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Title: Captain January
Author: Richards, Laura Elizabeth Howe
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 "Captain January" ***

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CAPTAIN JANUARY

By Laura E. Richards

_Author of_

“Melody,” “Marie,” “Rosin, the Beau,” “The Hildegarde-Margaret
Series,” “Three Minute Stories,” “Five Minute Stories,” etc.



LIST OF CONTENTS

   I. Star Bright
  II. The Story
 III. Introducing Imogen and Bob
  IV. The Visit
   V. Captain January’s Star
  VI. The Signal



CHAPTER I. -- STAR BRIGHT


The Captain had sold all his lobsters. They had been particularly
fine ones, and had gone off “like hot cakes,” everyone who passed
by the wharf stopping to buy one or two. Now the red dory was empty,
and the Captain had washed her out with his usual scrupulous care,
and was making preparations for his homeward voyage, when he was
hailed by a cheery voice from the street.

“Hillo, January!” said the voice. “Is that you? How goes it?” and
the owner of the voice, a sturdy man in a blue coat with brass
buttons, came down the wharf and greeted the Captain with a hearty
shake of the hand.

“How goes it?” he repeated. “I haven’t seen ye for a dog’s age.”

“I’m hearty, Cap’n Nazro!” replied Captain January. “Hearty, that’s
what I am, an’ hopin’ you’re the same.”

“That’s right!” said the first speaker. “‘Tain’t often we set eyes
on you, you stick so close to your light. And the little gal, she’s
well, I expect? She looks a picture, when I take a squint at her
through the glass sometimes. Never misses running out and shaking
her apron when we go by!”

“Cap’n Nazro,” said January, speaking with emphasis, “if there is
a pictur in this world, o’ health, and pootiness, and goodness, it’s
that child. It’s that little un, sir. Not to be beat in this country,
nor yet any other ‘cordin’ as I’ve voyaged.”

“Nice little gal!” said Captain Nazro, assenting. “Mighty nice little
gal! Ain’t it time she was going to school, January? My wife and I
were speaking about it only the other day. Seems as if she’d oughter
be round with other children now, and learning what they do. Mis Nazro
would be real pleased to have her stop with us a spell, and go to
school with our gals. What do you say?” He spoke very heartily, but
looked doubtfully at the old man, as if hardly expecting a favourable
answer.

Captain January shook his head emphatically, “You’re real kind, Cap’n
Nazro!” he said; “real kind, you and Mis Nazro both are! and she
makin’ the little un’s frocks and pinafores, as is a great help. But
I can’t feel to let her out o’ my sight, nohow; and as for school,
she ain’t the kind to bear it, nor yet I couldn’t for her. She’s
learnin’!” he added, proudly. “Learnin’ well! I’ll bet there ain’t
no gal in your school knows more nor that little un does. Won’erful,
the way she walks ahead!”

“Get the school readers, hey! and teach her yourself do you?” queried
Captain Nazro.

“No, sir!” replied the old man; “I don’t have no school readers. The
child learns out o’ the two best books in the world,--the Bible, and
William Shakespeare’s book; them’s all the books she ever seed--_saw_,
I should say.”

“William Shak--” began Captain Nazro; and then he broke off in sheer
amazement, and said, simply, “Well, I’m blowed!”

“The minister giv ‘em to me,” said Captain January. “I reckon he
knows. There’s a dictionary, too,” he added, rather sadly; “but I
can’t make her take to that, nohow, though there’s a power o’ fine
words in it.”

Then, as the other man remained silent and openmouthed, he said: “But
I must be goin’, Cap’n Nazro, sir! The little un’ll be lookin’ for
me. Good day, sir, and thank ye kindly, all the same as if it was
to be, which it ain’t!” And with a friendly gesture, the old man
stepped into his red dory, and rowed away with long, sturdy strokes.

Captain Nazro gazed after him meditatively, took out his pipe and
looked at it, then gazed again. “January’s cracked,” he said;
“that’s what’s the matter with him. He’s a good man, and a good
lighthouse-keeper, and he’s been an able seaman in his day, none
better; but he’s cracked!”

There is an island off a certain part of the coast of Maine,--a little
rocky island, heaped and tumbled together as if Dame Nature had shaken
down a heap of stones at random from her apron, when she had finished
making the larger islands which lie between it and the mainland. At
one end, the shoreward end, there is a tiny cove, and a bit of
silver-sand beach, with a green meadow beyond it, and a single great
pine; but all the rest is rocks, rocks. At the farther end the rocks
are piled high, like a castle wall, making a brave barrier against
the Atlantic waves; and on top of this cairn rises the lighthouse,
rugged and sturdy as the rocks themselves, but painted white, and
with its windows shining like great, smooth diamonds. This is Light
Island; and it was in this direction that Captain January’s red dory
was headed when he took his leave of his brother-captain, and rowed
away from the wharf. It was a long pull; in fact, it took pretty
nearly the whole afternoon, so that the evening shadows were
lengthening when at length he laid down his oars, and felt the boat’s
nose rub against the sand of the little home-cove. But rowing was
no more effort than breathing to Captain January, and it was no
fatigue, but only a trifle of stiffness from sitting so long, that
troubled him a little in getting out of the boat. As he stepped slowly
out upon the firm-grained silver of the little beach, he looked up
and around with an expectant air, and seeing no one, a look of
disappointment crossed his face. He opened his lips as if to call
some one, but checking himself, “Happen she’s gettin’ supper!” he
said. “It’s later than I thought. I don’t pull so spry as I used ter,
‘pears ter me. Wal, thar! ‘tain’t to be expected. I sh’ll be forty
years old before I know it!”

Chuckling to himself, the Captain drew up the little boat and made
her fast; then, taking sundry brown-paper parcels from under the
thwart, he turned and made his way up towards the lighthouse. A
picturesque figure he was, striding along among the heaped and tumbled
rocks. His hair and beard, still thick and curly, were absolutely
white, as white as the foam that broke over the rocks at the cliff’s
foot. His face was tanned and weather-beaten to the colour of
mahogany, but the features were strong and sharply cut, while the
piercing blue eyes which gleamed beneath his shaggy eyebrows showed
all the fire of youth, and seemed to have no part in the seventy years
which had bent the tall form, and rounded slightly the broad and
massive shoulders. The Captain wore a rough pea-jacket and long boots,
while his head was adorned with a nondescript covering which might
have begun life either as a hat or a cap, but would now hardly be
owned by either family.

Reaching the house, the old man mounted the rude steps which led to
the door, and entered the room which was kitchen, dining, and drawing
room at Storm Castle, as the lighthouse was called by its inhabitants.
The room was light and cheerful, with a pleasant little fire crackling
sociably on the hearth. The table was laid with a clean white cloth,
the kettle was singing on the hob, and a little covered saucepan was
simmering with an agreeable and suggestive sound; but no one was to
be seen. Alarmed, he hardly knew why, at the silence and solitude,
Captain January set his parcels down on the table, and going to the
foot of the narrow stone staircase which wound upward beside the
chimney, called, “Star! Star Bright, where are you? Is anything
wrong?”

“No, Daddy Captain!” answered a clear, childish voice from above;
“I’m coming in a minute. Be patient, Daddy dear!”

With a sigh of relief, Captain January retired to the fireplace, and
sitting down in a huge high-backed armchair, began leisurely pulling
off his great boots. One was already off and in his hand, when a
slight noise made him look up. He started violently, and then, leaning
back in his chair, gazed in silent amazement at the vision before
him.

On the stone stairway, and slowly descending, with steps that were
meant to be stately (and which might have been so, had not the stairs
been so steep, and the little legs so short) was the figure of a
child: a little girl about ten years old, with a face of almost
startling beauty. Her hair floated like a cloud of pale gold about
her shoulders; her eyes were blue, not light and keen, like the old
man’s, but of that soft, deep, shadowy blue that poets love to call
violet. Wonderful eyes, shaded by long, curved lashes of deepest
black, which fell on the soft, rose-and-ivory tinted cheek, as the
child carefully picked her way down, holding up her long dress from
her little feet. It was the dress which so astonished Captain January.
Instead of the pink calico frock and blue checked pinafore, to which
his eyes were accustomed, the little figure was clad in a robe of
dark green velvet with a long train, which spread out on the staircase
behind her, very much like the train of a peacock. The body, made
for a grown woman, hung back loosely from her shoulders, but she had
tied a scarf of gold tissue under her arms and round her waist, while
from the long hanging sleeves her arms shone round and white as
sculptured ivory. A strange sight, this, for a lighthouse tower on
the coast of Maine! but so fair a one, that the old mariner could
not take his eyes from it.

“Might be Juliet!” he muttered to himself. “Juliet, when she was a
little un. ‘Her beauty hangs upon the cheek o’ Night,’--only it ain’t,
so to say, exactly night,--‘like a rich jewel in a nigger’s ear.’
No! that ain’t right. ‘Nigger’ ain’t right, ‘Ethiop’s ear, ‘that’s
it! Though I should judge they were much the same thing, and they
more frekently wear ‘em in their noses, them as I’ve seen in their
own country.”

As he thus soliloquised, the little maiden reached the bottom of the
stairs in safety, and dropping the folds of the velvet about her,
made a quaint little courtesy, and said, “Here I am, Daddy Captain!
how do you like me, please?”

“Star Bright,” replied Captain January, gazing fixedly at her, as
he slowly drew his pipe from his pocket and lighted it. “I like you
amazin’. _A_-mazin’ I like you, my dear! but it is what you might
call surprisin’, to leave a little maid in a blue pinafore, and to
come back and find a princess in gold and velvet. Yes, Pigeon Pie,
you might call it surprisin’, and yet not be stretchin’ a p’int.”

“Am I _really_ like a princess?” said the child, clapping her hands,
and laughing with pleasure. “Have you ever seen a princess, Daddy
Captain, and did she look like me?”

“I seed--I _saw_--one, once,” replied the Captain, gravely, puffing
at his pipe. “In Africky it was, when I was fust mate to an Indiaman.
And she wa’n’t like you, Peach Blossom, no more than Hyperion to a
Satyr, and that kind o’ thing. She had on a short petticut, comin’
half-way down to her knees, and a necklace, and a ring through her
nose. And--”

“Where were her other clothes?” asked the child.

“Wal--maybe she kem off in a hurry and forgot ‘em!” said the Captain,
charitably. “Anyhow, not speakin’ her language, I didn’t ask her.
And she was as black as the ace of spades, and shinin’ all over with
butter.”

“Oh, _that_ kind of princess!” said Star, loftily. “I didn’t mean
that kind, Daddy. I meant the kind who live in fretted palaces, with
music in th’ enamelled stones, you know, and wore clothes like these
every day.”

“Wal, Honey, I never saw one of that kind, till now!” said the
Captain, meekly. “And I’m sorry I hain’t--I mean I _ain’t_--got no
fretted palace for my princess to live in. This is a poor place for
golden lasses and velvet trains.”

“It _isn’t_!” cried the child, her face flashing into sudden anger,
and stamping her foot. “You sha’n’t call it a poor place, Daddy! It’s
wicked of you. And I wouldn’t live in a palace if there were _fifty_
of them all set in a row. So there now!” She folded her arms and
looked defiantly at the old man, who returned her gaze placidly, and
continued to puff at his pipe, until he was seized in a penitent
embrace, hugged, and kissed, and scolded, and wept over, all at once.

The brief tempest over, the child seated herself comfortably on his
knee, and said, “Now, Daddy, I want a story.”

“Story before supper?” asked the Captain, meekly, looking at the
saucepan, which was fairly lifting its lid in its eagerness to be
attended to. A fresh access of remorseful hugging followed.

“You poor darling!” said Star; “I forgot all about supper. And it’s
stewed kidneys, too! But oh! my dress!” and she glanced down at her
velvet splendour. “I must go and take it off,” she said, sadly.

