A stout, elderly man stepped from a streetcar on the water-front of New York and hastened toward the nearest wharf at a lumbering trot. He held in one hand a large suit-case which must have been insecurely fastened, for, as he dodged to avoid collision with other wayfarers, the lid flew open and all sorts of things began to spill out.
The weather-beaten gentleman was in such a violent hurry and his mind was so preoccupied that he failed to notice the disaster, and was leaving in his wake a trail of slippers, shirts, hair-brushes, underwear, collars, and what not, that suggested a game of hare-and-hounds. In fact, the treacherous suit-case had almost emptied itself before he paid heed to the shouts of uproarious laughter from the delighted teamsters, roustabouts, and idlers. With a snort, he fetched up to glare behind him, and his expression conveyed wrath and dismay.
This kind of misfortune, like the case of the man who sits down on his own hat, excites boundless mirth but no sympathy whatever. The victim stood stock-still and continued to glare and sputter as if here was a situation totally beyond him.
A tall lad, passing that way, jumped to the rescue and began to gather up the scattered wreckage. He was laughing as heartily as the rest of them—for the life of him he couldn't help it—but the instincts of a gentleman prompted him to undertake the work of salvage. As fast as an armful was collected, the owner savagely rammed it into the suit-case, and when this young friend in need, Walter Goodwin by name, came running up with the last consignment he growled, after fumbling in his pockets:
"Not a blessed cent of change left! Come aboard my ship and I'll square it with you. If I had time, I'd punch the heads of a few of those loafing swabs who stood and laughed at me."
"But I don't want to be paid for doing a little favor like that," said Goodwin. "And I am afraid I laughed, too. It did look funny, honestly."
"You come along and do as I tell you," rumbled the heated mariner, who had paid not the least attention to these remarks. "Do you mind shouldering this confounded bag? I am getting short-winded, and it may fly open again. Had two nights ashore with my family in Baltimore—train held up by a wreck last night—must have had a poor navigator—made me six hours late—ought to have been aboard ship this morning—I sail at five this afternoon."
He appeared to be talking to himself rather than to Walter Goodwin, who could not refuse further aid. His burly captor was heading in the direction of a black-hulled ocean-steamer which flew the bluepeter at her mast-head. Even the wit of a landsman could not go wrong in surmising that this domineering person was her commander. And for all his blustering manner, Captain Martin Bradshaw had a trick of pulling down one corner of his mouth in a half smile as if he had a genial heart and, given time to cool off and reflect, could perceive the humor of a situation.