When the Light Failed at Carysfort

The United States Lighthouse Establishment organized by Thornton
Jenkins, Rear-Admiral, United States Navy, had built many important
lighthouses upon the coast of the States. The appropriations admitted
the lighting of the dangerous coral banks of the Florida Reef, which
rose from the blue Gulf Stream many miles offshore and stretched away
from Cape Florida to Tortugas.

From Fowey Rocks to Sand Key the high, long-legged towers, built of
iron piling driven into the rock and braced with rods, rose above the
shoal water, and at night their huge lenses flashed forth a warning
gleam for twenty miles or more over the sea.

Carysfort was the second from the beginning the reef: a tall iron
structure, the lantern or lens mounted atop of a wooden house built
upon the platform at the end of the piling.

Inside of the house were the two bedrooms of the keepers, the oil-room,
storerooms, and kitchen. Large tanks of iron held hundreds of gallons
of water caught from the roof.

Outside the structure the platform extended six feet clear all around,
making a comfortable porch or piazza, with a high rail which hung out
over the sea at a height of about a hundred feet.

A long iron ladder extended from a trap-door in the flooring to the
sea below, stopping at a landing about half-way, where the keepers had
a small woodpile, a flower-bed, and a few things which would stand
exposure to the weather. At the sides of the platform above were
davits, on which the two whale-boats hung.

Altogether, the little house and platform offered some inducements to
men who were not particular about being alone for a long time.

It was many miles to the nearest land, clear out of sight from even the
top of the tower; and to those who lived there it was like being at
sea upon a small vessel which neither pitched nor rolled in a seaway,
nor yet changed position in any manner. It was almost like living in
mid-air.

It was a healthy life for the keepers. No germs of any known disease
ever reached the distant lighthouse, and no sickness had ever occurred
there.

On shore, it was a well-established axiom that among the offshore
keepers none died–and few retired.

Every few months each could get a leave of absence on full pay and
spend the time in any manner he pleased. The supply-ship stopped off
the reef twice each year, and the lighthouse tender traversed the
district as high as Cape Canaveral if anything was wanted.

So at least three or four times a year the keepers would hold
communication with the outside world and converse with their fellow men.

The ships passing up the Hawk’s Channel from Key West went within a few
miles of the reef, and steamers going north outside sometimes stood in
close enough to be recognized: but the Carysfort and Alligator Reefs
were good places to keep away from, and no vessels except the spongers
remained long in sight.

The spongers consisted of small sloops and schooners, which hailed from
Key West whose owners were the wreckers of the reef, and who spent the
best part of the good weather in summer hunting the growths upon the
coral which brought such good prices in the Northern drug-stores.

Few wreckers are piously inclined, some less so than others, but the
outlying light was safe from thieves, for by hauling up the iron
ladder the keepers were shut off completely from the world below. No
one could, or would, climb those polished iron columns painted a dull
red and as slippery as glass, unless something valuable was to be had
at the top. So the keepers often left the trap-door open or unbolted,
knowing their security.

Black Flanagan was the head keeper, a six-foot giant from Wisconsin,
who had found his way to Florida while evading a Michigan sheriff. The
work and confinement upon the light were not as irksome to him as might
be expected.

His assistant was a preacher, a broken-down Methodist minister without
a flock, whose religious tendencies were of an order which brooked
solitude.

He had the reputation of being the most blasphemous man upon the
Florida Reef, and his short sojourns ashore were marked by every excess
capable of being committed by a human being within the law.

They called him “the howler,” for, when he was drunk–which he
invariably was an hour after he came ashore–he would stop at the
village street corners and bellow for converts.

Any one within a mile would know what was taking place, and many would
stop to listen. Failure to get responses brought forth such a torrent
of profanity that he would have to be locked up until sober–when he
would repeat the effort until his leave was over.

Then, solemnly and with ponderous dignity, he would take himself back
to his home in the air over the blue Gulf Stream, and no one would see
him again for several months. Black Flanagan would greet him with a
grunt, and the two would take up the even life of lighting the lantern
and putting it out.

Men were not struggling for their positions, and they took some comfort
from the fact. They would probably live so for a long time, drawing
good pay, with nothing whatever to do except clean and light the lamp.

It was a hot and sultry morning in August, and the keepers were hanging
lazily over the rail of the platform, when they saw the wrecking-sloop
_Sea-Horse_ coming slowly up the Hawk’s Channel.

Her main-boom was well off to port, and she was fanning along before
a very light air from the southeast, going not more than two knots an
hour.

Upon her deck lay the crew of half-naked Conchs, while at her wheel the
giant form of “Bahama Bill,” the mate, stood leaning against the shaft,
smoking a short pipe.

The fact that the black man now and then looked astern at a thin trail
of smoke caused Black Flanagan to notice him.

“There goes the _Sea-Horse_,” said he to his assistant; and they both
came to the side of the platform nearest the passing vessel.

“Never seen thet big feller show so much consarn about what was astern
o’ him, hey?” said the preacher. “Looks like they were from the
east’ard.” And he nodded significantly.

The sloop drew nearer, and the thin line of smoke rose blacker a
dozen miles astern. Then there seemed to be signs of life aboard. Two
men sprang up and began to drop large kegs overboard, making a great
splashing. They kept this up for some minutes, and the keepers went
inside the light for the telescope.

Astern of the sloop they made out small, black objects, which floated
at intervals upon the swell, and were just discernible through the
powerful glass.

For half an hour the men aboard the wrecking-vessel worked heaving
cargo overboard, and, as they went along, the long line of tiny specks
marked their wake.

“Corks,” said Flanagan; “I thought so.”

“They better hurry up,” said the preacher; “the cutter’s rising fast.”
As he spoke, he looked toward the steamer, which was now coming along
in plain view, her hull rising slowly above the horizon, and her funnel
pouring out a black cloud, which hung over the sea.

“They’ll get caught fair enough. Half an hour, an’ the officers’ll be
aboard.”

“Well, they won’t find anything. They’ll never see them corks–she’s
already heading out to get them clear of the wake. When they catch her,
she’ll be an innocent sponger–an’ we’ll—-”

They looked at each other and smiled.

An hour later the _Sea-Horse_ and revenue-cutter were upon the northern
horizon heading into Biscayne, and the keepers were lowering their
boats.

It is an unwritten law of the reef that a man may steal as much as he
can from the United States, but he must not touch property belonging to
an individual. A smuggler is not by any means a common thief.

Flanagan’s ideas were different. He held that it was well to steal
whenever the opportunity offered without danger of getting caught; and
upon this principle he had little difficulty in converting his pious
assistant, whose thirst had not been slaked for three full months.

Together they loaded three of the kegs into the boats by simply
pulling up the fishing-lines whose ends were floated by beer-bottle
corks.

The lines anchoring the kegs were lying upon the bottom in six fathoms
of water, out of sight, and the small cotton cords were amply strong
enough to raise them. Once getting a grip of the anchoring-lines, they
had no difficulty in hauling the liquor aboard their whale-boats.

The temptation to sample the goods was so strong that they desisted
after the third keg, and made straight away for the lighthouse to enjoy
the plunder. They could come back again and get the rest at their
leisure, for the corks would be in plain view during the calm weather.

What transpired at the lighthouse during the next three days is
somewhat hazy. No light appeared at night, and the Key West steamer
almost ran ashore on her trip south. She reported the light out, and
the tender was despatched to see what had happened.

The day was clear and bright, and the keepers were on the lookout,
seeing the steamer when fully fifteen miles away. Their liquor was
promptly put out of sight, and everything made snug to receive the
inspector.

While there were evidences of drink in the faces of the men, they
showed a properly kept light, and swore solemnly that they had not left
the tower, and that the light had not failed at all.

They mildly suggested that the captain of the Key steamer may have been
in a highly reprehensible condition to have accused two perfectly
sober and diligent light-keepers of neglect of duty.

The pious one broke forth in prayer and exhortation for the delivery of
deluded pilots from the wiles of the devil, and soon the inspector was
glad to go aboard his vessel to return to Key West.

The _Sea-Horse_, having been searched at Miami and found to be clear
of contraband, was allowed to go her way. She stood out to sea, and
headed down the Hawk’s Channel just as the keepers lit the lantern for
the evening watch. Black Flanagan was just sober enough to do this, and
then turn in to continue his debauch with a pannikin of rum at his bed.

The _Sea-Horse_ anchored near the light and waited for daylight to pick
up the floats.

In the gray of early morning the black mate turned out the crew,
leaving the captain below, and, taking the small boat, put off.

It was calm, and the corks were plainly visible. They were promptly
hauled aboard, and the sunken kegs stowed until the end of the line was
reached.

Here the mate found three floats missing, and, being in a suspicious
frame of mind, he looked toward the light, which was still burning,
although the rays of the rising sun were colouring the eastern horizon
a rosy hue.

