Deckers on the Coast

JULY, 1923



DOWN on the after-deck, shielded from son and rain and the idle stare of the promenade, they were spread in a sprawling heap on Number Three hatch. Sixty, counting the children, as the ship left Colon. Nine hours later, what with the motion of the vessel and money troubles, the great negress in the purple kimono set up a roaring, and she was got out of the crowd somehow; and then there were sixty-one.

In that congested microcosm, however, this was no more than an ephemeral inconvenience. It was more or less perplexing to a spectator how so many of them, with their diversities of sleeping paraphernalia, had contrived to embed themselves in a species of human mosaic, upon a thirty by twenty-five hatch. Nevertheless, it was not adequate. They overflowed on all four sides, spilling from camp-bedsteads set solidly athwart the gangways, snoring on bags of dunnage draped upon the winches (which were still hot, and caused occasional squeals as some small darky clutched the pipes and cylinders), and dispersing upon the bulwarks, where several were holding secret communication with the heaving waters.

As it grew dark, a huge wired bowl was suddenly turned on, and the assembled voyagers were flooded with yellow rays. It was easy to see that some of these people were accustomed to this method of traveling and had grown expert in dealing with the minor problems of existence in such circumstances. There was a girl, for instance, on the port side, who had brought her own narrow iron bed, with sheets, and who revealed the skill of a quick-change artist in divesting herself of her shore finery and appearing, as if by magic, in a scarlet peignoir, her hair cascading over brown shoulders, and between her lips a cigarette offered by an appreciative saloon-waiter, who, with one eye cocked to watch the long port alley for the second steward’s approach, was laying the foundations of, let us hope, an enduring friendship.

There was the aged negro, so grizzled that he seemed incredible and out of place save in an advertisement, who sat on a basket suitcase on the deck and read slowly, and with devastating enunciation, from the Old Testament.

There was the perennial and solitary vagabond, in dire need of a shave, his feet thrust into soiled rope-soled canvas shoes, his head bound in a calico underskirt borrowed from a neighbor, already sound asleep.

Others were less easy. Again and again they rose from their chairs and beds, and settled themselves in supposedly more comfortable attitudes. A mother, with her three, all on one strip of canvas and laid out as if for interment, was periodically aroused by her offspring in monotonous rotation. Fed, their dark little faces still moist from the suckling, they fell back and slept instantly, lying in utter and innocent nakedness like statues of polished chalcedony. A couple, man and woman, perplexing enough to the European unversed in the life of the Coast, fondled one another and chuckled at intervals at their own whispered remarks. Perplexing, since he was a heavy blond young man with a silky beard concealing a weak chin, while she was a vigorous and beautiful quadroon, the wedding ring conspicuous on her finger as she lolled in her chair, alert, intelligent, bright as a new penny when she leveled her gaze upon an appraising saloon-waiter or scullion who meditated an advance. Less easy, these, since they were just married, and the future in Calomar, whither he was bound as a clerk, was uncertain.

Beyond them, and engaged in rapid converse with some of the crew, stood a man of uncertain age. His cap was of some furry fabric spotted to resemble the skin of a leopard, and his soiled linen suit hung loosely upon him. His face was drawn into vertical lines, into harsh furrows, and the expression of his irascible and bloodshot eyes was that of a man engaged in secret warfare with Fate. At times he turned, and the light from the cargo-cluster illumined that ravaged countenance with dreadful fidelity. There was an air of excitement about him, too, since he talked with the rapidity and gestures of one who lacked time to complete his story; and he looked around into the glare of the light as if he saw someone in the distance, overtaking him.

And he had competitors: from the recumbent forms arose a murmurous cacophony of diverse organs. Children whimpered and squalled; four Negroes snarled and gabbled as they shot craps; a piratical creature strummed on a banjo and hummed; while on the starboard side, a furious uproar raged around a gray-haired virago, fit model for the Eumenides herself, who was accusing a smiling youth of stealing a bottle of eau-de-cologne from her bag. This was the most popular show of the evening. The dame sat there on her bed, her chemise sliding from her incredible shoulders, her bony arms and jaws moving in a convulsive synchronism. Men stood over her, with folded arms, and watched every movement, as if she were some monotonous automaton they had wound up and set going. This impression, that she was not human, but a clockwork affair, gained force when, of a sudden, without warning, as she foamed and choked, and lunged toward her adversary to strike him down to death, some word spoken amid the din made her stop and, collapsing upon her pallet, she shrieked with laughter. She seemed to have run down, her spring broken, her interior mechanism gone derelict.

