Fiction

LEAVE THE SONG TO ME

Singing George ruled the shipyard with fists like sledges—then he met a dark enemy he couldn’t beat

CARL D. LANE November 15 1947
Fiction

LEAVE THE SONG TO ME

Singing George ruled the shipyard with fists like sledges—then he met a dark enemy he couldn’t beat

CARL D. LANE November 15 1947

LEAVE THE SONG TO ME

Singing George ruled the shipyard with fists like sledges—then he met a dark enemy he couldn’t beat

CARL D. LANE

MRS. MITTLE annoyed Thad like all get-out. She sat on the bench in the dusk-dappled garden taking up the space beside Ellen which Thad counted his own, prattling about the sickness and death and human misery she had witnessed. Her bountiful charity basket rested at her feet. Thad wantod to kick it.

“These things ain’t for mortals to question,” sind Mrs. Mittle. “Your father will be a long time mending, Ellen child, with not a copper of wages coming in. Í that is, I and the ladies—fancied that a basket would be welcome.”

“Singing George isn’t home yet,” Thad said hotly. “We’re waiting for him now. Mrs. Mittle, he’s a proud man and will not take your charity.”

“I do declare,” Mrs. Mittle said with ready hostility. “Thad Ryan, how long since you’re a member of George’s family?”

“I’m not yet,” Thad said, “but I am to be, Singing George willing. Ma’am, you and your basket had better go.”

“Humph!” Mrs. Mittle shrugged. She rose, pulling on her black gloves. “But the basket stays,” she shrilled. “I ain’t one to go contrary to the wishes of t he Ladies’ Society.”

“Good night., Mrs. Mittle,” Ellen said gently, “and thank you.”

Thad swore. He’d go starving before he’d humble himself to accept a charity basket and so would Singing George. But Ellen silently carried the basket into the cottage. After a while she returned to Thad and together they waited for the first of the two carriages which came up Tatum’s Hill that night.

The moon, low and lemon-yellow, was a smear in the offshore fog bank. The Brewster fog gun, distant and night-muted, boomed out from the island beyond the thin lights of the town. Night things shrilled in the salt marshes below and earthy smells wafted to the summit of Tatum’s smells of newly turned gardens, of the dank masonry pit which was the graving dock of Mr. John’s shipyard and of the tide-washed sands of Boston Bay. There was spring in the air and Thad’s kisses were fierce and eager. They had waited so long for Singing George to return to give them his blessings.

“A lantern!” Ellen cried. “Thad, he’s coming!” Thad’s world was straightening out. With George back at his old job of graving foreman in the shipyard a man could reckon the future better than he’d been able to in the last three months.

“Don’t mention Mrs. Mittle,” Ellen warned. “1

put the basket in the off-parlor. He’d be wild.” • “I won’t,” Thad said.

The lantern of the carriage was turning the south shelf, halfway up Tatum’s. When it cleared the stand of cedar at the road bend, they could hear the deep strong voice of Singing George raised in song.

“Like a forecastle roar or a pasture bell, as he wills it,” Ellen said. “Thad, he’s done his mending well.”

Thad nodded. There was no trace of weakness in the lusty Irish voice. The long months on his back had not quenched the deep fire of it and it lacked only the cool stone steps of the graving dock to give it the resonance Thad knew so well. Yet Singing George’s eyes were still bandaged and Thad had to help the big, labor-gnarled man from Doughty’s hired rig.

“Home I am, darlin’,” Singing George boomed, “Home to me love! Hello, young Ryan.”

But Ellen’s soft fingers were reaching to the bandage and there was sudden doubt and fright in her voice. “Father,” she cried. “You can see?”

“Aisy, lass,” Singing George laughed and hugged her. “ ’Tis as I’ve told you these many weeks. The cloth keeps the sand dust out me eyes, they’re tender yet. Of course I can see, gu-rl !” and Singing George slipped the bandage from his head.

