Infomotions, Inc.The Harbor Master / Roberts, Theodore Goodridge, 1877-1953



Author: Roberts, Theodore Goodridge, 1877-1953
Title: The Harbor Master
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): bes; skipper; nolan; dennis nolan; bill brennen; mother nolan; dick lynch; dennis; black dennis; harbor; nick leary; aye; foxey jack; jack quinn; mary kavanagh; denny nolan; witless bay; father mcqueen; darling; flora lockhart; nolan's cove; mary; father
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Title: The Harbor Master

Author: Theodore Goodridge Roberts

Release Date: February 1, 2006 [EBook #17658]

Language: English

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THE HARBOR MASTER


BY

THEODORE GOODRIDGE ROBERTS


AUTHOR OF

"Rayton: A Backwoods Mystery," "A Captain of Raleigh's,"
"A Cavalier of Virginia," "Captain Love," "Brothers of Peril"
and "Hemming, the Adventurer."


MADE IN U.S.A.


M.A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
CHICAGO  NEW YORK

_Copyright, 1911_

BY STREET & SMITH


_Copyright, 1913_

By L.C. Page & Company

(INCORPORATED)


_All rights reserved_



First Impression, January, 1913
Second Impression, February, 1913

    The English edition of this book is entitled "The Toll of the
    Tides," but the American publishers have preferred to retain
    the author's original title, "The Harbor Master."

CONTENTS                                        PAGE


I.     BLACK DENNIS NOLAN                            1

II.    NOLAN SHOWS HIS APTITUDE FOR COMMAND         19

III.   FOXEY JACK QUINN SLIPS AWAY                  36

IV.    DEAD MAN'S DIAMONDS                          54

V.     FATHER MCQUEEN VISITS HIS FLOCK              64

VI.    THE GIRL FROM THE CROSS-TREES                86

VII.   THE GOLD OF THE "ROYAL WILLIAM"             101

VIII.  THE SKIPPER STRUGGLES AGAINST SUPERSTITION  115

IX.    SOME EARLY VISITS                           135

X.     MARY KAVANAGH                               147

XI.    THE SKIPPER CARRIES A LETTER                164

XII.   DICK LYNCH GOES ON THE WAR-PATH             181

XIII.  BILL BRENNEN PREACHES LOYALTY               194

XIV.   DICK LYNCH MEETS MR. DARLING                210

XV.    MR. DARLING SETS OUT ON A JOURNEY           225

XVI.   MR. DARLING ARRIVES IN CHANCE ALONG         235

XVII.  MARY KAVANAGH USES HER WITS                 250

XVIII. MOTHER NOLAN DOES SOME SPYING               265

XIX.   MARY AT WORK AGAIN                          279

XX.    FATHER MCQUEEN'S RETURN                     292




THE HARBOR MASTER




CHAPTER I

BLACK DENNIS NOLAN


At the back of a deep cleft in the formidable cliffs, somewhere between
Cape Race to the southward and St. John's to the northward, hides the
little hamlet of Chance Along. As to its geographical position, this is
sufficient. In the green sea in front of the cleft, and almost closing
the mouth of it, lie a number of great boulders, as if the breech in the
solid cliff had been made by some giant force that had broken and
dragged forth the primeval rock, only to leave the refuse of its toil to
lie forever in the edge of the tide, to fret the gnawing currents. At
low tide a narrow strip of black shingle shows between the nearer of
these titanic fragments and the face of the cliff. The force has been
at work at other points of the coast as well. A mile or so to the north
it has broken down and scattered seaward a great section of the cliff,
scarring the water with a hundred jagged menaces to navigation, and
leaving behind it a torn sea front and a wide, uneven beach. About three
miles to the south of the little, hidden village it has wrought similar
havoc, long forgotten ages ago.

Along this coast, for many miles, treacherous currents race and shift
continually, swinging in from the open sea, creeping along from the
north, slanting in from the southeast and snarling up (but their
snarling is hidden far below the surface) from the tide-vexed,
storm-worn prow of old Cape Race. The pull and drift of many of these
currents are felt far out from land, and they cannot be charted because
of their shiftings, and their shiftings cannot be calculated with any
degree of accuracy, because they seem to be without system or law. These
are dangerous waters even now; and before the safeguard of a strong
light on the cape, in the days when ships were helplessly dragged by the
sea when there was no wind to drive them--in the days before a
"lee-shore" had ceased to be an actual peril to become a picturesque
phrase in nautical parlance--they constituted one of the most notorious
disaster-zones of the North Atlantic.

We are told, as were our fathers before us, that one man's poison may be
another man's meat, and that it is an ill wind indeed that does not blow
an advantage to somebody. The fundamental truths of these ancient saws
were fully realized by the people of Chance Along. Ships went down in
battered fragments to their clashing sea-graves, which was bad, Heaven
knows, for the crews and the owners--but ashore, stalwart and gratified
folk who had noted the storms and the tides ate well and drank deep and
went warmly clad, who might otherwise have felt the gnawing of hunger
and the nip of the wind.

The people of Chance Along, with but a few exceptions, were Nolans,
Lynches, Learys and Brennens. Their forebears had settled at the back of
the cleft in the cliff a hundred years or more before the time of this
history. They had been at the beginning, and still were, ignorant and
primitive folk. Fishing in the treacherous sea beyond their sheltered
retreat had been their occupation for several generations, brightened
and diversified occasionally by a gathering of the fruits of storm. It
was not until Black Dennis Nolan's time, however, that the community
discovered that the offerings of the sea were sufficient--aye, more than
sufficient--for their needs. This discovery might easily have been made
by others than Black Dennis Nolan; but it required this man's daring
ingenuity and powers of command to make it possible to profit by the
discovery.

Black Dennis Nolan was but little more than a lad when he commenced the
formidable task of converting a poverty-stricken community of
cod-fishers into a band of daring, cunning, unscrupulous _wreckers_. He
possessed a dominating character, even in those days, and his father had
left him a small fore-and-aft schooner, a store well-stocked with
hand-lines, provisions and gear, and a record chalked up on the inside
of the door which showed, by signs and formulae unintelligible to the
stranger, every man in the harbor to be in his debt for flour, tea,
molasses, tobacco and several other necessities of life. So Black Dennis
Nolan was in a position, from the very first, to force the other men of
the place to conform to his plans and obey his orders--more or less.

For a time there were doubters and grumblers, old men who wagged their
heads, and young men who sneered covertly or jeered openly; and later,
as the rule of Dennis became absolute and somewhat tyrannical and the
hand of Dennis heavy upon men of independent ways of thought, there were
insurrections and mutinies. But Black Dennis Nolan was equal to every
difficulty, even from the beginning. Doubters were convinced that he saw
clearer than they, grumblers were satisfied, young men who jeered openly
were beaten into submission with whatever weapon came most conveniently
to hand. Dennis was big, agile, and absolutely fearless, and when he
dealt a blow with an oar, a skiff's thwart, or a pole from a
drying-stage, a second effort was seldom required against the same
jeerer. Once or twice, of course, he had to hit many times and was
compelled to accept some painful strokes in return. One or two of these
encounters are worthy of treatment in detail, if only to show something
of the natures of Black Dennis Nolan and his companions.

Immediately after his father's untimely death (the poor man was carried
out to sea on a small pan of ice, while engaged in killing seals off the
mouth of the harbor, in the spring of the year), Black Dennis was
addressed by the title of "Skipper." The title and position became his,
without question, along with his unfortunate father's schooner, store,
and list of bad debts. The new skipper's first move towards realizing
his dreams of affluence and power was to build a small hut of stones,
poles, and sods both at the place of the broken cliff a mile to the
north of Chance Along, and at the place of similar physical character
three miles to the southward. It was winter at the time--a fine season
for wrecks, but an uncomfortable season for spending one's nights in an
ill-made hut, and one's days on the brink of a cliff, without
companionship, gazing seaward through a heavy telescope for some vessel
in distress. But the skipper had made his plans and did not care a snap
of his finger for discomforts for himself or his friends. He knew that
out of every ten wrecks that took place on the coast within twenty miles
of Chance Along, not more than one profited the people of his harbor.
They never went afield in search of the gifts of the treacherous sea.
They took what they could clutch of what was thrown at their very doors,
even then letting much escape them, owing to lack of science and
organization. The new skipper meant to alter this condition of
things--and he knew that the waters in the immediate vicinity of Chance
Along were neither the most dangerous on the coast, nor the most
convenient for the salving of wreckage and fast-drowning cargoes. So he
established stations at Squid Beach to the northward, and at Nolan's
Cove to the southward, and ordered Nick Leary and Foxey Jack Quinn to
take up their abode in the new huts; Nick at Squid Beach, and Foxey Jack
at the Cove, had to keep a sharp look-out for ships during bad weather
and at night. Should either of them remark any signs of a vessel in
distress he was to return to Chance Along at top speed, and report the
same. Nick Leary and Foxey Jack Quinn were older men than the skipper by
a few years, and the fathers of families--of half-starved families. Nick
was a mild lad; but Foxey Jack had a temper as hot as his hair.

"What bes yer idee, skipper?" asked Nick.

Dennis explained it briefly, having outlined his plans several times
before.

"An' how long does we have to stop away?" asked Nick.

"Five days. Yer watch'll be five days, an' then I'll be sendin' out two
more lads," replied the skipper.

Foxey Jack Quinn stood, without a word, his vicious face twisted with a
scowling sneer. Both men departed, one for the beach to the north and
the other for the Cove to the south, each carrying a kettle and bag of
provisions, a blanket and tarnished spy-glass. Black Dennis Nolan turned
to other work connected with the great scheme of transferring the
activities of Chance Along from the catching of fish to the catching of
maimed and broken ships. He set some of the old men and women to
splicing ropes, stronger and more active folk to drilling a hole in the
face of the cliff, near to the top of it and just to the right of the
entrance to the narrow harbor. Others, led by the skipper himself, set
to work at drilling holes in several of the great rocks that lay in the
green tide beyond the mouth of the harbor, their heavy crowns lifting
only a yard or two above the surface of the twisting currents. All this
was but the beginning of a task that would require weeks, perhaps
months, of labor to complete. It was Black Dennis Nolan's intention to
construct, by means of great iron rings, bolts and staples,
chain-cables, hawsers and life-lines, a solid net by the help of which
his people could extend their efforts at salving the valuables from a
fast-breaking vessel to the outermost rock of that dangerous
archipelago, even at the height of a storm--with luck. In the past, even
in his own time, several ships bound from Northern Europe for Quebec had
been driven and dragged from their course, shattered upon those rocks,
sucked off into deep water, and lost forever, without having contributed
so much as a bale of sail-cloth to the people of Chance Along. He was
determined that cases of this kind should not happen in the future. The
net was to be so arranged that the greater part of it could be removed,
and the balance submerged, with but slight effort, and later all
returned to its working condition as easily; for it would not be well to
draw the attention of outsiders to the contrivance. Wrecking, in those
days, meant more than the salvage of cargoes, perhaps. The skipper
hoped, in time (should the experiment prove successful at the mouth of
the harbor), to rig the dangerous and productive archipelago off Squid
Beach and Nolan's Cove with similar contrivances. There was not another
man in Chance Along capable of conceiving such ideas; but Dennis was
ambitious (in his crude way), imaginative, daring, unscrupulous and
full of resources and energy.

All day the skipper and his men worked strenuously, and at break of dawn
on the morrow they returned to their toils. By noon a gigantic iron
hook, forged by the skipper himself, with a shank as thick as a strong
man's arm and fully four feet long, had been set firmly in the face of
the cliff. The skipper and five or six of his men stood at the edge of
the barren, above the cliff and the harbor, wiping the sweat from their
faces. Snow lay in patches over the bleak and sodden barren, a raw wind
beat in from the east, and a gray and white sea snarled below.

"Boys," said the young skipper, "I's able to see ahead to the day whin
there'll be no want in Chance Along, but the want we pretends to fool
the world wid. Aye, ye may take Dennis Nolan's word for it! We'll eat
an' drink full, lads, an' sleep warm as any marchant i' St. John's."

"What damn foolery has ye all bin at now?" inquired a sneering voice.

All turned and beheld Foxey Jack Quinn standing near at hand, a leer on
his wide mouth and in his pale eyes, and his nunney-bag on his
shoulder. His skinnywoppers (high-legged moccasins of sealskin,
hair-side inward) were glistening with moisture of melted snow, and his
face was red from the rasp of raw wind. He looked as if he had slept in
his clothes--which was, undoubtedly, the case. He glared straight at the
skipper with a dancing flame of devilment in his eyes.

"What ye bin all a-doin' now for to make extry work for yerselves?" he
asked.

There followed a brief silence, and then Black Dennis Nolan spoke
quietly.

"Why bain't ye over to Squid Beach, standin' yer trick at look-out?" he
inquired.

Foxey Jack's answer was a harsh, jeering laugh, and words to the effect
that life was too short to spend five days of it lonely and starving
with cold, in a hut not fit for a pig.

"Ye kin do what ye likes, yerself--ye an' them as be fools like yerself;
but Jack Quinn bain't a-goin' to lend a hand a yer foolishness, Denny
Nolan," he concluded.

"Turn round an' git back to yer post wid ye," said the skipper.

"Who be ye, an' what be ye, to give that word to me?"

"Ye knows who I be. Turn round an' git!"

"To hell wid ye! I turns round for no man!"

"Then ye'd best drop yer nunney-bag, ye foxey-headed fool, for I bes
a-comin' at ye to larn ye who bes skipper here."

Quinn let his nunney-bag fall to the snow behind him--and in the same
instant of time the skipper's right fist landed on his nose, knocking
him backward over the bag, clear off his feet, and staining his red
whiskers to a deeper and brighter red. But the big fellow came up to his
feet again as nimbly as a cat. For a moment the two clinched and swayed
in each other's straining arms, like drunken men. The awed spectators
formed a line between the two and the edge of the cliff. Foxey Jack
broke the hold, leaped back and struck a furious, but ill-judged blow
which glanced off the other's jaw. Next instant he was down on the snow
again, with one eye shut, but up again as quickly.

Again they clinched and swayed, breast to breast, knee to knee. Both
were large men; but Foxey Jack was heavier, having come to his full
weight. This time it was the skipper who tried to break the hold,
realizing that his advantage lay in his fists, and Quinn's in the
greater weight of body and greater strength of back and leg. So the
skipper twisted and pulled; but Quinn held tight, and slowly but surely
forced the younger man towards the edge of the cliff. Suddenly the
skipper drew his head back and brought it forward and downward again,
with all the force of his neck and shoulders, fair upon the bridge of
his antagonist's nose. Quinn staggered and for a second his muscles
relaxed; and in that second the skipper wrenched away from his grasp and
knocked him senseless to the ground.

"Lay there, ye scum!" cried Black Dennis Nolan, breathing heavily, and
wiping blood from his chin with the back of his hand. "Lay there an' be
damned to ye, if ye t'ink ye kin say 'nay' when Dennis Nolan says 'aye.'
If it didn't be for the childern ye bes father of, an' yer poor, dacent
woman, I'd t'row ye over the cliff."

Foxey Jack Quinn was in no condition to reply to the skipper's address.
In fact, he did not hear a word of it. Two of the men picked him up and
carried him down a steep and twisting path to his cabin at the back of
the harbor, above the green water and the gray drying-stages, and
beneath the edge of the vast and empty barren. He opened one eye as
they laid him on the bed in the one room of the cabin. He glared up at
the two men and then around at his horrified wife and children.

"Folks," said he, "I'll be sure the death o' Black Dennis Nolan. Aye, so
help me Saint Peter. I'll send 'im to hell, all suddent un' unready, for
the black deed he done this day!"

That was the first time the skipper showed the weight of his fist. His
followers were impressed by the exhibition. The work went steadily on
among the rocks in front of Chance Along for ten days, and then came
twenty-four hours of furious wind and driving snow out of the northwest.
This was followed by a brief lull, a biting nip of frost that registered
thirty degrees below zero, and then fog and wind out of the east. After
the snowy gale, during the day of still, bitter cold, relief parties
went to Squid Beach and Nolan's Cove and brought in the half-frozen
watchers. For a day the look-out stations were deserted, the people
finding it all they could do to keep from freezing in their sheltered
cabins in Chance Along; but with the coming of the east wind and the
fog, the huts of sods were again occupied.

The fog rolled in about an hour before noon; and shortly after midnight
the man from Nolan's Cove groped his way along the edge of the cliff,
down the twisty path to the cluster of cabins, and to Black Dennis
Nolan's door. He pounded and kicked the door until the whole building
trembled.

"What bes ye a-wantin' now?" bawled the skipper, from within.

"I seed a blue flare an' heared a gun a-firing to the sou'east o' the
cove," bawled the visitor, in reply.

The skipper opened the door.

"Come in, lad! Come in!" he cried.

He lit a candle and set to work swiftly pulling on his outer clothes and
sea-boots.

"There bes rum an' a mug, Pat. Help yerself an' then rouse the men," he
said. "Tell Nick Terry an' Bill Brennen to get the gear together. Step
lively! Rouse 'em out!"

Pat Lynch slopped rum into a tin mug, gulped it greedily, and stumbled
from the candle-light out again to the choking fog. He would have liked
to remain inside long enough to swallow another drain and fill and light
his pipe; but with Black Dennis Nolan roaring at him like a walrus, he
had not ventured to delay. He groped his way from cabin to cabin,
kicking on doors and bellowing the skipper's orders.

An hour and a half later, twenty men of Chance Along were clustered at
the edge of the broken cliff overlooking the beach of Nolan's Cove and
the rock-scarred sea beyond. But they could see nothing of beach or
tide. The fog clung around them like black and sodden curtains. Here and
there a lantern made an orange blur against the black. Some of the men
held coils of rope with light grappling-irons spliced to the free ends.
Others had home-made boat-hooks, the poles of which were fully ten feet
long.

They heard the dull boom of a gun to seaward.

"She bes closer in!" exclaimed Pat Lynch. "Aye, closer in nor when I
first heared her. She bain't so far to the south'ard, neither."

"Sure, then, the tide bes a-pullin' on her an' will drag her in, lads,"
remarked an old man, with a white beard that reached half-way down his
breast.

"What d'ye make o' her, Barney Keen?" asked the skipper of the old man.

"Well, skipper, I'll tell 'e what I makes o' her. 'Twas afore yer day,
lad--aye, as much as t'irty year ago--arter just sich weather as this,
an' this time o' year, a grand big ship altogether went all abroad on
these here rocks. Aye, skipper, a grand ship. Nought come ashore but a
junk o' her hull an' a cask o' brandy, an' one o' her boats wid the name
on all complete. The _Manchester City_ she was, from Liverpool. We
figgered as how she was heading for the gulf--for Quebec, like as not.
So I makes it, skipper, as how this here vessel may be bound for Quebec,
too."

Black Dennis Nolan took a lantern from another man, and led the way down
the broken slope to the beach. The gear was passed down and piled at the
edge of the tide. Dry wood--the fragments of ships long since broken on
the outer rocks--was gathered from where it had been stranded high by
many spring tides, and heaped on a wide, flat rock half-way up the
slope. Another heap of splintered planks and wave-worn timbers was
constructed on the level of the beach, close to the water--all this by
the skipper's orders. The sea hammered and sobbed among the rocks, and
splintered the new ice along the land-wash.

"If she comes ashore we'll be needin' more nor candle-light to work
wid," remarked the skipper.

Again the dull boom of a gun drifted in through the fog.

"Aye, lads, she bes a-drawin' in to us," said old Barney Keen, with a
note of intense satisfaction in his rusty voice.




CHAPTER II

NOLAN SHOWS HIS APTITUDE FOR COMMAND


The big ship was hopelessly astray in the fog and in the grip of a
black, unseen current that dragged at her keel and bulging beam, pulling
her inexorably landward towards the hidden rocks. Her commander felt
danger lurking in the fog, but was at a loss to know on which side to
look for it, at what point to guard against it. He was a brave man and a
master of seamanship in all the minute knacks and tricks of seamanship
of that day; but this was only his third voyage between London and the
St. Lawrence, and the previous trips had been made in clear weather. The
gale had blown him many miles out of his course, and lost him his
main-top-ga'ntsail yards and half of his mizzen-mast; the cold snap had
weighted ship and rigging with ice, and now the fog and the uncharted
deep-sea river had confused his reckoning utterly. But even so, he
might have been able to work his vessel out of the danger-zone had any
signal been made from the coast in reply to his guns and flares. Even if
after the arrival of the men from Chance Along on the beach at Nolan's
Cove, the heaps of driftwood had been fired, he might have had time to
pull his ship around to the north, drag out of the current that was
speeding towards the hidden rocks, and so win away to safety. There was
wind enough for handling the ship, he knew all the tricks of cheating a
lee-shore of its anticipated spoils, and the seas were not running
dangerously high. But his guns and flares went unanswered. All around
hung the black, blind curtains of the fog, cruelly silent, cruelly
unbroken by any blink of flame.

Black Dennis Nolan and his men stood by the frozen land-wash, along
which the currents snarled, and rolling seas, freighted with splinters
of black sea-ice, clattered and sloshed, waiting patiently for their
harvest from the vast and treacherous fields beyond. A grim harvest!
Grim fields to garner from, wherein he who sows peradventure shall not
reap, and wherein Death is the farmer! Aye, and grim gleaners those who
stand under the broken cliff of Nolan's Cove, waiting and listening in
the dark!

A dull, crashing, grinding sound set the black fog vibrating. Then a
brief clamor of panic-stricken voices rang in to the shore. Silence
followed that--a silence that was suddenly broken by the thumping report
of a cannon. The light flared dimly in the fog.

"Quiet, lads!" commanded the skipper. "Let the wood be till I gives ye
the word. She bes fast on the rocks, but she bain't busted yet."

"An' she'll not bust inside a week, i' this sea," said one of the men.
"Sure, skipper, the crew'll be comin' ashore i' their boats afore long.
An' they have their muskets an' cutlasses wid them, ye kin lay to that.
None but fools would come ashore on this coast, from a wreck, widout
their weepons."

"Aye, an' they'll be carryin' their gold an' sich, too," said the
skipper. "Lads, we'll do our best--an' that bain't fightin' an' killin',
i' this case, but the usin' o' our wits. Bill Brennen, tell off ten men
an' take 'em along the path to the south'ard wid ye. Lay down i' the
spruce-tuck alongside the path, about t'ree miles along, an' wait till
these folks from the ship comes up to ye, wid four or five o' our own
lads a-leadin' the way wid lanterns. They'll be totin' a power o'
val'able gear along wid them, ye kin lay to that! Lep out onto 'em,
widout a word, snatch the gear an' run fair south along the track,
yellin' like hell. Then stow the noise all of a suddent, get clear o'
the track an' work back to this Chance Along wid the gear. Don't bat any
o' the ship's crew over the head if ye bain't forced to it. The gear bes
the t'ing we wants, lads."

"Aye, skipper, aye--but will the sailormen be a-totin' their gear that
a-way?" returned Bill.

"Sure, b'y, for I'll tell 'em as we bes from Nap Harbor, an' I'll send
four lads to show 'em the way. After ye take their gear--as much as ye
kin get quick and easy--they'll follow ye along the path to try to catch
ye," replied Black Dennis Nolan.

Bill Brennen went up the twisty path to the barren, and along the edge
of the cliff to the southward, followed by ten sturdy fellows armed with
long clubs of birch-wood. Of the nine men remaining with the skipper,
six were sent, along with the gear, to hide behind the boulders and
clumps of bush on the steep slope. The skipper cautioned them to lie
low and keep quiet.

"Ahoy, there!" bellowed the skipper.

"Ahoy! Can't you show a light?" came the reply, from the fog.

"Aye, aye, sir. Bes ye on the rocks?"

"Lord, yes! Show a light, man, for Heaven's sake, so we can get the boat
away. Her back's broken and her bows stove in. She's breaking up quick."

The skipper and his three companions speedily made a small heap from the
big pile of driftwood on the shingle, and lit it from the candle of a
lantern. They poured a tin of seal-oil over the dry wreckage, and the
red and yellow flames shot up. It was evident to the men on the
land-wash that the unfortunate ship had escaped the outer menaces and
won within a hundred yards of the shore before striking. She was burning
oil now, in vast quantities, to judge by the red glare that cut and
stained the fog to seaward.

"What sort of channel?" came the question.

"Full o' rocks, sir; but it bes safe enough wid caution," cried the
skipper.

"Can't you show more light?"

"Aye, sir, there bes more wood."

A second fire was built still closer to the edge of the tide than the
first.

"Stand by to receive a line," warned the masterful voice from the ship.

A rocket banged and a light line fell writhing across the beach.

"Haul her in and make fast the hawser."

Black Dennis Nolan and his three companions were most obliging. They
pulled in the line until the wet hawser on the end of it appeared, and
this they made fast to a rock on the beach as big as a house.

A small light appeared between the ship and the shore, blinking and
vanishing low down on the pitching sea. The glare from the fires on the
land-wash presently discovered this to be an oil-lantern in the bows of
a boat. The boat, which contained about a dozen men, was being
hand-hauled along the line that ran from the wreck to the shore. Black
Dennis Nolan and his companions exchanged glances at sight of drawn
cutlasses and several rifles and pistols in the hands of the men from
the wreck. As the leading boat came within ten yards of the shore an
officer stood up in her bows. By this time the light of a second boat
was blinking and vanishing in her wake.

"Bear a hand to ease us off," commanded the person in the bows of the
boat.

"Aye, sir, we bes ready to help ye," replied the skipper, humbly.

"How is the landing?"

"It bes clear, sir--shelvin' rock."

"How many are you, there?"

"We bes four poor fishermen, sir."

The boat rowed in and was kept from staving in her keel on the land-wash
by Nolan and his men. The officer sprang from the bows to the icy
shingle, slipped and recovered himself with an oath. He was a huge
fellow. In one hand he carried an iron dispatch box, and in the other a
heavy pistol.

"This the lot of you?" he asked, glancing sharply at Black Dennis Nolan.

"Aye, sir, we bes only four poor fishermen," replied Nolan.

"I am glad to hear it. This coast has the name of being a bad place for
shipwrecked people to come ashore on."

"You bes talkin' of the coast 'round to the south o' Cape Race, sir. We
bes all poor, honest folk hereabouts, sir."

"Oh, aye," returned the other, drily.

By this time all the men were ashore and the boat was high up on the
shingle, out of reach of the surf. The men stood close around it. They
were well-armed, and kept a sharp look-out on all sides.

"What do you call this place?" asked the officer.

"Why, sir, Frenchman's Cove bes its name," replied the skipper.

Frenchman's Cove lies three miles to the south of Nolan's Cove; but the
skipper was cautious.

"Do you live here?"

"No, sir. There bain't no houses here. We bes four poor men from 'way to
the nor'ard, sir, a-huntin' deer on the barrens. We was makin' camp 'way
back inland, sir, when we heared yer guns a-firin'."

"How far away is the nearest village?"

"Why, sir, this country bes strange to me, but I's t'inkin' Nap Harbor
wouldn't be more'n ten mile to the south, fair along the coast. Bes I
right, Pete?"

"Aye, skipper, I be t'inkin' the same. Nap Harbor lays to the south,
maybe ten mile along, maybe less," replied Peter Nolan, a cousin of the
skipper's.

A second boat reached the shore and discharged its freight of humans and
small packages and bundles. This boat contained four sailors and ten
passengers. There were three women among the passengers. All were
clutching bundles of clothing or small bags containing their personal
possessions of value. One of the women was weeping hysterically.

"Could we get a passage 'round to St. John's from Nap Harbor?" asked the
officer.

"Aye, sir, I bes sayin' ye could. Sure there bes a fore-and-after i' Nap
Harbor," said Nolan.

"Will you guide us to Nap Harbor?"

"Aye, sir, that we will, an' glad to be o' sarvice to ye."

"We will pay you well, my good man," said one of the passengers, a tall
gentleman with a very white and frightened face, draped in a very wet
cloak. "In the meantime," he continued, "let us dry ourselves at these
fires and have something hot to drink. Where are those stewards, the
lazy dogs!"

Two more boats came from the ship to the shore without accident. In the
last to arrive were the captain and the doctor. The company gathered
round the fires, keeping their boxes and bags close to them. The
stewards and sailors brewed hot punches for all. The lady with the
hysterics was soothed to quiet by the doctor and a tiny mug of brandy
and boiling water. The officers held a consultation and decided to get
the passengers safely to Nap Harbor, and aboard a schooner for St.
John's and then to return to Frenchman's Cove themselves and salve what
they could of the cargo of the ship, which was evidently of unusual
value. (Black Dennis Nolan had expected this.) They would get help in
Nap Harbor for the work of salvage, and would leave the four boats on
the beach, under a guard of five seamen and the third officer. They had
brought food from the ship, and so they ate a substantial meal while
they warmed themselves and discussed their plans. But Captain McTavish
neither ate nor drank, so bitterly did he feel the loss of his ship. He
feared that even the moderate sea now running would break her up within
forty-eight hours.

Black Dennis Nolan vanished in the darkness many times in the
furtherance of his task of gathering wood for the fires. At last, after
he had covertly inspected all the bags, bundles and dispatch boxes, he
disappeared in the surrounding gloom and did not reappear at all. Dick
Lynch, a man of about his own size, shape and coloring,--one of the six
who had taken cover on the hillside--the firelight in his stead,
carrying a fragment of broken spar. The change was not noticed by the
men from the wreck.

Dry, warmly clothed, and inwardly fortified with food and drink, the
ship's company set off for Nap Harbor, carrying as much as they could of
their portable possessions, and led by four of the honest fishermen of
Chance Along. They left behind them the third mate, a sturdy youth armed
with two pistols and a fowling-piece, and five sailors armed with
cutlasses and pistols--and enough dry and liquid provisions to last the
guard for several days. They climbed the steep and twisty path that
connected the beach with the edge of the barren, and soon their lanterns
were lost in the fog. The third mate and his men brewed another generous
supply of rum punch, heaped more wood on the fire and lit their pipes.
By the time each had emptied his tin mug for the third time all felt
inexpressibly sleepy. Mr. Darling, the commander of the guard, counted
his men with a waving forefinger, and an expression of owlish gravity on
his round face. Then, "Daniel Berry, you'll stand the first trick," said
he. "Keep a sharp look-out and report anything unusual. Silas Nixon will
relieve you at eight bells of the middle watch."

So Daniel Berry got unsteadily to his feet and stumbled away from the
fire; but five minutes after his companions began to snore he returned
to his blankets by the fire and fell fast asleep. He would never have
been guilty of such a crime at sea; but ashore it was quite a different
matter. What was the use of a look-out ashore? The island of
Newfoundland was not likely to strike a reef or an iceberg. So he sank
deep into the slumber of the just and the intoxicated.

A dawn wind, blowing gently out of the west, began to thin and lift the
dripping fog. Out from the dark that hedged in the fire crawled six
vague shapes which, as they came into the illuminated zone, proved to be
Black Dennis Nolan and five of his men of Chance Along with ropes in
their hands. They stooped over the blanket-swathed sleepers, working
quickly and cunningly with the ropes. They also bandaged the eyes and
mouths of the unconscious mariners with strips of blanket. By this time
the light on the stranded ship was burning low. The skipper and his
companions examined the four boats, dragged one of them down to the edge
of the tide and launched it. The fog was thinning swiftly, and a gray
pallor was spreading in the east and south. They manned the boat and
pulled out for the wreck, following the dripping hawser.

The wreck lay across a sunken rock, listed heavily to port. Her spars
were all over the side, a tangled mass washing and beating about in the
seas. A snag of rock had been driven clean through the timbers of the
port-bow. Black Dennis Nolan and his companions managed to get aboard at
last. A fire of rags and oil still burned in an iron tub on the main
deck. They went forward to the galley for a lamp, and with this entered
the cabins aft. Dennis Nolan led the way. The captain's room was empty.
They found and examined the quarters of the passengers. Clothing and
bedding were tossed about in disorder, and it seemed that everything of
value had been collected and carried away. They gathered up a couple of
silk gowns and a fur-lined cloak, however. The skipper was shaking out
the sheets from a berth when he felt something strike the toe of his
boot. He stooped quickly, recovered a small box bound in red leather,
and slipped it in his pocket. The others had observed nothing of this.
In another cabin, they found the passengers' heavy baggage packed in
about a dozen big leather boxes. They carried these to the main deck
without waiting to open them. By this time the dawn was an actual,
dreary-gray fact, and the fog was no more than a thin mist.

"Now for the cargo, lads," said the skipper.

They removed the tarpaulins from the main hatch, and broke it open. With
the lamp in his left hand, the skipper descended into the hold by way of
the stationary iron ladder.

"Pianeys," he shouted.

"Hell!" exclaimed the men on deck, in voices of disgust.

The skipper returned to the deck, after about ten minutes in the hold.

"The cargo bain't o' no use to us, lads," he said. "Pianeys, engines,
an' fancy-goods."

They broke open the lazarette and found several cases of wines and
brandy, and a quantity of provisions of superior quality. They lowered
the passengers' baggage into the boat and pulled ashore through the
spouting, slobbering rocks and reefs. In a second trip they salvaged the
spirits and provisions. They carried boxes, cases and crates up to the
barren, and hid them in a thicket of dense spruce-tuck, and concealed
their gear of lines and boat-hooks in the same place.

"She'll last a good few days yet, if it don't blow up a gale," said the
skipper, waving his hand towards the wreck, "and maybe we'll come back
an' get some pickin's. But we bain't wantin' to raise any suspicions."

He loosened the bindings at Mr. Darling's wrists, so that they could be
worked off in time, and then set out briskly for Chance Along with his
three companions at his heels.

Of the future of the ship's company little need be said. On their way to
Nap Harbor they were set upon and robbed by a large force of big men.
Their valuables vanished into the fog and darkness, as if they had never
been--and their guides vanished also. They went on, following the edge
of the cliff, and reached Nap Harbor about two hours after dawn. From
Nap Harbor they sailed northward to St. John's, and there reported the
robbery to the police. The police calmed them with promises, and in time
sent officers to Nap Harbor armed with search-warrants. Needless to say,
the jewels and money were not found. Captain McTavish did not return to
Nolan's Cove to salve the cargo of his ship, for the agent in St. John's
explained to him that the task would be a profitless one. A few days
later he was joined by Mr. Darling and the five men of the guard, and
eventually they all sailed away. But the tall gentleman with the white
face and the long cloak left a sting behind him. He was Sir Arthur
Harwood, Baronet, and the lady who had wept hysterically, and been
quieted by the ship's surgeon, was Lady Harwood. By the wreck these two
had lost much of value in clothing, jewelry and money; but their
greatest loss was that of a necklace of twelve flawless diamonds and
fourteen rubies. Sir Arthur offered a reward of five hundred pounds for
the recovery of this necklace. In this reward lay the sting.

In the little retiring harbor of Chance Along, Black Dennis Nolan was a
great man. His plans had worked without a hitch--and still the carcass
of the ship lay in Nolan's Cove, only waiting to be picked. A rich
harvest had been gathered without the loss of a life, and without
attracting a shadow of suspicion upon Chance Along. The skipper called
together the twenty men who had shared with him the exertions and risks
of that night. This was in his store, with the windows obscured by
blankets, the door bolted and the lamp lit.

"Lads," said he, "here bes twelve hundred golden sovereigns. I makes 'em
into twenty-four shares o' fifty each. Now, lads, step up an' each take
a share."

The men obeyed, their eyes glowing and their hands trembling.

"Now there bes four shares still on the table," said the skipper.

"Aye, skipper, aye," stammered Bill Brennen, huskily. The others
breathed heavily, shuffled their feet, gripped the money in their
pockets and glared at the yellow pieces still glowing in the lamplight.




CHAPTER III

FOXEY JACK QUINN SLIPS AWAY


"Four shares still on the table," repeated the skipper. "Well, lads, one
bes for Black Dennis Nolan."

He glared around at the circle of eager, watchful, shaggy faces set
against the wall of gloom that hemmed in the table and the ill-trimmed
lamp.

"Aye, skipper, that bes right," muttered Nick Leary.

"And another bes for the skipper who feeds ye all from his store."

Again he glared around, letting his dark, dauntless eyes dwell for a
second on each face. "And t'other two bes for the lad who larned you
how."

