Read DAVY : CHAPTER XII - IN GEORGIAN BAY of David Lockwin - The People's Idol, free online book, by John McGovern, on ReadCentral.com.

Corkey is at Owen Sound. The political bee is buzzing in his bonnet. Collector of the port this office seems small to a man who really polled more votes than Lockwin. The notion has taken hold of Corkey that, by some hook or crook, Lockwin will get out and Corkey will get in.

When he thinks of this, Corkey rises and walks about his chair, sitting down again.

This is a gambler’s habit.

There follows this incantation an incident which flatters his ambition. Having changed his tobacco from the right to the left side of his mouth, he strangles badly. It takes him just five minutes to get a free breath. This is always a good sign. Thereupon the darkest of negro lads, with six fingers, a lick, left-handed and cross-eyed, enters the barroom of the hotel.

“Here!” cries Corkey. “What’s your name?” The boy stammers in his speech.

“N-n-n-noah!” he replies.

“Why not?” inquires Corkey. “You bet your sweet life you tell me what your name is!”

“N-n-n-noah!”

“Why not? Tell me that!”

“M-m-my name is N-n-noah!” exclaims the boy.

“Ho! ho!” laughs Corkey. “Let’s see them fingers! Got any more in your pockets?”

“N-n-n-noah,” answers the boy.

“Got six toes, too?”

“Y-y-yes, sah!”

“A dead mascot!” says Corkey. It is an auspice of the most eminent fortune. Corkey from this moment rejects the collectorship, and stakes all on going to Congress. Thoughts of murdering Lockwin out here in this wilderness come into the man’s mind.

“I wouldn’t do that, nohow. Oh, I’ll never be worked off none of that for me!”

In Corkey’s tongue, to be worked off is to be hanged.

“Nixy. I’ll never be worked off. But it would be easy to throw him from the deck to-night. Some of the boys would do it, too, if they knew him.”

The man grows murderous.

“Easy enough. Somebody slap his jaw and get him in a fight. Oh, he’ll fight quick enough. Then three or four of ’em tip him into the lake. Why, it ain’t even the lake out here. It’s Georgian Bay. It’s out of the world, too. My father was in Congress. My grandfather was in. Wonder how they got there? Wonder if they did any dirt?”

Corkey’s face is hard and black. He rises. He feels ill. He swears at the mascot. “I thought he had too many points when I see him.”

The train is late. The propeller, Africa, lies at the dock ready to start.

“Well, if I come to such a place as this I must expect a jackleg railroad. They say they’ve got an old tub there at the dock. Good stiff fall breeze, too.”

The thought of danger resuscitates Corkey. He finds some sailors, tells them how he was elected to Congress, slaps them on the back, tries to split the bar with his fist, a feat which has often won votes, and tightens his heart with raw Canadian whisky.

“Going to be rough, Corkey.”

“’Spose so,” nods Corkey. “Is she pretty good?”

“The Africa?”

“Um-huh!”

“Oh, well, she’s toted me often enough. She’s like the little nig they carry.”

“Does that mascot sail with her?”

“To be sure.”

“That settles it. Landlord, give us that sour mash.”

“Train’s coming!”

The drinks are hurriedly swallowed and paid for, and the men are off for the depot near by.

“How are ye, Lockwin?” “How-dy-do, Corkey. Where have you got me? Going to murder me and get to Congress in my place?”

“No, but I expect you’re going to resign and let me in.”

“Where’s your boat? I hear they’re waiting. I suppose we can get supper on board. Why did you choose such a place as this?”

“Well, cap, I had a long slate to fix up when I came here. If I was to be collector, of course I want to make my pile out of it, and I must take care of the boys. But I didn’t start out to be collector, and I’ve about failed to make any slate at all. Yet, if I’m to sell out to you folks, I reckon I couldn’t do it on any boat in the open lakes. I’m not sure but Georgian Bay is purty prominent. Captain Grant, this is Mr. Lockwin, of Chicago. This is the captain of the Africa. Mr. Bodine, Mr. Lockwin, of Chicago. Mr. Bodine is station-keeper here. Mr. Troy, Mr. Lockwin. Mr. Troy keeps the hotel. Mr. Flood, Mr. Lockwin. Mr. Flood runs the bank and keeps the postoffice and general store.”

The group nears the hotel.

Corkey is seized with a paroxysm of tobacco strangling, ending with a sneeze that is a public event. He is again black in the face, but he has been polite.

The uninitiated express their astonishment at a sneeze so mighty, and enter the inn. The women of the dining-room come peeping into the bar-room, But the captain explains:

“That sneeze carried Corkey to Congress. I’ve heern tell how he’d be in the middle of a speech and some smart Aleck would do something to raise the laugh on the gentleman. Corkey would get to strangling and then would end with a sneeze that would carry the house. It’s great!”

“That’s what it is!” says Mr. Bodine.

“Gentlemen, my father had it. It’s no laughing matter. God sakes, how that does shake a man!”

But Corkey has not only done the polite act. He has relieved his mind. He is no longer in danger of being worked off.

“I wouldn’t be likely to do up my man if I introduced him to everybody.”

Yet the opportunity to murder Lockwin, as a theoretical proposition, dwells with Corkey, now that he is clearly innocent.

“I might have given him a false name. He’d a had to stand it, because he don’t like this business nohow. Everything was favorable. Have we time for a drink, cap’n?” The last sentence aloud.

The captain looks at the hotel-keeper. The captain also sells the stuff aboard. But will the captain throw a stone into Mr. Troy’s bar?

“I guess we have time,” nods the captain.

The party drinks. The gale rises. One hundred wood-choppers, bound for Thunder Bay, go aboard. The craft rubs her fenders and strains the wavering pier. It is a dark night and cold.

