Behind Ken, some of the crew began hoisting the foresail to dry. He heard the rhythmic squeak of the halliards through the sheaves, and the scrape of the gaff going up.
“Go ’n lend ’em a hand, boy, since yer so gone on it,” the jerseyed one recommended quite understandingly. So Ken went and hauled at a rope, and watched the great expanse of sodden gray canvas rise and shiver and straighten into a dark square against the sky. He imagined himself one of the crew of the Celestine, hoisting the foresail in a South American port.
“I’d love to roll to Rio
Some day before I’m old...”
The sail rose steadily to the unsung chorus. Ken was quite happy.
He walked all the way home—it was a long walk—with his head full of plans for a seafaring life, and his nostrils still filled with the strange, fascinating, composite smell of the docks.
Felicia met him at the gate. She looked quite done for, he thought, and she caught his sleeve.
“Where have you been?” she said, with a queer little excited hitch in her voice. “I’ve been almost wild, waiting for you. Mother’s headache is horribly worse; she’s gone to bed. A letter came this morning, I don’t know what, but I think it has something to do with her being so ill. She simply cries and cries—a frightening sort of crying—and says, ‘I can’t—can’t!’ and wants Father to tell her what to do.”
They were in the hall by this time.
“Wants Father!” Ken said gravely. “Have you got the doctor, Phil?”
“Not yet; I wanted to ask you.”
Ken ran upstairs. Halfway, he tumbled over something crouched beside the banisters. It was Kirk, quite wretched. He caught Ken’s ankle.
“Mother’s crying,” he said; “I can hear her. Oh, do something, Ken!”
“I’m going to,” said his brother. “Don’t sit here in the dark and make yourself miserable.”
He recollected that the landing was no darker for Kirk than any other place, and added: “You’re apt to be stepped on here—I nearly smashed you. Hop along and tell Maggie that I’m as hungry as an ostrich.” But however hungry Ken may have been as he trudged home from the docks, he was not so now. A cold terror seized him as he leaned above his mother, who could not, indeed, stop her tears, nor tell him more than that she could not bear it, she could not. Ken had never before felt quite so helpless. He wished, as much as she, that his father were there to tell them what to do—his tall, quiet father, who had always counseled so well. He breathed a great thankful sigh when the doctor came in, with Felicia, white faced, peeping beside his shoulder. Ken said, “I’m glad you’ll take charge, sir,” and slipped out.
He and Felicia stood in Kirk’s room, silently, and after what seemed an eternity, the doctor came out, tapping the back of his hand with his glasses. He informed them, with professional lack of emotion, that their mother was suffering from a complete nervous breakdown, from which it might take her months to recover.