The hammock was swung on a pole. Four men and the skipper accompanied the girl from the wreck, two carrying the hammock for the first half of the journey and the relay shouldering it for the second spell. The skipper walked alongside. The girl lay back among the blankets, which had been dried at the fire, silent and with her eyes closed for the most part. It was evident that her terrible experience had sapped both her physical and mental vitality. She had been lashed to the cross-trees of the foremast soon after the ship had struck the rocks, and fully eight hours before Black Dennis Nolan had released her. The second mate, who had carried her up and lashed her there, had been flung to his death by the whipping of the mast a moment after he had made the last loop fast about her blanketed form. She had been drenched and chilled by the flying spume and the spray that burst upward and outward from the foot of the cliff. The wind had snatched the breath from her lips, deafened her, blinded her, and driven the cold to her very bones. The swaying and leaping of the spar had at last jarred and wrenched her to a state of insensibility.
She spoke only three times during the journey.
“I would have died if I had been left there a little longer. You were brave to save me as you did. What is your name?”
“Aye, ’twas a terrible place for ye,” replied the skipper. “I bes Dennis Nolan, skipper o’ Chance Along; an’ now I bes takin’ ye to my granny, Mother Nolan, an’ a grand, warm house. Ye’ll have Father McQueen’s own bed, for he bes away till June, an’ a fire in the chimley all day.”
Her only answer was to gaze at him with a look of calm, faint interest for a moment and then close her eyes. Ten minutes later she spoke again.
“The Royal William was bound for New York,” she said. “There were ten passengers aboard her. My maid was with me—a Frenchwoman.”
This was Greek to the skipper, and he mumbled an unintelligible answer. What could she mean by her maid? Her daughter? No, for she was scarcely more than a girl herself—and in any case, her daughter would not be a Frenchwoman. As they reached the broken edge of the barrens above Chance Along she spoke for the third time.
“In London I sang before the Queen,” she said, this time without raising her pallid lids. Her lips scarcely moved. Her voice was low and faint, but clear as the chiming of a silver bell. “And now I go to my own city—to New York—to sing. They will listen now, for I am famous. You will be well paid for what you have done for me.”
The skipper could make little enough of this talk of singing before the Queen; but he understood the mention of making payment for his services, and his bitter pride flared up. He gripped the edge of the hammock roughly.
“Would ye be payin’ me for this?” he questioned. “Would ye, I say? Nay, not ye nor the Queen herself! I have money enough! I bes master o’ this harbor!”