After that came a succession of memories, but none of them held the silent father and the merry mother and the little white house on the heath. They were of new faces and new places, of temporary homes with relatives in Ireland and Scotland, of various schools and unceasing work. Then came the day, two years ago, when, goaded by some injustice, real or imagined, he had run away to England and struck out alone and empty-handed to care for himself. It had been a rough experience, and there were days that he was glad to forget; but through it all the taste of freedom had been sweet in his mouth.
For three weeks he had been hanging about the docks, picking up jobs here and there, accommodating any one who wanted to be accommodated, making many friends and little money. He had had no thought of embarking until the big English liner Great Britain arrived in port after breaking all records on her homeward passage. She was to start on her second trip to-day, and an hour later her rival, the steamship America, was to take her departure. The relative merits of the two vessels had been the talk of the wharf for days.
Sandy had made it a rule in life to be on hand when anything was happening. He had viewed cricket-matches from tree-tops, had answered the call of fire at midnight, and tramped ten miles to see the finish of a great regatta. But something was about to take place which seemed entirely beyond his attainment. Two hours passed before he solved the problem.
“Takin’ the rest-cure, kid?” asked a passing sailor as he shied a stick at Sandy’s shins.
Sandy stretched himself and smiled up at the sailor. It was a smile that waited for an answer and usually got it—a smile so brimming over with good-fellowship and confidence that it made a lover of a friend and a friend of an enemy.
“It’s a trip that I’m thinkin’ of takin’,” he cried blithely as he jumped to his feet. “Here’s the shillin’ I owe you, partner, and may the best luck ye’ve had be the worst luck that’s comin’.”
He tossed a coin to the sailor, and thrusting his hands in his pockets, executed a brief but brilliant pas seul, and then went whistling away down the wharf. He swung along right cheerily, his rags fluttering, his chin in the air, for the wind had settled in one direction, and the weather-vane and Sandy had both made up their minds.