"He shipped from St. John's," said the reader, looking to see.
"I know it. He belongs in Augusty. My nevvy."
The reader made a pencilled correction on the margin of the list, and resumed:
"Same schooner, Charlie Ritchie, Liverpool, Nova Scotia, 33, single.
"Albert May, 267 Rogers Street, City, 27, single. "September 27th.--Orvin Dollard, 30, married, drowned in dory off Eastern Point."
That shot went home, for one of the widows flinched where she sat, clasping and unclasping her hands. Mrs. Cheyne, who had been listening with wide-opened eyes, threw up her head and choked. Dan's mother, a few seats to the right, saw and heard and quickly moved to her side.
The reading went on. By the time they reached the January and February wrecks the shots were falling thick and fast, and the widows drew breath between their teeth.
"February 14th.--Schooner "Harry Randolph" dismasted on the way home from Newfoundland; Asa Musie, married, 32, Main Street, City, lost overboard.
"February 23d.--Schooner "Gilbert Hope"; went astray in dory, Robert Beavon, 29, married, native of Pubnico, Nova Scotia."
But his wife was in the hall. They heard a low cry, as though a little animal had been hit. It was stifled at once, and a girl staggered out of the hail. She had been hoping against hope for months, because some who have gone adrift in dories have been miraculously picked up by deep-sea sailing-ships. Now she had her certainty, and Harvey could see the policeman on the sidewalk hailing a hack for her. "It's fifty cents to the depot"--the driver began, but the policeman held up his hand--"but I'm goin' there anyway. Jump right in. Look at here, Alf; you don't pull me next time my lamps ain't lit. See?"
The side-door closed on the patch of bright sunshine, and Harvey's eyes turned again to the reader and his endless list.
"April 19th.--Schooner "Mamie Douglas" lost on the Banks with all hands. "Edward Canton, 43, master, married, City. "D. Hawkins, alias Williams, 34, married, Shelbourne, Nova Scotia. "G. W. Clay, coloured, 28, married, City."
And so on, and so on. Great lumps were rising in Harvey's throat, and his stomach reminded him of the day when he fell from the liner.
"May 10th.--Schooner "We're Here" [the blood tingled all over him].
Otto Svendson, 20, single, City, lost overboard."
Once more a low, tearing cry from somewhere at the back of the hall.
"She shouldn't ha' come. She shouldn't ha' come," said Long Jack, with a cluck of pity. "Don't scrowge, Harve," grunted Dan. Harvey heard that much, but the rest was all darkness spotted with fiery wheels. Disko leaned forward and spoke to his wife, where she sat with one arm round Mrs. Cheyne, and the other holding down the s.n.a.t.c.hing, catching, ringed hands.
"Lean your head daown--right daown!" she whispered. "It'll go off in a minute."
"I ca-an't! I do-don't! Oh, let me--" Mrs. Cheyne did not at all know what she said.
"You must," Mrs. Troop repeated. "Your boy's jest fainted dead away.
They do that some when they're gettin' their growth. 'Wish to tend to him? We can git aout this side. Quite quiet. You come right along with me. Psha', my dear, we're both women, I guess. We must tend to aour men-folk. Come!"
The "We're Heres" promptly went through the crowd as a body-guard, and it was a very white and shaken Harvey that they propped up on a bench in an anteroom.
"Favours his ma," was Mrs. Troop's only comment, as the mother bent over her boy.
"How d'you suppose he could ever stand it?" she cried indignantly to Cheyne, who had said nothing at all. "It was horrible--horrible! We shouldn't have come. It's wrong and wicked! It--it isn't right!
Why--why couldn't they put these things in the papers, where they belong? Are you better, darling?"
That made Harvey very properly ashamed. "Oh, I'm all right, I guess,"
he said, struggling to his feet, with a broken giggle. "Must ha' been something I ate for breakfast."
"Coffee, perhaps," said Cheyne, whose face was all in hard lines, as though it had been cut out of bronze. "We won't go back again."
"Guess 'twould be 'baout's well to git daown to the wharf," said Disko.
"It's close in along with them Dagoes, an' the fresh air will fresh Mrs. Cheyne up."
Harvey announced that he never felt better in his life; but it was not till he saw the "We're Here", fresh from the lumper's hands, at Wouverman's wharf, that he lost his all-overish feelings in a queer mixture of pride and sorrowfulness. Other people--summer boarders and such-like--played about in cat-boats or looked at the sea from pier-heads; but he understood things from the inside--more things than he could begin to think about. None the less, he could have sat down and howled because the little schooner was going off. Mrs. Cheyne simply cried and cried every step of the way, and said most extraordinary things to Mrs. Troop, who "babied" her till Dan, who had not been "babied" since he was six, whistled aloud.
And so the old crowd--Harvey felt like the most ancient of mariners--dropped into the old schooner among the battered dories, while Harvey slipped the stern-fast from the pier-head, and they slid her along the wharf-side with their hands. Every one wanted to say so much that no one said anything in particular. Harvey bade Dan take care of Uncle Salters's sea-boots and Penn's dory-anchor, and Long Jack entreated Harvey to remember his lessons in seamanship; but the jokes fell flat in the presence of the two women, and it is hard to be funny with green harbour-water widening between good friends.
"Up jib and fores'l! "shouted Disko, getting to the wheel, as the wind took her. "See you later, Harve. Dunno but I come near thinkin' a heap o' you an' your folks."
Then she glided beyond ear-shot, and they sat down to watch her up the harbour. And still Mrs. Cheyne wept.
"Psha', my dear," said Mrs. Troop; "we're both women, I guess. Like's not it'll ease your heart to hev your cry aout. G.o.d He knows it never done me a mite o' good; but then He knows I've had something to cry fer!"
Now it was a few years later, and upon the other edge of America, that a young man came through the clammy sea-fog up a windy street which is flanked with most expensive houses built of wood to imitate stone. To him, as he was standing by a hammered iron gate, entered on horseback--and the horse would have been cheap at a thousand dollars--another young man. And this is what they said:
"What's the best with you?"
"Well, I'm so's to be that kind o' animal called second mate this trip.
Ain't you most through with that triple-invoiced college o' yours?"
"Getting that way. I tell you, the Leland Stanford Junior isn't a circ.u.mstance to the old "We're Here"; but I'm coming into the business for keeps next fall."
"Meanin' aour packets?"
"Nothing else. You just wait till I get my knife into you, Dan. I'm going to make the old line lie down and cry when I take hold."
"I'll resk it," said Dan, with a brotherly grin, as Harvey dismounted and asked whether he were coming in.
"That's what I took the cable fer; but, say, is the doctor anywheres araound? I'll draown that crazy n.i.g.g.e.r some day, his one cussed joke an' all."
There was a low, triumphant chuckle, as the ex-cook of the "We're Here"
came out of the fog to take the horse's bridle. He allowed no one but himself to attend to any of Harvey's wants.
"Thick as the Banks, ain't it, doctor?" said Dan, propitiatingly.
But the coal-black Celt with the second-sight did not see fit to reply till he had tapped Dan on the shoulder, and for the twentieth time croaked the old, old prophecy in his ear:
"Master--man. Man--master," said he. "You remember, Dan Troop, what I said? On the 'We're Here'?"
"Well, I won't go so far as to deny that it do look like it as things stand at present," said Dan. "She was an able packet, and one way an'
another I owe her a heap--her and dad."
"Me too," quoth Harvey Cheyne.
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