Scud by Herbert Ward

It was the morning after my arrival. I had just come, jaded from examination papers, agued with the incessant ring of orations, abhorrent of the rustle of white tarlatans, distrustful of the future attitude of trustees, and utterly wilted from the effect of a country academy exhibition held in the heat of June in the torridest of Western towns. I had never seen the ocean, and before my window the glorious old Atlantic heaved solemnly. Its intermittent swash upon the rocks sent peace into my soul. I found myself near enough even to throw something into the water. The longing to communicate with this new friend, dreamed of for so many inland years, overpowered me. A box of buttons was all I had, and I leaned far out into the air, pungent with a mixture of fish and kelp, and cast into the deep these feminine necessities, one by one. Now a tiny disk of mother-of-pearl would glance on the float and bounce off into a gray ripple; and then a bit of jet would clatter on the red granite rocks, and be swallowed by a lapping wavelet that seemed to rise on purpose for this strange offering. Too soon the box was emptied of its contents; then there came a mad desire to throw cologne, shoes, satchel, anything, everything, myself, from the second-story window into this mysterious, beckoning, repelling Atlantic tide beneath me. Leaning on the sill, with my whole soul absorbed in this new Nirvana, I was suddenly and yet not unpleasantly aroused by a strident yell:

"Hellow, Scud! Wha'che got this mornin'?"

"Oh, no-thin', only twenty-six little 'uns, an' a couple bucket o' bait."

The answer came back in a deep, orotund, sing-song voice. It was the natural intoning of the man of the sea. Two boats shot from under a rocky headland a few hundred yards before me to the left. One of the boats made fast to some black corks that formed a huge rectangle in the water, and two men began pulling in a net. The one in the other boat, who answered to the name of Scud, stopped rowing for a moment, exchanged a word or two, and laughed aloud, then cast a critical look at the sun's altitude, and pulled lazily away. When he was at some distance, he rested on his oars, and hilloaed with that penetrating sea cry:

"I hope you'll get two barr'l. I guess thar's 'nough to go all round."

That undulatory cadence is entirely lacking in landsmen's tones. Still this was an extraordinarily joyous voice, as if the life of a fisherman were a dream without a care or a struggle. But Scud and his queer, green boat disappeared behind the jagged outline of the rocks, and I turned at the sound of the first bell to dress for breakfast.

"Well, how do you like your room? I hope that the fishermen didn't wake you up too early."

My cousin offered me some smoking flakes of fish, new to my limited experience. This, he said, was inland hake, and was caught that morning in Scud's trap. Now, although I was hitherto ignorant of this delicious fish with its paradoxical cognomen, I felt that Scud and I were already friends; and gravely informed my host that Scud had caught twenty-six little ones that morning. This piece of information was immediately greeted with impertinent hilarity.

"So Scud woke you up?" said my cousin. "He's always doing that. There was one nervous boarder here. She threatened to have him arrested for breaking the peace. But you might as well arrest a fog-whistle."

"Does he always get up as early in the morning?" I asked, apprehensively. "He must be a very energetic person. Do tell me about it. What are 'little 'uns'?"

I must confess to a degree of perplexity when the the whole family burst into further roars of laughter at my simple question.

"Scud energetic? Why, he is the easiest, the slowest, the sleepiest, the most lovable, good-natured fellow on the whole coast. He makes the surest and perhaps the best living of any of the fishermen around here. If he didn't get up early he wouldn't do even that. As it is, Salt does most of the work. Salt is his oldest boy," explained my cousin.

"I am sure Scud needs all he can make," interrupted Mabel (she is my cousin's wife), "with his dozen children and a wife to support, and only one trap to do it on."

"For my part," interposed the oldest daughter, with a pert motion of her head, "I am tired to death having to save clothes for that—You needn't look so shocked, mamma. Yes, I am. It's always 'Take care of that petticoat; Betty can use it;' or, 'That dress can be turned and made over nicely for the twins.' I declare I don't get a new dress but the whole Scud family troop over and inspect it, and criticise it, and quarrel over it, and gloat over it the first day I wear it. I caught two of their boys fighting over which of them should have Reginald's summer ulster when he was done with it."

