FICTION

The Stars Hang High

A fight for life in a wild sea teaches Jamie Cameron some things about two she’s—a girl and a boat

MARTHA BANNING THOMAS March 15 1940
FICTION

The Stars Hang High

A fight for life in a wild sea teaches Jamie Cameron some things about two she’s—a girl and a boat

MARTHA BANNING THOMAS March 15 1940

"BOATS” declared Jamie’s mother, “is bad. And when you mix up girl-business with them, you’re headed for a solid clinch of trouble.”

The Cameron family were at supper. Through the kitchen windows streamed the last blinding glare of sunset, reflected from the Bay of Fundy.

“Well, anyhow,” said Jamie, “I'm taking the dory to Colby.”

Bessie, his older sister, became offensively polite. “To see Thurza. I presume? There might be such a thing as finding Clyde ahead of you.”

“Clyde can go straight to..."

“Jamie!” Annie Cameron glared at her son. “Such rough talk comes from being too much around boats.” Bessie snorted, and Jawn Cameron laughed at his wife. Then, sobering, he spoke to his son. “That dory ain’t none too good to go bundling about the Basin in, boy. She’s leaky, and the engine’s tricky starting and stopping.”

"No wonder me hair’s whiter than a swan’s wing, a-worrying,” said Annie. “If your pa, Jamie, holds that the dory ain’t none too good, he means she’s right down dangerous.”

“Oh, lordy, mom!” Jamie at nineteen was as tall as his father. Quick-witted, good-looking and lovable, his blue eyes often visualized more clearly what he hoped would happen than what was actually going on about him; thus he gaily survived hazardous adventures by good luck, polished off with courage and ingenious capabilities.

“You dare sit there, drinking tea, Jamie, and tell me you didn't have a dose of trouble last week! You put your pa aboard the freighter just about on the engine’s last flicker, didn't ye?”

"But remember this, mom, I put him aboard!”

Jawn Cameron, Bay of Fundy pilot, and his son, exchanged amused glances.

“Beats me why ye don’t have your big stout boat overhauled proper." said Annie.

Jawn's eyes watered over a scalding cup of tea. “Your ma’s right, boy.”

“If that don’t rim-rack me plenty! You, pa, making speeches to me!”

Bessie’s dark eyes snapped. “Ain’t that Swedish freighter due about now?”

Jamie spoke with easy confidence. “Agent said she won’t likely show up for three days." The boy left the kitchen. Soon there came a roaring from upstairs: “Mom, where’s me blue tie with the anchors onto it?”

Jamie walked the hilly Cableville road to the fish wharves. Now the Bay lay behind him; the turbulent waters of the Gap were far below. Three stars shone in the immaculate green of early evening. “How am I thinking Thurza’ll ever take me, instead of Clyde Mallon?” he thought. The girl’s light hair swayed before his imagination. She wore it in long, soft swing-curls. Her hazel eyes were shadowed by a smudge of smoky lashes. “I love her, though. And I'm setting out to marry her.”

At the wharf he dropped into his tipsy craft, and bent over his engine. “I’m a lot better'n Clyde in some ways. I ain't mean. Clyde would even sneak a pilot job away from pa, if he could manage it.”

The dory engine coughed faintly. Jamie straightened up. 

At the next wharf Clyde Mallon hailed him from his own boat. He was a stocky fellow, red-haired, aggressive, self-assured. “Want a hand there?” Clyde’s dory was large, substantial, and in the best of condition. “Sure ye got a lifesaver aboard, Jamie?”

“What for, when I set the soles of me feet on dry land whenever I want to?”

Clyde’s laughter was loud and harsh. “Oh, yeah? Going to Colby?”

“Come along, lunkhead, and see for yourself."

“I’d be there and home again before your busted-down engine kicked over!”

