Part 7 out of 9
taking my cap from the rack, hurried from the house. I went
"across lots" and, running a good part of the way, reached the bank
just as Sam Wheeler was sweeping out. He expressed surprise at my
early arrival and wished to know what was up.
"Ain't nothin' wrong, is there, Ros?" asked Sam anxiously. "I saw
by the paper that the market was feverish again yesterday."
Sam was an ambitious youth and, being desirous of becoming a banker
in the shortest possible time, read the financial page with
conscientious thoroughness. I assured him that the market's fever
was not contagious--at least I had not contracted the disease--and
sent him out to sweep the front steps. As soon as he had gone I
opened the safe, found, to my joy, that we had an abundance of
currency on hand, cashed the Colton check and locked it securely in
the drawer of my own desk. So far I was safe. Now to secure
He came in soon after, looking as if, as he had told me, he had not
slept for years. He bade Sam good morning and then walked over to
"Well, Ros?" he asked, laying a shaking hand on the desk beside me.
"Not here, George," I whispered. "Come into the directors' room."
I led the way and he followed me. I closed the door behind us,
took the thirty-five hundred dollars in notes from my pocket and
laid them on the table.
"There's the money, George," I said. "Now you've got just time
enough to catch that nine o'clock train for Boston."
I thought, for a moment, he was going to collapse altogether. Then
he pounced upon the money, counted it with fingers that trembled so
he could scarcely control them, and turned to me.
"Ros--Ros--" he stammered. "Where did you--how did you--Great God,
"There! there!" I interrupted. "I told you I wasn't a pauper
exactly. Put that where you won't lose it and clear out. You
haven't any time to argue."
"But--but, Ros, I hadn't ought to take this from you. I don't see
where you got it and--"
"That's my business. Will you go?"
"I don't know as I ever can pay you. Lord knows I'll try all my
I seized his arm. "George," I urged, impatiently, "you fool, don't
waste time. Get that train, do you hear! Those bonds must be in
that safe by night. Go!"
The mention of the bonds did what my urging had failed to do. He
crammed the bills into his pocket book, thrust the latter into an
inside pocket, and rushed from the room. I followed him as far as
the outer door. He was running up the road like a wild man. Sam
stared after him.
"For mercy sakes!" he cried, "what's the matter with the boss? Has
he gone loony?"
"No," I said, turning back to my desk; "he's sane enough, I guess.
He's after the train."
"I should think he was after somethin'. Did you see the face he
had on him? If he ain't crazy then you and I are, that's all I've
got to say."
"All right, Sam," I answered, drawing a long breath, "perhaps
that's it. Perhaps you and I are the crazy ones--one of us, at any
All that day I worked hard. I did not go home for lunch, but sent
Sam over to Eldredge's store for canned ham and crackers which I
ate at my desk. It was a fairly busy day, fortunately, and I could
always find some task to occupy my mind. Lute called, at two
o'clock, to inquire why I had not been home and I told him that
Taylor was away and I should be late for supper. He departed,
shaking his head.
"It's just as I said," he declared, "you're workin' yourself sick,
that's what you're doin'. You're growin' foolish in the head about
work, just the same as Dorindy. And YOU don't need to; you've got
money enough. If I had independent means same as you've got I tell
you I'd have more sense. One sick invalid in the family's enough,
"No doubt, Lute," I replied. "At all events you must take care of
your health. Don't YOU work yourself sick."
Lute turned on me. "I try not to," he said, seriously; "I try not
to, but it's a hard job. You know what that wife of mine is
cal'latin' to have me do next? Wash the hen house window! Yes
sir! wash the window so's the hens can look at the scenery, I
presume likely. I says to her, says I, 'That beats any foolishness
ever I heard! Next thing you'll want me to put down a carpet in
the pigsty, won't ye? You would if we kept a pig, I know.'"
"What did she say to that?" I inquired.
"Oh, the land knows! Somethin' about keepin' one pig bein' trouble
enough. I didn't pay much attention. But I shan't wash no hen's
window, now you can bet on that!"
I shouldn't have bet much on it. He went away, to spend the next
hour in a political debate at Eldredge's, and I wrote letters,
needlessly long ones. Closing time came and Sam went home, leaving
me to lock up. The train was due at six-twenty, but it was nearly
seven before I heard it whistle at the station. I stood at the
front window looking up the road and waiting.
I waited only a few minutes, but they were long ones. Then I saw
George coming, not running this time, but walking with rapid
strides. The crowd, waiting on the post-office steps, shouted at
him but he paid no attention. He sprang up the steps and entered
the bank. I stepped forward and seized his hand. One look at his
face was enough; he had the bonds, I knew it.
"Ros, you here!" he exclaimed. "Is it all right? The examiner
hasn't showed up?"
"No," I answered. "You have them, George?"
"Right in my pocket, thank the Lord--and you, Ros Paine. Just let
me get them into that safe and I-- What! You're not going?"
"Yes, I'm going. I congratulate you, George. I am as glad as you
are. Good night."
"But Ros, I want to tell you about it. I want to thank you again.
I never shall forget . . . Ros, hold on!"
But I was already at the door. "Good night," I called again, and
went out. I went straight home, ate supper, spent a half hour with
Mother, and then went to my room and to bed. The excitement was
over, for good or bad the thing was done beyond recall, and I
suddenly realized that I was very tired. I fell asleep almost
immediately and slept soundly until morning. I was too tired even
I had plenty of time to think during the fortnight which followed
and there was enough to think about. The lawyer came and the
papers were signed transferring to James W. Colton the strip of
land over which Denboro had excited itself for months. Each day I
sat at my desk expecting Captain Dean and a delegation of indignant
citizens to rush in and denounce me as a traitor and a turncoat.
Every time Sam Wheeler met me at my arrival at the bank I dreaded
to look him in the face, fearing that he had learned of my action
and was waiting to question me about it. In spite of all my boasts
and solemn vows not to permit "Big Jim" Colton to obtain the Shore
Lane I had sold it to him; he could, and it was to be expected that
he would, close it at once; Denboro would make its just demand upon
me for explanations, explanations which, for George and Nellie's
sake, I could not give; and after that the deluge. I was sitting
over a powder mine and I braced myself for the explosion.
But hours and days passed and no explosion came. The fishcarts
rattled down the Lane without hindrance. Except for the little
flurry of excitement caused by the coming wedding at the Dean
homestead the village life moved on its lazy, uneventful jog. I
could not understand it. Why did Colton delay? He, whose one
object in life was to have his own way, had it once more. Now that
he had it why didn't he make use of it? Why was he holding back?
Out of pity for me? I did not believe it. Much more likely that
his daughter, whose pride I had dared to offend, had taken the
affair in her hands and this agony of suspense was a preliminary
torture, a part of my punishment for presuming to act contrary to
her imperial will.
I saw her occasionally, although I tried my best not to do so.
Once we passed each other on the street and I stubbornly kept my
head turned in the other direction. I would risk no more looks
such as she had given me when, in response to her father's would-be
humorous suggestion, she had offered me her "congratulations."
Once, too, I saw her on the bay, I was aboard the Comfort, having
just anchored after a short cruise, and she went by in the canoe,
her newest plaything, which had arrived by freight a few days
before. A canoe in Denboro Bay was a distinct novelty; probably
not since the days of the Indians had one of the light, graceful
little vessels floated there, and this one carried much comment
among the old salts alongshore. It was the general opinion that it
was no craft for salt water.
"Them things," said Zeb Kendrick, sagely, "are all right for ponds
or rivers or cricks where there ain't no tide nor sea runnin'.
Float anywheres where there's a heavy dew, they say they will. But
no darter of mine should go out past the flats in one of 'em if I
had the say. It's too big a risk."
"Yup; well, Zeb, you ain't got the say, I cal'late," observed Thoph
Newcomb. "And it takes more'n say to get a skiff like that one.
They tell me the metal work aboard her is silver-plated--silver or
gold, I ain't sure which. Wonder the old man didn't make it solid
gold while he was about it. He'd do anything for that girl if she
asked him to. And she sartin does handle it like a bird! She went
by my dory t'other mornin' and I swan to man if she and the canoe
together wan't a sight for sore eyes. I set and watched her for
"Um--ye-es," grunted Zeb. "And then you charged the twenty minutes
in against the day's work quahaugin' you was supposed to be doin'
for me, I suppose."
"You can take out the ten cents when you pay me--if you ever do,"
said Newcomb, gallantly. "'Twas wuth more'n that just to look at
The time had been when I should have agreed with Thoph. Sitting in
the canoe, bare-headed, her hair tossing in the breeze, and her
rounded arms swinging the light paddle, she was a sight for sore
eyes, doubtless. But it was not my eyes which were sore, just
then. I watched her for a moment and then bent over my engine. I
did not look up again until the canoe had disappeared beyond the
I did not tell Mother that I had sold the land. I intended to do
so; each morning I rose with my mind made up to tell her, and
always I put off the telling until some other time. I knew, of
course, that she should be told; that I ought to tell her rather
than to have her learn the news from others as she certainly would
at almost any moment, but I knew, too, that even to her I could not
disclose my reason for selling. I must keep George's secret as he
had kept mine and take the consequences with a close mouth and as
much of my old indifference to public opinion as I could muster.
