The morning came up ruddily from the sea; it came with a south-wind playfulness, which tossed the girl's glistening hair with free touch and kissed the glowing face into richer beauty.
Presently the little, secluded hut came into view; the very next hollow held it! Janet stood upon the last hill, drew out her whistle and with smiling lips, that with difficulty formed themselves to the task, sent forth her call. The musical note penetrated the stillness. A bird rose affrightedly from a near-by bush; but it, and the waiting girl, seemed to have the Hills to themselves.
"So much the better!" murmured Janet, sparkling with excitement. "It will be all the more surprising." She ran rapidly forward, secured the key and opened the door. Then she obediently locked it again and stood within the room gazing tenderly at every beloved object. It was just as Thornly had left it. He had waited all day for the girl; he had wanted her to pose in the open, but she had failed him and he had evidently devoted himself to the picture he was painting, as he had told her, for his own private use. "My Pimpernel," he called it, and rough as the work was at that stage, it was full of beauty and promise. It was Janet, little more than sketched, to be sure, but a startling likeness; and the wreath of pimpernel flowers, on the glorious sun-touched hair, had evidently been the artist's last work.
The throne-like space, with the cushions and low divan upon which the girl posed, was in full view, with Thornly's jacket and pipe lying carelessly upon it. The curtain, which always hung over the picture for Mr. Mason, was drawn aside. Apparently the man had had less reason to hide that from any chance visitor. Janet walked over to the table and raised the cover of the chafing dish.
"He ate at the boarding house," she whispered, "else I'd have to wash this. He's scandalously untidy!" She picked up a glass and sniffed.
"Wine!" she announced, "wine for a party,—and cracker crumbs! Company! I wonder who? One, two, three, four wineglasses. Bluff Headers!" Then the smile trembled before the memory of Mr. Devant's proud, haughty sister and the young lady unlike any one the dune-bred girl had ever seen before. Not even the most gorgeous boarder in the least resembled her. She was so icily cold, so calmly beautiful; so exquisitely dressed in white, white always, with a dash of gold to match her smooth, shining hair! No power could draw Janet to Bluff Head after the one visit during which the two ladies had frankly and condescendingly taken stock of her, evidently in consequence of remarks made by the master of the house.
For the first time in her life, Janet had felt the resentment of being "looked down upon." Had she a particle of malice or suspicion in her nature, the resentment might have rankled and grown into hate, for the girl had all the pride and independence of the place. As it was, she had withdrawn into herself, like the flower to which she had been likened, and had vanished from sight.
"I won't wash the glasses!" the laugh rang merrily like the laugh of a child; "let her wash her own glass, and soil her pretty frock."
But this declaration of independence did not prohibit a general tidying in other respects. The north window shade was rolled up and the sash raised; the easel drawn out into place before the low stool; and the jacket and pipe arranged conveniently at hand for the master when he should appear.
"And now," rippled the girl, "I'll give him a surprise and a shock!" First, she went outside, relocked the door and hid the key; then nimbly entered the hut by the north window. Once inside again, she closed the window and, trembling with excitement and hurry, ran to the posing platform and flung herself among the cushions. Then she spread her hair loosely over the sea-green pillows that rose around her. The net was caught up and draped about the slim, graceful body. Eyes and small brown feet showed between the meshes; the conceit was deliciously bewildering!
When all was arranged, she cautiously let fall the shielding curtain and waited.
"He'll come early!" she whispered, "oh! very early. And I wonder what he will call this picture?"
The night's patrol, and the mastering of Billy, had tired the girl. The couch was sleep-enticing, the pillows dream-bringing, and the day was yet young; so Janet slept, a vision to touch any heart, one to stir an artist to holy rapture.
How long she slept Janet never knew, but the grating of the key in the lock awakened her. Her heart beat wildly and the blood ran riotously in her veins. The door opened, some one spoke; and then, as if before a north blast, all the glow and glory of Janet's joy froze within her!
"Wasn't I clever to watch where he hid the key, Mr. Devant? And how utterly good of you to enter the conspiracy and help me find him out! I know he has an immortal picture somewhere here! He wants to spring it upon you and me along with the herd, by and by. But we wish to be partakers in the pleasure of preparation, do we not, Mr. Devant?"
The musical voice had a ring in it not altogether lovely. "Stand aside, Mr. Devant! See, he must have brought his work out after we left yesterday. It was orderly enough then; but look at it now! Let us examine this upon the easel. But first, open the door. I smell stale wine. The untidy fellow has not washed the glasses!"
Mr. Devant opened the door and said with a half laugh, "I'm not quite sure how Dick will like this, Katharine. But while the cat's away—"
"Ah!" The word came sharply. "Mr. Devant, look here!" The two were standing before the easel.
"Good Lord!" cried the man. "The Pimpernel! Katharine, this Dick of ours has prepared a surprise for us sure enough!"
"He evidently had reasons for holding us at bay, Mr. Devant." A thinly veiled sneer was in the low, even voice. "He has been using that wild, odd, young creature of yours as a model! And he has never told you? I greatly fear our sly Dick has been—well, deceitful!"
"Oh! my dear girl!" Devant reassured her, "you do not understand. Dick has probably had to procure such a model upon terms of secrecy, not on his own account, but hers! You do not know these people. They are not above taking money, but they make their own terms."
"Terms?" Again the scornful tone.
"Yes, my dear! Why, what do you think would happen if I called my cook Eliza instead of Mrs. Smith? Starvation, my dear, actual starvation! And I carry my own laundry to Mrs. Abner Snow's,—carry it and fetch it. This girl now might be willing to pose, and you must admit that she is a raving beauty, but she would hold Dick to a cast-iron vow never to let any one know. What's more, I can take my oath, knowing these people as I do, that the girl never sets her foot in Dick's shop without a body guard of at least one captain, perhaps three or four!"
"Let us see if he has any more secrets!" There was relaxation in the clear voice. "Let us hurry; Dick may be here at any moment, and I do so want to get ahead of him just to punish him for his underhand methods!"
Janet heard the two turn; she knew they were coming directly to the platform.
"Once,"—the slow, fine voice had regained its smoothness,—"once in New York I dropped in at Dick's studio when he did not expect me. I wanted him to take me out to luncheon; and I had the oddest experience! Oh! Mr. Devant, look at that bit, pinned to the wall! That is really exquisite! Well, as I was saying, I stole in upon Dick. I called from the outer room that it was I—I wished afterward that I had not!—and then I ran into the studio. As quick as a flash, Dick dropped a curtain, just like this, between me and his easel! I was determined to see what he had been painting, but he positively forbade it. He said it was a painter's prerogative to warn even—love from that holy of holies. I often wonder what was behind the curtain. I realized from that moment that if you want to see a great artist's best work, you must override his modesty and secretiveness—and tear the screen from his altar!"
With a light laugh, the girl now drew aside the sheltering curtain with playful, dramatic force, and lay bare the secret that it hid!
Janet did not move. Her great, startled eyes, dark, intense, and passion-filled, stared helplessly at the two, who, transfixed, returned the stare in frozen silence. So rigid and deathlike the model lay in the meshes of the net, so beautiful and graceful in her motionless pose, that for an instant the intruders could not trust their senses. Then the woman found voice and action.
"I fear," she said slowly, coldly, and distantly, "I fear we really have intruded where we have no right, Mr. Devant." Then she laughed a rich, rippling laugh. "And the captains! where are the captains, my dear Mr. Devant? They seem to have omitted the captains to-day. Pray let us go at once. I would not interfere with Dick's future fame for all the world! I can quite understand why artists hide their best work at times!" Without a word, Mr. Devant dropped the curtain.
Janet heard them go out, heard them lock the door, and realized that they hid the key. She tried to get up, but the intention was only mental and died without an effort. A physical sickness and bodily weakness held her. To lie still was the only course possible, but the thoughts rushed madly through the awakened mind. In that hour womanly instinct was born, the instinct that armed itself against suspicion and another's contempt. Shame, for what was not real but suggested by a coarser mind, hurt and blinded her. The child in Janet had been killed by that white, cold woman, and what arose was more terrible than the slayer could have imagined, for this new creature scorned the innocence and weakness of that lately crushed childhood. It held in contempt the poor, vain, cheap thing that had offered, actually offered, itself to a being that came from a world that knew and had power to despise.
Wave after wave of torment engulfed the poor girl as she lay without a struggle in her net. The apple of understanding had been forced between her lips by the refined cruelty of another woman. Instinctively, Janet found a sort of dumb comfort in the memory of the look she recalled in Mr. Devant's eyes, but while life lasted her soul would shrivel at the memory of the glance which that proud, beautiful girl had cast upon her.
The lovely face upon the sea-green pillows paled and flushed as the flood of growing knowledge gathered force. The eyes grew dark and terror-racked, and misery claimed the newborn woman.
Then again the key grated in the lock. Strengthened by the perception that was now hers, the girl sprang to a sitting posture and drew her feet beneath the shelter of the coarse red skirt. The net ensnared her further and so she sat, caught fast in the meshes and in the terror of her condition.
Thornly entered the room, closed and locked the door. Then he opened the windows wide. His eye and ear would warn him of intruders, and the breath of the summer day he must have! Janet heard him stop before the easel; then his laugh, contented and youth-filled, rang clearly in the little room.
"Beauty!" he muttered. "Great heaven, what almost weird beauty! My Pimpernel, you'll make me famous!" Then he whistled gayly, hung up his coat and hat—did not the listening girl know every movement?—drew on the old paint besmirched jacket, and filled his pipe.