“Not you, Honeysuckle,” said the old man, rising and setting the child
down carefully in the chair. “Sit you there, and be a real princess,
and I will be your steward, and get supper this time. I like to see
you in your fine clothes, and ‘twould be a shame to take ‘em off so
soon.”

She clapped her hands again, and settling herself cosily in the great
chair, arranged her train with a graceful sweep, and pushed back her
cloudy golden hair.

“Shall I really act princess?” she asked,--and without waiting for
an answer, she began to give orders in lofty tones, holding her head
high in the air, and pointing hither and thither with her tiny hands.
“Take up the golden chafing-dish, Grumio!” she cried. “The kidneys--I
mean the capons--are quite ready now. And the milk--no! the sack--is
in the silver flagon!” she pointed to an ancient blue jug which stood
on the dresser.

The obedient Captain hastened to take up the saucepan, and soon the
frugal supper was set out, and princess and steward were doing ample
justice to it.

“You didn’t say ‘Anon! anon! Madam’ when I ordered you about,” said
the Princess, thoughtfully. “You ought to, you know. Servants always
do in the book.”

“Wal, I didn’t think on’t,” the steward admitted. “I wa’n’t brought
up to the business, you see, Princess. It always seemed to me a
foolish thing to say, anyhow: no disrespect to W. Shakespeare. The
hull of the word’s ‘anonymous,’ I believe, and the dictionary says
_that_ means ‘wanting a name.’ So, altogether, Star Bright, I haven’t
been able to make much sense out o’ that answer.”

“Oh, never mind!” said the Princess, tossing her head. “I don’t like
the dictionary. It’s a wretch!”

“So ‘tis, so ‘tis,” assented the Captain, with servile alacrity. “Have
some more milk then, Sunshine.”

“It isn’t milk! it’s sack,” said the child, promptly, holding out
her small yellow mug with a royal air. “Are the capons good, Grumio?”

“They are, my lamb, they are,” replied the Captain. “Oncommon good
they are, to be sure, and me not knowin’ to this day what capons was.
A little more? Yes, Pigeon Pie, I _will_ take a little more, thank
ye kindly.”

“I don’t _think_, Grumio, that you ought to call me lambs and pigeon
pies just now,” remarked the Princess, judiciously. “Do you think
it’s respectful? they don’t in Shakespeare, I’m sure.”

“I won’t do it again, Honey--I mean Madam;” said the Captain, bowing
with great humility. “I beg your honourable majesty’s pardon, and
I won’t never presume to--”

“Yes, you will!” cried the Princess, flinging herself across the table
at him, and nearly choking him with the sudden violence of her
embrace. “You shall call me pigeon pie, and anything else you like.
You shall call me rye porridge, though I hate it, and it’s always
full of lumps. And don’t ever look that way again; it _kills_ me!”

The Captain quietly removed the clinging arms, and kissed them, and
set the half-weeping child back in her place. “There, there, there!”
 he said, soothingly. “What a little tempest it is!”

“Say ‘delicate Ariel,’” sobbed Star. “You haven’t said it to-day,
and you always say it when you love me.”

“Cream Cheese from the dairy of Heaven,” replied the Captain; “if
I always said it when I loved you, I should be sayin’ it every minute
of time, as well you know. But you are my delicate Ariel, so you are,
and there ain’t nothin’ in the hull book as suits you better. So!”
 and his supper ended, the good man turned his chair again to the fire,
and took the child, once more smiling, upon his knee.

“And now, Ariel, what have you been doin’ all the time I was away?
Tell Daddy all about it.”

Star pondered a moment, with her head on one side, and a finger hooked
confidentially through the Captain’s buttonhole. “Well,” she said,
“I’ve had a _very_ interesting time, Daddy Captain. First I cleaned
the lamps, of course, and filled and trimmed them. And then I played
Samson a good while; and--”

“And how might you play Samson?” inquired the Captain.

“With flies!” replied Star, promptly. “Heaps upon heaps, you know;
‘With the jaw-bone of an ass have I slain a thousand men.’ The flies
were the Philistines, and I took a clam-shell for the jaw-bone; it
did just as well. And I made a song out of it, to one of the tunes
you whistle: ‘With the jaw-bone! with the jaw-bone! with the jaw-bone
of an ass!’ It was very exciting.”

“Must ha’ been,” said the Captain dryly. “Well, Honeysuckle, what
did you do then?”

“Oh, that took some time!” said the child. “And afterward I fished
a little, but I didn’t catch anything, ‘cept an old flounder, and
he winked at me, so I put him back. And then I thought a long
time--oh! a very long time, sitting like Patience on the doorstep.
And _suddenly_, Daddy Captain, I thought about those boxes of clothes,
and how you said they would be mine when I was big. And I measured
myself against the doorpost, and found that I _was very_ big. I
thought I must be almost as big as you, but I s’pose I’d forgotten
how big you were. So I went up, and opened one box, and I was just
putting the dress on when you came in. You knew where it came from,
of course, Daddy, the moment you saw it.”

The Captain nodded gravely, and pulled his long moustaches.

“Do you suppose my poor mamma wore it often?” the child went on,
eagerly. “Do you think she looked like me when she wore it? Do I look
as she did when you saw her?”

“Wal,” began the Captain, meditatively; but Star ran on without
waiting for an answer.

“Of course, though, she looked very different, because she was dead.
You are quite very positively sure my poor mamma was dead, Daddy
Captain?”

“She were,” replied the Captain, with emphasis. “She were that, Pigeon
Pie! You couldn’t find nobody deader, not if you’d sarched for a week.
Why, door nails, and Julius Caesar, and things o’ that description,
would ha’ been _lively_ compared with your poor ma when I see her.
Lively! that’s what they’d ha’ been.”

The child nodded with an air of familiar interest, wholly untinged
with sadness. “I think,” she said, laying her head against the old
man’s shoulder, and curling one arm about his neck, “I think I should
like to hear about it again, please, Daddy. It’s a long, long time
since you told me the whole of it.”

“Much as a month, I should think it must be,” assented the Captain.
“Why, Snowdrop, you know the story by heart, better’n I do, I believe.
‘Pears to me I’ve told it reg’lar, once a month or so, ever since
you were old enough to understand it.”

“Never mind!” said the Princess, with an imperious gesture. “That
makes no difference. I _want_ it now!”

“Wal, wal!” said the Captain, smoothing back the golden hair. “If
you _want_ it, why of course you must have it, Blossom! But first
I must light up, ye know. One star inside the old house, and the other
atop of it: that’s what makes Light Island the lightest spot in the
natural world. Sit ye here, Star Bright, and play Princess till Daddy
comes back!”



CHAPTER II. -- THE STORY


The lamps were lighted, and the long, level rays flashed their golden
warning over the murmuring darkness of the summer sea, giving cheer
to many hearts on inbound barque or schooner. Bright indeed was the
star on the top of the old lighthouse; but no less radiant was the
face of little Star, as she turned it eagerly towards Captain January,
and waited for the beginning of the well-known and well-loved story.

“Wal,” said the Captain, when his pipe was refilled and drawing
bravely. “Let me see now! where shall I begin?”

“At the beginning!” said Star promptly.

“Jes’ so!” assented the old man. “Ten years ago this--”

“No! No!!” cried the child. “_That_ isn’t the beginning, Daddy! That’s
almost half-way to the middle. ‘When I was a young lad.’ That’s the
beginning.”

“Bound to have it all, are ye, Honeysuckle?” said the obedient
Captain. “Wal! Wal! when I were a young lad, I was a wild un, ye see,
Treasure. My father, he ‘prenticed me to a blacksmith, being big and
strong for my years; but I hadn’t no heart for the work. All I cared
about was the sea, and boats, and sailors, and sea talk. I ran away
down to the wharf whenever I could get a chance, and left my work.
Why, even when I went to meetin’, ‘stead o’ listenin’, to the
minister, I was lookin’ out the places about them as go down to the
sea in ships, ye know, and ‘that leviathan whom Thou hast made,’ and
all that. And there was Hiram, King of Tyre, and his ships! Lord!
how I used to think about them ships, and wonder how they was rigged,
and how many tons they were, and all about it. Yes! I was a wild un,
and no mistake; and after awhile I got so roused up--after my mother
died, it was, and my father married again--that I just run away, and
shipped aboard of a whaler, bound for the north seas. Wal, Honey,
‘twould take me a week to tell ye about all my voyages. Long and short
of it, ‘twas the life I was meant for, and I done well in it. Had
tumbles and toss-ups, here and there, same as everybody has in any
kind o’ life; but I done well, and by the time I was forty year old
I was captain of the _Bonito_, East Indiaman, sailin’ from New York
to Calcutta.”

The Captain paused, and puffed gravely at his pipe for a few minutes.

“Well, Rosebud,” he continued, presently, “you know what comes next.
The _Bonito_ was cast away, in a cyclone, on a desert island, and
all hands lost, except me and one other.”

“Dear Daddy! poor Daddy!” cried the child, putting her little hands
up to the weather-beaten face, and drawing it down to hers. “Don’t
talk about that dreadful part. Go on to the next!”

“No, I won’t talk about it, Star Bright!” said the old man, very
gravely. “Fust place I can’t, and second place it ain’t fit for little
maids to hear of. But I lived on that island fifteen year,--five year
with my good mate Job Hotham, and ten year alone, after Job died.
When a ship kem by, after that, and took me off, I’d forgot most
everything, and was partly like the beasts that perish; but it kem
back to me. Slow, like, and by fits, as you may say; but it kem back,
all there was before, and maybe a good bit more!”

“Poor Daddy!” murmured the child again, pressing her soft cheek
against the white beard. “It’s all over now! Don’t think of it! I
am here, Daddy, loving you: loving you _all to pieces_, you know!”

The old man was silent for a few minutes, caressing the little white
hands which lay like twin snowflakes in his broad, brown palm. Then
he resumed, cheerfully:

“And so, Cream Cheese from the dairy of Heaven, I kem home. Your old
Daddy kem home, and landed on the same wharf he’d sailed from
twenty-five years before. Not direct, you understand, but takin’
steamer from New York, and so on. Wal, there wa’n’t nobody that knew
me, or cared for me. Father was dead, and his wife; and their
children, as weren’t born when I sailed from home, were growed up
and gone away. No, there wa’n’t nobody. Wal, I tried for a spell to
settle down and live like other folks, but ‘twa’n’t no use. I was’nt
used to the life, and I couldn’t stand it. For ten years I haven’t
heard the sound of a human voice, and now they was buzz, buzzin’ all
the time; it seemed as if there was a swarm of wasps round my ears
the everlastin’ day. Buzz! buzz! and then clack! clack! like an
everlasting mill-clapper; and folks starin’ at my brown face and white
hair, and askin’ me foolish questions. I couldn’t stand it, that was
all. I heard that a light-keeper was wanted here, and I asked for
the place, and got it. And that’s all of the first part, Peach
Blossom.”

The child drew a long breath, and her face glowed with eager
anticipation. “And _now_, Daddy Captain,” she said, “_now_ you may
say, ‘Ten years ago this fall!’”

“Ten years ago this fall,” said the Captain meekly acquiescing, “on
the fourteenth day of September, as ever was, I looks out from the
tower, bein’ a-fillin’ of the lamps, and says I, ‘There’s a storm
comin’!’ So I made all taut above and below, fastened the door, and
took my glass and went out on the rocks, to see how things looked.
Wal, they looked pooty bad. There had been a heavy sea on for a couple
o’ days, and the clouds that was comin’ up didn’t look as if they
was goin’ to smooth it down any. There was a kind o’ brassy look over
every thin’, and when the wind began to rise, it warn’t with no
nat’ral sound, but a kind of screech to it, on’arthly like. Wal, thar!
the wind did rise, and it riz to stay. In half an hour it was blowin’
half a gale; in an hour it blew a gale, and as tough a one (barrin’
cyclones) as ever I see. ‘T had like to ha’ blow me off my pins, half
a dozen times. Then nat’rally the sea kem up; and ‘twas all creation
on them rocks, now I tell ye. ‘The sea, mountin’ to the welkin’s
cheek;’ ye remember, Pigeon Pie?”

