Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 2 out of 5
and eyes. He ceased running forward and began to leap high in the
air and backwards. The net containing the big lobster fell to the
floor. Then John Brown fled to the open air, leaned against the
side of the building and screamed with laughter.
Inside the kitchen the uproar was terrific. Howls, shrill yelps,
thumps and crashes. Then came a crash louder than any preceding it,
a splash of water across the sill, and from the doorway leaped, or
flew, an object steaming and dripping, fluttering with fly paper,
and with a giant lobster clamped firmly to its tail. The lobster
was knocked off against the door post, but the rest of the exhibit
kept on around the corner of the house, shrieking as it flew. Brown
collapsed in the sand and laughed until his sides ached and he was
too weak to laugh longer.
At last he got up and staggered after it. He was still laughing
when he reached the back yard, but there he stopped laughing and
uttered an exclamation of impatience and some alarm.
Of Job there was no sign, though from somewhere amid the dunes
sounded yelps, screams and the breaking of twigs as the persecuted
one fled blindly through the bayberry and beachplum bushes. But
Brown was not anxious about the dog. What caused him to shout and
then break into a run was the sight of Joshua, the old horse,
galloping at top speed along the road to the south. Even his sedate
and ancient calm had not been proof against the apparition which
burst from the kitchen. In his fright he had broken his halter rope
and managed--a miracle, considering his age--to leap the pasture
fence and run.
That horse was the apple of Seth Atkins's eye. The lightkeeper
believed him to be a wonder of strength and endurance, and never
left the lights without cautioning his helper to keep an eye on
Joshua, "'cause if anything happened to him I'd have to hunt a
mighty long spell to find another that could tech him." Brown
accepted this trust with composure, feeling morally certain that the
only thing likely to happen to Joshua was death from overeating or
old age. And now something had happened--Joshua was running away.
There was but one course to take; Brown must leave the government's
property in its own care and capture that horse. He had laughed
until running seemed an impossibility, but run he must, and did,
after a fashion. But Joshua was running, too, and he was
frightened. He galloped like a colt, and the assistant lightkeeper
gained upon him very slowly.
The road was crooked and hilly, and the sand in its ruts was deep.
Brown would not have gained at all, but for the fact that the horse,
from long habit, kept to the roadway and never tried short cuts.
His pursuer did, and, therefore, just as Joshua entered the grove on
the bluff above Pounddug Slough, Brown caught up with him and made a
grab at the end of the trailing halter. He missed it, and the horse
took a fresh start.
The road through the grove was overgrown with young trees and
bushes, and amid these the animal had a distinct advantage. Not
until the outer edge of the grove was reached did the panting
assistant get another opportunity at the rope. This time he seized
it and held on.
"Whoa!" he shouted. "Whoa!"
But Joshua did not "whoa" at once. He kept on along the edge of the
high, sandy slope. Brown, from the tail of his eye, caught a
glimpse of the winding channel of the Slough beneath him, of a small
schooner heeled over on the mud flat at its margin, and of the
figure of a man at work beside it.
"Whoa!" he ordered once more. "Whoa, Josh! stand still!"
Perhaps the horse would have stood still--he seemed about to do so--
but from the distance, somewhere on the road he had just traversed,
came a howl, long-drawn and terrifyingly familiar. Joshua heard it,
jumped sidewise, jerked at the halter and, as if playing "snap the
whip," sent his would-be captor heels over head over the edge of the
bank and rolling down the sandy slope. The halter flew from Brown's
hands, he rolled and bumped and clutched at clumps of grass and
bushes. Then he struck the beach and stopped, spread-eagled on the
A voice said: "Well--by--TIME!"
Brown looked up. Seth Atkins, a paint pail in one hand and a
dripping brush in the other, was standing beside him, blank
astonishment written on his features.
"Well--by time!" said Seth again, and with even stronger emphasis.
The substitute assistant raised himself to his knees, rubbed his
back with one hand, and then, turning, sat in the sand and returned
his superior's astonished gaze with one of equal bewilderment.
"Hello!" he gasped. "Well, by George! it's you, isn't it! What are
you doing here?"
The lightkeeper put down the pail of paint.
"What am I doin'?" he repeated. "What am I doin'--? Say!" His
astonishment changed to suspicion and wrath. "Never you mind what
I'm doin'," he went on. "That's my affairs. What are YOU doin'
here? That's what I want to know."
Brown rubbed the sand out of his hair.
"I don't know exactly what I am doing--yet," he panted.
"You don't, hey? Well, you'd better find out. Maybe I can help you
to remember. Sneakin' after me, wa'n't you? Spyin', to find out
what I was up to, hey?"
He shook the wet paint brush angrily at his helper. Brown looked at
him for an instant; then he rose to his feet.
"Spyin' on me, was you?" repeated Seth.
"Didn't I tell you that mindin' your own business was part of our
dicker if you was goin' to stay at Eastboro lighthouse? Didn't I
tell you that?"
The young man answered with a contemptuous shrug. Turning on his
heel, he started to walk away. Atkins sprang after him.
"Answer me," he ordered. "Didn't I say you'd got to mind your own
"You did," coldly.
"You bet I did! And was you mindin' it?"
"No. I was minding yours--like a fool. Now you may mind it
"Hold on there! Where you goin'?"
"Back to the lights. And you may go to the devil, or anywhere else
that suits your convenience, and take your confounded menagerie with
"My menag-- What on earth? Say, hold on! Mercy on us, what's
From the top of the bluff came a crashing and a series of yelps.
Through the thicket of beachplum bushes was thrust a yellow head,
fringed with torn fragments of fly paper.
"What's that?" demanded the astonished lightkeeper.
Brown looked at the whining apparition in the bushes and smiled
"That," he observed, "is Job."
"Yes." From somewhere in the grove came a thrashing of branches and
a frightened neigh. "And that," he continued, "is Joshua, I
presume. If there are more Old Testament patriarchs in the
vicinity, I don't know where they are, and I don't care. You may
hunt for them yourself. I'm going to follow your advice and mind my
own business. Good by."
He strode off up the beach. Job, at the top of the bank, started to
follow, but a well-aimed pebble caused him to dodge back.
"Hold on!" roared the lightkeeper. "Maybe I made a mistake.
Perhaps you wa'n't spyin' on me. Don't go off mad. I . . . Wait!"
But John Brown did not wait. He strode rapidly away up the beach.
Seth stared after him. From the grove, where his halter had caught
firmly in the fork of a young pine, Joshua thrashed and neighed.
"Aa-oo-ow!" howled Job, from the bushes.
An hour later Atkins, leading the weary and homesick Joshua by the
bridle, trudged in at the lighthouse yard. Job, still ornamented
with remnants of the fly paper, slunk at his heels. Seth stabled
the horse and, after some manoeuvering, managed to decoy the dog
down the slope to the boathouse, where he closed the door upon him
and his whines. Then he climbed back to the kitchen.
The table was set for one, and in the wash boiler on the range the
giant lobster was cooking. Of the substitute assistant keeper there
was no sign, but, after searching, Seth found him in his room.
"Well?" observed Atkins, gruffly, "we might 's well have supper,
Brown did not seem interested. "Your supper is ready, I think," he
answered. "I tried not to forget anything."
"I guess 'tis; seems to be. Come on, and we'll eat."
"I have eaten, thank you."
"You have? Alone?"
"Yes. That, too," with emphasis, "is a part of my business."
The lightkeeper stared, grunted, and then went out of the room. He
ate a lonely meal, not of the lobster--he kept that for another
occasion--but one made up of cold scraps from the pantry. He
wandered uneasily about the premises, quieted Job's wails for the
time by a gift of eatable odds and ends tossed into the boathouse,
smoked, tried to read, and, when it grew dusk, lit the lamps in the
towers. At last he walked to the closed door of his helper's room
"Well?" was the ungracious response.
"It's me, Atkins," he announced, hesitatingly. "I'd like to speak
to you, if you don't mind."
"Well, no--not exactly. Say, Brown, I guess likely I'd ought to beg
your pardon again. I cal'late I've made another mistake. I jedge
you wa'n't spyin' on me when you dove down that bankin'."
"Your judgment is good this time. I was not."
"No, I'm sartin you wa'n't. I apologize and take it all back. Now
can I come in?"
The door was thrown open. Seth entered, looking sheepish, and sat
down in the little cane-seated rocker.
"Say," he began, after a moment of uncomfortable silence, "would you
mind--now that I've begged your pardon and all--tellin' me what did
happen while I was away. I imagine, judgin' by the looks of things
in the kitchen, that there was--er--well, consider'ble doin', as the
He grinned. Brown tried to be serious, but was obliged to smile in
"I'll tell you," he said. "Of course you know where that--er--
remarkable dog came from?"
"I can guess," drily. "Henry G.'s present, ain't he? Humph! Well,
I'd ought to have known that anything Henry would GIVE away was
likely to be remarkable in all sorts of ways. All right! that's one
Henry's got on me. Tomorrow afternoon me and Job take a trip back
to Eastboro, and one of us stays there. It may be me, but I have my
doubts. I agreed to take a DOG on trial, not a yeller-jaundiced cow
with a church organ inside of it. Hear the critter whoopin' down
there in the boathouse! And he's eat everything that's chewable on
the reservation already. He's a famine on legs, that pup. But
never mind him. He's been tried--and found guilty. Tell me what
Brown began the tale of the afternoon's performances, beginning with
his experience as a lobster catcher. Seth smiled, then chuckled,
and finally burst into roars of laughter, in which the narrator
"Jiminy crimps!" exclaimed Seth, when the story was finished. "Oh,
by jiminy crimps! that beats the Dutch, and everybody's been told
what the Dutch beat. Ha, ha! ho, ho! Brown, I apologize all over
again. I don't wonder you was put out when I accused you of spyin'.
