saucy world. But when Judith came into our
care--when first she sat with us at table, crushed, as a blossom, by
the Hand that seems unkind: shy, tender-spirited, alien to our
ways--'twas with a tragical shock I realized the appearance of high
station my uncle's misguided effort and affection had stamped me
with.

She sat with my uncle in the steerage; and she was lovely, very gentle
and lovely, I recall, sitting there, with exquisitely dropping grace,
under the lamp--in the shower of soft, yellow light: by which her
tawny hair was set aglow, and the shadows, lying below her great, blue
eyes, were deepened, in sympathy with her appealing grief. Came, then,
this Dannie Callaway, in his London clothes, arrived direct per S.S.
_Cathian_: came this enamoured young fellow, with his educated stare,
his legs (good and bad) long-trousered for the first time in his
life, his fingers sparkling, his neck collared and his wrists
unimpeachably cuffed, his chest "used" in such a way as never, God
knows! had it swelled before. 'Twas with no desire to indulge his
uncle that he had managed these adornments. Indeed not! 'Twas a wish,
growing within his heart, to compass a winning and distinguished
appearance in the presence of the maid he loved.

By this magnificence the maid was abashed.

"Hello!" says I, as I swaggered past the steerage.

There was no response.

"Is you happy, child," says I, catching the trick of the thing from my
uncle, "along o' ol' Nick Top an' me an' John Cather?"

My tutor laughed.

"Eh, Judy?" says I.

The maid's glance was fallen in embarrassment upon her plate.

"Dannie," says my uncle, severely, "ye better get under way with your
feedin'."

The which, being at once hungry and obedient, I did: but presently,
looking up, caught the poor maid unself-conscious. She no longer
grieved--no longer sat sad and listless in her place. She was peering
greedily into the cabin, as my uncle was wont to do, her slim, white
neck something stretched and twisted (it seemed) to round a spreading
cluster of buttercups. 'Twas a moving thing to observe. 'Twas not a
shocking thing; 'twas a thing melting to the heart--'twas a thing,
befalling with a maid, at once to provide a lad with chivalrous
opportunity. The eyes were the great, blue eyes of Judith--grave, wide
eyes, which, beneficently touching a lad, won reverent devotion,
flushed the heart with zeal for righteousness. They were Judith's
eyes, the same, as ever, in infinite depth of shadow, like the round
sky at night, the same in light, like the stars that shine therein,
the same in black-lashed mystery, like the firmament God made with His
own hand. But still 'twas with a most marvellously gluttonous glance
that she eyed the roast of fresh meat on the table before me. 'Twas no
matter to _me_, to be sure! for a lad's love is not so easily
alienated: 'tis an actual thing--not depending upon a neurotic
idealization: therefore not to be disillusioned by these natural
appearances.

"Judy," says I, most genially, "is you ever tasted roast veal?"

She was much abashed.

"Is you never," I repeated, "tasted roast veal?"

"No, sir," she whispered.

"'_Sir_!'" cries I, astounded. "'Sir!'" I gasped. "Maid," says I, now
in wrathful amazement forgetting her afflicted state, "is you lost
your senses?"

"N-n-no, sir," she stammered.

"For shame!" I scolded. "T' call me so!"

"Daniel," my uncle interjected, "volume II., page 24. '_A distinguished
politeness o' manners._'"

By this my tutor was vastly amused, and delightedly watched us, his
twinkling glance leaping from face to face.

"I'll not have it, Judy!" I warned her. "You'll vex me sore an you
does it again."

The maid would not look up.

"Volume II., page 25," my uncle chided. "Underlined by Sir Harry.
'_An' this address an' manner should be exceedin'ly respeckful._'"

"Judy!" I implored.

She ignored me.

"An you calls me that again, maid," I threatened, in a rage, "you'll
be sorry for it. I'll--"

"Holy Scripture!" roared my uncle, reaching for his staff. "'_Spare
the rod and spoil the child._'"

I was not to be stopped by this. 'Twas an occasion too promising in
disaster. She had sirred me like a house-maid. Sir? 'Twas past
believing. That Judith should be so overcome by fine feathers and a
roosterly strut! 'Twas shocking to discover the effect of my uncle's
teaching. It seemed to me that the maid must at once be dissuaded from
this attitude of inferiority or my solid hope would change into a
dream. Inferiority? She must have no such fancy! Fixed within her mind
'twould inevitably involve us in some catastrophe of feeling. The
torrent of my wrath and supplication went tumbling on: there was no
staying it. My uncle's hand fell short of his staff; he sat stiff and
agape with astonished admiration: perceiving which, my tutor laughed
until my hot words were fair extinguished in the noise he made. By
this my uncle was set laughing: whence the infection spread to me. And
then Judith peeped at me through the cluster of buttercups with the
ghost of a roguish twinkle.

"I'll call you Dannie," says she, slyly--"t' save you the lickin'!"

"Daniel," cries my uncle, delighted, "one slug-shot. Box with the star
t' the box with the cross. Judy," says he, "move aft alongside o' that
there roast veal!"

'Twas the beginning and end of this seeming difference of station....

                  *       *       *       *       *

John Cather took us in hand to profit us. 'Twas in the learning he
had--'twas in every genteel accomplishment he had himself mastered in
the wise world he came from--that we were instructed. I would have
Judy for school-fellow: nor would I be denied--not I! 'Twas the plan I
made when first I knew John Cather's business in our house: else,
thinks I, 'twould be a mean, poor match we should make of it in the
end. I would have her: and there, says I, with a toss and a stamp, to
my uncle's delight, was an end of it! It came about in this way that
we three spent the days together in agreeable employment: three young,
unknowing souls--two lads and a maid. In civil weather, 'twas in the
sunlight and breeze of the hills, 'twas in shady hollows, 'twas on the
warm, dry rocks, which the breakers could not reach, 'twas on the
brink of the cliff, that Cather taught us, leaving off to play, by my
uncle's command, when we were tired of study; and when the wind blew
with rain, or fog got the world all a-drip, or the task was
incongruous with sunshine and fresh air (like multiplication), 'twas
within doors that the lesson proceeded--in my library, which my uncle
had luxuriously outfitted for me, when still I was an infant, against
this very time.

"John Cather," says I, one day, "you've a wonderful tongue in your
head."

'Twas on the cliff of Tom Tulk's Head. We had climbed the last slope
hand in hand, with Judith between, and were now stretched out on the
brink, resting in the cool blue wind from the sea.

"A nimble tongue, Dannie," he replied, "I'll admit."

"A wonderful tongue!" I repeated. "John Cather," I exclaimed, in
envious admiration, "you've managed t' tell Judy in ten thousand ways
that she's pretty."

Judith blushed.

"I wisht," says I, "that _I_ was so clever as that."

"I know still another way," said he.

"Ay; an' a hundred more!"

"Another," said he, softly, turning to Judith, who would not look at
him. "Shall I tell you, Judith?"

She shook her head.

"No?" said he. "Why not?"

The answer was in a whisper--given while the maid's hot face was still
turned away. "I'm not wantin' you to," she said.

"Do, maid!" I besought her.

"I'm not wantin' him to."

"'Tis your eyes, I'll be bound!" said I. "'Twill be so clever that
you'll be glad to hear."

"But I'm not _wantin'_ him to," she persisted.

My tutor smiled indulgently--but with a pitiful little trace of hurt
remaining. 'Twas as though he must suffer the rebuff with no offended
question. In the maid 'twas surely a wilful and bewildering thing to
deny him. I could not make it out: but wished, in the breeze and
sunlight of that day, that the wound had not been dealt. 'Twas an
unkind thing in Judith, thinks I; 'twas a thing most cruel--thus to
coquette with the friendship of John Cather.

"Ah, Judy," I pleaded, "leave un have his way!"

She picked at the moss.

"Will ye not, maid?"

"I'm afraid!" she whispered in my ear.

"An' you'd stop for that!" I chided, not knowing what she meant: as
how should a lad?

It seemed she would.

"'Tis an unkind thing," says I, "t' treat John Cather so. He've been
good," says I, "t' _you_, Judy."

"Dannie!" she wailed.

"Don't, Dannie!" Cather entreated.

"I'd have ye listen, Judy," said I, in earnest, kind reproach, "t'
what John Cather says. I'd have ye heed his words. I'd have ye care
for him." Being then a lad, unsophisticated in the wayward,
mercilessly selfish passion of love, ignorant of the unmitigated
savagery of the thing, I said more than that, in my folly. "I'd have
ye love John Cather," says I, "as ye love me." 'Tis a curious thing to
look back upon. That I should snarl the threads of our destinies! 'Tis
an innocency hard to credit. But yet John Cather and I had no
sensitive intuition to warn us. How should we--being men? 'Twas for
Judith to perceive the inevitable catastrophe; 'twas for the maid, not
misled by reason, schooled by feeling into the very perfection of
wisdom, to control and direct the smouldering passion of John Cather
and me in the way she would, according to the power God gives, in
infinite understanding of the hearts of men, to a maid to wield. "I'd
have ye love John Cather," says I, "as ye love me." It may be that a
lad loves his friend more than any other. "I'd have ye t' know, Judy,"
says I, gently, "that John Cather's my friend. I'd have ye t' know--"

"Dannie," Cather interrupted, putting an affectionate hand on my
shoulder, "you don't know what you're saying."

Judith turned.

"I do, John Cather," says I. "I knows full well."

Judith's eyes, grown all at once wide and grave, looked with wonder
into mine. I was made uneasy--and cocked my head, in bewilderment and
alarm. 'Twas a glance that searched me deep. What was this? And why
the warning? There was more than warning. 'Twas pain I found in
Judith's great, blue eyes. What had grieved her? 'Twas reproach,
too--and a flash of doubt. I could not read the riddle of it. Indeed,
my heart began to beat in sheer fright, for the reproach and doubt
vanished, even as I stared, and I confronted a sparkling anger. But
presently, as often happened with that maid, tears flushed her eyes,
and the long-lashed lids fell, like a curtain, upon her grief:
whereupon she turned away, troubled, to peer at the sea, breaking far
below, and would not look at me again. We watched her, John Cather and
I, for an anxious space, while she sat brooding disconsolate at the
edge of the cliff, a sweep of cloudless sky beyond. The slender,
sweetly childish figure--with the tawny hair, I recall, all aglow with
sunlight--filled the little world of our thought and vision. There was
a patch of moss and rock, the green and gray of our land--there was
Judith--there was an infinitude of blue space. John Cather's glance
was frankly warm; 'twas a glance proceeding from clear, brave,
guileless eyes--springing from a limpid soul within. It caressed the
maid, in a fashion, thinks I, most brotherly. My heart warmed to the
man; and I wondered that Judith should be unkind to him who was our
friend.

'Twas a mystery.

"You will not listen, Judith?" he asked. "'Tis a very pretty thing I
want to say."

Judith shook her head.

A flash of amusement crossed his face. "Please do!" he coaxed.

"No!"

"I'm quite proud of it," says he, with a laugh in his fine eyes. He
leaned forward a little, and made as if to touch her, but withdrew his
hand. "I did not know," says he, "that I was so clever. I have it all
ready. I have every word in place. I'd like to say it--for my own
pleasure, if not for yours. I think it would be a pity to let the
pretty words waste themselves unsaid. I--I--hope you'll listen.
I--I--really hope you will. And you will not?"

"No!" she cried, sharply. "No, no!"

"Why not?"

"No!" she repeated; and she slipped her hand into mine, and hid them
both snugly in the folds of her gown, where John Cather could not see.
"God wouldn't like it, John Cather," says she, her little teeth all
bare, her eyes aflash with indignation, her long fingers so closely
entwined with mine that I wondered. "He wouldn't _'low_ it," says she,
"an He knowed."

I looked at John Cather in vague alarm.

  [5] This Sir Harry Airworthy, K.C.M.G., I must forthwith explain, was
      that distinguished colonial statesman whose retirement to
      the quiet and bizarre enjoyments of life was so sincerely
      deplored at the time. His taste for the picturesque characters
      of our coast was discriminating and insatiable. 'Twas no
      wonder, then, that he delighted in my uncle, whose familiar
      companion he was in St. John's. I never knew him, never
      clapped eyes on him, that I recall; he died abroad before I
      was grown presentable. 'Twas kind in him, I have always
      thought, to help my uncle in his task of transforming me, for
      'twas done with no personal responsibility whatsoever in the
      matter, but solely of good feeling. I owed him but one
      grudge, and that a short-lived one, going back to the year
      when I was seven: 'twas by advice o' Sir Harry that I was made
      to tub myself, every morning, in the water of the season, be
      it crusted with ice or not, with my uncle listening at the
      door to hear the splash and gasp.



XVII

RUM AND RUIN


In these days at Twist Tickle, his perturbation passed, my uncle was
most blithe: for the _Shining Light_ was made all ready for sea, with
but an anchor to slip, sails to raise, for flight from an army of St.
John's constables; and we were a pleasant company, well fallen in
together, in a world of fall weather. And, says he, if the conduct of
a damned little Chesterfieldian young gentleman was a labor t' manage,
actin' accordin' t' that there fashionable ol' lord of the realm, by
advice o' Sir Harry, whatever the lad in the case, whether good or
bad, why, then, a maid o' the place, ecod! was but a pastime t' rear,
an' there, says he, you had it! 'Twas at night, when he was come in
from the sea, and the catch was split, and we sat with him over his
rum, that he beamed most widely. He would come cheerily stumping from
his mean quarters above, clad in the best of his water-side slops, all
ironed and brushed, his great face glossy from soap and water, his
hair dripping; and he would fall into the arms of his great-chair by
the fire with a genial grunt of satisfaction, turning presently to
regard us, John Cather and Judy and me, with a grin so wide and
sparkling and benevolently indulgent and affectionate--with an aspect
so patriarchal--that our hearts would glow and our faces responsively
shine.

"Up with un, Dannie!" says he.

I would lift the ailing bit of timber to the stool with gingerly
caution.

"Easy, lad!" groans he. "Ouch! All ship-shape," says he. "Is you got
the little brown jug o' water?"

'Twould surely be there.

"Green pastures!" says he, so radiantly red, from his bristling gray
stubble of hair to the folds of his chin, that I was reminded of a
glowing coal. "There you haves it, Dannie!" cries he. "I knowed they
was some truth in that there psa'm. Green pastures! '_He maketh me t'
lie down in green pastures._' Them ol' bullies was wise as owls....
Pass the bottle, Judy. Thank 'e, maid. Ye're a wonderful maid t'
blush, thank God! for they's nothin' so pretty as that. I'm a old, old
man, Judy; but t' this day, maid, 'tis fair painful t' keep from
kissin' red cheeks, whenever I sees un. Judy," says he, with a wag,
his hand on the bottle, "I'd rather be tempted by mermaids or
angels--I cares not which--than by a mortal maid's red cheeks! 'Twould
be wonderful easy," says he, "t' resist a angel.... Green pastures!
Eh, Dannie, b'y? Times is changed, isn't they? Not like it used t' be,
when you an' me sot here alone t' drink, an' you was on'y a wee little
lad. I wisht ye was a wee little lad again, Dannie; but Lord love us!"
cries he, indignant with the paradox, "when ye _was_ a wee little lad
I wisht ye was growed. An' there you haves it!" says he, dolefully.
"There you haves it!... I 'low, Dannie," says he, anxiously, his
bottle halted in mid-air, "that _you'd_ best pour it out. I'm a sight
too happy, the night," says he, "t' be trusted with a bottle."

'Tis like he would have gone sober to bed had I not been there to
measure his allowance.

"Ye're not so wonderful free with the liquor," he pouted, "as ye used
t' be."

'Twas Judy who had put me up to it.

"Ye might be a _drop_ more free!" my uncle accused.

'Twas reproachful--and hurt me sore. That I should deny my uncle who
had never denied me! I blamed the woman. 'Tis marvellous how this
frailty persists. That Judith, Twist Tickle born, should deliberately
introduce the antagonism--should cause my uncle to suffer, me to
regret! 'Twas hard to forgive the maid her indiscretion. I was hurt:
for, being a lad, not a maid of subtle perceptions, I would not have
my uncle go lacking that which comforted his distress and melancholy.
Faith! but I had myself been looking forward with a thirsty gullet to
the day--drawn near, as I thought--when I should like a man drink hard
liquor with him in the glow of our fire: as, indeed, had he, by frank
confession, indiscreetly made when he was grown horrified or wroth
with my intemperance with ginger-ale.

"God save ye, Dannie!" he would expostulate, most heartily, most
piously; "but I _wisht_ ye'd overcome the bilge-water habit."

I would ignore him.

"'Tis on'y a matter o' _will_," says he. "'Tis nothin' more than that.
An' I'm fair ashamed," he groaned, in sincere emotion, "to think ye're
shackled, hand an' foot, to a bottle o' ginger-ale. For shame, lad--t'
come t' such a pass." He was honest in his expostulation; 'twas no
laughing matter--'twas an anxiously grave concern for my welfare. He
disapproved of the beverage--having never tasted it. "_You_," cries
he, with a pout and puff of scorn, "an' your bilge-water! In irons
with a bottle o' ginger-ale! Could ye but see yourself, Dannie, ye'd
quit quick enough. 'Tis a ridiculous picture ye make--you an' your
bottle. 'Twould not be hard t' give it up, lad," he would plead.
"Ye'll manage it, Dannie, an ye'd but put your mind to it. Ye'd be
nervous, I've no doubt, for a spell. But what's that? Eh, what's
that--ag'in your health?"

I would sip my ginger-ale unheeding.

"An' what about Chesterfield?" says he.

"I'll have another bottle, sir," says I.

"Lord love us!" he would complain, in such distress that I wish I had
not troubled him with this passion. "Ye're fair bound t' ruin your
constitution with drink."

Pop went the cork.

"An' here's _me_" says he, in disgusted chagrin, "tryin' t' make a
gentleman out o' ye!"

Ah, well! 'twas now a mean, poor lookout for the cosey conviviality I
had all my life promised myself with my uncle. Since the years when
late o' nights I occupied the arms and broad knee of Cap'n Jack Large
at the Anchor and Chain--with a steaming comfort within and a rainy
wind blowing outside--my uncle and I had dwelt upon the time when I
might drink hard liquor with him like a man. 'Twould be grand, says my
uncle, to sit o' cold nights, when I was got big, with a bottle o'
Long Tom between. A man grown--a man grown able for his bottle! For
him, I fancy, 'twas a vision of successful achievement and the reward
of it. Lord love us! says he, but the talk o' them times would be
lovely. The very thought of it, says he--the thought o' Dannie
Callaway grown big and manly and helpfully companionable--fair warmed
him with delight. But now, at Twist Tickle, with the strong, sly hands
of Judith upon our ways, with her grave eyes watching, now commending,
now reproaching, 'twas a new future that confronted us. Ay, but that
maid, dwelling responsibly with us men, touched us closely with
control! 'Twas a sharp eye here, a sly eye there, a word, a twitch of
her red lips, a lift of the brow and dark lashes--and a new ordering
of our lives. 'Tis marvellous how she did it: but that she managed us
into better habits, by the magic mysteriously natural to a maid, I
have neither the wish nor the will to gainsay. I grieved that she
should deprive my uncle of his comfort; but being a lad, devoted, I
would not add one drop to my uncle's glass, while Judith sat under the
lamp, red-cheeked in the heat of the fire, her great eyes wishful to
approve, her mind most captivatingly engaged, as I knew, with the
will of God, which was her own, dear heart! though she did not know
it.

"Dannie," says she, in private, "God wouldn't 'low un more'n a quarter
of a inch at a time."

"'Twas in the pantry while I got the bottle."

"An' how," quoth I, "is you knowin' that?"

"Why, child," she answered, "God tol' me so."

I writhed. 'Twas a fancy so strange the maid had: but was yet so
true and reverent and usefully efficient--so high in leading to her
who led us with her into pure paths--that I must smile and adore
her for it. 'Twas to no purpose, as I knew, to thresh over the
improbability of the communication: Judith's eyes were round and
clear and unwavering--full of most exalted truth, concern, and
confidence. There was no pretence anywhere to be descried in their
depths: nor evil nor subterfuge of any sort. And it seems to me, now,
grown as I am to sager years, that had the Guide whose hand she held
upon the rough road of her life communed with His sweet companion,
'twould have been no word of reproach or direction he would whisper
for her, who needed none, possessing all the wisdom of virtue,
dear heart! but a warning in my uncle's behalf, as she would have it,
against the bottle he served. The maid's whimsical fancy is not
incomprehensible to me, neither tainted with irreverence nor untruth:
'twas a thing flowering in the eyrie garden of her days at Whisper
Cove--a thing, as I cannot doubt, of highest inspiration.

"But," I protested, glibly, looking away, most wishful, indeed, to
save my uncle pain, "I isn't able t' measure a quarter of a inch."

"_I_ could," says she.

"Not with the naked eye, maid!"

"Well," says she, "you might try, jus' t' please God."

To be sure I might: I might pour at a guess. But, unhappily (and it
may be that there is some philosophy in this for a self-indulgent
world), I was not in awe of Judith's fantastic conception of divinity,
whatever I thought of my own, by whom, however, I was not conjured.
Moreover, I loved my uncle, who had continued to make me happy all my
life, and would venture far in the service of his comfort. The
twinkling, benevolent aspect of the maid's Deity could not compel a
lad to righteousness: I could with perfect complacency conduct myself
perversely before it. And must we then, lads and men, worship a God of
wrath, quick to punish, niggardly in fatherly forgiveness, lest we
stray into evil ways? I do not know. 'Tis beyond me to guess the
change to be worked in the world by a new conception of the eternal
attributes.

"An' will you not?" says she.

It chanced, now, that she held the lamp near her face, so that
her beauty was illumined and transfigured. 'Twas a beauty most
tender--most pure and elfin and religious. 'Tis a mean, poor
justification, I know, to say that I was in some mysterious way--by
the magic resident in the beauty of a maid, and virulently,
wickedly active within its sphere, which is the space the vision
of a lad may carry--that I was by this magic incapacitated and
overcome. 'Tis an excuse made by fallen lads since treason was
writ of; 'tis a mere excuse, ennobling no traitorious act: since
love, to be sure, has no precedence of loyalty in hearts of truth
and manful aspiration. Love? surely it walks with glorious modesty
in the train of honor--or is a brazen baggage. But, as it unhappily
chanced, whatever the academic conception, the maid held the lamp
too close for my salvation: so close that her blue, shadowy eyes
bewildered me, and her lips, red and moist, with a gleam of white
teeth between, I recall, tempted me quite beyond the endurance of
self-respect. I slipped, indeed, most sadly in the path, and came a
shamefaced, ridiculous cropper.

"An' will you not," says she, "pour but a quarter of a inch t' the
glass?"

"I will," I swore, "for a kiss!"

'Twas an outrageous betrayal of my uncle.

"For shame!" cries she.

"I will for a kiss," I repeated, my soul offered on a platter to the
devil, "regardless o' the consequences."

She matched my long words with a great one caught from my tutor. "God
isn't inclined," says she, with a toss, "in favor o' kisses."

And there you had it!

                  *       *       *       *       *

When we sat late, our maid-servant would indignantly whisk Judith off
to bed--crying out upon us for our wickedness.

"Cather," my uncle would drawl, Judith being gone, "ye're all wore out
along o' too much study."

"Not at all, Skipper Nicholas!" cries my tutor.

"Study," says my uncle, in solemn commiseration, "is a bitter thing t'
be cotched by. Ye're all wore out, parson, along o' the day's work."

My tutor laughed.

"Too much study for the brain," says my uncle, sympathetically, his
eye on the bottle. "I 'low, parson, if I was you I'd turn in."

Cather was unfailingly obedient.

"Dannie," says my uncle, with reviving interest, "have he gone
above?"

"He have," says I.

"Take a look," he whispered, "t' see that Judy's stowed away beyond
hearin'."

I would step into the hall--where was no nightgowned figure listening
on the stair--to reassure him.

"Dannie," says he, wickedly gleeful, "how's the bottle?"

I would hold it up to the lamp and rattle its contents. "'Tis still
stout, sir," says I. "'Tis a wonderful bottle."

"Stout!" cries he, delighted. "Very good."

"Still stout," says I; "an' the third night!"

