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Title: Under Rocking Skies
Author: Tooker, L. Frank
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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UNDER ROCKING SKIES



[Illustration: "There was a twinkle in Captain March's eyes"]



  UNDER
  ROCKING SKIES

  BY
  L. FRANK TOOKER

  AUTHOR OF
  "THE CALL OF THE SEA," ETC.

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  THE CENTURY CO.
  1905



  Copyright, 1905, by
  THE CENTURY CO.

  _Published October, 1905_

  _COLONIAL PRESS
  Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
  Boston, U.S.A._



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


            PAGE

  "THERE WAS A TWINKLE IN CAPTAIN MARCH'S EYES"       _Frontispiece_

  "THE BRIG WAS SLIDING DOWN THE SEAS LIKE A
      BOY LET LOOSE FROM SCHOOL"                                  63

  "'_YOU_ WILL NEED THE PATIENCE,' SHE SAID"                     113

  "THEY HEARD HIM WHISTLING FOR A WIND"                          141

  "THERE CAME A 'SMOOTH,' AND THE BOAT SHOT IN"                  195

  "'KEEP 'EM GOING! DON'T LET 'EM SLACK UP A BIT!'"              255



UNDER ROCKING SKIES



UNDER ROCKING SKIES



I

For a quarter of an hour Thomas Medbury had been standing at the east
window of his mother's parlor, gazing out across his neighbor's yard
with an eager intentness that betrayed a surprising absorption in a
landscape without striking features and wholly lacking in any human
interest. The low-studded room in which he stood was closely shut and
darkened, having about it the musty smell peculiar to old houses. There
were sea-fans before the fireplace, flanked on each side by polished
conch-shells. On the wall hung an oil-painting of the brig _North
Star_, with all sail set, and at her foretruck a white burgee, with
her name in red letters, standing straight out in half a gale of wind.
Family portraits in oval gilt frames were ranged with mathematical
precision along the remaining wall-spaces, and on the mantelpiece stood
a curious collection of objects brought from far lands--carved ivories
and strange ware from China, peculiar shells, a Japanese short sword,
and a South Pacific war-club. No one would have needed to be told that
it was the home of a sailor.

Indeed, a keen observer might have guessed it from the young man
himself. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and bronzed to the color of
overripe wheat. His eyes had the steady, far-seeing look of the seaman,
but were not yet marked about by the crow's-feet that the glare of the
sun on the sea brings early in life. It was, moreover, a strong face,
straightforward and pleasant, and irradiated by an almost boyish
eagerness.

Suddenly he leaned forward with quickened interest as the door of his
neighbor's house opened, and there stepped forth a short, stout man
of sixty, who stood a moment for a last word and then hurried down
the boxwood-lined path. He, too, was clearly a sailor: he walked with
his feet far apart, like a man so habituated to the rolling deck that
it seemed a waste of time and energy to alter his gait on the rare
occasions when he trod the firm ground. Medbury perceived that his
face wore a look of placid satisfaction, and with the tightening of
the lines of his own to an unspoken resolution, he hurried through
the house and across the yard, and, vaulting the low dividing fence,
approached his neighbor's back door.

He lifted the latch without knocking, and at once came face to face
with a wet-eyed young woman standing at a table and listlessly cutting
out sugar-cookies with a tin mold. A child of four, leaning against
her, reached eagerly for the cutter, and a boy of ten sat near the
stove, softly crying.

"Annie," said Medbury, abruptly, "where's Bob? I want to see him."

"He's up-stairs, packing. He's going out with Cap'n Joel March," said
the young woman, tragically. The boy by the stove broke into a wail,
and she turned sharply toward him.

"Do stop it, Bobbie!" she exclaimed. Then she walked toward the door to
call her husband.

She returned at once, her husband, tall, brown, and wiry, walking
behind her with the subdued step of a culprit who feels that by
stepping softly, smiling unobtrusively, and gainsaying no man, he may
escape, through his humility, what he deserves for his misconduct. His
good-natured face lighted up at sight of Medbury.

"Bob," said Medbury, without other prelude than a nod, "I want you to
do me a favor: don't go out this trip with Cap'n Joel."

The other smiled uncertainly and seated himself.

"Why, that's a funny thing to ask, Tom," he said wonderingly. "Annie's
been at me, of course; but I don't see what odds it makes to you. It's
a good berth, and it don't seem right to let the chance go by. Besides,
I've promised the old man. I can't back out now."

"But he promised _me_ he'd stay home a spell," broke in his wife. "He
thinks that's nothing. He's just got home, after being away eleven
months. Why, baby didn't know him!"

Under the concentrated gaze of her elders, the child contemplated her
father as a blinking puppy might have looked at an object that, from
being unfamiliar and terrifying, had gradually become an accepted but
still unexplained phenomenon. But presently she turned to Medbury.

"Him gived me a pen-n-y," she said, with a serene gravity that seemed
to concern itself with the fact as a historical statement rather than
as a personal gratification.

Medbury seized her and tossed her, giggling, in his arms.

"He did, did he?" he exclaimed. "Well, he doesn't deserve to have
another if he can't stay home and get acquainted with you." He seated
himself, and, with the child snuggling against him, turned to her
father again.

"It's a shame, Bob, after promising Annie. Mother says she hasn't
talked about anything for six months except your coming home for a
while. She said you were going to paint the house and fix things up,
and she's been running around asking everybody about the best kind of
paint, and planning where to set out shrubs and make flower-beds, and
dig up a little garden for the children. And now you run off at the
first chance!"

"Why, I don't see why you take it so to heart, Tom," said Bob, smiling,
but a little grieved. He felt they ought to feel that he did it only
for the best.

"Well, I'll tell you why: I want to go myself. I asked Cap'n Joel to
take me, but he wouldn't hear to it. Now, if he can't get anybody else,
he's bound to let me go in the end."

Bob looked at him in amazement.

"Why, you're going to have the new bark! What do you care for--" Then
all at once his face broke into a comprehending grin. "Oh, I see," he
added. He sat for a moment smiling down at the floor. "All right, Tom,"
he said, looking up at last. "I'll do it. I wouldn't for anybody else.
I really didn't want to go, but I felt I ought to. But what I'm going
to say to the old man--" He looked at them with a troubled face.

"Nothing," replied Medbury, promptly. He turned to the boy, who
was listening eagerly, the new hope of keeping his father at home
brightening his tear-stained cheeks. "Bobbie, go over and tell my
mother you want my fish-lines; then run up to Cap'n March's and tell
him your father can't go, after all. And hurry right back; your
father's going to take you fishing."

The boy went out of the door and over the fence with a wild whoop of
unrestrained joy. Medbury caught up a hat and put it on his friend's
head.

"You'll find my boat under Simeon's shop; everything's in her," he
told him. "We'll send Bobbie right down. And hurry; the tide's right
for fishing now. You want to get right off." He laughed boyishly. Then
he gently pushed Bob toward the door and watched him going down the
street.

"Well, that's done," he said to Annie, and stepped outside, with his
hand still holding the latch. Suddenly he looked back. "Annie," he
said, "tell Bob I want him to go out with me as mate when the bark's
finished. Of course that's six months away; but tell him to keep it in
mind." With that he hurriedly closed the door.

The boy returned, and followed his father, and five minutes later
Captain March turned in at the gate. His face was no longer placid,
but wore a look of annoyance. Medbury, watching him, saw him go away
a moment later, hurrying toward the harbor, taking shorter steps than
usual, and biting his bearded under lip in his perplexity.

"Seems kind o' mean to bother the old fellow," Medbury said to himself,
looking troubled. He shook the feeling off as he added: "I guess it's
for his good. Now he'll look up Davis; he's the only man he can get."

As he passed out of his gate, Annie called to him from her doorway. She
was smiling.

"I wish you good luck, Tom."

"Thank you, Annie," he replied. "Don't tell about this."

She shook her head and laughed.

"Not till it comes out all right," she promised.

John Davis was sitting in the shipyard watching the carpenters setting
up a stern-post for a new vessel, and there the captain found him.
Medbury, watching them, saw them go away together; but at the corner of
the Shore Road and Main street they separated.

Half-way up High street, Medbury caught up with Davis.

"You're walking fast, John," he said.

"Just shipped with Cap'n Joel," Davis replied, not slacking his gait,
but rather increasing it, as befitted a little man, sensitive as to his
size, when walking with a long-legged companion.

"That's what I wanted to see you about," Medbury told him. "You're not
going." He smiled, but he glanced uneasily at Davis out of the corners
of his eyes.

Davis stopped and looked at him. He was a middle-aged man with a red
beard and an uncertain temper, and now he stared at Medbury with
flushing face. Then he broke into a laugh.

"I ain't, eh?" he demanded good-naturedly. "I'd like to know why not."

Medbury smiled and laid his hand on the other's shoulder.

"Because I want to go myself, John," he replied. "I've _got_ to go."

Davis stared at him with dropping jaw.

"You!"

"That's what I said," Medbury replied.

For a moment Davis stood grinning uncertainly; then he looked up.

"Where's the joke?" he asked. "Blamed if I see it."

"It's no joke," said Medbury, patiently. "I've _got_ to go. I can't
tell why--just now; but some day I may."

Davis gazed up and down the street with an abstracted air; but all at
once he drew himself together and exclaimed:

"Well, I'll be--" He broke off suddenly, and, turning sharply, began to
walk back to the village.

"Where are you going?" asked Medbury, still standing in the road.

Over his shoulder Davis answered laconically:

"To tell the ol' man I can't go." He did not stop.

"It's mighty good of you, John," Medbury called humbly. "I'll make it
up to you somehow--see if I don't."

"Make it up!" cried Davis, stopping in the road. "I don't want nothin'
made up. You made it up, years ago, when you got me out of that affair
in Para. You didn't ask no questions that night; nor when you run
across our bar in that no'theaster to fish up my boy when his boat
capsized. I don't know what you're up to, and I don't care. It's all
right." He waved his hand lightly, as if to dismiss all obligations,
and departed in search of Captain March.

But half a dozen steps away, Medbury heard him laugh, and turned to see
him standing in the road, looking back.

"Just this minute saw what you was aimin' at," he called to Medbury.
"Well, good luck to you!" And, grinning to himself, he went his way.

"Now," thought Medbury, "if Cap'n March'll only keep his eyes open for
the rest of the day, I guess he's not going to miss seeing me. I shall
be near, but not too near. Only I wish I knew of something to hurry
him up before too many people laugh and wish me luck."

Fate, in the hands of a woman, was to do that for him.



II


With something of the serene imperturbability that was a part of
his habitual attitude toward life, the Rev. Robert Drew sat in a
rocking-chair on the little porch of his house and, slowly rocking,
looked out across the waters of the placid bay while he awaited Captain
March's summons. For twenty-four hours he had scarcely stirred from
home, that he might be in instant readiness for departure on the coming
of the captain's messenger; but the messenger still tarried, and the
_Henrietta C. March_, lying quietly at anchor off the harbor with her
mainsail up, seemed no nearer to sailing than she had been the day
before.

It was early in March--March that had come in like a lamb and now
lay drowsing under a sun that hourly reddened the buds and gleamed
white on the salt-meadows and the shining boles of trees. There were
bird-calls at intervals; barnyard fowls sunned themselves in garden
spaces and sent up cloudy veils of dust: the life of the earth was
awakening. Drew could see dark specks about the harbor's mouth: he knew
that the boats had begun to go out for flatfish. The thought of even
that mild activity moved him to impatience, and, getting to his feet,
he walked to an open window and looked in.

"Mother," he said, "I'm going to find Captain March and get some reason
from him why he doesn't sail. He can get a good mate, I hear; I don't
understand his delaying. I'm tired of it. If he isn't going, I wish to
know it, and arrange for a vacation elsewhere."

"Very well, Robert." His mother looked up brightly. Her son as an
instrument of strenuous aggressiveness amused her. She had the sense
of humor, which he had not inherited, and it was this sense that lured
her on to add: "Don't say anything that you may regret."

"Oh, no," he answered gravely, and went away, leaving her to the silent
laughter that always seemed to him, whenever he was a witness of it, as
something peculiarly elusive and almost pagan.

In all Blackwater there was no cooler spot than Myron Beckwith's
boat-shop. Facing the Shore Road, and standing on piles, with big
sliding doors opening at each end, on a hot summer afternoon one could
always find a cool breeze drawing through it and hear the water lapping
about the piles beneath the floor. The panorama of village life passed
by on the Shore Road, and at the back doors one could sit and watch all
the activity of harbor and wharves and see the vessels going up and
down the sound. To sailors ashore and to idlers in general it was an
attractive spot. Here Drew found Captain March standing in a little
group near the rear doors, ruminating on life.

"No," he was saying, "things go best by contraries. A sailor ought
to marry a girl from the inboard, who doesn't know a scow from a
full-rigged ship and is just a little scart at sight of salt water.
A man like the dominie here," he added, as Drew halted by the group,
"ought to marry a girl who's never been under conviction and has got a
spice of old Satan in her. That's what gives 'em variety and keeps 'em
interested. When you know just what you're going to have for your meals
every day, you kind o' lose interest in your eating."

"Dominie," said Jehiel Dace, "you ought to get the cap'n to supply
your pulpit while you're off on your vacation. He's a good deal of a
preacher."

"I have other uses for him," said Drew, with a smile.

"'Twouldn't be a bad notion if we'd all change places now and then,"
replied the captain. "We'd appreciate each other better. I don't
know but I could preach about as well as the dominie could run the
_Henrietta C._ I ain't so sure about the prayers. One thing, there's
several in that congregation I'd like to talk at."

"Nothin' to hender you from freein' your mind as it is," suggested
Dace, brightening at the prospect. "You don't need no pulpit for that."

There was a twinkle in Captain March's eyes, but he shook his head.

"No," he said with an air of finality, "it wouldn't be official. Wisdom
has got to have authority to give it weight. Otherwise it's just blamed
impudence."

"That's so," admitted Dace; "that's a good deal so. See what a man will
take from his wife without--"

Captain March turned suddenly.

"There he comes!" he exclaimed, and gazed steadily through the open
window.

All eyes, turning in the same direction, saw a horseman galloping down
the Mount Horeb road. He descended the hill, was lost to sight behind
the rigging-loft, flashed past a bit of the Shore Road, and was hidden
again for a moment while they heard the thunder of his horse's feet on
the mill-creek bridge. Captain March seated himself and, with knees
wide apart, faced the land-side door.

In front of the shop a boy threw himself from a panting horse. He
walked straight up to Captain March, and in much the same manner that a
courier might announce defeat to a king, said:

"He can't come. His wife's sick, he says. He can't come."

"That settles it," said the captain. "I heard Simeon Macy was ashore,
and I thought maybe I could get him for mate. Now I've got to go to
the city this afternoon and look one up."

No one spoke, but every man in the group except the captain and
Drew thought of Thomas Medbury, and wondered how far a man might be
justified in letting personal reasons override necessity when his
vessel was loaded and ready for sea.

Dace was the first to break the silence.

"As I was sayin'," he remarked, "speakin' of wives--"

Some one touched Drew on the shoulder and he turned quickly. It was
Deacon Taylor, anxious to talk over again the debated subject of a new
heater for the church. When Drew was again free the captain was gone.

"Where did the captain go?" he asked.

"My wisdom touchin' wives reminded him that his had sent him on an
errant," answered Dace. "He went to the market. I suppose by now he's
tryin' to explain to his wife how he happened to be three hours late
with the meat for dinner."

At the market Drew was told that Captain March had gone home. When,
after a momentary hesitation, Drew had gone thither, it was only to
find Mrs. March sitting by a window, apparently watching for her
recreant husband.

"And he wanted roast beef for dinner," sadly remarked that good lady
after she had told the minister that she knew no more about her
husband's whereabouts than she knew where Moses was buried. She turned
her face from him for an instant.

"It is twelve o'clock, lacking seventeen minutes," she added in a tone
that suggested the tragic stage. Drew hurried away.

When, after a hopeless search for the missing mariner, he wended his
way homeward half an hour later, he smiled to himself as he wondered if
it was not just as well: he could not for his life tell what he could
have said to urge the captain to sail. At his gate he came face to face
with a breathless small boy.

"Mr. Drew," he gasped, "Cap'n March he says--he says--you be
at--Myron's boat-shop--boat-shop by half-past one--yes, sir. He's goin'
to sail." Then he disappeared.

In wonder Drew hastened up to his house, to find his mother kneeling on
the floor and strapping a satchel.

"I've just put some crullers and a glass of jelly in your bag," she
told him, without turning. "I don't suppose you'll get a thing that
tastes like real cooking. And I put your winter flannels in, too. It
will be cold nights, and you will sit out on deck and get chilled
through. Now come to dinner."

"I don't understand this sudden haste," said Drew, as he took his seat
at the table. "I saw the captain an hour ago, and he showed no signs
of any impatience to be off. It seems too good to be true."

Mrs. Drew laughed.

"He says the same of you," she told him. "But if you really get away
you owe it to your mother. I am the god out of the machine--I. I was
tying up the flowering-currant bush by the fence, and Captain March
came by. He was hurrying, my dear. I never saw him hurry before. What
do sailors say--rolling both scuppers under? Yes; it was like that.
I called to him and asked him if he had seen my son. Yes, he had.
Then I told him that if he didn't sail soon you would need a second
vacation to recover from the nervous strain of waiting for this one to
begin. I let him know how you had done nothing for two days but sit by
your baggage and start at every sound. I told him, too, that you were
constantly worrying lest something should happen to keep you at home
at the last minute; so the sooner you got away the better."

"Oh, mother! mother!" protested Drew, smiling.

"Oh, I put it strongly--trust me for that. He said he had seen you,
but you had said nothing. I knew it would be like that. Oh, you were
two Buddhas sitting under the sacred Bo-tree, contemplating eternity.
Isn't that what the Buddha is supposed to do? You were like that, you
two, anyway. Well, he explained everything. He told me that two men
had promised to go out with him as mate, but changed their minds. He
thought it queer. Another asked to go, but, for personal reasons, he
didn't want him. But as soon as he knew just how you felt he said he'd
go right off for this man. I thought it very good of him. I hope the
man isn't a rough character. But, Robert, you didn't tell me that his
wife and daughter are going." She looked at her son reproachfully.

"Whose wife and daughter? I can't follow you," he said.

"The captain's, of course."

"I believe he did mention the fact that his wife and little girl
were going, but it made no impression on me," Drew told her. "I have
scarcely thought of it since."

"His little girl! Robert, haven't you ever seen her?"

"No, mother."

"Well, I suppose you knew of her, though they don't attend your
church." Then she changed the subject with an abruptness that was so
characteristic that Drew's thoughts slipped away from the question
he had been about to ask. "But, do you know," she said, "I think he
decided to go partly because he forgot his meat for dinner and he's
afraid of that round, good-natured-looking little wife of his. His
hurry to get away now looks as if he'd been too busy finding a mate to
get home earlier. He told me about it with an intimate chuckle that
seemed to take me right into his family closet and introduce me to the
skeleton."

As Drew made his way through Beckwith's boat-shop half an hour later
and stopped at the wide sliding doors at the rear, a large yawl was
lying at the float. Three sailors sat on the thwarts, leaning forward
with the characteristic rounded shoulders and relaxed look of idle
seamen. Up the long plank walk from the boat hurried a tall, beardless
young man of twenty-eight or thirty. He walked with a swinging gait,
his shoulders were well back, and his face wore the look of one whose
thoughts were pleasant.

He glanced from Drew to his baggage, then back to Drew again, and
smiled, showing firm white teeth.

"Mr. Drew?" His voice suggested a query, but went on again immediately,
without waiting for an answer: "Tumble in. The old man's gone aboard.
He wouldn't wait."

He paused while Drew gathered up his baggage, but did not offer to
assist. The American seaman is no burden-bearer for other men.

The sailors in the boat turned incurious faces as they heard the two
draw near, then quickly rose and held the yawl to the float till they
were seated in the stern-sheets. In silence the oarsmen then took their
places, shipped their oars, and at Medbury's word sped away.

Drew looked at his watch as they pulled away from the float.

"It's not yet the hour Captain March set for leaving," he said. "I hope
I did not misunderstand it."

"Oh, that's the old man's way," replied the other, lightly. "Now that
he's really off, he can't hurry fast enough--had to get Myron to take
him out in a sailboat while I was to wait for you."

"Are you a Blackwater man?" asked Drew, later.

"Born here, and my father and grandfather before me. I guess that makes
me a Blackwater man, all right. My name's Medbury. You know my mother;
she goes to your church."

Drew's face brightened.

"Yes, indeed. Now I understand why I've never seen you," he said. "Your
mother told me that you had not been home for more than two years. I've
not been here so long. She is very cheerful in her loneliness; I often
stop in to talk to her."

"Yes," answered Medbury, soberly; "she told me. It does her lots of
good. She thinks a great deal of you." He paused a moment, and then
said: "I've promised her to take no more long voyages. She's getting
old, and I'm all she's got."

"That's good," said Drew, heartily. He was very fond of the
bright-faced old woman who had lived to see the covetous ocean take all
but her youngest boy, and was quite prepared to like her son for her
sake.



III


The _Henrietta C. March_ was a brig of five hundred tons burden, and
was bound for Santa Cruz in the West Indies; and Captain March had
stopped off his home port to take aboard his wife and daughter and
Drew, who had been given a long vacation by his church. The mate of the
brig had been taken suddenly ill, and for two days the captain had been
trying to get a man to fill his place.

It was with an impression of almost Crusoe-like loneliness that Drew
found himself upon the deck when they reached the brig at last, and
the mate, with the crew at his heels, had gone forward to swing the
boat to her place on the center-house, and then to the windlass to
heave the chain short. Drew set his baggage down on the deck and,
walking forward, watched the men heaving at the windlass, the jar and
clank of which filled the vessel. On the quarter-deck the captain, in
his shirt-sleeves and wearing a shapeless brown hat, walked back and
forth, occasionally glancing aloft at the fly, which was beginning
to straighten out in the freshening southwest breeze. His wife and
daughter were nowhere in sight.

The clank of the windlass grew slower and slower as the cable
shortened, and every moment or two Medbury glanced over the bow.
Finally he raised his hand above his head, and the men came trooping
down from the forecastle-deck, some going aloft to loosen sails and
others going to various stations with a businesslike directness that
seemed to Drew to be under the guidance of wordless intuition. He
stood leaning against the fore-rigging as two came toward him with
the unseeing look of men who, having a duty to perform, recognize no
obstacle, and, gently pushing him aside, began to throw to the deck the
coils of running rigging against which he had been leaning. He moved
from place to place, always finding himself in the way and being pushed
aside with the silent directness that seemed purely impersonal, until
at last, throwing off his coat, he began to pull with the rest. In
silence they made place for him. For a time he found his hands catching
awkwardly at halyards and braces and slipping over and under other
harder hands; then at last he caught the swing, and his body rose and
sank with the bodies of the others, and his breathing came heavily and
thickened with theirs. The minister had found himself.

It was not until the brig slowly paid off, heeling before the fresh
breeze, and the outward-bound song began its chant about her forefoot,
that he gathered up his baggage and went aft. Captain March was at the
wheel.

"Go right down and make yourself to home," he said. "They'll show
you your room. I declare, you take a hold like an old hand. We'll be
sending you aloft in a few days."

Drew smiled, but shook his head.

"No," he said; "I shall stick to the deck."

As he went down the companionway and stepped across the cabin, he saw
the round little form of Mrs. March kneeling before a locker in what
was to be his room. She turned her head at the sound of his footsteps.

"I thought I'd tidy your room up a bit," she told him. "Gracious
knows, it needs it. You'd think it started out as a carpenter shop or
sail-loft, but got discouraged and ended up just plain litter. I guess
Cap'n March has left house-cleaning out of his almanac. And he said
this room was clean!"

