Captain Christy


THE harbor, brimful with the tide, was blue as morning sky, and motionless as high summer clouds. Along the grassgrown wharves, — silver-gray piles which crumbled at the ends into a jackstraw heap of rotting logs, — there was no human stir. Over one gray shanty the red ensign, a fold showing the yellow crown of Her Majesty’s customs, hung limp from the staff. The thirty-foot flood had moved in imperceptibly, and lay, from the wharves to the distant islands, like a floor of steel. The masts of pinkies at their moorings plunged in deep, straight lines of black reflection, save where some profound, mysterious tremor of the tide shivered the mirror, and sent the phantom spars in wriggling fragments to the depths. A lone sandpiper, skimming the surface, mated with a flying shadow; and two or three, wheeling together, doubled into a little flock that swerved, divided, and rejoined. The long water-front of gray houses, and behind them the treeless, empty street of pink sand, lay asleep in peaceful desolation.

The hum of voices, however, came, from on board a small two-masted schooner made fast to a mouldering wharf. And on the sunny side of the mainsail, that was half hoisted to dry in the morning air, sat a little group of men in varied postures of idleness. A tawny-haired youth in a Scotch cap straddled the rail, spitting overside, kicking the woodwork sonorously, and fingering off the flakes of blistered paint. The others, all old men, basked on the cabin roof, sat on the bleached and ancient boom, perched on a coil of frayed hawser, or tilted back on chairs and boxes. All, except one, were men of a bygone generation, whose faces, placid and weatherseamed, and whose beards, of every cut, from the white, wideforked whisker to the fiery chin-strap of Ireland, marked them for men who kept the ways of the old country. The one exception sat in a kitchen chair by the wheel, — a long-limbed old man, of quick eye and humorous wrinkles, by every feature a Yankee among Canadians. His big, brown, cramped hands, tattooed with a blue five-spot at the fork of either thumb, whittled busily at a peg.

“Harbor-master sayed so, too,” the old man with the forked beard was declaring, from his perch on the mainboom. “ Sayed, ain’t no vessel o’ tonnage worth countun’ ever clearrs out o’ this porrt nowadays, or enterrs. An’ it lies right in my own memory when they used to come in, brigs an’ ships an’ all, crowdud: carrgoes an’ settlerrs!” The speaker waved his hand slowly, as in admiration of a broad picture. “An’ the Loodianah would be sailun’ from Liverrpool, bang up again this w’arf as ever was, a-landin’ swarrms; an’ Danny Eustis had a barr an’ lodgun’s right on ut, there where the timberr’s sunk in. Times has changed.” He sighed, and letting his head sink, spread out the white flanges of his beard across his chest.

The youth who straddled the rail turned his freckled face toward the company, grinning malignly, as one adept in putting his finger on the main trouble.

“This schooner’s the only thing bigger ’n a pinky that’s seaworthy in the whol’ bloomin’harbor,” he sneered. “An’ she ain’t left her pier fer — how long is it, Cap’n Christy ? — fer ” —

The old Yankee at the wheel caught him up.

“Look here, Master Kibben,” he said mildly, “I’d ruther you’d let that paint alon’ there on that rail. Wear an’ tear’ll take it off in time, ’thout you pickin’ at it.” The captain turned again to his contemporaries, sweeping their semicircle with candid blue eyes. “I hate to see folks frettin’ an’ piddlin’ with their fingers,” he explained. “If a man ’ain’t anything to make, let him set still an’ not distroy.”

The youth, abashed, was left to drop pebbles overside and watch the circles that widened on the water and set the sunlight fluttering in oozy, volatile spots of brightness under the vessel’s quarter. But his question had started other circles widening in the conversation.

“Why don’t you let her out to some one?” asked an old man who sat, with upright dignity, on the coil of hawsers. Of stiffer carriage than the others, and dressed in worn tweeds, with a stock collar, a rusty black string tie, and across his stomach a small cable of blonde hair braided into a watch-guard, he had an air of faded and uncouth smartness. His formal face, red nose, and smug white mutton-chop whiskers, wore the slow importance of the old school.

“ Why don’t you let her out ? ” he repeated. “Provided you’re not going to sea yourself, Captain Christy, if you understand me.”

The captain understood. He bent over his whittling till only his white beard showed below the brim of the rustic straw hat. Now he looked up, quick and shrewd. The boy in the Scotch cap was grinning once more. Deliberately the captain pulled his tall body from the chair, walked to the cabin door, fitted the hasp on the staple, thrust in the half-finished peg, eyed it with displeasure, and tugged it out. Then he turned to the company. Under shaggy white eyebrows, a curious fold of wrinkles in the upper lids gave his eyes a triangular appearance. They were very blue, and sharp, and whimsical.

“Mr. Beatty,” he said to his questioner, “ye ain’t cal’latin’ to let any rooms to boarders an’ mealers up to your house, are ye?”

A slow shock ran through the group. This question to the chief gentleman, of the chief residence, in the seaport! Mr. Beatty, outraged, sat glaring and pursing his mouth rapidly in a bewildered effort to frame the reply tremendous.

“No?” the captain resumed kindly. “ No. Now I thought ye would n’t, somehow. Well, ye see, same way I would n’t let no one else take this schooner a v’yage. She’s mine, has be’n so thirty-seven year; an’ Zing Turner an’ me has sailed her everywheres coastwise, an’ for a bo’t o’ her tonnage, consid’able deep-water.” The captain’s glance wandered off, across the sunlit floor of the harbor, past the dark fir-crowned islets, toward the dazzling path that led to open sea. “No, sir,” he concluded calmly, “ if I can’t take her out, no one else ain’t goin’ to.” He sat down again by the wheel, and cut critical shavings from the peg; and when Mr. Beatty would have pursued the subject further, he stopped it coldly. “If she went to sea, we all would n’t be sittin’ here enjoyin’ life, for one thing.”

Feet scuffled along the deck, and a new-comer, skirting the cabin, halted in the open space. He was a brown little man, of sun-dried aspect; under a drooping black rat-tail mustache, his teeth gleamed in a row of golden “crowns;” and the dismal, hollow contour of his face seemed to denote a weary cynicism, until one saw the dull good-humor of his eyes. Sunken and opaque, they contained a smoky gleam like bits of isinglass.

“Mornin’, cap’n,” he saluted, with an auriferous grin. “ Say, the’ ain’t no weeck in the big lantrun. Kin I git one ashore, s’pose?” He spoke as if this schooner, idle for years, had just tied up at some bewildering foreign quay.

“Well, Zing,” responded his captain, “you’d ought to know by this time. But I guess you can git a weeck; — what between Tommy Carroll’s rum-shop an’ the town lockup, I guess you might git a fortni’t.”

A heavy chuckle moved round the company, ending in a belated explosion of laughter from Bunty Gildersleeve. The mate was puzzled, then aggrieved.

“I don’t touch a drop, cap’n,” he appealed; “you know I don’t, well enough.”

“Course ye don’t, Zing,” the captain soothed him. “That was a joke.”

The other returned serenely to his proposal : —

“Well, then I’ll git one fer the lantrun ? ”

“Do so, Zing.” The captain, solemnly ratifying it, returned to his peg.

The lean little man hopped from rail to wharf, and shuffled off toward the street.

After him Mr. Beatty stared with disapproval. “There goes the biggest fool in town,” he dogmatized.

“Oh, no, he ain’t,” objected Captain Christy. “Beggin’ your pardon, he ain’t. The ’s lots bigger fools, an’ worse men, than Zwinglius Turner. He ain’t quick, but he sticks by ye. He’s ben with me ever sence he was a orphan boy. An’ while he ain’t no navigator, he’s able, fer things aboard ship, ropes an’ taykle an’ gear, right under his nose. O’ course ” — the captain smiled indulgence. “Well, Zing Turner has be’n sailin’ round here an’ — elsewhere,” — the captain waved generously towards the world, — “sailin’ round for over twenty year, an’ he don’t know a landmark yet ’cept Hood’s Folly Light, and that’s because his uncle kep’ it all his life. I says to him one mornin’ ’fore daylight, ‘Where’s she layin’, Zing?’ an’ says he, ’I-god, I dunno, cap’n, guess we’re off the Oak Bay River.’ We was just passing L’Etang!”

His listeners laughed, slowly, incredulously.

“He don’t so much as know their names yet,” Captain Christy went on. “But for all that”—

The hollow bumping of an oar, and a hail from alongside, stopped the defense of Zwinglius.

“On deck, Rapscull’on!” croaked a hoarse voice. “Finnan haddies, all ready for the butter! Lobsters, praise the Lord, that’ll put hair on yer chest and joy in yer soul! Cap’n Christy-God-blessye-brother-how-de-do ? — Fresh clams, baked yisterday and dug to-morrer! — Ahoy!”

“Fisherman Gale’s in,” said the captain.

