The Wayfarer

THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY

AUGUST, 1906

BY NORMAN DUNCAN

THE harbor lights were out; all the world of sea and sky and barren rock was black. It was Saturday, — long after night, the first snow flying in the dark. Half a gale from the north ran whimpering through the rigging, by turns wrathful and plaintive,—a restless wind: it would not leave the night at ease. The trader Good Samaritan lay at anchor in Poor Man’s Harbor on the Newfoundland coast: this on her last voyage of that season for the shore fish. We had given the schooner her Saturday night bath; she was white and trim in every part: the fish stowed, the decks swabbed, the litter of goods in the cabin restored to the hooks and shelves. The crew was in the forecastle, — a lolling, snoozy lot, now desperately yawning for lack of diversion. Tumm, the clerk, had survived the moods of brooding and light irony, and was still wide awake, musing quietly in the seclusion of a cloud of tobacco smoke. By all the signs, the inevitable was at hand; and presently, as we had foreseen, the pregnant silence fell.

With one blast, — a swishing exhalation breaking from the depths of his gigantic chest, in its passage fluttering his unkempt mustache,—Tumm dissipated the enveloping cloud; and having thus emerged from seclusion he moved his glance from eye to eye until the crew sat in uneasy expectancy.

“If a lad’s mother tells un he ’ve got a soul,” he began, “it don’t do no wonderful harm; but if a man finds it out for hisself ” —

The pause was for effect; so, too, the pointed finger, the lifted nostrils, the deep, inclusive glance.

— “It plays the devil!”

The ship’s boy, a cadaverous, pasty, red-eyed, drooping-jawed youngster from the Cove o’ First Cousins, gasped in a painful way. He came closer to the forecastle table, — a fascinated rabbit.

“Billy Ill,” said Tumm, “you better turn in.”

“I is n’t sleepy, sir.”

“I ’low you better had,” Tumm warned. “It ain’t fit for such as you t’ hear.”

The boy’s voice dropped to an awed whisper. “I wants t’ hear,” he said.

“Hear?”

“Ay, sir. I wants t’ hear about souls, — an’ the devil.”

Tumm sighed. “Ah, well, lad,” said he, “I ’low you was born t’ be troubled by fears. God help us all!”

We waited.

“He come,” Tumm began, “from Jug Cove, — bein’,” he added, indulgently, after a significant pause, “born there,— an’ that by sheer ill luck of a windy night in the fall o’ the year, when the ol’ woman o’ Tart Harbor, which used t’ be handy thereabouts, was workin’ double watches at Whale Run t’ save the life of a trader’s wife o’ the name o’ Tiddle. I ’low,” he continued, “that ’t is the only excuse a man could have for hailin’ from Jug Cove; for,” he elucidated, “’t is a mean place t’ the westward o’ Fog Island, a bit below the Black Gravestones, where the Soldier o’ the Cross was picked up by Satan’s Tail in the nor’easter o’ last fall. You opens the Cove when you rounds Greedy Head o’ the Hen-an’-Chickens an’ lays a course for Gentleman Tickle t’ other side o’ the Bay. ’T is there that Jug Cove lies; an’ whatever,” he proceeded, being now well underway, with all sail drawing in a snoring breeze, “’t is where the poor devil had the ill luck t’ hail from. We was drove there in the Quick as Wink in the southerly gale o’ the Year o’ the Big Shore Catch; an’ we lied three dirty days in the lee o’ the Pillar o’ Cloud, waitin’ for civil weather; for we was fished t’ the scrupper-holes, an’ had no heart t’ shake hands with the sea that was runnin’. ’T is a mean place t’ be wind-bound, — this Jug Cove: tight an’ dismal as chokee, with walls o’ black rock, an’ as nasty a front yard o’ sea as ever I knowed.

“‘Ecod!’ thinks I, ’I’ll just take a run ashore t’ see how bad a mess really was made o’ Jug Cove.’

“Which bein’ done, I crossed courses for the first time with Abraham Botch, — Botch by name, an’ botch, accordin’ t’ my poor lights, by nature: Abraham Botch, God help un! o’ Jug Cove. ’T was a foggy day, — a cold, wet time: ecod! the day felt like the corpse of a drowned cook. The moss was soggy; the cliffs an’ rocks was all a-drip; the spruce was soaked t’ the skin, — the earth all wettish an’ sticky an’ cold. The southerly gale ramped over the sea; an’ the sea got so mad at the wind that it fair frothed at the mouth. I ’low the sea was tired o’ foolin’, an’ wanted t’ go t’ sleep; but the wind kep’ teasin’ it,— kep’ slappin’ an’ pokin’ an’ pushin’, — till the sea could n’t stand it no more, an’ just got mad. Off shore, in the front yard o’ Jug Cove, ’t was all white with breakin’ rocks, — as dirty a sea for fishin’ punts as a man could sail in nightmares. From the Pillar o’ Cloud I could see, down below, the seventeen houses o’ Jug Cove, an’ the sweet little Quick as Wink; the water was black, an’ the hills was black, but the ship an’ the mean little houses was gray in the mist. T’ sea they was nothin’,— just fog an’ breakers an’ black waves. T’ landward, likewise, — black hills in the mist. A dirty sea. an’ a lean shore!

“‘Tumm,’ thinks I, ‘’t is more by luck than good conduct that you was n’t born here. You’d thank God, Tumm,’ thinks I, ‘if you did n’t feel so dismal scurvy about bein’ the Teacher’s pet.’

“An’ then —

“‘Good-even,’ says Abraham Botch.

“There he lied, — on the blue, spongy caribou-moss, at the edge o’ the cliff, with the black-an’-white sea below, an’ the mist in the sky an’ on the hills t’ leeward. Ecod! but he was lean an’ ragged: this fellow sprawlin’ there, with his face t’ the sky an’ his legs an’ leaky boots scattered over the moss. Skinny legs he had, an’ a chest as thin as paper; but aloft he carried more sail ’n the law allows, — skyscraper, star-gazer, an’, ay! even the curse-o’-God-over-all. That was Botch, — mostly head, an’ a sight more forehead than face, God help un! He’d a long, girlish face, a bit thin at the cheeks an’ skimped at the chin; an’ they was n’t beard enough anywheres t’ start a bird’s nest. Ah, but the eyes o’ that botch! Them round, deep eyes, with the still waters an’ clean shores! I ’low I can’t tell you no more, — but only this: that they was somehow like the sea, blue an deep an’ full o’ change an’ sadness. Ay, there lied Botch in the fog-drip, — poor Botch o’ Jug Cove: eyes in his head; his dirty, lean body clothed in patched moleskin an’ rotten leather.