"I shall give it to Tommy," observed her mother, in an absent, comfortable tone.

After breakfast my cousin rowed over to the station; the eldest two children took their guest, a boy of about sixteen, out fishing; while I eagerly accompanied Mabel across the rocks and fields to Scud's house—a little rented hut, hidden and sheltered from the east winds behind a huge barrack of a boarding-house.

How clear the day! How warm the sun! How hospitable this forbidding, granite-clad North Shore! As I look back upon that memorable morning it seemed as if the bay could never be ruffled by any but the tenderest breezes, or its bright water reflect any but the dazzling glare of the hottest sun. Clouds hovered over us, delicate and fleecy as the feathers of the marabou, and white and curly as the feathers of the ostrich. They radiated from a centre in translucent films, and shot out monstrous ciliated fingers like a fan. Such a sky was never seen in my part of the country, and I attributed this ravishing cloud phenomenon to the peculiar influence of the sea, being too ignorant to notice that these streamers shot out from the west. The stillness was intoxicating after the scurry of the school-room. And now even the water made no ripples on the beach. The sea was motionless, like a distilled elixir in a serrated alembic.

We stopped before a low, pitch-roofed house that looked as if it contained three rooms at most. The yard was piled up with wreckage and drift-wood. Who ever heard of a fisherman buying kindling? Within the gate four children were playing with twice as many cats and kittens. They were all fighting like animals between themselves for a plateful of scraps of fried fish. A baby would grab a piece from the plate, and offer the remainder to a grave tabby, which in turn distributed it to her offspring. Then the kittens and "humans" rolled and scratched, and shrieked and scratched again.

"Keep yer mouths shet out there, or I'll be after ye with a stick!" This maternal sentiment, spoken in a loud shrill voice, greeted us as we stepped within the gate.

"It's I, Betty. I have brought you a little something, and a friend who wants to see the children."

"Dear sakes! 'tain't you, is it?" The shrill voice was now modulated in an entirely different tone. "Ain't I glad you've come! Step right in and set down. No? Then I'll be out and see ye ez soon ez I've tended the baby."

"Baby!" I gasped, looking at the four fighting infants at my feet, none of whom looked over thirteen months. "Are these hers too?"

"These are the twins," answered Mabel, quite seriously. "They call them 'the twin.' These are the two sets, just a year apart. The baby was born a month ago. The baby isn't named. Let me see: these are Bessie and Maurie and Robbie and Susie."

"Why, I thought you knew better," protested the mother, in a grieved voice. "Susie is in the house there. That's Bessie." She wiped her hands on her apron, and thrust one of them out through a rent in the mosquito-netted door. "I'm glad to see any of her friends. Yes. Good mor'n'. The children? Laws sakes, they're round the house like pups!"

The face was remarkable for a pair of brilliant black eyes, an inheritance of Italian ancestry. She was not yet middle-aged, and her hair had turned prematurely gray. Her hands were bony, nervous hands, indicative of great executive capacity, but the incessant work had left them trembling.

"Are all your children here?" I asked, not knowing what else to say.

"Here's four of 'em. Come out here, you in there, an' I'll count ye." It was a pitiful sight to see these five plump, rosy youngsters pass in review before the frail, emaciated mother.

"But here are only nine," I ventured.

"Salt's missing, mother," said the eldest girl; "he's with father to the trap."

"So he is, Kittie. They've rowed round the cove with what they ketched. They'll be back d'rectly."

"But how do you manage, Mrs.—ah—Scud?" I asked. I am afraid there was a slight choke in my throat as I spoke. The mother cast a quick look at my face, and shoving her children into the house, one by one, said:

"Now go, Kittie; finish the dishes. You, Mamie, put the baby kearfully in the box. What did you hit Jim for, Sammy? Let me ketch you a-hitten your little brother agin an' I'll spank you. Now get in the house, all of ye. You see, miss," turning to me, "we manage somehow. If it wa'n't fur her, we'd give up. There's that boy Jim, he took to swearing this spring. I declare it was jess awful to hear him go on. I spanked him, and Scud he switched him, but it wa'n't to no use. That boy talked jess scand'lous, till your cousin here, miss, she heerd him one mornin', an' took a white powder an' put a little on his tongue. It made Jim powerful sick. And, says she, 'If I hear you swearin' agin I'll pizen ye; an' you'll die in a minute an' never see God,' and I declare to goodness he was so skeared that I hain't heerd him swear since. There's Scud. Where's Salt, pa? Come here an' speak to the ladies. She's brought ye some ties."

