BLOW THE MAN DOWN
A ROMANCE OF THE COAST
By Holman Day
Copyright, 1916, by Harper & Brothers
TO MY GOOD FRIEND
Captain John W. Christie
BRITISH MASTER MARINER WHO HAS SUNG ALL THE SHANTIES AND HAS SAILED ALL THE SEAS
"O, blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down! Way-ay, blow the man down. O, blow the man down in Liverpool town! Give me some time to blow the man down." —Old Shanty of the Atlantic Packet Ships.
I ~ CAPTAIN BOYD MAYO GETS OUT OF SOUNDINGS
II ~ THEN CAPTAIN MAYO SEES SHOALS
III ~ THE TAVERN OF THE SEAS
IV ~ OVER THE "POLLY'S" RAIL
V ~ ON THE BRIDGE OF YACHT "OLENIA"
VI ~ AND WE SAILED
VII ~ INTO THE MESS FROM EASTWARD
VIII ~ LIKE BUGS UNDER A THIMBLE
IX ~ A MAN'S JOB
X ~ HOSPITALITY, PER JULIUS MARSTON
XI ~ A VOICE FROM HUE AND CRY
XII ~ NO PLACE POR THE SOLES OP THEIR FEET
XIII ~ A CAPTAIN OP HUMAN FLOTSAM
XIV ~ BEARINGS FOR A NEW COURSE
XV ~ THE RULES OF THE ROAD
XVI ~ MILLIONS AND A MITE
XVII ~ "EXACTLY!" SAID MR. FOGG
XVIII ~ HOW AN ANNUAL MEETING WAS HELD—ONCE!
XIX ~ THE PRIZE PACKAGE FROM MR. FOGG
XX ~ TESTING OUT A MAN
XXI ~ BITTER PROOF BY MORNING LIGHT
XXII ~ SPECIAL BUSINESS OF A PASSENGER
XXIII ~ THE MONSTER THAT SLIPPED ITS LEASH
XXIV ~ DOWN A GALLOPING SEA
XXV ~ A GIRL AND HER DEBT OF HONOR
XXVI ~ THE FANGS OF OLD RAZEE
XXVII ~ THE TEMPEST TURNS ITS CARD
XXVIII ~ GIRL'S HELP AND MAN'S WORK
XXIX ~ THE TOILERS OF OLD RAZEE
XXX ~ THE MATTER OP A MONOGRAM IN WAX
XXXI ~ THE BIG FELLOW HIMSELF
XXXII ~ A GIRL'S DEAR "BECAUSE!"
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
I ~ CAPTAIN BOYD MAYO GETS OUT OF SOUNDINGS
When in safety or in doubt, Always keep a safe lookout; Strive to keep a level head, Mind your lights and mind your lead. —Pilot-house Ditty.
For days he had been afraid of that incredible madness of his as a man fears a nameless monster. But he was sure of his strength even while admitting his weakness. He was confident that he had the thing securely in leash.
Then all at once it happened!
Without preface of word or look he whirled and faced her, swept her into his arms and kissed her. He did not attempt to absolve himself or mitigate his offense by telling her that he loved her. He was voiceless—he could not control his speech. He did not dare to show such presumption as talk of love must seem to be to her. He knew he must not speak of love; such proffer to her would be lunacy. But this greater presumption, this blind capture of her in his arms—this was something which he had not intended any more than a sane man considers flight to the moon.
He did not understand; he had been himself—then, instantly, in time measured by a finger-snap, he had become this wretch who seemed to be somebody else.
He had ceased, for an insane moment, to be master of all his senses. But he released her as suddenly as he had seized her, and staggered to the door of the chart-room, turning his back on her and groaning in supreme misery.
In that moment of delirium he had insulted his own New England sense of decency and honor.
He was afraid to look back at her. With an agony of apprehension he dreaded the sound of her voice. He knew well enough that she was striving to get command of herself, to recover from her utter amazement. He waited. The outrage must have incensed her beyond measure; the silence was prolonged.
In the yacht's saloon below a violin sang its very soul out upon the summer night, weaving its plaint into the soft, adagio rippling of a piano's chords.
He searched his soul. The music, that distant, mellow phrasing of the call of love, the music had unstrung him. While he paced the bridge before her coming that music had been melting the ice of his natural reserve. But he did not pardon himself because he had acted the fool.
He stared at the night framed in the door of the chart-house. Little waves were racing toward him, straight from the moon, on the sea-line, like a flood of new silver pouring from the open door of plenty!
But the appealing beauty of that night could not excuse the unconscionable insult he had just offered her. He knew it, and shivered.
She had come and leaned close to him over the outspread chart, her breath on his cheek—so close to him that a roving tress of her hair flicked him. But because a sudden fire had leaped from the touch to his brain was no reason for the act by which he had just damned himself as a presumptuous brute.
For he, Boyd Mayo, captain of her father's yacht, a hireling, had just paid the same insulting courtship to Alma Marston that a sailor would proffer to an ogling girl on the street.
"I'll jump overboard," he stammered at last. "I'll take myself out of your sight forever."
The ominous silence persisted.
"I don't ask you to forgive me. It is not a thing which can be forgiven. Tell them I was insane—and jumped overboard. That will be the truth. I am a lunatic."
He lurched through the door. In that desperate moment, in the whirl of his emotions, there seemed to be no other way out of his horrible predicament. He had grown to love the girl with all the consuming passion of his soul, realizing fully his blind folly at the same time. He had built no false hopes. As to speaking of that love—even betraying it by a glance—he had sheathed himself in the armor of reserved constraint; he had been sure that he sooner would have gone down on his hands and knees and bayed that silver moon from the deck of the yacht Olenia than do what he had just done.
"Captain Mayo! Wait!"
He waited without turning to look at her. Her voice was not steady, but he could not determine from the tone what her emotions were.
"Come back here!"
She was obliged to repeat the command with sharper authority before he obeyed. He lowered his eyes and stood before her, a voiceless suppliant.
"Why did you do that?" she asked. It was not the contemptuous demand which he had been fearing. Her voice was so low that it was almost a whisper.
"I don't know," he confessed.
The violin sang on; the moon shone in at the door; two strokes, like golden globules of sound, from the ship's bell signaled nine o'clock. Only the rhythm of the engines, as soothing as a cat's purring, and the slow roll of the yacht and the murmuring of the parted waves revealed that the Olenia was on her way through the night.
"I don't know," he repeated. "It doesn't excuse me to say that I could not help it."
And he understood women so little that he did not realize that he was making the ages-old plea which has softened feminine rancor ever since the Sabine women were borne away in their captors' arms and forgave their captors.
She stared at him, making once more a maiden's swift appraisal of this young man who had offered himself so humbly as a sacrifice. His brown hands were crossed in front of him and clutched convulsively his white cap. The cap and the linen above the collar of his uniform coat brought out to the full the hue of his manly tan. The red flush of his shocked contrition touched his cheeks, and, all in all, whatever the daughter of Julius Marston, Wall Street priest of high finance, may have thought of his effrontery, the melting look she gave him from under lowered eyelids indicated her appreciation of his outward excellencies.
"I suppose you are thoroughly and properly ashamed of what you have done!"
"I am ashamed—so ashamed that I shall never dare to raise my eyes to you again. I will do what I promised. I will jump overboard."
"Captain Mayo, look at me!"
When he obeyed, with the demeanor of a whipped hound, his perturbation would not allow him to show as much appreciation of her as she had displayed in the secret study of him, which she now promptly concealed. He surveyed her wistfully, with fear. And a maiden, after she has understood that she has obtained mastery over brawn and soul, does not care to be looked at as if she were Medusa.
She stole a side-glance at her face in one of the mirrors, and then tucked into place a vagrant lock of hair with a shapely finger, thereby suggesting, had there been a cynical observer present, that Miss Alma Marston never allowed any situation, no matter how crucial, to take her attention wholly from herself.
There was no mistaking it—had that cynical observer been there, he would have noted that she pouted slightly when Mayo declared his unutterable shame.
"You will never get over that shame, will you?"
And Captain Mayo, feverishly anxious to show that he understood the enormity of his offense, and desiring to offer pledge for the future, declared that his shame would never lessen.
Her dark eyes sparkled; whether there was mischief mingled with resentment, or whether the resentment quite supplanted all other emotions, might have been a difficult problem for the cynic. But when she tilted her chin and stared the offender full in the eyes, propping her plump little hands in the side-pockets of her white reefer, Captain Mayo, like a man hit by a cudgel, was struck with the sudden and bewildering knowledge that he did not know much about women, for she asked, with a quizzical drawl, "Just what is there about me, dear captain, to inspire that everlasting regret which seems to be troubling you so much?"
Even then he did not grasp the full import of her provocative question. "It isn't you. I'm the one who is wholly to blame," he stammered. "I have dared to—But no matter. I know my place. I'll show you I know it."
"You dared to—What have you dared to do—besides what you just did?"
"I cannot tell you, Miss Marston. I don't propose to insult you again."
"I command you to tell me, Captain Mayo."
He could not comprehend her mood in the least and his demeanor showed it. Her command had a funny little ripple in it—as of laughter suppressed. There were queer quirks at the corners of her full, red lips.
"Now straighten up like your real self! I don't like to see you standing that way. You know I like to have all the folks on the yachts look at our captain when we go into a harbor! You didn't know it? Well, I do. Now what have you dared to do?"
He did straighten then. "I have dared to fall in love with you, Miss Marston. So have a lot of other fools, I suppose. But I am the worst of all. I am only a sailor. How I lost control of myself I don't know!"
"Not even now?" Still that unexplainable softness in her voice, that strange expression on her face. Being a sailor, he looked on this calm as being ominous presage of a storm.
"I am willing to have you report me to your father, Miss Marston. I will take my punishment. I will never offend you again."
"You can control yourself after this, can you?"
"Yes, Miss Marston, absolutely."
She hesitated; she smiled. She lowered her eyelids again and surveyed him with the satisfied tolerance a pretty woman can so easily extend when unconquerable ardor has prompted to rashness.
"Oh, you funny, prim Yankee!" she murmured. "You don't understand even now just why you did it!"
His face revealed that he did not in the least understand.
"Come here," she invited.
He went three steps across the narrow cabin and stood in an attitude of respectful obedience before her.
"What now, sir?" It was query even more provocative—a smile went with it.