The hoarse roar, which shattered the silence of the harbor, and reverberated along the water-front of gray shanties, came from a grizzled fisherman sculling a boat shoreward. Bending to his sweep, straddling a thwart smeared with blood and scales, a filthy giant in the bright sun, he stared up at the schooner’s company, with black eyes shining fiery from an obscene tangle of gray elf-locks.

“The Good Lord bless ye,” he croaked with a voice of despair. “May He keep ye all, bretherin. Haddick?”

The boat, rocking past, left a wake of ripples and a smell of fish stealing over the pale, hot surface of the harbor; the fisherman, bellowing to the empty street ahead, shot his offal-smeared craft under the Rapscallion’s bowsprit, and made fast beside a rickety stair that mounted from the water into a patch of dusty burdocks. The men on the schooner left their host, the captain, and dispersed slowly, each one rising, stretching, clambering to the foot of the shrouds for a clumsy leap to the broken string-piece of the pier. Lazy and old, they straggled away to group themselves again in the burdock patch; unmoved by the fisherman’s harangue, they deliberated over their fish for dinner; and presently, in a slow and scattered file of ones and twos, through the wide, glaring street of pink sand, moved homeward, each swinging by a bit of rope-yarn a scarlet lobster or a pale, limp haddock.

All but Captain Christy: he remained leaning with elbows on the schooner’s rail, staring hard into the green depths, where sunfish wavered past, vague disks of bending pulp. Once he shook his head as if something would never do; once he cast a slow survey over his vessel, from stern davits to round, apple bow, from the gray old planks underfoot up to the drooping dog-vane; but for a long time he leaned motionless, looking down at a black tress of seaweed in the water. At last, with something like a sigh, he turned away, and walked over to the cabin door.

He was staring at the finished peg in the staple, when Zwinglius Turner swung himself aboard, flapping a white strip of lantern-wick, and grinning.

“Zing,” the captain began with a stern face; then stopped, and winked as if a weighty joke were to follow. “ Zing, that’s a fine mornin’s work for a grown man.”

The mate broadened his shining grin, much as a sleepy dog hastens the wagging of his tail at a word from the one beloved master. Then, after labor, —

“ Better ’n nothin’, cap’n,” he retorted cheerfully,

“Yes, that’s it,” said Captain Christy; “better’n nothin’. Well, let’s lower away, Mr. Turner.”

Together they lowered the dark mainsail, and made all snug. Deft, serious, a transfigured helper, Zwinglius was everywhere at once, working with swift economy of motion. When he had carried the boxes and chair into the cabin, shut the door, and hammered the peg home with his fist, he turned to find his captain waiting at the side. The old man ran his big, brown hand, in one passionate gesture, down over his bearded cheeks. Under the jutting penthouse fringe of white brows, his eyes were like dark pools with fire in them, — brightness playing over depth.

“Look here, you Zing Turner,” he demanded harshly. “What d’ye mean by stayin’ round here, marooned-like in this sort o’ town, doin’ nothin’ ? For four year you ain’t done a tap, ’cept this kind o’ foolin’ — playin’ at ship — for four year. What d ’ye mean ? ”

The poor mate was stunned. He shifted his feet, looked up, down, and sidewise, fear slowly erasing his smile.

“Why, cap’n,” he stammered. “Why, cap’n” — This sudden examination of a latent leading motive seemed to torture him. “Why — I dunno — why, I was jes’ waitin’ round till we went another voyage, cap’n — jes’ kind o’”—

“That’s it!” cried the old man. “There ye are, again, waitin’ round an’ waitin’ round. ’Tain’t no use, an’ you know it. This schooner ’ll never put out no more, nor me neither. What’s the use o’ pretendin’ to wait ? You know how She feels about it.”

The tirade stopped short, the fierce look vanished. “Ye see, Zing,” he continued, with gentle gravity, “we could n’t go, very well. She would n’t want to be left, sick an’ all. Women hev some queer idees, an’ hev to be humored. Ain’t like ships. You ’ain’t no wife, Zing, now, hev ye? — An’ I’ve kind o’ promised. — It’s stay here, I guess.”

As they left the wharf, a bell, somewhere in the town, broke into loud clamor. At the sound, a rusty Newfoundland dog, sole figure in the street, roused himself from a sunbath on the pink sand, howled funereally, and slunk off among the gray buildings.

“Noon—most dinner-time,” said Captain Christy. “Good-by, Zing. Same time to-morrer mornin’?”

“Yessir,” said Zwinglius, cheerfully. The sore subject would not be touched on for another fortnight. Where land and wharf met the two men parted.

“Pollick, cap’n?” roared Fisherman Gale, from his deserted market among the broken fish-flakes. He mopped his forehead with a red bandanna, then whisked away the flies. “Pollick ? Mackereel ? — Glory amen ! Shell clams an’ finnan haddie ! God bless ye, brother Christy ! For His mercy indooreth forever!” he chanted in a hoarse rapture, to the silent village. “Satisfieth my mouth with good things, so that my youth is renooed like — like the American eagle, hey cap ’n ? — I al’ays loved the dear old stars ’n’ stripes. What’ll ye take home this noon? An’ how’s yer wife, that blessed sister ?— lookin’ young an’ handsome as a wax doll, but a dear true follerer.”

The captain approached, dredging from a pocket his meagre handful of coins. He eyed the dirty fanatic with a mild pity.

“What’s a haddie to-day, Cap’n Gale?” he said. “The Black Hawk minds her helium just as clever, I s’pose ?” And, by the habit of patience, he listened through the fisherman’s wild outpouring, — each symptom of his crazy schooner, and body, and soul.

. . . “ Doubts an’ backslidin’s, an’ turrible cracklin’s in the drums o’ my head, like fish a-fryin’. But I persevere a-sailin’alone, an’ keep her on the lubber p’int for heaven!” Gale concluded, and mopped his dirty beard.

Captain Christy nodded. Thrusting a big forefinger through the rope-yarn ring at the apex of the finnan haddie, and swinging his purchase meditatively, he moved away.

“Hold her to it, cap’n,” he assented gravely. “That’s the course for all of us.”

In a grass-grown lane among the sidestreets he clicked a wooden gate behind him, traversed a gravel path between two rows of conch shells, and stood upon his own doorsteps. At the sound of his tread a woman’s voice called fretfully from within the house, —

“So you’re back at last, after your gadding and gossiping ? Time, I should say! Hope you’ve enjoyed yourself, because I’ve got a piece of news for you.”

The captain shook his gray head wearily. On the iron bootscraper he cleaned his soles of imaginary dirt, and then entered the “front hall,” stepping lightly on the checkered oilcloth.

In the sitting-room, from her pillowed chair beside a window-sill lined with vials, his wife turned on him her heavy, sallow face and malevolent eyes. To her hooked nose she held a camphor bottle, which she fitfully lowered and clapped into position again.

“I’ve made up my mind,” she declared, between whiffs. “Now hark! You’ve wasted enough time among those good-for-nothings. You must sell that old hulk of a schooner.”


“Well, just keep on as you do, then,” shrilled his wife, at the close of a week’s debate. By main force of nagging she had beaten down the captain’s goodhumored defense and reduced him to a state of unnatural brooding. “Keep on.” She raised pious glances to the ceiling: “You’ll only bring my white hairs to the grave.”

They were really of a yellowish gray, screwed tightly up in unreverend knobs and horns; nor did their descent to the tomb appear more imminent than ever before in thirty years of hypochondria; but they served her rhetoric.

The captain, studying the fluffy plumes of dried pampas grass over the mantel, was moved to take a rare measure, and to his mind an ignoble.

“I don’t want to talk about — anything I’ve done, Carrie,” was his apology; “ but after stayin’ home from sea so many year to please you, it ain’t likely I ’ll go leave you now. I ain’t a boy,” he suggested, with another vain appeal to humor, “I ain’t a boy that can run away to sea no longer.”

“Hark!” cried the invalid sharply. “Now who’s saying you were? What I complain of, and any woman would complain of, is for you to spend all your time aboard her, idling and gossiping, and leave your wife here alone at home.”

This was Position Number Two. If he should reply that every morning, after an hour of frustrate conversation, she told him to clear out and let her rest a while, then the discussion would shift to Number Three: “A woman can’t always sit and hear the same person saying the same things.” This would lead easily to Position Four: “Neighbors? A fine lot of neighbors! — Why did I ever come to live in this place, among such a set of people?” And that would be the last move; for Captain Christy, knowing the neighborhood opinion on this very point, had never found the heart to answer. Thus the game would end in a kind of stale-mate.

“It ain’t worth arguin’,” he sighed.

“Of course not,” snapped his wife. “It’s only a question of my peace and health, or your idle pleasure.”

And therefore, through another week of dreary weather, among her vials, and beside window-panes laced with raindrops or blanketed with white fog, she sat and argued sourly.