"Salt's makin' the boat fast," began Scud, nodding with inimitable ease to his visitors. "I'm afraid ther's goin' to be—"

Scud stopped short in open-mouthed pleasure when he saw a couple of brilliant red and blue ties dangling from Betty's hand. He had come up the rocky path, whistling like a boy, with every line and pucker in his face on a broad smile. If Lavater had seen this fisherman's physiognomy he would have pronounced it indicative of incomparable good nature. Indeed, Scud's good nature went so far at times as to be incomparably inadequate to the demands of existence. If he happened to go for weeks without catching so much as a sculpin in his net, and the starvation of his youngsters stared him in the face, he showed none of the common symptoms of discouragement, such as swearing, drinking, beating his wife, or cursing his luck. He only whistled the blither, ran up bills at the butcher's and grocer's with irresistible faith, borrowed his "chaws" of his luckier mates, and laughed as if poverty were an excellent joke that Providence was cracking at him. Why shouldn't he appreciate it, even if it were at his own expense.

Scud was born "easy." Who could blame him? He gave up his lobster-pots because it took too much time to dry them and keep them in repair, and it was too cold and dangerous hauling them in stormy weather off the rocks. Scud found it too troublesome to underrun his trap more than twice a-day—once at six o'clock in the morning, then at six o'clock at night. Even when the mackerel or the herring struck, and every man who had a trap hovered over it night and day to keep the catch from mysteriously immaterializing, as well as to gather it in, Scud was satisfied with his diurnal visits. He "wa'n't a-goin' to keep a-runnin' to see the fish swim in. If they were fool 'nough to go in the trap, they could stay there till he underrun an' bailed 'em out." His methods of gaining a livelihood were unique on the coast; yet it was Scud who "stocked" eight hundred and fifty dollars that summer clean, two hundred dollars above any one else in the harbor. It was the saying among some of the jealous fishermen in the cove, who were not blessed with two pairs of twins, that "nobody 'arned so easy a livin' as Scud without doin' no work." But these indistinct murmurs never stimulated Scud nor impaired his good nature. Indeed, Scud was the happiest man that ever lived. What a dancing, laughing eye! What a catalogue of joys therein! What contagious, hopeful humor! What irrepressible buoyancy of spirits! Who could help loving Scud, as one loves a huge, long-coated St. Bernard dog? Scud was the laughing, joyous, piping Pan of the ocean. He smoked not, neither did he drink. He had no vices that debased him. Chewing is not a vice for a fisherman. But he did have a curious taste for candy. No present pleased him so much as a half a pound of caramels or of sugar-coated nuts. It was the sweet animal nature instinctively laying hold of sweets.

Scud's "easiness" was unmitigated—at times it was exasperating; but this made him all the fatter, the jollier, the more companionable; and as it succeeded so well, why not? Summer boarders were appreciative of Scud. He lived upon them. Twins?—they did it. It was a dime show, and the money was paid.

Two sets of authentic twins! It was enough to drain a woman's heart of sympathy, a woman's pocket of money; and the summer boarders were mostly women—married women, with husbands sweating in the city to support them; single women, school-teachers and that sort.

But Scud stood looking at the ties. He seldom bought clothes, any more than he purchased firewood or paid for his fish. They came to him. Here was a pair of trousers that was once a bishop's. That coat and vest were the velveteen relics of a posing artist. The cap was a yachtsman's gift, and the neckties came as a matter of course. Yet Scud never begged. And once when he caught one of his four-year-old boys insinuating to a summer boarder, with outstretched palm, that he would like a penny, Scud thrashed him within a centimeter of his life. New England fishermen will take a gift as a sort of neighborly accommodation to you; but he'll starve before he will ask you for it.

