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Title: His Little World - The Story of Hunch Badeau
Author: Merwin, Samuel
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.

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HIS LITTLE WORLD

The Story of Hunch Badeau

By Samuel Merwin

Illustrated by Alonzo Kimball

New York: A. S. Barnes & Company

1903

[Illustration: 0002]

[Illustration: 0003]

[Illustration: 0009]

[Illustration: 0010]



HIS LITTLE WORLD



CHAPTER I--THE MEETING

|THE life-saving crew were giving an exhibition drill. A number of
people, mostly women and children, were scattered about the beach (for
since the failure of the lumber and salt, that had expanded Liddington
into a city with four paved streets, the only important events were band
concerts and crew drills). Four girls in white-and-pink dresses, which
did not agree with their piled-up hats and fringed parasols, stood on
the sand.

Hunch Badeau commanded a square-nosed lumber schooner, the _Ed. C. Dean_,
which was just big enough to carry her two masts. He had come in that
morning with a picked-up cargo of merchandise from Milwaukee, unloaded
it, and now leaving Billy, the boy, in charge of the schooner, was
lounging up the beach with Bruce Considine, who made up the rest of the
crew. Hunch had been christened John, after a long line of John, and,
earlier, Jean Badeau, the first of whom had probably appeared on
the Lakes in a birch canoe. Hunch showed few traces of his ancestry,
excepting his black hair and an easily aroused flash in his eyes. He was
big, and he stooped a little, as if doorways and cabin ceilings were too
low for him.

“There she is,” said Bruce, pointing toward the white-and-pink group.
“That’s her--the little one. She ain’t bigger ‘n a minute.”

Badeau looked critically at the group, then walked toward them.

“Hold on a minute, Hunch.”

“What for? Come along. I ain’t seen a girl in weeks.”

“Don’t go over yet. I ain’t told her about you.”

“That’s nothing. I guess she knows who I am.”

They stood near the girls, but fixed their eyes on the drill. After a
moment, Bruce glanced around at the little girl. She threw him a smile,
and he said, “Hello, Marne.”

“Her father’s boss of the bridge gang on the Pere Marquette,” he
confided to Badeau, who was edging closer to the group.

“Wonder if they’re going to do the upset drill,” Badeau said, in a loud
voice.

The girls giggled, and one said boldly, “Won’t it be fun if they upset
the boat?” After this sign of favor they blushed, Then for several
minutes each party carried on a conversation intended for the ears of
the other, meanwhile drawing nearer. At length Considine found himself
at Mamie’s side. Her elbow brushed against his.

“Who’s your friend?” she asked. Considine stepped back, thus including
Badeau in the group.

“Hunch Badeau,” he said, “shake hands with Marne Banks.”

Mamie introduced them to the other girls, who were still giggling. Then
Badeau said to Mamie:

“Let’s get over to the pier before the crowd gets all the good places.”

The party moved slowly toward the life-saving station, Considine walking
behind with the other three girls, and trying to show his freedom from
jealousy by jostling them playfully off the sidewalk.

It took Badeau and Mamie some time to get into a conversation. Then they
talked about Considine.

[Illustration: 0022]

“He’s a fine fellow,” said Badeau. “Best man I ever had. Reg’lar as New
Years.” This was not entirely true, but it seemed a nice thing to say.
He saw that it pleased her, so he went on, with a wink, “You like him
pretty well, don’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t know’s I do.”

“Well, I guess he likes you, anyhow.”

“Oh, no, he don’t.”

“How do you know he don’t?”

“‘Cause I don’t care one way or t’ other.”

“You don’t, eh?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, I guess there’s lots of girls that does.”

“Oh, I s’pose he’s all right.”

After a silence Mamie glanced shyly up at him.

“Say, you’re a friend of his, ain’t you? You won’t tell him what I say?”

“Should say not!” said Badeau, feeling in advance a little embarrassed.
Mamie poked at the sand with her parasol as they walked.

“Well--folks say he drinks.”

“Who says so?”

“Jess Bartlett’s brother told Jess.” Badeau’s eyes flashed.

“He’s a dam’ liar!”

“O--oh,” faltered Mamie.

There was a long silence. Then Badeau said, “Excuse me,” and looked out
over the water with a scared face. The girls who had played a part in
his life had not objected to profanity. When he had gathered enough
courage to look again at her, there was an expression on her face that
puzzled him. He did not know that he had pleased as well as startled
her. Soon they were at the pier and were talking more easily. To sit by
her, and to watch her bright eyes and her fresh coloring, pleased Hunch
in a way that he did not try to understand. He had such a good time that
he forgot Bruce, who was struggling to make conversation with the other
girls. When at last he went back to the schooner, he was thoughtful. She
seemed too good for Bruce.

In the afternoon Badeau took on a short cargo of hemlock cribbing, and
worked laboriously out of the sand-locked harbor and through the channel
between the long breakwaters. He could not afford a tug.

The next morning they lay at the wharf in Manitowoc. They ate their
supper in silence, the three of them about the table in the dirty cabin.
When they had finished, and Billy was cleaning up the dishes, Badeau
lighted his pipe and stretched out in his bunk. Considine was changing
his clothes.

“Where’re you going?”

“There’s a dance up at the hall.”

“You going?”

“Thought I might.”

“Say, Bruce, you got to quit drinking.”

“Who’s drinking?”

“That’s all right, you got to quit, right now. If you come back to-night
with a drop aboard, I’ll knock it out of you.”

Considine hurried out nervously.

From ten till two that night Badeau sat on the rail and scanned the road
across the wharf. Billy was below asleep. It was a little after two
when three figures came down the street, arm in arm, singing a song
that could never be popular except in a lumber region. They stood on the
wharf for a long time, hugging one another and shaking hands. Then one
stumbled toward the schooner, calling out, “Goo’ night! Goo’ night!”
 He came slowly across the wharf. He knew from past experience the
probability of a plunge overboard unless he aimed carefully at the
schooner.

A dark figure sat on the rail.

“Goo’ night,” said Considine. He skillfully lowered himself to the
deck. “Say, ol’ man, ain’ mad, are you? Don’ be mad.” He tried to touch
Badeau’s shoulder, but missed it. Hunch rose, gripped his arm, and
jerked him clear of the deck. Considine fell on his back and looked up
vaguely. Then Hunch hammered him until he showed signs of returning
to his senses, and finished him off with a bucket of water. At last,
Considine, limp and crushed, sat on the cabin roof and breathed remorse.

“That’s all right,” said Hunch. “Told you I’d knock it out of you, and
I’ll do it again, too. This is where you quit drinking. Understand?” And
he knocked him down the gangway, and sat out on the deck for a long
time alone. He was thinking, not of Bruce, but of the girl with the blue
eyes, who was startled when he swore.



CHAPTER II--ON THE BEACH

|AT Manitowoc they picked up a load of laths and shingles, consigned to
Grand Haven, and from there they went down to St. Joe, so that it was
nearly a week before they returned to Liddington. During this time Bruce
slunk about, working hard and drinking water.

On Saturday they lay ten miles off Liddington in a hazy calm. Billy, who
was usually overworked as a matter of course, stretched out forward
and went to sleep on the deck. Badeau sat on the rail by the wheel,
grumbling--as a man will who has no resources within himself to turn
idle hours to account. Bruce whittled a shingle. After a long time
Badeau spoke.

“Look here, Bruce. What you going to do about that girl?”

“I dunno.”

“Don’t be a fool. Do you want to marry her?”

“She wouldn’t have me.”

“Say, look here. Why don’t you ask her?”

“I’ve been thinking, Hunch---”

“We’re going to lie up to-morrow.”

“I can’t do it soon as that.”

“‘Course you can.”

Bruce hesitated, and snapped shavings with his thumb.

“Say, Hunch, you know more about girls ‘n I do. Don’t you s’pose you
could kind of--talk to her just a little--”

“No, I couldn’t. You go round there to-morrow, understand.”

“I ain’t going to do that, Hunch----”

“You tell me you ain’t and I’ll break your head!” Badeau stood over
Bruce, who was fumbling with his knife. “Who’s captain of this schooner,
me or you? When I say, you got to do it, it ain’t none of your business
whether you want to or not. Understand?”

Toward noon, on Sunday, they slid in between the breakwaters, and beat
across the harbor to the wharf. Badeau kept a close watch on Bruce,
confining him to the schooner all day. At dusk, dressed in his
best, which included a rhinestone stud, Bruce started out. Hunch had
supervised every detail of the toilet, and had forced on Bruce his
own red tie, which he preferred to Bruce’s checked one. Now he walked
sternly alongside.

Mamie lived in a cottage a short distance from the freight yard. A rod
from the gate Bruce rebelled, but Hunch gripped his arm, and marched him
up the steps. Then he left him and stood outside the fence. Bruce laid
his hand on the bell-knob, but before ringing looked wildly around and
started to tiptoe away. Hunch made a motion, and he turned back and
rang. Then the door opened and he disappeared within. Hunch sat on the
horse-block.

Half an hour later the door opened. Hunch retreated across the street.
Bruce and Mamie came out and walked slowly, arm in arm, toward the lake.
Hunch stole after, keeping in the shadows.

They walked across the beach and sat on the sand. Hunch looked over
the ground, and, making sure that they could not get away without his
knowledge, he went back up the beach to the end of the sidewalk and
paced nervously up and down for an hour. Then he slipped behind the
willows and looked again. He saw first a single shadow on the sand, then
two people who were lost to all the material and earthly things of this
life. They sat in silence, her head pillowed on his shoulder, his arm
a black stripe across the back of her pink shirtwaist. Hunch walked
swiftly back to the schooner.

He was in his bunk, pretending to be asleep, when Bruce came stamping
down the steps into the cabin. He watched Bruce as he lighted the lamp.
Bruce was grinning. After puttering about the table, he came over to
Hunch’s bunk and stood looking down at him. Then he laughed out loud and
dug his fingers into Hunch’s ribs.

“Get out of here,” Hunch growled.

“Say, Hunch, wake up! It’s all right. We’re going to be married next
month.”

“Glad to hear it,” said Hunch, drowsily. Then he rolled over, feeling
less enthusiasm than he had expected. Bruce whistled while he was
undressing, and played catch with one of his shoes. Hunch could hear him
chuckling after he got to bed and the light was out.

After that, whenever they touched at a city, Bruce would hurry up to
the post-office, and would usually have on his return a perfumed letter,
addressed in a slanting hand. He carried these in his pocket and re-read
them frequently. His spare time was spent in writing replies with a
stubby, chewed pencil.



CHAPTER III--THE CALL

|TEN days before the wedding, they were lying at Manistee, waiting for
a load of salt. Bruce had been growing more restless and absent-minded.
The fault grew unchecked, because an instinctive fineness in Hunch held
back the reproof that would ordinarily have followed slipshod work. But
about the time of the Manistee trip, Bruce appeared in a new light. He
was growing self-confident and independent. The old meekness was giving
place to a certain animal pride.

The last night at Manistee, Bruce went uptown to buy a present for
Mamie. He met an old friend on the street and told him of his luck. This
called for congratulations, and in the confidence of his new strength
Bruce followed his friend through a swinging, green baize door. He
returned at eleven o’clock. Hunch was in the cabin, wrestling with his
accounts.

Bruce came slowly down the steps and balanced carefully at the bottom.

“Hello, Hunch,” he said, slyly.

Badeau looked up. Bruce walked across the cabin and sat on his bunk,
holding his head erect and looking straight before him.

“Where you been?”

“See a fren’.”

Badeau looked at him. Bruce grew so nervous that he forgot his caution.

“What’s matter? What you lookin’ me like that for? You’re fren’ o’ mine,
Hunch. Shake han’s, ol’ man. Shake-----”

Badeau struck him without a word. Bruce showed fight, and in a moment
they were rolling about the floor. Billy, up forward, heard the noise,
and, tiptoeing along the deck in his underclothes, peered down the open
gangway. He saw Bruce, his face red with drink and rage, break away from
Badeau and seize a knife from the rack on the bulkhead. Badeau sprang
forward. The table was jammed into the stove. Then the light went out.
There was a fall, then a silence. Billy groped cautiously down the
gangway.

“That you, Billy?” came in Badeau’s voice. “Get a match. Guess I smashed
him pretty hard.”

As soon as he and Billy could get Bruce undressed and into his bunk,
Hunch ran for a doctor. Bruce finally went to sleep with a stitched-up
scalp, a purple eye, and a broken’ rib. In the morning they got underway
for Liddington, Billy and Hunch doing all the work. Bruce was quiet
during the morning, but in the afternoon, and after they reached
Liddington, he started several times to blurt out an apology, which
Hunch each time cut short. At supper-time, Hunch propped him up with
blankets.

“Say, Hunch, I s’pose you ain’t got nothing to say to me.”

“Guess not.”

“Well, say, Hunch, I--got a date with her to-night; I ain’t fit to
ever see her again, but--she’ll wonder why I don’t come. Say, you go up
there, Hunch. Come on. Tell her I’m sick.”

So Hunch went. And when he sat stiffly in the parlor (in Bruce’s checked
tie, for fear that she might recognize the red one), he wished himself
miles away, or dead and buried, and he wondered what he could say. But
after a while Mamie came in, blushing. His tongue tripped over her name,
and they both laughed.

“S’pose you’re s’prised to see me,” he said.

“Why--I don’t know. I’m always glad to see you, Mr. Badeau.”

Hunch blushed.

“Say, Bruce’s sick.”

“Oh--really?”

“Yes--oh, it’s all right. Nothing very bad. He’ll be around in a day
or two. But I guess he thought you’d feel bad if you didn’t know why he
didn’t show up.”

During the silence that followed Hunch winked at her knowingly, and she
blushed again.

“‘Most ready for the wedding,” he said, intending to cover her
confusion; but for some reason she grew more distressed. “Let’s see,” he
went on, talking rapidly, “it’s coming pretty soon now, ain’t it? Next
Friday, eh? Well, say, we’ve got to be at Milwaukee Thursday morning,
but I told Bruce we’d get back here Friday afternoon if it took the
sticks clean out of the old _Dean._ And we will, too. Sorry I’ve got to
lose Bruce. He’s going in with your old man, ain’t he?”

Already he was beginning to feel at ease. He liked to talk to this girl
who looked shyly at him, and who was pleased when he told her of Bruce.
This latter fact led him on until he found himself talking enormously
about Bruce’s courage and resource and kindness of heart, telling her
in Bruce’s name a large part of his own personal history. And at length,
when he paused for breath in a glow of falsehood, and saw the light
dancing in her eyes, and her eager smile, he felt a thousand times
repaid.

It was after a very long stay that he rose to go. She followed him to
the door, and stood for the moment on the porch.

“Mr. Badeau,” she said, “Bruce has told me about you; how kind you’ve
been to him. And I’ve wanted, to thank you myself. You’ll be our friend,
won’t you, after-” she said it bravely-“after we’re married. And you’ll
come and see us real often.”

Then she suddenly reached up, far up on her tiptoes, and while he stood
looking down, she kissed him on the cheek and fled indoors.



CHAPTER IV--HUNCH’S WEDDING

|THURSDAY morning, a day and a half before the hour set for the wedding,
they lay at a wharf in Milwaukee River, ready to sail. The sky was heavy
and a roaring wind blew from the lake. Half a dozen steamers and two
schooners had made the harbor since daybreak, and each had a story of
hard struggling with wind and sea, stories which spread rapidly along
the river, causing more than one outbound captain to shake his head, and
resolve to wait a few hours or a day longer.

Hunch had gone out to the life-saving station at the pier, and now at
eight o’clock he stood looking at the tumbling white rollers that came
on squarely be tween the piers and ran far up into the channel before
they were spent. On the horizon a row of schooners, barges, and
freighters were holding their noses against the sea, until it should be
safe to run for the harbor. A little nearer a big whaleback was tossing
and rolling badly. One of the crew men watched her through a glass.
A few tugs hung about inside the basin, looking for a stray job at
advanced rates.