"Dirty wineglasses!" he muttered, "bah! how the stale wine befouls this air! Outside you go to await your purification!" The glasses were set jinglingly upon the window ledge. Then Thornly came to the curtain and flung it heedlessly back.
"Good Lord!" he ejaculated, and staggered away. The panic-stricken face, that met his, paralyzed him for the moment; then he laughed.
"Pimpernel!" he drew nearer; "dear child, you are as full of surprises as this glorious day and the Hills. You've brought me a new sensation, a heaven-sent inspiration. What a partner you are! God bless you!"
"Don't you—touch—me!" Janet warned off the extended hands. Her arms were free, and they must serve her now.
"Janet! What ails you, child?"
"I do not know. I cannot think. Only I know you must not touch me; and—and I'm not a child any more!"
Then tears came, a wild, remorseful flood. The girl swayed upon the couch, torn by the emotions that lashed her cruelly. Thornly stood apart. Something undefinable held him to his place. He recalled the first day he had met this strange girl upon the Hills and her tears then; but these were different. In a subtle, unspeakable way he realized that something startling had brought about this changed condition from yesterday's Eden-like life.
"I wish you could tell me what is the matter," he said pityingly and quietly. He did not move toward her, but his tone, with its sympathetic reserve, did the one thing he longed to do; it drew the girl's trust and confidence. The storm of sobs lessened. The hidden face was raised and the burden of fear and distress lifted slowly.
"They—have been here!" The words came upon the crest of the last sob.
"They—who?" Thornly's eyes contracted.
"Mr. Devant and the one he calls Katharine."
"Great heavens! And you let them in?"
"They found the key and came in." Thornly muttered something inaudibly. "They wanted to see your pictures; they saw everything, and me!" Again the misery spread over the vivid face. Thornly was unable to take his eyes from that pitiful gaze, but for a moment his own position in this play held part.
"What did they say?" he asked at length.
"Mr. Devant said nothing! I cannot remember what she said—but whatever it was, it made me know that she thinks me—oh! what can I say?—something too awful to bear! And you, you knew what women like her might think! That is why you made me promise not to tell; that is why you kept the door locked! You knew how the people like her would scorn me! and yet you would not save me! Oh! I know it was because of your pictures! You would let folks like her think what they wanted to, so long as you got what you wanted!" The brief confidence in him was gone.
There was a power in this fury that shook Thornly as he listened. The blazing face of outraged womanhood confronted him, and the accusation brought truth and torment with it.
"Get what I wanted?" he groped blindly in his soul for an honest answer as to what he had wanted.
"Yes. What you wanted! You wanted my face, because it is beautiful; because I was like this place, the Hills and dunes! You thought me like them, just a thing to put upon your canvas to make you rich and famous! But I am a girl, like that girl up at Bluff Head! I am as good as she!"
"My God!" Thornly looked at the bowed head, that sank again beneath the waves of passion. His eyes grew dim and his face paled. His soul had answered and had passed judgment that gave him grace to breathe freely!
"Janet," he said gently, "my poor girl! I am going to wait by the door until you get out of the net and into your shoes; then come to me. I have much, much to say to you." He did not offer, by thought or motion, to assist her. He turned and sat guard by the open door, puffing vigorously at his pipe.
Janet disentangled herself and put on her stockings and shoes. Then, shod and with a strange dignity, she crossed the room and stood beside the man, leaning against the jamb of the door for support.
Thornly looked up and smiled; then he shook the ashes from his pipe, placed it in his pocket, and offered Janet his stool. She shook her head.
"I'll sit on the sand," she said, and sank down outside the door.
"My poor Janet," Thornly began, "I do not know what to say. I want to make you understand and I am afraid I may make further mistakes. I see I have wronged you. In a sense, I've been a bungling fool; but as true as God hears me, I didn't want you upon my canvas for any low or mean reason. I swear that as truly as I ever spoke. It seemed my right to make live what I saw in you. Maybe it was not my right—I begin to fear it was not—but it seemed so at first. I don't know how to say it, but somewhere I have read a thought like this. When an artist enters his studio he hangs up his passions with his coat and hat. You won't understand that. No woman can, perhaps, and not many men; but it's true as surely as heaven hears me! and it accounts for a deal of good as well as bad! That is the way I felt. I was greedy to catch you as I saw you. I wanted no one to share the triumph. I never thought of women like Katharine or men like Mr. Devant. I did think of the Quinton folks, and that is the only reason I locked the door! Please try and believe that, my dear girl! If I had one unselfish thought, it was for you and for your people, not for the others like those at Bluff Head. I could have told them all about it when my pictures were hung at the Academy; and that would have ended it."
The girl upon the sands sat with hands clasped around her knees. Her dark, clear eyes never wavered from the speaker's face, and Thornly saw trust and a growing calm rising in them again.
"If I had gone far enough in thought," he continued, "I might have hoped that such beauty and power as you have would have made you great and strong enough in nature to want to help make these pictures, in spite of everything! I believe in a slow, dull way I did think that about you once in a while. I know I never meant to harm the woman in you, Janet; believe me, I swear that!"
His eyes met hers and never faltered. The girl drew a long breath. Then she shivered slightly and sighed again.
"I—I think I see, a little, what you mean," she quivered; "you thought I was better than I am. Higher, nobler than some folks, because I am so—so beautiful?" Not a shadow of common vanity rang through the words. "You thought I would be glad to help in your pictures and never care what others might think, others who cannot understand? You are a great artist, and you thought me an artist—but in a different way? Oh! it comes to me just as Davy's Light comes of an early morning, when the fog lifts. What a mean, wretched thing I have been to let stings hurt, when that splendid picture—waits—for—me!" A radiance spread over the wistful face. Thornly was dazzled and could only stare helplessly.
"See," she had arisen, and stood before him in all her strong, young beauty; "you need me? Without me you cannot make your splendid picture?"
Thornly shook his head.
"It is not the money you want, nor just the fame, but you want to give the world a great joy."
"Yes, yes! As God is my witness, Janet, that is my desire."
"Then I will help. Oh! forgive me! Come, please, come, only"—here she smiled pitifully—"please leave the door open! It shall never matter again; nothing can change things now."
Thornly staggered to his feet and half extended his hand to draw the girl in; then something stayed him.
"I cannot paint to-day, Janet," he whispered. "Something is changed. Perhaps the old longing will return, but I must not trust myself until I know. Go, little Pimpernel, you are the greater artist of us two!"
"I'm very sorry the day is spoiled," she returned brokenly; "if I had only known more, it would have been different. It seems as if I cannot ever forgive myself."
She turned, and went sadly over the hills with never a backward look. And Thornly gazed after her with yearning eyes. She was taking with her—what? Inspiration? Yes, but something deeper and more vital was passing with that vanishing form. What was it? What had occurred to change the summer sunlight to drearest gray?
Late August hung heavily over Quinton. The city folks, who counted their year's playtime by two weeks' vacation, had come and gone, in relays. The artists, never tiring of the changing charms of this new-found beauty-spot, gave no heed to the passing season. Only cold, and acute bodily suffering could attract their attention. Good, poor, and indifferent revelled in the inspiration-haunted Hills and magnificent sweep of shore.
The natives counted their gains with bated breath and dreamed visions of future summers that made them dizzy.
Poor Susan Jane was the only woman, apparently, upon the mainland, who had swung at anchor through all the changed conditions. Susan, who once had been the ruling spirit of the village and Station! Susan, whose sharp tongue and all-seeing eye had governed her kind! Susan had been obliged to gather such bits of driftwood as had floated to her chair, during the history-making season,—and draw such pleasure from it as she could. The strain had worn upon the paralyzed body. The active mind had stretched and stretched for material until the helpless frame weakened. The sharp tongue was two-edged now, and gossip that reached Susan Jane assumed the blackest color. Her searching eyes saw through everything, and gripped all secrets.
David's songs, as he mounted the winding stairs, took on a soberer strain. Sometimes he omitted, even at the top, his hilarious outburst to the "lobster pots;" and his sigh and laugh combination was an hourly occurrence.
Janet noticed it all. She was alive to the atmospheric chill of the village, though in no wise understanding it. She was troubled and fretted by many things, but she went her way. The money she had earned by posing she dealt out in miserly fashion to Susan Jane; while at the same time she assumed many household cares to ease David, whom she loved.
There was no more money coming to her now, for after the scene in the hut upon the Hills Thornly had gone away for a week, and upon his return he had told Janet he would send her a message when again he needed her. The man's tone had been most kindly, but it seemed a rebuff from which the girl had not been able to recover. Once or twice she had stolen to the hut, when she was sure the master was away; always the key was in its hiding place. Softly she had gone in and stood in the sacred room. The same picture stood ever upon the easel, the same beautiful unfinished picture! Upon one visit the girl had taken a rare pimpernel blossom she had found in a lonely hollow and laid it on the empty stool before the canvas. It was still there when she went again! Faded and neglected it lay before the shrine, and the message never came that was to call her to the Hills.
The people of the village, too, were different. They were busy and took small notice of the girl. Business, Janet thought, was the only reason. Mrs. Jo G. in particular was changed, but it had been a hard summer for Mrs. Jo G., and when, after many attempts to secure Janet as waitress, she had failed, she turned upon the girl sharply.
"You might be doin' worse things!" she snapped, "you're growin' more an' more like yer ma, an' it ain't t' yer credit!" That was the first inroad the oncoming wave of sentiment had made in the bulkhead of local reticence.
Janet started. "What do you mean?" she asked.