“They’ve got ’em, all right,” said he. “If we’re quick enough, we might
catch ’em–give way hard.”

The small boat with three men was headed for the tower; and the
_Sea-Horse_, with her captain now thoroughly awake, lay by for
developments.

The big mate lost no time gaining the tower. It was broad day now, and
Flanagan had just staggered up the steps into the lantern when the
small boat arrived alongside the piles below.

In his befuddled state Flanagan saw nothing, until, after putting the
light out, he came stumbling back again. He arrived in the lower room
just in time to see the black head and shoulders of the mate emerging
upward through the trap-door in the floor.

The mate was not in a good humour; moreover, he had turned out early
without eating his breakfast, and his great black head and giant arms
seemed supernatural in both vindictiveness and size.

Flanagan thought he had taken too much, and that the horrors were upon
him at last. With a yell, he launched himself upon the seaman, taking
him at a disadvantage, and endeavoured to smash him back into the void
below.

But the mate was strong. He had come to the light expecting trouble.
With a mighty effort he forced the keeper upward, and, amid a fierce
snarling and threshing about, he soon engaged in a desperate struggle.

The “howler,” hearing the uproar, sprang to the rescue, and joined in
the fray just as the sailors, following their trusty mate, climbed
through the door. In less than five minutes the keepers were lashed
fast, and were being lowered down through the door into the waiting
boat below.

What remained of their spoil was also found and lowered after them; and
in the bright light of the tropic sunrise the _Sea-Horse_ put to sea,
leaving the great tower of the Carysfort light to the westward.

For nearly a week no light was shown from the tower. Strangely enough,
no one reported the light out.

The sixth day a sponger, sailing past at dark, noticed the absence of
light, and went to the tower to see what was wrong.

He found it deserted, and, being a very poor man, he made his boat fast
to the piles and took possession, enjoying the fare and taking care of
the lantern in proper style for several days.

All might have gone well with him for several months, but for the fact
that the supply-steamer was due, and arrived before he thought it time
to make a getaway.

Finding the keepers missing, and no account made for them by the
inhabitant, the officers promptly accused him of murdering them, and
forthwith took him aboard the vessel to be carried ashore and tried. He
was promptly convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to imprisonment
for life.

Meanwhile, the _Sea-Horse_, having made the Bahamas, put the thieving
keepers ashore to shift for themselves. After vainly trying to get
passage back to their home, they finally managed to get a small
boat and put to sea, to make the two hundred miles or more to the
lighthouse.

They had been absent more than a month, and they arrived at Carysfort
one sunny morning in time to see the two new keepers who had been
appointed in their place take their whale-boat and start fishing along
the reef to the northward of the tower.

Seizing the opportunity, they promptly gained the lighthouse and
climbed into the landing, dropping the trap-door fast behind them.

The new keepers, seeing the strangers in possession of the tower,
hailed them lustily, and started back to inquire their business.

For answer Flanagan leaned over the railing and gazed calmly down upon
them with a quizzical look.

“What d’ye want?” inquired the tall keeper, in response to a hail.

“What are you doing in that light?” asked the new keeper.

“I am the keeper, and when you address me say ‘sir,'” roared the tall
man in stentorian tones. “Tie that boat to the spiles and git away from
here, or I’ll fall on top o’ ye.”

But the new keepers were not made of easy stuff. They gained the lower
landing, and held forth under threats and persuasion for a day and
a half, when the “howler,” getting tired of their proximity, began
attacking them with hot water and other missiles, which he hove or
dropped from the platform above.

The new keepers could not get up, but they determined that the men
above should not get down, and they built a bomb-proof shelter to
protect themselves until help should arrive.

After two days, they finally gave it up and started for Miami, where
they arrived and reported the state of affairs.

The inspector came along, but found the two worthies sober, and
attending strictly to their duties.

They explained how they had been attacked by a huge smuggling vessel
bound for the North, and how, after a desperate fight, they finally had
been overpowered, taken forcibly from their abode in the light, where
they had been attending to their duties, and put ashore in the Bahamas.

They described how, after a tremendous exertion, they had managed to
get back again, only to find two strangers in possession of the tower.
Naturally, they treated them as trespassers and took charge. The light
had been kept regularly ever since, and they had no fault to find with
the job.

After listening to their tale, there was nothing to do but to leave
them to their duties, for nothing could be found against them.

Their absence from the light would have enabled the inspector to give
them their discharge, but they could prove they had not left of their
own accord. The forepart of their story would necessarily remain in the
dark, for they would not talk of it, and the crew of the _Sea-Horse_
would rather have it kept quiet. Besides, it would be more than useless
to try to find the vessel from their description. The tender steamed
away for Miami to inform the authorities of the existence of the
keepers.

“Virtue is usually triumphant,” said the inspector to the judge, who
ordered the release of the convicted prisoner. “But in this case there
seems to be an exception.”

“There are exceptions to every rule,” quoted the judge wisely.
“Light-keepers are rare birds–trouble will probably not happen
again–I would therefore sentence them to life imprisonment in–well, I
reckon there is no worse place than the Carysfort light.”

“I don’t know but what you are right,” said the inspector.

Continue Reading

The Sanctified Man

When Mr. Leonard Holbrook bought the fine yawl _Dartmoor_, he did so
with the clear understanding that his wife would accompany him on a
voyage through the inland waters of the eastern coast of the States to
Florida. The vessel was something over sixty feet on the water-line and
fitted up with as much magnificence as a small craft of that size could
well be. She had many trophies in solid silver, won in many hard-fought
races, which adorned her cabin, and when Mrs. Holbrook beheld her
interior she capitulated.

Mrs. Holbrook belonged to what was termed an “exclusive set.” She went
to church more than once a week, and the pastor of the million-dollar
edifice in New York had much to thank her for.

“A poor person might be pious, but–ugh,” he explained with a shrug
to the sexton one evening, and he made it his duty to keep alive the
fires of reverence which had been installed at an early age within Mrs.
Holbrook’s gentle breast.

It was with many misgivings that she finally became willing to trust
herself upon the _Dartmoor_, for although she had faith in abundance,
it was of the usual feminine variety which is best nurtured under
pleasantly artificial conditions. The dangers of the sea, however, were
shown to be very small indeed upon a fine craft, especially within
the confines of the sounds, and she had sailed as far down the coast
as Beaufort. Here it was decided to remain for a few days and enjoy
the rural life of the tar-heel, and while Holbrook fished and hunted
every minute of the too short days, Mrs. Holbrook passed the time
aboard in pious and profound repose. It was delightful to be able to
read the texts under the bright blue sky while sitting alone upon the
quarter-deck without being interrupted by talk of guns and fishing
lines. Then the small but cleanly kirk upon the shell-road could be
visited daily, and the good old man who attended to the religious
affairs of the fishing village was more than willing to be honoured by
so distinguished a visitor. Yachts were like manna, only they did not
drop from the sky, but were not the less appreciated for that fact.

The fourth morning the _Dartmoor_ broke out her blue pennant on the
starboard spreader, showing that Holbrook had gone away for a day’s
sport. John Bunyan came down to the dock and stepped aboard. Jubiter
John he was called among the pilots of the Core Bank, for he had lived
at the inlet just above the beginning of the Florida Reef. He sidled
aft and met the quartermaster, who stopped him, but as he was known
as a good pilot and had brought the vessel in behind the “bulkhead”
safely, he was allowed certain privileges. The master came forth to
meet him.

“Mornin’, Cap’n,” said John, slouching up and pulling forth a rank
mullet roe from his pocket and nibbling the end.

The master acknowledged the salutation with a grunt.

“Youse don’t take no passengers on a yacht, hey?” he ventured.

“No,” said the skipper, decisively, with the vision of the possible
passenger before him.

“Youse ain’t allowed to, hey?”

“Exactly,” said the Captain.

“It’s too bad!” exclaimed John.

“Yes, it is,” answered the Captain, heartily, his face expressing
nothing of the sorrow he might have felt at the limitations of his
license.

There was a moment’s silence during which the Captain looked aft at
the reclining form of Mrs. Holbrook. She sat reading in the shade of
the after awning with a rug over her feet to keep off the chill of the
autumn air.

“Did youse ever hear of the sanctified people?” asked Jubiter John,
presently.

The Captain had not.

“Well, they live down near the Jubiter Inlet where I used to run.
There’s one o’ the fellers ashore here now an’ he wants to go back
home. It would be a mighty big accommodation if youse could take him
with youse–don’t youse think it could be done, hey? He’d pay a little.”

“How much?” asked the Captain, slightly interested.

“Well, I can’t say in money, but then his services air wuth somethin’.
He’s an all round able man, an’ he’ll say the prayers fer yer.”

“I see,” said the Captain, with a grunt.

“There’s nothin’ doin’?”

“Nix,” said the Captain, shortly.

“Well, naow, that’s too bad. But think it over, Cap’n, think it over.”

