Lost Island, part 6

Chapter VI (pp. 67 – 83) of Lost Island. As always, typos are mine, not Barbara’s. The story began here.

Jane was up early, and came on deck to feel the incredible blue of a young morning at sea. The wind was like the primrose wind that chases about fragrant pastured hills at dawn; only bolder and freer.

That day Jane decided she would make a determined and systematic effort to find out where the Annie Marlow was bound. She tracked down Davidson, and found him busily painting the interior of the small engine-room up forward by the fo’c’sle.

“Mr. Davidson, I’ve come to ask you the most astounding question anyone ever asked you in your life,” she began.

He put down his brush and smiled. “The trouble is, I probably can’t answer it, Miss Carey.”

“So you’ve found out my name?” She frowned at him mockingly. “Well, that isn’t my name. Not here. That’s my Sunday-go-to-meeting ‘longshore name. Here I’m known as Jane, just plain old plain-Jane, you know.”

He gave her his shy smile again. “Then I haven’t any ‘Mr.’ to me,” he ventured, busy with the paint-brush now.

“Oh, I’m glad of that. I don’t like handles. And now that that’s all settled so soon, will you please hand me that other brush?”

“Aren’t you on vacation?”

“Oh, well, I have to earn my passage, you know. And — oh, yes! Now for that great question I was going to ask you. Get ready!” She lowered her voice apprehensively. “I want you to tell me where this ship is going. I didn’t dare ask anyone but you; and I suspect it’s time I found out.”

He placed his brush quietly across the pail of white paint, and looked straight at her. She gazed back into his honest gray eyes. The moment would have been absurd if it had not also been a cosmic adventure. A miracle took place. For he understood, and far more completely than if she had told the whole story, with all its details, explanations, excuses, in hundreds of words. Words were a nuisance, and this no time for them.

“Valparaiso,” he murmured. “Going after nitrates.” And without saying anything more, he went back to his work. As for Jane, the swift silence of his understanding was even more exciting to her than the ring of “Valparaiso.” She painted at his side without answering, but the big brush was unsteady in her hand….

At sea days slipped away fast, lost over the rim of space. They were born in a splash of gold, marched over in a blue arc, and vanished with a pouring of moonlight across the curves of sail. Jane spent many hours alone, walking the deck and day-dreaming. She walked in the early mornings, which were bright as new butterflies. Sailors would be washing down the deck, then, and one of the mates tramping about among them with a bucket of sea water. She walked on the poop at noon, when Captain Maynard and Mr. Stevens were up with their sextants, in ambush to catch the sun at the peak of its flight. She paced the long main deck in the afternoons, in the shade of the sails. She walked on those calm days when one languid blue dome after another rose up, gleaming subtly like moonstones, and the weary old schooner was beating her wings and yearning for wind. Sometimes she walked at night, almost alone with the magic of the ship — the ship southward bound across the dark — southward under those stars, all there was in the universe, and yet nothing.

Here, at sea, Jane was able for the first time to feel definitely that the earth was a sphere. Till now, she had accepted the fact only as something which she had trained herself to believe, but around which she had found it hard to wrap her imagination. At sea there was clear unobstructed expanse on all sides. She saw ships hull-down. Several times she had a distinct sensation of the Annie Marlow crawling on the outer rim of a huge globe, with nothing but a mysterious power called gravity to keep her from flying off into that infinite space which was another very difficult thing to visualize.

Sometimes Jane scrubbed dishes in the galley or painted with the sailors. The engine-room was finished now, and Davidson’s watch had begun on bulwarks and waterways. Also, within a few days she had become the official sewer-on of buttons for this crew. Not that the men weren’t able to sew on their own. They had done it for years, and would continue as they drooped into senility; but it gave Jane a grown-up, motherly feeling which she enjoyed, and also a good opportunity to talk with them.

On the first Sunday afternoon she held a session amidships, sitting on one of the long spare gaffs. Most of the men were out in the sun with their buckets, washing clothes in mountains of soapsuds with such energy and thoroughness that only the most valiant and time-tried specks and stains could withstand the strain; sometimes the material itself gave way first. In return for the buttons Jane sewed, they insisted on washing her blouses for her, with the result that everyone felt mutually useful.

They thought her an extremely good sport anyhow, not so much for the sturdy and seaman-like way with which she sewed buttons, as for her companionship, the eagerness with which she listened to their tales, and her laughter that mingled so naturally with their own.

