A Story of the Sea
By Annie Hamilton Donnell
By David C. Cook Publishing Co.,
In Tarpaulin and oilskins she did not look like a Judith. Easily
she might have been a Joseph or a James. So it was not really to be
wondered at that the little girl in the dainty clothes—the little
girl from The Hotel—should say, “Why!”
“What is your name?” the Dainty One had asked.
“Judith Lynn,” had answered the boy-one in oilskins.
“Why!” Then, as if catching herself up at the impoliteness of such a
little word in such a surprised tone—“I mean, please excuse me for
thinking you were a boy,” the little Dainty One had added, in
considerable embarrassment. And Judith had laughed—Judith’s laughs
were rare, but the crisp, salty brightness of the sea was always in
them. The sea was in everything about Judith.
“I don’t wonder!” laughed Judith. “Me, with these togs on! But I
guess you’d be a boy when you went out to your traps—you can’t
’tend traps in skirts. Blossom calls me Judas with these on!”
It was strange how suddenly the rather big voice—a voice has to be
big to compete with the voice of the sea—grew soft and tender at the
name of Blossom.
In Judith Lynn’s rough, hard, salt-savored life Blossom was the one
thing sweet and beautiful. Blossom was the little frail wisp of a
child that Judith loved. This other child, here on the sand, watching
her with friendly wonder, reminded her a little of Blossom. Anyway,
they were both sweet and beautiful.
“Traps?” queried this other child. “I didn’t know there were mice in
the ocean!—you were going out on the ocean, weren’t you?”
Again Judith’s rare, bright laugh. Children were such funny
things!—Blossom was, too.
“Lobster-traps,” she explained, when the laugh had laughed itself
out. “I’m going out to mine to get the lobsters. Out there where
those little specks of white are bobbing ’round on the water—don’t
“I see some little specks—yes, they’re a-bobbing! Are those traps?”
“Mercy, no! The traps are sunk ’way down to the bottom o’ the sea!
Those are nothing but the little wooden floats that tell me where the
traps are. I couldn’t go hunting all over the bay, you know.”
“No—oh, no, you couldn’t go hunting all over the bay,” repeated the
small, puzzled voice. The Dainty One was distinctly interested. “I
s’pose, prob’ly, every one of those little white specks has got a
fish line to it. I hope they’ve all got bites. Oh, my suz! Here
comes Elise. Elise is always a-coming!” with a long sigh.
Elise was slender and tall, in cap and apron. She walked with the
stride of authority. A frown of displeasure was getting visibler and
visibler on her face, the child noticed with another sigh. Elise was
’most always a-frowning.
“Good-by. I—I guess I’d better go and meet her,” the Dainty One said
hurriedly. “She isn’t quite as cross when you go and meet her. It
But the child came back again to Judith Lynn. She held out one little
sun-browned, sea-browned hand.
“I’m happy to have seen you,” she said, with soft graciousness, as if
Judith were a duchess in laces instead of a boy-girl in fisherman’s
togs. “I’d be pleased to see you some more. I like you.”
“Oh!” stammered the boy-girl in fisherman’s togs, a flush of pleasure
reddening her brown face. No one had even said “I’d be pleased to see
you,” to her before, though Blossom, of course, was always pleased.
No one but Blossom had ever said, “I like you,” and Blossom’s way
was, “I love you.”
“I must go—she’s ’most here,” went on the child, rather anxiously.
“But first I wish you’d tell me who Blossom is. You spoke about
Blossom, didn’t you?”
“Yes. She’s my little sister. Her regular name is Janet. It’s only me
calls her Blossom.”
“Oh, but that’s lots the prettiest name! I’m going to call her
that, too. I’d be pleased to see Blossom. Is she about my tallness?”
Judith’s face had undergone one of its swift changes. It had grown
defensive and a little fierce. She should not see Blossom!—this other
child who could walk away over the sand to meet Elises, whoever
Elises were. She should not see Blossom! Blossom should not see her!
“But, maybe—prob’ly she’s a baby—”
“No, she’s six. She’d be about as tall as you are, if she was
straightened—I mean if she could stand up beside o’ you. I guess
you better go to that woman in the cap or she’ll scold, won’t she?”
“Goodness, yes! Elise always scolds. But I’d rather be scolded than
not hear about that little Blossom girl—”
“Mademoiselle!” called the woman in the cap sharply. She came up
puffing with her hurry. “Mademoiselle has escape again—Mademoiselle
is ba-ad!” she scolded.
“I didn’t ex-scape, either—I only walked. You don’t walk when you
ex-scape. You sat and sat and sat, and I wanted to walk.”
The child’s voice was full of grievance. Sometimes she dreaded
Elise—when she saw her coming down the beach—but she was never
afraid of her “near to.”
“But it is not for Mademoiselle to walk so far—what is it the doctor
say? Mademoiselle is ba-ad when she walk so far!”
With a sudden gesture of defiance the Dainty One sprang away across
the sand, looking over her shoulder willfully. “But it’s so good to
walk!” she cried. “You’d walk if you was me, Elise—you’d walk and
walk and walk! Like this—see me! See me run—like this!”
The eyes of the woman in the white nurse’s cap met for an instant the
eyes of the boy-girl in the oilskins, and Judith smiled. But Elise
was gravely tender—Elise’s face could undergo swift changes, too.
“Yes, certainment I would,” muttered Elise, looking away to the
naughty little figure. It was running back now.
“And then you’d be goody again—see me!” chanted the child. “And
you’d go right straight back to Elise—that would be me, if you
were I—and you’d put your arms round her, so, and say, ‘’Scuse
Judith Lynn got into the old brown dory and rowed away to her
lobster-traps. There was no laughter any more in her eyes; they were
fierce with longing and envy. Not for herself—Judith was sixteen,
but she had never been fierce or envious for herself. It had always
been—it would always be—for Blossom, the frail little wisp of a
girl she loved.
She was thinking intensely, What if that were Blossom, running down
the beach? They were about of a “tallness”—why shouldn’t it be
Blossom? Why shouldn’t Blossom run down the beach like that and call
She would walk and walk and walk—it would feel so good to walk!
Once she had said to Judith—the great oars stopped as Judith
remembered—once Blossom had said, “Oh, Judy, if I ever walk, I
shall walk right across the sea. You couldn’t stop me!”
But Blossom would never walk. Judith bent to the great oars again and
toiled out into the bay. Her lips were set in the old familiar lines
of pain. In the distance was just visible a fleck of white and a
fleck of blue—Elise and the Dainty One on the sands.
“I never want to set eyes on them again—not on her, anyway!” thought
Judith as she toiled. “What did she want to speak to me for, in her
nice little mincing voice! She belongs to hotels and I belong to
the—sea. Blossom and I—what has she got to do with Blossom!”
But the little mincing voice had said, “I’d be pleased to see you—I
like you.” It had said, “I’d be pleased to see Blossom.”
“She sha’n’t! I won’t have her! I won’t have Blossom see her!” Judith
stormed in her pain.
The picture of the little frail wisp of a child who would never walk
was so distinct to her—and this other picture of the Dainty One who
walked and laughed, “See me!” The two little pictures, side by side,
were more than Judith could bear.
The traps were nearly empty. It was going to be a poor lobster
season. To hotels like that one down the beach that would be a
disappointment. To Judith, who stood for fisher-folk, it would mean
serious loss. When the lobster season was a good one, more than one
little comfort and luxury found its way into more than one humble
fisher-home. And Blossom—Blossom would suffer if the lobster-traps
were empty. For Judith and her mother had agreed to set apart enough
of the lobster-money to get Blossom a wheel-chair. Judith had seen
one once on a trip to the nearest town, and ever since she had
dreamed about a little wheel-chair with Blossom in it. To wheel up
and down the smooth, hard sand, with Blossom laughing and crying,
“There’s got to be lobsters!” Judith stormed, jerking up her traps
one after the other. “There shall be lobsters!”
But she rowed back with the old brown dory almost as empty as when
she had rowed it toilsomely out to her traps.
There were but three Lynns in the small home upshore. Two years ago
there had been six, but father and the boys, one day, had gone out of
sight beyond the bay and had never come into sight again. It is the
sad way with those “who go down to the sea in ships.”
Judith was the only man left to ’tend the traps and fish in the safer
waters of the bay. At fourteen one is young to begin toil like that.
Even at sixteen one is not old. But Judith’s heart was as strong as
her pair of brown, boy-muscled arms. She and the old dory were well
acquainted with each other.
To-day Judith did not hurry homeward across the stretch of bright
water. She let the old dory lag along almost at its own sweet will.
For Judith dreaded to go home with her news of the poor little “haul”
of lobsters. She knew so well how mother would sigh and how little
Blossom would try to smile. Blossom always tried to smile when the
news was bad. That was the Blossomness of her, Judith said fondly.
