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Title: Vesty of the Basins
Author: Greene, Sarah P. McLean, 1856-1935
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Vesty of the Basins" ***

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[Illustration: Cover Art]



VESTY OF THE BASINS

_A Novel_


BY

SARAH P. McLEAN GREENE


AUTHOR OF CAPE COD FOLKS, ETC.



NEW YORK

GROSSET & DUNLAP

PUBLISHERS


Published by arrangement with Harper & Brothers



Copyright, 1892, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

All rights reserved.



CONTENTS


     I.  THE MEETIN'
    II.  "SETTIN' ON THE LOG"
   III.  "GETTIN' A NAIL PUT IN THE HOSS'S SHU"
    IV.  LOVE, LOVE
     V.  COLUMBUS AND THE EGG, AND LOT'S WIFE
    VI.  THIS GREATER LOVE
   VII.  "SETTIN' ON THE FENCE"--THE SHIFTY SPECTRE
  VIII.  "VESTY'S MARRIED"
    IX.  THE TALE OF CAPTAIN LEEZUR'S SLY COURTSHIP
     X.  A CALL FROM NOTELY'S YACHT
    XI.  ANOTHER NAIL
   XII.  THE MASTER REVELLER
  XIII.  CAPTAIN LEEZUR RELATES HOW MIS' GARRISON ATE CROW
   XIV.  "TAR-A-TA!" OF THE TRUMPET
    XV.  THE BROTHERS
   XVI.  THE POPLAR LEAVES TREMBLE
  XVII.  GOIN' TO THE DAGARRIER'S
 XVIII.  UNCLE BENNY SAILS AWAY TO GALILEE
   XIX.  THE BASIN
    XX.  SOCIAL DIVERSIONS AT THE "POST-OFFICE"
   XXI.  BROKEN WINDOWS
  XXII.  "NEIGHBORIN'"
 XXIII.  THE "FLAG-RAISIN'," OR THE "OCCASION"
  XXIV.  THE STORY OF THE SACRED COW
   XXV.  IN THE LANE
  XXVI.  JUST THE SCHOOL-HOUSE



VESTY OF THE BASINS


I

THE MEETIN'

Now is it to be rain or a storm of wind at the Basin?

I love that foam out on the sea; those boulders, black and wet along
the shore, they are a rest to me; the clouds chase one another; in this
dim north country the wind is cool and strong, though it is now
midsummer; at sunset you shall see such color!

From a little, low, storm-beaten building comes the sound of a
fog-horn.  That is the gift of Melchias Tibbitts, deceased, to the
Basin school-house.  Yonder is his schooner, the "Martha B. Fuller,"
long stranded, leaning seaward, down there in the cove.

It is Sunday afternoon; the fog-horn that Melchias Tibbitts gave--it
serves as bell; the battered schoolhouse as church; and for Sunday
raiment? some little reverent, aspiring compromise of an unwonted white
collar, stretched stiff and holy and uncomfortable about the stalwart
neck above a blue flannel shirt, or a new pair of rubber boots--the
trousers much tucked in--worn with an air of conscious, deprecating
pride.

But the women will be fine.  God only knows how! but be sure, in some
pitiful, sweet way they will be fine.

There are many panes of glass out of the windows, the panels of the
doors are out; so better they can see the clouds pass: it is beautiful.

Oh, naught have I either, nor wisdom, nor fine speech--only a little
knowledge of shipwreck out yonder, and mirth, and tears, and love.  The
windows and panels of my life are no strong plate, polished and
glittering to all beholders; they are stained and broken through.  Let
me come in and sit with ye.


"We should like to open our meetin' with singin'," said Superintendent
Skates; "will one of the Pointers lead us in singin'?"

The Pointers were the aristocrats of this region, living twelve miles
away at the Point, in the midst of two grocery stores and a millinery
establishment; there were two of them here for a Sunday drive and
pastime.  They were silent.

"I see," said Elder Skates patiently, "that a few of the Crooked Rivers
have drove down to-day, too.  Will one of the Crooked Rivers lead us in
singin'?"

Lower down in the scale than the Pointers were they of Crooked River,
but still far above the Basins; those present were not singers, they
were silent.

"Then will one of the Capers lead us in singin'?" very meekly and
patiently persisted Elder Skates.

Nearer, and of low degree, were they of the Cape, but still above the
Basins.  They were silent.

"I know," said Elder Skates, his subdued tone buoyant now with an
undertone of hope, "that one of the Basins will lead us in singin'!"

For the Basins had reached those cheerful depths where there is no
social or artistic status to maintain; so low as to be expected to do,
or attempt to do, whatever might be asked of them, even though failure
plunged them, if possible, in deeper depths of abasement.  There was
nothing beneath them except the Artichokes; and it was seldom, very
seldom, an Artichoke was present.

But the Basins, though so low, were modest.

"Can't one of the Basins start, 'He will carry you through'?" said the
enduring Brother Skates; "where is Vesty?"

"She 's a-helpin' Elvine with her baby," came now a prompt and ready
reply: "she said she'd come along for social meetin', after you'd had
Sunday-school, ef she could."

"How is Elvine's baby?" spoke up another voice.

"Wal', he 's poored away dreadful, but Aunt Lowize says he 's turned to
git along all right now, and when Aunt Lowize gives hopes, it 's good
hopes, she 's nachally so spleeny."

"Sure enough.  Wal', I've raised six, and nary sick day, 'less it was a
cat-bile or some sech little meachin' thing.  I tell you there ain't no
doctor's ructions like nine-tenths milk to two-tenths molasses, and sot
'em on the ground, and let 'em root."

At this simple and domestic throwing off of all social reserve, voices
hitherto silent began to arise, numerous and cheerful.

"Is there any more rusticators come to board this summer?"

"There 's only four by and large," replied a male voice sadly.  "These
here liquor laws 't Washin'ton 's put onto nor'eastern Maine are
a-killin' on us for a fash'nable summer resort.  When folks finds out
't they've got to go to a doctor and swear 't there 's somethin' the
matter with their insides, in order to git a little tod o' whiskey
aboard, they turns and p'ints her direc' for Bar Harbor and Saratogy
Springs; an' they not only p'ints her, they h'ists double-reef sails
and sends her clippin'!"

"Lunette 's got two," came from the other side of the house.

"What do they pay?"

"Five dollars a week."

"Pshaw! what ructions!  Three dollars a week had ought to pay the board
of the fanciest human creetur 't God ever created yit.  But some folks
wants the 'arth, and'll take it too, if they can git it."

"Wal', I don' know; they're kind o' meachy, and allas souzlin'
theirselves in hot water; it don't cost nothin', but it gives yer house
a ridick'lous name.  Then they told Lunette they wanted their lobsters
br'iled alive.  'Thar,' says she, 'I sot my foot down.  I told 'em I'
wa'n't goin' to have no half-cooked lobsters hoppin' around in torments
over my house.  I calk'late to put my lobsters in the pot, and put the
cover on and know where they be,' says she."

"I took a rusticator once 't was dietin' for dyspepsy--that's a state
o' the stomick, ye know, kind o' between hay and grass--and if I didn't
get tired o' makin' toast and droppin' eggs!"

"I never could see no fun in bein' a rusticator anyway, down there by
the sea-wall on a hot day, settin' up agin' a spruce tree admirin' the
lan'scape, with ants an' pitch ekally a-meanderin' over ye."

"Lunette's man-boarder there, the husban', he 's editor of a
noos-sheet, and gits a thousand dollars a year--'tain't believable, but
it's what they say--an' he thinks he knows it all.  He got Fluke to
take him out in his boat; he began to direc' Fluke how to do this, an'
how to do that, and squallin' and flyin' at him.  Fluke sailed back
with him and sot him ashore.  'When I take a hen in a boat, I'll take a
hen,' says he."

"Did ye hear about Fluke's tradin' cows?"

"No."----

Meanwhile Brother Skates had been standing listening, patient,
interested, but now recovered himself, blushing, in his new rubber
boots.

"Can't one of the Basins start 'He will carry you through'?" he
entreated.

"I'd like to," said one sister, the string of her tongue having been
unloosed in secular flights; "I've got all the dispersition in the
world, Brother Skates, but I don't know the tune."

"It 's better to start her with only jest a good dispersition and no
tune to speak of," said Brother Skates with gentle reproof, "than not
to start her at all."

Thus encouraged the song burst forth, with tune enough and to spare.

It was this I heard--I, a happy adopted dweller, from the lowest
handle-end of the Basin, while driving over through the woods with
Captain Pharo Kobbe and his young third wife and children.

"Come, git up," said Captain Pharo, at the sound, applying the lap of
the reins to the horse; "ye've never got us anywheres yet in time to
hear 'Amen'!  Thar 's no need o' yer shyin' at them spiles, ye darned
old fool!  Ye hauled 'em thar yourself, yesterday.  Poo! poo!  Hohum!
Wal--wal--never mind--

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'My days are as the grass.  Or as--']

Git up!"

As we alighted at the school-house, we listened through the open panel
with comfort to the final but vociferous refrain of "He will carry you
through," and entered in time to take our seats for the class.

Elder Skates stood with a lesson paper in his hand, from which he asked
questions with painful literalness and adherence to the text.

The audience, having no lesson paper or previous preparation of the
sort, and not daring to enter into these themes with that originality
of thought and expression displayed in their former conversation,
answered only now and then, with the pale air of hitting at a broad
guess.

"Is sin the cause of sorrow?" said Elder Skates.

No reply.

"Is sin the cause of sorrow?" he repeated faithfully.

At this point, one of a row of small boys on the back seat, no more
capable of appreciating this critical period of the Sunday-school than
the broad-faced sculpin fish which he resembled, took an alder-leaf
from his pocket and, lifting it to his mouth, popped it, with an
explosion so successful and loud that it startled even himself.

His guardian (aunt), who sat directly in front of him, though deaf,
heard some echo of this note; and seeing the sudden glances directed
their way, she turned and, observing the look of frozen horror and
surprise upon his features, said severely, "You stop that sithing"
(sighing).

Delighted at this full and unexpected escape from guilt and its
consequences, the sculpin embraced his fellow-sculpins with such
ecstasy that he fell off from his seat, upon the floor.

His aunt, turning again, and having no doubt as to his position this
time, lifted him and restored him to his place with a determination so
pronounced that the act in itself was clearly audible.

"You set your spanker-beam down there now, and keep still!" she said.

Elber Skates took advantage of this providential disturbance to slide
on to the next question:

"How can we escape trouble?"

No reply.

"How can we escape trouble?" he meekly and patiently repeated.

"Good Lord, Skates!" said Captain Pharo, and put his hand in his pocket
for his pipe, but bethought himself, and withdrew it, with a deep sigh.

Elder Skates had looked at him with hope, but now again mechanically
reiterated:

"How--can--we--escape--trouble?"

"We can't! we can't no way in this world!" said Captain Pharo.  "Where
in h--ll did you scrape up them questions, Skates?  Escape trouble?  Be
you a married man, Skates?  I'd always reckoned ye was!  Poo! poo!
Hohum!  Wal--wal--never mind--

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'Or the morn-ing flow'r.  The blight--'"]

He bethought himself again of his surroundings, spat far out of the
window as a melancholy resource, and was silent.

Elder Skates, alarmed and staggered, looked softly down his list of
questions for something vaguely impersonal, widely abstract, and now
lit upon it with a smile.

"What is the meaning of 'Alphy and Omegy'?" he said--and waited, weary
but safe.

But at the second repetition of this inscrutable conundrum, a lank and
tall girl of some fifteen summers, arose and said, not without
something of the sublime air becoming a solitary intelligence: "It's
the great and only Pot-entate."

Elder Skates showed no sign of having been hit to death, but gazed
vaguely at each one of his audience in turn, and then turned with dazed
approval to the girl.

"Very good.  Very good indeed," said he.  "How true that is!  Let us
try and act upon it during the week, according to our lights.
Providence--nor nothin' else--preventin', we will have our
Sunday-school here as usual next Sunday, and I hope we shall all try
and keep up religion.  Is there anybody willing to have the 'five-cent
supper' this week, in order to raise funds for a united burying-ground?
We have been long at work on this good cause, but, I'm sorry to say,
interest seems to be flaggin'.  Is there anybody willin' to have the
five-cent supper this week?"

"I can, I suppose," said the woman who had been willing to sing without
tune.  "But I can't give beans no longer.  I can give beet greens and
duck."

"I don't think it was any wonder we was gettin' discouraged," said
another now resuscitated voice.  "Zely had the last one, and Fluke for
devilment gets a lot of the Artichokes over early ter help the cause.
Wal, you might know there wa'n't no beans left for the Capers and
Basins, and Zely was dreadful mortified, for there was several Crooked
Rivers."

"Cap'n Nason Teel says," continued that individual's wife, "that the
treasury 's fell behind; he says there ain't nothin' made in five-cent
suppers, Artichokes or no Artichokes--in beans and corn-beef; he says
we've got to give somethin' that don't cost nothin'.  Beet greens and
duck don't cost nothin', and if that 's agreeable, I'm willin'."

