“Naw, this is fur me little sister,” said the girl bravely, if a little contemptuously. A great lump came into Dan’s throat, and feeling somewhat weak and ashamed, he left the shop. Elemental sensations which he could not define thrilled him, and the spirit of Christmas, now entirely unsatisfied, rested on his soul like an incubus. He began to feel outside of everything—as though the season had come for every one but him.
Near Pike Street a little group of the Salvation Army stood on the curb. One of them was a fat, uncomely woman, and she was singing, accompanying herself upon a guitar. The music was that of a popular ballad, and the verses were of rude manufacture.
There were perhaps half a dozen listeners scattered about the sidewalk at a distance sufficient to prevent possible scoffers from including them in the service. Two of them were rough workmen, and they stood in the middle of the sidewalk staring vacantly ahead, trying to look oblivious. Two longshoremen sat on the curb ten feet away, and a man and a woman leaned against the door of a near-by warehouse. When the song was finished the two workmen hurriedly approached and threw nickels on the face of the big bass drum lying flat on the street, retreating hastily, as though ashamed; the woman did likewise, and one of the longshoremen.
“Buying salvation,” grinned Dan, as he walked on up the street. But the pleasantry made inadequate appeal. Every one was getting more out of the season than he was. Once he drew a dollar from his pocket and started back. But no. What was a dollar to him? He knew where there were more. That wasn’t it. He put the money in his pocket and walked on.
Dan’s mental processes leading to a determination to help Captain Barney were too clouded for clear interpretation, but he knew there was no more uncertainty in his mind after he had sought the Captain out and offered to put him on board the Kentigern.
Hodges fairly wept his gratitude. “Dan, Dan, you say you can put me aboard the Kentigern! You’ll save my business if you do. I don’t care about the towing part, because if I can get aboard and pilot her in, I can hand the towing over to those who’ll take care of me. Dan, you’re a good boy. How’ll you do it?”
“No time to tell now,” said Dan. “Meet me at Pier 3 in an hour.”
“Say,” cried Captain Barney, as Dan hurried away; “how much’ll it be? Not too much—”
Dan stopped short.
“Nothing!” he roared. “It’s—it’s a Christmas present.”
A FIGHT IN THE DARK
The short gray December twilight was creeping over the bay as Dan pulled out from the Battery basin in a boat which he kept there for recreative jaunts about the harbor. Hard pulling and cold it was, but the boatman bent his back and shot up the East River with the strength of the young giant he was. He could see Captain Barney, muffled to the ears, stamping impatiently about on the end of the designated pier. Without a word he swung his boat in such a position that the Captain could drop into it.