Hunch, after looking it all over, chartered a tug, then returned to the
schooner, where Bruce and Billy were waiting. He and Bruce had not been
talkative of late.

“Get everything tight, Bruce,” he said, jumping down upon the deck.
“We’re going out in half an hour.”

“How about it, Hunch? Can we make it, think?”

Hunch did not trouble to reply, and Bruce, as he worked along the deck,
watched him nervously.

Before the tug appeared, Hunch went ashore and crossed the wharf to a
saloon at the corner. He returned with a jug, which he put in his bunk
where the bedding would protect it when the schooner got to pitching. He
sometimes drank whisky to steady his nerves when fighting a heavy sea.
In a few minutes the tug came alongside.

“Everything fast, Bruce?”

Brace grunted, and Billy lifted the lines off the snubbin’ posts and
followed them aboard.

They went out in tow, on a long hawser and under bare poles. When they
were half a mile beyond the piers, wrenching and slapping through
the seas, and shipping a deck-load from every second wave, Bruce came
groping back to Hunch, who had the wheel.

“How much farther are they going to take us, Hunch?” He had to shout to
get his voice over the wind. “They’ll be sticking us for a big bill.”

“None o’ your business,” growled Hunch.

“I’d like to know why not. We’re going back on my account.”

“Shut up! I’m paying for this tow. Go up forward where you belong. Send
Billy back.”

When Billy appeared, working along the rail and bracing his feet when a
wave came over, he said, “Bring up that jug in my bunk.” Billy brought
it up and lashed it to the rail within Hunch’s reach. Hunch began to
drink.

After a time he shouted to Bruce, who, with Billy’s help, set to work on
the sails. Both were cold from the duckings, and Bruce was in addition
too excited to be of much use. Between them they bungled until Hunch
lost his patience and, yelling to Bruce to take the wheel, he ran up
the heaving deck and throwing his weight on the halyards, raised the
foresail single-handed. Billy timidly watched him, expecting that he
would reef heavily, but when he saw everything but the topsails go up
flat, he looked around at the tug which was holding them up in the wind,
then at Hunch who was making fast the mainsail peak; and then Billy,
who was plucky enough on occasion, swallowed a lump in his throat, and
turning forward, crossed himself hurriedly as he stood clinging to the
weather-stays.

They cut loose from the tug and swung off a few points, the schooner
shivering and straining as she caught the wind, then heeling over with a
rush. Hunch went storming back to the wheel. Bruce was wiping his mouth
on his sleeve, bracing the wheel with one knee. The cork was out of the
jug, and a little whiskey slopped out at each lurch of the schooner.
Hunch stood for a moment without support, swaying, then sprang on Bruce
and threw him against the closed gangway, where he lay clutching at the
cabin roof.

“You--you--” Hunch was for once too angry to swear. “Get below there!”
 he said finally, after he had steadied the schooner on her course. “Get
below, quick!”

Bruce without looking around fumbled with the companion slide, and
ducking down between two waves, pulled it shut after him. After he
had disappeared, and the schooner was running more easily on the long
northwest tack that was to take her to the Liddington harbor, Hunch
slowly got his bearings, and for a long time he stood pouring out a
flood of profanity. This outburst came too late for Bruce’s ears, but
not too late to act as a safety-valve to Hunch’s temper. Then he took a
drink.

He stood at the wheel all day and all night. At noon and at dusk he sent
Billy below to get up a rough meal, which he ate with one hand, washing
it down with the whiskey. At about nine o’clock, he called Billy back,
and told him to turn in. And when the dawn broke, and the bleak sand
hills of Michigan stretched out on the horizon, he was still at the
wheel, but his eyes were dimmer and his knees were weaker. Hunch was
drunk. He was quiet for the time, and he handled the schooner as she had
never been handled before, but the fact remained. Bruce had not appeared
at all. He was curled up in his bunk, waiting for the end, when the
madman at the wheel should reach the sleepy stage.

Once or twice in the night, when the schooner was careering through some
especially hard blow, Bruce cried a little, like a girl, at the thought
of the wedding that might not be. He did not know that at this time it
was the thought of two blue eyes smiling at him, and of two lips pressed
to his cheek, that raised Hunch above the grasp of the whiskey.

The morning had gone before they were within reach of the Liddington
harbor. They passed the breakwaters three times at noon and after, each
time a mile nearer than before. The wind had swung around during the
night closer to the south. Hunch was beating in from the northeast,
evidently planning to get close enough to run in during a lull. The
box of a lighthouse on the south breakwater grew larger. After a time,
Billy, who was forward, could see three white figures on the other
breakwater, waving their arms. He knew that they were members of the
life-saving crew, warning them not to make the attempt.

Hunch took a look about the boat and up through the rigging. The
schooner was badly wrenched and strained, but was apparently good for
another effort. He looked over the long reach of breakers, sweeping up
on a slant from the south. He took a drink and called to Billy.

“Come back here! Tell _him_ to come up on deck.” His manner was heavy
and surly.

Bruce came up with a white face and rings under his eyes.

“Sit down there,” growled Hunch, pointing to the low roof of the cabin.
“You too,” to Billy.

When they were seated facing him, holding on to each other and to the
gangway slide, Hunch said: “D’ y’ know where you’re goin’? You’re goin’
to my weddin’. Bruce, he gets er girl, I get’s er weddin’-un’erstan’?
Sit up straight there--like er gen’leman. You think we’re goin’ to er
weddin’? Mebbe we ain’t. Mebbe we’re goin’ to hell. Why don’t you
laugh? This’s our weddin’ day.” His mood suddenly changed and he paid
no attention to them, giving all his energy to the handling of the
schooner. Then he motioned to Billy to go forward. For a long time there
was silence, excepting that Hunch occasionally muttered, “We’ll get
back. I tol’ her we’d get back.” Bruce sat terrified on the cabin,
facing the stem, not seeing where the schooner was going. After a while
he could stand it no longer. He looked over his shoulder. They were
close to the breakwaters now, and a little to the south. The three
life-saving men were running back along the breakwater, evidently
in order to be ready at the station if the schooner should miss the
channel. Then he heard Hunch say, “Turn round there!” Hunch had his
revolver out and was pointing it at him with a grin. Bruce sat still,
for Hunch was careless when he was drunk. Hunch kept it in his hand, and
looked at Bruce from time to time with a cunning expression.

The schooner came bounding up from the south, running nearly before the
wind. Hunch knew what to allow for wind, waves, and currents. Suddenly
he shouted to Billy and jammed the wheel over hard. With Billy at the
sheets, the bow came slowly about and headed direct for the lighthouse.
Billy quaked. But as she ploughed forward she fell off to the leeward
under the sweep of the waves, and slipped neatly between the breakwaters
and into the more quiet water of the channel. The lee rail scraped a
little, but nothing was started.

Bruce sat motionless on the cabin with a face like a sheet. But Hunch
waved his revolver jovially at the life-savers on the dock, and all the
while they were creeping up the channel he sang profane songs at the top
of his voice, pausing now and then for a drink. When they were fast
to the dock, he floundered ashore and stood laughing at Billy, who was
still clinging to the weather-stays. Bruce stepped up to him.

“Say, Hunch, don’t you think you’d better quit drinking? The wedding’s
tonight, you know.”

“What right you got talkin’ to me ‘bout----”

“You’re coming to the wedding, Hunch, ain’t you?”

“I ain’t goin’ to no wedding. Get out o’ here! Go on now.”

Bruce walked steadily and rapidly up the deck, and disappeared around
the corner of a lumber-shed.

A few hours later Hunch came plunging out of a saloon, with two men
who were afraid to decline his treats. It was dark, but when a certain
carriage passed, he could see by the corner light that one of the
occupants wore a white veil. So he went back into the saloon, and amused
himself shooting patterns through the stove until he fell asleep over a
box of sawdust. Then it was, and not before, that the discreet constable
had him carted away to sober up at the county’s expense.



CHAPTER V--MAMIE’S DEVICE

|CONSIDINE was married in May. For four months Badeau heard of him and
Mamie only in a roundabout way. One day, toward the dose of September,
the two men met on the road.

“Hello, Hunch,” said Bruce, “how are you?”

“All right. How’s yourself?”

“Fine. Why ain’t you been round to see us. We’re keeping house.”

“I dunno. Ain’t had much time.”

“How’re you getting along, anyhow, Hunch? How’s the old Dean?”

“First-class.”

“Well, say, come up and see us. Come to-night. Mamie was asking about
you the other day.”

Badeau spent a long evening at Bruce’s cottage, and had a good time. A
week later he went again. Through the autumn, as the weather grew heavy,
and lake trips became more uncertain, he took to spending the evening
with them as often as he could. Mamie was prettier than ever, with a
new depth in her eyes, and Bruce appeared very well as the head of a
household. They played cards a good deal, and talked about old times.
After a while Hunch found it easy to drop in and take supper with them.

One evening late in October, when he came in to supper, he missed the
usual cordiality. Mamie’s eyes were red and Bruce’s manner was strained.
He left early and Bruce walked out with him, saying that a little walk
would do him good.

“Say, Hunch,” he said, when they reached the sidewalk, “I don’t know
whether you heard about it, but----”

“About what?”

“Well, it ain’t any of my feelings, Hunch, but you can’t help people
talking. You see, there’s some folks that don’t understand things, and
they’re talking a little, you know, about your being around to the house
so much--r-” They walked on, both silent.

“Of course, Hunch, it ain’t what I think, you see that.”

Again he waited for a reply.

“I’ll tell you, Hunch, Maine and I’ve been talking it over. She’s a good
friend of yours, and she says if you stop coming, just because people
talk, she’ll never forgive you. She’s right, too. And we was thinking,
mebbe we’d have one of the girls around. Say, ain’t there nobody you
like pretty well, Hunch? There’s Jess Bartlett, now. She’s an awful nice
girl. And she’s stuck on you, Hunch. She’s Jim Bartlett’s sister, you
know. He’s on the life-saving crew. Marne’s been talking with her, and
she says she’ll come around with you tomorrow night, if you’ll go get
her. Will you?”

Hunch wanted to say no, but he looked around at Bruce, and some of his
anger left him when he saw how eager and friendly was Bruce’s face. So
he replied: “Guess so.”

Hunch spent a sleepless night, and arose with the determination never
to go to Bruce’s again. He continued to decide the question all day from
different points of view. In the evening, however, a little earlier than
he was expected, he called at Jess Bartlett’s house.

Jess Bartlett was an attractive girl, full of health and spirits. She
admired Hunch’s bigness and strength, and made such an effort to be
agreeable that before they had finished the long walk to Bruce’s
house, they felt pretty well acquainted. The evening that followed was
different from those that Hunch had been spending at Bruce’s. There was
more gaiety and brightness. Jess knew that she was in a sense on parade,
and, as Mamie confided to Hunch, she “kept things stirred up.” They
played some games that Jess explained to them, and then Mamie made
molasses candy, and an impromptu candy-pull took place in the kitchen.
Once Jess slipped Hunch’s scarfpin from his tie, and Bruce and Mamie
laughed knowingly at Hunch’s clumsy efforts to take it away from her.
Finally she fled into the corner and held the pin behind her with both
hands. He hesitated before her and Bruce called, “Oh, Hunch, you’re
slow,” whereupon Mamie blushed and laughed, and Jess blushed and tossed
her head. So Hunch put both arms around her, but she struggled for some
time before he got the pin away from her. Then she dropped into a chair,
flushed and excited, her hair--a rich auburn--tumbling about her face;
and Mamie whispered to Hunch, “Ain’t she pretty, though?”

The night was dark, and on the way home Jess slipped her hand
through his arm. Now, that they were away from the others, Hunch was
embarrassed.

“I never knew you were like this,” she said.

“How do you mean?”

“Why, I don’t know. I’ve always heard that you didn’t like girls; that
you were--you know--kind of horrid.”

“I haven’t liked very many girls.”

“I’ll tell you something, if you won’t tell. You won’t think it’s funny,
will you?”

“Sure not.”

“Well, I used to be afraid of you.”

“Ain’t you now?”

“No--that is, not very much.”

“What makes you afraid of me?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” She danced a few steps before him on the walk. “Come
on, don’t be so pokey. Can you dance?”

“No, not very much.”

“Oh, you’ve got to learn to dance, or I won’t like you a bit. I’ll
tell you, I’ll teach you, some of the nights when we don’t go over to
Marne’s. That’ll be fun--don’t you think?”

Hunch nodded, and caught her arm as she whirled by him, and they walked
home soberly, talking about Bruce and Mamie and how happy they seemed to
be. At the door Hunch said “goodnight,” and started away. She stood on
the steps.

“Say,” she called softly, as he opened the gate, “you’ve got the key.”

Hunch came back, a little confused, and took her key from his pocket.
He tried to unlock the door, and they both laughed when he got the key
stuck in the lock.

“You’re awful clumsy,” she said, and in trying to help him her hand
rested for a moment on his.

“My, your hands are cold,” she said.

He took hold of her hand and replied, “Mine ain’t so cold as yours.”

“Yes, it is.” She drew hers away slowly, and opened the door. They both
laughed. Jess leaned back against the door.

“Say,” she said, “when are you coming around again?”

“I dunno. When do you think?”

“Marne asked me if you were coming there to-morrow night.”

“What’d you tell her?”

“Do you want to?”

“Yes, if you do.”

“All right, I’ll be ready.”

In a week it was generally known that Hunch Badeau was “going with Jess
Bartlett.” Bruce and Mamie poked fun at them, and looked mischievous
whenever they were mentioned. Mamie used to enjoy having them at the
house, and would sit at one side and laugh quietly all the evening at
Hunch’s awkward ways and Jess’s blushes and shy glances. Sometimes, if
they were left together in the living room, Bruce would make a great
noise outside the door before he came in, and would pretend not to see
their conscious glances, talking loudly all the while as if to cover
their embarrassment. And as Jess really liked Hunch and Hunch was
drifting blindly with the current, all these doings magnified their
common interest, and gradually made it easier for them to be alone
together, and to talk about themselves and their likings and hopes.
Hunch grew more careful about his appearance, and spent less time than
formerly with the wharf men and the elevator gang.

One evening, about the middle of November, Hunch went around to the
Bartlett’s as usual. Jess was a little embarrassed about something. When
Hunch said, “Shall we go down to Bruce’s?” she hesitated.

“Guess we hadn’t better,” she said. “Marne isn’t very well.”

“All right. What’ll we do?”

“I don’t care. Do you want to stay here? There’s nobody home to-night.
I’ll tell you, you can have a dancing lesson.”

“Guess I won’t be much good at it. I don’t believe I can learn.”

“Oh, yes, you can. You’ll do beautifully. Now stand up.”

“Hunch felt awkward as she showed him the steps, and then tried to guide
him about the room.

“I’m an awful fool,” he said.

“You ain’t either. Here, you guide me.”

Hunch hesitated and looked at her. “Take hold of my hand. Put your arm
around--oh, pshaw! it’s just dancing; don’t be so stupid. Not way
off there. Hold me closer or we can’t dance at all. Oh, you don’t
understand.” Hunch gripped her doggedly. She was leaning a little,
trying to watch his feet, and as they stood there, her hair brushing
against her shoulder and a slight blush on her forehead, he felt that he
was losing his self-control. Then he found that he did not care, and he
made no effort to hold himself in check.

“Now, one, two, three--one, two, three. Not that way. Try it again. One,
two, three--you don’t get it, somehow.”

