"There might be reasons," was the hesitating rejoinder.
"What reason?" asked Dan, gruffly. "There ain't any sort of reason why a father shouldn't stick to his job. I hate a 'quitter,' anyhow," concluded Dan, decisively.
"Wait until you are twenty years older before you say that, my boy!" was the answer. "Perhaps then you will know what quitting costs and means. But you're an old chum for that little boy. I saw him with you down below. How is it that you're such friends?"
And then Dan, being of a communicative nature, and seeing no cause for reserve, told his new acquaintance all about the scholarship that had introduced him into spheres of birth and breeding to which he frankly confessed he could make no claim.
"I'm not Freddy's sort, I know; but he took to me somehow,—I can't tell why."
Yet as Dan went on with his simple, honest story, his listener, who, world-wise and world-weary as he was, knew something of the boyish nature that turns instinctively to what is strong and true and good, felt he could tell why Freddy took to this rough diamond of a chum.
Dan, in his turn, learned that his new acquaintance was called John Wirt; that he was off on a vacation trip, hunting and fishing wherever there was promise of good sport; that he had travelled abroad for several years,—had been to China, Japan, India, Egypt; had hunted lions and elephants, seen the midnight sun, crossed Siberian steppes and African deserts. From a geographical standpoint, Mr. Wirt's story seemed an open and extensive map, but biographically it was a blank. Of his personal history, past, present or future, he said nothing. Altogether, Dan and his new acquaintance had a pleasant hour on the open deck beneath the stars, and made friends rapidly.
"I wish you were going our way," said Dan, regretfully, as his companion announced that he was to get off at the first point they touched. "Brother Bart is going to granny us all, I know. If we had a real strong man like you around, he wouldn't scare so easily. And there is fine fishing about Killykinick, they say."
"So I have heard." The stranger had risen now, and stood, a tall shadow dimly outlined above Dan. "I—I—perhaps I'll drop in upon you. Isn't it time for you to turn in now?"
"No," answered Dan,—"not into that packing box below. I'm up here for the night."
"And I'm off before morning, so it's good-bye and good luck to you!"
And, with a friendly nod, Mr. John Wirt strode away down the darkened deck, leaving Dan to fling himself back upon his life-preservers, and wonder how, when, or where he had seen their new acquaintance before,—not at Saint Andrew's; for Mr. Wirt had been abroad, as he had said, ever since Dan entered the college; not at Milligans' or Pete Patterson's, or anywhere about his old home. Perhaps he had blacked his shoes or sold him a newspaper in some half-forgotten past; for surely there was something in his tone, his glance, his friendly smile that Dan knew.
He felt quite well now. All the dizziness and nausea had vanished, and he was his own strong, sturdy self again. The roll and swap of the boat were only the rock of a giant cradle; the surge of the sea, a deep-toned lullaby soothing him to pleasant dreams; and the sky! Dan had never seen such a midnight sky. He lay, with his head pillowed in his clasped hands, looking up at the starry splendor above him with a wonder akin to awe. The great, blue vault arching above him blazed with light from a myriad stars, that his books had told him were worlds greater than this on whose wide waters he was tossing now,—worlds whose history the wisest of men could never know,—worlds, thousands and millions of them, moving in shining order by "rule and law."
"Rule and law,"—it was the lesson that seemed to face Dan everywhere,—down in those black depths he had penetrated to-day, where valve and lever and gauge held roaring fire and hissing steam, with all their fierce force, to submission and service; in the polished mechanism whose steady throb he could feel pulsing beneath him like a giant heart; in the radiant sky where worlds beyond worlds swept on their mysterious way—obeying.
With half-formed thoughts like these stirring vaguely in his mind, Dan was dropping off into pleasant sleep, when he was roused by the sound of voices and the glimmering of a ship's lantern.
"I think you will find your boy here, sir."
It was Mr. John Wirt, who, with the aid of a friendly deck hand, was guiding a pale, tottering, very sick Brother Bart to Dan's side.
"Who wants me?" asked the half-wakened Dan, springing to his feet.
"Dan Dolan! Ye young rapscallion!" burst out Brother Bart, almost sobbing in his relief. "It's down at the bottom of the black sea I thought ye were. I've been tramping this boat, with this good man holding me up (for I'm too sick to stand), this half hour. Down wid ye now below stairs with the rest, where I can keep an eye on ye. Come down, I say!"
"Down below!" the words struck harshly on Dan's ear for good old Brother Bart was more used to obedience than command, and he was sick and shaken and doing his guardian duty under sore stress and strain to-night.
"Go below! What for?" asked Dan, shortly. "I'm all right up here, Brother Bart. I can't stand being packed in downstairs."
"Stand it or not, I'll not have ye up here," said Brother Bart, resolutely. "Down with ye, Dan Dolan! Ye were put under my orders, and ye'll have to mind my words."
"Not when it means being sick as a dog all night," answered Dan, rebelliously. "I tell you I can't stand it down in that stuffy place below, and I won't, I am going to stay up here."
"And is that the way ye talk?" said Brother Bart, who had a spirit of his own. "And it's only what I might look for, ye graceless young reprobate! God knows it was sore against my will that I brought ye with me, Dan Dolan; for I knew ye'd be a sore trial first to last. But I had to obey them that are above me. Stay, then, if you will against my word; for it's all I have to hold ye, since ye are beyant any rule or law.—We'll go back, my man," continued Brother Bart to the burly deck hand who had been supporting his swaying form. "Help me to get down to my bed, in God's name; for I am that sick I can scarcely see."
And Brother Bart tottered away, leaving Dan standing hot and defiant by his new friend, Mr. Wirt.
"Sorry to have made trouble for you," said that gentleman; "but when I found that good old man wandering sick and distracted over the boat, stirring up everyone in search of a lost boy, there was nothing to do but give him the tip."
"Freddy may stand it," said Dan, fiercely; "but I won't be grannied. What harm is there in staying up here?"
"None at all from our standpoint," was the reply; "but the good old gentleman looks at things in another light. You're under his orders," he said; and there was a faint, mocking note in the words, that Dan was keen enough to hear. He was hearing other things too,—the pant of the engines, the throb of the pulsing mechanism that was bearing him on through darkness lit only by the radiance of those sweeping worlds above; but that mocking note in his new friend's voice rose over all.
"Orders!" he repeated angrily. "I bet you wouldn't take any such orders if you were a boy."
"No, I wouldn't, and I didn't" (there was a slight change in the speaker's voice as he paused to light a cigar), "and you see where it left me."
"Where?" asked Dan, curiously.
"Adrift," was the answer,—"like this big boat would be if there was no one to command: beyond rule and law, as that good old friend of yours said just now,—beyond rule and law."
"Beyond rule and law,—rule and law." The words began to hammer somehow on Dan's head and heart as he recalled with waking remorse poor Brother Bart tottering away in the darkness,—Brother Bart, who, as Dan knew, was only doing his duty faithfully, to the boy under his care,—Brother Bart, who, like the steamboat, like the stars, was obeying.
For a moment or two Mr. Wirt puffed at his cigar silently, while the fierce fire that had blazed up in Dan's breast sank into bounds, mastered by the boy's better self, even as he had seen Nature's fierce forces of flame and steam mastered by higher powers to-day.
"In short," said Mr. Wirt at last, as if he had been having thoughts of his own, "I am a derelict, my boy."
"What's that?" asked Dan, who had never heard the word before.
"A ship adrift, abandoned by captain and crew,—a wreck that tosses on the sea, a peril to all that come near it. There is nothing a good sailor dreads more than a derelict, and he makes it his business to sink it promptly whenever he can."
"Couldn't he tow it into port?" asked Dan, with interest.
"Not worth the trouble," was the grim answer.
"Jing!" said Dan. "I'd try it, sure."
"Would you?" asked Mr. Wirt.
"Yes," replied Dan, decidedly. "If a ship can float, it must be worth something. I'd try to fling a hawser about it somewhere, and haul it in and dry-dock it to find out what was wrong. I've seen an oyster boat, that was leaking at every seam, calked and patched and painted to be good as new."
"Perhaps," said Mr. Wirt, with a short laugh; "but the oyster boats don't go very far a-sea, and derelicts drift beyond hope or help. I am that kind, and if—if" (the speaker hesitated for a moment),—"if I had a boy like you, I wouldn't take any chances with him: I'd keep him off my deck; I'd put him on a sound ship with a wise captain and a steady crew, and he should be under orders until—well, until he had learned to sail midnight seas like this by the light of the stars." And, tossing his half-smoked cigar into the water, Mr. Wirt turned abruptly away without any further "goodnight."
"He's a queer one," said Dan to himself, as he stared after the tall figure disappearing in the darkness. "I don't know what he means by his drifting and derelicts, but I guess it's a sort of talk about breaking laws and rules like I am doing here to-night. Gee! but Brother Bart is an old granny; stirring up all this fuss about nothing; and I'll be dead sick, I know. But I'm under orders" (Dan stretched his arms over his head, and, drawing a long, reluctant sigh, took a last look at the stars), "and I guess I'll have to go."
And he went, making his way with some difficulty over the swaying decks and down deep stairs where the footing was more perilous than the heights of Old Top; through long stretches of gorgeous saloons whence all the life and gayety had departed; for, despite the stars, the sea was rough to-night, and old Neptune under a friendly smile was doing his worst.
Jim and Dud, sturdy fellows that they were, had somewhat recovered their equilibrium and were dozing fitfully; but little Freddy was still white and wretched; and poor Brother Bart, all the ruddy glow gone from his face, lay with his hands clasping his Rosary, very sick indeed.
"Say your prayers as well as ye can, laddie," he moaned to that small sufferer. "The Lord be merciful to us both if we're not to see the morning light!—Ah, are ye back, Dan Dolan?" as his eyes fell upon the wandering sheep of his flock standing beside him. "May God forgive ye for this night's work! It was the looking for ye that killed me entirely."
"O Brother Bart, no, you're not as bad as that!" said Dan, remorsefully; "but I'm down here now to take care of you and Freddy, and you see if I don't do it right."