The child nodded eagerly. “Tempest!” she said, “Act I., Scene 2:
‘Enter Prospero and Miranda.’ Go on, Daddy!”

“Wal, my Lily Flower,” continued the old man. “And the storm went
on. It roared, it bellowed, and it screeched: it thumped and it
kerwhalloped. The great seas would come bunt up agin the rocks, as
if they was bound to go right through to Jersey city, which they used
to say was the end of the world. Then they’d go scoopin’ back, as
if they was callin’ all their friends and neighbours to help; and
then, bang! they’d come at it agin. The spray was flyin’ in great
white sheets, and whiles, it seemed as if the hull island was goin’
to be swallowed up then and thar. ‘Tain’t nothin’ but a little heap
o’ rocks anyhow, to face the hull Atlantic Ocean gone mad: and on
that heap o’ rocks was Januarius Judkins, holdin’ on for dear life,
and feelin’ like a hoppergrass that had got lost in Niag’ry Falls.”

“Don’t say that name, Daddy!” interrupted the child. “You know I don’t
like it. Say ‘Captain January’!”

“I tell ye, Honeysuckle,” said the old man, “I felt more like a
sea-cook than a cap’n _that_ night. A cap’n on a quarter-deck’s a
good thing; but a cap’n on a p’int o’ rock, out to sea in a northeast
gale, might just as well be a fo’c’sle hand and done with it. Wal,
as I was holdin’ on thar, I seed a flash to windward, as wasn’t
lightning; and next minute kem a sound as wasn’t thunder nor yet wind
nor sea.”

“The guns! the guns!” cried the child, in great excitement. “The guns
of my poor mamma’s ship. And then you heard them again, Daddy?”

“Then I heard them agin!” the old man assented. “And agin! a flash,
and a boom! and then in a minute agin, a flash and a boom! ‘Oh, Lord!’
says I. ‘Take her by to the mainland, and put her ashore there!’ I
says; ‘cause there’s a life-saving station thar, ye know, Blossom,
and there might be some chance for them as were in her. But the Lord
had His views, my dear, the Lord had His views! Amen! so be it! In
another minute there kem a break in the clouds, and thar she was,
comin’ full head on, straight for Light Island. Oh! my little Star,
that was an awful thing to see. And I couldn’t do nothin’, you
understand. Not a livin’ airthly thing could I do, ‘cept hide my face
agin the rock I was clingin’ to, and say, ‘Dear Lord, take ‘em easy!
It’s Thy will as they should be took,’ I says, ‘and there ain’t no
one to hender, if so be as they could. But take ‘em easy, good Lord,
and take ‘em suddin!’”

“And He did!” cried the child. “The good Lord did take ‘em sudden,
didn’t He, Daddy Captain?”

“He did, my child!” said the old man, solemnly. “They was all home,
them that was goin’, in ten minutes from the time I saw the ship.
You know the Roarin’ Bull, as sticks his horns out o’ water just to
windward of us? the cruelest rock on the coast, he is, and the
treacherousest: and the ship struck him full and fair on the starboard
quarter, and in ten minutes she was kindlin’ wood, as ye may say. The
Lord rest their souls as went down in her! Amen!”

“Amen!” said little Star, softly. But she added in an eager tone,
“And now, Daddy, you are coming to me!”

“Pooty soon, Jewel Bright!” said the old man, stroking the gold hair
tenderly. “I’m a-comin’ to you pooty soon. ‘Twas along about eight
bells when she struck, and none so dark, for the moon had risen. After
the ship had gone down, I strained my eyes through the driving spray,
to see whether anything was comin’ ashore. Presently I seed somethin’
black, driftin’ towards the rocks: and lo’ ye, ‘twas a boat bottom
side up, and all hands gone down. Wal! wal! the Lord knew what was
right: but it’s wuss by a deal to _see_ them things than to be in
‘em yourself, to my thinkin’. Wal, after a spell I looked agin, and
there was somethin’ else a-driftin’ looked like a spar, it did: and
somethin’ was lashed to it. My heart! ‘twas tossed about like a
egg-shell, up and down, and here and thar! ‘Twas white, whatever was
lashed to it, and I couldn’t take my eyes off’n it. ‘It can’t be
alive!’ I says, ‘whatever it is!’ I says. ‘But I’ll get it, if it
takes a leg!’ I says. For down in my heart, Jewel, I knew they
wouldn’t ha’ taken such care of anythin’ _but_ what was alive, and
they perishin’, but I didn’t think it could live in such a sea long
enough to get ashore. Wal, I kep’ my eyes on that spar, and I see
that ‘twas comin’ along by the south side. Then I ran, or crawled,
‘cordin’ as the wind allowed me, back to the shed, and got a boat-hook
and a coil o’ rope; and then I clumb down as far as I dared, on the
south rocks. I scooched down under the lee of a p’int o’ rock, and
made the rope fast round my waist, and the other end round the rock,
and then I waited for the spar to come along. ‘Twas hard to make out
anythin’, for the water was all a white, bilin’ churn, and the spray
flyin’ fit to blind you; but bimeby I co’t sight of her comin’
swashin’ along, now up on top of a big roarer, and then scootin’ down
into the holler, and then up agin. I crep’ out on the rocks, grippin’
‘em for all I was wuth, with the boat-hook under my arm. The wind
screeched and clawed at me like a wildcat in a caniption fit, but
I hadn’t been through those cyclones for nothin’. I lay down flat
and wriggled myself out to the edge, and thar I waited.”

“And the waves were breaking over you all the time?” cried the child,
with eager inquiry.

“Wal, they was that, Honeysuckle!” said the Captain. “Bless ye, I
sh’d ha’ been washed off like a log if ‘t hadn’t ben for the rope.
But that held; ‘twas a good one, and tied with a bowline, and it held.
Wal, I lay thar, and all to wunst I see her comin’ by like a flash,
close to me. ‘_Now_!’ says I, ‘ef ther’s any stuff in you, J. Judkins,
let’s see it!’ says I. And I chucks myself over the side o’ the rock
and grabs her with the boat-hook, and hauls her in. ‘All together,’
I says. ‘_Now_, my hearties! Yo heave _ho_!’ and I hed her up, and
hauled her over the rocks and round under the lee of the p’int, before
I stopped to breathe. How did I do it? Don’t ask me, Jewel Bright!
_I_ don’t know how I did it. There’s times when a man has strength
given to him, seemin’ly, over and above human strength. ‘Twas like
as if the Lord ketched holt and helped me: maybe He did, seein’ what
‘twas I was doing. Maybe He did!” He paused a moment in thought, but
Star was impatient.

“Well, Daddy!” she cried. “And then you looked and found it was--go
on, Daddy dear!”

“I looked,” continued the old man, “and I found it was a sail, that
had showed so white against the spar; a sail, wrapped tight round
somethin’. I cut the ropes, and pulled away the canvas and a tarpaulin
that was inside that; and thar I seed--”

“My poor mamma and me!” cried the child, joyously, clapping her hands.
“Oh, Daddy Captain, it _is_ so delightful when you come to this part!
And my poor mamma was dead? You are quite positively sure that she
was dead, Daddy?”

“She were, my lamb!” replied the Captain, gravely. “You needn’t never
have no doubt about it. She had had a blow on the head, your poor
ma had, from one o’ the bull’s horns, likely; and I’ll warrant she
never knowed anythin’ after it, poor lady! She was wrapped in a great
fur cloak, the same as you have on your bed in winter, Blossom: and
lyin’ all clost and warm in her cold arms, that held on still, though
the life was gone out of ‘em, was”--the old man faltered, and brushed
his rough hand across his eyes--“was a--a little baby. Asleep, it
seemed to be, all curled up like a rose on its mother’s breast, and
its pooty eyes tight shut. I loosed the poor arms--they was like a
stattoo’s, so round and white and cold; and I took the child up in
my arms; and lo’ ye! it opened its eyes and looked straight at me
and laughed.”

“And it said, Daddy?” cried the delighted child, clapping her hands.
“Tell what it said!”

“It said ‘Tar,’” the old man continued, in a hushed voice. “‘Tar,’
it said as plain as I say it to you. ‘And “Star” it is!’ says I; for
‘if ever a star shone on a dark night, it’s you, my pooty,’ I says.
‘Praise the Lord,’ I says. ‘Amen, so be it.’ Then I laid your poor
ma in a corner, under the lee of the big rock, where the spray
wouldn’t fly over her, and I covered her with the sail; and then I
took the fur cloak, seein’ the baby needed it and she didn’t, and
wrapped it round the little un, and clumb back over the rocks, up
to the house. And so, Honeysuckle--”

“And so,” cried the child, taking his two great hands and putting
them softly together, “so I came to be your little Star!”

“To be my little Star!” assented the old man, stooping to kiss the
golden head.

“Your light and your joy!” exclaimed the child, laughing with
pleasure.

“My light and my joy!” said the old man, solemnly. “A light from
heaven to shine in a dark place, and the Lord’s message to a sinful
man.”

He was silent for a little, looking earnestly into the child’s radiant
face. Presently, “You’ve been happy, Star Bright?” he asked. “You
haven’t missed nothin’?”

Star opened wide eyes of surprise at him. “Of course I’ve been happy!”
 she said. “Why shouldn’t I be?”

“You ain’t--I mean you haven’t mourned for your poor ma, have ye,
Jewel?” He was still looking curiously at her, and his look puzzled
her.

“No,” she said after a pause. “Of course not. I never knew my poor
mamma. Why should I mourn for her? She is in heaven, and I am very
glad. You say heaven is much nicer than here, so it must be pleasanter
for my poor mamma; and I don’t need her, because I have you, Daddy.
But go on, now, please, Daddy dear. ‘Next day’--”

“Next day,” resumed the obedient Captain, “the sky was bright and
clear, and only the heavy sea, and your poor ma, and you, Peach
Blossom, to tell what had happened, so far as I seed at fust. Bimeby,
when I went out to look, I found other things.”

“My poor papa!” said Star, with an air of great satisfaction.

The Captain nodded. “Yer poor pa,” he said, “and two others with him.
How did I know he was your poor pa? Along of his havin’ your poor
ma’s pictur hung round his neck. And a fine-lookin’ man he was, to
be sure!”

“And his name was ‘H. M.’!” cried the child, eagerly.

“Them was the letters of it!” assented the Captain. “Worked on his
shirt and hank’cher, so fine as ever was. Well, Jewel Bright, when
I seed all this, I says, ‘January,’ says I, ‘here’s Christian corpses,
and they must have Christian burial!’ I says. So I brought ‘em all
up to the house, and laid ‘em comfortable; and then I gave you a good
drink of warm milk (you’d been sleepin’ like a little angil, and only
waked up to smile and crow and say ‘’Tar’), and gave you a bright
spoon to play with; and then I rowed over to shore to fetch the
minister and the crowner, and everybody else as was proper. You don’t
care about this part, Honeysuckle, and you ain’t no need to, but
everything was done decent and Christian, and your parents and the
other two laid peaceful under the big pine-tree. Then the minister,
when ‘twas all done, he says to me, ‘And now, my friend,’ he says,
‘I’ll relieve you of the child, as would be a care to you, and I can
find some one to take charge of it!’ he says. ‘Meanin’ no disrespect,
Minister,’ I says, ‘don’t think it! The Lord has His views, you’ll
allow, most times, and He had ‘em when He sent the child here. He
could have sent her ashore by the station jest as easy,’ I says, ‘if
so be’t had seemed best; but He sent her to me,’ I says, ‘and I’ll
keep her.’ ‘But how can you bring up a child?’ he says, ‘alone, here
on a rock in the ocean?’ he says. ‘I’ve been thinking that over,
Minister,’ I says, ‘ever since I holt that little un in my arms,
takin’ her from her dead mother’s breast,’ I says; ‘and I can’t see
that there’s more than three things needed to bring up a child,--the
Lord’s help, common sense, and a cow. The last two I hev, and the
fust is likely to be round when a man asks for it!’ I says. So then
we shakes hands, and he doesn’t say nothin’ more, ‘cept to pray a
blessin’ for me and for the child. And the blessin’ kem, and the
blessin’ stayed, Star Bright; and there’s the end of the story, my
maid.

