"If we could only work out one of those long joists it would make a little show." Captain Mayo shoved his arm down the hole again. "But they are wedged across too solidly."
"I think there's a piece of lumber floating over there," cried the girl. She was clinging to one of the wedges, and the composure which she felt, or had assumed, stirred Mayo's admiration. The plump hand which she held against her forehead to shield her eyes did not tremble. From the little Dutch cap, under the edge of which stray locks peeped, down over her attire to her toes, she seemed to be still trim and trig, in spite of her experiences below in the darkness and the wet. With a sort of mild interest in her, he reflected that her up-country beau would be very properly proud of her if he could see her there on that schooner's keel.
"What a picture you would make, Miss Candage, just as you are!" he blurted. She took down her hand, and the look she gave him did not encourage compliments. "Just as you are, and call it 'The Wreck,'" he added.
"Do I look as badly as all that, Captain Mayo?"
"You look—" he expostulated, and hesitated, for her gaze was distinctly not reassuring.
"Don't tell me, please, how I look. I'm thankful that I have no mirror. Isn't that a piece of lumber?" she inquired, crisply, putting a stop on further personalities. "Wait! It's down in a hollow just now."
The sea lifted it again immediately. Mayo saw that it was a long strip of scantling, undoubtedly from the deckload that the Polly had jettisoned when she was tripped. It lay to windward, and that fact promised its recovery; but how was the tide? Mayo squinted at the sun, did a moment's quick reckoning from the tide time of the day before, and smiled.
"We'll get that, Miss Candage. She's coming this way."
Watching it, seeing it lift and sink, waiting for it, helped to pass the time. Then at last it came alongside, and he crawled cautiously down the curve of the bilge and secured it. After he had braced it in the hole in the schooner's bottom with the help of Mr. Speed, the girl gave him a crumpled wad of cloth when he turned from his task.
"It's the rest of my petticoat. You may as well have it," she explained, a pretty touch of pink confusion in her cheeks.
Mr. Speed boosted Mayo and the young man attached the cloth to the scantling and flung their banner to the breeze. Then there was not much to do except to wait, everlastingly squinting across the bright sea to the horizon's edge.
X ~ HOSPITALITY, PER JULIUS MARSTON
Hoo—oo—rah; and up she rises! Hoo—oo—rah! and up she rises! Early in the morning. What shall we do with a saucy sailor? Put him in the long boat and make him bail 'erv Early in the morn—ing! —Old "Stamp-and-go."
Mayo saw the sail first. It was coming in from the sea, and was very far and minute. He pointed it out with an exclamation.
"What do you make it, sir?" asked Captain Candage. "Your eyes are younger 'n mine are."
"I reckon it's a fisherman bound in from Cashes Banks. He seems to be lying well over, and that shows there's a good breeze outside. He ought to reach near enough to see us, judging from the way he's heading."
That little sail, nicked against the sky, was something else to watch and speculate on and wait for, and they forgot, almost, that they were hungry and thirsty and sun-parched.
However, Captain Mayo kept his own gaze most steadfastly on the landward horizon. He did not reveal any of his thoughts, for he did not want to raise false hopes. Nevertheless, it was firmly in his mind that no matter what might be the sentiments of Julius Marston in regard to his recent skipper, the mate and engineer on board the Olenia were loyal friends who would use all their influence with the owner to urge him to come seeking the man who had been lost.
The fact that a motor-boat had come popping out of Saturday Cove in pursuit of the schooner suggested that Mate McGaw had suspected what had happened, and was not dragging the cove-bottom for a drowned man.
Mayo had plenty of time for pondering on the matter, and he allowed hope to spice his guesses. He knew Mate McGaw's characteristics and decided that the yacht would get under way early, would nose into a few near-by harbors where a gale-ridden schooner might have dodged for safety, and then would chase down the sea, following the probable course of a craft which had been caught in that nor'easter. Mate McGaw was a sailorly man and understood how to fit one fact with another. He had a due portion of mariner's imagination, and was not the sort to desert a chum, even if he were obliged to use stiff speech to convert an owner. Therefore, Mayo peered toward the blue shore-line, coddling hope. He wondered whether Mate McGaw would have courage to slip a word of encouragement to Alma Marston if she asked questions.
Mayo was elated rather than astonished when he spied a smear of drab smoke and was able to determine that the craft which was puffing that smoke was heading out to sea, not crawling alongshore.
"That's a fisherman all right, and he's bound to come clost enough to make us out," stated Captain Candage, his steady gaze to southward.
"But here comes another fellow who is going to beat him to us," announced Captain Mayo, gaily.
"And what do you make it?" asked the skipper, blinking at the distant smoke.
"A yacht, probably."
"Huh? A yacht! If that's what it is they'll most likely smash right past. They'll think we're out here on a fishing picnic, most like. That's about all these yacht fellers know."
The girl gave her father a frown of protest, but Mayo smiled at her.
"I think this one is different, sir. If I am not very much mistaken, that is the yacht Olenia and she is hunting me up. Mate McGaw is one of our best little guessers."
A quarter of an hour later he was able to assure them that the on-coming craft was the Olenia.
"Good old Mate McGaw!" he cried, rapturously. In his joy he wished he could make them his confidants, tell them who was waiting for him on board that yacht, make them understand what wonderful good fortune was his.
After a time—the long time that even a fast yacht seems to consume in covering distance to effect the rescue of those who are anxious—the Olenita's whistle hooted hoarsely to assure them that they had been seen.
"The same to you, Mate McGaw!" choked Captain Mayo, swinging his cap in wide circles.
"Seeing that things have come round as they have, I'm mighty glad for you, Captain Mayo," declared Candage. "I ain't no kind of a hand to plaster a man all over with thanks—"
"I don't want thanks, sir. We worked together to save our lives."
"Then I'm hoping that there won't be any hard feelings one way or the other. I have lost my schooner by my blasted foolishness. So I'll say good-by and—"
"Good-by?" demanded Mayo, showing his astonishment. "Why are you saying good-by to me now?"
"Because you are going aboard your yacht."
"The rest of you are going there, too."
"It ain't for poor critters like us to go mussing—"
"Look here, Captain Candage, I am the captain of that yacht, and I say that you are coming on board and stay until I can set you ashore at the handiest port."
"I'd just as lieve wait for that fisherman, sir. I'll feel more at home aboard him."
"You ought to think of your daughter's condition first, Captain Candage. She needs a few comforts right away, and you won't find them on board a fisherman."
He turned to the girt who sat on the keel, silent, looking away to sea. She seemed to show a strange lack of interest in the yacht. Her pretty face exhibited no emotion, but somehow she was a wistfully pathetic figure as she sat there. Mayo's countenance showed much more concern than she expressed when she faced about at the sound of his voice and looked at him. Color came into his cheeks; there was embarrassment in his eyes, a queer hesitancy in his tones.
"There is a young lady—there are several young ladies—but there is Mr. Marston's daughter!" he faltered. "She is on the yacht. I—I know she will do all she can for you. She will be good to you!" His eyes fell under her frank and rather quizzical gaze.
"She might not care to be bothered with such a ragamuffin."
"I can speak for her!" he cried, eagerly. He was now even more disturbed by the glance she gave him. He had read that women have intuition in affairs of the heart.
"I am quite certain you can, Captain Mayo," she assured him, demurely. "And I am grateful. But perhaps we'd be better off on board that other vessel—father and the rest of us."
"I insist," he said, but he did not dare to meet her searching eyes. "I insist!" he repeated, resuming the decisive manner which he had shown before on board the Polly.
The Olenia, slowing down, had come close aboard, and her churning screws pulled her to a standstill. Her crew sent a tender rattling down from her port davits. As she rolled on the surge her brass rails caught the sunlight in long flashes which fairly blinded the hollow eyes of the castaways. The white canvas of bridge and awnings gleamed in snowy purity. She was so near that Dolph smelled the savory scents from her galley and began to "suffle" moisture in the corners of his mouth.
They who waited on the barnacled hulk of the Polly, faint with hunger, bedraggled with brine, unkempt and wholly miserable after a night of toils and vigil, felt like beggars at a palace gate as they surveyed her immaculateness.
A sort of insolent opulence seemed to exude from her. Mayo, her captain though he was, felt that suggestion of insolence more keenly than his companions, for he had had bitter and recent experience with the moods of Julius Marston.
He did not find Marston a comforting object for his gaze; the transportation magnate was pacing the port alley with a stride that was plainly impatient. Close beside the gangway stood Alma Marston, spotless in white duck. Each time her father turned his back on her she put out her clasped hands toward her lover with a furtive gesture.
Polly Candage watched this demonstration with frank interest, and occasionally stole side-glances at the face of the man who stood beside her on the schooner's bottom; he was wholly absorbed in his scrutiny of the other girl.
Mate McGaw himself was at the tiller of the tender. His honest face was working with emotion, and he began to talk before the oarsmen had eased the boat against the overturned hulk.
"I haven't closed my eyes, Captain Mayo. Stayed up all night, trying to figure it out. Almost gave up all notion that you were aboard the schooner. You didn't hail the boat we sent out."
"I tried to do it; perhaps you couldn't hear me."
Captain Candage's countenance showed gratitude and relief.
"This morning I tried Lumbo and two other shelters, and then chased along the trail of the blow."
Mayo trod carefully down the bilge and clasped the mate's hand. "I was looking for you, Mr. McGaw. I know what kind of a chap you are."
McGaw, still holding to the captain's hand, spoke in lower tones. "Had a devil of a time with the owner, sir. He was bound to have it that you had deserted."
"I was afraid he would think something of the sort."
The mate showed frank astonishment. "You was afraid of what? Why, sir, I wanted to tell him that he was a crazy man to have any such ideas about you! Yes, sir, I came nigh telling him that! I would have done it if I hadn't wanted to keep mild and meek whilst I was arguing with him and trying to make him give me leave to search!"
"We have had a terrible time of it, Mr. McGaw," stated Mayo, avoiding the mate's inquisitiveness. "I am going to take these folks on board and set them ashore."
"Ay, sir, of course."