“ An’ —

“‘Good-even, yourself,’ says I,

“‘My name’s Botch,’ says he. ’Is n’t you from the Quick as Wink ? ’

“‘I is,’ says I; ‘an’ they calls me Tumm.’

“‘That’s a very queer name,’ says he.

“‘Oh, no!’ says I. ‘They isn’t nothin’ queer about the name o’ Tumm.’

“He laughed a bit, —an’ rubbed his feet together: just like a tickled youngster. ‘Ay,’ says he; ‘that’s a wonderful queer name. Hark! ’ says he. ‘You just listen, an’ I’ll show you. Tumm,’ says he, ‘Tumm, Tumm, Tumm. . . . Tumm, Tumm, Tumm. . . . Tumm ’ —

“‘Don’t,’ says I, for it give me the fidgets. ‘Don’t say it so often.’

“’Why not?’ says he.

“‘I don’t like it,’ says I.

“‘Tumm,’ says he, with a little cackle, ’Titmm, Tumm, Tumm’ —

“’Don’t you do that no more,’ says I. ’I won’t have it. When you says it that way, I ’low I don’t know whether my name is Tumm or Tump. ’T is a very queer name. I wisht,’ says I, ‘that I’d been called Smith.’

‘“’T would n’t make no difference,’ says he. ‘All names is queer if you stops t’ think. Every word you ever spoke is queer. Everything is queer. It’s all queer — once you stops t’ think about it.’

“‘Then I don’t think I’ll stop,’ says I, ‘for I don’t like things t’ be queer.’

“Then Botch had a little spell o’ thinkin’.”

Tumm leaned over the forecastle table.

“Now,” said he, forefinger lifted, “accordin’ t’ my lights, it ain’t nice t’ see any man thinkin’: for a real man ain’t got no call t’ think, an’ can’t afford the time on the coast o’ Newf’un’land, where they’s too much fog an’ wind an’ rock t’ ’low it. For me, I’d rather see a man in a ’leptic fit: for fits is more or less natural an’ can’t be helped. But Botch! When Botch thunk — when he got hard at it—’t would give you the shivers. He sort o’ drawed away — got into nothin’. They was n’t no sea nor shore for Botch no more; they was n’t no earth, no heavens. He got rid o’ all that, as though it hindered the work he was at, an’ did n’t matter, anyhow. They was n’t nothin’ left o’ things but Botch — an’ the nothin’ about un. Botch in nothin’. Accordin’ t’ my lights, ’t is a sinful thing t’ do; an’ when I first seed Botch at it, I ’lowed he was lackin’ in religious opinions. ’T was just as if his soul had pulled down the blinds, an’ locked the front door, an’ gone out for a walk, without leavin’ word when ’t would be home. An’, accordin’ t’ my lights, it ain’t right, nor wise, for a man’s soul t’ do no such thing. A man’s soul ain’t got no common sense; it ain’t got no caution, no manners, no nothin’ that it needs in a wicked world like this. When it gets loose, ’tis liable t’ wander far, an’ get lost, an’ miss its supper. Accordin’ t’ my lights, it ought t’ be kep’ in, an’ fed an’ washed regular, an’ put t’ bed at nine o’clock. But Botch! well, there lied his body in the wet, like an unloved child, while his soul went cavortin’ over the Milky Way.

“He come to all of a sudden. ‘Tumm ’ says he, ‘you is.’

“‘Ay,’ says I, ‘Tumm I is. ’Tis the name I was born with.’

“ ' You don’t find me,’ says he. ‘I says you is.’

‘“Is what?’

“ ' Just — is!

“With that, I took un. ’T was all t’ oncet. He was tellin’ me that I was. Well, I is. Damme! ’t was n’t anything I didn’t know if I’d stopped t’ think. But they was n’t nobody ever called my notice to it afore, an’ I’d been too busy about the fish t’ mind it. So I was sort o’— s’prised. It don’t matter,look you! t’ be; but ’t is mixin’ t’ the mind an’ fearsome t,’ stop t’ think about it. An’ it come t’ me all t’ oncet; an’ I was s’prised, an’ I was scared.

‘“Now, Tumm,’ says he, with his finger p’intin’, ‘where was you?’

“‘Fishin’ off the Shark’s Fin,’ says I. ‘We just come up loaded, an’ ’ —

“ ‘ You don’t find me,’ says he. ‘ I says, where was you afore you was is ? ’

“ ‘ Is you gone mad ? ’ says I.

“‘Not at all, Tumm,’ says he. ‘Not at all! ’T is a plain question. You is, is n’t you? ‘Well, then you must have been was. Now, then, Tumm, where was you ? ’

“‘Afore I was born ?’

“‘Ay — afore you was is.’

“ ‘ God knows! ’ says I. ‘ I ’low I don’t. An’ look you, Botch,’ says I, ‘this talk ain’t, right. You is n’t a infidel, is you ? ’

“‘Oh, no!’ says he.

“ ‘Then,’ says I, for I was mad, ‘where in hell did you think up all this ghostly tomfoolery ? ’

“’On the grounds,’ says he.

“’On the grounds ? ’ Lads,” said Tumm to the crew, his voice falling, “you knows what that means, does n’t you ?”