The skipper edged to the rail and sniffed suspiciously.

“If it’s just the same to you, Jubiter, I’ll thank ye to get to lor’ard
with that mullet roe. Whew!” said the Captain.

Jubiter John looked pained. He put the rest of the fish roe into his
pocket and turned to go. At that instant the Captain started and looked
up the dock. A huge figure of a man hove in sight and came slowly down
the shell fill towards the yawl.

The figure was dressed in black cloth of clerical cut, the broad
shoulders squared across and the hands folded behind. The stranger’s
head was not visible owing to the fact that he bowed it over until
nothing but the top of a shiny tall hat showed in front of him, and he
looked almost like a huge turtle with his head drawn inside the shell.
The black tails of his coat flapped about his legs in the sea breeze
as he strode slowly down to where the _Dartmoor_ lay.

Mrs. Holbrook noticed the man about the time the Captain started up
the gangplank to intercept him coming aboard. Visitors were not always
welcome to the skipper of the yacht, and it was his duty to see what
they wanted. The Captain had hardly started well up the narrow way,
when the stranger, who had reached the inshore end of it and was about
to proceed down its length, suddenly raised his head. The motion was
not unlike that of a turtle poking forth his nose, for it increased the
man’s stature a full foot, and he stopped, looking at the Captain out
of eyes that seemed to hold both a challenge and a half-hidden fear.
His shaved chin had a stubble of black hair, but it failed to cover the
great square jaw except in spots. A line of white teeth showed between
the partly opened lips, and the Captain hesitated to take in the man’s
appearance more fully before ordering him off the boat. The vessel gave
a tug at her moorings and the gangplank took a sudden slue to one side.
The next instant the Captain gave a spring for the string piece of the
wharf. He missed it by a fraction of an inch and fell heavily against
the timber and overboard, landing in the water with a rousing splash.

The accident caused a cry of alarm from Mrs. Holbrook which brought
from the depths of the cabin her son Richard. He came bounding up the
companionway as rapidly as a boy of twelve could. Jubiter John stood
spellbound, looking over the side while the boy, the cook and a sailor
rushed to the rail to lend a hand and get the skipper back aboard.

The tall stranger, however, had anticipated their arrival by a few
seconds and, jumping on deck, leaned over the side and reached a long
thin arm down to the Captain, who came spluttering to the surface.
He seized the collar of the coat as it came clear of the water and
without apparent effort raised the Captain to the deck. The motion
was one of such ease, the Captain being a short, heavy fellow, that a
close observer would have marvelled at the man’s strength, but in the
excitement little notice was taken of it. The stranger had saved the
Captain from the sea, and Mrs. Holbrook, who had now advanced to the
rail, thanked him warmly for his services.

The look of challenge died away from the man’s eyes and one of fear
came in place. He shuffled uneasily under the woman’s gaze, but finally
controlled himself. Then without a word he lifted his face heavenward
and clasped his hands before him.

“The ways o’ Providence air unbeknownst,” said he, slowly, closing his
upturned eyes and standing like some huge statue carved in wood. His
voice was so soft and gentle that it brought a smile to the face of
the boy who stared at him insolently. But the rest were impressed by
the man’s manner and stood silently watching him until he brought his
head back to its normal position with a jerk. Then the Captain muttered
something about inquisitive strangers and went below to change, for the
air was cool.

“I am sure I should like to repay you for your bravery, Mr.–Mr.—-”
began Mrs. Holbrook, “but I hardly know how to thank you, sir.”

“Mr. Jones is his name, ma’am,” said Jubiter John, “an’ youse kin repay
him at once.”

Mr. Jones looked somewhat abashed at this, and the stranger’s look of
defiance came into his eyes again.

“He’s the sanctified man I ware tellin’ the Cap’n of jest before he
fell overboard,” went on Jubiter, “an’ all he wants is a passage down
the coast a ways. The settlement is down near where I used to run.”

“Ah, a clergyman,–a country clergyman, I see,” said Mrs. Holbrook.

“I reckon that’s about it,” said Jubiter John.

“Mr. Jones,” said Mrs. Holbrook, “I should be very glad, indeed, to
aid you down the coast. You know the yacht is small and you might have
to sleep in the Captain’s stateroom. If you would not object to that
arrangement, you are more than welcome to the voyage.”

“Ah, madam,” said the tall man, solemnly, in a small voice hardly above
a whisper, “I should be glad to have the opportunities you speak of,
and if the bed be rough an’ hard an’ the grub poor, I know it will be
the hand o’ Providence what makes it so, an’ I kin stand it. The ways
o’ Providence air unbeknownst.”

“Very well, then, we leave to-morrow morning at daylight. My husband
will be back before sundown and you may come aboard to-night,” said
Mrs. Holbrook. “Won’t you come aft? I am sure the walk must have tired
you. It is a long way to the village.”

The tall Mr. Jones glanced at Jubiter John and then followed the lady
to the quarter-deck, where he folded up like a huge jack-knife in a
deck chair, to listen to the somewhat vague but religious conversation
of his new patron. He sat there for a full hour, seldom even answering
questions which were put to him and not offering a single sentence
of his own volition. When he arose to go, he looked askance at Mrs.
Holbrook, then he raised his face heavenward and said, solemnly: “The
ways o’ Providence air unbeknownst.”

He turned in a moment and went rapidly to the rail near the dock,
leaving Mrs. Holbrook staring at him.

“Ain’t he a long one, say,” said young Richard, “an’ them legs–Gee
whizz!”

But at that instant the tall man sprang to the wharf and hurried off,
hearing nothing, and Richard received a severe rebuke.

“My dear,” said Mrs. Holbrook to her husband that evening, “I have
taken the liberty of inviting a country clergyman to accompany us down
the coast. He will be here this evening and I hope you will be civil to
him.”

“Huh,” said Mr. Holbrook, and went on deck to smoke his cigar.

“Is he really comin’ to go with us?” asked Richard.

“Yes, my dear, of course he is,” answered his mother.

“But ain’t he long, say?” and he bounded up the companionway to join
his father.

Before eight bells that evening the tall Mr. Jones made his appearance
and introduced himself to the Captain. As the latter had been
instructed to entertain the new arrival to the extent of giving up his
room, he received the tall man with scant ceremony.

“What’s the matter wid payin’ yer passage on a steamboat?” growled the
mariner, as he jerked his belongings out of the berth.

“My friend,” observed the sanctified man, “it is not my wish to cause
trouble, an’ I can’t help it. If your bed be hard I make no complaint;
I’ll try to sleep on it. If my grub is no good, I’ll try to forget it.
The way o’ Providence air unbeknownst.”

The short, stout skipper stood looking at him a moment, but the
sanctified man beamed down upon him until he turned with an exclamation
of a somewhat unconventional sort and left the room. Then the tall man
closed the door.

In the early morning the _Dartmoor_ was cast loose from the dock and
her mainsail hoisted. Jubiter John stood near the wheel and piloted her
safely over the bar and out into the green waters of the Atlantic. Then
he left her and took to his dory to row back.

The air was crisp with the tingle of a nor’wester and the sun rose
with a ruddy glow. The sea was smooth under the land, but the little
lumpy clouds which were running away from the northward, told of wind
behind. Before the sun was well above the horizon, Mr. Jones appeared
on deck. He was dressed in his black trousers with suspenders tied
about his waist in place of a belt. His once white shirt was open at
the neck displaying a deep and brawny chest. Two long white feet poked
themselves from beneath his trouser legs in most unpoetical fashion,
but showed he was ready for the washing down of the vessel’s decks. He
tailed on to the gaff-topsail halliards and sweated up that piece of
canvas until the block nearly parted from the masthead with the strain.
Even the Captain, who had spent the night sleeping upon the galley
floor, felt that he had, indeed, an able seaman in the sanctified man
who hurled buckets of water along the snow-white planks or hustled the
squeegee along the deck until the wood and seams fairly oozed water
like a sponge. The three foremast hands hurried along in his wake.

The _Dartmoor_ was fast making an offing. With all sail she was running
before the breeze which now began to get a heart in it, and the long
heave of the heavy sea coming around Cape Lookout told of something
behind it. There was a live kick and quick run to this swell that made
the skipper look anxiously to his lighter canvas, but it was his object
to get as far down the beach as possible while the wind lasted. A few
miserable hours of heavy weather and all might be well, but thrashing
down a nor’wester would cost him his job if he judged Mrs. Holbrook
correctly.

The motion brought young Richard on deck, where he stood looking at the
tall man in amazement.

“I thought you was a minister, say?” he ventured, as the sanctified man
came near with the squeegee, “an’ ministers don’t work.”

“Well, some kinds do, sonny. I ain’t just what you might call a priest.”

“Naw, you look like you might be some good,” said the boy. “But ain’t
you a long one, say? When you get through I’ll come forward and talk to
you. Ma won’t care; she says she hates to have to sit around an’ try to
talk to people she don’t know nothin’ about.”

