“To hell with them that’s saved,” said he–
“Here’s to them that died.”
’Twas Patsie Oddie said that–that is, said it first. Many people have
repeated it since, but with Patsie Oddie it was born. He said a whole
lot more–enough for somebody to make a song of–but the two lines
quoted above serve to sum the matter up.
It was a winter’s morning he said it. Cold? Oh, but it _was_ cold. Wind
from the north-west and blowing hard–a sort of dry blizzard. Every
vessel coming in had stories to tell of what a time they had to get home
and how long it took them.
“It’s been tack, tack, tack from St. Peter’s Bank, till we fair chafed
the jaws off the boom of her,” said Crump Taylor.
“Four days and four nights from Le Have,” said Tom O’Donnell. “Four days
and four nights for the able _Colleen Bawn_ to come three hundred miles.
Four days and four nights to butt her shoulders home–and glad to get
home at that.”
That was the story from all of them when they came in. And they were
sights coming in, too. Ice? You had to look half-way to the mast-head to
see anything _but_ ice. Anchors, bows, dories in the waist, cable on
deck–all was solid as could be–all on deck from rail to rail and clear
aft to the wheel–ice, ice, ice.
The crew of the _Delia Corrigan_ were putting her stores aboard. Her
skipper, Patsie Oddie, was standing on the dock and looking her over. He
hummed a song as he looked. This was just after he had painted her
black. She had come to him black, but in a run of bad luck he had
painted her blue; and having worked off the bad luck, he had painted her
black again. Now she looked beautiful–black and beautiful–and able!
Let no man cast eye on the _Delia_ and not praise her ableness while
Patsie Oddie was by.
All at once he called out to one of his men: “Martin, let’s take a walk
up the street.” And Martin went gladly enough.
First they had a drink, and then Patsie stepped into the shop of what
all fishermen rated the best tailor in Gloucester. “Measure me for a
suit of sails,” was his word of greeting there. “Give me a Crump Taylor
vest, a Wesley Marrs jacket, and a Tom O’Donnell pair of pants, and all
of the best. And mind the mains’l.”
“The overcoat, Captain?”
“The overcoat? What else? Isn’t she the biggest sail of all? Mind when
you come to that–put plenty of duck to it, the best and finest of duck.
And good stout duck, double-ought, like what gen’rally goes into a
fores’l. And the best and finest of selvin’ and trimmin’s along the
leach and the luff and in the belly of it. And let it hang low–the
latest fashion, same’s you made Crump Taylor. Crump steps ashore a while
ago with one down to the rail. He tells me he has to sway it up every
now and then to keep it off the deck. Five weeks to-day I’ll want it.
Mind now, the best.”
“And which way do you go now, Captain?” said the tailor when he had
taken the big skipper’s measure.
“To the east’ard,” said Patsie.
“But not to-day?” said the tailor. “Too blowy, ain’t it?”
“Maybe,” said Patsie, “you’d like to go skipper o’ the _Delia Corrigan_?
S’pose now you go on with that suit, and let me go to the east’ard. And
you tell me what’ll be and I’ll pay you now. How much?”
“Will you go as high as forty-five dollars for the suit and sixty-five
for the coat, a hundred and ten dollars in all, Captain?”
“Yes, and a hundred and forty-five and a hundred and sixty-five and
three hundred and ten in all, if need be. The best of cloth I want,
mind, and double-ought in the big coat–no less. It’s to be a weddin’,
“Best man?” said the tailor.
“I dunno,” said Patsie, “whether ’twill be best man or second-best man,
but that’s the way of it now. Maybe I’ll know more about it afore we put
out. But if I don’t call for it next trip, you c’n wear it yourself.
Here’s your money. Come along, Martin.”
Down the street he stopped at a jeweller’s shop. “A diamond ring I want,
and I don’t know much about them.”
He looked over an envelopeful that the salesman emptied on to the glass
case. “But I don’t want any red or yellow or fancy colors–a good white
one I want. Now here’s one. A hundred dollars? Something better than
that. This one now? A hundred and fifty? And this one? A hundred and
seventy-five, is it? And here’s a two hundred one, you say? But here’s a
better one, isn’t it? It’s a bigger one, anyway. Only a hundred and
eighty? Like men, aren’t they–the biggest not always the best? Like
men, yes–and like women, too–the showiest not always the best. I’ll
take this one, the two hundred and fifty dollar lad. Martin, how do you
like that? Would a young woman be pleased with that, d’y’ think?”
“The woman, skipper, that wouldn’t be pleased with that ought to be hove
over the rail.”
“Well, I hope we won’t have to heave nobody over the rail. But pick out
a little somethin’ for yourself, Martin-boy. There’s somethin’ there’d
go fine in your necktie when you’re ashore. Hush, hush, boy–take it,
and don’t talk. And now”–to the man behind the case–“how much all
told? This little pin for myself, too.”
“Two hundred and fifty, and twenty for your friend’s pin, and the little
thing for yourself, five dollars– I’ll throw that in Captain–two
hundred and seventy. And if you have a mind to change that diamond any
time, we’ll be willing to give you something else for it.”
Patsie looked down at the floor and then up at the salesman. “I don’t
think I’ll want to change it. I mayn’t have any use for it, but whether
I do or not, you won’t see it back here any more. Let’s be movin’,
He led the way out and away from Main Street and stopped on a corner.
“Martin, do you wait under the lee of this house whilst I jogs on a bit.
’Tisn’t long I’ll be gone. Swing off when you see me headin’ back, and
wait for me at the bottom of the hill.”
Martin waited, but not for long. It seemed to him that he had taken no
more than a dozen drags of his pipe when he saw his skipper coming back.
Down the hill went Martin, and after him came his skipper.
