Joan Storme’s Ship
LOUIS ARTHUR CUNNINGHAM
WHEN the barque Pendragon had been manoeuvred by the puffing, noisy steamer into her berth at the North Market Wharf, and the stevedores had begun their work of unlading the chests of fragrant tea, the bags of coffee beans, the tobaccos and spices that the Pendragon had collected in ports from Bahia to Batavia, young Hereward Vroom, who had been her master on that long voyage, climbed the ladder and went ashore.
He strolled to the head of the wharf and looked out upon the harbor thronged with shipping. Sea-worn clippers like his had come in on the tide, and clean, rakish craft were even now weighing anchor, while men like midgets, high up in the wide yards, unfurled the sails with a will. The chanteyman’s voice, leading off in the stirring ballad of “Sally Brown” came faintly to his ears, and in his nostrils the keen sea savor, mingled with the smell of tar and spice and salt fish in the little kegs on the deck of a coasting-schooner below him, was sweet.
A burly longshoreman stood in the open door of a nearby shed. His brown, hairy chest, embroidered with choice designs of the tattooer’s art, was open to the sunlight and the warm April wind. He caught young Hereward’s gaze and nodded cordially.
“Home ag’in, captain,” he said. “Have a good run acrost?”
“Good, thank you, Hiddy. It looks brisk here—lots of work in the yards. What ship is that a-building at Lynch’s?”
Hiddy strolled over to the young captain’s side to get a better, if unnecessary, view of the vessel under construction.
“Well, now, sir, I should ’a’ thought you’d know that there hooker. ’Course, you’ve been away two year come September, an’ maybe old man Storme is keepin’ it a surprise for ye. Still, there ain’t no harm in tellin’ ye that it’s Nathan Storme’s ship, and I hear he’s goin’ to offer the command to the youngest and smartest shipmaster in his fleet, which is, by the same token, yourself, sir.”
Vroom’s somewhat stern face widened in a smile that showed both pleasure and surprise. That ship—he could see her lines from here—like a greyhound, slim, tapering, lofty, her skysail yards already crossed. Few men as young as he, a year this side of thirty, ever got a command like that.
“It’s the first news I’ve heard,” he said exultantly. “The first since I came ashore, and it’s the best I think I’ve ever heard. I’ll take a walk over to York Point to have a better look at her. Thanks, Hiddy.”
He strode rapidly away. The longshoreman stroked his walrus mustache, shook his head, and sucked medi-
tatively at the short stem of his odoriferous clay pipe.
“A great lad, young Vroom,” he thought. “I’m glad I didn’t tell him it all. Didn’t want to spoil it so soon. Old Nathan ’ll break the news, or if Hereward stops in at his uncle’s sail loft he’s like to hear it there. It’s well seen Nathan Storme is a builder and an owner—not a shipmaster. He’d ’a’ knowed better. He’d ought to know a darn sight better than expect young Vroom to do anything like that. He’ll refuse. Sure he’ll refuse, an’ not a seaman or a mate or a longshoreman, for that matter, but won’t agree with him. If Nathan knew history he’d remember what happened to Hereward’s father an’ grandfather. But that’s the way of owners —rich ones—they don’t care none about a seaman’s feelin’s.”
XJEREWARD made his way quickly to the shipyard. -*•1 Boyishly eager he was to see this ship. The Pendragon was a staunch craft, but she was old; soon she’d be only fit for a coal hulk or a barge. This ship was a real clipper. The graceful swell and sweep of her lines had something of the pure beauty of a girl just come to womanhood—a warm, human beauty. A man could love a ship like that—even as he could love a woman.
Hereward pictured himself on her quarterdeck, pictured the water cleaving white from her keen bows, the canvas swelling taut to the trade-wind’s breath, and sighed with sheer exultation. His ship . . .
Already he felt affinity with her. The Vrooms knew ships. His father and grandfather had sailed out of Saint John for many years—aye, they had sailed, but from one voyage they and their ships and every soul aboard had never come back to port. There had been a reason for that. They had been warned not to sail in the ships they commanded. They had laughed defiance and they had been punished. Hereward thought of them, thought of the day his own father had set out on that voyage from which he was never to return. The memory, clearly etched in the young seaman’s mind, darkened the brightness of the day. Impatiently he kicked a pile of pine shavings and turned away. The calker’s mallets rang crisply as the last oakum was driven into the new vessel’s seams.