“Bill, what were you all laughing your heads off about awhile back? Oh, I heard you! Why, it shook the whole ship.” Bill was sitting beside her while she carefully sewed up a rip in his blue shirt, and between stitches admired the sleek brown shoulder under the torn edges of cloth.

“Why, the p’int was, Miss Jane — Well, tell me now, ain’t ol’ Barnacle a tom-cat?”

“Sure he is,” Jane agreed, stitching away, and not having the faintest idea of whether he was or not.

“Well, doggoned if he ain’t gone and had a hull fambly o’ little Barnacles — five of ’em!” announced Bill, elated that Jane had fallen into the trap.

She received the momentous information in the proper spirit, laughing with the rest of them.

“The ol’ man don’t know yit,” Bill pursued. “But he’s gone t’have the s’prise o’ his sixty years. Yessir!”

Young Jim took up the strain. ‘N’ tell her about the cook, Bill. You see, Miss Jane, the cook’s a very superystitious sort of a chap, ‘n’ when he seed that the tom-cat had kittens he throws his hands over his head ‘n’ gives a whoop ‘n’ says: ‘Then sure this ship’s a-gone ter have the damnedest worst luck in the world.’ ”

“What do you think yourself, Jim?”

“Why, Miss Jane, what I figgers is that natur is natur, ‘n’ if we was thinkin’ that cat was a tom the joke was on us. The ol’ bitch! Think o’ pullin’ a stunt like that.”

“Do you figger as them kittens was borned out o’ wedlock?” drawled Pete — a signal for another general uproar. There followed an enlightening discussion of the love life of cats.

Jane enjoyed these gatherings. She had found out that the atmosphere of coarseness which often prevailed in the crew’s conversation was unintended and unconscious, so that it was actually not coarseness at all. She liked their enthusiasms and their spirit of fun. She liked to have them show her their pictures and keepsakes, and to listen when they talked about wives and daughters, the son who ran a barber shop, and the gal friend who worked at a sody-fountain in ‘Frisco.

Still more, she liked to talk about books and dreams with Davidson. He was one of the Annie Marlow‘s crew, but at the same time he was mysteriously different from them.

“How about Youth: have you read it yet?” she asked him one evening.

He confessed that he had been saving Youth; that he nibbled at Conrad slowly, in order to make that shelf of blue-bound books last a long time. That was how she came to read the story aloud to him. She read it straight through from beginning to end one evening below decks in his little cabin. Mr. Stevens smiled knowingly to himself as he marched the poop on watch, as if to say to the broad expanse of sea and to the uninterested back of the helmsman: “See there? Didn’t I tell you?” He and his imagination were so happy together that he could not for the life of him resist mentioning to Captain Maynard, later in the evening, that Jane seemed to be “in powerful deep with that six-foot swashbuckling second mate.”

“Shucks!” said the skipper. “Swashbuckling” was the very last word one would ever apply to young Davidson. “Shucks! They ain’t nothin’ but pals, and why the hell shouldn’t they be pals if they likes?” But he looked thoughtful, all of a sudden.

Most of the time the captain was busy with his ship, contemplating the horizons, studying his charts, all alone, with the weight of an entire world on his shoulders. But sometimes he came out of his aloofness as on the first day Jane had been aboard.

“Well, Jane, are you enjoyin’ it as much as you thought to?” he asked her once.

She answered jovially that it would be all right with her if they never got to the Panama Canal or Valparaiso.

He lowered his voice, hesitated a little, and then asked: “That aint — ’cause o’ young Davidson, is it, Jane?”

She was surprised, and if it had been anyone but Captain Maynard she might have felt a trifle hurt. But he was completely unconscious of this. He was asking a question, and only wanted an honest answer. “Oh, no,” she assured him. “It’s just — well, your schooner, and the old sea, and not having to worry about anything that’s going on ashore. You know, I feel as if I’d never been in New York at all — as if the place didn’t exist any more. You don’t know what a grand feeling that is.”

“Reckon I do know, maybe,” he said. “Been to sea forty-five year.” But he would not let her pass it off so easily. He leaned back in his leather armchair, glancing now and then from force of habit at the compass overhead. “I was thinkin’ o’ my daughter — poor little girl,” he said quietly. “You didn’t know as I had a daughter, did you, Jane? Well, I hain’t, not no more. Her mother died when Rose was fifteen years old; and then I took her to sea along of me: happened so sudden-like, and I was that bewildered, I didn’t know what else I could do with her. ‘Twould ‘a’ all been fine, ’cause she liked the sea jist the same’s you do, Jane; but — well, ’tain’t a long story — it was a sailorman as shamed her and broke her heart; and — she went overboard half a year after, Jane, when I was beginnin’ t’ see what was wrong. Off Hatteras, one o’ them cold, blowsome, dark nights…. Him? Jane, I’d ‘a’ killed that skunk, ‘cept I knowed as it wouldn’t ‘a’ done no good.”

