Moran of the Lady Letty
XIII. Moran Sternersen
San Francisco once more! For two days the "Bertha Millner" had been beating up the
coast, fighting her way against northerly winds, butting into head seas.
The warmth, the stillness, the placid, drowsing quiet of Magdalena Bay, steaming under
the golden eye of a tropic heaven, the white, baked beach, the bay-heads, striated with
the mirage in the morning, the coruscating sunset, the enchanted mystery of the purple
night, with its sheen of stars and riding moon, were now replaced by the hale and
vigorous snorting of the Trades, the roll of breakers to landward, and the unremitting
gallop of the unnumbered multitudes of gray-green seas, careering silently past the
schooner, their crests occasionally hissing into brusque eruptions of white froth, or
smiting broad on under her counter, showering her decks with a sprout of icy spray. It
was cold; at times thick fogs cloaked all the world of water. To the east a procession of
bleak hills defiled slowly southward; lighthouses were passed; streamers of smoke on
the western horizon marked the passage of steamships; and once they met and passed
close by a huge Cape Horner, a great deep-sea tramp, all sails set and drawing, rolling
slowly and leisurely in seas that made the schooner dance.
At last the Farallones looked over the ocean's edge to the north; then came the
whistling-buoy, the Seal Rocks, the Heads, Point Reyes, the Golden Gate flanked with
the old red Presidio, Lime Point with its watching cannon; and by noon of a gray and
boisterous day, under a lusty wind and a slant of rain, just five months after her
departure, the "Bertha Millner" let go her anchor in San Francisco Bay some few
hundred yards off the Lifeboat Station.
In this berth the schooner was still three or four miles from the city and the water-front.
But Moran detested any nearer approach to civilization, and Wilbur himself was willing
to avoid, at least for one day, the publicity which he believed the "Bertha's"
reappearance was sure to attract. He remembered, too, that the little boat carried with
her a fortune of $100,000, and decided that until it could be safely landed and stored it
was not desirable that its existence should be known along "the Front."
For days, weeks even, Wilbur had looked eagerly forward to this return to his home. He
had seen himself again in his former haunts, in his club, and in the houses along Pacific
avenue where he was received; but no sooner had the anchor-chain ceased rattling in
the "Bertha's" hawse-pipe than a strange revulsion came upon him. The new man that
seemed to have so suddenly sprung to life within him, the Wilbur who was the mate of
the "Bertha Millner," the Wilbur who belonged to Moran, believed that he could see
nothing to be desired in city life. For him was the unsteady deck of a schooner, and the
great winds and the tremendous wheel of the ocean's rim, and the horizon that ever fled
before his following prow; so he told himself, so he believed. What attractions could the
city offer him? What amusements? what excitements? He had been flung off the
smoothly spinning circumference of well-ordered life out into the void.