"Hi!" he shouted, as the two vehicles came near each other. "Hi! Josiah! Josiah Ellis!"
Josiah, serenely dozing, his feet propped against the dash and his cap over his eyes, came slowly to life.
"Hey?" he murmured, drowsily. "Yes; here I be.... Eh! What's the matter? Why, hello, Cap'n Kendrick, that you?"
"Whoa!" ordered the captain, addressing his own horse, who came to a standstill beside that driven by the other. "Stop, Josiah! Come up into the wind a minute, I want to speak to you. What have you done with Phillips?"
Josiah was surprised. "Why, how did you know I had Mr. Phillips aboard?" he asked. "Oh, I presume likely they told you at the stable. But how did you know he was goin' to Denboro? I never knew it till after we started. When we left port I supposed 'twas Trumet we was bound for, but we hadn't much more'n got under way when Mr. Phillips says he's changed his mind and wants to come over here. Didn't make no difference to me, of course. I get my wages, Saturday nights, just the same whether——"
"Where is Phillips now?"
"I was tellin' you. So we came about and headed for Denboro. Next thing we had to haul up abreast of that old tumbledown shed at the end of Tabby Crosby's lot there by the meetin'-house while Mr. Phillips hopped out and got a couple of great big satchels he'd left there. Big as trunks they was, pretty nigh, and time he got them stowed in here there wan't no room for knees nor feet nor nawthin' else seurcely. But, finally——"
"Hold on! Why did he have his dunnage in Tabitha Crosby's shed?"
"That's what I couldn't make out. He said he left 'em there so's not to have to go out of our way to get 'em at Joe Macomber's. But it's about as nigh to Joe's as 'tis to Tabby's, seems to me. Seemed funny enough, that did, but 'twan't no funnier than comin' way over to the Denboro depot to take the same train he might have took just as well at Bayport. I couldn't make it out. Can you, Cap'n Kendrick?"
"Did you leave him at the Denboro depot?"
"Yus. 'Bout an hour ago, or such matter. And the up train ain't due till four, and it's only half-past twelve now. I stopped at the Denboro House to get some diner. A feller has to eat once in a while, even if he ain't rich. And talk about chargin' high prices! All I had was some chowder and a piece of pie and tea, and I swan if they didn't stick me thirty-five cents! Yes, sir, thirty-five cents! And the pie was dried-apple at that. Don't talk to me no more about that Denboro House! If I ever——"
Kendrick heard no more. He was on his way to the railway station at Denboro. The mystery of the valises was, in one way, explained; in another it was more mysterious than ever. Evidently Phillips must have taken them from his rooms either early that morning or during the night—probably the latter—and hidden them in the Crosby shed. But why?
Denboro was a sleepy little village and at that hour on that raw December day the railway station was as sleepy as the rest of it. The station agent, who was also the telegraph operator, was locking his door preparatory to going home for dinner. He and the captain were old acquaintances. In days gone by he had sailed as second mate aboard a bark which Kendrick commanded. Now, retired from the sea, he was depot master and pound-keeper and constable in his native town. And, like most of Sears' shipmates, he was glad to see his former skipper.
They shook hands, exchanged observations concerning the weather, and then the depot master asked what he could do for his friend.
"I'm lookin' for a man named Phillips," explained Kendrick. "Josiah Ellis—fellow that drives for the livery stable over home—told me he left him here at your depot, Jim. About an hour ago, Josiah said it was. He doesn't seem to be here now; do you know where he's gone?"
Jim rubbed his chin. "Tall feller, thin, long mustache, beaver hat, talks important and patronizin' like a combination of Admiral Farragut and the Angel Gabriel?" he inquired.
"That's the man."
"He was here. Left them two valises yonder in my care. He's comin' back in time to take the three-fifteen."
"Three-fifteen? I thought the up train left here at half-past four or somethin' like that."
"The reg'lar train does. But there's a kind of combination, three or four freight and one passenger car, that comes up from Hyannis and goes on ahead of the other. It don't go only to Middleboro. He said he was cal'latin' to take that. I had a notion he was goin' to change at Middleboro and go somewheres else from there."
"I see. Yes, yes. And you don't know where he is now?"
"Well, he asked where was the best place to eat and I told him some went to the hotel and some to Amanda Warren's boardin'-house. 'Most of 'em only go to the hotel once, though,' says I. I guess likely you'll find him at Amanda's."
So to Mrs. Warren's boarding-house the captain drove. The lady herself opened the door for him. Yes, the gentleman described had been there. Yes, he had eaten dinner and gone.
"Do you know where he has gone?" asked Kendrick.
Mrs. Warren nodded. "He asked me where Mr. Backus, the Methodist minister, lived," she said. "He was real particular to find out how to get there, so I guess that's where he was bound."
The Methodist minister! Why on earth Egbert Phillips should go to the home of a minister was another mystery beyond Sears Kendrick's power of surmise. However, he too inquired the way to the Backus domicile and once more took up the chase.
The Methodist parsonage was a neat little white house, green-shuttered, and with a white picket fence inclosing its little front yard. It being the home of a clergyman, Sears ventured to knock at the front door; otherwise he would, of course, have gone around to the side entrance.
A white-haired little woman answered the knock. No, Mr. Backus was out, but he was expected back very soon. He had an appointment at two, so she was sure he would be in by that time. Would the captain come in and wait? There was another gentleman now in the parlor waiting. Yes, a tall gentleman with a mustache.
At last! Another minute, and Captain Kendrick, entering the Backus parlor, came face to face with the elusive object of his search, Mr. Egbert Phillips.
Egbert was sitting in a rocking chair by the marble-topped center table. A plush-covered photograph album was on that table and he was languidly turning its pages and inspecting, with a smile of tolerant amusement, the likenesses of the Backus friends and relatives. As the door opened he turned, his smile changing to one of greeting.
"Ah, Mr. Backus——" he began. And then he stopped. It was the captain who smiled now. His smile was as genial as a summer morn.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Phillips," he said. "How are you, sir?"
He stepped forward with extended hand. Still Egbert stood and stared. The photograph album, imperfectly balanced on the edge of the table, slipped to the floor.
The clergyman's wife seemed a trifle puzzled and perturbed by the Phillips expression and attitude.
"This gentleman said——" she began. "He said you and he——"
Kendrick helped her to finish: "I told the lady," he put in cheerfully, "that I had come 'way over from Bayport to see you about a little matter. I said we knew each other pretty well and I was sure you'd be glad to see me, even if I was kind of unexpected.... Excuse me, but you've dropped your picture book."
He stooped, picked up the album and replaced it on the table. This action occupied but a moment of time, nevertheless in that moment a portion at least of Egbert's poise returned. His smile might have been a bit uncertain, but it was a smile. And when Sears again extended his hand his own came to meet it.
"Of course, of course," he said. "Yes—ah—yes, indeed. How do you do, Kendrick?"
The captain beamed. "Oh, I'm feelin' tip-top," he declared. "The sight of you is enough to make me well, even if I was sick—which I'm not. Now if you and I might have a little talk?"
Mrs. Backus was anxious to oblige.
"You make yourselves right at home in here," she said. "If my husband comes I'll tell him to wait until you're through. Take all the time you want."
She was at the threshold, but Phillips detained her.
"Pardon me," he said, hastily, "but we mustn't abuse your hospitality to that extent. This—ah—gentleman and I can talk just as well out of doors. Really, I——"
"Oh, no! You must stay right here. Please do. It isn't the least trouble."
She went and the door closed behind her. Egbert glanced at the clock on the mantel and frowned. Captain Kendrick continued to smile.
"And here we are at last," he observed. "Quiet and sociable as you please. Sit down, Mr. Phillips, sit down."
But Egbert did not sit. He glanced at the clock once more and then at his watch.
"Sit down," repeated the captain. "I've been cruisin' so much this forenoon that I'm glad of the chance to sit. From what I've been able to learn you've been movin' pretty lively, too. A little rest won't do either of us any harm. Sit down, Mr. Phillips. Take the rocker."