With that, he swept the four piles of coins into a pocket of his coat.
One of the men grunted. The skipper turned his black but glowing regard
upon him. Another cursed harshly and withdrew a step from the table. The
skipper jumped to his feet.

"Who says nay?" he roared. "Who gives the lie to my word? I bes skipper
here--aye, an' more nor skipper! Would ye have one gold guinea amongst
the whole crew o' ye, but for me? Would ye have a bite o' food in yer
bellies, but for me? An' now yer bellies bes full an' yer pockets bes
full, an' ye stand there an' say nay to my aye!"

He pulled two pistols from beneath his coat, cocked them deliberately
and stared insolently and inquiringly around.

"What d'ye say to it, Bill Brennen?" he asked.

Bill Brennen shuffled his big feet uneasily, and eyed the pistols
askance.

"Thank ye kindly, skipper. Ye speaks the truth," said he.

"An' ye, Nick Leary?"

"Ye bes skipper here, sure--aye, and more nor skipper. But for ye we'd
all be starved to death wid hunger an' cold," said Nick.

"An' what says the rest o' ye? Who denies me the right to four shares o'
the money?"

"Me, Dennis Nolan!" said Dick Lynch. "I denies ye the right."

"Step up an' say it to my face," cried the skipper.

"Aye, step up an' give it to him straight," said one of the men. "Step
up, Dick, I bes wid ye."

"Who said that?" roared the skipper.

"Sure, 'twas me said it," growled one, Dan Keen.

"Be there four o' ye denies me the right to the money in me pocket?"
asked the skipper.

"Aye, there bes four o' us."

"Then step out, the four o' ye."

Dick Lynch, Dan Keen and two others shuffled to the front of the group.
Black Dennis Nolan looked them over with fury in his eyes and a sneer on
his lips. He called up Bill Brennen and Nick Leary, and gave a pistol to
each of them, and exchanged a few guarded words with them.

"Dick Lynch, Dan Keen, Corny Quinn an' Pat Lynch, stand where ye be," he
said. "Ease back along the wall, the rest o' ye. I'll larn ye who bes
skipper an' master o' this harbor! I'll larn ye if I bes as good as the
four o' ye or not."

He slipped off his coat, with the weight of coined gold in the pockets
of it, stepped swiftly around the end of the table and sprang furiously
upon the four men who had denied his right to four shares of the loot.

"I'll larn ye!" he roared.

Three of them, all husky fellows, stood their ground; but the fourth
turned and dashed clear of the field of instruction. He was a small man,
was Corny Quinn, and lacked the courage of his convictions.

The skipper struck the group of three with both feet off the ground.
They staggered, clutched at him, aimed blows and curses at him. A
terrible kick delivered by Dan Keen missed its intended object and
brought Pat Lynch writhing to the floor, and before Dan fully realized
his mistake something as hard as the side of a house struck him on the
jaw and laid him across the victim of his error. Dick Lynch was more
fortunate than his fellow-mutineers--for half a minute. He closed with
the furious skipper and clung tightly to him, thus avoiding punishment
for the moment. The two were well matched in height and weight; but the
skipper was the stronger in both body and heart. Also, he seemed now to
be possessed of the nerve-strength of a madman. He lifted his clinging
antagonist clear of the floor, shook him and wrenched at him, and at
last broke his hold and flung him against the wall. Dick landed on his
feet, steadied himself for a moment and then dashed back to the
encounter; but he was met by the skipper's fist--and that was the end
of the fight.

Black Dennis Nolan returned to the table and sat down behind the smoky
lamp. There was a red spot on his forehead from a chance blow, and the
knuckles of both big hands were raw. He breathed heavily for a full
minute, and glared around him in silence.

"Pick 'em up," he said, at last. "The lesson I larned 'em seems to lay
cold on their bellies. Give 'em rum, Burky Nolan--ye'll find a case of
bottles behind the stove. Drink up, all o' ye. T'row some water in their
faces, too."

His orders were promptly obeyed. He took the pistols from Bill Brennen
and Nick Leary, and laid them on the table, and then picked up his coat
and put it on.

"Now, men, maybe ye know who bes master of this harbor," he said. "If
any one o' ye, or any four o' ye, bain't sure, say the word an' I'll
pull off me coat again an' show ye. Well now, we'll git back to
business. The jewels bes still hid in the swamp. They bain't no manner
o' use to us till we sells 'em. I'll do that, men, bit by bit, in St.
John's. The grub an' liquor we took bes all in the pit under this
floor. Ye kin come every day an' tote away what ye wants of it. The
wines and brandy bes for them who has sick folks an' old folks to feed.
Lift the trap, Bill, an' let them help theirselves."

Bill Brennen stooped and hoisted a trap-door in the middle of the floor.
The skipper left the table, lamp in hand.

"Help yourselves, men," he invited. "Take whatever ye fancies."

They came up meekly. Even the three who had so lately been disabled
obeyed the invitation, leaning upon their companions. The water and rum
had revived them physically, but their spirits were thoroughly cowed.
The skipper held the lamp over the square hole in the floor.

"Two at a time, men," he cautioned. "Bill, light a candle an' pass it
down to 'em."

Half an hour later the store was empty, save for the skipper and the
inanimate gear. The blankets had been removed from the windows, and the
lamp extinguished. The skipper sat beside the deal table from which he
had distributed the gold, staring thoughtfully at his raw knuckles. The
pistols still lay on the table. He pushed them to one side, scooped the
gold from his pockets, spread it out and counted it slowly and
awkwardly. Then he produced a canvas bag, stowed the gold away in it and
tied the mouth of it securely.

"A rough crew," he muttered. "They needs rough handlin', most o' the
time, an' then a mite o' humorin' like ye t'row fish to a team o' dogs
after ye lash the hair off 'em. Aye, a rough crew, an' no mistake--but
Black Dennis Nolan bes their master!"

He left his chair, stepped across the floor, and lifted the trap that
led to the cellar. He descended, returning in a minute with a bottle of
wine and two tins of potted meat.

"I'm t'inkin' it bes about time to t'row some fish to that dog Jack
Quinn," he murmured.

He went out, leaving the bag of gold on the table, and locked the door
behind him. Though he left the gold he did not leave the pistols. Under
his arm he carried the wine and the tinned meat. He went straight to
Foxey Jack Quinn's cabin, and entered without knocking on the door.
Quinn was sitting by the little stove with his head untidily bandaged.
One pale, undamaged eye glared fiercely from the bandages. The woman was
seated close to the only window, sewing, and the children were playing
on the floor. All movement was arrested on the instant of the skipper's
entrance. The children crouched motionless and the woman's needle stuck
idle in the cloth. Quinn sat like an image of wood, showing life only in
that one glaring, pale eye.

"How bes ye feelin' now, Jack?" asked the visitor.

The hulking fellow by the stove did not speak, but the hand that held
his pipe twitched ever so slightly.

"Orders be orders," continued the skipper. "The lads who obeys me fills
their pockets wid gold--an' them who don't get hurt. But I bain't a hard
man, Jack Quinn. Ye did yer best to heave me over the edge o' the
cliff--an' most would have killed ye for that. Here bes wine an' meat
for ye an' the wife an' children."

He laid the bottle and tins on a stool near the woman. Quinn's glance
did not waver, and not a word passed his swollen lips; but his wife
snatched up one of the tins of meat.

"The saints be praised!" she cried. "We bes nigh starvin' to deat' wid
hunger!"

"'Twas me give it to ye, not the saints," said Black Dennis Nolan, "an'
there bes more for ye where it come from."

He turned and went out of the cabin.

"I'll fix him yet," mumbled Foxey Jack Quinn.

The woman gave no heed to the remark, for she had already opened one of
the tins of choice meat and was feeding the children from her fingers.

The skipper returned to the store, took up his bag of gold and went
home. He lived with his grandmother, old Kate Nolan (commonly known in
the harbor as Mother Nolan) and with his young brother Cormick. The
cottage was the largest in the harbor--a grand house altogether. It
contained three rooms, a loft, and a lean-to extension occupied by a pig
and a dozen fowls. The skipper found the old woman squatted in a low
chair beside the stove in the main room. This room served as kitchen,
dining-room, general reception, and the skipper's bed-room. A ladder led
up to the loft from one corner. Of the remaining rooms on the ground
floor one was where the grandmother slept, and the other one was kept
spotless, musty and airless for the occasional occupation of good
Father McQueen, the missionary priest, who visited Chance Along three
times a year. Cormick slept in the loft.

Mother Nolan glanced up from the red draft of the stove at her
grandson's entrance. She held a short clay pipe in one wrinkled hand.
She regarded the youth inscrutably with black, undimmed eyes, but did
not speak. He closed the door, faced her and extended the heavy bag of
coins.

"Granny, we bes rich this minute; but we'll be richer yet afore we
finishes," he said. "This bag bes full o' gold, Granny--full o' coined
English gold."

"Out o' the wrack?" she queried.

"Aye, it was in the ship, Granny."

The old woman puffed on her pipe for a few seconds.

"An' what else come out o' the wrack, Denny?"

"Diamonds an' rubies an' pearls, the wine ye drank last night an' the
fancy grub ye et to-day. 'Twas a grand wrack altogether, Granny."

Mother Nolan wagged her gray head and returned her gaze to the red draft
of the stove. "'Twas grand wine," she muttered. "Wracker's wine! Dead
man's wine!"

"Nay, Granny, there ye bes wrong. Not a lad aboard her was killed nor
drownded."

"Then how come ye by the gold an' diamonds, Denny?"

The skipper laughed.

"Sure, Granny, I tricked 'em!" he exclaimed. "I made use o' my wits--an'
the harbor bes rich."

"Saints pity ye, Denny! Rich? The folk o' this harbor bain't intended
for riches. Take a care, Denny, for the devil bes in it. Saints presarve
us! No good never did come to this harbor out o' wracks, Denny. Me own
father was drunk wid rum out o' a wrack when he fell over the edge o'
the cliff, an' broke his neck on the land-wash. It was for a case o'
brandy out o' a wrack Pat Walen an' Micky Nolan fit wid skulpin'-knives
till Pat was killed dead."

The skipper laughed again and expanded his chest.

"There bain't no fightin' over wracks now," he said. "I bes skipper now,
Granny. Do this, do that, says I--an' it's done! An' I gives out the
shares to the men like I was master o' a sealin'-ship after a trip to
the ice--one share to every man o' the crew an' four to meself. There
bain't no shares for ship an' owners in this business, Granny."

"An' where be the diamonds?" asked the old woman.

"Hid in the marsh, safe an' sound till I takes 'em to St. John's,"
replied the skipper.

"There bain't no luck in diamonds," mumbled the old woman, "an' there
bain't no luck in wracks. The devil bes in the both o' them, Denny."

The skipper passed through his grandmother's bed-room and entered the
cold and un-aired chamber that was reserved for the use of Father
McQueen. He closed the door behind him, bolted it stealthily and then
tiptoed across the floor to the bulging chimney and empty fire-place. He
knelt on the drafty hearth, placed the bag of gold beside his knee, and
thrust both arms into the black maw of the chimney. After a minute of
prying and pulling he withdrew them, holding a square, smoke-smudged
stone in his hands. Laying this on the hearth, he took up the canvas bag
and thrust it into a cavity at the back of the chimney that had been
ready for the reception of just such a treasure for some time. Then he
replaced the stone and scrambled to his feet. He glanced furtively at
the one small window which lighted the room, then moved noiselessly to
the centre of the floor and put up his right hand to the whitewashed
beam that crossed the low ceiling. His fingers searched delicately for a
full minute; and then he lowered his hand, holding a small square of dry
wood. The beam had been skilfully hollowed at this point. From the
cavity he took a small box bound in red leather--the same small box that
he had found among the sheets and blankets of a berth in the wreck. He
opened it and gloated over a necklace of twelve diamonds and fourteen
rubies glinting, flashing and glowing on a bed of white satin. He
fondled the wonderful stones with his blunt finger-ends. So he stood for
a long time, breathing heavily, his black eyes glowing like the rubies
and glinting like the diamonds.

"A fortune," he murmured. "Aye, houses an' ships, liquor, food an'
sarvants. Holy saint! I bes richer nor any marchant in St. John's!"

At last he closed the box, put it back in the cavity overhead, and
returned the small square of wood to its place. He looked around the
room. The fading light of the winter day was gray at the window. The
curtained bed was a mass of gloom; a white Christ on a cross of ebony
gleamed above the narrow chimney-shelf, between two candlesticks of dull
brass; the floor, with its few rough mats, was as cold as the frozen
snow outside. The skipper felt the chill of the place in his sturdy
bones. He shot a glance at the crucifix. It, too, was an offering from
the sea. His father had told him how it had come ashore in the hand of a
dead woman, thirty years ago. Now the carven image of the Saviour seemed
to gleam out from the black of the cross and the shadowy wall as if with
an inner illumination. Black Dennis Nolan made the sign with an awkward
and unaccustomed finger, and then went swiftly from the room.

The skipper, Bill Brennen and Nick Leary left their cabins stealthily
about midnight, met on the snowy barren above the harbor, and tramped
southward to the vicinity of Nolan's Cove. They worked for a little
while in a clump of spruce-tuck, then moved off to another thicket about
half a mile away, and there worked again.

"There bes some men in this harbor I wouldn't trust as far as I could
t'row 'em over my back," said the skipper.

Bill and Nick agreed with him. The skipper glanced up at the starless
sky.

"There'll be snow by sun-up," he said.

"Aye, skipper, a desperate flurry out o' the nor'-west," replied
Brennen.

"D'ye mean wind, too?"

"Aye, skipper, mark that!"

All three felt a breath on their faces like the very essence of cold.
They turned northward and set out on the homeward way. All were snug in
their beds long before the first pale hint of dawn. The icy draft from
the northwest was a little stronger by that time, and it puffed a haze
of dry and powdery snow before it. The night was full of faint,
insistent voices. The roofs of the cabins snapped and creaked as if icy
fingers were prying them apart. A sharp crackling sound came up from the
harbor, where the tide fumbled at the edges of black ice. A dull, vast
moaning that was scarcely a sound at all--something as vague, yet mighty
as silence itself--drifted over the barrens and over the sheltered
habitations out of the northwest.

When the skipper awoke in the morning the "flurry" was rolling over the
brink of the barren, and down upon Chance Along in full force. The
skipper piled dry wood--birch and splinters of wreckage--into the round
stove, until it roared a miniature challenge to the ice-freighted wind
outside. The bucket of water on the bench in the corner was frozen to
half its depth. He cut at it with a knife used for skinning seals, and
filled the tea-kettle with fragments of ice. His young brother Cormick
came stiffly down the ladder from the loft, and stood close to the stove
shivering.

"It bes desperate weather, Denny," said the lad. "Sure, I near froze in
my blankets."

"Aye, Cormy, but we bes snug enough, wid no call to go outside the
door," replied the skipper. "We has plenty o' wood an' plenty o' grub;
an' we'll never lack the one or t'other so long as I bes skipper o' this
harbor."

"Aye, Denny, we never et so well afore ye was skipper," returned
Cormick, looking at his brother in frank admiration. "Grub--aye, an'
gold too! I hears ye took a barrel o' money off that wrack, Denny."

"An' there'll be more wracks, Cormy, an' we'll take our pickin's from
every one," said the skipper. "Times bes changed, lad. The day was when
we took what the sea t'rowed up for us; but now we takes what we wants
an' leaves what we don't want to the sea."

At that moment the voice of old Mother Nolan sounded fretfully from the
next room.

"Denny! Cormy!" she called. "I bes fair perishin' to death in my bed.
The wind bes blowin' an' yowlin' t'rough this room like the whole end o'
the house was knocked out."

The skipper, who was as gentle with his old grandmother and as kind to
his young brother as the best man in the world could have been, crossed
the kitchen immediately and opened the door of the old woman's chamber.
Mother Nolan was sitting up in her bed with a blanket on her thin, bent
shoulders, and a red flannel night-cap on her gray head.

Her small face was pinched by cold and age, but her black eyes were
alive and erect.

"The mats be squirmin' and flappin' on the floor like live fish," she
exclaimed. "Saints presarve all poor creatures abroad this day on sea or
land! They'll be starved to death wid the cold, Denny, for bain't I most
blowed out o' my bed right in this grand house?"

The skipper realized that the room was colder than the middle apartment
of the cabin had any right to be. He went to the window and examined
it. The small frame was as tight in the wall as a dozen spikes and a
liberal daubing of tar could make it. It had never been opened since the
building of the house.

"The wind blows under Father McQueen's door like spray from the
land-wash," said the old woman.

"'Twill be comin' down the chimbly," said Dennis, aware of the tide of
icy wind low about his feet. He crossed the room and opened the door of
the dismal chamber reserved for the use of the missionary. The sash of
the window hung inward, the woodwork splintered and the spikes twisted,
admitting a roaring current of wind and powdery snow. With a cry of
consternation and rage the skipper sprang in, banged and bolted the door
behind him, and went straight to the rafter across the middle of the
ceiling. He removed the square of wood--and the hollow behind it was
empty! For a moment he stood with his empty hand in the empty
hiding-place, unable to move or think because of the terrific emotions
which surged through him. At last he went over to the chimney and
examined it. The bag of gold was in its place.




CHAPTER IV

DEAD MAN'S DIAMONDS


Now I must hark back a few hours to the time when the skipper and his
lieutenants were on their way to the barrens behind Nolan's Cove to
safeguard the interests of the harbor by changing the hiding-place of
the common treasure of jewelry. They had not been gone half an hour from
Chance Along before Foxey Jack Quinn slipped from his cabin and glided,
like a darker shadow in the darkness, to the skipper's house. He was not
ignorant of his enemy's departure southward. He knew that both young
Cormick and old Mother Nolan were heavy sleepers; and, earlier in the
evening, he had seen something through the window of the guest-chamber
that had aroused his curiosity and a passion of avarice.

Foxey Jack Quinn was warmly clothed. His rackets and a light pack were
on his back and his pockets were stuffed with food and a flask of rum.
He was armed with a hatchet. He crouched beside the window of the empty
room for several minutes, listening intently and fearfully. At last he
wedged the strong blade of his hatchet between the sash of the window
and the frame and prised inward, steadily and cautiously. With a shrill
protest of frosted spikes the lower part of the sash gave by an inch or
two. He devoted another minute to listening, then applied the hatchet to
the left side of the window. He worked all round the sash in this way
and at last pushed it inward with both hands until it hung below the
sill by a couple of bent spikes. He thrust the hatchet in his belt and
entered the room. He put up his hand to the rafter that crossed the low
ceiling and so felt his way along to the middle of the room. Halting
there, he removed the fur mitten from his right hand and felt about
until his chilled fingers discovered a thin crack in the whitewash of
the rafter. The little square of dry wood came away in his fingers. Next
moment he held the leather-bound casket in his hand. He opened it and
felt the cold jewels which he could not see. Then he closed it, slipped
it into a pocket, replaced the square of wood in the beam and made his
cautious way back to the window. He crawled over the sill, turned and
tried to lift the sash upward and outward to its place. The sash came
up easily enough but the bent spikes would not hold. After a few minutes
of fruitless effort he turned away, leaving the window wide open. The
sky was black as the throat of a chimney. A breath of wind came from the
northwest. Foxey Jack Quinn was not weatherwise, however. He climbed the
path to the edge of the barrens and turned to the north.

"Diamonds white an' red," he muttered. "I seen 'em, and I knowed what
they was. Every little stone bes worth more nor all the fore-and-afters
on the coast. I bes a rich man now--richer nor the governor, richer nor
any marchant in St. John's--richer nor the king o' England, maybe. Holy
saints be praised! Never agin will I wet a line at the fishin' nor feel
the ache o' hunger in my belly. Denny Nolan will soon be cursin' the day
he batted me about like a swile."

His plans for the immediate future were clear in his mind but for the
more distant future they were vague, though rosy. He would make the ten
miles to Brig Tickle in less than three hours, and from there turn a
point or two westward from the coast and strike across country to the
head of Witless Bay. He had a cousin in Witless Bay and could afford to
rest in that cousin's house for a few hours. There he would hire a team
of dogs and make the next stage in quick time. Dennis Nolan, who would
not discover the theft of the diamonds until after sun-up, would be left
hopelessly astern by that time. So Quinn figured it out. On reaching St.
John's he would go to a shebeen that he knew, in a narrow and secluded
back street, and there rent a room. Then he would commence the business
of disposing of one of the diamonds. Just how he was to go about this he
did not know, but he felt sure that Mother McKay, who kept the shebeen,
would be able to give him some valuable advice on the subject. And after
that? Well, the prospects were rosy but vague. He would get word to his
wife in some way to move herself and the children to Witless Bay. He
would send her twenty dollars, and after that, for the rest of his life,
ten good dollars every month. As for himself, he would sail away to some
big city "up-along"--to Boston, New York or London--dispose of the
necklace stone by stone, buy a great house and live in idle luxury. He
would dress like a merchant, eat hearty every day, drink deep and sleep
warm. He had heard of such things--of men who never set their hands to a
stroke of work from year's end to year's end. He would live like a king
and drink like a lord and, like the good father and husband that he
firmly believed himself to be, he would send ten dollars to his wife
every month.

With such exalted dreams as these did Foxey Jack Quinn occupy his mind
as he hurried northward along the edge of the snowy barrens. He had
travelled about two miles when he suddenly became aware of the increased
force and coldness of the wind. Snow as dry as desert-sand and as sharp
as splintered ice blew against his face, stinging his eyes (one of which
was still half closed), and smarting the battered flesh of brow and
cheek. Then, for the first time, he realized that one of those dreaded
storms out of the northwest was approaching. But for the treasure in his
pocket he would have faced about and returned to Chance Along; but as it
was he drew his fur cap lower about his ears, wound a woollen scarf
around the lower part of his face and held doggedly on his way. The wind
lulled for a little while, quieting his apprehensions. His rackets were
on his feet now and he pushed along briskly over the pallid snow,
through the whispering dark. He had covered another mile before the
skirmishers of the storm rushed over him again out of the black
northwest. That bitter wind soaked through his heavy garments like water
and chilled him to the heart. Its breath of dry snow, embittered and
intensified by its rushing journey across frozen seas and a thousand
miles of frozen wilderness, blinded him, cut him and snatched at his
lips as if it would pluck life itself from his lungs. He turned his back
to it and crouched low, gasping curses and half-choked prayers to the
saints. Then the full fury of the storm reached him, the dark grew
pallid with flying snow-dust, and the frozen earth seemed to quake
beneath his hands and knees. For a minute he lay flat, fighting for
breath with his arms encircling his face. He knew that he must find
shelter of some description immediately or else die terribly of
suffocation and cold. Surely he could find a thicket of spruce-tuck near
at hand? He staggered to his feet, stood hunched for a second to get the
points of the compass clear in his mind, then plunged forward, fighting
through the storm like a desperate swimmer breasting the surf. He
thought he was moving straight inland where he would be sure to stumble
soon against a sheltering thicket. But the onslaught of the storm had
bewildered him. He struggled onward; but not toward the twisted clumps
of spruces. His eyes were shut against the lashing of the snow and he
held his arms locked before him across his mouth and nostrils. The wind
eddied about him, thick as blown spray with its swirling sheets of ice
particles. It struck him on all sides, lashing his face and tearing at
his back whatever way he turned.... A scream of horror rang out for an
instant and was smothered by the roaring of the storm. So the spirit of
Jack Quinn was whirled away on the tempest--God knows whither!--and the
poor body came to rest on the frozen land-wash far below the edge of the
blind, unheeding cliff.

The storm raged all day out of the northwest, and the folk of Chance
Along kept to their cabins and clustered around their little stoves.
Even Black Dennis Nolan did not venture farther than fifty yards from
his own door. He replaced the window of Father McQueen's room, said
nothing of his loss to Cormick and the old woman, and after breakfast
went out and fought his way along to Foxey Quinn's cabin. He found the
woman in tears.

"Where bes Jack?" he asked, drawing the door tight behind him and
standing with his hand on the latch.

"He bain't here," said the woman. "He was gone from the bed when first I
opened my eyes."

The skipper was a hard man in many ways, even then. Later, as he became
established in his power, the hardness grew in him with the passing of
every day. But always a tender spot could be found in his heart for
women and children.

"He was to my house last night," he said. "He bust in a windy an' tried
to rob me--aye, an' maybe he done it."

The woman covered her face with her rough, red hands and moaned like a
wounded thing.

"I bain't holdin' it agin' ye," continued the skipper. "I fight wid men,
not women an' childern. I fit Jack Quinn fair an' bate him fair. Let it
be! If ye wants for food, Polly--whenever ye wants for food an'
clothin'--send the word to me. I bes skipper in this harbor--aye, an'
more nor skipper."

He turned then and let himself out into the shrieking storm. Polly Quinn
stared at the door and the children clustered about her and pulled at
her shabby skirts.

"Aye, he tells true," she murmured. "Never a hard word did Mother Nolan
ever have from him. He was a good son to his mother an' the old skipper.
But them as crosses him--the holy saints presarve 'em! Men-folks must be
his dogs or his enemies. He batted me poor Jack nigh to death wid his
big hands."

She turned at last and fed the glowing stove. Then she set about getting
breakfast for herself and the children. There was enough hard bread in
the house to last the day. There was a pinch of tea in the canister.
Jack had drunk the wine from the wreck and taken away with him all that
had been left of the tinned meats which the skipper had brought over the
day before. The woman observed these things and gave some thoughts to
them. She glanced up at the blinding white tumult against the drifted
window, reflecting that her husband had taken the best food in the
house--enough to last him for two days, at least--and had left behind
him, for herself and three children, eight cakes of hard bread and a
pinch of tea. Her faded eyes glowed and her lips hardened.

Black Dennis Nolan brooded all day by the stove with his big hands
clasped idly between his knees. The grandmother sat near him, in a
tattered armchair, smoking her pipe and mumbling wise saws and broken
stories of the past.

"I bes a storm-child," she mumbled. "Aye, sure, wasn't I born a night in
winter wid jist sich a flurry as this one howlin' over Chance
Along--aye, an' wid a caul over me face. So I has the power o' seein'
the fairies." And then, "me man were bigger nor ye, Denny. Skipper Tim,
he were. Built the first fore-an'-after on this coast, he did." And
later--"There bain't no luck in diamonds. The divil bes in 'em."

Young Cormick sat on the other side of the stove, busily carving a block
of wood with a clasp-knife.




CHAPTER V

FATHER MCQUEEN VISITS HIS FLOCK


After the storm from the northwest had blown itself out, a spell of soft
weather set in along the coast. East and southeast winds brought fog and
mild rains, the ice rotted along the land-wash and the snow dwindled
from the barrens and left dripping hummocks and patches of black bog
exposed. The wreck in Nolan's Cove had gone to pieces during the
blizzard, sunk its cargo of pianos, manufactured cotton and hardware in
six fathoms of water and flung a liberal proportion of its spars and
timbers ashore.

Black Dennis Nolan felt as sure that Jack Quinn had perished in the
storm as if he had seen him prone and stiff under the drifting snow. The
fool had left the harbor that night, sometime before the onslaught of
the blizzard, but after midnight to a certainty. He had gone out--and he
had not returned! There could be no doubt about his miserable fate. The
skipper pictured him in his clear mind as lying somewhere out on the
barrens with the red-bound casket clutched in a frozen hand. So the
skipper devoted a day to searching for him over the thawing, sodden
wilderness behind the harbor. He took Bill Brennen and Nick Leary with
him. The other men did not grumble at being left behind, perhaps because
they were learning the unwisdom of grumbling against the skipper's
orders, more likely because they did not care a dang if Foxey Jack Quinn
was ever found or not, dead or alive. Quinn had not been popular. The
skipper informed his two companions that the missing man had broken into
his house and robbed him of an article of great value.

"We bes sure to find him somewheres handy," said Bill Brennen. "Foxey
Jack was always a fool about the weather--didn't know east from west
when the wind blowed. What was it he robbed from ye, skipper?"

"Whatever it was, ye'll both git yer share if we finds it," replied the
skipper. "More nor that I bain't willin' to say."

He fixed Bill Brennen with a glance of his black eyes that made that
worthy tremble from his scantily-haired scalp to the soles of his big,
shuffling feet. Bill was one of those people who cannot get along
without a master. In the past, for lack of another, he had made an
exacting tyrant out of a very mild and loving wife; but since the
masterful opening of the new skipper's reign he had snapped his fingers
at his wife, who had ruled him for close upon twenty years. He was
shrewd, though weak, and his heart was full of the stuff in which
personal loyalty is bred and fostered. If the hand that beat him was the
hand that fed him--the hand of his master--then the beating seemed an
honorable and reasonable thing to him. True, the skipper had not yet
lifted a fist to him; but in this case darkling glances served quite as
well as blows. Bill had seen the strength of Dennis from the first and
from the first had loved it as a thing to serve--as the spirit of
mastery. Nick Leary, though a much younger man than Bill Brennen,
possessed the same spirit of service.

The three searched the barrens all day, from sun-up to dark, north,
south and inland. It was a gray day, sloppy underfoot and raw overhead.
At one time the skipper halted and lit his pipe within three yards of
the point of the edge of the cliff from which Quinn had pitched to his
death; but wind, snow and thaw had obliterated all trace of those
blindly staggering feet. The searchers explored the inner, tangled
recesses of a dozen thickets of spruce-tuck, snarled coverts of alders,
hollows hip-deep in sodden snow, and the pits and rocky shelters of
knolls and hummocks.

"He bes hid away somewheres, sure's Saint Peter was a fisherman," said
the skipper.

"Axin' yer pardon, skipper, I bes t'inkin' as how maybe he bain't dead,"
said Nick Leary, humbly. "Maybe he got t'rough to Brig Tickle, sir, an'
from the Tickle he'd be headin' for Witless Bay this very minute."

The skipper shook his head.

"There bain't a man on the coast could live t'rough a flurry the like o'
that widout he found shelter," he replied. "He bes dead somewheres widin
t'ree or four mile o' Chance Along, ye kin lay to that, Nick."

They returned to the harbor after dark and said not a word to the others
about the business that had occupied them throughout the day; Brennen
and Nick Leary were asked many questions, but they lied valiantly,
saying that they had been spying out boat-timber. Had they admitted that
they had devoted a whole day to searching over the barren for the body
of Foxey Jack Quinn a suspicion that the missing man had carried away
something of extraordinary value would have fired the harbor and set
every able-bodied inhabitant on the quest. That would not have suited
the skipper's plans. He did not want a knowledge of the necklace of
diamonds and rubies to become general.

Doubtless the search for Jack Quinn would have been continued on the
following day but for the unexpected arrival in Chance Along of the good
Father McQueen. The missionary's visits were usually unexpected. He came
now from the northward, on foot and unattended. In a haversack on his
sturdy shoulders he carried food, two books of devotions and one of
Irish poetry, and his vestments. Children who were playing a game called
"deer-hunting" on the barrens behind the harbor were the first to know
of the priest's approach. They shouted the news down to the gray cabins
on the slope. A few of the men were working out among the rocks, under
the skipper's supervision; others were cobbling skiffs and bullies that
lay high and dry beneath the empty stages, and the old fellows were
sitting around, giving advice and sucking at rank pipes. The harbor was
at peace; and, what was still more unusual, it was free from
hunger-fear. By the skipper's first important stroke of business his
reign promised to be prosperous, even though tyrannical. At word that
Father McQueen was sighted all work was stopped. The dories among the
outer rocks were pulled to the land-wash. The men left their tarring and
caulking under the drying-stages. Women issued from the cabins with
shawls thrown hastily about their heads and shoulders. The skipper led
the way up the twisty path to the level wilderness above. There was one
man in the world whom he feared--feared without bitterness even as he
did the saints on their thrones of gold. That man was Father McQueen.

Cap in hand, Black Dennis Nolan took the haversack from the priest and
slung it on his own shoulder.

"Ye've walked a weary way, father," he said. "Ye bes mud and water to
the knees, sir."

"But a step, Denny. Naught but a step, my son," replied the missionary,
cheerfully. "I was in Witless Bay for two holy baptisms, a marriage an'
a wake, an' I just took the notion to step over an' see ye all in
Chance Along. _Pax vobiscum_, all of ye! My children, ye look grand an'
hearty. How is Mother Nolan, the dear old body? Spry as ever, ye say?
Praise the saints for that."

The people, men, women, and children, clustered round him with beaming
faces, and in return he beamed at one and all, and spoke to a dozen by
name. He leaned on the skipper's arm.

"But it bes still early in the forenoon, father," said Dennis. "Where
did yer reverence sleep last night then?"

"Snug as a fox in his den, my son," replied the sturdy old man. "When
dark came on I found me a dry cave in the side of a knoll, an' dry moss
an' sticks for a fire."

"It bain't right for yer reverence to sleep out these rough winter
nights," protested the skipper. "Maybe ye'll be gettin' yer death one o'
these nights, sir."

"Nay, Denny, don't ye go worryin' about me," said the priest. "I am as
tough as a husky."

He descended the path to the clustered cabins, still holding the
skipper's arm and with the populace sliding and crowding at his muddy
heels. His gray eyes were as keen as they were kindly. He remarked
several of the great iron rings on the rocks to seaward.

"What are ye up to now, Denny?" he asked, halting for a moment, and
pointing with a plump but strong and weather-beaten hand.

The skipper's black eyes followed the line indicated.

"That bes a grand idee o' mine, yer reverence," he answered, after a
moment's hesitation. "Sure I'll tell ye all about it, sir, after ye get
yerself dry alongside the stove."

"Something to do with wrecks, Denny?" queried the priest.

"Aye, yer reverence, it bes a part o' the gear for salvin' wrecks,"
returned Nolan.

At the skipper's door Father McQueen dismissed his followers with a
blessing and a promise to see them all after dinner. Then, after a few
kindly words to Mother Nolan, he entered his own room, where Cormick had
a fire of driftwood roaring in the chimney. He soon returned to the
kitchen, in socks and moccasins of the skipper's, a rusty cassock and a
red blanket. The innate dignity and virtue of the old man gave to his
grotesque attire the seeming of robes of glory, in spite of the very
human twinkle in his gray eyes and the shadow of a grin about the
corners of his large mouth. He accepted a chair close to the stove--but
not the most comfortable chair, which was Mother Nolan's. They knew his
nature too well to offer him that. The skipper gave him a bowl of hot
wine, mulled with sugar and spices, which he accepted without demur and
sipped with relish. After a few minutes of general conversation, during
which Mother Nolan expatiated on her rheumatics, he turned to the
skipper, and laid a hand on that young giant's knee.

"So ye are preparing gear for the salving of wrecks, my son?" he
queried.

"Aye, yer reverence, we bes fixin' chains an' lines among the rocks so
as maybe we kin get a holt on whatever comes ashore," replied Nolan.

"A good idea," returned the other. And then, "Have ye had any wrecks
already this winter?"

"Aye, yer reverence, there be'd one in Nolan's Cove."

"So? Did any of the poor souls come ashore alive?"

"Aye, yer reverence, every mother's son o' them. They come ashore in
their boats, sir, an' left the ship acrost a rock wid a hole in her
bows bigger nor this house."

"And where are they now?"

"That I couldn't tell, yer reverence. They set out for Nap Harbor, to
the south, that very night, an' got there safe an' sound. An' I heard
tell, sir, as how they sailed from Nap Harbor for St. John's in a
fore-an'-after."

The priest regarded the skipper keenly.

"Safe and sound, ye say, Denny?"

"Aye, yer reverence, safe an' sound, wid their clothes on their backs
an' food an' drink in their pockets an' their bellies."

"I am glad to hear it, Denny. Ye sent them on their way warmly clad and
full-fed; but I'm thinking, my son, they must have left something behind
them? It's grand wine this, Denny."

"Aye, father, it bes grand wine. It came out o' the wreck, sir, along
wid a skiff-load o' fancy grub. There bes wine, spirits an' tinned stuff
in every house o' the harbor, yer reverence. But the cargo weren't no
manner o' use to us--an' the hull broke up an' went all abroad two days
back."

"So ye got nought from the wreck but a skiff-full of drink and food?"

"I bain't sayin' that, father dear, though it were as peaceful an'
dacent a wrack as ever yer reverence heard tell of. Maybe yer reverence
bes buildin' another church somewheres?--or a mission-house?--or sendin'
money up-along to the poor haythens?"