Hunch was standing still, holding her firmly. She was so small in his
grasp, he felt so strong and he could so easily lift her from the floor
with his one arm that he was almost tempted to try it. She was looking
down, and he could see the tip of an ear and a flushed cheek below
the tangle of hair. Then for a moment she went on rapidly with her
instructions, but her voice faltered, and stopped. They stood for a time
without moving, then Hunch drew her a little closer and grasped her hand
more firmly. She frowned and looked up, but she could not hide the
color on her face, and the smiling strength in Hunch’s eyes overbore the
half-hearted disapproval in hers.

Hunch, with his other arm, drew her head against his shoulder. He was
happy in a way that he had never before understood, for she trusted him,
and he was strong and would protect her.



CHAPTER VI--BRUCE CELEBRATES

|MAMIE was sick. Hunch did not go to the house, but one night after
supper, while he was changing his clothes to go to the Bartlett’s, Bruce
came in.

“Hello, Bruce. Sit down.”

“Can’t stop but a minute. Where’re you going?”

“Up to see Jess.”

“I ain’t seen you to shake on that, have I, Hunch. Marne told me. She
says Jess’s tickled to death. When’re you going to be married?”

“Dunno exactly. Guess not before spring.”

“Did you hear about Marne, Hunch?”

“Sick, you mean?”

“Yes, I s’posed you knew what was the matter. Thought mebbe Jess told
you--but she couldn’t though, could she? I’m awful worried. It’s too
soon, you know. You see that’s what I come to see you about. I’ve been
shaving it pretty close. Had to be up nights and it kind of knocked
my work. And the doctor’s sticking me like everything. I didn’t know
but--well, I’ll tell you, Hunch, can you let me have fifty for a couple
of weeks? I don’t get my salary till the end of the month, and I’ve got
to settle some things right away.”

“Sure,” said Hunch. “I’ve got a little put by.”

“I’m awful sorry, Hunch, but you see how it is----”

“That’s all right, Bruce. Any time ‘ll do.”

“I’ll give you my note. That’s about all I can do.”

“Not much you won’t. You just take it, and pay when you can, and don’t
you say nothing about it.”

For a few days there was gloom at Bruce’s cottage. Once Hunch went
around and was met at the door by Bruce, who looked worn. Hunch did not
know how to ask about Mamie, but Bruce came out and drew the door to
behind him.

“She’s pretty bad, Hunch. I don’t know what I’ll do if anything happens.
The doctor says we’ll know one way or the other in a day or so.”

Hunch gripped his hand and went away.

That evening, when Hunch went around to see Jess, he was depressed.
The thought of Mamie’s suffering stood in his way whenever he tried to
respond to Jess’s sallies. As the evening went on, Hunch’s mood grew
worse. Jess went into a sulk later; when he dropped a careless remark
that hurt her pride, she grew angry.

“What’s the matter, Jess?” Hunch said at last.

“I guess you know.”

“I don’t believe you want me here.”

“Oh, you can go if you want to.”

Hunch looked at her, vaguely conscious that he had been unkind; but he
went away without kissing her good-night.

One morning, a day or two later, he was dressing, when Bruce came in,
with disordered hair and excited eyes.

“It’s all right, Hunch; it’s all right! Doctor says it’s wonderful how
she come through it.”

Hunch sat on the bed without speaking, but with an almost painful
expression of relief on his face.

“It’s a girl,” said Bruce, and he laughed. “Come on over, Hunch. It’s a
fine little kid. Come along with me.”

“No,” said Hunch, slowly. “I don’t believe I can just now.”

“What’s the matter? Why can’t you come?”

“I’ve got a lot of work to do to-day.”

“Don’t talk to me about working. You’re my best friend and I want you to
come first.”

“No, I can’t, Bruce.”

“You make me tired, Hunch. You might as well be decent about it.”

“There ain’t no use of getting mad, Bruce. I’ll get around before long.”

“That’s what I call----”

“No, you don’t, now, Bruce. You’d better go on back. I guess they need
you anyhow.”

Bruce muttered as he went out. He did not know why Hunch refused to go,
and Hunch was not sure that he knew himself.

All day Hunch alternated between a nervous buoyancy and a sense of
depression. After supper he went to Bartlett’s. Jess was watching at the
window, and she hurried to open the door. He was wondering what to say,
to show her that he was sorry for his unkindness, when she closed the
door and flung her arms around his neck, and for a long time she cried
on his shoulder. This was the end of their quarrel.

Finally, when they were in the parlor, Jess said, with lowered eyes:
“Have you been down to Marne’s, John?”

“No.” Hunch was embarrassed.

“I--I went over this afternoon.”

After a silence she went on. “Seems awful funny, don’t it?”

Hunch nodded.

“She wants us to come down tonight. I didn’t know whether you’d want
to.”

“Sure.”

“She’s awful proud about it. I--I can’t get over thinking about
it--about her and him. It’s awfully little.”

They walked to Bruce’s and sat for an hour in the living room. Mamie was
too sick to see them, but Bruce opened the door into her room so that
she could hear their voices. Bruce was bubbling over with happiness.
When he finally brought out the baby, a sickly little thing, he was
laughing out loud. Jess took it in her arms.

“My, ain’t it light,” she said.

“Six pounds,” said Bruce.

“What’s her name going to be?”

“Dunno yet. Marne wants to name it after her mother.”

“John,” said Jess, “take her just a minute. She’s such a funny little
thing.” Hunch moved away and shook his head. This made Bruce and Jess
laugh. For the rest of the evening Hunch was thoughtful. His manner
subdued Jess, and they walked home with little to say.

The following night, as Hunch was coming away from Bartlett’s, he met
Jess’s brother on the street.

“Hello, Hunch,” said Jim. “Say, if you want to see a circus, you ought
to go down to Herve’s place.”

“Why, what’s up?”

“Bruce Considine’s celebrating.”

“What--drinking?”

“Yes, he’s got a peach of a jag already.”

Hunch hurried down to the saloon. Bruce was sitting on one of the
tables, treating the crowd.

“Hello, Hunch,” he said, waving his glass. “Have somethin’ on me, ol’
man. All my fren’s got to have somethin’ on me to-night. I’m a father,
Hunch.”

Hunch took his arm and jerked him to his feet. Bruce leaned against
Hunch, and a man laughed.

“Shut up, there!” said Hunch. Then he led Bruce away and took him to his
own room. He needed to think. It was not such a simple matter as in the
other days, when Bruce was one of his crew. He sat by the bed until the
night was half gone. Bruce had gone to sleep. Hunch had been angry, but
after awhile he began to think of Mamie and the baby, and his expression
softened a little. Mamie was not in condition to bear a shock. The only
thing to do was to sober Bruce and get him home, so he took off his coat
and hammered him until he showed signs of consciousness. Finally he got
him aroused, and then ducked his head in the washbowl, and scrubbed his
face with soap and water.

It was two o’clock in the morning before Bruce was fit to go home. Then
he sat on the bed and looked helplessly at Hunch.

“What’ll I do, Hunch? I can’t go home now.”

“You shut up and go along. Don’t do any more talking about it.”

“I can’t, Hunch. Think of it! There ain’t a thing I can tell Marne. I
went uptown to get some medicine and said I’d come right back.”

“You’ll go back all the same, if I have to take you myself.”

“What can I tell her?”

Hunch walked up and down the floor.

“That’s your business, Bruce. It ain’t mine.”

“Don’t throw me up now, Hunch. Oh--everything’s going to smash. What’ll

“What do you want to do, lie to her?”

“It ain’t that, Hunch; it ain’t lying. I do! I can’t tell her how it
was. It would kill her.”

“All right, if you want to lie to her, you tell her I was drunk and
you brought me home. Now get out--go home, go somewhere, but get out of
here.”

“I--I-don’t you see, Hunch----”

“Go on now!”

Bruce went out talking to himself.



CHAPTER VII--A LIGHT GOES OUT

|MAMIE grew slowly better, but the baby was kept alive only by constant
attention. Hunch did not go to the house at all. Jess suggested it once
or twice, but it made Hunch look so black that she began to avoid the
subject. For the rest of the time Hunch was in better spirits than
usual. After the night with Bruce, he had made up his mind to drop Bruce
and his family from his mind. He had no right to interfere in Bruce’s
domestic matters. The decision brought relief, and Jess and he were
happier than at any time since the beginning of their engagement. They
spent their evenings going to entertainments, or sitting in the parlor,
talking, with the lamp turned low.

One night Hunch came in a little earlier than usual, without knocking,
and found Jess bending over a paper with some sort of colored
illustrations. She slipped it into a drawer as he entered the room.

“What you reading?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Yes, you was. I saw it.” He laughed and started to open the drawer, but
she stood against it.

“Please don’t look.”

“Don’t you tell me all your secrets?”

“Oh, well, look if you want to.”

“I don’t, unless you want me to, Jess.”

She opened the drawer and drew out the paper. It was illustrated with
plans. “What’s the matter with this?” he asked. “What you afraid of?”

“Nothing. Sometimes I think it’s kind of fun to pick out the houses I’d
like--just for fun, you know.”

“Which one do you like?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I was just thinking that maybe some day we’d------”

She stopped and turned away. Hunch thought she was joking, and he took
her shoulders and gently turned her around. She was crying.

“Why--what’s the matter, Jess?”

She buried her face on his coat. Hunch could not follow her sudden
changes. Now he looked down at her hair, puzzled, waiting for her to
explain. Finally he said, “You’ve got to tell me what’s the matter,
Jess.”

“I was only thinking--one of the girls said--said you didn’t love me,
John, she said---” Hunch tried to break in, but she went on, “you weren’t
going to--that we’d never get married. And you--you never said anything
about getting married, John.” Hunch looked over her head at the wall.
He could not tell her that he had not allowed himself to think about it,
that he had been drifting steadily farther from the thought of it. “And
I thought maybe you’d speak about it, and we’d talk about a house--and I
wanted that--that one on the front page with the shingles on the front.
It’s a beautiful house, John.”

Hunch stood silent for a long time.

“Why don’t you say something? Oh, John, it isn’t true, is it? You do
love me, John?”

“No,” said Hunch, “it ain’t true. We’ll be married just as soon as
you’re ready, Jess.”

She did not look up for a long time. When she did, her eyes were still
wet.

“Don’t you think it would be kind of fun, John, to talk about the
house?”

They went over the plans, sitting on the sofa by the front window,
and talked out every detail. Hunch agreed with nearly all of Jess’s
suggestions, even to the grate in the front room, an expensive feature.

When they were out in the entry, and Hunch was putting on his ulster,
Jess stood before him with her back against the door.

“Say, do you want me to tell you something?”

“Course.”

“Oh, I--don’t you laugh, John, it ain’t funny. It’s mean. It’s what
somebody said. She said if a man really loves a girl, he gives her
something so folks ‘ll know--like a ring or something.” She laughed
nervously. “And I just told her that I wasn’t engaged on her account,
and if she thought I ought to wear a ring she needn’t look at me, that’s
all. She was awful mad.”

Hunch was silent.

“Now, don’t you be cross. I don’t want a ring, John, anyway,
until--well, until we’re married. It don’t mean anything when two people
love each other like you and me do. Good-night, you old boy. Now, don’t
go and be cross. And don’t forget we’re going to the dance to-morrow
night.”

Hunch laughed a little and kissed her. Then he walked slowly down the
street.

At noon on the following day, He went into the jewelry store near the
post-office and looked at rings. There was one large ring with two
diamonds set in a snake’s head.

“How much is it?” Hunch asked.

“Ninety dollars. Best ring we’ve got. There ain’t another like it this
side of Grand Rapids.”

“That’s the one I want then,” said Hunch. “Will you put it by for me?”

“Take it right along, Mr. Badeau. There’s no hurry about the money.”

“No,” said Hunch, “I won’t take it until I can pay for it.”

“All right, Mr. Badeau, we’ll set it aside for you.”

By a second loan Hunch had let Bruce have nearly all his ready money, so
that he lacked a large part of the ninety dollars, but he was determined
to have the ring within a week or two. He was walking slowly down the
street when he met Jim Bartlett.

“Hello, Hunch.”

“Hello, Jim.”

“Say, come into Herve’s a minute. I want to see you.”

When they were seated at one of the round tables, Jim said, “I s’pose
it ain’t none of my business, Hunch; but when you’ve known a fellow all
your life, you can’t help being kind of interested. I knew you was sort
of looking after Bruce Considine once in awhile. I know he used to work
for you, and it seemed to me lately that he’s getting a little off the
track.”

“What’s the matter? What’s Bruce done?”

“Well, I hear about it from two or three places. You know Billy Riggs’s
folks live next door to Bruce, and this morning Billy came up to the
lookout while I was on the watch, and told me a little about it. Billy’s
always known Marne Banks, you know. I think he used to be kind of stuck
on her.”

“What about it?”

“Billy says Bruce is drinking right along not jagged, you know, but kind
of ugly. And he says, his little sister says, she saw him hit Marne last
night-’t weren’t none of her business, of course. She heard ‘em talking
and was looking through the window. Going on down the street?”

“No,” said Hunch, after a silence, “I’ll sit here awhile.”

“All right. So long, Hunch.”

Hunch did not work at all that afternoon. He went to the wharf and
watched the men at work on the foundation of the new grain elevator.
Once he started back uptown, thinking that he might find Bruce at
Herve’s saloon. He got as far as the planing mill, and stopped,
wondering what he could say to Bruce if he should meet him. Then he went
back to the wharf. After supper he walked rapidly out to the eastern
limits of the town, where the pavement ends and the yellow sand begins.
He had forgotten about Jess and the dance. He went back to Herve’s
and looked in at the door. Bruce was sitting at one of the rear tables
playing poker with some of the elevator men. Hunch stepped back and
stood outside on the corner. For the first time since he had known Bruce
he felt like leaving him to go to the bad. He wanted to do something
himself that would make Mamie’s life easier.

He suddenly turned and walked out to Bruce’s house. He was excited when
he knocked on the door. He heard some one say, “Come in;” then he was
inside the door with his hat in his hands. Mamie was sitting by the
cradle rocking it with her foot.

“How d’ye do, Mis’ Considine. Is Bruce home?”

“No, he’s gone to the doctor’s. Won’t you sit down?”

“Thanks, I dunno. Bruce, he ain’t been very well lately, has he?”

“Why, yes.”

“I heard he wasn’t. I been kind of worried about him. Say, it ain’t
none of my business, but he was my man for a good while, and if he ain’t
doing the right thing by you, why, I want to know it, and I’ll learn him
he can’t cut no monkey shines----”

Mamie had stopped rocking and was looking at him.

“Mebbe I ain’t got much to say about him now--I dunno’s I have anything
to say, but--there’s some things a man can’t do, and----”

“What do you mean?”

“I dunno just what I mean--I know Bruce, and I’ve heard that he ain’t
doing the square thing.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I hear he’s hit you, and I just wanted you to know I ain’t been your
friend and his friend for nothing----” Hunch was talking fast and
wildly, “and he’s got to answer to me if he’s doing anything like that.”

Mamie was on her feet now. Her eyes were flashing.

“Is this the way you talk about your friends? And a man who’s been as
kind to you as Bruce has?”

“Bruce----?”

“Why don’t you come when he’s here? Why don’t you wait and talk to him?”

Hunch sat still, looking at her. He had nothing to say.

“Why don’t you go away? What makes you talk like this? Don’t you
understand that he’s my husband?”

Hunch moved toward the door.

“Yes,” he said, “he’s your husband.” The meaning of that word seemed to
be coming slowly into his mind.

“I’ll tell you,” he said, with one hand on the door-knob, “I guess I
made a mistake. I----”

“Yes, you have made a mistake.” She followed him toward the door. “Bruce
has never said anything mean about you. But I know where he was the
other night when he took care of you. And he wouldn’t have told me if I
hadn’t almost made him. And now you----”

They stood at the door looking into each other’s eyes--hers flashing,
his stupid. A choking sound came from the cradle. Mamie stepped softly
across the room and set the cradle rocking gently. Then she bent over
it, patting the little blanket and whispering. Hunch stood watching her.
She pressed her cheek to the face on the pillow, then suddenly stood up.
Her face grew white. She looked at Hunch, and he tiptoed across the room
and bent over the cradle. The baby’s face was white. He touched the face
with his finger. It was cold.

