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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tides Of Barnegat - Chapter 18. The Swede's Story
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The Tides Of Barnegat - Chapter 18. The Swede's Story Post by :MalcolmL Category :Long Stories Author :Francis Hopkinson Smith Date :May 2012 Read :756

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The Tides Of Barnegat - Chapter 18. The Swede's Story

CHAPTER XVIII. THE SWEDE'S STORY

Captain Holt had selected his crew--picked surfmen, every one of them--and the chief of the bureau had endorsed the list without comment or inquiry. The captain's own appointment as keeper of the new Life-Saving Station was due as much to his knowledge of men as to his skill as a seaman, and so when his list was sent in--men he said he could "vouch for"--it took but a moment for the chief to write "Approved" across its face.

Isaac Polhemus came first: Sixty years of age, silent, gray, thick-set; face scarred and seamed by many weathers, but fresh as a baby's; two china-blue eyes--peep-holes through which you looked into his open heart; shoulders hard and tough as cordwood hands a bunch of knots; legs like snubbing-posts, body quick-moving; brain quick-thinking; alert as a dog when on duty, calm as a sleepy cat beside a stove when his time was his own. Sixty only in years, this man; forty in strength and in skill, twenty in suppleness, and a one-year-old toddling infant in all that made for guile. "Uncle Ike" some of the younger men once called him, wondering behind their hands whether he was not too old and believing all the time that he was. "Uncle Ike" they still called him, but it was a title of affection and pride; affection for the man underneath the blue woollen shirt, and pride because they were deemed worthy to pull an oar beside him.

The change took place the winter before when he was serving at Manasquan and when he pulled four men single-handed from out of a surf that would have staggered the bravest. There was no life-boat within reach and no hand to help. It was at night--a snowstorm raging and the sea a corral of hungry beasts fighting the length of the beach. The shipwrecked crew had left their schooner pounding on the outer bar, and finding their cries drowned by the roar of the waters, had taken to their boat. She came bow on, the sea-drenched sailors clinging to her sides. Uncle Isaac Polhemus caught sight of her just as a savage pursuing roller dived under her stern, lifted the frail shell on its broad back, and whirled it bottom side up and stern foremost on to the beach. Dashing into the suds, he jerked two of the crew to their feet before they knew what had struck them; then sprang back for the others clinging to the seats and slowly drowning in the smother. Twice he plunged headlong after them, bracing himself against the backsuck, then with the help of his steel-like grip all four were dragged clear of the souse. Ever after it was "Uncle Isaac" or "that old hang-on," but always with a lifting of the chin in pride.

Samuel Green came next: Forty-five, long, Lincoln-bodied, and bony; coal-black hair, coal-black eyes, and charcoal-black mustache; neck like a loop in standing rigging; arms long as cant-hooks, with the steel grips for fingers; sluggish in movement and slow in action until the supreme moment of danger tautened his nerves to breaking point; then came an instantaneous spring, quick as the recoil of a parted hawser. All his life a fisherman except the five years he spent in the Arctic and the year he served at Squan; later he had helped in the volunteer crew alongshore. Loving the service, he had sent word over to Captain Holt that he'd like "to be put on," to which the captain had sent back word by the same messenger "Tell him he IS put on." And he WAS, as soon as the papers were returned from Washington. Captain Nat had no record to look up or inquiries to make as to the character or fitness of Sam Green. He was the man who the winter before had slipped a rope about his body, plunged into the surf and swam out to the brig Gorgus and brought back three out of the five men lashed to the rigging, all too benumbed to make fast the shot-line fired across her deck.

Charles Morgan's name followed in regular order, and then Parks--men who had sailed with Captain Holt, and whose word and pluck he could depend upon; and Mulligan from Barnegat, who could pull a boat with the best of them; and last, and least in years, those two slim, tightly knit, lithe young tiger-cats, Tod and Archie.