The Jug Cove fishing-grounds lie off Break-heart Head. They are beset with peril and all the mysteries of the earth. They are fished from little punts, which the men of Jug Cove cleverly make with their own hands, every man his own punt, having been taught to this by their fathers, who learned of the fathers before them, out of the knowledge which ancient contention with the wiles of the wind and of the sea had disclosed. The timber is from the wilderness, taken at leisure; the iron and hemp are from the far-off southern world, which is to the men of the place like a grandmother’s tale, loved and incredible. Off the Head the sea is spread with rock and shallow. It is a sea of wondrously changing colors, — blue, red as blood, gray, black with the night. It is a sea of changing moods: of swift, unprovoked wrath; of unsought and surprising gentlenesses. It is not to be understood. There is no mastery of it to be won. It gives no accounting to men. It has no feeling. The shore is bare and stolid. Black cliffs rise from the water; they are forever white at the base with the fret of the sea. Inland, the blue-black hills lift their heads; they are unknown to the folk — hills of fear, remote and cruel. Seaward fogs and winds are bred; the misty distances are vast and mysterious, wherein are the great cliffs of the world’s edge. Winds and fogs and ice are loose and passionate upon the waters. Overhead is the high, wide sky, its appalling immensity revealed from the rim to the rim. Clouds, white and black, crimson and gold, fluffy, torn to shreds, wing restlessly from nowhere to nowhere. It is a vast, silent, restless place. At night its infinite spaces are alight with the dread marvel of stars.

The universe is voiceless and indifferent. It has no purpose — save to follow its inscrutable will. Sea and wind are aimless. The land is dumb, self-centred; it has neither message nor care for its children. And from dawn to dark the punts of Jug Cove float in the midst of these terrors.

“ Eh ? ” Tumm resumed. “ You knows what it is, lads. ’T is bad enough t’ think in company, when a man can peep into a human eye an’ steady his old hulk; but t’ think alone — an’ at the fishin’! I ’low Botch ought to have knowed better; for they’s too many men gone t’ the madhouse t’ Saint John’s already from this here coast along o’ thinkin’. But Botch thinked at will. ‘Tumm,’ says he, ‘I done a power o’ thinkin’ in my life — out there on the grounds, between Break-heart Head an’ the Tombstone, that breakin’ rock t’ the east’ard. I’ve thunk o’ wind an’ sea, o’ sky an’ soil, o’ tears an’ laughter an’ crooked backs, o’ love an’ death, rags an’ robbery, of all the things of earth an’ in the hearts o’ men; an’ I don’t know nothin’! My God! after all,I don’t know nothin’! The more I’ve thunk, the less I’ve knowed. ’T is all come down t’ this, now, Tumm: that I is. An’ if I is, I was an’ will be. But sometimes I misdoubt the was; an’ if I loses my grip on the was, Tumm, my God! what’ll become o’ the will be? Can you tell me that, Tumm ? Is I got t’ come down t’ the is? Can’t I build nothin’ on that? Can’t I go no further than the is? An’ will I lose even that ? Is I got t’ come down t’ knowin’ nothin’ at all?’

“‘Look you! Botch,’ says I, ‘don’t you know the price o’ fish ? ’

“‘No,’ says he. ‘But it ain’t nothin’ t’ know. It ain’t worth knowin’. It — it — it don’t matter!’

“ ‘ I ’low,’ says I, ‘your wife don’t think likewise. You got a wife, is n’t you ? ’ “‘Ay,’ says he.

“ ‘ An’ a kid ? ’

“‘I don’t know,’ says he.

“’You what!’ says I.

“’I don’t know,’says he. ‘She was engaged at it when I come up on the Head. They was a lot o’ women in the house, an’ a wonderful lot o’ fuss an’ muss. You’d be s’prised, Tumm,’ says he, ‘t’ know how much fuss a thing like this can make. So,’ says he, ’I’ ’lowed I’d come up on the Pillar o’ Cloud an’ think a spell in peace.’

“‘An’ what?’ says I.

“‘Have a little spurt at thinkin’.’ “‘O’ she?’

“‘Oh, no, Tumm,’ says he; ‘that ain’t nothin’ t’ think about. But,’ says he, ‘I s’pose I might as well go down now, an’ see what’s happened. I hopes’t is a boy,’ says he, ‘for somehow girls don’t seem t’ have much show.’

“An’ with that,” drawled Tumm, “ down the Pillar o’ Cloud goes Abraham Botch.”

He paused to laugh; and’t was a soft, sad little laugh — dwelling upon things long past.

“An’ by and by,” he continued, “I took the goat-path t’ the waterside; an’ I went aboard the Quick as Wink in a fog o’ dreams an’ questions. The crew was weighin’ anchor, then; an’ ’t was good for the soul t’ feel the deck-planks underfoot, an’ t’ hear the clank o’ solid iron, an’t’ join the work-song o’ men that had muscles an’ bowels. ‘Skipper Zeb,’ says I, when we had the old craft coaxed out o’ the tickle, ‘leave me have a spell at the wheel. For the love o’ man,’ says I,

‘ let me get a grip of it! I wants t’ get hold o’ something with my hands — something real an’ solid; something I knows about; something that means something! ’ For all this talk o’ the is an’ was, an’ all these thoughts o’ the why, an’ all the crybaby ‘My Gods!’ o ’ Abraham Botch, an’ the mystery o’ the wee new soul, had made me dizzy in the head an’ a bit sick at the stomach. So I took the wheel, an’ felt the leap an’ quiver o’ the ship, an’ got my eye screwed on the old Giant’s Thumb, loomin’ out o’ the east’ard fog, an’ kep’ her willful head up, an’ wheedled her along in the white tumble, with the spray o’ the sea cool an’ wet on my face; an’ I was better t’ oncet. The Boilin’-Pot Shallows was dead ahead; below the fog I could see the manes o’ the big whitehorses flung t’ the gale. An’ I ’lowed that oncet I got the Quick as Wink in them waters, deep with fish as she was, I’d have enough of a real man’s troubles t’ sink the woes o’ the soul out o’ all remembrance.

“‘I won’t care a squid,’ thinks I, ‘for the why nor the wherefore o’ nothin’!’

“ ’N neither I did.”

The skipper of the Good Samaritan yawned. “Is n’t they nothin’ about fish in this here yarn?” he asked.

“Nor tradin’,” snapped Tumm.

“Nothin’ about love?”

“Botch never knowed about love.”

“If you’ll ’scuse me,” said the skipper, “I’ll turn in. I got enough.”

