A STORY OF THE GRAND BANKS
TO JAMES CONLAND, M.D., Brattleboro, Vermont
I ploughed the land with horses, But my heart was ill at ease, For the old sea-faring men Came to me now and then, With their sagas of the seas.
The weather door of the smoking-room had been left open to the North Atlantic fog, as the big liner rolled and lifted, whistling to warn the fishing-fleet.
"That Cheyne boy's the biggest nuisance aboard," said a man in a frieze overcoat, shutting the door with a bang. "He isn't wanted here. He's too fresh."
A white-haired German reached for a sandwich, and grunted between bites: "I know der breed. Ameriga is full of dot kind. I dell you you should imbort ropes' ends free under your dariff."
"Pshaw! There isn't any real harm to him. He's more to be pitied than anything," a man from New York drawled, as he lay at full length along the cushions under the wet skylight. "They've dragged him around from hotel to hotel ever since he was a kid. I was talking to his mother this morning. She's a lovely lady, but she don't pretend to manage him. He's going to Europe to finish his education."
"Education isn't begun yet." This was a Philadelphian, curled up in a corner. "That boy gets two hundred a month pocket-money, he told me. He isn't sixteen either."
"Railroads, his father, aind't it?" said the German.
"Yep. That and mines and lumber and shipping. Built one place at San Diego, the old man has; another at Los Angeles; owns half a dozen railroads, half the lumber on the Pacific slope, and lets his wife spend the money," the Philadelphian went on lazily. "The West don't suit her, she says. She just tracks around with the boy and her nerves, trying to find out what'll amuse him, I guess. Florida, Adirondacks, Lakewood, Hot Springs, New York, and round again. He isn't much more than a second-hand hotel clerk now. When he's finished in Europe he'll be a holy terror."
"What's the matter with the old man attending to him personally?" said a voice from the frieze ulster.
"Old man's piling up the rocks. 'Don't want to be disturbed, I guess. He'll find out his error a few years from now. 'Pity, because there's a heap of good in the boy if you could get at it."
"Mit a rope's end; mit a rope's end!" growled the German.
Once more the door banged, and a slight, slim-built boy perhaps fifteen years old, a half-smoked cigarette hanging from one corner of his mouth, leaned in over the high footway. His pasty yellow complexion did not show well on a person of his years, and his look was a mixture of irresolution, bravado, and very cheap smartness. He was dressed in a cherry-coloured blazer, knickerbockers, red stockings, and bicycle shoes, with a red flannel cap at the back of the head. After whistling between his teeth, as he eyed the company, he said in a loud, high voice: "Say, it's thick outside. You can hear the fish-boats squawking all around us. Say, wouldn't it be great if we ran down one?"
"Shut the door, Harvey," said the New Yorker. "Shut the door and stay outside. You're not wanted here."
"Who'll stop me?" he answered, deliberately. "Did you pay for my passage, Mister Martin? 'Guess I've as good right here as the next man."
He picked up some dice from a checkerboard and began throwing, right hand against left.
"Say, gen'elmen, this is deader'n mud. Can't we make a game of poker between us?"
There was no answer, and he puffed his cigarette, swung his legs, and drummed on the table with rather dirty fingers. Then he pulled out a roll of bills as if to count them.
"How's your mamma this afternoon?" a man said. "I didn't see her at lunch."
"In her state-room, I guess. She's 'most always sick on the ocean. I'm going to give the stewardess fifteen dollars for looking after her. I don't go down more 'n I can avoid. It makes me feel mysterious to pass that butler's-pantry place. Say, this is the first time I've been on the ocean."
"Oh, don't apologize, Harvey."
"Who's apologizing? This is the first time I've crossed the ocean, gen'elmen, and, except the first day, I haven't been sick one little bit. No, sir!" He brought down his fist with a triumphant bang, wetted his finger, and went on counting the bills.
"Oh, you're a high-grade machine, with the writing in plain sight," the Philadelphian yawned. "You'll blossom into a credit to your country if you don't take care."
"I know it. I'm an American—first, last, and all the time. I'll show 'em that when I strike Europe. Piff! My cig's out. I can't smoke the truck the steward sells. Any gen'elman got a real Turkish cig on him?"
The chief engineer entered for a moment, red, smiling, and wet. "Say, Mac," cried Harvey cheerfully, "how are we hitting it?"
"Vara much in the ordinary way," was the grave reply. "The young are as polite as ever to their elders, an' their elders are e'en tryin' to appreciate it."
A low chuckle came from a corner. The German opened his cigar-case and handed a skinny black cigar to Harvey.
"Dot is der broper apparatus to smoke, my young friendt," he said. "You vill dry it? Yes? Den you vill be efer so happy."
Harvey lit the unlovely thing with a flourish: he felt that he was getting on in grownup society.
"It would take more 'n this to keel me over," he said, ignorant that he was lighting that terrible article, a Wheeling "stogie".
"Dot we shall bresently see," said the German. "Where are we now, Mr. Mactonal'?"
"Just there or thereabouts, Mr. Schaefer," said the engineer. "We'll be on the Grand Bank to-night; but in a general way o' speakin', we're all among the fishing-fleet now. We've shaved three dories an' near scalped the boom off a Frenchman since noon, an' that's close sailing', ye may say."
"You like my cigar, eh?" the German asked, for Harvey's eyes were full of tears.
"Fine, full flavor," he answered through shut teeth. "Guess we've slowed down a little, haven't we? I'll skip out and see what the log says."
"I might if I vhas you," said the German.
Harvey staggered over the wet decks to the nearest rail. He was very unhappy; but he saw the deck-steward lashing chairs together, and, since he had boasted before the man that he was never seasick, his pride made him go aft to the second-saloon deck at the stern, which was finished in a turtle-back. The deck was deserted, and he crawled to the extreme end of it, near the flag-pole. There he doubled up in limp agony, for the Wheeling "stogie" joined with the surge and jar of the screw to sieve out his soul. His head swelled; sparks of fire danced before his eyes; his body seemed to lose weight, while his heels wavered in the breeze. He was fainting from seasickness, and a roll of the ship tilted him over the rail on to the smooth lip of the turtle-back. Then a low, gray mother-wave swung out of the fog, tucked Harvey under one arm, so to speak, and pulled him off and away to leeward; the great green closed over him, and he went quietly to sleep.
He was roused by the sound of a dinner-horn such as they used to blow at a summer-school he had once attended in the Adirondacks. Slowly he remembered that he was Harvey Cheyne, drowned and dead in mid-ocean, but was too weak to fit things together. A new smell filled his nostrils; wet and clammy chills ran down his back, and he was helplessly full of salt water. When he opened his eyes, he perceived that he was still on the top of the sea, for it was running round him in silver-coloured hills, and he was lying on a pile of half-dead fish, looking at a broad human back clothed in a blue jersey.
"It's no good," thought the boy. "I'm dead, sure enough, and this thing is in charge."
He groaned, and the figure turned its head, showing a pair of little gold rings half hidden in curly black hair.
"Aha! You feel some pretty well now?" it said. "Lie still so: we trim better."
With a swift jerk he sculled the flickering boat-head on to a foamless sea that lifted her twenty full feet, only to slide her into a glassy pit beyond. But this mountain-climbing did not interrupt blue-jersey's talk. "Fine good job, I say, that I catch you. Eh, wha-at? Better good job, I say, your boat not catch me. How you come to fall out?"
"I was sick," said Harvey; "sick, and couldn't help it."
"Just in time I blow my horn, and your boat she yaw a little. Then I see you come all down. Eh, wha-at? I think you are cut into baits by the screw, but you dreeft—dreeft to me, and I make a big fish of you. So you shall not die this time."
"Where am I?" said Harvey, who could not see that life was particularly safe where he lay.
"You are with me in the dory—Manuel my name, and I come from schooner We're Here of Gloucester. I live to Gloucester. By-and-by we get supper. Eh, wha-at?"
He seemed to have two pairs of hands and a head of cast-iron, for, not content with blowing through a big conch-shell, he must needs stand up to it, swaying with the sway of the flat-bottomed dory, and send a grinding, thuttering shriek through the fog. How long this entertainment lasted, Harvey could not remember, for he lay back terrified at the sight of the smoking swells. He fancied he heard a gun and a horn and shouting. Something bigger than the dory, but quite as lively, loomed alongside. Several voices talked at once; he was dropped into a dark, heaving hole, where men in oilskins gave him a hot drink and took off his clothes, and he fell asleep.
When he waked he listened for the first breakfast-bell on the steamer, wondering why his state-room had grown so small. Turning, he looked into a narrow, triangular cave, lit by a lamp hung against a huge square beam. A three-cornered table within arm's reach ran from the angle of the bows to the foremast. At the after end, behind a well-used Plymouth stove, sat a boy about his own age, with a flat red face and a pair of twinkling gray eyes. He was dressed in a blue jersey and high rubber boots. Several pairs of the same sort of foot-wear, an old cap, and some worn-out woollen socks lay on the floor, and black and yellow oilskins swayed to and fro beside the bunks. The place was packed as full of smells as a bale is of cotton. The oilskins had a peculiarly thick flavor of their own which made a sort of background to the smells of fried fish, burnt grease, paint, pepper, and stale tobacco; but these, again, were all hooped together by one encircling smell of ship and salt water. Harvey saw with disgust that there were no sheets on his bed-place. He was lying on a piece of dingy ticking full of lumps and nubbles. Then, too, the boat's motion was not that of a steamer. She was neither sliding nor rolling, but rather wriggling herself about in a silly, aimless way, like a colt at the end of a halter. Water-noises ran by close to his ear, and beams creaked and whined about him. All these things made him grunt despairingly and think of his mother.
"Feelin' better?" said the boy, with a grin. "Hev some coffee?" He brought a tin cup full and sweetened it with molasses.
"Isn't there milk?" said Harvey, looking round the dark double tier of bunks as if he expected to find a cow there.
"Well, no," said the boy. "Ner there ain't likely to be till 'baout mid-September. 'Tain't bad coffee. I made it."
