The Ferry of Unfulfilment by O. Henry
At the street corner, as solid as granite in the "rush-hour" tide of
humanity, stood the Man from Nome. The Arctic winds and sun had
stained him berry-brown. His eye still held the azure glint of the
He was as alert as a fox, as tough as a caribou cutlet and as
broad-gauged as the aurora borealis. He stood sprayed by a Niagara
of sound—the crash of the elevated trains, clanging cars, pounding
of rubberless tires and the antiphony of the cab and truck-drivers
indulging in scarifying repartee. And so, with his gold dust cashed
in to the merry air of a hundred thousand, and with the cakes and
ale of one week in Gotham turning bitter on his tongue, the Man from
Nome sighed to set foot again in Chilkoot, the exit from the land of
street noises and Dead Sea apple pies.
Up Sixth avenue, with the tripping, scurrying, chattering,
bright-eyed, homing tide came the Girl from Sieber-Mason's. The Man
from Nome looked and saw, first, that she was supremely beautiful
after his own conception of beauty; and next, that she moved with
exactly the steady grace of a dog sled on a level crust of snow. His
third sensation was an instantaneous conviction that he desired her
greatly for his own. This quickly do men from Nome make up their
minds. Besides, he was going back to the North in a short time, and
to act quickly was no less necessary.
A thousand girls from the great department store of Sieber-Mason
flowed along the sidewalk, making navigation dangerous to men whose
feminine field of vision for three years has been chiefly limited to
Siwash and Chilkat squaws. But the Man from Nome, loyal to her who
had resurrected his long cached heart, plunged into the stream of
pulchritude and followed her.
Down Twenty-third street she glided swiftly, looking to neither
side; no more flirtatious than the bronze Diana above the Garden.
Her fine brown hair was neatly braided; her neat waist and
unwrinkled black skirt were eloquent of the double virtues—taste and
economy. Ten yards behind followed the smitten Man from Nome.
Miss Claribel Colby, the Girl from Sieber-Mason's, belonged to that
sad company of mariners known as Jersey commuters. She walked into
the waiting-room of the ferry, and up the stairs, and by a
marvellous swift, little run, caught the ferry-boat that was just
going out. The Man from Nome closed up his ten yards in three jumps
and gained the deck close beside her.
Miss Colby chose a rather lonely seat on the outside of the
upper-cabin. The night was not cold, and she desired to be away from
the curious eyes and tedious voices of the passengers. Besides, she
was extremely weary and drooping from lack of sleep. On the previous
night she had graced the annual ball and oyster fry of the West Side
Wholesale Fish Dealers' Assistants' Social Club No. 2, thus reducing
her usual time of sleep to only three hours.
And the day had been uncommonly troublous. Customers had been
inordinately trying; the buyer in her department had scolded her
roundly for letting her stock run down; her best friend, Mamie
Tuthill, had snubbed her by going to lunch with that Dockery girl.
The Girl from Sieber-Mason's was in that relaxed, softened mood that
often comes to the independent feminine wage-earner. It is a mood
most propitious for the man who would woo her. Then she has
yearnings to be set in some home and heart; to be comforted, and to
hide behind some strong arm and rest, rest. But Miss Claribel Colby
was also very sleepy.
There came to her side a strong man, browned and dressed carelessly
in the best of clothes, with his hat in his hand.
"Lady," said the Man from Nome, respectfully, "excuse me for
speaking to you, but I—I—I saw you on the street, and—and—"
"Oh, gee!" remarked the Girl from Sieber-Mason's, glancing up with
the most capable coolness. "Ain't there any way to ever get rid of
you mashers? I've tried everything from eating onions to using
hatpins. Be on your way, Freddie."
"I'm not one of that kind, lady," said the Man from Nome—"honest,
I'm not. As I say, I saw you on the street, and I wanted to know you
so bad I couldn't help followin' after you. I was afraid I wouldn't
ever see you again in this big town unless I spoke; and that's why I
Miss Colby looked once shrewdly at him in the dim light on the
ferry-boat. No; he did not have the perfidious smirk or the brazen
swagger of the lady-killer. Sincerity and modesty shone through his
boreal tan. It seemed to her that it might be good to hear a little
of what he had to say.
"You may sit down," she said, laying her hand over a yawn with
ostentatious politness; "and—mind—don't get fresh or I'll call the
The Man from Nome sat by her side. He admired her greatly. He more
than admired her. She had exactly the looks he had tried so long in
vain to find in a woman. Could she ever come to like him? Well, that
was to be seen. He must do all in his power to stake his claim,
"My name's Blayden," said he—"Henry Blayden."
"Are you real sure it ain't Jones?" asked the girl, leaning toward
him, with delicious, knowing raillery.
"I'm down from Nome," he went on with anxious seriousness. "I
scraped together a pretty good lot of dust up there, and brought it
down with me."
"Oh, say!" she rippled, pursuing persiflage with engaging lightness,
"then you must be on the White Wings force. I thought I'd seen you
"You didn't see me on the street to-day when I saw you."
"I never look at fellows on the street."
"Well, I looked at you; and I never looked at anything before that I
thought was half as pretty."
"Shall I keep the change?"
"Yes, I reckon so. I reckon you could keep anything I've got. I
reckon I'm what you would call a rough man, but I could be awful
good to anybody I liked. I've had a rough time of it up yonder, but
I beat the game. Nearly 5,000 ounces of dust was what I cleaned up
while I was there."
"Goodness!" exclaimed Miss Colby, obligingly sympathetic. "It must
be an awful dirty place, wherever it is."
And then her eyes closed. The voice of the Man from Nome had a
monotony in its very earnestness. Besides, what dull talk was this
of brooms and sweeping and dust? She leaned her head back against
"Miss," said the Man from Nome, with deeper earnestness and
monotony, "I never saw anybody I liked as well as I do you. I know
you can't think that way of me right yet; but can't you give me a
chance? Won't you let me know you, and see if I can't make you like
The head of the Girl from Sieber-Mason's slid over gently and rested
upon his shoulder. Sweet sleep had won her, and she was dreaming
rapturously of the Wholesale Fish Dealers' Assistants' ball.
The gentleman from Nome kept his arms to himself. He did not suspect
sleep, and yet he was too wise to attribute the movement to
surrender. He was greatly and blissfully thrilled, but he ended by
regarding the head upon his shoulder as an encouraging preliminary,
merely advanced as a harbinger of his success, and not to be taken
One small speck of alloy discounted the gold of his satisfaction.
Had he spoken too freely of his wealth? He wanted to be liked for
"I want to say, Miss," he said, "that you can count on me. They know
me in the Klondike from Juneau to Circle City and down the whole
length of the Yukon. Many a night I've laid in the snow up there
where I worked like a slave for three years, and wondered if I'd
ever have anybody to like me. I didn't want all that dust just
myself. I thought I'd meet just the right one some time, and I done
it to-day. Money's a mighty good thing to have, but to have the love
of the one you like best is better still. If you was ever to marry a
man, Miss, which would you rather he'd have?"
The word came sharply and loudly from Miss Colby's lips, giving
evidence that in her dreams she was now behind her counter in the
great department store of Sieber-Mason.
Her head suddenly bobbed over sideways. She awoke, sat straight, and
rubbed her eyes. The Man from Nome was gone.
"Gee! I believe I've been asleep," said Miss Colby "Wonder what
became of the White Wings!"