Phillips walked to the front window, looked out, hesitated, and then, returning, did take the rocker. He looked at his fellow-townsman.
"Well?" he asked.
Kendrick nodded. "Yes," he agreed, "it is well, real well, now that I've caught up with you. I'll say this for you, you're as good a craft for leavin' a crooked wake as any I ever chased. For a while there you had me hull down. But I'm here now—and so are you."
Egbert's slim hand slowly stroked his mustache.
"There appears to be some truth in that remark," he declared. "We do seem to be here—yes.... But——"
"But you are wonderin' why I am here? Well, to be honest, I came to find you. I judged that you were thinkin' of leavin' us—for a spell, anyhow—and before you went I wanted to talk with you, that's all."
A pause, and more mustache stroking. The two men regarded each other; the captain blandly beaming, Phillips evidently pondering.
"I don't know," he said, at last, "what you may mean by my thinking of leaving you. However, that is not material, and I am always delighted to see you, of course. But as I am rather busy this afternoon perhaps you'll be good enough to come to the point.... If there is a point."
"Yes, there is. Oh, yes, there's a point. Two or three points."
"Indeed! How interesting. And what are they? Please be as—ah—brief as you can."
Sears crossed his legs. All this had been but preliminary maneuvering. Here now was the real beginning of the fight; and he realized only too keenly that his side in that fight was tremendously short of ammunition. But he did not mean that his adversary should guess that fact, and with the smiling serenity of absolute confidence he fired the opening gun.
"Egbert," he began—"you don't mind my callin' you Egbert? Knowin' you as well as I do, it seems foolish to stand on ceremony, don't you think? You don't mind?"
"Not at all. Charmed, I'm sure.... Well?"
"Well—yes. We've got a good many mutual friends—you and I, Egbert. One of 'em is named George Kent. He's a great friend of both of us. Nice boy, too."
At the mention of the name the Phillips hand, caressing the Phillips mustache, paused momentarily. But it resumed operations almost at once. Other than this there was no sign of perturbation on its owner's part. He slowly shook his head.
"My dear Captain Kendrick——" he drawled.
"Oh, call me Sears. Don't be formal."
"My dear man, if it is possible for you to come to the point? Without too great a strain on your—ah—intellect?"
"I'm comin', Egbert. Right abreast there now. George—our mutual friend—is in trouble. He has used some money that he can't spare, used it in a stock deal. I won't go into the particulars because you know 'em just as well as I do. You got him into the trouble in the first place, I understand. Now, to a man up a tree, as the boys say, it would seem as if you ought to be the one to get him out. Particularly as you are his very best friend. Don't you think so?"
Egbert sighed before answering, a sigh of utter weariness.
"And may I ask if this is the—ah—point?" he inquired.
"Why, yes—I guess so. In a way."
"And you are acting as our young friend's representative? He has seen fit to take you into his confidence concerning a matter which was supposed to be a business secret between—ah—gentlemen?"
"I could see he was in trouble and I offered to do what I could to help. Then he told me the whole thing."
"Indeed? A changeable youth. When I last heard him mention your name it was not—pardon me—in a—shall we say strictly affectionate tone?"
"That so? Too bad. But we are all liable to be mistaken in our judgments. Men—and women, too."
Again there was a slight pause; Egbert was regarding the speaker intently. The latter's countenance was about as expressive as that of a wooden idol, a good-natured one. Mr. Phillips glanced once more at the clock, languidly closed his eyes, opened them, sighed for the third time, and then spoke.
"So I am to understand that our—ah—juvenile acquaintance has turned his business affairs over to you," he said. "I congratulate him, I'm sure. The marked success which you have attained in the—ah—management of—ah—other business affairs has inspired him with perfect trust, doubtless."
"That must be it. The average man has to trust somebody and I gathered that some trusts of his were beginnin' to slip their moorin's. However, here's the situation. You got him to buy some stock on margin. The stock, instead of goin' up, as you prophesied, went down. You suggested his puttin' up more margin. He'd used all his own money, so he used some belonging to some one else. Now he's in trouble, bad trouble. What are you goin' to do about it?"
"I? My dear man, what should I do about it? What can I do? I have explained my situation to him. I am, owing to circumstances and the—ah—machinations of certain individuals—both circumstances and individuals of your acquaintance, I believe—in a most unfortunate position financially. I have no money, or very little. Our—your young protege wished to risk some of his money in a certain speculation. I did the same. The speculation was considered good at the time. I still consider it good, although profit may be deferred. He took the risk with his eyes open. He is of age. He is not a child, although—pardon me—this new action of his might lead one to think him such. I am sorry for him, but I do not consider myself at all responsible."
"I see. But he has used money which wasn't his to speculate with."
"I am sorry, deeply sorry. But—is that my fault?
"Well, that might be a question, mightn't it? You knew he was usin' that money?"
"Pardon me—pardon me, Kendrick; but is that—ah—strictly true?"
"Well, he says it is. However, the question is just this: Will you help him out by buyin' up his share in this C. M. deal? Pay him back his sixteen hundred and take the whole thing over yourself?"
Mr. Phillips for the first time permitted himself the luxury of a real smile.
"My dear man," he observed, "you're not seriously offering such a proposition as that, are you? You must be joking."
"It's no joke to poor George. And he's only a boy, after all. You wouldn't want him to go to jail."
The smile disappeared. "I should be pained," protested Egbert, and proved it by looking pained. "It would grieve me deeply. But I can't think such a contingency possible. No, no; not possible. And in time—my brokers assure me a very short time—the stock will advance."
"And you won't take over his share and get all that profit yourself?"
"I can't. It is impossible. I am so sorry. In former days—" with a gesture of resignation—"it would have been quite possible. Then I should have been delighted. But now.... However, you must, as a man of the world, see that all this is quite absurd. And it is painful to me, as a friend—still a friend of young Kent's. Pardon me again, but I am busy this afternoon and——"
He rose. Sears did not rise. He remained seated.
"Jail's a mean place," he remarked, with apparent irrelevance. "I'd hate to go there myself. So would you, I'll bet."
Another pause on Phillips' part. Then another wearied smile.
"Do you—ah—foresee any likelihood of either of us arriving at that destination?" he inquired.
"Well, I'm hopin' to stay out, for a spell anyway. Mr. Phillips—Egbert—yes, yes, Egbert, of course; we're gettin' better acquainted all the time, so we just mustn't stand on ceremony. Egbert, how about those City of Boston 4-1/2s you put up as security over there in New York? What are you goin' to do about them?"
Egbert had strolled to the window and was looking out. He continued to look out. The captain, his gaze fixed upon the beautifully draped, even though the least bit shiny, shoulders of the Phillips' coat, watched eagerly for some shiver, some sign of agitation, however slight. But there was none. The sole indication that the shot just fired had had any effect was the length of time Egbert took before turning. When he did turn he was still blandly smiling. He walked back to the rocker and settled himself upon its patchwork cushion.
"Yes?" he queried. "You were saying——"
"I was speakin' of those two one thousand dollar City of Boston bonds you sent your brokers, you know. Would you mind tellin' me how you got those bonds?"
Mr Phillips lifted one slim leg over the other. He lifted two slim hands and placed their finger tips together.
"Kendrick," he asked, "you will pardon me for speaking plainly? Thank you so much. I have already listened to you for some time—more time than I should have spared. For some reason you have—ah—seen fit to—shall we say pursue me here. Having found me, you make a most—pardon me again—unreasonable and childish demand on the part of young Kent. I cannot grant it. Now is there any use wasting more time by asking—pardon me once more—impertinent questions concerning my affairs? You can scarcely—well, even you, my dear Kendrick, can hardly expect me to answer them. Don't you think this—ah—extremely pleasant interview had better end pleasantly—by ending now?"
He would have risen once more, but Sears motioned him to remain in the rocker. The captain leaned forward.