"What I say. An' what's more, Janet, if you can't turn in an' be useful t' them as was good enough fur you before, you can stop away from us altogether. I don't want Maud Grace t' get any fool notions in her head."
Once Janet would have turned upon such an attack, but somehow the spring of resistance was checked. After all what did it matter? But she took her mother's picture from the carpet-bag that night and hid it in her blouse with the long-silent whistle! More and more she remained at the lighthouse. Seldom, even, did she sail over to the dunes and never unless she felt strong enough to leave a pleasant impression upon Billy. Over all this, Mark Tapkins watched and brooded, and he slouched more dejectedly between the Light and his father's little home.
"I tell you!" he often confided to his inner self, "city life is blightin'! When I was there, it took the breath out o' me, an' now it's come t' Quinton, it's knocked a good many different from what they once was!" With this oft-repeated sentiment Mark reached his father's door one day and through it caught the smell of frying crullers. Old Pa Tapkins was realizing his harvest from the boarders by acting upon Janet's suggestion to Mark. From early sunrise until the going down of the sun, Pa, when not necessarily preparing food for three regular meals, was mixing, shaping, frying, and selling his now famous cakes. People, in passing, inhaled the fragrance of Pa's cooking and stopped to regale themselves and take samples to friends who were yet to be initiated. Pa and his crullers were becoming bywords, and they often helped out, where meals at the boarding place failed and conversation lacked humor.
As Mark stepped into the kitchen, not only his father, but Captain Billy hailed him.
"Hello! Cap'n Billy," cried Mark, "come off fur a change, have ye?"
"Yes, yes," Billy replied through a mouthful of cruller, hot enough to make an ordinary man groan with pain. "Yes, yes; I've come off t' see the doin's."
"Well, there is considerable goin's on," Mark nodded, and calmly helped himself to a cake that was still sizzling; "there don't seem t' be no signs of lettin' up on us!"
"Now, Markie!" purred Pa from the stove, "that ain't puttin' the case jest as it is. Looked at from some p'ints, we are the clutchers."
Pa was a mild little man with a round, innocent face, and flaxen hair rising in a curly halo about it. His china-blue eyes had all the trust and surprise of a newly awakened baby. Life had always been to Pa Tapkins a mild series of shocks, and he parried each statement and circumstance in order that he might haply recognize it if he ran across it again, or, more properly speaking, if it struck him a smarting blow again. Pa never ran at all. As nearly as any mortal can be stationary, Pa was; but in the nature of things, passing events touched him more or less sharply in their progress.
"It ain't all their doin's, Markie, now is it?"
"Like as not it ain't, Pa. Sold many crullers t'-day?"
"I've sold all I've made, up t' this batch, Markie, an' I've been putterin' over the heat since the mornin' meal."
"Well, I'll lay the things on fur the noon meal, Pa, you tend t' business."
"But you ain't slept, Markie. Up all night an' no sleep nex' day! 'T won't do, Markie, now will it?"
"I'll sleep, come night time." Mark seized his third almost boiling cruller and turned to Billy.
"You ain't seen Janet, hev you?"
Billy looked guilty. "No, an' I ain't a-goin' t' this trip. Mark, how is things at the Light?"
"Squally as t' Susan Jane. Seein' others spry while she's chained by the stroke ain't addin' t' Susan Jane's Christian qualities."
"Stormin' at Janet?"
"Janet comes in fur her share, but David gets the toughest blasts. I don't see how Davy weathers it, an' still keeps a song an' a smile."
"An' him doin' another man's stint, too," Pa put in, dropping a brown ring on the floor, spearing it adroitly again, and flipping it upon the paper-covered platter. "If William Henry Jones hadn't gone down in that squall thirty years ago, an' if Davy hadn't thought it was his duty t' carry out his mate's plans, I'm thinkin' Susan Jane might have been different an' Davy might not have had sich tormentin' experiences. Least, that is how it struck me thirty year back, an' it strikes me so yet."
Billy nodded appreciatively.
"'T ain't always wise t' tackle somebody else's job," Mark joined in, "that's what come t' me in the city. City jobs ain't fur you! that's what I said t' myself. Salt air was in my nostrils, the sound of the sea in my ears, an' I couldn't any more hear t' the teachin' of city ways, than the city folks can learn of us here on the coast."
Again Billy nodded. He felt his spirits rising as he looked upon this man of the world and knew him as a friend.
"Draw up, Pa and Cap'n Billy!" Mark had collected a large and varied repast. "Have some cold fowl, Cap'n, an' a couple o' 'taters. Lay hold of a brace o' them ears o' corn. Over half a yard long an' as near black as purple ever is. Inside they're white an' milky enough. Have some blackberry pie, 'long with yer fowl, Cap'n. 'T ain't every day you can get Pa's cookin'; an' I bleve in mixin' good victuals. It's what Nater does."
Billy took everything suggested and ate it indiscriminately, and this example was ably followed by his hosts.
"Mark!" Billy after a long but significant silence sat back in his chair and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, "Mark, I'm goin' t' ask ye t' jine me in a rather shady job. Do ye happen t' know the particular women painters as is usin' Janet fur a—modil?"
Mark strangled over a kernel of corn and stared, teary-eyed, at Billy.
"Modil?" he finally gasped, "modil? Why, Cap'n, that ain't no word t' tack ont' Janet. Modils ain't moral or decint. I learned that in th' city from a painter-chap as use t' come in t' the shop an' eat isters when he could afford it."
Billy's face lengthened.
"'T is 'mong friends I speak?" Billy dropped his voice. Both men nodded. "Well, Janet is a modil t' some of them dirty-aproned women painters! An' I want t' see just how they've took her, an' what they calkerlate t' do with the picter! Andrew Farley has been modilin' fur them, an' Andy's 'count of how he looks in paint ain't pleasant. I don't know as I want Janet shown up in the city kinder onsightly."
During this explanation Mark's countenance had assumed an expression of intense suffering. Bits of gossip arose like channel stakes in the troubled water of his misery. Like the bits of red cloth which marked the stakes in the bay, Susan Jane's emphasis of such gossip fluttered wildly in this hour. Through the channel, clearly set by these signals, was a wide course leading direct to a certain hut upon the Hills of which silent, watchful Mark knew!
"She ain't no modil, Cap'n, don't say that!" he finally managed to get out; "that's jest scandalous gossip."
"She told me herself!" Billy brought his tilted chair to the floor; "an' I got t' keep this visit secret. But, since the gal ain't got no mother, I've got t' do double duty. Knowin' how up in city ways ye are, Mark, I thought maybe ye'd pilot me on this trip. I'm turrible clumsy with strangers, specially women, an' I want t' do what's right."
"'T ain't—a—woman!" This declaration was wrung from Mark.
"What's that?" Billy sprang from his chair.
"Now, Markie, do be keerful!" cautioned Pa, "don't make no statement ye can't stand by. Nation! that fat is burnin'!"
"I said, 'twarn't no woman painter as done Janet. If she has been a modil—an' 'twere you as said that—she's been one to a man!"
The horror on Billy's face was pitiful.
"Can you locate him?" he asked in trembling tones. Mark nodded.
"Come on, then!"
In silence the two departed. Pa hardly noticed them; the burning fat claimed his entire attention.
Mark strode ahead toward the Hills and Billy, with the swing of the lonely patrols, brought up the rear.
It was the dining hour and Quinton was almost deserted in the hot August noon.
"Don't let's get het up," advised Mark presently; "city folks is powerful clever 'bout keepin' cool inside an' out."
"I'm already het!" panted Billy.
"Let's take it easier;" Mark paused in the path, and wiped his streaming face. They did not speak again until Thornly's hut was almost at their feet. Billy's face was grim and threatening, but Mark's showed signs of doubt and wavering. His recollections of city calm and coolness were not uplifting in this emergency. Folks in town had always outwitted Mark by their calmness.
Thornly's door was set open to strangers and whatever air was stirring. He, himself, was sitting inside, his back to his coming guests and his eyes upon the unfinished picture upon the easel.
Remnants of a chafing-dish meal were spread upon a small table, and silence brooded over all. It was only when Mark and Billy stood at the door that Thornly turned. The look of expectancy died in his eyes as he saw the weather-beaten countenance of Billy, and the shamefaced features of Mark.
"I do not want any sitters, thank you," said he.
"We don't want t' set," Billy replied firmly and clearly.
"I beg your pardon," Thornly smiled pleasantly, "you see nearly all of them do. Won't you come in?"
"It's cooler outside," ventured Mark.
"There isn't much difference," said Thornly, rising courteously.
"I'm Cap'n Billy Morgan!" This statement appeared to interest Thornly immensely.
"I'm glad to meet you," he answered.
"Are ye a painter-man?" asked Billy.
"I've been dubbed that occasionally." Thornly laughed. "What can I do for you?"
"Did you ever have a—modil?" Mark broke in breathlessly, feeling he must help Billy out, no matter what his own feelings were.
"I've even been guilty of that!"
"Did ye ever have my Janet?"
Poor Billy's trouble, knowing no restraint of city ways or roundabout methods, rushed forth sharply.
Thornly changed color perceptibly.
"Come in," he urged, "the glare is really too painful."
The two awkwardly stepped inside. Then Mark's eyes fell upon the canvas.
"Cap'n!" he groaned, "look at this!" The two men stood spellbound before the easel, and Thornly watched them curiously.
"It's her!" muttered Billy, "it's her! Poor little thing! she's jest drifted without a hand upon the tiller." The visitors forgot Thornly.