“You think you’re too much consequence, you smelly old mackerel!” Jamie’s dory rolled, righted itself; the noise of progress was deafening, the odor heavy as an anaesthetic, as he swung out into the grey-muscled tide.

During the five-mile trip across the Basin, the engine three times died, and three times breathed again. “I'm smarter’n Clyde. I don’t have to have every teenchy little thing right; I always get clear of trouble.” A transient film of worry crossed his mind. “Maybe I ought to fix the big dory. Oh, why get in a sweat?” He began to sing. Vanity stuck plumes of pride in his cap.

Thurza was on the Colby wharves. “ You here, Jamie Cameron?” she cried.

“Oh, come now! Bet anything you come down here looking for me.” Jamie touched her elbow, looking down at her absurd fragment of a hat with loving tolerance. “Movies?”

Three hours later, reeling with cinema vertigo, they stood on the sidewalk saying goodnight. “Hey,” said Jamie, “why not come back with me tonight?”

Thurza hesitated. “I’d have to be over here again tomorrow evening, so's to be ready for work Monday morning.”

“That’s easy. I ll bring you.”

“You’re awful fast on making plans, without you know how they’ll come out.”

Jamie was already pulling her toward the wharves. “Don’t preach like mom and you so young!”

Bobbing back across the Basin, the lighthouse broke a blade on the girl's lovely hair. Jamie winced with joy. “You like your job to Colby?” he enquired. “You really belong this side of the Basin.”

"Sometimes I miss hearing the tide change,” she said. “Is that all?”

Her laugh was low with affectionate embarrassment. 

The engine balked twice, but the girl merely enquired when Jamie and his father would have the big dory out.

“Oh, she'll be jumping the tide rip soon. Needs a dose of overhauling.”

As they slowed down near the Cableville wharves, Jamie turned his head to listen off-shore. When the girl asked what the matter was, he changed the subject. “Clyde had it canny to mix your name up and make it into Zaruth, for naming his dory. I had to smile.”

“I don't think that's so funny.” Thurza became quietly dignified.

“Do you like that puffed-up old buzzard?” Jamie demanded. He instantly wished he'd left the question unasked, because his companion’s silence was like a wall between them.

Soon they walked the steep hills toward the Cameron house. Stars drifted overhead in bright, sparkling tides. Jamie wanted to kiss Thurza. He thought about it hard, but, glancing at her firm serene profile, he just plain didn’t dare to.

At midnight he shoved Thurza into Bessie’s room. “Company!” he hissed.

Bessie squealed like a mouse.

IT WAS three in the morning when Jamie clattered down the attic stairs to shake his father awake. “Freighter blowing for a pilot, pa!”

Annie Cameron jounced and flounced. “Not a decent night's sleep!”

“Well, well, she come after all,” mumbled the captain, mild even in rude awakening.

In half an hour’s time Jamie and his father were heading out for the Bay. “How’d you happen to see the vessel, boy?”

“Heard ’er blow. Been tramping up and down quite a spell. I reckon.” Then he asked, “Sure you got your pilot’s license with you, pa?” Jamie glanced astern.

“Yah, in me pocket. Hear anything?”

They both listened intently. “Sounds mighty like Clyde’s heavy engine.”

Jamie’s curses were riper than any his mother had heard. “Just what I been looking for—the dirty sneak! He’s racing to get the freighter, too. Been tinkering and overhauling his dory all day. Blast him!”

“I’m the only licensed pilot out of here.”

“A strange cap’n will sometimes take the first feller out. Has this one got your name, pa?”

“Sent it in ahead to Halifax. Can’t be nowise sure, though.”

The small dory chattered under added pressure of power. “Hist up your red-and-white lights. Clyde’s got to cut across the tide rip, first.”

The dory poured itself into a shallow trough. The second boat came chopping up their wake. “How I hate that danged, red-headed, loud-mouthed skunk!”

“He ain’t no favorite of mine, neither,” yelled Jawn, “but he looks after things handy. He’s smart.”