"Then," says he, pushing his glass towards me, "I 'low they's no real
need o' puttin' me on short allowance. Be liberal, Dannie, b'y--be
liberal when ye pours."

I would be liberal.

"'Tis somehow sort o' comfortable, lad," says he, eying me with honest
feeling, "t' be sittin' down here with a ol' chum like you. 'Tis very
good, indeed."

I was glad that he thought so.

And now I must tell that I loved Judith. 'Tis enough to say so--to
write the bare words down. I'm not wanting to, to be sure: for it
shames a man to speak boldly of sacred things like this. It shames a
lad, it shames a maid, to expose the heart of either, save sacredly to
each other. 'Tis all well enough, and most delightful, when the path
is moonlit and secluded, when the warmth and thrill of a slender hand
may be felt, when the stars wink tender encouragement from the depths
of God's own firmament, when all the world is hushed to make the
opportunity: 'tis then all well enough to speak of love. There is
nothing, I know, to compare in ecstasy with the whisper and sigh and
clinging touch of that time--to compare with the awe and mystery and
solemnity of it. But 'tis sacrilegious and most desperately difficult
and embarrassing, I find, at this distant day, to write of it. I had
thought much upon love, at that wise age--fifteen, it was, I
fancy--and it seemed to me, I recall, a thing to cherish within the
heart of a man, to hide as a treasure, to dwell upon, alone, in
moments of purest exaltation. 'Twas not a thing to bandy about where
punts lay tossing in the lap of the sea; 'twas not a thing to tell the
green, secretive old hills of Twin Islands; 'twas not a thing to which
the doors of the workaday world might be opened, lest the ribaldry to
which it come offend and wound it: 'twas a thing to conceal, far and
deep, from the common gaze and comment, from the vulgar chances, the
laugh and cynical exhaustion and bleared wit of the life we live. I
loved Judith--her eyes and tawny hair and slender finger-tips, her
whimsical way, her religious, loving soul. I loved her; and I would
not have you think 'twas any failure of adoration to pour my uncle an
honest dram of rum when she was stowed away in innocency of all the
evil under the moon. 'Tis a thing that maids have nothing to do with,
thinks I; 'tis a knowledge, indeed, that would defile them....

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Dannie," says my uncle, once, when we were left alone, "he've begun
t' fall."

I was mystified.

"The parson," he explained, in a radiant whisper; "he've begun t'
yield."

"T' what?" I demanded.

"Temptation. He've a dark eye, lad, as I 'lowed long ago, an' he've
begun t' give way t' argument."

"God's sake, Uncle Nick!" I cried, "leave the poor man be. He've done
no harm."

He scratched his stubble of hair, and contemplatively traced a crimson
scar with his forefinger. "No," he mused, his puckered, weathered brow
in a doubtful frown; "not so far. But," he added, looking cheerily up,
"I've hopes that I'll manage un yet."

"Leave un alone," I pleaded.

"Ay," says he, with a hitch of his wooden leg; "but I _needs_ un."

I protested.

"Ye don't s'pose, Dannie," he complained, in a righteous flash, "that
I'm able t' live forever, does ye?"

I did not, but heartily wished he might; and by this sincere
expression he was immediately mollified.

"Well," says he, his left eyelid drooping in a knowing way, his whole
round person, from his topmost bristle to his gouty wooden toe, braced
to receive the shock of my congratulation, "I've gone an' worked that
there black-an'-white young parson along! Sir Harry hisself," he
declared, "couldn't have done it no better. Nor ol' Skipper
Chesterfield, neither," says he.

'Twas a pity.

"No," he boasted, defiantly; "nor none o' them wise ol' bullies of
old!"

I sighed.

"Dannie," says he, with the air of imparting a grateful secret, "I got
that there black-an'-white young parson corrupted. I got un," he
repeated, leaning forward, his fantastic countenance alight with pride
and satisfaction--"I got un corrupted! I've got un t' say," says he,
"that 'tis sometimes wise t' do evil that good may come. An' when a
young feller says that," says he, with a grave, grave nodding, so that
his disfigurements were all most curiously elongated, "he've sold his
poor, mean soul t' the devil."

"I wisht," I complained, "that you'd leave the poor man alone."

"Why, Dannie," says my uncle, simply, "he's paid for!"

"Paid for!" cries I.

"Ay, lad," he chided; "t' be sure, that there young black-an'-white
parson is paid for."

I wondered how that might be.

"Paid for!" my uncle repeated, in a quivering, indrawn breath, the man
having fallen, all at once, into gloom and terror. "'Tis all paid
for!"

Here again was the disquieting puzzle of my childish years: my uncle,
having now leaned forward to come close to me, was in a spasmodic way
indicating the bowels of the earth with a turned thumb. Down, down: it
seemed he pointed to infinite depths of space and woe. Down,
down--continuing thus, with a slow, grevious wagging of the great,
gray head the sea had in the brutal passion of some wild night
maltreated. The familiar things of the room, the simple, companionable
furniture of that known place, with the geometrically tempestuous
ocean framed beyond, were resolved into a background of mysterious
shadows as I stared; there was nothing left within the circle of my
vision but a scared gargoyle, leaning into the red glow of the fire.
My uncle's round little eyes protruded--started from the bristles and
purpling scars and brown flesh of his broad face--as many a time
before I had in sad bewilderment watched them do. Paid for--all the
pride and comfort and strange advantages of my life! All paid for in
the black heart of this mystery! And John Cather, too! I wondered
again, with an eye upon my uncle's significantly active thumb, having
no courage to meet his poignant glance, how that might be. According
to my catechism, severely taught in other years, I must ask no
questions, but must courteously await enlightenment at my uncle's
pleasure; and 'twas most marvellously hard--this night of all the
nights--to keep my soul unspotted from the sin of inquisitiveness.

"Paid for," my uncle repeated, hoarse with awe, "by poor Tom
Callaway!"

'Twas kind in my father, thinks I, to provide thus bounteously for my
welfare.

"Poor Tom!" my uncle sighed, now recovering his composure. "Poor, poor
ol' Tom--in the place he's to!"

"Still an' all, Uncle Nick," I blundered, "I wisht you'd leave my
tutor be."

"Ye're but a child!" he snapped. "Put the stopper in the bottle. 'Tis
time you was in bed."

'Twas an unexpected rebuke. I was made angry with him, for the only
time in all my life; and to revenge myself I held the bottle to the
lamp, and deliberately measured its contents, before his astonished
eyes, so that, though I left it with him, he could not drink another
drop without my knowing it; and I stoppered the bottle, as tight as I
was able, and left him to get his wooden toe from the stool with the
least agony he could manage, and would not bank the fire or light his
night-lamp. I loved my tutor, and would not have him corrupted; 'twas
a hateful thought to conceive that he might come unwittingly to ruin
at our hands. 'Twas a shame in my old uncle, thinks I, to fetch him to
despair. John Cather's soul bargained for and bought! 'Twas indeed a
shame to say it. There was no evil in him when he came clear-eyed from
the great world beyond us; there should be no evil in him when he left
us, whenever that might be, to renew the life he would not tell us
of. I looked my uncle in the eye in a way that hurt and puzzled him. I
wish I had not; but I did, as I pounded the cork home, and boldly
slipped the screw into my pocket. He would go on short allowance, that
night, thinks I: for his nails, broken by toil, would never pick the
stopper out. And I prepared, in a rage, to fling out of the room,
when--

"Dannie!" he called.

I halted.

"What's this?" says he, gently. "It never happened afore, little
shipmate, betwixt you an' me. What's this?" he begged. "I'm
troubled."

I pulled the cork of his bottle, and poured a dram, most liberally, to
delight his heart; and I must turn my face away, somehow, to hide it
from him, because of shame for this mean doubt of him, ungenerous and
ill-begotten.

"I'm troubled," he repeated. "What's this, lad?"

I could not answer him.

"Is I been unkind, Dannie?"

"No," I sobbed. "'Tis that I've been wicked t' _you_!"

He looked at me with eyes grown very grave. "Ah!" says he, presently,
comprehending. "That's good," says he, in his slow, gentle way.
"That's very good. But ye'll fret no more, will ye, Dannie? An' ye've
growed too old t' cry. Go t' bed, lad. Ye're all wore out. I'll manage
the lamp alone. God bless ye. Go t' bed."

I waited.

"That's good," he repeated, in a muse, staring deep into the red coals
in the grate. "That's very good."

I ran away--closed my door upon this wretched behavior, but could not
shut its ghastly sauciness and treachery from the chambers of my
memory. The habit of faith and affection was strong: I was no longer
concerned for my friend John Cather, but was mightily ashamed of this
failure in duty to the grotesque old hook-and-line man who had without
reserve of sacrifice or strength nourished me to the lusty years of
that night. As I lay in bed, I recall, downcast, self-accusing,
flushed with shame, I watched the low clouds scud across the starlit
sky, and I perceived, while the torn, wind-harried masses rushed
restlessly on below the high, quiet firmament, that I had fallen far
away from the serenity my uncle would teach me to preserve in every
fortune.

"I'll not fail again!" thinks I. "Not I!"

'Twas an experience profitable or unprofitable, as you shall presently
judge.



XVIII

A LEGACY OF LOVE


Moses Shoos, I recall, carried the mail that winter. 'Twas a thankless
task: a matter of thirty miles to Jimmie Tick's Cove and thirty back
again. Miles hard with peril and brutal effort--a way of sleet and
slush, of toilsome paths, of a swirling mist of snow, of stinging,
perverse winds or frosty calm, of lowering days and the haunted dark
o' night--to be accomplished, once a week, afoot and alone, by way of
barren and wilderness and treacherous ice. 'Twas a thankless task,
indeed; but 'twas a task to which the fool of Twist Tickle addressed
himself with peculiar reverence.

"Mother," says he, "always 'lowed that a man ought t' serve his Queen:
an' mother knowed. 'Moses,' says she, afore she died, 'a good man
haves just _got_ t' serve the Queen: for an good men don't,' says she,
'the poor Lady is bound t' come t' grief along o' rascals. Poor,
_poor_ Lady!' says she. 'She've a wonderful lot t' put up with along
o' stupid folk an' rascals. I'm not knowin' how she bears it an'
lives. 'Tis a mean, poor dunderhead, with heart an' brains in his
gullet,' says she, 'that wouldn't serve the Queen. God save the
Queen!' says mother. 'What's a man worth,' says she, 'that on'y
serves hisself?'"

Not much, thinks I!

"An' mother knowed," says Moses, softly. "Ay, Dannie," he declared,
with a proud little grin, "I bet you _mother_ knowed!"

'Twas this exalted ideal of public service, fashioned in the wisdom of
the simple by the amazing mother who bore him, that led the fool, as
by the hand, from a wilderness of snow and night and bewildered
visions, wherein no aspiration of his own shaped itself, to the warm
hearth of Twist Tickle and the sleep of a child by night.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Once I watched him stagger, white and bent with weather and labor,
from the ice of Ship's Run, his bag on his back, to the smoking roofs
of Twist Tickle, which winter had spread with a snowy blanket and
tucked in with anxious hands. 'Twas a bitter day, cold, windy, aswirl
with the dust of snow, blinding as a mist. I sat with Judith in the
wide, deeply cushioned window-seat of my lib'ry, as my uncle called
the comfortable, book-shelved room he had, by advice o' Sir Harry,
provided for my youth. John Cather was not about; and I caressed, I
recall, the long, slender fingers of her hand, which unfailingly and
without hesitation gave themselves to my touch. She would never deny
me that, this maid; 'twas only kisses she would hold me from. She
would snuggle close and warmly, when John Cather was not about, but
would call her God to witness that kisses were prohibited where
happiness would continue.

"'Tis not _'lowed_, child," says she.

Her cheek was so close, so round and soft and delicately tinted, that
I touched my lips to it, quite unable to resist.

"I don't mind _that_," says she.

'Twas vastly encouraging.

"'Twas so brotherly," she added.

"Judy," I implored, "I'm in need of another o' that same kind."

"No, no!" she cried. "You'd never find the spot!"

'Twas with the maid, then, I sat in the window-seat of my warm room,
content with the finger-tips I might touch and kiss as I would, lifted
into a mood most holy and aspiring by the weight of her small head
upon my shoulder, the bewildering light and mystery of her great, blue
eyes, the touch and sweet excitement of her tawny hair, which brushed
my cheek, as she well knew, this perverse maid! John Cather was not
about, and the maid was yielding, as always in his absence; and I was
very happy. 'Twas Moses we observed, all this time, doggedly
staggering, upon patriotic duty, from the white, swirling weather of
that unkind day, in the Queen's service, his bag on his back.

"He've his mother t' guide un," says she.

"An' his father?"

"'Tis said that he was lost," she answered, "in the Year o' the Big
Shore Catch; but I'm knowin' nothin' about that."

I remembered the secret Elizabeth would impart to my uncle Nicholas.

"_My_ father," says Judith, in challenge, "was a very good man."

I was not disposed to deny it.

"A very good man," she repeated, eying me sharply for any sign of
incredulity.

'Twas her fancy: I might indulge it.

"I 'low, Dannie," says she, "that he was a wonderful handsome man,
though I never seed un. God's sake!" cries she, defiantly, "he'd be
hard t' beat for looks in this here harbor." She was positive; there
was no uncertainty--'twas as though she had known him as fathers are
known. And 'twas by no wish of mine, now, that our hands came close
together, that her eyes were bent without reserve upon my own, that
she snuggled up to my great, boyish body: 'twas wholly a wish of the
maid. "'Twas blue eyes he had," says she, "an' yellow hair an' big
shoulders. He was a parson, Dannie," she proceeded. "I 'low he must
have been. He--he--_was_!" she declared; "he was a great, big parson
with blue eyes." I would not be a parson, thinks I, whatever the maid
might wish. "An' he 'lowed," she continued, pursuing her wilful fancy,
"that he'd come back, some day, an' love my mother as she knowed he
could." We watched Moses Shoos come across the harbor ice and break
open the door of the postmaster's cottage. "But he was wrecked an'
drowned," says Judith, "an' 'twas an end of my mother's hope. 'Twas
on'y that," says she, "that she would tell Skipper Nicholas on the
night she died. 'Twas just the wish that he would bring me up, as
he've fetched up you, Dannie," she added: "jus' that--an' the name o'
my father. I'm not sorry," says she, with her head on my shoulder,
"that she never told the name."

Elizabeth carried her secret into the greater mystery to which she
passed; 'twas never known to us, nor to any one....

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Moses," says I, in delight, when the news got abroad, "I hears you
got the contract for the mail?"

"I is," says he.

"An' how in the name o' Heaven," I demanded, "did you manage so great
a thing?"

There had been competition, I knew: there had been consideration and
consultation--there had been the philosophy of the aged concerning the
carrying of mail in past years, the saucy anarchy of the young with
regard to the gruelling service, the chatter of wishful women upon the
spending value of the return, the speculatively saccharine brooding of
children--there had been much sage prophecy and infinitely knowing
advice--there had been misleading and secrecy and sly devising--there
had been envy, bickering, disruption of friendship--there had been a
lavish waste and disregard of character--there had been all this, as I
knew, and more pitiable still, in competition for the weekly four
dollars of government money. 'Twas a most marvellous achievement,
thinks I, that the fool of Twist Tickle had from this still weather of
reason and tempest of feeling emerged with the laurel of wisdom (as
my tutor said) to crown him. 'Twas fair hard to credit! I must know
the device--the clever political trick--by which the wags and
wiseacres of Twist Tickle had been discomfited. 'Twas with this hungry
curiosity that I demanded of the fool of Twist Tickle how he had
managed so great a thing.

"Eh, Moses," says I; "how _was_ it?"

"Dannie," he gravely explained, "'tis very simple. My bid," says he,
impressively, "was the lowest."

"An' how much was that, Moses?"

"Mother," he observed, "didn't hold a wonderful lot with half
measures."

'Twas no answer to my question.

"She always 'lowed," says he, with a mystifyingly elaborate wave and
accent, "that _doin'_ was better than _gettin'_."

I still must wait.

"'Moses,' says she," he pursued, "'don't you mind the price o' fish;
you _cotch_ un. Fish,' says she, 'is fish; but prices goes up an'
down, accordin' t' the folly o' men. You _do_,' says she; 'an' you
leave what you _gets_ t' take care of itself.' An' I 'low," says
Moses, gently, a smile transfiguring his vacant face, "that mother
knowed."

'Twas all, it seemed to me, a defensive argument.

"An' mother 'lowed, afore she died," he added, looking up to a gray
sky, wherein a menace of snow dwelt, "that a good man would save his
Queen from rascals."

"Ay," I complained; "but what was the bid that won from Eli Flack?"

"The bid?"

"Ay; the bid."

"Not expensive," says he.

"But how much, Moses?"

"Well, Dannie," he answered, with a sigh and a rub of his curly,
yellow beard, "I 'lowed mother wouldn't charge much for servin' the
Queen: for," says he, enlivened, "'twould be too much like common
labor t' carry Her Majesty's mail at a price. An' I bid," he added,
eying me vaguely, "accordin' t' what I 'lowed mother would have me do
in the Queen's service. _Fac' is, Dannie_," says he, in a squall of
confidence, "_I 'lowed I'd carry it free!_"

                  *       *       *       *       *

'Twas this contact with the world of Jimmie Tick's Cove that embarked
the fool upon an adventurous enterprise. When, in the spring of that
year, the sea being open, the _Quick as Wink_ made our harbor, the
first of all the traders, Tumm, the clerk, was short-handed for a
cook, having lost young Billy Rudd overboard, in a great sea, beating
up in stress of weather to the impoverished settlement at Diamond Run.
'Twas Moses, the choice of necessity, he shipped in the berth of that
merry, tow-headed lad of tender voice, whose songs, poor boy! would
never again be lifted, o' black nights in harbor, in the forecastle of
the _Quick as Wink_. "Ay, Dannie," says Moses, "you'd never think it,
maybe, but I'm shipped along o' Tumm for the French shore an' the
Labrador ports. I've heared tell a wonderful lot about Mother Burke,
but I've never seed the ol' rock; an' I've heared tell a wonderful lot
about Coachman's Cove an' Conch an' Lancy Loop an' the harbors o' the
straits shores, but I've never seed un with my own eyes, an' I'm sort
o' wantin' t' know how they shapes up alongside o' Twist Tickle. I
'low," says he, "you don't find many harbors in the world like Twist
Tickle. Since I been travellin' t' Jimmie Tick's Cove with the mail,"
he continued, with a stammer and flush, like a man misled from an
austere path by the flesh-pots of earth, "I've cotched a sinful
hankerin' t' see the world."

I wished he had not.

"But mother," he added, quickly, in self-defence, "always 'lowed a man
_ought_ t' see the world. So," says he, "I'm shipped along o' Tumm,
for better or for worse, an' I'm bound down north in the _Quick as
Wink_ with the spring supplies."

'Twas a far journey for that sensitive soul.

"Dannie," he asked, in quick alarm, a fear so sudden and unexpected
that I was persuaded of the propriety of my premonition, "what you
thinkin' about? Eh, Dannie?" he cried. "What you lookin' that way
for?"

I would not tell him that I knew the skipper of the _Quick as Wink_,
whose butt the fool must be.

"You isn't 'lowin'," Moses began, "that mother--"

"Not at all, Moses!" says I.

'Twas instant and complete relief he got from this denial. "We sails,"
says he, with all a traveller's importance, "at dawn o' to-morrow.
I'll be gone from Twist Tickle by break o' day. I'll be gone t' new
places--t' harbors I've heared tell of but never seed with my own
eyes. I'm not quite knowin'," says he, doubtfully, "how I'll get along
with the cookin'. Mother always 'lowed," he continued, with a greater
measure of hope, "that I was more'n fair on cookin' a cup o' tea.
'Moses,' says she, 'you can brew a cup o' tea so well as any fool I
ever knowed.' But that was on'y mother," he added, in modest
self-deprecation. "Jus' mother."

I wished again that the fool had not fallen into the mercilessly
facetious company of Skipper Saucy Bill North of the schooner _Quick
as Wink_.

"An', Dannie," says Moses, "I'm scared I'll fail with all but the
tea."

'Twas come near the evening of that mellow Sunday. On the Whisper Cove
road and the greening hills of Twin Islands, where Moses and I had
walked in simple companionship, the birds had been mating and nesting
in the thick sunshine of the afternoon. Chirp and flutter and shrill
song! 'Twas a time for the mating of birds. The haste and noise and
pomposity of this busy love-making! The loud triumph and soft
complaint of it! All the world of spruce and alder and sunlit spaces
had been a-flutter. But the weather was now fallen gloomy, the sky
overcast, the wind blowing in from the black, uneasy sea, where floes
and gigantic bergs of ice drifted, like frozen ghosts, cold and dead
and aimlessly driven; and the hopeful sunshine had left the hills, and
the piping and chirping were stilled, and I heard no more fluttering
wings or tender love-songs. The fool of Twist Tickle paused in the
road to stare vacantly northward. 'Twas there dark with menacing
clouds--thick, sombre clouds, tinged with a warning blue, rising
implacably above the roughening black of the sea. He wondered, it may
be, in his dull, weakling way, concerning the coasts beyond the grave
curtain, which he must discover--new coasts, dealing with us
variously, as we disclose them to our hearts. I watched him with
misgiving. To be sure, the skipper of the _Quick as Wink_ was an
unkind man, cynical and quick to seek selfish laughter, whatever the
wound he dealt; but Tumm, our friend and the genial friend of all the
world, thinks I, more hopefully, would not have the poor fool
wronged.

"Dannie," says Moses, turning, "I'm scared my cookin' won't quite fit
the stomachs o' the crew o' the _Quick as Wink_."

"Ay, Moses," says I, to hearten him; "but never a good man was that
didn't fear a new task."

He eyed me doubtfully.

"An'," I began, "your mother, Moses--"

"But," he interrupted, "mother wasn't quite t' be trusted in all
things."

"Not trusted!" I cried.

"You'll not misunderstand me, Dannie?" he besought me, putting a hand
on my shoulder. "You'll not misunderstand, will you? But mother wasn't
quite t' be trusted," says he, "when it come t' the discussion," says
he, pausing to permit a proper appreciation of the learned word,
which he had appropriated from my tutor's vocabulary, "o' my
accomplishments."

It had never occurred before.

"For mother," he explained, "was somehow wonderful fond o' me."

The church-bell called him.

"Hear her voice, Dannie?" said he. "Hear her voice in that there bell?
'Come--dear!' says she. 'Come--dear! Come--dear!' Hear it ring out?
'Come--dear! Come--dear! Come--dear!'"

I bade him God-speed with a heart that misgave me.

"I'll answer," said he, his face lifted to the sky, "to that voice!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

The clouds in the west broke, and through the rift a shaft of sunlight
shot, glad to be free, and touched our world of sea and rock with
loving finger-tips, but failed, as I turned homeward, hearing no voice
of my unknown mother in the wandering call of the bell; and all the
world went gray and sullenly mute, as it had been....



XIX

A WORD OF WARNING


Presently my uncle and I made ready to set out for St. John's upon the
sinister business which twice a year engaged his evil talents at the
wee waterside place wherein he was the sauciest dog in the pack. There
was now no wandering upon the emotionless old hills of Twin Islands to
prepare him, no departure from the fishing, no unseemly turning to the
bottle, to factitious rage; but he brooded more despairingly in his
chair by the window when the flare of western glory left the world. At
evening, when he thought me gone upon my pleasure, I watched him from
the shadows of the hall, grave with youth, wishing, all the while,
that he might greet the night with gratitude for the mercy of it; and
I listened to his muttering--and I saw that he was grown old and weak
with age: unequal, it might be, to the wickedness he would command in
my service. "_For behold the Lord will come with fire, and with his
chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his
rebuke with the flames of fire._" For me 'twas still sweet to watch
the tender shadows creep upon the western fire, to see the great gray
rocks dissolve, to hear the sea's melodious whispering; but to him the
sea spoke harshly and the night came with foreboding. I wished that he
would forsake the evil he followed for my sake. I would be a
club-footed, paddle-punt fisherman, as the gray little man from St.
John's had said, and be content with that fortune, could my uncle but
look into the eyes of night without misgiving.

But I must not tell him so....

                  *       *       *       *       *

We left John Cather behind.

