Whatever he did thereafter he had this additional incentive, the future meeting with a tall, lithe girl with dark-brown hair and gray eyes—brave, deep eyes, and slightly swarthy cheeks, which were crimson as she spoke to him.
DAN’S SEARCH FOR THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
Daniel Merrithew was one of the Merrithews of a town near Boston, a prime old seafaring family. His father had a waning interest in three whaling-vessels; and when two of them opened like crocuses at their piers in New Bedford, being full of years, and the third foundered in the Antarctic, the old man died, chiefly because he could see no clear way of longer making a living.
Young Merrithew at the time was in a New England preparatory school, playing excellent football and passing examinations by the skin of his teeth. Thrown upon his own resources, his mother having died in early years, he had to decide whether he would work his way through the school and later through college, or trust to such education as he already had to carry him along in the world.
It was altogether adequate for practical purposes, he argued, and so he lost little time in proceeding to New York, where he began a business career as a clerk in the office of the marine superintendent of a great coal-carrying railroad. It was a beginning with a quick ending. The clerkly pen was not for him; he discovered this before he was told. The blood of the Merrithews was not to be denied; and turning to the salt water, his request for a berth on one of the company’s big sea-going tugs was received with every manifestation of approval.
When he first presented himself to the Captain of the Hydrographer, the bluff skipper set the young man down as a college boy in search of sociological experience and therefore to be viewed with good-humored tolerance—good-humored, because Dan was six feet tall and had combative red-gold hair. His steel eyes were shaded by long straw-colored lashes; he had a fighting look about him. He had a magnificent temper, red, but not uncalculating, with a punch like a mule’s kick back of it.
As week after week passed, and the new hand revealed no temperamental proclivities, no “kid-glove” inclinations, seemingly content with washing down decks, lassooing pier bitts with the bight of a hawser at a distance of ten feet, and hauling ash-buckets from the fireroom when the blower was out of order—both of which last were made possible by his mighty shoulders—the Captain began to take a different sort of interest in him.
He allowed Dan to spend all his spare moments with him in the pilot-house; and as the Captain could shoot the sun and figure latitude and longitude and talk with fair understanding upon many other elements of navigation, the young man’s time was by no means wasted. Later, Dan arranged with the director of a South Street night school of navigation for the evenings when he was in port, and by the time they made him mate of the Hydrographer, he was almost qualified to undergo examination for his master’s certificate.