The dory went well. Then the engine strangled, choked. “Cap’n must of seen our lights by now. Maybe we can make it, boy.”

The Zaruth pounded nearer.

“Hi, pa, keep your hand on the pump-plunger or she’ll dry up and bust wide open! She’s acting right down loony... my land... oh, lordy!”

Jawn’s big hand became nothing but a jerky blur. “Listen, boy,” he called, “I don't want you, nor the vessel, to stop a second. I’ll jump the ladder, if you’ll head up t’ le’ward and swing off light and easy.”

“All right, sure! Say, ain’t Clyde got a gall! Wonder who’s with him to take his dory back?”

“Don’t matter. He’ll go back, too, in his own dory. We’re three boat-lengths ahead.” The captain’s hand on the plunger reached a fury of speed. “Ye’d ought to have seen to this, boy. Ye knew we was expecting a vessel.” Jamie grinned to himself. His father would have done no different.

“How you going to get home? Can’t tend plunger and tiller to a time?”

“Tide’ll be handy for drifting back. I ain’t scairt.”

There was no time for argument. Jawn scrambled forward. The vessel loomed above them. Then the pilot’s long body had left the dory peak in one practiced, upward lunge. His hands grasped the rope ladder hanging down the freighter’s side.

“What’s your name?” came bawling down from the bridge.

“Jawn Cameron. Licensed pilot, sir!”

Jamie swung hard over. As the vessel moved on he saw stars in the place where she had been.

Clyde was close. As he swept into a turn he yelled, “Your engine’s gone dead. Want a tow, little feller?”

“And pa’s aboard the freighter! I wouldn’t take a tow from you.”

The Zaruth cut by in a streak of white. Dawn was splitting up the east when Jamie at last climbed the attic stairs to bed. “Maybe I got to do something about that dory!” His smile melted into near sleep. "I’m smarter’n Clyde, though.”

Next morning, Thurza’s dusky-fringed, hazel eyes were solicitous. “You must be near dead for sleep, Jamie.” 

Jamie smiled benevolently. “Not a bit of it. I'm fair used to it.”

Jawn had come home, also, after anchoring the freighter in the Basin. “Can’t dock ’er until Monday. Another vessel laying to the wharf.”

Though Annie Cameron was unlikely to learn any details of the previous night’s adventures, her every gesture fluttered with pennants of disapproval. “Such works,” she scolded. “I near died worrying, before either of ye was in.” Jawn gave his son a long, wordless look. Jamie smiled, ever so little.

Another week rolled around. Again it was Saturday night. Jamie announced he was crossing the Basin to get Thurza.

“Maybe Clyde’ll be there too,” said Bessie. “He’s fair gone on her. Maybe Thurza likes him, too. How do you know?”

Jamie destroyed her with a glare. Now his father spoke. “You ain't forgot the freighter is loaded now, and swinging off tonight? I’ll be needing ye.”

“Hey, that's easy! I’ll get Thurza first, then come out for you.”

Annie glanced at her menfolks, as if beneath their ordinary speech lay devious strategy.

“I got the dory engine all tuned up. Purrs lively as a kitten,” said Jamie.

But Jawn looked sober. “She’s old though. Acts foolish, betimes. May start and not stop... or stop and not start. I’m depending on you, boy.”

“Needn’t to look so mauger, pa. I done this before.” 

“Yah, I know. Well, I’ll go to Colby with ye, and board the freighter there. See that your hurricane lantrun is filled proper. I’ll have my electric torch. Take the big oars from the other dory. Be sure of your anchor, and enough line. Never can tell about these here cruises. Plenty gas, oil, water.”

“Yes, pa.” The boy’s manner was humble.

“My land, such meeching, polite speeches!” Bessie, as usual, was sniffing.

“Don’t mean no more than the froth tadpoles kick up in ditch water,” said Annie.