But the man on the other side of the hatch took no notice of these distractions. He was driven by something more than a mere momentary gust of animal passion. His incessant watchfulness, as he turned his head again and again toward the light, reminded one of a wild animal devouring his prey in an alien jungle. Like a wild animal, too, he took no notice of the snapping jackals near him, or of the natural noises — the booming of the wind now rising, the rattle and flap of the awning, the sough and spit of the sea along the side. He held the three men in white jackets in subjection to his vibrating finger and swift impetuous speech. They made no sign, save to spit and flick ash from cigarettes, but they remained. Here was necromancy, since they knew the steward was already searching angrily for them. They remained. The dinner-gong thrummed musically along the corridors as the bell-hop moved to and fro. They remained. The figure of the second steward, spick and span, shaven to pink perfection, emerged smartly from the port alley. They saw him and moved, yet dominated by the cadaverous being in his dirty linen suit, who was offering them, so to speak, the kingdoms of the world. And then the steward saw them, and they rushed into the starboard alley toward the kitchen, leaving the necromancer to sink down on a yellow leatherette suitcase and fumble in his pocket for a cigarette.

All his life he had been an imaginative man. There had come to him. with the romantic tales of childhood, a shameful yet alluring conviction that he would be able to know those desperate doings in reality, be able to rip away the baffling veils hung between himself and the things he desired. There was a dark significance in the way he sat there, his chin on his clenched hands, recalling the vivid moments of his life. He surveyed with stoical courage his boyhood dreams, which were always of material import — dreams of gold and silver, or slaves, and houses of barbaric solidity. What he wanted had always to die, and when it was dead he no longer wanted it. So, as he grew older, he thought more and more of wealth, hard minted bullion, never finding that mysterious idealism which is the key to the riches of the world. Now, on the eve of success, he was poor.

He looked back. The soilure of the deck at which he stared through his unwashed fingers became transmuted into a dark mirror, in which he saw his life in a series of episodes. Yet were they episodes? Were they not rather a series of sudden irretrievable crashes to lower levels of industrious resignation? For he had been industrious. He had been a clever boy at school, and the scholarship which had sent him to the University was easy to him. Yet it was the first stage in his unlucky career. He saw that now. It had started him up the rickety ladder of learning. While his real self, his imagination, was concerned with the things you could get hold of, money and its transmutations. That was the first drop, when he found himself a bookmaker’s clerk at Xewmarket, instead of student in cap and gown at Cambridge, a dozen miles away. He had not regretted the change at the time; he had defiantly enjoyed it, and it might have been his career. But the favorites won day after day, and he had been forced to beg a ride to London.

He recalled all the succeeding years, and saw no flaw in himself. Bad luck. He had asked no more than some of the wealth in the world, yet people got the habit of regarding him with contempt and disdain, as if he suffered from some moral lesion. And he was sometimes a little bitter with the gentry who preached that a man, to succeed, should concentrate upon his ambition. Had he not done just that? Yet he had failed very badly indeed.

And it came to him, as he sat on his poor and inadequate valise, staring at the deck, that his struggle had been very much with simple circumstances, and not with people. Neither he nor they had been evil. And also there was this fatal gift of his, of talking with terrible facility. Why was that? Always he had suffered from it. Give him a listener, and he was ‘away to the races,’ as they used to say at home. Even when he had got a business position. this gift of tongues, as one might say, was no asset. Once, when he had been admitted to an interview, and he was tearing along, thinking that he was doing finely, his client had shot half out of his chair thundering, ‘Shut up!’ There had been a silence, a moment of paralysis, and then a mutter from the man: ‘What d’ you think you ‘re doing? — Drive a man crazy,’ and such-like comments.

Why was that? Never got anywhere, in spite of his education and fecundity of speech. Even this evening, when he confronted the ship’s doctor in the surgery, and was identified on the list of deck-passengers, he had somehow launched into an uncalled-for loquacity, and had found the man, his eyeglass screwed into his experienced blue eye, examining him critically. And had there not been a faint sound like ‘cacoëthes loquendi’ as he went out? The doctor thought himself safe, no doubt, in talking Latin to a decker. But had he really gabbler’s itch?