"Egbert," he said briskly, "I'm busy, too; but I have spent a good many hours and some dollars to get at you and I shan't leave you until I get at least a part of what I came after. Those Boston bonds——"
"Are my property, sir."
"Well, I don't know. The last anybody heard they were the property of Mrs. Cordelia Berry. Now you say they're yours. That's one of the matters to be settled before you and I part company, Egbert."
Mr. Phillips' aristocratic form stiffened. Slowly he rose to his feet.
"You are insulting," he proclaimed. "That will do. There is the door."
"Yes, I see it. It's a nice door; the grainin' on it seems to be pretty well done. How did you get hold of those bonds, Egbert?"
"If you don't go, I shall."
"All right. Then I'll go with you. You shan't take the three-fifteen or any other train till we've settled this and some other questions. Oh, it's a fact. No hard feelin', you know; just business, that's all."
Egbert moved toward the door. His caller rose to follow him. The captain often wondered afterward whether or not Phillips would really have left the room if there had been no interruption. The question remained a question because at that moment there was a knock on the other side of the door. It had a marked effect upon Egbert. He started, frowned and shot another glance at the clock.
"Excuse me," said Mrs. Backus, opening the door a crack, "but my husband has come."
Phillips seemed relieved, yet troubled, too.
"Yes—ah—yes," he said. "Will you kindly ask him to wait? Thank you."
The lady closed the door again. Egbert took a turn across the room and back. Kendrick smiled cheerfully.
"About those bonds?" he observed.
Phillips faced him.
"The bonds," he declared, "are mine. How I got them is not your business in the least."
"Just a minute, just a minute. Cordelia Berry——"
"Did Mrs. Berry tell you that I had them?"
"No need to bother with that part of it now. I know."
"But she did not give you authority to come to me about them? Don't pretend she did; I know better."
"I'm not goin' to pretend—that. She didn't."
"Humph!" with a sneer; "perhaps your authority comes from some one else. Her daughter, maybe? You and she are—or shall we say were—quite touchingly confidential at one time, I believe."
The tone and the remark were mistakes; it would have been much better for the Phillips cause if the speaker had continued to be loftily condescending. Sears kept a grip on his temper, but his own tone changed as he replied.
"Egbert," he said sharply, "look here. The facts, as far as a man without a spyglass can sight 'em through the fog, are just these: You got George Kent into a stock trade. He put up money—real money. You put up two thousand dollars in bonds and, because that was more than your share, he paid you four hundred dollars in cash. The last anybody knew the two bonds you put up were the property of Cordelia Berry. I want to know how you got hold of 'em."
"Am I to understand that you are accusing me of stealing those bonds?"
"I'm not accusin' you of anything in particular. George has put this affair of his in my hands; I've got what amounts to his signed power of attorney in my pocket. If those bonds are yours, and you can prove it, then I shan't say any more about 'em. If they still belong to Cordelia—well, that's another question, one I mean to have the answer to before you and I part company."
"Kendrick, I—— Do you realize that I can have you arrested for this?"
"I don't know. But it does seem to me that if those bonds aren't your property then you had no right to pledge 'em in that stock deal. And that your takin' Kent's four hundred dollars in part payment for 'em comes pretty nigh to what a lawyer would call gettin' money under false pretenses. So the arrests might be even-Stephen, so far as that goes."
This was the sheerest "bluff," but it was delivered with all the assurance in the world. It had not precisely the effect Sears had hoped for. Egbert did not seem so much frightened as annoyed by it. He frowned, walked across the room and back, looked at the clock, then out of the window, and finally turned to his opponent.
"Recognizing, of course," he sneered, "the fact that all this is absolutely none of your business, Kendrick; may I ask why you didn't come to me in Bayport instead of here?"
The captain's smile returned. "I did try to come, Egbert," he answered. "But you had gone and so had the things in your room. You told Sarah and the stable folks you were goin' to Trumet. When I found you hadn't gone there, but were bound for here—after hidin' your valises over night in Tabby Crosby's shed—I decided you might be goin' even farther than Denboro, and that if I wanted to see you pretty soon—or ever, maybe—I'd better hoist sail and travel fast. When the depot folks told me you were askin' about the three-fifteen I felt confirmed in my judgments, as the fellow said. Now if you'll tell me about those bonds?"
Another turn by Phillips across the parlor and back. Then he asked, with sarcasm, "If I were to tell you that those bonds were given me by Mrs. Berry, you wouldn't believe it, I presume?"
"We-ll, I'd like to hear a little testimony from Cordelia first."
"May I ask why you did not go to her instead of to me?"
"I didn't have a chance. You got away too soon."
"Possibly you may have thought that she, too, would consider it none of your business. And, since you won't take my word, how do you expect me to prove—here in Denboro that those bonds are mine?"
"I don't know. But if it can't be proved in Denboro, then I'm afraid, Egbert, that you'll have to go back to Bayport with me and prove it there.... Oh, I know you'd hate to go, but——"
"Go! I flatly refuse to go, of course."
"I was afraid you would. Well, then I'd have to call in the constable to help get you under way. Jim Baker, the depot master, is constable here in Denboro. He and I were shipmates. He'd arrest the prophet Elijah if I asked him to, and not ask why, either."
"Egbert, a spell ago you and I had a little chat together and I told you I had just begun to fight.... Well, I haven't really begun yet, but I'm gettin' up steam.... Think it over."
Phillips stopped and, standing by the window, stared fixedly at the captain. The latter met the stare with a look of the blandest serenity. Behind the look, however, were feelings vastly different. If ever a forlorn hope skated upon thin ice, his and George Kent's was doing so at that moment. If Egbert should agree to return to Bayport, and if his statement concerning the ownership of the Boston bonds was true, then—well, then it would not be Mr. Phillips who might receive the attentions of the constable.
Egbert stopped staring and once more looked at the clock. Quarter past two! He turned again quickly.
"Kendrick," he snapped, "what is your proposition?"
"My proposition? I want you to pay me the sixteen hundred dollars Kent put into that C. M. stock deal. If you do that I'll give you his signed paper turnin' over to you all interest in the deal. You can make all the profit on it yourself—when it comes. Then in matter of Cordelia's bonds——"
Phillips lifted a hand.
"The bonds are not to be considered," he said, decisively. "If they are mine, as I say they are, you have no claim on them. If they are Mrs. Berry's, as you absurdly pretend to think they are, again you have no claim. If she says I have stolen them—which she won't—she may prosecute; but, again, my dear sir, she—ah—won't."
The slight smile accompanying the last sentence troubled the captain. It was not the smile of a frightened man. Before he could reply Egbert continued.
"But the bond matter may be settled later," he went on. "So far as I am concerned it is settled now. For our—ah—foolish young friend, Kent, however, I feel a certain sense of—shall we say pity?—and am inclined to make certain confessions. Silly sentimentalism on my part, doubtless—but pity, nevertheless. If you will give me the paper signed by him, which you claim to have, relinquishing all share in the stock at the New York brokers, I will—well, yes, I will pay you the sixteen hundred dollars."
It was Sears Kendrick who was staggered now. It was his turn to stare.
"You will pay me sixteen hundred dollars—now?" he gasped.
"But—but.... Humph! Well, thanks, Egbert—but your check, you know——"
"I have no time to waste in drawing checks. I will pay you in cash."
And, as Sears's already wide-open eyes opened wider and wider, he calmly took from his coat a pocketbook hugely obese and extracted from that pocketbook a mammoth roll of bank notes.
Ten minutes later the captain was again moving along the road between Denboro and Bayport, bound home this time. He was driving mechanically; the horse was acting as his own pilot, for the man who held the reins was too much engrossed in thought to pay attention to such inconsequential matters as ruts or even roads. Sears was doing his best to find the answer to a riddle and, so far, the answer was as deeply shrouded in mist as ever a ship of his had been on any sea.