JAWN was no more than a shadow at the tiller as the small dory sped toward Colby. “Don’t... she... go... good!” breathed Jamie. His thoughts shied away from a certain troublesome aspect of the night trip ahead. There was rather a tricky method of stopping the engine; a yanking twitch of wires. He’d meant to fix 'em proper, but—there—he just hadn’t. Foolish to bother his time now, worrying. Everything would work all right. The sound of smooth explosions was like an ascending prayer in his ears. 

"Right down sure ye got all your gear aboard, Jamie?”

 “Say, pa, I'm talking now!” He leaned forward, and his voice was light with mockery. “You’re fussing awful strong and sudden. Whatever ails ye? And, man, who stuffed a thermos cork into a hole stove in a dory bottom not so long ago, and the sea running heavy?"

“Pshaw now! Didn’t have nothing else, did I?”

“And that time we was outside waiting for a freighter; didn’t we have to drift six miles for shallow shoalwater so’s your anchor line would reach bottom?”

“Oh, well,” Jawn coughed. “Anyhow, I’m telling you Clyde looks after his dory, and you should do the same."

“Oh, my land! Oh, lordy... that’s good!” But, guiltily, Jamie recalled last Sunday evening’s trip to Colby. His cheek burned with the memory.

With depraved and fateful timing, the dory had broken down in the very shadow of the Swedish freighter, still moored some distance from the Colby wharves. No amount of deft coddling could induce the engine to turn over. Jamie had cursed under his breath. Sarcastic advice floated down from two interested deckhands high above their heads. Then, like the inevitable shark on the trail of trouble, if the Zaruth didn’t bound into the scene!

That was sheer calamity. Thurza grew quieter, as Jamie grew more frantic. He’d been obliged to crouch beneath the cross fire of high, unkind hilarity crackling back and forth between the large vessel and Clyde’s dory. He’d had to take it.

The act had ended dolefully by Thurza’s being obliged to step into Clyde’s boat. She was whisked off, with insulting speed, to the wharves. And she did not even say good-by. Too disgusted, most likely.

Jamie had managed to pole off beyond the voices of the deckhands, who had sent about his shoulders a shower of condolences. They had whipped out enormous handkerchiefs. They had bent their heads upon the rail and sobbed extravagantly.

Sitting there in his dory, Jamie had experienced new desolations. A spiritual weakness had inhabited his veins. “I’m no good. Thurza is dead right,” he’d admitted in the cloistered seclusion of his heart. “I’m shiftless and no account.” And he’d given himself a wry smile.

Before Jamie contrived a journey home that Sunday night, he’d been pretty well done in. But tonight, he reflected, everything would breeze along dandy. He’d show Thurza that he could haul her across and set her ashore with no mishap.

Of course she’d be waiting for him. And she was. Jawn left the dory, and Thurza climbed in. She was quite as companionable as usual. No hint of her unexpected departure of a week ago showed in her manner. They were friends. The Swedish freighter lay at another wharf, her deckload being finally secured.

“Pa’s taking her out tonight. I’m taking him off the vessel later,” explained Jamie. To exhibit the vitality of the engine, he started with a jerk. The dory sprang forward, and Thurza fell to her knees.

Jamie grasped her wrist. “I never meant to toss you about like that. Are ye hurt, darlin’?”

The girl drew back to her seat. "Your boat’s prankish as a colt.”

Jamie began to speak loudly, as if his heart were pushing up the words faster than he could say them. "Hark, girl. I love you. I got it bad. We’ve got to marry, not too far off.”

Thurza made a curiously startled movement. “Don’t ask me to say the words just yet.” Her voice was solemn.

“I got to know. I ache me, wondering day and night. Do you like me, Thurza?”

“You know I do, Jamie Cameron.”

“Well then... do you love me?”

“Jamie... Jamie... don’t! Not this minute.”