“And now it’s time these two eyes were shut, and only the top star
shinin’ in the old tower. Good night, Jewel! Good night, and God bless
you!”



CHAPTER III. -- INTRODUCING IMOGEN AND BOB


“Imogen!” said Star, looking up from her book, “I don’t believe you
have been listening!”

Imogen looked up meekly, but made no attempt to deny the charge.

“You _must_ listen!” said the child, sternly. “First place, it’s
beautiful: and besides, it’s very rude not to listen when people
reads. And you ought _not_ to be rude, Imogen!” After which short
lecture, Star turned to her book again,--a great book it was, lying
open on the little pink calico lap,--and went on reading, in her clear
childish voice:

  “‘Over hill, over dale,
      Thorough bush, thorough brier,
    Over park, over pale,
      Thorough flood, thorough fire,
    I do wander everywhere,
    Swifter than the moony sphere;
    And I serve the fairy queen,
    To dew her orbs upon the green:’

Do you know what a fairy is, Imogen?” asked Star, looking up again
suddenly.

But this time it was very evident that Imogen (who was, in truth,
a large white cow, with a bell round her neck) was paying no attention
whatever to the reading; for she had fairly turned her back, and was
leisurely cropping the short grass, swaying her tail in a comfortable
and reflective manner the while.

Star sprang to her feet, and seizing the delinquent’s horns, shook
them with all her might.

“How dare you turn your back when I am reading?” she cried. “I’m just
ashamed of you! You’re a disgrace to me, Imogen. Why, you are as
ignorant as a--as--as a lobster! and you a great cow with four whole
legs. A--a--ah! shame on you!”

Imogen rubbed her head deprecatingly against the small pink shoulder,
and uttered a soft and apologetic “moo;” but Star was not ready to
be mollified yet.

“And you know it’s my _own_ book, too!” she continued, reproachfully.
“My own Willum Shakespeare, that I love more--well, no! not _more_
than I love you, Imogen, but just as much, and almost nearly half
as much as I love Daddy Captain.

“But after all,” she added, with a smile flitting over her frowning
little face, “after all, you poor dear, you _are_ only a cow, and
I don’t suppose you know.” And then she hugged Imogen, and blew a
little into one of her ears, to make her wink it, and the two were
very friendly again.

“Perhaps you would like to know, Imogen,” said Star, confidentially,
seating herself once more on the ground, “_why_ I am so fond of Willum
Shakespeare. So I will tell you. It is really part of _my_ story,
but Daddy Captain didn’t get as far as that last night, so I think
I will tell it to you. Well!” she drew a long breath of enjoyment,
and, clasping her hands round her knees, settled herself for a “good
talk.”

“Well, Imogen: you see, at first I was a little baby, and didn’t know
anything at all. But by and by I began to grow big, and then Daddy
Captain said to himself, ‘Here’s a child,’ he says, ‘and a child of
gentlefolks, and she mustn’t grow up in ignorance, and me doing my
duty by her poor pa and ma,’ he says. So he rows over to the town,
and he goes to the minister (the same minister who came over here
before), and he says, ‘Good morning, Minister!’ and the minister
shakes him by the hand hearty, and says, ‘Why, Captain January!’ he
says, ‘I’m amazing glad to see you. And how is the child?’ And Daddy
says, ‘The child is a-growing with the flowers,’ he says; ‘and she’s
a-growing like the flowers. Show me a rose that’s as sweet and as
well growed as that child,’ he says, ‘and I’ll give you my head,
Minister.’ That’s the way Daddy talks, you know, Imogen. And then
he told the minister how he didn’t want the child (that was me, of
course) to grow up in ignorance, and how he wanted to teach me. And
the minister asked him was he qualified to teach. ‘Not yet, I ain’t!’
says Daddy Captain, ‘but I’m a-going to be. I want a book, or maybe
a couple of books, that’ll edicate me in a manner all round!’ he says.
‘I couldn’t do with a lot of ‘em,’ he says, ‘’cause I ain’t used to
it, and it makes things go round inside my head. But I think I could
tackle two if they was fustrate,’ he says. The minister laughed, and
told Daddy he wanted a good deal. Then he asked him if he had the
Good Book. That’s the Bible, you know, Imogen. Daddy Captain won’t
let me read that to you, because you are a beast that perish. Poor
dear!” she leaned forward and kissed Imogen’s pink nose. “And Daddy
said _of course_ he had that, only the letters weren’t so clear as
they used to be, somehow, perhaps along of getting wet in his weskit
pocket, being he carried it along always. So the minister gave him
a _new big_ BEAUTIFUL Bible, Imogen! It isn’t so new _now_, but it’s
just as big and beautiful, and I love it. And then he thought for
a long time, the minister did, walking about the room and looking
at all the books. The whole room was full of books, Daddy says, all
on shelves, ‘cept some on the floor and the table and the chairs.
It made his head go round dreadful to see them all, Daddy says (I
mean Daddy’s head), and think of anybody reading them. He says he
doesn’t see how in creation the minister manages to keep his bearings,
and look out for a change in the wind, and things that _have_ to be
done, and read all those books too. _Well_!” she kissed Imogen’s nose
again, from sheer enjoyment, and threw her head back with a laugh
of delight. “I’m coming to it now, Imogen!” she cried. “At last the
minister took down a big book--OH! you precious old thing, how I love
you!” (this apostrophe was addressed to the quarto volume which she
was now hugging rapturously), “and said, ‘Well, Captain January,
here’s the best book in the world, _next_ to the Good Book!’ he says.
‘You’ll take this,’ he says, ‘as my gift to you and the child; and
with these two books to guide you, the child’s edication won’t go
far wrong!’ he says; and then he gave Daddy the dictionary, too,
Imogen; but I sha’n’t tell you about that, because it’s a brute, and
I hate and ‘spise it. But--well! _so_, you see, _that_ was the way
I got my Willum Shakespeare, my joy and my pride, my--”

At this moment a shadow fell upon the grass, and a deep, gruff voice
was heard, saying, “Star, ahoy!” The child started up, and turned
to meet the newcomer with a joyous smile. “Why, Bob!” she cried,
seizing one of his hands in both of hers, and dancing round and round
him. “Where did you come from? Why aren’t you on the boat?”

“Boat’s aground!” replied the person addressed as Bob. He spoke in
short, jerky sentences. He was dressed as a seafaring man; had wide,
helpless-looking brown eyes, an apologetic smile, and a bass voice
of appalling depth and power. “Boat’s aground,” he repeated, seating
himself on the grass and looking about for a stem of grass long enough
to put in his mouth. “Hard and fast. Waiting for tide to turn; thought
I’d come, pass time o’ day.”

“And how came you to run her aground?” inquired the child, severely.
“A pretty pilot you are! Why, I could steer her myself better than
that.”

“Fog!” replied the man, in a meek and muffled roar. Then finding a
bit of sorrel, he fell upon it with avidity, and seemed to think he
had said enough.

“H’m!” said Star, with a disdainful little sniff. “You’d better get
Daddy to steer your boat. _He_ doesn’t mind fog. Are there many people
on board?” she added, with an air of interest.

“Heaps!” replied Bob, succinctly. Then, after a pause of meditative
chewing: “Like to go aboard? take ye--boat--Cap’n willin’.”

“No, I don’t want to go aboard, thank you!” said Star. “I don’t like
people. But you might just row me round her once, Bob,” she added.
“I think I should like _that_. But we must wait till Daddy comes,
of course.”

“Cap’n round?” inquired Bob.

“He’s setting the lobster-pots,” replied the child. “He’ll be back
soon. Bob,” she added, irrelevantly, a moment after, “I never noticed
before that you looked like Imogen. Why, you are the very image of
her, Bob! Your eyes and your expression are _exactly_ the same.” Bob
raised his eyes and surveyed Imogen with a critical air. “Fine cow!”
 he said at last. “D’no’s I mind--‘f she doosn’t.”

“_Isn’t_ she a fine cow?” cried little Star, patting the meek and
graceful head of her favourite. “I don’t believe there’s another such
cow in the world. I _know_ there isn’t! I think,” she added, “I will
take a little ride on her, while we are waiting for Daddy Captain.
Will you put me up, please, Bob?”

The obedient Bob lifted her as if she were a ball of thistle-down,
and set her on the broad back of the good cow, who straightway began
to pace sedately along the bit of meadow, following the guidance of
the small hands which clasped her horns. Ah! who will paint me that
picture, as my mind’s eye sees it? The blue of sky and sea, the
ripples breaking in silver on silver sand, the jewelled green, where
the late dandelions flecked the grass with gold; and in the midst
the lovely, laughing child, mounted on the white cow, tossing her
cloudy golden hair, and looking back with eyes of delight towards
her companion.

The beauty of it all filled the eyes and the heart of Captain January,
as he came up among the rocks. He paused, and stood for some time
in silence, watching the little well-beloved figure. “Wal!” he said,
“if that ain’t one of the young-eyed cherubims, then I never seed
one, that’s all.”

At this moment Star caught sight of him. “O Daddy,” she cried. “My
Daddy Captain, I’m having such a fine ride! It isn’t _quite_ as high
as a heaven-kissing hill, but it’s a heaven-kissing cow, for Imogen
is really _very_ high. Dear Daddy, won’t you come and try it? there’s
plenty of room!”

“Thanky, Peach Blossom!” said the Captain, advancing, and greeting
the apologetic Bob with a hearty shake of the hand. “Thanky kindly,
but I don’t believe I will try it. Ridin’ was never, so as to say,
in my line. I’m stiddy enough on my own pins, but defend me from
tryin’ to git about on another critter’s. And how’s all with you,
Bob? and why ain’t you aboard the _Huntress_?”

Bob in the fewest possible words related the mishap which had befallen
the boat, and asked if he might take Missy out to see her.

“To be sure! to be sure!” said Captain January. “That’ll be a nice
trip for ye, Honeysuckle. Put on your bunnit and go with Bob. He’ll
take good care of ye, Bob will.”

And so, by what seemed the merest chance, that lovely afternoon,
little Star went with Bob Peet, in his old black boat, to see the
steamer _Huntress_ aground on a sand-bank off the main shore.

The sea lay all shining and dimpling in the afternoon light, and not
a cloud was to be seen overhead. Here and there a white gull was
slowly waving his wings through the clear air, and little fish came
popping their heads out of the water, just for the pleasure of popping
them back again. Star dipped her hands in the blue crystal below,
and sang little snatches of song, being light of heart and without
a care in the world. They were no nursery songs that she sang, for
she considered herself to have outgrown the very few Mother Goose
ditties which Captain January had treasured in his mind and heart
ever since his mother sang them to him, all the many years ago. She
was tired of:

  “Jacky Barber’s coming to town:
   Clear away, gentlemen! clear away, gentlemen!
   One foot up and t’other foot down,
   Jacky Barber’s coming to town.”

But she loved the scraps of sea-song that the old Captain still hummed
over his work: “Baltimore,” and “Blow a Man Down,” and half a dozen
other salt-water ditties: and it might have been strange to less
accustomed ears than Bob Peet’s to hear the sweet child-voice
carolling merrily:

  “Boney was a warrior,
   Weigh! heigh! oh!
   Boney was a warrior,
   John Francois!
   Boney whipped the Rooshians,
   Weigh! heigh! oh!
   Boney whipped the Prooshians,
   John Francois!
   Boney went to Elba,
   Weigh! heigh! oh!” etc.