To know the forgotten, obliterated motives which, in that other world of the past, had joined these two in mutual captivity, would be to read tablets long expunged, to trace beach-wandering footprints after many tides, to restore the drifted volutes in last winter’s snow. “How did he marry her ?” was an old question of indignant, amused, or speculative neighbors; with no more answer than neighbors have ever found to that mystery which — saevo cum joco — has for ages paired and shackled the unmatched of body and of spirit. Mrs. Christy herself wondered about it openly, redundantly, and with self-reproach; but her husband either saw no disparity, or was loyal to some youthful belief, some illusion of Rachel in the days before he woke to find that it was Leah.

Only once had he allowed himself a retort. As an exalted “U. E. Loyalist,” the invalid passed all her reading hours among courts and coronets. Declaiming a paragraph about the Marquis of Lorne, she drew from the captain a cheerful admission : —

“Never heard of him.”

“Never heard—!” she sniffed contemptuously. “Next you’ll say you’ve never heard of the Queen!”

“Oh, yes,” said the captain, “yes, I have. By all accounts, she must be a real nice old lady.”

“You!—you!” cried the reader, choking. “You dare to speak of Her Majesty so! You — oh! You miserable — Yankee! ” A wild torrent of words followed: an angry lecture on irreverence, a more angry history of “my Family, the Defews,” and how they had left “your vulgar Yankee colonies, to be loyal to the Crown.” — “Oh, why did they let me marry such people ? ”

“People ?” smiled the captain. “That’s bigamy, my dear.”

“ Oh,” she moaned, “if I’d only known what I was about!”

“Well,” he replied slowly, “I had no idee I was marryin’ the whol’ Royal Family.”

As days passed, the argument over the schooner grew acute and dangerous. Perversity, it may have been; or a cruel whim of the spleen; or, perhaps, that veiled force which moves below so much of human action, — jealousy. The captain was seen no more about the wharves; now and then, in brief appearance on the streets, he trudged heavily, like a workingman at the end of day, and studied the pink sand before his path, with a gaze deep, introverted, unseeing. There at his feet lay in question the last surviving joy of his life.

Once he stopped his former mate before the post office.

“Zing,” he said pointblank, “what d’ ye say if we’d sell the vessel ?”

Zwinglius looked at him shyly, embarrassed, silent, as at some high priest who might propound a sacrilegious riddle.

“Why,” he faltered, “I dunno — What fer, cap’n?”

“May come to that,” rejoined Captain Christy, and passed on, cloaked in sorrowful enigma.

The increasing storm in his house, and distress in his mind, made him spend a serene morning of Indian summer in painting his front steps. The house, shipshape With white clapboards and green shutters, stood out so trig and Yankeefashion among the dove-gray houses of the town, that it might have looked too virtuous, too spruce, had not a vine traced runic patterns over the windows, and the sunlight, through a stalwart yellow birch, poured flickering changes along the whole front, like the play of kindly expression on a plain face. Nor did the steps, that mounted from between the files of pearlmouthed conch shells, need even a touch of restoration. But the captain worked slowly, painting them a vivid azure.

Tapping two brushes against an axehelve, he had begun to spatter thick dots of black and white, when a voice calling made his tall frame straighten and turn toward the gate.

“Good-morning, Captain Christy!” Against the pickets leaned the slim body of a girl, and over them, like a hardy, trim-poised flower, her bare head, — a sun-browned face, gentle and serious, but lighted with merry eyes, and breezily crowned with willful brown hair.

“Mornin’, Joyce,” replied the captain, fixing on her a whimsical look, at once benevolent and stern.

“What are you doing that for?” she asked reproachfully, and pointed at the brushes and the bedaubed axe-helve. In guilty silence the captain laid them athwart his paint-bucket, and approached the gate.

“Oh, nothin’,” he answered, looking paternally down at her face of mischief, and then up airily at the heavens. “ Sort of a kill-time. Lovely mornin’, ain’t it?”

“You bad old man,” laughed the girl, threatening with a graceful finger. “‘I have heard of your paintings, too. ’ Every time you paint, Father Captain, there’s something up, is n’t there? — What are you fretting about now?”

“Oh, nothin’,” repeated the mariner, like a schoolboy. With great artfulness he inquired, “What’s that book under your arm, Joyce ? More fiddlesticks, I s’pose ?”

His big, tattooed thumbs split open the stubborn pages.

“Humph ! Verses,” he commented. “Tell by the way they ’re printed, — loose ends all to sta’board. What’s this?”

“It’s about a great sailor,” said Joyce.

He read aloud: —

“ I am a part of all that. I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.”

“ Why, that’s true! ” cried the old man. This, his tone implied, was the last thing to have been expected. As he turned back and read the noble lines from the first, his eyes glistened, and above the white beard his cheeks slowly flushed.

“One o’ the best things I ever read!” he declared recklessly, “Don’t care if ’t is a poem!”

At the close he sighed.

“Why, anybody might think just like that, — a little fancy, p’raps, but — just like that.”

His brown fingers, bent over many a rope, cramped at many a helm, closed the book gently.

“Read as much o’ him as you like, my girl.”

Joyce laughed, but her brown eyes, watching the heavv-hewn old face above her, shone as with young love and worship of a sage. These chats with the captain were somehow like glimpses of communion with the father and mother whom she had been too little to know; in her vision he remained, through the faith-shaken trials of her youth, “like a great sea-mark standing every flaw.”

“Father Captain,” she said, after a silence, “wdiat were you painting again for ? ”

“Oh, well,”he answered, with an uneasy shift, “ye see, She’s kind o’ poorly. Took to her bed again.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” replied the girl. Her manner became constrained and timid. “Is — is there anything I can do ? I’d come in and see her if — if there was.”

Both understood the futility of that offer.

“No, thank ye, Joyce,” said the captain. “ Don’t know the’ is. Thank ye. How ’s the organ play now, sence I mended it?”

“Oh, it’s beautiful,” she cried, with evident relief. “You made it almost like new. There’s only one bad wheeze now. You stopped the worst rumble.” “That’s good,” he said. “I’ll come hear ye play nex’ Sunday, — if She’s all right by then.”

He watched the girl as with lightfooted swing she passed down the grassgrown street. “Clears the ground like

— like a filly,” he grumbled, his eyes twinkling affection.

“It makes me want to cry!” Joyce told herself, while she hurried along, her cheeks glowing and her fists clenched. “Taken to her bed! That old Dragon! Ugh!”

When she had turned a corner, the captain moved heavily back to the steps and bent again to his task of spattering.

Once he straightened up, to look dreamily toward the harbor, where aslant a sunken ridgepole and tumbled chimney rose a well-beloved topmast.

“Hmm! That sailorman,” he mused,

— “Ulysses, she said it was,—would n’t mind doin’ like him. . . . Left his wife, though, did n’t he? Humph! Not for me, no more.”

The careful process of maculation finished, he made a barrier of two kegs and a plank, with large letters — “P-A-I-N-T” — to warn a neighborhood whose habit of calling there had ceased years ago.

When he entered, a peevish voice issued from the open door of the bedchamber.

“I s’pose you expect me to sleep all this time ? — Tap-tap-tap! rap-rap-rap!

— what were you puttering about ? ”

“Paintin’ the steps,” said the captain serenely.

“Painting the steps!” came a scornful echo. “Hark!—They don’t need it more ’n the cat needs another tail! ”

The captain maintained a long silence. He added a stick of maple to the parlor fire, then took a letter from his pocket, and stood reading. The single sheet appeared to require study; at last he shook his head and drew a weary breath. His next attempt at cheerfulness was plainly forced.

“Might be kind o’ fun to have it, though,” he remarked.

“What?” called the invalid; and after a pause, fretfully, “Have what ?”

“Another tail,” said the captain, in an absent voice, scanning his letter again.

A mutter of impatient words — “ sense ” . . . “second childhood” . . . “idiot” — came from the sickroom. The captain’s great shoulders squared in a slow, patient heave, as he smoothed the page. It ran in crabbed scrawl, along guidelines ruled in pencil: —

SQUAW POOL, Mascarene isld.


dear sir, yrs. of l6eth to hand and contents noted, in reply will start wensday fortnit per stmr. Auroaria and take schr. at yr. termes as per yrs. of 16eth. and wd. say, wd. hev ansd. soonar but ben suffring from stummick troble but she will suit me fine for smoakwood trade so hopeing you are well I will close from Yr. Obdt. Servt.


To every man, except smug and petty persons ignored by destiny, comes at least one message — a friendly letter, a passing whisper in a crowded room, a shrewd, cold document clicked off in purple type, the word of a breathless runner, a speech-mangled telegram, or a shout from a boat alongside in the dark — to strike a blow which is the be-all and the end-all for some cherished way of life. More than once he reads the written decree, or in echoing memory hears the spoken; and while coming to believe and deeply understand that a strange hour has struck, that his life has swung into a new cycle whose grief lies onward and whose joy behind, he must — alone, with the thing in his pocket or the words in his head — work at a desk, or navigate a ship, or chat with strangers, or walk floors, or sit in theatres, or paint steps. Slowly, therefore, but with fixed heart and equal mind, the captain had accepted his message in its finality.

