Sears promised that he would not. He was finding it hard to keep from smiling. A "suite" at the Central House, Bayport's one hostelry, tickled him. He knew the rooms at that hit or miss tavern.
"Good-by, Captain Kendrick," said Mr. Phillips. "Upon one thing I feel sure you may congratulate yourself, that is that your troubles and petty annoyances as—ah—manager of the Fair Harbor are practically over."
"Oh," observed the captain.
"Yes. I think I shall be able to relieve you of that care very shortly. And the sooner the better, I presume you are saying. Yes? Ha, ha!"
"Thanks. Goin' to appoint somebody else, eh?"
"Oh, no, no! My dear sir! Why, I—I really—I thought you understood. I mean to say simply that, while I am here in person, and as long as I am here, I shall endeavor to look after the matters myself and consequently relieve you, that is all. Judge Knowles appointed you and paid you—a very wise and characteristic thing for him to do; but he, poor man, is dead. One could scarcely expect you to go on performing your duties gratuitously. That is why I congratulate you upon the lifting of the burden from your shoulders."
"Oh, yes. Um-hm. I see. Thank you, Mr. Phillips."
"I should thank you, sir, for all you have already done. I do sincerely.... Oh, by the way, Captain Kendrick, perhaps it would be as well that nothing be said concerning this little business talk of ours. One knows how trifles are distorted, mole hills made mountains, and all that, in communities like—well, like dear old Bayport. We love our Bayporters, bless them, but they will talk. Ha, ha! So, captain, if you will consider our little chat confidential——"
"Thank you, sir, thank you. And we shall see each other frequently. I am counting upon it. Au revoir, Captain Kendrick. Don't rise, I beg of you."
He was gone, the door closed behind him. Sears filled his pipe, lighted it, and leaned back in his chair to review and appraise his impressions.
The appraisal was not altogether satisfactory. It was easy to say that he did not like Egbert Phillips, for it was the truth—he did not like him. But to affirm truthfully that that dislike was founded upon anything more substantial than prejudice due to Judge Knowles' detestation was not so easy. The question which continually intruded was this: Suppose he had met Mr. Phillips for the first time, never having heard of him before—would he have disliked and distrusted him under those circumstances? He could not be quite sure.
For, leaving aside Egbert's airy condescension and his—to the captain's New England mind—overdone politeness, there was not so much fault to be found with his behavior or words during the interview just ended. He had asked questions concerning the Fair Harbor, had hinted at the possibility of its discontinuance, had more than hinted at the dropping of Kendrick as its manager. Well—always bearing in mind the fact that he was ignorant of his wife's action which gave the Seymour house and land to the Fair Harbor and gave, not loaned, the money for its maintenance—bearing in mind the fact that Egbert Phillips believed himself the absolute owner of all, with undisputed authority to do as he pleased with it—then.... Well, then Captain Sears was obliged to admit that he, himself, might have questioned and hinted very much as his visitor had done. And as for the condescension and the "manner"—these were, after all, not much more than eccentricities, and developed, very likely, during his life abroad.
Lobelia Phillips' will would be opened and read soon, probably at once. Whew! Sears whistled as he thought of the staggering disillusionment which was coming to the widower. How would he take it? Was Judge Knowles right in his belief that the rest of the Seymour inheritance had been wasted and lost? If so, the elegant personage who had just bowed himself out of the Minot kitchen would be in a bad way indeed. Sears was sorry for him.
And yet he did not like the man. No, he did not.... And he did distrust him.
Judah came back from his sojourn at the store brimful of talk and chuckles. As he had prophesied, all Bayport had heard of the arrival of the great man and all Bayport was discussing him. He had the finest rooms at the Central House. He had three trunks—count them—three! Not to mention bags and a leather hat box. He had given the driver of the depot wagon a dollar over and above his regular charge. He remembered Eliphalet Bassett the first time he saw him, and called him by name.
There was a lot more of this, but Sears paid little attention to it. Judah summed it all up pretty well in his final declaration, given as his lodger was leaving the kitchen for the "spare stateroom."
"By Henry!" declared Judah, who seemed rather disgusted, "I never heard such a powwowin' over one man in my life. Up to 'Liphalet's 'twan't nothin' but 'Egbert Phillips,' 'Egbert Phillips,' till you'd think 'twas a passel of poll-parrots all mockin' each other. Simeon Ryder had been down to deacon's meetin' in the Orthodox vestry and, nigh's I can find out, 'twas just the same down there. 'Cordin' to Sim's tell they talked about the Lord's affairs for ten minutes and about this Egg man's for forty."
"But why?" queried the captain. "He isn't the only fellow that has been away from Bayport and come back again."
Mr. Cahoon shook his head. "I know it," he admitted, "but none of the rest ever had quite so much fuss made over 'em. I cal'late, maybe, it's on account of the way he's been led up to, as you might say. I went one time to a kind of show place in New York, Barnum's Museum 'twas. There was a great sign outdoor sayin', 'Come on aboard and see the White Whale,' or somethin' similar. Well, I'd seen about every kind of a whale but a white one, so I cal'lated maybe I'd might as well spend a quarter and see that. There was a great big kind of tank place full of water and a whole passel of folks hangin' around the edge of it with their mouths open, gawpin' at nothin'—nothin' but the water, that's all there was to see. And a man up on a kind of platform he was preachin' a sort of sermon, wavin' his arms and hollerin' about how rare and scurce white whales was, and how the museum folks had to scour all creation afore they got this one, and about how the round heads of Europe——"
"Crowned heads, wasn't it, Judah?"
"Hey? I don't know, maybe so. Cabbage heads it ought to have been, 'cordin' to my notion. Well, anyhow, 'twas some kind of Europe heads, and they had all pretty nigh broke the necks belongin' to 'em gettin' to see this whale, and how lucky we was because we could see it for the small sum of twenty-five cents, and so on, and so on—until all hands of us was just kind of on tiptoe, as you might say. And then, all to once, the water in the tank kind of riz up, you know, and somethin' white—might have been the broadside of a barn for all we had time to see of it—showed for a jiffy, there was a 'Woosh,' and the white thing went under again.' And that was all. The man said we was now able to tell our children that we'd seen a white whale and that the critter would be up to breathe again in about an hour, or week after next, or some such time.... Anyhow, what I'm tryin' to get at is that 'twan't the whale itself that counted so much as 'twas the way that preachin' man led up to him. This Egbert he's been preached about and guessed about and looked for'ard to so long that all Bayport's been on tiptoe, like us folks around that museum tank.... Well, this Phillips whale has made a big 'Woosh' in town so fur. Can he keep it up? That's what I'm wonderin'."
The sensation kept up for the next day and the next at least, and there were no signs of its abating. Over at the Fair Harbor Captain Sears found himself playing a very small second fiddle. Miss Snowden, Mrs. Brackett and their following, instead of putting themselves out to smile upon the captain and to chat with him, ignored him almost altogether, or, if they did speak, spoke only of Mr. Phillips. He was the most entertaining man, so genteel, his conversation was remarkable, he had traveled everywhere.
Mrs. Berry, of course, was in ecstasies concerning him. He was her ideal of a gentleman, she said, so aristocratic. "So like the men I associated with in the old days," she said. "Of course," she added, "he is an old friend. Dear 'Belia and he were my dearest friends, you know, Captain Kendrick."
The captain was curious to learn Elizabeth's opinion of him. He found that opinion distinctly favorable.
"He is different," she said. "Different, I mean, from any one I ever met. And at first I thought him conceited. But he isn't really, he is just—well, different. I think I shall like him."
Sears smiled. "If you don't you will be rather lonesome here in the Harbor, I judge," he observed.
She looked at him quickly. "You don't like him, do you, Cap'n Kendrick?" she said. "Why?"
"Why—why, I don't say I don't like him, Elizabeth."
"No, you don't say it, but you look it. I didn't think you took sudden dislikes, Cap'n. It doesn't seem like you, somehow."
He could not explain, and he felt that he had disappointed her.
On the third day the news came that Mr. Phillips had left town, gone suddenly, so Judah said.
"He took the afternoon train and bought a ticket for Boston, so they tell me," declared the latter. "He's left his dunnage at the Central House, so he's comin' back, I cal'late; but nobody knows where he's gone, nor why he went. Went over to Orham this mornin'—hired a horse-'n'-team down to the livery stable and went—come back about one o'clock, wouldn't speak to nobody, went up to his room, never et no dinner, and then set sail for Boston on the up train. Cur'us, ain't it? Where do you cal'late likely he's gone, Cap'n Sears?"
"Give it up, Judah. And," speaking quickly in order to head off the question he saw the Cahoon lips already forming, "I can't guess why he's gone, either."
But, although he did not say so, he could have guessed why Mr. Phillips had gone to Orham. Bradley, the Orham lawyer, had written the day before to say that the will of Lobelia Phillips would be opened and read at his office on Thursday morning. And this was Thursday. Bradley had suggested Sears's coming over to be present at the reading of the will. "As you are so deeply interested in the Fair Harbor," he wrote, "I should think you might—or ought to—be on hand. I don't believe Phillips will object."
But the captain had not accepted the invitation. Knowing, as he did, the disappointment which was in store for Egbert, he had no wish to see the blow fall. So he remained at home, but that afternoon Bradley himself drove into the Minot yard.