Bob’s oars kept time with the song, and his portentous voice thundered
out the refrain with an energy which shook the little skiff from stem
to stern. By the time that “Boney” was safely consigned to his grave
in sunny France, they were nearing the flats on which the steamer
_Huntress_ lay, quietly awaiting the turn of the tide.

Star knew the great white boat well, for twice a day she went
thundering past Light Island, churning the quiet blue water into foam
with her huge paddles, on her way to and from the gay summer city
which all the world came to visit. Nearly every day the child would
run out on the south rocks to wave a greeting to some of her
acquaintances among the crew; for she knew them all, from the
black-bearded captain down to the tiniest cabin-boy; and they, for
their part, were always eager--good souls!--for a smile or a nod from
the “Star of Light Island.” Not a man of them but envied Bob Peet
his privilege of going when he pleased to the lighthouse rock. For
Captain January was not fond of visitors, and gave them no
encouragement to come, Bob Peet being the single exception to the
rule. The Captain liked Bob because he was not “given to clatter,”
 and “knew how to belay his jaw.”

“I do love to see a man belay his jaw!” said Captain January,
unconsciously quoting the words of another and a more famous captain,
the beloved David Dodd. So Bob was free to come and go as he liked,
and to smoke his pipe in sociable silence for hours at a time, within
the walls of Storm Castle.

“Stop here, Bob!” said Star, with an imperious motion of her hand.
“I don’t want to go any nearer.” The obedient Bob lay on his oars,
and both looked up at the great boat, now only a few yards away. The
decks were crowded with passengers, who leaned over the railings,
idly chatting, or watching the water to see if the tide had turned.

“Sight o’ folks,” said Bob Peet, nodding towards the after-deck, which
seemed a solid mass of human beings.

“Yes,” said the child, speaking half to herself, in a low tone. “It’s
just like the Tower of Babel, isn’t it? I should think they would
be afraid. ‘And the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the
face of all the earth.’ And it’s so _stupid_!” she added, after a
moment’s pause. “Why don’t they stay at home? Haven’t they any homes
to stay at? Who takes care of their homes while they go sailing about
like loons?”

“Folks likes to v’yage,” said Bob Peet, with mild toleration.
“Heaps--nothin’ t’ do--hot spells--v’yages.” He added, with an
approach to a twinkle in his meek and cow-like eyes, “Try it--some
day--git tired of ol’ Cap’n--ol’ rock--pooty soon--take ye--v’yage--”

His speech was interrupted by a sudden and violent dash of water in
his face.

“Take that!” cried Star, panting with fury, and flinging the water
at him with all her small might. “I wish it was sharp stones, instead
of just water. I wish it was needles, and jagged rocks, and quills
upon the fretful porkypine, so I do! How dare you say such things
to me, Bob Peet? How dare you?” She paused, breathless, but with
flashing eyes and burning cheeks; while Bob meekly mopped his face
and head with a red cotton handkerchief, and shook the water from
his ears, eyeing her the while with humble and deprecatory looks.

“No offence,” he muttered, in apologetic thunder-rumble. “Poor ol’
Bob--eh, Missy? Sorry, beg pardon! Never no more. Didn’t mean
it--nohow!”

The tempest subsided as suddenly as it rose, and Star, with a
forgiving nod, took out her own little handkerchief and daintily wiped
a few drops from her victim’s forehead.

“You’re so stupid, Bob,” she said, frankly, “that I suppose I ought
not to get angry with you, any more than I would with Imogen, though
even she provokes me sometimes. So I forgive you, Bob. But if you
ever say such a thing again as my getting tired of Daddy, I’ll kill
you. So now you know!”

“Jes’ so!” assented Bob. “Nat’rally! _To_ b’ sure!”

The sudden splashing of the water had caught many eyes on the deck
of the _Huntress_, and people admired the “playfulness” of the pretty
child in the little boat. One pair of eyes, however, was sharper than
the rest.

“Just look at that child, Isabel!” said a tall, bronzed gentleman
who was leaning over the taff-rail. “She is a perfect little fury!
I never saw a pair of eyes flash so. Very fine eyes they are, too.
A very beautiful child. Isabel! why, my dear, what is the matter?
You are ill--faint! let me--”

But the lady at his side pushed his arm away, and leaned forward,
her eyes fixed upon Star’s face.

“George,” she said, in a low, trembling voice, “I want to know who
that child is. I _must_ know, George! Find out for me, dear, please!”

As she spoke, she made a sign towards the boat, so earnest, so
imperative, that it caught Star’s wandering gaze. Their eyes met,
and the little child in the pink calico frock, and the stately lady
in the India shawl, gazed at each other as if they saw nothing else
in the world. The gentleman looked from one to the other in amazement.

“Isabel!” he whispered, “the child looks like you. What can this
mean?”

But little Star, in the old black boat, cried, “Take me away, Bob!
take me home to my Daddy Captain! _Quick_! do you hear?”

“Jes’ so” said Bob Peet. “Nat’rally!”



CHAPTER IV. -- THE VISIT


A gray day! soft gray sky, like the breast of a dove; sheeny gray
sea, with gleams of steel running across; trailing skirts of mist
shutting off the mainland, leaving Light Island alone with the ocean;
the white tower gleaming spectral among the folding mists; the dark
pine-tree pointing a sombre finger to heaven; the wet, black rocks,
from which the tide had gone down, huddling together in fantastic
groups as if to hide their nakedness.

On the little beach two men were slowly pacing up and down, up and
down, one silent, the other talking earnestly. Old men, both, with
white, reverend hair: one slender and small, the other a son of Anak,
big and brawny,--Captain January and the minister.

It was the minister who had been speaking. But now he had done, and
they took a few turns in silence before the Captain spoke in reply.

“Minister,” he said,--and his voice was strangely altered from the
gruff, hearty tone which had greeted his guest fifteen minutes before.
“Minister, I ain’t a man that’s used to hearin’ much talk, and it
confuses my mind a bit. There’s things inside my head that seems to
go round and round, sometimes, and put me out. Now, if it isn’t askin’
too much, I’ll git you to go over them p’ints again. Slow, like! slow,
Minister, bearin’ in mind that I’m a slow man, and not used to it.
This--this lady, she come to your house yisterday, as ever was?”

“Yesterday,” assented the minister; and his voice had a tender, almost
compassionate tone, as if he were speaking to a child.

“And a fine day it were!” said Captain January. “Wind steady, sou’west
by sou’. Fog in the mornin’, and Bob Peet run the _Huntress_ aground
on the bank. I never liked fog, Minister! ‘Give me a gale,’ I’d say,
‘or anythin’ short of a cyclone,’ I’d say, ‘but don’t give me fog!’
and see now, how it’s come about! But it lifted, soon as the harm
were done. It lifted, and as fine a day as ever you see.”

The minister looked at him in some alarm, but the old man’s keen blue
eyes were clear and intelligent, and met his gaze openly.

“You’re thinkin’ I’m crazy, minister, or maybe drunk,” he said,
quietly; “but I ain’t neither one. I’m on’y takin’ it by and large.
When a man has been fifteen year on a desert island, ye see, he learns
to take things by and large. But I never see good come of a fog yet.
Amen! so be it! And so Cap’n Nazro brought the lady to your house,
Minister?”

“Captain Nazro came with her,” said the minister, “and also her
husband, Mr. Morton, and Robert Peet, the pilot. Mrs. Morton had seen
little Star in Peet’s boat, and was greatly and painfully struck by
the child’s likeness to a beloved sister of hers, who had, it was
supposed, perished at sea, with her husband and infant child, some
ten years ago.”

“Ten year ago,” repeated Captain January, passing his hand across
his weather-beaten face, which looked older, somehow, than it was
wont to do. “Ten year ago this September. ‘He holdeth the waters in
the hollow of His hand.’ Go on, Minister. The lady thought my little
Star, as the Lord dropped out of the hollow of His hand into my arms
ten year ago, had a look of her sister.”

“She was so strongly impressed by it,” the minister continued,
quietly, “that, failing to attract Peet’s attention as he rowed away,
she sent for the captain, and begged him to give her all the
information he could about the child. What she heard moved her so
deeply that she became convinced of the child’s identity with her
sister’s lost infant. As soon as Peet returned after putting Star
ashore, she questioned him even more closely. He, good fellow, refused
to commit himself to anything which he fancied you might not like,
but he told her of my having performed the last rites over the mortal
remains of the child’s parents, and Mr. Morton wisely counselled her
to go at once to me, instead of coming here, as she at first wished
to do. After my interview with her, I am bound to say--”

“Easy now, Minister!” interrupted Captain January. “I’m an old man,
though I never knowed it till this day. Easy with this part!”

“I am bound to say,” continued the minister, laying his hand kindly
on his companion’s arm, “that I think there is little doubt of Star’s
being Mrs. Morton’s niece.”

“And what if she be?” exclaimed the old sailor, turning with a sudden
violence which made the gentle minister start back in alarm. “What
if she be? what have the lady done for her niece? Did she take her
out o’ the sea, as raged like all the devils let loose, and death
itself a-hangin’ round and fairly howlin’ for that child? did she
stand on that rock, blind and deef and e’ena’most mazed with the
beatin’ and roarin’ and onearthly screechin’ all round, and take that
child from its dead mother’s breast, and vow to the Lord, as helped
in savin’ it, to do as should be done by it? Has she prayed, and
worked, and sweat, and laid awake nights, for fear that child’s
fingers should ache, this ten years past? Has she--” the old man’s
voice, which had been ringing out like a trumpet, broke off suddenly.
The angry fire died out of his blue eyes, and he bowed his head
humbly. “I ask yer pardon, Minister!” he said, quietly, after a pause.
“I humbly ask yer pardon. I had forgotten the Lord, ye see, for all
I was talkin’ about Him so glib. I was takin’ my view, and forgettin’
that the Lord had His. _He_ takes things by and large, and nat’rally
He takes ‘em larger than mortal man kin do. Amen! so be it!” He took
off his battered hat, and stood motionless for a few moments, with
bent head: nor was his the only silent prayer that went up from the
little gray beach to the gray heaven above.

“Well, Minister,” he said, presently, in a calm and even cheerful
voice, “and so that bein’ all clear to your mind, the lady have sent
you to take my--to take her niece--the little lady (and a lady she
were from her cradle) back to her. Is that the way it stands?”

“Oh, no! no indeed!” cried the kind old minister. “Mrs. Morton would
do nothing so cruel as that, Captain January. She is very
kind-hearted, and fully appreciates all that you have done for the
little girl. But she naturally wants to see the child, and to do
whatever is for her best advantage.”

“For the child’s advantage. That’s it!” repeated Captain January.
“That’s somethin’ to hold on by. Go on, Minister!”

“So she begged me to come over alone,” continued the minister, “to--to
prepare your mind, and give you time to think the matter well over.
And she and Mr. Morton were to follow in the course of an hour, in
Robert Peet’s boat. He is a very singular fellow, that Peet!” added
the good man, shaking his head. “Do you think he is quite in his right
mind? He has taken the most inveterate dislike to Mr. and Mrs. Morton,
and positively refuses to speak to either of them. I could hardly
prevail upon him to bring them over here, and yet he fell into a
strange fury when I spoke of getting some one else to bring them.
He--he is quite safe, I suppose?”

“Wal, yes!” replied Captain January, with a half smile. “Bob’s safe,
if anyone is. Old Bob! so he doosn’t like them, eh?”

At that moment his eye caught something, and he said, in an altered
voice, “Here’s Bob’s boat coming now, Minister, and the lady and
gentleman in her.”

“They must have come much more rapidly than I did,” said the minister,
“and yet my boy rows well enough. Compose yourself, January! this
is a heavy blow for you, my good friend. Compose yourself! Things
are strangely ordered in this world. ‘We see through a glass darkly’!”

