“And he’ll lose the Kentigern to-night,” laughed Dan. “Well, I don’t care. It’ll do him good. I hope they put him out of business.”
“Thankee, gents, for your Christmas wishes. I’m glad my friends are with me.” The words, in low, mournful cadence, came from the doorway; and all eyes turning there saw the stout, melancholy figure of Captain Barney, his great hooked nose falling dejectedly toward his chin, his hawk eyes dull and sombre. He had been drinking; and as Duffy made as though to throw a bottle at him, the fallen great man turned and stumbled away.
A few minutes later Dan left the resort, faced the biting north wind, and walked slowly up South Street. Somehow he could not get Captain Barney out of his mind.
The year before, in violation of an explicit agreement, Captain Barney had worked in with an outside rowboatman from West Street, towing him to piers where vessels were about to dock. This, of course, got that boatman on the scene in advance of the Battery men, who had only their strong arms and their oars to depend upon. Thus the rival had the first chance at the job of carrying the lines from the docking steamships to men waiting on the pier to make them fast. Captain Barney received part of the money which this boatman made. It was little enough, to be sure, but no amount of money was too small for him. And so Dan, the Battery boatmen being his friends, was glad to see Hodge on his knees—yet he was the slickest tugboat-captain on earth.
Dan could not help admiring him for that; and now he could not dismiss from his mind the pitiable picture which Murphy’s doorway had framed but a few minutes before. He tried to, for Dan was an impressionable young fellow and was worrying too much about this Christmas idea, endeavoring to solve his emotions, without bothering about the troubles of a towboat-skipper who deserved all he got and more.
All along the street were Christmas greens. The ship chandlers had them festooned about huge lengths of rusty chains and barnacled anchors and huge coils of hawser, and the tawdry windows of the dram shops were hidden by them. A frowsy woman, with a happy smile upon her face, hurried past with a new doll in her arms. Dan stopped a minute to watch her.
Something turned him into a little toyshop near Coenties Slip and he saw a tugboat deck-hand purchase a pitiful little train of cars, laying his quarter on the counter with the softest smile he had seen on a man’s face in a twelvemonth.
“Something for the kid, eh?” said Dan rather gruffly.
“Sure,” replied the deck-hand, and he took his bundle with a sort of defiant expression.
He saw a little mother, a girl not more than twelve years old, with a pinched face and a rag shawl about her shoulders, spend ten cents for a bit of a doll and a bag of Christmas candy.
“Going to have a good time, all by yourself?” growled Dan.