The storm raged all day out of the northwest, and the folk of Chance Along kept to their cabins and clustered around their little stoves. Even Black Dennis Nolan did not venture farther than fifty yards from his own door. He replaced the window of Father McQueen’s room, said nothing of his loss to Cormick and the old woman, and after breakfast went out and fought his way along to Foxey Quinn’s cabin. He found the woman in tears.
“Where bes Jack?” he asked, drawing the door tight behind him and standing with his hand on the latch.
“He bain’t here,” said the woman. “He was gone from the bed when first I opened my eyes.”
The skipper was a hard man in many ways, even then. Later, as he became established in his power, the hardness grew in him with the passing of every day. But always a tender spot could be found in his heart for women and children.
“He was to my house last night,” he said. “He bust in a windy an’ tried to rob me—aye, an’ maybe he done it.”
The woman covered her face with her rough, red hands and moaned like a wounded thing.
“I bain’t holdin’ it agin’ ye,” continued the skipper. “I fight wid men, not women an’ childern. I fit Jack Quinn fair an’ bate him fair. Let it be! If ye wants for food, Polly—whenever ye wants for food an’ clothin’—send the word to me. I bes skipper in this harbor—aye, an’ more nor skipper.”
He turned then and let himself out into the shrieking storm. Polly Quinn stared at the door and the children clustered about her and pulled at her shabby skirts.
“Aye, he tells true,” she murmured. “Never a hard word did Mother Nolan ever have from him. He was a good son to his mother an’ the old skipper. But them as crosses him—the holy saints presarve ’em! Men-folks must be his dogs or his enemies. He batted me poor Jack nigh to death wid his big hands.”
She turned at last and fed the glowing stove. Then she set about getting breakfast for herself and the children. There was enough hard bread in the house to last the day. There was a pinch of tea in the canister. Jack had drunk the wine from the wreck and taken away with him all that had been left of the tinned meats which the skipper had brought over the day before. The woman observed these things and gave some thoughts to them. She glanced up at the blinding white tumult against the drifted window, reflecting that her husband had taken the best food in the house—enough to last him for two days, at least—and had left behind him, for herself and three children, eight cakes of hard bread and a pinch of tea. Her faded eyes glowed and her lips hardened.