“Gee, think of living there in Winter!” said Perry awedly.
“Guess Petit Manan isn’t as bad as some of the islands along here, at that,” said Joe. “Some of them are a lot further from the mainland. Remember Matinicus?”
“Think of folks living on them,” murmured Han. “They must be merry places in Winter with a blizzard blowing around! Lonely, wow!”
“Remember the white yacht we passed the other day near Burnt Coal?” asked Phil, looking up from the book he was reading. “The Sunbeam was the name of her. Well, a chap was telling me yesterday about her. It seems she’s a sort of Mission boat, the Sea Coast Mission, I think it’s called. The folks that live on these off-shore islands along here were in pretty bad shape a few years ago, bad shape in every way. There were no schools, or mighty few, and no churches, and the folks were just naturally pegging out from sheer loneliness and—and lack of ambition, just drifting right back into a kind of semi-civilized state, as folks do on islands in the Pacific that you read about. Well, someone realised it and got busy, and this Mission was started. There was a chap named MacDonald, Alexander MacDonald—”
“Sounds almost Scotch,” observed Joe dryly.
“Never mind what he was. He’s American now, if he was ever anything else,” replied Phil warmly. “He was teaching school on one of the islands near Mount Desert in the Summers and going to college the rest of the time. There wasn’t any church on this island and so he used to conduct services in the place they used for a school. Somehow, that put it into his head—or maybe his heart—to be a preacher. He preached around in all sorts of out-of-the-way places, and then this Mission started up and the folks behind it just naturally got hold of him and put him in charge. A New York woman had the Sunbeam built for him three or four years ago and now he lives right on it, he and a couple of men for crew, and she keeps pegging around the islands, up and down the coast, Summer and Winter. You fellows know what Doctor Grenfell does up around Labrador and beyond? Well, this Mr. MacDonald does the same stunt along this coast, and, by jiminy, fellows, it’s some stunt! Think of plunging around these waters in Winter, eh? Breaking his own way through the ice often enough—the boat was built for it they say—and plugging through some of the nor’easters! Say, I take my hat off to that fellow!”
“Some job,” agreed Steve thoughtfully. “Man’s work, fellows.”
“What does he do for ’em?” asked Ossie.
“Teaches them, son. Teaches them how to live clean, how to look after the kids, how to keep healthy. And prays with them, too, I guess. And brings them books and founds schools. Don’t you guess that when this Sunbeam comes in sight of some of those little, forsaken islands the folks on shore sort of perk up? Guess the Reverend Mr. MacDonald is pretty always certain of a welcome, fellows!”