Wonder you hadn't riz up off that sand and butchered me where I
stood. Cal'late that's what I'd have done in your place. Well, I
hope there's no hard feelin's now."
"No. Your apology, is accepted."
"That's good. Er--er--say, you--you must have been sort of
surprised to see me paintin' the Daisy M."
"The Daisy M. That's the name of that old schooner I was to work
"Indeed. . . . How is the weather tonight, clear?"
"Yes, it's fair now, but looks sort of thick to the east'ard. I say
you must have been surprised to see me paintin' the Daisy M. I've
been tinkerin' on that old boat, off and on, ever since last fall.
Bought her for eight dollars of the feller that owned her, and she
was a hulk for sartin then. I've caulked her up and rigged her,
after a fashion. Now she might float, if she had a chance. Every
afternoon, pretty nigh, I've been at her. Don't know exactly why I
do it, neither. And yet I do, too. Prob'ly you've wondered where I
was takin" all that old canvas and stuff. I--"
"Excuse me, Atkins. I mind my own business, you know. I ask no
questions, and you are under no obligation to tell me anything."
"I know, I know." The lightkeeper nodded solemnly. He clasped his
knee with his hands and rocked back and forth in his chair. "I
know," he went on, an absent, wistful look in his eye; "but you must
have wondered, just the same. I bought that craft because--well,
because she reminded me of old times, I cal'late. I used to command
a schooner like her once; bigger and lots more able, of course, but
a fishin' schooner, same as she used to be. And I was a good
skipper, if I do say it. My crews jumped when I said the word, now
I tell you. That's where I belong--on the deck of a vessel. I'm a
man there--a man."
He paused. Brown made no comment. Seth continued to rock and to
talk; he seemed to be thinking aloud.
"Yes, sir," he declared, with a sigh; "when I was afloat I was a
man, and folks respected me. I just do love salt water and sailin'
craft. That's why I bought the Daisy M. I've been riggin' her and
caulkin' her just for the fun of doin' it. She'll never float
again. It would take a tide like a flood to get her off them flats.
But when I'm aboard or putterin' around her, I'm happy--happier, I
mean. It makes me forget I'm a good-for-nothin' derelict, stranded
in an old woman's job of lightkeepin'. Ah, hum-a-day, young feller,
you don't know what it is to have been somebody, and then, because
you was a fool and did a fool thing, to be nothin'--nothin'! You
don't know what that is."
John Brown caught his breath. His fist descended upon the window
ledge beside him.
"Don't I!" he groaned. "By George, don't I! Do you suppose--"
He stopped short. Atkins started and came out of his dream.
"Why--why, yes," he said, hastily; "I s'pose likely you do. . . .
Well, good night. I've got to go on watch. See you in the
Seth was true to his promise concerning Job. The next afternoon
that remarkable canine was decoyed, by the usual bone, into the box
in which he had arrived. Being in, the cover was securely renailed
above him. Brown and the light-keeper lifted the box into the back
part of the "open wagon," and Atkins drove triumphantly away, the
pup's agonized protests against the journey serving as spurs to urge
Joshua faster along the road to the village. When, about six
o'clock, Seth reentered the yard, he was grinning broadly.
"Well," inquired Brown, "did he take him back willingly?"
"Who? Henry G.? I don't know about the willin' part, but he'll
take him back. I attended to that."
"What did he say? Did he think you ungrateful for refusing to
accept his present?"
Atkins laughed aloud. "He didn't say nothin'," he declared. "He
didn't know it when I left Eastboro. I wa'n't such a fool as to
cart that critter to the store, where all the gang 'round the store
could holler and make fun. Not much! I drove way round the other
way, up the back road, and unloaded him at Henry's house. I
cal'lated to leave him with Aunt Olive--that's Henry's sister,
keepin' house for him--but she'd gone out to sewin' circle, and
there wa'n't nobody to home. The side door was unlocked, so I
lugged that box into the settin' room and left it there. Pretty
nigh broke my back; and that everlastin' Job hollered so I thought
the whole town would hear him and come runnin' to stop the murderin'
that they'd cal'late was bein' done. But there ain't no nigh
neighbors, and those that are nighest ain't on speakin' terms with
Henry; ruther have him murdered than not, I shouldn't wonder. So I
left Job in his box in the settin' room and cleared out."
The substitute assistant smiled delightedly.
"Good enough!" he exclaimed. "What a pleasant surprise for friend
Henry or his housekeeper."
"Ho, ho! ain't it! I rather guess 'twill be Henry himself that's
surprised fust. Aunt Olive never leaves sewin' circle till the last
bit of supper's eat up--she's got some of her brother's stinginess
in her make-up--so I cal'late Henry'll get home afore she does. I
shouldn't wonder," with an exuberant chuckle, "if that settin' room'
was some stirred up when he sees it. The pup had loosened the box
cover afore I left. Ho, ho!"
"But won't he send the dog back here again?"
"No, he won't. I left a note for him on the table. There was
consider'ble ginger in every line of it. No, Job won't be sent
here, no matter what becomes of him. And if anything SHOULD be
broke in that settin' room--well, there was SOME damage done to our
kitchen. No, I guess Henry G. and me are square. He won't make any
fuss; he wants to keep our trade, you see."
It was a true prophecy. The storekeeper made no trouble, and Job
remained at Eastboro until a foray on a neighbor's chickens resulted
in his removal from this vale of tears. Neither the lightkeeper nor
his helper ever saw him again, and when Seth next visited the store
and solicitously inquired concerning the pup's health, Henry G.
merely looked foolish and changed the subject.
But the dog's short sojourn at the Twin-Lights had served to solve
one mystery, that of Atkins's daily excursions to Pounddug Slough.
He went there to work on the old schooner, the Daisy M. Seth made
no more disclosures concerning his past life--that remained a
secret--but he did suggest his helper's going to inspect the
schooner. "Just walk across and look her over," he said. "I'd like
to know what you think of her. See if I ain't makin' a pretty good
job out of nothin'. FOR nothin', of course," he added, gloomily;
"but it keeps me from thinkin' too much. Go and see her, that's a
So the young man did go. He climbed aboard the stranded craft--a
forlorn picture she made, lying on her side in the mud--and was
surprised to find how much had been manufactured "out of nothing."
Her seams, those which the sun had opened, were caulked neatly; her
deck was clean and white; she was partially rigged, with new and old
canvas and ropes; and to his landsman's eyes she looked almost fit
for sea. But when he said as much to Seth, the latter laughed
"Fit for nothin'," scoffed the lightkeeper. "I could make her fit,
maybe, if I wanted to spend money enough, but I don't. I can't get
at her starboard side, that's down in the mud, and I cal'late she'd
leak like a skimmer. She's only got a fores'l and a jib, and the
jib's only a little one that used to belong to a thirty-foot sloop.
Her anchor's gone, and I wouldn't trust her main topmast to carry
anything bigger'n a handkerchief, nor that in a breeze no more
powerful than a canary bird's breath. And, as I told you, it would
take a tide like a flood to float her. No, she's no good, and never
will be; but," with a sigh, "I get a little fun fussin' over her."
"Er--by the way," he added, a little later, "of course you won't
mention to nobody what I told you about--about my bein' a fishin'
skipper once. Not that anybody ever comes here for you to mention
it to, but I wouldn't want . . . You see, nobody in Eastboro or
anywheres on the Cape knows where I come from, and so . . . Oh,
all right, all right. I know you ain't the kind to talk. Mind our
own business, that's the motto you and me cruise under, hey?"
Yet, although the conversation in the substitute assistant's room
was not again referred to by either, it had the effect of making the
oddly assorted pair a bit closer in their companionship. The mutual
trust was strengthened by the lightkeeper's half confidence and
Brown's sympathetic reception of it. Each was lonely, each had
moments when he felt he must express his hidden feelings to some
one, and, though neither recognized the fact, it was certain that
the time was coming when all mysteries would be mysteries no longer.
And one day occurred a series of ridiculous happenings which,
bidding fair at first to end in a quarrel the relationship between
the two, instead revealed in both a kindred trait that removed the
At a little before ten on this particular morning, Brown, busy in
the kitchen, heard vigorous language outside. It was Atkins who was
speaking, and the assistant wondered who on earth he could be
talking to. A glance around the doorpost showed that he was,
apparently, talking to himself--at least, there was no other human
being to be seen. He held in his hand a battered pair of marine
glasses and occasionally he peered through them. Each time he did
so his soliloquy became more animated and profane.
"What's the matter?" demanded Brown, emerging from the house.
"Matter?" repeated Seth. "Matter enough! Here! take a squint
through them glasses and tell me who's in that buggy comin' yonder?"
The buggy, a black dot far down the sandy road leading from the
village, was rocking and dipping over the dunes. The assistant took
the glasses, adjusted them, and looked as directed.
"Why!" he said slowly, "there are three people in that buggy. A
"And two women; that's what I thought. Dum idiots comin' over to
picnic and spend the day, sure's taxes. And they'll want to be
showed round the lights and everywheres, and they'll ask more'n
forty million questions. Consarn the luck!"
Brown looked troubled. He had no desire to meet strangers.
"How do you know they're coming here?" he asked. The answer was
"Because," snarled Seth, "as I should think you'd know by this time,
there ain't no other place round here they COULD come to."
A moment later, he added, "Well, you'll have to show 'em round."
"Sartin. That's part of the assistant keeper's job."
He chuckled as he said it. That chuckle grated on the young man's
"I'm not the assistant," he declared cheerfully.
"You ain't? What are you then?"