But the clammy, red-eyed lad from the Cove o’ First Cousins hitched closer to the table, and put his chin in his hands. He was now in a shower of yellow light from the forecastle lamp. His nostrils were working; his eyes were wide and restless and hot. He had bitten at a chapped underlip until the blood came.

“About that will be,” he whispered timidly. “Did Botch never say,—where?”

“You better turn in,” Tumm answered.

“But I wants t’ know!”

Tumm a verted his face. “Ill,”he commanded quietly, “you better turn in.”

The boy was obedient.

“In March, ’long about two year after,” Tumm resumed, “I shipped for the ice aboard the Neptune. We got a scattered swile [seal] off the Horse Islands; but ol’ Cap’n Lane ’lowed the killin’ was so mean that he’d move t’ sea an’ come up with the ice on the outside, for the wind had been in the nor’west for a likely spell. We cotched the body o’ ice t’ the nor’east o’ the Funks; an’ the swiles was sure there, — hoods an’ harps an’ whitecoats an’ all. They was three Saint John’s steamers there, an’ they’d been killin’ for a day an’ a half; so the ol’ man turned our crew loose on the ice without waitin’ t’ wink, though ’t was afternoon, with a wicked gray look t’ the sky in the west, which was where the wind was jumpin’ from. An’ we had a red time, — ay, now, believe me: a soppy red time of it among the swiles that day! They was men from Green Bay, an’ Bonavist’, an’ the Exploits, an the South Coast, an’ a swarm o’ Irish from Saint John’s; they was so many men on the pack, ecod! that you could n’t call their names. An’ we killed an’sculped till dusk. An’then the weather broke with snow; an’ afore we knowed it we was lost from the ships in the cloud an’ wind,—three hundred men, ecod! smothered an’ blinded by snow: howlin’ for salvation like souls in a frozen hell.

“‘Tumm,’ thinks I, ‘you better get aboard o’ something the sea won’t break over. This pack,’ thinks I, ‘will certain go abroad when the big wind gets at it.’

“So I got aboard a bit of a berg; an’ when I found the lee side I sot down in the dark an’ thunk hard about different things, — sunshine an’ supper an’ the like o’ that; for they was n’t no use thinkin’ about what was goin’ for’ard on the pack near by. An’ there, on the side o’ the little berg, sits I till mornin’; an’ in the mornin’, out o’ the blizzard t’ win’ward, along comes Abraham Botch o’ Jug Cove, marooned on a flat pan o’ ice. ’T was comin’ down the wind, — clippin’ it toward my overgrown lump of a craft like a racin’ yacht. When I sighted Botch, roundin’ a point o’ the berg, I ’lowed I’d have no more ’n twenty minutes t’ yarn with un afore he was out o’ hail an’ sight in the snow t’ leeward. He was squatted on his haunches, with his chin on his knees, white with thin ice, an’ fringed an’ decked with icicles; an’ it ’peared t’ me, from the way he was took up with the nothin’ about un, that he was still thinkin’. The pack was gone abroad, then, — scattered t’ the four winds: they was n’t another pan t’ be seed on the black water. An’ the sea “was runnin’ high —a fussy wind-lop over a swell that broke in big whitecaps, which went swishin’ away with the wind. A scattered sea broke over Botch’s pan; ’t would fall aboard, an’ break, an’ curl past un, risin’ to his waist. But the poor devil did n’t seem t’ take much notice. He’d shake the water off, an’ cough it out of his throat; an’ then he’d go on takin’ observations in the nothin’ dead ahead.

“‘Ahoy, Botch!’ sings I.

“He knowed me t’ oncet. ‘Tumm!’ he sings out. ‘Well, well! That you?'

“‘The same,’ says I. ‘You got a bad berth there, Botch. I wish you was aboard the berg with me.’

“ ‘Oh,’ says he, ‘the pan ’ll do. I gets a bit choked with spray when I opens my mouth; but they is n’t no good reason why I should n’t keep it shut. A man ought t’ breathe through his nose, anyhow. That’s what it’s for.’

“ ’T was a bad day, — a late dawn in a hellish temper. They was n’t much of it t’ see, — just a space o’ troubled water, an’ the big, unfeelin’ cloud. An’, God! how cold it was. The wind was thick with dry snow, an’ it come whirlin’ out o’ the west as if it wanted t’ do damage, an’ meant t’ have its way. ’T would grab the crests o’ the seas an’ fling un off like handfuls o’ white dust. An’ in the midst o’ this was poor Botch o’ Jug Cove!

“‘This wind,’ says I, ‘will work up a wonderful big sea, Botch. You’ll be swep’ off afore nightfall.’

“‘No,’ says he; ‘for by good luck, Tumm, I’m froze tight t’ the pan.’

“‘But the seas ’ll drown you.’

“‘I don’t know,’ says he. ‘I keeps breakin’ the ice ’round my neck,’ says he, ‘an’ if I can on’y keep my neck clear an’ limber I’ll be able t’ duck most o’ the big seas.’

“It was n’t nice t’ see the gentle wretch squattin’ there on his haunches. It made me feel bad. I wisht he was home t’ Jug Cove thinkin’ of his soul.

“‘Botch,’ says I, ‘I wisht you was somewheres else! ’

“‘Now, don’t you trouble about that, Tumm,’says he. ‘Please don’t! The ice is all on the outside. I’m perfeckly comfortable inside.’

“He took it all so gracious that somehow or other I begun t’ forget that he was froze t’ the pan an’ bound out t’ sea. He was ’longside, now; an’ I seed un smile. So I sort o’ got his feelin’; an’ I did n’t fret for un no more.

“‘An’, Tumm,’ says he, ‘I’ve had a wonderful grand night. I’ll never forget it so long as I lives.’

“ ‘ A what ? ’ says I. ’Was n’t you cold ? ’

“’I — I —I don’t know,’ says he, puzzled. ‘ I was too busy t’ notice much.’

“’Is n’t you hungry?’

“‘Why, Tumm,’ says he, in s’prise, ‘I believes I is, now that you mentions it. I believes I’d like a biscuit.’

‘“I wisht I had one t’ shy,’ says I.