And Dan, who in the old days of Tabby and the blue teapot had watched with and waited on Aunt Winnie through many a night of pain, proved as good as his word. It was as close and hot and stuffy as he had foreseen; the big boat plunged and rolled so that it was hard to keep his footing; at times he himself grew so sick that he could scarcely steady his helping hand, but he never gave up his job. He bathed poor Brother Bart's aching head with all a woman's tenderness; bandaged Freddy's throbbing temples with the cold compress that sent him off to sleep; made dizzy forays into unknown domestic departments for cracked ice and soda water; shocked Brother Bart out of what he believed his last agony by reporting everyone on the boat in "the same fix."
"We'll be in smooth water, the men say, by morning; and then you'll be all right, Brother Bart. Let me bathe your head some more, and try to go to sleep."
And when at last Brother Bart did fall asleep in the grey glimmer of the early dawn, it was a very pale, shaking, dizzy Dan that crept out on the open deck beyond the staterooms for a breath of fresh air. He could not have climbed to forbidden heights now even if he would. But they were in smooth waters, and the boat was pushing onto a sandy point, where a branch railroad came down to the shore. A dozen or more passengers were preparing to land; among them was Mr. Wirt, with a gun slung to his shoulder, a knapsack on his back, and his two great tawny dogs pulling in their leashes impatiently,—all evidently ready for a summer in the wilds.
Dan felt too weak and sick for conversation until Mr. Wirt's eye fell upon the pale, trembling boy, who, with head bared to the morning breeze, was clinging weakly to an awning post.
"Why, hello, my lad!" said the gentleman. "What's the matter. I thought you were all right when I saw you last up above."
"I was," answered Dan, grimly. "But I came down, and, jing! I've had a night of it, with Brother Bart and Freddy both dead sick on my hands."
"And you nursed them all night?" (There was an odd tremor in the speaker's voice.) "Are they better this morning?"
"Yes," answered Dan. "They are all right now, sleeping like tops; but they had a tough time. It was lucky I gave up and came down to look after them."
"So you obeyed orders, after all. And now you're all broken up yourself?" said the gentleman, compassionately.
"Pooh, no!" was the sturdy answer. "I don't break up so easily. I'll be all right, too, in a little while,—after I've had more of this fresh air. Going to get off here?—" as the boat pushed up to the wharf.
"Yes," said Mr. Wirt. "I'm off to the woods for a few weeks; but—but maybe you will see me again later. Meanwhile what did the little fellow call you?"
"Dan,—my name is Dan Dolan," was the answer.
"Then good-bye, Dan!" Mr. Wirt's shapely hand closed over the boy's in a strong pressure. "You've given me a lesson, Dan,—I won't forget you." And he was off with his dogs across the gangway to the shore just flushing with the morning light.
The worst was over; and Dan, worn out with his night of watching, was glad to creep into his "packing box" of a stateroom, and, flinging himself in his berth, dropped off to sleep,—a sleep full of strange dreams. They were wild and troubled dreams at first. He was down in black depths where, stripped to the waist, he was working amid roaring fires and hissing steam; he was out on a dark wide ocean, striving to fling a rope to a wreck drifting helplessly amid thundering breakers; he was up on a wind-swept deck, with Brother Bart's shaking grasp dragging him down below. Then suddenly the picture changed: it was not Brother Bart but old Father Mack whose trembling hand was upon his arm, guiding him through the leafy shadows of the college walk where they had last talked together. Beyond and above them was the dazzling glory of the stars, those sweeping worlds on which the young dreamer had looked last night. But as he walked on now, the leafy shadows seemed to grow into arched and pillared aisles rising far, far above him, and the stars were but the countless tapers on a mighty altar reaching to heights he could not see; and Aunt Winnie, was kneeling on the steps,—old Aunt Winnie, with clasped hands and uplifted eyes. Then the guiding hand seemed to tighten on his arm, and it was Brother Bart again beside him,—Brother Bart, his sturdy, ruddy self again, shaking him awake.
"I hate to rouse ye, Danny lad" (there was a new friendliness in the old man's tone), "for it was the long, hard night ye had with us; but we're to get off here. Praise be to God, our killing journey is nearly done!"
And Dan stumbled out hurriedly to the deck, to find the boat pushing into the harbor of a quaint old town, whose roofs and spires were glittering in the noonday sunshine. Pretty sailboats were flitting hither and thither on sunny wings; the white stretch of beach was gay with bathers; the full notes of an orchestra came from the band stand on the jutting pier.
"Jing!" exclaimed Dan, in amazement at such a festive scene. "Is this Killykinick?"
"No," was Dud Fielding's surly answer. "I wish it was. But I mean to cut over here to the Fosters whenever I can. This is Beach Cliff, where we have to take a sailboat to Killykinick. And," Dud went on, with deepening disgust, "I bet it's that old tub that is signalling to us now."
Dan's eyes, following Dud's sullen gaze, saw, among the gaily painted pleasure craft moored at the wharfs, a clumsy little boat with rusty sides and dingy sail. An old man stood in the stern waving a tattered flag that, caught out by the breeze, showed in large faded letters—Killykinick.
X.—ON THE "SARY ANN."
"It's the sign," said Brother Bart gratefully, as he caught sight of the fluttering pennant. "He was to wave the flag to us so we would know the boat. Keep together now, boys," continued their anxious guardian, who was a little bewildered by a rush and struggle to which he was not accustomed. "Ah, God help them that have to push their way in a world like this! Hold to my hand, laddie, or ye'll be tramped down. Straight behind me now, the rest of ye, so ye won't be lost."
And, marshalling his boyish force, Brother Bart pressed on through the hurrying throngs that surged over gangway (for it was the height of the holiday season) until he reached the shabby little boat whose occupant was a very old man with a face brown and wrinkled as tanned leather. A long scar across his cheek had twisted his mouth into a crooked smile. He spat a large quid of tobacco into the water, and greeted his passengers with an old sea dog's growl:
"Been waitin' more than an hour for ye, but that consarned boat ain't never on time! Hit some pretty rough weather, I reckon, out at sea?"
"We did," answered Brother Bart, with feeling. "It's the mercy of God we're alive to tell the tale. In with ye, boys, and sit steady. Take the middle of the boat, laddie, and hold to Dan. Give me a hand to help me in; for I'm weak and shaking yet. The Lord's will be done, but I never thought to be sailing the seas in a cockleshell like this," added the good man, as the boat rocked under his sturdy weight when he sank heavily into his place.
"I say so, too. Let's hire something better," replied Dud Fielding, eagerly.
"Thar ain't nothing better or safer than this here 'Sary Ann' along the shore," said the boat's master, grimly. "I sot every timber in her myself. She ain't got a crack or a creak in her. I keeled her and calked her, and I'll lay her agin any of them painted and gilded play-toys to weather the toughest gale on this here coast. You're as safe in the 'Sary Ann,' Padre, as if you were in church saying your prayers."
"I'm no Padre," disclaimed Brother Bart, hastily. "I'm only an humble lay-brother, my good man, that has come to take care of these boys."
"Brother or Father, it's all the same to me," was the gruff answer. "I'm a hardshell Baptist myself, but I've only good feelings to your kind. My old captain was one of you, and never a better man walked the deck. Now, duck, my lads, while I swing out the sail and we'll be off."
The passengers ducked their heads hurriedly while the 'Sary Ann's' boom swung around. Her tawny sail caught the wind, and she was off with a light, swift grace that her looks belied.
"Golly, she can clip it!" exclaimed Jim Norris, who had a home on the Chesapeake and knew all about a boat. "What sort of a rig is she, anyhow?"
"Mixed like good terbacker," briefly answered the owner, as he leaned back comfortably at the helm and bit off another chew. "Sloop, skiff, outrigger, lugger,—she's got the good points of all and none of their kicks. Not that she ain't got a spirit of her own. Every boat worth anything hez. Thar's days when she takes the wind and thar's no holdin' her. You jest have to let her spread her wings to it and go. But, Lord, let that same wind begin to growl and mutter, let them waves begin to cap and swell, and the 'Sary Ann' is ready for them, you bet. She will drop all her fun and frolic, and scud along brave and bare agin the wildest gale that ever leashed a coast. And them young bloods over yon laugh at her," continued the 'Sary Ann's' owner, glowering at the gay buildings of the fashionable "boat club" they were just now passing. "They call her the Corsair,' which is no Christian name to give an honest boat."
"You're right," said Brother Bart: "And, though you haven't the true faith, you seem to be a Christian yourself. What is your name, my good man?"
"Jeroboam Jimson," was the answer. "Leastways that was what I was christened, my mother going in heavy for Scripture names. I had a twin brother Nebuchanezzar. Sort of mouth-filling for general use, so we was naturally shortened down to Neb and Jeb. Most folks call me Jeb yet."
"It comes easier," said Brother Bart; "though I'd never think of giving it to a man of your years. It seems a pity, with the Litany of the Saints convenient, to have to go back so far for a name. But that is no fault of yours, as God knows. Have you been living long in this place we are going to?"
"More than five and forty years," was the answer,—"since the 'Lady Jane' struck the rocks off Killykinick, November 27, 1865. I was second mate to old Captain Kane; and I stood by him until last May, when he took the cruise that every man has to make by himself. And I'm standing by his ship 'cording to orders yet. 'Blood is thicker than water, mate,' he says to me; 'I've got to leave all that I have to little Polly Raynor's boy, but you're to stick to the ship as long as you live. I've hed that put down in the log with my name to it, and priest and lawyer and doctor as witness. You're Captain Jeroboam Jimson of the "Lady Jane," in my place, and thar ain't no land sharks nor water sharks can bother ye.' I lay that's the chap he called Polly's boy," said Captain Jeb, turning his eyes on Freddy, who, seated at Brother Bart's side, had been listening, with flattering interest, to the old sailor's conversation.
"Yes," he spoke up eagerly, "my mother was Polly. Did you know her?"
"I did," said Captain Jeb, nodding. "She came down here once as a bit of a girl, dancing over the sands like a water kelpie. The old Captain didn't care much for women folks, but he was sot on her sure. Then she come down agin as a bride, purty and shy and sweet; but the old man warn't so pleased then,—growled he didn't know what girls wanted to get married for, nohow. So you're her boy!" The old man's eyes softened as they rested on Freddy. "You've got a sort of look of her, though you ain't as pretty,—not nigh."
Meanwhile the "Sary Ann," her tawny sail swelling in the wind, had left the gay beach and bathers and boat club of Beach Cliff, and was making the swell of the waves like a sea bird on the wing.