"I apologize. I have learned my lesson."
"You need to learn a lot—you are very ignorant," she replied, with considerable tartness.
"Yes," he agreed, humbly.
What happened then was so wholly outside his reckoning that the preceding events of the evening retired tamely into the background. It had been conceivable that rush of passion might drive him to break all the rules of conduct his New England conscience had set over him; but what Alma Marston did overwhelmed him with such stupefaction that he stood there as rigid and motionless as a belaying-pin in a rack. She put up her arms, pressed her two hands on his shoulders, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him on his lips.
"There, foolish old Yankee," she said, softly, her mouth close to his; "since you are so ashamed I give you back your kiss—and all is made right between us, because we are just where we started a little while ago."
His amazement had so benumbed him that even after that surrender he stood there, close to her, his countenance blank, his arms dangling at his side.
"What on earth is the matter with you?" she asked, petulantly.
"I don't know! I—I—I don't seem to understand."
"I'm going to be honest with you. You are so honest you will understand me, then," she told him. It seemed to him that he must be mistaken, but he certainly felt her arms were slipping up his shoulders and had met behind his neck. "I saw it in your eyes long ago. A woman always knows. I wanted you to do what you did to-night. I knew I would be obliged to tempt you. I came up here while the moon and the music would help me. I did it all on purpose—I stood close to you—for I knew you were just my slow old Yankee who would never come out of his shell till I poked. There! I have confessed!"
His mad joy did not allow him to see anything of the coquette in that confession. It all seemed to be consecrated by the love he felt for her—a love which was so honest that he perceived no boldness in the attitude of this girl who had come so far to meet him. He took her into his arms again, and she returned his kisses.
"Tell me again, Boyd, that you love me," she coaxed.
"And yet I have no right to love you. You are—"
"Hush! Hush! There goes your Yankee caution talking! I want love, for I am a girl. Love hasn't anything to do with what you are or what I am. Not now! We will love each other—and wait! You are my big boy! Aren't you?"
He was glad to comply with her plea to put sensible talk from them just then. There was nothing sensible he could say. He was holding Julius Marston's daughter in his arms, and she was telling him that she loved him. The world was suddenly upside down and he was surrendering himself to the mad present.
In the yacht's saloon below a woman began to sing:
"Love comes like a summer sigh, Softly o'er us stealing. Love comes and we wonder why To its shrine we're kneeling. Love comes as the days go by—"
"That's it," the girl murmured, eagerly. "We don't know anything at all about why we love. Folks who marry for money make believe love—I have watched them—I know. I love you. You're my big boy. That's all. That's enough."
He accepted this comforting doctrine unquestioningly. Her serene acceptance of the situation, without one wrinkle in her placid brow to indicate that any future problems annoyed her, did not arouse his wonderment or cause him to question the depths of her emotions; it only added one more element to the unreality of the entire affair.
Moon and music, silver sea and glorious night, and a maid who had been, in his secret thoughts, his dream of the unattainable!
"Will you wait for me—wait till I can make something of myself?" he demanded.
"You are yourself—right now—that's enough!"
"But the future. I must—"
"Love me—love me now—that's all we need to ask. The future will take care of itself when the time comes! Haven't you read about the great loves? How they just forgot the whole petty world? What has love to do with business and money and bargains? Love in its place—business in its place! And our love will be our secret until—"
He pardoned her indefiniteness, for when she paused and hesitated she pressed her lips to his, and that assurance was enough for him.
"Yes—oh yes—Miss Alma!" called a man's voice in the singsong of eager summons.
"It's Arthur," she said, with snap of impatience in her voice. "Why won't people let me alone?"
He released her, and she stood at arm's-length, her hands against his breast. "I have thought—It seemed to me," he stammered, "that he—Forgive me, but I have loved you so! I couldn't bear to think—think that he—"
"You thought I cared for him!" she chided. "That's only the man my father has picked out for me! Why, I wouldn't even allow my father to select a yachting-cap for me, much less a husband. I'll tell him so when the time comes!"
Mayo's brows wrinkled in spite of himself. The morrow seemed to play small part in the calculations of this maid.
"Money—that's all there is to Arthur Beveridge. My father has enough money for all of us. And if he is stingy with us—oh, it's easy enough to earn money, isn't it? All men can earn money."
Captain Mayo, sailor, was not sure of his course in financial waters and did not reply.
"Miss Alma! I say! Oh, where are you?"
"Even that silly, little, dried-up man," she jeered, with a duck of her head in the direction of the drawling voice, "goes down to Wall Street and makes thousands and thousands of dollars whenever he feels like it. And you could put him in your reefer pocket. They will all be afraid of you when you go down to Wall Street to make lots of money for us two. You shall see! Kiss me! Kiss me once! Kiss me quick! Here he comes!"
He obeyed, released her, and when Beveridge shoved his wizened face in at the door they were bending over the chart.
"Oh, I say, we have missed you. They are asking for you."
She did not turn to look at him. "I have something else on my mind, Arthur, besides lolling below listening to Wally Dalton fiddle love-tunes. And this passage, here, Captain Mayo! What is it?" Her finger strayed idly across a few hundred miles of mapped Atlantic Ocean.
"It's Honeymoon Channel," replied the navigator, demurely. His new ecstasy made him bold enough to jest.
"Oh, so we are learning to be a captain, Miss Alma?" inquired Beveridge with a wry smile.
"It would be better if more yacht-owners knew how to manage their own craft," she informed him, with spirit.
"Yes, it might keep the understrappers in line," agreed the man at the door.. "I apply for the position of first mate after you qualify, Captain Alma."
"And this, you say, is, Captain Mayo?" she queried, without troubling herself to reply. Her tone was crisply matter of fact.
Beveridge blinked at her and showed the disconcerted uneasiness of a man who has intruded in business hours.
Captain Mayo, watching the white finger rapturously, noted that it was sweeping from the Arctic Circle to the Tropic Zone. "That's Love Harbor, reached through the thoroughfare of Hope," he answered, respectfully.
"Oh, I say!" exclaimed Beveridge; "the sailors who laid out that course must have been romantic."
"Sailors have souls to correspond with their horizon, Arthur. Would you prefer such names as Cash Cove and Money-grub Channel?"
Mr. Beveridge cocked an eyebrow and stared at her eloquent back; also, he cast a glance of no great favor on the stalwart young captain of the Olenia. It certainly did not occur to Mr. Beveridge that two young folks in love were making sport of him. That Julius Marston's daughter would descend to a yacht captain would have appeared as incredible an enormity as an affair with the butler. But there was something about this intimate companionship of the chart-room which Mr. Beveridge did not relish. Instinct rather than any sane reason told him that he was not wanted.
"I'm sorry to break in on your studies, Miss Marston," he said, a bit stiffly. "But I have been sent by your father to call you to the cabin." Mr. Beveridge's air, his tone of protest, conveyed rather pointed hint that her responsibilities as a hostess were fully as important as her studies as a navigator.
"I must go," she whispered.
Relief was mingled with Captain Mayo's regret. He had feared that this impetuous young woman might rebel against the summons, even though the word came from her father. And her persistent stay in his chart-room, even on the pretext of a fervid interest in the mysteries of navigation, might produce complications. This wonderful new joy in his life was too precious to be marred by complications.
She trailed her fingers along his hand when she turned from the chart-table, and then pinched him in farewell salute.
"Good night, Captain Mayo. I'll take another lesson to-morrow."
"I am at your service," he told her.
Their voices betrayed nothing, but Beveridge's keen eyes—the eyes which had studied faces in the greatest game of all when fortunes were at stake—noted the look they exchanged. It was long-drawn, as expressive as a lingering kiss.
Mr. Beveridge, sanctioned in his courtship by Julius Marston, was not especially worried by any inferences from that soft glance. He could not blame even a coal-heaver who might stare tenderly at Miss Alma Marston, for she was especially pleasing to the eye, and he enjoyed looking at her himself. He was enough of a philosopher to be willing to have other folks enjoy themselves and thereby give their approbation to his choice. He excused Captain Mayo. As to Miss Marston, he viewed her frivolity as he did that of the other girls whom he knew; they all had too much time on their hands.
"Give the poor devils a chance, Alma. Don't tip 'em upside down," he advised, testily, when she followed him down the ladder. He stood at the foot and offered his hand, but she leaped down the last two steps and did not accept his assistance. "Now, you have twisted that skipper of ours until he doesn't know north from south."
"I do not care much for your emphasis on the 'now,'" she declared, indignantly. "You seem to intimate that I am going about the world trying to beguile every man I see."
"That seems to be the popular indoor and outdoor sport for girls in these days," he returned with good humor. "Just a moment ago you were raising the very devil with that fellow up there with your eyes. Of course, practice makes perfect. But you're a good, kind girl in your heart. Don't make 'em miserable."
Mr. Beveridge's commiseration would have been wasted on Captain Boyd Mayo that evening. The captain snapped off the light in the chart-room as soon as they had departed, and there in the gloom he took his happiness to his heart, even as he had taken her delicious self to his breast. He put up his hands and pressed his face into the palms. He inhaled the delicate, subtle fragrance—a mere suggestion of perfume—the sweet ghost of her personality, which she had left behind. Her touch still thrilled him, and the warmth of her last kiss was on his lips.
Then he went out and climbed the ladder to the bridge. A peep over the shoulder of the man at the wheel into the mellow glow under the hood of the binnacle, showed him that the Olenia was on her course.
"It's a beautiful night, Mr. McGaw," he said to the mate, a stumpy little man with bowed legs, who was pacing to and fro, measuring strides with the regularity of a pendulum.
"It is that, sir!"
Mr. McGaw, before he answered, plainly had difficulty with something which bulged in his cheek. He appeared, also, to be considerably surprised by the captain's air of vivacious gaiety. His superior had been moping around the ship for many days with melancholy spelled in every line of his face.
"Yes, it's the most beautiful and perfect night I ever saw, Mr. McGaw." There was triumph in the captain's buoyant tones.
"Must be allowed to be what they call a starry night for a ramble," admitted the mate, trying to find speech to fit the occasion.
"I will take the rest of this watch and the middle watch, Mr. McGaw," offered the captain. "I want to stay up to-night. I can't go to sleep."
The offer meant that Captain Mayo proposed to stay on duty until four o'clock in the morning.