The two of them stood with clasped hands and held the tender close to the wreck until the passengers embarked. When they reached the foot of the Olenia's steps Captain Mayo sent his guests ahead of him.
Marston paused in his march and scowled, and the folks on the quarter-deck crowded to the rail, showing great interest.
Captain Mayo exchanged a long look with Alma Marston when he came up the steps. Love, pity, and greeting were in his eyes. Her countenance revealed her vivid emotions; she was overwrought, unstrung, half-crazed after a night spent with her fears. When he came within her reach caution was torn from her as gossamer is flicked away by a gale. Impulse had always governed her; she gave way to it then.
"I don't care," she sobbed. "I love you. They may as well know it!"
Before he understood her intentions or could prevent her rashness she flung her arms about his neck and kissed him repeatedly.
Marston stood in his tracks like a man stricken by paralysis; his cigar dropped from his open mouth. This exhibition under his very nose, with his guests and the whole crew of his yacht looking on, fairly stunned him.
"If you had died I would have died!" she wailed.
Then her father plunged toward her, elbowing the astonished Beveridge out of his way.
Captain Mayo gently unhooked the arms of the frantic girl from about his neck and stepped forward, putting himself between father and daughter. He was not taking sensible thought in the matter; he was prompted by an instinctive impulse to protect her.
Mayo had no word ready at his tongue's end, and Mar-ston's anathema was muffled and incoherent. The girl's rash act had tipped over the sane and manly self-possession of both of them. The captain was too bewildered to comprehend the full enormity of his action in standing guard over the daughter of Julius Marston, as if she needed protection on her father's quarter-deck. He did not move to one side of the alley when Marston jerked an impatient gesture.
"I want to say that I am wholly to blame, sir," he faltered. "I hope you will overlook—"
"Are you presuming to discuss my daughter's insanity with me?" He noticed that the sailors were preparing to hoist the tender to the davits. "Drop that boat back into the water!" he shouted. There was an ugly rasp in his voice, and for a moment it seemed as if he were about to lose control of himself. Then he set a check on his temper and tongue, though his face was deathly white and his eyes were as hard as marbles. Resolve to end further exhibition in this incredible business dominated his wrathful shame.
"If you will set us ashore—" pleaded Mayo.
"Get back into that boat, you and your gang, whatever it is!"
"Mr. Marston, this young woman needs—"
"Get into that boat, or I'll have the bunch of you thrown overboard!" The owner spoke in low tones, but his furious determination was apparent.
"We will go without being thrown, sir. Will you order us set aboard that fisherman?" He pointed to the little schooner which was almost within hailing distance.
"Get off! I don't care where you go!" He crowded past Mayo, seized his daughter's arm, and led her aft.
She seemed to have expended all her determination in her sensational outburst.
The captain met her pleading gaze as she turned to leave. "It's for the best," he declared, bravely. "I'll make good!"
The pathetic castaways from the Polly made a little group at the gangway, standing close to the rail, as if they feared to step upon the white deck. Mate McGaw intercepted Mayo as he was about to join them.
"Hadn't I better stretch Section Two of the collision act a mite and scare him with the prospect of a thousand-dollar fine?" asked the mate, eagerly. "My glory, Captain Mayo, I'm so weak I can hardly stand up! Who'd have thought it?"
"We'll go aboard the schooner, Mr. McGaw. It's the place for us."
"Maybe it is, but I'll speak up if you say the word, and make him set you ashore—even if I leave along with you?"
"Keep your job, sir. Will you pick up my few little belongings in my stateroom and bring them to me, Mr. McGaw? I'd better stay here on deck with my friends." He emphasized the last word, and Captain Candage gave him a grateful look. "I'm sorry, mates! I can't say any more!" Captain Mayo did not allow himself to make further comment on the melancholy situation. The others were silent; the affair was out of their reckoning; they had no words to fit the case. Polly Candage stood looking out to sea. He had hoped that she would give him a glance of understanding sympathy, at least. But she did not, not even when he helped her down the steps into the tender.
Mate McGaw came with the captain's bag and belongings, and promptly received orders from the owner from the quarter-deck.
"Go on to the bridge and hail that schooner. Tell her we are headed for New York and can't be bothered by these persons!"
Mr. McGaw grasped Mayo's hand in farewell, and then he hurried to his duty. His megaphoned message echoed over their heads while the tender was on its way.
"Ay, ay, sir!" returned the fishing-skipper, with hearty bellow. "Glad to help sailors in trouble."
"And that shows you—" blurted Captain Candage, and stopped his say in the middle of his outburst when his daughter shoved a significant fist against his ribs.
Captain Mayo turned his head once while the tender was hastening toward the schooner. But there were no women in sight on the yacht's deck. There was an instant's flutter of white from a stateroom port, but he was not sure whether it was a handkerchief or the end of a wind-waved curtain. He faced about resolutely and did not look behind again. Shame, misery, hopelessness—he did not know which emotion was stinging him most poignantly. The oarsmen in the tender were gazing upward innocently while they rowed, but he perceived that they were hiding grins. His humiliation in that amazing fashion would be the forecastle jest. Through him these new friends of his had been subjected to insult. He felt that he understood what Polly Candage's silence meant.
The next moment he felt the pat of a little hand on the fist he was clenching on his knee.
"Poor boy!" she whispered. "I understand! It will come out right if you don't lose courage."
But she was not looking at him when he gave her a quick side-glance.
The fisherman had come into the wind, rocking on the long swell, dingy sails flapping, salt-stained sides dipping and flashing wet gleams as she rolled. Her men were rigging a ladder over the side.
"I want to say whilst we're here together and there's time to say it," announced Captain Candage, "that we are one and all mighty much obliged for that invite you gave us to come aboard the yacht, sir, and we all know that if—well, if things had been different from what they was you would have used us all right. And what I might say about yachts and the kind of critters that own 'em I ain't a-going to say."
"You are improving right along, father," observed Polly Candage, dryly.
"Still, I have my own idees on the subject. But that's neither here nor there. You're a native and I'm a native, and I want ye should just look at that face leaning over the lee rail, there, and then say that now we know that we're among real friends."
It was a rubicund and welcoming countenance under the edge of a rusty black oilskin sou'wester hat, and the man was manifestly the skipper. Every once in a while he flourished his arm encouragingly.
"Hearty welcome aboard the Reuben and Esther," he called out when the tender swung to the foot of the ladder. "What schooner is she, there?"
"Poor old Polly," stated the master, first up the ladder. In his haste to greet the fishing-skipper he left his daughter to the care of Captain Mayo.
"That's too bad—too bad!" clucked the fishing-skipper, full measure of sympathy in his demeanor. "She was old, but she was able, sir!"
"And here's another poor Polly," stated Captain Candage. "I was fool enough to take her out of a good home for a trip to sea."
The skipper ducked salute. "Make yourself to home, miss. Go below. House is yours!"
Then the schooner lurched away on her shoreward tack, and the insolent yacht marched off down across the shimmering waves.
Mayo shook hands with the solicitous fisherman in rather dreamy and indifferent fashion. He realized that he was faint with hunger, but he refused to eat. Fatigue and grief demanded their toll in more imperious fashion than hunger. He lay down in the sun in the lee alley, put his head on his crossed arms, and blessed sleep blotted out his bitter thoughts.
XI ~ A VOICE FROM HUE AND CRY
But when the money's all gone and spent, And there's none to be borrowed and none to be lent, In comes old Grouchy with a frown, Saying, "Get up, Jack, let John sit down." For it's now we're outward bound, Hur-rah, we're outward bound! —Song of the Dog and Bell.
Captain Mayo, when he woke, had it promptly conveyed to him that hospitality on board the Reuben and Esther had watchful eyes. While he was rubbing feeling back into his stiffened limbs, sitting there in the lee alley, the cook came lugging a pot of hot coffee and a plate heaped with food.
"Thought you'd rather have it here than in the cuddy. The miss is asleep in the house," whispered the cook.
Captain Candage came to Mayo while the latter was eating and sat down on the deck. Gloom had settled on the schooner's master. "I don't want to bother you with my troubles, seeing that you've got aplenty of your own, sir. But I'm needing a little advice. I have lost a schooner that has been my home ever since I was big enough to heave a dunnage-bag over the rail, and not a cent of insurance. Insurance would have et up all my profits. What do you think of my chances to make a dollar over and above providing I hire a tugboat and try to salvage?"
"According to my notion your chances would be poor, sir. Claims in such cases usually eat up all a craft is worth. Besides, you may find those yachtsmen on your back for damages, providing you get her in where she can be libeled."
"I shouldn't wonder a mite," admitted Captain Can-dage. "The more some folks have the more they keep trying to git."
"I was looking her bottom over while we sat there, and it must be owned up that her years have told on her."
"I hate to let her go."
"That's natural, sir. But I have an idea that she will be reported as a menace to navigation, and that a coastguard cutter will blow her up before you can get around to make your salvage arrangements."
"When a man is down they all jump on him."
"I can agree with you there," affirmed Captain Mayo, mournfully.
"She showed grit—that girl," ventured Candage, giving the other man keen survey from under his grizzled brows.
"I must ask you to furl sail on that subject, sir," snapped Mayo, with sailor bluntness.
"I only said it complimentary. Lots of times girls have more grit than they are given credit for. You think they're just girls, and then you find out that they are hero-ines! I thought I had some grit, but my own Polly has shamed me. I was just down watching her—she's asleep in Cap'n Sinnett's bunk. Made the tears come up into my eyes, sir, to ponder on what she has been through on account of my cussed foolishness. Of course, you haven't been told. But confession is good for a man, and I'm going to own up. I took her with me to get her away from a fellow who is courting her."
Mayo did not offer comment. He wanted to advise the skipper to keep still on that subject, too.
"I don't say he ain't good enough for her. Maybe he is. But I 'ain't been realizing that she has growed up. When I found she was being courted it was like hitting a rock in a fairway. You are young, and you are around consid'able and know the actions of young folks. What's your advice?"
"I don't know anything about the circumstances, sir."