Mamie sank into a chair. She was still looking at him. He said
awkwardly, “I’ll get Bruce.”

His hat had dropped to the floor and he picked it up and tiptoed back to
the door. He opened it and turned. Mamie had thrown herself across the
cradle, and he went out without speaking.

He found Bruce in Herve’s saloon and sent him home.



CHAPTER VIII--SETTING A DAY

|HUNCH took charge of the funeral. After it was over, and while the man
was closing the casket, he stepped to the front porch for a breath of
air. Jess Bartlett had lingered after the service, and now stood alone
on the steps. Hunch hesitated in the doorway. He had not thought of Jess
during the last few days, and now he did not know what to say. But she
was determined that he should speak first, so after an embarrassing
silence he said, “Hello, Jess.”

She turned away.

“Ain’t you going to speak to me, Jess.”

“I don’t see as I ought to speak to you.”

Hunch looked at her helplessly, and when, after a minute, she turned and
saw his expression, she partly relented.

“When are you coming to see me again?”

“You know why I ain’t been ‘round, Jess.”

“I waited for you the other night. You said you were coming.”

“I know it, Jess. I’m sorry. Can’t I come to-night?”

“I s’pose you can if you want to.”

They could not say any more, for it was time to start the carriages. But
early in the evening Hunch went to her house, and they walked to the
lake? They found it hard to talk. Hunch finally blurted out, “I’m going
to get the ring next week. It’s a pretty one, I think.”

He felt her arm tremble, but she said nothing.

“I guess you’re mad at me, ain’t you?”

“No, I ain’t mad.”

“Why don’t you say something, Jess?”

She came closer to him as they walked.

“John, I wish--I wish we could get married. Somehow I don’t feel as if
you belonged to me. I know it’s silly, but I can’t help it.”

“How soon can you get ready?”

“I--I wasn’t thinking of it just that way--I----”

“Is next month too soon?”

She looked up at him and laughed softly. Their eyes met and they
understood each other better. They walked down the beach and looked out
over the flat lake.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to live kind of simple for a while,” Hunch said.
“I ain’t very rich, you know.”

“Do you think I care about that, John? Don’t you know I love you because
you’re so strong and good, and you can do so much. Everybody knows
you’re going to be rich some day. Jim, he says there ain’t another man
in town that’s got as much sand as you have, John.”

So they talked all through the long evening, telling each other their
thoughts and plans and hopes; and her trust in him gave Hunch a sense of
strength and responsibility. When he left her, very late, at the front
steps, he had thought of a plan which he kept for the time to himself.



CHAPTER IX--THE STORM

|IN the morning, directly after breakfast, Hunch went to see the foreman
of the elevator gang. “Where’re you getting your timber, Murphy?” he
asked.

“Getting most of it up at Manistee.”

“Got it in yet?”

“More’n half of it. The rest of it’s a late order.”

“How much is there to come?”

“About fifty thousand.”

“How’s it delivered?”

“F. O. B. on the dock here. Why, you looking for a job?”

“Yes, wouldn’t mind. I could get it down here cheaper’n the railroad,
and pretty near as quick.”

“Navigation’s closed, though. I don’t know as the Manistee folks ‘d want
to risk it.”

“Yes, but look at that.” Hunch motioned toward the lake, which lay blue
and sparkling beyond the Buttersville sandspit. “Quiet as August and
it’s a short run. There ain’t hardly any ice either.”

“Well, you might talk to ‘em up at Manistee, Hunch. Of course, they can
deliver anyhow they like, but I can’t run chances of delay.”

So Hunch went over to the telegraph office in the railroad station,
and after a great deal of writing and rewriting made up the following
message:

_To Wm. F. Jackson, Esq.,_

_Pres’t Manistee Timber Co.:_

_Will deliver the Liddington elevator bill of fifty thousand feet by
Lake, One Hundred Dollars. If terms satisfactory, wire reply, so I can
deliver while weather holds fair._

_J. Badeau._

When this message reached Jackson, he was sitting at his desk, with the
railroad rate figured out on a sheet of paper before him. He promptly
laid the two offers side by side and looked from one to the other. There
was no doubt that the lake route would be cheaper. But, on the other
hand, it was now after the first of December, and navigation was
nominally closed on the great lakes. Insurance he could get, if at all,
only at a prohibitive rate.

It was a question of judgment, and before deciding it, Mr. Jackson got
up and walked over to the window. The busy little city of Manistee shut
off his view of Lake Michigan, but he knew it was flat as a mirror. Not
many hours earlier he had stood by another window, in his big house on
the bluff, and as he shaved he had looked out over miles and miles of
blue water, as calm as in June. It was warm enough for mid-autumn; the
barometer promised continued dear weather. Altogether, Badeau’s offer
had decidedly the best of it. So he sent a message to “J. Badeau,
Liddington,” asking him to bring up his schooner at once.

Hunch, on receiving the message, went up to Herve’s saloon, and while
standing at the bar, let his eyes rove about the room until they settled
on a lank, middle-aged man in the corner.

“Hello, Herm Peabody.”

“Hello, Hunch.”

“What you doing in these parts?”

“Come up to see my niece--Joe Cartier’s wife.”

“Busy nowadays?”

“No, ain’t picked up anything for the winter yet.”

“What would you think of taking a trip with me?”

“The Dean?”

“Yes.”

“A little late for schooners, ain’t it?”

“Not in this weather, no. It’s only a little trip-up to Manistee.”

“Well, this ain’t been a very flush season, Hunch, and I s’pose I ought
to take it.”

“Can you come right along? I’d like to overhaul her a little and run up
there this afternoon. If they’re reasonable quick about loading, we can
get right back.”

A few hours later Hunch ran her out between the piers, with Peabody up
forward, and pointed north-east-by-north to clear Big Point Sable. The
breeze was light, and it was not until six o’clock that evening that
the _Dean_ ran into the harbor at Manistee. Hunch promptly looked up the
lumberman.

“How are you, Badeau. You came right up.”

“Yes, I did.”

“We’ll put that timber aboard the first thing in the morning.”

“You can’t do it to-night, then?”

“Oh, hardly.” Mr. Jackson glanced out at the starlit sky. “You don’t
think there’s any doubt about the weather, do you?”

“Maybe not. But if I could get it aboard now, I’d start right back. We
know we’re all right to-night.”

The lumberman’s supper awaited him; his men had scattered to their
homes. He glanced again at the sky, then said, “The morning ‘ll do, I
guess.”

“Well, it’s just this way, Mr. Jackson. I made you the offer to take
this load down, but I don’t feel like running any more risk than I have
to.”

“If you see anything to worry you in that sky, Badeau, you can just let
us run the risk.”

The thermometer dropped twenty-five degrees during the night. A film of
ice formed in the harbor. The wind swung around to the northeast, and
brought a bank of innocent looking clouds that spread slowly over the
sky. Out on the lake front the shore ice grew higher and whiter as the
waves beat tirelessly over it, and formed blocks and cones and miniature
mountain ranges.

When Jackson met Hunch on the wharf, he seemed to have forgotten what he
had said the evening before. “Well, Badeau, what do you make of it?”

“Of what?”

“The weather. Think you can make it?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“You ought to have gone out last night.”

To this Hunch made no reply; he kept one eye on the work of the timber
shovers.

“Still,” added Jackson, “you can run down in two or three hours with
this wind.”

A little later Hunch joined Peabody by the wheel. “Do you know of a good
man here, Herm?”

“For the schooner, you mean?”

“Yes.”

“Why--I’ll see if I can pick up Duke Buckingham.”

“Go ahead. Tell him we’re short-handed.”

When the _Dean_ finally fell away from the wharf, in tow of Jackson’s
tug, it was well on toward noon. And none of the three men on board was
over-cheerful when he looked out at the lake and felt the keen wind of
the open water. Even on shore it was a day for heavy jackets and gloves;
out here it was bitter cold.

“Set the tops’ls, Herm,” said Badeau, from the wheel.

Peabody looked at Buckingham, and then, without a word, the two men set
to work.

They ran nearly before the wind, that is, nearly southwest. Badeau kept
her up a few points to the westward in order to avoid the surf-currents
that bore down on Point Sable. The deck was piled so high with timber
that the schooner was unwieldy; her scuppers were nearly awash, and the
stem was down so low in the water that half the time the small boat,
hanging from the after davits, was afloat. When all sail was spread,
Hunch called his men aft and gave them a hand in hauling the boat aboard
and forward.

Rapidly the piers and the bluffs of Manistee fell off astern. Steadily
the sky thickened, and fine, hard flakes of snow began to blow about
their ears. Badeau alone did not mind the cold; his coat was open, his
hands bare.

“What do you think o’ this business, Herm?” asked Buckingham.

“Oh--well, it ain’t but three hours in this wind.”

“I don’t like them tops’ls.”

Peabody had no reply to this.

“What the devil’s he runnin’ way out here for?”

Peabody turned toward Point Sable; and then they both looked in silence.
They could see the white line of the surf, due south. On the bluff the
trees were tossing and bending.

Buckingham was the first to turn away. “Look there!” he exclaimed,
gripping Peabody’s arm. “Hi there, Hunch!” A black squall was sweeping
down from the north, as sharply defined on the water as if laid out
with a rule. Before the line were the leaden billows, behind it a black,
wrinkled surface, dotted with whitecaps. “Hi there, Hunch!”

But Hunch’s eyes had been long trained to take in a full circle at a
glance. “Ready about!” he was bellowing, “Ready about!”

The wheel spun around, the jibs flapped, the schooner reeled as
she swung lazily up. The three men watched the squall.
Slowly--slowly--creaking angrily--Will she make it?--No--Yes--No----

“Struck, by----! Hold fast, boys! _Hold_ fast!”

Over she went, till the booms dipped and the waters of Lake Michigan
ran from stem to stem along the rail. Hunch left the wheel and sprang
forward for the main sheet. Before he had it in his hand he was drenched
through. Cursing like a Northern Peninsula lumberman, he hauled away.
Peabody and Buckingham were together at the foresheet, with white faces
and blue lips. Over again! They got up to the weather-rail--it was like
climbing a gable roof--and still hauled away. For thirty endless seconds
they fought, then her bowsprit, scooping deep into every wave, swung
around and pointed into the wind. Hunch, shaking the water from his
eyes, looked up and about; both topsails were gone, and a thousand feet
or so of timber.

They could breathe now. But only for a moment, for the storm was beating
them back toward the point. Another battle, and mainsail and foresail
were double reefed and the _Dean_ was slowly working up into the wind.
There was no thought now of rounding the point; it was a question of
getting sea room. Once Badeau thought of anchoring, but his judgment
warned him not to try. One fact was encouraging, they made a little
headway. By three o’clock in the afternoon they were back off the
Manistee piers, and three miles out.

“What’s that comin’ down the harbor,” shouted Buckingham, “a tug?”

“Looks like it. Yes, that’s what it is.”

“See there, she’s whistlin’.” They could see the steam, though no sound
reached them.

“She can’t make it--hold fast, there!” The _Dean_ nosed deep into a
curling wave, struggled to rise, plunged on through, and the wave rushed
over them. When they could see again, a few more thousand feet of lumber
had disappeared.

“That was a soaker. Hunch all right, Henn?”

“Sure. See, she’s putting back. Looks like the _Cecilia Smith_.”

“That’s what she is. I never did think much o’ Bill Peters.”

“Maybe he’s right. He couldn’t ever tow us in through that surf--say,
the boat’s gone!”

“The-----it is!”

“Look for yourself.”

“Lord, you’re right! Kind o’ rough on Hunch. He’ll be lucky to come
through this without losin’ a wad. There’s sixty or eighty dollars worth
o’ timber gone a’ready.”

“Maybe he won’t have to stand for that.”

“Somebody’ll have to. You can’t get insurance now, you know.”

“Look out, Duke--here comes another!”

When this wave had passed, Peabody missed his companion, and looked
around for him. At length he saw him, wedged in between the foremast and
the timbers, grinning sheepishly; and stepping back he hauled him out.
“What’s the matter with you, man? Didn’t you see it.”

“Oh, I saw it all right.”

“You’d better get hold here. What’s the matter with your hands?”

“I dunno, sort o’ numb, I guess.”

“Makes me think o’ the time Ryerson’s house burned--just such a day as
this. Three or four of us got there early and pitched in to help the
firemen.” He had to shout to make himself heard. “I was up on the
ladder, next under the nozzleman, holding up the slack of the hose.
Well, sir, do you know the water kept dribbling down from the nozzle
around my fingers until they were just about froze stiff. Finally, they
let go--I couldn’t help it, my fingers just straightened out. Then
the slack of the hose fell and jerked the nozzle right out of the
nozzleman’s hands. Well, sir, I didn’t hardly know what I was doing,
it come so quick; but when that nozzle was tumbling down by me, and the
stream swinging all around, I made a grab for it and caught it by the
handles. And there I stood, holding on for all there was in me, and the
crowd yelling. All to once it struck me the nozzleman was yelling too,
and I looked up, and there I was squirting a four-inch stream up under
his rubber coat, and he was hanging on to the ladder for life. Getting
colder, ain’t it?” Buckingham, with lips bluer than ever, made no reply;
he looked down at his hands. Peabody’s eyes roved shoreward. The lines
in his face deepened as he looked; for he saw that the _Dean_ was making
no headway. Half an hour later Badeau beckoned him aft. When he returned
he took Buckingham by the shoulder, and shook him a little. “Here, Duke,
what you thinking of! Brace up! Hunch says we’ll throw off the deck
load. He can’t manage her at all this way. Come along--it’s just what
you need.”

Through the afternoon, through the night, the storm sported with the
_Dean_. It swept down from the north and forced her nearer and nearer to
the breakers on Point Sable; it veered to the northeast, and blew her,
with a scurry of black water, out past the point and on--on, as if to
hurl her on the Wisconsin shore; it brought snow and sleet to blind
the tireless wheelman, whose hands never left the spokes; it ripped the
sails and set the shreds to flapping derisively; and still Badeau kept
the wheel, and still his crew held their places forward. There was no
talking now. There were no more yams of sea or shore; the two men up
forward were holding grimly to life, with fingers too stiffened to grip
firmly--with spirits that shivered and threatened to let go.

[Illustration: 0009]

Toward dawn Peabody groped aft. “I dunno what to do about Duke, Hunch.”

“Hammer ‘im.”

“That don’t help much. See any signs of it’s letting up?”

Badeau shook his head.

“Do you know where we are?”

“Must be pretty near the middle of the lake. I’m going to try to work
back. Stand by to come about.”

For the twentieth time that night the _Bean_, under the jib and the
ruins of a foresail, pointed northeast. At Hunch’s command, Peabody
climbed half-way up the shrouds and clung there. The dark began to fade,
the snow-flurries ceased. “Ho there! Hunch!--Ho there!”

“Ho-o!”

“Bray-ay-kers! Duke--Tell Hunch!” Buckingham crawled aft. “Hunch!
Bray-ay-kers!”

“Breakers be----!”

“Herm----” It was hard for Buckingham to hold his excitement, hard for
him to hold to anything. “Herm, he says---”

Badeau’s eyes rested on the pitiable object before him, then peered
into the dark ahead. A flash came into his drawn face. “Stand by to come
about!” Buckingham gazed stupidly. Hunch plunged forward and gave him a
kick that sent him stumbling forward. “Ready about!”-Peabody was sliding
down a stay-“Ready about!--Hard a lee!”--The men up forward could not
hear him, could hardly see him; but Buckingham was fumbling with the lee
jib-sheet. She swung a little way, wavered, then, caught in the rush of
the surf, missed stays and floundered broadside on a bar. And the waves
came pounding in over the rail.

When the morning came they were lashed in the forerigging. The mainmast
was gone, the after-cabin was razed off flush with the deck, and the
seas flowed at will through the hold.

“Can you make out where we are, Hunch?”

“Off Clinton.”

“They’ll see us here then?”

“The ------ they will. There ain’t nobody lives there.”

“Not in Clinton?”

“Not a soul--. There’s the Liddington piers, below.”

“But there ain’t nobody on watch.”

“No--station’s closed.”

“Hold on though--what’s that?”

“Over the pier--little sails?”

“Yes.”

“That’s the life-boat.”

“No.”

“Sure it is.”

“Well, I’ll be------!” murmured Peabody fervently. “The fools--they’ll
never make it without a tug.”

“Couldn’t never get a tug out there.”

“Here they come! Is it the surf-boat?”

“Not much. It’s the big English boat. Surf-boat don’t carry any sail.”

“They’ve cleared the piers! Must be a volunteer crew. What’s the matter
with ‘em?”

“Too much sea--can’t use the rudder. See there--rudder’s up in the air.”

“Duke--Hi, wake up! They’re coming, Duke!”

Buckingham groaned.

“See’ em turning ‘round--they can’t manage her!”

Badeau shook his head. The life-boat, while they watched, was caught up
on the foaming crest of a wave, whirled around and jammed against the
end of the pier. She fell back with the wave, then, freed in some way
from her short masts, she rolled completely over on her high round
air-tanks, and righting, pitched about, buoyant as ever.

“See that? Did you see, Hunch? She went over!”

“Shut up, will you?”

“Look there--they’re throwing ropes. My nephew--I’ve got a nephew on
that crew, Hunch.”

“He’d better look out for his uncle, then.”

“See ‘em bobbing around. Must be they’ve got cork jackets on.”

By some unseen agency the boat was got back between the piers, and the
bobbing figures disappeared. The excitement passed; the beach, strewn
with wreckage and driftwood, and backed by sand hills and stunted pines,
looked bleaker than ever: the wind penetrated to their bones.

“What do you think o’ that, Hunch? What do you think ‘ll become----”

“Oh, shut up!”

An hour--two hours--and nothing but the roar of the surf, the endless
white beach, the low sky.

Then Badeau reached up and shook Peabody’s leg. “Wake up there, Herm!
Look down the beach.”

“Wha--what’s that? I don’t see anything.”

“What are your eyes for?”

“Oh--team o’ horses, eh. What’s the crowd doing?”

“Can’t you see the beach cart?”

“No--is it? Coming right along, ain’t they.”

The cart was hauled up at a spot opposite the _Dean_. Over the ice-cones
Badeau and Peabody could see the crew bustling about, until suddenly
the crowd fell back, and they caught the shine of a brass gun and saw a
projectile leap into the air trailing a line behind it.

“Not by fifty yards! It’ll take a bigger charge than that.
There--they’re getting out another.”

Another moment of preparation, and another projectile came spinning
toward them, passing high over their heads and directly between the
foremast and the stump of the mainmast.

“How’re we going to get ‘er, Hunch? The topmast stays are down; I
couldn’t ever get down to that deck. Couldn’t trust my hands, you
see--all right except for my hands.”

“You stay here, and keep still,” said Badeau. He drew out his knife
and cut the rope that lashed him to the shrouds; then worked his way
painfully down to the deck. Holding now to the rail, now to the loose
end of a stay, he fought through the waves, picked up the line, mounted
with it to the cross-trees, and unaided hauled the heavier line out
through the surf, and made the tackle fast to the foremast. The men on
shore fell to with a will and sent out the hawser; and in another moment
it was fast and taut, and the breeches buoy was dancing out to the
schooner.

“Easy now,” said Hunch, as they lowered Buckingham into the canvas
breeches.

“Lash ‘im in, Hunch; lash ‘im in! I’d do it--but my hands----”

They watched him without a word as the buoy went shoreward. The line
sagged so low under his weight that half a dozen waves passed over him.

“They’ll drown ‘im!” said Peabody. Badeau was silent.

Buckingham was lifted to the beach, and the empty buoy came back.

“You go next, Hunch.”

“Get in--don’t stop to talk!”

“Well--you see how it is--I guess you’re a little better off than I am.
You stand it better.”

“For God’s sake, get in!”

Peabody snivelled a little as he swung off and went swinging down
the line, his legs dangling grotesquely. Hunch clung to the ratlines,
looking after him with a wild gleam in his eyes. When the buoy came back
for the last time he caught it with one hand, then hesitated. He glanced
down at the schooner’s hull. Why should he go ashore at all? What was
the use now? He looked at the crowd. They were waving at him, probably
they were shouting. Then he found himself getting in and sliding off
toward the shore.



CHAPTER X--JIM BARTLETT CALLS

|ALL the rest of the day Hunch paced up and down on the shore ice,
watching the schooner until the foremast went over and the timber was
strewn for a mile along the beach.

At dusk two of the crew men came up and made Hunch go home. He spent the
evening stretched out on the bed, trying to think. Later he fell asleep,
and in the morning, when he awoke, his clothes felt heavy and stiff.
After breakfast he went up the beach. The _Dean_ was battered out of
shape. Two fragments of the foremast had been cast up on the ice, but
the mainmast had disappeared. He stayed until he was sure that the
schooner was a total loss, then he returned to his room.

A year earlier in Hunch’s life such a catastrophe would have set him
drinking; but now, while he thought of it for a moment, the idea of a
bout in Herve’s bar-room with the old crowd of loafers, who would know
exactly why he had come, and would, before the night was over, probably
know all about his state of mind, did not appeal to him. He could not
bring himself to go to Bartlett’s; he did not want Jess to see him when
he was weak and unable to help himself. But on the second evening after
the wreck, Jim Bartlett came up and found him lying on the bed with his
clothes on.

“Good evening, Hunch,” he said. “Kind of hard luck; ain’t it?”

“Sit down,” said Hunch.

“Thanks, can’t stay but a minute. I just wanted to talk to you--you
see I’ve been talking with Jess. She’s all broke up about the schooner.
‘Most as bad as you are. She thinks a lot of you, Hunch. She says you
ain’t been ‘round.”

“No, I ain’t yet.”

“She says she didn’t know whether you was coming or not.”

“I dunno’s there’s much good in seeing her.”

“You mean things is different?”

“It don’t make much difference what I mean.” Jim’s face was not very
sympathetic, and Hunch was not in a mood to open his heart.

“Well--I’ll be square, Hunch--it’s as much what I think as what she
thinks--but she can’t help thinking--well, you see how it is yourself,
Hunch. You ain’t in just the position you was in before. It’s
different--it can’t help being different.”

“What’s she want to do?”

“Now, don’t take it mean, Hunch; but she don’t see--and I must say I
don’t either--that things ought to be just as they was.”

“No, I don’t s’pose so.”

“But you’ll come around and see us anyhow, Hunch, won’t you, and talk it
over. Mebbe Jess won’t feel this way.”

“No,” said Hunch, “that ain’t no use.” Bartlett stood at the door. “I’m
sorry you feel this way, Hunch, I--well, I guess there ain’t much else
to say.”

“No, I guess there ain’t.”

Bartlett went out and closed the door. Hunch lay still for a long time,
wondering over the turn of events. Now that it was settled, and in spite
of the hurt a strong man feels when the control of his actions is taken
away from him, he began to feel a slight sense of relief. Anyway, he had
his strength left, and he was free to begin again.



CHAPTER XI--STARTING FRESH

|BADEAU lost his schooner before Christmas. The day after New Year’s
he went to Manistee to see Mr. Jackson, whom he found sitting in his
office.

“Well, Badeau,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

“I want a job.”

“What can you do?”

“Anything.”

“What’s the matter? Up against it?”

“You know my schooner’s gone.”

“Yes, I know.” And Mr. Jackson also knew that Hunch was a good man.
“Tell you what I’ll do, Badeau; I’ll make a place for you. How are you
on logs?”

“I was boss of Dempsey’s gang up to Cadillac four years ago.”

“How much money do you want?”

“‘Nough to keep me going. You’ll find out what I’m worth fast enough.”
 Badeau went to work the next morning. He took a cheap room near the
lumber-yard, and found before the week was out that he could live on
two-thirds of his salary. At the beginning of the second week, Mr.
Jackson put him in charge of the river gang, driving logs. Hunch took
advantage of the mild weather to get all the logs in the river to the
mill before the river should freeze up solid for the winter. He got
along well with the men, excepting a fellow named McGuire, who was
inclined to grumble at hard work. But one noon at the mill, when the
men were matching their strength, Hunch lifted a six-hundred pound
pile-driver weight and swung it easily clear of the ground. That quieted
McGuire.

One day toward the close of his second week, Badeau found Bruce
Considine hanging around, at closing time, outside the mill.

“Hello, Bruce,” he said. “What you doing up here?”

“Come up to see you, Hunch.”

“What’s the matter?”

“The old man come down on me last week.”

“Fire you?”

“Yes. I’m sick of working for him anyhow. He’ll never let a fellow
alone.”

“What you going to do? You ain’t likely to get another job like that.”

“I don’t know. I thought mebbe you’d know of something up here, Hunch.”

“I just went on the job, myself.”

“I know it, but I can’t starve, Hunch, I ain’t had any money for a
couple of days.”

“How about--your----”

“Marne? She’s down at the house. I told her to go to the old man, but
he’s kind of ugly and she wont do it. Guess she’ll get over being proud
one of these days.”

“What’s she living on?”

“I thought mebbe I could send her something, if I could get a job up
here.”

“I dunno, Bruce. I’ll ask the boss. Come around to-morrow noon.”

The following afternoon Bruce joined Hunch’s gang as a day-laborer. His
muscles were soft, and it was several days before he could do a man’s
work. One day the gang were carrying heavy timbers at the mill, and
Hunch noticed that Bruce’s partner on one of the double timber-hooks was
muttering. He kept an eye on the pair, and saw that Bruce’s hands sagged
at every few steps. When the day’s work was done he waited outside the
mill for Bruce.

“Look here, Bruce,” he said, “I’m on to you.”

“What you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about. I seen you soldiering. I just want to
tell you that it won’t go.”

Bruce was silent for a moment. Then he said:

“Think you’ve got me down, don’t you.”

“What I think ain’t got nothing to do with it. I got you the job, but
I can’t keep you if you don’t take a brace. The boss wouldn’t stand for
it. You got to earn your pay.”

“It’s easy for you to talk. You’re getting good money. I’m working hard
enough for every cent I get.”

“None o’ your talk now, Bruce. You can’t bluff me. You just quit loafing
and get down to business. You’re going to do it, too, if I have to knock
it into you. Understand?”

Bruce walked away in a surly mood, but for a few days Hunch saw a slight
improvement in his work. Then there came a slump. Hunch said nothing
until one noon he overheard Bruce and McGuire grumbling together. He
called Bruce away.

“Look here, Bruce,” he said, “you know what I told you.”

“What you got to kick about?”

“None o’ your lip. You just keep away from McGuire.”

“I don’t see what you got to say about a friend of mine.”

“Friend of yours, eh? I s’pose you’re bunking with him, too?”

“Well, whose business is it if----”

“You leave him tonight. Understand?”

Bruce sulked for the rest of the day and avoided Hunch. After supper
Hunch went to McGuire’s room in the square frame hotel by the tracks. No
one was there, but Bruce’s patent-leather valise lay in the corner. Hunch
waited until they came in.

“Hello,” said Bruce, a little startled.

“Pack up your stuff and come along with me, Bruce.”

“Bruce is rooming with me,” said McGuire, looking at Hunch out of the
corners of his eyes.

“No, he ain’t,” said Hunch, “he’s rooming with me. Step lively, Bruce. I
been waiting half an hour.”

Bruce and McGuire looked at each other, and Hunch sat grimly on the bed.
Then Bruce turned to the bureau and began nervously gathering his things
and throwing them into the valise. McGuire helped him without a word.
Then Bruce shook hands with McGuire, a little stiffly, and went away
with Hunch.

Now, that he was directly under Hunch’s eye, Bruce improved slightly.
He fell into the habit of confiding in Hunch, and relying, as in the old
days, upon his advice. But one day a letter came for Bruce, addressed
in a hand which Hunch recognized. Bruce was quiet and serious for hours,
and when Hunch asked him what was the matter, he tried to pass it over
with a laugh. It was not until after supper, when they were up in the
room together, that Bruce gave way. Hunch was shaving, and Bruce sat
watching him for some time, before he said: “Hunch, I--got a letter from
Marne.” Hunch could see him in the mirror leaning forward in his chair
with his elbows on his knees.

“She--she’s coming down kind of hard on me. I ain’t had a chance to earn
anything yet. It’s all I can do to take care of myself.”

“Ain’t you sent her anything?”

“Why, how could I? You know what I’m getting, Hunch.”

“What’s the matter?”

“She says they’re sticking her for the house rent. I don’t know what to
do. I wish she’d go back to her old man.”

“How much are you stuck for?”

“I don’t know. You read it. Mebbe you can tell me what to do. Seems if
she ought to help a little, somehow.” Hunch leaned against the wall,
under the bracket lamp, and read the letter. Then he laid it on the
bureau and stood stropping his razor on the palm of his hand. Finally he
turned to the mirror and went on shaving.

“What do you think, Hunch?” asked Bruce, after a long silence.

“I dunno.”

“Tell me something, Hunch. I got to do something.”

“Shut up a while. Lemme think.”

When he had finished shaving, Hunch said:

“To-day’s Thursday, ain’t it?”

“Guess so.”

“Look here, Bruce, you write her a letter. Tell her I’m coming down
Sunday.”

“You, Hunch----?”

“Yes, I’m going down. Tell her, we’ll see if we can’t fix it up
somehow.”

Bruce looked up at him.

“Seems to me you’re kind of anxious to see my wife.”

Hunch turned on him.

“Look here, Bruce. Do you want to know why I’m going?”

Bruce nodded slowly.

“It’s ‘cause if I gave you any money to go down there you’d blow it in
and make a fool of yourself. You ain’t fit to have a wife, that’s why.
You owe me money now that I give you for your wife and you soaked it in
on jags. Don’t you talk to me. Understand?” Bruce stood by the window,
looking out into the dark. Hunch was bending over the washbowl and
splashing water on the floor. He groped for the towel. Bruce said: “What
you got mad about all of a sudden?”

Hunch’s face was buried in the towel. Bruce watched him.

“What you going to say to her, Hunch?”

“I dunno.”

“Say, you ain’t going to say nothing about me, are you?”

Hunch glanced at him contemptuously, and began to hone his razor. Bruce
stood around for a while, then moved slowly toward the door.

“Where’re you going?”

“I dunno. Thought I might go up town. Guess there ain’t much of anything
going on.”

“You come back.”

Bruce laughed nervously.

“Ain’t mad, are you, Hunch?”

“No, I ain’t mad. Better write that letter, I guess.”

“That’s so. I was going to do that, wasn’t I. I kind of forgot it.” He
sat at the table and took up the pen clumsily. “I don’t know just what
to say, Hunch.”

“That’s your business.”

“Don’t be mean, Hunch.”

“You shut up and write that letter. I don’t care what you say.”

When he had written it, and before sealing the envelope, Bruce hesitated
and looked around at Hunch. But Hunch had turned his back and was honing
without a word, so Bruce sealed it.

“It’s wrote, Hunch. I told her----”

“Give it to me. I’ll mail it in a minute. You be here now when I get
back.”



CHAPTER XII--HUNCH AND MAMIE

|HUNCH went down to Liddington Sunday morning on the combination freight
and passenger train. Bruce had come to the station with him, and stood
looking after the train for a long time after it had pulled away. Hunch
saw him through the rear window.

