Joseph C. Lincoln
Part 4 out of 5
"I know. But you was goin' to see Brown and find out from him.
Answer me. Answer me now, didn't--"
She stepped toward the door. He extended an arm and held her back.
"You answer me," he commanded.
She tried to pass him, but his arm was like an iron bar. She
hesitated a moment and then laughed nervously.
"You certainly have took to orderin' folks round since the old
days," she said. "Why, yes, then; I did come to find out if you
hadn't got cold, or somethin'. You're such a child and I'm such a
soft-headed fool I couldn't help it, I cal'late?"
"Emeline, s'pose I had got cold. S'pose you found I was sick--what
"Why--why, then I guess likely I'd have seen the doctor on my way
through Eastboro. I shall be goin' that way to-morrer when I leave
"When you leave here? What do you mean by that?"
"Just what I say. Miss Graham's goin' to Boston to-morrer, and I'm
goin' with her--as far as the city."
"But--but you're comin' back!"
"What should I come back here for? My summer job's over. If you
want to know, my principal reason for comin' here this mornin' was
to say good-by--to Mr. Brown, of course."
Seth's arm dropped. He leaned heavily against the doorpost.
"You're goin' away!" he exclaimed. "You're goin' away! Where?"
"I don't know. Back home, I s'pose. Though what I'll do when I get
there I don't know. I've sold the house, so I don't exactly know
where I'll put up. But I guess I'll find a place."
"You've sold your house? The house we used to live in?"
"Yes. The man that's been hirin' it has bought it. I'm glad, for I
need the money. So good-by, Seth. 'Tain't likely we'll meet again
in this life."
She started toward the door once more, and this time he was too
greatly disturbed and shaken by what she had told him to detain her.
At the threshhold she turned and looked at him.
"Good-by, Seth," she said again. "I hope you'll be happy. And,"
with a half smile, "if I was you I'd stay keepin' lights; it, or
somethin' else, has improved you a whole lot. Good-by."
Then he sprang forward. "Emeline," he cried, "Emeline, wait. You
mustn't go. I can't let you go this way. I . . . What's that?"
"That" was the sound of horse's feet and the rattle of wheels. The
lightkeeper ran to the window.
"It's Henry G.'s grocery cart," he said. "I cal'late he's fetchin'
some truck I ordered last week. Do you want him to see you here?"
"I don't care. He don't know but what you and me are the best of
friends. Yet, I don't know. Maybe it's just as well he don't see
me; then there'll be no excuse for talk. I'll step inside and wait."
She returned to the kitchen, and Seth went out to meet the wagon.
Its driver was the boy who had brought the flypaper and "Job."
"Hello," hailed the youngster, pulling in his steed; "how be you,
Mr. Atkins? I've got some of them things you ordered. The rest
ain't come from Boston yet. Soon's they do, Henry G.'ll send 'em
down. How you feelin' these days? Ain't bought no more dogs, have
Seth curtly replied that he "wa'n't speculatin' in dogs to no great
extent any more," and took the packages which the boy handed him.
With them was a bundle of newspapers and an accumulation of mail
"I fetched the mail for the bungalow, too," said the boy. "There's
two or three letters for that Graham girl and one for Mrs. Bascom.
She's housekeeper there, you know."
"Yes. Here, you might's well leave their mail along with mine.
I'll see it's delivered, all right."
"Will you? Much obliged. Goin' to take it over yourself? Better
look out, hadn't you? That Graham girl's a peach; all the fellers
at the store's talkin' about her. Seems a pity she's wastin' her
sassiety on a woman-hater like you; that's what they say. You ain't
gettin' over your female hate, are you? Haw, haw!"
Mr. Atkins regarded his questioner with stern disapproval.
"There's some things--such as chronic sassiness--some folks never
get over," he observed caustically. "Though when green hides are
too fresh they can be tanned; don't forget that, young feller. Any
more chatty remarks you've got to heave over? No? Well, all right;
then I'd be trottin' back home if I was you. Henry G.'ll have to
shut up shop if you deprive him of your valuable services too long.
Good day to you."
The driver, somewhat abashed, gathered up the reins. "I didn't mean
to make you mad," he observed. "Anything in our line you want to
"No. I'm cal'latin' to go to the village myself this afternoon, and
if I want any more groceries I'll order 'em then. As for makin' me
mad--well, don't you flatter yourself. A moskeeter can pester me,
but he don't make me mad but once--and his funeral's held right
afterwards. Now trot along and keep in the shade much as you can.
You're so fresh the sun might spile you."
The boy, looking rather foolish, laughed and drove out of the yard.
Seth, his arms full, went back to the kitchen. He dumped the
packages and newspapers on the table and began sorting the letters.
"Here you are, Emeline," he said. "Here's Miss Graham's mail and
somethin' for you."
"For me?" The housekeeper was surprised. "A letter for me! What
is it, I wonder? Somethin' about sellin' the house maybe."
She took the letter from him and turned to the light before opening
it. Seth sat down in the rocker and began inspecting his own
assortment of circulars and papers. Suddenly he heard a sound from
his companion. Glancing up he saw that she was leaning against the
doorpost, the open letter in her hand, and on her face an expression
which caused him to spring from his chair.
"What is it, Emeline?" he demanded. "Any bad news?"
She scarcely noticed him until he spoke again. Then she shook her
"No," she said slowly. "Nothin' but--but what I might have
"But what is it? It is bad news. Can't I help you? Please let me,
if I can. I--I'd like to."
She looked at him strangely, and then turned away. "I guess nobody
can help me," she answered. "Least of all, you."
"Why not? I'd like to; honest, I would. If it's about that house
business maybe I--"
"Then what is it? Please, Emeline. I know you don't think much of
me. Maybe you've got good reasons; I'm past the place where I'd
deny that. I--I've been feelin' meaner'n meaner every day lately.
I--I don't know's I done right in runnin' off and leavin' you the
way I did. Don't you s'pose you could give me another chance?
"Seth Bascom, what do you mean?"
"Just what I say. Emeline, you and me was mighty happy together
once. Let's try it again. I will, if you will."
She was staring at him in good earnest now.
"Why, Seth!" she exclaimed. "What are you talkin' about? You--the
"That be blessed! I wa'n't really a woman-hater. I only thought I
was. And--and I never hated you. Right through the worst of it I
never did. Let's try it again, Emeline. You're in trouble. You
need somebody to help you. Give me the chance."
There was a wistful look in her eyes; she seemed, or so he thought,
to be wavering. But she shook her head. "I was in trouble before,
Seth," she said, "and you didn't help me then. You run off and left
"You just as much as told me to go. You know you did."
"No, I didn't."
"Well, you didn't tell me to stay."
"It never seemed to me that a husband--if he was a man--would need
to be coaxed to stay by his wife."
"But don't you care about me at all? You used to; I know it. And I
always cared for you. What is it? Honest, Emeline, you never took
any stock in that Sarah Ann Christy doin's, you know you didn't;
now, did you?"
She was close to tears, but she smiled in spite of them.
"Well, no, Seth," she answered. "I will confess that Sarah Ann
never worried me much."
"Then DON'T you care for me, Emeline?"
"I care for you much as I ever did. I never stopped carin' for you,
fool that I am. But as for livin' with you again and runnin' the
"You won't run any risk. You say I've improved, yourself. Your
principal fault with me was, as I understand it, that I was too--
too--somethin' or other. That I wa'n't man enough. By jiminy
crimps, I'll show you that I'm a man! Give me the chance, and
nothin' nor nobody can make me leave you again. Besides, there's
nobody to come between us now. We was all right until that--that
Bennie D. came along. He was the one that took the starch out of
me. Now he's out of the way. HE won't bother us any more and . . .
Why, what is it, Emeline?"
For she was looking at him with an expression even more strange.
And again she shook her head.
"I guess," she began, and was interrupted by the jingle of the
The instrument was fastened to the kitchen wall, and the lightkeeper
hastened to answer the ring.
"Testin' the wire after the storm, most likely," he explained,
taking the receiver from the hook. "Hello! . . . Hello! . . .
Yep, this is Eastboro Lights. . . . I'm the lightkeeper, yes. . . .
Hey? . . . Miss Graham? . . . Right next door. . . . Yes. . . .
WHO?" Then, turning to his companion, he said in an astonished
voice: "It's somebody wants to talk with you, Emeline."
"With ME?" Mrs. Bascom could hardly believe it. "Are you sure?"
"So they say. Asked me if I could get you to the 'phone without any
trouble. She's right here now," he added, speaking into the
transmitter. "I'll call her."
The housekeeper wonderingly took the receiver from his hand.
"Hello!" she began. "Yes, this is Mrs. Bascom. . . . Who? . . .
What? . . . OH!"
The last exclamation was almost a gasp, but Seth did not hear it.
As she stepped forward to the 'phone she had dropped her letter.
Atkins went over and picked it up. It lay face downward on the
floor, and the last page, with the final sentence and signature, was
uppermost. He could not help seeing it. "So we shall soon be
together as of old. Your loving brother, Benjamin."
When Mrs. Bascom turned away from the 'phone after a rather
protracted conversation she looked more troubled than ever. But
Seth was not looking at her. He sat in the rocking-chair and did
not move nor raise his head. She waited for him to speak, but he
"Well," she said with a sigh, "I guess I must go. Good-by, Seth."
The lightkeeper slowly rose to his feet. "Emeline," he stammered,
"you ain't goin' without--"
He stopped without finishing the sentence. She waited a moment and
then finished it for him.
