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Chapter XXIII: The Man


On the Scoriac Harold An Wolf, now John Robinson, kept aloof from
every one.  He did not make any acquaintances, did not try to.  Some
of those at table with him, being ladies and gentlemen, now and again
made a polite remark; to which he answered with equal politeness.
Being what he was he could not willingly offend any one; and there
was nothing in his manner to repel any kindly overture to
acquaintance.  But this was the full length his acquaintanceship
went; so he gradually felt himself practically alone.  This was just
what he wished; he sat all day silent and alone, or else walked up
and down the great deck that ran from stem to stern, still always
alone.  As there were no second-class or steerage passengers on the
Scoriac, there were no deck restraints, and so there was ample room
for individual solitude.  The travellers, however, were a sociable
lot, and a general feeling of friendliness was abroad.  The first
four days of the journey were ideally fine, and life was a joy.  The
great ship, with bilge keels, was as steady as a rock.
Among the other passengers was an American family consisting of
Andrew Stonehouse, the great ironmaster and contractor, with his wife
and little daughter.
Stonehouse was a remarkable man in his way, a typical product of the
Anglo-Saxon under American conditions.  He had started in young
manhood with nothing but a good education, due in chief to his own
industry and his having taken advantage to the full of such
opportunities as life had afforded to him.  By unremitting work he
had at thirty achieved a great fortune, which had, however; been up
to then entirely invested and involved in his businesses.  With,
however, the colossal plant at his disposal, and by aid of the fine
character he had won for honesty and good work, he was able within
the next ten years to pile up a fortune vast even in a nation where
multi-millionaires are scattered freely.  Then he had married, wisely
and happily.  But no child had come to crown the happiness of the
pair who so loved each other till a good many years had come and
gone.  Then, when the hope of issue had almost passed away, a little
daughter came.  Naturally the child was idolised by her parents, and
thereafter every step taken by either was with an eye to her good.
When the rigour of winter and the heat of summer told on the child in
a way which the more hardy parents had never felt, she was whirled
away to some place with more promising conditions of health and
happiness.  When the doctors hinted that an ocean voyage and a winter
in Italy would be good, those too were duly undertaken.  And now, the
child being in perfect health, the family was returning before the
weather should get too hot to spend the summer at their chalet
amongst the great pines on the slopes of Mount Ranier.  Like the
others on board, Mr. and Mrs. Stonehouse had proffered travellers'
civilities to the sad, lonely young man.  As to the others, he had
shown thanks for their gracious courtesy; but friendship, as in other
cases, did not advance.  The Stonehouses were not in any way
chagrined; their lives were too happy and too full for them to take
needless offence.  They respected the young man's manifest desire for
privacy; and there, so far as they were concerned, the matter rested.
But this did not suit the child.  Pearl was a sweet little thing, a
real blue-eyed, golden-haired little fairy, full of loving-kindness.
All the mother-instinct in her, and even at six a woman-child can be
a mother--theoretically, went out towards the huge, lonely, sad,
silent young man.  She insisted on friendship with him; insisted
shamelessly, with the natural inclination of innocence which rises
high above shame.  Even the half-hearted protests of the mother, who
loved to see the child happy, did not deter her; after the second
occasion of Pearl's seeking him, as she persisted, Harold could but
remonstrate with the mother in turn; the ease of the gentle lady and
the happiness of her child were more or less at stake.  When Mrs.
Stonehouse would say:
'There, darling!  You must be careful not to annoy the gentleman,'
Pearl would turn a rosy all-commanding face to her and answer:
'But, mother, I want him to play with me.  You must play with me!'
Then, as the mother would look at him, he would say quickly, and with
genuine heartiness too:
'Oh please, madam, do let her play with me!  Come, Pearl, shall you
ride a cock-horse or go to market the way the gentleman rides?'  Then
the child would spring on his knee with a cry of delight, and their
games began.