“The saints be praised!” cried Ellen and threw her small body into her father’s great arms.

SINGING GEORGE kissed her, as Doughty turned the carriage for the descent. Thad thought the little world on Tatum’s where his heart wanted to dwell seemed a fine good place again.

But he was not sure. He noticed that when Singing George waved to Doughty his head didn’t face the carriage but a cedar clear half around from the road. That was an odd thing for a man who could see. The explosion on the dry-docked frigate had been terrific, and others who had worked with George near the powder magazine would never see again. Blindness for Singing George would have been a cruel calamity, for a man needs his eyes more than anything else to direct the gang which graves a ship.

Ellen went indoors and lighted the whale oil lamps. Singing George paused at the door frame listening.

“D’you hear it, young Ryan?” he asked.

“’The marsh peepers, sir?” Thad asked, listening also.

“The whistle of the Hingham boat,” Singing George replied sharply. “The Brewster gun left off firing. ’Twas like a hole in the night when it ceased, and now the boat is whistling, calling for a sign from Brewsters.”

Thad could not hear it and said so. But Singing George did not answer and Thad could feel a sudden withdrawal of him, a sudden wish to drop the subject. “Maybe I was wrong, Thad,” said Singing George and went inside.

The big man was singing softly again, walking with easy familiarity to his usual chair at the grate side in which a yard-chip fire burned briskly. Thad thought no more of the Hingham steamer groping her way through the fog. There were things of planning and hope which he had to say to Singing

George that d. owned out all other thought.

Ellen fussed in the kitchen shed, giving Thad his chance, but by the time he had made ready to speak, she came in with food and a cobwebby earthen hottle. Thad ate, but he was not very hungry. Singing George ate heartily and between bites asked about neighbors and the boys of his graving gang. He scowled when Ellen told him that Dink Rastigan had taken his place as gang boss.

“Temporary!” Singing George growled. “Only temporary!” Rastigan ain’t got the brains to block a ship nor the voice to sing her wedges in.”

There was no reply to that which would not hurt Singing George. He had learned to grave ships in the tide docks of Dublin and Dundalk and Sligo Bay and fought his fight to foreman in the way of the gravers for generations. He was fiercely proud of his job, fiercely proud of the physical beating

he had given Dink Rastigan to get the job so many years ago. Thad was pegger on the dock gang and had been under Rastigan since the day they had taken George to the hospital across the Charles. He had to admit Rastigan was a good graving foreman—when sober as good as George himself.

In the pale light of the lamps Thad watched Singing George’s eyes. They darted about, lying briefly on Thad’s own, but there was a flat, dull lifelessness to them which disturbed him. George had walked st raight and unfumbling to his old chair, but Thad could not forget how he had been certain of hearing the whistle of the Hingham steamer, nor that the lamp above the chair hissed and

complained, like a small insect, about the watery Boston oil in its wick. A blind man, Thad had heard, used his ears for eyes.

AFINE lusty chantey 1 learned from a gunner’s mate whilst lying in,” Singing George said and leaned back in his chair. “ ’Tis the song of Leaving Johnny.”

He sang it for them in a full vibrant voice and when he came to the refrain, “Leave her, Johnny, leave her!” a man loving song as Thad did, had all he could do to keep from stomping and bellowing along with him.

“It gets ribald, slight, about here,” Singing George said, stopping, “and I’ll reserve it for the lads at the graving dock. Ellen, me own, get to tidying Thad’s itching to talk to me alone!” It set Thad’s worries

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Leave the Song to Me

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to rest, for a man must have eyesight to notice as Singing George had. Ellen left

them, latching the door pointedly, and Thad faced Singing George. Even

then, unknown to them, the second carriage was slowly coming up the hill to Tatums.

“Speak out, lad,” Singing George invited heartily. “1 been expecting it, ever since you and Ellen were sprats.”

