Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 3 out of 5
shut the door and keep it shut."
Seth looked sheepish and guilty.
"Well," he said, after a moment's reflection, "I beg your pardon.
But I couldn't help feelin' kind of uneasy. I--I ought to know
better, I s'pose; but, with a young, good-lookin' girl landed
unexpected right next to us, I--I--"
"How did you know she was good-looking? I didn't mention her
"No, you didn't, but--but . . . John Brown, I've been young myself,
and I know that at your age most ANY girl's good-lookin'. There!"
He delivered this bit of wisdom with emphasis and a savage nod of
the head. Brown had no answer ready, that is, no relevant answer.
"You go to bed and shut the door," he repeated, turning to go.
"All right, I will. But don't you forget our agreement."
"I have no intention of forgetting it."
"What ARE you goin' to do?"
"Do? What do you mean?"
"I mean what are you goin' to do now that things down here's
changed, and you and me ain't alone, same as we was?"
"I don't know. I'm not sure that I sha'n't leave--clear out."
"What? Clear out? Run away and leave me alone to--to . . . By
time! I didn't think you was a deserter."
The substitute assistant laughed bitterly. "You needn't worry," he
said. "I couldn't go far, even if I wanted to. I haven't any
"That's so." Seth was evidently relieved. "All right," he
observed; "don't you worry. 'Twon't be but a couple of months
anyway, and we'll fight it through together. But ain't it a shame!
Ain't it an everlastin' shame that this had to happen just as we'd
come to understand each other and was so contented and friendly!
Well, there's only one thing to do; that's to make the best of it
for us and the worst for them. We'll keep to ourselves and pay no
attention to em no more'n if they wa'n't there. We'll forget 'em
altogether; hey? . . . I say we'll forget 'em altogether, won't we?"
Brown's answer was short and sharp.
"Yes," he said, and slammed the door behind him. Seth slowly shook
his head before he laid it on the pillow. He was not entirely easy
in his mind, even yet.
However, there was no more spying, and the lightkeeper did not
mention the bungalow tenants when he appeared at supper time. After
the meal he bolted to the lights, and was on watch in the tower when
his helper retired.
Early the next afternoon Brown descended the path to the boathouse.
He had omitted his swim the day before. Now, however, he intended
to have it. Simply because those female nuisances had seen fit to
intrude where they had no business was no reason why he should
resign all pleasure. He gave a quick glance upward at the opposite
bank as he reached the wharf. There was no sign of life about the
He entered the boathouse, undressed, and donned his bathing suit.
In a few minutes he was ready, and, emerging upon the wharf, walked
briskly back along the shore of the creek to where it widened into
the cove. There he plunged in, and was soon luxuriating in the
cool, clear water.
He swam with long, confident strokes, those of a practiced swimmer.
This was worth while. It was the one place where he could forget
that he was no longer the only son of a wealthy father, heir to a
respected name--which was NOT Brown--a young man with all sorts of
brilliant prospects; could forget that he was now a disinherited
vagabond, a loafer who had been unable to secure a respectable
position, an outcast. He swam and dove and splashed, rejoicing in
his strength and youth and the freedom of all outdoors.
Then, as he lay lazily paddling in deep water, he heard the rattle
of gravel on the steep bank of the other side of the cove. Looking
up, he saw, to his huge disgust, a female figure in a trim bathing
suit descending the bluff from the bungalow. It was the girl who
had left him to fight the wasps. Her dark hair was covered with a
jauntily tied colored handkerchief, and, against the yellow sand of
the bluff, she made a very pretty picture. Not that Brown was
interested, but she did, nevertheless.
She saw him and waved a hand. "Good morning," she called.
"Beautiful day for a swim, isn't it?"
"Yes," growled the young man, brusquely. He turned and began to
swim in the opposite direction, up the cove. The girl looked after
him, raised a puzzled eyebrow, and then, with a shrug, waded into
the water. The next time the assistant looked at her, she was
swimming with long, sweeping strokes down the narrow creek to the
bend and the deep hole at the end of the wharf. Round that bend and
through that hole the tide whirled, like a rapid, out into the
miniature bay behind Black Man's Point. It was against that tide
that Seth Atkins had warned him.
And the girl was swimming directly toward the dangerous narrows.
Brown growled an exclamation of disgust. He had no mind to continue
the acquaintance, and yet he couldn't permit her to do that.
"Miss Graham!" he called. "Oh, Miss Graham!"
She heard him, but did not stop.
"Yes?" she called in answer, continuing to swim. "What is it?"
"You mustn't--" shouted Brown. Then he remembered that he must not
shout. Shouting might awaken the lightkeeper, and the latter would
misunderstand the situation, of course. So he cut his warning to
"Wait!" he called, and began swimming toward her. She did not come
to meet him, but merely ceased swimming and turned on her back to
float. And, floating, the tide would carry her on almost as rapidly
as if she assisted it. That tide did not need any assistance.
Brown swung on his side and settled into the racing stroke, the
stroke which had won him cups at the athletic club.
He reached her in a time so short that she was surprised into an
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "you CAN swim!"
He did not thank her for the compliment. There was no time for
that, even if he had felt like it.
"You shouldn't be here," he said sharply.
She looked at him.
"Why, what do you mean?" she demanded.
"It isn't safe. A little farther, and the tide would carry you out
to sea. Come back, back up to the cove at once."
He expected her to ask more questions, but she did not. Instead she
turned and struck out in silence. Against the tide, even there, the
pull was tremendous.
"Shall I help you?" he asked.
"No, I can make it."
And she did. It was his turn to be surprised into admiration.
"By Jove!" he panted, as they swung into the quiet water of the cove
and stood erect in the shallows, "that was great! You are a good
"Thank you," she answered, breathlessly. "It WAS a tug, wasn't it?
Thank you for warning me. Now tell me about the dangerous places,
He told her, repeating Seth's tales of the tide's strength.
"But it is safe enough here?" she asked.
"Oh, yes! perfectly safe anywhere this side of the narrow part--the
"I'm so glad. This water is glorious, and I began to be afraid I
should have to give it up."
"The creek, and even the bay itself are safe enough at flood," he
went on. "I often go there then. When the tide is coming in it is
all right even for--"
He paused. She finished the sentence for him. "Even for a girl,
you were going to say." She waded forward to where the shoal ended
and the deeper part began. There she turned to look at him over her
"I'm going to that beach over there," she said, pointing across the
cove. "Do you want to race?"
Without waiting to see whether he did or not, she struck out for the
beach. And, without stopping to consider why he did it, the young
man followed her.
The race was not so one-sided. Brown won it by some yards, but he
had to work hard. His competitor did not give up when she found
herself falling behind, but was game to the end.
"Well," she gasped, "you beat me, didn't you? I never could get
that side stroke, and it's ever so much faster."
"It's simple enough. Just a knack. I'll teach you if you like."
"Will you? That's splendid."
"You are the strongest swimmer, Miss Graham, for a girl, that I ever
saw. You must have practiced a great deal."
"Yes, Horace--my brother--taught me. He is a splendid swimmer, one
of the very best."
"Horace Graham? Why, you don't mean Horace Graham of the Harvard
"Yes, I do. He is my brother. But how . . . Do you know him?"
The surprise in her tone was evident. Brown bit his lip. He
remembered that Cape Cod lightkeepers' helpers were not, as a usual
thing, supposed to be widely acquainted in college athletic circles.
"I have met him," he stammered.
"But where--" she began; and then, "why, of course! you met him
here. I forgot that he has been your neighbor for three summers."
The assistant had forgotten it, too, but he was thankful for the
"Yes. Yes, certainly," he said. She regarded him with a puzzled
"It's odd he didn't mention you," she observed. "He has told me a
great deal about the bungalow, and the sea views, and the loneliness
and the quaintness of it all. That was what made me wish to spend a
month down here and experience it myself. And he has often spoken,"
with an irrepressible smile, "of your--of the lightkeeper, Mr.
Atkins. That is his name, isn't it?"
"I want to meet him. Horace said he was--well, rather odd, but,
when you knew him, a fine fellow and full of dry humor. I'm sure I
should like him."
Brown smiled, also--and broadly. He mentally pictured Seth's
reception of the news that he was "liked" by the young lady across
the cove. And then it occurred to him, with startling suddenness,
that he had been conversing very familiarly with that young lady,
notwithstanding the solemn interchange of vows between the
lightkeeper and himself.
"I must be going," he said hastily; "good morning, Miss Graham."