But I realized, only too well, that the indifference which had once
been real was now only pretense.
I have said very little about George Taylor's gratitude to me, nor
his appreciation of what I had done for him. The poor fellow would
have talked of nothing else if I had let him.
"You've saved my good name and my life, Ros," he said, over and
over again, "and not only my life, but what is a mighty sight more
worth saving, Nellie's happiness. I don't know how you did it; I
believe yet that there is something behind all this, that you're
keeping something from me. I can't see how, considering all you've
said to me about your not being well-off, you got that money so
quick. But I know you don't want me to talk about it."
"I don't, George," I said. "All I ask of you is just to forget the
"Forget! I shan't forget while I live. And, as soon as ever I can
scrape it together, I'll pay you back that loan."
He had kept his word, so far as telling Nellie of his financial
condition was concerned. He had not, of course, told her of his
use of the bank bonds, but he had, as he said he would, told her
that, in all probability, he should be left with nothing but his
"I told her she was free to give me up," he said, with emotion,
"and what do you suppose she said to me? That she would marry me
if she knew she must live in the poorhouse the rest of her days.
Yes, and be happy, so long as we could be together. Well, I ain't
worth it, and I told her so, but I'll do my best to be worth
something; and she shan't have to live in the poorhouse either."
"I don't think there's much danger of that," I said. "And, by the
way, George, your Louisville and Transcontinental speculation may
not be all loss. You may save something out of it. There has been
considerable trading in the stock during the past two days. It is
up half a point already, according to the papers. Did you notice
"Yes, I noticed it. But I tell you, Ros, I don't care. I'll be
glad to get some of my money back, of course; enough to pay you and
Cap'n Elisha anyhow; but I'm so happy to think that Nellie need
never know I was a thief that I don't seem to care much for
Nellie was happy, too. She came to me and told me of her happiness.
It was all on George's account, of course.
"The poor fellow had lost money in investments," she said, "and he
thought I would not care for him if I found out he was poor. He
isn't poor, of course, but if he was it would make no difference to
me. I am so glad to see him without that dreadful worried look on
his face that I--I-- Oh, you must think me awful silly, Roscoe! I
guess I am. I know I am. But you are the only one I can talk to
in this way about--about him. All Ma wants to talk about now is
the wedding and clothes and such, and Pa always treats me as if I
was a child. I feel almost as if you were the closest friend I
have, and I know George feels the same. He says you have helped
him out of his troubles. I was sure you would; that is why I wrote
you that letter. We are both SO grateful to you."
Their gratitude and the knowledge of their happiness were my sole
consolations in this trying time. They kept me from repenting what
I had done. It was hard not to repent. If Colton had only made
known his purchase and closed the Lane at once, while my resolution
was red hot, I could have faced the wrath of the village and its
inevitable consequences fairly well, I believed; but he still kept
silent and made no move. I saw him once or twice; on one occasion
he came into the bank, but he came only to cash a check and did not
mention the subject of the Lane. He did not look well to me and I
heard him tell Taylor something about his "damned digestion."
The wedding day came. I, as best man, was busy and thankful for
the bustle and responsibility. They occupied my mind and kept it
from dwelling on other things. George worked at the bank until
noon, getting ready to leave the institution in my charge and that
of Dick Small, Henry's brother, who had reported for duty that
morning. The marriage was to take place at half past one in the
afternoon and the bridal couple were to go away on the three
o'clock train. The honeymoon trip was to be a brief one, only a
Every able-bodied native of Denboro, man, woman and child, attended
that wedding, I honestly believe. It was the best sort of
advertising for Olinda Cahoon and Simeon Eldredge, for Olinda had
made the gowns worn by the bride and the bride's mother and a
number of the younger female guests, and Sim had sold innumerable
bottles of a peculiarly penetrating perfume, a large supply of
which he had been talked into purchasing by a Boston traveling
"Smell it, Ros, do ye?" whispered Sim, grinning triumphantly
between the points of a "stand-up" collar. "I give you my word
when that slick-talkin' drummer sold me all that perfumery, I
thought I was stuck sure and sartin. But then I had an idee.
Every time women folks come into the store and commenced to talk
about the weddin' I says to 'em, says I, 'Can't sell you a couple
of handkerchiefs to cry on, can I, Miss So-and-so? Weddin's are
great places for sheddin' tears, you know.' If I sold 'em the
handkerchiefs all well and good; but if they laughed and said they
had a plenty, I got out my sample bottle of 'May Lilock', that's
the name of the cologne, and asked 'em to smell of it. 'If you cry
with that on your handkerchief,' says I, 'all hands will be glad to
have you do it. And only twenty cents a bottle!' You wouldn't
believe how much I sold. You can smell this weddin' afore you come
in sight of the house, can't ye now."
You could, and you continued to smell it long after you left. My
best suit reeked of "May Lilac" weeks later when I took it out of
Dorinda was there, garbed in rustling black alpaca, her Sunday gown
for ten years at least, and made over and "turned" four or five
times. Lute was on deck, cutaway coat, "high water" trousers and
purple tie, grand to look upon, Alvin Baker and Elnathan Mullet and
Alonzo Black and Thoph Newcomb and Zeb Kendrick were, as the Item
would say, "among those present" and if Zeb's black cutaway smelled
slightly of fish it was, at least, a change from the pervading "May
Captain Jed strutted pompously about, monarch of the day. He
greeted me genially.
"Hello, Ros!" he said. "You out here? Thought you'd be busy
overhaulin' George's runnin' riggin' and makin' sure he was all
ready to heave alongside the parson."
"I have been," I answered. "I am on my way back there now."
"All right, all right. Matildy give me fits for not stayin'
upstairs until the startin' gun was fired, but I told her that,
between her with her eyes full of tears and Olindy Cahoon with her
mouth full of pins, 'twas no place for a male man. So I cleared
out till everything was shipshape. Say, Ros," he laid his hand on
my shoulder and bent to whisper in my ear: "Say, Ros," he said,
"I'm glad to see you're takin' my advice."
"Taking your advice?" I repeated, puzzled.
"Yes; about not playin' with fire, you know. I ain't heard of you
and the Princess cruisin' together for the past week. Thought
'twas best not to be too familiar with the R'yal family, didn't
you? That's right, that's right. We can't take chances. We've
got Denboro and the Shore Lane to think about, ain't we?"
I did not answer. I did not risk looking him in the face.
"She's liable to be here most any time, I cal'late," he went on.
"Nellie would insist on invitin' her. And I must say that, to be
honest, the present she sent is the finest that's come aboard yet.
The only thing I've got against her is her bad judgment in pickin'
a father. If 'twan't for that I--hello! Who--Why, I believe--"
There was a commotion among the guests and heads were turned toward
the door. The captain started forward. I started back. She had
entered the room and was standing there, looking about her with
smiling interest. I had forgotten that, considering her friendship
with Nellie, she was certain to be invited.
She was dressed in a simple, but wonderful, white gown and wore a
bunch of lilies of the valley at her bosom. The doorway was
decorated with sprays of honeysuckle and green boughs and against
this background she made a picture that brought admiring whispers
from the people near me. She did not notice me at first and I
think I should have escaped by the side door if it had not been for
Sim Eldredge. Simeon was just behind me and he darted forward with
"Why, how d'ye do, Miss Colton!" exclaimed Sim. "You're just in
time, ain't ye! Let me get you a chair. Alvin," to Mr. Baker,
who, perspiring beneath the unaccustomed dignity of a starched
shirt front, occupied a front seat, "get up and let Miss Colton set
She looked in Sim's direction and saw me, standing beside him. I
had no opportunity to avoid her look now, as I had done when we met
in the street. She saw me and I could not turn away. I bowed.
She did not acknowledge the bow. She looked calmly past me,
through me. I saw, or fancied that I saw, astonishment on the
faces of those watching us. Captain Jed stepped forward to greet
her and I went into the adjoining room, where George was anxiously
"Good land, Ros!" he exclaimed, with a sigh of relief, "I was
beginning to be afraid you'd skipped out and left me to go through
it all alone. Say something to brace me up, won't you; I'm scared
to death. Say," with a wondering glance at my face, "what's struck
YOU? You look more upset than I feel."
I believe I ordered him not to be an idiot. I know I did not
"brace him up" to any extent.
It was a very pretty wedding. At least every one said it was,
although they say the same of all weddings, I am told. Personally
I was very glad when it was over. Nellie whispered in my ear as I
offered her my congratulations, "We owe it all to you, Roscoe."