So Thad asked him for Ellen’s hand. He did not say how much he loved her, for Singing George must know that as well as he. There had been no other since childhood. Singing George sighed and crossed his legs. Then he suddenly sat upright and his hand reached to touch Thad.

“Boy,” Singing George said softly. “I knew ’twas coming. I knew this night I’d have to put my pride away and be fair with you. Could I touch you from here, lad?”

Thad gazed in fascination at the searching hand. “No sir,” lie said.

“Reckoned I might by the sound of your voice,” Singing George muttered. “But distance is still deceiving. Now you know, Thad.”

“I—I wasn’t sure at first,” Thad said.

“Blind as a dune bat,” said George, “and ever will he. ’Twas a stupid notion thinking to hold off what she must sometime know. It alters the picture for you and Ellen—a blind, prideful old man forever under foot. Thad, I’m nary a mite good to no man anymore.”

“It would change nothing,” Thad said. “You’d always have a home with us, sir.”

“Bless your heart, young Ryan,” George sighed. “Always a home! But you miss the point, boy. I’m barren of worldly goods. There’s not a shilling to the name of me. ’Twould be a double burden I’d be.”

Thad knew that it was the old man’s fierce pride, talking so. ríe coum marvel at the grandness of it and still condemn the stupidity and vanit y of it. Singing George would how to no man, not even to his own physical self. It was what had made him return singing and joyful, damning Dink Rastigan as if he himself could again boss the graving gang.

“Out of the best of my wisdom,” Singing George said slowly, “—for I’ve pondered it—I am refusing you the hand of Ellen. Temporary, mind! No man could hold aught against you, Thad. You’re wonderful strong and you know graving like a Dublin man and you’ll yet have my job of foreman. But you’re only a pegger now, lad; the burden of wife and father would be too much. When old George is no part of your problem, Thad, when he’s situated never to come between his daughter and her true love—why you’ll have my blessings—and willing.”

Thad could understand, being himself Irish, but it took a long stretch of thinking to understand how Singing George, living these many years by brawn and muscle anti his voice, could ever make his independent way. Thad wanted to tell him so, but George suddenly cocked his head and hushed him.

“A carriage is coming,” he said. “Nigh up, it is. Without eyes, lad, a man soon learns to see with bus

ears.”

The bouncing lantern of the second carriage was almost abreast of the cottage when they reached the door. It was the McCurdy wagon of Mr. Johns, the shipyard owner, drawn by two chestnuts under the careful hand of his coachman. Mr. Johns, his tall

beaver awry and his coat flapping, was already in the sandy roadway.

“George,” he said. “There’s hell to pay and no pitch hot.”

“Yes,” said Singing George. “I heard.”

“You did!” Mr. Johns cried and his words tumbled forth in excitement. “I declare! Well — the Hingham steamer couldn’t pick up the Brewster gun and she struck on Ragged Ledge. Tore herself open as an orchard basket and she’s sinking fast. She made the shipyard but we’ll have to dry-dock her within the hour to save her.”

“Dock her then,” said Singing George.

“I can’t find Rastigan. He’s across in Boston and I’ve sent a boat for him,” Mr. Johns growled. “I know it’s hard cruel to take a man from his sick bed . . . hut, George, you’ve got to help me. The graving gang’s been called.”

Thad could almost cry out for Singing George, standing there so helpless and alone. Mr. Jones looked hard at him and George, all unseeing, looked back, his head nodding slightly. It was as if time had ceased and was waiting for Singing George to make his confession, as if time were holding in suspension those seconds so that old George could cry out to the world that he was helpless and useless. And Thad, who knew his pride, understood the cost.

“Mr. Johns,” Thad said in pity, “Mr. Johns . .

But Singing George gripped his arm savagely, stopping him from saying it, and asked slowly, “My own graving gang, sir?”

“Your own, George,” Mr. Johns said impatiently, “Come, man, they’ve set the bilge blocks and flooded the dock. They’re waiting for you and your song.”