He waded to the shore and strode rapidly back toward the boathouse.
His companion called after him.
"I shall expect you to-morrow afternoon," she said. "You've
promised to teach me that side stroke, remember."
Brown dressed in a great hurry and climbed the path to the lights at
the double quick. All was safe and serene in the house, and he
breathed more freely. Atkins was sound asleep, really asleep, in
the bedroom, and when he emerged he was evidently quite unaware of
his helper's unpremeditated treason. Brown's conscience pricked
him, however, and he went to bed that night vowing over and over
that he would be more careful thereafter. He would take care not to
meet the Graham girl again. Having reached this decision, there
remained nothing but to put her out of his mind entirely; which he
succeeded in doing at a quarter after eleven, when he fell asleep.
Even then she was not entirely absent, for he dreamed a ridiculous
dream about her.
Next day he did not go for a swim, but remained in the house. Seth,
at supper, demanded to know what ailed him.
"You're as mum as the oldest inhabitant of a deaf and dumb asylum,"
was the lightkeeper's comment. "And ugly as a bull in fly time.
What ails you?"
"Humph! better take somethin' for it, seems to me. Little 'Stomach
Balm,' hey? No? Well, GO to bed! Your room's enough sight
better'n your company just now."
The helper's ill nature was in evidence again at breakfast time.
Seth endeavored to joke him out of it, but, not succeeding, and
finding his best jokes received with groans instead of laughter,
gave it up in disgust and retired. The young man cleared the table,
piled the dishes in the sink, heated a kettleful of water and began
the day's drudgery, drudgery which he once thought was fun.
Why had he had the ill luck to fall overboard from that steamer. Or
why didn't he drown when he did fall overboard? Then he would have
been comfortably dead, at all events. Why hadn't he stayed in New
York or Boston or somewhere and kept on trying for a position, for
work--any kind of work? He might have starved while trying, but
people who were starving were self-respecting, and when they met
other people--for instance, sisters of fellows they used to know--
had nothing to be ashamed of and needn't lie--unless they wanted to.
He was a common loafer, under a false name, down on a sandheap
washing dishes. At this point he dropped one of the dishes--a
plate--and broke it.
"D--n!" observed John Brown, under his breath, but with enthusiasm.
He stooped to pick up the fragments of the plate, and, rising once
more to an erect position, found himself facing Miss Ruth Graham.
She was standing in the doorway.
"Don't mind me, please," she said. "No doubt I should feel the same
way if it were my plate."
The young man's first move, after recovery, was to make sure that
the door between the kitchen and the hall leading to the
lightkeeper's bedroom was shut. It was, fortunately. The young
lady watched him in silence, though her eyes were shining.
"Good morning, Mr. Brown," she observed, gravely.
The assistant murmured a good morning, from force of habit.
"There's another piece you haven't picked up," continued the
Brown picked up the piece.
"Is Mr. Atkins in?" inquired the girl.
"Yes, he's--he's in."
"May I see him, please?"
"If he's busy, I can wait." She seated herself in a chair. "Don't
let me interrupt you," she continued. "You were busy, too, weren't
"I was washing dishes," declared Brown, savagely.
"Yes. Washing and sweeping and doing scrubwoman's work are my
"Indeed! Then I'm just in time to help. Is this the dish towel?"
regarding it dubiously.
"It is, but I don't need any help, thank you."
"Of course you do. Everyone is glad to be helped at doing dishes.
I may as well make myself useful while I'm waiting for Mr. Atkins."
She picked up a platter and proceeded to wipe it, quite as a matter
of course. Brown, swearing inwardly, turned fiercely to the suds.
"Did you wish to see Atkins on particular business?" he asked, a
"Oh, no; I wanted to make his acquaintance, that's all. Horace told
me so many interesting things about him. By the way, was it last
summer, or the summer before, that you met my brother here?"
No answer. Miss Graham repeated her question. "Was it last summer
or the summer before?" she asked.
"Oh--er--I don't remember. Last summer, I think."
"Why, you must remember. How could any one forget anything that
happened down here? So few things do happen, I should say. So you
met him last summer?"
"Hum! that's odd."
"Shall I call Atkins? He's in his room."
"I say it is odd, because, when Mrs. Bascom and I first met you, you
told us this was your first summer here."
There wasn't any answer to this; at least the assistant could think
of none at the moment.
"Do you wish me to call Atkins?" he asked, sharply. "He's asleep,
but I can wake him."
"Oh! he's asleep. Now I understand why you whisper even when you
sw--that is, when you break a plate. You were afraid of waking
him. How considerate you are."
Brown put down the dishcloth. "It isn't altogether consideration
for him--or for myself," he said grimly. "I didn't care to wake him
unless you took the responsibility."
"Because, Miss Graham, Seth Atkins took the position of lightkeeper
here almost for the sole reason that no women ever came here. Mr.
Atkins is a woman-hater of the most rabid type. I'll wake him up if
you wish, but I won't be responsible for the consequences."
The young lady stared at him in surprise, delighted surprise
apparently, judging by the expression of her face.
"A woman-hater?" she repeated. "Is he really?"
"He is." Mr. Brown neglected to add that he also had declared
himself a member of the same fraternity. Perhaps he thought it was
"A woman-hater!" Miss Graham fairly bubbled with mischievous joy.
"Oh, jolly! now I'm CRAZY to meet him!"
The assistant moved toward the hall door. "Very good!" he observed
with grim determination. "I think he'll cure your lunacy."
His hand was outstretched toward the latch, when the young lady
"Wait a minute," she said. "Perhaps I had better not wake him now."
"Just as you say. The pleasure is--or will be--entirely mine, I
"No--o. On the whole, I think I'll wait until later. I may call
again. Good morning."
She moved across the threshold. Then, standing on the mica slab
which was the step to the kitchen door, she turned to say:
"You didn't swim yesterday."
"No--o. I--I was busy."
She paused, as if expecting him to say something further on the
subject. He was silent. Her manner changed.
"Good morning," she said, coldly, and walked off. The assistant
watched her as she descended the path to the cove, but she did not
once look back. Brown threw himself into a chair. He had never
hated anyone as thoroughly as he hated himself at the moment.
"What a cheerful liar she must think I am," he reflected. "She
caught me in that fool yarn about meeting her brother here last
summer; and now, after deliberately promising to teach her that
stroke, I don't go near her. What a miserable liar she must think I
am! And I guess I am. By George, I can't be such a cad. I've got
to make good somehow. I must give her ONE lesson. I must."
The tide served for bathing about three that afternoon. At ten
minutes before that hour the substitute assistant keeper of Eastboro
Twin-Lights tiptoed silently to the bedroom of his superior and
peeped in. Seth was snoring peacefully. Brown stealthily withdrew.
At three, precisely, he emerged from the boathouse on the wharf,
clad in his bathing suit.
Fifteen minutes after three, Seth Atkins, in his stocking feet and
with suspicion in his eye, crept along the path to the edge of the
bluff. Crouching behind a convenient sand dune he raised his head
and peered over it.
Below him was the cove, its pleasant waters a smooth, deep blue,
streaked and bordered with pale green. But the water itself did not
interest Seth. In that water was his helper, John Brown, of nowhere
in particular, John Brown, the hater of females, busily engaged in
teaching a young woman to swim.
Atkins watched this animated picture for some minutes. Then,
carefully crawling back up to the path until he was well out of
possible sight from the cove, he rose to his feet, raised both
hands, and shook their clenched fists above his head.
"The liar!" grated Mr. Atkins, between his teeth. "The traitor!
The young blackguard! After tellin' me that he . . . And after my
doin' everything for him that . . . Oh, by Judas, wait! only wait
till he comes back! I'LL l'arn him! I'LL show him! Oh, by jiminy
He strode toward the doorway of the kitchen. There he stopped
short. A woman was seated in the kitchen rocker; a stout woman,
with her back toward him. The room, in contrast to the bright
sunshine without, was shadowy, and Seth, for an instant, could see
her but indistinctly. However, he knew who she must be--the
housekeeper at the bungalow--"Basket" or "Biscuit" his helper had
said was her name, as near as he could remember it. The lightkeeper
ground his teeth. Another female! Well, he would teach this one a
He stepped across the threshold.
"Ma'am," he began, sharply, "perhaps you'll tell me what you--"
He stopped. The stout woman had, at the sound of his step, risen
from the chair, and turned to face him. And now she was staring at
him, her face almost as white as the stone-china cups and saucers on
"Why . . . why . . . SETH!" she gasped.