George said nothing, but the look he gave me as he wrung my hand
was significant. For a moment I forgot myself, forgot to be
envious of those to whom the door for happiness was not shut.
After all I had opened the door for these two, and that was
I walked as far as the corner with Lute and Dorinda. Dorinda's
eyes were red and her husband commented upon it.
"I thought a weddin' was supposed to be a joyful sort of thing," he
said, disgustedly. "It's usually cal'lated to be. Yet you and the
rest of the women folks set and cried through the whole of it.
What in time was there to cry about?"
"Oh, I don't know, Luther," replied Dorinda in, for her, an
unusually tolerant tone. "Perhaps it's because we've all been
young once and can't forget it."
"I don't forget, no more'n you do. I ain't so old that I can't
remember that fur back, I hope. But it don't make me feel like
"Well, all right. We won't argue about it. Let's be pleasant as
we can, for once."
Now that is where Lute should have taken the hint and remained
silent. At least he should have changed the subject. But he was
hot and uncomfortable and, I suspect, his Sunday shoes were tight.
"Huh!" he sniffed; "I don't see's you've given me no sensible
reason for cryin'. If I recollect right you didn't cry at your own
His wife turned on him. She looked him over from head to foot.
"Didn't I?" she said, tartly. "Well, maybe not. But if I'd
realized what was happenin' to me, I should."
"Lute," said I, as I parted from them at the corner, "I am going to
the bank for a little while. Then I think I shall take a short run
down the bay in the Comfort. Did you fill her tank with gasolene
as I asked you to?"
Lute stopped short. "There!" he exclaimed, "I knew there was
somethin' I forgot. I'll do it soon's ever I get home."
"When you get home," observed Dorinda, firmly, "you'll wash that
"Now, Dorinda, if that ain't just like you! Don't you hear Roscoe
askin' me about that gas? I've had that gas in my head ever since
"Um-hm," wearily. "Well, I shouldn't think a little extry more or
less would make much difference. Never mind, don't waste any more
on me. Get the gas out of your head, if Roscoe wants you to. You
can wash the window afterward."
Lute's parting words were that he would fill that tank the very
first thing. If he had--but there! he didn't.
The fog had come almost without warning. When, after leaving the
bank, at four o'clock or thereabouts, I walked down to the shore
and pulled my skiff out to where the Comfort lay at her moorings,
there had not been a sign of it. Now I was near the entrance of
the bay, somewhere abreast Crow Point, and all about me was gray,
wet blankness. Sitting in the stern of the little launch I could
see perhaps a scant ten feet beyond the bow, no more.
It was the sudden shift of the wind which had brought the fog.
When I left the boat house there had been a light westerly breeze.
This had died down to a flat calm, and then a new breeze had sprung
up from the south, blowing the fog before it. It rolled across the
water as swiftly as the smoke clouds roll from a freshly lighted
bonfire. It blotted Denboro from sight and moved across the bay;
the long stretch of beach disappeared; the Crow Point light and Ben
Small's freshly whitewashed dwellings and outbuildings were
obliterated. In ten minutes the Comfort was, to all appearances,
alone on a shoreless sea, and I was the only living creature in the
I was not troubled or alarmed. I had been out in too many fogs on
that very bay to mind this one. It was a nuisance, because it
necessitated cutting short my voyage, although that voyage had no
objective point and was merely an aimless cruise in search of
solitude and forgetfulness. The solitude I had found, the
forgetfulness, of course, I had not. And now, when the solitude
was more complete than ever, surrounded by this gray dismalness,
with nothing whatever to look at to divert my attention, I knew I
should be more bitterly miserable than I had been since I left that
wedding. And I had been miserable and bitter enough, goodness
Home and the village, which I had been so anxious to get away from,
now looked inviting in comparison. I slowed down the engine and,
with an impatient growl, bent over the little binnacle to look at
the compass and get my bearings before pointing the Comfort's nose
in the direction of Denboro. Then my growl changed to an
exclamation of disgust. The compass was not there. I knew where
it was. It was on my work bench in the boat house, where I had put
it myself, having carried it there to replace the cracked glass in
its top with a new one. I had forgotten it and there it was.
I could get along without it, of course, but its absence meant
delay and more trouble. In a general way I knew my whereabouts,
but the channel was winding and the tide was ebbing rapidly. I
should be obliged to run slowly--to feel my way, so to speak--and I
might not reach home until late. However, there was nothing else
to do, so I put the helm over and swung the launch about. I sat in
the stern sheets, listening to the dreary "chock-chock" of the
propeller, and peering forward into the mist. The prospect was as
cheerless as my future.
Suddenly, from the wet, gray blanket ahead came a call. It was a
good way off when I first heard it, a call in a clear voice, a
feminine voice it seemed to me.
I did not answer. I took it for granted that the call was not
addressed to me. It came probably, from the beach at the Point,
and might be Mrs. Small hailing her husband, though it did not
sound like her voice. Several minutes went by before it was
repeated. Then I heard it again and nearer.
"Hello! Hello-o-o! Where are you?"
That was not Mrs. Small, certainly. Unless I was away off in my
reckoning the Point was at my right, and the voice sounded to the
left. It must come from some craft afloat in the bay, though
before the fog set in I had seen none.
"Hello-o! Hello, the motor boat!"
"Hello!" I answered. "Boat ahoy! Where are you?"
"Here I am." The voice was nearer still. "Where are you? Don't
run into me."
I shifted my helm just a bit and peered ahead. I could see
nothing. The fog was thicker than ever; if that were possible.
"Where are you?" repeated the unseen voyager, and to my dismay, the
hail came from the right this time.
"Don't move!" I shouted. "Stay where you are. I will keep
shouting . . . LOOK OUT!"
Out of the fog to starboard a long dark shadow shot, silent and
swift. It was moving directly across the Comfort's bow. I jammed
the wheel over and the launch swung off, but not enough. It struck
the canoe, for it was a canoe, a glancing blow and heeled it down
to the water's edge. There was a scrape, a little scream, and two
hands clutched at the Comfort's rail. I let go the wheel, sprang
forward and seized the owner of the hands about the waist. The
canoe, half full of water, disappeared somewhere astern. I swung
Mabel Colton aboard the launch.
I think she spoke first. I do not remember saying anything, and I
think it must have been at least a full minute before either of us
broke the silence. She lay, or sat, upon the cockpit floor, her
shoulders supported by the bench surrounding it, just where I had
placed her after lifting her over the rail. I knelt beside her,
staring as if she were a spirit instead of a real, and rather damp,
young lady. And she stared at me. When she spoke her words were
an echo of my thought.
"It IS you?" she gasped.
"This--this is the third time."
Another interval of silence. Then she spoke once more and her tone
was one expressing intense conviction.
"This," she said, slowly, "is getting to be positively ridiculous."
I did not deny it. I said nothing.
She sat up. "My canoe--" she faltered.
The mention of the canoe brought me partially to my senses. I
realized that I was kneeling on the deck of a launch that was
pounding its way through the fog with no one at the helm. I sprang
to my feet and seized the wheel. That my doing so would be of
little use, considering that the Comfort might be headed almost
anywhere by this time, did not occur to me. Miss Colton remained
where she was.
"My canoe--" she repeated.
I was awakening rapidly. I looked out into the mist and shook my
"I am afraid your canoe has gone," I said. And then, as the
thought occurred to me for the first time, "You're not hurt, I
hope? I dragged you aboard here rather roughly, I am afraid."
"No, I am not hurt. But--where are we?"
"I don't know, exactly. Somewhere near the mouth of the bay, that
is all I can be sure of. You, are certain you are not hurt? You
must be wet through."
She got upon her feet and, leaning over the Comfort's rail, gazed
"I am all right," she answered. "But don't you know where you
"Before the fog caught me I was nearly abreast the Point. I was
running at half speed up the channel when I heard your hail. Where
"I was just beyond your boat house, out in the middle of the bay.
I had come out for a paddle before dinner. I did not notice the
fog until it was all about me. Then I think I must have been
bewildered. I thought I was going in the direction of home, but I
could not have been--not if you were abreast the Point. I must
have been going directly out to sea."
"You are wet," I said, anxiously. "There is a storm coat of mine
in the locker forward. Won't you put that about your shoulders?
It may prevent your taking cold."
"No, thank you. I am not wet, at all; or, at least, only my feet
and the bottom of my skirt. I shall not take cold."
"Please don't worry. I am all right, or shall be as soon as I get
"I am very sorry about your canoe."
"It doesn't matter."