"Are them fur me?" (Scud was always surprised at such a crisis.) "Thank ye, ma'am. Ain't them showy? I guess they'll skeer the mac'rel off the coast."

"I wanted you to take me out sailing this morning, Mr. Scud," I began, after a formal introduction. Scud looked somewhat gratified with the prefix to his name, and regarded me with interest. To take boarders out sailing at the rate of seventy-five cents an hour was the kind of work he would do.

"Yes, ma'am. But I'm 'fraid it'll be a little fresh to-day, if ye hain't used to sailin'." He jerked his head to the westward. "Salt is a makin' the dory fast with a new haulin'-line, ma'am. I guess we'll have a squall pretty soon."

We followed Scud's gesture and looked. A squall on a day like this? The white streamers had vanished, and above us was dark, unfathomable blue. But on the western horizon, stretching far to the south, a black bank had arisen. No cloud in the physical geography was ever sketched blacker. It had come up as stealthily as a Zulu warrior. It was the hue of unpolished iron. It had a faint reddish tint. Its outline was as clear cut as a cameo. It sent ahead here and there jagged tentacles, broad at the base and fine at the tip, that advanced, dissolved, and reappeared again with significant rapidity. The ocean had suddenly grown lethargic. It seemed unable to reflect the sun that still shone. It became like a platter of tarnished silver. As we looked, the sight rapidly grew uglier.

Now my cousin Mabel seemed hypnotized by it. She stood for a few minutes with her hands hanging at her sides; her delicate jaw dropped. Suddenly she pulled herself together, and whispered: "It is horrible! It is awful!" Then, as if seized with the full import of the scene, she cried aloud, "My children! They are out fishing in a sail-boat! My children!" She began to run towards the shore leaving us all staring after her.

My nautical sense was not as highly trained as Mabel's, but I thought the sight terrifying and fine. It was part of the Eastern culture towards the education of the Western girl. But seeing Scud look sober—I had the impression that it was for the first time in his life—I pleaded:

"Do come too, Scud. Is it so bad? Won't it blow over?"

"It's goin' to be as bad as I ever seed in these parts, miss. I'll do what I can. 'Twon't be much, I'll bet."

I ran down to the house, followed by Scud at a moderate walk. Scud never ran. Would he have run for the drowning? I doubted it.

The clouds had arisen with terrible velocity. They coursed over the bare sky like a black bull with horns down. White cirrhus clouds now darted out here and there ahead, like fluttering standards of warning. And now the sun was gored to death. The black bank advanced in one wide line. Blackness had fallen everywhere. Anxiety was visible in every form of nature—in the cries of the birds, the skulking of the dogs, the blanched faces of the boarders, the attention of the fishermen.

In the British navy, when any terrible and sudden disaster occurs on a man-of-war, such as the bursting of a gun, a collision, or striking upon the rocks, the bugler sounds, what is known as "the still." On hearing it every man aboard comes to a standstill. This momentary pause enables each to collect his nerves to meet the summons of the shock. Nature was now commanding "the still"; but the order came through the eyes. No sound was as yet heard. The sea, the air, sentient life, all souls, held their breath before the shock that must come. Men collected along the coast to meet the threatened tornado. By that subtle force which sensitive organisms will recognize, be it called telepathy or psychic power or magnetism, I knew, ignorant as I was, that nature was silently preparing for a terrific struggle.

When Scud and I joined Mabel on the rocks in front of her house we found her wringing her hands, sobbing and crying for help. It seemed that her two children, who had gone out fishing with their city guest, were in a sail-boat. This was managed by a boy about their age—none of them were over sixteen. But the lad who sailed the little boat was a fisherman's son. He was considered very expert, and had broad experience from his babyhood up. But this fact did not soothe the mother. Appalled by the color and the swiftness of the clouds, and the ominous import to the safety of the little sail-boat, we scanned the harbor and the coast; but no boat answering to the description was in sight. Scud tried to comfort the mother in his shaggy way. "The b'ys hev sailed to the inner cove, ma'am. They's ashore by this time, I'll bet."