Captain Nat had overhauled each man and had inspected him as closely as he would have done the timber for a new mast or the manila to make its rigging. Here was a service that required cool heads, honest hearts, and the highest technical skill, and the men under him must be sound to the core. He intended to do his duty, and so should every man subject to his orders. The Government had trusted him and he held himself responsible. This would probably be his last duty, and it would be well done. He was childless, sixty-five years old, and had been idle for years. Now he would show his neighbors something of his skill and his power to command. He did not need the pay; he needed the occupation and the being in touch with the things about him. For the last fifteen or more years he had nursed a sorrow and lived the life almost of a recluse. It was time he threw it off.

During the first week of service, with his crew about him, he explained to them in minute detail their several duties. Each day in the week would have its special work: Monday would be beach drill, practising with the firing gun and line and the safety car. Tuesday was boat drill; running the boat on its wagon to the edge of the sea, unloading it, and pushing it into the surf, each man in his place, oars poised, the others springing in and taking their seats beside their mates. On Wednesdays flag drills; practising with the international code of signals, so as to communicate with stranded vessels. Thursdays, beach apparatus again. Friday, resuscitation of drowning men. Saturday, scrub-day; every man except himself and the cook (each man was cook in turn for a week) on his knees with bucket and brush, and every floor, chair, table, and window scoured clean. Sunday, a day of rest, except for the beach patrol, which at night never ceased, and which by day only ceased when the sky was clear of snow and fog.

This night patrol would be divided into watches of four hours each at eight, twelve, and four. Two of the crew were to make the tramp of the beach, separating opposite the Station, one going south two and a half miles to meet the surfman from the next Station, and the other going north to the inlet; exchanging their brass checks each with the other, as a record of their faithfulness.

In addition to these brass checks each patrol would carry three Coston signal cartridges in a water-proof box, and a holder into which they were fitted, the handle having an igniter working on a spring to explode the cartridge, which burned a red light. These will-o'-the-wisps, flashed suddenly from out a desolate coast, have sent a thrill of hope through the heart of many a man clinging to frozen rigging or lashed to some piece of wreckage that the hungry surf, lying in wait, would pounce upon and chew to shreds.

The men listened gravely to the captain's words and took up their duties. Most of them knew them before, and no minute explanations were necessary. Skilled men understand the value of discipline and prefer it to any milder form of government. Archie was the only member who raised his eyes in astonishment when the captain, looking his way, mentioned the scrubbing and washing, each man to take his turn, but he made no reply except to nudge Tod and say under his breath:

"Wouldn't you like to see Aunt Lucy's face when she comes some Saturday morning? She'll be pleased, won't she?" As to the cooking, that did not bother him; he and Tod had cooked many a meal on Fogarty's stove, and mother Fogarty had always said Archie could beat her any day making biscuit and doughnuts and frying ham.

Before the second week was out the Station had fallen into its regular routine. The casual visitor during the sunny hours of the soft September days when practice drill was over might see only a lonely house built on the sand; and upon entering, a few men leaning back in their chairs against the wall of the living-room reading the papers or smoking their pipes, and perhaps a few others leisurely overhauling the apparatus, making minor repairs, or polishing up some detail the weather had dulled. At night, too, with the radiance of the moon making a pathway of silver across the gentle swell of the sleepy surf, he would doubtless wonder at their continued idle life as he watched the two surfmen separate and begin their walk up and down the beach radiant in the moonlight. But he would change his mind should he chance upon a north-easterly gale, the sea a froth in which no boat could live, the slant of a sou'wester the only protection against the cruel lash of the wind. If this glimpse was not convincing, let him stand in the door of their house in the stillness of a winter's night, and catch the shout and rush of the crew tumbling from their bunks at the cry of "Wreck ashore!" from the lips of some breathless patrol who had stumbled over sand-dunes or plunged through snowdrifts up to his waist to give warning. It will take less than a minute to swing wide the doors, grapple the life-boat and apparatus and whirl them over the dunes to the beach; and but a moment more to send a solid shot flying through the air on its mission of mercy. And there is no time lost. Ten men have been landed in forty-five minutes through or over a surf that could be heard for miles; rescuers and rescued half dead. But no man let go his grip nor did any heart quail. Their duty was in front of them; that was what the Government paid for, and that was what they would earn--every penny of it.