He stared at the deck and wondered. Even as he did so, he found his lips forming the words that he had ‘no animus, no animus whatever.’ There it was — cacoëthes loquendi — gabbler’s itch. He frowned. It was a grave disadvantage, this lack of animus. Because a simple fellow had no consideration in the world, if he talked. They shouted, ‘Shut Up!’ or just stared and moved out of earshot. His wife, for example, had simply cleared out, left him for good. Of course he had failed to support her. Ah! but there was another side to that. He had never been successful with women. Nobody could hold it against him that he had done them any harm. It was true that he ought to have supported his wife. But he had a humorous conviction that she would have gone — anyway. Saw it in her eye, one day, while he was talking very fast.

There was something about him, he was well aware. He made a momentary comparison of himself with that doctor, for instance, with his finely wrinkled yet healthy-looking parchment skin, his alert poise, his superior, monocled scrutiny. About the same age. Thirty years ago they might have been contemporaries at the same college. And he, the doctor, had never said a word beyond ‘What ‘s your name?’ and that valedictory mutter in Latin. Was that the difference? No. Something else, he felt quite sure.

He was apparently unaware of the turmoil surrounding him, the buzz and chatter that arise always from a huddled mass of humans, who are being carried, like cattle, to their desired havens, and who become garrulous and musical and quarrelsome, merely for lack of responsibility and employment. He did not notice how, in the course of ceaseless rearrangements of baggage and persons, he had become isolated. He sat now on his valise, on the deck, a solitary being, apart. The deck was now like a large chamber walled in by the wind. Above the great bowl of light which poured its rays diagonally upon them and threw immense black shadows into the after-gloom, the canvas awning seemed to be struggling to escape. It bellied out from the halyards in a concave vault of quivering fabric, and then suddenly descended and began to flap viciously in the gusts that came over the bulwarks at intervals. Beyond those bulwarks was darkness and heaving waters, and a wind that gave out great booming sighs as it fled over the sea.

He looked up at last, and found himself as if shunned. And his undisciplined imagination took it as an omen when a wave suddenly reared up over the bulwarks and fled aft, splashing him contemptuously with spray. Nobody touched but him! He shook the water from his eyes and stood up, glancing round to discover the witnesses of his misfortune. But the occupants of the hatch were preoccupied with the problem of existence. The eddying wind and the beating canvas were giving trouble. Children were crying, and the mothers, reared up from their beds, were looking about, for more secluded quarters. Several had already moved stealthily aft, and were lost among the crew.

The ship took a long careening roll, and the sea leapt out of the darkness, sparkled and gleamed in the light, and detonated upon the deck. Murmurs and cries mingled with the sough of the water through the scuppers. The forms of men, safe in the shelter of the alleys, were silhouetted against the far brightness of the kitchens, whence had come great crashes of falling metal. Above the straining canvas, the guy-ropes hummed and tackle squeaked as it was flung about by the wind and the scend of the ship. As she drew out from the horns of the Dark Gulf, she began to wallow on the outer edge of a hurricane.

Yet the fact that no one had seen his discomfiture with that first wave was for him a source of satisfaction. His mind ran swiftly over the situation, as he edged in between two massive bollards under the lee of the bulkhead. He saw one of those to whom he had been confiding his plans peering out upon the deck as if looking for him, and wearing an expression of hard curiosity.


He drew back. He must think. His trouble was, of course, money. Money for an adequate boat and tackle. But for that he would not have mentioned a word to these supercilious beings who would be in Sovranilla for a few hours, and then gone, to Curaçoa, to Port-auPrince, to Havana and New York. No! Much rather would he have depended upon the people he knew in Sovranilla. Perhaps it would have been bet ter if he had never left it. And he would never have heard that conversation, carried on in growls behind the lattice-work where he sat smoking a cigarette after he had washed the dishes for Jo vita’s Chinese cook.

Jovita was the proprietress of the Love Nest Café for Officers, in a discreet back-street in Colon. The café was upstairs over the street, and was screened all round with romantic greenery trellised over painted lattice. Jovita’s two daughters, as big as herself, were the sirens. They danced and looked ponderously languorous at young ensigns from Indiana and Ohio. But the growls came from maturer throats. Captains of ships, he reflected, smoking cautiously, and lowering his ear until it was on a level with the voices. The lattice-work had creaked as the owmer of the growl leaned against it. Outside the Love Nest in the arcaded street, the tropical rain was descending in wavering sheets. It poured like a momentary cataract over the corrugated iron roof of the kitchen. So the captains of ships replenished their glasses and growled on.