"Oh, just a helper. I don't get any wages. You've told me
yourself, over and over, that I have no regular standing here. And,
according to the government rules, those you've got posted in the
kitchen, the lightkeeper is obliged to show visitors about. I
wouldn't break the rules for the world. Good morning. Think I'll
go down to the beach."
He stalked away whistling. Atkins, his face flaming, roared after
him a profane opinion concerning his actions. Then he went into the
kitchen, slamming the door with a bang.
Some twenty minutes later the helper heard his name shouted from the
top of the bluff.
"Mr. Brown! I say! Ahoy there, Mr. Brown! Come up here a minute,
Brown clambered up the path. A little man, with grey throat
whiskers, and wearing an antiquated straw hat, the edge of the brim
trimmed with black braid, was standing waiting for him.
"Sorry to trouble you, Mr. Brown," stammered the little man, "but
you be Mr. Brown, ain't you?"
"I am. Yes."
"Well, I cal'lated you was. My name's Stover, Abijah Stover. I
live over to Trumet. Me and my wife drove over for a sort of picnic
like. We've got her cousin, Mrs. Sophia Hains, along. Sophi's a
widow from Boston, and she ain't never seen a lighthouse afore. I
know Seth Atkins slightly, and I was cal'latin' he'd show us around,
but bein' as he's so sick--"
"Sick? Is Mr. Atkins sick?"
"Why, yes. Didn't you know it? He's in the bedroom there groanin'
somethin' terrible. He told me not to say nothin' to the women
folks, but to hail you, and you'd look out for us. Didn't you know
he was laid up? Why, he--"
Brown did not wait to hear more. He strode to the house, with Mr.
Stover at his heels. On his way he caught a glimpse of the buggy,
the horse dozing between the shafts. On the seat of the buggy were
two women, one plump and round-faced, the other thin and gaunt.
Mr. Stover panted behind him.
"Say, Mr. Brown," he whispered, as they entered the kitchen; "don't
tell my wife nor Sophi about Seth's bein' sick. Better not say a
word to them about it."
The tone in which this was spoken made the substitute assistant
"Why not?" he asked.
"'Cause--well, 'cause Hannah's hobby is sick folks, as you might
say. If there's a cat in the neighborhood that's ailin' she's
always dosin' of it up and fixin' medicine for it, and the like of
that. And Sophi's one of them 'New Thoughters' and don't believe
anybody's got any right to be sick. The two of 'em ain't done
nothin' but argue and row over diseases and imagination and
medicines ever since Sophi got here. If they knew Seth was laid up,
I honestly believe they'd drop picnic and everythin' and start
fightin' over whether he was really sick or just thought he was.
And I sort of figgered on havin' a quiet day off."
Brown found the lightkeeper stretched on the bed in his room. He
was dressed, with the exception of coat and boots, and when the
young man entered he groaned feebly.
"What's the matter?" demanded the alarmed helper.
"Oh, my!" groaned Seth. "Oh, my!"
"Are you in pain? What is it? Shall I 'phone for the doctor?"
"No, no. No use gettin' the doctor. I'll be all right by and by.
It's one of my attacks. I have 'em every once in a while. Just let
me alone, and let me lay here without bein' disturbed; then I'll get
better, I guess."
"But it's so sudden!"
"I know. They always come on that way. Now run along, like a good
feller, and leave me to my suff'rin's. O-oh, dear!"
Much troubled, Brown turned to the door. As he was going out he
happened to look back. The dresser stood against the wall beyond
the bed, and in its mirror he caught a glimpse of the face of the
sick man. On that face, which should have been distorted with
agony, was a broad grin.
Brown found the little Stover man waiting for him in the kitchen.
"Be you ready?" he asked.
"Ready?" repeated Brown, absently. "Ready for what?"
"Why, to show us round the lights. Sophi, she ain't never seen one
afore. Atkins said that, bein' as he wasn't able to leave his bed,
you'd show us around."
"He did, hey?"
"Yes. He said you'd be glad to."
"Hum!" Mr. Brown's tone was that of one upon whom, out of darkness,
a light has suddenly burst. "I see," he mused, thoughtfully. "Yes,
yes. I see."
For a minute he stood still, evidently pondering. Then, with a
twinkle in his eye, he strode out of the house and walked briskly
across to the buggy.
"Good morning, ladies," he said, removing the new cap which Seth had
recently purchased for him in Eastboro. "Mr. Stover tells me you
wish to be shown the lights."
The plump woman answered. "Yes," she said, briskly, "we do. Are
you a new keeper? Where's Mr. Atkins?"
"Mr. Atkins, I regret to say," began Brown, "is ill. He--"
Stover, standing at his elbow, interrupted nervously.
"Mr. Brown here'll show us around," he said quickly. "Seth said he
"I shall be happy," concurred that young gentleman. "You must
excuse me if I seem rather worried. Mr. Atkins, my chief--I believe
you know him, Mrs. Stover--has been taken suddenly ill, and is,
apparently, suffering much pain. The attack was very sudden, and I--"
"Sick?" The plump woman seemed actually to prick up her ears, like
a sleepy cat at the sound of the dinner bell. "Is Seth sick? And
you all alone with him here? Can't I do anything to help?"
"All he wants is to be left alone," put in her husband anxiously.
"He said so himself."
"Do you know what's the matter? Have you got any medicine for him?"
Mrs. Stover was already climbing out of the buggy.
"No," replied Brown. "I haven't. That is, I haven't given him any
The slim woman, Mrs. Hains of Boston, now broke into the conversation.
"Good thing!" she snapped. "Most medicine's nothing but opium and
alcohol. Fill the poor creature full of drugs and--"
"I s'pose you'd set and preach New Thought at him!" snapped Mrs.
Stover. "As if a body could be cured by hot air! I believe I'll go
right in and see him. Don't you s'pose I could help, Mr. Brown?"
Mr. Brown seemed pleased, but reluctant. "It's awfully good of
you," he said. "I couldn't think of troubling you when you've come
so far on a pleasure excursion. But I am at my wit s end."
"Don't say another word!" Mrs. Stover's bulky figure was already on
the way to the door of the house. "I'm only too glad to do what I
can. And, if I do say it, that shouldn't, I'm always real handy in
a sick room. 'Bijah, be quiet; I don't care if we ARE on a picnic;
no human bein' shall suffer while I set around and do nothin'."
Mrs. Hains was at her cousin's heels.
"You'll worry him to death," she declared. "You'll tell him how
sick he is, and that he's goin' to die, and such stuff. What he
needs is cheerful conversation and mental uplift. It's too bad!
Well, you sha'n't have your own way with him, anyhow. Mr. Brown,
where is he?"
"You two goin' to march right into his BEDROOM?" screamed the irate
Abijah. The women answered not. They were already in the kitchen.
Brown hastened after them.
"It's all right, ladies," he said. "Right this way, please."
He led the way to the chamber of the sick man. Mr. Atkins turned on
his bed of pain, caught a glimpse of the visitors, and sat up.
"What in time?" he roared.
"Seth," said Brown, benignly, "this is Mrs. Stover of Eastboro. I
think you know her. And Mrs. Hains of Boston. These ladies have
heard of your sickness, and, having had experience in such cases,
have kindly offered to stay with you and help in any way they can.
Mrs. Stover, I will leave him in your hands. Please call me if I
can be of any assistance."
Without waiting for further comment from the patient, whose face was
a picture, he hastened to the kitchen, choking as he went. Mr.
Stover met him at the outer door.
"Now you've done it!" wailed the little man. "NOW you've done it!
Didn't I tell you? Oh, this'll be a hell of a picnic!"
He stalked away, righteous indignation overcoming him. Brown sat
down in a rocking chair and shook with emotion. From the direction
of the sick room came the sounds of three voices, each trying to
outscream the other. The substitute assistant listened to this for
a while, and, as he did so, a new thought struck him. He remembered
a story he had read in a magazine years before. He crossed to the
pantry, found an empty bottle, rinsed it at the sink, stepped again
to the pantry, and, entering it, closed the door behind him. There
he busied himself with the molasses jug, the soft-soap bucket, the
oil can, the pepper shaker, and a few other utensils and their
contents. Footsteps in the kitchen caused him to hurriedly reenter
that apartment. Mrs. Stover was standing by the range, her face red.
"Oh, there you are, Mr. Brown!" she exclaimed. "I wondered where
you'd gone to."
"How is he?" inquired Brown, the keenest anxiety in his utterance.
"H'm! he'd do well enough if he had the right treatment. I cal'late
he's better now, even as 'tis; but, when a person has to lay and
hear over and over again that what ails 'em is nothin' but
imagination, it ain't to be wondered at that they get mad. What he
needs is some sort of soothin' medicine, and I only wish 'twan't so
fur over to home. I've got just what he needs there."
"I was thinking--" began Brown.
"What was you thinkin'?"
"I was wondering if some of my 'Stomach Balm' wouldn't help him.
It's an old family receipt, handed down from the Indians, I believe.
I always have a bottle with me and . . . Still, I wouldn't
prescribe, not knowing the disease."
Mrs. Stover's eyes sparkled. Patent medicines were her hobby.
"Hum!" she said. "'Stomach Balm' sounds good. And he says his
trouble is principally stomach. Some of them Indian medicines are
mighty powerful. Have you--did you say you had a bottle with you,
The young man went again to the pantry and returned with the bottle
he had so recently found there. Now, however, it was two thirds
full of a black sticky mixture. Mrs. Stover removed the cork and
took an investigating sniff.
"It smells powerful," she said, hopefully.
"It is. Would you like to taste it?" handing her a tablespoon. He
watched as she swallowed a spoonful.
"Ugh! oh!" she gasped; even her long suffering palate rebelled at
THAT taste. "It--I should think that OUGHT to help him."