Mate McGaw fiddled a gnarled finger under his nose and tried to find some words of protest. But Captain Mayo added a crisp command.
"Go below, Mr. McGaw, and take it easy. You can make it up to me some time when there is no moon!" He laughed.
When all the cabin lights were out and he realized that she must be asleep, he walked the bridge, exulting because her safety was in his hands, but supremely exultant because she loved him and had told him so.
Obedience had been in the line of his training.
She had commanded him to live and love in the present, allowing the future to take care of itself, and it afforded him a sense of sweet companionship to obey her slightest wish when he was apart from her. Therefore, he put aside all thoughts of Julius Marston and his millions—Julius Marston, his master, owner of the yacht which swept on under the moon—that frigid, silent man with the narrow strip of frosty beard pointing his chin.
Mayo walked the bridge and lived and loved.
II ~ THEN CAPTAIN MAYO SEES SHOALS
There's naught upon the stern, there's naught upon the lee, Blow high, blow low, and so sailed we. But there's a lofty ship to windward, And she's sailing fast and free, Sailing down along the coast of the high Barbaree. —Ancient Shanty.
The skipper of the Olenia found himself dabbling in guesses and wonderment more than is good for a man who is expected to obey without asking the reason why.
That cruise seemed to be a series of spasmodic alternations between leisurely loafing and hustling haste.
There were days when he was ordered to amble along at half speed offshore. Then for hours together Julius Marston and his two especial and close companions, men of affairs, plainly, men of his kind, bunched themselves close together in their hammock chairs under the poop awning and talked interminably. Alma Marston and her young friends, chaperoned by an amiable aunt—so Captain Mayo understood her status in the party—remained considerately away from the earnest group of three. Arthur Beveridge attached himself to the young folks.
From the bridge the captain caught glimpses of all this shipboard routine. The yacht's saunterings offshore seemed a part of the summer vacation.
But the occasional hurryings into harbors, the conferences below with men who came and went with more or less attempt at secrecy, did not fit with the vacation side of the cruise.
These conferences were often followed by orders to the captain to thread inner reaches of the coast and to visit unfrequented harbors.
Captain Mayo had been prepared for these trips, although he had not been informed of the reason. It was his first season on the yacht Olenia. The shipping broker who had hired him had been searching in his inquiries as to Mayo's knowledge of the byways of the coast. The young man who had captained fishermen and coasters ever since he was seventeen years old had found it easy to convince the shipping broker, and the shipping broker had sent him on board the yacht without the formality of an interview with the owner.
Mayo was informed curtly that there was no need of an interview. He was told that Julius Marston never bothered with details.
When Julius Marston had come on board with his party he merely nodded grim acknowledgment of the salute of his yacht's master, who stood at the gangway, cap in hand.
The owner had never shown any interest in the management of the yacht; he had remained abaft the main gangway; he had never called the captain into conference regarding any movements of the Olenia.
Captain Mayo, pacing the bridge in the forenoon watch, trying to grasp the full measure of his fortune after troubled dreams of his master's daughter, recollected that he had never heard the sound of Julius Marston's voice. So far as personal contact was concerned, the yacht's skipper was evidently as much a matter of indifference to the owner as the yacht's funnel.
Orders were always brought forward by a pale young man who was taciturn even to rudeness, and by that trait seemed to commend himself to Marston as a safe secretary.
At first, Alma Marston had brought her friends to the bridge. But after the novelty was gone they seemed to prefer the comfort of chairs astern or the saloon couches.
For a time the attentive Beveridge had followed her when she came forward; and then Beveridge discovered that she quite disregarded him in her quest for information from the tall young man in uniform. She came alone.
And after that what had happened happened.
She came alone that forenoon. He saw her coming. He had stolen a glance aft every time he turned in his walk at the end of the bridge. He leaned low and reached down his hand to assist her up the ladder.
"I have been nigh crazy all morning. But I had to wait a decent time and listen to their gossip after breakfast," she told him, her face close to his as she came up the ladder. "And, besides, my father is snappy to-day. He scolded me last night for neglecting my guests. Just as if I were called on to sit all day and listen to Nan Burgess appraise her lovers or to sing a song every time Wally Dalton has his relapse of lovesickness. He has come away to forget her, you know." She chuckled, uttering her funny little gurgle of a laugh which stirred in him, always, a desire to smother it with kisses.
They went to the end of the bridge, apart from the man at the wheel.
"I hurried to go to sleep last night so that I could dream of you, my own big boy."
"I walked the bridge until after daylight. I wanted to stay awake. I could not bear to let sleep take away my thoughts."
"What is there like love to make this world full of happiness? How bright the sun is! How the waves sparkle! Those folks sitting back there are looking at the same things we are—or they can look, though they don't seem to have sense enough. And about all they notice is that it's daylight instead of night. My father and those men are talking about money—just money—that's all. And Wally has a headache from drinking too much Scotch. And Nan Burgess doesn't love anybody who loves her, But for us—oh, this glorious world!"
She put out her arms toward the sun and stared boldly at that blazing orb, as though she were not satisfied with what her eyes could behold, but desired to grasp and feel some of the glory of outdoors. If Captain Mayo had been as well versed in psychology as he was in navigation he might have drawn a few disquieting deductions from this frank and unconscious expression of the mood of the materialist. She emphasized that mood by word.
"I'll show you my little clasp-book some day, big boy. It's where I write my verses. I don't show them to anybody. You see, I'm telling you my secrets! We must tell each other our secrets, you and I! I have put my philosophy of living into four lines. Listen!
"The future? Why perplex the soul? The past? Forget its woe and strife! Let's thread each day, a perfect whole, Upon our rosary of Life."
"It's beautiful," he told her.
"Isn't it good philosophy?"
"Yes," he admitted, not daring to doubt the high priestess of the new cult to which he had been commandeered.
"It saves all this foolish worry. Most of the folks I know are always talking about the bad things which have happened to them or are peering forward and hoping that good things will happen, and they never once look down and admire a golden moment which Fate has dropped into their hands. You see, I'm poetical this morning. Why shouldn't I be? We love each other."
"I don't know how to talk," he stammered. "I'm only a sailor. I never said a word about love to any girl in my life."
"Are you sure you have never loved anybody? Remember, we must tell each other our secrets."
"Never," he declared with convincing firmness.
She surveyed him, showing the satisfaction a gold-seeker would exhibit in appraising a nugget of virgin ore. "But you are so big and fine! And you must have met so many pretty girls!"
He was not restive under this quizzing. "I have told you the truth, Miss Marston."
"For shame, big boy! 'Miss Marston,' indeed! I am Alma—Alma to you. Say it! Say it nicely!"
He flushed. He stole a shamefaced glance at the-wheelsman and made a quick and apprehensive survey of the sacred regions aft.
"Are you afraid, after all I have said to you?"
"No, but it seems—I can hardly believe—"
"Alma," he gulped. "Alma, I love you."
"You need some lessons, big boy. You are so awkward I think you are telling me the truth about the other girls."
He did not dare to ask her whether she had loved any one else. With all the passionate jealousy of his soul he wanted to ask her. She, who was so sure that she could instruct him, must have loved somebody. He tried to comfort himself by the thought that her knowledge arose from the efforts either men had made to win her.
"We have our To-day," she murmured. "Golden hours till the moon comes up—and then perhaps a few silver ones! I don't care what Arthur guesses. My father is too busy talking money with those men to guess. I'm going to be with you all I can. I can arrange it. I'm studying navigation."
She snuggled against the rail, luxuriating in the sunshine.
"Who are you?" she asked, bluntly.
That question, coming after the pledging of their affection, astonished him like the loom of a ledge in mid-channel.
"It's enough for me that you are just as you are, boy! But you're not a prince in disguise, are you?"
"I'm only a Yankee sailor," he told her. "But if you won't think that I'm trying to trade on what my folks have been before me, I'll say that my grandfather was Gamaliel Mayo of Mayoport."
"That sounds good, but I never heard of him. With all my philosophy, I'm a poor student of history, sweetheart." Her tone and the name she gave him took the sting out of her confession.
"I don't believe he played a great part in history. But he built sixteen ships in his day, and our house flag circled the world many times. Sixteen big ships, and the last one was the Harvest Home, the China clipper that paid for herself three times before an Indian Ocean monsoon swallowed her."
"Well, if he made all that money, are you going to sea for the fun of it?"
"There are no more Yankee wooden ships on the sea. My poor father thought he was wise when the wooden ships were crowded off. He put his money into railroads—and you know what has happened to most of the folks who have put their money into new railroads."
"I'm afraid I don't know much about business."
"The hawks caught the doves. It was a game that was played all over New England. The folks whose money built the roads were squeezed out. Long before my mother died our money was gone, but my father and I did not allow her to know it. We mortgaged and gave her what she had always been used to. And when my father died there was nothing!"
Her eyes glistened. "That's chivalry," she cried. "That's the spirit of the knights of old when women were concerned. I adore you for what you did!"
"It was the way my father and I looked at it," he said, mildly. "My father was not a very practical man, but I always agreed with him. And I am happy now, earning my own living. Why should I think my grandfather ought to have worked all his life so that I would not need to work?"
"I suppose it's different with a big, strong man and a woman. She needs so much that a man must give her."
Captain Mayo became promptly silent, crestfallen, and embarrassed. He stared aft, he looked at the splendid yacht whose finances he managed and whose extravagance he knew. He saw the girl at his side, and blinked at the gems which flashed in the sunlight as her fingers tucked up the locks of hair where the breeze had wantoned.
"I think my father works because he loves it," she said. "I wish he would rest and enjoy other things more. If mother had lived to influence him perhaps he would see something else in life instead of merely piling up money. But he doesn't listen to me. He gives me money and tells me to go and play. I miss my mother, boy! I haven't anybody to talk with—who understands!"
There were tears in her eyes, and he was grateful for them. He felt that she had depths in her nature. But keen realization of his position, compared with hers, distressed him. She stood there, luxury incarnate, mistress of all that money could give her.
"Anybody can make money," she declared. "My father and those men are sitting there and building plans to bring them thousands and thousands of dollars. All they need to do is put their heads together and plan. Every now and then I hear a few words. They're going to own all the steamboats—or something of that kind. Anybody can make money, I say, but there are so few who know how to enjoy it."