Jane was very still. The old man seemed to be talking to himself, as though he had forgotten she was there. “Rose…. She was as lovely as her name — poor little girl,” he said tenderly. Then he struck the arm of the chair with his fist, and went on bitterly: “An’ hadn’t I been a-tellin’ of her — hadn’t I told her a hundred times to watch out fer sailormen, an’ any other kind of a man? Only, she jist thought as he was diffrunt from the hull rest of ’em, ye see…. Aye, everyone thinks that, at one time or another, an’ some is bound to get a rotten deal. So, ye see” — he nodded his head slowly — “God knows I ain’t a-preachin’, Jane, but — you remember ’bout my Rose — poor little girl.”

Jane had heard that story, with variations, from many people; but never before had she felt so deeply touched. Perhaps that was because of her affection for the gray-haired master of the Annie Marlow, with his quaint ways of speech and his kind blue eyes. It seemed to her that no one could do him a wrong, or his daughter, or anything belonging to him.

But on deck once more, with sails like great caves half lit by the moon, and the sea eastward paved with silver, and her hands grasping the shrouds of rigging that beckoned her aloft to where the moon glanced upon one narrow white bar of the crosstrees — then this present world of beauty was all that counted….

Passing through the Canal was a hot day of contact with mankind, and then all was left behind again, and it might have been only a confused and noisy dream. As the Annie Marlow drew southward, mackinaws had been thrown aside, and flannel shirts had long ago given place to light blue ones, or to none at all. A flock of small brown and white albatross pursued the ship; “goonies,” the sailors called them. Jane sometimes threw chunks of bread to them, for which they raced and quarreled. There were dolphins in the wake, iridescent and electrical; jellyfish, too, which appeared suddenly all over the surface of the ocean in the middle of the day, and then vanished again.

“How do you account for that, Davidson?” Jane asked.

“Oh, well, you see, they just come up at noon to take their sights,” he told her, with the familiar shy chuckle.

“And then go down, I suppose, to figure ’em out?” she retorted.

And days melted past, without a murmur, without a shadow. Sometimes when Jane awoke she smelled a strange deep-sea smell out the porthole, and heard a husky, gigantic breathing — a whale wallowing and blowing through the swells. Sometimes the captain told a yarn at the dinner table. He liked the southeast trades, even if they did make his course to Valparaiso a circuitous one. “I could purr, I’m so happy when there’s a breeze,” he said one day, rubbing his hands together as he came down the companion. Occasionally he spoke to the schooner herself: “Keep it up, lady! I’ll hold ye to it!” But that was all. That was the way of the sea.

The friendship with Davidson grew. Jane had never experienced a comradeship so simple and so happy. That, also, was the way of the sea.

“Davidson, there’s one more thing I’d love to do before we get to — Valparaiso,” she said one afternoon, giving him her little one-sided smile as she mentioned that name. “I’d like to stand the mid-watch with you some time, if I may.”

“The graveyard watch?”

She nodded. “The point is that I can’t wake up, Davidson. I sleep too well at sea. What would you recommend?”

He reflected. “Of course,” he teased, “I’d like to come and wake you myself, but — well!”

“Mr. Stevens would enjoy it if you did,” said Jane.

He gave a wry smile. “Stevens has a habit of enjoying a lot of things that plain ain’t so.”

“Well, he gets a lot of free entertainment out of the world that way,” Jane affirmed.

“It’s a pretty kettle of fish,” he retorted, “when there’s so little fun in the world that you have to invent it out of your own imagination.”

“Well, they say that to create is the most satisfying kind of self-expression,” said Jane, laughing.

“You’re a mighty arguer! I can’t fool you, but we can fool Stevens. Let’s see. Suppose you take some string, and tie one end of it to your wrist, or your ear, or something, and stick the other end through your porthole — the one that opens on to the half-deck. And then, you see, I come on watch at midnight, and I — well, psychic communication, and all that.”

“Grand! You’re a genius, Davidson.” They chuckled together like grammar-school mischief-makers, and it flashed across Jane’s mind that she had always wanted a brother….