"Uncle Nick," says I, "I 'low we'd best have un along."

"An' why?" cries he.

"I don't know," says I, honestly puzzled.

He looked at me quizzically. "Is you sure?" he asked. His eyes
twinkled. "Is you sure you doesn't know?"

"I don't know," I answered, frowning. "I don't know at all."

"Dannie," says he, significantly, "'tisn't time yet for John Cather t'
go t' St. John's. You got t' take your chance."

"What chance?" I demanded.

"I don't know," says he.

I scowled.

"But," says he, "an I was you I wouldn't fear on no account whatever.
No," he repeated, "_I_ wouldn't fear--an I was you."

So John Cather was left with Judy and the watchful maid-servant
who loved her, having no child of her own, when my uncle and I fared
out of the tickle upon the outside boat. I was troubled in the
dark and wash and heave of that night, but could not for the life of
me tell why. John Cather had bade me good-bye with a heartening laugh
and clap on the shoulder. 'Twas with gratitude--and sure persuasion
of unworthiness--that I remembered his affection. And Judy had given
me a sisterly kiss of farewell which yet lingered upon my lips so
warmly that in my perplexity I was conscious of it lying there and
must like a thirsty man feel the place her moist mouth had touched.
'Twas grief, thinks I, because of parting with my friend John Cather;
and I puzzled no longer, but devoted myself to the accomplishment
of manners, as I had been taught, and now attended with interest,
having grown old and wise. 'Twas rainy weather, windy, with the sea
in an ugly pother off the rocks of our hard coast. 'Twas wet,
blustering weather, indeed, all the hapless time we were gone from
Twist Tickle: the tap-rooms of St. John's, I recall, disagreeably
steamed and reeked. My uncle put me to bed that night with a motherly
injunction to recite the twenty-third psalm for safety against the
perils of the sea and the machinations of wicked men, and to regard
the precepts of the noble Lord Chesterfield for guidance in more
difficult waters: the man being quite sober for the first time in all
my life upon these occasions of departure.

"Dannie, lad," says he, "you cling t' that there little anchor I'm
give ye t' hold to."

I asked him mechanically what that was.

"The twenty-third psa'm," says he.

To this I promised.

"An', Dannie," says he, drawing the great bandanna handkerchief from
his trousers-pocket to blow his nose, "don't ye be gettin' lonely: for
Dannie--"

I must sharply attend.

"I'm for'ard," he declared, "standin' by!"

He could not perceive, poor man! that I was no longer to be dealt with
as a child.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There befell me in the city a singular encounter. 'Twas of a soggy,
dismal day: there was a searching wind abroad, I recall, to chill the
marrow of impoverished folk, a gray light upon all the slimy world, a
dispiriting fog flowing endlessly in scowling clouds over the hills to
thicken and eddy and drip upon the streets and harbor. It being now at
the crisis of my uncle's intoxication, I was come from my hotel alone,
wandering without aim, to speed the anxious hours. Abreast of the
familiar door of the Anchor and Chain, where long ago I had gratefully
drunk with Cap'n Jack Large, I paused; and I wondered, as I stared at
the worn brass knob, now broken into beads of cold sweat with the
weather, whether or not I might venture some persuasion upon my
perverse uncle, but was all at once plucked by the tail of my coat,
and turned in a rage to resent the impudence. 'Twas but a scrawny,
brass-buttoned boy, however, with an errand for the lad with the
rings, as they called me. I followed, to be sure, and was by this
ill-nourished messenger led to the crossing of King Street with Water,
where my uncle was used to tap-tapping the pavement. Thence in a
moment we ascended to a group of office-rooms, on the opposite side of
the street, wherein, having been ceremoniously ushered, I found the
gray stranger who had called me a club-footed, ill-begotten young
whelp, on that windy night at Twist Tickle, and had with meaning
complacency threatened my uncle's assassination.

I had not expected it.

"Ha!" snaps he. "Here you are, eh?"

To my amazement.

"You know me?" he demanded.

I did not know his quality, which seemed, however, by the state
he dwelt in, by the deference he commanded from the scrawny,
brass-buttoned, ill-nourished, tragically obsequious child who
had fetched me, to be of distinction.

"Sit down," he bade me.

I would not.

"Well, well!" cries he. "You've manners as brief as your memory."

'Twas a vivid recollection that had shorn my manner to the bare. My
uncle had not been quick enough to sweep the lamp from the table: I
remembered this man. 'Twas he who had of that windy night most cruelly
damned me; 'twas he who had struck my uncle.

"I've not forgot you, sir," says I.

He was gray: he was indeed most incredibly gray--gray of hair and eye
and brow and flesh, gray of mood and outlook upon the world, forever
dwelling, as it seemed, in a gray fog of suspicion and irascibility. I
was gone over, from pate to shrinking club-foot, with more intimate
and intelligently curious observation than ever a 'longshore jack or
coast-wise skipper had achieved in the years when I wore rings. Never
before had I suffered a stare more keen and unabashed: 'twas an
assurance stripped of insolence by some tragical need and right. He
sat beyond a broad, littered table, leaning forward upon it, his back
to the riley light, his drawn face nestled within the lean, white
hands of him; and 'twas now a brooding inspection I must bear--an
unself-conscious thing, remote from my feeling, proceeding from eyes
as gray as winter through narrow slits that rapidly snapped shut and
flashed open in spasmodic winking. He was a man of fashion, of
authority, of large affairs, it seemed--a gentleman, according to my
uncle's code and fashion-plates. But he was now by my presence so
wretchedly detached from the great world he moved in that for a moment
I was stirred to pity him. What had this masterful little man, thinks
I, to fear from Dannie Callaway of Twist Tickle?

Enough, as it turned out; but 'twas all an unhappy mystery to me on
that drear, clammy day.

"Come, sir!" says I, in anger. "You've fetched me here?"

He seemed not to hear.

"What you wantin' of me?" I brusquely asked.

"Yes," says he, sighing; "you are here, aren't you?" He fingered the
papers on his table in a way so desultory and weak that once more I
was moved to pity him. Then, with blank eyes, and hopelessly hanging
lip, a lean finger still continuing to rustle the forgotten documents,
he looked out of the window, where 'twas all murky and dismal, harbor
and rocky hill beyond obliterated by the dispiriting fog. "I wish to
warn you," he continued. "You think, perhaps," he demanded, looking
sharply into my eyes, "that you are kin of mine?"

I had no such dreadful fear, and, being an unkind lad, frankly told
him.

"You dream," he pursued, "that you were born to some station?"

I would not have him know.

"Daniel," says he, with a faint twinkle of amusement and pity, "tell
me of that wretched dream."

'Twas a romantic hope that had lingered with me despite my wish to
have it begone: but I would not tell this man. I had fancied, as what
lad would not? but with no actual longing, because of love for Judith,
that the ultimate revelation would lift me high in the world. But now,
in the presence of this gray personage, under his twinkle and pitying
grin, the fancy forever vanished from me. 'Twas comforting to know, at
any rate, that I might wed Judith without outrage. There would be
small difficulty, then, thinks I, in winning the maid; and 'twas most
gratifying to know it.

"Daniel," says he, in distress, "has that rascally Top misled you to
this ridiculously romantic conclusion?"

"No, sir," I answered.

"You are the son," he declared, with thin-lipped deliberation, by
which I was persuaded and sorely chagrined, "of Tom Callaway, who was
lost, with all hands but the chiefest rascal it has been my lot to
encounter, in the wreck of the _Will-o'-the-Wisp_. Tom Callaway,
master: he was your father. Your mother," he continued, "was a St.
John's water-side maid--a sweet and lovely wife, who died when you
were born. I was myself not indifferent to her most pure and tender
charms. There is your pedigree," says he, his voice fallen kind. "No
mystery, you see--no romance. Tom Callaway, master: he was your
father. This man Top," he snapped, "this vulgar, drunken, villanous
fellow, into whose hands you have unhappily fallen and by whose mad
fancies you will inevitably be ruined, is the sole survivor of the
_Will-o'-the-Wisp_, with which your father very properly went down. He
is nothing to you--nothing--neither kith nor kin! He is an intruder
upon you: he has no natural right to your affection; nor have you a
natural obligation to regard him. He has most viciously corrupted you
into the fantastic notion that you are of gentle and fortunate birth.
With what heart, in God's name!" the gray man cried, clapping his lean
hands in a passion, "he will face you when he must disclose the truth,
I cannot conceive. Mad! The man is stark mad: for tell you he must,
though he has in every way since your childhood fostered within you a
sense of honor that will break in contempt upon him! Your attitude, I
warn you, will work wretchedness to you both; you will accuse and
flout him. Daniel," the man solemnly asked, "do you believe me?"

I was glad to know that my mother had been both sweet and lovely.
'Twas a conception I had long cherished. 'Twas what Judith was--both
sweet and lovely.

"You will accuse him, I warn you!" he repeated.

Still gray weather, I observed through the grimy panes: fog sweeping
by with a northeast wind. For a moment I watched the dripping
passengers on the opposite pavement.

"Well," says the gray stranger, with a harsh little laugh, "God help
Top when the tale is told!"

I should never, of course, treat my uncle with unkindness.

"My boy," he most earnestly besought me, "will you not heed me?"

"I'll hear you, sir," I answered.

"Attend, then," says he. "I have brought you here to warn you, and my
warning is but half spoken. Frankly, in this I have no concern for
your happiness, with which I have nothing to do: I have been moved to
this ungrateful and most dangerous interview by a purely selfish
regard for my own career. Do you know the word? A political career of
some slight importance," he added, with a toss of the head, "which is
now menaced, at a most critical moment, by that merciless, wicked old
pirate whom you have shamelessly been deceived into calling your uncle
Nicholas. To be frank with you, you are, and have been for several
years, an obstacle. My warning, however, as you will believe, is
advanced upon grounds advantageous to yourself. Put the illusions of
this designing old bay-noddie away from you," says he, now
accentuating his earnestness with a lean, white forefinger. "Rid
yourself of these rings and unsuitable garments: they disgrace you.
When the means of their possession is disclosed to you--when the
wretched crime of it is made known--you will suffer such humiliation
as you did not dream a man could feel. Put 'em away. Put 'em out of
sight and mind. Send that young man from London back to the business
he came from. A tutor! Your tutor! Tom Callaway's son with an English
tutor! You are being made a ghastly fool of; and I warn you that you
will pay for every moment of the illusion. Poor lad!" cries he, in
genuine distress. "Poor lad!"

It might be: I had long thought so.

"And as for this grand tour abroad," he began, with an insolently
curling lip, "why, for God's sake! don't be a--"

"Sir!" I interrupted, in a rage.

There had been talk of a trip abroad: it seemed I was bound upon it,
by advice of Sir Harry, to further my education and to cure my foot of
its twist.

"Well," the gray personage laughed, "being what you are, remembering
what I have with candor and exact honesty told you, if you can permit
this old pirate--"

I stopped him. I would have no more of it--not I, by Heaven!

"This extortionate old--"

"I'll not hear it!" I roared.

"In this fine faith," sneers he, "I find at least the gratifying
prospect of being some day privileged to observe Top broil as on a
griddle in hell."

'Twas most obscure.

"I refer," says he, "to the moment of grand climax when this pirate
tells you where your diamonds came from. Your diamonds?" he flashed.
"You may get quit of your diamonds; but the fine gentleman this low
villain has fashioned of a fishing-skipper's whelp will all your days
keep company at your elbow. And you won't love Top for this," says he,
with malevolent satisfaction; "you won't love Top!"

I walked to the window for relief from him. 'Twas all very well that
he should discredit and damn my uncle in this way; 'twas all very well
that he should raise spectres of unhappiness before me: but there, on
the opposite pavement, abroad in the foggy wind, jostled by
ill-tempered passengers, was this self-same old foster-father of mine,
industriously tap-tapping the pavement with his staff, as he had
periodically done, whatever the weather, since I could remember the
years of my life. I listened to the angry tapping, watched the urchins
and curious folk gather for the show; and I was moved to regard the
mystifying spectacle with an indulgent grin. The gray stranger,
however, at that instant got ear of the patter of the staff and the
clamor of derision. He cried upon me sharply to stand from the window;
but I misliked this harsh manner of authority, and would not budge:
whereupon he sprang upon me, caught me about the middle, and violently
flung me back. 'Twas too late to avert the catastrophe: my uncle had
observed me, and was even then bound across the street, flying all
sail, to the terrified confusion of the exalted political personage
whose career he menaced. 'Twas a pitiable spectacle of fright and
helpless uncertainty the man furnished, seeming at one moment bent on
keeping my uncle out, whom he feared to admit, at another to wish him
well in, whom he dared not exclude.

"The man's stark mad!" he would repeat, in his panic of gesture and
pacing. "The man's stark mad to risk this!"

My uncle softly closed the door behind him. "Ah, Dannie!" says he.
"You here?" He was breathless, and gone a ghastly color; there was
that about his scars and eyes, too, to make me wonder whether 'twas
rage or fear had mastered him: I could not tell, but mightily wished
to determine, since it seemed that some encounter impended. "Ye're an
unkind man," says he, in a passionless way, to the gray stranger, who
was now once more seated at his desk, fingering the litter of
documents. "Ye've broke your word t' me. I must punish ye for the evil
ye've done this lad. I'll not ask ye what ye've told un till I haves
my way with ye; but then," he declared, his voice betraying a tremor
of indignation, "I'll have the talk out o' ye, word for word!" The
gray stranger was agitated, but would not look up from his aimlessly
wandering hand to meet my uncle's lowering, reproachful eyes.
"Dannie," says my uncle, continuing in gentle speech, "pass the
cushion from the big chair. Thank 'e, lad. I'm not wantin' the man t'
hurt his head." He cast the cushion to the floor. "Now, sir," says
he, gently, "an ye'll be good enough t' step within five-foot-ten o'
that there red cushion, I'll knock ye down an' have it over with."

The man looked sullenly out of the window.

"Five-foot-ten, sir," my uncle repeated, with some cheerfulness.

"Top," was the vicious response, "you invite assassination."

My uncle put his hand on my shoulder. "'Tis not fit for ye t' see,
lad," says he. "Ye'd best be off t' the fresh air. 'Tis so wonderful
stuffy here that ye'll be growin' pale an ye don't look out. An' I'm
not wantin' ye t' see me knock a man down," he repeated, with feeling.
"I'm not wantin' ye even t' _think_ that I'd do an unkind thing like
that."

I moved to go.

"Now, sir!" cries my uncle to the stranger.

As I closed the door behind me the man was passing with snarling lips
to the precise spot my uncle had indicated....



XX

NO APOLOGY


My uncle knocked on my door at the hotel and, without waiting to be
bidden, thrust in his great, red, bristling, monstrously scarred head.
'Twas an intrusion most diffident and fearful: he was like a
mischievous boy come for chastisement.

"You here, Dannie?" he gently inquired.

"Come in, sir," says I.

'Twas awkwardly--with a bashful grin and halting, doubtful step--that
he stumped in.

"Comfortable?" he asked, looking about. "No complaint t' make ag'in
this here hotel?"

I had no complaint.

"Not troubled, is you?"

I was not troubled.

"Isn't bothered, is you?" he pursued, with an inviting wink. "Not
bothered about nothin', lad, is you?"

Nor bothered.

"Come now!" cries he, dissembling great candor and heartiness, "is you
got any questions t' ask ol' Nick Top?"

"No, sir," I answered, quite confidently.

"Dannie, lad," says my uncle, unable to contain his delight, with
which, indeed, his little eyes brimmed over, "an ye'd jus' be so
damned good as t' tweak that there--"

I pulled the bell-cord.

"A nip o' the best Jamaica," says he.

Old Elihu Wall fetched the red dram.

"Lad," says my uncle, his glass aloft, his eyes resting upon me in
pride, his voice athrill with passionate conviction, "here's t' _you_!
That's good o' you," says he. "That's very good. I 'low I've fetched
ye up very well. Ecod!" he swore, with most reverent and gentle
intention, "ye'll be a gentleman afore ye knows it!"

He downed the liquor with a grin that came over his lurid countenance
like a burst of low sunshine.

"A gentleman," he repeated, "in spite o' Chesterfield!"

When my uncle was gone, I commanded my reflections elsewhere,
prohibited by honor from dwelling upon the wretched mystery in which I
was enmeshed. They ran with me to the fool of Twist Tickle. The
weather had turned foul: 'twas blowing up from the north in a way to
make housed folk shiver for their fellows at sea. Evil sailing on the
Labrador! I wondered how the gentle weakling fared as cook of the
_Quick as Wink_. I wondered in what harbor he lay, in the blustering
night, or off what coast he tossed. I wondered what trouble he had
within his heart. I wished him home again: but yet remembered, with
some rising of hope, that his amazing legacy of wisdom had in all
things been sufficient to his need. Had he not in peace and
usefulness walked the paths of the world where wiser folk had gone
with bleeding feet? 'Twas dwelling gratefully upon this miracle of
wisdom and love, a fool's inheritance, that I, who had no riches of
that kind, fell asleep, without envy or perturbation, that night.

                  *       *       *       *       *

'Twas not long I had to wait to discover the fortune of the fool upon
that voyage. We were not three days returned from the city when the
_Quick as Wink_ slipped into our harbor. She had been beating up all
afternoon; 'twas late of a dark night when she dropped anchor. John
Cather was turned in, Judith long ago whisked off to bed by our
maid-servant; my uncle and I sat alone together when the rattle of the
chain apprised us that the schooner was in the shelter of the Lost
Soul.

By-and-by Moses came.

"You've been long on the road," says I.

"Well, Dannie," he explained, looking at his cap, which he was
awkwardly twirling, "I sort o' fell in with Parson Stump by the way,
an' stopped for a bit of a gossip."

I begged him to sit with us.

"No," says he; "but I'm 'bliged t' you. Fac' is, Dannie," says he,
gravely, "I isn't got time."

My uncle was amazed.

"I've quit the ship," Moses went on, "not bein' much of a hand at
cookin'. I'll be t' home now," says he, "an' I'd be glad t' have you
an' Skipper Nicholas drop in, some day soon, when you're passin'
Whisper Cove."

We watched him twirl his cap.

"You'd find a wonderful warm welcome," says he, "from Mrs. Moses
Shoos!"

With that he was gone.



XXI

FOOL'S FORTUNE


"Close the door, Dannie," says Tumm, in the little cabin of the _Quick
as Wink_, late that night, when the goods were put to rights, and the
bottle was on the counter, and the schooner was nodding sleepily in
the spent waves from the open sea. "This here yarn o' the weddin' o'
Moses Shoos is not good for everybody t' hear." He filled the
glasses--chuckling all the time deep in his chest. "We was reachin' up
t' Whoopin' Harbor," he began, being a great hand at a story, "t' give
the _Quick as Wink_ a night's lodgin', it bein' a wonderful windish
night; clear enough, the moon sailin' a cloudy sky, but with a bank o'
fog sneakin' round Cape Muggy like a fish-thief. An' we wasn't in no
haste, anyhow, t' make Sinners' Tickle, for we was the first trader
down this season, an' 'twas pick an' choose for we, with a clean bill
t' every harbor from Starvation Cove t' the Settin' Hen. So the
skipper he says we'll hang the ol' girl up t' Whoopin' Harbor 'til
dawn; an' we'll all have a watch below, says he, with a cup o' tea,
says he, if the cook can bile the water 'ithout burnin' it. Now, look
you! Saucy Bill North is wonderful fond of his little joke; an' 'twas
this here habit o' burnin' the water he'd pitched on t' plague the
poor cook with, since we put out o' Twist Tickle on the v'y'ge down.

"'Cook, you dunderhead!' says the skipper, with a wink t' the crew,
which I was sorry t' see, 'you been an' scarched the water agin.'

"Shoos he looked like he'd give up for good on the spot--just like he
_knowed_ he was a fool, an' _had_ knowed it for a long, long
time--sort o' like he was sorry for we an' sick of hisself.

"'Cook,' says the skipper, 'you went an' done it agin. Yes, you did!
Don't you go denyin' of it. You'll kill us, cook,' says he, 'if you
goes on like this. They isn't nothin' worse for the system,' says he,
'than this here burned water. The almanacs,' says he, shakin' his
finger at the poor cook, ''ll tell you _that!_'

"'I 'low I did burn that water, skipper,' says the cook, 'if you says
so. But I isn't got all my wits,' says he; 'an' God knows I'm doin' my
best!'

"'I always did allow, cook,' says the skipper, 'that God knowed more'n
I ever thunk.'

"'An' I never _did_ burn no water,' says the cook, 'afore I shipped
along o' you in this here ol' flour-sieve of a _Quick as Wink._'

"'This here _what?_' snaps the skipper.

"'This here ol' basket,' says the cook.

"'Basket!' says the skipper. Then he hummed a bit o' 'Fishin' for the
Maid I Loves,' 'ithout thinkin' much about the toon. 'Cook,' says he
'I loves you. You is on'y a half-witted chance-child,' says he, 'but
I loves you like a brother.'

"'Does you, skipper?' says the cook, with a nice, soft little smile,
like the poor fool he was. 'I isn't by no means hatin' you, skipper,'
says he. 'But I can't _help_ burnin' the water,' says he, 'an' I 'low
it fair hurts me t' get blame for it. I'm sorry for you an' the crew,'
says he, 'an' I wisht I hadn't took the berth. But when I shipped
along o' you,' says he, 'I 'lowed I _could_ cook, for mother always
told me so, an' I 'lowed she knowed. I'm doin' my best, anyhow,
accordin' t' how she'd have me do, an' I 'low if the water gets
scarched,' says he, 'the galley fire's bewitched.'

"'Basket!' says the skipper. 'Ay, ay, cook,' says he. 'I just _loves_
you.'

"They wasn't a man o' the crew liked t' hear the skipper say that;
for, look you! the skipper doesn't know nothin' about feelin's, an'
the cook has more feelin's 'n a fool can make handy use of aboard a
tradin' craft. There sits the ol' man, smoothin' his big, red beard,
singin' 'I'm Fishin' for the Maid I Loves,' while he looks at poor
Moses Shoos, which was washin' up the dishes, for we was through with
the mug-up. An' the devil was in his eyes--the devil was fair grinnin'
in them little blue eyes. Lord! it made me sad t' see it, for I knowed
the cook was in for bad weather, an' he isn't no sort o' craft t' be
out o' harbor in a gale o' wind like that.

"'Cook,' says the skipper.

"'Ay, sir?' says the cook.

"'Cook,' says the skipper, 'you ought t' get married.'

"'I on'y wisht I could,' says the cook.

"'You ought t' try, cook,' says the skipper, 'for the sake o' the
crew. We'll all die,' says he, 'afore we sights ol' Bully Dick agin,'
says he, 'if you keeps on burnin' the water. You _got_ t' get married,
cook, t' the first likely maid you sees on the Labrador,' says he, 't'
save the crew. She'd do the cookin' for you. It'll be the loss o' all
hands,' says he, 'an you don't. This here burned water,' says he,
'will be the end of us, cook, an you keeps it up.'

"'I'd be wonderful glad t' 'blige you, skipper,' says the cook, 'an'
I'd like t' 'blige all hands. 'Twon't be by my wish,' says he, 'that
anybody'll die o' the grub they gets, for mother wouldn't like it.'

"'Cook,' says the skipper, 'shake! I knows a _man,_' says he, 'when I
sees one. Any man,' says he, 'that would put on the irons o'
matrimony,' says he, 't' 'blige a shipmate,' says he, 'is a better man
'n me, an' I loves un like a brother.'

"The cook was cheered up considerable.

"'Cook,' says the skipper, 'I 'pologize. Yes, I do, cook,' says he, 'I
'pologize.'

"'I isn't got no feelin' ag'in' matrimony,' says the cook. 'But I
isn't able t' get took. I been tryin' every maid t' Twist Tickle,'
says he, 'an' they isn't one,' says he, 'will wed a fool.'

"'Not _one_ maid t' wed a fool!' says the skipper.

"'Nar a one,' says the cook.

"'I'm s'prised,' says the skipper.

"'Nar a maid t' Twist Tickle,' says the cook, 'will wed a fool, an' I
'low they isn't one,' says he, 'on the Labrador.'