"I just stopped for a minute, Cap'n, he said. I had some other business in town here; that brought me over, but I wanted to tell you that we opened that will this morning."
Sears looked a question. "Well?" he queried.
Bradley nodded. "It was just about as we thought, and as the judge said," he declared. "The papers were there, of course, telling of the gift of the fifty thousand to the Harbor, of the gift of the land and house, everything. There was one other legacy, a small one, and then she left all the rest, 'stocks, bonds, securities, personal effects and cash' to her beloved husband, Egbert Phillips. That's all there was to it, Kendrick. Short but sweet, eh?"
Sears nodded. "Sweet enough," he agreed. "And how did the beloved husband take it?"
"Well ... well, he was pretty nasty. In fact he was about as nasty as anybody could be. He went white as a sheet and then red and then white again. I didn't know, for a minute or two, what was going to happen, didn't know but what I should have a fight on my hands. However, I didn't. I don't think he's the fighting kind, not that kind of a fight. He just took it out in being nasty. Said of course he should contest the gift, hinted at undue influence, spoke of thieves and swindlers—not naming 'em, though—and then, when I suggested that he had better think it over before he said too much, pulled up short and walked out of the office. Yes, he was pretty nasty. But, honestly, Cap'n Kendrick, when I think it over, I don't know that he was any nastier than I, or any other fellow, might have been under the circumstances. It was a smash between the eyes for him, that's what it was. Met him, have you?"
"What do you think of him?"
"I don't know—yet."
"Neither do I. He's a polite chap, isn't he?"
"No doubt about that. Say, Bradley, do you think he's got much left of the 'stocks, bonds,' and all the rest that the will talked about?"
"I give it up. Of course we shall talk about that by and by, I suppose, but we haven't yet. You know what Judge Knowles declared; he was perfectly sure that there wouldn't be anything left—that this fellow and Lobelia had thrown away every loose penny of old Seymour's money. And, of course, he prophesied that this Egbert man would be back here as soon as his wife died to sell the Fair Harbor, ship and cargo, and get the money for them. The biggest satisfaction the old judge got out of life along toward the last of it was in knowing that he and Lobelia had fixed things so that that couldn't be done. He certainly hated Phillips, the judge did."
"Um-hm. But he might have been prejudiced."
"Yes. Sometimes I wonder if he wasn't."
"Tell me, Bradley: Did you know this Phillips man when he was skipper of the singin' school here in Bayport? Before he married Lobelia?"
"No. Nor I didn't meet him when he and his wife were on here the last time. I was up in the State House serving out my two terms as county representative."
"I see.... Oh! You spoke of Lobelia's leavin' another legacy. Who was that to? If it isn't a secret."
"It is, so far. But it won't be very long. She left five thousand, in cash and in Judge Knowles's care, for Cordelia Berry over here at the Harbor. She and Lobelia were close friends, you know. Cordelia is to have it free and clear, but I am to invest it for her. She doesn't know her good luck yet. I am going over now to tell her about it.... Oh, by the way, Cap'n: Judge Knowles's nephew, the man from California, is expecting to reach Bayport next Sunday. He can't stay out a little while, and so I shall have to hurry up that will and the business connected with it. Can you come over to my office Monday about ten?"
"Why, I suppose likely I could, but what do you want me for?"
"I don't, except in the general way of always wanting to see you, Cap'n. But Judge Knowles wanted you especially."
"He did! Wanted me?"
"Yes. Seems so. He left a memorandum of those he wanted on hand when his will was read. You are one, and Elizabeth Berry is another. Will you come?"
"Why—why, yes, I suppose so. But what in the world——"
"I don't know. But I imagine we'll all know Monday. I'll look for you then, Cap'n."
The reading of the Knowles will, so Bradley had said, was to take place at the lawyer's office in Orham on Monday. It was Friday when Bradley called at the Minot place, and on Saturday morning Sears and Elizabeth discussed the matter.
"Mr. Bradley said your name was on the list of those the judge asked to be on hand when the will was read," said the captain. "He asked me not to speak about the will to outsiders, and of course I haven't, but you're not an outsider. You're goin' over, I suppose?"
She hesitated slightly. "Why, yes," she said. "I think I shall."
"Yes. Yes, I thought you would."
"I shall go because the judge seems to have wished me to be there, but why I can't imagine. Can you, Cap'n Kendrick?"
Remembering his last conversation with Judge Knowles, Sears thought he might at least guess a possible reason, but he did not say so.
"We're both interested in the Fair Harbor," he observed. "And we know how concerned the judge was with that."
She nodded. "Yes," she admitted. "Still I don't see why mother was not asked if that was it. You are going over, of course?"
"Why—yes, I shall. Bradley seemed to want me to."
That was all, at the time. The next day, however, Elizabeth again mentioned the subject. It was in the afternoon, church and dinner were over, and Sears was strolling along the path below the Fair Harbor garden plots. He could walk with less difficulty and with almost no pain now, but he could not walk far. The Eyrie was, for a wonder, unoccupied, so he limped up to it and sat down upon the bench inside to rest. This was the favorite haunt of the more romantic Fair Harbor inmates, Miss Snowden and Mrs. Chase especially, but they were not there just then, although a book, Barriers Burned Away, by E. P. Roe, lay upon the bench, a cardboard marker with the initials "E. S." in cross-stitch, between the leaves. When the captain heard a step approaching the summer-house, he judged that Elvira was returning to reclaim her "Barriers." But it was not Elvira who entered the Eyrie, it was Elizabeth Berry.
She was surprised to see him. "Why, Cap'n Sears!" she exclaimed. "I didn't expect to find you here. I was afraid—that is, I did rather think I might find Elvira, but not you. I didn't know you had the Eyrie habit."
He smiled. "I haven't," he said. "That is, it isn't chronic yet. I didn't know you had it, either."
"Oh I haven't. But I was rather tired, and I wanted to be alone, and so——"
"And so you took a chance. Well, you came at just the right time. I was just about gettin' under way."
He rose, but she detained him. "Don't go," she begged. "When I said I wanted to be alone I didn't mean it exactly. I meant I wanted to be away from—some people. You are not one of them."
He was pleased, and showed it. "You're sure of that?" he asked.
"Of course. You know I am. Do sit down and talk. Talk about anything except—well, except Bayport gossip and Fair Harbor squabbles and bills and—oh, that sort of thing. Talk about something away from Bayport, miles and miles away. I feel just now as if I should like to be—to be on board a ship sailing ... sailing."
She smiled wistfully as she said it. The captain was seized with an intense conviction that he should like to be with her on that same ship, to sail on and on indefinitely. The kind of ship or its destination would not matter in the least, the only essentials were that she and he were to be on board, and ... Humph! His brain must be softening. Who did he think he was: a young man again?—a George Kent? He came out of the clouds.
"Yes," he observed, dryly, "I know. I get that same feelin' every once in a while. I should rather like to walk a deck again, myself."
She understood instantly. That was one of the fascinations of this girl, she always seemed to understand. A flash of pity came into her eyes. Impulsively she laid a hand on his coat sleeve.
"I beg your pardon," she said. "I'm so sorry. I realize how hard it must be for you, Cap'n Kendrick. A man who has been where you have been and seen what you have seen.... Yes, and done what you have done."
He shrugged. "I haven't done much," he said.
"Oh, yes, you have. I have heard so many stories about you and your ships and the way you have handled them. There was one story I remember, a story about how your sailors mutinied and how you got them to go to work again. I heard that years ago, when I was a girl at school. I have never forgotten; it sounded so wonderful and romantic and—and far off."
He nodded. "It was far off," he said. "Away over in the South Seas. And it was a good while ago, too, for I was in command of my first vessel, and that's the time of all times when a man doesn't want mutiny or any other setback. And I never had any trouble with my crews, before or since, except then. But the water in our butts had gone rancid and we put in at this island to refill. It was a pretty place, lazy and sunshiny, like most of those South Sea corals, and the fo'mast hands got ashore amongst the natives, drinkin' palm wine and traders' gin, and they didn't want to put to sea as soon as the mates and I did."
"But you made them?"
"Well, I—er—sort of coaxed 'em into it."
"Tell me about it, please."
"Oh, there isn't anything to——"
So Sears began to spin the yarn. And from that she led him into another and then another. They drifted through the South Seas to the East Indies, and from there to Bombay, and then to Hong Kong, and to Mauritious, from the beaches of which came the marvelous sea shells that Sarah Macomber had in the box in her parlor closet. They voyaged through the Arabian Sea, with the parched desert shores shimmering in the white hot sun. They turned north, saw the sperm whales and the great squid and the floating bergs.... And at last they drifted back to Bayport and the captain looked at his watch.
"Heavens and earth!" he exclaimed. "It's almost four o'clock. I believe I've talked steady for pretty nearly an hour. I'm ashamed. Are you awake, Elizabeth? I hope, for your sake, you've been takin' a nap."
She did not answer at once. Then she breathed deeply. "I don't know what I have been doing—really doing," she said. "I suppose I have been sitting right here in this old summer-house. But I feel as if I had been around the world. I wanted to sail and sail.... I said so, didn't I? Well, I have. Thank you, Cap'n Kendrick."
He rose from the bench.
