Part 1 out of 4
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Mary Meehan, and the Online Distributed
BY GEORGE VAN SCHAIGK
_From John Grant's Diary_
Have I shown wisdom or made an arrant, egregious fool of myself? This, I
suppose, is a question every man puts to himself after taking a sudden
decision upon which a great deal depends.
I have shaken the dust of the great city by the Hudson and forsaken its
rich laboratories, its vast hospitals, the earnest workers who were
beginning to show some slight interest in me. It was done not after
mature consideration but owing to the whim of a moment, to a sudden
desire to change the trend of things I felt I could no longer contend
Now I live in a little house, among people who speak with an accent that
has become unfamiliar to the great outside world. They have given up
their two best rooms to me, at a rental so small that I am somewhat
ashamed to tender it, at the end of every week. I also obtain the
constant care and the pleasant smiles of a good old housewife who appears
to take a certain amount of pride in her lodger. As far as I know I am
the only boarder in Sweetapple Cove, as well as the only doctor. For a
day or two after my arrival I accompanied the local parson, Mr. Barnett,
on visits to people he considered to be in need of my ministrations. Now
they are coming in droves, and many scattered dwellers on the bleak coast
have heard of me. Little fishing-smacks meeting others from farther
outports have spread the amazing news that there is a doctor at the Cove.
With other pomps and vanities I have given up white shirts and collars,
and my recent purchases include oilskins and long boots. This is
fashionable apparel here, and my wearing them appears to impart
confidence in my ability.
My only reason for writing this is that the Barnetts go to bed early.
Doubtless I may also acquire the habit, in good time. Moreover, there is
always a danger of disturbing some important sermon-writing. In common
decency I can't bother these delightful people every evening, although
they have begged me to consider their home as my own. Mrs. Barnett is a
most charming woman, and never in my life have I known anything like the
welcome she impulsively extended, but she works hard and I cannot intrude
too much. Hence the hours after nine are exceedingly long, when it
chances that there are no sick people to look after. At first, of course,
I just mooned around, and called myself all sorts of names, honestly
considering myself the most stupendous fool ever permitted to exist in
freedom from restraint. I plunged into books and devoured the medical
weeklies which the irregular mails of the place brought me, yet this did
not entirely suffice, and now I have begun to write. It may help the time
to pass away, and prevent the attacks of mold and rust. Later on, if
things do not shape themselves according to my hopes, these dangers will
be of little import. These sheets may then mildew with the dampness of
this land, or fly away to sea with the shrewd breezes that sweep over our
coast, for all I shall care. At any rate they will have served their
Of course I am trying to swallow my medicine like a little man. If there
is a being I despise it is the fellow who whimpers. There is little that
is admirable in professional pugilism, saving the smile often seen on a
fighter's face after he has just received a particularly hard and
crushing blow. Indeed, that smile is the bruiser's apology for his life.
Lest it be inferred that I have been fighting, I hasten to declare that
it was a rather one-sided contest in which I was defeated, lock, stock
and barrel, by a mere slip of a girl towards whom I had only lifted up my
hands in supplication.
"We are both very young, John," she explained to me, with an
exasperating, if unconscious, imitation of the doctors she had observed
as they announced very disagreeable things to their patients. "Our lives
are practically only beginning. Until now we have been like the
vegetables that are brought up in little wooden boxes. We are to be taken
up and planted in a field, where we are to grow up into something
"And we shall enjoy a great advantage over the young cabbages and
lettuces," I chimed in. "We shall have the inestimable privilege of being
permitted to select the particular farm or enclosure that pleases us
"Of course," said Dora Maclennon, cheerfully.
"But I should be ever so glad to have you select for the two of us," I
told her. "I guarantee to follow you blindly."
She put her hand on my arm and patted it in the abominably soothing way
she has doubtless acquired in the babies' ward. In my case it was about
as effectual as the traditional red rag to a bull.
"Don't you dare touch me like that," I resented. "I'm quite through with
the mumps and measles. My complaint is one you don't understand at all.
You are unable to sympathize with me because love, to you, is a mere
theoretical thing. You've heard of it, perhaps you are even ready to
admit that some people suffer from such an ailment, but you don't really
know anything about it. It has not been a part of your curriculum. I've
been trying to inoculate you with this distemper but it won't take."
"I suppose I'm a poor sort of soil for that kind of culture," she
replied, rather wistfully.
"There is no finer soil in the world," I protested, doggedly.
Every man in the world and at least half the women would have agreed with
me. The grace of her charming figure, her smiles and that one little
dimple, the waving abundance of her silken hair, the rich inflections of
her voice, each and all contradicted that foolish supposition of hers.
"Well, I thought this was an invitation to dinner," remarked Dora,
sweetly, with all the brutal talent of her sex for changing the drift of
conversation. "Of course they fed us well at the hospital, when we had
time to eat, but...."
"Is that your last word?" I asked, trying to subdue the eagerness of my
"If you don't really care to go...."
I rose and sought my hat and overcoat, while Dora wandered about my
"Your landlady could take lessons from Paddy's pig in cleanliness," she
declared, running a finger over my bookcase and contemplating it with
horror. "I wonder that you, a surgeon, should be an accomplice to such a
"It's pretty bad," I admitted, "but the poor thing has weak eyes, and she
has seen better days."
"She deserves the bad ones, then," Dora exclaimed.
"As in the case of many other maladies, we have as yet been unable to
discover the microbe of woman's inhumanity to woman," I observed.
"When doggies meet they commonly growl," said Dora, "and when pussies
meet they usually spit and scratch. Each according to his or her nature.
And it seems to me that you could afford a new overcoat. That one is
positively becoming green."
"I do believe I have another one, somewhere," I admitted.
"Then go and find it," she commanded. "You need some one to look after
I turned on her like the proverbial flash, or perhaps like the
"Isn't that just what I've been gnashing my teeth over?" I asked. "I'm
glad you have the grace to admit it."
"I'll admit anything you like," she said. "But, John dear, we can't
really be sure yet that I'm the one who ought to do it. And--and maybe
there will be no room at the tables unless we hurry a little."
She was buttoning up her gloves again, quite coolly, and cast approving
glances at some radiographic prints on my wall.
"That must have been a splendid fracture," she commented.
"You are a few million years old in the ways of Eve," I told her, "but
you are still young in the practice of trained nursing. To you broken
legs and, perhaps, broken hearts, are as yet but interesting cases."
She turned her shapely head towards me, and for an instant her eyes
"Do you really believe that?" she asked, in a very low-sweet voice.
I stood before her, penitently.
"I don't suppose I do," I acknowledged. "Let us say that it was just some
of the growling of the dog. He doesn't usually mean anything by it."
"You're an awfully good fellow, John," said the little nurse, pleasantly.
"I know I've been hurting you a bit. Please, I'm sorry the medicine
tastes so badly."
The only thing I could do was to lift up one of her hands and kiss a
white kid glove, _faute de mieux_. It was stretched over her fingers,
however, and hence was part of her.
When we reached the restaurant she selected a table and placed herself so
that she might see as many diners as possible. If there had been people
outside of Paradise, Eve would certainly have peeped through the palings.
I handed her the bill of fare and she begged for Cape Cods.
"You order the rest of it," she commanded. "I'm going to look."
While I discussed dishes with the waiter her eyes wandered over the big
room, taking in pretty dresses and becoming coiffures. Then she watched
the leader of the little orchestra, who certainly wielded a masterful
bow, and gave a little sigh of content.
"We really could afford this at least once or twice a week," I sought to
tempt her, "and the theatre besides, and--and--"
She looked at me very gravely, moving a little from side to side, as if
my head presented varied and interesting aspects.
"That's one of the troubles with you," she finally said. "You have some
money, a nice reasonable amount of money, and you can afford some things,
and I can't tell whether you're going to be an amateur or a
"An amateur?" I repeated, dully.
"I mean no reflection upon your abilities," she explained, hurriedly. "I
know all that you have done in London and in Edinburgh, and these German
places. You can tack more than half the letters of the alphabet after
your name if you choose to. But I don't quite see what you are doing in
"You wrote that you were coming to study nursing here," I reminded her.
"This is now a great centre of scientific research, thanks to the
princely endowments of the universities. Have you the slightest notion of
how many years I have loved you, Dora?"
"Not quite so loud," she reproved me. "I believe it began in dear old St.
John's. You were about fourteen when you declared your passion, and I
wore pigtails and exceedingly short skirts. My legs, also, were the
"Yes, that was the beginning, Dora, and it has continued ever since.
During the years I spent abroad we kept on writing. It seemed to me that
the whole thing was settled. I've always had your pictures with me; the
first was little Dora, and the other one was taken when you first did
your hair up and wore long dresses. During all that time St. John's was
the garden of the Hesperides, and you were the golden thing I was toiling
for. When you wrote that you were coming to New York I took the next boat
over. Then you told me I must wait until you graduated. And now, after
your commencement, I hoped, indeed I hoped--I'm afraid I'm worrying you,
She smiled at me, very pleasantly, but the little dimple held naught but
mystery. I really think her eyes implied a sort of regret, as if she
wished she could make the ordeal less hard for me.
The waiter brought the oysters, which Dora consumed appreciatively. I was
simply compelled to eat also, lest she should deem me a peevish loser in
the great game I had sought to play. Yet I remember that these Cape Cods
were distinctly hard to swallow, delicious though they probably were.
Suddenly she looked up, and the little oyster impaled on her fork dropped
on the plate.
"There's Taurus!" she exclaimed, with gleaming eyes.
She was looking at a rather tall man, of powerful build, whose abundant
hair was splendidly tinged with silver, and who was coming in with a very
"Is that what you nurses call him?" I asked, recognizing one of the great
surgeons of the world.
"Yes," she answered. "Isn't he wonderful? We're all in love with him, the
"Kindly explain the adjective," I urged her. "Is it due to the fact that
he protected himself against the wiles of a host of pretty women by
marrying the sweetest one of the lot--with a single exception--to the
utter despair of the remainder?"
"Did you ever hear him blow up his house-staff?" Dora asked me.