“Aye,” said Singing George and his shoulders suddenly straightened. “Waiting for me, Mr. Johns. So be it. Thad and me would be obliged for a lift down the hill.”

“For the saints!” Thad cried “George, you can’t!”

Singing George turned upon him fiercely. “Belay it, boy! Please remember I’m your boss again this minute just turned. Get into the carriage.”

So Thad got into the carriage and Singing George shuffled inside to the off-parlor for his reefer coat and then, feeling boldly with his feet, climbed into the carriage. “A man’s bound to make a try,” he whispered mildly to Thad. “A burden for life . . . it’s pure horrible to think on, lad.” The driver clicked to the team and they started down Tatum’s hill.

THINKING about it as the brake shoes ground hissing sparks from the wheel tires, Thad could foresee nothing but disaster and shame for Singing George. This was the pride which went before a fall; the foolish stubbornness of a defeated man not great enough to face what must be faced. The docking of a ship was a matter of skill and experience. She must come into the stone dock straight and true and after the caisson had been floated into the latches and the water started dropping, a man needed eyes, keen and expert eyes, to settle her fair without strain or danger of capsizing on her bilge blocks.

There would be men, a score on each side of the dock, awaiting the graving chantey to time the driving home of the binding wedges. Once, years ago, Thad remembered, a ship had tipped in the Liverpool dock and killed half the gang . . . and the graving master had not been blind.

Singing George sat quietly. He did not even hum now. Presently the

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orange pitch flares of the shipyard brightened over the level marsh. “Thad,” Singing George said slowly, “You stay by me; l>e the eyes of old George. Together we’ll make out. Ina way, boy, it’s your fight, too.”

’[’lie wounded Ilingham steamer lay darkly in the still tide pool. She was heavy with water and listed acutely to larboard. Thad could hear the pumps under quick steam sucking the water out of the basin. The flares of the graving gangs twinkled on each side of the vessel. Already, as the water level sank, the dripping masonry steps of the dock caught voices and echoed them back with deep drumlike resonance.

Singing George stood at his accustomed station at the dockhead before the bow of the steamer. Curiously there was no sign of uncertainty in his face. He stood tall and straight and confident, clutching Thad’s arm. “Water’s dropped two feet, eh, lad?” he asked.

Thad tested, marveling. “Water’s at two,” he nodded, “and the vessel rides the blocks, sir.”

“Good !” cried Singing George. “Stop the pumps.”

Now the first thing that is done when drydocking a listed ship is to level her thwartships. She must settle plumb, her keel fair on the blocks. Thad watched the larboard gang stand their shores between the vessel and the dock steps. The steamer was now like the hub of a wheel with only half its spokes. Pushing, by wedging, these spokes would slowly lift and level the vessel. But they must not push too far or the hub would go flying; the steamer would fall the opposite way. Thad shuddered. That was what had happened to that other ship.

“Fit your wedges, men!” Singing George cried. Already his voice had a quality of song as if he were eager to burst into the graving chantey which would time the driving of the wedges.

“Don’t try,’’ Thad whispered hoarsely, “Word’s out that Rastigan’s been found.”

Singing George snorted and snapped a chew to limber his voice. The torches danced in the night. The larboard gang straddled the dock end of the shores and fondled their driving mauls. To starboard was another gang of twenty, ready with receiving shores. Twenty, Thad remembered had waited just so in the Liverpool dock.

Singing George cleared his throat and he was trembling—but with eagerness and sureness. Thad knew that for certain, Singing George was sure and there was no fear in him.

“Water’s dropping and shores hang,” Thad whispered, “Oh, spit on your hands, boys . . . and drive your wedges true!”

Like the moan of a creature on a cold foggy night, the voice of Singing George commenced the short drag chantey which his gang knew and loved. Deep and ringing it beat against the stone basin and echoed back, filling all space like a mighty chord on a great ''rgan.