“I don’t see exac’ly how I’ll do without her,” he reflected. His tall bulk filling the little window, he looked out once more at the distant topmast, and summarized the remainder of his old age. “It’ll be like— like haulin’ in on a slack rope — with nothin’ at the end. But I must ’a’ been kind o’ selfish, frettin’ Her about it so long.”

Treading lightly, he entered the sickroom, to make his offering.

“Well, Carrie,” he announced jovially, “guess this’ll interest ye.”

“I’m not deef,” replied his consort, who sat propped among pillows, her sallow, hostile face appearing, under a white nightcap, like the sinister freak of some ill-omened masquerade. “I’m not deef. You no need to shout so.” She frowned upon the letter for a space. “Well, you’re lucky,” she continued. “He must be a fool, to want that hulk. What a scribble!— Take it away; it hurts my eyes. Ever going to bring me something to eat ? If I can have anything that’s fit to touch, I may get up this afternoon.”

Thus, past the grimace of many a strange idol, the smoke of sacrifice mounts to the true acceptance.


Inside the cabin, neatly sombre with dark brown woodwork, it was neither day nor night. An old brass lamp against a bulkhead, stirring in the gimbals at the petty shock of harbor waves, cast a tremulous evening glow on the Mongol face of Zwinglius Turner, who sat on the lower stairs; but the venerable rough head of the captain, who stood upright, caught a dull gleam — slanting down from tiny barred windows frost-white with fog — as from some wintry, dungeon-like dawn. The captain’s air was of business and reflection; the mate’s that heavy, embarrassed gloom, half melancholy decorum and half fidgets, seen in figures who line the walls at a rustic funeral.

His master contemplated a picture that he had just unscrewed from the bulkhead, — a discolored likeness of a patient, heroic face.

“Abra’m Lincoln,” he said, laying it on the table. “Follansbee won’t want him. I do.”

He stooped into the warm lamplight and shadow of the lower level, rummaged in a locker, and, drawing out various treasures, heaped them on the table.

“Now this” — it was an ancient swallow-tail burgee, red and white — “I’ll ask him if I can keep this. . . . Spare lead-line, — well, that’s part o’ the fittin’s; that’s his.” A bundle of old saffron pamphlets thumped the table, and sent up a thin cloud of dust. “ Leave him those for readin’, — Farmer’s Almanacs: the back of ’em has rafts o’ good riddles and ketches.” Then followed a small graven image in black tamarind wood, handfuls of cowrie shells, a shark-tooth necklace, a fly-whisk, the carved model of a Massoola boat, a Malay kriss, a paper of fishhooks, and a brass telescope. The captain’s hands ransacked the farthest corners of the locker; they stopped suddenly; his face became very grave.

“Can’t have this, anyway,” he said, in a voice changed and troubled. He drew forth a red and blue worsted doll, badly stained, with one boot-button eye. “No, by James Rice, he can’t!” muttered the captain passionately. He sat down on the edge of his bunk, as in the black mouth of a crypt, and, bunching his beard in one gnarled fist, regarded sadly the absurd puppet in the other.

“I never expected to take this out again, somehow,” he said, in a vacant tone of soliloquy. “She put it away in there herself — nigh on to forty year ago. You don’t go so far back, do ye, Zing ? I remember when it fell overboard; young Kit Chegwidden over after it. My, how Eunice cried! Then she kissed him for savin’ it. A clever boy, Kit: master o’ the Jennie Gus now, and children of his own. Time goes quick ” —

The old man, still grasping the doll gently, stared downward as if through the floor shadows he saw into the deep void of the past.

“Don’t think I could ’a’ stood ever seein’ St. Thomas again after that”—

He was thinking of the only voyage his wife had made with him, and of Eunice, their only child. With solemn inward vision, evoked by the touch of a lank worsted doll, he recalled the sultry nights of watching and heartbreak in this very cabin, the flush of the fever in the child’s cheeks, the gleaming disorder of her bright hair on the pillow, the glare of tropic sun on a white-hot deck, their silent group at the rail, the trembling of a little black book, the lofty words of consolation, so hard to read aloud, so much harder to believe when that frail object, intolerably precious, was committed to the unstirring, blank, august emptiness of ocean.

“Zing, I can’t bear to sell her,” whispered the old man. Fumbling as if blind, he put away the doll in a breast pocket. “I can’t bear to.”

Zwinglius cleared his throat, said nothing, shifted his boots. In a heavy silence that grew tangible, he rose and slowly withdrew up the stairs, disappearing in a cloudy square of white which the closing door blotted out noiselessly.

The captain, alone, sat staring down into the dark pool of bygone years.

Outside, stumping hoofs passed slowly down the pier, a clatter of loose planks, and the doleful mooing of cattle. Shouts rose: “Gangway there! Hurrup!” Footsteps pounded the deck, and past the window broad shadows flitted, swiftly intersecting. But Captain Christy sat oblivious; not until the door flew open with a resounding jar, and in the haze above stood a pair of short, heavy-booted legs, did he slowly rise from his dream.

“Sour and thick!” shouted a hoarse voice. A burly little man began to clamber down, driving before him into the lamplight a thin aureole of fog. “Sour and thick!” he muttered, as he gained the floor. Unwinding a shepherd’s muffler, he disclosed a swarthy, black-bearded face and twinkling eyes. “Sour and thick, Cap’n Christy! A spewy day. Joe “eenamost drove his cows over the bank. But I ’ll get her off now — ketch this ebb — drop down’s fur as Lord’s Nubble: one cow for the lightkeeper there — find my way that fur blindfold, so long’s she can cut the fog, hey ? ” He laughed, as if at a pleasant fancy.

These plans for an alien future seemed hardly to touch the captain’s mind.

“The ’s some things there on the table, Cap’n Follansbee,” he said quietly. “Anything you don’t want kep’, I’ll take home.”

“ Curios, hey ? ” boomed the new master. He grinned at them like a good little pirate disdainful of plunder. “No, no, cap’n ! Souverins o’ foreign parts, eh ? No, no, you keep ’em all. Good snug cabin, this, — fustrate!”

“Well, those almanacs,” urged the captain, stowing the keepsakes away in spacious pockets. “Now you take those, go ahead. Ain’t noo, o’ course,—ketches and rebuses just as good, — lots o’ facts, too.”

“All right. Thank ye,” said the other heartily. “I don’t care. They’ll keep my mind from evil thoughts.”

“Time I was ashore,” Captain Christy mumbled. He searched the cabin with one long look, as though to add this last to the scenes that thronged in his old memory; then preceded his brother mariner into the fog.

At the rail the two shook hands. Captain Christy looked down, with lips compressed, as if something hurt.

“She’s a clever bo’t, Cap’n Follansbee,” he said. “Treat her kind, now, won’t ye ?” And he swung himself over to the pier.

“ Like — like a kitten! ” shouted the younger man, already busied with ropes. “Here, Joe, ye stootchit, bear a hand with the spring!” The gap widened between her side and the pier-spilings. “Like a kitten!”

For the first time in years the schooner moved slowly outward along the wharf. A tow-rope over her bow rose taut, fell slack, — jerking from out the heart of the fog the smoky outline of a boat with waving oars, — rose dripping, and ran taut again into blank whiteness. Captain Christy, Zwinglius, and a knot of loungers, walked alongside the ship out to the final snub-posts. Her stern loomed large, grew veiled and insubstantial, dissolved; and with the “chock-chock” of oars and lowing of disconsolate cows, the Rapscallion had become a name and pictured vanity of the past. The breath of her departure swept their dim group on the pier, in ponderous-rolling smoke as of some cold, noiseless battle.

“Why did n’t ye go with her, Zing?” said the captain suddenly. “Follansbee promised me to offer ye the place.”

The mate turned his face away; but for the first time in history he made a blunt answer.

“Did n’t want to,” he declared. This plunge made him dare another boldness. “Come on home now, cap’n. No more to see.”

“Well, cap’n, all over,” called Bunty Gildersleeve, lurching up beside them, his beard a frosty silver with the damp. “Ye know, I kind o’ miss her already. W’arf don’t seem the same.”

“ Do ye ? ” replied Captain Christy, in a dazed fashion. “Yes, that’s so.” He stared into the fog. “All over,” he repealed mechanically.

As he tramped homeward, the noon bell tolled dismally. School children, cowed by the cold mist, pattered by in a solemn little flock. Through the obscurity heaved a larger blur, — Joyce, their teacher, herding them.

The captain’s vacant answer to her hail, his apathy as they walked on together, made Joyce linger at the gate to ask: —

“How is Mrs. Christy to-day?”

“Better, thank ye. ’Pears to be all right now, for some little time. Thank ye. Up and about, ye know.”

“That’s good,” said Joyce. After a pause she asked: “Oh, captain, is it true, what they tell me, that you ’re going to sell the schooner ? ” Her tone and aspect were of the utmost innocence.