"A man gets garrulous in his old age," he observed. "But I didn't think I was as old as that—just yet. The talkin' disease must be catchin', and I've lived with Judah Cahoon quite a while now."
She laughed. "If I had as much to talk about—worth while talking about—as you have," she declared, "I should never want to stop. Well, I must be getting back to the Fair Harbor—and the squabbles."
"Too bad. Can I help you with 'em?"
"No, I'm afraid not. They're not big enough for you."
They turned to the door. She spoke again.
"You are going to drive to Orham to-morrow afternoon?" she asked.
"Eh? Oh, yes. The Foam Flake and I will make the voyage—if we have luck."
"And you are going—alone?"
"Yes. Judah thinks I shouldn't. Probably he thinks the Foam Flake may fall dead, or get to walkin' in his sleep and step off the bank or somethin'. But I'm goin' to risk it. I guess likely I can keep him in the channel."
She waited a moment. Then she smiled and shook her head.
"Cap'n," she said, "you make it awfully hard for me. And this is the second time. Really, I feel so—so brazen."
"Yes. Why don't you invite me to ride to Orham with you? Why must I always have to invite myself?"
He turned to look at her. She colored a little, but she returned his look.
"You—you mean it?" he demanded.
"Of course I mean it. I must get there somehow, because I promised Mr. Bradley. And unless you don't want me, in which case I shall have to hire from the livery stable, I——"
But he interrupted her. "Want you!" he repeated. "Want you!"
His tone was sufficiently emphatic, perhaps more emphatic than he would have made it if he had not been taken by surprise. She must have found it satisfactory, for she did not ask further assurances.
"Thank you," she said. "And when are you planning to start?"
"Why—why, right after dinner to-morrow. If that's all right for you. But I'm sorry you had to invite yourself. I—I thought—well, I thought maybe George had—had planned——"
To his further surprise she seemed a trifle annoyed.
"George works at the store," she said. "Besides, I—well, really, Cap'n Kendrick, there is no compelling reason why George Kent should take me everywhere I want to go."
Now Sears had imagined there was—and rumor and surmise in Bayport had long supported his imagining—but he did not tell her that. What he did say was inane enough.
"Oh—er—yes, of course," he stammered.
"No, there isn't. He and I are friends, good friends, and have been for a long time, but that doesn't—— Well, Cap'n, I shall look for you and the Foam Flake—oh, that is a wonderful name—about one to-morrow. And I'll promise not to keep you waiting."
"If the Foam Flake doesn't die in the meantime I'll be on hand. He'll be asleep probably, but Judah declares he walks in his sleep, so that—— Oh, heavens and earth!"
This exclamation, although but a mutter, was fervent indeed. The captain and Elizabeth had turned to the vine-shaded doorway of the Eyrie, and there, in that doorway, was Miss Snowden and, peering around her thin shoulder, the moon face of Mrs. Chase. Sears looked annoyed, Miss Berry looked more so, and Elvira looked—well, she looked all sorts of things. As for Aurora, her expression was, as always, unfathomable. Judah Cahoon once compared her countenance to a pink china dish-cover, and it is hard to read the emotions behind a dish-cover.
Miss Snowden spoke first.
"Oh!" she observed; and much may be expressed in that monosyllable.
Elizabeth spoke next. "Your book is there on the seat, Elvira," she said, carelessly. "At least I suppose it is yours. It has your bookmark in it."
Elvira simpered. "Yes," she affirmed, "it is mine. But I'm not in a hurry, not a single bit of hurry. I do hope we haven't disturbed you."
"Not a bit, not a bit," said Sears, crisply. "Miss Elizabeth and I were havin' a business talk, but we had finished. The coast is clear for you now. Good afternoon."
"You're sure, Cap'n Kendrick? Aurora and I wouldn't interrupt a business talk for the world. And in such a romantic place, too."
As Sears and Elizabeth walked up the path from the summer-house the voice of Mrs. Chase was audible—as usual very audible indeed.
"Elviry," begged Aurora, eagerly, "Elviry, what did he say to you? He looked awful kind of put out when he said it."
The captain was "put out," so was Elizabeth apparently. The latter said, "Oh, dear!" and laughed, but there was less humor than irritation in the laugh. Sears's remark was brief but pointed.
"I like four-legged cats first-rate," he declared.
The next day at one o'clock he and his passenger, with the placid Foam Flake as motor power, left the Fair Harbor together. And, as they drove out of the yard, both were conscious that behind the shades of the dining-room windows were at least six eager faces, and whispering tongues were commenting, exclaiming and surmising.
The captain, for his part, forgot the faces and tongues very quickly. It was a pleasant afternoon, the early fall days on the Cape are so often glorious; the rain of a few days before had laid the dust, at least the upper layer of it, and the woods were beginning to show the first sprinklings of crimson and purple and yellow. The old horse walked or jogged or rambled on along the narrow winding ways, the ancient buggy rocked and rattled and swung in the deep ruts. They met almost no one for the eight miles between Bayport and Orham—there were no roaring, shrieking processions of automobiles in those days—and when Abial Gould, of North Harniss, encountered them at the narrowest section of highway, he steered his placid ox team into the huckleberry bushes and waited for them to pass, waving a whip-handle greeting from his perch on top of his load of fragrant pitch pine. The little ponds and lakes shone deeply blue as they glimpsed them in the hollows or over the tree tops and, occasionally, a startled partridge boomed from the thicket, or a flock of quail scurried along the roadside.
They talked of all sorts of things, mostly of ships and seas and countries far away, subjects to which Elizabeth led the conversation and then abandoned it to her companion. They spoke little of the Fair Harbor or its picayune problems, and of the errand upon which they were going—the judge's will, its reading and its possible surprises—none at all.
"Don't," pleaded Elizabeth, when Sears once mentioned the will; "don't, please. Judge Knowles was such a good friend of mine that I can't bear to think he has gone and that some one else is to speak his thoughts and carry out his plans. Tell me another sea story, Cap'n Kendrick. There aren't any Elvira Snowdens off Cape Horn, I'm sure."
So Sears spun his yarns and enjoyed the spinning because she seemed to so enjoy listening to them. And he did not once mention his crippled limbs, or his despondency concerning the future; in fact, he pretty well forgot them for the time. And he did not mention George Kent, a person whom he had meant to mention and praise highly, for his unreasonable conscience had pestered him since the talk in the summer-house and, as usual, he had determined to do penance. But he forgot Kent for the time, forgot him altogether.
Bradley's law offices occupied a one-story building on Orham's main road near the center of the village. There were several rigs standing at the row of hitching posts by the steps as they drove up. Sears climbed from the buggy—he did it much easier than had been possible a month before—and moored the Foam Flake beside them. Then they entered the building.
Bradley's office boy told them that his employer and the others were in the private room beyond. The captain inquired who the others were.
"Well" said the boy, "there's that Mr. Barnes—he's the one from California, you know, Judge Knowles' nephew. And Mike—Mr. Callahan, I mean—him that took care of the judge's horse and team and things; and that Tidditt woman that kept his house. And there's Mr. Dishup, the Orthodox minister from over to Bayport, and another man, I don't know his name. Walk right in, Cap'n Kendrick. Mr. Bradley told me to tell you and Miss Berry to walk right in when you came."
So they walked right in. Bradley greeted them and introduced them to Knowles Barnes, the long-looked-for nephew from California. Barnes was a keen-eyed, healthy-looking business man and the captain liked him at once. The person whom the office boy did not know turned out to be Captain Noah Baker, a retired master mariner, who was Grand Master of the Bayport lodge of Masons.
"And now that you and Miss Berry are here, Cap'n Kendrick," said Bradley, "we will go ahead. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the will of our late good friend, Judge Knowles. He asked you all to be here when it was opened and read. Mr. Barnes is obliged to go West again in a week or so, so the sooner we get to business the better. Ahem!"
Then followed the reading of the will. One by one the various legacies and bequests were read. Some of them Sears Kendrick had expected and foreseen. Others came as surprises. He was rather astonished to find that the judge had been, according to Cape Cod standards of that day, such a rich man. The estate, so the lawyer said, would, according to Knowles' own figures, total in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
Judge Knowles bequeathed:
To the Endowment Fund of the Fair Harbor for Mariners' Women $50,000
To the Bayport Congregational Church 5,000
To the Building Fund of the Bayport Lodge of Masons 5,000
To Emmeline Tidditt (his housekeeper) 5,000
To Michael Callahan (his hired man) 5,000
To Elizabeth Berry—in trust until she should be thirty years of age 20,000
Other small bequests, about 7,000
The balance, the residue of the estate, amounting to a sum approximating fifty-five thousand, to Henry Knowles Barnes, of San Francisco, California.
There were several pages of carefully worded directions and instructions. The fifty thousand for the Fair Harbor was already invested in good securities and, from the interest of these, Sears Kendrick's salary of fifteen hundred a year was to be paid as long as he wished to retain his present position as general manager. If the time should come when he wished to relinquish that position he was given authority to appoint his successor at the same salary. Or should Cordelia Berry, at any time, decide to give up her position as matron, Kendrick and Bradley, acting together, might, if they saw fit, appoint a suitable person to act as manager and matron at a suitable salary. In this event, of course, Kendrick would no longer continue to draw his fifteen hundred a year.
