"It would have somethin' to do with it if a cow jumped over the moon, wouldn't it?"
"Eh? But—— Oh, creepin' prophets, Cap'n Sears, what's the use of you and me wastin' our breath over such foolishness? You're just bein' funny, that's all." His expression changed, and he smiled broadly. "Why, by Henry," he declared, "I ain't heard you talk that way afore since you shipped aboard this General Minot craft along of me. That's the way you used to poke fun at me aboard the old Wild Ranger when we was makin' port after a good v'yage. What's happened to spruce you up so? Doctor ain't told you any special good news about them legs of yours, has he, Cap'n? Limpin' Moses, I wisht that was it."
Sears shook his head. "No, Judah," he replied. "No such luck as that. It's just my natural foolishness, I guess. And I'm goin' to the theater to-night, too, all by myself. Think of it. Do you wonder I feel like a boy in his first pair of long trousers?"
Mr. Cahoon's whisker-framed face expressed doubt and foreboding. "I ain't sure yit that I'm doin' right in lettin' you pilot yourself down to that town hall," he declared. "It ain't that I'm scart of the horse runnin' away, or nothin' like that, you understand, but——"
His lodger burst into a roar of laughter.
"Runnin' away!" he repeated. "Judah, foam flakes drift away pretty often and sometimes they blow away, but I never saw one run away yet. And if this Foam Flake of yours ever started to run I should die of surprise before anything else could happen to me. Don't worry about me. You'll be here to help me aboard the buggy, when I'm ready to leave port, and there'll be plenty of folks at the hall to help me out of it when I get there. So I'll be all right and to spare."
"Um—well, maybe so. But it seems to me like takin' risks just the same. Now, Cap'n Sears, why don't you let me drive you down, same as I always do drive you? What makes you so sot on goin' alone?"
The captain did not answer for a moment. Then he said, "Judah, for a good many long weeks—yes, and months—I've been havin' somebody drive me or steer me or order me. To-night, by the Lord A'mighty, I'm goin' to drive and give my own orders."
"But the doctor——"
"The doctor doesn't know. And if you tell him I'll—well, you'll need him, that's all. Every dog has its day, Judah, and this is my night."
"But it's goin' to rain and——"
"It isn't.... And, if it does, haven't you and I seen enough water not to be afraid of it?"
"Salt water—yes; but——"
"There aren't any buts. That'll do, Judah. Go for'ard." So Mr. Cahoon, obeying orders, went for'ard; that is, he went into the kitchen, and Sears Kendrick was left upon the seat beneath the locust tree to smoke and cast rebellious glances at the deepening gloom of the sky. He had not been entirely truthful in his replies to his landlord's questions. Although he scarcely dared admit it, even to himself, his damaged legs were better than they had been. Doctor Sheldon told him that they were and seemed more hopeful after each examination. And he knew that the doctor's hope was not mere pretending, something assumed but not felt. Yes, he knew it. And, for the first time since the accident which wrecked the Old Colony train and his own life, he began to think that, perhaps—some day, perhaps—he might again be a man, a whole, able-bodied man among men. When he submitted this thought to the cold light of reason, it was transparent and faint enough, but it was there, and it was one cause of his high spirits.
And there was another, a cause which was even less worthy of reason—which was perfectly childish and absurd but not the less real on that account. It was connected with his stubborn determination to be his own pilot to the hall that evening. He had, when he first determined to risk the trip in that way, refused to permit Judah to accompany him because he knew, if he did, that the latter would be a sort of safety valve, a life preserver—to mix similes—the real driver who would be on hand to take charge if necessary. Under such circumstances his own responsibility ceased to be a responsibility and his self-reliance nil. No, sink or swim, survive or perish, he would make the voyage alone.
So, although there was plenty of room on the buggy seat, he stubbornly refused to permit Judah to sit there. Mr. Cahoon was going to the play, of course—the entire constabulary force of Ostable County could not have prevented his doing so—but he was to walk, not ride behind the Foam Flake. And Captain Sears Kendrick was supposed to be riding alone.
Yet he was not to ride alone, although only one person, and that not Judah Cahoon, knew of that fact. The day before, while he and Miss Berry were busy, as usual, with the finances and managerial duties of the Fair Harbor, she had happened to mention that there were some stage properties, bits of costumes, and the like, which must be gotten early to the hall on the evening of the performance and he had offered to have Judah deliver them for her. Now he told her of his intention of driving the Foam Flake unassisted and that he would deliver them himself.
"Or any other light dunnage you might want taken down there," he added. "Glad to, no trouble at all."
She looked at him rather oddly he thought.
"You are going all alone?" she asked.
"Um-hm. All alone. I'm goin' to have my own way this time in spite of the Old Harry—and the doctor—and Judah."
"And you are sure there will be plenty of room?"
"What? With only me in the buggy? Yes, indeed. Room enough for two sea chests and a pork barrel, as old Cap'n Bangs Paine used to say when I sailed with him. Room and to spare."
"Room enough for—me?"
"For you? Why, do you mean——"
"I mean that if there is room I should like to ride down with you very much. I want to get to the hall early and I have these things to carry. Mother and the rest of the Harbor people are going later, of course.... So, if you are sure that I and my bundles won't be nuisances——"
He was sure, emphatically and enthusiastically sure. But his surprise was great and he voiced it involuntarily.
"I supposed, of course," he said, "that your passage was booked long ago. I supposed George had attended to that."
Her answer was brief, but there was an air of finality about it which headed off further questions.
"I am not going with him," she said.
So this was his second cause for good spirits, the fact that Elizabeth Berry was to ride with him to the hall that evening. It was a very slight inconsequential reason surely, but somehow he found it sufficient. She was going with him merely because he and the Foam Flake and the buggy furnished the most convenient method of transportation for her and her packages, but she was going—and she was not going with George Kent. There was a certain wicked pleasure in the last thought. He was ashamed of it, but the pleasure was there in spite of the shame. Kent had so much that he had not, but here was one little grain of advantage to enter upon the Kendrick side of the ledger; Elizabeth Berry was not going to the town hall with Kent, but with him.
He made but one protest and that only because his conscience goaded him into making it.
"I don't know as I ought to let you, Miss Elizabeth," he said. "I'm takin' a chance, I suppose, that perhaps you shouldn't take. This is my first voyage under my own command since I ran on the rocks. I may strike another reef, you can't tell."
She looked at him and smiled.
"I am not afraid," she said.
So, in spite of the gathering clouds and the falling barometer, Captain Sears was cheerful as he smoked beneath the locust tree. After a time he rose and limped down to the gate. Doctor Sheldon's equipage was standing by the Knowles hitching post just beyond across the road. The doctor himself came out of the house and the captain hailed him.
"How is the judge?" he asked. Doctor Sheldon shook his head.
"No better," he replied. "He is weaker every day and last week he had an attack that was so severe I was afraid it was the end. He weathered it, though."
"Why, yes. I saw him on Sunday and he was as full of jokes and spunk as ever, seemed to me. His voice wasn't quite as strong, that's all. He is a great man, Judge Knowles. Bayport will miss him tremendously when he goes. So shall I, for that matter, and I haven't known him very long."
"We'll all miss him."
"There isn't a chance, I suppose? In the long run——"
The doctor's look caused him to stop the sentence in the middle.
"There isn't any question of long runs," said Sheldon, gravely. "The next one of these seizures will end it. He has been a great fighter and he never gives up; that is why he is here. But the fight is practically over. The next attack will be the last."
Sears was deeply concerned. "Dear, dear," he said. "I didn't realize it was quite so bad. And that attack may come—next month, or even next week, I presume likely?"
The captain's good spirits were dashed for the time. His regard and admiration for the old judge had grown steadily during their brief acquaintance. He pictured the rugged, determined face as he had seen it Sunday, and heard again the voice, weak but drily humorous or indomitably pugnacious. It did not seem as if a spirit like that could be so near surrender. Doctor Sheldon must be over apprehensive.
It was but seven o'clock when he drove the Foam Flake up to the side door of the Fair Harbor and his passenger stowed her various bundles about his feet in the bottom of the buggy and then climbed in herself. The drive to the town hall was made in good time, the Foam Flake considered, and—to the captain at any rate—it was a most pleasant excursion. There was the unaccustomed sensation of once more being free from orders or domination.
There was little conversation during the drive. Sears attempted it, but his passenger was not talkative. She seemed to be thinking of something else and her answers were brief and absent-minded. Nevertheless Sears Kendrick enjoyed their drive and was almost sorry when the Foam Flake halted, snorting, or sneezing, violently, by the hall platform. The building was as yet but dimly lighted and Asaph Tidditt, the janitor, was the only person about. Asaph, hearing the Foam Flake's sneeze, came to the door.
"Well, I swan!" he exclaimed. "Is that you, 'Liz'beth? You're good and early, ain't you? Evenin', George. Why, 'tain't George. Who is it? Well, well, well, Cap'n Sears, this is a surprise!"
He helped the captain from the buggy and, at Sears' request, led the Foam Flake around the corner to the hitching rail. When he returned Miss Berry had gone upstairs to the dressing-room to leave her packages. Asaph was still surprised.
"Mighty glad to see you out again, Cap'n," he declared. "I heard you was better, but I didn't hardly cal'late to see you takin' your girl to ride so soon. Hey? He, he, he!"
Sears-laughed long enough to seem polite. Asaph laughed longer.
"And 'tain't your girl you're takin' nuther, is it?" he said. "When I looked in that buggy just now I don't know when I've been more sot back. 'Evenin', George,' says I. And 'twan't George Kent at all, 'twas you. Ain't been to work and cut George out, have you, Cap'n Sears? He, he, he! That's another good one, ain't it!"
The captain smiled—more politeness—and inquired if he and Miss Berry were the first ones at the hall.
"Is any one else here?" he asked.
