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Cap’n Bob Of The Screamer
by [?]

Captain Bob Brandt dropped in to-day, looking brown and ruddy, and filling my office with, a breeze and freshness that seemed to have followed him all the way in from the sea.

“Just in, Captain?” I cried, springing to my feet, my fingers closing round his–no more welcome visitor than Captain Bob ever pushes open my office door.

“Yes–Teutonic.”

“Where did you pick her up–Fire Island?”

“No; ’bout hundred miles off Montauk.”

Captain Bob has been a Sandy Hook pilot for some years back.

“How was the weather?” I had a chair ready for him now and was lifting the lid of my desk in search of a box of cigars.

“Pretty dirty. Nasty swell on, and so thick you could hack holes in it. Come pretty nigh missin’ her”–and the Captain opened his big storm-coat, hooked his cloth cap with its ear-tabs on one prong of the back of one office-chair, stretched his length in another, and, bending forward, reached out his long, brawny arm for the cigar I was extending toward him.

I have described this sea-dog before–as a younger sea-dog–twenty years younger, in fact, he was in my employ then–he and his sloop Screamer. Every big foundation stone that Caleb set in Shark Ledge Light–the one off Keyport harbor–can tell you about them both.

In those light-house days this Captain Bob was “a tall, straight, blue-eyed young fellow of twenty-two, with a face like an open book–one of those perfectly simple, absolutely fearless, alert men found so often on the New England coast, with legs and arms of steel, body of hickory, and hands of whalebone; cabin boy at twelve, common sailor at sixteen, first mate at twenty, and full captain the year he voted.”

He is precisely the same kind of man to-day, plus twenty years of experience. The figure is still the figure of his youth, the hickory a little better seasoned, perhaps, and the steel and whalebone a little harder, but they have lost none of their spring and vitality. The ratio of promotion has also been kept up. That he should now rank as the most expert pilot on the station was quite to be expected. He could have filled as well a commander’s place on the bridge, had he chosen to work along those lines.

And the modesty of the man!

Nothing that he has done, or can still do, has ever stretched his hat measure or swelled any part of his thinking apparatus. The old pilot-cap is still number seven, and the sensible head beneath it number seven, too. It could be number eight, or nine, or even ten, if it had expanded in proportion to the heroic quality of many of his deeds. During the light-house days, for instance, when some sudden, shift of wind would churn the long rollers into bobbles and then into frenzied seas that smothered the Ledge in white suds, if a life-boat was to be launched in the boiling surf, the last man to jump aboard, after a mighty push with his long hindmost leg, was sure to be this same bundle of whalebone and hickory. And should this boat, a few minutes later, go whirling along in the “Race,” bottom side up, with every worker safe astride her keel, principally because of Captain Bob’s coolness and skill in hauling them out of the water, again the last man to crawl beside the rescued crew would be this same long-legged, long armed skipper.

Or should a guy-rope snap with a sound like a pistol-shot, and a great stone swung to a boom and weighing tons should begin running amuck through piles of cement, machinery, and men, and some one of the working gang, seeing the danger, should, with the quickness and sureness of a mountain-goat, spring straight for the stone, clutching the end of the guy and bounding off again, twisting the bight round some improvised snubbing-post thus checking its mad career, you would not have had to ask his name twice.