At forty John Cardigan was younger than most men at thirty, albeit he worked fourteen hours a day, slept eight, and consumed the remaining two at his meals. But through all those fruitful years of toil he had still found time to dream, and the spell of the redwoods had lost none of its potency. He was still checker-boarding the forested townships with his adverse holdings—the key-positions to the timber in back of beyond which some day should come to his hand. Also he had competition now: other sawmills dotted the bay shore; other three-masted schooners carried Humboldt redwood to the world beyond the bar, over which they were escorted by other and more powerful steam-tugs. This competition John Cardigan welcomed and enjoyed, however, for he had been first in Humboldt, and the townsite and a mile of tidelands fronting on deep water were his; hence each incoming adventurer merely helped his dream of a city to come true.
At forty-two Cardigan was the first mayor of Sequoia. At forty-four he was standing on his dock one day, watching his tug kick into her berth the first square-rigged ship that had ever come to Humboldt Bay to load a cargo of clear redwood for foreign delivery. She was a big Bath-built clipper, and her master a lusty down-Easter, a widower with one daughter who had come with him around the Horn. John Cardigan saw this girl come up on the quarter-deck and stand by with a heaving-line in her hand; calmly she fixed her glance upon him, and as the ship was shunted in closer to the dock, she made the cast to Cardigan. He caught the light heaving-line, hauled in the heavy Manila stern-line to which it was attached, and slipped the loop of the mooring-cable over the dolphin at the end of the dock.
“Some men wanted aft here to take up the slack of the stern-line on the windlass, sir,” he shouted to the skipper, who was walking around on top of the house. “That girl can’t haul her in alone.”
“Can’t. I’m short-handed,” the skipper replied. “Jump aboard and help her.”
Cardigan made a long leap from the dock to the ship’s rail, balanced there lightly a moment, and sprang to the deck. He passed the bight of the stern-line in a triple loop around the drum of the windlass, and without awaiting his instructions, the girl grasped the slack of the line and prepared to walk away with it as the rope paid in on the windlass. Cardigan inserted a belaying-pin in the windlass, paused and looked at the girl. “Raise a chantey,” he suggested. Instantly she lifted a sweet contralto in that rollicking old ballad of the sea—“Blow the Men Down.”
For tinkers and tailors and lawyers
Way! Aye! Blow the men down!
They ship for real sailors aboard the Black Ball,
Give me some time to blow the men down.
Round the windlass Cardigan walked, steadily and easily, and the girl’s eyes widened in wonder as he did the work of three powerful men. When the ship had been warped in and the slack of the line made fast on the bitts, she said: