Every Man for Himself Part 44

"I turned in the door.

"'Oh, make haste!' says he.

"I measured the swile oil, neither givin' nor takin' a drop, an' I boarded the _Quick as Wink_, where I struck ol' Bill Hulk's las'

balance, fair t' the penny, as atween a man an' a man. Ah! but 'twas hard, sir, t' add no copper t' the mean small total that faced me from the page: for the fortune in the toe o' Bill Hulk's ol' sock was light enough, G.o.d knows! when I pa.s.sed un over.

"'Tumm,' says he, 'is it a honest balance?'

"'It is,' says I.

"'Wait a minute!' says he. 'Jus' a minute afore you tells me. I isn't quite ready.'

"I watched the sun drop into the sea while I waited.

"'Now,' says he, 'tell me quick!'

"'Nine eighty-three,' says I.

"'Add t' that,' says he, 'the twelve ninety-three in the sock. Quick, Tumm!' says he.

"I scribbled it out.

"'Wait!' says he. 'Just a minute, Tumm, till I gets a better grip.'

"I seed 'twas growin' quite gray in the west.

"'Now!' says he.

"'Uncle Billy,' roars I, 'tis twenty-two seventy-six!'

"'Send for Tom Neverbudge!' cries he: 'for I done it-thank G.o.d, I done it!'

"I fetched Tom Neverbudge with me own hands t' trade that grave for the fortune o' ol' Bill Hulk," Tumm proceeded, "an' I seed for meself, as atween a party o' the first part an' a party o' the second, that 'twas all aboveboard an' ship-shape, makin' what haste I was able, for Bill Hulk's anchor chain showed fearful signs o' givin' out.

"'Is it done?' says he.

"'All fast,' says I.

"'A plot an' a penny left over!' says he.

"'A plot an' a penny,' says I.

"'Tumm,' says he, with a little smile, 'I needs the plot, but _you_ take the penny. 'Tis sort o' surprisin',' says he, 'an' wonderful nice, too, t' be able t' make a bequest. I'd like t' do it, Tumm,' says he, 'jus'

for the feel of it, if you don't mind the size.'

"I 'lowed I'd take it an' be glad.

"'Look you! Bill Hulk,' says Neverbudge, 'if them graves is goin' t'

trouble you, I'll move un an' pay the cost o' labor. There, now!' says he; 'that's kind enough.'

"Bill Hulk got up on his elbow. '_What_'ll you do along o' my plot?'

says he.

"'Move them graves,' says Neverbudge.

"'You leave my plot be, Tom Neverbudge!' says Bill. 'What you think I been wantin' t' lie in that plot for, anyhow?'

"Tom Neverbudge 'lowed he didn't know.

"'Why,' says ol' Bill Hulk, 'jus' t' lie alongside them poor lonely little kids!'

"I let un fall back on the pillow.

"'I'm through, Tumm,' says he, 'an' I 'low I'll quit.'

"Straightway he quit...."

Wind astern, moonlight and mist upon the sea, a serene and tender sky, with a mult.i.tude of stars benignantly peeping from its mystery: and the _Good Samaritan_ dawdled on, wing and wing to the breeze, bound across from Sinners' Tickle to Afterward Bight, there to deal for the first of the catch. Tumm looked up to the sky. He was smiling in a gentle, wistful way. A little psa'm from his Bible? Again I wondered concerning the lesson. "Wink away," said he, "you little beggars! Wink away-wink away! You been lookin' at this d.a.m.ned thing so long that no wonder you winks. Wink away! I'm glad you've the heart t' do it. I'm not troubled by fears when you winks down, you're so wonderful wiser'n we. Wink on, you knowin' little beggars!"

This, then, it seemed, was the lesson.


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