As Scud spoke, the large fishing-schooners, leaving and entering the broad harbor shot, one after the other, as if by mutual impulse, into the direction of the clouds, into the west, and dropped sails and anchors with incredible rapidity. Far out to sea vessels were now seen to ride with bare poles; it was evident that they had anticipated a formidable blow. We stood on a bend in the shore, and the broad bay lay between us and the rising storm. The rocky coast stood forth in a long, broken outline opposite to us, far down towards Great Brabant. The open Atlantic spread before us to the south-west. And now lightnings flashed in angry sheets. The sea took to itself suddenly a peculiar greenish tinge. There were heard distant bellowings. We strained our eyes for the boys. Where were they? Where were they? Two miles out ships began to rock fearfully.

"They've cotched it!" shouted Scud. "Here it comes. Look out, leddies!"

Driven by earth's mightiest, most implacable, most invisible force, a line of foam dashed across the bay. Spray from the water twenty feet below struck us in the face simultaneously with the wind. The white squall had burst upon us. I dragged my poor cousin with me to the piazza, into the house, which shuddered through all its frame and would have fallen had it not, after the fashion of this bleak shore, been chained to the rocks.

Now Scud staid outside. It did not seem clear at first why. Pretty soon we saw him trying to pull the tender upon the float, that was clean washed by every wave.

Then came the first lull. The mother ran out into it wildly. The water was green and white. Two coasters and a large yacht were running in for shelter without a stitch of canvas. They were making straight for the inner harbor.

"Look! Come here! Look! What's that boat? See! Way out there beyond the island! My God! It's my children!"

A half-mile or more away, in the very heart of the squall, a little boat with full sail set was staggering unto death. Language cannot hint at the horror in the mother's face. She had made her summer's home for fifteen years within a shell's throw of the sea, and she knew perfectly well what this situation meant. No one could have undeceived her, and no one tried. She stood for a moment staring straight ahead, stretched out her arms, swayed, and fell. She was one of the fainting kind, and there was nothing to be done about it. We carried her in and laid her down. It was my impulse to trust her to her terrified servants. I was too terrified myself to know whether I was right or wrong. Irresistibly compelled, I rushed out of doors again, and appealed (with feminine instinct, I suppose) to the only man, within reach. Scud responded quickly enough.

"Yes; that's them!" He pitched his orotund voice upon me as if he were giving a command in a gale at sea.

Men now began to gesticulate wildly at the ill-fated boat from the rocks, as if that could help the matter.

"Drop that mains'l, you —— fools, or you'll go to ——!" The voices struck me like a volley of bullets, but they could not have penetrated ten feet to windward.

"Scud!" I cried. "Help! Save them, Scud!"

"I can't do nothing," he howled in my ear. "No one can't. You can't row in them breakers."

By this time the wind had increased its force. The sail-boat was near enough for one to see the desperate attempts the boyish skipper made to lower the sail. One of the halyards had become caught. The boy made wild rushes to the mast. Then the boat would rock and fly around. To save her the lad darted back to the helm just in time. This sickening struggle against a knot was repeated several times. On the bottom the three passengers lay inert with terror. A twenty-foot boat with full sail, when hundred-ton schooners trembled under bare poles! Even my inexperience grasped the situation.

"He's doing all-fired well, but he can't last no longer if that—He'll be druv on the rocks! They'll be druv to——!"

The rocks were now lined with men commenting in an apathetic way upon the tragedy enacting before their eyes.

"Why don't they do something?" In my ignorance of the curious stolidity which falls upon the shore in face of danger upon the sea, I stood shrieking: "Why doesn't somebody go? Why don't you men do something?"

The fishermen and the summer people looked into each other's eyes, but no man answered a word.

"Can't you help them?" I pleaded with another weather-beaten fisherman.

"Can't be done, or I'd do it."

"I came down to see them capsize, an' I guess they'll go," said a gruff voice.

But Scud gave me a long look. He stood quite silent. An expression of rare gravity was on his joyous face. He glanced apprehensively from the boat to the house.

