“And what would I be doing but blessing ye?” she cried, in a voice of such dramatic variety as only quick wits and warm feelings can give, it was so full at once of suppressed rage, humorous triumph, contemptuous irony, and infinite tenderness. And I need hardly say that it was raised to a ringing pitch that would have reached my ears had they been buried under twenty tarpaulins, “GOD bless ye for ivermore! Good luck to ye! fine weather to ye! health and strength to ye! May the knaves that would harm ye be made fools for your benefit, and may niver worse luck light on one hair of your head than the best blessings of Biddy Macartney!”
Something peculiar in the sound of Biddy’s retreating movements made me risk another glance from an angle of the tarpaulin.
And upon my honour it is strictly true that I saw the old Irish woman drive her barrow down the dock till she passed out of sight, and that she went neither walking nor running, but dancing; and a good high stepping dance too, that showed her stockings, and shook the handkerchief on her head. And when she reached the end of the wharf she snapped her fingers in the air.
Then I drew my head back, and I could hear the watchman guffaw as if he would have split his sides. And even after he began to tramp up and down I could hear him still chuckling as he paced by.
And if I did not hear Biddy chuckle, it was perhaps because the joke on her side lay deeper down.
“The mariners shout,
The ships swing about.
The yards are all hoisted,
The sails flutter out.”
The Saga of King Olaf.
The docks were very quiet now. Only a few footfalls broke the silence, and the water sobbed a little round the piles, and there was some creaking and groaning and grinding, and the vessels drifted at their moorings, and bumped against the wharves.
The watchman paced up and down, and up and down. I did not hear him very clearly from under the tarpaulin, and sometimes when he went farther away I did not hear him at all. At last I was so long without hearing him that I peeped cautiously out. What Biddy had said might be, seemed really to have happened. The watchman was sitting in a sort of arm-chair of ironbound cotton-bales; his long coat was tucked between his legs, his hat was over his nose, and he was fast asleep.
I did not need any one to tell me that now was my time; but it was with limbs that almost refused their office from sheer fright, that I crept past the sleeping man, and reached the edge of the wharf. There was the vessel moving very slightly, and groaning dismally as she moved, and there was the hole, and it was temptingly dark. But—the gangway that had been laid across from the wharf was gone! I could have jumped the chasm easily with a run, but I dared not take a run. If I did it at all it must be done standing. I tried to fetch a breath free from heart-throbs, but in vain; so I set my teeth, and pulled nerves and sinews together and jumped.