“That’s Lynn luck,” mother would sigh. Poor mother, who was too worn
and sad to try to smile!
“Never mind, Judy,” Blossom’s little, brave smile would say. “Never
mind—who cares!” But Judy knew who cared.
Strange fancies came sometimes to the fisherman-girl in the great
dory, out there on the bay. Alone, with the sky above and the sea
beneath, the girl let her thoughts have loose rein and built her
frail castles in the salt, sweet air. Out there, she had been a
beautiful princess in a fairy craft, going across seas to her
kingdom; she had been a great explorer, traveling to unknown worlds;
she had been a pirate—a millionaire in his yacht—a sailor in a
man-of-war. She had always had a dream-Blossom with her, on her
wonder-trips, and sometimes they were altogether Blossom-dreams. Like
to-day—to-day it was a Blossom-dream, a wistful little one with not
much heart in it. They seemed to be drifting home, away from
something beautiful behind them that they had wanted very much. They
had been sailing after it—in the dream—with their hands stretched out
to reach it. And it had beckoned them on—and further on—with its
golden fingers, till at last it had vanished into the sunset, down
behind the sea, and left them empty-handed after all. They had had to
turn back without it. And Blossom—the little dream-Blossom in the
dream—had tried to smile.
“Never mind, Judy,” she had said. “Never mind—who cares!” But they
had both cared so much!
Then quite suddenly Judith’s fancy had changed the dream from a sad
one to a glad one. She had rested lazily on her great black oars and
painted another picture on her canvas of sea and sky—this time of
Blossom riding way over a beautiful glimmery sea-road in a little
wheel-chair, soft-cushioned and beautiful. She, Judith, followed in
the old dory, and Blossom laughed with delight and called back over
her shoulder, “See me! See me!”
A whiff of night-breeze warned Judith that it was growing late and
the dream-fancies must stop. She leaned over the side of the dory and
pretended to drop them, one at a time, into the sea. That was another
of her odd little whimsies.
“Good-by, sad dream—good-by, glad dream,” she said. “You will never
go ashore. You will always stay out here in the sea where I drop
you—unless I decide to dream you over again some day. If I do,
good-by till then.” For Judith never dreamed her day-dreams on land.
They were a part of the sea and the sea-sky and the old black dory.
She must make her trip to the Hotel with her poor little haul of
lobsters, for she had promised all she got to Mrs. Ben. But for a
wonder Judith’s pride deserted her, and she decided to tramp away
down the beach in her fisherman-clothes. When had she done that
before! When hadn’t she walked the weary little distance inshore
and back, to and from her home, for the sake of going down the beach
in her own girl-things. But to-night—“Never mind, Judy—who cares!”
she said to herself, with a shrug. Let Mrs. Ben laugh—let the fine
people lounging about laugh—let everybody laugh! Who cared? To-night
Judith was tired, and the stout little heart had gone out of her.
“Land!” laughed Mrs. Ben, in her kitchen door. But the sober face
under the old tarpaulin checked her. Mrs. Ben’s heart was tender.
“I shouldn’t think I looked very landish,” Judith retorted. “And I
guess you won’t say ‘land!’ when you see your lobsters. That’s every
one I got to-day, Mrs. Ben!”
But Mrs. Ben said “Land!” again. Then, with an unexpected whirl of
her big, comely person, she had her hands on the boy-girls’ shoulders
and was gently pushing her toward a chair by the window.
“You poor dear, you! Never mind the lobsters. Just you set there in
that chair and eat some o’ my tarts! You look clean tuckered out.”
“Not clean tuckered,” laughed Judith rather tremulously. It was
good to be pushed about like that by big, kind hands. And how good
the tarts were! She sank into the chair with a grateful sigh.
“I don’t suppose you can be expected to bring lobsters when there
ain’t any in the traps! All is, the folks ’ll have to eat tarts!”
Mrs. Ben’s folks were the people who lounged about in gay summer
clothes. Judith could see them out of the window as she ate her
Some ladies were sitting on the doorsteps very near by, and their
voices drifted in to Judith with intervals of silence. She began to
notice what the voices were saying. They were talking about a little
figure in dainty white that was circling about not far away, and the
little figure in white was Judith’s acquaintance of the beach.
One of the voices was a mother-voice—Judith was sure of that from the
tenderness in it. The other voice was just a plain voice, Judith
decided. It sounded interested and curious, and it began to ask
strange questions about the dainty little figure. Judith grew
interested, too—then, very interested indeed.
Suddenly Judith caught her breath in an inarticulate little cry. For
she could hear what the mother-voice was answering.
“It seems very wonderful,” the cool, interested voice said, a
little more interested, if anything.
“It seems glorious!” broke in the mother-voice; and the throb in it
beat upon Judith’s heart through the waves of air between them.
Judith’s heart was throbbing, too.
“You can’t think how it ‘seems,’—you don’t know anything about it!”
the earnest, tremulous voice went on. “How can anyone know who never
had a little daughter?”
“I had one once.” The other voice now was soft and earnest.
“But she walked. Your little daughter walked. How can anyone know
whose little daughter always walk—”
“She never walked.” It was very soft now, and the throb had crept
into it that was in the mother-voice and in Judith’s heart. “I only
had her a year.”
They were both mother-voices! Judith could not see, but she felt sure
the two sat up a little nearer to each other and their hands touched.
“Oh!—then you can know,” the first voice said, after a tiny silence.
“I will tell you all about it—there have only been a few I have
wanted to tell. It has seemed almost too precious and—and—sacred.”
“I know,” the other said.
“But you must begin right at the beginning, with me—at the time when
my little daughter was a year old, when the time came for her to
learn to walk. That is where my story begins.”
“And mine ends. Go on.”
“Well, you can see how I must have watched and waited and planned.”
“Oh, yes, and planned—I planned.”
“You poor dear!” Another tiny silence-space, while hand crept to
hand again, Judith was sure. Then the story went on.
“You say I ought to have known. Everybody says I ought to have.
They knew, they say, and I was the baby’s mother. The baby’s mother
ought to have known. But that was just why. I was her mother—I
wouldn’t know. I kept putting it off. ‘Wait,’ I kept saying to
myself. ‘She isn’t old enough to walk yet; when she is old enough,
she will walk. Can’t you wait?’ And I waited. When they did not
any of them know, I kept trying to stand her on her poor little
legs—I wouldn’t stop trying. When she was fifteen months—sixteen
months—seventeen, eighteen—when she was two years old, I tried.
I would not let them talk to me. ‘Some children are so late in
walking,’ I said. ‘Her legs are such little ones!’ I would catch her
up from the floor and hug her fiercely. ‘They sha’n’t hurry you, my
darling. You shall take all the time you want. Then, some day, you’ll
surprise mother, won’t you? You’ll get up on your two little legs and
walk! And we’ll take hold of hands and walk out there to all those
bad people that try to say things to us. We’ll show them!’ But we
never did. When she was two and a half I began to believe it—perhaps
I had believed all along—and when she was three, I gave it up. ‘She
will never walk,’ I told them, and they let me alone. There was no
more need of talking then.”
Judith was leaning forward, straining her ears to hear. She had
forgotten Mrs. Ben’s tarts—she had forgotten everything but the story
that was going on out there, out of her sight. It was so much—oh, how
much it was like Blossom’s story! When Blossom was three, Judith had
given up, too. But not till then. She had kept on and on trying to
teach the helpless little legs to walk. Father and mother and the
boys had given up, but Judith had kept on. “She shall walk!” she
Sometimes she had taken Blossom down to the beach, tugging her all
the way in her own childish arms, and selected the hardest, smoothest
stretch of sand. “Now we’ll walk!” she had laughed, and Blossom had
laughed, too. “Stand up all nice and straight, darling, and walk all
beautiful to Judith!” But Blossom had never stood up all nice and
straight; she had never walked all beautiful to Judith. And when she
was three, Judith had given up.
The story out there was going on: “After that I never tried to make
her walk again, poor little sweet! We carried her round in our arms
till we got her a little wheel-chair that she could wheel a little
herself. She liked that so much—she called it ‘walking.’ It would
have broken your heart to hear her say, ‘See me walk, mamma!’”
“Oh, yes—yes, it would have,” the other voice responded gently. It
had grown a very gentle voice indeed. Judith wondered in the little
flash of thought she could spare from Blossom, if the other mother
were not thinking there might be harder things even than laying a
little daughter away in a little white casket.
“But when she was five”—sudden animation, joy and a thrill of
laughter had taken possession of the voice that was telling the
story—“a little more than five—she’s just six now—when she was a
little more than five, they told us she could walk! There was a way!