Hands thrust deep in the pockets of his blue jacket, Vroom strolled out of the shipyard and up a cobbled lane. He paused irresolute betöre a long, low building that bore on a rudely painted sign-board the legend: “Mark Vroom, Sailmaker.”
A dramatic story of peril at sea and a sailor s discovery of the road to a womans heart
“I’d better go in and see old Mark,” he decided. “I suppose he’s busy on her canvas.” He pushed open the door and went in. The office was deserted, so he climbed the creaking stairs to the loft where men were sewing on the coarse white duck that made the sails. His uncle, Mark Vroom, a little, greyhaired man, was walking about in carpet slippers, a huge pair of shears dangling from his hand. “Belay there!” called Hereward. The old man dropped the shears and hurried to him, snatched his hand and pumped it vigorously, administering heavy clouts on his nephew’s broad back. “Welcome home, captain. How goes it with you?” “Good, sir, and better still from what Hiddy tells me. This new ship of Mr. Storme’s—I suppose this is her canvas.” “Aye; some of it.” The sailmaker’s wrinkled, parchment-skinned visage darkened, and the number of furrows in his brow increased. “Hiddy told you Nathan Storme was goin’ to offer you the command, eh?” “Yes. You don’t seem pleased. What’s the matter with it? Is there something ...” “Not for me to say, lad. You’d best see Nathan himself. He’s a hard man in his way; a stubborn man.” “What’s that got to do with it? Why all this mystery?” demanded Hereward. “She’s a good ship and I’d be mighty lucky to get the berth. I can’t see ...” “You’ll see,” said Mark dryly. “Go talk to Nathan.” As Hiddy had done, the sailmaker gravely shook his head after Hereward’s departure and muttered pessimistic remarks. The workmen and apprentices exchanged knowing looks and jumped to their work when the old man barked at them: “No sogerin’ there! That canvas has to be aboard by sundown. Ye’ve no call to sit an’ gape at every manjack that happens in. That’s Hereward Vroom. Ye’ve all seen him
afore, ye’ll see him agin’. He is one seaman of his name that’s goin’ to die ashore an’ not give his carcass to Davy Jones—that is, if he’s got sense enough to profit by his father’s an’ grandfather’s experience.” Hereward left the sail loft in troubled mood. What ailed the old man, anyway? He wasn’t given to croaking, and surely it was cause for rejoicing that a youth like him should be chosen from all the shipmasters commanding Nathan Storme’s many vessels, to be captain of this, the most splendid of all. But there was some catch in it, he suspected, and the best way to find out was by confronting old man Storme and hearing what he had to offer. XJATHAN STORME’S office was in an ancient brick -tNI building on the South Market Wharf. Besides having ships for charter he did a thriving business from the import of tea, spices and tobaccos. Riches had streamed into his coffers, riches which he prized chiefly because they gave him the pleasure of gratifying his daughter’s every wish. And Joan Storme’s wishes were many. Hereward Vroom, passing the coffeehouse at the foot 0f King Street, saw an open carriage standing by the curb. In it were two girls in gay Easter bonnets of pink and blue. He knew the one in pink to see. She was Betty Symonds, a belle of the town and the despair of half its gallants. She had never caused Hereward’s heart to misbehave, pretty and pert though she was. But this other, this girl in cape of blue, with the flowered bonnet and the yellowish curls peeping out from under it ... He saw her face, her slim pale neck and the white curve of her breast above the high bodice. Like a cameo, white on a blue background. Her profile was piquant, her nose was slightly tip-tilted, thus giving to her face an expression of disdain that was not at all unbecoming. Shyly he glanced at her; but when she, as if feeling the intentness of his eyes, turned and looked full at him, he hurried on his way. Women were not for him. He had always avoided them. They spelled disaster for a seaman. All fair enough for a spell ashore, to dance with, to toy with. But if you let their influence go upon the ocean with you, it was bad. Always it had been bad for the men of his name. And women were ever exerting their power over a man; ruling him, forcing subtly their
will upon him.
Lingering thoughts of that girl were still with him when he entered Nathan Storme’s office and was conducted by Randles, the bookkeeper, into the shipowner’s sanctum, a well-lighted room overlooking the harbor, its walls panelled like the saloon of a packet-ship, clipper models and marine paintings above the wainscoting—pictures of ships that Nathan Storme had built or owned.
“Welcome, Captain Vroom, I’ve been waiting for you to come.”
He rose courteously, shook hands with Hereward and waved him to a chair. He was a huge, white-haired man. He limped slightly when he walked. His face was strong as hickory, the nose and jaw prominent, the teeth large and even. His eyes were grey, haughty; and pride, no matter what other emotion showed in his face, was always there.
