On the fourth night after his arrival Father McQueen drew a plan of the little church which he intended to build above the harbor.
“It will be the pride of the coast and a glory to Chance Along,” he said. “Denny, I am proud of ye for the suggestion. Ye said ye’d give me a hundred pounds toward it, I think?”
“Fifty pound, yer reverence! Fifty pound bes what I offered ye, sir,” returned the skipper, with dismay in his voice.
Father McQueen sighed and shook his head. A cold thrill of anxiety passed through Dennis Nolan. With the good father displeased there would be an end of his luck. He glanced at the priest and saw that he was still shaking his head.
The skipper loved his new store of gold because it meant the beginning of a fortune and therefore the extension of his power; but on the other hand he feared that to displease the missionary now in the matter of a part of that store might turn the saints themselves against him. And without the good-will of the saints how could he expect his share of luck?—his share of wrecks?
“I has seventy-five pound for yer reverence,” he said. “It bes a powerful sight of money, father dear, but ye bes welcome to it.”
“It is well, my son,” returned the missionary.
The skipper felt a glow of relief. He had avoided the risk of displeasing the saints and at the same time had saved twenty-five pounds. Even when you earn your money after the skipper’s method, twenty-five pounds looks like quite a considerable lump of money. He took up a candle and fetched the sum in yellow English sovereigns from his hiding-place.
Father McQueen devoted the following morning to collecting what he could from the other men of the harbor. The skipper had furnished him with a list of all who had shared in the golden harvest. It began to look as if the church would be a fine one. Not satisfied with this, he issued orders that the timber was to be cut and sawn without delay so that the building of the church should be commenced when he returned to Chance Along in June. He even drew up specifications of the lumber that would be required and the stone for the foundation. Then, leaving in the skipper’s care all the gold which he had collected for the sacred edifice, he marched sturdily away toward the north. The skipper accompanied him and carried his knapsack, for ten miles of the way.
Two days after the missionary’s departure a gale blew in from the southeast; and at the first gray of a roaring dawn the look-out from Squid Beach came hammering at the skipper’s door with news of a ship on the rocks under the cliffs a few miles along the coast. Every man and boy who could swing a leg turned out. The gear was shouldered and the skipper led the way northward at a run, lantern in hand. They found the wreck about a mile north of Squid Beach, close against the face of the cliff. She had struck with her port-bow and was listed sharply landward. The seas beat so furiously upon her that every seventh comer washed her clean and sent the spray smoking over her splintered spars. She showed no sign of life. She lay in so desperate a place that even Black Dennis Nolan, with all his gear and wits, could do nothing but wait until the full fury of the gale should diminish.