"All the same, beet greens and duck is very good eatin', I think,"
proposed Elder Skates, and receiving no dissenting voice, continued:

"Providence--nor nothin' else--preventin', there will be a five-cent
supper at Cap'n Nason Teel's, on Wednesday evenin'.  Beet greens and
duck.  I will now close the Sunday-school, trusting we shall do all we
can during the week to help the cause of the burying-ground and of
religion.  As soon as Brother Birds'll arrives, we can begin social
meetin'."

"It 's natch'all he should be late; somebody said 't he was havin'
pickled shad for dinner."

"Here he comes now, beatin' to wind'ard," said Captain Pharo from the
window.  "He'll make it!  The wind 's pilin' in through this 'ere
school-house on a clean sea-rake.  I move 't we tack over to south'ard
of her."

This nautical advice was being followed with some confusion; I did not
see Vesty when she came in, but when the majority of us had tacked to
south'ard, I, electing still to remain at the nor'east, saw her, not
far in front of me, and knew it was she.

The wind was blowing the little scolding locks of dusky brown hair in
her neck; her shoulders were broad to set against either wind or
trouble; she was still and seemed to make stillness, and yet her breast
was heaving under hard self-control, her cheeks were burning, her eyes
downcast.

I looked.  Nestled among those safe to the south'ard was a young man
with very wide and beautiful blue eyes, that spoke for him without
other utterance whatever he would.  Of medium height and build, yet one
only thought, somehow, how strong he was; clad meanly as the rest, even
to the rubber storm-bonnet held in his tanned black hand, it was yet
plain enough that he was rich, powerful, and at ease.

His wide eyes were on Vesty, and shot appealing mirth at her.

She never once glanced at him, her full young breast heaving.

"Can't some of the brothers fix this scuttle over my head?" said Elder
Birds'll nervously, addressing the group of true and tried seamen,
anchored cosily to south'ard.

One, Elder Cossey, arose, a Tartar, not much beloved, but prominent in
these matters.  In his endeavors he mounted the desk and disappeared,
wrestling with the scuttle, all except his lower limbs and expansive
boots.

"My Lord!" muttered one who had been long groaning under a Cossey
mortgage; "ef I could only h'ist the rest of ye up there, and shet ye
up!"

"I sh'd like to give him jest one jab with my hatpin," added a sister
sufferer, under her breath.

"The scuttle is now closed," said Elder Birds'll gravely, as Elder
Cossey descended, "and the social meetin' is now open."

Here the blow of silence again fell deeply.

The wide blue eyes gave Vesty a look, like the flying ripple on a deep
lake.

She did not turn, but that ripple seemed to light upon her own sweet
lips; they quivered with the temptation to laugh, the little scolding
locks caressed her burning ears and tickled her neck, but she sat very
still.  I fancied there were tears of distress, almost, in her eyes.  I
wanted her to lift her eyes just once, that I might see what they were
like.

"Hohum!" began Elder Cossey, with wholly devout intentions--"we thank
Thee that another week has been wheeled along through the sand, about a
foot deep between here and the woods, and over them rotten spiles on
the way to the Point, and them four or five jaggedest boulders at the
fork o' the woods--I wish there needn't be quite so much zigzagging and
shuffling in their seats by them 't have come in barefoot afore the
Throne o' Grace," said Elder Cossey, suddenly opening his eyes, and
indicating the row of sculpins with distinct disfavor.

"Yes," he continued, "we've been a-straddlin' along through
troublements and trialments and afflickaments, hanging out our phiols
down by the cold streams o' Babylon, and not gittin' nothin' in 'em,
hohum!"

Vibrating thus mysteriously, and free and unconfined, between
exhortation and prayer, Elder Cossey finally merged into a recital of
his own weakness and vileness as a miserable sinner.

And here a strange thing happened.  A brother who had been noticing the
winks and smiles cast broadly about, and thinking in all human justice
that Elder Cossey was getting more than his share, got up and declared
with emotion, that he'd "heered some say how folks was all'as talkin'
about their sins for effex, and didn't mean nothin' by it, but I can
say this much, thar ain't no talkin' for effex about Brother Cossey; he
has been, and is, every bit jest as honest mean as what he 's been
a-tellin' on!"

Elder Skates arose, trembling.  "Vesty," said he, with unnatural
quickness of tone; "will you start 'Rifted Rock'?"

The blue, handsome eyes were on her mercilessly--she was suffocating
besides with a wild desire to laugh, her breath coming short and quick.
She gave one agonized look at Brother Skates, and then, lifted her eyes
to the window.

The clouds were sad and grand; there was a bird flying to them.

She fixed her eyes there, and her voice flowed out of her:

  "'Softly through the storm of life,
  Clear above the whirlwind's cry,
  O'er the waves of sorrow, steals
  The voice of Jesus, "It is I."'"


The music in her throat had trembled at first like the bird's flight,
winging as it soared, but now all that was over; her uplifted face was
holy, grave:

  "'In the Rifted Rock I'm resting.'"

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Elder Cossey forgot his wrath in mysterious deep movings of
compunction.  Fluke, who had entered, was soft, reverent, his fingers
twitching for his violin.  Even so, I thought, as I listened, it may be
will sound to us some voice from the other shore, when we put out on
the dark river.

"Vesty," said a mite of a girl, coming up to her after meeting, "Evelin
wants to know if you can set up with Clarindy to-night.  She 's been
took again."

"Yes," said Vesty, the still look on her face, "I'll come."

"Vesty," said Elder Skates, "when can you haul over the organ and swipe
her out?  She 's full o' chalk."

"I'll try and do it to-morrow."  Vesty looked at Elder Skates and
smiled, showing her wholesome white teeth.

"Vesty," said Mrs. Nason Teel; "I want ye to set right down here, now
I've got ye, and give me that resute for Mounting Dew pudding."

The blue eyes at the door gave Vesty an imperative, quick glance.

But she sat down by Mrs. Nason Teel; she sat there purposely until all
the people were dispersed and the winding lanes were still outside.

Then she went her own way alone, something like tears veiled under
those long, quiet lashes.

She saw first a muscular hand on the fence and dared not look up, until
Notely Garrison had vaulted over at a bound and stood before her, his
glad eyes flashing, his storm hat in his hand.

Then her look was wild reproach.

"Vesty!" he cried.  "Is this the way, after all we have been to one
another?  Have you forgotten how we were like sister and brother, you
and I?  how Doctor Spearmint led us to school together?" he laughed
eagerly.  "How"----

"I haven't forgotten, Note.  But it can't be the same again, as man and
woman, with what you are, and what I am."

"Better!  O Vesty!"--he stood quite on a level with her now; she was
glad of that.  She was a tall girl, taller than he when they parted.
"O Vesty!" he drank in her beauty with an awe that uplifted her in his
frank, bright gaze--"God was happy when He made you!"

But the girl's eyes only searched his with a Basin gravity, for faith.

A fatal step, searching in Notely's eyes!  A beautiful pallor crept
over her face, flushing into joy.  She ran her hand through his rough,
light hair in the old way.

"It has not changed you, being at the schools so long, as I thought it
would," she said wistfully, stroking his hair with mature gentleness,
though he was older than she.  "Why, Note; you look just as brown, and
hearty, and masterful as ever!"

"Oh, but it wasn't book-schools I went to, you know.  It was rowing and
foot-ball and taking six bars on the running leap, and swinging from
the feet with the head downward, and all that.  I can do it all."

He looked away from her with mischief in his eyes, and hummed a line
through his fine Greek nose, as Captain Pharo might.

"I don't doubt it, but you were high in the college too--for Lunette
saw it in a paper: so high it was spoken of!"

"I just asked them to do that, Vesty.  People can't refuse me, you
know.  I get whatever I ask for."

He turned to her with a sort of childish pathos on his strong, handsome
face.

She bit her lip for joy and pride in him, even his strange, gay ways.

"Come, Vesta!" he said, with an air of natural and graceful
proprietorship; "a stolen meeting is nonsense between you and me.  I
shall see you home."



II

"SETTIN' ON THE LOG"

His face invited me, the skin drawn over it rather tightly, resembling
a death's-head, yet beaming with immortal joy.

He was sitting on a log; his little granddaughter, on the other side of
him, was as cheerfully diverted in falling off of it.  He was picking
his teeth with some mysterious talisman of a bone, selected from the
forepaw of a deer, and gazing at the heavens as at a fond familiar
brother.

"Won't you set down a spa-ll," he said, and the way he said spell
suggested pleasing epochs of rest.

"Leezur's my name; and neow I'll tell ye how ye can all'as remember it;
it's jest like all them great discoveries, it's dreadful easy when it's
once been thought on.  Leezur--leezure--see?  Leezure means takin'
things moderate, ye know, kind o' settin' areound in the shank o' the
evenin'--Leezur--lee-zure--see!"

Oh, how he beamed!  The systems of Newton and Copernicus seemed dwarfed
in comparison.  I sat down on the log; the little girl, gazing at me in
astonishment, fell off.

"What's the marter, Dilly?" said her grandfather, in the same slow,
mellow, jubilant tone with which he had propounded his discovery, and
not withdrawing his fond smile from the heavens; "'s the log tew
reoundin' for ye to set stiddy on?"

A rattling brown structure rose before us, surrounded by a somewhat
firm staging; a skeleton roof, with a few shingles in one corner,
twisted all ways by the wind.  It told its own tale, of an interrupted
vocation.

"I expect to git afoul of her agin to-morrer," continued Captain
Leezur; "ef Pharo got my nails when he went up to the Point to-day.
Some neow 's all'as dreadful oneasy when they gits to shinglin'; wants
to drive the last shingle deown 'fore the first one's weather-shaped.
Have ye ever noticed how some 's all'as shiftin' a chaw o' tobakker?
Neow when I takes a chaw I wants ter let her lay off one side, and
compeound with her own feelin's when she gits ready to melt away.
Forced-to-go never gits far, ye know.

"Some 's that way," he resumed; "and some 's sarssy."

I looked up incredulously, but his fostering, abstracted smile was as
serene as ever.

"Vesty, neow, stood down there in the lane this mornin', and sarssed me
for a good ten minits; sarssed me abeout not havin' no nails, and
sarssed me abeout settin' on the log a spall; stood there and sarssed
and charffed."

"She is some relative--some grandniece of yours, Captain Leezur?"

"No, oh no.  Vesty and me 's only jest mates; but we charff and sarss
each other 'tell the ceows come home."

I thought of the tall girl with the holy eyelids and the brave
resistance against mirth, and in spite of my predilection for Captain
Leezur, his words seemed to me like sacrilege.

"I saw her, Sunday," I said.

"Wal, thar' neow!  Vesty 's jest as pious lookin', Sundays, as Pharo's
tew-seated kerridge.  I tell her, I'm dreadful glad for her sake that
there ain't but one Sunday tew a week, she couldn't hold out no longer.
Still, she's vary partickeler, Vesty is, and she 's good for taking
keer o' folks.  Elder Birds'll says 't ef Vesty Kirtland ain't come
under 'tonin' grace, then 'tonin' grace is mighty skeerce to the Basin."

"She is beautiful," I said.

"Oh, I don't know 'beout that.  Vesty 's a little more hullsome lookin'
sometimes 'long in the winter, when she gits bleached out and poored
away a bit."

"People seem to depend on her a great deal."

"Sartin they dew.  Wal, Vesty 's gittin' on.  She 's nineteen year old.
She can row a boat, or dew a washin', or help in a deliverunce case,
and she 's r'al handy and comfortin' in death-damps."

"All that!  Vesty--and nineteen!"  I think I sighed.

"Ye mustn't let her kile herself reound ye," said Captain Leezur.

I looked up in dismay.  Had he not seen my weakness of body, and my
birth-scarred face?

No, apparently he had not; his benign blessed face uplifted, and his
voice so glad:

"Ye know how 'tis with women folks; they don't give no warnin', but
first ye know they're kilin' themselves all reound and reound yer
h'art-strings.  They don't know what it 's for and ye don't know what
it 's for; but take a young man like you, and ef ye ain't keerful,
Vesty'll jest as sartin git in a kile on you as the world."

"How about that strong-looking young man?" I said.  "Very easy,
swaggers gracefully--with the blue eyes."

"Neow I know jest who you mean!  You mean Note Garrison.  Sartin, Vesty
's done herself reound him from childhood to old age, as ye might say.
I don't know whether he c'd ever unkile himself or not, but I shouldn't
want to bet on no man's 'charnces with a woman like Vesty all weound
areound and reound him that way.  Some says 't he wouldn't look at a
Basin when it comes to marryin'.  But thar'!  Note all'as kerries sail
enough ter sink the boat--but what he says, he'll stick to."

"He is rich, then?"

"Wal, yes.  They own teown prop'ty somewhars, and they own all the Neck
here, and lays areound on her through the summer.  Why, Note's
father--he 's dead neow--he and I uster stand deown on the mud flats
when we was boys, a-diggin' clarms tergether, barefoot; 'tell he
cruised off somewhar's and made his fortin'.

"I might 'a' done jest the same thing," reflected Captain Leezur aloud,
with a pensiveness that still had nothing of unavailing regret in it,
"ef I'd been a mind tew; and had a monniment put up over _me_ like one
o' these here No. 10 Mornin' Glory coal stoves."

I too mused, deeply, sadly.

O placid, unconscious sarcasm! innocent as flowers: wise end, truly, of
all earthly ambition!  How much more distinguished, after all, Captain
Leezur, the spireless grave waiting down there in the little home lot
by the sea.  Since five-cent suppers do not enrich the donor, and the
treasury of the United Burying Ground is permanently low.