"I have heard that he could be rather strenuous at times," I admitted.
"Well, that's how he infringes on our rights," Dora informed me. "I have
never heard him say an angry word to a nurse. He just has a way of
smiling at one, as if he were beholding an infinitesimal infant totally
incapable of understanding. The sarcasm of it is utterly fierce and the
nurse goes off, red and shaken, and feels like killing him. Don't you
think we've got just as good a right as any whipper-snapper of a new
intern to be blown up?"
"Evidently," I assented. "It is an unfair discrimination."
"And yet we're all just crazy for him. You can hardly understand how the
personality of the man permeates the wards, how he gives one the
impression of some wonderful being who has reached a pinnacle, and
remains there, smilingly, without heeding the crowd below that worships
and cheers. And how the patients adore him!"
She evidently expected no answer from me, nor did I venture upon one. Her
words were very significant, and gave me a rather hopeless feeling. She
was under the influence of the glamour of great names and reputations.
Her youth demanded hero-worship. Measured by her standards I was but a
nice friend, to whom she could even be affectionate.
Presently, in her enjoyment of our modest little dinner, she turned to
me, appearing to forget the crowd, and sighed happily.
"This would all be so delightful," she said, "if...."
"I'll tell you, girlie," I said, "let us agree that all this has been a
dream of mine. We will say that I have never been in love with you, and
regard you now with profound indifference. It has been that which some
very amazing practitioners are pleased to call an error. Now you will be
able to enjoy happiness. As far as I am concerned I don't suppose it can
make me feel any worse."
"You're a dear good boy, John," she answered. "We shall always be awfully
good friends, and perhaps, some day ... Now you must tell me all your
"Ladies first," I objected.
"Well, my heart is still in Newfoundland, you know. But I'm going to stay
at least a year in New York. I'm going to work among the poorest and most
unpleasant, because I want to become self-reliant. Then I shall go back
home. Think of a trained nurse let loose in some of those outports! I
should just revel in it. I am an heiress worth five hundred dollars a
year of my own. That would keep a lot of people up there. You see, I have
"Will you be so kind as to share it with me?" I asked.
"Well, ordinary nursing is a humdrum thing" and there are thousands to do
it. It is the same thing with you. Just now, having no practice as
yet, you are working in laboratories with a lot of others; you run around
hospitals--also with a crowd. What do you know about your ability to go
right out and do a man's work, by yourself? That is what counts, to my
"I see the point," I informed her, "and you expect surely to return to
the land of codfish."
"Yes," she nodded, "and now what about you?"
"Oh, I am going there next week," I replied. She opened her eyes very
wide, vaguely scenting some sort of joke, but in this she erred.
"I see no use in remaining here," I said, with a determination as strong
as it was recent. "It would take me a long time to put myself on the
level of men like Taurus, and I don't want a lot of nurses falling in
love with me; I only asked for one. You are going back after a time. Very
well, I'm going now, and I'll wait for you. I can easily find some place
where a doctor is badly needed. You will answer my letters, won't you?"
"I promise," she said, very gravely, "and it is a very good idea. One can
always do a man's work up there."
She ate a Nesselrode pudding while I enjoyed coffee and a cigar, to the
extent that I forgot to drink the one and allowed the other to go out
after a puff or two.
"Your money came from a good St. John's merchant who made it from the
people of the outports," she said. "You might spend a little on them now,
gracefully. They need it badly enough."
We remained silent for some time, thinking of the bleak coast of our big
island, where the price of our little dinner would have represented a
large sum, and then we left the restaurant and took a car up town.
When she finally held out her little hand to me it was warm, and I
fancied that from it came a current that was comforting, though it may
have been but the affectionate regard of some years of good friendship.
"You will dine again with me, next Thursday?" I asked her. "It will take
me a few days to get ready."
"Don't you think that Gordian knot had better be cut at once?" advised
Dora. "I won't change my mind, and you know I've always been an obstinate
thing. There are important things for both of us to achieve, somewhere. I
must grope about to find my share of them, for I feel like the ship that
did not find itself till it encountered a storm or two. If I promised to
meet you next week you would keep on hoping. Do plunge right in now
instead of shivering on the bank."
"Don't trouble about any more metaphors," I told her. "You promise to go
home within a year?"
"I firmly intend to," she replied, "but you can't always depend on a
"If I can't depend on you I have very little left to believe in," I
"I'm pretty sure I'll come," she said, "and--and God bless you, John!"
So we separated there, in the silent street, before the nurses' home
where she had taken a room a few days after her graduation. I couldn't
trust myself to say anything more.
The door closed upon her and I slowly walked back to my quarters, with a
head full of dreary thoughts, and several times narrowly escaped speeding
taxis and brought down upon myself some picturesque language.
I fear that I was hardly in a mood to appreciate its beauty.
_From John Grant's Diary_
Four weeks ago, this evening, I sat with Dora in that bright dining room
at the Rochambeau. My description of that last meeting of ours is a
rather flippant one, I fancy, but some feminine faces are improved by
powder, and some men's sentiments by a veneer of assumed cheerfulness.
That cut of mine has not the slightest intention of healing by first
intention; it is gaping as widely as ever, as far as I can judge. Yet I
am glad I made no further effort. I suppose a man had better stop before
he gets himself disliked.
Yesterday morning I came out of a dilapidated dwelling in which I had
spent the whole night, and scrambled away over some rocks. When I sat
down my legs were hanging over a chasm at the foot of which grandly
rolling waves burst into foam, keeping up the warfare waged during a
million years against our sturdy cliffs.
Rays of dulled crimson sought to penetrate, feebly, through the fog, as
if the sun knew only too well how often it had been defeated in its
contest against the murky vapors of this hazy land.
My meeting with Mr. Barnett on the _Rosalind_ was a most fortunate
accident. The earnest little clergyman sat next to me at the table, and
immediately engaged me in conversation. I gathered from him that he had
been begging in the great city and had managed to collect a very few
hundred dollars for his little church. He spoke most cheerfully of all
that he meant to achieve with all this wealth.
"I am going to have the steeple finished," he said. "It will take but a
few feet of lumber, and we still have half a keg of nails. Some day I
expect to have a little reading room, and perhaps a magic lantern. I will
try to give them some short lectures. I am ambitious, and hope that I am
not expecting too much. We are really doing very nicely at Sweetapple
"Where is that?" I asked him.
The little parson gave me the desired geographical information and,
finding me interested, began to speak of his work.
He was one of the small band of devoted men whose lives are spent on the
coast, engaged in serving their fellow-men to the best of their
abilities. The extent of his parish was scarcely limited by the ability
of a fishing boat to travel a day's journey, and he spoke very modestly
of some rather narrow escapes from storm and ice.
"If we only had a doctor!" he sighed. "Mrs. Barnett and I do our best.
Things are sometimes just heartrending."
At once I manifested interest, and angled for further information. This
was just the sort of place I had in mind. It appeared that the nearest
doctor was more than a day's travel away, and that the population was
rather too poor to afford the luxury of professional advice.
"We sometimes feel very hopeless," he told me.
"How do you reach Sweetapple Cove?" I asked him.
"There will be a little schooner in a few days," he answered.
"I am a physician," I announced, "and am looking for exactly that kind of
We were strolling on the deck at this time. Mr. Barnett turned quickly
and grasped my arm.
"There is hardly a dollar there for you," he said. "No sane man would
come to such a place to practice. And there is a little hardship in that
sort of work. You don't realize it."
"I am under the impression that it is just the place for me," I told him.
"There is really good salmon fishing in Sweetapple River," he began,
excitedly, "and you can get caribou within a day's walk, and there are
lots of trout, and..."
I could see that he was eager to find some redeeming points for
"Behold the tempter," I laughed.
"Dear me! Of course I did not mean to tempt you," he said, flushing like
a girl. "And I'm afraid you would have to live in some fisherman's house,
and to furnish medicines as well as your services. Of course they might
pay you something if the fishing happened to be good. It sometimes is,
As soon as we arrived in St. John's I made many and sundry purchases,
with a proper discount for cash, and three days later we sailed out of
the harbor on a tiny schooner laden with salt, barrels of flour and
various other provisions. In less than forty-eight hours we arrived in
Sweetapple Cove. The delighted reception I received from Mrs. Barnett, a
sweet lovable woman, exalted my ideas of the value of my profession. She
simply gloated over me and patted her husband on the back as if his
superior genius had been the true cause of my arrival. At once she made
arrangements for my living with Captain Sammy Moore, an ancient of the
sea whose nice old wife accepted with tremulous pride the honor of
sheltering me. The inhabitants and their offspring, the dogs and the
goats, the fowls and the solitary cow, trooped about me for closer
inspection, and my practice became at once established.
I have taken some formidable walks over the barrens back inland, and have
angled with distinguished success. The days are becoming fairly crowded
Shortly after sunrise, the day before yesterday, I was called upon to go
to a little island several miles out at sea. Captain Sammy and a man
called Frenchy took me out there. Their little fishing smack is the cab I
use for running my remoter errands. I found a man nearly dying from a bad
septic wound of his right arm. I judged that he might possibly survive an
amputation, but that the loss of the breadwinner's limb would have been
just as bad, as far as his family was concerned, as the death of the
patient. There was nothing to do but grit one's teeth and take chances. I
remained with him throughout the night, and in the morning was glad to
detect some slight improvement.
The keen breeze that expanded my lungs as I sat on the rocks did me a
great deal of good. It rested me after the dreary vigil and presently I
returned to my patient. I'm afraid that we men are poor nurses. We can
keep on fighting and struggling and trying, but when we have to sit still
and watch with folded arms the iron enters our souls, while the
consciousness of helpless waiting is after all the bitterest thing we can
contend against. Women are far more patient and enduring.
Constantly I renewed the dressings, and bathed the limb in antiseptics,
and gave a few stimulating drugs. Then I would watch the man's hurried
breathing and feverish pulse. But I could not remain with idle hands very
long at a time, and frequently strolled out to breathe the sea-scented
air, in some place well to windward of the poor little fishhouses that
reeked infamously with the scattered offal of cod. A disconsolate man was
trying to mend a badly frayed net and a few ragged children, gaunt and
underfed, followed me about, curiously, whispering among themselves.