He had to be content. The wind came in uneven puffs. Drifts of clouds hid the stars. Spray rose at the bow. Jamie was too proud to say, “Look how I fixed the dory!” But performance was telling the story.

He felt happy. His heart bumped and jumped against his ribs. “Tell you what," he called out, “let’s keep right on through the Gap and land at the rocks below home.” 

“Does the tide suit?”

“Just right for it.”

Thurza leaned forward, her hair cloudy about her shoulders. “Suppose something went wrong?”

"Don’t be a goose-granny! Pa’d get three dollars a day until taken off. First port of call, Belfast, Ireland.” His answer was blithe.

“Don’t be funny; it might be serious,” Thurza sighed. 

“See here, I’ll first climb up the cliff path with you, and see you safe to my house. Then I’ll come down there, and be handy to the freighter when she pulls out. A lot easier all around.”

Rough water tumbled in the Gap. The wind drew through there chill as the breath off an iceberg. Ghostly white fingers curled along the dory side, slipped away, clawed up again. Strong eddies clutched the boat, then let go.

Now a clammy fog of doubt cooled Jamie’s optimism. The wind breezed more strongly than he’d counted on. Landing at the rocks below home required a nice calculation and decisive action.

Maybe he’d been a fool.

THE black water was very black; the white foam very white. Now they veered to follow the upshore coast. The groaner-buoy winked a cold eye at them.

The dark cliffs towered above their heads.

They tossed this way and that. Now Jamie yelled in Thurza’s ear, “I’m heading in. Here, you take the tiller. Hold 'er steady like this till I yell to swing ’er off a little to starboard. It may be tippy.”

Thurza, not wholly unused to emergency steering, grasped the tiller with both hands.

“Jamie, will I do it right? This is pretty rough.”

"Sure, you’ll do it all right.” His voice laughed at her as he crawled forward. To rush the landing was like aiming an arrow at a target. Speed was essential in order to withstand the push of the tide.

The low rocks glistened with wet seaweed, but there was one place, shelving off into a tiny curve of stony beach....

“Now!” yelled Jamie.

The dory rolled over and up. She shivered into a long lurch. There hung suspended one of those timeless chasms, between one moment and the next, in which the worst can happen. And it did.

Jamie pitched overboard as neatly as a codfish slides from a bucket.

Thurza’s scream spiralled up to the top of the cliffs.

“This can’t be me!” thought Jamie. A wave pulled him high so that his head poked above water. “By gollys it must be me!” His brain worked. “Lucky I fell out for’ard and to port. Gives me a gamble.”

As Thurza had swung to starboard, the dory had come in closer aft, and nearer Jamie. “Quick,” he managed to shout. “Hard over, or ye’ll smash on the rocks!”

Another sea sent him spinning ahead as the dory swung over with a narrow death’s margin of black water between it and the rocks. Jamie went down and down, and came up with both arms reaching out. By a miracle he felt his hands and fingers clutching the dory rim.

Thurza’s strong hands doubled his grip. "I'm here. I’ll haul ye aboard, Jamie,” she gasped. “You're safe!”

“We’re not safe,” pronounced a dismal voice within him, “not unless she can stop the engine!” Horrid mirth shook his heart. A fine, monstrous joke. He could hardly think; he could hardly breathe. He grew giddy and bemused, yet somewhere his spirit whirled in the lonely, spacious arcs of truth. He understood two things—courage might save Thurza’s life and his own tonight, but what about after-ward? Somehow he must prove that not only could he meet his terrible ordeal, but profit by it. Here and now was the test.

Once headed out from shore, Thurza could devote both hands to holding Jamie, at least for helpful intervals. He clung well astern, and the speed of the dory forced his body out long and straight as a flag.

But, with all her strength, the girl could not pull him up over the side.

“I’ll hold hard with one hand,” he panted, “and help you steer with the other.”

“You can’t last, Jamie! You can’t !”