"Aye, Denny, I am doing all these things," replied the priest. "Since
first I set foot on Newfoundland I have built nine little churches,
twelve mission-houses and one hospital--aye, and sent a mint of money to
the poor folk of other lands. My dear parents left me a fortune of three
hundreds of English pounds a year, Denny; and every year I give two
hundred and fifty pounds of that fortune to the work of the Holy Church
and beg and take twice as much more from the rich to give the poor."

The skipper nodded. This information was not new to him.

"I was thinkin', yer reverence, as how some day ye'd maybe be buildin'
us a little church here in Chance Along," he said.

"It would take money, my son--money and hard work," returned the priest.

"Aye, father dear, 'twould take money an' work. There bes fifty golden
sovereigns I knows of for yer reverence."

"Clean money?"

"Aye, yer reverence."

"From the wreck, Denny?"

"Aye, father dear, from the last wrack."

"Without blood on it, my son?"

"Widout so much as a drop o' blood on it, so help me Saint Peter!"

"And the other lads, Denny? Are ye the only one in the harbor able to
pay me something for the building of a church?"

There was the one question on the good priest's tongue and another in
his clear eyes.

"I bes skipper, father dear, an' takes skipper's shares and pays
skipper's shares," replied Nolan. "But for me there'd not bin one bottle
o' wine come to us from the wrack an' the poor folks aboard her would
never have got ashore in their boats for want of a light on the
land-wash. As I kin spare ye fifty pounds for the holy work, yer
reverence, there bes nineteen men o' this harbor kin each be sparin' ye
ten."

Father McQueen nodded his gray head.

"Then we'll have the little church, Denny," he said. "Aye, lad, we'll
have the little church shining out to sea from the cliffs above Chance
Along."

Father McQueen was a good man and a good priest, and would as readily
have given his last breath as his last crust of bread in the service of
his Master; but for the past thirty years he had lived and worked in a
land of rocks, fogs and want, among people who snatched a livelihood
from the sea with benumbed fingers and wrists pitted deep with scars of
salt-water boils. He had seen them risk their lives for food on the
black rocks, the grinding ice and the treacherous tide; and now his
heart felt with their hearts, his eyes saw with their eyes. Their bitter
birthright was the harvest of the coastwise seas; and he now realized
their real and ethical right to all that they might gather from the
tide, be it cod, caplin, herrings or the timbers and freights of wrecked
ships. He saw that a wreck, like a good run of fish, was a thing to
profit by thankfully and give praise to the saints for; but he held that
no gift of God was to be gathered in violence. In the early years of his
work he had heard rumors and seen indications of things that had fired
him with a righteous fury and pity--rumors and hints of mariners
struggling landward only to be killed like so many seals as they
reached the hands to which they had looked for succor. The poor savages
who had committed such crimes as this had at first failed to understand
his fury and disgust; but with his tongue and his strong arms he had
driven into their hearts the fear of Holy Church and of the Reverend
Patrick McQueen. Even the wildest and dullest members of his
far-scattered flock learned in time that life was sacred--even the life
of a half-dead stranger awash in the surf. They even learned to refrain
from stripping and breaking up a wrecked or grounded vessel that was
still manned by a protesting crew; and with the fear of the good priest
in their hearts (even though he was a hundred miles away), they would do
their best to bring the unfortunate mariners safely ashore and then
share the vessel with the hungry sea.

That even a deserted or unpeopled wreck should be common property may
not seem right to some people; but it seemed right to Father
McQueen--and surely he should know what was right and what was wrong! It
was sometime about the date of this story that a missionary of another
and perhaps less broad and human creed than Father McQueen's wrote to
his bishop in the spring, "Thanks to God and two wrecks we got through
the winter without starving."

Father McQueen did not hurry away from Chance Along. Six months had
passed since his last visit and so he felt that this section of his
flock demanded both time and attention. His way of knowing his people
was by learning their outward as well as their inner lives, their
physical and also their spiritual being. He was not slow to see and
understand the skipper's ambitions and something of his methods. He read
Black Dennis Nolan for a strong, active, masterful and relentless
nature. He heard of Foxey Jack Quinn's departure and of the fight at the
edge of the cliff that had preceded it. He heard also that Quinn had
robbed the skipper before departing; but exactly what he had robbed him
of he could not learn. He questioned Dennis himself and had a lesson in
the art of evasion. He found it no great task to comfort the woman and
children of the fugitive Jack. They were well fed and had the skipper's
word that they should never lack food and clothing. He was not surprised
to learn from the deserted wife that the man had been a bully at home as
well as abroad. For his own part, he had never thought very highly of
Foxey Jack Quinn. He visited every cabin in the harbor, and those that
sheltered old and sick he visited many times. He was keenly interested
in the work that the skipper was doing among the rocks in front of the
harbor, and did not fail to point out persistently and authoritatively
that chains and ropes designed to facilitate the saving of freights
would also facilitate the saving of human lives. The skipper agreed with
him respectfully.

On the morning of Father McQueen's arrival in Chance Along, the skipper
dispatched Nick Leary to Witless Bay to learn whether or no Jack Quinn
had reached that place. Leary returned on the evening of the following
day with the expected information that nothing had been seen of the
missing man in Witless Bay. In his pocket he brought a recent issue of
St. John's newspaper, for which he had paid two shillings and two drams
of rum. This he brought as an offering to the skipper--for the skipper
could read print almost as well as a merchant and had a thirst for
information of the outside world.

The first item of news which the skipper managed to spell out was the
notice of a reward of five hundred pounds awaiting the person who
should recover Lady Harwood's necklace of twelve diamonds and fourteen
rubies and deliver it to Mr. Peter Wren, solicitor, Water Street, St.
John's. The notice went on to say that this necklace, together with
other smaller and less valuable articles of jewelry, had been taken by
force from the shipwrecked company of the bark _Durham Castle_, which
had gone ashore and to pieces in a desolate place called Frenchman's
Cove, on the east coast. It also gave the date of the wreck and stated
that if the necklace should be returned undamaged, no questions would be
asked. The skipper saw in a moment that the reward was offered for the
stones which he had found in the deserted berth and which Quinn had
robbed him of. Five hundred pounds? He shook his head over that. He had
read somewhere, at some time, about the value of diamonds, and he felt
sure that the necklace was worth many times the money offered for its
recovery. So the loss of it was known to the world? He had a great idea
of the circulation of the St. John's _Herald_. He had retired to a
secluded spot above the harbor to read the paper, and now he glanced
furtively over his shoulder. No limb of the law was in sight. He gazed
abroad over the sodden, gloomy barrens and reflected bitterly that the
treasure lay there in some pit or hollow, in a dead man's pocket,
perhaps within shouting-distance of where he stood. He swore that he
would recover it yet--but not for the reward offered by Mr. Peter Wren
in behalf of Lady Harwood. He re-read the notice slowly, following
letter and word with muttering lips and tracing finger. Then, at a
sudden thought of Father McQueen, he tore away that portion of the outer
sheet which contained the notice.

The skipper returned to his house and found the missionary seated beside
the stove chatting with Mother Nolan.

"Here bes a paper, yer reverence, Nick Leary fetched over from Witless
Bay," he said. "It bes tored, sir; but maybe ye'll find some good
readin' left in it."

The good father was charmed. He had not seen a newspaper for six weeks.
He dragged a pair of spectacles from a pocket of his rusty cassock, set
them upon his nose and hooked them over his ears, and read aloud every
word save those which the skipper had torn away.

On the fourth night after his arrival Father McQueen drew a plan of the
little church which he intended to build above the harbor.

"It will be the pride of the coast and a glory to Chance Along," he
said. "Denny, I am proud of ye for the suggestion. Ye said ye'd give me
a hundred pounds toward it, I think?"

"Fifty pound, yer reverence! Fifty pound bes what I offered ye, sir,"
returned the skipper, with dismay in his voice.

Father McQueen sighed and shook his head. A cold thrill of anxiety
passed through Dennis Nolan. With the good father displeased there would
be an end of his luck. He glanced at the priest and saw that he was
still shaking his head.

The skipper loved his new store of gold because it meant the beginning
of a fortune and therefore the extension of his power; but on the other
hand he feared that to displease the missionary now in the matter of a
part of that store might turn the saints themselves against him. And
without the good-will of the saints how could he expect his share of
luck?--his share of wrecks?

"I has seventy-five pound for yer reverence," he said. "It bes a
powerful sight of money, father dear, but ye bes welcome to it."

"It is well, my son," returned the missionary.

The skipper felt a glow of relief. He had avoided the risk of
displeasing the saints and at the same time had saved twenty-five
pounds. Even when you earn your money after the skipper's method,
twenty-five pounds looks like quite a considerable lump of money. He
took up a candle and fetched the sum in yellow English sovereigns from
his hiding-place.

Father McQueen devoted the following morning to collecting what he could
from the other men of the harbor. The skipper had furnished him with a
list of all who had shared in the golden harvest. It began to look as if
the church would be a fine one. Not satisfied with this, he issued
orders that the timber was to be cut and sawn without delay so that the
building of the church should be commenced when he returned to Chance
Along in June. He even drew up specifications of the lumber that would
be required and the stone for the foundation. Then, leaving in the
skipper's care all the gold which he had collected for the sacred
edifice, he marched sturdily away toward the north. The skipper
accompanied him and carried his knapsack, for ten miles of the way.

Two days after the missionary's departure a gale blew in from the
southeast; and at the first gray of a roaring dawn the look-out from
Squid Beach came hammering at the skipper's door with news of a ship on
the rocks under the cliffs a few miles along the coast. Every man and
boy who could swing a leg turned out. The gear was shouldered and the
skipper led the way northward at a run, lantern in hand. They found the
wreck about a mile north of Squid Beach, close against the face of the
cliff. She had struck with her port-bow and was listed sharply landward.
The seas beat so furiously upon her that every seventh comer washed her
clean and sent the spray smoking over her splintered spars. She showed
no sign of life. She lay in so desperate a place that even Black Dennis
Nolan, with all his gear and wits, could do nothing but wait until the
full fury of the gale should diminish.

It was close upon noon when the first line was made fast between the
cliff and the broken foremast of the wreck. The wind had slackened and
the seas fallen in a marked degree by this time. Looking down from the
cliff the men of Chance Along could see the slanted deck, cleared of all
superstructures and bulwarks, the stumps of spars with only the
foremast intact to the cross-trees and a tangle of rigging, yards,
canvas and tackle awash against the face of the cliff. Something--a
swathed human figure, perhaps--was lashed in the fore-top.

The skipper was the first to venture a passage from the edge of the
cliff to the foremast. He made it with several life-lines around his
waist. He reached the bundle lashed to the cross-trees and, clinging
with hands and feet, looked into the face of an unconscious but living
woman. So he hung for a long half-minute, staring. Then, hoisting
himself up to a more secure position, he pulled a flask of brandy from
his pocket.

So Black Dennis Nolan brought back to consciousness the person who was
to be the undoing of his great plans!




CHAPTER VI

THE GIRL FROM THE CROSS-TREES


Clinging to the cross-trees, with the winter seas smoking over the
slanted deck beneath him and the whole wrenched fabric of the ship
quaking at every sloshing blow, Black Dennis Nolan pressed the mouth of
the flask to the girl's colorless lips. A lurch of the hull sent the
brandy streaming over her face; but in a second and better-timed attempt
he succeeded in forcing a little of it between her teeth. He pulled the
glove from her left hand--a glove of brown leather lined with gray fur
and sodden with water--and rubbed the icy palm and wrist with the
liquor. There were several rings on the fingers; but he scarcely noticed
them. He thought of nothing but the girl herself. Never before had he
seen or dreamed of such a face as hers, and a breathless desire
possessed him to see her eyes unveiled. He worked feverishly, heedless
of the yeasting seas beneath, of the wind that worried at him as if it
would tear him from his leaping perch, of the wealth of cargo under the
reeking deck and the men of Chance Along on the edge of the cliff. He
returned the glove to the left hand with fumbling fingers, stripped the
other hand and rubbed it with brandy. After finishing with this and
regloving it he glanced again at the girl's face. The wet lashes
stirred, the pale lids fluttered and blinked wide and two wonderful eyes
gazed up at him. The eyes were clear yet with cross-lights at their
depths, like the water of a still pool floored with sand and touched
with the first level gleams of sunrise. They were sea-eyes--sea-gray,
sea-blue, with a hint even of sea-green. Never before had the master of
Chance Along seen or dreamed of such eyes.

The skipper was strangely and deeply stirred by the clear, inquiring
regard of those eyes; but, despite his dreams and ambitions, he was an
eminently practical young man. He extended the flask and held it to her
lips with a trembling hand.

"Ye must swallow some more o' this," he said, "'Twill take the chill out
o' ye."

The girl opened her lips obediently and swallowed a little of the
spirits; but her crystal gaze did not waver from his face.

"Am I saved?" she asked, quietly.

"Aye, ye bes saved," answered the skipper, more than ever confused by
the astonishing clearness and music of her voice and the fearless
simplicity of her question. He scrambled to his feet, holding to the
stump of the topmast with his right arm (for the spar whipped and sprang
to the impact of every sea upon the hull), and looked at his men on the
edge of the cliff. He saw that they were shouting to him, but the wind
was in their teeth and so not a word of their bellowing reached him. By
signals and roarings down the wind he got the order to them to bend a
heavy line on to the shore end of one of the light lines attached to his
waist. He dragged the hawser in with some difficulty, made it fast to
the cross-trees, and then rigged a kind of running boatswain's chair
from a section of the loose rigging. He made the end of one line fast
just below the loop of the chair on the hawser. The second line was
around his chest and the ends of both were in the hands of the men
ashore. Without a word he cut the girl's lashings, lifted her in his
arms and took his seat. He waved his left arm and the lads on the cliff
put their backs into the pull.

The passage was a terrific experience though the distance between the
cross-trees and the top of the cliff was not great. Neither the girl nor
the skipper spoke a word. He held her tight and she hid her face against
his shoulder. Fifteen of the men, under the orders of Bill Brennen, held
the shore-end of the hawser. When the mast swung toward the cliff they
took up the slack, thus saving the two from being dashed against the
face of the rock, by rushing backward. When the mast whipped to seaward
they advanced to the edge of the cliff. Five others hauled on each of
the lines whenever the hawser was nearly taut, and paid out and pulled
in with the slackening and tightening of the larger rope. But even so,
the sling in which the skipper and the girl hung was tossed about
desperately, now dropped toward the boiling rocks, now twirled like a
leaf in the gale, and next moment jerked aloft and flung almost over the
straining hawser. But the skipper had the courage of ten and the
strength and endurance of two. He steadied and fended with his left hand
and held the girl firmly against him with his right. She clung to him
and did not whimper or struggle. A group of men, unhampered by any duty
with the ropes, crouched and waited on the very edge of the cliff. At
last they reached out and down, clutched the skipper and his burden,
and with a mighty roar dragged them to safety.

Black Dennis Nolan staggered to his feet, still clasping the girl in his
arms. He reeled away to where a clump of stunted spruces made a shelter
against the gale and lowered her to the ground, still swathed in
blankets.

"Start a fire, some o' ye," he commanded.

The men looked curiously at the young woman in the drenched blankets,
then hastened to do the skipper's bidding. They found dry wood in the
heart of the thicket and soon had a fire burning strongly.

"What of the others? Am I the--the only one?" asked the girl.

"Aye, ye bes the only one--so far as we kin see," replied the skipper.
"There bain't no more lashed to the spars anyhow."

She stared at him for a moment, then crouched close to the fire, covered
her face with her hands, and wept bitterly. The skipper groaned. The
tears of Lady Harwood had not moved him in the least; but this girl's
sobs brought a strangling pinch to his own throat. He told two lads to
keep the fire burning, and then turned and walked away with lagging
feet. Joining the men who were still tending the line that was attached
to the wreck, he gazed down at the scene of tumult and pounding
destruction without a word.

"The gale bes blowin' herself out, skipper," remarked Bill Brennen.

Nolan stared blankly for a moment, then aroused himself furiously from
the strange spell that had enthralled his mind since first he had looked
at the face of the girl lashed to the cross-trees. He swore violently,
then flung himself full-length at the very edge of the cliff, and
studied the position of the stranded vessel. He saw that she was firm on
the rocks for almost half her length. She was badly ripped and stove,
but her back was not broken. She seemed to be in no danger of slipping
off into deep water, and as the wind and seas were moderating, she
promised to hold together for several hours at least. He got to his feet
and gave his opinion of the situation to the men as if it were a law.

"She bes hard an' fast," he said. "Wid the weather liftin', she'll not
fall abroad yet awhile, nor she don't be in any risk o' slidin' astarn
an' founderin'. We has plenty o' time to break out the cargo, men,
after the sea quiets a bit. Aye, plenty o' time to sculp her. Now, I
wants four o' ye to rig up a hammock o' some sort, wid lines an' a
tarpaulin, an' help me tote the lady back-along to the harbor. Step
lively, men!"

A few of the men ventured to show something of the amazement which they
all felt by staring at him, round-eyed and open-mouthed; but he glared
them down in short order. So four of them set about the construction of
a hammock and the others crowded along the cliff and gazed down at the
unfortunate ship. For awhile they gazed in silence; for wonder, and the
fear of the skipper, were heavy upon them. What madness was this that
had so suddenly come upon him? Had prosperity and power already turned
his head? Or could it be that the young woman he had found on the wreck
was a fairy of some kind, and had bewitched him with the glance of her
sea-eyes? Or perhaps she was a mermaid? Or perhaps she was nothing but a
human who had been born on an Easter Sunday--an Easter child. Strange
and potent gifts of entrancing, and of looking into the future, are
bestowed upon Easter children of the female sex by the fairies. Every
one knows that! Whatever the girl might be, it was an astounding thing
for Black Dennis Nolan to turn his back on a stranded and unlooted
vessel to escort a stranger--aye, or even a friend--to shelter. They
knew that, for all his overbearing and hard-fisted ways toward men, he
was kind to women; but this matter seemed to them a thing of madness
rather than of kindness; and never before had they known him to show any
sign of infatuation. They glanced over their shoulders, and, seeing the
skipper some distance off, supervising the construction of the hammock,
they began to whisper and surmise.

"Did ye mark the glint in the eyes o' her, Pat?" inquired one of
another. "Sure, lad, 'twas like what I once see before--an' may the holy
saints presarve me from seein' it agin! 'Twas the day, ten year back
come July, when I see the mermaid in Pike's Arm, down nort' on the
_Labrador_, when I was hook-an'-linin' for Skipper McDoul o' Harbor
Grace. She popped the beautiful head o' her out o' the sea widin reach
o' a paddle o' me skiff an' shot a glimp at me out o' her two eyes that
turned me heart to fire an' me soul to ice, an' come pretty nigh
t'rowin' me into the bay."

"Aye," returned the other in a husky whisper. "Aye, ye bes talkin' now,
Tim Leary. Sure, bain't that power o' the glimp o' the eye a mark o' the
mermaid? They bewitches a man's heart, does mermaids, an' kills the
eternal soul of him! Sure, b'y! Didn't me own great-gran'father, who
sailed foreign viyages out o' Witless Bay, clap his own two eyes on to
one o' they desperate sea-critters one night he was standin' his trick
at the wheel, one day nort' o' Barbados? Sure, b'y! He heared a whisper
behind him, like a whisper o' music, and when he turned his head 'round
there she was, nat'ral as any girl o' the harbor, a-gleamin' her
beautiful, grand eyes at him in the moonshine. An' when he come ashore
didn't he feel so desperate lonesome that he died o' too much rum inside
the year, down on the land-wash wid his two feet in the sea?"

"Aye, Pat," returned Tim, "but I bain't sayin' as this one bes a
mermaid. She was lashed to the cross-trees like any human."

"An' that would be a mermaid's trick," retorted the other. "Where be the
other poor humans, then?"

At that moment the skipper approached.

"Mind the wrack, men," said he. "Make fast some more lines to her, if ye
kin. I'll be back wid ye afore long."

The hammock was swung on a pole. Four men and the skipper accompanied
the girl from the wreck, two carrying the hammock for the first half of
the journey and the relay shouldering it for the second spell. The
skipper walked alongside. The girl lay back among the blankets, which
had been dried at the fire, silent and with her eyes closed for the most
part. It was evident that her terrible experience had sapped both her
physical and mental vitality. She had been lashed to the cross-trees of
the foremast soon after the ship had struck the rocks, and fully eight
hours before Black Dennis Nolan had released her. The second mate, who
had carried her up and lashed her there, had been flung to his death by
the whipping of the mast a moment after he had made the last loop fast
about her blanketed form. She had been drenched and chilled by the
flying spume and the spray that burst upward and outward from the foot
of the cliff. The wind had snatched the breath from her lips, deafened
her, blinded her, and driven the cold to her very bones. The swaying and
leaping of the spar had at last jarred and wrenched her to a state of
insensibility.

She spoke only three times during the journey.

"I would have died if I had been left there a little longer. You were
brave to save me as you did. What is your name?"

"Aye, 'twas a terrible place for ye," replied the skipper. "I bes Dennis
Nolan, skipper o' Chance Along; an' now I bes takin' ye to my granny,
Mother Nolan, an' a grand, warm house. Ye'll have Father McQueen's own
bed, for he bes away till June, an' a fire in the chimley all day."

Her only answer was to gaze at him with a look of calm, faint interest
for a moment and then close her eyes. Ten minutes later she spoke again.

"The _Royal William_ was bound for New York," she said. "There were ten
passengers aboard her. My maid was with me--a Frenchwoman."

This was Greek to the skipper, and he mumbled an unintelligible answer.
What could she mean by her maid? Her daughter? No, for she was scarcely
more than a girl herself--and in any case, her daughter would not be a
Frenchwoman. As they reached the broken edge of the barrens above
Chance Along she spoke for the third time.

"In London I sang before the Queen," she said, this time without raising
her pallid lids. Her lips scarcely moved. Her voice was low and faint,
but clear as the chiming of a silver bell. "And now I go to my own
city--to New York--to sing. They will listen now, for I am famous. You
will be well paid for what you have done for me."

The skipper could make little enough of this talk of singing before the
Queen; but he understood the mention of making payment for his services,
and his bitter pride flared up. He gripped the edge of the hammock
roughly.

"Would ye be payin' me for this?" he questioned. "Would ye, I say? Nay,
not ye nor the Queen herself! I have money enough! I bes master o' this
harbor!"

She opened her wonderful, clear, sea-eyes at that, full upon his flushed
face, and he saw the clear cross-lights in their depths. She regarded
him calmly, with a suggestion of mocking interest, until his own glance
wavered and turned aside. He felt again the surging of his heart's
blood--but now, across and through the surging, a chill as of fear. The
flush of offended pride faded from his cheeks.

"Of course I shall pay you for saving my life," she said, coolly and
conclusively.

The skipper was not accustomed to such treatment, even from a woman; but
without a word by way of retort he steadied the hammock in its descent
of the twisting path as if his very life depended upon the stranger's
comfort. The women, children and very old men of the harbor--all who had
not gone to the scene of the wreck save the bedridden--came out of the
cabins, asked questions and stared in wonder at the lady in the hammock.
The skipper answered a few of their questions and waved them out of the
way. They fell back in staring groups. The skipper ran ahead of the
litter to his own house and met Mother Nolan on the threshold.

"Here bes a poor young woman from a wrack, granny," he explained. "She
bes nigh perished wid the cold an' wet. Ye'll give her yer bed, granny,
till the fire bes started in Father McQueen's room."

"Saints save us, Denny!" exclaimed Mother Nolan. "First it bes diamonds
wid ye, an' now it bes a young woman. Wracks will sure be the ruin o'
ye yet, Denny Nolan! This way, b'ys, an' give me a sight o' the poor
lamb. Lay her here an' take yer tarpaulin away wid ye. Holy saints fend
us all, but she bes dead--an' a great lady at that!"

The stranger opened her eyes and looked at the old woman. Her wonderful
eyes seemed to bewitch Mother Nolan, even as they had bewitched the
skipper. The old dame stared, trembled and babbled. Turning to the
gaping men, including Denny, she cried to them to get out where they
belonged and shut the door after them. They obeyed, treading on each
other's heels. Even the skipper departed, though reluctantly.

"May every hair o' yer head turn into a wax candle to light ye to
glory," babbled the old woman, as she unwound the coarse blankets from
about the girl's unresisting body. The other smiled faintly.

"I don't want to be lighted to glory--just now," she said. "I must sing
in New York--to my own people--just as I sang before the Queen in
London. But now I am so cold--and so tired."

Mother Nolan gaped at her.

"Glory be!" she whispered. "Eyes like fairies' eyes an' a voice like a
mermaid's! An' the little white hands of her, soft as cream! An' the
beautiful rings! Glory be!"




CHAPTER VII

THE GOLD OF THE "ROYAL WILLIAM"


The skipper and his four companions returned to the cliff above the
wreck, the skipper striding ahead, silent, deep in a mental and
spiritual unrest that was thought without reflection. The others
followed, whispering among themselves but afraid to question their
leader. The wind had fallen to a breeze by the time they reached the
point of the cliff overlooking the slanted deck of the stranded ship.
Also, the seas had lost much of their height and violence, and the tide
was ebbing. The group on the cliff's edge eyed the skipper inquiringly,
furtively, as he joined them. He strode through them and looked down at
the wreck. His face lightened in a flash and his dark eyes gleamed.

"What did I tell ye!" he cried. "Now she lays steady as a house, all
ready to be gutted like a fish. Pass a couple o' lines this way, men.
Take in the slack o' the hawser an' make her fast to yonder nub o'
rock. Nick Leary, follow after me wid that block an' pulley. Bill, rig
yer winch a couple o' yards this way an' stake her down. Keep ten men
wid ye--an' the rest o' ye can follow me. But not too close, mind ye!
Fetch yer axes along, an' every man o' ye a line."

Three minutes later, the skipper was sliding down the foremast, with
Nick Leary close above him, another man already on the cross-trees and
yet another in mid-air on the hawser. The skipper reached the slanted
deck and slewed down into the starboard scuppers, snatched hold of a
splintered fragment of the bulwarks in time to save himself from
pitching overboard, steadied himself for a moment and then crawled aft.
Leary, profiting by the skipper's experience in the scuppers, made a
line fast to the butt of the foremast, clawed his way up the slant of
the deck to port, scrambled aft until he was fairly in line with the
stump of the mainmast, and then let himself slide until checked in his
course by that battered section of spar. Taking a turn around it with
his line, he again clawed to port, and scrambled aft again. His second
slide to starboard brought him to the splintered companionway of the
main cabin. Here he removed the end of the rope from his waist and made
it fast, thus rigging a life-line from the butt of the foremast aft to
the cabin for the use of those to follow. It had been a swift and
considerate piece of work. The men on the cliff cheered. Nick waved his
hand to the cliff, shouted a caution to the man at that moment
descending the foremast, and then swung himself down into four feet of
water and the outer cabin.

"Where be ye, skipper?" he bawled.

"This way, Nick. Fair aft," replied the skipper. "Keep to port or ye'll
have to swim. I bes in the captain's berth; an' here bes his dispatch
box, high an' dry in his bunk."

Nick made his way aft, through the length of the outer cabin as quickly
as he could, with the water to his chin as he stooped forward in his
efforts toward speed, entered an inner and smaller cabin by a narrow
door and finally swam into the captain's own state-room. He grasped the
edge of the berth in which the skipper crouched.

"Hell! I bes nigh perished entirely wid the cold, skipper!" he cried.

"Then swallow this," said the skipper, leaning down and tilting a bottle
of brandy to the other's lips. "I found it right here in the bunk,
half-empty; aye, an' two more like it, but wid nary a drop in 'em.
There, Nick, that bes enough for ye."

Leary dragged himself up beside the skipper. As the deadlight had been
closed over the port, the state-room was illumined only by a gray
half-gloom from the cabin.

"This bunk bes nigh full o' junk," said Nolan. "The skipper o' this ship
must ha' slept in the lower bunk an' kept his stores here. Here bes
t'ree boxes wid the ship's gold an' papers, I take it; an' a
medicine-chest, by the smell o' it; an' an entire case o' brandy, by
Garge! Sure, Nick, it bes no wonder he got off his course! Take another
suck at the bottle, Nick, an' then get overside wid ye an' pass out
these boxes."

Nick was still deriving warmth from the bottle when a third man entered
the state-room, with just his head and neck above water.

"She bes down by the starn desperate, skipper," he said. "Saints
presarve me, I bes ice to the bones!"

At a word from the skipper, the last arrival took the bottle from Leary.
Others reached the scene of action and the three iron boxes and the case
of brandy were soon safe on deck. From there they were winched up to
the top of the cliff.

"We'll break into the lazaret when the tide bes out," said the skipper.
"She'll drain out, ye can lay to that, wid a hole in her as big as the
roof o' a house."

They salvaged a few cases of tinned provisions from the steward's
pantry. Five state-rooms were situated on either side of the main or
outer cabins. They looted those to port first, where the water was only
a few feet deep, finding little but clothing and bedding and one leather
purse containing thirty pounds in gold. The skipper put the purse into a
submerged pocket, and sent the other stuff to the deck, to be winched
aloft. The cabins on the starboard side contained but little of value. A
few leather boxes and bags were sent up unopened. The water was still
shoulder-deep to starboard. The door of the fifth room on the starboard
side was fastened. The skipper pulled and jerked at it, then lowered his
head beneath the water, and saw that it was locked on the inside. But
the lock was a light one, and the wood of the door was not heavy. He
called for a capstan-bar; and in spite of the fact that he had to strike
blindly under several feet of water, the lock was soon shattered. By
this time, a dozen men were clustered around, their curiosity and greed
uncooled by the cold water to their shoulders.

"There bes somethin' wort' salvin' in there, ye kin lay to that!" said
one.

"The passengers' store-room, I bes a-t'inkin'," said another.

"Naught but the sail-locker," said a third. "D'ye look to find gold an'
dimins in every blessed corner o' every blessed ship?"

At that moment the skipper pulled the narrow door open to its full
extent. The water inside swirled out to fill the eddy made by the
opening of the door; and then, slow, terrible, wide-eyed, floating
breast-high in the flood, a woman drifted out of the narrow room into
the midst of the expectant men. Death had not been able to hide the
agony in her staring eyes, or dull the lines of horror in her waxen,
contorted face. She floated out to them, swaying and bowing, one hand
clutched and fixed in the torn bosom of her dress, a pendant of gold and
pearl swinging from each ear.

A groan of wordless horror went up from the wreckers. For a moment they
stared at the thing rocking and sidling in their midst, with grotesque
motions of life and the face and hands of a terrific death; and then, as
one man, they started to splash, beat and plunge their way to the
companion-steps. The water was set swirling by their frantic efforts, in
eddies and cross-currents which caught the dead woman and drew her,
pitching and turning heavily, in the wakes of the leaders and elbow to
elbow with some of the panic-stricken fellows in the second line of
retreat. They knew the thing was not a ghost; they knew the thing was
not alive, and could not harm them with its pitiful, stiff fingers; they
knew it for the body of a woman who had been drowned in her cabin--and
yet the horror of it chilled them, maddened them, melted their courage
and deadened their powers of reasoning. Even the skipper felt the blind
terror of the encounter in every tingling nerve. The water was deep, the
deck sloped beneath their feet, and the way to the flooded steps of the
companionway seemed a mile long. The fellows who suffered the touch of
those dead elbows that seemed to reach out to them beneath the churning
water yelled wildly, lost their footing and power to advance at one and
the same moment, and soused under, clutching blindly at their comrades.
This brought others down and under who believed that the fingers
gripping them were those of the poor corpse. Screams and yells filled
the cabin and drifted up to the astounded men on the cliff. Heads
vanished; legs and arms beat the imprisoned water to spume; fists and
feet struck living flesh; and one poor, frantic fool clutched the
unconscious cause of all this madness in his arms. Then the skipper,
steadied from his first insanity of fear by the signs of disaster,
lowered his head deliberately, plunged forward and downward, and swam
under water for the companion. In his passage he wrenched floundering
bodies aside and kicked and struck at floundering legs and arms. Coming
to the surface and sinking his feet to the deck at the same moment, he
grasped a step of the companionway and hauled himself out of the water,
as if the devil were nipping at his heels. Turning on an upper step, he
reached down, clutched two of the struggling fellows by the collars and
dragged them up from the battling smother. One of them sprang on up the
companion without so much as a glance at his rescuer, reached the deck
with a yell, and started forward on the run without pausing to lay a
hand on the life-line. His course was brief. The list of the deck
carried him to the starboard. His foot caught in a splinter of shattered
bulwark and he pitched overboard, head first and with terrific force, to
the black rocks and surging seas. That was the last time Dan Cormick was
seen alive--and the sight of him springing from the companion and
plunging to his death struck horror and amazement to the souls of the
men on the cliff.

Below, the skipper was doing his utmost to still the tumult and drag the
men to safety. They were the men of his harbor--a part of his equipment
in life--and therefore he worked like a hero to save them from
themselves and one another. His young brother was safe on the cliff; so
his fine efforts were not inspired by any grander emotion than that felt
by the shopkeeper who fights fire in the protection of his uninsured
stock-in-trade. There were men below whom he needed, but none whom he
loved even with the ordinary affection of man for humanity. The skipper
yanked the men to the steps as fast as he could get hold of them,
dragged them up to the level of the deck, and left them sprawled. All
were breathless; some were cut and bruised; Nick Leary's left cheek had
been laid open from eye to jaw in some way. The shouting and yelling
were now over, and several husky fellows, ashamed of the recent panic,
helped the skipper at his work. When the task of rescue was at last
finished, the flooded cabin had given up three corpses besides that of
the woman--four corpses and a dozen wounded men.

The bodies of the wreckers were hauled up to the top of the cliff, amid
prayers, curses and groans of distress. The fellows on shore demanded to
know who had killed them--and why? Knives were drawn. The brother of one
of the dead men swore that he was ready and eager to cut the heart out
of the murderer. The lads on the wreck caught something of all this; but
it did not cool their desire to get ashore. Those who had the use of
their limbs swarmed up the foremast and crossed over to the cliff. The
first to step ashore was in grave danger for a half-minute; but he
managed to throw some light on the thing that had taken place in the
flooded cabin. Others landed, the whole story was told and knives were
returned to their sheaths. The skipper, the seriously injured and the
dead woman remained on the deck. The skipper was in a black mood. He
knew his people well enough to see that this unfortunate affair would
weaken his power among them. They would say that the saints were
against his enterprises and ambitions; that his luck was gone; that he
was a bungler and so not fit to give orders to full-grown men. He
understood all this as if he could hear their grumbled words--nay, as
well as if he could read the very hearts of them. He turned to Nick
Leary. Nick had already bandaged his face with a piece of sail-cloth.

"Where bes the medicine-chest? Was it sent aloft?" asked the skipper.

"Nay, skipper, 'twas left below--in the captain's berth," replied Nick;
his voice shook from pain and loss of blood.

"Ye bes cut desperate bad," said the skipper. "I'll go fetch the
medicine-chest an' fix ye up wid plaster an' dacent bandages. Who says
his leg bes broke? Ye, Bill Lynch? I'll fix yer leg, b'y, when I git the
chest."

He looked up at the crowd on the cliff and roared to them to lower away
some brandy for the wounded men.

"An' step lively, damn ye, or I'll be comin' up to ye wid a bat in me
hand," he concluded, knowing that it was not the time to display any
sign of weakness. Then he went down the companion, entered the water,
which had drained out with the ebbing tide until it reached no higher
than to his waist, and waded aft to the lost captain's berth. He felt
decidedly uneasy, shot glances to right and left at the narrow doors of
the state-rooms and experienced a sensation of creeping cold at the
roots of his hair; but he forced himself onward. He soon regained the
deck with the big medicine-chest in his arms. He was received by a growl
of admiration from the little group of wounded. The men on the cliff
looked down in silence, those who had taken part in the recent panic
deeply impressed by the skipper's action. The brandy had already been
lowered to the deck, and the bottles were uncorked. The skipper placed
the chest on the upper side of the hatch, and saw to the fair
distribution of the liquor. He passed it around with a generous hand;
but the doses administered to Nick Leary and the man with the broken leg
were the most liberal. He attended to Nick's cheek first, drawing the
lips of the wound together with strips of adhesive plaster from the
medicine-chest, and then padding and bandaging it securely with gauze
and linen.