"Never mind, Dilly! crawl up agin.  What ef ye did tunk onto yer little
head; little gals' skulls is yieldin' and sof'."

"What is the weather going to be, Captain Leezur?" I said, following
his gaze skyward.

"Wal, I put on my new felts," said he, indicating without any false
assumption of modesty those chaste sepulchres enclosing his
feet--"hopin' 'twould fetch a rain! said I didn't care ef I did spot my
new felts ef 'twould only fetch a rain!  One thing," he continued,
scanning the dilatory sky with a look that was keen without being
severe; "she'll rain arfter the moon fulls, ef she don't afore."

I reluctantly made some sign of going, but was restrained.  "Wait a
spall," he said; and ran his hand anticipatively into his pocket.  He
brought to light some lozenges that had evidently just been recovered
from blushing intimacy with his "plug" of tobacco.

"Narvine lozenges," he explained; "they're dreadful moderatin' to the
dispersition; quiet ye; take some.

"They come high," he confided to me, with the idea of enhancing, not
begrudging the gift, as we sucked them luxuriously; "cent apiece,
dollar a hunderd.  Never mind, Dilly; here 's one o' Granpy's narvine
lozenges; p'r'aps it'll help ye to set stiddier."

So, with a glad view to moderating my disposition, I sat with Captain
Leezur and the little girl on the log, and ate soiled nervine lozenges,
tinctured originally with such primal medicaments as catnip and
thoroughwort; and whether from that source or not, yet peace did
descend upon me like a river.

As I finally rose to go--

"D'ye ever have the toothache?" said Captain Leezur kindly; "ef ye do,
come right straight deown to me, and ef she 's home you shall have
her"--and he exhibited beamingly that talismanic little bone cleft from
the forepaw of a deer, "Ye pick yer teeth with 'er and ye're sartin
never to have the toothache, but ef you've got a toothache, she'll cure
ye.

"Mine 's been lent a great deal," he continued proudly.  "She 's been
as far as 'Tit Menan Light, and one woman over to Sheep Island kep' her
a week once.  She 's been sent for sometimes right in the middle o' the
night!  When there ain't nobody else a-usin' of her, I takes the
charnce to pick away with her a little myself.  But ef you ever feel
the toothache comin' on, come to me direc'--and ef she 's home, you
shall have her."

I thanked him with a swelling heart.  We shook hands affectionately,
and I went on up the lane.

I turned the corner by the school-house.  Away back there among the
spruce trees, I saw moving figures, red, green, blue, and heard low
voices and laughter.

Then I remembered how I had heard the orphan "help" of my hostess, Miss
Pray, make a request that she might go "gumming" with the other girls
that afternoon.

It was a long perspective to limp through alone, with all those bright,
merry eyes peering from behind the spruce trees.  But I had not labored
over half the way, when I saw one, the tallest one, coming toward me.

Vesty.

"Won't you have some?" she said.  "Strangers don't know how good it is;
it is very good for you--a little."  Yes, she was chewing the gum--a
little--herself; but that wild pure resin from the trees, and with, oh,
such teeth! such lips! a breath like the fragrant shades she had issued
from.

She poured some of her spicy gleanings into my hand.

And now I could see her closely.

I do not know how she would have looked at other men, strong men; but
at me she looked as the girl mother who bore me, untimely and in
terror, might have done, had she been now in the flesh, mutely
protective against all the world, without repugnance, infinitely tender.

"I am coming up to sit with you and Miss Pray, some evening," she said.
Her warm brown fingers touched mine.  She did not blush; she had her
Sunday face--holy, grave.

"Come!  God bless you, child!" I said, and limped on, strong against
the world.

I sat by the fireplace that evening; not a night in all the year in
this sweet north country but you shall find the fire welcome.

Miss Pray's fireplace stretched wide between door and door.  Opposite
it were the windows; you saw the water, the moon shone in.

Miss Pray did her own farming and was sleepy, yet sat by me with that
religious awe of me as befitting one who had elected to pay seven
dollars a week for board!  I surprised a look of baffled wonder and
curiosity on her face now and then, as well as of remorse at allowing
me to attach such a mysterious value to my existence.

She did not know that her fire in itself was priceless.

It burned there--part of a lobster trap, washed ashore, three buoys, a
section of a hen-coop, a bottomless chopping tray, a drift-wood stump
with ten fantastic roots sending up blue and green flame, a portion of
the wheel of an outworn cart, some lobster shells, the eyes glowing,
some mussel shells, light green, and seaweed over all, shining,
hissing, lisping.

Miss Pray snored gently.  I put some of the spruce gum Vesty had given
me into my mouth; well, yes, by birth I have very eminent right to
aristocratic proclivities.

But the spruce woods came again before me with their balm, and her
face.  I dwelt upon it fondly, without that pang of hope which most men
must endure, and smiled to think of Captain Leezur's dismay if he
should know how Vesty had already coiled herself around my
heart-strings!



III

"GETTIN' A NAIL PUT IN THE HOSS'S SHU"

They never noticed my physical misfortune except in this way: they
invited me everywhere; to mill, to have the horse shod, all voyages by
sea or land; my visiting and excursion list was a marvel of repletion.

Captain Pharo came down--my soul's brother--with more of "a h'tch and a
go," than usual in his gait.

"My woman read in some fool-journal somewheres, lately," he explained,
"about pourin' kerosene on yer corns and then takin' a match to her and
lightin' of her off.

"Wal', I supposed she was a-dressin' my corns down in jest the old
usual way, last Sunday mornin', when--by clam! ye don't want to splice
onto too young a shipmate, major."  (This last was a divinely Basin
thought, treating me as a subject of the wars.)

"I've married all states but widders," said Captain Pharo, with a
_blasé_ air  of conjugal experience; "but my advice above all things
is," he murmured, lifting his maimed foot, "don't splice onto too young
a shipmate.  They're all'as a-tryin' some new ructions on ye.  Now
Vesty, even as stiddy as she is, she 's all'as gittin' the women folks
crazy over some new patron for a apern, or some new resute for pudd'n'
and pie.  So," he added, "ef you sh'd come to me, intendin' to splice,
all the advice 't I c'd give 'ud be, I _don't_ know widders; poo!
poo!--hohum!  Wal, wal--

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'My  days are as the grass, Or as--']

_try_ widders."

As I stood speechless with conflicting emotions, he lit his pipe and
continued, more hopefully:

"I've got to go up to the Point to git a nail put in the hoss's shu, so
I come down to ask you to go up to the house and jine us."

Now I already knew that the Basin way of proceeding to get a nail put
in the horse's shoe meant a day of widely excursive incident and
pleasure, in which the main or stated object was cast far from our
poetical vision.  I accepted.

"My woman invited Miss Lester to go with us.  The old double-decker
rides easier for havin' consid'rable ballast, ye know--and Miss Lester
tips her at nigh onto about two hunderd; she 's a widder too, ain't
she, by the way? but she 's clost onto sixty-seven; hain't no thoughts
o' splicin', in course.  Miss Lester 's a vary sensible woman.  But I
thought cruisin' 'round with her kind o' frien'ly on the back seat, ye
might git a sort of a token or a consute in general o' what widders is."

"True," said I gratefully, with flattered meditation.

"It 's a scand'lous windy kentry to keep anything on the clo's-line,"
said the captain, as we walked on together, sadly gathering up one of
his stockings and a still more inseparable companion of his earthly
pilgrimage from the path.

"What 's the time, major?" said he, as he led me into the kitchen, "or
do you take her by the sun?  I had Leezur up here a couple o' days to
mend my clock.  'Pharo,' says he, 'thar 's too much friction in her.'
So, by clam! he took out most of her insides and laid 'em by, and
poured some ile over what they was left, and thar' she stands!  She
couldn't tick to save her void and 'tarnal emptiness.  'Forced-to-go
never gits far,' says Leezur, he says--'ye know.'"

Captain Pharo and I, standing by the wood-box, nudged each other with
delight over this conceit.

"'Forced-to-go never gets far, you know,'" said I.

"'Forced-to-go,'" began Captain Pharo, but was rudely haled away by
Mrs. Pharo Kobbe, to dress.

That was another thing; apparently they could never get me to the house
early enough, pleased that I should witness all their preparations.
They led me to the sofa, and Mrs. Kobbe came and combed out her
hair--pretty, long, woman's hair--in the looking-glass, over me; and
then Captain Pharo came and parted his hair down the back and brushed
it out rakishly both sides, over me.  Usually I saw the children
dressed; they were at school.  It was too tender a thought for
explanation, this way of taking me with brotherly fondness to the
family bosom.

"How do you like Cap'n Pharo's new blouse?" said his wife.

In truth I hardly knew how to express my emotions; while he sniffed
with affected disdain of his own brightness and beauty, I was so
dim-looking, in comparison, sitting there!

"When I took up the old carpet this spring, I found sech a bright piece
under the bed, that I jest took and made cap'n a blouse of her--and
wal, thar? what do you think?"

I looked at him again.  The hair of my soul's brother had ceased from
the top of his head, but the long and scanty lower growth was brushed
out several proud inches beyond his ears.  He was not tall, and he was
covered with sections of bloom; but as he turned he displayed one
complete flower embracing his whole back, a tropical efflorescence,
brilliant with many hues.

"She is beautiful," I murmured; "what sort of a flower is she?"

"Oh, I don' know," said Captain Pharo, with the same affected
indifference to his charms, but there was--yes, there was--something
jaunty in his gait now as he walked toward the barn; "they're rather
skeerce in this kentry, I expect; some d--d arniky blossom or other!
Poo! poo!

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'Or as the morning flow'r, The blighting
wind sweeps o'er, she with-']

Come, wife, time ye was ready!"

I was not unprepared, on climbing to my seat in the carriage, to have
to contest the occupancy of the cushions with a hen, who was accustomed
to appropriate them for her maternal aspirations.  I was in the midst
of the battle, when Mrs. Kobbe coolly seized her and plunged her entire
into a barrel of rain-water.  She walked away, shaking her feathers,
with an angry malediction of noise.

"Ef they're good eggs, we'll take 'em to Uncle Coffin Demmin' and Aunt
Salomy," said Mrs. Kobbe.

She brought a bucket of fresh water, benevolently to test them, but
left the enterprise half completed, reminded at the same time of a jug
of buttermilk she had meant to put up.

She went into the house, and Captain Pharo, absorbed in lighting his
pipe, and stepping about fussily and impatiently, had the misfortune to
put a foot into two piles of eggs of contrasting qualities.

"By clam!" said he, white with dismay.  "Ho-hum! oh dear!  Wal, wal--

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'My days are as--']

Guess, while she 's in the house, I'll go down to the herrin'-shed and
git some lobsters to take 'em; they're very fond on 'em."  He gave me
an appealing, absolutely helpless smile of apology, and the arnica
blossom faded rapidly from my vision.

Left in guardianship of the horse, I climbed again to my seat and
covered myself with the star bed-quilt, which served as an only too
beautiful carriage robe.  Thus I, glowing behind that gorgeous,
ever-radiating star, was taken by Mrs. Kobbe, I doubt not, for the
culprit, as she finally emerged from the house and the captain was
discovered innocently returning along the highway with the lobsters.

Let this literal history record of me that I said no word; nay, I was
even happy in shielding my soul's brother.

"Now," said Mrs. Kobbe, as we set forth, "Miss Lester said not to come
to her house for her, but wherever we saw the circle-basket settin'
outside the door, there she'd be."

"I wish she'd made some different 'pointment," said the captain, with a
sigh.

"Why?"

"Why! don't it strike ye, woman, 't they 's nothin' ondefinite 'n
pokin' around over the 'nhabited 'arth, lookin' for the Widder Lester's
circle-basket?  I was hopin' widders was more definite, but it seems
they're jest like all the rest on ye: poo! poo! hohum--jest like all
the rest on ye."

"We've got to find her, cap'n; she sets sech store by talkin' along o'
major."

"Major!" sniffed the captain; "she ain't worthy to ontie the major's
shoe-lockets; they ain't none on 'em worthy, maids, widders--none on
'em!"

I knew to what he referred, what gratitude was moving in his breast.

"Wal, thar now, Cap'n Pharo Kobbe! ain't Vesty Kirtland worthy?"

"Vesty!" said the captain, undismayed--"Vesty 's an amazin' gal, but
she ain't nowheres along o' major!"

"Wal, I must say!  I wonder whatever put you in such a takin' to major."

He did not say.

We travelled vaguely, gazing from house to house, and then the road
over again, without discovering any sign of the basket.

"By clam! it 's almost enough to make an infidel of a man," said the
captain, furiously relighting his pipe.

"Cap'n Pharo Kobbe, you're all'as layin' everything either to women or
religion."

"Don't mention on 'em in the same breath," said the captain; "don't.
They hadn't never orter be classed together!"

Fortunately at this juncture we saw Mrs. Lester afar off at a fork of
the roads standing and waving her arms to us, and we hastened to join
her, but imagine the captain's feelings when from the circle-basket she
took out a large, plump blueberry pie, or "turnover," for each of us,
with a face all beaming with unconscious joy and good-will.