"I'll answer your question, if that's what you mean," she said.
"And the answer is no. All things considered, I guess that's best."
"But Emeline, I--I--"
"Sha'n't I," desperately, "sha'n't I see you again?"
"I expect to be around here for another day or so. But I can't see
anythin' to be gained by our meetin'. Good-by."
Taking her letter and those addressed to Miss Graham from the table
she went out of the kitchen. Seth followed her as far as the door,
then turned and collapsed in the rocking-chair.
"JOHN BROWN" CHANGES HIS NAME
"So we shall soon be together again as of old. Your loving brother,
The sentence which had met his eyes as he picked up the note which
his caller had dropped was still before them, burned into his
memory. Benjamin! "Bennie D."! the loathed and feared and hated
Bennie D., cause of all the Bascom matrimonial heartbreaks, had
written to say that he and his sister-in-law were soon to be
together as they used to be. That meant that there had been no
quarrel, but merely a temporary separation. That she and he were
still friendly. That they had been in correspondence and that the
"inventor" was coming back to take his old place as autocrat in the
household with all his old influence over Emeline. Seth's new-found
courage and manhood had vanished at the thought. Bennie D.'s name
had scarcely been mentioned during the various interviews between
the lightkeeper and his wife. She had said her first husband's
brother had been in New York for two years, and her manner of saying
it led Seth to imagine a permanent separation following some sort of
disagreement. And now! and now! He remembered Bennie D.'s superior
airs, his polite sneers, his way of turning every trick to his
advantage and of perverting and misrepresenting his, Seth's, most
innocent speech and action into crimes of the first magnitude. He
remembered the meaning of those last few months in the Cape Ann
homestead. All his fiery determination to be what he had once been--
Seth Bascom, the self-respecting man and husband--collapsed and
vanished. He groaned in abject surrender. He could not go through
it again; he was afraid. Of any other person on earth he would not
have been, but the unexpected resurrection of Bennie D. made him a
hesitating coward. Therefore he was silent when his wife left him,
and he realized that his opportunity was gone, gone forever.
In utter misery and self-hatred he sat, with his head in his hands,
beside the kitchen table until eleven o'clock. Then he rose, got
dinner, and called Brown to eat it. He ate nothing himself, saying
that he'd lost his appetite somehow or other. After the meal he
harnessed Joshua to the little wagon and started on his drive to
Eastboro. "I'll be back early, I cal'late," were his last words as
he drove out of the yard.
After he had gone, and Brown had finished clearing away and the
other housekeeping tasks which were now such a burden, the
substitute assistant went out to sit on the bench and smoke. The
threatened easterly wind had begun to blow, and the sky was dark
with tumbling clouds. The young man paid little attention to the
weather, however. All skies were gloomy so far as he was concerned,
and the darkest day was no blacker than his thoughts. Occasionally
he glanced at the bungalow, and on one such occasion was surprised
to see a carriage, one of the turnouts supplied by the Eastboro
livery stable, roll up to its door and Mrs. Bascom, the housekeeper,
emerge, climb to the seat beside the driver, and be driven away in
the direction of the village. He idly wondered where she was going,
but was not particularly interested. When, a half hour later, Ruth
Graham left the bungalow and strolled off along the path at the top
of the bluff, he was very much interested indeed. He realized, as
he had been realizing for weeks, that he was more interested in that
young woman than in anything else on earth. Also, that he had no
right--miserable outcast that he was--to be interested in her; and
certainly it would be the wildest insanity to imagine that she could
be interested in him.
For what the lightkeeper might say or do, in the event of his secret
being discovered, he did not care in the least. He was long past
that point. And for the breaking of their solemn compact he did not
care either. Seth might or might not have played the traitor; that,
too, was a matter of no importance. Seth himself was of no
importance; neither was he. There was but one important person in
the whole world, and she was strolling along the bluff path at that
moment. Therefore he left his seat on the bench, hurried down the
slope to the inner end of the cove, noting absently that the tide of
the previous night must have been unusually high, climbed to the
bungalow, turned the corner, and walked slowly in the direction of
the trim figure in the blue suit, which was walking, even more
slowly, just ahead of him.
It may be gathered that John Brown's feelings concerning the
opposite sex had changed. They had, and he had changed in other
ways, also. How much of a change had taken place he did not himself
realize, until this very afternoon. He did not realize it even then
until, after he and the girl in blue had met, and the customary
expressions of surprise at their casual meeting had been exchanged,
the young lady seated herself on a dune overlooking the tumbling sea
and observed thoughtfully:
"I shall miss all this"--with a wave of her hand toward the waves--
"next week, when I am back again in the city."
Brown's cap was in his hand as she began to speak. After she had
finished he stooped to pick up the cap, which had fallen to the
"You are going away--next week?" he said slowly.
"We are going to-morrow. I shall remain in Boston for a few days.
Then I shall visit a friend in the Berkshires. After that I may
join my brother in Europe; I'm not sure as to that."
There was another one of those embarrassing intervals of silence
which of late seemed to occur so often in their conversation. Miss
Graham, as usual, was the first to speak.
"Mr. Brown," she began. The substitute assistant interrupted her.
"Please don't call me that," he blurted involuntarily. "It--oh,
confound it, it isn't my name!"
She should have been very much surprised. He expected her to be.
Instead she answered quite calmly.
"I know it," she said.
"Yes. You are 'Russ' Brooks, aren't you?"
Russell Brooks, alias John Brown, dropped his cap again, but did not
pick it up. He swallowed hard.
"How on earth did you know that?" he asked as soon as he could say
"Oh, it was simple enough. I didn't really know; I only guessed.
You weren't a real lightkeeper, that was plain. And you weren't
used to washing dishes or doing housework--that," with the
irrepressible curl of the corners of her lips, "was just as plain.
When you told me that fib about meeting my brother here last summer
I was sure you had met him somewhere, probably at college. So in my
next letter to him I described you as well as I could, mentioned
that you were as good or a better swimmer than he, and asked for
particulars. He answered that the only fellow he could think of who
fitted your description was 'Russ' Brooks--Russell, I suppose--of
New York; though what Russ Brooks was doing as lightkeeper's
assistant at Eastboro Twin-Lights he DIDN'T know. Neither did I.
But then, THAT was not my business."
The substitute assistant did not answer: he could not, on such short
"So," continued the girl, "I felt almost as if I had known you for a
long time. You and Horace were such good friends at college, and he
had often told me of you. I was very glad to meet you in real life,
especially here, where I had no one but Mrs. Bascom to talk to; Mr.
Atkins, by reason of his aversion to my unfortunate sex, being
Mr. Brown's--or Mr. Brooks'--next speech harked back to her previous
"I'll tell you while I'm here," he began.
"You needn't, unless you wish," she said. "I have no right to
know"--adding, with characteristic femininity, "though I'm dying
"But I want you to know. As I told Atkins when I first came, I
haven't murdered anyone and I haven't stolen anything. I'm not a
crook running from justice. I'm just a plain idiot who fell
overboard from a steamer and"--bitterly--"hadn't the good luck to
She made no comment, and he began his story, telling it much as he
had told it to the lightkeeper.
"There!" he said in conclusion, "that's the whole fool business.
That's why I'm here. No need to ask what you think of it, I
She was silent, gazing at the breakers. He drew his own conclusions
from her silence.
"I see," he said. "Well, I admit it. I'm a low down chump. Still,
if I had it to do over again, I should do pretty much the same. A
few things differently, but in general the very same."
"What would you do differently?" she asked, still without looking at
"For one thing, I wouldn't run away. I'd stay and face the music.
Earn my living or starve."
"And now you're going to stay here?"
"No longer than I can help. If I get the appointment as assistant
keeper I'll begin to save every cent I can. Just as soon as I get
enough to warrant risking it I'll head for Boston once more and
begin the earning or starving process. And," with a snap of his
jaws, "I don't intend to starve."
"You won't go back to your father?"
"If he sees fit to beg my pardon and acknowledge that I was right--
not otherwise. And he must do it of his own accord. I told him
that when I walked out of his office. It was my contribution to our
fond farewell. His was that he would see me damned first. Possibly
"You must have been a charming pair of pepper pots," she observed.
"And the young lady--what of her?"
"She knows that I am fired, cut off even without the usual shilling.
That will be quite sufficient for her, I think."
"How do you know it will? How do you know she might not have been
willing to wait while you earned that living you are so sure is
"Wait? She wait for me? Ann Davidson wait for a man without a cent
while he tried to earn a good many dollars? Humph! you amuse me."
"Why not? You didn't give her a chance. You calmly took it for
granted that she wanted only money and social position and you
walked off and left her. How do you know she wouldn't have liked
you better for telling her just how you felt. If a girl really
cared for a man it seems to me that she would be willing to wait for
him, years and years if it were necessary, provided that, during
that time, he was trying his best for her."
"But--but--she isn't that kind of a girl."
"How do you know? You didn't put her to the test. You owed her
that. It seems to me you owe it to her now."
The answer to this was on his tongue. It was ready behind his
closed lips, eager to burst forth. That he didn't love the Davidson
girl, never had loved her. That during the past month he had come
to realize there was but one woman in the wide world for him. And
did that woman mean what she said about waiting years--and years--
provided she cared? And did she care?
He didn't utter one word of this. He wanted to, but it seemed so
preposterous. Such an idiotic, outrageous thing to ask. Yet it is
probable that he would have asked it if the young lady had given him
the chance. But she did not; after a sidelong glance at his face,
she hurriedly rose from the rock and announced that she must be
getting back to the house.