The Station house in order, the captain was ready for visitors--those he wanted. Those he did not want--the riffraff of the ship-yard and the loungers about the taverns--he told politely to stay away; and as the land was Government property and his will supreme, he was obeyed.

Little Ellen had been the first guest, and by special invitation.

"All ready, Miss Jane, for you and the doctor and the Pond Lily; bring her down any time. That's what kind o' makes it lonely lyin' shut up with the men. We ain't got no flowers bloomin' 'round, and the sand gits purty white and blank-lookin' sometimes. Bring her down, you and the doctor; she's better'n a pot full o' daisies."

The doctor, thus commanded, brought her over in his gig, Jane, beside him, holding the child in her lap. And Archie helped them out, lifting his good mother in his arms clear of the wheel, skirts and all--the crew standing about looking on. Some of them knew Jane and came in for a hearty handshake, and all of them knew the doctor. There was hardly a man among them whose cabin he had not visited--not once, but dozens of times.

With her fair cheeks, golden curls, and spotless frock, the child, among those big men, some in their long hip boots and rough reefing jackets, looked like some fairy that had come in with the morning mist and who might be off on the next breeze.

Archie had her hugged close to his breast and had started in to show her the cot where he slept, the kitchen where he was to cook, and the peg in the hall where he hung his sou'wester and tarpaulins--every surfman had his peg, order being imperative with Captain Nat--when that old sea-dog caught the child out of the young fellow's arms and placed her feet on the sand.

"No, Cobden,"--that was another peculiarity of the captain's,--every man went by his last name, and he had begun with Archie to show the men he meant it. "No, that little posy is mine for to-day. Come along, you rosebud; I'm goin' to show you the biggest boat you ever saw, and a gun on wheels; and I've got a lot o' shells the men has been pickin' up for ye. Oh, but you're goin' to have a beautiful time, lassie!"

The child looked up in the captain's face, and her wee hand tightened around his rough stubs of fingers. Archie then turned to Jane and with Tod's help the three made a tour of the house, the doctor following, inspecting the captain's own room with its desk and papers, the kitchen with all its appointments, the outhouse for wood and coal, the staircase leading to the sleeping-rooms above, and at the very top the small ladder leading to the cupola on the roof, where the lookout kept watch on clear days for incoming steamers. On their return Mulligan spread a white oil-cloth on the pine table and put out a china plate filled with some cake that he had baked the night before, and which Green supplemented by a pitcher of water from the cistern.

Each one did something to please her. Archie handed her the biggest piece of cake on the dish, and Uncle Isaac left the room in a hurry and stumbling upstairs went through his locker and hauled out the head of a wooden doll which he had picked up on the beach in one of his day patrols and which he had been keeping for one of his grand-children--all blighted with the sun and scarred with salt water, but still showing a full set of features, much to Ellen's delight; and Sam Green told her of his own little girl, just her age, who lived up in the village and whom he saw every two weeks, and whose hair was just the color of hers. Meanwhile the doctor chatted with the men, and Jane, with her arm locked in Archie's, so proud and so tender over him, inspected each appointment and comfort of the house with ever-increasing wonder.

And so, with the visit over, the gig was loaded up, and with Ellen waving her hand to the men and kissing her finger-tips in true French style to the captain and Archie, and the crew responding in a hearty cheer, the party drove, past the old House of Refuge, and so on back to Warehold and Yardley.

One August afternoon, some days after this visit, Tod stood in the door of the Station looking out to sea. The glass had been falling all day and a dog-day haze had settled down over the horizon. This, as the afternoon advanced, had become so thick that the captain had ordered out the patrols, and Archie and Green were already tramping the beach--Green to the inlet and Archie to meet the surfmen of the station below. Park, who was cook this week, had gone to the village for supplies, and so the captain and Tod were alone in the house, the others, with the exception of Morgan, who was at his home in the village with a sprained ankle, being at work some distance away on a crosshead over which the life-line was always fired in gun practice.