Not a word said Patsie Oddie until they were on Main Street again. Then
it was only, “The stores’ll be aboard by now, don’t you think, Martin?”
“They ought to, Skipper.”
“Then we’ll put out.” He threw a glance at the sky and then a look to
the flag on the Custom House as they turned off Main Street to go down
to the dock. At the head of the dock they met Wesley Marrs.
“Hulloh Patsie,” said Wesley.
“Hulloh Wesley,” said Patsie. “Go on to the vessel, you, Martin, and
tell them to make sail. I’ll follow on.” Then, when Martin had gone on
ahead, “When’d you get in, Wesley?”
“Just shot in.”
“How’s it outside?”
“Plenty of the one kind,” said Wesley. “Anybody that likes it no’west
ought to be pleased. Tack, tack, tack, for every blessed foot of the
way. All but put in to Shelburne once to give the crew a rest. Night and
day, tack, tack, tack– I cal’late the rudder post’s worn ’most out. Yes,
sir. And never a let-up choppin’ ice–had to, to keep her from sinkin’
under us. Fourteen days from Fortune Bay that I’ve run in fifty-odd
hours in the _Lucy_ with the wind to another quarter. Man, but I was
beginnin’ to think the baby’d be grown a man afore I’d see him again.
Well, I’m off, Patsie.”
“Where to? Home, of course.”
“Of course–the baby and the wife. Patsie, but you ought to marry.
You’ll never be half a man till you marry.”
“Yes? And who’ll I marry?”
“Oh, some nice, fine girl. Man, but there’s whole schools of girls’d
jump to marry you–whole schools, man. Heave your seine and you’d get a
deck-load of ’em–or a dory-load, anyway.”
“No, nor a dory-load, nor a single one caught by the gills in
mistake–me that has no more learnin’ than a husky out o’ Greenland. Not
me, Wesley, that can’t read my own name unless it’s wrote in plain
print, and that c’n only find my way about by dead reckonin’. I c’n haul
the log, and, knowin’ her course and allowin’ for tides and one thing or
another that’s set down and the other things that aren’t set down, but
which a man knows nat’rally—-”
“Yes, Patsie, and knows it better than nineteen out o’ twenty that has
sextants and quadrants, and can run them–what do they call ’em–sumner
“Well, maybe as well as some, Wesley. But, Wesley, girls aren’t lookin’
for the likes o’ me. Patsie Oddie’ll do to handle a vessel, maybe, and
he’ll take her where any other man that sails the sea’ll take her, and
he’ll bring her home again. And he’s good enough to get the fish and
bring them to market, to hang out in a blow, to carry sail till all’s
blue, and the like o’ that. But his style don’t go these days, Wesley.
No, there may be schools o’ girls swimmin’ around somewheres, but
they’re divin’ the twine when Patsie Oddie makes a set. Anyway, it
wouldn’t make any difference to me if whole rafts of ’em was to come
swimmin’ alongside and poke their heads up and say, ‘Come and take me.’
I’m one o’ them queer kind, Wesley, that only goes after one girl. And I
set for her–and didn’t get her.”
Wesley said nothing to that for a while. Then it was: “Well, Patsie,
never mind. I didn’t think when I spoke first. I’ll say, though, that I
don’t think much of the girl that wouldn’t stand watch with you if you
asked her. If she wanted a man, Patsie, I’m sure I don’t know where
she’d get a better one–that’s if it’s a _man_ she wanted. If she don’t
want a man, but only a smooth kind of arrangement that plays a banjo or
c’n stand up to a pianner and sing, ‘I loves yer, I loves yer,’ or some
other damn mess–and the same to every girl that looks his way–one of
the kind that’s hell ashore, but can’t take in sail in a gale without
washin’ a couple of men over the lee-rail, one of the kind that gives
this way and that to every tide that ebbs and flows, like a red-painted
whistlin’ buoy–why, then, maybe somebody else’d look prettier swashin’
around for the people to look at and make use of. Maybe,” went on
Wesley, “she’d take a notion to some bucko like Artie Orcutt that just
lost the _Neptune_. Heard of it?”
“’Twas in the papers this mornin’, so they tell me. I’m not much of a
hand to read papers, you know.”
“Well, he lost his vessel and ten of his men, and ought to lose his
papers. With half a man’s courage and a quarter of the seamanship any
master of a vessel oughter have, he’d’ve saved his vessel and all his
men. He c’n thank the _Lucy Foster’s_ ableness and the courage of some
of her crew that a soul of them got home at all. They came home with
us–all but Orcutt–from Fortune Bay. He was goin’ to get a passage over
to St. Pierre and wait a while there.”
“My!” said Patsie, “that’ll be a bad bit o’ news to Delia.”
“Yes, Orcutt is the man. I think ’tis him, anyways. I know he used to
hang around there when I was to sea–and a word dropped this mornin’– It
must be somebody; and who but him?”
Wesley looked at Patsie. “Well, if it is him, may the Lord forgive me
for pickin’ him off. I wish I’d knowed it, though maybe, after all, I
couldn’t ’a’ managed it to leave him and take the others. Oh, well, it’s
all in the year’s fishin’. He’s lucky. Maybe he’ll live to teach this
girl of his what a man oughtn’t be, though I don’t suppose you’ll care
so much about it by the time she’s learned the lesson. Man, but I can’t
believe Delia Corrigan’d throw you for Artie Orcutt. No, Patsie, I
can’t. But here’s the Anchorage fair on our beam. What d’y’ say to a
little touch, hah? A pretty cold morning, Patsie.”
“I don’t mind, Wesley.”
“What’ll it be to, Patsie?” Wesley raised his glass and waited for
Patsie. They were leaning against the rail by that time.
“What to? Oh, to the _Neptune’s_ gang–the whole ten of ’em.”