The presence of the child and her loving ways were unutterably sweet
to Harold; but his pleasure was always followed by a pain that rent
him as he thought of that other little one, now so far away, and of
those times that seemed so long since gone.
But the child never relaxed in her efforts to please; and in the long
hours of the sea voyage the friendship between her and the man grew,
and grew.  He was the biggest and strongest and therefore most lovely
thing on board the ship, and that sufficed her.  As for him, the
child manifestly loved and trusted him, and that was all-in-all to
his weary, desolate heart.
The fifth day out the weather began to change; the waves grew more
and more mountainous as the day wore on and the ship advanced west.
Not even the great bulk and weight of the ship, which ordinarily
drove through the seas without pitch or roll, were proof against
waves so gigantic.  Then the wind grew fiercer and fiercer, coming in
roaring squalls from the south-west.  Most of those on board were
alarmed, for the great waves were dreadful to see, and the sound of
the wind was a trumpet-call to fear.
The sick stayed in their cabins; the rest found an interest if not a
pleasure on deck.  Among the latter were the Stonehouses, who were
old travellers.  Even Pearl had already had more sea-voyages than
fall to most people in their lives.  As for Harold, the storm seemed
to come quite naturally to him and he paced the deck like a ship-
It was fortunate for the passengers that most of them had at this
period of the voyage got their sea legs; otherwise walking on the
slippery deck, that seemed to heave as the rolling of the vessel
threw its slopes up or down, would have been impossible.  Pearl was,
like most children, pretty sure-footed; holding fast to Harold's hand
she managed to move about ceaselessly.  She absolutely refused to go
with any one else.  When her mother said that she had better sit
still she answered:
'But, mother, I am quite safe with The Man!'  'The Man' was the name
she had given Harold, and by which she always now spoke of him.  They
had had a good many turns together, and Harold had, with the
captain's permission, taken her up on the bridge and showed her how
to look out over the 'dodger' without the wind hurting her eyes.
Then came the welcome beef-tea hour, and all who had come on deck
were cheered and warmed with the hot soup.  Pearl went below, and
Harold, in the shelter of the charthouse, together with a good many
others, looked out over the wild sea.
Harold, despite the wild turmoil of winds and seas around him, which
usually lifted his spirits, was sad, feeling lonely and wretched; he
was suffering from the recoil of his little friend's charming
presence.  Pearl came on deck again looking for him.  He did not see
her, and the child, seeing an opening for a new game, avoided both
her father and mother, who also stood in the shelter of the
charthouse, and ran round behind it on the weather side, calling a
loud 'Boo!' to attract Harold's attention as she ran.
A few seconds later the Scoriac put her nose into a coming wave at
just the angle which makes for the full exercise of the opposing
forces.  The great wave seemed to strike the ship on the port quarter
like a giant hammer; and for an instant she stood still, trembling.
Then the top of the wave seemed to leap up and deluge her.  The wind
took the flying water and threw it high in volumes of broken spray,
which swept not only the deck but the rigging as high as the top of
the funnels.  The child saw the mass of water coming, and shrieking
flew round the port side of the charthouse.  But just as she turned
down the open space between it and the funnel the vessel rolled to
starboard.  At the same moment came a puff of wind of greater
violence than ever.  The child, calling out, half in simulated half
in real fear, flew down the slope.  As she did so the gale took her,
and in an instant whirled her, almost touching her mother, over the
rail into the sea.
Mrs. Stonehouse shrieked and sprang forward as though to follow her
child.  She was held back by the strong arm of her husband.  They
both slipped on the sloping deck and fell together into the scuppers.
There was a chorus of screams from all the women present.  Harold,
with an instinctive understanding of the dangers yet to be
encountered, seized a red tam-o'-shanter from the head of a young
girl who stood near.
Her exclamation of surprise was drowned in the fearful cry 'Man
overboard!' and all rushed down to the rail and saw Harold, as he
emerged from the water, pull the red cap over his head and then swim
desperately towards the child, whose golden hair was spread on the
rising wave.