"Oh, I am sure it will do nicely, Mrs. March," Drew replied. "My mother
says I'm fond of a comfortable disorder."

"I guess men are all alike in that," she said: "they like a
clutter--they think it's having things handy. But I hope you'll excuse
my back," she went on. "I was just telling my daughter that I was
almost ashamed to show my face to you. There I was scolding about Cap'n
March being so late, when all the time you and he were so anxious to
get off and he scurrying around to find a mate. I declare, sometimes it
seems as if the good Lord didn't do his best by women when he gave them
tongues. They're like drums to little children--make a dreadful noise
and keep them from better things."

Drew smiled. It seemed clear that the captain had used some latitude in
explaining his late return home. Meanwhile Mrs. March was backing out
of the room.

"There," she said; "it's in a sort of order, if you don't look too
close."

Ten minutes later Drew came out into the cabin, having put away his
belongings.

"I am sure the room couldn't be better, Mrs. March," he said. "It seems
to me delightfully cozy and neat."

Mrs. March shook her head and smiled as she said:

"I'd 'a' been better satisfied if you hadn't mentioned its being so
nice. I've noticed this about men folks, that when things suit them,
they don't notice them. When Cap'n March talks and acts like a man
right out of the Bible, I'm sure he's been up to mischief, or else has
something unpleasant on his mind, one."

Drew laughed as he replied:

"Then I'm going to cultivate wise silences, Mrs. March. I'll give you
the impression of a man walking in a dream. I have come on this voyage
to learn things; you are not letting me lose any time."

"Oh, if you came to learn things, you'll be wasting time by talking
with the rest of us: you must go to my daughter here. She's been
called to that, you know--to teach all men and nations." Her voice
held a curious note: pride, resentment, anxiety, all seemed to marshal
themselves in the words.

"Mother!"

Drew turned quickly at the one word, to see the daughter standing in
the doorway of her room. He noticed that while the girl's brow was
drawn in a frown, her lips had the undecided irregularity of curve that
hinted at a smile suppressed. This study of particulars did not make
him any the less alert to a general impression of striking beauty. He
smiled and bowed somewhat elaborately, to which the girl returned a
curt little nod, though her answering smile was friendly.

He had the tact to seem not to recognize the tension and to turn to
other subjects, and he now said, with a heartiness that seemed to have
long been waiting for expression, that they really were off at last.
His glance at the hanging lamp over the table, gently swaying in its
gimbals, had the effect of bringing the corroborative testimony of its
motion to their notice, while he went on to add that it seemed too
good to be true. He said that ever since the brig had anchored off the
harbor he had been haunted by the fear that something would happen at
the last moment to keep him at home. Not till now had he felt safe.

"It's the other way about with me," said Mrs. March. "I shall not feel
safe till I get home again. If the Lord meant for us to go wandering
about on the face of the waters, he would have made them steady enough
to build roads on. If he put people 'way on the other side of the
earth, he meant them to stay there--and us, too," she added lamely,
but with sufficient clearness.

Drew halted half-way up the companionway.

"You don't mean to say that you are afraid of the sea, Mrs. March," he
asked, "after all your voyages?"

"I've been going with Cap'n March off and on for twenty-five--yes,
thirty--years," she answered; "yet I never go out of sight of land
without feeling that I'm making faces at my Maker and daring him to
punish me."

"Oh, mother's fear is her most precious possession," said the girl,
now for the first time coming forth into the cabin. "Nothing has ever
happened to her at sea; and that, she feels, is the best reason for
thinking that something is bound to happen the next time." She put her
hand on the elder woman's shoulder and smiled down on her from her
greater height.

"Well, that's reasonable," retorted Mrs. March. "I was never one to
shut my eyes and claim it wasn't thundering. I've got my hearing. What
does the good Lord give us feelings for if he doesn't mean us to use
them?" With this challenge to unbelief in design in nature, she went to
her room.

Captain March was still at the wheel when Drew returned to the deck.
Medbury was forward with the crew, busily stowing the anchor. Little
by little, Blackwater was disappearing behind the high white cliffs.
Drew took up the glass which lay in its box against the frame of the
sliding hood of the companionway and looked toward the village. Even
as he looked, the white spire of his church disappeared from view. He
saw it vanish, and put the glass down, to see the girl standing in the
companionway watching the changing shore.

"I've seen the last of my church for three months," he said to her;
"now I am really loose and free."

"It's good to get away from responsibility for a while," she said. "I
feel now as if I could dismiss all thought and worry until I return.
Then things may look different to me. I am going to think so, anyway."

"Hetty," said the captain, "just run down and get my pipe off my desk,
won't you? You're younger than I am. Besides, I'm busy." He turned
to Drew. "Ashore I smoke cigars mostly; my wife says a pipe's low.
But here I'm master." He looked about his little kingdom with a mild,
complacent face.

His daughter brought his pipe, and, with the gentle look not yet gone
from his face, he was filling it when a boyish-looking lad came aft
along the starboard side of the house, sent by the mate to take the
wheel. Drew, watching the captain, saw his face change. As the lad
came to the quarter-deck, the captain pointed a stubby finger at
him. "You--" he began harshly, and then hesitated and glanced at his
daughter. The boy stopped and turned a frightened look upon the captain.

"Ever been to sea before?" demanded the captain.

"Yes, sir," faltered the boy.

"When?"

"Along the sound here--last summer," he answered.

"Ah," said the captain; then he added: "Didn't you learn the le'ward
side of a vessel?"

The boy gave a startled look aloft, and then, with a flaming face,
turned quickly and came back along the lee side of the house. The
captain gave him the course, and without another word walked over to
the rail, where his daughter stood with Drew.

"Sometimes they forget, sometimes they're green and don't know, and
sometimes it's just impudence," he said in a voice that the boy could
hear. "No matter which it is, ninety-nine times in a hundred the
sailorman who does it tumbles right into trouble. This happened to be
the hundredth time."

His daughter took him by the shoulders and shook him gently.

"Do you mean to say," she asked in a low voice, "that you might have
punished that boy for coming aft on the wrong side? You could see he
had forgotten or didn't know. Would you?"

He smiled upon her.

"Well," he answered, "he'd have remembered the next time if I had."

She drew back haughtily.

"I am going to parade--_parade_ up and down that gangway by the hour!"
she told him.

Her father chuckled.

"Nothing to hinder," he declared.

"You're not down on the articles as a forecastle-hand, are you?"

She did not stay to listen, but went indignantly away; at the cabin
door, however, she turned and came back.

"You wouldn't have done it," she told him; "I know you wouldn't." She
stooped--she was taller than he--and kissed him lightly. Then she went
below.

Her father gazed after her.

"Sometimes she's a thousand feet tall," he said to Drew; "and then
again--"

"No taller than your heart," suggested Drew as he hesitated.

"That's about it, I guess," said the captain.

The wind freshened as night came on, and had a touch of winter in its
sting. They were now running fast by the coast, the high cliffs of
which rose dark and desolate on the starboard. The water was black,
save where it ran hissing along the sides in a ragged gray ribbon of
foam. Behind them, in the west, a crimson flush lingered in the sky.
Drew stood at the break in the poop-deck, watching the shadowy forms
of the crew moving about the deck forward as they made the royal snug
for the night; far overhead he could hear the pennant halyards slatting
against the topmast in the dark. Every taut line and halyard sang in
the breeze, and there was a dull, humming roar in the canvas; under the
lower sails, across the deck, the wind swept crackling and keen.

He heard the mate's last "That's well; belay!" and watched him come
aft. He passed without speaking, then hesitated and came back.

"After we get through the Race," he said, "we'll begin to get the
swell." He spoke absent-mindedly, as if he were thinking of something
quite different; then he walked to the rail and sat down. Drew followed
him.

Leaning his elbows on his knees, Medbury sat for a long time without
speaking; at last he looked up with a little laugh.

"I'd give something to be out of this," he said. "I was a fool to
come. I might have known better. It's funny, but a man may know a
woman all his life, and at the end of the time know as little about
her as if he'd never seen her--that is, _really_ know her--how she'll
take things. Now, I suppose this was the very worst thing I could
have done. All that I've got to do is to wait till she gets ready and
she'll tell me so. Oh, I can see just how she'll look and what she'll
say! I don't need to have her tell me. 'You might have thought of _my_
feelings!'"--he changed his voice,--"that's what she'll say. And I--"
he broke off impatiently.

Drew looked at him in bewilderment.

"I don't think I understand," he said.

"You don't? Why, mother said she told you all about it one time when
you were at the house; she said she had to tell some one. That's how I
felt to-night, and I thought you knew."

A light broke in upon Drew.

"Ah!" he said. Then he went on: "Yes, she told me; but she did not tell
me the young lady's name. It is Miss March?"

"Yes," Medbury answered. "I thought you must know. You'd have been the
only one in Blackwater if you hadn't. Sometimes I feel like the town
clock, with every one watching my face. That's one reason why I like
the China seas; I can't get farther away."

"Your mother told me very little," said Drew; "she was worrying about
your not coming home, and lonely, and it did her good to speak. It
did not seem to me a hopeless situation as she told it. Captain March
strikes me as being a reasonable man."

"I guess she didn't tell you all, then. Well, I was thinking of what
she said and how much she thought of you, and, thinking you knew, I
made up my mind to ask your advice. I felt that I had to talk to some
one." He hesitated a moment and then, with a boyish laugh, went on:
"You see, Hetty and I had always been pretty good friends from the time
we went to school together. Well, I've never got over it. When I first
went to sea she used to write to me; but after a while she went out to
Oberlin to live with an aunt while she went to college; and as I was
half the time on the other side of the world, we kind of lost track of
each other. I guess she lost track of me more than I did of her, for
she's changed since I saw her last, three years ago, and I can't quite
make her out. She's friendly enough, but she's different, and has come
home with a wild notion of going out to China as a missionary. Good
Lord! a girl like that to be thrown away on those--" He could think
of no word strong enough to convey his contempt. "Well," he went on,
"I can't see any place for me in that plan, but that doesn't seem
to trouble her. That's what worries me. Of course the old man's set
against her going; but he's set against me, too, because I'm a sailor.
That's the way things stand. When I heard she was going out with her
father this trip, and the mate was sick, I rushed off to the old man
and offered to go with him. He wouldn't hear of it, and engaged two
others; but I saw them privately, and they backed out. The old man
can't understand why they did. To-day he came to me, and here I am.
I've been offered a good vessel, and I intended to stay home a spell;
but when I heard Hetty was going, it seemed to me it was my last
chance--to go with her; but I guess it was a mistake. I can see she
thinks I've done a foolish thing, and is angry."

"I think I can understand how she feels--how most women would feel,"
said Drew, slowly, after a long pause. "Her sense of justice is
outraged--perhaps that's too strong a word; but she feels that you have
taken an unfair advantage of her in leaving her no way of escape. She
might not have cared to escape, but she likes to feel that retreat is
open to her. A woman fights at a disadvantage in these things; she is
more sensitive to public opinion than are men, and she has the instinct
of a hunted creature. I don't know that I can make it clear," he
concluded hopelessly. "Then, too, I may be wholly wrong."

"Well, I don't know what I am going to do, now I'm here," said Medbury,
forlornly.

"I should say, attend strictly to business and see her as little as
possible for a while," Drew told him. "As for her anger, that may be a
good sign. If she were simply indifferent to you, she wouldn't care.
She could leave it safely to time to make your coming ridiculous."

When Drew entered the cabin, an hour later, Hetty sat at the table
reading, shading her eyes with her hand; her mother sat knitting near
her; and on the lounge her father reclined, pipe in mouth, his hat
on the floor beside him. Blinking in the strong light, Drew sat down
without removing his overcoat.

"Ain't you going to stay a while?" asked the captain. "You can't make
church calls to-night."

Drew laughed.

"No," he said; "that's true. I'm out of that. But I'm going back on
deck soon. I can't get enough of it: the world seems all sky and stars.
I had lost sight of the fact that the earth is so trivial."

Captain March let his feet come slowly to the floor and picked up his
hat.

"That's a good deal so," he said. "Still, there's enough earth lying
loose around the Race to keep me from forgetting it, at least till
we've dropped it astern. I guess I'll go take a look up on deck."

As her father disappeared, Hetty laid down her book and looked up.

"Where are we now?" she asked Drew.

"Little Gull Island light is just ahead of us," he answered.

"That will be our last sight of land, won't it?" she asked. "I'm going
up to say good-by."

When she had gone, her mother dropped her knitting in her lap.

"I guess ministers are used to people coming to them with all their
troubles," she began, with a plaintive little note creeping into her
usually cheery voice, "and I _do_ hope you won't think I'm trying to
spoil your vacation by troubling you with ours; but Cap'n March and I
have talked and talked till we ain't on speaking terms with our own
judgments any more, and what to do next I don't know." Then she, too,
told the story.

At the end of her hurried recital she said:

"What she thinks of Tom I don't know; she's awfully close-mouthed
about some things. I like Tom, and if I had my way I guess I'd let the
young folks settle it themselves. But Cap'n March he's different. He's
going to take it for granted that she won't think of Tom because her
father disapproves of her marrying a sailor; and he will be so sure of
it, and so exasperating, that I don't know what he'll _make_ her do
first--marry Tom or go right off to China. In the end he'll let her do
just what she makes up her mind to do. He always did, and he always
will. If it's one thing, I don't care; but to think of her going off
alone to the other side of the world--" She picked up her work and
began to knit rapidly, with fast-falling tears.

Drew sat with his elbow on the back of the chair, his chin in the palm
of his hand, looking down at the floor.

"I wish I knew what to say--to advise, Mrs. March," he now said; "but I
do not. Perhaps after a while--"

"Yes," she broke in eagerly; "that's all we could expect. I told
Cap'n March I was going to speak to you, and he seemed real pleased.
I'm sure you'll think of some way out," she added, with the cheerful
optimism with which we shift the burden of our desperate affairs to
the shoulders of others. It is hard to believe that Fate will continue
unkind when our friends are moved. "And I hope," she went on, "that
you won't feel it a duty to encourage Hetty's missionary notions. Of
course you're a minister and believe in missionaries, and I shouldn't
ask you to go against your conscience; but I suppose you can believe
in them without thinking that everybody's fit for the work. I'm sure
Hetty isn't. All the missionary women I ever saw were thin and homely,
and their clothes seemed just thrown at them. Hetty isn't a bit like
that. I can say so, if she is my daughter. And I've scarcely seen her
for three years; and if now she should go away to live at the end of
the world among heathen idols, with not a homelike thing, and no one to
mother her when she needs mothering, then I think that religion is very
kind to the heathen, who don't want it, and very cruel to a mother who
has always been a God-fearing woman and only wants her child near her
when she comes to die. She's all I've got."

She had been speaking with increasing rapidity, but now a light
footfall sounded on deck, going aft, and she stopped.

"Go up on deck," she said to Drew. "I don't want her to know I've ever
mentioned this to you. She's a dear girl, but sometimes I feel like a
hen who is the mother of a duckling. What she's going to do next I
don't know."

Drew met the girl by the corner of the house.

"I've been showing father the stars," she said. "He, a sailor, and not
to know them! I told him I thought it shameful."

"I suppose he knew the north star," he said, smiling.

"Oh, yes; he knew that. The others didn't seem to impress him. He said
they were too shifty to be of much use."

"I think there are some folks who know so much that it kind o' clogs
their brains and keeps them from working right," said Captain March,
coming up behind her. "I have an idea that we can use just about so
much, and all over and above that is just pure waste. I once had a
mate that was like that. He could name all the stars, too, and knew a
good many things of that sort that didn't help him much to find his
longitude; but as for the look of the sky, or the heave of the sea,
or the feel of the wind, that meant nothing more to him than so much
blank paper. Now, when I walk the deck at night and look up and see
the stars shining overhead, winter or summer, they're company for me.
That's enough for me; what men call 'em I don't care. I suppose the
good Lord's got his own names for them."

Hetty stayed on deck till Little Gull Island light came abreast; but
when she had gone below the captain sought out Drew as he stood by the
main-rigging and told him his daughter's desire. He made no mention of
Medbury.

"Her mother thought you might help us," he concluded; "and I hope
you can, for we're in sore trouble. Still, I don't ask you to advise
against your conscience. Now I say, 'No,' to her; but if she feels
she's got to go, and doesn't change, why, I shall say, 'Yes,' in the
end. I know that. My father always wanted me to stay ashore, but I
was wild to go to sea. It seemed that I _had_ to go, and in the end I
did. I don't know that I got all I expected, but I got what I wanted;
and if my girl sets her heart on this as the only way for her to lead
her life, why, I sha'n't put a stone in her way when once I'm sure. It
wouldn't be right."



IV


Hetty had spread a shawl on the forward end of the house, and, with her
arm resting on the slide of the companionway, sat with an unopened book
in her lap and looked out across the shining sea. It was three bells
or more, and the morning sun was warm upon her face, and painted with
rainbow hues the spray that the fresh northwest wind clipped from every
toppling wave. The brig was sliding down the seas like a boy let loose
from school, now dipping her nose into a long roller with chuckling
hawse-pipes, now sinking into the blue hollows, sending the sheeted
spray outward for yards as her counter came home with a jarring thud.
The spars whined unceasingly, but the sails, bellying in the steady
breeze, made scarcely a sound, save when a sudden lurch spilled the
wind from the canvas, and it snapped like a great whip.

The scene, with the vividness of its new sensations, now for the first
time experienced, impressed itself upon Drew's mind as something wholly
mysterious and strangely moving. After the first night, when there had
been no sea, he had remained steadily below, too ill to rise; but the
sickness had now passed, and it was with only the uncertainty of gait
of one not yet accustomed to the motion of the vessel that he had made
his way to the deck and looked out over the watery world.

[Illustration: "The brig was sliding down the seas like a boy let loose
from school"]

With a sense of aloofness, of absolute separation, from all that he had
ever known, he gazed about him. The words,

  "Look'd at each other with a wild surmise.
  Silent, upon a peak in Darien,"

flashed through his mind: the perfect poem seemed strangely
interpretative of his mood. Then his gaze came back from the notched
and leaping horizon to the silent figure of Hetty, and, with the
lifting spirit of a mind released from the oppression of a strange and
portentous solitude, he clumsily made his way to her side, glad for
companionship.

She looked up brightly.

"Oh," she said, "I was wishing for some one to enjoy it with. I tried
to get my mother, but she would not come up. She said she could _feel_
it; that was enough for her. I hope it is not enough for you."

"No," he answered; "there is more in seeing it: it is strange and
overwhelming. I am inland-bred, you know: I feel as if all known things
had passed away."

"To me it is like coming home," she declared. "I cannot remember when
it was not familiar. Now it is like lifting the latch of the door at
home after a long absence."

He shook his head, smiling.

"I cannot imagine any one thinking of it as companionable, as a part of
actual experience. I need hills and old trees and remembered turns in
roads to feel the intimacy of the world. This is strange and beautiful,
but leaves me an alien. It is like a kaleidoscope: nothing is twice the
same."

"I do not care for things that are twice the same," she told him. "Here
something is always likely to happen. The only certain thing I know of
to-morrow is that we shall have plum-duff." She laughed.

He looked at her, gravely smiling.

"A certain noble discontent--you know the thought--is well; but--"
he was thinking of her mother's concern, and her words carried him
toward it; yet he hesitated, doubtful if it might not be too soon to
speak--"but constant change means lack of purpose, doesn't it? If you
set your heart on something,--something vastly different from anything
you have ever known,--it will be fruitless of good unless persisted
in--unless it wears grooves in your life. A mere impulse for change is
to be distrusted." He smiled and added: "Don't think that I cannot give
over preaching."

"I know what you mean," replied the girl, looking seaward with troubled
eyes. "I suppose mother has told you what I wish. But it isn't a mere
desire for change, and everybody's disapproval only makes me more eager
to go. Isn't that a proof that the desire is something to be obeyed--a
real call? How can I be sure that it is not, unless I try? Do you think
me a silly person?" She looked at him with a suggestion of defiance,
but smilingly, too.

"I should be the last one to think that," he told her. "Only look at it
from all sides--that is all your friends can ask."

"Not father," she answered laughingly. "If I can be made to look at
it from his point of view, he will willingly spare me the rest. Poor
father! But let's not speak of it," she went on. "Look! the Mother
Carey's chicken!"

She pointed to the bird, the black-and-white little creature which
always seems to be hurrying home, wherever it may be. Far to the
southeast a trail of smoke from an unseen steamer blotched the white
sky. On the main-deck the second mate and a sailor were patching a
topsail; from the galley drifted aft the cheerful whistling of the
steward, like a flock of blackbirds, and the homelike sound of rattling
pans. Only the man at the wheel was aft, now bending to the spokes, now
glancing at the binnacle, and now turning his eye aloft to the luff of
the mainsail. It was the morning of the third day out.

Drew was silent so long that she turned a troubled face to him.

"You must not think that I do not care for your advice," she said
gently; "I do--shall some day. Just now I cannot bear to speak of my
disappointment. It wasn't a sudden impulse; it was a part of my life,
and it must be given up, perhaps. After a little, when I can collect my
scattered forces, if you can help me--" She smiled uncertainly.

"I know, I know," he hastened to say. "But I was really thinking of
something quite different--that three days ago I had not even seen you;
now our lives seem intimately near. Only at sea could that happen."

"Yes," she agreed; "people grow into friendship quickly at sea--and
grow apart as quickly. I have heard my father say that is a reason
for the cruelty and harshness on shipboard--that men's tempers become
warped when they cannot escape from one another and they find no common
ground for companionship. He says there have been times when he fairly
hated a mate of his. On shore they might have been intimate for years
without an unpleasant thought."

"Let us hope that we may escape that disaster," he said, with a smile.

He wondered if Medbury had been in her thoughts. They had scarcely
spoken, he had observed. He himself had seen little of the younger
man, and he was quite prepared to rate him her inferior, in spite of
his physical attractiveness. He seemed a mere boy in his impulses;
he doubted not that he would keep his boyishness to the end of life.
Certainly, he told himself, he was lacking in her capacity for growth.

Meanwhile his own first opinion of her beauty had not changed; it
was as apparent as ever, he told himself, and had taken on an added
grace with his widening knowledge of her many changing moods. As he
gazed at her now, he had an impression of distinction, but distinction
united with a certain gentleness that, he told himself, was rare. Her
face was in profile, and the mouth, clear-cut and undrooping, had the
softness of outline that he associated with good temper. Her eyes,
though now sad, had the same gentle look. He liked her thick brown
hair and the clear oval of her face: they gave him the impression of
harmony. In spite of his first feeling of attraction for Medbury, he
felt that the girl hesitated wisely; he could see no road by which
the two could travel as equal companions. That Medbury's hopes seemed
destined to be shattered did not move him greatly; for rarely to the
masculine onlooker is the disappointed lover a tragic figure. One has
seen him play his game and lose; now let him bear the loss manfully.

They did not speak of her desire again that day; indeed, eight days
passed before he ventured to refer to it. Meanwhile they had become
great friends. The pleasant weather had held, and they had rolled down
the long, smooth seas, which daily seemed to grow bluer, under a sky
that remained cloudless.

It was morning again, the morning of the eleventh day out, and they
sat in the same place, with much the same scene about them, though now
with a tropical softness flooding the world, and less heeded as their
thoughts turned more to themselves. He had been reading aloud while she
worked at some trifle, but suddenly he closed the book.

"That is enough of other men's dreams," he said. "What of yours?"

She did not even look up as she replied:

"Mine are poor enough; I prefer those of others. Besides, I have
scarcely thought of them for days."