"She can't, Scud; she's fainted. There isn't anybody but me. I've got to do something. The children have got to be saved, Scud!" The Western girl shook him by the arm. Her very ignorance gave a force to her appeal that intelligence could not have supplied. Had I understood what I asked I should not have said: "Scud, won't you go? They are drowning. See, Scud! Go!"

The doomed sail was beaten here and there in the fierce wind; the jib was blown to tatters. The boat took in water, righted, and careened with every riotous puff. A hundred times men turned their faces away and women shrieked, expecting it to go down. A hundred times repeated miracle protected the helpless boat.

Scud walked slowly down the heaving gangway that connected the rocks with the float. The man who came down to see the boat capsize followed with his hands in his pockets. He balanced himself on the railing with his elbows as the gangway jumped beneath him.

"What yer up ter, Scud?" he yelled above the tempest. "They're driftin' on yer trap. That'll fetch 'em."

Scud looked up. His feet were washed in the water that flooded the float at every surge. To strike the trap meant instant overturn. To become entangled in and driven on to the meshes of the broad, deep net meant inevitable death.

"I guess I'll go. Help me shove the dingy off." So spoke Scud, deliberately.

"You—" The rest of the expletive was lost in the gale. The breakers made sport of Scud, and spat at him with their white tongues. "Your childer! The twins! Betty!" thundered his friend.

Scud hurriedly put in the oar-locks. As he bent, the wind caught his cap and dashed it on the rocks. Scud shook his brown hair to the furies.

"Ye see!" yelled his companion significantly. "Now get in, will ye?"

"Shet up, Steve! Gimme them oars. Don't ye see I'm goin'? I wish I hed my dory."

A murmur of applause went up from the crowd as the fisherman shoved off. The light tender was twisted about and all but cast upon the cliffs before he could gain his first stroke.

And now the man of the sea set his weak mouth into petrified resolve. The wind and the water attacked his boat like assassins. They meant to kill. Scud knew this. He rowed guardedly, mistrustful of a cowardly feint, of an underhand lunge. The tender quivered beneath each dash of the waves, each onslaught of the squall, each hurried stroke of the oars. Scud rowed warily, lest he be over-turned and buried between the trough and the height of the waves. The wind howled at him. The bay showered upon him. The gale clutched him and turned him about. How now! Whence came these muscles of steel that subdued such powers arrayed against lazy Scud? How now! Whence came that indomitable judgment that baffled the elements at their own wildest sport? Fishermen stared from the shore at this unparalleled exhibition of skill, coolness, courage and strength from Scud.

Then, with the spite of which only a white squall is capable, it thundered against Scud, and with the animosity of which only the Atlantic Ocean is capable, it rose upon Scud and well-nigh bore him under. Hope is easily dashed in the hearts of inert spectators, but Scud did not falter. The crowd stood by commenting:

"Scud! Thet Scud? Poor Betty! Poor widder! We'll hev ter fish him up ter-night. Plucky fellow! Brave deed! That's grit! Thar's skill! Who'd 'a' thought it? Scud!"

But Scud the "easy," Scud the do-little, Scud the good-for-naught—Scud, of whom nobody expected anything—comfortable, self-indulgent Scud, rowed on sturdily straight out into that hell. Could he ever overtake the boat? How was it possible? If he did the extra weight would swamp the fancy tender, built only to carry two or three at the most in light weather. How could he get one in?

"Why the —— didn't he take his dory?" asked an old man.

"How in —— can he bring her up with a haulin'-line an' git in from the rocks?" answered another contemptuously.

"Scud may get 'em," ventured an expert, "but what'll he do with 'em?"

Now Scud had rowed beyond the net to the right, in order to bear down upon it the easier.

"Thar she strikes! God help 'em!" Cries came from a dozen throats. The sail-boat struck against the leader of the net. It swung broadside to the wind, that forced it over and under. Agonized shrieks were borne to the shore. I was glad that Mabel was a fainting woman.

