Mental changes are not always attended by outward manifestations, but all the crew of the Hydrographer, after that mad night off the Virginia Capes, could see that something had hit the stalwart mate. The edge seemed to be missing from his occasional moods of abandon; sometimes he looked thoughtfully at a man without hearing what the man was saying to him. But it did not impair his usefulness, and his Captain could see indications of a better defined point in his ambitions.
So that was the way things were with him when, on a gray December afternoon, the day before Christmas, the Hydrographer, just arrived from Providence, slid against her pier in Jersey City, and the crew with jocular shouts made the hawsers fast to the bitts. Some months before, the Hydrographer had stumbled across a lumber-laden schooner, abandoned in good condition off Fire Island, and had towed her into port. The courts had awarded goodly salvage; and the tug’s owners, filled with the spirit of the season, had sent a man to the pier to announce that at the office each of the crew would find his share of the bounty, and a little extra, in recognition of work in the company’s interest.
“Dan,” said the Captain, as the young man entered the pilot-house in his well-fitting shore clothes, “you ought to get a pot of money out of this; now don’t go ashore and spend it all tonight. You bank most of it. Take it from me—if I’d started to bank my money at your age, I would be paying men to run tugboats for me now.”
“Oh, I’ve money in the bank,” laughed Dan. “I’ll bank most of this; but first I’m going to lay out just fifty dollars, which ought to buy about all the Christmas joy I need. I was going to Boston to shock some sober relations of mine, but I’ve changed my mind. About seven o’clock this evening you’ll find me in a restaurant not far from Broadway and Forty-second Street; an hour later you’ll locate me in the front row of a Broadway theatre; and—better come with me, Captain Bunker.”
“No, thanks, Dan,” said the Captain. “If you come with me over to the house in Staten Island about two hours from now, you’ll see just three little noses pressed against the window pane—waiting for daddy and Santa Claus.” The Captain’s big red face grew tender and his eyes softened. “When you get older, Dan,” he added, “you’ll know that Christmas ain’t so much what you get out of it as what you put into it.”
Dan thought of the Captain’s words as he crossed the ferry to New York. All through the day he had been filled with the pleasurable conviction that the morrow was a pretty decent sort of day to be ashore, and he had intended to work up to the joys thereof to the utmost of his capacity.
Now, with his knowledge as to the sort of enjoyment which Captain Bunker was going to get out of the day, his well-laid plans seemed to turn to ashes. The trouble was, he could not exactly say why this should be. He finally decided that his prospective sojourn amid the gay life of the metropolis had not been at all responsible for the mental uplift which had colored his view of the day.