"I have been doing a lot of thinking since last night—Alma." He hesitated when he came to her name, and then blurted it out.
"Do you think it is real lover-like to treat my name as if it were a hurdle that you must leap over?" she asked, with her aggravating little chuckle. "Oh, you have so much to learn!"
"I'm afraid so. I have a great many things ahead of me to learn and do. I have been thinking. I have been afraid of the men who sit and scheme and put all their minds on making money. They did bitter things to us, and we didn't understand until it was all over. But I must go among them and watch them and learn how to make money."
"Don't be like the others, now, and talk money—money," she said, pettishly. "Money and their love-affairs—that's the talk I have heard from men ever since I was allowed to come into the drawing-room out of the nursery!"
"But I must talk money a little, dear. I have my way to make in the world."
"Thrifty, practical, and Yankee!" she jested. "I suppose you can't help it!"
"It isn't for myself—it's for you!" he returned, wistfully, and with a voice and demeanor he offered himself as Love's sacrifice before her—the old story of utter devotion—the ancient sacrifice.
"I have all I want," she insisted.
"But I must be able to give you what you want!"
"I warn you that I hate money-grubbers! They haven't a spark of romance in them. Boyd, you'd be like all the rest in a little while. You mustn't do it."
"But I must have position—means before I dare to go to your father—if I ever shall be able to go to him!"
"Go to him for what?"
"To ask him—to say—to—well, when we feel that I'm in a position where we can be married—"
"Of course we shall be married some day, boy, but all that will take care of itself when the time comes. But now you are— How old are you, Boyd?"
"And I am nineteen. And what has marriage to do with the love we are enjoying right now?"
"When folks are in love they want to get married."
"Granted! But when lovers are wise they will treat romance at first as the epicure treats his glass of good wine. They will pour it slowly and hold the glass up against the light and admire its color!" In her gay mood she pinched together thumb and forefinger and lifted an imaginary glass to the sun. "Then they will sniff the bouquet. Ah-h-h, how fragrant! And after a time they will take a little sip—just a weeny little sip and hold it on the tongue for ever so long. For, when it is swallowed, what good? Oh, boy, here are you—talking first of all about marriage! Talking of the good wine of life and love as if it were a fluid simply to satisfy thirst. We are going to love, first of all! Come, I will teach you."
He did not know what to say to her. There was a species of abandon in her gaiety. Her exotic language embarrassed one who had been used to mariners' laconic directness of speech. She looked at him, teasing him with her eyes. He was a bit relieved when the pale-faced secretary came dragging himself up the ladder and broke in on the tete-a-tete.
"Mr. Marston's orders are, Captain Mayo, that you turn here and go west. Do you know the usual course of the Bee line steamers?"
"He requests you to turn in toward shore and follow that course."
"Very well, sir." Captain Mayo walked to the wheel. "Nor' nor'west, Billy, until I can give you the exact course."
"Nor' nor'west!" repeated the wheelsman, throwing her hard over, and the Olenia came about with a rail-dipping swerve and retraced her way along her own wake of white suds.
Miss Marston preceded the captain down the ladder and went into the chart-room. "A kiss—quick!" she whispered.
He held her close to him for a long moment.
"You are a most obedient captain," she said.
When he released her and went at his task, she leaned upon his shoulder and watched him as he straddled his parallels across the chart.
"We'll run to Razee Reef," he told her, eager to make her a partner in all his little concerns. "The Bee boats fetch the whistler there so as to lay off their next leg. I didn't know that Mr. Marston was interested in the Bee line."
"I heard him talking about that line," she said, indifferently. "Sometimes I listen when I have nothing else to do. He used a naughty word about somebody connected with that company—and it's so seldom that he allows himself to swear I listened to see what it was all about. I don't know even now. I don't understand such things. But he said if he couldn't buy 'em he'd bu'st 'em. Those were his words. Not very elegant language. But it's all I remember."
Before he left the chart-room Mayo took a squint at the barometer. "I'm sorry he has ordered me in toward the coast," he said. "The glass is too far below thirty to suit me. I think it means fog."
"But it's so clear and beautiful," she protested.
"It's always especially beautiful at sea before something bad happens," he explained, smiling. "And there has been a big fog-bank off to s'uth'ard for two days. It's a good deal like life, dear. All lovely, and then the fog shuts in!"
"But I would be happy with you in the fog," she assured him.
He glowed at her words and answered with his eyes.
She would have followed him back upon the bridge, but the steward intercepted her. He had waited outside the chart-room.
"Mr. Marston's compliments, Miss Marston! He requests you to join him at cards."
She pouted as she gave back Mayo's look of annoyance, and then obeyed the mandate.
Mr. Marston was stroking his narrow strip of chin beard with thumb and forefinger when she arrived on the quarter-deck. The men of business were below, and he motioned to a hammock chair beside him.
"Alma, for the rest of this cruise I want you to stay back here with our guests where you belong," he commanded with the directness of attack employed by Julius Marston in his dealings with those of his menage.
"What do you mean, father?"
"That—exactly. I was explicit, was I not?"
"But you do not intimate that—that I have—"
"Well?" Mr. Marston believed in allowing others to expose their sentiments before he uncovered his own.
"You don't suggest that there is anything wrong in my being on the bridge where I enjoy myself so much. I am trying to learn something about navigation."
"I am paying that fellow up there to attend to all that."
"And it gets tiresome back here."
"You selected your own company for the cruise—and there is Mr. Beveridge ready to amuse you at any time."
"Mr. Beveridge amuses me—distinctly amuses me," she retorted. "But there is such a thing as becoming wearied even of such a joke as Mr. Beveridge."
"You will please employ a more respectful tone when you refer to that gentleman," said her father, with severity. But he promptly fell back into his usual mood when she came into his affairs. He was patronizingly tolerant. "Your friend, Miss Burgess, has been joking about your sudden devotion to navigation, Alma."
"Nan Burgess cannot keep her tongue still, even about herself."
"I know, but I do not intend to have you give occasion even for jokes. Of course, I understand. I know your whims. You are interested, personally, in that gold-braided chap about as much as you would be interested in that brass thing where the compass is—whatever they call it."
"But he's a gentleman!" she cried, her interest making her unwary. "His grandfather was—"
"Alma!" snapped Julius Marston. His eyes opened wide. He looked her up and down. "I have heard before that an ocean trip makes women silly, I am inclined to believe it. I don't care a curse who that fellow's grandfather was. You are my daughter—and you keep off that bridge!"
The men of business were coming up the companion-way, and she rose and hurried to her stateroom.
"I don't dare to meet Nan Burgess just now," she told herself. "Friendships can be broken by saying certain things—and I feel perfectly capable of saying just those things to her at this moment."
In the late afternoon the Olenia, the shore-line looming to starboard, shaped her course to meet and pass a big steamer which came rolling down the sea with a banner of black smoke flaunting behind her.
The fog which Captain Mayo had predicted was coming. Wisps of it trailed over the waves—skirmishers sent ahead of the main body which marched in mass more slowly behind.
A whistling buoy, with its grim grunt, told all mariners to 'ware Razee Reef, which was lifting its jagged, black bulk against the sky-line. With that fog coming, Captain Mayo needed to take exact bearings from Razee, for he had decided to run for harbor that night. That coastline, to whose inside course Marston's orders had sent the yacht, was too dangerous to be negotiated in a night which was fog-wrapped. Therefore, the captain took the whistler nearly dead on, leaving to the larger steamer plenty of room in the open sea.
With considerable amazement Mayo noticed that the other fellow was edging toward the whistler at a sharper angle than any one needed. That course, if persisted in, would pinch the yacht in dangerous waters. Mayo gave the on-coming steamer one whistle, indicating his intention to pass to starboard. After a delay he was answered by two hoarse hoots—a most flagrant breach of the rules of the road.
"That must be a mistake," Captain Mayo informed Mate McGaw.
"That's a polite name for it, sir," averred Mr. McGaw, after he had shifted the lump in his cheek.
"Of course he doesn't mean it, Mr. McGaw."
"Then why isn't he giving us elbow-room on the outside of that buoy, sir?"
"I can't swing and cross his bows now. If he should hit us we'd be the ones held for the accident."
Again Mayo gave the obstinate steamer a single whistle-blast.
"If he cross-signals me again I'll report him," he informed the mate. "Pay close attention, Mr. McGaw, and you, too, Billy. We may have to go before the inspectors."
But the big chap ahead of them did not deign to reply. He kept on straight at the whistler.
"Compliments of Mr. Marston!" called the secretary from the bridge ladder. "What steamer is that?"
"Conorno of the Bee line, sir," stated Captain Mayo over his shoulder. Then he ripped out a good, hearty, deep-water oath. According to appearances, incredible as the situation seemed, the Conorno proposed to drive the yacht inside the whistler.
Mayo ran to the wheel and yanked the bell-pull furiously. There were four quick clangs in the engine-room, and in a moment the Olenia began to quiver in all her fabric. Going full speed ahead, Mayo had called for full speed astern. Then he sounded three whistles, signaling as the rules of the road provide. The yacht's twin screws churned a yeasty riot under her counter, and while she was laboring thus in her own wallow, trembling like some living thing in the extremity of terror, the big steamer swept past. Froth from the creamy surges at her bows flicked spray contemptuously upon Julius Marston and his guests on the Olenia's quarter-deck. Men grinned down upon them from the high windows of the steamer's pilot-house.
A jeering voice boomed through a megaphone: "Keep out of the way of the Bee line! Take the hint!"
An officer pointed his finger at Marston's house flag, snapping from the yacht's main truck. The blue fish-tail with its letter "M" had revealed the yacht's identity to searching glasses.
"Better make it black! Skull and cross-bones!" volunteered the megaphone operator.
On she went down the sea and the Olenia tossed in the turbulent wake of the kicking screws.
Then, for the first time, Captain Mayo heard the sound of Julius Marston's voice. The magnate stood up, shook his fist at his staring captain, and yelled, "What in damnation do you think you are doing?"
It was amazing, insulting, and, under the circumstances as Mayo knew them, an unjust query. The master of the Olenia did not reply. He was not prepared to deliver any long-distance explanation. Furthermore, the yacht demanded all his attention just then. He gave his orders and she forged ahead to round the whistler.
"Nor'west by west, half west, Billy. And cut it fine!"