The word Sovranilla came out. One of the speakers grumbled that ‘they could do what they liked with it, once they got it to Sovranilla.’ And then ‘six hundred thousand dollars. Gold, in little barrels a strong boy could run off with!’ The speaker became indignant. ‘And nowhere to put it but a cupboard on the boat-deck, with a rotten old ship’s-lock on it. Of course, ‘ — here the growl became very thick, and almost inaudible, — ‘nobody knowing it, just as safe, eh?’ And, ‘What the eye don’t see the heart don’t grieve for’; and a reference to the ‘worries of life,’ followed by guttural laughter and contralto badinage from a daughter of Jovita.

The watcher looked critically at her through a crevice in the heavy foliage. That was not his weakness. It exasperated him at times, that men should abandon realities for such ephemeral solace as women afforded. Yet they had their uses, he reflected. They were kind enough. At Sovranilla, when he was so utterly on the beach that he had but one pair of pants, a brow n-skinned creature, with soft black eyes and gentle voice, had sewn industriously on his behalf. He had bought her a bottle of perfume when he won eleven dollars on the Commandant’s bird at the village cockpit. But for the idolater of tangible riches, there was no lure in feminine softness. Indeed, he had this much feminine about him, — and it may be some explanation, — that he loved the things they loved: the glitter of gems, the seductive feel of amber and ivory, the smooth caresses of silk, and the satisfying solidity of coins. He experienced a sensation almost of vertigo as he imagined those ‘little barrels a strong boy could run off with.’ The cigarette burned his fingers sharply, as he crouched with closed eyes by the lattice-work, listening to the syncopations of the phonograph.

And they were up there now, a hundred feet away from him, those little barrels. He snuggled down between the bollards and tried to visualize them — clean solid little affairs, with fat scarlet seals, exquisitely portable even for ‘a strong boy.’ But with a mysterious lack of logic his mind would not be preoccupied with them. He discovered that his vividly imagined fort itude was undermined by a desire to return to Sovranilla. Do what he would, he could not ev ade a secret conviction that he regretted his departure. Why had he left?

He drew hard on a cigarette as he recalled that unkempt coast town that sprawled along the crumbling edge of a shabby bluff. He liked it. There was no appearance to keep up. The streets were lanes of mud or dust, with steep gullies cut here and there athwart them; and pigs and fowls wandered in and out of the houses. He liked it. They were kind to him. Always, when he had been in low water, there was a meal somewhere for him. He could always get a canoe and paddle round to a sheltered cov e, for an afternoon’s swimming. And the brown-skinned girl liked him, for she would always iron a shirt when he asked her.

And he had left it all suddenly, without a w ord of good-bye, because of his fatal facility of speech. There was no doubt that, once started, he could not stop. He told that passenger an astounding tale as he walked up the long jetty carrying the gentleman’s valise. And what he realized now, as he sat with his back to the vibrating bulkhead and watched the white water spring upon the bulwarks was that, ‘when he got going,’ he was not himself, but the person he imagined he was — that alert and efficient image in the rear of his brain! He would have to carry that other magniloquent self upon his back all his days, suffering for the follies of one who seemed to be a fantastic and irresponsible kinsman.

Carrying the gentleman’s valise, and carried away himself upon a swift gust of speech, he was aware suddenly that he had been presented with a decker’s ticket to Colon. He had shown conclusively and exhaustively that, if he could only get away from Sovranilla, he could regain his position in life. He had invited a college man to consider the agony of spirit another college man suffered in that shaggy dump beside the emerald-green combers of the Caribbean. He saw himself, as he talked, flung down in uttermost misery behind some convenient wattled hut. He saw life unfolding for him amid the glare and rattle of the night-life in Colon, wealth coming to him in heaps of paper and metal, followed by the respect of his contemporaries. So it had befallen, and he had walked out of the great docks, his own small satchel in his hand, his head high, until he was out of sight. Then he knew he was better off, far better off, in that little town of Sovranilla.

And as he thought it out now from his refuge behind the bollards, he saw himself as the owner of a secret which would make them all rich. He imagined himself walking about among them, able at a word to turn the whole place upside down. But he would never speak it. He saw himself again when he came to die, handing on the secret of the money he had cast into the sea at such and such a place, giving the bearings of the lighthouse and the buoy on the sunken wreck. He even saw in imagination the stir that would arise in Juan Pierella’s botega when the news went round. Game cocks and roulette wheels would be forgotten while they discussed it in whispers. Little barrels!