"I have some packing to do," she explained; "and, besides, I think
it is going to rain."
"But, Miss Graham, I--"
A big drop of rain splashing upon his shoe confirmed the weather
prophecy. She began to walk briskly toward the bungalow, and he
walked at her side.
"Another storm," she said. "I should think the one we have just
passed through was sufficient for a while. I hope Mrs. Bascom won't
"She has gone to the village, hasn't she?"
"Yes. She has received some message or other--I don't know how it
came--which sent her off in a hurry. A livery carriage came for
her. She will be back before night."
"Atkins has gone, too. He had some errands, I believe. I can't
make out what has come over him of late. He has changed greatly.
He used to be so jolly and good-humored, except when female
picnickers came. Now he is as solemn as an owl. When he went away
he scarcely spoke a word. I thought he seemed to be in trouble, but
when I asked him, he shut me up so promptly that I didn't press the
"Did he? That's odd. Mrs. Bascom seemed to be in trouble, too. I
thought she had been crying when she came out of her room to go to
the carriage. She denied it, but her eyes looked red. What can be
"I don't know."
"Nor I. Mr.--er--Brooks-- Or shall I still call you 'Brown'?"
"No. Brown is dead; drowned. Let him stay so."
"Very well. Mr. Brooks, has it occurred to you that your Mr. Atkins
is a peculiar character? That he acts peculiarly?"
"He has acted peculiarly ever since I knew him. But to what
particular peculiarity do you refer?"
"His queer behavior. Several times I have seen him--I am almost
sure it was he--hiding or crouching behind the sand hills at the
rear of our bungalow."
"You have? Why, I--"
He hesitated. Before he could go on or she continue, the rain came
in a deluge. They reached the porch just in time.
"Well, I'm safe and reasonably dry," she panted. "I'm afraid you
will be drenched before you get to the lights. Don't you want an
"No. No, indeed, thank you."
"Well, you must hurry then. Good-by."
"But, Miss Graham," anxiously, "I shall see you again before you go.
To-morrow, at bathing time, perhaps?"
"Judging by the outlook just at present, bathing will be out of the
"But I want to see you. I must."
She shook her head doubtfully. "I don't know," she said. "I shall
be very busy getting ready to leave; but perhaps we may meet again."
"We must. I--Miss Graham, I--"
She had closed the door. He ran homeward through the rain, the
storm which soaked him to the skin being but a trifle compared to
the tornado in his breast.
He spent the balance of the day somehow, he could not have told how.
The rain and wind continued; six o'clock came, and Seth should have
returned an hour before, but there was no sign of him. He wondered
if Mrs. Bascom had returned. He had not seen the carriage, but she
might have come while he was inside the house. The lightkeeper's
nonappearance began to worry him a trifle.
At seven, as it was dark, he took upon himself the responsibility of
climbing the winding stairs in each tower and lighting the great
lanterns. It was the first time he had done it, but he knew how,
and the duty was successfully accomplished. Then, as Atkins was
still absent and there was nothing to do but wait, he sat in the
chair in the kitchen and thought. Occasionally, and it showed the
trend of his thoughts, he rose and peered from the window across the
dark to the bungalow. In the living room of the latter structure a
light burned. At ten it was extinguished.
At half past ten he went to Seth's bedroom, found a meager
assortment of pens, ink and note paper, returned to the kitchen,
sat down by the table and began to write.
For an hour he thought, wrote, tore up what he had written, and
began again. At last the result of his labor read something like
"DEAR MISS GRAHAM:
"I could not say it this afternoon, although if you had stayed I
think I should. But I must say it now or it may be too late. I
can't let you go without saying it. I love you. Will you wait for
me? It may be a very long wait, although God knows I mean to try
harder than I have ever tried for anything in my life. If I live I
will make something of myself yet, with you as my inspiration. You
know you said if a girl really cared for a man she would willingly
wait years for him. Do you care for me as much as that? With you,
or for you, I believe I can accomplish anything. DO you care?
He put this in an envelope, sealed and addressed it, and without
stopping to put on either cap or raincoat went out in the night.
The rain was still falling, although not as heavily, but the wind
was coming in fierce squalls. He descended the path to the cove,
floundering through the wet bushes. At the foot of the hill he was
surprised to find the salt marsh a sea of water not a vestige of
ground above the surface. This was indeed a record-breaking tide,
such as he had never known before. He did not pause to reflect upon
tides or such trivialities, but, with a growl at being obliged to
make the long detour, he rounded the end of the cove and climbed up
to the door of the bungalow. Under the edge of that door he tucked
the note he had written. As soon as this was accomplished he became
aware that he had expressed himself very clumsily. He had not
written as he might. A dozen brilliant thoughts came to him. He
must rewrite that note at all hazards.
So he spent five frantic minutes trying to coax that envelope from
under the door. But, in his care to push it far enough, it had
dropped beyond the sill, and he could not reach it. The thing was
done for better or for worse. Perfectly certain that it was for
worse, he splashed mournfully back to the lights. In the lantern
room of the right-hand tower he spent the remainder of the night,
occasionally wandering out on the gallery to note the weather.
The storm was dying out. The squalls were less and less frequent,
and the rain had been succeeded by a thick fog. The breakers
pounded in the dark below him, and from afar the foghorns moaned and
wailed. It was a bad night, a night during which no lightkeeper
should be absent from his post. And where was Seth?
Seth's drive to Eastboro was a dismal journey. Joshua pounded along
over the wet sand or through ruts filled with water, and not once
during the trip was he ordered to "Giddap" or "Show some signs of
life." Not until the first scattered houses of the village were
reached did the lightkeeper awaken from his trance sufficiently to
notice that the old horse was limping slightly with the right
"Hello!" exclaimed Seth. "What's the matter with you, Josh?"
Joshua slopped on, but this was a sort of three-legged progress.
The driver leaned forward and then pulled on the reins.
"Whoa!" he ordered. "Stand still!"
Joshua stood still, almost with enthusiasm. Seth tucked the end of
the reins between the whip socket and the dashboard, and swung out
of the wagon to make an examination. Lifting the lame foot, he
found the trouble at once. The shoe was loose.
"Humph!" he soliloquized. "Cal'late you and me'll have to give
Benijah a job. Well," climbing back into the vehicle, "I said I'd
never give him another after the row we had about the last, but I
ain't got ambition enough to go clear over to the Denboro
blacksmith's. I don't care. I don't care about nothin' any more.
Benijah Ellis's little, tumble-down blacksmith shop was located in
the main street of Eastboro, if that hit-or-miss town can be said to
possess a main street. Atkins drove up to its door, before which he
found Benijah and a group of loungers inspecting an automobile, the
body of which had been removed in order that the engine and running
gear might be the easier reached. The blacksmith was bending over
the car, his head and shoulders down amidst the machinery; a big
wrench was in his hand, and other wrenches, hammers, and tools of
various sizes were scattered on the ground beside him.
"Hello, Benije," grunted Seth.
Ellis removed his nose from its close proximity to the gear shaft
and straightened up. He was a near-sighted, elderly man, and wore
spectacles. Just now his hands, arms, and apron were covered with
grease and oil, and, as he wiped his forehead with the hand not
holding the wrench, he left a wide mourning band across it.
"Well?" he panted. "Who is it? Who wants me?"
One of the loafers, who had been assisting the blacksmith by holding
his pipe while he dove into the machinery, languidly motioned toward
the new arrival. Benijah adjusted his spectacles and walked over to
"Who is it?" he asked crossly. Then, as he recognized his visitor,
he grunted: "Ugh! it's you, hey. Well, what do YOU want?"
"Want you to put a new shoe on this horse of mine," replied Seth,
not too graciously.
"Is that so! Well, I'm busy."
"I don't care if you be. I guess you ain't so busy you can't do a
job of work. If you are, you're richer'n I ever heard you was."
"I want to know! Maybe I'm particular who I work for, Seth Atkins."
"Maybe you are. I ain't so particular; if I was, I wouldn't come
here, I tell you that. This horse of mine's got a loose shoe, and I
want him attended to quick."
"Thought you said you'd never trust me with another job."
"I ain't trustin' you now. I'll be here while it's done. And I
ain't askin' you to trust me, neither. I'll pay cash--cash, d'ye
The bystanders grinned. Mr. Ellis's frown deepened. "I'm busy," he
declared, with importance. "I've got Mr. Delancey Barry's
automobile to fix, and I can't stop to bother with horses--specially
certain kind of horses."
This sneer at Joshua roused his owner's ire. He dropped the reins
and sprang to the ground.
"See here, Benije Ellis," he growled, advancing upon the repairer of
automobiles, who retreated a step or two with promptness. "I don't
care what you're fixin', nor whose it is, neither. I guess 'twill
be 'fixed' all right when you get through with it, but that ain't
neither here nor there. And it don't make no difference if it does
belong to Mr. Barry. If 'twas Elijah's chariot of fire 'twould be
just the same. That auto won't be done this afternoon, and nobody
expects it to be. Here's my horse sufferin' to be shod; I want him
shod and I've got the money to pay for it. When it's winter time
you're around cryin' that you can't earn money to pay your bills.
Now, just because it's summer and there's city big-bugs in the
neighborhood innocent enough to let you tinker with their autos--
though they'll never do it but once--I don't propose to be put off.