"I should think so. It may be the very thing he needs. At any
rate, it can't hurt him. It's quite harmless."
Mrs. Stover's face was still twisted, under the influence of the
"Balm"; but her mind was made up.
"I'm goin' to try it," she declared. "I don't care if every New
Thoughter in creation says no. He needs medicine and needs it right
"The dose," said Mr. Brown, gravely, "is two tablespoonfuls every
fifteen minutes. I do hope it will help him. Give him my sympathy--
my deepest sympathy, Mrs. Stover, please."
The plump lady disappeared in the direction of the sick room. The
substitute assistant lingered and listened. He heard a shrill pow-
wow of feminine voices. Evidently "New Thought" and the practice of
medicine had once more clashed. The argument waxed and waned.
Followed the click of a spoon against glass. And then came a gasp,
a gurgle, a choking yell; and high upon the salty air enveloping
Eastboro Twin-Lights rose the voice of Mr. Seth Atkins, expressing
his opinion of the "Stomach Balm" and those who administered it.
John Brown darted out of the kitchen, dodged around the corner of
the house, tiptoed past the bench by the bluff, where Mr. Stover sat
gloomily meditating, and ran lightly down the path to the creek and
the wharf. The boathouse at the end of the wharf offered a
convenient refuge. Into the building he darted, closed the door
behind him, and collapsed upon a heap of fish nets.
At three-thirty that afternoon, Mr. Atkins, apparently quite
recovered, was sitting in the kitchen rocker, reading a last week's
newspaper, one of a number procured on his most recent trip to the
village. The Stovers and their guest had departed. Their buggy was
out of sight beyond the dunes. A slight noise startled the
lightkeeper, and he looked up. His helper was standing in the
doorway, upon his face an expression of intense and delighted
"What?" exclaimed Mr. Brown. "What? Is it really you?"
Seth put down the paper and nodded.
"Um-hm," he observed drily, "it's really me."
"Up? and WELL?" queried Brown.
"Um-hm. Pretty well, considerin', thank you. Been for a stroll up
Washin'ton Street, have you? Or a little walk on the Common, maybe?"
The elaborate sarcasm of these questions was intended to be
withering. Mr. Brown, however, did not wither. Neither did he
"I have been," he said, "down at the boathouse. I knew you were in
safe hands and well looked after, so I went away. I couldn't remain
here and hear you suffer."
"Hum! HEAR me suffer, hey? Much obliged, I'm sure. What have you
been doin' there all this time? I hoped you was--that is, I begun
to be afraid you was dead. Thought your sympathy for me had been
too much for you, maybe."
Brown mournfully shook his head. "It was--almost," he said,
solemnly. "I think I dropped asleep. I was quite overcome."
"Hum! Better take a dose of that 'Stomach Balm,' hadn't you?
That'll liven you up, I'll guarantee."
"No, thank you. The sight of you, well and strong again, is all the
medicine I need. We must keep the 'Balm' in case you have another
attack. By the way, I notice the dinner dishes haven't been washed.
I'll do them at once. I know you must be tired, after your illness--
and the exertion of showing your guests about the lights."
Atkins did not answer, although he seemed to want to very much.
However, he made no objection when his helper, rolling up his
sleeves, turned to the sink and the dish washing.
Seth was silent all the rest of the afternoon and during supper.
But that evening, as Brown sat on the bench outside, Atkins joined
"Hello!" said Seth, as cheerfully as if nothing had happened.
"Hello!" replied the assistant, shortly. He had been thinking once
more, and his thoughts were not pleasant.
"I s'pose you cal'late," began Atkins, "that maybe I've got a grudge
against you on account of this mornin' and that 'Balm' and such. I
"That's good. I'm glad to hear it."
"Yes. After the fust dose of that stuff--for thunder sakes WHAT did
you put in it?--I was about ready to murder you, but I've got over
that. I don't blame you for gettin' even. We are even, you know."
"I'm satisfied, if you are."
"I be. But what I don't understand is why you didn't want to show
them folks around."
"Oh, I don't know. I had my reasons, such as they were. Why didn't
you want to do it yourself?"
Seth crossed his legs and was silent for a moment or two. Then he
spoke firmly and as if his mind was made up.
"Young feller," he said, "I don't know whether you realize it or
not, and perhaps I shouldn't be the one to mention it--but you're
under some obligations to me."
His companion nodded. "I realize that," he said.
"Yes, but maybe you don't realize the amount of the obligations.
I'm riskin' my job keepin' you here. If it wa'n't for the
superintendent bein' such a friend of mine, there'd have been a
reg'lar assistant keeper app'inted long ago. The gov'ment don't
pick up its lightkeepers same as you would farm hands. There's
civil service to be gone through, and the like of that. But you
wanted to stay, and I've kept you, riskin' my own job, as I said.
And now I cal'late we'd better have a plain understandin'. You've
got to know just what your job is. I'm goin' to tell you."
He stopped, as if to let this sink in. Brown nodded again. "All
right," he observed, carelessly; "go on and tell me; I'm listening."
"Your job around the lights you know already, part of it. But
there's somethin' else. Whenever men folks come here, I'll do my
share of showin' the place off. But when women come--women, you
understand--you've got to be guide. I'll forgive you to-day's
doin's. I tried to play a joke on you, and you evened it up with a
better one on me. That's all right. But, after this, showin' the
lights to females is your job, and you've got to do it--or get out.
No hard feelin's at all, and I'd really hate to lose you, but THAT'S
got to be as I say."
He rose, evidently considering the affair settled. Brown caught his
coat and pulled him back to the bench.
"Wait, Atkins," he said. "I'm grateful to you for your kindness, I
like you and I'd like to please you; but if what you say is final,
then--as they used to say in some play or other--'I guess you'll
have to hire another boy.'"
"What? You mean you'll quit?"
"Rather than do that--yes."
"For reasons, as I told you. By the way, you haven't told me why
you object to acting as guide to--females."
"Because they are females. They're women, darn 'em!"
Before his helper could comment on this declaration, it was
repeated. The lightkeeper shook both his big fists in the air.
"Darn 'em! Darn all the women!" shouted Seth Atkins.
"Amen," said John Brown, devoutly.
Seth's fists dropped into his lap. "What?" he cried; "what did you
"I said Amen."
"But--but . . . why . . . you didn't mean it!"
"Didn't I?" bitterly. "Humph!"
Seth breathed heavily, started to speak once more, closed his lips
on the words, rose, walked away a few paces, returned, and sat down.
"John Brown," he said, solemnly, "if you're jokin', the powers
forgive you, for I won't. If you ain't, I--I . . . See here, do
you remember what you asked me that night when you struck me for the
assistant keeper's job? You asked me if I was married?"
Brown assented wonderingly. "Why, yes," he said, "I believe I did."
"You did. And I ain't been so shook up for many a day. Young
feller, I'm goin' to tell you what no other man in Ostable County
knows. I AM married. I've got a wife livin'."
OUT OF THE BAG
"I'm married, and I've got a wife livin'," continued Seth; adding
hurriedly and fiercely, "don't you say nothin' to me! Don't you put
me out. I'm goin' to tell you! I'm goin' to tell you all of it--
all, by time! I am, if I die for it."
He was speaking so rapidly that the words were jumbled together. He
knocked his hat from his forehead with a blow of his fist and
actually panted for breath. Brown had never before seen him in this
"Hold on! Wait," he cried. "Atkins, you needn't do this; you
mustn't. I am asking no questions. We agreed to--"
"Hush up!" Seth waved both hands in the air. "DON'T you talk! Let
me get this off my chest. Good heavens alive, I've been smotherin'
myself with it for years, and, now I've got started, I'll blow off
steam or my b'iler'll bust. I'm GOIN' to tell you. You listen--
"Yes, sir, I'm a married man," he went on. "I wa'n't always
married, you understand. I used to be single once. Once I was
"I see," said Brown, repressing a smile.
Seth was not aware that there was anything humorous in his statement.
"Yes," he said, "I was single and--and happy, by jiminy! I was
skipper of a mack'rel schooner down Cape Ann way, never mind where,
and Seth Atkins is only part of my name; never mind that, neither.
I sailed that schooner and I run that schooner--I RUN her; and when
I said 'boo' all hands aboard jumped, I tell you. When I've got
salt water underneath me, I'm a man. But I told you that afore.
"However, this is what I didn't tell you nor nobody else in this
part of the state: I stayed single till I got to be past forty.
Everybody set me down as an old bach. Then I met a woman; yes, sir,
I met a woman."
He made this assertion as if it was something remarkable. His
companion on the bench made no comment.
"She was a widow woman," went on Seth, "and she had a little
property left her by her first husband. Owned a house and land, she
did, and had some money in the bank. Some folks cal'lated I married
her for that, but they cal'lated wrong. I wanted her for herself.
And I got her. Her name was Emeline. I always thought Emeline was
a sort of pretty name."
He sighed. Brown observed that Emeline was a very pretty name,
"Um-hm. That's what I thought, and Emeline was a real pretty woman,
for her age and heft--she was fleshy. She had some consider'ble
prejudice against my goin' to sea, so I agreed to stay on shore a
spell and farm it, as you might say. We lived in the house she
owned and was real happy together. She bossed me around a good
deal, but I didn't mind bein' bossed by her. 'Twas a change, you
see, for I'd always been used to bossin' other folks. So I humored
her. And, bein' on land made me lose my--my grip or somethin';
'cause I seemed to forget how to boss. But we was happy, and then--
then Bennie D. come. Consarn him!"
His teeth shut with a snap, and he struck his knee with his fist.
"Consarn him! " he repeated, and was silent.