It was a crisp January morning. The snow had come and the train rattled
through a flat, white country, cut into strips as far as one could
see by the straight up and down lines of the black pine stumps. At
Liddington Hunch went up to the white brick hotel on the main street and
ate his dinner alone. He walked up and down for an hour after dinner,
trying to think clearly about Mamie and Bruce. Now, that he was on the
ground, he was not sure why he had come. But it drew near three o’clock,
and he walked out to Bruce’s cottage.

At first there was no answer to his knock. The curtains were down, and
the snow had not been cleared away from the steps. He knocked again and
rattled the knob. He heard some one moving. A little later an inside
door opened, and then, after some fumbling with the lock, Mamie opened
the door. She was pale and thin. A shawl was drawn over her head and
shoulders.

“Oh!” she said, then smiled. “How do you do, Mister Badeau?”

Hunch stepped in and closed the door.

“What’s the matter?” he said. “You ain’t sick?”

“No, just a little under the weather. Come in and sit down.”

The front room was cold.

“Ain’t you got no fire?” Hunch asked.

“Yes, I made a little fire in the kitchen this morning. I can sit out
there, you know. I don’t need any in here. Guess we’d better go out
there anyhow, where it’s warmer.”

“You go ahead,” said Hunch; then, “Where’s your wood? I’ll make a fire
here.”

“Oh, no, you mustn’t?”

“Now you just leave me be, Mis’ Considine. You set down in the kitchen
and lemme fix you up. Where’s the wood?”

“It’s out here in the box,” said Mamie, opening the kitchen door.

Hunch saw why she was sparing of wood. There were only a few armfuls.
But he built a roaring fire in the front room, and then took the ax out
into the back yard and split up a heap of boards and timber waste that
lay under the snow. Mamie watched him through the window. After a few
strokes he grew warm from the exercise, and taking off his coat he
handed it through the door to Mamie, and said, “Warm weather, ain’t it?”
 Mamie was smiling when she reappeared at the window. Hunch filled the
wood box and laid a large pile on the floor at each end. Then he put on
his coat.

“Well,” he said, “that’s more like. Pull up a chair, Mis’ Considine.”

“You must be hungry, Mr. Badeau, after all that work. I’m going to make
you some coffee, anyway.”

“Now, don’t you do nothing of the sort. That ain’t work? That’s just
fun.” Unconsciously he expanded his chest as he spoke. In spite of his
bent shoulders, it was a deep, rounded chest, different from Bruce’s.
Mamie did not know that there was admiration in her eyes as she watched
him.

“Now, you’ve got to let me, Mr. Badeau. I don’t have company very often.
You just sit still and let me work awhile. I’m not doing my share.” So
Hunch sat by the stove and watched her as she stepped about the kitchen.
Her manner had brightened, and there was a flush on her cheeks. She took
pains to keep the pantry door closed, but once Hunch caught a glimpse
inside and saw that the shelves were nearly bare. While drinking the
coffee they both felt a slight restraint. Occasionally when their eyes
met, Mamie would lower hers and laugh nervously. They talked of old
times, and Hunch recalled, somewhat awkwardly, the day he had first met
her on the beach by the life-saving station.

Then there was a long pause, and Hunch said, “Look here, Mis’ Considine,
there ain’t no use trying to make me think things that ain’t so is so.
I’m going down town and bring up something to eat.”

Mamie flushed.

“Now, don’t say nothing. You just leave me be and we’ll fix things up in
great shape.”

Mamie tried to protest, but Hunch put on his ulster and started up the
street, saying over his shoulder as he went down the steps, “I’ll be
back in no time.”

He found Joe Cartier, who kept the grocery and meat market across from
the hotel, at his house, and made him open his store and put up a large
bundle of provisions. When he returned, Mamie was at the front window.
She hurried to open the door.

“Come on and we’ll have a blowout,” said Hunch, as he cut the string and
spread the packages over the kitchen table. “There’s a good many of the
things that don’t have to be cooked at all. I got some preserve--thought
you might like it. Do you? It’s peach.”

Mamie’s eyes were hesitating between laughter and tears, but she nodded
quickly and the laugh triumphed. Then they both set to work. Hunch laid
the table-cloth, and puttered about clumsily, while Mamie prepared
the meal. Mamie laughed, at his awkwardness, and after a time grew so
cheerful that she joked him and made him blush through the bronze on
his face. And they sat facing each other across the table, with all the
lively chatter of two foolish young people. Afterward she washed the
dishes and he wiped them.

But when it was finished and they sat before the stove in the front
room, the sense of restraint returned. For a long time neither spoke.
They looked at the two cracked mica windows in the stove door, which
glowed redly when the flames leaped up behind them. It was Mamie who
finally broke the silence.

“Is--Bruce well?”

“He’s--he’s pretty well. He didn’t feel quite able to come down to-day.
You know we’re bunking together. You see, I know about--now, you mustn’t
think I’m poking my nose into none of my business. I and Bruce was
together a good while, and we come to know a good deal about each other,
o’ course.”

Mamie was looking at the stove windows. The wood in the stove had
fallen, sending up sparks and shoots of flame that danced grotesquely on
the mica.

“You see, if there’s anything I can do, ‘t aint ‘s if I was doing a
favor. It’s just that mebbe I was lucky in getting a place that pays
a little more’n Bruce’s. And you see he’d do just the same by me if it
come that I was kind of on my uppers.”

Mamie was still silent.

“Now, you just be sensible-’cause it’s all sort of in the family, you
know--and tell me how it is about the rent, and mebbe we can kind of
patch things up, because three heads is better ‘n two. Understand?”

Mamie leaned back in her chair and rested her face in her hands. When
Hunch looked at her he saw that she was crying, and he waited till she
should speak. Finally she said, “I don’t know just what we’re going to
do. It--it’s only that there’s some one else wants the house and we--of
course----”

“Yes, of course,” said Hunch.

“I thought, maybe I ought to take a room somewhere.”

“That’s so. Something smaller. I dunno but what’s like as not you’d feel
better anyhow. This is a pretty big house for a little bit of a thing
like you. Mebbe ‘s long as Bruce is working up to Manistee you could get
a room and sort of keep house for yourself. Be kind of snug, don’t you
think so?”

“Tell you what,” he said, after they had sat for several minutes without
talking, “I’ll see what we can do.” He rose and put on his coat. Mamie
watched him, but seemed unable to reply, and let him go out without a
word.

He returned an hour later. Mamie was still sitting by the stove.

“It’s all fixed up,” he said, shaking the snow from his coat. “You’re
going over to Cartier’s. They’ve got a big room for you, and he’s going
to see that you get moved all right. You can take your meals right in
the house. And ‘twon’t cost you hardly anything. Now, you just drop them
blues and we’ll see if we can’t get you fatter ‘n you ever was. You’re
a-going to have a good time yet this winter. And Bruce ‘ll come down
Sundays. I’ve got to get the train. Guess I might’s well start along.”
 She got up slowly and followed him to the door. Neither knew what to
say. Hunch buttoned his ulster and drew on one of his big fur mittens.
He looked at his hand, big and freckled, with hard, knotted fingers and
broken nails. He held it out hurriedly and said, “Well--good-by.”

She took his hand shyly. Suddenly she bent down and kissed it, and a
tear dropped on it. Hunch pulled his hand away.

“Oh, don’t do that----”

She looked up into his face. She did not seem to care now if he saw her
crying.

Hunch forgot that he had shaken hands and he took hers again, this time
with his mitten on. Then he opened the door and hurried out. She stood
at the window looking after him as he walked down the street, but he did
not turn around.



CHAPTER XIII--A DARK DAY AT LIDDINGTON

|BRUCE came down to the station in the evening, and was standing on the
platform when Hunch stepped off the train. They walked up together and
were half-way to the room, before Bruce said, “Say, Hunch, how about
it?”

“It’s bad. She didn’t have enough to eat or keep her warm. She’s going
to live at Joe Cartier’s place and take her meals there. It’s a good
deal cheaper’n the other. I told her you was coming down Sundays.”

“What’d you say to her, Hunch? What’d she say? Anything special? Tell me
about it.”

“Guess there ain’t nothing to tell.”

“Seems to me it’s kind of funny if a man can’t find out nothing about
his own wife. You was down there and you see her all day. I don’t see
why I ain’t got a right to know about it.”

“Oh, shut up. You ain’t got a right to nothing from the way you’ve
treated her.”

“Look here, Hunch Badeau, you’ve got to tell me.”

“How long you been saying what I got to do and what I ain’t got to do?”

“That’s all right, but----”

“Yes, it’s dead right.”

Bruce stopped and took Hunch’s arm. “Take your hand off me.”

Bruce’s hand dropped.

“Now, don’t get ugly, Hunch. I just wanted to know about her. I ain’t
seen her for a good while.”

“Well, do you think that’s my fault? I’ll tell you about her. She’s
fixed up where she’s got enough to eat and drink, she’s got people to
talk to and chirp her up, and she’s waiting for you to come down next
Sunday. If you’re man enough to keep straight and go down there and do
the square thing, you won’t find me in your way. If you ain’t, you can
go to hell for all I care.”

Bruce was silent, and they climbed to the room and went to bed.

A day or two later Mr. Jackson sent for Hunch.

“Badeau,” he said, “how about this man Considine?”

“How do you mean?”

“What kind of work is he doing?”

“All right as far’s I can see.”

“He’s a friend of yours, ain’t he?”

“Yes, he used to work for me when I had the schooner.”

“I’ll tell you, Badeau, I’ve had some complaints about him. You know I
don’t want any man that can’t do the work.”

“I think he’s doing pretty good, sir.”

“Well, I’ll count on you to keep an eye on him. If you catch him
loafing, don’t waste any time on him.”

Hunch went over the conversation in the evening with Bruce. It
frightened Bruce, and he made promises which he kept for the rest of the
week.

They did not talk about Mamie until Saturday night, after they had been
sitting by the stove for a long time in silence. Bruce was nervous.

“Say, Hunch,” he said, “would you go down if you was me?”

“Where?”

“You know--down to Marne’s to-morrow.”

“Would I go? What you talking about?”

“I don’t know. What do you s’pose she’ll say?”

“I guess you know what she ought to say, all right.”

“Do you think she’ll be mad?”

“Oh, you shut up!”

Bruce went to bed early, but Hunch heard him tossing until late. In the
morning he was moody.

“Hunch,” he said, after breakfast, “what time does the train go down?”

“‘Bout half an hour.”

“Say, I s’pose I might as well take it as the noon train.”

“That’s your business-’tain’t mine.”

“Well, I guess I will. Say, Hunch, I’ll tell you--s’pose you come
along.”

“Guess not.”

“I don’t mean nothing, Hunch, but you’ve been talking to her, and you
know how to kind of quiet her. I never could, somehow.”

“Look here, Bruce, I ain’t going today or any day. I ain’t going at all.
Understand? You needn’t tell her I said that, though.”

“Guess I’d better be starting, eh, Hunch?”

“Guess you had.”

“Come on down to the depot. You ain’t got nothing to do.”

At the station, Hunch said: “Got any money?”

“No, I ain’t got much.”

“Here’s a little. No drinking, now.”

“On my honor, Hunch, I won’t drink a drop. Do you think a man would
drink when he’s going down to see his own wife, Hunch? Do you think----”

“You better get aboard.”

“Good-by, Hunch, I’ll get back tonight.”

In the evening Hunch met the Liddington train. Bruce did not get off.

Hunch looked for him Monday morning, but had no word of him. At noon he
was called to Mr. Jackson’s office.

“Badeau,” said his employer, “when that Considine gets back to work, you
send him to me for his time.”

Hunch hesitated. “I’ll tell you, Mr. Jackson, he went down yesterday to
see his wife. Their kid died a little while ago, and like’s not she’s
sick.”

“Think so?”

“My work is pretty light to-day. I thought mebbe I could get off for the
afternoon train and sort of look him up. I can get back to-night, you
know. You see, if he gets laid off it’ll come kind of hard on his wife.”

“All right, go ahead. But, say, Badeau, hold on a minute. We’re not
running a charity hospital, you know. We can’t give that man much rope.”
 Hunch said, “Yes, sir,” and went out.

He reached Liddington at supper time and picked up a hasty meal at the
hotel. Then he hurried over to Joe Cartier’s house. Cartier let him in.

“Hello, Joe,” said Hunch. “Bruce here?”

Cartier hesitated.

“Yes, I guess he’s upstairs.”

“I want to see him.”

“Well; say, Hunch, come in the parlor a minute. I want to talk to you.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Well, you know Bruce came down yesterday morning, and ‘long about noon
I guess they quarrelled a little. Me and my wife, we didn’t listen, but
we couldn’t help hearing Bruce talk. And then Bruce went out----”

“Oh,” said Hunch, “drunk?”

“Not so bad as I’ve seen him, but he come in kind of ugly, and he’s got
some up there--brought it back with him. Seems kind of too bad. I didn’t
feel quite ‘s if I could do anything. You see ‘t ain’t really none of my
business.”

Hunch went upstairs and knocked at the door. There was a stir inside,
and he could hear Bruce grumbling and Mamie whispering. Then Mamie
opened the door a few inches. When she looked at Hunch, the color left
her face and she leaned against the door.

“It’s all right,” said Hunch, “I come for him.”

“Oh,” faltered Mamie.

“Who’s there?” called Bruce. “Who you whispering to?”

Mamie hesitated and looked at Hunch. He gently brushed her aside,
saying, “Lemme come in.”

“Who is it?” said Bruce. He was lying on the bed, his clothing mussed,
his face red. Hunch stood by the bed and looked down at him.

“What you doing here?” growled Bruce. “What right you got coming in a
man’s house?”

Hunch looked at his watch.

“Come on,” he said, “we’ve got to get back on this train.”

“Who’s goin’ back. I ain’t goin’ back. Go on out o’ here, will you?”

Hunch took his arm and pulled him up. Bruce sat oh the edge of the bed.

“Come on, Bruce, get moving.”

“Go ‘way.”

Hunch turned to Mamie.

“Where’s his hat, Mis’ Considine?” Bruce stood up.

“What’s that? What you saying to my wife? Tha’s my wife, Hunch Badeau.
She’s a lady. You can’t talk to my wife.”

Mamie stood at the foot of the bed watching the two men nervously,

“Bruce,” said Hunch, “shut up and come along.”

“Don’t you think you’d better go, dear?” said Mamie, timidly.

“Wha’s that? You want to get rid of me too, eh? Oh, I’m on to you
two. You can’t fool me; you can’t. You’re pretty smart, Hunch Badeau,
sneaking down to see my wife----”

Hunch gripped Bruce’s arm and jerked him out of the room. They were at
the top of the stairs when Mamie came to the door.

“Here’s his hat,” she said. “You’d better take it, I guess.”

“Thanks,” said Hunch, without looking at her, and he hurried Bruce down
the stairs.



CHAPTER XIV--CONSIDINE’S WORK IS ENDED

|THE next morning Bruce was still in bed when Hunch went to work.
McGuire did not appear with the other men, and at noon his brass check
still hung on its nail in the timekeeper’s shanty. Shortly after lunch
Bruce and McGuire, both a little the worse for drink, appeared and went
to work with the gang. Hunch had gone up to the mill, and did not see
them until his return; When he came near they were dawdling over their
work, chuckling together over some incident of the morning.

“What you two doing here?” Hunch asked.

Bruce started and moved away from McGuire.

“Speak up.”

McGuire muttered, “Guess we know what we’re doing.”

“Look here,” said Hunch, “you go to the office and get your time.”

McGuire lowered his cant-hook. “What--what you say?”

“Go on. Don’t talk to me.”

McGuire dropped his cant-hook and started away.

“Come back here, McGuire. Pick that up.”

McGuire muttered.

“What’s that you’re saying?”

“I ain’t saying nothing.”

Hunch started toward him, but checked himself.