"How do you feel now, eatin' Miss Lester's turnover, after what you've
been and said?" said his wife.

"What'd I say?" said the captain boldly, immersed in the joys of his
blueberry pie; for a primitive, a generic appetite attaches to this
region: one is always hungry; no sooner has one eaten than he is
wholesomely hungry again.

"Do you want me to tell what you said, Cap'n Pharo Kobbe?"

"Poo! poo!" said the captain, wiping his mouth with a flourish.

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'Or as the morning flow'r, The blighting
wind sweeps o'er, she--'"]

"You'd ought to join a concert," said his wife, at the stinging height
of sarcasm, for the captain's singing was generally regarded as a
sacred subject.

But there was one calm spirit aboard, my companion, Mrs. Lester.  Ah
me! if I might but drive with her again!  Her weight was such, settling
the springs that side, that I, slender and uplifted, and tossed by the
roughness of the road, had continually to cling to the side bars, in
order to give a proper air of coolness to our relationship.

But when it came to the pie I had to give up the contest, and ate it
reclining, literally, upon her bosom.

"I'm glad I didn't wear my dead-lustre silk," said she tenderly; "it
might 'a' got spotted.  I'm all'as a great hand to spot when I'm eatin'
blueberry pie."

Blessed soul! it was not she; it was my arm that was scattering the
contents of the pie.

"You know I board 'Blind Rodgers,'" she went on, still deeper to bury
my regret and confusion.  I had heard of him; his sightless, gentle
ambition it was to live without making "spots."

"Wal, we had blueberry pie for dinner yesterday--and I wonder if them
rich parents in New York 't left him with me jest because he was blind,
and hain't for years took no notice of him 'cept to send his board--I
wonder if they could 'a' done what he done?  I made it with a lot o'
sweet, rich juice, and I thought to myself, 'I know Blind Rodgers'll
slop a little on the table-cloth to-day,' and I put on a clean
table-cloth, jest hopin' he would.  But where I set, with seein' eyes,
there was two or three great spots on the cloth; and he et his pie, but
on his place at table, when he got up, ye wouldn't 'a' known anybody'd
been settin' there, it was so clean and white!"

Some tears coursed down her cheeks at the pure recollection--we, who
have seeing eyes, make so many spots!  I felt the tears coming to my
own eyes, for we were as close in sympathy as in other respects.

Meanwhile the ancient horse was taking quite an unusual pace over the
road.

"Another sail on ahead there somewhere," said Captain Pharo; "hoss is
chasin' another hoss.  It 's Mis' Garrison's imported coachman, takin'
home some meal, 'cross kentry.  He'll turn in to'ds the Neck by'n'by.
Poo! poo!  Mis' Garrison wanted Fluke to coach for her; he was so
strong an' harnsome; an' she was tellin' him what she wanted him to do,
curchy here, and curchy there.  'Mis' Garrison,' says Fluke, 'I'll
drive ye 'round wherever ye wants me to, but I'll be d--d if I'll
curchy to ye!'  So she fetched along an imported one."

Whatever the obsequious conduct of this individual toward Mrs.
Garrison, his manners to us were insolent to a degree.  Having once
turned to look at us, he composed his hat on one side, grinned,
whistled, and would neither turn again nor give us room to pass, nor
drive out of a walk, on our account.

"Either fly yer sails, or cl'ar the ship's channel there," cried
Captain Pharo at last, snorting with indignation.

The wicked imported coachman continued the same.

It was now that our horse, who had been meanwhile going through what
quiet mental processes we knew not, solved the apparent difficulty of
the situation by a judicious selection of expedients.  He lifted the
bag of meal bodily from the coachman's wagon with his teeth, and,
depositing it silently upon the ground by the roadside, paused of his
own accord and gravely waited for us to do the rest.

The coachman was pursuing his way, unconscious, insolent, whistling.

"She'll take it out o' yer wages; she 's dreadful close," chuckled
Captain Pharo, as we tucked the bag of meal away on the carriage floor.
"See when ye'll scoff in my sails, and block up the ship's channel
ag'in!  Now then; touch and go is a good pilot," and we struck off on a
divergent road at a rattling pace.

But these adventures had exhausted so much time, when we arrived at
Crooked River it was high tide, and the bridge was already elevated for
the passage of a schooner approaching in the distance.

"See, now, what ye done, don't ye?" said Captain Pharo--I must say
it--with mean reproach, to his wife; "we've got to wait here an hour
an' a half."

"Wal, thar, Cap'n Pharo Kobbe, seems to me I wouldn't say nothin'
'g'inst Providence nor nobody else, for once, ef I'd jest got two
dollars' worth o' meal, jest for pickin' it up off'n the road."

Touched by this view of the case, the captain sang with great
cheerfulness that his days were as the grass or as the morning
flower--when an inspiration struck him.

"I don' know," said he, "why we hadn't just as well turn here and go up
Artichoke road, and git baited at Coffin's, 'stid er stoppin' to see
'em on the way home.  I'm feelin' sharp as a meat-axe ag'in."

"I don' know whether the rest of ye are hungry or not," said plump
little Mrs. Kobbe; "but I'm gittin as long-waisted as a
knittin'-needle."

The language of vivid hyperbole being exhausted, Mrs. Lester and I
expressed ourselves simply to the same effect.  We turned, heedful no
longer of the tides, and travelled delightfully along the Artichoke
road until we reached a brown dwelling that I knew could be none other
than theirs--Uncle Coffin's and Aunt Salomy's; they were in their sunny
yard, and before I knew them, I loved them.

"Dodrabbit ye!" cried Uncle Coffin Demmin, springing out at us in
hospitable ecstasy, Salomy beside him; "git out! git out quick!  The
sight on ye makes me sick, in there.  Git out, I say!" he roared.

"No-o; guess not, Coffin," said Captain Pharo, with gloomy observance
of formalities; "guess I ca-arnt; goin' up to the Point to git a nail
put in my hoss's shu-u."

But Uncle Coffin was already leading the horse and carriage on to the
barn floor.

"Dodrabbit ye!" he exclaimed, "git out, or I'll _shute_ ye out."

At this invitation we began to descend with cheerful alacrity.

As the horse walked into an evidently familiar stall, Uncle Coffin
seized Captain Pharo and whirled him about with admiring affection.

"Dodrabbit ye, Pharo!" he cried, struck with the new jacket; "ye've
been to Boston!"

"I hain't; hain't been nigh her for forty year," said Captain Pharo,
but he was unconscionably pleased.

"Dodrabbit ye, Pharo! ye've been a-junketin' around to Bar Harbor; that
's whar' ye been."

"I hain't, Coffin; honest I hain't been nigh her," chuckled Captain
Pharo.

"Dodrabbit ye, Pharo!" said Uncle Coffin, seizing the hat from his head
and regarding its bespattered surface with delight; "ye've been
a-whitewashin'!"

This Captain Pharo proudly did not deny.  "Dodrabbit ye, Pharo!" said
our fond host, giving him another whirl, "yer hair 's pretty plumb
'fore, but she 's raked devilish well aft.  Ye can't make no stand fer
yerself!  Ye're hungry, Pharo; ye're wastin'; come along!"

Uncle Coffin seized me on the way, but in voiceless appreciation of my
physical meanness he supported me with one hand, while he
affectionately mauled and whirled me with the other.

"Dodrabbit ye! you young spark, you! whar' ye been all this time?" he
cried--though I had never gazed upon his face before!

His rough touch was a galvanic battery of human kindness.  It thrilled
and electrified me.  No; he had not even seen my pitiful presence.  I
do not know where the people of the world get their manners; but these
Artichokes got theirs, rough-coated though they were, straight from the
blue above.

"Say! whar' ye been all this time?  That 's what I want to know,"
sending a thrill of close human fellowship down my back.  "Didn't ye
reckon as Salomy and me 'ud miss ye, dodrabbit ye! you young
lawn-tennis shu's, you!"

I glanced down at my feet.  They were covered with a thick crust of
buttermilk and meal.  I remembered now to have experienced a pleasant
sensation of coolness at my feet at one time, being too closely wedged
in with Mrs. Lester and the meal, however, to investigate.

We found, on searching the carriage, that the jug had capsized, and one
of the lobsters had extracted the cork, which he still grasped tightly
in his claw.

"Look at that, Coffin," said Captain Pharo sadly; "even our lobsters is
dry!"

"Wal, I'm cert'nly glad now," said Mrs. Lester, surveying the bottom of
her gown, "'t I didn't wear my dead-lustre silk."

"Why so, Mis' Lester; why so?" said Uncle Coffin, performing a waltz
with the small remaining contents of the buttermilk jug.  "Ef it's a
beauty in her to have her lustre dead, why wouldn't she be still
harnsomer to have her lustre dedder!"

He drew me aside at this, and for some moments we stood helplessly
doubled over with laughter.  For the climate serves one the same in
regard to jokes as in food.  One is never satiated with them, and there
are no morbid, worn distinctions of taste--an old one, an exceedingly
mild one, have all the convulsive power of the keenest flash from less
healthy and rubicund intellects.

When we had recovered ourselves sufficiently to walk, we went into the
house, arm in arm.  There Uncle Coffin seized Captain Pharo again and
threw him delightedly several feet off into a chair.

"Ye're weary, Pharo, dodrabbit ye!  Set thar'.  Repose.  Repose.  Wait
'tell the flapjacks is ready.  They're fryin'.  Smell 'em?"

We perceived their odor, and that of the wild strawberries and coffee
which Mrs. Lester had taken from her circle-basket.

"Why, father," said Aunt Salomy, as we sat at table, giving me a glance
indicative of a beaming conversance with elegant conventionalities; "ye
_shouldn't_ set the surrup cup right atop o' the loaf o' bread.'

"Never mind whar' she sets, mother," said Uncle Coffin gayly, "so long
as she 's squar' amidships."

He would pour out the treacle for us all--for that it was sweeter,
sweeter than any refined juices I ever tasted.  No denials, no
protestations would avail to stay the utter generosity of his hand.

The griddle-cakes were of the apparent size of the moon when she is
full in the heavens.

"Come, Pharo, brace up.  Eat somethin', dodrabbit ye!  Ye're poorin'
away every minute ye're settin' there; ye hain't hauled yerself over
but two yit."

"By clam!  Coffin, sure as I'm a livin' man, I've hauled myself over
fourteen," said Captain Pharo seriously.

"Come, come, major; ye're fadin' away to a shadder.  Ye hain't hauled
yerself over nothin' yet."

"Oh, I have," I rejoined, with urgent truth and unction.  "I can't,
honestly I can't, haul myself over anything more."

In spite of some suggestive winks directed on my behalf, not then
understood, I remained innocently with Mrs. Lester and Aunt Salomy
while they were doing the dishes.  But presently through the open
window where I sat I felt a bean take me sharply in the nape of the
neck, and, turning, I discovered Captain Pharo outside.  He winked at
me.  I naïvely winked back again.  He coughed low and meaningly; I
smiled and nodded.

He disappeared, and ere long I felt one of my ears tingling from the
blow of another bean.  It was Uncle Coffin this time; his wink was
almost savage with excess of meaning.  I returned it amiably.  He
coughed low and hopelessly, and disappeared.

But soon after he came walking nonchalantly into the room.

"Dodrabbit ye, major!" said he, punching me with a vigorous hand,
"don't ye take no interest in a man's stock?  Come along out and look
at the stock."

At that I rose and followed him.  Captain Pharo was waiting for us.
They did not speak, but they led the way straight as the flight of an
arrow to the barn, walked undeviatingly across the floor, lifted me
solemnly ahead of them up the ladder to the hay-mow, stumbled across it
to the farthest and darkest corner, dived down into it and brought up
an ancient pea-jacket, unrolled it, and produced from the pocket a
bottle, labelled with what I at once knew to be Uncle Coffin's own
design:

  "RAT PISON TO TOUCH HER IS DETH."


"Drink!" said Uncle Coffin.

All his former levity was gone.  He had the look of bestowing, and
Captain Pharo of witnessing bestowed, upon another, a boon inestimable,
priceless, rare.

A temperate familiarity with the use of the cup informed me at once of
the nature of this liquid.  It was whiskey of a very vile quality.

But even had it contained something akin to the dark sequel on its
label, I could not have refused it from Uncle Coffin's hand.

Slightly I drank.  Captain Pharo drank.  Uncle Coffin drank.

The bottle was replaced, and we as solemnly descended.

I had never been unwarily affected, even by a much larger quantity of
the pure article; perhaps by way of compensation an electric spark from
Uncle Coffin's own personality had entered into this compound.  More
likely still, it was the radiant atmosphere.

But I remembered standing out leaning against the pig-pen, with Captain
Pharo and Uncle Coffin, of nudging and being nudged by them into
frequent excess of laughter over some fondly rambling anecdote or
confiding witticism, until Captain Pharo, "taking the sun," decided to
put off until some other day going to the Point to get a nail put in
the horse's shoe.

I remembered--well might I, for they were in my own too--the honest
tears in the eyes of Uncle Coffin and Aunt Salomy as we parted; of
being tucked in again under the Star, with new accessions to our store,
of dried smelts and summer savory, and three newly born kittens in a
bag, which I was instructed to hold so as to give them air without
allowing them to escape.  Yes, and of the dying splendor of the sun,
the ineffable colors painting sea and sky; and of knowing that if I had
not already become a Basin, I should inevitably have joined the
Artichokes.