Her answers were short now. There was a different note in her
voice. I knew the reason of the change. Now that the shock and
the surprise of our meeting were over she and I were resuming our
old positions. She was realizing that her companion was the
"common fellow" whose "charming and cultivated society" was not
necessary to her happiness, the fellow to whom she had scornfully
offered "congratulations" and whom she had cut dead at the Deans'
that very afternoon. I made no more suggestions and expressed no
"I will take you home at once," I said, curtly.
"If you please."
That ended conversation for the time. She seated herself on the
bench near the forward end of the cockpit and kept her head turned
away from me. I, with one hand upon the wheel--a useless
procedure, for I had no idea where the launch might be headed--
looked over the rail and listened to the slow and regular beat of
the engine. Suddenly the beat grew less regular. The engine
barked, hiccoughed, barked again but more faintly, and then stopped
I knew what was the matter. Before I reached the gasolene tank and
unscrewed the little cover I knew it. I thrust in the gauge stick
and heard it strike bottom, drew it out and found it, as I
expected, dry to the very tip. I had trusted, like an imbecile, to
Lute. Lute had promised to fill that tank "the very first thing,"
and he had not kept his promise.
There was not a pint of gasolene aboard the Comfort; and it would
be my cheerful duty to inform my passenger of the fact!
She did not wait for me to break the news. She saw me standing
there, holding the gauge stick in my hand, and she asked the
"What is the matter?" she demanded.
I swallowed the opinion of Mr. Rogers which was on the tip of my
"I am sorry," I stammered, "but--but--well, we are in trouble, I am
"In trouble?" she said coldly. "What trouble do you mean?"
"Yes. The fact is, we have run out of gasolene. I told my man,
Rogers, to fill the tank and he hasn't done it."
She leaned forward to look at me.
"Hasn't done it?" she repeated. "You mean--why, this boat cannot
go without gasolene, can it?"
"Not very well; no."
"Then--then what are we going to do?"
"Anchor and wait, if I can."
"Wait! But I don't wish to wait. I wish to be taken home, at
"I am sorry, but I am afraid that is impossible."
I was on my way forward to where the anchor lay, in the bow. She
rose and stepped in front of me.
"Yes, Miss Colton."
"I tell you I do not wish you to anchor this boat."
"I am sorry but it is the only thing to do, under the circumstances."
"I do not wish it. Stop! I tell you I will not have you anchor."
"Miss Colton, we must do one of two things, either anchor or drift.
And if we drift I cannot tell you where we may be carried."
"I don't care."
"Yes," with scornful emphasis, "I presume you do."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean--never mind what I mean."
"But, as I have explained to you, the gasolene--"
"Nonsense! Do you suppose I believe that ridiculous story?"
"Believe it?" I gazed at her uncomprehendingly. "Believe it," I
repeated. "Don't you believe it?"
"Miss Colton, do you mean that you think I am not telling you the
truth? That I am lying?"
"Well," fiercely, "and if I did, would it be so astonishing,
considering--considering the TRUTHS you have told me before?"
I made no further effort to pass her. Instead I stepped back.
"Would you mind telling me," I demanded, with deliberate sarcasm,
"what possible reason you think I might have for wishing to keep
"I shall tell you nothing. And--and I will not have you anchor
"Is it your desire then that we drift--the Lord knows where?"
"I desire you to start that engine and take me home."
"I cannot start the engine."
"I don't believe it."
For a moment I hesitated. Then I did what was perhaps the most
senseless thing I ever did in all my life, which is saying
considerable. I turned my back on her and on the anchor, and
seated myself once more in the stern sheets. And we drifted.
I do not know how long we drifted before I regained my sanity. It
must have been a good while. When I first returned to my seat by
the wheel it was with the firm determination to allow the Comfort
to drift into the bottomless pit rather than to stir hand or foot
to prevent it. In fact that particular port looked rather inviting
than otherwise. Any torments it might have in store could not be
worse than those I had undergone because of this girl. I sat,
silent, with my gaze fixed upon the motionless engine. I heard my
passenger move once or twice, but I did not look at her.
What brought me to my senses was the boat hook, which had been
lying on the seat beside me, suddenly falling to the floor. I
started and looked over the rail. The water, as much of it as I
could see through the fog, was no longer flat and calm. There were
waves all about us, not big ones, but waves nevertheless, long,
regular swells in the trough of which the Comfort rocked lazily.
There was no wind to kick up a sea. This was a ground swell, such
as never moved in Denboro Bay. While I sat there like an idiot the
tide had carried us out beyond the Point.
With an exclamation I sprang up and hurried forward. Miss Colton
was sitting where I had left her.
"What is it?" she asked. "What are you going to do?"
"I am going to anchor," I said.
"I do not wish you to anchor."
"I can't help that. I must. Please stand aside, Miss Colton."
She tried to prevent me, but I pushed her away, not too gently I am
afraid, and clambered forward to the bow, where the anchor lay upon
its coil of line. I threw it overboard. The line ran out to its
very end and I waited expectantly for the jerk which would tell me
that the anchor had caught and was holding. But no jerk came.
Reaching over the bow I tried the line. It was taut and heavy.
Then I knew approximately how far we had drifted. We were beyond
the shoal making out from Crow Point over the deep water beyond.
My anchor rope was not long enough to reach the bottom.
Still I was not alarmed. I was provoked at my own stubbornness
which had gotten us into this predicament and more angry than ever
at the person who was the cause of that stubbornness. But I was
not frightened. There were other shoals further out and I left the
anchor as it was, hoping that it might catch and hold on one of
them. I went back once more to my seat by the wheel.
Then followed another interval of silence and inaction. From
astern and a good way off sounded the notes of a bell. From the
opposite direction came a low groan, indescribably mournful and
My passenger heard it and spoke.
"What was that?" she demanded, in a startled tone.
"The fog horn at Mackerel Island, the island at the mouth of
Wellmouth harbor," I answered.
"And that bell?"
"That is the fog bell at Crow Point."
"At Crow Point? Why, it can't be! Crow Point is in Denboro Bay,
and that bell is a long way behind us."
"Yes. We are a mile or more outside the Point now. The tide has
carried us out."
"Carried us-- Do you mean that we are out at sea?"
"Not at sea exactly. We are in Cape Cod Bay."
"But--why, we are still drifting, aren't we? I thought you had
"I tried to, but I was too late. The water is too deep here for
the anchor to reach bottom."
"But--but what are you going to do?"
"Nothing at present. There is nothing I can do. Sit down,
"Nothing! Nothing! Do you mean that you propose to sit there and
let us be carried out to sea?"
"We shall not be carried far. There is no wind. When the tide
turns we shall probably be carried in again."
"But," sharply, "why don't you do something? Can't you row?"
"I have only one oar."
"But you must do something. You MUST. I--I-- It is late! it is
growing dark! My people! What will they think?"
"I am sorry, Miss Colton."
"Sorry! You are not sorry! If you were you would do something,
instead of sitting there as--as if you enjoyed it. I believe you
do enjoy it. You are doing it purposely to--to--"
"To what, pray?"
"But I do mind. You have accused me of lying, Miss Colton, and of
keeping you here purposely. What do you mean by it?"
"I mean that--that-- Oh, you know what I mean! You hate me and
you hate my father, and you are trying to--to punish us for--for--"
I had heard enough. I did not propose to hear any more.
"Miss Colton," I interrupted, sternly, "stop! this is silly. I
assure you that I am as anxious to end this--excursion--of ours as
you can be. Your being afloat in Denboro Bay in a canoe was your
own recklessness and not my fault. Neither was it my fault that
the launch collided with your canoe. I called to you not to move,
but to stay where you were. And, moreover, if you had permitted me
to anchor when I first attempted to do so we should not be in this
scrape. I shall get you out of it just as quick as I can. In
order that I may do so I shall expect you to stop behaving like a
child and do as I tell you. Sit down on that bench and keep
This had the effect I meant it to. She looked at me as if she
could not believe she had heard aright. But I met her gaze
squarely, and, with a shudder of disgust, or fear, I do not know
which, she turned her back upon me and was silent. I went forward
to the cuddy, found the tin horn which, until that moment, I had
forgotten, and, returning, blew strident blasts upon it at
intervals. There was little danger of other craft being in our
vicinity, but I was neglecting no precautions.
The bell at Crow Point sounded further and further astern. The
twilight changed to dusk and the dusk to darkness. The fog was as
thick as ever. It was nearly time for the tide to turn.
Suddenly there was a jerk; the launch quivered, and swung about.
"Oh! what was that?" demanded Miss Colton, shortly.
"The anchor," I answered. "We have reached the outer shoal."
"And," hesitatingly, "shall we stay here?"
"Unless . . . Hush! listen!"
There was an odd rushing sound from the darkness astern, a sort of
hiss and low, watery roar. I rushed to the bow and dragged the
anchor inboard with all my strength. Then I ran to the wheel. I
had scarcely reached it when I felt a hand on my arm.