It was not a very hard way, they said. A splendid doctor, with
a heart big enough to hold all the little crippled children in
the universe, would make her walk. And so—this is the end of the
story—we took her across the sea to him. Look at her now! Where
is she? Oh, there! Marie! Marie! Come here to mother!”
Judith slipped away. She was never quite definite how she got there,
but she found herself presently in the old black dory that was drawn
up on the beach. It was the best place to think, and Judith wanted to
think. She wanted air enough and room enough to think in—this
Wonderful Thing took up so much room! It was so big—so wonderful!
She sat a long time with her brown chin in her brown palms, her eyes
on the splendid expanse of shining, undulating sea before her. It
reached ’way across to him—to that tender doctor who made little
children walk! If one were to cross it—she and Blossom in the old
black dory—and to find him somewhere over across there and say to
him—if one were to hold out little Blossom and say—“Here’s Blossom;
oh, please teach her little legs to walk!”—if one were to do that—
Judith sunk her brown chin deeper into the little scoop of her brown,
hard palms. Her eyes were beginning to shine. She began to rock
herself back and forth and to hum a little song of joy, as if already
it had happened. The fancy took her that it had happened—that when
she went up the beach, home, she would come on Blossom walking to
meet her! “See me!” Blossom would call out gayly.
The fancy faded by and by, as did all Judith’s dreams. And Judith
went plodding home alone—no one came walking to meet her. But there
was hope in her heart. How it could ever be, she did not know—she had
not had time to get to that yet—but somehow it would be. It should
“I won’t tell mother—I’ll tell Uncle Jem,” she decided. “Mother must
not be worried—she must be surprised!” Judith had decided that. Some
day, some way, Blossom must walk in on the worn, weary little mother
and surprise her.
“I’ll ask Uncle Jem how,” Judith nodded, as she went. Uncle Jem was
the old bed-ridden fisherman that Judith loved and trusted and
consulted. She had always consulted Uncle Jem. He lived with Jem
Three in a tiny, weather-worn cabin near the Lynns. Jem Three was
Judith’s age—Jem Two was dead.
“I’ll go over to-night after supper,” Judith said.
Uncle Jem lay in the cool, salt twilight, listening, as he always
did, to the sound of the waves. It was his great comfort. He wouldn’t
swop his “pa’r o’ ears,” he said, for a mint o’ money—no, sir! Give
him them ears—Uncle Jem had never been to school—an’ he’d make out
without legs nor arms nor head! That was Uncle Jem’s favorite
“Judy! I hear ye stompin’ round out there. I’m layin’ low fur ye!”
the cheerful voice called, as Judith entered the little cabin.
“Is Jem Three here?” demanded Judith.
“Here?—Jemmy Three! I guess you’re failin’ in your mind, honey.”
“Well, I’m glad he isn’t. I don’t want anybody but you—Uncle Jem, how
can I get Blossom across the sea?” Judith’s eager face followed up
this rather astonishing speech. Uncle Jem turned to meet them both.
“Wal, there’s the old dory—or ye mought swim,” he answered gravely.
He was used to Judy’s speeches.
“Because there’s a great man over there that makes lame little
children walk—he can make Blossom. There’s a little child down at the
hotel that he made walk. I’ve got to take her across, Uncle Jem—I
mean Blossom. But I don’t know how.”
“No, deary, no; I do’ know’s I much wonder. It would be consid’able
great of a job fur ye. An’ I allow it would take a mint o’ money.”
Strange Judith had not thought of the money! Money was so very hard
indeed to get, and a mint of it—
“Not a mint—don’t say a mint, Uncle Jem!” she pleaded. She went up
close to the bed and took one of the gnarled old hands in hers and
beat it with soft impatience up and down on the quilt.
“Not a mint!” she repeated.
“Wal, deary, wal, we’ll see,” comforted the old man. “You set down in
that cheer there an’ out with it, the hull story! Mind ye don’t leave
out none o’ the fixin’s! Ye can’t rightly see things without ye have
all the fixin’s by ye. Now, then, deary—”
Judith told the thrilling little story with all the details at her
command. At its end Uncle Jem’s eyes were shining as hers had shone.
“Judy!” he cried, “Judy, it’s got to be did! Ye’ve got to do it!”
“Of course,” Judy answered, with rapt little brown face. “I’m going
to, Uncle Jem. But you must help me find a way.”
“Wal,”—slowly, as Uncle Jem thought with wrinkled brows—“Wal, I guess
about the fust thing to do is to go an’ ask that hotel child’s ma how
much it cost her to go acrost. Then we’ll have that to go by. We
ain’t got nothin’ to go by now, deary.”
“No,” Judith answered, dreamily. She was looking out of the little,
many-paned window across the distant water. It looked like a very
“I suppose it’s—pretty far,” she murmured wistfully.
“Oh, consid’able—consid’able,” the old man agreed vaguely. “But ye
won’t mind that. It won’t be fur comin’ home!”
The faith of the old child and the young was good that this beautiful
miracle could be brought about. Judith went home with elastic step
and lifted, trustful face.
Jem Three, scuffing barefoot through the sandy soil, met this radiant
dream-maiden with the exalted mien. Jem Three was not of exalted
mien, and he never dreamed. He was brown up to the red rim of his
hair, and big and homely. But the freckles in line across the
brownness of his face spelled h-o-n-e-s-t-y. At least, they always
had before to Judith Lynn and all the world. To-night Judith was to
read them differently.
It is hard to come out of a beautiful dream, plump upon a prosaic boy
who says, “Hullo!” It is apt to jolt one. It jolted Judith.
“Oh! Oh, it’s you!” she came out enough to say, and then went back.
The prosaic boy regarded her in puzzled wonder. Head up, shoulders
back, eyes looking right through you—what kind of a Jude was this!
Was she walking in her sleep?
“Hullo, I said,” he repeated. “If you’ve left your manners to
“Oh!—oh, hello, Jem! I guess I was busy thinking.”
“Looked like it. Bad habit to get into. Better look out! I never
indulge, myself. Well, how’s luck?”
“Luck? Oh, you mean lobsters?” Judith had not been busy thinking of
lobsters, but now her grievance came back to her. “Oh, Jem! I never
got but three! All my pains for three lobsters! And two of those just
long enough not to be short. It means—I suppose it means a bad
season, doesn’t it?”
Jem Three pursed his lips into a whistle. Afterward, when Judith’s
evil thoughts had invaded her mind, she remembered that Jem Three had
avoided looking at her; yes, certainly he had shifted his bare toes
about in the sand. And when he spoke, his voice had certainly sounded
“Guess somethin’ ails your traps,” he had said. “Warn’t nothin’ the
matter with mine.”
“Did you get more than three?”
“Jemmy Three, how many’s a-plenty?”
Jemmy Three had got twenty-four! Judith turned away in bitterness and
envy, and afterwards suspicion.
There was nothing the matter with her traps. If Jem Three got
twenty-four lobsters in his, why did she get only three in hers?
Twenty-four and three. What kind of fairness was that! She could set
lobster-traps as well as any Jem Three—or Jem Four—or Five—or Six.
There had always been good-natured rivalry between the fisher-boy and
the fisher-girl, and Judith had usually held her own jubilantly.
There had never been any such difference as this.
Suddenly was born the evil thought in Judith’s brain. It crept in
slinkingly, after the way of evil things. “How do you know but he
helped himself out o’ your traps?” That was the whisper it whispered
to Judith. Then, well started, how it ran on! “When you and he
quarreled a while ago, didn’t he say, ‘I’ll pay you back’?—didn’t he?
You think if he didn’t.”
“Oh, he did,” groaned Judith.
“Well, isn’t helping himself to your lobsters paying you back?”
“Yes—oh, yes, if he did. But Jemmy Three never—”
“How do you know he never? Is twenty-four to three a fair average? Is
it? Is it?”
“No, oh, no! But I don’t believe—”
“Oh, you needn’t believe! Don’t believe. Go right on finding your
traps empty and believing Jemmy Three’d never! I thought you were
going to save your lobster-money for Blossom.”
“Oh, I was—I am going to! I’m going to save it to take her across the
ocean to that doctor. It was going to be a little wheel-chair, but
now it’s going to be legs.”
“But supposing there isn’t any lobster-money? You can’t do much with
three lobsters a day. If somebody helps himself—”
“Stop!” cried Judith angrily, and the evil thought slunk away. But it
came again—it kept coming. One by one, little trivial circumstances
built themselves into suspicions, until the little brown freckles on
Jemmy Three’s face came to spell “Dishonesty” to Judith Lynn. If it
had not been for the terrible need of lobster-money—Judith would have
fought harder against the evil thing if it had not been for that.