The fog had fairly leaped upon them from the sea. The land-breeze had been holding back the wall of vapor, damming it in a dun bank to southward. The breeze had let go. The fog had seized its opportunity.
"Saturday Cove for us to-night, Mr. McGaw," said the master. "Keep your eye over Billy's shoulder."
Then the secretary appeared again on the ladder. This time he did not bring any "compliments."
"Mr. Marston wants you to report aft at once," he announced, brusquely.
Mayo hesitated a moment. They were driving into blankness which had shut down with that smothering density which mariners call "a dungeon fog." Saturday Cove's entrance was a distant and a small target. In spite of steersman and mate, his was the sole responsibility.
"Will you please explain to Mr. Marston that I cannot leave the bridge?"
"You have straight orders from him, captain! You'd better stop the boat and report."
The skipper of the Olenia was having his first taste of the unreasoning whim of the autocrat who was entitled to break into shipboard discipline, even in a critical moment. Mayo felt exasperation surging in him, but he was willing to explain.
The whistler and Razee Reef had been blotted out by the fog.
"If this vessel is stopped five minutes in this tide-drift we shall lose our bearings, sir. I cannot leave this bridge for the present."
"I'm thinking you'll leave it for good!" blurted the secretary. "You're the first hired man who ever told Julius Marston to go bite his own thumb."
"I may be a hired man," retorted Mayo. "But I am also a licensed shipmaster. I must ask you to step down off the bridge."
"Does that go for all the rest of the—passengers?" asked the secretary, angry in his turn. He dwelt on his last word. "It does—in a time like this!"
"Very well, I'll give them that word aft."
Captain Mayo caught a side glance from Mate McGaw after a time.
"I have often wondered," remarked the mate to nobody in particular, "how it is that so many damn fools get rich on shore."
Captain Mayo did not express any opinion on the subject. He clutched the bridge rail and stared into the fog, and seemed to be having a lot of trouble in choking back some kind of emotion.
III ~ THE TAVERN OF THE SEAS
Now, Mister Macliver, you knows him quite well, He comes upon deck and he cuts a great swell; It's damn your eyes there and it's damn your eyes here, And straight to the gangway he takes a broad sheer. —La Pique "Come-all-ye."
Into Saturday Cove, all during that late afternoon, they came surging—spars and tackle limned against the on-sweeping pall of the gray fog—those wayfarers of the open main.
First to roll in past the ledgy portals of the haven were the venerable sea-wagons—the coasters known as the "Apple-treers." Their weatherwise skippers, old sea-dogs who could smell weather as bloodhounds sniff trails, had their noses in the air in good season that day, and knew that they must depend on a thinning wind to cuff them into port. One after the other, barnacled anchors splashed from catheads, dragging rusty chains from hawse-holes, and old, patched sails came sprawling down with chuckle of sheaves and lisp of running rigging.
A 'long-coast shanty explains the nickname, "Apple-treers":
O, what's the use of compass or a quadrant or a log? Keep her loafin' on her mudhook in a norther or a fog. But as soon's the chance is better, then well ratch her off once more, Keepin' clost enough for bearings from the apple-trees ashore.
Therefore, the topsail schooners, the fore-and-afters, the Bluenose blunt-prows, came in early before the fog smooched out the loom of the trees and before it became necessary to guess at what the old card compasses had to reveal on the subject of courses.
And so, along with the rest of the coastwise ragtag, which was seeking harbor and holding-ground, came the ancient schooner Polly. Fog-masked by those illusory mists, she was a shadow ship like the others; but, more than the others, she seemed to be a ghost ship, for her lines and her rig informed any well-posted mariner that she must be a centenarian; with her grotesqueness accentuated by the fog pall, she seemed unreal—a picture from the past.
She had an out-thrust of snub bow and an upcock of square stern, and sag of waist—all of which accurately revealed ripe antiquity, just as a bell-crowned beaver and a swallow-tail coat with brass buttons would identify an old man in the ruck of newer fashions. She had seams like the wrinkles in the parchment skin of extreme old age. She carried a wooden figurehead under her bowsprit, the face and bust of a woman on whom an ancient woodcarver had bestowed his notion of a beatific smile; the result was an idiotic simper. The glorious gilding had been worn off, the wood was gray and cracked. The Polly's galley was entirely hidden under a deckload of shingles and laths in bunches; the after-house was broad and loomed high above the rail in contrast to the mere cubbies which were provided for the other fore-and-afters in the flotilla which came ratching in toward Saturday Cove.
The Polly, being old enough to be celebrated, had been the subject of a long-coast lyric of seventeen verses, any one of which was capable of producing most horrible profanity from Captain Epps Candage, her master, whenever he heard the ditty echoing over the waves, sung by a satirist aboard another craft.
In that drifting wind there was leisure; a man on board a lime-schooner at a fairly safe distance from the Polly found inclination and lifted his voice:
"Ow-w-w, here comes the Polly with a lopped-down sail, And Rubber-boot Epps, is a-settin' on her rail. How-w-w long will she take to get to Boston town? Can't just tell 'cause she's headin' up and down."
"You think that kind o' ky-yi is funny, do you, you walnut-nosed, blue-gilled, goggle-eyed son of a dough-faced americaneezus?" bellowed Captain Candage, from his post at the Polly's wheel.
"Father!" remonstrated a girl who stood in the companionway, her elbows propped on the hatch combings. "Such language! You stop it!"
"It ain't half what I can do when I'm fair started," returned the captain.
"You never say such things on shore."
"Well, I ain't on shore now, be I? I'm on the high seas, and I'm talking to fit the occasion. Who's running this schooner, you or me?"
She met his testiness with a spirit of her own, "I'm on board here, where I don't want to be, because of your silly notions, father. I have the right to ask you to use decent language, and not shame us both."
Against the archaically homely background the beauty of the young girl appeared in most striking contrast. Her curls peeped out from under the white Dutch cap she wore. Her eyes sparkled with indignant protest, her face was piquant and was just then flushed, and her nose had the least bit of a natural uptilt, giving her the air of a young woman who had a will of her own to spice her amiability.
Captain Candage blinked at her over the spokes of the wheel, and in his father's heart acknowledged her charm, realizing more acutely that his motherless girl had become too much of a problem for his limited knowledge in the management of women.
He had not seen her grow up gradually, as other fathers had viewed their daughters, being able to meet daily problems in molding and mastery.
She seemed to reach development, mental and physical, in disconcerting phases while he was away on his voyages. Each time he met her he was obliged to get acquainted all over again, it appeared to him.
Captain Candage had owned up frankly to himself that he was not able to exercise any authority over his daughter when she was ashore.
She was not wilful; she was not obstinate; she gave him affection. But she had become a young woman while his slow thoughts were classing her still as a child. She was always ahead of all his calculations. In his absences she jumped from stage to stage of character—almost of identity! He had never forgotten how he had brought back to her from New York, after one voyage, half a gunny sackful of tin toys, and discovered that in his absence, by advice and sanction of her aunt, who had become her foster-mother, she had let her dresses down to ankle-length and had become a young lady whom he called "Miss Candage" twice before he had managed to get his emotions straightened out. While he was wondering about the enormity of tin toys in the gunny sack at his feet, as he sat in the aunt's parlor; his daughter asked him to come as guest of honor with the Sunday-school class's picnic which she was arranging as teacher. That gave him his opportunity to lie about the toys and allege that he had brought them for her scholars.
Captain Candage, on the deck of his ship, found that he was able to muster a little courage and bluster for a few minutes, but he did not dare to look at her for long while he was asserting himself.
He looked at her then as she stood in the gloomy companionway, a radiant and rosy picture of healthy maidenhood. But the expression on her face was not comfortingly filial.
"Father, I must say it again. I can't help saying it. I am so unhappy. You are misjudging me so cruelly."
"I done it because I thought it was right to do it. I haven't been tending and watching the way a father ought to tend and watch. I never seemed to be able to ketch up with you. Maybe I ain't right. Maybe I be! At any rate, I'm going to stand on this tack, in your case, for a while longer."
"You have taken me away from my real home for this? This is no place for a girl! You are not the same as you are when you are on shore. I didn't know you could be so rough—and—wicked!"
"Hold on there, daughter! Snub cable right there! I'm an honest, God-fearing, hard-working man—paying a hundred cents on the dollar, and you know it."
"But what did you just shout—right out where everybody could hear you?"
"That—that was only passing the compliments of the day as compared with what I can do when I get started proper. Do you think I'm going to let any snub-snooted wart-hog of a lime-duster sing—"
"What's a girl know about the things a father has to put up with when he goes to sea and earns money for her?"
"I am willing to work for myself. You took me right out of my good position in the millinery-store. You have made me leave all my young friends. Oh, I am so homesick!" Her self-reliance departed suddenly. She choked. She tucked her head into the hook of her arm and sobbed.
"Don't do that!" he pleaded, softening suddenly. "Please don't, Polly!"
She looked up and smiled—a pleading, wan little smile. "I didn't mean to give way to it, popsy dear. I don't intend to do anything to make you angry or sorry. I have tried to be a good girl. I am a good girl. But it breaks my heart when you don't trust me."
"They were courting you," he stammered. "Them shore dudes was hanging around you. I ain't doubting you, Polly. But you 'ain't got no mother. I was afraid. I know I've been a fool about it. But I was afraid!" Tears sprinkled his bronzed cheeks. "I haven't been much of a father because I've had to go sailing and earn money. But I thought I'd take you away till-till I could sort of plan on something."
She gazed at him, softening visibly.
"Oh, Polly," he said, his voice breaking, "you don't know how pretty you are-you don't know how afraid I am!"
"But you can trust me, father," she promised, after a pause, with simple dignity. "I know I am only a country girl, not wise, perhaps, but I know what is right and what is wrong. Can't you understand how terribly you have hurt my pride and my self-respect by forcing me to come and be penned up here as if I were a shameless girl who could not take care of herself?"
"I reckon I have done wrong, Polly. But I don't know much-not about women folk. I was trying to do right-because you're all I have in this world."
"I hope you will think it all over," she advised, earnestly. "You will understand after a time, father, I'm sure. Then you will let me go back and you will trust me-as your own daughter should be trusted. That's the right way to make girls good-let them know that they can be trusted."
"You are probably right," he admitted. "I will think it all over. As soon as we get in and anchored I'll sit down and give it a good overhauling in my mind. Maybe-"
She took advantage of his pause. "We are going into a harbor, are we, father?"