Hereward went into details of the voyage he had just completed. It had been highly prosperous and the profits he showed delighted Nathan Storme hugely.
“Splendid!” announced the shipowner. “And deserving of good reward. I suppose you’ve already heard from the gossips that I have something in store for you ... ? You’ve seen my new ship? She’s the finest clipper ever built here. I’m proud of her; so are the master-builders. She’ll outsail anything McKay has yet produced —let him bring on his Flying Clouds if he will. That’s a ship, my boy!”
“She’s a beauty, sir.”
“And she’s yours, Hereward. I make you master of her. In a few days she’ll be ready for la’nching and you’ll see her slide off the ways. It will be a happy day for me, for you, for us all, when the Joan Storme feels the kiss of the water on her keel.”
“The . . . Joan Storme!” Young Vroom’s brow darkened. He rose from his seat. “You mean . . . you . . . you are going to put a woman’s name on that ship, and expect me to be her master!”
“I am !”
Storme looked offended. Then the light of understanding made his grey eyes twinkle, and he laughed heartily. “Oh, I see what’s the matter! You’re superstitious about that—like a lot of your kind. Won’t sail in a ship that’s got a woman’s name on her, eh? Nonsense! Don’t let a silly idea like that keep you out of a good command. The ship will be called after my daughter. You know my daughter?”
“No, sir. I knew you had one. But . .
“She’s been away at school most of the time-~in Upper Canada. She has just returned and I have arranged to have the Joan Storme launched next Monday, which is my daughter’s birthday. She’ll be finished outfitting in another fortnight and then we start on a voyage to Australia, my daughter and I, with Captain Hereward Vroom in command. I’ve set my heart on it. You know, lad, you’re very dear to me. Next to my daughter’s, I prize your affection and friendship most. You won’t disappoint me ...”
Vroom looked steadily out upon the sun-glinting waters of the harbor. His face was stubborn, but genuinely distressed. He clasped his hands nervously and shook his head in dissent.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Storme. This meant a lot to me—this command. I was very happy and proud when they told me I was chosen. But I wondered from the way they spoke, what was the trouble. I can’t take command of this ship. You know—you must know —that my father and grandfather were lost in vessels that bore a woman's name. They were warned against sailing in them. It’s always been bad luck for the Vrooms. I don’t fear for my own life. It’s a good place to die—in the sea. But you say your daughter and yourself will be on this voyage. I feel, just as surely as if I could see the future, that I’d never bring that ship back to port. I know what this means to you and to your daughter. Joan Storme — it’s a good name, a proud name, but I cannot sail in a ship so called.”
“Thank you, captain,” said a clear, disdainful voice.
THE owner and shipmaster, deep in their own discussion, had not heeded the presence of the girl in the doorway. They got up, both looking very uncomfortable, but Hereward by far the more unhappy of the two. She wore blue, ruffled, filmy, high-bodiced; above the low neck her face recalled the sweet white cameo he had likened it to, and the hair so yellow, the eyes in color so like blue-flags by a pond . . Hereward knew
that she had never been out of his mind - never once since he had seen her with Betty Symonds in front of the coffee house.
“I beg your pardon, Miss Storme.”
“Yes, captain,” chuckled the shipowner, “this is Miss Storme, and looking, you must admit, rather stormy! Joan has always had her own way. Surely you, a mere seaman, simple-hearted and malleable as clay in a woman’s hands, do not think you can overrule her! Are you going to take command of her ship—the Joan Storme?"
Hereward looked awkwardly at Joan. Storme He saw angry seas raging in her eyes, blue seas lashed to green. Her mouth became a little red dot from the furious compression of her lips. Yet her voice was sweet enough now—indeed, honeyed, thought poor Hereward, who had never listened to sounds so dulcet.
“I have heard,” said the minx, in a tone that rejoiced her father and set him to pitying afresh this good-looking youth who, so tall and ruggedly strong, yet stood helpless before his fiery little mite of a daughter, “I have heard, Captain Vroom, of the superstition in your family that it spells disaster for a Vroom to command a ship that bears a woman’s name. But I think in the case ot the Joan Storme it’s different. The ships your father and grandfather commanded were named after whom?”
‘‘Alicia Byard—that was my grandfather’s, and Doris Wykoff, my father’s.”
“And these ladies were—am I not right?—the She floundered now, pink splotching her cheeks slowly.