If you won't shoe this horse of mine I'll know it's because you've
got so much money you don't need more. And if that's the case,
there's a whole lot of folks would be mighty glad to know it--Henry
G. Goodspeed for one. I'm goin' up to his store now. Shall I tell
This was a shot in the bull's-eye. Mr. Ellis owed a number of
bills, had owed them for a long time, and Mr. Goodspeed's was by no
means the smallest. The loafers exchanged winks, and the
blacksmith's manner became more conciliatory.
"I didn't say I wouldn't do it for you, Seth," he pleaded. "I'm
always willin' to do your work. You're the one that's been
"Ugh! Well, I'm likely to complain some more, but the complaint's
one thing, and the need's another. I'm like Joel Knowles--he said
when he couldn't get whisky he worried along best he could with bay
rum. I need a blacksmith, and if I can't get a real one I'll put up
with an imitation. Will you shoe this horse for me?"
"Course I'll shoe him. But I can't do it this minute. I've got
this consarned machine," waving a hand toward the automobile, "out
of door here and all to pieces. And it's goin' to rain. Just let
me put enough of it together so's I can shove it into the shop out
of the wet, and then I'll tackle your job. You leave your horse and
team here and go do your other errands. He'll be ready when you
So on this basis the deal was finally made. Seth was reluctant to
trust the precious Joshua out of his sight, but, after some parley,
he agreed to do so. The traces were unfastened, and the animal was
led into the shop, the carriage was backed under a shed, and the
lightkeeper went away promising to be back in an hour. As soon as
he had gone, Ellis dived again into the vitals of the auto.
The argument with the blacksmith had one satisfactory result so far
as Seth was concerned. In a measure it afforded a temporary vent
for his feelings. He was moderately agreeable during his brief stay
at the grocery store, and when his orders were given and he found
the hour not half over, he strolled out to walk about the village.
And then, alone once more, all his misery and heartache returned.
He strode along, his head down, scarcely speaking to acquaintances
whom he met, until he reached the railway station, where he sat down
on the baggage truck to mentally review, over and over again, the
scene with Emeline and the dreadful collapse of his newborn hopes
As he sat there, the door of the station opened and a man emerged, a
man evidently not a native of Eastboro. He was dressed in a rather
loud, but somewhat shabby, suit of summer plaid, his straw hat was
set a trifle over one ear, and he was smoking the stump of a not too
fragrant cigar. Altogether he looked like a sporting character
under a temporary financial cloud, but the cloud did not dim his
self-satisfaction nor shadow his magnificent complaisance. He
regarded the section of Eastboro before him with condescending
scorn, and then, catching sight of the doleful figure on the baggage
truck, strolled over and addressed it.
"I say, my friend," he observed briskly, "have you a match concealed
about your person? If so, I--"
He stopped short, for Mr. Atkins, after one languid glance in his
direction, had sprung from the truck and was gazing at him as if he
was some apparition, some figure in a nightmare, instead of his
blase self. And he, as he looked at the lightkeeper's astounded
countenance, dropped the cigar stump from his fingers and stepped
backward in alarmed consternation.
"You--you--YOU?" gasped Seth.
"YOU!" repeated the stranger.
"You!" cried Seth again; not a brilliant nor original observation,
but, under the circumstances, excusable, for the nonchalant person
in the plaid suit was Emeline Bascom's brother-in-law, the genius,
the "inventor," the one person whom he hated--and feared--more than
anyone else in the world--Bennie D. himself.
There was a considerable interval during which neither of the pair
spoke. Seth, open-mouthed and horror-stricken, was incapable of
speech, and the inventor's astonishment seemed to be coupled with a
certain nervousness, almost as if he feared a physical assault.
However, as the lightkeeper made no move, and his fists remained
open, the nervousness disappeared, and Bennie D. characteristically
took command of the situation.
"Hum!" he observed musingly. "Hum! May I ask what you are doing
"Huh--hey?" was Seth's incoherent reply.
"I ask what you are doing here? Have you followed me?"
"Fol-follered you? No."
"You're sure of that, are you?"
"Yes, I be." Seth did not ask what Bennie D. was doing there.
Already that question was settled in his mind. The brother-in-law
had found out that Emeline was living next door to the man she
married, that her summer engagement was over, and he had come to
take her away.
"Well?" queried the inventor sharply, "if you haven't followed me,
what are you doing here? What do you mean by being here?"
"I belong here," desperately. "I work here."
"You do? And may I ask what particular being is fortunate enough to
"I'm keeper down to the lighthouses, if you want to know. But I
cal'late you know it already."
Bennie D.'s coolness was not proof against this. He started.
"The lighthouses?" he repeated. "The--what is it they call them?--
"Yes. You know it; what's the use of askin' fool questions?"
The inventor had not known it--until that moment, and he took time
to consider before making another remark. His sister-in-law was
employed as housekeeper at some bungalow or other situated in close
proximity to the Twin-Lights; that he had discovered since his
arrival on the morning train. Prior to that he had known only that
she was in Eastboro for the summer. Before that he had not been
particularly interested in her location. Since the day, two years
past, when, having decided that he had used her and her rapidly
depleting supply of cash as long as was safe or convenient, he had
unceremoniously left her and gone to New York to live upon money
supplied by a credulous city gentleman, whom his smooth tongue had
interested in his "inventions," he had not taken the trouble even to
write to Emeline. But within the present month the New Yorker's
credulity and his "loans" had ceased to be material assets. Then
Bennie D., face to face with the need of funds, remembered his
sister and the promise given his dead brother that he should be
provided with a home as long as she had one.
He journeyed to Cape Ann and found, to his dismay, that she was no
longer there. After some skillful detective work, he learned of the
Eastboro engagement and wrote the letter--a piteous, appealing
letter, full of brotherly love and homesickness--which, held back by
the storm, reached Mrs. Bascom only that morning. In it he stated
that he was on his way to her and was counting the minutes until
they should be together once more. And he had, as soon after his
arrival in the village as possible, 'phoned to the Lights and spoken
with her. Her tone, as she answered, was, he thought, alarmingly
cold. It had made him apprehensive, and he wondered if his
influence over her was on the wane. But now--now he understood.
Her husband--her husband, of all people--had been living next door
to her all summer. No doubt she knew he was there when she took the
place. Perhaps they had met by mutual agreement. Why, this was
appalling! It might mean anything. And yet Seth did not look
triumphant or even happy. Bennie D. resolved to show no signs of
perturbation or doubt, but first to find out, if he could, the
truth, and then to act accordingly.
"Mr. Bascom--" he began. The lightkeeper, greatly alarmed,
"Hush!" he whispered. "Don't say that. That ain't my name--down
"Indeed? What is your name?"
"Down here they call me Seth Atkins."
Bennie D. looked puzzled. Then his expression changed. He was
relieved. When he 'phoned to the Lights--using the depot 'phone--
the station agent had seemed to consider his calling a woman over
the lighthouse wire great fun. The lightkeeper, so the agent said,
was named Atkins, and was a savage woman-hater. He would not see a
woman, much less speak to one; it was a standing joke in the
neighborhood, Seth's hatred of females. That seemed to prove that
Emeline and her husband were not reconciled and living together, at
least. Possibly their being neighbors was merely a coincidence. If
so, he might not have come too late. When he next addressed his
companion it was in a different tone and without the "Mister."
"Bascom--or--er--Atkins," he said sharply, "I hoped--I sincerely
hoped that you and I might not meet during my short stay here; but,
as we have met, I think it best that we should understand each
other. Suppose we walk over to that clump of trees on the other
side of the track. We shall be alone there, and I can say what is
necessary. I don't wish--even when I remember your behavior toward
my sister--to humiliate you in the town where you may be trying to
lead a better life. Come."
He led the way, and Seth, yielding as of old to this man's almost
hypnotic command over him and still bewildered by the unexpected
meeting, followed like a whipped dog. Under the shelter of the
trees they paused.
"Now then," said Bennie D., "perhaps you'll tell me what you mean by
decoying my sister down here in my absence, when I was not present
to protect her. What do you mean by it?"
Seth stared at him uncomprehendingly. "Decoyin' her?" he repeated.
"I never decoyed her. I've been here ever since I left--left you
and her that night. I never asked her to come. I didn't know she
was comin'. And she didn't know I was here until--until a month or
so ago. I--"
Bennie D. held up a hand. He was delighted by this piece of news,
but he did not show it.
"That will do," he said. "I understand all that. But since then--
since then? What do you mean by trying to influence her as you
have? Answer me!"
The lightkeeper rubbed his forehead.
"I ain't tried to influence her," he declared. "She and me have
scarcely seen each other. Nobody knows that we was married, not
even Miss Graham nor the young feller that's--that's my helper at
the lights. You must know that. She must have wrote you. What are
you talkin' about?"
She had not written; he had received no letters from her during the
two years, but again the wily "genius" was equal to the occasion.
He looked wise and nodded.
"Of course," he said importantly. "Of course. Certainly."
He hesitated, not knowing exactly what his next move should be. And
Seth, having had time to collect, in a measure, his scattered wits,
began to do some thinking on his own account.
"Say," he said suddenly, "if you knew all this aforehand, what are
you askin' these questions for?"
"That," Bennie D.'s gesture was one of lofty disdain, "is my
"I want to know! Well, then, maybe I've got some business of my
own. Who made my business your business? Hey?"