"That bes fine, skipper. Sure, it feels better now nor it did afore it
was cut," mumbled Nick, gazing at the other with dog-homage in his eyes.

By this time, Bill Lynch, of the broken leg, was oblivious to the world,
thanks to the depth and strength of his potations. The skipper cut away
a section of the leg of his heavy woollen trousers, prodded and pried at
the injured limb with his strong fingers until the fracture was found,
put a couple of strong splints in place, and bandaged them so that they
were not likely to drop off, to say the least. He then made a sling of a
blanket and sent his drunken patient swaying and twirling aloft in it to
the top of the cliff. The other injured persons went ashore in the same
way, one by one, like bales of sail-cloth. At last only the skipper and
the dead woman were left on the wreck. The skipper stood with a scowl on
his dark face and considered her. He drew the blanket sling toward him,
and stood toward the poor clay.

"I'll send her up to ye for dacent burial," he shouted.

This suggestion was answered by a yell of protest from the men on the
cliff.

"If ye be afeard o' her, ye white-livered swile, what d'ye want me to do
wid her?"

"T'row her overboard! Heave her into the sea!" "Aye, t'row her
overboard. She bes the devil hisself! T'ree good lads bes kilt dead by
her already. T'row her overboard!"

"There bain't a man amongst ye wid the heart o' a white-coat," returned
the skipper. "Afeared o' a poor drownded wench, be ye?"

This taunt was received in sullen silence. The skipper stood firm on the
listed deck, his feet set well apart and his shoulders squared, and
leered up at them. Then, stooping forward quickly, he plucked the
pendants from those bloodless ears, and set the body rolling into the
starboard scuppers and overboard to the frothing surf and slobbering
rocks. From the cliff a cry as of mingled relief and dismay rang down to
him. He moved forward and swarmed the foremast to the cross-trees. There
he paused for a few moments to glance across. He saw that Bill Brennen,
Nick Leary, his brother Cormick and several of the men whom he had
rescued from the flooded cabin had clustered around the shore-end of the
hawser. He saw that they feared treachery. He made his way across, cool,
fearless, with a dangerous smile on his lips.




CHAPTER VIII

THE SKIPPER STRUGGLES AGAINST SUPERSTITION


"She lays snug enough. We'll break out the freight, to-morrow," said the
skipper.

"Aye, skipper, aye," returned Bill Brennen, with an unsuccessful attempt
to put some heartiness into his tones; but the others did not say a
word. They made litters for the dead and wounded, gathered up the spoils
of the cabins, and set off sullenly for Chance Along. The skipper stood
to one side and watched them from under lowering brows. At the first
stroke of misfortune they were sulking and snarling at him like a pack
of wolf-dogs. They evidently expected a boat-load of gold from every
wreck, and no casualties. He despised and hated them. He hurried after
them and called a halt. He ordered them to break open the ship's boxes.
They obeyed him in sullen wonder.

"If ye find any gold," he said, "count it an' divide it amongst ye. An'
the same wid the rest o' the gear. An' here bes somethin' more for ye!"
He tossed the purse and the earrings to them. "Take 'em. Keep 'em. I
take no shares wid a crew like ye--not this time, anyhow, ye cowardly,
unthankful, treacherous swabs! Aye, count the gold, damn ye! an' stow it
away in yer pockets. I bes makin' rich men o' ye--an' at a turn o' bad
luck ye all be ready to knife me. D'ye think I kilt them t'ree dead
fools? Nay, they kilt themselves wid fear of a poor drownded woman!
T'ree more would ha' bin stunned and drownded but for me. Holy saints
above! I bes minded to leave ye to fish an' starve--all o' ye save them
as has stood to me like men an' them o' me own blood--an' go to another
harbor. Ye white-livered pack o' wolf-breed huskies! Ye cowardly,
snarlin', treacherous divils. Take yer money. I gives it to ye. Go home
an' feed on the good grub I gives to ye an' drink the liquor ye'd never
have the wits nor the courage to salve but for me! Go home wid ye, out
o' my sight, or maybe I'll forgit the flabby-hearted swabs ye be an'
give ye a taste o' me bat!"

The skipper's fury increased with the utterance of every bellowed word.
His dark face burned crimson, and his black eyes glowed like coals in
the open draught of a stove. His teeth flashed between his snarling
lips like a timber-wolf's fangs. He shook his fist at them, picked up a
birch billet, which was a part of the wrecking-gear, and swung it
threateningly. About eight of the men and boys, including young Cormick
Nolan, Nick Leary and Bill Brennen, stood away from the others, out of
line of the skipper's frantic gestures and bruising words. Some of them
were loyal, some simply more afraid of Black Dennis Nolan than of
anything else in the world. But fear, after all, is an important element
in a certain quality of devotion.

The main party were somewhat shaken. A few of them growled back at the
skipper; but not quite loud enough to claim his attention to them in
particular. Some eyed him apprehensively, while others broke open the
ship's and passengers' boxes. They found minted money only in one of the
captain's dispatch-boxes--two small but weighty bags of gold containing
about two hundred sovereigns in all. This was the money which the dead
captain had been armed with by his owners against harbor-dues, etc. The
funds which the passengers must have possessed had doubtless been flung
overboard and under along with the unfortunate beings who had clung to
them. The sullen, greedy fellows began to count and divide the gold.
They were slow, suspicious, grasping. The skipper, having fallen to a
glowing silence at last, watched them for a minute or two with a bitter
sneer on his face. Then he turned and set out briskly for Chance Along.
The loyal and fearful party followed him, most of them with evident
reluctance. A few turned their faces continually to gaze at the
distributing of the gold and gear. The skipper noted this with a
sidelong, covert glance.

"Don't ye be worryin', men. Ye'll have yer fill afore long, so help me
Saint Peter!" he exclaimed. "No man who stands by me, an' knows me for
master, goes empty!"

He did not speak another word on the way or so much as look at his
followers. He strode along swiftly, thinking hard. He could not blink
the fact that the needless deaths of the three men in the cabin of the
_Royal William_ had weakened his position seriously. He could not blink
the ugly fact that the day's activities had bred a mutiny--and that the
mutiny had not yet been faced and broken. It was still breeding. The
poison was still working. In a fit of blind anger and unreasoning
disgust he had fed the spirit of rebellion with gold. He had shattered
with his foot what he had built with his hands. The work of mastery was
all to do over again. He had taught them that his rights were four
shares to one--and now he had given them all, thereby destroying a
precedent in the establishing of which he had risked his life and
robbing himself and his loyal followers at the same time. The situation
was desperate; but he could not find it in his heart to regret the day's
work; for there was the girl with the sea-eyes, lying safe in his own
house this very minute! A thrill, sweet yet bitter, went through his
blood at the thought. No other woman had ever caused him a choking pang
like this. The remembrance of those clear eyes shook him to the very
soul and quenched his burning anger with a wave of strangely mingled
adoration and desire. He was little more than a fine animal, after all.
The man in him lay passive and undeveloped under the tides of passion,
craving, brute-pride and crude ambitions. But the manhood was there, as
his flawless courage and unconsidered kindness to women and children
indicated. But he was self-centred, violent, brutally masterful. Women
and children had always seemed to him (until now) helpless, harmless
things, that had a right to the protection of men even as they had a
right to remain ashore from the danger of wind and sea. The stag caribou
and the dog-wolf have the same attitude toward the females of their
races. It is a characteristic which is natural to animals and boasted of
by civilized men. Dogs and gentlemen do not bite and beat their females;
and if Black Dennis Nolan resembled a stag, a he-wolf, and a dog in many
points, in this particular he also resembled a gentleman. Like some
hammering old feudal baron of the Norman time and the finer type, his
battles were all with men. Those who did not ride behind him he rode
against. He feared the saints and a priest, even as did the barons of
old; but all others must acknowledge his lordship or know themselves for
his enemies. To Black Dennis Nolan the law of the land was a vague thing
not greatly respected. To Walter, Lord of Waltham, William the Red was a
vague personage, not greatly respected. Walter, Lord of Waltham, son of
Walter and grandson of Fitz Oof of Normandy; Skipper of Chance Along,
son of Skipper Pat and grandson of Skipper Tim--the two barons differed
only in period and location. In short, Black Dennis Nolan possessed
many of the qualities of strong animals, of a feudal baron, and one at
least of a modern gentleman.

The skipper was overtaken and joined by his young brother at the edge of
the barrens above Chance Along. They scrambled swiftly down the path to
the clustered cabins. At their own door Cormick plucked the skipper's
sleeve.

"They was talkin' o' witches," he whispered. "Dick Lynch an' some more
o' the lads. They says as how the comather was put on to ye this very
mornin', Denny."

The skipper paused with his hand on the latch and eyed the other
sharply.

"Witches, ye say? An' Dick Lynch was talkin', was he? Who did they
figger as put the spell on to me?"

"The lass ye saved from the fore-top. Sure, that's what they all bes
sayin', Denny. Mermaid, they calls her--an' some a fairy. A witch,
anyhow. They says as how yer luck bes turned now--aye, the luck o' the
entire harbor. 'Twas herself--the spell o' her--kilt the t'ree lads in
the cabin, they be sayin'. Their talk was desperate black, Denny."

"'Twas the poor dead, drownded woman, an' their own cowardly souls, kilt
'em!"

"Aye, Denny, so it was, nary a doubt; but they shot ye some desperate
black looks, Denny."

"Well, Cormy, don't ye be worryin'. Fifty t'ousand squid like Dick Lynch
couldn't frighten me. The comather, ye say? Saints o' God! but I'll be
puttin' it on themselves wid a club! Bewitched? What the divil do they
know o' witches? Fishes bes all they understands! Black looks they give
me, did they? I'll be batin' 'em so black they'll all look like rotted
herrings, by the Holy Peter hisself! Aye, Cormy, don't ye worry, now."

At that he opened the door quietly and stepped inside with a strange air
of reverence and eagerness. The boy followed softly and closed the door
behind him. The fire roared and crackled in the round stove, but the
room was empty of human life. Wet garments of fine linen hung on a line
behind the stove. The inner door opened and old Mother Nolan hobbled
into the kitchen with a wrinkled finger to her lips.

"Whist wid ye!" she cautioned. "She be sleepin' like a babe, the poor
darlint, in Father McQueen's own bed, wid everything snug an' warm as
ye'd find in any marchant's grand house in St. John's."

She took her accustomed seat beside the stove and lit her pipe.

"Saints alive! but can't ye set down!" she exclaimed. "I wants to talk
wid ye, b'ys. Tell me this--where bes t'e rest o' the poor folk from the
wrack?"

"She bes the only livin' soul we found, Granny," replied the skipper.
"She was lashed in the foremast--an' t'other spars was all over the
side. We found a poor dead body in one o' the cabins--drownded to
death--an' not so much as another corpse. Aye, Granny, 'twas a desperate
cruel wrack altogether."

The old woman shot a keen glance at him; but he returned it without a
blink.

"Didn't ye find no more gold an' diamonds, then?" she asked.

"We found some gold. I give it all to the men."

"An' what was the cargo?"

"Sure, Granny, we didn't break into her cargo yet. There was a
rumpus--aye, ye may well call it a rumpus! Did ye say as she bes
sleepin', Granny?"

The old woman nodded her head, her black eyes fixed on the red draught
of the stove with a far-away, fateful, veiled glint in them which her
grandsons knew well. She had ceased to puff at her pipe for the moment,
and in the failing light from the window they could see a thin reek of
smoke trailing straight up from the bowl.

"Aye, sleepin'," she mumbled, at last. "Saints presarve us, Denny! There
bes fairy blood in her--aye, fairy blood. Sure, can't ye see it in her
eyes? I's afeard there bain't no luck in it, Denny. Worse nor wracked
diamonds, worse nor wracked gold they be--these humans wid fairy blood
in 'em! And don't I know? Sure, wasn't me own grandmother own cousin to
the darter o' a fairy-woman? Sure she was, back in old Tyoon. An' there
was no luck in the house wid her; an' she was a beauty, too, like the
darlint body yonder."

The skipper smiled and lit his pipe. The winter twilight had deepened to
gloom. The front of the stove glowed like a long, half-closed red eye,
and young Cormick peered fearfully at the black corners of the room.
The skipper left his chair, fetched a candle from the dresser and lit it
at the door of the stove.

"We bes a long way off from old Tyoon, Granny," he said; "an' maybe
there bain't no fairies now, even in Tyoon. I never seen no fairy in
Chance Along, anyhow; nor witch, mermaid, pixie, bogey, ghost,
sprite--no, nor even a corpus-light. Herself in yonder bes no
fairy-child, Granny, but a fine young lady, more beautiful nor an angel
in heaven--maybe a marchant's darter an' maybe a king's darter, but nary
the child o' any vanishin' sprite. Sure, didn't I hold her in me two
arms all the way from the fore-top o' the wrack to the cliff?--an'
didn't she weigh agin' me arms till they was nigh broke wid it?"

"Denny, ye poor fool," returned Mother Nolan, "ye bes simple as a squid
t'rowed up on the land-wash. What do ye know o' fairies an' the like?
Wasn't I born on a Easter Sunday, wid the power to see the good people,
an' the little people, an' all the tricksy tribes? The body o' a
fairy-child bes human, lad. 'Tis but the heart o' her bes unhuman--an'
the beauty o' her--an' there bain't no soul in her. Did ye hear the
voice o' her, Denny? Holy saints! But was there ever a human woman wid
a voice the like o' that?"

"Aye, Granny, but did she eat? Did she drink? Did she shed tears?" asked
the skipper.

The old woman nodded her head.

"Fairies don't shed tears," said Dennis, grinning. "Sure, ye've told me
that yerself many a time."

"But half-fairies, like herself, sheds 'em as well as any human, ye mad
fool," returned Mother Nolan.

At that moment the outer door opened, and Nick Leary entered the
kitchen, closing the door behind him, and shooting the bolt into its
place. His face was so generously bandaged that only his eyes and nose
were visible. He glanced fearfully around the room.

"Where bes the mermaid? Has she flew away?" he whispered.

The skipper sprang to his feet with an oath.

"Mermaid?" he cried. "Ye dodderin' fool ye! She bes no more a mermaid
nor any fat wench in Chance Along! Has she flew, ye say! How to hell kin
a mermaid fly? Wid her tail? Ye bes a true man, Nick, or I'd bat ye over
the nob for yer trouble. She bes a poor young woman saved from a wrack,
as well ye know. What d'ye want wid me?"

Leary trembled, big as he was, and pulled off his fur cap with both
hands.

"Aye, skipper, aye! but where bes she now?" he whispered.

"She bes sleepin' like any poor babe in his reverence's own bed,"
replied the skipper.

"Saints presarve us!" exclaimed the other. "In the blessed father's bed!
I bain't sayin' naught, skipper, sir, but--but sure 'twill be desperate
bad luck for his reverence!"

Black Dennis Nolan lost his temper then. He gripped Nick by the
shoulder, swore at him, shook him about, and threatened to knock his
head off. Had Nick been one of the mutineers, the chances are ten to one
that he would have been floored and beaten half to death. But even in
the full fury of his rage the skipper did not lose sight of the fact
that this fellow was a loyal slave. He did not love Nick, but he loved
his dog-like devotion. So he kept his right hand down at his side, and
it cost him a mighty effort of restraint, and contented himself with
cursing and shaking. The boy stared at the two wide-eyed, and the old
woman smoked and nodded without so much as a glance at them. At last the
skipper unhooked his fingers from Nick's shoulder, laughed harshly and
returned to his seat.

"Luck?" he said, derisively. "The luck o' Father McQueen bes the
protection o' the holy saints above. An' my luck bes the strength o' my
heart an' my wits, Nick Leary. I saves a woman from a wrack an' brings
her into my own house--an' ye names her for a mermaid an' a she-divil!
Maybe ye holds wid Dick Lynch 'twas herself kilt the t'ree lads in the
cabin--an' her in this house all the time, innocent as a babe."

Leary made the sign of the cross quickly and furtively.

"Nay, skipper; but the divil was in that wrack," he said. "The lads got
to fightin' over the gold, skipper, an' Dick Lynch slipped his knife
into Pat Brennen. Sure, the divil come ashore from that wrack. Never
afore did them two pull their knives on each other; an' now Pat Brennen
lays bleedin' his life out. The divil bes got into the lads o' Chance
Along, nary a doubt, an' the black luck has come to the harbor."

"The divil an' the black luck bes in their own stinkin' hearts!"
exclaimed Nolan, violently.

"Aye, skipper; but they says it bes her ye brought ashore put the curse
on to us--an' now they bes comin' this way, skipper, to tell ye to run
her out o' yer house."

"What d'ye say?" cried the skipper, springing from his chair. "Run her
out, ye say?"

He trembled with fury, burned the air with oaths, and called down all
the curses known to tradition upon the heads of the men of Chance Along.
He snatched up a stout billet of birch, green and heavy, wrenched open
the door, and sprang into the outer gloom.

Nick Leary's story was true. The mutineers had consumed the brandy, come
to hot words over the sharing of the gold, dropped their dead and
wounded, and commenced to curse, kick and hit at one another with clubs.
Then Dick Lynch had put his knife into a young man named Pat Brennen, a
nephew of the loyal Bill. Panic had brought the fight to a drunken,
slobbering finish.

"There bes four strong lads kilt in one day!" some one had cried. "The
black curse bes on us! The divil bes in it!"

Full of liquor, fear and general madness, they had come to the opinion
that the strange young female whom the skipper had saved from the
fore-top and carried to his house was such an imp of darkness as had
never before blighted the life and luck of Chance Along. She had
bewitched the skipper. Her evil eyes had cast a curse on the wreck and
that curse had been the death of their three comrades. She had put a
curse on the gold, so that they had all gone mad the moment they felt
the touch of it in their hands. The skipper, under her spell, had
betrayed them--had given them gold so that they should fight over it and
destroy one another. It was all very simple--too simple to require
reasoning! In truth, the curse was upon them--the curse of dead men's
liquor, dead men's gold--the curse of greed, blood-lust and fear! So
they had picked up their dead, their wounded and their loot and
continued their journey at top speed, intent on casting out the witch,
and bringing the skipper to a knowledge of his desperate state even if
the operation should cost him his life. What cared they for his life now
that he had lost his luck?

They reached Chance Along, scattered for a few minutes to dispose of
the dead and wounded, gathered again and crowded toward the skipper's
house. They were quiet now, for the superstitious fear had not entirely
driven from their hearts the human fear of the skipper's big hands and
terrible eyes. They stumbled and reeled against one another, their heads
and feet muddled by brandy and excitement. Some were armed with sticks,
a few had drawn their knives, others had forgotten to arm themselves
with anything. They trod upon each other's feet in the dark, narrow,
uneven ways between the cabins. Bill Brennen joined them in the dark. He
carried a broken oar of seasoned ash in his hands. He had sent Nick
Leary to warn the skipper of the approach of the mutineers; and his
faith in the skipper's prowess was such that he felt but little anxiety.
He was sober and he knew that Black Dennis Nolan was sober. He kept to
the rear of the mob, just far enough behind it to allow for a full swing
of his broken oar, and waited for his master to make the first move
against this disorderly demonstration of superstition, bottle-valor and
ingratitude. He removed his mittens, stowed them in his belt and spat
upon the palms of his hands while he waited. Being sober, he reasoned.
Bad luck had struck the harbor this day, beyond a doubt, and brought
death and mutiny. But death had not come to the skipper. Not so much as
a scratch had come to the skipper. If a witch was in the harbor he
trusted to Black Dennis Nolan to deal with her without bringing harm
upon himself or his friends. If the devil himself visited Chance Along
he would look to the skipper to outwit, outcurse and out-devil him. This
is how he felt about the man he had attached himself to. He gripped his
broken oar with his moistened palm and fingers and waited hopefully. He
had not long to wait.

Suddenly the door of the skipper's house flew open and out of the glow
of candle-light leaped a figure that might easily (under the
circumstances and condition of the mob) have been the devil
himself--himself, the father of all the little devils in hell. The
wrathful bellow of him was like the roar of a wounded walrus. He touched
ground in the centre of the front rank of the mob, and as his feet
touched the ground his billet of green birch cracked down upon a skull.
And still he continued to roar; and still the club cracked and cracked;
and then Bill Brennen got heartily to work on the rear rank with his
broken oar.

The mob of mutineers had arrived intoxicated, and with no very clear
idea of what they intended to do to the witch and the skipper. They had
intended to make the first move, however; of that they were certain.
They had intended to open the door themselves--and now some divil had
opened it before they were ready! They were so unsteady on their feet
that no man of them stood up for a second blow. A few got to work on
their own account; but it was so dark that they did little damage even
to their friends. After five or six had fallen the next in order for
treatment faced about to retire. In their indignation and bewilderment
they discovered that another club was at work in their rear. This
unnerved them so that they--the survivors of the demonstration--raised
their voices to heaven in expostulation and stampeded. They went over
Bill Brennen like a wave over a bar, knocking the breath out of him, and
sending the oar flying from his grasp; but the skipper kept right after
them, still roaring, still plying the billet of green birch. They
scattered, each dashing for his own cabin, bursting open the door,
sprawling inside, and shutting the door with his feet.

After the last door had been slammed in his face, the skipper went home.
He found Bill Brennen seated by the stove, trying a pipeful of Mother
Nolan's tobacco. He had regained his broken oar and held it tenderly
across his knees.

"We sure put the witchery into them squid, skipper, sir," he said. "We
sure larned 'em the black magic, by Peter!"




CHAPTER IX

SOME EARLY VISITS


The skipper kept his two unswerving henchmen to supper and brewed a
mighty bowl in their honor. He even condescended to thank Nick for his
warning, roundabout and prolonged though it had been, and to throw a
word of praise to Bill Brennen. He felt that the unqualified success of
his unexpected attack upon the mob had rewon for him much of his mastery
of the harbor. The others agreed with him. Bill Brennen, with a mug full
of punch in his hand, and his eyes on the broken oar which had stood in
a corner, humbly advised him to bestir himself at an early hour in the
morning, and put the finishing touches on the lesson. He advised a
house-to-house visitation before the heroes had recovered from the
brandy and the birch billet--not to mention the oar.

"Bat 'em agin whilst their heads bes still sore," said Bill--which is
only another and more original way of saying, "Strike while the iron is
hot."

"When ye give 'em all the money, skipper, they sure t'ought ye was
bewitched," said Nick Leary. "They t'ought ye was under a spell--an'
next they was t'inkin' as how the gold sure had a curse on to it or ye
wouldn't give it to 'em."

The skipper nodded. "I was too easy wid 'em!" he said. "Sure, b'ys, I'll
be mendin' it."

Bill and Nick departed at last; Cormick ascending the ladder to his bed
in the loft; Mother Nolan brewed a dose of herbs of great virtue--she
was wise in such things--and still the skipper sat by the stove and
smoked his pipe. Never before had his life known another such day as
this. Now he could have sworn that a whole month had passed since he had
been awakened by news of the wreck under the cliff, and again it seemed
as swift and dazzling as the flash of the powder in the pan of his old
sealing-gun when the spark flies from the flint. It had certainly been
an astonishing day! He had saved a life. He had seen those wonderful,
pale lids blink open and the soul sweep back into those wonderful eyes.
He had been elbow to elbow with violent death. He had struggled
submerged in water tinged with blood. He had known exultation, anger
and something which a less courageous man would have accepted for
defeat. He had suffered a mutiny--and later, in a few violent, reckless
minutes of action he had broken it--or cowed it at least. Now he felt
himself master of the harbor again, but not the master of his own
destiny. He did not sum up his case in these terms; but this is what it
came to. Destiny was a conviction with him, and not a word at all--a
nameless conviction. He did not consider the future anew; but he felt,
without analyzing it, a breathless, new curiosity of what the morrow
might hold for him. This sensation was in connection with the girl.
Apart from her, his old plans and ambitions stood. He felt no
uncertainty and no curiosity concerning the morrow's dealings with the
men. He considered it a commonplace subject. He would act upon Bill
Brennen's advice and visit the mutineers at an early hour; and as to the
wreck?--well, if conditions proved favorable he would break out the
cargo and see what could be made of it.

Mother Nolan entered with an empty cup in her hand.

"She took her draught like a babe, an' bes sleepin' agin peaceful as an
angel," she whispered. "Mind ye makes no noise, Denny. No more o' yer
fightin' an' cursin' this night!"

Black Dennis Nolan put in a night of disturbed dreaming and crawled from
his bed before the first streak of dawn. He pulled on his heavy garments
and seal-hide "skinnywoppers," built up the fire in the stove, brewed
and gulped a mug of tea, and then unbolted the door noiselessly and went
out. The dawn was lifting by now, clear, glass-gray and narrow at the
rim of the sea to the eastward and southward. The air was still. The
lapping of the tide along the icy land-wash and the dull whispering of
it among the seaward rocks were the only sounds. The skipper stood
motionless beside his own door for a few minutes. Small windows blinked
alight here and there; faint, muffled sounds of awakening life came to
him from the cabins; pale streamers of smoke arose into the breathless
air from the little chimneys.

"Now I'll pay me calls on 'em, like good Father McQueen himself,"
murmured the skipper.

He moved across the frosty rock to the nearest door. It was opened to
him by a wide-eyed woman with a ragged shawl thrown over her head.

"Mornin' to ye, Kate. How bes yer man Tim this mornin'?" inquired the
skipper.

He stepped inside without waiting for an answer or an invitation. He
found Tim in the bed beside the stove, snoring heavily. He grabbed his
shoulder and shook it roughly until the fellow closed his mouth and
opened his eyes.

"Tim Leary, ye squid, shut off yer fog-horn an' hark to me!" he
exclaimed. "By sun-up ye goes back to the woods and commences cuttin'
out poles for Father McQueen's church. Ye'll take yer brother Corny an'
Peter Walen along wid ye an' ye'll chop poles all day. Mark that, Tim. I
let ye take a fling yesterday, jist to see what kind o' dogs ye be; but
if ever I catches ye takin' another widout the word from me I'll be
killin' ye!"

The man groaned.

"Holy saints, skipper, ye'd not be sendin' me to choppin' poles wid a
head on me like a lobster-pot?" he whispered. "Sure, skipper, me poor
head feels that desperate bad, what wid the liquor an' the clout ye give
me, I couldn't heave it up from the pillow if Saint Peter himself give
the word."

"I bain't troublin' about Saint Peter," returned the skipper. "If ever
he wants ye to chop poles he'll see as how ye does it, I bes t'inkin'!
It bes me a-tellin' ye now; an' if ye can't carry yer head to the woods
wid ye to-day, ye treacherous dog, I'll knock it off for ye to-night so
ye'll be able to carry it 'round in yer two hands. Mark that!"

So the skipper paid his round of morning calls. At some cabins he paused
only long enough to shout a word through the door, at others he remained
for several minutes, re-inspiring treacherous but simple hearts with the
fear of Dennis Nolan, master of Chance Along. At one bed he stayed for
fifteen minutes, examining and rebandaging the wound given by the knife
of Dick Lynch. As for that drunken, sullen, treacherous savage, Dick
Lynch himself, he dragged him from his blankets, knocked him about the
floor, and then flung him back on to his bed. Then, turning to the dazed
man's horrified wife, he said, "See that he don't turn on me agin,
Biddy, or by the crowns o' the Holy Saints I'll be the everlastin' death
o' him!"

At some of the cabins his orders were for the woods, and at some they
were for work on the stranded ship. He did not disturb Bill Brennen or
Nick Leary. He knew that they would be around at his house for orders by
sun-up. The last cabin he visited was that of Pat Kavanagh. Kavanagh was
a man of parts, and had been a close friend of the old skipper. He was a
man of the world, having sailed deep-sea voyages in his youth. He was a
grand fiddler, a grand singer, and had made more "Come-all-ye's" than
you could count on your fingers and toes. He had a wooden leg; and his
daughter was the finest girl in Chance Along. His best known
Come-all-ye, which is sung to this day from Caplin Arm to Bay Bulls,
starts like this:--

    "Come, all ye hardy fishermen
      An' hearken to me lay
    O' how the good brig 'Peggy Bell'
      Went down in Trin'ty Bay.

    "The skipper he was from St. John's,
      The mate from Harbor Grace;
    The bosun was a noble lad
      Wid whiskers 'round his face."

Pat Kavanagh was the author of the ballad that commences this way, and
of many more.

He was proud of his daughter and his wooden leg; he was happy with his
fiddle and his verses; he did not hold with physical or emotional
violence, and asked the world for nothing more than to be left alone
beside his stove with a knowledge that there was something in the pot
and a few cakes of hard bread in the bin. He could not understand the
new skipper, his terrible activity, his hard-fisted ways and his
ambitions, and he took no stock in wrecks except as subjects for songs;
but he had been delighted with a gift of four fine blankets and two
quarts of rum which the skipper had made him recently.

Mary Kavanagh opened the door to the skipper, and let a fine light slip
into her blue eyes at the sight of him. Her cheeks, which had been
unusually pale when she opened the door, flushed bright and deep. The
young man greeted her pleasantly and easily, and stepped across the
threshold. Pat was already out of bed and seated in his chair close to
the stove. He was long and thin, with a straggling beard and moustaches,
a long face, a long nose, and kindly, twinkling eyes. Though he looked
happy enough he also looked like a widower--why, I can't say. It may
have been owing to his general unstowed, unfurled, unswabbed
appearance. He had not yet fastened on his wooden leg. He never did,
nowadays, until he had eaten his breakfast and played a tune or two on
his fiddle. His eyes were paler than his daughter's, and not nearly so
bright, and he had a way of staring at a thing for minutes at a time as
if he did not see it--and usually he didn't. Altogether, he was a very
impractical person. He must have made a feeble sailor--a regular fool as
a look-out--and the wonder is that he lost only one leg during his
deep-sea career. He looked at the skipper with that calm, far-away
shimmer in his eyes, combing his thin whiskers with his fingers. He did
not speak. His wooden leg was leaning up against his chair.

"Good morning to ye, Pat Kavanagh," said the skipper.

The poet blinked his eyes, thereby altering their expression from a
shimmer to a gray, wise gleam.

"So it bes yerself, Skipper Denny," he said. "Set down. Set down. Sure,
b'y, I didn't expect to see ye so spry to-day, an' was just studyin' out
a few verses concernin' death an' pride an' ructions that would keep yer
memory green."

"Whist, father!" exclaimed the girl.

"I bain't dead, Pat, so ye kin set to on some new varses," said the
skipper. "If ye t'ought them poor fools ye heard yowlin' last night was
to be the death o' me, then ye was on the wrong tack. But I bes here now
to ax yer opinion concernin' them same fools, Pat. Yesterday they raised
a mutiny agin me, all along o' a poor girl as I saved from the wrack,
an' last night an' this mornin' I larned 'em the error o' their ways.
Now ye was once a deep-sea sailorman, Pat, a-sailin' foreign v'yages,
an' so I wants ye to tell me what I'd better be doin' wid some o' them
squid? There was Foxey Jack Quinn; but he run away an' done for himself
in the flurry. Here bes Dick Lynch, nigh as treacherous an' full o'
divilment as ever Jack was, growlin' an' snarlin' at me heels like a
starvin' husky an' showin' his teeth every now an' agin. So I wants to
know, Pat, will I kill him dead or run him out o' the harbor? I bes
skipper here--aye, an' more nor skipper--an' all a man has to do to live
safe an' happy an' rich in this harbor bes to do what I tells him to
do--but this here Dick Lynch bain't knowledgeable enough to see it. I's
had to bat him twice. Next time I bats him maybe I'd best finish the
job? I puts it to ye, Pat Kavanagh, because ye knows the world an' how
sich things bes done aboard foreign-going ships."

"This harbor bain't no foreign-going ship, Denny," replied the poet.

"True, Pat; but if I calls it a ship it bes the same as one!" retorted
the skipper.

"If ye takes it that way, Denny, then ye'd best be handin' the lad over
to the jedges to be tried for mutiny," suggested the other, quietly.
"But if ye wants my opinion, ye'll leave him be."

"Leave him be?"

"Aye. He bain't worth troublin' about. Bat him now an' agin, if he tries
to knife ye, an' maybe he'll follow Jack Quinn. But this harbor bain't a
ship, lad. The skipper o' a ship has the law to his back in cases o'
mutiny an' the like--but the law bain't behind ye, Dennis Nolan!"

"The divil fly away wid the law!" cried the skipper. "I bes skipper
here! I makes the law for this harbor--an' them as don't like the laws I
makes kin go somewheres else."

"Leave him be, skipper. That bes what I tells ye, for yer own good.
Don't kill him. Ye kin break up desarted wracks; ye kin fill yer pockets
wid gold; ye kin bat yer mates over the nob if ye wants to; but once ye
gets to killin' men, Denny Nolan, then ye'll find the law to yer back
sure enough, a-fixin' a noose around yer neck! Aye, lad, that bes the
truth! I warns ye because I likes ye--an' I bes glad to see ye so
prosperous."




CHAPTER X

MARY KAVANAGH


A number of men with sore heads and dry mouths made their way to the top
of the cliff, across the barrens and into a thin belt of spruces. There
they worked as well as they could at cutting timber for Father McQueen's
church. They were a dolorous company. The daring spirit of mutiny had
passed away, leaving behind it the fear of the skipper. The courage,
uplift and inspiring glow of the brandy had ebbed and evaporated,
leaving the quaking stomach, the swimming brain, the misty eye. They
groaned as they hacked at the trees, for the desire to lie down on the
cold snow was heavy upon them; but still they hacked away, for the fear
of Black Dennis Nolan, the unconquerable, was like a hot breath upon
their necks. They said some bitter things about Dick Lynch.

The skipper visited the wreck, accompanied by Bill Brennen and a few of
the men and boys who had not taken part in yesterday's mutiny. The sea
was almost flat and there was no wind. The hatches were broken open; and
what they could see of the _Royal William's_ cargo looked entirely
satisfactory to them--sail-cloth, blankets, all manner of woollen and
cotton goods, boots and shoes, hams, cheeses and tinned meats. Though
some of these things were damaged by the salt water, few of them were
ruined by it. They worked all day at winching out the cargo. Next day,
the men who had cooled their sore heads in the woods were also put to
work on the stranded ship. With timbers and tarpaulins from the ship
they built a storehouse on the barren, in the midst of a thicket of
spruces. In the two days they managed to save about a quarter of the
cargo. The skipper drove them hard, an iron belaying pin in his hand and
slashing words always on his lips. But even the dullest of them saw that
he neither drove, cursed nor threatened Bill Brennen, Nick Leary or any
of the men who had kept out of the mutiny. Most of the stuff that was
salvaged was put in the new store, but a few hundreds of pounds of it
were carried to the harbor.

During these two days the skipper did not once set eyes on the girl he
had saved from the fore-top. Mother Nolan would not let him approach
within two yards of the door of the room in which she lay. It seemed,
from Mother Nolan's talk, that the beautiful stranger was always
sleeping. But, through the old woman, he learned her name. It was Flora
Lockhart.

When the skipper and Cormick reached home after the second day's work on
the cargo, Mother Nolan told them that Flora was in the grip of a
desperate fever, upon which none of her brews of roots and herbs seemed
to have any effect. She was hot as fire and babbled continually of
things strange and mad to the ears of the old woman. The skipper was
dismayed at the news; but his vigorous mind immediately began to search
for a means of dealing with the fever. He knew nothing of any remedies
save the local ones, in the manufacture and administering of which his
grandmother was a mistress. But here was the _Royal William's_
medicine-chest, and here was Pat Kavanagh who had sailed foreign voyages
in vessels carrying similar chests. He rushed from the house straight to
the poet-fiddler's cabin. He pushed open the door and entered without
knocking, as the custom is in Chance Along. Mary was attending to a
stew-pan on the stove, and Pat was seated in his chair with his wooden
leg strapped in place. The skipper told of the stranger's fever.

"An' ye has the ship's medicine-chest?" queried Pat. "Then we'll give
her the bitter white powder--quinine--aye, quinine. Every ship carries
it, lad. When I was took wid the fever in Port-o'-Spain didn't the mate
shake it on to me tongue till me ears crackled like hail on the roof,
an' when I got past stickin' out me tongue didn't he mix it wid whiskey
an' pour it into me? Sure, Denny! An' it knocked the fever galley west
in t'ree days an' left me limp as cook's dish-clout hangin' to dry under
the starboard life-boat. But it bes better nor dyin' entirely wid the
fever. I'll step round wid ye, skipper, and p'int out this here quinine
to ye."