“Hev sold it,” he replied curtly. As she had hoped, he caught no drift between her two questions; but the cloud that settled over the kind old face made her repent of the strategy. “ She went out this mornin’s ebb,” he continued. “Got a fair price, though.”

Joyce had to break the silence.

“I’m glad Mrs. Christy’s feeling better,” she ventured lamely. “ Has she — did she get outdoors on any of those pleasant days last week ? ”

“She don’t go out much any time,” said the captain with regret. “That’s why she seems so much better now — better ’ll I’ve seen her for a long time — talks o’ goin’ to visit Up the Line.”

As this phrase meant anywhere between Cape Sable and Toronto, Joyce looked puzzled.

“Her fam’ly, the Defews,” he explained. “She’s kep’ writin’ to ’em — I mean,” he added in confusion, “they’ve kep’ writin’ to her to come up and visit. She says we can afford it now that — afford it better’n we could.”

The girl’s eyes grew very wide and round.

“Of course you’ll be going too?” she conjectured.

“Me?” said the captain, amazed; “Lord, no!”

Some strong emotion, following all this enlightenment, compelled Joyce to cut their interview short.

“I hope she’ll enjoy it.” She spoke stiffly, and turned away, prim with selfrestraint. “Good-morning, captain.”

“Now what did I say to make her mad ? ” wondered Captain Christy, watching as the fog veiled and enveloped her. “I’m sorry—Humph! —Funny critters.”

Still perplexed over this, and downcast from the morning’s work, he navigated among the autumnal stalks in the little garden, stopped to see if his hydrangea had shaken off its last petals, and then, skirting round to the back door, entered his workshop. Here a bench, of spinster-like neatness, ran athwart a noble confusion: old coats, oilskins, boots, lined the walls like votive offerings after shipwreck; in the window a frigate-bird, badly stuffed, perked a vicious bill as if to puncture the balloon breast of a dried sea-robin; and in the corners, over the floor, on shelves, lay heaps of nautical rubbish, — bits of chain, pots of dried paint, resin, and tar, broken oars, coiled ropes, and a mound of gear, — double, clew-line, long-tackle, and snatch-blocks, — like a cairn raised to mark an ended activity.

The captain had emptied his pockets of their “souverins,” and, with one hand thrust in breast-high, was considering where to bestow the worsted doll, when the door from the kitchen opened, and Mrs. Christy stood looking in. Fortune, good or ill, had chosen this heavy-hearted moment of the captain’s meditation.

“Who was that you were talking to ? ” she demanded, curiosity qualifying the wonted disapproval in her tone.

“Oh, that was Joyce,” replied the captain, from a distance of thought.

“Again!” snapped his wife. A shadow of ill-will gathered on her heavy features. “Always gadding round with her, or some young woman. At your age of life, too!”

For the first time in many days, the captain’s temper sounded in his voice.

“Come, Carrie, don’t be foolish,” he commanded sharply. “Don’t say things you don’t mean.” He spoke more gently: “Joyce is a fine girl, and I’m master fond of her. Seems like a daughter, — a’most.”

“Oh, so I’m a fool, am I?” inquired Mrs. Christy with bitterness. “Thank you. And next I s’pose you’ll remind me that we have n’t any children of our own” —

“Carrie,” interrupted the old man, with a sad look, indescribable and penetrating. The faint color of aged, wintry emotion flushed in his cheeks above the white beard. “I did n’t think you’d speak like this —rememberin’ — well, rememberin’ little Eunice.”

Thus began another causeless battle, obscure, long-drawn, unworthy, involved in everyday matters, acts, words, looks, silences, petty in themselves, but — as hovel, or hedge, or waterhole in greater warfare — invested with the unhappy dignity of conflict. The captain craved only peace; it was his wife who found the pretexts and broke the truces, with the aimless, chronic hostility that had become her nature and occupation.

The townspeople had already discussed her projected visit “Up the Line; ” as bare autumn was freezing into winter they learned, with the gradual shock of placid minds, that she had gone, declaring her purpose never to come back. “ If she said it, she’ll keep her word,” the gossips decided, with deep knowledge of her character. Witnesses who had watched her embark in Sam Tipton’s stage proved that she had said it repeatedly, loudly, in glib succession.

“She won’t come back,” Sam deposed, with a valedictory oath. “Am I sure ? Hope so, anyway. I hat to drive her twenty mile.”

Zwinglius Turner, when first cornered, was unsatisfactory. “No — that’s right — she’s gone fer good,” he stammered, with a shy, golden grin. But his wish was too plainly father to that thought.

The captain himself supplied the final evidence. One chill and sparkling November day Mr. Gildersleeve found him pacing the empty wharf. His step was laggard, his carriage perceptibly older, and, though on a week day, he bore his Malacca stick with the carbine-cartridge ferule.

“The sea is powerful callin’, ain’t it ? ” he asked thoughtfully. Side by side they looked across the dancing sunlight of the harbor to the black fir islands patched with snow. “Powerful callin’. The’s lots o’ clumsy beggars aboard o’ bo’ts, too. — Ye know, Bunty, the roughest part is, I might jus’ as well kep’ the vessel, after all.”

It was the first time that his friend had ever heard him speak bitterly.


The swift invasion of winter had changed the cosy village, and the autumnal land whose Northern strength was more than beauty, into a huddling camp, a bare, angular outpost against cold desolation. The harbor lay dull and blackened, as though winter-killed; scattered islets shone like alabaster domes of drowned mausoleums; along the foreshore the wharves ran in bony snowbanks across gleaming slopes and valleys of thin, sallow ice, which at the hidden work of tides in clear morning silences surprised the bleak solitude with little, far-heard noises of straining, crashing, tinkling, as if invisible wanderers among the hummocks were to smash through areas of glass. At long intervals the dirty sails of a schooner crawled along the lifted skyline. The ragged granite of the mountains, sharp against an Italian blue of winter skies, bore white symbols, gigantic and undecipherable; their sides were burnt brown, charred bitterly, cut with long scars of snow; from their bases the bare hills, ridged with undulating spines of buried fences, and rearing now and then the Christmas spire of a lonely evergreen, sloped away to the glitter of the fields and the pink haze of lowland alders. Only the promontories ran their great nebs down into the sea, steadfast in stern verdure, scorning to change with seasons or with centuries.

For hours, for half-days, nothing stirred in the main street of the seaport, except a wraith of powdery snow. The ocean wind, on howling nights, had by the freaks of its own will heaped drifts against windows, or swept the frozen road bare to the fossil hoofprints from the age of summer. Rarely, and strangely, as if down and out from the painted vista of a stage background, appeared a man trudging, a mittenful of snow held to his ear, and his beard fringed with shapeless beads of ice. Such figures, without exception, paused under a barberpole that threatened the path from above a window where a lighted lamp kept the frost melting. They kicked the snow from their boots, and entered.

Mr. Laurel’s shop, or parlor, was a winter club by day and night. He was a ruddy, solemn little Figaro, whose apron bulged over a comfortable stomach, and above whose ear perched always his professional comb. Inordinate smoker and debater, local authority on music, he shone in these long days when — as Bunty Gildersleeve expressed it — there was “nuthin’ but sit by the fire and drink whiskey and tell lies.” Whenever discussion drooped, someone called out, “Give us a toon, now, come.” And Mr. Laurel, washing his hands with an extravagance of soap and drying them fastidiously on the shop napkin, opened an ancient case in a corner, and sat down before his musical glasses. He waved circles of practice in the air, bent over, and, touching the clustered rims reverently, drew forth thin, vocal harmonies of surprising sweetness. The concert always began with Home, Sweet Home, or Forsaken ; always ended with Old Black Joe, when the artist, swaying backward, was lost in his work. “You can hear ut sayin’ the words,” he breathed, yearning with tearful rapture toward the ceiling. The audience, respectful, soothed, in wreaths and layers of thick smoke from clay pipes, formed a circle of serious, weatherbeaten faces, of big legs crossed luxuriously, of protruding boot-toes that gently waggled to the rhythm of the harmonica.

Their talk circumnavigated the realms of free speculation: — what best cured the bots; whether King Solomon might not have known about electricity; whether hairs could be changed to water-serpents; whether heroes of the Fenian raid should have medals; what might be the properest way of building a weir; whether ministers were better than other folks; and what place good dogs have in the Hereafter.

Frequently upon these abstract thoughts broke in a loud scuffle and a hoarse muttering at the door, and old Gale the fisherman stumped in, filthy, red-eyed, bearded with icicles, strangely invested in a chafed leathern reefer and a bell-crowned silk hat, like some Ancient Mariner of low farce.

“Hallelujah!” he croaked inconsequently, shifting a feeble glare about the room. “Rejoice, bretherin!”

“ Mornin’, doctor,” they replied. “ How the patients this cold spell?”

