Mary thanked her, kissed her in return, and said gently that she did not want to be rewarded for her nursing, except by love. She added that it was Black Dennis Nolan, the skipper, who had saved Flora’s life.
“I remember him vaguely,” said the other. “He took me away from that terrible place where I was swaying and tossing between the waves and the sky. The queer things I saw in my fever dreams have dimmed the memory of the wreck, thank God—and now they themselves are growing dim. He is a big man, is he not, and young and very strong? And his eyes are almost black, I think. I will pay him for what he has done, you may be sure, Mary. I suppose he is a fisherman, or something of that kind?”
“He bain’t the kind to want money for what he has done,” said Mary, slowly. “He be skipper o’ Chance Along, like his father was afore him—but there never was another skipper like him, for all that. He saved ye from the wrack, an’ now ye lay in his house—but I warns ye not to offer money to him for the sarvice he has done ye. Sure, he wouldn’t be needin’ the money, an’ wouldn’t take it if he was. He lives by the sea—aye, in his own way!—an’ when the sea feeds full at all she fills her men with the divil’s own pride.”
Flora was puzzled and slightly amused. She patted the other’s hand and smiled up at her.
“Is he so rich then?” she asked. “And what is a skipper?—if he is not the captain of a ship? How can a man be the skipper of a village like this?”
“His father was skipper,” replied Mary. “The fore-an’-aft schooner bes his, an’ the store wid flour an’ tea in it for whoever needs them. It bes the way o’ the coast—more or less.”
“Have any letters come for me? Have people from New York arranged yet to take me away?” asked Flora, suddenly forgetting about the skipper and remembering her own career so terribly interrupted and so strangely retarded. “I shall be able to travel in a few days, I think. What have the newspapers said about my misfortunes?”
The pink faded a little from Mary’s cheeks and her gray eyes seemed to dim.
“Saints love ye!” she said. “There bes no letters for ye, my dear—an’ how would there be? Up-along they’ll be still waitin’ for the ship—or maybe they have give up waitin’ by this time. How would they know she was wracked on this coast?”
The beautiful singer gazed at her in consternation and amazement. Her wonderful sea-eyes flashed to their clear sea-depths where the cross-lights lay.
“But—but has no word been sent to New York?—to anywhere?” she cried. “Surely you cannot mean that people do not know of the wreck, and that I am here? What of the owners of the ship? Oh, God, what a place!”