And he did. He found a large bottle of quinine in the box, in powder
form. He measured out a quantity of it in doses of from three to five
grains, for his memory of the sizes of the doses administered to him by
the mate was somewhat dim, and advised Mother Nolan not to give the
powders too often nor yet not often enough. Mother Nolan asked for more
exact directions. She felt that she had a right to them. Pat Kavanagh
combed his long whiskers reflectively with his long fingers, gazing at
the medicine-chest with a far-away look in his pale eyes.

"I don't rightly recollect the ins an' outs o' me own case," he said, at
last, "but I has a dim picter in me mind o' how Mister Swim, the mate,
shook the powder on to me tongue every blessed time I opened me mouth to
holler. An' the b'ys let me drink all the cold water I could hold--aye,
an' never once did they wake me up when I was sleepin' quiet, not even
to give the quinine to me. An' they stowed me in blankets an' made me
sweat, though the fo'castle was hotter nor the hatches o' hell. An' when
I wouldn't stick out me tongue for the powder then they'd melt it in
whiskey an' pour it down me neck."

With this Mother Nolan had to be content. She retired to her own room,
mixed a powder in a cup of root-tea and gave it to the girl, who was
quiet now, though wide-awake and bright-eyed. Kavanagh went home,
invented a ballad about his fever in Port-o'-Spain, and wrote it upon
his memory, verse by verse--for he did not possess the art of writing
upon paper. After supper Cormick retired to the loft and his bed; but
the skipper did not touch a blanket that night. He spent most of the
time in his chair by the stove; but once in every hour he tiptoed into
his grandmother's room and listened. If he heard any sound from the
inner room when the old woman happened to be asleep he awakened her and
sent her in to Flora Lockhart. At dawn he fell asleep in his chair and
dreamed that he was the mate of a foreign-going ship, and that all he
had to do was to shake white powders on to the tongue of the girl he had
saved from the fore-top of the _Royal William_. Cormick shook him awake
when breakfast was ready. After hearing from Mother Nolan that the girl
seemed much cooler and better than she had since the early afternoon of
the previous day, he ate his breakfast and went out and sent all the
able-bodied men to get timber for Father McQueen's church, some from the
woods and others from the wreck. They would haul the timber after the
next fall of snow. But he did not go abroad himself. He hung about the
harbor all day, sometimes in his own kitchen, sometimes down on the
land-wash, and sometimes in other men's cabins. He put a new dressing on
the wound of the lad who had received the knife and paid another visit
to Dick Lynch. Lynch was still in bed; but this time he did not drag him
out on the floor.

Mother Nolan was full of common sense and wise instincts, in spite of
the fact that she believed in fairies, mermaids and the personal
attentions of the devil. She was doctor and nurse by nature as well as
by practice--by everything, in short, but education. So it happened that
she did not follow Pat Kavanagh's instructions to the letter. She argued
to herself that Pat's fever had been a hot-climate one, while Flora
Lockhart's was undoubtedly a cold-climate one. She saw that the girl's
trouble was a sickness, accompanied by high fever, brought on by cold
and exposure. So she did not give the quinine quite as generously as the
fiddler had recommended, and kept right on with her hot brews of herbs
and roots in addition. Instinct told her that if she could drive out the
cold the fever would follow it out of its own accord.

In the afternoon the girl became restless and highly feverish again, and
by sunset she was slightly delirious. She talked constantly in her
wonderful voice of fame, of great cities and of many more things which
sounded meaningless and alarming to Mother Nolan. For a little while
she thought she was on the _Royal William_, talking to the captain about
the great reception that awaited her in New York, her own city, which
she had left four years ago, humble and unknown, and was now returning
to, garlanded with European recognition. It was all double-Dutch to
Mother Nolan. She put an end to it with her potent dose of quinine and
whiskey. She spent this night in her patient's room, keeping the fire
roaring and catching catnaps in a chair by the hearth; and the skipper
haunted the other side of the door. Toward morning the girl asked for a
drink, as sanely as anybody could, took it eagerly, and then sank into a
quiet sleep. The old woman nodded in her chair. The skipper tiptoed back
to the kitchen and flung himself across his bed.

After the fourth day of the fight against the fever Mother Nolan saw
that the struggle was likely to prove too much for her, if prolonged at
the present pitch, whatever it might prove for Flora Lockhart; so she
sent the skipper over to bring Mary Kavanagh to her. Now Mary was as
kind-hearted and honest as she was big and beautiful. Her mind was
strong and sane, and spiced with a quick wit. Her kindness and honesty
were spiced with a warm temper. She was human all through. As she could
flame to love so could she flame to anger. As she could melt to pity so
could she chill to pride. In short, though she was a fine and good young
woman, she wasn't an angel. Angels have their place in heaven; and the
place and duty of Mary Kavanagh was on this poor earth, where men's
souls are still held in shells of clay and wrenched this way and that
way by the sorrows and joys of their red hearts. Like most good human
women, Mary had all the makings of a saint in her; but heaven itself
could never make a sexless, infallible angel of her.

Mary told her father not to forget to keep the fire burning, threw a
blue cloak over her head and shoulders, and accompanied the skipper back
to Mother Nolan. Short as the distance was between the two dwellings she
glanced twice at her companion, with kindliness, inquiry and something
of anxiety in her dark gray eyes. But he stared ahead of him so
intently, with eyes somewhat haggard from lack of sleep, that he did not
notice the glances. Mother Nolan welcomed her joyfully.

"Help me tend on this poor lamb from the wrack," said the old woman,
"an' ye'll be the savin' of me life. Me poor old eyes feels heavy as
stove-lids, Mary dear."

"Sure, I'll help ye, Mother Nolan, an' why not?" returned Mary, throwing
aside her cloak from her smooth brown head and strong, shapely
shoulders. "Father kin mind himself, if he bes put to it, for a little
while. Now tell me what ye does for the lady, Mother Nolan, dear, an'
give me a look at her, an' then pop into bed wid ye, an' I'll lay a
bottle o' hot water to yer feet."

"Saints bless ye, me dear. May every hair o' yer darlint head turn into
a wax candle to light ye to glory amongst the holy saints," returned the
old woman.

So it came about that Mary Kavanagh joined in the fight for the life of
the girl from the wreck. She stood her trick at Flora's bed-side turn
and turn about with the old woman, quiet as a fairy on her feet, though
she was surely as big as a dozen fairies, quiet as a whisper with her
voice, her hands as gentle as snow that falls in windless weather. She
did not worry about her father. There was bread in the bin and fish in
the shed for him, and he had his fiddle and his ballads. Every evening,
sometimes before and sometimes after supper, he came over and sat with
the skipper, combing his long beard with his restless fingers, and
telling improbable tales of his deep-sea voyages.

The skipper's faith in his grandmother and Mary was great. He soon
schooled himself to stay away from the house for hours at a time, and
give at least half his attention to the work of impressing the men with
his mastery, and getting out lumber for the little church which Father
McQueen was to build in June, on the barrens behind and above Chance
Along. The men felt and knew his touch of mastery. They felt that this
work at church-building was sure to lift any curse and devilment from
the harbor, if such things had really been, and establish the skipper's
good luck for all time. Dick Lynch, who still walked feebly, with a
bandage about his head, was in bad repute with all of them, and more
especially with the blood-kin of the young man whom he had knifed in the
drunken fight over the gold. But the youth who had been knifed, Pat
Brennen by name, was in a fair way to recover from the wound, thanks to
the skipper's care and the surgical dressings from the _Royal
William's_ medicine-chest. So they worked well, ate well, clothed
themselves in warm garments made by their womenfolk from the goods saved
from the last wreck, and said with their undependable tongues, from the
shallows of their undependable hearts, that Black Dennis Nolan was a
great man and a terrible. The spirit of distrust and revolt was dead--or
sound asleep, at least.

The hot poison of the fever in Flora Lockhart's blood was drawn after
days of ceaseless care and innumerable doses of quinine and brews of
herbs and roots; but it left behind it a weakness of spirit and body,
and a dangerous condition of chest and throat. Mother Nolan and Mary
Kavanagh saw that the fight was only half won, and neither of them laid
aside their arms for a moment, though they changed their tactics. Now
the fire in the chimney was kept roaring more fiercely than ever,
bottles of hot water were kept always in the bed, the blankets were
heated freely, and hot broth and steaming spirits were given in place of
the brews of roots and leaves. The skipper and Cormick went far afield
and succeeded in shooting several willow-grouse, and these Mother Nolan
made into broth for Flora. The best of everything that could be
procured was hers. She began to recover strength at last, and then each
day brought improvement. By this time she and Mary Kavanagh had warmed
toward each other until a friendship was established. Flora had thanked
Mary beautifully, many times over, for her care, and had talked a great
deal of herself and her ambitions. She had told Mary and Mother Nolan
the hardships and glories of her past and her great dreams for the
future. On the day that Mary was to go back to her father, Flora drew
her down and kissed her fondly.

"You and Mother Nolan have saved my life," she said, "and I am your
friend--yours especially, Mary--forever and ever. I shall prove my love
and gratitude, you may be sure. Out in the big world, Mary, I am
_somebody_--I have the power to do kindnesses and repay debts. New York
is full of fame and money, and a great deal of it is waiting for me."

Mary thanked her, kissed her in return, and said gently that she did not
want to be rewarded for her nursing, except by love. She added that it
was Black Dennis Nolan, the skipper, who had saved Flora's life.

"I remember him vaguely," said the other. "He took me away from that
terrible place where I was swaying and tossing between the waves and the
sky. The queer things I saw in my fever dreams have dimmed the memory of
the wreck, thank God--and now they themselves are growing dim. He is a
big man, is he not, and young and very strong? And his eyes are almost
black, I think. I will pay him for what he has done, you may be sure,
Mary. I suppose he is a fisherman, or something of that kind?"

"He bain't the kind to want money for what he has done," said Mary,
slowly. "He be skipper o' Chance Along, like his father was afore
him--but there never was another skipper like him, for all that. He
saved ye from the wrack, an' now ye lay in his house--but I warns ye not
to offer money to him for the sarvice he has done ye. Sure, he wouldn't
be needin' the money, an' wouldn't take it if he was. He lives by the
sea--aye, in his own way!--an' when the sea feeds full at all she fills
her men with the divil's own pride."

Flora was puzzled and slightly amused. She patted the other's hand and
smiled up at her.

"Is he so rich then?" she asked. "And what is a skipper?--if he is not
the captain of a ship? How can a man be the skipper of a village like
this?"

"His father was skipper," replied Mary. "The fore-an'-aft schooner bes
his, an' the store wid flour an' tea in it for whoever needs them. It
bes the way o' the coast--more or less."

"Have any letters come for me? Have people from New York arranged yet to
take me away?" asked Flora, suddenly forgetting about the skipper and
remembering her own career so terribly interrupted and so strangely
retarded. "I shall be able to travel in a few days, I think. What have
the newspapers said about my misfortunes?"

The pink faded a little from Mary's cheeks and her gray eyes seemed to
dim.

"Saints love ye!" she said. "There bes no letters for ye, my dear--an'
how would there be? Up-along they'll be still waitin' for the ship--or
maybe they have give up waitin' by this time. How would they know she
was wracked on this coast?"

The beautiful singer gazed at her in consternation and amazement. Her
wonderful sea-eyes flashed to their clear sea-depths where the
cross-lights lay.

"But--but has no word been sent to New York?--to anywhere?" she cried.
"Surely you cannot mean that people do not know of the wreck, and that I
am here? What of the owners of the ship? Oh, God, what a place!"

Mary was startled for a moment, then thoughtful. She had never before
wondered what the great world of "Up-along"--which is everywhere south
and east and west of Newfoundland, London, New York, Pernambuco,
Halifax, Montreal, Africa, China and the lands and seas around and
between--must think of the ships that sail away and never return. Wrecks
had always seemed to her as natural as tides and storms. When the tide
comes in who thinks of reporting it to the great world? Spars and
shattered timbers come in on the tides; and sometimes hulls more or less
unbroken; and sometimes living humans. Mary had seen something of these
things herself and had heard much. She had never known of the spars or
hulls being claimed by any person but the folk who found them and fought
with the sea for them. She had seen shipwrecked sailors tarry awhile,
take their food thankfully, and presently set out for St. John's and the
world beyond, by way of Witless Bay. None of them had ever come back to
Chance Along.

"I bes sorry for ye wid my whole heart," she said. "Yer folks will be
mournin' for ye, I fear--for how would they know ye was safe in Chance
Along? But the saints have presarved your life, dear, an' when
spring-time comes then ye can sail 'round to St. John's an' away to New
York. But sure, we might have writ a letter about ye an' carried it out
to Witless Bay. The skipper can write."

"I have been buried alive!" cried Flora, covering her face with her
hands and weeping unrestrainedly.

Mary tried to comfort her, then left the room to find Mother Nolan. The
old woman was in the kitchen, and Dennis was with her.

"She bes desperate wrought-up because--because her folks up-along will
think she bes dead," explained Mary. "She says she bes buried alive in
Chance Along. Skipper, ye had best write a letter about herself an' the
wrack, an' send it out. She bes a great person up-along."

The skipper sprang to his feet, staring at her with a blank face and
with defiance in his eyes.

"A letter!" he exclaimed, huskily. "No, by hell! Let 'em t'ink what they
wants to! Bain't Chance Along good enough for her?"




CHAPTER XI

THE SKIPPER CARRIES A LETTER


Mary Kavanagh paled, flushed again, and lowered her eyes. Old Mother
Nolan turned a searching glance upon her grandson--a glance with
derision and something of pity in it.

"An' how would Chance Along be good enough for the likes o' her?" said
she. "Denny Nolan, bes ye a fool entirely? Good enough for her, says
ye--an' her singin' like a lark afore the young Queen herself, saints
presarve her, wid the Prince an' the dukes a-settin' round in their
grand gold crowns, a-t'rowin' roses an' jewels at her little feet! What
bes Chance Along to her--aye, an' any poor soul in it? We've give her
life back to her, Denny, me lad, an' now we'll give herself back to the
grand world o' up-along, where great singers bes nigh the same as great
ladies, as I have heard me own grandfather tell, who was once in Dublin
a-holdin' the gentry's horses at the play-house door."

The skipper glared straight before him, then sank into his chair.

"I'll pen no letter," he said, "I swears it by the knuckle-bones o' the
holy saints!"

Mother Nolan turned to Mary, wagging her head.

"There bes ink an' a pen on the shelf there, an' a scrap o' clean paper
in Denny's great book yonder," she said. "Take 'em to her an' let her
pen the word wid her own hand." She turned to Denny. "And ye, Denny
Nolan, will send it out to Witless Bay, an' from Witless Bay to St.
John's, an' so to New York."

"I hears ye," returned the skipper.

"Aye, that ye do," said the spirited old woman, "an' a good t'ing for ye
I bes here to tell ye! Why for wouldn't ye be sendin' out the letter?
What for d'ye be wantin' Miss Flora Lockhart to stop here in Chance
Along?--and her who never put a hand to a stroke o' honest work since
her mother bore her!--her who sang to the Queen o' England! Ye'd be
better, Denny, wid a real true mermaid, tail an' all, in Chance Along.
Wrack ye kin break abroad; cargoes ye kin lift an' devour; gold an'
jewels ye kin hide away; but when live women be t'rowed up to ye by the
sea ye kin do naught but let 'em go. The divil bes in the women,
lad--the women from up-along. An' the law would be on yer heels--aye,
an' on to yer neck--afore ye knowed how the wind was blowin'! An' what
would his riverence be sayin' to ye?"

Mary Kavanagh had left the kitchen by this time, carrying pen, ink and
paper to the girl in Father McQueen's room. Denny raised his head, and
met the regard of his grandmother's bright old eyes proudly.

"I wants to marry her," he said. "An' why not? Bain't I skipper
here--aye, skipper o' every man an' boat in the harbor? She'd have no
call to touch her hand to honest work if she was my wife. Bain't I
rich?--and like to be richer? I'll build her a grand house. She'll have
wine every day, an' jewels on her fingers, an' naught to do all day, by
Saint Peter, but put the gowns o' silk on to her back. Bain't that
better nor singin' an' cavortin' afore the Queen?"

"Denny, ye bes a fool, sure, for all yer great oaths an' masterful ways
wid the men," said Mother Nolan. "Ye bes a fool over a woman--an' that
be the weakest kind o' fool! What would a lady like her be wantin' wid
ye for a husband?--wid a ignorant great fisherman the like o' ye,
skipper o' no skipper? What bes a skipper to the like o' her? No more
nor a dog, Denny Nolan! She'd break yer heart an' send yer soul to
damnation!"

The skipper left his chair without a word, and strode from the kitchen
to Mother Nolan's own room, stooping as he passed through the low
doorway. He advanced until he reached Flora's room. It was shut. He
halted for a moment, breathing quickly, then rapped with his knuckles,
and opened the door. Flora was sitting upright in the bed, backed by
pillows and with a shawl over her shoulders. She had been writing; and
Mary stood beside the bed and held the bottle of time-faded ink for her.
Both girls looked up with startled faces at the skipper's entrance. The
young man halted in the middle of the room, and stared at the singer. It
was the first time he had seen her since the day he had saved her from
the _Royal William's_ fore-top and brought her to this house. He saw
that her face was thinner now than on that day, but no paler. The
wonderful eyes were as clear, as bright as crystal, and yet as limpid,
as when they had first opened to him, there on the swaying cross-trees,
and worked their spell on him. But the lips were red now--as red and
bewitching as a mermaid's lips are supposed to be. She was the first to
speak.

"What is it? What do you want?" she asked somewhat fretfully, in that
silver voice that had delighted the ears of the young Queen on the other
side of the ocean. The question, or perhaps the way it was asked, sent a
chill through Black Dennis Nolan. His glance wavered and he crumpled his
fur cap in his hands. His sudden confusion showed in his dark face.

"It bes the skipper," said Mary Kavanagh, "him that fetched ye from the
wrack."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Flora. "Of course I should have remembered
your face, and now I do. I am very, very grateful to you for saving my
life, and I shall never forget it. I shall do everything in my power to
repay you for your courage and kindness, you may be sure; but why did
you not send out word that I was here? You knew that I could not do it
myself, lying here ill with fever. Perhaps they have grown tired of
waiting for me by now, in New York. Perhaps they think I am dead.
Perhaps they have forgotten me--and that would be worse than death!"

The skipper felt like a fool, then like a whipped dog. It was this last
sensation that sent a wave of choking anger through him. He was not
accustomed to it. Had any other woman taken him to task so he would have
laughed and forgotten the incident in a minute. Had any man shown such
ingratitude he would have smashed his head; but now his dark face
flushed and he muttered a few words thickly which passed unheard and
unheeded even by himself.

"I am writing now," continued Flora, "and must ask you to send it out to
some place from which it can reach civilization, and be mailed to New
York. It is very important--almost a matter of life and death to me--for
it may yet be in time to save my career, even my engagement in New
York."

The skipper maintained his silence, crushing his cap in his big hands
and glowering at the rag-mat under his feet. Two kinds of love, several
kinds of devils, pride, anger and despair were battling in his heart.

"Ye'll take out the letter, skipper, sure ye will," said Mary, smiling
at him across the bed. Her fair face was pink and her eyes perturbed.
The man did not notice the pink of her cheeks or the anxiety in her
eyes.

"Why, of course you will take it--or send it," said Miss Lockhart. "It
is a very small thing to do for a person for whom you have already done
so much. You are the kindest people in the world--you three. You have
saved my life twice, among you. I shall never, never forget your
kindness, and as soon as I reach New York I shall repay you all. I shall
soon be rich."

Black Dennis Nolan looked at her, straight into her sea-eyes, and felt
the bitter-sweet spell of them again to the very depths of his being.
Her glance was the first to waver. A veil of color slipped up softly
across her pale cheeks. Young as she was, she had seen other men gaze at
her with that same light in their eyes. They had all been young men, she
reflected. Others, in Paris and London, had looked with less of pure
bewitchment and more of desire in their eyes. She was not ignorant of
her charms, her power, her equipment to pluck the pearl from the oyster
of the world. She could marry wealth; she could win wealth and more fame
with her voice and beauty on the concert-stage; she could do both. But
in spite of her knowledge of the great world, her heart was neither
blinded to the true things of worth nor entirely hardened. If she ever
married, it would be for wealth and position, as the world counted such
things, but never a man--lord or commoner--who did not come to her with
the light of pure witchery in his eyes. She remembered, smiling down at
the half-written letter to her New York agent, how that light had shone
in the honest eyes of a young officer of the ship in which she had
sailed from America to Europe. Her reflections, which had passed through
her brain with a swiftness beyond that of any spoken or written words,
were interrupted by the skipper.

"I bes rich now," he said thickly.

Mary Kavanagh lost color at that and turned her face away from them
both, toward the fire in the wide chimney. Flora Lockhart looked up at
the speaker, puzzled, but still smiling faintly. Her face was very
beautiful and kind--but with an elfin kindness that seemed not all
womanly, scarcely all human. Her beauty was almost too delicate,
striking and unusual to bear the impress of a common-day kindness. She
laughed gently but clearly.

"I am glad you are rich," she said. "You are rich in virtues, I
know--all three of you."

"I bes rich in gold an' gear," said the skipper. "Rich as any marchant."

"I am glad," returned the girl. "It will be pleasant for me, in the
future, to always picture my preservers in comfort. I hope you may
continue to prosper, skipper--you and all your people. But here is the
letter. How will you get it to New York, do you think?"

The skipper advanced to the bed, and took the letter. His fingers
touched hers.

"I'll be takin' it to Witless Bay meself," he stammered. "Sure, that
would be safest. It bes a longish trip; but I'll do it." He paused and
stared down at the letter in his hand. "But 'twould take me t'ree days
an' more, there an' back--an' what would the men be doing wid me away?
The divil himself only knows! Maybe they'd get to t'inkin' agin as ye
bes a witch. I'll be sendin' Bill Brennen wid it, afore sun-up
to-morrow."

"And who will take it from Witless Bay to St. John's?" asked Flora.

"Foxey Garge Hudson, the Queen's own mail-carrier. There bes a
post-office in Witless Bay," returned the skipper. "He makes the trip
to St. John's once every week in winter-time, bar flurries an' fog, an'
maybe twice every week in the summer-time. If it be'd summer-time now
I'd sail the letter right round to St. John's in me fore-an'-aft
schooner."

"What a terrible place! It seems to be thousands of miles out of the
world," murmured the singer. "Don't any ships ever come to this
harbor--except wrecks?"

The skipper shook his head. "Me own fore-an'-aft, the _Polly_, bes the
only vessel trades wid this harbor," he said. He stowed the letter away
in his pocket, turned and strode from the room and out of the house. He
looked calm enough now, but the battle was still raging within him.

The skipper was out of bed next morning at the first peep of dawn. He
dressed for a long journey, stuffed his pockets with food, and then
wakened his grandmother.

"I bes goin' meself wid this letter," he said. "The men won't be tryin'
any o' their tricks, I bes t'inkin'. Dick Lynch bain't fit for any
divilment yet awhile an' 'tothers be busy gettin' timber for the
church. Send Cormy to tell Bill Brennen an' Nick Leary to keep 'em to
it."

"Why bes ye goin' yerself, Denny?" inquired the old woman.

"Sure, it bes safest for me to carry the letter, Granny," returned the
skipper.

He ate his breakfast, drank three mugs of strong tea, and set out. A
little dry snow had fallen during the night. The air was bitterly cold
and motionless, and the only sound was the sharp crackling of the tide
fingering the ice along the frozen land-wash. The sky was clear. With
the rising of the sun above the rim of the sea a faint breath of icy
wind came out of the west. By this time the skipper was up on the edge
of the barrens, a mile and more away from the little harbor. He was
walking at a good pace, smoking his pipe and thinking hard. A thing was
in his mind that he could not bring himself to face fairly, as yet. It
had been with him several hours of yesterday, and all night, and had
caused him to change his plan of sending Bill Brennen with the
letter--and still it lurked like a shadow in the back of his mind,
unilluminated and unproven. But he knew, deep in his heart, that he
would presently consider and act upon this lurking, sinister
half-thought. Otherwise, he was a fool to be heading for Witless Bay.
Bill Brennen, or any other man in the harbor, could have carried the
letter as well--except for the idea that had been blindly at work all
night in the back of his brain.

He had made four miles of his journey when he halted, turned and looked
back along the desolate barrens and the irregular edge of the cliffs.
Misgivings assailed him. Was Flora safe? What if something should
happen--had already happened, perhaps--to stir his treacherous fellows
to mutiny again? Any little accident might do it if they knew that he
was on his way to Witless Bay. If one of them should cut his foot with
an axe, or drop a tree on one of his comrades, it would be enough (with
the skipper out of the way) to raise the suspicion of witchcraft and
curses in their silly, mad souls again. And then what would happen? What
would happen to Flora, the helpless, wonderful, most beautiful creature
in the world. He stared back along his path, but the many curves and
breaks in the cliff hid from him every sign of Chance Along. Not a roof,
chimney, or streamer of smoke broke the desolation. In all the frozen
scene he could find no mark of man or man's handiwork. South and north,
east and west, lay the frosted barrens, the gray sea, the edge of the
cliff twisting away to nothingness around innumerable lifeless bays and
coves, and the far horizons fencing all in a desolate circle. But what
mattered to the skipper, what weighed on his heart like despair was the
fact that he was out of sight of Chance Along--of the roof that
sheltered the girl he had saved from the wreck. He felt the loneliness
of that dreary season and coast--for the first time in his life, I
think. Anxiety was his teacher.

And now he knew that he must go on to Witless Bay, and so prove himself
a fool for not having sent one of the men, or else face and act upon the
thought lurking in the back of his mind. He drew the letter from his
pocket and looked at it for a long time, turning it over and over
between his fur-clad hands.

"She'll soon be forgettin'," he said. "Come summer-time, she'll be
forgettin'. I bes rich--an' when she sees the grand house I kin build
for her she'll marry me, sure, an' be happy as a queen. An' why not?
Bain't I rich as any marchant? She'll be wearin' gold an' silk every
day, an' eatin' like any queen--an' bain't that better for a grand lady
nor singin' songs for a livin'?--nor singin' songs for her bread an'
baccy like old Pat Kavanagh wid the wooden leg?"

He tore the letter to fragments and scattered it upon the snow. He had
faced the lurking thought at last and acted upon it.

"Praise be to the saints!" exclaimed the skipper with intense relief.
"That bes done--an' a good job, too. That letter'll never be gettin' to
up-along, anyhow, an' when she larns how rich I be, an' begins to love
me, she'll be praisin' the saints the same as me. Why for would she want
to be goin' up-along to New York, anyhow? Now I'll jist shape me course
'round beyant the harbor an' see if they squid be up to any divilment or
no."

He made his way inland for about half a mile and then headed southward.
As he drew near the line of Chance Along he edged farther away from the
coast, deeper into the wilderness of hummocks, frozen bogs and narrow
belts of spruce and fir. When at last he heard the axes thumping between
himself and the harbor he sat down in a sheltered place and filled and
lit his pipe. The men were at work. The letter that would have torn
Flora Lockhart from him was not on its way to New York. All was well
with the skipper and the world! He remained there for an hour, smoking,
listening, congratulating himself. By the thumping of the axes and the
slow crashings of falling trees he knew that Bill Brennen had put a big
crew at the chopping. This knowledge stilled his anxiety for the girl's
safety. He knocked out his pipe and stowed it away and moved farther
westward until he found a suitable camping-place behind a wooded hill.
Here he made a fire, built a little shelter of poles and spruce
branches, and rested at his ease. He thought of Flora Lockhart. Her
sea-eyes and red lips were as clear and bright as a picture in his
brain. Her wonderful, bell-like voice rang in his ears like fairy music.
The spell of her was like a ravishing fire in his heart.

Suddenly the skipper sprang to his feet and slapped a hand on his thigh.
He had remembered the necklace for the first time for many days, and
with the memory had flashed the thought that with it to offer he would
have no difficulty in proving his wealth to the lady and winning her
heart. Those white diamonds and red rubies were surely just the things a
great lady from up-along would appreciate. Could a king on his throne
make her a finer gift? He doubted it. The sight of that necklace would
open her eyes and melt her heart to the real worth and greatness of the
skipper of Chance Along. Poor Skipper Nolan! But after all, he was
little more than a savage. Of the hearts of women--even of the women of
Chance Along--he was as ignorant as a spotted harbor-seal. He knew no
more of Mary Kavanagh's heart than of Flora Lockhart's, but even a
savage may win a heart in ignorance, and even a savage may learn!

With a great oath the skipper vowed that he would find that necklace;
but not to sell for gold, as his old intention had been, but to sell for
the possession of the girl from up-along. It seemed an easy thing to do.
Foxey Jack Quinn could not have gone very far away from the harbor in
that "flurry." Perhaps he had turned back and inland, searching blindly
for shelter, and lay even now somewhere near this fire? It struck the
skipper as a great idea. He would have three clear days to give to the
quest of the body of Jack Quinn without arousing the curiosity of the
harbor. Three days, as nearly as he could reckon, was the shortest time
in which a man could make the journey to Witless Bay and back. As he
could not show himself in Chance Along within that time without raising
doubts as to the safe delivery of the letter, he was free to devote the
time to the recovery of the necklace. It was a grand arrangement
altogether. Of course he would keep covertly in touch with the harbor,
in case of another panic of superstition; and of course he would find
the corpse of Jack Quinn with the precious necklace in its pocket.




CHAPTER XII

DICK LYNCH GOES ON THE WAR-PATH


Black Dennis Nolan's explorations in the wilderness in search of the
corpse of Foxey Jack Quinn served no purpose save that of occupying his
three days of exile from Chance Along. Of course he acquired a deal of
exact information of the country lying beyond the little harbor and
north and south of it for several miles; but this knowledge of the
minute details of the landscape did not seem of much value to him, at
the time. He searched high and low, far and wide, returning at intervals
of from three to five hours to within sound of the axes of his men. He
dug the dry snow from clefts between granite boulders and ransacked the
tangled hearts of thickets of spruce-tuck and alder. He investigated
frozen swamps, wooded slopes, rocky knolls and hummocks, and gazed down
through black ice at the brown waters of frozen ponds. He carried on his
search scientifically, taking his camp as a point of departure and
moving away from it in ever widening and lengthening curves. He found
the shed antlers of a stag, the barrel of an old, long-lost sealing gun,
the skeleton of a caribou, and the bones of a fox with one shank still
gripped in the jaws of a rusty trap. He found a large dry cave in the
side of a knoll. He found the charred butts of an old camp-fire and near
it that which had once been a plug of tobacco--a brown, rotten mass,
smelling of dead leaves and wet rags. He found a rusted fish-hook, so
thorough was his search--aye, and a horn button. In such signs he read
the fleeting history of the passing of generations of men that way--of
men from Chance Along who had sought in this wilderness for flesh for
their pots and timber for their huts, boats and stages. He found
everything but what he was looking for--the frozen body of Foxey Jack
Quinn with the necklace of diamonds and rubies in its pocket. Then a
haunting fear came to him that the thief had escaped--had won out to the
big world in spite of the storm and by some other course than Witless
Bay.

With this fear in him, he carried on terribly for a few minutes, raging
around his fire, cursing the name and the soul of Foxey Jack Quinn,
calling upon the saints for justice, confounding his luck and his
enemies. He stopped it suddenly, for he had a way of regaining command
of his threshing passions all at once. He did not have to let them
thresh themselves out, as is the case with weaker men; but he gripped
them, full-blooded, to quiet, by sheer will power and a turn of thought.
The force of mastery was strong in Black Dennis Nolan's wild nature.
When he wished it he could master himself as well as others. Now he sat
down quietly beside his fire and lit his pipe. The evening was near at
hand--the evening of the third and last day of his exile. The sun, like
a small round window of red glass, hung low above the black hills to the
north and west. He got to his feet, threw snow on the breaking fire and
scattered the steaming coals with his foot. Then he pulled down his
shelter and threw the poles and spruce branches into a thicket, so that
no marks of his encampment were left except the wet coals and smudged
ashes of the fire.

The crimson sun slid down out of sight behind the black hills to the
west and north, and the gray twilight thickened over the wilderness. The
last red tint had faded from the west and the windows of the cabins
were glowing when the skipper reached the top of the path leading down
to Chance Along. A dog barked--Pat Kavanagh's black crackie--and the
whisper of the tide fumbling at edges of ice came up from the land-wash
below the fish-house and drying-stages. He saw the spars of his little
schooner etched black against the slate-gray of the eastern sky. He
stood at the edge of the broken slope, looking and listening. Presently
he heard a mutter of voices and saw two dark figures ascending the path.

"Good evenin', men," he said.

The two halted. "Glory be!" exclaimed the voice of Bill Brennen. "The
skipper himself, sure, praise the saints! Bes it yerself, skipper, an'
no mistake?"

"Aye, Bill, an' why for not?" returned Nolan. "Didn't ye t'ink as I
could make the trip to Witless Bay an' back in t'ree days? Bes that
yerself, Nick Leary?"

"Aye, skipper, aye," replied Nick. The two were now at the top of the
path, staring anxiously at the skipper through the gloom. Leary's head
was still in a bandage.

"We was jist a-settin' out to look for ye, skipper," said Bill.

Black Dennis Nolan laughed at that. "Was ye t'inkin' I couldn't find me
way back to me own harbor, in fair weather?" he asked.

"Aye, skipper, sure ye could," said Bill Brennen; "but it bes like this
wid us. Dick Lynch give us the slip this very day, wid a bottle o' rum
in his belly an' the smoke of it in his head, an' a gun in his hand.
Aye, skipper, an' we didn't larn it till only a minute ago from little
Patsy Burke."

"Aye, that bes the right o' it," broke in Nick Leary. "We heard tell o'
Dick Lynch a-slippin' away to the south'ard jist this minute from little
Patsy Burke. Drunk as a bo's'un he was, wid his old swilin'-gun on his
shoulder an' the divil's own flare in the eyes o' him. So we hauled out
too, skipper, intendin' to catch him afore he come up wid yerself if the
saints would give us the luck."

"Sure, then, I didn't catch a sight o' the treacherous squid," said the
skipper. "Ye see, b'ys, I took a swing off to the westward to-day to spy
out some timber. But what would Dick Lynch be huntin' me wid his
swilin'-gun for? Why for d'ye say he was huntin' me? Didn't I put the
comather on to him last time? The divil's own courage must be in him if
he bes out huntin' for me."

"He was tryin' all he knowed how to raise trouble yesterday," said Bill;
"but the b'ys wasn't wid him. This very mornin', when I called in to see
how he was feelin' for work, there he laid in his bed wid the covers
drug up over his ugly face, a-moanin' an' groanin' as how he wasn't fit
to hit a clip. Then we all o' us goes off to the choppin', to cut timber
for his riverence's blessed little church, an' mugs-up in the woods
widout comin' home, an' when we gets back to the harbor, maybe a few
minutes afore sun-down, little Patsy Burke gives us the word as how Dick
Lynch went off wid a gun, swearin' by the whole assembly of heaven as
how he'd be blowin' yer heart out o' ye the minute he clapped eye on ye.
An' then, skipper dear, Pat Kavanagh's girl Mary comes a-runnin' wid
word as how Dick Lynch t'iefed a bottle o' rum from Pat himself and was
brow-sprit under wid the glory of it an' fit to take a shot--except for
the aim of him--at Saint Peter himself. She telled as how he'd shaped
his course to the south'ard, with his gun on his shoulder, swearin' he'd
blow the head off ye or never come home to Chance Along no more. So
Nick an' me puts two an' two forninst each other an' figgered as how
Dick would have ye if somethin' didn't happen to t'row out his plans."

"Ye bain't got the right o' it there, Bill," said Nick. "'Twas Mary
telled us to follow after Dick Lynch. She'd gone herself, she said, but
she'd heard o' it no more'n a minute ago from Pat, her bein' over to the
skipper's house an' tryin' to cheer up the lady what come off the wrack!
'Save the skipper,' says Mary, the eyes o' her like lumps o' ice on the
coast in June. 'Save him from the drunk dog wid the gun, even if it bes
the death o' yerselves.' Aye, that bes what Mary Kavanagh said to
us--an' here we bes, skipper."

