Storm King Banner - H.A. Cody - ebook
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The story begins with a tragic event. Jim Weston’s house burned to the ground, which caused a lot of talk not only in the valley, but along the entire coastal road. The most interesting thing is that the houses in the district are also affected by fire. There were several reasons. Perhaps this was done by Jim’s former enemy, or maybe by accident.

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER I

Why He Laughed

When Jim Weston’s house burned to the ground, it caused a great deal of talk not only in the Valley but all along the Shore Road. There had been other fires in the parish, but none had aroused such a general interest as this. There were several reasons. The record of Jim’s past life was well known. Many had shaken their heads in disapproval when the “jail bird” had settled in the Valley. They did not want such a man in their midst, for there was no telling what he might do. They were, therefore, not surprised when his wife had left him two weeks before the fire. Perhaps she knew that he intended to burn the house down to get the insurance, and she would not agree to the deed. A man who would scuttle his ship for gain would not stop at anything, so people openly declared.

This suspicion was strengthened by the fact that Jim Weston had laughed when his dwelling was destroyed. There was no doubt about that, for several had heard him, and it formed a choice topic of conversation at the Corner store where a number of people were gathered.

“I can swear I heard him laugh,” Billy Wright declared, “for I was only a few feet away. But it was a funny laugh which sent the shivers up an’ down me spine. Jim was standin’ right by his household stuff we had saved, an’ lookin’ at the burnin’ sticks, when he gave that queer laugh. I asked him what he was laughin’ at, but he made me no answer. You heard him, Tom, for you were quite near.”

“Oh, I heard him, all right,” Tom Griswell replied. “His laugh was queer, and no mistake. I’ve been thinking about it all day. Jim’s been a puzzle to me ever since he came among us. But he puzzled me still more this morning. I happened to be passing his place when the fire broke out. Jim was at the barn, and I yelled to him, so we both got to the house about the same time. There was nothing we could do to save the building, but there was a chance to get some of the furniture out. To my surprise, Jim dashed at once upstairs and dragged down a baby’s cradle. He ran a considerable risk, for the smoke was so thick up there that I don’t know how he could see or breathe. But down he came with that cradle and carried it out in the yard. After that he didn’t seem to care whether anything else was saved or not, and if the neighbors hadn’t soon arrived he would have lost everything except what I managed to rescue.”

“It was his baby’s cradle,” Billy explained. “He lost her last year, and it nearly broke his heart. She meant everything to him and his missus. But why he laughed is more’n I can understand.”

Jim Weston himself was the only one who could solve the mystery. But he offered no explanation. Perhaps he did not know that his short laugh had aroused so much curiosity among his neighbors. And if he had known, it would not have concerned him in the least. He had other things to think about, and one was the home-coming of his wife. She had written that she would arrive on the evening boat, and for him to meet her at the wharf.

When his neighbors had gone, Jim remained for some time near the ruins of his house. Nell was coming home today, home to this! Again he laughed, but no one was near to hear him this time. He then pulled a letter from his pocket and held it in his blackened hands.

Dear Jim,

I am going home on Tuesday. Meet me at the wharf. I am sorry I left you, and want to go back to you again. Please forgive me. You need me, and I need you.

Your loving wife, Nell.

For some time he stood there with the letter in his hand. He was a lone figure of a man, in harmony with the ruins around him. Ruins! He had known nothing else for years. The destruction of his house was as nothing to the ruin of his own life. One could be restored; the other was beyond repair. He folded the letter and thrust it back into his pocket.

“Nell once said she wished the house would burn down. Her wish has been granted, and she is coming home today! Home to this!”

The rest of the morning he worked at a small building near the barn used for storing waggons, plow, harrow, and other farming implements. He cleared the place of these, and then set to work to make the building as habitable as possible. It would have to serve as their dwelling for the present. He worked with a feverish energy as an outlet to the passion that was stirring his soul. Life had treated him hard, but he would fight to the last. He would not give up. He had often driven his ship, the Ocean Belle, through a raging sea with mountainous waves reaching out their cruel arms to engulf him, and he had laughed their utmost efforts to scorn. And he would do the same now against the winds and waves of fate and the deviltry of men. That sea-spirit was in his blood and had upheld him in most trying times. While clearing his rough land, when building his fences during the heat of summer, or facing the storms of winter, he was always the captain in command, and the Ocean Belle with her graceful lines, her proudly-lifting prow, her tall masts, swaying yards, and her clouds of canvas, was his inspiration. Nothing could ever blur that vision. Once a captain, always a captain, whether on sea or land.

That evening Jim arrived as the River Queen nosed her way into the wharf. He saw Nell, carrying her small grip, coming down the gang-plank. How pretty she looked, and so happy. She smiled as she came to where her husband was standing by the waggon. But the smile faded when she saw the expression upon his face. She shrank back as from a blow. Her lip quivered and a sudden weakness came upon her. Jim took the grip and tossed it into the waggon.

“Climb up,” he ordered.

His wife, however, hesitated and glanced back at the steamer, as if she longed to return. Jim saw and interpreted her look. His face darkened, and he clutched her somewhat roughly by the arm.

“Climb up,” he repeated.

His wife at once obeyed, and in another minute they were on their way towards the main road. Nothing was said for a time, and Mrs. Weston sat very rigid by her husband’s side. She was angry, and it was impossible for her to remain silent any longer.

“This is a strange welcome you have given me,” she began. “You don’t seem one bit glad to have me home again.”

Jim aroused as from a deep reverie and laughed sarcastically.

“H’m, what other kind of a welcome should a deserter receive?”

“But I’m not a deserter. I merely went home to visit mother.”

“I suppose so. But if any one of my men had left the Ocean Belle for two weeks, I know what it would have been called. It would have been desertion, pure and simple.

“But I’m not a sailor. I’m your wife, and I have a right to go on a visit when I desire. It is the first time I have left you since we came to the Valley. Surely you do not begrudge me a holiday.”

“No, I can’t say I do. But it was the way you left, Nell. You didn’t intend to come back. I don’t know what changed your mind, and it’s not necessary for me to know.”

“It was the thought of you all alone without any one to help you. I was tired when I left, and my nerves were unstrung. But when I had a good rest, I saw things in a new light, so decided to come home.”

“Well, that’s interesting. I did miss you, Nell, that’s a fact. When I came in from work the house was mighty lonely. Outside of the Deans I saw very few of the neighbors. They don’t want anything to do with a jail-bird.”

“Don’t say that word. Please don’t. You are going to live it down, and I am going to help all I can. And oh, Jim, I am going to fix up the house and make it more cosy. Mother gave me some lovely stuff for new window-curtains, and other things which you will like.”

“That will be very nice, Nell. It will take a lot of stuff to fix up the windows.”

“But I have plenty, more than enough. There is some specially fine material for the front windows. I have always been ashamed of those old muslin curtains. I knew the neighbors criticized them.”

“They did, and everything else, chiefly me.”

“But the Deans didn’t, Jim.”

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