“‘Don’t you be troubled,’ says he. ‘My arms is stuck. I could n’t cotch it, anyhow.’

“ ‘Anyhow,’ says I, ‘I wisht I had one.’

“ ‘A grand night! ’ says he. ‘ For I got a idea, Tumm. They was n’t nothin’ t’ disturb me all night long. I been all alone — an’ I been quiet. An’ I got a idea. I’ve gone an’ found out, Tumm,’ says he, ‘a law o’life! Look you! Tumm,’ says he, ‘what you aboard that berg for? ’T is because you had sense enough t’ get there. An’ why is n’t I aboard that berg ? ’T is because I did n’t have none o’ the on’y kind o’ sense that was needed in the mess last night. You’ll be picked up by the fleet,’ says he, ‘when the weather clears; an’ I’m bound out t’ sea on a speck o’ flat ice. This coast ain’t kind,’ says he. ‘No coast is kind. Men lives because they’re able for it; not because they’re coaxed to. An’ the on’y kind o’ men this coast lets live an’ breed is the kind she wants. The kind o’ men this coast puts up with ain’t weak, an’ they ain’t timid, an’ they don’t think. Them kind dies, — just the way I ’low I got t’ die. They don’t live, Tumm, an’ they don’t breed.’

“‘What about you?’ says I.

“‘About me?’ says he.

“‘Ay, — that day on the Pillar o’ Cloud.’

“‘Oh!’ says he. ‘You mean about she. Well, it did n’t come t’ nothin’, Tumm. The women folk was n’t able t’ find me, an’ they did n’t know which I wanted sove, the mother or the child; so, somehow or other, both went an’ died afore I got there. But that is n’t got nothin’ t’ do with this.'

“He was drifted a few fathoms past. Just then a big sea fell atop of un. He ducked real skillful, an’ come out of it smilin’, if sputterin’.

“‘Now, Tumm,’ says he, ‘if we was t’ the s’uthard, where they says ’tis warm an’ different, an’ lives is n’t lived the same, maybe you’d be on the pan o’ ice, an’ I’d be aboard the berg; maybe you’d be like t’ starve, an’ I’d get so much as forty cents a day the year round. They’s a great waste in life,’ says he, ‘I don’t know why; but there ’t is. An’ I ’low I’m gone t’ waste on this here coast. I been born out o’ place; that’s all. But they’s a place somewheres for such as me — somewheres for the likes o’ me. T’ the s’uth’ard, now, maybe, they’d be a place; t’ the s’uth’ard maybe the folk would want t’ know about the things I thinks out — ay, maybe they’d even pay for the labor I’m put to! But here, you lives, an’ I dies. Don’t you see, Tumm ? ’T is the law! ’T is why a Newf’un’lander ain’t a nigger. More ’n that, ’t is why a dog’s a dog on land an’ a swile in the water; ’t is why a dog haves legs an’ a swile haves flippers. Don’t you see ? ’T is the law!’

“‘I don’t quite find you,’ says I.

“Poor Botch shook his head. ‘They is n’t enough words in langwitch,’ says he, ‘t’ ’splain things. Men ought t’ get t’ work an’ make more.’

“‘But tell me,’ says I.

“Then, by Botch’s regular ill luck, under he went; an’ it took un quite a spell t’ cough his voice into workin’ order.

“‘Excuse me,’says he. ‘I’m sorry. It come too suddent t’ be ducked.’

“‘Sure!’ says I. ‘I don’t mind.’

“‘Tumm,’ says he, ‘it all comes down t’ this: The thing that lives is the kind o’ thing that’s best fit t’ live in the place itlives in. That’s a law o’ life! An’ nobody but me, Tumm,’ says he, ‘ever knowed it afore! ’

‘“It don’t amount t’ nothin’,’ says I.

“'’T is a law o’ life! ’

‘“But it don’t mean nothin’.’

“‘Tumm,’ says he, discouraged, ‘I can’t talk t’ you no more. I’m too busy. I ’lowed when I seed you there on the berg that you’d tell somebody what I thunk out last night if you got clear o’ this mess. An’ I wanted everybody t’ know. I did so want un t’ know — an’t’ know that Abraham Botch o’ Jug Cove did the thinkin’ all by hisself! But you don’t seem able. An’, anyhow,’says he, ‘I’m too busy t’ talk no more. They’s a deal more hangin’ on that law ’n I told you. The beasts o’ the field is born under it, an’ the trees o’ the forest, an’ all that lives. They’s a bigger law behind; an’ I got t’ think that out afore the sea works up. I’m sorry, Tumm; but if you don’t mind, I’ll just go on thinkin’. You won’t mind, will you, Tumm ? I would n’t like you t’ feel bad.’

“‘Lord, no!’ says I. 'I won’t mind.’

“‘Thank you, Tumm,’ says he. ‘For I’m greatly took by thinkin’.’

“An’ so Botch sputtered an’ thunk an’ kep’ his neck limber ’till he drifted out o’ sight in the snow.”

But that was not the last of the Jug Cove philosopher.

“Next time I seed Botch,” Tumm resumed, “we was both shipped by chance for the Labrador from Twillingate. ’T was aboard the dirty little Three Sisters,—a thirty-ton, fore-an’-aft green-fish catcher, skippered by Mad Bill Likely o’ Yellow Tail Tickle. An’ poor Botch did n’t look healthful. He was blue an’ wan an’ wonderful thin. An ’ he did n’t look at all right. Poor Botch — ah, poor old Botch! They was n’t no more o’ them fuddlin’ questions; they was n’t no more o’ that cocksure, tickled little cackle. Them big, deep eyes o’ his, which used t’ be clean an’ fearless an’ sad an’ nice, was all misty an’ red, like a nasty sunset, an’ most unpleasant shifty. I ’lowed I’d take a look in, an’ sort o’ fathom what was up; but they was too quick for me — they got away every time; an’ I never seed more ’n a shadow. An’ he kep’ lookin’ over’ his shoulder, an’ cockin’ his ears, an’ givin’ suddent starts, like a poor wee child on a dark road. They was n’t no more o’ that sinful gettin’ into nothin’ — no more o’ that puttin’ away o’ the rock an’ sea an’ the great big sky. I ’lowed, by the Lord! that he could n’t do it no more. All them big things had un scared t’ death. He did n’t dast forget they was there. He could n’t get into nothin’ no more. An’ so I knowed he would n’t be happy aboard the Three Sisters with that devil of a Mad Bill Likely o’ Yellow Tail Tickle for skipper.