"Are they less insistent?" he asked.

"Don't!" she appealed. "Don't! I am not yet ready to face them. I have
lost my courage."

"I will say no more," he said; "but I had thought that you seemed
different--ready to surrender. I had hoped so."

She looked up now.

"Are you against me, too?" she demanded.

"Can you believe that?" he asked. "I had thought that I was for you--as
we all are."

She smiled.

"You are all making it very hard for me," she told him.

A step sounded on the forward companionway, and Medbury appeared. He
glanced past them to the man at the wheel, looked aloft, then walked
slowly to the break of the deck. Suddenly he came back and seated
himself on the corner of the house near them. Apparently he had wearied
of self-suppression.

He was manifestly trying to appear wholly at ease, and he began to
talk at once, and very rapidly, like one repeating a speech that had
been learned by heart. He spoke of the wind and the run of the vessel,
and he told them that they had not touched a sheet for more than sixty
hours. He said he hoped that it would last, though he added that he
doubted it.

"When ought we to get out, Tom?" asked Hetty. She bit off her thread
as she spoke, and, spreading her work on her lap, examined it
absent-mindedly.

"If the wind holds, in four or five days," he answered; "but I'm afraid
it won't. The sea's beginning to look oily now; the snap has gone out
of the wind. We'll be slatting and rolling in a dead calm by the middle
of the afternoon. I noticed the change in my bunk, and couldn't sleep."

"I thought sailors could always sleep." This was Hetty's contribution
to the conversation as she still studied her work.

"Well, I couldn't," he answered.

"Then we may be three weeks going out," said Drew. "It seems like a
long time."

"I was a hundred and twenty days on my last voyage--from Singapore,"
said Medbury.

"I am beginning to grasp the reason for the sailor's rapt, far-seeing
look," said Drew. "It is not strange that he never loses it, with his
constant study of invisible signs and meanings. But a hundred and
twenty days! What changes may take place in that time!"

"We find changes enough," Medbury answered. "Sometimes I think we
sailors are the only things that do not change, except to grow older
and sadder. We always hope to find everything just as we left it, but
we never do."

Hetty looked steadily seaward, and a fine flush came to her face; but
Drew was struck with the philosophy of the situation.

"That surely ought to be true," he acquiesced--"that the sailor is the
most unchanging of men. One should come back wiser in sea-lore, but
solitude and the singleness of his purpose should keep him untouched by
all the distractions that change other men. I've noticed in Blackwater
the freshness of spirit, almost boyishness, of old men."

Hetty's face was turned forward, and now she leaped to her feet.

"What _is_ that, Tom?" she exclaimed. "We are running on a sand-bar!"

A hundred yards ahead of them stretched a great golden-brown field
that looked like a salt-meadow in April. Above it wheeled a flock of
sea-birds.

Medbury scarcely turned his head.

"Sargasso weed," he answered, and grinned. "It's always waltzing about
in these latitudes."

The girl walked to the main-rigging, and, leaning across the
sheer-pole, watched the yellow plain with wondering eyes. A moment
later, as they plunged into it, she caught her breath; it seemed
incredible to her that there should be no shock.

Instantly the sounds of the sea were hushed; there was only the soft
hissing of the weed as it swept past the side of the brig.

"Come up to the forecastle-deck and see it pile up on the bow," Medbury
said to the girl.

She did not stir.

"Won't you come?"

"No," she answered.

He leaned across the sheer-pole with her a moment in silence. The bell
forward struck four sharp strokes; it was like a cry in the night. Then
a sailor came lurching aft to relieve the man at the wheel.

"Is it always going to be like this, Hetty?" Medbury asked her in a low
voice.

"I suppose so."

"You want it so?"

"I said, 'I suppose so.'"

"It's the same thing," he remarked drearily, and sighed.

The sigh seemed to irritate her, for she turned upon him suddenly.

"Why did you speak like that--before a stranger?"

"Like what?" he asked, in astonishment.

"About coming home unchanged, and finding nothing as you had left it.
Of course he knew what you meant. And it wasn't true, for I have not
changed. I could have sunk through the deck for shame."

"Oh, _that_," he replied. "_He_ didn't understand; he thought it was a
text."

"A text!" She turned away in scorn.

A moment he stood looking outboard with unseeing eyes; then he stooped
and drew a boat-hook from the slings beneath the rail.

"Wouldn't you like to have a piece?" he asked, pointing to the seaweed.

She hesitated a moment, and then came back to his side.

"Yes," she said.

He drew in a great bunch and spread it at her feet, and she picked up a
bit with dainty fingers.

"It's no longer beautiful," she said in disappointment, and dropped it
on the house.

"No," he answered soberly, and tossed the weed back into the sea.



V


The wind died out, as he had predicted, and all the afternoon the brig
rolled on the long swells, which hourly grew heavier. They leaped
against the horizon, swung onward beneath the keel, and swept past with
the unrelenting persistency that seemed the embodiment of vindictive
hate. A gale can be combated, but, in the grasp of a calm, man is
helpless. Every part of the vessel cried out in protest. The canvas
slatted and flapped like the wings of a huge bird vainly trying to rise
from the waves; every block rattled and croaked; the main-boom, hauled
chock aft, snatched at its sheets with a viciousness that threatened
to part them at every roll and made their huge blocks crash; from
the pantry below came the constant rattle of crockery; and the blue
sea, dipped up through the scuppers, swashed back and forth across the
main-deck. By eight bells every stitch of canvas had been furled or
clewed up to save it, and the brig lay rolling in the dark hollows like
a drunken sailor reeling home.

At dusk Hetty made her way to the forward companionway, and, seating
herself on the sill, with her hands clasped about the guard-rail,
looked out across the watery waste. The line of her eyes, parallel with
the deck, saw the stars fly downward till they seemed to vanish in
the sea, which suddenly seemed to tower like a huge black wall above
the brig; then suddenly it dropped away, and the stars flew up again,
and she saw them fairly overhead. Out of the swashing flood of the
main-deck, in a momentary lull, Medbury appeared.

"Is that you, Hetty?" he said.

"Yes," she answered. "It's awful, isn't it?"

"It's a nasty roll, and no mistake. There's dirty weather knocking
about somewhere."

"You mean a storm?"

"Yes."

"Shall we get it?" she asked.

"We may and may not," he answered. "It's hard to say."

"Could it be a hurricane coming?" she asked with awe.

He laughed.

"Haven't you ever heard the sailors' rhymes about hurricanes in the
West Indies?" he asked.

  "'July,
  Stand by;
  August,
  Look out you must;
  September,
  Remember;
  October,
  All over.'

That anchors March squarely in the middle of the safe months; so we're
all right, you see. No, it isn't a hurricane."

He seated himself on the deck, and, leaning against the door-jamb,
braced himself to the roll. For a while they sat in silence, and
watched the long rollers infold them--three great ones, then a
succession of lower ones, in an ever-recurring sameness that moved the
girl with a growing nervousness. At last she turned to him and said:

"I wanted to explain to you that I had no reason to be ugly this
morning. But what is the use? Father would always oppose; besides, I am
not sure myself. I want to be friends, nothing more."

"Well! that is a wooden tale," he said disappointedly.

"I never said anything different at any time, Tom," she protested.

"Oh, I know. You always had a pair of skittish heels, Hetty." He
turned his face to her suddenly. "Is there any one else?"

"No," she said.

"All right," he answered; "I'll hope on. I've been doing that a long
time; I'm not going to stop now." He was silent a moment, and then he
said: "Do you know how long that's been, Hetty? Fourteen years. We were
in school then, and it began the day of that big snow-storm, when I
drew you home on my sled. You wore a red jacket, and your cheeks were
almost as red. I can see you sitting there now, and smiling whenever
I looked back. You were the shyest little thing! When we reached your
gate, you just slipped off and ran into the house without turning."

"Oh, do you remember that!"

"I've thought of it under every star in the sky, I think. I guess
that's the way it will always be with you--slipping away and not
looking back." He laughed a little dolefully.

"I'm not like that," she said in a low voice. "I may go away, but I
shall look back. I am no longer a child."

"Then don't go away," he said eagerly; but she stopped him.

"Don't, Tom!" she pleaded. "Don't speak of it any more--now. Just be
friends."

"All right, Hetty. It will be as you say. I don't nag my--friends." He
smiled forlornly.

In silence they watched the swells racing in. They were like living
things, of incredible speed, insatiable, pitiless, rushing on to infold
them. As the brig rolled in their grasp, the girl instinctively moved
her body against the roll: it was as if she thought to lessen the awful
dip of the deck with her puny weight; and whenever the great rollers
passed, and the vessel, like a tired thing, lay for an instant almost
at peace in the lower levels of the sea, an involuntary sigh of relief
escaped her. Medbury heard her and looked up.

"You're not afraid, Hetty, are you?" he asked. "It's disagreeable;
that's all."

"No, not _really_, I think," she answered; "but I wish it would stop."

"It's a regular cradle--as peaceful as that," he assured her. "Only
we're a little old for cradles, I guess," he added.

"I am," she said.

Over them the stars raced back and forth; for there were no clouds,
only a soft haze that made the stars seem large and near, but without
brightness. Close down to the sea a whitish film seemed to spread,
making the curtain of the night above it intensely black. Once, as they
dipped to port, Hetty's eyes caught sight of a deep-red glow suffusing
the lifted wave near the bow. She clutched at Medbury's arm.

"What is that, Tom--there--like blood?" she gasped.

"That? Why, the reflection of our port light. You poor thing!" he said
pityingly. "Hadn't you better go below? It's queer, but on a night like
this, or in thick weather, if you once lose your nerve, you see the
queerest things. Come, you'll be all right below."

She dropped her face to her hands and laughed.

"No," she said; "now I will stay. There!"--she straightened herself and
looked at him smilingly,--"now, I'll be sensible. Why do you look at me
like that?" she asked abruptly.

He turned his face away.

"Can't I even look at you? A friend could do that."

"But that was different," she answered. "It was--" The look of yearning
love upon his face moved her strangely. She felt the impatient tears
flood her eyes. Meanwhile he hastened to speak of other things.

"Do you remember how you used to tie your hair up in two tight little
braids?" he asked--"always tied with red ribbon?"

"Mother did that," she answered promptly. "I hated it. I used to tell
her they made my head ache. I've forgotten now whether they did or not.
But it wasn't always red ribbon."

"Wasn't it?" he asked. "That's what I remember."

"Some things you've forgotten, you see," she told him. "It is easy to
forget, after all."

The door of the passage below them opened, and some one stumbled toward
them. It was Drew. Medbury slipped away, vexed at the interruption, but
Hetty turned a relieved face to the newcomer. In this difference lay
the measure of their love.

Reaching the deck, Drew almost dropped in the place where Medbury
had been sitting. He removed his cap from his head, and passed his
hand across his forehead. From the forecastle floated aft, above the
jangling noises of the brig, the faint strains of an accordion.

"Just at this moment I have no higher ambition than to sit out there
and play like that," said Drew, turning his head to listen.

"It sounds rather nice at sea," said the girl. "Maybe it's because I've
always heard it there that I like it."

"Oh, it isn't that," he replied. "It's the care-free touch I envy.
Care-free--with all our fixed beliefs tumbling about us! See those
stars! And we have been taught to call them steadfast!"

She laughed, and looked at him mischievously.

"You're seasick again," she said. "I knew it by the way you dropped to
the deck."

"I am," he promptly admitted.

"Well, you're honest; you ought to be proud of that," she told him.
"Most men refuse to confess to seasickness until the fact confesses
itself." She laughed.

"I might be proud of being honest if I were not too much ashamed of
being ill. The lesser feeling is lost in the greater."

"You would feel better if you would not watch the rail. It's the worst
thing you can do."

"You are watching it," he said.

"But I am never affected," she replied. "Besides, I'm feeling reckless
to-night."

He turned and looked at her smilingly.

"You reckless! You are self-control itself," he declared.

It is strange, but there are times when to be called self-controlled is
like an accusation.

"That sounds like calling me hard and unfeeling," she said.

"Rather say it's calling you happy. I think there is no happiness
without self-control," he replied.

"Do you call it happiness," she cried--"rolling like this? I think it
is dull."

"All happiness is more or less dull," he declared. "It's the price it
pays to discontent, which is supposed to know all the ups and downs of
life."

"I should not like to think that," she said soberly.

"Then I hope your whole life may prove it false," he answered.

In the silence that followed, his eyes, searching the night with the
fascination in the thought of discovery that the sea gives even to the
sighting of a sail, came back to her face and lingered there. For a
moment he looked at her with the intent, impersonal gaze that he had
directed toward the horizon. She was leaning against the guard-rail,
with her hands clasped over her knees, and her eyes turned up to
the stars. Her head was uncovered, and her hair looked black above
the gleaming whiteness of her face, which wore the intense look of
abounding vitality that pallor sometimes gives in a larger measure than
vivid coloring. As he watched her face in the dim light, he became
distinctly alive to a new impression--the impression that he was
becoming strangely drawn to her. The knowledge came upon him suddenly,
like a ship looming above him in the night.

It was inevitable that his first thought should be of Medbury; but
whatever he might later come to think of his own ethical implication,
in this first moment of self-discovery the thought was little more
than that he should have a care. In a rush of mental restlessness he
rose to his feet and walked to the rail. He could hear the second mate
as he tramped steadily back and forth on the quarter-deck, passing
like a shuttle from darkness to light as he crossed the glow from the
binnacle-lamp. The thump of the wheel jumping in its becket was almost
continuous; it irritated him as the louder noises of the sea and the
vessel had not done. In the east a red light shone and vanished; again
it appeared for a moment. He called Hetty's attention to it, but she
did not rise. When it appeared again it was farther to the north.

"It's a steamer going home," she said. "It's like your happiness--just
a dull light moving uncertainly through darkness."

"You mustn't think that," he said gently.

"Oh, it's true," she persisted; "I can see it's true. I wanted to go
away, but it was only discontent. If I had gone, it would have been the
same. I should have been broken in the first struggle."

"To-morrow the wind will blow again, and you will see things in a
different light. Nothing will matter then," he assured her.

"Do you think I should have succeeded if I had gone?" She turned toward
him sharply while she waited for his answer.

He had seated himself again, and he paused a moment before he replied.

"I think you would have put your whole heart into your work," he said
at last. "When we do that, we need not think of results--or fear
them--need we?"

"I shall always feel that it was right for me to go," she said, after a
pause. "The regret will remain."

"It is hard to say what is right, we owe allegiance in so many ways.
A week ago your going was simply an interesting thought to me. Now I
cannot bear to think of it."

She caught her breath sharply.

"There's your steamer again," she exclaimed. "It's almost gone."

It came to him vividly, with her conscious refusal to follow his
leading, that he was not having a care; and he added in haste: "I can
see the tragic significance of such a decision, now that I am no longer
a stranger--this putting away of all your old life--your father and
mother. Think what it means to them! Life has many facets: we've got to
look at them all."

"Yes," she said slowly, as if she were looking at them all in turn;
then she continued: "But if we study them too closely, isn't there
danger of being simply irresolute and accomplishing nothing?"

"To crown the present hour--might that not be the hardest, and
therefore the noblest, task?" he asked smilingly. "A nature that is
overwhelmed by its first disappointment will not be likely to succeed
in any path. That is not yours, I am sure."

"It is easy for you to say that," she answered, with a touch of
impatience; "you have found your chosen work; I must stay at home.
What can we women in seaports do? We tremble through storms, and then
wait in fear for the marine news." She laughed at her own exaggeration.

"It makes strong, hopeful women," he declared stoutly.

"Is that all you ask of your work--to be made strong and hopeful?" she
demanded. "It makes me think of life as a gymnasium."

"No," he answered frankly; "but I have not found my chosen work, or,
rather, my chosen field."

"May I ask what that is? Do you mind telling me?"

"I shall be glad," he replied. "It is simply to work among the poor
in a large town or city. I cannot go among the little children of the
crowded streets without a heartache. That is where my work calls me.
I love the people of Blackwater, and I can be happy there when I can
forget for a time; but I am not needed. Sometimes I feel that no one
is needed, they are so firmly fixed in their beliefs, so hopelessly
certain of themselves. But the little children of the crowded streets!"
He broke off suddenly.

They heard the bell forward ring out sharply. Both counted the strokes
in silence.

"Eight bells," she murmured, as it ceased.

The forecastle door opened, and a shaft of light flashed like an
opening fan along the wet, shining deck. Shadowy forms began to move
about, and vanished in the darkness. Then the door was shut, and the
deck was dark again; only the clamor of the rolling vessel and the sea
about her went on unceasingly.

"I am glad you told me," Hetty said at last in a low voice that had in
it a tremor of exaltation. She did not turn to him as she spoke, but
kept her eyes fixed upon the lines of whitened waves glimmering in the
dark.

"It was little to tell," he said, with a laugh.

"It was much to know," she answered gently.

He wondered at the touch of feeling in her tone, for he could not know
that, having condemned him for a seemingly Laodicean contentment with
life, with as little reason she was now prepared to exalt him unduly,
seeing in his desired course a form of martyrdom at once moving and
heroic. It was in the line of her own desire, and the thought flashed
upon her that here was something even she might be permitted to do.

They had come tremblingly to the heights of emotion: a little thing
might send the streams of their life together, or bear them farther and
farther apart.



VI


Day was breaking when Drew came on deck the next morning. The noises of
the vessel, which had clanked and whined all night through his broken
sleep, seemed to him to take on new life as he reached the deck; but
the brig, as she lay rolling in the trough of the sea, had the gray,
tired look of ships coming home from long voyages. There were no clouds
in the sky, but the stars had faded out, and even as he gazed the rim
of the sun appeared above the sea, flattened out on the horizon, then
rose in an elongated ball. For an instant a red pendant seemed to cling
to the far edge of the ocean; then it vanished, and the sun, round
again and red, had broken free. Day had come.

The ocean had the glassy aspect of the preceding day; as far as the
eye carried not a catspaw darkened the surface. In every direction the
white sails of the Portuguese men-of-war rose and fell on the long blue
swells. Fifty yards astern the triangular dorsal fin of a shark moved
slowly across their track. Drew watched its silent progress with the
fascination that the landsman, seeing it for the first time, bestows
upon it as the embodiment of the cruelty and mystery of its abode.

He turned at the sound of a footstep, and, seeing Medbury beside him,
greeted him, and then nodded astern.

"It's a shark, isn't it?" he asked. "I never saw one before."

"Yes," replied the mate. "It's queer, but everybody seems to know them
right off. Sort of natural dislike, I guess."

Medbury watched it a moment and then looked aloft to where the fly hung
limp.

"It beats all," he muttered; "there isn't air enough to float a
soap-bubble." He walked to the pennant halyards, and, untying them,
jerked the fly free from its staff. "It hasn't lifted an inch in
fifteen hours," he said. "Confound it! I believe the world has died
overnight!" Then he laughed at his own ill-nature. "It always gets on
my nerves--weather like this," he explained to Drew.

He turned and walked to the other side of the vessel as Captain March
came on deck. He also looked aloft, glanced at the binnacle from mere
force of habit, and then swept the horizon with half-shut eyes. His
face was inscrutable, and absolutely without emotion. "It's going to be
hot," was his only remark. Then he walked to a camp-chair, and, drawing
it to the rail, sat down, and began to whistle softly.

A moment later Medbury crossed over to where he sat.

"I guess I'll rig up the triangle this morning and scrape the
mainmast," he said. "It's a good chance."

The captain squinted aloft, but said nothing.

"I'll start at the foot," continued the mate, as if in answer to
unspoken criticism. "Maybe it'll breeze up before the men get much
above the deck."

"All right," said the captain, and went on whistling.

"There isn't a breath of air," said Medbury. "I believe everything's
dead."

"Nothing dead about this roll," replied Captain March.

"Well, it ought to be," replied the mate, and walked forward.

"I don't know as the crew's going to rise up and call him blessed when
he orders them aloft on that job in a swell like this," said the
captain to Drew; "but then, as I said, I don't know."

Then the barefooted crew came aft with buckets and brooms to wash down
the decks, and he and Drew went below. When they came back to the
deck, after breakfast, two men were at the grindstone sharpening their
knives, and a third was scraping a bright pin-rail forward. Medbury sat
on the forward end of the house, making double-crown knots in the ends
of new man-ropes. He did not look up as Hetty and the minister came and
stood over him, watching his work. Captain March came past the group in
his morning walk.

"You're not going to scrape the mainmast, eh?" he said, as he went by.
His eyes twinkled.

Medbury did not look up as he answered:

"No; I guess I'll keep them on deck."

Hetty looked aloft at the mast thrashing through a wide arc.

"I knew you wouldn't," she said. "It would have been--unlike you."

Medbury glanced at her with a shamefaced smile, but he made no reply.

Drew laughed.

"Do you know, I had heard so much of the harsh treatment of sailors by
their officers that I came on this voyage prepared for something of the
sort, and dreading it," he said, in his slow, deep voice; "but I have
seen nothing but consideration."

Medbury's mouth twitched with scornful amusement; it almost seemed to
him that Drew had unknowingly called him pusillanimous. He was by no
means a hard man, and was popular with his crews; but he was young and
a certain amount of swagger seemed amusing, while, in addition, he had
all the contempt of the American sailor for the stolid alien creatures
who more and more were finding their way into the forecastles of ships
that carried his country's flag.

"I don't believe in being a brute," he began; "but--"

"Yes," broke in Hetty, eagerly; "it is only a brute who will take
advantage of his power. I have been going to sea all my life, but I
have never seen cruelty. All the sailors I know are the largest-hearted
of men. I hate the tales that blacken them."

"I have known them only ashore," said Drew, "and I certainly never knew
a more joyous, open-hearted people--hardly the sort to make tyrants
of." He turned to Medbury: "But you were going to say--?"

Medbury sharply drew the strands of his rope through the outer walling
of the knot as he replied:

"Oh, nothing."

"I fancy," began Drew, "that sailors are too practical a class,
too constantly surrounded by danger, not to know the value of
self-restraint. It is wise to keep far from one the passion that fires
the mind beyond the point where the every-day work of living is
accomplished with the least friction."

Medbury glanced up as he spoke, and caught the look that Hetty fastened
upon the speaker. There was nothing in the quiet gaze beyond interest
and the sympathy of kindred convictions, but it gave Medbury the
curious sensation of standing apart from them, of being irrevocably
alone. He turned away with a new pain about his heart. He was still
thinking of Hetty's look when Drew, busily erecting his card-house of
the sailor's life upon a foundation of calm philosophy, asked him if
he had ever seen cruelty on shipboard. His tone was the confident one
of the philosopher who, having formulated a theory, calmly awaits the
facts that will establish it.

"You two might call it that," Medbury answered, not without a touch of
resentment in his voice; "I shouldn't. It's easy enough to talk about
self-restraint, but when it means letting things go to the dogs, and
maybe putting your vessel in danger--" He thrust his fid between the
strands of his rope with an energy that seemed to him adequately to
complete his meaning.

Drew was dimly aware that the situation had somehow become charged
with feeling, and remained silent; but Hetty, with clearer instinct,
recognized the cause of Medbury's heat, and resented it, while she
recognized its potential force, feeling that she had unwittingly been
drawn from the calm current of broad discussion into an inner vortex of
personal emotion. That she had become unduly interested in Drew--she
clearly saw that the thought was in Medbury's mind--she indignantly
denied to herself. She turned toward the sailor with resentment shining
in her eyes; but at the sight of his head bowed above his work, there
flashed over her a strange revulsion of feeling. It was not tenderness,
though compounded of tenderness, pity, and the memory of many things.
His loyalty to her, which had lived on through long years in spite of
varying encouragement, had sometimes provoked her vexation, sometimes
her complacency; at this moment it suddenly appeared to her to be a
beautiful thing. His hair waved a little about his brows; his face,
though sad, showed the old fine courage. She saw his close-shut lips
held nothing of harshness. His hands, brown and sinewy, revealed
strength and skill, and were as yet uncoarsened by hard contact with
hemp and canvas in cold and wet and sun. "After all, _he's_ a man," she
thought, with tears welling in her eyes.