The reading was not without interruptions. Mr. Callahan's was the most dramatic. When announcement was made of his five thousand dollar windfall his Celtic fervor got the better of him and he broke loose with a tangled mass of tearful ejaculations and prayers, a curious mixture of glories to the saints and demands for blessings upon the soul of his benefactor. Mrs. Tidditt was as greatly moved as he, but she had her emotions under firmer control. The Reverend Mr. Dishup was happy and grateful on behalf of his parish, so too was Captain Baker as representative of the Masonic Lodge. But each of these had been in a measure prepared, they had been led to expect some gift or remembrance. It was Elizabeth Berry who had, apparently, expected nothing—nothing for herself, that is. When the lawyer announced the generous bequest to the Fair Harbor she caught her breath and turned to look at Sears with an almost incredulous joy in her eyes. But when he read of the twenty thousand which was hers—the income beginning at once and the principal when she was thirty—she was so tremendously taken aback that, for an instant, the captain thought she was going to faint. "Oh!" she exclaimed, and that was all, but the color left her face entirely.
Sears rose, so did the minister, but she waved them back. "Don't," she begged. "I—I am all right.... No, please don't speak to me for—for a little while."
So they did not speak, but the captain, watching her, saw that the color came back very slowly to her cheeks and that her eyes, when she opened them, were wet. Her hands, clasped in her lap, were trembling. Sears, although rejoicing for her, felt a pang of hot resentment at the manner of the announcement. It should not have been so public. She should not have had to face such a surprise before those staring spectators. Why had not the judge—or Bradley, if he knew—have prepared her in some measure?
But when it was over and he hastened to congratulate her, she was more composed. She received his congratulations, and those of the others, if not quite calmly at least with dignity and simplicity. To Mr. Dishup and Bradley and Captain Baker she said little except thanks. To Barnes, whose congratulations were sincere and hearty, and, to all appearances at least, quite ungrudging, she expressed herself as too astonished to be very coherent.
"I—I can scarcely believe it yet," she faltered. "I can't understand—I can't think why he did it.... And you are all so very kind. You won't mind if I don't say any more now, will you?"
But to Sears when he came, once more, to add another word and to shake her hand, she expressed a little of the uncertainty which she felt.
"Oh," she whispered; "oh, Cap'n Kendrick, do you think it is right? Do you think he really meant to do it? You are sure he did?"
His tone should have carried conviction. "You bet he meant it!" he declared, fervently. "He never meant anything any more truly; I know it."
"Do you? Do you really?... Did—did you know? Did he tell you he was going to?"
"Not exactly, but he hinted. He——"
"Wait. Wait, please. Don't tell me any more now. By and by, on the way home, perhaps. I—I want to know all about it. I want to be sure. And," with a tremulous smile, "I doubt if I could really understand just yet."
The group in the lawyer's office did not break up for another hour. There were many matters for discussion, matters upon which Bradley and Barnes wished the advice of the others. Mike and Mrs. Tidditt were sent home early, and departed, volubly, though tearfully rejoicing. The minister and Captain Noah stayed on to answer questions concerning the church and the lodge, the former's pressing needs and the new building which the latter had hoped for and which was now a certainty. Sears and Elizabeth remained longest. Bradley whispered to the captain that he wished them to do so.
When they were alone with him, and with Barnes of course, he took from his pocket two sealed letters.
"The judge gave me these along with the will," he said. "That was about three weeks before he died. I don't know what is in them and he gave me to understand that I wasn't supposed to know. They are for you two and no one else, so he said. You are to read yours when you are alone, Cap'n Kendrick, and Elizabeth is to read hers when she is by herself. And he particularly asked me to tell you both not to make your decision too quickly. Think it over, he said."
He handed Sears an envelope addressed in Judge Knowles' hand-writing, and to Elizabeth another bearing her name.
"There!" he exclaimed, with a sigh of relief. "That is done. Ever since the old judge left us I have been feeling as if he were standing at my elbow and nudging me not to forget. He had a will of his own, Judge Knowles had, and I don't mean the will we have just read, either. But, take him by and large, as you sailors say, Cap'n, I honestly believe he was the biggest and squarest man this county has seen for years. Some of us are going to be surer of that fact every day that passes."
It was after four when Elizabeth and Sears climbed aboard the buggy and the captain, tugging heavily on what he termed the port rein, coaxed the unwilling Foam Flake into the channel—or the road. Heavy clouds had risen in the west since their arrival in Orham, the sky was covered with them, and it was already beginning to grow dark. When they turned from the main road into the wood road leading across the Cape there were lighted lamps in the kitchens of the scattered houses on the outskirts of the town.
"Is it going to rain, do you think?" asked Elizabeth, peering at the troubled brown masses above the tree tops.
Sears shook his head. "Hardly think so," he replied. "Looks more like wind to me. Pretty heavy squall, I shouldn't wonder, and maybe rain to-morrow. Come, come; get under way, Old Hundred," addressing the meandering Foam Flake. "If you don't travel faster than this in fair weather and a smooth sea, what will you do when we have to reef? Well," with a chuckle, "even if it comes on a livin' gale the old horse won't blow off the course. Judah feeds him too well. Nothin' short of a typhoon could heel him down."
The prophesied gale held off, but the darkness shut in rapidly. In the long stretches of thick woods through which they were passing it was soon hard to see clearly. Not that that made any difference. Sears knew the Orham road pretty well and the placid Foam Flake seemed to know it absolutely. His ancient hoofs plodded up and down in the worn "horse path" between the grass-grown and sometimes bush-grown ridges which separated it from the deep ruts on either side. Sometimes those ruts were so deep that the tops of the blueberry bushes and weeds on those ridges scratched the bottom of the buggy.
Beside his orders to the horse the captain had said very little since their departure. He had been thinking, though, thinking hard. It was just beginning to dawn upon him, the question as to what this good fortune which had befallen the girl beside him might mean, what effect it might have upon her, upon her future—and upon her relations with him, Sears Kendrick.
Hitherto those relations had been those of comrades, fellow workers, partners, so to speak, in an enterprise the success of which involved continuous planning and fighting against obstacles. A difficult but fascinating game of itself, but one which also meant a means of livelihood for them both. Elizabeth had drawn no salary, it is true, but without her help her mother could not have held her position as matron, not for a month could she have done so. It was Elizabeth who was the real matron, who really earned the wages Cordelia received and upon which they both lived. And Elizabeth had told the captain that she should remain at the Fair Harbor and work with and for her mother as long as the latter needed her.
And now Sears was realizing that the necessity for either of them to remain there no longer existed. Cordelia, thanks to Mrs. Phillips' bequest, had five thousand dollars of her own. Elizabeth had, for the six or seven years before her thirtieth birthday, an income of at least twelve hundred yearly. Cordelia's legacy would add several hundred to that. If they wished it was quite possible for them to retire from the Fair Harbor and live somewhere in a modest fashion upon that income. Many couples—couples esteemed by Bayporters as being in comfortable circumstances—were living upon incomes quite as small. Sears was suddenly brought face to face with this possibility, and was forced to admit it even a probability.
And he—he had no income worth mentioning. He could not go to sea again for a long time; he did not add "if ever," because even conservative Doctor Sheldon now admitted that his complete recovery was but a matter of time, but it would be a year—perhaps years. And for that year, or those years, he must live—and he had practically nothing to live upon except his Fair Harbor salary. And then again, as an additional obligation, there was his promise to Judge Knowles to stick it out. But to stick it out alone—without her!
For Elizabeth was under no obligation. She might not stay—probably would not. She was a young woman of fortune now. She could do what she liked, in reason. She might—why, she might even decide to marry. There was Kent——
At the thought Sears choked and swallowed hard. A tingling, freezing shiver ran down his spine. She would marry George Kent and he would be left to—to face—to face—— She would marry—she——
The shiver lasted but a moment. He shut his teeth, blinked and came back to the buggy seat and reality—and shame. Overwhelming, humiliating shame. He glanced fearfully at her, afraid that she might have seen his face and read upon it the secret which he himself had learned for the first time. No, she did not read it, she was not looking at him, she too seemed to be thinking. There was a chance for him yet. He must be a man, a decent man, not a fool and a selfish beast. She did not know—and she should not. Then, or at any future time.
He spoke now and hurriedly. "Well," he began, "I suppose——"
But she had looked up and now she spoke. Apparently she had not heard him, for she said:
"Tell me about it, Cap'n Kendrick, please. I want to hear all about it. You said you knew? You say Judge Knowles hinted that he was going to do this—for me? Tell me all about it, please. Please."
So he told her, all that he could remember of the judge's words concerning his regard for her, of his high opinion of her abilities, of his friendship for her father, and of his intention to see that she was "provided for."
"I didn't know just what he meant, of course," he said, in conclusion, "but I guessed, some of it. I do want you to know, Elizabeth," he added, stammering a little in his earnestness, "how glad I am for you, how very glad."
"Yes," she said, "I do know."
"Well, I—I haven't said much, but I am. I don't think I ever was more glad, or could be. You believe that, don't you?"
She looked at him in surprise. "Why, of course I believe it," she said. "Why do you ask that?"
"Oh, I—I don't know. I hadn't said much about it."
"But it wasn't necessary. I knew you were glad. I know you by this time, Cap'n Kendrick, through and through."
