« AnkstesnisTęsti »
of the blast as it beats against the windowpane, and my thoughts and sympathies turn toward the man at the wheel, the fishermen in their dories on the Banks, or the helpless schooner, broken from her moorings on the Georges, going to destruction, and carrying death in her path to another.
Sunshine gladdens the earth when I wake; the wind is fresh from the west, and a clear blue sky reflects itself in the water. Already those transient guests, the steamers, are crossing the Dog Bar, pitching in the brilliant seas, and rising with a white mantle of foam. The rattle of the pawls, the creaking of blocks, the clank, clank of the windlass, and the slowly rising white sails, tell that soon all will be tearing on their courses with a bone in their teeth. It is a very forlorn old hooker that cannot shine as a beauty on such a morning. High up in the heavens white clouds throw down again the brilliant sunshine. It is a day when darkest life seems good.
My dory is called the Folly, but her name must have been a jest. I never knew a steadier boat at her moorings, and in going about, unless you put the helm hard alee long before you intended to bring up into the wind, she'd bump into anything a quarter of a mile away. Had she only been worthy of her name, I could have blessed her with other than my ordinary thoughts on such an occasion. She has carried me out many a time at sunrise when the 'longshore fishermen were at their nets and lobsterpots, set only a few rods from land. Their boats were of all colors, faded by the wind and sea into perfect harmony with the water and sky. Their sails were of all shades of brownish gray and blue-white, all massed together around a herring- or mackerel-net, where men in yellow oilskins were scooping in the fish, glistening as they shook off the last drop of their dear home with energetic flappings, and accommodated themselves to circumstances by losing their breath. Then as the Folly bore down upon them, just as likely stern first as not, threatening to break up their pleasant and fishy conversation into uncomplimentary fragments, I would bring up alongside of a kind, considerate friend whom I had paid high for fresh fish, and watch the scene. Many of the men in the dories were old commanders of schooners, their eyes bloodshot from long watching and driving salt spray. Too old to go on voyages, they cannot cast aside the habit of a life, but sail daily out to sea with a few clams or herring for bait, to haul in uncertain rock-cod, to jig for mackerel, or to have an old-time swear at cunners, dogfish, and sculpins. I know one who is blind, but who hires a man to sail him out to sea in his dory every day, in order that he may not go to pieces on land. As they jibe the booms over and
sail away past the lighthouse, leaving me and the Folly to wonder how we are most easily to get back to breakfast, I hear the wheezing echo of a laugh as some one calls, "Push on the mast, mister, and let her bile." As I laboriously get the Folly's head around, and haul in the sheet to drift home any way she kindly will, the mackerel-schooners are coming out. Their sails are in deep blue shadow, tipped and edged with brilliant white where they belly around to the sunlight, their gently rising bows awaking the water into a bright ripple.
In summer the fishermen are off after mackerel, following the schools of fish up and down the coast. Very often they only chase delusive hopes. They catch the mackerel in long seines, and sometimes they take more than they can handle, the net breaks, and then instead of joy there is interlarded sorrow. When the catch has been good, the schooner floats in at sundown, generally with just wind enough to give the skipper at the wheel excuse for idleness, while the crew are busy splitting and cleaning the mackerel. As they come to anchor off the farm-house, flares are lighted, and the work goes on. Then the bay looks like an American Venetian fête, if there is such a thing, and daylight finds a tired crew sleeping the sleep of men who have earned their wages honestly.
The fisherman's life on the Banks and the Georges in winter is a very hard one, though they live well on board-better than on shore. They have to, that they may stand the excessive cold; and their pay is like their lives, a floating doubt. The voyage is made on shares. From the gross profits of the catch are deducted the cost of bait and ice, and one fourth of one per cent. for the Widows' and Orphans' Fund. One half of the net" stock," as it is called, goes to the owners of the vessel, the other half to the crew, from which is deducted each man's share of the crew's expenses; that is, cook's wages, water, medicine-chest, etc. They sail away full of hope and with a full larder. Arrived on the grounds, they anchor in about forty or fifty fathoms, and set their trawls. These are long lines, anchored on the bottom, and extending out from the schooner many hundreds of yards. To these, at intervals of a fathom (the distance varies for different fish), are attached shorter lines. These lines have to be attended in dories, each containing two men, who haul, bait, and land the fish in the boat, to be transferred to the schooner. Herein lie the danger and hardship, for the strong tides of the Banks and the shoal water pile up great combing seas. The cold is cruel, and the work hard. Suddenly down comes a fog, not the soft mist of summer or autumn, but a thick, heavy bank, soaked through with the penetrating cold of
starved or dead of thirst. When the fog lifts they are many miles from their schooner, and are carried by the swift tides they know not whither. Then come days of hunger and thirst; hands are frozen to the oars; madness haunts them; and then-death. Sometimes they make land or are picked up by a passing vessel, in which case they often return before their own schooner; but that great happiness is rare. Then their vessel, which so gaily sailed out past the light, comes home with her flag at half-mast.
