The soldier had gone only as far as the second dog’s treasure-room, when Maggie came to the door to say that supper was ready. From between the dining-room curtains came the soft glow of the candles and the inviting clink of dishes. “’He threw—away all the copper—money he had, and filled his—knapsack with silver,’” Kirk finished in a hurry, and shut the book with a bang.
“I wouldn’t have done that,” he said, as Felicia took the hand he held out for some one to take; “I should think all the money he could possibly get would have been useful.”
“You’ve said it!” Ken laughed.
“Yes,” Mrs. Sturgis murmured with a sigh, “all the money one can get is useful. You read it very beautifully, darling—thank you.”
She kissed his forehead, and took her place at the head of the table, where the candles lit her gentle face and her brown eyes—filled now, with a sudden brimming tenderness.
The town ran, in its lower part, to the grimy water-front, where there was ever a noise of the unloading of ships, the shouts of teamsters, and the clatter of dray-horses’ big hoofs on bare cobblestones. Ken liked to walk there, even on such a dreary March day as this, when the horses splashed through puddles, and the funnels of the steamers dripped sootily black. He had left Felicia in the garden, investigating the first promise of green under the leaf-coverlet of the perennial bed. Kirk was with her, questing joyously down the brick path, and breathing the warm, wet smell of the waking earth.
Ken struck down to the docks; even before he reached the last dingy street he could see the tall masts of a sailing-ship rising above the warehouse roofs. It was with a quickened beat of the heart that he ran the last few steps, and saw her in all her quiet dignity—the Celestine, four-masted schooner. It was not often that sailing vessels came into this port. Most of the shipping consisted of tugs with their barges, high black freighters, rust-streaked; and casual tramp steamers battered by every wind from St. John’s to Torres Straits. The Celestine was, herself, far from being a pleasure yacht. Her bluff bows were salt-rimed and her decks bleached and weather-bitten. But she towered above her steam-driven companions with such stalwart grace, such simple perfection, that Ken caught his breath, looking at her.
The gang-plank was out, for she lay warped in to one of the wharves, and Ken went aboard and leaned at the rail beside a square man in a black jersey, who chewed tobacco and squinted observantly at the dock. From this person, at first inclined to be taciturn, Ken learned that the Celestine was sailing the next night, bound for Rio de Janeiro, “and mebbe further.” Rio de Janeiro! And here she lay quietly at the slimy wharf, beyond which the gray northern town rose in a smoky huddle of chimney-pots.