The lightkeeper staggered back until his shoulders struck the
"Good Lord!" he cried; "good . . . LORD! Why--why--EMELINE!"
For over a minute the pair stared at each other, white and
speechless. Then Mrs. Bascom hurried to the door, darted out, and
fled along the path around the cove to the bungalow. Atkins did not
follow her; he did not even look in the direction she had taken.
Instead, he collapsed in the rocking-chair and put both hands to his
THE BUNGALOW WOMAN
When, an hour later, the swimming teacher, his guilty conscience
pricking him, and the knowledge of having been false to his superior
strong within him, came sneaking into the kitchen, he was startled
and horrified to find the lightkeeper awake and dressed. Mentally
he braced himself for the battery of embarrassing questions which,
he felt sure, he should have to answer. It might be that he must
face something more serious than questions. Quite possible Seth,
finding him absent, had investigated--and seen. Well, if he had,
then he had, that was all. The murder would be out, and Eastboro
Twin-Lights would shortly be shy a substitute assistant keeper.
But there were no embarrassing questions. Atkins scarcely noticed
him. Seated in the rocker, he looked up as the young man entered,
and immediately looked down again. He seemed to be in a sort of
waking dream and only dimly conscious of happenings about him.
"Hello!" hailed the assistant, with an assumption of casual
"Hey? Oh! how be you?" was Mr. Atkins's reply.
"I've been for my dip," explained Brown. "The water was fine to-day."
"Want to know!"
"You're up early, aren't you?"
"Hey? Yes, I guess likely I be."
"What's wrong? Not sick, are you?"
"No. Course I ain't sick. Say!" Seth seemed to take a sudden
interest in the conversation, "you come straight up from the cove,
"You ain't been hangin' around outside here, have you?"
"Hanging around outside? What do you mean?"
"Nothin'. Why do you stand there starin' at me as if I was some
sort of dime show curiosity? Anything queer about me?"
"No. I didn't know I was staring." The young man was bewildered by
this strange behavior. He was prepared for suspicion concerning his
own actions; but Seth seemed rather to be defending himself from
suspicion on the part of his helper.
"Humph!" The lightkeeper looked keenly at him for a moment. Then
"Well, ain't there nothin' to do but stand around? Gettin' pretty
nigh to supper time, ain't it? Put the kettle on and set the table."
It was not supper time, but Brown obeyed orders. Seth went to
cooking. He spoke perhaps three words during the culinary
operations, and a half dozen more during the meal, of which he ate
scarcely a mouthful. After it was over, he put on his cap and went
out, not to his usual lounging spot, the bench, but to walk a full
half mile along the edge of the bluff and there sit in the seclusion
of a clump of bayberry bushes and gaze stonily at nothing in
particular. Here he remained until the deepening dusk reminded him
that it was time the lights were burning. Returning, he lit the
lanterns and sat down in the room at the top of the left-hand tower
to think, and think, and think.
The shadows deepened; the last flush of twilight faded from the
western sky; the stars came out; night and the black silence of
night shrouded Eastboro Twin-Lights. The clock in the tower room
ticked on to nine and then to ten. Still Seth sat, a huddled, dazed
figure in the camp chair, by the great lantern. At last he rose and
went out on the iron balcony. He looked down at the buildings below
him; they were black shapes without a glimmer. Brown had evidently
gone to bed. In the little stable Joshua thumped the side of his
stall once or twice--dreaming, perhaps, that he was again pursued by
the fly-papered Job--and subsided. Atkins turned his gaze across
the inlet. In the rear window of the bungalow a dim light still
burned. As he watched, it was extinguished. He groaned aloud, and,
with his arms on the railing, thought and thought.
Suddenly he heard sounds, faint, but perceptible, above the low
grumble of the surf. They were repeated, the sounds of breaking
sticks, as if some one was moving through the briers and bushes
beyond the stable. Some one was moving there, coming along the path
from the upper end of the cove. Around the corner of the stable a
bulky figure appeared. It came on until it stood beneath the
"Seth," called a low voice; "Seth, are you there?"
For a moment the agitated lightkeeper could not trust his voice to
"Seth," repeated the voice; "Seth."
The figure was moving off in the direction of the other tower. Then
"Here--here I be," he stammered, in a hoarse whisper. "Who is it?"
He knew who it was, perfectly well; the question was quite
"It's me," said the voice. "Let me in, I've got to talk to you."
Slowly, scarcely certain that this was not a part of some dreadful
nightmare, Seth descended the iron ladder to the foot of the tower,
dragged his faltering feet to the door, and slowly swung it open.
The bulky figure entered instantly.
"Shut the door," said Mrs. Bascom.
"Hey? What?" stammered Seth.
"I say, shut that door. Hurry up! Land sakes, HURRY! Do you
suppose I want anybody to know I'm here?"
The lightkeeper closed the door. The clang reverberated through the
tower like distant thunder. The visitor started nervously.
"Mercy!" she exclaimed; "what a racket! What made you slam it?"
"Didn't," grumbled Seth. "Any kind of a noise sounds up in here."
"I should think as much. It's enough to wake the dead."
"Ain't nobody BUT the dead to wake in this place."
"Yes, there is; there's that young man of yours, that Brown one. He
ain't dead, is he?"
"Humph! he's asleep, and that's next door to dead--with him."
"Well, I'm glad of it. My nerves are pretty steady as a general
thing, but I declare I'm all of a twitter to-night--and no wonder.
It's darker than a pocket in here. Can't we have a light?"
Atkins stumbled across the stone floor and took the lantern from the
hook by the stairs. He struck a match, and it went out; he tried
another, with the same result. Mrs. Bascom fidgeted.
"Mercy on us!" she cried; "what DOES ail the thing?"
Seth's trembling fingers could scarcely hold the third match. He
raked it across the whitewashed wall and broke the head short off.
"Thunder to mighty!" he snarled, under his breath.
"But what DOES--"
"What does? What do you s'pose? You ain't the only one that's got
nerves, are you?"
The next trial was successful, and the lantern was lighted. With it
in his hand, he turned and faced his caller. They looked at each
other. Mrs. Bascom drew a long breath.
"It is you," she said. "I couldn't scarcely believe it. It is
Seth's answer was almost a groan. "It's you," he said. "You--down
This ended the conversation for another minute. Then the lady
seemed to awake to the realities of the situation.
"Yes," she said, "it's me--and it's you. We're here, both of us.
Though why on earth YOU should be, I don't know."
"Me? Me? Why, I belong here. But you--what in time sent you here?
Unless," with returning suspicion, "you came because I--"
He paused, warned by the expression on his caller's face.
"What was that?" she demanded.
"Nothin', I guess. If you was flatterin' yourself with the idea
that I came here to chase after you, you never was more mistaken in
your life, or ever will be. You set down. You and I have got to
talk. Set right down."
The lightkeeper hesitated. Then he obeyed orders by seating himself
on an oil barrel lying on its side near the wall. The lantern he
placed on the floor at his feet. Mrs. Bascom perched on one of the
lower steps of the iron stairs.
"Now," she said, "we've got to talk. Seth Bascom--"
Seth started violently.
"What is it?" asked the lady. "Why did you jump like that? Nobody
comin', is there?"
"No. No . . . But I couldn't help jumpin' when you called me that
"That name? It's your name, isn't it? Oh," she smiled slightly; "I
remember now. You've taken the name of Atkins since we saw each
"I didn't take it; it belonged to me. You know my middle name. I
just dropped the Bascom, that's all."
"I see. Just as you dropped--some other responsibilities. Why
didn't you drop the whole christenin' and start fresh? Why did you
hang on to 'Seth'?"
The lightkeeper looked guilty. Mrs. Bascom's smile broadened. "I
know," she went on. "You didn't really like to drop it all. It was
too much of a thing to do on your hook, and there wasn't anybody to
tell you to do it, and so you couldn't quite be spunky enough to--"
He interrupted her. "That wa'n't the reason," he said shortly.
"What was the reason?"
"You want to know, do you?"
"Yes, I do."
"Well, the 'Bascom' part wa'n't mine no more--not all mine. I'd
given it to you."
"O--oh! oh, I see. And you ran away from your name as you ran away
from your wife. I see. And . . . why, of course! you came down
here to run away from all the women. Miss Ruth said this mornin'
she was told--I don't know who by--that the lightkeeper was a woman-
hater. Are you the woman-hater, Seth?"
Mr. Atkins looked at the floor. "Yes, I be," he answered, sullenly.