"Easy now, lass!" cautioned Captain Jeb, as they neared a white line of breakers, and he stood up firm and strong at the helm. "Steady, all of you younkers; for we're crossing the bar. Many a good ship has left her bones on this same reef. Easy, 'Sary Ann'! It's no place for fooling round here."
And, as if to emphasize his words, the black shadows of a wrecked ship rose gaunt and grim before them.
"Struck the reef two months ago," explained the Captain, with eye and hand still steady on his helm. "Can't get her off. Captain fool enough to try Beach Cliff Harbor without a native pilot! Why, thar ain't no books nor charts can tell you nothing 'bout navigating round these here islands: you have to larn it yourself. It's the deceivingest stretch along the whole Atlantic coast. Thar's times when this here bar, that is biling deep with water now, is bare enough for one of you chaps to walk across without wetting your knees. Easy now, 'Sary Ann'! Ketch hold of that rope, younker, and steady the sail a bit. So thar, we're over the shoals. Now clip it, my lass" (and the old man swung the sail free),—"clip it fast as you like for Killykinick."
And, almost as if she could hear the "Sary Ann" leaped forward with the bulging sail, and was off at the word; while Captain Jeb, the harbor reef safely passed, leaned back in his boat and pointed out to his young passengers (for even the elegant Dud was roused into eager curiosity) the various things of interest on their way: the light ship, the lighthouses, the fishing fleet stretching dim and hazy on the far horizon, the great ocean liner only a faint shadow trailing a cloud of smoke in the blue distance.
"Them big fellows give us the go by now, though time was when they used to come from far and near; all kinds—Spanish, Portugee, East Indian. Them was the whaling days, when Beach Cliff was one of the greatest places on the coast. She stands out so far she hed the first bite at things. All the sailing ships made for snug harbor here. But, betwixt the steamboats and the railroads gobbling up everything, and the earth itself taking to spouting oil, things are pretty dead and gone here now."
"But lots of fine folks come in the summer time," said Dud.
"And there's a church!" exclaimed Brother Bart, who had caught a passing glimpse of a cross-crowned spire. "Thank God we'll not be beyond the light and truth entirely! You're to take us to Mass every Sunday, my good man; and we are to give you a dollar for the trouble of it, to say nothing of the blessing upon your own soul. Were you ever at Mass?"
"Never," answered Captain Jeb.
"Ah, God help you, poor man!" said Brother Bart. "Sure we never know our own blessings till we talk with them that's left in the darkness. But it's not too late for the grace of Heaven to reach you yet. Never been to Mass! Well, well, well!" Brother Bart shook his head, and, as if unable to cope with such hopeless religious dearth, relapsed into silence.
"Is it much further to Killykinick?" asked Dan, who, with shining eyes had been taking in all this novel experience. "Looks like we're heading out to nowhere."
The "Sary Ann," with the wind full in her sail, seemed bearing off into sunlit distance, where sky and sea met. There was a faint, shadowy line to the left; and just beyond, a dim pencil point pierced the cloudless blue.
"That's a lighthouse, isn't it?" asked Jim, who had a sailor's eye.
"Yes," growled Captain Jeb, his leathery face darkening. "Why they wanted to set up that consarned thing just across from Killykinick, I don't know. Hedn't we been showing a light thar for nigh onto fifty years? But some of these know-alls come along and said it wasn't the right kind; it oughter blink. And they made the old captain pull down the light that he had been burning steady and true, and the Government sot up that thar newfangled thing a flashing by clockwork on Numbskull Nob. It did make the old man hot, sure. 'Shet the window, mate,' he said to me when he was dying and wanted air badly. 'I can't go off in peace with that devilish thing of Numbskull Nob a winking at me.' Duck Agin, all hands! 'Sary Ann' swings around here. Thar's Killykinick to starboard!"
And all hands "ducked" as rope and canvas rattled under Captain Jeb's guiding hand; and the "Sary Ann" swept from her dancing course to the boundless blue towards the shadowy line and dim pencil point now growing into graceful lighthouse and rocky shore. Numbskull Nob, jutting up from a hidden reef, over which a line of white-capped breakers was booming thunderously, seemed to justify the presence of the modern light that warned off closer approach to the island; for the stretch of water that lay between was a treacherous shoal where many a good ship had stranded in years gone by, when Killykinick was only a jagged ledge of rock where the sea birds nested and man had no place. But things had changed now. A rude but sturdy breakwater made a miniature harbor in which several small boats floated at their moorings; a whitewashed wharf jutted out into the waves; the stretch of rocky shore beyond had been roughly terraced into easy approach.
"Easy now, boys,—easy!" warned Brother Bart anxiously, as the "Sary Ann" grated against her home pier, and Captain Jeroboam proceeded to make fast. "Don't be leaping off till you know the way."
But Brother Bart might have called to the dashing waves. This Killykinick was very different from the desert they had expected; and, with shouts of delight from Jim, Dud and Dan, even little Freddy sprang ashore. Shrubs and trees of strange growth nodded and waved amid the rocks; here and there in sheltered crannies were beds of blooming flowers; and in the lee of a towering rock that kept off the fury of storm and wind stood the very queerest house the young explorers had ever seen.
It was a ship,—a ship with its keel settled deep in the sand, and held immovable against wind and storm by a rudely built foundation wall of broken rock. The sunlight blinked cheerfully from the dozen portholes; the jutting prow bore the weather-worn figurehead of the "Lady Jane,"—minus a nose and arm, it is true, but holding her post bravely still. Stout canvas, that could be pegged down or lifted into breezy shelter, roofed the deck, from which arose the "lookout," a sort of light tower built around a mast that upheld a big ship lantern; while the Stars and Stripes floated in glory over all.
For a moment the four young travellers stared breathless at this remarkable edifice, while Freddy eagerly explained:
"It's my Great-uncle Joe's ship that was wrecked here on Killykinick. He had sailed in her for years and loved her, and he didn't want to leave her to fall to pieces on the rocks; and so he got a lot of men, with chains and ropes and things, and moved her up here and made her into a house."
And a first-class house the "Lady Jane" made, as all the boys agreed when they proceeded to investigate Great-uncle Joe's legacy. True, there was a lack of modern conveniences. The sea lapping the sands to the right was the only bath-room, but what finer one could a boy ask? There was neither dining room nor kitchen; only the "galley," as Captain Jeb, who came up shortly to do the honors of this establishment, explained to his guests. The "galley" was a queer little narrow place in the stern, lined with pots and pans and dishes scoured to a shine, and presided over by another old man more crooked and leathery-visaged than Captain Jeb, and who seemed too deep in the concoction of some savory mixture simmering on his charcoal stove to give look or word to the newcomers who crowded around him.
"That is Neb," said his brother, in brief introduction. "He don't hev much to say, but you mustn't mind that. It ain't been altogether clear weather in his upper deck since he shipped with a durned pirate of a captain that laid his head open with a marline spike; but for a cook, he can't be beat by any steward afloat or ashore. Jest you wait till he doses out that clam-chowder he's making now!"
Then there was the long, low cabin that stretched the full length of the "Lady Jane," and that—with its four cosy bunks made up shipshape, its big table, its swinging lamp, its soft bulging chairs (for Great-uncle Joe had been a man of solid weight as well as worth)—was just the place for boys to disport themselves in without fear of doing damage. All about were most interesting things for curious young eyes to see and busy fingers to handle: telescope, compass, speaking trumpet, log and lead and line that had done duty in many a distant sea; spears, bows and arrowheads traded for on savage islands; Chinese ivories and lacquered boxes from Japan. A white bearskin and walrus tusk told of an early venture into the frozen North, when bold men were first drawn to its darkness and mystery; while the Buddha from an Eastern temple, squatting shut-eyed on a shelf, roused good old Brother Bart into holy horror.
"I never thought to be under the same roof with a haythen idol. Put it away, my man,—put it out of sight while I'm in yer house; for I can't stand the looks of it. I'll be after smashing it into bits if ye lave it under me eyes."
And his indignation was appeased only by the sight of the Captain's room, which had been respectfully assigned to the "Padre," as Captain Jeb persisted in calling his older guest.
Here Great-uncle Joe had treasures rare indeed in the good Brother's eye: a wonderful crucifix of ivory and ebony; the silver altar lamp of an old Spanish monastery; a Madonna in dull tints that still bore traces of a master hand; a rosary, whose well-worn beads made Brother Bart's pious heart warm.
"Indeed he was a God-fearing man, I'm sure, this uncle of laddie's."
"He was," agreed Captain Jeb; "a little rough-talking sometimes, but all sailors are."
"Well, it's a rough life," said Brother Bart, recalling his own late experience. "It's little chance it gives you to think or pray. But the old man ye talk of prayed; I am sure of that. The beads here bear token of it."
"Aye," answered Captain Jeb. "He held to them to the last as tight as if they was an anchor chain,—why I don't know."
"That's yer ignorance, poor man!" said Brother Bart, compassionately. "Ye should pray morning and evening for light, and perhaps ye'll be given the grace to know what the hould of blessed beads is to a dying hand. Now, if ye don't mind, I'll rest a bit in this quiet place, and try to say me own prayers that I missed last night; for it was a sore trying time to me, both body and soul. There's no harm can come to the boys, now that they are safe here."
"I wouldn't swear to four younkers like them anywhere," was the grim answer. "But ye can rest easy, Padre: I'll keep an eye on them, never fear." And, closing the old Captain's door on his anxious guest, Captain Jeb proceeded to "keep an eye" on the boys who were exploring Killykinick in every direction.
As it had little more than half a mile of visible surface, the exploration was naturally limited; but there was a "deal more below," as Captain Jeb assured them,—reefs and shoals stretching out in every direction, and widening every year with the silt carried down from the shore. There were one or two wide hollows between the rocks, where that same silt, top-dressed with richer earth imported from more favored spots by Captain Jeb, served as kitchen garden, in which beans, cabbages and potatoes made a promising show. On another sheltered slope, green with coarse grass, brown Betty was pasturing peacefully; while in a henhouse beyond there was clucking and cackling, cheerfully suggestive of chickens and eggs.