“Healt the sick and cast out divils,” recited the old man, as if struggling hoarsely against a storm that defeated his shouts. “Causin’ the blind to walk and the lame to clap their hands. No credit to me, bretherin. Providence done it. Praise the Lord! Who’s got a fig o’ tabacca ? ”

To become a doctor was the fisherman’s mode of hibernating. A fat book — “ Cost me five dollar! ” he roared — which contained as frontispiece an M. D.’s diploma perforated at the edge, to be torn out and framed; a black oilcloth bag, holding bottles and boxes, — “ Opydeldock, hartshorn, medder-sage, black cohosh, tinction o’ nitre, arnicky;” and a tall, rusty silk hat which called forth reminiscences of Mr. Beatty as a young bridegroom, — with nothing more, he annually joined the noble army of Hippocrates. The wonder was that, although these sources of his dignity were simple and known, the doctor found a patient or two nearly every season. The first reproach of all physicians he had silenced this winter, by healing himself: “ them turr ’ble cracklin’s in the drums o’ my head, I stopped ’em all with the marrer of a hog’s jaw.”

“ Jawbon’ of an ass, ye mean,” growled Bunty Gildersleeve.

But even he was impressed by the historical fact that old Mr. Lightborn, a farmer Up the Line, had sent down a home-made diagnosis of his daughter’s case, when she had shown a distressing fondness for “a idel, dangers man, a drunkart and a gamboler.”

“I sent ’er a love-philter,” bellowed the doctor. “ Took it in her tea and knew no better! Fixed’er up! Hallelujah!”

And indeed, all knew that Miss Lightborn had shortly transferred her passion to a quiet young man of considerable property, out on the Ridges.

Or perhaps, when the medical fisher had been quieted with the loan of a tobacco-pipe, their talk wandered into foreign lands. Captain Christy came in seldom now, and said almost nothing; so Mr. Gildersleeve, second only to him as a great traveler, bore off the honors.

“And so we run clos’ in, and fired our muskuts right amongst the bazarr there on the shore, and wore ship and stood out to sea,” he would conclude.

“But how could ye git along,” propounded the skeptical Mr. Laurel, “in them foreign places where they dunno how to talk?”

“Learnt the lingo,” drawled the storyteller scornfully. “ Wha ’d ye think ? Follerin’ the sea, a man picks up lots o’ the dead languages.”

“Give us some Dutch,” challenged a listener.

“Wee gates,” said Bunty, with readiness. “ Much as to say, ‘ How’s the boy ? ’ — I know some Spanish, too.”

“ Let’s hear ye,” scoffed the barber, in a tone of profound unbelief.

“Addy Oats,” was the reply.

“Who’s she?” asked several voices.

“Way them Dons says ‘good-by,’” he explained. “And they go frcasseein’ round with therr hats, so — Many the time I watched ’em doin’ ut in Barrcelony.”

“What’s the French like?” another demanded.

“Quiddlety,” pronounced the linguist.

“Oh, get out with ye,” cried Mr. Laurel, honing a razor contemptuously. “’T ain’t. I’ve heard ’em myself, up at Troy’s Pistols one summer. ’T ain’t the least bit like ut.”

“Captain Christy,” appealed Mr. Gildersleeve with dignity, “ain’t that how the Crapos ask ye what time o’ day ut is ? Come, now.”

The captain roused slowly from another revery; his vision returned to present objects, and with absent-minded tolerance he replied, —

“Yes, that’s right, so fur’s I know, Bunty.”

But his face seldom lighted nowadays; he soon withdrew into caverns of deepeyed silence; and perhaps would neither speak nor stir again until the clangor of the noon bell startled the winter air and broke up their morning session. Even when he returned to the cottage, which he and Zwinglius now kept together by strict rule of shipboard, his unshared thought still enfolded him as clouds about a mountain castle.

Though all the village noticed this change, none grieved so heartily as Joyce. On Sundays, from the tiny organ-loft of the church, she looked down with ineffectual pity on the tall figure below, the broad, spare shoulders slightly bent, the great white head, anointed with a wine-red stain from a window-shaft of sunlight. And when at her touch “St. Ann’s” quavered from the doddering organ, she listened for the brave old bass that vibrated beneath the other voices, strong as a deep-sea current: —

“ Time like an ever-rolling stream
Bears all its sons away :
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
“ 0 God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.”

Yes, thought the girl as she played, he was without fear and strongly comforted; but the youthful sense of justice rebelled within her, and, forgetting the stern conditions of this our race, she wondered why he, who kept the faith, could not finish the course without the burden of a late sorrow. She longed for a chance to lighten it.

And so when one day the captain, chopping a frozen log, cut his foot with a glancing blow, it was not wholly a misfortune. With an excuse to leave her lodgings at Mrs. Gildersleeve’s, she at once moved into the captain’s house, took charge, and managed the restless prisoner like a child.

“Now don’t you dare,” she commanded, before each morning tramp to school, “don’t you dare take it down off that chair! Stand by!”

“Aye, aye,” returned the captain comfortably. He sat by the window, the bandaged foot elevated on cushions, and one of her books at his elbow. “Stand by it is, marm! ” And when she reached the gate again at noon, a big hand waving in the window showed him still at his post.

It was a happy time in the little house; the cloud descended sometimes on the captain, but more rarely and briefly. There were long evenings when Zwinglius rolled out to gather news at Laurel’s; when age and youth sat together trading confidences, slowly, with many intervals; when the clock ticked, the Northern Spies roasted sputtering between the andirons, the wood fire purred for snow, or a frosty nail started like a pistol shot in the night.

“And now why,” Joyce questioned, as if their talk had not faltered, “why do they seem to think young people are always happy, and all that ? I think we ’re more perplexed and troubled than older ones, and selfish —Yes, I do — and — and often cruel.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” declared the captain, nodding wisely, as if to dismiss a trifle. “Ye must enjoy yourself while you ’re young. ’T ain’t right not to. And then when ye git to be old — well, the’s lots o’ nice things about bein’ old, too. Lots. Only fault I got to find with it is that things won’t stop a while for ye—only a — sort o’ — breathin’ spell while ye can set and watch everything jest as ’t is — and see friends happy, and — No; things clip right along. That’s all seems hard. They don’t stop nor stay for ye.”

The hand of the tall clock crawled through a quarter circle before either spoke again.

“Now me,” the captain mused. A burnt log crashed into a ruin of rosy coals that lit up his whimsical smile. “I be’n master sulky these days. Ever sence I sold the vessel — and She went.”

Joyce reached up from her hassock, and captured one of his big fingers on the chair-arm.

“Master sulky,” he continued. “The Book says, ‘There remaineth a rest.’ I know, too. That’s so. But not yet, ye see, not right now. Work —that’s what I want. As young ’s I ever felt, and can’t give up the sea yet a while. Why, ye would n’t think, Joyce, the time I lay awake nights thinkin’ how much I want to go another v’yage or two.”

“I wish you could,” said the girl sorrowfully.

“P’raps I may, some time,” he responded. “Kind o’ hev a feelin’ it ’ll come about. Now, if I had a ship this minute a-layin’ at the foot o’ King Street in St. John, why, Wood and Guthrie’d give me a cargo. Yes, sir! They know me. That’s what ’ud happen. Hmm! So good ’t won’t come true.”

Although the lame foot soon grew sound again, they found their evenings too pleasant to forego. The captain begged, worthy Mrs. Gildersleeve took his side, and Joyce was glad enough to remain in what seemed to be her first home. The winter crept along, through blind storm and freezing brightness.

One day, as Captain Christy sat at breakfast, Zwinglius darted in, stuttering, —

“ She—she — she — she’s nosin’ round galley-west and crookit, cap’n! Nobody can’t make out what she’s aimin’ fer to do!”

“Who?” the captain asked severely.

“Why, this here ship,” stammered the mate. “She’s a-gormin’ round the bay, — three ways fer Sunday.”

The captain strode to the entry, fought his way into an overcoat, hauled down the ear-laps of his enormous cap, and marched outdoors. The mate trotted behind him down the windswept road, dangling a brace of fat overshoes, which he begged the captain to put on.

Puffs of light breeze chased thin snowveils along the petrified ruts, twirled them upward in faint spirals, strewed them suddenly broadcast. A white hill that bared its smooth contour beyond the town, smoked with vapors of snow that

— clinging close as the steam about the body of a sweating horse — rose slowly, and shifted against the lemon glare of an arctic sun. Beyond the foot of the slope, where the dead vista of the street broke wide upon the harbor, a brigantine lay motionless, in stays, her scant canvas sagging in black-shadowed wrinkles.

A knot of men watched her from the verge of the yellow beach ice.

“What d’ ye think, cap’n?” called Bunty, as the two approached. “What kind o’ didos they cuttin’ up aboarrd her ? See, there they go ag’in! ”

The brigantine fell off on a short, aimless leg as if to run down a group of landward isles, slatted up in irons again, came about on the opposite tack, made nothing but leeway, and at last, — when the company of numb watchers, beating arms and stamping, had turned away in disgust from her drunken repetition,

— she suddenly went off, caught the wind abaft her beam, and stood out to sea.