"What is it?" asked the young lady, her voice quivering. "Oh, what
"Wind," I answered. "There is a squall coming. Sit down! Sit
She hesitated and I seized her arm and forced her down upon the
bench beside me. I threw the helm over. The rushing sound grew
nearer. Then came a blast of wind which sent my cap flying
overboard and the fog disappeared as if it had been a cloth
snatched away by a mighty hand. Above us was a black sky, with
stars showing here and there between flying clouds, and about us
were the waves, already breaking into foam upon the shoal.
The Comfort rocked and wallowed in the trough. We were being
driven by the wind away from the shoal, but not fast enough.
Somehow or other we must get out of that dangerous neighborhood. I
turned to my companion. She had not spoken since the squall came.
"Miss Colton," I said, "give me your hands."
I presume she could not imagine what I meant. No doubt, too, my
tone and the request frightened her. She hesitated. I seized her
hands and placed them on the spokes of the wheel.
"I want you to hold that wheel just as it is," I commanded. "I
must go forward and get steerage way on this craft somehow, or we
shall capsize. Can you hold it, do you think?"
"Yes; I--I think so."
I left her, went to the cuddy and dragged out the small canvas
tarpaulin which I used to cover the engine at night. With this, a
cod line, the boathook, and my one oar I improvised a sort of jury
rig which I tied erect at the forward end of the cockpit. Then I
went aft and took the wheel again. The tarpaulin made a poor
apology for a sail, but I hoped it might answer the purpose well
enough to keep the Comfort before the wind.
It did. Tacking was, of course, out of the question, but with the
gale astern the launch answered her helm and slid over the waves
instead of rolling between them. I sighed in relief. Then I
remembered my passenger sitting silent beside me. She did not
deserve consideration, but I vouchsafed a word of encouragement.
"Don't be frightened," I said. "It is only a stiff breeze and this
boat is seaworthy. We are all right now."
"But why did you take up the anchor?"
By way of answer I pointed aft over the stern. In the darkness the
froth of the shoal gleamed white. I felt her shudder as she
"Where are we going now--please?" she asked, a moment later.
"We are headed for the Wellmouth shore. It is the only direction
we can take. If this wind holds we shall land in a few hours. It
is all deep water now. There are no more shoals."
"But," anxiously, "can we land when we reach there? Isn't it a bad
"Not very. If we can make Mackerel Island we may be able to get
ashore at the light or anchor in the lee of the land. It is all
right, Miss Colton. I am telling you the truth. Strange as it may
seem to you, I really am."
I could not help adding the last bit of sarcasm. She understood.
She drew away on the bench and asked no more questions.
On drove the Comfort. The first fierceness of the squall had
passed and it was now merely what I had called it, a stiff breeze.
Out here in the middle of the bay the waves were higher and we
shipped some spray over the quarter. The air was sharp and the
chill penetrated even my thick jacket.
"You must be cold," I said. "Aren't you?"
"But you must be. Take the wheel a moment."
"I am not cold."
"Take the wheel."
She took it. I groped about in the cuddy again, got out my storm
coat, an old pea jacket which I wore on gunning expeditions, and
brought it to her.
"Slip this on," I said.
"I do not care for it."
"Put it on."
"Mr. Paine," haughtily, "I tell you . . . . oh!"
I had wrapped the coat about her shoulders and fastened the upper
"Now sit down on the deck here," I ordered. "Here, by my feet.
You will be below the rail there and out of the wind."
To my surprise she obeyed orders, this time without even a protest.
I smiled grimly. To see her obey suited my humor. It served her
right. I enjoyed ordering her about as if I were mate of an old-
time clipper and she a foremast hand. She had insulted me once too
often and she should pay for it. Out here social position and
wealth and family pride counted for nothing. Here I was absolute
master of the situation and she knew it. All her life she would
remember it, the humiliation of being absolutely dependent upon me
for life and safety and warmth. I looked down at her crouching at
my feet, and then away over the black water. The Comfort climbed
wave after wave.
The tone was very low but I heard it.
I came out of my waking dream--it was not a pleasant one--and
"Yes?" I said.
"Where are we?"
"We are making fair progress, everything considered. Are you
She said no more, nor did I. Except for the splash of the spray
and the flapping of the loose ends of the tarpaulin, it was quiet
aboard the Comfort. Quiet, except for an odd sound in the shadow
by my knee. I stooped and listened.
"Miss Colton," I said, quickly. "What is it?"
No answer. Yet I heard the sound again.
"What is it, Miss Colton?" I repeated. "What is the matter? Why
are you crying?"
"I--I am NOT crying," indignantly. And on the very heels of the
denial came a stifled sob.
That sob went to my heart. A great lump rose in my own throat. My
brain seemed to be turning topsy-turvy. A moment before it had
been filled with bitterness and resentment and vengeful thoughts.
Now these had vanished and in their place came crowding other and
vastly different feelings. She was crying, sobbing there alone in
the dark at my feet. And I had treated her like a brute!
"Miss Colton," I pleaded, in an agony of repentance, "what is it?
Is there anything I can do? Are you still cold? Take this other
coat, the one I have on. I don't need it, really. I am quite
"I am not cold."
"Oh, please don't speak to me! PLEASE!"
I closed my lips tightly and clutched the wheel with both hands.
Oh, I had been a brute, a brute! I should have known that she was
not herself, that she was frightened and nervous and distraught. I
should have been considerate and forbearing. I should have
remembered that she was only a girl, hysterical and weak. Instead
"Miss Colton," I begged, "please don't. Please!"
No answer; only another sob. I tried again.
"I have been a cad," I cried. "I have treated you abominably. I
don't expect you to forgive me, but--"
"I--I am so frightened!" The confession was a soliloquy, I think;
not addressed to me at all. But I heard it and forgot everything
else. I let go of the wheel altogether and bent over her, both
hands outstretched, to--the Lord knows what. I was not responsible
But while I still hesitated, while my hands were still in the air
above her, before they touched her, I was brought back to sanity
with a rude shock. A barrel or so of cold water came pouring over
the rail and drenched us both. The launch, being left without a
helmsman, had swung into the trough of the sea and this was the
I am not really sure what happened in the next few seconds. I
must, I imagine, have seized the wheel with one hand and my
passenger with the other. At any rate, when the smoke, so to
speak, had cleared, the Comfort was headed on her old course once
more, I was back on the bench by the wheel, Mabel Colton's head was
on my shoulder, and I was telling her over and over that it was all
right now, there was no danger, we were perfectly safe, and various
inanities of that sort.
She was breathing quickly, but she sobbed no more. I was glad of
"You are sure you are not hurt?" I asked, anxiously.
"Yes--yes, I think so," she answered, faintly. "What was it? I--I
thought we were sinking."
"So did I for a moment. It was all my fault, as usual. I let go
"Did you? Why?"
"I don't know why." This was untrue; I did. "But you are wet
through," I added, remorsefully. "And I haven't another dry wrap
"Never mind. You are as wet as I am."
"Yes, but _I_ don't mind. I am used to it. But you--"
"I am all right. I was a little faint, at first, I think, but I am
better now." She raised her head and sat up. "Where are we?" she
"We are within a few miles of the Wellmouth shore. That light
ahead is the Mackerel Island light. We shall be there in a little
while. The danger is almost over."
"You are cold!" I cried. "Of course you are! If I only had
another coat or something. It is all my fault."
"Don't say that," reproachfully. "Where should I have been if it
had not been for you? I was paddling directly out toward those
dreadful shoals. Then you came, just as you have done before, and
saved me. And," in a wondering whisper, "I knew it was you!"
I did not ask her what she meant; I seemed to understand perfectly.
"Yes," I said.
"But I tell you I knew it was you," she repeated. "I did not know--
I did not suspect until the moment before the collision, before
the launch came in sight--then, all at once, I knew."
"Yes. That was when I knew."
She turned and gazed at me.
"YOU knew?" she gasped, hysterically. "Why--what do you mean?"
"I can't explain it. Just before your canoe broke through the fog
I knew, that is all."
It was unexplainable, but it was true. Call it telepathy or what
you will--I do not know what it was--I am certain only that,
although I had not recognized her voice, I had suddenly known who
it was that would come to me out of the fog. And she, too, had
known! I felt again, with an almost superstitious thrill, that
feeling of helplessness which had come over me that day of the
fishing excursion when she rode through the bushes to my side. It
was as if she and I were puppets in the hands of some Power which
was amusing itself at our expense and would have its way, no matter
how we might fight against it.
She spoke as if she were struggling to awaken from a dream.
"But it can't be," she protested. "It is impossible. Why should
you and I--"
"I don't know . . . Unless--"
I closed my lips on the words that were on the tip of my tongue.
That reason was more impossible than all else.
"Nothing," I stammered.
She did not repeat her question. I saw her face, a dainty
silhouette against the foam alongside, turned away from me. I
gazed at it until I dared gaze no longer. Was I losing my senses
altogether? I--Ros Paine--the man whose very name was not his own?