The sick man's wife sat most of the time, near the bed, hour after hour,
a picture of intense, stolid misery. From time to time she wailed because
there was no more tea. Always she hastened to obey my slightest request,
clumsily, faithfully, like some humble dog to which some hard and
scarcely understood task might have been given. One could see that she
really had no hope. The usual way was for the men to fail to return, some
day, when they went out and were caught in a bad storm, or when the
ice-floes drifted out to sea, and then the women would wait, patiently,
until the certainty of their bereavement had entered their souls. This
one had the sad privilege of witnessing the tragedy. It was all happening
in the little house of disjointed planks, and perhaps she took some
comfort in the idea that she would be there at the last moment. It was
easy to see, however, that she considered my efforts as some sort of rite
which, at most, might comfort the dying.
Before noon, when the haze had lifted before the sweep of a north east
wind, one of the children called. The mother went out, hurriedly, while I
stood at the open door. About a mile away a stunning white schooner was
steaming towards the entrance of Sweetapple Cove.
"I'm a-wonderin' what she be doin' here," said the woman, dully. "She
ain't no ship of our parts. I never seen the like o' she."
There was a glinting of light cast forth by bright brasses, and I could
see a red spot which appeared to indicate the presence of a woman on
board, clad perhaps in a crimson cape or shawl.
We kept on staring at her for some time, as people do in forsaken places
when a stranger passes by, and we returned to the bedside.
The day stretched out its interminable length, but the night was longer
still. The children had been put to bed in dark corners, after a meal of
fish and hard bread. The smallest had clamored for some tea.
"There ain't no more," said the mother.
I had noticed that she had put aside a very small package of this luxury,
on a high shelf.
"Why don't you give them some?" I asked. "You forget that you have a
little laid aside."
"There won't be none left fer you," she answered.
I ordered her to put the kettle on the fire at once and make tea for her
young ones, and bade her take some also.
"I told Sammy Moore to bring some to-morrow," I told her.
I am afraid that I dozed a good many times, that night, on the little low
stool near the bed. There was not much to be done. Gradually it dawned
upon me that the man was getting better. The stimulants had produced some
reaction, and the hot dry skin was becoming moister. I feared it might be
but a temporary improvement, and hardly dared mention it. Yet the man was
no longer delirious. Several times he asked for water, and once looked at
me curiously, with a faint attempt at a smile, before his head again sank
down on the pillow.
Finally the sunlight came again, shortly after the smoky lamp had been
extinguished, and I went out of the house, when the chill of the early
morning seized me so that for a moment my teeth chattered. The woman
"He do be a dreadful long time dyin'," she said, miserably.
I suppose that I was nervous and weary with the two long nights of
watching, and lost mastery over myself. To me those words sounded
heartless, although now I realize they came from the depth of her woe.
"You have no right to say such things," I reproved her sharply. "I don't
think he is going to die. I believe that we have saved him."
Then she sank on the ground, grasping one of my chilly hands and weeping
over it. These were the first tears she had shed and I saw how grievously
I had erred. As gently as I could I lifted her to her feet.
"I'm sorry I spoke so gruffly," I said. "But I really believe that we are
going to pull him through, and that we shall save his arm."
At noon-time we saw the white yacht coming out of Sweetapple Cove. She
was speeding away in the direction of St. John's. The weather was
beginning to spoil, and at the foot of the seaward cliffs the great seas,
smooth and oily, boomed with great crashes that portended a coming storm.
Early in the afternoon the wind was coming in black squalls, accompanied
by a rolling mist. As I looked towards the mainland I saw a fishing boat
coming, leaning hard to the strong gale. An hour later Sammy and his man
landed in the tiny cove and the old fellow came rushing towards me.
"You is wanted to come ter onst," he said. "They is a man come yisterday
on that white yacht. He went up th' river fur salmon, jist after his boat
left, and bruk the leg o' he slippin' on the rocks. Yer got to come right
I took the small package he brought me and rushed up to the house with it
The improvement had continued, and I gave careful directions in regard to
continuing the treatment. After this I descended to the tiny beach where
the boat was waiting.
"She be nasty when yer gets from the lee o' the island," Sammy informed
me. "I mistrust its gettin' worse and some fog rollin' in wid' it. Mebbe
yer doesn't jist feel like reskin' it?"
"How about your wife and children, Sammy?" I asked. "There is no one
depending on me."
He took a long look, quietly gauging the possibilities.
"I'm a-thinkin' we's like to make it all right," he finally told me.
"And what about you and the little boy, Frenchy?" I asked the other man.
"Me go orright," he answered. "Me see heem baby again."
So we jumped aboard. The tiny cove was so sheltered that we had to give a
few strokes of the oars before, suddenly, the little ship heeled to the
_From John Grant's Diary_
In a few minutes the slight protection afforded us by Will's Island was
denied us. I was anxious to ask further details about this injured man we
were hurrying to see, but the two fishermen had no leisure for
conversation. A few necessary words had to be shrieked. Even before I had
finished putting on my oilskins the water was dashing over us, and old
Sammy, at the tiller, was jockeying his boat with an intense
preoccupation that could not be interfered with.
The smack was of a couple of tons' burden, undecked, with big fish-boxes
built astern and amidships. She carried two slender masts with no
bowsprit to speak of, having no headsails, and her two tanned wings
bellied out while the whole of her fabric pitched and rolled over the
white crested waves. The fog was growing denser around us, as if we had
been journeying through a swift-moving cloud. It was scudding in from the
Grand Banks, pushed by a chill gale which might first have passed over
the icy plateaux of inner Greenland.
This lasted for a long time. We were all staring ahead and seeking to
penetrate the blinding veil of vapor, and I felt more utterly strayed and
lost than ever in my life before. Our faces were running with the salt
spray that swished over the bows or flew over the quarters, to stream
down into the bilge at our feet, foul with fragments of squid and caplin
long dead. We were also beginning to listen eagerly for other sounds than
the wind hissing in the cordage, the breaking of wave-tops and the hard
thumping of the blunt bows upon the seas.
"Look out sharp, byes, I'm mistrusting'," roared old Sammy.
There were some long tense moments, ended by a shriek from Frenchy by the
The sails shook in the wind and swung in-board, and out again, with a
rattling of the little blocks. The forefoot rose high, once or twice,
with the lessened headway, and a great savage mass of rock passed
alongside, stretching out jagged spurs, like some wild beast robbed of
its prey. Frenchy, ahead, crossed himself quietly, without excitement,
and again peered into the fog.
"Close call!" I shouted to the skipper, after I had recovered my breath,
since I am not yet entirely inured to the risks these men constantly run.
"We nigh got ketched," roared back Sammy Moore. "I were mistrustin' the
tide wuz settin' inshore furder'n common. But I knows jist where I be
His grim wrinkled face was unmoved, for during all his life he had been
staring death in the face and such happenings as these were but incidents
in the day's work.
"I doesn't often git mistook," he shouted, "but fer this once it looks
like the joke were on me."
The little smack continued to rise and fall over the surge. Yves, the
Frenchman, remained at his post forward, holding on to the foremast and
indifferent to the spray that was drenching him as he stared through the
fog, keenly. My attention was becoming relaxed for, after all, I was but
a passenger. Despite Sammy's close shave I maintained a well-grounded
faith in him. It was gorgeous to see him speed his boat over the
turbulent waters with an inbred skill and ease which reminded one of
seagulls buffeting the wind or harbor seals playing in their element.
Like these the man was adapted to his life, not because he possessed
wonderful intelligence but owing to the brine which, since childhood, had
entered his blood. The vast ice-pans had revealed their secrets to him
and the North Atlantic gales had become the breath of his nostrils.
I can remember a time when I had an idea that I could handle a boat
fairly well, but now I was compelled to recognize my limitations, while I
really enjoyed the exhibition of Sammy's skill.
"We'd ought ter be gettin' handy," roared the latter to Frenchy, who
nodded back, turning towards us his dripping, bearded face, for an
Suddenly he extended his arm.
"Me see. To port!" he shouted.
Dimly, veiled by the fog curtain, of ghostly outline, a jutting cliff
appeared and Sammy luffed slightly. On both sides of us the seas were
dashing up some tremendous rocks, but directly ahead there was an opening
between the combers that hurled themselves aloft, roaring and impotent,
to fall back into seething masses of spume. There was a suggestion of
tremendous walls over which voices were shrieking in the battle of
unending centuries between the moving turmoil and the stolid cliffs,
defying the battering waves.
Our little boat flew on, and suddenly the rolling and pitching ceased as
if some magic had oiled the waters. Within the land-locked cove the wind
no longer howled and the surface was smooth. It was like awaking from the
unrest of a nightmare to the peace of one's bed. We glided on, losing
headway, for Frenchy had let the sheets run. With movements apparently
slow, yet with the deftness which brings quick results, the sails were
gathered about the masts and made fast, and presently we drifted against
the small forest of poles supporting the flakes and fishhouses. These
were black and glistening with the rain and from them came an odor, acrid
and penetrating, of decaying fish in ill-emptied gurry-butts and of
putrefying livers oozing out a black oil in open casks.
We made our way over the precarious footing of unstable planks and shook
ourselves like wet dogs, while Sammy stopped for a moment to hunt beneath
his oilskins for a sodden plug of tobacco, from which he managed to gnaw
off a satisfactory portion.
"Well, we's here, anyways," he observed, quietly.
"Sammy, you're a wonderful man!" I exclaimed, earnestly.
The old fellow looked at me, but his seamed face appeared devoid of
understanding. Slowly there seemed to dawn upon his mind the idea that
this might be some sort of jest on my part, and the tanned leather of his
countenance wrinkled further into a near approach to a smile, as we
started up the steep path leading up to the village.
Yet I had meant no pleasantry whatever, for really I was awed by the
mystery of it all. In the fog that rolled in with the north-east gale we
had left Will's Island, ten miles away, and skirted, without ever seeing
them, some miles of cliffs. We had avoided scores of rocks over which the
seas broke fiercely, and had finally dashed through a narrow opening in
the appalling face of the huge ledge, unerringly. To me it seemed like a
gigantic deed, beyond the powers of man.