Harvey drank in silence, and the boy handed him a plate full of pieces of crisp fried pork, which he ate ravenously.
"I've dried your clothes. Guess they've shrunk some," said the boy. "They ain't our style much—none of 'em. Twist round an' see if you're hurt any."
Harvey stretched himself in every direction, but could not report any injuries.
"That's good," the boy said heartily. "Fix yerself an' go on deck. Dad wants to see you. I'm his son,—Dan, they call me,—an' I'm cook's helper an' everything else aboard that's too dirty for the men. There ain't no boy here 'cep' me sence Otto went overboard—an' he was only a Dutchy, an' twenty year old at that. How'd you come to fall off in a dead flat ca'am?"
"'Twasn't a calm," said Harvey, sulkily. "It was a gale, and I was seasick. Guess I must have rolled over the rail."
"There was a little common swell yes'day an' last night," said the boy. "But ef thet's your notion of a gale——" He whistled. "You'll know more 'fore you're through. Hurry! Dad's waitin'."
Like many other unfortunate young people, Harvey had never in all his life received a direct order—never, at least, without long, and sometimes tearful, explanations of the advantages of obedience and the reasons for the request. Mrs. Cheyne lived in fear of breaking his spirit, which, perhaps, was the reason that she herself walked on the edge of nervous prostration. He could not see why he should be expected to hurry for any man's pleasure, and said so. "Your dad can come down here if he's so anxious to talk to me. I want him to take me to New York right away. It'll pay him."
Dan opened his eyes as the size and beauty of this joke dawned on him. "Say, Dad!" he shouted up the foc'sle hatch, "he says you kin slip down an' see him ef you're anxious that way. 'Hear, Dad?"
The answer came back in the deepest voice Harvey had ever heard from a human chest: "Quit foolin', Dan, and send him to me."
Dan sniggered, and threw Harvey his warped bicycle shoes. There was something in the tones on the deck that made the boy dissemble his extreme rage and console himself with the thought of gradually unfolding the tale of his own and his father's wealth on the voyage home. This rescue would certainly make him a hero among his friends for life. He hoisted himself on deck up a perpendicular ladder, and stumbled aft, over a score of obstructions, to where a small, thick-set, clean-shaven man with gray eyebrows sat on a step that led up to the quarter-deck. The swell had passed in the night, leaving a long, oily sea, dotted round the horizon with the sails of a dozen fishing-boats. Between them lay little black specks, showing where the dories were out fishing. The schooner, with a triangular riding-sail on the mainmast, played easily at anchor, and except for the man by the cabin-roof—"house" they call it—she was deserted.
"Mornin'—Good afternoon, I should say. You've nigh slep' the clock round, young feller," was the greeting.
"Mornin'," said Harvey. He did not like being called "young feller"; and, as one rescued from drowning, expected sympathy. His mother suffered agonies whenever he got his feet wet; but this mariner did not seem excited.
"Naow let's hear all abaout it. It's quite providential, first an' last, fer all concerned. What might be your name? Where from (we mistrust it's Noo York), an' where baound (we mistrust it's Europe)?"
Harvey gave his name, the name of the steamer, and a short history of the accident, winding up with a demand to be taken back immediately to New York, where his father would pay anything any one chose to name.
"H'm," said the shaven man, quite unmoved by the end of Harvey's speech. "I can't say we think special of any man, or boy even, that falls overboard from that kind o' packet in a flat ca'am. Least of all when his excuse is that he's seasick."
"Excuse!" cried Harvey. "D'you suppose I'd fall overboard into your dirty little boat for fun?"
"Not knowin' what your notions o' fun may be, I can't rightly say, young feller. But if I was you, I wouldn't call the boat which, under Providence, was the means o' savin' ye, names. In the first place, it's blame irreligious. In the second, it's annoyin' to my feelin's—an' I'm Disko Troop o' the We're Here o' Gloucester, which you don't seem rightly to know."
"I don't know and I don't care," said Harvey. "I'm grateful enough for being saved and all that, of course! but I want you to understand that the sooner you take me back to New York the better it'll pay you."
"Meanin'—haow?" Troop raised one shaggy eyebrow over a suspiciously mild blue eye.
"Dollars and cents," said Harvey, delighted to think that he was making an impression. "Cold dollars and cents." He thrust a hand into a pocket, and threw out his stomach a little, which was his way of being grand. "You've done the best day's work you ever did in your life when you pulled me in. I'm all the son Harvey Cheyne has."
"He's bin favoured," said Disko, dryly.
"And if you don't know who Harvey Cheyne is, you don't know much—that's all. Now turn her around and let's hurry."
Harvey had a notion that the greater part of America was filled with people discussing and envying his father's dollars.
"Mebbe I do, an' mebbe I don't. Take a reef in your stummick, young feller. It's full o' my vittles."
Harvey heard a chuckle from Dan, who was pretending to be busy by the stump-foremast, and blood rushed to his face. "We'll pay for that too," he said. "When do you suppose we shall get to New York?"
"I don't use Noo York any. Ner Boston. We may see Eastern Point about September; an' your pa—I'm real sorry I hain't heerd tell of him—may give me ten dollars efter all your talk. Then o' course he mayn't."
"Ten dollars! Why, see here, I—" Harvey dived into his pocket for the wad of bills. All he brought up was a soggy packet of cigarettes.
"Not lawful currency; an' bad for the lungs. Heave 'em overboard, young feller, and try agin."
"It's been stolen!" cried Harvey, hotly.
"You'll hev to wait till you see your pa to reward me, then?"
"A hundred and thirty-four dollars—all stolen," said Harvey, hunting wildly through his pockets. "Give them back."
A curious change flitted across old Troop's hard face. "What might you have been doin' at your time o' life with one hundred an' thirty-four dollars, young feller?"
"It was part of my pocket-money—for a month." This Harvey thought would be a knock-down blow, and it was—indirectly.
"Oh! One hundred and thirty-four dollars is only part of his pocket-money—for one month only! You don't remember hittin' anything when you fell over, do you? Crack agin a stanchion, le's say. Old man Hasken o' the East Wind"—Troop seemed to be talking to himself—"he tripped on a hatch an' butted the mainmast with his head—hardish. 'Baout three weeks afterwards, old man Hasken he would hev it that the "East Wind" was a commerce-destroyin' man-o'-war, an' so he declared war on Sable Island because it was Bridish, an' the shoals run aout too far. They sewed him up in a bed-bag, his head an' feet appearin', fer the rest o' the trip, an' now he's to home in Essex playin' with little rag dolls."
Harvey choked with rage, but Troop went on consolingly: "We're sorry fer you. We're very sorry fer you—an' so young. We won't say no more abaout the money, I guess."
"'Course you won't. You stole it."
"Suit yourself. We stole it ef it's any comfort to you. Naow, abaout goin' back. Allowin' we could do it, which we can't, you ain't in no fit state to go back to your home, an' we've jest come on to the Banks, workin' fer our bread. We don't see the ha'af of a hundred dollars a month, let alone pocket-money; an' with good luck we'll be ashore again somewheres abaout the first weeks o' September."
"But—but it's May now, and I can't stay here doin' nothing just because you want to fish. I can't, I tell you!"
"Right an' jest; jest an' right. No one asks you to do nothin'. There's a heap as you can do, for Otto he went overboard on Le Have. I mistrust he lost his grip in a gale we f'und there. Anyways, he never come back to deny it. You've turned up, plain, plumb providential for all concerned. I mistrust, though, there's ruther few things you kin do. Ain't thet so?"
"I can make it lively for you and your crowd when we get ashore," said Harvey, with a vicious nod, murmuring vague threats about "piracy," at which Troop almost—not quite—smiled.
"Excep' talk. I'd forgot that. You ain't asked to talk more'n you've a mind to aboard the We're Here. Keep your eyes open, an' help Dan to do ez he's bid, an' sechlike, an' I'll give you—you ain't wuth it, but I'll give—ten an' a ha'af a month; say thirty-five at the end o' the trip. A little work will ease up your head, and you kin tell us all abaout your dad an' your ma an' your money afterwards."
"She's on the steamer," said Harvey, his eyes filling with tears. "Take me to New York at once."
"Poor woman—poor woman! When she has you back she'll forgit it all, though. There's eight of us on the We're Here, an' ef we went back naow—it's more'n a thousand mile—we'd lose the season. The men they wouldn't hev it, allowin' I was agreeable."
"But my father would make it all right."
"He'd try. I don't doubt he'd try," said Troop; "but a whole season's catch is eight men's bread; an' you'll be better in your health when you see him in the fall. Go forward an' help Dan. It's ten an' a ha'af a month, e I said, an' o' course, all f'und, same e the rest o' us."
"Do you mean I'm to clean pots and pans and things?" said Harvey.
"An' other things. You've no call to shout, young feller."
"I won't! My father will give you enough to buy this dirty little fish-kettle"—Harvey stamped on the deck—"ten times over, if you take me to New York safe; and—and—you're in a hundred and thirty by me, anyhow."
"Haow?" said Troop, the iron face darkening.
"How? You know how, well enough. On top of all that, you want me to do menial work"—Harvey was very proud of that adjective—"till the Fall. I tell you I will not. You hear?"
Troop regarded the top of the mainmast with deep interest for a while, as Harvey harangued fiercely all around him.
"Hsh!" he said at last. "I'm figurin' out my responsibilities in my own mind. It's a matter o' jedgment."
Dan stole up and plucked Harvey by the elbow. "Don't go to tamperin' with Dad any more," he pleaded. "You've called him a thief two or three times over, an' he don't take that from any livin' bein'."
"I won't!" Harvey almost shrieked, disregarding the advice, and still Troop meditated.
"Seems kinder unneighbourly," he said at last, his eye travelling down to Harvey. "I—don't blame you, not a mite, young feeler, nor you won't blame me when the bile's out o' your systim. Be sure you sense what I say? Ten an' a ha'af fer second boy on the schooner—an' all found—fer to teach you an' fer the sake o' your health. Yes or no?"