IV

LOVE, LOVE

At Garrison's Neck was the old Garrison "shanty"--Notely's ideal; well
preserved; built onto it a spacious dwelling, with stables attached,
after Mrs. Garrison's idea.

Notely's shanty was a mixture of elegant easy-chairs and drying
oil-skin raiment, black tobacco pipes, books, musical instruments,
fishing-tackle, mirth and evening firelight; all the gravitation of the
premises was toward it--the Garrison guests yearned for it.

His mother was with him now.

"You will drive down to the boat with me and meet them, Notely?"

Notely whistled with respectful concern, but his eyes were as happy as
the dawn.

"Oh, well, ah--h--I'll have to ask you to let Tom drive you down
to-day, mother.  I've an engagement to sail over to Reef Island."

Mrs. Garrison did not condescend to look annoyed.  She smiled, sweet
and high.

"Considering the social position of Mrs. Langham and her daughter, and
their wealth, Notely, you might postpone even that engagement.
Possibly you could arrange to play with the fisher girl some other day."

When Notely was puzzled or provoked he felt for the pipe in his pocket,
just like old Captain Pharo, laughed, and came straight again.

"Why, mother! you were a Basin girl yourself--the 'Beauty of the
Basins,'" he said, with soft pride--he knew no better--and smiled as
though he saw another face.

"Are you foolish?" said his mother, giving way sharply.

When one has come from such degree, has sought above all earthly good,
and earned, a social eminence such as Mrs. Garrison had attained, it
will leave some unbending lines on lip and brow; the eyes will not melt
easily, although it wrings one's heart to find that one's only child
is, after all, an ingrained Basin; yet their features were the same,
only Notely's were simple, expressive Basin eyes--hers had become
elevated.

"You! who have _in_ you such success, if you only would!" she cried.

"'Success,' I'm afraid, mother," said Notely, with one of those sighs
that was like a wayward note on his violin; "it 's a diviner thing,
however, you know, to have in you the capacity for failure."

"You are as remarkable a mixture of barbarism and sentiment as your
shanty," sneered Mrs. Garrison, looking about.  "Do you speak in the
Basin 'meetings'?"

"No," said Notely.  "I ought to.  Think of what I have had, and their
deprivations.  But there 's always something comes up so d--d funny!"

Mrs. Garrison smiled sympathetically now.  "O Notely, think of the
Langhams, and Grace even willing to show her preference for you,
decorously, of course, but we all know."

Notely grabbed his pipe hard and shook his head.

"Why?" said his mother again, sharply.  "I am sure Miss Langham is
nearly as boisterous and in as rude health as the fisher girl.  I have
even known her to make important endearing lapses in grammar."

Notely was silent.

"Do you think, after a life-struggle to earn a place in society, it is
filial and generous on your part, for the sake of a fisher sweetheart,
to be willing to sink your family back again into skins and Gothicism?"

"Yes," said the young man, a hurricane in his blue eyes, which his
strong hands gripped back.

"Very well; if you so elect, go back then, and be a common fisherman;
but you shall have no countenance of mine."

"Shouldn't wonder if it would be a good thing.  With the health I have,
give me leisure and plenty of money, and I'm always certain to break
the traces and make a run.  Common fisherman it is."  But he stood out
bravely at the same time in an extravagant new yachting costume, for he
was going by appointment to meet his sweetheart.

"You might help her up, mother--socially, that is; she needs no other
help."

"Never!"

Notely lifted his cap to his mother--the reproach in his eyes was as
dog-like as if he had not just graduated from the schools--and walked
away.

She looked after him, a scornful sweet smile curving her lips.  As the
apple of her eye she loved him; it is necessary but hard to be elevated.

Notely put up sail and skirted the shore with his boat till he came to
the waters of the Basin.  Then he looked out eagerly, but Vesty was not
on the banks waiting.

"Was there ever a Basin known to be on time?" he muttered, smiling and
flushing too.  He was always jealous of her.

He made fast his boat and sprang with light steps over the sea-wall.

Here was a good sign; so the Basins held.  No sign so propitious to a
love affair as meeting with one of God's innocent ones--a "natural."
And here was Dr. Spearmint (Uncle Benny) leading the children to
school--the very little ones.  They clung to him, and one he carried.

And he was singing, in a sweet, high voice:

  "We all have our trials here below,
    Sail away to Galilee!
      *      *      *      *
  There's a tree I see in Paradise,
    Sail away to Galilee!
      *      *      *      *
    Sail away to Galilee,
    Sail away to Galilee,
  Put on your long white robe of peace,
    And sail away to Galilee!"


"Hello!  Uncle Benny--'Dr. Spearmint'"--he liked that best.  "Well, how
are you? how are you? and have you seen Vesty this morning?"

"Fluke and Gurd 's keepin' company with her this mornin'," said Dr.
Spearmint, in a voice softer than a woman's.  "I jest stopped to sing a
little with 'em on the way.  I _look_ dreadful," he added, rather
ostentatiously fingering a light blue necktie.

"Oh, no, doctor; fine as usual," exclaimed Notely, anger in his soul,
but with heart-broken eyes.

"I suppose," said the soft, sweet voice, "there 's a great deal o'
passin' in New York, ain't there?"

"What, doctor?"

"A great deal o' passin' there, ain't there?"

"Oh, sights of it!  Oh, my, yes! passing along the streets all the
time."

"Some there 's worth four or five thousand dollars, ain't they?" said
the sweet, incredulous voice.

"God bless you! yes, doctor! the more 's the pity," said Notely, with
strange earnestness.  "And how 's fruiting?"

"Dangleberries are quite plenty, thank you," the voice replied.  When
he had left the little ones at school he would go off and gather
berries; but he would call for them without fail and lead them home.
The little, tired, restless souls always found him out there in the
sweet air and sunshine, waiting.  Notely remembered; so he and Vesty
had been led.

He passed, singing, out of sight with the children:

    "Sail away to Galilee,
    Sail away to Galilee,
  Put on your long white robe of peace,
    And sail away to Galilee!"


Notely felt a homesick pang.  Vesty was his home; he walked on toward
her threshold.  Vesty's father had taken a new wife, and Vesty was
almost always seen now with a baby in her arms.

So she was sitting as Notely drew near; and Fluke and Gurdon were
there, with a pretence of fingering their violins.  They looked up, as
if expecting him.

"Why did you not come, Vesty?" said her lover.  "You promised me."

"I've got something to say about that," said Fluke.  "I sot Vesty down
on that doorhold, and I threatened to shute her ef she moved off'n it.
When she was tellin' Gurd' that you was 'round again wantin' to keep
company with her jest the same, says I, 'We'll see about that.'  Vesty
hain't got no brothers, nor no mother, to look after her, and so Gurd'
and me, which is twin brothers to each other, is also goin' to be
brothers to her, and see that there ain't no harm done to Vesty."

"Well, then, Fluke, you are the best friends that either of us have,"
said Notely calmly.

"Why didn't ye let her alone in peace?" blurted out Fluke.  "She was
keepin' company contented enough along o' Gurd', ef you'd only left her
alone.  What'd ye come back a-makin' love to her for?"

"Because she is going to be my wife," said Notely.  "We always kept
company together; since we were that high!  Belle Birds'll was Gurdon's
company.  Vesty was my company."  His voice trembled.  This was simple
Basin parlance and unanswerable.

"Ye mean it?"

"If you want to fight, Fluke, come out and fight."  Notely's eyes cut
him.

"All the same," said he, "ef you sh'd happen to change your mind by 'n'
by, as fash'nable fellers in women's light-colored clo's does
sometimes, there 's a-goin' to be shutin'."

Notely grabbed his pipe, and his laugh rang out.

"Come," he said, "you know me! you know me!  Confound the pretty
clothes!  I only put them on so as to try and have Vesty like me!"

"Wal' now, Vesty, make your choice.  You'd ruther keep company along o'
Note than Gurd', had ye?"  But he could not restrain the severe
contempt in his voice in making the comparison.

Vesty had been soothing her face in the baby's frowzled hair.

"_I told you_," she said.  But she glanced up at Gurdon, and her face
was piteous, his had turned so white.

"Come, Gurd'!  What d'ye care?  Go on, Vesty, ef ye want to.  Gurd 'n'
me'll tote the baby till Elvine gits back."  He took the infant and
began to toss it, to compensate it for Vesty's withdrawal.  His thick
black hair fell over his forehead, his nose was fine and straight.
Gurdon came forward obediently to assist him.  He had the same great
bulk, and even handsomer features, only that his hair was smooth and
parted.

Vesty and her lover passed on together.  Her heart was leaping with joy
and pride of him; still, she saw Gurdon's look.

"You have been so long at that great college, Notely."

"Yes."

"Why must some one always be hurt?"

"We go to school, but the schools can't teach us anything, Vesty.

  "'Oh, sail away to Galilee,
      Sail away to Galilee!'"

he hummed airily, gayly.  "What was it you 'told them' back there,
Vesty?"

Where now was Vesty's Sunday face?  You would look far to find it.

"I told them you were a dude," said she.

"Did you, indeed!  Girls who lead the singing in Sunday-school are not
telling many very particular fibs this morning, are they?  But you
shall own up before night."

O Vesty!--the call of the "whistlers" down in the meadow by the
sea-wall--"love! love! love!"  No other note; it is that, too,
breathing in the swift Bails and bounding the sea!

"You sail your boat as well as ever, Captain Notely."

"And why not--wife?"

These were the appellations of the old days, taken from their
elders--"cap'n" and "wife."

Vesty did not think he would have dared _that_.  Her dark eye chastised
him.  But he was not looking impudent; he was resolute and pale.

Vesty shivered.  With all her earnest, sad experience of life, with her
true love for Notely, she was yet in no haste to be bound.  Wild, too,
at heart; or else somehow the sea wind and the swift sails had freed
her.

"Don't say that again.  Come, catch the fish for our dinner, Note."

"I'm only a humble Basin, Miss Kirtland.  I didn't think to fetch no
bait."

Vesty took a parcel of six small herrings from her pocket, laughing.

"Yes, our women are smart," sighed Notely.

"Shall you catch, or will I?"

"You," said Notely, tossing out the anchor.

He watched her, strong and beautiful, her lips pursed with the feline
pursuit of prey, as she baited her hook and threw out the line, quite
oblivious now, apparently, of him.

He saw her thrill with excitement as the line stiffened and she began
to haul in, hand over hand; it was a big cod too.  Vesty always had the
luck.  There was glory in her cheeks when she brought the struggling,
flopping fish over into the boat.

"Vesty," said Note mischievously, drawing near, "how would _you_ feel
to be caught like that on the end of somebody's line--struggling,
flopping?"

His sentimental tone gave way in spite of himself.  She turned and gave
him a smart box on the ear.

"Very well, Miss Vesty Kirtland, very well.  But there 's a marriage
ceremony and a binding to 'love, honor and obey,' after which young
women don't box their husbands' ears--aha!--at least, mine won't."

"Notely Garrison," said Vesty, with Basinly and womanly indignation, "I
never fished for you in all my life--never!"

"Instinctive, darling; not your fault.  Unconscious cerebration; do you
understand?"

She did, a little, and she grievously disapproved of him.

"Kiss me, dearest," he pleaded.  "You kissed me once, when I first came
home."

"All the m-more reason why you ought not to ask me now.  I w-wish you'd
get your m-mind on something besides me."

Notely walked away, pulled up the anchor, and set sail again.  Vesty
composed herself at the end of the boat.

"Sweet-tempered child!" said he, regarding her from the helm.

She dipped her hand in the water and smoothed her stray locks; they
curled up again.  She was distressed, and Notely's mirthful eyes gave
her no rest.

"My mind is still on you, Vesty--and will be for ever and aye,
sweetheart."

With that he turned kindly and looked away, and Vesty bound up her hair.

Presently: "The tapestries are beautiful to-day, Note," she said.

They were sailing through the shallows near Reef Island, and they
looked down through the green water.  Gold, bronze and yellow, and dark
velvet green, the tracings of broad sea-leaf and trailing vine on that
floor.

"There isn't another house in any land tapestried like ours, Vesty.
Say, wouldn't that be a charming place, after all, to rest, when----"

"You're getting aground, Note!"

"Thank you!  How fortunate that you are aboard!  I know how to steer a
boat a little, of course, but nothing like----"

Vesty laughed, dazzled by this sarcasm.  "But you didn't think of the
bread or the salt or the pork for the chowder," said she triumphantly.

"Ah, I see you have them.  You always think of those things.  You were
always my little woman, you know.  You are my home."

As the boat touched the ledge she sprang out before him.  By the time
he had fastened his boat and clambered over the ledges with the kettle
which he had brought from the crane in his shanty, Vesty had a fire of
drift-wood burning.

She prepared the chowder, while he whittled out some forks of wood and
gathered firm pieces of kelp for dishes.

They ate, with only the voice of the gulls, screaming, flying in
disturbed, beautiful flight over the wide, lone island.

"Now for the gulls' eggs," said Vesty, rising, no dishes to put away.

"What a carnivorous little wild-cat it is--for one so necessary to the
sick and afflicted!"

"Didn't you come to hunt gulls' eggs, Note?"