He was satisfied in one way, more than satisfied. His demand for the full sixteen hundred had been made with no real hope. Had Phillips consented to return eight hundred dollars of the amount, the offer would in the end have been accepted with outward reluctance but inward joy. Had he refused to return a penny Kendrick would not have been surprised. But Egbert, after making up his mind, had paid the entire sum without a whimper, had paid it almost casually and with the air of one obliging a well-meaning, if somewhat annoying, inferior. Inspecting and pocketing Kent's power of attorney and the captain's receipt he had dismissed his visitor at the parsonage door as King Solomon in all his glory might have graciously dismissed a beggar whose petition had been granted. And the look in his eye and the half smile beneath the long mustache were not those of one beaten at a game—no, they were not.
The recollection of that look and that smile bothered Sears Kendrick. He could not guess what was behind them. One thing seemed to be certain, his threats of prosecution and his bluffs concerning the Boston bonds had not alarmed Phillips greatly. He had not given in because he was afraid of imprisonment. No; no, the only symptoms of nervousness he had shown were his repeated glances at the clock, at his watch, and when he looked out of the parsonage window. More and more the captain was forced to the conclusion that Egbert had paid him to get rid of him, that he did not wish to be detained or to have Kendrick remain there, and his reasons must have been so important that he was willing to part with sixteen hundred dollars to get his visitor out of the way.
But what possible reason could be as important as that? Why had he run away from Bayport? Why was he taking the three-fifteen train—at Denboro? Why was he spending the time before the departure of that train in the parlor of the Methodist parsonage? And he had made an appointment with the minister himself. Was he expecting some one else at that parsonage?
Eh? The captain straightened on the buggy seat. He spoke aloud one word, a name.
"Cordelia!" he cried.
For another five minutes Captain Sears Kendrick, his frown growing deeper and deeper as the conviction was forced upon him, sat motionless in the buggy. Then he spoke sharply to his horse, turned the latter about, and drove rapidly back to Denboro. He could do nothing worth while, he could prevent nothing, but he could answer that riddle. He believed he had answered it already.
It was half-past three when he again knocked at the parsonage door. The Reverend Backus himself answered the knock.
"Why, no," he said, "Mr. Phillips has gone. Yes, I think—I am sure he took the train. You are his friend, aren't you? I am sorry you missed the—er—happy event. Mrs. Phillips—the new Mrs. Phillips—is a charmingly refined lady, isn't she? And Mr. Phillips himself is such a gentleman. I don't know when I have had the pleasure of—er—officiating at a pleasanter ceremony. I shall always remember it."
Mrs. Backus looked over her husband's shoulder.
"The bride came just after you left," she explained. "She was just a little late, she said; but it was all right, there was plenty of time. And she did look so happy!"
Captain Kendrick did not look happy. He had answered the riddle correctly. An elopement, of course. It was plain enough now. Oh, if he might have been there when that poor, silly, misguided woman arrived! He might not have been able to stop the marriage, but at least he could—and would—have told the bride a few pointed truths concerning the groom.
Mrs. Backus, all smiles, asked her husband a question. "What did you say her name was, dear?" she asked.
The minister hesitated. "Why—why—" he stammered, "it was—— Dear me, how forgetful I am!"
Sears supplied the information.
"Berry," he said, gloomily. "Cordelia Berry."
Mr. Backus seemed surprised. "Why, no," he declared. "That doesn't sound like the name.... It wasn't. No, it wasn't. It was—I have it—Snowden. Miss Elvira Snowden—of Ostable, I believe."
Not until Captain Kendrick entered the Minot kitchen late that afternoon did he get the full and complete answer to his puzzle. Judah supplied the missing details, supplied them with a rush, had evidently been bursting with them for hours.
"My hoppin', creepin', jumpin' prophets, Cap'n Sears," he roared, before his lodger could speak a word, "if I ain't got the dumdest news to tell you now, then nobody ever had none!... You ain't heard it, Cap'n, have you? Don't tell me you've heard it already! Have you?"
Sears shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, Judah," he replied. "Have I?"
"Hoppin' Henry! I hope you ain't, 'cause I wanted to tell you myself. It's about Elviry Snowden. Have you heard anything about her?"
"Why—well, what have you heard?"
"Heard! They heard it fust over to the Harbor about a couple of hours ago. Bradley, the Orham lawyer feller, he'd heard it and he come over to see Elizabeth about somethin' or 'nother and he told it to all hands. You know that aunt of Elviry's over to Ostable, the one that died last week? Well all hands had cal'lated she was kind of on her beam ends—poor, I mean. When her husband died, don't you recollect some property they owned over to Harniss was goin' to be sold to auction? All them iron images Elviry wanted to buy was part of 'em; don't you remember?"
"Yes, I remember.
"Sartin sure you do. Well, so fur as that goes them images wan't sold because the widow changed her mind about 'em and had 'em all carted over to another little place she owned in Ostable, and set up in the yard there. She's been livin' on this place in Ostable and everybody figgered she didn't have much money else she'd stayed in the big house in Harniss. But, by Henry, since she's died it's come out that she was rich. Yes, sir, rich! She'd saved every cent, you see; never spent nothin'. A reg'lar mouser, she was—miser, I mean. And who do you suppose she's left it all to? Elviry, by the creepin'! Yes, sir, every last cent to Elviry Snowden."
"Yes. Elviry's rich. 'Cordin' to Bradley's tell there's a lot of land and a house and barn, and all them iron images, and—wait; let me tell you—stocks, and things like that, and over ten thousand dollars cash in the bank, by Henry! In cash, where Elviry can get right aholt of it if she wants to. Much as thirty thousand, altogether, land and all. And.... What in tunket are you laughin' at?"
For Captain Kendrick had thrown himself into the rocking chair and was shaking the pans on the stove with peal after peal of laughter.
It was so simple, so complete, and so wonderfully, gorgeously Egbertian. A little matter of arithmetic, that was all. Merely the substitution of twenty or thirty thousand dollars and a landed estate for five—no, three—thousand dollars and a somewhat cramped future at the Fair Harbor. The ladies in the case were incidental. When the choice was offered him the businesslike Phillips hesitated not a moment. He was on with the new love even before he was off with the old. And, in order to avoid the unpleasantness which was sure to ensue when the old found it out, he had arranged to be married at Denboro and to be far afield upon his wedding tour before the news reached Bayport.
Everything was clear now. Elvira's windfall explained it all. It was her money which had paid Captain Elkanah, and Sarah Macomber, and the livery man, and no doubt many another of Egbert's little bills. It was her money that was paying the honeymoon expenses. And, of course, it was her sixteen hundred dollars which had just been handed to Sears Kendrick in the parlor of the parsonage.
No wonder that, under the circumstances, Egbert had chosen to pay. It must have been a nerve-racking session for him, that interview with the captain. Each minute might bring his bride-to-be to the parsonage door, and if she learned before marriage of Cordelia's bonds and the Kent-Phillips stock speculation, not to mention the threatened arrest and consequent scandal, why—well, Elvira was fatuously smitten, but the chances were that the wedding would have been postponed, if nothing worse. No wonder Egbert preferred parting with a portion of his lady-love's fortune to the risk of parting with the lady herself—and the remainder of it.
Sears did not tell Judah of the elopement. He did not feel like it, then. His had been a tiring day and the strain upon his own nerves not slight. He wanted to rest, he wanted to think, and he did not want to talk. Judah spared him the trouble; he did talking enough for two.
After supper George Kent came hurrying into the yard. Sears had expected him and, when he came, led him into the "spare stateroom" and closed the door. Then, without any preliminaries, he took the sixteen hundred dollars from his wallet and gave them to him.
"There's your money, George," he said.
Kent could not believe it. He had come here, in the last stages of despair. This was practically his final day of grace. The afternoon mail had brought him another letter from his brother-in-law, making immediate demand and threatening drastic action within the week. He had come, haggard, nervous and trembling, ready to proclaim again his intention of self-destruction.