"The welfare of my sister--"
"Never you mind your sister. You're talkin' with me now. And you
ain't got me penned up in a house, neither. By jiminy crimps!" His
anger boiled over, and, to the inventor's eyes, he began to look
alarmingly alive. "By jiminy crimps!" repeated Seth, "I've been
prayin' all these years to meet you somewheres alone, and now I've a
good mind to--to--"
His big fist closed. Bennie D. stepped backward out of reach.
"Bascom--" he cried, "don't--"
"Don't you call me that!"
"Bascom--" The inventor was thoroughly frightened, and his voice
rose almost to a shout.
The lightkeeper's wrath vanished at the sound of the name. If any
native of Eastboro, if the depot master on the other side of the
track, should hear him addressed as "Bascom," the fat would be in
the fire for good and all. The secret he had so jealously guarded
would be out, and all the miserable story would, sooner or later, be
"Don't call me Bascom," he begged. Er--please don't."
Bennie D.'s courage returned. Yet he realized that if a trump card
was to be played it must be then. This man was dangerous, and,
somehow or other, his guns must be spiked. A brilliant idea
occurred to him. Exactly how much of the truth Seth knew he was not
sure, but he took the risk.
"Very well then--Atkins," he said contemptuously. "I am not used to
aliases--not having dealt with persons finding it necessary to
employ them--and I forget. But before this disagreeable interview
is ended I wish you to understand thoroughly why I am here. I am
here to protect my sister and to remove her from your persecution.
I am here to assist her in procuring a divorce."
"A divorce! A DIVORCE! Good heavens above!"
"Yes, sir," triumphantly, "a divorce from the man she was trapped
into marrying and who deserted her. You did desert her, you can't
deny that. So long as she remains your wife, even in name, she is
liable to persecution from you. She understands this. She and I
are to see a lawyer at once. That is why I am here."
Seth was completely overwhelmed. A divorce! A case for the papers
to print, and all of Ostable county to read!
"I--I--I--" he stammered, and then added weakly, "I don't believe
it. She wouldn't . . . There ain't no lawyer here."
Then we shall seek the one nearest here. Emeline understands. I
'phoned her this morning."
"Was it YOU that 'phoned?"
"It was. Now--er--Atkins, I am disposed to be as considerate of
your welfare as possible. I know that any publicity in this matter
might prejudice you in the eyes of your--of the government
officials. I shall not seek publicity, solely on your account. The
divorce will be obtained privately, provided--PROVIDED you remain
out of sight and do not interfere. I warn you, therefore, not to
make trouble or to attempt to see my sister again. If you do--well,
if you do, the consequences will be unpleasant for you. Do you
Seth understood, or thought he did. He groaned and leaned heavily
against a tree trunk.
"You understand, do you?" repeated Bennie D. "I see that you do.
Very good then. I have nothing more to say. I advise that you
remain--er--in seclusion for the next few days. Good-by."
He gave a farewell glance at the crushed figure leaning against the
tree. Then he turned on his heel and walked off.
Seth remained where he was for perhaps ten minutes, not moving a
muscle. Then he seemed to awaken, looked anxiously in the direction
of the depot to make sure that no one was watching, pulled his cap
over his eyes, jammed his hands into his pockets, and started to
walk across the fields. He had no fixed destination in mind, had no
idea where he was going except that he must go somewhere, that he
could not keep still.
He stumbled along, through briers and bushes, paying no attention to
obstacles such as fences or stone walls until he ran into them, when
he climbed over and went blindly on. A mile from Eastboro, and he
was alone in a grove of scrub pines. Here he stopped short, struck
his hands together, and groaned aloud:
"I don't believe it! I don't believe it!"
For he was beginning not to believe it. At first he had not thought
of doubting Bennie D.'s statement concerning the divorce. Now, as
his thoughts became clearer, his doubts grew. His wife had not
mentioned the subject in their morning interview. Possibly she
would not have done so in any event, but, as the memory of her
behavior and speech became clearer in his mind, it seemed to him
that she could not have kept such a secret. She had been kinder,
had seemed to him more--yes, almost--why, when he asked her to be
his again, to give him another chance, she had hesitated. She had
not said no at once, she hesitated. If she was about to divorce
him, would she have acted in such a way? It hardly seemed possible.
Then came the letter and the telephone message. It was after these
that she had said no with decision. Perhaps . . . was it possible
that she had known of her brother-in-law's coming only then? Now
that he thought of it, she had not gone away at once after the talk
over the 'phone. She had waited a moment as if for him to speak.
He, staggered and paralyzed by the sight of his enemy's name in that
letter, had not spoken and then she . . . He did not believe she
was seeking a divorce! It was all another of Bennie D.'s lies!
But suppose she was seeking it. Or suppose--for he knew the
persuasive power of that glib tongue only too well--suppose her
brother-in-law should persuade her to do it. Should he sit still--
in seclusion, as his late adviser had counseled--and let this
irrevocable and final move be made? After a divorce--Seth's idea of
divorces were vague and Puritanical--there would be no hope. He and
Emeline could never come together after that. And he must give her
up and all his hopes of happiness, all that he had dreamed of late,
would be but dreams, never realities. No! he could not give them
up. He would not. Publicity, scandal, everything, he could face,
but he would not give his wife up without a fight. What should he
For a long time he paced up and down beneath the pines trying to
plan, to come to some decision. All that he could think of was to
return to the Lights, to go openly to the bungalow, see Emeline and
make one last appeal. Bennie D. might be there, but if he was--
well, by jiminy crimps, let him look out, that's all!
He had reached this point in his meditations when the wind, which
had been steadily increasing and tossing the pinetops warningly,
suddenly became a squall which brought with it a flurry of rain. He
started and looked up. The sky was dark, it was late in the
afternoon, and the storm he had prophesied had arrived.
Half an hour later he ran, panting and wet, into the blacksmith's
shop. The automobile was standing in the middle of the floor, and
Mr. Ellis was standing beside it, perspiring and troubled.
"Where's Joshua?" demanded Seth.
"Hey?" inquired the blacksmith absently.
"Where's my horse? Is he ready?"
Benijah wiped his forehead.
"Gosh!" he exclaimed. "By . . . gosh!"
"What are you b'goshin' about?"
"Seth--I don't know what you'll say to me--but--but I declare I
forgot all about your horse."
"You FORGOT about him?"
"Yes. You see that thing?" pointing pathetically at the auto.
"Well, sir, that pesky thing's breakin' my heart--to say nothin' of
my back. I got it apart all right, no trouble about that. And by
good rights I've got it together again, leastways it looks so. Yet,
by time," in distracted agitation, "there's a half bucket of bolts
and nuts and odds and ends that ain't in it yet--left over, you
might say. And I can't find any place to put one of 'em. Do you
wonder I forget trifles?"
Trifles! the shoeing of Joshua a trifle! The lightkeeper had been
suffering for an opportunity to blow off steam, and the opportunity
was here. Benijah withered under the blast.
"S-sh-sh! sh-sh!" he pleaded. "Land sakes, Seth Atkins, stop it! I
don't blame you for bein' mad, but you nor nobody else sha'n't talk
to me that way. I'll fix your horse in five minutes. Yes, sir, in
five minutes. Shut up now, or I won't do it at all!"
He rushed over to the stall in the rear of the shop, woke Joshua
from the sweet slumber of old age, and led him to the halter beside
the forge. The lightkeeper, being out of breath, had nothing
further to say at the moment.
"What's the matter with all you lighthouse folks?" asked Benijah,
anxious to change the subject. "What's possessed the whole lot of
you to come to the village at one time? Whoa, boy, stand still!"
"The whole lot of us?" repeated Seth. "What do you mean?"
"Mean I've seen two of you at least this afternoon. That Bascom
woman, housekeeper at the Graham bungalow she is, went past here
twice. Fust time she was in one of Snow's livery buggies, Snow's
boy drivin' her. Then, about an hour ago, she went by again, but
the boy'd gone, and there was another feller pilotin' the team--a
stranger, nobody I ever see afore."
Seth's red face turned pale. "What?" he cried. "Em--Mrs. Bascom
ridin' with a stranger! What sort of a stranger?"
"Oh, a feller somewheres between twenty and fifty. Smooth-faced
critter with a checked suit and a straw hat. . . . What on earth's
the matter with you now?"
For the lightkeeper was shaking from head to foot.
"Did--did--which way was they goin'? Back to the Lights or--or
"No, didn't seem to be goin' to the Lights at all. They went on the
other road. Seemed to be headin' for Denboro if they kept on as
they started. . . . Seth Atkins, have you turned loony?"
Seth did not answer. With a leap he landed at Joshua's head,
unhooked the halter, and ran out of the shop leading the horse. The
astonished blacksmith followed as far as the door. Seth was backing
the animal into his wagon, which stood beneath the shed. He
fastened the traces with trembling fingers.
"What in the world has struck you?" shouted Ellis. "Ain't you goin'
to have that shoe fixed? He can't travel that way. Seth! Seth
Atkins! . . . By time, he IS crazy!"
Seth did not deny the charge. Climbing into the wagon, he took up
"Are you sure and sartin' 'twas the Denboro road they took?" he
"Who took? That feller and the Bascom woman? Course I am, but . . .
Well, I swan!"
For the lightkeeper waited to hear no more. He struck the
unsuspecting Joshua with the end of the reins and, with a jump, the
old horse started forward. Another moment, and the lighthouse wagon
was splashing and rattling through the pouring rain along the road
leading to Denboro.
THE VOYAGE OF THE DAISY M.
