JAMES B. CONNOLLY
Author of "Out of Gloucester," "Jeb Hutton," Etc.
Charles Scribner's Sons New York 1910
Copyright, 1904, by Charles Scribner's Sons
Published, May, 1904
I. THE NEW VESSEL OF WITHROW'S 1 II. A LITTLE JOG ALONG THE DOCKS 8 III. MINNIE ARKELL 16 IV. LITTLE JOHNNIE DUNCAN STANDS EXAMINATION 27 V. FROM OUT OF CROW'S NEST 35 VI. MAURICE BLAKE GETS A VESSEL 43 VII. CLANCY CROSSES MINNIE ARKELL 51 VIII. THE SEINING FLEET PUTS OUT TO SEA 61 IX. MACKEREL 70 X. WE LOSE OUR SEINE 82 XI. AN OVER-NIGHT BREEZE 87 XII. THE FLEET RUNS TO HARBOR 99 XIII. WESLEY MARRS BRINGS A MESSAGE 119 XIV. A PROSPECT OF NIGHT-SEINING 123 XV. CLANCY TO THE MAST-HEAD 129 XVI. WE GET A FINE SCHOOL 137 XVII. A DRIVE FOR MARKET 144 XVIII. A BRUSH WITH THE YACHTING FLEET 153 XIX. MINNIE ARKELL AGAIN 159 XX. THE SKIPPER PUTS FOR HOME 172 XXI. SEINERS' WORK 175 XXII. ON THE CAPE SHORE 184 XXIII. DRESSING DOWN 193 XXIV. THE WITHROW OUTSAILS THE DUNCAN 202 XXV. TROUBLE WITH THE DOMINION CUTTERS 206 XXVI. THE GOSSIP IN GLOUCESTER 211 XXVII. IN CLANCY'S BOARDING-HOUSE 217 XXVIII. IN THE ARKELL KITCHEN 220 XXIX. MAURICE BLAKE COMES HOME 230 XXX. THE MORNING OF THE RACE 235 XXXI. THE START OF THE RACE 243 XXXII. O'DONNELL CARRIES AWAY BOTH MASTS 250 XXXIII. THE ABLE JOHNNIE DUNCAN 257 XXXIV. MINNIE ARKELL ONCE MORE 265 XXXV. CLANCY LAYS DOWN THE LAW 271 XXXVI. MAURICE BLAKE IS RECALLED 281 XXXVII. THE GIRL IN CANSO 289 XXXVIII. THE DUNCAN GOES TO THE WEST'ARD 297 XXXIX. THE HEART OF CLANCY 309
THE NEW VESSEL OF WITHROW'S
It was only a few days before this that the new vessel of Mr. Withrow's, built by him, as everybody supposed, for Maurice Blake, had been towed around from Essex, and I remember how Maurice stood on the dock that afternoon and looked her over.
There was not a bolt or a plank or a seam in her whole hull, not a square inch inside or out, that he had not been over half a dozen times while she was on the stocks; but now he had to look her over again, and as he looked his eyes took on a shine. She had been designed by a man famous the world over, and was intended to beat anything that ever sailed past Eastern Point.
She certainly was a great-looking model of a vessel, and "If she only sails and handles half so well as she looks, she'll do for me," said Maurice. "Yes, sir, and if she's up to what I think she ought to be, I wouldn't be afraid to bet my share of what we make out South that she'll hold her own with anything out of Gloucester—give her a few weeks to loosen up, of course."
That was a good deal to say, for it was a great fleet of vessels sailing out of Gloucester; but even so, even allowing for a young skipper's pride in his first crack vessel, it meant a whole lot coming like that from Maurice Blake.
And on top of all that Maurice and Withrow had to quarrel, though what about I never found out. I only know that I was ready to believe that Withrow was to blame, for I liked Maurice and did not like Withrow, even though Withrow was the man from whom I drew my pay every week. And yet I could not understand it, for Maurice Blake had been far and away the most successful skipper sailing for Withrow, and Withrow always had a good eye for the dollar.
No more came of it until this particular morning, some days after Maurice and Withrow had quarrelled. Wesley Marrs and Tommie Clancy, two men that I never tired of listening to, were on the dock and sizing up the new vessel. Wesley Marrs was himself a great fisherman, and master at this time of the wonderful Lucy Foster.
When she swings the main boom over And she feels the wind abaft,
The way she'll walk to Gloucester'll Make a steamer look a raft.
For she's the Lucy Foster, She's a seiner out of Gloucester,—
was the way the fishermen of the port used to sing about the Lucy; while Tommie Clancy was Maurice Blake's closest friend.
With ballast stored, masts stepped, rigging set up, and sails bent, setting as sweet as could be to her lines and the lumpers beginning to get her ready for the mackerel season, the Fred Withrow was certainly a picture.
After a couple of extra long pulls, blowing the smoke into the air, and another look above and below, "That one—she'll sail some or I don't know," said Wesley.
"She sure will," said Tommie; "and it's a jeesly shame Maurice isn't to have her." Then turning to me, "What in the devil's name ails that man you work for, Joey?"
I said I didn't know.
"No, nor nobody else knows. I'd like to work in that store for him for about ten minutes. I think I'd make him say something in that ten minutes that would give me a good excuse for heaving him out the window. He had an argument with Maurice, Wesley, and Maurice don't know what it was half about, but he knows he came near to punching Withrow."
And Wesley and Tommie had to talk that out; and between the pair of them, thinking of what they said, I thought I ought to walk back to the store with barely a civil look for my employer, who didn't like that at all, for he generally wanted to hand out the black looks himself.
Then the girls—my cousin Nellie and her particular chum, Alice Foster—came in to weigh themselves, and also to remind me, they said, that I was to take them over to Essex the next day for the launching of the new vessel for the Duncan firm, which had been designed by a friend of Nell's, a young fellow named Will Somers, who was just beginning to get a name in Gloucester for fast and able models of vessels. Withrow, who was not over-liberal with his holidays, said I might go—mostly, I suspect, because Alice Foster had said she would not make the trip without Nell, and Nell would not go unless I went too.
Then Nell and Miss Foster went on with the business of weighing themselves. That was in line with the latest fad. It was always something or other, and physical culture was in the air at this time with every other girl in Gloucester, so far as I could see—either Indian-club swinging or dumb-bell drilling, long walks, and things of that kind, and telling how much better they felt after it. My cousin Nell, who went in for anything that anybody ever told her about, was trying to reduce her weight. According to some perfect-form charts, or something or other on printed sheets, she weighed seven pounds more than she should for her height. I thought she was about the right weight myself, and told her so, but she said no—she was positively fat. "Look at Alice," she said, "she's just the thing."
I looked at Alice—Miss Foster I always called her myself—and certainly she was a lovely girl, though perhaps a little too conscious of it. She was one of the few that weren't going in for anything that I could see. She wasn't even weighing herself, or at least she didn't until Mr. Withrow, with his company manners in fine working order, asked her if she wouldn't allow him to weigh her.
There were people in town who said it was not for nothing that Alice Foster was so chummy with my cousin Nell. They meant, of course, that being chummy with Nell, who came down regularly to see me, gave herself a good excuse to come along and so have a word with Withrow. Fred Withrow himself was a big, well-built, handsome man—an unusually good-looking man, I'd call him—and a great heart-breaker, according to report—some of it his own. And he was wealthy, too. I did not know, but somehow or other I did not believe it, or maybe it was that I hoped rather than believed that Miss Foster did not care particularly for him; for I did not like him myself, although I worked for him and was taking his money. Being day in and day out with him in the store, you see I saw him pretty much as he really was, and I hated to think of a fine girl—for with all her cool ways I knew Miss Foster was that—marrying him. Just how Withrow thought he stood with Miss Foster I did not know—he was a pretty close-mouthed man when he wanted to be. Miss Foster herself was that reserved kind of a girl that you cannot always place. She struck me as being a girl that would die before she would confess a weakness or a troublesome feeling. And yet, without knowing how it came there, there was always a notion in the back of my head that made me half-believe that she did not come to the store with my cousin out of pure companionship. There was something besides—and what could it be but Withrow?
After the weighing was done Nell asked me all at once, "I hear, Joe, that Captain Hollis is going to have your new vessel? How is that? We—I thought that Captain Blake was going master of her—and such a pretty vessel!"
I answered that I didn't know how it was, and looked over at my employer, as much as to say, "Maybe he can tell you."
I think now that I must have been a pretty impudent lad, letting my employer know what I thought of him as I did in those days. I think, too, he had a pretty shrewd notion of what I thought of himself and Maurice Blake. At any rate, after the girls had gone, he worked himself into a fine bit of temper, and I talked back at him, and the end of it was that he discharged me—or 1 quit—I'm not sure which. I do know that it was rapid-fire talk while it lasted.
It was some satisfaction to me to tell Withrow just about what I did think of him before I went. He didn't quite throw me out of the door, although he was big enough for that; but he looked as if he wanted to. And maybe he would have, too, or tried it, only I said, "Mind I don't give you what Tommie Clancy threatened to give you once," and his nerve went flat. I couldn't have handled him as Clancy had any more than I could have hove a barrel of salt mackerel over my head, which was what the strong fishermen of the port were doing about that time to prove their strength; but the bluff went, and I couldn't help throwing out my chest as I went out the door and thinking that I was getting to be a great judge of human nature.