“Did she say that?”

“Sure, she don’t know nothin’ about you.”

The look of fear came into the tall man’s eyes and he squeegeed the
deck vigorously. Then he went slowly forward and put the tool away.

One of the sailors struck off six bells and the cook announced that
breakfast was ready for the Captain and the guest. As the saloon
was for the owner and his party, the meal was served in the galley,
the Captain and sanctified man sitting at the small table used to
manipulate the several ingredients which went to make a yacht’s meal.

“Do you think we’ll have good weather, Captain?” asked the tall man,
starting in at a plate of prepared oats.

“Naw,” snapped the skipper, who still held vision of his night’s rest
upon the galley floor.

“D’ye mind me sayin’ a thank ye fer the vittles, hey?”

“Do yer prayin’ to yerself,” snapped the Captain.

The long man raised his eyes and muttered something in his soft voice.

“No matter if the vittles is bad–an’ poor, I’m thankful. The ways o’
Providence air unbeknownst,” he said as he finished.

“What’s the matter with the whack?” snarled the Captain. “Ain’t it
good enough fer yer? I’ll lay it’s a sight better’n you been used to
gettin’, an’ that’s a fact.”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t good,” said the tall man, hastily, in a gentle
tone. “I only said I was thankful even if it wasn’t any good.”

“Huh,” snarled the Captain, “tryin’ to sneak out of it, hey?”

“A sanctified man never fights,” said the big fellow in a small voice,
“for if he did I would break you up in little pieces.”

“Well, a sailor fights an’ don’t you fergit it,” snarled the Captain.
“You want to try the breakin’ game a bit aboard here, you long-legged
sky-pilot. What the thunder d’ye call a sanctified man anyways, hey?”

“Don’t ye know?” asked the tall man, mildly, his eyes taking again that
peculiar look of fear they often held.

“Naw,” answered the skipper.

“Well, he’s one what’s been tried. A man that’s been off the path an’
come back again. He’s taken the oath to do no more harm–nothin’ but
good. He’s sanctified.”

“No more harm! What harm hev ye done, hey?” asked the Captain, sharply.

“Well, I served my time out–all but three years,” said the tall man,
fearfully.

“What?” gasped the skipper.

“I served my time out, nearly out. It was only fifteen years I got. I’m
all right and have papers to prove it. One of the men they thought I
killed got well again. The money was divided among my pals. I didn’t
get a cent of it; no, not a cent. But the past is past. Let it die!”

“An’ you calls yourself a sanctified man, you bloomin’ convict, hey?
Steward, set these things somewhere else. I may not be particular as to
friends aboard ship, but I draw the line at eatin’ with jailbirds.”

“I never was in jail–only for a month. It was the penitentiary,”
corrected the tall man, his small voice almost dying away. There was
something very sad in his tone; something so touching that even the
steward hesitated at obeying the skipper’s orders.

“An’ to think,” said the Captain, “that Jubiter John should play it so
badly on us.”

He ate his meal in silence on the other side of the little room, while
the vessel plunged and ran down the slopes of following seas, creaking
and straining so that he soon left for the deck.

The sanctified man sat eating slowly, in spite of the motion and cries
from above, as the men shortened sail to ease the racing craft in the
sea. He was lost in thought. The memories of his sufferings were upon
him, and as the sad years rolled back, he seemed to stand again upon a
ship’s deck giving orders to a crew who obeyed as only deep-water men
know how. His had been a long, hard road, indeed. The surly Captain was
forgotten and his insults were as though they had never been uttered.

While he sat there eating slowly and thinking over the past, he became
aware that the door leading to the main saloon was open. Through it he
caught a glimpse of shining silver as the _Dartmoor_ rolled heavily
to starboard, letting in a flood of sunlight through her side ports.
A huge urn or cup weighing many pounds, and of solid silver, was
firmly planted upon a shelf near the end of the saloon. Upon it was an
engraving of a yacht under full sail with the legend “Dartmoor” with
“1898” beneath. Evidently the trophy of that season and probably the
greatest she had ever won. It was a superb piece of ware, and the man
looked at it for a long time, while his face gradually took on a hard
expression and the strange look of defiance and challenge came again
into his eyes. He had suffered much, but there was something within him
that was stirred by the glint of that silver. Twelve long years among a
certain class of men had implanted new weaknesses and developed those
he had already possessed. He was forgetting himself under the flashing
of that reflected sunlight.

Suddenly he was aware of a small hand stealing within his own and he
turned with a cry of alarm. A look of despair came across his face and
his wide jaws set firm.

“I didn’t mean to scare you,” said Richard, glancing backward at the
steward who was busy with the morning meal. “You don’t look like you
scare easily. I heard what old square-head said to you. Don’t you mind
him. He’ll eat with you–an’ afterwards you can tell me what you done.”

“Good God,” murmured the man, and seized the boy in his arms.

“Don’t hug me; I ain’t no girl” cried Richard, and the tall man sat him
on his knee and smilingly patted his head.

“I reckon we’ll go on deck,” said the sanctified man, in a few minutes.
“They’ll want some help reefin’ the mainsail–pretty big sea to run her
under all lower canvas.” And he took the lad’s hand and went forward
through the forecastle to the scuttle and so on up to the sunlight
above.

The morning was now well advanced. Eight bells struck off, and the head
of Mr. Holbrook appeared emerging from the cabin companionway. The sea
was sparkling in the sunshine and the quick combers running before the
freshening breeze were covering the surface with patches of white.
The topsail had been taken in and all hands were lowering down the
mainsail to close reef it.

The sanctified man tailed on to the main sheet and soon had the boom
nearly amidships. Then the sail was lowered slowly, the men handing
in the canvas to ease it on the lazyjacks and toppinglift while the
_Dartmoor_ ran along under jigger and jib before a sea that was rapidly
shifting to the eastward. Mr. Holbrook came on deck and watched his
flying fabric, taking a hand and passing reef-points under the jackstay
along the boom, which were all carefully pulled out again and passed
under the foot-roping of the mainsail by the careful skipper.

Mrs. Holbrook decided that as the motion was very great she would
remain where it affected her the least. It would be time enough to go
on deck after dinner, when the beauties of an afternoon at sea might be
appreciated.

Mr. Holbrook soon went below to breakfast and took his son with him.
When they appeared again the mainsail was set close-reefed, and the
jigger rolled up, letting the yawl run easily with more head-sail. She
now rose on the following seas like a swan, and as she would reach the
crest she would rush wildly along the slanting side, her nose pointing
downward and the full weight of the gale in her canvas, until the sea
would run from under her, letting her sink slowly into the trough where
her canvas would flap in the almost calm spot between the seas. It was
a little thick to the westward, but although the land could not now be
seen there was a good stretch of water plainly visible.

The sanctified man stood near the wheel, looking occasionally into the
binnacle where the compass card swung a good three points each side of
the lubber’s mark, as the vessel broached or paid off in the sea.

“D’ye ever adjust that compass?” he asked, mildly, of Mr. Holbrook.

“Ever what?” asked the owner, contemptuously.

“Do you ever see that the card swings true?” asked the sanctified man.

Mr. Holbrook looked at the tall man with undisguised pity. What
should a clerical man know about navigation, he thought. The poor
country clergyman was evidently a bit ignorant concerning compasses,
although every schoolboy knew that the magnet swung north and south.
He attempted to explain the matter in a wearied tone, but when he had
finished the tall man only smiled and his expressive eyes showed traces
of amusement. He said nothing. Finally he ventured:

“If I were you, I would let her head a little more to the eastward.”

Mr. Holbrook walked away giving a little grunt of disgust as though
he had been holding intercourse with a lunatic. As he never spoke to
his Captain except to tell him where he wanted to go, he had a rather
lonely time on deck and took to playing with his son by sitting at one
end of the cabin-house and throwing a line to him at the other and
then pulling upon it.

The sea became rougher during the day, but in spite of it, dinner was
served in the saloon. Mrs. Holbrook appeared at last and bravely tried
to play the part of hostess to her guest. Holbrook had always shown an
aversion to piously inclined people, and a clergyman’s presence gave
him extreme annoyance, as it prevented his picturesque flow of words.
As adjectives were a weakness of his, the conversation would have
lapsed into monosyllables, had not Mrs. Holbrook determined to do her
duty.

“I suppose,” said that lady, “you have many sailor men in your
congregation, Mr. Jones.”

The tall man looked at her sharply. He thought of his “congregation”
and wondered. Did the lady know what he was? He had not meant to
deceive any one. Jubiter John had simply asked for a passage for a
sanctified man and had not thought it necessary to go into the man’s
history. His eyes held the strange look of alarm they had when he first
came aboard, and he answered in his thin voice.

“Yes, ma’am, there’s plenty of sailors get in, though they are no
worse’n landsmen. It don’t make much difference what callin’ a man
takes, there’s bad ones in all.”