Denboro is many long miles from Eastboro, and the road, even in the
best of weather, is not a good one. It winds and twists and climbs
and descends through woods and over hills. There are stretches of
marshy hollows where the yellow clay needs but a little moistening
to become a paste which sticks to wheels and hoofs and makes
traveling, even behind a young and spirited horse, a disheartening
Joshua was neither young nor spirited. And the weather could not
have been much worse. The three days' storm had soaked everything,
and the clay-bottomed puddles were near kin to quicksands. As the
lighthouse wagon descended the long slope at the southern end of the
village and began the circle of the inner extremity of Eastboro Back
Harbor, Seth realized that his journey was to be a hard one. The
rain, driven by the northeast wind, came off the water in blinding
gusts, and the waves in the harbor were tipped with white. Also,
although the tide was almost at its lowest, streaks of seaweed
across the road showed where it had reached that forenoon, and
prophesied even a greater flood that night. He turned his head and
gazed up the harbor to where it narrowed and became Pounddug Slough.
In the Slough, near its ocean extremity, his old schooner, the Daisy
M., lay stranded. He had not visited her for a week, and he
wondered if the "spell of weather" had injured her to any extent.
This speculation, however, was but momentary. The Daisy M. must
look out for herself. His business was to reach Judge Gould's, in
Denboro, before Mrs. Bascom and Bennie D. could arrange with that
prominent citizen and legal light for the threatened divorce.
That they had started for Judge Gould's he did not doubt for a
moment. "I shall seek the nearest lawyer," Bennie D. had said. And
the judge was the nearest. They must be going there, or why should
they take that road? Neither did he doubt now that their object was
to secure the divorce. How divorces were secured, or how long it
took to get one, Seth did not know. His sole knowledge on that
subject was derived from the newspapers and comic weeklies, and he
remembered reading of places in the West where lawyers with the
necessary blanks in their pockets met applicants at the arrival of
one train and sent them away, rejoicing and free, on the next.
"You jump right off the cars and then
Turn round and jump right on again."
This fragment of a song, sung at a "moving-picture" show in the town
hall, and resung many times thereafter by Ezra Payne, John Brown's
predecessor as assistant keeper at the lights, recurred to him as he
urged the weary Joshua onward. So far as Seth knew, the Reno custom
might be universal. At any rate, he must get to Judge Gould's
before Emeline and her brother-in-law left there. What he should do
when he arrived and found them there was immaterial; he must get
there, that was all.
Eastboro Back Harbor was left behind, and the long stretch of woods
beyond was entered. Joshua, his hoofs swollen by the sticky clay to
yellow cannon balls, plodded on, but, in spite of commands and
pleadings--the lightkeeper possessed no whip and would not have used
one if he had--he went slower and slower. He was walking now, and
limping sadly on the foot where the loose shoe hung by its bent and
Five miles, six, seven, and the limp was worse than ever. Seth,
whose conscience smote him, got out of the carriage into the rain
and mud and attempted repairs, using a stone as a hammer. This
seemed to help matters some, but it was almost dark when the granite
block marking the township line was passed, and the windows in the
houses were alight when he pulled up at the judge's door.
The judge himself answered the knock, or series of knocks. He
seemed much surprised to find the keeper of Eastboro Twin-Lights
standing on his front step.
"Why, hello, Atkins!" he cried. "What in the world are you doing
over here? a night like this!"
"Has--has Mrs. Bascom been here? Is she here now?" panted Seth
"Mrs. Bascom? Who is Mrs. Bascom?"
"She--she's a friend of mine. She and--and a relation of hers was
comin' over here to see you on business. Ain't they here? Ain't
they been here?"
"No. No one has been here this afternoon. I've been in since one
o'clock, and not a soul has called, on business or otherwise."
The lightkeeper could scarcely believe it.
"You're sure?" he demanded.
"Certainly. If they came before one my wife would have told me, I
think. I'll ask her."
"No, no," hastily. "You needn't. If they ain't been since one they
ain't been. But I don't understand. . . . There's no other lawyer
nigh here, is there?"
"No; none nearer than Bayport."
"My land! My LAND! Then--then I'm out of soundin's somehow. They
never came for it, after all."
"Came for what?"
"Nothin', nothin', I guess," with a sickly smile. "I've made some
sort of mistake, though I don't know how. Benije must have . . .
I'll break that feller's neck; I will!"
The lawyer began to share the blacksmith's opinion that his caller
had gone crazy.
"Come in, Atkins," he urged. "Come in out of the wet. What IS the
matter? What are you doing here at this time of night so far from
the Lights? Is it anything serious? Come in and tell me about it."
But Seth, instead of accepting the invitation, stared at him aghast.
Then, turning about, he leaped down the steps, ran to the wagon and
"Giddap!" he shouted. Poor, tired Joshua lifted his clay-daubed
"You're not going back?" cried Gould. "Hold on, Atkins! Wait!"
But Seth did not wait. Already he had turned his horse's head
toward Eastboro, and was driving off. The lawyer stood still,
amazedly looking after him. Then he went into the house and spent
the next quarter of an hour trying to call the Twin-Lights by
telephone. As the northeast wind had finished what the northwest
one had begun and the wire was down, his attempt was unsuccessful.
He gave it up after a time and sat down to discuss the astonishing
affair with his wife. He was worried.
But his worriment was as nothing compared to Seth's. The lawyer's
reference to the Lights had driven even matrimonial troubles from
the Atkins mind. The lights! the Twin-Lights! It was long past the
time for them to be lit, and there was no one to light them but
Brown, a green hand. Were they lit at all? If not, heaven knew
what might happen or had happened already.
He had thought of this before, of course, had vaguely realized that
he was betraying his trust, but then he had not cared. The Lights,
his position as keeper, everything, were side issues compared with
the one thing to be done, the getting to Denboro. He had reached
Denboro and found his journey all a mistake; his wife and Bennie D.
had not, apparently, visited that village; perhaps had not even
started for it. Therefore, in a measure relieved, he thought of
other things. He was many miles from his post of duty, and now his
sole idea was to get back to it.
At ten o'clock Mrs. Hepsibah Deacon, a widow living in a little
house in the woods on the top of the hill on the Denboro side of
Eastboro Back Harbor, with no neighbors for a mile in either
direction, was awakened by shouts under her bedroom window. Opening
that window she thrust forth her head.
"Who is it?" she demanded quaveringly. "What's the matter? Is
From the blackness of the rain and fog emerged a vague shape.
"It's me, Mrs. Deacon; Seth Atkins, down to the Lights, you know.
I've left my horse and carriage in your barn. Josh--he's the horse--
is gone lame and played himself out. He can't walk another step.
I've unharnessed him and left him in the stall. He'll be all right.
I've given him some water and hay. Just let him stay there, if it
ain't too much trouble, and I'll send for him to-morrer and pay for
his keep. It's all right, ain't it? Much obliged. Good night."
Before the frightened widow could ask a question or utter a word he
was gone, ploughing down the hill in the direction of the Back
Harbor. When he reached the foot of that hill where the road should
have been, he found that it had disappeared. The tide had risen and
It was pitch-dark, the rain was less heavy, and clouds of fog were
drifting in before the wind. Seth waded on for a short distance,
but soon realized that wading would be an impossibility. Then, as
in despair, he was about ready to give up the attempt, a dark object
came into view beside him. It was a dory belonging to one of the
lobstermen, which, at the end of its long anchor rope, had swung
inshore until it floated almost over the road. Seth seized it in
time to prevent collision with his knees. The thole pins were in
place, and the oars laid lengthwise on its thwarts. As his hands
touched the gunwale a new idea came to him.
He had intended walking the rest of the way to Eastboro, routing out
the liveryman and hiring a horse and buggy with which to reach the
Lights. Now he believed chance had offered him an easier and more
direct method of travel. He could row up the Harbor and Slough,
land close to where the Daisy M. lay, and walk the rest of the way
in a very short time. He climbed into the dory, pulled up the
anchor, and seated himself at the oars.
The bottom of the boat was two inches deep with rain water, and the
thwart was dripping and cold. Seth, being already about as wet as
he could be, did not mind this, but pulled with long strokes out
into the harbor. The vague black shadows of the land disappeared,
and in a minute he was, so far as his eyes could tell him, afloat on
a shoreless sea. He had no compass, but this did not trouble him.
The wind, he knew, was blowing directly from the direction he wished
to go, and he kept the dory's bow in the teeth of it. He rowed on
and on. The waves, out here in the deep water, were of good size,
and the spray flew as he splashed into them. He knew that he was
likely to get off the course, but the Back Harbor was, except for
its upper entrance, landlocked, and he could not go far astray, no
matter where he might hit the shore.
The fog clouds, driven by the squalls, drifted by and passed. At
rare intervals the sky was almost clear. After he had rowed for
half an hour and was beginning to think he must be traveling in
circles, one of these clear intervals came and, far off to the left
and ahead, he saw something which caused him to utter an exclamation
of joy. Two fiery eyes shone through the dark. The fog shut them
in again almost immediately, but that one glance was sufficient to
show that all was well at the post he had deserted. The fiery eyes
were the lanterns in the Twin-Lights towers. John Brown had been
equal to the emergency, and the lamps were lighted.