The instant after Pearl's being swept overboard might be seen the
splendid discipline of a well-ordered ship.  Every man to his post,
and every man with a knowledge of his duty.  The First Officer called
to the Quartermaster at the wheel in a voice which cut through the
gale like a trumpet:
'Hard a port!  Hard!'
The stern of the great ship swung away to port in time to clear the
floating child from the whirling screw, which would have cut her to
pieces in an instant.  Then the Officer after tearing the engine-room
signal to 'Starboard engine full speed astern,' ran for the lifebuoy
hanging at the starboard end of the bridge.  This he hurled far into
the sea.  As it fell the attached rope dragged with it the signal,
which so soon as it reaches water bursts into smoke and flame--signal
by day and night.  This done, and it had all been done in a couple of
seconds, he worked the electric switch of the syren, which screamed
out quickly once, twice, thrice.  This is the dread sound which means
'man overboard,' and draws to his post every man on the ship, waking
or sleeping.
The Captain was now on the bridge and in command, and the First
Officer, freed from his duty there, ran to the emergency boat, swung
out on its davits on the port side.
All this time, though only numbered by seconds, the Scoriac was
turning hard to starboard, making a great figure of eight; for it is
quicker to turn one of these great sea monsters round than to stop
her in mid career.  The aim of her Captain in such cases is to bring
her back to the weather side of the floating buoy before launching
the boat.
On deck the anguish of the child's parents was pitiable.  Close to
the rail, with her husband's arms holding her tight to it, the
distressed mother leaned out; but always moving so that she was at
the nearest point of the ship to her child.  As the ship passed on it
became more difficult to see the heads.  In the greater distance they
seemed to be quite close together.  All at once, just as a great wave
which had hidden them in the farther trough passed on, the mother
screamed out:
'She's sinking! she's sinking!  Oh, God!  Oh, God!' and she fell on
her knees, her horrified eyes, set in a face of ashen grey, looking
out between the rails.
But at the instant all eyes saw the man's figure rise in the water as
he began to dive.  There was a hush which seemed deadly; the
onlookers feared to draw breath.  And then the mother's heart leaped
and her cry rang out again as two heads rose together in the waste of
'He has her!  He has her!  He has her!  Oh, thank God!  Thank God!'
and for a single instant she hid her face in her hands.
Then when the fierce 'hurrah' of all on board had been hushed in
expectation, the comments broke forth.  Most of the passengers had by
this time got glasses of one kind or another.
'See!  He's putting the cap on the child's head.  He's a cool one
that.  Fancy him thinking of a red cap at such a time!'
'Ay! we could see that cap, when it might be we couldn't see anything
'Look!' this from an old sailor standing by his boat, 'how he's
raisin' in the water.  He's keeping his body between her an' the
spindrift till the squall has passed.  That would choke them both in
a wind like this if he didn't know how to guard against it.  He's all
right; he is!  The little maid is safe wi' him.'
'Oh, bless you!  Bless you for those words,' said the mother, turning
towards him.  'At this moment the Second Officer, who had run down
from the bridge, touched Mr. Stonehouse on the shoulder.
'The captain asked me to tell you, sir, that you and Mrs. Stonehouse
had better come to him on the bridge.  You'll see better from there.'
They both hurried up, and the mother again peered out with fixed
eyes.  The Captain tried to comfort her; laying his strong hand on
her shoulder, he said:
'There, there!  Take comfort, ma'am.  She is in the hands of God!
All that mortal man can do is being done.  And she is safer with that
gallant young giant than she could be with any other man on the ship.
Look, how he is protecting her!  Why he knows that all that can be
done is being done.  He is waiting for us to get to him, and is
saving himself for it.  Any other man who didn't know so much about
swimming as he does would try to reach the lifebuoy; and would choke
the two of them with the spindrift in the trying.  Mind how he took
the red cap to help us see them.  He's a fine lad that; a gallant