“Oho!” said Dan, shuffling with the accordion round the backyard, ready to leap the fence if the enemy advanced. “Dan, you’re welcome to your own judgment, but remember I’ve warned ye. Your own flesh an’ blood ha’ warned ye! ‘Tain’t any o’ my fault ef you’re mistook, but I’ll be on deck to watch ye. An’ ez fer yeou, Uncle Salters, Pharaoh’s chief butler ain’t in it ‘longside o’ you! You watch aout an’ wait. You’ll be plowed under like your own blamed clover; but me—Dan Troop—I’ll flourish like a green bay-tree because I warn’t stuck on my own opinion.”
Disko was smoking in all his shore dignity and a pair of beautiful carpet-slippers. “You’re gettin’ ez crazy as poor Harve. You two go araound gigglin’ an’ squinchin’ an’ kickin’ each other under the table till there’s no peace in the haouse,” said he.
“There’s goin’ to be a heap less—fer some folks,” Dan replied. “You wait an’ see.”
He and Harvey went out on the trolley to East Gloucester, where they tramped through the bayberry bushes to the lighthouse, and lay down on the big red boulders and laughed themselves hungry. Harvey had shown Dan a telegram, and the two swore to keep silence till the shell burst.
“Harve’s folk?” said Dan, with an unruffled face after supper. “Well, I guess they don’t amount to much of anything, or we’d ha’ heard from ’em by naow. His pop keeps a kind o’ store out West. Maybe he’ll give you ’s much as five dollars, Dad.”
“What did I tell ye?” said Salters. “Don’t sputter over your vittles, Dan.”
Whatever his private sorrows may be, a multimillionaire, like any other workingman, should keep abreast of his business. Harvey Cheyne, senior, had gone East late in June to meet a woman broken down, half mad, who dreamed day and night of her son drowning in the gray seas. He had surrounded her with doctors, trained nurses, massage-women, and even faith-cure companions, but they were useless. Mrs. Cheyne lay still and moaned, or talked of her boy by the hour together to any one who would listen. Hope she had none, and who could offer it? All she needed was assurance that drowning did not hurt; and her husband watched to guard lest she should make the experiment. Of his own sorrow he spoke little—hardly realized the depth of it till he caught himself asking the calendar on his writing-desk, “What’s the use of going on?”
There had always lain a pleasant notion at the back of his head that, some day, when he had rounded off everything and the boy had left college, he would take his son to his heart and lead him into his possessions. Then that boy, he argued, as busy fathers do, would instantly become his companion, partner, and ally, and there would follow splendid years of great works carried out together—the old head backing the young fire. Now his boy was dead—lost at sea, as it might have been a Swede sailor from one of Cheyne’s big teaships; the wife dying, or worse; he himself was trodden down by platoons of women and doctors and maids and attendants; worried almost beyond endurance by the shift and change of her poor restless whims; hopeless, with no heart to meet his many enemies.