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DAD AND DESTINY

BY JOHN A HEFFERNAN

A FORMLESS, fringy, low-lying, white-brown-and-yellow thing, for all the world like a fried egg afloat, drifted between the blunt-nosed ferry-boat and' her slip. It was the canalboat caravan, the loosely articulated, hawser-bound "Albany tow" with its flat white deckhouses and yellow-striped gunwales and its fluttering lines of checked junipers, white petticoats and such, all fresh from the wash-buckets. Fussy tugs pulled at great cables ahead, fussy tugs scurried around the flanks, trimming in the loose ends.

Sharp and fierce the signal bells rang in the engine-room of the ferry-boat and the ancient craft trembled under the strain as her paddle-wheels beat in reversal. The waters gurgled and churned and a stream of foamy soap-suds surged out from under the bows.

Two men stood on the forward deck, leaning against the heavy railing. The ruffled silk hat of one of them was pulled down over his eyes. The eyes were slightly bloodshot because the owner of them had been drinking, but otherwise they were very pleasant gray eyes, just as the face with its smooth, broad brow and straight, beardless features was a very pleasant face. The garments of the young man—he was about twenty-five—were of fashionable material, although somewhat tousled like his brown hair, and they fitted well a clean-limbed, six-foot frame.

The other was older, although not much; a short, stocky fellow with an aggressively protuberant chest, sharp features and narrow, shrewd, humorous eyes. His cutaway coat, gray trousers and black derby hat were speckless, his patent-leather shoes refulgent, his gray silk waistcoat was buttoned with diamond-centered pearl discs and his lavender scarf was held by a big diamond pin.

Although standing side by side they had not spoken since the ferry-boat left the Brooklyn shore. The Older man glanced occasionally at the younger, the younger glared gloomily down at the waters; The foamy streak from the paddle-boxes caught his sight and excited his disapproval.

"Thought I wash on the fron' o' thish boat?" he said, addressing the other.

"Right you were, bo!" was the cheery answer.

"Um! Wah—when'd we turn aroun'?"

"Didn't. She's backing up."

"Goin' back to Brooklyn?"

"Looks like it."

"Well, she c'n go ish she likes; I'm not!" said the younger man decisively and he jumped overboard.

"Oi-yoi!" exclaimed the other in amazement. "Man overboard!" he yelled, raising his voice so that it rang throughout the vessel. Quickly he slipped off his coat, transferred a gold watch from the fob pocket of his trousers to the inside pocket of the outer garment, folded the latter neatly, laid it on the deck, and, jumping upon the flat top of the railing, dove into the white surge.

Fifty feet away the other man came to the surface, shook the brine from his eyes with a vigorous twist of his head and flung his right hand forward in a powerful, practised overhand stroke. He was heading for the canal-boats, which were nearer to him than the rapidly receding ferry-boat, but he looked back in time to see the man in the gray silk waistcoat plunge from the rail after him. The chill of the river had cleared his brain and he understood. With some anxiety he watched the bobbing head of the other swimmer. The latter made progress slowly and, as he approached, it was quite plain that he was laboring hard. Gray-eyes turned and went after him and drew up alongside with a few of his long reaches.

"How are you?" he asked.

"'Bout all—all in!" gasped the other. "Got-got a——cramp in—in my—gurgle-gurgle!"

The waves closed over his head. Grayeyes slipped down and caught him and without difficulty got him back to the surface.

"Lie perfectly quiet!" he admonished, holding him by the collar and swimming easily on his back.

"All right," the stocky chap answered.

Meanwhile in wild excitement passengers were crowding upon the deck of the ferryboat, that calliope cry, "Man overboard!" having drawn them in haste from the cabins. Blue-shirted deckhands were loosening coils of rope and tying big cruller-shaped life-preservers to the ends of them. The man in the pilot-house signaled "Slow speed ahead!" to the engine-room and tooted like mad with his whistle.

Tidal action had swung the canal-boat flotilla around so that the tail of it was within one hundred feet of the two men in the water and Gray-eyes struck out for the nearer craft. It was easy work for him to make the distance; he soon grasped the line dropped over the side, and, still holding his companion by the collar, looked up into a pair of very large brown eyes that peered over the rail of a big grain-barge.

"Thanks!" he said, grinning.

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