“‘Botch,’ says I, when we was off Mother Burke, ‘how is you, b’y?’

“‘Oh, farin’ along,’ says he.

“‘Ay,’ says I; ‘but how is you, b’y?

“‘Farin’ along,’ says he.

“ ‘It ain’t a answer,’ says I. ‘I’m askin’ a plain question, Botch.’

“‘Well, Tumm,’ says he, the ‘fac’ is, Tumm, I’m —sort o’ — jus’ — farin’ along.’

“We crossed the Straits of a moonlight night. The wind was fair an’ light. Mad Bill was t’ the wheel: for he ’lowed he was n’t goin’t’ have no chances took with a Lally Line steamer, havin’ been sunk oncet by the same. ’T was a kind an’ peaceful night. I’ve never knowed the world t’ be more t’ rest an’ kinder t’ the sons o’ men. The wind was from the s’uth’ard, a point or two east: a soft wind an’ sort o’ dawdlin’ careless an’ happy toward the Labrador. The sea was sound asleep; an’ the schooner cuddled up, an’ dreamed, an’ snored, an’ sighed, an’ rolled along, as easy as a ship could be. Moonlight was over all the world — so soft an’ sweet an’ playful an’ white; it said, ‘Hush!’ an’, ‘Go t’sleep!’ All the stars that ever shone was wide awake an’ winkin’. A playful crew — them little stars! Wink! wink! ‘Go t’ sleep!’ says they. ‘ ’T is our watch,’ says they. ‘ We ’ll take care o’ you.' An’t’ win’ward — far off — black an’ low — was Cape Norman o’ Newf’un’land. Newf’un’land! Ah, we’re all mad with love o’ she! ‘Good-night!’ says she. ‘Fair v’y’ge,’ says she; ‘an’ may you come home loaded!’ Sleep? Ay; men could sleep that night. They was n’t no fear at sea. Sleep ? Ay; they was n’t no fear in all the moonlit, world.

“ An’ then up from the forecastle comes Botch o’ Jug Cove.

“‘Tumm,’ says he, ‘you is n’t turned in.’

“‘No, Botch,’ says I. ‘It is n’t my watch; but I ’lowed I’d lie here on this cod-trap an’ wink back at the stars.’

“ ‘I can’t sleep,’ says he. ‘ Oh, Tumm, I can’t !'

“‘ ’T is a wonderful fine night,’ says I.

“ ‘ Ay,’ says he; ‘ but ’ —

“‘But what?’ says I.

“‘You never can tell,’ says he.

“‘Never can tell what?’

“‘What’s goin’t’ happen.’

“I took one look—just one look into them shiverin’ eyes — an’ shook my head. ‘Do you ’low,’ says I, ‘that we can hit that berg off the port bow ? ’

“‘You never can tell,’ says he.

“‘Good Lord!’ says I. ‘With Mad Bill Likely o’ Yellow Tail Tickle at the wheel ? Botch,’ says I, ‘you ’re gone mad. What’s come along o’ you ? Where’s the is an’ the was an’ the will be? What’s come o’ that law o’ life ?’

“‘Hist!’ says he.

‘“Not me!’ says I. ‘I’ll hush for no man. What’s come o’ the law o’ life? What’s come o’ all the thinkin’P’

“‘Tumm,’ says he, ‘I don’t think no more. An’ the laws o’ life,’ says he, ‘is foolishness. The fac’ is, Tumm,’ says he, ‘things look wonderful different t’ me now. I is n’t the same as I used t’ be in them old days.’

“ ' You is n’t had a fever. Botch ? ’ says

I.

“‘Well,’ says he, ‘I got religion.’

“‘Oh! ’ says I. ‘ What kind ? ’

“‘Vi’lent,’ says he.

“’I see,’ says I.

“’I is n’t converted just this minute,’ says he. ‘I ’low you might say, an’ be near the truth, that I’m a damned backslider. But I been converted, an’ I may be again. Fac’ is, Tumm,’ says he, ’when I gets up in the mornin’ I never knows which I’m in, a state o’ grace or a state o’ sin. It usual takes till after breakfast t’ find out.’

“’Botch, b’y,’ says I, for it made me feel awful bad, ‘don’t you go an’ trouble about that.’

“ ‘You don’t know about hell,’ says he.

“ ‘I does know about hell,’ says I. ‘My mother told me.’

“‘Ay,’ says he; ‘she told you. But you does n’t know.’

“‘Botch,’ says I, ‘’t would s’prise me if she left anything out.’

“He was n’t happy — Botch was n’t. Fie begun t’ kick his heels, an’ scratch his whisps o’ beard, an’ chaw his fingernails. It made me feel bad. I did n’t like t’ see Botch took that way. I’d rather see un crawl into nuthin’ an’ think, ecod! than chaw his nails an’ look like a scared idjit from the madhouse t’ Saint John’s.

You got a soul, Tumm ?’ says he.

“‘I knows that,’ says I.

“’How ?’ says he.

“‘My mother told me.’

“Botch took a look at the stars. An’ so I, too, took a look at the funny little things. An’ the stars is so many, an’ so wonderful far off, an’ so wee an’ queer an’ perfeckly solemn an’ knowin’, that I ’lowed I did n’t know much about heaven an’ hell, after all, an’ begun t’ feel shaky.