"Yes. Right ahead of us."
"I wish you would put me ashore and send me back. I shall lose my position in the store if I stay away too long."
His obstinacy showed again, promptly. "I don't want you in that millinery-shop. I'm told that dude drummers pester girls in stores."
"They do not trouble me, father. Haven't you any confidence in your own daughter?"
"Yes, I have," he said, firmly, and then added, "but I keep thinking of the dudes and then I get afraid."
She gave him quick a glance, plainly tempted to make an impatient retort, and then turned and went down into the cabin.
"Don't be mad with me, Polly," he called after her. "I guess, maybe, I'm all wrong. I'm going to think it over; I ain't promising nothing sure, but it won't be none surprising if I set you ashore here and send you back home. Don't cry, little girl." There were tears in his voice as well as in his eyes.
The lime-schooner vocalist felt an impulse to voice another verse:
"Ow-w-w, here comes the Polly in the middle of the road, Towed by a mule and paving-blocks her load. Devil is a-waiting and the devil may as well, 'Cause he'll never get them paving-blocks to finish paving hell."
Captain Candage left his wheel and strode to the rail. All the softness was gone from his face and his voice.
"You horn-jawed, muck-faced jezebo of a sea-sculpin, you dare to yap out any more of that sculch and I'll come aboard you after we anchor and jump down your gullet and gallop the etarnal innards out of ye! Don't you know that I've got ladies aboard here?"
"It don't sound like it," returned the songster.
"Well, you hear what I sound like! Half-hitch them jaw taakuls of yours!"
Captain Candage's meditations were not disturbed after that.
With the assistance of his one helper aboard ship, "Oakum Otie," a gray and whiskered individual who combined in one person the various offices of first mate, second mate, A-1 seaman, and hand before the mast-as well as the skipper's boon companion-the Polly was manoeuvered to her anchorage in Saturday Cove and was snugged for the night. Smoke began to curl in blue wreaths from her galley funnel, and there were occasional glimpses of the cook, a sallow-complexioned, one-eyed youth whose chief and everlasting decoration provided him with the nickname of "Smut-nosed Dolph."
Then came some of the ocean aristocrats to join the humbler guests in that tavern of the seas.
Avant couriers of a metropolitan yacht club, on its annual cruise, arrived, jockeying in with billowing mountains of snowy canvas spread to catch the last whispers of the breeze. Later arrivals, after the breeze failed, were towed in by the smart motor craft of the fleet. One by one, as the anchors splashed, brass cannons barked salute and were answered by the commodore's gun.
Captain Candage sat on the edge of the Polly's house and snapped an involuntary and wrathful wink every time a cannon banged. In that hill-bound harbor, where the fog had massed, every noise was magnified as by a sounding-board. There were cheery hails, yachtsmen bawled over the mist-gemmed brass rails interchange of the day's experiences, and frisking yacht tenders, barking staccato exhausts, began to carry men to and fro on errands of sociability. In the silences Captain Candage could hear the popping of champagne corks.
"Them fellers certainly live high and sleep in the garret," observed Oakum Otie. He was seated cross-legged on the top of the house and was hammering down the lumps in a freshly twisted eye-splice with the end of a marlinespike.
"It has always been a wonder to me," growled Captain Candage, "how dudes who don't seem to have no more wit than them fellows haw-hawing over there, and swigging liquor by the cart-load, ever make money the way they do so as to afford all this."
On that point Captain Candage might have found Mate McGaw of the Olenia willing to engage in profitable discussion and amicable understanding!
"They don't make it-they don't know enough to make it," stated Otie, with the conviction of a man who knew exactly what he was talking about. "It has all been left to 'em by their fathers."
The bearded and brown men of the apple-tree crews leaned the patched elbows of their old coats on the rails and gloomily surveyed the conviviality on board the plaything crafts. Remarks which they exchanged with one another were framed to indicate a sort of lofty scorn for these frolickers of the sea. The coasting skippers, most of whom wore hard hats, as if they did not want to be confounded with those foppish yacht captains, patrolled their quarter-decks and spat disdainfully over their rails.
Everlastingly there was the clank of pumps on board the Apple-treers, and the pumps were tackling the everlasting leaks. Water reddened by contact with bricks, water made turbid by percolation through paving-blocks, splashed continuously from hiccuping scuppers.
Captain Ranse Lougee of the topsail schooner Belvedere, laden with fish scraps for a Boston glue-factory, dropped over the counter into his dory and came rowing to the Polly, standing up and facing forward and swaying with the fisherman's stroke.
He straddled easily over the schooner's scant freeboard and came aft, and was greeted cordially by Captain Candage.
"Thought I'd show them frosted-cakers that there's a little sociability amongst the gents in the coasting trade, too," he informed his host. "Furthermore, I want to borry the ex-act time o' day. And, furthermore, I'm glad to get away from that cussed aromy on board the Belvedere and sort of air out my nose once in a while. What's the good word, Cap?"
Captain Candage replied to the commonplaces of the other skipper in abstracted fashion. He had viewed Lougee's approach with interest, and now he was plainly pondering in regard to something wholly outside this chatter.
"Captain Lougee," he broke in, suddenly, in low tones, "I want you should come forward with me out of hearing of anybody below. I've got a little taakul I want you to help me overhaul."
The two walked forward over the deckload and sat on the fore-gaff, which sprawled carelessly where it had fallen when the halyards were let run.
"My daughter is below, there," explained Captain Candage.
"Vacation trip, eh?"
"I don't think it can be called that, Captain Lougee," stated the host, dryly. "She is having about as good a time as a canary-bird would have in a corn-popper over a hot fire."
"What did she come for, then?"
"I made her come. I shanghaied her."
"That's no way to treat wimmen folks," declared Captain Lougee. "I've raised five daughters and I know what I'm talking about."
"I know you have raised five girls, and they're smart as tophet and right as a trivet—and that's why I have grabbed right in on the subject as I have. I was glad to see you coming aboard, Captain Lougee. I want some advice from a man who knows."
"Then I'm the man to ask, Captain Candage."
"Last time I was home—where she has been living with her Aunt Zilpah—I ketched her!" confessed Candage. His voice was hoarse. His fingers, bent and calloused with rope-pulling, trembled as he fingered the seam of his trousers.
"You don't tell!" Lougee clucked, solicitously.
"Yes, I ketched her buggy-riding!"
"No, there was a gang of 'em in a beach-wagon. They was going to a party. And I ketched her dancing with a fellow at that party."
"Well, go ahead now that you've got started! Shake out the mainsail!"
"That's about all there is to it—except that a fellow has been beauing her home from Sunday-school concerts with a lantern. Yes, I reckon that is about all to date and present writing," confessed Candage.
"What else do you suspect?"
"Nothing. Of course, there's no telling what it will grow to be—with dudes a-pestering her the way they do."
"There ain't any telling about anything in this world, is there?" demanded Captain Lougee, very sharply.
"I reckon not—not for sure!"
"Do you mean to say that because your girl—like any girl should—has been having a little innocent fun with young folks, you have dragged her on board this old hooker, shaming her and making her ridiculous?"
"I have been trying to do my duty as a father," stated Captain Candage, stoutly, and avoiding the flaming gaze of his guest.
Captain Lougee straightened his leg so as to come at his trousers pocket, produced a plug of tobacco, and gnawed a chew off a corner, after careful inspection to find a likely spot for a bite.
"I need to have something in my mouth about this time—something soothing to the tongue and, as you might say, sort of confining, so that too much language won't bu'st out all at once," he averred, speaking with effort as he tried to lodge the huge hunk of tobacco into a comfortable position. "I have raised five nice girls, and I have always treated 'em as if they had common sense along with woman's nat'ral goodness and consid'able more self-reliance than a Leghorn pullet. And I used 'em like they had the ordinary rights and privileges of human beings. And they are growed up and a credit to the family. And I haven't got to look back over my record and reflect that I was either a Chinyman or a Turkeyman. No, sir! I have been a father—and my girls can come and sit on my knee to-day and get my advice, and think it's worth something."
He rose and walked toward his dory.
"But hold on," called Captain Candage. "You haven't told me what you think."
"Haven't I? I thought I had, making it mild and pleasant. But if you need a little something more plain and direct, I'll remark—still making it mild and pleasant—that you're a damned old fool! And now I'll go back and be sociable with them fish scraps. I believe they will smell better after this!" He leaped into his dory and rowed away.
Captain Candage offered no rejoinder to that terse and meaty summing up. Naturally, he was as ready with his tongue as Captain Ranse Lougee or any other man alongshore. But in this case the master of the Polly was not sure of his ground. He knew that Captain Lougee had qualified as father of five. In the judgment of a mariner experience counts. And he did not resent the manner of Captain Lougee because that skipper's brutal bluntness was well known by his friends. Captain Candage had asked and he had received. He rested his elbows on his knees and stared after the departing caller and pondered.
"Maybe he is right. He probably is right. But it wouldn't be shipboard discipline if I told her that I have been wrong. I reckon I'll go aft and be pleasant and genteel, hoping that nothing will happen to rile my feelings. Now that my feelings are calm and peaceful, and having taken course and bearings from a father of five, I'll probably say to her, 'You'd better trot along home, sissy, seeing that I have told you how to mind your eye after this.'"
IV ~ OVER THE "POLLY'S" RAIL
O Stormy was a good old man! To my way you storm along! Physog tough as an old tin pan, Ay, ay, ay, Mister Storm-along! —Storm-along Shanty.
Without paying much attention to the disturber, Captain Candage had been a bit nettled during his meditation. A speed boat from one of the yachts kept circling the Polly, carrying a creaming smother of water under its upcocked bow. It was a noisy gnat of a boat and it kicked a contemptuous wake against the rust-streaked old wagon.
When it swept under the counter, after Captain Candage was back on his quarter-deck, he gave it a stare over the rail, and his expression was distinctly unamiable.
"They probably wasted more money on that doostra-bulus than this schooner would sell for in the market today," he informed Otie.
"They don't care how money goes so long as they didn't have to sweat earning it. Slinging it like they'd sling beans!"
Back on its circling course swished the darting tender. This time the purring motor whined into silence and the boat came drifting alongside.
"On board Polly!" hailed one of the yachtsmen, a man with owner's insignia on his cap.