When she came quietly on deck, a little after midnight, the trade wind was blowing hard, and the schooner darted lightly across a long sweep of black and silver waves. Nearly full, the moon was threading in and out of white clouds. It felt very late. The deck slanted weirdly beneath Jane, and her hair blew. Never before had she felt the sea and the night and the wind like this. She knew that, like Davidson, she belonged to them.

“It’s grand tonight,” she said.

“I know. But you get fed up on it.”

“You all say that, but you all come back.” She was very beautiful in the half-light, with her hair blowing straight back from her serious young face.

“Well, you can see why, can’t you, Jane?” He made a sweeping gesture ahead somewhere, at slanting booms, dark tumbling sea, and wild white clouds. “You get ashore, you see, and you get flurrying around, backing and filling, and never quite sure what your course is — ”

“Or how to steer it,” she put in.

“They don’t have charts with compass roses and all. And you sort of lose — well, you lose your sense of values, if you know what I’m trying to say.”

“I do know. I’ve been there. You get to thinking a dollar bill’s pretty important; or if you don’t think so you miss your dinner.”

“Yes, and you get stewed up in a lot of little frazzles that don’t matter. And then one day you’re disgusted and you — well, you go to sea.”

He was not very articulate, but his words spoke eloquently of the thousand trivialities ashore, and the great restfulness of the much-cursed sea.

“I believe you’re rather like me,” Jane ventured. “I call it civilization, and I don’t like it. But if I say so, everyone laughs in a gentle and superior manner.”

“I don’t.”

“No, thank heaven. This civilization thing — it has its points, I suppose. But you get fed up with it. What’s more, it looks as if God had got fed up with it, too.”

“Do you believe in God?”

“Well, I don’t know. I rather think not. Anyway, not when I’m mixed up with civilization. Nothing means much there, and if there is a God, He’s all worn out, and I don’t wonder. Here almost anything might be true; but here it doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned, He’s a failure anyhow; for when I need Him, I’m suddenly hesitant and skeptical; and when circumstances are such that I might believe in Him, I don’t have any use for Him. What good is an elusive hide-and-seek sort of God like that?” She chuckled happily.

He was silent a minute, then said: “He gives it to sailors coming and going. We get driven back and forth between civilization and the sea, and can’t decide which is worse.”

“I think,” Jane put in, “that probably sailors get the worst of civilization, too. You know — the back alleys and certain large tin cans.”

He smiled in agreement. “But we always think we’ll do better next time — and we don’t. We flounder round a bit, get in no end of trouble, and — go to sea again. And the sea ruins us for anything else, because it’s immense and sometimes peaceful, and because it unrefines our characters.” Jane knew that he was speaking now from the standpoint of his shipmates, of the sailors of all the world; she noticed again how curiously he belonged to them and at the same time was very much alone and — a little lonely.

“Speaking of God,” said Jane, “just what do you believe?”

“He and I don’t always hit it off very well. But at least I’m not a wild, raving atheist.”

“I’m glad of that, because it seems to me that atheists are — well, too impudently sure, perhaps.”

“They’re forever throwing stones at other people’s windows,” said Davidson.

“Because they haven’t any of their own, probably.”

“It may be too cold outside for the other people to live without their windows — if they aren’t hard-skinned people. And, even if the glass is a bit fogged up — well, every man has a right to his own.”

She liked the metaphor. “And then,” she added, “isn’t any window as good as any other? I mean, does anybody really know?”

He shook his head, smiling, and looked off to sea. His ideas had come from twelve hard years of this sea. Jane wondered quietly how it came about that he, whose life had been so apart from hers, should understand her so well, not alone in words, but in feelings and the subtle shades that are never put into words at all.

It was a night for companionship. They talked about evolution, the prehistoric ages, and the pathways of comets; and they laughed at themselves for incongruously discussing trilobites and dinosaurs in the small hours of the morning on the poop deck of the Annie Marlow. Four bells came with amazing swiftness, and the wheel was relieved.

“Let’s go on a marauding expedition,” Davidson whispered.

“What shall we maraud?” Jane whispered back, feeling very gay.

“The honorable and reverend night-lunch-box.”

“I trust that the first mate sleepeth.”

“He snoreth,” Davidson assured her.

They walked cautiously down to the companionway, keeping close together in the dark, and tiptoed into the messroom. A lamp burned there dimly, and the night-box bulked big on the table. Jane felt as if they were congenial ghosts, and as if a ghost was a pretty good thing to be. Her heart was thumping a little. She thought that was odd, and wondered if Davidson could hear it, or if it might wake up Mr. Stevens. She pictured to herself the first mate’s surprise and secret delight if he should find her there.