And then, seeing those white-coated men by the door, their glances falling at times in hard curiosity upon him, hiding there between the bollards, he made a determined gesture and turned his mind resolutely from these fancies. And this resolution of his, like a grapnel, caught upon the first thing convenient in his mind. He would have nothing to do with these people on the ship. They had scarcely concealed their amusement while he had sounded them as to their willingness to go into a venture that might be a good thing. He ought to know by now that these people had no ideas above smuggling drugs or egret feathers in their underwear, or perhaps pilfering trinkets from a passenger’s trunks. He hated them, when they came ashore in Sovranilla. On one occasion he had risen in a paroxysm of disgust because a crowd of them had walked into the room where he was talking to that brown girl while she ironed. Even they, tough as they were, had seen something ominous in the gestures of the thin, unshaven man in shirt and pants, the cigarette trembling in his fingers as he lashed them with his incomparable tongue. A mistake, they muttered, and withdrew, ashamed. Neither he nor the girl had said a word for a long time, and then he had slipped away into the darkness.

As the evening wore on, it was evident that the people lodged beneath the straining awning, and attacked by the seas that leaped the bulwarks at uncertain intervals, would be in distress. The chief officer, in dirty white uniform and long rubber boots, came down the ladder from the bridge-deck and consulted with the bos’un, a harassed expression on his face as he looked around. The man crouching between bollard and bulkhead watched him with dislike. It was part of his character to hate uniforms; but behind that human trait there lurked the subtler reason that these men could not be induced to talk. They barked, or snarled, or grunted, or were sullenly silent. You could n’t get near them. He recalled the doctor, with his monocle, his spotless white and gold regalia, his cool, silent appraisal. They symbolized for him, these men, a world in which he had failed to get a footing. Thinking of them, Sovranilla, with its pigs and fowls walking in and out among the humans in the adobe huts, was, by comparison, home. There everybody talked, interminable rigmaroles in Spanish, about nothing at all — about the pimple on the nose of the conductor just in on the train from Calomar, or the new white enameled basin Emilia Gurmesindo had ordered from New York through Wong Choy’s general store, or the bottle of perfume which the assistant commandant had smuggled for his wife, but which he had given to Vina Muñez, who was not esteemed.

And there was another and subtler reason hiding like a shadow behind all this. He was unable to appreciate their fidelity to an abstraction. He could be inspired by those he knew. As he flinched from a great wave that roared along the rail and vanished without coming inboard, he had a sudden vivid consciousness of his affection for the folk in Sovranilla. But to work all one’s life for people one never saw was folly. An idea! A chimera! And no doubt flung aside when they were too old, eh?

He would have plunged into a fresh depth of imaginative reflections had not the whole ship sprung to life before his eyes. The officer stiffened to an alert rigidity as the whistle whined and blared suddenly above them, three long blasts, and then he ran to the side. The sailors followed suit, lining the bulwarks. The sound of men running came to the ears of t he man crouching out of sight. He could remain in this position no longer. He rose, and looking earnestly at his little valise, walked to the side.

At first nothing could be seen save the great foam-flecked planes of the sea, a series of enormous and advancing ridges with toppling white crests as they passed; and the glare of the portholes so illuminated them that beyond was a place of vague darkness. But as he gazed, he saw, away on the starboard bow, a slow rising globe of intense light, a globe that exploded into a cascade of distant spangles. As the radiance died out and the ship sloped sharply forward down the weather side of a wave, he saw something else, which evoked from his troubled and weary spirit a sigh of relief. Only for a moment he caught the deep red glow of the wreck-buoy outside Sovranilla, and then it disappeared.

At once, as t hat rocket ascended into the distant darkness, the officer and his crew abandoned their plans of moving the deckers to some other part of the ship and ran up the ladders to the boat-deck away above them. And it was easy in the confusion for the man who had stood beside them at the bulwarks to follow unobserved. The mere act of ascending was an inspiration to him. For a moment he shrank back as he found himself confronting the long smooth camber of the promenade deck, with its colored lights and recumbent forms; and then he sprang on up the next ladder, and came out upon a place of baffling obscurity and a masterful rushing wind.

For here was no water, only a ceaseless pressure of air. It roared about him as he stumbled over deadeyes and guy-ropes. It tore at the collar of his shirt and flapped the trousers about his knees and ankles. But he gained what he wanted, a high clear view of that ruby light; and he clung to the corner of a deck-house and watched it. All about him were men shouting as they toiled above one of the boats. The wavering beam of a flash-light suddenly threw them into brilliant relief, and their eager faces as they turned gave them the appearance of a party of conspirators. He shrank back into the shadow of the house as the light advanced. No one, as far as he could imagine, had noticed his hurried ascent with the crew. And now, whi let hey were putting the boat out over the water, his mind became clogged with sensations.