"No!" said Harvey. "Take me back to New York or I'll see you—"
He did not exactly remember what followed. He was lying in the scuppers, holding on to a nose that bled while Troop looked down on him serenely.
"Dan," he said to his son, "I was sot agin this young feeler when I first saw him on account o' hasty jedgments. Never you be led astray by hasty jedgments, Dan. Naow I'm sorry for him, because he's clear distracted in his upper works. He ain't responsible fer the names he's give me, nor fer his other statements—nor fer jumpin' overboard, which I'm abaout ha'af convinced he did. You be gentle with him, Dan, 'r I'll give you twice what I've give him. Them hemmeridges clears the head. Let him sluice it off!"
Troop went down solemnly into the cabin, where he and the older men bunked, leaving Dan to comfort the luckless heir to thirty millions.
"I warned ye," said Dan, as the drops fell thick and fast on the dark, oiled planking. "Dad ain't noways hasty, but you fair earned it. Pshaw! there's no sense takin' on so." Harvey's shoulders were rising and falling in spasms of dry sobbing. "I know the feelin'. First time Dad laid me out was the last—and that was my first trip. Makes ye feel sickish an' lonesome. I know."
"It does," moaned Harvey. "That man's either crazy or drunk, and—and I can't do anything."
"Don't say that to Dad," whispered Dan. "He's set agin all liquor, an'—well, he told me you was the madman. What in creation made you call him a thief? He's my dad."
Harvey sat up, mopped his nose, and told the story of the missing wad of bills. "I'm not crazy," he wound up. "Only—your father has never seen more than a five-dollar bill at a time, and my father could buy up this boat once a week and never miss it."
"You don't know what the We're Here's worth. Your dad must hev a pile o' money. How did he git it? Dad sez loonies can't shake out a straight yarn. Go ahead."
"In gold mines and things, West."
"I've read o' that kind o' business. Out West, too? Does he go around with a pistol on a trick-pony, same ez the circus? They call that the Wild West, and I've heard that their spurs an' bridles was solid silver."
"You are a chump!" said Harvey, amused in spite of himself. "My father hasn't any use for ponies. When he wants to ride he takes his car."
"No. His own private car, of course. You've seen a private car some time in your life?"
"Slatin Beeman he hez one," said Dan, cautiously. "I saw her at the Union Depot in Boston, with three niggers hoggin' her run." (Dan meant cleaning the windows.) "But Slatin Beeman he owns 'baout every railroad on Long Island, they say, an' they say he's bought 'baout ha'af Noo Hampshire an' run a line fence around her, an' filled her up with lions an' tigers an' bears an' buffalo an' crocodiles an' such all. Slatin Beeman he's a millionaire. I've seen his car. Yes?"
"Well, my father's what they call a multi-millionaire, and he has two private cars. One's named for me, the 'Harvey', and one for my mother, the 'Constance'."
"Hold on," said Dan. "Dad don't ever let me swear, but I guess you can. 'Fore we go ahead, I want you to say hope you may die if you're lyin'."
"Of course," said Harvey.
"The ain't 'niff. Say, 'Hope I may die if I ain't speaking' truth.'"
"Hope I may die right here," said Harvey, "if every word I've spoken isn't the cold truth."
"Hundred an' thirty-four dollars an' all?" said Dan. "I heard ye talkin' to Dad, an' I ha'af looked you'd be swallered up, same's Jonah."
Harvey protested himself red in the face. Dan was a shrewd young person along his own lines, and ten minutes' questioning convinced him that Harvey was not lying—much. Besides, he had bound himself by the most terrible oath known to boyhood, and yet he sat, alive, with a red-ended nose, in the scuppers, recounting marvels upon marvels.
"Gosh!" said Dan at last from the very bottom of his soul when Harvey had completed an inventory of the car named in his honour. Then a grin of mischievous delight overspread his broad face. "I believe you, Harvey. Dad's made a mistake fer once in his life."
"He has, sure," said Harvey, who was meditating an early revenge.
"He'll be mad clear through. Dad jest hates to be mistook in his jedgments." Dan lay back and slapped his thigh. "Oh, Harvey, don't you spile the catch by lettin' on."
"I don't want to be knocked down again. I'll get even with him, though."
"Never heard any man ever got even with dad. But he'd knock ye down again sure. The more he was mistook the more he'd do it. But gold-mines and pistols—"
"I never said a word about pistols," Harvey cut in, for he was on his oath.
"Thet's so; no more you did. Two private cars, then, one named fer you an' one fer her; an' two hundred dollars a month pocket-money, all knocked into the scuppers fer not workin' fer ten an' a ha'af a month! It's the top haul o' the season." He exploded with noiseless chuckles.
"Then I was right?" said Harvey, who thought he had found a sympathiser.
"You was wrong; the wrongest kind o' wrong! You take right hold an' pitch in 'longside o' me, or you'll catch it, an' I'll catch it fer backin' you up. Dad always gives me double helps 'cause I'm his son, an' he hates favourin' folk. 'Guess you're kinder mad at dad. I've been that way time an' again. But dad's a mighty jest man; all the fleet says so."
"Looks like justice, this, don't it?" Harvey pointed to his outraged nose.
"Thet's nothin'. Lets the shore blood outer you. Dad did it for yer health. Say, though, I can't have dealin's with a man that thinks me or dad or any one on the We're Here's a thief. We ain't any common wharf-end crowd by any manner o' means. We're fishermen, an' we've shipped together for six years an' more. Don't you make any mistake on that! I told ye dad don't let me swear. He calls 'em vain oaths, and pounds me; but ef I could say what you said 'baout your pap an' his fixin's, I'd say that 'baout your dollars. I dunno what was in your pockets when I dried your kit, fer I didn't look to see; but I'd say, using the very same words ez you used jest now, neither me nor dad—an' we was the only two that teched you after you was brought aboard—knows anythin' 'baout the money. Thet's my say. Naow?"
The bloodletting had certainly cleared Harvey's brain, and maybe the loneliness of the sea had something to do with it. "That's all right," he said. Then he looked down confusedly. "'Seems to me that for a fellow just saved from drowning I haven't been over and above grateful, Dan."
"Well, you was shook up and silly," said Dan. "Anyway, there was only dad an' me aboard to see it. The cook he don't count."
"I might have thought about losing the bills that way," Harvey said, half to himself, "instead of calling everybody in sight a thief. Where's your father?"
"In the cabin. What d' you want o' him again?"
"You'll see," said Harvey, and he stepped, rather groggily, for his head was still singing, to the cabin steps where the little ship's clock hung in plain sight of the wheel. Troop, in the chocolate-and-yellow painted cabin, was busy with a note-book and an enormous black pencil which he sucked hard from time to time.
"I haven't acted quite right," said Harvey, surprised at his own meekness.
"What's wrong naow?" said the skipper. "Walked into Dan, hev ye?"
"No; it's about you."
"I'm here to listen."
"Well, I—I'm here to take things back," said Harvey very quickly. "When a man's saved from drowning—" he gulped.
"Ey? You'll make a man yet ef you go on this way."
"He oughtn't begin by calling people names."
"Jest an' right—right an' jest," said Troop, with the ghost of a dry smile.
"So I'm here to say I'm sorry." Another big gulp.
Troop heaved himself slowly off the locker he was sitting on and held out an eleven-inch hand. "I mistrusted 'twould do you sights o' good; an' this shows I weren't mistook in my jedgments." A smothered chuckle on deck caught his ear. "I am very seldom mistook in my jedgments." The eleven-inch hand closed on Harvey's, numbing it to the elbow. "We'll put a little more gristle to that 'fore we've done with you, young feller; an' I don't think any worse of ye fer anythin' the's gone by. You wasn't fairly responsible. Go right abaout your business an' you won't take no hurt."
"You're white," said Dan, as Harvey regained the deck, flushed to the tips of his ears.
"I don't feel it," said he.
"I didn't mean that way. I heard what Dad said. When Dad allows he don't think the worse of any man, Dad's give himself away. He hates to be mistook in his jedgments too. Ho! ho! Onct Dad has a jedgment, he'd sooner dip his colours to the British than change it. I'm glad it's settled right eend up. Dad's right when he says he can't take you back. It's all the livin' we make here—fishin'. The men'll be back like sharks after a dead whale in ha'af an hour."
"What for?" said Harvey.
"Supper, o' course. Don't your stummick tell you? You've a heap to learn."
"Guess I have," said Harvey, dolefully, looking at the tangle of ropes and blocks overhead.
"She's a daisy," said Dan, enthusiastically, misunderstanding the look. "Wait till our mainsail's bent, an' she walks home with all her salt wet. There's some work first, though." He pointed down into the darkness of the open main-hatch between the two masts.
"What's that for? It's all empty," said Harvey.
"You an' me an' a few more hev got to fill it," said Dan. "That's where the fish goes."
"Alive?" said Harvey.
"Well, no. They're so's to be ruther dead—an' flat—an' salt. There's a hundred hogshead o' salt in the bins, an' we hain't more'n covered our dunnage to now."
"Where are the fish, though?"
"'In the sea they say, in the boats we pray,'" said Dan, quoting a fisherman's proverb. "You come in last night with 'baout forty of 'em."
He pointed to a sort of wooden pen just in front of the quarter-deck.
"You an' me we'll sluice that out when they're through. 'Send we'll hev full pens to-night! I've seen her down ha'af a foot with fish waitin' to clean, an' we stood to the tables till we was splittin' ourselves instid o' them, we was so sleepy. Yes, they're comm' in naow." Dan looked over the low bulwarks at half a dozen dories rowing towards them over the shining, silky sea.
"I've never seen the sea from so low down," said Harvey. "It's fine."
The low sun made the water all purple and pinkish, with golden lights on the barrels of the long swells, and blue and green mackerel shades in the hollows. Each schooner in sight seemed to be pulling her dories towards her by invisible strings, and the little black figures in the tiny boats pulled like clockwork toys.