A LITTLE JOG ALONG THE DOCKS
I was sorry to lose my job. I was twenty years old, without a trade or special knowledge of any kind, and beyond the outfitting of fishing vessels, knowing nothing of any business, and with no more than a high school education—and that two years behind me—and I knew of no place in Gloucester where I could begin all over and right away get as much pay as I had left behind me. I might go to Boston, of course, and try for something there—I was not ten minutes out of Withrow's before I thought of doing that. But a little further thought and I knew there were more capable men than I walking the streets of Boston looking for work. However, a lot could happen before I would have to worry, and so I decided to take the air and think it over.
I might go fishing certainly—I had had a little experience in my school vacations—if my mother would only stand for it. As to that I did not know. If it came to fishing or starving—one or the other—then of course she would have to let me go fishing. But my father had been lost on the Grand Banks with his vessel and all hands—and then one brother was already fishing. So I hardly thought she would allow me, and anyway I knew she would never have a good night's rest while I was out.
However, I kept thinking it over. To get away by myself I took a ride over to Essex. There I knew I would find half a dozen vessels on the stocks, and there they were—the latest vessel for the Duncan firm and three more for other firms. I knew one of the ship-carpenters in Elwell's yard, Levi Woodbury, and he was telling me about some of the vessels that had been launched lately. "Of course," he said, "you saw the one launched a few days ago from here—that one built for Mr. Withrow?"
I said I had, and that she was a wonder to look at and that I wished Maurice Blake, and not Sam Hollis, was to have her.
"Yes," said Levi, "and a pity. Maurice Blake could have sailed her right, though for that matter Sam Hollis is a clever hand to sail a vessel, too. And she ought to sail some, that vessel. But look here at this one for the Duncans and to be launched to-morrow. Designed by Will Somers—know him? Yes? A nice young fellow. Ain't she able-looking?"
She certainly was, and handsome, and Levi went on to tell me about her. He showed me where she was like and where she differed from the Lucy Foster, the Fred Withrow, the Nannie O, the Colleen Bawn, and the others which were then causing trouble in Gloucester with crews fighting over their good qualities. I did not know a whole lot about vessels, but having been born in Gloucester and having soaked in the atmosphere all my life and loving vessels besides, I had a lot of notions about them. And I liked this last Duncan vessel. By the wind and in a sea-way, it struck me she would be a wonder. There was something more than just the fine lines of her. There is that about vessels. You can take two vessels, model them alike, rig them alike, handle them alike, and still one will sail rings around the other. And why is it? I've heard a hundred fishermen at different times say that and then ask, Why is it? This one was awfully sharp forward, too sharp some might have said, with little more forefoot than most of the late-built flyers; but she was deep and had a quarter that I knew would stand up under her sail. I liked the after-part of her. Racing machines are all right for a few months or a year or two and in smooth water, but give me a vessel that can stand up under sail. I thought I could see where, if they gave her sail enough, especially aft, and a skipper that would drive her, she might do great things. And certainly she ought to be a comfort in a blow and bring a fellow home—and there's a whole lot in that—being in a vessel that you feel will bring you home again.
I looked over the others, but none of them held me like the Duncan vessel, and I soon came back to Gloucester and took a walk along the waterfront.
It was well into March at this time—the third week in March, I remember—and there was a great business doing along the docks. The salt bankers were almost ready to leave—twenty-eight or thirty sail fitting out for the Grand Banks. And then there were the seiners—the mackerel catchers—seventy or eighty sail of them making ready for the Southern cruise. All that meant that things would be humming for a while. So I took a walk along the docks to see it.
Most of the vessels that had been fishing during the winter had been stripped of their winter sails, and now aboard these they were bending on the summer suits and slinging up what top spars had not already been sent up. For the vessels that had been laid up all winter and stripped of everything, they were getting out the gear from the lofts. Everywhere it was topmasts being sent up, sails being dragged out, stays swayed taut, halyards and sheets rove—an overhauling generally. On the railways—Burnham's, Parkhurst's, and Tarr's—were vessels having their bottoms scrubbed and painted and their topsides lined out. And they all looked so handsome and smelt so fine with their riggings being tarred, not with the smoky tar that people ashore put on house-roofs, but the fine rich-smelling tar that goes into vessels' rigging; and there was the black and dark sea-green paint for the sides, with the gold or yellow or sometimes red stripe to mark the run, and main and quarter rails being varnished.
And the seine-boats! If there is anything afloat that sets more easily on the water than a seine-boat I never saw it, unless it might be a birch-bark canoe—and who'd want to be caught out in a blow in a canoe? The seine-boats all looked as natural as so many sea-gulls—thirty-six or thirty-eight feet long, green or blue bottoms to just above the waterline so that it would show, and above that all clear white except for the blue or red or yellow or green decorations that some skippers liked. And the seines that went with them were coming in wagons from the net and twine factory, tanned brown or tarred black and all ready to be hauled on to the vessels' decks or stowed in the holds below, until the fleet should be in among the mackerel to the south'ard—off Hatteras or Cape May or somewhere down that way.
To feel all that and the rest of it—to walk to the tops of your shoes in pine chips in the spar yards, to measure the lengths of booms and gaffs for yourself if you weren't sure who were going to spread the big mainsails, to go up in the sail-lofts and see the sailmakers, bench after bench of them, making their needles and the long waxed threads fly through the canvas that it seemed a pity wasn't to stay so white forever—to see them spread the canvas out along the chalk lines on the varnished floor, fixing leach and luff ropes to them and putting the leather-bound cringles in, and putting them in too so they'd stay, for by and by men's lives would depend on the way they hung on—all that, railways, sail-lofts, vessels, boats, docks alive with men jumping to their work—skippers, crews, carpenters, riggers, lumpers, all thinking, talking, and, I suppose, dreaming of the season's work ahead—m-m—there was life for a man! Who'd want to work in a store after that?
I stopped at Duncan's wharf and looked at Wesley Marrs's vessel, the Lucy Foster, and then the Colleen Bawn.
And O'Donnell drove the Colleen like a ghost through all that gale, And around 'twas roaring mountains and above 'twas blinding hail,
and so on. And the Nannie O, another vessel that fishermen sang songs about.
Oh, the lovely Nannie O, The able Nannie O, The Nannie O a-drivin' through the gale.
They were lying there, tied to the docks. They were all dreams, so long and clean, with the beautiful sheer fore and aft, and the overhang of the racers they were meant to be—the gold run, with the grain of the varnished oak rails shining above the night-black of their topsides, and varnished spars. They had the look of vessels that could sail—and they could, and live out a gale—nothing like them afloat I'd heard people say that ought to know.
I walked along another stretch and at Withrow's dock I saw again the new one that had been built for Maurice Blake but given to Sam Hollis, who was a boon companion of Withrow's ashore, as I may have said already. Hollis's gang were bragging even now that she'd trim anything that ever sailed—the Lucy Foster, the Nannie O, the Colleen Bawn, and all the rest of them. And there were some old sharks, too, upon the docks who said they didn't know but she looked as if she could. But a lot of other people didn't think it—she was all right as a vessel, but Sam Hollis wasn't a Wesley Marrs, nor a Tom O'Donnell, nor a Tommie Ohlsen, nor even a Maurice Blake, who was a much younger man and a less experienced fisherman than any of the others.
All that, with the vessels anchored in the stream and the little dories running up and down and in and out—it all brought back again the trips I'd made with my father, clear back to the time when I was a little boy, so small that in heavy weather he wouldn't trust me to go forward or aft myself, but would carry me in his arms himself—it all made me so long for the sea that my head went round and I found myself staggering like a drunken man as I tried to walk away from it.
There was nothing for it. For a thousand dollars a month I could not stay ashore. Somebody or other would give me a chance to go seining, some good skipper I knew; and if none of the killers would give me a chance, then I'd try some old pod of a skipper. My mother would just have to let me go. It was only summer fishing after all—seining wasn't like winter trawling—and in the end she would see it as I did.
I walked along, and as the last man in my mind was Maurice Blake, of course he was the first I had to run into. He was not looking well; I mean he was not looking as he should have looked. There was a reckless manner about him that no more belonged to him than a regularly quiet manner belonged to his friend Tommie Clancy. And I guessed why—he had been drinking. I had heard it already. Generally when a man starts to drink for the first time everybody talks about it. I was surprised, and I wished he hadn't. But we are always finding out new things about men. In my heart I was not blaming Maurice so much maybe as I should. I'd always been taught that drinking in excess was an awful habit, but some otherwise fine men I knew drank at times, and I wasn't going to blame Maurice till I knew more about it.
And we can forgive a lot, too, in those we like. Maurice had no family to think of, and it must have been a blow to him not to get so fine a vessel as the Fred Withrow after he had been promised and had set his heart on it. And then to see her go to a man like Sam Hollis! and with the prospect of not getting another until a man like Withrow felt like saying you could. Everybody in Gloucester seemed to know that Withrow was doing all he could to keep Maurice from getting a vessel, and as the owners had banded together just before this for protection, as they called it, "against outside interference," and as Withrow was one of the largest owners and a man of influence beyond his vessel holdings, he was quite a power at this time.
Maurice Blake was far from being drunk, however, when I met him this day. Indeed, I do not believe that in his most reckless hour up to this time he had ever lost control of himself so far as not to know pretty nearly what he was doing all the time; but certainly he had been drinking this day, and the drinking manner did not set well on him.