The master of the old schooner stuck his lowering visage farther over the rail, but he did not reply.
"Isn't this Polly the real one?"
"No, it's only a chromo painting of it."
"Thank you! You're a gentleman!" snapped the yachtsman.
"Oh, hold on, Paul," urged one of the men in the tender. "There's a right way to handle these old boys." He stood up. "We're much interested in this packet, captain."
"That's why you have been making a holy show of her, playing ring around a rosy, hey?"
"But tell me, isn't this the old shallop that was a privateer in the war of eighteen twelve?"
"Nobody aboard here has ever said she wasn't."
"Well, sir, may we not come on board and look her over?"
"No sir, you can't."
"Now, look here, captain—"
"I'm looking!" declared the master of the Polly in ominous tones.
"We don't mean to annoy you, captain."
"Folks who don't know any better do a lot of things without meaning to."
Captain Candage regularly entertained a sea-toiler's resentment for men who used the ocean as a mere playground. But more especially, during those later days, his general temper was touchy in regard to dapper young men, for he had faced a problem of the home which had tried his soul. He felt an unreasoning choler rising in him in respect to these chaps, who seemed to have no troubles of their own.
"I am a writer," explained the other. "If I may be allowed on board I'll take a few pictures and—"
"And make fun of me and my bo't by putting a piece in the paper to tickle city dudes. Fend off!" he commanded, noticing that the tender was drifting toward the schooner's side and that one of the crew had set a boat-hook against the main chain-plate.
"Don't bother with the old crab," advised the owner, sourly.
But the other persisted, courteously, even humbly. "I am afraid you do not understand me, captain. I would as soon make jest of my mother as of this noble old relic."
"Go ahead! Call it names!"
"I am taking off my hat to it," he declared, whipping his cap from his head. "My father's grandfather was in the war of eighteen twelve. I want to honor this old patriot here with the best tribute my pen can pay. If you will allow me to come on board I shall feel as though I were stepping upon a sacred spot, and I can assure you that my friends, here, have just as much respect for this craft as I have."
But this honest appeal did not soften Captain Candage. He did not understand exactly from what source this general rancor of his flowed. At the same time he was conscious of the chief reason why he did not want to allow these visitors to rummage aboard the schooner. They would meet his daughter, and he was afraid, and he was bitterly ashamed of himself because he was afraid. Dimly he was aware that this everlasting fear on her account constituted an insult to her. The finer impulse to protect her privacy was not actuating him; he knew that, too. He was merely foolishly afraid to trust her in the company of young men, and the combination of his emotions produced the simplest product of mental upheaval—unreasonable wrath.
"Fend off, I say," he commanded.
"Again I beg you, captain, with all respect, please may we come on board?"
"You get away from here and tend to your own business, if you've got any, or I'll heave a bunch of shingles at you!" roared the skipper.
"Father!" The voice expressed indignant reproof. "Father, I am ashamed of you!"
The girl came to the rail, and the yachtsmen stared at her as if she were Aphrodite risen from the sea instead of a mighty pretty girl emerging from a dark companion-way. She had appeared so suddenly! She was so manifestly incongruous in her surroundings.
"Mother o' mermaids!" muttered the yacht-owner in the ear of the man nearest. "Is the old rat still privateering?"
The men in the tender stood up and removed their caps.
"You have insulted these gentlemen, father!"
Captain Candage knew it, and that fact did not soften his anger in the least. At the same time this appearance of his own daughter to read him a lesson in manners in public was presumption too preposterous to be endured; her daring gave him something tangible for his resentment to attack.
He turned on her. "You go below where you belong."
"I belong up here just now."
"Down below with you!"
"I'll not go until you apologize to these gentlemen, father!"
"You ain't ashore now, miss, to tell me when to wipe my feet and not muss the tidies! You're on the high seas, and I'm cap'n of this vessel. Below, I say!"
"These gentlemen know the Polly, and they will find out the name of the man who commands her, and I don't propose to have it said that the Candages are heathens," she declared, firmly. "If you do not apologize, father, I shall apologize for you." She tried to crowd past him to the rail, but he clapped his brown hand over her mouth and pushed her back. His natural impulse as commander of his craft dominated his feelings as a father.
"I'll teach ye shipboard discipline, Polly Candage," he growled, "even if I have to take ye acrost my knee."
"Hold on there, if you please, captain," called the spokesman of the yachtsmen.
Captain Candage was hustling his daughter toward the companionway. But there was authority in the tone, and he paused and jutted a challenging chin over his shoulder.
"What have any of you critters got to say about my private business?"
The formality of the man in the tender was a bit exaggerated in his reply. "Only this, sir. We are going away at once before we bring any more trouble upon this young lady, to whom we tender our most respectful compliments. We do not know any other way of helping her. Our protests, being the protests of gentlemen, might not be able to penetrate; it takes a drill to get through the hide of a rhinoceros!"
The skipper of the Polly did not trouble himself about the finer shadings in that little speech, but of one fact he felt sure: he had been called a rhinoceros. He released his daughter, yanked the marlinespike away from Otie, who had been holding himself in the background as a reserve force, and stamped to the rail. He poised his weapon, fanning it to and fro to take sure aim. But the engineer had thrown in his clutch and the speed boat foamed off before the captain got the range, and he was too thrifty to heave a perfectly good marlinespike after a target he could not hit, angry as he was.
The girl faced her father. There was no doubting her mood. She was a rebel. Indignation set up its flaming standards on her cheeks, and the signal-flames of combat sparkled in her eyes.
"How did you dare to do such a thing to me—those gentlemen looking on? Father, have you lost your mind?"
Otie expressed the opinion tinder his breath that the captain, on the contrary, had "lost his number."
Otie's superior officer was stamping around the quarterdeck, kicking at loose objects, and avoiding his daughter's resentful gaze. There was a note of insincerity in his bluster, as if he wanted to hide embarrassment in a cloud of his own vaporings, as a squid colors water when it fears capture.
"After this you call me Cap'n Candage," he commanded. "After this I'm Cap'n Candage on the high seas, and I propose to run my own quarter-deck. And when I let a crowd of dudes traipse on board here to peek and spy and grin and flirt with you, you'll have clamshells for finger-nails. Now, my lady, I don't want any back talk!"
"But I am going to talk to you, father!"
"Remember that I'm a Candage, and back talk—"
"So am I a Candage—and I have just been ashamed of it!"
"I'm going to have discipline on my own quarterdeck."
"Back talk, quarter-deck discipline, calling you captain! Fol-de-rol and fiddlesticks! I'm your own daughter and you're my father. And you have brought us both to shame! There! I don't want to stay on this old hulk, and I'm not going to stay. I am going home to Aunt Zilpah."
"I had made up my mind to let you go. My temper was mild and sweet till those jeehoofered, gold-trimmed sons of a striped—"
"I had made up my mind to let you go. But I ain't going to give in to a mutiny right before the face and eyes of my own crew."
Smut-nosed Dolph had arrived with the supper-dishes balanced in his arms while he crawled over the deckload. He was listening with the utmost interest.
"Your Aunt Zilpah has aided and abetted you in your flirting," raged the captain. "My own sister, taking advantage of my being off to sea trying to earn money—"
"Do you mean to insult everybody in this world, father? I shall go home, I say. I'm miserable here."
"I'll see to it that you ain't off gamboling and galley-westing with dudes!"
In spite of her spirit the girl was not able to bandy retort longer with this hard-shelled mariner, whose weapon among his kind for years had been a rude tongue. Shocked grief put an end to her poor little rebellion. Tears came.
"You are giving these two men a budget to carry home and spread about the village! Oh, father, you are wicked—wicked!" She put her hands to her face, sobbed, and then ran away down into the gloomy cabin.
There was a long silence on the quarter-deck. Otie recovered his marlinespike and began to pound the eye-bolt.
"Without presuming, preaching, or poking into things that ain't none of my business, I want to say that I don't blame you one mite, cap'n," he volunteered. "No matter what she says, she wasn't to be trusted among them dudes on shore, and I speak from observation and, being an old bach, I can speak impartial. The dudes on the water is just as bad. Them fellows were flirting with her all the time they was 'longside. Real men that means decent ain't called on to keep whisking their caps off and on all the time a woman is in sight—and I see one of 'em wink at her."
Captain Candage was in a mood to accept this comfort from Oakum Otie, and to put out of his contrite conscience the memory of what Captain Ranse Lougee had said.
"Don't you worry! I've got her now where I can keep my eye on her, and I'm cap'n of my own vessel—don't nobody ever forget that!" He shook his fist at the gaping cook. "What ye standing there for, like a hen-coop with the door open and letting my vittels cool off? Hiper your boots! Down below with you and dish that supper onto the table!"
The skipper lingered on deck, his hand at his ear.
The fog was settling over the inner harbor. In the dim vastness seaward a steamer was hooting. Each prolonged blast, at half-minute intervals, sounded nearer. The sound was deep, full-toned, a mighty diapason.
"What big fellow can it be that's coming in here?" the captain grunted.
"Most likely only another tin skimmer of a yacht," suggested the mate, tossing the eye-splice and the marline-spike into the open hatch of the lazaret. "You know what they like to do, them play-critters! They stick on a whistle that's big enough for Seguin fog-horn." He squinted under the edge of his palm and waited. "There she looms. What did I tell ye? Nothing but a yacht."
"But she's a bouncer," remarked the skipper. "What do you make her?"
"O—L," spelled Otie—"O—L—Olenia. Must be a local pilot aboard. None of them New York spiffer captains could find Saturday Cove through the feather-tide that's outside just now."
"Well, whether they can or whether they can't isn't of any interest to me," stated the skipper, with fine indifference. "I'd hate to be in a tight place and have to depend on one of them gilded dudes! I smell supper. Come on!"
He was a little uncertain as to what demeanor he ought to assume below, but he clumped down the companion-way with considerable show of confidence, and Otie followed.
The captain cast a sharp glance at his daughter. He had been afraid that he would find her crying, and he did not know how to handle such cases with any certainty.
But she had dried her eyes and she gave him no very amiable look—rather, she hinted defiance. He felt more at ease. In his opinion, any person who had spirit enough left for fight was in a mood to keep on enjoying life.