Suddenly Tod, who was leaning against the jamb of the door speculating over what kind of weather the night would bring, and wondering whether the worst of it would fall in his watch, jerked his neck out of his woollen shirt and strained his eyes in the direction of the beach until they rested upon the figure of a man slowly making his way over the dunes. As he passed the old House of Refuge, some hundreds of yards below, he stopped for a moment as if undecided on his course, looked ahead again at the larger house of the Station, and then, as if reassured, came stumbling on, his gait showing his want of experience in avoiding the holes and tufts of grass cresting the dunes. His movements were so awkward and his walk so unusual in that neighborhood that Tod stepped out on the low porch of the Station to get a better view of him.

From the man's dress, and from his manner of looking about him, as if feeling his way, Tod concluded that he was a stranger and had tramped the beach for the first time. At the sight of the surfman the man left the dune, struck the boat path, and walked straight toward the porch.

"Kind o' foggy, ain't it?"

"Yes," replied Tod, scrutinizing the man's face and figure, particularly his clothes, which were queerly cut and with a foreign air about them. He saw, too, that he was strong and well built, and not over thirty years of age.

"You work here?" continued the stranger, mounting the steps and coming closer, his eyes taking in Tod, the porch, and the view of the sitting-room through the open window.

"I do," answered Tod in the same tone, his eyes still on the man's face.

"Good job, is it?" he asked, unbuttoning his coat.

"I get enough to eat," answered Tod curtly, "and enough to do." He had resumed his position against the jamb of the door and stood perfectly impassive, without offering any courtesy of any kind. Strangers who asked questions were never very welcome. Then, again, the inquiry about his private life nettled him.

The man, without noticing the slight rebuff, looked about for a seat, settled down on the top step of the porch, pulled his cap from his head, and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of one hand. Then he said slowly, as if to himself:

"I took the wrong road and got consid'able het up."

Tod watched him while he mopped his head with a red cotton handkerchief, but made no reply. Curiosity is not the leading characteristic of men who follow the sea.

"Is the head man around? His name's Holt, ain't it?" continued the stranger, replacing his cap and stuffing his handkerchief into the side-pocket of his coat.

As the words fell from his lips Tod's quick eye caught a sudden gleam like that of a search-light flashed from beneath the heavy eyebrows of the speaker.

"That's his name," answered Tod. "Want to see him? He's inside." The surfman had not yet changed his position nor moved a muscle of his body. Tiger cats are often like this.

Captain Holt's burly form stepped from the door. He had overheard the conversation, and not recognizing the voice had come to find out what the man wanted.

"You lookin' for me? I'm Captain Holt. What kin I do for ye?" asked the captain in his quick, imperious way.

"That's what he said, sir," rejoined Tod, bringing himself to an erect position in deference to his chief.

The stranger rose from his seat and took his cap from his head.

"I'm out o' work, sir, and want a job, and I thought you might take me on."

Tod was now convinced that the stranger was a foreigner. No man of Tod's class ever took his hat off to his superior officer. They had other ways of showing their respect for his authority--instant obedience, before and behind his back, for instance.

The captain's eyes absorbed the man from his thick shoes to his perspiring hair.

"Norwegian, ain't ye?"

"No, sir; Swede."

"Not much difference. When did ye leave Sweden? You talk purty good."

"When I was a boy."

"What kin ye do?"

"I'm a good derrick man and been four years with a coaler."

"You want steady work, I suppose."

The stranger nodded.

"Well, I ain't got it. Gov'ment app'ints our men. This is a Life-Saving Station."

The stranger stood twisting his cap. The first statement seemed to make but little impression on him; the second aroused a keener interest.

"Yes, I know. Just new built, ain't it? and you just put in charge? Captain Nathaniel Holt's your name--am I right?"