"Yus," said Mr. Tidditt.
"Me. He, he, he! Kind of caught you that time, didn't I, Cap'n? Wasn't expectin' that, was you? Except me, you and 'Liz'beth's the fust ones. Be plenty more in half an hour, though. 'Bout all hands in Bayport's comin' to this time, everybody but the Orthodox and the Methodists and the Come-Outers. They cal'late goin' to a play-actin' time is same as goin' to Tophet. I tell 'em I'd ruther go to the show, 'cause I'd have a little fun out of it, and from what I hear there ain't much fun in t'other place. He, he, he! But say, how'd it happen George Kent ever let 'Liz'beth Berry go anywheres without him? Where is George?"
Sears was rather glad when the arrival of Sam Ryder and Carleton, two other members of the cast of "Down by the Sea" attracted the attention of the garrulous Asaph and led the latter, in their company, upstairs. A moment or so later another figure approached from the blackness to the circle of light cast by the big ship's lantern over the hall door.
"Why, hello, George!" hailed Sears.
Young Kent looked up, recognized the speaker and said "Good evening." He did not seem surprised as Mr. Tidditt had been to find the captain there. The latter remarked upon it.
"Why, George," he observed, "I must say you take my bein' here all alone pretty calmly. Ase Tidditt all but capsized when he saw me bring the Foam Flake into dock."
Kent nodded. "I knew you were here," he said. "Elizabeth came down with you, I suppose."
"Why, yes. Did she tell you she was goin' to risk life and limb aboard my vessel?"
"Oh. Then how did you know?"
"I stopped at the Harbor. Her mother said she had gone with you.... Where is she; upstairs?"
"Up in the dressin' room, I guess. She had to come so early because there were things to bring and some work for her to do before you and the others got here, she said."
"What? Did she say before I got here?"
"Eh? Why, no, didn't mention you in particular. She just said——"
Kent interrupted. "I see," he said, shortly. "All right, never mind."
He was walking toward the other end of the platform. His manner was so very peculiar that Sears could not help noticing it. He looked after him in perplexity.
"Here ... George!" he called.
Kent turned and came back, rather reluctantly it seemed. The older man looked at him keenly.
"George," he asked, "what's the matter with you?"
"Matter? With me?"
"Yes, with you. You're short as Aunt Nabby's pie crust. Have I done anything you don't like? If I have I'll apologize before I know what it is. It wasn't done on purpose, you can be sure of that."
Kent started, colored, and was much perturbed. "I didn't realize I was short, Cap'n Kendrick," he declared. "I beg your pardon. I am mighty sorry. No—no, of course you haven't done anything I don't like. I don't believe you could."
"You never can tell. But so far I haven't tried. Not sick, are you?"
"No ... I'm just—oh, nothing. I'm in a little trouble, that's all. My own fault, maybe, I don't know."
"Probably it is. Most of our troubles are our own fault, in one way or another. Well, if there's anything I can do to help out, just give me a hail."
"Thanks. But I'm afraid there isn't."
He turned and walked down the platform once more. Mrs. Captain Orrin Eldridge, who was to sell tickets, came, and, after greeting the captain cordially, went in to open and light the ticket-office at the foot of the stairs. Two more members of the cast, Erastus Snow and Mrs. Bassett, arrived and went up to prepare. Suddenly Kent, who had been standing at the farther end of the platform, came back.
"Captain Kendrick," he said, "would you mind answering a question?"
"Eh? Why, not a bit, George. But perhaps yours may be one of those questions I can't answer."
"I think you can. Say—er—Cap'n Kendrick——"
"You see, I.... This sounds awfully foolish, but—but I don't know what I ought to do."
"Um-hm. Well, a good many of us get that way every once in a while."
"Humph! Somehow you seem to me like a man who would know exactly what to do at any time."
"Yes? Well, my looks must belie me. Heave ahead, George. The folks are beginning to come."
"Well, I—— Oh, hang it, Cap'n, when you've made a mistake—done something that you didn't think was wrong—that wasn't wrong, really—and—and.... Say, I'm making an awful mess of this. And it's such a fool thing, anyhow."
"Um-hm. So many things are. Chuck it overboard, George; that is, if you really want to ask me about it."
"I do. That is, I want to ask you this: Suppose you had done something that you thought was all right and—and somebody else had thought was wrong—would you—would you go and tell that other person that you were wrong? Even if you weren't, you know."
Kendrick was silent. The question was ridiculous enough, but he did not laugh, nor feel like laughing. Nor did he want to answer.
"Oh, I know that it's a child's question," put in Kent, disgustedly. "Never mind answering. I am a child sometimes, feel like one, anyhow. And I've got to fight this out with myself, I suppose, so what's the use?"
He turned on his heel, but the captain laid a hand on his shoulder.
"George," he said, slowly, "of course, the way you put this thing makes it pretty foggy navigatin' for a stranger; but—humph!—well, in cases somethin' like yours, when I've cared anything about the—er—friendship of the other fellow, I've generally found 'twas good business to go and say I was sorry first, and then, if 'twas worth while, argue the point of who was right or wrong later. You never can do much fishin' through the ice unless somebody chops the hole."
The young man was silent. He seemed to be reflecting and to find his reflections not too pleasant. Before they were at an end the first group of townspeople came up the steps. Some of them paused to greet Kendrick and at their heels was another group. The captain was chatting with them when he heard Kent's voice at his ear.
"Excuse me, Cap'n," he whispered. "I'll see you by and by. I'm going to chop the ice."
"Eh?... Oh, all right, George. Good luck."
George hurried up the stairs. A minute or two later Captain Sears slowly limped after him and sought a secluded corner on one of the settees at the rear of the hall. There was still a full half hour before the rising of the curtain, and as yet there was but a handful of people present. He turned his face away from the handful and hoped that he might not be recognized. He did not feel like talking. His good spirits had left him. He was blue and despondent and discouraged. And for no reason—that was the worst of it—no earthly, sensible, worth while reason at all.
Those two children—that is what they were, children—had quarreled and that was why Elizabeth had asked to ride to the hall with him that evening. It was not because she cared for his company; of course he knew that all the time, or would have known it if he permitted himself to reason. She had gone with him because she had quarreled with George. And that young idiot's conscience had troubled him and, thanks to his own—Kendrick's—advice, he had gone to her now to beg pardon and make up. And they would make up. Children, both of them.
And they ought to make up; they should, of course. He wanted them to do so. What sort of a yellow dog in the manger would he be if he did not? He liked them both, and they were young and well—and he was—what that railway accident had made of him.
The audience poured in, the settees filled, the little boys down in front kicked the rounds, and pinched each other and giggled. Mr. Asaph Tidditt importantly strode down the aisle and turned up the wicks of the kerosene foot-lamps. Mrs. Sophronia Eldridge, Captain Orrin's sister-in-law, seated herself at the piano and played the accompaniments while Mrs. Mary Pashy Foster imparted the information that she could not sing the old songs now. When she had finished, most people were inclined to believe her. The delegation from the Fair Harbor, led by Mrs. Berry and Elvira Snowden, arrived in a body. The Universalist minister and his wife came, and looked remarkably calm for a couple leading a flock of fellow humans to perdition. Captain Elkanah Wingate and Mrs. Wingate came last of all and marched majestically to the seats reserved for them by the obsequious Mr. Tidditt. The hall lights were dimmed. The curtain rose. And George Kent, very handsome and manly as "March Gale," was seen and heard, singing:
"Oh, my name was Captain Kidd As I sailed, as I sailed."
And these were the opening lines of the play, "Down by the Sea."
That performance was a great success, everybody said so. Mr. Tidditt expressed the general opinion when he declared that all hands done about as fine as the rest but some of 'em done finer. John Carleton, the schoolteacher, shone with particular brilliancy as he delivered himself of such natural, everyday speeches as: "I have dispatched a messenger to town with the glad tidings," or "We will leave this barren spot and hie to the gay scenes of city life." And Frank Crosby, as "September Gale," the noble young fisherman, tossed the English language about as a real gale might toss what he would have called "a cockle shell," as he declared, "With a true heart and a stout arm, who cares for danger?... To be upon the sea when the winds are roaring and the waves are seething in anger; ... to have a light bark obedient to your command, braving the fury of the tempest...." Bayport was fairly well acquainted with fishermen, numbering at least thirty among its inhabitants, but no one of the thirty could talk like that.
Sam Ryder's performance of "Captain Dandelion," the city exquisite, was, so the next issue of the Item said, "remarkable"; there is little doubt that the Item selected the right word. Joel Macomber was good, when he remembered his lines; Miss Wingate was very elegant as "a city belle"; Mrs. Bassett made a competent fisherman's wife. But everybody declared that Elizabeth Berry and George Kent, as "Kitty Gale" and "March Gale," were the two brightest stars in that night's firmament.
Captain Kendrick, between the acts, could hear whispered comments all about him. "Isn't Elizabeth fine!" "Don't they do well!" "Ain't she a good-lookin' girl, now—eh?" "Yes, and, my soul and body, if that George Kent ain't a match for her then I don't know!" "Oh, don't they make a lovely couple!" And, from a seat two rows in front, the penetrating voice of Mrs. Noah Baker made proclamations: "Lovers on the stage and off the stage, too, I guess. Ha, ha!" And there was a general buzz of agreement and many pleased titters.
Sears tried very hard to enjoy the performance, but his thoughts would wander. And, when the final curtain fell and the applause subsided, he rose to hobble to the door, glad that the evening was over.
He was one of the last to reach the landing and, at the top of the stairs, Judah met him. Mr. Cahoon's manner was a combination of dismay and triumph.
"Oh, there you be, Cap'n Sears," he exclaimed. "Well, I told you! You can't say I never, that's one comfort."
"Told me what, Judah?"