"But speaking generally," insisted Captain Candage. "I want to do what's right. There ain't many I can bring myself to ask. I'm a poor old fool, I'm afraid. Won't you kind of grab in on this, Captain Mayo? I do need a little advice." His rough hands trembled on his knees.
"If the young man is worthy—is the right sort," returned Mayo, in gentler tones, "I think you are making a great mistake by interfering."
"I'll go look that young fellow over—re-survey him, as ye might say," stated the skipper, after a moment's meditation.
"I don't know your daughter very well, sir, but I have much faith in her judgment. If I were you I'd allow her to pick her own husband."
"Thanks for that advice. I know it comes from a man who has shown that he knows exactly what to do in emergencies. I have changed my mind about her being courted, sir."
"Honest love isn't a question of money, Captain Candage. Many good girls are ruined by—" He was speaking bitterly and he checked himself. "Where is Captain Sinnett going to set us ashore?"
"Maquoit. He is going to take his fish to the big market. But he said he would set us ashore anywhere, and so I said Maquoit. I might as well be there as anywhere till I know what I'm going to do."
"Same thing holds good for me, I suppose. I don't feel like going to the city just yet."
Captain Sinnett came rolling into the alley, and when Mayo started to thank him for the trouble he was taking he raised in genial protest a hand which resembled in spread a split codfish.
"Trouble! It ain't trouble. Was going to call into Maquoit to ice up, anyway. I know my manners even if them yachting fellows didn't."
Captain Candage preserved the demeanor of innocence under Mayo's scrutiny.
"I've missed you off the fishing-grounds—didn't know you had gone on to a yacht, sir," pursued Captain Sinnett. "Hope to see you back into the fishing business again; that is, providing you don't go on one of them beam trawlers that are hooking up the bottom of the Atlantic and sp'iling the thing entire for us all."
"I agree with you about the trawler; that's why I quit. And as to yachting, I think I'll go after a real man's job, sir!"
"So do! You'll be contenteder," replied the other, significance in his tones.
Mayo knew that his secret had been exposed, but he had no relish for an argument with Captain Candage on the subject of garrulity. He finished his coffee and went forward where the fishermen were coiling the gang-lines into the tubs.
The fisherman made port at Maquoit late in the afternoon, and was warped to her berth at the ice-house wharf.
The castaways went ashore.
Maquoit was a straggling hamlet at the head of a cove which nicked the coast-line.
Captain Candage, an Apple-treer, who knew every hole alongshore where refuge from stress of weather was afforded, led his party through the village with confidence.
"There's a widder here who will put us up for what time we want to stay—and be glad of the money. I knowed her husband in the coasting trade. I like to get into a place like this that 'ain't been sp'iled by them cussed rusticators and the prices they are willing to pay," he confided to Mayo. He slyly exhibited a wallet that was stuffed with paper money. "I ain't busted, but there's no sense in paying more 'n five dollars a week anywhere for vittles and bed. She will make plenty off'n us at that rate. You just let me do the dickering."
The widow proved to be a kindly soul who, in the first excitement of her sympathetic nature, resolutely refused to consider the matter of any payment whatever.
"You are shipwrecked, and my poor husband's body wouldn't rest quiet wherever it is in the Atlantic Ocean if I grabbed money from shipwrecked folks."
However, in the end, Captain Candage worked her up from three dollars to five per week, and she took Polly Candage into her heart and into the best chamber.
Captain Mayo came back to supper after a moody stroll about the village. Skipper Candage was patrolling the widow's front yard and was exhibiting more cheerfulness.
"It's God's Proverdunce and your grit that has saved us, sir. I have come out of my numb condition and sense it all. What's your plans?"
"I don't seem to be able to make any just yet."
"I'm going to stay right here for a spell, and shall keep Dolph and Otie with me. We shall be here on the coast where we can hear of something to grab in on. As soon as Polly gets straightened around I'll let her go home to her aunt. But, of course, hanging around here doesn't offer you any attractions, sir. You're looking for bigger game than we are."
"I have about made up my mind to leave in the morning on the stage. I'll go somewhere."
The widow tapped her knuckles on the glass of a near-by window. "Supper!" she announced. "Hurry in whilst it's hot!"
"I always do my best pondering on a full stomach," said Captain Candage. "And I smell cream-o'-tartar biskits and I saw her hulling field strorb'ries. Better look on the bright side of things along with me, Captain Mayo."
Captain Mayo failed to find any bright side as he turned his affairs over in his mind. He had only a meager stock of money. He had used his modest earnings in settling the debts of the family estate. The outlook for employment was vague—he could not estimate to what extent the hostility of Julius Marston might block his efforts, provided the magnate troubled himself to descend to meddle with the affairs of such an inconspicuous person. His poor little romance with Alma Marston had been left in a shocking condition. He did not talk at the supper-table, and the widow's wholesome food was like ashes in his mouth. He went out and sat on the porch of the widow's cottage and looked into the sunset and saw nothing in its rosy hues to give him encouragement for his own future.
Polly Candage came timidly and sat down beside him. "Father says you think of leaving in the morning!"
"There's nothing for me here."
A long silence followed.
"I suppose you don't care to have me talk to you, Captain Mayo?"
"I'll listen to you gratefully, any time."
"I'm only a country girl. I don't know how to say it—how to tell you I'm so sorry for you!"
"That one little pat on my hand to-day, it was better than words."
"It's all I can think about—your unhappiness."
"That touches me because I know that you have enough sorrow of your own."
"Sorrow!" She opened her eyes wide.
"Perhaps I have no business speaking of it," he returned, with considerable embarrassment.
"And yet I have been so bold as to speak to you!"
There was a touch of reproach in her voice, and therefore he ventured: "Your father told me—I tried to stop him, but he went on and said—Well, I understand! But I have some consolation for you and I'm going to speak out. He says he is going to allow you to marry your young man."
"Did he dare to talk such matters over with you?"
"He insisted on doing it—on asking my advice. So I advised in a way to help you. I am glad, for your sake, that he is coming to his senses."
"I thank you for your help," she said, stiffly.
"Of course it's none of my business. I'm sorry he told me. But I wish you all happiness."
She rose as if to go away. Then she stamped her foot and sat down. "My father ought to be muzzled!"
She realized that he might misinterpret her indignation, for he said: "I'm ashamed because I meddled in your affairs. But from what you saw to-day in my case, I felt that I ought to help others who are in the same trouble."
"But my father has mistaken my—" She broke off in much confusion, not understanding the queer look he gave her. "I—I am glad my father is coming to his senses and will allow me to—to—marry the young man," she stammered. "And now I think I may be allowed to say that I hope you may have the girl you love, some day. Would you like to have me talk to you about her—how dear and pretty I think she is?"
"No, it hurts! But I do want you to know, Miss Can-dage, that I'm not out fortune-hunting. I love her for herself—just herself—nothing more!"
"I know it must be so."
"And I know that a young man you would choose is worthy of you. I told your father—"
"No matter. That hurts, too! We both understand. We'll leave it there!"
After the declaration of that truce they were frankly at ease and began to chat with friendly freedom. The dusk came shading into the west, the evening star dripped silver light.
"It's a peaceful spot here," she suggested. "Everybody seems to be contented."
"Contentment—in a rut—that may be the best way of passing this life, after all."
"But if you were in the rut, Captain Mayo, you might find that contentment would not agree to come and live with you."
"Probably it wouldn't! I'd have to be born to the life here like this chap who is coming up the hill. You can see that he isn't worrying about himself or the world outside."
The man was clumping slowly along in his rubber boots; an old cap was slewed awry on his head, its peak drawn down over one ear. He cocked up the other ear at sound of voices on the porch and loafed up and sat down on the edge of the boarding. Captain Mayo and the girl, accustomed to bland indifference to formality in rural neighborhoods, accepted this interruption without surprise or protest.
"'Tain't a bad night as nights go," stated the caller.
"It's a beautiful night," said Polly Candage.
"I reckon it seems so to you, after what you went through. I've been harking to your father telling the yarn down to the store."
They did not reply, having their own ideas as to Captain Candage's loquacity.
The caller hauled a plug of tobacco from his pocket, gnawed off a chew, and began slow wagging of his jaws. "This world is full of trouble," he observed,
"It seems to be," agreed Captain Mayo.
"Them what's down get kicked further down."
"Also true, in many cases."
"Take your case! It's bad. But our'n is worse!" The caller pointed to the dim bulk of a small island which the cove held between the bold jaws of its headland. "The old sir who named that Hue and Cry Island must have smelt into the future so as to know what was going to happen there some day—and this is the day!" He chewed on, and his silence became irritating.
"Well, what has happened?" demanded the captain.
"It hasn't happened just yet—it's going to."
"Tell us what's going to happen, can't you?"
"Of course I can, now that you have asked me. I ain't no hand to butt in. I ain't no hand to do things unless I'm asked. There's seventeen fam'lies of us on Hue and Cry and they've told us to get off."
"Who told you?"
"The state! Some big bugs come along and said the Governor sent 'em, and they showed papers and we've got to go."
"But I know about Hue and Cry!" protested Mayo. "You people have lived there for years!"
"Sure have! My grandfather was one of the first settlers. Most all of us who live there had grandfathers who settled the place. But according to what is told us, some heirs have found papers what say that they own the island. The state bought out the heirs. Now the state says get off. We're only squatters, state says."
"But, good Caesar, man, you have squatter rights after all these years. Hire a lawyer. Fight the case!"
"We ain't fighters. 'Ain't got no money—'ain't got no friends. Might have fit plain heirs, but you can't fight the state—leastways, poor cusses like us can't."
"Where are you going?"
"Well, there's the problem! That's what made me say that this world is full of trouble. You see, we have taken town help in years past—had to do it or starve winters. And we have had state aid, too. They say that makes paupers of us. Every town round about has served notice that we can't settle there and gain pauper residence. Hue and Cry 'ain't ever been admitted to any town. Towns say, seeing that the state has ordered us off, now let the state take care of us."
"And men have been here, representing the state?"
"You bet they have."
"What do they say?"