"Mary bes a good girl," said the skipper. Then he laughed harshly and
slapped Bill Brennen on the back.

"Me brains bes still in me head an' me hands on the ends o' me two
arms," he exclaimed; "but what bes happenin' to Dick Lynch, I wonder? If
ever he comes back--but he'll not dare! Aye, ye kin lay to that. He'd as
soon jump into hell wid the divil as come back now to Chance Along.
Maybe he'll be losin' himself like Foxey Jack Quinn went an' done wid
himself. Aye, lads, fools kin tell as how me luck bes gone--but the
saints themselves bes wid me, drivin' me enemies out o' Chance Along
widout me so much as havin' to kill one o' them!"

"Sure, skipper, it looks that way, an' no mistake," said Bill Brennen.
"The saints be wid ye for the kind heart ye has for helpless women an'
childer, an' for yer love o' Father McQueen, an' for the work ye bes at
to build the little church; but most of all, skipper, for the kind heart
o' ye to every helpless woman an' child."

A scowl, or was it a shadow, crossed Black Dennis Nolan's face at that.

"Sure, a kind heart bes a grand t'ing," he said,--"and so bes sharp wits
an' hard hands!"

They turned and went down the path. Mother Nolan met the skipper just
inside the door, with the big wooden spoon from the stew-pot dripping in
her hand. Her black eyes looked blacker and keener than usual as they
met those of her grandson.

"So here ye be, safe back from Witless Bay," she said. "Ye didn't waste
a minute, Denny."

"Sure I didn't," returned the skipper, quickly. "It beed fair weather
an' fair goin' all the way an' one little letter bain't much o' a pack
to tote. How be ye all, Granny? How bes the lass from the wrack?"

"Grand altogether," said the old woman, returning to the stove and the
pot of stew.

"Aye," said young Cormick, "she was singin' to-day fit to drag the heart
o' ye out t'rough yer ears. Sure, Denny, if ye heard a fairy singin'
'twould sound no grander!"

"Aye, like a fairy," agreed the old woman, wagging her head. "I bain't
wonderin' a mite at how she brought the salt tears a-hoppin' out o' the
eyes o' the blessed Queen herself! An' she was that happy, Denny,
a-t'inkin' o' how her letter to up-along was safe an' sure on its way,
that didn't she have Pat Kavanagh down wid his fiddle, an' atween the
two o' 'em they made the finest music was ever heard on this coast. Her
heart bes fair set on up-along, Denny, an' on what she calls her career,
meanin' songs an' glory an' money an' her name on the lips o' men."

The skipper was silent for a moment after that, staring at the floor. He
raised his eyes to the old woman and found that she was gazing at him
fixedly.

"Sure, an' why for not?" he said. "An' what bes she doin' now?"

"Sleepin'," replied Mother Nolan. "Sleepin' an' dreamin' o' up-along an'
all her grand friends."

A scowl darkened the skipper's eyes and brow, but he had no remark to
make on the matter of the lady's dreams. He threw aside his outer coat,
ate his supper, smoked his pipe, and at last retired to his bed. In the
meantime, Nick Leary had taken word to Pat and Mary Kavanagh that the
skipper was home in Chance Along, safe and sound, having missed Dick
Lynch by shaping his course westward to spy out timber. Mary's face
brightened at the news. Pat glanced at her, then nodded his tangled head
toward Leary.

"The skipper bes still alive an' the letter bes gone on its way," he
said. "So, come spring, they be takin' that singin' lady wid the eyes o'
magic away from Chance Along. Maybe they'll be comin' for her widout
waitin' for spring? She bes a wonder at the singin', an' no mistake--the
best I ever hear in all me v'yages into foreign ports. An' the looks o'
her! Holy saints, they bain't scarce human!"

Nick Leary grinned through his bandage.

"Aye, Pat, ye've got the discarnin' eye in yer head--ye an' the
skipper," he said. "However the skipper kep' himself away from Chance
Along for t'ree entire days, wid herself a-singin' an' a-flashin' her
eyes right in his own house, bes a puzzle to me. Aye, sure it do, for
didn't I see her put the spell o' women on to him the very first minute
she opened her eyes at him on the fore-top o' the wrack."

"Leave the skipper be, Nick Leary," said Mary. "Never half a word would
ye be sayin' if he could hear ye. Leave him an' his business be. He bes
a good friend to ye--aye, an' to every soul in the harbor who don't
cross him."

"Sure, Mary, I bain't meanin' naught," returned Nick. "Sure he bes a
good friend to me!"

Pat Kavanagh smiled and took up his fiddle and his bow. His hands were
still for a minute, and then the instrument began to sigh and trill. The
sounds gathered in strength, soared high, then thinned and sank to no
more than the whisper of a tune--and then Pat began to sing. This is
part of what he sang:--

    "Come all ye hardy fishermen
      An' harken to me song,
    O' how the mermaid from the wrack
      Come ashore in Chance Along.

    "Her eyes was like the sea in June,
      Her lips was like a rose,
    Her voice was like a fairy bell
      A-ringin' crost the snows.

    "The Skipper he forgot the wrack,
      Forgot the waves a-rollin',
    For she had put the witchy spell
      On Skipper Dennis Nolan.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "Come all ye hardy fishermen
      An' larn from this me song,
    To turn yer eyes the other way
      To the girls from up-along."

"Yer songs get more foolish every day, father dear," said Mary.

"Sure, Pat, Mary bes right," said Leary. "Ye sings as if the girls in
Chance Along hadn't so much as one eye in the heads o' the entire crew
o' them. Now I bes t'inkin' as how there bes a girl in this harbor wid
eyes an' lips----"

"Sure, Nick, yer thoughts bes no better nor father's songs," interrupted
Mary.




CHAPTER XIII

BILL BRENNEN PREACHES LOYALTY


Black Dennis Nolan was permitted an interview with Miss Flora Lockhart
in the afternoon following his return to Chance Along. The singer was
sitting up in a chair by the fire, wrapped about in her own silk
dressing-gown, which had been brought ashore from the wreck, and in an
eiderdown quilt. Her plentiful, soft, brown hair was arranged in a
manner new to Chance Along, and stuck through with a wonderful comb of
amber shell and gold, and a pin with a jewelled hilt. The ornaments for
the hair had been supplied by Mother Nolan, who had possessed them for
the past thirty years, hidden away in the bottom of a nunney-bag. Her
own son, the late skipper, had salvaged them from a wreck. Flora had her
own rings on her tapering fingers. There was color in her flawless
cheeks, her wonderful eyes were bright and clear, and her lips were red.
She smiled at the skipper when Mother Nolan ushered him into the room.

"It was very, very kind of you to take my letter all the way to the
post-office with your own hand," she said. Her bell-like voice was
generous and sincere. "I wish I could reward you for all you have done
for me, Mr. Nolan. But how can I--except in my heart? You are so rich
and proud, I am afraid to offer you money." Here there was a playful
note in her voice which the skipper detected. So she was making fun of
his wealth and his pride. His dark face flushed with several disturbing
emotions. To be addressed by the title of "mister" added to his
discomfort. There were no misters in Chance Along--or anywhere on the
coast, except the Methodist preacher in Bay Bulls, away to the north. He
was skipper--or just Denny Nolan. He was skipper of Chance Along--not a
preacher and not the mate of a foreign-going ship.

"Sure, it bain't no great trip to Witless Bay an' back agin," he
mumbled, staring at the girl in the big chair. The light that entered
the room from the gray afternoon, by way of the small window, was more
of a shadow than an illumination. The red fire in the wide chimney
warmed a little of it, painted the low ceiling and touched the girl's
eyes with a sunset tint. The skipper shuffled his feet on a rag mat and
crumpled his cap between his big hands. He felt like a slave--aye, and
something of a rogue--here in his own house. But he tried to brace
himself with the thought that he was master of the situation.

"Please sit down and talk to me, Mr. Nolan," said Flora.

The skipper glanced around the room. Mother Nolan had gone, leaving the
door ajar behind her. A small wooden stool stood near the fire, directly
across it from Flora. The skipper advanced to the stool and sat down,
the thumping of his heart sounding in his ears like the strokes of a
sledgehammer on wood. For a moment the sight of his strong eyes was
veiled by a mist--by an inner mist smoking up from the heat and
commotion of his blood. When his sight cleared he saw the beautiful
young woman regarding him with a slight smile on her red lips and in her
wonderful eyes. There was inquiry in the smile--yes, and pity and
amusement were in it, too. The young man felt short of breath and at the
same time a choking sensation as of uncomfortable fulness of the lungs.
He stared across at her like one spellbound. The girl's glance wavered,
but her smile deepened. A brief note of laughter, like a chime of glass
bells, parted her lips.

"Dear me, you look very tragic," she said. "You look as if you saw a
ghost."

The skipper started violently and turned his face to the fire. He
laughed huskily, then got to his feet and looked down at her with the
firelight red as blood in his black eyes. Suddenly he groaned, stooped
and snatched up one of her white, bejewelled hands. He pressed it
passionately to his lips, crushing the delicate fingers with his. For a
second or two the singer was far too amazed and horrified to speak or
act; then, recovering suddenly, she wrenched her hand free and struck
him on the cheek. He flung his head back and stood straight. A short,
thin, red line showed beneath his right eye where a diamond in one of
her rings had scratched the skin.

"How dare you?" she cried, her voice trembling and her face colorless.
"Go away! You forget--who I am! You are a coward!"

The skipper did not flinch, his eyes did not waver. She was but a woman,
after all, for all her talk of queens and fame. He had kissed her
hand--and she had struck him. Well? He was rich. He would marry
her--and she would soon learn to love him. He looked down at her with a
smile on his lips and the light of mastery in his black eyes.

"Go away--you coward!" she cried. Then she hid her face in her hands and
began to sob. Tears glinted between her fingers, beside the diamonds. At
that moment Mother Nolan entered and clutched her grandson by the elbow.

"Get out wid ye, ye great hulkin' fool!" she exclaimed. "Oh, I seed ye
a-clawin' at her little hand. An' now ye've set her to weepin', ye great
lump! Bain't there a drop o' wits in yer head? Don't ye know yer place,
Denny Nolan, ye ignorant fisherman, a-pawin' at the likes o' her?"

The skipper felt shame at sight of Flora's tears and anger at his
grandmother's humiliating words. There was a bitter edge to her voice
that was new to him, and her lean old fingers pinched into his flesh
like fingers of iron.

"Sure, I bes mad," he said. "'Twas only a trick, anyhow--an' I did no
harm. There bain't naught for ye to be cryin' about."

He strode from the room, with old Mother Nolan still clinging to his
elbow. When they reached the kitchen she loosed her clutch on his elbow.

"Denny Nolan, ye bes a fool!" she exclaimed. "Saints presarve us, Denny,
what would ye be doin' wid a sprite the like o' her, wid a heart all
full entirely o' gold an' diamonds an' queens an' kings?--an' girls in
this very harbor, ye great ninney, wid red woman hearts in their
breasts!"

The skipper stared at her for a second, muttered an oath, crushed his
fur cap on his head and went out into the gray twilight, slamming the
door behind him. He blundered his way up the path at the back of the
harbor and held on, blindly, to the westward.

"Sure, now she'll be frighted o' me all the time," he muttered. "I was a
fool to fright her so! Maybe now she'll never be marryin' wid me at all.
The divil was into me! Aye, the divil himself!"

He came presently to a group of his men working in a belt of timber, and
this encounter brought him back to affairs of the common day. Grabbing
an axe from young Peter Leary, he set to with a fury of effort and
unheeding skill that brought the slim spruces flapping to earth. Men had
to jump to save themselves from being crushed. The white chips flew in
the gray twilight; and Bill Brennen wondered what imp's claw had marked
the skipper under the eyes and crisscrossed his temper.

The weather continued cold, cloudless and windless throughout the next
three days. During that time the skipper made no effort to see Flora,
but was abroad from sun-up to sun-down with the men, cutting out timber
for the little church as if his life depended on it. No sight or sound
of Dick Lynch came back to the harbor. This gave Bill Brennen an
argument in favor of loyalty to the skipper. He preached it to the men,
and it made a great impression on their simple though dangerous natures.

"There was Foxey Jack Quinn," he said. "Jack hated the skipper like we
hates sea-water in our rum. Didn't he try to kill him--t'row him over
the cliff--an' didn't the skipper put the comather on to him? An' then
he tips and busts into the skipper's house, wid the intention o'
t'iefing the money--an' where bes Foxey Jack Quinn this minute? The
saints only knows!--or maybe the divil could tell ye! An' there was Dick
Lynch. Dick ups an' crosses the skipper in the store, an' gets his head
broke. Nex', he raises a mutiny agin the skipper an' slips his knife
into a mate. Nex', he fills himself up wid rum an' sets out wid his
swilin'-gun to blow the skipper's head away! An' where bes Dick Lynch
this minute? Aye, where bes he! Tell me that, if ye kin--I don't know,
an' ye don't know, an' the skipper himself don't know. But the saints
knows!--or maybe it bes the divil himself could tell ye! Anyhow, all the
luck o' this harbor bes wid the skipper an' wid them as stands true wid
him. Aye, ye kin lay to that! His enemies blink out like a spark
floatin' up in the air. B'ys, stick wid the skipper! He feeds ye like
marchants. Already every man o' ye has more gold stored away nor ye ever
see afore in all yer life, an' come spring the skipper'll be freightin'
yer jewels, an' the cargo out o' the last wrack, north to St. John's,
an' sellin' 'em for ye. Would ye have salved 'em widout the skipper? No.
Would ye be able for to freight 'em to St. John's widout himself an' his
fore-an'-after? No. An' neither would ye be able to sell 'em even if ye
could freight 'em! Stand true to Black Dennis Nolan, b'ys, an' ye'll all
be fat an' rich as marchants, wid never the need to wet a line at the
fishin'."

Dick Lynch had gone away drunk; but not so drunk as to have forgotten
to take food and a blanket with him, and to stow away on his person his
share of the gold from the _Durham Castle_. His inflamed mind must have
held a doubt as to the certainty of meeting and disposing of the
skipper.

After the long spell of fine weather another "flurry" swirled out of the
west, and sent the men of Chance Along into their cabins, to eat and
drink and spin yarns and keep the fires roaring in the little, round
stoves and blackened chimneys. Throughout the first day of storm the
skipper sat by the stove in his kitchen, talking pleasantly enough to
Mother Nolan and Cormick, figuring on the plans for the church which
Father McQueen had left with him, but with never a question about Flora
Lockhart. He was something of a dissembler, was the skipper--when his
blood was cool. Mother Nolan spoke once of the girl, saying that the
loneliness of Chance Along was eating her poor heart; but the skipper
gave no heed to it. On the morning of the second day of the storm, after
Mother Nolan had carried tea, bacon and toast to the singer and was
eating her own breakfast with her grandsons, the inner door opened and
Flora herself entered the kitchen. The three looked up at her in
amazement. The skipper was the first to lower his eyes.

"Good mornin' to ye," he said, and went on with his breakfast.

"Oh, I am so dull and lonely," exclaimed the girl. "This terrible storm
frightens me. Why must I stay in that dreary room all by myself?"

"Ye be welcome to the entire house, ye poor dear," said Mother Nolan.
"But has ye et yer breakfast?"

"Not yet. The storm howled so in the chimney that I was too frightened
to eat. Mayn't I bring it out here and eat it with you--and listen to
you talking?" begged Flora.

"Sure ye kin. Set right down an' I'll fetch yer tray," said Mother
Nolan.

"Aye, that ye kin--an' welcome ye be as June," said the skipper quietly.

The singer glanced at him shyly, uncertainly, with a question in her
beautiful eyes.

"You are very kind--you are all very kind," she said. "I fear that I was
very--rude to you, Mr. Nolan. I--I struck you--but you were rough. And
I--called you names--which I did not mean."

"Let it pass," said the skipper, gazing at the bacon on his plate. "I
bes rough, as ye say. It bes the way I was born an' bred. But I was
meanin' no disrespect to ye, as the holy saints be me jedges. Sure I--I
couldn't help meself!"

So it happened that Miss Flora Lockhart ate her breakfast beside the
kitchen stove with Mother Nolan, the skipper and young Cormick. The way
she ate was a wonder to watch, all so easy and quiet and polite. Mother
Nolan wagged her head over it, as much as to say that such table manners
would bring no good to such a place as Chance Along, and young Cormick
could do nothing but stare at the beautiful stranger. She talked
brightly, with the evident intention to please. It was her nature to
want to impress people favorably toward her--and after all, she owed a
great deal to these people and, for a few weeks longer at least, was
entirely in their power. She saw that the skipper was a strong man--a
man to be feared--and that her charms had ensnared his wild heart.
Therefore she must play the game artfully with him instead of continuing
the crude and honest method of slaps in the face. She believed that he
would prove harmless and docile if skilfully handled, but as dangerous
as a wounded animal if insulted and rebuffed.

After breakfast she asked for Pat Kavanagh. She did not remember his
name, but spoke of him as the funny old fellow with the violin and the
wooden leg.

"If he were here we could have a fine concert," she said, "and forget
all about the terrible wind and snow whirling around the house." Her
laughing face was turned to the skipper.

"Sure then, Pat bes the lad we wants," said the skipper, grinning like
one entranced by a glimpse of heaven itself. There was a golden vision
in his head, poor fool, of this beautiful creature sitting beneath his
roof for all time, her red lips and wonderful eyes always laughing at
him, her silvery voice forever telling him to forget the storm outside.
The future looked to him like a state of bliss such as one sometimes
half-sees, half-feels, in dreams.

"I'll go fetch him an' his fiddle," he said, pulling on his heavy
jumper.

"Now don't ye be losin' yerself in the flurry," continued Mother Nolan.

"It bes nought, Granny," returned the skipper. "Sure I kin feel me way
on me hands an' knees."

It took him fifteen minutes to find Pat Kavanagh's shanty and locate the
door of it, so blinding and choking was the storm. He pushed the door
open, stumbled into the warmth, and slammed the timbers shut behind him.
Mary was sewing beside the stove, and Pat was mumbling over the first
verse of a new "come-all-ye." They looked up at the skipper in
astonishment.

"What the divil bes troublin' ye, Denny Nolan, to fetch ye out o' yer
own house sich a day as this?" demanded the ex-sailorman. "Bes there
anything the matter wid that grand young lady from up-along?"

The skipper removed his cap and with it beat the snow from his limbs and
body. He breathed heavily from his struggle with the storm. Mary eyed
him anxiously, her hands idle in her lap.

"I's come to fetch yer over to me own house--ye an' yer fiddle," said
Nolan.

"The divil ye has!" retorted Pat Kavanagh. "Saints presarve ye, lad,
what kind o' rum has ye bin a-drinkin' of this mornin' already?"

"Herself bes wantin' ye, Pat--ye an' yer fiddle, for to have a concert
wid," said the skipper, with childlike trust and delight in his voice.

"Skipper, dear, would ye be haulin' me an' me wooden leg out into sich a
desperate flurry as this here?" inquired Pat, aghast. "Saints be good to
ye, skipper, but I'd die in me tracks!"

Some of the foolish delight went out of Nolan's face. His lips closed
and his black eyes began to glint like moonshine on new ice.

"It bain't no more nor a step or two," he said. "If ye can't walk it
yerself, Pat,--ye an' yer wooden leg,--then I kin tote ye on me back."

"Sure ye kin go, father; an' I'll be goin' along wid the two o' ye,"
said Mary. "The poor lass bes wantin' amusement, an' it be but right for
us all to give it her. Music an' a concert she bes wantin' to keep up
her poor little heart agin the storm. Sure, an' why not? Did ye think
for her--a slip o' a grand concert-singer from up-along--to have a heart
for the wind an' snows o' Chance Along?"

Pat grumbled. The skipper looked at Mary.

"There bain't nothin' wrong wid her heart," he said.

"Sure there bain't," agreed Mary. "Her poor little heart bes jist sick
to death o' Chance Along--an' what else would ye look for? Sprees an'
company she must be havin', day after day, an' night after night, like
what she has always had. It bes our duty to amuse her, father, an' feed
her an' nurse her, till her grand folks up-along takes her away."

The skipper was not altogether satisfied with Mary's words. They did not
seem to voice his own ideas on the subject at all, though they were
evidently intended to agree with his attitude toward the singer. They
had a back-snap to them that he mistrusted.

Half an hour later all three were safe in the skipper's kitchen,
breathless and coated with snow. Flora welcomed Mary with a kiss.

"What a beauty you are," she exclaimed.

Mary's rosy cheeks deepened in color at the praise, and a shadow came
out from the depths of her gray eyes. Mother Nolan saw all this, though
she seemed to be very busy with getting poor Pat and his wooden leg into
a chair.

Well, a punch was brewed, and Pat played on his fiddle, and Flora
Lockhart sang as no one but herself ever sang before on that coast--yes,
or anywhere else in the whole island of Newfoundland. The wonder of her
singing even set young Cormick's heart to aching with nameless and
undreamed of aches. As for the skipper, he looked as if the fairies had
caught him for sure!




CHAPTER XIV

DICK LYNCH MEETS MR. DARLING


In Chance Along the wintry days and weeks crawled by, with cold and
thaw, wind, snow and fog. Flora Lockhart waited in vain for a reply to
her letter. At last her suspicions were awakened by a word from Mother
Nolan; so she wrote another letter and gave it to the old woman. The old
woman gave it to Mary Kavanagh, and Mary in turn put it into the hands
of one of the young men of the harbor, with instructions to take it to
Witless Bay and from there send it out by mail. The young man promised
to do all this, of course.

"An' mind ye," cautioned Mary, "don't ye go an' let the skipper know
what ye bes up to."

Now this young man was one of the dozen who wanted Mary Kavanagh for a
wife. He was not brave, he was not honest; but he was as cunning as a
fox. So he thought the matter over, and soon came to the conclusion that
the game was not worth the candle. He was afraid of the skipper; and he
was content that the girl from up-along should remain in the harbor and
continue to blind the skipper's heart to the charms of Mary Kavanagh. So
he went quietly to the master, put the letter in his hands and told him
what he knew of it. Dennis Nolan destroyed the letter, and told the
young man to keep himself out of sight for the next three days. The
infatuated skipper had not yet given up hope of winning the heart of the
wonderful creature from up-along.

Late in March a French brig, bound for St. Pierre, went ashore on the
Squid Rocks to the north of Chance Along. Only two of her crew reached
the land-wash alive. They were powerful fellows, swarthy as Arabs, with
gold rings in their ears, the devil in their hearts, and a smattering of
many languages on their tongues. The gale that had driven the brig on
the Squid Rocks had interrupted them in the hatching of a mutiny against
their captain, mate and boatswain; for the brig's cargo consisted of
silks and wines for the smugglers of St. Pierre, and two chests of gold
containing the half-year's pay of the Governor, officials, and soldiers
of the little island.

Black Dennis Nolan and his men found them on the land-wash, more dead
than alive, dragged them back out of reach of the spray, and laid them
on blankets beside a fire. The brig was well in among the rocks, going
to pieces fast. After two hours of daring effort the skipper and four of
his men reached her, and found the chests of French gold in the lazaret
beneath the captain's cabin. They remained aboard the wreck for nearly
an hour before venturing shoreward with the treasure. They salvaged the
chests at last, however, placed a guard over them, and made one more
trip to the brig and back, bringing a bale or two of silk and a cask of
red wine the second time. Then the brig melted and fell to pieces before
their eyes. It was not until then that any one noticed that the two
swarthy sailors had recovered and departed, taking with them the
blankets and bottle of rum which had been employed in reviving them. The
skipper swore mightily at this discovery, knocked a few of his men
about, then had the chests of gold stowed on two hand-sleds and set out
for home in full force and at top speed. On reaching Chance Along he
learned that the two swarthy strangers had already been there, and
departed with two sealing-guns and a bag of food. The skipper sent Bill
Brennen and six men on their tracks, for he did not want the strangers
to carry out to the world the news of the wreck of the brig and the
salving of the treasure-chests. He did not follow them himself because
the chests had to be opened, and their contents divided and hidden away
immediately, and the chests themselves destroyed.

The gold was divided into forty equal parts. One part was given, or laid
aside, for every man who had been to the Squid Rocks; two parts went to
each of the men who had accompanied the skipper to the brig itself, and
four were kept by the skipper. There was no grumbling this time. The
harvest was rich beyond the wildest dream and had been fairly shared.
The money belonging to the men who had gone after the two strangers was
placed in the hands of sons, wives or fathers.

"Hide it away, men," said the skipper, "for if them two pirates gets
clear away, they'll sure be back some day wid a crew o' blackguards like
themselves, to try to t'ief all our property away from us."

Bill Brennen and his party returned before sun-down, carrying a wounded
comrade and a dead Frenchman along with them. There had been an ambush
and a fight, and one of the sailors had escaped clean away. The skipper
was in a rage; but, as the faithful Bill Brennen had commanded the party
and Nick Leary had been a member of it, he kept his hands and feet still
and let nothing fly but curses.

Now we must look around for Dick Lynch, who did not go out of this
history when he departed so boldly from Chance Along with his
sealing-gun on his shoulder. Far from it. Dick was intended for greater
things than he knew.

A week after the wreck of the French brig on the Squid Rocks, Dick Lynch
entered a public-house situated near the eastern end of Water Street,
St. John's, sat down at a table near the fire and called for rum. Though
Dick consumed much rum, he did not often buy it at this establishment;
for he roomed in Mother McKay's cottage on the hill, back of the city,
and Mother McKay kept a shebeen. To-day, however, Dick had felt that he
could stand no more of Mother McKay's liquor nor of the honest dame's
society, either. The rum was weak and harsh and the society was
distracting to his thoughts. What he wanted was matured liquor and
quiet, so that he might nail down his somewhat vague plans of returning
to Chance Along and overthrowing the skipper thereof. The hour was that
of the evening dusk. He was alone in this particular room of the _Ship
Ahoy Hotel_, but he could hear the voices of other imbibers barking and
rolling from an adjoining apartment. He gulped down half of his rum and
lit his pipe. The proprietor entered then, threw a lump of coal on the
fire and lit a ship's lantern that hung from the middle rafter. Next
moment, the outer door opened, and a man entered from the muddy street,
his sou'easter, oilskin coat and ruddy young face all agleam with
moisture.

"Good evenin' to ye, Mister Darlin'," said the proprietor. "Foul
weather, bain't it, sir?"

"Aye, Jake, foul weather it is," returned the young man, throwing aside
his dripping hat. "Bring me whiskey,--hot, with a slice of lemon in it
and a lump of sugar."

Jake departed, and Mr. Darling sat down beside the fire and pulled a
short wooden pipe from an inner pocket. In repose, his young,
clean-shaven face wore an expression of gravity that verged upon the
dismal. He filled his pipe with cut tobacco from a leather bag, lit it
and then glanced at Dick Lynch through a puff of twisting blue smoke.
He caught Dick's eyes full upon him, for that worthy had been staring at
him ever since he had removed his dripping sou'easter. He removed his
pipe from his mouth and leaned forward.

"Hullo!" he said. "I'll swear this isn't the first time I've seen that
black mug of yours, my man! But it wasn't in St. John's--an' it wasn't
aboard any ship."

Dick Lynch was of the same way of thinking, for he recognized this young
man as the officer from the _Durham Castle_, who had commanded the party
that had been left behind by Captain McTavish to guard the wreck of that
good ship. He took another swig at his glass and shifted his eyes to the
fire.

"Sure, sir, ye may be right," he said. "Was it in Harbor Grace ye seed
me?"

"No. I have never set foot in Harbor Grace," returned Mr. Darling.

"That bes my home, sir--Harbor Grace," lied Dick, cheerfully.

Just then Jake entered with Mr. Darling's toddy. He set it at the young
sailor's elbow, hoped it was entirely to his taste, and retired. Darling
sipped the toddy, puffed twice at his pipe, then fixed his keen glance
upon Lynch's face.

"Don't lie to me," he said. "Your mug is too ugly to forget easy! You
are the big, cussing pirate the savages gave the name of skipper to,
along on that devilish coast to the south where we lost the _Durham
Castle_. You are a sly fellow, and a daring one; but it will not help
you a mite to sit there and talk about your happy home in Harbor Grace
to me."

"The skipper!" exclaimed Dick Lynch, in genuine anger and dismay.
"Saints presarve ye, I'd as soon be took for the divil himself as for
Black Dennis Nolan o' Chance Along. No, sir, I bain't that tyrant,
though some folks do say as how I bes about his size and color."

"Is that so?" enquired Mr. Darling, quietly. "You are not the skipper of
Chance Along, but you look like him. Is that the way of it?"

"Aye, that bes the way of it, sir."

"You know this skipper fellow, then?"

"Aye, sir, to me cost--may the divil fly away wid him! Hasn't he bullied
me an' cheated me all me life long, the divil-possessed tyrant! Bain't
he the livin' curse o' Chance Along?"

"Chance Along, is it?" murmured Mr. Darling. "Now where the devil is
Chance Along?"

Then, raising his voice, "You don't seem to love this skipper
fellow--this Black Dennis Nolan. What is the trouble between the pair of
you?"

Dick finished his rum, eyed the other suspiciously, then stared sullenly
at the fire.

Mr. Darling smiled grimly and shouted for Jake.

"My friend will have more of the same," he said, pointing to Lynch's
empty glass. "But make it hot, Jake. This is no kind of weather for cold
liquor. Better bring the bottle right along, and the kettle and sugar
too."

Twenty minutes later Dick Lynch began to talk again, his belated caution
entirely vaporized and blown out of his somewhat inferior brain by the
fumes of hot rum, lemon and sugar.

"I knows ye, sir," he said. "Sure, didn't I know ye the minute I clapped
me two eyes on ye. Cap'n o' that big ship that come ashore in Nolan's
Cove, t'ree miles to the south o' Chance Along, ye be. An' a smart
landin' ye made, too, boat by boat, wid every mother's son o' ye wid a
gun an' a sword in his two hands. Sure, sir, ye wasn't lookin' for to
meet wid no man-killin' wrakers on _that_ coast, was ye? Saints forgive
ye, sir, the babe unborn would be safe to come ashore in Chance Along!"

John Darling smiled. "You are a sharp lad," he said. "I saw it in your
eyes that you knew me the moment I entered the room. I don't see how I
ever came to mistake a smart, well-spoken lad like you for that fellow
you call the skipper. Well, I am sorry for it. But you have made one
mistake, my lad. I wasn't the captain of that ship. I was only one of
the mates."

"Well, sir," returned Lynch, cordially, "I bain't sharp enough for to
see much difference atween a cap'n an' a mate. Ye looks like a cap'n to
me, anyhow."

He paused, poured more rum and hot water, sampled the brew and
continued.

"Now I feels it a shame, sir, the way Black Dennis Nolan made a fool o'
the lot o' ye, wid his lies about Frenchman's Cove an' Nap Harbor. Sure,
I felt desperate bad about it at the time--an' now I feels worse. Aye,
sir, worse, seein' as how ye be sich a fine, grand ginerous young
gintleman as ye be. An' then the way he ups an' takes all yer gold an'
fine jewels away from ye, an' ye t'inkin' all the time 'twas the folk o'
Nap Harbor done it!"

"Yes, it was certainly an unmannerly trick," said Darling, quietly. "I
suppose he took it all to Chance Along--gold, jewels and everything--and
kept it for himself?"

"He kep' more nor his share o' the sovereigns, ye kin lay to that, sir;
an' as for the rings an' sich fancy trinkets--well, sir, he says as how
we'll all be gettin' our share come June an' he gets 'round to St.
John's here to sell 'em. But there bain't no share for me, sir. I fit
for me rights, I did--an' here I be!"

The interview continued for another hour, and during the glowing,
rum-inspired course of it, Dick Lynch told all that he knew of Chance
Along, its manners, its skipper and its exact location. He confessed
that he had never seen a great diamond and ruby necklace, but that he
had seen a whole casket full of jewels and was willing to swear by all
the saints aloft that the casket was still in Chance Along. He did not
notice that Mr. Darling was spending all his time over one small glass
of whiskey toddy. Finding the young officer a good listener and an
agreeable companion, he went on to tell of the wreck of the _Royal
William_, of the panic in the flooded cabin, and at last of the
beautiful young woman with the voice like fairy bells and eyes like a
mermaid's eyes.

Mr. Darling sat up at that and laid his pipe on the table.

"A full-rigged ship, you say? What was her name?" he asked, anxiously.

"The name o' the ship? Well, sir, far's I kin remember it was the _Rile
Willyum_. Aye, sir, that was it."

Mr. Darling got excited. His face went dead white, then flaming red, and
he leaned forward and gripped the fingers of his right hand in Lynch's
shoulder. But Dick was too mellow and happy to object or to feel
surprise.

"And what was the lady's name?" cried Mr. Darling. "Out with it, man!
Out with it! What was _her_ name?"

"Name o' the lady? Lady's name? Her name? Sure, sir, it bes Nora."

"Nora! Don't you mean Flora?"

"Aye, Flora. Sure, sir, Flora bes what I said."

"God!" exclaimed Mr. Darling, leaning back in his chair. Dick Lynch
smiled across at him. He recovered himself in a minute.

"With a beautiful voice, you say?" he queried faintly.

"Aye, sir. Sure, didn't she sing a song afore the Queen herself,"
returned Dick.

"It is Flora!" cried the other. "My God, it is Flora!" Then gripping
Lynch again, "Did you say--did you say she--she is--well?" he whispered.

"Sure, I telled ye she bes well," replied the befuddled fisherman.
"Well, d'ye say? Aye, she bes plump as a pa'tridge, a-livin' on the fat
o' the land--the fat o' all the wracks that comes up from the sea. An' a
beauty she bes, altogether. Saints presarve ye, sir, she bes the
beautifulest female woman ever come ashore on that coast. She was
desperate bad wid the fever, was Nora, when first the skipper took her
home wid him; but now she bes plump as a young swile, sir, an' too
beautiful entirely for the likes o' meself to look at."

Mr. Darling's face went white again.

"The skipper?" he asked, huskily. "For God's sake, man, what are you
saying? Why does she stay in Chance Along? What has she to do with that
damned big black beast you call the skipper?"

"Now you bes a-gettin' excited, sir, all along o' that Nora girl,"
protested Dick Lynch. "She bes a-livin' wid Mother Nolan, in the
skipper's own house. The skipper bes figgerin' on coaxin' of her 'round
to marry wid him; but I hears, sir, as how she telled him as how she'd
marry no poor, ignorant, dacent fisherman at all, but a king wid a
golden crown on his head. Aye, sir, that bes the trut'. The likes o' she
be well able to keep Black Denny Nolan in his place."

"Thank God!" exclaimed Mr. Darling, sitting back in his chair again.

Dick Lynch eyed him with drunken cunning.

"Ye knows that grand young woman, sir?" he queried.

"Yes," said Mr. Darling. "She crossed to London aboard my ship three
years ago. We--we were good friends."

"Aye, ye would be," returned Dick with a drunken leer. And then,
lurching forward, "Ye'll be makin' a trip 'round to Chance Along I bes
t'inkin', sir, to put the comather on to this Dennis Nolan? Sure, an'
why not? The dirty squid bes as full o' gold an' riches as any marchant.
I'll be goin' along wid ye, sir--if ye gives me two pistols an' takes
two yerself. I'll show ye where the harbor bes, an' his own house wid
Nora in it--an' all. If we gets to the harbor quiet, about the middle o'
the night, we'll shoot the skipper in his bed, the black divil, afore he
kin so much as lay a curse on to us. I bes wid ye, sir. Ye kin trust
Dick Lynch as ye would yer own mother."

Mr. Darling said that he had a great deal of business to attend to in
the city, but that he would meet Dick Lynch in this very room, at nine
o'clock in the morning, five days later. He did not mean a word of it,
for he would not have trusted that worthy any farther than he could have
thrown him over his shoulder. But he arranged the meeting and promised
to supply plenty of pistols for the expedition. Then he said good night
and went out of the warm room and fumes of rum to the mud and driving
sleet of the night, leaving Dick Lynch smiling to himself at thought of
what his enemy, the skipper, would say when he woke up in bed some fine
morning and found himself dead.