All morning speculation ran riot at Laurel’s; and when, that afternoon, the brigantine reappeared, to knock about as before, they could have pitched their excitement no higher for Captain Kidd and his Jolly Roger.

“If she wants to stave a hole in her bottom” — began Captain Christy; he stopped short, and spoke no more that afternoon, but with shining eyes paced back and forth, fidgeted, chuckled strangely. His conduct, amazing his friends, added to that day’s mysteries.

While the sun was still two hours aloft, a boat put off from the brigantine, pulled shoreward, and landed a solitary passenger, — a mean-faced little man in peajacket and hip-boots. He asked scornfully for the telegraph office, cursed it for being twenty miles away, bought a pint of whiskey, and drove off with Sam Tipton’s boy in a pung. The two sailors who had rowed him were of the city-bred type, and remained unsociable even after rounds of drink. “Yes, he’s mate o’ the Amirald,” they said gruffly. “An’ a bum one, too. An’ she wants a tow, an’ he’s gone to telegraph up-river for a tug, an’ by God, that’s all you Reubens pumps out o’ us. Hey, whiskers?”

When nine o’clock passed, and no captain came to supper, Joyce began an anxious expedition. A piercing sea wind, in sudden, wrestling gusts, filled her cloak, raged at her skirts, checked her as though against the bellying of an invisible sail; then dropped, was gone, and left all things without breath or movement, except the high stars racing through rifts into blackness. In such pauses she caught now and then a hoarse bellow, a deep, throbbing bass note in the distance.

In the pathway of light from a window she met the captain, marching with head erect and face radiant.

“You sinner!” she scolded, taking his arm. “Why did you worry me, wandering round on such a bad, raw night ? ”

“That’s all right,” he boomed, in a voice of exhilaration. “ She’s never showed a light, — nary a flicker! An’ there’s the tug tootin’ round for her! Not a flicker!”

The hoarse whistle sounded again in the stillness. Far out, a green coal moved over the face of the waters; a red coal joined it; both gleamed lustrous for a moment; then, with a bellow, the green vanished.

“Try again!”the captain advised satirically. “P’raps the Amirald’s short o’ karosine! ”

“What’s it all about ?” asked the girl, tugging him homeward. “What have you been up to all this time?”

“Moon-cussin’,” explained the culprit. “Jest a little moon-cussin’. In a few days I ’ll tell ye, p’raps.” He listened for sounds in a chill gust that staggered them. “Good noos, I think, Joyce girl. Aye, aye, home it is, then.”


On calm April days, —when the buff fields, restored to sunlight, began to be furred with a faint green; when the last forgotten snowdrifts were sparsely inlaid in the dark north banks of nook-shotten isles, mountains, or headlands, and over the black bay cakes of river-ice floated seaward; when the lee of every gray house sheltered a patch of reviving turf spangled with the broad goldpieces of dandelions, and every flaw of wind brought smells of wet earth and brushwood smoke, — a visitor might have thought that the past also had been reborn. For alongside the wharf, in the Rapscallion’s bed, lay a vessel, from the deck of which, on warm noons, rose the hum of voices. The men were as before, and above them, as before, reared the massive head and shoulders of Captain Christy. But time had not been cheated: things were not the same. Slanting yards crossed the vessel’s foremast; her lines were bolder, more dashing, than those of the beloved schooner; and on board, instead of holiday chat in the sunshine, there sounded busy hammering, pounding, overhauling.

Up from the black yawn of the main hatch swarmed Zwinglius Turner, grinning and active, like a Chinese pirate in blue dungaree daubed with filth. A thin gray cloud of dust rose after him.

“Whee-e-e! Stinks down there!” he cried joyfully. His voice, movement, and whole aspect were those of a man intoxicated with delight.

So had they been ever since that famous winter day when, like a bomb in the main street, burst the news that Captain Christy had bought the damaged hulk of the Amirald, formally abandoned on an outer ledge of the Little Wolverines. All that fortnight the village had tossed in a delirium of happenings. Strangers had walked the streets. Every day brought more events than talk could keep pace with. Even cynical Mr. Laurel agreed that such a winter had not been known since the Lord Ashburton went ashore in the Gale; even now mysteries remained, enough for years of argument ; and factions still discussed whether the Amirald had been wrecked for the insurance. The company — not without suspicion— had paid it, and had sold at auction, on the underwriters’ account, both the brigantine and her cargo of phosphate. Bids had been few and low. An old man and his money, the village agreed, were soon parted; but Captain Christy thought otherwise.

“Joyce,” he had declared solemnly, “it’s a godsend. It’s a godsend, girl. D ’ye mind, I told ye I had wha’d-yecall-ems —prognosticates — in my bones, ye know — that somehow I’d git another ship.” He chuckled, then laughed as heartily as a boy. “When I see ’em keep lights out so, I knowed what their game was ! Pack o’ rascals ! — Well, Joyce, the’ won’t be no more such sea-lawyer work aboard o’ her now!”

His ready laughter, the free flow of his talk, his buoyant stride and shining countenance, seemed to the girl another marvel of the returning spring. It was as when a frozen brook, at some final touch of the thaw, moves downward, crashes, leaps into full-bodied torrent. Happiness mounted within him like sap in a giant maple.

Often at breakfast he put down his cup untouched, to explain in a tone of wondering delight, —

“Ye know, to be real downright honest, I suspicioned ’t was all over, and — and here ’t is jus’ beginnin’, eh, Joyce?”

Or, as she prepared their supper in the little savory kitchen, he came in, humming, from the workshop, his eyes alight, his fingers tarred, a curly shaving of clean pine caught in his beard.

“Well, here goes to wash up!” he announced, as though that were an ecstasy.

And later, sitting by the stove, he might break out with: “Yes, sir! I’m good for ten more years’ hard work easily —easily! ”

Meantime the crumbling wharf and the deck of the Amirald became a littered meeting-place, where the captain, Zwinglius, and Bunty directed all their able-bodied friends in a labor of love. At first a joke, the repairs engrossed the village. Even Mrs. Gildersleeve’s summer boarder, a mouse-like little man, said to be a musician somewhere in the world of cities, came to lounge in sunny corners. With meek and sensible questions, he slowly won friendship of the captain, and so of the captain’s Joyce. And friendships had been rare with this tired stranger.

The northern summer had sped away, before Captain Christy pronounced the Amirald fit for sea. He had changed her rig to fore-and-aft: “for,” he said, “I can’t carry no crew to be squarin’ yards all day long.” On her trial sail as a schooner she behaved handsomely in the bay. Her foresail, it is true, provoked smiles; for — as the captain had stubbornly kept both spar and shroud — the baby square of white canvas reached only to the original foretop. The gap surprised one, as though the vessel had lost a front tooth.

“Diaper on a broomstick!” jeered Master Kibben, at a safe range. “Jigger on a yawl!”

“Ketches wind, anyway,” observed the captain, ignoring him. “Big enough to keep me and Zing busy. She’s took nigh all my money as ’t is. O’ course,” he added regretfully, “she ain’t up to my own — the old schooner. Else I’d swap back with Follansbee.”

Having dispatched his letter to Wood and Guthrie, he hardly ate or slept for impatience.

“You and Zwinglius Turner,” Joyce chided him, “are bad as children before Christmas. Now finish breakfast. Letters can wait.”

At last the answer came, and the captain was singing as he brought it home. A cargo ready in ten days, promised the firm; they wrote kindly, offered their old friend terms better than he had hoped. Laughing, planning like a boy for his first voyage, the captain packed his old canvas bag. His deep chant filled the house: —

“ As they was walkin’ on the green,
Bow down,bow down,
As they was walkin’ on the green,
The bow is bent to me.
As they was walkin’ on the green
To see their father’s ships come in. . . .

“Joyce, there’s mittens you wanted to mend — By gorry, don’t seem real, does it? No, sir, like a dream: —

Oho, prove true, prove true,
My love, prove true to me. ”

The squealing wheel of Zwinglius Turner’s barrow, piercing the town as he trundled the last supplies to the wharf, made music to the captain. And then, suddenly, an unexpected hand rent the whole fabric of his joy.

He stood one morning beneath a naked balm-o’-gilead on a knoll, overlooking the ruddy, sun-bright sands, the stilted wharves, the patched but shapely body of the Amiraid. On the brown-spattered leaves a footstep crackled, and beside him halted the trim, prosperous little figure of the Gildersleeves’ lodger.

“Good-morning, captain,” he saluted. “Mr. —ah — Bunty— tells me that he’s going with you this voyage.”

“That’s right,” replied Captain Christy. “Along for comp’ny. Talks real clever. Help, too — fust-class seaman, Bunty is.”

They chatted of indifferent matters.