"I didn't think I had more'n the right t' watch, Cap'n." Mark's voice was full of tears as he said this.
"Ye had the right t' shout out a call t' me, lad. You'd have done the like fur any little skiff you'd seen in danger." Then he turned upon Thornly. "What right hev ye got t' steal my gal's looks? An' what tricks hev ye used t' git 'em, an' her happiness 'long with 'em?"
Thornly winced. "Her happiness?" he asked helplessly, not knowing what else to say.
"Yes. Her happiness! Don't ye s'pose that I, what has watched her since she came int' port, watched her an' loved her, an' sot hopes on her, don't ye think I know the difference 'twixt her happiness an' the sham thing?"
"Good Lord!" breathed Thornly, "are you speaking truth?"
Billy drew himself up with a dignity Thornly shrank before.
"Thar ain't anythin' but the truth good enough t' use, when we're talkin' of my little gal!" he said quietly. He felt no need of Mark, nor knowledge of city ways.
Mark was still riveted before the picture. Slow tears were rolling down his twitching face. The calamity that had overtaken Janet was like death, and this lovely smiling face upon the canvas was but the dear memory of her!
"I never meant to harm her," said Thornly presently. "I cannot hope that you will understand; it has only recently come to me, the understanding. I have always thought the artist in me had a right to seize and make my own all that my eye saw that was beautiful. Lately the man in me has uprisen and shown me that I have been a fool—a fool and a thief!"
"That's what you are!" blubbered Mark, "that last's what you are! You've taken Janet's good name, you've taken her happiness—and you've taken her frum us!" Thornly's color rose, but a look at the speaker's distorted face hushed the angry words he was about to utter. He turned to Billy as to an equal.
"Captain Morgan," he said quietly, "I have done nothing to harm your daughter's good name, in the eyes of any man or woman! That I swear before God. In that I yearned to make her wonderful beauty add to my reputation, I plead my blind selfishness; but above all I wanted to give to the world a pleasure that you can never realize, I think, and I believe your daughter is great enough to give all, that I ruthlessly took without asking, to help me give the world that picture!" His own eyes turned to the pure, exquisite face.
"Like as not she would!" Billy replied, "like as not she would. Was there ever a woman as wasn't willin' t' fling herself away, if a man was reckless enough t' p'int the path out t' her? An' do ye think I'm goin' t' let ye take my Janet's dear face int' that hell-place of a city; an' have folks starin' at her, folks what ain't fit t' raise their eyes t' her? Ain't ye done her enough wrong without takin' her sacrifice, if she's willin' t' make it?"
"Good God, man! I'm willing to do all I can. That picture is worth hundreds of dollars to me and untold pleasure to many besides, but I am willing to do with it just what you think best."
"Then cut it open, Mark!" Billy's tone rose shrilly. "Slash it top an' bottom an' don't leave a trace o' Janet."
Mark drew from his pocket a huge clasp knife. He trembled as he opened it and stood back to strike the first blow.
"Stop!" Thornly sprang between him and the canvas. "Stop! I could easier see some savage devastate the beauty of these Hills. Wait! I swear to leave it as it is. I swear that no eyes but ours shall rest upon it; but you shall not destroy it!"
Command and power rang in Thornly's voice. Mark wavered. Billy hung his head.
"Arter all," he groaned, "we ain't none o' us got the final right. Janet's my gal, but her beauty is hers, an' God Almighty's. Keep the picter till such time as my Janet can judge an' say. The time will come when she'll get her bearin's, with full instructions, an' then she'll judge among us all!"
The two rough men turned toward the door. "When she tells ye," Billy paused to say, "she'll be wiser than what she is t'-day, poor little critter!"
Thornly watched the men, in stern silence, until they passed from sight; then he went back to the easel.
"Pimpernel," he whispered brokenly, "poor little wild flower, out of place among us all!" He drew a heavy cloth over the radiant face, and with reverent hand placed the canvas against the wall in the darkest corner of the room.
* * * * *
Late that afternoon Billy's boat put off for the Station in the teeth of a rising gale and amid ominous warnings of thunder.
Susan Jane grew more irritable and nervous as the storm rose. She feared storm and lightning.
"Janet, ain't that Billy's sail crossin' the bay?" she said. Janet came to the window.
"Yes, it is," she faltered; "and he's going on!"
"Well, what do you suppose? Ain't he got t' get back by sundown? 'T would be a pretty pass if he'd come off at sundown."
"But he's been off all day, likely as not!" Janet's lip quivered.
"Well, s'pose he has. Are you goin' t' be one of them tormentin' women who is always naggin' a man about what he's doin' an' what he ain't a-doin'? Where's David?"
"He's gone up into the Light, Susan Jane."
The woman turned anxiously toward the window. "It's an awful storm risin', Janet. Wind off sea, but changin' every minute. Draw the shade. I'm fearin' the ocean will rise high enough fur us t' see the breakers over the dunes! I ain't seen the ocean fur thirty odd years, an' I ain't goin' t' now!" Her voice rose hysterically, like a frightened child's. "I jest won't see the ocean!" Janet pulled the green shade down, and hid from her own aching eyes the vanishing sight of Billy's struggling boat, but her loving heart went with it as, spurning the wind and darkness, it made for the dunes and duty!
"All day!" the girl thought; "all day, and not to let me know! Oh, Cap'n Daddy, what mischief have you been up to?" The quivering smile rose over the hurt, but anxiety lay deep in the troubled heart.
A crash of thunder rent the air! A blinding flash of lightning turned the black bay to a molten sea. Janet could see it through the glass of the outer door in the entry.
"Yes, Susan Jane."
"Come away from the draught! I think you might know, how if you got struck by lightnin' I couldn't do a blessed thing but look at you." Janet came into the darkened room.
"Light the lamp!" Susan commanded. "I ain't goin' t' save oil, when I'm in this state. Oh! Janet,"—a splintering crash shook the house,—"did you ever hear the like?"
"It's pretty bad, Susan Jane!" But the girl was thinking of the little boat struggling on the bay, the strong hand upon the tiller, and the faithful heart, fearless in the midst of danger.
"Janet, since you ain't got no nerves, can you read t' me an' sort o' drown the storm? I'm powerful shaken. I can't run if the house is struck; I can't do nothin' but jest suffer." The woman was crying miserably.
"I'll read to you, Susan Jane; and the storm's passing. I can count now."
"How many? How many, Janet?" A blinding flash showed around the green curtain's edge and dimmed the light of the kerosene lamp.
"One—two." The awful crash stilled the word.
"'T ain't fur enough off, Janet, to trust any! Oh! God help me! If I could only put my hands over my ears!" But the poor, helpless hands lay white and shrivelled in the woman's lap.
"Here, Susan Jane. Shut your eyes tight and lean your head upon my shoulder. There! Now when I see the flash I will cover your ears. That will help."
"Janet,"—a mildness stole into the peevish, whining voice,—"Janet, times is, when I see that Billy warn't all wrong in his bringin' of you up. He's sort o' left the softness like a baby in you." The hidden eyes did not see the glare, but the thin form quivered as the girl's firm hands were pressed over the sensitive ears.
"It's kinder muffled-like," panted the woman. "In between, Janet, can you say any of it?"
"Your chapter, Susan?"
"Yes. David knows the most of it, an' nights, bad nights, he says it when he ain't so plumb sleepy he can't."
"I'll say what I can, Susan Jane." The gray head nestled close to the strong young shoulder. The nagging woman rested, breathing deep. The fierce storm was rolling away; darkness was giving place, outside, to the sunset glow which, during all the terror and gloom, had lain waiting.
"'And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away and there was no more sea.'" Janet's voice repeated the words slowly, tenderly. Their beauty held her fancy.
"Davy explains that"—Susan's muffled words came dully—"this way. He says the old happy time, when William Henry an' me was young an' lovin', you know about that?"
"Yes, Susan Jane."
"Well, that was the first heaven an' earth fur us, an' it's passed away!" The woman was sobbing as a frightened child sobs when fear and danger have passed and relief has opened the flood gates.
"I don't know how William Henry is goin' t' bide a new heaven without any sea, Janet; he sot a lot by the sea! Always a-goin' out when it was the wildest an' trickiest! He use t' say, he'd like t' go to glory by water, an' he did, he did! I wasn't none older than you be, Janet, when he went down, an' the cruel waves kept him, kept him forever!"
"There, there, Susan Jane, you know they did not keep the part you loved. That part is safe where there is no more sea!" Solemnly the girl spoke as she smoothed the throbbing head.
"Yes! Like as not you're right, Janet. An' he'll find other comfort in that heaven. He was the patientest, cheerfulest body; an' never a quick word fur me. Janet, don't you ever tell, but I'm afraid t' see the ocean! I'm afraid, because I'm always a-thinkin' his dead white face might come up t' me—on a wave!"
"Poor Susan Jane! It will never come to harm you. I would not fear. I love the sea. If it had been my William Henry, I should have watched for his face shining in the beautiful curly waves, and had I seen it, I would have stretched out my arms to him, and we would have gone away—to glory together!"
"Not if the face was a—dead face, Janet!" A horror rang in the words.
"Somehow," the girl replied, "I could never think it dead, if it came that way. 'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.'"
