Flotsam and Jetsam: Part I
“AH well!” said I, wearily, finding the storm was likely yet to last, “ ’t is an ill wind that blows nobody good.” But did I have an idea of what I was saying ?
The equinoctial gale had been roaring through the heavens, driving the great loose, gray clouds before it, and tearing them into sheets of blinding rain, till the whole round earth seemed only wrapped in storm. The wind came whistling along the street, shook off a flock of yellow leaves, and, letting them frolic in their freedom a moment and fancy themselves a part of the gale, suddenly with a blast drove them down, and they became a part of the sodden soil; then, rising with a cry of havoc, it dragged the vines from the lattices, snatched the swallows’ nests from under the eaves and scattered them into the street, and, being caught itself in the pitfall of the chimneys, came hoarsely sighing and crying downward till it fanned the blaze of the coal into a fury.
What a blessing a full gay household would have been on such a day ! Then we could have heard with equanimity that the tides had risen over the roofs on Channel Island, or that people were going about in boats on the Shore Street; we could have gone up to the attic windows with the glass, and have seen the strange dark heads and white horns swimming through the current; we should have swarmed round the Doctor, when he came in and brought a gust behind him, with warm slippers and dressing-gown, and cheeriest sympathy and comfort, till we coaxed him into believing the cold September day the happiest of all the year ; we should have sat round the fire, and told stories of shipwreck, till the wind fell at midnight, and through the open curtains a star startled us sparkling on the edge of a wind-blown ragged cloud.
But that had been — in other times. Now we must make ourselves content on past cheer, and be warmed with remembrance of ancient autumn gales. So the Doctor sighed, and smoked, and calculated eclipses, as if to put asleep the great care in his heart, and every once in a while informed his little wife of something concerning the tangent of A minus the right ascension, and the little wife made believe it was all English to her, looked out at the weather and in at the fire, and comfortably made up her mind that it might storm till Christmas day, so long as it gave her the good of that rare presence in the chimney-corner during all the long evening. Between his patients, and his running over to Netherby, and up to court to attend the trial there, he had grown to be a stranger to his own fireside ; but no one on such a night would think of sending for the doctor except upon a case of life and death,—and for that, of course, he could be spared.
With such thought I turned again to the outer view, watching a passenger beat up against the wind, and struggle lest his umbrella should lose head and capsize, — wondering would it be so bad by and by, and were the gale going to lift under all that breaking sweep of brightening sky. But there was only one eye in the whole town could have told me that, and it belonged to the gilded chanticleer, perched high on the tip of the spire that stretched above the streets, looking straight before him steadily out to sea, and strutting defiantly on his steeple-point in the very teeth of the wind. From his perch he saw the dark river-mouth, and the white crest of the bar ridging across it; he saw the low lines of opening coast, and all the foamy network of breaker, and the ponderous plunge of the sucking surf that changed the shore with every shock; and between and far beyond, till it met the gray sky and was lost in it, the great expanse of the seas, wide and wild, the dark field everywhere tossing and sinking with jets and sprays and flying falls of foam, and now and then some giant of a chance wave looming like a phantom, and powdering itself in mist upon the eager wind. If, beside all this evanescence, this yeasty commotion and change, he saw aught else, — saw the fishing-craft in spite of themselves huddled in the offing, yet gallantly challenging the tempest, or any fated bark, its broken masts scarcely raking the dim horizon line, drifting helplessly towards the treacherous land that lay in wait beneath its mask of green and shifting shallows; — if the gilded chanticleer saw such a sight as this, he kept his own counsel, and, unless you suspected it from the way in which he still looked steadily into the east, dropped no hint of spent sailors clinging to the shrouds, or washed away into restless graves with every returning billow.
As for me, too many of my kindred had been rocked to their last sleep in that cruel sea to make it pleasant for any lingering thought. Then, too, I was longing to know how it went with Lucian. I busied myself about the fire, stole the Doctor’s table and left him with pencil suspended in air, and rewarded him for the submission with which he received that despotic act by playing the sweet, old-fashioned tunes of our youth to him till the place was dark save for the glow of the fire thrown upon the ceiling, and, despite the whistling of the storm without, all the atmosphere of the room was quiet and dreamy.