“Sweethearts of the Vrooms,” said old Nathan. “The girls they loved and married.”
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“That’s where this case differs,” said Joan triumphantly. “Do you see, sir?”
“I . . . yes, it is different,” admitted Hereward helplessly. “Just the same I can’t ... I dare not ...”
Joan stamped her foot; all the forced calm instantly deserted her.
“But you will take command of her! I’ve tried to explain that it’s a matter quite different from the others. How can you believe such rubbish, anyway?”
Lovely eyes glowered at Hereward. Heartily he wished himself in some remote latitude where this vision could not torture him. But if she was stubborn in her desire, he was equally so in his superstition.
“I can’t do it,” he repeated. “It wouldn’t be right.”
“Very well.” Joan’s voice had the gentlest, and as her father knew, though Hereward did not, the most dangerous softness. “We shall see.”
'T'HERE is one thing, perhaps only one, that will overcome for a while a seaman’s cherished superstitions. Joan Storme, she of the wide, fleckless blue eyes, so long-lashed and fascinating, of the budlike mouth and rippling hair, might have cajoled and pleaded forever: Hereward would have been immutable. Perhaps she knew that, or, more likely, it went totally against her grain to think of immolating herself before the tall, brownfaced young mariner. She had gauged his character readily and cautious enquiries from her father and her friends confirmed her estimate of Hereward Vroom—superstitious of many things, in the childlike way of seamen; he feared nothing. And to tell him he was afraid of a thing was the surest way to send him full tilt against it. He had a stern and indomitable jaw, a relentless eye, blue with the strong clear blue of oceans.
Lightly, as a goddess of mischief going among poor mortals, she sowed the seeds that so rapidly would flower. Now it was to some gossipy housewife; now to some girl friend whose brother knew Hereward Vroom; again it was to a group of intimates who, she knew, would lose no time in retailing all she had said. And the seed in each case was the same: “Captain Vroom is, of course, afraid. A man who won’t do a thing because he fears the outcome, whether his fear is born of superstition or care for his precious hide, is nothing more nor less than a coward . . .
Strong words—but then, she wanted him to command her ship. He had never seen her until the day of his return from his latest voyage, but she had often watched him striding through the town. And in her childish eyes was awe, and a species of worship for one so strong, so fearless-looking. No man, she felt now, could inspire her with either of those baby emotions. Men were such dolts . . . and sailors were—just children. One could twine any man around one’s little finger; with a sailor one could make cat’s cradles. Of course, he would command her ship.
From countless sources Hereward heard
what she was saying. His jaw grew hard and his eyes narrowed and his brown fingers clenched hard.
“Women are such cowards,” he muttered, stung by her taunting words. “They take refuge behind their frailness and do things that . . . well, if she were a man I’d break her in two; being a woman, she has me where I can do only one thing. Well, if I must ...”
rT"'HE morning of the day set for the
Joan Storme’s launching Hereward stood once more in Nathan Storme’s office. He looked sheepish, but he did not smile, his strong fingers clutched his cap.
“I’d like to take command of ... of the Joan Storme, sir.”
“Eh! What’s that!” Old Nathan’s amazement was not all pretended. He didn’t know of Joan’s campaign and it is doubtful if he would have approved of it, though he had been the one to spoil her, to give her the idea that she could always have what she wanted.
“I said I’d like to ...”
“Aye, I heard you, lad. I thought you’d come around to it. But, damme, how dir she do it?”
Hereward shook his head, made a helpless gesture. “Women have ways of doing things, sir, that are not our ways. They have weapons that we can’t use and that we aren’t protected against.”
Nathan studied the rugged Viking’s profile with speculative eye. What his thoughts were, none could tell.
“Good luck then,” he said gruffly. “I hope you handle her successfully ... I think you will. I won’t be with you at the start of the voyage. I am leaving tonight for Boston and you won’t sail for a fortnight. You’ll pick me up at Boston and from there we’ll go down the easting.”
“I understand, sir. Miss Storme . .
“Oh, Joan will sail on her own ship. I’ll put you in charge of her till I come aboard at Boston. Ships an’ women are much alike, lad.”
He laughed robustly and laid a big hand on young Vroom’s shoulder as he ushered him through the counting-room. And his laugh rumbled after Hereward as he descended the stairs to the South Market Wharf. For the life of him, Hereward couldn’t see what there was to laugh at. He felt like a man who had just signed his death warrant; tomorrow in the town, seamen and shipowners would shake his hand and look upon him as upon one soon to be seen no more. It was sure death for a Vroom to sail in a ship that bore a woman’s name . . . and death for all on board.