“Not meanin’ to set my betters right, Minister,” said Captain January,
“I never seed as it made any difference whether a man seed or not,
darkly or howsumdever, so long as the Lord made _His_ views clear.
And He’s makin’ ‘em!” he added. “He’s makin’ ‘em, Minister! Amen!
so be it!” And quietly and courteously, ten minutes later, he was
bidding his visitors welcome to Light Island, as if it were a kingdom,
and he the crownless monarch of it. “It’s a poor place, Lady!” he
said, with a certain stately humility, as he helped Mrs. Morton out
of the boat. “Good anchorage for a shipwrecked mariner like me, but
no place for ladies or--or them as belongs to ladies.”

“O Captain January!” cried Mrs. Morton, who was a tall, fair woman,
with eyes like Star’s own. “What shall I say to you? I must seem to
you so cruel, so heartless, to come and ask for the child whom you
have loved and cared for so long. For that is what I have come for!
I must speak frankly, now that I see your kind, honest face. I have
come to take my sister’s child, for it is my duty to do so.” She laid
both hands on the old man’s arm, and looked up in his face with
pleading, tearful eyes.

But Captain January’s face did not move as he answered, quietly, “It
is your duty, Lady. No question o’ that, to my mind or any. But,”
 he added, with a wistful look, “I’ll ask ye to do it easy, Lady. It’ll
be sudden like for the--for the young lady. And--she ain’t used to
bein’ took sudden, my ways bein’ in a manner slow. You’ll happen find
her a little quick, Lady, in her ways, she bein’ used to a person
as was in a manner slow, and havin’ to be quick for two, so to say.
But it’s the sparkle o’ gold, Lady, and a glint o’ diamonds.”

But the lady was weeping, and could not answer; so Captain January
turned to her husband, who met him with a warm grasp of the hand,
and a few hearty and kindly words.

“And now I’ll leave ye with the minister for a minute, Lady and
Gentleman,” the Captain said; “for Bob Peet is a-signallin’ me as
if he’d sprung a leak below the water line, and all hands goin’ to
the bottom.”

Bob, who had withdrawn a few paces after beaching his boat, was indeed
making frantic demonstrations to attract the Captain’s attention,
dancing and snapping his fingers, and contorting his features in
strange and hideous fashion.

“Well, Bob,” said the old man, walking up to him, “what’s up with
you, and why are ye h’istin’ and lowerin’ your jib in that onarthly
fashion?”

Bob Peet seized him by the arm, and led him away up the beach.
“Cap’n,” he said, looking round to make sure that they were out of
hearing of the others, “I can’t touch a lady--not seamanly! But ‘f
you say the word--knock gen’l’m’n feller--middle o’ next week. Say
the word, Cap’n! Good’s a meal o’ vittles t’ me--h’ist him over
cliff!”



CHAPTER V.-- CAPTAIN JANUARY’S STAR


And where was little Star, while all this was going on down on the
beach? Oh, she had been having a delightful afternoon. It was cloudy,
and Daddy was going to be busy, so she had determined to spend an
hour or so in her own room, and enjoy all the delights of “dressing
up.” For the great chest that had been washed ashore from the wreck,
the day after she herself had come to the island, was full of clothes
belonging to her “poor mamma;” and as we have seen, the little woman
was fully inclined to make use of them.

Beautiful clothes they were; rich silks and velvets, with here and
there cloudy laces and strange webs of Eastern gauze. For she had
been a beautiful woman, this poor mamma, and it had been the delight
of Hugh Maynard, her proud and fond husband, to deck his lovely wife
in all rare and precious stuffs. Some of them were stained with
sea-water, and many of the softer stuffs were crumpled and matted
hopelessly, but that mattered little to Star. Her eyes delighted in
soft, rich colours, and she was never weary of turning them over and
over, trying them on, and “playing s’pose” with them.

“S’pose,” she would say, “my poor mamma was going to a banquet, like
the Capulet one, or Macbeth’s. Oh, no! ‘cause that would have been
horrid, with ghosts and daggers and things. S’pose it was the
Capulets! Then she would put on this pink silk. Isn’t it pretty, and
soft, and creamy? Just like the wild roses on the south side of the
meadow, that I made a wreath of for Imogen on her birthday. Dear
Imogen! it was _so_ becoming to her. Well, so my poor mamma put it
on--_so_! and then she paced through the hall, and all the lords
turned round and said, ‘Mark’st thou yon lady?’ ‘Cause she was so
beautiful, you know. _This_ is the way she paced!” and then the little
creature would fall to pacing up and down the room, dragging the
voluminous pink folds behind her, her head thrown back, and a look
of delighted pride lighting up her small face.

It was the funniest little place, this room of Star’s, the queerest,
quaintest little elfin bower! It was built out from the south side
of the tower, almost like a swallow’s nest, only a swallow’s nest
has no window looking out on the blue sea. There was a little white
bed in a corner, and a neat chest of drawers, and a wash-stand, all
made by Captain January’s skilful hands, and all shining and spotless.
The bare floor was shining too, and so was the little looking-glass
which hung upon the wall. And beside the looking-glass, and above
it, and in fact all over the walls, were trophies and wonders of all
kinds and descriptions. There was the starfish with ten legs, pinned
up in sprawling scarlet; and there, beside him, the king of all the
sea-urchins, resplendent with green and purple horns. And here were
ropes of shells, and branches of coral, and over the bed a great
shining star, made of the delicate gold-shells. That was Daddy’s
present to her on her last birthday. Dear Daddy! There, sitting in
the corner, was Mrs. Neptune, the doll which Captain January had
carved out of a piece of fine wood that had drifted ashore after a
storm. Her eyes were tiny black snail-shells, her hair was of brown
sea-moss, very thick and soft (“though as for combing it,” said Star,
“it is im-_possible_!”), and a smooth pink shell was set in either
cheek, “to make a blush.” Mrs. Neptune was somewhat battered, as Star
was in the habit of knocking her head against the wall when she was
in a passion; but she maintained her gravity of demeanour, and always
sat with her back perfectly straight, and with an air of protest
against everything in general.

In the window stood the great chest, at once a treasure-chamber and
a seat; and over it hung one of the most precious things of Star’s
little world. It was a string of cocoanut-shells. Fifteen of them
there were, and each one was covered with curious and delicate
carving, and each one meant a whole year of a man’s life. “For the
nuts was ripe when we kem ashore, my good mate Job Hotham and me,
on that island. So when the nuts was ripe agin, ye see, Jewel Bright,
we knowed ‘twas a year since we kem. So I took my jack-knife and
carved this first shell, as a kind o’ token, ye know, and not thinkin’
there’d be so many to carve.” So the first shell was all covered with
ships: fair vessels, with sails all set, and smooth seas rippling
beneath them,--the ships that were even then on their way to rescue
the two castaways. And the second was carved with anchors, the sign
of hope, and with coils of rope, and nautical instruments, and things
familiar to seamen’s eyes. But the third was carved with stars, and
sickle-curved moons, and broad-rayed suns, “Because, ye see, Peach
Blossom, arthly hope bein’ as ye might say foundered, them things,
and what was above ‘em, stayed where they was; and it stiddied a man’s
mind to think on ‘em, and to make a note on ‘em as fur as might be.”
 And then came one covered with flowers and berries, and another with
fruits, and another with shells, and so on through the whole fifteen.
They hung now in little Star’s window, a strange and piteous record;
and every night before the child said her prayers, she kissed the
first and last shell, and then prayed that Daddy Captain might forget
the “dreadful time,” and never, never think about it again.

So, on this gray day, when other things were going on out-of-doors,
Star was having a “good time” in her room. She had found in the
treasure-chest a short mantle of gold-coloured velvet, which made
“a just exactly skirt” for her, the two ends trailing behind enough
to give her a sense of dignity, but not enough to impede her
movements. “For I am not a princess to-day!” she said; “I am delicate
Ariel, and the long ones get round my feet so I can’t run.” Then came
a long web of what she called “sunshine,” and really it might have
been woven of sunbeams, so airy-light was the silken gauze of the
fabric. This my lady had wound round and round her small person with
considerable art, the fringed ends hanging from either shoulder, and
making, to her mind, a fair substitute for wings. “See!” she cried,
running to and fro, and glancing backward as she ran. “They wave!
they really do wave! Look, Mrs. Neptune! aren’t they lovely? But you
are envious, and that is why you look so cross. ‘Merrily, merrily,
shall I live now, under the blossom that hangs on the bough.’” She
leaped and danced about the room, light and radiant as a creature
of another world: then stopped, to survey with frowning brows her
little blue stockings and stout laced boots. “Ariel _never_ wore such
things as those!” she declared; “if you say she did, Mrs. Neptune,
you show your ignorance, and that is all I have to say to you.” Off
came the shoes and stockings, and the little white feet were certainly
much prettier to look at. “Now,” cried Star, “I will go down-stairs
and wait for Daddy Captain, and perhaps he will think I am a real
fairy. Oh, wouldn’t that be fun? I am _sure_ I look like one!” and
down the stairs she flitted like a golden butterfly. Once in the
kitchen, the housewife in her triumphed for a moment over the fairy:
she raked up the fire, put on more wood, and swept the hearth
daintily. “But Ariel did such things for Prospero,” she said. “I’m
Ariel just the same, so I may as well fill the kettle and put some
apples down to roast.” This was soon done, and clapping her hands
with delight the “tricksy spirit” began to dance and frolic anew.

  “‘Come unto these yellow sands,
    And then take hands!’”

she sang, holding out her hands to invisible companions.

  “‘Courtesied when ye have, and kissed
      (The wild waves whist!)
    Foot it featly here and there.’

“Oh! foot it featly, and feat it footly, and dance and sing, and
tootle-ty ting!” cried the child, as she flitted like a golden cloud
about the room. Then, as she whirled round and faced the door, she
stopped short. Her arms fell by her side, and she stood as if
spellbound, looking at the lady who stood in the doorway.

The lady made no motion at first, but only gazed at her with loving
and tender eyes. She was a beautiful lady, and her eyes were soft
and blue, with a look of tears in them. But there was no answering
softness in the starry eyes of the child: only a wide, wild look of
wonder, of anger, perhaps of fear. Presently the lady, still silent,
raised both hands, and kissed them tenderly to the child; then laid
them on her breast, and then held them out to her with a gesture of
loving appeal.

“I don’t know whether you are a spirit of health or a goblin damned,”
 said Star; “but anyhow it isn’t polite to come into people’s houses
without knocking, _I_ think. I knowed you were a spirit when you
looked at me yesterday, if you _did_ have a red shawl on.”

“How did you know that I was a spirit?” asked the lady softly. “Oh,
little Star, how did you know?”

“‘Cause you looked like my poor mamma’s picture,” replied the child,
“that my poor papa had round his neck. Are you my mamma’s spirit?”

The lady shook her head. “No, darling,” she said, “I am no spirit.
But I have come to see you, little Star, and to tell you something.
Will you not let me come in, Sweetheart?”

Star blushed, and hung her head for a moment, remembering Captain
January’s lessons on politeness and “quarter-deck manners.” She
brought a chair at once, and in a more gracious tone said (mindful
of Willum Shakespeare’s lords and ladies), “I pray you sit!”

The lady sat down, and taking the child’s hand, drew her gently
towards her. “Were you playing fairy, dear?” she asked, smoothing
back the golden hair with loving touch.

Star nodded. “I was delicate Ariel,” she said. “I was footing it
featly, you know, on these yellow sands. Sometimes I am Puck, and
sometimes Titania; but Daddy likes Ariel best, and so do I. Did you
ever play it?” she asked, looking up into the kindly face that bent
over her.

The lady smiled and shook her head. “No, dear child,” she said, still
with that motherly touch of the hand on the fair head. “I never
thought of such a pretty play as that, but I was very happy as a child
playing with my--with my sister. I had a dear, dear sister, Star.
Would you like to hear about her?”

“Yes,” said Star, with wondering eyes. “Was she a little girl?”