For some time Scud's wife had stood apart and looked upon the scene. Her eyes were dry and feverish. She did not talk. She hugged a baby at her breast desperately. Salt held a pair of twins; the oldest girl another. Children sprawled upon the ground, clinging to their mother's feet and dress. None drew near or spoke to this pathetic group. What could one do? What word could one say? The storm swayed Betty here and there. Her hair waved in the hurricane. She had long, pretty hair. Spray drenched her. She did not cry out. She stood like the Niobe of the sea. She looked like one expecting the fate that had been only delayed. An average of two hundred men a year from this fishing-town are swallowed up by the ocean that affords them sustenance, and their starving widows are left after them. Betty was only one of a thousand of her kind who stolidly concealed a desolate suspense. And now her turn had come, harder than the rest, for she was in at the death.

It is a mystery until this day how Scud reached the over-turned sail-boat as he did. With a dory his work would not have been comparatively easy; but with a thirteen-foot yacht's tender it was super-human. The two girls clinging to the wreck were lifted bodily into the boat. Scud was quick but cool, and imparted perfect confidence to the water-sodden children. At the fisherman's peremptory order, the two boys clung to each side of the tender. We could see them dragging in the water; it was the only way. Scud now began to row before the storm.

There were no cheers from the rocks. Not a man of them stirred. The fishermen, hardened to perils of the sea, had been fascinated by this exhibition of cool-blooded heroism from the least heroic of them all.

The cockle-shell dashed madly towards the shore.

No power could row it weighted against the wind that beat upon it with fitful concentration. Straight before the tender was a little beach between the rocks, not more than twenty feet wide, but this was protected at its entrance by a line of reefs, easily passable at high tide, and bare at low. The rollers broke upon most of these rocks, and the spume swirled in dirty froth upon the pebbly beach. Scud made for the opening. The gale drove him wildly along. A few men now ran to the beach and the outlying rocks, ready to do the possible at any emergency. Would Scud pass the reef or not? There was not time to answer the question. The boat rose upon a huge wave. Foam and spray enveloped it from view. There was a rumbling cry of horror. There was a dull splintering crash. Fifty men rushed to the beach and lined the cliffs. The boat had struck upon the last rock. As the wave passed on, the terrible sight of black human heads appeared in a setting of white foam.

But these were within reach almost. These could be saved. Ah! Men wade in, somehow, anyhow, forming a line, and pass one to shore. Saved! And then another. Thank God! Here comes the third on that wave! Grasp that dress! Tenderly, it is a girl. All here! All saved!

But where is Scud? Oh, but he can swim. He is strong and used to chilling water and fierce waves. The helpless children safe, and Scud gone? Impossible! Incredible! Too horrible!

Involuntarily one man and then another turned to look at the widow and the orphans, and then they turned and cursed the sea aloud.

At this moment a dark little figure shot past them all, by the bewildered man, and dashed with a shriek into the foam. What did she do? How did she do it? What could be done? A woman—a little woman—her baby only one month old—Betty! She caught the sinking hand, the drowning head—she never knew how. A dozen men plunged in now. Spectators who had not wet their feet during all that horrible scene swam now in the whirlpool for the woman's sake, and for the shame she wrought upon them. Brawny arms and steady feet bore her back. Her little hand, rigid, clutched her husband by the collar of his shirt.

Scud was carried quickly up and laid upon the piazza. An ugly bruise was upon his forehead.

The wind died down. The rain came in white torrents. Betty stood in the deluge and shielded her husband automatically. The children, most of them too small to know the reason why, lifted up their voices and wept.

"Father," said Betty, softly, "why don't ye speak to me? Dearie, dearie Scud. I saved ye. Hain't ye nothing to say to me, Scud?"

"You'd better go into the house," said some one. "Leave Scud to us awhile." For in truth not a man or woman of us but believed that Scud was dead.

"You jess get us to a kitchen fire," said Betty, quietly, "and leave him to me."

And it was repeated with many a trembling lip far down the coast that night that Scud would live.


It was the morning of my departure, and it had come by the last express the night before. It had been kept a profound secret, for we would not risk a cruel disappointment. Scud had rowed to town with a full fare of fish, and Salt was with him, doing the rowing. We left word that they should come to the house as soon as they had put up their dory. A peremptory message was sent to Betty to come over immediately to do some work. A few neighbors happened to drop in. There might have been a dozen or so in all. My cousin did not go into town that day. He said he wanted to see me off. Betty came a little early, and was set to scrubbing the pantry floor.