She turned and looked out across the shining sea, feeling its
immensity, its power in the moving waves, to be somehow strangely
like the life that inclosed her and swept her on without the power of
volition. She did not turn as Drew spoke.

"Shall we finish our book?" he had asked her.

From time to time in the last few days he had read aloud from the
"Idylls of the King" while she worked at some trifle, or sat with hands
clasped in her lap and watched the waves in a pleasurable emotion to
which his fine, unaffected voice had contributed quite as largely as
the words of the poet. At this moment his question, in its abrupt
withdrawal from the general interest, seemed tactless. For an instant
she made no answer.

"No, not now," she said at last. "Just at present it seems too unreal,
too far away, to move me. I don't believe I am an imaginative person;
life appeals to me too strongly."

She had turned to watch Medbury's work while she was yet speaking,
and Drew, lingering a moment, had gone away with the impression of
dismissal. This she felt, and was troubled by it, and vexed at finding
herself troubled. Her vexation had the effect of bringing her nearer
in spirit to Medbury.

"I believe I could do that," she said as she watched him.

He looked up with a flush of pleasure.

"Want to try?" he asked, and jumped to his feet. "I'll get a piece of
manila and teach you."

He threw down a coil of running rigging for a seat for her, and
together they laughingly began the lesson.

"I always envied the things boys did," she said. "I know how I used to
watch them, but was too afraid of being called a tomboy ever to attempt
anything. It's hard to be ambitious and sensitive, too."

"I know you could run when you were a child," he said, smiling. "Do you
remember the time you snatched my hat and I did not catch you till you
got to Martha Parsons's gate? Then you turned and looked so serious
that I did not dare to take it."

"Yes," she answered, with a laugh. "And I remember how frightened I was
when you followed me. I thought I had done the boldest thing. And when
we stopped and just looked at each other I was sure that you thought
so, too. Finally I said, 'Here's your hat,' and you said, 'Oh,' and
took it. I don't remember now how it ended."

"I do," he said promptly. "I took it and went away; afterward I went
back, but you had gone. Then I thought of all the things I ought to
have said and done when it was too late."

"Well, it was silly enough," she said, dismissing the subject. "I don't
know what made me do it."

He had unlaid the strands of the rope while they talked, and now,
placing it in her hand, he showed her how to make a bight with one
strand and pass a second around the first, and a third around the
second, and up through the bight of the first, forming the wall.

"Now you try," he said, and, undoing the knot, passed the rope to her.

In a moment she held it up triumphantly.

"What do you do next?" she asked.

"Now we will put on the double crown."

"It _is_ hard," she said after a moment more. "It looked simple enough
while you were doing it." She held the rope in her hand and looked at
him in smiling despair. "I shall never learn."

"Yes, you will," he assured her. "You only need a little patience."

"_You_ will need the patience," she answered.

"Haven't I always had it with you?" he asked in a low voice.

"Is that right?" she demanded, holding up the knot.

"Yes; now run the end--no, this end--through the bight. That's right;
now pull it taut. You haven't answered my question, Hetty."

[Illustration: "'_You_ will need the patience,' she said"]

"You haven't asked any," she replied quickly; and then added: "What
next?"

"Pull it tighter," he answered, and, leaning forward, drew it taut, for
an instant covering her hands with his own.

She drew hers away quickly and dropped them in her lap.

"It's no use," she told him; "I shall never learn."

"Try!" he urged.

"No; I cannot even try." She looked about her with restless eyes.
Something in her face stirred his foreboding.

"Do you mean, Hetty--"

"Oh, I mean nothing," she cried impatiently. "I wish the sea would go
down. It's dreadful."

She sprang to her feet, and, moving to the rigging, leaned against the
sheer-pole and watched the blue sea rise almost to the line of the
deck, then fall away with appalling swiftness. Medbury followed her
there.

"What's the matter?" he demanded.

"Why don't you whistle for a wind?" she asked him. "Why don't you? I
think I'll go below until you do."

"Isn't it pleasanter here?" he said. "You would call it a beautiful day
at home."

"Yes, I should," she acknowledged. "It seems like April--April at home.
I can shut my eyes"--she shut them--"and see just how it looks: the big
willow by our gate growing green in a night, and the grass, and the
sunlight on everything--or rain; only the rain makes the grass greener,
and you don't mind it at all in spring, as you do at other times."

He had watched her while she stood with eyes closed, but when she
opened them suddenly and looked at him with a smile, he turned away
in confusion, as if he had been caught watching her when he knew she
would not care to be seen.

"That's the way your face always looks to me," he said, with the
boldness of embarrassment.

"What do you mean?" she asked. Her lips parted as if to smile, but
closed again in a neutral line that was neither smile nor frown, but
might easily become either when she had heard his explanation.

"Like April--your face is like that. It's always changing. I like it
always, but best when you smile, of course."

"I cannot smile at a speech like that," she said primly, and turned a
serious face from him.

For five minutes he kept his eyes turned from her, and then looked to
see if her April face had changed again. It had not, and a sigh escaped
him.

At the sigh her face had become severe, but almost immediately he saw
her lips twitch, close firmly together, then part in a laugh.

"There!" he cried triumphantly, and laughed with her.

"Oh, Tom, you're ridiculous!" she cried, and struggled against her
laughter. But her face became serious again at once, and she added: "I
do not like such speeches. They sound silly."

"All right," he replied, but not in the tone of one cast down.

Captain March's keen eyes, as he walked the deck, looking aloft, saw a
slightly frayed spot in the maintopsail-halyard. Crossing the deck, he
stopped by the side of his mate.

"Looks as if that halyard wouldn't stand much strain," he said. "Better
look at it before long, Mr. Medbury." He pointed to the place as
Medbury looked up.

"I will, sir," answered Medbury.

"Hawkins never did look after the little things," the captain went on,
with gentle grumbling. "Good man, but didn't seem to have any eyes
sometimes. Still, I was sorry to have him go ashore sick. He can't
afford to lay idle long. Same with John Davis. I thought he'd jump at
the chance to take Hawkins's place. I didn't think it so strange in
Bob Markham's backing out: he'd promised his wife to stay ashore. But
Davis--I don't understand about him. I never knew folks to act so.
Davis seemed pleased when I asked him, and hurried right off to get his
things; but before I'd hardly turned my head, back he galloped and said
he'd changed his mind. It made me a little provoked; and when I asked
him why, he just winked. Well!" He walked away, still grumbling.

Medbury had not lifted his eyes from his work as the captain had
talked, but now he glanced up, to find Hetty's eyes watching him
keenly. Something in the intensity of her look stirred his foreboding.
He was not wholly unacquainted with the intuitive divination with
which women often flash upon the secrets men would withhold from them,
and now he braced himself for the question that he knew was coming.

"Do _you_ know why they would not come?" she asked. Her voice was tense.

He tried to show surprise at the question, but knew that he failed.

"I suppose they didn't want to," he answered.

"Don't you _know_?" she demanded.

He hesitated, and she sprang to her feet.

"You needn't tell me," she cried with suppressed passion. "I know. I
know you got them to. They'd do it for you. You seem to have obliging
friends. Oh!" She turned away, but came back immediately. "And now
I suppose everybody in Blackwater is laughing over the story. And
laughing at _me_! I didn't _want_ you to come; but if I'd known this,
do you think I would have set foot on this vessel while you were
aboard? I'd have _died_ first." She walked to the rail, but came
restlessly back. "Well, it's over now. Do you think I could go back
home and have people know that your--your trick had succeeded? There
have been times when I have thought that I could care for you in the
way you wish, but I couldn't be sure. If my face is like April, as you
say, I think my mind is, too. I cannot be _sure_. Sometimes I think I
do not care for anything; I think I have no heart. And then, when I see
you watching me, and I know what you are thinking, I almost hate you,
and want to go away from everything I've ever known. But now, after
this, it is ended. Oh, you make me ashamed!"

He had heard her in a tumult of contending emotions--shame and sorrow
for hurting her, pity, remorse. Heart-sick, he rose to his feet.

"I didn't mean to hurt you, Hetty. Good Lord! you know that! You _must_
know it!" he exclaimed. "And no one will know. You needn't care."

"Oh, needn't care!" she cried in scorn.

Then, manlike, because he was sorry, but had no answer, he became angry.

"You are a hard woman," he said, in a sudden letting-go of all
self-control--"a hard and heartless woman."

She shrank from him as if he had struck her, and her face grew white.

"I wish you wouldn't," she whispered passionately--"wouldn't speak to
me. You hurt me."

He did not understand, and his face hardened, and his eyes grew hot
with impotent anger. It was as if all the conventions had dropped away
from him, and he had become the primitive man. He could crush her with
one hand, he blindly told himself; yet she mocked him and his strength.
All his life he had loved her, followed her in devoted service, but
to what end? To be shunned, eluded, mocked, and scorned. He gripped
his hands tightly together in his revolt against his enforced inaction
because she was weak and a woman. But for once he would speak.

"You've hurt me for many a long year," he answered hotly, "but you'll
hurt me no more." With that he walked away as Cromwell must have gone
from the Long Parliament.



VII


Medbury descended to his room, opened the lid of his desk, and fumbled
about aimlessly with hands that trembled; then, as if he had found what
he had been looking for, he lowered the lid, and, leaning his elbows
upon it, stood looking moodily before him. He told himself that he was
glad it was over; anything was better than the long uncertainty that
had held him bound in chains for years. But no one should know that he
cared, and he glanced at the little hand-glass under his window to see
if his face had changed. It cheered him to note no difference since
morning, and, with boyish affectation, he smiled at his image in the
glass. But suddenly, as if to test his strength, his mind flashed the
image of Hetty before him--her face turned up to him smilingly, as he
had often seen it, her eyes, every feature. With a groan he dropped his
head upon his arms.

He put the mood away from him sternly, and began to debate with himself
whether it would be better to keep on loving her all his days, going to
his grave a sad and lonely man, or gaily to turn to another at once, to
show how little he cared. He came to no decision because he could not
determine which course would hurt her more.

It was his watch below, but he could not sleep, so taking his log-book,
pen, and ink out into the cabin, he sat down at the table, though it
was neither the time nor the place for writing up his log.

Mrs. March was there alone, and, saying that he could not write at his
desk, Medbury opened his book.

He wrote down the date, saw that he had written that of two days
before, so scratched it out, and replaced it with the correct one,
and slowly began to write "Dead calm" in bold letters up and down the
column for winds.

"How long do you suppose this is going to last, Tom?" asked Mrs. March.

Medbury looked up and shook his head.

"There's no telling. Wind's an uncertain thing; nothing more so," he
replied, and dipped his pen into the ink, squared his shoulders, and
made the down stroke of the first letter of a new word with a care for
details that seemed to indicate that he had left the subject of winds
irrevocably behind, and then added, "except women."

Mrs. March had thought the sentence finished, and had taken up her
knitting again. Now she merely nodded.

"It's true," she said impartially. "Most women wouldn't know their own
minds if they were to come upon them in broad daylight. They are like
men in that." She shot an amused glance toward the young man.

"You know them," he said bitterly, ignoring her last sentence, and
secretly disappointed at such ready acquiescence, which indicated, he
feared, a jocular state of mind.

"You mean I don't know them," corrected Mrs. March. "No one does. Do
you suppose I know my own daughter's? No more than she does herself. I
suppose you were thinking of her, weren't you?"

"It's all over," he answered, and laid down his pen, but continued to
make motions across the page with his finger.

Mrs. March showed no surprise, but she ceased knitting, apparently out
of respect for the young man's feelings.

"How do you know?" she asked.

"She just told me so," replied Medbury, glad that he could at last
unburden himself. "She said she sometimes thought she had no heart. She
told me that there were times when she had thought that she might care
for me, but now she knew her own mind. So it's all over."

"Know her own mind! Fiddlesticks!" exclaimed Mrs. March, and proceeded
to knit again. "I guess you've pestered her in some way, and so she
said, 'Now I'll decide.' I suppose you've told her often enough that
you couldn't live without her, and should always feel that way. It's
perfectly natural for a girl to want to see if you can't."

"Then you think it may come out all right, after all?" he asked quickly.

She made a little murmur of dissent.

"I couldn't go so far as to say that. It may be just pretense, and it
may be the plain truth, and it may be she doesn't know. You can't tell.
You've got to wait and see."

"Well," he replied gloomily, "I guess it's all over." He was not going
to be so weak, he told himself, as to begin to hope again.

"I've always thought it would come out right in the end," continued
Mrs. March. "You know I don't feel like Cap'n March. I've always said,
'Let the young folks settle it for themselves'; and I've always liked
you, Tom. But you've always been too humble, and she's been too certain
of you. I kind o' thought, when you took things in your own hands and
came this trip, it was the best thing you could have done. A girl likes
a masterful man."

"She told me it was the worst thing," Medbury replied.

"Then I guess she was afraid of herself," said Mrs. March, with
conviction. "She was afraid she'd have to give in."

Medbury shook his head doubtfully as he said:

"I don't know why she should be afraid, Mrs. March."

"Because a girl's love is a funny thing. There's fear in it, and
pretense, and bashfulness, and coldness, and all the craziest things
under the sun."

He hesitated a moment before speaking, and then said, with boyish
shyness:

"She's known me so long, and known how I felt, sometimes it seems to me
that maybe it's grown tiresome to her. A man like Drew, now, who hasn't
known her long--if he cared--" He hesitated.

"I've thought that, too," said Mrs. March, gently.

The cabin door opened, and they heard Hetty's laugh near. It had the
peculiarly resonant quality of a voice on deck in a calm, heard by one
below. It also sounded happy. Medbury slipped away to his room.

The last words Mrs. March had spoken were in his mind, and he put
his book away in bitterness of spirit. He heard Hetty descend into
the cabin, speak to her mother, and then pass his door, going up the
forward companionway. A sudden wild impulse to be aggressive seized
him, and, leaving his room, he, too, ascended to the deck.

She was standing outside the cabin door, and she turned and smiled as
he drew near.

"I thought it was your watch below," she said pleasantly.

He did not even look at her, but, hurrying to the booby-hatch, threw
open the sliding hood and descended.

"Now I've done it," he said, as he seated himself upon a coiled hawser.
"What a fool I can be when I really put my mind to it!"

But even with this repulse of her he was not satisfied; he wondered why
he had not at least looked at her with scorn, and he thought of several
bitter speeches that would have been better than silence.



VIII


Mrs. March sat in a steamer-chair wedged in between the side of the
cabin and the lounge, the captain was smoking, and Drew held his book
unopened in his hand, when Hetty went below later in the morning.

"Well, I'm glad to see you," said Mrs. March. "I don't see how you
keep from tumbling overboard, we roll so. Why don't your father stop
it,--pour oil on the water, or something,--if he's such a good sailor?
But he only smokes. He doesn't even tell us how much worse it was on
some other trip. I thought sailors always did that. I'm sure they talk
of nothing else ashore. Just hear those dishes rattle!"

"If you'd only go up on deck, mother," Hetty advised, "you'd not mind
it so much. It doesn't seem so bad there. It's a beautiful day."

"No," her mother answered; "I'll stay here. You know how a pussy-cat
will crouch down and shut her eyes when you go to box her ears; well,
I'm like that. I don't want to see what's coming; I know well enough."

"That's like Billy Marvin," said Captain March, with a chuckle.

"Then Billy Marvin's smarter'n I ever took him to be," said Mrs. March.

The captain took his pipe from his mouth and turned to Drew.

"I don't know's you've ever met Billy," he said; "but he's one of our
Blackwater folks. He's been going to sea a good many years, but he's
never got beyond the galley. Five or six years ago he went out as
steward with Cap'n Dave Barker on the old _Maggie P. Monroe_, and off
Cape Fear one night they struck a pretty lively southeaster, and for a
time it looked pretty dubious. Cap'n Dave is kind of excitable in bad
weather, and he got to raving up and down the deck and declaring they
were all going to kingdom come before morning, and everybody was pretty
well scared. Well, Cap'n Dave's a good deal better sailor than he is
prophesier, and, the gale going down before daybreak, they all felt
pretty good, but tired out from being on deck all night, and sharp-set
for breakfast. Well, seven bells came, but no signs of Billy, so Cap'n
Dave sent the mate forward to stir him up. He found the galley closed,
with no sign of fire inside, and Billy fast asleep in his bunk just
off the galley. The mate picked up a dish-pan and banged it up against
the boarding right by Billy's head, expecting to see him jump straight
through the deck. All he did was to turn over slowly and look at the
mate. The mate said he didn't even blink. Well, he used some pretty
strong language, and Billy tumbled out and began to hustle around. He
said Cap'n Dave was so certain they were going to the bottom before
morning, that it seemed a pity wasting time and strength to wind his
clock and set the alarm, so he just tumbled in, thinking he might as
well be comfortable and get a good night's sleep, if it was going to be
his last. Then he turned to the mate--he was raking out his stove--and,
grinning sheepishly, said: 'Mr. Thompson, I thought you was the angel
Gabriel when you started all that racket, blest if I didn't!' Cap'n
Dave asked him afterward if he was disappointed when he saw the mate
standing over him instead of what he'd expected. Billy thought a
minute, and then said: 'Well, cap'n, if you'd kind o' set your mind on
seeing a first-class show performance, and then after you'd paid for
your seat and was good and ready, if the curtain should go up, and, lo
and behold! there wasn't nothing there but just Sam Thompson, what
would you 'a' been?'"

Mrs. March laughed with the rest, and, leaning forward, touched her
daughter's arm.

"Don't you remember the winter Billy's wife got religion?" she asked.
"I don't know about telling a minister that; he might think that
Blackwater was pretty stony soil. You see,"--she turned to Drew,--"the
vessel Billy was in was long overdue, and folks were getting uneasy
about her. There was a big revival that winter, and Billy's wife got
to coming every night and going forward to the mourners' bench; and,
first and last, a good many prayers were offered for her husband. Well,
when everybody had about given him up, the vessel got in, with Billy
safe and sound. That was the end of Maria's church-going. Finally the
minister went around to find out why she had lost all her interest, and
she told him. 'Mr. Snow,' she said, 'Billy wasn't in a bit of danger
all the time we was a-praying for him. He said they didn't have wind
enough to blow the smoke away from his galley stovepipe, and what we
ought to have done was to pray for a gale of wind. That kind o' made me
lose all faith in the deficiency of prayer.'"

"I suppose she thought that the good Lord could look out for folks at
sea a good deal better than those who didn't know the circumstances,"
commented Captain March. "That doesn't sound unreasonable." His eyes
twinkled as he looked at the minister.

"I fear there are many that have very queer notions about prayer," said
Drew, smiling. "Once I heard a man pray: 'O Lord, keep us from burning
the candle of life at both ends, and snuffing the ashes in thy face!'
It was a little startling."

"It does sound a little familiar," admitted Mrs. March. "It's funny
how free we can be with the Lord in our prayers, when, if we stood
face to face with him, we wouldn't dare whisper a word or lift our
eyes. I think a good many of us, if we ever do get to heaven, will feel
more like hiding our faces than rejoicing when we think of some of the
things we've prayed for. But maybe such people won't get there, after
all." She spoke with so great an air of relief that the others laughed.

"Don't you want them to go, mother?" asked Hetty.

"Well, I don't think it's the place for folks who don't feel as though
they are going to enjoy every bit of it, do you?" Mrs. March replied.

Hetty laughed uneasily, and glanced at the minister.

"Mother," she said, "aren't you afraid Mr. Drew will think you speak
too lightly of sacred things? He doesn't know you as we do."

"Don't think me so narrow, please," Drew protested, smiling. "I
hope I can distinguish between perfect frankness of character and
irreverence."

Mrs. March looked from one to the other in silence, a trifle awed at
the thought of herself in the rôle of blasphemer. Her confusion was
only momentary, however.

"Did I say anything very dreadful, my dear?" she asked. "I didn't know
it. I don't like moping here, and if I'm going to like it hereafter,
I shall be a good deal changed, that's all. And if I'm going to be so
much changed as not to be myself, I don't see what satisfaction it's
going to be. I might as well be like foolish Susan Burtis, and have no
character at all."

The others laughed, but Hetty scarcely heard her. She sat where she
could see through the narrow windows the line of sea and sky as the
brig rolled to port; then it flew up, and the bright sunlight flashed
across her face and along the floor of the cabin. Turning at last, her
eyes met Drew's.

"Did you learn how to make it?" he asked her.

"The knot? No, I gave it up."

"Like the reading?"

"I didn't give that up. You carried the book away."

"I can bring it back."

She shook her head.

"Not yet," she told him; then she turned to her father. "Isn't the wind
ever going to come again?" she asked.

"Well," replied Captain March, "it brought us here, and I guess it'll
carry us away. It generally does."

"It's very slow," she complained.

"It doesn't consider us, my dear," he replied. Then he rose slowly and
went up the companionway, and a moment later they heard him whistling
for a wind.

Hetty jumped to her feet.

"Father must see something--a catspaw at least," she exclaimed. "I'm
going to find out." With that she, too, sought the deck, followed by
Drew.

[Illustration: "They heard him whistling for a wind"]

Captain March stood sweeping the sea with his glass; but as they
approached him he lowered it, and went silently below.

"There isn't one--not one," said Hetty, as she looked about for the
dark streaks of catspaws. Three great rollers came sweeping in, and
they rocked and pitched with the might of them. The girl caught at the
rail for support. "It makes one think of the words, 'Who hath measured
the waters in the hollow of his hand,' doesn't it?" she said solemnly.

"Yes," he answered.

"It makes me feel humble, but useless, and I do not care to feel like
that," she said. "I want to be doing things. Doesn't life seem barren
to you here?"

He shook his head.

"No," he replied. "Life means just as much as we put into it, I fancy,
and these days have meant much for me. I should not care to have them
blotted out."

She had turned abruptly just as they rolled down on a long swell, and,
stumbling against the bitts, with a gasp fell outboard across the low
rail.

Drew leaped toward her just in time. His hand, flashing out, caught her
as she was slipping from the rail, and brought her back against his
breast. For an instant he held her there.

"Hetty! O Hetty!" he gasped, as their eyes met.

"Don't! for pity's sake, don't!" she whispered, and, pulling herself
free, sank upon the bitts, put her hands to her face, and laughed
hysterically. In a moment she looked up.

"Don't tell them," she said. "I should not like to have them know I
fell." Then she walked unsteadily toward the cabin door. Half-way
there, she looked back. "I ought to thank you," she said, in a low
voice, "and I do." And with that she disappeared.

Medbury, overhauling a spare sail on the main-deck, had not seen it,
but the sailor with him had, and his exclamation had made Medbury turn
quickly, only to see Hetty standing with Drew's arm about her. He
stooped to his work again with shaking fingers; but the sailor stood
still, staring.

Medbury glanced at him, his face growing white.

"Here!" he said savagely, and the sailor turned to his task again
without a word.

The day dragged interminably. Hetty remained steadily in her room;
through his watches on deck Medbury drove the men from one task to
another with a feverish harshness wholly unusual, and which brought his
watch to the forecastle at the end of the day in heated and profane
weariness. Drew spent the time on deck with a book, sometimes read
with slight comprehension, but more often closed over his finger,
while he watched the gleaming whiteness of the sea, seeing now a school
of flying-fish run like flashes of quicksilver through the long arcs
of their flight, and now the dorsal fin of a shark, like an inverted
ploughshare, cut the surface of the barren glebe. Even Captain March's
imperturbability became less rocklike. Once he paused at Drew's side
with a grumbling sound that was clearly a sigh.