“’I got converted,’ says Botch, ‘by means of a red-headed parson from the Cove o’ the Easterly Winds. He knowed everything. They was n’t no why he was n’t able t’ answer. “The glory o’ God,” says he; an’ there was an end to it. An’ bein’ converted of a suddent,’ says Botch, ‘without givin’ much thought t’ what might come after, I ’lowed the parson had the rights of it. Anyhow, I was n’t in no mood t’ set up my word against a real parson in a black coat, with a Book right under his arm. I ’lowed I would n’t stay very long in a state o’ grace if I done that. The fac’ is, he told me so. “Whatever,” thinks I, “the glory o’ God does well enough, if a man only will believe; an’ the tears an’ crooked backs an’ hunger o’ this here world,” thinks I, “which the parson lays t’ Him, fits in very well with the reefs an’ easterly gales He made.” So I ’lowed I’d better take my religion an’ ask no questions; an’ the parson said ’t was very wise, for I was only an ignorant man, an’ I’d reach a state o’ sanctification if I kep’ on in the straight an’ narrow way. So I went no more t’ the grounds. For what was the use o’ goin’ there ? Peared t’ me that heaven was my home. What’s the use o’ botherin’ about the fish for the little time we ’re here ? I could n’t get my mind on the fish. “ Heaven is my home,” thinks I, “an’ I’m tired, an’ I wants t’ get there, an’ I don’t want t’ trouble about the world.” ’T was an immortal soul I had t’ look out for. So I did n’t think no more about laws o’ life. ’T is a sin t’ pry into the mysteries o’ God; an’ ’t is a sinful waste o’ time, anyhow, t’ moon about the heads, thinkin’ about laws o’ life when you got a immortal soul on your hands. I wanted t’ save that soul! An’ I wants t’ save it now! ’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘ain’t it sove ?’

“‘No,’ says he; ‘for I could n’t help thinkin’. An’ when I thunk, Tumm,— whenever I fell from grace an’ thunk real hard, — I could n’t believe some o’ the things the red-headed parson said I had t’ believe if I wanted t’ save my soul from hell.’

“‘Botch,’ says I, ‘leave your soul be.’

“I can’t,’ says he. ‘I can’t! I got a immortal soul, Tumm. What’s t’ become o’ that there soul P ’

Don’t you trouble it,’ says I. ‘ Leave it be. ’T is too tender t’ trifle with. An’, anyhow,’ says I, ‘a man’s belly is all he can handle without strainin’.’

“’But ’t is minemy soul!'

“’Leave it be,’ says I. ‘It’ll get t’ heaven.’

“Then Botch gritted his teeth, an’ clenched his hands, an’ lifted his fists t’ heaven. There he stood, Botch o’ Jug Cove, on the for’ard deck o’ the Three Sisters, which was built by the hands o’ men, slippin’ across the Straits t’ the Labrador, in the light o’ the old, old moon — there stood Botch like a man in tarture!

“‘I is n’t sure, Tumm,’ says he, ‘that I wants t’ go t’ heaven. For I’d be all the time foolin’ about the gates o’ hell, peepin’ in,’ says he; ‘an’ if the devils suffered in the fire — if they moaned an’ begged for the mercy o’ God — I’d be wantin’ t’ go in, Tumm, with a jug o’ water an’ a pa’m-leaf fan!’

“’You’d get pretty well singed, Botch,’ says I.

“ ‘ I’d want t’ be singed! ’ says he.

“‘Well, Botch,’ says I, ‘I don’t know where you’d best lay your course for, heaven or hell. But I knows, my b’y,’ says I, ‘that you better give your soul a rest, or you’ll be sorry.’

“‘I can’t,’ says he.

“’It’ll get t’ one place or t’other,’ says I, ‘if you on’y bides your time.’

“ ‘ How do you know ? ’ says he.

“‘Why,’ says I, ‘any parson’ll tell you so! ’

“‘But how do you know ? ’ says he.

“‘Damme, Botch!’ says I; ‘my mother told me so.’

“‘That’s it!’ says he.

“’What’s it?’

“‘Your mother,’ says he. ‘’T is all hearsay with you an’ me. But I wants t’ know for myself. Heaven or hell, damnation or salvation, God or nothin’!’ says he. ‘I would n’t care if I on’y knowed. But I don’t know, an’ can’t find out. I’m tired o’ hearsay an’ guessin’, Tumm. I wants t’ know. Dear God of all men,’ says he, with his fists in the air, 'I wants t’ know!’

“‘Easy,’ says I. ‘Easy there! Don’t you say no more. ’T is mixin’t’ the mind. So,’ says I, ‘I ’low I’ll turn in for the night.’

“Down I goes. But I did n’t turn in. I could n’t,—not just then. I raked around in the bottom o’ my old nunny-bag for the Bible my dear mother put there when first I sot out for the Labrador in the Fear of the Lord. ‘I wants a message,’ thinks I; ‘an’ I wants it bad, an’ I wants it almighty quick!’ An’ I spread the Book on the forecastle table, an’ I put my finger down on the page, an’ I got all my nerves t’gether, — an’ I looked! Then I closed the Book. They was n’t much of a message; it done, t’ be sure, but ’t was n’t much: for that there yarn o’ Jonah an’ the whale is harsh readin’ for us poor fishermen. But I closed the Book, an’ wrapped it up again in my mother’s cotton, an’ put it back in the bottom o’ my nunny-bag, an’ sighed, an’ went on deck. An’ I cotched poor Botch by the throat; an’, ‘Botch,’ says I, ‘don’t you never say no more about souls t’ me. Men,’ says I, ‘is all hangin’ on off a lee shore in a big gale from the open; an’ they is n’t no mercy in that wind. I got my anchor down,’ says I. ‘My fathers forged it, hook an’ chain, an’ they weathered it out, without fear or favor. ’T is the on’y anchor I got, anyhow, an’ I don’t want it t’ part. For if it do, the broken bones o’ my soul will lie slimy an’ rotten on the reefs t’ leeward through all eternity. You leave me be,’says I. ‘Don’t you never say soul t’ me no more! ’

“I ’low,” Tumm sighed, while he picked at a knot in the table with his clasp-knife, “that if I could ’a’ done more ’n just what mother teached me, I’d sure have prayed for poor Abraham Botch that night!”

He sighed again.