He sat there, staring at the money in his hand, saying nothing. His face was as white as the clean towels on the captain's washstand. Kendrick, leaning forward, laid a hand on his knee.
"Brace up, George," he ordered, sharply. "Don't let go of the wheel."
Kent slowly lifted his gaze from the roll of bills to his friend's face.
"You—you got it!" he faltered.
"I got it—all of it. There's the whole sixteen hundred there. Count it."
"But—but, oh, my God! I—I——"
"Sshh! Steady as she is, George. Count your money. Put it on the table here by the lamp."
He took the bills from Kent's shaking fingers, arranged them on the table and, at last, coaxed or drove the young man into beginning to count them. Of course it was Kendrick himself who really counted; his companion did little but pick up the bank notes and drop them again. Suddenly, in the midst of the performance, he stopped, put his hands to his face and burst into hysterical sobs.
Sears let him cry for a time, merely stepping across to make sure that the bedroom door was tightly closed, and then standing above him with his hands on the bowed shoulders. After a little the sobs ceased. A moment later and George raised his head.
"Oh!" he exclaimed. "What a—a kid I am!"
Sears, who had been thinking pretty nearly that very thing, patted the shoulder beneath his hand.
"All right, George," he said. "Bein' a kid is no crime. In fact, it has some advantages."
"But—but, you see—I—I have been through purgatory this week, I——"
"I know. But you're all through and out now."
"Yes, I—I am. By George, I am, aren't I!... And you did it for me. You did!"
"Never mind that. I enjoyed doin' it. Yes," with a slight smile, "I had a pretty good time, take it by and large."
"And you got the—the whole of it! The whole!"
"But I can't understand.... Did—Cap'n Kendrick, did you borrow it for me?"
"No. I talked things over with your—er—side-partner and he decided to give it back."
"To give it back! Mr. Phillips did, you mean? But he wouldn't give it to me. I begged him to. I should have been satisfied with half of it—my sister's half. Indeed I should! But he said he couldn't give it to me, he didn't have it to give. And—and you got him to give me the whole! Cap'n Kendrick, I—I can't understand."
"You don't have to. There's your sixteen hundred. Now take it, and before you turn in this night you get ready to send your brother-in-law his half, and the papers that go with it, on the first mail. That's all I ask of you, George."
"I'll have it in the post office as soon as it opens to-morrow morning. You bet I will!"
"That's what I want to be able to bet. You send a money-order, that's safest. And—well, yes, George, you might show me the receipt."
"I'll show it to you. You can keep it for me, if you want to."
"Seein' it will do. And one thing more: you promise me now, on your word of honor, not to take any more of those stock market fliers for—well, for ten years, anyhow."
Kent promised; he would have promised anything. His color had come back, his spirits were now as high as they had been low, and he was striding up and down the room like a mad thing.
"But how did you get it for me?" he kept demanding. The captain bade him stop.
"Never mind how I got it," he declared. "I got it, and you've got it, and you'll have to be satisfied with that. Don't ask me again, George."
"I won't, but—but I can't understand Mr. Phillips giving it back. He didn't have to, you know. Say, I think it was mighty generous of him, after all. Don't you?"
Sears's lip twitched. "It looks as if somebody was generous," he observed. "Now run along, George, and fix up that letter to your brother-in-law."
"I'm going to. I'm going now. But, Cap'n Kendrick, I don't know what to say to you. I—why, great Scott, I can't begin to tell you how I feel about what you've done! I'd cut off my head for you; honest I would."
"Cuttin' off your own head would be consider'ble of a job. Better keep your head on, George.... And use it once in a while."
"You know what this means to me, Cap'n Kendrick. To my future and—and maybe some one else's future, too. Why, now I can go—I can say—— Oh, great Scott!"
Kendrick opened the bedroom door. "Come now, George," he said. "Good night—and good luck."
Kent would have said more, much more, even though Judah Cahoon was sitting, with ears and mouth open, in the kitchen. But the captain would not let him linger or speak. He helped him on with his coat and hat, and, with a slap on the back, literally pushed him out into the yard. Then he turned on his heel and striding again through the kitchen reentered the spare stateroom and closed the door behind him. Judah shouted something about its being "not much more'n two bells"—meaning nine o'clock—but he received no answer.
Judah did not retire until nearly eleven that night, but when, at last, he did go to his own room, there was a light still shining under the door of the spare stateroom and he could hear the captain's footsteps moving back and forth, back and forth, within. For two hours he had so heard them. Obviously the "old man" was pacing the deck, a pretty sure sign of rough weather present or expected. Mr. Cahoon was troubled, also disappointed. He would have liked to talk interminably concerning the sensational news of Miss Snowden's inheritance; he had not begun to exhaust the possibilities of that subject. Then, too, he was very anxious to learn where Captain Sears had been all day, and why. He tried in various ways to secure attention. But when, after singing eight verses of the most doleful ditty in his repertoire, he was not ordered to "shut up," was in fact ignored altogether, he quit disgusted. But, as he closed the door of his own bedchamber, he could still hear the regular footfalls in the spare stateroom.
Had he listened for another hour or more he would have heard them. Sears Kendrick was tramping back and forth, his hands jammed in his pockets, and upon his spirit the blackest and deepest and densest of clouds. It was the reaction, of course. He was tired physically, but more tired mentally. All day long he had been under a sharp strain, now he was experiencing the let-down. But there was more than that. His campaign against Egbert Phillips had kept him interested. Now the fight was over and, although superficially he was the victor, in reality it was a question which side had won. He had saved George Kent's money and his good name. And Cordelia Berry's future was safe, too, although her two thousand dollars might be, and probably were, lost. But, after all, his was a poor sort of victory. Egbert was, doubtless, congratulating himself and chuckling over the outcome of the battle; with thirty thousand dollars and ease and comfort for the rest of his life, he could afford to chuckle. Kent's happiness was sure. He could go to Elizabeth now with clean hands and youth and hope. Perhaps he had gone to her already. That very evening he and she might be together once more.
And for the man who had made this possible, what remained? Where were those silly hopes with which, at one time, he had deluded himself? He had dared to dream romance. Where was that romance now? Face to face with reality, what was to be his future? More days and weeks and years of puttering with the penny-paring finances of a home for old women?
He dressed next morning with a mind made up. He had dallied and deliberated and wished long enough. Now he knew. His stay in Bayport was practically ended. Give him a little time and luck enough to find a competent manager for the Fair Harbor, one with whom he believed Judge Knowles would have been satisfied, and he was through for good. He must play fair with the judge and then—then for the shipping offices of Boston or New York and a berth at sea. His health was almost normal; his battered limbs were nearly as sound as ever. He could handle a ship and he could handle men. His fights and sacrifices for others were finished, over and done with. Now he would fight for himself.
His breakfast appetite was poor. Judah, aghast at the sight of his untouched plate, demanded to know if he was sick. The answer to the question was illuminating.
"No," snapped the captain, "I'm not sick.... Yes, I am, too. I'm sick to death of this town and this place and this landlubber's job. Judah, are you goin' to spend the rest of your days playin' hired boy for Ogden Minot? Or are you comin' to sea again with me? Because to sea is where I'm goin'—and mighty quick."
Judah's mouth opened. "Hoppin' Henry!" he gasped. "Why, Cap'n Sears——"
"You don't like this job, do you? Hadn't you rather have your own galley on board a decent ship? Are you a sea-man—or a washwoman? Don't you want to ship with me again?"
"Want to! Cap'n Sears, you know I'd rather go to sea along with you than—than be King of Rooshy. But you ain't fit to go to sea yet."
"Shut up! Don't you dare say that again. And stand by to pack your sea chest when I give the order.... No, I don't want to argue. I won't argue. Clear out!"