Maurice was standing on the front steps of Mrs. Arkell's boarding-house when I saw him. It was Mrs. Arkell's granddaughter Minnie that married the wealthy Mr. Miner—a rather loud sort of man, who had been reported as saying that he would give her a good time and show her life. He may have given her a good time—I don't know—but he was dead in two years. He was supposed to be very rich—three or four millions—but on settling up there was less than half a million. Of course that wasn't bad—enough for Minnie to buy a big house next her grandmother's for a summer home, and enough to go off travelling whenever she pleased.
When she came back to Gloucester she was still a very handsome girl, spoken of as the "Miner widow" among people who had known her only since her marriage, but still called Minnie Arkell by most of those who had known her when she was a child. In Gloucester she bought the first house just around the corner from her grandmother's. A handy passage between their two back yards allowed her to visit her grandmother whenever she pleased. She wanted to be near her own people, she said, and was more in her grandmother's house than her own.
Maurice came down the steps of Mrs. Arkell's boarding-house as I came along, and joined me on the sidewalk. He asked me the first thing if I wouldn't have a drink, and I said no.
"Oh, I forgot," he said, "you don't drink. Have a cigar," and he pulled one out of his pocket, and I took and lit it. Generally I smoked a pipe, but I liked good cigars, though I couldn't afford them myself. This was not a good one—more like the kind they hand out in bar-rooms when men get tired of drinking and say they guess they'll have a smoke.
"How does it happen, Joe, you're not at the store? I always thought Withrow held his men pretty close to hours."
"Well, so he does, but I'm not working for him now." And then I told him that I had had an argument with Withrow, been discharged, and was thinking of going fishing. I didn't tell him at first how it all came about, but I think he guessed it, for all at once, after a searching look, he reached out and shook hands with me.
"If ever I get a vessel again, Joe, and you still want to go fishing and care for a chance with me, you can have it—if you can't go with a better man, I mean. I'll take you and be glad to have you."
That meant a good berth, of course, for Maurice was a killer.
I looked at Maurice when he wasn't watching me, and felt sorry for him. He was a man that anybody would like the looks of. It wasn't that he was a handsome man—I never could get to like pretty men myself—but there was something about him that made you feel you could trust him. The heavy tan of his face and the grip of his jaw would spoil almost anybody for a beauty man, I suppose, but he had fine eyes and his mouth was all right, and he had a head that you'd like to stand off one side and look at, with hair that seemed to lift and wave with every breath of wind, and when he smiled you felt somehow that he'd saved that particular smile for you. He was no better built than a hundred other men I knew who were going fishing, and he was no bigger than a thousand others sailing out of Gloucester, and not near so big as a lot of others—five feet ten or eleven, maybe, he was, with level shoulders, and very light on his feet—but looking at him you knew he was all there.
After smoking a while and watching him between puffs, it flashed on me all at once that I was pretty thick. A word or two my cousin Nell had let slip—not so much what she said as the way she said it—gave me a hint of a whole lot of things. Looking at Maurice now I asked him if he had seen my cousin or Miss Foster lately.
He flushed up as he looked at me, and I saw that whatever he was thinking of it had not been far away from what I had been thinking of. "No, I haven't seen them"—slowly. "How is your cousin?"
"Oh, she seems to be all right. They were both in to the store this morning."
"What doing?" I thought he was beginning to worry, but I tried not to let on that I noticed it. I was beginning to feel like a sleuth, or a detective, or a diplomat, or something.
"Well, I don't know. Nell said they came in to see me, but all that happened that I had any hand in was to weigh her. She gained another pound last week, and it's worrying her. The more exercise she takes the heavier she gets, she says. She's a hundred and thirty-one now. Of course, while they're there Withrow had to help out and make himself agreeable, especially to Miss Foster, but I can't see that she warms up to him."
"Ha? No? You don't think so?"
"Not much, but maybe it's her way. She's pretty frosty generally anyway, different from my cousin—she's something like."
"Yes, your cousin is all right," said Maurice.
"You bet," I said. "She don't stand around and chill the air."
"Why—does Miss Foster always? Is that her way? I—don't—know—much about her."
"Well, I don't know so very much myself—mostly what my cousin tells me. Still, I guess she's all right; but she strikes me as one of the kind that might make an awful lot of a man and never let on until she was dead sure of him."
"H-m—That means she could think a whole lot of Withrow and not let on, Joe?"
I tried to look at Maurice like my oldest brother used to look at me sometimes when he tried to make me feel that I was a very green kid indeed, and said, "Well, if she's the kind to care for a man like Withrow, all I've got to say is that she'll deserve all she'll get. He's no good."
"That may be, but how's she to know? I know, you know, and half the men in Gloucester know that he's rotten; but take a woman who only sees him at his best and when he's watching out—how's she to know?"
"I don't know, but being a woman she ought to," was all I could say to that. It came into my mind just then that when I next saw my cousin Nell I'd tell her what I really knew, and more than that—what I really thought of my old employer. Perhaps she'd carry it to Miss Foster. If it was to be Maurice or Withrow, I knew on which side I was going to be.
Both of us were quiet then, neither of us quite knowing what to say perhaps. Then together we started to walk to the corner of the side street. We were past the side-door of the boarding-house when a voice called out, "Oh, Maurice," and then, maybe noticing me, I suppose, "Oh, Captain Blake," and Maurice turned. Minnie Arkell—Mrs. Miner rather—was there at the kitchen window. I didn't know she was in town at all—thought she hadn't got back from Florida, or North Carolina, or wherever it was she had been for the winter.
"Won't you come in a minute, Captain, and your friend? He doesn't remember me—do you, Joe?—and yet we were playmates once," which was true. I was often taken to Mrs. Arkell's when a little fellow by skippers who were friends of my father's. They used to tell me about him, and I liked to listen.
"I thought I'd run over and see granny," she went on. "I'm back to the old house for a while. Won't you come in?"
My mind had long been set against Minnie Arkell. I knew about her throwing over a fine young fellow, a promising skipper, to marry Miner. I may have been too young at the time to judge anybody, but after that I had small use for her. My ideas in the matter were of course pretty much what older men had put into me.
I had listened to them—skippers and others—and yet now, when she held out her hand to me and smiled, I didn't feel nearly so set against her. She certainly was a handsome girl, and yet I hoped that Maurice wouldn't fall in love with her, as most everybody did that came to the Arkell house.
I said that I did not have time to come in, and started to make off. Maurice asked me where I was bound. I told him that I thought of taking a look in at Crow's Nest and getting the news.
"Yes, you'll get it there, sure enough. When they can't tell you anything else up there they can tell you what everybody's doing." He smiled at that, turned slowly toward the side-door, as if he would rather go with me to Crow's Nest, and I went off.
Just outside the gate I saw Sam Hollis, a man I never did like. Tommie Clancy, the man that could size up a person quicker than anybody I'd ever met, used to say that deep down, if you could get at Hollis, you'd find a quitter, but that nobody had ever got into him. I'd been meeting Hollis after every trip in for two years in Withrow's store. He was a successful fisherman, and a sharp, keen man ashore, but he was a man I never quite took to. One of his ambitions, I felt satisfied, was to be reckoned a devil of a fellow. He'd have given a year's earnings, I knew, to have people point him out on the street and say, "There's Sam Hollis—there's the boy to carry sail—nobody ever made him take his mains'l in," the same as they used to say of a half dozen or so that really would carry sail—that would drive a vessel under before they would be the first to reef. But the people didn't do that, although, let him tell it, he did wonderful things out to sea, and he had such a way of telling it, too, that he'd almost make you believe him. But as Clancy used to say, after he'd left you, and you had time to think it over, you'd see where here and there his story wasn't well-calked. My own idea was that he wanted a reputation so that he could pose as a devil of a fellow with certain people ashore. It is easy enough to see that even a more careful man than Sam Hollis might take a chance for a smile from a woman like Minnie Arkell.
Anyhow, I never felt at home with Hollis, and so was willing to take Clancy's judgment straight. Hollis was a man about forty, and had been one of Minnie Arkell's admirers ever since I could remember—ever since she was old enough to have any, I mean, and she wasn't any late bloomer, as Clancy used to say.
Hollis went into the Arkell house by the door that had only just closed behind Maurice and Minnie Arkell. I didn't like that very much, and was thinking of turning back and going in, too; but on second thought it occurred to me that perhaps only Maurice would have a welcome for me. So I didn't enter, but kept on to Crow's Nest instead.
LITTLE JOHNNIE DUNCAN STANDS EXAMINATION
By this time I should have gone home, I suppose, and had something to eat—it was getting on into the afternoon—but I didn't want to have a talk with my mother yet awhile, and so kept on to Crow's Nest, where I found half a dozen good-natured loafers. Not all were loafers exactly—three or four were simply waiting around before shipping on some seiner for the mackerel season. It promised to shower at the time, too, and of course the gentlemen who formed old Peter's staff could not think of venturing out in threatening weather.
And there they were, with Peter Hines, the paid man in charge of Crow's Nest, keeping a benevolent eye on them. Yarning, arguing, skylarking, advising Peter, and having fun with little Johnnie Duncan they were when I entered. Johnnie was the grandson of the head of the Duncan firm, a fine, clear-eyed boy, that nobody could help liking. He thought fishermen were the greatest people in the world. Whatever a fisherman did was all right to Johnnie.
I had got all the news at Crow's Nest and was just thinking of moving along toward home when Tommie Clancy popped in. Of course that made a difference. I wasn't going to move while Clancy was around.
"My soul, but here's where the real gentlemen are," he had to say first, and then, "Anybody seen Maurice to-day?"
I told him I had, and where.
"Anybody with him?"