The path began to widen, and Sammy again vouchsafed some information,
taking up his slender thread of narrative as if it had never been
"So they carries him up to th' house, on a fishbarrow, an' they sends for
me, an' wuz all talkin' to onst, sayin' I must git you quick an' never
mind what it costs. Them people don't mind what-nothin' costs, 'pears to
By this time we had risen well above the waters of Sweetapple Cove. The
few scattered small houses appeared through the mist, their eaves
dripping in unclean puddles. The most pretentious dwelling in the place
is deserted. It boasts a small veranda and a fairly large front window
over which boards have been nailed. In very halt and ill-formed letters a
sign announces "The Royal Shop," a title certainly savoring of affluence.
But it is a sad commentary upon the prosperity of the Cove that even a
Syrian trader has tried the place and failed to eke out a living there.
Some dispirited goats forlornly watched our little procession for a
moment, and resumed their mournful hunt outside the palings of tiny
enclosures jealously protected against their incursions among a few
A little farther on the only cow in the place, who is descended from the
scriptural lean ones, was munching the discarded tail of a large codfish
which probably still held a faint flavor of the salt with which it had
been preserved. Nondescript dogs, bearing very little resemblance to the
original well-known breed, wandered aimlessly under the pelting rain.
Frenchy reached his dilapidated shack, and was the first to stop.
"Vell, so long," he said.
"_Au revoir a demain_!" I answered, as well as I could.
His somber, swarthy face brightened at the sound of words of his own
tongue. I believe that to him they were a tiny glimpse of something
well-beloved and of memories that refused to grow dim. For a moment he
stood at the door, beaming upon me. A small boy came out, very grimy of
face and hands and with a head covered with yellow curls. He was chiefly
clad in an old woollen jersey repaired with yarn of many hues, that
nearly reached his toes.
"_Papa Yves_!" he cried, leaping up joyfully, quite heedless of Frenchy's
The sailor lifted up the child and kissed him, whereupon he grasped the
man's flaring ears as they projected from the huge tangled beard, and
with a burst of happy laughter kissed him on both cheeks, under the eyes,
in the only bare places.
We hurried on and soon reached one of the few houses distinguished from
others by a coat of paint. By this time the evening was near at hand, yet
the darkness would not have justified as yet a thrifty Newfoundland
housewife in burning valuable kerosene. But from the windows of this
place poured forth abundant light showing recklessness as to expense.
Upon the porch were a few feeble geraniums, and some nasturtiums and
bachelor's buttons twined themselves hopefully on strings disposed for
At the sound of our footsteps the door was quickly opened. A young woman
appeared but the light was behind her and her features were not very
"Couldn't you get him?" she cried, in sore disappointment.
"Yes, ma'am. That's what I went for," said Sammy. "I telled yer I'd sure
bring him, and here he be."
I had come nearer, and then, I am afraid, I somewhat forgot my manners
and stared at her.
_From Miss Helen Jelliffe to Miss Jane Van Zandt_
_Dearest Aunt Jennie_:
I did try so hard to get you to come on this cruise with us. You said you
preferred remaining in Newport to sharing in a wild journey to places one
has never heard of, and now I am compelled to recognize your superior
wisdom. I wish we had never heard of this dreadful hole. I am now reduced
to the condition of a weepful Niobe, utterly helpless to contend against
the sad trend of events. I know how much you disapprove of lingering,
being such an active little body, and so I will tell you the worst at
once. Poor dear Daddy has just broken his leg, and, of all places, in the
most forsaken hole and corner of this dreary island of Newfoundland.
Daddy has always boasted of his perseverance in the pursuit of the
unusual in sport. This time he found it with a vengeance. Our mate, who
hails from these parts, once told him of this place, and implied that the
salmon in the little river running down into this cove would take a fly
whether awake or asleep, and jostled one another for the privilege. While
Daddy is rather fond of a gun, you and I know that there are only two
weapons he is really absorbed in. I suppose that the first is the
instrument he uses to cut off coupons with, and the next is his salmon
rod, which I would like to break into little pieces, for it has been the
cause of turning our long bowsprit towards this horrid jumble of rock and
sea. I considered that we were lucky to have found our way into
Sweetapple Cove without any particular disaster, but of course such luck
could not last long.
We ought never to have come any way, for our skipper, the descendant of
Vikings, had implied that our schooner was in need of all sorts of
repairs, and that sensible people did not start off on long cruises just
after months in Florida which had converted the ship's bottom into a sort
of vegetable garden. Daddy consoled him by telling him he could leave us
there and go off to St. John's to the dry-dock.
You know how pleasantly Daddy speaks to people, and how they detect under
his words a firmness which effectively prevents long discussion.
Stefansson is really a racing skipper, but he likes his berth on the
_Snowbird_ and said nothing more. We reached this place where, for lack
of level ground, the few houses use all sorts of stilts and crutches, and
invaded the village to the intense amazement of the populace and its
Then came Daddy's genius for organization. Within two hours we had rented
a little house for next to nothing a week, furnished it in sixty minutes
with odds and ends from the yacht, including our little brass bedsteads,
which the people here firmly believe to be pure gold, A wild daughter of
the Cove, a descendant of the family that gave it its extraordinary name,
was engaged as a general servant. Daddy's valet and the cook had wept
when they saw the place, and Father informed them that they were rubbish
and might go back with the _Snowbird_, which presently sailed off for the
scraping it appears to be entitled to.
Daddy at once selected a rod with all the care such affairs of state
require, and set forth across the cove with two natives, in a dory. They
went ashore on the banks of the little river and began to clamber over a
terrific jumble of rocks. A salmon was caught so quickly that Father grew
boyish with enthusiasm and capered over more rocks.
And then came the accident, Aunt Jennie, and I am still shaky, and
tearful, and though I try to write like a normal human being I am
desirous of shrieking. There was just a slip and a fall, and a foot
caught between two boulders. Poor Daddy was dragged from the swift water
into which he had been wading and placed in the bottom of the dory, a
most damp and smelly ambulance.
Of course I dashed down to the shore as soon as people came to tell me
what had happened, and naturally I got into everybody's way. It was
strange to see how these very rough-looking men took hold of poor Daddy.
They were just as gentle as could be, and made an arrangement of
fish-carrying barrows upon which they lifted him up and brought him to
I was weeping all this time and Daddy consoled me by telling me not to be
a fool. Susie, our new handmaiden, simply howled. We were bundled out,
chiefly by Daddy's language, and clamored for a doctor. It actually
transpired that there was one in the place, to my infinite relief. The
fact that he was gone to a little island away out at sea appeared to be
but an insignificant detail. An ancient mariner whom Coleridge must have
been acquainted with promised to go and bring him back. If the weather
did not turn out too badly he would return in three or four hours. He
informed me that it was beginning to look very nasty outside. It always
does, in such cases, I believe.
I spent the afternoon trying to do all I could for Daddy, and
occasionally climbed up on the cliff nearly adjoining our house, to watch
for the boat. An abominable fog began to come up, rolling before a
dreadful wind, and I moistened more handkerchiefs, since it was perfectly
evident to me that no small boat would ever return to land in such a
blow. Susie told me that I must not despair, and that people did really
manage to work fishing boats in such weather, sometimes. I considered her
to be a cheerful prevaricator, and told her she didn't know what she was
talking about. At this she curtsied humbly and assented with the "Yis,
ma'am" of the lowly, and all I could do was to keep on despairing.
It was really the most dismal afternoon I ever spent, and when it began
to get dark I gave up all hope. After I had become thoroughly saturated
with misery Susie came to me, grinning.
"I's heerd men a comin'," she told me. "Like as not it's th' doctor."
I dashed out of the front door and met two dreadful looking creatures in
oilskins. As one of them was the ancient mariner I made up my mind he had
failed in his mission. But the other stared at me for an instant, quietly
stepped on the few planks we call the porch, and began to shed his outer
skin, which fell with a flop.
"Are you the doctor?" I finally asked him.
He bowed, very civilly, followed me into the house, and the other man
placidly sat down on the porch, while the slanting rain rattled on his
armour. I need hardly tell you that these people are as amphibious as
Once within doors I scrutinized the doctor. He was a rather nice tall
chap with hair showing slightly the dearth of barbers in Sweetapple Cove,
a fact Daddy had informed himself of, for I had seen him looking
disconsolately at a safety razor. This man was also rather badly
unshaven, and a blue flannel shirt with a sodden string of a necktie
formed part of his apparel. I have seen healthy longshoremen rather more
neatly garbed. I'm afraid that at first I was badly disappointed.
I stood at the door of father's room, which is also the parlor and dining
room, hesitating foolishly. At last I asked the man to come in.
"Daddy dear, here is the doctor," I said.
You know that father does not consider himself merely as a tax-payer, and
a connoisseur in split bamboos. He prides himself upon his knowledge of
men and, before trusting himself to this one, had to study him carefully.
I could see that he was taken a little by surprise.
"Er--er," he hesitated, "are you a physician, sir?"
"Appearances are deceptive in these jumping-off places," answered the
young man. "I possess a diploma or two, and such knowledge as I have is
entirely at your service."
He didn't really seem to be at all embarrassed. His look was rather a
pleasant one, after all, and suddenly I became inspired with confidence.
I think Daddy was impressed in the same way.
"I'm in an awful fix," he announced. "I am quite sure that my leg is
broken, and of course it requires the very best attention. I can afford
to take no chances with it and need a first-class man. Are you quite
The doctor sat down by the bed, quietly, and appeared to look at Daddy
understandingly. He doubtless realized that he was in the presence of
one of those men whose success in life, together with the possession of
grand-parents, causes them to regard themselves as endowed with the
combined wisdom of the law and the prophets. I am quite sure that he also
detected the big fund of common sense which lurks in the keen grey eyes
under Daddy's bushy eye-brows.