"Say get off! But they won't let us settle on the main. Looks like they wanted us to go up in balloons. But we hain't got no balloons. Got to move, though."
"I never heard of such a thing!"
"Nor I, neither," admitted this man, with a sort of calm numbness of discouragement. "But that ain't anyways surprising. We don't hear much about anything on Hue and Cry till they come and tell us. Speaking for myself, I ain't so awful much fussed up. I've got a house-bo't to take my wife and young ones on, and we'll keep on digging clams for trawlers—sixty cents a bucket, shucked, and we can dig and shuck a bucket a day, all hands turning to. We won't starve. But I pity the poor critters that 'ain't got a house-bo't. Looks like they'd need wings. I ain't worrying a mite, I say. I had the best house on the island, and the state has allowed a hundred and fifty dollars for it. I consider I'm well fixed."
The plutocrat of the unhappy tribe of Hue and Cry rose and stretched with a comfortable grunt.
"If it ain't one thing it's another," he said, as he started off. "We've got to have about so much trouble, anyway, and it might just as well be this as anything else." %
"Why, that's an awful thing to happen to those people!" declared the girl. "I must say, he takes it calmly."
"He is a fair sample of some of the human jellyfish I have found hidden away in odd corners on this coast," stated Captain Mayo. "Not enough mind or spirit left to fight for his own protection. But this thing is almost unbelievable. It can't be possible that the state is gunning an affair like this! I'll find somebody who knows more about it than that clam-digging machine!"
A little later a man strolled past, hands behind his back. He was placidly smoking a cigar, and, though the dusk had deepened, Mayo could perceive that he was attired with some pretensions to city smartness.
"I beg your pardon, sir," called the young man. "But do you know anything about the inwardness of this business on Hue and Cry Island?"
"I can tell you all about it," stated the person who had been hailed. He sauntered up and sat down on the edge of the porch. He showed the air of a man who was killing time. "I'm in charge of it."
"Not of putting those people off the island?"
"Sure! That's what I'm here for. I'm state agent on pauper affairs, acting for the Governor and Council."
"You say the state is back of this?" demanded Mayo, incredulously.
"Certainly! It's a matter that the state was obliged to take up. State has bought that island from the real heirs, has ordered off those squatters, and we shall burn down their shacks and clear the land up. Of course, we allow heads of families some cash for their houses, if you can call 'em houses. That's under the law regulating squatter improvements. But improvements is a polite word for the buildings on that island. It is going to cost us good money to clear up for that New York party who has made an offer to the state—he's going to use the island for a summer estate."
He flicked the ashes from his cigar and broke in on Mayo's indignant retort.
"It had to be done, sir. They have intermarried till a good many of the children are fools. The men are breaking into summer cottages, after the owners leave in the fall. They steal everything on the main that isn't nailed down. They have set false beacons in the winter, and have wrecked coasters. Every little while some city newspaper has written them up as wild men, and it has given the state a bad name. We're going to break up the nest."
"But where will they go?"
"Fools to the state school for the feeble-minded, cripples to the poorhouse. The able-bodied will have to get out and go to work at something honest."
"But, look here, my dear sir! Those poor devils are starting out with too much of a handicap. After three generations on that island they don't know how to get a living on the main."
"That's their own lookout, not the state's! State doesn't guarantee to give shiftless folks a living."
"How about using a little common sense in the case of such people?"
"You are not making this affair your business, are you?" asked the commissioner, with acerbity.
"Better not; and you'd better not say too much to me!" He rose and dusted off his trousers. "I have investigated for the Governor and Council and they are acting on my recommendations. You might just as well advise nursing and coddling a nest of brown-tail moths—and we are spending good money to kill off moths. We don't propose to encourage the breeding of thieves. We are not keeping show places of this sort along the coast for city folks to talk about and run down the state after they go back home. It hurts state business!" He marched away.
Captain Mayo strode up and down the porch and muttered some emphatic opinions in regard to the intellects and doings of rulers.
"You see, I know the sort of people who live on that island, Miss Candage. I have seen other cases alongshore. They are blamed for what they don't know—and what they are led into. Amateur missionaries will load them down in a spasm of summer generosity with a lot of truck and make them think that the world owes them a living. The poor devils haven't wit enough to look ahead. When it comes winter they are starving—and when children are hungry and cold a man will tackle a proposition that is more dangerous than a summer cottage locked up for the winter. Next comes along some chap like that state agent, who prides himself on being straight business and no favors! He puts the screws to 'em! There's nobody to help those folks in the real and the right way. I pity them!"
"I live in the country and I know how unfeeling the boards of selectmen are in many of the pauper cases. When it's a matter of saving money for the voters and making a good town record, they don't care much how poor folks get along."
Mayo continued to patrol the porch. "I'm in a rather rebellious state of mind just now, I reckon," he admitted. "Seems to me that a lot of folks, including myself, are getting kicked. I'm smarting! I have a fellow-feeling for the oppressed." He laughed, but there was no merriment in his tones. "It's the little children who will suffer most in this, Miss Candage," he went on. "They are not to blame—they don't understand."
"And of course nothing can be done."
"Nothing sensible, I'm afraid." He walked to and fro for many minutes. "You see, it's none of my business," he commented, when he came and sat down beside her.
"I suppose there's not one man in the world to step forward and say a good word for them," said the girl, softly, uttering her thoughts.
"Words wouldn't amount to anything—with the machinery of the state grinding away so merrily as it is. But this matter is stirring my curiosity a little, Miss Candage. That's because I am one of the oppressed myself, I reckon." Again his mirthless chuckle. "I intended to take the stage out of here in the morning, but I have an idea that I'll stay over and see what happens when that gentleman who represents our grand old state proceeds to scatter those folks to the four winds."
"I was hoping you would stay over, Captain Mayo." She declared that with frank delight.
"But you don't expect me to do anything, of course!"
"It's not that. You see, I'd like to go down to the island and—and father is so odd he might not be willing to escort me," she explained, trying to be matter-of-fact, her air showing that she regretted her outburst.
"I volunteer, here and now."
She rose and put out her hand to him. "I have not thanked you for saving my life—saving us all, Captain Mayo. It is too holy a matter to be profaned by any words. But here is my hand—like a friend—like a sister—no"—she held herself straight and looked him full in the face through the gloom and tightened her hold on his fingers—"like a man!"
He returned her earnest finger-clasp and released her hand when her pressure slackened. That sudden spirit, the suggestion that she desired to assume the attitude of man to man with him, seemed to vanish from her with the release of her fingers.
She quavered her "Good night!" There was even a hint of a sob. Then she ran into the house.
Mayo stared after her, wrinkling his forehead for a moment, as if he had discovered some new vagary in femininity to puzzle him. Then he resumed his patrol with the slow stride of the master mariner. Hue and Cry raised dim bulk in the harbor jaws, showing no glimmer of light. It was barren, treeless, a lump of land which towns had thrust from them and which county boundaries had not taken in. He admitted that the state had good reasons for desiring to change conditions on Hue and Cry, but this callous, brutal uprooting of helpless folks who had been attached to that soil through three generations was so senselessly radical that his resentment was stirred. It was swinging from the extreme of ill-considered indulgence to that of utter cruelty, and the poor devils could not in the least understand!
"There seem to be other things than a spiked martingale which can pick a man up and keep him away from his own business," he mused. "What fool notion possesses me to go out there to-morrow I cannot understand. However, I can go and look on without butting into stuff that's no affair of mine."
Two men were shuffling past in the road. In the utter silence of that summer night their conversation carried far.
"Yes, sir, as I was saying, there he lays dead! When I was with him on the Luther Briggs he fell from the main crosstrees, broke both legs and one arm, and made a dent in the deck, and he got well. And a week ago, come to-morrow, he got a sliver under his thumb, and there he lays dead."
"It's the way it often is in life. Whilst a man is looking up into the sky so as to see the big things and dodge 'em, he goes to work and stubs his toe over a knitting-needle."
"That's right," Captain Mayo informed himself; "but I can't seem to help myself, somehow!"
XII ~ NO PLACE POR THE SOLES OP THEIR FEET
Don't you hear the old man roaring, Johnny, One more day? Don't you hear that pilot bawling, One more day? Only one more day, my Johnny, One more day! O come rock and roll me over, One more day. —Windlass Song.
When the subject of the proposed expedition to Hue and Cry was broached at the breakfast-table, Captain Epps Candage displayed prompt interest.
"It's going to be a good thing for the section round about here—roust 'em off! Heard 'em talking it over down to Rowley's store last evening. I'll go along with you and see it done."
Mayo and Polly Candage exchanged looks and refrained from comment. It was evident that Captain Candage reflected the utilitarian view of Maquoit.
Mayo had put off that hateful uniform of Marston's yacht, and the girl gave him approving survey when he appeared that morning in his shore suit of quiet gray. With the widow's ready aid Polly Candage had made her own attire presentable once more. When they walked down to the shore she smiled archly at Mayo from under the brim of a very fetching straw poke.
"I ran down to the general store early and bought a boy's hat," she explained. "I trimmed it myself. You know, I'm a milliner's apprentice. Does it do my training credit?"
He was somewhat warm in his assurances that it did.
"I ought to be pleased by your praise," she said, demurely, "because women wear hats for men's approval, and if my customers go home and hear such nice words from their husbands my business career is sure to be a success."
"Your business career?"
"Certainly, sir!" She bobbed a little courtesy. "I have money, sir! Money of my own. Five thousand dollars in the bank, if you please! Oh, you need not stare at me. I did not earn it. My dear mother's sister left it to me in her will. And some day when you are walking down the city street you'll see a little brass sign—very bright, very neat—and there'll be 'Polly' on it. Then you may come up and call on the great milliner—that will be this person, now so humble."
"But that young man!" he protested, smiling at her gaiety.
"Oh, that young man?" She wrinkled her nose. Then she flushed, conscious that he was a bit surprised at her tone of disdain. "Why, he will wear a frock-coat and a flower in the buttonhole and will bow in my customers. You didn't think my young man was a farmer-boy, did you?"