"Yes, you're just right." And the captain, dismissing the man and the incident from his mind, turned on his heel, walked the length of the narrow porch and stood scanning the sky and the blurred horizon line. The twilight was now deepening and a red glow shimmered through the settling fog.

"Fogarty!" cried the captain, beckoning over his shoulder with his head.

Tod stepped up and stood at attention; as quick in reply as if two steel springs were fastened to his heels.

"Looks rather soapy, Fogarty. May come on thick. Better take a turn to the inlet and see if that yawl is in order. We might have to cross it to-night. We can't count on this weather. When you meet Green send him back here. That shot-line wants overhaulin'." Here the captain hesitated and looked intently at the stranger. "And here, you Swede," he called in a louder tone of command, "you go 'long and lend a hand, and when you come back I'll have some supper for ye."

One of Tod's springs must have slid under the Swede's shoes. Either the prospect of a meal or of having a companion to whom he could lend a hand--nothing so desolate as a man out of work--a stranger at that--had put new life into his hitherto lethargic body.

"This way," said Tod, striding out toward the surf.

The Swede hurried to his side and the two crossed the boat runway, ploughed through the soft drift of the dune, and striking the hard, wet sand of the beach, headed for the inlet. Tod having his high, waterproof boots on, tramped along the edge of the incoming surf, the half-circles of suds swashing past his feet and spreading themselves up the slope. The sand was wet here and harder on that account, and the walking better. The Swede took the inside course nearer the shore. Soon Tod began to realize that the interest the captain had shown in the unknown man and the brief order admitting him for a time to membership in the crew placed the stranger on a different footing. He was, so to speak, a comrade and, therefore, entitled to a little more courtesy. This clear in his mind, he allowed his tongue more freedom; not that he had any additional interest in the man--he only meant to be polite.

"What you been workin' at?" he asked, kicking an empty tin can that the tide had rolled within his reach. Work is the universal topic; the weather is too serious a subject to chatter about lightly.

"Last year or two?" asked the Swede, quickening his pace to keep up. Tod's steel springs always kept their original temper while the captain's orders were being executed and never lost their buoyancy until these orders were entirely carried out.

"Yes," replied Tod.

"Been a-minin'; runnin' the ore derricks and the shaft h'isters. What you been doin'?" And the man glanced at Tod from under his cap.

"Fishin'. See them poles out there? You kin just git sight o' them in the smoke. Them's my father's. He's out there now, I guess, if he ain't come in."

"You live 'round here?" The man's legs were shorter than Tod's, and he was taking two steps to Tod's one.

"Yes, you passed the House o' Refuge, didn't ye, comin' up? I was watchin' ye. Well, you saw that cabin with the fence 'round it?"

"Yes; the woman told me where I'd find the cap'n. You know her, I s'pose?" asked the Swede.

"Yes, she's my mother, and that's my home. I was born there." Tod's words were addressed to the perspective of the beach and to the way the haze blurred the horizon; surfmen rarely see anything else when walking on the beach, whether on or off duty.

"You know everybody 'round here, don't you?" remarked the Swede in a casual tone. The same quick, inquiring glance shot out of the man's eyes.

"Yes, guess so," answered Tod with another kick. Here the remains of an old straw hat shared the fate of the can.

"You ever heard tell of a woman named Lucy Cobden, lives 'round here somewheres?"

Tod came to a halt as suddenly as if he had run into a derelict.

"I don't know no WOMAN," he answered slowly, accentuating the last word. "I know a LADY named Miss Jane Cobden. Why?" and he scrutinized the man's face.

"One I mean's got a child--big now--must be fifteen or twenty years old--girl, ain't it?"

"No, it's a boy. He's one of the crew here; his name's Archie Cobden. Me and him's been brothers since we was babies. What do you know about him?" Tod had resumed his walk, but at a slower pace.

"Nothin'; that's why I ask." The man had also become interested in the flotsam of the beach, and had stopped to pick up a dam-shell which he shied into the surf. Then he added slowly, and as if not to make a point of the inquiry, "Is she alive?"