The same guilty shiver ran down his spine and he glanced sharply at her to see if there was any hidden meaning behind her words. But there was not. She was looking down again, and when she again spoke it was to repeat the question she had asked at the lawyer's office.
"I wonder if I ought to take it?" she murmured. "Do you think it is right for me to accept—so much?
"Right!" he repeated. "Right? Of course its right. And because it is enough to amount to somethin' makes it all the more right. Judge Knowles knew what he was doin', trust his long head for that. A little would only have made things easier where you were.... Now," he forced himself to say it, "now you can be independent."
"Why, yes. Do what you like—in reason. Steer your own course. Live as you want to ... and where ... and how you want to."
They were simple sentences these, but he found them hard to say. She turned again to look at him.
"Why do you speak like that?" she asked. "How should I want to live? What do you mean?"
"I mean—er—you can think of your own happiness and—plans, and—all that. You won't be anchored to the Fair Harbor, unless you want to be. You.... Eh? Hi! Standby! Whoa! Whoa!"
The last commands were roars at the horse, for, at that moment, the squall struck.
It came out of the blackness to the left and ahead like some enormous living creature springing over the pine tops and pouncing upon them. There was a rumble, a roar and then a shrieking rush. The sand of the road leaped up like the smoke from an explosion, showers of leaves and twigs pattered sharply upon the buggy top or were thrown smartly into their faces. From all about came the squeaks and groans of branches rubbing against each other, with an occasional sharp crack as a limb gave way under the pressure.
Captain Kendrick and his passenger had been so occupied with their thoughts and conversation that both had forgotten the heavy clouds they had noticed when they left Bradley's office, rolling up from the west. Then, too, the increasing darkness had hidden the sky. So the swoop of the squall took them completely by surprise.
And not only them but that genuine antique the Foam Flake. This phlegmatic animal had been enjoying himself for the last half hour. No one had shouted orders at him, he had not been slapped with the ends of the reins, no whip had been cracked in his vicinity. He had been permitted to amble and to walk and had availed himself of the permission. For the most recent mile he had been, practically, a somnambulist. Now out of his dreams, whatever they may have been, came this howling terror. He jumped and snorted. Then the wind, tearing a prickly dead branch from a scrub oak by the roadside, cast it full into his dignified countenance. For the first time in ten years at least, the Foam Flake ran away.
He did not run far, of course; he was not in training for distance events. But his sprint, although short, was lively and erratic. He jumped to one side, the side opposite to that from which the branch had come, jerking the buggy out of the ruts and setting it to rocking like a dory amid breakers. He jumped again, and this brought his ancient broadside into contact with the bushes by the edge of the road. They were ragged, and prickly, and in violent commotion. So he jumped the other way.
Sears, yelling Whoas and compliments, stood erect upon his newly-mended legs and leaned his weight backward upon the reins. If the skipper of a Hudson River canal boat had suddenly found his craft deserting the waterway and starting to climb Bear Mountain, he might have experienced something of Sears' feelings at that moment. Canal boats should not climb; it isn't done; and horses of the Foam Flake age, build and reputation should not run away.
"Whoa! Whoa! What in thunder—?" roared the captain. "Port! Port, you lubber!"
He jerked violently on the left rein. That rein was, like the horse and the buggy, of more than middle age. Leather of that age must be persuaded, not jerked. The rein broke just beyond Sears' hand, flew over the dashboard and dragged in the road. The driver's weight came solidly upon the right hand rein. The Foam Flake dashed across the highway again, head-first into the woods this time.
Then followed a few long—very long minutes of scratching and rocking and pounding. Sears heard himself shouting something about the Broken rein he must get that rein.
"It's all right! It's all right, Elizabeth!" he shouted. "I'm goin' to lean out over his back, if I can and—O—oh!"
The last was a groan, involuntarily wrung from him by the pain in his knees. He had put an unaccustomed strain upon them and they were remonstrating. He shut his teeth, swallowed another groan, and leaned out over the dash, his hand clutching for the harness of the rocketing, bumping Foam Flake.
Then he realized that some one else was leaning over that dashboard, was in fact almost out of the buggy and swinging by the harness and the shaft.
"Elizabeth!" he shouted, in wild alarm. "Elizabeth, what are you doin'? Stop!"
But she was back, panting a little, but safe.
"I have the rein," she panted. "Give me the other, Cap'n Kendrick. I can handle him, I know. Give me the rein. Sit down! Oh, please! You will hurt yourself again!"
But he was in no mood to sit down. He snatched the end of the broken rein from her hand, taking it and the command again simultaneously.
"Get back, back on the seat," he ordered. "Now then," addressing the horse, "we'll see who's what! Whoa! Whoa! Steady! Come into that channel, you old idiot! Come on!"
The Foam Flake was pretty nearly ready to come by this time. And Kendrick's not too gentle coaxing helped. The buggy settled into the ruts with a series of bumps. The horse's gallop became a trot, then a walk; then he stopped and stood still.
The captain subsided on the seat beside his passenger. He relaxed his tension upon the reins and the situation.
"Whew!" he exclaimed. "That was sweet while it lasted. All right, are you?"
She answered, still rather breathlessly, "Yes, I am all right," she declared. "But you? Aren't you hurt?"
"Me? Not a bit."
"You're sure? I was so afraid. Your—your legs, you know."
"My legs are all serene." They weren't, by any means, and were at that moment proclaiming the fact, but he did not mean she should know. "They're first-rate.... Well, I'm much obliged."
"Obliged for what?"
"For that rein. But you shouldn't have climbed out that way. You might have broken your neck. 'Twas an awful risk."
"You were going to take the same risk. And I am not in the doctor's care."
"Well, you shouldn't have done it, just the same. And it was a spunky thing to do.... But what a numbskull I was not to be on the lookout for that squall. Humph!" with a grin, "I believe I told you even a typhoon couldn't move this horse. I was wrong, wasn't I?"
The squall had passed on, but a steady gale was behind it. And there was a marked hint of dampness in the air. Sears sniffed.
"And I'm afraid, too," he said, "that I was wrong about that rain comin' to-morrow. I think it's comin' this evenin' and pretty soon, at that."
It came within fifteen minutes, in showery gusts at first. The captain urged the Foam Flake onward as fast as possible, but that quadruped had already over-expended his stock of energy and shouts and slaps meant nothing to him. For a short time Sears chatted and laughed, but then he relapsed into silence. Elizabeth, watching him fearfully, caught, as the buggy bounced over a loose stone, a smothered exclamation, first cousin to a groan.
"I knew it!" she cried. "You are hurt, Cap'n Kendrick."
"No, no, I'm not," hastily. "It's—it's those confounded spliced spars of mine. They're a little weak yet, I presume likely."
"Of course they are. Oh, I'm so sorry. Won't you let me drive?"
"I should say not. I'm not quite ready for the scrap heap yet. And if I couldn't steer this Noah's ark I should be.... Hello! here's another craft at sea."
Another vehicle was ahead of them in the road, coming toward them. Sears pulled out to permit it to pass. But the driver of the other buggy hailed as the horses' heads came abreast.
"Elizabeth," he shouted, "is that you?"
Miss Berry's surprise showed in her voice.
"Why, George!" she cried. "Where in the world are you going?"
The horses stopped. Kent leaned forward.
"Going?" he repeated. "Why, I was going after you, of course. Are you wet through?"
He seemed somewhat irritated, so the captain thought.
"No, indeed," replied Elizabeth. "I am all right. But why did you come after me? Didn't they tell you I was with Cap'n Kendrick?"
"They told me—yes. But why didn't you tell me you were going to Orham? I would have driven you over; you know I would."
"You were at work at the store."
"Well, I could have taken the afternoon off.... But there! no use talking about it out here in this rain. Come on.... Oh, wait until I turn around. Drive ahead a little, will you?"
This was the first time he had spoken to Sears, and even then his tone was not too gracious. The captain drove on a few steps, as requested, and, a moment later, Kent's equipage, now headed in their direction, was alongside once more.
"Whoa!" he shouted, and both horses stopped. "Come on, Elizabeth," urged the young man, briskly. "Wait, I'll help you."
He sprang out of his buggy and approached theirs. "Come on," he said, again. "Quick! It is going to rain harder."
Elizabeth did not move. "But I'm not going with you, George," she said quietly.
He stared at her.
"Not going with me?" he repeated. "Why, of course you are. I've come on purpose for you."
"I'm sorry. You shouldn't have done it. You knew I would be all right with Cap'n Kendrick."
"I didn't even know you were going with him. You didn't say you were going at all. If you had I——"
"You would have taken another afternoon's holiday. And you know what Mr. Bassett said about the last one."
"I don't care a—I don't care what he says. I shan't be working very long for him, I hope.... But there, Elizabeth! Come on, come on! I can get you home for supper while that old horse of Cahoon's is thinking about it."
But still she did not move. Sears thought that, perhaps, he should take a hand.
"Go right ahead, Elizabeth," he said. "George is right about the horses."
"Of course I am. Come, Elizabeth."
"No, I shall stay with Cap'n Kendrick. He has been kind enough to take me so far and we are almost home. You can follow, George, and we'll get there together."
"Well, I like that!" exclaimed Kent. But he did not speak as if he liked it. "After I have taken the trouble——"
"Hush! Don't be silly. The cap'n has taken a great deal of trouble, too.... No," as Sears began to protest, "you can't get rid of me, Cap'n Kendrick."