"Well, not with him exactly." I shook my head, and said nothing of Minnie Arkell, nor of Sam Hollis, although Clancy, looking at me, I could see, guessed that there was something else; and he might have asked me something more only for the crowd and little Johnnie Duncan.
Johnnie was trying to climb up onto Clancy, and so Clancy, turning from me, took Johnnie up and gave him a toss that all but hit his head against the roof. "And how's she heading, Johnnie-boy?" and taking a seat stood Johnnie up beside him.
"East-s'uth-east, and a fair, fair wind," answered Johnnie.
"East-s'uth-east—my, but you said that fine. And a fair wind? Must be bound Georges Bank way. And how long will you hold that course?"
"From Eastern Point—a hundred and thirty-five mile."
"Then you throw her up and heave the lead."
"And heave the lead—sure enough. And then?"
"And then, if you find you're clear of the North Shoal, you put her to the s'uth'ard and west'ard till you're in onto the Bank."
"S'uth'ard and west'ard—that's the boy. Man, but I'll live to see you going to the Custom House and taking out your master's papers yet."
"And can I join the Master Mariners then?"
"That's what you can, and walk down Main Street with a swing to your shoulders, too. And now you're up on the Bank and twenty-five fathom of water and the right bottom—and you're a hand-liner, say, after cod—what then?"
"Let go her chain and begin fishing."
"And would you give her a short or a long string of cable?"
"M-m—I'm not sure. A long string you'd hang on better, but a short scope and you could get out faster in case you were dragging and going onto the shoals. What would you do, Captain Clancy? You never told me that, did you?"
"Well, it would depend, too, though handliners generally calculate on hanging on, blow how it will. But never mind that; suppose your anchor dragged or parted and into the shoal water you went in a gale, an easterly, say—and the bank right under your lee—wind sixty or seventy or eighty mile an hour—what would you do?"
"Anchor not hold? M-m—Then I'd—give her the second one."
"And if that dragged, too—or parted?"
"Both of 'em? M-m"—Johnnie was taking deep breaths now—"why, then I'd have to put sail to her——"
"Why, jib, jumbo, fore and main."
"And the wind blowing eighty mile an hour?"
"Why, yes, if she'd stand it."
"My, but she'd have to be an able vessel that—all four lowers and the wind blowing eighty mile an hour. Man, but you're a dog! Suppose she couldn't stand it?"
"Then I'd reef the mains'l."
"And if that was too much—what then?"
"Reef it again."
"And too much yet?"
"Balance-reef it—maybe take it in altogether—and the jib with it, and get out the riding-sail."
"And would you do nothing to the fores'l?"
"M-m—I dunno—with some vessels maybe I'd reef that, too—maybe take it in altogether."
"My, but you're cert'nly a dog. And what then?"
"Why, then I'd try to work her out."
"And would you be doing anything with the lead?"
"Oh, we'd be keeping the lead going all the time, for banging her across and back like that you wouldn't know where you were just."
"And would you come clear, d'y' think?"
"Yes, sir—if the gear held and with an able vessel we ought to."
"If the gear held—that's it. Be sure, Johnnie-boy, you see that the gear is all right before ever you leave port. And with an able vessel, you say? With that new one of your gran'pa's—would you come clear with her?"
"Oh, she'd come clear—built to go fresh halibuting next winter, that one."
"Yes—and seining this spring. But suppose now you were haddocking—trawling—eight or ten dories, and you just arrived on the grounds, picked out a good spot, and there you are—you're all baited up and ready?"
"Winter time, yes."
"First I'd single-reef the mains'l. Then I'd hold her up a little—not too much—me being skipper would be to the wheel myself—and then I'd give the order, 'Dories to the rail!' and then, when everything was all right—when I'd be satisfied we wouldn't foul the next vessel's trawls—I'd call out, 'Over with your wind'ard dory!'"
"Loud and clear you'd holler, because the wind might be high."
"Loud and clear, yes—'Let go your wind'ard dory!'—like that. And 'Set to the west'ard,' or the east'ard, whatever it was—according to the tide, you know. I'd call that out to the dory as it went sliding by the quarter—the vessel, of course, 'd be sailing all the time—and next, 'Wind'ard dory to the rail!' And then, when we'd gone ahead enough, again, 'Let go your looard dory!' and then, 'Looard dory to the rail! Let go your wind'ard dory! Let go your looard dory!' and so till they were all over the side."
"And supposing, they being all out, it came on thick, or snowing, and some of them went astray, and it was time to go home, having filled her with eighty or ninety or a hundred thousand of fresh fish, a fair wind, and every prospect of a good market—what then?"
"Oh, I'd have to wait, of course—cruise around and stand by."
"And suppose you couldn't find them again?"
"Why, after waiting until I was sure they were gone, I'd come home."
"And your flag?"
"Half-mast—that's it. I hope you'll never have to fly a half-masted flag, Johnnie. But suppose you did see them, and they were in shoal water, say—and the shoals to looard, of course, and it blowing——"
"I'd stand in and get them."
"And it blowing hard—blowing hard, Johnnie?—and shoal—shoal water?"
"Why"—Johnnie was looking troubled—"why, I'd have to stand in just the same, wouldn't I?"
"Your own men and you ask me, Johnnie-boy?"
"Why, of course I'd have to stand in and get them."
"And if you got in so far you couldn't get out—you got smothered, say?"
"Why, then—then we'd be lost—all hands would be lost."
Poor Johnnie! he was all but crying.
"That's it. And that's where some would say you showed yourself a man, and some a fool, Johnnie-boy. Some would say, 'Use judgment—think of the other eighteen or twenty men safe aboard the vessel.' Would you use judgment, or what, Johnnie?"
"M-m—I don't know. What would you do, Captain Clancy?"
"What d'y' think I'd do, Johnnie?" Clancy drew the boy up and tucked the little face to his own broad breast. The rest of us knew well enough what Clancy would do. "Judgment hell!" Clancy would say, and go in and get lost—or maybe get away with it where a more careful man would be lost—but we waited to hear what Johnnie—such a little boy—would say. He said it at last, after looking long into Clancy's face.
"I think you'd go in, Captain Clancy."
Clancy laughed at that. "Lord, Johnnie-boy, no wonder everybody loves you. No matter what a man does, all you see is the best that's in him."
It was time to clean up then, and Johnnie of course was bound to help.
FROM OUT OF CROW'S NEST
"What'll I do with this?" asked Johnnie, in the middle of the cleaning up, holding up a pan of sweepings.
"Oh, that"—Clancy naturally took charge—"heave it overboard. Ebb tide'll carry it away. Heave it into the slip. Wait—maybe you'll have to hoist the hatches. 'Tisn't raining much now, anyway, and it will soon stop altogether. Might as well go aloft and make a good job of the hatches, hadn't he, Peter?"
"Wait a minute." Peter was squinting through the porthole. "I shouldn't wonder but this is one of our fellows coming in. I know she's a banker. The Enchantress, I think. Look, Tommie, and see what you make of her."
Clancy looked. "That's who it is, Peter. Hi, Johnnie, here'll be a chance for you to hoist the flag. Hurry aloft and tend to the hatches, as Peter says, and you can hoist the flag for the Enchantress home from the Banks."
In bad weather, like it was that day, the little balcony of Crow's Nest was shut in by little hatches, arranged so that they could be run up and down, the same as hatches are slid over the companionway of a fisherman's cabin or forec's'le. Johnnie was a pretty active boy, and he was up the rope ladder and onto the roof in a few seconds. We could hear him walking above, and soon the hatches slid away and we all could look freely out to sea again.
"All right below?" called out Johnnie.
"Not yet," answered Peter. He was standing by the rail of the balcony and untwisting the halyards that served to hoist the signal-flags to the mast-head. Peter seemed slow at it, and Clancy called out again, "Wait a bit, and we'll overhaul the halyards." Then, looking up and noticing that Johnnie was standing on the edge of the roof, he added, "And be careful and not slip on those wet planks."
"Aye, aye!" Johnnie was in high glee. "And then I can run up the flag for the Enchantress?"
"Sure, you've been such a good boy to-day."
"M-m—but that'll be fine. I can catch the halyards from here if you'll swing them in a little."
"All right—be careful. Here you go now."
"Let 'em come—I got——"
The first thing we knew of what had happened was when we saw Johnnie's body come pitching down. He struck old Peter first, staggering him, and from there he shot down out of sight.
Clancy jumped to the rail in time to save Peter from toppling over it and just in time, as he said afterward, to see the boy splash in the slip below. He yanked Peter to his feet, and then, without turning around, he called out, "A couple of you run to the head of the dock—there'll be a dory there somewhere—row 'round to the slip with it. He'll be carried under the south side—look for him there if I'm not there before you. Drive her now!"
"Here, Joe, wake up!" Clancy had untied the ends of the halyards after whirling them through the block above, and now had the whole line piled up on the balcony. He took a couple of turns around his waist, took another turn around a cleat under the balcony rail, passed the bight of the line to me, and said, "Here, Joe, lower me. Take hold you, too, Peter. Pay out and not too careful. Oh, faster, man! If he ain't dead he'll drown, maybe—if he gets sucked in and caught under those piles it's all off."
He was sliding over the rail, the line tautening to his weight in no time, and he talking all the time. "Lower away—lower, lower! Faster—faster than that—he's rising again—second time—and drifting under the wharf, sure's fate! Faster—faster—what's wrong?—what's caught there?—let her run!"
The halyards had become fouled, and Peter was trying to clear them, calling to Clancy to wait.