“I’ve got to have it! There’s got to be lobsters in the traps!” she
cried to herself. “The doctor over there might die! If he died before
I could carry Blossom to him, do you think I’d ever forgive Jemmy
Three?”—which showed that the Evil Thing had done its work. It might
slink away now and stay.
It was a hard night for Judith. Joyful thoughts and evil ones
conflicted with each other, and among them all she could not sleep.
It was nearly morning before she snuggled up against Blossom’s little
warm body and shut her eyes. Her plans were made, as far as she could
make them. To-morrow she would go down and question the hotel mother,
as Uncle Jem said. To-morrow—she must not wait. And after that—after
that, heaven and earth and the waters of the sea must help her. There
must be no faithlessness or turning back.
“You shall walk, little Blossom,” Judith whispered softly.
How could she know how soon the sea would help?
“I want to go, Judy—please, please!”
Blossom was up on her elbow, pleading earnestly. Judith was dressing.
“It’s a Blossom day—you know it’s a Blossom day! And Jemmy Three’ll
carry me down. I know Jemmy Three will! I haven’t been out
a-dorying for such a long time; Judy—please!”
It was always hard work for Judith to refuse Blossom anything.
Besides—Judith went to the window and lifted the scant little
curtain—yes, it certainly was a “Blossom day.” The sky was
Blossom-blue, the sea spread away out of sight, Blossom-smooth and
shining. And the little pleader there in the bed looked so eager and
longing—so Blossom-sweet! She should go “a-dorying,” decided Judith,
but it would not be Jemmy Three that carried her down to the sea.
“You little tease, come on, then!” laughed Judith. “I’ll dress you in
double-quick, for I’ve got to get out to my traps.”
Judith had overslept, for a wonder. When had Judith done a thing like
that before! For two hours Blossom had been awake, lying very quietly
for fear of waking Judy; poor, tired Judy must not be disturbed.
Downstairs mother had gone away to her work at the beautiful summer
cottage down-beach, beyond the hotel. It was ironing-day at the
cottage, and all day mother would stand at the ironing-board, ironing
dainty summer skirts and gowns.
“I’ll ride in front an’ be a—a what’ll I be, Judy?”
“A little bother of a Blossom in a pink dress,” laughed Judith, as
she buttoned the small garments with the swift, deft fingers that had
buttoned them for six years.
“No, no! a—don’t you know, the kind of a thing that brings good luck?
You read it to me your own self, Judy Lynn!”
“I guess you mean a mastif,” Judith said slowly. “Queer it sounds
so much like a dog!—it didn’t make me think of a dog when I read it.”
“M-m—yes, I’ll be a mastif”—Blossom’s voice was doubtful; it hadn’t
reminded her so much of a dog, either, at the time. “An’ so you’ll
have good luck. You’ll find your traps brim-up full, Judy! Then I
guess you’ll say, ‘Oh, how thankful I am I brought that child!’”
Judith caught the little crippled figure closer in a loving hug. “I’m
thankful a’ready!” she cried.
They hurried through the simple breakfast that mother had left for
them, and then Judith shouldered the joyous child and tramped away
over the half-mile that separated them from the old black dory.
“Now, Judy, now le’s begin right off an’ pretend! Go ahead—you
“I’m pretending. I’m a chariot and you’re a fine lady in pink ging—”
“Ging—!” scorned Blossom. “Silk, Judy—in pink silk, a-ridin’ in the
chariot. It’s a very nice, easy chariot an’ doesn’t joggle her
hip—Oh, I forgot she hasn’t got any hips, of course! Well, here she
goes a-riding and a-riding along, just as comfortable, but pretty
soon she says—we’re coming to the beautiful part now, Judy!—‘I guess
I better get out an’ walk now,’ she says. Now pretend she got out
and walked, Judy—you pretending?”
“I’m pretending,” cried Judy, her clasp on the little figure
tightening and her eyes shining mysteriously. Sometime the little
fine lady should get out and walk! She should—she should!
“Now she’s walking—no, she isn’t, either, she’s riding, and it isn’t
in a chariot, it’s in her sister’s arms, an’ she’s Blossom. Don’t
le’s pretend any more, Judy. There’s days it’s easy to an’ there’s
days it’s hard to—it’s a hard-to day, I guess, to-day. Those days you
can’t pretend get out and walk very well.”
“Pretend I’m an elephant!” laughed Judy, though the laugh trembled in
her throat. “That’s an easy-to-pretend! And you’re an—Oh, an Arab,
driving me! You must talk Arabese, Blossom!”
Blossom was gay again when they got to the dory, and Judith dropped
her into the bow, out of her own weary arms.
“Now say ‘Heave-ho!—heave-ho’!” commanded Judith, “to help me drag
her down, you know. Here we go!”
“I don’t know the Arabese for ‘heave-ho,’” laughed little Blossom,
mischievously. “I could say it in American.”
“Say it in ‘American,’ then, you little rogue!” panted Judith, all
her tough little muscles a-stretch for the haul.
They were presently out on the water, rocking gently with the gentle
waves. And Blossom was presently shouting with delight. Her little
lean, sharp face was keen with excitement.
“Now pretend—now, now, now! It’s easy to out here! The fine lady’s
going abroad, Judy—do you hear? She’s going right straight over
’cross this sea, in this han’some ship! When she gets there she’ll
step out on the shore an’ say what a beautiful voyage she’s had,
an’ good-by to the cap’n—you’re the cap’n, Judy. An’ you’ll say, ‘Oh,
my lady, sha’n’t I help you ashore?’ An’ she’ll laugh right out,
it’s so ridic’lous! ‘Help me, my good man!’ she’ll ’xclaim. ‘I guess
you must think I can’t walk!’”
Blossom’s face was alive with the joy of the beautiful “pretend.”
But Judith’s face was sober.
“Laugh, why don’t you, Judy?” cried the child.
“I’m laugh—I mean I will, dear. But I’ve got to row like everything
now, so you must do the pretending for us both. We’ve got to get out
there to those traps before you can say ‘scat’!”
“Scat!” shrilled Blossom.
It was Blossom’s sharp eyes that discovered Jem Three “out there.”
Judith was bending to her work.
“There’s Jemmy Three, Judy! True-honest, out there a-trapping! He
looks ’s if he was coming away from our place—he is, Judy! He’s got
our lobsters, to s’prise us, maybe.”
“It won’t surprise me,” muttered Judy, in the clutch of the Evil
Thought again. She was watching the distant boat now keenly, her eyes
hard with suspicion. Jem Three it surely was, and he was rowing
slowly away from Judith’s lobster “grounds.” It seemed to her his
dory was deep in the water as if heavily weighted. He had been—had
been to her traps again. He was whistling—Judith could hear the
faint, sweet sound—but that didn’t hide anything. Let him whistle all
he wanted to—she knew what he had been up to!
“Ship aho-oy!” came across faintly to them, but it was only Blossom
“Ahoy! Ship ahoy!” she sent back clearly. Judith bent over her
“He’s going away from us, we sha’n’t meet him,” Blossom said in
“Of course he’s going away—of course he won’t meet us,” Judith
retorted between her little white teeth.
“An’ I wanted to ‘speak him,’” the disappointed little voice ran on;
“I was going to call out, ‘How’s the folks abroad? We’re on our way
’cross, in the Judiana B.,’—this is the Judiana B., Judy, after both
of us. B. stands for me.”
“Funny way to spell me!” laughed Judith with an effort. She must hide
away her black suspicions. Not for the world would she have Blossom
know! Blossom was so fond of Jemmy Three, and she had so few folks to
be fond of.
A surprise was waiting for them “out there.” The traps were pretty
well loaded! Not full, any of them, but not one of them empty. In
all, there were seventeen great, full-grown, glistening, black
fellows for Blossom to shudder over as she never failed to do—Blossom
was no part of a fisherman.
“He didn’t dare to take them all,” thought Judith, refusing to let
the Evil Thought get away from her. “Probably he saw us coming. If
he’d let ’em alone there might have been a lot more—perhaps there
“One, two, three,”—counted Blossom slowly. “Why, Judy, there’s
seventeen. You didn’t s’pose there’d be as many as seventeen, did
you? Isn’t that a splendid lot?”
“Not as splendid as fifty,” answered Judy, assured now that there had
been as many as that.
“Seventeen from fifty is thirty—thirty-two,” whispered the Evil Thing
in her ear. Evil things cannot be expected to be good in arithmetic
or anything else. “So he helped himself to thirty-two, did he! Nice
haul! Thirty-two big fellows will bring him in—”
“Don’t!” groaned Judith.
“I don’t wonder you say ‘don’t!’ Thirty-two nice big fellows would
have brought you in a pretty little sum. You could have put it away
in a stocking in your bureau drawer, for the Blossom-fund.”