I must not think such thoughts. I scarcely dared trust myself to
speak and yet I knew that I must. This silence was too dangerous.
I took refuge in a commonplace.
"We are getting into smoother water," I said. "It is not as rough
as it was, do you think?"
If she heard the remark she ignored it. She did not turn to look
at me. After a moment she said, in a low voice:
"I can't understand."
I supposed her to be still thinking of our meeting in the fog.
"I cannot understand myself," I answered. "I presume it was a
coincidence, like our meeting at the pond."
She shook her head. "I did not mean that," she said. "I mean that
I cannot understand how you can be so kind to me. After what I
said, and the way I have treated you; it is wonderful!"
I was obliged to wait another moment before I could reply. I
clutched the wheel tighter than ever.
"The wonderful part of it all," I said, earnestly, "is that you
should even speak to me, after my treatment of you here, to-night.
I was a brute. I ordered you about as if--"
"Hush! Don't! please don't. Think of what I said to you! Will
you forgive me? I have been so ungrateful. You saved my life over
and over again and I--I--"
"Stop! Don't do that! If you do I shall--Miss Colton, please--"
She choked back the sob. "Tell me," she said, a moment later, this
time looking me directly in the face, "why did you sell my father
It was my turn to avoid her look. I did not answer.
"I know it was not because of the money--the price, I mean. Father
told me that you refused the five thousand he offered and would
accept only a part of it; thirty-five hundred, I think he said. I
should have known that the price had nothing to do with it, even if
he had not told me. But why did you sell it?"
I would have given all I had, or ever expected to have, in this
world, to tell her the truth. For the moment I almost hated George
"Oh, I thought I might as well, give in then as later," I answered,
with a shrug. "It was no use fighting the inevitable."
"That was not it. I know it was not. If it had been you would
have taken the five thousand. And I know, too, that you meant what
you said when you told me you never would sell. I have known it
all the time. I know you were telling me the truth."
I was astonished. "You do?" I cried. "Why, you said--"
"Don't! I know what I said, and I am so ashamed. I did not mean
it, really. For a moment, there in the library, when Father first
told me, I thought perhaps you--but I did not really think it. And
when he told me the price, I KNEW. Won't you tell me why you
"I can't. I wish I could."
"I believe I can guess."
I started. "You can GUESS?" I repeated.
"Yes. I think you wanted the money for some purpose, some need
which you had not foreseen. And I do not believe it was for
yourself at all. I think it was for some one else. Wasn't that
I could not reply. I tried to, tried to utter a prompt denial, but
the words would not come. Her "guess" was so close to the truth
that I could only stammer and hesitate.
"It was," she said. "I thought so. For your mother, wasn't it?"
"No, no. Miss Colton, you are wrong. I--"
"I am not wrong. Never mind. I suppose it is a secret. Perhaps I
shall find out some day. But will you forgive me for being so
hateful? Can you? What is the matter?"
"Nothing--nothing. I--you are too good to me, that is all. I
don't deserve it."
"Hush! And we will be friends again?"
"Yes. . . . . Oh, no! no! I must not think of it. It is
"Must not think of it? When I ask you to? Can't you forgive me,
"There was nothing to forgive."
"Yes, there was, a great deal. Is there something else? Are you
still angry with me because of what I said that afternoon at the
"No, of course not."
"It was hateful of me, I know. But I could see that you wished to
avoid me and I was provoked. Besides, you have punished me for
that. You have snubbed me twice since, sir."
"_I_ snubbed YOU?"
"Yes--twice. Once when we met in the street. You deliberately
turned away and would not look at me. And once when I passed you
in the canoe. You saw me--I know you did--but you cut me dead.
That is why I did not return your bow to-day, at the wedding."
"But you had said--I thought--"
"I know. I had said horrid things. I deserved to be snubbed.
There! now I have confessed. Mayn't we be friends?"
"I . . . Oh, no, we must not, for your sake. I--"
"For my sake! But I wish it. Why not?"
I turned on her. "Can't you see?" I said, despairingly. "Look at
the difference between us! You are what you are and I--"
She interrupted me. "Oh," she cried, impatiently, "how dare you
speak so? How dare you believe that money and--all the rest of it
influences me in my friendships? Do you think I care for that?"
"I did not mean money alone. But even that Miss Colton, that
evening when we returned from the trip after weakfish, you and your
father and I, I heard--I did not mean to hear but I did--what your
mother said when she met you. She said she had warned you against
trusting yourself to 'that common fellow,' meaning me. That shows
what she thinks. She was right; in a way she was perfectly right.
Now you see what I mean by saying that friendship between us is
I had spoken at white heat. Now I turned away. It was settled.
She must understand now.
"Yes, Miss Colton."
"I am sorry you heard that. Mother--she is my mother and I love
her--but she says foolish things sometimes. I am sorry you heard
that, but since you did, I wish you had heard the rest."
"Yes. I answered her by suggesting that she had not been afraid to
trust me in the care of Victor--Mr. Carver. She answered that she
hoped I did not mean to compare Mr. Carver with you. And I said--"
"Yes? You said--?"
"I said," the tone was low but I heard every syllable, "I said she
was right, there was no comparison."
"You said THAT!"
"You said it! And you meant--?"
"I meant--I think I meant that I should not be afraid to trust you
Where were my good resolutions--my stern reasons to remember who
and what I was--to be sane, no matter at what cost to myself? I do
not know where they were; then I did not care. I seized her hand.
It trembled, but she did not draw it away.
"Mabel--" I cried. "Mabel--"
The Comfort shook as the bow of a dory scraped along her starboard
quarter. A big red hand clasped the rail and its mate brandished a
good-sized club before my eyes.
"Now," said a determined voice, "I've got ye at last! This time
I've caught ye dead to rights! Now, by godfreys, you'll pay me for
If I had been giving undivided attention to my combined duties as
steersman and pilot, instead of neglecting them for other and more
engrossing matters, I should, doubtless, have seen the dory before.
As it was I had not seen it at all, nor heard the oars. It had
sneaked up on the Comfort out of the darkness and its occupant had
laid us aboard as neatly as you please.
I was, to say the least, startled and surprised. I dodged the
threatening club and turned a dazed face toward the person
brandishing it. He appeared to be a middle-sized, elderly person,
in oilskins and souwester, and when he spoke a gray whisker wagged
above the chin strap of the souwester.
"Who in blazes are you?" I demanded, as soon as I could get the
"Never you mind that. You know who I be all right enough. Be you
goin' to pay me for them lobsters? That's what _I_ want to know."
"Them lobsters you've been stealin' out of my pots for the last
"_I_ have been stealing?"
"Yes, you. I been layin' for you all night long. I don't know who
you be, but you'll pay for them lobsters or come along with me to
the lock-up, one or t'other."
I looked about, over the water. The light toward which I had been
trying to steer blazed dead ahead, surprisingly near and bright.
Except for that, however, there was no sign of anything except
darkness and waves.
"Look here, my man," I said. "I haven't stolen your lobsters; but--"
"I know better. I don't know who you be, but I'd know you was a
thief if I run acrost you in prayer-meetin'. Just to look at you
I heard a hysterical giggle from the bench beside me. Evidently
the person with the club heard it, too, for he leaned forward to
"So there's two of ye, eh!" he said. "Well, by godfreys, I don't
care if there's a million! You'll pay for them lobsters or go to
I laughed aloud. "Very well," I said. "I am agreeable."
"You're agreeable! What do you mean by that? This ain't no
laughin' matter, I'll tell you that."
I laughed again. "I don't care what you tell me," I observed.
"And if you will take us somewhere ashore--to the lock-up or
anywhere else--I shall be much obliged."
The occupant of the dory seemed to be puzzled. He leaned forward
"What sort of talk is that?" he demanded. "Where's my lobsters? . . .
Hey! What? I swan to man, I believe one of ye's a woman!
Have the females turned thieves, too?"
"I don't know. See here, my friend, my name is Paine, and I'm the
only lobster aboard this craft. This lady and I belong in Denboro.
My launch has run out of gasolene and we have been drifting about
the bay since five o'clock. Now, for heaven's sake, don't talk any
more, but take us to the lock-up and be quick about it."
The unknown paid no attention to my entreaty. Instead he leaned
still further over the Comfort's rail. The dory careened until I
expected to see her capsize.
"I swan to man!" he muttered. "I swan to man! 'Tain't possible
"It scarcely seems possible, I admit. But I'm afraid it is true."
I heard the club fall with a clatter.
"My--godfreys! Do you mean to say--? From Denboro? Out of
gasolene! Why--why, you've got sail up!"
"Nothing but a tarpaulin on an oar."
"And you've been cruisin' all night? Through the fog--the squall--
"Yes," wearily, "yes--yes--yes."