"We used to hev mostly ship rations," said Captain Jeb. "But the old man got sort of picky and choosy these last years, and turned agin the hard-tack and old hoss meat that had been good enough for him before. So I got a few boat-loads of good earth and took to growing things. And things do grow here for sure, if you only give them a chance. All they want is root hold; the sun and the air and the soft mists do the rest."
Then there was the pump house; for even the toughest of old "salts" must have fresh water. And it had cost many a dollar to strike it in these rocks; but strike it at last the well-borers did, and the pump was roofed and walled in as Killykinick's greatest treasure.
"Stick round here, younkers, along by the 'Lady Jane' and the wharf and the garden beds, and down by the 'Sary Ann' and the boats to the south beach, and you'll be pretty safe. But I'm going to show you a place whar you can't do no monkey shining, for it ain't safe at all."
And as Captain Jeb spoke he turned to the high wall of rock that had backed and sheltered the "Lady Jane" for nearly fifty years; and, bending his thin form, he pushed through a low, narrow opening, with, it is needless to say, four wide-eyed boys scrambling breathlessly behind him,—Dan, as usual, in the lead, pulling Freddy on.
For a moment they stumbled in darkness, through which came a thunderous sound like the swell of some mighty organ under a master hand; and then they were out in light and space again, with the ocean cliff of Killykinick arching above and around them in a great cave hollowed by the beating waves out of solid rock. Wall and roof were rough and jagged, broken into points and ledges; but the floor was smoothed by the tide into a shining, glittering surface, that widened out to meet the line of breakers thundering white-foamed beyond, their sprays scattering in light showers far and near.
"Jing! Golly! Hooray!" burst from the young explorers; and they would have dashed off into bolder investigation of this new discovery, but Captain Jeb's sudden trumpet tone withheld them.
"Stop,—stop thar, younkers! Didn't I tell you this warn't no play-place? How far and how deep these caves stretch only the Lord knows; for the sea is knawing them deeper and wider every year. And thar's holes and quicksands that would suck you down quicker than that whale in the Good Book swallowed Jonah. And more than that: in three hours from now these here rocks whar we are standing will be biling with high tide. This ain't no play-place! I'm showing it to you so you'll know; for thar ain't no reefs and shoals to easy things here. It's deep sea soundings that no line can reach, this nor'east shore. Them waves hev a clean sweep of three thousand miles before they break here. And thar ain't to be no ducking nor swimming nor monkey shining around here unless me or Neb is on watch. Neb ain't much good for navigating since he got that hit with the marline spike, but for a watch on ship or shore he is all right. So them 'orders' is all I hev to give: the Padre, being a bit nervous, may hev some of his own; but thar ain't nothing to hurt four strapping younkers round Killykinick except right here. And now, I reckon, it's about time for dinner. I'm ready for some of Neb's clam-chowder, I know; and I guess you are, too."
"Jing! but this is a great place of yours, Freddy!" said Dan, as they turned back to the ship house. "We could not have found a better."
"That's all you know," scoffed the lordly Dud. "I mean to keep on the right side of the old duffer," he added sotto voce, "and get over to Beach Cliff in that tub of his whenever I can. Minnie Foster asked me to come; they've taken a fine house down on the shore, and have all sorts of fun—dances, picnics, boat races. I'll get sick of things here pretty soon; won't you, Jim?"
"I don't know about that," was the lazy answer. "About as good a place to loaf as you'll find."
"Loaf?" put in Dan. "There isn't going to be any loafing at Killykinick for me. I'm for boating and fishing and clamming and digging up those garden beds. I don't know what those others are paying," said Dan, who had fallen behind with Captain Jeb; "but I've got no money, and am ready to earn my board and keep."
"You are?" said the Captain, in surprise. "As I took it, the Padre bunched you all together for as fair a figure as I could ask."
"Not me," replied Dan. "These other chaps are plutes, and can pay their own way; so cut me out of your figures and let me work for myself."
"Well, that's sort of curious talk for a younker with a high-class schooling," said Captain Jeb, dubiously. "You mean you want to hire out?"
"Yes," said Dan, remembering Aunt Winnie and how doubtful his claim was upon St. Andrew's.
"Thar will be considerable stirring round, I'll allow," was the reflective answer. "I was thinking of getting Billy Benson to lend a hand, but if you'd like the job of sort of second mate—"
"I would," said Dan. "What is a second mate's work?"
"Obeying orders," answered Captain Jeb, briefly.
"That's dead easy," said Dan, with a grin.
"Oh, is it?" was the grim rejoinder. "Jest you wait, younker, till you've stood on a toppling deck in the teeth of a nor'easter, with some dunderhead of a captain roaring cuss words at you to cut away the mast that you know is all that's keeping you out of Davy Jones' Locker, and then you'll find what obeying orders means. But if you want the job here, it's yours. What will you take?"
"My board and keep," answered Dan.
"That ain't no sort of pay," said the other, gruffly.
"Wait till you see me eat," laughed Dan; "besides, I was never a second mate before. Maybe I won't make good at it."
"Mebbe you won't," said Captain Jeb, his mouth stretching into its crooked smile. "You're ruther young for it, I must admit. Still, I like your grit and pluck, younker. Most chaps like you are ready to suck at anything in reach. What's your name?"
"Dan—Dan Dolan," was the answer.
"Good!" said Captain Jeb. "It's a square, honest name. You're shipped, Dan Dolan. I guess thar ain't no need for signing papers. This little chap will bear witness. You're shipped as second mate in the 'Lady Jane' now and here."
XII.—THE SECOND MATE.—A CONFAB.
Then Neb's bell clanged out for dinner, that was served on the long table in the cabin, shipshape, but without any of the frills used on land. There was a deep earthen dish brimming with chowder, a wonderful concoction that only old salts like Neb can make. It had a bit of everything within Killykinick reach—clams and fish and pork and potatoes, onions and peppers and hard-tack,—all simmering together, piping hot, in a most appetizing way, even though it had to be "doused" out with a tin ladle into yellow bowls. There was plenty of good bread, thick and "filling"; a platter of bacon and greens, and a dish of rice curried after a fashion Neb had learned cruising in the China Sea. Last of all, and borne in triumphantly by the cook himself, was a big smoking "plum duff" with cream sauce. There is a base imitation of "duff" known to landsmen as batter pudding; but the real plum duff of shining golden yellow, stuffed full of plums like Jack Horner's pie, is all the sailor's own.
Dan plunged at once into his new duties of second mate. Both Jeb and Neb were well past seventy, and, while still hale and hearty, were not so nimble as they had been forty years ago; so a second mate, with light feet and deft hands, proved most helpful, now that the "Lady Jane" had taken in a double crew.
Dan cleared the table and washed the dishes with a celerity bewildering to the slow brain dulled by the marline spike. He swabbed up the galley under Neb's gruff direction; he fed the chickens and milked the cow. For a brief space in two summers of his early life, Dan had been borne off by an Angel Guardian Society to its Fresh Air Home, a plain, old-fashioned farmhouse some miles from his native city; and, being a keen-eyed youngster even then, he had left swings and seesaws to less interested observers, and trudged around the fields, the henhouse, the dairies, the barns, watching the digging and the planting, the feeding and the milking; so that the ways of cows and chickens were not altogether beyond his ken.
"Sure and yer board and keep was to be paid for with the rest, lad," said Brother Bart, kindly.
"I don't want it paid, Brother," replied Dan. "St. Andrew's does enough for me. I'd a heap rather work for myself out here."
"Whether that is decent spirit or sinful pride I'm not scholar enough to tell," said the good Brother in perplexity. "It takes a wise man sometimes to know the differ; but I'm thinking" (and there was a friendly gleam in the old man's eyes) "if I was a strapping lad like you, I would feel the same. So work your own way if you will, Danny lad, and God bless you at it!"
Even heartier was the well-wishing of Captain Jeb after his first day's experience with his second officer.
"You're all right, matie!" he said, slapping Dan-on the shoulder. "There will be no loafing on your watch, I kin see. You're the clipper build I like. Them others ain't made to stand rough weather; but as I take it, you're a sort of Mother Carey chicken that's been nested in the storm. And I don't think you'll care to be boxed up below with them fair-weather chaps. Suppose, being second mate, you swing a hammock up on the deck with Jeb and me?"
"Jing! I'd like that first rate," was the delighted answer.
And, as Brother Bart had no fear of danger on the "Lady Jane," Dan entered on all the privileges of his position. While Freddy and Dud and Jim took possession of the sheltered cabin, and the dignity of the Padre (so it seemed to Captain Jeb) demanded the state and privacy of the Captain's room, Dan swung his hammock up on deck, where it swayed delightfully in the wind, while the stout awnings close-reefed in fair weather gave full view of the sea and the stars.
He slept like a child cradled in its mother's arms, and was up betimes to plunge into a stretch of sheltered waves, still rosy with the sunrise, for a morning bath such as no porcelain tub could offer; and then to start off with old Neb, who, like other wise householders, began the day's work early. Neb might be deaf and dull, and, in boyish parlance, a trifle "dippy"; but he knew the ways of fish, from whales to minnows. He had a boat of his own, with its nets and seines and lines, that not even the sturdy old Captain in the days of his command dared touch.
That Dan was allowed to handle the oars this first morning proved that the second mate had already established himself firmly in Neb's favor. But, as Wharf Rat, Dan had gained some knowledge of boats and oars; and he was able to do his part under the old salt's gruff direction. They went far out beyond shoal and reef; beyond Numskull Nob (whose light was still blinking faintly in the glow of the sunrise), into deep waters, where the fishing fleet could be seen already at work in the blue distance hauling up big catches of cod, halibut, and other game.
"That ain't fishing!" growled old Neb. "It's durned mean killing."
"And isn't all fishing killing?" asked Dan, as they flung out their own lines.
"No," said Neb. "When you cast a line, or a harpoon even, you give critters a chance; but them durned pirates thar don't give a fish no chance at all."
"Did you ever cast a harpoon?" asked Dan, with interest.
For a moment the dull eyes kindled, the dull face brightened, as some deadened memory seemed to stir and waken into life; then the shadow fell heavy and hopeless again.
"Mebbe I did, sonny; I don't know. It's so far back I've most forgot."
