She opened her wonderful, clear, sea-eyes at that, full upon his flushed face, and he saw the clear cross-lights in their depths. She regarded him calmly, with a suggestion of mocking interest, until his own glance wavered and turned aside. He felt again the surging of his heart’s blood—but now, across and through the surging, a chill as of fear. The flush of offended pride faded from his cheeks.
“Of course I shall pay you for saving my life,” she said, coolly and conclusively.
The skipper was not accustomed to such treatment, even from a woman; but without a word by way of retort he steadied the hammock in its descent of the twisting path as if his very life depended upon the stranger’s comfort. The women, children and very old men of the harbor—all who had not gone to the scene of the wreck save the bedridden—came out of the cabins, asked questions and stared in wonder at the lady in the hammock. The skipper answered a few of their questions and waved them out of the way. They fell back in staring groups. The skipper ran ahead of the litter to his own house and met Mother Nolan on the threshold.
“Here bes a poor young woman from a wrack, granny,” he explained. “She bes nigh perished wid the cold an’ wet. Ye’ll give her yer bed, granny, till the fire bes started in Father McQueen’s room.”
“Saints save us, Denny!” exclaimed Mother Nolan. “First it bes diamonds wid ye, an’ now it bes a young woman. Wracks will sure be the ruin o’ ye yet, Denny Nolan! This way, b’ys, an’ give me a sight o’ the poor lamb. Lay her here an’ take yer tarpaulin away wid ye. Holy saints fend us all, but she bes dead—an’ a great lady at that!”
The stranger opened her eyes and looked at the old woman. Her wonderful eyes seemed to bewitch Mother Nolan, even as they had bewitched the skipper. The old dame stared, trembled and babbled. Turning to the gaping men, including Denny, she cried to them to get out where they belonged and shut the door after them. They obeyed, treading on each other’s heels. Even the skipper departed, though reluctantly.
“May every hair o’ yer head turn into a wax candle to light ye to glory,” babbled the old woman, as she unwound the coarse blankets from about the girl’s unresisting body. The other smiled faintly.
“I don’t want to be lighted to glory—just now,” she said. “I must sing in New York—to my own people—just as I sang before the Queen in London. But now I am so cold—and so tired.”
Mother Nolan gaped at her.
“Glory be!” she whispered. “Eyes like fairies’ eyes an’ a voice like a mermaid’s! An’ the little white hands of her, soft as cream! An’ the beautiful rings! Glory be!”
The gold of the “Royal William”