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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWest Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 3
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West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 3 Post by :rankwarforum Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :1000

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West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 3


During the days and weeks that followed, Percival maintained an attitude of rigid but courteous aloofness. Only on occasions when it was necessary to consult with Ruth and her aunt on matters pertaining to the "order of the day" did he relax in the slightest degree from the position he had taken in regard to them.

In time, the captious Mrs. Spofford began to resent this studied indifference. She detested him more than ever for not running true to the form she had predicted; her apprehensiveness gave way to irritation. She resented his dignified, pleasant "good mornings"; she complained acidly to Ruth about what she was now pleased to describe as "disgusting superciliousness."

The truth of the matter was, he failed to take any account whatsoever of Mrs. Spofford in his calculations; he did not even make a pretence of consulting her in matters relating to the common good of the common people, and as she was in the habit of devoting a considerable portion of her time, energy and executive ability to the interests of the common or lower class people, the omission was an insult.

Nor was his cause benefited by the unnecessary and uncalled for deference he seemed to feel was due her on account of her age. What had her age to do with it? No one had ever deferred to her age in New York? She was one to be reckoned with, she was accustomed to the deference that hasn't anything at all to do with age. And here she was, shunted to one side, ignored, disregarded,--she who had been the brains and inspiration of a dozen charitable enterprises, to say nothing of war-work and very important activities in opposition to Woman Suffrage!

She found little consolation in Landover's contention that the upstart was bound to hang himself if they gave him rope enough, or in Ruth's patient reminder that Percival was getting results,--and getting them without bullying anybody.

Ruth accepted the situation with a calmness that exasperated her aunt. She announced her intention to obey any order the "boss" might issue, without recrimination, without complaint. And so, when the day came for her to go forth with other women to do her share of the cooking, washing, cleaning, and later on the more interesting task of putting the huts in order for occupancy, she went with a full understanding of what was required of her and without a word of protest. The women with whom she toiled from early morn till sombre dusk draped the land were under the immediate direction of a stewardess of many years experience, an Englishwoman whose husband, an engineer, had been killed at the time of the explosions.

Each night she returned to the ship tired and sore but uncomplaining. Her strong young body stood the test with the hardiest; her spirit was unflinching; her heart in the common cause. For she looked ahead with a clear, far-seeing eye, and saw not one but many winters in this vast, unguarded prison. And she wondered,--wondered day and night,--what was ahead of her.

She was young. The young do not dream of death. They dream of life, and of its fullness. What did fate have in store for her? Sometimes she crimsoned, sometimes she paled as she looked ahead.

Bare-armed, her heavy sport skirt caught up with pins, her bonny brown hair loosely coiled, thick golf stockings and sturdy shoes covering her legs and feet, she presented a figure that caused more than one heart to thump, more than one head to turn, more than one pair of eyes to follow her as she went about her work. Her cheeks and throat and breast and arms were browning under the fire of the noonday sun, her eyes glowed with the fervour of enthusiasm; her voice was ever cheerful and her smile, though touched with the blight that lay upon the soul of all these castaways, was unfailingly bright. And when she returned "home" at night from her wageless day of toil, she slept as she never had slept before.

Her aunt worked in what was known as the salvage corps. She was one of the clerks employed in checking out the cargo and other materials seized by the committee of ten, as the leaders in this singular enterprise were called. Captain Trigger having protested against the dismantling of the vessel and the confiscation of its cargo,--which was as far as he could go,--announced that he would abide by any satisfactory plan to salvage the property. He required an official, documentary report, however, in which every item removed was accounted for, with its condition and value set down and sworn to by responsible persons. The purser, Mr. Codge, and First Officer Mott represented the Captain in this operation, while the consignees were properly taken care of by Michael O'Malley Malone, the lawyer, James K. Jones, the promoter, and Moses Block, the rubber importer. It is unnecessary to deal further with this feature of the situation. Suffice it to say, the transaction,--if it may be so denoted,--was managed with the utmost regularity and formality. Elderly men and women were chosen for the clerical work which this rather laborious undertaking entailed.

On the crest of the loftiest hill there was established a permanent observation and signal station. Near the top a sort of combination dug-out and shanty was constructed by order of Captain Trigger, and day and night, week in and week out, watches were kept similar to those maintained on board ship.