"Well, it's 'Paddy's hurricane,' and no mistake," he said. "I never
saw anything like it. Usually there's a little air stirring somewhere
about. You'd think that something queer had got into things, wouldn't
you?"

He had been standing balancing himself easily to the swing of the deck,
but there came a vicious lunge, which stopped suddenly, as if arrested
by a great hand, and he went staggering down the slope with swaying
arms, like a collapsing sprinter. When he brought up against the rail,
he talked on in a level voice that recognized no interruption:

"It's queer about a calm: there's noise enough in it if a sea's
running, and it gets on your nerves; but when the wind blows again, you
feel as if you'd just come out of an air-tight room, and the sound of
the wind makes you want to shout. There's Mr. Medbury, now; he's been
nagging the men all the afternoon as if he was afraid without the sound
of his voice, like a boy whistling on a dark road. It's ridiculous in a
grown man, but it's natural enough."

Drew flushed, but made no reply. He, too, had been thinking of Medbury,
but his thoughts were not enviable. He had been false to a man who had
trusted him, he told himself, and he had shown feeling that he had no
moral right to show. It was in vain that he tried to convince himself
that his right to Hetty was as great as Medbury's own; in his heart
he felt that it was not. And what of the girl? he asked himself, in
growing remorse. After his action of the morning, could he again meet
her on the old footing of friendly fellowship? He could not go on, but
how could he now draw back? In any way that he looked, he could see
nothing but his moral cowardice.

In a mental restlessness that he could not allay, he rose to his feet
and walked forward to the break in the deck. The sun, a copper-colored
ball, was nearing the horizon, and Medbury and his men were gathering
up the sail that they had been patching; one of the crew was sweeping
up the deck. The querulous complaining of Medbury's voice floated aft,
the human undertone in the jangling noises of disturbed nature.

For a moment Drew watched the scene before him, and then descending the
steps and, hurrying across the plank that was blocked high above the
water that swashed across the deck from scupper to scupper, he stopped
at the galley door. The steward looked up gloomily, but, seeing Drew,
showed his gleaming teeth in a perfunctory smile that had none of its
usual geniality. Through the high slide in the partition between the
galley and the forecastle Drew could hear the watch trooping in with
angry mutterings against the mate.

The steward grinned, and jerked his head toward the forecastle.

"Yo' heah dat?" he said. "Dese heah cahms trouble-breedehs faw shuah.
Ole mahn Satan done chase dat buckra mate's soul roun' de stump all
eb'nin'. Two, t'ree bad mahns aboa'd dis hookeh, en two, t'ree cowahds.
Dose cowahds been da worse--some dahk night. Dat buckra mate betteh
watch out." He laughed.

Drew stirred uneasily. The threats of the crew and the scarcely
understood warning of the West Indian steward had to his mind something
of the character of a Greek tragic chorus foretelling doom, and
presently he moved away out of hearing, not caring to have even
negatively any part in the moving finger of Fate.

He wandered about aimlessly for a while, dreading to approach Medbury,
who, now that his work was done, stood near the main-rigging with his
pipe in his mouth, his spirit for the moment at peace. Drew had little
knowledge of sailors, but he was sufficiently a man of the world to
know that the irrepressible threats of the forecastle meant little.
Still, the steward had hinted at danger, and, yielding to the other's
better knowledge of his little world, Drew finally went aft to warn the
mate.

Medbury looked up sharply as Drew approached, but turned his eyes away
immediately. In the silence that followed neither stirred, but, resting
their arms upon the sheer-pole, each seemed absorbed in the cloudless
panorama of the closing day.

The sun sank lower and lower; one by one the crew came out of the
forecastle, and, dipping up buckets of water, sluiced themselves with
the noisy abandon of water-spaniels. The pungent scent of tobacco
floated aft, and now the sound of a laugh, or the scuffle of feet upon
the deck. From the galley came the soft, slurred speech of the steward,
lifted high in a quick exchange of wit with his forecastle neighbors,
and followed by the almost continuous flood of his unrestrained
cachinnation. Clearly the day was ending in peace.

This peacefulness, so at variance with the scarcely restrained passion
that, a moment before, had sent him aft to warn Medbury of danger, left
Drew strangely bewildered. He turned to his companion, and with a smile
said:

"Do you know, a moment ago I thought that the crew was on the verge of
mutiny; now I feel as if I had been dreaming. I don't understand it.
They are like care-free children now. I can't believe they are such
consummate actors."

Medbury turned to him and grinned.

"What made you think that?" he asked.

"I was at the galley door and heard them making threats. The steward
seemed to think there was danger--to you," Drew answered. "I thought I
ought to warn you; but now it seems silly."

"A sailorman's threat doesn't mean anything," Medbury told him, "and
prophesying evil is the 'doctor's' trade. He's a big voodoo out home in
Santa Cruz, and half the negroes on the island will go five miles out
of their way to avoid him."

Drew paused a moment before speaking, then he said slowly:

"Well, my crisis was only a mare's nest, it seems. I was beginning to
think it was to be a day of adventures. One seemed enough."

"One?" queried Medbury, looking up sharply.

"Yes; Miss March fell across the rail. I caught her just in time. I
thought you saw."

Medbury's face flushed.

"I didn't see," he said. "I didn't understand."

It was Drew's face that flushed now.

"I ought to explain," he began, but Medbury broke in:

"You haven't anything to explain to me. I'm the mate of this vessel;
nothing more. That's all the interest I've got here, and all I want."

With that he walked away. He knew it was childish, but, having let
himself go, he was no longer able to exercise his self-restraint till
the whole madness had passed.



IX


As Captain March went up the companionway after supper, he thought he
felt a puff of air across his face. Stepping out upon the deck, his
eyes instinctively turned to the northeast, from which direction he
expected the wind. A dove-colored light still shone in the eastern sky;
below it the sea was a darker color, irradiated by the glowing west.

His daughter and the young men had followed him, and now she touched
his arm.

"Isn't that a catspaw?" she asked, and pointed northward, where a dark
film of purple seemed to roughen the long slope of a swell that shone
like pink satin. Even as they looked, the slope became a shallow bowl,
and the patch of purple faded to the uniform gray of the hollowed wave.

Captain March shook his head and sighed.

"It does beat the deuce," he said.

This was as wide a departure from the placid philosophy with which he
looked upon life as he ever gave expression to; and his daughter and
his mate, who knew him equally well, recognized in it the extent of his
mental disturbance. To them both the prolonged calm, in the changing
twilight, took on an aspect of uncanniness. It was as if they stood
absolutely alone, the last of living things, in a chaos of dead waters,
under the sweeping throng of stars, which saw not and heeded not the
blotting out of their small world. Tacitly both had agreed to give no
sign of their changed relations so long as they were compelled to meet
daily.

Medbury slipped away forward for a turn about the deck. He looked at
the lights to see if they were in order.

"They might as well be kept burning," he muttered, "though God knows
what good they are."

Back on the quarter-deck, when he returned from his round, he found the
others leaning over the rail in silence. It had suddenly grown dark,
and a haze had come up, obscuring the stars and the sea. He paused near
Hetty, who looked up, smiled, and made room for him.

"We thought we heard the beat of a steamer's paddle just now," she
said. "Listen!"

He leaned over the rail beside her, but for a long time heard nothing
but the whine of spars, the rattle of the main-sheet blocks as the boom
swung them taut, and the jump of the wheel in its becket. At intervals
there came the sound of water dripping from the channels or spouting
from the scuppers. These sounds seemed to make more acute the silence
of the sea, which seemed like a living, threatening presence. At last
Medbury stood up.

"There's nothing," he said.

"Listen!" said Hetty, in a low voice, and again he dropped his elbows
to the rail.

Suddenly there came a quick succession of muffled throbs, like the
far-off churning sound of a steamer's paddle-wheel; then it ceased as
absolutely as if a door had been closed noiselessly upon it.

"There!" cried Hetty.

Fully ten minutes passed before they heard it again.

"It's queer," said Medbury. "There wasn't a sign of a steamer in sight
at sunset. She must be far away, and we hear her only when we're both
on the top of a swell. Sound carries a long way on a night like this."

Captain March straightened up.

"Bring me the glasses, Mr. Medbury," he said.

Medbury brought them, and the captain slowly swept the horizon; then
he crossed the deck and walked to the main-rigging. Coming back, he
handed the glasses to Medbury.

"Go forward and take a look," he said.

In five minutes the mate came back, and went up the main-rigging to the
crosstrees. When he descended, he came aft.

"It's getting thick," he said; "she ought to blow her whistle."

"Better get your fog-horn forward," said the captain, and took the
glasses for another look as Medbury went below. A moment later the
mate returned to the deck with the long box of the patent fog-horn,
and presently the dreary wail began to sound at intervals from the
forecastle-deck. Hetty shivered as she heard it.

"It frightens me!" she murmured, with a little catch in her voice. "It
frightens me!"

The crew were at the rail forward, silent and listening. The fog had
blotted out the fore part of the vessel, but the forecastle door was
open, and the swinging lamp was like an orange center of light in a
nebulous haze. Once a sailor passed before it, and his shape loomed
black and huge against the luminous interior. At short intervals the
fog-horn sounded like a wailing banshee through the darkness; but there
was no answering signal: only at long intervals came that strange,
throbbing beat, like an uncanny chuckle, but seemingly neither nearer
nor farther away than at first. Hardly two aboard agreed as to its
direction, for the opaque walls of fog deflect sound-waves at sea, as a
crystal breaks a ray of light.

Back on the quarter-deck Medbury was telling a curious story.

"Two years ago," he began slowly, with the hesitation of a man who
feels moved to confidence against his better judgment, "we were running
up the straits to Singapore, when it suddenly came on thick. We were
close-hauled and had just about wind enough for steerageway, and we had
the fog-horn going and were keeping a sharp lookout, for we were right
in the track of shipping, and you know how vessels drift together in
a fog, no matter which way they were heading before it thickened up.
Well, we hadn't heard a peep all day, and toward night it seemed to be
lifting a little, when I heard the man at the wheel give a little cry,
and, looking astern, there, not a cable's length away, was a dingy,
raveled-out, full-rigged Portuguese brig slipping right across our
wake. They hadn't made a sound, and they didn't even then, though our
old man got black in the face with cursing them for their sins. There
was a black-whiskered old fellow, with his coat-collar turned up about
his ears, at the wheel; but he scarcely looked our direction: only once
he wagged his beard at us, and threw one arm over his head in a funny
way, and then squinted aloft again, paying no more attention to us
than if we'd been so much seaweed. But just forward the fore-rigging
there was a row of sailormen leaning over the rail, and their eyes
followed us like a lot of beady birds' eyes till the fog swallowed them
up again. Well, the day after we reached Singapore the old man came
aboard in a brown study. He said he'd heard ashore that there'd been
a lot of dirty weather knocking about the straits, and a Portuguese
brig called the _Villa Real_ was forty days overdue. Well, she stayed
overdue, and not a splinter or spun-yarn of her ever came ashore." He
paused a moment to relight his pipe, and then added: "On the stern of
the Portuguese brig that we had seen, in big white letters a foot high,
was the name _Villa Real_."

In the silence that followed some one forward gave a low laugh; in the
fog it sounded strange and unnatural.

"Did you ever hear a loon cry alongshore at night?" asked Medbury. For
the first time on the voyage he had become actually loquacious. "I used
to hear them at home when I was a boy. It's a creepy sound, and makes a
man feel lonesome and homesick." He paused, as if half-ashamed of the
confession, but went on, with a boyish chuckle: "Somehow, that fellow's
laugh made me think of it, though I can't say it sounded like a loon,
either. It's queer how one thing'll suggest another that isn't at all
like it."

"It sounded strange to me, too," confessed Hetty.

"Did it?" he said, turning to her. "Well, that's funny."

"Knocking about in fog and storm, without sleep, a sailor gets queer
notions in his head at times," said Captain March, slowly. "Now I had a
little experience once that seemed queer at the time, though I suppose
it was natural enough, if you only knew how to explain it. You know
what queer shapes will sometimes loom up at night; but walk right
up to 'em and you find it's nothing but a stump or a white post or
something. Well, the first vessel I ever had was the schooner _Sarah
J. Mason_. I was pretty young at the time, and I guess I was a bit
nervous, but it does seem yet as if that first voyage as master was
the roughest I've ever had. I had chartered for Para, and we struck
dirty weather almost from the first. About eight days out the wind
came out ahead, light and baffling, and I got her topsails on for the
first time. But along after sundown it freshened up again, and I took
'em in. A young fellow from up the State somewhere had stowed the
maintopsail, and someway, I don't know how,--I guess he was hurrying
and a little careless; it was his watch below,--he slipped. For years
after that, when I wasn't feeling first-rate, I used to wake up with
a start, thinking I heard his yell again. Well, it wasn't very rough,
and we got a boat over, but it wasn't any use. He must have gone down
like a stone. After that it was dirty weather, with scarcely a glimpse
of the sun, all the way out. I was upset and worn out, I guess; but one
night, looking aloft, I saw some one on the main-crosstrees. There was
a good-sized moon, though the sky was overcast, but light enough to
see pretty distinctly. 'Who's that aloft?' says I to the second mate.
He didn't answer much of anything, but walked to the rail and looked
up. 'Well, call him down,' I said sharply, and he went to the rigging,
and, standing on the rail, yelled: 'Who's that up there?' Then he went
half-way up and stopped. I guess he stood there five minutes before he
came down and went forward. In a minute he came back, looking pretty
white. 'Everybody accounted for, sir,' he said, and his teeth were
chattering as if he had the ague.

"Now, it sounds funny, but I never looked aloft at night on that trip
without wishing I didn't have to, and there wasn't a sailorman aboard
who could have been driven to go up to that masthead after dark if
he'd been killed for refusing. We had fair weather coming home, and we
carried that topsail till we blew it off her one night. I was plagued
glad to see it go."

"Talking about explaining things if you only walk right up to them,"
said Medbury--"now there 're some things you _can't_ explain. Take the
old _Martha Hunter_, for instance. How are you going to explain her?"
He leaned forward and addressed his talk to Drew, who knew nothing of
the _Martha Hunter_. "She was built in Blackwater when I was a boy," he
went on, "and before her ribs were all up Jerry Bartow fell from the
scaffolding and was killed, and Tom Martin nearly cut his foot off with
an adze while he was trimming a stick of timber that went into her.
It went in with the stain of his blood on it, and it wasn't the last
stain of the kind that she carried before she was through. Oh, she
was greedy for that sort of thing! When she was launched she must have
got the notion that she was designed to dig out a new channel in the
harbor, for she fetched bottom and carried away her rudder; and before
the year was out she came off the Boston mud-banks so badly hogged that
she looked as if she'd got her sheer on upside down. It wasn't long
before a sailorman fell from aloft and was killed on her deck; and
the very next trip, in warping her out of her berth in Wareham, the
hawser parted and broke the leg of the man who was holding turn at the
capstan. Cap'n Silas Hawkins brought her home to overhaul, and the very
first day he walked down the main-hatchway and was killed. Why, she
used to drag ashore in any sort of a white-ash breeze; and if there was
any dirty weather knocking about, she always managed to run her nose
into it, and would come limping home like a disreputable old girl out
on a lark. You could have filled a book with the stories of the men
she lost or maimed, and the trouble she got into first and last. But
she was fortunate in a way, too, for she made money, and you couldn't
lose her. I guess she's running yet."

"I saw her a year ago last fall," said Captain March. "I haven't heard
anything startling about her since, so I guess she's going."

"Well," said Medbury, "how are you going to explain her, and others
like her? I'm not superstitious, or any more so than the common run of
folks; but things like that--" He shrugged his shoulders and laughed,
then, dropping his elbows to the rail again, turned to listen.

For a long time they had not noticed the sound that puzzled them, and
now, in the silence, they remembered it again, and strained their ears
to catch it once more. The fog-horn boomed out at regular intervals;
only the noises of the rolling brig were also heard.

While they still stood listening, all at once Medbury thought he felt
a puff of wind. Yet it was not so much wind as it was a suggestion of
wind: it seemed to him that a hand, wet and cold, had been thrust close
to his face and then withdrawn. He could not explain the chill that
seemed to run through his frame. Then he shook off the feeling, and
turned to Captain March.

"Did you feel a puff, sir?" he asked, and held his finger above his
head.

"No," replied the captain. "If we get a stir of air, I'll put the
canvas on her. I don't want to slat the sails all to pieces, but if we
get enough for steerageway, we'll try it. I don't like loafing about in
a fog like this with my hands in my pockets."

Then, even while he was speaking, out of the darkness and the fog and
the subdued murmurs of the ocean, without other warning than the
intangible beat that had mystified them, a long roller came sweeping
in, lifted them in its mighty arms, slipped past, and dropped them with
a shock that shook the brig, and forced a cry from the lips of every
soul aboard.



X


The group on the quarter-deck staggered together in a huddled bunch,
then fell apart as Medbury and the captain slipped out and ran forward.
Then the brig rose on another swell, and came up bumping, with a
snarling sound along the fore-chains.

"It's some barnacled old derelict," Medbury turned to shout to the
captain, who was following him with surprising swiftness, but with
short, quick strides, like a waddling duck, and breathing heavily.
Medbury was on the rail, peering over into the darkness, when the
captain reached the fore-rigging. A group of sailors huddled about the
rail.

"Here, you," called Captain March, "get fenders quick! Bring that spare
royal-yard--anything!" Then he lifted himself into the rigging by
Medbury's side. The next minute he was calling for a lantern and the
flare.

They quickly had the yard and some planks lashed over the side, though
they knew that such protections were almost futile in the lift of the
swell that was then running. Under the light of the flare, gray and
almost invisible in the thick night, awash at one moment, at the next
showing a jagged line of railless stanchions, they saw the derelict
lying almost parallel with them. With the flare in his hand, Medbury
lowered himself down to the channel, looking for the place of contact.
Forward of the chains the side of the brig was badly scraped, and a
part of the channel was splintered; but they could see no other injury.

"Lucky she didn't come under us when we dropped," Medbury said.

"She may yet," replied the captain. He straightened up, and held his
hand above his head. There was not a breath of air stirring. He turned
to the mate again. "Get a boat over the side quick, Mr. Medbury," he
said; "we've got to pull out of this."

They swung the boat off the center-house, and with difficulty, in the
heavy swell, got her over the side and away, with Medbury and five
of the men as her crew. A line was paid out to them, and run through
a forward chock and passed about the capstan. Standing by the port
cathead, Captain March "held turn."

"Don't know what may happen," he said aloud to himself. "I'd better
keep a hold o' this in this swell." He sent a man up to the top with
a lantern, and the second mate to the wheel. "Straight ahead, now!"
he roared to the boat. "We don't want to swing her counter over it.
Straight ahead, now, you!"

He could hear the thud of the oars in the rowlocks and their irregular
beat on the water, for rowing in the swell was hard; but he could hear,
too, the _zip! zip!_ of the line as it tautened, and then the splash as
it dropped slack. At times the two hulls came together with a jar, but
with no great shock after the first.

Drew had come forward, and once he asked the captain if he could be of
assistance. Captain March was leaning over the side, peering into the
darkness for the derelict, and had not answered. When he turned to his
line again, Drew repeated the question.

"No, no; just keep out of the way," replied the captain, with the
impersonal contempt of the sailor for the landsman afloat in times of
need.

They drew ahead but slowly; it was only by inches at the best, and
there were times when they fell behind as the sweep of the sea
caught them and rolled them from side to side through a wide arc.
Fortunately, they were to the leeward of the wreck, and what advantage
there was in their greater buoyancy and height above the sea added
its little to the feeble efforts of the crew of the boat. Captain
March could hear the unsteady ding-donging of the oars in the rowlocks
as Medbury urged them on. He peered over the side of the brig with
straining eyes.

"It ain't no way to go--like this," once he said aloud. It seemed a
trivial end, without the pomp of storm and the exaltation that comes
with the last struggle for life. He longed for the struggle for
himself, he longed for it for his vessel.

At last there came a time when he could no longer see the derelict, and
he grew restive under the uncertainty. All at once he thought he felt
a breath of air across his face. He straightened himself, and held his
hand up to the wind. It was surely a puff, and, quickly making the line
fast, he hurried aft to take the wheel.

"Get your staysails on her," he told the second mate, as he relieved
him. "Set your maintopmast staysail first,--there'll be a steadier air
up there,--then get your foretopmast staysail on her." He turned to
Drew. "Just bear a hand there, will you?" he said to him.

He heard the staysail run up and the cry of the second mate to belay;
then he heard them sheeting it home.

"Not too flat, Mr. Barrett! Not too flat!" he called. "Give her an easy
sheet, so she'll lift a little. Now up with the others!"

He saw Hetty's face at the companionway, and glanced at her with
half-averted eyes. She was a true sailor's daughter, he thought with
pride. He did not object to her presence, for she never worried folks
with questions. Then he called to her:

"It's all right, my girl. Don't you worry. Just tell your mother it's
all right."

He heard the staysails flap from time to time, and so began to whistle
for a wind. "Deuce take it!" he muttered, "why don't it blow?" Every
moment or two he stepped to the rail and peered into the darkness to
note his progress. They had slowly drifted away from the wreck, the
stern of which now lay opposite the quarter-deck of the brig. The
second mate came running aft.

"Shall we brace the yards around, and try to get what canvas we can on
her, sir?" he asked.

Captain March shook his head.

"No," he answered; "you couldn't do much, short-handed as you are.
Maybe we'd just lose control of her. But you go forward and call to Mr.
Medbury to keep a-going--keep a-going."

It was a quarter of an hour before the derelict's stern was clearly
past the brig's. Slowly the house crept past--a high house, Captain
March could now see plainly, and painted white. "Some foreigner," he
thought with scorn, "scared to his boats before he was hurt." He felt
all the contempt of his race and kind for timid unseafaring peoples.

Once when the wreck sank deeply in the hollow of the sea, and the swell
broke over her, she came up sputtering, and Captain March heard the
water gushing from some opening with the rhythmic _chug-chug_ of water
gurgling from a bottle.

"That's what we heard," he said aloud. It sounded uncanny even now. "I
guess it's a water-butt that's shifted over on its side and the sea
washes full," he thought. "Well, it's creepy enough."

Suddenly he gave a start, for from the wreck came the faint,
unmistakable crying of a cat. He walked to the rail and listened,
muttering to himself: "The scoundrels, to leave her behind!" He stood
by the rail for a moment, and presently called: "Kitty! kitty! poor
kitty!" Then he went back to the wheel again, whistling loudly for a
wind, that he might not hear the plaintive response to his call.

For a time the situation had worn for Hetty a certain pleasurable
aspect of romance; but in the dragging moments that followed the
sending away of the boat, her nerves grew tense under the strain, and
seemed to present, as it were, sharp edges to the irritating suspense.
The low-riding wreck, awash at one moment, at the next looming
threateningly above them, showing its jagged outlines uncertainly
through the enlarging fog, took on an aspect wholly sinister. With only
the desire to get beyond sight of it, she crossed to the starboard
main-rigging, and gazed steadily out across the vaporous expanse of the
windless sea.

Her resolute refusal to watch the derelict took on, in her mind,
something of the character of a senseless game with her fear: she told
herself that she would count two hundred before she looked to see if
it were farther away, then five hundred; after that she resolved not to
look until she heard a footstep or a voice. The latter task, unrelieved
by the mechanically mental exertion of the whispered numbers, became
speedily unbearable, and she began to count again. Presently a step
sounded on the deck near her. In the tension of the moment she looked
up, dangerously near to hysteria.