Mrs. Holbrook glanced at her husband, who smiled his approval.

“Do you know Mr. Brown, the pastor in Beaufort?” asked the lady.

“He must be a very excellent man–I never heard of him,” said her
husband, with a touch of irony.

“I asked Mr. Jones,” said Mrs. Holbrook, sweetly.

“No, ma’am, I never did,” said the tall man, shooting his head upward
and looking at his host. “He never did time.”

“Never what?” asked the lady.

A sharp kick upon the shin bone from young Richard caused the
sanctified man to raise a full foot higher in his seat.

“What’s the matter?” he asked quickly.

“Aw, tumble,” said the irreverent Richard.

Mrs. Holbrook looked at her son sharply.

“What did you do? Do you want to be sent from the table?” she said.

The young man dropped his gaze into his plate and looked abashed. His
father smiled. The meal proceeded in silence until they had finished,
when Mr. Holbrook led the way on deck with a handful of cigars.

“That wasn’t a bad one on the country parson,” ventured the yachtsman.
“You fellows so seldom joke, a man never knows just when you will break
out. Ha, ha, ha–‘never did time’–Well, that wasn’t half bad.” And he
quite warmed to the tall man as he offered him a perfecto.

“But you see—-”

“Yes, I see well enough. I don’t blame you for kicking about such men.
Now _you_ can tail on to a sheet or pass a reef point like a _man_.
Will you have a good nip of grog before Mrs. Holbrook comes on deck?”

The sanctified man thought he would. They repaired to the forehatch,
where the steward passed up the spirits unseen.

The warmth of the liquor put new life in the tall man’s great frame. He
had eaten very little for days and the effects of good food and strong
drink were very strengthening. The look of challenge took the place
of alarm in his large expressive eyes and his great square jaw seemed
to set firmer. Half of his cigar disappeared between his teeth, which
closed upon it with the set of a vise.

They went aft again in time to meet Mrs. Holbrook coming on deck
assisted by the Captain, who placed rugs for her in a steamer chair in
the cockpit. It was getting thicker and the wind was now well to the
eastward of north, but there was no harbour nearer than Cape Fear, and
the Captain had many reasons for not wishing to stop there. He would
run along close to the land and after passing would be in Long Bay,
where he would have a fair wind to Charleston, one hundred and fifty
miles ahead, making a run of more than two hundred miles from Beaufort.
This would get the yacht well down the coast to where they might expect
good weather.

“I think,” said the tall Mr. Jones, during a break in the conversation,
“I would head the vessel offshore a couple of points. You know the
Frying Pan runs well off here. It will be breaking in three fathoms
with this breeze. The ways o’ Providence air un—-

“Never mind about Providence, Mr. Jones,” said Holbrook, with a wave
of his hand. “The Captain will look out for the yacht. You needn’t
be scared. Tell us about the sailors you get in your flock. How you
learned all about boats from them.”

Mr. Jones drew himself up a good foot. His head went up in the air and
the look of defiance came into his eyes.

“The only fellows that got sent up with me were Jack Elwell and Bill
Haskins,” said he.

“How do you mean sent up with you?” asked Mrs. Holbrook.

“Well, they were caught straight enough,” said the tall man, sadly.

“You mean they had to be caught and sent to you for spiritual
teaching?” asked Mrs. Holbrook with a smile.

“Well, er–not exactly,” said the tall man, in a voice which died away
to a whisper.

“Ha, ha, ha, a good one on you, Mr. Jones,” said Holbrook.

“Well, you see,” went on the tall man, slowly, “you don’t seem to
understand just what I am.” He looked at the Captain, who stood near at
the wheel, but whose face was like a mahogany mask.

“Why, you are a clergyman, are you not?” asked Mrs. Holbrook.

“A convict,” said Mr. Jones, slowly. “I am Stormalong Journegan,
sailor, navigator, and was sent up for fifteen years. Bahama Bill an’
me got out.”

There was a long silence. Holbrook rose and went to the farther side of
the yacht. Mrs. Holbrook sat a few moments and looked out to sea. Then
she motioned to the steward, who was at the companionway, to take her
wraps below, and she disappeared down the steps without a word.

Holbrook saw something forward and made his way toward the bow followed
by his son, who turned to look back at the tall man.

“Serves her bloomin’ well right fer turnin’ me out,” growled the
Captain into the ear of the helmsman. “Next time she’ll be a bit more
careful about takin’ passengers.”

Mr. Jones, or Journegan, sat looking out over the sea. The veil of
mist that hung over the land held many images for him. He saw how it
was aboard. His year of reformation had taught him many things, and
the lesson he was learning was not entirely new. He gazed sadly at
Holbrook. He had felt drawn toward the man, but after all, in spite of
his assumed contempt for holy men, he was more of a hypocrite than the
veriest village parson he had ever met.

He arose slowly, unkinking his long frame like the opening of a
jack-knife. Then he tossed his cigar over the side and went to his
room. He was an outcast aboard that yacht and he knew it. The privacy
of his room was much better than the inhospitality of the deck.

All the long afternoon he sat there thinking. He was not a strong man
save for his great muscular frame. He had fallen before and he was now
trying to do what he could to atone for it. The thought of the silver
in the after-cabin came to him and his vacillating spirit could not
quite get the glistening vision out of his brain, for after all, these
people were his enemies. They could never be anything else as long as
human vanity and conceit endured. Even the miserable little prig of an
owner who ridiculed clergymen need not be spared. It might do his small
soul good to have to part with some of his treasures. He pondered,
while the light failed and the look of challenge came into his eyes.
He had a powerful frame and had nothing to fear. And all the time the
_Dartmoor_ ran to leeward with the lift of the northeast sea behind her.

It was just before eight bells, when a man who had gone forward on
lookout hailed the Captain.

“Something white dead ahead, sir,” he cried.

The sanctified man heard and thought of the untrue compass. The next
instant there was a dull reverberating snore alongside as a giant
breaker burst into a white smother and rolled away in the darkness. It
was breaking in three fathoms, and the yacht was racing to her end.

There was a rush of feet on deck. Wild cries came from aft, where
the Captain had rolled the wheel hard down and was struggling with
the sailor to get the jigger on her and force her offshore. She had
not touched yet, but as the yawl came to in the gale, she brought up
broadside in a sea that burst upon her with the weight of an avalanche,
heaving her on her lee beam and washing everything off her, fore and
aft. The water poured down the companionway and flooded the cabin.

The sanctified man reached the deck by dint of a fierce struggle up
through the forward companion. The men who were below followed as
best they could; swashing, floundering through the flood and loosened
fittings, and they managed to get aft in time to get a line to the
sailor who had been at the wheel and who was now close alongside. The
Captain was gone.

All the time the _Dartmoor_ was drifting to leeward and into the
breakers. She had swung off again under the pressure of her jib, and
just as the tall man seized the jigger halliards to get the after sail
upon her, she struck on the Frying Pan Shoals. The next sea rolled over
her and was the beginning of the end.

Mr. Holbrook had been below all this time, and he now appeared at the
companion with his wife and boy. The sea that fell over the wrecked
craft nearly drowned them and washed Richard back into the cabin. Mr.
Jones roared out for the men to get the only small boat left alongside,
and his voice rose to a deep sonorous yell. He led the way himself to
the falls, where the small boat trailed to leeward, the davits having
been torn out bodily with the weight of the breaking seas. The hauling
part was still on deck and he handed in the line quickly, the three
sailors and steward taking heart at his example and helping all they
could. Mrs. Holbrook was placed in the small boat and her husband
waited not for an invitation to follow, but floundered in after her.
The three sailors sprang aboard. At that instant a giant sea rose to
windward. It showed for a second in the ghastly phosphorescent glare of
the surrounding foam. Then it thundered over the doomed yacht.

When the sanctified man came up from the blackness below, he was just
aware of the vessel’s outline some fifty feet away to windward, and he
struck out strongly for her. In a few minutes he was alongside. A great
sea broke over her again, but he held well under the rise of her bow
and managed to cling to the trailing débris. Then he climbed on deck.
There was nothing living left there. He looked for the boat, but it had
disappeared. Then he was suddenly aware of a bright light and as he
looked he remembered the Bald Head tower which marks the dreaded shoals
of Cape Fear.

He knew he was a mile or more from the beach and all the way was the
rolling surf. It was a desperate swim at any time, but in a northeast
gale, with the sea rolling high, it was useless to think of anything
human attempting it without artificial aid. He clung to the stump of
the mainmast and tried to live through the torrents that swept over him
by getting directly in its lee. This was the only way he could stay
even a few moments aboard the vessel. She was lifting still with each
succeeding sea and driving higher and higher upon the bank, but she
had not broken up badly yet. Yachts like the _Dartmoor_ could stand a
tremendous pounding before going to pieces, but he knew that nothing
could stand the smashing long. Before daylight there would be not a
stick to show that a fine ship had gone ashore in the night.

