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A Fisherman of Costla


A FISHERMAN OF COSTLA

By James B. Connolly

Illustrations by Frank Brangwyn

THE captain of the coast steamer almost laughed aloud at the absurdity of the question. "Go to Kilronan, in the outer Arran Island, to-day? No, sir, not for all the money your clients have in prospect. Even if my steamer had not two loose plates forward, and her condenser all out of gear, as my engineer says, I would not head her out in the bay to-day—not for all the money of one of your American millionaires. No, sir."

"But consider the urgency," panted the stranger. "Consider——"

"Consider the urgency? Consider the steamer," retorted the captain. "Lord, you'd never need to say you've just arrived from strange parts. If you'd been in Galway for more than ten minutes, you'd have known that this howling westerly gale that's sweeping in on this coast would make a junk-pile in quick order of any old iron steamer of the tonnage of mine. In quick order, yes, sir—up on the rocks she'd go—it's all rocks on this coast. And then where would my captain's papers be?"

"Name your price," persisted the stranger. He dropped his suit-case, put his hand to his inside coat-pocket, and drew out a thick wallet. "Name your price. I'll charter the steamer for a week, and you can have her back at the end of twenty-four hours, and it's only two hours' run to Kilronan, as you said yourself. Two hours out and two hours back, four hours steaming besides the waiting while I'm looking over the records with your parish priest and parish clerk—six hours all told and my business will be done with. What do you say? Name your price."

"No, no, I'm sorry, but I would not try it even if my steamer was ready for the value of the whole estate you say may be at stake. No, no," replied the steamer captain.

"Then what am I to do? At the hotel I stopped just long enough to make inquiries, and they sent me to you. They told me that if you would not take me to Arran, nobody out of Galway would take me, unless it were a Claddagh fisherman across the harbor in one of their little sailing-vessels. And then they added that if I could get a fisherman ready to risk it, it is more than likely he could not do anything against this storm—it's a head wind to Arran."

"They told you right. Lord bless you, no hooker could ever beat out this gale. Kilronan bears about west from here, and this wind's straight from the west-north-west. If the wind was blowing from off-shore now, why you might speak of taking a hooker, if you would find anybody crazy enough to try it. Though as for that part of it, you'll find Irishmen crazy enough to try almost anything—I mean if you can show 'em a half-decent reason for it. They won't do it just for the money, remember—no, sir, not for all the money that wallet of yours'll hold—but if you could work up their feelings——"

"If the wind were blowing from off-shore?" repeated the stranger absently. "But is there no plate around here on the coast from which the wind blows toward Arran?"

"Ha! Why, that's so, too! There's the north shore—there's Costla. From Costla to Kilronan the wind won't be behind you, mind, but it will be a fair wind—fair enough for a passage. But, my soul, think of the risk."

"Risk?—in the boat?"

"In the boat?—yes—crossing Galway Bay in this gale."

"Would your fishermen here be afraid? They told me other tales of them, captain." The stranger smiled in an exasperating way.

"See here," said the captain. "Don't you run away with any notion that our fishermen hereabouts won't fish when any other men on earth would go out and fish in small boats. But let me tell you, it's one thing to fish because the wife and children at home need the help, and another thing—here," the captain broke off with some heat, "look here now, and 'll tell you. A while ago you said you'd go to any labor and any risk to reach Kilronan to-day, and be back here to-morrow morning?"

"Yes," said the stranger, "any labor and any risk so as to be back here and aboard the train that will connect with the White Star steamer out of Queenstown to-morrow morning. If I don't do this thing, and take that steamer so as to be back in time, my trip over here is of no avail. And it means more than a dead loss of time and money to the firm. I'm a young lawyer in a big office, and this thing means a lot to me. You tell me what to do and I'll do it at any risk."

"You will? Well, you go to Costla—that's on the coast on the north side of Galway Bay, as I said. It's the nearest place on the mainland to Kilronan. There's a fair road from here to there; it's on the mail-car route that goes out of the western side of Galway. You go to Costla. First, of course, you go to the Royal Hotel up the street—that's where you just came from—and tell them you want a jaunting-car, a fast horse, and a good driver. Get Pat Kelley if you can, and have him arrange to have a fresh horse for you at Spiddal. There's always a fresh horse to be had at Spiddal, and that's half way to Costla. You ought to be at Costla Bay in two hours and a half. It's twenty-five miles. When you get to Costla, ask for Gerald Donohue. Anybody will tell you where to find him, though, there being two Geralds, you want to ask for the right one. One has a son in the Coast Guards. You don't want him—he's old and stays ashore now. You want the other Gerald that's a fisherman and has no son in the Coast Guards. He did have a son that would be old enough for that now, but he lost him the time the last big wave swept over Glasher Rock. Anyway, you tell Gerald what you told me when you first hopped off that car a while ago. Tell him that if you can't get those records with the proper certification and be back aboard to-morrow morning's New York steamer out of Queenstown, your clients—a family of children, did you say?—well, tell him they'll lose a fortune. Tell Gerald that and put it strong to him. Tell him what you told me, that the fortunes of those children, whose father was Kilronan born, may be hanging on your getting to Kilronan and back by to-night, and trust Gerald to put you across the bay to Arran Island if any living man will do it. And if he gets you across to Arran, then he'll make small work of bringing you on to Galway afterward, for it will be a fair wind from Arran back to Galway. He'll only have to keep her from swamping on the way back. And if Gerald won't do it, you can give it up-—no man on the coast will do it."

"Thank you, thank you, I'm off. O jarvey—" the stranger leaped to the jaunting-car—" to the Royal Hotel! Lash her now!"

The captain gazed after him. "The Lord save us, I wonder is there ever one of them American business men that's got time to take a full breath."


II

It was at ten o'clock in the morning that the American left the steamer-captain. At one in the afternoon he was down by a small stone quay at an inner point of Costla Bay talking to a fisherman of the place, Gerald Donohue, the right Gerald Donohue, the one that had no son in the Coast Guards. Stout, bearded, and hardy-looking was Gerald of the blue eyes and simple speech.

"Sure it's the moving tale you're telling me," he was saying. "But do you think what it means if my little vessel is lost? The wife and the small childer——"

"Well, as to that, Mister Donohue, I can only say that the heirs—the people we're fighting for—will see that your family shall not want. When they hear the story, as hear it they must, for I'll be with you and they'll naturally make inquiries—if we're lost then you can count on it that your family will not be forgotten. It won't be a hundred pounds, or two hundred, or three hundred that they——"

Gerald raised his hand. "We'll not speak of the money. The man that would cross Galway Bay to-day for money, and wife and childer behind him, would be staining his soul with the black marks of a sin that the fires o' Purgatory would never burn out—never. But for Dannie Costello's childer that has to fight for the money he left behind sure 'tis a hard thing. The childer that can't get their own father's money—man, but it is the hard nature that is fighting them. I knew Dannie for ten years before he left Arran—the one age we were. And him the manager of a boy before he was old enough to walk. And a fine kind boy he was. And only the year before last he sent fifty pound at Christmas-time for the little stone church they're trying to build in Kilronan. Yes, sir, the big heart had Dannie. And now he's dead, you tell me, and they're schemin', the villains, to keep the poor childer out o' the money. Sure an awful thing is law now, isn't it? Here, Tammie"—he turned to a twelve-year-old lad who was standing near and watching the surf break over the rocks below him. "Tammie, run up to the house like a good boy and get the two suits of oil-clothes—make haste now—while I will be reefing down the main-sail and taking in a bit of the jib. Make haste, Tammie, for it's makin' the wind is all the time. Yes, sir, it must be makin' when it isn't going down. And it's big boots and plenty of oil-clothes we'll need this day. And do yourself get into the hooker, sir, yourself and your valise, while I do be reefin' down."

The "hooker" was a black-painted, or rather black-tarred, jib and mainsail boat of perhaps twenty-five feet on deck and eight feet beam. Forward she was decked over, but aft was merely an open space, wherein was a lot of broken rock in her bottom for ballast. Having been used at odd times for carrying peat to the islands in the bay, a great deal of loose loam had managed to sift down into the crevices of the stone, thereby giving more than usual stability to the ballast.

The lawyer stood on the ballast and watched the fierce surf as it broke over the rocks that edged the little bay. He could not quite see the full glory of the surf of the greater bay outside, the bay they were soon to attempt to cross, but he saw enough to get a faint idea of what it might be like, and as he pondered over the prospect he began to experience his first slight sinking of the heart since he left Galway, and almost to wish that to somebody else had fallen what now promised to be a hazardous undertaking.