At that point Elizabeth opened the door to tell us that tea was ready. At the same moment, above the storm, above the sound of the piano, the note of Elizabeth’s voice, the cheerful hiss of the urn, fell the peal of the knocker.
The Doctor answered it in person. A man, covered with tarpaulins, who had brought his horse up the sidewalk and close to the door-stone, bent from the darkness, and announced his errand. A vessel had gone to pieces on the beach, he said,—-a whaler apparently, that had sailed round the world to be wrecked in sight of her own wharf at last ; some men had been washed up, perhaps drowned, perhaps not; he had ridden off without waiting, — would the Doctor come and see ?
“On such a night! Three miles!” I exclaimed, feeling the happy lighted tea-room undergo the eclipse he had been all the afternoon at work upon. But the Doctor never threw a glance beyond me, neither at the scrod that Elizabeth’s lover had brought him in the last boat-load before the storm, and that in consequence she had browned like a segment of cocoa-nut, nor at the snowy biscuit, nor the baked russets dripping with their jelly like some Oriental conserve.
“Tell Martin to put old Chestnut in, Elizabeth,’’ said he, getting down his storm-cloak.
“The water ’s over the road,” said the stranger, “ high as any carriagefloor ; wind would upset a buggy too. Better go in the saddle, sir.” And in five minutes the Doctor and his companion were battling their way down the overflowed road to the beach.
All my life has not yet made me indifferent to the trouble of a doctor’s wife. So that night I sent the scrod to the kitchen in disgrace ; and had a cup of green tea, because I knew it would have been forbidden me had he been at home. Then a fit of compunction seized me that my bad heart would have kept succor away from such a strait, and I felt a new reverence for the unselfish soul that was carrying life itself, perhaps, to one as dear to another as he was to me ; and I had a little combat with the feeling, because I was angry with him for going ; and just then the door opened, and the carrier threw in the evening paper.
He was earlier than common, because the dark had fallen so soon, and the storm prevented his stopping to whip his top or make his fortune in marbles on the way. I took it as I crossed the entry, and after darkening the pane, that I might guess again at the state of the storm,—for I would not have the curtains fall and shut off the glow of my pleasant fire from all the passersby, — I went and sat down by the grate to read it.
There is one charm about an evening paper that surpasses all the rest,— in whatever remote seclusion you may have shut yourself, this silent sheet puts you instantly into communication with all the great revolving world, and innocent and secure in your cosey snuggery you hobnob with kings or criminals, and watch the making or the wrecking of states as the gods do on their clouds. Perhaps it was with some such feeling that I unfolded the paper that night. There was a great trial going on, the report of which had deeply interested me, for I had heard something of the personages from the Doctor, who knew them well; and of course it would be continued to-night.
Many a time had the Doctor told me laughingly of little Joey Hazard and her two lovers, — Joey Hazard, who lived in Netherby, the town across the bay where he was sometimes called, — a shy but saucy bit of maidenhood some twenty summers old. The Doctor had been so impressed with her charming coquetries, and the white and pink of her pretty face, that he had rendered her personality vividly enough to make me sure I should know Joey Hazard if I met her in the Sahara, — though nothing could have been more remote than that sandy region from the town where Joey lived, and from all the freshness, breeziness, and seaboard stir attending it. Joey’s house was on a hill commanding the harbor and overlooking the busy market-place; and when the Doctor had first met her, she was coming down this hill, wrapped in an extinguisher of a great black cloak and hood, and the impatient wind had caught a corner of the sombre garment, and was twisting it round her, and had fairly blown the hood back upon her shoulders. Accomplishing this, the wind had even made so bold as to seize the bright hair swept back over the temples, and, loosening a lock, had measured out its curling length, and was doing his best to make off with the prize, while Joey, with her head half turned upon one side, as if she were giving him her cheek to kiss with its shifting snows and roses, cast a glance askance at the grave old stranger struggling up the hill, and went on battling her way down. But it was to Joey’s house that the Doctor’s steps were bent, for it was to her mother, an old townswoman, that he had been summoned ; he was late, and perhaps he had been misled, and so Joey had been sent after him; and now, having passed him, she put the wind to sudden confusion by turning about and following the stranger,overtaking him, and walking along demurely almost by his side, not daring to speak, but looking sidelong a dozen times a minute.