The boy felt the same thing, but he shouted, “I can and I will!” His eyes sought hers, and against the darker sky he discerned the thick fringe of her lashes. Resourcefulness flowed into him. Thurza held his shoulders in a firm grip, as his right hand closed on the tiller.

His brain cleared, as thoughts raced with the water. No possible chance now of landing at the rocks below home. “We’ll shape a course across the Gap—to the Far Shore!”

Almost he lost his hold. Fright closed his throat. The words ran down inside and choked him.

“I’m holding ye. I won’t let go!” Thurza leaned over him. She must have seen his smile under his wet streaming hair, because she smiled too. Now his head moved up a little. “Small cove... beach ’er... drive straight for it.” He moved off a trifle with a sea, returned.

“How long can I last? Oh, lordy—Pa—the freighter!”

“If I dared let go of you I could stop the engine,” cried the girl. “If I could even slow ’er down, I could haul you aboard.”

The tide kicked at him, swung him against the boat side. “Can’t stop now,” he gasped. ‘Capsize ’er in this sea. Wait. I can last!”

Even now, Jawn Cameron must be heading out into the Gap. First port of call, Belfast, Ireland.

“Blasted, shiftless fool that I am. This is the worst mess I ever was into.” His fingers began to ache with unbearable cramp. The black water looked shoreless. It held him securely, like arms pulling him back. Perversely, the dory engine beat out its swift staccato.

The lighthouse swept its yellow beam above their heads. “Put there to help us, and don’t care a dang,” was Jamie’s resentful thought.

He knew that his performance was close to the heroic. Pride stiffened resolution. Once cut across the tide, and perhaps Thurza could slacken the engine’s speed. Pretty uncertain, though, in the dark and with the boat jumping.

“Are you all right, Jamie darlin’?” Her husky voice beseeched him.

“Yes, I’m fine.” His legs were numb as posts. He heard a long, sighing whisper through the Gap.

“Freighter’s coming, Jamie.”

“Oh, lord!” Already the dory had passed beyond the outward course of the large vessel. They had crossed the tide rip. And Jamie still held on.

“Thurza!”

The girl bent dangerously low in order to hear.

“I can still hold on. Now’s our chance to try stopping the engine.”

“I can’t bear to let go of ye, Jamie. Ye might lose hold.” Her voice, in the wind, was desperate with anxiety.

Jamie felt a shock of joy. Even at the risk of disaster, Thurza did not want to leave him. Even at the risk of losing her life, maybe!

“Do as I tell you.”

“Yes, yes. I’ll try.”

HE HOARDED a long breath. “Work easy and careful. Don’t hurry till you find out what you’re doing. They’s two wires leading to the switch. Yank ’em apart. You can feel out what ye’re doing... ” His voice failed him as breathlessness left him gasping. How long could he cling?

“Yes, Jamie.” She was almost sobbing. “Hold hard till I come again.”

She crawled amidships. It seemed a lifetime before he heard her shout. “I can’t fix it, Jamie! I can’t find ’em—the wires—so’s I’m sure.”

“You must!” He roared with the last blast of breath that was in him. “Light the lantrun. You must do it.” Then he flung an unfair threat at her. “I can’t hold on much longer.”

This was the unbearable spear to hasten accomplishment.

The dory swung up on a rising sea, and jerked sharply. The engine coughed and gave a long, expiring breath. “I got ’em—Jamie!”

The boat rolled so that he was drawn up, his knees clear of the water. Pressure slackened. The tide let go. “Hey, quick, help me!”

He pulled the tiller so that the small craft was headed along the Far Shore. No need now to beach the boat. The girl scrambled to him, her hands dragging at him with all the strength she had. He hung over the dory rim, his head inside. He slumped down anyhow in the bottom of the boat. The high sharp edge of effort had been reached and passed.

No sound now, but the voice of the waves, and the rustle of a large ship making calm progress through the Gap.