It was, of course, Drew, the only idle man aboard.

"We have passed it," he said gaily.

Her hand was resting against the rigging, and now, as he spoke, in a
revulsion of feeling she laid her forehead against it and laughed.

"You poor child!" he murmured.

At that she lifted her head quickly and said:

"The whole night has been so unreal--that strange sound, the fog, our
ghost talk, and this danger--" She looked past him in a strange mental
relaxation, feeling the inadequacy of words to convey her immeasurable
relief.

"It has been hard for you," he said gently. "I thought of you, and
wished that I might help you, but I'm a helpless creature here." He
smiled.

No one else had come near her or thought of her, she told herself
unreasonably; and now she turned upon him the frank, open look of a
child.

"You do help me," she said.

Alone in that strange calm, but barely escaped from a grave danger,
they looked at each other for a moment through the distorting glass of
their common isolation. Suddenly he moved toward her.

"Then may it not be for always?" he whispered. He could gather no other
meaning from Medbury's speech at sunset than that he had given up all
hope. He himself was free to speak at last. Yet he must have spoken in
any case.

She gave a little backward spring, and laid hold of the shrouds with a
hand that trembled.

"Not that!" she gasped. "Oh, I didn't mean that!"

"But I mean it," he urged. "Try to think of it favorably. You know the
work I desire: let us work together. Life would mean so much to me with
you near! And for you--it would be in the path of your own desires, to
work among the poor."

For a moment it seemed like an open door to her hopes.

"I had thought of your work since you spoke of it," she said in a low
voice; "and I wondered if they would let me try that--alone, of course,
I mean," she added with pretty confusion. "I should like to do some
good in the world. I seem so useless now. It gave me a new hope."

"And I," he urged--"do not put me apart from it!"

She had put him apart from it, she thought. She laid her hand upon the
shrouds and dropped her face to it for a moment.

"Oh, I cannot tell!" she whispered.

"Do not try to tell now," he said. "Wait! It--"

Then sharply across their absorption they heard her father calling to
the second mate to order in the boat. Without a word, she slipped aft.

As the boat drew near, Captain March went to the rail.

"They've left a cat aboard," he called to Medbury. "She's forward. I
shouldn't like to leave even a cat like that." Then he added, as if to
show that his humanity was dictated more by reason than by sentiment,
"It seems unlucky--as if _we'd_ left her."

"All right, sir," Medbury replied; "I'll get her."

"Well, don't get stove. Just as soon as you come aboard, we'll make
sail. There's a little air stirring."

As the boat swung away behind them, the captain told the second mate
to rig and sound the pumps. The brig was unusually tight, and it was
with no uneasiness that he gave the order, which he considered merely
perfunctory.

The first half-dozen strokes told a different tale. He was stooping
to grip the spokes of the wheel when the first rush of water sounded
on the deck, and its fullness stopped him like a blow in the face.
Instantly he blew his whistle over the stern, and called to Medbury to
come aboard at once. He heard Medbury's "Aye, aye, sir," and called to
the second mate for a lantern. It was already on the quarter-deck when
the boat swung out of the darkness in under the stern.

"We got her," Medbury called out, but Captain March made no reply. He
swung the lantern down toward the boat by a lanyard.

"Find where we struck," he said, and, giving the wheel to the second
mate, hurried forward.

He was standing on the fore-channel when Medbury brought the boat up,
and, going as near as he dared, held the lantern over the side.

"There!" cried Medbury as the light of the lantern flashed over the
scarred and abraded spots that they had already noted; but Captain
March shook his head impatiently.

"No," he said curtly; "lower down. Watch when she rises."

The lantern shed a wan light upon the oily sea and the glistening black
hull. Five times the brig rose and fell on the easy rollers; then she
leaped to a great height, and for an instant, below the bilge, they
caught sight of a jagged stretch of copper, torn, and shrunken like a
withered apple. One glance showed that nothing could be done.

They had the boat over the side again in an incredibly short time.
As he was rigging the fall to hoist her to her old place on the
center-house, Medbury hesitated, and then hurried aft.

"Shall I lash the boat on deck, sir?" he asked, adding significantly:
"We may need it."

"No, sir," replied the captain; "hoist it to its place. I don't make
preparations to abandon my ship till I've done something to save her.
Besides, I want the boat in the safest place if I've got to use it,
after all. But I'm not thinking of that yet."

It was not long before the wind was coming out of the northeast in
quicker and stronger puffs, and, under every thread of canvas, they
began to forge ahead to the dismal clank of the pumps. There was no
question of breaking out the cargo, and trying to patch the leak
from the inside. It was to be a rush for port, to the music of the
pump-brakes.

Medbury and Drew were standing by the port rail at four bells when
Captain March came on deck from a study of his chart. He glanced aloft,
looked to windward, then at his binnacle.

"Ease the sheets a little, Mr. Medbury," he said, "and keep her off
half a point." He gave the course, then added: "Change the men at the
pumps every hour; we'll all have to take a hand at it before it's over.
The wind's freshening fast, and that's our chance. We've got to carry
everything to-night. Call me in an hour."

He was going down the companionway when Medbury called to him.

"That vessel was burned, sir," he said. He held up his hands, blackened
with the charred wood.

"You don't say!" exclaimed the captain. "How did that cat happen to
escape?"

"Somehow she got forward, and the fire spread aft. It was the only spot
untouched--the forecastle-deck."

"What did you do with her?" asked the captain. "I forgot all about her."

"Oh, I gave her to the steward; she was half-starved."

"All right," said the captain; "all right." Then he went below. It was
the last bit of sleep he was to get for many an hour.

With started sheets and a freshening breeze, the brig began the song
of the road. The laced foam went hissing past her sides, flecked here
and there with spots of phosphorescent light; under her fore-foot was
the growl of the heaped-up, rolling wave; now and then the shock of a
higher sea, thrown back from her bows in a smother of spray, shook her
from stem to stern. The fog had gone with the coming of wind, but the
rack, like a flock of birds, swept by overhead. The wind began to sigh
and whine in the rigging; with a tremulous, muffled roar the canvas
strained and thundered: but through every other noise, insistent,
penetrating, sounded the steady thump of the pumps and the rush of
water from the spouts.

Once Medbury came aft after changing the men at the pumps, and stopped
at the corner of the house to look aloft; he had felt the deck swinging
wide under his feet.

"Steady, man! steady!" he called to the man at the wheel. "Don't let
her yaw!"

He watched the sails for a moment, turning at last with a sigh of
satisfaction to Drew, who was standing near.

"She's picking up her skirts like a little lady," he said. His tone was
almost exultant.

"It's good to feel the rush of movement again," said Drew; "but I'm a
little bewildered yet, it has come and gone so quickly--this strange
experience."

"That's the way with things at sea," replied Medbury. "We're always
expecting things to happen, and surprised when they come. But I don't
know as it's much different with life in general," he added gloomily.
"Trust in nothing--that's the only way to escape being disappointed.
Trust in nothing, and be prepared for the worst."



XI


A slim shape came softly up out of the companionway, and, closing the
door, paused uncertainly. Facing the wind, the girl thrust back her
blowing hair, and looked about her.

"I thought my father was here," she murmured, not knowing whether to go
or stay.

"He's below," Medbury told her.

"I thought he was here," she repeated. She hesitated a moment, and then
turned suddenly to Medbury.

"Where are we going?" she asked him.

"Better ask your father that," he replied. "He only gave me the course."

"I did ask him. He said he believed we were chartered for Santa Cruz."

"Then that's where we're going," he said promptly.

"I can't realize yet what has happened," she went on; "it was so calm
and peaceful. It seems the strangest thing."

"Oh, this sort of thing's been done before," replied Medbury. "They
can't accuse us of inventing any new kind of foolishness; so don't you
go to feeling proud because you think you've found something strange.
When you get out to Santa Cruz all the old captains in port will drop
aboard and spin yarns about what's happened to them, till you'll think
this is the commonest thing in the world."

"You're trying to make me feel safe," she declared; "that frightens me
all the more. You take too much pains to assure me. Tell me truly: have
you ever been in greater danger?"

"Yes," he answered; "many a time, and only last winter, for once. For
five minutes, one night, I thought of more things in my life than
I'd done for twenty years. I haven't done that yet, to-night. I never
thought to walk the streets of Blackwater again."

Hetty tried to think how it would seem to feel that she, too, would not
walk the streets of Blackwater again. In two months, she remembered,
the cherry-trees would be in bloom there; she could see them whitening
the whole village. She looked at him and smiled.

"Did you think of it in cherry-time, with all the streets and
dooryards white with blossoms?" she asked idly, with a vague notion of
distracting her thoughts from the present hour.

"Yes," he answered quietly; "and of other white things--of drawing my
sled home from school through the drifts, and glad to be alive."

She caught her breath and turned her face away. She was beginning to
understand, she told herself, what it was to be a sailor, and face
danger year after year, living one's life mainly in dreams, with only
far-off memories to feed upon. Her eyes filled with tears. Finally she
turned to him again with a little smile.

"I'm beginning to know what it is to be a sailor," she said.

The clock in the cabin struck, and the bell forward repeated the four
sharp strokes. A man came aft to relieve the wheel. A moment later
Captain March appeared on deck, and walked over to his daughter's side.

"Heh! young lady," he said, "I thought I told you to turn in."

"I'm going to stay with you a while," she answered, and took his arm.

"Cap'n," said Medbury, "hadn't you better keep your watch below? I'll
change the men at the pumps and take a spell at the wheel myself. We
don't need you now."

"No," replied the captain; "my place is on deck to-night."

They stood in silence a long time, listening to the sounds of the
night, and having no inclination to speech. Suddenly, above the roar
of the wind, they heard the voice of the lookout crying from the
forecastle-deck:

"Light ahead on the port bow! Light ahead! White light!"

Captain March sprang to the wheel and jammed the helm hard up; Medbury
ran forward. He had scarcely reached the forecastle-deck when the light
came abreast, a cable's length away. All at once it began to swing in a
short, quick arc, and the people on the brig heard the cry of voices.
It swept past them like a banshee, with the light swinging frantically,
and the sound of oars chopping the sea in short, irregular strokes.
The next moment the brig came up into the wind with rattling blocks
and slapping canvas, and Captain March was roaring orders in a mighty
voice, while the watch below streamed out upon the deck like a hive of
frightened bees.

[Illustration: "There came a 'smooth,' and the boat shot in"]

They lay with sails shaking and a flare burning over the quarter,
and listened for the sound of oars again, with the brig rolling and
thrashing under them. They heard it at last, and a voice urging the
rowers on; and soon a boat came out of the blackness of the night,
reeling crazily over the seas.

Medbury stood on the rail, with the crew clustered behind him, as the
boat swung in.

"Steady!" he sang out. "Steady there, or you'll swamp her! Hold off,
and watch your chance!"

There came a "smooth," and the boat shot in, and a black little figure
leaped upon a thwart, and, steadied by two men, was swung up over the
rail and to the deck by Medbury almost before he realized that it was a
woman.

As her feet struck the deck, she turned with a little laugh.

"_Mon Dieu!_" she cried, "eet iss betteh--dees." She watched the others
coming over the rail, and, when all were safe, turned to Medbury with a
little courtesy. "Eet iss ver' _ro_manteec tow be safed from doze salt
wateh by so nize young gentleman," she murmured, with a gleeful face.
"Yo' happen tow be a mah'ied man, maybe?"

"No, ma'am," Medbury answered soberly.

She laughed in his face.

"Yo' sad faw das, maybe?" she asked mischievously.

"Oh, no," he answered, laughingly recovering himself.

"Das iss mo' betteh," she said demurely, and turned to Hetty.

Taking both her hands in her own, she kissed her impulsively.

"Ah ahm mo' gladdeh faw tow see yo' naw ahnybody," she said. "Ah see
nut'ing but doze mens all tam. Ah t'ink Ah go git crezzy," she added
laughingly.

They got the brig on her course again, and took the captain of the boat
and his two passengers down into the cabin. The captain said his vessel
was a Danish bark from Copenhagen, bound for Santa Cruz, and she had
been burned two days before. They had taken to their boats, but, as
there was no wind, they had lingered near, in the hope that the smoke
from the burning vessel would be a beacon for some rescuer. But no
vessel had been sighted, and before night came on they had started on
their long road. Their other boat had been lost in the fog.

The captain had told his story in fair English, and at its close he
turned to his passengers, and said they were going home to Santa
Cruz, where the young man, a lieutenant in the army, was stationed.
His sister, Miss Stromberg, he added, lived with her brother. As he
mentioned their names, he bowed. Both rose, and, passing gravely
around the group, shook hands with all. They were much alike--small,
dark-haired, with handsome, piquant faces. Life seemed a huge joke to
both.

As they seated themselves again, the girl looked about her and smiled.

"Ah t'ink dis iss mo' nizeh naw das liddy boat," she said.

"Mooch mo' nizeh," her brother agreed. He smiled, and bowed to the
collected company, beginning with Hetty and ending with her.

"I hope so," said Captain March; then he turned to the Danish captain
and added: "I'm glad to get your men; I've already found your vessel."

When he had finished the story of his own misfortune, he went up on
deck, followed by the two rescued men.

"My dear," said Mrs. March to the girl, "you must be tired out. Now you
must have something to eat and then go straight to bed. My daughter can
easily take you in her room."

The girl laughed, and, leaning forward, placed her hand on the
speaker's knee.

"Ah t'ink das iss mos' kind, lak ma own modder. Das iss ve'y nize. How
s'all Ah say no at so kind heaht? Ah t'ink Ah ahm 'mos' t'ousand year'
old, and 'mos' aslip--me." Her shoulders drooped; her eyes closed.
"And das iss ve'y im_po_lite wiz so kind, good peop'!" Her eyes opened
again, and begged forgiveness for the discourtesy.

"Nonsense, child!" said Mrs. March. "I should think you'd be half dead.
I only hope you won't find worse trouble here; though I must say we
deserve all we get for trusting ourselves on the water--we women."

"Yo' lak not doze wateh?" Miss Stromberg asked.

"Like it!" said Mrs. March. "I'm afraid every minute."

"Ah!" she murmured piteously. Her eyes caught Drew's look, and she
smiled. "Yo' lak eet, maybe?" she asked him.

"Yes," he answered; "or at least until to-night. But I do not know it
well."

"No?" she said.

"Mr. Drew is a minister of the gospel," explained Mrs. March, with
dignity; then she added with smiling derision: "He thinks he's taking a
pleasure trip."

"Ah!"--Miss Stromberg flashed a bright smile upon Drew--"das iss ve'y
nize tow be a min_ees_ter--tow be so good as tow prich tow peop'. Ma
fader one also wass; but me--" she shrugged her shoulders--"Ah find das
ve'y hahd tow be so good all da tam. Eet iss ve'y sad not tow tek doze
examp' off ma fader." She sighed.

Her brother and Captain Rand joined her at supper, and brother and
sister were very gay; but the captain ate hurriedly, and speedily
returned to the deck. Lieutenant Stromberg soon followed him, but Drew
lingered. Miss Stromberg had been telling her experiences in the wreck.

"And you were not frightened?" he asked her.

"Mos' exceeding'," she answered gaily.

"Your brother says you were very brave," he told her, smilingly.

"He!" she exclaimed, with gay scorn. "He knows not. Eet iss woman's
paht tow deceife efer. Yo' learn so not alretty?" She laughed in his
face.

"Ah, I have much to learn!" he answered, with a smile.

"Eet iss so," she agreed; "doze theologic school tich not efer't'ing."

"Now I shall be on my guard," he answered, and, going up the
companionway, laughingly bade her good night.

"On guahd!" Her scoffing voice followed him. "Das iss doze mos' worse
tam."

Smilingly he walked to the rail, and, leaning his elbows on it, looked
out into the night. Medbury, walking the deck, stopped at his side.

"Jolly little bit of flotsam we picked up," he said.

"Yes," answered Drew; "she is charming."

"Well, she's a little flirt," said Medbury. "Did you hear what she said
to me when she came aboard? It took away my breath for a minute." He
laughed.

"She's audacious," said Drew; "but I think that's all. I should rather
say she is bent on amusing herself. I should call her remarkably
sincere."

"Well, she's remarkably pretty," replied Medbury. "And what a voice!
She makes that lingo of hers sound like a pretty little piece of music.
I hope we'll not have to make her take to the boat again."

Until then Drew had hardly thought of the wind. Now it seemed like the
pressure of a hand against his face. The darkness of the night was
relieved by a luminous haze close down to the sea, which seemed to
radiate a mysterious light that was like an opaque spray. The stars
were gone, and the wind no longer came in gusts, but in a great rush
of sound that overbore speech like the beat of a corps of drums, near
and threatening. Every strand of rigging twanged in the sweep of the
gale; the canvas hummed with a muffled roar; now and then a wave broke
amidships with a sudden shock, and ran hissing across the deck.

Medbury had gone forward to the pumps, which stopped suddenly, and Drew
felt his way along the house to the break in the deck. A group stood
about the well with a lantern, and Medbury was bending over it. "Slack
three feet and a half," he said, straightening up. Captain March turned
away without a word, and walked aft; but Drew stayed to see the pumps
rigged again and their wearying thump begin once more, with four men at
the bars. As Medbury passed him, Drew asked him what it was.

"Three and a half feet," he said, and hurried past.

Then Drew at last understood that there was that depth of water in the
hold.

It came on to rain later, at first a few small drops out of the black
sky, and then a driving sheet that seemed to sweep straight on and
never to fall. One by one the passengers disappeared, and Captain March
and Medbury, in oilskins, held the quarter-deck with the man at the
wheel. Back and forth across the deck the captain walked, now climbing
to windward, with his body bent forward and his legs far apart, now
braced back, and taking short steps down the wet incline, and sometimes
breaking into a little run and checking himself at the rail. Medbury
stood for the most part at the windward corner of the house, going
forward from time to time, but never for long. They rarely spoke.

Once Medbury went to the binnacle for a moment.

"Steady, man! steady!" he said. "You're yawing over half the card."

"Steady, sir," the sailor replied in an emotionless voice.

Captain March stopped his walk at the wheel, and looked aloft.

"Steer hard?" he asked good-naturedly. He had shouted, for the uproar
was now too great for ordinary speech.

"Yes, sir," the man replied, and bent to the spokes.

"Guess I'll take a hold with you," shouted the captain, and stepped to
his side; but Medbury touched his arm.

"I'll take it," he said; but the captain shook his head.

"No," he answered; "I'll try it a spell."

Medbury cast an uneasy look aloft at the maintopsail. In the murky
light he could see it bellied out like a great bowl.

"It's that topsail makes her steer hard," he cried in an aggrieved
tone.

Captain March did not glance up.

"Yes," he shouted; "but I guess it's drawing some."

Medbury looked at him sharply, and then turned away, grinning.

"Well, I guess it is!" he muttered to himself. "The old pirate!"

He made his way to the topsail-sheet, and shook it; it was like a rod
of iron.

"Couldn't budge it, if I wanted to," he said to himself. "I wonder how
long that sail's going to stand all this."

He started forward, shot in under the lee of the center-house as a
great green sea came over the rail, and, dripping, mounted to the
forecastle-deck. The lookout stood with his arms clasped about the
capstan-head, staring straight ahead. In his yellow oilskins, he
had the look of a wooden man, washed by the seas, immobile, without
sensation.

Medbury took him by the shoulder, and he barely turned his head. His
face was as emotionless as his figure; only his eyes showed life.

"You'll--" Medbury lowered his head as he began to shout, for a sheet
of spray sprang at his face like a cat, blinding him and making him
gasp. Then he felt the deck slipping into a bottomless abyss, and,
opening his eyes, saw the jibboom disappear, then the bowsprit, while
over the bow rolled a great green wave, shot with white, and irradiated
with phosphorescence. Almost to the waist it buried them, while they
stood for what seemed an interminable time, clasping the capstan,
with the dragging water roaring about them. The strange fancy flashed
across Medbury's mind that it was like being on the nose of a gigantic
mole frantically burrowing underground. Then the bow rose again, shook
itself free, and Medbury and the sailor, unlocking their grip on the
capstan, looked at each other.

"You'll have to get out of this," shouted Medbury, finishing what he
had begun to say. The man nodded.

"That was the first bad one, sir," he yelled back. "I don't know's
I mind bein' drownded, but I don't want to be speared to death." He
looked aloft, where the lighter spars and sails seemed like a falling
arch above him. "I've been expectin' to get that royal-yard through my
back for the last hour. Couldn't hear it if it did tumble--in all this
noise."

"Well, you'll have to get out of this," Medbury repeated mechanically.
"Go up to the top of the center-house. You'll be safe there."

They made their way down, the man going up to his station, and Medbury
aft.

"She's burrowing a good deal," he shouted in the captain's ear--"like
an old mole."

The captain nodded.

"Good reason," he replied.

"What did you say?"

"I said, 'Good reason.' There's a lot of heft in this wind."

"I sent the lookout up to the top of the center-house," Medbury now
called. "No place for him forward."

"That's right," answered Captain March; then he nodded his head to show
that he had heard and approved.

The watch was changed at twelve, and the second mate came on deck, but
Medbury still lingered. Captain March would not leave the wheel. At
three bells Medbury sounded the pumps again, and reported a full three
and a half feet of water in the hold. It had gained two inches in three
hours.

Captain March merely nodded when he was told, and turned his
inscrutable face aloft.



XII


The night was dragging on toward the hour when the watch on deck is
the hardest to bear. In his weariness of body and mind, Medbury had
grown indifferent to the tremendous rush of the wind. The noises of the
night no longer seemed near him, but far off, muffled by some strange
mental wind-break that hedged him in as if by a wall. Once or twice he
caught himself nodding, and looked up, startled, to take a turn or two
across the deck. His mind was tense with the mental strain, and the
changing of the men at the pumps, or any pause in the monotony of the
uproar, irritated him, as the stopping of a railroad train at stations
affects one dozing through a long journey. He was not afraid,--he had
even begun to exult in the self-control of his superior, seeing in his
perfect handling of his vessel something uncanny, even godlike,--yet
he was all the while keenly alive to the thought that Hetty lay below,
within the circle of impending danger. It was like being compelled to
run for one's life under a great weight.

It was past four bells when the maintopsail split with a sharp report
like musketry-fire, and, looking up, they saw black space where just
before they had seen a gray hollow of canvas loom through the night. A
ragged fringe of gray flapped along the bolt-ropes, whipping straight
out in the force of the gale. They let tack and sheet go with a rush,
and strove to clew up the topsail, trying to save, in the stoical
following of habit, what was no longer worth saving.

Medbury came aft when they had clewed up what remained of the sail. It
seemed ludicrous to try to stow that frazzled bit of whipping canvas.
He went close to the captain.

"I didn't stow it, sir," he shouted in his ear. "Didn't seem worth
while to send a man aloft. No place for him. Nothing but a rag left."

"No, no," the captain roared. "That's right. Don't want to expose
anybody more'n we can help." His voice seemed far away--detached, as it
were, in some strange manner.

Medbury still lingered near. He was a bit excited, and wished to talk.

"Steer any easier, sir?" he roared.

Captain March nodded, then he leaned toward his mate.

"Yes," he yelled. He nodded aloft. "Been expecting that." Then, for
the first time in his life, he became communicative as to his plans at
sea. "It's like this," he went on: "We've got five hundred miles to run
in this craft or an open boat. I'll make it in this, if I can. Got to
take some risk, you know. Can't afford to take in sail as long as she
carries it. When it goes of its own accord, well and good. Can't help
that."