“Sure enough–the whole ten. Here’s a shoot–but hold up. Which ten,
Patsie–the ten lost or the ten saved?”
“The ten saved? To hell with the ten saved!” said Patsie–“the Lord’s
looked out for them that’s saved.” Patsie raised his glass: “Here’s to
them that died.”
“Them that died? H’m–and yet I don’t know but what you’re right.
They’ve got their share, come to think–you’ve got it right, Patsie.
Here’s to them that was lost.” And Wesley gulped his liquor down.
“And which way, Patsie?” Wesley inquired after the return drink.
“To the east’ard,” said Patsie.
“To the east’ard, is it? Well, I don’t need to say fair wind to you, for
you’ve got it. This wind holds, and you’ll be heavin’ trawls in that
fav’rite spot of yours on Sable Island no’th-east bar in forty hours or
so. I cal’late you’ll keep on fishing there till some fine day you get
caught. Well, good luck and drive her, Patsie, till you’re back again.”
And Wesley swung off for his wife and baby.
“Drive her,” Wesley had said, and certainly Patsie Oddie drove her that
trip to the east’ard. Before a whistling gale and under four whole lower
sails the _Delia_ went away from Eastern Point and across the Bay of
Fundy like a ghost in torment. Two or three new men, not yet in full
sympathy with their skipper, began to inquire what it all meant. They
could see the sense of driving a vessel like that on a passage home, but
On that passage to the east’ard only the watch stayed on deck where a
man had his choice–the watch and the Skipper–the Skipper walking the
quarter and dodging the seas that came after her between little lines of
some song he was humming to himself. Every man on coming below after a
watch spoke of the Skipper and his singing, but only a word did they
catch now and then to remember afterward.
“Out in the snow and the gale they rowed,
And no man saw them more,”
was what one caught.
“And a fine thing that, to be singing on a cold winter’s night with a
howling gale behind and the seas breaking over her quarter. Yes, a fine
thing, that,” said the crew, in the security of the cabin below.
“And no man saw them more—-”
Some men lost in dories the skipper must have been talking about, and
“And should it be the Lord’s decree
Some day to lay me in the sea,
There’ll be no woman to mourn for me–
For that, O Lord, here’s thanks to Thee!”
under his breath generally, but his voice rising now and then with the
Martin Carr, who happened to be at the wheel just then, made out that
snatch of his skipper’s song as he walked the tumbling quarter. And he
kept walking the quarter, walking the quarter–and a cold night it was
for a man to be walking the quarter–a word to the watch once in a
while, but saying nothing mostly, except to croon the savage songs to
Surely nothing peaceful was coming out of that kind of a song, thought
watch after watch, bracing themselves at the wheel to meet each new
blast of the no’-west wind.
In the morning he was still there walking the quarter–less mournful,
perhaps, but in a savage humor. Men who had sailed with him for years
did not know what to make of it. There was the incident of the big bark,
a good part of whose sail had evidently been blown away and the most of
what was left tied up. Under the smallest possible canvas she was
heading close up to the wind and making small way of it.
“Why the divil don’t they heave her to entirely!” snapped Patsie. “Look
at her, will ye, the size of her and the sail she’s carryin’, and then
the size of this little one and the sail _she’s_ carryin’.”
The men chopping ice on the bark’s deck stood transfixed as they saw the
little _Delia_ sweep by. Under her four lowers, and going like the
blizzard itself was she, with a big bearded man, wrapped to his eyes in
a great-coat, waving his arms and swearing across the white-topped seas
“And did you never see a vessel afore?” barked Patsie. “Well, look your
fill, then, and get our name while you’re about it, and report us, will
you?–the _Delia Corrigan_, Gloucester, and doin’ her fifteen knots
good, will you?”
And then, turning away to his own: “The likes o’ some of ’em oughtn’t be
allowed a cable-length off shore. Their mothers ought to be spoke to
about it. There’s a fellow there ought to be going along about his
business–and look at him, hove to! Waitin’ for it to moderate! Lord,
think of it–as fine a day as this and waitin’ for it to moderate! The
sun shinin’, and as nice a green sea as ever a man’d want to look at!
It’s the like o’ them that loses vessels and men–makes widows and
So much for his crew. Then a dark look ahead and beyond the green and
white seas that were sweeping by the _Delia’s_ bow, while the bearded
lips moved wrathfully. “Ten men lost, blast him! And drinkin’ wine,
maybe, in Saint Peer now, if we c’d only see him! Yes, and he’ll come
back to Gloucester with a divil of a fine story to tell. ’Tis a hero
he’ll make himself out to be. Looked in the face o’ death and escaped,
he’ll say–blast him!”
* * * * *
Sable Island–sometimes, and not too extravagantly, termed the Graveyard
of the Atlantic–is set among shoal waters that afford the best of
feeding-ground for the particular kinds of fish that Gloucestermen most
desire–halibut, cod, haddock, and what not–and so to its shoal waters
do the fishermen come to trawl or hand-line.
Lying about east and west, a flat quarter moon in shape, is Sable
Island. Two long bars, extending north-westerly and north-easterly, make
of it a full deep crescent. Nowhere is the fishing so good (or so
dangerous) as close in on these bars, and the closer in and the shoaler
the water, the better the fishing. There are a few men alive in
Gloucester who have been in close enough to see the surf break on the
bare bar; but that was in soft weather and the bar to windward, and they
invariably got out in a hurry.
Two hundred and odd wrecks of one kind or another, steam and sail, have
settled in the sands of Sable Island. Of this there is clear and
indisputable record. How many good vessels have been driven ashore on
the long bars on dark and stormy nights or in the whirls of snowstorms
and swallowed up in the fine sand before ever mortal eye could make note
of their disappearing hulls, there is no telling.