“Such a lovely little girl!” said the lady. “Her hair was dark, but
her eyes were like yours, Star, blue and soft. We played together
always as children, and we grew up together, two loving, happy girls.
Then my sister married: and by and by, dear, she had a little baby.
A sweet little girl baby, and she named it Isabel, after me.”

“I was a little girl baby, too,” said Star, “but I wasn’t named
anything; I came so: just Star.”

“Little Isabel had another name,” said the lady. “Her other name was
Maynard, because that was her father’s name. Her father was Hugh
Maynard. Have you ever seen or heard that name, my child?”

Star shook her head. “No!” she said; “my poor papa’s name was H. M.
It was marked on his shirt and han’k’chief, Daddy says. And my poor
mamma’s name was Helena, just like Helena in ‘Midsummer Night’s
Dream.’” The motherly hand trembled, and the lady’s voice faltered
as she said, “Star, my dear sister’s name was Helena, too. Is not
that strange, my little one?”

The child looked curiously at her. “Where is your dear sister?” she
asked. “Why do you cry when you say her name? is she naughty?”

“Listen, Star,” said the lady, wiping the tears from her eyes, and
striving to speak composedly.

“My sister made a voyage to Europe, with her husband and her little
baby. They spent the summer travelling in beautiful countries; and
in the autumn, in September, Star, ten years ago this very
year,--think of it, my dear!--they sailed for home. They came in a
sailing-vessel, because the sea-voyage was thought good for your--for
my sister. And--and--the vessel was never heard from. There was a
terrible storm and many vessels were lost in it.”

“Just like my poor mamma’s ship,” said the child. “Perhaps it was
the same storm. Do you think--why do you look at me so?” she cried,
breaking off suddenly.

But the lady put both arms round her and drew her close, close, while
her tears fell fast on the golden hair. “My darling!” she cried, “my
dear, dear little one! It _was_ the same storm; the same storm and
the same ship. Your poor mamma was my own sweet sister Helena, and
you are my niece, my little Isabel, my own, own little namesake. Will
you love me, darling? will you love your Aunt Isabel, and let her
care for you and cherish you as your sweet mother would have done?”

Star stood very still, neither returning nor repelling the lady’s
caresses. She was pale, and her breath came short and quick, but
otherwise she showed no sign of agitation. Presently she put up her
hand and stroked the lady’s cheek gently. “Why do you cry?” she asked,
quietly. “My poor mamma is in heaven. Don’t you like her to be in
heaven? Daddy says it is much nicer than here, and he knows.”

Mrs. Morton checked her tears, and smiled tenderly in the little
wondering face, “Dear child!” she said, “I do like to have her in
heaven, and I will not cry any more. But you have not told me whether
you will love me, Star. Will you try, dear? and will you let me call
you my little Isabel?”

“I will love you,” replied the child, “if Daddy Captain loves you;
I will love you very much. But you must not call me that name, ‘cause
I’m not _it_. I am just Star. _Does_ Daddy love you?” she asked; and
then, with a sudden note of anxiety in her voice, she exclaimed,
“Where is Daddy? Where is my Daddy Captain? Did you see him when you
came in?”

Her question was answered by the sound of voices outside; and the
next moment the minister appeared, followed by Mr. Morton and Captain
January. The old Captain hastened to place a chair for each of the
gentlemen by the fireside, and then took his stand against the wall
on the further side of the room. He held his weather-beaten cap in
his hand, and turned it slowly round and round, considering it
attentively. It might have been observed by one quick to notice
trifles, that he did not look at the child, though no slightest motion
of hers was lost upon him.

“George,” said Mrs. Morton, joyously, to her husband, “here is our
little niece, dearest Helena’s child. She is going to love me, she
says, and she will love you, too. Star, my darling, this is your Uncle
George. Will you not give him a kiss, and be his little girl as well
as mine? We have two little girls at home, and you shall be the
third.”

Star went obediently to Mr. Morton, who kissed her warmly, and tried
to take her on his knee. “You are taller than our Grace,” he said,
“but I don’t believe you are as heavy, my dear. Grace is just your
age, and I am sure you will be great friends.”

But Star slipped quietly from his arms, and, running to the Captain,
took one of his hands in both of hers and kissed it. “I am Daddy
Captain’s little girl!” she said, looking round bravely at the
others. “Why do you talk as if I belonged to you?” Then seeing the
trouble in Mrs. Morton’s face, she added, “I _will_ love you, truly
I will, and I will call you Aunt Isabel; but I cannot belong to
different people, ‘cause I’m only just one. Just Captain January’s
Star.”

She looked up in the old man’s face with shining eyes, but no tender,
confident look returned her glance. The brown hand trembled between
her two little white palms; the keen blue eyes were still bent fixedly
upon the old woollen cap, as if studying its texture; but it was in
a quiet and soothing tone that the Captain murmured:

“Easy, Jewel Bright! Easy, now! Helm steady, and stand by!”

There was a moment of troubled silence; and then the old minister,
clearing his throat, spoke in his gentle, tranquil voice. “My dear
child,” he said, “a very strange thing has come to pass; but what
seems strange to us is doubtless clear and simple to the Infinite
Wisdom above us. You have been a faithful and loving child, little
Star, to your beloved guardian and friend here, and no father could
have cared for you more tenderly than he has done. But the tie of
blood is a strong one, my dear, and should not be lightly set aside.
This lady is your own near relation, the sister of your dear dead
mother. Through the merciful providence of God, she has been led to
you, and she feels it her duty to claim you, in the name of your
parents. We have considered the matter carefully, and we all feel
that it is right that you should hereafter make your home with her
and your uncle. This may be painful to you, my dear; but you are a
good and intelligent child, and you will understand that if we give
you pain now, it is to secure your future good and happiness.”

He paused; and all eyes, save those keen blue ones which were studying
so carefully the texture of the battered woollen cap, turned anxiously
on the child. A deep flush passed over Star’s face; then vanished,
leaving it deadly pale, a mask of ivory with eyes of flame. When she
spoke, it was in a low, suppressed voice, wholly unlike her own.

“You may kill me,” said the child, “and take my body away, if you
like. I will not go while I am alive.”

She turned her eyes from one to the other, as if watching for the
slightest motion to approach her.

Mrs. Morton, in great distress, spoke next. “My darling, it grieves
me to the heart to take you from your dear, kind Daddy. But think,
my Star; you are a child now, but you will soon be a woman. You cannot
grow up to womanhood in a place like this. You must be with your own
people, and have companions of your own age. My children will be like
your own sisters and brothers. My dear, if you could only know how
they will love you, how we shall all cherish and care for you!”

“When I am dead?” asked Star. “It will make no difference to me, your
love, for I shall be dead. I will not go alive.”

“Oh, Captain January!” cried Mrs. Morton, turning to the old man with
clasped hands. “Speak to her! she will listen to you. Tell her--tell
her what you said to me. Tell her that it is right for her to go;
that you wish her to go!”

The old man’s breathing was heavy and laboured, and for a moment it
seemed as if he strove in vain for utterance: but when he spoke, his
voice was still soothing and cheerful, though his whole great frame
was trembling like a withered leaf. “Star Bright,” he said (and
between almost every word he paused to draw the short, heavy breath),
“I always told ye, ye ‘member, that ye was the child of gentlefolks.
So bein’, ‘tis but right that you should have gentle raisin’ by them
as is yer own flesh and blood. You’ve done your duty, and more than
your duty, by me. Now ‘tis time ye did your duty by them as the Lord
has sent to ye. You’ll have--my--my respeckful love and duty wherever
you go, my dear, and you growin’ up to be a beautiful lady, as has
been a little wild lass. And you’ll not forget the old Cap’n, well
I know, as will be very comf’table here--”

But here the child broke out with a wild, loud cry, which made all
the others start to their feet. “Do you want me to go?” she cried.
“Look at me, Daddy Captain! you _shall_ look at me!” She snatched
the cap from his hands and flung it into the fire, then faced him
with blazing eyes and quivering lip. “Do you want me to go? Are you
tired of me?”

Heavier and heavier grew that weight on Captain January’s chest:
shorter and harder came his breath. His eyes met the child’s for a
moment, then wavered and fell. “Why--honey--” he said, slowly,
“I--I’m an old man now--a very old man. And--and--an old man likes
quiet, ye see: and--I’d be quieter by myself, like; and--and so,
honey--I--I’d like ye to go.”

“_You lie_!” cried the child; and her voice rang like a silver trumpet
in the startled ears of the listeners. “You lie to me, and you lie
to God: and you _know_ you lie!”

The next moment she had sprung on to the low window-sill, then turned
for an instant, with her little hands clenched in menace, and her
great eyes flashing fire that fell like a burning touch on every
heart. Her fantastic dress gleamed like a fiery cloud against the
gray outside: her hair fell like a glory about her vivid, shining
face. A moment she stood there, a vision, a flying star, trailing
angry light, never to be forgotten by those who saw; then, like a
flash, she vanished.

Captain January tottered to his old chair and sat down in it. “The
child is right, Lady and Gentleman!” he said. “I lied! I lied to my
God, and to the little child who loved me. May God and the child
forgive me!” And he hid his face in his hands, and silence fell for
a moment.

Then Mr. Morton, who had walked hastily to the window, and was doing
something with his handkerchief, beckoned to his wife. “Isabel,” he
said, in a low tone, “I will not be a party to this. It’s an atrocious
and vindictive outrage. I--I--you are not the woman I took you for,
if you say another word to that old angel. Let him have the child,
and send him one or two of your own into the bar--” but Isabel Morton,
laughing through her tears, laid her hand over her husband’s lips
for a moment. Then going to the old man’s chair, she knelt down by
it, and took his two hands in hers.

“Captain January!” she said, tenderly. “Dear, dear Captain January!
the lie is forgiven: I am very, very sure it is forgiven in heaven,
as it will be forgiven in the child’s loving heart. And may God never
pardon me, if ever word or look of mine come again between you and
the child whom God gave you!”

The gray evening was closing in around the lighthouse tower. The
guests were gone, and Captain January sat alone beside the fire in
his old armchair. The window was still open, for the air was soft
and mild. The old man’s hands were clasped upon his knee; his heart
was lifted as high as heaven, in silent prayer and praise.

Suddenly, at the window, there was a gleam of yellow, a flitting
shape, a look, a pause; then a great glad cry, and Star flitted like
a ray of moonlight through the window, and fell on Captain January’s
breast.

“Daddy,” she said, breaking the long, happy silence, “dear Daddy,
I am sorry I burned your horrid old cap!”



CHAPTER VI. -- THE SIGNAL


Quietly passed the days, the weeks, the months, in the lonely tower
on the rock fronting the Atlantic surge. Winter came, and folded it
in a white mantle, and decked it with frost-jewels. Like a pillar
of ice, the tower shone in the keen brilliance of the northern sun;
but within was always summer, the summer of perfect peace and
contentment. To the child Star, winter was always a season of great
delight; for Captain January had little to occupy him out-of-doors,
and could devote much of his time to her. So there were long,
delightful “jack-knife times,” as Star called them, when the Captain
sat fashioning all sorts of wonderful trifles with his magic knife,
the child sitting at his elbow and watching him with happy eyes. There
were “story times,” instituted years before, as soon as Star had
learned to sew on patchwork; for as for sewing _without_ a story to
listen to, “_that_,” said Star, “is against my nature, Daddy. And
you don’t want me to do things that are against my nature, do you?”
 So whenever the squares of gay calico came out, and the golden head
bent to and fro over them, like a paradise bird hovering over a bed
of gaudy flowers, the story came out, too, between puffs of the pipe,
while the fire crackled a cheery accompaniment, sputtering defiance
to the wind that whistled outside. Some tale of the southern seas,
and the wild tropic islands, of coral reefs and pearl-fisheries,
sharks and devil-fish; or else a whaling story, fresh and breezy as
the north, full of icebergs, and seal-hunts over the cracking floes,
polar bears, and all the wild delights of whale-fishing.

