The skipper glared straight before him, then sank into his chair.
“I’ll pen no letter,” he said, “I swears it by the knuckle-bones o’ the holy saints!”
Mother Nolan turned to Mary, wagging her head.
“There bes ink an’ a pen on the shelf there, an’ a scrap o’ clean paper in Denny’s great book yonder,” she said. “Take ’em to her an’ let her pen the word wid her own hand.” She turned to Denny. “And ye, Denny Nolan, will send it out to Witless Bay, an’ from Witless Bay to St. John’s, an’ so to New York.”
“I hears ye,” returned the skipper.
“Aye, that ye do,” said the spirited old woman, “an’ a good t’ing for ye I bes here to tell ye! Why for wouldn’t ye be sendin’ out the letter? What for d’ye be wantin’ Miss Flora Lockhart to stop here in Chance Along?—and her who never put a hand to a stroke o’ honest work since her mother bore her!—her who sang to the Queen o’ England! Ye’d be better, Denny, wid a real true mermaid, tail an’ all, in Chance Along. Wrack ye kin break abroad; cargoes ye kin lift an’ devour; gold an’ jewels ye kin hide away; but when live women be t’rowed up to ye by the sea ye kin do naught but let ’em go. The divil bes in the women, lad—the women from up-along. An’ the law would be on yer heels—aye, an’ on to yer neck—afore ye knowed how the wind was blowin’! An’ what would his riverence be sayin’ to ye?”
Mary Kavanagh had left the kitchen by this time, carrying pen, ink and paper to the girl in Father McQueen’s room. Denny raised his head, and met the regard of his grandmother’s bright old eyes proudly.
“I wants to marry her,” he said. “An’ why not? Bain’t I skipper here—aye, skipper o’ every man an’ boat in the harbor? She’d have no call to touch her hand to honest work if she was my wife. Bain’t I rich?—and like to be richer? I’ll build her a grand house. She’ll have wine every day, an’ jewels on her fingers, an’ naught to do all day, by Saint Peter, but put the gowns o’ silk on to her back. Bain’t that better nor singin’ an’ cavortin’ afore the Queen?”
“Denny, ye bes a fool, sure, for all yer great oaths an’ masterful ways wid the men,” said Mother Nolan. “Ye bes a fool over a woman—an’ that be the weakest kind o’ fool! What would a lady like her be wantin’ wid ye for a husband?—wid a ignorant great fisherman the like o’ ye, skipper o’ no skipper? What bes a skipper to the like o’ her? No more nor a dog, Denny Nolan! She’d break yer heart an’ send yer soul to damnation!”
The skipper left his chair without a word, and strode from the kitchen to Mother Nolan’s own room, stooping as he passed through the low doorway. He advanced until he reached Flora’s room. It was shut. He halted for a moment, breathing quickly, then rapped with his knuckles, and opened the door. Flora was sitting upright in the bed, backed by pillows and with a shawl over her shoulders. She had been writing; and Mary stood beside the bed