The substitute assistant ventured to jog his memory.
"Who was Bennie D.?" he asked.
"What? Hey? Bennie D.? Oh, he was her brother-in-law, her
husband's brother from up Boston way. He was a genius--at least, he
said he was--and an inventor. The only invention I ever could l'arn
he'd invented to a finish was how to live without workin', but he'd
got that brought to a science. However, he was forever fussin' over
some kind of machine that was sartin sure to give power to the
universe, when 'twas done, and Emeline's husband--his name was
Abner--thought the world and all of him. 'Fore he died he made
Emeline promise to always be kind to Bennie D., and she said she
would. Abner left him a little money, and he spent it travelin'
'for his health.' I don't know where he traveled to, but, wherever
'twas, the health must have been there. He was the healthiest
critter ever I see--and the laziest.
"Well, his travels bein' over, down he comes to make his sister-in-
law a little visit. And he stays on and stays on. He never took no
shine to me--I judge he figgered I hadn't no business sharin'
Abner's property--and I never took to him, much.
"Emeline noticed Bennie D. and me wa'n't fallin' on each other's
necks any to speak of, and it troubled her. She blamed me for it.
Said Bennie was a genius, and geniuses had sensitive natures and had
to be treated with consideration and different from other folks.
And that promise to Abner weighed on her conscience, I cal'late.
Anyhow, she petted that blame inventor, and it made me mad. And yet
I didn't say much--not so much as I'd ought to, I guess. And Bennie
D. was always heavin' out little side remarks about Emeline's bein'
fitted for better things than she was gettin', and how, when his
invention was 'perfected,' HE'D see that she didn't slave herself to
death, and so on and so on. And he had consider'ble to say about
folks tryin' to farm when they didn't know a cucumber from a
watermelon, and how 'farmin'' was a good excuse for doin' nothin',
and such. And I didn't have any good answer to that, 'cause I do
know more about seaweed than I do cucumbers, and the farm wasn't
payin' and I knew it.
"If he'd said these things right out plain, I guess likely I'd have
give him what he deserved. But he didn't; he just hinted and smiled
and acted superior and pityin'. And if I got mad and hove out a
little sailor talk by accident, he'd look as sorry and shocked as
the Come-Outer parson does when there's a baby born to a
Universalist family. He'd get up and shut the door, as if he was
scart the neighbors' morals would suffer--though the only neighbor
within hearin' was an old critter that used to run a billiard saloon
in Gloucester, and HIS morals had been put out of their misery forty
years afore--and he'd suggest that Emeline better leave the room,
maybe. And then I'd feel ashamed and wouldn't know what to do, and
'twould end, more'n likely, by my leavin' it myself.
"You can see how matters was driftin'. I could see plain enough,
and I cal'late Emeline could, too--I'll give her credit for that.
She didn't begin to look as happy as she had, and that made me feel
worse than ever. One time, I found her cryin' in the wash room, and
I went up and put my arm round her.
"'Emeline,' I says, 'don't; please don't. Don't cry. I know I
ain't the husband I'd ought to be to you, but I'm doin' my best.
I'm tryin' to do it. I ain't a genius,' I says.
"She interrupted me quick, sort of half laughin' and half cryin'.
'No, Seth,' says she, 'you ain't, that's a fact.'
"That made me sort of mad. 'No, I ain't,' I says again; 'and if you
ask me, I'd say one in the house was enough, and to spare.'
"'I know you don't like Bennie,' she says.
"''Taint that,' says I, which was a lie. 'It ain't that,' I says;
'but somehow I don't seem to fit around here. Bennie and me, we
don't seem to belong together.'
"'He is Abner's brother,' she says, 'and I promised Abner. I can't
tell him to go. I can't tell him to leave this house, his brother's
"Now, consarn it, there was another thing. It WAS Abner's house, or
had been afore he died, and now 'twas hers. If I ever forgot that
fact, which wa'n't by no means likely to happen, Bennie D. took
occasions enough to remind me of it. So I was set back again with
my canvas flappin', as you might say.
"'No,' says I, 'course you can't. He's your brother-in-law.'
"'But you are my husband,' she says, lookin' at me kind of queer.
Anyhow, it seems kind of queer to me now. I've thought about that
look a good deal since, and sometimes I've wondered if--if . . .
However, that's all past and by.
"'Yes,' I says, pretty average bitter, 'but second husbands don't
count for much.'
"'Some of 'em don't seem to, that's a fact,' she says.
"'By jiminy,' I says, 'I don't count for much in this house.'
"'Yes?' says she. 'And whose fault is that?'
"Well, I WAS mad. 'I tell you what I CAN do,' I sings out. 'I can
quit this landlubber's job where I'm nothin' but a swab, and go to
sea again, where I'm some account. That's what I can do.'
"She turned and looked at me.
"'You promised me never to go to sea again, she says.
"'Humph!' says I; 'some promises are hard to keep.'
"'I keep mine, hard or not,' says she. 'Would you go away and leave
"'You've got Brother Bennie,' says I. 'He's a genius; I ain't
nothin' but a man.'
"She laughed, pretty scornful. 'Are you sartin you're that?' she
wanted to know.
"'Not since I been livin' here, I ain't,' I says. And that ended
that try of makin' up.
"And from then on it got worse and worse. There wan't much comfort
at home where the inventor was, so I took to stayin' out nights.
Went down to the store and hung around, listenin' to fools' gabble,
and wishin' I was dead. And the more I stayed out, the more Bennie
D. laughed and sneered and hinted. And then come that ridic'lous
business about Sarah Ann Christy. That ended it for good and all."
Seth paused in his long story and looked out across the starlit sea.
"Who was Sarah Ann?" asked Brown. The lightkeeper seemed much
"She was a born fool," he declared, with emphasis; "born that way
and been developin' extry foolishness ever since. She was a widow,
too; been good lookin' once and couldn't forget it, and she lived
down nigh the store. When I'd be goin' down or comin' back, just as
likely as not she was settin' on the piazza, and she'd hail me. I
didn't want to stop and talk to her, of course."
"No, of course not."
"Well, I DIDN'T. And I didn't HAVE to talk. Couldn't if I wanted
to; she done it all. Her tongue was hung on ball-bearin' hinges and
was a self-winder guaranteed to run an hour steady every time she
set it goin'. Talk! my jiminy crimps, how that woman could talk! I
couldn't get away; I tried to, but, my soul, she wouldn't let me.
And, if 'twas a warm night, she'd more'n likely have a pitcher of
lemonade or some sort of cold wash alongside, and I must stop and
taste it. By time, I can taste it yet!
"Well, there wa'n't no harm in her at all; she was just a fool that
had to talk to somebody, males preferred. But my stayin' out nights
wasn't helpin' the joyfulness of things to home, and one evenin'--
one evenin' . . . Oh, there! I started to tell you this and I
might's well get it over.
"This evenin' when I came home from the store I see somethin' was
extry wrong soon's I struck the settin' room. Emeline was there,
and Bennie D., and I give you my word, I felt like turnin' up my
coat collar, 'twas so frosty. 'Twas hotter'n a steamer's stoke-hole
outside, but that room was forty below zero.
"Nobody SAID nothin', you know--that was the worst of it; but I'd
have been glad if they had. Finally, I said it myself. 'Well,
Emeline,' says I, 'here I be.'
"No answer, so I tried again. 'Well, Emeline,' says I, 'I've
fetched port finally.'
"She didn't answer me then, but Bennie D. laughed. He had a way of
laughin' that made other folks want to cry--or kill him. For choice
I'd have done the killin' first.
"'More nautical conversation, sister,' says he. 'He knows how fond
you are of that sort of thing.'
"You see, Emeline never did like to hear me talk sailor talk; it
reminded her too much that I used to be a sailor, I s'pose. And
that inventor knew she didn't like it, and so he rubbed it in every
time I made a slip. 'Twas just one of his little ways; he had a
million of 'em.
"But I tried once more. 'Emeline,' I says, 'I'm home. Can't you
speak to me?'
"Then she looked at me. 'Yes, Seth,' says she, 'I see you are
"'At last,' put in brother-in-law, '"There is no place like home"--
when the other places are shut up.' And he laughed again.
"'Stop, Bennie,' says Emeline, and he stopped. That was another of
his little ways--to do anything she asked him. Then she turned to me.
"'Seth,' she asks, 'where have you been?'
"'Oh, down street,' says I, casual. 'It's turrible warm out.'
"She never paid no attention to the weather signals. 'Where 'bouts
down street?' she wanted to know.
"'Oh, down to the store,' I says.
"'You go to the store a good deal, don't you,' says she. Bennie D.
chuckled, and then begged her pardon. That chuckle stirred my mad
"'I go where folks seem to be glad to see me,' I says. 'Where they
treat me as if I was somebody.'
"'So you was at the store the whole evenin'?' she asks.
"'Course I was,' says I. 'Where else would I be?'
"She looked at me hard, and her face sort of set. She didn't
answer, but took up the sewin' in her lap and went to work on it. I
remember she dropped it once, and Bennie D. jumped to pick it up for
her, quick as a wink. I set down in the rockin' chair and took the
Gloucester paper. But I didn't really read. The clock ticked and
ticked, and 'twas so still you could hear every stroke of the
pendulum. Finally, I couldn't stand it no longer.
"'What on earth is the matter?' I sings out. 'What have I done this
time? Don't you WANT me to go to the store? Is that it?'
"She put down her sewin'. 'Seth,' says she, quiet but awful cold,
'I want you to go anywheres that you want to go. I never'll stand
in your way. But I want you tell the truth about it afterwards.'
"'The truth?' says I. 'Don't I always tell you the truth?'