"You have my deepest sympathy, Mr. Jelliffe," he began. "I need hardly
point out the fact that I am the only doctor available. I am going to do
my very best for you. They have some very good men in St. John's, and we
may be able to get one of them to come down here, in a few days, to look
over my work. In the meanwhile your leg must be attended to so that no
further harm will be done. Let us have a look at it."
"I'll have to trust you," said Daddy, very soberly.
"Of course you will have to, Daddy," I put in. "You must be very good.
When you move your poor leg hurts you dreadfully, and the doctor will fix
it so that it won't be so painful."
I stood at the head of the bed and poor Daddy allowed me to stroke his
hand, a thing he usually resents. I know that he was in great pain and
feared other unknown tortures. The poor man looked at the tall doctor's
big hands as if he deemed them instruments of potential torture. One
really couldn't blame him for having scant confidence in a man whose
business appears to be the care of this poverty-stricken population.
The doctor was pulling off his heavy pea-jacket and appeared in dark blue
flannel which revealed very capable shoulders. They reminded me of Harry
Lawrence. The ancient mariner came in with a bag he had been sent for. He
had also deposited his oilskins on the porch and respected other
conventionalities by removing his great muddy boots and entering the room
in huge flaming scarlet socks, neatly darned with white yarn. He smiled
blandly at Daddy.
"Hope you is feelin' some better, sir," he said. "Don't you be talkin',
for if you isn't t'won't be no time afore you is. You're sure in luck as
how I could bring him, an' I'll jist lay yer a quintal as how he's goin'
to fix yer shipshape."
Then there was a knock at the door and a dripping woman entered. There
was not the slightest trace of timidity in her manner. Really, Aunt
Jennie, I thought at first that she was the most awful frump I had ever
seen. Her head was wrapped in a soaking little shawl, and her dress was a
remnant of grand-mother's days. Yet the poise of her head, the pleasant
smile upon her face and, more than all, her delightful voice, gave an
immediate hint of infinitely good breeding.
"Can't I help?" she asked. "I'd be awfully glad to. I should have been in
before but I was detained at the Burtons'. Had to look after the woman
during your absence, Dr. Grant."
"I beg to introduce the providence of Sweetapple Cove," said the doctor.
"Mrs. Barnett is the one person who proves the vulgar error that none of
us is indispensable."
She threw off her shawl, laughing.
"The doctor and I often hunt in couples," she explained.
Her voice was really the most delightful thing you ever heard. I forgot
her clothes, and her big boots, and went up to her, holding out my hand.
"Won't you let me take your shawl?" I asked. "It is sopping wet."
"I had an umbrella when I first came here," she said, "but it blew over
the cliffs long ago. Thanks, ever so much. And now what can I do?"
"You are always on hand when help is needed, Mrs. Barnett," said the
doctor. "Thank you for coming. I shall need you in a minute."
She gave him a quick little friendly nod and went to the bed.
"I hope that you are not suffering too much," she told Daddy. "Dr. Grant
will have you all right in a jiffy."
"Thank you, madam," said Daddy, staring at her.
The doctor had been pulling endless things out of his bag. For all of
their size his hands showed a quality of gentle firmness that was quite
surprising and Daddy, under his ministrations, appeared to become less
"Now, Mrs. Barnett," directed Dr. Grant. "One hand under the knee, if you
please, and the other should hold the heel. That's the way."
Rapidly he wound some cotton batting about the injured limb. Daddy had
given one awful groan when his leg was pulled straight, but now he
watched the winding of bandages and the application of plaster of Paris
without saying a word. The doctor finally rubbed the whole thing smooth.
"That's all right now," he said. "We will let the leg down again."
Between them they gently lowered the limb upon a hollowed pillow, and
Daddy looked much relieved.
"That is all for the present," said the doctor. "I hope we didn't hurt
you too much, Mr. Jelliffe."
"I think it will be easier now," admitted Daddy. "I can't say that you
made me suffer very much. I am obliged to you, and also to you, madam."
She treated him to a gentle, motherly smile, and grabbed her old wet
"I'd be ever so glad to stay with you all night," she said, "but
unfortunately one of my kiddies is teething and wants me rather badly.
May I call in the morning?"
By this time father was utterly captured.
"You would be ever so kind," he said. "I can hardly thank you
She refused proffers of umbrellas and water-proofs, laughingly saying
that she could not reach home much wetter than she was, and disappeared.
"Our parson's wife, Miss Jelliffe," explained Dr. Grant, "and the nearest
thing to a blessing that Sweetapple Cove has ever known, I should say."
"She must be," I assented. "She is perfectly charming."
Then he went in the next room, where the mariner was waiting, sitting in
a chair and contemplating his red socks.
"We're off again to-morrow morning to Will's Island," said the doctor.
"Just let Frenchy know, will you? We shall start as soon as possible
after I have found out how Mr. Jelliffe has passed the night."
"Aye, aye, sir," replied the old man, lifting a gnarled hand to his
The doctor looked around him. His big frame seemed to relax, and a
compelling yawn forced him to lift his hand to his mouth. Then he came in
"Good night, Mr. Jelliffe," he said. "I'll be here the first thing in the
morning. You may take this little tablet if the pain is severe, but don't
touch it unless you are really compelled to."
Daddy stretched out his hand, in a very friendly way, and he certainly
looked approvingly at the young man. Then I accompanied the latter to the
outer door. It was still raining and the wind blew hard.
"Good night, Miss Jelliffe," he bade me. "Your father's injury is quite a
simple one and I have no doubt we shall obtain a good result."
He picked up his oilskins and put them on again.
"Thank you," was all I could find to say. His long steps rapidly carried
him away and he disappeared in the misty blackness.
When I returned the old fisherman, whose name is Sammy, was standing by
"It seems to me," complained Daddy, "that he might have offered to stay
with me all night. I call it rather inconsiderate of him."
"We is fixed fer that, sir," asserted Captain Sammy. "I be goin' ter stay
wid' yer. I'll jist set down by the stove and, case I should git ter
sleep, jist bawl out or heave somethin' at me. First I'll go an' git a
bite er grub, jist a spud er two an' a dish o' tea; likely th' old woman
has some brooze fer me, waitin'. I'll be back so soon ye'll hardly know I
He looked at us, his kindly old face lighting up into a smile. Then he
pointed with a stubby thumb in the direction the doctor had taken.
"He've been up three nights a-savin' Dick Will's arm, as means the livin'
o' he and the woman an' seven young 'uns. I mistrust he'll maybe fall
asleep a-walkin' less he hurries. 'Tis a feelin' I knows, keepin' long
watches on deck when things goes hard."
"But I can watch my father," I protested.
"So yer could, fer a fact," he admitted, "but yer couldn't run out handy
an' fetch doctor, so I might as well stay here an' ye kin do a job of
As he hurried out Susie came in from the kitchen, buxom and rosy of
"Th' kittle's biled ef you is ready," she announced. "Yer must be
a-perishin' fer a sup an' a bite."
I shall have to stop now, Aunt Jennie dear, and goodness knows when this
will reach you, as mails are very movable feasts.
But it has been a comfort to write, and I was too nervous and excited to
go to sleep, for a long time. I really think I ought to go to bed now.
That doctor is really a very nice young man, and I just love Mrs.
Barnett. Any one would.
Please write as often as possible, for now we are prisoners for goodness
knows how long in this place, and your letters will be worth their weight
in precious stones. Tell me all that is happening. Have you heard from
Harry Lawrence lately?
_From John Grant's Diary_
When I awoke this morning, I was inclined to pinch myself, wondering
whether I was still dreaming. In a moment, however, my recollections were
perfectly clear. Yesterday evening I met people such as I should no more
have expected to find in Sweetapple Cove than in the mountains of the
moon. I am glad that my idea in coming here was not to convert myself
into a hermit; I am afraid I should have been sadly disappointed. Mr.
Jelliffe is a man just beyond middle age, shrewd and inclined to good
nature. His daughter, like the rest of her sex, is probably a problem,
but so far I can only discover in her an exceedingly nice young lady who
dotes on her father and takes rather a sensible view of things.
It appears that they have been all over the world and, like experienced
travelers, understand exceedingly well the art of adapting oneself to all
manners of surroundings. In no time at all they had transformed their
ugly little house into quite a decent dwelling.
Miss Jelliffe is a decidedly attractive young woman. Of course I can
only compare her with Dora Maclennon. They belong to two different
types. The one is a bustling little woman, very earnest, determined and
hard-working, who looks to the world for something which must as yet be
rather indefinitely shaped in her mind, and who is going to find it. The
other, I should say, has no cut and dried aim or ambition. Her father or
grandfather achieved everything for her, and she is as free as air to
follow her every inclination. Both are unquestionably good to look upon,
and, at least for the present, I hope it may not be treasonable to say
that Miss Jelliffe is the more restful of the two. We men are apt to
think that the privilege of striving and pushing forward should be
exclusively ours, and when we see a woman occupied with something of that
sort we are somewhat apt to resent it as an unjustifiable poaching in our
preserves. For a long time I considered Dora's efforts to be something in
the nature of growing pains, which would disappear in the course of time.
Now I am not so sure of this. Yet when I think of the dear little girl my
heart beats faster, and somehow I persist in believing that a day will
come when she will drift towards me, and we will tackle the further
problems of life together.
I must confess I am glad to have met the Jelliffes. Barnett and his wife
have been the only people with whom one could exchange ideas unconnected
with codfish. The parson is a splendid little chap, utterly cocksure of a
lot of things I take good care not to discuss too deeply with him.
Moreover he is away a good part of the time, and composes his sermons
with a painstaking care which must be somewhat wasted on Sweetapple Cove.
I don't believe the people are really interested in the meaning of Greek
texts. When he is in the throes of inspiration none dare go near him and
Mrs. Barnett, the good soul, walks on tiptoe and hushes her brood. I only
meet her at various sick-beds. In her own home she is so tremendously
busy that I feel I have no right to trespass too often. The baby requires
a lot of care, and there are lessons to the others, and family sewing,
and keeping an eye upon the little servant. Worshipping her husband takes
up the rest of her time.