Medbury had begun to long, with an indescribable sense of weariness,
for the coming of day. Once, as he looked eastward, it seemed to him
that the curtain of darkness had lifted: the crests of the waves no
longer showed a vivid contrast to the black body of the watery waste,
but both were fading into a neutral tone of gray, and objects on board
began to have more definite outlines. Then all at once the royal flew
out of its bolt-ropes, like a hound loosened from its leash, and went
twisting and snapping into the night.

Medbury saw the yard lowered to its place and all things made snug
forward. As he passed under the foresail to go aft again, he had to
brace himself against the wind, which drew under the sail like a
great flue. Every cord of the sail seemed vibrant with sound; and as
he staggered on, out of the tail of his eye he watched the mainsail
tug at its sheet, and boom and gaff swing up like straws. As his head
rose above the top of the house, he saw that Captain March's eyes were
following him, and he turned his own away.

"If he sees me watching that mainsail," he said to himself, "he'll
think I'm wondering why he doesn't take it in." He smiled grimly.
"Well, that would be God's truth; but he sha'n't know it." So he stood
and gazed steadily seaward.

Now it was surely day--day that showed itself in a gray sea leaping
against a gray sky. A driving mist, too vaporous to be called rain,
gave the same neutral tone to the vessel, which seemed to have lost
her individuality overnight. She had the tired, lifeless look of the
men on her deck; and as she groaned and whined along the watery road,
her aspect was at once human and wholly sad. Though they were far to
the south, the mist was cold upon their faces. Now and then a dash of
spray flew across the quarter-deck, and its greater warmth was pleasant
in comparison. By eight o'clock the water in the hold had gained six
inches, and the crew were beginning to lose heart.

The group that gathered in the cabin that day had the restlessness
of people waiting to start on a long journey. In her growing fear,
Mrs. March hungered for companionship; she steadily kept to the
cabin, refusing to go to her room, but half-sat, half-reclined upon
the lounge, and watched the wooden walls reel about her. Whenever an
unusually heavy sea rolled them down, she gripped the back of the
lounge and prayed in silence; and when it passed she looked about her
with a spent face. Hetty and Miss Stromberg sat in steamer-chairs,
talked a little, and sometimes laughed without reason; from time to
time they staggered to their room, never remaining long, or losing for
a moment the aspect of being about to do something quite different.
Drew tried to be cheerful, but felt that he was only inane; now and
then he read in a book that at other times he held closed over his
finger. All day Lieutenant Stromberg sat at the table and played
solitaire, resolutely forbearing to cheat himself, being restrained by
the thought that he might be near his last hour. At times he made jokes
that no one seemed to understand, and then looked up wonderingly when
he laughed alone.

It was afternoon when Hetty, unable longer to bear the thought of
the dark, close cabin,--all the windows had now been battened down
and the skylight covered,--made her way to the forward companionway,
and, opening the doors, looked out upon the deck with eyes wide with
wondering fear. The leeward rail was level with the sea, which boiled
about it; the deck ran like a mill-race. The sky was lost in the
driving mist, which closed about them in a gray wall that seemed like
a barrier to hide the impending dangers beyond. Clinging to the door,
she stepped out upon the deck and glanced aft. The wind beat her down
like a flower-stalk, and she crouched upon the door-step. But Medbury
had seen her, and hurried to her side.

"You mustn't stay here; you know you mustn't," he protested. "We may
ship a sea at any time." He himself was dripping, and his face was rosy
with the damp wind: he looked like Neptune's very brother.

"Yes," she cried; "yes; I'll go in a minute. I couldn't stand it down
there another second." She lifted her face above the house for an
instant, and nodded aft. "What is that for?"

Above the taffrail, from quarter to quarter, a stout piece of canvas
had been stretched between two upright poles, shutting off the outlook
astern. Medbury glanced toward it before he replied.

"That?" he said. "Oh, to keep the spray off the glass of the binnacle.
It clouds it so the men can't read the compass." It did not seem to him
wise to tell her that it was to keep the helmsmen from glancing over
their shoulders at the following seas, and perhaps losing their nerve
at a critical moment. "Please go down now; it makes me nervous to see
you here."

She crouched down upon the door-step and looked up at him with a smile.

"I didn't suppose you were ever nervous," she told him.

"Well, I am, about you--any woman, in a sea like this."

"Oh," she murmured, and looked away, thinking of his qualifying
"any woman." He had never spoken like that before--classed her with
other women. It showed that he had accepted the situation, and she
told herself that she was glad; nevertheless, it was not an unmixed
gladness: for the first time she felt that something had gone out of
her life that she had always calmly accepted as being as unchanging as
her native hills. Yet it seemed unreasonable that it should sadden her.
With a little shrug of impatience she put the thought away just as he
leaned to speak to her again.

"Won't you go below now, Hetty?" he said, with a touch of impatience.
"I can't stay here."

"I've not asked you to," she replied.

"You know what I mean well enough," he said. "I can't leave you here
alone. You are a little tease, for all you can be so dignified at
times."

"If you call me names, I shall certainly be dignified," she declared.
She looked away as she added: "You wouldn't call Miss Stromberg a
tease, I'm sure."

"She's a little flirt," he answered promptly.

"How do you know?" she asked.

"Oh, I just think so. The dominie says she isn't, though. It's only
fair to say that," he replied.

"I _wondered_ what men found to talk about so much," she said.

He did not think it necessary to answer this, but stood looking out
over the deck with unseeing eyes. A wave broke at the side, leaped up,
and swept across the deck in a sheet of spray.

She gasped as it struck her face, and then she laughed.

"You see," he warned her. "The next time it may be worse."

"It's better than that stuffy cabin," she answered, feeling an
exhilaration in the salt spray and the wind. There was comfort in his
presence, too, though she hardly acknowledged it to herself. It had
needed this storm and the danger to bring back to her all her old
ideals of manliness, cherished in her girlhood in the little seaport,
but weakened by her later acquaintance with a widely different life.

She looked up suddenly and said:

"Can't we still be friends, Tom--just friends?"

"I'm your friend," he answered. He did not look toward her as he spoke.

"You wouldn't speak to me yesterday."

"I was a fool," he said, still looking away from her.

"It hurt me," she said. She paused, but he did not speak, and she went
on: "We can always be friends, then, can't we?"

For a moment he did not speak or look at her.

"Oh, yes," he said at last; "we'll be friends. I'm going back to the
old long voyages again as soon as I can--in Santa Cruz, if your father
will let me off. In a year or two, or perhaps three, I may go back
home, and we may meet on the street, and shake hands, and smile, and
you will go away satisfied. 'He's my friend yet,' you may say, and
maybe think of me again in a year or two, or perhaps meet me and bow as
we pass. Or, more likely, _you_ will go away, and, coming back again
after a long time, meet a bent, brown old man and not recognize him. Or
you may ask about me, and be told: 'Oh, he died long ago, in the South
Pacific or Japan, or some other God-forsaken place.' 'I knew him long
ago,' you'll say, and then go on asking about others. I guess that's
what friendship like ours comes to mean."

He turned to her as he ceased, and saw her rising to a stooping
position under the low sliding-hood. Her face was white.

"I'm going below now," she said.

"It's best," he answered; "I'm afraid to have you here."

She descended two steps and then turned.

"You are cruel," she said. Her voice trembled.

"What did you say?" he asked.

He leaned over toward her, for the gale had drowned her words.

"I said, 'You are cruel.'"

"Oh," he said vaguely, and watched her as she disappeared below.



XIII


In the cabin Lieutenant Stromberg was still playing solitaire; at
the opposite side of the table his sister sat, with Drew beside her,
reading aloud, as she took a lesson in English.

  "Da sea grows sto'-mee, da lit' ones mo-own,
  But, ah-h, she gafe me nef-fair a lo-o-ok,
  Faw her eyes weh seal'd tow da holy bo-o-ok!
  Loud prays da pries'; shot stahnds da do'.
    Coam avay, chillen, call no mo'!
    Coam avay, coam da-own, call no mo'!"

"Yo' pro-nouns doze _d_ in 'chillen'?" Her concerned eyes flashed an
anxious look up at Drew.

"Yes," he answered--"'children.'"

"Chil-d'en. Iss das mo' betteh?"

He bowed gravely, but said:

"You must pronounce the _r_, too."

She shrugged her shoulders and laughed.

"Ah t'ink doze _ahs_ ve'y dif_fi_cult tow pro-nouns. Alone, no; but wiz
doze ot'er let's doze bec-ome los'." She laughed again.

  "Coam avay, chil-_dahn_, call no mo'!
  Coam avay, coam da-own, call no mo'!"

She turned a bright look upon Hetty.

"Meesteh Drew all tam rid doze po_et_ry; so Ah say tow tich me doze
lang-widge mo' betteh," she explained. "Ah was tich tow rid doze
Anglish by ma home tow Denmahk, but Ah leahn tow spik eet off ma black
maid tow St. Croix. She spik ve'y nize, but so sho'tly, Ah unnehstahnd
heh not alwis."

"Shortly?" repeated Hetty, in doubt.

"Fastly, ra_pid_ly," explained Lieutenant Stromberg, looking up from
his cards. "Ma sisteh's Anglish iss only a second coosin off das
real Anglish--second coosin twice remove'--t'r-rough Denmar-r-k and
Afr-r-rica." Lieutenant Stromberg knew his _r's_.

"I think she speaks beautifully, with such opportunities," Hetty
replied, with spirit.

Miss Stromberg beamed her thanks.

"Ah t'ank yo' exceedin'," she said. She looked at her book, sighed,
looked up again, and continued: "But doze po_et_ry mek me tow haf
doze sadness--me." She sighed again and shook her head. "Yo' lak doze
po_et_ry?"

"Not always," Hetty answered frankly.

The questioner laid the book hesitatingly on the table, and her hands
drifted together in her lap.

"Ah t'ink das iss mos' coh'ect," she agreed. "Eet iss not alwis
poss_i_ble tow lak eet when yo' s'all t'ink off ot'er t'ings--doze
noise' and stohms," she explained.

"Yet yo' s'all desire to heah doze noise' ofer once mo' when yo' rich
St. Croix," said the lieutenant, without looking up from his game.
"'Ah, doze beau-tiful noise'!' yo' s'all say--'so poe_tic_al!'" He
laughed mischievously.

"We shall miss many things when we reach St. Croix," said Drew, looking
at them and smiling.

Hetty glanced at him, then she leaned forward and put her hand on the
Danish girl's arm.

"We shall miss you," she said softly.

"Ah, no!" Brother and sister spoke together. He turned and bowed to his
sister smilingly.

"Ah, no!" she repeated; "yo' s'all coam at our house alwis; da do'
s'all stahnd wide faw yo' fawefer." Her eyes included them all in the
invitation.

"Ah wass going tow spik doze sem lak ma sisteh," said the brother, with
a magnificent bow.

"I shall bring the book," said Drew, touching it. "It may go better
there."

"Shuah-lee!" laughed the Danish girl. "And yo' s'all rid eet in doze
gahden, among doze floweh' mos' beautiful, wiz doze o'ange-tree' and
t'ibet-tree' meking doze cool shadow, and doze sea-watah fah _be_-low
shining in da sun. And noise--yo' s'all heah on-lee doze sea-watah
mu'_mu_'ing soft-lee, and doze fountains whispehing, and poss_i_bly a
lil' song ofehhead, and maybe some dahkies pahssing _be_-hin' doze high
wall, calling tow sell yo' some t'ings ve'y nize--and nut'in' mo'."

"Hot arepa! hot arepa dem! Ya da hot arepa!" In a high, slurring
singsong Lieutenant Stromberg gave the cry of the negro women
street-venders.

"Yas; das iss eet," said his sister. "Yo' t'ink das iss nize?"

"Ah, it would be _living_ poetry!" Drew answered.

She smiled, looked up, caught his gaze; her own dropped to her hands
clasped in her lap.

"Das iss mo' nizeh dan heah?" she asked demurely.

"I shall never want to go away," he told her.

"And when doze hurricane coam," began her brother, "how--"

"Sh-h!" she exclaimed, while her eyes bubbled with laughter. "Why spik
off doze when we go-ing _in_-vite peop' at ouah house? Pos_si_bly doze
coam not aany mo'--doze huh'icane."

"Pos_si_bly not," agreed her brother.

"Aanyway," she continued triumphantly, "doze huh'icane nefer hu't us."

For a moment Mrs. March had forgotten the rolling vessel and the
threatening sea. "The little tyke!" she said to herself, smilingly; but
her daughter spoke aloud.

"Why do you make such a beautiful picture of it?" she asked. "Don't you
know that I must go back to the cold and the snow?"

Miss Stromberg laughed, and shook her head.

"Yo' s'all cah not," she answered. "Yo' s'all say, 'Oh, doze
huh'icane!' Wheah da heaht iss, da iss da beautiful pictu'. So womens
ah med," she added wisely.

"And is your heart there--in that garden?" Drew asked. He smiled.

She laughed again.

"'Tiss joost heah--and unfast," she replied, and placed her hand on her
breast. "Eet hass no feexed 'abitation."

On deck they heard the tramp of feet going aft, and then, as the
starboard side lifted, the cry of the crew hauling in the main sheet,
and the hoarse croak of the blocks. Before the tramp was heard again,
going forward, Captain March came from his room and hurried up to the
deck.

Medbury walked over to his side.

"The wind's hauled around a little, sir. We couldn't keep the course."

Captain March looked aloft, then glanced at the compass.

He gave no sign of having heard. Suddenly he stopped short and gazed
forward.

"What's that contraption you got there, Mr. Medbury?" he asked.

"One of the flanges of the pump gave 'way, sir," answered the mate,
"and we couldn't use but one bar; so I rigged up that whiz-jig. It's
better than one bar, and, besides, we can work it from the poop. If
things should get much worse, the men would drown on the main-deck."

"Does the water gain on you?" the captain asked.

"About the same--inch by inch. But she's getting a little logy, it
seems to me; and if the wind should go down or haul ahead--" He paused
in gloomy silence.

"It won't," said the captain.

He walked to the rail and took down the marking of the log-line,
and then went below to lay out his position on the chart. For two
days he had had no sun to take an observation, and could trust only
to dead-reckoning. Carefully he laid out his course and marked the
distance traveled, then tried to calculate how far the heave of the sea
and the set of the current had modified his right position. At last he
pricked out the spot with all the appearance of certainty, made a light
ring about the dot, and was rolling up his chart as his daughter came
to his side.

"Where are we now, father?" she asked.

He looked at her and smiled.

"Just about here or hereabout," he told her.

She took the chart from his hand and unrolled it.

"Where are we?" she demanded.

His stubby finger pointed to the dot.

"It's a long way to go yet," she sighed. "I hoped we were nearer."

As she spoke, the stern of the brig seemed to sink to a great depth,
swing wide, then settle again, and there came a crash of falling seas
upon the deck, and a wave went hissing across the house, falling in
sloppy cascades before the window facing forward, which had not been
battened. An instant later the captain was on deck.

The canvas screen about the taffrail was flapping loose from one of the
poles; Medbury, with dripping oilskins, was at the wheel with one of
the helmsmen, but the other was under the lee rail with his head down
in his hands.

"That was a heavy one, sir," called Medbury as he bent to the spokes.
He straightened up, panting, and nodded to the man who was down. "Don't
think he's much hurt," he shouted.

Captain March walked over to the sailor, and, leaning over him, took
him by the shoulder.

"What's the matter?" he demanded.

The man rose slowly to his feet, shaking himself.

"I struck my head against the bitts," he said slowly. "I guess it
stunned me for a minute."

"Where?" asked the captain.

The man, with fingers that trembled, slowly unbuttoned his sou'wester,
took it off, and fumbled about his head. The captain watched him.

"Well, you better look out next time," he called with mild severity,
which stopped short of positive reproof. "I guess you were watching
over your shoulder more'n you were your course. Well, now you go
forward and send Charlie aft."

He walked toward the wheel, but Medbury said:

"I'll hold on here a spell, sir."

"No," said the captain; "I'll take a hold. Just get that canvas lashed
up again, will you?" Then he took the wheel, which he was not to leave
again, except for one brief moment, until the end.

When Medbury had lashed the screen fast, Captain March nodded to him to
come near, that he might speak.

"Better start your topsail-sheets a bit," he shouted. "They'll lift a
little and ease her. Give 'em about two feet--no more'n that."

As the afternoon wore on, the wind increased in force and the sea grew
heavier. Now and then a sharp shower swept past, and ceased suddenly;
but the clouds did not lift, and the rack flew overhead, low down, like
steam from a huge exhaust-pipe. At seven bells a topgallantsail-sheet
parted, and by the time the sail was housed and the yard lowered it was
dusk.

As Medbury prepared to go aft again, he paused by the fore-rigging and
looked up. The canvas was thundering like a drum corps; the lee rigging
swung slack, but that to windward was as stiff as iron, and shrilled
like a score of fifes or roared like organ-pipes.

"Oh, shut up!" he said aloud, and then grinned shamefacedly at his
irritability.

As he came to the steps leading up to the poop-deck, he paused and
looked about him. It seemed to him that the wind had suddenly ceased,
and he could hear it far away, roaring back a defiance through the
murky twilight. The next moment he heard the captain shouting to call
all hands and shorten sail.

With the crew increased by the men from the lost Danish bark, they
had all things made snug and fast in an incredibly short time, and
under maintopmast-staysail with the bonnet out, lower topsail, and
foretopmast-staysail, they were rolling down the long seas in leisurely
fashion by the time night was fairly upon them.

Still panting with his heavy exertion, Medbury was standing by the
taffrail, looking down at the foam that now seemed only to creep by
them, and thinking gloomily of the water rising in the hold, when
suddenly he became aware of an increase in the weight of the wind
upon his face. He looked up, but, seeing nothing, glanced down again;
but in that brief moment the foam had disappeared, and he was gazing
into blackness. He turned quickly, only to see that the same darkness
had swallowed up the men at the wheel and every part of the vessel.
The binnacle-light was burning, but the dim glow stopped short at
the slide: beyond that it seemed to have no power to go. With an
indescribable sensation of being absolutely cut off from every living
thing, he stepped quickly toward the wheel, and, putting out his hand,
touched his captain. It gave him a curious feeling of intense relief.
Then he heard Captain March speaking in a calm voice that quieted him
instantly.

"Is that you, Mr. Medbury?" he said. "What's wanted?"

"It's getting black, sir," he said--"black as a nigger's pocket."

"I noticed it," said the captain.

"It came on all of a sudden," the mate went on. He wanted to hear
his voice and the voice of the captain: in some curious way even the
trivial words seemed to mitigate the awful darkness.

"Maybe you'd better get out some lines for the men at the pumps, and
make 'em fast across deck," continued the captain. "We can't afford
to lose anybody overboard. And bring us some, too. When you've done
that, just go down to your room, as if you'd gone to fetch something.
Maybe it'll help the women-folks a little to see somebody from the deck
before it begins," he went on in a matter-of-fact voice. "But don't
stay. I may want you any minute."

In haste, and with hands that fumbled a little, Medbury rigged stout
life-lines across the deck for the men at the pumps; and, leaving
straps for the captain and his companion at the wheel, descended into
the cabin. He struck a match in his room, and looked about him vaguely,
smiling to himself at his purposeless errand at a time when moments
were fraught with life or death. He was not, like his captain, a man of
imagination: his mere passage through the cabin seemed only a bit of
fanciful foolishness of which he was a trifle ashamed.

His match flickered and went out; for a moment he stood staring before
him in the darkness, hearing the voices of those in the cabin as they
talked together. He heard Drew's deep tones, and Hetty replying to
them, and a sudden impotent rush of jealousy overwhelmed him as he
thought that he must battle on deck in what might be their last fight,
while this man, who had known her barely as many days as he had loved
her years, would be with her in these last hours. Blindly, without
looking to right or left, he walked through the cabin and ascended to
the deck.

Though he had been below only a moment, an amazing change had taken
place. As he seized the hasp of the door to open it, the pressure from
the outside was so great that for a moment he thought that some one
was leaning against it. He knocked on it loudly, then pushed again,
becoming immediately aware that the resisting force was wind. Then
throwing all his weight forward, he squeezed through, with the door
slamming to behind him.

It was only the beginning. The seas seemed to grow momentarily heavier,
and it became impossible to stand erect upon the deck. When Medbury
went forward to the pumps, as he did from time to time, he went with
bent body, keeping his hand upon the rail. His face was stiffened with
salt, which clung to his eyelashes and had to be wiped away constantly.
It became in time no longer possible to distinguish sounds: the bellow
of the wind, the roar of the sea, the thunder of the canvas, and the
groaning of spars and timber, became merged in an indescribable tumult,
the waves of which, like a great sea of sound, seemed to rise about
them and beat them down into insignificance. In this strange melting
away of all the known landmarks of his craft, Medbury stood at times
helpless and irresolute, and doggedly awaited the end.

To those shut up in the cabin there came, as the night wore on, a
sense of impending danger. Once, unable longer to bear the feeling of
isolation from those who were fighting on deck for their lives, Hetty
made her way with difficulty to the companionway, and, mounting to the
doors, tried them. Then she turned.

"They have locked us in!" she cried, staring down at her companions.
The lamp, swinging in its gimbals, cast only a faint light upon their
upturned, startled faces. Her lips trembled. "It makes me afraid," she
faltered.

Miss Stromberg burst into tears. Hetty hurried down to her, and,
sitting close together on the lounge, the two clasped each other's
hands, listening. The men sat with closed eyes for the most part. Mrs.
March had long before gone to her room.

Once there came three unusually heavy seas, and as the brig rolled down
it seemed to Hetty that they never would rise again, and, closing her
eyes, she prayed silently. Then there came the long "smooth," and she
opened her eyes and smiled upon her companion.

"That is better, isn't it?" she whispered.

"Ah do not lak eet," Miss Stromberg whispered back. "Ah ahm affred,
also--me."

Hetty patted her hands.

"It will be better soon," she said.

"Do yo' t'ink Ah s'all be los' once mo'?" asked the girl. "Ah ahm tow
lit' tow was'e all doze sto'ms on--me." She laughed hysterically.

"No, no!" cried Hetty. "You will be home to-morrow--in that garden."

"Oh, doze gahden! Eet sims a t'ousand woilds f'om heah."

"To-morrow," continued Hetty, "this will seem like a bad dream."

"Ah pray Ah may slip mo' sound-lee," she murmured laughingly. "But
yo'--yo' haf doze cou'age!" she added admiringly.

"I trust my father," replied Hetty. She was gaining courage by
imparting it.

"And das young of_fic_er?"

"Yes," said Hetty.

"Yo' lak him mooch?"

"I've known him all my life."

"Das iss ve'y nize." She turned suddenly to Drew. "Wass yo' t'ink off?"
she asked him.

He looked at her and smiled.

"I was thinking of your garden just then," he replied.

"Ah!" she murmured delightedly. "Yo' joost da sem lak us!"

"You were thinking of it, too?" he asked.

"Dees ve'y minute. Das iss ve'y nize--tow t'ink doze sem t'ings
altowgeddeh."

"Eet iss a ve'y nize gahden," said Lieutenant Stromberg, "but eet
iss not so nize as yo' s'all t'ink. Nut'in' iss," he explained. "Eet
s'all _bec_-ome dull--lak dees, lak efer't'ing. Me--Ah s'all play doze
cahds." He laughed, and, taking his cards from the glass rack, began
another game of solitaire.



XIV


One by one the idlers in the cabin went to their rooms, and Drew,
putting on a storm-coat, stepped out upon the deck from the forward
companionway, blinded for a moment by the darkness.