"Do you wonder?"
"I don't wonder at your runnin' away; that I should have expected.
But there," more briskly, "this ain't gettin' us anywhere. You're
here--and I'm here. Now what's your idea of the best thing to be
done, under the circumstances?"
Seth shifted his feet. "One of us better go somewheres else, if you
ask me," he declared.
"Run away again, you mean? Well, I sha'n't run away. I'm Miss
Ruth's housekeeper for the summer. I answered her advertisement in
the Boston paper and we agreed as to wages and so on. I like her
and she likes me. Course if I'd known my husband was in the
neighborhood, I shouldn't have come here; but I didn't know it. Now
I'm here and I'll stay my time out. What are you goin' to do?"
"I'm goin' to send in my resignation as keeper of these lights.
That's what I'm goin' to do, and I'll do it to-morrow."
"Run away again?"
"Why? WHY? Emeline Bascom, do you ask me that?"
"I do, yes. See here, Seth, we ain't children, nor sentimental
young folks. We're sensible, or we'd ought to be. Land knows we're
old enough. I shall stay here and you ought to. Nobody knows I was
your wife or that you was my husband, and nobody needs to know it.
We ain't even got the same names. We're strangers, far's folks
know, and we can stay strangers."
"But--but to see each other every day and--"
"Why not? We've seen each other often enough so that the sight
won't be so wonderful. And we'll keep our bein' married a secret.
I sha'n't boast of it, for one."
"But--but to SEE each other--"
"Well, we needn't see each other much. Why, we needn't see each
other any, unless I have to run over to borrer somethin', same as
neighbors have to every once in a while. I can guess what's
troublin' you; it's young Brown. You've told him you're a woman-
hater, haven't you?"
"Yes, I have."
"Humph! Is he one, too?"
The lightkeeper's mouth was twisted with a violent emotion. He
remembered his view of that afternoon's swimming lesson.
"He said he was," he snarled. "He pretends he is."
Mrs. Bascom smiled. "I want to know," she said. "Umph! I
thought . . . However, it's no matter. Perhaps he is. Anyhow
he can pretend to be and you can pretend to believe him. That'll
be the easiest way, I guess. Of course," she added, "I ain't tellin'
you what to do with any idea that you'll do it because I say so.
The time for that is all past and gone. But it seems to me that,
for once in my life, I'd be man enough to stick it out. I wouldn't
run away again."
Seth did not answer. He scowled and stared at the circle of lantern
light on the stone floor. Mrs. Bascom rose from her seat on the
"Well," she observed, "I must be gettin' back to the house if I want
to get any sleep to-night. I doubt if I get much, for a body don't
get over a shock, such as I've had, in a minute. But I'm goin' to
get over it and I'm goin' to stay right here and do my work; I'm
goin' to go through with what seems to be my duty, no matter how
hard it is. I've done it afore, and I'll do it again. I've
promised, and I keep my promises. Good night."
She started toward the door. Her husband sprang from the oil
"Hold on," he cried; "you wait a minute. I've got somethin' to
She shook her head. "I can't wait," she said; "I've got to go."
"No, you ain't, neither. You can stay a spell longer, if you want
"Perhaps, but I don't want to."
"Why not? What are you afraid of?"
"Afraid! I don't know as I'm afraid of anything--that is," with a
contemptuous sniff, "nothin' I see around here."
"Then what are YOU runnin' away for?"
This was putting the matter in a new light. Mrs. Bascom regarded
her husband with wrathful amazement, which slowly changed to an
"Oh," she said, "if you think I'm runnin' away, why--"
"I don't see what else 'tis. If I ain't scart to have you here, I
don't see why you should be scart to stay. Set down on them stairs
again; I want to talk to you."
The lady hesitated an instant and then returned to her former seat.
Seth went back to his barrel.
"Emeline," he said. "I'll stay here on my job."
She looked surprised, but she nodded.
"I'm glad to hear it," she said. "I'm glad you've got that much
"Yup; well, I have. I came down here to get clear of everybody,
women most of all. Now the one woman that--that--"
"That you 'specially wanted to get clear of--"
"No! No! that ain't the truth, and you know it. She set out to
get clear of me--and I let her have her way, same as I done in
"She didn't set out to get clear of you."
"No, she didn't."
"I say she did."
Mrs. Bascom rose once more. Seth Bascom," she declared, "if all you
wanted me to stay here for is to be one of a pair of katydids,
hollerin' at each other, I'm goin'. I'm no bug; I'm a woman."
"Emeline, you set down. You've hove out a whole lot of hints about
my not bein' a man because I run away from your house. Do you think
I'd have been more of a man if I'd stayed in it? Stayed there and
been a yaller dog to be kicked out of one corner and into another by
you and--and that brother-in-law of yours. That's all I was--a dog."
"Humph! if a dog's the right breed--and big enough--it's his own
fault if he's kicked twice."
"Not if he cares more for his master than he does for himself--
"Why, yes, it is. He can make his master respect him by provin' he
ain't the kind of dog to kick. And maybe one of his masters--his
real master, for he hadn't ought to have but one--might be needin'
the right kind of watchdog around the house. Might be in trouble
her--himself, I mean; and be hopin' and prayin' for the dog to
protect her--him, I should say. And then the--"
"Emeline, what are you talkin' about?"
"Oh, nothin', nothin'. Seth, what's the use of us two settin' here
at twelve o'clock at night and quarrelin' over what's past and
settled? I sha'n't do it, for one. I don't want to quarrel with
Seth sighed. "And I don't want to quarrel with you, Emeline," he
agreed. "As you say, there's no sense in it. Dear! dear! this,
when you come to think of it, is the queerest thing altogether that
ever was in the world, I guess. Us two had all creation to roam
'round in, and we landed at Eastboro Twin-Lights. It seems almost
as if Providence done it, for some purpose or other."
"Yes; or the other critter, for HIS purposes. How did you ever come
to be keeper of a light, Seth?"
"Why--why--I don't know. I used to be in the service, 'fore I went
to sea much. You remember I told you I did. And I sort of drifted
down here. I didn't care much what became of me, and I wanted a
lonesome hole to hide in, and this filled the bill. I've been here
ever since I left--left--where I used to be. But, Emeline, how did
YOU come here? You answered an advertisement, you told me; but
"'Cause I wanted to do somethin' to earn my livin'. I was alone,
and I rented my house and boarded. But boardin' ain't much comfort,
'specially when you board where everybody knows you, and knows your
story. So I--"
"Wait a minute. You was alone, you say? Where was--was HE?"
"Yes. You know who I mean."
He would not speak the hated name. His wife spoke it for him.
"Bennie?" she asked. "Oh, he ain't been with me for 'most two year
now. He--he went away. He's in New York now. And I was alone and
I saw Miss Graham's advertisement for a housekeeper and answered it.
I needed the money and--"
"Hold on! You needed the money? Why, you had money."
"Abner left me a little, but it didn't last forever. And--"
"You had more'n a little. I wrote to bank folks there and turned
over my account to you. And I sent 'em a power of attorney turnin'
over some stocks--you know what they was--to you, too. I done that
soon's I got to Boston. Didn't they tell you?"
"Yes, they told me."
"Well, then, that ought to have helped along."
"You don't s'pose I took it, do you?"
"Why not! Do you s'pose I'd use the money that belonged to the
husband that run off and left me? I ain't that kind of a woman.
The money and stocks are at the bank yet, I s'pose; anyhow they're
there for all of me."
The lightkeeper's mouth opened and stayed open for seconds before he
could use it as a talking machine. He could scarcely believe what
he had heard.
"But--but I wanted you to have it," he gasped. "I left it for you."
"Well, I didn't take it; 'tain't likely!" with fiery indignation.
"Did you think I could be bought off like a--a mean--oh, I don't
"But--but I left it at the bank--for you. What--what'll I do with
"I don't know, I'm sure. You might give it to Sarah Ann Christy; I
wouldn't wonder if she was less particular than I be."
Seth's guns were spiked, for the moment. He felt the blood rush to
face, and his fists, as he brandished them in the air, trembled.
"I--I--you--you--" he stammered. "I--I--you think I--"
He knew that his companion would regard his agitation as an evidence
of conscious guilt, and this knowledge did not help to calm him. He
strode up and down the floor.
"Look out," said Mrs. Bascom, coldly, "you'll kick over the
Her husband stopped in his stride. "Darn the lantern!" he shouted.
"S-sh-sh! you'll wake up the Brown man."