“No sailor likes a north wind,” says Corkey.

“I have no reason to like it,” says Lockwin.

“I’ll bet he couldn’t be done up so very easy after all,” thinks Corkey with a quick, loud guttural bark, due to his tobacco. “I wonder why he looks so blue? It can’t be they won’t trade at Washington.”

The thought of no office at all frightens the marine reporter. He asks himself why he did not put the main question at the depot before the other folks met Lockwin. The paroxysm has made a coward of Corkey. He gets mental satisfaction by thoughts of the weather. The mate of the Africa is muttering that they ought to tie up for the night.

“What ye going to do?” asks Corkey of Captain Grant.

“The captain is well sprung with sour mash,” says Corkey to himself.

“We’re going to take these choppers to Thunder Bay to-night,” says the captain with an oath.

Supper is set in the after-cabin. It is nine o’clock before the engine moves. There are few at table. After supper Corkey and Lockwin enter the forward cabin and take a sofa that sits across the little room. The sea is rough, but the motion of the boat is least felt at this place.

Lockwin has the appearance of a man who is utterly unwilling to be happy. Corkey has regarded this demeanor as a political wile.

“I’ll fetch this feller!” Corkey has observed to himself.

But on broaching the question of politics, the commodore has found that Lockwin is scarcely able to speak. He sinks in profound meditation, and is slowly recalled to the most obvious matters.

The genial Corkey is puzzled. “He’s going to resign, sure. He beats me this feller does.”

The boat lunges and groans. It lurches sidewise three or four times, and there are sudden moans of the sick on all sides beyond thin wooden partitions.

“I bet he gits sick,” says Corkey. “Pard, are ye sick now? Excuse me, Mr. Lockwin, but are ye sick any?”

“No,” says Lockwin, and he is not sick. He wishes he were.

“Well, let’s git to business, then. You must excuse me, but

Corkey is seized with a paroxysm. He gives a screeching sneeze, and the cries of the sick grow furious.

“Who is that?” asks the mate, peering out of his room and then going on deck.

David Lockwin is at the end of his forces. This is life. This is politics. This is expediency. This is the way men become illustrious. He straightens his legs, sinks his chin and pushes his hands far in his pockets.

“Before I begin,” says Corkey, “let me tell ye, that if you’re sick I’d keep off the decks. You have a gold watch. Some one might nail ye.”

“Is that so?” asks Lockwin, his thoughts far away.

“He beats me!” comments the contestant. “Well, pard, if you’re not sick, I’d like to say a good many things. I suppose them ducks at Washington weakened. If they give me collector, here’s my slate.”

Corkey produces a long list of names, written on copy-paper.

“I bet she don’t budge an inch,” he remarks, as he hears the north wind and waves pounding at one end, and the engine pounding at the other.

“Needn’t be afraid, pard. Sometimes they go out in Georgian Bay and burn some coal. Then if they can’t git anywhere, they come back.”

Corkey is pleased with his own remark. “Sometimes,” he adds, “they don’t come back. They are bluffed back by the wind.”

Lockwin sits in the same uncommunicative attitude.

“Pardner, you didn’t come out into Georgian Bay for nothing. I know that. So I will tell you what I am going to do with the collectorship. By the great jumping Jewhillikins, that’s a wave in the stateroom windows! I never see anything like that.”

The captain passes.

“High sea, cap’n!” It is not in good form for Corkey to rise. He is a passenger, with a navigator’s reputation to sustain.

“High hell!” says the captain.

“What a hullabaloo them choppers is a-making,” says Corkey to Lockwin. “I reckon they’re about scared to death. Well, as I was a-saying, I want to know what the jam-jorum said.”

Corkey is terrified. He does not fear that he will go down in Georgian Bay. He dreads to hear the bursting of the bladders that are supporting him in his sea of glory.

Lockwin starts as from a waking dream:

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Corkey, but I could have told you at the start that the administration, when it was confronted by the question whether or not it would give you anything, said; ‘No!’ It will give you nothing. The administration said it would not appoint you lightkeeper at Ozaukee.”

“There hain’t no light at Ozaukee,” says Corkey.

“That’s what the administration said, too,” replies Lockwin.

“Did you tell ’em I got you fine?” asks Corkey.

“I told them I thought you had as good a case as I had.”

“Did you tell ’em I’d knock seventeen kinds of stuffin’ out of their whole party? That I’d

Corkey is at his wits ends. His challenge has been accepted. At the outset he had saved fifty twenty-dollar gold pieces out of his wages. He has spent fifteen already. The thought of a contest against the machine candidate carries with it the loss of the rest of the little hoard. He has boasted that he will retain Emery Storrs, the eminent advocate. Corkey grows black in the face. He hiccoughs. He strangles.

He unburdens himself with a supreme sneeze. The mate enters the cabin.

“I knew that sneeze would wreck us!” he cries savagely.

“Is your old tub sinking?” asks Corkey, in retort.

“That’s what she is!” replies the mate.

Corkey looks like a man relieved. Politics is off his mind. He will not be laughed at on the docks now.

“Pardner, I’m sorry we’re in this hole,” he says, as the twain rush through the door to the deck. It was dim under that swinging lamp. It is dark out here. The wind is bitter. The second mate stands hard by.

“How much water is in?” asks Corkey.

“Plenty,” says the second mate.

“What have ye done?” asks Corkey.

“Captain’s blind, stavin’ drunk, and won’t do nothin’.”

“Nice picnic!” says Corkey.

“Nice picnic!” says the second mate, warming up.

It is midnight in the middle of Georgian Bay. There is a fall gale such as comes only once in four or five years. In the morning there will be three hundred wrecks on the great lakes the most inhospitable bodies of water in the world.

And of all stormy places let the sailor keep out of Georgian Bay.