"That's it, Janet," Susan Jane's voice trailed sleepily; "the former things are the things what has the tears, an' the pains, an' the hurts; an' they must pass away before there can be any kind of a heaven that's worth while. I wonder—" drearily, "I wonder how it will seem when I ain't got any pains, nor any tears, an' when there ain't any more black nights to think about them in? I'll feel terrible lost just at first. It will be about as hard fur me t' get use t' doin' without them, as it will fur William Henry t' do without the sea. I guess we'll all have considerable t' do t' learn t' get along without the former things, whatever they was. Maybe some of the joy will be in learnin' all over. Janet, I'm powerful sodden with weariness. Weariness is one of the former things!" A whimsical humor stirred the words. "Sometimes the former things get t' be dreadful foolish day after day."
"Let me carry you to the bedroom, Susan." Janet had assumed this duty in order to spare David, the nights he must go up aloft. The thin, light body was no burden to the sturdy girl.
"There, Susan, and see the storm is past!" The evening glow was shining in the bedroom window. "And I will undress you, just as easy as easy can be, and put you so, upon the cool bed! The shower has cleared the air beautifully. Now are you comfortable, Susan Jane?"
"I'm more comfortable than what I've been fur a time past. Leave the shade up t' the top, Janet; I like to see the gleam of Davy's Light when it is dark. I like t' think how it helps folks find their way to the harbors where they would be. Janet, that was a terrible queer thing you said about the face in the wave."
The girl was folding the daily garments of the tired woman and placing them where David's bungling hands could find them for another day's service.
"What was that, Susan Jane?" She stood in the fair full light of the parting day.
"About it not being a dead face! That's been the horror of it, all these years; it has always been a dead an' gone face! That's why I hated the sea. But if"—and a radiance spread over the thin, wasted features—"if it should be that William Henry came back t' me, alive an' smilin' as he always did, why, like as not, I'd put my arms out—" then she paused and the voice broke; "no, I could not put my arms out—but I could smile like I've most forgotten how t' do, an' I could go with William Henry, anywhere, same as any other lovin' woman! I never thought about his face bein' alive in the wave! But, do you know, it's a real pleasant idee, that of seein' the sea again an' William Henry a-smilin' an' wavin' his arms like he use t' when he was bathin'! I declare it's a real grateful thought. Janet!"
"I wish you'd go up int' the Light after you've cleared the settin' room, an' tell Davy good night! I forgot t' say it when he started up. We'd had some difference 'bout money; least, Davy had, I never have any different idee about it. It's him as changes. Go get the box, Janet, an' put it under the bed. If it wasn't fur me, I guess Davy would know!"
It was after sunset, when Janet, hearing Susan Jane's even breathing, felt herself free. She stretched her arms above her head and so eased the tension. The manner of bearing life's burdens by the people of the dunes was but an acquired talent with her. The first and natural impulse of the girl's nature was to cry out against care and trouble, to make a noise, and act! It was second nature only that had taught her to assume silently and bear secretly whatever of unpleasantness life presented.
"Oh! Cap'n Daddy," she had once cried to Billy, when something had stirred her childish depths, "why don't we yell, and kick and scare it off?"
"'T ain't sensible with them as lives near the sea, Janet," Billy had calmly returned. "The sea teaches a powerful pinted lesson 'long o' them lines. Troubles is like the sea. When they is the worst, they do all the shoutin' an' roarin' themselves, an' ye jest might as well pull in yer sail an' lie low. When they is past, an' the calm sets in, 't is plain shallowness t' use yerself up then. Folks in cities don't learn this lesson; they ain't got no such teacher, an' that's why they wear out sooner, an' have that onsettled air. They think noise an' bustle o' their makin' can do away with troubles, but it can't, Janet. So like as not, the sooner ye learn, the better."
Janet thought of this hard lesson now as she stretched her strong young body, and quelled the rebellious cry upon her lips.
"I'll go up and bid Davy good night," she whispered half aloud. Then lower: "Good night, my Cap'n Daddy! You've reached the dunes safely, but you'll have to own up some day!" She waved in the direction of the Station.
"How dark the water looks!" she suddenly cried; "stars in plenty—where is Davy's Light?"
White and fear-filled, she sprang toward the stairs and ran lightly upward. Slower she went, after the third landing; anxiety, added to weariness, stayed the eager feet. If the Light were not burning, what then? Just below the lamp and gallery was a tiny room with a table, chair, small stove, and little glass lamp. Here, between the times that David inspected his Light, he sat to read or think. As Janet reached the place the darkness was so dense she could see nothing, but with outstretched hands she was feeling her way to the door leading to the steps into the Light, when she touched David's gray head, as it lay upon his arms folded upon the table! He was breathing deeply and audibly, and the girl's touch did not arouse him. Whatever the matter was with David, Janet's first thought was of his sacred and neglected duty. She ran on, and into the lamp. She struck the match and set the blaze to the wick; then, when it was well lighted, she darted outside and withdrew the cloth. The belated beams shot into the night as if they had gained strength and power from the forced delay.
"God keep the government from knowing!" breathed the girl; "it was only a little while, and it ought not to count after all the faithful years."
Weak from fear and hurry, Janet retraced her steps to David. He was still sleeping as peacefully as a child. Under his folded arms was an open book. Janet recognized it as one that Mr. Devant had given to David recently, a little book of poems of the sea, poems with a ring and rhythm in them that bore the golden thoughts to Davy's song-touched heart. The man had fallen asleep like a happy boy, forgetting, for the first time in his life, his duty.
Janet lighted the little lamp upon the stand, and drew up a stool. The minutes ticked themselves away upon Davy's big, white-faced clock which hung against the wall. Eight, eight thirty, eight forty-five! Then David sat up and stared with wide-opened eyes right at Janet. A moment of bewilderment shook his awakening senses; then he gave his sigh and laugh.
"By gum!" he said, "jest fur an instint I thought I'd forgot my Light!"
"It's all right, Davy," Janet nodded cheerfully.
"Course!" Davy returned the nod; "course, ye don't s'pose I'd light my lamp fust, do ye?"
"It's bad enough t' be napping. Like as not the government would turn me out, an' with reason, if it caught on t' that. I don't know but I ought t' confess. But Lord! I was that worn, 'long with Susan Jane's bein' more ailin' than usual, an' the thickness of the air with the shower, that arter I saw everythin' was shipshape, I guess I flopped some. I'll forgive myself this once; but if it happens again, Davy Thomas, yer'll write t' the government sure as yer born an' tell 'em what a blubber-head ye air."
Janet laughed, and stretched her arms out until she clasped David's rough hands. "I'll go up an' take a look!" said the man; "stop till I come down, Janet, I've got somethin' t' tell ye."
"I came up to tell you," the girl called after him, "that Susan Jane sent good night to you."
"She did that?" Davy paused upon the step and his face shone in the dull light. Janet nodded. Then Davy went to inspect his lamp.
"But to us He gives the keepin' Of the lights along the shore!"
Janet smiled as the cheerful words floated back to her. Presently David returned.
"Everythin' is as it should be," he chuckled; "clear night, but changin' breeze, an' the Light doin' its proper duty! Janet, while I slept, I had the durndest dream, I can't get rid of it. I read once how the surest way to get rid of an idee was t' dump it on another."
"Dump away, Davy."
"It made me feel kinder like I did long ago; an' then Susan Jane sendin' that good night up, sort o' fitted in. Janet, I've been dreamin' about William Henry Jones."
Janet nodded. William Henry seemed recently to have assumed shape and form to her. He had been but a name in the past.
"I saw him a comin' up the stairs jest as plain as day, like he use t' come when he came off, an' ran up t' me, if I happened t' be haulin' ile up t' the balcony, or cleanin' the lamp, or what not. His face was shinin' same as it use t'. By gum! I never see such a face as William Henry had! It always seemed to be lit from inside. 'I've come fur Susy,' he said. He was the only one as ever called her that, an' I ain't heerd it since he went down int' the sea that mornin' he was bluefishin'. 'I've come fur Susy, an' I want t' thank ye fur carin' fur her like what ye have." Them was his words, as true as gospil. An' they was turrible comfortin'. Fur, Janet, I ain't told it t' another soul, not even t' Billy, but I always loved Susan Jane—fur myself. When William Henry won her, I wasn't ever goin' t' let on, but when he got drownded an' Susan had t' hustle t' keep life in her body, I jest out an' begged t' take care of her—fur William Henry! I told that lie, Janet, because I darsn't tell her I wanted her fur myself. I didn't never care whether she loved me or not, after I knowed she loved William Henry, anyway; but when he went, I wanted t' take care of her an' keep her from the hardest knocks, an' I wanted it fur jest myself! After a while I talked her int' it. She warn't never strong, an' work an' grievin' made her an easy mark fur sufferin' an' so she let me take care of her! But always it has laid heavy on my mind that I hadn't acted jest fair t' William Henry. An' sometimes, when I've been settin' out on the balcony, freshenin' up, I've planned it all out how I'd see him a comin' over the dunes some day,—comin' out o' the sea what swallowed him, with an awful look of anger on his smilin' face, 'cause I'd got his Susy on false pretences, as ye might say. It's got kind o' wearin' on me o' late, but Lord! when I saw William Henry t'-night, he was more shinin' an' smilin' than ever. An' when he thanked me like what he did, I nigh busted with pleasure. An' then as you told me 'bout Susan Jane's good night, I jest sent up a prayer out there on the balcony, a prayer of gratefulness fur all my blessin's.
"Dreams is queer stuff, Janet. 'T ain't all as should be counted; but then, ye don't count all the folks an' happenin's that pass ye in yer wakin' hours. But when a dream, or a person, or an idee comes along, as means a comfort or a strengthener, I take it that it is a sort o' duty t' clutch it, an' make it real. When ye ain't got nothin' better, dreams is powerful upliftin' at times. Gum!" David drew his shoulders up and plunged his hands in his pockets, as if about to draw comfort from their depths.