This warning was more effective. But Seth was still furious.
"Emeline Bascom," he snarled, shaking his forefinger in her face,
"you've said over and over that I wa'n't a man. You have, haven't
She was looking at his shirt cuff, then but a few inches from her
"Who sewed on that button?" she asked.
This was so unexpected that his wrath was, for the instant,
displaced by astonishment.
"What?" he asked. "What button?"
"That one on your shirt sleeve. Who sewed it on?"
"Why, I did, of course. What a crazy question that is!"
She smiled. "I guessed you did," she said. "Nobody but a man would
sew a white button on a white shirt--or one that was white once--
with black thread."
He looked at the button and then at her. His anger returned.
"You said I wa'n't a man, didn't you?" he demanded.
"Yes, I did. But I'll have to take part of it back. You're half a
man anyhow; that sewin' proves it."
"Huh! I want to know. Well, maybe I ain't a man; maybe I'm only
half a one. But I ain't a fool! I ain't a fool!"
She sighed wearily. "Well, all right," she admitted. "I sha'n't
"You needn't. I ain't--or anyhow I ain't an EVERLASTIN' fool. And
nobody but the everlastin'est of all fools would chase Sarah Ann
Christy. I didn't. That whole business was just one of your--your
Bennie D.'s lies. You know that, too."
"I know some one lied; I heard 'em. They denied seein' Sarah Ann,
and I saw 'em with her--with my own eyes I saw 'em. . . . But
there, there," she added; "this is enough of such talk. I'm goin'
"I didn't lie; I forgot."
"All right, then, you forgot. I ain't jealous, Seth. I wa'n't even
jealous then. Even then I give you a chance, and you didn't take
it--you 'forgot' instead. I'm goin' back to the bungalow, but afore
I go let's understand this: you're to stay here at the lights, and I
stay where I am as housekeeper. We don't see each other any oftener
than we have to, and then only when nobody else is around. We won't
let my Miss Graham nor your Brown nor anybody know we've ever met
afore--or are meetin' now. Is that it?"
Seth hesitated. "Yes," he said, slowly, "I guess that's it. But,"
he added, anxiously, "I--I wish you'd be 'specially careful not to
let that young feller who's workin' for me know. Him and me had a--
a sort of agreement and--and I--I--"
"He sha'n't know. Good-by."
She fumbled with the latch of the heavy door. He stepped forward
and opened it for her. The night was very dark; a heavy fog, almost
a rain, had drifted in while they were together. She didn't seem to
notice or mind the fog or blackness, but went out and disappeared
beyond the faint radiance which the lantern cast through the open
door. She blundered on and turned the corner of the house; then she
heard steps behind her.
"Who is it?" she whispered, in some alarm.
"Me," whispered the lightkeeper, gruffly. "I'll go with you a
"No, of course you won't. I'm goin' alone."
"It's too dark for you to go alone. You'll lose the way."
"I'm goin' alone, I tell you! Go back. I don't want you."
"I know you don't; but I'm goin'. You'll fetch up in the cove or
somewheres if you try to navigate this path on your own hook."
"I sha'n't. I'm used to findin' my own way, and I'm goin' alone--as
I've had to do for a good while. Go back."
She stopped short. Seth stopped, also.
"Go back," she insisted, adding scornfully: "I don't care for your
help at all. I'm partic'lar about my company."
"I ain't," sullenly. "Anyhow, I'm goin' to pilot you around the end
of that cove. You sha'n't say I let you get into trouble when I
might have kept you out of it."
"Say? Who would I say it to? Think I'm so proud of this night's
cruise that I'll brag of it? WILL you go back?"
They descended the hill, Mrs. Bascom in advance. She could not see
the path, but plunged angrily on through the dripping grass and
"Emeline--Emeline," whispered Seth. She paid no attention to him.
They reached the foot of the slope and suddenly the lady realized
that her shoes, already wet, were now ankle deep in water. And
there seemed to be water amid the long grass all about her.
"Why? What in the world?" she exclaimed involuntarily. "What is
"The salt marsh at the end of the cove," answered the lightkeeper.
"I told you you'd fetch up in it if you tried to go alone. Been
tryin' to tell you you was off the track, but you wouldn't listen to
And she would not listen to him now. Turning, she splashed past
"Hold on," he whispered, seizing her arm. "That ain't the way."
She shook herself from his grasp.
"WILL you let me be, and mind your own business?" she hissed.
"No, I won't. I've set out to get you home, and I'll do it if I
have to carry you."
"Carry me? You? You DARE!"
His answer was to pick her up in his arms. She was no light weight,
and she fought and wriggled fiercely, but Seth was big and strong
and he held her tight. She did not scream; she was too anxious not
to wake either the substitute assistant or Miss Graham, but she made
her bearer all the trouble she could. They splashed on for some
distance; then Seth set her on her feet, and beneath them was dry
"There!" he grumbled, breathlessly. "Now I cal'late you can't miss
the rest of it. There's the bungalow right in front of you."
"You--you--" she gasped, chokingly.
"Ugh!" grunted her husband, and stalked off into the dark.
BEHIND THE SAND DUNE
"A fog last night, wasn't there?" inquired Brown. Breakfast was
over, and Seth was preparing for his day's sleep.
"Yes, some consider'ble," was the gruff answer; then, more sharply,
"How'd you know? 'Twas all gone this mornin'."
"Oh, I guessed, that's all."
"Humph! Guessed, hey? You wa'n't up in the night, was you?"
"No. Slept like a top all through."
"Humph! . . . Well, that's good; sleep's a good thing. Cal'late
I'll turn in and get a little myself."
He moved toward the living room. At the door he paused and asked
"How'd you--er--guess there was fog last night?" he inquired.
"Oh, that was easy; everything--grass and bushes--were so wet this
morning. Those boots of yours, for example," pointing to the pair
the lightkeeper had just taken off, "they look as if you had worn
His back was toward his superior as he spoke, therefore he did not
see the start which the latter gave at this innocent observation,
nor the horrified glare at the soaked boots. But he could not help
noticing the change in Seth's voice.
"Wa--wadin'?" repeated Atkins faintly. "What's that you say?"
"I said the boots were as wet as if you had been wading. Why?"
"Wha--what made you say a fool thing like that? How could I go
wadin' on top of a lighthouse?"
"I don't know. . . . There, there!" impatiently, "don't ask any more
questions. I didn't say you had been wading, and I didn't suppose
you really had. I was only joking. What IS the matter with you?"
"Nothin' . . . nothin'. So you was just jokin', hey? Ha, ha! Yes,
yes, wadin' up in a lighthouse would be a pretty good joke. I--I
didn't see it at first, you know. Ha, ha! I thought you must be
off your head. Thought you'd been swimmin' too much or somethin'.
So long, I'm goin' to bed."
But now it was the helper's turn to start and stammer.
"Wait!" he cried. "What--what did you say about my--er--swimming,
"Oh, nothin', nothin'. I was just jokin', same as you was about the
wadin'. Ha, ha!"
Both laughed with great heartiness. The door shut between them, and
each stared doubtfully at his side of it for several moments before
That forenoon was a dismal one for John Brown. His troublesome
conscience, stirred by Seth's reference to swimming, was again in
full working order. He tried to stifle its reproaches, tried to
give his entire attention to his labors about the lights and in the
kitchen, but the consciousness of guilt was too strong. He felt
mean and traitorous, a Benedict Arnold on a small scale. He had
certainly treated Atkins shabbily; Atkins, the man who trusted him
and believed in him, whom he had loftily reproved for "spying" and
then betrayed. Yet, in a way his treason, so far, had been
unavoidable. He had promised--had even OFFERED to teach the Graham
girl the "side stroke." He had not meant to make such an offer or
promise, but Fate had tricked him into it, and he could not, as a
gentleman, back out altogether. He had been compelled to give her
one lesson. But he need not give her another. He need not meet her
again. He would not. He would keep the agreement with Seth and
forget the tenants of the bungalow altogether. Good old Atkins!
Good old Seth, the woman-hater! How true he was to his creed, the
creed which he, Brown, had so lately professed. It was a good
creed, too. Women were at the bottom of all the world's troubles.
They deserved to be hated. He would never, never--
"Well, by George!" he exclaimed aloud.
He was looking once more at the lightkeeper's big leather boots.
One of them was lying on its side, and the upturned sole and heel
were thickly coated with blue clay. He crossed the room, picked up
the boots and examined them. Each was smeared with the clay. He
put them down again, shook his head, wandered over to the rocking-
chair and sat down.