The cabin scuttle was open and he wondered if the cabin was full of
water yet. The silver was still there and belonged to the man who could
save it. There was a chance for him and he was already looking about in
the blackness for a proper spar or piece of wood to float him for the
struggle in. It might be just as well to try to take in a little extra
weight along with him, for he would not start until he could get his
float.

In a smooth between two seas he made a dash for the companion,
springing along the coamings of the skylight to get a footing, for the
deck was at a high angle. He reached it and clung under its lee for
shelter. Then he peered down into the darkness below. The cabin was not
quite full of water and he climbed down, feeling for the magnificent
cup he had seen there the day before. His hand touched it, although he
was now almost shoulder deep in the water. A mattress floated against
him and he seized it. The cork within would float him and his prize. He
tried to find something else that would float, but just then a torrent
of sea water rushed below and he saw that if he would get away at all
he must soon start. He lugged his prize to the steps and started to
drag it clear. He reached down in the water to get a better grip of
it and his great fingers closed upon a human hand. Then he made out
the form of the boy with his head still above water, clinging to the
topmost step of the ladder. He peered into the child’s face and saw
the frightened eyes open and look at him. Then he stopped and stood
motionless upon the ladder.

In all his work he had only been a few minutes, but those few minutes
had been minutes of his old life, the life of a sailor. The late past
had been forgotten and he was now a shipwrecked mariner, getting ashore
as best he could, saving what he might from a wreck. But the touch
of the boy’s hand brought him back again to the realization of his
condition. The hand of an enemy’s son, but the hand of one who had
treated him kindly. The mattress would not hold all three. It would be
between the boy and the cup. He swore savagely at the piece of silver,
held it for an instant, then started to hurl it from him. In the
precious seconds he was making a desperate fight. He gripped it again
with both hands and held it before him. A sea roared over the wreck and
half smothered him, pouring down the open companion.

He dropped the heavy cup, seized the half-fainting Richard and quickly
passed a lashing about him. Then he seized the cork mattress and boy
and plunged to leeward.

In the dim gray of the early morning, the keeper of the Bald Head
Lighthouse saw the tall form of a man staggering up the beach carrying
something in his arms. He ran down the steps of the tower and met the
tall stranger and relieved him of his burden of a still living but
half-drowned boy.

“His mother and father are crazy with grief,” said the keeper. “The
woman is crying all the time that it was the will o’ God, because she
had a convict aboard her yacht. If you are the Captain, you had better
bring the lad to her yourself. I reckon she’ll be careful what kind o’
passengers she takes aboard again, and take your word for things aboard
her boats.”

“Does she think it was because a convict was aboard, the vessel went
ashore?” asked the tall man, drawing his half-naked figure up to its
full height.

“Sure, she says the Captain didn’t want him. A mighty fine religious
woman she is, too,” said the keeper.

“I reckon I won’t bother her just now,” said the tall man, in a voice
hardly above a whisper. “You take the little fellow to her–I’ll go and
get some clothes on.”

The light-keeper strode away with the boy in his arms. The tall man
stood still for several minutes, looking after him. When the keeper
reached the dwelling he turned and saw the tall man still standing
there in his soaking trousers, his giant torso looking like the statue
of a sea-god. “The ways o’ Providence air mighty strange,” muttered the
sanctified man, slowly to himself—-“But somehow I feel that I won.”

Continue Reading

At the End of the Reef

The light-keeper at Fowey Rocks had been given a new assistant, and
the new man was Bahama Bill, the giant wrecker and mate of a sponging
sloop. He was a negro Conch, so-called on account of the diet upon
which many of the native Bankers were supposed to live, the Conch
proving an easy and nourishing meal for the lazy and incompetent
reefer. But the name soon applied to all alike, and the Conch, instead
of becoming a word of opprobrium, stood for all men who made the Reef
or Great Bahama Bank their home.

William Haskins, otherwise known as Bahama Bill, was a Fortune
Islander, and his acceptance of the keeper’s position was but
temporary, taking the place of the assistant who was absent on his
quarterly leave. The head keeper, an old man, seldom left the light.

It was summer-time and the air was warm with the tropical heat of
the coast. The distance from the land kept the lighthouse cooler
than ordinary, but the hot Stream flowing past at a temperature
of eighty-three degrees gave no cooling effect. The days of the
assistant’s absence dragged slowly along, the old keeper tending the
light with his usual care. Then came a season of frightful humidity and
glaring sunshine, lasting many days, the mercury standing always at
ninety-five or more.

Bahama Bill spent the warm weather loafing about the town of Miami,
and as he was in no hurry to go back to the light, he took pains to
spend what money he possessed in whatever finery he thought befitted
his magnificent personal appearance best. Standing several inches over
six feet and being enormously solid and broad in proportion, he was an
object of admiration to the many black men who loafed along the Florida
shore. With the Seminoles he had nothing whatever to do, for these
Indians showed their distaste for negroes so plainly that it was with
difficulty trouble was avoided whenever the men of the Glades came to
town to trade their deerskins for ammunition. Bahama Bill stuck to his
class until it was past the time for him to return to the light, and
then started off, rigged out clean and shipshape in a small boat.

The old keeper of the Fowey Rocks lighthouse came out upon the gallery
to take the morning air. The sun was shining and the warm wind from the
Gulf Stream blew lazily through the doorway into the lantern-room. The
blue sea sparkled in the sunshine, and the long, easy roll of the swell
told of calm weather offshore. It was a perfect day, a day of peace and
quiet, upon the end of the great Florida Reef, which stretched away
for miles to the southward. Eastward nothing rose above the blue rim
which compassed all. To the northward the low line of hummocks showed
where Virginia Key and Key Biscayne rose above the water some ten miles
distant. To the westward the little lump of Soldier Key showed where
there might be a solitary human within a dozen miles. And all about
the blue sea sparkled in the bright light, taking on the varicoloured
hues found above the coral banks. Near the lighthouse, in three feet of
water, the coral showed distinctly even from the height of the tower.
Old man Enau gazed down at it, watching the bright green tinge melt
to deeper colour until, in three fathoms, the pure limpid blue of the
great stream flowed past uncoloured and undefiled. Fish were swimming
around the iron piles of the lighthouse; great big bonito, sinuous
barracuda, and now and then a shark would drift up to the iron pillars
and bask a moment in the shade of the tall structure which rose above
the coral bank to the height of a hundred feet and more, standing like
a huge long-legged spider upon its iron feet in the shallow water.

The quiet of the morning was oppressive to the keeper. Not a sound rose
from the reef save the low roll of the sea as it broke upon the edge of
the bank, not the cry of a single sea-bird to break the great stillness
and beautiful quiet of the day. The old man had been in the light for
three years. To him the world was that eternal sea bounded by the blue
rim and spotted in one or two places by the distant Keys. Whatever he
had seen of human life he left behind him when he took the position
as keeper. He had tried to forget. And now, as the years passed, his
memories were fading. The human struggle was over. The thought of what
he had seen and done was dimmed in the glare of the tropic sunshine,
and the shadow of his past had faded to nothing.

He had a fine old face. Rugged and burned from the weather on the
reef, his features still bore traces of culture. His nose was straight
and small, and his eyes were bright and blue, the deep blue of the
surrounding sea, which had kept him apart from his fellow men so long.

He leaned out over the rail and looked down. The heat and stillness
oppressed him, and as he gazed below at the white and green formations
he seemed to see again the inside of a court-room. The quiet and heat
were there, and the stillness was strained and intense, as he waited
for the word which meant his ruin. The faces of the jury who were
trying a murder case were before him, the man on the right looking hard
at him, and the foreman bowing his head gravely in that moment of utter
silence before he spoke the words which meant his end. It had been a
peculiar case, a case of great brutality and cruelty, apparently, from
the evidence produced. He, the master of a large square-rigged ship,
had been accused of a horrible crime, and the evidence of two witnesses
was there to prove it. He remembered the man whose evidence was the
strongest against him, a sailor whom he had befriended, and he could
see the look of pious resignation upon the fellow’s face. He also
remembered the furtive gleam that came now and again from the corner of
his eye as he sat near the witness-box and waited his turn to tell of
the horror.

Why was it? Was it the heat that brought back those scenes which
were fading, or was it the ominous silence of the torrid sunshine
upon the reef? The lines in the face of the old man grew rigid and
drawn, and he gazed stolidly into the blue water until the coral banks
took on new shapes. He saw a ship’s deck with the long plank strakes
stretching hundreds of feet fore and aft; the low white deck-house,
with the galley smoke-pipe stretching across it and the boats upon the
strong-backs or booms atop of it; the solid coamings of the hatchways,
with the battened hatches as strong as the sides of the vessel itself;
the high topgallant-rail which shut off the view to windward, and the
rows of belaying-pins stuck beneath with the neatly coiled braces upon
them; the high head of the topgallant-forecastle and the long jibboom
pointing out over the sea; and, above all, the long, tapering spars
lifting upward into the blue above, with the white canvas bellying in
the breath of the trade-wind. It was all plain before him again. Then
it changed–the pampero off the River Plate, the great hurricane sea
which swept the ship and smashed her up, leaving her a wreck, leaking
and settling, six hundred miles from shore. The fracas was there before
him–the men struggling, trying to save her, until, tired out with
exertion and suffering, the man with the furtive eyes had refused to do
duty and managed to get the rest to back him.