Mr. Cahoon, bewildered but obedient, cleared out. Not long afterward he drove away on the seat of the truck wagon to haul the Bangs wood, the task postponed from the previous day. Kendrick, left alone, lit a pipe and resumed his pacing up and down. Later on he took pen, ink and paper and seated himself at the table to write some letters to shipping merchants whose vessels he had commanded in the old days, the happy days before he gave up seafaring to become a poor imitation of a business man on shore.
He composed these letters with care. Two were completed and the third was under way, when some one knocked at the other door. He laid down his pen impatiently. He did not want to be interrupted. If the visitor was Kent he did not feel like listening to more thanks. If it was Esther Tidditt she could unload her cargo of gossip at some other port.
But the caller was neither George nor Esther. It was Elizabeth who entered the kitchen in answer to his command to "Come in." He rose to greet her. She looked pale—yes, and tired, but she smiled faintly as she bade him good morning.
"Cap'n Kendrick," she said, "are you very busy? I suppose you are, but—but if you are not too busy I should like to talk with you for a few minutes. May I?"
He nodded. "Of course," he said. "My business can wait a little longer; it has waited a good while, this particular business has. Sit down."
She took the rocker. He sat at the other side of the table, waiting for her to speak. It came to him, the thought that, the last time she had visited that kitchen, she had left it vowing never to speak to him again. Well, at least that was over; she no longer believed him a spy, and all the rest of it. There was, or should be, some comfort for him in knowing that.
Suddenly, just as she had done on the platform of the lawyer's office at Orham, she put out her hand.
"Don't!" she pleaded.
He started, confusedly. "Don't?" he stammered. "What?"
"Don't think of—of what you were thinking. If you knew—oh, Cap'n Kendrick, if you could only realize how wicked I feel. Even when I said those dreadful things to you I didn't mean them. And now—— Oh, please forget them, if you can."
He drew a long breath. "I never saw any one like you," he declared. "How did you know what I was thinkin'? ... Of course I wasn't thinkin' it, but——"
She interrupted. "Of course you were, you mean," she said, with a faint smile. "It isn't hard to know what you think. You don't hide your thoughts very well, Cap'n Kendrick. They aren't the kind one needs to hide."
He stared at her in guilty amazement. "Good land!" he ejaculated, involuntarily. "Don't talk that way. What do you mean by that?"
"I mean that your thoughts are always straightforward and—well, honest, like yourself.... But we mustn't waste time. I don't know when we shall have another opportunity to be together like this, and there are some things I must say to you. Cap'n Kendrick, you know—you have heard the news?"
"News?... Oh, you mean about Elvira's inheritin' all that money?"
"That, of course. But that wasn't the news I meant. I mean about her eloping with—with that man."
Troubled even as Sears was at the sight of her evident distress, he could not but feel a thrill of satisfaction at the tone in which she referred to "that man." He nodded.
"I've heard it," he said. "I guess likely I was about the first Bayporter that did hear it. When did you hear?"
"A little while ago. He wrote—he wrote my mother a letter. It was at the post office this morning."
"He did? He didn't! The low-lived scamp!"
"Hush! Don't talk about him. Yes, he wrote her. Such a letter! She showed it to me. So full of hypocrisy, and lies and—oh, can't you imagine what it was?"
Kendrick's right fist tapped the table gently. "I guess likely I can," he said, grimly. "Well, some of these days I may run afoul of Egbert again. When I do——" The fist closed a little tighter.
"You won't touch him. Promise me you won't. If you should, I—— Oh, dear! I think I should be afraid to touch your hands afterwards."
Sears smiled. "It might be safer to use my boot," he admitted. "Your mother—how is she?"
"Can't you imagine? I think—I hope it is her pride that is hurt more than anything. For some little time—well, ever since I found out that she was lending him money—I have done my best to make her see what he really is. But before that—oh, there is no use pretending, for you know—she was insane about him. And now, with the shock and the disillusionment and the shame, she is—— Oh, it is dreadful!"
"Do the—er—rest of 'em over there know it yet?"
"No, but they will very soon. And when they do! You know what some of them are, what they will say. We can't stay there, mother and I. We must go away—and we will."
She was crying, and if ever a man yearned for the role of comforter, Sears Kendrick was that man. He tried to say something, but he was afraid to trust his own tongue; it might run away with him. And before his attempt was at all coherent, she went on.
"Don't mind me," she said, hastily wiping her eyes. "I am nervous, and I have been through a bad hour, and—and I am acting foolishly, of course. I know that this is, in a way, the very best thing that could happen. This ends it, so far as mother is concerned. Oh, it might have been so much worse! It looked as if it were going to be. Now she knows what he is. I have known it, or been almost sure of it, for a long time. And you must have known it always, from the beginning. That is a part of what I came here for this morning. Please tell me how you knew and—and all about everything."
So he told her, beginning with what Judge Knowles had said concerning Lobelia's husband, and continuing on to the end. She listened intently.
"Yes," she said. "I see. I wish you could have told me at first. I think if I had known exactly how Judge Knowles felt I might not have been so foolish. But I should have known—I should have seen for myself. Of course I should. To think that I ever believed in such a creature, and trusted him, and permitted him to influence me against—against a friend like you. Oh, I must have been crazy!"
Kendrick shook his head. "No craziness about that," he declared. "I've seen some smooth articles in my time, seen 'em afloat and ashore, from one end of this world to the other, but of all the slick ones he was the slickest. It's a good thing the judge warned me before Egbert crossed my bows. If he hadn't—well, I don't know; I might have been lendin' him my last dollar, and proud of the chance—you can't tell.... I'm sorry, though," he added, "that he got those bonds of your mother's. Borrowed 'em of her, you say?"
"Yes. He was going to make better investments for her, I believe he said. But that doesn't make any difference. She has no receipts or anything to show. And of course if she should try to get them again there would be dreadful gossip, all sorts of things said. No, the bonds are gone and ... But how did you know about the bonds, Cap'n Kendrick?"
Sears had momentarily forgotten. He had, during his story of his war with Phillips, carefully avoided mentioning Kent's trouble. He had told of chasing Egbert to Denboro, but the particular reason for the pursuit he had not told. He was taken aback and embarrassed.
"Why—why——" he stammered.
But she answered her own question. "Of course!" she cried. "I know how you knew. George said that—that that man had used some bonds as a part of their stock speculation. I didn't think then of mother's bonds. That is what he did with them. I see."
The captain looked at her. Kent had told her of the C. M. deal. That meant that he had seen her, that already he had gone to her, to confess, to beg her pardon, to ... He sighed. Well, he should be glad, of course. He must pretend to be very glad.
"So—so you've seen George?" he stammered.
She colored slightly. "Yes," she answered. "He came to see me last evening.... Cap'n Kendrick you should hear him speak of you. You saved him from disgrace—and worse, he says. It was a wonderful thing to do. But I think you must be in the habit of doing wonderful things for other people."
He shrugged his shoulders. "Nothin' very wonderful about it," he said. "George is a good boy. He hadn't bumped into any Egberts before, that's all. He'll be on the lookout for 'em now. I'm glad for him—and for you."
If she understood what he meant she did not show any embarrassment.
"I don't know that you need be so glad for me," she said. "Yet in a way I am glad. The problem is settled now, mother's and mine. She and I will go away."
"Go away? From the Fair Harbor?"
"Yes, and from Bayport. She has a little money left. Thanks to Judge Knowles, I have some of my own. She and I can live on the interest for a time, or until I can find a way to earn more."
"I think George is going away, too. He spoke of Boston. But there is another thing I meant to say to you. I hate to leave you with the entire care of the Fair Harbor on your hands. I shall try and help you to find another matron before we go."
Sears rose from his chair. "That's all right," he said, "that part of it. We'll try and find another outside manager at the same time. You see, you and your mother aren't the only ones who are quittin' Bayport. I'm goin', too."
She turned to look at him. "You are going?" she repeated, slowly. "Where?"
"I don't know exactly. To sea, I hope. I'm well again, or next door to it. I mean to command another ship, if such a thing's possible."
"But you are leaving the Fair Harbor. Why?"