“Oh, Young Will and Old Will . . .”

It thundered to the peggers, in fifth and sevenths chorded by the darkness and the distance and the night, like a shepherd’s song wailing in a mountain ravine. Before the last sweet note had died twenty voices took up the ancient refrain of all deep-sea work songs.

“A way, ay-ah! ’’

Twenty mauls thudded dully against slack wedges. Joyfully Singing George gave up the verse.

“Went down to Rio, there for to

see!

A-way ay-ah!

A widder and daughter of a Spid fami-lee.

Hey, hey, way ah!”

Each refrain brought the mauls crashing to the wedges At first it was a comfortable, cheery sound, like the careless chirping of the marsh peepers at sunset. Almost imperceptibly it changed as the wedge-driven shores strained against the steamer and became the solid ring of the calking mallet on hard seam oakum. Singing George cried his endless burdens, pausing as the refrain and its mighty punctuation crashed back at him. Reluctantly the heavy vessel began to straighten, gurgling at her wounds and sending her warning shadow ahead.

Thad remembered that he was Singing George’s eyes and watched the stem of the vessel, sighting it against the plumb corner of the shipyard loft. When she was halfway level he said so.

“Boy,” Singing George whispered fiercely, “You hush. I know exactly where she is!” Thad kept quiet after that.

In the deep dock shadows the ’longside foreman ranged, slipping in ever longer shores and new wedges. Singing George sang on, his head cocked to one side, the deep creases of his strained face moon-etched. The steamer groaned and cried out as compression strains stabbed at her heart. Thad saw a rowboat glide across the moon path, her oars dipping up silver fire. That would be Rastigan, torn from a Boston tavern. Subtly Singing George increased the tempo. There was something ominous and dreadful in the great chorus now. The wooden wedges sang with the cold dangerous ring of steel. Thad could hear the anxious shiftings as the shadow of the vessel crept over the waiting men.

To Thad it seemed that the steamer was as level as mortal man could set her. Another inch and she would topple and crush those trusting men who waited to starboard. Mr. Johns, leaning on his walking stick in the bordering gloom, removed his tall hat and wiped his forehead. But still Singing George’s song prompted the maul blows. Thad felt almost sick inside. Was Singing George mad—his wits gone with his sight? He’s Satan, Thad thought and shivered. They’re devils at his anvil, forging death for ship and for twenty men!

The wedges screamed. The refrains were breathless and panting now and Thad could smell the sickening sweat of the madly pounding peggers. Then suddenly the Hingham steamer gave a great sigh and teetered, swaying ominously, and settled to perfect balance on her own narrow keel.

“. . . And never a tap of work did they do,

And so, my bullies, neither need you!”

The chantey ceased abruptly. Somehow Singing George, too, knew that the vessel was level. A man given a hundred eyes could not have done better. The mauls dropped wearily and the starboard gang sprang to life.

Thad stood transfixed. He had witnessed a near miracle, a thing of which legends were spun, and it left him shaken and cold.

“It’s comforting to know my ears can do what my eyes cannot, lad,” said Singing George cheerily. “Reading the song of the wedges so. It leaves a man respecting himself again, Thad.”

“They’ll find out about your eyes,” Thad sajd.

“ ’Twon’t matter,” Singing George said easily. “I had my chance to show i’m no different in body. I’m gang boss again, Thad boy!”

NOW it would be a fine Irish story to relate that Singing George took his place again with his graving gang, fitting his different body into the same life it had lived before, and that Ellen and Thad Ryan, Singing George no burden, went on to live their dreams. But to say so would not be truth. Something else came to change things; something bigger than Singing George and his vast pride. A man blinded so cruelly, they say, becomes blinded in other ways. His wits do not focus as they do in a body having all the blessed faculties and Singing George was blindly selfish and stubborn about this.