Slowly the shadowy world took on blurred outlines, and, turning his
gaze to windward, he saw gray flashes of foam leap high on the pointed
crests of waves, and drop quickly into darkness. The gale tore at him
and beat him down. He remembered that he had seen a sou'wester in his
room, and went softly below to get it. As he opened the door that led
from the passageway to the cabin, Hetty, with swinging arms, went
staggering across the unsteady floor toward the pantry. With a little
thrill of joy at finding her alone once more, Drew hastened to her side.

She was on her knees, peering about her; but, startled by the sudden
obscurity that fell upon the room, she looked up quickly, to see him
standing in the doorway.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "how you frightened me!" and turned to her search
again. "I was looking for something for my mother," she explained
when, a moment later, she rose to her feet. "I cannot find it." Still
glancing vaguely about her, she moved toward the doorway and made as if
to pass him; but he did not stir.

"Can I not help you?" he asked.

She shook her head, but did not look up.

He had sought her with no other purpose than to be by her side for a
moment; for, though he had not seen her alone since he had asked her to
be his wife, he knew that this was not the fitting hour for his answer:
but neither could he let her go.

"I cannot bear to see you suffer," he exclaimed. "Do not think our case
hopeless. It cannot be. We shall reach land yet."

"Oh, you cannot know," she said listlessly. She had no thought to
be indifferent or cruel; standing, as she felt, face to face with
eternity, her thoughts had passed him by. She had come to regions where
he was a vague shadow, a part of a world no longer hers. She was only
the sailor's daughter now; all her faith and dreams lay with those who
were battling on the deck for the lives of all.

Silently he stepped aside, and she went quickly to her room, closing
the door behind her and not looking back.

He could not summon to his mind a single thread of proof; yet, as he
turned away, he knew that unconsciously she had given him her answer.
The closing door between them, he told himself, was the symbol.

He was paler when he went up the companionway again, and his lips were
firmly closed; but there was no harshness in their lines, and he
carried his head high: clearly he would bear whatever life brought to
him.

A moment later, as he stepped into the blinding darkness of the deck,
a wave broke near, and a sheet of water, clipped from the toppling
crest by the wind, swept across the house and struck him like a lash.
Staggered for an instant, with his hand slipping from the sliding-hood,
he dropped behind the house.

He was still kneeling on the deck, brushing the water from his eyes,
when he felt rather than heard or saw some one go by. He would be sent
below, he knew, if seen by the captain or the mate; and he smiled as he
thought of his position, feeling like a schoolboy in mischief and in
danger of detection. Slowly he turned, and, without rising, watched the
passing figure.

It was six bells, and Medbury had come forward to change the crew
at the pumps. As he stepped past the house and made his way to the
life-lines, he lifted his eyes and stopped short. The pumps were
deserted. Then he rushed forward and peered down upon the main-deck;
only the sloppy space showed itself, unrelieved by a human figure. One
of the down-hauls of the whiz-jig, whipping in the gale, snapped across
his face, and was flung irritably aside.

In the first rush of his dismay the thought came to him that all
were lost; but the possibility of four men being swept away without
warning was too much to believe, and across his mind there flashed the
certainty that the crew had refused longer to work the pumps. That
they had been losing heart had been borne in upon him increasingly,
and now that he stood face to face with the desperate situation he
felt his face grow hot with the fury that seized him and bore him out
of himself. Some instinct told him that they had taken refuge down the
booby-hatchway, and he sprang to the sliding-hood, thrust it back, and
peered in. It was black and still, but the intangible something that
betrays the presence of human creatures seemed to pervade the place,
and he knew that his quarry was there. His voice choked with fury as he
yelled:

"You damn' curs--you--you--want to ruin us all! Out of this--quick, or
I shoot you down like rats in a hole!"

No sound came out of the black interior, and with a snarl of rage
he tore open the door, splintering the peg in the hasp, thrust one
foot over the sill to descend, and struck the back of a man. The next
instant he had the man by the collar, lifted him struggling to the
deck, and with a mighty swing sent him forward into the life-lines,
where he hung for a second, and then fell lightly, like a sprawling
cat, to the main-deck. With a snarl, Medbury swung himself into the
opening, and dropped between decks. Three men had been sitting on the
steps below the man he had thrown out, and he swept them off like
leaves from a wand, and he heard their smothered groans as he crushed
them together in a heap on the floor. He was in his own province now,
for the storeroom was his care, and he could have found a sail-needle
there in the dark; and as he freed himself from the sprawling bodies
under him, he swung about him, reaching out, with itching hands, for
his cowed and dispirited crew.

He felt an arm encircle his legs, and kicked back viciously, feeling
rather than hearing his heel crunch against a face. The arm about his
legs dropped limp, and he felt another pawing along his shoulders and
reaching for his throat. With a quick thrust he found a bristly face,
and, striking straight with his free arm, sent the man tumbling to
the floor. He heard the sound of feet stumbling up the stairs, and
thought the fight was won, and so moved back, only to find shoulders
and legs clasped by other men. He clasped back, and the next moment
was staggering about the place in a hand-to-hand struggle. He kicked
himself free again, and with a quick thrust forward threw himself to
the floor, an opponent under him. He heard the sailor's head strike
hard, felt his hold relax, and rose, panting, to his knees as a lantern
swung in at the door, and Captain March's voice, cool and incisive,
called, "Stop right there!" Looking up, Medbury saw the light of
the lantern shining along the barrel of a pistol, and the captain's
impassive face above it.

They put every man at the pumps, lashing them to the life-lines, and,
with a belaying-pin in his hand, Medbury stood guard over them and
rushed them at their work. Now and then a fitful flash of lightning
showed the men and the deck against a background of vitreous green
glare.

Captain March watched them a moment, and then, placing his hand on his
mate's shoulder, yelled at his ear. Even then the words seemed far away
and indistinct.

[Illustration: "'Keep 'em going! Don't let 'em slack up a bit!'"]

"Keep 'em going! Don't let 'em slack up a bit!" he roared. "Never had
such a lot aboard a vessel of mine before. It makes me sick."

"Yes, sir," shouted Medbury, grimly.

"Don't understand it," went on the captain in an aggrieved, plaintive
voice; "nobody could." He paused irresolutely, and then said: "Hurt you
anywhere?"

"Oh, no," answered the mate. "Guess I rather enjoyed it for a change.
Was pretty mad."

The captain nodded, and was turning away when Medbury put out a
detaining hand.

"How'd you know?" he shouted.

"What?"

"How did you know about it--the row?" Medbury asked again.

"The dominie saw something was wrong, and told me. Got your lantern,
too. Good man--seemed to know what to do. Rather surprised me--don't
think they've got that sort of horse-sense, as a rule. But no business
on deck to-night. Told him so." Then he staggered aft, and took the
wheel from the second mate again.

Drew had gone below when the crew went back to the pumps; but he was
strangely excited. He knew that he could not sleep, and in a state of
mental helplessness he sat for a long time upon the edge of his bunk.
Something of the significance of the scene on deck broke in upon him,
and he realized that the crew had given up hope. It was not revolt, but
a dumb, sheeplike acquiescence in fate. In his heart he was not without
a certain sympathy for the men, feeling in the overpowering mastery of
the storm something of the vanity of all human endeavor. Yet the mere
effort of holding himself in check, aloof from all the tumult of the
deck, grew momentarily more and more unbearable, and, rising at last,
he went up to the companionway door again.

He saw at once, novice as he was, that in his brief absence the
situation had grown worse. There was a constant sweep of sheeted spray
across the deck, and he crouched behind the house, as he had done
before, both for protection and to avoid being seen by the mate. He
resented the thought of being ordered below. He could see the steady
rise and fall of the bodies of the men working the pumps, and Medbury
standing near them. It had grown lighter, he perceived, though it was
still black night.

He was beginning to grow drowsy, and for a moment shifted his position,
when suddenly the brig seemed to pause and tremble, then spring to a
great height, and the next moment he had the sensation of falling in a
dream, and heard Medbury's voice, faint, muffled, like a voice coming
from a great distance underground, screaming, "Hold hard! Hold hard!"

In a second of time, in the light of the foam that whitened the sea
to leeward, he saw the deck clearly: the men crouching low above the
life-lines; Medbury's face turned away, his hands grasping a line about
his waist, his body braced; and behind him, rising from his knees,
a man with uplifted arm about to strike. The next moment Drew threw
himself forward upon the man, and at the same instant was crushed
against the booby-hatch by a great weight of water. He was held there
till his ears roared and flashes of light snapped before his eyes and
his breath was almost gone; then he felt himself lifted and whirled
along for what seemed a great distance, with the body of the man he had
seized struggling in his grasp. He had at that moment the feeling that
his end had come, that he was being borne far from the garden with the
fountain, and from that other garden where he saw his mother kneeling
with a flower in her hand and her eyes turned up to him smilingly.
With these scenes standing out vividly in a dream where all things else
were strange unrealities, he was suddenly awakened to life by the crash
of his body against something cruelly hard, felt a sharp sting under
his arm, pressed it down tight, and fell to the deck alone.

Groping in the darkness, almost breathless, half-blinded by water,
he got to his feet and looked about him. He was standing by the lee
rail, but the man with whom he had struggled was gone, blotted out. He
remembered the sting in his side, and, lifting his hand to the place,
struck the haft of a knife that still clung to his coat. Dazed and
bewildered, he drew it out, and, holding it gingerly, staggered back to
Medbury.

The mate looked at him in astonishment.

"You here?" he called. "You'd better go below."

"I'm going," Drew answered. "I've had enough." With that he held out
the knife.

"Where'd you get that?" demanded the mate, taking it.

Clinging to the life-lines, Drew told his story briefly, and as clearly
as was possible in that shrieking gale, while Medbury turned the knife
over and over in his hand.

"It's that damn' steward's," he said. "He's the one I threw out. I
forgot him." His voice trailed off in the tumult of the storm, and Drew
leaned forward to catch the words; then somehow he understood that the
mate was asking about the steward.

"Gone," Drew shouted--"over the rail. I couldn't hold him."

"Damn' good thing," replied Medbury, and gently pushed him toward the
companionway.



XV


It must have been four bells when the second mate found his way to
Medbury's side and told him that the captain wanted him.

"I'm to stay here," he added.

"Don't give them any let-up," Medbury shouted in his ear; "and lash
yourself fast. But don't give them any let-up."

He struggled aft, and put his hand on the captain's shoulder. In the
light of the binnacle-lamp he could see that the old man's face was set
and grim.

"Want me, sir?" he called, and bent his head to hear.

"Yes," he heard. The captain whirled the wheel, and then continued:
"Yes; go aloft; see if you can see the light on Culebra." He paused to
shift the wheel, straightened up again, and went on: "These seas run--a
little like shoaling water. I'd hate to run too far to the westward and
fetch up on the shoals beyond Culebra. Bad enough as 'tis. Take a good
look, and hurry back."

"All right, sir!" Medbury shouted, then made his way to the
main-rigging, and went slowly and carefully up. The wind flattened him
against the ratlines, so that it was with difficulty that he lifted
arms and knees; and when the brig swung to port, he seemed to be
clinging to the lower side of the rigging, so far did she roll down.
"Fetlock-shrouds all the way up," he muttered to himself. When he was
well above the obstructing lower topsail, he looked ahead.

Under him, near the vessel, the sea gleamed spectrally over its whole
surface, but farther away it was black. The mist had lifted, and he had
the impression, even in the darkness, of a wide horizon-line; but no
light was to be seen. He went upward again, till the crosstrees were
just above him, and looked once more.

He gazed long, sweeping the whole line of the sea ahead slowly, pausing
at each point, that he might not lose the flash. The strain brought the
tears to his eyes, and he wiped them with his sleeve and looked again.
Something in his dizzy altitude, in the task set him and its failure,
impressed him more than anything had yet done, and he began to lose
heart.

"Father went this way," he muttered, "and I guess it's good enough for
me. He was a better man than I am. Poor Hetty!" He looked for the light
again, giving all his thought to it. Then he sighed. "I wish to God,"
he went on, "that we'd let her be! She wouldn't have been here if we
hadn't teased her about China. I wish she was there. This is no way for
her to go--a girl like her." Then slowly at last he descended to the
deck.

At the wheel, Captain March was growing unutterably weary, and
something like the same thoughts were passing through his mind.

"Lord," he said, "I haven't ever been much of a praying man, and
I ain't going to begin now, when I can't shift for myself. I'd be
ashamed. You know I've tried to do right. I ain't afraid of death, but
I hate to lose the old boat. I've always had good luck, and I guess
I've kind o' got in the way of thinking it was going to last. I'd like
to have it. I rather expected to die at home, and be buried alongside
of mother. She thought of that a good deal." Of his wife and daughter
he would not trust himself to think.

He looked up as Medbury approached him, but turned his eyes away
immediately. He saw that Culebra light had not been sighted.

Medbury simply shook his head and stepped back, but the captain called
him nearer.

"I guess it's too early," he said. "Go up again soon, and if we haven't
made it then, we'll try to get a sounding. See if that steward left any
cold tea below, will you?"

As Medbury went down the companionway and into the pantry, a figure
came softly out of the girls' room and tiptoed across the cabin. It
was Hetty. As she neared the pantry, the swinging floor tripped her
and sent her flying into the room behind Medbury's back. She giggled
hysterically as he turned with a start.

"Good Lord, Hetty!" he exclaimed, "haven't you gone to sleep yet?"

"I couldn't sleep," she said plaintively. "I waited for you; I thought
you'd never come." She hesitated, laid her hand on his arm, and
continued slowly: "Now I want you to tell me the truth--the truth. I'm
not a child. I can bear it. I know we are in great danger--isn't it so?"

He hesitated and looked away, and she dropped her hand to her side.

"You needn't tell me; I know," she told him.

"We've got a chance," he now explained. "It looks bad, I know, but
we've got a chance. I guess we've got an even chance."

"We didn't think it would be like this when we left the harbor at home,
did we?" she continued. "It was like a spring day, and the buds were
getting red. I said the leaves would be full grown when we got back--I
said so to mother." She choked back a sob.

"Don't, dear!" he pleaded. "Don't! You shall see them yet. You shall
live to grow old among your trees, Hetty."

"But if I don't," she persisted, "and--anything happens, will you try
to get to me? I don't want to go alone, shut up down here."

"Yes," he answered solemnly; "I'll get to you. But we're going to pull
through--really."

"You will not forget!" she insisted.

He laughed softly.

"Do I ever forget you?" he asked

"No," she said; "no--and I am glad."

Then suddenly she flung her arms about his neck, pressed her cheek
against his, and vanished.

When Medbury reached the deck he took the wheel while the captain drank
a great draught of the clear, cold tea. Taking the wheel again, he said
something that Medbury could not understand.

"What's that, sir?" he asked, and leaned forward to catch the words.

"I said you were gone long enough. Thought the teapot had got adrift."

"Yes, sir," Medbury replied. "Didn't find it right away. That steward
never did leave things where you could put your hand right on them.
He--" Medbury paused. He was about to say that it was the last of the
steward's tea that the captain would ever drink, but changed his mind.
"I won't trouble the old man to-night," he said to himself. "Morning
will be time enough--if there is a morning."

The canvas screen above the taffrail had whipped itself free, and the
great seas, in long ridges that seemed never to break, followed the
vessel with vindictive hate. The gale beat the men down, the spray
blinded them; now and then a rush of wind, coming with great fury, with
a wailing cry that sprang upon them like Indians from ambush, pressed
them onward along the rolling seas without motion other than the
forward one. Then the wind, relaxing its hold, left the brig wallowing
exhausted in the deep hollows, like a collapsing thing.

It was after one of these outbursts that Medbury touched the captain's
arm.

"Going up again," he yelled, and pointed aloft.

The captain nodded, and Medbury slanted away.

He went up deliberately, turning his eyes neither to right nor to
left until he saw the crosstrees just overhead. Stopping, he thrust
a leg between the ratlines to steady himself, and gazed ahead once
more. It had grown lighter, and he could now plainly distinguish the
blurred line where sky and water met. Suddenly, far ahead, he saw a
little point of light grow out of the blackness of the night, flash
for a moment, and then disappear. His heart leaped in exultation, but
he waited, to be sure. Again it flashed and disappeared. Marking its
position well, he hurried to the deck and aft.

"It's ahead, sir," he shouted. "Bears a point off the starboard bow."

Captain March made no reply; his face was as immobile as a figurehead.
Whatever exultation he may have felt in the triumph of his reckoning,
he was never to show it.

By eight bells the light was abreast, and they had hauled up on their
course past Sail Rock. The gale was sweeping down through the passage,
with a threatening sea, and every bit of rigging roaring and piping to
the tune of the road. Suddenly, out of the blackness on their port bow
a dark shape loomed, and the rock stood up almost beside them. Without
changing the course a hair, they drew near, passed under its lee,
with the gale dropping for an instant and the staysails flapping, and
overhead, from the rock, the sound of startled sea-birds crying in the
night. Then the gale rushed down again, and sea and rigging roared once
more.

Medbury gave a sigh of wonder.

"Never heard anything like that before," he exclaimed.

"You can always hear them at night, if you go close enough," said the
captain.

"Well, it's stirring," replied Medbury. He walked to the rail and
scanned the sea with the glass. "Pity there isn't something more'n a
'bug light' on St. Thomas," he said to the captain as he walked over to
his side. "We might skip right in before daybreak."

Captain March glanced over the rail.

"By daybreak we'll not need St. Thomas light," he said dryly, and bent
to the wheel again.

"The old pirate!" muttered Medbury. "He's chartered for Santa Cruz, and
that's where he's going! There's five feet of water in the hold, and
a tearing gale loose, and a worn-out, hopeless crew; but he's going
to Santa Cruz! If the wind should flop around or fall, we'd go to the
bottom; but it won't. It wouldn't have the cheek--not with him. Well!"

The wind hauled over the quarter, and fell slightly; gradually the sea
grew pale, and spars and sails took on more definite shape; and then
all at once it was day, and they saw the sea whipped with foam, and
dark masses of purplish-black clouds hanging low, with dashes of gold
firing their edges in the east. St. Thomas had dropped behind them,
and far ahead the cone of Santa Cruz, gray and misty under the darker
clouds, was rising on the edge of the sea.

Day came on apace; the wind dropped a trifle more, but not until the
harbor of Christiansted took shape, with the anchored ships lying thick
in the roadstead, and the bright-hued little town clinging to the
hillside above the water's edge, did the captain allow the girls on
deck. As they ascended at last, white but happy, and looked out of the
companionway, glancing eagerly about them, the gray, worn vessel, the
dark, low-hanging clouds, the wind-swept sea, appalled them, and for a
moment they could not speak.

"Eet iss not lak home," murmured the Danish girl; "eet iss mos' sad
and mos' des_o_late."

"But it's land," cried Hetty--"land after that awful sea!"

They were silent for a moment and abstracted, gazing with curious eyes
at the land rising under the bow. Suddenly Miss Stromberg seized her
companion's arm.

"Ah!" she cried, "doze flag--yonner!" She pointed where the red,
white-crossed ensign of Denmark flapped straight out in the gale above
the little white fort at the water's edge. "And op by doze tall tree,"
she went on eagerly, "iss ma gahden--wiz yellow wall, and doze red
tiles beyon'. Now eet iss shuah-lee home."

"It will be beautiful when the sun shines--Christiansted," said Hetty.

Medbury, going forward, stopped a moment by the main-rigging, where
Drew stood alone. The pumps were quiet as they made harbor, and the
crew were forward. Drew was watching them with curious eyes. He
glanced up as Medbury drew near, and spoke.

"What will be done with them?" he asked in a low voice.

"With what?" asked Medbury.

"With the crew. Wasn't it technically and actually mutiny?"

Medbury laughed.

"It was a beautiful fight," he said; then remembering their talk early
on the voyage, he added: "Call it a case of brutality, if you like; but
it seemed necessary."

"But the men's part," persisted Drew--"will they not be punished?"

"Man alive!" said Medbury, "they had been standing many hours at those
pumps and working as they'd never worked before--with no hope. That's
punishment enough, isn't it? They're tired now, and very humble, and,
I guess, if the truth could be told, pretty thankful to me. It wasn't
mutiny; it was a funk. They simply gave up, that's all. But if the old
man had done it, you wouldn't be looking into Christiansted roadstead
this morning. There's a man for you!" His voice changed as he added:
"And if it hadn't been for you, God knows where I'd be now. Over the
rail somewhere, with the steward's pretty little trinket in my back. I
haven't said much; but I guess you know I'm not going to forget it."

"Do the ladies know?" asked Drew. He had not mentioned his own slight
scratch.

"They know he was swept overboard," the mate replied. "I guess they
needn't know any more at present." Then he went forward.

Rolling heavily, low above the sea, white with salt, but with the speed
of the gale in her rain-blackened sails, the brig flashed past the
shipping, crowded with wondering sailors, and drove straight for the
rocky beach where the cocoanut-palms came down to the shore, and on hot
mornings the negro washer-women lay their wet clothes upon the smooth
rocks, and the roadstead resounds with the echoing beat of their wooden
paddles. Then all at once Captain March's voice rang out, and with
sails shaking in the wind the _Henrietta C. March_ shot toward a narrow
ribbon of sand on the shore, struck, rolled slowly, and with a long,
grating sigh came safely to land.

An hour later, as Medbury walked aft, he mounted the steps to
the poop-deck before he saw the flutter of Hetty's dress by the
main-rigging. She was looking steadily out to sea.

He stopped by her side.

"Here on this side, when you can see the town on the other!" he
exclaimed. "Haven't you had enough of the sea?"

She looked up and smiled.

"I was looking beyond the sea--as far as home," she said.

"Are you homesick?"

"No; only thinking of it."

"It's a good thing to think of," he said soberly.

  "'East, west,
  Hame's best.'

After last night, that sounds true, doesn't it?"

"It's always true--home and the old things," she said softly--"the
things we've always known."

He looked down into her face.

"Hetty," he said, "last night--you rushed away so quickly--is it all
right?"

She turned her eyes seaward again as she answered in a low voice:

"I think so--yes."

"Oh, Hetty!" he whispered.

She dropped her hand to her side, and he caught it for an instant.
Overhead there were widening patches of blue sky; the sea was taking
on a softer hue. Behind them the tropic world glowed in beauty.
On the beach little groups of negro women, in white bandanas and
bright-colored, wind-blown skirts, stood and watched the sailors aboard
the brig, their shrill laughter and cries coming up softened by the
gale, now rapidly falling. The pumps were going again.

"It is the only familiar sound--that pump," said Hetty.

Medbury scarcely heard her.

"I don't understand it yet," he said at last, turning to her. "Just
when I thought it was all over, suddenly it comes out right. I don't
understand."

"You never will, you poor boy," she replied, smiling up into his face.
Then suddenly her face grew grave, and she began to speak again: "It
was only when I thought it was all over that I began to think. Then
the storm came, and I saw how much it meant to me that you were near
me, and I was almost sure that I had made a mistake. I think I wasn't
_quite_ sure until you made that dreadful picture yesterday of what it
would be for us to be merely friends. Then I knew."

"You said I was cruel," he told her.

"You were," she said.

"But if it brought us together, how--"

"That doesn't make it any different."

"Well," he replied, in his bewilderment, "I am sure I shall never
understand, as you say; but I do not care. It is enough to know that
everything is right at last. And you are sure that you will not mind
giving up China, Hetty, and the missionary work?"

"Yes," she said firmly; "I was almost ready to give that up three days
ago--before I thought I cared for you, you know. I have thought many
things in these three days. Sometimes, when I think of them, I feel a
thousand years old, as Miss Stromberg says."

The door of the cabin below them opened, and they heard the sound of
Drew's voice and Miss Stromberg's laugh. She was patiently waiting
until she could go ashore.

"I was beginning to think that _he_ was going to stand in my way,
Hetty," said Medbury, nodding toward the cabin.


THE END.



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

Text in italics is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.





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