Hereward could not fend that grim obsession away from him. He looked out upon the sparkling waters of the Bay of Fundy with a new suspicion in his regard, a distrust, a dread. For the sea is a woman in her caprices and, if she love a mariner, then let him take no ship called after another of the sex. She is a jealou3 mistress, the sea.
But, smoothly, triumphantly, the Joan Storme slid from the ways and settled into
the sea-cradle. And proudly, gallantly, ■she rode, her yards with pennons a-flutter, a great Jack blowing from her masthead. A splendid ship. They towed her to Reed’s Point for the final outfitting. Two weeks later she was ready for sea.
There was a banquet and reception on board before sailing and Joan Storme’s friends danced to the best music the town could afford. There was much jollity, giggling, rolling of blue eyes brown and grey. And Mistress Storme came in for much teasing about her handsome captain. But he ... he was like a spectre at the feast; his laughter a hollow sound, his smile a mere movement of the lips. Deep in his heart was that ancient superstition; silently, invisibly, the dead men paced the quarterdeck with him; the dead men stood by the wheel and watched the dancing throng. Fools . . . fools . . . and she, the headstrong, spoiled minx . . .
His eyes surveyed her resentfully, narrowly; withal, adoringly. He wanted to caress her, he wanted to hurt her, punish her. Actually he ignored her, and she seemed content to have it so. Sailing day came, chill, haggard, with a heavy sea smashing against the rocks of the distant
island, with a sullen cloud wrack lowering over the bay. April it was, but the tattered tails of Winter’s weathered robes still trailed over land and sea, still at times touched, cold and biting. In the rigging was a steady moan and whine, a creaking of blocks. Snow flurried thickly, and where yesterday spring had danced, winter came again and stamped in his surly, whistling fashion.
Captain Vroom and Alan Youngclaus, the mate, were deep in conference an hour before sailing time. No vessel had put out past the nun-buoy that day; coastingschooners, barques and all manner of craft came scooting in for safe anchorage between the long-reaching escarpments of the harbor, under a sky, drab, grey and sullen, raked by a scurrying wind that, below, lashed the waters into foam. The young captain and his mate; a man some years his senior, decided it were wise to wait. It might clear before morning. It would be madness to take a new vessel to sea on such a night when old and seasoned clippers lay secure in snug harbor. The Joan Storme would not sail that night . . .
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A haughty, windblown figure in a long blue cape, gathered close about her firm, rounded chin, with stormy eyes and a most determined air, swept down on Captain Vroom.
“We are sailing now, captain.” There was a note of finality in her voice, which even the snatching wind could not take away. Hereward looked confused, and mutely indicated the leaden sea and sky, the breaking whitecaps, the vessels riding at anchor. He could not meet her challenging eyes. He was only a sailorman.
“I do not think it would be wise, Miss
Storme. You see . . .a new vessel and ...”
“Are you . . . afraid, Captain Vroom?”
Hereward stiffened. His eyes met, clashed bitterly, with hers. The wind whipped her silken garments about her, toyed with wisps of her hair, reddened her tight-shut lips.
“Very well,” he said. “We will sail.”
rT'IS death for’un,” muttered Abel Snell, the bos’n, as the Joan Storme, a long, arrowlike vessel under a cloudy top of new and snowy canvas, careened down the Bay of Fundy, spray dashing high
over her lofty bowsprit, her lee scuppers pnly a few feet above the seething inferno of foam and brine. The wind, snow-laden, cut like a lash and its salty whips smarted and blinded.
Mistress Storme had retired in haughty triumph to her cabin; Hereward and Alan Youngclaus stood by the helmsman and watched the flying seascape. Old Snell, a Devon man, and some members of the crew stood by the weather braces. There was much doubt whether the new unseasoned canvas would hold that tearing wind. And the seamen knew the superstition of the Vrooms, and believed that they took their lives in their hands when they sailed on the Joan Storme for Boston. Abel Snell shook his grizzled head
“An evil wind, lads, and an evil shore on the lee.”
It was so. Every seaman who had navigated the Bay of Fundy knew that lee shore, with its tide rips and sunken, brooding ledges, its scattered rocks and intricate currents. Now with the wind striking her broadside, driving her shoreward, ever shoreward, it was a horror, a waiting, ghastly menace. Eyes strained through the evening murk for a glimpse of the wave-lashed shore; ears waited for that cry of alarm from the lookout: Breakers
on the lee!”