"You know that that is my sole aim and ambition in life.  Come!"

Over ledges and salt marshes, at the feet of the thin, storm-broken
trees, they found them, nestled there, three, four, eight in a nest,
the birds flying, circling overhead.  Vesty gathered them in her apron,
eager, searching from tree to tree.  Her hair came down.  She looked up
at Note, apologetic, humble, so eager she hardly minded.

"Hold my apron, Note."

This he did obediently.

With downcast eyes and a blush on her cheeks that would have exonerated
Eve, she wound up her hair again, and restored her own hold on her
apron.

"I did not kiss you then, Vesty."

"Well, of course."

"I'm good, but my mind is still on you."

Over ledges and salt marshes, and the thin, storm-broken trees, and out
there on the water there 's a strange color growing.  Even the Basins
seldom fail to _start_, at least, for home by sunset.

So a little white sail puts out on the crimson sea.  The breeze is
dying out, the waters lap, subside.  Notely takes down the sail and
rows.

The sea fades to softer colors, hushed, wondrous, near the dim shore.

"It isn't ever known, in any place in all the world, that angels--no, I
know--but look, Note!--they almost might."

"Only here at the Basin, Vesty; when that very last light fades.  I saw
two flying up--flying back again--just now.  How many did you see?"

She turned her happy, awesome eyes on him, but his keen face, in that
light, was as simple and pathetic as her own.

"But my mind is on _you_, Vesty.  Now, before we touch the shore, when
will you marry me?"

"I've been thinking.  O Note, perhaps it isn't my place to marry you;
perhaps I wouldn't do you any good to marry you, Note.  They say you
were first in your class, off there, and there are so many things for
you, and your mother, and friends, will help you so much more--if I
don't."

"I may as well tell you the truth, Vesty.  I'm not that strong person
that I look"--the angels that he saw, flying up, will forgive that sly
smile on the boy's mouth--"I couldn't go away and leave you, and go
into that false, feverish struggle out there, and live anything more
than the wreck of a life, at least.  I'm affected."

"Where is it that you have such trouble, Note?"

"It 's my heart, Vesty Kirtland.  I must have a Basin for my wife,
calm, strong, sweet; one who can see the 'angels' now and then--just
you, in fact."

He handed her out of the boat and walked home with her.  At the edge of
the alders they stood.  They could see the light in her father's house.

"When, Vesty?" he repeated.

"O Note, I love you!" she sobbed; "but I must have a little time to
think.  Every girl has that."

"Very well.  You must _keep your mind on me_, however."

"Hark! hear the poplars tremble.  You know what always makes them sigh
and shiver that way, Note?"

"I've forgotten."

"They made the cross for Christ out of the poplars; they never got over
it--see them shiver!--hush!"

"O my beautiful one!"  He took her hands.  "What was it you 'told them'
back there this morning, Vesty, before we started?"

"You are cruel!  O Note!"

He drew her to him.  Her lips would not tell.  Her Basin eyes, that he
was gazing mercilessly into, betrayed her.

"Good child! sweet child! with my strong right arm, and a willingness
for all toil and patience and endeavor, and all my soul's love, I thee
endow."  He kissed her solemnly.

"Love, love, love," chanted in ecstasy a thrush from the dim recesses
of the wood.



V

COLUMBUS AND THE EGG, AND LOT'S WIFE

"I often thinks o' Columbus and the egg.  All them big folks in Spain
was settin' areound, ye know, ta'ntin' of him, and sayin' as how an egg
couldn't be made to sot.

"So Columbus, he took one up and give her a tunk, pretty solid, deown
onto the table.  'There!' says he; 'you stay sot,' says he, 'and keep
moderate a spall,' says he.  'Forced-to-go never gits far,' says he.

"Then there was Lot's wife.

"I don't remember jest the partickelers, nor what she was turnin'
areound to look for; whether she was goin' to a sewin'-circle and
lookin' back to see what Lot was dewin' to home, or whether she was
jest strokin' deown her polonaise a little, the way women does; but
anyway, she was one o' this 'ere kind that needed moderatin'.

"So she got turned into a pillar o' salt, and there she sot.  But I've
heerd lately that she 's got up and went?"

"I don't know," I murmured.

"Yes; Nason was tellin' me how 't, the last time he went cruisin', he
met a man 't 'd jest come from Jaffy, 't told him how 't Lot's wife had
got up and went.

"Wal, I was glad to hear on't.  Moderation 's a virtu', even in all
things.  She must 'a' sot there some three or four hunderd pretty
consid'rable number o' years, 's it was.  Don't want to ride a free
hoss to death, ye know.  I wish 't this critter that's visitin' up to
Garrison's Neck could be got sot a spall.  She fa'rly w'ars me out."

Captain Leezur blinked at the sun, however, all heavenly placid and
unworn.

"I happened to meet her in the lane," I said.  "She had not seen me
before.  She screamed."

"Thar'! that 's jest her!  Wal, neow, I hope ye didn't mind.  Sech
folks don't do no harm 'reound on the 'arth, no more'n lady-bugs, 'nd
r'a'ly, they dew help to parss away the time.

"Neow this Langham girl, she driv up here with Note t'other day, to git
some lobsters.

"'O Mr. Garrison,' says she, 'see that darlin' old aberiginile
a-settin' out thar' on that log,' says she.  'Dew drive up; I want ter
talk to him,' says she.

"Wal, I put in a chaw o' tobackker, and tucked her up comf'table one
side, and there I sot, with my head straight for'ards, not lettin' on
as I'd heered a word; t'wouldn't dew, ye know.

"So she came up with a yaller lace parasol, abeout twelve foot in
c'cumf'rence, sorter makin' me think of a tud under a harrer; though, I
sh'd have to say it afore the meetin'-house, she was dreadful
purty-lookin', an' blamed ef she didn't know it.

"Wal, I see she'd made up her mind to kile herself 'reound me, ef she
could.  She kept a-arskin' questions, and everything she arsked I
arnswered of her back dreadful moderate, and every time I arnswered of
her back she'd give a little larff, endin' up on 'sol la ce do,' sorter
highsteriky; so't I was kind o' feelin' areound in my pocket t' find
her a narvine lozenger.

"And then I thought I wouldn't.  All they want is the least little
excuse and they'll begin to kile.  When ye're in deoubt, ye know, stand
well to leeward."

I looked at my friend with new gratitude, for the perils he had passed.

"She said she thought the folks to the Basin was so full of yewmer and
pathers, 'don't yew?' says she.

"Wal, I told her I didn't know ars to that.  'Yewmer 's that 'ar'
'diction 't Job had, ain't it?' says I,' and pathers--thar' ye've kind
o' got me,' says I, ''less maybe it 's some fancy New York way o'
reelin' off pertaters,' says I.

"'Oh, dear!' says she, kind o' highsteriky ag'in, and Note driv off
with her, she a-wavin' her hand to me: but I set straight for'ards, not
lettin' on to take no notice of her.  'No, no, young woman,' thinks I
to myself, 'ye don't git in no kile on me!'"

The nervine lozenge which my friend had cautiously refrained from
giving Miss Langham he now bestowed upon me.  I accepted it, for I was
in sore need of it.

I could not refrain from asking him, however, if he had offered Miss
Langham his deer-bone tooth-pick.

"No," said he, "she's lent neow, anyway.  John Seabright 's got her
over to Herrinport.  I don't say but what if that 'ar' Langham girl
sh'd have a r'al bad spall o' toothache come on, but what I'd let her
take her, but I'd jest as soon she didn't know nothin' 'beout it.  I'd
ruther not make no openin' for a kile."

We sucked our nervine lozenges with mutual earnestness.

"You are getting on finely with the barn," I said, noticing several new
rows of shingles on the roof.

"Yes, I sh'd be afoul of her ag'in to-day, only 't Nason come over
yisterday and borrowed my lardder.  I'm expectin' of him back with her
along in the shank o' the evenin'.  Preachin' ain't so bad," continued
my friend, contemplatively, as the school-teacher passed by; "but I'd
ruther be put to bone labor 'n school teachin'.  Ye've all'as got to be
thar', no marter heow many other 'ngagements----"

"Leezur!" called the soft voice of a Basin matron from the door.
"Leezur, have ye fished the bucket out o' the well?"

"Jest baitin' my hook, mother," said my friend, his face breaking into
the broadest human beam I ever saw.

He rose, and we walked toward the well.  Now first I noticed his gait;
every step was a smiling protest against further advancement, which,
however, was made not unwillingly.

I observed, too, an illustration of this same smile in his rear, made
by an unconscious and loving wife, in a singular disposition of
patches: three on his blouse fortuitously representing eyes and nose,
and a long horizontal one, lower down, combining with these in an
undesigned but felicitous grin.

My friend disclosed this smiling posterior to full view, stretching
himself face downward on the earth, and burying his head, with the
grappling pole, in the well.

"This 'ere job," his voice came to me with resonant jubilance,
"requires a vary moderate dispersition: 'specially arfter the women
folks has been a-grapplin' for her, and rilin' the water, and jabbin'
of her furder in.  But ef we considers ourselves to' be--as we
be--heirs of etarnity----

"Thought I'd got ye that time!  But neow don't be too easy abeout
gittin' caught, down there!  Priceless gems holds themselves skeerce,
ye know."

In which sarcastic but ever reasonable and moderate conversation with
that coy bucket I left my friend, and continued on my way with my
basket, under Miss Pray's commission to purchase "dangle-berries" at
the home of Dr. Spearmint.

I heard as I approached:

  "Oh the road is winding, the road is dark,
  But sail away to Galilee!
    Sail away to Galilee!"

      *      *      *      *      *      *

There was a company as usual gathered at Dr. Spearmint's weather-beaten
hut: the door wide open, one could see his bed neatly made by his own
hands within, his mother's picture against the wall, a sweet,
intelligent face--like his, only that in his there was some light gone
out forever for this world.

Notely was there with Miss Langham, to hear Dr. Spearmint sing, and to
purchase berries, and to be entertained a little in this way in the
growing evening.

Miss Langham did not scream on seeing me now.  She smiled upon me with
manifest kindness and condescension.  She had beautiful bright brown
eyes, and the "style" of town life pervaded her very atmosphere.

"Doctor," said Notely, "Miss Langham has heard about you, and, ahem!
considering what she has heard, she is perfectly willing to make the
first advances."

Dr. Spearmint bowed, stammering before such new bewitchment and beauty.

"I _look_ dreadful," he said, fingering his blue necktie.

"Oh, dear, no, doctor!" rippled out Miss Langham's voice, in willing
accompaniment of the joke; "I'm sure you are perfectly charming!"

"Miss Langham is from New York," said Notely.

"There 's a great deal o' passin' there, ain't there?" said Dr.
Spearmint in his soft voice, turning to her.

"What?" said she to Notely.  "Oh, my! oh, how funny! oh dear, yes,
doctor; you've no idea!"

"Some there 's worth----"

Notely, laughing, pressed with his muscular brown hand a note into Dr.
Spearmint's hand that would do more for his next winter's comfort than
many weeks of dangleberrying.

"Miss Langham would like to have her fortune told, doctor," he said.

She pulled off her glove with a laughing grace.  As Dr. Spearmint took
her slender jewelled hand in his he trembled with vanity and happiness.
He brushed a joyful tear from his eye, and began:

"I see a bew-tiful future here," he said.

"Oh, my!" said Miss Langham, looking up at him, her mirthful eyes full
of incredulous rapture.

"Yes, I see a tall man, quite a tall man."

Dr. Spearmint himself was quite a tall man.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Miss Langham.

"He has curly brown hair and a--a smooth face," said Dr. Spearmint,
delighted in his delight.  _He_ had curly brown hair and a smooth face.

"He has blue eyes"--he glanced, a little troubled, at Notely's big
sparkling orbs--"_mild_ blue eyes," he corrected the statement, in such
a soft voice!

"Indeed they must be _mild_," cried Miss Langham.

Dr. Spearmint coughed considerably, and blushed.

"He--he wears a blue necktie," he said, the mild blue eyes falling.

"O Dr. Spearmint!  I believe--why, it must be _you_!" cried the merry
girl, with a laugh as gay as rushing brooks.

The boys and girls in the audience laughed loudly at this not
unexpected climax.

Dr. Spearmint, much embarrassed, went inside to put away his money, but
was seen to steal sly glances, and a rearrangement of the blue
neck-ribbon in his little cracked mirror.

"Dew come again!" he said faintly, as they were going.

"Why, certainly, as the understanding is now, Miss Langham will expect
to call often, I suppose," said Notely.

"Oh, dear me! yes," cried Grace Langham.

"Are we--ahem!"--Dr. Spearmint could not lift those mild blue
eyes--"are we engaged?"--his sweet voice sinking, almost inaudible.

"Oh, positively, doctor!  Why, of course!  Oh, dear me! good-by, poor
dear.  Oh, how pathetically amusing!" said she, walking with Notely
toward the carriage.

A tall girl had come up, and stood in the shadow, in the doorway.

Notely, catching a glimpse of her in passing, lifted his cap, his face
burning, his eyes glowing, with a look of intense love and of
possession.

Grace Langham turned, with a woman's instinct.

Vesty, standing there, dim and tall, in her laceless, fashionless gown,
met her glance with a long, serious look that contained nothing either
of alarm or suspicion.

