South Sea Tales
The Seed Of McCoy
The Pyrenees, her iron sides pressed low in the water by her cargo of wheat, rolled
sluggishly, and made it easy for the man who was climbing aboard from out a tiny
outrigger canoe. As his eyes came level with the rail, so that he could see inboard, it
seemed to him that he saw a dim, almost indiscernible haze. It was more like an illusion,
like a blurring film that had spread abruptly over his eyes. He felt an inclination to brush
it away, and the same instant he thought that he was growing old and that it was time to
send to San Francisco for a pair of spectacles.
As he came over the rail he cast a glance aloft at the tall masts, and, next, at the pumps.
They were not working. There seemed nothing the matter with the big ship, and he
wondered why she had hoisted the signal of distress. He thought of his happy islanders,
and hoped it was not disease. Perhaps the ship was short of water or provisions. He shook
hands with the captain whose gaunt face and care-worn eyes made no secret of the
trouble, whatever it was. At the same moment the newcomer was aware of a faint,
indefinable smell. It seemed like that of burnt bread, but different.
He glanced curiously about him. Twenty feet away a weary-faced sailor was calking the
deck. As his eyes lingered on the man, he saw suddenly arise from under his hands a faint
spiral of haze that curled and twisted and was gone. By now he had reached the deck. His
bare feet were pervaded by a dull warmth that quickly penetrated the thick calluses. He
knew now the nature of the ship's distress. His eyes roved swiftly forward, where the full
crew of weary-faced sailors regarded him eagerly. The glance from his liquid brown eyes
swept over them like a benediction, soothing them, rapping them about as in the mantle
of a great peace. "How long has she been afire, Captain?" he asked in a voice so gentle
and unperturbed that it was as the cooing of a dove.
At first the captain felt the peace and content of it stealing in upon him; then the
consciousness of all that he had gone through and was going through smote him, and he
was resentful. By what right did this ragged beachcomber, in dungaree trousers and a
cotton shirt, suggest such a thing as peace and content to him and his overwrought,
exhausted soul? The captain did not reason this; it was the unconscious process of
emotion that caused his resentment.
"Fifteen days," he answered shortly. "Who are you?"
"My name is McCoy," came the answer in tones that breathed tenderness and
"I mean, are you the pilot?"
McCoy passed the benediction of his gaze over the tall, heavy-shouldered man with the
haggard, unshaven face who had joined the captain.