“Pick up that cant-hook, McGuire.” McGuire obeyed and walked slowly
away. Hunch turned to Bruce, who stood looking on with his mouth open.

“What are you gaping there for, Considine. Go ‘long.”

“Where?”

“Go and get your time. We’re through with you.”

Bruce stood still looking stupidly at Hunch.

“What?” he said. “You ain’t----”

“Get off the job. Understand? You’re laid off. We don’t want you.”

Bruce slowly lifted his cant-hook to his shoulder. He stared at Hunch
until Hunch turned away, then he walked over to where McGuire was
standing, and went away with him.

Late in the afternoon they came back and hung around, watching the gang
at work. They had been drinking again, and McGuire had a bottle in
his pocket which he pulled out frequently. They were talking loud and
laughing.

Their actions drew the attention of the men and annoyed Badeau, though
he said nothing for a long time. Finally, Bruce and McGuire began
calling at the men, growing bolder in their remarks. At last McGuire
called, “You fellows mus’ like working for tha’ dam’ fool,” and Hunch
walked toward them.

“You’ll have to move away from here,” he said. “We can’t have you
disturbing the work.”

“Go ‘way!” McGuire replied. “You can’t touch us. We ain’t on your job.”

“Stop that, McGuire! Get out, quick, or I’ll throw you out!”

McGuire laughed. Hunch went to him and pulled him to his feet.

“Le’ go o’ me!” said McGuire. “Take your hand off o’ me!”

Hunch began dragging him away. McGuire hung back protesting and
threatening. Bruce walked slowly after them, shaking his head and
talking to himself. McGuire braced his feet. Hunch gave him a wrench
that nearly threw him, and McGuire struck at him. Bruce watched the
struggle, the old drunken cunning in his eyes, then he ran forward and
jumped on Hunch’s back, pounding him about the face and head. Hunch
staggered, but recovered and caught McGuire with his knuckles squarely
on the side of the jaw. McGuire staggered back. Bruce had both arms
around Hunch’s neck and was trying to choke him. Hunch gripped Bruce’s
wrists, and slowly pulled them forward, until their hold was loosened;
then he turned quickly, took hold of Bruce’s shoulders, and threw him
against a pile of cut timber. Bruce struck hard and seemed for a moment
to be clinging to the pile, then he fell on his face.

Some of the men were running toward them. One was calling:

“I seen it, Hunch! It weren’t your fault! I seen it!”

Hunch stood panting as the men gathered around.

“Better see if he’s hurt,” he said.

They rolled Bruce over. His face was covered with blood. One of the men
brought some water from the river in his hat, and washed it off.

McGuire stood at one side, rubbing his cheek. Hunch ordered him away,
and he went without a word. The other men were crowding around Bruce.
One of them looked up and said: “I guess he’s done for, Hunch.”



CHAPTER XV--THE LETTER

|IT was a cold day in Manistee. The snow lay in high banks on each side
of the street-car tracks, with paths cut through at the crossings and
in front of the larger stores; underfoot it creaked and crunched. Men
walked briskly, keeping their hands in their pockets or holding them
over ears or noses, and pausing at the drug store on the corner to look
at the red thermometer.

It was close to noon, and a number of men were coming down a flight of
stairs which reached the sidewalk a few doors beyond the drug store.
The last one was Hunch Badeau, with his ulster collar turned up, his cap
pulled down over his ears, and his fur mittens on.

When they reached the street two of the other men turned and shook hands
with him; but he had nothing to say, and a moment later he was walking
alone, slowly, up the bridge approach. The examination was over and he
was free. His case had not reached a trial, for he had killed Considine
plainly in self-defense.

A long row of schooners, steamers, and tugs lay along the docks on both
sides of the river. On most of the schooners a length of stovepipe came
out of a cabin window, and a few wisps of smoke, winding lazily out
to be snatched away by the wind, showed that many a sailor was lying
dormant during the winter months. Hunch lingered on the bridge. He had
once spent such a winter in Chicago on a big schooner, locked up snugly
in the North Branch near Goose Island, eating and sleeping, smoking and
swapping yams, and helping to drink up somebody’s summer profits. That
was a long while ago; it seemed to Hunch a dim part of some past life,
before he had ever met a woman other than the rough girls of the Chicago
levee and the North Peninsula stockades.

Mr. Jackson had told Hunch that he need not go back to work that day,
so he climbed to his room and sat on the chair by the window. Bruce’s
things were lying about the room; his razor on the bureau, his Sunday
clothes over a chair in the closet, his shoes under the foot of the bed.
Hunch got up and began to get them together, without knowing exactly why
he was doing it. He packed what he could in the patent-leather valise,
and made up the rest into bundles, borrowing paper and string from the
landlady. Then he sat down again, but before long, too restless to stay
alone, he put on his coat and walked out to the mill. Mr. Jackson was
standing near the waste dump with a memorandum book in his hand.

“Well, Badeau, what’s the matter?”

“Nothing. Guess I might’s well get to work.”

“Just as you like.”

The men looked surprised when he joined them. He was nervous and he
worked both himself and them at a pace that wore them out in a few
hours. But at six o’clock, when the whistle blew, and he put on his coat
and went back to the boarding-house, he felt refreshed.

On Sunday, after several days of hesitating over the best way to get
Bruce’s things to Mamie, Hunch gathered up the bundles and the valise,
and took the noon train to Liddington. He sat for two hours in the
station before he could make up his mind to take them to Joe Cartier’s
house. When he finally knocked at the door, Joe’s wife opened it.

“How d’ye do, Mr. Badeau? Come in, won’t you?”

“No, I can’t,” said Hunch. “Hold on; yes, I will, too, just a minute.
Where’s Joe?”

“Here he is,” replied Joe himself, coming through the hall in his
shirt-sleeves. “Come in, and set down.”

Hunch stepped in and dropped the bundles in the corner.

“Can I speak to you a minute, Joe?”

“Sure thing. Walk in the front room. Martha, I could swear Hunch ain’t
had his dinner. Fetch out some of the chicken and potatoes. It ain’t so
hot as it was, Hunch, but it’s good, plain stuff--good enough for us,
ain’t it, Martha?”

“No, don’t you, Mis’ Cartier. I can’t stay, honest. I had some grub,
anyhow.”

But Joe’s wife hurried out to the kitchen, leaving Joe and Hunch in the
front room.

“Take off your coat, man,” said Joe. “What you getting so bashful about
all of a sudden?”

Hunch unbuttoned his coat, nervously.

“Is she staying here yet, Joe?”

“Who’s that you mean, Hunch? Bruce’s wife? She’s going up to her
father’s tomorrow.”

“How’s that happen?”

“Well, I’ll tell you, Hunch--you won’t say anything about it, of
course--but when Bruce--when he died, you know, and I knowed that girl
didn’t have a cent anywheres, and worse’n that, if you count _his_
debts, I just thought--kind of--that the old man, he didn’t know quite
how things stood, or he wouldn’t be so ugly. You see, don’t you?”

Hunch nodded.

“And, of course, I couldn’t say nothing to her, you know, ‘cause she’d
think first thing I meant about the rent--she’s a touchy little thing,
you know--so I says to Martha, ‘Martha, you just take your work’-this
was Thursday-’Martha,’ I says, ‘you just take your work and go up to
Mis’ Banks’ and set down and have a good old jaw with the old lady.
She’ll let you talk to her,’ I says, ‘’cause she used to be your
Sunday-school teacher, and she’s always took a shine to you. And you
just lay out the whole thing, and tell her that if she ain’t wanting to
lose the respect of one grocer in this town, she’d better just leave go
of one of those missionary societies of hers, and watch out a little for
her own daughter.’ Martha, she felt kind of delicate about going, but
she went down just the same, and tackled the old lady, and when she come
back, her eyes were like she’d been crying, so I know’d it was all right
and I didn’t say nothing. And, sure enough, that night old Banks himself
come around and stood up stiff in the door and says, ‘Is my daughter
here, Cartier?’-He always calls me ‘Joe,’ you know, and I calls him
‘George’; but that ain’t no matter.-I says, ‘Yes,’ and he goes upstairs,
and then Martha and I, we just keeps out of the way in the kitchen,
so’s he could go out without running into any of us. But ‘long about
half-past nine he comes out, and knocks on the kitchen door, and says,
‘My daughter’s coming to my house, Joe.’ And I says, ‘When?’ and he
says, ‘Monday, and let me know what the board ‘ll amount to?’ And you
see, Hunch, I was kind of foolish myself, so I just says, ‘All right,
George,’ and then he goes out. So the girl’s going to keep alive,
anyhow, and that’s something.”

Hunch rose and slowly buttoned his ulster.

“You give her them things, won’t you, Joe? I dunno as I’d say anything
about my bringing them down.”

“Why, hold on, man; you ain’t going now. Martha’s out getting some
dinner for you.”

“Sorry,” said Hunch. “I got to get back.”

“Oh, pshaw, Hunch; this ain’t right. Wait a minute, anyhow. I guess Mis’
Considine would like to see you. She’s right upstairs.”

“No,” said Hunch, slowly, “she don’t want to see me.” Cartier looked at
him a little surprised, then suddenly grew embarrassed.

“I forgot,” he said; “I clean forgot. No, I don’t s’pose she does.”

Hunch turned and felt for the doorknob. Mrs. Cartier was coming in from
the kitchen, and she hurried forward.

“Don’t let him go now, Joe. His dinner’s all ready.”

“That’s right,” Joe urged. “You see, you can’t go, Hunch.”

“I’m sorry,” said Hunch. “Good day.” He hurried out, and left Joe and
his wife looking at each other.

Hunch had been back in Manistee nearly a week, when one day he received
a letter in a perfumed envelope, like the ones Bruce used to get, when
they were together on the schooner. He carried it in his pocket all the
afternoon, and at night, wondering what she could have to say, and yet
not daring to open it and find out, he set it upon his bureau, taking
it up every few minutes and turning it over in his hands. In the morning
when he awoke and got out of bed to dress, it was there on the bureau
staring at him. He held it tip to the light several times, then tore off
the end of the envelope and drew out the letter. It was a stiffly worded
little note, thanking him for bringing Bruce’s things, and was signed,
“Yours truly, Mary Considine.” Hunch could not tell why it made him
happy. He read it over and over--the first letter she had ever written
to him. He stood by the lamp, holding it in his hand.

Then, suddenly, he thought of Bruce, and the letter dropped to the table
and lay there for a long time untouched, while he dressed with clumsy
fingers. But before he went out to work he put it away in his inside
pocket. It stayed there for a long time, and sometimes in the evenings,
long afterward, he would take it out and read it.



CHAPTER XVI--POP-CORN BALLS

|HUNCH worked hard during the rest of the winter, so hard that he was
startled one day, after two weeks up country in the logging camp, to
find that March was only a week away. He had been sent to take charge of
the logging gang while the regular foreman was getting back on his
legs after an ax cut. When he returned to the mill, and reported at the
office, Mr. Jackson waved him to a chair.

“Sit down a minute, Badeau. I want to talk to you. How do you like your
work, anyhow?”

“It’s all right, sir.”

“How do you get along with the men? Have any trouble?”

“Not lately.”

“Would you like to go back on the lake?”

“Wouldn’t mind.”

“You’ve had a good deal of experience, haven’t you?”

“Guess so.”

“What have you done besides running that little schooner you had?”

“Well, I was mate two years on one of Peters’s coal schooners, and
before that I knocked around a good while getting on to the ropes.”

“Now, I’ll tell you, Badeau, we’re going to put on a big schooner this
year. She’s the _Robert James_.”

“I know,” said Hunch, “a three sticker. Belongs to the Wilsons. Stud
Marble’s been sailing her.”

“That’s the boat. Well, we’ve bought her, and she’s going out March
eleventh with that Menominee bill. If you think you’d like to take her
out, say so, and you can have her. We’ve named her the _Lucy Jackson_.”

Hunch looked down at his cap and then up at the yellow-and-red
lithograph, that hung over Mr. Jackson’s desk, of Maud S., rounding into
the home stretch. He did not know what to say.

“Speak up, Badeau. Do you want it?”

“Yes, sir, I’ll try it.”

“We don’t want you to try it; we want you to do it. There mustn’t be any
doubt about it.”

“There ain’t any. I can do it.”

“All right. Come in again some day this week, and we’ll fix up the
details. You might be picking up a crew. And you’d better go down and
look her over. She’s at Wilson’s dock.”

Hunch spent the day in going over the schooner, setting things to right
and taking an inventory of repairs. For the next two weeks he worked day
and night, eating and sleeping when he could. Then exactly on time, the
_Lucy Jackson_ was ready, and she sailed for Menominee with Hunch at the
wheel and a hundred and ten thousand feet of lumber on the deck.

The spring and summer months slipped by. Hunch was kept so busy
delivering cargoes at nearly every port on the lake down to Chicago and
Michigan City, and once going around through the straits to Alpena, that
he kept little track of the time. He was usually at Liddington at least
once a month, but he stayed only a day or so at a time, and then kept
aboard the schooner as much as possible.

It was in October, nine months after his talk with Joe Cartier, that he
met Mamie’s father in the street in Liddington. Hunch had gone to the
post-office, expecting orders from Mr. Jackson, and was hurrying back to
the schooner to see about unloading her cargo. Banks was coming down the
steps from the bank.

“Hello, Badeau,” he said, holding out his hand. “Where’ve you been all
this time?”

“Busy,” said Hunch, taking the hand, and wishing that he could get away.

“Where are you now? Up to Manistee?”

“I s’pose I hail from there ‘s much as anywheres.”

“On the lake again, ain’t you. One of the boys told me you was getting
up in the world.”

“Oh, I ain’t very much yet.”

“You’re cap’n of a big schooner, I hear.”

“Yes. How’s all your folks?”

“Pretty well. Mamie was sick for a while, but I guess she’s all right
now. Let’s see, it’s most a year since I saw you. Don’t you ever get
down here?”

“Not very often.”

“How long ‘re you here for?”

“Guess I can get away to-morrow some time.”

“You’ll be around to-night, won’t you? Mamie and the old lady ‘ll never
forgive you if you go away without seeing us.”

“Why----”

“Look here, now, Badeau, I’m going to send Frank down with the rig, and
fetch you up to supper.”

“No--I can’t get away. Honest, I can’t. I’ve got a big load here----”

“None of that now. You’ve got to come.”

“I can’t do it, Mr. Banks. I would if I could.”

“Well, I s’pose you know. But Frank will be along for you right after
supper, anyhow.”

Hunch walked quickly away. He was excited, and before returning to the
schooner he strode a few blocks away from the river. He did not want his
men to see him until he could get control of himself.

After supper he got out his good clothes and brushed them carefully.
When young Banks drove down on the wharf and called to one of the men
forward, Hunch was standing before his square tilted mirror, giving a
last twist to his hair.

[Illustration: 0188]

Mr. and Mrs. Banks were cordial. Mamie came in a little later, and Hunch
was surprised to see how pretty she was. She had more flesh and color
and her eyes were brighter. She acted as if nothing had happened, and
before long Hunch was made to feel at home. When he rose to go, Mr.
Banks took his hat and followed him out, and Mamie looked a little
conscious when she said “Goodnight.”

“You won’t mind my telling you something, will you, Badeau?” said Banks,
when they were on the side-walk. “I couldn’t help seeing to-day that you
didn’t want to come around, and I------”

“Oh, it ain’t that------”

“Hold on, now. I know just what it is. I ain’t lived longer ‘n you have
for nothing. I see how you feel, and I just want you to know that we
feel different. Of course, there’s some things does make a difference,
some kind of things--there’s no getting around that--but all the same,
we ain’t holding anything against you. I’ll tell you, Badeau--and I
ain’t ashamed to say it--when I found out how you’d been keeping my girl
alive when I weren’t man enough to do it myself, I--why--dam’ it, man, I
want to shake hands with you, right now.”