Past the Wolves, past the outlying islands of Charlotte, the Joan Storme sailed like a mad thing—a thing of strange, unknowable caprices a thing like a woman, Hereward Vroom thought, as the vessel defied him and took things into her own hands, and fought, fought always inward to the leeshore and certain destruction. The helmsman’s mingled oaths and prayers were wafted to the young captain’s ears amid the inferno of creaking, straining cordage, like the cries of demons above.
“And all on a maid’s say-so,” muttered young Vroom. “All for a caprice. Put your helm hard down, Joel Barnard, bring her up into the wind! She’s making for that shore!”
“I know, sir,” gasped the helmsman. “She won’t do as she’s bid. The devil’s in her.”
“Aye,” growled Hereward. “The devil’s in her.”
“The lee shore!” The cry burst simultaneously from a score of watchers. “There . . . right on our bow !”
It was so. And the Joan Storme bore down, down on those waiting rocks, driven, defeated by the demoniac power of the wind. They shortened sail, they tried in vain to bring her about. The anchors, following a swift sounding, went roaring out and down. And they dragged over the rocky bottom—they would not hold. And Death waited on the lee shore.
A grim, fixed look came to the young captain’s face. They had lost one bow anchor, the other was up and catted.
“We’ll run Deadman’s Passage,” he shouted. “We’ll get through ...”
They stared at him aghast. The helmsman lost his grip on the spokes and the vessel yawed, came back slowly with a snap of broken spars.
“You can’t make it, captain ...” The
mate stared at Hereward as if he were mad. Deadman’s Passage . . . scarcely wide enough to allow the little coasting schooners to go through, a mere funnel between Deadman’s Rock and La Torlana. There might be a few yards of leeway. And the ship must tear through that short passage . . .
“We’re going through,” said Hereward. “Stand by . . . and pray. I’ll beat this ship. I’ll bring her to her knees. She’s fighting me. And we’re going through. Once through, we’re in the lee of Campobello.”
A slim figure came out of the cabin, fought its way along. He saw her . . .
“Get back !” he called. “Get below !”
She paused. He came to her, jolted against her by the heave of the ship. “You stay in your cabin. Go now !”
He grasped her roughly, lifted her in his arms and carried her to the companionway. Put her within. She faced him, but not with the old courage.
“You’ll kill us! I knowr what you’re going to do—try to run Deadman’s Passage. You can’t!”
She went, for once awed, overruled. He returned to his post. The narrow opening of the passage appeared out of the swift falling darkness. He took the helm with Joel Barnard and stood like a carven figure, his eyes fixed into the haze ahead. No man there thought of life now. This that he was about to do, could not be done. It never had been done.
It seemed that she would crash into La Torlana, a tall wall of rock. It seemed her keen bow could never find that gap between the rocks, so narrow that new despair filled the watchers as she careened along, the waters boiling all about her. But now she was in the passage, flying, flying; grey walls of rock rose on either side. Her momentum carried her along and she held steady, obeyed the hands at her helm. They could almost touch the rock walls on either side. Once she scraped, splinters came away rendingly. They lived through a petrifying age in those few minutes she was in the passage. Then she burst through, clean, clear and triumphant, and rode in the lee of Campobello’s beetling cliffs.
Hereward Vroom had won. He had beaten her. New strength surged into him. An evil spell, a curse, had been conquered, broken; the lee shore had been cheated of another victim, and the sea of another man of the Vrooms who dared defy her jealousy. The ancient superstition had died in him.
AN HOUR later, the lights of the Maine shore showed on their starboard beam and above, a few pale stars peered shamedly down out of the ragged clouds. There was a steady wind now, driving her along. Hereward Vroom stood by the rail. The helmsman no longer cursed or prayed.
She was at his side before he knew of her coming and she stood there, a bit silent, subdued, penitent, though he did not know it.
“You won through, Captain Vroom,” she said.
He turned, startled, and at once there was the old confusion and embarrassment that her presence, the presence of beauty, always caused him.
“Yes,” he said. “She was stubborn. She fought me, but now—now she’s eating out of my hand—a gallant ship.”
Joan Storme was silent for a moment. She spoke very softly:
“Perhaps . . . perhaps it’s just that a ship with a woman’s name is ... is like a woman . . . she needs mastering ...”
He turned to her, incredulous, doubting. Could she mean ... He stood irresolute.
“Are you—afraid?” she said, laughing breathlessly.
He caught her in his arms then, strongly conquering his fear of her. And the helmsman winked at the shamed stars.