While the entire company, high and low, worked with a zeal that eventually resulted in a state of good-natured though intense rivalry in skill and accomplishment,--while they were generally cheerful and courageous,--there was a profound lack of gaiety. In the eyes of each and every one of them lay the never-vanishing shadow of anxiety,--an eternal unspoken question. The hardest, fiercest faces wore a wistful expression; the broadest smile revealed a touch of sadness. Over all, however, the surpassing spirit of kindness and generosity presided.

Calamity had softened the hearts in the same crucible that hardened the hands. The arrogance of the strong mellowed into consideration for the weak; wisdom and culture went hand in hand with ignorance and brawn; malice and rancour left the hearts of the lowly and met half-way the departing insolence of the lofty; fellowship took root and throve in a field rich with good deeds. The heart of man was master here, the brain its humble servant.

Landover worked hard, doggedly. To all outward appearances, he had resigned himself to the inevitable. He affected a spirit of camaraderie and good humour that deceived many. Down in his heart, however, he was bitterly rebellious. He despised these people as a class. In his estimation, all creatures who worked for a living were branded with the obnoxious iron of socialism; he even went so far as to believe that they were, after a fashion, anarchists! His conception of anarchy was rather far-reaching; it took in everything that was contrary to his notion of a satisfactory distribution of wealth. He believed that every man who worked for a wage was at heart an enemy to law and order. He regarded the wage-earner as one whose hand is eternally against the employer, absolutely without honour, justice or reason. The workingman was for self, always for self,--and to Landover that was anarchy.

The thought that people,--men and women,--of the lower classes possessed physical and mental qualities similar to those possessed by himself, even in a modified form, was not only repugnant to him but incredible. They had none of the finer emotions,--such as love, for instance. He could not conceive of a labouring man loving his wife and children; it wasn't natural! He pictured the home-life of the lower classes as nothing short of indecent; there couldn't be anything fine or noble or enduring in the processes of birth, existence and death as related to them. Nature took its course with them, and society,--as represented by the class to which he belonged,--provided for the litters they cast upon the world. In a word, Abel Landover's father and grandfather and great-grandfather had been rich men before him.

He despised Captain Trigger for the simple reason that that faithful, gallant sailor was an employee of the company in which he was a director. It meant nothing to him that Captain Trigger came of fine, hardy, valiant stock; it meant less to him that he was a law unto himself aboard the Doraine. For, when all was said and done, Captain Trigger worked for just so much money per month and doubtless hated the men who paid him his wage. On board the Doraine,--as was the case with all other vessels on which he chose to sail,--the banker sat at the Captain's table. But he did not consider that to be a distinction or an honour; it was his due. As a matter of fact, he looked upon himself as the real head of the Captain's table!

Half a dozen persons in all that company comprised Landover's circle of desirables. Of the rest, most of them were impossible, three-fourths of them were "anarchists," all of them were beneath notice,--except as listeners. As for Percival, if that young man was not literally and actually a bandit, at least he had all the instincts of one. In any case, he was a "bum." Whenever Mr. Landover was at a loss for a word to express contumely for his fellow-man,--and he was seldom at a loss,--he called him a "bum."

The women on board were divided into three classes in Landover's worldly opinion: the kind you would marry (rare), the kind you wouldn't marry (plentiful), and the kind you wouldn't have to marry (common). He put Olga Obosky and Careni-Amori in this rather extensive third class, and even went so far as to set what he considered a fair value upon them as human commodities!

He worked with the gang of "log-toters," a term supplied by Percival. They were the men who carried or dragged the trimmed tree-trunks from the forest to the camp site, where they were subsequently hewn into shape for structural purposes by the more skilful handlers of ax and wedge and saw.

A certain man named Manuel Crust was the fore-man of this gang. He was a swarthy, powerful "Portugee" who was on his way to Rio to kill the pal who had run away with his wife. He was going up there to kill Sebastian Cabral and live happily for ever afterward. His idea of future happiness was to sit by the fireside in his declining years and pleasantly ruminate over the variety of deaths he had inflicted upon the loathsome Sebastian. In the first place, he was going to strangle him with his huge, gnarled hands; then he was going to cut off his ears and nose and stuff them into the vast slit he had made in his throat; then he would dig his heart out with a machete; then, one by one, he would expertly amputate his legs, arms and tongue; afterwards he would go through the grisly process of disemboweling him; and, then, in the end, he would build a nice, roaring fire and destroy what remained of Sebastian. Inasmuch as either of these sanguinary and successive measures might reasonably be expected to produce the desired result, it will be seen that Sebastian was doomed to experience at least six horrific deaths before the avenger got through with him. At any rate, if one could believe Manuel,--and there seemed to be no end of conviction in the way he expressed himself,--the luckless home-wrecker, if he lived long enough, was absolutely certain to die.

Landover took a strange fancy to Manuel Crust. He was drawn to him in the first place by the blasphemous things he said about Percival. In the second place, he enjoyed Manuel's vituperative remarks about cutting the liver out of the "boss." Notwithstanding the fact that Manuel was more or less given to cutting the livers out of remote and invisible persons,--including King Alfonso, the Kaiser, Queen Victoria (he didn't know she was dead), King Manuel, the Czar of Russia, the Presidents of all the South American republics, the Sultan of Turkey, President Roosevelt, and Sebastian Cabral,--Mr. Landover positively loved to hear him talk. He made a point of getting him to talk about Percival a great deal of the time. He also liked the way in which the prodigious Manuel deferred to him. It inspired the philanthropic motives that led him to share his very excellent cigars with the doughty foreman. Moreover, he had something far back in his mind, had Mr. Abel Landover.

Percival was indefatigable. He set the example for every one else, and nothing daunted him. The sceptics,--and there were many of them at the start,--no longer shook their heads as they went about what once had loomed as a hopeless enterprise, for to their astonishment and gratification the "camp" was actually becoming a substantial reality.

The small group of men who, for obvious reasons, had courted the favour of Abel Landover at the outset, now went out of their way to "stand in" with the amazingly popular man of the hour.

He represented power, he stood for achievement, he rode on the crest of the wave,--and so they believed in him! Landover may have been a wizard in New York, but the wizard of Trigger Island was quite another person altogether,--hence the very sensible defection.

These gentlemen openly and ardently opposed him on one occasion, however. It was when he proposed that the island should be named for the beloved Captain. They insisted that it be called Percival Island. Failing in this, they advocated with great enthusiasm, but with no success, the application of Percival's name to almost every noticeable peculiarity that the island possessed. They objected fiercely to the adoption of such titles as these: Mott Haven (the basin); Split Mountain; Gray Ridge (after the lamented Chief Engineer); Penguin Rocks; The Gate of the Winds; Top o' the Morning Peak; Dismal Forest (west of the channel); Peter Pan Wood (east of the channel); Good Luck Channel; Cypress Point; Cape Sunrise (the extreme easterly end of the island); Leap-frog River; Little Sandy and Big Sandy (the beaches); Cracko-day Farm; New Gibraltar (the western end of the island); St. Anthony Falls. Michael O'Malley Malone christened the turbulent little waterfall up in the hills. He liked the sound of the name, he claimed, and besides it was about time the stigma of shame that had so long rested upon the poor old saint was rewarded by complete though belated vindication.

Strange to say, no name was ever proposed for the "camp." Back in the mind of each and every member of the lost company lay the unvoiced belief,--amounting to superstition,--that it would be tempting fate to speak of this long row of cabins as anything more enduring than "the camp."

Notwithstanding his dominant personality and the remarkable capacity he had for real leadership, Percival was a simple, sensitive soul. He writhed under the lash of conspicuous adulation, and there was a good deal of it going on.

The satiric Randolph Fitts, notwithstanding his unquestioned admiration for the younger man, took an active delight in denouncing what he was prone to allude to as Percival's political aspirations. It is only fair to state that Fitts confined his observations to a very small coterie of friends, chief among whom was the subject himself.

"You are the smartest politician I've ever encountered, and that's saying a good deal," he remarked one evening as he sat smoking with a half dozen companions in front of one of the completed huts. They were ranged in a row, like so many birds, their tired backs against the "facade" of the cabin, their legs stretched out in front of them. "You're too deep for me. I don't see just what your game is, A. A. If there was a chance to graft, I'd say that was it, but you could graft here for centuries and have nothing to show for it but fresh air. Even if you were to run for the office of king, or sultan or shah, you wouldn't get anything but votes,--and you'd get about all of 'em, I'll say that for you. To a man, the women would vote for you,--especially if you were to run for sultan. What is your game?"