“ So, my pretty maid,” said the Doctor, taking breath; “can you tell me where I may find the Widow Hazard’s house ?”
Joey bridled at the address, — she had an indistinct idea that to be called a pretty maid was correlative to being called a pretty servant-girl, -—but after one challenging glance she thought fit to reply, not by surrendering the citadel of an answer, but by throwing out the picket of an inquiry. “ Are you the Doctor ?”
“Yes,” was the reply. “Are you looking for me?”
After which introduction the Doctor administered a benevolent smile to his new acquaintance, and she in return let the dimples of her arch look disappear in the gleam of a row of little teeth like split pearls.
“ We thought you had possibly lost the way, and — ”
“ You were sent to be my Ariadne ? ”
“Ariadne? O no, sir, I am Joey Hazard.”
“ So I thought. Mrs. Hazard is ill, I hear.”
“ Mother’s about as usual. Only she heard you were in town, and thought she’d like to see you. Mother’s from your place, sir. People from your place,” said Joey, with a frightened look aside at her own audacity, “think you made them! ” And then she laughed superior.
“You don’t think so, Miss Joey,” said the Doctor.
“O no, no ! I think you made their diseases. When I practise — ”
“Well, my little rival — ” -
“ I shall leave phials of cold water, — twenty drops every eight hours,— to be measured precisely, as twenty-five drops would occasion spasms. All my patients would get well.”
“ You would starve to death, Doctor Joey! ”
“ No, indeed,” answered Joey, havingsurveyed the Doctor and collected a heart full of courage. “ The college of surgeons would come to me, and they would say : ‘ Now, Dr. Joey, really, this will never do. Here we had quite an interesting region of aches and ills, — typhoid had the run of it, all the influenzas settled into charming consumptions, all the indigestions became gastric fevers, every pain in the side grew to pleurisy,—and you came and brought chaos into our order, and ruined the apothecaries, and beggared the grave-diggers, and have got things to such a pass that all the rest of the world have to stay fifteen days in quarantine before they can come into Netherby. Such a state of health positively vulgarizes a community. Is n’t it time, we ask you, that senna and manna and colchicum and nauseousness had their turn ? You really must feel the fatigue of such a work; and now — what ’ll you take to retire ?' ”
“Very well, Dr. Joey. As a brotherphysician, may I request your treatment of a bad headache ? ”
“ I go to sleep without my supper,” said Joey.
“ And if it does not answer ? ”
“ Forego breakfast.”
“ That failing ? ”
“ Dinner remains to be sacrificed, sir.”
“And if they are all without success ? ”
“ All, sir, you gentlemen are epicures.
I suppose you think one may as well die by the sword as the famine ! Then I should send for you.”
“Well, well, you little witch, you ’d convert a man to Hahnemann himself ! ”
By this time they had reached the house, rather to the Doctor’s regret; for he had taken a fancy to the saucy sprite, who spoke her mind to him no more plainly than he had a way of making everybody do, and he knew Mrs. Hazard of old.
Joey opened the door for him, saying, “ Mother, here’s the Doctor,” and retreated, ostensibly to latch the gate, which she had left open. But as the Doctor casually looked after her through the window, he saw her vicious cloak catch in the hasp, and two young men, who had been coming up the hill from the other side, suddenly spring by one impulse to her relief; and he saw Miss Joey blush while she gave one of them a hand, and then stay chattering and flirting behind her barricade, with the lovers lingering so long as she had a word to throw to them; and he imagined that she was playing with their hearts, the while, very much as a kitten plays with a ball.