"'No,' says she. 'You've lied to me tonight. You've been callin'
on the Christy woman, and you know it.'
"Well, you could have knocked me down with a baby's rattle. I'd
forgot all about that fool Sarah Ann. I cal'late I turned nineteen
different shades of red, and for a minute I couldn't think of a word
to say. And Bennie D. smiled, wicked as the Old Harry himself.
"'How--how did you--how do you know I see Sarah Ann Christy?' I
hollered out, soon's I could get my breath.
"'Because you were seen there,' says she.
"'Who see me?'
"'I did,' says she. 'I went down street myself, on an errand, and,
bein' as you weren't here to go with me, Bennie was good enough to
go. It ain't pleasant for a woman to go out alone after dark, and--
and I have never been used to it,' she says.
"That kind of hurt me and pricked my conscience, as you may say.
"'You know I'd been tickled to death to go with you, Emeline,' I
says. 'Any time, you know it. But you never asked me to go with
"'How long has it been since you asked to go with me?' she says.
"'Do you really want me to go anywheres, Emeline?' says I, eager.
'Do you? I s'posed you didn't. If you'd asked--'
"'Why should I always do the askin'? Must a wife always ask her
husband? Doesn't the husband ever do anything on his own
responsibility? Seth, I married you because I thought you was a
strong, self-reliant man, who would advise me and protect me and--'
"That cussed inventor bust into the talk right here. I cal'late he
thought twas time.
"'Excuse me, sister,' he says; 'don't humiliate yourself afore him.
Remember you and me saw him tonight, saw him with our own eyes,
settin' on a dark piazza with another woman. Drinkin' with her and--'
"'Drinkin'!' I yells.
"'Yes, drinkin',' says he, solemn. 'I don't wonder you are ashamed
"'Ashamed! I ain't ashamed.'
"'You hear that, sister? NOW I hope you're convinced.'
"''Twa'n't nothin' but lemonade I was drinkin',' I hollers, pretty
nigh crazy. 'She asked me to stop and have a glass 'cause 'twas so
hot. And as for callin' on her, I wa'n't. I was just passin' by,
and she sings out what a dreadful night 'twas, and I said 'twas,
too, and she says won't I have somethin' cold to drink. That's all
there was to it.'
"Afore Emeline could answer, Bennie comes back at me again.
"'Perhaps you'll tell us this was the first time you have visited
her,' he purrs.
"Well, that was a sockdolager, 'cause twa'n't the first time. I
don't know how many times 'twas. I never kept no account of 'em.
Too glad to get away from her everlastin' tongue-clackin'. But when
'twas put right up to me this way, I--I declare I was all fussed up.
I felt sick and I guess I looked so. Emeline was lookin' at me and
seemin'ly waitin' for me to say somethin'; yet I couldn't say it.
And Bennie D. laughed, quiet but wicked.
"That laugh fixed me. I swung round and lit into him.
"'You mind your own business,' I roars. 'Ain't you ashamed, makin'
trouble with a man's wife in his own house?'
"'I was under the impression the house belonged to my sister-in-
law,' he says. And again I was knocked off my pins.
"'You great big loafer!' I yelled at him; 'settin' here doin'
nothin' but raisin' the divil generally! I--I--'
"He jumped as if I'd stuck a brad-awl into him. The shocked
expression came across his face again, and he runs to Emeline and
takes her arm.
"'Sister, sister,' he says, quick, but gentle, 'this is no place for
you. Language like that is . . . there! there! don't you think
you'd better leave the room?'
"She didn't go. As I remember it now, it keeps comin' back to me
that she didn't go. She just stood still and looked at me. And
then she says: 'Seth, why did you lie to me?'
'I didn't lie,' I shouts. 'I forgot, I tell you. I never thought
that windmill of a Christy woman was enough importance to remember.
I didn't lie to you--I never did. Oh, Emeline, you know I didn't.
What's the matter with you and me, anyway? We used to be all right
and now we're all wrong.'
"'One of us is,' says Bennie D. That was the final straw that
choked the camel.
"'Yes,' I says to him, 'that's right, one of us is, and I don't know
which. But I know this: you and I can't stay together in this house
"I can see that room now, as 'twas when I said that. Us three
lookin' at each other, and the clock a-tickin', and everything else
still as still. I choked, but I kept on.
"'I mean it,' I says. 'Either you clear out of this house or I do.'
"And, while the words was on my lips, again it came to me strong
that it wa'n't really my house at all. I turned to my wife.
"'Emeline,' says I, 'it's got to be. You must tell him to go, or
"She'd been lookin' at me again with that kind of queer look in her
eyes, almost a hopeful look, seem's if 'twas, and yet it couldn't
have been, of course. Now she drawed a long breath.
"'I can't tell him to go, Seth,' says she. 'I promised to give him
a home as long as I had one.'
"I set my jaws together. 'All right,' I says; 'then I'M goin'.
"And I went. Yes, sir, I went. Just as I was, without any hat or
dunnage of any kind. When I slammed the back door it seemed as if I
heard her sing out my name. I waited, but I guess I was mistaken,
for she didn't call it again. And--and I never set eyes on her
since. No, sir, not once."
The lightkeeper stopped. John Brown said nothing, but he laid a
hand sympathetically on the older man's shoulder. Seth shuddered,
straightened, and went on.
"I cleared out of that town that very night," he said. "Walked
clear into Gloucester, put up at a tavern there till mornin', and
then took the cars to Boston. I cal'lated fust that I'd ship as
mate or somethin' on a foreign voyage, but I couldn't; somehow I
couldn't bring myself to do it. You see, I'd promised her I
wouldn't ever go to sea again, and so--well, I was a dum idiot, I
s'pose, but I wouldn't break the promise. I knew the superintendent
of lighthouses in this district, and I'd been an assistant keeper
when I was younger. I told him my yarn, and he told me about this
job. I changed my name, passed the examination and come directly
here. And here I've stayed ever since."
He paused again. Brown ventured to ask another question.
"And your--and the lady?" he asked. "Where is she?"
"I don't know. Livin' in her house back there on Cape Ann, I
s'pose. She was, last I knew. I never ask no questions. I want to
forget--to forget, by time! . . . Hi hum! . . . Well, now you know
what nobody this side of Boston knows. And you can understand why
I'm willin' to be buried alive down here. 'Cause a woman wrecked my
life; I'm done with women; and to this forsaken hole no women
scarcely ever come. But, when they DO come, you must understand
that I expect you to show 'em round. After hearin' what I've been
through, I guess you'll be willin' to do that much for me."
He rose, evidently considering the affair settled. Brown stroked
"I'm sorry, Atkins," he observed, slowly; "and I certainly do
sympathize with you. But--but, as I said, 'I guess you'll have to
hire another boy!'"
"What? What do you mean?"
"I mean that you're not the only woman-hater on the beach."
"Hey? Has a woman given YOU the go by?"
"No. The other way around, if anything. Look here, Atkins! I'm
not in the habit of discussing my private affairs with
acquaintances, but you've been frank with me--and well, hang it!
I've got to talk to somebody. At least, I feel that way just now.
Let's suppose a case. Suppose you were a young fellow not long out
of college--a young fellow whose mother was dead and whose dad was
rich, and head over heels in money-making, and with the idea that
his will was no more to be disputed than a law of the Almighty.
Just suppose that, will you?"
"Huh! Well, 'twill be hard supposin', but I'll try. Heave ahead."
"Suppose that you'd never been used to working or supporting
yourself. Had a position, a nominal one, in your dad's office but
absolutely no responsibility, all the money you wanted, and so on.
Suppose because your father wanted you to--and HER people felt the
same--you had become engaged to a girl, a nice enough girl, too, in
her way. But, then suppose that little by little you came to
realize that her way wasn't yours. You and she liked each other
well enough, but the whole thing was a family arrangement, a money
arrangement, a perfectly respectable, buy-and-sell affair. That and
nothing else. And the more you thought about it, the surer you felt
that it was so. But when you told your governor he got on his ear
and sailed into you, and you sailed back, until finally he swore
that you should either marry that girl or he'd throw you out of his
house and office to root for yourself. What would you do?"
"Hey? Land sakes! I don't know. I always HAD to root, so I ain't
a competent judge. Go on, you've got me interested."
"Well, I said I'd root, that's all. But I didn't have the nerve to
go and tell the girl. The engagement had been announced, and all
that, and I knew what a mess it would make for her. I sat in my
room, among the things I was packing in my grip to take with me, and
thought and thought. If I went to her there would be a scene. If I
said I had been disinherited she would want to know why--naturally.
I had quarreled with the governor--yes, but why? Then I should have
to tell her the real reason: I didn't want to marry her or anybody
else on such a bargain-counter basis. That seemed such a rotten
thing to say, and she might ask why it had taken me such a long time
to find it out. No, I just COULDN'T tell her that. So, after my
think was over, I wrote her a note saying that my father and I had
had a disagreement and he had chucked me out, or words to that
effect. Naturally, under the circumstances, marriage was out of the
question, and I released her from the engagement. Good by and good
luck--or something similar. I mailed the letter and left the town
the next morning."
He paused. The lightkeeper made no comment. After a moment the
young man continued.
"I landed in Boston," he said, "full of conceit and high-minded
ideas of working my own way up the ladder. But in order to work up,
you've got to get at least a hand-hold on the bottom rung. I
couldn't get it. Nobody wanted a genteel loafer, which was me. My
money gave out. I bought a steamboat passage to another city, but I
didn't have enough left to buy a square meal. Then, by bull luck, I
fell overboard and landed here. And here I found the solution. I'm
dead. If the governor gets soft-hearted and gets private detectives
on my trail, they'll find I disappeared from that steamer, that's
all. Drowned, of course. SHE'LL think so, too. 'Good riddance to
bad rubbish' is the general verdict. I can stay here a year or so,
and then, being dead and forgotten, can go back to civilization and
hustle for myself. BUT a woman is at the bottom of my trouble, and
I never want to see another. So, if my staying here depends upon my
seeing them, I guess, as I've said twice already, 'you'll have to
hire another boy.'"