"'It's been done afore, cook,' says the skipper, 'an' I 'low 'twill be
done agin, if the world don't come to an end t' oncet. Cook,' says he,
'I _knows_ the maid t' do it.'

"'I'd be wonderful glad t' find _she_,' says the cook. 'Mother,' says
he, 'always 'lowed a man didn't ought t' live alone.'

"'Ay, b'y,' says the skipper, 'I got the girl for _you_. An' she isn't
a thousand miles,' says he, 'from where that ol' basket of a _Quick as
Wink_ lies at anchor,' says he, 'in Whoopin' Harbor. She isn't what
you'd call handsome an' tell no lie,' says he, 'but--'

"'Never you mind about that, skipper,' says the cook.

"'No,' says the skipper, 'she isn't handsome, as handsome goes, even
in these parts, but--'

"'Never you mind, skipper,' says the cook: 'for mother always 'lowed
that looks come off in the first washin'.'

"'I 'low that Liz Jones would take you, cook,' says the skipper. 'You
ain't much on wits, but you got a good-lookin' figure-head; an' I 'low
she'd be more'n willin' t' skipper a craft like you. You better go
ashore, cook, when you gets cleaned up, an' see what she says. Tumm,'
says he, 'is sort o' shipmates with Liz,' says he, 'an' I 'low he'll
see you through the worst of it.'

"'Will you, Tumm?' says the cook.

"'Well,' says I, 'I'll see.'

"I knowed Liz Jones from the time I fished Whoopin' Harbor with
Skipper Bill Topsail in the _Love the Wind_, bein' cotched by the
measles thereabouts, which she nursed me through; an' I 'lowed she
_would_ wed the cook if he asked her, so, thinks I, I'll go ashore
with the fool t' see that she don't. No; she isn't handsome--not Liz.
I'm wonderful fond o' yarnin' o' good-lookin' maids, as you knows,
Skipper Nicholas, sir; but I can't say much o' Liz: for Liz is so far
t' l'eward o' beauty that many a time, lyin' sick there in the
fo'c's'le o' the _Love the Wind_, I wished the poor girl would turn
inside out, for, thinks I, the pattern might be a sight better on the
other side. I _will_ say she is big and well-muscled; an' muscles, t'
my mind, counts enough t' make up for black eyes, but not for
cross-eyes, much less for fuzzy whiskers. It ain't in my heart t' make
sport o' Liz; but I _will_ say she has a bad foot, for she was born in
a gale, I'm told, when the _Preacher_ was hangin' on off a lee shore
'long about Cape Harrigan, an' the sea was raisin' the devil. An',
well--I hates t' say it, but--well, they call her 'Walrus Liz.' No;
she isn't handsome, she haven't got no good looks; but once you gets a
look into whichever one o' them cross-eyes you is able to cotch, you
see a deal more'n your own face; an' she _is_ well-muscled, an' I 'low
I'm goin' t' tell you so, for I wants t' name her good p'ints so well
as her bad. Whatever--

"'Cook,' says I, 'I'll go along o' you.'

"With that Moses Shoos fell to on the dishes, an' 'twasn't long afore
he was ready to clean hisself; which done, he was ready for the
courtin'. But first he got out his dunny-bag, an' he fished in there
'til he pulled out a blue stockin', tied in a hard knot; an' from the
toe o' that there blue stockin' he took a brass ring. 'I 'low,' says
he, talkin' to hisself, in the half-witted way he has, 'it won't do no
hurt t' give her mother's ring. "Moses," says mother, "you better take
the ring off my finger. It isn't no weddin'-ring," says she, "for I
never was what you might call wed by a real parson in the fashionable
way, but on'y accordin' t' the customs o' the land," says she, "an' I
got it from the Jew t' make believe I was wed in the way they does it
in these days; for it didn't do nobody no hurt, an' it sort o' pleased
me. You better take it, Moses, b'y," says she, "for the dirt o' the
grave would only spile it," says she, "an' I'm not wantin' it no more.
Don't wear it at the fishin', dear," says she, "for the fishin' is
wonderful hard," says she, "an' joolery don't stand much wear an'
tear." 'Oh, mother!' says the cook, 'I done what you wanted!' Then the
poor fool sighed an' looked up at the skipper. 'I 'low, skipper,' says
he, ''twouldn't do no hurt t' give the ring to a man's wife, would it?
For mother wouldn't mind, would she?'

"The skipper didn't answer that.

"'Come, cook,' says I, 'leave us get under way,' for I couldn't stand
it no longer.

"So the cook an' me put out in the punt t' land at Whoopin' Harbor,
with the crew wishin' the poor cook well with their lips, but
thinkin', God knows what! in their hearts. An' he was in a wonderful
state o' fright. I never _seed_ a man so took by scare afore. For,
look you! poor Moses thinks she might have un. 'I never had half a
chance afore,' says he. 'They've all declined in a wonderful regular
way. But now,' says he, 'I 'low I'll be took. I jus' _feels_ that way;
an', Tumm, I--I--I'm scared!' I cheered un up so well as I could; an'
by-an'-by we was on the path t' Liz Jones's house, up on Gray Hill,
where she lived alone, her mother bein' dead an' her father shipped on
a bark from St. John's t' the West Indies. An' we found Liz sittin' on
a rock at the turn o' the road, lookin' down from the hill at the
_Quick as Wink_; all alone--sittin' there in the moonlight, all
alone--thinkin' o' God knows what!

"'Hello, Liz!' says I.

"'Hello, Tumm!' says she. 'What vethel'th that?'

"'That's the _Quick as Wink_, Liz,' says I. 'An' here's the cook o'
that there craft,' says I, 'come up the hill t' speak t' you.'

"'That's right,' says the cook. 'Tumm, you're right.'

"'T' thpeak t' _me_!' says she.

"I wisht she hadn't spoke quite that way. Lord! it wasn't nice. It
makes a man feel bad t' see a woman put her hand on her heart for a
little thing like that.

"'Ay, Liz,' says I, 't' speak t' you. An' I'm thinkin', Liz,' says I,
'he'll say things no man ever said afore--t' you.'

"'That's right, Tumm,' says the cook. 'I wants t' speak as man t'
man,' says he, 't' stand by what I says,' says he, 'accordin' as
mother would have me do!'

"Liz got off the rock. Then she begun t' kick at the path; an' she was
lookin' down, but I 'lowed she had an eye on Moses all the time.
'For,' thinks I, 'she's sensed the thing out, like all the women.'

"'I'm thinkin',' says I, 'I'll go up the road a bit.'

"'Oh no, you won't, Tumm,' says she. 'You thtay right here. Whath the
cook wantin' o' me?'

"'Well,' says the cook, 'I 'low I wants t' get married.'

"'T' get married!' says she.

"'T' get married,' says the cook, 'accordin' as mother would have me;
an' I 'low you'll do.'

"'Me?' says she.

"'Liz,' says he, as solemn as church, 'I means you.'

"It come to her all of a suddent--an' she begun t' breathe hard, an'
pressed her hands against her breast an' shivered. But she looked away
t' the moon, an' somehow that righted her.

"'You better thee me in daylight,' says she.

"'Don't you mind about that,' says he. 'Mother always 'lowed that sort
o' thing didn't matter: an' she knowed.'

"She put a finger under his chin an' tipped his face t' the light.

"'You ithn't got all your thentheth, ith you?' says she.

"'Well,' says he, 'bein' born on Hollow-eve,' says he, 'I _isn't_
quite got all my wits. But,' says he, 'I wisht I had. An' I can't do
no more.'

"'An' you wanth t' wed me?' says she. 'Ith you sure you doth?'

"'I got mother's ring,' says the cook, 't' prove it.'

"'Tumm,' says Liz t' me, '_you_ ithn't wantin' t' get married, ith
you?'

"'No, Liz,' says I. 'Not,' says I, 't' you.'

"'No,' says she. 'Not--t' me.' She took me round the turn in the road.
'Tumm,' says she, 'I 'low I'll wed that man. I wanth t' get away from
here,' says she, lookin' over the hills. 'I wanth t' get t' the
thouthern outporth, where there'th life. They ithn't no life here. An'
I'm tho wonderful tired o' all thith! Tumm,' says she, 'no man ever
afore athked me t' marry un, an' I 'low I better take thith one. He'th
on'y a fool,' says she, 'but not even a fool ever come courtin' me,
an' I 'low nobody but a fool would. On'y a fool, Tumm!' says she. 'But
_I_ ithn't got nothin' t' boatht of. God made me,' says she, 'an' I
ithn't mad that He done it. I 'low He meant me t' take the firth man
that come, an' be content. I 'low _I_ ithn't got no right t' thtick up
my nothe at a fool. For, Tumm,' says she, 'God made that fool, too.
An', Tumm,' says she, 'I wanth thomethin' elthe. Oh, I wanth
thomethin' elthe! I hateth t' tell you, Tumm,' says she, 'what it ith.
But all the other maidth hath un, Tumm, an' I wanth one, too. I 'low
they ithn't no woman happy without one, Tumm. An' I ithn't never had
no chanth afore. No chanth, Tumm, though God knowth they ithn't
nothin' I wouldn't do,' says she, 't' get what I wanth! I'll wed the
fool,' says she. 'It ithn't a man I wanth tho much; no, it ithn't a
man. Ith--'

"'What you wantin', Liz?' says I.

"'It ithn't a man, Tumm,' says she.

"'No?' says I. 'What is it, Liz?'

"'Ith a baby,' says she.

"God! I felt bad when she told me that...."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Tumm stopped, sighed, picked at a knot in the table. There was
silence in the cabin. The _Quick as Wink_ was still nodding to the
swell--lying safe at anchor in a cove of Twist Tickle. We heard the
gusts scamper over the deck and shake the rigging; we caught, in
the intervals, the deep-throated roar of breakers, far off--all the
noises of the gale. And Tumm picked at the knot with his clasp-knife;
and we sat watching, silent, all. And I felt bad, too, because of
the maid at Whooping Harbor--a rolling waste of rock, with the
moonlight lying on it, stretching from the whispering mystery of the
sea to the greater desolation beyond; and an uncomely maid, alone and
wistful, wishing, without hope, for that which the hearts of women
must ever desire....

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Ay," Tumm drawled, "it made me feel bad t' think o' what she'd been
wantin' all them years; an' then I wished I'd been kinder t' Liz....
An', 'Tumm,' thinks I, 'you went an' come ashore t' stop this here
thing; but you better let the skipper have his little joke, for 'twill
on'y s'prise him, an' it won't do nobody else no hurt. Here's this
fool,' thinks I, 'wantin' a wife; an' he won't never have another
chance. An' here's this maid,' thinks I, 'wantin' a baby; an' _she_
won't never have another chance. 'Tis plain t' see,' thinks I, 'that
God A'mighty, who made un, crossed their courses; an' I 'low, ecod!'
thinks I, 'that 'twasn't a bad idea He had. If He's got to get out of
it somehow,' thinks I, 'why, _I_ don't know no better way. Tumm,'
thinks I, 'you sheer off. Let Nature,' thinks I, 'have course an' be
glorified.' So I looks Liz in the eye--an' says nothin'.

"'Tumm,' says she, 'doth you think he--'

"'Don't you be scared o' nothin',' says I. 'He's a lad o' good
feelin's,' says I, 'an' he'll treat you the best he knows how. Is you
goin' t' take un?'

"'I wathn't thinkin' o' that,' says she. 'I wathn't thinkin' o' _not_.
I wath jutht,' says she, 'wonderin'.'

"'They isn't no sense in that, Liz,' says I. 'You just wait an' find
out.'

"'What'th hith name?' says she.

"'Shoos,' says I. 'Moses Shoos.'

"With that she up with her pinny an' begun t' cry like a young swile.

"'What you cryin' for, Liz?' says I.

"I 'low I couldn't tell what 'twas all about. But she was like all the
women. Lord! 'tis the little things that makes un weep when it comes
t' the weddin'.

"'Come, Liz,' says I, 'what you cryin' about?'

"'I lithp,' says she.

"'I knows you does, Liz,' says I; 'but it ain't nothin' t' cry
about.'

"'I can't say Joneth,' says she.

"'No,' says I; 'but you'll be changin' your name,' says I, 'an' it
won't matter no more.'

"'An' if I can't say Joneth,' says she, 'I can't thay--'

"'Can't say what?' says I.

"'Can't thay Thooth!' says she.

"Lord! No more she could. An' t' say Moses Shoos! An' t' say Mrs.
Moses Shoos! Lord! It give me a pain in the tongue t' think of it.

"'Jutht my luck,' says she; 'but I'll do my betht.'

"So we went back an' told poor Moses Shoos that he didn't have t'
worry no more about gettin' a wife; an' he said he was more glad than
sorry, an', says he, she'd better get her bonnet, t' go aboard an' get
married right away. An' she 'lowed she didn't want no bonnet, but
_would_ like to change her pinny. So we said we'd as lief wait a
spell, though a clean pinny wasn't _needed_. An' when she got back,
the cook said he 'lowed the skipper could marry un well enough 'til we
overhauled a real parson; an' she thought so, too, for, says she,
'twouldn't be longer than a fortnight, an' _any_ sort of a weddin',
says she, would do 'til then. An' aboard we went, the cook an' me
pullin' the punt, an' she steerin'; an' the cook he crowed an' cackled
all the way, like a half-witted rooster; but the maid didn't even
cluck, for she was too wonderful solemn t' do anything but look at the
moon.

"'Skipper,' said the cook, when we got in the fo'c's'le, 'here she is.
_I_ isn't afeared,' says he, 'an' _she_ isn't afeared; an' now I 'lows
we'll have you marry us.'

"Up jumps the skipper; but he was too much s'prised t' say a word.

"'An' I'm thinkin',' says the cook, with a nasty little wink, such as
never I seed afore get into the eyes o' Moses Shoos, 'that they isn't
a man in this here fo'c's'le,' says he, 'will _say_ I'm afeared.'

"'Cook,' says the skipper, takin' the cook's hand, 'shake! I never
knowed a man like you afore,' says he. 'T' my knowledge, you're the
on'y man in the Labrador fleet would do it. I'm proud,' says he, 't'
take the hand o' the man with nerve enough t' marry Walrus Liz o'
Whoopin' Harbor.'

"But 'twas a new Moses he had t' deal with. The devil got in the
fool's eyes--a jumpin' little brimstone devil, ecod! I never knowed
the man could look that way.

"'Ay, lad,' says the skipper, 'I'm proud t' know the man that isn't
afeared o' Walrus--'

"'Don't you call her that!' says the cook. 'Don't you do it,
skipper!'

"I was lookin' at Liz. She was grinnin' in a holy sort o' way. Never
seed nothin' like that afore--no, lads, not in all my life.

"'An' why not, cook?' says the skipper.

"'It ain't her name,' says the cook.

"'It ain't?' says the skipper. 'But I been sailin' the Labrador for
twenty year,' says he, 'an' I 'ain't never heared her called nothin'
but Walrus--'

"'Don't you do it, skipper!'

"The devil got into the cook's hands then. I seed his fingers clawin'
the air in a hungry sort o' way. An' it looked t' me like squally
weather for the skipper.

"'Don't you do it no more, skipper,' says the cook. 'I isn't got no
wits,' says he, an' I'm feelin' wonderful queer!'

"The skipper took a look ahead into the cook's eyes. 'Well, cook,'
says he, 'I 'low,' says he, 'I won't.'

"Liz laughed--an' got close t' the fool from Twist Tickle. An' I seed
her touch his coat-tail, like as if she loved it, but didn't dast do
no more.

"'What you two goin' t' do?' says the skipper.

"'We 'lowed you'd marry us,' says the cook, ''til we come across a
parson.'

"'I will,' says the skipper. 'Stand up here,' says he. 'All hands
stand up!' says he. 'Tumm,' says he, 'get me the first Book you comes
across.'

"I got un a Book.

"'Now, Liz,' says he, 'can you cook?'

"'Fair t' middlin',' says she. 'I won't lie.'

"'Twill do,' says he. 'An' does you want t' get married t' this here
dam' fool?'

"'An it pleathe you,' says she.

"'Shoos,' says the skipper, 'will you let this woman do the cookin'?'

"'Well, skipper,' says the cook, 'I will; for I don't want nobody t'
die o' my cookin' on this here v'y'ge, an' I _knows_ that mother
wouldn't mind.'

"'An' will you keep out o' the galley?'

"'I 'low I'll _have_ to.'

"'An' look you! cook, is you sure--is you _sure_,' says the skipper,
with a shudder, lookin' at the roof, 'that you wants t' marry this
here--'

"'Don't you do it, skipper!' says the cook. 'Don't you say that no
more! By the Lord!' says he, 'I'll kill you if you does!'

"'Is you sure,' says the skipper, 'that you wants t' marry this
here--woman?'

"'I will.'

"'Well,' says the skipper, kissin' the Book, 'I 'low me an' the crew
don't care; an' we can't help it, anyhow.'

"'What about mother's ring?' says the cook. 'She might's well have
that,' says he, 'if she's careful about the wear an' tear. For
joolery,' says he t' Liz, 'don't stand it.'

"'It can't do no harm,' says the skipper.

"'Ith we married, thkipper?' says Liz, when she got the ring on.

"'Well,' says the skipper, 'I 'low that knot'll hold 'til we puts into
Twist Tickle, where Parson Stump can mend it, right under my eye.
For,' says he, 'I got a rope's-end an' a belayin'-pin t' _make_ it
hold,' says he, ''til we gets 'longside o' _some_ parson that knows
more about matrimonial knots 'n me. We'll pick up your goods, Liz,'
says he, 'on the s'uthard v'y'ge. An' I hopes, ol' girl,' says he,
'that you'll be able t' boil the water 'ithout burnin' it.'

"'Ay, Liz,' says the cook, 'I been makin' a awful fist o' b'ilin' the
water o' late.'

"She give him one look--an' put her clean pinny to her eyes.

"'What you cryin' about?' says the cook.

"'I don't know,' says she; 'but I 'low 'tith becauthe now I knowth you
_ith_ a fool!'

"'She's right, Tumm,' says the cook. 'She's got it right! Bein' born
on Hollow-eve,' says he, 'I couldn't be nothin' else. But, Liz,' says
he, 'I'm glad I got you, fool or no fool.'

"So she wiped her eyes, an' blowed her nose, an' give a little sniff,
an' looked up an' smiled.

"'I isn't good enough for you,' says the poor cook. 'But, Liz,' says
he, 'if you kissed me,' says he, 'I wouldn't mind a bit. An' they
isn't a man in this here fo'c's'le,' says he, lookin' round, 'that'll
say I'd mind. Not one,' says he, with the little devil jumpin' in his
eyes.

"Then she stopped cryin' for good.

"'Go ahead, Liz!' says he. 'I ain't afeared. Come on!' says he. 'Give
us a kiss!'

"'Motheth Thooth,' says she, 'you're the firtht man ever athked me t'
give un a kith!'

"She kissed un. 'Twas like a pistol-shot. An', Lord! her poor face was
shinin'...."

                  *       *       *       *       *

In the cabin of the _Quick as Wink_ we listened to the wind as it
scampered over the deck; and my uncle and I watched Tumm pick at the
knot in the table.

"He don't _need_ no sense," said Tumm, looking up, at last; "for he've
_had_ a mother, an' he've _got_ a memory."

'Twas very true, I thought.



XXII

GATHERING WINDS


'Twas by advice of Sir Harry, with meet attention to the philosophy of
Lord Chesterfield in respect to the particular accomplishments
essential to one who would both please and rise in the world, that my
uncle commanded the grand tour to further my education and to cure my
twisted foot. "'Tis the last leg o' the beat, lad;" he pleaded; "ye'll
be a gentleman, made t' order, accordin' t' specifications, when 'tis
over with; an' I'll be wonderful glad," says he, wearily, "when 'tis
done, for I'll miss ye sore, lad--ecod! but I'll miss ye sore."
Abroad, then, despite the gray warning, went John Cather and I, tutor
and young gentleman, the twain not to be distinguished from a company
of high birth. 'Twas a ghastly thing: 'twas a thing so unfit and
grotesque that I flush to think of it--a thing, of all my uncle's
benefits, I wish undone and cannot to this day condone. But that
implacable, most tender old ape, when he bade us God-speed on the
wharf, standing with legs and staff triangularly disposed to steady
him, rippled with pride and admiration to observe the genteel
performance of our departure, and in the intervals of mopping his
red, sweaty, tearful countenance, exhibited, in unwitting caricature,
the defiant consciousness of station he had with infinite pains sought
to have me master.

"Made t' order, lad," says he, at last, when he took my hand,
"accordin' t' the plans an' specifications o' them that knows, an'
quite regardless of expense."

I patted him on the shoulder.

"I wisht," says he, with a regretful wag, "that Tom Callaway could see
ye now. You an' your tooter! If on'y Tom Callaway _could_! I bet ye
'twould perk un up a bit in the place he's to! 'Twould go a long way
towards distractin' his mind," says he, "from the fire an' fumes they
talks so much about in church."

You will be good enough to believe, if you please, that there were
sympathetic tears in my uncle's eyes....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Upon this misguided mission we were gone abroad two years and a
fortnight (deducting one day): and pursuing it we travelled far. And
we came to magnificent cities, and beheld the places and things that
are written of in books, and ate of curious foods, and observed many
sorts of people and singular customs, and fell in with strange
companions, and sojourned in many houses; but from the spectacle of
the world I caught no delight, nor won a lesson, nor gained in
anything, save, it may be, in knowledge of the book of my own heart.
As we went our way in new paths, my mind dwelt continually with
Judith, whom I loved; the vision of her face, wistful and most fair in
the mirage of Twist Tickle, and the illusion of her voice, whispering
from the vacant world, were the realities of these wanderings--the
people and palaces a fantasy. Of this I said nothing to John Cather,
who was himself cast down by some obscure ailment of the spirit, so
that I would not add to his melancholy with my love-sickness, but
rather sought by cheerful behavior to mitigate the circumstances of
his sighs, which I managed not at all. And having journeyed far in
this unhappy wise, we came again to the spacious sea and sky and clean
air of Twist Tickle, where Judith was with my uncle on the neck of
land by the Lost Soul, and the world returned to its familiar guise of
coast and ocean and free winds, and the _Shining Light_, once more
scraped and refitted against the contingencies of my presence, awaited
the ultimate event in the placid waters of Old Wives' Cove....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Judith was grown to womanly age and ways and perfected in every
maidenly attraction. When she came shyly from the shadows of the
house into the glowing sunset and spring weather of our landing, I
stopped, amazed, in the gravelled walk of our garden, because of
the incredible beauty of the maid, now first revealed in bloom,
and because of her modesty, which was yet slyly aglint with coquetry,
and because of the tender gravity of her years, disclosed in the first
poignant search of the soul I had brought back from my long
journeying. I thought, I recall, at the moment of our meeting, that
laboring in a mood of highest exaltation God had of the common
clay fashioned a glory of person unsuspected of the eager, evil world
out of which I had come: I rejoiced, I know, that He had in this
bleak remoteness hidden it from the eyes of the world. I fancied as
she came--'twas all in a flash--that into this rare creation He had
breathed a spirit harmonious with the afflatus of its conception.
And being thus overcome and preoccupied, I left the maid's coy lips
escape me, but kissed her long, slender-fingered hand, which she
withdrew, at once, to give to John Cather, who was most warm and
voluble in greeting. I was by this hurt; but John Cather was
differently affected: it seemed he did not care. He must be off to
the hills, says he, and he must go alone, instantly, at the peril
of his composure, to dwell with his mind, says he, upon the thoughts
that most elevated and gratified him. I watched him off upon the
Whisper Cove road with improper satisfaction, for, thinks I, most
ungenerously, I might now, without the embarrassment of his presence,
which she had hitherto rejected, possess Judith's lips; but the
maid was shy and perverse, and would have none of it, apprising me
sweetly of her determination.

By this I was again offended.

"Judy," says my uncle, when we were within, "fetch the bottle. Fetch
the bottle, maid!" cries he; "for 'tis surely an occasion."

Judith went to the pantry.

"Dannie," my uncle inquired, leaning eagerly close when she was gone
from the room, "is ye been good?"

'Twas a question put in anxious doubt: I hesitated--wondering whether
or not I had been good.

"Isn't ye?" says he. "Ye'll tell _me_, won't ye? I'll love ye none the
less for the evil ye've done."