Between his glances the Doctor paid all due attention to Mrs. Hazard, but Joey’s case he considered far the more interesting of the two. Mrs. Hazard was one of those long, meagre, cadaverous creatures, who, being crossed in life, find refuge in calomel; her chief complaint was an enlargement of the spleen, and her chief pleasure lay in blue mass. How she ever came into possession of such a piece of pink and white perfection as Joey would have been an impenetrable mystery, had not the Doctor evaded it by remembering that Mr. Hazard had first married a widow lady with one child, — who was Joey, — that she had died, and that then Mr. Hazard, not having the fear of Mr. Weller before his eyes, had again married a widow with one child, who was Lucian Jouvency. However, by an odd coincidence, Lucian, being the son of her first husband and a former wife, was no more the child of Mrs. Hazard than Joey was. It was Lucian Jouvency sitting on the fence and laughing now with Joey, the Doctor surmised ; and by the impatient glances which Mrs. Hazard threw from her rapid rocking-chair out of the window, and upon the companion of the twain, it was plain that she suspected he was coming in to mar some pet plan of her own concerning the union of the two little fortunes of Lucian and Joey. By and by, — when Mrs. Hazard had doled out her last grievance in the flesh, and the Doctor, according to Joey’s idea, had put her up a parcel of powders of sifted buckwheat, some of which he was never without, each one labelled cabalistically, and to be taken in jelly, lest Mrs. Hazard should discover that they were not half nasty enough to be of any use, — Joey took laughing leave of her lovers, and came into the house.
She had afforded excuse enough to the swains for lingering while she looked so bewitching in her cloak, but perhaps they would not have gone at all if she had received them in home array, the Doctor thought, when Joey came in, her pink frock close in the throat, with its white collar and jet button, and her pretty hair gathered into a knot out of which each tress evidently longed to break and assert its freedom in a riot of curls. Her mother introduced her in form. She threw the Doctor a half prudish glance from the bright hazel eyes exactly the tint of her hair, and blushed and laughed anew with her color, that surprised one, was gone and came again, like rosy northern-lights, when he gravely took her hand ; and then she staidly laid the crumb-cloth and pulled out the table.
“Joey,” said Mrs. Hazard, “the Doctor ’s finished all his calls, and he ’s going to stay to dinner with us. Now see what you can do. And if your boat goes off without you, sir, I think, Lucian ’d like to set you over. He knows the bay like a map. He’s just home from sea. There ’s no need for him to follow the sea at all ; he’s got means enough, if that ’s all; but men must see the world. He goes mate next voyage ! ” And Mrs. Hazard rocked triumphantly, and looked at Joey, who, reaching up a closet-shelf, contrived just then to spill a box of sage all over her, and afford as much resemblance as possible to a mossrose.
Although cleanliness, I am convinced, is not a masculine instinct, the Doctor had seen enough snow to teach him the color of the damask that Joey and her small servant spread before him ; and though the dear man is no gastronome, he declares I never gave him any dessert of a flavor equal to that sweet-potted compound of Joey’s. At which reflection on my housekeeping, I tell him it is because I can offer no such sauce as Joey’s young and blooming face ; but he destroys my argument by averring that Joey’s face could have been nothing to him, since he was occupied in observing its effect upon Lucian Jouvency, who, having left the other lover at the inn, reached home again when dinner was half through, and straightway transformed the decorous little Joey into something just flighty enough to make a pleasurable study. “ Very well, then, my good soul,” say I, “ if you had the love-affair of two young people beneath your eyes, you were probably eating barley-bran, and knew nothing at all about it.”
Lucian Jouvency might have been worth a little attention himself, were not one previously engaged, the Doctor thought. In stature he was a man far beyond the usual height, with a breadth of shoulder and a length of limb that spoke great physical power, whether he sat or stood ; and character of no unequal force was written in the habit of his dark face, and in the eyes, which were not often raised, but which, when they were lifted, let out a sheet of daring light. There was some spirit that brooked no questioning in the haughty curl of his upper lip, which would have been disdainful had not the lower one formed an almost voluptuous curve with which to modify it; the nostril had an impatient dilation of its own ; but the massive chin and strong lower lines told of sufficient strength to hold in check whatever devil might be in him, were it once exerted; while over all the really wonderful beauty of these changing features — that might now be dark with anger and now be bright with joy — the forehead looked perfectly calm and impassive. So strongly did it contrast with the tanned tint of the face below, that one could not see the fine texture of the skin, and the whiteness of that expanse swept across by the heavy hair, without reeling assured in some way of its owner’s possession also of a spotless purity. At least the Doctor felt this, — there were others who might only have found the forehead too fair for the bronzed cheek below. The Doctor, however, did not have time to decipher the whole of Lucian’s face ; for before they left the table a new element had presented itself among them in the advent of the second lover, who had been lingering at the gate with Joey and Lucian in the bright, windy noon, and who was now made known to the Doctor by the name of Geordie Romilly.