While the lawyer was soberly meditating, the fisherman was rushing preparations. Three reefs were put in the black mainsail, and the jib was taken in until not more than half its original size was spread. The hatch to the little hole forward was battened down and running gear overhauled. Gerald did not like the look of the jib. "It's old, and a touch of rot in it. If there was time, there's a bit of a storm-sail below I would put on her by way of a jib instead of that old rag, but there's not the time—here comes Tammie, with his load of boots and oil-clothes.

"Throw it aboard, Tammie.

"Ah, poor b'y, ye had a great load of it, sure enough. Here, sir—"he turned to his passenger—"take off your shoes and get into a pair of these boots, and put the oil clothes over your other clothes. Be sure but you will need them."

They were soon ready. "Push off, Tammie," said the fisherman to his boy. "Pole her off to the end of the quay, and then go back and tell your mother I won't be back for three days maybe, for I'll have to go to Galway to put the gentleman on his way. Go back now."

"Can't I go with you, father?" asked the boy.

"Go with me! The Lord forbid—sure the hair would rise off your head with the fright when you'd see the waves out in the big bay."

"I wouldn't be afraid with you, father."

"Whisht! and go along with you. 'Tis your mother wouldn't sleep till you was back again. Go home now, and tell her as I just told you to tell her——"

"She knows where you're going. When I asked for the big boots and oil-clothes, she asked me what you wanted them for, and I told her."

"You did? And what did she say?"

"She said, ''Tis the foolish man your father is, Tammie, but God speed him.' Can't I stay on the high rocks and watch you sail across, father?" pleaded the boy.

"No, b'y, no. It's too windy and cold there."

"But I want to see you sail the hooker across the bay, father. It's fast she'll sail in this wind. and I want to see her go."

"Then go up to the Coast-Guard station and watch from there with your cousin Malachi. 'Tis there you will be able to see beautiful from the look-out up top. Go now, Tammie, and say God-speed for us."

Under the fisherman's hands the little hooker was skilfully worked from out of this rock-strewn inlet of water known as Costla Bay into the much larger body of water known as Galway Bay. The American had only to dodge the spray as it came aboard, and Gerald to dodge with the hooker the rocks that stuck their sharp points above the surface.

"Look across now," said Gerald—they were clear of the sunken rocks inside—"that's Arran you see ahead. Eleven mile from here—just beyond where you see the water all white. That's the surf breaking there—if you can see it."

"I think I can see it, but I'm not sure." From the stern of the jumping hooker the lawyer was trying to see things ahead and at the same time keep his feet.

"Not sure, ye say? Faith, but it's the weak eyes a man gets when he stops long ashore. That's Kilronan, and the long stone wall there is the pier. That's where we are going, if God is willing—to the other side of that pier. Now keep under the rail and out of the wet, if you can, for we're fair into it now."

What the American knew of the practical workings of the sea had been gained altogether from his recent trip between New York and Queenstown. For one twenty-four hours during that six-days' passage there had been enacted what the saloon referred to as "an awful storm." Some spray had come aboard the main deck of the liner, and most of the passengers lay in their berths while the awful storm should go by. Our young lawyer had been among the brave ones who had stuck it out in the smoking-room. He remembered very well how he had been thinking of the future time when he should be reeling off the details of that storm to home circles. But that steamer was 600 feet in length, with a wall of sixty feet from the water's surface to the top-rail, and, to preserve the proportions, this little hooker was about the size of one of the liner's deck-boats, with less than two feet of free-board—that is, when she stood on an even keel. To preserve the proportions, this little vessel should be now sailing in a mill-pond in a summer zephyr. Even that something less than two feet of freeboard would have been a most comforting thing were it there now, which it was not, for the hooker by now, working clear of the main shore, and the wind coming abeam, was taking a great slant. At first she only rolled over to her deck amidships, and the water did not bother them over-much. Spray had come across her bows from the very first, but, as they went on, sheets of spray began to come over bows, midship, and quarter, and slap them from head to toe even when they crouched back in the stern. Still even the lawyer did not mind that. He had some philosophy in his make-up, and, having been warned by that surf over the rocks of Costla Bay, he had made up his mind to some discomfort. But it was not until the hooker had worked out from the lea of the land for a mile or so, and the real force of the wind from all the wide Atlantic began to hit her, that the young man from the inland region of a great continent began to see more clearly than ever that he had embarked on an enterprise of some risk. He derived his greatest pleasure, after they were well into it, from discovering the rail when it showed above the sea, as it did every now and then when the fisherman held her up a trifle.