Still I could not answer.

"I've been wantin' t' know," says he, his three-fingered fist softly
beating the table, shaking in an intense agitation of suspense. "I've
been waitin' an' waitin' for months--jus' t' hear ye say!"

I was conscious of no evil accomplished.

"Ye've a eye, Dannie!" says he.

I exposed my soul.

"That's good," says he, emphatically; "that's very good. I 'low I've
fetched ye up very well."

Judith came with the bottle and little brown jug: she had displaced me
from this occupation.

"O' course," says my uncle, in somewhat doubtful and ungenerous
invitation, "ye'll be havin' a little darn ol' rum with a ol'
shipmate. Ye've doubtless learned manners abroad," says he.

'Twas a delight to hear the fond fellow tempt me against his will: I
smiled.

"Jus' a little darn, Dannie," he repeated, but in no convivial way.
"Jus' a little nip--with a ol' shipmate?"

I laughed most heartily to see Judith's sisterly concern for me.

"A wee drop?" my uncle insisted, more confidently.

"I'm not used to it, sir," says I.

"That's good," he declared; "that's very good. Give the devil his due,
Dannie: I've fetched ye up very well."

'Twas with delight he challenged a disputation....

                  *       *       *       *       *

After this ceremony I sat with Judith on the peak of the Lost Soul. My
uncle paced the gravelled walk, in the gathering dusk below, whence,
by an ancient courtesy, he might benignantly spy upon the love-making.
We were definite against the lingering twilight: I smiled to catch the
old man pausing in the path with legs spread wide and glowing face
upturned. But I had no smile for the maid, poor child! nor any word to
say, save only to express a tenderness it seemed she would not hear.
'Twas very still in the world: there was no wind stirring, no ripple
upon the darkening water, no step on the roads, no creak of oar-withe,
no call or cry or laugh of humankind, no echo anywhere; and the sunset
clouds trooped up from the rim of the sea with ominous stealth,
throwing off their garments of light as they came, advancing, grim and
gray, upon the shadowy coast. Across the droch, lifted high above the
maid and me, his slender figure black against the pale-green sky,
stood John Cather on the brink of Tom Tulk's cliff, with arms extended
in some ecstasy to the smouldering western fire. A star twinkled
serenely in the depths of space beyond, seeming, in the mystery of
that time, to be set above his forehead; and I was pleased to fancy, I
recall, that 'twas a symbol and omen of his nobility. Thus the maid
and I: thus we four folk, who played the simple comedy--unknowing,
every one, in the departing twilight of that day.

I reproached the maid. "Judith," says I, "you've little enough, it
seems, to say to me."

"There is nothing," she murmured, "for a maid to say."

"There is much," I chided, "for a man to hear."

"Never a word, Dannie, lad," she repeated, "that a maid may tell."

I turned away.

"There is a word," says she, her voice fallen low and very sweet, soft
as the evening light about us, "that a lad might speak."

"And what's that, Judith?"

"'Tis a riddle," she answered; "and I fear, poor child!" says she,
compassionately, "that you'll find it hard to rede."

'Twas unkind, I thought, to play with me.

"Ah, Dannie, child!" she sighed, a bit wounded and rebuffed, it seems
to me now, for she smiled in a way more sad and tenderly reproachful
than anything, as she looked away, in a muse, to the fading colors in
the west. "Ah, Dannie," she repeated, her face grown grave and
wistful, "you've come back the same as you went away. Ye've come
back," says she, with a brief little chuckle of gratification, "jus'
the same!"

I thrust out my foot: she would not look at it.

"The self-same Dannie," says she, her eyes steadfastly averted.

"I've _not_!" I cried, indignantly. That the maid should so flout my
new, proud walk! 'Twas a bitter reward: I remembered the long agony I
had suffered to please her. "I've _not_ come back the same," says I.
"I've come back changed. Have you not seen my foot?" I demanded.
"Look, maid!" I beat the rock in a passion with that new foot of
mine--straight and sound and capable for labor as the feet of other
men. It had all been done for her--all borne to win the love I had
thought withheld, or stopped from fullest giving, because of this
miserable deformity. A maid is a maid, I had known--won as maids are
won. "Look at it!" cries I. "Is it the same as it was? Is it crooked
any more? Is it the foot of a man or a cripple?" She would not look:
but smiled into my eyes--with a mist of tears gathering within her
own. "No," I complained; "you will not look. You would not look when I
walked up the path. I wanted you to look; but you would not. You would
not look when I put my foot on the table before your very eyes. My
uncle looked, and praised me; but you would not look." 'Twas a frenzy
of indignation I had worked myself into by this time. I could not see,
any more, the silent glow of sunset color, the brooding shadows, the
rising masses of cloud, darkening as they came: I have, indeed,
forgotten, and strangely so, the appearance of sea and sky at that
moment. "You would not look," I accused the maid, "when I leaped the
brook. I leaped the brook as other men may leap it; but you would not
look. You would not look when I climbed the hill. Who helped you up
the Lost Soul turn? Was it I? Never before did I do it. All my life I
have crawled that path. Was it the club-footed young whelp who helped
you?" I demanded. "Was it that crawling, staggering, limping travesty
of the strength of men? But you do not care," I complained. "You do
not care about my foot at all! Oh, Judith," I wailed, in uttermost
agony, "you do not care!"

I knew, then, looking far away into the sea and cloud of the world,
that the night was near.

"No," says she.

"Judith!" I implored. "Judith ... Judith!"

"No," says she, "I cannot care."

"Just _say_ you do," I pleaded, "to save me pain."

"I will not tell you otherwise."

I was near enough to feel her tremble--to see her red lips draw away,
in stern conviction, from her white little teeth.

"You do not care?" I asked her.

"I do not care."

'Twas a shock to hear the words repeated. "Not care!" I cried out.

"I do not care," says she, turning, all at once, from the sullen
crimson of the sky, to reproach me. "Why should I care?" she demanded.
"I have never cared--never cared--about your foot!"

I should have adored her for this: but did not know enough.

"Come!" says she, rising; "there is no sunset now. 'Tis all over with.
The clouds have lost their glory. There is nothing to see. Oh, Dannie,
lad," says she--"Dannie, boy, there is nothing here to see! We must
go home."

I was cast down.

"No glory in the world!" says she.

"No light," I sighed; "no light, at all, Judith, in this gloomy
place."

And we went home....

                  *       *       *       *       *

For twelve days after that, while the skirt of winter still trailed
the world, the days being drear and gray, with ice at sea and cold
rain falling upon the hills, John Cather kept watch on Judith and me.
'Twas a close and anxiously keen surveillance. 'Twas, indeed,
unremitting and most daring, by night and day: 'twas a staring and
peering and sly spying, 'twas a lurking, 'twas a shy, not unfriendly,
eavesdropping, an observation without enmity or selfish purpose,
ceasing not at all, however, upon either, and most poignant when the
maid and I were left together, alone, as the wretched man must have
known, in the field of sudden junctures of feeling. I remember his
eyes--dark eyes, inquiring in a kindly way--staring from the alders of
the Whisper Cove road, from the dripping hills, from the shadowy
places of our house: forever in anxious question upon us. By this I
was troubled, until, presently, I divined the cause: the man was
disquieted, thinks I, to observe my happiness gone awry, but would not
intrude even so much as a finger upon the tangle of the lives of the
maid and me, because of the delicacy of his nature and breeding. 'Twas
apparent, too, that he was ill: he would go white and red without
cause, and did mope or overflow with a feverish jollity, and would
improperly overfeed at table or starve his emaciating body. But after
a time, when he had watched us narrowly to his heart's content, he
recovered his health and amiability, and was the same as he had been.
Judith and I were then cold and distant in behavior with each other,
but unfailing in politeness: 'twas now a settled attitude, preserved
by each towards the other, and betraying no feeling of any sort
whatever.

"John Cather," says I, "you've been ill."

He laughed. "You are a dull fellow!" says he, in his light way. "'Tis
the penalty of honesty, I suppose; and nature has fined you heavily. I
have not been ill: I have been troubled."

"By what, John Cather?"

"I fancied," he answered, putting his hands on my shoulders, very
gravely regarding me as he spoke, "that I must sacrifice my hope.
'Twas a hope I had long cherished, Dannie, and was become like life to
me." His voice was fallen deep and vibrant and soft; and the feeling
with which it trembled, and the light in the man's eyes, and the noble
poise of his head, and the dramatic arrangement of his sentences, so
affected me that I must look away. "Miserable necessity!" says he. "A
drear prospect! And with no more than a sigh to ease the wretched
fate! And yet," says he, quite heartily, "the thing had a pretty look
to it. Really, a beautiful look. There was a fine reward. A good deed
carries it. Always remember that, Dannie--and remember that I told
you. There was a fine reward. No encouragement of applause,
Dannie--just a long sigh in secret: then a grim age of self-command.
By jove! but there was a splendid compensation. A compensation within
myself, I mean--a recollection of at least one heroically unselfish
act. There would have been pain, of course; but I should never have
forgotten that I had played a man's part--better than a man's part: a
hero's part, a god's part. And that might have been sufficiently
comforting: I do not know--perhaps. I'll tell you about it, Dannie:
the thing was to have been done," he explained, in sincere emotion,
every false appearance gone from him, "for whom, do you think?"

I did not know.

"For a friend," says he.

"But John Cather," says I, "'twas too much to require of you."

His eyes twinkled.

"You've no trouble now, have you?" I asked.

"Not I!" cries he. "I have read a new fortune for myself. Trouble? Not
I! I am very happy, Dannie."

"That's good," says I; "that's very good!"



XXIII

THE TIDE-RIP


Next day 'twas queer weather. 'Twas weather unaccountable, weather
most mysteriously bent, weather that laughed at our bewilderment, as
though 'twere sure of wreaking its own will against us by some trick
recently devised. Never before had I known a time so subtly,
viciously, confidently to withhold its omens. Queer weather, indeed!
here, in early spring, with drift-ice still coming in vast floes from
the north, queer weather to draw the sweat from us, while a midsummer
blue loom of the main-land hung high and fantastically shaped in the
thick air. Breathless, ominously colored weather! Why, the like, for
stillness and beggarly expression of intention, had never been known
to Twist Tickle: they talked with indignation of it on Eli Flack's
stage; 'twas a day that bred wrecks, said they. Ay, and 'twas an
outrage upon the poor fishermen of that coast: what was a man to do,
said they--what was he to do with his salmon-gear and cod-traps--in
this evil, wilful departure from traditional procedure? And what did
the weather mean? would it blow wet or dry? would it come with snow?
would the wind jump off shore or from the northeast? and how long, in
the name o' Heaven, would the weather sulk in distance before breaking
in honest wrath upon the coast? 'Twas enough, said they, to make a man
quit the grounds; 'twas enough, with _this_ sort o' thing keepin' up,
t' make a man turn carpenter or go t' Sydney!

All this I heard in passing.

"Ah, well, lads," says my uncle, "ye'll find winter skulkin' jus' over
the horizon. An' he'll be down," he added, confidently, "within a day
or two."

I led John Cather to the brink of Tom Tulk's cliff, where, in the
smoky sunshine, I might talk in secret with him. 'Twas in my mind to
confide my perplexity and miserable condition of heart, without
reserve of feeling or mitigation of culpable behavior, and to lean
upon his wisdom and tactful arts for guidance into some happier
arrangement with the maid I loved. It seemed to me, I recall, as I
climbed the last slope, that I had been, all my life, an impassive
lover, as concerned the welfare of the maid: that I had been
ill-tempered and unkind, marvellously quick to find offence, justified
in this cruel and stupid conduct by no admirable quality or grace or
achievement--a lad demanding all for nothing. I paused, I recall, at
the cairn, to sigh, overcome and appalled by this revelation; and
thereupon I felt such a rush of strenuous intention in my own
behalf--a determination to strive and scheme--that I had scarce breath
to reach the edge of the cliff, and could not, for the life of me,
begin to narrate my desperate state to John Cather. But John Cather
was not troubled by my silence: he was sprawled on the thick moss of
the cliff, his head propped in his hands, smiling, like the alien he
was, upon the ice at sea and the untimely blue loom of the main-land
and the vaguely threatening color of the sky. I could not begin,
wishful as I might be for his wise counsel: but must lie, like a
corpse, beyond all feeling, contemplating that same uneasy prospect. I
wished, I recall, that I might utter my errand with him, and to this
day wish that I had been able: but then could not, being overwhelmed
by this new and convincing vision of all my communion with the maid.

"By Jove!" John Cather ejaculated.

"What is it?" cries I.

"I must tell you," says he, rising to his elbow. "I can keep it no
longer."

I waited.

"I'm in love," he declared. "Dannie," cries he, "I--I'm--_in love_!"

And now a peculiar change came upon the world, of which I must tell:
whatever there had been of omen or beauty or curious departure from
the natural appearance of sea and sky--whatever of interest or moment
upon the brooding shore or abroad on the uttermost waters beyond
it--quite vanished from my cognizance. 'Twas a drear day and place I
dwelt in, a very dull world, not enlivened by peril or desirable
object or the difficulty of toil, not excused or in any way made
tolerable by a prospect of sacrificial employment. I had been ill
brought up to meet this racking emergency. What had there been, in all
my life, fostered in body and happiness, expanding in the indulgent
love and pitiably misdirected purpose of my uncle, to fit me for this
denial of pure and confident desire? I tried, God knows I tried!
summoning to my help all the poor measure of nobility the good Lord
had endowed me with and my uncle had cultivated--I tried, God knows!
to receive the communication with some wish for my friend's
advancement in happiness. In love: 'twas with Judith--there was no
other maid of Twist Tickle to be loved by this handsome, learned,
brilliantly engaging John Cather. Nay, but 'twas all plain to me now:
my deformity and perversity--my ridiculously assured aspiration
towards the maid. I had forgot John Cather--the youth and person of
him, his talents and winning accomplishments of speech and manner.

"And there she comes!" cries he.

'Twas Judith on the Whisper Cove road.

"You'll wish me luck, Dannie?" says he, rising. "I'll catch her on the
way. I'll tell her that I love her. I can wait no longer. Wish me
luck!" says he. "Wish me luck!"

I took his hand.

"Wish me luck!" he repeated.

"I wish you luck," says I.

"Thanks," says he: and was off.

I lied in this way because I would not have Judith know that I grieved
for her, lest she suffer, in days to come, for my disappointment....

                  *       *       *       *       *

I was faint and very thirsty, I recall: I wished that I might drink
from a brook of snow-water. 'Twas Calling Brook I visualized, which
flows from the melting ice of cold, dark crevices, musically falling,
beneath a canopy of springing leaves, to the waters of Sister Bight. I
wished to drink from Calling Brook, and to lie down, here alone and
high above the sea, and to sleep, without dreaming, for a long, long
time. I lay me down on the gray moss. I did not think of Judith and
John Cather. I had forgotten them: I was numb to the passion and
affairs of life. I suffered no agony of any sort; 'twas as though I
had newly emerged from unconsciousness--the survivor of some natural
catastrophe, fallen by act of God, conveying no blame to me--a
survivor upon whom there still lingered a beneficent stupor of body.
Presently I discovered myself in a new world, with which, thinks I,
brisking up, I must become familiar, having no unmanly regret, but a
courageous heart to fare through the maze of it; and like a curious
child I peered about upon this strange habitation. Near by there was a
gray, weathered stone in the moss: I reached to possess it--and was
amazed to find that my hand neither overshot nor fell short, but
accurately performed its service. I cast the stone towards heaven:
'twas a surprise to see it fall earthward in obedience to some law I
could not in my daze define--some law I had with impatient labor,
long, long ago, made sure I understood and would remember. I looked
away to sea, stared into the sky, surveyed the hills: 'twas the
self-same world I had known, constituted of the same materials,
cohering in the self-same way, obedient to the self-same laws,
fashioned and adorned the same as it had been. 'Twas the self-same
world of sea and sky and rock, wherein I had so long dwelt--a world
familiar to my feet and eyes and heart's experience: a world of
tree-clad, greening hills, of known paths, of children's shouting and
the chirp and song of spring-time. But there had come a change upon
its spirit: nay! thinks I, quite proud of the conceit, its spirit had
departed--the thing had died to me, and was become without meaning, an
inimical mystery. Then I felt the nerves of my soul tingle with
awakening: then I suffered very much.

And evening came....

                  *       *       *       *       *

By-and-by, having heartened myself with courageous plans, I stepped
out, with the feet of a man, upon the Whisper Cove road. I had it in
mind to enjoy with Judith and John Cather the tender disclosure of
their love. I would kiss Judith, by Heaven! thinks I: I would kiss her
smile and blushes, whatever she thought of the deed; and I would wring
John Cather's fragile right hand until his teeth uncovered and he
groaned for mercy. 'Twas fearsome weather, then, so that, overwrought
in the spirit as I was, I did not fail to feel the oppression of it
and the instinctive alarm it aroused. 'Twas very still and heavy and
sullen and uneasy, 'twas pregnant of fears, like a moment of suspense:
I started when an alder branch or reaching spruce limb struck me. In
this bewildering weather there were no lovers on the road; the
valleys, the shadowy nooks, the secluded reaches of path, lay vacant
in the melancholy dusk. 'Twas not until I came to the last hill,
whence the road tumbled down to a cluster of impoverished cottages,
listlessly clinging to the barren rock of Whisper Cove, that I found
Judith. John Cather was not about: the maid was with Aunt Esther All,
the gossip, and was now so strangely agitated that I stopped in sheer
amazement. That the child should be abject and agonized before the
grim, cynical tattler of Whisper Cove! That she should gesticulate in
a way so passionate! That she should fling her arms wide, that she
should cover her face with her hands, that she should in some grievous
disturbance beat upon her heart! I could not make it out. 'Twas a
queer way, thinks I, to express the rapture of her fortune; and no
suspicion enlightened me, because, I think, of the paralysis of
despair upon my faculties.

I approached.

"Go 'way!" she cried.

I would not go away: 'twas Aunt Esther, the gossip, that went, and in
a rout--with a frightened backward glance.

"Go 'way!" Judith pleaded. "I'm not able to bear it, Dannie. Oh, go
back!"

'Twas an unworthy whim, and I knew it to be so, whatever the vagaries
of maids may be, however natural and to be indulged, at these crises
of emotion. She had sent John Cather away, it seemed, that she might
be for a space alone, in the way of maids at such times, as I had been
informed; and she would now deny to me the reflection of her
happiness.

"'Tis unkind," I chided, "not to share this thing with me."

She started: I recall that her eyes were round and troubled with
incomprehension.

"I've come to tell you, Judith," says I, "that I do not care."

'Twas a brave lie: I am proud of it.

"'Tis kind," she whispered.

We were alone. 'Twas dusk: 'twas dusk, to be sure, of a disquieting
day, with the sky most confidently foreboding some new and surprising
tactics in the ancient warfare of the wind against us; but Judith and
I, being young and engaged with the passion of our years, had no
consciousness of the signs and wonders of the weather. The weather
concerns the old, the satisfied and disillusioned of life, the folk
from whom the romance of being has departed. What care had we for the
weather? 'Twas dusk, and we were alone at the turn of the road--a
broad, rocky twist in the path, not without the softness of grass,
where lovers had kissed in parting since fishing was begun from Twist
Tickle and Whisper Cove. By the falling shades and a screen of young
leaves we were hid from the prying eyes of Whisper Cove. 'Twas from
me, then, that the maid withdrew into a deeper shadow, as though,
indeed, 'twas not fit that we should be together. I was hurt: but
fancied, being stupid and self-centred, that 'twas a pang of isolation
to which I must grow used.

"Why, Judy," says I, "don't, for pity's sake, do that! Why, maid," I
protested, "I don't care. I'm glad--I'm just _glad_!"

"Glad!" she faltered, staring.

"To be sure I'm glad," I cried.

She came close to me.

"I don't care," says I.

"You do not care!" she muttered, looking away. "You do not care!" she
repeated, in a voice that was the faintest, most drear echo of my
own.

"Not I!" I answered, stoutly. "Not a whit!"

She began to cry.

"Look up!" I besought her. "I do not care," I declared again, seeking
in this way to ease her pity of me. "I do _not_ care!"

'Twas a strange thing that happened then: first she kissed the cuff of
my coat, in the extravagant way of a maid, and then all at once
clapped her hands over her eyes, as though to conceal some guilt from
a righteous person. I perceived this: I felt the shame she wished to
hide, and for a moment wondered what that shame might be, but forgot,
since the eyes were mine neither to have read nor to admire, but John
Cather's. And what righteousness had I? None at all that she should
stand ashamed before me. But there she stood, with her blue eyes
hid--a maid in shame. I put my finger under her chin and tried to
raise her face, but could not; nor could I with any gentleness
withdraw her hands. She was crying: I wondered why. I stooped to peer
between her fingers, but could see only tears and the hot color of her
flushes. I could not fathom why she cried, except in excess of
happiness or in adorable pity of me. The wind rose, I recall, as I
puzzled; 'twas blowing through the gloaming in a soothing breeze from
the west, as though to put the fears of us to sleep. A gentle gust,
descending to our sheltered place, rustled the leaves and played with
the maid's tawny hair; and upon this she looked up--and stepped into
the open path, where, while her tears dried and her drooping
helplessness vanished, she looked about the sky, and felt of the wind,
to discover its direction and promise of strength. 'Twas a thing of
tragical significance, as it seems to me now, looking back from the
quiet mood in which I dwell; but then, having concern only to mitigate
the maid's hysteria, following upon the stress of emotion I conceived
she had undergone, this anxious survey of the weather had no meaning.
I watched her: I lingered upon her beauty, softened, perfected,
enhanced in spiritual quality by the brush of the dusk; and I could no
longer wish John Cather joy, but knew that I must persist in the
knightly endeavor.

"The wind's from the west," says she. "A free wind."

"For Topmast Harbor," says I; "but a mean breeze for folk bound
elsewhere."

"A free wind for Topmast Harbor," she repeated.

"No matter," says I.

"'Tis a great thing," she replied, "for them that are bound to Topmast
Harbor."

'Twas reproachfully spoken.

"You'll be going home now, maid," I entreated. "You'll leave me walk
with you, will you not?"

She looked down in a troubled muse.

"You'll leave me follow, then," says I, "to see that you've no fear of
the dark. 'Twill be dark soon, Judith, and I'm not wanting you to be
afraid."

"Come!" cries she. "I _will_ walk with you--home!"

She took my hand, and entwined her long fingers with mine, in the
intimate, confiding way she was used to doing when we were a lad and a
maid on the dark roads. Many a time, when we were lad and maid, had
Judith walked forward, and I backward, to provide against surprise by
the shapes of night; and many a dark time had she clutched my hand,
nearing the lights of Twist Tickle, to make sure that no harm would
befall her. And now, in this childish way, she held me; and she walked
with me twenty paces on the path to Twist Tickle, whereupon she
stopped, and led me back to that same nook of the road, and doggedly
released me, and put an opposing hand on my breast.

"Do you bide here," says she; "and when I call, do you go home."

"An you wish it," I answered.

'Twas not more than twenty paces she walked towards the impoverished
cottages of Whisper Cove: then turned, and came again to me. I
wondered why she stood in this agony of indecision: but could not
tell, nor can be blamed for the mystification, relentlessly as I blame
myself.

"Dannie," she moaned, looking up, "I can go nowhere!"

"You may go home, maid," says I. "'Tis a queer thing if you may not go
home."

"'Tis an unkind thing."

"Come!" I pleaded. "'Twill so very soon be dark on the road; and I'm
not wantin' you t' wander in the dark."

"I cannot," says she. "I just cannot!"

"Judith," I chided, "you may. 'Tis an unseemly thing in you to say."

"But I cannot bear it, Dannie!"

"I would cry shame upon you, Judith," I scolded, "were _I_ not so
careful of your feelings."

She seemed now to command herself with a resolution of which tender
maids like Judith should not be capable: 'tis too lusty and harsh a
thing. I stood in awe of it. "Dannie," says she, "do you go home. I'll
follow an I can. And if I do not come afore long, do you tell un to
think that I spend the night with the wife of Moses Shoos. You may
kiss me, Dannie, lad," says she, "an you cares t' do it."

I did care: but dared not.

"I'm wishin' for it," says she.