I HAVE sat under the trees on a morning when returning spring softens and lights up everything, and the birds have come, and the leaves are just breaking from their winter sheathing. Slowly a schooner rounds the Point, with her flag at half-mast. It is impossible to be careless in thought for that day; no matter what joy may be in your heart, you feel
schooner never came. She had been out for four months, a long time for a voyage, but they could not give up that hope which was then their sole interest in life.
But a schooner's home-coming is generally of a brighter cast, and you find yourself quite as much in sympathy with the fishermen's joys as with their sorrows. Usually they sweep in from the northeast over a blue sea, and, passing the red buoy on the Dog Bar, turn the tiller for a straight and fair course up the harbor past Ten Pond Island. But they may come with a heavy fog. Then there is a screeching tug that seems to go out to patrol the coast, warning vessels off the rocks. She really hopes to find one so near danger that her assistance will be grateful to a wearied crew; or if the wind is light, as it generally is in a fog, she counts on the crew's impatience to get ashore. The fee is made up by the tired-out fishermen, and they pass up the harbor in luxurious ease.
R. Cleveland Coxe.
WITH PICTURE BY THE AUTHOR.
HE physical shock Alan had suffered worked no sudden regeneration of his character, but the joy of his restoration floated the business of the compromise off the reef on which it had struck. Norrisson was now the generous host, the fatherly sympathizer, and Dunsmuir's great boom of happiness swept all contention and bitterness out of his soul. For the time he had ceased to think of his wrongs; he was ashamed to haggle about the terms of a surrender which had lost for him its vital significance. What mattered who built the ditch, or how? He blessed God that he had his son. The question of managerial dictation to the chief engineer was not again raised; it was noticeable that all parties avoided it, and Westerhall sailed for the other side with the tacit understanding that all radical points of dispute were settled.
Alan had meant to take no advantage of his temporary importance. The household was prostrate before him; none of the old issues were revived between him and his father, except as he himself chose to revive them, in honest contrition. He had planned a different and much humbler home-coming. He had arranged the meeting in his own mind, very modestly, if also effectively; his father was to have seen him, first, with a pick in his hand, at work with the men. Perhaps he had counted on the robe and the ring and the feasting afterward. However, it had all been taken out of his hands, and his father had only his bare word for the intentions he was not strong enough as yet to put in practice: but Dunsmuir asked nothing, not even his boy's word. It was a specious content which could not last.
scraper-teams, hung like the smoke of an artillery engagement along the crests of the mesa. Where Dunsmuir had been wont to watch for the light of one lone cabin twinkling close to the shore, a galaxy blazed by night along both sides of the gulch above Job's cabin; and on the beach below were tents and camp-fires, and men and cattle, and all the dirt and paraphernalia of a huge contractor's-outfit.
The cabin was no longer a possible place for Margaret. She lived, now, at the house, and Job camped with the force and visited her on Sundays, as he used before they were married. But they were not at home, as they had been in their bit of a room below, where Margaret was mistress and Job was man of the house. Dolly tried to lure them out of the hot kitchen into the parlor off the dining-room, where she and Margaret held their domestic consultations; but it was not the same to Margaret-going deliberately to sit there with Job in his best clothes, with nothing to do, and members of the family passing in and out with smiles of "How do you do, Job?" and affable questions about the work.
Nothing in life persists like the essential nature of our individual needs and peculiarities; the smallest of them are often the most insistent. The household, having been drugged with extreme joy, came to itself after a while, and discovered that nothing, not even Alan, had changed: only the work had "started up" and jostled them all out of their old places; and if it had brought them the long-looked-for rest and triumph and security, none of the elders had yet found it out. Job missed his old importance to the work; he missed Margaret, and thought that she worked too hard; and he sorely missed his home. He was not a skilled laborer. His record counted for little in the new organization, unless Dunsmuir found time to remember it. He had not been able to procure for Job any position better than that of a "pickhandle boss" under one of the sub-contractors. Job knew that his place could be filled at a day's notice. Dunsmuir was feeling keenly his private indebtedness to these tried friends, now that he had come, apparently, into his kingdom. He had intimated to Job that the closing deal had been hard upon him, financially. Job knew the water-right had not been sustained, and was not surprised; but he asked no 1 Copyright, 1892, by Mary Hallock Foote.
Summer was advancing, ever deeper in dust. The sky was tarnished with haze. The sunsets were longer burning out in the west, in colors more tragic. The river had sunk in its bed, and the eery laugh was no more heard. There was another sound as night fell, which made music in Dunsmuir's ears- the roll of the contractor's wagon-trains moving into the cañon, as the force on the work increased. By day clouds of dust, from the slow procession of