Seth's anxiety was relieved, but that one glimpse made him even more
eager for home. He rowed on for a short time, and then began edging
in toward the invisible left-hand shore. Judging by the length of
time he had been rowing, he must be close to the mouth of the
Slough, where, winding through the salt marshes, it emerged into the
He crept in nearer and nearer, but no shore came in sight. The fog
was now so thick that he could see not more than ten feet from the
boat, but if he was in the mouth of the Slough he should have
grounded on the marsh bank long before. The reason that he did not,
a reason which did not occur to him at the time, was that the
marshes were four feet under water. Owing to the tremendous tide
Pounddug Slough was now merely a continuation of the Harbor and
almost as wide.
The lightkeeper began to think that he must have miscalculated his
distance. He could not have rowed as far as he thought. Therefore,
he again turned the dory's nose into the teeth of the wind and
pulled steadily on. At intervals he stopped and listened. All he
heard was the moan of distant foghorns and the whistling of the
gusts in trees somewhere at his left. There were pine groves
scattered all along the bluffs on the Eastboro side, so this did not
help him much except to prove that the shore was not far away. He
pulled harder on the right oar. Then he stopped once more to
Another blast howled through the distant trees and swept down upon
him. Then, borne on the wind, he heard from somewhere ahead, and
alarmingly near at hand, other sounds, voices, calls for help.
"Ahoy!" he shouted. "Ahoy there! Who is it? Where are you?"
"Help!" came the calls again--and nearer. "Help!"
"Look out!" roared Seth, peering excitedly over his shoulder into
the dark. "Where are you? Look out or you'll be afoul of . . .
For out of the fog loomed a bulky shape driving down upon him. He
pulled frantically at the oars, but it was too late. A mast rocked
against the sky, a stubby bowsprit shot over the dory, and the
little boat, struck broadside on, heeled to the water's edge. Seth,
springing frantically upward, seized the bowsprit and clung to it.
The dory, pushed aside and half full of water, disappeared. From
the deck behind the bowsprit two voices, a man's voice and a
woman's, screamed wildly.
Seth did not scream. Clinging to the reeling bowsprit, he swung up
on it, edged his way to the vessel's bows and stepped upon the deck.
"For thunder sakes!" he roared angrily, "what kind of navigation's
this? Where's your lights, you lubbers? What d'you mean by--
Where are you anyhow? And--and what schooner's this?"
For the deck, as much as he could see of it in the dark, looked
astonishingly familiar. As he stumbled aft it became more familiar
still. The ropes, a combination of new and old, the new boards in
the deck planking, the general arrangement of things, as familiar to
him as the arrangement of furniture in the kitchen of the Lights!
It could not be . . . but it was! The little schooner was his own,
his hobby, his afternoon workshop--the Daisy M. herself. The Daisy
M., which he had last seen stranded and, as he supposed, hard and
fast aground! The Daisy M. afloat, after all these years!
From the stern by the cabin hatch a man came reeling toward him,
holding to the rail for support with one hand and brandishing the
"Help!" cried the man wildly. "Who is it? Help us! we're drowning!
We're . . . Can't you put us ashore. Please put us . . . Good
Seth made no answer. How could he? The man was Bennie D.
And then another figure followed the first, and a woman's voice
"Have you got a boat?" it cried. "We're adrift on this dreadful
thing and . . . why, SETH!"
The woman was Emeline Bascom.
"Why, SETH!" she said again. Then the sounds of the wind and waves
and the creaking and cracking of the old schooner alone broke the
But Bennie D., even under the shock of such a surprise as this, did
not remain silent long. His precious self was in danger.
"You put us ashore!" he shouted. "You put us ashore right off, do
you hear? Don't stand there like a fool! Do something. Do you
want us to drown? DO something!"
Seth came to life. His first speech was sharp and businesslike.
"Emeline," he said, "there's a lantern hanging up in the cabin. Go
light it and fetch it to me. Hurry!"
"It's upset," was the frightened answer. "Bennie found it when we
first came aboard. When we--when this awful boat started, it upset
and went out."
"Never mind. Probably there's ile enough left for a spell. Go
fetch it. There's matches in a box on the wall just underneath
where 'twas hangin'. Don't stop to talk! Move!"
Mrs. Bascom moved. Seth turned to the "inventor."
"Come for'ard with me," he ordered. "Here! this way! for'ard!
He seized his companion by the arm and pulled him toward the bow.
The frightened genius held back.
"What in time is the matter with you?" snarled the lightkeeper.
"Are your feet asleep? Come!"
Bennie D. came, under compulsion. Seth half led, half dragged him
to the bow, and, bending down, uncoiled a rope and put it in his
"Them's the jib halliards," he explained. "Haul on 'em quick and
hard as you can. If we can h'ist the jib we can get some steerage
way on her, maybe. Haul! haul till you can't haul no more. Then
hang on till I come back and make fast."
He rushed back to the wheel. The tiller ropes were new, and he
could trust them, fortunately. From the cabin hatchway emerged Mrs.
Bascom bearing the lighted lantern.
"Good!" snapped Seth. "Now we can see what we're doin' and, if we
show a glim, maybe we won't run down no more dories. You go for'ard
and-- No, you take this wheel and hold it just as 'tis. JUST as
'tis; understand? I'll be back in a jiffy. What in thunder's the
matter with that foolhead at the jib?"
He seized the lantern and rushed to the bow. Bennie D. had dropped
the halliard and was leaning over the rail screaming for help.
Seth hoisted the jib himself, made it fast, and then turned his
attention to the mutinous hand.
"Shut up!" he bellowed, catching him by the arm. "Who do you
cal'late's goin' to hear you? Shut up! You come with me. I want
you to pump. The old craft would do well enough if she was tight,
but she's more'n likely takin' water like a sieve. You come and
But Bennie had no notion of pumping. With a jerk he tore loose from
the lightkeeper's grasp and ran to the stern, where he continued his
howls for help.
Seth was at his heels.
"Stop that, I tell you," he commanded angrily. "It don't do no
good. If you don't want to go to the bottom you'll work that pump.
Don't be such a clown."
The frantic genius paid no attention. His sister-in-law left the
wheel and put her hand on his shoulder. "Please, Bennie," she
pleaded. "Please do as he says. He knows, and--"
Bennie D. pushed her backward with savage force. "Mind your own
business," he yelled with an oath. "'Twas your foolishness got me
into this." Then, leaning over the rail, he called shrilly,
"He--lp! I'm drowning! Help!"
Mrs. Bascom staggered back against the wheel, which Seth had seized
the instant she deserted it. "Oh!" she said, "you hurt me."
Her husband freed an arm and put it about her. "Are you much hurt,
Emeline?" he asked sharply.
"No--o. No, Seth. I--I guess I ain't really hurt at all."
"Good! Then you take this wheel and hold her just so. That's it.
AND DON'T YOU DROP IT AGAIN. I'll attend to this feller."
His wiry fingers locked themselves in Bennie D.'s shirt collar.
"I ordered you to pump," said Seth. "Now then, you come and pump!"
"Let go!" screamed his captive. "Take your hands off me, or--"
The back of his head striking the deck put a period in the middle of
his sentence. The next moment he was being dragged by the collar to
the little hand pump amidships.
"Pump!" roared the lightkeeper. "Pump! or I'll break your
everlastin' neck. Lively now!"
The dazed genius rose to his knees. "What--" he stammered.
"Right there in front of you. Lively, you lubber!"
A well-directed kick helped to facilitate liveliness.
"What shall I do?" wailed Bennie D., fumbling the pump brake. "How
does it go?"
"Up and down--so." Seth jerked his victim's head up and down, by
way of illustration. "Now, then," he continued, "you pump till I
say quit, or I'll--I swan to man I'll make a spare tops'l out of
He left the inventor working as he had not worked in the memory of
man, and strode back to the wheel. Mrs. Bascom was clinging to the
spokes for dear life.
"I--I ain't dropped it, Seth," she declared. "Truly I ain't."
"All right. You can drop it now. I'll take it myself. You set
down and rest."
He took the wheel and she collapsed, breathless, against the rail.
After a time she ventured to ask a question.
"Seth!" she said, "how do you know which way to steer?"
"I don't," was the reply. "All I'm tryin' to do is keep her afore
it. If this no'theast wind would hold, we'd be all right, but it's
dyin' fast. And the tide must be at flood, if not startin' to go
out. With no wind, and no anchor, and the kind of ebb tide there'll
be pretty soon--well, if we don't drift out to sea we'll be
lucky. . . . Pump! pump! you son of a roustabout. If I hear you
stoppin' for a second I'll come for'ard and murder you."
Bennie D., who had ventured to rest for a moment, bent his aching
back to the task. Was this man-slaughtering tyrant his mild-
mannered, meek brother-in-law, the creature whom he had brow-beaten
so often and managed so effectively? He could not understand--but
Perhaps Seth did not understand, either; perhaps he did not try to.
Yet the explanation was simple and natural. The sea, the emergency,
the danger, his own deck beneath his feet--these were like old
times, here was a situation he knew how to handle. He forgot that
he was a lightkeeper absent from duty, forgot that one of his
passengers was the wife he had run away from, and the other his
bugbear, the dreaded and formidable Bennie D. He forgot all this
and was again the able seaman, the Tartar skipper who, in former
days, made his crews fear, respect, and swear by him.
And he reveled in his authority. Once Mrs. Bascom rose to peer over
"Emeline," he snapped, "didn't I tell you to set down and set still?
Must I give orders twice? SET DOWN!"
The wind died to fitful gusts. The schooner barely moved. The fog
was as thick as ever. Still Seth did not lose courage. When the
housekeeper ventured to murmur that she was certain they would
drown, he reassured her.