But old Neb's wits worked in their own way still. It took less than an hour to catch dinners for the whole Killykinick crew; and the fishermen came home to find that Captain Jeb had been doing duty during their absence, and breakfast was ready on the long table in the cabin,—a breakfast such as none of the white-coated waiters in their late journey could beat.
Captain Jeb knew nothing of cereals, but he had a big bowl of mush and a pitcher of golden cream; he had bacon and eggs frizzled to a charm; he had corndodgers and coffee that filled the air with fragrance,—such coffee as old sailors look for about break of day after a middle watch. Altogether, the crew of the "Lady Jane" found things very pleasant, and the first week at Killykinick had all the interest of life in a newly discovered land. Even Brother Bart was argued by the two old salts out of his "nervousness," and laddie was allowed to boat and fish and swim in safe waters under Dan's care; while Jim and Dud looked out for themselves, as such big fellows should.
"Thar's nothing to hurt them off thar," said Captain Jeb, as Brother Bart watched his navigators with anxious eyes pushing out over a stretch of dancing waves. "'Twixt here and Numskull Nob you could 'most walk ashore. Jest keep them out of the Devil's Jaw, that's all."
"The Lord between us and harm!" ejaculated Brother Bart, in pious horror. "Where is that at all?"
"The stretch of rock yonder," replied Captain Jeb, nodding to the northeast.
"And isn't that an awful name to give to a Christian shore?" asked Brother Bart.
"No worse than them ar suck-holes of waves deserves," was the grim answer. "When the high tide sweeps in thar, it kerries everything with it, and them caves guzzle it all down, nobody knows whar."
"Ah, God save us!" said Brother Bart. "It's the quare place to choose aither for life or death. I wonder at the laddie's uncle, and ye too, for staying all these years. Wouldn't it be better now, at yer time of life, for ye to be saving yer soul in quiet and peace, away from the winds and the storms and the roaring seas that are beating around ye here?"
"No," was the gruff answer,—"no, Padre. I couldn't live away from the winds and the storms and the waves. I couldn't die away from them either. I'd be like a deep sea-fish washed clean ashore. How them landlubbers live with everything dead and dull around them, I don't see. I ain't been out of sight of deep water since I shipped as cabin boy in the 'Lady Jane' nigh onto sixty years ago. I've been aloft in her rigging with the sea beating over the deck and the wind whistling so loud ye couldn't hear the cuss words the old man was a-roaring through his trumpet below. I've held her wheel through many a black night when no mortal man could tell shore from sea. I stood by her when she struck on this here reef, ripped open from stem to stern; and I'm standing by her now, 'cording to the old Captain's orders, yet."
"Ye may be right," said Brother Bart, reflectively. "It's not for me to judge ye, Jeroboam." (Brother Bart never shortened that Scriptural title.) "But I bless the Lord day and night that I was not called to the sea.—What is it the boys are after now!" he added, with an anxious glance at the boat in which laddie and Dan had ventured out beyond his call.
"Lobsters," replied Captain Jeb. "Them's Neb's lobster pots bobbing up thar, and they've got a catch that will give us a dinner fit for a king."
"It's all to your taste," said Brother Bart. "Barrin' fast days, of which I say nothing, I wouldn't give a good Irish stew for all the fish that ever swam the seas. But laddie is thrivin' on the food here, I must say. There's a red in his cheeks I haven't seen for months; but what with the rocks and the seas and the Devil's Jaw foreninst them, it will be the mercy of God if I get the four boys safe home."
"You needn't fear," was the cheering assurance. "They are fine, strapping fellows, and a touch of sailor life won't harm them; though it's plain them two big chaps and little Polly's boys are used to softer quarters. But for a long voyage I'd ship Mate Danny before any of them."
"Ye would?" asked Brother Bart.
"Aye," answered Captain Jeb, decisively. "Don't fly no false colors, sticks to his job, ready to take hold of anything from a lobster pot to a sheet anchor,—honest grit straight through. Lord, what a ship captain he would make! But they don't teach navigation at your school."
"I don't know," answered Brother Bart. "I'm not book-learned, as I've told ye; but there's little that isn't taught at St. Andrew's that Christian lads ought to know; to say nothing of God's holy law, which is best of all; but of navigation I never hear tell. I'm thinking it can't be much good."
"No good!" repeated the Captain, staring. "Navigation no good! Lord! You're off your reckoning thar sure, Padre. Do you know what navigation means? It means standing on your quarter-deck and making your ship take its way over three thousand miles of ocean straight as a bird flies to its nest; it means holding her in that ar way with the waves a-swelling mountain high and the wind a-bellowing in your rigging, and a rocky shore with all its teeth set to grind her in your lee; it means knowing how to look to the sun and the stars when they're shining, and how to steer without, them when the night is too black to see. Where would you and I be now, Padre, if a navigator that no landlubbers could down had not struck out without map or chart to find this here America of ours hundreds of years ago?"
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Brother Bart. "But there seems to be sense and truth in what you say. It's a pity you haven't the light of Faith."
"What would it do for me!" asked Captain Jeb, briefly.
"What would it do for you?" repeated Brother Bart. "Sure it's in the black darkness you are, my man, or ye wouldn't ask. It's sailing on the sea of life ye are without sun or stars, and how ye are to find the way to heaven I don't know. Do ye ever say a prayer, Jeroboam?"
"No," was the gruff answer. "That's your business, Padre. The Lord don't expect no praying from rough old salts like me."
"Sure and He does,—He does," said Brother Bart, roused into simple earnestness. "What is high or low to Him? Isn't He the Lord and Maker of the land and sea? Doesn't He give ye life and breath and strength and health and all that ye have? And to stand up like a dumb brute under His eye and never give Him a word of praise or thanks! I wonder at ye, Jeroboam,—I do indeed! Sure ye'd be more dacent to any mortal man that gave ye a bit and sup; but what ye're not taught, poor man, ye can't know. Listen now: ye're to take us to church to-morrow according to your bargain."
"Yes," said the Captain, gruffly; "but thar warn't no bargain about preaching and praying and singing."
"Sure I don't ask it,", said Brother Bart, sadly. "You're in haythen darkness, Jeroboam, and I haven't the wisdom or the knowledge or the holiness to lade ye out; but there's one prayer can be said in darkness as well as in light. All I ask ye to do is to stand for a moment within the church and turn your eyes to the lamp that swings like a beacon light before the altar and whisper the words of that honest man in the Bible that didn't dare to go beyant the holy door, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner!' Will ye do that?"
"Wal, since that's all ye ask of me, Padre," said Captain Jeb, reflectively, "I can't say no. I've thought them words many a time when the winds was a-howling and the seas a-raging, and it looked as if I was bound for Davy Jones' Locker before day; but I never knew that was a fair-weather prayer. But I'll say it as you ask; and I'll avow, Padre, that, for talking and praying straight to the point, you beat any preacher or parson I ever heard yet."
"Preach, is it!" exclaimed Brother Bart. "Sure I never preached in my life, and never will. But I'll hold ye to your word, Jeroboam; and, with God's blessing, we'll be off betimes to-morrow morning.—Here come the boys: and, Holy Mother, look at the boatful of clawing craythurs they have with them!"
"Lobsters, Brother Bart!" shouted Freddy, triumphantly. "Lobsters, Captain Jeb! Fine big fellows. I'm hungry as three bears."
XIII.—AT BEACH CLIFF.
Brother Bart and his boys were up betimes for their Sunday journey. Breakfast was soon dispatched, and four sunburned youngsters were ready for their trip to town. Dud and Jim, who had been lounging around Killykinick in sweaters and middies, were spruced up into young gentlemen again. Freddy's rosy cheeks were set off by a natty little sailor suit and cap; while Dan scarcely recognized himself in one of the rigs presented by Brother Francis, that bore the stamp of a stylish tailor, and that had been sponged and pressed and mended by the kind old wardrobian until it was quite as good as new.
The day was bright and beautiful, sky and sea seemed smiling on each other most amicably. The "Sary Ann" was in the best of spirits, and the wind in the friendliest of moods.
"Sit steady, boys, and don't be philandering!" warned Brother Bart, anxiously. "It looks fair and aisy enough, but you can drown in sun as well as storm. Keep still there, laddie, or ye'll be over the edge of the boat. Sure it's an awful thing to think that there's only a board between ye and the judgment-seat of God."
And Brother Bart shook his head, and relapsed into meditation befitting the peril of his way; while the "Sary Ann" swept on, past rock and reef and shoal, out into the wide blue open, where the sunlit waves were swelling in joyous freedom, until the rocks and spires of Beech Cliff rose dimly on the horizon; white-winged sails began to flutter into sight; wharves and boat-houses came into view, and the travellers were back in the busy world of men again.
"It feels good to be on God's own earth again," said Brother Bart, as he set foot on the solid pier, gay just now with a holiday crowd; for the morning boat was in, and the "Cliff Dwellers," as the residents of the old town were called at livelier seaside resorts, were out in force to welcome the new arrivals.
"This is something fine!" said Dud to Jim, as they made their way through the chatting, laughing throng, and caught the lilt of the music on the beach beyond, where bathers, reckless of the church bells' call, were disporting themselves in the sunlit waves. "It's tough, with a place like this so near, to be shut up on a desert island for a whole vacation. I say, Jim, let's look up the Fosters after Mass, and see if we can't get a bid to their house for a day or two. We'll have some fun there."
"I don't know," answered easy Jim. "Killykinick is good enough for me. You have to do so much fussing and fixing when you are with girls. Still, now we are here, we might as well look around us."
So when Mass in the pretty little church was over, and Brother Bart, glad to be back under his well-loved altar light, lingered at his prayers, the boys, who had learned from Captain Jeb that they had a couple of hours still on their hands, proceeded to explore the quaint old town, with its steep, narrow streets, where no traffic policemen were needed; for neither street cars nor automobiles were allowed to intrude.
In the far long ago, Beach Cliff had been a busy and prosperous seaport town. The great sailing vessels of those days, after long and perilous voyage, made harbor there; the old shipmasters built solid homes on the island shores; its merchants grew rich on the whaling vessels, that went forth to hunt for these monsters of the great deep, and came back laden with oil and blubber and whalebone and ambergris. But all this was changed now. Steam had come to supplant the white wings that had borne the old ships on their wide ocean ways. As Captain Jeb said, "the airth had taken to spouting up ile," and made the long whale hunts needless and unprofitable. But, though it had died to the busy world of commerce and trade, the quaint old island town had kept a charm all its own, that drew summer guests from far and near.