"But," I protested, "is you sure 'tis right?"

"'Tis quite right," she answered. "God understands."

"I'd be glad," says I.

"You may kiss me, then."

I kissed her. 'Tis a thing I regret: 'twas a kiss so lacking in
earnest protraction--so without warmth and vigor. 'Twas the merest
brushing of her cheek. I wish I had kissed her, like a man, in the
fulness of desire I felt; but I was bound, in the last light of that
day, to John Cather, in knightly honor.

"'Twas very nice," says she. "I wisht you'd do it again."

I did.

"Thank you, Dannie," she whispered.

"Judith!" I cried. "Judith! For shame, to thank me!"

"And now," says she, "you'll be off on the road. You'll make haste,
will you not? And you'll think, will you not, that I spend the night
with Mrs. Shoos? You'll not fret, Dannie: I'd grieve to think that you
fretted. I'd not have you, for all the world, trouble about me. Not
you," she repeated, her voice falling. "Not you, Dannie--dear. You'll
be off, now," she urged, "for 'tis long past time for tea. And you'll
tell un all, will you not, that I talked o' spendin' the night with
Mrs. Moses Shoos at Whisper Cove?"

"An you wish it, Judith."

"Good-night!"

I pressed away....

                  *       *       *       *       *

When I came to our house on the neck of land by the Lost Soul, I
turned at the threshold to survey the weather. I might have saved
myself the pains and puzzle of that regard. The print of sea and sky
was foreign: I could make nothing of it. 'Twas a quiet sea, breaking,
in crooning lullaby, upon the rocks below my bedroom window. It
portended no disturbance: I might sleep, thinks I, with the soft
whispering to lull me, being willing for the magic shoes of sleep to
take me far away from this agony as never man was before. The wind
was blowing from the west: but not in gusts--a sailing breeze for the
timid. I was glad that there was no venomous intention in the wind:
'twas a mild and dependable wind, grateful to such as fared easterly
in the night. I wished that all men might fare that way, in the
favoring breeze, but knew well enough that the purposes of men are
contrary, the one to the other, making fair winds of foul, and foul of
fair, so that there was no telling, of any event, whatever the
apparent nature of it, whether sinister or benign, the preponderance
of woe or happiness issuing from it. Over all a tender sky, spread
with soft stretches of cloud, and set, in its uttermost depths, with
stars. 'Twas dark enough now for the stars to shine, making the most
of the moon's absence, which soon would rise. Star upon star: a
multitude of serenely companionable lights, so twinkling and knowing,
so slyly sure of the ultimate resolution of all the doubts and pains
and perplexities of the sons of men! But still there was abroad an
oppression: a forewarning, in untimely heat and strain, of disastrous
weather. 'Twas that I felt when I turned from the contemplation of the
stars to go within, that I might without improper delay inform our
maid-servant of Judith's intention.

Then I joined my uncle....



XXIV

JOHN CATHER'S FATE


'Twas with a start that I realized the lateness of the hour. Time for
liquor! 'Twas hard to believe. My uncle sat with his bottle and glass
and little brown jug. The glass was empty and innocent of dregs; the
stopper was still tight in the bottle, the jug brimming with clear
water from our spring. He had himself fetched them from the pantry, it
seemed, and was now awaiting, with genial patience, the arrival of
company to give an air of conviviality to the evening's indulgence. I
caught him in a smiling muse, his eye on the tip of his wooden leg; he
was sailed, it seemed, to a clime of feeling far off from the stress
out of which I had come. There was no question: I was not interrogated
upon the lapse of the crew, as he called John Cather and Judy and me,
from the politeness of attendance at dinner, which, indeed, he seemed
to have forgotten in a train of agreeable recollections. He was in a
humor as serene and cheerfully voluble as ever I met with in my life;
and when he had bade me join him at the table to pour his first dram,
he fell to on the narrative of some adventure, humorously occurring,
off the Funks, long, long ago, in the days of his boyhood. I did not
attend, nor did I pour the dram: being for the time deeply occupied
with reflections upon the square, black bottle on the table before
me--the cure of moods my uncle had ever maintained it would work.

I got up resolved.

"Where you goin', Dannie?" says my uncle, his voice all at once vacant
of cheerfulness.

"To the pantry, sir," I answered.

"Ah!" says he. "Is it ginger-ale, Dannie?"

"No, sir."

"That's good," says he, blankly; "that's very good. For Judy," he
added, "is fell into the habit o' tipplin' by day, an' the ginger-ale
is all runned out."

I persevered on my way to the pantry.

"Dannie!" he called.

I turned.

"Is you quite sure, lad," he asked, with an anxious rubbing of his
stubble of gray beard, "that 'tisn't ginger-ale?"

"I'm wanting a glass, sir," I replied, testily. "I see but one on the
table."

"Ah!" he ejaculated. "A glass!"

I returned with the glass.

"Dannie," says my uncle, feigning a relief he dared not entertain,
"you was wantin' a drop o' water, wasn't you?" He pushed the little
brown jug towards me. "I _'lowed_ 'twas water," says he, hopefully,
"when you up an' spoke about gettin' a glass from the pantry." He
urged the jug in my direction. "Ay," he repeated, not hopefully now
at all, but in a whisper more like despair, "I jus' _'lowed_ 'twas a
drop o' water."

The jug remained in its place.

"Dannie," he entreated, with a thick forefinger still urging the jug
on its course, "you is thirsty, I _knows_ you is!"

I would not touch the jug.

"You been havin' any trouble, shipmate?" he gently asked.

"Yes, sir," I groaned. "Trouble, God knows!"

"Along o' Judy?"

'Twas along o' Judy.

"A drop o' water," says he, setting the glass almost within my hand,
"will do you good."

'Twas so anxiously spoken that my courage failed me. I splashed water
into the glass and swallowed it.

"That's good," says he; "that's very good."

I pushed the glass away with contempt for its virtue of comfort; and I
laughed, I think, in a disagreeable way, so that the old man, unused
to manifestations as harsh and irreligious as this, started in
dismay.

"Good," he echoed, staring, unconvinced and without hope; "that's very
good."

And now, a miserable determination returning, I fixed my eyes
again on the square, black bottle of rum. 'Twas a thing that fairly
fascinated my attention. The cure of despair was legendary, the
palatable quality a thing of mere surmise: I had never experienced
either; but in my childhood I had watched my uncle's fearsome moods
vanish, as he downed his drams, one by one, giving way to a grateful
geniality, which sent my own bogies scurrying off, and I had
fancied, from the smack of his lips, and from the eager lifting of
the glasses at the Anchor and Chain, the St. John's tap-room we
frequented, that a drop o' rum was a thing to delight the dry tongue
and gullet of every son of man. My uncle sat under the lamp: I
remember his countenance, aside from the monstrous scars and
disfigurements which the sea had dealt him--its anxious regard of
me, its intense concern, its gathering purpose, the last of which I
did not read at that moment, but now recall and understand. 'Twas
quiet and orderly in the room: the geometrical gentlemen were
there riding the geometrically tempestuous sea in a frame beyond my
uncle's gargoylish head, and the tidied rocking-chair, which I was
used to addressing as a belted knight o' the realm, austerely abode
in a shadow. I was in some saving way, as often happens in our lives,
conscious of these familiar things, to which we return and cling in
the accidents befalling us and in the emergencies of feeling we must
all survive. The room was as our maid-servant had left it, bright
and warm and orderly: there was as yet no disarrangement by the
conviviality we were used to. 'Tis not at all my wish to trouble you
with the despair I suffered that night, with Judith gone from me: I
would not utter it--'twas too deep and unusual and tragical to
disturb a world with. But still I stared at that square, black bottle
of rum, believing, as faith may be, in the surcease it contained.

I watched that bottle.

"Dannie," says my uncle, with a wish, no doubt, for a diversion, "is
the moon up?"

I walked to the window. "'Tis up," I reported; "but 'tis hid by
clouds, an' the wind's rising."

"The wind rising?" says he. "'Twill do us no harm."

Of course, my uncle did not know which of us was at sea.

"The wind," he repeated, "will do no harm."

I sat down again: and presently got my glass before me, and reached
for the square, black bottle of rum. I could stand it no longer: I
could really stand it no longer--the pain of this denial of my love
was too much for any man to bear.

"I'll have a drop," says I, "for comfort."

My uncle's hand anticipated me.

"Ah!" says he. "For comfort, is it?"

Unhappily, he had the bottle in his hand. 'Twas quite beyond my
reach--done with any courtesy. I must wait for him to set it down
again. The jug was close enough, the glass, too; but the bottle was
in watchful custody. My uncle shook the bottle, and held it to the
lamp; he gauged its contents: 'twas still stout--he sighed. And now he
set it on the table, with his great, three-fingered hand about the
neck of it, so that all hope of possession departed from me: 'twas
a clutch too close and meaning to leave me room for hope. I heard
the wind, rising to a blow, but had no fret on that account: there
was none of us at sea, thank God! we were all ashore, with no care
for what the wind might do. I observed that my uncle was wrought up
to a pitch of concern to which he was not used. He had gone pale, who
was used, in exaltation of feeling, to go crimson and blue in the
scars of him; but he had now gone quite white and coldly sweaty, in a
ghastly way, with the black bottle held up before him, his wide
little eyes upon it. I had never before known him to be in fact
afraid; but he was now afraid, and I was persuaded of it, by his
pallor, by his trembling hand, by the white and stare of his eyes, by
the drooping lines of his poor, disfigured face. He turned from the
bottle to look at me; but I could not withstand the poignancy of
his regard: I looked away--feeling some shame, for which I could not
account to myself. And then he sighed, and clapped the black
bottle on the table, with a thump that startled me; and he looked
towards me with a resolution undaunted and determined. I shall never
forget, indeed, the expression he wore: 'twas one of perfect
knightliness--as high and pure and courageous as men might wear,
even in those ancient times when honorable endeavor (by the tales
of John Cather) was a reward sufficient to itself.

I shall never forget: I could not forget.

"Dannie," says he, listlessly, "'tis wonderful warm in here. Cast up
the window, lad."

'Twas not warm. There was no fire; and the weather had changed, and
the wind came in at the open door, running in cold draughts about the
house. 'Twas warm with the light of the lamp, to be sure; 'twas cosey
and grateful in the room: but the entering swirl of wind was cold, and
the emotional situation was such in bleakness and mystery as to make
me shiver.

I opened the window.

"That's good," he sighed. "How's the tide?"

"'Tis the ebb, sir."

"Could ye manage t' see Digger Rock?" he inquired.

The moon, breaking out, disclosed it: 'twas a rock near by, submerged
save at low-tide--I could see it.

"Very good," says he. "Could ye hit it?"

"I've nothing to shy, sir."

"But an you had?" he insisted.

My tutor entered the hall. I heard him go past the door. 'Twas in a
quick, agitated step, not pausing to regard us, but continuing up the
stair to his own room. I wondered why that was.

"Eh, Dannie?" says my uncle.

"I might, sir," I answered.

"Then," says he, "try it with this bottle!"

I cast the bottle.

"That's good," says he. "Ye're a wonderful shot, Dannie. I heared un
go t' smash. That's good; that's _very_ good!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

We sat, my uncle and I, for an hour after that, I fancy, without
managing an exchange: I would address him, but he would not hear,
being sunk most despondently in his great chair by the empty, black
grate, with his eyes fixed in woe-begone musing upon the toes of his
ailing timber; and he would from time to time insinuate an irrelevant
word concerning the fishing, and, with complaint, the bewildering rise
and fall of the price of fish, but the venture upon conversation was
too far removed from the feeling of the moment to engage a reply.
Presently, however, I commanded myself sufficiently to observe him
with an understanding detached from my own bitterness; and I perceived
that he sat hopeless and in fear, as in the days when I was seven,
with his head fallen upon his breast and his eyes grown tragical,
afraid, but now in raw kind and infinite measure, of the coming of
night upon the world he sailed by day. I heard nothing from my
tutor--no creak of the floor, no step, no periodical creaking of his
rocking-chair. He had not, then, thinks I, cast off his clothes; he
had not gone to reading for holy orders, as was, at intervals, his
custom--he had thrown himself on his bed. But I neither cared nor
wondered: I caught sight of my uncle's face again--half amazed, wholly
despondent, but yet with a little glint of incredulous delight
playing, in brief flashes, upon it--and I could think of nothing else,
not even of Judith, in her agony of mysterious shame upon the Whisper
Cove road, nor of her disquieting absence from the house, nor of the
rising wind, nor of the drear world I must courageously face when I
should awake from that night's sleep.

I considered my uncle.

"Do ye go t' bed, Dannie," says he, looking up at last. "Ye've trouble
enough."

I rose, but did not wish to leave him comfortless in the rising wind.
I had rather sit with him, since he needed me now, it seemed, more
than ever before.

"Ye'll not trouble about me, lad?"

I would not be troubled.

"That's good," says he. "No need o' your troublin' about _me_. Ol'
Nick Top's able t' take care o' _his_self! That's very good."

I started away for bed, but turned at the door, as was my custom, to
wish my uncle good-night. I said nothing, for he was in an indubitable
way not to be disturbed--having forgotten me and the affection I
sought at all times to give him. He was fallen dejectedly in his
chair, repeating, "_For behold the Lord will come with fire, and with
his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his
rebuke with the flames of fire._" I paused at the door to watch him,
and I saw that his maimed hand wandered over the table until it found
his glass, and that he caught and raised the glass, and that he set it
down again, and that he pushed the empty thing away.

I saw all that....

                  *       *       *       *       *

And I went to bed; but I did not go to sleep. In the first place, I
could not, and, for better reason, my tutor got astir the moment my
door was closed. I heard his cautious descent to the dining-room. The
man had been waiting to get me out of the way; but I heard him go
down, and that right easily, in the fall of his stockinged feet, and
in the click of his door-latch, and in the creak of the stair. I cast
my clothes off in haste, but lay wide awake in my bed--as who would
not?--listening to the ominous murmur of voices from below. My tutor,
it seemed, was placid and determined; my uncle was outraged. I heard
the old man's voice rise in a rage, fall to a subdued complaint,
patter along in beseeching. It seemed 'twas all to no purpose; my
tutor was obdurate, and my uncle yielded to his demands, however
unwillingly. There was the mutter of agreement, there was the click of
my uncle's strong-box, there was the clink of gold coin. I listened
for the pop of a new cork; but I did not hear it: I heard the jug of
spring water exchange hands--no more than that. 'Twas very queer. But
I was not concerned with it, after all. Let my uncle and John Cather
deal with each other as they would, in any way engaging the clink of
gold from my uncle's strong-box; 'twas for me, unconcerned, to look
out of my window, to discover the weather. And this I did; and I found
the weather threatening--very dark, with the moon hid by clouds, and
blowing up in a way promising a strength of wind not to be disregarded
by folk who would put to sea.

The end of this was that John Cather and my uncle came above. My tutor
went straightway to his room, with steps that hastened past my door;
but my uncle paused, pushed the door cautiously ajar, thrust in his
head.

"Is you asleep, Dannie?" says he.

"No, sir. I'm wonderful wide awake."

"Ah, well!" he whispered, in such a way that I perceived his
triumphant glee, though I could not see his face for the darkness of
my room; "you might as well turn over an' go t' sleep."

"An' why, sir?" I asked.

"Like a babe, Dannie," says he, addressing me with fondness, as though
I were a little child again--"jus' like a babe."

He walked to my window and looked out to sea.

"Dirty weather the morrow, sir," I ventured.

"The lights o' the mail-boat!" he exclaimed. "She've left Fortune
Harbor. Ecod, b'y!"

He withdrew at once and in haste, and I heard him stump off to my
tutor's quarters, where, for a long time after that, there occurred
many and mysterious noises. I could not understand, but presently made
the puzzle out: John Cather was packing up. 'Twas beyond doubt; the
thump and creak, the reckless pulling of drawers, steps taken in
careless hurry and confusion, the agitation of the pressing need of
haste, all betrayed the business in hand. John Cather was packing up:
he was rejected of Judith--he was going away! It hurt me sorely to
think that the man would thus in impulsive haste depart, after these
years of intimate companionship, with a regard so small for my wishes
in the matter. Go to sleep like a babe? I could not go to sleep at
all; I could but lie awake in trouble. John Cather was packing up; he
was going away! My uncle helped him with his trunks down the stairs
and to the stage-head, where, no doubt, my uncle's punt was waiting to
board the belated mail-boat--the mean little trunk John Cather had
come with, and the great leather one I had bought him in London. I
was glad, at any rate, that my gifts--the books and clothes and
what-not I had bought him abroad--were not to be left to haunt me. But
that John Cather should not say good-bye! I could not forgive him
that. I waited and waited, lying awake in the dark, for him to come.
And come he did, when the trunks were carried away and the whistle of
the mail-boat had awakened our harbor. He pushed my door open without
knocking, knowing well enough that I was wide awake. 'Twas then dark
in my room; he could not see me.

"Where are your matches?" says he.

I told him, but did not like the manner of his speech. 'Twas in a way
to rouse the antagonism of any man, being most harsh and hateful.

"I can't find them," he complained.

"You'll find them well enough, John Cather," I chided, "an you looks
with patience."

He had no patience, it seemed, but continued to fumble about, and at
last, with his back turned to me, got my lamp lighted. For a moment he
stood staring at the wall, as though he lacked the resolution to turn.
And when he wheeled I knew that I looked upon the countenance of a man
who had been broken on the wheel; and I was very much afraid. John
Cather was splashed and streaked with the mud of the hills. 'Twas not
this evidence of passionate wandering that alarmed me; 'twas his
pallor and white lips, his agonized brows, the gloomy depth to which
his bloodshot eyes had withdrawn.

"Now," says he, "I want to look at you."

I did not want to be looked at.

"Sit up!" he commanded.

I sat up in bed.

"Put the blanket down," says he. "I have come, I say, to look at
you."

I uncovered to my middle.

"And _this_," says he, "is the body of you, is it?"

The lamp was moved close to my face. John Cather laughed, and began,
in a way I may not set down, to comment upon me. 'Twas not agreeable.
I tried to stop him. 'Twas unkind to me and 'twas most injurious to
himself. He did us vile injustice. I stopped my ears against his
raving, but could not shut it out. "And this is the body of you! This
is the body of you!" Here was not the John Cather who had come to us
clear-eyed and buoyant and kindly out of the great world; here was an
evil John Cather--the John Cather of a new birth at Twist Tickle.
'Twas the man our land and hearts had made him; he had here among us
come to his tragedy and was cast away. I knew that the change had been
worked by love--and I wondered that love could accomplish the wreck of
a soul. I tried to stop his ghastly laughter, to quiet his delirium of
brutality; and presently he was still, but of exhaustion, not of
shame. Again he brought the lamp close to my face, and read it, line
upon line, until it seemed he could bear no longer to peruse it. What
he saw there I do not know--what to give him hope or still to increase
the depth of his hopelessness. He betrayed no feeling; but the memory
of his pale despair continues with me to this day, and will to the end
of my years. Love has never appeared to me in perfect beauty and
gentleness since that night; it can wear an ugly guise, achieve a
sinister purpose, I know.

John Cather set the lamp on the table, moving in a preoccupation from
which I had been cast out.

"John Cather!" I called.

My uncle shouted from below.

"John!" I urged.

"Parson," my uncle roared, "ye'll lose your passage!"

Cather blew out the light.

"John," I pleaded, "you'll not go without saying good-bye?"

He stopped on the threshold; but I did not hear him turn. I called him
again; he wheeled, came stumbling quickly to my bed, caught my hand.

"Forgive me, Dannie!" he groaned. "My heart is broken!"

He ran away: I never saw him again....

                  *       *       *       *       *

And now, indeed, was the world gone all awry! What had in the morning
of that day been a prospect of joy was vanished in a drear mist of
broken hopes. Here was John Cather departed in sore agony, for which
was no cure that ever I heard of or could conceive. Here was John
Cather gone with the wreck of a soul. A cynical, purposeless, brooding
life he must live to his last day: there was no healing in all the
world for his despair. Here with us--to whom, in the years of our
intercourse, he gave nothing but gladness--his ruin had been wrought.
'Twas not by wish of us; but there was small comfort in the
reflection, since John Cather must suffer the same. Here was John
Cather gone; and here, presently, was my uncle, pacing the floor
below. Up and down, up and down: I thought the pat of his wooden leg
would go on forever--would forever, by night and day, express the
restlessness of thirst. And here was Judy, abroad, in trouble I could
not now divine--'twas a thing most strange and disturbing that she
should stand in distress before me. I had accounted for it, but could
not now explain--not with John Cather gone. I was mystified, not
agitated by alarms. I would meet the maid on the Whisper Cove road in
the morning, thinks I, and resolve the puzzle. I would discover more
than that. I would discover whether or not I had blundered. But this
new hope, springing confidently though it did, could not thrive in the
wretchedness of John Cather's departure. I was not happy.

My uncle roughly awoke me at dawn.

"Sir?" I asked.

"Judy," says he, "haves disappeared."

He held me until he perceived that I had commanded myself....



XXV

TO SEA


Judith had vanished! Our maid-servant, astir in the child's behalf
before dawn, in her anxious way, was returned breathless from Whisper
Cove with the report. There was no Judith with the wife of Moses
Shoos: nor had there been that night. 'Twas still but gray abroad--a
drear dawn: promising a belated, sullen day. We awoke the harbor to
search the hills, the ledges of the cliffs, the surf-washed shore.
'Twas my uncle hither, the maid-servant thither, myself beyond.
Clamorous knocking, sudden lights in the cottages, lights pale in the
murky daylight, and a subdued gathering of our kind men-folk: I
remember it all--the winged haste, the fright of them that were
aroused, the shadows and the stumbling of the farther roads, the
sickly, sleepy lights in the windows, the troubled dawn. We dispersed:
day broadened, broke gray and glum upon Twin Islands--but discovered
no lost maid to us.

'Twas whispered about, soon, that the women had spoken evil of Judith
in our harbor; and pursuing this ill-omened rumor, in a rage I could
not command, I came at last upon the shameful truth: the women had
spoken scandal of the maid, the which she had learned from Aunt Esther
All, the Whisper Cove gossip. The misfortune of gentle Parson Stump,
poor man! who had in the ear of Eli Flack's wife uttered a sweetly
jocular word concerning Judith and the honorable intention of John
Cather, who walked with her alone on the roads, about his love-making.
But, unhappily, the parson being absent-minded, 'twas into the dame's
deaf ear he spoke, and his humor became, in transmission, by pure
misfortune, an evil charge.

There was then no help for it, old wives being what they are:
authorized by the gentle parson, depending upon the report of a dame
of character, the tittle-tattle spread and settled like a mist,
defiling Judith to the remotest coves of Twin Islands. And Judith was
vanished! I knew then, in the gray noon of that day, why the child had
cried in that leafy nook of the Whisper Cove road that she could go
nowhere.

I cursed myself.

"Stop, Dannie!" cries my uncle. "She's still on the hills--somewheres
there, waitin' t' be sought out an' comforted an' fetched home."

I thought otherwise.

"She've lied down there," says he, "t' cry an' wait for me an' you."

I watched him pace the garden-path.

"An' I'm not able, the day, for sheer want o' rum," he muttered, "t'
walk the hills."

I looked away to the sombre hills, where she might lie waiting for him
and me; but my glance ran far beyond, to the low, gray sky and to a
patch of darkening sea. And I cursed myself again--my stupidity and
ease of passion and the mean conceit of myself by which I had been
misled to the falsely meek conclusion of yesterday--I cursed myself,
indeed, with a live wish for punishment, in that I had not succored
the maid when she had so frankly plead for my strength. John Cather?
what right had I to think that she had loved him? On the hills? nay,
she was not there; she was not on the hills, waiting for my uncle and
me--she was gone elsewhere, conserving her independence and
self-respect, in the womanly way she had. My uncle fancied she was a
clinging child: I knew her for a proud and impulsively wilful woman.
With this gossip abroad to flout her, she would never wait on the
hills for my uncle and me: 'twas the ultimate pain she could not bear
in the presence of such as loved and trusted her; 'twas the event she
had feared, remembering her mother, all her life long, dwelling in
sensitive dread, as I knew. She would flee the shame of this
accusation, without fear or lingering, unable to call upon the faith
of us. 'Twas gathering in my mind that she had fled north, as the
maids of our land would do, in the spring, with the Labrador fleet
bound down for the fishing. 'Twas a reasonable purpose to possess her
aimless feet. She would ship on a Labradorman: she might, for the
wishing--she would go cook on a north-bound craft from Topmast Harbor,
as many a maid of our coast was doing. And by Heaven! thinks I, she
had.