He became aware that he was concealed from view by the very thing he had set out to seek. He could no longer see either the men at work or the ascending rockets from the bark on her beam-ends below the bluff, or the ruby light winking from the wreck-buoy. He was in deep shadow, and sheltered from the roaring wind. And an ecstasy assaulted him, a desire, not so much to do what he had vividly imagined, as to see if for once his imagination had not played him false. And he began to explore, concentrating in a few moments some of those discoveries often spread over years.

For while he was feeling for the door, behind which lay the money that had obsessed him, he was also exploring his own nature. He was conscious of standing beside himself and watching with painful curiosity what he would do. The door, of course, would be locked, but there was a window, a round scuttle opening inward and too small even for the strong boy the captain had sardonically specified. And he saw himself reach an arm into that window, and felt beneath his hand the rough edges of a barrel-head. For an inst an t he was almost in a swoon as he saw the enterprise crowned with success. A determined struggle with the door, a dozen swift journeys to the deserted lee rail, a quick fixing of position in his mind, and then away down to the raucous uproar of the deckers, stage by stage, emerging from some dark corner where he had been sleeping in innocence through the storm. How could they suspect him? He fondled the smooth perfection of the plan.

For once his imagination had not fooled him. Here it was, at last, the authentic foot of the rainbow. He saw himself in Sovranilla, telling the children, as the passing rain-squall fled over the emerald and silver waves, that there was a cask of gold at the foot of yonder colored arch. He would make an allegory of it, until the time came when they could go out and see how truly he had spoken.

And that thought made him shrink back as if he had been struck suddenly in the darkness. He felt the hot plates of the funnel against his hands and shoulders. There it was again, that devil with the forked tongue as it were, the devil of loquacity. He sprang away and stumbled aft until he came to the rail overlooking the awning. It was going, the wind was ripping it, halyard by halyard, and he could discern the hullabaloo of the helpless folk dodging the ruthless lashings of the canvas. Could he accomplish nothing without this ebullient verbiage? His hands closed desperately on the rail, as if the rushing wind was a fate trying to bear him away.

And as he stood there, fate came to him, in the guise of a man in oilskins who bumped into him in the darkness, who asked him who he was, and without waiting for an answer bade him go forward and man the boat.

He thought, afterward, when he had reached it, had clambered into it as it swayed on the outswung davits, that he must have spoken at length to the man in the oilskins — a man with a voice both furry and hoarse, red-faced and solemn under the sou’wester tied below his chin. Must have done that. The words of that man sang in his ears like harpstrings: For the Lord’s sake, shut up — not so much conversation — talk later — see the rockets — get in — ready, bos’un? — then lower away!

The ship had been stopped, and by the time the boat began to descend, all way was gone from her. And it seemed to him, as he sat in the boat among a half-dozen of silent men, that their rapid passing by lighted deck and bright port-holes, row on row, into the darkness below, was a symbol of life. Consecrated to a high purpose, they descended into unknown perils as if from another world; and suddenly they were afloat and the falls unhooked, and they were pulling with a mystical union of energy toward a cascade of falling stars.

Here, for a stark materialist, the episode would have ended in failure. But for him it was a revelation of his own potential character. Sitting there in the obscurity of the storm, joined with unseen and unknown men in a common beneficent endeavor, he shed the pretentious trappings of an irksome life-habit and comprehended resolutely his true bearings. He saw them as, when he was poised high upon a lofty wave-crest, the ruby light of the wreck-buoy shone across to him. He saw them when, after enormous labor, they had won to the lee side of the great bark, dismasted and careened upon the white-toothed rocks below the bluffs. He saw them as those frightened and weary men tumbled aboard with a shout and a whimper of delight. But he saw them best of all when, after the long, long pull, they gained the little harbor and stood at last upon the jetty below the silent huts of Sovranilla. It was the moment of dawn, and the steamer was standing in toward the anchorage. None of the strangers noted his gesture as he faced the eastern ranges where the sun had touched the snowy summits of the Andes with rose. It was a gesture of surrender and illumination, a symbol of what he now comprehended and believed.

And often, in after days, the children would see him pause in his talk when a rain-squall fled away over the Caribbean, and make that gesture toward the rainbow, watching in silence where the shaft of it sank into the emerald sea.