"Keep your pennant mast-high, Emeline," he said cheerfully. "We
ain't out at sea, that's sure and sartin. And, until we get in the
breakers, we're safe enough. The old gal leaks some; she ain't as
dry as a Good-Templar prayer meetin', but she's afloat. And when
I'm afloat I ain't afraid, and you needn't be."
Some time after that he asked a question in his turn.
"Emeline," he said, "what in the world are you doin' here, on my
"Your schooner, Seth? Yours? Is this dreadful--is this boat
"Yup. She's mine. I bought her just for fun a long spell ago, and
I've been fussin' with her ever since. But I did it FOR fun; I
never s'posed she'd take a cruise--like this. And what are you and--
him--doin' on her?"
Mrs. Bascom hesitated. "It was all an accident, Seth," she
explained. "This has been an awful night--and day. Bennie and I
was out ridin' together, and we took the wrong road. We got lost,
and the rain was awful. We got out of the buggy to stand under some
trees where 'twas drier. The horse got scared at some limbs fallin'
and run off. Then it was most dark, and we got down to the shore
and saw this boat. There wa'n't any water round her then. Bennie,
he climbed aboard and said the cabin was dry, so we went into it to
wait for the storm to let up. But it kept gettin' worse. When we
came out of the cabin it was all fog like this and water everywhere.
Bennie was afraid to wade, for we couldn't see the shore, so we went
back into the cabin again. And then, all at once, there was a bump
that knocked us both sprawlin'. The lantern went out, and when we
come on deck we were afloat. It was terrible. And then--and then
you came, Seth, and saved our lives."
"Humph! Maybe they ain't saved yet. . . . Emeline, where was you
"Why, we was drivin' home, or thought we was."
"Yes, home--back to the bungalow."
A pause. Then: "Emeline, there's no use your tellin' me what ain't
so. I know more than you think I do, maybe. If you was drivin'
home why did you take the Denboro road?"
"The Denboro road? Why, we only went on that a ways. Then we
turned off on what we thought was the road to the Lights. But it
wa'n't; it must have been the other, the one that goes along by the
edge of the Back Harbor and the Slough, the one that's hardly ever
used. Seth," indignantly, "what do you mean by sayin' that I told
you what wa'n't so? Do you think I lie?"
"No. No more than you thought I lied about that Christy critter."
"Seth, I was always sorry for that. I knew you didn't lie. At
least I ought to have known you didn't. I--"
"Wait. What did you take the Denboro road at all for?"
"Why--why-- Well, Seth, I'll tell you. Bennie wanted to talk to
me. He had come on purpose to see me, and he wanted me to do
somethin' that--that . . . Anyhow, he'd come to see me. I didn't
know he was comin'. I hadn't heard from him for two years. That
letter I got this--yesterday mornin' was from him, and it most
knocked me over."
"You hadn't HEARD from him? Ain't he been writin' you right along?"
"No. The fact is he left me two years ago without even sayin' good-
by, and--and I thought he had gone for good. But he hadn't," with a
sigh, "he hadn't. And he wanted to talk with me. That's why he
took the other road--so's he'd have more time to talk, I s'pose."
"Humph! Emeline, answer me true: Wa'n't you goin' to Denboro to
get--to get a divorce from me?"
"A divorce? A divorce from YOU? Seth Bascom, I never heard such--"
She rose from her seat against the rail.
"Set down," ordered her husband sharply. "You set down and keep
She stared, gasped, and resumed her seat. Seth gazed straight ahead
into the blackness. He swallowed once or twice, and his hands
tightened on the spokes of the wheel.
"That--that feller there," nodding grimly toward the groaning figure
at the pumps, "told me himself that him and you had agreed to get a
divorce from me--to get it right off. He give me to understand that
you expected him, 'twas all settled and that was why he'd come to
Eastboro. That's what he told me this afternoon on the depot
Mrs. Bascom again sprang up.
"Set down!" commanded Seth.
"Yes, you will. Set down." And she did.
"Seth," she cried, "did he--did Bennie tell you that? Did he? Why,
I never heard such a--I never! Seth, it ain't true, not a word of
it. Did you think I'd get a divorce? Me? A self-respectin' woman?
And from you?"
"You turned me adrift."
"I didn't. You turned yourself adrift. I was in trouble, bound by
a promise I give my dyin' husband, to give his brother a home while
I had one. I didn't want to do it; I didn't want him with us--
there, where we'd been so happy. But I couldn't say anything. I
couldn't turn him out. And you wouldn't, you--"
She was interrupted. From beneath the Daisy M.'s keel came a long,
scraping noise. The little schooner shook, and then lay still. The
waves, no longer large, slapped her sides.
Mrs. Bascom, startled, uttered a little scream. Bennie D., knocked
to his knees, roared in fright. Seth alone was calm. Nothing, at
that moment, could alarm or even surprise him.
"Humph!" he observed, "we're aground somewheres. And in the Harbor.
We're safe and sound now, I cal'late. Emeline, go below where it's
dry and stay there. Don't talk--go. As for you," leaving the wheel
and striding toward the weary inventor, "you can stop pumpin'--
unless," with a grim smile, "you like it too well to quit--and set
down right where you be. Right where you be, I said! Don't you
move till I say the word. WHEN I say it, jump!"
He went forward, lowered the jib, and coiled the halliards. Then,
lantern in hand, he seated himself in the bows. After a time he
filled his pipe, lit it by the aid of the lantern, and smoked.
There was silence aboard the Daisy M.
The wind died away altogether. The fog gradually disappeared. From
somewhere not far away a church clock struck the hour. Seth heard
it and smiled. Turning his head he saw in the distance the Twin-
Lights burning steadily. He smiled again.
Gradually, slowly, the morning came. The last remnant of low-
hanging mist drifted away. Before the bows of the stranded schooner
appeared a flat shore with a road, still partially covered by the
receding tide, along its border. Fish houses and anchored dories
became visible. Behind them were hills, and over them roofs and
trees and steeples.
A step sounded behind the watcher in the bows. Mrs. Bascom was at
"Why, Seth!" she cried, "why, Seth! it's Eastboro, ain't it? We're
close to Eastboro."
Seth nodded. "It's Eastboro," he said. "I cal'lated we must be
there or thereabouts. With that no'theast breeze to help us we
couldn't do much else but fetch up at the inner end of the Back
She laid her hand timidly on his arm.
"Seth," she whispered, "what should we have done without you? You
saved our lives."
He swung about and faced her. "Emeline," he said, "we've both been
awful fools. I've been the biggest one, I guess. But I've learned
my lesson--I've swore off--I told you I'd prove I was a man. Do you
think I've been one tonight?"
"Well, do you? Or," with a gesture toward the "genius" who was
beginning to take an interest in his surroundings, "do you like that
"Seth," reproachfully, "I never liked him better. If you had--"
She was interrupted by her brother-in-law, who came swaggering
toward them. With the sight of land and safety, Bennie D.'s courage
returned; also, his old assurance.
"Humph!" he observed. "Well, sister, we are safe, I really believe.
In spite of," with a glare at the lightkeeper, "this person's insane
recklessness and brutality. Now I will take you ashore and out of
Seth rose to his feet.
"Didn't I tell you," he demanded, "not to move till I said the word?
Emeline, stay right here."
Bennie D. stared at the speaker; then at his sister-in-law.
"Sister," he cried, in growing alarm, "sister, come! come! we're
going ashore, I tell you. What are you waiting for?"
Seth put his arm about the lady.
"She is goin' ashore," he said. "But she's goin' with me, and she's
goin' to stay with me. Ain't you, Emeline?"
The lady looked up into his face and then down again. "If you want
me, Seth," she said.
Bennie D. sprang forward. "Emeline," he shrieked, "what do you
mean? Are you going to leave me? Have you forgotten--"
"She ain't forgot nothin'," broke in Seth. "But YOU'RE forgettin'
what I told you. Will you go aft there and set down, or shall I
"But--but, Emeline--sister--have you forgotten your promise to your
dying husband? To my brother? You promised to give me a home as
long as you owned one."
Then Seth played his trump.
"She don't own any home," he declared triumphantly. "She sold her
house, and she ain't got any home--except the one I'm goin' to give
her. And if you ever dare to show your head inside of THAT, I'll--
I'll heave you over both lights. If you think I'm foolin', just try
and see. Now then, Emeline."
And, with his wife in his arms, Seth Atkins--Seth Atkins Bascom--
CAPTAIN Seth Atkins Bascom--swung over the rail and waded to land.
THE EBB TIDE
"John Brown," his long night's vigil over, extinguished the lights
in the two towers, descended the iron stairs, and walked across the
yard into the kitchen. His first move, after entering the house,
was to ring the telephone bell and endeavor to call Eastboro. He
was anxious concerning Atkins. Seth had not returned, and the
substitute assistant was certain that some accident must have
befallen him. The storm had been severe, but it would take more
than weather to keep the lightkeeper from his post; if he was all
right he would have managed to return somehow.
Brown rang the bell time and time again, but got no response. The
storm had wrecked the wires, that was certain, and that means of
communication was cut off. He kindled the fire in the range and
tried to forget his anxiety by preparing breakfast. When it was
prepared he waited a while and then sat down to a lonely meal. But
he had no appetite, and, after dallying with the food on his plate,
gave it up and went outside to look about him.
The first thing he looked at was the road from the village. No sign
of life in that direction as far as he could see. Then he looked at
the bungalow. Early as it was, a thread of blue smoke was ascending
from the chimney. Did that mean that the housekeeper had returned?
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