If there had appeared but little of the sailor in the grave and quietly assured air of Lucian, it had still been posible to imagine that a certain dash of adventurousness was hidden beneath, like the fire in a flint; but with Geordie Romilly everything was on the surface, — his loves, his hates, his darings, his desires ; a rude grace of movement caused him to seem less a sailor than a wave of the sea itself; his lithe, slender figure was made for nothing but to swing aloft from rope to rope in storm and sunshine ; the face, entirely embrowned, might have told its tale of roaming in other latitudes than those to which the sunny hair about it belonged, had not its shade more resembled a congenital than an acquired tint; and in the large eyes there was a perpetual play of blue wildfire, like the sulphurous spirt of a lucifer-match, giving substance to the rumor that Geordie had been no other than a hedge-born child of the old country, — a rumor that had not been slow to reach his ear and rouse his ire. The Doctor transferred his observation to him, as if he had had a new botanical order in hand.
The new-comer refused to join them at the table, although Joey had the small servant quicken her movements in his behalf, for he had but just dined at his inn, and was only waiting, with his fowling-piece, for Lucian, before going down to the shore to bag sand-peeps.
“ Now, Geordie, set your gun in the corner before you shoot somebody,” said Joey, “and eat a dish of this sugared snow that the Doctor is raving over here, or else I shall have to come and feed you with a spoon.”
“ Then I ’m sure I won’t,” said Geordie, stoutly.
“ If I come, you will have to submit to being rapped over the head with the spoon, like a Dotheboys urchin,” continued Joey.
“ As to that. I sha’ n't quarrel,” said Geordie, looking down across the cloth at the midget who could not have reached the top of his head, and showing no acquaintance with Miss Joey’s literary allusion.
“ But I made it myself! ”
“ Then it would be too sweet. And I ’m not fond of sweet things anyway.”
“ O, very well,” said Joey, tossing her head.
“Joey’s a sweet thing herself,” said Lucian, as if he propounded an axiom. “And so she resents the imputation.”
“ Poison him, Doctor,” said Joey.
“ If one poisoned all the lads that called you á pretty gir—” began the Doctor.
“ Pretty is that pretty does,” remarked Mrs. Hazard.
“ Now, Geordie,” said Joey, heaping a tiny bit of painted porcelain, and offering it to him in a winning, half-reluctant way that her words belied. — and something that made her so bewitching must have been that what she said and what she did were always so at sixes and sevens,—“I made it myself, on purpose ; and that ’s my own saucer.”
“ Joey! ” cried the atrabilious Mrs. Hazard.
“ it’s a noticeable fact to an old fellow of my profession,” said the wicked Doctor to Mrs. Hazard, while he covered Joey’s retreat, “ that neither of these young men has any appetite.”
On which sentence, Geordie took the saucer and finished its contents at three strokes.
“ Come, Jouvency,” said he then, shouldering his gun and making a mouth, “ I think those sand-peeps are tired of waiting.”
“ They ’ll have time to rest, then,” said Lucian. “Because the boat the Doctor came in has gone back, and I ’m to set him over. So you must take your sport alone.”
“Good for you,” said the gracious Geordie, however contrary - minded. “Well, Joey, will you have what I get?”
“If it is a red-winged blackbird.”
“ Little savage,” said Lucian, standing up and smiling down upon her.
“No, I ’m not,” said Joey, lifting, and instantly dropping again, the wide eyes that were of the kind far more full of light than of color; “ I want the wings for the Fair.”
“ So I thought,” said Geordie, mischievously.
“ That ’s very unfair of you, Gypsy Geordie,” answered the thoughtless Joey.