"No. Do you suppose I am going to leave you—in pain—and.... Drive on, please. George can follow us."
"But I'm all right, good land knows! The Foam Flake won't try to fly again. And really, I——"
"Drive on, please."
So he drove on; there seemed to be nothing else to do. It did not help his feelings to hear, as George Kent was left standing in the road, a disgusted and profane ejaculation from that young gentleman.
The remainder of the journey was quickly made. There was little conversation. The rain, the wind, and the sounds of the horses' hoofs and the rattle of the buggies—for Kent's was close behind all the way—furnished most of the noise.
Judah was waiting when they came into the yard of the Minot place. He and Elizabeth helped Sears from the buggy. The captain, in spite of his protestations, could scarcely stand. Kent, because Elizabeth asked him to, assisted in getting him into the kitchen and the biggest rocking chair.
"Now go ... go," urged Sears. "I'm just a little lame, that's all, and I'll be all right by to-morrow. Go, Elizabeth please. Your supper is waitin' as it is. Now go."
She went, but rather reluctantly. "I shall run over after supper to see how you are," she declared. "Thank you very much for taking me to Orham, Cap'n."
"Thank you for—for a whole lot of things. And don't you dream of comin' over again to-night. There's no sense in it, is there, George?"
If Kent heard he did not answer. His "good night" was brief. Sears did not like it, nor the expression on his face. This was a new side of the young fellow's character, a side the captain had not seen before. And yet—well, he was young, very young. Sears was troubled about the affair. Had he been to blame? He had not meant to be. Ah-hum! the world was full of misunderstandings and foolishness. And was there, in all that world, any being more foolish than himself?
Just here, Judah, having returned from stabling the Foam Flake, rushed into the kitchen to demand answers to a thousand questions. For the next hour there was no opportunity for moralizing or melancholy.
Elizabeth did not visit the Minot place that evening, as she had said she meant to do. It may be that Sears was a trifle disappointed, but even he would have been obliged to confess that that particular evening was not the time for him to receive callers. He ate his supper—a very small portion of the meal which Judah had provided for him—and, soon afterward, retired to the spare stateroom and bed. Undressing was a martyrdom, and he had hard work to keep back the groans which the pain in his legs tempted him to utter. There was no doubt that he had twisted those shaky limbs of his more than he realized. He had wrenched them severely, how severely he scarcely dared think. But they forced him to think all that night, and the next morning Judah insisted on going for the doctor.
Doctor Sheldon examined the "spliced timbers," fumed and scolded a good deal, but at last grudgingly admitted that no irreparable harm had been done.
"You're luckier than you deserve, Cap'n," he declared. "It's a wonder you aren't ruined altogether. Now you stay right in that bed until I tell you to get up. And that won't be to-day, or to-morrow either. Perhaps the day after that—well, we'll see. But those legs of yours need absolute rest. Judah, you see that they get it, will you? If he tries to get up you knock him back again. Those are orders. Understand?"
"Aye, aye, sir," replied Judah, promptly. "I'll have a handspike handy. He won't turn out, I'll see to it."
Sears' protestations that he couldn't waste time in bed, that he had too many important things to attend to, went for nothing. According to Sheldon and Judah his legs were the only things of real importance just then and they needed absolute rest. Down inside him the captain realized that this was true, and so grumblingly resigned himself to the two days of imprisonment. With the most recent issues of the Cape Cod Item and one or two books from the shelves in the sitting room closet, books of the vintage of the '40's and '50's, but fortunately of a strong sea flavor, he endeavored to console himself, while Judah attended to the household duties or went down town on errands.
Elizabeth called that first forenoon, but did not see him. The doctor had warned Judah to head off visitors. "They may not do any harm, but they certainly won't do any good, and I want him to have absolute rest," said Sheldon. So Judah guarded the outer portal, and, when he went out, hung up a warning placard. "OUT. NO ADMITENTS. DOORS LOKED. KEY UNDER MAT." The information concerning the key was for the doctor's benefit.
But Elizabeth sent her good wishes and sympathy. So did her mother. So, too, did Esther Tidditt, and Miss Snowden, and Miss Peasley, and in fact all the Fair Harbor inmates. For the first day Mr. Cahoon was kept busy transmitting messages to the spare stateroom.
But about this time Bayport began to rock with a new series of sensations and, except by the very few, Captain Kendrick was forgotten. The news of Judge Knowles' various legacies became known and spread through the village like fire in a patch of dead weeds. The Fair Harbor sat up nearly all of one night discussing and commenting upon the good fortune which had befallen the Berrys. And by no means all of the time was used in congratulations.
"Humph!" sniffed Susanna Brackett, her lips squeezed so tightly together that her mustache stood on end. "Humph!"
Miss Snowden nodded. "Of course," she said, "I'm not a person to hint, or anything of that sort. But—but if somebody'll tell me why the judge left all that money to her I should like to hear 'em."
Mrs. Brackett opened her lips sufficiently to observe that so should she. "Of course," she added, "the five thousand that Lobelia left Cordelia might have been expected, they was real friendly always. But why did Judge Knowles leave it all to Elizabeth and not one cent to her mother? That I can't understand."
Miss Peasley smiled. "We used to wonder why Elizabeth kept runnin' to the judge's all the time," she said. "He was sick and feeble and we thought 'twas queer her pesterin' him so. Now—well, it pays to hang around sick folks, don't it? They're easier to coax, maybe, than the well kind.... Course I ain't sayin' there was any coaxin' done."
Little Mrs. Tidditt's feathers had begun to rise. "Oh, no!" she snapped. "You ain't sayin' anything, any of you. Judge Knowles was business head of this—this old cats' home afore he app'inted Cap'n Kendrick to the job, and you know that. Elizabeth had to go to him about all sorts of money matters, and you know that, too. As for her tryin' to coax him to leave her money, that's just rubbish. He always liked her, thought the world of her ever since she was a little girl, and he left her the twenty thousand because of that and for no other reason. That's why I think he left it to her; but, if some of the rest of you would be better satisfied, I'll tell her what you say—or ain't sayin', Desire—and let her answer it herself."
This not being at all what Miss Peasley and the others wished, no more was said about undue influence at the time. But much was said at times when the pugnacious Esther was not present, and there was marked speculation concerning what Miss Berry would do with her money, what Mr. Phillips would do when he returned to Bayport, whether or not Cordelia Berry would continue to be matron at the Harbor, and what Sears Kendrick's plans for the future might be.
"Of course," said Mrs. Brackett, "the judge fixed it so he would get his fifteen hundred so long as he stays manager. But will he stay long? There's Mr. Phillips to be considered now, I should think. He'll have somethin' to say about the—er—retreat his wife founded, won't he?"
Mrs. Constance Cahoon made a remark.
"George Kent'll come in for a nice windfall some of these days, it looks like," she observed, significantly. "What makes you look so funny, Elviry?"
Miss Snowden smiled. "Will he?" she inquired.
"Well, won't he? When he marries Elizabeth——"
"Yes. Yes, when he does."
"Well, he's goin' to, ain't he? Why, he's been keepin' comp'ny with her for two years. Everybody cal'lates they're engaged."
"Yes. But they don't say they are.... Oh, what is it Aurora?"
Mrs. Chase, who had been listening with her hand at her ears, had caught a little of the conversation.
"If you mean her and George Kent is engaged, Constance," she declared, "they ain't. I asked Elizabeth if they was, myself, asked her much as a month ago, and she said no. Pretty nigh took my head off, too."
Elvira's smile broadened. She nodded, slowly and with mysterious significance. "I'm not so sure about that engagement," she observed. "Some things I've seen lately have set me to thinking. To thinking a good deal.... Um ... yes. It looks to me as if somebody—somebody, I mention no names—may have had a hint of what was coming and began to lay plans according.... No, I shan't say any more—now. And I give in that it seems too perfectly ridiculous to believe. But things like that sometimes do happen, and ... Well, we'll wait and see."
Happy in the knowledge that she had aroused curiosity as well as envy of her superior knowledge, she subsided. Mrs. Tidditt concluded that portion of the discussion.
"Well," she remarked, crisply, "I don't see why we need to sit here talkin' about engagements or folks' gettin' married. Nobody has shown any symptoms of wantin' to marry any of this crowd, so far as I can make out."
While the town was at the very height of its agitation concerning the Knowles will, there came another earthquake. Egbert Phillips returned. He alighted from the train at the Bayport depot on the second morning of Sears's imprisonment in the spare stateroom and before night the information that he imparted—confidentially, of course—and the hints he gave concerning his plans for the future, made the Berry legacies and all the other legacies take second place as gossip kindlers.
Judah came rushing into the house later that afternoon, his arms full of bundles—purchases at Eliphalet's store—and his mouth full of words. He dropped everything, eggs, salt fish, tea and shoe laces, on the kitchen table and tore pell-mell into his lodger's bedroom. Captain Kendrick, propped up with pillows, was of course stretched out in bed. There was what appeared to be a letter in his hand, a letter apparently just received, for a recently opened envelope lay on the comforter beside him, and upon his face was an expression of bewilderment, surprise and marked concern. Judah was too intent upon his news to notice anything else and Sears hastily gathered up letter and envelope and thrust them beneath the pillow. Then Judah broke loose.
