I glanced toward the hospital, where my few worldly possessions, including my dress clothes, my amputating set, and such of my books as I had not been able to sell, were awaiting disposition. “Very near, miss,” I said.
“Better bring them at once; we are sailing in the morning.” She turned away as if to avoid my thanks, but stopped and came back.
“We are taking you as a sort of extra man,” she explained. “You will work with the crew, but it is possible that we will need you— do you know anything about butler’s work?”
I hesitated. If I said yes, and then failed—
“I could try.”
“I thought, from your appearance, perhaps you had done something of the sort.” Oh, shades of my medical forebears, who had bequeathed me, along with the library, what I had hoped was a professional manner! “The butler is a poor sailor. If he fails us, you will take his place.”
She gave a curt little nod of dismissal, and I went down the gangplank and along the wharf. I had secured what I went for; my summer was provided for, and I was still seven dollars to the good. I was exultant, but with my exultation was mixed a curious anger at McWhirter, that he had advised me not to shave that morning.
My preparation took little time. Such of my wardrobe as was worth saving, McWhirter took charge of. I sold the remainder of my books, and in a sailor’s outfitting-shop I purchased boots and slickers— the sailors’ oil skins. With my last money I bought a good revolver, second-hand, and cartridges. I was glad later that I had bought the revolver, and that I had taken with me the surgical instruments, antiquated as they were, which, in their mahogany case, had accompanied my grandfather through the Civil War, and had done, as he was wont to chuckle, as much damage as a three-pounder. McWhirter came to the wharf with me, and looked the Ella over with eyes of proprietorship.
“Pretty snappy-looking boat,” he said. “If the nigger gets sick, give him some of my seasick remedy. And take care of yourself, boy.” He shook hands, his open face flushed with emotion. “Darned shame to see you going like this. Don’t eat too much, and don’t fall in love with any of the women. Good-bye.”
He started away, and I turned toward the ship; but a moment later I heard him calling me. He came back, rather breathless.
“Up in my neighborhood,” he panted, “they say Turner is a devil. Whatever happens, it’s not your mix-in. Better—better tuck your gun under your mattress and forget you’ve got it. You’ve got some disposition yourself.”
The Ella sailed the following day at ten o’clock. She carried nineteen people, of whom five were the Turners and their guests. The cabin was full of flowers and steamer-baskets.
Thirty-one days later she came into port again, a lifeboat covered with canvas trailing at her stern.