She hurried ahead of him to the beach, where her father was waiting with his men. Captain Candage had borrowed a dory for the trip. He installed himself in the stern with the steer-oar, and the young man and the girl sat together on the midship seat. The skipper listened to their chat with bland content.
"There's a fellow that's one of our kind, and he ain't trying to court my girl," he had confided to Mr. Speed. "He is spoke for and she knows it. And under them circumstances I believe in encouraging young folks to be sociable."
It was still early morning when they arrived at the island, but the state agent was there ahead of them. They saw him walking briskly about among the scattered houses, puffing on his cigar.
He was making domiciliary visits and was transacting business in a loud tone of voice. That business was paying over the money which the state had allowed for "squatter improvements." In the case of the settlers on Hue and Cry the sums were mere pittances; their improvements consisted of tottering shacks, erected from salvaged flotsam of the ocean and patched over and over with tarred paper.
There was only one building on the island which deserved
the name of dwelling; from this their communicative caller of the preceding evening was removing his scant belongings. His wife and children were helping. He set down a battered table when he met Mayo and his party.
"I'm the only citizen who can get away early and—as you might call it—respectable, gents. I took my hundred and fifty and bought that house-bo't out there." It was an ancient scow, housed over, and evidently had grown venerable in service as a floating fish-market. "They can't drive me off'n the Atlantic Ocean! The others 'ain't woke up to a reelizing sense that they have got to go and that this all means business! I'm getting away early or else they'd all be trying to climb aboard my bo't like the folks wanted to do to Noah's ark when they see that the flood wasn't just a shower." He lifted his table upon his head and marched on, leading his flock.
All the population of the island was out of doors. The women and the children were idling in groups; the men were listlessly following the commissioner on his rounds. No spirit of rebelliousness was evident. The men acted more like inquisitive sheep. They were of that abject variety of poor whites who accept the rains from heaven and bow to the reign of authority with the same unquestioning resignation.
But Mayo discovered promptly an especial reason for the calmness exhibited by these men. Their slow minds had not wakened to full comprehension.
"What do you men propose to do?" demanded Captain Mayo of a group which had abandoned the commissioner and had strolled over to inspect the new-comers.
"There ain't nothing we can do," stated a spokesman.
"But don't you understand that this man is here with full power from the state to put you off this island?"
"Oh, they have threated us before. But something has allus come up. We haven't been driv' off."
"But this time it's going to happen! Why don't you wake up? Where are you going?"
"That's for somebody else to worry about. This ain't any of our picking and choosing."
"What's the use of trying to beat anything sensible through the shells of them quahaugs?" snarled Captain Candage, with 'longcoast scorn for the inefficient.
"Not much use, I'm afraid," acknowledged the young man. "But look at the children!"
Those pathetic waifs of Hue and Cry were huddled apart, dumb with terror which their elders made no attempt to calm. They were ragged, pitiful, wistful urchins; lads with pinched faces, poor little snippets of girls. Their childish imaginations made of the affair a tragedy which they could not understand. Under their arms they held frightened cats, helpless kittens, or rag dolls. The callous calm of the men mystified them; the weeping of their mothers made their miserable fear more acute. They stared from face to face, trying to comprehend.
"What can I say to them?" asked Polly Candage, in a whisper. "It's wicked. They are so frightened."
"Perhaps something can be done with that agent. I'm trying to think up something to say to him," Mayo told her.
An old man, a very old man, sat on an upturned clamhod and yawled a discordant miserere on a fiddle. His eyes were wide open and sightless. A woman whose tattered skirt only partly concealed the man's trousers and rubber boots which she wore, occasionally addressed him as "father." She was piling about him a few articles of furniture which she was lugging out of their home; that house was the upper part of a schooner's cabin—something the sea had cast up on Hue and Cry. She was obliged to bend nearly double in order to walk about in the shelter. Dogs slinked between the feet of their masters, canine instinct informing them that something evil was abroad that day. The children staring wide-eyed and white-faced, the weeping women, the cowed men who shuffled and mumbled! Among them strode the god of the machine, curt, contemptuous, puffing his cigar! He came past Captain Mayo and his friends.
"I beg your pardon, sir," called the captain; "but are you sure that you are doing this thing just right?"
"Let's see—if I remember, I had a little talk with you last night!" suggested the agent, frostily. "Whom do you represent?" "Myself."
"Just how do you fit into this matter?" "I don't think I do fit—there seem to be too many sharp corners," stated Mayo, not liking the other's insolent manner. "Well, I fit! I have state authority." "So you have told me. May I ask you a question?" "Go ahead, but be lively. This is my busy day." "These people are being rooted up; they don't seem to know what's to become of them. What will be done?"
"I told you last evening! Fools in an institution; able-bodied must go to work. The state proposes—" "When you say 'state' just what do you mean, sir?" "I mean that I have investigated this matter and I'm running it."
"That's what I thought! The state usually doesn't know much about what its agents are doing."
"You are not doubting my authority, are you?"
"No, but I'm doubting your good judgment."
"Look here, my man!"
"We'd better not lose our tempers," advised Mayo, calmly. "You are a state servant, you say. Then a citizen has a right to talk to you. Let's leave the state out of this, if you question my right. Man to man, now! You're wrong."
The population of the island had drawn close circle about them.
"That's enough talk from you," declared the agent, wrathfully.
"You are trying to make over all at once what it has taken three generations to bring about," insisted Mayo. "You can't do it!"
"You watch me and see if I can't! When I transact any business I'm paid to transact it gets transacted. I might have given these people a few more days if you had not come sticking your oar in here. But now I propose to show you! I'll have 'em off here by nightfall, and every shack burned to the ground."
"Do you mean to say you're going to rub it into these poor folks just because I have tried to say something to help them?"
"I'll show you and them that it isn't safe to monkey with the state when the state gets started."
"Oh, the state be condemned!" exploded Mayo, feeling his own temper getting away from him. "This isn't the state—it's a case of a man's swelled head!"
"Get off this island, you and your meddlers," commanded the agent.
"Yes, when we are ready to leave, sir."
Mayo was wondering at his own obstinacy. He knew that a rather boyish temper, resentment roused by the other man's arrogance, had considerable to do with his stand in the matter, but underneath there was protest at the world's injustice. He felt that he had been having personal experience with that injustice. He knew that he had not come out to Hue and Cry to volunteer as the champion of these unfortunates, but now that he was there and had spoken out it was evident that he must allow himself to be forced into the matter to some extent; the agent had declared in the hearing of all that this interference had settled the doom of the islanders. Polly Candage was standing close to the champion, and she looked at him with eyes that flashed with pride in him and spirit of her own. She reached and took one of the frightened children by the hand.
"If I have been a little hasty in my remarks I apologize," pleaded the captain, anxious to repair the fault. "I don't mean to interfere with your duty. I have no right to do so!"
"You hear what your friend says, after getting you into the mess," shouted the agent, so that all might hear. "Now he is getting ready to trot away and leave you in your trouble."
"You are wrong there, my friend. If you are angry with me, go ahead and have your quarrel with me. Don't bang at me over the shoulders of these poor folks. It isn't a square deal."
"They go off to-day—and they go because you have butted into the matter. The whole of you have got to be shown that the state doesn't stand for meddlers after orders have been given." Then he added, with malice: "You folks better ride this chap down to the beach on a rail. Whatever happens to you is his fault!"
This attempt to shift responsibility as a petty method of retaliation stirred Mayo's anger in good earnest.
The agent was dealing with men who were scarcely more than children in their estimates of affairs; they muttered among themselves and scowled on this stranger who had brought their troubles to a climax.
"I'm not going to allow you to get away with that kind of talk, Mr. Agent. You know perfectly well that people on the main will not hire these men, even if they are able-bodied. Everybody is down on them. You said that to me last evening. They will be kicked from pillar to post—from this town to that! They will be worse than beggars. And they must drag these women and little children about with them. I will expose this thing!"
"That exposure will sound fine!" sneered the commissioner. "Exposing a state officer for doing what the Governor and Council have ordered!"
"Yes, ordered on your advice!"
"Well, it has been ordered! And I'll be backed up! As soon as I can get to a justice I shall swear out a warrant against you for interfering with a state officer." He flung down the stub of his cigar. "Listen, you people! Get off this island. Anybody who is here at sunset—man, woman, or child—will be arrested and put in jail for trespassing on state land. Now you'd all better give three cheers for your meddling friend, here!"
"They have allus let us stay, even when they have threated us before now," whimpered a man. "He has poured the fat into the fire for us, that's what he has done!" He pointed his finger at Mayo.
"It's wicked!" gasped the girl. "These poor folks don't know any better, they are not responsible!"
"Say, look here, you folks!" shouted Mr. Speed, who had been holding himself in with great difficulty. "It's about time for you to wake up!"
The plutocrat of the house-boat had come up from the beach and had been listening. The whimpering man started to speak again, and the magnate of the island cuffed him soundly; it was plain that this man, who had lived in the best house, had been a personage of authority in the tribe.
"I'm ashamed of the whole caboodle of ye," he vociferated. "Here's a gent that's been standing up for us. He's the only man I ever heard say a good word for us or try to help us! Nobody else in the world ever done it! Take off your hats and thank him!"
"I'm in it!" whispered Mayo to the girl. "For heaven's sake, what am I going to do?"
"Do all you can—please, Captain Mayo!"
He stepped forward. The agent began to shout.
"Hold on, sir!" broke in the captain with quarter-deck air that made for obedience and attention. "You have had your say! Now I'm going to have mine. Listen to me, folks! I'm not the man to get my friends into trouble and then run off and leave 'em. All of you who are kicked out by the state—all men, women, and children who are ready to go to work—come over to me on the main at Maquoit with what stuff you can bring in your dories. I'll be waiting for you there. My name is Boyd Mayo."
"I'll remember that name, myself," declared the angry agent. "You'll be shown that you can't interfere in a state matter."
"You have turned these folks loose in the world, and I'm going to give 'em a hand when they come to where I am. If you choose to call that interference, come on! It will make a fine story in court!"
He did not stop to shake the grimy hands which were thrust out to him. He pushed his way out of the crowd, and his party followed.