He, too, rose. Seth laid a big hand on his shoulder.
"Son," said the lightkeeper, "I'm sorry for you; I cal'late I know
how you feel. I like you fust-rate, and if it's a possible thing,
I'll fix it so's you can stay right here long's you want to. As for
women folks that do come--why, we'll dodge 'em if we can, and share
responsibility if we must. But there's one thing you've GOT to
understand. You're young, and maybe your woman hate'll wear off.
If it does, out you go. I can't have any sparkin' or lovemakin'
around these premises."
The assistant snorted contemptuously.
"If ever you catch me being even coldly familiar with a female of
any age," he declared, "I hereby request that you hit me, politely,
but firmly, with that axe," pointing to the kindling hatchet leaning
against the door post.
Seth chuckled. "Good stuff!" he exclaimed. "And, for my part, if
ever you catch me gettin' confectionery with a woman, I . . . well,
don't stop to pray over me; just drown me, that's all I ask. It's a
So they shook, with great solemnity.
NEIGHBORS AND WASPS
And now affairs at the lights settled down into a daily routine in
which the lightkeeper and his helper each played his appointed part.
All mysteries now being solved, and the trust between them mutual
and without reserve, they no longer were on their guard in each
other's presence, but talked freely on all sorts of topics, and
expressed their mutual dislike of woman with frequency and point.
No regular assistant was appointed or seemed likely to be, for the
summer, at least. Seth and his friend, the superintendent, held
another lengthy conversation over the wire, and, while Brown's
uncertain status remained the same, there was a tacit understanding
that, by the first of September, if the young man was sufficiently
"broken in," the position vacated by Ezra Payne should be his--if he
still wanted it.
"You may change your mind by that time," observed Seth. "This ain't
no place for a chap with your trainin', and I know it. It does well
enough for an old derelict like me, with nobody to care a hang
whether he lives or dies, but you're different. And even for me the
lonesomeness of it drives me 'most crazy sometimes. I've noticed
you've been havin' blue streaks more often than when you first came.
I cal'late that by fall you'll be headin' somewheres else, Mr. 'John
Brown,'" with significant emphasis upon the name.
Brown stoutly denied being "bluer" than usual, and his superior did
not press the point. Seth busied himself in his spare time with the
work on the Daisy M. and with his occasional trips behind Joshua to
the village. Brown might have made some of these trips, but he did
not care to. Solitude and seclusion he still desired, and there
were more of these than anything else at the Twin-Lights.
The lightkeeper experimented with no more dogs, but he had evidently
not forgotten the lifesaving man's warning concerning possible
thieves, for he purchased a big spring-lock in Eastboro and attached
it to the door of the boathouse on the little wharf. The lock was,
at first, a good deal more of a nuisance than an advantage, for the
key was always being forgotten or mislaid, and, on one occasion, the
door blew shut with Atkins inside the building, and he pounded and
shrieked for ten minutes before his helper heard him and descended
to the rescue.
June crawled by, and July came. Crawled is the proper word, for
John Brown had never known days so long or weeks so unending as
those of that early summer. The monotony was almost never broken,
and he began to find it deadly. He invented new duties about the
lights and added swimming and walks up and down the beach to his
limited list of recreations.
The swimming he especially enjoyed. The cove made a fine bathing
place, and the boathouse was his dressing room, though the fragrance
of the ancient fish nets stored within it was not that of attar of
roses. A cheap bathing suit was one of the luxuries Atkins had
bought for him, by request, in Eastboro. Seth bought the suit under
protest, for he scoffed openly at his helper's daily bath.
"I should think," the lightkeeper declared over and over again,
"that you'd had salt water soak enough to last you for one spell; a
feller that come as nigh drownin' as you done!"
Seth did not care for swimming; the washtub every Saturday night
furnished him with baths sufficient.
He was particular to warn his helper against the tide in the inlet:
"The cove's all right," he said, "but you want to look out and not
try to swim in the crick where it's narrow, or in that deep hole by
the end of the wharf, where the lobster car's moored. When the
tide's comin' in or it's dead high water, the current's strong
there. On the ebb it'll snake you out into the breakers sure as I'm
settin' here tellin' you. The cove's all right and good and safe;
but keep away from the narrer part of the crick."
Swimming was good fun, and walking, on pleasant days, was an aid in
shaking off depression; but, in spite of his denials and his
attempts at appearing contented, the substitute assistant realized
that he was far from that happy condition. He did not want to meet
people, least of all people of his own station in life--his former
station. Atkins was a fine chap, in his way; but . . . Brown was
lonely . . . and when one is lonely, one thinks of what might have
been, and, perhaps, regrets. Regrets, unavailing regrets, are the
poorest companions possible.
The lightkeeper, too, seemed lonely, which, considering his years of
experience in his present situation, was odd. He explained his
loneliness one evening by observing that he cal'lated he missed the
"What painting chaps?" asked Brown.
"Oh, them two young fellers that always used to come to the cottage--
what you call the bungalow--across the cove there, the ones I told
you about. They was real friendly, sociable young chaps, and I kind
of liked to have 'em runnin' in and out. Seems queer to have it
July, and they not here to hail me and come over to borrow stuff.
And they was forever settin' around under white sunshades, sloppin'
paint onto paper. I most wish they hadn't gone to Europe. I
cal'late you'd have liked 'em, too."
"Perhaps," said the helper, doubtfully.
"Oh, you would; no perhaps about it. It don't seem right to see the
bungalow all shuttered up and deserted this time of year. You'd
have liked to meet them young painters; they was your kind."
"Yes, I know. Perhaps that's why I shouldn't like to meet them."
"Hey? . . . Oh, yes, yes; I see. I never thought of that. But
'tain't likely they'd know you; they hailed from Boston, not New
"How did you know I came from New York? I didn't tell you that."
"No, you didn't, that's a fact. But, you said you left the city
where you lived and came to Boston, so I sort of guessed New York.
But that's all right; I don't know and I don't care. Names and
places you and me might just as well not tell, even to each other.
If we don't tell them, we can answer 'don't know' to questions and
tell the truth; hey?"
One morning about a week later, Brown, his dish washing and sweeping
done, was busy in the light-room at the top of the right hand tower,
polishing the brass of the lantern. The curtains were drawn on the
landward side, and those toward the sea open. Seth, having finished
his night watching and breakfast, was audibly asleep in the house.
Brown rubbed and polished leisurely, his thoughts far away, and a
frown on his face. For the thousandth time that week he decided
that he was a loafer and a vagabond, and that it would have been
much better for himself, and creation generally, if he had never
risen after the plunge over the steamer's rail.
He pulled the cloth cover over the glittering lantern and descended
the iron stair to the ground floor. When he emerged into the open
air, he heard a sound which made him start and listen. The sound
was the distant rattle of wheels from the direction of the village.
Was another "picnic" coming? He walked briskly to the corner of the
house and peered down the winding road. A carriage was in sight
certainly, but it was going, not coming. He watched it move further
away each moment. Someone--not the grocer or a tradesman--was
driving to the village. But where had he been, and who was he? Not
Seth, for Seth was asleep--he could hear him.
The driver of the carriage, whoever he was, had not visited the
lights. And, as Atkins had said, there was nowhere else to go on
that road. Brown, puzzled, looked about him, at the sea, the
lights, the house, the creek, the cove, the bluff on the other side
of the cove, the bungalow--ah! the bungalow!
For the door of the bungalow was open, and one or two of the
shutters were down. The carriage had brought some person or persons
to the bungalow and left them there. Instantly, of course, Brown
thought of the artists from Boston. Probably they had changed their
minds and decided to summer at Eastboro after all. His frown
Then, from across the cove, from the bungalow, came a shrill scream,
a feminine scream. The assistant started, scarcely believing his
ears. Before he could gather his wits, a stout woman, with a
checked apron in her hand, rushed out of the bungalow door, looked
about, saw him, and waved the apron like a flag.
"Hi!" she screamed. "Hi, you! Mr. Lighthouseman! come quick! do
please come here quick and help us!"
There was but one thing to do, and Brown did it instinctively. He
raced through the beach grass, down the hill, in obedience to the
call. As he ran, he wondered who on earth the stout woman could be.
Seth had said that the artists did their own housekeeping.
"Hurry up!" shrieked the stout woman, dancing an elephantine
fandango in front of the bungalow. "Come ON!"
To run around the shore line of the cove would have taken a good
deal of time. However, had the tide been at flood there would have
been no other way--excepting by boat--to reach the cottage. But the
tide was out, and the narrowest portion of the creek, the stream
connecting the cove with the ocean, was but knee deep. Through the
water splashed the substitute assistant and clambered up the bank
"Quick!" screamed the woman. "They'll eat us alive!"
"Who? What?" panted Brown.
"Wasps! They're in there! The room's full of 'em. If there's one
thing on earth I'm scart of, it's . . . Don't stop to talk! Go IN!"
She indicated the door of a room adjoining the living room of the
little cottage. From behind the door came sounds of upsetting
furniture and sharp slaps. Evidently the artists were having a
lively time. But they must be curious chaps to be afraid of wasps.