He and Thad stood in the steamer’s shadow listening to the shores of the starboard gang being rigged to capture that wheel hub in stout oak at last. George oiled his voice with another chew, for starboard shores, too, must be wedged. But even remembering what this meant to his dreams, Thad could not feel happiness or triumph. Those starboard peggers had been terribly near death and they would be every time blind George bid them dock a ship.

This other thing started with Dink Rastigan. He came growling from the boat wharf, roll-gaited and ugly, smelling of raw Medford rum. He stood suddenly before Singing George, his pig eyes screwed tight.

“You done good,” Dink said, “an’ I’m obliged, George. If you want to stay on, Rastigan’s willin’ to be fair. You can peg at number one.”

Thad stood still, holding his breath, feeling the hatred between them. Rastigan spoke plain words. It was up to George and he knew the ancient law of the gravers as well as any.

“You’re wrong, Rastigan,” Singing George said quietly. “You’re pegging number one. You know what 1 am in this yard.”

“Aye, 1 know what you was,” Rastigan said coolly. “What are you now, George? Name it, man!”

So Singing George named it and Dink Rastigan shed his jacket and calmly walked to the lee of the yard loft. Singing George listened to him go, his head cocked, then peeled off his own reefer. “Boy,” ht* said fiercely, leaving no refusal, “take me there! And Thad led him over to the fighting place. Mr. Johns, wise to the ways of shipyard men, got into his carriage.

“You’re both good men,” he said as he drove by the loft, “see that one comes out. There’s a ship still to be docked.”

Now Singing George could have cried out that lie was blind, which would not be his way, of course, or Thad, who shared his secret, could have. But suddenly that was not Thad’s way either. Suddenly Thad wanted Singing George to be beaten. It was an awful thing, selling out on your own happiness that way, and Ellen’s too, and on the man he loved. But he could not forget that terrible moment of waiting while the teetering steamer held death over twenty men. There would be more ships perhaps not so lucky. He did not want to buy his happiness with this thing. He did not want ever to sit of a winter’s night, comfortable and loved beside his grate, and have to remember graves under the snow in the cemetery on Tatum’s. So Thad set Singing George square before Dink Rastigan and without a word vanished into the marsh grass which bordered the fighting place.

It was not much of a fight. Rastigan was a hard hitter and veteran fighter and he knew how to use the knee and how to gouge. Singing George hit only by accident. Once he staggered Rastigan with a pegger’s swing to the jaw and Rastigan could have been pole-axed where he reeled, so open was he. But Singing George never knew and swung wildly at the moonbeams.

Thad wanted to stop the slaughter which was coming. But he clung to what was right and did not move from his concealment. He could see his dreams vanish in the blows which were coming, for Rastigan was bear-mad and moving in for a bone-crushing bombardment. He could already fancy Singing George lying on the dew-soaked sand, cut and defeated and humbled. His heart cried out against it but his reason told him it had to be.

“Come on, Rastigan,” Singing George breathed and Thad could see Dink’s arm draw back for the final blow.

But suddenly there was a wild thing running through the moonlight and two white arms were about the neck of Singing George. Rastigan’s fist froze in the air. “For shame!” Ellen cried, “Stopit, Rastigan!”

“Stand back, girl!” Rastigan croaked. “ ’Tis a man’s fight.”

“He’s not a man full,” Ellen cried. “Rastigan, don’t you know? Singing George is blind!”

Rastigan paused. He passed a hand quickly before (he unblinking eyes o)

Singing George, learning the truth for himself. Then he cursed and reached for his jacket.

“You’ve shamed me gu-rl!” Singing George said to the stillness. “You weren’t to know ’till it no longer mattered.”

“You told me yourself,” said Ellen. “Going into the off-parlor for your reefer and never growling about the charity basket there. 1 knew then and it’s why I came, father.”