"But--but ain't you drownded?"
"Not quite. If you don't let go of that rail we shall be soon."
"Driftin' all night! Ain't you wet through?"
"Yes. Might I suggest that we postpone the rest of the catechism
until we reach--the lock-up?"
This suggestion apparently was accepted. Our captor suddenly
became very much alive.
"Give me a line," he ordered. "Anchor rope'll do. Where is it?
He pawed the dory along, hand over hand, until he reached the
Comfort's bow. I heard the thump of the anchor as he dragged it
into the dory. Then came the creak and splash of oars. His voice
sounded from somewhere ahead.
"Head for the light," he shouted. "I'm goin' to tow you in."
"In ashore. That's Mack'rel Island light. My name's Atwood. I'm
keeper of it."
I turned to my passenger.
"It looks," I said, "as if our voyage was almost over."
And it was. Mr. Atwood had a tough job on his hands, towing the
launch. But the make-shift sail helped some and I did my best to
steer in his wake. Miss Colton and I had no opportunity to talk.
The gentleman in the dory kept up a running fire of remarks,
shouted between grunts, and embroidered with cheerful profanity.
We caught fragments of the monologue.
"I swan to man--ugh--I thought ye was thieves, for sartin. Some
everlastin', dam--ugh--have been sneakin' out nights and haulin' my
lobster pots. Ugh--if I'd caught 'em I was cal'latin' to--ugh--
break their--ugh--ugh-- This dory pulls like a coal barge--I--
Wet through, ain't ye? And froze, I cal'late-- Ugh--and hungry,
too-- Ugh--ugh-- My old woman's tendin' light. She--ugh-- Here
we be! Easy now!"
A low shore loomed black across our bows. Above it the lighthouse
rose, a white chalk mark against the sky with a red glare at its
upper end. Mr. Atwood sprang overboard with a splash. The launch
was drawn in at the end of its anchor rope until its keel grated on
"Now then!" said our rescuer. "Here we be! Made harbor at last,
though I did think I'd crack my back timbers afore we done it.
I'll tote the lady ashore. You can wade, can't ye?"
I could and I was very glad of the opportunity. I turned to take
Miss Colton in my arms, but she avoided me.
"Here I am, Mr. Atwood," she said. "Oh, thank you."
She was swung into the air and moved shoreward to the accompaniment
of mighty splashings.
"Don't be scart, ma'am," said Mr. Atwood. "I shan't let ye drop.
Lord sakes! I've toted more women in my time than you can shake a
stick at. There's more da--that is, there's more summer folks try
to land on this island at low tide than there is moskeeters and
there's more of them than there's fiddles in-- Hi! come on, you,
Mr. What's-your-name! Straight as you go."
I came on wading through eelgrass and water until I reached a sandy
beach. A moment later we stood before a white door in a very white
little house. Mr. Atwood opened the door, revealing a cosy little
sitting room and a gray-haired, plump, pleasant-faced woman sitting
in a rocking chair beside a table with a lamp upon it.
"Hello, Betsy!" bellowed our rescuer, stamping his wet rubber boots
on the braided mat. "Got company come to supper--or breakfast, or
whatever you want to call it. This is Mr. Paine from Denboro.
This is his wife, Mrs. Paine. They've been cruisin' all the way
from Cape Cod to Kamchatky in a motor boat with no power to it.
Don't that beat the Old Scratch, hey?"
The plump woman rose, without a trace of surprise, as if having
company drop in at three o'clock in the morning was nothing out of
the ordinary, and came over to us, beaming with smiles.
"I'm real glad to see you, Mrs. Paine," she exclaimed. "And your
husband, too. You must be froze to death! Set right down while I
fix up a room for you and hunt up some dry things for you to put
on. I won't be but a minute."
Before I could offer explanations, or do more than stammer thanks,
and rather incoherent ones at that, she had bustled out of the
room. I caught one glimpse of Mabel Colton's face; it was crimson
from neck to brow. "Mrs. Paine!" "Your husband!" I was grateful
to the doughty Mr. Atwood, but just then I should have enjoyed
The light keeper, quite unaware that his unfortunate misapprehension
of the relationship between his guests might be embarrassing, was
doing his best to make us feel at home.
"Take off your boots, Mr. Paine," he urged. "The old lady'll fetch
you a pair of my slippers and some socks in a minute. She'll make
your wife comf'table, too. She's a great hand at makin' folks
comf'table. I tell her she'd make a cake of ice feel to home on a
hot stove. She beats--"
The "old lady" herself interrupted him, entering with a bottle in
one hand and a lamp in the other.
"Joshua!" she said, warningly.
"Well, what is it, Betsy?"
"Be careful how you talk."
"Talk!" with a wink at me. "I wan't goin' to say nothin'."
"Yes, you was. Mrs. Paine, you mustn't mind him. He used to go
mate on a fishin' schooner and, from all I can learn, they use
pretty strong language aboard these boats."
"Pick it up same as a poll parrot," cut in her husband. "Comes
natural when you're handlin' wet trawl line in February. Can't
seem to get no comfort out of anything milder."
"He's a real good-hearted man, Joshua is, and a profession' church
member, but he does swear more'n he ought to. But, as I tell the
minister, he don't mean nothin' by it."
"Not a damn thing!" said Mr. Atwood, reassuringly. The bottle, it
appeared, contained Jamaica ginger, a liberal dose of which Mrs.
Atwood insisted upon our taking as a precaution against catching
"There's nothin' better," she said.
"You bet there ain't!" this from the lightkeeper. "A body can't
get within forty fathoms of a cold with a swallow of that amidships.
It's hotter than--"
"The Fourth of July," concluded her husband, triumphantly.
"And now, Mrs. Paine," went on the lady of the house, "your room's
all ready. I've laid out some dry things for you on the bed and
some of Joshua's, too. You and your husband--"
I thought it high time to explain.
"The lady is not my wife," I said, quickly.
"She ain't! Why, I thought Joshua said--"
"He--er--made a mistake. She is Miss Colton, a summer resident and
neighbor of mine in Denboro."
"Sho! you don't say! That's just like you, Joshua!"
"Just like me! Well, how'd I know? I beg your pardon, Miss, I'm
sure. Shan't beg your hus--I mean Mr. Paine's pardon; he ought to
thank me for the compliment. Haw! haw!"
Miss Colton herself made the next remark.
"If my room is ready, Mrs. Atwood," she said,, without even a
glance in my direction, "I think I will go to it. I AM rather
"Wet! Land sakes, yes! I guess you be! Come right in, Joshua,
take them clothes of yours into our room and let Mr. Paine put 'em
Her husband obeyed orders. After I was alone in the room to which
he conducted me and enjoying the luxury of dry socks, I heard him
justifying his mistake in stentorian tones.
"I couldn't help it, Betsy," I heard him say. "I took it for
granted they was married. When I hove alongside that motor boat
they was a-settin' close up together in the stern sheets and so, of
course, I thought--"
"You hadn't any business to. You made that poor young lady blush
somethin' dreadful. Most likely they're just keepin' company--or
engaged, or somethin'. You ought to be more careful."
I wondered if the young lady herself heard all this. I didn't see
how she could help it.
Kinder-hearted people than these two never lived, I do believe. It
was after three in the morning, both had been up all night, we were
absolute strangers to them, and yet, without a word of complaint,
they gave the remainder of the hours before daylight to making us
comfortable. When I dressed as much of myself as a suit of Mr.
Atwood's--his Sunday best, I presume--would cover, and, with a pair
of carpet slippers about the size and shape of toy ferry boats on
my feet, emerged from the bedroom, I found the table set in the
kitchen, the teapot steaming and Mrs. Atwood cooking "spider bread"
on the stove. When Miss Colton, looking surprisingly presentable--
considering that she, too, was wearing borrowed apparel four sizes
too large for her--made her appearance, we sat down to a simple
meal which, I think, was the most appetizing I ever tasted.
The Atwoods were bursting with curiosity concerning our getting
adrift in the motor boat. I described the adventure briefly. When
I told of Lute's forgetfulness in the matter of gasolene the
lightkeeper thumped the table.
"There, by godfreys!" he exclaimed. "I could see it comin'! That
feller's for all the world like a cook I had once aboard the Ezry
H. Jones. That cook was the biggest numskull that ever drawed the
breath of life. Always forgettin' somethin', he was, and always at
the most inconvenient time. Once, if you'll believe it, I had a
skipper of another vessel come aboard and, wishin' to be sort of
hospitable, as you might say, I offered him a glass of rum."
"Oh, it's all right, Betsy. This was years ago. I'm as good a
teetotaler now as you be, and I never was what you'd call a soak.