"Fouled?" roared Clancy. "Cast it off altogether. Let go altogether and let me drop."
"We can't—the bight of it's caught around Peter's legs!" I called to him.
"Oh, hell! take a couple of half-hitches around the cleat then—look out now!" He gripped the halyards high above his head with both hands, gave a jumping pull, and let himself drop. The line parted and down he shot.
He must have been shaken by the shock of his fall, but I guess he had his senses with him when he came up again, for in no time he was striking toward where Johnnie had come up last. Then I ran downstairs, down to the dock, and was just in time to see Parsons and Moore rowing a dory desperately up the slip, and Clancy with Johnnie chest-up, and a hand under his neck, kicking from under the stringers, and calling out, "This way with the dory—drive her, fellows, drive her!"
I did not wait for any more—I knew Johnnie was safe with Clancy—but ran to the office of the Duncans and told them that Johnnie had fallen into the dock and got wet, and that it might be well to telephone for a doctor. His grandfather knew it was serious without my saying any more, and rang up at once.
That had hardly been done when Clancy came in the door with Johnnie in his arms. The boy was limp and unconscious and water was dripping from him. Old Mr. Duncan was worried enough, but composed in his manner for all that. He met Clancy at the door. "This way, Captain; lay him on this couch. The doctor will be here in a very few minutes now. Perhaps we can do something while he is on the way. Just how did it happen? and we'll know better what to do, perhaps."
Clancy told his story in forty words. "He's probably shook up and his lungs must be full of water. But he may come out all right—his eyelids quivered coming up the dock. Better strip his shirt and waist off. He's got a lot of water in him—roll him over and we'll get some of it out."
He worked away on Johnnie, and had the water pretty well out of him by the time the uncle and the doctor came. It was hard work for a time, but it came at last to when the doctor stood up, rested his arms for a breath, said, "Ah—he's all right now," and went on again. It was not so very long after that that Johnnie opened his eyes—for about a second. But pretty soon he opened them to stay. His first look was for his grandfather, but his first word was for Clancy. "I could see you when you jumped, Captain Clancy—it was great."
Then they bundled Johnnie into a carriage and his uncle took him home.
"Lord, but I thought he was gone, Joe. But let's get out of this," said Clancy, and we were making for the door, with Clancy's clothes still wringing wet, when we were stopped by the elder Mr. Duncan, who shook hands with both of us and then went on to speak to Clancy.
"Captain once, but——"
"I know, I know, but not from lack of ability, at any rate. Let me thank you. His mother will thank you herself later, and make you feel, I know, her sense of what she owes to you. And his cousin Alice—she thinks the world of him. There, I know you don't want to hear any more, but you shall—maybe later—though it may come up in another way. But tell me—wait, come inside a minute. Come in you, too, Joe," he said, turning to me, but I said I'd rather wait outside. I wanted to have a smoke to get my nerves steady again, I guess.
So Clancy and Mr. Duncan went inside, and through the window, whenever I looked up, I could see them. As their talk went on I could see that they were getting very much interested about something or other. Clancy particularly was laying down the law with a clenched fist and an arm that swung through the air like a jibing boom. Somebody, I knew, was getting it.
When they came out Mr. Duncan stopped at the door, and said, as if by way of a parting word, "And so you think that's the cause of Withrow's picking a quarrel with Maurice? Well, I never thought of that before, but maybe you're right. And now, what do you say to a vessel for yourself?"
"Me take a vessel? No, sir—not for me. But when you've got vessels to hand around, Mr. Duncan, bear Maurice in mind—he's a fisherman."
We left Mr. Duncan then, he making ready to telephone to learn how Johnnie was getting along. Clancy said his clothes were beginning to feel so dry that he did not know as he would go to his boarding-house. "I think we'd better go up to the Anchorage and have a little touch. But I forgot—you don't drink, Joe? No? So I thought, but don't you care—you're young yet. Come along, anyway, and have a smoke."
And so we went along to the Anchorage, and while we were there, I smoking one of those barroom cigars and Clancy nursing the after-taste of his drink and declaring that a touch of good liquor was equal to a warm stove for drying wet clothes, I told him what I would have told him in Crow's Nest if there had not been so many around—about Minnie Arkell calling Maurice back into her grandmother's house, and then Sam Hollis coming along and going in after him.
"What!" and stopped dead. Suddenly he brought his fist through the air. "I'll"—and as suddenly stopped it midway. "No, I won't, either. But I'll put Maurice wise to them. What should he know at his age and with his up-bringing of what's in the heads of people like them. And if I don't have something further to say to old Mr. Duncan! But now let's go back to Arkell's—come on, Joe."
But I didn't go back with him. I didn't think that I could do Maurice any good then, and I might be in the way if Clancy wanted to speak his mind out to anybody. I went home instead, where I expected to have troubles of my own, for I knew that my mother wouldn't like the idea of my going seining.
MAURICE BLAKE GETS A VESSEL
Three days after Johnnie Duncan fell out of Crow's Nest the new Duncan vessel designed by Will Somers was towed around from Essex. She had been named the Johnnie Duncan. I spent the best part of the next three days watching the sparmakers and riggers at work on her. And when they had done with her and she fit to go to sea, she did look handsome. She had not quite the length of the new vessel of Sam Hollis's, which lay at Withrow's dock just below her, and that probably helped to give her a more powerful look to people that compared them. Too able-looking altogether to be real fast, some thought, to hold the Withrow vessel in anything short of a gale, but I didn't feel so sure she wouldn't sail in a moderate breeze, too. I had seen her on the stocks, and knew the beautiful lines below the water-mark. And she was going to carry the sail to drive her. I took particular pains to get the measurements of her mainmast while it lay on the dock under the shears. It was eighty-seven feet—and she only a hundred and ten feet over all—and it stepped plumb in the middle of her, further forward than a mainmast was generally put in a fisherman. To that was shackled a seventy-five foot boom, and eighty-odd tons of pig-iron were cemented close down to her keel, and that floored over and stanchioned snug. For the rest, she was very narrow forward, as I think I said—everybody said she'd never stand the strain of her fore-rigging when they got to driving her on a long passage. And she carried an ungodly bowsprit—thirty-seven feet outboard—easily the longest bowsprit out of Gloucester. Topmasts to match, and there was some sail to drive a vessel. But she had the hull for it, full and yet easy, with the greatest beam pretty well aft of the mainmast, and she drew fifteen and a half feet of water.
I was still looking her over, her third day in the riggers' and sailmakers' hands, when Clancy came along.
"Handsome, ain't she, and only needing a skipper and crew to be off on the Southern cruise, eh, Joe?"
"That's all. And according to the talk, you're to be the skipper."
"Well, talk has another according coming to it."
"I'm sorry to hear that. But what happened at Mrs. Arkell's the other day?"
"What happened? Joe, but I was glad you didn't come with me. You'd have felt as I did about it, I know. There they were—the two of them—Hollis and Withrow—yes, Withrow there—when I broke in on them, and Maurice between them—drunk. Yes, sir, drunk and helpless. They called it a wine-party, as though a man couldn't get as good and drunk on wine in a private residence as ever he could on whiskey or rum in the back room of a saloon. Well, sir, I asked a question or two, and they tried to face me out, but out they went—first Hollis, and then Withrow, one after the other, and both good and lively. And then Minnie Arkell popped in from her own house by way of the backyard. She didn't expect to see me—I know she didn't. Had gone over to her house when the men began to drink, she said, and had just come over to see granny.
"Well, I told her what I thought. 'It means nothing to you,' I said, 'to see a man make a fool of himself—that's been a good part of your business in life for some time, now—to see men make fools of themselves for you. Withrow had reasons for wanting him disgraced—never mind why. Sam Hollis, maybe, has his reasons too. And the two of them are being helped along by you. You could have stopped this thing here to-day, but you didn't.' 'No, no, Tommie,' she says. 'Yes, yes,' I went on, 'and don't try to tell me different. If I didn't know you since you were a little girl you might be able to convince me, but I know you. Maurice, when he was himself, passed you by. You were bound to have him. You know a real man, more's the pity, when you see one, and you know that Maurice, young and green and soft as he is, has more life and dash than a dozen of the kind you've been mixing with lately.'
"Oh, but I laid it on, Joe. Yes. A shame to have to talk like that to a woman, but I just had to. I didn't stop there. 'You're handsome, and you're rich, Minnie Arkell; got a lot of life left in you yet, and go off travelling with people who get their names regularly in the Boston papers; but just the same, Minnie Arkell, there are women in jail not half so bad as you—women doing time who've done less mischief in the world than you have.'"
"Wasn't that pretty rough, Tommie?"
"Rough? Lord, yes—but true, Joe, true. And if you'd only see poor Maurice lying there! Cried? I could've cried, Joe—not since my mother died did I come so near to it. But it was done.
"Well, I made Minnie go and get her grandmother. And, Joe, if you'd seen that fine old lady—oh, but she's got a heart in her—stoop and put Maurice's head on her bosom as if he was a little child. 'The poor, poor boy. No mother here,' she said, 'and the best man on earth might come to it. Leave him to me, Tommie.' Lord, I could have knelt down at her feet—the heart in her, Joe."
"And how has Maurice been since?"
"All right. That was the first time in his life that he was drunk. I think it will be his last. But let's go aboard the Johnnie."