Egbert had come back, had come back to Bayport to live, for good. He had come on the morning train. Lots of folks saw him; some of them had talked with him. "And what do you cal'late, Cap'n Sears? You'll never guess in this world! By the crawlin' prophets, he swears he ain't rich, the way all hands figured out he was. No, sir, he ain't! 'Cordin' to his tell he ain't got no money at all, scarcely. All them stocks and—and bonds and—and securitums and such like have gone on the rocks. They was unfort'nate infestments, he says. He says he's in straightened out circumstances, whatever they be, but he's come back here to spend his declinin' days—that's what Joe Macomber says he called 'em, his declinin' days—in Bayport, 'cause he loves the old place, 'count of Lobelia, his wife, lovin' it so, and he can maybe scratch along here on what income he's got, and—and——"
And so on, for sentence after sentence. Sears heard some of it, but not all. The letter he had just read—the letter from Judge Knowles which Bradley had handed him before he left Orham—was of itself too startling and disturbing to be dismissed from his thoughts; but he heard some, enough to make him realize that there might be, in all probability was, trouble ahead. Just why Phillips had returned to Bayport, to take up his abode there permanently, was hard to understand, but there certainly must be some reason beside his "love" for the place and its people. Neither place nor people should, so it seemed to the captain, appeal strongly to a citizen of the world, of the fashionable world, like Mr. Egbert Phillips. It is true that he might perhaps live cheaper there than in most communities, but still.... No, Sears was sure that the former singing teacher had returned to the Cape in pursuance of a plan. What that plan might be he could not guess, unless the widower contemplated contesting his wife's gift to the Fair Harbor. That would be a losing fight, was certain to be, for Judge Knowles had seen to that. But if not that—what?
He gave very little thought to the matter at the time, for Judge Knowles' letter and its astounding proposition were monopolizing his mental machinery. That letter would have, as he might have expressed it, knocked him on his beam ends even if the Foam Flake's unexpected outbreak had not knocked him there already. The letter was rather long, but it was to the point, nevertheless. Judge Knowles begged him—him, Sears Kendrick—to accept the appointment of trustee in charge of Elizabeth Berry's twenty thousand dollar inheritance. The latter was hers in trust until she was thirty.
"I have seen enough of you to believe in you, Kendrick," so the judge had written. "Besides, you know the Berrys, mother and daughter, by this time, better than any one else—even Bradley—and you know my opinion of Cordelia's headpiece. I don't want her soft-headedness or foolishness to get any of Elizabeth's money away from her. Elizabeth is a dutiful daughter and an unselfish girl and she may feel—or be led to feel—that her mother ought to have this money or a large part of it. I don't want this to happen. Of course I expect Elizabeth to share her income with her mother, but I don't want the principal disturbed. After she is thirty she can, of course, do what she likes with it, but that time isn't now by some years. And then there is that Egbert. Look out for him. I say again, look out for him. If he ever got a penny of this money I should turn over in my grave. Perhaps you think I am an old fool and am treating him with more seriousness than he deserves. You won't think so when you know him as well as I do, mark my words. And I think you are the one man around here that has had worldly experience enough, backed by brains and common-sense, to see through him and handle him. I don't mean that there aren't other smart men in town, but most of the smartest are in active service and at sea a good share of the time. You will be right here for a few years at least. And you are honest, and you like Elizabeth Berry, and will look out for her interests.... Of course I can't compel you to take this trusteeship, but I hope you will, as a favor to her and to me. I have written her a letter similar to this, but I have left her a free choice in the matter. If she does not want you for her trustee then that ends it. Being the kind of girl she is, I think she will be mighty glad to have you...."
And this was the proposition which was causing the captain so much anxiety and perplexity. It interfered with the sleep which Doctor Sheldon seemed to feel necessary to his patient's complete recovery from the setback. It prevented his keeping those damaged legs of his absolutely quiet. Time and time again Judah, at work in what he always referred to as the "galley," heard his lodger tossing about in the spare stateroom and occasionally muttering to himself.
For Sears, facing the problem of accepting or declining the trust, was quite aware that the dilemma upon which the judge had perched him had two very sharp horns. If he declined—always of course supposing that Elizabeth Berry asked him to accept—if he declined he would be acting contrary to her wishes and Judge Knowles'. If he did decline, then Bradley would be the trustee. Knowles, in a part of the letter not quoted, had said that he imagined that would have to be the alternative. And Bradley—a good man, an honest and capable man—was not a resident of Bayport and could not, as he could, keep an eye upon the Berrys nor upon those who might try to influence them. And Bradley did not know Bayport as he, Kendrick, did.
But on the other hand, suppose Elizabeth begged him to take the trusteeship and he did take it? To begin with, he dreaded the added responsibility and distrusted his ability to handle investments. His record as a business man ashore was brief enough and not of a kind to inspire self-confidence. And what would people say concerning it and him? He and Elizabeth were in daily contact. Their association in the management of the Fair Harbor was close already. If he should be given charge of her fortune—for it was a fortune, in Bayport eyes—would not his every action be liable to misconstruction? Would not malicious gossip begin to whisper all sorts of things? To misconstrue motives and ...? Perhaps they were already whispering. He had seen Elvira Snowden but once since she and Mrs. Chase surprised him and Elizabeth in the Eyrie, but on that one occasion Elvira had, so it seemed to him, looked queer—and knowing. It was foolish, of course; it was ridiculous, and wicked. He and Elizabeth were friendly, had come to be very good friends indeed, but——
And here his train of thought stopped dead, while the same guilty shiver he had before felt ran up and down his spine.... Good Lord above! what was he thinking of? What could be the matter with him? Why, even if things were as they had been he would be crazy to.... And now she was a rich woman, rich compared to him, at least.
No! And over and over again, No! He would decline the trusteeship. And he would make it his business to get well and to sea again as soon as possible. As soon as she came to him to mention the judge's letter and its insane request he would settle that proposal once and for all.
But she did not come. On the third day the doctor refused to permit him to leave the bed.
"You stay where you are for another two days," commanded Sheldon. "It will do you good, and while I'm boss you shan't take chances. Cahoon and I have got you where we want you now and we'll keep you there till we pipe you on deck. Eh, Judah?"
Judah grinned. "Aye, aye," was his rejoinder. "Got the handspike ready to my fist, Doctor. He'll stay put if I have to lash him to the bunk with a chain cable. It's all for your good, Cap'n Sears. That's what my ma used to tell me when she dosed me up every spring with brimstone and molasses."
So, reluctantly realizing that it was for his good, Sears "stayed put." He had a few callers, although Judah saw to it that their calls were brief. Elizabeth was not one of these. She came at least once a day to inquire about him, but she did not ask to see him. The captain, trying not to be disappointed, endeavored to console himself with the idea that she was following Judge Knowles' advice, as repeated by Bradley, and meant to take plenty of time before making up her mind concerning the trusteeship.
One of his visitors was George Kent. On the fourth day, on his way to the Macombers for dinner, the young fellow called at the Minot place. Judah was out, but Sears heard his visitor's voice and step through the open doors of the dining room and kitchen and shouted to him to come in. His manner when he entered was, so it seemed to the captain, a trifle constrained, but his inquiries concerning the latter's health were cordial enough. As for Sears, he, of course, made it a point to be especially cordial.
They talked of many things, but not of their recent encounter on the Orham road. Sears did not like to be the first to mention it and it appeared as if Kent wished to avoid it altogether. But at last, after a short interval of silence, a break in the conversation, he did refer to it.
"Cap'n Kendrick," he said, reddening and looking rather nervous and uncomfortable, "I—I suppose you thought I was—was pretty disagreeable the other evening. I mean when we met in the rain and Elizabeth was with you."
"Yes. I wasn't very pleasant, I know. I'm sorry. That—that was one of the things I came to say. I lost my temper, I guess."
"Well, if you did I don't know as I blame you, George. A night like that is enough to lose any one's temper. I lost mine. The Foam Flake ran away with it. But he's repentin' in sackcloth and ashes, I guess. Judah says the old horse is lamer than I am."
He laughed heartily. Kent's laugh was short. His uneasiness seemed to increase.
"Yes," he said, returning to the subject which was evidently uppermost in his mind. "Yes, I did—er—lose my temper, perhaps. But—but it seems almost as if I had a—er—well, some excuse. You see—well, you see, Cap'n Kendrick, I didn't like it very much, the idea of Elizabeth's going over to Orham with—with you, you know."
Sears looked at him in surprise. "Why, she went with me because it was the simplest way to get there," he explained. "I was goin' anyhow, and Bradley had asked her to be there, too. So, it was natural enough that we should go together."
"Well—well, I don't see why she didn't tell me she was going."
"Perhaps she didn't think to tell you."
"Nonsense!... I mean.... Well, anyhow, if she had told me I should have looked out for her, of course. I could have hired a rig and driven her over."
"But she knew you were at work down at the store. She said that, didn't she? Seems to me I remember hearin' her say that she didn't want you to—to feel that you must take the afternoon off on her account."
The young man stirred impatiently. "That's foolishness," he declared. "She seems to think Bassett has a mortgage on my life. He hasn't, not by a long shot. I don't mean to keep his books much longer; I've got other things to attend to. My law is getting on pretty well."
"Glad to hear it, George."