He turned on her almost fiercely. "Why?" he cried. "Don't you know why? Because I'm a man—or I was one—and I want to be a man again. On shore, I'm—well, I'm a good deal of a failure, I guess; but on salt water I count for somethin'. I'm goin' to sea where I belong."
He strode to the window and stood there, looking out. He heard her rise, heard her step beside him. Then he felt her hand upon his.
"I'm glad for you," she said, simply. "Very, very glad. I wish I were a man and could go, too."
He did not look at her, he did not dare.
"It's a rough life," he said, "but I like it."
"I know.... So you will soon be really seeing again those things you told me about, the foreign cities and the people and those islands—and all the wonderful, wonderful places. And you won't have to fret about the grocery bills, or the mean little Fair Harbor gossip, or anything of the kind. You can just sail away and forget it all."
"I shan't forget it all. There's a lot I never want to forget."
There was an interval of silence here, an interval that, to the captain, seemed to last for ages. It must be broken, it must be or....
"I shall think of you and George often enough," he announced, briskly. "Yes, indeed. And—and if it isn't too soon—that is, if you don't mind my bein' the first one—I'd like to congratulate you and wish you a smooth passage and a long one."
She did not answer and he mustered courage to turn and look at her. She was looking at him and her expression was odd.
"A smooth passage?" she repeated. "Why, Cap'n Kendrick, I'm not going to sea. What do you mean?"
"I mean—well, I meant—er—oh, I was speakin' in parables, like a minister, you know. I was wishin' you and George a happy voyage through life, that's all."
"George! Why, I am going away with my mother. George isn't.... Why, Cap'n Kendrick, you don't think—you can't think that George and I are—are——"
"Eh? Aren't you? I thought——"
She shook her head. "I told you once," she said. "I mean it. I like George well enough—sometimes I like him better than at others. But—oh, why can't you believe me?"
He was staring at her with a gaze so intent, an expression so strange that she could not meet it. She turned away.
"Please don't say any more about it," she begged.
"But—but George is—he has counted on it. He told me——"
"Don't. I don't know what he told you. I hope nothing foolish. He and I understand each other. Last night, when he came, I told him ... There, I must go, Cap'n Kendrick. I have left mother alone too long already."
"Wait!" he shouted it. "You mean ... You aren't goin' to marry George Kent—ever?"
"Why, no, of course not!"
"Elizabeth—oh, my soul, I—I'm crazy, I guess—but—Elizabeth, could you—— No, you couldn't, I know.... But am I crazy? Could you—do you—Elizabeth, if you ... Stop!"
She was on her way to the door.
He sprang after her, caught her hand.
"Elizabeth," he cried, the words tumbling over each other, "I'm thirty-eight years old. I'm a sailor, that's all. I'm not much of a man, as men go maybe, sort of a failure so far. But—with you to work for and live for, I—I guess I could be—I feel as if I could be almost anything. Could you give me that chance? Could you?"
She did not answer; did not even look at him. He dropped her hand.
"Of course not," he sighed. "Just craziness was what it was. Forgive me, my girl. And—forget it, if you can."
She did not speak. Slowly, and still without looking at him, she walked out of the kitchen. The outer door closed behind her. He put his hand to his eyes, breathed deeply, and returning to the chair by the table, sat heavily down.
"A failure," he groaned aloud. "Lord Almighty, what a failure!"
He had not heard the door open, but he did hear her step, and felt her arms about his neck and her kiss upon his cheek.
"Don't, don't, don't!" she sobbed. "Oh, my dear, don't say that. Don't ever say it again. Oh, you mustn't."
And he did not. For the next half hour he said many other things, and so did she, and when at last she did go away, he stood in the doorway, looking after her, knowing himself to be not a failure, but the one real overwhelming success in all this gloriously successful world.
It was April and one of those beautiful early spring days with which New England is sometimes favored. The first buds were showing on the trees, the first patches of new green were sprinkling the sheltered slopes of the little hills, and under the dead leaves by the edges of the woods boys had been rummaging for the first mayflowers.
It was supper time at the Fair Harbor and the "guests"—quoting Mrs. Susannah Brackett—or the "inmates"—quoting Mr. Judah Cahoon—were seated about the table. There were some notable vacancies in the roster. At the head, where Mrs. Cordelia Berry had so graciously and for so long presided, there was now an empty chair. That chair would soon be filled, however; the new matron of the Harbor was at that moment in the office discussing business matters with Mr. Bradley, the new "outside manager." She had told the others not to wait for her; she would come to supper as soon as she could. So Mrs. Brackett, who had moved up to the seat once glorified by the dignity of Miss Elvira Snowden, was serving the cold corned beef; while opposite her, in the chair where Elizabeth Berry used to sit, Mrs. Aurora Chase was ladling forth the preserved pears. And, in the absence of the matron, it was of course natural that conversation should turn to subjects which could not be discussed as freely or pointedly in her presence.
Miss Desire Peasley began the discussion. She looked at the ancient clock on the mantel. The time was a quarter to six.
"H'm," sniffed Miss Peasley, with a one-sided smile. "I suppose likely the great event's took place long afore this. They're married and off on their honeymoon by now.... If you can call a cruise on board a ship bound to an outlandish place like Singapore a honeymoon. I took one voyage to Bombay with my brother, and 'twan't the honeymoon trip I'd pick out. Such a place! And such folks! The clothes those poor heathens wore—or didn't wear! Shameful! Don't talk!"
The order not to talk was plainly not considered binding, for every one immediately began to talk.
"I should like to have seen the weddin'," proclaimed Mrs. Hattis Thomas, with a giggle. "Must have looked more like an adoptin' ceremony than a marryin'. I've always been thankful for one thing, I married a man somewheres nigh my own age, anyhow."
"Wonder how Cordelia likes bein' left alone?" observed Mrs. Constance Cahoon. "She's been used to havin' a daughter to wait on her hand and foot. Now she'll have to wait on herself for a spell. But I presume likely she won't mind that. Livin' up to Boston, with the interest of twenty-five thousand dollars to live on, will suit her down to the ground. She'll be airy enough now. Won't speak to common folks, I suppose. Well, she won't have to put herself out to speak to me. I shan't go a-visitin' her, even if she begs me to."
There was no immediate symptom of Mrs. Berry's begging for visitors, at least none present had so far received an invitation. But all nodded, indicating that they, too, would scorn the plea when it came.
"That poor man!" sighed Mrs. Brackett, pityingly. "How those two, mother and daughter, did pull the wool over his eyes. I suppose he thinks we all believe he wouldn't take a cent of Elizabeth's money. Humph! Good reason why Jack wouldn't eat his supper—he didn't have a chance. Ha, ha! I cal'late he'd taken it if he could have got it. But his wife knew a trick worth two of that. She'll keep him afloat and hard at work earnin' more for her to spend. Well, I hope his poor lame legs won't give out on him. If he has to give up goin' to sea again, I pity him, that's all I've got to say."
Mrs. Chase, her jet black locks a trifle askew as usual, was listening, the hand holding the preserve spoon cupped behind her ear and the spoon itself sticking out like a Fiji Islander's head ornament. As usual she had heard next to nothing.
"That's what I say!" she declared. "Why, Mr. Bradley, or whoever was responsible, let Sears Kendrick put a woman with six children in as matron of this place, I can't understand. Of course it's plain enough why Cap'n Sears wanted her to have the job. Joel Macomber's wages ain't more than twelve dollars a week and the salary here'll give 'em all the luxuries and doodads they want. Fust thing you know that Sary-Mary of hers'll be goin' to the Middleboro Academy to school. I wouldn't put it past her.... Hey? What did you say, Susanna?"