Seth had cleaned and greased those boots before he went to bed the
day before; Brown had seen him doing it. He had put them on after
supper, just before going on watch; the substitute assistant had
seen him do that, also. Therefore, the clay must have been acquired
sometime during the evening or night just past. And certainly there
was no clay at the "top of the lighthouse," or anywhere in the
neighborhood except at one spot--the salt marsh at the inner end of
the cove. Seth must have visited that marsh in the nighttime. But
why? And, if he had done so, why did he not mention the fact? And,
now that the helper thought of it, why had he been so agitated at
the casual remark concerning wading? What was he up to? Now that
the Daisy M. and story of the wife were no longer secrets, what had
Seth Atkins to conceal?
Brown thought and guessed and surmised, but guesses and surmises
were fruitless. He finished his dishwashing and began another of
the loathed housekeeping tasks, that of rummaging the pantry and
seeing what eatables were available for his luncheon and the evening
He spread the various odds and ends on the kitchen table,
preparatory to taking account of stock. A part of a slab of bacon,
a salt codfish, some cold clam fritters, a few molasses cookies, and
half a loaf of bread. He had gotten thus far in the inventory when
a shadow darkened the doorway. He turned and saw Mrs. Bascom, the
"Good mornin'," said Mrs. Bascom.
Brown answered coldly. Why on earth was it always his luck to be
present when these female nuisances made their appearance? And why
couldn't they let him alone, just as he had determined to let them
alone--in the future? Of course he was glad that the caller was not
Miss Graham, but this one was bad enough.
"Morning," he grunted, and took another dish, this one containing a
section of dry and ancient cake, Seth's manufacture, from the
"What you doin'? Gettin' breakfast this time of day?" asked the
housekeeper, entering the kitchen. She had a small bowl in her
"No," replied Brown.
"Dinner, then? Pretty early for that, ain't it?"
"I am not getting either breakfast or dinner--or supper, madam,"
replied the helper, with emphasis. "Is there anything I can do for
"Well, I don't know but there is. I come over hopin' you might.
How's the stings?"
"The wasp bites."
"They're all, right, thank you."
"You're welcome, I'm sure. Did you put the cold mud on 'em, same as
I told you to?"
"No. . . . What was it you wanted?"
Mrs. Bascom looked about for a seat. The rocker was at the opposite
side of the room, and the other chair contained a garment belonging
to Mr. Atkins, one which that gentleman, with characteristic
disregard of the conventionalities, had discarded before leaving the
kitchen and had forgotten to take with him. The lady picked up the
garment, looked at it, and sat down in the chair.
"Your boss is to bed, I s'pose likely?" she asked.
"You mean Mr. Atkins? I suppose likely he is."
"Um. I judged he was by"--with a glance at the garment which she
still held--"the looks of things. What in the world ARE you doin'--
The young man sighed wearily. "Yes," he said with forced resignation,
"something of that sort."
"Seein' what there was to eat, I guess."
"You guess right. You said you had an errand, I think."
"Did I? Well, I come to see if I couldn't . . . What's that stuff?
She rose, picked up a slice of the dry cake, broke it between her
fingers, smelled of it, and replaced it on the plate.
"'Tis cake, ain't it?" she observed; "or it was, sometime or other.
Who made it? You?"
"Oh, your boss, Mr.--er--Atkins, hey?"
"Yes. Considering that there are only two of us here, and I didn't
make it, it would seem pretty certain that he must have."
"Yes, I guess that's right; unless 'twas some that washed ashore
from Noah's Ark, and it's too dry for that. What on earth are
these?" picking up one of the molasses cookies; "stove lids?"
Brown grinned, in spite of his annoyance.
"Those are supposed to be cookies," he admitted.
"Are they? Yes, yes. Mr. Atkins responsible for them?"
"No--o. I'm afraid those are one of my experiments, under Mr.
Atkins's directions and orders. I'm rather proud of those cookies,
"You'd ought to be. There, there!" with a smile, "I guess you think
I'm pretty free with my criticism and remarks, don't you? You must
excuse me. Housekeepin'--'specially the cookin' part--is my hobby,
as you might say, and I was interested to see how a couple of men
got along with the job. I mustn't set around and keep you from your
work. You might want to make some more cookies, or somethin'."
The substitute assistant laughed aloud. "I wasn't thinking of it,"
he said; "but I shall be glad to make the attempt if it would afford
Mrs. Bascom laughed, too. "I guess you're better natured than I
thought you was," she observed. "It might amuse me some, I will
admit, but I ain't got the time. I came to borrow some butter, if
you've got any to spare. Down here we're as far from supplies as
the feller that run the Ark I was mentionin', old Noah himself."
Brown took the bowl from her hands and went to the pantry to get the
butter. When he turned again she was standing by the door, one hand
hidden beneath her apron. She took the bowl with the other.
"Much obliged," she said. "I'll fetch this back soon's the grocery
cart comes. Miss Graham made arrangements to have him drive across
every Saturday. Or, rather, I arranged for it myself. Her head's
too full of paintin' and scenery to think of much else. I tell her
you can't eat an ile paintin'--unless you're born a goat. Good-by."
She went away. Brown chuckled and went on with his account of
Seth "turned out" rather early that day. At half past one he
appeared in the kitchen, partially dressed.
"Where in time is my shirt?" he demanded impatiently.
"My shirt. I thought I took it off out here. Could have sworn I
did. Guess likely I didn't, though. Must be gettin' absent-
He was on his way back to the bedroom when his helper called.
"You did take it off out here," he cried. "It was on that chair
there. I remember seeing it. Probably it has fallen on the floor
Atkins returned, grumbling that the kitchen floor was a "healthy
place to heave a shirt."
"Where is it?" he asked after a hurried search. "I can't find it
nowheres. Didn't put it in the fire, did ye?"
"Of course I didn't. I saw it. . . . Why, I remember that woman's
picking it up when she sat down."
"Woman? What woman?"
"That Baskin--Buskin--whatever her name is. The housekeeper at the
"Was she--HERE?" Seth's question was almost a shout. His helper
stared at him.
"Yes," he answered; "she was. She came to borrow some butter."
"Why, yes. You didn't think I invited her in for a morning call,
did you? Don't act as if you had been struck by lightning. It's
not so very serious. We've got to expect some trouble of that kind.
I got rid of her as soon as I could."
"Yes, I did. You should thank me. I am on duty during the day, and
I suppose most of that sort of thing will fall on me. You're lucky.
Our neighbors aren't likely to make many calls after dark. . . .
What's the matter now? Why are you looking at me like that?"
Seth walked to the door and leaned against the post. Brown repeated
his question. "What IS the matter?" he asked. "You act just as you
did when I first happened into this forsak--this place. If you've
got any more hideous secrets up your sleeve I'm going to quit."
"Secrets!" Atkins laughed, or tried to. "I ain't got any secrets,"
he declared, "any more than you have."
The latter half of this speech shut off further questioning. Brown
turned hastily away, and the lightkeeper went into his bedroom and
"Find your shirt?" asked the young man an hour or so later.
"Hey? Yes, yes; I found it."
"In your room? That's odd. I could have sworn I saw it out here.
Is that it you're wearing?"
"Hey? No. That was--was sort of s'iled, so I put on my other one.
I--I cal'late I'll go over and work on the Daisy M. a spell, unless
you need me."
"I don't need you. Go ahead."
The time dragged for John Brown after his superior's departure.
There was work enough to be done, but he did not feel like doing it.
He wandered around the house and lights, gloomy, restless and
despondent. Occasionally he glanced at the clock.
It was a beautiful afternoon, just the afternoon for a swim, and he
was debarred from swimming, not only that day, but for all the
summer days to come. No matter what Seth's new secret might be, it
was surely not connected with the female sex, and Brown would be
true to the solemn compact between them. He could not bathe in the
cove because Miss Graham would be there.
At four o'clock he stood in the shadow of the light tower looking
across the cove. As he looked he saw Miss Graham, in bathing
attire, emerge from the bungalow and descend the bluff. She did not
see him and, to make sure that she might not, he dodged back out of
sight. Then he saw something else.
Out on the dunes back of the barn he caught a glimpse of a figure
darting to cover behind a clump of bushes. The figure was a
familiar one, but what was it doing there? He watched the bushes,
but they did not move. Then he entered the house, went upstairs,
and cautiously peered from the back attic window.
The bushes remained motionless for some minutes. Then they stirred
ever so slightly, and above them appeared the head of Seth Atkins.