Gloucester fishermen need no tabulated statement to remind them that the
bones of hundreds of their kind are bleaching on the sands of Sable
Island, and yet of all the men who sail the sea they are the only class
that do not give it wide berth in winter. And of all the skippers who
resorted to the north-east bar in winter, Patsie Oddie was pre-eminent.
Some there were who said he was reckless, but those that knew him best
answered that it would be recklessness indeed if he did not know the
place; if he did not know every knoll and gully of it that man could
know, including gullies and knolls that were not down on charts–and
never would be, because the men that made the charts would never go in
where Patsie Oddie had gone and sounded when the weather allowed.
It was on the Sable Island grounds–the north-east bar–that the
_Delia_, after a slashing passage, let go her anchor on the morning of
the second day. Twenty fathoms of water it was, shoal enough water any
time, but good and shoal for that time of the year, when gales that made
lee shore of the bar were frequent. The _Delia’s_ crew were not
worrying, though; they gloried in their skipper.
Lying there close in, with the wind north-west, the _Delia_ was in the
lee of the north-east bar, and that first day, too, was not at all
rough. And the fish were thick there, and as fine and fat as man would
want to see. Fifteen thousand of halibut and ten thousand of good
cod–certainly that was a great day’s work. Was it not worth fishing
close in to get a haul like that? Turning in that night they were all
thinking what a fine day they had made of it, and wondering if the
fellow they had seen to the eastward–in deeper and safer water–had
done so well. But they all felt sure he had not. “In the morning,” said
Martin Carr, “he’ll get up his courage and come in and give us a
look-over, and finding we did so well, maybe he’ll anchor close in and
make a set, too.”
Nobody saw him in the morning, however, for it came on thick of snow and
the wind to the eastward. Wind in that quarter would be bad, of course,
if it breezed up; but it had not yet breezed up, and the _Delia’s_ crew
were not minding any mere possibility. It was not too bad to put the
dories over, and between squalls they hauled again, heaving up the
anchor, however, before leaving the vessel, so that their skipper could
stand down and pick them up flying.
“We’ll clear out, I’m thinkin’, for to-night,” said Patsie when they
were all hauled. And clear out they did, which was well, too, for that
night the wind increased to a bad gale, and, safe and snug below,
alongside the hot stove or under the bright lamp, it did them all good
to think that the north-east bar was not under their lee.
Even when they were jogging that night it looked bad; but they knew they
might do it and live. They had to keep an eye out, of course, and stand
ready to stand off in a hurry, for should it come too bad it would mean
lively work to get out.
Safe away to the eastward of them, watch after watch of the _Delia_
stamping about deck could make out the riding light of the other vessel
“In the mornin’, whoever he is, he’ll be gettin’ his courage up, and
maybe he’ll drop down,” said the _Delia’s_ crew.
They were in great good-humor. And well they might be, with twenty-five
thousand of halibut and fifteen thousand of fine cod after two days’
fishing. Yes, well they might be–halibut sixteen and eighteen cents a
pound when they left Gloucester.
It was worth taking chances to get fish like that; and with a skipper
who knew the bar as most men know their own kitchens, who could foretell
the weather better than all the glasses in the country, who could keep
run of a vessel and tell you where you were any time of the day or night
out of his head–no need for him to be everlastingly digging out charts
and taking sights–they were safe. Yes, sir, they were safe with this
man. Fishing in twenty fathoms of water in that kind of weather looked
bad–very bad–and they would not care to try it with everybody in heavy
weather, but with a short scope and with Patsie Oddie on the
quarter–why, that was a different matter altogether.
In the morning it was so thick that they could not see a length ahead;
so the skipper, to be safe, kept the lead going. That afternoon it
cleared, and they saw to anchor, but now inside of them, their neighbor
of the day before.
Patsie Oddie looked her over. “What do you call her?” he asked finally
of Martin Carr.
“The _Eldorado_ or the _Alhambra_– I wouldn’t want to say which, they
bein’ alike as two herrin’.”
“That’s right–they do look alike, Martin. But she’s the
_Eldorado_– Fred Watson. But what’s got into him this trip? Generally he
fishes farther off. But ’tis Watson’s vessel, anyway, and the blessed
fool’s got his dories out. He must be drunk–if he isn’t foolish. But he
don’t drink–not gen’rally. What ails him at all? She’ll be draggin’
soon, if she isn’t already. He don’t seem to know too much about that
swell in there with an easterly wind– I misdoubt he ever fished in so
close before–and if he don’t let go his other anchor he’ll soon be
where a hundred anchors won’t do him any good. And look at where some of
his dories are now!”
Getting nervous under the strain, Oddie stood down and hailed the two
men in the dory farthest from the _Eldorado_. They said they did not
know quite what to do–no signal to haul had yet been hoisted on the
vessel. They guessed, though, they would hang on a while longer.
Patsie understood their feelings. No fisherman wants to be the first to
cut and go for the vessel, and so lose fish and gear also. Losses of
that kind have to be shared by the men equally. Not only that, but to
have somebody look across the table at supper and say, “And so there
were some that cut their gear and ran for it to-day, I hear?” No, men
face a good bit of danger before that.
In the next of the _Eldorado’s_ dories they were pretty nervous, but
said that as long as the others were not cutting they were not going to.
“That’s right,” said Patsie, “that’s the way to feel about it. But take
my advice and you’ll buoy your trawls and come aboard of me. It’s goin’
to be the divil to pay on this bar to-night–and in these short days
’twill soon be night.”
And they, knowing Patsie Oddie’s reputation, buoyed their trawls and
came aboard the _Delia Corrigan_. And after that Patsie picked up three
more dories out of the blinding snow and took them aboard the _Delia_.
By the time Patsie had those four dories of the _Eldorado_ safe, it was
too rough to attempt to put the men aboard their own vessel. “But I’ll
stand down and hail her fer ye,” said Patsie.