"Gum! Janet. 'T ain't often I get duty and pleasure mixed, but ye stop here, an' after I take another look at the lamp, I'm goin' t' run down an' say good night t' Susan Jane. I know how she's lyin' awake, thinkin' an' thinkin' of the past. Dreams don't seem t' come much t' Susan Jane."
David paid his visit to the Light, then descended the stairs, while Janet took up the book of poems and turned the pages idly. David's dream and all that had happened seemed to still her. How long she sat by the dim lamplight she took no thought to find out. The words of poem after poem passed under her eyes unheedingly. Once she went into the Light, saw that all was well, and came back to the book. Presently David emerged from the stairway. Janet was facing him, and the expression of his eyes brought her to her feet, and to his side.
"Davy, what is it?" she demanded.
"He has come!"
"William Henry! He's taken her!"
"No, no! Davy, it is not so, she is only asleep." David shook his head and his eyes had a dumb agony in them.
"'T ain't so, Janet! An' she's smilin' like she use t'. I ain't seen that smile on her face in over thirty year. That's the way she use t' look when she heard me comin' in the gloamin', an' thought it was him! No, Janet, she wears—William Henry's smile!"
Janet darted past him, but he stayed her. "I want ye should sit by her till sun up. There's a brisk storm settin' in agin, an' 't ain't fit fur ye t' go fur any one; an' I've got t' mind the Light. Stay 'long of her, Janet. I'm glad she ain't got t' suffer any more, or nothin'!" A sob choked the deep voice and seemed to follow the fleeing girl as she ran down the winding stairs.
Davy had placed the living-room lamp upon the table by Susan Jane's bed. By its glow, Janet looked upon the woman under the gaudy patchwork quilt. Apparently she had not moved since Janet had placed her there. Without a struggle or pain she had gone forth.
"Oh! Susy," the old forgotten name slipped from the girl's quivering lips. "Oh! Susy, I just believe you saw his live, shining face on an incoming wave! And when the wave went out, it took you both to glory! But, oh! my poor, dear, lonely Davy!" Then the bright head bowed upon the coverlid. "Susy, oh, Susy! I am so glad I held you while you were frightened. If I hadn't I should never have forgiven myself. It was all I could do for Davy, and William Henry, and you!"
Susan Jane's funeral cast all other events into the shade. It was the all-important topic of conversation and interest. David alone really grieved for her; the others had suffered too keenly from Susan's tongue and complaints to feel any honest sorrow in her passing. Her giving them the opportunity for so comfortable and gratifying a funeral was, perhaps, the one thing she could have done to cause them to respect her memory. Janet saw poor departed Susan in a belated halo of romance, and Janet was in the mood to be deeply touched. She no longer saw Susan old, helpless, and ugly, full of small meannesses and sour criticism: she saw her only as the young girl, little older than herself, for whom long ago William Henry had always a smile, and a gentle nickname. It was beautiful, to the trouble-touched girl of the dunes, to think that the old lover came back for his sweetheart and paused, before claiming his treasure, to thank poor Davy for his years of patient love and service.
"And he understands, I know," Janet murmured, placing some autumn flowers near Susan Jane, "he is glad that dear Davy could have the joy that seemed to us all a burden. That's the way it is when the 'former things have passed away,'"—the girl's tears fell among the flowers,—"such things do not matter then; but here they do! Oh, they matter most of all!"
Mrs. Jo G., her boarders gone and her body weary from the summer's strain, gathered her neglected social charms together for Susan Jane's funeral. There would be a reunion of all Quinton that day. There would be a repast worthy the minister's donation. Eliza Jane Smith had offered her services as housekeeper pro tem.
"An' a mercy, too!" snapped Mrs. Jo G., lapping a plaid shirt waist over her scrawny chest. "Janet's 'bout as useful at such times as a flounder. Lord save us! how I have fell away this season! We've cleared two hundred dollars, an' about all my heft. Maud Grace!"
"Yes, Ma!" Maud Grace appeared, bleached out and thin, her eyes red from weeping and her voice shaky.
"What in land's name is the matter with you?" Mrs. Jo G. paused to gaze at the sodden face of the girl she had sacrificed much for during the season.
"Susan Jane!" faltered Maud.
"You ain't mournin' fur her, are you?"
"No, ma'am. But I don't want t' go t' her buryin'. I ain't got no appetite fur corpses, they always make me faint."
"Well, you're goin', faint or no faint! So look after the children, an' get them ready. Land of love! I should think the sound of the stillness up at the Light, after Susan Jane's clatter, would 'bout knock David out. I will say fur him, that he's earned his reward. Do stop snivellin', Maud Grace! You look as if you, 'stead of me, had frizzled over the cook stove all summer! It's bad enough to think you didn't land a beau, without lookin' as if you felt it! That Janet's goin's on hasn't served her neither, but she ain't goin' t' gloat over you while you've got a ma what can steer you straight. You get int' your best clothes and perk up a bit; you can boss it over Janet. Her name is a soundin' cymbal or soon will be! She's got her mother in her strong. It's sort o' wrung out of me, since Janet's acted up so, though I had meant t' keep my own knowledge."
"I don't know as she's done anything much, Ma; jest trapsed on the Hills some an' turned her nose up at boarders mostly. Mr. Fitch said,"—a weak color flushed Maud's face for an instant,—"Mr. Fitch said she felt herself high an' mighty. But that ain't no crime." Mr. Fitch's name was one with which to conjure in the Gordon household.
"Like as not he was runnin' after her!" Mrs. Jo G. was adjusting her memorial pin, a dreary piece of jewelry, composed of the hair from the heads of several dead and gone relatives; "but Janet wasn't after his kind. She was a modil!" The woman whispered this information, glancing hurriedly at the small children whom Maud was now getting into their clothes.
"What's that?" whispered the girl in return. The hints about Janet were gathering force in order to break after the excitement of the funeral was over. But Maud, with anxieties of her own, had heeded them but slightly until now.
"It's a thing no Quintonite ain't goin' t' stand fur!" quivered Mrs. Jo G. "'T ain't proper. I guess Cap'n Billy had better have kept her over to the Station."
"But what is it?" insisted Maud, her voice almost drowned in the shriek of one of the twins, whose long thin hair she had jerked by way of emphasis. Under cover of the scream, the mother replied:
"'T ain't fit t' talk about 'fore a self-respectin' girl. But I don't want you should have anything t' do with Janet after t'-day."
"Spell it!" pleaded Maud, shaking her younger sister into a sobful semi-silence.
"F-i-g-g-e-r!" spelled Mrs. Jo G. in an ominous murmur. Maud Grace's flat, expressionless face took on a really imbecile blankness.
"Figger!" she repeated over and over. "Figger! That's worse t' understand than modil. I don't see why you can't talk plain talk, Ma!"
"'Cause I told you. Whisper or shoutin', 't ain't the thing fur plain talk; but I wanted t' give you a weapon in case Janet takes t' crowin' over you—an' she ain't above it. She's wuss off than you be!" With this, Mrs. Jo G. marshalled her host, and set out for the Light.
* * * * *
It was late in the day, after poor Susan Jane had been laid away in the little graveyard back of the white church, that David slowly mounted the lighthouse stairs, pausing as usual upon every landing. There was no song upon his lips now. For the first time in thirty years, Davy felt that song was impossible. All smiling and many-colored the landscape spread before him at every opening, but the man sighed without the laugh.
"The higher up I git," he panted, "it seems I feel heavier hearted. I ain't got nothin' now, nor ever more shall have. I've had my turn, an' when I reach t' other side I can't expect poor William Henry t' share her with me. Thirty years I had her, an' course I can't complain. I ought t' be thankful William Henry didn't begrudge me them years. An' I am thankful! Yes, I am thankful, an' somehow I believe the good God ain't goin' t' let my heaven be blighted. In some way, He's goin' t' set it straight fur us three over there! Maybe Susan Jane'll kind o' hanker arter the care I gave. Maybe she's got kinder use t' it; and maybe, since there ain't any marriage, or givin' in marriage, maybe she'll have love enough fur us both!"
This conclusion brought a joy with it that radiated the honest face.
"That's the way out!" he murmured, standing upon the little balcony and facing a sunset so gorgeous that the world seemed full of glory. "It's come t' me as plain as William Henry come three nights back. It's borne in upon me, that most all of life's riddles get answered, when ye get up high enough t' leave hamperin' things below. Downstairs the loss of Susan Jane kills everything but the heartache; but up here," Davy walked around the Light, and looked tenderly at the land and sun-touched bay, "up here, where Susan Jane never came, I can see clearer, bein' accustomed t' havin' it out alone with God, so t' speak, fur the last ten years!"
And now the sun was gone! Its gladsome farewell to Davy in the Light made the smile gather on the wrinkled face.
"Your turn'll come," he said smilingly in the old words, "your turn'll come." Then he went down to the little waiting room, lighted his own lamp, and took the book of poems from the table.
He was ready for his next duty! He was soon lost to all but the swinging thought in the ringing lines. Davy was himself again! Then, suddenly, he was aware of a hand upon his shoulder. So tense were his nerves that had he looked up and seen either William Henry or Susan Jane, he would not have been surprised. But it was Janet, and her eyes were full of brooding love.
"Davy," she said, "do you remember how I used to play 'hungry man' with you, when I was a little girl?"