But before the quick blood, that suddenly deepened the hue of Geordie’s cheek and flashed in his eye, found time for further expression, Lucian stood leaning back with one arm across the other’s shoulder, and his eyes giving a merry defiance to Joey. Joey’s hurried movement upset the spoons and scattered them over the table.
“ That ’s because they feel defrauded of the rap,” said she, with a queer little April smile, that, if it was sunshine, might have been tears, and then she too came and laid a hand on Geordie’s other arm. He shook them both lightly off, and turned, examining his gun. “ But won’t you get the red-wings, Geordie ? ” quavered Joey.
“There’s nothing but peeps on the beach,” said Lucian. “And those you can't have, for Geordie’s white teeth here will crackle them like crust”
“There’s nothing nicer than potted peeps, I used to think, when I enjoyed my victuals,” plaintively sighed Mrs. Hazard. “ If you ’re going to be home to-night, Lucian,you ought to be spry,” she continued anxiously ; for, after her complaints, Lucian was the apple of her eye.
“ In five minutes, mother.”
“ I ’ll send you up a couple of score if you ’ll pot them for supper, and invite me, Mrs. Hazard,” said Geordie, doubtfully.
“ Then you’d better be about it,” she replied, glad to be rid of him on any terms, and willing to encounter future evil if so she could prevent Joey and Geordie from having a long afternoon together in Lucian’s absence.
“You’ll come down and see the boat off, Joey,” pleaded Geordie, in token of reconciliation after their mute quarrel ; and before Mrs. Hazard could say her nay, Joey had her cloak on, and, having called the small servant to clear the cloth, was preceding Lucian and the Doctor to the boat, taking little runs ahead, and waiting till Geordie came up with her, so much like a beach-bird in all her motions herself, that the Doctor momently expected to see her hop up and be borne along on the barrel of the fowling-piece.
It was before the railroad was built round the head of the bay, and the steamer that plied between our place and Netherby waited for no man ; and when the Doctor found he had lost it, Lucian had pleasantly seconded his stepmother’s proposition to put him over in his sail-boat. As for Geordie, the sea was his profession, and he never had anything to do with it in vacationtime. Though he and Lucian had followed it four years together, meeting each other first upon the high seas, and had established a singularly ardent friendship, this was the only time that Lucian had ever brought him home ; and finding himself at last in such society as Joey’s, he was determined to make the most of it; so Lucian was to go alone.
“ You are coming back to-night, Lucian ?” asked Joey, dipping the end of her shoe in a wave that ran to touch it.
“Yes, Joey, I am coming back tonight,” said Lucian.
“ It’s no fool of a sail,” said Geordie, as they ran the Cockle-Shell down to the brink and floated her. “Twenty miles and back ! Now look here, Jouvency, there ’s a stiff breeze darkening the water out yonder. You we got to take it in its —”
“ Ay, ay, lad.”
“ Lose an hour, and let it come on to blow, and you 'll swamp the boat before you sight the town wharfs across there. There must be a devil of a sea running outside the Tusks.”
The Cockle-Shell was always beached in that spot, because Lucian enjoyed launching her among the breakers, and so mastering them in a way; and a pretty sight it must have been to see him, when, having seated the Doctor in the impatient boat, that seemed ready to ride every wave that came tearing up, he still stood there, holding her back, poising her, keeping her afloat, lie was waiting for the big wave, the Doctor supposed, when roller after roller had made in with its foam, and the broken lengths had joined tqgether along the whole stretch of shore, the crests one after another bending beneath the keel ; but the big wave broke in the light with a hundred foambows and purled up the sand, and still the boat hung back, till all at once it shot out like a rocket. Lucian had leaped in, the two oars were plied, the mast was stepped, the sail run up, and they lay beyond the outmost line of surf; and Joey was standing far behind them, a silent speck upon the sands, and Geordie was waving his hat and shouting hurrahs that the wind carried the other way; while the Doctor, looking about him, comprehended at length how Lucian had waited to take that single instant, that one magical moment, when not a breaker formed, and the sea swung smooth as a mirror before the surf rose and tumbled in again.