“Stand away,” Singing George roared, “I’ll beat or be beaten. ’Twas the way I became boss and the way I’ll remain. Come on, Rastigan!”

But Thad had had enough. It was cruel and unfair. It was not good for the graving gang or the ships which would come to them. Rastigan would IK* rum-drunk as often as not, rumdrunk and cocky, while a good man, lacking only eyes, rotted in his pride on Tatum Hill. Singing George had said earlier what he should have remembered, “In a way, boy, it’s your fight, too.”

Thad ran and as he ran he wrapped his belt around his right fist, for it was in his right that dwelt the smooth great power he had taken from peggingin a hundred ships. Roughly he pushed George into the shadows and faced Rastigan.

“You’re not foreman nor man decent, Rastigan,” Thad goaded. “It’s me you’ll have to fight, Rastigan!”

The gang boss grinned at him, apelike and insolent. He made no answer but to spit into the sand and double his fists. Without further warning Thad butted him in the belly and swung into a savage barrage of blows. He fought coolly and unafraid for Rastigan was now a blind rageful beast and depended solely on his enormous arm power and whatever dirty tricks he could call fort h.

They sparred in the moonlight, the sharp blows of knuckles on bare flesh t hudding almost like the crack of mauls on wedges. Thad used his right fist ; pounding and pounding again at Rastigan’s left jaw. He could smell the rum on the man, the evil sweat which flowed from him. Once he felt the agony of Rastigan’s knee in his belly and doubled. But he rose from the crouch with a long swing that lifted Rastigan’s foot and sent him clawing the air. Instantly Thad rushed him and threw him to the ground, his left forearm pressing his throat., his right lM*ating, beating . . .

“Enough?” cried Thad. “It’s George that will sing and I that will grave her in. Enough, Rastigan?”

He felt Rastigan’s hairy hands reaching for his throat and pushed hard into

the face with his left elbow, his right still working. Rastigan’s hands sank and Thad could feel the great bulk of the man go suddenly limp under him. He jerked him to his knees and crashed a terrific blow into his face. Thad fancied he could hear bone break. With a tired sigh Rastigan fell backward and lay still.

THAD wiped the blood and sweat from before his eyes and sucked his broken knuckles. Then he hitched his arm into that of Singing George and led him to the graving dock.

“Give up the measure,” said Thad. “Starboard peggers are ready, George, and the pumps have cleared the dock. 1 want that steamer bound by oak in ten minutes.”

Thad felt the power he had earned strongly upon him. He glanced at Singing George, standing straight and stubborn in the waning moonlight. He could feel the pride of the man, the desperate fight inside him as he struggled with that pride. Behind him Ellen sobbed and for a moment Thad was afraid of the thing he had done. But he faced Singing George fairly and his dreams were suddenly alive again.

“I fought for you, George,” Thad said. “You are gang boss as always— hut from now on I am your eyes. Together we are a man whole. Together we grave Mr. Johns’ ships—and together we live when Ellen and I are wedded.”

“I’ll be no burden to my child,” Singing George cried. “Have I not told you so, Thad Ryan?”

“Please to remember,” said Thad, “that I’m your boss this minute just turned —if 1 wish it to be so. You’ll live in honor here and on Tatum’s with Ellen and myself. Give up the measure, I say!”

Singing George swore deeply and pawed at his sightless eyes. Thad saw his jaws set and his shoulders lift. Then Singing George smiled thinly, as if his heart had seen what his eyes never could, and put his hand out for Thad’s.

“What measure, young Ryan?” he asked softly.

“Leave her, Johnny, leave her,” said Thad, “and when the ship is bound, Thad Ryan’s eyes will tell you so.” “Aye, boy,” grinned Singing George and hit off a chew to mellow his voice. “A new song and a new start. It’s fitting, young Rvan. Bid them stand (heir shores, lad; bid them fit their wedges, boss, and leave the song to me, lad.”

And that, thought Thad, at last made his world really right again. ★