"Yes. Here this week. Lives up in Warehold in that big house with the brick gate-posts."

The man walked on for some time in silence and then asked:

"You're sure the child is livin' and that the mother's name is Jane?"

"Sure? Don't I tell ye Cobden's in the crew and Miss Jane was here this week! He's up the beach on patrol or you'd 'a' seen him when you fust struck the Station."

The stranger quickened his steps. The information seemed to have put new life into him again.

"Did you ever hear of a man named Bart Holt," he asked, "who used to be 'round here?" Neither man was looking at the other as they talked. The conversation was merely to pass the time of day.

"Yes; he's the captain's son. Been dead for years. Died some'er's out in Brazil, so I've heard my father say. Had fever or something."

The Swede walked on in silence for some minutes. Then he stopped, faced Tod, took hold of the lapel of his coat, and said slowly, as he peered into his eyes:

"He ain't dead, no more'n you and I be. I worked for him for two years. He run the mines on a percentage. I got here last week, and he sent me down to find out how the land lay. If the woman was dead I was to say nothing and come back. If she was alive I was to tell the captain, his father, where a letter could reach him. They had some bad blood 'twixt 'em, but he didn't tell me what it was about. He may come home here to live, or he may go back to the mines; it's just how the old man takes it. That's what I've got to say to him. How do you think he'll take it?"

For a moment Tod made no reply. He was trying to make up his mind what part of the story was true and what part was skilfully put together to provide, perhaps, additional suppers. The improbability of the whole affair struck him with unusual force. Raising hopes of a long-lost son in the breast of a father was an old dodge and often meant the raising of money.

"Well, I can't say," Tod answered carelessly; he had his own opinion now of the stranger. "You'll have to see the captain about that. If the man's alive it's rather funny he ain't showed up all these years."

"Well, keep mum 'bout it, will ye, till I talk to him? Here comes one o' your men."

Green's figure now loomed up out of the mist.

"Where away, Tod?" the approaching surfman cried when he joined the two.

"Captain wants me to look after the yawl," answered Tod.

"It's all right," cried Green; "I just left it. Went down a-purpose. Who's yer friend?"

"A man the cap'n sent along to lend a hand. This is Sam Green," and he turned to the Swede and nodded to his brother surfman.

The two shook hands. The stranger had not volunteered his name and Tod had not asked for it. Names go for little among men who obey orders; they serve merely as labels and are useful in a payroll, but they do not add to the value of the owner or help his standing in any way. "Shorty" or "Fatty" or "Big Mike" is all sufficient. What the man can DO and how he does it, is more important.

"No use goin' to the inlet," continued Green. "I'll report to the captain. Come along back. I tell ye it's gettin' thick," and he looked out across the breakers, only the froth line showing in the dim twilight.

The three turned and retraced their steps.

Tod quickened his pace and stepped into the house ahead of the others. Not only did he intend to tell the captain of what he had heard, but he intended to tell him at once.

Captain Holt was in his private room, sitting at his desk, busy over his monthly report. A swinging kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling threw a light full on his ruddy face framed in a fringe of gray whiskers. Tod stepped in and closed the door behind him.

"I didn't go to the inlet, sir. Green had thought of the yawl and had looked after it; he'll report to you about it. I just heard a strange yarn from that fellow you sent with me and I want to tell ye what it is."

The captain laid down his pen, pushed his glasses from his eyes, and looked squarely into Tod's face.

"He's been askin' 'bout Miss Jane Cobden and Archie, and says your son Bart is alive and sent him down here to find out how the land lay. It's a cock-and-bull story, but I give it to you just as I got it."

Once in the South Seas the captain awoke to look into the muzzle of a double-barrelled shot-gun held in the hand of the leader of a mutiny. The next instant the man was on the floor, the captain's fingers twisted in his throat.

Tod's eyes were now the barrels of that gun. No cat-like spring followed; only a cold, stony stare, as if he were awaking from a concussion that had knocked the breath out of him.