After I had my breakfast I left Sammy's house, where I have an office
which would astonish some of my New York friends. I had scraped my face
and put on fairly decent clothing in deference not only to my own
preferences but also to the feelings of the newcomers.
I was hardly out of the house before Sammy's wife came running after me.
"You's forgot your mitts," she cried. "Here they is. I hung 'em up back
o' th' stove ter dry. It's like ter be cold at sea an' ye'll be wantin'
I thanked the good woman, telling her that I could afford to be careless
since I had her to look after me.
"Oh! Don't be talkin'," she answered, highly pleased.
I stopped for a moment to light my pipe. Mrs. Sammy was now calling upon
her offspring to hasten, for it was a fair drying day. The sun was out
and the ripples glimmered brightly over the cove. The people were
climbing up on their flakes, tall scaffolds built on a foundation of
lender poles, and were spreading out the split, flattened codfish, that
would have to dry many days before it would be fit to trade or sell.
Everywhere in the settlement women and children, and a few old men unfit
for harder labor, were engaged in the same back-breaking occupation. The
spreading out always seems easy enough, for they deal out the fishy slabs
as cards are thrown upon a table, but the picking and turning are arduous
for ancient spines stiffened by years of toil.
I also looked out upon the cove, where a few men in dories were engaged
in jigging for squid, pulling in the wriggling things which had been
attracted by a piece of red rag, their tentacles caught upon the upturned
needles of the jig. They were dropped with a sharp, jerky motion on the
slimy mass of their fellows, all blotched with the inky discharge. Out
beyond the rocky headlands, in the open sea, the little two-masted smacks
were hurrying to anchor or already bobbing up and down with furled
canvas, rising, falling and yawing to the pull of the sea. At times, by
looking sharply, one could catch the gleam of a fish being pulled in, and
sometimes one could hear the muffled thump of the muckle, when the fish
was a big one.
The air was good indeed to breathe. The dull griminess of the village, so
utterly dismal in the rain and fog of yesterday, had given place to
something akin to cheerfulness. On the tops of the cliffs the scanty
herbage, closely cropped by the goats, was very green, of the deep
beautiful hue one only finds in lands drenched by frequent downpours. The
sea was restless with long gentle swells which now only broke when they
reached the bottoms of the rocks which they pounded, intermittently, with
great puffs of white spray.
The goats were briskly clambering among the boulders; the dogs looked
cheerful; the few chickens, no longer sad and bedraggled, scratched with
renewed energy. At the entrance of the cove a few gannets wheeled,
heavily, while further away a troop of black-headed terns screamed and
darted about, gracefully, on long, slender, swallow-like pinions.
Even the houses, bathed in rejuvenating sunlight, looked more attractive.
A few poor flowers in rare window-boxes perked up their heads. The
puddles in the road were draining off into rocky crannies, and the very
air seemed to have been washed of some of its all-pervading reek of
I was thoroughly refreshed after a night during which I had slept so
soundly that Mrs. Sammy, obeying instructions, had been compelled to
enter my room and regretfully shake me into consciousness. Then I had
poured much cold water over myself and used my best razor. Coffee and
pancakes, with large rashers of bacon, were awaiting me, and I soon
departed for the home of my new patient. Children called good morning,
and a few ancient dames too old even for work upon the flakes nodded
their palsied heads at me.
The house tenanted by the Jelliffes belongs to a man who is off to the
Labrador, trapping cod with a crew of sons and neighbors. His wife has
been only too glad to rent it to these very grand people from that
amazing yacht, who have come all the way from New York, to the wonderment
of the whole population, for the mere purpose of catching salmon. Her
eldest daughter has been engaged as maid of all work by the tenants, and
will doubtless compensate, in cheerful willingness, for her utterly
primitive idea of the duties incumbent upon her.
Miss Jelliffe was sitting upon the porch. Wisps of her rich chestnut hair
were being blown about by the pleasant breeze, and there is no doubt that
her white shirtwaist with the rather mannish collar and tie, the tweed
skirt with wide leather belt, and the serviceable low tanned shoes made a
vision such as I had not expected to behold in Sweetapple Cove.
She smiled brightly as I came up and bade me good morning. Her pretty
face had lost the worried, tearful look of the day before. I expressed
the hope that her father had been able to obtain some rest.
"I am under the impression that Daddy slept rather better than I could,"
she answered, cheerfully. "Such a concert as I was treated to! I had
always had an idea that my father was rather appalling, but your ancient
sea-faring friend was positively extraordinary. After you left I read
just a little to Daddy, and the hypnotic quality of my voice had rapid
effect. After this Captain Sammy curled up on the floor, just like one of
the local dogs, and spurned my offer of rugs and pillows with the
specious excuse that if he made himself too comfortable and chanced to
fall asleep he would never wake up. I went to my room to write a letter
and presently the walls began to shake. You never heard such a duet."
"Is Mr. Jelliffe still asleep?" I asked.
"No, indeed! He has already clamored for his breakfast and is at present
occupied with a bowl of oatmeal and some coffee."
Just then Frenchy came up, lifting his cap to the young lady. In one of
his big paws he held his little boy's hand.
"Tak aff you cap to ze yong lady lak I tole you," he said, gravely. "Heem
tink you a leetle sauvage."
The wide-eyed little chap obeyed the big sailor, his yellow curls falling
over his eyes. He continued to stare at her, with a fat thumb tucked in a
corner of his mouth.
"Me come say heem Beel Atkins heem go aff to St. Jean to-day. Heem got
load of feesh."
"That is important news, Miss Jelliffe. Civilization is opening its arms
to you," I told her. "Atkins can take letters and messages for you, and
may be trusted to bring back anything you need, providing you write it
all down carefully. This is also an opportunity of obtaining other
surgical advice for your father."
"I need a lot of things," she exclaimed, "and there will be a message to
our captain to hurry matters at that dry-dock. But I will have to consult
"We go to-day?" Yves asked me, pointing towards Will's Island.
"Yes, Dick needs a lot of care yet," I answered. "But you will wait here
and take some orders to Atkins first."
"Oui, orright, me wait," he said.
Miss Jelliffe had gone indoors and the man sat down on the porch, with
the little chap beside him, and they gravely watched the gulls circling
over the water. Yves is very big and rough looking, and his black beard
is impressive. He gives one rather the idea of what the men must have
been, who manned the ships of William the Conqueror, than the notion of a
conventional Frenchman. Yet there is in him something very soft and
tender, which appears when he looks at that child, with deep dark eyes
that always seem to behold things beyond the ordinary ranges of vision.
"Ah! Glad to see you!" exclaimed Mr. Jelliffe as I entered the room. "A
broken leg is no fun, but I can say that I got on rather better than I
expected to. The pain has been no more than I can stand. I'll be through
with this in a minute."
He swallowed his last mouthful of coffee, and Susie Sweetapple, the
improvised domestic, took away a flat board with which she had made a
"Is you real sure you got enough?" she enquired solicitously. "Them
porridges doesn't stick long to folks' ribs, but if yer stummick gits ter
teasin' yer afore dinner time jist bawl out. 'Tain't never no trouble ter
bile th' kittle again."
"Thank you," said Mr. Jelliffe, as the girl left the room. "I have not
yet decided, Doctor, whether that young female is an unmitigated nuisance
or a pearl of great price. At any rate we couldn't get along without
In a few minutes I was allowed to inspect the broken leg, which was
resting properly on the pillow. The swelling was not too great, and the
patient declared that the confounded thing was doubtless as comfortable
as such a beastly affair could be. Mr. Jelliffe possesses some notions of
"A schooner is leaving to-day for St. John's, Mr. Jelliffe," I told him.
"It will return in a few days, depending on the weather, and we could
probably prevail upon one of the best surgeons there to come back with
My patient's eyes narrowed a little and he wrinkled his brow. He was
looking at me keenly, like one long accustomed to gauging men with the
"What is your own advice?" he finally asked.
I could not help smiling a little.
"Your fracture is not at all a complicated affair, and it looks to me as
if the ends could easily be maintained in proper position. On the other
hand I am still a young man, and desire to make no special claim to
eminence in my profession."
"At any rate you are the local doctor."
"I suppose I represent all that this community can afford," I replied.
"If I were you I would send for a consultant."
"The community doesn't seem to me to be so very badly off, as far as its
doctor is concerned," said Mr. Jelliffe, slowly. "The other chap will
come and undo this thing, and hurt me a lot more. I'm inclined to let
things slide. This practice of yours ought to be a great thing for a
stout man needing a reducing diet. How the deuce do you keep from
starving to death?"
"Mrs. Sammy feeds me rather well," I replied.
My patient smiled.
"You're a smart boy," he said. "I'll admit you don't look very hungry.
But how about the appetite for other things, for success in life, for the
appreciation of intelligent men and for their companionship? Is there no
danger of what you fellows call atrophy? Men's intellects can only
maintain a proper level by rubbing up against others."
For a moment he stopped, and then went on again.
"I beg your pardon, Doctor. I'm afraid that all this is none of my
business. I am sure you will take excellent care of me, and I don't see
the need of sending for any one else."
"I will do my best for you, Mr. Jelliffe," I answered.
He held his hand out to me, in the friendliest way. I think we are going
to get on together very well. It is pleasant to meet people who are so
secure in their position that they do not feel the slightest need for
I soon left for Will's Island, where I remained for some hours. Frenchy's
boy came with us. He's a lovable little fellow, and manifested his
admiration for "_la belle dame_" as he calls Miss Jelliffe. He is an
infant of discriminating taste.
It was very encouraging to note a real improvement in the fisherman's
condition, and I returned in a cheerful state of mind. In the afternoon I
again called on the Jelliffes, and was chatting with the old gentleman
when Mrs. Barnett, with her two oldest clinging to her skirts, put her
head in at the door and cheerfully asked how the invalid was getting on.
"I won't come in," she said, "my little chaps would soon turn the place
"Do bring them in," urged Miss Jelliffe. "Daddy is ever so fond of
The parson's wife accepted the invitation.
"I daresay I will be able to hold them in for a few minutes," she said.