Then the days following, full of desperate endeavour: the fellow who
refused duty shirking and endangering the lives of all; the measures
he took, hanging the man by the hands and flogging him until he fell
in a faint; how he staggered to his feet and looked at the master–one
long look full of a purpose implacable, unrelenting, and then the quiet
manner he had when he obeyed. He had picked the fellow up starving upon
the streets, an outcast from some country and of a social sphere above
his own, taking him aboard his ship and providing food and clothing
with a fair wage–and this had been the outcome.

They had left her in the one remaining boat two days after, crowding
the craft almost to the gunwales; but the sea was now smooth and the
wind gone, leaving a quiet strangely like that of the beautiful day
about him. The row westward over that oily, heaving ocean, day after
day, day after day!

One by one they had dropped off, overboard, to float astern, and all
the time the _rip_, _rip_, _rip_ of a triangular fin above a great
shadow below the surface.

He had done what he could, taking no more of the meagre food than the
rest. Then the last days–four of them left, the men who witnessed
against him and another, a stout fellow who had kept up better than the
rest. How he had discovered that the fellow had stolen the scant store
of food steadily and divided it with the man he had flogged. How, when
they had taken all, they had set upon him, and he had killed the stout
thief and wounded the other. There was nothing left to eat,–absolutely
nothing for five days,–and they had–ugh!–it was too horrible;
and upon the seventh day they had been picked up with the evidences
of the horror too plain for their rescuers to make a mistake in the
matter, even without the two men, who openly accused him of the whole
wrong–accused him of not only killing his men, but–ugh!

The trial had lasted a week and the evidence was most horrible. The
jury had convicted him upon that of the fellow who sat there with a
pious look and furtive glance; the other fellow had merely corroborated
his story, and, as it was two against him, his own tale was not
believed. He had received a life sentence for the crime, for he had
admitted killing the stout man who had stolen the last of the food.
He explained that it was his duty as captain to protect his life from
their combined assault. The jury had not believed him, for the man
who was against him was ready to show the falsity of his tale; he had
been sentenced for life. He had served seven years and had escaped by
cutting the bars of his cell and gaining a vessel which was wrecked on
the coast of Africa letting him get ashore unmolested. After drifting
about for a time he had come back to America and taken the position as
keeper in the tower, where his past was not open to inspection, for no
one knew him or whence he came.

The sunshine was as quiet as before, but the blue Gulf Stream showed a
darkening far away on the horizon, where a breeze ruffled the surface.
He turned and gazed over the sea toward Florida, and a tiny black speck
showed upon the waters of the reef. It looked like a small boat coming
out through the Hawk’s Channel, and he looked at it steadily for a
long time, trying to see if it might be Haskins, the assistant keeper,
returning.

The sunshine was very hot on this side of the tower, and it dazzled him
for a little while as he gazed over the sparkling sea. The speck drew
nearer, and he saw that it was a boat. It came very slowly, sailing
with the light air, the bit of white canvas looking no larger than a
handkerchief in the distance. Soon the figure of a man could be seen
lying easily in the stern-sheets of the craft, and the old keeper saw
that the man’s legs were bare and brown. Then the tiny shallop took
more definite form and showed to be a canoe, its occupant an Indian
from the Everglades, coming out to fish upon the reef.

Indians seldom came so far away from land, and as the craft drew nearer
and nearer Enau watched it carefully. The Seminoles were friendly.
They were an unconquered tribe of Indians who had managed to evade all
efforts made by the United States to subdue them. They had retired
into the fastnesses of the great swamps, where no white soldier could
pursue with any hope to capture, and after years of peace had come
to the coast again with the understanding that they should not be
molested. The old man had heard of them from Haskins, the assistant,
and he had once or twice seen canoes skirting the edge of the great
bay in the distance, but he had never seen an Indian close enough to
recognize him. The canoe had now come within half a mile of the tower,
and was still heading straight for it.

The breeze died away again and the sun shone straight down with an
intense heat. The tower cast no shadow either to east or west, and
the ship’s clock in the kitchen struck off eight bells. Enau mopped
his streaming forehead and was about to turn into the galley to get
a drink of water. The heat made him reel with dizziness, but the man
in the boat made a movement, and he held his gaze fixed upon him.
The canoe was coming close to the tower, and it was evident that the
Indian would land there if the keeper allowed him. There was no way of
getting up to the light except by way of the long iron ladder which
reached from the gallery to the sea, a hundred feet below. It was an
easy path to dispute with any number of men, especially as they must
come through the heavy trap-door in the gallery at the top. There was
no way of getting up over the outside, unless one could climb the
long, smooth iron rods for a great distance and then reach out under
the sill to get a hand-grip upon the edge of the floor and swing out
over the gulf below. It would be a mere finger-grip at most, and a
tap upon the bare knuckles would send the fellow to his death below. A
good sailor might climb the smooth iron rods with great difficulty, but
no one could climb up a hundred feet and swing out on that finger-tip
hold with the hope of climbing to the rail above. The trap-door worked
with a five-hundred pound weight, and if any one tried to come up the
thin iron ladder the keeper could simply lower the door and the stout
three-inch planks would drop easily into place at will. Enau studied
it all out while he gazed below, and it amused him to think what a
surprised Indian it would be when he climbed up there to find the door
drop fast in his face. No; the keeper was as much his own master in
regard to human visitors as though he were a resident of some other
planet. A thousand men could not approach him if he did not wish it. He
could be all alone for an indefinite time, for he had provisions for
half a year and water enough for a lifetime.

While he gazed at the approaching boat the man in her looked up. It
was but a glance, a mere look at the head upon the rail above. Enau
gasped. That one glance upward was enough for him. The fellow was not
an Indian, after all. The sun-tanned face, burned to a dark mahogany
colour, belonged to one he had not forgotten. That glance, furtive,
half-shrinking, animal-like, without the movement of a single feature,
belonged to–yes, there was no mistake. It was Robledo, the sailor who
had witnessed against him, the survivor of the horror, the man who had
compassed his ruin.

Enau drew his breath quickly and stood up straight. The place seemed to
swing about in the sunshine, the tower to rock like a ship in a seaway.
Then he peered over again just as the craft came alongside one of the
iron pillars. He did not show his face,–just his eyes,–for fear the
fellow might recognize him and not come up the ladder. He would have
the trap-door ready for him, for it would never do to let that human
devil know he was upon the light. Yes; perhaps he would let him come
up, inside the gallery, but never go back. The sea would tell no tales.
There would be no marks of a struggle, no evidence of a fight–a quick
crack upon the head, and over the side, down a hundred feet to the
waters of the reef, where the sharks lay waiting. That would be all.
He could do it easily. But, then, the fellow might be missed, after
all. Some one might know he had gone out to the light, and then there
would be the investigation. That was what he did not want. There must
be no inquiries, no questions asked him about his past. He was an old
man now, and the memory of his terrible wrongs was fading. Let them die
out. He would let the enemy go as he came. The fellow could not know
he was in the tower, and there was no possibility of his recognizing
him, as he had not shown his whole face over the rail. Even if he had,
the hair and the beard of three years’ growth would hide anything of
Captain William Jacobs that still existed in him. No; he would let no
one come up that ladder. He would live the rest of his life in peace
and quiet. He loved the bright sunshine and the beautiful sea, and he
could be satisfied where he was. His wife and daughter he had long
given up. They had bade him farewell at the end of that trial, holding
away from him, yet with tears streaming down their faces in the agony
and horror of it all. He must be alone. There must be no one to tell
him about them.

He looked down again, and saw the man below drawing on his trousers
preparatory to climbing the ladder. Enau could see into the bottom of
the boat beneath, and he noticed a harpoon used for spearing crawfish.
Would the fellow take it with him? If so, it would be well not to let
him come too near, for it could be thrown and might be dangerous. The
man gave no hail, but turned his smooth-shaved face upward and began
to mount the ladder, Enau went to the trap-door and loosed the weight
softly. It creaked upon its hinges and settled slowly down until only
a crack remained. Here he stopped it, with the bolts in readiness to
shoot if necessary. He would watch the fellow and see if he showed
signs of recognition. Ten years was a long time; the end of the Florida
Reef was many thousand miles from where he had last seen him.