The fisherman seemed to read the young man's thoughts. "I could make it a bit more pleasant," he explained, "but we would never make Kilronan if I did. If we went to le'ward we'd never in this world work her back in the wind."

"I see," said the lawyer, "but doesn't she lay rather away over sometimes? Isn't there danger? "

"Danger?—not a bit. Not yet, anyway. Don't you worry now. So she shows the rail anywhere near the level water you're safe as if you was in the Coast-Guard station we left behind us. 'Tis when she puts that plank above her rail under—that plank that's used to hold the turf in her whenever we have a big load of it—now when that goes under water will be the time to say a quick litany, especially if the ballast shifts."

"That plank under! Good Lord! wouldn't she turn bottom up then?"

"I couldn't say. I never tried her, but it is likely, sir."

"And if she tips over, what shall we do?"

"Troth, and I couldn't say as to that, either; but swim, I'm thinkin'."

"Swim! I'd have but a small chance, then, when I can barely swim a hundred yards in the smoothest water."

"Faith, then we'd last the one as long as the other, for sorra the stroke at all can I swim. But that's neither here nor there, for it's the small chance we'd have if she capsized here. Look at her now, sir."

The hooker was then lifting so that the lawyer, gazing at her forward deck, could easily imagine himself looking uphill; and when she pitched down and her bows went clear under until she was all water to her mast, he thought she was about to engulf herself. That was happening almost continuously, but she did have steady streaks. When the wind was steady, she simply lay down while the sea rushed over her side and swirled over the feet of the two men in the stern.

"The Lord save us, but she's making great time, isn't she, sir? Great speed, but maybe 'twouldn't do her no harm if you was to keep the bailer going. That's the bailer, that tin pail there by your valise. Man, but that valise is catching it—and a finer valise I never set eyes on. I know it's a shame, too, to make a regular-paid passenger work his way, but with yourself bailing you'll have a better chance to make that same passage you'll be paying for later, if you make it. 'Tis the great sport sailing when you're sure you'll get home all right, isn't it, sir?"

"Yes," answered the lawyer, "it must be." His voice had not the viking ring, but his bailing was all that could be desired.

The hooker footed on, with the seas tossing her about as a wooden bucket is tumbled in a beach surf. She went down into the hollows until the lawyer thought she was never coming up, and she went up on the heights until he thought she would stay up altogether. The seas were green and each had a crest of white that reminded the landsman of the long teeth of an angry dog. The body of the sea would rush on, and by its sheer weight throw the hooker far and high, then the white teeth would leap up and pounce down and make as if trying to tear her planks apart.

The lawyer, to gather inspiration, would look up now and then from his bailing to study the face of the fisherman. Once he fancied he saw a fleeting shade of worriment in the blue eyes. With some trepidation he asked if there were anything wrong. If this man of the sea was disturbed, certainly it was time for himself, a landsman, to watch out.

"That jib there," answered the fisherman after a long gaze forward; "I've been thinkin' it won't hold much longer. Beginnin' to rip it is at the foot of it. Stand up now and hold the tiller when I put her in the wind. Wait, wait until I put her into the wind. Have a care now, and let me show you. Lord, but that was a blast! Och, it's gone! May the devil go with it!" The jib had ripped from the foot up, and was slatting off in strips to leeward, like half a dozen long-tailed burgees.

"Hold her as she is," said the fisherman. "She'll stay there now while I dive into the hold for'ard for a bit of storm-sail that we'll make a jib of. I always mistrusted that old jib."

The hooker rode the waves so much more easily with her head to the wind that the lawyer, though he had not the slightest idea of how it was all brought about, wondered why they had not done something like this before. Certainly this was better than to let her heel over until she threatened to roll bottom up.

Forward the fisherman had got out a small triangle of canvas, and was swiftly making ready to attach it to the old jib sheet and halliards. To expedite matters he was forced to lie out on the little bow-sprit and allow himself to be buried with that plunging stick every time a sea came his way. He quickly made a pair of rough hanks of a piece of old line, cut away such pieces of the old jib as threatened to hamper operations, came back inboard and hoisted away on his halliards.

"There," said he, jumping aft, beard, hair, and the oil-skins running brine, "there. Now we'll go our way again."

The hooker lay over again, and the lawyer resumed his bailing, stopping only long enough to ask Gerald why he could not have kept her as she was when he was putting the new sail in place. "She was so steady then," he said, "so steady—that is, compared to what she is now."