Now all this time it never occurred to Patsie Oddie that anybody but
Fred Watson was master of the _Eldorado_. In the hurry and bustle of
picking up the stray dories, there had been no time to talk of anything
but the work in hand; and so his immense surprise when he made out Artie
Orcutt standing by the quarter rail of the _Eldorado_, and so his anger
when Orcutt called out before he himself had a chance to hail: “If
you’re getting so all-fired jealous of me, Patsie Oddie, that you can’t
even see me get a good haul of fish without you trying to steal it from
The rest of it was lost in the wind, but there was enough in that much
to make Patsie Oddie almost leap into the air. “So it’s you, is it?
Lord, and I’d known that, you c’n be sure I’d never tried to help you
out.” That was under his breath, with only a few near by to hear him.
He wanted to say a whole lot more, and say it good and hard, evidently,
but he did not. All he did say to Orcutt before bearing away was, “You
take my advice, Artie Orcutt, and you’ll let go your second anchor.”
Just that, and sheered off and left him.
“And how comes it Artie Orcutt’s got the _Eldorado_?” he then asked of
one of the men he had picked up.
“He came aboard at Saint Peer, where we put in with Captain Watson sick
of the fever. He came aboard there and took charge.”
“H’m!” Oddie stroked his beard and smiled–smiled grimly. “I don’t see
but what he brought it on himself.” But that last as though he were
talking to himself.
He looked over toward the _Eldorado_ again. “I can’t see that we can
help him, anyway,” he said again, and the grim smile deepened. “We might
just as well go below–there’s the cook’s call. Have your supper, boys,
and we’ll sway up, sheet in and stand out. Whatever Orcutt does, I know
I’ll not hang around here this night.”
With the words of their skipper to point the way, most of the _Delia’s_
crew agreed that, after all, it was not their funeral. Lord knows, a
crew had enough to do to look out for their own vessel in that spot in
bad weather. And as for Artie Orcutt– Lord, they all knew _him_ and what
_he’d_ do if ’twas the other way about–if ’twas the _Delia_ was in
But it was not Orcutt alone. There were nine others. That phase of it
the crew argued out below, and that was what they agreed their skipper
must be wrestling with up on deck.
The lights gleamed out of forec’s’le and cabin as hatches were slid and
closed again, with watch after watch coming and going, but Oddie stayed
there on deck. It was a bad deck to walk, too, the vessel pitching
heavily and the big seas every once in a while breaking over her. But
the Skipper seemed to pay no attention, only stamped, stamped, stamped
The men passed the word in the morning. “Walkin’, walkin’, walkin’,
always walkin’, speak-in’ aloud to himself once in a while. Man, but if
he’s savin’ it up for anybody, I wouldn’t want to be that partic’lar
party when he’s made up his mind to unload.”
And what was it his soul was wrestling with? What would any man’s soul
be wrestling with if he saw whereby a rival might be disposed of for
good and for all? Especially when that rival was the kind of a man that
the woman in the case could not but realize after a great while was not
the right kind–that no woman could continue to respect, let alone love.
And then? He had only to let him alone now–say no word, and there it
was–destruction as certain as the wind and sea that were making, as
certain as the sun that was rising somewhere to the east’ard.
All that, and the primal passions of Patsie Oddie for the untamed soul
of Patsie Oddie to contend with. No wonder he looked like another man in
the morning–that in the agony of it all he groaned–and he a strong
man–groaned, yes, and pressed his hands to his eyes as one who would
shut out the sight of horrid images. Only to think of Patsie Oddie
groaning! Yet groan he did, and questioned his soul–talking to
something inside of him as if it were another man. “But it won’t leave
me a better man before God–and God knows, too, it won’t make Delia
happier. God knows it won’t–it won’t—-”
It was light enough then for Patsie Oddie to see that the _Eldorado_ was
drifting, drifting, not rapidly as yet, but certainly and to sure
destruction, with the ten souls aboard of her doomed as so many
thousands of others had been doomed before them. And the wind was ever
making, and the sea ever rising. She had both anchors out then, as
Patsie Oddie saw, and he saw also when her chain parted. “Now she’s
draggin’,” he muttered then, and waited to see what action Orcutt would
take. “Why in God’s name don’t he do something?” and ordered the man at
the wheel on the _Delia_ to stand down.
Rounding to and laying the _Delia_ as near to the _Eldorado_ as he dared
in that sea, he roared out to Orcutt: “What in God’s name are you doing
there, Artie Orcutt? Don’t you see your one anchor can’t hold her? Cut
the spars out of her–both spars, man!”
Orcutt was frightened enough then, and in short order had the spars over
the side. That helped her, but it could not save her. It was too late.
She was still dragging–slowly, slowly, but sure as fate, and promising
to drag more rapidly as the water grew shoaler. And it was getting
shoaler all the time.
Oddie threw up his hands. “They’re goin’! To-night will see her and them
buried in the sand.” He turned to his crew, standing in subdued groups
about the _Delia’s_ deck. “I want a man to go with me in the dory. Maybe
we c’n get them off.”
There were plenty ready to go; but he wanted only one. “No,” he said to
one, “you’ve got a wife,” and to another, “You’ll be missed, too. I want
somebody nobody gives a damn about–like myself!” and took a young
fellow–there is always one such in every crew of fishermen–that swore
he had not mother, father, brother, sister, nor a blessed soul on earth
that cared whether he ever came home or was lost. And doubtless he was
telling the truth, for he certainly acted up to it. A hard case he was,
but a good fisherman. And courage? He had courage. He laughed–no
affected cackle, but a good round laugh–when he leaped over the side
and into the dory with Patsie Oddie.
“If I don’t come back,” he called to his bunkmate, “you c’n have that
diddy-box you’ve been so crazy to get–the diddy-box and all’s in it.