"That 'twas goin' to rain. I told you the glass was fallin'. It's a pourin'-down rainstorm now, that's what 'tis."
Judah, his faith rooted in the prophecy of the falling barometer, had come to the hall with oilskins upon his arm. Now he was arrayed in them and weather-proof.
"I'll fetch the Foam Flake around to the platform, Cap'n," he said. "You'll want to wait for 'Liz'beth, I presume likely, so take your time navigatin' them stairs. No, no, I'll walk. I won't get wet. I knew what was comin'. Aye, aye, sir. I'll fetch the horse. Cal'late the critter has gnawed off and swallowed two fathoms of fence by this time."
The Foam Flake and the buggy were made fast by the platform when Sears reached that point. It was raining hard. The greater part of the audience had already started on their homeward journey, but a few still lingered, some lamenting the absence of umbrellas and rubbers, others awaiting the arrival of messengers who had been sent home to procure those protections. The captain, of course, was awaiting Elizabeth, and she having to change costume and get rid of make-up, he knew his wait was likely to be rather lengthy. He did not mind that so much, but he did not desire to talk or be talked to, so he walked to the dark end of the platform—the same end, by the way, where George Kent had stood when pondering his problem before asking advice—and stood there, staring into the splashy blackness.
The last group left the lighted portals of the hall and started homeward, exclamations and little screams denoting spots where progress had been delayed by puddles or mud holes. Mrs. Eldridge, in the ticket office, packed up her takings, pennies and "shin-plasters," in a pasteboard box and departed for home. Mr. Tidditt accompanying her as guard and umbrella holder.
"I'll be back to lock up, Cap'n Sears," called Asaph, reassuringly. "Stay right where you be. You won't be in my way at all."
For some minutes longer Sears stood there alone on the platform, facing the dismal darkness and his own dismal thoughts. They were dismal, and no less so because his common-sense kept prodding him with the certainty that there was no more reason for discouragement now than there had been two hours before. The obvious offset to this was the equal certainty that there had been no more reason for optimism two hours before than at present. So he stared into the darkness, listened to the splashing waterspouts, and, for the millionth time at least, eternally condemned the Old Colony railroad and his luck.
A springy, buoyant step came down the stairs. A voice called from the doorway:
"Cap'n Kendrick! Cap'n, are you there?"
"Right here, George," he said.
Kent hastened toward him. His hand was outstretched and his face was beaming.
"It worked," he exclaimed, eagerly. "It worked in great shape. Cap'n, you're a brick."
His friend did not, momentarily, catch his meaning.
"Glad you think so, George," he said; "but why are you so sure of it just now?"
"Why, because if it hadn't been for you I should have, more than likely, not tried to chop the ice at all."
"Chop the—— Oh, yes, yes; I remember. So you and Elizabeth have made up, eh?"
"Yes, I.... How on earth did you know she was the one? I didn't tell you, did I?"
"No. It's just another proof of my tremendous wisdom. Well, I'm glad, George."
"I knew you would be. Mind you, I'm not sure yet I was wrong, but I—— Good Lord, look at the rain! I had no idea!... Well, at any rate, Elizabeth will be all right. She's going with you in the buggy."
There was a slight, a very slight note of regret, almost of envy, in the young fellow's tone. The captain noticed it.
"No, she isn't, George," he said, quietly.
"What! She isn't?"
"No, she's goin' with you. You take the horse and buggy and drive her up to the Harbor. Then you can send Judah back with it after me, if you will."
"But, Cap'n, I wouldn't think of it. Why——"
"No need to think. Do it. Look here, George, you know perfectly well you haven't finished that ice-choppin' business. There are lots of things you want to tell her yet, I know. Come now, aren't there?"
Kent hesitated. "Why—why, yes, I suppose there are," he admitted. "But it seems mean to take advantage of you, you know. To leave you standing here and waiting while she and I——"
"That's all right. I'm better fitted for waiting than I am for anything else nowadays. Don't argue any more. She'll be here in a minute."
"Well ... well. You're sure you don't mind, really?"
"Not a bit. And she'd rather ride with you, of course."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that. Of course she did tell me she came with you because I—because we had that—that little row—and—— But she likes you, Cap'n. Honest, she does, a lot. By George, nobody could help liking you, you know."
Sears' smile was gray, but his companion did not notice. He was too full of his own happiness.
"I'll run up and tell her," he said. "It's mighty good of you, Cap'n Kendrick. Sure you don't care? You are a brick."
He hastened up the stairs. Sears was left once more with the black wetness to look at. It looked blacker than ever.
Elizabeth, accompanied by George, came down soon afterward. She was still protesting.
"Really, I don't think this is right at all, Cap'n Kendrick," she declared. "Why should you wait here? If you insist upon George's going in the buggy, why don't you come too? I'm sure there will be room enough. Won't there, George?"
Kent said, "Yes, of course," but there might have been more enthusiasm in his tone. Sears spoke next.
"I can't go now," he lied, calmly. "I want to see Ase Tidditt and he's gone to see Cap'n Orrin's wife home. Won't be back for twenty minutes or so. No, no, you and George heave right ahead and go, and then send Judah and the Foam Flake back for me."
So, after a few more protests on Elizabeth's part, it was settled in that way. She and her packages and bags were tucked in the buggy and George unhitched the placid Foam Flake. On his way he stopped to whisper in the captain's ear.
"Cap'n Kendrick," he whispered, "I shan't forget this. And, say, if ever I get into real trouble I'll know who to come to."
The "plash-plash" of the Foam Flake's hoofs and the squeak and grind of buggy wheels died away along the invisible main road. Captain Sears stared at the ropes of rain laced diagonally across the lighted window of the town hall.
After a time, a surprisingly short time, he heard the hoofs returning. It seemed almost incredible that George could have driven to the Harbor, then to the Minot place, and started Judah on the return trip so soon.
It was not Judah. It was Mike, Judge Knowles' man, and he was driving Doctor Sheldon's horse attached to the doctor's chaise.
"Cap'n Kendrick," he hailed, as the equipage splashed up to the platform, "is that you there?"
"Yes, Mike. What's the matter?"
"I was just after goin' to the Minot place after ye and I met Cahoon and he tould me you was down here. Git in, git in; the doctor says you must come."
"Come? Come where?"
"Home. To the judge's house. The ould man is dyin' and he wants to see you afore he goes. Ye'll have to hurry. The doctor says it's a matter of any time now."
Sears Kendrick never forgot that drive from the town hall. The pouring rain, the lurch and roll and bounce of the old chaise, the alternate thud and splash of the horse's hoofs, the black darkness—and the errand upon which he was going. Mike told him a little concerning the seizure. Judge Knowles had been, so Emmeline Tidditt and the doctor thought, appreciably easier during the day.
"He was like himself, the ould man was," said Mike. "I went in to see him this mornin'—he sent for me, you understand—and he give me the divil and all for not washin' the front room windows. 'Dom ye,' says he, 'I've only got a little while to look out of thim windows; don't you suppose I want thim so I can look out of thim?' And the windows clean as clean all the time, mind ye. Sure, I didn't care: 'Twas just his way of bein' dacint to me. He give me a five dollar bill before I left, God rest him. And now——"
Mike was tremendously upset. The captain learned that the attack had developed about six, and the judge had grown steadily worse since. The upper windows of the Knowles house were bright with lights as they drove in at the yard gate. Mrs. Tidditt met them at the door. Her thin, hard face was tear-streaked and haggard.
"Oh, I'm so glad you've come, Cap'n Kendrick," she cried. "He's been askin' for you."
In the hall at the foot of the stairs Doctor Sheldon was waiting. They shook hands and Sears looked a question.
"Not a chance," whispered the doctor. "Barring miracles, he will go before morning. He shouldn't see any one, but he insisted on seeing you. I'll give you five minutes, no more. Don't excite him."
The judge looked up from the pillow as Sears tiptoed into the room. His face was flushed with fever, but otherwise he looked very much as when the captain last visited him. It did not seem possible that this could really be the end.
"Hello, Kendrick," whispered Judge Knowles. "Sit down. Sorry I can't shake hands with you."
The voice was weak, of course, but not much weaker than when he had last heard it. No, it did not seem possible. Captain Sears murmured something about his sorrow at finding the judge ill again.
"That's all right, that's all right," was the testy rejoinder. "You didn't expect to find me any other way, did you? Kendrick, I wasn't so far off when I talked about that graveyard trip, eh?... Umph—yes. How much time did Sheldon say you might have with me?... Don't fool around and waste any of it. How many minutes—come?"
"Humph! He might have made it ten, blast him! Well, then listen. When I'm gone you're going to be the head of that Fair Harbor place. You're going to keep on being the head, I mean. I've fixed it so you'll get your salary."
"Hush! Let me do the talking. Good Lord, man," with an attempt at a chuckle, "you wouldn't grudge me any of the little talk I have left, would you? You are to keep on being the head of the Fair Harbor—you must for a year or so. And Elizabeth Berry is to be the manager and head, under you—if she wants to be. Understand?"
"Why, yes. But, Judge, how——"
"I've fixed it, I tell you. Wait a little while and you'll know how. But that isn't what I want to say to you. Lobelia is dead."
"Don't keep asking me what. Listen. Lobelia Seymour—hanged if I'll call her Lobelia Phillips!—is dead. She died over a month ago. I got a letter this afternoon mailed in Florence by that husband of hers. There it is, on that table, by the tumbler.... Yes, that's it. Don't stop to read it now. Put it in your pocket. You will have time to read it. Time counts with me. Now listen, Kendrick."
He paused and asked for water. The captain put the glass to his lips. He swallowed once or twice and then impatiently jerked his head aside.
"There are two things you've got to promise me, Kendrick," he whispered, earnestly. "One is that, so long as you can fight, that condemned Egbert Phillips shan't have a cent of the Fair Harbor property, endowment fund, land or anything else. Will you fight the scamp for me, Kendrick?"