"They've struck on good," said Dan, between his half-shut eyes. "Manuel hain't room fer another fish. Low ez a lily-pad in still water, Aeneid he?"
"Which is Manuel? I don't see how you can tell 'em 'way off, as you do."
"Last boat to the south'ard. He fund you last night," said Dan, pointing. "Manuel rows Portugoosey; ye can't mistake him. East o' him—he's a heap better'n he rows—is Pennsylvania. Loaded with saleratus, by the looks of him. East o' him—see how pretty they string out all along—with the humpy shoulders, is Long Jack. He's a Galway man inhabitin' South Boston, where they all live mostly, an' mostly them Galway men are good in a boat. North, away yonder—you'll hear him tune up in a minute is Tom Platt. Man-o'-war's man he was on the old Ohio first of our navy, he says, to go araound the Horn. He never talks of much else, 'cept when he sings, but he has fair fishin' luck. There! What did I tell you?"
A melodious bellow stole across the water from the northern dory. Harvey heard something about somebody's hands and feet being cold, and then:
"Bring forth the chart, the doleful chart, See where them mountings meet! The clouds are thick around their heads, The mists around their feet."
"Full boat," said Dan, with a chuckle. "If he give us 'O Captain' it's topping' too!"
The bellow continued:
"And naow to thee, O Capting, Most earnestly I pray, That they shall never bury me In church or cloister gray."
"Double game for Tom Platt. He'll tell you all about the old Ohio tomorrow. 'See that blue dory behind him? He's my uncle,—Dad's own brother,—an' ef there's any bad luck loose on the Banks she'll fetch up agin Uncle Salters, sure. Look how tender he's rowin'. I'll lay my wage and share he's the only man stung up to-day—an' he's stung up good."
"What'll sting him?" said Harvey, getting interested.
"Strawberries, mostly. Pumpkins, sometimes, an' sometimes lemons an' cucumbers. Yes, he's stung up from his elbows down. That man's luck's perfectly paralyzin'. Naow we'll take a-holt o' the tackles an' hist 'em in. Is it true what you told me jest now, that you never done a hand's turn o' work in all your born life? Must feel kinder awful, don't it?"
"I'm going to try to work, anyway," Harvey replied stoutly. "Only it's all dead new."
"Lay a-holt o' that tackle, then. Behind ye!"
Harvey grabbed at a rope and long iron hook dangling from one of the stays of the mainmast, while Dan pulled down another that ran from something he called a "topping-lift," as Manuel drew alongside in his loaded dory. The Portuguese smiled a brilliant smile that Harvey learned to know well later, and with a short-handled fork began to throw fish into the pen on deck. "Two hundred and thirty-one," he shouted.
"Give him the hook," said Dan, and Harvey ran it into Manuel's hands. He slipped it through a loop of rope at the dory's bow, caught Dan's tackle, hooked it to the stern-becket, and clambered into the schooner.
"Pull!" shouted Dan, and Harvey pulled, astonished to find how easily the dory rose.
"Hold on, she don't nest in the crosstrees!" Dan laughed; and Harvey held on, for the boat lay in the air above his head.
"Lower away," Dan shouted, and as Harvey lowered, Dan swayed the light boat with one hand till it landed softly just behind the mainmast. "They don't weigh nothin' empty. Thet was right smart fer a passenger. There's more trick to it in a sea-way."
"Ah ha!" said Manuel, holding out a brown hand. "You are some pretty well now? This time last night the fish they fish for you. Now you fish for fish. Eh, wha-at?"
"I'm—I'm ever so grateful," Harvey stammered, and his unfortunate hand stole to his pocket once more, but he remembered that he had no money to offer. When he knew Manuel better the mere thought of the mistake he might have made would cover him with hot, uneasy blushes in his bunk.
"There is no to be thankful for to me!" said Manuel. "How shall I leave you dreeft, dreeft all around the Banks? Now you are a fisherman eh, wha-at? Ouh! Auh!" He bent backward and forward stiffly from the hips to get the kinks out of himself.
"I have not cleaned boat to-day. Too busy. They struck on queek. Danny, my son, clean for me."
Harvey moved forward at once. Here was something he could do for the man who had saved his life.
Dan threw him a swab, and he leaned over the dory, mopping up the slime clumsily, but with great good-will. "Hike out the foot-boards; they slide in them grooves," said Dan. "Swab 'em an' lay 'em down. Never let a foot-board jam. Ye may want her bad some day. Here's Long Jack."
A stream of glittering fish flew into the pen from a dory alongside.
"Manuel, you take the tackle. I'll fix the tables. Harvey, clear Manuel's boat. Long Jack's nestin' on the top of her."
Harvey looked up from his swabbing at the bottom of another dory just above his head.
"Jest like the Injian puzzle-boxes, ain't they?" said Dan, as the one boat dropped into the other.
"Takes to ut like a duck to water," said Long Jack, a grizzly-chinned, long-lipped Galway man, bending to and fro exactly as Manuel had done. Disko in the cabin growled up the hatchway, and they could hear him suck his pencil.
"Wan hunder an' forty-nine an' a half-bad luck to ye, Discobolus!" said Long Jack. "I'm murderin' meself to fill your pockuts. Slate ut for a bad catch. The Portugee has bate me."
Whack came another dory alongside, and more fish shot into the pen.
"Two hundred and three. Let's look at the passenger!" The speaker was even larger than the Galway man, and his face was made curious by a purple cut running slant-ways from his left eye to the right corner of his mouth.
Not knowing what else to do, Harvey swabbed each dory as it came down, pulled out the foot-boards, and laid them in the bottom of the boat.
"He's caught on good," said the scarred man, who was Toni Platt, watching him critically. "There are two ways o' doin' everything. One's fisher-fashion—any end first an' a slippery hitch over all—an' the other's—"
"What we did on the old Ohio!" Dan interrupted, brushing into the knot of men with a long board on legs. "Get out o' here, Tom Platt, an' leave me fix the tables."
He jammed one end of the board into two nicks in the bulwarks, kicked out the leg, and ducked just in time to avoid a swinging blow from the man-o'-war's man.
"An' they did that on the Ohio, too, Danny. See?" said Tom Platt, laughing.
"Guess they was swivel-eyed, then, fer it didn't git home, and I know who'll find his boots on the main-truck ef he don't leave us alone. Haul ahead! I'm busy, can't ye see?"
"Danny, ye lie on the cable an' sleep all day," said Long Jack. "You're the hoight av impidence, an' I'm persuaded ye'll corrupt our supercargo in a week."
"His name's Harvey," said Dan, waving two strangely shaped knives, "an' he'll be worth five of any Sou' Boston clam-digger 'fore long." He laid the knives tastefully on the table, cocked his head on one side, and admired the effect.
"I think it's forty-two," said a small voice overside, and there was a roar of laughter as another voice answered, "Then my luck's turned fer onct, 'caze I'm forty-five, though I be stung outer all shape."
"Forty-two or forty-five. I've lost count," the small voice said.
"It's Penn an' Uncle Salters caountin' catch. This beats the circus any day," said Dan. "Jest look at 'em!"
"Come in—come in!" roared Long Jack. "It's wet out yondher, children."
"Forty-two, ye said." This was Uncle Salters.
"I'll count again, then," the voice replied meekly. The two dories swung together and bunted into the schooner's side.
"Patience o' Jerusalem!" snapped Uncle Salters, backing water with a splash. "What possest a farmer like you to set foot in a boat beats me. You've nigh stove me all up."
"I am sorry, Mr. Salters. I came to sea on account of nervous dyspepsia. You advised me, I think."
"You an' your nervis dyspepsy be drowned in the Whale-hole," roared Uncle Salters, a fat and tubby little man. "You're comin' down on me agin. Did ye say forty-two or forty-five?"
"I've forgotten, Mr. Salters. Let's count."
"Don't see as it could be forty-five. I'm forty-five," said Uncle Salters. "You count keerful, Penn."
Disko Troop came out of the cabin. "Salters, you pitch your fish in naow at once," he said in the tone of authority.
"Don't spile the catch, Dad," Dan murmured. "Them two are on'y jest beginnin'."
"Mother av delight! He's forkin' them wan by wan," howled Long Jack, as Uncle Salters got to work laboriously; the little man in the other dory counting a line of notches on the gunwale.
"That was last week's catch," he said, looking up plaintively, his forefinger where he had left off.
Manuel nudged Dan, who darted to the after-tackle, and, leaning far overside, slipped the hook into the stern-rope as Manuel made her fast forward. The others pulled gallantly and swung the boat in—man, fish, and all.
"One, two, four-nine," said Tom Platt, counting with a practised eye. "Forty-seven. Penn, you're it!" Dan let the after-tackle run, and slid him out of the stern on to the deck amid a torrent of his own fish.
"Hold on!" roared Uncle Salters, bobbing by the waist. "Hold on, I'm a bit mixed in my caount."
He had no time to protest, but was hove inboard and treated like "Pennsylvania."
"Forty-one," said Tom Platt. "Beat by a farmer, Salters. An' you sech a sailor, too!"
"'Tweren't fair caount," said he, stumbling out of the pen; "an' I'm stung up all to pieces."
His thick hands were puffy and mottled purply white.
"Some folks will find strawberry-bottom," said Dan, addressing the newly risen moon, "ef they hev to dive fer it, seems to me."
"An' others," said Uncle Salters, "eats the fat o' the land in sloth, an' mocks their own blood-kin."
"Seat ye! Seat ye!" a voice Harvey had not heard called from the foc'sle. Disko Troop, Tom Platt, Long Jack, and Salters went forward on the word. Little Penn bent above his square deep-sea reel and the tangled cod-lines; Manuel lay down full length on the deck, and Dan dropped into the hold, where Harvey heard him banging casks with a hammer.
"Salt," he said, returning. "Soon as we're through supper we git to dressing-down. You'll pitch to Dad. Tom Platt an' Dad they stow together, an' you'll hear 'em arguin'. We're second ha'af, you an' me an' Manuel an' Penn—the youth an' beauty o' the boat."