For the rest, you c’n all have a raffle and give the money to the
Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund, back in Gloucester.”
“Malachi-boy, but you’re a man after my own heart,” said Oddie, as the
dory lifted on to the seas and away from the shelter of the _Delia’s_
side. And Malachi laughed at that. There was what he lived for–where
Patsie Oddie praised one must have been a man.
A dory is the safest small boat that the craft of man has yet devised
for living in troubled waters. Handled properly, it will live where
ships will founder. And yet, though Patsie Oddie and Malachi Jennings
were the two men to the oars, it was too much even for the dory in that
sea; and over she went before they were half-way to the _Eldorado_. The
crew of the _Delia_, seeing them bob up, and for the time safely
clinging to the plug-strap, whisked another dory to the rail and ready,
but their Skipper waved them back.
“Pay out an empty dory!” came his voice above the wind’s opposition.
Which they did, and speedily, and Patsie and Malachi got into it; and
with great care, the two men lying in the bottom of it were hauled
alongside the _Delia_ and helped aboard.
“No man can row a dory this day,” was Patsie’s first word. “And a man
with big boots and oilskins overboard in that sea–too small a chance.
But put a longer line on that same dory and pay it out again.” Which
they did also, and in that way began to take the gang off the
Five trips of the dory were made, two of the _Eldorado’s_ crew coming
back each trip, one crouched in the stern and the other lying flat on
the bottom amidships. It was the roughest kind of a passage, and even
when the dory would come alongside the _Delia_ the most careful handling
was needed to get them safely aboard.
Orcutt, of course, was the last man to come aboard. Bad as he was, he
could do no less than that–stand by his vessel to the last. When he
came alongside the _Delia_, he rose from the bottom of the dory, his
companion having safely boarded the _Delia_, and lunged for the rail.
Never a quick man on his feet, nor quick to think and act, and now
trembling with anxiety, Orcutt made a mess of boarding. He had to stop
long enough, too, to look up at Oddie and think what a fool of a man
Oddie was altogether–a mind like a child! So, in the middle of it all,
he did not get the rise of the dory to throw him into the air. He waited
just that instant too long–it took nerve–and then he had to hurry, and
the uprise of the dory was not there to throw him into the air and on to
the _Delia’s_ rail. Clothes soaked in brine and heavy boots, a man is
not a buoyant thing in the water, and this was a heavy sea. So Orcutt,
falling between dory and vessel, went down–deep down–and when he came
up it was where the tide swept down under the vessel’s quarter.
Patsie Oddie, standing almost above him, caught the appeal of Orcutt’s
eyes, and then saw him go under again. “If he comes up again ’twill be
clear astern,” thought Oddie, “and the third time with all that gear on
him he’ll never come up–and if ’tisn’t Providence, then what is it?”
And this was a cold winter’s day, and Oddie himself soaked in sea-water.
“And if he don’t come up,” thought Oddie, “if he don’t come up– Lord
God, must I do more than I’ve done already for a man I don’t like–a
man that I know is no good–for a man in my way–a man, too, that would
no more go overboard for me, even on the calmest day, than he’d cut his
own throat?” And there was that queer smile that Orcutt had thrown at
him as he stood up in the dory– Oddie did not forget that. And then he
saw Orcutt’s sou’wester on the water and the man himself beneath it.
No more thought of that. Overboard went Oddie with all his own weight of
clothes, oilskins, woolens, and big boots, while quick-witted men hove
the bight of the main-sheet after him; and Oddie, grappling with the
smothering and frightened Orcutt, smashed him full in the face. “Blast
you, Artie Orcutt, there’s fun in beating you even here,” and hooked on
to the collar of Orcutt’s oil jacket with one hand and grabbed the
main-sheet just before the tide would have carried them out of reach.
Safe on the deck of the _Delia_, Orcutt offered his hand to Oddie, who
did not seem to notice, but said, “If you go below, Captain Orcutt,
you’ll find a change of dry clothes in my room, and you c’n turn in
there and rest yourself.”
“But I want to thank you,” said Orcutt, overwhelmed.
“Take your thanks to the divil,” said Oddie to that. “’Twas for no love
of you I stood by. You c’n have the best on this vessel, but take your
hand? Blast you, no! Go below, or I’ll throw you below.” And Orcutt went
below without delay.
It was late in the afternoon then. Even while they were hoisting that
last dory over the rail Oddie had given his orders to drive out. At
first all thought she would come clear, but in a little while they began
to doubt, and doubt turned to misgiving, and misgiving to certainty. Sea
and wind were too much for them now. In saving the _Eldorado’s_ crew
they had waited too long–the tide was now against them also–and now it
was no use. It was Oddie himself who said so at last, and went aloft
before it was too dark to take a look at the surf they were falling
He stayed aloft for about ten minutes, and when he came down all hands
knew it was to be desperate work that night.
“Put her about,” was his first order, and “Take a sounding, Martin,” his
She came about in the settling blackness and started for shoal water.
“You might’s well put her sidelights up,” he said next. “Nobody’ll get
in our road to-night–nor we in anybody else’s–but we’ll go ship-shape.
And what do you get?” he asked of Martin, when the lead came up.
“Eighteen fathom,” was the word from Martin. Eighteen fathom, and this
a winter gale and a winter sea, and the strongest of tides against them!
“Eighteen fathom and goin’ into it straight’s ever a vessel c’n go,”
said Oddie. “Wicked ’tis, but the one thing’ll make me laugh when we
“Sixteen fathom!” from Martin.