CHAPTER XV

MR. DARLING SETS OUT ON A JOURNEY


This John Darling was no ordinary shell-back. His father was an English
parson, his uncle a Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, and his eldest
brother a commander in the Royal Navy. John was poor in worldly gear,
however, and had recently been third officer of the _Durham Castle_. Now
he was without a berth, and was making a bid for fortune of an unusual
and adventurous kind. In London, Sir Ralph Harwood had made him a
private offer of one thousand pounds for the recovery of the necklace of
diamonds and rubies. Darling had landed in St. John's, on his quest,
about six days before his meeting with Dick Lynch. Upon landing he had
learned at the Merchants' Club that the _Royal William_, bound for New
York from London, was reported lost. She had foundered in mid-ocean or
had been shattered upon some desolate coast. The underwriters had paid
up like men--and both the American and English press had lamented the
tragic fate of Miss Flora Lockhart, the young New York singer, who had
so lately won fame in London.

Darling had taken the news of Flora's terrible fate keenly to heart. He
had crossed the ocean with her three years before; and she had haunted
his dreams, waking and sleeping, ever since. Though he had always felt
that his devotion was hopeless, it was no less real for that. And now,
from a drunken fisherman, he had learned that she was alive, in good
health, and a captive!

Mr. Darling went straight to his own hotel from the _Ship Ahoy_. He
cleaned his pistols, made a rough map of the east coast, south of
Witless Bay, from the information obtained from Dick Lynch, packed a
couple of saddle-bags, rolled up a pair of blankets and sent for the
landlord. From the landlord he obtained change for two five-pound Bank
of England notes, information concerning the road from St. John's to the
head of Witless Bay, and hired a horse.

Mr. Darling set out on his adventurous journey after an early breakfast
eaten by candle-light. He felt courageous, invincible. He would rescue
the lady of his long sea-dreams from that black-faced, black-hearted
pirate who was called the skipper of Chance Along. In the flush of this
determination the necklace was forgotten. So confident was he of
success, and so intent upon picturing the rescue of that beautiful
creature who had bewitched him three long, varied sailor-years ago, that
he had covered several miles of his journey before noticing the
stumblings and gruntings of the ill-conditioned beast between his knees.
He departed from the city by way of a road leading westward from the
head of the harbor. This he followed for three miles, through slush and
half-frozen mud, then turned to the left. He forced his horse into a
trot. It pecked badly, and he shot over its bowed head and landed in a
mud-hole. Scrambling to his feet he noticed for the first time the gaunt
ribs, heaving flanks and swollen legs of his steed. He swore heartily,
seized the bridle and dragged the horse forward. The road was
indescribable. Mud, slush and icy water took him to the knee at every
step; but he plugged manfully forward, dragging the protesting horse
after him. So for an hour, across the barren rise of land to the
southward, after which he remounted and rode at the best speed he could
command until the horse stumbled again and again unseated him.
Undaunted, Mr. Darling took his turn on foot again, dragging the puffing
beast along at his muddy heels. The way was nothing but a muddy track
across a desolate barren. It curved steadily to the left and at last
brought him in sight of the irregular coast and the gray sea. By noon he
had reached a miserable, dirty shebeen; and here he dried himself,
sheltered and fed his horse and ate from his own provisions. He rested
there for two hours (for his horse's sake rather than his own), and then
mounted, threw a couple of shillings to the keeper of the house and
continued on his way. He studied the coast-line intently as he
floundered along. He saw that most of the shore ice had melted or broken
away from the land-wash. Plans for the rescue of Flora Lockhart were
taking shape in his mind. Beyond a doubt the rescue would have to be
made by water; and so he studied every sheltered haven and surf-footed
cape as he worked his heroic way southward, now plunging in his
precarious saddle, now plunging with his own legs in the mire.

The figure of another wayfarer came in sight early in the afternoon. The
stranger was on foot. He wore a red blanket round his shoulders and
carried a long gun of ancient pattern. He was a big fellow with a
swarthy face and bad eyes, and his ears were adorned with gold rings.
Mr. Darling did not relish the fellow's looks, and so passed him without
halting, alert, with his right hand on the butt of a pistol in his
pocket. This picturesque ruffian was heading northward. After passing
Mr. Darling he turned and glanced back several times, his interest
doubtless attracted by the respectability of the other's appearance and
the bulging saddle-bags. But he did not stop. Neither did he return. The
young man with the old horse looked to him like a fighter--and even if
the saddle-bags were stuffed with gold they would prove but a flea bite
to the stake which he had in mind.

Mr. Darling and his encumbering steed reached Raggedy Cove about an hour
after sunset. Mr. Darling was in good heart and, thanks to fine lungs
and muscles, and a flawless constitution, was as fit in body as spirit.
He found a bed for himself and a stable for the horse, and an old man
full of information concerning the quickest and easiest way to get to
Witless Bay. This was by water, said the old man. His own son George was
going south along the coast next morning, in a bully. So Darling
boarded the bully next morning, leaving his horse with the old man.
George, the navigator of the bully, was an inquisitive young man; but
his eyes were steady and his face honest. In spite of his prying
questions, he won Mr. Darling's good-will by the way he handled his
boat. Of all branches of human skill, that of seamanship appealed most
strongly to John Darling's heart and head. He respected a smart sailor
just as intensely as he despised a bungling one. He was an unusually
fine sailor himself, and could handle any vessel, large or small, as
easily as he could navigate it. So he answered a few of the fisherman's
questions good-naturedly, and asked a great many in return. George Wick
had heard of Chance Along, but had never been there. And why should he
have been there? Nobody ever went to Chance Along. Yes, he had once seen
Black Dennis Nolan.

"'Twas back in September, sir," he said. "Sure, didn't he put into
Raggedy Cove one night--him an' his fore-an'-after--bound from St.
John's, wid a freight o' grub an' gear. But what business would ye be
havin' wid the likes o' him, sir?"

Darling ignored the question and asked another. No, George Wick was not
familiar with the coast south of Witless Bay; but he had always heard
that it was a desperate bad coast.

"What is your business in Witless Bay?" asked Darling.

The young fisherman pointed to four boxes of plug tobacco in the bottom
of the bully.

"They bes for Skipper Walsh," he said. "I trades 'em for fish, an' then
I heads back for Raggedy Cove."

"If you will sail me right around to Chance Along I will pay you well
for it," said Darling. "My business in Chance Along is important--yes,
very important. It would be worth five sovereigns to you, my man--that
little trip."

George Wick looked interested, but shook his head.

"It bes a bad coast, sir," he said, "an' clean unbeknownst to me. An'
now it would be desperate, sir, what wid the ice a-chokin' all the
little coves so ye couldn't run in from a squall o' wind, sir."

"The shore-ice is gone, as you can see for yourself, and the drift-ice
will not be down this way until near June," replied Darling. "But don't
make any more excuses, George. You are not the man I want, anyway, for
I see that you are no good for anything but asking questions. I'll be
able to find some lad in Witless Bay, with a boat of some sort, who
isn't afraid of the coast to the southward."

George Wick sulked for a few minutes, then asked, "What bes yer business
wid Black Dennis Nolan, anyhow, sir? Bes ye a constable, sir, or
anything like that?"

"My business is of a private nature," replied Mr. Darling. "I am a
sailor, not a constable--an officer of the Merchant Marine."

"Aye, sir, I knowed ye for a sailor," said the other; "but there was a
crew of constables along this way back in November, rigged out like
fishermen an' swearin' as how they _was_ fishermen. They went south; an'
they soon come back wid empty hands. We was all t'inkin' in Raggedy Cove
as how some vessel had maybe bin broke up afore it was deserted by the
crew, as is the custom wid some folks in some harbors. An' when I see ye
wid business in Chance Along, sir--well, Black Dennis Nolan do surely
look to me like a man who'd be breakin' into a ship widout waitin' for
her crew to desart her."

Mr. Darling smiled. "You are a smart man, George Wick," he said.

The bully rounded into Witless Bay and worked up to the settlement at
the head of it without accident. Wick handed over his tobacco to Skipper
Walsh; and then, with an eye on Mr. Darling, said he would call in a few
days later for his trade of fish. Darling nodded, and purchased tea,
hard-bread and bacon from the skipper. Later, he and George filled a
small keg with water and put it aboard, and bought two sealing-guns and
a supply of powder and slugs. They headed down the bay at the first gray
wash of dawn. After three hours of hauling across the wind they rounded
the southern headland of the bay. They made an easting of more than a
mile before heading due south. Mr. Darling took the tiller now, and
George manned the sheet. Darling produced a pair of marine glasses and
the chart which he had made from information received from Dick Lynch.
They skirted a lee-shore and had to beat up to windward again and again
to clear themselves. Before sunset they ran into a tiny, sheltered cove
and made camp.

It was shortly after noon of the next day that Mr. Darling, diligently
scrutinizing the shore through his glasses, saw something that caught
his attention. He edged the bully in and looked again.

"By heaven, it is a man's leg!" he exclaimed. He passed the glasses
forward to Wick and pointed the direction.

"Sure," said Wick. "Sure, sir, it bes some poor divil wid a skinnywopper
on his leg--so it bain't nobody from a wrack, ye kin lay to that."

They ran the bully shoreward and lowered the sail. Darling sprang to the
land-wash and found the battered body of a man wedged tight between two
icy rocks at the foot of the cliff. It was frozen stiff; but it was
evident that it had not always been frozen. The crabs had found it, and
even the heavy clothing was torn to strips. Mr. Darling stooped and took
a little, red-bound casket from the torn breast. With his back to George
Wick he opened it with trembling fingers. The diamonds and rubies of
Lady Harwood's necklace flashed up at him!




CHAPTER XVI

MR. DARLING ARRIVES IN CHANCE ALONG


Mr. John Darling stood spellbound for a full half-minute, gazing down at
the flaming, flashing gems coiled in their silken bed. He was aroused
from his wonder and wild conjecture by the voice of George Wick.

"What bes the trouble, sir?" called the fisherman, who was busy fending
the bully off the rocks. "Who bes it, anyhow? It bain't no friend o'
yerself, sir, surely?"

Darling shut the casket and slipped it into an inner breast-pocket of
his reefer. He turned slowly toward the sea and the boat, with a studied
expression of puzzled pity on his face.

"Some poor fellow who has stepped off the cliff," he said. "I never saw
him before--but the sight of him shook me a bit. He has been here quite
awhile, I should say--yes, through thaw and frost, frost and thaw. Aye,
and the crabs have been at him, poor devil! I suppose we should bury
him; but there is no place here to dig a grave."

"Come aboard, sir! Come aboard wid ye!" exclaimed Wick, in a trembling
voice. "It bain't no affair of our'n, sir--an' there bes the divil's own
luck in finding a dead man unexpected."

Mr. Darling crossed the land-wash without another word, waded knee-deep
into the tide, and climbed aboard the boat. George Wick poled the bully
clear of the surf with one of the oars, then jumped forward and hoisted
the red sail. Darling drew his chart from his pocket, examined it, then
raised his glasses and studied the coast-line to the southward. The wind
was light, but dead on shore. The bully hauled across it cleverly. A
whitish gray haze stood along the sky-line to the east.

"We'll be havin' thick weather afore sun-down, sir, wid this wind
holdin'," said Wick.

Darling nodded. "We must be getting pretty close to Chance Along," he
said. "Yes, there is smoke. Can you see it?"

George could not make it out with his unassisted eyes, but through the
glasses he saw the blue reek of wood-smoke above a distant point of the
coast easily enough. An hour later the bully threaded the rocks off
Squid Beach. Dick Lynch had spoken of these rocks when the rum was warm
in his head, in the tap-room of the _Ship Ahoy_, and Darling had marked
them on his chart.

"We are within two miles of it," said Darling, his voice husky with
emotion at thought of Flora Lockhart.

George Wick turned his face toward the east and the white wall of fog
that now rolled upon the gray water within a mile of the coast.

"Aye, sir; but we'll not be makin' it afore the fog catches us," he
replied.

"That will not bother my plans," said Darling. "I don't intend to sail
right into Chance Along, anyway. I want to pay a surprise visit. We'll
find a bit of a cove along here somewhere, I think."

He was right. About a mile and a half beyond the Squid Rocks they found
a little sheltered cove that was no more than a pocket in the cliff. The
beach was narrow, and a glance disclosed the fact that at every full
tide it was entirely submerged; but a "drook" or a narrow cleft, thickly
grown with hardy bushes, led up from the land-wash to the barrens above.
They lowered the sail and nosed their way into the cove. The streaming
skirmishers of the fog were over them by this time. They beached the
bully at the foot of the drook and made her fast.

"Keep everything aboard, and make yourself snug," said Mr. Darling.
"Watch the tide. Haul in and back off with it; and, whatever you do, lie
low and keep quiet. I am going to take a look at Chance Along--on the
sly, you understand. You'll know all about it later. Don't worry if I
don't get back within the next two or three hours."

"Ye bes after Black Dennis Nolan, sir," said Wick.

Mr. Darling nodded, placed two loaded pistols in his pocket and vanished
up the tangled slope of the drook. Wick listened to the upward
scrambling until it suddenly died away and fog and silence covered him
deep like a flood. Then he filled and lit his pipe and sat down in the
shelter of a tarpaulin to think it over. He sensed danger in the blind
choking air. He felt anxiety for his companion and fear for himself; but
curiosity and a natural courage fortified him to a certain degree.

Upon reaching the level of the barrens, Mr. Darling stood motionless for
a little while and listened intently to the vague, fog-muffled
breathing of the sea below him. He could hear nothing else. Turning to
the south he moved silently forward along a well-worn path that traced
the edge of the cliff. The fog was dense, and there was just enough wind
to keep it drifting in from the sea. Darling held a boat-hook in his
right hand and kept his eyes and ears alert. He heard a dog bark
somewhere in front of him in the whitish-gray obscurity. Presently he
came to where the path kinked and sloped down among a jumble of rocks,
and at the same moment he caught the pungent, comforting smell of
wood-smoke on the fog. Then he knew that Chance Along--the roof which
sheltered Flora Lockhart--lay hidden and dripping beneath him. He was
about to commence a cautious descent of the path, when a clamor of
voices drifted up to him. He halted; and as the voices approached,
together with the shuffle of climbing feet and the creak and clatter of
shouldered boat-gear, he stepped aside. He saw the yellow blur of a
lantern and immediately took up a position behind a great boulder. Bulky
forms loomed into view at the top of the slope, broke from the
blanketing fog for a moment, one by one, and plunged into it again,
heading southward along the path. The big fellow in the lead carried
the lantern, and the man at his elbow was talking excitedly as they
passed within an oar's length of Darling.

"I's bin watchin' her these five hours back, skipper, a-tryin' to beat
out o' the drift o' wind an' tide widout one entire mast a-standin'," he
said. "She wasn't a half-mile off the rocks when I left the cove, an'
a-firin' of her gun desperate. If she bain't stuck tight now, skipper,
then me name bain't Tim Leary."

Mr. Darling stared and listened, as motionless as the boulder against
which he leaned. They issued from the fog and were engulfed again in its
clinging folds--twenty-five or thirty men and lads in all. Some carried
coils of rope, others oars and boat-hooks. Several of them hauled empty
sledges at their heels. The back of the last man vanished in the fog;
but Mr. Darling remained in the shelter of the rock until the faintest
whisper of their voices had died away before moving hand or foot.

"Organized wreckers," he muttered. "And that big pirate with the lantern
was the skipper--the brute who is keeping Flora in this place! By God--I
wonder just how much of a man, and how much of a beast he is! But now is
my time, while they're all off waiting for another wreck to come ashore
to them--damn them! The harbor must be about empty of able-bodied men
just now."

He descended the twisting path cautiously. The small cabins of the
fishermen presently loomed around him, here a gray gable, there a dull
window, there an unpainted door--and below him a roof or two pushing up
through the fog from a lower terrace of the village. He groped his way
about, pausing frequently to peer and hearken. From one cabin came the
sound of a child crying angrily, from another the harsh coughing of some
very old person, and from still another the whining of a dog. He moved
to the left, feeling his way gingerly between the humble dwellings. A
lighted window caught his attention, and then a man's voice, with a
whimsical drawl and twang to it, raised in song.

    "Her eyes were like the sea in June,
    Her lips was like a rose,
    Her voice was like a fairy bell
    A-ringin' crost the snows.
    Then Denny, he forgot the wrack,
    Forgot the waves a-rollin',
    For she had put the witchy spell
    On Skipper Dennis Nolan,"

sang the voice behind the blurred yellow square of the window.

Darling approached the window on tip-toe and peered through the dripping
glass. He saw that the vocalist was a long, thin fellow, with long, thin
whiskers and a wooden leg, seated in a chair by a glowing stove. Two
candles in tarnished brass sticks, a fiddle and bow, and a glass half
full of red liquor that steamed, were on the corner of the deal table at
his elbow. Beside him stood a young woman, long limbed, deep breasted,
with a comely face that suggested cheeriness, but was now drawn and
shadowed a little round the mouth and eyes with an expression of care.
But it was a good face, trustworthy, kind and wise; and the man at the
window trusted it the moment he saw it.

"I'll risk it," he muttered. "The old man looks harmless enough--and I
might stumble around here until the fog lifts or the skipper gets back,
without so much as a word with Flora, at this rate."

He withdrew from the window and slid quietly along the wall of the cabin
until he found the door. He pulled the glove from his right hand and
rapped on the wet planks with his bare knuckles. The voice of the man
with the wooden leg stopped dead in the middle of a line and shouted,
"Come in." Darling lifted the latch, pushed the door half open, and
stepped swiftly into the lighted room, closing the door smartly behind
him. The man and the girl stared at him in astonishment. He removed his
dripping cap from his head.

"Can you tell me where I can find Miss Flora Lockhart?" he asked.

The man gasped at that, and the girl's gray eyes brightened. The girl
stepped forward, placed a strong, eager hand on his arm and gazed into
his face without apology or embarrassment. Darling returned the scrutiny
unabashed.

"Ye be from up-along?" she queried. "Ye be a friend o' Flora's?"

"Yes," replied Darling. "I have heard that she is in this harbor--and
that no word of her being here, or even of her being alive, has been
sent out. Her friends believe her to be dead. And I heard that the man
you call skipper is--is keeping her against her will. Of course, against
her will! I have come to take her away--back to the world in which she
belongs."

"Be ye alone, sir?" asked Pat Kavanagh, combing his beard with his long,
lean fingers.

Darling frowned. "That's as may be," he said. "Alone or not, I'm no such
fool as to tell it until I know how I stand with you; but I am armed,
you may be sure!"

"Lad," said Pat, "I sees as how ye bes young, an' a sailor--aye, an'
bewitched, too. Sure, I was a sailor meself, in the old days. I likes
the cut o' yer fore-sils, lad, an' the lines o' yer hull, so I tells ye,
man to man like, watch out for the skipper. Aye, armed or empty-handed,
alone or wid a crew at yer back, watch out for Black Dennis Nolan. He
bes a grand lad in his own way, an' ginerous an' fair wid his
friends--but Saint Peter help the man who hauls acrost his bows! If
ye've come to Chance Along to take the girl away wid ye, then get hold
o' her quick an' clear out wid her quick."

"I'll take ye to her, sir," said Mary, eagerly. "Come, sir! Come along
wid ye. She bes at the skipper's own house."

"At his own house? So I heard," said Darling, thickly.

"Aye," said Pat, "an' safe as if she was in church, wid Mother Nolan to
mind her. Sure, an' Denny Nolan bain't such a pirate as ye t'inks, sir.
Lie an' curse an' fight an' wrack he will, like the divil himself; but
he bes a decent man wid the helpless, accordin' to his lights, for all
that. Aye, cap'n, till she bes Denny Nolan's wife she kin be any man's
wife--if he bes smart enough to get her out o' Chance Along."

"Come along wid me, sir!" urged Mary, pulling at Darling's sleeve. "He
bes out o' the harbor now, wid all the crew. Now bes yer chance, sir!"

She had thrown a shawl over her head and shoulders while her father was
talking; and now she opened the door and led the sailor into the choking
fog outside.

"Give me yer hand, sir, an' mind yer feet," she whispered. And then, as
she pressed quickly forward, leading Darling by the hand, "It must be
the saints themselves sent ye an' the fog to Chance Along together,
sir--ye an' the fog an' the wrack they all bes a-lookin' out for!"

"Then I trust the saints may continue their good offices," said Darling,
seriously.

"Aye, sir, an' why not?" she returned. "But here we be, sir. Mother
Nolan an' yer lass bes alone in the house together this minute; an'
Mother Nolan will not be sayin' nay to yer plans o' runnin' away."

She opened the door and drew Mr. Darling after her into the lighted
kitchen. "Here bes yer help, Flora darlin'," she said. "An' 'twas no
letter fetched him, ye kin lay to that, but the drag in his own heart
for ye."

Old Mother Nolan looked up at them with her snapping black eyes.

"Shut the door!" said she. "D'ye want to fill all me poor old bones wid
misery?"

Mary laughed uncertainly and slammed the door; and it was not until then
that Flora Lockhart moved or uttered a sound. She sprang to her feet,
her clear eyes shining like stars.

"Jack! Mr. Darling!" she cried. "You here? Have you come for me?"

The sailor's heart fairly flooded his arteries with joy and tenderness.
She had remembered him at a glance after the three long years! She had
called him by name! Work, ambition, fame and disaster had not driven out
the memory of him.

"Yes, I have come for you," he said, huskily. "I would have come long
ago if I had known--but I heard of it only by chance--a few days ago.
Are you ready to come away with me now? We must hurry--for I fear that I
am not strong enough to risk facing your jailer--just now."

Mother Nolan threw a fur coat about the girl's shoulders.

"Aye, she bes ready," said the old woman. "Mary, snatch her things
together, an' carry 'em along. Step lively, for the love o' heaven! Have
ye a boat, lad? Then get her to it as quick as ye kin, an' into it, an'
away out o' Chance Along wid the two o' ye jist as quick as the holy
saints will let ye!"

John Darling fastened the great coat around Flora with trembling
fingers.

"To find you here!" he whispered. "And yet you seem nearer to me here
than when I read of you--of your glory--out there in the great world."

Their hands touched. Her eyes kindled to his, flame for flame, throb for
throb.

"I am glad--_you_ have found me," she said. "You--you did not forget
me."

At that moment the door was flung open and Black Dennis Nolan sprang
into the room, followed closely by Bill Brennen and Nick Leary. The
skipper had returned to the harbor because the ship in distress had
drifted clear of the coast after all, and was even now firing her gun
and burning her flares in clear water directly off Chance Along. Before
flinging open the door the wreckers had seen through the window what was
taking place in the kitchen.

Flora Lockhart screamed and flung her arms around John Darling, clinging
to him as to her only hope of deliverance; and before he could pull
himself clear of her and draw a pistol from his pocket the infuriated
skipper was upon him. Nolan gripped with his left hand, and struck with
his right fist and his whole body; but, quick as thought, the sailor
twisted, ducked and gripped the other low about the hips. They hurtled
across the room, collided against a chair and crashed to the floor with
Darling on top. Bill Brennen plunged forward to help his master, but was
met half-way by old Mother Nolan, who twined her claws in his whiskers
and hung to him like a cat to a curtain. Nick Leary was about to settle
things when Mary Kavanagh fell upon him with a leg of the broken chair.
Flora alone did not join the fray. She fell back against the wall and
covered her eyes with her hands.

Things were at a deadlock, with the chances good for Darling to break
away from the dazed skipper and make his escape. Bill Brennen was of no
use, for he could not strike the terrible old woman who hung to his
whiskers until he yelled with the pain of it. Nick lay on the floor with
music and stars in his head and conviction that Mary Kavanagh (who even
now knelt on his chest) was a grand young woman entirely. Then young
Cormick entered, took in the vital points of the situation at a glance,
snatched up a stick of firewood, and jumped for the corner where his
brother and the stranger lay clinched. Flora saw it from between her
trembling fingers. She screamed and sprang forward with out-flung arms;
but she was too late. The boy struck once with the billet--and the fight
was ended.




CHAPTER XVII

MARY KAVANAGH USES HER WITS


For half a minute the skipper was mad enough to kill the unconscious
sailor with his hands and feet; but Mother Nolan and Mary Kavanagh
together were equal to the task of holding him and bringing him to a
glimmering of reason. Mother Nolan's tongue did not spare him, even as
her fingers had not spared poor, loyal Bill Brennen's whiskers.

"Would ye be murderin' him?" she cried. "An' him helpless--aye, an' a
better man nor ye be yerself, Denny Nolan. Then ye be no blood an' kin
to me, ye great murderer! Didn't he land ye on the flat o' yer great
back, ye limb, though ye took him all suddant an' unawares? Sure, he
did! Kill him, then; an' 'twill be your own father's mother goes to St.
John's to bring the police to hang ye up by yer cowardly neck. Aye, ye
kin lay to that! What old Kate Nolan says she says, an' the divil
himself couldn't make a liar of her!"

"I thought ye was a man, Denny, an' fought like a man," said Mary
Kavanagh, in a low voice that shook with unuttered sobs; "but if ye
strikes him now, a-layin' there as harmless as a swile, then I'll know
ye for a coward an' a murderer."

The skipper looked down at Flora Lockhart, who knelt above Darling,
weeping bitterly. His black eyes glowed and his face twisted and paled.

"If it had bin meself hit the blow that downed him, then I'd be
finishin' him," he said, "but I don't kill where I don't down! I bain't
no coward, Mary Kavanagh, as well ye knows! Bes there any more o' the
likes of him a-sneakin' 'round me own harbor?"

"He come alone," said Mary. "He come alone, to find the girl ye've bin
hidin' an' holdin' in Chance Along till all her folks thinks she bes
dead."

"Sure, then, he found her," snarled the skipper, "an' little good 'twill
be doin' him!"

"Shame upon ye, Denny Nolan!" exclaimed the old woman. "Shame upon ye
an' yer lies an' yer wicked, silly heart that t'ought to keep the likes
o' her forever in Chance Along. Ye bain't able to fool old Kate Nolan
wid yer lies! Sure, wasn't I on to ye from the minute ye come home that
ye'd not bin to Witless Bay wid the letter? I seed the lie writ across
yer face, Denny Nolan. Shame upon ye to be tryin' to bury the poor
helpless girl alive!"

"Pick him up," said the skipper, sullenly. "There bes grub enough an' to
spare to feed him an' a hundred like him. Heave him up atween ye, men,
an' we'll be lockin' of him up in a safe place. Fetch along the lantern,
Cormy, lad."

John Darling opened his eyes at this moment, stared dizzily around him
and struggled up to one elbow.

"Flora!" he cried. "Flora, where are you?"

The girl tried to go to him, but the skipper held her. Bill Brennen
pressed the sailor back, and tied his wrists and ankles.

"Who carried the letter out to him?" demanded the skipper, gripping the
girl's shoulders with his great hands, and glaring down into her
colorless face. For answer, she wrenched herself away, and struck him a
stinging blow across the mouth with her right hand.

"How dare you?" she cried. "How dare you lay hands on me? I despise you,
you brute!"

He stepped back, his face crimson, his mouth twitching, all the fire
and mastery gone from his eyes. He had thought, poor fool, that she was
learning to care for him; for of late, in her game of self-defence, she
had treated him with evident consideration and many little attentions of
the voice and eyes. And now he understood. He saw the truth in every
flash of her eyes, in every line of brow, mouth and chin. He turned,
took the lantern from Cormick and strode from the house, with Bill and
Nick and their prisoner at his heels.

"Go down to the land-wash an' spy 'round for his boat," he said to
Cormick. "Turn out a couple o' men to help ye hunt for it--an' maybe
ye'll find some more o' these sneakin' robbers hangin' 'round the
harbor."

They carried Darling to the store, the skipper leading the way, and his
trusties swinging and hoisting their helpless burden by heels and
shoulders. They dropped him on the cold floor as if he had no more
feelings than a sack of hard bread.

"That bes all, lads," said the skipper. "Go help hunt for the boat now
an' shut the door behind ye. I'll jist be sayin' a few words to this
dirty spy afore I leaves him to his dreams."

Brennen and Leary turned and left the store without a word. They felt
vaguely uneasy, as if the great world of up-along had at last found them
out, and reached a menacing hand into their snug harbor. Would the
skipper be able to deal with so vast an enemy? If he killed this
stranger it would mean hanging by the neck, sooner or later--perhaps for
every man in the harbor? If he let him live, and held him a prisoner, it
would bring the law prying into their affairs, some time or other. Doubt
chilled them. They stumbled heavily away in the darkness.

The skipper held the lantern to his captive's face and regarded him with
wolfish, sneering attention. Soon the sneer faded a little.

"I's seed ye afore," he said. "Aye, sure as hell, I's seed ye afore!"

"And this is not the first time I've seen _your_ ugly mug, either,"
returned Darling. "I saw you the night the _Durham Castle_ came ashore
on this coast--the night you robbed the captain and the passengers.
Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Ye'll larn that soon enough," returned the other. "Did ye get a letter
from--from her?"

"No," replied Darling, unable to see any danger in telling the truth of
that matter. "No, I didn't get any letter. I met a friend of yours in
St. John's, and he told me a great deal about you, and the game you are
playing in this harbor--and also about her. Your friend's name is Dick
Lynch."

"Dick Lynch," repeated the skipper, quietly. "I'll be cuttin' the heart
out o' that dog yet!"

"And a good job, no doubt," said Darling. "But I warn you, my man, that
if you injure Miss Lockhart in any way you'll curse the day you first
saw daylight. You'll be burned out of here like the dirty, murdering
pirate that you are--you and your whole crew. The law will have you, my
man--it will have you by the neck. Do you think I risked coming to this
place without leaving word behind me of where I was bound for and what I
was after?"

"Now ye be lyin'," said the skipper, coolly. "Ye telled the truth about
Dick Lynch; but now ye lie. Don't ye try to fool wid me, damn ye! Ye
come to Chance Along widout leavin' a word behind ye. I sees the lie in
yer face."

"I left Dick Lynch behind me," said the sailor.

That shook the skipper's assurance; but he was in no mood to feel fear
for more than a moment. He laughed sneeringly and began to unload his
captive's pockets. He took out the pistols, admired them and laid them
aside. Next, he unearthed a few cakes of hard bread, a small flask of
brandy, and a pipe and half a plug of tobacco.

"How'd ye come to Chance Along, anyhow? Where bes yer boat?" he asked,
suddenly, pausing in his work.

"I walked across from Witless Bay," said Darling.

"Where bes yer boat?" asked the other.

"In Witless Bay, you fool! Do you think I carried it across my back?"

The skipper swung the lantern back and glanced at the soles of the
other's boots.

"Ye bes a liar--and a desperate poor one at that," he said. "Where bes
yer boat?"

John Darling lost his temper. He disliked being forced into telling a
lie--and, being human, he disliked still more to have the lie discovered
and the effort wasted.

"Go to hell and find it, you black-faced pirate!" he roared.

The skipper stopped, glared down at him, and swung his right hand back
for a blow.

"Hit away, I'm tied," said the other, without flinching.

The skipper let his hand sink to his side.

"I don't hit a tied man. That bain't my way," he said, flushing darkly.

"Untie me, then, and you can hit all you want to. Cut these ropes and
let me at you. Come now, for I see that you have some sense of manliness
in you, after all."

"Not jist now. To-morrow, maybe--or maybe next day--I'll fight ye. And,
by hell, when I do I'll kill ye wid me two hands!"

"I'll take the chance. Unless you starve me or cripple me in the
meantime, I'll knock the everlasting life out of you."

The skipper growled and took up his interrupted work of investigating
the other's pockets. He unbuttoned the heavy reefer and thrust a hand
into an inner pocket. In a second he withdrew it, holding the little
casket bound in red leather. A cry of astonishment escaped him. He
pressed the catch with his thumb and the diamonds and rubies flashed and
glowed beneath his dazzled eyes.

"Me own diamonds!" he cried. "Holy saints alive, me own diamonds!
Where'd ye find 'em? Tell me that, now--where'd ye find 'em?"

Darling did not reply for a moment. Then, speaking quietly and somewhat
bitterly, he said, "If you really want to know, I found them on a dead
man, under the cliff a few miles to the north of here."

"That would be Foxey Jack Quinn," said the skipper. He closed the box
and put it in his pocket, then took up the lantern and went out, locking
the door behind him.

In the meantime, Mary Kavanagh had not been idle. She felt sure that the
stranger was safe from bodily harm for the night at least, now that
Dennis had shaken off the first blind deviltry of his rage. She knew
Dennis almost as well as old Mother Nolan did; and to-night she felt
sorry for him as well as angry with him. Leaving Flora in Mother Nolan's
care, she left the house, and followed Cormick and the others down to
the land-wash. The fog was thinning swiftly; but night had fallen, and
the sky, sea and land were all black as tar. She soon learned that no
sign of the stranger's boat could be found in the harbor. Returning from
the land-wash, she met Nick Leary.

"How bes ye a-feelin' now?" she asked, not unkindly. "But it served ye
right, Nick. A great man like ye has no call to be fightin' wid women."

"Me poor head buzzes like a nest o' wasps whin ye pokes it wid a club,"
said Nick. "Sure, Mary, 'twas a sweet tap ye give me! Marry me, girl,
an' ye'll be free to bat me every day o' yer born life."

"Sure, an' 'twould do ye no harm," said Mary. And then, "So ye've shut
the poor lad in the store, have ye?"

"Aye, but how'd ye know it, Mary?"

"I didn't know it, Nick, till ye telled me. Now go on wid yer business
o' huntin' for the boat an' I'll be goin' on wid mine. An' thanks for
yer offer, lad; but sure I'll never marry a man I kin knock down wid the
leg o' a chair."

Nick seemed to be in no mood to accept this statement as final; but the
girl soon cleared her tracks of him in the inky darkness, among the
little houses. She climbed the path to the edge of the barren and turned
northward. From what she had seen of John Darling she felt sure that he
was no fool; and therefore she had not expected to find his boat in the
harbor. He had told Mother Nolan that he had a boat, but had not
mentioned its whereabouts. Mary decided that it was hidden somewhere
handy to the harbor; and she was inclined to think that it was manned.
He had come from the north, of course; therefore the chances were good
that he had left his boat somewhere to the north of the harbor. She knew
every hollow, break and out-thrust of that coast for miles as well as
she knew the walls and floors of her father's cabin. A thought of the
little drook came to her mind and she quickened her steps along the
path. The light wind was shifting and the fog was trailing coastwise to
the south before it. Mary noted this, sniffed at the air, which was
slowly but surely changing in quality, and looked up at the black sky.

"There'll be snow afore mornin'," she said.

When she reached the head of the drook she halted and gave ear. The
sloshing and lapping of the tide came up to her; and that was all for a
minute or two. She parted the alders and young birches with her hands,
very cautiously, and moved downward into the thicket for a distance of
three or four yards, then halted again and again listened. At last,
above the noises of the tide and almost smothered by them, she heard a
sound unmistakably human--a violent sneeze. For a little while she
remained quiet, daunted by the darkness and trying to consider the
risks she was about to take. But the risks could not be considered, for
they were absolutely unknown. She was playing for peace and justice,
however--yes, and for Denny Nolan's happiness. Mastering her fear, she
whistled softly. After a minute's silence a guarded voice replied to the
whistle.

"Be that yerself, sir?" inquired the voice from the blackness below.

She descended lower, parting the tangled growth before her with her
hands.

"I bes a friend--an' a woman," she said. "I comes wid a word for ye,
from him."

"Stand where ye bes!" commanded George Wicks, his voice anxious and
suspicious. "What the divil bes the trouble now? Stand where ye bes an'
tell me the word."

"I bes all alone, so help me Peter!" replied the girl, "an' it bain't
safe the way we bes talkin' now, up an' down the drook. The lads o' the
harbor may be comin' this way an' a-hearin' us--an' then ye'll bes in as
bad a way as the captain himself. Let me come down to ye. Bes ye afeared
o' one lone woman?"

"Come down wid ye, then," said George, his voice none too steady, "but I
warns ye as how I hes a lantern here an' a pistol, an' if ye bain't all
alone by yerself I'll shoot ye like a swile an' ax ye yer business
afterwards. I's heard queer t'ings o' Chance Along!"