"I know," murmured Grace.  "I've heard the name of 'Vesty'--_that_ is
Vesty."

"That is Vesty," said her companion.

"And you love her, I believe," said Grace Langham to her own breast,
but sighed aloud; a gentle, bewitching sigh that divined deeper of
Notely's mood than further laughter would have done then.

As they passed out of sight, riches and gay things and the last light
of day seemed to go with them.

The mirth the children were having, congratulating Dr. Spearmint on his
engagement, sounded crude.

"Nature has done so much for me, you know," he said, with his weak,
throbbing vanity, his hand nervously on the blue tie.

Vesty went over to him and put both hands on his head.

The children hushed.

"Here are the pennies for my berries, Uncle Benny," she said quietly.
"I've taken just a quart."

"Yes, yes; all right, Vesty.  I'm--ahem!--_engaged_, Vesty.  Such a
bew-tiful----"

Vesty held her hands on his head.  "Uncle Benny" (she would never, even
to please him, call him Dr. Spearmint), "you must not think of that.
She did not mean that.  Besides, you have promised to be always a
friend to me, don't you remember?--and to lead the children home from
school.  You know your mother expects"--they glanced up together at the
picture--"that you will do what Jesus told you about doing--that about
leading the little children home from school.  What if one of them
should get lost, or hurt?  O Uncle Benny!"

"Oh, my!" he gasped.  "I didn't think, Vesty," tears streaming down his
pale but now placid and restored face.

Vesty smiled, standing there.  A light crossed her face; she began to
sing:

  "The road is winding, the road is dark,
    Sail away to Galilee!"

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Her voice seemed to me, in that dim hour, to take up Uncle Benny and
bear him away, with his great hurt, to the breast of his mother, in
heaven, to be healed.

He joined her in the chorus, and then they sang together, she
modulating sweetly her full, rich tones to his.  Her voice made
heavenly rapture of Uncle Benny's song:

  'There 's a tree I see in Paradise--
    Sail away to Galilee.
  It 's the beautiful, waiting Tree of Life--
    Sail away to Galilee,
    Sail away to Galilee,
  Put on your long white robe of peace,
    And sail away to Galilee."



VI

THIS GREATER LOVE

"How can I approach the girl?" thought Mrs. Garrison.  "If I should
send word for Vesta Kirtland to come here and see me, Notely would be
sure to hear of it; he would wonder; ask questions.  If I go down and
see her it will provoke endless comment and wonder among those people.
I never visit them.  There is no other way.  Notely takes the Langhams
for the day in his boat to-morrow.  I will be driven to the Basin.  I
will ask Vesta indifferently, by the way, to go with me in those woods
where I played in childhood, too timid now to walk there alone.  They
will say, as well as they can express it, that sentiment must be
getting fashionable!  Never mind.  I shall see and talk with the girl.
We will see."

Mrs. Garrison alighted from her carriage before she reached Vesty's
door.

"Wait here," she said to her coachman.  Vesty saw her approach.  Off
there in the bay, sublimely guarding and making a gateway to its
waters, were two little green mountain peaks of islands, just a narrow
surge of the waters flowing between; the "Lions," the "Twin Brothers,"
they were called.

One does not look off daily, from one's very infancy, on such a view
for nothing.  Mrs. Garrison saw the "lion" in Vesty's quick-divining
eyes, and was glad.

"Anything but heart-break and slow consumption.  Of battle I am not
afraid," she said to herself.

"I took a fancy to leave my carriage and walk a bit among those old
trees.  I used to know them well.  Will you go with me, child?"

"Certainly, Mrs. Garrison."  Vesty handed the baby which she was
tending to its mother, and walked away with the fine lady.

"Vesta Kirtland," said Mrs. Garrison, as they entered the shadow of the
woods, "your face tells me plainly that you know I have some object in
asking you to walk with me here.  I have.

"I am proud, cold, indifferent regarding you people here; I have not
noticed you, hardly even by recognition, if we chanced to meet in the
lanes; yes, I know.  I bring no personal claims.  But"--she was going
to say, "you are fond of Notely," but she looked at the girl, and a
proud, sarcastic smile curved her lips instead--"my son, Notely
Garrison, adores you, I believe?  I do not know whether you care for
him; I presume not so ardently; but if you were even a little fond of
him, for the sake of childhood days when he made you his little
playmate--you would try to do the best for his good now--would you not,
child?"

Vesty showed so few symptoms of slow consumption, and the lions in the
gateway of her soul glowed so ominously, that Mrs. Garrison concluded
to be brief.  She turned her face away a little; the operation was
unpleasant, and she took out the knife, only in speech.

"Notely has quixotic ideas in many ways: if he had given any ground for
a foolish confidence in his boyhood he would hold to it now, against
all his life's advancement, filial duty--yes, even against personal
inclination, for that matter."

Mrs. Garrison was a resolved surgeon.  "Do you know what Notely's
prospects are in life--socially, politically, financially?  But he must
take the tide as it serves.  To turn now is to lose all.  He has many
friends.  He is beloved by a rich, beautiful, accomplished girl,
influential in that sphere where her family have for so long moved.  I
seem cruel, child."

"Call me by my name.  Call me Vesty Kirtland.  I hate you!  With my
whole heart and soul I hate you!"

So the bold lions at the gate, desperately guarding sea-depths of pain
behind.

"Really, Vesta Kirtland! if things were different I would rather be
mother-in-law to you than to Grace Langham.  You are a pupil worthy of
my metal!  You are fire, I see.  Bravo!"

Vesty stood with her head on her arm, resting against a tree, holding
herself.

"I do not know that there is anything more to say.  Notely will never
seek his own release.  But, if you loved him _truly_----"

"I do!"

Flaming scorn and a smile as defiant as Mrs. Garrison's own.

"Do you?" said the surgeon.  "Then release him."

"You told a lie.  Notely does not want to be released.  He loves me,
not Grace Langham.  You know how it is with men.  If I should go to
your house and say to him, 'Come with me; come down to my father's
house, since there is no other way, and help troll, and haul the traps,
and make the nets, and be with me,' he would come!"

"Yes," said the lady, pale, "he would go.  Therefore, as I said, do you
save him."

"What makes that life so much better, out there, than ours, that I
should give him up to it, and break my heart and his?  Are you one that
they make?"

"All people do not regard me with such disfavor."  She looked at the
girl almost wistfully.  "Life _is_ hard, Vesta, and exacting, spite of
all that we can do; and the world is hard and exacting, supercilious,
ready to pick at a flaw--you do not know."

"Well, I think Notely will be happier here with me."

Yet one could see the girl's pale resolve, only she was turning the
knife a little on the heartless surgeon.  It cut sharply.

"For a month or two, Vesta, yes."

"And then?"

"One who has been accustomed to champagne from an ice-cooler will not
be satisfied forever with sucking warm spring water in the sun, however
wholesome."

"Ah!"

"He will grow very tired.  He will not speak, but he will regret."

"Ah! he will think what he has given up; and it _is_ so much, all in
all; yes, it is too much!"

Mrs. Garrison turned, startled at the girl's voice.  The lions held the
gateway, sad and gloomy.  Into those heaving depths behind she should
not enter.

"You have not told me anything.  I only got you to say it over.  I had
thought it all out for myself.  I do not mean, any more, that Notely
shall marry me."

Mrs. Garrison gave her a wild glance of gratitude, of sorrow.  In that
instant her heart yearned intensely over the long-limbed girl, standing
so sorrowful and proud, and cut by Fate.

"How will you manage?" she cried impulsively.  "He _is_ so fond of you!"

"I can manage.  Promise me one thing?"

"Anything I have."

Vesty smiled.  "Promise me, if Notely should be sick, in danger, I
mean, or hurt, unfortunate, it might be--you would let me know, and let
me come and care for him, just while he needed care.  I want you to
promise me!"

Her voice took the sharp tone, her eyes the frenzy, of a bird guarding
its young.

"Ah, Vesta Kirtland, you did love him!  Oh, I promise."

"If you did not, there 's such a feeling toward him, different from the
others, I can't tell; if you did not, and I should ever know, it would
be like I had some little child of my own--yes, like I had some poor
little baby of my own, crying for me, and I did not come--I did not
come!"

Vesty turned.  The tide had run so high those wild ocean guards were
covered by the surge.

She led the way to the outskirts of the wood and stood aside for Mrs.
Garrison to pass.  The woman would have drawn near her; she waved her
hand, standing aside from her.  Mrs. Garrison hesitated.  The sight of
Dan Kirtland's low, brown cottage, the squalid babies in the doorway,
the fishing-nets, Vesty's last week's cotton gown swinging on the line,
some humiliating, harsh memories of her own, spurred her on, with a
sigh.

"She is fire, thank God!  It will be all right," she said.

Vesty drew back into the woods.

She pressed her forehead hard against the rough bark of a tree.  To
"fall down there, and to be found and taken home and put away beside
her own mother in the little home lot by the sea-wall--not to have to
stand up wearily any more, and walk back, dazed and sick, into the
light"--so she yearned--"what was there to stand up for?"

A pitiful little wail, and "Lowizy's" weary voice trying to sing
reached her.

Clouds drifted over the sky.  The poplars shivered; no voice of the
thrush now chanting from the wood-depths; but the poplars, that
Christ's cross was made from, what soft voice is this of theirs
falling?  "Love, love, love"--this too? sighing with strange rapture.

Vesty pulled her thick hair down over the bruised place on her
forehead.  She went out of the woods, toward her father's poor house
and the wailing and the feeble singing.

"Vesty!  Vesty!" one of the school-children came running toward her.
"Lowizy said you was up here.  I came to look for you.  Here 's a note
Jane Pray sent."


DEAR VESTY: You told me last meetun you was comern up to sett with me
and my border some evening.  Come tonyte.  hees a poor erflickted
creetur, seems to me.  hees lamer 'an ever an smaller 'an ever this
week, an' the burth-scalds on his face shows more, seems to me.  Ef
that he was payin' 3 dollars a week, I should feel easier, bring your
soing an' sett a good long spale.

yours truly,
  JANE PRAY.


Vesty came, just as the firelight grew welcome and tender.  She put
aside her hat and shawl, unrolled her parcel of sewing-work, and sat
down by the little lamp at one end of the room with Miss Pray.

She took in my presence naturally, with no obtrusive kindness; she was
at a necessitous task--putting a broad gray patch, the best available
from the resources at home, on Jimmy Kirtland's brown jacket, doing it
deftly with her supple hands.

"You'll be doing that for some boys of your own by and by," said Miss
Pray, intending to have a cheerful evening.

Vesty grew sweet and pale; she shook her head.  Her dark eye-sockets
had a look, I thought, as though she had been ill and fasting.  I mused
in the firelight.

"And what if that should not be your fate indeed, Vesta Kirtland: not
bearing, and toil, and pain, and all the heart-breaking vicissitudes of
woman's life, but some peculiar station?

"So tall and gracious, to go robed costly, to ride splendidly accoutred
and attended, to condescend almost to _all_, to give gracious
_downward_ smiles.

"What if they knew the power of wealth and alien rank, for that matter,
I held in that miserable, lean, little paw of mine!  You should
outshine Grace Langham as the sun, Vesty.  Some time, if she were
wronged and sorrowful, could I point her, delicately, with all
forbearance and worship of my own, that way?"

"Be you rebellious?"  Unsuccessful in her cheerful attempts with Vesty,
Jane Pray had turned to me.

But Vesty resented her companion's question, almost involuntarily
turning to me with a quick and awful pity.

(No; I had been lost, dreaming: not that way, surely; not though her
heart were moved with the purest pity angels could bestow; not thou,
Vesty, above all, sweet one, beautiful one! to a union so unfit and
repelling.)

But I had to bring my thoughts back from a long way to answer Miss
Fray's question.

"No," I said.  "I settled that with God long ago.  It is all right
between us."

Miss Pray, confused by Vesty's look, blushed painfully.

"Thank you for asking me about it," I said gently.

At that Miss Pray rose.  "Come; le's play words," she said.

So the girl and the woman folded their sewing, and Miss Pray brought
from some hitherto unknown recreative source a little box of cardboard
letters, and we sat at the table together.

Miss Pray and Vesty thoughtfully selected some letters and shook them
together and handed them each to me to make into words.  I gave them
each a word.

The letters I gave Miss Pray composed a simple and striking feature of
the Basin vocabulary, "w-h-a-l-e."

Those I gave Vesty I studied to make a little more difficult,
"c-o-n-t-i-n-u-e."

Miss Pray gave me three letters.  It happened as I dropped them on the
table that they fell of themselves into complete literary sequence,
"c-o-w."  But Vesty handed me eleven shuffled letters, a ladylike
aspiration, and looked at me with a little appealing blush--the Basin
school is so brief, so limited in its curriculum.

Miss Pray put on her glasses and studied wearily and long on her
letters, placing them every way.  I saw that she had them now at last,
"w-h-a-l-e," but was regarding them as blankly as ever.

"Pray do not move them again," I cried hopefully, finding the game more
exciting than I had anticipated.  "You have it, 'w-h-a-l-e,'
whale--see?"

Miss Pray looked shocked and dubious.  I saw at once that she was
suffering under the sorrowful mental conviction that I had spelled the
word wrongly: but that she was resolved not again to wound my feelings.
She turned to assist Vesty.