After the Cockle-Shell had disappeared, it would seem that Miss Joey—■ sufficiently incensed with Lucian for his forgetfulness of her in his remembrance of the Doctor, and for leaving her apparently the whole afternoon in the companionship of lfis rival — had a cause for equal displeasure with Ccordie, since he had found it possible and pleasurable to give powder and shot the precedence of her for halt a day. Bestowing upon him a curt adieu, she hied away through the town, and up the hill, to her home.
It was rather an anomalous thing, that home of hers ; for though they were a family of sufficient income to have lived in a different way, and though Joey herself, both by temperament and school association, was of a superior grade to that of Mrs. Hazard, yet through inertia she yielded to the habits of the latter, and even found it pleasant to help the small servant about the house, and to spread the dinner-table in their sitting-room. Mrs. Hazard had never known other fashions ; Joey had seen them, and found them less comfortable.
But when she had reached home, Joey testified that she was not one of the kind that, forsaken by their sweethearts, sit down and sigh. Mrs. Hazard had taught her the proverb, that there were as good fish in the sea as ever were caught, for a special charm against such mishaps, i hen, too. (ncie was the Fair on her hands, and the decorations to think of and tell the other girls about; and she lost herself in the mysteries of the Fate-lady, forgetting to look out at the weather or the wind, till by and by Geordie strode along in his high boots, and entered.
“ 1 ’ve left the game-bag at the kitchen door, Mrs. Hazard,” said he, gayly. “ Come, Joey — ”
“ Perhaps you have,” replied the matron, tartly. " I don’t believe there ' s a peep in it though ! ”
Geordie punningly advised her to see about that. And in a moment, Mrs. Hazard, returning, flung him the empty bag with an emphasis.
“ Not a peep in it ? ” said Geordie. “ Why, I picked up all of forty.”
“ And threw them down again, I reckon,” said she.
And thereat, shaking the bag, Geordie held it up by the corners, turned it wrongside out, beat it on the floor, and with the old conjurer’s trick, which he appeared to enjoy like a new thing each time he performed it, whenever he put in his hand he pulled out a pair of birds, crowning his exertions with the little red-wings themselves, after which he had waded a mile in the marshes. Joey was in a gale, and even Mrs. Hazard was satisfied.
“ Well, Geordie Romilly, you should go about with a hand-organ. " said Mrs. Hazard flatteringly; “that’s what you should do. You ’re no better than a thimble-rigger.”
“ This is your little thimble-rigger,” said Geordie. “ I ’m content to be no better. Come, Joey, on with that flying-jib of a cloak of yours, and we ’ll go down and watch for Lucian. He 'll be along presently, if he ’s had any kind of a run. He must have got over in four hours, unless it thickened first, and he’s had a spanking breeze home. Just hear it whistle round the corner ! ”
“Whistle?” said Joey. “I call it howling.”
“ Draw it mild, Joey. If you'd had the waves growling behind you like a pack of wolves, you ’d think this was music. However, I hope he’s given the reef a wide berth,” said Geordie, who never restrained his speech on account of another’s feelings.
When they reached the shore, Lucian’s boat was nowhere to be seen, the wind was rising into storm, the sunset gave a dull, coppery tinge to a scud of low, driving clouds, and the breakers of the surf already breast-high were one sheet of froth. As they stood, it was so chilly that Geordie made Joey walk up and down with him, and so strong was the wind that before long Joey found herself clinging to his arm, like a vine to a trellis.
“ There ’s been a gale to the suthard,” said Geordie. “ I knew it by the ground-swell these two days past. It ’s a pity if we can’t match it with one of our own. There it is, coming clown strong.”
“ O, do you suppose anything will happen to Lucian?” cried Joey.
“ Lucian ? Nonsense ! He knows every ripple. ’T was a head-wind over, you know—”
“ 'T would kill mother,” said Joey, under her breath, “ she sets so by him.”
“ And what would it do to you ? ”
“ O, how can you jest about it ? ” said Joey, tremulously. “There, —is n't that he ? ”
“That? No,” said Geordie with his sailor’s glance. “ It’s the yacht Albatross. The Cockle-Shell is sloop-rigged. That’s more canvas than I ’d like to stiver under, though,” said Geordie, reverting to the yacht. “Wonder they don’t set a jib too. All that linen will be your shroud, my man. You 'll never round this reef! ” said Geordie.