Her mother's punt was gone from Whisper Cove.

"She've lied down there on the hills," my uncle protested, "t' cry an'
wait. Ye're not searchin', Dannie, as ye ought. She've _jus'_ lied
down, I tell ye," he whimpered, "t' wait."

'Twas not so, I thought.

"She've her mother's shame come upon her," says he, "an' she've hid."

I wished it might be so.

"Jus' lied down an' hid," he repeated.

"No, no!" says I. "She'd never weakly hide her head from this."

He eyed me.

"Not Judith!" I expostulated.

"She'd never bear her mother's shame, Dannie," says he. "She'd run
away an' hide. She--she--_told_ me so."

I observed my uncle: he was gone with the need of rum--exhausted and
unnerved: his face all pallid and splotched. 'Twas a ghastly thing to
watch him stump the gravelled walk of our garden in the gray light of
that day.

"Uncle Nicholas, sir," says I, for the moment forgetting the woe of
Judith's hapless state in this new alarm, "do you come within an' have
a dram."

"Ye're not knowin' _how_ t' search," he complained. "Ye're but a pack
o' dunderheads!"

"Come, sir!" I pleaded.

"Is ye been t' Skeleton Droch?" he demanded. "She've a habit o'
readin' there. No!" he growled, in a temper; "you isn't had the
_sense_ t' go t' Skeleton Droch."

"A dram, sir," I ventured, "t' comfort you."

"An' ye bide here, ye dunderhead!" he accused.

I put my hand on his shoulder: he flung it off. I took his arm: he
wrenched himself free in an indignant passion.

"Ye're needin' it, sir," says I.

"For God's sake, child!" he cried; "do you go find the maid an' leave
me be. God knows I've trouble enough without ye!"

The maid was not at Skeleton Droch: neither on the hills, nor in the
hiding-places of the valleys, nor lying broken on the ledges of the
cliffs, nor swinging in the sea beneath--nor was she anywhere on the
land of Twin Islands or in the waters that restlessly washed the
boundary of gray rock. 'Twas near evening now, and a dreary, angrily
windy time. Our men gathered from shore and inland barren--and there
was no Judith, nor cold, wet body of Judith, anywhere to be found.
'Twas unthinkingly whispered, then, that the maid had fled with John
Cather on the mail-boat: this on Tom Tulk's Head, in its beginning,
and swiftly passed from tongue to tongue. Being overwrought when I
caught the surmise--'twas lusty young Jack Bluff that uttered it
before me--I persuaded the youth of his error, which, upon rising, he
admitted, as did they all of that group, upon my request, forgiving
me, too, I think, the cruel abruptness of my argument, being men of
feeling, every one. The maid was not gone with John Cather, she was
not on the hills of Twin Islands; she was then fled to Topmast Harbor
for self-support, that larger settlement, whence many Labradormen put
out at this season for the northerly fishing. And while, sheltered
from the rising wind, the kind men-folk of our harbor talked with my
uncle and me on Eli Flack's stage, there came into the tickle from
Topmast Harbor, in quest of water, a punt and a man, being bound, I
think, for Jimmie Tick's Cove. 'Twas by him reported that a maid of
gentle breeding had come alone in a punt to Topmast in the night. And
her hair? says I. She had hair, and a wonderful sight of it, says he.
And big, blue eyes? says I. She _had_ eyes, says he; an' she had a
nose, so far as he could tell, which had clapped eyes on the maid, an'
she had teeth an' feet, himself being able to vouch for the feet,
which clipped it over the Topmast roads quite lively, soon after dawn,
in search of a schooner bound down the Labrador.

I knew then into what service the _Shining Light_ should be
commissioned.

"Ay, lad," says my uncle.

"And will you ship, sir?"

"Why, Lord love us, shipmate!" he roared, indignantly, to the
amazement of our folk; "is ye thinkin' I'm past my labor?"

I nodded towards Whisper Cove.

"The man," he agreed.

It came about thus that I sought out Moses Shoos, wishing for him upon
this high adventure because of his chivalry. Nay, but in Twist Tickle,
whatever the strength and courage and kindliness of our folk, there
was no man so to be desired in a crucial emergency. The fool of the
place was beyond purchase, beyond beseeching: kept apart by his folly
from every unworthy motive to action. He was a man of pure leading,
following a voice, a vision: I would have him upon this sacred
adventure in search of the maid I loved. 'Twas no mean errand, no
service to be paid for; 'twas a high calling--a ringing summons, it
seemed to me, to perilous undertakings, rewarded by opportunity for
peril in service of a fond, righteous cause. Nay, but I would have
this unspoiled fool: I would have for companion the man who put his
faith in visions, could I but win him. I believed in visions--in the
deep, limpid, mysterious springs of conduct. I believed in visions--in
the unreasoning progress, an advance in the way of life not
calculated, but made in unselfish faith, with eyes lifted up from the
vulgar, swarming, assailing advantages of existence. My uncle and the
fool and I! there was no peril upon the sea to daunt us: we would find
and fetch, to her own place, in perfect honor, the maid I loved. And
of all this I thought, whatever the worth of it, as I ran upon the
Whisper Cove road, in the evening of that gray, blustering day.

Moses was within.

"Here you is," he drawled. "I 'lowed you'd come. How's the weather?"

"'Twill blow big guns, Moses," I answered; "and I'll not deceive
you."

"Well, well!" he sighed.

And would he go with us?

"I been waitin' for you, Dannie," says he. "I been sittin' here in the
kitchen--waitin'."

'Twas a hopeful word.

"If mother was here," he continued, "she'd have 'lowed I'd better
wait. 'You wait for Dannie,' mother would have 'lowed, 'until he
comes.' An' so I _been_ waitin'."

Well, there I was.

"That was on'y mother," he added; "an', o' course, I'm married now."

Walrus Liz of the Labrador came in. I rose--and was pleasantly
greeted. She sat, then, and effaced herself.

"Mrs. Moses Shoos," says Moses, with a fond look upon that woman
of ill-favor and infinite tenderness, "haves jus' _got_ t' be
consulted."

I was grown hopeless--remembering Tumm's story of the babies.

"In a case like this," Moses confided, "mother always 'lowed a man
_ought_ to."

"But your wife?" I demanded.

"Oh, my goodness, Dannie!" cries he. "For shame!"

"Tell me quickly, Moses."

"Mrs. Moses Shoos," he answered, with gravest dignity, "_always_
'lows, agreein' with me--that _mother_ knowed!"

'Twas in this way that Moses Shoos shipped on the _Shining Light_....

                  *       *       *       *       *

Shortly now, by an arrangement long made and persistently continued,
we had the _Shining Light_ ready for sea--provisioned, her
water-casks full. I ran through the house upon a last survey; and I
found my uncle at the pantry door, his bag on his back, peering into
the dark interior of the little room, in a way most melancholy and
desirous, upon the long row of bottles of rum. He sighed, closed the
door with scowling impatience, and stumped off to board the ship: I
was not heroic, but subtracted one from that long row, and stowed it
away in a bag I carried. We dropped the anchor of the _Shining Light_,
and beat out, through the tickle, to the wide, menacing sea, with the
night coming down and a gale of wind blowing lustily up from the gray
northeast. 'Twas thus not in flight the _Shining Light_ continued her
cruise, 'twas in pursuit of the maid I loved: a thing infinitely more
anxious and momentous--a thing that meant more than life or death to
me, with the maid gone as cook on a Labrador craft. 'Twas sunset time;
but there was no sunset--no fire in the western sky: no glow or
effulgent glory or lurid threat. The whole world was gone a dreary
gray, with the blackness of night descending: a darkening zenith, a
gray horizon lined with cold, black cloud, a coast without tender
mercy for the ships of men, a black sea roughening in a rage to the
northeast blasts. 'Twas all hopeless and pitiless: an unfeeling sea,
but troubled, it seemed to me, by depths of woe and purpose and
difficulty we cannot understand. We were bound for Topmast Harbor, on
a wind favorable enough for courageous hearts; and my uncle had the
wheel, and the fool of Twist Tickle and I kept the deck to serve him.
He did not call upon us to shorten sail, in answer to the old
schooner's complaint; and I was glad that he did not, as was the fool
also....

                  *       *       *       *       *

'Twas night when we put into Topmast Harbor; but my uncle and the fool
and I awoke the place without regard for its way-harbor importance or
number of houses. There was no maid there, said they; there had been a
maid, come at dawn, but she was fortunately shipped, as she wished to
be. What maid was that? They did not know. Was she a slender,
tawny-haired, blue-eyed, most beauteous maid? They did but sleepily
stare. I found a man, awakened from sound slumber, who remembered: ay,
there was a maid of that description, who had shipped for cook on the
_Likely Lass_. And whence the _Likely Lass_? Bonavist' Bay, says he,
put in for rest: a seventy-tonner, put out on the favoring wind. And
was there another woman aboard? Ecod! he did not know: 'twas a craft
likely enough for any maid, other woman aboard or not. And so we set
out again, in the night, dodging the rocks of that tickle, by my
uncle's recollection, and presently found ourselves bound north, in
search of the _Likely Lass_, towards a sea that was bitter with cold
and dark and wind, aboard a schooner that was far past the labor of
dealing with gusts and great waves.

And in the night it came on to blow very hard from the east, with a
freezing sleet, which yet grew colder, until snow mixed with it, and
at last came in stifling clouds. It blew harder: we drove on,
submerged in racing froth to the hatches, sheathed in ice, riding on a
beam, but my uncle, at the wheel, standing a-drip, in cloth of ice, as
long ago he had stood, in the first of the cruise of the _Shining
Light_, would have no sail off the craft, but humored her northward in
chase of the _Likely Lass_. 'Twas a reeling, plunging, smothered
progress through the breaking sea, in a ghostly mist of snow swirling
in the timid yellow of our lights, shrouding us as if for death in the
rush and seethe of that place. There was a rain of freezing spray upon
us--a whipping rain of spray: it broke from the bows and swept past,
stinging as it went. 'Twas as though the very night--the passion of
it--congealed upon us. There was no reducing sail--not now, in this
cold rage of weather. We were frozen stiff and white: 'twas on the
course, with a clever, indulgent hand to lift us through, or 'twas
founder in the crested waves that reached for us.

"Dannie!" my uncle shouted.

I sprang aft: but in the roar of wind and swish and thud of sea could
not hear him.

"Put your ear close," he roared.

I heard that; and I put my anxious ear close.

"I'm gettin' kind o' cold," says he. "Is ye got a fire in the cabin?"

I had not.

"Get one," says he.

I got a fire alight in the cabin. 'Twas a red, roaring fire. I called
my uncle from the cabin door. The old man gave the wheel to the fool
and came below in a humor the most genial: he was grinning, indeed,
under the crust of ice upon his beard; and he was rubbing his stiff
hands in delight. He was fair happy to be abroad in the wind and sea
with the _Shining Light_ underfoot.

"Ye got it warm in here," says he.

"I got more than that, sir," says I. "I got a thing to please you."

Whereupon I fetched the bottle of rum from my bag.

"Rum!" cries he. "Well, well!"

I opened the bottle of rum.

"Afore ye pours," he began, "I 'low I'd best--God's sake! What's
that?"

'Twas a great sea breaking over us.

"Moses!" my uncle hailed.

The schooner was on her course: the fool had clung to the wheel.

"Ice in that sea, Dannie," says my uncle. "An' ye got a bottle o' rum!
Well, well! Wonderful sight o' ice t' the nor'ard. Ye'll find, I bet
ye, that the fishin' fleet is cotched fast somewheres long about the
straits. An' a bottle o' rum for a cold night! Well, well! I bet ye,
Dannie," says he, "that the _Likely Lass_ is gripped by this time. An'
ye got a bottle o' rum!" cries he, in a beaming fidget. "Rum's a
wonderful thing on a cold night, lad. Nothin' like it. I've tried it.
Was a time," he confided, "when I was sort o' give t' usin' of it."

I made to pour him a dram.

"Leave me hold that there bottle," says he. "I wants t' smell of it."

'Twas an eager sniff.

"_'Tis_ rum," says he, simply.

I raised the bottle above the glass.

"Come t' think of it, Dannie," says he, with a wistful little smile,
"that there bottle o' rum will do more good where you had it than
where I'd put it."

I corked the bottle and returned it to my bag.

"That's good," he sighed; "that's very good!"

I made him a cup o' tea....

When I got the wheel, with Moses Shoos forward and my uncle gone
asleep below, 'twas near dawn. We were under reasonable sail, running
blindly through the night: there were no heroics of carrying-on--my
uncle was not the man to bear them. But we were frozen stiff--every
block and rope of us. And 'twas then blowing up with angrier
intention; and 'twas dark and very cold, I recall--and the air was
thick with the dust of snow, so that 'twas hard to breathe. Congealing
drops of spray came like bullets: I recall that they hurt me. I
recall, too, that I was presently frozen to the deck, and that my
mitts were stuck to the wheel--that I became fixed and heavy. The old
craft had lost her buoyant will: she labored through the shadowy,
ghostly crested seas, in a fashion the most weary and hopeless. I
fancied I knew why: I fancied, indeed, that she had come close to her
last harbor. And of this I soon made sure: I felt of her, just before
the break of day, discovering, but with no selfish perturbation, that
she was exhausted. I felt of her tired plunges, of the stagger of
her, of her failing strength and will; and I perceived--by way of the
wheel in my understanding hands--that she would be glad to abandon
this unequal struggle of the eternal youth of the sea against her age
and mortality. And the day broke; and with the gray light came the
fool of Twist Tickle over the deck. 'Twas a sinister dawn: no land in
sight--but a waste of raging sea to view--and the ship laden forward
with a shameful burden of ice.

Moses spoke: I did not hear him in the wind, because, I fancy, of the
ice in my ear.

"Don't hear ye!" I shouted.

"She've begun t' leak!" he screamed.

I knew that she had.

"No use callin' the skipper," says he. "All froze up. Leave un
sleep."

I nodded.

"Goin' down," says he. "Knowed she would."

My uncle came on deck: he was smiling--most placid, indeed.

"Well, well!" he shouted. "Day, eh?"

"Leakin'," says Moses.

"Well, well!"

"Goin' down," Moses screamed.

"Knowed she would," my uncle roared. "Can't last long in this. What's
that?"

'Twas floe ice.

"Still water," says he. "Leave me have that there wheel, Dannie. Go t'
sleep!"

I would stand by him.

"Go t' sleep!" he commanded. "I'll wake ye afore she goes."

I went to sleep: but the fool, I recall, beat me at it; he was in a
moment snoring....

                  *       *       *       *       *

When I awoke 'twas broad day--'twas, indeed, late morning. The
_Shining Light_ was still. My uncle and the fool sat softly chatting
over the cabin table, with breakfast and steaming tea between. I heard
the roar of the wind, observed beyond the framing door the world
aswirl and white; but I felt no laboring heave, caught no thud and
swish of water. The gale, at any rate, had not abated: 'twas blowing
higher and colder. My uncle gently laughed, when I was not yet all
awake, and the fool laughed, too; and they ate their pork and brewis
and sipped their tea with relish, as if abiding in security and ease.
I would fall asleep again: but got the smell of breakfast in my nose,
and must get up; and having gone on deck I found in the narrow,
white-walled circle of the storm a little world of ice and writhing
space. The _Shining Light_ was gripped: her foremast was snapped, her
sails hanging stiff and frozen; she was listed, bedraggled, incrusted
with ice--drifted high with snow. 'Twas the end of the craft: I knew
it. And I went below to my uncle and the fool, sad at heart because of
this death, but wishing very much, indeed, for my breakfast. 'Twas
very warm and peaceful in the cabin, with pork and brewis on the
table, my uncle chuckling, the fire most cheerfully thriving. I could
hear the wind--the rage of it--but felt no stress of weather.

"Stove in, Dannie," says my uncle. "She'll sink when the ice goes
abroad."

I asked for my fork.

"Fill up," my uncle cautioned. "Ye'll need it afore we're through."

'Twas to this I made haste.

"More pork than brewis, lad," he advised. "Pork takes more grindin'."

I attacked the pork.

"I got your bag ready," says he.

Then I had no cause to trouble....

                  *       *       *       *       *

'Twas deep night, the gale still blowing high with snow, when the wind
changed. It ran to the north--shifted swiftly to the west. The
ice-pack stirred: we felt the schooner shiver, heard the tumult of
warning noises, as that gigantic, lethargic mass was aroused to
unwilling motion by the lash of the west wind. The hull of the
_Shining Light_ collapsed. 'Twas time to be off. I awoke the fool--who
had still soundly slept. The fool would douse the cabin fire, in a
seemly way, and put out the lights; but my uncle forbade him, having
rather, said he, watch the old craft go down with a warm glow issuing
from her. Presently she was gone, all the warmth and comfort and hope
of the world expiring in her descent: there was no more a _Shining
Light_; and we three folk were cast away on a broad pan of ice, in the
midst of night and driving snow. Of the wood they had torn from the
schooner against this time, the fool builded a fire, beside which we
cowered from the wind; and soon, the snow failing and the night
falling clear and starlit, points of flickering light appeared on the
ice beyond us. There were three, I recall, diminishing in the
distance; and I knew, then, what I should do in search of Judith when
the day came. Three schooners cast away beyond us; one might be the
_Likely Lass_: I would search for Judith, thinks I, when day came.
'Twas very long in coming, and 'twas most bitter cold and discouraging
in its arrival: a thin, gray light, with no hopeful hue of dawn in the
east--frosty, gray light, spreading reluctantly over the white field
of the world to a black horizon. I wished, I recall, while I waited
for broader day, that some warm color might appear to hearten us, some
tint, however pale and transient, to recall the kindlier mood of earth
to us; and there came, in answer to my wishing, a flush of rose in the
east, which waxed and endured, spreading its message, but failed, like
a lamp extinguished, leaving the world all sombre and inimical, as it
had been.

I must now be off alone upon my search: my wooden-legged uncle could
not travel the ice--nor must the fool abandon him.

"I 'lowed ye would, lad," says he, "like any other gentleman."

I bade them both good-bye.

"Three schooners cast away t' the nor'ard," says he. "I'm hopin' ye'll
find the _Likely Lass_. Good-bye, Dannie. I 'low I've fetched ye up
very well. Good-bye, Dannie."

I was moved away now: but halted, like a dog between two masters.

"Good-bye!" he shouted. "God bless ye, Dannie--God bless ye!"

I turned away.

"God bless ye!" came faintly after me.

That night I found Judith with the crew of the _Likely Lass_, sound
asleep, her head lying, dear child! on the comfortable breast of the
skipper's wife. And she was very glad, she said, that I had come....



XXVI

THE DEVIL'S TEETH


'Twill not, by any one, be hard to recall that the great gale of that
year, blowing unseasonably with snow, exhausted itself in three days,
leaving the early birds of the Labrador fleet, whose northward
flitting had been untimely, wrecked and dispersed upon the sea. In the
reaction of still, blue weather we were picked up by the steamer
_Fortune_, a sealing-craft commissioned by the government for rescue
when surmise of the disaster grew large; but we got no word of my
uncle and the fool of Twist Tickle until the fore-and-after _Every
Time_ put into St. John's with her flag flying half-mast in the warm
sunshine. 'Twas said that she had the bodies of men aboard: and 'twas
a grewsome truth--and the corpses of women, too, and of children. She
brought more than the dead to port: she brought the fool, and the
living flesh and spirit of my uncle--the old man's body ill-served by
the cold, indeed, but his soul, at sight of me, springing into a blaze
as warm and strong and cheerful as ever I had known. 'Twas all he
needed, says he, t' work a cure: the sight of a damned little grinnin'
Chesterfieldian young gentleman! Whatever the actual effect of this
genteel spectacle, my uncle was presently on his feet again, though
continuing much broken in vigor; and when he was got somewhat stronger
we set out for Twist Tickle, to which we came, three days later,
returning in honor to our own place.

The folk were glad that we were all come back to them....

                  *       *       *       *       *

I loved Judith: I loved the maid with what exalted wish soul and body
of me understood--conceiving her perfect in every grace and spiritual
adornment: a maid lifted like a star above the hearts of the world. I
considered my life, and counted it unworthy, as all lives must be
before her: I considered my love, but found no spot upon it. I loved
the maid: and was now grown to be a man, able, in years and strength
and skill of mind and hand, to cherish her; and I would speak to her
of this passion and dear hope, but must not, because of the mystery
concerning me. There came, then, an evening when I sought my uncle out
to question him; 'twas a hushed and compassionate hour, I recall, the
sunset waxing glorious above the remotest sea, and the night creeping
with gentle feet upon the world, to spread its soft blanket of
shadows.

I remembered the gray stranger's warning.

"Here I is, lad," cries my uncle, with an effort at heartiness, which,
indeed, had departed from him, and would not come again. "Here I
is--havin' a little dram o' rum with Nature!"

'Twas a draught of salt air he meant.

"Dannie," says he, in overwhelming uneasiness, his voice become hoarse
and tremulous, "ye got a thing on your mind!"

I found him very old and ill and hopeless; 'twas with a shock that the
thing came home to me: the man was past all labor of the hands, got
beyond all ships and winds and fishing--confronting, now, with an
anxious heart, God knows! a future of dependence, for life and love,
upon the lad he had nourished to the man that was I. I remembered,
again, the warning of that gray personage who had said that my
contempt would gather at this hour; and I thought, as then I had in
boyish faith most truly believed, that I should never treat my uncle
with unkindness. 'Twas very still and glowing and beneficent upon the
sea; 'twas not an hour, thinks I, whatever the prophecy concerning it,
for any pain to come upon us. My uncle was fallen back in a great
chair, on a patch of greensward overlooking the sea, to which he had
turned his face; and 'twas a kindly prospect that lay before his aged
eyes--a sweep of softest ocean, walled with gentle, drifting cloud,
wherein were the fool's great Gates, wide open to the glory beyond.

"I'm wishing, sir," said I, "to wed Judith."

"'Tis a good hope," he answered.

I saw his hand wander over the low table beside him: I knew what it
sought--and that by his will and for my sake it must forever seek
without satisfaction.

"Sir," I implored, "I've no heart to ask her!"

He did not answer.

"And you know why, sir," I accused him. "You know why!"

"Dannie," says he, "ye've wished for this hour."

"And I am ready, sir."

He drew then from his pocket a small Bible, much stained and wrinkled
by water, which he put on the table between us. "Dannie, lad," says
he, "do ye now go t' your own little room, where ye was used t' lyin',
long ago, when ye was a little lad." He lifted himself in the chair,
turned upon me--his eyes frankly wet. "Do ye go there," says he, "an'
kneel, like ye used t' do in the days when ye was but a little child,
an' do ye say, once again, for my sake, Dannie, the twenty-third
psa'm."

I rose upon this holy errand.

"'_The Lord is my shepherd,_'" my uncle repeated, looking away to the
fool's great Gates, "'_I shall not want._'"

That he should not.

"'_He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside
the still waters._'"

And so it should be.

"Dannie," my uncle burst out, flashing upon me with a twinkle, as when
I was a lad, "I 'low I've fetched ye up very well: for say what ye
will, 'twas a wonderful little anchor I give ye t' hold to!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

I went then to the little bed where as a child I lay waiting for sleep
to come bearing fairy dreams. 'Twas still and dusky in the room: the
window, looking out upon the wide, untroubled waters, was a square of
glory; and the sea whispered melodiously below, as it had done long,
long ago, when my uncle fended my childish heart from all the fears of
night and day. I looked out upon the waste of sea and sky and rock,
where the sombre wonder of the dusk was working, clouds in embers,
cliffs and water turning to shadows; and I was comforted by this
returning beauty. I repeated the twenty-third psalm, according to my
teaching, reverently kneeling, as I was bid; and my heart responded,
as it has never failed to do. I remembered: I remembered the windless
dusks and fresh winds and black gales through which as a child I had
here serenely gone to sleep because my uncle sat awake and watchful
below. I remembered his concern and diffident caresses in the night
when I had called to him to come: I remembered all that he had borne
and done to provide the happiness and welfare he sought in loving
patience to give the child he had. Once again, as when I was a child,
the sea and sunset took my soul as a harp to stir with harmonious
chords of faith; and I was not disquieted any more--nor in any way
troubled concerning the disclosure of that black mystery in which I
had thrived to this age of understanding. And 'twas in this mood--this
grateful recollection of the multitudinous kindnesses of other
years--that I got up from my knees to return to my uncle.