"Steady, yes," said Gerald, grimly. "A pity she wouldn't be half-way steady, and she hove-to. But let her lay so long enough and think you where would she be, or where would you be or me be? Look over the rail at your elbow now. See where the sea breaks over that ledge. Twenty feet high it spouts, and that ledge runs far out from the shore into the bay. That's where she'd drift, and we'd be fools enough to let her. How long would you live, I'm asking you, sir, in that b'iling—if you was lucky enough not to break your bones in the first smash?"

"Oh," said the lawyer, "I didn't know." After a pause he continued: "No, I didn't know. If I knew what it was going to be I would never have dragged you out here, nor come out here myself—no, not for all the reputation I ever expect to make. I didn't know."

"What!" exclaimed the fisherman, "and Dannie's childer dependin' on ye?"

"Oh, I forget them. Yes, I would come—but what's that awful place ahead?"

"That's where the shoal makes out from Arran. That's the bad spot for us. 'Tis that we'll have to weather if ever we make Kilronan. Man, but it's cruel to look at, isn't it now? There's where we'll have to let her take the wind in full. All this time, d' y' see, we've been close-hauled, but we'll have to swing her off now if we'd pass here. Watch out now and get a hold of something if you love life."

He put the tiller up into the wind, and around came her head. The wind took her fairly, and over she went. The lawyer thought she was going altogether, and the fisherman said, "Holy Mary!" Her solid rail went far under, and the turf-board above that went clear under also, and the water that rushed into the open part of her aft seemed about to swamp her.

"She's going!" called the lawyer—"My God, she's going!" He grabbed the tiller in his excitement.

"Let be the tiller—I'm steering! Take a grip of my waist, or anything, but let be the tiller!"

"I'm up to my knees," said the lawyer.

"To your knees, is it? Man, but you'll be up to your waist, maybe, before she stops, and then over your head, maybe. Hold on now—hold on yet. Holy Mary, but, she's getting it. But she'll make it yet. She's coming, by my soul, she's coming. 'Twas a blow that, but she'll right yet. Give her a chance, give her a chance now."

For a full two minutes she lay there within an ace of being hove-down before she showed signs of coming up. Then slowly she began to right, with the fisherman nursing her. Slowly, slowly she came up. She was safe at last. For a while she was logy as any old derelict with the loose water that sloshed about in the open space aft, but she had righted and that was the really important thing.

"A bad little place that, sir," observed Gerald when he had got her straightened away again. "A point makes out from the shoals there, d' y' see? We had to shoot around it like, y' see, and that made all the trouble. 'Twas that more than all the rest of the passage, though the Lord knows 'tis rough enough it is—but 'twas that's been on my mind the last half hour. You didn't know that? Why would you?—but the Lord be thanked we're by-it now. There's been more than one vessel capsized and more than one crew lost there, though 'twasn't all of them had ballast that stood like ours. Man, but the turf between the stones under our feet—'tis as good as the pig iron and the melted lead they puts in the bottom of the yachts. Yes, sir, every bit as good. When it holds, I mean. Sometimes it don't hold. And maybe it was the hand o' God—that jib blowing out back there. If it didn't go then, 'twould go that last time and that was a bad place to be stopping to bend on a new sail—don't you think but it was, sir?"

"Yes," said the lawyer. Still bewildered, he stood looking back at the boiling point they had passed. "Awful, awful, wasn't it?" he exclaimed.

"Yes, sir—awful, you might say, but don't stop bailing now because we're past it. She'll be a bit livelier, d' y' see, with some of the water out of her. That's why I have the stern of her with a few planks out—so the water that comes over the rail will go back in the sea again." He grinned slyly. "She gets clear of a lot of water that way. But keep bailing—you're doin' fine at the bailing, sir."

The lawyer continued to bail and Gerald held to the tiller until the happy moment when they shot around the end of the pier. "There," said Gerald, "we're in at last, and here's Kilronan." He pointed the hooker up for the pier, cast loose the halliards, let the sails run, and dropped her gently alongside the pier steps.

"And are we here?" asked the lawyer, as if he could hardly believe it.

"Here you are—yes, sir—Kilronan. Go up those steps ahead, and from the top of the pier you can see the parish priest's place. The parish priest and the parish dark will have all the records you'll be wanting, I think. And there's a notary or something like that who will do the swearing the dark can't do. And while you're gone I'll be eating some bread and fish and making a cup of tea, for I've had no dinner this day and I'm fair famished. When you get back, sir, we'll put for Galway. Make haste, sir, and if the Lord is good, you'll be in time for your Queenstown steamer in the morning."

