The skipper defended his position heroically; but after two minutes of it the musket proved heavier than the club of birch, and he received a crack on his left shoulder that put one arm out of action. The Frenchman ducked and slipped in; but the skipper’s boot on his collar-bone set him back for a moment and sent the knife tinkling to the ground. But the same movement, thanks to the little wad of snow on the heel of his boot, brought the skipper to the flat of his back with a bone-shaking slam. The clubbed musket swung up—and then the door flew open above his upturned face, candle-light flooded over him and a sealing-gun flashed and bellowed. Then the threatening musket fell of its own weight, from dead hands—and the skipper went to sleep with more stars twirling white and green fire across his inner vision than he had ever seen in the sky.
It was daylight when Black Dennis Nolan next opened his eyes. He was in his own bed. He felt very sick in the stomach, very light in the head, very dry in the mouth. Old Mother Nolan sat beside the bed, smoking her pipe.
“Was it ye let off the old gun out the door?” he asked.
“Nay, ’twas Mary done it,” replied Mother Nolan, blinking her black eyes at him.
“An’ where bes Mary now?” he asked.
“In me own bed. Sure, when she was draggin’ ye into the house, didn’t some divil jab her in the neck wid a great knife.”
The skipper sat up, though the effort spun a purple haze across his eyes, and set a lump of red-hot iron knocking about inside his skull.
“Bes she—dead?” he whispered.
“Nay, lad, nay, she bain’t what ye’d call dead,” replied the old woman.
The skipper rolled to the floor, scrambled to his feet, reeled across the kitchen and into the next room, and sank at the side of Mary’s bed. He was done. He could not lift himself an inch higher; but a hand came down to him, over the side of the bed, and touched his battered brow.
A week later, Mary Kavanagh was able to sit up in Mother Nolan’s bed; and the skipper was himself again, at least as far as the cut over his eye and the bump on top of his head were concerned.
The skipper and Mother Nolan sat by Mary’s bed. The skipper looked older, wiser and less sure of himself than in the brisk days before the raid.
“I bes a poor man now,” he said. “Sure, them robbers broke t’rough this harbor somethin’ desperate! Didn’t the back o’ the chimley look like the divil had been a-clawin’ it out?”
“Quick come and quick go! Ye bes lucky, lad, they didn’t sail away wid yer fore-an’-after,” said Mother Nolan.
“Aye, Granny; but it do beat me how ever they come to dig up the kitchen-floor.”
“Sure, an’ they didn’t,” said Mary. “‘Twas meself done that—an’ sent the red an’ white diamonds away wid Flora’s man. ’Twas himself ye took ’em from, Denny Nolan.”
“An’ a good thing, too,” said Mother Nolan. “Sure, ye sent all the curses o’ Chance Along away together, Mary dear! There bain’t no luck in wracked gold, nor wracked diamonds—nor wracked women! Grub an’ gear bes our right; but not gold an’ humans.”