Dud and Jim made for the resident streets, where old Colonial mansions stood amid velvety lawns, and queer little low-roofed houses were buried in vines and flowers. But Dan and Freddy kept to the shore and the cliff, where the old fishermen had their homes, and things were rough and interesting. They stopped at an old weather-beaten house that had in its low windows all sorts of curious things—models of ships and boats, odd bits of pottery, rude carvings, old brasses and mirrors,—the flotsam and jetsam from broken homes and broken lives that had drifted into this little eddy.
The proprietor, a bent and grizzled old man, who stood smoking at the door, noticed the young strangers.
"Don't do business on Sundays; but you can step in, young gentlemen, and look about you. 'Twon't cost you a cent: and I've things you won't see any-whar else on this Atlantic coast,—brass, pottery, old silver, old books, old papers, prints of rare value and interest. A Harvard professor spent two hours the other day looking over my collection."
"Is it a museum?" asked Freddy politely, as he and Dan peered doubtful over the dusky threshold.
"Wal, no, not exactly; though it's equal to that, sonny. Folks call this here Jonah's junk-shop,—Jonah being my Christian name. (I ain't never had much use for any other.) I've been here forty years, and my father was here before me,—buying and selling whatever comes to us. And things do come to us sure, from copper kettles that would serve a mess of sixty men, down to babies' bonnets."
"Babies' bonnets!" laughed Dan, who, with Freddy close behind him, had pushed curiously but cautiously into the low, dark room, from which opened another and another, crowded with strangely assorted merchandise.
"You may laugh," said the proprietor, "but we've had more than a dozen trunks and boxes filled with such like folderols. Some of 'em been here twenty years or more,—shawls and bonnets and ball dresses, all frills and laces and ribbons; baby bonnets, too, all held for duty and storage or wreckage and land knows what. Flung the whole lot out for auction last year, and the women swarmed like bees from the big hotels and the cottages. Got bits of yellow lace, they said, for ten cents that was worth many dollars. The men folks tried to 'kick' about fever and small-pox in the old stuff, but not a woman would listen. Look at that now!" And the speaker paused under a chandelier that, even in the dusky dimness, glittered with crystal pendants. "Set that ablaze with the fifty candles it was made to hold, and I bet a hundred dollars wouldn't have touched it forty years ago. Ye can buy it to-morrow for three and a quarter. That's the way things go in Jonah's junk-shop."
"And do you ever really sell anything?" asked Dan, whose keen business eye, being trained by early bargaining for the sharp needs of life, could see nothing in Jonah's collection worth a hard-earned dollar. Mirrors with dingy and broken frames loomed ghost-like up in the dusky corners; tarnished epaulets and sword hilts told pathetically of forgotten honors; there were clocks, tall and stately, without works or pendulum.
"Sell?" echoed the proprietor. "Of course, sonny, we sell considerable, specially this time of year when the rich folks come around,—folks that ain't looking for stuff that's whole or shiny. And they do bite curious, sure. Why, there was some sort of a big man come up here in his yacht a couple of years ago that gave me twenty-five dollars for a furrin medal,—twenty-five dollars cash down. And it wasn't gold or silver neither. Said he knew what it was worth, and I didn't."
"Twenty-five dollars!" exclaimed the astonished Freddy,—"twenty-five dollars for a medal! O Dan, then maybe yours is worth something, too."
"Pooh, no!" said Dan, "what would poor old Nutty be doing with a twenty-five dollar medal?"
The dull eyes of the old junk dealer kindled with quick interest.
"Hev you got a medal?" he asked. "Where did you get it?"
"From a batty old sailor man who thought I had done him some good turns," answered Dan. "Where he got it he didn't say. I don't think he could remember."
And Dan, whose only safe deposit for boyish treasures was his jacket pocket, pulled out the gift that Freddy had refused, and showed it to this new acquaintance, who, holding it off in his horny hand, blinked at it with practised eye.
"Portugee or Spanish, I don't know which it says on that thar rim. Thar ain't much of it silver. I'd have to rub it up to be sure of the rest. Date, well as I can make out, it's 1850."
"It is," said Dan. "I made that much out myself."
Old Jonah shook his head.
"Ain't far enough back. Takes a good hundred years to make an antique. Still, you can't tell. The ways of these great folks are queer. Last week I sold for five dollars a bureau that I was thinking of splitting up into firewood; and the woman was as tickled as if she had found a purse of money. Said it was Louey Kans. Who or what she was I don't know; mebbe some kin of hers. I showed her the break plain, for I ain't no robber; but she said that didn't count a mite,—that she could have a new glass put in for ten dollars. Ten dollars! Wal, thar ain't no telling about rich folks' freaks and foolishness; so I can't say nothing about that thar medal. It ain't the kind of thing I'd want to gamble on. But if you'd like to leave it here on show. I'll take care of it, I promise you; and mebbe some one may come along and take a notion to it."
"Oh, what's the good?" said Dan, hesitating.
"Dan, do—do!" pleaded Freddy, who saw a chance for the vacation pocket money his chum so sorely lacked. "You might get twenty-five dollars for it, Dan."
"He might," said old Jonah; "and then again he mightn't, sonny. I ain't promising any more big deals like them I told you about. But you can't ever tell in this here junk business whar or when luck will strike you. It goes hard agin my old woman to hev all this here dust and cobwebs. She has got as tidy a house as you'd ask to see just around the corner,—flower garden in front, and everything shiny. But if I'd let her in here with a bucket and broom she'd ruin my business forever. It's the dust and the rust and the cobwebs that runs Jonah's junk-shop. But it's fair and square. I put down in writing all folks give me to sell, and sign my name to it. If you don't gain nothing, you don't lose nothing."
Dan was thinking fast. Twenty-five dollars,—twenty-five dollars! There was only a chance, it is true; and a very slim chance at that. But what would twenty-five dollars mean to him, to Aunt Winnie? For surely and steadily, in the long, pleasant summer days, in the starlit watches of the night, his resolution was growing: he must live and work for Aunt Winnie; he could not leave her gentle heart to break in its loneliness, while he climbed to heights beyond her reach; he could not let her die, while he dreamed of a future she would never see. Being only a boy, Dan did not put the case in just such words. He only felt with a fierce determination that, in spite of the dull pain in his heart at the thought, he must give up St. Andrew's when this brief seaside holiday was past, and work for Aunt Winnie. And a little ready cash to make a new start in Mulligan's upper rooms would help matters immensely. Just now he had not money enough for a fire in the rusty little stove, or to move Aunt Winnie and her old horsehair trunk from the Little Sisters.
"All right!" he said, with sudden resolve. "Take the medal and try it."
And old Jonah, who was not half so dull as, for commercial purposes, he looked, turned to an old mahogany desk propped up on three legs, and gave the young owner a duly signed receipt for one silver-rimmed bronze medal, date 1850, and the business was concluded.
"Suppose you really get twenty-five dollars, Dan," said Freddy, as they bade old Jonah good-bye and kept on their way. "What will you do with it?"
"I'm not saying," replied Dan, mindful of his promise to Father Mack. "But I'll start something, you can bet, Freddy!"
And then they went on down to the wharf, where the "Sary Ann" lay at her moorings, and Brother Bart was seated on a bench in pleasant converse with the Irish sexton of the little church, who had been showing the friendly old Brother some of the sights of the town.
"Here come my boys now. This is Dan Dolan, and this is my own laddie that I've been telling ye about, Mr. McNally. And where—where are the others?" questioned Brother Bart, anxiously.
"I don't know," answered Dan, after he had reciprocated Mr. McNally's hearty hand-shake. "Dud said something about going to the Fosters."
"Sure and that isn't hard to find," said Mr. McNally. "It's one of the biggest places on Main Street, with hydrangeas growing like posies all around the door. Any one will show ye."
"Go back for them, Danny lad. Ye can leave laddie here with me while ye bring the others back; for the day is passing, and we must be sailing home."
Main Street was not hard to find, neither seemed the Fosters. A corner druggist directed Dan without hesitation to a wide, old-fashioned house, surrounded by lawns and gardens, in which the hydrangeas—blue, pink, purple—were in gorgeous summer bloom. But, though the broad porch was gay with cushions and hammocks, no boys were in sight; and, lifting the latch of the iron gate, Dan was proceeding up the flower-girdled path to the house, when the hall door burst open and a pretty little girl came flying down the steps in wild alarm.
"Bobby!" she cried. "My Bobby is out! Bobby is gone! Oh, somebody catch Bobby, please,—somebody catch my Bobby!"
A gush of song answered the wail. Perched upon the biggest and pinkest of the hydrangeas was a naughty little canary, its head on one side warbling defiantly in the first thrill of joyous freedom. Its deserted mistress paused breathlessly. A touch, a movement, she knew would send him off into sunlit space beyond her reach forever.
Quick-witted Dan caught on to the situation. A well-aimed toss of his cap, and the hydrangea blooms were quivering under the beat of the captive's fluttering wings. Dan sprang forward and with a gentle, cautious hand grasped his prisoner.
"Oh, oh, oh!" was all the little lady could cry, clasping her hands rapturously. "Don't—don't hurt him, please!"
"I won't," was the answer. "But get his cage quick; for he's scared to death at my holding him."
Bobby's mistress darted into the house at the word, and reappeared again in a moment with a gilded palace that was surely all a bird could ask for.
"O Bobby, Bobby!" she murmured reproachfully, as Dan deposited his subdued and trembling captive behind the glittering bars. "When you had this lovely new cage and everything you wanted!"
"No, he hadn't," said Dan, conscious of a sudden sympathy with his feathered prisoner. "He has wings and wants to use them."
"But he couldn't find seed or chickweed for himself, and the cats and hawks would have had him before morning. Oh, I'm so glad to get him back safe I don't know how to thank you for catching him for me!" And the little lady lifted a pair of violet eyes, that were still sparkling with tears, to her benefactor's face.
"Pooh! It wasn't anything," said Dan, shyly.
"Yes, it was. You threw your cap fine. My brothers couldn't have done it, I know. They would have just laughed and teased, and let Bobby fly away forever. You are the nicest boy I ever saw," continued Bobby's mistress, who was at the age when young ladies speak their mind frankly. "What is your name?"
