Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Finishing Touch
by [?]

He was born with a nature as simple and primitive as the physical conditions surrounding him, and endowed with a body so frail and delicate that he barely survived these conditions–which were of frost, and snow, and ice, with winter hurricanes straight from Greenland and summer fogs fed by the Gulf Stream to breed pneumonia and kindred diseases into stronger lungs than his.

But he survived to reach the age of eighteen, a tall, flat-chested, weak-witted butt of the local school, who, while able to struggle along with the ordinary studies at the foot of the class, was yet so poorly endowed with the mathematical sense that he could only master the first four rules of arithmetic. Fractions and decimals were unsolvable mysteries to him. His name was Quinbey–first name John, later Jack.

He was of American birth, the only son of a fisherman, who had taken his smack to an isolated village on the Nova Scotian coast. Here the fisherman did well, and before the boy was half grown owned the finest cottage in the village–which he bought cheap because it was perched on the crest of the hill, exposed to every storm that blew, a nest that none but a sailor could live in. With increasing prosperity he installed a big base-burner, good for the anaemic boy, but bad for himself.

The boy rid himself of coughs and colds; but the father, changing from the chill and the wet of fishing to the warmth and ease of home life, contracted pneumonia and died, leaving the boy in possession of the house and the smack, but not enough ready money to last for a month.

Young Quinbey closed up the house, took in a partner with money, and went fishing for a season, at the end of which the partner–a shrewd business man–owned the smack.

The boy acquired a wonderful increase of health and strength, and a consuming love for a pretty girl of the village, a trader’s daughter named Minnie, who repulsed him firmly and emphatically because of his poverty–for the house and base-burner were not desirable assets–and because of his weak mental and physical equipment.

But there is a school for weak mentality and physique–the Seven Seas. And to this school went John Quinbey, first, however, putting in one season on the Georges Bank, where, in a lucky craft, he made money. Richer than ever before in his life, he returned home, to try again for the heart and hand of Minnie, but found her married to the minister, a man as weak, flat-chested, and anaemic as he himself had been.

He reasoned crudely. He did not meet Minnie, but took stock and measure of the minister, a gentleman named Simpson; then, feeling his own expanding chest and enlarging muscles, decided that Minnie would soon be a widow, and he a strong man with money; for he could work, and, having no vices, could save. So, for love of Minnie, he went back to sea, resolved to become a captain, resolved to save every cent he earned, and resolved to balk at no hardship that would lead him to success.

At Boston, he shipped before the mast as able seaman in a big deep-water ship. He was not an able seaman, nor did he become one on this voyage; it required several; but each one marked a steady advance in muscular strength, mental activity, and bank account; and, at the end of the fifth, he signed as boatswain–an able man who knew his work.

He was strong, broad-shouldered, and active; the slightly vacant look in his face that had come from his boyhood incapacity had changed to a frank stare that demanded consideration and respect. He seldom asked a question twice now–once was usually enough. He had a fist that could smash the panels of a door, a voice that he could not modulate to conversational tones–so used was he to sending it against the wind. He did not use tobacco, nor did he drink, for these things cost money, and he was thinking of Minnie, most precious of all things in the world.