But Scud, a hero? He had forgotten all about it now. He was the same old fellow, just as easy, just as jolly, just as careless. Scud wasn't at all spoiled by what had happened. He was as comfortable as the sea, this very morning. Who would have suspected the passing of a grand storm upon the hearts of either? Scud's sluggish blood had been "up" for one fiery hour. For one great day he had been the hero of the coast—the peer of all its heroes. Then the fire went out, and Scud became as he was. Perhaps Scud was more popular; his babies were better fed. Fishermen treated him with a grudged respect, and when he was pointed out to every new squad of boarders as the bravest man on the whole coast, they smiled. How could that grinning, singing Scud save a jelly-fish?

It was just eleven o'clock. With what impatience we had waited for the tramp of those rubber boots! We rushed upon the piazza and greeted Scud and Salt, dressed in their oil-skins, just as they had come from the trap. Scud halted uneasily at the front door.

"No miss, I can't come in in this toggery; I'm all gurry. I'll go home and change my clothes. Couldn't get here sooner. Herrin' jess struck. We sold ten barr'l this mornin'."

But we constrained him, and Scud entered, staring about, shuffling his rubber boots and wiping them as best he might. White scales of fish glittered upon his black oil-skins. He looked as if he were mailed in silver.

It devolved upon me to fetch Betty from the pantry; but I saw as I went that all of the people in the parlor stood up as Scud entered, as if they were greeting a prince. Scud looked from one to the other uncomfortably. He blushed a deep russet red, and stared, and then laughed in a vacant way. Betty now appeared in the doorway, and the three made a most impressive group in their working-clothes, wondering what it was all about, and what the city folk were after now.

"Scud," said the master of the house, clearing his throat, "you have done the bravest deed this coast has record of for twenty years. You have saved to us our children, dearer than our life. You had your own wife to think of, and the children who depend upon you for their bread. You have been a hero. To us you are always a hero, and our love and gratitude will last as long as our days. I have the privilege of presenting to you the highest tribute Massachusetts pays to her brave men—the gold medal of her great Humane Society, one hundred years old. This honor has not been sought, but has been eagerly bestowed. May it never leave your family! It will be an inspiration to your boys. You have obtained the reward of your pluck, and you deserve it, old fellow. Now shake!" The speech broke in eloquence, but not in feeling.

"See," said Mabel, "I kiss the medal for you and for my dear children's sake." She flashed it from its plush case, and placed the solemn emblem, whose exquisite engravings glittered like a jewel, in his great wet hands.

Salt turned his face to the wall. Betty put her apron over her face, and Scud's eyes ran dripping over. He opened his mouth, but no sound came forth.

"And now, Betty, look here," said her mistress in a gay, tremulous tone, "I have something for you." She held out in her delicate hand forty silver dollars, the gift of the Humane Society to Betty herself. "You are a woman, and you saved a man's life," explained my cousin, "and the society always recognizes the courage of a woman."

But Betty drew herself up in her scrubbing dress. She had a fine look.

"Thank you, ma'am," she said, "and the gentleman too. But he was my husband; I don't take no money from nobody for savin' of my husband. I'm just as much obleeged to ye." Almost every child in her house was dressed in "given" clothes, but the unpauperized soul looked out of Betty's faded eyes.

"Well," said my cousin, looking nonplussed, "how would it do to make it over to the twins?"

"As ye please," said Betty, shining. So the four twin babies received ten silver dollars apiece from the Humane Society for plunging into the water and saving their father's life. This was an illegal procedure. I grant it. And if the Society now for the first time learneth of the matter, I am fain to believe that it is too old and too great to take account thereof.


We were rowing over to catch my train. Scud was the oarsman. He sat quite still, and had a dazed look. Midway of the bay he stopped pulling, lifted and crossed his oars. I saw his Adam's apple rising and falling like an irresolute tide.

"I were took all of a sudden," he said, slowly; "I never felt so in all my life. My throat felt kinder queer an' dry. But I'm mightily obliged to yer. It might give Salt a lift. But I didn't know what to say, an' so I didn't say nothing'."