“You know, captain,” began the stranger at last, rather shyly, “I’ll be going back to town myself soon, worse luck. You two have been kind to me. Yes, you have,” he insisted quickly: “most people find me too crotchety to bother with. You’ve both — been strongly in my thoughts of late. I’ve grown very fond of that child.” He gave a quiet laugh. “Yes, captain, if I were young and a bachelor, it’s probable I’d have tried to rob you of her by now. At least,” he added soberly, “I think I desire her happiness almost as much as you. Almost, captain.

— Do you know, she’s a rarity.”

Captain Christy appeared doubtful of

this term.

“She’s a good nice girl,” he amended heartily.

“By Jove she is!” agreed the other. “But I meant—another aspect.” He twisted the point of his gray beard, then fluttered the dead leaves with his cane, as though they hid the right words for his purpose. “ She’s that, and more — We’ve all three talked together a good bit this summer, and you remember I gave her a few lessons—No, no! a pleasure, I can tell you! — It’s made me think about her future. Now this town: I’m very fond of it, but”— he glanced up quizzically—“how about opportunities ? ”

The vista of gray, pointed gables, the street, vacant but for the rusty Newfoundland perennially asleep on the pink sand, stretched away dead and silent toward the taut skyline of the bay.

“ Opportoonities ain’t blockin’ traffic there, are they?” drawled the captain.

“I should n’t say all this,” continued the musician, “to a man of your — your active service in real life — except that I know a very little about one subject. That girl, as they say, has music in her. You knew that?”

“She plays real lively, my opinion,” ventured Captain Christy.

“More than that,” the other assented. “When you think of that old chest of whistles ” —With his ferule he transfixed a leaf, twirled it, studied it, then looked the captain in the eye. “She’s a wonder! ” he declared fervently. “ Mind, I don’t say she’ll be a great player, and that nonsense, — but a good one. She has

— the gift. I ’m not an enthusiastic man, you know — less than ever. There are so many thousand fools, masculine, feminine, but mostly neuter, all busy learning the cant, the mechanics, the wise chatter — faugh! when they can’t do a useful hand’s turn in life, or even read and write the English language, or think beyond their Selves. — To get away down here, it’s like emptying my pockets, airing the room, brushing my clothes of ’em! — But Joyce is real, and has that rare thing, a Mind. It will take patience, hard work, study, breaking in— You see, she’s in the rough, like—like” —

“A barnyard colt,” suggested the captain, all serious attention.

“ Ye-es,” laughed the musician. “ Something not quite so shaggy. I ‘11 try to be plainer. She has the ‘heart that watches and receives,’ that’s certain; lacks only the chance. I’ve said nothing to her, don’t know what means may be at her disposal. But if she could have one year in the city, there’s start enough. With her quickness, we’d go far. I’ve stopped taking pupils: all the more time for her. Of course, my reward would be the fun itself, the pride, seeing the girl forge ahead, shoot up — by Jove!” — he speared the ground recklessly,— “shoot up into a constellation!”

“Thank ye, sir,” mumbled the captain. His uncertain fingers combed at the white beard; his eyes contracted, musing, among the kindly wrinkles that told of distant things long watched. “You’re master gen’rous.”

“After the first year,— well, for example, I’m trustee and Musical Grandpa to a school; teaching kiddies there, she could turn a handsome penny. What do you think?” Forgetting his mouse-like ways, eager with his project, the little man unfolded it as they walked homeward.

In the workshop, now almost bare, Zwinglius stooped about, despoiling another barrow-load.

“Zing!” the captain, entering, exploded wrathfully. “ Come here! Hit me a handsome kick, will ye ? H’ist me one good and solid! Lambaste my jacket!” The mate stared. “I’m a selfish old — old — old — customer! Always thinkin’ o’ Jack Christy fust and foremost. Nothin’ else, by James Rice!” He stood regarding Zwinglius, like an aged schoolboy, disgraced, dogged, angry; then swung muttering into the kitchen.

“Hello, Joyce,” he said gently. The girl, kneeling before her oven, turned with a smile. His scrutiny was strange, as though he saw in her face some quality never seen there before.

He was silent at dinner; through the afternoon paced the floor, sat figuring on a slate, with the air of a gloomy, patient dunce; but in the yellow glow of the supper table blossomed out so cheerfully with chuckles, laughter, far-fetched jokes, that Joyce’s brown eyes were wide and puzzled.

The mingled emotions of that evening she was not soon to forget. As she sat alone by the lamp, the captain —whose heavy steps had creaked across the room above — came slowly downstairs, and paused in the doorway, smiling, with a book in his hand. His voice rang oddly.

“Joyce, I’ve got something to give ye, and somethin’ I want to say.”

To the apprehension in her look he answered quickly.

“It’s good noos. I be’n a thoughtless old coot, Joyce; but after this I ’ll do better by ye. Ye know, before buyin’ the Amirald, I laid the future all out, as I thought. I did n’t, not half; but I figgered I had. Well, I wrote Her, Up the Line, and says, ’bout like this: ‘If you cal’late to come back some time, as I hope, write me, and I won’t buy this brigantine.’ ’Bout like that. Well, she never answered.”

The tall clock, ticking heavily, marked the stillness of the room.

“ She never answered. That — kind o’ — set me loose to buy, ’cause ye see, I felt I had n’t a fam’ly no more. But” — he halted anxiously.

“ But you have! ” cried the girl, springing up. She clasped the big, bent shoulders, hugged him. “You have, have n’t you? You have, Father Captain!”

His free hand clumsily patted her.

“All right, then,” he growled, in great relief. His old, familiar manner returned. “Now we can set down and talk.”

The girl perched on his elbow-chair, the white head and the brown tousled one together.

“So I want ye to hev this. I’d saved it for her, waitin’ for her to grow up,—like you.”

The proffered book, a little black Bible, opened at the fly-leaf. Above a date forty years old, they read, in the captain’s crabbed antique hand: —

For Eunice Christy from her loving father.
“Man cannot live
by bread alone.” Matt, iv, 4.
“I would have you wise
unto that which is good, and
simple concerning evil.” Romans xvi, 19.

“Oh, Father Captain,” faltered the girl, between long silences. She stroked the hard old hands, corded with veins, tattooed with the blue quincunx. “I’ll feel better about your going away, now you’ve left me this.”

“ No, girl,” he said gravely. “Ye don’t understand. This goes with ye, to steer by when you’re famous, and a great lady, and all.”

Laboriously he revealed the musician’s plan. After the first shock, the leap of her unbreathed ambition, she listened — motionless, pale, large-eyed, as in a dream.

“So, ye see, the cargo’s Nova Scoshy coal for Noobryport. You ’ll sail that fur with me, and take the cars from there.” He touched the book in her lap. “Now we ’ve adopted each other, I can pay the fust year or so.”

Joyce started again.

“How?” she asked, with vague misgiving.

“Oh, I ’ll git the money, dear,” he answered, gay and elusive.

“But how?” she insisted.

“Why, I can sell the vessel handy, up in those parts, at a profit, too.”

Easy, tremendous, untimely, the sacrifice overbore her: as when a friend, laughing, flushed, his cheer cut short, falls beside his friend in the moment of victory. Here, like a broken trifle, her old hero cast away his final dream and happiness.

“Oh, captain,” she cried, choking, between tears and feeble laughter. “Oh, you — I could n’t! I could n’t! Don’t you see — you never asked — I have plenty for the first year myself — more than four hundred dollars that I’ve saved. You old angel! No, I won’t listen; it’s wrong, wicked.”

“No, Joyce,” objected the captain sturdily; “the world’s for the young, ye know.”

“ It is n’t,either! ” she protested, shaking him. “It’s for all kinds, and you’re the best in it! Now listen, you dear old goose.” . . .

It was a long combat; but happy, resolute youth, guided by woman’s wit, at last conquered. “So,” she concluded, “we can both be independent. And whether I fail or go ahead, I’ll come home when you — when you’ve had voyages enough. So we can each have our wish, father.”

“ Why — I guess — you ’re right! ” declared the captain. “ So we can! ” Transfigured, he swung her in his arms, high to the crossbeams of the ceiling. “Both of us! Hooray!”

And Zwinglius, to whom this world was never clear, entered upon a mad scene of double jigs and capers before the fire.

On a clear September evening the Amirald put out to sea, before a dying wind that veered among the black fir islands. Bunty and Zwinglius stood amidships, watching the infant endeavors of the new foresail. By the cabin door sat Joyce, barcheaded, her hair darkly ruddy in the level glow of sunset waves, against which the captain, a giant silhouette, revolved a quick pattern of radiating spokes. Down the vastness of the sky astern thin arcs of cloud, white overhead, pearl, rose, and saffron toward the west, curved from the zenith like frail ribs of an infinite vaulted aisle spanning sea and land.

“Wind to-morrer, likely.” The captain turned his head, and looked down the enormous nave toward the sinking glory. “ Might be his arch, — your sailor man’s. ‘All experience,’ eh, Joyce ? Well, we’re goin’ through it together.”

And to them, as to Ulysses, the deep called round with many voices of the past and the future.