Mrs. Brackett had not said anything. She and some of the others were glancing uneasily in the direction of the hall door. All agreed that the appointment of Sarah Macomber as matron of the Fair Harbor was an outrage, but no one cared to have Mrs. Macomber know of that agreement. It was an experiment, that appointment, and Sarah herself was by no means confident of its success, although she had at last agreed to give it three months' trial. Half of that time was over and so far all was well. Bradley expressed huge satisfaction. Mrs. Macomber came to the Harbor early each morning and went home again after supper. Sarah-Mary and a hired girl, wages three dollars a week, were doing the Macomber housework.
"Hey?" shouted Aurora once more. "What did you say, Susanna?"
Mrs. Brackett, after another uneasy glance at the hall door, nodded and smiled. Mrs. Cahoon spoke quickly, in order to change the subject.
"What do you suppose I heard to-day?" she answered. "I met Josiah Ellis down to 'Liphalet's store and he told me he see Mr. Phillips yesterday. Josiah drove one of the livery hoss-'n'-teams over to Denboro—had a Boston notion drummer to cart over there, he did—and who should come drivin' along but Mr. Phillips. Josiah said he was dressed just as elegant as ever was, and the hoss-'n'-team he was drivin' was styled-up to match. Josiah hailed him and Mr. Phillips stopped and talked for a few minutes. Nice as always, not a bit of airs. No, Elviry wan't with him. Mr. Phillips said she was to home gettin' him ready to go away for a little vacation. Seems he's cal'latin' to go to New York for a fortni't. Mr. Phillips told Josiah that Elviry was kind of tired out, they'd done so much entertainin' this winter, and he was goin' away so's she could have a little rest. Ain't that just like him? Self-sacrificin'—my sakes! Elviry's a lucky woman, that's all I've got to say. I don't say so much about his luck; but when she got him she done well."
There was a general buzz of agreement about the table. Then from the kitchen, where she had gone to get a fresh supply of cream-of-tartar biscuit, came little Mrs. Tidditt. She put the plate of biscuits on the table and sat down.
"What's that, Constance?" she demanded.
Mrs. Cahoon repeated the news of the Phillips family. Aurora put in a word.
"There's one thing I've always been sorry for," she said. "Of course I wouldn't take anything away from Elviry, she and I have always been good friends. But she's got enough as 'tis, and I do wish—I do wish that Sears Kendrick had stayed away from this place until we'd had a chance to buy them lovely lawn statues. We'll never have another chance like that again."
Esther Tidditt smiled. "Yes, you will, Aurora," she snapped. "Yes, you will. Give him time and about two or three more New York trips, and those images will be up at auction again. Thirty thousand don't last some folks long, and Elviry and her Eg will be needin' money to pay grocery bills. You can't eat an iron lion. Just wait, Aurora. We may have that menagerie in the yard here yet. Possess your soul in patience."
There was another buzz about the table, this time of scornful disapproval. Mrs. Chase leaned forward.
"What's she sayin', Susanna?" she demanded, querulously. "Susanna Brackett, why don't you or the rest tell me what she's sayin'?"
* * * * *
At that moment the ship Gold Finder, of Boston, Winthrop and Hunniwell, owners, Sears Kendrick, master, was sailing out over the waters of Massachusetts Bay. Astern, a diamond point against the darkening sky, Minot's Light shone. The vessel was heeling slightly in the crisp evening wind, her full, rounded sails rustling overhead, her cordage creaking, foam at her forefoot and her wake stretching backward toward the land she was leaving. Her skipper stood aft by the binnacle, feeling, with a joy quite indescribable, the lift of the deck beneath him and the rush of the breeze across his face.
From the open door of the galley lamplight streamed. Within Judah Cahoon sang as he worked over the stove. Judah had had a glorious afternoon. His chanteys had cast off the hawsers, had walked away with the ropes, had hoisted the sails, had bade the tug good-by. Now his voice was a thought frayed, but he sang on.
Elizabeth—now Elizabeth Berry no more forever—came up the companion ladder. She joined her husband by the after rail. The sea air was chill and she was wearing one of the captain's pea jackets, the collar turned up; a feathery strand of her brown hair blew out to leeward. She stood beside him. The man at the wheel was looking down into the binnacle and Sears took her hand.
"Well?" he said, after a moment.
She looked up at him. "Well?" she said.
Neither spoke immediately. Then Kendrick breathed a sigh, a sigh expressive of many things.
She understood. As always she knew what he was thinking.
"Yes," she said, "it is glorious. Glorious for me; but for you, Sears——"
"Yes. It's pretty fine. I really never expected to make sail out of Boston harbor again. And if anybody had told me that I was to—" with another look at the helmsman, and lowering his voice—"to leave port this way—with you——"
He laughed aloud.
She laughed, too. "And just think," she said; "no more little worries or pettinesses, no more whispers, or faultfinding, or——"
"Or Fair Harbors. You're right, my girl. We're off, clean away from it all, bound out."
From the galley Judah's voice came, beginning the second verse of his song,
"'Aloft! Aloft!' our jolly bos'n cries. Blow high! blow low! and so sailed we. 'Look ahead, look astern, look a-weather and a-lee, Look along down the coast of the High Bar-ba-ree.'
"'There's none upon the starn, there's none upon the lee.' Blow high! blow low! and so sailed we. 'There's a lofty ship to wind'ard a-sailin' fast and free, Sailin' down along the coast of the High Bar-ba-ree.'"
* * * * * *
NOVELS FOR CHEERFUL ENTERTAINMENT
GALUSHA THE MAGNIFICENT
By Joseph C. Lincoln
Author of "Shavings," "The Portygee," etc.
The whole family will laugh over this deliriously humorous novel, that pictures the sunny side of small-town life, and contains love-making, a dash of mystery, an epidemic of spook-chasing—and laughable, lovable Galusha.
THESE YOUNG REBELS
By Frances R. Sterrett
Author of "Nancy Goes to Town," "Up the Road with Sally," etc.
A sprightly novel that hits off to perfection the present antagonism between the rebellious younger generation and their disapproving elders.
PLAY THE GAME
By Ruth Comfort Mitchell
A happy story about American young people. The appealing qualities of a brave young girl stand out in the strife between two young fellows, the one by fair the other by foul means, to win her.
IN BLESSED CYRUS
By Laura E. Richards
Author of "A Daughter of Jehu," etc.
The quaint, quiet village of Cyrus, with its whimsical villagers, is abruptly turned topsy-turvy by the arrival in its midst of an actress, distractingly feminine, Lila Laughter; and, at the same time, an epidemic of small-pox.
HELEN OF THE OLD HOUSE
By Harold Bell Wright
Wright's greatest novel, that presents the life of industry to-day, the laughter, the tears, the strivings of those who live about the smoky chimneys of an American industrial town.
New York D. APPLETON & COMPANY London
* * * * * *
AMONG THE NEWEST NOVELS
THE HOUSE OF MOHUN
By GEORGE GIBBS, Author of "Youth Triumphant," etc.
A distinguished novel depicting present day society and its most striking feature, the "flapper." A story of splendid dramatic qualities.
THE COVERED WAGON
By EMERSON HOUGH, Author of "The Magnificent Adventure," "The Story of the Cowboy," etc.
A novel of the first water, clear and clean, is this thrilling story of the pioneers, the men and women who laid the foundation of the great west.
By ELIZABETH G. YOUNG
The New York Times says that "Homestead Ranch" is one of the season's "two best real wild and woolly western yarns." The Boston Herald says, "So delightful that we recommend it as one of the best western stories of the year."
By STEPHEN FRENCH WHITMAN, Author of "Predestined," etc.
How a woman, spoiled child of New York society, faced the dangers of the African jungle trail. "One feels ever the white heat of emotional conflict."—Philadelphia Public Ledger.
By W. DOUGLAS NEWTON, Author of "Low Ceilings," etc.
"An excellently written and handled tale of adventure and thrills in the dark spruce valleys of Canada."—New York Times.
JANE JOURNEYS ON
By RUTH COMFORT MITCHELL, Author of "Play the Game," etc.
The cheerful story of a delightful heroine's adventures from Vermont to Mexico.
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY New York London