"Dan Dolan," was the reply, with the smile that showed Aunt Winnie's boy at his best. "Let me carry your bird cage to the house for you. It is too heavy for a little girl."
"Oh, thank you! But I'm not such a little girl as you think: I am nearly ten years old," said the young lady, as Dan took up Bobby and his cage, and they proceeded up the broad gravelled path to the house; "and my name is Polly Forester, and—"
"Forester!" blurted out Dan. "Then I'm on the wrong track. They told me this was the Foster house."
"Oh, no!" Miss Polly shook her head, that, with its golden brown ringlets, looked very much like a flower itself. "This has been our house for more than a hundred years. My grandfather lived here, and my great-grandfather and all my grandfathers. One of them fought with George Washington; we've got his sword. Would you like to see it?" asked Miss Polly, becoming graciously hospitable as they approached the porch.
"I'm afraid I haven't time," answered Dan. "You see, I'm looking for two of our fellows. We're a lot of St. Andrew's boys off for the summer, and the boat is waiting to take us back to Killykinick."
"Oh, are you staying there?" asked the young lady, with wide-eyed interest. "I've passed it often in dad's yacht."
"Polly dear!" called a sweet voice, and a grown-up image of that young person came hurriedly out on the porch,—a lovely lady, all in soft trailing white and blue ribbons. "What is the matter? Your cry woke me out of a sound sleep and put me all in a flutter."
"O mamma dear, I'm sorry! But it was Bobby. He flew out of his cage when I was trying to teach him to perch on my hand, and got away. He would have gone forever if this nice boy had not caught him for me! His name is Dan Dolan, mamma, and he is staying at Killykinick with a lot of college boys. Dan is looking for the other boys, who are at the Fosters; and some one told him this was the house, and he came just in time to catch my Bobby under his cap, and—"
"The Fosters?" interrupted mamma, who was used to clearing up things for Polly. "Probably you are looking for Colonel Foster, who came down last week," she continued, turning a smiling face to Dan. "They have rented the Pelham cottage for the summer. You know where that is, Polly?"
"Oh, yes!" answered the little lady, cheerfully. "You take care of Bobby, mamma, and I'll show Dan the short cut through our garden."
And she darted ahead through an old-fashioned maze, where tall box hedges were clipped into queer shapes around beds of gay blooming flowers. Then, swinging open a vine-wreathed gate, Dan's little guide led into a steep narrow way paved with cobblestones.
"Pelham cottage is just up there," she said, "at the top of Larboard Lane."
"And here the boys come now!" exclaimed Dan, as the sound of familiar voices reached his ear, and down the lane came a laughing, chattering group,—Minna Foster, and her sister Madge and brother Jack gleefully escorting Jim and Dud back to the boat, and claiming the promises of speedy return to Beach Cliff.
Dan hailed his schoolmates, explained his search and his mistake, and they were all taking their way down the stony path together,—Polly being of the sort to make friends at once with every nice boy or girl within reach.
"Isn't she the cutest thing?" said Minna Foster, who had fallen behind with Dud. "We have just been dying to know them; but her mother is an invalid, and doesn't go out much, though they are the finest people in Beach Cliff, mamma says. They have lots of money, and the loveliest old home filled with all sorts of beautiful things, and horses and carriages and a big yacht."
"And Dan Dolan has struck it with them," said Dud, watching Miss Polly's dancing along loyally by her nice boy's side. "Dan Dolan! Can't you give them a tip about him."
"A tip?" echoed Minna, puzzled.
"Yes," said Dud, his brow darkening. "People like that don't want to know such low-down chumps as Dan Dolan. Why, he's in St. Andrew's on charity; hasn't got a decent rag to his back except what we give him there; used to shine shoes and sell papers on the streets. His aunt is in the poorhouse or something next to it; he's just a common tough, without a cent to call his own."
"Goodness!" gasped Miss Minna. "Then what is he doing up here with boys like you?"
"Pushed in," answered Dud, hotly. "He has enough nerve to push anywhere. St. Andrew's gives a scholarship at the parochial school, and he won it; and, as he hadn't any place to go this summer, they bunched him in with us. But you can see what he is at one look."
"Oh, I did,—I did!" murmured Miss Minna. "I saw at the very first that he was not our sort; but, being with nice boys like you, I thought he must be all right. He isn't bad-looking, and such nerve for a bootblack! Just look how he is making up to little Polly Forester!"
To an impartial observer it would have really seemed the other way. Polly herself was "making up" most openly to this nicest boy she ever saw. Tripping along by Dan's side, she was extending a general invitation, in which Dan was specialized above all others.
"I am going to have a birthday party next week, and I want you to come, and bring all the other boys from Killykinick. It's the first party I've ever had; but mamma is feeling better this year, and I'll be ten years old, and she's going to have things just lovely for me,—music and dancing, and ice-cream made into flowers and birds, and a Jack Horner pie with fine presents in it. Wouldn't you like to come, Dan?"
"You bet!" was the ready answer; for a party of young persons like Miss Polly was, from his outlook, a very simple affair. "When is it coming off?"
"Thursday," said Polly,—"Thursday evening at six, in our garden. And you needn't dress up. Boys hate to dress up, I know; Tom and Jack won't go any place where they have to wear stiff collars."
"I'm with them there," rejoined Dan. "Had to get into one on Commencement Day, and never want to try another."
"You see, I don't care for some boys," said the expectant hostess, confidentially. "All Tom's and Jack's friends are in long trousers. Some girls like that, but I don't: they look too grown up, and they stand around and tease, and won't play games, and are just horrid. You would play games, I'm sure."
"Just try me at them," answered Dan, grinning.
"Oh, I know you would! So I want you all to come," said Miss Polly, who, having reached her own gateway, paused for a general good-bye. "I don't know your names, but I want you all to come with Dan to my party."
"If we can get here," replied Dan. "Captain Jeb wouldn't trust us to sail his boat, and I don't know that he could come with us."
"Oh, he will,—he must!" persisted Polly.
"He ain't the will-and-must kind," said Dan, nodding.
"Then maybe I can send for you," the little lady went on eagerly. "My cousins are coming over from Rock-haven on dad's yacht, and I'll make them stop at Killykinick and bring you all with them to my party."
And, with a gay little nod that included all her nice boys, little Miss Polly disappeared among the hydrangeas; while the others kept on down to the wharf, where the "Sary Ann" was already swinging out her dingy sail, and Brother Bart was growing anxious and nervous.
Merry good-byes were spoken, and very soon the boys were on their homeward way, with Beach Cliff vanishing in the distance. There had been no bids to the Fosters' cottage, which was already filled with grown-up guests. Dud was sullen and disappointed; lazy Jim a little tired; while Freddy, seated in the bottom of the boat, dropped his curly head on Brother Bart's knee and went off to sleep. But to Dan the day had been a most pleasant experience, a glimpse of a friendly, beautiful world whose gates he had never thought to pass; and Aunt Winnie's Dan was very happy as he steered the "Sary Ann" over a smiling summer sea without a clouding shadow.
"How did you push in so quick to the Foresters?" sneered Dud.
"Looking for two lost donkeys," retorted Dan, who was learning to give Dud as good as he sent.
"Maybe you think you'll get there again," said Dud. "Well you won't, I can tell you that. It was all very well to make up so strong to a little fool girl; but they are the tiptoppers of Beach Cliff, and you won't hear any more of Miss Polly's yacht or her party."
"I'm not worrying over that, are you?" said Dan, philosophically. "You look as if you had a grouch on about something."
"I have," blurted out Dud fiercely. "I hate this horrid Killykinick and everything on it; and I'm not going to be mixed up before decent people with roughs and toughs that are fit only to black my boots—like you, Dan Dolan!"
For a moment Dan's blue eyes flashed, his strong arm quivered. Every hardy nerve was tingling to strike out at the insolent speaker who lost no opportunity to fling a scornful word. But this beautiful day had left holy as well as happy memories. Dan had knelt at Brother Bart's side before the altar light, that through all his hard rough young life had been Aunt Winnie's boy's beacon,—a beacon that had grown clearer and brighter with his advancing years, until it seemed to rise above earth into the dazzling radiance of the stars. Its steady light fell upon his rising passion now, and his fury broke as the swelling surf breaks upon the beacon rock—into foam and spray.
"It is a sort of mix up, I must say," he answered. "But I'm out of the bootblack business for good and all; so what are you going to do about it?"
"Cut the whole lot," said Dud, "just as soon as I can get money enough to do it."
"Well, I won't cry after you, I'm sure," retorted Dan, good-humoredly; though there was a spark in his eye that told the fire was smoldering still, as even under the beacon light such fires sometimes do.
But a stentorian shout from Captain Jeb put an end to the altercation.
"Wind's a-veering! Swing round that ar boom, matey Dan! Duck, the rest of you boys,—duck—quick!"
Freddy was asleep, with his head pillowed safely on Brother Bart's knee. Jim was dozing in the stern, out of harm's reach; but on Dud, seated at the edge of the boat and fuming with rage and pride, the warning fell unheeded. As the sail swung round there was s splash, a shriek.
"He's overboard! God have mercy on us!" cried Brother Bart, roused from his third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary.
"Didn't I tell you to duck, ye rascal?" roared Captain Jeb, to whom a tumble like this seemed only a boy's fool trick. "Back aboard with ye, ye young fool! Back—aboard! Don't ye know there's sharks about in these waters? Lord, ef he ain't gone down!"
"He can't—can't swim!" And Jim, who had started up half awake and who could swim like a duck, was just about to plunge after Dud, when he caught the word that chilled even his young blood to ice—sharks! Jim knew what sharks meant. He had seen a big colored man in his own Southern waters do battle with one, and had sickened at the memory ever since.
"A rope,—a rope!" thundered Captain Jeb, whose right leg had been stiffened for all swimming in deep waters ten years ago. "If he goes down again, it's forever."
"O God have mercy! God have mercy!" prayed Brother Bart, helplessly; while Freddy shrieked in shrill alarm.
In that first wild moment of outcry Dan had stood breathless while a tide of feeling swept over him that held him mute, motionless. Dud! It was Dud who had been swept over into those foaming, seething depths. Dud, whose stinging words were still rankling in his thoughts and heart; Dud, who hated, scorned, despised him; Dud who could not swim, and—and there were sharks,—sharks!