Percival smoked in silence, his gaze fixed on the moonlit line of trees across the field.

"And speaking of women, that reminds me," went on Fitts. "When does my lord and master intend to transplant our crop of ladies?"

"What's that, Fitts?" said Percival, called out of his dream.

"Ladies,--what about 'em? When do they come ashore to occupy the mansions we have prepared for them?"

"Captain Trigger suggests next week."

"What's he got to do with it? Ain't you king?"

"He's got a lot to do with it, you blithering boob."

"Besides," drawled Peter Snipe, the novelist, picking doggedly at the calloused ridges on one of his palms, "some of the women object to moving in the dark of the moon. They say it's sure to bring bad luck."

"There's quite a mixup about it," observed Flattner. "Part of 'em claim it's good luck. Madame Obosky says she never had any good luck moving by the light of the moon, and Careni-Amori says she doesn't blame her for feeling that way. Sort of cattish way of implying that the fair Olga could get along without any moon at all. Professional jealousy, I suppose."

"I was speaking to Miss Clinton about it today," remarked Michael Malone.

"What does she think about it?" from Percival.

"I don't know. She asked me what I thought about it."

"And what did you tell her?"

"I told her I wasn't a woman, and that let me out. Being a man, I'm not entitled to a vote or an opinion, and I'd be very much obliged to her if she'd not try to drag me into it,--and to answer my question if she could. Whereupon she said she was in favour of moving by the light of the sun, and payin' no attention at all to the moon. Which I thought was a very intelligent arrangement. You see, if they move in the daytime the damned old moon won't know anything about it till it's too late and--"

"You're the first Irisher I've ever seen who wasn't superstitious, Mike," broke in Fitts, with enthusiasm. "It takes a great load off my mind. Now I can ask you why the devil you've never returned that pocket-knife of mine. I thought you had some sort of superstition about it. A good many people,--really bright and otherwise intelligent people,--firmly believe it's bad luck to return anything that's been borrowed. I suppose I've owned fifty umbrellas in my time. The only man who ever returned one,--but you know what happened without my telling you. He got caught in a sudden shower on his way home from my apartment after making a special trip to return it, and died some three years later of pneumonia. Sick two days, I heard. So, as long as you're not a bit superstitious about it, I'd thank you--"

"I'd have you know that I never keep anything I borrow,--that is, never more than a day. It's against my principles. Don't ask me for your dommed old knife. I lent it weeks ago to Soapy Shay."

"You did?" cried Fitts, incredulity and relief in his voice. "Much obliged. I haven't been able to look Soapy in the face for a month. Did he recognize it?"

"I think he did. He kissed it."

"Landover tried to borrow my lead pencil yesterday," remarked Flattner. "Finally offered to put up his letter of credit as security. I gave him the laugh. That lead pencil is worth more than all the letters of credit lumped together. He wanted to write a note. So I agreed to let him use it if he wouldn't take it out of my sight and on condition that he didn't write more than five or six line's. But when he made as if he was going to sharpen it, I threatened him with an ax. Can you beat that for wastefulness? These low-down rich don't know the meaning of frugality. Why, if I hadn't stopped him he might have whittled off five thousand dollars' worth of lead, just like that. I also had to caution him about bearing down too hard while he was writing."

"What was he wanting to write a note for?" demanded Malone. "Has he lost his voice?"

"It was a note of apology. He says he never fails to write a note of apology when he's done something he's ashamed of, or words to that effect. Lifelong practice, he says."

"Who was he apologizin' to?"

"That little nurse, Miss Lake,--the one with the coral earrings. You know, Mike. I saw you carrying a bucket of water for her yesterday."

"Her name isn't Lake," said Malone. "It's Hardwickley. And if you had your eyes open, you'd have seen me carrying one for her every day, so you would, my lad."

"The damned villain!" exploded Flattner. "He told me her name was Lake,--word with only four letters,--and she turns out to have--let's see,--eleven! I call that pretty shifty work, I do. You can't trust these wizards of Wall Street. They'll do you every crack, if you don't keep your eye peeled. Hornswoggled me out of seven letters."