"He says Bart's ALIVE!" he gasped. "Who? That feller I sent with ye?"

"Yes."

The captain's face grew livid and then flamed up, every vein standing clear, his eyes blazing.

"He's a liar! A dirty liar! Bring him in!" Each word hissed from his lips like an explosive.

Tod opened the door of the sitting-room and the Swede stepped in. The captain whirled his chair suddenly and faced him. Anger, doubt, and the flicker of a faint hope were crossing his face with the movement of heat lightning.

"You know my son, you say?"

"I do." The answer was direct and the tone positive.

"What's his name?"

"Barton Holt. He signs it different, but that's his name."

"How old is he?" The pitch of the captain's voice had altered. He intended to riddle the man's statement with a cross-fire of examination.

"'Bout forty, maybe forty-five. He never told

"What kind of eyes?"

"Brown, like yours."

"What kind of hair?"

"Curly. It's gray now; he had fever, and it turned."

"Where--when?" Hope and fear were now struggling for the mastery.

"Two years ago--when I first knew him; we were in hospital together."

"What's he been doin'?" The tone was softer. Hope seemed to be stronger now.

"Mining out in Brazil."

The captain took his eyes from the face of the man and asked in something of his natural tone of voice:

"Where is he now?"

The Swede put his hand in his inside pocket and took out a small time-book tied around with a piece of faded tape. This he slowly unwound, Tod's and the captain's eyes following every turn of his fingers. Opening the book, he glanced over the leaves, found the one he was looking for, tore it carefully from the book, and handed it to the captain.

"That's his writing. If you want to see him send him a line to that address. It'll reach him all right. If you don't want to see him he'll go back with me to Rio. I don't want yer supper and I don't want yer job. I done what I promised and that's all there is to it. Good-night," and he opened the door and disappeared in the darkness.

Captain Holt sat with his head on his chest looking at the floor in front of him. The light of the banging lamp made dark shadows under his eyebrows and under his chin whiskers. There was a firm set to his clean-shaven lips, but the eyes burned with a gentle light; a certain hope, positive now, seemed to be looming up in them.

Tod watched him for an instant, and said:

"What do ye think of it, cap'n?"

"I ain't made up my mind."

"Is he lyin'?"

"I don't know. Seems too good to be true. He's got some things right; some things he ain't. Keep your mouth shut till I tell ye to open it--to Cobden, mind ye, and everybody else. Better help Green overhaul that line. That'll do, Fogarty."

Tod dipped his head--his sign of courteous assent--and backed out of the room. The captain continued motionless, his eyes fixed on space. Once he turned, picked up the paper, scrutinized the handwriting word for word, and tossed it back on the desk. Then he rose from his seat and began pacing the floor, stopping to gaze at a chart on the wall, at the top of the stove, at the pendulum of the clock, surveying them leisurely. Once he looked out of the window at the flare of light from his swinging lamp, stencilled on the white sand and the gray line of the dunes beyond. At each of these resting-places his face assumed a different expression; hope, fear, and anger again swept across it as his judgment struggled with his heart. In one of his turns up and down the small room he laid his hand on a brick lying on the window-sill--one that had been sent by the builders of the Station as a sample. This he turned over carefully, examining the edges and color as if he had seen it for the first time and had to pass judgment upon its defects or merits. Laying it back in its place, he threw himself into his chair again, exclaiming aloud, as if talking to someone:

"It ain't true. He'd wrote before if he were alive. He was wild and keerless, but he never was dirt-mean, and he wouldn't a-treated me so all these years. The Swede's a liar, I tell ye!"

Wheeling the chair around to face the desk, he picked up a pen, dipped it into the ink, laid it back on the desk, picked it up again, opened a drawer on his right, took from it a sheet of official paper, and wrote a letter of five lines. This he enclosed in the envelope, directed to the name on the slip of paper. Then he opened the door.

"Fogarty."

"Yes, cap'n."

"Take this to the village and drop it in the post yourself. The weather's clearin', and you won't be wanted for a while," and he strode out and joined his men.

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