After looking over the Johnnie Duncan and admiring her to our hearts' content, we sat down in her cabin and began to talk of the seining season to come. Others came down and joined in—George Moore, Eddie Parsons among others—and they asked Clancy what he was going to do. Was he going to see about a chance to go seining, or what? Moore said he's been waiting to see what Maurice Blake was going to do; but as it was beginning to look as though Maurice was done for, he guessed he'd take a look around. He asked Clancy what he thought, and Clancy said he didn't know—time enough yet.
Maurice Blake himself dropped down then. He was looking better, and everybody was glad to see it. He'd quit drinking—that was certain; and now he was a picture of a man—not pretty, but strong-looking, with his eyes glowing and his skin flushing with the good blood inside him. He took a seat on the lockers and began to whittle a block of soft pine into a model of a hull, and after a while, with a squint along the sheer of his little model, he asked if anybody had seen Tom O'Donnell or Wesley Marrs. Several said yes, they had, and he asked where, and when they told him he got up and said he guessed he'd go along—as he couldn't get a vessel himself, he might as well see about a chance to go hand. "And as we've been together so much in times gone by, Tommie, and you, Eddie and George, what do you say if we go together now?"
"All right," said Clancy, "but wait a minute—who's that in the gangway?"
It turned out to be Johnnie Duncan. He had a fat bundle under his arm, and bundle and all Clancy took him up, tossed him into the air, said "All right again, Johnnie-boy?" and kissed him when he caught him down.
Johnnie started to undo his bundle. "I tell you it's great to be out again—the way they kept me cooped up the last few days," and then, cutting the string to hurry matters, opened the bundle and spread a handsome set of colors on the lockers. "The Johnnie Duncan's," said he. "I picked out the kind they were to be, but mummer worked the monograms herself. See, red and blue. And see that for an ensign! and the firm's flag—and the highs—look!—the J. A. D. twisted up the same as on the handkerchiefs we strained the coffee through last week. And the burgee—the letters on the burgee—my cousin Alice worked them. And these stars—see, on the ensign—mummer and my cousin both worked them. Gran'pa said the vessel ought to be sure a lucky one, and all she needs is an able master, he says, and if Captain Blake will take her he'll be proud to have him sail the Johnnie Duncan——"
Maurice Blake stood up. "Me?"
"Yes," said Johnnie. "Gran'pa says that you can have her just as soon as you go to the Custom House and get your papers. There, I think I remembered it all, except of course that the colors are from me and mummer and my cousin Alice, and will you fly them for us?"
Maurice laid down his model and picked up the colors. Then he looked at Johnnie and said, "Thank you, Johnnie; and tell your mother, Johnnie, and your cousin, that I'll fly the Johnnie Duncan's colors—and stand by them—if ever it comes to standing by—till she goes under. Tell your grandfather that I'll be proud to be master of his vessel and I'll sail her the best I know how."
"That's you, Maurice," said Clancy.
Maurice drew his hand across his eyes and sat down again. And as soon as they decently could, Clancy, George Moore, and Eddie Parsons asked him if they might ship with him for the Southern cruise. Maurice said they very well knew that he'd be glad to have them. He asked me, too, he felt so good, and of course I jumped at the chance.
CLANCY CROSSES MINNIE ARKELL
The Johnnie Duncan only needed to have her stores taken aboard to go to sea. And that was attended to next morning, and she was out for her trial trip the same afternoon. Everybody said she looked as handsome as a photograph going out, though all the old sharks, when they saw her mainsail hoisted for the first time, said she'd certainly have need of her quarter and draught to stand up under it.
It was a great day for sailing, though—the finest kind of a breeze, and smooth water. We early carried away our foretopmast, which had a flaw in it. It was just as well to discover it then. Without topsail and balloon we had it out with the Eastern Point on her way back from Boston. She was not much of a steamer for speed, but her schedule called for twelve knots and she generally made pretty near it—eleven or eleven and a half, according to how her stokers felt, I guess. We headed her off after a while, and that was doing pretty well for that breeze, with a new vessel not yet loosened up.
"But the balloon was too much for her," said Mr. Duncan, as we shot into the dock after beating the Eastern Point.
"No, the balloon was all right—'twas the topm'st was a bit light," answered Maurice.
Old Mr. Duncan smiled at that. "But what do you think of her, Captain Blake?"
"Oh, she's like all the rest of them when she's alone—sails like the devil," the skipper answered to that, but he smiled with it and we all knew he was satisfied with her.
That night was the Master Mariners' Ball, and I waited up till late to talk with my cousin Nell, who had gone there with Will Somers. Finally they came along past my house and I hailed them.
Nell broke right in as usual with what was uppermost in her mind. "I don't suppose you saw me and Alice, but we were in Mr. Duncan's office when you and Mr. Clancy and Captain Blake were coming up the dock to-day after the trial trip. Mr. Duncan told us what Captain Blake said of the Johnnie Duncan, but now tell me, what did the rest of you think of her? What does your friend Clancy say? He knows a vessel."
"Clancy," I answered, "thought what we all thought, I guess—that she's a fast vessel any way you take her, but he won't say she's the fastest vessel out of Gloucester, even after she's put in trim and loosened up. But in a sea-going way and with wind enough—with wind enough, mind—he thinks she'll do pretty well."
"With wind enough and in a sea-way?" repeated Nell. "Then I hope that when the fishermen's race is sailed next fall it's a howling gale and seas clear to your mast-head. Yes, and you needn't laugh—don't you know what it means to Will?"
And I did realize. Somers, a fine fellow, was just then beginning to get a chance at designing fishermen. So far he had done pretty well, but it was on the Johnnie Duncan, I knew, he had pinned his faith. For his own sake, I hoped that the Johnnie would do great things, but for Nell's sake I prayed she would. Nell thought a lot of Will and wasn't ashamed to show her liking, and thinking of that set me to thinking of other things.
"Was Miss Foster to the ball?" I asked her.
"She was," said Nell.
"And with whom?"
"Oh-h!—and why Oh-h-h?"
"I wish she'd gone with Maurice."
"H-m—that was drunk the other day?"
"Yes, I suppose that queers him forever. And the other fellow does ten times as bad, only under cover. Who told you?"
"Never mind. Wasn't he?"
"Was Maurice to the ball?"
"And who with?"
"Good. Was Mrs. Miner there?"
"Mrs. Miner?"—and such a sniff!—"yes, she was there."
"With Sam Hollis?"
"Yes, and flirted with half the men in the hall and with your Maurice Blake outrageously."
"That so? Could Maurice help that much? But I wish, just the same, that Miss Foster had gone with Maurice."
"Well, there was one very good reason."
"He didn't ask her. And Mr. Withrow made a handsome cavalier anyway."
"A handsome"—I was going to say lobster, but I didn't. Instead I told her why Maurice didn't ask Miss Foster—that he didn't think enough of himself, probably. And that led up to a talk about Maurice Blake and Clancy. Before I got through I had Nell won over. Indeed, I think she was won over before I began at all.
"There's a whole lot you don't know yet," she said at last. "Get Captain Blake to make a name for himself seining, and for sailing his vessel as she ought to be sailed, and I'll get down on my knees to Alice for him—sail her as she ought to be sailed, remember. And make a good stock with her, and you'll see."
So, as I walked down the street with Nell and Will Somers a part of the way, the talk was in that strain, and when I left them, after passing Sam Hollis bound home, it was with the hope of things coming out all right. I was feeling happy until I got near Minnie Arkell's door, where my worrying began again, for there on the steps and in the glare of the electric light was Minnie Arkell herself, as though she were waiting for somebody. And not wanting to have her know that I saw her waiting at her door steps at that time of night, I stepped in the shadows until she should go in. It was then that Maurice came along, and she called him up. And he went up and stood on the step below her and she bent over him as if she wanted to lift him up. And it was less than five minutes since Sam Hollis left her.
"Come around by way of the side door of grandma's house, Maurice, and through her yard and into my house, and nobody will see you. And then no old grannies will talk and we'll have a little supper all to ourselves. Hurry now." She was talking as if she owned him. I did not hear what Maurice said, nor I did not want to hear; but making for the corner, he went by me like a shot, and "O Lord!" I heard him groan as he passed me, not recognizing me—not even seeing me, I believe.
I did not know what to make of it and let him go by. But after he had turned the corner and Minnie Arkell had shut her door—and she watched him till he disappeared around the corner—I ran after him. In my hurrying after him I heard the voice of Clancy coming down the street. He was singing. I had heard from Nell of Clancy being at the ball, where he was as usual in charge of the commissary. I could imagine how they must have drove things around the punch-bowl with Clancy to the wheel. He was coming along now and for blocks anybody that was not dead could hear him. And getting nearer I had to admire him. He was magnificent, even with a list to port. Not often, I imagined, did men of Clancy's lace and figure get into evening dress. The height and breadth of him!—and spreading enough linen on his shirt front to make a sail for quite a little vessel. He was almost on top of me, with
"Oh, hove flat down on th' Western Banks Was the Bounding Billow, Captain Hanks— And——"
when I hailed him.
"Hulloh, if it ain't Joe Buckley. Why, Joey, but aren't you out pretty late to-night? But maybe you're only standing watch for somebody? Three o'clock, Joey, and no excuse for you, for you didn't have to stand by the supplies—" But then I rushed him around the corner, and down the street to the side door of Mrs. Arkell's and just in time to head off Maurice, bound as I knew for Minnie Arkell's house across the yard. I didn't have a chance to say a word to Tommie, but he didn't have to be told. If I'd been explaining for a week he couldn't have picked things up any better than he did.