Miss Jelliffe is certainly a bright girl. I am positive that she
recognized at once in Mrs. Barnett a woman who would adorn any gathering
of refined people. The homemade dress mattered nothing, nor the garb of
the little ones, which showed infinite toil combined with scanty means
for accomplishment. It was delightful to observe the positive deference
and admiration that were mingled with the perfect ease of the young
At their mother's bidding the little fellows said their greeting very
politely. Miss Jelliffe kissed them and at once insured their further
behavior by sitting on the floor with them, armed with chocolates and
"You are exceedingly kind to visit us, Mrs. Barnett," Mr. Jelliffe
assured her. "I hope I may have the pleasure of meeting your husband
"I expect him back to-morrow," she answered. "He's away on a short trip.
Sometimes he goes quite a distance up and down the coast, and
occasionally it is--it is rather hard at home, when the weather gets very
She looked out of the window, with a movement that was nearly mechanical,
and which had become habitual during long hours of waiting.
"But he likes it," she continued. "He says it is a good work and makes
one feel that one is worth one's bread and salt. And so, of course, we
are very happy."
I noticed that Miss Jelliffe was studying her. A look of wonder seemed to
be rising on the girl's face, as if it surprised her to find that this
cultured, refined woman could be contented in such a place.
"Yes, I think I am getting along very well," said Mr. Jelliffe, in answer
to a question. "This young man seems to know his business. I was just
hinting to him, this morning, that such a village as this can offer but a
poor scope for his ability."
"Gracious!" exclaimed Mrs. Barnett, laughingly. "Please don't let him
hear you. I have no doubt that what you say is perfectly true, but we
could never do without him now. He has only been here a short time, and
it has made such a difference. Before that we had no doctor, and--and it
was awful, sometimes. You can't realize how often Mr. Barnett and I have
stood helplessly by some bedside, wringing our hands and wishing so hard,
so dreadfully hard, for a man like Dr. Grant to help us. Once we sent for
a doctor, far away, and he came as soon as he could, but my little Lottie
A spasm of pain passed over her face, and there was a quickly indrawn
breath. Then she was quiet again.
"I hope he will never leave us," she said. "He may miss many things here,
but it is a man's work."
"I don't feel like leaving," I told her, and she rewarded me by one of
those charming smiles of hers.
Presently she took leave, and Miss Jelliffe looked at her father.
"Isn't she wonderful!" she exclaimed. "I can hardly understand it at
"It isn't only in the big places that people do big things," he answered.
"What about that child she referred to, Doctor?"
I told him how the little one had been taken ill, and how they had been
obliged to take her to the head of the cove, over the ice, until they
were able to find a place where a pick could bite into the ground. Miss
Jelliffe stared at me, as I spoke, and I could see her beautiful eyes
becoming shiny with gathering tears.
On the next day, as I was doing something to the plaster dressing, she
came into the room, hurriedly.
"I've been out there," she said. "What a poor desolate place in which to
leave one's loved ones. Won't you let me help? I think I am getting on
very well with my untrained nursing. I want as much practice as I can
"I am bound hand and foot," complained the patient. "These women are
taking all sorts of unfair advantages of me. And, by the way, Helen, I
want you to go out more. You are remaining indoors so much that you are
beginning to lose all your fine color."
"I look like an Indian," she protested laughing.
"Then I don't want you to get bleached out. You must go out walking more,
or try some fishing, but be careful about those slippery rocks. I can
play no other part now than that of a dreadful example."
"I am not going to budge from this room," declared Miss Jelliffe. "You
know that you can't get along without me. Besides, there are no places
that one can walk to."
"I insist that you must get plenty of fresh air," persisted her father.
"There is no fresh air here," she objected. "It is a compound of oxygen,
nitrogen and fish, mostly very ripe fish. One has to breathe cod, and eat
it, and quintals are the only subjects of conversation. Codfish of
assorted sizes flop up in one's dreams. Last night one of them, about the
length of a whale, apparently mistook me for a squid, or some such horrid
thing, and was in the very act of swallowing me when I awoke. I'm afraid,
Daddy dear, that the fresh air of Sweetapple Cove is a dreadful fiction.
But it must be lovely outside."
She was looking through the door, which stood widely opened, towards the
places where the long smooth rollers broke upon the rocks, and beyond
them at brown sails and screaming birds darting about in quest of prey.
"You are hungering for a breath of the sea, Miss Jelliffe," I told her.
"Sammy and Frenchy are waiting for me to go to Will's Island again. With
this wind it will be only a matter of three or four hours there and back.
Could you stand a trip in a fishing boat?"
"Just the thing for her. No danger, is there, Doctor?" asked Mr.
"Not on a day like this," I replied. Miss Jelliffe made a few further
objections, which were quickly overruled. Finally she gave Susie all
sorts of directions, kissed her father affectionately, and was ready to
"We'll be back soon, Daddy. You are a dear to be always thinking about
me. I know I am very mean to leave you."
"The young lady'll be well took care of, sir," declared Captain Sammy,
who had come in to say that the boat was ready.
So we went down to the cove where Frenchy, already apprised that such a
distinguished passenger was coming, was feverishly scrubbing the craft
and soaking the footboards, endeavoring, with scant success, to remove
all traces of fish and bait.
"It's dreadful, isn't it?" said Miss Jelliffe as we passed by the
fishhouses. "I know that when I get back home I shall never eat another
fish-cake. And just look at the awful swarms of flies and blue-bottles.
And the smell of it all! It is all undoubtedly picturesque, but it is
The men were busily working, and girls and boys of all sizes, and one
heard the sound of sharp knives ripping the fish, and the whirring of
grindstones, and the flopping of offal in the water. These people were
clad in ancient oilskins, stiff and evil with blood and slime, but they
lifted gruesome hands to their forelocks as Miss Jelliffe went by and she
did her best to smile in answer.
"Couldn't they be taught to be a little cleaner?" she asked me. "Isn't
it awfully unhealthy for them?"
"It is rather bad," I admitted, "and they are always cutting their hands
and fingers and getting abominably infected sores. They only come to me
when they are in a more or less desperate condition. Yet one can hardly
blame them for following the ways of their fathers, when you consider the
lack of facilities. They can't clean the fish on board their little
boats, as the bankers do on the larger schooners, and there is no place
in which they can dispose of the refuse save in the waters of the cove.
They don't even have any cultivable land where they could spread it to
fertilize the ground. It must drift here and there, to go out with the
ebb of the tide or be devoured by other fishes, or else it gets cast up
on the shingle. The smell is a part of their lives, and I am nearly sure
that they are usually quite unconscious of it. Moreover, they are always
harassed for time. If the fishing is good the men at work in the
fish-houses ought to be out fishing, and the girls should be out upon the
flakes. They often work at night till they are ready to drop. And then
perhaps comes a spell of rain, days and weeks of it, during which the
fish spoils and all their work goes for nothing. Then they have to try
again and again, with hunger and debt spurring them on. And the finest
part of it is that they never seem to lose courage."
"I wonder they don't go elsewhere and try some other kind of work,"
suggested Miss Jelliffe.
"I dare say they are fitted for little else," I replied. "And besides,
like so many other people all over the face of the earth they are
attached to their own land, and many get homesick who are transplanted to
other places. They seem to have taken root in the cracks between these
barren rocks, and the tearing them away is hard. So they keep on, in
spite of all the hardships. They get lost in storms and fogs; they get
drowned or are frozen to death on the ice-pans, nearly every spring, at
the sealing, for which they are paid in shares. This naturally means that
if the ship is unsuccessful they get nothing for all their terrible toil
and exposure. Indeed, Miss Jelliffe, they are brave people and hard
workers, who never get more than the scantiest rewards. I think I am
becoming very fond of them. I'm a Newfoundlander, you know."
"Was it home-sickness that brought you back?" she asked.
"It may have been sickness of some sort," I answered.
She looked at me, without saying anything more, and we stepped on board
the boat, after I had guided her over the precarious footing of a loose
plank which, however, she tackled bravely.
_From Miss Helen Jelliffe to Miss Jane Van Zandt_
During these long evenings there is absolutely nothing for me to do
except to inflict long epistles upon you. Dear Daddy seems to be making
up for some of the lost sleep of his youth, and is apt to begin early the
unmusical accompaniment to his slumbers.
We are now able to dispense with the nice old mariner who watched him so
effectively the first night. Daddy said the competition was too great for
him to stand, and explained that he wanted a monopoly. You will be
delighted to hear that as far as we can tell the poor leg is doing
nicely; at any rate the doctor seems to be pleased. I had no idea that
our patient would be so easily resigned to his fate. He is just as good
as good can be.
To console you for reading about the hardships I must tell you that I had
one of the times of my life to-day. An ultimate analysis of it would
reduce itself to a trip from a dirty shore, in a dirty boat, to a dirty
island, at least that part of it that was not daily scrubbed by the
Atlantic billows. Of course this may be somewhat exaggerated, but the
places one departs from and arrives at are somewhat trying to sensitive
That young doctor I spoke of is the responsible party, aided and abetted
by Daddy. Between them they just bundled me away, under some silly
pretense that I needed fresh air. It is possible, after all, that they
may have been right.
We went down to the fish-houses and flakes that crop out like queer
mushrooms on stilts all over the edges of the cove, and it was a shaky
damsel who shuddered over the passing of a wobbly plank. The crew of two
waited below in the boat, and smiled encouragingly, so that I had to try
and show more bravery than I really felt. I had no desire to intrude
among the squids; one sees them dimly through the clear water and they
impress one, as they move about, as resembling rather active rats. The
cod are more partial to them than I ever shall be. Then there was a
rather rickety ladder down which I scrambled. I am sure the crew had
never seen silk stockings before, but their heads were politely turned
away. A large, exuberantly whiskered Frenchman in picturesque rags gave
me his hand and helped me down with a manner worthy of assorted dukes and
counts; and there was a little boy who sat on a thwart and looked
wistfully at me.
"De leetle bye, heem want go, if mademoiselle heem no mind," said the
Frenchman, bashfully, with a very distinct look of appeal.
The little fellow also sought my eyes, and held his ragged little cap in
his hands. He was simply the curliest darling, clad in a garment of many
colors made of strange remnants and sewed by hands doubtless acquainted
with a sailor's palm but unfamiliar with ordinary stitching.