"You've got to watch 'em," mused Fitts. "What was he apologizing to her for?"

"Something to do with his washing. I don't just remember what it was, but I think she didn't iron and fold his handkerchiefs properly, or maybe it was his collars. In any case, he panned her for it, and afterwards repented. Told me in so many words that he felt like a blooming cad about it, and couldn't rest till he had apologized."

Fitts took several puffs at his pipe and then remarked: "That man has the biggest wash of anybody in this camp. I don't see any real reason why he should change collars three times a day while he's hauling logs down from the hills. As a matter of fact, what's the sense of wearing a collar at all? Most of us don't even wear shirts. See here, your majesty,--begging your pardon for disturbing your thoughts with my foot,--why don't you issue a manifesto or edict or something prohibiting the use of collars except on holidays, or at weddings, funerals and so forth?"

Percival yawned. "If Landover didn't have a collar on he'd think he was stark naked. Gosh, I'd like to go to bed."

"Why don't you? We'll call you as soon as we get any news," said Flattner.

"No, I'll stick it out a while longer. I say, Flat, it begins to look as if there's real wheat coming up over there after all. Old Pedro was telling me today that it looks like a cinch unless we got it sowed too late and cold weather comes along too soon. I never dreamed we'd get results. Putting out spring wheat in virgin soil like this is a new one on me. If it does thrive and deliver, by gosh, a whole lot of agricultural dope will be knocked to pieces. I thought spring wheat had to be sown in land that was ploughed the fall before. What's the explanation?"

"You can't explain nature, A. A.," said Percy Knapendyke. "Nature does so darned many unnatural things that you can't pin your faith to it at all. Of course, it was a pure experiment we made. We happened to have a lot of hard spring wheat, and this alluvial soil, deep and rich, was worth tackling. Old Pedro was as much surprised as I was when it began to come up. Using that fertilizer was an experiment, too. He swore it wouldn't help a bit. Now he just scratches his head and says God did it. We've got fifty acres out there as green as paint and you can almost see it grow. If nothing happens we ought to harvest it by the middle of February, and if God keeps on doing things for us, we may get as much as twenty-five bushels to the acre. It's different with the oats. You can plant oats on unploughed land, just as we did, and you can't stop it growing. The oats field up there along the base of the hills is a peach. Takes about ninety days for oats to ripen. That means we'll harvest it in about two months, and we'll beat the cold weather to it. Forty or fifty to the acre, if we have any luck at all. Potatoes doing well and--Say, did I tell you what I've found out about that stuff growing over there in the lowlands beyond the river? Well, it's flax. It's the same sort of thing that grows in New Zealand. Those plants I was pointing out to you last week,--the ones with the long brownish leaves, like swords. There's no mistake about it. I took those two Australian sailors over to look at 'em a day or two ago and they swear it's the same plant, growing wild. Same little capsule shaped fruit, with the little black seeds, and everything. I've been reading up on it in the encyclopedia. You cut those leaves off when they get to be full size, macerate 'em in water for a few days, sun dry 'em, and then weave 'em some way or another. We'll have to work that out. Strongest sort of fibre in the leaves. Makes a very stout cloth, rope, twine,--all that sort of thing. Opens up a new and important industry, boys,--particularly obnoxious to married men. We'll be having dress-making establishments in full blast before you know it, and model gowns till you can't rest. I almost hate to spread the news among the women. We won't have a cook, or a laundress, or a school-teacher on the Island if this dressmaking craze gets started. Every hut along this row will have a sign beside the door: 'Dressmaking Done Here.' On the other hand, I doubt very much if we'll be able to get a single tailor-shop going,--and God knows I'll soon need a new pair of pants, especially if we're going to have regular church services every Sunday, as Percival says."

"Father Francisco and Parson Mackenzie have finally got together on it," said Malone gloomily. "For the first time in the history of civilization we're going to have a combination Catholic and Protestant Church. It's all arranged. Father Francisco is going to conduct mass in the morning and Parson Mackenzie is going to talk about hell-fire in the evening. I was wondering what the Jews are going to do for a synagogue and a rabbi."