"I do that, Janet!" The cheerful, old face beamed. "'Have ye had any supper?' yer use t' ask, 'have ye had any supper, Mr. Hungry Man?'"
"Let's play now!" The girl laughed gently. "Have you had any supper, Mr. Hungry Man? Why, I can see you just as plain as plain, Davy! You used to stand inside the lamp and the lenses made you long and thin and dreadfully starved looking."
"But once I got outside the glass I plumped up quick enough!" Davy returned. He saw the look in Janet's eyes that called for bravery in him. She was pale and pitiful, and he turned comforter at once.
"It's all dependin' upon the position ye take, how ye look t' others. Once ye get outside of most things, ye straightway freshen up an' get likelier lookin'!"
"You've had no supper to-night, Mr. Hungry Man!" Janet put her face close to Davy's.
"I ain't sufferin' fur food, Janet."
"You never own to any suffering, Davy, but look here!" She ran to the landing and brought in a large tray, neatly spread with food. "It isn't leavings," she explained, placing the dishes before him; "Eliza Jane's cooking is for company, mine for Davy and me! I made the biscuits myself. Aren't they flaky?"
"They are that!" nodded Davy; "flaky don't do them justice; they're flakes. An' that coffee! By gum! Janet, that smells like coffee!"
"Davy, it is coffee!" The girl was glowing, and her eyes shone blue in the lamplight. "I'm going to eat with you, Davy,"—she drew up a stool,—"eat and talk." Davy fell to with a suddenly awakened appetite, but Janet watched him above her clasped hands. Presently she said:
"Davy, who is going to—to—" She was about to say, "keep house for you," but, recalling Susan Jane's helplessness, she said instead, "who is going to keep you from being awfully lonely, now?"
"Why, Janet,"—Davy's full mouth hampered his speech,—"I reckon I'll have t' stay lonely straight on t' the end. I've had my life."
"Davy, will you share me with Cap'n Billy?" Davy gulped his mouthful and tilted his chair back.
"I'm a masterful hand at sharin' folks, Janet, but some one 'sides Billy may have something t' say as t' this bargain. There's Mark, now."
"No, Davy, there is no one, and that's the end of it! I'm a—well, a failure in getting anything to do from strangers, and so I thought if you would let me, I'd share with you and Billy, and by working very hard I'd make my board and keep." The sweet face quivered.
"Ain't the paintin' business paid, Janet?" Davy, during sleep-filled days and lonely nights up aloft, had caught no drifting gossip to disturb him.
"No, it hasn't paid!" The girl drooped forward wearily.
"Billy said ye was helpin' a woman painter."
"The women have all gone now, Davy."
"That's the wust of foreign trade," comforted David. "Ye can't depend on it."
"No, but I mean to be a good housekeeper, Davy. I am going to make you and my Cap'n Billy Daddy just cosy. I reckon I'm better fitted for home trade."
"Like as not, Janet, like as not. Most women are, if they only get convinced 'fore it's too late. Well, I'll be powerful thankful t' have ye around. 'T ain't any way fur a man t' live, without the woman's touch. Sometimes I've fancied that's what makes women restless. Men don't credit them with 'nough importance."
"You've eaten a fine supper, Mr. Hungry Man!"—Davy had eaten it all,—"and now I'm going downstairs to make things homey. I wish the sun rose earlier; good night, Davy!" She bent and kissed his seamed and rugged cheek.
"Good night, Janet, an' God bless ye!"
At every window on the way down the girl stopped to look out at the stars that were thick in the early autumn gloaming. She was aware of a lack of joy in life—one has to know sorrow and trouble to recognize and classify it clearly. Knowledge was coming slowly to Janet. Hope had buoyed her up, the hope that Thornly would let her prove that she was stronger and braver than that silly creature he had once thought her, but, as time dragged on and no call came from the hut upon the Hills, hope died. Then she had seen Thornly drive past her one day with that white girl from Bluff Head. The pale, exquisite face had suddenly grown scarlet at the sight of Janet by the wayside, and Thornly had stared right ahead, taking no heed! Since that day the lack of joy had grown apace.
She had gone to the hut upon the Hills and hung the tiny whistle upon the door latch. She would never call him again! She had not looked for the key; she had not thought of entering. No longer had she a right there.
Billy had deferred his explanations to the girl after his visit to the hut; the sudden death of Susan Jane had postponed the day.
At the foot of the lighthouse stairs Janet paused and held her breath. Some one was moving about the rooms! Some one with a candle, for the flickering shadows rose and fell upon the inner chamber wall. The room in which Susan Jane had died! No fear of a robber stirred Janet, the time had not come when Quinton must fear that. It could not be Mark Tapkins. He might be foolish enough to use his "off night" haunting the Light—his actions were curious of late—but had it been Mark, he would have been sitting patiently on the outer steps. Janet waited a minute and then went noiselessly into the sitting room, and tiptoed to the bedroom door. Then she started back, nearly dropping the tray of empty dishes. The intruder was Maud Grace. She held a lighted candle, and she was hunting, evidently, for something, for she looked under the bed, in each drawer, in the closet; and at last she got down upon the floor and thrust her hand beneath the bedclothes! It was not her actions, alone, that startled Janet, but the dumb look of misery upon the pale, stupid face.
The crouching girl gave a muffled cry and then sat upright, clasping her hands closely.
"What are you looking for?" It seemed an odd way to put the question. It sounded as if Maud were in her own room and had only misplaced some article of clothing.
"Her money!" The words were clear and hard. "Susan Jane's box! I know what you think, Janet, you think I'm a thief! But I've got—to—have money, an' I'll pay it back!"
"Come out in the sitting room, Maud. I'll light the lamp and then we can talk."
The calmness of tone and words gave the girl upon the floor courage to rise and go into the next room. There she sat down in Susan's old rocker and waited until Janet made a light. Then they faced each other, Janet taking her place upon the horsehair sofa.
"You're just as bad as me!" cried Maud suddenly. The steady look Janet bent upon her angered and repelled her. "You ought t' understand how 't is."
"I don't know what you mean," Janet replied, "but I'm not bad enough to steal a dead woman's money."
Maud turned a bluish white and her misery-filled eyes fell.
"I had t' have money. I darn't ask Pa or Ma; I can't tell anybody, but I've got t' have money to go away. I could have sent it back, somehow, once I got away!"
"Where are you going?" Janet's voice had the ring of scorn in it, though she tried to think kindly.
"Ah! you needn't put on them airs!" Maud was trying to keep the tears back. "You ain't any too good with your modillin', an' you—you—a figger!"
This did not have the desired or anticipated effect upon Janet. She looked puzzled.
"Somehow you sound as if you were talking in your sleep, Maud Grace," she said, "you don't seem to have any sense. But you've got to explain about the money!"
At this Maud sprang from the chair and flung herself beside Janet. She must have help; and this girl, doubted by all the moral village folks, was her one hope in a desolate hour.
"I've got t' go after him!" she sobbed.
"After him?" Janet could not free herself from the clinging arms.
"Yes, Mr. Fitch. Ah! Janet, if you was good like all the rest, you couldn't understand, but all day I've been thinkin' how you would stand up fur me if you knowed! He made love t' me, Mr. Fitch did, an' now he's gone, an' he don't write, an' I know he's never comin' back. Somethin' tells me. An' oh! Janet, I've got t' have him! I have, I have! I only meant t' take the money till I got to him. I found his card in his bedroom after he went. He didn't tell me true where he lived, but the card's all right. An' I've got t' go!" The girl's thin voice was hoarse with emotion. She clung closer, and her breath came hard and quick.
A loathing filled Janet as she listened, a loathing made bitter by the insinuation of her similarity to this poor, cringing creature beside her.
"You don't want him if he doesn't want you, do you?" she asked slowly.
"I do that!" Maud's tone was doggedly miserable.
"Even if he is trying to get away from you?" The memory of the weak, boyish boarder at Mrs. Jo G.'s added force to this question.
"Then, shame to you, Maud Grace! I wouldn't say such a thing as that if I were to die!"
"Maybe"—the wretched girl groaned—"maybe you ain't just like me. Somehow I can't think you are; but, Janet, it's worse than dyin', this is. I've got t' go!"
The poor, pleading face was raised to Janet, but its dumb agony met no understanding emotion. A stir outside caused both girls to tremble with fright.
"I've heard every word you've said!" Mark Tapkins stood in the doorway opening upon the porch. "I was a settin' out there, sort a-watchin' an' thinkin' o' other things an' not noticin' what was passin', till all of a suddint it come t' me, that I had been a listenin' an' takin' in what wasn't intended fur me. I'm glad I did!" His slow face lifted proudly. "I'm glad I was used, so t' speak, fur this end. Maud Grace, you ain't got any call t' bother Janet no more. I understand you!" His eyes rested upon the forlorn girl and she shrank as before fire. "I understand, an' this is man's work. You come along home, an' t'-morrer you give me that card of his'n, an' I'll travel up t' town, an' fetch him back!"
"Mark!" Janet was on her feet, her eyes blazing, "you mustn't help her in this foolish business. You have no right to interfere. You have no right here! She shall not make herself so ridiculous as to send for a man who is trying to get away!"
Mark looked at her gently, patiently.
"Sho! Janet," he soothed, "you leave things you don't understand t' them as does. I'm goin' t' fetch that feller back. I know his kind, the city breeds 'em! Maybe the bracin' air down here will help him. Come along, Maud Grace, it's nateral enough fur me t' take you home frum Janet's." Janet made no further effort to change Mark's intention; and he and Maud went away together.