“Oh, I was going to! I was going to!”
“Thought so—well, you’ll have to get along with seventeen. That comes
of having boys like that for friends!”
“He isn’t my friend!” Judith cried sharply to the Evil Thing in her
breast. “He never will be again. If it wasn’t for Uncle Jem I’d never
look at him again as long as I live!”
All this little dialogue had gone on unsuspected by the little pink
“mastif” in the bow of the little dory. Blossom had been busy edging
out of the reach of the ugly things in the bottom of the boat. If
Judith had only edged away from her Ugly Thing!
Another surprise was even now on the way—a surprise so stupendous and
unexpected that, beside it, the lobster-surprise would dwindle away
into insignificance and be quite forgotten for the rest of the day.
And oddly enough, it was to be Blossom who should be discoverer
“I’m going a little farther out and fish awhile,” Judith announced
over her last trap. “I’ve got all my tackle aboard and maybe I can
find something Mrs. Ben will want. You sit still as a mouse, Blossom,
for I cant’t be watching you and fishing, too.”
“I’ll sit still as two mice. Needn’t think o’ me!” answered the
little one proudly. Did Judy think she was little like that? Just
because she hadn’t legs that would go! They didn’t need to go, did
they, out here in the middle of the sea!
“What makes it look so ripply an’ bubbly out there?” she questioned
with grown-up dignity. Judy should see she could sit still and talk
“Where?” asked Judith absently. She did not take the trouble to
follow the little pointing finger with her eyes.
“There—why don’t you look? It’s all pretty an’ ripply an’ kind of
queer. Doesn’t look like plain water ’xactly. Look, Judy—why don’t
“I am looking now—Oh, Oh, wait! It looks like—Blossom, I believe it’s
a school! That’s the way the water always loo—Blossom, Blossom, do
you hear me, it’s a school! A school of mackerel—a school, I tell
“Well, you needn’t keep on a-telling me.” Blossom, anyway, was calm.
“I’m not deaf o’ hearing, am I? If it’s a school, le’s us go right
straight out there an’ fish it up, Judy.”
Judy was going right straight out there with all the strength of her
powerful young arms. She was not calm; her face was quivering with
excitement and joy. A school! A school! Oh, but that meant so much
for the Blossom-fund, to put away in the stocking in the bureau
drawer! If it should prove a big school—but she and Blossom could not
manage a big one, never in the world. If Jemmy Thr—no, no, not Jemmy
Three! This was not Jemmy Three’s school—what had he to do with it?
In all the stress and excitement of sending the old dory out there
where the water was rippling its news to her, Judy had time to think
of several things. She had time to remember how she and Jem Three had
used, from the time they were little brown things in pinafores, to
plan about their first school o’ mackerel—what they would do with all
the wealth it should bring them, how they would share it together,
how they would pull in the silvery, glistening fellows, side by side.
What plans—what plans they had made! They had practiced a shrill,
piercing call that was to summon the one of them who should happen to
be absent when the “school” was descried out there in the bay. Even
lately, big and old as they had grown, they had laughingly reviewed
that call. Now—this minute—if Judith were to utter it, piercing and
far-carrying and jubilant, perhaps Jemmy Three might hear and come
plowing through the waves to get his share—had he any share? Because
when they were little brown things they had made vows, did that give
him any rights now?
Of course, if—if things had been different—lobster-things—Judith
might have pursed her lips into that triumphant summons. But—
“Sit still! I’m going to swing her round!” called Judith sharply.
“I’ve got to go ashore for father’s old net. It’s in the boat-house.”
“You won’t leave me, Judy—promise you’ll take me out with you!”
pleaded Blossom, eagerly.
“I’ll have to,” Judith responded briefly. “There isn’t time to carry
you home—I don’t dare take time.”
She made her plans as she went in, and put out again with the clumsy
heap of netting towering at her feet. The thing she meant to do was
stupendous for a girl to attempt alone, but she was going to attempt
it. The shabby old net had lain in its corner, useless, for two
years. Now it should be used—she, Judith Lynn would use it! She was
glad as she pulled seaward again that she had thrown in two
scoops—perhaps when the time came Blossom could make out to use one a
The net was like a long—a very long—fence, with its lower edge
weighted heavily and its upper edge provided with wooden floats, to
insure its standing erect under water. When in position properly it
surrounded the school of fish, completely fencing in the darting,
glimmering, silver fellows. Then the circle could be gradually
narrowed and the fish brought together in a mass, when scoops could
be used to dip them up into the boat.
The school once located, Judith began to circle slowly round it,
“paying out” her fence of netting with no small difficulty, but
gradually surrounding the unsuspected fish, until at length she had
“What did I tell you! I told you I’d be the—the mastif, Judy!”
Blossom chattered. “I told you you’d say how thankful you was you
brought that child!”
“How thankful I am!” chattered Judy. Then, launched into the thick of
the arduous work, they both fell into breathless silence and only
worked. It was not much Blossom could do, but she did her little
splendidly. And Judith toiled with all her strength.
They stopped at last, not because there were no more of the
glistening, silver fellows about them, but because the old black dory
was weighted almost to the water’s edge. They had to stop. And then
began Judith’s terrible hour. For the heavy boat must somehow be
worked back, a weary little at a time, to the distant shore. Judith
set herself to this new task gallantly, but it was almost too much
for her. Over and over again it seemed to her she must give it up and
toss overboard part, at least, of her silver freight, to lighten her
load. But over and over again she nerved herself to another spurt of
She must do it! She could not give up! She would shut her eyes, like
this, and row ten more strokes—just ten more. Then she would row ten
with her eyes open. Ten, shut—ten, open. Perhaps that would help. She
tried it. She tried other poor little devices—calling the strokes
“eenie, meenie, minie, mo,” the way she and Jemmy Three had “counted
out” for tag when they were little—brown—things. Her strength—was
surely—giving out—it shouldn’t give out!
Blossom, watching silently from her weary perch, grew frightened at
Judy’s tense, set face and began to sob. And then Judy must find
breath enough to laugh reassuringly and to nod over her shoulder at
They had gone out late—had been out a wearisome time—and the journey
back to land was measured off by slow, laboring oar-strokes that
scarcely seemed to move the great boat. So it was late afternoon when
at length Judith’s hard task was done. She seemed to possess but one
desire—to rest. To get Blossom over the remaining half mile between
her and home and then to tumble over on the bed and sleep—what more
could anyone wish than that?
But there would be more than that to do. She must get food for tired
little Blossom, if not for herself. And before this towered
gigantically the two last feats of strength that faced her and seemed
to laugh at her with sardonic glee.
“Drag me up on the beach—drag me up!” the old black dory taunted her.
“Carry me home, Judy, I’m so tired!—carry me home,” Blossom pleaded,
like a little wilted blossom.
She did both things, but she never quite realized just how she could
have done them. She remembered telling herself she couldn’t and then
finding them done. Of covering her load of mackerel with an old
rubber blanket she was dimly conscious. It was not until she lay
drowsing in utter exhaustion on her own bed that she thought of all
of the rest that must be done to that boat-load of precious freight.
Then she tried to sit up, with a cry of distress.
“I must go! I cant’t stay here! Or I shall lose—Oh, what shall I
lose?” she groaned in her drowsiness and dread. Something would
happen if she did not get up at once—she would lose something that
she mustn’t lose. She must get up now, at once.
“I shall lose Blossom—no, I mean Blossom will lose—oh, yes, Blossom
will lose her legs, if I don’t get up,” she drowsed, and fell
Judith awoke with a bewildering sensation of guilt and need of
action. What had happened? What had she done that she ought not to
have done?—or was it something that she ought to? Memory struggled
back to her dimly, then flashed upon her in sudden clearness.
She had taken a school of mackerel—that was what she had done that
was praiseworthy. She had left them down there in the old black dory,
undressed and unpacked—that was the thing she ought not to have done.
That was the awful thing! For if they were not dressed and packed at
“Oh, I shall lose them! I shall lose them!” moaned poor Judith,
sitting up in bed and wringing her hands in the keenness of her
distress. “How could I have let myself fall asleep! How could I
have slept all this time like a log!”
It was very dark, so it must be midnight or later. There was no light
anywhere, on land or sea, or in Judith’s troubled soul. To her
remorseful mind all her terrible labor and strain of body had been in
vain; she had gone to sleep and spoiled everything, everything!
Judith had never been so utterly tired out as when she went to sleep;
she had never been so tired as she was now. She felt lame in every
joint and muscle of her body. But her conscience stood up before her
in the dark and arraigned her with pitiless, scathing scorn.