In two hours the young lawyer came back, radiant. "It's all right, it's all right," he sang out to Gerald.

"Is it? Well that's fine. And now we'll off to Galway. Come aboard, sir?"

"Will it be bad going to Galway? Any more of those bad shoal points to be passed?"

"Not a bit. 'Tis only running we'll be going to Galway in this wind. We have but to hold her up past the light-house till we're well into Gregory Sound, and we're all right. She'll make great dives with her head, but it's hard to capsize her that way—head first. 'Twill be rough, maybe, till we're past the Sound, but after that we'll put for the lee of the islands, and with a fair wind and smooth water and Dan Costello's childer in mind and we'll have you in Galway to-night, with the help of God."

That night in his room at the hotel in Galway, and while he was waiting for the porters to put his few pieces of baggage in the jaunting-car, the American drew out his thick wallet to settle up with the fisherman. He laid five £10 Bank of England notes on the table. "There, Captain Donohue," said he, "there's your $50 as promised, and your work was worth it ten times over."

Donohue regarded him in wonder.

"Fifty pounds? No, no—" he pushed the money back across the table—"no, no; I'm not taking fifty pounds out of you, sir. Let me have two pounds, a pound for to-day, and a pound for another day I'll be waiting here while the gale blows by."

"Two pounds? Don't be foolish now. Captain. I said this morning that I'd give you fifty pounds to take me across Galway Bay. And here are the fifty pounds that I said I'd give you."

"Yes, yes, you said you'd give me it, but I never said I'd take it. Put up your money. It isn't for the money I'd be risking making a widder of Mora and orphans of the childer. No, sir; two pounds is my price this day—one day to-day, and another day to-morrow when I won't be able to get back to Costla, by the look of things now. No, no, sir; I'm telling you now 'tis never for money I'd do it. Forty years ago, when I was a little lad, I knew Dannie Costello. 'Twas Dan put me many's the time in the way of making a shillin' with him now and again. Dan Costello was good to me. And 'twas a long ways a shillin' went in them days—starvation days we had then. Yes, 'tis true we haven't too many comforts now, but we manage to get along. When you see the childer again, sir—and if they are anything like their father, sir, sure they'll be the fine childer—when you see them, give my respects to them, sir. A friend of their father's, tell them. Tell them that, if you will, and I'll thank you. Two pounds—no more, no more. What? The sail? Well, put in a pound for the old sail. Troth, and it was an old sail, and I'll be cheating you at that. Three pounds I'll take. No more. I couldn't. Thank you, sir, and hurry now if you would catch the cars for Queenstown. Good-by, sir, good-by, and remember me kindly to Dan Costello's childer."


III

When the roar of the hurrying train had become no more than one of a thousand other far-away echoes in the night, the fisherman returned through the narrow streets of the old city to the big dock, to the end of which was tied his little hooker. He sloshed around with the tin pail and bailed out such water as he could find by feeling in the dark. He shook the reefs out of the mainsail, hoisted it clear to the blocks, that it might have a chance to dry, and then looked up at the shadow of it as it hung. "There, that's off my mind, and now for a little bit of comfort." He felt his way forward and dropped through the hatchway into the little hole of a cabin.

Here he groped about in the extreme darkness until his fingers rubbed against a piece of a candle and a card of matches that protruded from somewhere up between the deck-planking and a transverse beam. The matches he struck one after the other until he got one that would stay alight long enough to get the candle going. He raked over the ashes on the little stone slab that served him for a hearth, but found them all damp. "Man," he murmured, "but the water surely came through her old j'ints this day." He went to a locker, took out a small piece of very soft wood, from which, after whittling into shavings, he managed to get a tiny blaze. "The very air has salt water in it," he whispered to himself. After another while he felt hopeful of getting a kettle of water to boil. " 'Twas good the locker's half-way dry with the wood in it," he said. "We'll have tea yet." The thought gave him intense satisfaction. "A pot of fine hot tea, yes, and something to eat with it. And I'm fair famished." From the bottom of a tin box he took out a sliver of salt fish and a scone of bread. "Faith, but that's fine luck—just enough for a bite for myself. Not a great deal of it—a child could eat it, and Father Doherty himself wouldn't say it was too much for a fast-day, but 'twill go fine after the wet, hard day—fine, fine." He shook out the last pinch of tea from the caddy into the kettle.

