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By The Morning Boat
by [?]

On the coast of Maine, where many green islands and salt inlets fringe the deep-cut shore line; where balsam firs and bayberry bushes send their fragrance far seaward, and song-sparrows sing all day, and the tide runs plashing in and out among the weedy ledges; where cowbells tinkle on the hills and herons stand in the shady coves,–on the lonely coast of Maine stood a small gray house facing the morning light. All the weather-beaten houses of that region face the sea apprehensively, like the women who live in them.

This home of four people was as bleached and gray with wind and rain as one of the pasture rocks close by. There were some cinnamon rose bushes under the window at one side of the door, and a stunted lilac at the other side. It was so early in the cool morning that nobody was astir but some shy birds, that had come in the stillness of dawn to pick and flutter in the short grass.

They flew away together as some one softly opened the unlocked door and stepped out. This was a bent old man, who shaded his eyes with his hand, and looked at the west and the east and overhead, and then took a few lame and feeble steps farther out to see a wooden vane on the barn. Then he sat down on the doorstep, clasped his hands together between his knees, and looked steadily out to sea, scanning the horizon where some schooners had held on their course all night, with a light westerly breeze. He seemed to be satisfied at sight of the weather, as if he had been anxious, as he lay unassured in his north bedroom, vexed with the sleeplessness of age and excited by thoughts of the coming day. The old seaman dozed as he sat on the doorstep, while dawn came up and the world grew bright; and the little birds returned, fearfully at first, to finish their breakfast, and at last made bold to hop close to his feet.

After a time some one else came and stood in the open door behind him.

“Why, father! seems to me you’ve got an early start; ‘t ain’t but four o’clock. I thought I was foolish to get up so soon, but ‘t wa’n’t so I could sleep.”

“No, darter.” The old man smiled as he turned to look at her, wide awake on the instant. “‘T ain’t so soon as I git out some o’ these ‘arly mornin’s. The birds wake me up singin’, and it’s plenty light, you know. I wanted to make sure ‘Lisha would have a fair day to go.”

“I expect he’d have to go if the weather wa’n’t good,” said the woman.

“Yes, yes, but ’tis useful to have fair weather, an’ a good sign some says it is. This is a great event for the boy, ain’t it?”

“I can’t face the thought o’ losin’ on him, father.” The woman came forward a step or two and sat down on the doorstep. She was a hard-worked, anxious creature, whose face had lost all look of youth. She was apt, in the general course of things, to hurry the old man and to spare little time for talking, and he was pleased by this acknowledged unity of their interests. He moved aside a little to give her more room, and glanced at her with a smile, as if to beg her to speak freely. They were both undemonstrative, taciturn New Englanders; their hearts were warm with pent-up feeling, that summer morning, yet it was easier to understand one another through silence than through speech.

“No, I couldn’t git much sleep,” repeated the daughter at last. “Some things I thought of that ain’t come to mind before for years,–things I don’t relish the feelin’ of, all over again.”

“‘T was just such a mornin’ as this, pore little ‘Lisha’s father went off on that last v’y’ge o’ his,” answered the old sailor, with instant comprehension. “Yes, you’ve had it master hard, pore gal, ain’t you? I advised him against goin’ off on that old vessel with a crew that wa’n’t capable.”