“Jamie, you're shivering! Jamie, you’re brave. You’re safe!” Thurza was patting him all over, half-crying. “No one else could have done it.”

“You’re brave too, girl. You’re wonderful.” The dory rocked them together.

“We’re safe!” He touched her wet cheek with his hand. He took lung-deep breaths of air. Then he gave a harsh laugh. “Looka there!”

The black freighter came on. Her lights shone. And Jawn Cameron was on the bridge.

Thurza had taken off her coat, and was wrapping it about Jamie. But, as they watched together, chill desolation claimed them. The girl flung both arms about him. “Don’t feel bad. You did all you could. You were brave!”

Aft of the freighter they saw a thin, bounding streak of white. “That,” said Jamie in a hoarse whisper, “would be Clyde.” 

“Never mind, darlin’! Nevermind. You couldn’t help it.”

But his misery was too deep for comforting. The lighthouse flashed across Thurza’s hair. “Jamie.” she cried in sudden vigor, “maybe you can beat Clyde after all!”

Her very voice dragged him to his knees. Ambition once more nudged his elbow as he crawled to the engine, and his stiff fingers grew limber with work as he deftly twisted wires and adjustments. The engine came to life.

“Ho-o-o!” cried Jamie, like an owl on good hunting. “Here we go a-fluking.”

They headed out once more. The freighter had passed beyond them. Its moderate speed could easily be overtaken; it was Clyde who must be manoeuvred out of position now.

“Push ’er, boy. Push ’er!” called Thurza. And her hair blew backward, whipping like a curtain.

Exaltation lifted Jamie’s heart. He’d still get the best of Clyde. Thus the whole experience gained added tang and flavor. “I’m some stout feller. I’d rather have it this way. Proves me all the smarter,” he thought. “Ain’t that Clyde a trimmer, though? Even tonight he’d take a chance on getting pa off, knowing I always go.” The idea angered, and warmed him.

They skimmed along, shaping a course which would bring them at a sharp angle above Clyde. Jamie’s wet hair felt thick as seal’s fur on his forehead. “What a nerve! What a gall! H-o-o!” No doubt now; victory was his. “Me dory never tramped the water like she’s tramping tonight!”

“You’ll catch your death o’ damp,” cried Thurza at him.

“I’ll catch pa off the freighter. By gollys, ain’t, this fun?”

Now Clyde cut in on a shorter line. He began to shout. “Thought ye was done for. I seen your trouble, you fool!”

“Me? I’m never done for!”

“I’m getting your pa, anyhow.” The challenge blew back as Clyde headed over and cut away.

“Well, I’ll be everlastingly, teetotally—Of all the danged, popped-up, smelly old pickerels! But I’d sooner it happened the hardest way.”

Pride and vanity fed famished appetite with this opportune adventure. Then, amazingly, as if the very force which pushes a fountain high, had lapsed into nothing, so Jamie’s soaring exaltation sank and died. Emotionally, he relived the span of bleak truth in which he’d spun during those first moments overboard at the rocks. He saw himself as others saw him. Jamie Cameron, a laughing, good-natured, thoughtless boy who had not yet become a man.

He left the engine. Close to Thurza, he pushed the tiller so that the dory came about with accurate timing. Waves slapped at her sides in mournful swishes.

“Whatever are ye doing, boy?” Thurza struggled a moment, with her hand under Jamie’s. “You’re heading back again.”

“Yah. I know.”

Clyde swept on and by. The big vessel was barely kicking foam astern. The lighthouse beam, impartial to the last, revealed the rope ladder as Jawn’s long figure slithered down it, to drop, exactly at the right instant, into Clyde's dory.

“Oh, Jamie darlin’!” Thurza’s moan was all sympathy. She moved closer. “I don’t understand anything, but,” her voice turned gay, protective, “I can’t bear that Clyde Mallon. He’s hateful. He isn’t half the man you are.”