The water was slow to boil, and the smoke of the fire drove him to the hatchway for fresh air. "I'll have to get a little chimbly for this place another year—the smoke of it sometimes is fair overpowerin'." He gazed out of the hatch and across the dark waters. "A wee little bit more and I could see Costla Bay with the lights in the Coast- Guard station—yes. Mora, 'tis little is the sleep you'll be giving yourself this night, nor another night till I'm home again. Sure the childer themselves, the wee little ones, will be asking for their father when they hear the wind scream over the rocks of Costla. And off in America now—what place was it that young man said?—some saint city away, oh, far away, from the coast. But never mind. 'If ever you come t' America, Captain Donohue—' says he. 'I'm no captain,' says I. 'I'm master, with one grown lad for a crew, of a little black hooker—a fisherman of Costla am I,' says I. 'Well, captain or no captain,' says he, 'there's commanders in the R'yal Navy,' says he, 'and in every other navy,' says he, ' that wouldn't crossed Galway Bay to-day for all their hopes of promotion. And if ever you come to St. Louis'—that's it, St. Louis, by my soul—'if ever you come to St. Louis, be sure to come to me, and 'tis myself and Dan Costello's children will have the warm welcome for you—yes,' he said that. Oh, oh, the poor childer that's the thousands of miles livin' from where their father was born. And havin' the law to fight with it! Wirra, wirra, but the Lord needs to be good to childer that's got the law to fight. Yes, indeed, yes."

He took another long look toward Costla ere he dropped below. He noted the progress of the boiling kettle of tea. "In a minute 'twill be done. A bite to eat, a sup to drink, and my pipe, and then to a good sleep. My pipe, where is it? Yes, yes, to be sure, where I left it on the shelf in the bunk." He reached across the bunk and began to feel about for the pipe. The weight of his arm on the blankets caused him to disturb a small body that was huddled deep among the bed-clothes. The body, squirming, startled the fisherman. "My soul! what's that!"

The bundle rolled over and spoke. "It's me, father."

"Tammie, Tammie, you scart me most to death. How on earth came you here, Tammie?"

"I asked mother could I come, and she said yes, and the driver of the mail-cart took me up. I wanted to be sure you got to Galway. You know you said maybe the gale would last so you mightn't be home for three days, and I wanted to go back and tell mother in the morning."

"Back to Costla in the morning? And if the mail-car is full and no room for the likes of you? "

"Then I can walk, father."

"The Lord save us, but it's little boys that makes us ashamed, with the faith they has," said Gerald. "Here, come out of that bunk that's as wet as the wide bay, till I put in it some of my old clothes from the locker—the locker, the only dry place in the hooker, and it isn't over-dry at that. They'll be poor bed-clothes, but they'll be half-way dry for you, alanna. And how did you come aboard anonst to me?"

"I was waiting for you since the mail-cart got in at eight o'clock. I saw you when you came in the dock, and then I saw you and the American gentleman go to the hotel. I knew you would be back here when I saw you go to the station with him, so I came down here and I was waiting for you here, but I fell asleep while I was waiting, father."

"Oh. the poor b'y. And you're hungry, I'll be bound, Tammie?"

"A little, father."

" 'A little, father'? Come here by the fire. You're fair famished. Don't try and hide it from me. Can't I see it in the mouth and the eyes of you—'tis fair famished you are. Here now, here's the fine dried hake, and the fine scone your mother baked yesterday mornin,' and the fine hot tea. Eat and drink now, and then go to sleep with you."

"And won't you eat too, father?"

"Me eat? Sure, didn't me and the gentleman ate till we almost busted at the hotel?"

"At the hotel? What did you have there, father? Was it fine? and a lot of it?"

" 'Fine? and a lot of it'? There was everything any man could think of, and a lot some men could never think of. There was turkey and duck and puddin' "

"Plum-puddin', father?"

"Plum-puddin' and three other kinds."

"Ooh!"

"And pasties and grapes and jellies and oranges and bananas and cake—oh, there was lashin's of everything, things I don't know the names of at all."

"M-m-m—but you did eat a lot for the little time you was in the hotel, father."

"For the little time? Of course. We raced through it so we wouldn't miss the cars. And how did you come to know we was in the hotel only a little time?"