“How Stevens would enjoy this!” she whispered.

Davidson just smiled. They went on deck again, as soon as the raid was over, and the wind came at them with a rush. “I wonder what’s got into that cook,” he said. “They never before put up such a good night lunch.”

Whitecaps gleamed about the ship, and the wind was almost warm. It was not very dark, because of the moon; the light was gray and it gave Jane an eerie feeling, intensified by the schooner’s slanting. Was it on a night like this — colder, perhaps, and darker — that Rose had thrown herself into the sea?

“Davidson, tell me, did you ever hear the story of the captain’s daughter?”

“Yes, the old man told me all about it just a couple of days ago.” He looked at her oddly in that light which seemed to come from the wind rather than the moon. A smile lighted his face then. They wanted to laugh, yet somehow affection and respect for the skipper prevented that. It was at once solemn and absurd that the old man should unroll to each of them separately the same subtle chart to guard them from reefs and shoals that still lay remote in another ocean.

“Aren’t you awfully afraid of me, Jane? Don’t you tremble for fear I may pounce upon you like a lion and devour you, at any moment?”

“Don’t make fun of him,” said Jane, smiling back in spite of herself.

“I wouldn’t for worlds,” he assured her.

Captain Maynard had woven still another strong thread into the fabric of their comradeship, contrary to what he had intended — a complete trust in each other.

To young Davidson, Jane stood for something fine and aloof and precious beyond measure. He had never known anyone like her — a companion, something of a rebel, and a fellow dreamer. They had come together out of worlds that were far apart; and each found in the other something much needed and beautiful. His simplicity and honesty were to her like a deep mountain spring after a long hard trail. There was no more shallowness or meanness about him than about the sea, and — unlike the sea — no cruelty.

He knew mostly the backwash of cities, and to his mind girls were painted gold-diggers to whom you paid casual attention, if you were in the mood, for obscure and unworthy reasons that you did not bother to analyze. Jane was not a girl. She was a friend.

He always seemed shrouded in mystery. His way of speaking, to begin with, could hardly have been taught by the sea. But he had read widely, free from the influence of all academic or pedagogical conventions. He contended that a great deal of Shakespeare was tedious, and that the last chapter of Moby Dick stood even with anything in literature. Conrad was the supreme master, of course, head and shoulders above them all. He also liked the stern calmness of the Scandinavian writers.

But how had it all come about? Jane never knew. He remained a mystery. She had to take him just for what he was, and in a way that too was a relief. His gentleness and deep-lying sense of values were even harder to explain than his curious literary knowledge. But for her this did not need explaining. After all, a person was a person, at sea or ashore. Heredity — surroundings — they had a good deal to do with it, but not all. Davidson was there. And that was soul-satisfying. You didn’t probe into the depths of a friend as though — she thought of Professor Myers — as though he were an entomological specimen.

How lost he was! He realized it, and yet she was frightened for him. She admired his aloofness from the world; his way of turning his back upon it, paying no attention to its little cold realities. But some time he would bump hard against it, and it would receive him like a wall of granite — and it would hurt.

He was a man whose virtues seemed to count against him. He did not care to bow to the little gods, saw no reason why he should, and had the quiet courage to ignore them. He wanted to drift and be let alone. His virtues were elemental; the little gods were scornful, and so he gave them the cold shoulder. He wanted peace and solitude, and found them alone; he laughed cynically at nearly everything about mankind and civilization.

He was a true seafarer, and this instinct, together with his unconscious virility, directed his destiny. Life had been simple. He found peace, for the most part. Sailing ships were dying now, but he still pursued them. In them he had grown up and become a man, and they and the sea had laid the foundation of his life. And they were failing him, gradually leaving him high and dry. Ashore, in the thick of industrial competition, he was helpless. Probably, by dint of effort and struggle, he could have succeeded at something, but it was not worth while to him. So he remained a drifter, a man who was nothing, who belonged nowhere; and yet who was somehow stronger than the civilization that defeated him, grander, and immeasurably more romantic….

They conversed in low voices, and watched the phosphorus in the wake, knots of greenish light. Davidson told her how once, when he was first mate of a full-rigged ship some time ago, he had been on deck late watching for the lights of an expected landfall. He had been told to call the skipper out the minute they were seen. He had walked the deck, looking anxiously ahead, nerves taut. He saw at last a string of lights, twinkling along the horizon’s dark rim. With a sigh of relief he called the captain. When they came on deck together the entire sea ahead was blazing, paved with fire. That row of lights, so like the harbor of a seaport, had been only first sparkles of the phosphorus.