"Meet me yonder on the main, boys," he called back with a sailor heartiness which they understood. "We'll see what can be done!"
"Well, what in the infernal blazes can be done?" growled Captain Candage, catching step with the champion.
"I don't know, sir."
"You can't do nothing any more sensible with them critters than you could with combined cases of the smallpox and the seven years' itch."
"Father!" cried the girl, reproachfully.
"I know what I'm talking about! This is dum foolishness!"
"Captain Mayo is a noble man! You ought to be ashamed of hanging back when your help is needed."
"I don't blame you for sassing that skewangled old tywhoopus, sir," admitted the old skipper. "I wanted to do it myself. But—"
"I'm afraid I don't deserve much praise," said Mayo. "I've been getting back at that agent. He made me mad. I'm apt to go off half-cocked like that."
"So am I, sir—and I'm always sorry for it. We'd better dig out before that tribe of gazaboos lands on our backs."
"Oh, not a bit of it! I have given my word, sir. I must see it through."
"But what are you going to do with 'em?"
"Blessed if I know right now! When I'm good and mad I don't stop to think."
"Suppose I meet 'em for you and tell 'em you have had a sudden death in your family and have been called away? They won't know the difference," volunteered Captain Candage. "And a real death would be lucky for you beside of what's in store if you hang around."
"I shall hang around, sir. I can't afford to be ashamed of myself."
"I think you have said quite enough, father," stated Polly Candage, with vigor.
'"I have heard of adopting families before," said the irreconcilable one, "but I never heard of any such wholesale operation as this. I'm thinking I'll go climb a tree."
They embarked in the dory. Mr. Speed and Dolph splashed their oars and rowed, exchanging looks and not venturing to offer any comment.
"You might auction 'em off to farmers for scarecrows," pursued Captain Candage, still worrying the topic as a dog mouths a bone. "They ain't fit for no more active jobs than that."
"I do hope you'll forgive my father for talking this way," pleaded Polly Candage. She raised brimming eyes to the sympathetic gaze of the young man beside her. "He doesn't understand it the way I do."
"Perhaps I don't exactly understand it myself," he protested.
"But what you are doing for them?"
"I haven't done anything as yet except start trouble for them. Now I must do a little something to square myself."
"There's a reward for good deeds, Captain Mayo, when you help those who cannot help themselves. I believe what the Bible says about casting bread on the waters. It will return to you some day!"
He smiled down on her enthusiasm tolerantly, but he was far from realizing then that this pretty girl, whose eyes were so bright behind her tears, and whose cheeks were flushed with the ardor of her admiration, was speaking to him with the tongue of a sibyl.
XIII ~ A CAPTAIN OP HUMAN FLOTSAM
O what is that which smells so tarry? I've nothing in the house that's tarry. It's a tarry sailor, down below, Kick him out into the snow! Doo me axna, dinghy a-a-a ma! Doo me ama-day! —Doo Me Ama.
Captain Candage growled and complained so persistently during the trip to the main that Mayo expected to be deserted by the querulous skipper the moment the dory's prow touched the beach. But the skipper came dogging at his heels when Mayo set off up the one street of Maquoit.
"May I come along with you?" asked the girl at his side. "I can see that you are thinking up some plan. I do Hope I may come!" He gave her his aim for answer.
"I haven't been into this port for some time, Captain Candage, but the last trip I made here, as I remember, a man named Rowley, who runs the general store, was first selectman."
"Is now," grunted the skipper. "They've got into the habit of electing him and can't seem to break off."
When they arrived in front of the store Captain Candage took the lead.
"I may as well go in and introduce you, whatever it is you want of him. I know Rufe Rowley as well as anybody ever gets to know him."
Mr. Rowley leaned over his counter and acknowledged the introduction with a flicker of amiability lighting his reserve. But his wan smile faded into blankness and he clawed his chin beard nervously when Mayo informed him that he had invited the evicted folks of Hue and Cry to land on the mainland that day.
"As overseer of the poor in this town I can't allow it, Captain Mayo!"
"Those people must land somewhere."
"Yes, yes, of course!" admitted Selectman Rowley. "But not here! I'm beholden to the taxpayers."
"And I suppose the officers of all the other towns about here will say the same?"
"Yes, yes! Of course."
"Do you still own that old fish-house?" asked the captain, after hesitating for a few moments; "the sardine-canning plant?"
"You're not using it now?"
"It isn't paying you any revenue, eh?"
"Then you ought to be willing to let it pretty cheap—month-to-month lease!"
"Depends on what I'm letting it for."
"I want to stow those poor people in there till I can arrange further for them, either show the matter up to the state, or get work for them, or something! Will you let me have it?"
"No, sir!" declared the selectman, with vigor.
"It's only monthly lease, I repeat. You can prevent them from getting pauper residence here, in case none of my plans work."
"Don't want 'em here—won't have 'em! I consider taxpayers first!"
"Don't ye ever consider common, ordinary, human decency?" roared Captain Epps Candage.
It was astonishing interruption. Its violence made it startling. Mayo whirled and stared amazedly at this new recruit.
Captain Candage yanked his fat wallet from his pocket and dammed it down on the counter with a bang which made the selectman's eyes snap.
"You know me, Rowley! We've got the money to pay for what we order and contract for. Them folks ain't paupers so long as we stand be-hind 'em. We are bringing 'em ashore, here, because it's right to help 'em get onto their feet. Hold on, Captain Mayo; you let me talk to Rowley! Him and me know how to get sociable in a business talk!"
However, Captain Candage seemed to be seeking sociability by bellowing ferociously, thudding his hard fist on the counter. Mayo was not easily surprised by the temperamental vagaries of queer old 'longcoast crabs like Captain Candage, but this sudden conversion did take away his breath.
"When a close and partickler friend of mine, like this one I've just introduced, comes to you all polite and asks a favor, I want general politeness all around or I'll know the reason why," shouted the intermediary. "Look-a-here, Rowley, you pretend to be a terrible Christian sort of a man. When I have been fog-bound here I've tended out on prayer-meetings, and I have heard you holler like a good one about dying grace and salvation is free. I've never heard you say much about living charity that costs something!"
"I claim to be a Christian man," faltered Rowley, backing away from the banging fist.
"Then act like one. If you don't do it, blast your pelt, I'll post you for a heathen from West Quoddy to Kittery!"
"God bless you, my dad!" whispered the girl, snuggling close to the skipper's shoulder.
"Furthermore, Rowley, besides paying you a fair rental for that old fish-house we'll buy grub for them poor devils out of your store."
Mr. Rowley caressed his beard and blinked.
"They're like empty nail-kags, and they'll eat a lot of vittles and we've got the money to pay!"
"I have a wallet of my own," stated Captain Mayo. He had not recovered from his amazement at the sudden shift about of Captain Candage. After all the sullen growling he had been tempted to ask the old skipper to stop tagging him about on his errand of mercy.
"Hear that, Rowley? This is the best friend I've got in the whole world! Brought him in here! Introduced him to you! Here's my daughter! Interested, too! Now, whatever you say, you'd better be sure that you pick the right words."
"Well, I'm always ready to help friends," stated Mr. Rowley.
"Yes, and do business in a slack time," added Captain Candage.
"I'm willing to show Christian charity to them that's poor and oppressed. But what's the sense in doing it in this case?"
"A great many folks in this life need a hard jolt before they turn to and make anything of themselves," said Captain Mayo. "The people on Hue and Cry have had their jolt. I do believe, with the right advice and management, they can be made self-supporting. They have been allowed to run loose until now, sir. I have been pulled into the thing all of a sudden, and now that I'm in I'm willing to give up a little time and effort to start 'em off. I haven't much of anything else to do just now," he added, bitterly.
"Come into my back office," invited Mr. Rowley.
"Much obleeged—we'll do so," said Captain Candage. "You're a bright man, Rowley, and I knowed you'd see the p'int when it was put up to you right and polite."
The business in the back office was soon settled satisfactorily, and a busy day followed on the heels of that momentous morning. When night fell the men, women, and children whom a benevolent state—through its "straight-business" agent—had turned loose upon the world to shift for themselves, were located in a single colony in the spacious fish-house.
A few second-hand stoves, hired from Rowley, served to cook the food bought from Rowley, and the families grouped themselves in rooms and behind partitions and arranged the poor belongings they had salvaged from their homes. Even the citizen who had at first resolved to go floating on the bosom of the deep joined the colony.
"It's more sociable," he explained, "and my wife don't like to give up her neighbors. Furthermore, I know the whole bunch, root and branch, whims, notions, and all, and they can't fool me. I'll help boss 'em!" He became a lieutenant of value.
This community life under a better roof than had ever sheltered them before in their lives seemed to delight the refugees. Old and young, they enjoyed the new surroundings with the zest of children. They had never taken thought of the morrow in their existence on Hue and Cry. Given food and shelter in this new abode, they did not worry about the problems of the future. They roamed about their domain with the satisfaction of princes in a palace. They did not show any curiosity regarding what was to be done with them. They did not ask Captain Mayo and his associates any questions. They surveyed him with a dumb and sort of canine thankfulness when he moved among them. He himself tried questions on a few of the more intelligent men, hoping that they would show some initiative. They told him with bland serenity that they would leave it all to him.
"But what are you going to do for yourselves?"
"Just what you say. You're the boss. Show us the job!"
It was borne in upon him that he had taken a larger contract than he had planned on. Rowley and the taxpayers on the main looked to him on one side, and his dependents on the other.
"It seems to be up to me—to us, I mean," he told the girl, ruefully, when they were on their way to the widow's cottage that evening. "It's up to me most of all, however, for I'm the guilty party—I have pulled you and your father in. I'm pegged in here till I can think up some sort of a scheme."
She had been working all day faithfully by his side, a tactful and indefatigable helper. He would have been all at sea regarding the women and children without her aid, and he told her so gratefully.
"Both my hands and my heart are with you in this thing, Captain Mayo. And I know you'll think of some way out for them—just as you helped us out of the schooner after we had given up all hope."