"Perhaps I went a mite too far, Polly," he admitted. He was mild, but he preserved a little touch of surliness in order that she might not conclude that her victory was won. "But seeing that I brought you off to sea to get you away from flirting—"
"Don't you dare to say that about me!" She beat her round little fist on the table. "Don't you dare!"
"I don't mean that you ever done it! The dudes done it! I want to do right by you, Polly. I've been to sea so long that I don't know much about ways and manners, I reckon. I can't get a good line on things as I ought to. I'm an old fool, I reckon." His voice trembled. "But it made me mad to have you stram up there on deck and call me names before 'em."
She did not reply.
"I have always worked hard for you—sailing the seas and going without things myself, so that you could have 'em—doing the best I could ever after your poor mother passed on."
"I am grateful to you, father. But you don't understand a girl—oh, you don't understand! But let's not talk about it any more—not now."
"I ain't saying to-night—I ain't making promises! But maybe—we'll see how things shape up—maybe I'll send you back home. Maybe it 'll be to-morrow. We'll see how the stage runs to the train, and so forth!"
"I am going to leave it all to you, father. I'm sure you mean to do right." She served the food as mistress at the board.
"It seems homelike with you here," said Captain Can-dage, meekly and wistfully.
"I will stay with you, father, if it will make you happier."
"I sha'n't listen to anything of the sort. It ain't no place aboard here for a girl."
Through the open port they heard the frequent clanging of the steam-yacht's engine-room bell and the riot of her swishing screws as she eased herself into an anchorage. She was very near them—so near that they could hear the chatter of the voices of gay folk.
"What boat is that, father?"
"Another frosted-caker! I can't remember the name."
"It's the Oilyena or something like that. I forget fancy names pretty quick," Otie informed her.
"Well, it ain't much use to load your mind down with that kind of sculch," stated Captain Candage, poising a potato on his fork-tines and peeling it, his elbows on the table. "That yacht and the kind of folks that's aboard that yacht ain't of any account to folks like us."
The memory of some remarks which are uttered with peculiar fervor remains with the utterer. Some time later—long after—Captain Candage remembered that remark and informed himself that, outside of weather predictions, he was a mighty poor prophet.
V ~ ON THE BRIDGE OF YACHT "OLENIA"
O the times are hard and the wages low, Leave her, bullies, leave her! I guess it's time for us to go, It's time for us to leave her. —Across the Western Ocean.
Captain Mayo was not finding responsibility his chief worry while the Olenia was making port.
It was a real mariner's job to drive her through the fog, stab the harbor entrance, and hunt out elbow-room for her in a crowded anchorage. But all that was in the line of the day's work. While he watched the compass, estimated tide drift, allowed for reduced speed, and listened for the echoes which would tell him his distance from the rocky shore, he was engaged in the more absorbing occupation of canvassing his personal affairs.
As the hired master of a private yacht he might have overlooked that affront from the owner, even though it was delivered to a captain on the bridge.
But love has a pride of its own. He had been abused like a lackey in the hearing of Alma Marston. It was evident that the owner had not finished the job. Mayo knew that he had merely postponed his evil moment by sending back a reply which would undoubtedly seem like insubordination in the judgment of a man who did not understand ship discipline and etiquette of the sea.
It was evident that Marston intended to call him "upon the carpet" on the quarter-deck as soon as the yacht was anchored, and proposed to continue that insulting arraignment.
In his new pride, in the love which now made all other matters of life so insignificant, Mayo was afraid of himself; he knew his limitations in the matter of submission; even then he felt a hankering to walk aft and jounce Julius Marston up and down in his hammock chair. He did not believe he could stand calmly in the presence of Alma Marston and listen to any unjust berating, even from her father.
He tried to put his flaming resentment out of his thoughts, but he could not. In the end, he told himself that perhaps it was just as well! Alma Marston must have pride of her own. She could not continue to love a man who remained in the position of her father's hireling; she would surely be ashamed of a lover who was willing to hump his back and take a lashing in public. His desire to be with her, even at the cost of his pride, was making him less a man and he knew it. He decided to face Marston, man fashion, and then go away. He felt that she would understand in spite of her grief.
Then, turning from a look at the compass, he saw that the yacht's owner was on the bridge. Half of an un-lighted cigar, which was soggy with the dampness of the fog, plugged Marston's-mouth.
He scowled when the captain saluted.
"You needn't bother to talk now," the millionaire broke in when Mayo began an explanation of his delay in obeying the call to the quarter-deck. "When I have anything to say to a man I want his undivided attention. Is this fog going to hold on?"
"Yes, sir, until the wind hauls more to the norrard."
"I am heading into Saturday Cove now, sir."
"I'm looking for considerably more than a capful of wind when it comes, sir. It isn't prudent to anchor offshore."
Marston grunted and turned away. He stood at the end of the bridge, chewing on the cigar, until the Olenia was in the harbor with mudhook set. Mayo twitched the jingle bell, signaling release to the engineer.
"I am at your service, sir," he reported, walking to the owner.
Marston rolled the plugging cigar to a corner of his mouth and inquired, "Now, young man, tell me what you mean by saluting a Bee line steamer with my whistle?"
"I did not salute the Conomo, sir."
"You gave her three whistles."
"You're on a gentleman's yacht now, young man, and not on a fishing-steamer. Yachting etiquette doesn't allow a steam-whistle to be sounded in salute. Mr. Beveridge has just looked it up for me, and I know, and you need not assume any of your important knowledge." Marston seemed to be displaying much more irritation than a small matter warranted. But what he added afforded more light on the subject. "The manager of the Bee line was on board that steamer. You heard him hoot that siren at me!"
"I heard him give me cross-signals in defiance of the rules of the road, sir."
"Didn't you know that he whistled at me as an insult—as a sneer?"
"I heard only ordinary signals, sir."
"Everything is ordinary to a sailor's observation! You allowed him to crowd you off your course. You made a spectacle of my yacht, splashing it around like a frightened duck."
"I was avoiding collision, sir."
"You should have made your bigness with my yacht! You sneaked and dodged like a fishing-boat skipper. Was it on a fishing-boat you were trained to those tricks?"
"I have commanded a fishing-steamer, sir."
"On top of it all you gave him three whistles—regular fishing-boat manners, eh?"
Captain Mayo straightened and his face and eyes expressed the spirit of a Yankee skipper who knew that he was right.
"I say," insisted Marston, "that you saluted him."
"And I say, sir, that he cross-signaled, an offense that has lost masters their licenses. When I was pinched I gave him three whistles to say that my engines were going full speed astern. If Mr. Beveridge had looked farther in that book he might have found that rule, too!"
"When I looked up at the bridge, here, you were waving your hand to him—three whistles and a hand-wave! You can't deny that you were saluting!"
"I was shaking my fist at him, sir."
Within himself Captain Mayo was frankly wondering because the owner of the Olenia was displaying all this heat. He remembered the taunt from the pilot-house of the Conomo and understood vaguely that there were depths in the affair which he had not fathomed. But he was in no mood to atone vicariously for the offenders aboard the Conomo.
"If I could have found a New York captain who knew the short cuts along this coast I could have had some decency and dignity on board my yacht. I'm even forgetting my own sense of what is proper—out here wasting words and time in this fashion. You're all of the same breed, you down-easters!"
"I am quite sure you can find a New York captain—" began Mayo.
"I don't want your opinion in regard to my business, young man. When I need suggestions from you I'll ask for them." He flung his soggy cigar over the rail and went down the ladder, and the fog closed immediately behind him.
Captain Mayo paced the bridge. He was alone there. A deck-hand had hooded the brass of the binnacle and search-light, listening while the owner had called the master to account. Mayo knew that the full report of that affair would be carried to the forecastle. His position aboard the yacht had become intolerable. He wondered how much Marston would say aft. His cheeks were hot and rancor rasped in his thoughts. In the hearing of the girl he adored his shortcomings would be the subject for a few moments of contemptuous discourse, even as the failings of cooks form a topic for idle chatter at the dinner-table.
Out of the blank silence of the wrapping fog came many sounds. Noises carried far and the voice of an unseen singer, who timed himself to the clank of an Apple-treer pump, brought to Mayo the words of an old shanty:
"Come all you young fellows that follow the sea, Now pray pay attention and lis-ten to me. O blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down! Way-ay, blow the man down. O blow the man down in Liverpool town! Give me some time to blow the man down. 'Twas aboard a Black-Bailer I first served my time, And in that Black-Bailer I wasted my prime. 'Tis larboard and starboard on deck you will sprawl, For blowers and strikers command the Black Ball. So, it's blow the man down, bullies—"
Alma Marston's voice interrupted his somber appreciation of the significance of that ditty. "Are you up there, Boyd?" she asked, in cautious tones.
He hurried to the head of the ladder and saw her at its foot, half hidden in the mists even at that short distance. He reached down his hand and she came up, grasping it.
She was studying his expression with both eagerness and apprehension. "I couldn't stay away from you any longer," she declared. "The fog is good to us! Father could not see me as I came forward. I must tell you, Boyd. He has ordered me to stay aft."
He did not speak.
"Has he dared to say to you what he has been saying below about you?"
"I don't think it needed any especial daring on your father's part; I am only his servant," he said, with bitterness.
"And he—he insulted you like that?"
"I suppose your father did not look on what he said as insult. I repeat, I am a paid servant."
"But what you did was right! I know it must have been right, for you know everything about what is right to do on the sea."
"I understand my duties."
"And he blamed you for something?"
"It was a bit worse than that from my viewpoint." He smiled down at her, for her eyes were searching his face as if appealing for a bit of consolation.
"Boyd, don't mind him," she entreated. "Somebody who has been fighting him in business has been very naughty. I don't know just what it's all about. But he has so many matters to worry him. And he snaps at me just the same, every now and then."
"Yes, some men are cowards enough to abuse those who must look to them for the comforts of this world," he declared.
"We must make allowances."
"I'll not stay in a position where a man who hires me thinks he can talk to me as if I were a foremast hand. Alma, you would despise me if I allowed myself to be kicked around like a dog."
"I would love you all the more for being willing to sacrifice something for my sake. I want you here—here with all your love—here with me as long as these summer days last." She patted his cheek. "Why don't you tell me that you want to stay with me, Boyd? That you will die if we cannot be together? We can see each other here. I can bring Nan Burgess on the bridge with me. Father will not mind then. Let each day take care of itself!"