Seth seemed to be watching the cove and the lights. For another
minute he peered over the bushes, first at the bathing waters below
and then at his own dwelling. Brown ground his teeth. The light-
keeper was "spying" again, was watching to see if he violated his
But no, that could not be, for now Seth, apparently sure that the
coast was clear, emerged from his hiding place and ran in a stooping
posture until he reached another clump further off and nearer the
end of the cove. He remained there an instant and then ran, still
crouching, until he disappeared behind a high dune at the rear of
the bungalow. And there he stayed; at least Brown did not see him
What he did see, however, was just as astonishing. The landward
door of the bungalow opened, and Mrs. Bascom, the housekeeper,
stepped out into the yard. She seemed to be listening and looking.
Apparently she must have heard something, for she moved away for
some little distance and stood still. Then, above the edge of the
dune, showed Seth's head and arm. He beckoned to her. She walked
briskly across the intervening space, turned the ragged, grass-grown
corner of the knoll and disappeared, also. Brown, scarcely
believing his eyes, waited and watched, but he saw no more. Neither
Seth nor the housekeeper came out from behind that dune.
But the substitute assistant had seen enough--quite enough. Seth
Atkins, Seth, the woman-hater, the man who had threatened him with
all sorts of penalties if he ever so much as looked at a female, was
meeting one of the sex himself, meeting her on the sly. What it
meant Brown could not imagine. Probably it explained the clay
smears on the boots and Seth's discomfiture of the morning; but that
was immaterial. The fact, the one essential fact, was this: the
compact was broken. Seth had broken it. Brown was relieved of all
responsibility. If he wished to swim in that cove, no matter who
might be there, he was perfectly free to do it. And he would do it,
by George! He had been betrayed, scandalously, meanly betrayed, and
it would serve the betrayer right if he paid him in his own coin.
He darted down the attic stairs, ran down the path to the boathouse,
hurriedly changed his clothes for his bathing suit, ran along the
shore of the creek and plunged in.
Miss Graham waved a hand to him as he shook the water from his eyes.
Over behind the sand dune a more or less interesting interview was
taking place. Seth, having made sure that his whistles were heard
and his signals seen, sank down in the shadow and awaited
developments. They were not long in coming. A firm footstep
crunched the sand, and Mrs. Bascom appeared.
"Well," she inquired coldly, "what's the matter now?"
Mr. Atkins waved an agitated hand.
"Set down," he begged. "Scooch down out of sight, Emeline, for the
land sakes. Don't stand up there where everybody can see you."
The lady refused to "scooch."
"If I ain't ashamed of bein' seen," she observed, "I don't know why
you should be. What are you doin' over here anyhow; skippin' 'round
in the sand like a hoptoad?"
The lightkeeper repeated his plea.
"Do set down, Emeline, please," he urged. "I thought you and me'd
agreed that nobody'd ought to see us together."
Mrs. Bascom gathered her skirts about her and with great
deliberation seated herself upon a hummock.
"We did have some such bargain," she replied. "That's why I can't
understand your hidin' at my back door and whistlin' and wavin' like
a young one. What did you come here for, anyway?"
Seth answered with righteous indignation.
"I come for my shirt," he declared.
"Yes, my other shirt. I left it in the kitchen this mornin', and
that--that helper of mine says you was in the chair along with it."
"Humph! Did he have the impudence to say I took it?"
"No--o. No, course he didn't. But it's gone and--and--"
"What would I want of your shirt? Didn't think I was cal'latin' to
wear it, did you?"
"I should hope not. I ain't a Doctor Mary Walker, or whatever her
"But you did take it, just the same. I'm sartin you did. You must
The lady's mouth relaxed, and there was a twinkle in her eye.
"All right, Seth," she said. "Suppose I did; what then?"
"I want it back, that's all."
"You can have it. Now what do you s'pose I took it for?"
"I--I--I don't know."
"You don't know? Humph! Did you think I wanted to keep it as a
souveneer of last night's doin's?"
Her companion looked rather foolish. He picked up a handful of sand
and sifted it through his fingers.
"No--o," he stammered. "I--I know how partic'lar you are--you used
to be about such things, and I thought maybe you didn't like the way
that button was sewed on."
He glanced up at her with an embarrassed smile, which broadened as
he noticed her expression.
"Well," she admitted, "you guessed right. There's some things I
can't bear to have in my neighborhood, and your kind of sewin' is
one of 'em. Besides, I owed you that much for keepin' me out of the
wet last night."
"Oh! I judged by the way you lit into me for luggin' you acrost
that marsh that all you owed me was a grudge. I DID lug you,
though, in spite of your kickin', didn't I?"
He nodded with grim triumph. She smiled.
"You did, that's a fact," she said. "I was pretty mad at the time,
but when I come to think it over I felt diff'rent. Anyhow I've
sewed on those buttons the way they'd ought to be."
"Much obliged. I guess they'll stay now for a spell. You always
could sew on buttons better'n anybody ever I see."
"Humph!" . . . Then, after an interval of silence: "What are you
grinnin' to yourself about?"
"Hey? . . . Oh, I was just thinkin' how you mended up that Rogers
young one's duds when he fell out of our Bartlett pear tree. He was
the raggedest mess ever I come acrost when I picked him up. Yellin'
like a wild thing he was, and his clothes half tore off."
"No wonder he yelled. Caught stealin' pears--he expected to be
thrashed for that--and he KNEW Melindy Rogers would whip him, for
tearin' his Sunday suit. Poor little thing! Least I could do was
to make his clothes whole. I always pity a child with a stepmother,
special when she's Melindy's kind."
"What's become of them Rogerses? Still livin' in the Perry house,
"No. Old Abel Perry turned 'em out of that when the rent got
behind. He's the meanest skinflint that ever strained skim milk.
He got married again a year ago."
"NO! Who was the victim? Somebody from the Feeble-Minded Home?"
She gave the name of Mr. Perry's bride, and before they knew it the
pair were deep in village gossip. For many minutes they discussed
the happenings in the Cape Ann hamlet, and then Seth was recalled to
the present by a casual glance at his watch.
"Land!" he exclaimed. "Look at the time! This talk with you has
seemed so--so natural and old-timey, that . . . Well, I've got to
He was scrambling to his feet. She also attempted to rise, but
found it difficult.
"Here," he cried, "give me your hand. I'll help you up."
"I don't want any help. Let me alone. Let me ALONE, I tell you."
His answer was to seize her about the waist and swing her bodily to
her feet. She was flushed and embarrassed. Then she laughed
shortly and shook her head.
"What are you laughin' at?" he demanded, peering over the knoll to
make sure that neither John Brown nor Miss Graham was in sight.
"Oh, not much," she answered. "You kind of surprise me, Seth."
"'Cause you've changed so."
"Oh, changed, that's all. You seem to have more spunk than you used
"Humph! Think so, do you?"
"Yes, I do. I think bein' a lightkeeper must be good for some
folks--some kind of folks."
"I want to know!"
"Yes, you better be careful, or you'll be a real man some day."
His answer was an angry stare and a snort. Then he turned on his
heel and was striding off.
"Wait!" she called. "Hold on! Don't you want your shirt? Stay
here, and I'll go into the house and fetch it."
He waited, sullen and reluctant, until she returned with the article
of apparel in one hand and the other concealed beneath her apron.
"Here it is," she said, presenting the shirt to him.
"Thank you," he grumbled, taking it. "Much obliged for sewin' on
"You're welcome. It squares us for your pilotin' me over the marsh,
that's all. 'Twa'n't any favor; I owed it to you."
He was turning the shirt over in his hands.
"Well," he began, then stopped and looked fixedly at the garment.
"I see you've mended that hole in the sleeve," he said. "You didn't
owe me that, did you?"
She changed color slightly.
"Oh," she said, with a toss of her head, "that's nothin'. Just for
good measure. I never could abide rags on anybody that--that I had
to look at whether I wanted to or not."
"'Twas real good of you to mend it, Emeline. Say," he stirred the
sand with his boot, "you mentioned that you cal'lated I'd changed
some, was more of a man than I used to be. Do you know why?"
"No. Unless," with sarcasm, "it was because I wa'n't around."
"It ain't that. It's because, Emeline, it's because down here I'm
nigher bein' where I belong than anywheres else but one place. That
place is at sea. When I'm on salt water I'm a man--you don't
believe it, but I am. On land I--I don't seem to fit in right.
Keepin' a light like this is next door to bein' at sea."