Then, on fine days (and oh, but the days are fine, in these glorious
northern winters!) there was much joy to be had out-of-doors. For
there was a spot in the little meadow,--once of gold-flecked emerald,
now of spotless pearl,--a spot where the ground “tilted,” to use
Star’s expression, suddenly down to a tiny hollow, where a fairy
spring bubbled out of the rock into a fairy lake. In summer, Star
rather despised this lake, which was, truth to tell, only twenty feet
long and ten feet wide. It was very nice for Imogen to drink from
and to stand in on hot days, and it did many lovely things in the
way of reflecting blue skies and fleecy clouds and delicate traceries
of leaf and bough; but as water, it seemed a very trifling thing to
a child who had the whole sweep of the Atlantic to fill her eyes,
and who had the breakers for her playfellows and gossips.

But in winter, matters were different. All the laughing lips of
ripples, all the white tossing crests of waves, must content
themselves with the ice-bound rocks, till spring should bring them
their child-comrade again; and the little sheet of dark crystal in
the hollow of the meadow had things all its own way, and mirrored
back her bright face every day. The little red sled, launched at the
top of the “tilt,” came skimming down the slope, and shot like an
arrow over the smooth ice, kept always clear of snow by the Captain’s
ever-busy hands; or else, when tired of coasting, the child would
plant her small feet wide apart, and slide, and run, and slide again,
till the pond could have cracked with pleasure, if such a thing had
been in accordance with its principles.

But of all the joyous hours, none was more welcome to the child than
that after the simple supper was cleared away and the room “redded
up.” Then, while fire and lamplight made their merriest cheer, the
table was drawn up to the warmest spot; Star took her place upon
Captain January’s knee, and the two heads, the silver one and the
golden, bent in absorbed interest over “Willum Shakespeare” or the
Good Book.

Generally the Captain read aloud, but sometimes they read the parts
in turn; and again sometimes the child would break off, and recite
whole passages alone, with a fire and pathos which might have been
that of Maid Marjorie, swaying at her childish will the heart of Sir
Walter and his friends.

So quietly, in the unbroken peace which love brightened into joy,
the winter passed.

At Christmas, they had, as usual, a visit from the faithful Bob, who
brought all his many pockets full of candy and oranges and all manner
of “truck,” as he called it, for Missy Star. Also he brought a letter
and a box directed only to “Captain January’s Star.” The letter, which
the child opened with wondering eagerness, being the first she had
ever received, was from Mrs. Morton. It was full of tender and loving
words, wishes for Christmas cheer and New Year blessing, and with
it was a photograph of the beautiful face, with its soft and tender
eyes, which Star remembered so well. On the back was written, “For
Little Star, from Aunt Isabel.” And the box? Why, that was quite as
wonderful in its way. For it contained a most beautiful pipe for the
Captain, of sweet brier-wood, mounted in silver; and oh! oh! such
a doll! Other children have seen such dolls, but Star never had; a
blue-eyed waxen beauty, with fringed lashes that opened and shut,
rose-leaf cheeks, and fabulous wealth of silky flaxen curls. Also
it had a blue velvet-frock, and its underclothing was a wonder to
behold; and the box was full of other frocks and garments.

Star took the doll in her arms with delighted awe, and seemed for
a few moments absorbed in her new treasure. Presently, however, a
shadow crossed her bright face. She glanced at Bob and the Captain,
and seeing that they were both engaged in busy talk, she quietly went
up to her own room, carrying the doll with her. Here she did a strange
thing. She crossed the room to the corner where Mrs. Neptune sat,
with her back rigid, protesting against circumstances, and set the
radiant stranger down beside her; then, with her hands clasped behind
her, and brows bent, she considered the pair long and attentively.
Truly they were a strange contrast: the delicate, glowing, velvet-clad
doll, and the battered old wooden image, with eyes of snail-shells
and hair of brown sea-moss. But when Star had finished her scrutiny,
she took the beautiful doll, and buried it deep under velvets and
satins at the very bottom of the great chest. This done, she kissed
Mrs. Neptune solemnly, and proceeded to adorn her with a gorgeous
Eastern scarf, the very gayest her treasure-house could afford.

Meanwhile, in the room below, the talk went on, grave and earnest.
Troubled it was, too, on one side; for though the Captain sat quietly
in his chair, and spoke in his usual cheerful voice, Bob Peet’s rough
tones were harsh and broken, and he rose from his place once or twice
and moved uneasily about the room.

“Cap’n,” he said, “‘tain’t so. Don’t tell me! Strong man--hearty--live
twenty years yet--like’s not thirty! Uncle o’ mine--Punksquid--hundred
and three--peart’s chicken.”

Captain January puffed at his pipe in silence for some minutes. “Bob,”
 he said, presently, “it ain’t always as it’s given to a man to know
his time. I’ve allers thought I should take it particular kind if
it ‘corded with the Lord’s views to let me know when He was ready
for me. And now that He _has_ let me know, and moreover has set my
mind that easy about the child that it’s a pleasure to think of, why,
it ain’t likely I shall take it anyway _but_ kind. Thankin’ you all
the same, Bob, as have been a good mate to me, and as I sha’n’t forget
wherever I am. But see now!” he added, hastily, hearing a sound in
the room above. “You understand, Bob; I h’ist that signal, as it might
be to-morrow, and I keep her flyin’ night and day. And so long as
you see her flyin’, you says, ‘Cap’n’s all right so far!’ you says.
But you keep a sharp lookout; and if some mornin’ you don’t see her,
you says, ‘Sailin’ orders!’ you says, and then you calls Cap’n Nazro,
as never failed in a kindness yet, nor ain’t likely to, to take the
wheel, and you put for this island. And Cap’n Nazro he takes the
_Huntress_ in, and then goes straightway and sends a telegraft to
the lady and gentleman, sayin’ as Cap’n January has sailin’ orders,
and they please to come and take the child, as lawfully to them
belongs. And you, Bob,--” the old man’s steady voice faltered a
little, as he laid his hand on the other’s arm,--“you’ll do all you
can, well I know. For she’ll take it hard, ye see. She has that depth
o’ love in her little heart, and never nobody _to_ love ‘cept me since
she were a baby, that she’ll take it cruel hard. But the Lord’ll have
her in mind! He’ll have her in mind! and you’ll stand by, Bob, and
bear a hand till the lady and gentleman come.”

Bob Peet held out his honest brown hand, and the two men shook hands
with a certain solemnity; but before either of them could speak again,
Star came singing down the stairs, and summoned them both to play
at ball with oranges.

And so it came to pass that a little blue signal was hoisted at the
top of the white tower, and fluttered there bravely in sun and wind.
And every time the _Huntress_ went thundering by (which was twice
a week at this season instead of every day), Bob Peet looked out
anxiously from the wheel-house window, and seeing the little banner,
took cheer, and rubbed his hands and said, “Cap’n’s all right so far!”

And Captain January, whenever there came the clutch and stab at his
heart, and the struggle for breath, which he had felt for the first
time that September day (but ah! how many times since, and with what
increasing persistence!) would creep to the stairway beside which
hung the signal lines, and lay his hand on them, and wait: then, when
the spasm passed, would pass his hand across his face and humbly say,
“Whenever it seems right, Lord! A step nearer! and Thou havin’ the
child in mind,” and so go cheerfully about his work again.

There were not many more steps to take. Spring came, and the little
meadow was green again. Robins and bluebirds fluttered above the great
pine-tree, and swallows built their nests under the eaves of the tower
itself. The child Star sang with the birds, and danced with the
dancing leaves, all unconscious of what was coming; but the old
Captain’s steps grew slower and heavier, day by day, and the cheery
voice grew feeble, and lost its hearty ring, though never its
cheeriness. “I’ll set here in the porch, Jewel Bright,” he would say,
when the child begged him to come for a scramble on the rocks. “I
think I’ll jest set here, where I can see ye an’ hear to ye. I’m
gittin’ lazy, Star Light; that’s the truth. Yer old Daddy’s gittin’
lazy, and it’s comf’tabler settin’ here in the sun, than scramblin’
round the rocks.”

And Star would fling herself on his neck, and scold and caress him,
and then go off with a half-sense of disappointment to her play. Very,
very careful Captain January had to be, lest the child should suspect
that which he was determined to keep from her to the last. Sometimes
he half thought she must suspect, so tender was she in these days;
so thoughtful, so mindful of his lightest wish. But “‘tis only the
woman growin’ up in her,” he decided; and looking back, he remembered
that she had not once broken his pipe (as she had been used to do
every three or four weeks, in her sudden rages) since last September.

At last there came a day when the Captain did not even go out to the
porch. It was a lovely May morning, bright and soft, with wreaths
of silvery fog floating up from the blue water, and much sweet sound
of singing birds and lapping waves in the air. Making some pretence
of work at his carpenter’s bench, the old man sent Star out to loose
the cow and lead her to the water; and when she was gone, he tottered
to his old chair and sat down heavily. There was no pain now, only
a strange numbness, a creeping coldness, a ringing in the ears. If
it might “seem right” to let him wait till the _Huntress_ came by!
“It’s nearly time,” he said, half aloud. “Nearly time, and ‘twould
be easier for the child.”

At this moment, through the open doorway, came the silver sound of
Star’s voice. “But I don’t think there can be any harm in my just
telling you a little about it, Imogen. And the floor is the paved
work of a sapphire: sapphire is a stone, just like the water over
there, in the bluest place, and oh! so clear and bright, Daddy says.
He saw one once. And there will be most beautiful music, Imogen. Oh!
you can’t think what lovely music Daddy Captain will play on a harp.
I know he will, ‘cause he will be a spirit of just men made perfect:
and that will be a _great_ thing, Imogen; for he has never known how
to play on anything before: and--” Ah! the sweet, childish prattle!
but already it was growing faint upon the old man’s ears.

“Star Bright!” he called; and the dancing shape came flying, and stood
on tiptoe in the doorway. Steady, now, January! keep your voice
steady, if there is any will left in you. Keep your head turned a
little away, lest there be any change in your face, yet not turned
enough to make her wonder. “Star Bright,” said Captain January, “it’s
about--time--for the _Huntress_--to be along, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Daddy,” said the child; “she’s just in sight now. Shall I go
down and wave to Bob as he goes by?”

“Yes, Honeysuckle,” said the old man. “And--and wait to see if he
comes ashore. I think--likely--Bob’ll come ashore to-day. He was goin’
to bring--somethin’--for me. Is there a squall comin’ up, Jewel
Bright?”

“A squall, Daddy?” said the child, wondering. “Why, there isn’t a
cloud in the sky.”

“Jes’ so!” said Captain January. “I--only jist asked. Good-bye, Star
Bright.”

“Dear Daddy! Good-bye!” cried the child, and she sped away over the
rocks.

So dark! and not a cloud in the sky. If he might have looked once
more, with those fast-darkening eyes, at the little blessed face which
held all the world in it! if he could call her back now, and kiss
her once more, and hold her little hand--No! no! steady, January!
steady now, and stand by!

Quite dark now. But that does not matter. No need of light for what
is now to be done. Slowly the old man raises himself; feels for the
wall, creeps along beside it. Here is the line. Is there any strength
left in that benumbed arm? Yes! “For the child, dear Lord, and Thou
helpin’ me, as ever has been!”

Down comes the signal, and the old man creeps back to his chair again,
and composes himself decently, with reverent, folded hands, and head
bowed in waiting. “‘He holdeth the waters in the hollow of His hand.
Behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.’ Amen! so be
it!”

Wave, little Star! wave your little blue apron from the rocks, and
laugh and clap your hands for pleasure, as the ripples from the
steamer’s bow break in snowy foam at your feet. Bend to your oar,
Bob Peet, and send your little black boat flying over the water as
she never flew before! and press on, friendly _Huntress_, to your
port, whence the winged message may speed on its way to the stately
lady with the tender eyes, who waits for tidings in her distant home.

For Captain January’s last voyage is over, and he is already in the
haven where he would be.


THE END.





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