"Of course. The best I know how."
"You know more than most men in this town. I shouldn't have picked you for your job if you didn't. That's one thing—spike Egbert's guns. Here's the other: Look out for Elizabeth Berry."
The captain was not expecting this. He leaned back so suddenly that his chair squeaked. The sick man did not notice, or, if he did, paid no attention.
"She's Isaac Berry's daughter," he went on, "and Ike Berry was my best friend. More than that, she's a good girl, a fine girl. Her mother is more or less of a fool, but that isn't the girl's fault. Keep an eye on her, will you, Kendrick?"
"Why—why, I'll do what I can, of course."
"Like her, don't you?"
"Yes. Very much."
"You couldn't help it. She is pretty thick with that young Kent, I believe. He's a bright boy."
"All right.... But there's time enough for that; they're both young.... Watch her, Kendrick. See that she doesn't make too big mistakes. She—she's going to have a little money of her own pretty soon—just a little. Don't let that—that Phillips or—or anybody else get hold of it. I.... Oh, here you are! Confound you, Sheldon, you're a nuisance!"
The doctor opened the door and entered. He nodded significantly to Kendrick. The latter understood. So, too, did Judge Knowles.
"Time's up, eh?" he panted. "Well, all right, I suppose. Good luck to you, Kendrick. And good night."
He smiled cheerfully. One might have thought he expected to see his caller the next morning. The captain simply could not believe this was to be the last time.
"Good night, Judge," he said. "I'll drop in to-morrow, early."
The judge did not answer. His last word had to do with other things.
"Don't you forget, Kendrick," he whispered. "I've banked on you."
The feeling of the absolute impossibility of the situation still remained with Sears as Mike drove him to his own door and Judah helped him down from the chaise. It was not possible that a brain like that, a bit of machinery capable of thinking so clearly and expressing itself so vigorously, could be so near its final breakdown. A personality like Judge Knowles' could not end so abruptly. He would not have it so. The doctor must be mistaken. He was over pessimistic.
He sat in the rocking chair until nearly half-past one thinking of the judge's news, that Lobelia Phillips was dead, and of the charge to him. Fight Egbert—there was an element of humor in that; Knowles certainly did hate Phillips. But for him, Kendrick, to assume a sort of guardianship over the fortunes of Elizabeth Berry! The fun in that was too sardonic to be pleasant. He thought of many things before he retired, but the way ahead looked foggy enough. And behind the fog was—what? Why, little sunshine for him, in all human probability. Before blowing out his lamp he peered out of the window at the Knowles house. The lights there were still burning.
The next morning when he came out for breakfast, Judah met him with a solemn face.
"Bad news for Bayport this mornin', Cap'n Sears," said Judah. "Judge Knowles has gone. Slipped his cable about four o'clock, so Mike told me. There's a good man gone, by Henry! Don't seem hardly as if it could be, does it?"
That was exactly what Bayport said when it heard the ill tidings. It did not seem as if it could be. The judge had been so long a dominant figure in town affairs, his strong will had so long helped to mould and lead opinion and his shrewd common sense had so often guided the community, and individuals, through safe channels and out of troubled waters, that it was hard to comprehend the fact that he would lead and guide no more. He had many enemies, no man with his determined character could avoid that, but they were altogether of a type whose enmity was, to decent people, preferable to their friendship. During his life it had seemed as if he were a lonely man, but his funeral was the largest held in Bayport since the body of Colonel Seth Foster, killed at Gettysburg, was brought home from the front for burial.
It was a gloomy, drizzly day when the long line of buggies and carryalls and folk on foot followed the hearse to the cemetery amid the pines. Captain Sears, looking back at the procession, thought of the judge's many prophecies and grim jokes concerning this very journey, and he wondered—well, he wondered as most of us wonder on such occasions. Also he realized that, although their acquaintanceship had been brief, he was going to miss Judge Knowles tremendously.
"I wish I had been lucky enough to know him sooner," he told Judah that evening.
Judah pulled his nose reflectively. "It kind of surprised me," he observed, "to hear what the minister said about him. 'Twas the Orthodox minister, and he's pretty strict, too, but you heard him say that the judge was one of the best men in Ostable County. Yet he never went to meetin' what you'd call reg'lar and he did cuss consider'ble. He did now, didn't he, Cap'n Sears?"
Sears nodded. He was thinking and paying little attention to the Cahoon moralizing.
"Um-hm," went on Judah. "He sartin did. He never said 'sugar' when he meant 'damn.' But I don't know, I cal'late I'd ruther been sworn at by Judge Knowles than had a blessin' said over me by some others in these latitudes. The judge's cussin' would have been honest, anyhow. And he never put one of them swear words in the wrong place. They was always just where they belonged; even when he swore at me I always agreed with him."
Feeling, somehow, that the death of the man who had chosen and employed him for the position increased his responsibility in that position, Captain Sears worked harder than ever to earn his salary as general manager of the Fair Harbor. He had already made some improvements in systematizing and thereby saving money for the institution. The groceries, flour, tea, sugar, and the rest, had heretofore been purchased at Bassett's store in the village. He still continued to buy certain articles of Eliphalet, principally from motives of policy and to retain the latter's good will, but the bulk of supplies he contracted for in Boston at the houses from which he had so often bought stores for his ships. He could not go to the city and negotiate by word of mouth, more was the pity, and so was obliged to make his trades by mail, but he got bids from several firms and the results were quite worth while. Besides groceries he bought a hogshead of corned beef, barrels of crackers, a barrel of salt pork, and, from one of the local fishermen, a half dozen kegs of salt mackerel. The saving altogether was a very appreciable amount.
The Fair Harbor property included, besides the land upon which the house was situated, several acres of wood lot timbered with pine and oak. Mrs. Berry—or her daughter—had been accustomed to hire a man to cut and haul such wood as was needed, from time to time, for the stoves and fireplaces. Also, when repairs had to be done, they hired a carpenter to make them. Sears, when he got around to it, devoted some consideration to the wood and repair question and, after much haggling, affected a sort of three-cornered swap. Benijah Black, the carpenter, was a brother-in-law of Burgess Paine, who owned the local coal, wood, lumber and grain shop by the railway station. The captain arranged that Black should do whatever carpenter work might be needed at the Harbor and take his pay in wood at the wood lot, selling the wood—or a part of it—to Paine, for whom he was in debt for coal and lumber; and, also, for whom he, Black, was building a new storage shed. It was a complicated process, but it resulted in the Fair Harbor's getting its own firewood cut, hauled and split for next to nothing, its repair costs cut in half, its coal bills lessened, while Black and Paine seemed to be perfectly satisfied. Altogether it was a good deal of a managerial triumph, as even the manager himself was obliged to admit.
Elizabeth was loud in her praises.
"I don't see how you ever did it, Cap'n Kendrick," she declared. "And Benijah and Mr. Paine are just as contented as we are. It is a miracle."
Sears grinned. "I don't know quite how I did it, myself," he said. "'Twas the most complicated piece of steerin' I ever did, and if we come out without shipwreck it will be a miracle! I'm goin' to tackle that hay question next. There's hay enough on that lower meadow of ours to pay for corn for the hens for quite a spell. I'll see if I can't make a dicker there somehow. Then if I can fix up a deal with the hens to trade corn for eggs, we'll come out pretty well, won't we?"
This sort of thing interested him and made him a trifle more contented with his work. His talents as a diplomat, such as they were, were needed continually. The interior of the Fair Harbor was a sort of incubator for petty squabbles, jealousies, prejudices and complaints, some funny, many ridiculous, and almost all annoying. The most petty he refused to be troubled with, bidding the complainants go to Mrs. Berry. His refusals were good-natured but determined.
"Well, I tell you, Miss Peasley," he said, when that lady had come to him with a long, involved wail concerning the manner in which Mrs. Constance Cahoon, who occupied the seat next her at table, insisted on keeping the window open all through meals, "so's I sit there with a draft blowin' right down my neck the whole time." "I tell you, Miss Peasley," said the captain, "if I were you I would shut the window."
"But I do shut it," declared Desire. "And every time I jump up and shut it, up she bounces and opens it again."
"Humph! I see.... Well, exercise helps digestion, so they say. You can jump as long as she can bounce, can't you?"
Miss Peasley was disgusted. "Well," she snapped, "I don't call that much help. I supposed if I went to the manager he'd put his foot down."
"He's goin' to—and then take it up and put it down again. I've got to hobble out to see to mowin' the meadow. You tell Mrs. Berry all about it."
As a part of his diplomacy he made it a point to spend half an hour each morning in consultation with Cordelia Berry. The matron of the Fair Harbor was at first rather suspicious and ready to resent any intrusion upon her rights and prerogatives. But at each conference the captain listened so politely to her rambling reports, seemed to receive her suggestions so eagerly and to ask her advice upon so many points, that her suspicions were lulled and she came to accept the new superintendent's presence as a relief and a benefit.
"He is so very gentlemanly, Elizabeth," she told her daughter. "And so willing to learn. At first, as you know, I couldn't see why the poor dear judge appointed him, but now I do. He realized that I needed an assistant. In many ways he reminds me of your father."
"But, mother," exclaimed her daughter, in surprise, "Cap'n Kendrick isn't nearly as old as father was."
"Oh it isn't the age that reminded me. It's the manner. He has the same quick, authoritative way of making decisions and saying things. And it is so very gratifying to see how he defers to my judgment and experience."
