Read CHAPTER XX - NO APOLOGY of The Cruise of the Shining Light , free online book, by Norman Duncan, on

My uncle knocked on my door at the hotel and, without waiting to be bidden, thrust in his great, red, bristling, monstrously scarred head.  ’Twas an intrusion most diffident and fearful:  he was like a mischievous boy come for chastisement.

“You here, Dannie?” he gently inquired.

“Come in, sir,” says I.

’Twas awkwardly-with a bashful grin and halting, doubtful step-that he stumped in.

“Comfortable?” he asked, looking about.  “No complaint t’ make ag’in this here hotel?”

I had no complaint.

“Not troubled, is you?”

I was not troubled.

“Isn’t bothered, is you?” he pursued, with an inviting wink.  “Not bothered about nothin’, lad, is you?”

Nor bothered.

“Come now!” cries he, dissembling great candor and heartiness, “is you got any questions t’ ask ol’ Nick Top?”

“No, sir,” I answered, quite confidently.

“Dannie, lad,” says my uncle, unable to contain his delight, with which, indeed, his little eyes brimmed over, “an ye’d jus’ be so damned good as t’ tweak that there-”

I pulled the bell-cord.

“A nip o’ the best Jamaica,” says he.

Old Elihu Wall fetched the red dram.

“Lad,” says my uncle, his glass aloft, his eyes resting upon me in pride, his voice athrill with passionate conviction, “here’s t’ you!  That’s good o’ you,” says he.  “That’s very good.  I ’low I’ve fetched ye up very well.  Ecod!” he swore, with most reverent and gentle intention, “ye’ll be a gentleman afore ye knows it!”

He downed the liquor with a grin that came over his lurid countenance like a burst of low sunshine.

“A gentleman,” he repeated, “in spite o’ Chesterfield!”

When my uncle was gone, I commanded my reflections elsewhere, prohibited by honor from dwelling upon the wretched mystery in which I was enmeshed.  They ran with me to the fool of Twist Tickle.  The weather had turned foul:  ’twas blowing up from the north in a way to make housed folk shiver for their fellows at sea.  Evil sailing on the Labrador!  I wondered how the gentle weakling fared as cook of the Quick as Wink.  I wondered in what harbor he lay, in the blustering night, or off what coast he tossed.  I wondered what trouble he had within his heart.  I wished him home again:  but yet remembered, with some rising of hope, that his amazing legacy of wisdom had in all things been sufficient to his need.  Had he not in peace and usefulness walked the paths of the world where wiser folk had gone with bleeding feet?  ’Twas dwelling gratefully upon this miracle of wisdom and love, a fool’s inheritance, that I, who had no riches of that kind, fell asleep, without envy or perturbation, that night.

’Twas not long I had to wait to discover the fortune of the fool upon that voyage.  We were not three days returned from the city when the Quick as Wink slipped into our harbor.  She had been beating up all afternoon; ’twas late of a dark night when she dropped anchor.  John Cather was turned in, Judith long ago whisked off to bed by our maid-servant; my uncle and I sat alone together when the rattle of the chain apprised us that the schooner was in the shelter of the Lost Soul.

By-and-by Moses came.

“You’ve been long on the road,” says I.

“Well, Dannie,” he explained, looking at his cap, which he was awkwardly twirling, “I sort o’ fell in with Parson Stump by the way, an’ stopped for a bit of a gossip.”

I begged him to sit with us.

“No,” says he; “but I’m ‘bliged t’ you.  Fac’ is, Dannie,” says he, gravely, “I isn’t got time.”

My uncle was amazed.

“I’ve quit the ship,” Moses went on, “not bein’ much of a hand at cookin’.  I’ll be t’ home now,” says he, “an’ I’d be glad t’ have you an’ Skipper Nicholas drop in, some day soon, when you’re passin’ Whisper Cove.”

We watched him twirl his cap.

“You’d find a wonderful warm welcome,” says he, “from Mrs. Moses Shoos!”

With that he was gone.