"I can't answer that question," said Peter Snipe; "but Morris Shine tackled me the other day to write a play for him, something with music and dancing in it. He's got a great idea, he says. A stock company to use the church building once a month. Expects to submit his scheme to Fitts as soon as he gets it worked out, with the idea of having our prize little architect provide for a stage with ecclesiastical props in the shape of pulpits and chancels and so forth, which can be removed on short notice. Suggests, as a matter of thrift, that footlights be put in instead of altar candles. Free show, free acting, no advertising bills, no royalties to authors, free programs,--everything free, including supper."

"Grand little idea, Pete," said Percival. "Are you going to write the play?"

"Sure. My faithful old typewriter is aching to be thumped once more,--and I've got half-a-dozen extra ribbons, thank God. Good for two long novels and an epitaph. Just as soon as we can get the ship's printing press and dining-room type ashore, I'll be ready to issue The Trigger Island Transcript, w.t.f.--if you know what that means. I see you don't. Weekly till forbidden."

"I've always wondered what those confounded letters meant down in the corner of the half-inch advertisements," said Flattner. "It will be a rotten-looking newspaper if it's anything like the sheet the Doraine put out on the trip down. No two letters matched, and some of 'em were always upside down. Why were they upside down, Pete? You're an old newspaper man. Tell us."

"Because it's impossible to set 'em sideways. If it was possible, the blamed printers could do it, you bet. When I was writing leaders on the Saxville Citizen years ago there was a ruffian up in the composing-room who used to set whole paragraphs of my best editorials in em quads, and when I kicked,--Hello, isn't that a lantern, A. A.?"

They all scrambled to their feet and peered intently in the direction of the wooded strip that lined the channel. This whilom conversation came to an abrupt end. Ghostly forms suddenly took shape in front of other huts, figures of men that were until then as logs in the shadows. Far off in the road through the wood, a light bobbed, flashed and disappeared intermittently, and finally emerged into the open and came steadily forward. Detached knots of men down the line of huts, twos and threes and fours, swiftly welded themselves into groups, and, hurrying forward, swelled the crowd that congregated at the end of the "street." Two hundred of them, tired but eager, awaited the arrival of the man with the lantern.

These were the men who slept on shore, the unmarried men, those who had no "feminine hearth," as Snipe put it dolefully one dark and windy night. Since supper-time these men had been waiting and watching. But few of them had gone to bed. Gentleman and roustabout, one and all, were linked together by a common anxiety. News of the greatest import was expected during the night.

A child was coming to the pathetic little widow of Cruise, the radio-man.

Two messengers had gone down to the landing to wait for the report to be shouted from the afterdeck of the Doraine,--Soapy Shay and Buck Chizler, the jockey. Now they were returning,--and it was nearing midnight.

They drew near, the lantern buffeting the legs of the one-time diamond thief as he swung along in the rear of the more active jockey.

"It's a girl," called out Buck to the silent mob. Not a sound, not a word from the eager crowd. "Mother and kid both doing well," went on the jockey, a thrilling note of triumph in his voice.

And then a roar of voices went up to the moonlit sky. The shackles of doubt and anxiety fell away, and every heart swelled with joy and relief. Men began to dance and laugh. Out in front of the crowd leaped Percival.

"Come on now, fellows! Everybody up! Three cheers for the Trigger Island baby! One--two--three!"

And while the last wild cheer was echoing back from, the mountainside: "Now, three good ones for the baby's mother, God bless her!"

Thrice again the exultant yells echoed across the plain, and then out leaped another excited figure. It was Nicklestick the Jew.

"Come on! Come on! Ve got to light the bonfires! Come on! I got the matches! Vait! Vait! Let's vait while we take off our hats a minute, boys,--take them off to our baby's father, Jimmy Cruise. No cheers!"

A hush fell over the crowd. Every hat came off, and every head was bent. To many of them James Cruise was no more than a name salvaged from the shocking experiences of those first dreadful days. Few of them had come in actual contact with him. The time had been too short. But Betty Cruise, his widow, was known to all of them, high and low. They had watched over her, and protected her, and slaved for her, for besides pity there was in every man's soul the fiercest desire that nothing,--absolutely nothing,--should be left undone to insure the happy delivery of the babe they were counting so keenly upon!