“Sixteen? She’s sure shoaling—-”
Oddie was at the wheel himself then, and the _Delia_ was beginning to
feel the pounding. They could not see the sky at all, it was that black,
but all around they could see the combers breaking white–so white that
they made a kind of light of their own. And then it was, with the Lord
knows how much wind behind them and seas mast-head high and the little
vessel taking it fair abeam, that the crew of the _Delia_ and the crew
of the _Eldorado_ guessed what was running in Patsie Oddie’s mind. He
was to drive her across the bar! With all the sail in the _Delia_ on
her, to let her take the full force of it and bang her across the
shoals, where soon there would not be enough water to let her set up on
an even keel!
Martin Carr was heaving the lead all the time, and all noted how he made
himself heard when it came to ten fathom.
“Ten fathom!” the crew repeated, and murmured it over till one got
courage to ask, “Is it going to drown us you are, Captain Oddie?”
“I’m trying to save you, boys,” he answered, and his voice was as tender
as could be and yet be heard above a roaring gale.
“Nine and a half,” and then, “Nine fathom!” came from Martin Carr,
barely able to hold his place by the rail, the vessel was pitching so.
It was at eight fathoms that Artie Orcutt raised a cry of protest, and,
hearing that, Oddie ordered Martin to sound no more. “Bring the lead
here, Martin,” said Oddie, and taking a big bait knife he always kept on
the house, with one stroke cut the lead-line off short. Then he opened
the slide of the cabin companion-way and hove the lead on to the cabin
floor with a “There, now, maybe we _are_ goin’ to be lost. I think
myself that maybe we will, but some of ye mayn’t die of fright now,
She was fair into it then, making wild work of it, with Oddie himself to
the wheel, and all his great strength needed to hold her. He called one
of his men to help him once, and he, feeling the full force of it, now
and again would start to ease her up a little, but the moment a spoke
went down so much as a hair’s breadth Patsie Oddie’s big arms would work
the other way. “Maybe you think this is a place to tack ship,” Oddie
said once, and the wheel stayed up and she took it full force.
How Oddie ever expected to save the _Delia_ nobody ever knew, beyond
trying to lift her across with the sheer weight of the wind to her
sails. And that would be sheer luck, such luck as had never befallen a
vessel in their plight before. Other men of courage with stout vessels
must have tried that, they knew, and none of them had ever got over, nor
come back to tell how close they came to it.
And that was all there was to it–sheer luck, Oddie would have told
them, had they asked him. And yet it was not luck altogether. True, he
knew no channel across–there was no channel across–and yet he knew
there were little gullies scooped out here and there on the sand-ridges.
And if a man could make one now and one again, jumping over the almost
dry beach, as it were, between them–who knows?–it might be done. On a
black night like this nobody could see the gullies, or on any kind of a
night, for that matter; but then there was that something–he did not
know what to call it–inside of him that told him the things he could
not hear nor see nor feel. And then again, let a vessel alone, and she
will naturally shy for the deep water. Force her with the rudder, and
she will go where the rudder sends her. Oddie forced her, but only to
make her take the full weight of the wind. It was necessary to drive her
over if ever she was to get over at all. That same something inside told
him when her nose was nearing the high shoals–it came to him as if her
quivering planks carried the message; there it was, put her off now, and
now again, now hold her that the wind may have its lifting effect, now
let her go and she’ll find the way. That was the way of it–bang, bang,
bang, on her side mostly, with her planks smashing against the bare
bottom as she drove over the sand-ridges–her stem rushing through at an
awful clip when she found a gully a little deeper than usual.
The great seas broached over her, and it became dangerous to remain on
deck. So Oddie ordered all hands below and the slides drawn tight after
them, fore and aft.
“I don’t see the difference whether we’re washed off up here or drowned
below,” said one. “Go below, just the same,” said Oddie, and below they
all went, while Oddie, lashing himself hard and fast, prepared for what
further fury wind and sea had in store for himself and the _Delia_.
It was a sea to batter a lighthouse down. It takes shoal water for
wicked seas, and this certainly was shoal water, with the sand off
bottom swirling around deck. A noble vessel was the _Delia_, but when
the sea took charge that night everything was swept clean from her
decks. Dories first–her own eight and the four of the _Eldorado’s_ that
had been picked up, twelve in all–went with one smash. Oddie allowed
himself a little pang as he watched them and heard the crash. It was too
dark to see them clearly; but he knew how they looked, floating off in
the white combers in kindling-wood. The booby-hatches went next, and
after them the gurry-kids–match-wood all. Everything that was not
bolted went. The very rails went at last, crackling from the stanchions
as if they were cigar-box sides when they did go.
“‘Twill be the house next,” muttered Oddie. “And then her planks will
come wide apart–and then—-” He rolled it between his teeth. “Well,
then we’ll all go together. But”–he locked his jaws again–“drive her
you must, Patsie Oddie,” and bang, bang, smash, bang, and smash again he
held her to it.
And in the morning she came clear; still an awful sea on and wind to
tear the heart out of the ocean itself, but clear water–beautiful,
clear water. By the morning light he saw what he could not see in the
dark night, that her port anchor was gone from her bow–scraped off
against the bottom–and that her decks were covered with the sand off
the bottom also; but she herself–his darling _Delia_–was all right.
There was nothing gone that could not be replaced–maybe a bit loose in
the seams, but, Lord, Gloucester was full of good calkers–and now they
had the beautiful clear water. God be praised! And, after all, if never
a woman in all the world smiled on him again, ’twas worth while saving
Oddie drew the slide back from the cabin companion-way. “Set the watch,”
he called, and the first on watch, Martin Carr, came up and took the
wheel from him.
“Gloucester,” said Oddie–“you know the course, Martin. And be easy on
her. ’Tisn’t in nature for a vessel not to loosen a bit after last
night, but there’ll be nothing the pumps won’t clear. I know that by the
heave of her under me. She’s all right, Martin–a great vessel. We owe
our lives to her ableness this night, but pump her out,” and went below
to draw off his boots. His legs were so swollen that he had to split the
leather from knee to heel to get them off, and when he turned them
upside down sand ran out of the legs of them. “A wild night,” he said,
and looked curiously at the sand–a wild night it was–“and I’m tired.