“Why,” said Hunch, when Banks had released his hand, “that ain’t so.
I------”

“Now, you don’t fool me. I know about it. Joe Cartier, he told me some
of it, and Jim Bartlett and--by the way, there’s a good friend of yours.
He and Jess ain’t never got over the way they treated you. Lord knows
they’d be glad enough to crawl if you’d give ‘em the chance. She’s
a good girl, too. Made a mistake when she threw you down, but she’s
suffered enough for that.”

They walked for more than a block in silence. Finally Banks said, “Look
here, Badeau; you can’t go to-morrow. You just can’t do it. You plan
to get away the next morning, and come up tomorrow and set around, and
we’ll try to have a good time. Just to show that there ain’t no hard
feelings anywheres, and you can forget us if you want to, but you’ve got
to put in one more evening, anyhow. Sometimes--sometimes I wonder if ‘t
ain’t all just as well. Bruce, he wouldn’t have--well, it wasn’t your
fault, anyhow.”

When they parted a block further down the street, Banks said, “Mebbe
we’ll have a little surprise for you when you come to-morrow night. I
can’t say for sure, but it’s more’n likely. And mebbe you won’t be sorry
you come.”

Hunch had no doubts about staying. It would have taken more than the
four Liddington tugs to have pulled him out of the harbor that next
day. He went up to Bank’s house early in the evening, and found the old
gentleman alone in the front room in his shirt sleeves, popping com at
the stove.

“Come right in, my boy. The women folks drove me out of the kitchen. We
thought we’d have some old-fashioned pop-corn balls. Hope you like ‘em.”
 Hunch grinned and sat on the sofa. “No setting around lazy. You’ve got
to get to work along with the rest of us. Here, you shell them ears
there, in the pan.”

Hunch drew up a chair, and held the pan between his knees.

“Where’s all the folks?” he said, as he started on his second ear.

“They’re out in the kitchen, the whole lot of ‘em. I told ‘em we’d be
out as soon as the corn was popped.”

Mr. Banks spoke without looking around and in a nervous manner. He
was watching the popper intently and he kept shaking it after the last
yellow kernel had burst into white bloom. When Hunch grew a little
impatient to go into the kitchen, Mr. Banks delayed and tried to keep up
a conversation. At last, however, the corn was ready. Mr. Banks led the
way to the kitchen door, opened it, and waited for Hunch to go through
first. Mrs. Banks was greasing pans at the table; Mamie was in the
pantry rattling the dishes. A tall girl stood at the stove stirring the
candy, her back to the door. Hunch stopped a moment and looked at her.
It was Jess Bartlett.

“Step lively, Badeau. This is our busy day.” Mr. Banks brushed by him,
holding the pan of pop-corn high up on his hand like a negro waiter, and
trying to appear unconcerned.

“Come on, Mr. Badeau,” called Mrs. Banks. “Just hold these pans a
minute. We’re going to make you work too.”

Mamie came out of the pantry, blushing, and looked saucily at Hunch. He
had not seen her look like that for more than a year. Then he knew that
Jess had turned around and was looking at him. He sat on the corner of
the table, and said, “Hello, Jess.”

“Hello, John,” she replied, in a low voice.

The others had turned away, but now Mr. Banks called out, “Pull up some
chairs, folks. This is where we all get busy. Move lively, my boy. We’ve
got to make the balls before it gets hard.” Hunch did not know how it
happened that he sat next to Jess at the table. He felt strange and
uncomfortable. But the others were full of mischief, and they joked
slyly and winked at each other, and misinterpreted Hunch’s backward
manner, so that it was, after all, a lively evening. When it came time
to go, Jess said to Mrs. Banks, “Guess I’ll have to go along,” and then
lingered, not knowing whether she would have to go alone. Finally Mr.
Banks said to Hunch, “I don’t s’pose you’d mind just this once seeing
that Jess gets home all safe and sound, would you, now?” So Hunch put
on his coat, and he and Jess said “Good-night,” and when they got out
on the street, she timidly took his arm, and they walked along together
without a word.

The silence continued until Hunch felt that he must say something.

“How’ve you folks been all this time?” he asked.

“We’ve been pretty well. Jim sprained his wrist, but it’s all right
now.”

Again they were silent, and though Hunch tried, he could think of
nothing more to say. They were on the last block of their walk, when
Jess, her hand trembling a little on his arm, said:

“Haven’t you ever forgiven me, John?”

It was a relief to him that she had broken the ice.

“Why, I dunno. I ain’t got nothing special to forgive.”

“Are you mad now?”

“No, I ain’t mad.”

“You didn’t come around. It’s been a long time.”

Hunch had no explanation. They stood at the gate, each waiting for the
other to go on. Jess turned half away and picked at a broken corner of
the gate-post. Hunch watched her. There was something attractive in the
poise of her figure, and even with her big hat on, enough of her hair
showed to give an impression of its richness. She looked up at him.

“Ain’t we ever going to be--friends, John?”

“Yes, we’re friends now, I reckon.” Hunch hesitated; he was making up
his mind to tell the truth.

“What makes you act like you do?”

“‘Cause, well, ‘cause there ain’t no use patching up an old hull and
calling it a new boat, Jess. Things is changed. There’s no good saying
I feel like I did, when I don’t, Jess; and couldn’t if I tried. You’re
a fine girl, and you’ll make some fellow happy, but I’m afraid I ain’t
him.”

She stood looking down.

“Don’t you see how ‘tis, Jess? I’m just telling you the truth.”

She nodded? He held out his hand, and she took it quickly, then ran into
the house. That was all. Hunch looked after her for a few moments, then
he walked slowly back to the schooner.



CHAPTER XVII--OLD TIES

|THE next day Hunch was moody. The men were afraid of him, and it was
after a long time of bracing his courage, that the mate came up to where
Hunch was sitting on the rail.

“Cap’n,” he said, “she’s all ready.”

“I know it.”

“Will we get under way? There’s the tug coming in fifteen minutes.”

Hunch sat still, his fingers locked, looking out across the harbor.

“Mike,” he said, abruptly, “skip up to the office and telephone over for
the tug to come to-morrow morning at seven o’clock.”

“Not till to-morrow----?”

“That’s what I said.”

The mate walked away, shaking his head.

Hunch was in a bad temper all the afternoon. After supper he sat in
the cabin alone until after seven o’clock. Finally he got up and walked
swiftly across town to Mamie’s house. Mr. Banks opened the door, his
coat on and his hat in his hand.

“Hello, my boy. This is a big surprise. Step right in. We thought you
was up to Manistee by now.”

“I thought I was going myself.”

“Take off your coat--here, let me have it. How’d you manage it?”

“I--I found I couldn’t get away.”

“Ain’t that fine, though. Mother, here’s Mr. Badeau.” Mrs. Banks was in
the front room straightening her bonnet.

“How d’ye do?” she said, coming into the hall and shaking hands. “Glad
to see you. Father and I was just starting for prayer-meeting.”

“Go right along, Mis’ Banks. Don’t stay on my account.”

“All right, if you’ll excuse us. We won’t be gone long, and I guess
Mamie ‘ll take care of you all right. We can have our visit when we get
back. Mamie-! Where is that child?”

“Here I am, mother,” said Mamie, coming in from the kitchen. She greeted
Hunch cordially.

“Good-by,” said Mrs. Banks, “we’ll be back ‘fore long.”

Mamie pulled up two chairs to the stove, Hunch helping her.

“How’d you happen to stay over?” she asked. “We weren’t expecting you.”

“No, I just made up my mind this morning.”

“Well, I’m sure we’re glad you did. It seems just like old times to have
you back here.”

“Don’t it, though? I ain’t had much chance to see my friends in the last
year. I have to keep a-going all the time, you know.”

“But I should think you’d kind of like it. Father told me how well
you’re doing. Isn’t it fine.”

“I dunno,” said Hunch. “I ain’t always sure I care much one way or the
other.”

“You mean about getting on? Oh, you mustn’t talk like that. Of course
you care, and all your friends care, too. We like to see you get ahead.
Jess’s brother told me when you got to be captain, and I was kind of
proud of you.”

The mention of Jess bothered Hunch, though he replied, “Was you really?”
 and tried to smile.

Mamie was looking at him with a friendly expression in her eyes that he
did not quite understand. He thought at first that she was laughing at
him. But then she smiled, and said with a little hesitation:

“I didn’t know but what you mightn’t like what--the little surprise we
had last night, you know.”

“Oh, yes; I did all right.”

“Well, but I thought afterward that maybe we oughtn’t to have done it.
It was father’s idea. He feels real bad about--about you and Jess. And
she’s an awfully nice girl.”

“Yes,” said Hunch, “there ain’t no doubt about that.”

Mamie hesitated again, and then, when Hunch did not speak, they both
became embarrassed.

“I’ve wondered sometimes, if you knew,” she said at length, “if you
really thought Jess was the only one to blame. It was just as much her
folks--her brother, you know--he was worried about it, and he tried to
keep her from going on with you.”

“Yes, I know. He told me that.”

“And I--don’t you see how it is? You’ve both of you been two of the best
friends I ever had, and I didn’t like to see it--well, you know, don’t
you?”

She was looking into the fire as she spoke, and Hunch was watching her.
She was very much in earnest.

“Don’t you see?” she went on. “I couldn’t help feeling kind of bad about
it. Why can’t you make it all right?” She waited for him to answer, and
at last looked up at him with a half smile. “Why?” She asked again.

Hunch looked at her, almost fiercely, until she lowered her eyes to the
stove.

He got up, and walked to the window and back.

“Did you think it was her?” he asked, in a strange voice.

“Why--yes.”

“Well, it wasn’t. It was you.”

Mamie lost a shade of her color and leaned back in her chair. Hunch
stood looking down at her and he said again, “It was you, Mamie.”

Mamie spoke without looking up.

“Oh, John,” she said, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Then Hunch sat down and talked wildly, eagerly. And Mamie leaned back
without a word, and looked at the brass ball on top of the stove and at
the patterns on the wallpaper. Hunch was talking when a key rattled
in the lock, and he sat stiff and constrained when Mamie’s father and
mother came into the room. He tried to stay and talk, but could not; and
a few minutes later he said “Good-night,” and went out into the hall.
Mamie followed him, and without a word took down his ulster and helped
him to get it on.

“Good-by,” he said.

“Good-by, John. Don’t be mad, will you? You know how much I care for
you; and we’ll be good friends, won’t we, John?”

He bent down and whispered close to her ear, “I’m in for it now, Mamie.
I ain’t going to lose you now. Next time I come down I ain’t going back
without you.”

Mamie smiled sadly, and shook her head. But she stood in the doorway
watching him until he had passed into the darkness beyond the lamp-post
on the corner.



CHAPTER XVIII--THE HOUSE WITH THE SHINGLED FRONT

|THE Fates kept Hunch from getting to Liddington again during the
autumn, so he took to writing letters. He could not write what he would
have said; his letters were stilted little notes, usually beginning
with a phrase he had picked up from the office correspondence, “Yours
of recent date is just at hand,” or “Replying to yours of recent date,”
 etc. Mamie wrote as impersonally, and through the autumn and on into
the winter their letters told of nothing but incidental doings and
happenings; but both were conscious of the sentiment that lay behind the
effort of writing.

On the first day of December, when navigation on the lakes was closed,
Hunch left the _Lucy Jackson_ in her berth at the lumber wharf. For some
weeks he had been thinking over a plan which he was now ready to carry
out. He got Mr. Jackson to take a walk with him at noon, and they went
up the river and looked at a piece of land. Mr. Jackson thought it would
do, and on the next day it belonged to Hunch. He paid cash for it.

Through the winter months he was busy building a house. The plans came
from an old copy of an architect’s journal. Mr. Jackson sold him the
lumber at inside rates, and Hunch rafted it up himself during a few
days of open water. Bill Anderson, a carpenter whom he had known on
the Liddington elevator, was hired, and together they built the house.
Later, Hunch had to hire a plumber and a plasterer, but even after these
expenses something was left of his year’s earnings.

When January had come, and Hunch had not gone down to Liddington, Mamie
could not help letting him see that she missed him. Once she wrote that
she “guessed he didn’t remember old friends very well.” Hunch sat up
half of one night reading the letter, but gave her no hint except that
maybe he had a “little surprise” of his own.

The house fronted on the river. It was a story-and-a-half high, with
four rooms and a hall on the ground floor and two small rooms upstairs.
There was a grate in the front room, big enough for chunks of wood. The
veranda extended the full width of the house. It would be a good place
to sit evenings, when it was not too cold. The big white sand-hill that
looked down on one side of the house may have been bleak enough, but
Hunch had been brought up among sand-hills, and he liked it. It had a
round bald top, and every morning during the summer the sun would strike
it early and make it glisten. Hunch thought that maybe he would set out
a few peach trees in the side yard some day.

It was on the twenty-seventh of February, a Saturday, that Hunch and
Bill put the last brush of paint on the house. They sat down to rest on
a saw-buck in the front yard, where they could admire the wide veranda
and the shingled front.

“Who’s going to live here, now she’s done?” asked Bill.

“I am.” Hunch grinned.

“All alone?”

Hunch grew serious. The sense of achievement that had come with the
building of the house had overbalanced his doubt about Mamie. He grew
more serious, and paid no attention to Bill’s questions.

They were cleaning up the brushes out in the woodshed, when Hunch
suddenly pulled out his watch.

“Bill,” he said, “you fix things up. I’ve got to go.”

He caught a trolley car. At his room he hurriedly put on his good suit
and white shirt. Then he ran for the station. At six-thirty he was in
Liddington.

After supper at the hotel he walked up to Mamie’s house. He had started
out coolly, but suddenly, as he opened the gate, his strength seemed to
leave him. He had reached the great moment of his life, and he vaguely
knew it. He was so nervous that his hand was shaking when he knocked,
and the things about him looked unnatural.

Mamie was nervous too; and though she talked easily enough for a while,
and scolded Hunch because he had not been to see her all winter, she
hardly knew what she was saying. Then came a time when neither had
anything to say, and they sat for a long time without a word. Hunch’s
eyebrows were drawn together, almost fiercely.

“Say,” he finally got out, “will you do something for me?”

“Why--I’ll do anything I can.”

“Well, I guess you can, all right. I want you to come up to Manistee
with me to-morrow morning.”

“Why--” she stammered, “I can’t say now--it isn’t----?”

“No,” said Hunch, “you don’t have to say nothing. I just want to show
you something. We can be back before night.”

Mamie looked relieved.

“What is it?” she asked slowly.

“Nothing much--I ain’t going to tell just yet. You’ll come, won’t you?”

“Why, I don’t know------”

“Won’t you?”

Mamie looked at him, hesitated, then laughed nervously, and nodded. She
was a little frightened. Hunch grew almost boisterous in a sudden flow
of good spirits, and he went away without a word which would make her
understand.

They took the morning train. Mamie was herself again, and they appeared
as quite a sober pair. Hunch, however, grew nervous as they came into
Manistee. He hurried her into a trolley car, and sat stiff and silent
while they skirted the flat shore of the lake and river. Finally, they
got out and walked across the sand to a newly painted cottage next to a
sand-hill.

Hunch looked at the house, and then at Mamie. She was puzzled,

“Well,” he said, “how do you like it?”

“What?” she said, though her eyes showed that she was beginning to
understand.

“That there--the house. It’s yours. I made it for you.” He was so
excited that he was raising his voice.

“S--sh,” said Mamie, “somebody’ll hear you.”

Then she looked for a long time at the house. Hunch watched her, but she
would not meet his eyes. She walked slowly up the yard, balancing on the
planks that were laid on the sand. She rested a foot on the first step,
and slowly looked around. There were tears in her eyes.

Hunch gripped her hand tightly.

“Oh, John,” she faltered; but this time she did not say that she was
sorry.





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