"Don't you remember me saying I was outside in the road to see you come out and go up the street with the gentleman?"

"I forgot that. But you was outside all the time? Watchin' your betters? Tammie, don't ever you do that again. You don't know what private business they might be wantin' to talk over. Don't ever you do that again, Tammie. And have another mug o' tea now."

"Yes, father."

"And ate up the fish and bread."

"It's all eat up, father."

"Sure, and so it is. O Tammie, only all the shops is closed, but 'tis we two, just the two of us down here, would be having the fine supper now—me, with pound notes in my pocket. But there's a little droppeen o' tea left, alanna. Take it and finish it up now, like a good b'y."

"I'm full, father."

"And you're sleepy by the looks of you."

"A little, father. I was up at four o'clock this morning. I was up that time you left this morning to see if the hooker was all right when you heard the gale coming on. I saw you goin' out, though you didn't see me, 'cause it was dark—ooh, wasn't it dark, m-m-m—" He winked his eyes, rested his head against the edge of the bunk, and suddenly went off to sleep.

The fisherman bent over him. " The poor b'y, tired to death he is with his five-and-twenty mile on the mail-car this evenin'. Well, well, the faith of a child!" He gathered him up and laid him tenderly in the bunk. " 'Tis old rags that's under you, poor b'y, but they're half dry and maybe they'll save you from going back to your mother with your lungs choked with the cold."

He turned to the fire. From the board that had served as a plate for Tammie he swept off the crumbs and swallowed them with relish. What was left of the tea he poured out into a mug—less than half a mug it made—and drank it off. "My soul, but that's fine." He smacked his lips over it. He kept smacking while he was making ready to light his pipe by a dying ember that he coaxed from the hearth. With his pipe going, he leaned back against the planks of the hooker's side, and through the smoke and half light regarded the face of the lad as it shone from among the pile of old clothes in the bunk.

"And to think of him walking the twenty-five mile over the road to Costla in the mornin'. Many's the time I walked it me-self at his age, and I know what it is. But it's a stout lad I was to him with his little thin legs, and the little feet and toes blue with the cold, and maybe nobody along the whole way to know how far he came, and to ask him in to have a bite to ate and a sup to drink. Glory be, but is that water?"

He shifted about and felt his back. "Water, no less, and there isn't a j'int in her old bones the sea didn't squeeze through to-day. But she's the greatest little one of them all out of Costla. I wouldn't give her for some that's twice as young. Thirty-five year this summer. Thirty-five year—the prime of life. Many's the gale my own father sailed her. And many's the gale myself has sailed her, and many a gale I'll sail her yet, with God's blessing. Sure I'd like to know the time she made across the bay this day. My, but she fair leaped across the bay. Ah, ah, but the bones of me is getting old. They crack with every move I make—with every move, yes. And that young man from America, God-speed to him. And the poor childer of Dan Costello—the poor, poor childer—the Lord pity them! If I was gone now, 'tis the hard time my own would have. You're a brave little man, Tammie, but what could you do ag'in' the world—poor, poor Tammie—poor, poor childer."

His eyes turned from the figure in the bunk and became fixed on the red glow of the fire. The fire grew duller beneath his gaze, and the air about him grew colder. He thought to pull the hatch-cover to, but looking up his eyes were caught by the stars. "The blessed stars," he murmured. "It's a fine night, but 'tis windy and a bit cold. And the little candle is all burned. And listen to the tide runnin' under the planks of her."

His head sagged gradually until at length it was fairly on the shoulder nearest the vessel's peak; his legs, which had been drawn up at the knees, straightened out until they found a brace against the edge of the hearth-stone, and there he lay, not quite asleep, but certainly not quite awake. He must have known vaguely that he was not entirely awake, for suddenly he straightened his head, opened his eyes, held his ears to listen, and began to murmur again. "It's going to sleep anonst to myself I was."

He raised himself and forced eyes and ears to duty for yet another minute. All was well. The sluicing of the tide outside the old planks was there, although now much quieter; the stars were yet shining through the hatchway, though certainly more dimly; and the embers, dying a minute back, were dead altogether now. But the breathing of Tammie in the bunk—that was there. "Listen—yes he was sleeping fine. The poor lad, poor Tammie—the poor, poor little Costello childer. To all poor childer may the Lord be good!"

The pipe fell from the murmuring lips, the shaggy head settled into the peak of the hooker, and this fisherman of Costla was off to the sleep he had that day well earned.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1957, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.