“Well, aren’t you ashamed of yourself? See what you’ve done! All
those beautiful fish lost, when you might have saved them—just by
staying awake and attending to them. A little thing like that! And
you worked so hard to get them—I was proud of you for that. Ah-h, but
I’m ashamed of you now!”
“Don’t! don’t—you hurt!” sighed Judith, “I’ll get up now, this
minute, and go down there. Don’t you see me getting up? I’ve got one
shoe on now.”
Judith was not experienced in the dressing of many fish at a time and
the packing of them in barrels for market. At sixteen, how can one
be—and one a girl? But she knew in a rather indefinite way the
importance of having it done promptly. She remembered father’s and
the boys’ last school of fish—how she had hurried down to the shore
and watched the dory come creeping heavily in, how the boys had
cheered, as they came, how father had let her help at the dressing,
and mother had brought down hot coffee for them all and then “fallen
to,” herself and worked like a man. How they all had worked to get
the barrels packed full of the shining layers in time for the steamer
All this Judith remembered as she crept silently away through the
darkness and turned toward the salty spray that the wind tossed
in her face. That had been a phenomenally large school of
mackerel—eighteen barrels for market in the distant city. Judith was
not quite sure, but she thought the check that came back to father
had been for a hundred and fifty dollars. Mackerel had been in great
demand then. A hundred and fifty dollars! Judith stopped short and
caught her breath.
“But my school was just a little one,” she thought, “and maybe people
aren’t very mackerel hungry now.” Still, a hundred dollars—or even
fifty—fifty dollars would go so far toward that doctor across the
sea! Supposing she had lost fifty dollars! She hurried on through the
black night, not knowing what she should do when she got to her
destination, but eager to do something. The lantern she carried cast
a small glimmer into the great dark.
Judith was not afraid—how long had it been since she was afraid of
the dark? But a distant thrill shot through her when she saw another
faint glimmer ahead of her. Then it seemed to divide into two
glimmers—they blinked at her like evil eyes. They were straight
ahead; she was going toward them! She must go toward them if she went
to the old dory drawn up on the beach.
“And I’m goin!” Judy said defiantly. “Blink away, you old bad-y
two-eyes! Wait till I get there and fix you!” It helped to laugh a
little and nod defiance at the blinking eyes.
The salty spray increased to a gentle rain, buffeting her cheeks. The
steady boom of the breakers was in her ears like the familiar voice
of a friend. Judith tramped on resolutely.
The lights were two lanterns, sheltered from the wind, beside the old
black dory. Judith came upon them and cried out in astonishment. For
she had come upon something else—a boy, dressing fish as if his life
depended on it!
“Jemmy Three!” she ejaculated shrilly.
The boy neither turned about nor stopped.
“Hullo! That you, Jude? Got a lantern? Take that knife there an’ go
to work like chain lightnin’. I’ve filled two barrels—there isn’t any
time to lose, now, I tell you! Steamer’s due at seven.”
“But—but—I don’t understand—” faltered Judith.
“Well, you needn’t, till you get plenty o’ time. Understandin’ don’t
dress no fish.” Jemmy Three, like Jem One, had missed his rightful
share of schooling. “What we got to do now is dress fish.”
Judith went to work obediently, but the wonder went on in her mind.
What did it all mean? How had Jemmy Three found out about the
mackerel? Why was he down here in the dead of night dressing and
By and by the boy saw fit to explain in little jerks over his
shoulder. Judith pieced them together into a strange, beautiful story
that made her throat throb.
“Saw you had a load here—saw ’twas mackerel—knew they’d got to be
’tended to—’tended to ’em,” Jemmy Three slung over his shoulder, as
“Suspicioned you’d struck a school, and gone home clean tuckered. Oh,
but you’re a smart one, Jude! Couldn’t no other girl ’a’ done it,
sir, this side o’ the Atlantic!”
He caught up the dressed fish and bent over a fresh barrel; his voice
sounded muffled and hollow to Judith.
“Knew there weren’t no time to spare—nobody hereabouts to help
out—went at it myself all flyin’,—been down here since seven
“Oh, Jemmy!” Judith trembled. The throb in her throat hurt her. “What
time is it now?” she asked.
A grunt issued from the barrel depths. “Time! Ain’t any time now! I
told you we’d got to fly!”
It was almost twelve. They worked on, for the most part silently,
until daylight began to redden the east. One barrel after another was
headed up by Jemmy Three’s tireless hands. Judith counted barrels
mechanically as she toiled.
“Four!” she cried. Then, “Five!” “Six!”
“There’ll be a good eight—you see,” Jem Three said, rolling a new one
into position. “You’ll get a good fifty dollars, Jude; see if you
don’t! How’s that for one haul? Ain’t any other girl could ’a’ done
“Oh, don’t!” sobbed Judith suddenly. She let a little silver fellow
slip to the ground, half-dressed, and went over to Jemmy Three.
“Don’t say another word—don’t dress another fish—don’t move till I
tell you!” she cried. “I cant’t stand it another minute! I—I thought
you helped yourself to my lobsters—I thought I thought it. And
you’ve been here all night working for me—”
“Oh!” cried Jemmy Three softly. But he did not stop working.
“I thought that was why there were only three yesterday—I thought
there’d have been fifty to-day,” ran on Judith. The new daylight
lighted her ashamed face redly, like a blush.
“There wouldn’t ’a’ been but five—” said Jemmy Three, then caught
himself up in confusion. The blush was on his face now.
Judith’s cry rang out above the sea-talk. “Then you put some in!”
she cried, “instead of helping yourself. You put some in my traps,
Jemmy Three—that’s what you did! You put in twelve!”
“Guess there’s somethin’ the matter with your traps, Jude,” muttered
the boy. “Guess they better be overhauled—guess a fellow’s gotter
right to go shares, ain’t he?”
“Jemmy Three, I’m going to hug you!”
“Oh, oh—say, look out; I’m all scales!”
“I had scales on my eyes, but they’ve fallen off now,” laughed the
girl tremulously. “It’s worse to have scales on your eyes than all
over the rest o’ you. I can see things as plain as day now,
and—and—you look perfectly beautiful!”
“Hold on—I’m dressin’ fish! The steamer’s due at seven—”
“I don’t care if she’s due this minute, I’ve got to talk! If she was
in plain sight—if I could see her smokestack—I should have to talk. I
tell you I can see now, and you look splendid—splendid, and I look
like a little black—blot. To think of my being up home asleep, and
you working down here, dressing my fish—and me thinking those mean
thoughts of you! It makes me so ashamed I cant’t hold my kn-knife.”
Judith was crying now in good earnest. She had sunk down on the sand,
and her crouching figure with the red glow from the east upon it
looked oddly childish and small. Jemmy Three saw it over his
“Look a-here, Judy,” he said gently, dropping his own knife and going
over to the rocking, sobbing figure. “You look a-here, I tell you!
What you cryin’ for, with eight barrels o’ fish ’most packed an’ a
good fifty dollars ’most in your pocket? You better laugh! Come on,
get up, and let’s give a rouser! Three cheers for the only girl in
the land o’ the free an’ the home o’ the brave that darst tackle a
school o’ mack’rel alone! Hip, hip—”
“Jemmy, Jemmy, don’t!”
“Hooray! Now let’s dress fish. You’re all right—don’t you worry
about bein’ a blot, when I tell you you’re a reg’lar brick! I’m proud
It was the longest speech Jemmy Three had ever made, and the
peroration surprised himself as much as it did Judith. He put up his
hand and cleared something away from his eyes—it couldn’t have been
scales, for he left the scales there.
At five mother came hurrying down to find Judith. The scale-strewn
beach and the scale-strewn children, the barrels in orderly rows
waiting to be rolled to the little landing-place of the steamer, the
heap of clumsy wet netting—all told her the whole astonishing story.
And what they did not tell, Judith supplemented eagerly.
“I declare! I declare!” gasped mother in mingled pride and pity, “you
two poor things, putting in like this! You’ll be tired to
death—you’ll be sick abed!”
“Guess we’ll weather it,” nodded Jemmy Three, working steadily. “But
if you think we ain’t hungry enough to eat a pine shing—”
“I’ll go right home and boil some coffee and eggs and bring ’em down,
and then I’ll go to work, too,” cried mother energetically. “You poor
After a salt toilet in the surf, they ate a hurried breakfast with
keen relish. Judith had forgotten her aching joints and lame muscles,
and Jemmy Three had forgotten his sleepless night. Victory lay just
ahead of them, and who cared for muscles or sleep!
“This is the best bread ’n’ butter I ever ate,” said Judith between
There proved to be the “good eight” barrels, when they were done, and
they were done by six o’clock, or a very little after. By half-past
six, the barrels had been rolled down the slope of the beach to the
little wharf not far away. Then the tired two rested, and remembered
muscles and sleep.