He told her also about rainbows he had seen in the moonlight; and she described to him the “frost feathers” in her beloved New England mountains: frozen mist, delicately chiseled into feathers of lace, projecting outward from crags into the wind which had carved them.

It came three o’clock, with a chiming of six bells. Davidson asked, then, just how it happened that Jane had sailed in the Annie Marlow. “You never told me that story, you know, Jane, and I’m a wee bit curious.”

“Oh, I just ran away from our mutual enemy.”

“Civilization?”

“Yes. It happened like a flash. I smelled an adventure, and before I knew it — ”

“You were at sea, and in such a hurry that you even forgot — ”

“Exactly.” They exchanged smiles.

“That ought to satisfy me, I suppose. But it doesn’t. I want to know just what it was our mutual enemy did to you. There must have been something terrible — and terribly sudden.”

“Only general disgust. It’s all so little, Daveson, and so moneyish.” She had unconsciously contracted his name. He thought the contraction very pleasing. Exclusively hers. “I worked for an old professor of entomology,” she finished abruptly, as though that ought to be enough said.

“You wouldn’t enjoy entomology. By the way, what is entomology? Birds?”

“No, bugs.”

“You’re the sort who gleefully runs away from anything you don’t like, aren’t you?”

“I am an awful runner-away,” she admitted. “I ran away once from such an important occasion that my deluded father never forgave me.”

“What? A dinner-party, or something?”

“Thousands of dinner-parties!” said Jane, with a smile. “As a matter of fact, it was a marriage. Even that would have been all right, if it had only been someone else’s marriage. The trouble was, it happened to be mine.”

Davidson was terrifyingly silent for a minute. Then he asked: “You aren’t married now, are you?”

“Didn’t I just tell you I ran away?”

“Yes, but — By Jove, that was fortunate!” He sounded almost fierce.

“That’s what I think. But what do you know about it?”

“Nothing — except that it was almighty fortunate.”

Jane unconcernedly pursued the subject. “If I hadn’t run away, I’d be there this minute — hostess at a dinner-party, probably.”

Actually a tremor shook Davidson’s powerful frame. “Imagine that!” he brought out, with terrible irony and indignation.

“He was sort of a fool,” said Jane, amused by this display of vehemence. “He liked dinner-parties and such things. To tell the truth, it was my father who was in love with him, not I. The young man had cash, you see.”

Davidson felt that never in his life had he heard of such rank injustice. “Trying to sell you — was that it?”

Jane admitted that her father had had dreams of luxurious senility. Davidson glowered. His black eyebrows were threatening.

“Why does my little escapade upset you so?” Jane asked.

“Just to think that they should try to put anything over on you, Jane. Of course, they didn’t make the grade. But suppose they had!”

“Well, I wouldn’t be here, that’s a cinch.”

“That’s just it,” he said. At that minute he wouldn’t have traded her companionship for anything else on earth. Seven bells sounded.

“I suppose I’d better be going down,” Jane said. “You’ll be arousing Stevens pretty soon, won’t you?”

He nodded, with some sadness, and reflected that never before had he found the graveyard watch too short. He strolled with her to the companionway. She glanced out once more over the gray waves, and up at the mysterious sails. The wind was strong and swift.

“Can we do this again, Daveson?”

“Yes.” He paused a moment, and then said with sudden emphasis: “Yes!” She was inside the door of the companion. “You know,” he said, “it’s a curious thing that they should have made me second mate this particular trip — instead of next, say.”

“You mean, that if you had been only the man at the wheel — ”

He nodded. “Sometimes I wonder,” he said slowly. “I wonder if perhaps there isn’t such a thing as — Fate.”

Jane smiled, and said with seeming irrelevance, knowing he would understand: “Daveson, you’re a grand sort of brother.”

Chapter VII…

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  1. The story really kicks in on this part and Barbara is in her element. When a great writer, writes what they know and writes with passion then it all becomes real to the reader. I see elements of Stars to Steer By, i. e. the Captain’s words, Davidson who is based on a real person that Barbara cares about and of course the ship itself.

    One thing that stands out to me is that Barbara seems to find peace by climbing into the rigging and sitting on her beloved crosstrees or climbing up mountains and standing on their summits. These are the two places where her life and writing hit their peaks.

    I can’t thank you enough for allowing us to have the opportunity to read this story.

    Bruce