Captain Sears did defer, that is he seldom opposed. But, when each conference was over, he went his own sweet way, using his own judgment and doing what seemed to him best. With Elizabeth, however, he was quite different. When she offered advice—which was seldom—he listened and almost invariably acted upon it. He was daily growing to have a higher opinion of her wisdom and capabilities. Whether or not it was the wisdom and capabilities alone which influenced that opinion he did not attempt to analyze. He enjoyed being with her and working with her, that he knew. That the constant companionship might be, for him, a risky and perhaps dangerous experience, he did not as yet realize. When he was with her, and busy with Fair Harbor affairs, he could forget the slowness with which his crippled legs were mending, and the increasing longing—sometimes approaching desperation—for the quarter deck of his own ship and the sea wind in his face.
He worked hard for the Harbor and did his best to justify his appointment as manager, but, work as he might, he knew perfectly well that such labors would scarcely earn his salary. But, on the other hand, he knew that the man who appointed him had not expected them to do so. He had been put in charge of the Fair Harbor for one reason alone and that was to be in command of the ship when the redoubtable Egbert came alongside. Judge Knowles had as much as told him that very thing, and more than once. Egbert Phillips had been, evidently, the judge's pet aversion and, in his later days illness and fretfulness had magnified and intensified that aversion. When Sears attempted to find good and sufficient reasons for belief that the husband of Lobelia Seymour was any such bugbear he was baffled. He asked Judah more questions and he questioned citizens of Bayport who had known the former singing teacher before and after his marriage. Some, like Judah, declared him "slick" or "smooth." Others, and those the majority, seemed to like him. He was polite and educated and a "perfect gentleman," this was the sum of feminine opinion. Captain Sears was inclined to picture him as what he would have called a "sissy," and not much more dangerous than that. The judge's hatred, he came to believe, was an obsession, a sick man's fancy.
He had, of course, read the Phillips letter, that which Judge Knowles bade him take away and read that night of his death. He hurriedly read it on that occasion before going to bed; he had reread it several times since.
It was a well-written letter, there was no doubt of that, a polite letter, almost excessively so, perhaps. In fact, if Sears had been obliged to find a fault with it it would have been that it was a little too polite, a little too polished and flowery. It was not the sort of letter that he, himself, would have written under stress of grief, but he realized that it was not the sort of letter he could have written at all. Taken as a whole it was hard to pick flaws which might not be the result of prejudice, and taken sentence by sentence it stood the test almost as well.
"Our life together has been so happy," wrote Phillips, "so ideal, that the knowledge of its end leaves me stunned, speechless, wordless."
That was exaggeration, of course. He was not wordless, for the letter contained almost a superfluity of words; but people often said things they did not mean literally.
"My dear wife and I spoke of you so often, Judge, her affection for you was so great—an affection which I share, as you know——"
Judge Knowles had not returned the writers affection, quite the contrary. But it was possible that Phillips did not know this and that he was fond of the judge. Possible, even if not quite probable.
"She and I never had a difference of opinion, never a thought which was not shared. This, in my hour of sorrow—" Phillips had written "my stricken hour" first, and then altered it to "hour of sorrow"—"is my greatest, almost my only consolation."
Yet, as Judge Knowles had expressly stated, Lobelia herself had told him that her husband did not know of the endowment at the Fair Harbor and she had at least hinted that her married life was not all happiness.
But, yet again, the judge was ill and weak, he had never liked Phillips, had always distrusted and suspected him, and might he not have fancied unhappiness when there was none?
The letter said nothing concerning its writer's plans. It told of Mrs. Phillips' death, her burial at Florence, and of the widower's grief. The only hint, or possible hint, concerning a visit to Bayport was contained in one line, "When I see you I can tell you more."
The captain puzzled over the letter a good deal. He showed it to Elizabeth. He found that Judge Knowles had not discussed Egbert with her at all. To her the ex-singing teacher was little more than a name; she remembered him, but nothing in particular concerning him. She thought the letter a very beautiful one—very sad, of course, but beautiful. Plainly she did not have the feeling which Sears had, but which he was inclined to think might be fathered by prejudice that it was a trifle too beautiful, that its beauty was that of a painting by a master, each stroke carefully touched in at exactly the right place for effect.
There was no demand for money in it, no hint at straitened circumstances; so why should there be any striving for effect? He gave it up. If the much talked of Egbert was what Judge Knowles had declared him to be, then neither the judge nor any one else had exaggerated his smoothness.
Emmeline Tidditt, for so many years the Knowles housekeeper, made one remark which contained possible food for thought.
"So he buried her over there amongst them foreigners, did he?" observed Emmeline. "That seems kind of funny. When she and him was visitin' here the last time she told me herself—and he was standin' right alongside and heard her—that when she died she wanted to be fetched back here to Bayport and buried in the Orthodox cemetery alongside her father and mother and all her folks. Said, dead or alive, it wasn't really home for her anywheres else. She must have changed her mind since, though, I cal'late."
Bayport talked a good deal about Lobelia Phillips and what would become of the Fair Harbor now that its founder and patroness was dead. It was surmised, of course, that Mrs. Phillips had provided for her pet institution in her will, but that will had not yet been offered for probate. Neither had the will of Judge Knowles, for that matter. Lawyer Bradley, over at Orham, the attorney with whom George Kent was reading law, was known to be the judge's executor. And Judge Knowles and Mr. Bradley were co-executor's for Lobelia Phillips, having been duly named by Lobelia on her last visit to Bayport. So, presumably, both wills were in Bradley's possession. But why had they not been probated?
Bradley himself made the explanation.
"The judge had a nephew in California," he said. "He was the nearest relative—although that isn't very near. Of course he couldn't get on for the funeral, but he is coming pretty soon. I thought I would wait until he came before I opened the will. As for Mrs. Phillips' will, I expect that her husband must be on his way here now. I haven't heard from him, but I take it for granted he is coming. I shall wait a while for him, too. There is no pressing hurry in either case."
So Bayport talked about the wills and the expected arrival of the heirs, but as time passed and neither nephew nor husband arrived, began to lose interest and to talk of other things. Sears Kendrick, remembering his last conversation with Judge Knowles, was curious to learn exactly what the latter meant by his hints concerning "fixing things" for the Fair Harbor and Elizabeth having "money of her own," but he was busy and did not allow his curiosity to interfere with his schemes and improvements. He and Miss Berry saw each other every day, worked together and planned together, and the captain's fits of despondency and discouragement grew less and less frequent. He had an odd feeling at times, a feeling as if, instead of growing older daily, he was growing younger. He mentioned it to Elizabeth on one occasion and she did not laugh, but seemed to understand.
"It is true," she said. "I have noticed it. You are getting younger, Cap'n Kendrick."
"Am I? That's good. Be better yet if I didn't have such a tremendous long way to go."
"Nonsense! You aren't old. When I first met you I thought—it sounds dreadful when I say it—I thought you were fifty, at least. Now I don't believe you are more than—well, thirty-five."
"Oh, yes, I am. I am—humph!—let's see, I am—er—thirty-eight my next birthday. And I suppose that sounds pretty ancient to you."
"No, indeed it doesn't. Why, thirty-eight isn't old at all!"
The interesting discussion of ages was interrupted just then, but Sears found pleasure in the thought that she, too, had noticed that he looked and acted younger. It was being at work again, he believed, which was responsible for the rejuvenation; this and the now unmistakable fact that, although the improvement was still provokingly slow, his legs were better, really better. He could, as he said, navigate much more easily now. Once, at supper time, he walked from his room to the table without a cane. It was a laborious journey, and he was glad when it was over, but he made it. Judah came in just in time to see the end.
"Jumpin', creepin', hoppin' hookblocks, Cap'n Sears!" cried Judah. "Is that you, doin' that?"
"What's left of me, Judah. I feel just this minute as if there wasn't much left."
"Well, creepin' prophets! I couldn't believe it. Thinks I, 'There's fog in my deadlights and I can't see through 'em right.' Well, by Henry! And a little spell ago you was tellin' me you'd never be able to cruise again except under jury rig. Humph! You'll be up to the town hall dancin' 'Hull's Victory' and 'Smash the Windows' fust thing we know."
After supper the captain, using the cane but whistling a sprightly air, strolled out to the front gate, where, leaning over the fence, he looked up and down the curving, tree-shaded road, dozing in the late summer twilight. And up that road came George Kent, also whistling, to swing in at the Fair Harbor gate and stride to the side door.
Before that object lesson of real youth Sears' fictitious imitation seemed cheap and shoddy. He leaned heavily upon his cane as he hobbled back to the kitchen.
The next day something happened. Sears had been busy all the forenoon superintending the carting in and stowing of the Fair Harbor share of oak and pine from the wood-lot. Thirteen cords of it, sawed and split in lengths to suit the Harbor stoves and fireplaces, were to be piled in the sheds adjoining the old Seymour barn at the rear of the premises. Judah had been engaged to do the piling. The captain had hesitated about employing him for several reasons, one being that he was drawing wages—small but regular—as caretaker at the General Minot place; another, that there might be some criticism—or opportunity for criticism—because of the relationship, landlord and lodger, which existed between them. Judah himself scorned the thought.
"Mean to tell me I can't work for you just because you're boardin' along of me, Cap'n Sears?" he protested. "I've cooked for you a good many years and I worked for you then, didn't I?"
"Ye—es, but you had signed up to work for me then. That's what they paid you for."
"Well, it's what you pay me for now, ain't it? And Ogden Minot he pays me to be stevedore aboard his house yonder. And the Fair Harbor's cal'latin' to pay me for pilin' this wood, ain't it? You ain't payin' for that, nor Ogden nuther. Well, then!... Oh, don't let's waste time arguin' about it now, Cap'n Sears. Let's do the way Abe Pepper done when the feller asked him to take a little somethin'. Abe had promised his wife he'd sign the pledge and he was on his way to temp'rance meetin' where he was goin' to meet her and sign it. And on the way he ran acrost this feller—Cornelius Bassett 'twas—and Cornelius says, 'Come have a drink with me, Abe,' he says. Well, time Abe got around to meet his wife the temp'rance meetin' hall was all dark and Abe was all—er—lighted up, as you might say. 'Why didn't you tell that Bassett man you was in a hurry and couldn't stop?' his wife wanted to know. 'Didn't have time to tell him nothin',' explains Abe. 'I knew I was late for meetin' as 'twas.' 'Then why didn't you come right on to meetin'?' she wanted to know. 'If I'd done that I'd lost the drink,' says he."