Brown opened the door and entered, partly of his own volition,
partly because he was pushed by the stout woman. Then he gasped in
The wasps were there, dozens of them, and they had built a nest in
the upper corner of the room. But they were not the astonishing
part of the picture. A young woman was there, also; a young woman
with dark hair and eyes, the sleeves of a white shirtwaist rolled
above her elbows, and a wet towel in her right hand. She was
skipping lightly about the room, slapping frantically at the humming
"Mrs. Bascom," she panted, "don't stand there screaming. Get
another towel and--"
Then she turned and saw Brown. For an instant she, too, seemed
astonished. But only for an instant.
"Oh, I'm so glad you came!" she exclaimed. "Here! take this! you
must hit quick and HARD."
"This" was the towel. The assistant took it mechanically. The
young lady did not wait to give further orders. She rushed out of
the room and shut the door. Brown was alone with the wasps, and
they were lively company. When, at last, the battle was over, the
last wasp was dead, the nest was a crumpled gray heap over in the
corner, and the assistant's brow was ornamented with four red and
smarting punctures, which promised to shortly become picturesque and
painful lumps. Rubbing these absently with one hand, and bearing
the towel in the other, he opened the door and stepped out into the
The two women were awaiting him. He found them standing directly in
front of him as he emerged.
"Have you--have you killed them?" begged the younger of the pair.
"Be they all dead?" demanded the other.
Brown nodded solemnly. "I guess so," he said. "They seem to be."
"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried the dark haired girl. "I'm--we--are so
much obliged to you."
"If there's any critters on earth," declared the stout woman, "that
I can't stand, it's wasps and hornets and such. Mice, I don't mind--"
"I do," interrupted her companion with emphasis.
"But when I walked into that room and seen that nest in the corner I
was pretty nigh knocked over--and," she added, "it takes consider'ble
to do that to ME."
The assistant looked at her. "Yes," he said, absently, "I should
think it might. That is, I mean--I--I beg your pardon."
He paused and wiped his forehead with the towel. The young lady
burst into a peal of laughter, in which the stout woman joined. The
laugh was so infectious that even Brown was obliged to smile.
"I apologize," he stammered. "I didn't mean that exactly as it
sounded. I'm not responsible mentally--yet--I guess."
"I don't wonder." It was the stout woman who answered. The girl
had turned away and was looking out the window; her shoulders shook.
"I shouldn't think you would be. Hauled in bodily, as you might
say, and shut up in a room to fight wasps! And by folks you never
saw afore and don't know from Adam! You needn't apologize. I'd
forgive you if you said somethin' a good deal worse'n that. I'm
long past the age where I'm sensitive about my weight, thank
"And we ARE so much obliged to you." The girl was facing him once
more, and she was serious, though the corners of her mouth still
twitched. "The whole affair is perfectly ridiculous," she said,
"but Mrs. Bascom was frightened and so was I--when I had time to
realize it. Thank you again."
"You're quite welcome, I'm sure. No trouble at all."
The assistant turned to go. His brain was beginning to regain a
little of its normal poise, and he was dimly conscious that he had
been absent from duty quite long enough.
"Maybe you'd like to know who 'tis you've helped," observed the
stout woman. "And, considerin' that we're likely to be next-door
neighbors for a spell, I cal'late introductions are the proper
thing. My name's Bascom. I'm housekeeper for Miss Ruth Graham.
This is Miss Graham."
The young lady offered a hand. Brown took it.
"Graham?" he repeated. "Where?" Then, remembering a portion of
what Seth had told him, he added, "I see! the--the artist?"
"My brother is an artist. He and his friend, Mr. Hamilton, own this
bungalow. They are abroad this summer, and I am going to camp here
for a few weeks--Mrs. Bascom and I. I paint a little, too, but only
Brown murmured a conventionality concerning his delight at meeting
the pair, and once more headed for the door. But Mrs. Bascom's
curiosity would not permit him to escape so easily.
"I thought," she said, "when I see you standin' over there by the
lights, that you must be one of the keepers. Not the head keeper--I
knew you wa'n't him--but an assistant, maybe. But I guess you're
only a visitor, Mister--Mister--?"
"Yes, Mr. Brown. I guess you ain't no keeper, are you?"
"I am the assistant keeper at present. Yes."
"You don't say!" Mrs. Bascom looked surprised. So, too, did Miss
Graham. "You don't look like a lighthouse keeper," continued the
former. "Oh, I don't mean your clothes!" noticing the young man's
embarrassed glance at his wet and far from immaculate garments. "I
mean the way you talk and act. You ain't been here long, have you?"
"Just come this summer?"
"I thought so. You ain't a Cape Codder?"
"I was sure you wa'n't. Where DO you come from?"
Brown hesitated. Miss Graham, noticing his hesitation, hastened to
end the inquisition.
"Mr. Brown can't stop to answer questions, Mrs. Bascom," she said.
"I'm sure he wants to get back to his work. Good morning, Mr.
Brown. No doubt we shall see each other often, being the only
neighbors in sight. Call again--do. I solemnly promise that you
shall have to fight no more wasps."
"Say!" The stout woman took a step forward. "Speakin' of wasps . . .
stand still a minute, Mr. Brown, won't you. What's them lumps on
your forehead? Why, I do believe you've been bit. You have, sure
Miss Graham was very much concerned. "Oh, no!" she exclaimed; "I
hope not. Let me see."
"No, indeed!" The assistant was on the step by this time and moving
rapidly. "Nothing at all. No consequence. Good morning."
He almost ran down the hill and crossed the creek at the wading
place. As he splashed through, the voice of the housekeeper reached
"Cold mud's the best thing," she screamed. "Put it on thick. It
takes out the smart. Good and thick, mind!"
For the next hour or two the lightkeeper's helper moved about his
household tasks in a curious frame of mind. He was thoroughly
angry--or thought he was--and very much disturbed. Neighbors of any
kind were likely to be a confounded nuisance, but two women!
Heavens! And the stout woman was sure to be running in for calls
and to borrow things. As for the other, she seemed a nice girl
enough, but he never wanted to see another girl, nice or otherwise.
Her eyes were pretty, so was her hair, but what of it? Oh, hang the
luck! Just here he banged his swollen forehead on the sharp edge of
the door, and found relief in profanity.
Seth Atkins was profane, also, when he heard the news. Brown said
nothing until his superior discovered with his own eyes that the
bungalow was open. Then, in answer to the lightkeeper's questions,
came the disclosure of the truth.
"Women!" roared Seth. "You say there's two WOMEN goin' to live
there? By Judas! I don't believe it!"
"Go and see for yourself, then," was the brusque answer.
"I sha'n't, neither. Who told you?"
"They DID? Was you there?"
"What for? I thought you swore never to go nigh a woman again."
"I did, but--well, it wasn't my fault. I--"
"Yes? Go on."
"I went because I couldn't help myself. Went to help some one else,
in fact. I expected to find Graham and that other artist. But--"
"Well, go ON."
"I was stung," said Mr. Brown, gloomily, and rubbed his forehead.
THE BUNGALOW GIRL
During the following day the occupants of the lightkeeper's dwelling
saw little or nothing of the newcomers at the bungalow. Brown, his
forehead resembling a section of a relief map of the Rocky
Mountains, remained indoors as much as possible, working when there
was anything to do, and reading back-number magazines when there was
not. Seth went, as usual, to his room soon after noon. His
slumbers must, however, have been fitful ones, for several times the
substitute assistant, turning quickly, saw the bedroom door swing
silently shut. The third time that this happened he ran to the door
and threw it open in season to catch Mr. Atkins in an undignified
dive for the bed. A tremendous snore followed the dive. The young
man regarded him in silence for a few moments, during which the
snores continued. Then he shook his head.
"Humph!" he soliloquized; "I must 'phone for the doctor at once.
Either the doctor or the superintendent. If he has developed that
habit, he isn't fit for this job."
He turned away. The slumberer stirred uneasily, rolled over, opened
one eye, and sat up.
"Hi!" he called. "Come back here! Where you goin'?"
Brown returned, looking surprised and anxious.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, "are you awake?"
"Course I'm awake! What a fool question that is. Think I'm settin'
up here and talkin' in my sleep?"
"Well, I didn't know."
"Why didn't you know? And, see here! what did you mean by sayin'
you was goin' to 'phone the doctor or the superintendent, one or
t'other? Yes, you said it. I heard you."
"Oh, no! you didn't."
"Tell you I did. Heard you with my own ears."
"But how could you? You weren't awake."
"Course I was awake! Couldn't have heard you unless I was, could I?
What ails you? Them stings go clear through to your brains, did
Again Brown shook his head.
"This is dreadful!" he murmured. "He walks in his sleep, and snores
when he's awake. I MUST call the doctor."
"What--what--" The lightkeeper's wrath was interfering with his
utterance. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sputtered
"Be calm, Atkins," coaxed the assistant. "Don't complicate your
diseases by adding heart trouble. Three times today I've caught you
peeping at me through the crack of that door. Within fifteen
seconds of the last peep I find you snoring. Therefore, I say--"
"Aw, belay! I was only--only just lookin' out to see what time it
"But you must have done it in your sleep, because--"
"I never. I was wide awake as you be."
"But why did you snore? You couldn't have fallen asleep between the
door and the bed. And you hadn't quite reached the bed when I got
"I--I--I--Aw, shut up!"
Brown smiled blandly. "I will," he said, "provided you promise to
keep this door shut and don't do any more spying."
"Spyin'? What do you mean by that?"
"Just what I said. You and I had a discussion concerning that same
practice when I fell over the bank at the Slough a while ago. I was
not spying then, but you thought I was, and you didn't like it. Now
I think you are, and I don't like it."
"Wh--what--what would I be spyin' on you for? Wh--what reason would
I have for doin' it?"
"No good reason; because I have no intention of visiting our new
neighbors--none whatever. That being understood, perhaps you'll
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