"What's the good of that?" said Harvey. "I'm hungry."
"They'll be through in a minute. Suff! She smells good to-night. Dad ships a good cook ef he do suffer with his brother. It's a full catch today, Aeneid it?" He pointed at the pens piled high with cod. "What water did ye hev, Manuel?"
"Twenty-fife father," said the Portuguese, sleepily. "They strike on good an' queek. Some day I show you, Harvey."
The moon was beginning to walk on the still sea before the elder men came aft. The cook had no need to cry "second half." Dan and Manuel were down the hatch and at table ere Tom Platt, last and most deliberate of the elders, had finished wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Harvey followed Penn, and sat down before a tin pan of cod's tongues and sounds, mixed with scraps of pork and fried potato, a loaf of hot bread, and some black and powerful coffee. Hungry as they were, they waited while "Pennsylvania" solemnly asked a blessing. Then they stoked in silence till Dan drew a breath over his tin cup and demanded of Harvey how he felt.
"'Most full, but there's just room for another piece."
The cook was a huge, jet-black negro, and, unlike all the negroes Harvey had met, did not talk, contenting himself with smiles and dumb-show invitations to eat more.
"See, Harvey," said Dan, rapping with his fork on the table, "it's jest as I said. The young an' handsome men—like me an' Pennsy an' you an' Manuel—we're second ha'af, an' we eats when the first ha'af are through. They're the old fish; an' they're mean an' humpy, an' their stummicks has to be humoured; so they come first, which they don't deserve. Aeneid that so, doctor?"
The cook nodded.
"Can't he talk?" said Harvey in a whisper.
"'Nough to get along. Not much o' anything we know. His natural tongue's kinder curious. Comes from the innards of Cape Breton, he does, where the farmers speak homemade Scotch. Cape Breton's full o' niggers whose folk run in there durin' aour war, an' they talk like farmers—all huffy-chuffy."
"That is not Scotch," said "Pennsylvania." "That is Gaelic. So I read in a book."
"Penn reads a heap. Most of what he says is so—'cep' when it comes to a caount o' fish—eh?"
"Does your father just let them say how many they've caught without checking them?" said Harvey.
"Why, yes. Where's the sense of a man lyin' fer a few old cod?"
"Was a man once lied for his catch," Manuel put in. "Lied every day. Fife, ten, twenty-fife more fish than come he say there was."
"Where was that?" said Dan. "None o' aour folk."
"Frenchman of Anguille."
"Ah! Them West Shore Frenchmen don't caount anyway. Stands to reason they can't caount. Ef you run acrost any of their soft hooks, Harvey, you'll know why," said Dan, with an awful contempt.
"Always more and never less, Every time we come to dress,"
Long Jack roared down the hatch, and the "second ha'af" scrambled up at once.
The shadow of the masts and rigging, with the never-furled riding-sail, rolled to and fro on the heaving deck in the moonlight; and the pile of fish by the stern shone like a dump of fluid silver. In the hold there were tramplings and rumblings where Disko Troop and Tom Platt moved among the salt-bins. Dan passed Harvey a pitchfork, and led him to the inboard end of the rough table, where Uncle Salters was drumming impatiently with a knife-haft. A tub of salt water lay at his feet.
"You pitch to dad an' Tom Platt down the hatch, an' take keer Uncle Salters don't cut yer eye out," said Dan, swinging himself into the hold. "I'll pass salt below."
Penn and Manuel stood knee deep among cod in the pen, flourishing drawn knives. Long Jack, a basket at his feet and mittens on his hands, faced Uncle Salters at the table, and Harvey stared at the pitchfork and the tub.
"Hi!" shouted Manuel, stooping to the fish, and bringing one up with a finger under its gill and a finger in its eyes. He laid it on the edge of the pen; the knife-blade glimmered with a sound of tearing, and the fish, slit from throat to vent, with a nick on either side of the neck, dropped at Long Jack's feet.
"Hi!" said Long Jack, with a scoop of his mittened hand. The cod's liver dropped in the basket. Another wrench and scoop sent the head and offal flying, and the empty fish slid across to Uncle Salters, who snorted fiercely. There was another sound of tearing, the backbone flew over the bulwarks, and the fish, headless, gutted, and open, splashed in the tub, sending the salt water into Harvey's astonished mouth. After the first yell, the men were silent. The cod moved along as though they were alive, and long ere Harvey had ceased wondering at the miraculous dexterity of it all, his tub was full.
"Pitch!" grunted Uncle Salters, without turning his head, and Harvey pitched the fish by twos and threes down the hatch.
"Hi! Pitch 'em bunchy," shouted Dan. "Don't scatter! Uncle Salters is the best splitter in the fleet. Watch him mind his book!"
Indeed, it looked a little as though the round uncle were cutting magazine pages against time. Manuel's body, cramped over from the hips, stayed like a statue; but his long arms grabbed the fish without ceasing. Little Penn toiled valiantly, but it was easy to see he was weak. Once or twice Manuel found time to help him without breaking the chain of supplies, and once Manuel howled because he had caught his finger in a Frenchman's hook. These hooks are made of soft metal, to be rebent after use; but the cod very often get away with them and are hooked again elsewhere; and that is one of the many reasons why the Gloucester boats despise the Frenchmen.
Down below, the rasping sound of rough salt rubbed on rough flesh sounded like the whirring of a grindstone—steady undertune to the "click-nick" of knives in the pen; the wrench and shloop of torn heads, dropped liver, and flying offal; the "caraaah" of Uncle Salters's knife scooping away backbones; and the flap of wet, open bodies falling into the tub.
At the end of an hour Harvey would have given the world to rest; for fresh, wet cod weigh more than you would think, and his back ached with the steady pitching. But he felt for the first time in his life that he was one of the working gang of men, took pride in the thought, and held on sullenly.
"Knife oh!" shouted Uncle Salters at last. Penn doubled up, gasping among the fish, Manuel bowed back and forth to supple himself, and Long Jack leaned over the bulwarks. The cook appeared, noiseless as a black shadow, collected a mass of backbones and heads, and retreated.
"Blood-ends for breakfast an' head-chowder," said Long Jack, smacking his lips.
"Knife oh!" repeated Uncle Salters, waving the flat, curved splitter's weapon.
"Look by your foot, Harve," cried Dan below.
Harvey saw half a dozen knives stuck in a cleat in the hatch combing. He dealt these around, taking over the dulled ones.
"Water!" said Disko Troop.
"Scuttle-butt's for'ard an' the dipper's alongside. Hurry, Harve," said Dan.
He was back in a minute with a big dipperful of stale brown water which tasted like nectar, and loosed the jaws of Disko and Tom Platt.
"These are cod," said Disko. "They ain't Damarskus figs, Tom Platt, nor yet silver bars. I've told you that ever single time since we've sailed together."
"A matter o' seven seasons," returned Tom Platt coolly. "Good stowin's good stowin' all the same, an' there's a right an' a wrong way o' stowin' ballast even. If you'd ever seen four hundred ton o' iron set into the—"
"Hi!" With a yell from Manuel the work began again, and never stopped till the pen was empty. The instant the last fish was down, Disko Troop rolled aft to the cabin with his brother; Manuel and Long Jack went forward; Tom Platt only waited long enough to slide home the hatch ere he too disappeared. In half a minute Harvey heard deep snores in the cabin, and he was staring blankly at Dan and Penn.
"I did a little better that time, Danny," said Penn, whose eyelids were heavy with sleep. "But I think it is my duty to help clean."
"'Wouldn't hev your conscience fer a thousand quintal," said Dan. "Turn in, Penn. You've no call to do boy's work. Draw a bucket, Harvey. Oh, Penn, dump these in the gurry-butt 'fore you sleep. Kin you keep awake that long?"
Penn took up the heavy basket of fish-livers, emptied them into a cask with a hinged top lashed by the foc'sle; then he too dropped out of sight in the cabin.
"Boys clean up after dressin' down an' first watch in ca'am weather is boy's watch on the We're Here." Dan sluiced the pen energetically, unshipped the table, set it up to dry in the moonlight, ran the red knife-blades through a wad of oakum, and began to sharpen them on a tiny grindstone, as Harvey threw offal and backbones overboard under his direction.
At the first splash a silvery-white ghost rose bolt upright from the oily water and sighed a weird whistling sigh. Harvey started back with a shout, but Dan only laughed.
"Grampus," said he. "Beggin' fer fish-heads. They up-eend the way when they're hungry. Breath on him like the doleful tombs, hain't he?" A horrible stench of decayed fish filled the air as the pillar of white sank, and the water bubbled oilily. "Hain't ye never seen a grampus up-eend before? You'll see 'em by hundreds 'fore ye're through. Say, it's good to hev a boy aboard again. Otto was too old, an' a Dutchy at that. Him an' me we fought consid'ble. 'Wouldn't ha' keered fer that ef he'd hed a Christian tongue in his head. Sleepy?"
"Dead sleepy," said Harvey, nodding forward.
"Mustn't sleep on watch. Rouse up an' see ef our anchor-light's bright an' shinin'. You're on watch now, Harve."
"Pshaw! What's to hurt us? Bright's day. Sn-orrr!"
"Jest when things happen, Dad says. Fine weather's good sleepin', an' 'fore you know, mebbe, you're cut in two by a liner, an' seventeen brass-bound officers, all gen'elmen, lift their hand to it that your lights was aout an' there was a thick fog. Harve, I've kinder took to you, but ef you nod onct more I'll lay into you with a rope's end."
The moon, who sees many strange things on the Banks, looked down on a slim youth in knickerbockers and a red jersey, staggering around the cluttered decks of a seventy-ton schooner, while behind him, waving a knotted rope, walked, after the manner of an executioner, a boy who yawned and nodded between the blows he dealt.
The lashed wheel groaned and kicked softly, the riding-sail slatted a little in the shifts of the light wind, the windlass creaked, and the miserable procession continued. Harvey expostulated, threatened, whimpered, and at last wept outright, while Dan, the words clotting on his tongue, spoke of the beauty of watchfulness and slashed away with the rope's end, punishing the dories as often as he hit Harvey. At last the clock in the cabin struck ten, and upon the tenth stroke little Penn crept on deck. He found two boys in two tumbled heaps side by side on the main hatch, so deeply asleep that he actually rolled them to their berths.