They dropped in the soft, moist sand and rubbed their aching arms.
“I’m proud o’ you, Jemmy!” Judith said shyly, and looked away over
the water. Her repentance had come back and lay heavily on her heart.
She longed unutterably to recall those evil thoughts—to have another
chance out there beyond to summon Jemmy Three with the little shrill
old signal. How she would send it shrilling forth now!
“Jemmy,” she said slowly, as they waited, “you know our signal, don’t
you? The one we used to practice so much.”
For answer Jemmy Three pursed his lips and sent out a clear
“Well, I wish—don’t you know what I wish?”
“’Twas Christmas,” Jemmy said flippantly, but he knew. He dug his
bare toes in the sand—a sign of embarrassment.
“I wish I’d called you out there at the school!” lamented Judith,
“even if you couldn’t have heard. I wish—I wish—I wish I’d called!
If I ever strike another school—Jemmy, I’d give you half o’ this one
if I dared to. But I’m afraid to have Blossom wait—I don’t dare
“O’ course not,” agreed Jem Three vaguely. He did not at all know
what Judith meant. Girls had queer ways of beginnin’ things in the
middle like that. No knowin’ what a girl was drivin’ at, half the
“What say? Ain’t that smoke out there?”
“No, it’s a cloud. Jemmy Three, I’m going to tell you something. I
want to. I’m going to tell you what that money’s going to do—you’re
listening, aren’t you?”
“With both ears—go ahead.”
“Well—oh, it’s going to be something so beautiful, Jemmy! I never
knew till day before yesterday that you could do anything so
beautiful—I mean that anybody could. I never dreamed it! But you
can—somebody can! There’s a man can, Jemmy! All you need is money to
take you across to him and—there’s the money!” waving her hand toward
the rows of barrels. Her eyes were shining like twin stars. She had
forgotten aches and lameness again.
“I told Uncle Jem,” she went on rapidly, while Jem Three gazed at her
in puzzled wonder and thought more things about girls. “He told me to
go down to the hotel and ask that other little girl’s mother, and I
meant to go last night! But I went to sleep last night! So I’m going
to-day—I’m going to ask her to tell me just exactly how to do it.”
“Do what?” inquired Jem Three quietly. That was the only way to do
with girls—pull ’em up smart, like that!
“Mercy! Haven’t I told you?” cried Judith. “Well, then—Jemmy, if you
were a little mite of a thing—a Blossom, say—and a fairy came to you
and said, ‘Wish a wish, my dear; what would you rather have in all
the world?’ what would you answer, Jemmy? Remember, if you were a
little mite of a Blossom with a—with a—little broken stem.” Judith’s
voice sank to a tender softness. She didn’t know she was “making
The boy with his toes deep in the sand was visibly embarrassed.
Whatever poetry lay soul-deep within him, there was none he could
call to his lips.
“Wouldn’t you answer her, ‘Legs to walk with’?” went on the girl
beside him softly. “You know you would, Jemmy! I would—everybody
would. You’d say, ‘The beautifulest thing in the world would be to
walk—dear fairy, I want to walk so much!’ And then supposing—are
you supposing?—the fairy waved her wand over you and you—walked!
Do you know what you’d say then? I know—you’d say, ‘See me! Judy,
see me! Jemmy, everybody, see me!’”
Judith laughed to herself under her breath. The twin stars in her
eyes shone even a little brighter.
“The fairy’s a great doctor—he’s across there, ’way, ’way out of
sight. He’s going to wave his wand over Blossom. He waved it over
another little broken girl, and she walked. I saw her. She said,
‘See me!’—I heard her. That’s what the money is going to do, Jemmy.”
“Gee!” breathed Jemmy softly. It was his way of making poetry.
“And you see, I don’t dare to wait—I’m afraid something might happen
to that doctor.”
“O’ course!—you go down there all flyin’ an’ see that woman, Jude.”
And that afternoon Judith went. It was to Mrs. Ben she went first;
she felt acquainted with Mrs. Ben.
“Can I see—I’d like to see that mother whose little girl can walk,”
Judith said eagerly.
“Land!” ejaculated Mrs. Ben.
“I mean,” explained Judith, smiling, “whose little girl was lame and
a doctor made her walk by waving his wa—I mean by—by curing her. I
heard her telling another mother. I’d like to see—do you suppose I
could see that lady?”
“I guess I know who you mean—there ain’t been but one little girl
here lately,” Mrs. Ben said. “But there ain’t any now. They’ve gone
Judith went straight to Uncle Jem, sobbing all the way
unconsciously; she was not conscious of anything but what Mrs. Ben
“They’ve gone away!—they’ve gone away!—they’ve gone away!” It
reiterated itself to her in dull monotony, keeping slow time with the
throbbing pain of her disappointment.
Uncle Jem heard her coming—in some surprise, she came so fast. What
was the child hurrying like that for? What had happened?
“I hear ye, child!” he called cheerily. The time-worn little
pleasantry did him service as usual. “I’m layin’ low for ye!”
She crossed the outer threshold and the little box of a kitchen
without slackening her excited pace, and appeared in the old man’s
doorway, breathless and flushed.
“It’s too late!” she gasped, briefly. Then, because she needed
comforting and Uncle Jem was her comforter of old, her head went down
on the patchwork quilt that covered his twisted old frame, and she
cried like a grief-struck little child.
“There, there, deary!” he crooned, his twisted fingers traveling
across her hair, “jest you lay there an’ cry it all out—don’t ye
hurry any. When ye get all done an’ good an’ ready, tell Uncle Jem
what it’s all about. But take your time, little un—take your time.”
The child was worn out in every thread of the over-strained young
body. The excitement and nervous rack of the last twenty-four hours
was having sway now, and would not be put aside. And the keen
disappointment that Mrs. Ben’s words had brought, added to all the
rest, had proved too much even for Judith Lynn. She cried on, taking
“There now! that’s right, storm’s clearin’!” said Uncle Jem, as at
length the brown head lifted slowly. “Now we’ll pull out o’ harbor
and get to work.” Which meant that now explanations were in order.
“They’ve gone away!” she said thickly. It takes time for throbbing
throats to come back to their own. “It’s too late to find out. If I’d
gone yesterday—” She stopped hastily, on the verge of fresh tears.
“Go ahead, little un; weather’s a little too thick yet to see clear.
Who’s gone away? What’s it too late for?” But even as he said it,
Uncle Jem, too, understood. He went on without waiting, to give
Judith more time.
“Hold on!—I can pull out o’ the fog myself. That mother o’ that
little cured un—she’s the one that’s gone away, eh? You was too late
to see her an’ ask your questions. I see. Well, now, I call that too
bad. But ’tain’t worth another cry, deary.”
“Well, I won’t cry another one, so there!” cried Judith. “Only—only—”
“I know—I know! We’ve got to slew off on another tack. You give Uncle
Jem time to think, Judy. There’s a powerful lot o’ thinkin’-time
handy when you lay here on your back for a livin’. Jest you run home
an’ let your ma put you to bed. I’ve heard all about your goin’s-on,
an’ I guess bed’s the best place for you! I’ll think it out while
you’re restin’ up.”
But to unlettered people who rarely get in touch with what is going
on in the thick of things, “thinking it out” is no easy matter. Their
one frail little hold on the miracle that could make Blossom whole
had snapped when the hotel mother and child went away. Where to turn
next for information—what to do next—was a puzzle that would not
unravel for any of them. In vain Uncle Jem wrestled with it, as he
lay through long, patient hours. And Judith wrestled untiringly.
The mackerel-money came in due time, but the wondrous little blue
check that came out of the official-looking envelope and lay
outspread on Judith’s hard, brown palm had lost its power to give
legs to little Blossom, and Judith gazed at it resentfully. What was
the use of it now? A small part of it would get the little
wheel-chair, but it was not a wheel-chair Judith longed for now. She
put away the blue check safely, and took up the wrestling again. She
would find the clue to the puzzle—she refused to give it up.
Then quite privately and uninvited, Jemmy Three began to think. No
one had thought of asking his advice; thinking had never been Jemmy
He went into his grandfather’s room one early morning arrayed in his
best clothes. Not much in the way of a “best,” but Jemmy had “pieced
out” as well as possible with scraps of his dead father’s best that
had been packed away. He looked unduly big and plain and awkward in
the unaccustomed finery, but the freckles across the deep brown
background of his face spelled d-e-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-i-o-n. Uncle Jem
spelled it out slowly. His astonished gaze wandered downward, then,
from “best” to “best.”
“Well?” he interrogated, and waited.
“I’m goin’ to the city, gran’father,” the boy said. “I’ve gotter, on
a—a—errand. I thought I’d tell you.”