Since leavin’ Gloucester I’ve not seen my bunk. Call me in two hours,”
and turned in on the floor and fell instantly asleep.
After a storm it should be good to see the fine green water rippling
again under the sun, but to Patsie Oddie it brought no sense of joy. He
only glowered and glowered as down the coast he sailed the _Delia_. Even
the sight of Cape Sable, which generally brings a smile to the faces of
fishermen homeward bound, had no effect on him. He drove her on, and
even seemed to welcome the cold nor’-wester that met him when he
straightened out for what in a fair wind, and his vessel tight, would
have been one long last riotous leg.
He smashed into that nor’-wester, and it smashed into him. Tack, tack,
tack–the _Delia_ did not have her own way all the time. Three days and
three nights it was, with the able _Delia_ gradually encasing herself in
ice. Only the ice seemed to please Patsie Oddie. The day he left
Gloucester it had been just like that on incoming vessels. And that was
a bitter day, and it was a bitter day again when he was coming back–and
not with cold alone. Ice, ice, ice–“Let her ice up,” and from Cape
Sable to the slip in Gloucester Harbor he kept her going.
The _Delia_ was no sooner tied to the dock than away went the crew of
the _Eldorado_. Away also went the _Delia’s_ crew as soon as they had
tidied things up and the Skipper had given the word.
Patsie himself did not hurry. There was nothing for him to hurry for.
So he cleaned up, changed his clothes, locked the cabin of the _Delia_,
and went slowly up the dock.
He was hailed on the way by any number of people–fishermen, dealers,
lumpers, idlers. Those who knew him tendered congratulations or shook
hands, slapped him on the shoulder–he had done a fine thing. Some there
were who stood in awe of him, only looked at him, examined face and
figure for further indications of the daring of the man. The whole
water-front was talking over it. Rapidly the whole town was learning it.
Patsie nodded, shook hands, said, “How is it here?” and “Thank ye
kindly,” and went on his way to the owner’s store. He reckoned up his
trip, ordered a few things immediately needed on the vessel, and said,
“That’s all I’m thinkin’ for now,” and went up the street. On the way he
passed Delia Corrigan’s house. He did not mean to, but he could not help
it–he looked up for sign of her as he got abreast of the windows. There
she was, cold as it was, window raised and calling to him. He waited to
make sure, and she again said, “Won’t you come in?”
Patsie went up the steps and into the snug livingroom, where Delia was
waiting–a rosy, wholesome-looking young woman, now bravely trying to
“Home again, Patsie?”
“Home again, Delia–yes.”
“And a fine thing you did.”
“No fine thing that I can see to it. There were men on a vessel that
might have been lost, and I took them off and gave them a passage home.”
“You left me in a hurry that morning, Patsie. You shouldn’t have rushed
out so. After you were gone Captain Marrs stepped in to tell me about
his rescue of Captain Orcutt and part of his crew. And then he began to
tell me other things–about you. He’s a good friend of yours, Patsie. It
was good to listen to him, though I knew it all before–and more. Don’t
fear that all the good things you did aren’t known to me. But after a
time I began to see what it was he meant, and without letting him finish
I ran out to see you. But you were gone. I could just see your vessel
going out by the Point in all that gale. You put to sea in all that
“Put to sea? Yes, and lucky I did, maybe, for I was no more than in time
to bring back the man you want–and he’d never seen Gloucester again if
“Who was that?”
“Who was that? Why, Delia!”
“Who was that?”
“Who? Why, who but Orcutt.”
“Captain Orcutt? No, Patsie–it wasn’t Orcutt. He did come back in your
vessel, the man I want–but it wasn’t Orcutt.”
“Not Orcutt? Not Orcutt?”
“No, not Orcutt. Oh, Patsie, but it is hard on a woman! Oh, if you only
knew what a hard man you are to make understand! I suppose I have to do
it–you’re that backward yourself. It’s hard on me, Patsie, but you’ll
go no more to sea in a gale, and me here shaking with fear for you. You
did bring back the man I want, Patsie. Over Sable Island bar he drove
the _Delia_, but it wasn’t Orcutt.”
Patsie, trembling, stared at her. “Not Orcutt, Delia?”
“Patsie, I’ve said it a dozen times. It wasn’t Orcutt, and yet ’twas
somebody in your vessel. Oh, why did you mistake me that morning,
Patsie? Would I be a woman and not have a word of pity for a man that
came so nigh being lost as Captain Orcutt would have been but for Wesley
Marrs? And you are such a backward man, Patsie. Don’t you hear me,
Patsie? Then look at me, dear–look at me–it wasn’t– And who can it be?
Who was it, Patsie, that drove the _Delia_ over Sable Island bar,
himself to the wheel?”
“Oh!” gasped Patsie–“Delia mavourneen, mavourneen, mavourneen!”
He drew back a step, got another look at her face, and clasped her
again. “And ’twas me all the time, asthore?”
“You all the time. And if you hadn’t been in such a hurry I’d have told
you that morning.”
“Oh, Delia, Delia,” and from his beard she caught the murmur–“and the
black, black night I put in on Sable Island bar! Oh, the black, black
night I almost left him and his men to die. Oh, Delia, Delia, there was
hate and murder in my heart that night.”
“Never mind that now, Patsie. You had it out with yourself, and it
wasn’t hate nor murder at the last, Patsie.”
“Delia, dear, but ’tis a wicked man couldn’t be good with you,” and
gathered her to him.
“But what, alanna?”
“My breath, dear.” She raised her head and looked into his eyes.
“Patsie, Patsie, but the strength of you!”