"Yes. I shall read with Bradley for a while longer, of course, but after that—well, I don't know. I was talking with—with a man who has had a good deal of experience with lawyers—real city lawyers, not the one-horse sort—and he says the thing for an ambitious young fellow to do is to get into one of those city offices. Then you have a chance."
"Oh—I see. But isn't it kind of hard to get in, unless you have some acquaintance or influence?"
"I don't know as it is. And I guess this man will help me if I want him to."
"So? That's good. Did he say he would?"
"No-o, not exactly, but I think he will. And he's got the acquaintances, all right enough. He knows almost everybody that's worth while."
"That's the kind to tie to. Who is he? Somebody up in Boston?"
George shifted again. "I'd rather not mention his name just now," he said. "Our talks have been rather—er—confidential and I don't know that I should have said anything about them. But I've got plans, you see. Then there is my aunt's estate. I am the administrator of that."
"Oh? I didn't know. Your aunt, eh?"
"Yes, my Aunt Charlotte, mother's sister. She was single and lived up in Meriden, Connecticut. She died about a month ago and left everything to my half-sister and me—my married sister in Springfield, you know. I have charge of—of the estate, settling it and all that."
Sears smiled inwardly at the self-satisfaction with which the word "estate" was uttered. But outwardly he was serious enough.
"Good for you, George!" he exclaimed. "Congratulations. I hope you've come in for a big thing."
His visitor colored slightly. "Well—well, of course," he admitted, "the estate isn't very large, but——"
"But it's an estate. I'm glad for you, son."
"Yes—er—yes.... But really, Cap'n, I didn't mean to talk about that. I—I just wanted to say that—that I was sorry if I—er—wasn't as polite as I might have been the other night, and—well, I thought—it seemed as if I—I ought to say—to say——"
Whatever it was it seemed to be hard to say. The captain tried to help.
"Yes, of course, George," he prompted. "Heave ahead and say it."
"Well—well, it's just this, Cap'n Kendrick: Elizabeth and you are—are together a good deal, in the Fair Harbor affairs, you know, and—and—she doesn't think, of course—and you are a lot older than she is—but all the same——"
"Here! Hold on, George!" he put in, sharply. "What's all this?"
Kent's embarrassment increased. "Why—why, nothing," he stammered. "Nothing, of course. But you see, Cap'n, people are silly—they don't stop to count ages and things like that. They see you with her so much.... And when they see you taking her to ride—alone——"
"Here! That'll do!" All the cordiality had left the captain's voice. "George," he said, after a moment, "I guess you'd better not say any more. I don't think I had better hear it. Miss Elizabeth is a friend of mine. She is, as you say, years younger than I am. I am with her a good deal, have to be because of our Fair Harbor work together. I took her to Orham with me just as I'd take her mother, or you, or any other friend who had to go and wanted a lift. But—but if you or any one else is hintin' that.... There, there! George, don't be foolish. Maybe you'd better run along now. The doctor says I mustn't get excited."
His visitor looked remarkably foolish, but the stubbornness had not altogether left his face or tone as he said: "Well, that's all right, Cap'n. I knew you would understand. I didn't mean anything, but—but, you see, in Elizabeth's case I feel a—a sort of responsibility. You—you understand."
Even irritated and angry as he was, Sears could not help smiling at the last sentence.
"George," he observed, "you've been fairly open and aboveboard in your remarks to me. Suppose I ask you a question. Just what is your responsibility in the case? I have heard said, and more than once, that you and Elizabeth Berry are engaged to be married. Is it so?"
The young man grew redder yet, hesitated, and turned to the door.
"I—I'm not at liberty to say," he declared.
"Wait! Hold on! There is this responsibility business. If you're not engaged—well, honestly, George, I don't quite see where your responsibility comes in."
Kent hesitated a moment longer. Then he seemed to make up his mind.
"Well, then, we are—er—er—practically," he said.
"Practically?... Oh! Well, I—I certainly do congratulate you."
George had his hand on the latch, but turned back.
"Don't—please don't tell any one of it," he said earnestly. "It—it mustn't be known yet.... You see, though, why I—I feel as if you—as if we all ought to be very careful of—of appearances—and—and such things."
"Yes.... Yes, of course. Well, all right, George. Good-by. Call again."
Judah, who had been over at the Fair Harbor doing some general chores around the place, came in a little later. His lodger called to him.
"Judah," he commanded, "come in here. I want to talk to you." When Mr. Cahoon obeyed the order, he was told to sit down a moment.
"I want to ask you some questions," said the captain. "What is the latest news of Egbert Phillips? Where is he nowadays? And what is he doin'?"
Judah was quite ready to give the information, even eager, but he hesitated momentarily.
"Sure you want me to talk about him, Cap'n?" he asked. "Last time I said anything about him—day afore yesterday 'twas—you told me to shut up. Said you had somethin' more important to think about."
"Did I, Judah? Well, 'twas true then, I guess."
"Um-hm. And you ordered me not to mention his name again till you h'isted signals, or somethin' like that."
"Yes, seems to me I did. Well, the signals are up. What is he doin'?"
"Doin'? He ain't doin' nothin'—much. He's roomin' up to the Central House yet, but from what I hear tell he ain't goin' to stay there. He's cal'latin', so the folks down to the store say, to find some nice home place where he can board. He don't call it boardin'. Thoph Black says he said what he wanted was a snug little den where him and his few remainin' household gods could be together. Thoph said he couldn't make out what household gods was, and I'm plaguey sure I can't. Sounds heathenish to me. And I told Thoph, says I, 'That ain't no way to hunt a boardin' house, goin' round hollerin' for a den. If I was takin' in boarders and a feller hove alongside and says, "Can I hire one of them dens of yours?" he'd get somethin' that he wan't lookin' for.' Huh! Den! Sounds like a circus menagerie, don't it? Not but what I've seen boardin'-house rooms that was like dens. Why, one time, over in Liverpool 'twas, me and a feller named——"
"Yes, yes, all right, Judah. I've heard about it. But what else is he doin'? Where does he go? Is he makin' friends? Is he talkin' much about his plans? What do folks say about him?"
Judah answered the last question first.
"They like him," he declared. "All hands are so kind of sorry for him, you see. Course we all cal'lated he was rich, but he ain't. And them bonds and such that him and his wife had all went to nawthin' and he come back here after she died, figgerin', I presume likely, same as anybody would, that he owned the Fair Harbor property and that the fifty thousand was just a sort of—er—loan, as you might say. He told Joe Macomber—or George Kent, I forget which 'twas—he's with George consider'ble; I guess likely 'twas him—that, of course, he wouldn't have disturbed the property or the fifty thousand for the world, not for a long spell anyhow, but ownin' it give him a feelin' of security, like an anchor to wind'ard, you understand, and——"
"So folks like him, do they?"
"You bet you they do. He don't complain a mite, that's one reason they like him. Says at first, of course, he was kind of took all aback with his canvas flappin', but now he's thought it over and realizes 'twas his dear wife's notion and her wishes is law and gospel to him, so he's resigned."
"And he doesn't blame anybody, then?"
Mr. Cahoon hesitated. "Why—er—no, not really, fur's I hear. Anyhow, if there was any influence used same as it shouldn't be, he says, he forgives them that used it. And, so far as that goes, he don't repute no evil motives to nobody, livin' or dead."
"Repute? Oh, impute, you mean."
"I guess so, some kind of 'pute'. He uses them old-fashioned kind of words all the time. That's why he's so pop'lar amongst the Shakespeare Readin' Society and the rest. They've took him up, I tell ye! Minister Dishup and his wife they've had him to dinner, and Cap'n Elkanah and his wife have had him to supper and yesterday noon he was up here to the Harbor for dinner."
"Oh, was he?"
"Yus. He made 'em a little speech, too. All hands came into the parlor after dinner and he kind of—of preached to 'em. Told about his travelin' in foreign lands and a lot about Lobelia and how she loved the Harbor and everybody in it, and how him and her used to plan for it, and the like of that. Desire Peasley told me that 'twas the most movin' talk ever she listened to. Said about everybody was cryin' some. 'Twas a leaky session, I judged. Oh, they love him over to the Harbor, I tell you!"
The captain was silent for a moment. Then he asked, "Did I understand you to say he and young Kent were friendly?"
"Yes, indeed. He seems to have took quite a fancy to George. Drops in to see him at the store and last night he went home along with him to your sister's—to Sary's. Had supper and spent the evenin', I believe."
Judah was dismissed then and the talk ended, but Sears had now something else to think about. There was little doubt in his mind who the "man of experience" was, the person who had advised Kent concerning the getting of a position with a law firm in the city. He wondered what other advice might have been given. Was it Mr. Phillips who had suggested to Kent the impropriety of Elizabeth's being seen so much in his—Kendrick's—company? If so, why had he done it? What was Egbert's little plan?
Of course it was possible that there was no plan of any kind. Sears had taken a dislike to Phillips when they met and that fact, and Judge Knowles' hatred of the man, might, he realized, have set him to hunting mares' nests. Well, he would not hunt any more at present. He would await developments. But he would not lie in that bed and wait for them. He had been there long enough. In spite of Judah's protests and with the latter's help, commandeered and insisted upon, he got up, dressed, and spent the rest of that afternoon and evening in the rocking chair in the kitchen.