The captain laughed, but looked doubtful.
"I don't quite see where that yarn fits in this case, Judah," he observed.
"Don't ye? Well, I don't know's it does. But anyhow, don't let's waste time arguin'. Let me pile the wood fust and then we can argue afterwards."
So he was piling busily, carrying the wood in huge armfuls from the heaps where the carts had left it into the barn, and singing as he worked. But, bearing in mind his skipper's orders concerning the kind of song he was to sing, his chantey this time dealt neither with the eternal feminine nor the flowing bowl. Suggested perhaps by the nature of his task, he bellowed of "Fire Down Below."
"'Fire in the galley, Fire in the house, Fire in the beef-kid Burnin' up the scouce. Fire, fire, FIRE down below! Fetch a bucket of water! Fire! down BELOW!'"
Captain Sears, after watching and listening for a few minutes, turned to limp up the hill, past the summer-house and the garden plots, to the side entrance of the Fair Harbor. The mystery of these garden patches, their exact equality of size and shape, had been explained to him by Elizabeth. The previous summer the Fair Harbor guests, or a few of them, led, as usual, by Miss Snowden and Mrs. Brackett, had suddenly been seized with a feverish desire to practice horticulture. They had demanded flower beds of their own. So, after much debate and disagreement on their part Elizabeth and her mother had had the slope beneath the Eyrie laid out in plots exactly alike, one for each guest, and the question of ownership had been settled by drawing lots. Each plot owner might plant and cultivate her own garden in her own way. These ways differed widely, hence the varied color schemes and diversifications of design noted by Sears on his first visit. The most elaborate—not to say "whirliggy"—design was the product of Miss Snowden's labor. The captain would have guessed it. The plot which contained no flowers at all, but was thickly planted with beets, onions and other vegetables, belonged to Esther Tidditt. He would have guessed that, too.
He had stopped for an instant to inspect the plots, when he heard a footstep. Looking up, he saw a man descending the slope along the path by the Eyrie.
The man was a stranger, that was plain at first glance. The captain did not know every one in Bayport, but he had at least a recognizing acquaintance with most of the males, and this particular male was not one of them. And Sears would have bet heavily that neither was he one of the very few whom he did not know. He was not a Bayport citizen, he did not look Bayport.
He was very tall and noticeably slim. He wore a silk hat what Bayport still called a "beaver" in memory of the day's when such headpieces were really covered with beaver fur. There was nothing unusual in this fact; most of Bayport's prosperous citizens wore beavers on Sundays or for dress up. But there was this of the unusual about this particular hat: it had an air about it, a something which would have distinguished it amid fifty Bayport tiles. And yet just what that something was Sears Kendrick could not have told he could not have defined it, but he knew it was there.
There was the same unusual something about the stranger's apparel in general, and yet there was nothing loud about it or queer. He carried a cane, but so did Captain Elkanah Wingate, for that matter, although only on Sundays. Captain Elkanah, however, carried his as if it were a club, or a scepter, or a—well, a marlinspike, perhaps. The stranger's cane was a part of his arm, and when he twirled it the twirls were graceful gestures, not vulgar flourishes.
Sears's reflections concerning the newcomer were by no means as analytical as this, of course. His first impressions were those of one coming upon a beautiful work of art, a general wonder and admiration, not detailed at all. Judah, standing behind him with an armful of wood, must have had similar feelings, for he whispered, hoarsely, "Creepin' Moses, Cap'n Sears, is that the Prince of Wales, or who?"
The man, standing in the path above the gardens, stopped to look about him. And at that moment, from the vine-covered Eyrie emerged Miss Elvira Snowden. She had evidently been there for some time, reading—she had a book in her hand—and as she came out she and the stranger were brought face to face.
Sears and Judah saw them look at each other. The man raised his hat and said something which they could not hear. Then Miss Snowden cried "Oh!" She seemed intensely surprised and, for her, a good deal flustered. There was more low-toned conversation. Then Elvira and the stranger turned and walked back up the path toward the house. He escorted her in a manner and with a manner which made that walk a sort of royal progress.
"Who was that?" asked Sears, as much of himself as of Judah.
But Mr. Cahoon had, by this time, settled the question to his own satisfaction.
"It's one of them slick critters peddlin' lightnin' rods," he declared, with conviction. "When you sight somebody that looks like a cross between a minister and one of them stuffed dummies they have outside of the stores in Dock Square to show off clothes on, then you can 'most generally bet he's peddlin' lightnin' rods. Either that or paintin' signs on fences about 'Mustang Liniment' or 'Vegetine' or somethin'. Why, a feller like that hove alongside me over in our yard one time—'twas afore you come, Cap'n Sears—and I give you my word, the way he was togged up I thought——"
The captain did not wait to hear the Cahoon thought. He walked away. In a few minutes he had forgotten the stranger, having other and more important matters on his mind. There was a question concerning the Fair Harbor cooking range which was perplexing him just at this time. It looked as if they might have to buy a new one, and Sears, as superintendent of finances, hated to spend the money that month.
He limped up the slope and along the path to the side door. And when he entered that door he became aware that something unusual was going on. The atmosphere of the Fair Harbor for Mariners' Women was, so to speak, electrified, it was vibrant with excitement and mystery.
There was no one in the dining room, and no one in the sitting room. Yet in each of these apartments were numerous evidences that people had been there very recently and left in a great hurry. A cloth partially laid and left hanging. Drawers of the buffet left open. A broom lying directly in the middle of the floor where it had been dropped. An upset work-basket, disgorging spools, needle packets, and an avalanche of stockings awaiting darning. A lamp with the chimney standing beside it on the table. These were some of the signs denoting sudden and important interruption of a busy forenoon.
Captain Sears, wondering much, turned from the sitting room into the hall leading to the parlor. Then he became aware that, ahead of him, was the center and core of excitement. From the parlor came a murmur of voices, exclamations, giggles—the sounds as of a party, a meeting of the sewing-circle, or a reception. He could not imagine what it was all about.
He reached the parlor door and stood there for an instant looking in. Every inmate of the Harbor was in that room, including Elizabeth and her mother and even Caroline Snow, who, because it was Monday, was there to help with the washing. And every one—or almost every one—was talking, and the majority were crowded about one spot, a spot where stood a man, a man whom Sears recognized as the stranger he had seen in the garden.
And then Mrs. Berry, who happened to be facing the door, saw him. She broke through the ring of women and hurried over. Her face was aglow, her eyes were shining, there were bright spots in her cheeks, and, altogether, she looked younger and handsomer than the captain had ever seen her, more as he would have imagined she must have looked in the days when Cap'n Ike came South a-courting.
"Oh, Captain Kendrick," she cried, "I am so very glad you have come. We have just had such a surprise! Such a very unexpected surprise, but a very delightful one. Come! You must meet him."
She took his hand and led him toward the stranger. The latter, seeing them approach, politely pushed through the group surrounding him and stepped forward. Sears noticed for the first time that the sleeve of his coat was encircled by a broad band of black. His tie was black also, so were his cuff buttons. He was in mourning. An amazing idea flashed to the captain's brain.
"Captain Kendrick," gushed Mrs. Berry, "I have the honor to present you to Mr. Phillips, husband of our beloved founder."
Mr. Phillips smiled—his teeth were very fine, his smile engaging. He extended a hand.
"I am delighted to meet Captain Kendrick," he said.
The captain's stammered answer was conventional, and was not a literal expression of his thought. The latter, put into words, would have been:
"Egbert! I might have known it."
But there was no real reason why he should have known it, for this Egbert was not at all like the Egbert he had been expecting to see.
Sears Kendrick left the Fair Harbor, perhaps fifteen minutes later, with that thought still uppermost in his mind. This was not at all the Egbert Phillips he had expected. From Judge Knowles' conversation, from Judah Cahoon's stories, from fragmentary descriptions he had picked up here and there about Bayport, he had fashioned an Egbert who had come to be in his mind a very real individual. This Egbert of his imagining was an oily, rather flashily dressed adventurer, a glib talker, handsome in a stage hero sort of way, with exaggerated politeness and a toothsome smile. There should be about this individual a general atmosphere of brilliantine, clothes and jewelry. On the whole he might have been expected to look a bit like the manager the captain had seen standing beside the ticket wagon at the circus, twirling his mustache with one hand and his cane with the other. Not quite as showy, not quite as picturesque, but a marked resemblance nevertheless.
And the flesh and blood Egbert Phillips was not that kind at all. One was not conscious of his clothes, except that they were all that they should be as to fit—and style. He wore no jewelry whatever save his black cuff buttons and studs. His black tie was not of Bayport's fashion, certainly. It was ample, flowing and picturesque, rather in the foreign way. No other male in Bayport could have worn that tie and not looked foolish, yet Mr. Phillips did not look foolish, far from it. He did not wear a beard, another unusual bit of individuality, but his long, drooping mustache was extraordinarily becoming and—yes, aristocratic was the word. His smile was pleasant, his handshake was cordial, but not overdone, and his voice low and pleasant. Above all he had a manner, a manner which caused Sears, who had sailed pretty well over the world and had met all sorts of people in all sorts of places, to feel awkward and countrified. Yet one could tell that Mr. Phillips would not have one feel that way for the world; it was his desire to put every one at his or her ease.