"Maurice—hi, Maurice! Oh, 'tis you, isn't it. Well, Maurice-boy, all the night I waited for a chance to have a word with you, but ne'er a chance could I get. Early in the evening—when I was fit for ladies' company—Miss Foster said how proud she was to know me—me, who had saved her cousin Johnnie's life. And then she asked me about the vessel, and I told her, Maurice, that nothing like the Duncan ever pushed salt water from out of her way before. 'Nothing with two sticks in her,' says I, and I laid it on thick; 'and Maurice Blake,' says I—and there, Maurice, I only spoke true catechism. 'Maurice Blake,' says I, 'is the man to sail her.' She was glad, she said, to know that, because her chum, Miss Buckley—Joe's cousin there—wanted that particular vessel to be a success. And she herself was interested in it. Never mind the reasons, she said. And she always did believe—and, Maurice, listen now—she knew that Captain Blake would do the Johnnie Duncan justice. And I said to her—well, Maurice, what I said you can guess well enough. No, come to think, you can't guess, but I won't tell you to your face. But thinking of it now, I mind, Maurice, the time when we were dory-mates—you and me, Maurice—and the cold winter's day our dory was capsized. And dark coming on and nothing in sight, and I could see you beginning to get tired. But tired as you were, Maurice, tired as you were and the gray look beginning to creep over you, you says, 'Tommie, take the plug strap for a while, you.'"
"But you didn't take it, Tommie."
"No, I didn't take it—and why? I didn't take it—and why? Because, though the mothers that bore us both were great women—all fire and iron—'twas in me to last longer—you a boy and your first winter fishing, and me a tough, hard old trawler. And you had all of life before you, and I'd run through some hard years of mine. If I'd gone 'twould have been no great loss, but you, Maurice, innocent as a child—how could I? I'd known men and women, good and bad—I'd lived life and I'd had my chance and thrown it away—but at your age the things you had to learn! Maybe I didn't think it all out like that, but that was why I didn't take the plug strap. But, Maurice-boy, I never forgot it. 'Take the plug strap, you, Tommie,' you says. We were dory-mates, of course, but, Maurice-boy, I'll never forget it."
Clancy took off his hat and drew his hand across his forehead. "And where were you bound when we stopped you, Maurice?"
"Oh, I don't know. To take a walk maybe."
"Sure, and why not? Let's all take a walk. Let's take a walk down to the dock and have a look at the vessel. Too dark? So it is, but we can see the shadow of her masts rising up to the clouds and we can open up the cabin and go below and have a smoke. Come, Maurice. Come on, Joe."
And down to the cabin of the Johnnie Duncan we went, and Clancy never in such humor. For three hours—from a little after three o'clock until after six—we sat on the lockers, Clancy talking and we smoking and roaring at him. Only the sun coming up over Eastern Point, lighting up the harbor and striking into the cabin of the Johnnie Duncan, brought Clancy to a halt.
He moved then and we with him. We left Maurice at the door of old Mrs. Arkell's, the old lady herself in the doorway and asking us if we had a good time at the ball. Standing on the steps, before he went in, Maurice said to me: "Tell your cousin, Joe, that when I do race the Johnnie, I'll take the spars out of her before anything gets by—take the spars out or send her under. I can't do any more than that."
The Johnnie Duncan was to leave at ten o'clock and so I left Clancy at his boarding-house. He looked tired when I left him. But he was chuckling, too. I asked him what it was that made him smile so.
"I'll give you three guesses," he said, but I didn't guess.
THE SEINING FLEET PUTS OUT TO SEA
The rest of that morning, between leaving Clancy and getting back to the dock again, I spent in cleaning up and overhauling my home outfit. My mother couldn't be made to believe that store bedding was of much use—and she was right, I guess—and so a warranted mattress and blankets and comforters and a pillow were made into a bundle and thrown onto a waiting wagon. Then it was good-by to all—good-by to my cousin Nell, who had come over from her house, good-by and a kiss for her little sister—late for school she was, but didn't care she said—and then good-by to my mother. That took longer. Then it was into the wagon with my bedding and off to the dock.
At Duncan's store I had charged up to me such other stuff as I needed: Two suits of oilskins, yellow and black, two sou'westers, heavy and light, two blue-gray flannel shirts, a black sweater, a pair of rubber boots, two pairs of woollen mitts and four pairs of cotton mitts, five pounds of smoking tobacco, a new pipe, and so on. When I had all my stuff tied up, I swung up abreast of Clancy and together we headed for the end of Duncan's dock, where the Johnnie Duncan lay.
Quite a fleet went out ahead of us that morning. Being a new vessel, there was a lot of things that were not ready until the last minute. And then there was the new foretopmast—promised at nine o'clock it was—not slung and stayed up until after ten. And then our second seine, which finally we had to leave for Wesley Marrs to take next morning. And there were the usual two or three men late. Clancy and Andie Howe went up to have a farewell drink and were gone so long that the skipper sent me after them. I found them both in the Anchorage, where Clancy had met a man he hadn't seen for ten years—an old dory-mate—thought he was lost five years before in the West Indies. "But here he is, fine and handsome. Another little touch all around and a cigar for Joe, and we're off for the Southern cruise."
We left then and started for the dock, with Clancy full of poetry. There happened to be a young woman looking out of a window on the way down. Clancy did not know her, nor she him, so far as I knew, but something about him seemed to take her eye. She leaned far out and waved her handkerchief at him. That was enough. Clancy broke out—
"The wind blows warm and the wind blows fair, Oh, the wind blows westerly— Our jibs are up and our anchor's in, For the Duncan's going to sea. And will you wait for me, sweetheart? Oh, will you wait for me? And will you be my love again When I come back from sea?
"Oh, sway away and start her sheets And point her easterly— It's tackle-pennant, boom her out And turn the Duncan free. You'll see some sailing now, my boys, We're off for the Southern cruise— They'll try to hold the Johnnie D, But they'll find it of no use."
I didn't wait any longer than that for Clancy, but ran ahead to the Duncan. I found her with jibs up and paying off. I was in time to get aboard without trouble, but Clancy and Howe coming later had to make a pier-head jump of it. Clancy, who could leap like a hound—drunk or sober—made it all right with his feet on the end of the bowsprit and his fingers on the balloon stay when he landed, but Howe fell short, and we had the liveliest kind of a time gaffing him in over the bow, he not being able to swim. They must have heard us yelling clear to Eastern Point, I guess. Andie didn't mind. "I must be with a lot of dogs—have to jump overboard to get aboard." He spat out what water he had to, and started right in to winch up the mainsail with the gang. He had on a brand-new suit, good cloth and a fine fit.
"You'll soon dry out in the sun, Andie-boy," they all said to him.
"I s'pose so. But will my clothes ever fit me again like they did?—and my fine new patent-leather shoes!"
Drifting down by the dock next to Duncan's our long bowsprit almost swept off a row of old fellows from the cap-log. They had to scramble, but didn't mind. "Good luck, and I hope you fill her up," they called out.
"Oh, we'll try and get our share of 'em," our fellows called back.
There was a young woman on the next dock—one of the kind that quite often come down to take snap-shots. A stranger to Gloucester she must have been, for not only that Gloucester girls don't generally come down to the docks to see the fishermen off, but she said good-by to us. She meant all right, but she should never have said good-by to a fisherman. It's unlucky. Too many of them don't come back, and then the good-by comes true.
Andie Howe looked a funny sight when we were making sail. Clancy, who, once he got started, took a lot of stopping, was still going:
"Oh, the Johnnie Duncan, fast and able— Good-by, dear, good-by, my Mabel— And will you save a kiss for me When I come back from sea?"
"Yes," roared Andie,
"And don't forget I love you, dear, And save a kiss for me,"
with the salt water dripping from his fine new suit of clothes and the patent-leather shoes he was so fond of.
And Clancy again:
"Oh, a deep blue sky and a deep blue sea And a blue-eyed girl awaiting me,"
"Oh, too-roo-roo and a too-roo-ree And a hi-did-dy ho-did-dy ho-dee-dee,"
"Too-roo-roo and a too-roo-ree, The Johnnie Duncan's going to sea,"
and Howe—a little shy on the words—
"Tum-did-dy dum-did-dy dum-did-dy-dum, Hoo-roo-roo and a dum by gum."
And by that time the gang were joining in and sheeting flat the topsails with a great swing.
I don't suppose that Gloucester Harbor will ever again look as beautiful to me as it did that morning when we sailed out. Forty sail of seiners leaving within two hours, and to see them going—to see them one after another loose sails and up with them, break out anchors, pay off, and away! It was the first day of April and the first fine day in a week, and those handsome vessels going out one after the other in their fresh paint and new sails—it was a sight to make a man's heart thump.
"The Johnnie Duncan, seiner of Gloucester—watch her walk across the Bay to-day," was George Moore's little speech when he came on deck to heave his first bucket of scraps over the rail. George was cook.
And she did walk. We squared away with half a dozen others abreast of us and Eastern Point astern of us all. Among the forty sail of fishermen that were standing across the Bay that morning we knew we'd find some that could sail. There was the Ruth Ripley, Pitt Ripley's vessel. He worked her clear of the bunch that came out of the harbor and came after us, and we had it with him across to Cape Cod. Forty miles before we beat him; but Pitt Ripley had a great sailer in the Ruth, and we would have been satisfied to hold her even. "Only wait till by and by, when we get her in trim," we kept saying.
"This one'll smother some of them yet," said Eddie Parsons, looking back at the Ruth. He felt pretty good, because he had the wheel when we finally crossed the Ruth's bow.