But I've SEEN fellers-- Why, I knew one once that used to go to
bed in the dark. He was so full of alcohol he didn't dast to light
a match fear he'd catch a-fire. Fact! He was eighty-odd then, and
he lived to be nigh a hundred. Preserved, you understand, same as
one of them specimens in a museum. He'd kept forever, I cal'late,
if he hadn't fell off the dock. The water fixed him; he wasn't
used to it. He was the wust--"
"Never mind him. Stick to the cook."
"Yes, yes. Well, I sent that cook for the rum and when he fetched
it, I thought it smelt funny. And when I TASTED it--godfreys!
'Twas bay rum; yes, sir, bay rum! same as they put on your hair.
You see, he'd forgot to buy any rum when we was in our last port
and, havin' the bay rum along he fetched that. 'Twas SOME kind of
rum and that was enough for him. I WAS mad, but that visitin'
skipper, he didn't care. Drank it down and smacked his lips. 'I'm
a State of Maine man,' he says, 'and that's a prohibition state.
This tastes like home,' he says. 'If you don't mind I'll help
myself to another.' 'I don't mind,' says I, 'but I'm sorry I ain't
got any hair-ile. If I had you might have a barber-shop toddy.'
Yes, sir! Ho-ho! that's what I said. But he didn't mind. He was--"
And so on. The yarns were not elegant, but, as he told them, they
were funny. Mabel Colton laughed as heartily as the rest of us.
She appeared to be in fine spirits. She talked with the Atwoods,
answered their questions, and ate the hot "spider bread" and butter
as if she had never tasted anything as good. But with me she would
not talk. Whenever I addressed a remark to her, she turned it with
a laugh and her next speech was pretty certain to be addressed to
the lightkeeper or his wife. As for our adventure in the launch,
that she treated as a joke.
"Wan't you awful scared when that squall struck so sudden?"
inquired Mrs. Atwood.
"Humph!" this from Joshua; "I cal'late Mr. Paine was some scart
too. What did you do, Mr. Paine?"
"I rigged that canvas on the oar as soon as possible," I answered.
"Um-hm. That was good judgment."
"Tell me, Mr. Atwood," asked the young lady innocently, "are all
seafaring men very dictatorial under such circumstances?"
"I mean do they order people about and make them do all sorts of
things, whether they wish to or not?"
"Sartin. Godfreys! I never asked nobody what they wished aboard
the Ezry H. Jones."
"And do they tell them to 'sit down and keep still'?"
"Gen'rally they tell 'em to get up and keep movin'. If they don't
they start 'em pretty lively--with a rope's end."
"I see. Even when they are--ladies?"
"Ladies? Godfreys! we never had but one woman aboard the Ezry.
Had the skipper's wife one v'yage, but nobody ever ordered her
around any to speak of. She was six feet tall and weighed two
hundred. All hands was scart to death of her."
"Suppose she had been ordered to 'sit down and keep still'; what do
you think would have happened?"
"Don't know. If 'twas one of the hands I guess likely she'd have
hove him overboard. If 'twas the skipper I shouldn't wonder if
she'd have knocked him down--after she got over the surprise of his
darin' to do such, a thing. She had HIM trained, I tell ye!"
"Miss Colton thinks me rather a bully, I am afraid," I said. "I
did order her about rather roughly."
Mr. Atwood burst into a laugh. "That Ezry Jones woman was the
skipper's wife," he declared. "Makes a lot of diff'rence, that
does. I was considerable of a bully myself afore Betsy got me on
the parson's books. Now I'm the most peaceable critter ever you
see. Your turn's comin', Miss Colton. All you got to do is be
"Joshua!" said Mrs. Atwood, in mild reproof. "You mustn't mind his
talk, Miss Colton. He's a terrible joker."
Miss Colton changed the subject. She did not so much as look at me
again during the meal and, after it was over, she went to her room,
explaining that she was very tired and would try to get a little
I had discovered that the lighthouse, being close to the mainland,
was equipped with a telephone. Now I begged permission to use it.
I called up Denboro and asked to be connected with the Colton home.
I felt very sure that there would be no sleep in the big house that
night and I wished to relieve their anxiety and to send word to
Mother. Mr. Colton himself answered my call.
I announced my identity and explained where I was and that his
daughter was in my care and perfectly safe.
"Thank God!" was the fervent exclamation at the other end of the
wire, and the voice which uttered it was shaking with emotion.
"Stay where you are a moment, Paine. Let me tell my wife. She is
almost crazy. Hold the wire."
I held the wire and waited. The next voice which reached my ears
was Mrs. Colton's. She asked a dozen questions, one after the
other. Was Mabel safe? Was I sure she was safe? Wasn't the poor
child almost dead after all she'd been through? What had happened?
What was she doing away over there in that dreadful place? Why had
I taken her there?
I answered as well as I could, telling briefly of the collision in
the fog and what followed. The explanation appeared to be rather
"You take the wire, James," I heard the lady say. "I can't make it
all out. Mabel is at some horrid lighthouse and there is no
kerosene, or something. The poor child! Alone there, with that
man! Tell him she must be brought home at once. It is dreadful
for her! Think what she must have suffered! And with HIM! What
will people say? Tell him to bring her home! The idea! I don't
believe a word--"
"Hello--hello, Paine!" Colton was at the 'phone once more. "Can
you get Mabel--Miss Colton, over to Wellmouth, do you think?"
"Yes. I will get a boat as soon as I can. Miss Colton is in her
room, asleep I hope. She is very tired and I think she should rest
until daylight. I will get her to Wellmouth in time for the
"Never mind the train. I'll come after her in the auto. I will
start now. I will meet you at the landing--at the wharf, if there
"Very well. Will you be good enough to send word to my mother that
I am safe and sound? She will be worried."
"Yes, yes, I'll send word. Tell Mabel to be careful and not take
cold. . . . Yes, Henrietta, I am attending to everything. Good-
That was all, not a word of thanks. I did not expect thanks and I
made allowances for the state of mind at the mansion; but that
telephone conversation, particularly Mrs. Colton's share in it,
cast a gloom over my spirits. I did not care to hear more of Mr.
Atwood's yarns and jokes. I went to my own room, but I did not
At half-past five I was astir again. The lightkeeper, it appeared,
had an auxiliary engine in a catboat which he owned and could let
me have a sufficient supply of gasolene to fill the Comfort's tank.
When this was done--and it took a long time, for Joshua insisted
upon helping and he was provokingly slow--I returned to the sitting
room and asked Mrs. Atwood to call Miss Colton.
"Land sakes!" was the cheery answer, "I didn't have to call her.
She's been up for fifteen minutes. Said she was goin' to take a
cruise around the lighthouse. I cal'late you'll find her out there
somewheres. Go and fetch her here. You two must have a bite--a
cup of hot coffee and a biled egg, anyhow--afore you leave. Yes,
you must. I shan't listen to a no from either of you."
I went out and crossed the sandy yard to the whitewashed lighthouse.
There was no sign of Miss Colton in the yard, but the door of the
lighthouse was open and I entered. No one there. The stairs,
winding upward, invited me to climb and I did so. The little room
with the big lantern, the latter now covered with a white cloth, was
untenanted also. I looked out of the window. There she was, on the
iron gallery surrounding the top of the tower, leaning on the rail
and gazing out over the water. She had not heard me. For a moment
I stood there, watching her.
She was not wearing Mrs. Atwood's gown now, but her own, wrinkled
and stained from its last night's drenching in salt water, but dry
now. She was bareheaded and her brown hair was tossing in the sea
breeze. The sun, but a little way above the horizon and shining
through the morning haze, edged her delicate profile with a line of
red gold. I had never seen her look more beautiful, or more
aristocratic and unapproachable. The memory of our night in the
launch seemed more like an unbelievable dream than ever, and the
awakening more cruel. For I was awake now. What I had heard over
the 'phone had awakened me thoroughly. There should be no more
I stepped out upon the gallery.
"Good morning," I said.
She turned quickly, and I heard her catch her breath with a little
"I beg pardon," said I; "I'm afraid I startled you."
She was startled, that was evident, and, it seemed to me, a trifle
embarrassed. But the embarrassment was but momentary.
"Good morning," she said. "How very silent you can be when you
choose, Mr. Paine. How long have you been standing there, pray?"
"Only a moment. I came to call you to breakfast."
"Yes, Mrs. Atwood insists upon our breakfasting before I take you
"Oh! Why didn't you call me? I would have come down."
"I did not see you until I reached the lantern room. My silence
was not premeditated. I made noise enough, or so it seemed to me;
but you were so wrapped in your thoughts--"
"Nonsense!" She interrupted me almost sharply. "I was not
'wrapped' in anything, except the beauty of this view. It IS
beautiful, isn't it?"
"Very," I answered, but fear I was not looking at the view. It may
be that she noticed this, for she said:
"You have come into your own again, I see. So have I."
She indicated her gown with a smile and a gesture. I laughed.
"Yes," I said. "I have returned unto Joshua that which was his."