“Good idea!” nodded the old head on the pillows. The old eyes
twinkled kindly. “I suppose ye want me to go out to your traps, don’t
ye? An’ do a little trawlin’ while I’m out? Jest speak the word!”
Uncle Jemmy said nothing about getting his own dinner, but the boy
had thought of that.
“Judy’s comin’ in at noon,” he explained. “I’ve got everythin’ cooked
up. An’ she’s goin’ to look at my traps when she goes out to hers.
I’ll be back in the night, sometime; don’t you lay awake for me, now,
He went out, but presently appeared again, fumbling his best cap in
“I wish—I don’t suppose—you wouldn’t mind wishin’ me good luck,
gran’father, would you?” he stammered. “I’d kind of like to be wished
“Come here where I can reach ye,” the old man said cheerily, putting
out his hand. “Wish ye luck? I guess I will! Ye’re a good boy, Jemmy.
I don’t know what your arrant is, an’ I don’t need to know, but
here’s good luck on it!”
“I tell you what it is, if—if it succeeds,” Jem Three said, gripping
the twisted old fingers warmly. “I kind of thought I’d rather not
tell first off. But I can, of course.”
“Off with ye, boy! Ye distract me when I’m doin’ a bit of thinkin’
for a lady! When ye get good an’ ready, then will be time enough to
do your tellin’. Queer if I couldn’t trust a Jem!”
The city was twenty miles inland from the little flag-station, and
the flag-station was ten miles away from Jemmy Three. He trudged away
with his precious boots over his shoulder, to be put on at the little
Once in the city, he went directly about his “arrant.” He chose a
street set thick with dwelling-houses as like one another as peas in
a pod are like. He tramped down one side of the street, up the other,
till at last he came upon what he sought. A smart sign hung on that
particular house, and Jem Three mounted the high steps and rang the
“Is this a doctor’s house? There’s a sign that says—”
“The doctor isn’t at home,” the smart maid said smartly. “Will you
leave your address on the slate, or will you call again at office
hours—two till six.”
“I’ll call somewheres else,” Jem Three said briefly.
He called at many doors in many rows of pea—of houses. It was
sometime before he succeeded in his quest. When at length he found a
doctor at home, he was closeted with him for a brief space and then
drove away with him in a trim little gig to a great, many-windowed
house where pale people were sunning themselves in wheel-chairs about
the doors. Jem Three made a call at the many-windowed house.
It was with considerable curiosity that two people down by the sea
awaited the boy’s return from his trip, but oddly enough it was
neither Uncle Jem nor Judith that he sought out at first. It was
Judith’s mother, at her work down-beach at the summer cottage. Jemmy
Three went straight to her. He had got home earlier than he expected
and mother had worked later, so they walked back together in the
cool, clear evening, talking all the way.
“Don’t tell Judy,” the boy said the last thing, as they parted. “I
mean, not it. It’ll be splendid to surprise her, Mis’ Lynn!”
“If we can, Jemmy,” the mother answered gently. “If it succeeds. The
more I think of it the more it makes me tremble, Jemmy; but we’ll do
our best and leave the part we cant’t do with the One who can do it.”
The gentle voice trembled into silence. Mother could “make poetry,”
too. Jemmy caught off his hat suddenly, and the very act was a little
“Judy, are you awake?”
Mother stood over the bed in her scant white nightgown. When Judith
answered, she sat down beside her and felt for one of her calloused,
oar-toughened little hands.
“Judy, would it be—be all right to use some of the mackerel-money?
Mother’s got to go away for a little while—just a little while, Judy.
Jemmy says he talked with a man in the city who would give me some
work to do in his kitchen for a little while. But—why, I thought I’d
take Blossom, Judy, and of course that would mean spending some
Judith sat straight up in bed, her eyes like glints of light in the
“Why, yes, dear; she’s never been away from the sea in her little
life. You think of that, Judy! You’ve been away twice. Blossom never
saw a steam-car nor a city, nor—nor heard a hand-organ! Jemmy says he
heard three to-day. You think how pleased Blossom would be to hear a
“Sh!” cautioned Judith, “don’t wake her, mother. If—she’s going, she
mustn’t know beforehand.”
Blossom going away! Not Blossom! Not put one hand out, so, in the
dark and feel her there beside you—little warm Blossom! Not dress her
in the morning and carry her downstairs—you the chariot and she the
fine lady! Not hurry home to her from the traps! Judith lay and
thought about all that, after mother went away. She put out her hand
on the empty side of the bed, where no Blossom was, and tried to get
used to the emptiness. She said stern things to herself.
“You, Judy, are you selfish as that?” she said. “To go and begrudge
your little Blossom a chance to go away and see things and hear
things! Don’t you want her to hear a hand-organ? And perhaps see a
monkey? When she’s never been anywhere, nor heard anything, nor
seen anything! When mother’s going, anyway, and can take her as well
as not—you Judy, you Judy, you Judy! Oh, I cant’t sleep with you, I’m
so ashamed of you!”
They went at once, and Judith settled down to her loneliness as
best she could, and bore it as bravely. They were to be gone a
month—perhaps two—perhaps three. A month—two, maybe—three,
Uncle Jem and Jemmy Three helped out—how much they did help out! Then
there were the rare, precious letters. Judith had never had letters
from mother before in all her sixteen years. She was rather
disappointed that there were no bits of ragged, printed ones from
Blossom, but mother’s letters had Blossom-bulletins. Blossom sent her
love, Blossom had heard two hand-organs—three hand-organs; Blossom
said tell Judy she loved her, oh, my! Blossom was very patient and
“She’s always patient and sweet,” wondered Judy. Queer mother put
“You little sweet, patient Blossom!” Judith’s heart cried tenderly,
“when I get you in my arms again—”
Would the time ever come? Why were days made so long? Twenty-four
hours were too many—why weren’t they made with only twenty?
“Uncle Jem, why don’t you tell me how to be sweet and patient?”
Judith said, folding up the Blossom-bulletin she had been reading to
him. “Tell me a good receipt.”
“Well, deary—well, give me time,” laughed the cheery old voice. “I
guess we can fix up somethin’ that will meet your case.”
A very few weeks later Judith went wearily homeward to her lonely
home. She had been out to her traps and down to the hotel with the
lobsters for Mrs. Ben. Her body was weary, but her heart was wearier
still. It did seem, she was telling herself as she plodded through
the sand, as if she could not wait any longer for mother and Blossom
to come home.
Suddenly a clear little trill of laughter crept into her ears and
set her pulses throbbing. Then another trill—then Blossom’s voice,
calling something that thrilled her to her soul.
“See me!” called the little triumphant voice of Blossom. And Judy,
lifting frightened eyes and holding her breath as she looked, saw.
A small, swaying figure was coming toward her very slowly, over the
hard sand. Blossom—it was Blossom! She was swaying unsteadily a step
or two, but—she was walking!
“See me! See me!” cried Blossom. “I’m walkin’, Judy, don’t you see? I
came a-walkin’ down to meet you! It’s a s’prise!”
Someone caught up the little figure and came leaping down to Judith
with great strides of triumph.
“That’s enough to s’prise her—mustn’t do much of it at a time yet,”
Jemmy Three said gayly. “You’ve got to begin easy. Yes!” in answer to
Judy’s speechless pleading, “yes, sir, she’s goin’ to be a reg’lar
walker, now, ain’t you, Blossom? Yes, sir; no more bein’ toted—she’s
“Yes, yes, yes!” trilled Blossom exultantly. “They pulled my legs out
an’ put ’em in over, where they b’long. Only I’ve got to go easy till
“Till you’re—what? But never mind what! You’re my Blossom, and you’re
home again, and you’re walking!” Judith cried in her exceeding
great joy. But by and by Jemmy Three explained.
“They put her legs in kind o’ casts, you know, that she cant’t have
taken off yet awhile, but when they do take ’em off—”
“Then I’ll run!” Blossom interrupted, radiantly.
“Oh, oh—and to think we were going to surprise mother, and you
surprised me!” breathed Judy. “But I thought—we were going across
“You needn’t have,” Jemmy said. “That great doctor’s over there, but
there’s plenty o’ second-great ones over here that make children walk
his way. That’s what I went to find out. I thought maybe—”
“You went to find out—you thought—oh, Jemmy, what a boy you are!”
“See here—hold on—wait! Let Blossom do it!” warded off Jemmy Three,
backing away precipitately.
The beautiful secret was out. Judith had been “s’prised.” There were
still months of uncertainty, but Judith was not uncertain. She went
about in a cloud of rapture. At night she lay awake beside Blossom,
and dreamed her rosy, happy dreams. And, in truth, if she could have
looked ahead into the certain months, and beyond, she would have seen
Blossom walking steadily through all the years.