The man climbed slowly up the iron ladder, stopping now and then to
look seaward. The current had swept his canoe to the northward of the
lighthouse, where it trailed at the end of a long line. There was
now nothing under him but the blue water. When he reached the first
platform he climbed on to it and rested. It was very hot, and the
climb made his mahogany-coloured face darker than before. His hair was
freshly parted, and looked as though it had been oiled or moistened.
His coat he had left in his boat below, and his shirt was open at the
neck, showing the strong, corded muscles of his throat and chest. His
hands were brown and powerful, and the keeper noticed how his fingers
closed with a light but certain grip upon the irons of the ladder.

In a moment he came on again, and when within a few feet of the door
he looked upward and hailed. At that instant the old man closed the
door and shot the bolts. He was now cut off as completely as though he
had gone to the moon. The heat and excitement made his head whirl. He
staggered away from the closed door and went back to the gallery. The
sunshine danced upon the sea and all was quiet. Then he peered over the
rail. A string of muttered curses floated up to him and a drunken voice
called him many foul names, but he only smiled and stood gazing out to
sea. He could not see the man below now, for the fellow was too high up
under the platform, and he made his way to the kitchen and from there
higher up into the lantern, where the man’s voice could not be heard
distinctly.

Hours passed, and the sunshine began to slant sharply. The tower cast
a long shadow to the eastward, but the canoe was still swinging to her
painter, and the voice of the fellow below was still heard calling
forth curses upon him. The keeper was evidently not recognized, for
he heard the name “Enau” repeated over and over again, and this was
his name as light-keeper–Robert Enau, head keeper of the Fowey Rocks
lighthouse. If the fellow had recognized him he would have called him
Jacobs, and then he would have tried to kill him. It grew dark, but he
forgot to light his lantern, his whole mind taken with the one thought
of how to get rid of his visitor. If the lantern was not lighted, the
fellow might think that there was no one in the tower, after all, and
would go away. The idea flashed through his brain for an instant, and
then he centred his thoughts again on the fellow below and forgot the
darkness and quiet of the tropic night. Suddenly he thought of the
fellow’s boat. If he could endanger it, the man might leave. He seized
a heavy piece of iron and dropped it at the dark shadow floating at
the end of the line. A dull crash told of the accuracy of his aim.
Then the shadow faded out, and he knew the boat had sunk. There was no
sound from the man upon the ladder below. Evidently he had gone down
to the first landing and gone to sleep or was waiting, not knowing
the damage done his craft. He could now neither go away nor come up,
and the idea worried the keeper greatly. He was very dizzy with the
heat and excitement, and his thoughts went again and again over the
scenes of that last voyage and the trial following. In the gray of
the early morning he was still sitting in the lantern, gazing out to
sea, waiting for the sun to rise and show him his enemy below. The day
dawned beautiful and clear, and the quiet heat continued. In a little
while a noise upon the ladder attracted the old man’s attention. He
listened. What was the fellow saying?

“For God’s sake let me up!”

Not he. No! Had the fellow shown him any mercy when he was at the end
of his liberty? Why should he show him any now? All he wanted was for
him to go away and let him be. He did not want to see the man. Go away!

The pitiless sunshine streamed through the iron piling and upon the
man. His boat was gone. It had sunk during the night from the weight
Enau had thrown into it, and the current had torn it loose. There was
no way for the man to get off the light without swimming. He must stay
or die. He might cling for a long time to the iron ladder and rest
upon the landing, but he could not swim ten miles in that current with
sharks abounding.

The day passed slowly, and the man upon the ladder raved and swore,
begged and cajoled, but Enau was silent and implacable. He went back
into the lantern, taking some bread with him. He was not hungry, but
the heat made his head swim, and he must eat something. The day drew to
a close and silence reigned below. The man had given up talking. Enau
lay prone upon his stomach and peeped over the edge of the platform.
He could see the man crouching upon the landing, lashed fast, to keep
from falling, by a line made of his clothes. Darkness came and the heat
abated a little, but no wind ruffled the surface of the Gulf Stream.

With a heavy bar in his hand the keeper sat and waited for any signs
of fingers showing upon the edge of the platform. He would not let
the fellow up–no, not for anything. If he died there, it was not his
fault. He did not want him to come out to the light. He would not have
him know that he, Captain Jacobs, was keeper.

The lantern remained unlighted. Now Enau was afraid to leave the
platform an instant, for fear the fellow, desperate from his position,
would climb over and kill him. He sat there during the hours of
darkness and waited.

About three in the morning Enau saw two eyes staring at him. They
were far away in the Hawk’s Channel, but as the moments flew by they
drew nearer. Soon a great shadow loomed up through the night, coming
straight for the lighthouse. Then there was a sudden crash close
aboard, the rattle and banging of ship’s gear, followed by hoarse cries
and curses. Enau went inside to the trap-door in the gallery, and sat
there watching the bolts until daylight.

In the early morning there was a great noise below. Men shouted and
called him by name, but he refused to answer. He peered over the edge
of the platform and he no sooner had done so than a perfect storm of
voices greeted him. Two ship’s boats were tied to the piling of the
tower, and many men were crowding up the ladder. More were upon the
deck of the vessel, which had rammed her nose high and dry upon the
reef close to the light. They were coming to take possession of the
tower by force, and he saw that he must now be interviewed, perhaps
taken away bodily, for the fellow on the ladder had joined the rest,
and they were calling to him to open that door.

The day passed without a disturbance. The men of the four-masted
schooner upon the reef spent their time rigging gear to heave the
vessel off, and the man had joined them. At dark Enau, seeing that no
one was upon the ironwork, lighted the lantern and then came back to
his post at the trap-door, holding his club in readiness to prevent any
trespassing. He sat there hour after hour, but there was no sign of an
attack from below.

About midnight there was a slight noise upon the platform of the
gallery near the rail. The old man noticed it, but waited. Then some
one rapped sharply upon the door at his feet, and he stood ready for
the attack. Then all was quiet as before.

The heat was intense inside the gallery, and Enau mopped his forehead
again and again. The whole lighthouse seemed to stagger, and the room
went round and round. He was dizzy and failed to see the fingers which
grasped the edge of the outside platform, or the form that swung out
over the gulf below. A man drew himself up until his head was level
with the floor. Then he put one foot up on the landing. He could not
get back. It was a sheer hundred feet and over to the sea below, and
the water was only three or four feet deep over the coral. He must gain
the platform or go down to his death. Gradually he drew his weight upon
the landing, clutching the rail with powerful fingers. Then he quickly
stood upright and sprang over. He was in the light.

Enau saw him instantly and sprang at him. It was the same hated
face, the furtive eyes he had reason to hate with all his soul. They
clinched, and then began a struggle for life. And while they struggled
the old man’s mind could no longer hold his pent-up despair. He called
out upon the scoundrel who had ruined him:

“You villain! you have pursued me for revenge–I’ll give you all you
want,” he cried. “I know you; don’t think I’ll let you go.” And,
snarling like a wild beast, he strove with enormous power to crush the
other against the rail, and so over into the sea. But the younger man
was powerful. His strong fingers clutched at the old keeper’s throat
and closed upon it.

“I know you–I know you–I know your look–you pious-faced scoundrel!”
gasped the old man. Then they fought on in silence. Suddenly those
below heard a heavy fall. There was a moment’s pause.

The room seemed to reel about the old keeper. He struggled wildly in
that frightful grip. His breath came in bits of gasps and finally
stopped under the awful pressure of those fingers. The scenes of his
earlier life flitted through his mind. He saw the life-boat again
riding the oily sea in the South Atlantic; the starving men, their
strained faces pinched and lined, their eager eyes staring about the
eternal horizon for a sight of a sail; the last few days and the
last survivors, the man with that look he would never forget–stars
shot through his brain and fire flared before his vision. Then came
blackness–a blank.

Those below, hearing the sounds of struggle dying away, called loudly
to be let in. The man released his hold of the keeper’s throat and
shot back the bolts in the trap-door, letting a crowd of seamen come
streaming into the light.

“Get some water, quick!” called Haskins, standing back and panting
after the struggle. He was nearly exhausted, but still kept his gaze
fixed upon the fallen old man.

“It’s a touch of the sun,” said the captain of the wrecked vessel,
bending over the old keeper. “We must get him cooled off and ice to his
head. Quick, John! jump aboard and tell the doctor to get a lump of ice
and bring it here–git!”

“It’s pretty bad; I’ve shuah been hanging on to the irons for two days,
and you lose your ship, on account of a poor devil giving way under
that sun; but it can’t be helped. No, suh, it can’t be helped,” said
Bahama Bill.

“If you hadn’t shaved, fixed up and changed yourself so, and had come
back in your own boat, he might have recognized you in time,” said the
captain; “but of course you didn’t know.”

“I think I done all I could sah,” said Bill, thinking of his climb over
that outer rail.

“Yes, yes; I don’t mean to find fault,” said the captain; “but I lose
my ship by it.”

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