When Janet heard them close the garden gate, she went into the bedroom, took the money box, that poor Maud had so diligently sought, from the top shelf of the closet, and put it in a bureau drawer; then she turned the key in the drawer for the first time in all the years.
"Well, it's a relief to me, Dick, to know that you do know!" Mr. Devant shrugged his shoulders, and laughed lightly. "Katharine and I have had a sneaking desire to ask you if you'd found us out, but we waited for you to make the first move."
"I'm slow to move in any game," Thornly replied. "I rather think it comes from my chess training. When a child begins that pastime, as you might say, in his cradle, with such a teacher as father, it's apt to influence his character."
"Exactly. Have a cigar, Dick; it's beastly lonely to puff alone."
"Thanks, no. I've smoked too much in my hut on the Hills. Being alone always drives me to a cigar."
The two men sat in the library at Bluff Head. A fire of driftwood crackled on the hearth and a stiff wind roared around the house.
"Of course we had no right to enter your studio,"—Mr. Devant spoke slowly between the puffs of smoke,—"except the right that says all is fair in love and war. I admit that I was shaking in my boots that day for fear you might come in upon us. Katharine was braver than I. You must own, Dick, that you hadn't treated the girl quite fair."
"I do not grant that, Mr. Devant. I think Katharine had no cause for complaint. Good Lord! a doctor's wife might quite as well feel herself aggrieved because her husband's dissecting room is closed to her."
"Come, now, Dick!" Devant threw his head back and laughed; "it's carrying the thing too far when you liken the Pimpernel to a disagreeably defunct subject."
"It all goes to the making of one's art; that is what I mean. It belongs to the art and need not be dragged into public to satisfy a woman's morbid curiosity."
"Or a man's?" The laugh was gone from the face of the older man.
"Or a man's, since you insist." Thornly looked into the depths of the rich glow upon the grate and took small heed of his companion's changed expression.
"And your model gave us away?"
"I beg pardon?" Thornly drew himself together; "what did you say?"
"I said, your model, the Pimpernel, told you? It must have given the little thing a bad half hour to be found out."
"It killed her childhood," the young man returned; "it died hard, and it wasn't pleasant for me to witness, but, thank God, the woman in her saved her soul from utter annihilation. Somehow, I have always wanted you and Katharine to know this."
"Thank you. You have told Katharine?"
"No, I'm leaving to-morrow. I'm going to tell Katharine to-morrow night. I waited for her to speak first to me; I hoped she would to the last. All might have been different if she only had."
"Perhaps Katharine is generous enough to forgive you unheard?" ventured Devant.
"No woman has a right to forgive a man in such a case, if she suspects what Katharine did!" The keen eyes drew together darkly.
"How do you know what Katharine thought, Dick?" The older man was growing anxious.
"A woman thinks only one thing, when she strikes that kind of a blow, Mr. Devant. The effect of the blow upon the object was proof enough of its character. I happened to be in at the death, you know."
"Dick, you're a man of the world; this sort of sentiment is not worthy of your intelligence. Katharine is a loving girl and naturally a bit jealous of you and your dissecting room. You must realize she had cause for surprise that day? Why, the little devil looked like a siren and the bare feet in the net were breathtaking. I think, under all the circumstances, for Katharine to overlook it in silence proves her a large-hearted woman."
"Or an indifferent, determined one!"
"I feel rather more deeply, Mr. Devant, than you have, perhaps, imagined. This means much to me. I have never had but one ideal of womanhood that I have cared to bring into my inner life. My mother set my standard high."
"Your mother was an unusual woman, my boy."
"The unusual is what I have always admired."
"You are too young to be so unelastic."
"I'm too young to forego my ideal, Mr. Devant."
Presently Saxton entered the room with a tray of glasses and a bottle. After he was gone, Mr. Devant took up the subject anxiously.
"I was your father's friend, Dick, your mother's too, for that matter. I do not want you to do a mad thing in the heat of resentment. Katharine Ogden is a rare woman, a woman who will be the one thing needful to make your success in life secure. Her fortune will place you above the necessity of struggling. You can paint as genius moves and give the public only your best. She is beautiful; she loves you, is proud of you, and knows the world, the world that may be yours, in every detail. She is your ideal, my boy, your ideal, lost for a moment in the fog."
Thornly listened, and suddenly Janet's simile recurred to him: "It comes to me just as Davy's Light comes of an early morning when the fog lifts!" The memory brought a tugging of the heartstrings.
"You have scattered the fog, Mr. Devant," he answered. "I own I was in rather a mist, but you bring things out most distinctly!"
"And you will not go to Katharine at once? You see I am presuming upon old friendship and a sincere liking for you."
"I only wish there were a night train!" Thornly gave vent to a long, relieved breath.
"You hold to your purpose, Dick? I feel that but for me this might not have occurred. I should have restrained the child that day."
"I shall tell Katharine all, Mr. Devant. I am sure she will ask me to release her from a tie that can be only galling for us both."
"You will be playing the fool, Dick,"—a note of anger rang in the deep voice,—"a fool, and something worse. Gentlemen do not play fast and loose with a woman like Katharine Ogden!"
"I am sorry you judge me so harshly." Thornly flushed. "I should hardly think myself worthy the name of man, if I followed any other course. To marry Katharine with this between us would be sheer folly. To refer to it must in itself bring about the result I expect. I have no desire to enter Katharine's world and she has no intention of adopting mine. She has always believed I would use my success as a step to mount to her. That her world is less than mine has never occurred to her."
"But if the girl loves you?"
"She does not love me. Had she loved me, she must have spoken since—that day."
Mr. Devant arose uneasily and walked about the room, then he came back and drew his chair close to Thornly's.
"Will you take a glass of my—wine?" he asked huskily.
Thornly was about to decline, but changed his mind.
"Thanks, I will," he said instead. And the two sipped the port together.
"Dick, this has shaken me a bit. I feel that I have an ignoble share in the whole affair. I'm getting to be an old man; I can claim certain privileges on that score, and if life means anything past forty, it means sharing its experiences with a friend. I'm going to speak of something that has never passed my lips for nearly twenty years."
"You are very kind, Mr. Devant." Thornly set his glass down and thrust his hands in his pockets. "I appreciate your friendliness, but please do not give yourself pain. If life means anything under forty, it means getting your knocks at first hand." He tried to smile pleasantly, but his face fell at once into gloomy, set lines.
"I'm afraid," Mr. Devant went on, keeping his eyes upon his companion's face and guiding himself thereby, "I'm afraid some Quixotic idea of defending this little pimpernel of ours moves you to take this step. Believe me, nothing you can do in that direction—unless indeed you have gone too far already—can avail, if you seek the girl's happiness."
A deep flush rose to Thornly's cheeks, but the proud uplift of the head renewed hope in the older man's heart.
"You say," he continued, toying with his glass, "that to drag Katharine from her world would be ruinous to her; to drag this child of the dunes from her world would be—to put it none too harshly—hell! I've looked the girl's antecedents up since that day on the Hills. I've had my bad moments, I can assure you. It's like trying to draw water out of an empty well to get anything against their own from these people down here; but I had hopes of the girl's mother. I pin my faith to ancestry, and I am willing to build on a very small foundation, providing the soil is good. But the mother in no wise accounts for the daughter. She was a simple, uneducated woman, with rather an unpleasant way of shunning her kind. James B. Smith, my gardener, permitted me to wring this from him. He doesn't fancy Captain Billy Morgan, thinks him rather a saphead. He hinted at a necessity for the marriage of this same Billy and the girl's mother. It's about the one sin the Quintonites know as a sin. They come as near going back upon each other for that transgression as they ever come to anything definite. The girl is the offspring of a stupid surf-man and a nondescript sort of woman. She is not the product of any known better stock; she is, well, a freak of nature! You cannot transplant that kind of flower, Dick. The roots are hid in shallow soil of a peculiar kind. If you planted her in, well, in even your artistic world, she would either die, shrivel up, and be finished, or she might spread her roots, and finish you! I've seen more than one such case."
Thornly shook himself, as if doubtful what he should reply to this man who, above all else, in his own fashion, was trying to prove himself a friend.
"Thank you again, Mr. Devant," he said at last haltingly; "I suppose all men as old as you are sincere when they try to help us younger chaps by knocking us senseless in an hour of danger. But it's better to let us see and know the danger; we'll recognize it the next time. All I can say is, that I have formed no plans for after to-morrow night! I've got to get out into the open if I can. I rather imagine my art must satisfy me in the future."
Devant went over to a desk between two bookcases, opened it, and took something from a private drawer.
"What do you think of this?" he asked, handing Thornly an old photograph.
"I should say,"—the younger man looked keenly at the picture,—"I should say that it was an almost ideal face of a certain type."
"Of a certain type, yes." Devant came closer and leaned over his companion's shoulder. "The coloring, of course, is lacking. I never saw such glorious hair and eyes. The eyes gave promise of a nobility the woman-nature utterly lacked. That girl, Dick, has wrecked my life!"
Thornly handed the photograph to Devant. He felt as if he were in some way reading a private letter.
"Your life does not seem a wrecked life," he said confusedly. In a vague way he wished to repress a confidence that he felt, once told, might wield an influence over his own acts, and this his independence resented. "You have always appeared a thoroughly contented, successful man."
Devant laughed bitterly; then he idly placed the photograph in a book and closed the covers upon the exquisite face. Thornly hoped that would end the matter, but his companion was bent upon his course. He stretched his feet toward the fire and looked into the heart of the glow, with sad, brooding eyes.