"With good steering—yes," said Clancy.
"Of course," exclaimed Eddie to that, and filled his chest full, and then, looking around and catching everybody laughing, let his chest flatten again.
The skipper didn't have much to say right away about her sailing. He was watching her, though. He'd look at her sails, have an eye on how they set and drew, take a look over her quarter, another look aloft, and then back at the Ruth, then a look for the vessels still ahead. "We'll know more about it after we've tried her out with the Lucy Foster or the Colleen Bawn or Hollis's new vessel," he said, after a while.
One thing we soon found out, and that was that she was a stiff vessel. That was after a squall hit us off Cape Cod. We watched the rest of them then. Some luffed and others took in sail, and about them we could not tell. But those that took it full gave us an idea of how we were behaving. "Let her have it and see how she'll do," said the skipper, and Howe, who was at the wheel—with his clothes good and dry again—let her have it full. With everything on and tearing through the water like a torpedo-boat, one puff rolled her down till she filled herself chock up between the house and rail, but she kept right on going. Some vessels can't sail at all with decks under, but the Johnnie never stopped. "She's all right, this one," said everybody then. A second later she took a slap of it over her bow, nearly smothering the cook, who had just come up to dump some potato parings over the rail. The way he came up coughing and spitting and then his dive for the companionway—everybody had to roar.
"Did y'see the cook hop?—did y'see him hop?" called Andie, who was afraid somebody had missed it.
We passed the Marauder, Soudan McLeod, soon after. His mainmast had broken off eight or ten feet below the head. They were clearing away the wreckage. "I s'pose I oughter had more sense," he called out as we went by.
"Oh, I don't know—maybe the spar was rotten," said Maurice, and that was a nice way to put it, too.
That night it came a flat calm, and with barely steerage way for us. There was a big four-masted coaster bound south, too, and light, and for the best part of the night we had a drifting match with her. Coasters as a rule are not great all-round sailers, but some of them, with their flat bottoms and shoal draft, in a fair wind and going light, can run like ghosts, and this was one of that kind. We had our work cut out to hold this one while the wind was light and astern, but in the morning, when it hauled and came fresher, we went flying over the shoals. So far as the looks of it went the big coaster might as well have been anchored then.
All that day we held on. And it was a lesson in sailing to see the way some of those seiners were handled. Our skipper spent most of that day finding out how she sailed best and putting marks on her sheets for quick trimming by and by.
Trying each other out, measuring one vessel against another, the fleet went down the coast. We passed a few and were passed by none, and that was something. Ahead of us somewhere were a half-dozen flyers. If we could have beaten some of them we should have had something to brag about; but no telling, we might get our chance yet.
Throughout all that night the lights of the fleet were all about us, ahead and behind. At breakfast next morning—four o'clock—we were off Delaware Breakwater, and that afternoon at two we began the mast-head watch for fish. And on that fine April day it was a handsome sight—forty sail of seiners in sight, spread out and cruising lazily.
The skipper was the first to get into his oilskins and heavy sweater, for with a vessel hopping along at even no more than six or seven knots by the wind it is pretty chilly aloft, nice and comfortable though it may be on deck in the sun.
There was a game of seven-up going on in the cabin, and the sun striking down the companionway was bothering Andie Howe. He began to complain. "Hi, up there to the wheel! Hi, Eddie—can't you put her on the other tack?—the sun's in my eyes. How can a man see the cards with the sun in his eyes?"
Parsons didn't have the chance to talk back when the word came from aloft to put the seine-boat over the side, and after that to overhaul the seine and pile it in the boat. Vessels ahead had seen mackerel, the skipper called out. We got into oilskins and boots and made ready. Those who were going into the seine-boat had already picked out in what positions they were going to row, and now there was an overhauling of oars and putting marks on them so that they could be picked out in a hurry. Clancy and I were to be dorymen. We made ready the dory, and then Clancy went to the mast-head with the skipper and Long Steve, whose watch it was aloft.
Things began to look like business soon. Even from the deck we could see that one or two vessels ahead had boats out. We began to picture ourselves setting around a big school and landing the first mackerel of the year into New York. I think everybody aboard was having that dream, though everybody pretended not to be in earnest. You could hear them: "A nice school now—three hundred barrels." "Or two hundred would be doing pretty well." "Or even a hundred barrels wouldn't be bad." There were two or three young fellows among the crew, fellows like myself, who had never seen much seining, and they couldn't keep still for excitement when from the mast-head came the word that a boat ahead was out and making a set.
We were going along all the time and when we could see from the deck for ourselves the boats that were setting, Billie Hurd couldn't stand it any longer, but had to go aloft, too. The four of them made a fine picture—the skipper and Steve standing easily on the spreaders, one leaning against the mast and the other against the back-stay, with Hurd perched on the jib halyards block and Clancy on the spring-stay, and all looking as comfortable as if they were in rockers at home. I'd have given a hundred dollars then to be able to stand up there on one foot and lean as easily as the skipper against the stay with the vessel going along as she was. I made up my mind to practise it when next I went aloft.
I went to the mast-head myself by and by, and, seeing half a dozen schools almost at once, I became so excited that I could hardly speak. The skipper was excited, too, but he didn't show it, only by his eyes and talking more jerkily than usual. He paid no attention to two or three schools that made me just crazy just to look at, but at last, when he thought it was time, he began to move. Ten or a dozen Gloucester vessels were bunched together, and one porgy steamer—that is, built for porgy or menhaden fishing, but just now trying for mackerel like the rest of us.
"There'll be plenty of them up soon, don't you think, Tommie?" the skipper asked.
"Plenty," answered Tommie, "plenty," with his eyes ever on the fish. "I think Sam Hollis has got his all right, but Pitt Ripley—I don't know."
It was getting well along toward sunset then, with everybody worried, the skipper still aloft, and one boat making ready to set about a mile inside of us. "They'll dive," said our skipper, and they did. "There's Pitt Ripley's school now," and he pointed to where a raft of mackerel were rising and rippling the water black, and heading for the north. "There's another gone down, too—they'll dive that fellow. Who is it—Al McNeill?—yes. But they'll come up again, and when it does, it's ours." And they did come up, and when they did the skipper made a jump and roared, "Into the boat!" There was a scramble. "Stay up here, you Billie, and watch the school," he said to Hurd, and "Go down, you," to me. I slid down by the jib halyards. The skipper and Clancy came down by the back-stay and beat me to the deck. They must have tumbled down, they were down so quick.
"Hurry—the Aurora's going after it, too." The Aurora was one of Withrow's fleet and we were bound to beat her. I had hardly time to leap into the dory after Clancy, and we were off, with nobody left aboard but Hurd to the mast-head and the cook, who was to stay on deck and sail the vessel.
In the seine-boat it was double-banked oars, nine long blades and a monstrous big one steering—good as another oar that—and all driving for dear life, with Long Steve and a cork-passer standing by the seine and the skipper on top of it, with his eyes fixed on the school ahead—his only motions to open his mouth and to wave with his hands to the steersman behind him. "Drive her—drive her," he called to the crew. "More yet—more yet," to the steering oar. "There's the porgy steamer's boat, too, after the same school. Drive her now, fellows!"
The mackerel were wild as could be, great rafts of them, and travelling faster than the old seiners in the gang said they had ever seen them travel before, and what was worse, not staying up long. There were boats out from three or four vessels before we pushed off with ours. I remember the porgy steamer had cut in ahead and given their boat a long start for a school. However, that school did not stay up long enough and they had their row for nothing. But then their steamer picked them up again and dropped them on the way to the same school that we were trying for. How some of our gang did swear at them! And all because they were steam power.
It promised to be a pretty little race, but that school, too, went down before either of us could head it, and so it was another row for nothing. We lay on our oars then, both boats ready for another row, with the skipper and seine-heaver in each standing on top of the seine and watching for the fish to show again. Of course both gangs were sizing each other up, too. I think myself that the Duncan's crowd were a huskier lot of men than the steamer's. Our fellows looked more like fishermen, as was to be expected, because in Gloucester good fishermen are so common that naturally, a man hailing from there gets so that he wants to be a good fisherman, too, and of course the men coming there are all pretty good to begin with, leaving out the fellows who are born and brought up around Gloucester and who have it in their blood. A man doesn't leave Newfoundland or Cape Breton or even Nova Scotia or Maine and the islands along the coast, or give up any safe, steady work he may have, to come to Gloucester to fish unless he feels that he can come pretty near to holding his end up. That's not saying that a whole lot of fine fishermen do not stay at home, with never any desire to fish out of Gloucester, in spite of the good money that a fisherman with a good skipper can make from there, but just the same they're a pretty smart and able lot that do come. And so, while our gang was half made up of men that were born far away from Gloucester, yet they had the Gloucester spirit, which is everything in deep-sea fishing, when nerve and strength and skill count for so much. And this other crowd—the porgy steamer's—did not have that look.
"Look at what we're coming to," somebody called. "All steam boys soon, and on wages—wages!" he repeated, "and going around the deck, with a blue guernsey with letters on the chest of it—A.D.Q.—or some other damn company."
"Well, that would not be bad either, with your grub bill sure and your money counted out at the end of every month," answered somebody else.
I was sizing up the two gangs myself, I being in the dory with Clancy, and I guess that nearly everyone of us was doing the same thing and keeping an eye out for fish at the same time, when all at once a school popped up the other side of the porgyman's boat. Perhaps, half a mile it was and, for a wonder, not going like a streak.