He greeted the captain with charming affability. He had heard of him, of course. He understood they were neighbors, as one might say. He looked forward to the pleasure of their better acquaintance. He had gotten but little further than this when Mrs. Berry, Miss Snowden and the rest again swooped down upon him and Sears was left forgotten on the outside of the circle. He went home soon afterward and sat down in the Minot kitchen to think it over.
Egbert had come.... Well? Now what?
He spent the greater part of the afternoon superintending the stowage of the wood and did not go back to the Harbor at all. But he was perfectly certain that he was not missed. The Fair Harbor for Mariners' Women fairly perspired excitement. Caroline Snow, her washing hung upon the lines in the back yard, found time to scurry down the hill and tell Judah the news. The captain had limped up to his room for a forgotten pipe, and when he returned Judah was loaded with it. He fired his first broadside before his lodger entered the barn.
"Say, Cap'n Sears," hailed Mr. Cahoon, breathlessly, "do you know who that feller was me and you seen along of Elviry this forenoon? The tall one with the beaver and—and the gloves and the cane? The one I called the Prince of Wales or else a lightnin'-rod peddler? Do you know who he is?"
Sears nodded. "Yes," he said, shortly.
Judah stared, open-mouthed.
"You do?" he gasped.
"You mean to tell me you know he's that—ah—er-what's-his-name—Eg Phillips come back?"
"My hoppin' Henry! Why didn't you say so?"
"I didn't know it then, Judah. I found it out afterward, when I went up to the house."
"Yes—but—but you knew it when you and me was eatin' dinner, didn't you? Why didn't you say somethin' about it then?"
"Oh I don't know. It isn't important enough to interfere with our meals, is it?"
Judah slowly shook his head. "It's a dum good thing you wan't around time of the flood, Cap'n Sears," he declared. "'Twould have been the thirty-eighth day afore you'd have cal'lated 'twas sprinklin' hard enough to notice. Afore that you'd have called it a thick fog, I presume likely. If you don't think this Phillips man's makin' port is important enough to talk about you take a cruise down to the store to-night. You'll hear more cacklin' than you'd hear in a henhouse in a week—and all account of just one Egg, too," he added, with a chuckle.
"Caroline told you he had come, I suppose? Well, what does she think of him?"
Judah snorted. "She?" he repeated. "She thinks he's the Angel Gabriel dressed up."
He would have liked to discuss the new arrival the remainder of the afternoon, but the captain was not in the mood to listen. Neither was he more receptive or discussive at supper time. Judah wanted to talk of nothing else and to speculate concerning the amount of wealth which Mr. Phillips might have inherited, upon the probable date of the reading of Lobelia's will, upon whether or not the fortunate legatee might take up his residence in Bayport.
"Say Cap'n" he observed, turning an inflamed countenance from the steam of dishwashing, "don't you cal'late maybe he may be wantin' to—er—sort of change things aboard the Fair Harbor? He'll be Admiral, as you might say, now, won't he?"
"Don't know, Judah. I haven't thrown up my commission yet, you know."
"No, course you ain't, course you ain't. I don't mean he'd think of disrating you, Cap'n Sears. Nobody'd be fool-head enough for that.... But, honest, I would like to look at him and hear him talk. Caroline Snow, she says he's the finest, highest-toned man ever she see."
"Yes? Well, that's sayin' somethin'."
"Yus, but 'tain't sayin' too much. She lives down to Woodchuck Neck and the highest thing down there is a barrel of cod-livers. They're good and high when the sun gets to 'em."
When the dishes were done he announced that he guessed likely he might as well go down to Eliphalet's and listen to the cackling. The captain did not object, and so he put on his cap and departed. But he was back again in less than a minute.
"He's comin', Cap'n," he cried, excitedly. "Creepin' Moses! He's comin' here."
Sears remained calm. "He is, eh?" he observed. "Well, is he creepin' now?"
"Hey? Creepin'? What are you talkin' about?"
"Why, Moses. You said he was comin', didn't you?"
"I said that Egbert man was comin'. He was just onlatchin' the gate when I see him.... Hey? That's him knockin' now. Shall I—shall I let him in, Cap'n Sears?"
"I would if I were you, Judah. If you don't I shall have to."
So Judah did. Mr. Phillips entered the kitchen, removing his silk hat at the threshold. Mr. Cahoon followed, too overcome with excitement and curiosity to remember to take off his own cap. Sears Kendrick would have risen from the armchair in which he was seated, but the visitor extended a gloved hand.
"Don't. Don't rise, I beg of you," he said, earnestly. "Pray keep your seat, Captain Kendall. I have just learned of your most unfortunate accident. Really, I must insist that you remain just as you are. You will distress me greatly if you move on my account. Thank you, thank you. I suppose I should apologize for running in in this informal way, but I feel almost as if I had known you for a long time. Our mutual friends, the Berrys, have told me so much concerning you since my arrival that I did not stand upon ceremony at all."
"That's right," declared the captain, heartily. "I'm glad you didn't. Sit down, Mr. Phillips. Put your hat on the table there."
Judah stepped forward.
"Give it to me; I'll take care of it," he said, taking the shining beaver from the visitor's hand. "I'll hang it up yonder in the back entry, then 'twon't get knocked onto the floor.... No, no, don't set in that chair, that's got a spliced leg; it's liable to land you on your beam ends if you ain't careful. Try this one."
He kicked the infirm chair out of the way and pushed forward a substitute. "There," he added, cheerfully, "that's solid's the rock of Giberaltar. Nothin' like bein' sure of your anchorage. Set down, set down."
He beamed upon the caller. The latter did not beam exactly. His expression was a queer one. Sears came to the rescue.
"Mr. Phillips," he said, "this is Mr. Cahoon."
Judah extended a mighty hand.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Phillips," he declared. "I've heard tell of you considerable."
Egbert looked at the hand. His expression was still queer.
"Oh—ah—how d'ye do?" he murmured.
"Mr. Cahoon and I are old friends," explained Sears. "I am boardin' here with him."
"Yus," put in Judah. "And afore that I shipped cook aboard Cap'n Sears's vessels for a good many v'yages. The cap'n and I get along fust rate. He's all right, Cap'n Sears is, I tell ye!"
Mr. Phillips murmured something to the effect that he was sure of it. He did not seem very sure of Judah. Mr. Cahoon did not notice the uncertainty, he pushed his hand nearer to the visitor's.
"I'm real glad to meet you," he said.
Egbert gingerly took the proffered hand, moved it up and down once and then dropped it, after which he looked at his glove. Judah looked at it, too.
"Kind of chilly outdoor to-night, is it?" he asked. "Didn't seem so to me."
Again his lodger came to the rescue.
"Well, Mr. Phillips," he said, "you gave us all a little surprise, didn't you? Of course we expected you in a general sort of way, but we didn't know when you would make port."
Egbert bowed. "I scarcely knew myself," he said. "My plans were somewhat vague and—ah—rather hurriedly made, naturally. Of course my great sorrow, my bereavement——"
He paused, sighed and then brushed the subject away with a wave of his glove.
"You won't mind, I'm sure," he said, "if I don't dwell upon that just now. It is too recent, the shock is too great, I really cannot.... But I am so sorry to hear of your disability. A railway wreck, I understand. Outrageous carelessness, no doubt. Really, Captain Kendrick, one cannot find excuses for the reckless mismanagement of your American railways.... Why, what is it? Don't you agree with me?"
The captain had looked up momentarily. Now he was looking down again.
"Don't you agree with me?" repeated Egbert. "Surely you, of all people, should not excuse their recklessness."
Sears shook his head. "Oh, I wasn't tryin' to," he replied. "I was only wonderin' why you spoke of 'em as 'your' railroads. They aren't mine, you know. That is, any more than they are Judah's—or yours—or any other American's. No such luck."
Mr. Phillips coughed, smiled, coughed again, and then explained that he had used the word 'your' without thinking.
"I have been so long an—ah—shall I say exile, Captain Kendall," he observed, "that I have, I presume, fallen somewhat into the European habit of thinking and—ah—speaking. Habit is a peculiar thing, is it not?"
Mr. Cahoon, intensely interested in the conversation, evidently felt it his duty to contribute toward it.
"You're right there, Mr. Phillips," he announced, with emphasis. "Don't talk to me about habits! When a man's been to sea as long's I have he runs afoul of pretty nigh every kind of habit there is, seems so. Why, I knew a feller one time—down to Surinam 'twas—I was cook and steward aboard the old Highflyer—and this feller—he wan't a white man, nor he wan't all nigger nuther, kind of in between, one of them—er—er—octoreens, that's what he was—well, this feller he had the dumdest habit. Every day of his life, about the middle of the dog watch he'd up and——"
"Aye, aye, Cap'n Sears?"
"You'll be late down at the store, won't you?"
"Hey? Oh, I don't care how late I be. I don't know's I'm so dreadful partic'lar about goin' down there to-night, anyhow. Don't know but I'd just as live stay here."
"Hey? Oh, I——"
"I'd go, if I were you. You know there's likely to be a good deal goin' on."
"Think so, do you?" Judah was evidently on the fence. "Course, I—— Well, maybe I had better, come to think of it. Good night, Mr. Phillips. I'll tell you about that octoreen feller next time I see you. So long, Cap'n Sears. I'll report about," with a wink, "the cacklin' later. Creepin'! it's most eight now, ain't it?"
He hurried out. Egbert looked rather relieved. He smiled tolerantly.
"Evidently an eccentric, your—er—man," he observed.
"He has his ways, like the majority of us, I guess," declared the captain, crisply. "Underneath he is as square and big-hearted as they make. And he's a good friend of mine."
"Oh, yes; yes, I'm sure of it. Captain Kendall——"
"Kendrick, not Kendall."