“We fished the Farm Yard,” Tumm continued, “an’ Indian Harbor, an’ beat south into Domino Run; but we did n’t get no chance t’ use a pound o’ salt for all that. They did n’t seem t’ be no sign o’ fish anywheres on the s’uth’ard or middle coast o’ the Labrador. We run here, an’ we beat there, an’ we fluttered around like a half-shot gull; but we did n’t come up with no fish. Down went the trap, an’ up she come: not even a lumpfish or a lobster t’ grace the labor. Winds in the east, lop on the sea, fog in the sky, ice in the water, colds on the chest, boils on the wrists; but nar’ a fish in the hold ! It drove Mad Bill Likely stark. ‘Lads,’ says he, ‘the fish is north o’ Mugford. I’m goin’ down,’ says he, ‘if we haves t’ winter at Chidley on swile-fat an’ seaweed. For,’ says he, ‘ Butt o’Twillingate, which owns this craft, an’ has outfitted every man o’ this crew, is on his last legs, an’ I’d rather face the Lord in a black shroud o’ sin than tie up t’ the old man’s wharf with a empty hold. For the Lord is used to it,’ says he, ‘an’ would n’t mind; but Old Man Butt would cry.’ So we ’lowed we’d stand by, whatever come of it; an’ down north we went, late in the season, with a rippin’ wind astern. An’ we found the fish ’long about Kidalick; an’ we went at it, night an’ day, an’ loaded ha a fortnight. ‘An’, now, lads,’ says Mad Bill Likely, when the decks was awash, ‘you can all go t’ sleep, an’ be jiggered t’ you! ’ An’ down I dropped on the last stack o’ green cod, an’ slep’ for more hours than I dast tell you.

“Then we started south.

“‘Tumm,’ says Botch, when we was well underway, ‘we’re deep. We’re awful deep.’

“‘But it ain’t salt,’ says I; '’t is fish.’

“‘Ay,’ says he; ‘but’t is all the same t’ the schooner. We’ll have wind, an’ she’ll complain.’

“We coaxed her from harbor t’ harbor so far as Indian Tickle. Then we got a fair wind, an’ Mad Bill Likely ’lowed he’d make a run for it t’ the northern ports o’ the French Shore. We was well out an’ doin’ well when the wind switched t’ the sou’east. ’T was a beat, then; an’ the poor old Three Sisters did n’t like it, an’ got tired, an’ wanted t’ give up. By dawn the seas was comin’ over the bow at will. The old girl simply could n’t keep her head up. She’d dive, an’ nose in, an’ get smothered; an’ she shook her head so pitiful that Mad Bill Likely ’lowed he’d ease her for’ard, an’ see how she’d like it. ’T was broad day when he sent me an’ Abraham Botch o’ Jug Cove out t’ stow the stays ’l. They was n’t no fog on the face o’ the sea; but the sky was gray an’ troubled, an’ the sea was a wrathful black-an’-white, an’ the rain, whippin’ past, stung what it touched, an’ froze t’ the deck an’ riggin’. I knowed she’d put her nose into the big white seas, an’ I knowed Botch an’ me would go under, an’ I knowed the foothold was slippery with ice; so I called the fac’s t’ Botch’s attention, an’ asked un not t’ think too much.

“‘I’ve give that up,’ says he.

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘you might get another attackt.’

“’No fear,’ says he; '’t is foolishness t’ think. It don’t come t’ nothin’.’

“‘But you might,’ says I.

“‘Not in a moment o’ grace,’ says he. ‘An’, Tumm,’ says he, ‘at this instant, my condition,’ says he, ‘is one o’ salvation.’

“‘Then,’ says I, ‘you follow me, an’ we ’ll do a tidy job with that there stays’!.’

“An’ out on the jib-boom we went. We’d pretty near finished the job when the Three Sisters stuck her nose into a thundering sea. When she shook that off, I yelled t’ Botch t’ look out for two more. If he heard, he did n’t say so; he was too busy spittin’ salt water. We was still there when the second sea broke. But when the third fell, an’ my eyes was shut, an’ I was grippin’ the boom for dear life, I felt a clutch on my ankle; an’ the next thing I knowed I was draggin’ in the water, with a grip on the bobstay, an’ something tuggin’ at my leg like a whale on a fishline. I knowed ’t was Botch, without lookin’, for it could n’t be nothin’ else. An’ when I looked, I seed un lyin’ in the foam at the schooner’s bow, bobbin’ under an’ up. His head was on a pillow o’ froth, an’ his legs was swingin’ in a green, bubblish swirl beyond.

“‘Hold fast!’ I yelled.

“The hiss an’ swish o’ the seas was hellish. Botch spat water an’ spoke; but I could n’t hear. I ’lowed, though, that ’t was whether I could keep my grip a bit longer.

“‘Hold fast!’ says I.

“He nodded a most agreeable thankyou. ‘ I wants t’ think a minute,’ says he.

“ ‘ Take both hands! ’ says I.

“On deck they had n’t missed us yet. The rain was thick an’ sharp-edged; an’ the schooner’s bow was forever in a mist o’ spray.

“‘Tumm!’ says Botch.

“’Hold fast!’ says I.

“He’d hauled his head out o’ the froth. They was n’t no trouble in his eyes no more. His eyes was clear an’ deep, — with a little laugh lyin’ far down in the depths.

“‘Tumm,’ says he, ‘I’—

“‘I don’t hear,’ says I.

“‘I can’t wait no longer,’ says he. ’I wants t’ know. An’ I’m so near, now,’ says he, ‘that I ’low I’ll just find out.’

“’Hold fast, you fool!’ says I.

“I swear by the God that made me,” Tumm declared, “that he was smilin’, the last I seed of his face in the foam! He wanted t’ know, — an’ he found out! But I was n’t quite so curious,” Tumm added, “an’ I hauled my hulk out o’ the water, an’ climbed aboard. An’ I run aft; but they was n’t nothin’ t’ be seed but the big, black sea, an’ the froth o’ the schooner’s wake and o’ the wild whitehorses.”

The story was ended.

A tense silence was broken by a gentle snore from the skipper of the Good Samaritan. I turned. The head of the lad from the Cove o’ First Cousins protruded from his bunk. It was withdrawn on the instant. But I had caught sight of the drooping eyes and of the wide, flaring nostrils.

“See that, sir?” Tumm asked, with a backward nod toward the boy’s bunk.

I nodded.

“Same old thing,” he laughed sadly. “Goes on t’ the end o’ the world.”

We all know that.