It was the forty-fathom slumber that clears the soul and eye and heart, and sends you to breakfast ravening. They emptied a big tin dish of juicy fragments of fish—the blood-ends the cook had collected overnight. They cleaned up the plates and pans of the elder mess, who were out fishing, sliced pork for the midday meal, swabbed down the foc'sle, filled the lamps, drew coal and water for the cook, and investigated the fore-hold, where the boat's stores were stacked. It was another perfect day—soft, mild, and clear; and Harvey breathed to the very bottom of his lungs.
More schooners had crept up in the night, and the long blue seas were full of sails and dories. Far away on the horizon, the smoke of some liner, her hull invisible, smudged the blue, and to eastward a big ship's top-gallant sails, just lifting, made a square nick in it. Disko Troop was smoking by the roof of the cabin—one eye on the craft around, and the other on the little fly at the main-mast-head.
"When Dad kerflummoxes that way," said Dan in a whisper, "he's doin' some high-line thinkin' fer all hands. I'll lay my wage an' share we'll make berth soon. Dad he knows the cod, an' the Fleet they know Dad knows. 'See 'em comm' up one by one, lookin' fer nothin' in particular, o' course, but scrowgin' on us all the time? There's the Prince Leboo; she's a Chat-ham boat. She's crep' up sence last night. An' see that big one with a patch in her foresail an' a new jib? She's the Carrie Pitman from West Chat-ham. She won't keep her canvas long onless her luck's changed since last season. She don't do much 'cep' drift. There ain't an anchor made 'll hold her. . . . When the smoke puffs up in little rings like that, Dad's studyin' the fish. Ef we speak to him now, he'll git mad. Las' time I did, he jest took an' hove a boot at me."
Disko Troop stared forward, the pipe between his teeth, with eyes that saw nothing. As his son said, he was studying the fish—pitting his knowledge and experience on the Banks against the roving cod in his own sea. He accepted the presence of the inquisitive schooners on the horizon as a compliment to his powers. But now that it was paid, he wished to draw away and make his berth alone, till it was time to go up to the Virgin and fish in the streets of that roaring town upon the waters. So Disko Troop thought of recent weather, and gales, currents, food-supplies, and other domestic arrangements, from the point of view of a twenty-pound cod; was, in fact, for an hour a cod himself, and looked remarkably like one. Then he removed the pipe from his teeth.
"Dad," said Dan, "we've done our chores. Can't we go overside a piece? It's good catchin' weather."
"Not in that cherry-coloured rig ner them ha'af baked brown shoes. Give him suthin' fit to wear."
"Dad's pleased—that settles it," said Dan, delightedly, dragging Harvey into the cabin, while Troop pitched a key down the steps. "Dad keeps my spare rig where he kin overhaul it, 'cause Ma sez I'm keerless." He rummaged through a locker, and in less than three minutes Harvey was adorned with fisherman's rubber boots that came half up his thigh, a heavy blue jersey well darned at the elbows, a pair of nippers, and a sou'wester.
"Naow ye look somethin' like," said Dan. "Hurry!"
"Keep nigh an' handy," said Troop "an' don't go visitin' raound the Fleet. If any one asks you what I'm cal'latin' to do, speak the truth—fer ye don't know."
A little red dory, labelled Hattie S., lay astern of the schooner. Dan hauled in the painter, and dropped lightly on to the bottom boards, while Harvey tumbled clumsily after.
"That's no way o' gettin' into a boat," said Dan. "Ef there was any sea you'd go to the bottom, sure. You got to learn to meet her."
Dan fitted the thole-pins, took the forward thwart and watched Harvey's work. The boy had rowed, in a lady-like fashion, on the Adirondack ponds; but there is a difference between squeaking pins and well-balanced ruflocks—light sculls and stubby, eight-foot sea-oars. They stuck in the gentle swell, and Harvey grunted.
"Short! Row short!" said Dan. "Ef you cramp your oar in any kind o' sea you're liable to turn her over. Ain't she a daisy? Mine, too."
The little dory was specklessly clean. In her bows lay a tiny anchor, two jugs of water, and some seventy fathoms of thin, brown dory-roding. A tin dinner-horn rested in cleats just under Harvey's right hand, beside an ugly-looking maul, a short gaff, and a shorter wooden stick. A couple of lines, with very heavy leads and double cod-hooks, all neatly coiled on square reels, were stuck in their place by the gunwale.
"Where's the sail and mast?" said Harvey, for his hands were beginning to blister.
Dan chuckled. "Ye don't sail fishin'-dories much. Ye pull; but ye needn't pull so hard. Don't you wish you owned her?"
"Well, I guess my father might give me one or two if I asked 'em," Harvey replied. He had been too busy to think much of his family till then.
"That's so. I forgot your dad's a millionaire. You don't act millionary any, naow. But a dory an' craft an' gear"—Dan spoke as though she were a whaleboat—"costs a heap. Think your dad 'u'd give you one fer—fer a pet like?"
"Shouldn't wonder. It would be 'most the only thing I haven't stuck him for yet."
"Must be an expensive kinder kid to home. Don't slitheroo thet way, Harve. Short's the trick, because no sea's ever dead still, an' the swells 'll—"
Crack! The loom of the oar kicked Harvey under the chin and knocked him backwards.
"That was what I was goin' to say. I hed to learn too, but I wasn't more than eight years old when I got my schoolin'."
Harvey regained his seat with aching jaws and a frown.
"No good gettin' mad at things, Dad says. It's our own fault ef we can't handle 'em, he says. Le's try here. Manuel 'll give us the water."
The "Portugee" was rocking fully a mile away, but when Dan up-ended an oar he waved his left arm three times.
"Thirty fathom," said Dan, stringing a salt clam on to the hook. "Over with the doughboys. Bait same's I do, Harvey, an' don't snarl your reel."
Dan's line was out long before Harvey had mastered the mystery of baiting and heaving out the leads. The dory drifted along easily. It was not worth while to anchor till they were sure of good ground.
"Here we come!" Dan shouted, and a shower of spray rattled on Harvey's shoulders as a big cod flapped and kicked alongside. "Muckle, Harvey, muckle! Under your hand! Quick!"
Evidently "muckle" could not be the dinner-horn, so Harvey passed over the maul, and Dan scientifically stunned the fish before he pulled it inboard, and wrenched out the hook with the short wooden stick he called a "gob-stick." Then Harvey felt a tug, and pulled up zealously.
"Why, these are strawberries!" he shouted. "Look!"
The hook had fouled among a bunch of strawberries, red on one side and white on the other—perfect reproductions of the land fruit, except that there were no leaves, and the stem was all pipy and slimy.
"Don't tech 'em. Slat 'em off. Don't—"
The warning came too late. Harvey had picked them from the hook, and was admiring them.
"Ouch!" he cried, for his fingers throbbed as though he had grasped many nettles.
"Now ye know what strawberry-bottom means. Nothin' 'cep' fish should be teched with the naked fingers, Dad says. Slat 'em off agin the gunnel, an' bait up, Harve. Lookin' won't help any. It's all in the wages."
Harvey smiled at the thought of his ten and a half dollars a month, and wondered what his mother would say if she could see him hanging over the edge of a fishing-dory in mid-ocean. She suffered agonies whenever he went out on Saranac Lake; and, by the way, Harvey remembered distinctly that he used to laugh at her anxieties. Suddenly the line flashed through his hand, stinging even through the "nippers," the woolen circlets supposed to protect it.
"He's a logy. Give him room accordin' to his strength," cried Dan. "I'll help ye."
"No, you won't," Harvey snapped, as he hung on to the line. "It's my first fish. Is—is it a whale?"
"Halibut, mebbe." Dan peered down into the water alongside, and flourished the big "muckle," ready for all chances. Something white and oval flickered and fluttered through the green. "I'll lay my wage an' share he's over a hundred. Are you so everlastin' anxious to land him alone?"
Harvey's knuckles were raw and bleeding where they had been banged against the gunwale; his face was purple-blue between excitement and exertion; he dripped with sweat, and was half-blinded from staring at the circling sunlit ripples about the swiftly moving line. The boys were tired long ere the halibut, who took charge of them and the dory for the next twenty minutes. But the big flat fish was gaffed and hauled in at last.
"Beginner's luck," said Dan, wiping his forehead. "He's all of a hundred."
Harvey looked at the huge gray-and-mottled creature with unspeakable pride. He had seen halibut many times on marble slabs ashore, but it had never occurred to him to ask how they came inland. Now he knew; and every inch of his body ached with fatigue.
"Ef Dad was along," said Dan, hauling up, "he'd read the signs plain's print. The fish are runnin' smaller an' smaller, an' you've took 'baout as logy a halibut's we're apt to find this trip. Yesterday's catch—did ye notice it?—was all big fish an' no halibut. Dad he'd read them signs right off. Dad says everythin' on the Banks is signs, an' can be read wrong er right. Dad's deeper'n the Whale-hole."
Even as he spoke some one fired a pistol on the We're Here, and a potato-basket was run up in the fore-rigging.
"What did I say, naow? That's the call fer the whole crowd. Dad's onter something, er he'd never break fishin' this time o' day. Reel up, Harve, an' we'll pull back."
They were to windward of the schooner, just ready to flirt the dory over the still sea, when sounds of woe half a mile off led them to Penn, who was careering around a fixed point for all the world like a gigantic water-bug. The little man backed away and came down again with enormous energy, but at the end of each maneuver his dory swung round and snubbed herself on her rope.
"We'll hev to help him, else he'll root an' seed here," said Dan.
"What's the matter?" said Harvey. This was a new world, where he could not lay down the law to his elders, but had to ask questions humbly. And the sea was horribly big and unexcited.