"Getting out of the schooner was merely a sailor's trick of the hands, Miss Candage. I don't believe I'll be much of a hand at making over human nature. I have too much of it myself, and the material down in that fish-house would puzzle even a doctor of divinity."
"Oh, you will think of some plan," she assured him-with fine loyalty. "If you will allow me to help in my poor way I'll be proud."
"I'll not tell you what I think of your help; it might sound like soft talk. But let me tell you that you have one grand old dad!" he declared, earnestly; but although he tried to keep his face straight and his tones steady he looked down at her and immediately lost control of himself. Merriment was mingled with tears in her eyes.
"Isn't he funny?" she gasped, and they halted in their tracks and laughed in chorus with the whole-hearted fervor of youth; that laughter relieved the strain of that anxious day.
"I am not laughing at your father—you understand that!" he assured her.
"Of course, you are not! I know. But you are getting to understand him, just as I understand him. He is only a big child under all his bluster. But he does make me so angry sometimes!"
"You can't tell much about a Yankee till he comes out of his shell, and I agree with you as to the aggravating qualities in Captain Candage. I'm not very patient myself, when I'm provoked! But after this he and I will get along all right."
They walked on to the cottage.
"Good night," he said at the door.
"And you have no plan as yet?"
"Maybe something will come to me in a dream."
The dream did not come to him, for his sleep was the profound slumber of exhaustion. He went down in the early dawn and plunged into the sea, and while he was walking back toward the cottage an idea and a conviction presented themselves, hand in hand. The conviction had been with him before—that he could not back out just then and leave those poor people to shift for themselves, as anxious as he was to be off about his own affairs; his undertaking was quixotic, but if he abandoned it at that juncture a queer story would chase him alongcoast, and he knew what sort of esteem mariners entertained for quitters.
However, deep in his heart, he confessed that it was not merely sailor pride that spurred him. The pathetic helplessness of the tribe of Hue and Cry appealed with an insistence he could not deny. He understood them as he understood similar colonies along the coast—children whom an indifferent world classed as man and treated with thoughtless injustice! Work was prescribed for them, as for others! But, they did not know how to work or how to make their work pay them.
The idea which came to him with the conviction that he must help these folks concerned work for them.
After breakfast he took Captain Candage into his confidence, much to the skipper's bland delight at being considered.
"I hope it's something where we can fetch Rowley in," confessed the skipper. "I don't care anything for them critters," he added, assuming brusqueness. "Don't want it hinted around that I'm getting simple in my old age. But they give me an excuse to bingdoodle Rowley."
"To carry out that plan I have outlined we need some kind of a packet," said Mayo.
"Sure! We'll go right to Rowley. He'll know. If there's anything in this section that he 'ain't got his finger on some way—bill of sale, mortgage, debt owed to him or expecting to be owed, then it ain't worth noticing."
Mr. Rowley listened in his back office. He stroked his beard contentedly and beamed his pleasure when he saw the prospect of making another profitable dicker with men who seemed to be reliable and energetic.
"I had a mortgage on the Ethel and May when Captain Tebbets passed on to the higher life," he informed them. "Widder gave up the schooner when I foreclosed, she not desiring to—er—bother with vessel proputty. So I have it free and clear without it standing me such a terrible sum! Shall be pleased to charter to you gents at a reasonable figure. Furthermore, seeing that industry makes for righteousness, so we are told, your plan of making those critters go to work may be a good one, providing you'll use a club on 'em often enough."
"From what I've heard of your talk in prayer-meeting I should think you'd advise moral suasion," suggested Captain Candage, plainly relishing this opportunity to "bingdoodle."
"I use common sense, whether it's in religion or politics or business," snapped Rowley, exhibiting a bit of un-Christian heat.
"It's advisable to ile up common sense with a little charity, and then the machine won't squeak so bad."
"I wouldn't undertake to trot a dogfish on my knee or sing him to sleep with a pennyr'yal hymn, Captain Candage."
"I think we can show results without the club," interposed Mayo, with mild intent to smooth the tone of this repartee.
The clerk called Mr. Rowley out into the store on some matter of special importance, and the selectman departed, coming down rather hard on his heels.
"The old Adam sort of torches up through his shell once in a while," commented Candage.
"We'd better settle the charter price, sir, before you lay aboard him too much," advised the young man.
"I just natch'ally can't help harpooning him," confessed the skipper. "He's a darned old hypocrite, cheating widders and orphans by choice because they 'ain't got the spunk to razoo back, and I've allus enjoyed fighting such as him. Him and me is due for a row. But I'll hold off the best I can till we have got him beat down."
Mayo's plan involved the modest venture of chartering a craft suitable for fishing. There was no material for real Banksmen in the Hue and Cry colony, but the run of the men would serve to go trawling for ground and shack fish a few miles off the coast. It was the only scheme which would afford employment for the whole body of dependents; older and more decrepit men and the women and children could dig and shuck clams for the trawl bait. In order to encourage ambition and independence among the abler men of the colony, Mayo suggested that the fishermen be taken on shares, and Captain Candage agreed.
When Mr. Rowley came back into the office he found his match waiting for him in the person of Captain Candage, primed and ready to drive a sharp bargain. At the end of an hour papers representing the charter of the Ethel and May were turned over.
"I reckon it's a good job," affirmed the skipper, when he and Mayo were outside the Rowley store. "I have made up my mind to let poor old Polly go to Davy Jones's locker. I wrote to the shippers and the consignees of the lumber last night. If they want it they can go after it. I may as well fish for the rest of this season!" He regarded Captain Mayo with eyes in which query was almost wistftul. "Of course, you can depend on me to see to it that you get your share, sir, just as if you were aboard."
"I'm going aboard, Captain Candage."
The old man stopped stock still and stared.
"I haven't anything in sight just now. You need help in getting the thing started right. I'm not going away and leave that gang on your hands until I can see how the plan works out. I'll go as mate with you."
"Not by a blame sight you won't go as no mate with me," objected Candage. "You'll go as skipper and I'll be proud to take orders from you, sir."
They were wrangling amiably on that point when they returned to the widow's cottage. Polly Candage broke the deadlock.
"Why not have two captains? That will be something brand new along the coast!"
"The rest of it is brand new enough without that," blurted her father. "But considering what kind of a crew we've got I guess two captains ain't any too much! I'll be captain number two and I know enough to keep my place."
"I do not think you and I will ever do much quarreling again!" smiled Captain Mayo, extending his hand and receiving Candage's mighty grip. "I am going to start out a few letters, and I'll go now and write them. Until those letters bring me something in the way of a job I am with you, sir."
Captain Candage walked down toward the fish-house with his daughter. "Polly," he declared, after an embarrassed silence, "I have been all wrong in your case, girl. Here and now I give you clearance papers. Sail for home just as soon as you want to. I'm asking no questions! It's none of my business!"
"My little affairs must always be business of yours, father," she returned.. "I love you. I will obey you."
"But I ain't giving off no more orders. I ain't fit to command in the waters where you are sailing, Polly dear. So run along home and be my good girl! I know you will be!"
"I have changed my mind about going home—just now!" Her eyes met his frankly. "I have written to Aunt Zilpah to send me some of my clothes. Father," there was feminine, rather indignant amazement in her tones, "do you know that there isn't a single woman from Hue and Cry who knows how to use a needle?"
"I might have guessed it, judging from the way their young ones and men folk go looking!"
"Do you realize that those children don't even know their A-B-C's?"
"Never heard of any college perfessers being raised on that island."
"I am going to take a vacation from the millinery-shop, now that I am down here. I'll show those women how to sew and cook, and I'll teach those children how to read. It's only right—my duty! I couldn't go home and be happy without doing it!"
"Calling that a vacation is putting a polite name to it, Polly."
"If you could have seen their eyes, father, when I promised to help them, you wouldn't wonder why I am staying."
"I don't wonder, Polly, my girl! If you had gone away and—and left us—Mayo and me—I should have been mighty disappointed in ye! But I really never thought much about your going—'cause you wouldn't go, I knew, till you had helped all you could." He put his arm around her. "I have been worrying about having brought you away. But I guess God had it all figgered out for us. I didn't know my own girl the way I ought to have knowed her. I'd been away too much. But now we're sort of growing up—together—sort of that, ain't we, Polly dear?"
She put her arms about his neck and answered him with a kiss.
XIV ~ BEARINGS FOR A NEW COURSE
And now, my brave boys, comes the best of the fun, It's hands about ship and reef topsails in one; So it's lay aloft, topman, as the hellum goes down, And clew down your topsails as the mainyard goes round. —La Pique.
At the end of that week the Ethel and May had delivered at market her first fare of fish and her captains had divided her first shares. Mayo decided that the results were but of proportion to the modest returns. He was viewing the regeneration of the tribe of Hue and Cry. In their case it had been the right touch at the right time. For years their hopes had been hungry for a chance to make good. Now gratitude inspired them and an almost insane desire to show that they were not worthless drove them to supreme effort. The leaven of the psychology of independence was getting in its work.
The people of Hue and Cry for three generations had been made to feel that they were pariahs. When they had brought their fish or clams to the mainland the buyers were both unjust and contemptuous, as if they were dealing with begging children who must expect only a charitable gift for their product instead of a real man's price. Prices suited the fish-buyers' moods of the day. The islanders had never been admitted to the plane of straight business like other fishermen. They had always taken meekly what had been offered—whether coin or insults. Therefore, their labor had never returned them full values.
They who bought made the poor wretches feel that it constituted a special favor to take their fish at any price.
They seemed to come into their own that first day at market when the Ethel and May made her bigness in the dock at the city fish-house. Masterful men represented them in the dealings with the buyers. The crew hid their delighted grins behind rough palms when Captain Epps Candage bawled out bidders who were under market quotations; they gazed with awe on Captain Mayo when he read from printed sheets—print being a mystery they had never mastered—and figured with ready pencil and even corrected the buyer, who acknowledged his error and humbly apologized. No more subservient paltering at the doors of fish-houses!
Back home the women and the children and the old folks had a good roof over their heads; the fishers had the deck of a tidy schooner under their feet. Shiftlessness departed from them. After years of oppression they had found their opportunity. More experienced men would have found this new fortune only modest; these men grasped it with juvenile enthusiasm.