Naturally I bent down and lifted him up and put him on my knees,
recognizing in this infant the nicest discovery I have yet made on this
amazing island. His little pink face and golden curls imperatively
demanded a kiss. He is just the sweetest little fellow you ever saw, and
looks altogether out of place among the sturdy urchins of the Cove. Then
I had to put him down, because of course I had flopped down in the wrong
place. I notice that in small boats one always does. The child took his
cap off again and said "merci," and I had to smile at Yves, the
Frenchman, whose grin distinctly showed that the way to his heart lies
through that kiddy.
We were off at once, and I sat astern near the ancient. Yves had gone
forward and the doctor, after the usual totally unnecessary concern as to
rugs and either useless things, followed him and appeared to practice his
French on the sailor.
"That there Frenchy," Captain Sammy confided to me, "is most crazy over
th' young 'un. I never did see sich a thing in all me born days."
"He must be awfully proud of such a dear little son," I answered.
"There's them as says it ain't the son o' he," replied Sammy. "He don't
never talk about the bye. They says he jist picked him up somewheres,
jist some place or other. You would hardly think what a plenty they is as
have fathers or mothers neither, along th' coast."
This opened to me a vista of troops of kiddies wandering up and down the
cliffs, wailing the poor daddies that will never be given back by the
rough sea, and the mothers who found life harder than they could bear,
and it saddened me. You always said I must beware of my imagination,
but I think there was a funded reality in that vision. Then I was
compelled to look about me, for we were passing through headlands at the
narrow mouth of the cove, the long lift of the open sea bore us up and
down again, softly, like an easy low swing. That terrible reek of fish
had disappeared and the air was laden with the delightful pungency of
clean seaweed and the pure saltiness of the great waters. North and south
of us extended the rocky coastline all frilled, at the foot of the great
ledges, with the pearly spume of the long rollers.
It was very early when we arrived in the _Snowbird_, and I was not on
deck very long. It didn't seem nearly so beautiful then, and I had no
idea that it would be like this.
"It is perfectly marvelous," I told Captain Sammy. "But it is a terrible
coast. How do you ever manage to get back in storms and fogs? The mouth
of the cove is nothing but a tiny hole in the face of the cliffs."
"Times when they is nought but fog maybe we smells 'un," he replied, with
the most solemn gravity.
"I hadn't thought of such an obvious thing," I replied, laughing. "It
seems quite possible. But how about gales?"
"They is times when we has to run to some o' the bays north or south of
us fer shelter," he answered. "I've allers been able to fetch 'un."
"But what if you were carried out to sea?"
"Then likely I'd git ketched, like so many others has, ma'am."
And then, Aunt Jennie dear, in spite of the shining of the bright sun
upon the glittering water and the softness of the air that was caressing
my face, I felt very sad for a moment. It looked like a very cruel world
for all of its present smiling. On this coast the elements seem always to
be waiting for their prey, just as, in the shelter of ledges deep beneath
our keel, unspeakable slimy things with wide glaucous eyes are lying in
watch, with tentacles outspread.
"It all seems very dreadful to me," I said.
But the old fellow, though he nodded civilly in assent, had not
understood me in the least. This was clearly the only world with
which he was acquainted; the one particular bit of earth whereupon
fate had dropped him, as fertilizing seeds are dropped by wandering
birds. I daresay he is unable to realize any other sort of existence,
excepting perhaps in some such vague way as you and I may think of
those canal-diggers of Mars. Close to us, to port, we passed a big rock
that was jutting from the water and over which the long smooth seas
washed, foaming with hissing sounds.
"He nigh ketched us, day I fetched doctor back to yer father," Sammy
informed me. "Ye mind t'were a bit rough that day, and ye couldn't tell
yer hand afore yer face, hardly, t'were that thick, and tide she'd drawed
us furder inshore 'n I mistrusted. The wind he were middlin' high an'
gusty, too. I don't mind many sich hard times a-makin' th' cove. We was
sure glad enough ter get in."
"I never thought of it in that way," I exclaimed. "It certainly was an
awful afternoon, and it must have been horribly dangerous."
"I telled 'un afore startin' as how t'were a bit of a job, an' he asks me
kin I make it, an' I says I expect I kin, like enough, wid luck. Then he
tells me ter think o' th' old woman an' th' children, an' I says it's all
right. Frenchy he were willin' too, so in course we started."
Then, perhaps for the first time, I took a real long look at that doctor,
who was sitting forward, perched on the head of a barrel. He was laughing
with Frenchy, and held the boy on his lap. I decided that he belongs to a
class that is familiar to us. You know his kind, Aunt Jennie, keen of
eye, full of quiet determination, and always moving forcibly, even if
slowly, towards success. We have seen lots of them on the football
fields, at Corinthian yacht races, wherever big chaps are contending and
care but little for the safety of their necks as long as they are playing
To me the strangest thing about this man is that he appears to be
thoroughly adapted to these surroundings, and yet would be equally at
home in what we choose to call our set, just like that dear woman Mrs.
Barnett. I can't help wondering what he is doing here, I mean apart from
his obvious work which, in all conscience, appears to be hard enough.
He was pointing out something to the little boy, in the distance, so that
I stared also and caught a puff of vapor above the water.
"It's a whale, isn't it?" I asked.
"Yis, ma'am," replied Sammy. "It's one o' they big sulphur-bottoms. Them
little whaling steamers is mighty glad to get hold o' that kind. They
grows awful big. I've seed some shockin' big fellows."
"I'd like to see one caught. It must be ever so exciting," I said.
"There ain't no whalin' stations in these parts, but they tells me some
of 'em 'll tow them little steamers miles and miles, even wid' engine
half speed astern. Then other times they gits 'em killed first shot out
o' the gun."
After this I looked around again. I know you don't care for small boats,
but it is delightful to be so close to the water, and it gives one a
sense of keen pleasure one often misses in bigger ships. They seem to be
so much more alive.
I must acknowledge that after a time I began to observe the doctor again.
I presume it is a fault of our present education, Aunt Jennie, that we
young girls are not much used to being neglected by young men. This one
was really paying little attention to me. Even when a man's daily garb
includes a flannel shirt one expects him to be attentive, if he is nice.
Of course I don't suppose any one here knows how to starch and iron white
shirts and collars, so that the doctor can't help his raiment, which is
better adapted to the local fashions. You must not think that he seems to
be restrained by a sense of respectful deference especially due to the
daughter of one whom the silly papers are fond of referring to as
belonging to the tribe of magnates. His manners are perfectly civil and
courteous, showing that he has been accustomed to move among nice people.
He took the trouble to ask whether I were comfortable, to suggest a rug
which I declined and to ask if there was anything else he could do. But
after that he went forward to practise his French on Yves, who frequently
grinned with pleasure. Nor has he seemed to be particularly elated at the
privilege of attending a rich yacht owner, who may represent a decent
fee. I know perfectly well that he takes a great deal more interest in
the fisherman we went to see.
The island towards which we were sailing was rising from the sea, and
Sammy pointed it out to me, in the distance, faintly azure in the slight
haze. We were sailing with a fair wind, our little sails drawing steadily
and the forefoot casting spray before it in pearly showers.
"Won't you let me take her?" I asked.
Sammy opened astonished eyes and doubtfully relinquished the tiller to
me. Isn't it queer how people of our sort are always deemed to be quite
helpless with their hands? I may boast of the fact that the ancient
mariner was soon satisfied that his craft was in fairly competent ones. I
had to use just a little more strength than I had expected to, and to
stand and brace myself against the pull. But it was glorious and made me
feel to its full extent the delight of the sea. In a moment I felt that
my cheeks were red enough to satisfy Daddy himself, who is always a
strenuous advocate of robustious femininity. He has no use for the
wilted-flower effect in girls. My locks, of course, were disporting
themselves as they pleased, and I am sure that I began there and then to
strew the bottom of our ship with hairpins.
Then I got the one great genuine compliment of my youthful existence.
"_La belle dame qui gouverne_!" exclaimed Yves' little boy.
Of course the other two turned at once to behold the beautiful lady who
was governing, as the Gallic language calls steering. I shall give that
infant a supply of chocolate which will make his big blue eyes open
widely. Such a talent for discrimination should be encouraged. That pard
of a Frenchman was smiling in approval, and the doctor was evidently
taking notice. When a girl wears a white jersey and blue skirt, and she
has a picturesque cap, and is engaged in the occupation of steering,
which brings out many of one's best points, she has a right to expect a
little admiration. It worked and presently the doctor was sitting at my
side, which goes to show that he is but a weak male human after all.
"They are splendid little boats, are they not?" he said.
"Yes, indeed. The rig reminds me of some of the sharpies they use on the
Connecticut coast. But these are regular sea-going craft, and must beat
up to windward nicely."
"You are quite a sailor," was his obviously indicated remark.
"I've done a good deal of small-boat sailing on the Sound," I informed
him, "out of Larchmont and those places, and in Great South Bay. I
suppose I've been a good deal of a tomboy."
"You've been a fine, strong, healthy girl, and you still are," he
It was only such approval as Harry Lawrence, for instance, might have
bestowed on a blue-ribbon pointer. The man considers me as a rather nice
specimen and, with all due modesty, I am inclined to agree with him.
By this time we were rapidly nearing the island. As far as I could see it
was nothing but a rough mass of rocks better suited to the tenancy of
sea-gulls than human beings. Everywhere the waves were breaking at the
foot of the cliffs and monstrous boulders. A great host of sea-birds was
rising from it and returning; in the waters near us the dear little
petrels dotted the surface with black points, while slow-flying gannets
traveled sedately and active terns rioted in the air. Coots and other
sea-ducks rose before our boat and, from time to time, the little round
heads of harbor seals, with very human-looking eyes, bobbed on the seas.
"Isn't it perfectly delightful," I cried. "I could never weary of
watching all these things, and what is that big duck, or is it a goose,
traveling all alone and flying straight as an arrow?"
"It is just a big loon. The Great Northern Diver, you know."