Mr. Phillips begged pardon for the mistake. It was inexcusable, he admitted. He had heard the captain's name mentioned so frequently since his arrival in Bayport, especially by Mrs. Berry and her daughter, "so favorably, even enthusiastically mentioned," that he certainly should have remembered it. "I am not quite myself, I fear," he added. "My recent bereavement and the added shock of the death of my dear old friend the judge have had their effect. My nerves are—well, you understand, I am sure."
He made a lengthy call. He talked a great deal, and his conversation was always interesting. He spoke much of his dear wife, of life abroad, of Genoa and Leghorn, ports which the captain had visited, and of the changes in Bayport since his last sojourn in the village. But he said almost nothing concerning his plans for the future, and of the Fair Harbor very little. In fact, Sears had the feeling that he was waiting for him to talk concerning that institution. This the captain would not do and, at last, Mr. Phillips himself touched lightly upon the fringes of the subject.
"Do you find your duties in connection with the—ah—retreat next door arduous, Captain Kendrick?" he inquired.
"Eh?... Oh, no, I don't know as I'd call 'em that, exactly."
"I imagine not, I imagine not. You are—you are, I gather, a sort of—oh—— What should I call you, captain; in your official capacity, you know?"
He laughed pleasantly. Sears smiled.
"Give it up," he replied. "I told Elizabeth—Miss Berry, I mean—when I first took the berth that I scarcely knew what it was."
"Ha, ha! Yes, I can imagine. Miss Berry—charming girl, isn't she, captain—intimated to me that your position was somewhat—ah—general. You exercise a sort of supervision over the finances and management, in a way, do you not?"
"In a way, yes."
"Yes. Of course, my dear sir, you understand that I am not unduly curious. I don't mean to be. This—ah—Fair Harbor was, as you know, very dear to the heart of Mrs. Phillips and, now that she has been taken from me, I feel, of course, a sense of trust, of sacred responsibility. We had understood, she and I, that our dear friend—Judge Knowles—was in supreme charge—nominally, I mean; of course Mrs. Berry was in actual charge—and, therefore, I confess to a natural feeling of—shall I say surprise, on learning that the judge had appointed another person, an understudy, as it were?"
"Well, you couldn't be any more surprised than I was when the judge asked me to take the job. And Elizabeth and her mother know that I hesitated considerable before I did take it. Judge Knowles was in his last sickness, he couldn't attend to things himself."
Mr. Phillips raised a protesting hand. "Please don't misunderstand me," he said. "Don't, I beg of you, think for a moment that I am objecting to the judge's action, or even criticizing it. It was precisely the thing he should have done, what Mrs. Phillips and I would have wished him to do. And as for his choice of—ah—appointee——"
Captain Sears interrupted. "As to that," he said, "you can criticize as much as you please. You can't object any more than I did when me made me the offer."
The protesting hand was again raised. "Criticism or objection was the very farthest from my mind, I assure you," Egbert declared. "I was about to say that Judge Knowles showed his usual—ah—acumen when he selected a man as well known and highly esteemed as yourself, sir. The mention of the name of Captain Kendall——"
"Kendrick, of course. I apologize once more. But, if you will permit me to say so, a man as well and favorably known to us all as you are, sir, is certainly the ideal occupant of the—ah—place."
"Thanks. You knew of me, then? I don't think you and I have ever met before, have we?"
"No; no, I believe I have never before had the pleasure."
"Thanks. I was pretty sure I hadn't. I've been away from Bayport a good deal. I wasn't here when you and your wife came back—about five years ago, wasn't it? And, of course, I didn't know you when you used to live here. Let's see; you used to teach singin'-school, didn't you?"
This question was asked in the most casual fashion. Mr. Phillips did not answer at once. He coughed, changed his position, and then smiled graciously.
"Yes," he said. "Yes, I—I did something of the sort, for a time. Music has always been a—one might call it a—ah—hobby of mine. But, regarding your duties as—well, whatever those duties are, Captain Kendrick: You say they are not arduous. And your—ah—compensation? That, I understand, is not large? Pardon my referring to it, but as Mrs. Phillips was the owner and benefactress of the Fair Harbor, and as I am—shall I say heir—to her interests, why, perhaps my excuse for asking for information is—ah—a reasonable one."
He paused, and with another smile and wave of the hand, awaited his host's reply. Sears looked at him.
"I guess you know what my wages are, Mr. Phillips," he observed. "Don't you?"
"Didn't Cordelia tell you? She knows. So does Elizabeth."
"Why—why, Mrs. Berry did mention a figure, I believe. I seem to recall—ah—ah—something."
"If you remember fifteen hundred a year, you will have it right. That is the amount I'm paid for bein' in general command over there. As you say, it isn't very large, but perhaps it's large enough for what I do."
"Oh—ah, don't misunderstand me, Captain Kendrick, please don't. I was not questioning the amount of your salary."
"Wasn't you? My mistake. I thought you was."
"No; indeed no. My only feeling in regard to it was its—ah—trifling size. It—pardon me, but it seemed such a small sum for you to accept, a man of your attainments."
"My attainments, as you call 'em, haven't got me very far I'm a poor man and, just now at any rate, I'm a cripple, a wreck on a lee shore. Fifteen hundred a year isn't so small to me."
Mr Phillips apologized. He was sorry he had referred to the subject. But the captain, he was sure, understood his motive for asking, and, now that so much had been said, might he say just a word more.
"Our dear Cordelia—Mrs. Berry—" he went on, "intimated that your—ah—compensation was paid by the judge, himself."
"Yes it was. Judge Knowles paid it with his own money. It doesn't come out of the Fair Harbor funds."
"Yes, yes, of course, of course. The judge's interest in my beloved wife's—ah—whims—perhaps that is too frivolous a word—was extraordinarily fine. But now the judge has passed on."
"Yes. More's the pity."
"I heartily agree with you, it is a great pity. An irreparable loss.... But he has gone."
Just here the dialogue came to a peculiar halt. Mr. Phillips seemed to be waiting for his companion to say something and the captain to be waiting for Phillips himself to say it first. As a consequence neither said it. When the conversation was resumed it was once more of a general nature. It was not until just beyond the end of the call that the Fair Harbor was again mentioned. And, as at first, it was the caller who led up to it.
"Captain Kendrick," he observed, "you are, like myself, a man of the world, a man of wide experience."
This was given forth as a positive statement, not a question, yet he seemed to expect a reply. Sears obliged.
"Oh, I don't know," he demurred.
"Pardon me, but I do. I am accustomed to judge persons and characters, and I think I may justly pride myself on making few mistakes. From what I had heard I expected to find you a man of the world, a man of experience and judgment. Judge Knowles' selection of you as the—ah—temporary head of the Fair Harbor would have indicated that, of course, but, if you will permit me to say so, this interview has confirmed it."
Again he paused, as if expecting a reply. And again the captain humored him.
"Much obliged," he said.
The Phillips hand waved the thanks away. There was another perceptible wait. Then said Egbert, "Captain Kendrick, as one man of the world to another, what do you think of the—ah—institution next door?"
Sears looked at him. "What do I think of it?" he repeated.
"Yes, exactly. It was, as you know, the darling of my dear wife's heart. When she loaned her—shall we say her ancestral home, and—ah—money to the purpose she firmly believed the Fair Harbor for Mariners' Women to be an inspiration for good. She believed its founding to be the beginning of a great work. Is it doing that work, do you think? In your opinion, sir, is it a success?"
Captain Sears slowly stroked his close-cropped beard. What was the man driving at?
"Why—I don't know as I know exactly what you mean by success," he hesitated. "It's takin' care of its—er—boarders and it's makin' a home for 'em. That is what your wife wanted it to do, didn't she?"
"Oh, yes, yes, quite so. But that is not precisely what I mean. Put it this way, sir: In your opinion, as a man of affairs——"
"Here, here, just a minute. I'm not a man of affairs. I'm a broken-down sea cap'n on shore, that's all."
Again the upraised hand. "I know what you are, Captain Kendrick," said Egbert. "That, if you will permit me to say so, is why I am asking your opinion. The success of a—ah—proposition depends, as I see it, upon the amount of success achieved in proportion to the amount of energy, capital—ah—whatnot invested. Now, considering the sum needed to support the Fair Harbor—paid, as doubtless you know, Captain Kendrick, from the interest of an amount loaned and set aside by my dear wife some years ago—considering that sum, I say, added to the amount sunk, or invested, in the house, land, furnishings, et cetera, is it your opinion that the institution's success is a sufficient return? Or, might not the same sums, put into other—ah—charities, reap larger rewards? Rewards in the shape of good to our fellow men and women, Captain Kendrick? What do you think?"
Sears crossed his knees.
"I don't know," he said.
"Of course, of course. One does not know. But it is a question to be considered, is it not?"
"Why—why, yes, maybe. Do I understand that you are thinkin' of givin' up the Fair Harbor? Doin' away with it?"
"Oh, no, no, no!" Mr. Phillips pushed the surmise deeper into the background with each negative. "I am not considering anything of that sort, Captain Kendrick."
"Well—humph! My mistake again. I thought you just said you were considerin' it."
"Only as a question, Captain, only as a question. While my wife lived, of course, the Fair Harbor—her Fair Harbor—was a thing fixed, immovable. Now that she has been taken from me, it devolves upon me, the care of her trusts, her benefactions."
"Yes. So you said, Mr. Phillips."
"I believe I did say so. Yes. And therefore, as I see it, a part of that trust is to make sure that every penny of her—ah—charity is doing the greatest good to the greatest number."
"And you think the Fair Harbor isn't gettin' its money's worth?"
"Oh, no, no, no. I don't say that. I don't say that at all. I am sure it must be. I am merely considering, that is all, merely considering.... Well, Captain Kendrick, I must go. We shall see each other often, I trust. I have-ah—a suite at the Central House and if you will do me the honor of calling I shall greatly appreciate it. Pray drop in at any time, sir. Don't, I beg of you, stand upon ceremony."