She was a frail, delicate English girl whom Cruise had married in Buenos Aires the year before. He was taking her up to his mother's home in Connecticut. His death,--alas, his annihilation!--almost killed her. There were those who said she would die of grief. But, broken and frail as she was, she made the fight. And now came the news that she had "pulled through."

There were mothers on board with tiny babies,--three or four of them, in fact,--peevish, squalling infants that innocently undertook to inspire loathing in the souls of these self-same men. They had no claim upon the imagination or the sympathy of the eager crowd,--no such hold as this newcomer, the child born in their pockets, so to speak,--an expression first employed by an ardent champion of the impending infant in defending his righteous solicitude when it was attacked by a sophisticated and at the same time exasperated nurse.

Two bonfires were started in the open space known as "The Green." The huge piles of twigs and branches had been thrown up earlier in the evening. They were in plain view of the "lookout" at the top of Split Mountain. It had been agreed that if it was a boy one fire was to be the signal; if a girl, two. The "watch" was to share in the glad tidings!

The cheering awoke Abel Landover from a sound sleep. He turned in his bunk and growled:

"The damned idiots!"

Mr. Landover did not like children. He declined to sit up half the night to find out "how things were going." So he went to bed, knowing perfectly well that his three bunkies would come piling in at some outlandish hour and jabber about the "kid," and he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep again for hours.

He was what is commonly known as a "grass widower." His wife rather too promptly married inside of a month after leaving Reno, and, much to her own gratification and joy, proceeded to have three very desirable children within a period of five years, causing him a great deal of pain and annoyance for the reason that their father had once been regarded as his best friend,--and now he couldn't abide the sight of him. He hated children. Now you know the kind of a man he was.

Five tired and thoughtful men were going to bed a little later on in one of the huts.

"What shall we call her?" came from Randolph Fitts, as he threw one of his clay-covered shoes into the corner.

"There's only one name for her," said Percival firmly, from the edge of his bunk. "We'll call her Doraine."

"Good shot!" cried Peter Snipe. "I had two names in mind, but Doraine's got 'em both beat. It may not be as pretty as Angelica, but it's more appropriate. Mortimer was the other name I had in mind."

"Yep," was the smothered decision of Michael Malone. His shirt came off, and then he spoke more distinctly. "We can't do better than to name her after her birthplace. That's her name. Doraine Cruise. It sounds Irish. Got music in it. All Irish names have,--leaving out Michael and Patrick and Cornelius and others applied solely to the creatures who don't take after their blessed mothers and who grow up to be policemen and hod-carriers, with once in awhile a lawyer or labour-leader to glorify the saints they were named for, and--Yes, begorry, Doraine's her name."

And so it was that, with an arbitrary quaintness, the babe was named without so much as a thought of consulting the mother. They assumed a proprietary interest in her, a sort of corporate ownership that had as its basis a genuine affection for and pride in Cruise's widow. It did not occur to one of them that she ought to have been considered in the matter of naming her own child; they went to sleep perfectly satisfied that when the question was put to a general vote on the morrow there wouldn't be a single dissenting voice against the name they had selected.

And Mrs. Cruise herself would be very grateful to them for the prompt assistance they had given her at a time when she was in no condition to be bothered with minor details!

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West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 4 West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 4

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 4
BOOK II CHAPTER IVThe death of Betty Cruise occurred the second day after her baby was born. In a way, this lamentable occurrence solved a knotty problem and pacified two warring sexes, so to speak. For, be it known, the women of the Doraine took a most determined stand against the manner in which the men, viva voce, had arrogated unto themselves the right to name the baby. Not that any one of the women objected to the name they had given her; they were, in fact, pleased with it. But, they protested, this was a matter over which but one

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 2 West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 2

West Wind Drift - Book 2 - Chapter 2
BOOK II CHAPTER IIThe first of the two boats came alongside, and men began to go clumsily, even fearfully down the ladders. Throughout the early stages of activity on shore, the passengers and crew went out in shifts, so to speak. Percival and others experienced in construction work had learned that efficiency and accomplishment depend entirely upon the concentration of force, and so, instead of piling hundreds of futile men on shore to create confusion, they adopted the plan of sending out daily detachments of fifty or sixty, to work in regular rotation until all available man power had been broken