"Dannie," says he, having been waiting, it seemed, to tell me this,
first of all, "ye'll remember--will ye not?--for your guidance an'
comfort, that 'tis not a tie o' blood betwixt you an' ol' Nick Top.
He's no kin t' shame ye: he's on'y a chance acquaintance."

The tale began at the waning of the evening glory....

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Your father an' me, lad," said my uncle, "was shipmates aboard the
_Will-o'-the-Wisp_ when she was cast away in a nor'east gale on the
Devil's Teeth, near twenty year ago: him bein' the master an' me but a
hand aboard. How old is you now, Dannie? Nineteen? Well, well! You was
but six months come from above, lad, when that big wind blowed your
father's soul t' hell; an' your poor mother was but six months laid
away. We was bound up from the Labrador that night, with a cargo o'
dry fish, picked up 'long shore in haste, t' fill out a foreign bark
at Twillingate. 'Twas late in the fall o' the year, snow in the wind,
the sea heapin' up in mountains, an' the night as black as a wolf's
throat. Your father was crowdin' on, Dannie, in the way he had, bein'
a wonderful driver, an' I 'lowed he was fetchin' too close t' the
Harborless Shore for safety; but I wouldn't tell un so, lad, for I
didn't know un so well as I knows you, bein' on'y a hand aboard, ye
see, with a word or two t' le'ward of what ye might call a speakin'
acquaintance with the skipper. I 'lowed he'd strike the Rattler; but
he cleared the Rattler, by good luck, an' fetched up at dawn on the
Devil's Teeth, a mean, low reef o' them parts, where the poor
_Will-o'-the-Wisp_ broke her back an' went on in splinters with the
sea an' wind. 'Twas over soon, Dannie; 'twas all over soon, by
kindness o' Providence: the ol' craft went t' pieces an' was swep' on
t' le'ward by the big black waves."

In the pause my uncle's hand again searched the low table for the
glass that was not there.

"I'm not wantin' t' tell ye," he muttered.

I would not beg him to stop.

"Me an' your father, Dannie," he continued, presently, dwelling upon
the quiet sunset, now flaring with the last of its fire, "somehow
cotched a grip o' the rock. 'Twas a mean reef t' be cast away on, with
no dry part upon it: 'twas near flush with the sea, an' flat an' broad
an' jagged, slimy with sea-weed; an' 'twas washed over by the big
seas, an' swam in the low roll o' the black ones. I 'low, Dannie, that
I was never afore cotched in such a swirl an' noise o' waters. 'Twas
wonderful--the thunder an' spume an' whiteness o' them big waves in
the dawn! An' 'twas wonderful--the power o' them--the wolfish way
they'd clutch an' worry an' drag! 'Twas a mean, hard thing t' keep a
grip on that smoothed rock; but I got my fingers in a crack o' the
reef, an' managed t' hold on, bein' stout an' able, an' sort of savage
for life--in them old days. Afore long, your poor father crep' close,
lad, an' got his fingers in the same crack. 'Twas all done for you,
Dannie, an' ye'll be sure t' bear it in mind--will ye not?--when ye
thinks o' the man hereafter. I seed the big seas rub un on the reef,
an' cut his head, an' break his ribs, as he come crawlin' towards me.
'Twas a long, long time afore he reached the place. Ye'll not forget
it--will ye lad?--ye'll surely not forget it when ye thinks o' the man
that was your father."

I looked at the sward, soft and green with summer, and roundabout upon
the compassionate shadows of evening.

"'Nick,' says your father," my uncle continued, "'does ye hear them
men?'

"They was all gone down, poor souls! I knowed.

"'Nine men o' the crew,' says he, 'drownin' there t' le'ward.'

"'Twas o' Mary Luff's son I thought, that poor lad! for I'd fetched un
on the v'y'ge.

"'I hear un callin',' says he.

"'Twas but a fancy: they was no voices o' them drowned men t'
le'ward.

"'Nick,' says he, 'I didn't mean t' wreck her here. I was 'lowin' t'
strike the Long Cliff, where they's a chance for a man's life. Does ye
hear me, Nick?' says he. 'I didn't mean t' do it _here_!'

"'Skipper,' says I, 'was ye meanin' t' wreck that there ship?'

"'Not here,' says he.

"'Was ye meanin' t' _do_ it?' says I."

My uncle paused.

"Go on, sir," said I.

"Dannie," said he, "they come, then, three big seas, as seas will; an'
I 'low"--he touched the crescent scar--"I got this here about that
time."

'Twas quite enough for me.

"'Skipper,' says I," my uncle continued, "'what did ye go an' do it
for?'

"'I got a young one t' St. John's,' says he.

"''Tis no excuse,' says I.

"'Ay,' says he, 'but I was 'lowin' t' make a gentleman of un. He's the
on'y one I got,' says he, 'an' his mother's dead.'

"''Twas no way t' go about it,' says I.

"'Ye've no lad o' your own,' says he, 'an' ye don't know. They was a
pot o' money in this, Top,' says he. 'I was 'lowin' t' make a
gentleman o' my young one an I lived through; but I got t' go--I got
t' go t' hell an' leave un. They's ice in these big seas,' says he,
'an I've broke my left arm, an' can't stand it much longer. But you'll
live it out, Top; you'll live it out--I knows ye will. The wind's gone
t' the nor'west, an' the sea's goin' down; an' they'll be a fleet o'
Labrador craft up the morrow t' pick you up. An' I was 'lowin', Top,'
says he, 'that you'd take my kid an' fetch un up as his mother would
have un grow. They isn't no one else t' do it,' says he, 'an' I was
'lowin' you might try. I've broke my left arm,' says he, 'an' got my
fingers froze, or I'd live t' do it myself. They's a pot o' money in
this, Top,' says he. 'You tell the owner o' this here ship,' says he,
'an' he'll pay--he've got t' pay!'

"I had no wish for the task, Dannie--not bein' much on nursin' in them
days.

"'I got t' go t' hell for this, Top,' says your father, 'an' I 'lowed
ye'd ease the passage.'

"'Skipper, sir,' says I, 'is ye not got a scrap o' writin'?'

"He fetched out this here little Bible.

"'Top,' says he, 'I 'lowed I'd have a writin' t' make sure, the owner
o' this here ship bein' on'y a fish speculator; an' I got it in this
Bible.'

"'Then,' says I, 'I'll take that young one, Tom Callaway, if I
weathers this here mess.'

"'Ay,' says he, 'but I'm not wishin' t' go t' hell for _that_.'

"'Twas come broad day now.

"'An I'm but able, Tom Callaway,' says I, 'I'll make a gentleman of un
t' ease your pains.'

"'Would ye swear it?' says he.

"I put my hand on the Book; an' I knowed, Dannie, when I made ready t'
take that oath, out there on the Devil's Teeth, that I'd give my soul
t' hell for the wickedness I must do. I done it with my eyes wide open
t' the burden o' evil I must take up; an' 'twas sort o' hard t' do,
for I was by times a Christian man, Dannie, in them ol' days, much sot
on church an' prayer an' the like o' that. But I seed that your poor
father was bent on makin' a gentleman out o' you t' please your dead
mother's wishes, an' I 'lowed, havin' no young un o' my own, that I
_didn't_ know much about the rights of it; an' I knowed he'd suffer
forever the pains o' hell for what he done, whatever come of it, an' I
'lowed 'twould be a pity t' have the murder o' seven poor men go t'
waste for want o' one brave soul t' face the devil. 'Nick,' thinks I,
while your father, poor, doomed man! watched me--I can see here in the
dusk the blood an' water on his white face--'Nick,' thinks I, 'an you
was one o' them seven poor, murdered men, ye'd want the price o' your
life paid t' that wee young one. From heaven or hell, Nick, accordin'
t' which place ye harbored in,' thinks I, 'ye'd want t' watch that
little life grow, an' ye'd like t' say t' yourself, when things went
ill with ye,' thinks I, 'that the little feller ye died for was
thrivin', anyhow, out there on earth.' An' I 'lowed, for your wee
sake, Dannie, an' for the sake o' the seven poor, murdered men, whose
wishes I read in the dead eyes that looked into mine, an' for the sake
o' your poor, fond father, bound soon for hell, that I'd never let the
comfort o' my mean soul stand in the way o' fetchin' good t' your
little life out o' all this woe an' wickedness. I 'lowed, Dannie, then
an' there, on the Devil's Teeth, that could I but manage to endure,
I'd stand by your little body an' soul t' the end, whatever become o'
me."

'Twas but a tale my uncle told: 'twas not an extenuation--not a plea.

"'Tide's risin', Nick,' says your father. 'I can't stand it much
longer with my broken arm an' froze fingers. Nick,' says he, 'will ye
swear?'

"I was afraid, Dannie, t' swear it.

"'Won't ye?' says he. 'He've his mother's eyes--an' he'll be a
wonderful good lad t' you.'

"I couldn't, Dannie.

"'For God's sake, Nick!' says he, 'swear it, an' ease my way t'
hell.'

"'I swear!' says I.

"'Then,' says he, 'you turn the screws on the owner o' that there
ship. The writin' is all you needs. You make a gentleman o' my lad,
God bless un! accordin' t' the wishes of his mother. Give un the best
they is in Newf'un'land. Nothin' too good in all the world for Dannie.
You bear in mind, Nick,' says he, 'that I'm roastin' in hell,' says
he, '_payin_' for his education!'"

My uncle's hand approached the low table, but was in impatience
withdrawn; and the old man looked away--northward: to the place, far
distant, where the sea still washed the Devil's Teeth.

"I've bore it in mind," he muttered.

Ay! and much more than that: the wreck of his own great soul upon my
need had clouded twenty years of life with blackest terror of the
unending pains of perdition.

"'Tis a lovely evening, Dannie," he sighed. "'Tis so still an' kind
an' beautiful. I've often 'lowed, in weather like this, with the sea
at peace an' a red sky givin' promise o' mercy for yet one day," said
he, "that I'd like t' live forever--jus' live t' fish an' be an'
hope."

"I wisht ye might!" I cried.

"An' t' watch ye grow, Dannie," said he, turning suddenly upon me, his
voice fallen low and tremulous with affectionate feeling and pride.
"Life," says he, so earnestly that I was made meek by the confession,
"held nothin' at all for me but the Christian hope o' heaven until ye
came; an' then, when I got ye, 'twas filled full o' mortal, unselfish,
better aims. I've loved ye well, lad, in my own delight," says he.
"I've loved ye in a wishful way," he repeated, "quite well."

I was humble in this presence....

                  *       *       *       *       *


"Your father," my uncle resumed, "couldn't stand the big seas. I
cotched un by the jacket, an' held un with me, so long as I was able,
though he 'lowed I might as well let un go t' hell, without drawin'
out the fear o' gettin there. 'On'y a minute or two, Nick,' says he.
'Ye might as well let me get there. I'm cold, froze up, an' they's
more ice comin' with this sea,' says he; 'they was a field o' small
ice up along about the Sissors,' says he, 'an' I 'low it haves come
down with the nor'east wind. The sea,' says he, 'will be full of it
afore long. Ye better let me go,' says he. ''Tisn't by any means
pleasant here, an' the on'y thing I wants, now that ye've took the
oath,' says he, 'is t' get warm. Ye better let me go. I got t' go,
anyhow,' says he, 'an' a hour or two don't make no difference.' An'
so, with the babe that was you in mind, an' with my life t' save for
your sake, I let un go t' le'ward, where the seven murdered men had
gone down drowned. 'Twas awful lonesome without un, when the tide got
high an' the seas was mean with chunks o' ice. Afore that," my uncle
intensely declared, "I was admired o' water-side widows, on account o'
looks; but," says he, touching his various disfigurements, "I was
broke open here, an' I was broke open there, by bein' rubbed on the
rocks an' clubbed by the ice at high-tide. When I was picked up by
Tumm, o' the _Quick as Wink_ (bein' bound up in fish), I 'lowed I
might as well leave the cook, which is now dead, have his way with the
butcher-knife an' sail-needle; an' so I come t' St. John's as ye sees
me now, not a wonderful sight for looks, with my leg an' fingers gone,
but ready, God knows! t' stand by the young un I was livin' t' take
an' rear. Ye had been, all through it, Dannie," he added, simply, "the
thing that made me hold on; for when your father was gone t' le'ward,
an' I begun t' think o' ye, a wee babe t' St. John's, I got t' love
ye, lad, as I've loved ye ever since.

"'Tis a lovely evening," he added; "'tis a wonderful civil and
beautiful time, with all them clouds, like coals o' fire, in the
west."

'Twas that: an evening without guile or menace--an hour most
compassionate.

"The owner o' the _Will-o'-the-Wisp_," says my uncle, "wasn't no
Honorable in them days; he was but a St. John's fish speculator with a
taste for low politics. But he've become a Honorable since, on the
fortune he've builded from that wreck, an' he's like t' end a knight
o' the realm, if he've money enough t' carry on an' marry the widow
he's after. 'Twas not hard t' deal with un--leastways, 'twas not hard
when I loaded with rum, which I was used t' doin', Dannie, as ye know,
afore I laid 'longside of un in the wee water-side place he'd fetch
the money to. No, no! 'Twas not easy: I'd not have ye think it--'twas
hard, 'twas bitter hard, Dannie, t' be engaged in that dirty business.
I'd not have ye black your soul with it; an' I was 'lowin, Dannie,
afore the parson left us, t' teach un how t' manage the Honorable, t'
tell un about the liquor an' the bluster, t' show un how t' scare the
Honorable on the Water Street pavement, t' teach un t' threaten an'
swear the coward's money from his pocket, for I wasn't wantin' _you_,
Dannie, t' know the trial an' wickedness o' the foul deed, bein' in
love with ye too much t' have ye spoiled by sin. I 'low I had that
there young black-an'-white parson near corrupted: I 'low I had un
worked up t' yieldin' t' temptation, lad, when he up an' left us,
along o' Judy. An' there's the black-an'-white parson, gone God knows
where! an' here's ol' Nick Top, sittin' on the grass at evenin', laid
by the heels all along o' two days o' wind on the ice!"

"And so you brought me up?" says I.

"Ay, Dannie," he answered, uneasily; "by blackmail o' the Honorable. I
got t' go t' hell for it, but I've no regrets on that account," says
he, in a muse, "for I've loved ye well, lad; an' as I sit here now,
lookin' back, I knows that God was kind t' give me you t' work an' sin
for. I'll go t' hell--ay, I'll go t' hell! Ye must never think, lad,
when I gets down there, that I'm sorry for what I done. I'll not be
sorry--not even in hell--for I'll think o' the years when you was a
wee little lad, an' I'll be content t' remember. An' do you go away,
now, lad," he added, "an' think it over. Ye'll not judge me now; ye'll
come back, afore long, an' then judge me."

I moved to go.

"Dannie!" he called.

I turned.

"I've gone an' tol' Judy," says he, "lest she learn t' love ye for
what ye was not."

'Twas no matter to me....

                  *       *       *       *       *

This, then, was the heart of my mystery! I had been fed and adorned
and taught and reared in luxury by the murder of seven men and
the merciless blackmail of an ambitious villain. What had fed me,
warmed me, clothed me had been the product of this horrible
rascality. And my father was the murderer, whom I had dreamed a
hero, and my foster-father was the persecutor, whom I had loved
for his kindly virtue. And paid for!--all paid for in my father's
crime and damnation. This--all this--to make a gentleman of the
ill-born, club-footed young whelp of a fishing skipper! I laughed
as I walked away from this old Nick Top: laughed to recall my progress
through these nineteen years--the proud, self-righteous stalking
of my way.

'Twas a pretty figure I had cut, thinks I, with my rings and London
clothes, in the presence of the Honorable, with whom I had dealt in
pride and anger! 'Twas a pretty figure I had cut, all my life--the
whelp of a ruined, prostituted skipper: the issue of a murderous
barratry! What protection had the defenceless child that had been I
against these machinations? What protest the boy, growing in guarded
ignorance? What appeal the man in love, confronted by his origin and
shameful fostering? Enraged by this, what I thought of my uncle's
misguided object and care I may not here set down, because of the
bitterness and injustice of the reflections; nay, but I dare not
recall the mood and wicked resentment of that time.

And presently I came to the shore of the sea, where I sat down on the
rock, staring out upon the waters. 'Twas grown dark then, of a still,
religious night, with the black sea lapping the rocks, infinitely
continuing in restlessness, and a multitude of stars serenely
twinkling in the uttermost depths of the great sky. 'Twas of this I
thought, I recall, but cannot tell why: that the sea was forever
young, unchanging in all the passions of youth, from the beginning of
time to the end of it; that the mountains were lifted high, of old,
passionless, inscrutable, of unfeeling snow and rock, dwelling above
the wish of the world; that the sweep of prairie, knowing no
resentment, was fruitful to the weakest touch; that the forests fell
without complaint; that the desert, hopeless, aged, contemptuous of
the aspirations of this day, was of immutable bitterness, seeking some
love long lost to it nor ever to be found again; but that the sea was
as it had been when God poured it forth--young and lusty and
passionate--the only thing in all the fleeting world immune from age
and death and desuetude.

'Twas strange enough; but I knew, thank God! when the rocking,
crooning sea took my heart as a harp in its hands, that all the sins
and errors of earth were of creative intention and most beautiful, as
are all the works of the God of us all. Nay, but, thinks I, the sins
of life are more lovely than the righteous accomplishments. Removed by
the starlit sky, wherein He dwells--removed because of its tender
distance and beauty and placidity, because of its compassion and
returning gift of faith, removed by the vast, feeling territory of
sensate waters, whereupon He walks, because they express, eternally,
His wrath and loving kindness--carried far away, in the quiet night, I
looked back, and I understood, as never before--nor can I ever hope to
know again--that God, being artist as we cannot be, had with the life
of the world woven threads of sin and error to make it a pattern of
supernal beauty, that His purpose might be fulfilled, His eyes
delighted.

And 'twas with the healing of night and starry sky and the soft
lullaby of the sea upon my spirit--'twas with this wide, clear vision
of life, the gift of understanding, as concerned its exigencies--that
I arose and went to my uncle....

                  *       *       *       *       *

I met Judith on the way: the maid was hid, waiting for me, in the deep
shadow of the lilacs and the perfume of them, which I shall never
forget, that bordered the gravelled path of our garden.

"You've come at last," says she. "He've been waiting for you--out
there in the dark."

"Judith!" says I.

She came confidingly close to me.

"I've a word to say to you, maid," says I.

"An' you're a true man?" she demanded.

"'Tis a word," says I, "that's between a man an' a maid. 'Tis nothing
more."

She held me off. "An' you're true," she demanded, "to them that have
loved you?"

"As may or may not appear," I answered.

"Ah, Dannie," she whispered, "I cannot doubt you!"

I remember the scent of the lilacs--I remember the dusk--the starlit
sky.

"I have a word," I repeated, "to say to you."

"An' what's that?" says she.

"'Tis that I wish a kiss," says I.

She put up her dear red lips.

"Ay," says I, "but 'tis a case of no God between us. You know what I
am and have been. I ask a kiss."

Her lips still invited me.

"I love you, Judith," says I, "and always have."

Her lips came closer.

"I would be your husband," I declared.

"Kiss me, Dannie," she whispered.

"And there is no God," says I, "between us?"

"There is no God," she answered, "against us."

I kissed her.

"You'll do it again, will you not?" says she.

"I'll kiss your sweet tears," says I. "I'll kiss un away."

"Then kiss my tears."

I kissed them away.

"That's good," says she; "that's very good. An' now?"

"I'll speak with my uncle," says I, "as you knowed I would."

I sought my uncle.

"Sir," says I, "where's the writing?"

"'Tis in your father's Bible," he answered.

I got it from the Book and touched a flaring match to it. "'Tis the
end of _that_, sir," says I. "You an' me, sir," says I, "will be
shipmates to the end of the voyage."

He rose.

"You're not able, sir," says I.

"I is!" he declared.

'Twas with difficulty he got to his feet, but he managed it; and then
he turned to me, though I could see him ill enough in the dark.

"Dannie, lad," says he, "I 'low I've fetched ye up very well. Ye is,"
says he, "a--"

"Hush!" says I; "don't say it."

"I will!" says he.

"Don't!" I pleaded.

"You _is_," he declared, "a gentleman!"

The night and the abominable revelations of it were ended for my uncle
and me in this way....

                  *       *       *       *       *

And so it came about that the Honorable was troubled no more by our
demands, whatever the political necessities that might assail him,
whatever the sins of other days, the black youth of him, that might
fairly beset and harass him. He was left in peace, to follow his
career, restored to the possessions my uncle had wrested from him, in
so far as we were able to make restitution. There was no more of it:
we met him afterwards, in genial intercourse, but made no call upon
his moneybags, as you may well believe. My uncle and I made a new
partnership: that of Top & Callaway, of which you may have heard, for
the honesty of our trade and the worth of the schooners we build. He
is used to taking my hand, upon the little finger of which I still
wear the seal-ring he was doubtful of in the days when Tom Bull
inspected it. "A D for Dannie," says he, "an' a C for Callaway, an'
betwixt the two," says he, "lyin' snug as you like, is a T for Top!
An' that's the way I lies," says he, "ol' Top betwixt the Dannie an'
the Callaway. An' as for the business in trade an' schooners that
there little ol' damned Chesterfieldian young Dannie haves builded
from a paddle-punt, with Judy t' help un," says he, "why don't ye be
askin' me!" And the business I have builded is good, and the wife I
have is good, and the children are good. I have no more to wish for
than my uncle and wife and children. 'Tis a delight, when the day's
work is done, to sit at table, as we used to do when I was a child,
with the geometrical gentleman framed in their tempestuous sea beyond,
and to watch my uncle, overcome by Judith's persuasion, in his old
age, sip his dram o' hot rum. The fire glows, and the maid approves,
and my uncle, with his ailing timber comfortably bestowed, beams
largely upon us.

"Jus' a nip," says he. "Jus' a wee nip o' the best Jamaica afore I
goes t' bed."

I pour the dram.

"For the stomach's sake, Dannie," says he, with a gravity that
twinkles against his will, "accordin' t' the Apostle."

And we are glad that he has that wee nip o' rum t' comfort him....

                  *       *       *       *       *

'Twas blowing high to-day. Tumm, of the _Quick as Wink_, beat into
harbor for shelter. 'Twas good to know that the genial fellow had come
into Twist Tickle. I boarded him. 'Twas very dark and blustering and
dismally cold at that time. The schooner was bound down to the French
shore and the ports of the Labrador. I had watched the clouds gather
and join and forewarn us of wind. 'Twas an evil time for craft to be
abroad, and I was glad that Tumm was in harbor. "Ecod!" says he, "I
been up t' see the fool. They've seven," says he. "Ecod! think o'
that! I 'low Walrus Liz o' Whoopin' Harbor got all she wanted. Seven!"
cries he. "Seven kids! Enough t' stock a harbor! An' they's talk o'
one o' them," says he, "bein' trained for a parson." I think the man
was proud of his instrumentality. "I've jus' come from the place,"
says he, "an' he've seven, all spick an' span," says he, "all shined
an' polished like a cabin door-knob!" I had often thought of it, and
now dwelt upon it when I left him. I remembered the beginnings of our
lives, and I knew that out of the hopelessness some beauty had been
wrought, in the way of the God of us all: which is the moral of my
tale.

"Think o' that!" cries Tumm, of the _Quick as Wink_.

I did think of it.

"Think o' that!" he repeated.

I had left Tumm below. I was alone. The night was still black and
windy; but of a sudden, as I looked up, the clouds parted, and from
the deck of the _Quick as Wink_ I saw, blind of vision as I was, that
high over the open sea, hung in the depth and mystery of space, there
was a star....

THE END





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