They were over the side of the schooner and out in their dories when more cautious trawlsmen hugged the fo'c'sle. On their third trip, because of this daring, they caught the city market bare on a Thursday and made a clean-up.
"I'm told that Saint Peter started this Friday notion because he was in the fish business," stated Captain Candage, sorting money for the shares. "All I've got to say is, he done a good job of it."
Mr. Speed, sailing as mate, always found ready obedience.
Smut-nosed Dolph never listened before to such praise as was lavished by the hungry men over the pannikins which he heaped.
Captain Mayo, casting up accounts one day, was honestly astonished to find that almost a month had passed since he had landed at Maquoit.
"That goes to show how a man will get interested when he is picked up and tossed into a thing," he said to Polly Candage.
"You are making real men of them, Captain Mayo!" She added, with a laugh, "And you told me you were no kind of a hand at making over human nature!"
"They are doing it themselves."
"I will say nothing to wound your modesty, sir."
"Now I must wake up. I must! There's nothing worth while in the profit for both your father and myself. I want him to have the proposition alone. There'll be a fair make for him. I didn't intend to stay here so long. I guess I sort of forgot myself." He went on with his figures.
"But I knew you could not forget," she ventured, after a pause.
He glanced up and found a queer expression on her countenance. There were frank sympathy and friendliness in her eyes. He had revolved bitter thoughts alone, struggling with a problem he could not master. In sudden emotion—in an unpremeditated letting-go of himself—he reached out for somebody in whom to confide. He needed counsel in a matter where no man could help him. This girl was the only one who could understand.
"There may be letters waiting for me in the city—in the big city where I may be expected," he blurted. "I haven't dared to send any." He hesitated, and then gave way to his impulse. "Miss Polly, I haven't any right to trouble you with my affairs. I may seem impertinent. But you are a girl! Does a girl usually sit down and think over all the difficulties—when she doesn't get letters—and then make allowances?"
"I'm sure she does—when she loves anybody."
"And yet it may seem very strange. I am worried out of my senses. I don't know what to do."
She was silent for a long time, looking away from him and twisting her hands in her lap; she was plainly searching her soul for inspiration—and courage!
"You think she will understand the situation?" he insisted.
"She ought to."
"But no word from me! Silence for weeks!"
Her voice was low, but she evidently had found courage. "I have not heard one word—not a letter has come to me—since I left my aunt's home."
"Do you feel sure that he loves you just the same? You don't need letters?"
"Oh no! I don't need letters."
"But in my case?"
"I could see that she loves you very much. She stood out before them all, Captain Mayo. That sort of a girl does not need letters."
"You have put new courage in me. I believe you understand just how a girl would feel. You know a Yankee! He expects to find a friend just where he left him, in the matter of affection."
"A girl does not need to be a Yankee to be that way in her love."
"I can't sneak around to her by the back way—I can't do that!" he cried. "I don't want to be ashamed of myself. I don't want to bring more trouble to her. Don't you think she will wait for me until I can come—and come right!"
"She will wait for you, sir. It's the nature of women to wait—when they love."
"But I cannot ask her to wait forever. That's why I must go away and try to make good." He set his teeth, and his jaw muscles were ridged. "I believe a man can get what he goes after in the right spirit, Miss Polly." He swing off the porch and left her.
The fog was heavy on shore and sea that day, holding the Ethel and May in port. He disappeared into the stifling mist, and the girl sat and stared into that vacancy for a long time.
Mayo rowed out to the schooner, which was anchored in the harbor roads. He was carrying his accounts to Captain Candage.
Standing and facing forward as he rowed, he came suddenly upon a big steam-yacht which had stolen into the cove through the fog and was anchored in his course. She was the Sprite, and he had formed a 'longshore acquaintance with her skipper that summer, meeting him in harbors where the Sprite and Olenia had been neighbors in the anchorage. He stopped rowing and allowed the dory to drift. He noted that the blue flag was flying at the main starboard spreader, announcing the absence of the owner, and he understood that he could call for the skipper without embarrassing that gentleman. One of the crew was putting covers on the brasswork forward.
"Compliments to Captain Trott, and tell him that Captain Mayo is at the gangway."
The skipper appeared promptly, replying to the hail before the sailor had stirred. "Come aboard, sir."
"I'll not bother you that much, captain. I can ask my question just as well from here. Do you know of any good opening for a man of my size?"
The captain of the Sprite came to the rail and did not reply promptly.
"I have left the Olenia and I'm looking for something."
Captain Trott started for the gangway. "Oh, you needn't trouble to come down, sir."
"I'd rather, Captain Mayo." After he had descended he squatted on the platform at the foot of the ladder and held the dory close, grasping the gunwale. "What are you doing for yourself these days?"
Mayo had no relish for a long story. "I'm waiting to grab in on something," he replied.
Captain Trott did not show any alacrity in getting to the subject which Mayo had broached. "It has set in pretty thick, hasn't it? I have been ordered in here to wait for my folks; they're visiting at some big estate up-river."
"But about the chance for a job, captain!"
"Look here! What kind of a run-in did you have with the Olenia owner?"
Mayo opened his mouth and then promptly closed it. He could not reveal the nature of the trouble between himself and his former employer.
"We had words," he said, stiffly.
"Yes, I reckon so! But the rest of it!"
"You needn't tell me any more than you feel like doing, of course," said Captain Trott. "But I have to tell you that Mr. Marston has come out with some pretty fierce talk for an owner to make. He has made quite a business of circulating that talk. I didn't realize that you are of so much importance in the world, Mayo," he added, dryly.
"I don't know what he is saying."
"Didn't you leave him in the night—without notice, or something of the kind?"
"It was an accident."
"I hope you have a good story to back you up, Captain Mayo, for I have liked you mighty well ever since meeting you first. What is behind it?"
"I can't tell you."
"But you can tell somebody—somebody who can straighten the thing out for you, can't you?"
"No, Captain Trott."
"Well, you know what has happened in your case, don't you?" The skipper of the Sprite exhibited a little testiness at being barred out of Mayo's confidence.
The young man shook his head.
"Marston claims that you mutinied and deserted him—slipped away in the night—threw up your job on the high seas—left him to work to New York with a short crew—the mate as captain."
"That's an infernal lie!"
"Then come forward and show him up."
"I cannot talk about the case. I have my reasons—good ones!"
"I'm sorry for you, Mayo. You are done in the yachting game, I'm afraid. He'll blacklist you in every yacht club from Bar Harbor to Miami. I have heard my folks talking about it. He seems to have a terrible grudge—more than a big man usually bothers about in the case of a skipper."
Mayo set his oar against the edge of the platform and pushed off. The skipper called after him, but he was instantly swallowed up by the fog and did not reply.
On board the Ethel and May his ragged but cheery crew were baiting up, hooking clams upon the ganging hooks, and coiling lines into tubs. The men grinned greeting when he swung over the rail. He scowled at them; he even turned a glowering look on Captain Candage when he met the latter on the quarter-deck.
"Yes, sir! I see how it is! You're getting cussed sick of this two-cent game here," said Candage, mournfully. "I don't blame ye. We ain't in your class, here, Captain Mayo." He took the papers which the young man held out to him. "I suppose this is the last time we'll share, you and me. I'll miss ye devilish bad. I'd rather go for nothing and let you have it all than lose ye. But, of course, it ain't no use to argue or coax."
Mayo went and sat on the rail, folding his arms, and did not reply. The old skipper trudged forward, his head bowed, his hands clutched behind his back. When he returned Mayo stood up and put his hand on the old man's shoulder.
"Captain Candage, please don't misunderstand me. Just at present I feel that the only friends I have in the world are here. Don't mind the way I acted just now when I came on board. I have had a lot of trouble—I'm having more of it. I'm not going to leave you just yet. I want to stay aboard until I can think it all over—can get my grip. That is, if you're satisfied to have it that way!"
"Satisfied! Jumping Cicero!" exploded Captain Can-dage. He took the dory and rowed ashore. He found his daughter gazing into the fog from the porch of the widow's cottage. "He is going to stay a while longer," he informed her, rapturously. "Something has happened. Do you suppose that girl has throwed him over?"
"Father, do you dare to chuckle because a friend is in trouble?"
"I'll laugh and slap my leg if he ever gets shet of that hity-tity girl," he rejoined, stoutly.
"I am astonished—I am ashamed of you, father!"
"Polly dear, be honest with your dad!" he pleaded. "Do you want to see him married off to her?"
"I certainly do. I only wish I might help him." Her lips were white, her voice trembled. She got up and hurried into the house.
"I'll be cussed if I understand wimmen," declared Captain Candage, fiddling his finger under his nose. "That feller she has picked out for herself must be the Emp'ror of Peeroo."
Captain Mayo did not come ashore again before the Ethel and May sailed.
The fog cleared that night and they smashed out to the fishing-grounds ahead of a cracking breeze, and had their trawls down in the early dawn. At sundown, trailed by a wavering banner of screaming gulls who gobbled the "orts" tossed over by the busy crew cleaning their catch, they were docking at the city fish-house.
"Lucky again," commented Captain Candage, returning from his sharp dicker with the buyer. "The city critters are all hungry for haddock, and that's just what we hit to-day." He surveyed his gloomy partner with sympathetic concern. "Why don't you take a run uptown?" he suggested. "You're sticking too close to this packet for a young man. Furthermore, if you see a store open buy me a box of paper collars. Rowley hain't got my size!"
Mayo, unreconciled and uneasy, hating that day the sound of the flapping, sliding fish as they were pitchforked into the tubs for hoisting, annoyed by the yawling of pulleys and realizing that his nerves were not right at all, obeyed the suggestion. He had a secret errand of his own, yielding to a half-hope; he went to the general-delivery window of the post-office and asked for mail. He knew that love makes keen guesses. The Olenia had visited that harbor frequently for mail. But there was nothing for him. He strolled about the streets, nursing his melancholy, forgetting Captain Candage's commission, envying the contentment shown by others.