Dan was trembling now in every strong limb,—trembling, it seemed to him, in body and soul. Sharks! Sharks! And it was Dud.—Dud who had said Dan was fit only to black his boots!
"O God have mercy! Mother Mary—Mother Mary save him!" prayed Brother Bart.
At the words Dan steadied,—steadied to the beacon light,—steadied into Aunt Winnie's boy again.
"Don't scare, Brother Bart!" rang out his clear young voice. "I'll get him."
"Dan! Dan!" shrieked Freddy, as, with the practised dive of the Wharf Rats, the lithe young form plunged into the water. "O Dan,—my Dan, the sharks will get you, too! Come back! Come back, Dan!"
Dan caught the words as he struck out blindly, desperately, almost hopelessly, through depths such as he had never braved before. For this was not the safe land-bound harbor; this was not the calm lap of the river around the sheltering wharf; this was a world of waters, seething, surging roaring around him, peopled with hunting creatures hungry for prey.
"Dan, Dan!" came his little chum's piercing cry as he rose for breath.
"Come back, ye fool!" thundered Captain Jeb. "He's gone, I tell ye,—the boy is gone down!"
But even at the shout something dark swept within touch of Dan's outstretched arm; he made a clutch at it and grasped Dud,—Dud choking, gasping, struggling,—Dud, who sinking for the last time, caught Dan in a grip that meant death for both of them.
"Let go!" spluttered Dan, fiercely,—"let go! Let go or we'll drown together!" And then, as the deadly clutch only tightened, Dan did what all Wharf Rats knew they must do in such cases—struck out with the full strength of his hardy young fist, and, knocking the clinging Dud's fast-failing wits completely out of him, swam back with his helpless burden to the "Sary Ann."
"The Lord, matey, but you are a game un!" said Captain Jeb, as he and Jim dragged Dud aboard.
"Ah, God have mercy upon the poor lad's soul! It's dead entirely he is!" sobbed Brother Bart.
"Not a bit of it!" said Dan, scrambling up the side of the "Sary Ann." "He's just knocked out. I had to knock him out, or he would have pulled me down with him. Roll him over a little, so he can spit out the water, and he'll be all right."
"Sure he is,—he is!" murmured Brother Bart, as Dud began to cough and splutter encouragingly. "It's gone forever I thought he was, poor lad! Oh, God bless you for this day's work, Dan Dolan,—bless you and keep you His forever!"
"It was a close shave for all hands," said Captain Jeb, permitting himself a long-drawn sigh of relief, as Dan, after shaking himself like a water-dog, sank down, a little pale and breathless, at his side. "And you were what most folk would call a consarned fool, matey. Didn't you hear me say these 'ere waters had sharks in 'em?"
"Yes," said Dan, whose eyes were fixed upon a drift of sunlit cloud in the distance.
"Then what the deuce did you do it for?" said Captain Jeb, severely.
"Couldn't let a fellow drown," was the brief answer.
"Warn't nothing special to you, was he?" growled the old sailor, who was still fiercely resentful of his "scare." "Ain't ever been perticular nice or soft spoken as I ever heard to you. And you jumping in to be gobbled by sharks, for him, like he was your own twin brother! You're a fool, matey,—a durn young fool!"
And Dan, who understood his old sailor friend, only laughed,—laughed while his eyes still followed the drift of swinging cloud fringing the deep blue of the sky. They were like the robe of the only Mother he had ever known,—the sweet Mother on whom Brother Bart had called to save Dud. And Dan had heard and obeyed and he felt with a happy heart his Mother was smiling on him now.
But to Dud this thrilling adventure left no pleasant memories. He was sick for several days from his overdose of salt water, weak and nervous from fright and shock: there was a bruise over his eye from the saving impact of Dan's sturdy fist, which he resented unreasonably. More than all, he resented the chorus that went up from all at Killykinick in praise of Dan's heroism.
Jim testified openly and honestly that the cry of "Sharks" got him, and he couldn't have dared a plunge in those waters to save his own brother.
"I saw a nigger cut in half by one of those man-eaters once, and it makes my flesh creep to think of it."
Even dull-witted old Neb rose to show appreciation of Dan's bold plunge, and said he "reckoned all boys wuth anything did sech fool tricks some times."
Good old Brother Bart felt it was a time for warning and exhortation, which Dud found altogether exasperating.
"Sure it's on your knees you ought to go morning and evening to thank God for bold, brave Dan Dolan. If it hadn't been for him, it's food for the fishes ye'd be now. The Lord was merciful to ye, lad; for I'm misdoubting if ye were fit for heaven. Though it's not for me to judge, ye have a black look betimes, as if God's grace wasn't in yer heart. This ought to be a lesson to ye, a lesson that ye should never forget."
"I'm not likely to forget it," was the grim answer. "I couldn't if I tried."
"And I'm glad to hear ye say so," said the simple-minded old Brother. "I'm thinking sometimes ye're not over friendly with Dan. It was a rough bating he gave ye before we left the college." (Dud's black looks grew blacker at the memory.) "But he has more than made it up to ye now, for he has given ye back yer life."
"And what are you going to give him for it, Dud?" questioned Freddy confidentially, as the good Brother moved away.
"Give who?" growled Dud, who was sick and sore and savage over the whole experience, and, strange to say—but such are the peculiarities of some natures,—felt as if he hated his preserver more than ever.
"Why, Dud!" continued Freddy. "You always give a person something when he saves your life. Dick Walton told me that a man saved him when he was carried out in the surf last summer, and his father gave the man a gold watch."
"So Dan Dolan wants a gold watch, does he?" said Dud.
"Oh, no!" answered Freddy, quite unconscious of the sneer in the question. "I don't think Dan wants a gold watch at all. He would not know what to do with one. But if I were you," continued Dan's little chum, his eyes kindling with loyal interest, "I'd make it a pocket-book,—a nice leather pocket-book, with a place for stamps and car tickets and money, and I'd just fill it chock full. You see, Dan hasn't much pocket money. He pulled out his purse the other day at Beach Cliff to get a medal that was in it, and he had only a nickel and two stamps to write to his aunt."
"So your brave Dan is striking for ready cash, is he?" said Dud, in a tone that even innocent Freddy could not mistake, and that Dan coming up the beach with a net full of kicking lobsters, caught in all its sting.
"Ready cash," he asked, looking from one to the other. "For what?"
"Pulling me out of the water the other day," answered Dud. "Freddy says you're expecting pay for it."
"Well, I'm not," said Dan, the spark flashing into his blue eyes. "You're 'way off there, Freddy, sure."
"Oh, I didn't mean,—I didn't say," began poor little Freddy, desperately. "I only thought people always got medals or watches or something when they saved other people, and I told Dud—"
"Never mind what you told him, kid" (Dan laid a kind hand on his little chum's shoulder); "you mean it all right, I know. But Dud" (the spark in the speaker's eye flashed brighter,)—"Dud didn't."
"I did," said Dud. "My father will pay you all you want."
Then Dan blazed up indeed into Irish fire.
"I don't want his pay: I wouldn't touch it. You ain't worth it, Dud Fielding."
"Ain't worth what? My father is worth a million," said Dud quickly.
"That for his million!" and Dan snapped his two fishy fingers under Dud's Grecian nose. "You ain't worth a buffalo nickel, Dud Fielding; and I wouldn't ask one for saving your measly little life."
And Dan went off with his lobsters, in a wrath almost fiery enough to boil them alive. Pay!—pay for that wild plunge into watery depths—the doubt, the fear, the icy terror of hungry monsters around him! Dud Fielding was offering him pay for this, very much as he might fling pay to him for blacking his boots. Ah, it was a fierce, bad moment for Dan! His beacon light vanished; murky clouds of passion were blackening dream and vision; he felt he could cheerfully pitch Dud back to the sharks again. And then, as still hot and furious, he strode back with his lobsters to old Ned, Freddy, who was remorsefully following him—remorseful at having stirred up a row,—piped up in sudden excitement:
"O Dan, look—look what's coming here to Killykinick! Dan, just look!"
Dan turned at the cry. Past Numskull Nob, making her cautious, graceful way through rocks and shoals, was a beautiful white-winged yacht, her mast gay with pennants. One, fluttering wide to the breeze, showed her name, "The Polly."
XVI.—A NEW EXPERIENCE
Dan stood staring in blank amazement, while Freddy's voice rose into shriller triumph:
"Jim, Dud, Brother Bart, look,—look what is coming here!"
She was coming indeed, this white-winged stranger, swaying to the right and left under skilful guidance as she made her way to the Killykinick wharf; for her rugged old Captain knew the perils of the shore. And under the gay awnings that shaded the deck was a merry group of young people, waving their handkerchiefs to the rocky island they were approaching; while Polly's big handsome "dad," in white linen yachting togs, pointed out the ship house and the wharf, the tower and garden patch,—all the improvements that queer old Great-uncle Joe had made on these once barren rocks. Polly's dad had known about the old captain and his oddities all his life. Indeed, once in his very early years as he now told his young listeners, he had made a boyish foray in Great-uncle Joe's domain, and had been repelled by the old sailor with a vigor never to be forgotten.
"I never had such a scientific thrashing in my life," laughed dad, as if he rather enjoyed the remembrance. "We were playing pirate that summer. I had a new boat that we christened the 'Red Rover,' after Cooper's story; and we rigged her up with a pirate flag, and proceeded to harry the coast and do all the mischief that naughty twelve-year-olds can do. Finally, I proposed, as a crowning adventure, a descent upon Killykinick, pulling down old Joey Kane's masthead and smashing his lantern. Well, we caught a Tartar there, I can tell you! The old captain never had any use for boys. And to think of the place being full of them now!"
"Oh, no, dad! There are only four," said Polly,—"four real nice boys from St. Andrew's College, and just the right size to come to my party. O Nell, Gracie, look! There they come!"
And the handkerchiefs fluttered again gleefully as "The Polly" made up to the wharf, and the whole population of Killykinick turned out to greet her,—even to Brother Bart, who had been reading his well-worn "Imitation" on the beach; and Neb, who, with the bag of potatoes he had just dug up, stood staring dumbly in the distance.