"Seth, I want to ask you a question. Why didn't you go to sea when
you ran--when you left me? I s'posed of course you had. Why didn't
He looked at her in surprise.
"Go to sea?" he repeated. "Go to SEA? How could I? Didn't I
promise you I'd never go to sea again?"
"Was that the reason?"
"Sartin. What else?"
She did not answer. There was an odd expression on her face. He
turned to go.
"Well, good-by," he said.
"Yes; what is it?"
"I--I want to tell you," she stammered, "that I appreciated your
leavin' that money and stocks at the bank in my name. I couldn't
take 'em, of course, but 'twas good of you. I appreciated it."
"That's all right."
"Wait. Here! Maybe you'd like these." She took the hand from
beneath her apron and extended it toward him. It held a pan heaped
with objects flat, brown, and deliciously fragrant. He looked at
the pan and its contents uncomprehendingly.
"What's them?" he demanded.
"They're molasses cookies. I've been bakin', and these are some
extry ones I had left over. You can have 'em if you want 'em."
"Why--why, Emeline! this is mighty kind of you."
"Not a mite," sharply. "I baked a good many more'n Miss Ruth and I
can dispose of, and that poor helper man of yours ought to be glad
to get 'em after the cast-iron pound-weights that you and he have
been tryin' to live on. Mercy on us! the thoughts of the cookies he
showed me this mornin' have stayed in my head ever since. Made me
feel as if I was partly responsible for murder."
"But it's kind of you, just the same."
"Rubbish! I'd do as much for a pig any day. There! you've got your
shirt; now you'd better go home."
She forced the pan of cookies into his hand and moved off. The
"I--I'll fetch the pan back to-morrer," he called after her in a
THE LETTER AND THE 'PHONE
The cookies appeared on the table that evening. Brown noticed them
"When did you bake these?" he asked.
Atkins made no reply, so the question was repeated with a variation.
"Did you bake these this afternoon?" inquired the substitute
"Humph? Hey? Oh, yes, I guess so. Why? Anything the matter with
"Matter with them? No. They're the finest things I've tasted since
I came here. New receipt, isn't it?"
"I thought it must be. I'll take another."
He took another, and many others thereafter. He and his superior
cleared the plate between them.
Brown was prepared for questions concerning his occupation of the
afternoon and was ready with some defiant queries of his own. But
no occasion arose for either defiance or cross-examination. Seth
never hinted at a suspicion nor mentioned the young lady at the
bungalow. Brown therefore remained silent concerning what he had
seen from the attic window. He would hold that in reserve, and if
Atkins ever did accuse him of bad faith or breach of contract he
could retort in kind. His conscience was clear now--he was no more
of a traitor than Seth himself--and, this being so, he felt
delightfully independent. If trouble came he was ready for it, and
in the meantime he should do as he pleased.
But no trouble came. That day, and for many days thereafter, the
lightkeeper was sweetness itself. He and his helper had never been
more anxious to please each other, and the house at Twin-Lights was--
to all appearances--an abode of perfect trust and peace. Every
day, when Seth was asleep or out of the way, "working on the Daisy
M.," the assistant swam to the cove, and every day he met Miss
Graham there! During the first week he returned from his dips
expecting to be confronted by his superior, and ready with counter
accusations of his own. After this he ceased to care. Seth did not
ask a question and was so trustful and unsuspecting that Brown
decided his secret was undiscovered. In fact, the lightkeeper was
so innocent that the young man felt almost wicked, as if he were
deceiving a child. He very nearly forgot the meeting behind the
sand dune, having other and much more important things to think of.
July passed, and the first three weeks of August followed suit. The
weather, which had been glorious, suddenly gave that part of the
coast a surprise party in the form of a three days' storm. It was
an offshore gale, but fierce, and the lighthouse buildings rocked in
its grasp. Bathing was out of the question, and one of Seth's
dories broke its anchor rope and went to pieces in the breakers.
Atkins and Brown slept but little during the storm, both being on
duty the greater part of the time.
The fourth day broke clear, but the wind had changed to the east and
the barometer threatened more bad weather to come. When Seth came
in to breakfast he found his helper sound asleep in a kitchen chair,
his head on the table. The young man was pretty well worn out.
Atkins insisted upon his going to bed for the forenoon.
"Of course I sha'n't," protested Brown. "It's my watch, and you
need sleep yourself."
"No, I don't, neither," was the decided answer. "I slept between
times up in the tower, off and on. You go and turn in. I've got to
drive over to Eastboro by and by, and I want you to be wide awake
while I'm away. We ain't done with this spell of weather yet.
We'll have rain and an easterly blow by night, see if we don't. You
go right straight to bed."
"I shall do nothing of the sort."
"Yes, you will. I'm your boss and I order you to do it. No back
talk, now. Go!"
So Brown went, unwilling but very tired. He was sound asleep in ten
Seth busied himself about the house, occasionally stepping to the
window to look out at the weather. An observer would have noticed
that before leaving the window on each of these occasions, his gaze
invariably turned toward the bungalow. His thoughts were more
constant than his gaze; they never left his little cottage across
the cove. In fact, they had scarcely left it for the past month.
He washed the breakfast dishes, set the room in order, and was
turning once more toward the window, when he heard a footstep
approaching the open door. He knew the step; it was one with which
he had been familiar during other and happier days, and now, once
more--after all the years and his savage determination to forget and
to hate--it had the power to awaken strange emotions in his breast.
Yet his first move was to run into the living room and close his
helper's chamber door. When he came back to the kitchen, shutting
the living-room door carefully behind him, Mrs. Bascom was standing
on the sill. She started when she saw him.
"Land sakes!" she exclaimed. "You? I cal'lated, of course, you was
abed and asleep."
The lightkeeper waved his hands.
"S-sh-h!" he whispered.
"What shall I s-sh-h about? Your young man's gone somewhere, I
s'pose, else you wouldn't be here."
"No, he ain't. He's turned in, tired out."
"Oh, then I guess I'd better go back home. 'Twas him I expected to
see, else, of course, I shouldn't have come."
"Oh, I know that," with a sigh. "Where's your boss, Miss Graham?"
"She's gone for a walk along shore. I came over to--to bring back
them eggs I borrowed."
"Did you? Where are they?"
The housekeeper seemed embarrassed, and her plump cheeks reddened.
"I--I declare I forgot to bring 'em after all," she stammered.
"I want to know. That's funny. You don't often--that is, you
didn't use to forget things hardly ever, Emeline."
"Hum! you remember a lot, don't you."
"I remember more'n you think I do, Emeline."
"That's enough of that, Seth. Remember what I told you last time we
saw each other."
"Oh, all right, all right. I ain't rakin' up bygones. I s'pose I
deserve all I'm gettin'."
"I s'pose you do. Well, long's I forgot the eggs I guess I might as
well be trottin' back. . . . You--you've been all right--you and
Mr. Brown, I mean--for the last few days, while the storm was goin'
"Um-h'm," gloomily. "How about you two over to the bungalow?
You've kept dry and snug, I judge."
"I didn't know but you might be kind of nervous and scart when 'twas
blowin'. All alone so."
"Humph! I've got used to bein' alone. As for Miss Ruth, I don't
think she's scart of anythin'."
"Well, I was sort of nervous about you, if you wa'n't about
yourself. 'Twas consider'ble of a gale of wind. I thought one
spell I'd blow out of the top of the tower."
"So did I. I could see your shadow movin' 'round up there once in a
while. What made you come out on the gallery in the worst of it
night afore last?"
"Oh, the birds was smashin' themselves to pieces against the glass
same as they always do in a storm, and I . . . But say! 'twas after
twelve when I came out. How'd you come to see me? What was your
doin' up that time of night?"
Mrs. Bascom's color deepened. She seemed put out by the question.
"So much racket a body couldn't sleep," she explained sharply. "I
thought the shingles would lift right off the roof."
"But you wa'n't lookin' at the shingles. You was lookin' at the
lighthouses; you jest said so. Emeline, was you lookin' for me?
Was you worried about me?"
He bent forward eagerly.
"Hush!" she said, "you'll wake up the other woman-hater."
"I don't care. I don't care if I wake up all creation. Emeline, I
believe you was worried about me, same as I was about you. More'n
that," he added, conviction and exultation in his tone, "I don't
believe 'twas eggs that fetched you here this mornin' at all. I
believe you came to find out if we--if I was all right. Didn't you?"
"I didn't come to SEE you, be sure of that," with emphatic scorn.
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