"Anchor's fouled. Penn's always losing 'em. Lost two this trip a'ready—on sandy bottom too—an' Dad says next one he loses, sure's fishin', he'll give him the kelleg. That 'u'd break Penn's heart."
"What's a 'kelleg'?" said Harvey, who had a vague idea it might be some kind of marine torture, like keel-hauling in the storybooks.
"Big stone instid of an anchor. You kin see a kelleg ridin' in the bows fur's you can see a dory, an' all the fleet knows what it means. They'd guy him dreadful. Penn couldn't stand that no more'n a dog with a dipper to his tail. He's so everlastin' sensitive. Hello, Penn! Stuck again? Don't try any more o' your patents. Come up on her, and keep your rodin' straight up an' down."
"It doesn't move," said the little man, panting. "It doesn't move at all, and instead I tried everything."
"What's all this hurrah's-nest for'ard?" said Dan, pointing to a wild tangle of spare oars and dory-roding, all matted together by the hand of inexperience.
"Oh, that," said Penn proudly, "is a Spanish windlass. Mr. Salters showed me how to make it; but even that doesn't move her."
Dan bent low over the gunwale to hide a smile, twitched once or twice on the roding, and, behold, the anchor drew at once.
"Haul up, Penn," he said laughing, "er she'll git stuck again."
They left him regarding the weed-hung flukes of the little anchor with big, pathetic blue eyes, and thanking them profusely.
"Oh, say, while I think of it, Harve," said Dan when they were out of ear-shot, "Penn ain't quite all caulked. He ain't nowise dangerous, but his mind's give out. See?"
"Is that so, or is it one of your father's judgments?"
Harvey asked as he bent to his oars. He felt he was learning to handle them more easily.
"Dad ain't mistook this time. Penn's a sure 'nuff loony."
"No, he ain't thet exactly, so much ez a harmless ijut. It was this way (you're rowin' quite so, Harve), an' I tell you 'cause it's right you orter know. He was a Moravian preacher once. Jacob Boiler wuz his name, Dad told me, an' he lived with his wife an' four children somewheres out Pennsylvania way. Well, Penn he took his folks along to a Moravian meetin'—camp-meetin' most like—an' they stayed over jest one night in Johns-town. You've heered talk o' Johnstown?"
Harvey considered. "Yes, I have. But I don't know why. It sticks in my head same as Ashtabula."
"Both was big accidents—thet's why, Harve. Well, that one single night Penn and his folks was to the hotel Johnstown was wiped out. 'Dam bust an' flooded her, an' the houses struck adrift an' bumped into each other an' sunk. I've seen the pictures, an' they're dretful. Penn he saw his folk drowned all'n a heap 'fore he rightly knew what was comin'. His mind give out from that on. He mistrusted somethin' hed happened up to Johnstown, but for the poor life of him he couldn't remember what, an' he jest drifted araound smilin' an' wonderin'. He didn't know what he was, nor yit what he hed bin, an' thet way he run agin Uncle Salters, who was visitin' 'n Allegheny City. Ha'af my mother's folks they live scattered inside o' Pennsylvania, an' Uncle Salters he visits araound winters. Uncle Salters he kinder adopted Penn, well knowin' what his trouble wuz; an' he brought him East, an' he give him work on his farm."
"Why, I heard him calling Penn a farmer last night when the boats bumped. Is your Uncle Salters a farmer?"
"Farmer!" shouted Dan. "There ain't water enough 'tween here an' Hatt'rus to wash the furrer-mold off'n his boots. He's jest everlastin' farmer. Why, Harve, I've seen thet man hitch up a bucket, long towards sundown, an' set twiddlin' the spigot to the scuttle-butt same's ef 'twas a cow's bag. He's thet much farmer. Well, Penn an' he they ran the farm—up Exeter way 'twur. Uncle Salters he sold it this spring to a jay from Boston as wanted to build a summer-haouse, an' he got a heap for it. Well, them two loonies scratched along till, one day, Penn's church—he'd belonged to the Moravians—found out where he wuz drifted an' layin', an' wrote to Uncle Salters. 'Never heerd what they said exactly; but Uncle Salters was mad. He's a 'piscopolian mostly—but he jest let 'em hev it both sides o' the bow, 's if he was a Baptist; an' sez he warn't goin' to give up Penn to any blame Moravian connection in Pennsylvania or anywheres else. Then he come to Dad, towin' Penn,—thet was two trips back,—an' sez he an' Penn must fish a trip fer their health. 'Guess he thought the Moravians wouldn't hunt the Banks fer Jacob Boiler. Dad was agreeable, fer Uncle Salters he'd been fishin' off an' on fer thirty years, when he warn't inventin' patent manures, an' he took quarter-share in the We're Here; an' the trip done Penn so much good, Dad made a habit o' takin' him. Some day, Dad sez, he'll remember his wife an' kids an' Johnstown, an' then, like as not, he'll die, Dad sez. Don't ye talk abaout Johnstown ner such things to Penn, 'r Uncle Salters he'll heave ye overboard."
"Poor Penn!" murmured Harvey. "I shouldn't ever have thought Uncle Salters cared for him by the look of 'em together."
"I like Penn, though; we all do," said Dan. "We ought to ha' give him a tow, but I wanted to tell ye first."
They were close to the schooner now, the other boats a little behind them.
"You needn't heave in the dories till after dinner," said Troop from the deck. "We'll dress daown right off. Fix table, boys!"
"Deeper'n the Whale-deep," said Dan, with a wink, as he set the gear for dressing down. "Look at them boats that hev edged up sence mornin'. They're all waitin' on Dad. See 'em, Harve?"
"They are all alike to me." And indeed to a landsman, the nodding schooners around seemed run from the same mold.
"They ain't, though. That yaller, dirty packet with her bowsprit steeved that way, she's the Hope of Prague. Nick Brady's her skipper, the meanest man on the Banks. We'll tell him so when we strike the Main Ledge. 'Way off yonder's the Day's Eye. The two Jeraulds own her. She's from Harwich; fastish, too, an' hez good luck; but Dad he'd find fish in a graveyard. Them other three, side along, they're the Margie Smith, Rose, and Edith S. Walen, all from home. 'Guess we'll see the Abbie M. Deering to-morrer, Dad, won't we? They're all slippin' over from the shaol o' 'Oueereau."
"You won't see many boats to-morrow, Danny." When Troop called his son Danny, it was a sign that the old man was pleased. "Boys, we're too crowded," he went on, addressing the crew as they clambered inboard. "We'll leave 'em to bait big an' catch small." He looked at the catch in the pen, and it was curious to see how little and level the fish ran. Save for Harvey's halibut, there was nothing over fifteen pounds on deck.
"I'm waitin' on the weather," he added.
"Ye'll have to make it yourself, Disko, for there's no sign I can see," said Long Jack, sweeping the clear horizon.
And yet, half an hour later, as they were dressing down, the Bank fog dropped on them, "between fish and fish," as they say. It drove steadily and in wreaths, curling and smoking along the colourless water. The men stopped dressing-down without a word. Long Jack and Uncle Salters slipped the windlass brakes into their sockets, and began to heave up the anchor; the windlass jarring as the wet hempen cable strained on the barrel. Manuel and Tom Platt gave a hand at the last. The anchor came up with a sob, and the riding-sail bellied as Troop steadied her at the wheel. "Up jib and foresail," said he.
"Slip 'em in the smother," shouted Long Jack, making fast the jib-sheet, while the others raised the clacking, rattling rings of the foresail; and the foreboom creaked as the We're Here looked up into the wind and dived off into blank, whirling white.
"There's wind behind this fog," said Troop.
It was wonderful beyond words to Harvey; and the most wonderful part was that he heard no orders except an occasional grunt from Troop, ending with, "That's good, my son!"
"Never seen anchor weighed before?" said Tom Platt, to Harvey gaping at the damp canvas of the foresail.
"No. Where are we going?"
"Fish and make berth, as you'll find out 'fore you've been a week aboard. It's all new to you, but we never know what may come to us. Now, take me—Tom Platt—I'd never ha' thought—"
"It's better than fourteen dollars a month an' a bullet in your belly," said Troop, from the wheel. "Ease your jumbo a grind."
"Dollars an' cents better," returned the man-o'-war's man, doing something to a big jib with a wooden spar tied to it. "But we didn't think o' that when we manned the windlass-brakes on the Miss Jim Buck, I outside Beau-fort Harbor, with Fort Macon heavin' hot shot at our stern, an' a livin' gale atop of all. Where was you then, Disko?"
"Jest here, or hereabouts," Disko replied, "earnin' my bread on the deep waters, an' dodgin' Reb privateers. Sorry I can't accommodate you with red-hot shot, Tom Platt; but I guess we'll come aout all right on wind 'fore we see Eastern Point."
There was an incessant slapping and chatter at the bows now, varied by a solid thud and a little spout of spray that clattered down on the foc'sle. The rigging dripped clammy drops, and the men lounged along the lee of the house—all save Uncle Salters, who sat stiffly on the main-hatch nursing his stung hands.
"Guess she'd carry stays'l," said Disko, rolling one eye at his brother.
"Guess she wouldn't to any sorter profit. What's the sense o' wastin' canvas?" the farmer-sailor replied.
The wheel twitched almost imperceptibly in Disko's hands. A few seconds later a hissing wave-top slashed diagonally across the boat, smote Uncle Salters between the shoulders, and drenched him from head to foot. He rose sputtering, and went forward only to catch another.
"See Dad chase him all around the deck," said Dan. "Uncle Salters he thinks his quarter share's our canvas. Dad's put this duckin' act up on him two trips runnin'. Hi! That found him where he feeds." Uncle Salters had taken refuge by the foremast, but a wave slapped him over the knees. Disko's face was as blank as the circle of the wheel.
"Guess she'd lie easier under stays'l, Salters," said Disko, as though he had seen nothing.
"Set your old kite, then," roared the victim through a cloud of spray; "only don't lay it to me if anything happens. Penn, you go below right off an' git your coffee. You ought to hev more sense than to bum araound on deck this weather."