"I bes alone," returned Mary, "an' if ye fires yer pistol at me then ye
bes a dirty coward."

As she spoke she continued her difficult way down the channel of the
drook. She saw the yellow gleam of the lantern between the snarled stems
of the bushes. Strong, clear-headed and brave as she was, she began now
to sob quietly with fright; yet she continued to push her way down the
drook.

"They--they has caught the captain," she said, brokenly, "an' now they
bes huntin' all 'round the harbor for his boat. I has--come to tell
ye--an' to help ye."

George Wick parted the bushes, raised his lantern and peered up at her.

"There bain't no call for ye to be cryin'," he said, in a changed voice.
"If ye means no treachery, lass, then I'll not be hurtin' ye."

She stood beside him; and as he stared at her by the yellow light of the
lantern all thought of treachery from that quarter faded away. His
heart warmed and got a trifle out of hand. He could scarcely believe his
senses, and for a moment forgot John Darling and the queer stories he
had heard of Chance Along. All he realized was that his eyes and the
lantern told him that the finest looking girl he had ever seen had come
down the drook, all of her own free will, to pay him a visit.

"The skipper caught him an' tied him up in the store," whispered Mary,
"an' now all the men in the harbor bes searchin' for the boat." Then she
told the story of Flora Lockhart, and disclosed a plan for outwitting
the skipper that had just come to her mind.

"Sure, ye bes a wonder," said George, who was as clay in her hands.
"Aye, we'll be putting the comather on to Black Denny Nolan, ye kin lay
to that! Sure, it be a grand idee altogether!"

So they unloaded the bully and hid everything among the bushes.

"Now you must lay low," cautioned Mary, "an' I'll bring yer bully back
to ye as soon as I kin--or maybe one o' the skipper's bullies in its
place. Anyhow, I'll get to see ye agin to-morrow night. Lay low, now,
an' don't be lightin' a fire."

As she stepped aboard the bully George's mind cleared a little.

"Ye bain't playin' any tricks on me, I do hope," he whispered. "Ye
wouldn't be leavin' me here all alone by meself forever, widout me bully
even, would ye now?"

"Ye kin trust me," said Mary. Then she shoved off into the darkness.

Half an hour later the keel of the bully touched the land-wash in the
sheltered harbor of Chance Along. Mary Kavanagh stepped ashore, laid the
oar noiselessly inboard and set the bully adrift, and then made her
cautious way up and into her father's cabin. Snow began to fall thickly
and silently as she closed the door.




CHAPTER XVIII

MOTHER NOLAN DOES SOME SPYING


John Darling was sore, hungry and cold; but his heart was joyful and
strong. He had been knocked over the head, and he had been robbed of the
newly-recovered necklace and the reward of a thousand pounds; but he had
found Flora, alive, evidently not ill-treated and not in any real danger
save of oblivion, and with the memory of him clear in her heart. He had
failed to get her away from the harbor; but he felt convinced that a way
of escape for both of them would soon occur. He did not fear Black
Dennis Nolan. The fellow was a man, after all. He knew that if he should
come to any serious physical injury at the skipper's hands it would be
in a fair fight. Also, he knew that Mother Nolan and Mary Kavanagh were
on his side--were as anxious to get Flora out of the harbor as he was to
take her out. But the planks upon which he lay were as cold and hard as
ice; and at last he began to wonder if even his splendid constitution
would stand a night of this exposure, bound hand and foot, without
serious results. He lay awake for hours, suffering in body but rejoicing
in heart. At last, numb with cold, he sank into a half-doze. He was
aroused by sounds at the door--the cry of a key turning an unoiled lock
and the creak of rusty hinges. Then the welcome gleam of a lantern
flooded to him along the frosty floor. The visitor was Bill Brennen. He
stooped above the sailor and squinted at him curiously. Under his left
arm he carried a caribou skin and several blankets.

"Lad," said he, "ye must be full o' the divil's own ginger to cross the
skipper as ye done. Sure an' the wonder bes why he didn't kill ye dead!
But now that ye still be alive, him not killin' ye in the first flush,
ye bes safe as Mother Nolan herself. A divil o' a woman that, entirely.
Saints in glory, me whiskers still aches desperate! Here bes a grand rug
for ye to lay on, an' blankets to cover yerself wid. The skipper sent
'em. Kill a man he will, in fair fight; but it bain't in his nature to
let any man go cold nor hungry in Chance Along."

He spread the caribou skin and one of the blankets on the floor and
rolled John Darling on to them. Then he threw two more blankets over him
and tucked them in. Next, he produced a flask from his pocket and
uncocked it.

"Skipper's orders," he said, and held the flask to the helpless one's
lips.

"Now ye bes as snug as any marchant, what wid yer grand bed an' yer drop
o' fine liquor in yer belly," he remarked. He turned at the door and
said, "Some one will be bringin' ye grub in the mornin'. Good night to
ye."

From that until morning, the prisoner on the floor, bound at wrist and
ankle, rested more peacefully than Black Dennis Nolan in his father's
bed; for the sailor was only sore in his muscles and bones, but the
skipper ached in heart and soul. The skipper tossed through the black
hours, reasoning against reason, hoping against hopelessness. The girl
hated him and despised him! Twist and turn as he might, he could not
escape from this conviction. Now he even doubted the power of the
diamonds and rubies to win her, having seen that in her eyes which had
brought all his dreams crumbling to choking dust. Pain had laid the
devil of fury in him and aroused the imp of stubbornness. He would wait
and watch. He was safe to keep them both in the harbor until the arrival
of Father McQueen, in June; and perhaps, by that time, he would see some
way of winning the girl. Should the necklace of diamonds and rubies fail
to impress the girl, then he might bribe John Darling with it to leave
the harbor. You see, the workings of the skipper's mind were as
primitive as his methods of coping with mutineers.

The skipper left his bed and the house at the first gray of dawn,
determined to search the coast high and low for a solution of the
mystery of the stranger's arrival. He went down between the silent
cabins, all roofed with new snow, and the empty snow-trimmed stages, and
looked out upon the little harbor. What was that, just at the edge of
the shadow of the rock to the right of the narrow passage?--a boat, lump
of wreckage or a shadow? Stare as he would, he could not determine the
nature of the thing in that faint and elfin twilight; but it drew his
eye and aroused his curiosity as no natural shadow of any familiar rock
could have done. He dragged a skiff from under one of the stages and
launched it into the quiet harbor and with a single oar over the stern
sculled out toward the black object on the steel-gray tide. It proved
to be a fine bully, empty and with the frozen painter hanging over the
bow and trailing alongside.

"So this bes how he come to Chance Along--an' not man enough to moor his
boat safe!" exclaimed the skipper.

The bully was as empty as on the day it had been built, save for one oar
lying across the thwarts. Not even a spar and sail were aboard her. The
man must be an absolute fool to set out along a dangerous coast, in a
bad time of year, single-handed and without grub or gear, reflected the
skipper. The thought that such a bungler as this stranger should be
preferred to himself, intensified his pangs of humiliation. No girl who
understood such things--no girl of that coast--would treat him so, he
reflected, bitterly. He pulled the dripping painter aboard the skiff,
made it fast around a thwart and towed the bully ashore.

Mary Kavanagh had been astir as early as the skipper himself. She had
gone first to the store. Peering through a window, she had made out the
stranger's form on the floor, bulkily blanketed. From the store, she
hastened to the skipper's house, saw his footprints pointing toward the
land-wash, and stood with her hand on the latch until a skiff slid out
into her line of vision from behind the drying-stages. She knew that the
skipper was on his way to investigate the derelict bully. She opened the
door then, entered quietly and went to Mother Nolan's room. The old
woman was sitting up in bed with her night-cap a-tilt over one ear.

"Saints alive, Mary, what mischief bes afoot now?" asked Mother Nolan.

Mary drew close to the bed-side and leaned over to her confederate.

"The captain bes safe in the store, all rolled up in blankets," she
whispered, "an'--an' I larned something last night that means as how we
kin get 'em both away before long, wid luck. An' I played a trick on the
skipper--so don't ye bes worryin' when he tells ye as how he's found the
captain's boat. Give the word to the lass to keep her heart up. Sure,
we'll be gettin' the two o' them safe out o' the harbor yet."

"An' where bes Denny now? How'd ye get into the house?" asked the old
woman.

"He bes out in a skiff this very minute, a-lookin' at the captain's boat
where it bes driftin' 'round the harbor. Sure, an' that bes just where
I wants him. An' now I'll be goin', Mother Nolan dear, for I bain't
wishin' Denny to catch me here a-whisperin' t'ye so early in the mornin'
or maybe he'd get the idea into his head as how us two women bain't such
harmless fools as what he's always bin takin' us for."

"Ye bes a fine girl, Mary Kavanagh," returned Mother Nolan, "an' I
trusts ye to clear this harbor o' trouble. I'll be tellin' the good word
to the poor lass inside this very minute. Her heart bain't all diamonds
an' pride, after all, as she let us know last night, poor dear."

Mary left them, and a minute later met the skipper on his way up from
the land-wash.

"I's found the boat the stranger come in," said the skipper.

"Sure, an' so ye would, Denny, if it was to be found," replied Mary.

The young man eyed her gloomily and inquiringly until she blushed and
turned her face away from him.

"Ye talks fair, Mary," he said. "Ye talks as if ye was a friend o' mine;
but ye bain't always actin' that same way, these days. Last night, now,
ye an' granny was sure fightin' agin me! I seed ye bat Nick Leary wid
the leg o' the chair--an' I seed that dacent old woman a-hangin' to Bill
Brennen's whiskers like a wildcat to the moss on a tree."

"An' why not, Denny Nolan?" retorted the girl. "Ye t'ree men was after
murderin' that poor lad! D'ye think Mother Nolan was wantin' to see ye
carried off to St. John's an' hung by yer neck? Sure, we was fightin'
agin ye. What hurt had that poor lad ever done to ye? He come to Chance
Along for his lass--an' sure, she was ready enough to be goin' away wid
him!"

The skipper's face darkened. "Who saved her life from the wrack?" he
cried. "Tell me that, will ye! Who salvaged her from the fore-top o' the
wrack?"

Without waiting for an answer, he brushed past Mary and strode up to his
house. The girl stood motionless for a little while, gazing after him
with a flushed face, twitching lips and a flicker of amusement in her
gray eyes.

"Poor Denny," she murmured. "His pride bes hurt more nor the heart of
him!"

John Darling was not honored by a visit from the skipper that day; but
Bill Brennen carried food to him, made up a fire in the stove, and even
loosed his bonds for a few minutes upon receiving his word of honor that
he would not take advantage of the kindness by trying to escape.

"What does Nolan intend to do with me?" asked Darling.

"Well, sir, it looks to me as how he bes figgerin' to keep ye in Chance
Along till June. He bes t'inkin' as how the young lady may blow 'round
to his own idee," replied Bill.

"And what is his idea?"

"As how he bes a better man nor ye be."

"But why does he figure to keep me until June? Why not until July, or
August--or next Christmas?"

"Well, sir, ye see it bes this way wid him. Father McQueen, the dear,
riverent gentleman--an' may he never die till I kills him, an' may every
blessed hair on his head turn into a wax candle to light him to
glory!--bes comin' back to Chance Along in June. The skipper bain't
afeared o' any man in the world but his riverence."

John Darling smiled. "I should like to see Father McQueen," he said;
"but I am afraid I must be going away from here considerably before the
first of June."

Bill wagged his head. "Now don't ye be too sure, sir," he whispered. "Ye
bain't dealin' wid any ignorant fisherman when ye bes dealin' wid Black
Dennis Nolan. Sure, didn't he find yer bully this very mornin'!"

"My bully!" exclaimed the other, losing color. "Where did he find it?"

"Driftin' in the harbor," returned Bill. "It bes a grand bully entirely,
sir."

Darling was silent for a moment. Then, trying to look as if the finding
of the bully drifting in the harbor was rather a joke, he laughed.

"And did he capture my crew of five strong men?" he asked.

Bill Brennen grinned. "Now ye needn't be tryin' any o' yer divilment on
me," he said. "The bully was as empty as Tim Sullivan's
brain-locker--an' the holy saints knows as that bes empty enough! Sure,
there wasn't even a sail aboard her, nor a bite o' grub nor a drop o'
liquor."

"My five men must have fallen overboard," said Darling, smiling. Poor
John! Now, should he manage to escape and get Flora out of the skipper's
house, how was he to get out of the harbor? What had happened to George
Wick? The tide must have carried the bully out of the drook, while
George was asleep, and drifted it around to the harbor. He promised
himself the pleasure of teaching Master George the art of mooring a boat
if he ever met him again.

John Darling spent an anxious day. Shortly after midnight he was
startled by a faint tapping on one of the windows. The night was pitch
black, and so he could see nothing. The tapping was repeated. He rolled
out of his blanket and across the floor toward the sound. His progress
was arrested by a rank of boxes and flour-bags. Pressing his shoulder
against these, he hitched himself to his feet, turned and leaned across
them until his face was within a foot of the faint square of the window.
Against the half-darkness he could now see something indistinct in
shape, and all of a dense blackness save for a pale patch that he knew
to be a human face. It was Mary Kavanagh. She told him briefly of the
way she had turned the skipper from searching the coast for his boat and
his companion; of Flora's safety, and of how she hoped to accomplish
their escape before long--perhaps on the following night. Wick was
still hidden in the drook, she said. She would try to get a boat of some
kind around to him on the next night; and if she succeeded in that, she
would return and try to get Darling out of the store and Flora out of
the skipper's house.

The sailor was at a loss for words in which to express his gratitude.

"But ye must promise me one thing," whispered the girl. "Ye must swear,
by all the holy saints, to do naught agin Denny Nolan when once ye git
safe away--swear that neither Flora nor yerself puts the law on to
Denny, nor on to any o' the folks o' this harbor, for whatever has been
done."

"I swear it, by all the saints," replied Darling. "For myself--but I
cannot promise it for Flora. You must arrange that with her."

Several hours after Mary's interview with John Darling, old Mother Nolan
awoke in her bed, suddenly, with all her nerves on the jump. The room
was dark, but she felt convinced that a light had been held close to her
face but a moment before. She felt no fear for herself, but a chilling
anxiety as to what deviltry Denny might be up to now. Could it be that
she was mistaken in him after all? Could it be that he was less of a
man than she had thought? She crawled noiselessly from her bed and stole
over to the door of Flora Lockhart's room. The door was fastened. With
the key, which she had brought from under her pillow, she made sure that
it was locked. She unlocked it noiselessly, opened the door a crack and
peered in. The room was lighted by the glow from the fire and by a
guttering candle on a chair beside the bed. She saw that the room was
empty, save for the sleeping girl. Closing the door softly and locking
it again, she turned and groped her way across to the kitchen door,
beneath which a narrow line of light was visible. Scarcely breathing,
she raised the latch, drew the door inward a distance of half an inch
and set one of her bright old eyes to the crack. She saw the skipper
kneeling in a corner of the kitchen, with his back to her and a candle
on the floor beside him. He seemed to be working busily and heavily, but
not a sound of his toil reached her eager ears.

"He bes hidin' something'," she reflected. "Shiftin' some o' his wracked
gold, maybe? But why bes he so sly about it to-night, a-spyin' in on his
old grandmother to see if she bes sound asleep or no?"

Presently, she closed the door and crept back to her bed. Next morning,
as soon as the skipper and young Cormick had left the house, she
examined the corner of the floor where the skipper had been at work. She
had to pull aside a wood-box to get at the spot. One of the narrow,
dusty planks showed that it had been tampered with. She pried it up with
a chisel, dug into the loose earth beneath and at last found a small box
covered with red leather. She opened it and gazed at the diamonds and
rubies in frightened fascination. Ignorant as she was of such things,
she knew that the value of these stones must be immense. At last she
closed the casket, returned it to the bottom of the hole and replaced
the earth, the plank and the wood-box. Where, when and how had the
skipper come by that treasure? she wondered. She hobbled over to Pat
Kavanagh's house and told Mary all about it.




CHAPTER XIX

MARY AT WORK AGAIN


Pierre Benoist, the survivor of the French brig, arrived at Mother
McKay's shebeen in good order, with the borrowed blanket draped over his
broad shoulders and the borrowed sealing-gun under his arm. All birds of
Pierre's variety of feather seemed to arrive naturally at Mother
McKay's, sooner or later. The French sailor found Dick Lynch; a Canadian
trapper with Micmac blood in his veins, who had come out of the woods
too soon for his own good; three men from Conception Bay and half a
dozen natives of the city, all talking and swearing and drinking Mother
McKay's questionable rum and still more questionable whiskey. Pierre
laid aside his blanket and musket, shouted for liquor and then studied
the assembled company. It did not take him long to decide that they were
exactly the material he required. He took a seat at Dick Lynch's elbow
and in such English as he was master of, remarked that any man who
worked for his living was no better than a fool.

"Sure," said Lynch, "by the looks o' yerself ye should know."

Monsieur Benoist pulled his sinister mouth into as pleasant a grin as he
could manage, and veiled the dangerous light in his eyes. Then he
replied, in a loud voice that caught the attention of all the men in the
room, that he was certainly in a position to know, having come straight
from a little harbor to the southward where a handful of fishermen had
just salvaged two chests of good French gold from a wreck. He told the
whole story of the wreck and of the subsequent fight in which his
companion had been killed. To add reality to his tale he described
several of the fishermen minutely.

"That bes the skipper himself!" cried Dick Lynch. "That bes Black Dennis
Nolan, ye kin lay to that--aye, an' Bill Brennen an' Nick Leary! Sure,
then, ye've come from Chance Along, b'y--the very place I comes from
meself. Two chests o' gold, d'ye say? Then I tells ye, b'ys, there bes
as much more there besides. Chance Along bes fair stinkin' wid gold an'
wracked stuff."

He went on excitedly and gave a brief and startling outline of the
recent history of Black Dennis Nolan and Chance Along, not forgetting
his own heroic stand against the tyrant.

"B'ys, all we has to be doin' bes to go an' take it--an' then to
scatter. This here captain wid the rings in his ears has the right idee,
sure! Wid all the gold an' jewels in Chance Along shared amongst us sure
we'd never be needin' to hit another clip o' work so long as we live.
Aye, 'twould be easy wid guns in our hands; but we must be quick about
it, lads, or the law'll be gittin' there ahead o' us," he concluded.

The others clustered about Lynch and the French sailor, a few of them
reeling, but all intent upon coming to some arrangement for laying hands
upon the treasure of Chance Along. Big fists pounded the sloppy table,
husky voices bellowed questions, and stools and benches were overturned.

"There bes twelve o' us here," said Tom Brent, of Harbor Grace, "twelve
able lads, every mother's son o' us ready for to make the trip. Now the
first thing bes for every man to tell his name an' swear as how he'll do
his best at gettin' the stuff an' never say naught about it to any
livin' soul after he's got safe away wid his share."

All agreed to these suggestions, and oaths were taken and hopes of
everlasting salvation pledged that were not worth the breath that
sounded them. It was next ascertained by Monsieur Benoist, who naturally
took a leading part in the organization, that every man of the twelve
possessed a fire-arm of one kind or another. Then Bill McKay, Mother
McKay's son, and two others departed in quest of horses and sleds. The
roads were fairly good now, though unpacked. Mother McKay set to work at
the packing of provisions for the expedition. She was heart and soul in
the enterprise, and would have her interests represented by her son
Bill, the worst rascal, hardest fighter and most devoted son in St.
John's. She had a hold on some of the small farmers around--in fact, she
owned several of the farms--so it was not long before Bill and his
companions returned, each in possession of a horse and sled. The
expedition set out at two o'clock of a windless, frosty, star-lit
morning. They travelled the roads which John Darling had followed,
several days before; but now the mud-holes and quaking bogs were frozen
and covered with snow. Bill McKay drove the sled that led the way at a
pace that gave the following teamsters all they could do to keep in
touch; but willing hands manned the whips and hammering sled-stakes.
Now and again one or another of the raiders would fall off a sled and
necessitate a halt; and so the poor horses were given a chance, now and
again, to recover something of their lost wind.

Back in Chance Along things were going briskly. Mary Kavanagh learned
from John Darling something of the history of the diamond and ruby
necklace and made up her mind to return it to the sailor. She wanted to
clean the harbor of everything of the kind--of everything that came up
from the sea in shattered ships, except food. She saw the hands of the
saints in salvaged provisions, but the hand of the devil himself in
wrecked gold and jewels--and wrecked women. She decided to arrange the
recovery of the necklace and the bully, and the escape of the strangers
for that very night; and her decision was sealed, a few hours later, by
the skipper's behavior. It was this way with the skipper. He felt shame
for having kept the girl in the harbor against her prayers, and for the
lies he had told her and the destruction of the letters; but he was
neither humble nor contrite. Shame was a bitter and maddening emotion
for one of his nature. He brooded over this shame, and over that
aroused by the girl's scorn, until his finer feelings toward her were
burned out and blown abroad like ashes. His infatuation lost its fine,
ennobling element of worship, and fell to a red glow of desire of
possession. He forced his way to Flora's room, despite the protests of
Mother Nolan.

"To-morrow ye'll be mine or ye'll be his," he said, staring fixedly at
the frightened girl. "To-morrow mornin' him an' me bes a-goin' to fight
for ye--an' the man what lives will have ye! Ye put the name o' coward
on to me--but I bain't no coward! I fights fair--an' the best man wins.
I could kill him now, if I was a coward."

Flora's face was as white as the pallid figure on the cross above the
chimney.

"You _are_ a coward!--and a beast!" she cried from dry lips. "If you
kill him my curse shall be with you until your dying day--and
afterwards--forever."

"Then ye can tell him to go away, an' I won't be killin' him," said the
man.

"Tell him--to go--away?"

"Aye--that ye've no need o' him. Send him away. Tell him ye means to
marry wid me."

"No," whispered the girl. And then, "Do you mean to--give him a
chance?--to fight him fair?"

"Aye, man to man--an' as sure as the divil fetched him to Chance Along
I'll kill him wid these hands! An' then--an' then ye'll be mine--an'
when Father McQueen comes in June 'twill be time for the weddin'--for
that part o' it. Ye've put the names o' coward an' beast on to me--an'
by Saint Peter, ye'll live to change them names or to know them!"

Some color came back to Flora's cheeks and her clear eyes shone to their
depths.

"If you fight fair," she said, faintly but steadily, "he will give you
what you deserve. I am not afraid. God will be with him--and he is the
better man!"

The skipper laughed, then stooped suddenly, caught her in his arms and
kissed her on the lips. Next moment he flung her aside and dashed from
the room, almost overturning Mother Nolan in his flight. At the door of
the kitchen he came face to face with Mary Kavanagh. He tried to pass
her without pausing, but she stood firm on the threshold and held him
for a moment or two with her strong arms. Her gray eyes were blazing.

"I sees the Black One a-ridin' on yer back!" she cried, in a voice of
horror and disgust. "I sees his face over yer shoulder--aye, an' his arm
around yer neck like a rope!"

He looked at her for a moment, and then quickly away as he forced her
violently aside.

"An' the hell-fire in yer eyes!" she cried.

The skipper was free of her by then and out of the house; but he turned
and stared at her with a haggard face and swiftly dulling eyes.

"The curse bes on me!" he whispered. "It bes in me vitals now--like I
had kilt him already."

The expression of the girl's face changed in a flash and she sprang out
and caught one of his hands in both of hers.

"Kill him? Ye bain't meanin' to kill him, Denny Nolan?" she whispered.

"Aye, but I bes, curse or no curse," he said, dully. "To-morrow mornin'
I bes a-goin' to kill him--man to man, in fair fight."

"But for why, Denny?"

"For the girl."

"Bes ye lovin' her so desperate, Denny?"

"Nay, nay, lass, not now. But I wants her! An' she puts the name o'
beast on to me an' the nature o' beast into me, like a curse!"

"To-morrow? An' ye'll fight him fair, Denny?"

"Aye, to-morrow--man to man--wid empty hands!"

The girl turned and entered the house, and the skipper went up the path
at the back of the harbor and wandered over the snowy barrens for hours.
It was dusk when Bill Brennen found him.

"Skipper," said Bill, "the lads bes at it again. They wants to know when
ye'll make a trip to St. John's wid the jewels?--an' where the jewels
bes gone to, anyhow?"

"Jewels!" cried the skipper--"an' the entire crew o' 'em fair rotten wid
gold! I'll dig up the jewels from where we hid 'em an' t'row 'em into
their dirty faces--an' they kin carry 'em to St. John's an' sell 'em to
suit themselves, the squid!"

So he and Bill Brennen tramped off to the northward; and Mary Kavanagh
was aware of their going.

Mary was busy during their absence. She unearthed the necklace, and with
it and the key from behind the skipper's clock, made her way to the
store. It was dark by now, with stars in the sky and a breath of wind
from the south and south-by-west. The folks were all in their cabins,
save the skipper and Bill Brennen, who were digging the harbor's _cache_
of jewelry from the head of a thicket of spruce-tuck. She let herself
into the store and freed John Darling without striking a light. She
placed the casket in his hand.

"The skipper has yer pistols in his own pocket, so I couldn't git 'em
for ye," she whispered. "Now sneak up to the back, quick. Ye'll find yer
lass there, a-waitin' for ye wid old Mother Nolan. Git north to the
drook where yer man bes, an' lay down there, the three o' ye, till I
fetches yer bully. Then git out, an' keep out, for the love o' mercy!
Step lively, captain! The skipper bes out o' the harbor this minute, but
he bes a-comin' home soon. Get along wid ye quick, to the top o' the
cliff."

She left him before he had an opportunity to even try to thank her. He
followed her to the door, walking stiffly, paused outside for long
enough to get his bearings, then closed the door noiselessly, turned the
key in the lock, withdrew it and dropped it in the snow. Then he made
his way cautiously to the back of the harbor and up the twisting path
as fast as he could scramble. At the top, crouched behind a boulder,
beside old Mother Nolan, he found Flora.

Neither the girl nor the man heard the old woman's words of farewell.
They moved northward along the snowy path, hand in hand, running with no
more sound than slipping star-shadows. So for a hundred yards; and then
the speed began to slacken, and at last they walked. They reached the
black crest where the brushwood of the drook showed above the level of
the barrens. Here they halted, and Darling whistled guardedly. An
answering note came up to them from the blackness below and to seaward.
Darling stepped down, parted the young birches and twisted alders with
one arm and drew Flora into the cover. She stumbled, saved herself from
falling by encountering his broad chest--and then she put up both arms
and slipped them about his neck.

"My God! Do you mean it, Flora?" he whispered.

For answer, her arms tightened about his neck. He lowered his head
slowly, staring at the pale oval of her face--and so their lips met.

Another cautious whistle from below brought them to a realization of
their surroundings. They continued their downward journey and presently
found George Wick. George was in a bad humor. He was cold, and he
grumbled in cautious growls.

"So ye come for a girl, did ye? Well, there bes another girl in this
harbor I'd like to be fetchin' away wid me! Aye, here she bes now, wid
the bully."

Mary sprang ashore.

"Here ye be. Git yer gear aboard quick, an' away wid ye," she whispered,
"an' don't forget yer promise."

"I'll be comin' back for ye, one o' these days," said George Wick.

"Then ye needn't, for ye bain't wanted," replied Mary.

John and Flora scarcely heard her; but George gave ear until the last
swish and rustle of her ascent through the brush died away. Then he fell
to loading the bully. Five minutes later they took their places aboard,
pushed out of the little cove, stepped the mast and spread the red sail.

Flora sat in the stern-sheets. John managed the tiller with his left
hand. The light breeze wafted them northward. At last George Wick broke
the silence.

"Hark! What bes that?" he exclaimed.

"It sounded like gun-shots," said John, indifferently.

"I suppose that mad skipper is fighting with his men," said Flora--and
the breath of her words touched the sailor's cheek.




CHAPTER XX

FATHER MCQUEEN'S RETURN


Black Dennis Nolan and Bill Brennen brought the loose jewels from their
hiding-place to the harbor. The skipper carried the dispatch-box, and in
his pockets he had John Darling's neat little pistols, each good for two
shots--the latest thing in pistols at that time. They went straight to
Cornelius Lynch's cabin, where the leading grumblers were assembled. The
skipper was about to kick open the door and stuff the jewels into their
insatiable maws when a guarded, anxious voice at his elbow arrested him
with one foot drawn back. The voice was that of Mary Kavanagh.

"Whist!" said Mary. "Bes that yerself, Denny Nolan?"

"Aye, sure it be," returned the skipper.

"I heard a sound on the cliff, to the north," said Mary. "The sound o' a
horse nickerin' an' men cursin' it for the same."

"A horse?" queried the skipper. And then, "On the cliff to the north?
Where the divil has ye been to, Mary Kavanagh?"

"Whist! Hark to that!" exclaimed the girl.

"Sure, skipper, 'twas somethin' up back yonder," whispered Bill Brennen.
"It sounded to meself like a gun slammin' agin a rock."

"Would it be that stranger lad?" queried Dennis, anxiously.

"Nay, he bes safe enough," said Mary. "But hark to that, now! There bes
a whole crew up yonder."

The skipper opened Cornelius Lynch's door, but not with his foot as he
had formerly intended.

"Turn out an' git yer guns, men. There bes trouble a-foot," he said,
quietly. Then, laying a hand on Mary's shoulder, he whispered, "Git Pat
an' yerself to my house an' fasten up the doors. It bes a strong house,
lass, an' if there bes any gunnin' ye'll be safe there."

"Ye needn't be worryin' for Flora Lockhart," said Mary. "She bes safe
enough--herself an' the captain--a-sailing away in the bully this
half-hour back."

The skipper's hand tightened on her shoulder; but she did not flinch. In
the light from the open door he stared at her--and she stared back at
him, glance for glance. There was astonishment in his eyes rather than
anger, and a question rather than condemnation. He was about to speak
when the smashing report of a musket rang out from the slope and a slug
splintered the edge of the open door. The skipper pushed Mary away from
him.

"Run! Run to the house!" he cried.

Mary vanished into the darkness. Men clustered around the skipper,
sealing-guns, pistols, cutlasses and clubs in their hands, their
grumblings forgotten in the prospect of a fight. The open door was shut
with a bang.

"Follow me!" shouted the skipper, dropping the dispatch-box of loose
jewels to the trampled snow and pulling his pistols from his pocket.

The men of Chance Along and Pierre Benoist's ruffians met at the foot of
the steep slope, among the upper rank of cabins. All doubts as to the
intentions of the visitors were dispelled from the skipper's mind by a
voice shouting, "Git inside the houses, lads, an' pull up the floors.
There bes where ye'll find the stuff. Git into the big house. _It_ be
fair full o' gold an' jewels."

The voice was that of Dick Lynch. The skipper knew it, and his pistols
flashed and banged in his hands.

The light of the stars, dimmed by a high, thin veil of mist, was not
good enough to fight scientifically by. After the first clash it was
almost impossible to know friend from foe at the length of an arm.
Single combats, and cursing knots of threes and fours, staggered and
swatted among the little dwellings. The work was entirely too close for
gun-work, and so the weapons were clubbed and the affair hammered out
like hot irons on an anvil.

After ten minutes of it the skipper found himself in front of his own
door, with a four-foot stick of green birch in his hands, and something
wet and warm trickling from his forehead into his left eye. Three men
were at him. Bill McKay was one of them and Pierre Benoist another.
McKay fought with a clubbed musket, and the French sailor held a dirk in
one hand and an empty pistol in the other. The third prodded about in
the background with a cutlass. He seemed to be of a retiring
disposition.

The skipper defended his position heroically; but after two minutes of
it the musket proved heavier than the club of birch, and he received a
crack on his left shoulder that put one arm out of action. The
Frenchman ducked and slipped in; but the skipper's boot on his
collar-bone set him back for a moment and sent the knife tinkling to the
ground. But the same movement, thanks to the little wad of snow on the
heel of his boot, brought the skipper to the flat of his back with a
bone-shaking slam. The clubbed musket swung up--and then the door flew
open above his upturned face, candle-light flooded over him and a
sealing-gun flashed and bellowed. Then the threatening musket fell of
its own weight, from dead hands--and the skipper went to sleep with more
stars twirling white and green fire across his inner vision than he had
ever seen in the sky.

It was daylight when Black Dennis Nolan next opened his eyes. He was in
his own bed. He felt very sick in the stomach, very light in the head,
very dry in the mouth. Old Mother Nolan sat beside the bed, smoking her
pipe.

"Was it ye let off the old gun out the door?" he asked.

"Nay, 'twas Mary done it," replied Mother Nolan, blinking her black eyes
at him.

"An' where bes Mary now?" he asked.

"In me own bed. Sure, when she was draggin' ye into the house, didn't
some divil jab her in the neck wid a great knife."

The skipper sat up, though the effort spun a purple haze across his
eyes, and set a lump of red-hot iron knocking about inside his skull.

"Bes she--dead?" he whispered.

"Nay, lad, nay, she bain't what ye'd call dead," replied the old woman.

The skipper rolled to the floor, scrambled to his feet, reeled across
the kitchen and into the next room, and sank at the side of Mary's bed.
He was done. He could not lift himself an inch higher; but a hand came
down to him, over the side of the bed, and touched his battered brow.

A week later, Mary Kavanagh was able to sit up in Mother Nolan's bed;
and the skipper was himself again, at least as far as the cut over his
eye and the bump on top of his head were concerned.

The skipper and Mother Nolan sat by Mary's bed. The skipper looked
older, wiser and less sure of himself than in the brisk days before the
raid.

"I bes a poor man now," he said. "Sure, them robbers broke t'rough this
harbor somethin' desperate! Didn't the back o' the chimley look like
the divil had been a-clawin' it out?"

"Quick come and quick go! Ye bes lucky, lad, they didn't sail away wid
yer fore-an'-after," said Mother Nolan.

"Aye, Granny; but it do beat me how ever they come to dig up the
kitchen-floor."

"Sure, an' they didn't," said Mary. "'Twas meself done that--an' sent
the red an' white diamonds away wid Flora's man. 'Twas himself ye took
'em from, Denny Nolan."

"An' a good thing, too," said Mother Nolan. "Sure, ye sent all the
curses o' Chance Along away together, Mary dear! There bain't no luck in
wracked gold, nor wracked diamonds--nor wracked women! Grub an' gear bes
our right; but not gold an' humans."

The skipper gazed at the girl until her eyes met his.

"Was ye workin' agin me all the time?" he asked, quietly.

"Nay, Denny, but I was workin' _for_ ye--all the time," she whispered.

"Sure she was," said Mother Nolan, puffing at her pipe. "Aye--an' many's
the time 'twas on me tongue to call her a fool for her trouble, ye was
that bewitched an' bemazed, lad."

The skipper stared at the floor for a long time, in silence. At last he
said, "Wid the way ye was workin', Mary, the wonder bes to me what for
ye risked the knife in yer neck to save me life from the Frenchman."

"Denny, ye bes still a fool!" exclaimed Mother Nolan. "When you bain't
one manner o' fool ye bes another! What for? d'ye ask! Well, what for?"

"Sure, I was only wonderin'," said the man, glancing shyly and hopefully
at the girl in the bed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Father McQueen reached Chance Along early in June. He found plenty of
work awaiting him, including six masses for the newly-dead, and the
building of the church. The general tone of the harbor impressed him as
being strangely subdued. Even Black Dennis Nolan seemed less vivid and
dominant in his bearing; but in spite of this change in him, he refused
to put off his wedding even for the glory of being married in the new
church.

In spite of a scar on her round, white neck, Mary Nolan was the
grandest-looking, sweetest bride that had ever been seen in Chance
Along. Denny thought so, and old Barney Keen said it, and Mother Nolan
proved it by admitting that even she herself had not cut such a figure,
under similar circumstances, fifty years ago. And on the morning after
the wedding, the skipper and Mary set out on their honeymoon to St.
John's, aboard the fore-and-after, with a freight of salvaged cargo
under the hatch instead of thiefed jewels and gold. Back in the harbor
the men unmoored their skiffs for the fishing, even as their fathers had
done since the first Nolan and the first Leary spied that coast. They
grumbled a little, as was their nature; but there was no talk of mutiny
or treason. The red tide of greed had ebbed away with the passing of the
sense of possession, and the fear of bewitchment had faded away with the
departure of the innocent witch.




THE END.




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