It was growing dusk as they walked. Other people were coming down to the shore on the lookout for other craft. As Joey saw their anxiety, if her own increased, she refused to let them know of it, only pacing rapidly up and down the sands on Geordie’s arm, and exchanging with the rest ringing salutes and laughing encouragements, that seemed gay and might have been nervous, while the flying spray of the surf wet her pale cheek, and every now and then blinded her glistening eyes.
“Our folks went down to the Tusks on a fishing-party, and we ’re getting anxious some,” said one of those they met. “ Suppose there’s no particular danger, — what do you think, Mr. Romilly ?”
“ I 'd rather be ashore to-night than afloat in any of the pods you put out in about here. But danger, — no.”
“ Suppose you ’re looking out for Lucian, Miss Joey.”
“Lucian!” said Joey in scornful tone. “ I don’t think he ’s mate of the barque Josephine to come to grief in the Cockle-Shell.”
“ Such things has been ’fore now,” was the dry response.
“When a person’s weathered the Horn in a gale of wind, he’s likely not to know his way round our reef tonight ! We ’ve been looking at the waves and the fire in them, Mr. Thurlow. Did you ever see them so before ? How black they are! and then how they break! all one spread of foam and fire ! ”
“ Glad you ’re so easy, Miss. As for me, I can’t see any beauty there while my girls are out in a whale-boat,” said Mr. Thurlow,—jerkingly, for the wind tore the words from his teeth.
“There’s a boat! ” said Joey, shading her eyes. “ How she flies ! Every thing reefed but that little rag of a topsail too. Geordie, is n’t that Lu ? That ’s your boat, Mr. Thurlow! I know her red streamer. And that ’s Ned Russell. Yes, and there are your girls. Now!”
“That’s your boat, sir,” said Geordie.
“Well, girls,” said Mr. Thurlow, making for that safer part of the beach to which the boat was pointed, and long before they could have heard a word he said, while the wind blew everything straight to those following close behind him. “A pretty rig you’ve made me run ! And there ’s your mother — ”
“ O, it’s father!” cried one of the girls, scampering along the beach, and falling into his arms with an hysterical laugh. “O, I didn’t think I ’d ever see you again ! ”
“ There ! Now, now ! So ! And you ’re as wet as a drownded rat. Drenched ! and shivering! your mother — ”
“ And we ’ve never touched the Tusks at all, father, the sea was so high,” exclaimed the other one. “And I do believe we ’ve come home fairly under water! ”
“I should think so! The next time I let you off with Ned Russell! A half-hour later and you ’d have been stove to pieces, trying the shore here. And there’s your moth — ”
“And we saw a boat bottom up, father — ”
Geordie and Joey both sprang forward unperceived.
“’T warn’t young Jouvency, was it?” asked the father.
“ Was he out? I dare say! Ned thought it must be the — ”
“No ; a boat from across the bay,— the Swallow, or something. It frightened me so. It might have been ours, you know. O, how cold I am ! ”
“Well, here ’s Miss Joey just behind,— guess she would n’t care if it was Lucian. She ’s got another beau now. There, I ’ll come down in the wagon for your traps. Come now, girls, dance round! Your mother — ”
Joey drew Geordie away out of sound of the conversation which the stroke of the sea and the roar of the wind gave them only by piecemeal, and, as they continued their walk up and down, it grew every time insensibly a longer distance that they traversed, till at length they found themselves quite beyond the line of the breakers, at the head of a cove of comparatively safe waters.
“Now, Geordie,” said Joey, “ fly, if you never did before ! Where are your matches?” And she fell to gathering the dry splinters and the scattered driftwood, while Geordie brought great logs that the high tides had stranded out of reach of succeeding ones. Then she spread her cloak to windward of the little flame, while Geordie kindled and fed it, and in ten minutes an immense bonfire was streaming on the storm, and throwing its red light far out across the reach of wrathful waves.
“ There,” said Geordie, “ that ’ll be as good a beacon for the boats to give the breaker the slip as ever blazed. Not that Jouvency needs it though. There is n’t a drop of water this side the Tusks but he knows it by name ! ”