Jamie shrugged his shoulders. His strong, purposeful profile was turned away. His hair had dried, and blew up in a stiff hedge above his forehead. Even in the darkness the girl could discern a different Jamie.

“I like you best,” she whispered.

He did not answer. And soon the Zaruth roared by in a streak of white. Jawn’s bawling voice bridged the tumbling tide. “Well now, a bit of work to be proud of that was!” The dory was lost in noise.

Jamie swallowed. “Clyde must of seen me overboard, and told him. Pa knows now what a fool he has for a son.”

Thurza’s long curls lay on his shoulder. “It’s you who’s best in the whole place. I’m so proud of you.”

The water jostled its rude way through the Gap. Little waves stood up in crowds. Now the girl reached up her hands and turned the boy’s face toward her. “I’ll tell mom about us, tomorrow. I’m homesick for the sea, over to Colby. I love you, Jamie.”

The young man’s reserves broke down. He held her close and kissed her hard. And the dory dipped in courtesy to love.

“You’re fine, and proud, and brave! It’s that in you, I love.”

Jamie choked.

“Tell me,” she pleaded, “why did you turn about so fast, when you could have easy beaten Clyde?”

He looked offshore. “I don’t anyways know I can make ye understand, girl, but I want to. I don’t quite get the heft of it meself. But something funny come over me when I pitched overboard tonight. Truth hit me fair. It hit me again, sudden like a squall, while I was trying to beat Clyde. I had to listen, or turn meself into a liar against meself.”

Thurza clung more closely, a little frightened of this new, stern Jamie.

“Listen, girl. Here it is. It wa’n’t me being ready that would of got me out to the freighter, but me cussed, devil’s good luck in pulling me out of messes I didn’t never need to get into.”

Thurza’s voice was soft encouragement. “Yes, Jamie?”

“This trip rightly belonged to Clyde. He was ready for it.”

“Why, boy! What’s this you’re saying, darlin’?”

“I suppose I’ve known meself for a long time. I wouldn’t pay heed. If I’d tended proper to the engine, you’d had no trouble about stopping ’er. It was luck, anyhow, that you could. Tricky. And I used bad judgment in bringing you to the rocks below home. I wanted to show you how fine me dory was doing. I was showing off. A man don’t do that.”

Thurza’s cold fingers touched his cheek. 

“You see, luck threw me a grand gamble. I took it, and would of won, if I’d gone on. I’m not depending on luck no more. I'll take me troubles straight, after this. I wouldn’t blame ye for liking Clyde best.”’

Thurza closed both arms about his neck. Her hair whipped across his eyes.

“Don't,” cried Jamie, “tell pa, or nobody else, any of what I’ve said. That belongs to just you and me. I failed. Let it go at that.”

“You’ve turned, all in a minute, into a grand, grown-up man. Jamie Cameron! And—am I ever proud! Look—a few stars are showing. They’re hanging high. Kiss me, Jamie!”

THAT night in bed, very late. Pilot Jawn Cameron shook with such convulsive laughter that the very springs of the mattress rang.

“What ails ye, for heaven’s sake? Got the ague hooked onto ye?”

By devious methods of explanation, calculated to confuse, he finally reduced his wife to complete exasperation.

“Don’t understand a word ye’re sayin’. Don’t understand....”

“Quit flapping your pigtail, woman! Maybe it ain’t necessary for you to understand. Folks is funny, by dang, and you’re one of the funniest.”

He went off into another spasm.

“Jawn Cameron, if you don't tell me what it’s all about—”

“I’m telling ye, Annie. It’s this. Our Jamie’s figurin’ I think him a fool. That's what I let him think. But he behaved real starchy this night—done something oncommon brave. I reckon I’ll slice off a parcel of land by the shore-pasture, to build him and Thurza a house.”

“Oncommon brave? What was it then?” Annie was all ears, demanding.

But the tall pilot had fallen into gentle slumber.