"Now they'll swill coffee an' play checkers till the cows come home," said Dan, as Uncle Salters hustled Penn into the fore-cabin. "'Looks to me like's if we'd all be doin' so fer a spell. There's nothin' in creation deader-limpsey-idler'n a Banker when she ain't on fish."
"I'm glad ye spoke, Danny," cried Long Jack, who had been casting round in search of amusement. "I'd clean forgot we'd a passenger under that T-wharf hat. There's no idleness for thim that don't know their ropes. Pass him along, Tom Platt, an' we'll larn him."
"'Tain't my trick this time," grinned Dan. "You've got to go it alone. Dad learned me with a rope's end."
For an hour Long Jack walked his prey up and down, teaching, as he said, "things at the sea that ivry man must know, blind, dhrunk, or asleep." There is not much gear to a seventy-ton schooner with a stump-foremast, but Long Jack had a gift of expression. When he wished to draw Harvey's attention to the peak-halyards, he dug his knuckles into the back of the boy's neck and kept him at gaze for half a minute. He emphasized the difference between fore and aft generally by rubbing Harvey's nose along a few feet of the boom, and the lead of each rope was fixed in Harvey's mind by the end of the rope itself.
The lesson would have been easier had the deck been at all free; but there appeared to be a place on it for everything and anything except a man. Forward lay the windlass and its tackle, with the chain and hemp cables, all very unpleasant to trip over; the foc'sle stovepipe, and the gurry-butts by the foc'sle hatch to hold the fish-livers. Aft of these the foreboom and booby of the main-hatch took all the space that was not needed for the pumps and dressing-pens. Then came the nests of dories lashed to ring-bolts by the quarter-deck; the house, with tubs and oddments lashed all around it; and, last, the sixty-foot main-boom in its crutch, splitting things length-wise, to duck and dodge under every time.
Tom Platt, of course, could not keep his oar out of the business, but ranged alongside with enormous and unnecessary descriptions of sails and spars on the old Ohio.
"Niver mind fwhat he says; attind to me, Innocince. Tom Platt, this bally-hoo's not the Ohio, an' you're mixing the bhoy bad."
"He'll be ruined for life, beginnin' on a fore-an'-after this way," Tom Platt pleaded. "Give him a chance to know a few leadin' principles. Sailin's an art, Harvey, as I'd show you if I had ye in the fore-top o' the—"
"I know ut. Ye'd talk him dead an' cowld. Silince, Tom Platt! Now, after all I've said, how'd you reef the foresail, Harve? Take your time answerin'."
"Haul that in," said Harvey, pointing to leeward.
"Fwhat? The North Atlantuc?"
"No, the boom. Then run that rope you showed me back there—"
"That's no way," Tom Platt burst in.
"Quiet! He's larnin', an' has not the names good yet. Go on, Harve."
"Oh, it's the reef-pennant. I'd hook the tackle on to the reef-pennant, and then let down—"
"Lower the sail, child! Lower!" said Tom Platt, in a professional agony.
"Lower the throat and peak halyards," Harvey went on. Those names stuck in his head.
"Lay your hand on thim," said Long Jack.
Harvey obeyed. "Lower till that rope-loop—on the after-leach-kris—no, it's cringle—till the cringle was down on the boom. Then I'd tie her up the way you said, and then I'd hoist up the peak and throat halyards again."
"You've forgot to pass the tack-earing, but wid time and help ye'll larn. There's good and just reason for ivry rope aboard, or else 'twould be overboard. D'ye follow me? 'Tis dollars an' cents I'm puttin' into your pocket, ye skinny little supercargo, so that fwhin ye've filled out ye can ship from Boston to Cuba an' tell thim Long Jack larned you. Now I'll chase ye around a piece, callin' the ropes, an' you'll lay your hand on thim as I call."
He began, and Harvey, who was feeling rather tired, walked slowly to the rope named. A rope's end licked round his ribs, and nearly knocked the breath out of him.
"When you own a boat," said Tom Platt, with severe eyes, "you can walk. Till then, take all orders at the run. Once more—to make sure!"
Harvey was in a glow with the exercise, and this last cut warmed him thoroughly. Now he was a singularly smart boy, the son of a very clever man and a very sensitive woman, with a fine resolute temper that systematic spoiling had nearly turned to mulish obstinacy. He looked at the other men, and saw that even Dan did not smile. It was evidently all in the day's work, though it hurt abominably; so he swallowed the hint with a gulp and a gasp and a grin. The same smartness that led him to take such advantage of his mother made him very sure that no one on the boat, except, maybe, Penn, would stand the least nonsense. One learns a great deal from a mere tone. Long Jack called over half a dozen ropes, and Harvey danced over the deck like an eel at ebb-tide, one eye on Tom Platt.
"Ver' good. Ver' good don," said Manuel. "After supper I show you a little schooner I make, with all her ropes. So we shall learn."
"Fust-class fer—a passenger," said Dan. "Dad he's jest allowed you'll be wuth your salt maybe 'fore you're draownded. Thet's a heap fer Dad. I'll learn you more our next watch together."
"Taller!" grunted Disko, peering through the fog as it smoked over the bows. There was nothing to be seen ten feet beyond the surging jib-boom, while alongside rolled the endless procession of solemn, pale waves whispering and lipping one to the other.
"Now I'll learn you something Long Jack can't," shouted Tom Platt, as from a locker by the stern he produced a battered deep-sea lead hollowed at one end, smeared the hollow from a saucer full of mutton tallow, and went forward. "I'll learn you how to fly the Blue Pigeon. Shooo!"
Disko did something to the wheel that checked the schooner's way, while Manuel, with Harvey to help (and a proud boy was Harvey), let down the jib in a lump on the boom. The lead sung a deep droning song as Tom Platt whirled it round and round.
"Go ahead, man," said Long Jack, impatiently. "We're not drawin' twenty-five fut off Fire Island in a fog. There's no trick to ut."
"Don't be jealous, Galway." The released lead plopped into the sea far ahead as the schooner surged slowly forward.
"Soundin' is a trick, though," said Dan, "when your dipsey lead's all the eye you're like to hev for a week. What d'you make it, Dad?"
Disko's face relaxed. His skill and honour were involved in the march he had stolen on the rest of the Fleet, and he had his reputation as a master artist who knew the Banks blindfold. "Sixty, mebbe—ef I'm any judge," he replied, with a glance at the tiny compass in the window of the house.
"Sixty," sung out Tom Platt, hauling in great wet coils.
The schooner gathered way once more. "Heave!" said Disko, after a quarter of an hour.
"What d'you make it?" Dan whispered, and he looked at Harvey proudly. But Harvey was too proud of his own performances to be impressed just then.
"Fifty," said the father. "I mistrust we're right over the nick o' Green Bank on old Sixty-Fifty."
"Fifty!" roared Tom Platt. They could scarcely see him through the fog. "She's bust within a yard—like the shells at Fort Macon."
"Bait up, Harve," said Dan, diving for a line on the reel.
The schooner seemed to be straying promiscuously through the smother, her headsail banging wildly. The men waited and looked at the boys who began fishing.
"Heugh!" Dan's lines twitched on the scored and scarred rail. "Now haow in thunder did Dad know? Help us here, Harve. It's a big un. Poke-hooked, too." They hauled together, and landed a goggle-eyed twenty-pound cod. He had taken the bait right into his stomach.
"Why, he's all covered with little crabs," cried Harvey, turning him over.
"By the great hook-block, they're lousy already," said Long Jack. "Disko, ye kape your spare eyes under the keel."
Splash went the anchor, and they all heaved over the lines, each man taking his own place at the bulwarks.
"Are they good to eat?" Harvey panted, as he lugged in another crab-covered cod.
"Sure. When they're lousy it's a sign they've all been herdin' together by the thousand, and when they take the bait that way they're hungry. Never mind how the bait sets. They'll bite on the bare hook."
"Say, this is great!" Harvey cried, as the fish came in gasping and splashing—nearly all poke-hooked, as Dan had said. "Why can't we always fish from the boat instead of from the dories?"
"Allus can, till we begin to dress daown. Efter thet, the heads and offals 'u'd scare the fish to Fundy. Boatfishin' ain't reckoned progressive, though, unless ye know as much as dad knows. Guess we'll run aout aour trawl to-night. Harder on the back, this, than frum the dory, ain't it?"
It was rather back-breaking work, for in a dory the weight of a cod is water-borne till the last minute, and you are, so to speak, abreast of him; but the few feet of a schooner's freeboard make so much extra dead-hauling, and stooping over the bulwarks cramps the stomach. But it was wild and furious sport so long as it lasted; and a big pile lay aboard when the fish ceased biting.
"Where's Penn and Uncle Salters?" Harvey asked, slapping the slime off his oilskins, and reeling up the line in careful imitation of the others.
"Git 's coffee and see."
Under the yellow glare of the lamp on the pawl-post, the foc'sle table down and opened, utterly unconscious of fish or weather, sat the two men, a checker-board between them, Uncle Salters snarling at Penn's every move.
"What's the matter naow?" said the former, as Harvey, one hand in the leather loop at the head of the ladder, hung shouting to the cook.
"Big fish and lousy—heaps and heaps," Harvey replied, quoting Long Jack. "How's the game?"
Little Penn's jaw dropped. "'Tweren't none o' his fault," snapped Uncle Salters. "Penn's deef."
"Checkers, weren't it?" said Dan, as Harvey staggered aft with the steaming coffee in a tin pail. "That lets us out o' cleanin' up to-night. Dad's a jest man. They'll have to do it."
"An' two young fellers I know'll bait up a tub or so o' trawl, while they're cleanin'," said Disko, lashing the wheel to his taste.
"Um! Guess I'd ruther clean up, Dad."
"Don't doubt it. Ye wun't, though. Dress daown! Dress daown! Penn'll pitch while you two bait up."
"Why in thunder didn't them blame boys tell us you'd struck on?" said Uncle Salters, shuffling to his place at the table. "This knife's gum-blunt, Dan."