"That," she said at length, struck by some suggestive combination,
"might be 'continnu,' Vesty, ef it had more 'n's and no 'e'."

"Oh," said Vesty, pleased and enlightened.  "But major knows," she
added promptly, "about the spelling."

"I have your word, you see, Vesty," I said.  "'S-e-p-p-e-r-a-t-i-o-n.'"

I had it spread out proudly on the table.  She looked at me and blushed
again.  I smiled, only as I would at a priceless child.

"You _are_ cute at _guessin'_, major," said Miss Pray admiringly; but I
saw that she held me deficient in the classical prearrangement of
words, and that the game had lost interest to her on that account.  So
we laid it by.

When Vesty rose to go home, "I will go with you," I said, wrapping my
sad little presence in an overcoat.

Miss Pray looked as she had when she asked me if I was rebellious.

But Vesty said quickly: "I wish you would.  I am so afraid in the dark!"

Afraid in the dark!  Not she; but this was some ointment for that
unconscious thrust Miss Pray had given.

I walked home with her.  Coming back, there was ever a slight crackling
in the bushes and stealthy breathing behind me.  It was the lad, Jimmy
Kirtland, sent by Vesty surreptitiously to see that I arrived safely at
Miss Pray's.

I regarded sacredly this innocent device, but, arrived in the house, I
heard Jimmy outside pleading cautiously to Miss Pray through the window
that he was afraid to go back alone.

Miss Pray tried to arouse one of her two orphans--her help: for answer
they screamed aloud, sinking back into a sleep deep with snores of
utter repose.

"Sh! sh!" she said.  "I'll go home with you, Jimmy."

I had not taken off my great-coat.  I went out of my room and followed
them, unseen.  In sight of the Kirtland home-light Jimmy ran in, glad.
Miss Pray turned to face the darkness alone; she went a few paces,
stopped, hesitated, and began to weep softly.

"I am here to walk home with you, Miss Pray," I said.  "Come; I can see
very well in the dark."

"Thank God!" said she, and came toward me with a little bound; for it
seemed that it did not make any difference to her in this emergency
that I did not know how to spell.



VII

"SETTIN' ON THE FENCE"--THE SHIFTY SPECTRE

"Admiral 's I sum-sit-up," collector of road-taxes, a title cheerfully
accorded him through the genial courtesy of the Basin, came down from
the Point.

In the distance we could hear him approaching as usual, the passionless
monotone of his voice growing ever nearer and more distinct, as he
flapped methodically first one rein, then the other, over the unhurried
action of his horse, sagely admonishing him to "G'long! ye old fool!
Git up! ye old skate!"

His mortal conversation, too, though cutting and profound, was, in the
deepest sense, without rancor or emotion.

"'S I sums it up," said he, "yer road down through the woods 's gittin'
more ridick'lous 'n ever."

"Poo! poo!  Wouldn't be afraid to bet ye she ain't," said Captain Pharo
Kobbe, with glowing pipe.

"Ye seem to boast yerselves 't ye don't belong to nothin' down here,"
continued the admiral; "but ye does.  Ye belongs to a shyer town.  Ye
orter have some pride.  'S I sums it up, be you goin' to pay yer rates,
or work 'em out mendin' yer roads?"

"I've noticed pretty darned well 't I don't belong to no town, only
when it comes to votin' some on ye into offis' up there and payin'
taxes," said one of the Basin group--Captain Dan Kirtland, Vesty's
father.  "I ain't a-goin' to pay no rates, nor work 'em out on no roads
neither.  When I goes I goes by boat, 'n' I didn't see, when I was out
pollockin' this mornin', but what the water 's jest as smooth as she
ever was!"

A low murmur of sympathetic laughter ran through the group.

"I goes by boat--when I goes," said Captain Leezur benignantly.  "She
_is_ smoother, sartin she is.  But some, ye know, 's never sartisfied.
Some neow 's all'as shiftin' a chaw o' tobackker----"

"Comparin' of the road with the water," said Captain Rafe, father of
Fluke and Gurdon, "I permits it to ye all that thar' ain't that
steadiness about the land that thar' is about the water.  Thar 's a
kind o' a weaviness and onsartainty about the land."

"'S I sums it up," said the imperturbable collector, grave pipe of
expired ashes in mouth, "thar 's some bottom to the water, but it 's
purty nigh fell out o' yer roads down here.  Ye're a disgrace to a
shyer town."

Loud and unoffended laughter from the group.

"I permits 't thar 's some advantages about the land," continued
Captain Rafe.  "I wants ter go out and shute me a mess o' coots once in
a while, and ketch me a mess o' brook-trout, but as for tinkerin' over
the roads--why, that artis' that was down here three months las'
summer, paintin' a couple o' Leezur's sheep eatin' rock-weed off'n a
nubble, said 't our roads was picturusque.  You don't suppose I'm goin'
around a-shorin' up and sp'ilin' the picturusque, do ye?"

Inextinguishable laughter from the group.  At this juncture Captain
Shamgar came up with his cows.

"Ain't ye drivin' yer cows home ruther early, Shamgar?  Sun 's
a-p'intin' 'bout tew in the arternoon."

"Wal, yes, but I got through cuttin' weir-stays, and thought 's the
cows was over there, I'd take 'em along home with me.  Save goin' back
arter 'em by 'n' by, ye know."

Captain Shamgar disposed himself on the fence, and the cows fell to
browsing in the lane.

"Got your road-tax ready for the adm'r'l, Shamgar?"

"Sartin, sartin," said that individual, firmly and permanently
buttressing his cowhide boots between the rails; "charge 'er to the
town pump, and take 'er out o' the handle!"

Uproarious laughter.

"You'd orter see the roads in Californy," said a dark spectre with
shifty eyes on the outskirts of the group.

"Gold, ain't they, Pershal?"

"No, no," said the spectre modestly; "jest common silver-leavin's.
Arfter they've made silver dollars they scrape up all the cornder
pieces and leavin's, and heave 'em out into the road.  They wears down
smooth in a little while--and shine?  Wal----"

"Speakin' o' coots," firmly interposed Captain Dan Kirtland, "onct when
I was cruisin' to Boston, I seen a lot o' coots hangin' up thar' in the
market 't looked as though they'd been hangin' thar' ever senct before
Adam cut his eye-teeth.  'How long be you goin' to keep them coots?'
says I.  'Coots!' says he; 'them's converse-back ducks.'
'Converse-back ducks!' says I; 'them 's coots,' says I, 'and they're
gittin' to be _old_ coots too,' says I.  'You come from Maine, I guess,
don't ye?' says he.  'Never mind whether I come from Maine or whether I
come from Jaffy,' says I, 'I come from sech a quarter of this 'arth as
whar' coots is jest _coots_,' says I."

"Ye'd orter see the coots in Californy," wailed the voice of the shifty
spectre on the outskirts.

"Kind o' resemblin' cows in size, ain't they, Pershal?"

"No, no; the biggest I ever seen was the size o' Shamgar's tom-turkey;
but plenty?  Wal----"

"Speakin' o' Jaffy," said Captain Leezur; "somebody was tellin' me 't
they'd heered how 't Lot's wife--she that was turned into a pillar o'
salt, ye know----"

"Ye'd orter see the hunks o' salt in Californy!" moaned triumphantly
the spectre.

"Had got up and went!" joyfully concluded Captain Leezur.

"Wal, now, speakin' o' trout (I permits that they have termenjus trout
in Californy," wisely subjoined Captain Rafe), "larst Sunday I was
startin' for Shadder Brook with my pole and line, and I met this
noospaper man's wife, 't's boardin' up to Lunette's.  She was chopped
down so small tow'ds the waist line, looked as ef, ef she sh'd happen
to get ketched in a nor'wester, she'd go clean in tew.  Didn't bear no
more resemblance to your Vesty, Dan, than a hourglass on the shelf does
to the nateral strompin' figger o' womankind (I permits the women has
splendid figgers in Californy).

"'Wal,' says she to me, and sighs.  'I wish 't there was a chapel to
this place,' says she.  'I know,' says I; 'I've all'as said, ef they'd
start 'er up I'd contribbit to 'er--'s fur as my purse 'u'd allow.'"

Exhaustive laughter for some cause from the group.

"'Do you think it's right to go a-fishin' Sunday?' says she.  'No,
marm,' says I, 'not big fish, but little treouts?' says I; 'won't you
jest think it over, marm?' says I.  And while she was thinkin' I kind
o' shied and sidled off, an' got away outer the ship's channel."

"Wal, thar' neow," said Captain Leezur, beaming with fond sympathy at
the heavens, "sech folks dew help to parss away the time, amazin'."

"'S I sums it up," said the impassively listening collector, "ef ye
don't pass away some o' yer time on yer roads down here, ye'll break
some o' yer d--d necks."

Renewed unresentful laughter from the group.

"Grarsshoppers, neow," said Captain Leezur, seriously and reflectively,
"makes better treoutin' bait 'n angle-worms (I know 't we don't have no
sech grarsshoppers nor angle-worms neither as they dew in Californy).

"Nason was over t'other day, helpin' me shingle my barn.  'Twas a
dreadful warm day, and we was takin' our noonin' arfter dinner, settin'
thar' on the log, 'nd there was a lot o' these 'ere little green
grarsshoppers hoppin' areound in the grarss: so arfter a spall, we
speared up some on 'em and----"

"'S I sums it up, ef ye want to stay here and ketch the last fish 't
God ever made, 'ste'd o' bracin' up and mendin' yer roads and takin'
yer part in a shyer town, ye must do so."

"Sho!" said Captain Leezur, regarding him with wistful compassion; "I
hain't seen as fish was gittin' skeerce."

By winks and insinuations of niggardliness, through Captain Rafe,
father of Fluke, he was moved to take a nervine lozenge out of his
pocket and display it temptingly before the sapient, immovable
countenance of the collector.  The latter, cold pipe in mouth, solemnly
shook his head.

"They _dew_ come kind o' high, I know," said Captain Leezur, "but I'm
all'as willin' to sheer 'em with a friend.  I ain't one o' that kind
that's all'as peerin' anxiously into the futur'."

"The furderest time 't I ever looked into the futur'," said Captain Dan
Kirtland, "was once when I was a boy 'bout nineteen, and my father told
me not to take the colt out.  He was a stallion colt (I know 't we
don't have no sech colts here as they do in Californy), jest three
years and two months old, and sperrited--oh, no; I guess he wa'n't
sperrited none!  Wal, my father was gone one day, and I tackled him up
and off I went.  Might 'a' fetched up all right, but 't happened jest
as I was passin' by them smoke-houses to Herrinport, some boys 't was
playin' with a beef's blawder had hove her up onto the roof, and she
bounded down right atween that stallion's ears and eyes.  In jest about
one second I looked so far into the futur' that I run my nose two
inches into the 'arth, and she 's been broke ever since."

"Never mind, Kirtland, she 's all thar'.  The furderest time 't I ever
looked ahead," said the voice of Shamgar, "was once in war time.  Flour
fifteen dollars a barrel, seven girls and five boys (I know 't we don't
raise no sech families here as they do in Californy), everything high.
All to once the thought come to me, 'Mebbe herrin'll be high tew.'  And
sure enough herrin' was high!"

"The furderest time 't I ever looked ahead----" deliciously began
Captain Leezur.

"G'long! ye old fool!  Git up! ye old skate!"

Admiral 'S I Sums-it-up was turning his horse about.

"I believe you and me 's got a bet on, ain't we, adm'r'l?" said Captain
Pharo.

"I told 'em 'twas wastin' waggin ile to come down here to c'lect.
G'long! ye old fool!  Git up! ye old skate!  'S I sums it up, bet ye,
goin' 'tween here and the Point I could scrape twenty-five pound o' mud
off 'n yer kerridge time ye gits thar', Kobbe.  G'long! ye old fool!
Git up! ye old skate!"

His unbaffled monotone grew gradually faint in the distance.

"Roads _be_ all porridge up there a piece, I reckon," chuckled Captain
Pharo; "but as long as Crooked River runs, I don't calk'late to lose no
bet.  Poo! poo!"

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'My days are as the grass, Or as--']

"Jest give me time," beamed Captain Leezur, sounding mellifluously,
"'n' I can row any Pointer ashore in an argyment 't ever was born yit.
I takes a moderate little spall to dew it in.  Forced-to-go----"

"Ye be a lazy, yarn-reelin' set, all on ye," said Captain Rafe,
grinning with affection and delight on the group.  "I'm going to have
ye all posted and put on the teown!"

Murmurs of rich and deep laughter.

A tall, dark form, shifty-eyed, had been insensibly moving and
disintegrating me from the group.  I found myself drifting strangely
ever farther and farther away.  I was sitting beside him on a rock in
the covert of the woods, the sun setting over the bay, and all was
still save his voice.

"I went to Californy minding" (mining), said he.  "She ain't nothin' so
wonderful of a State as you might think: she ain't no bigger 'n Maine
'n' New York and Alabamy, 'n' Afriky 'n' Bar Harbor all put into one!"

"Great heavens!" said I, scratching my feeble little cane into the
earth, "is she that?"

Of all that had been denied him in the recent general conversation, of
colossal hunks of salt, of grasshoppers "no larger than Dorking hens,"
of fishes, women, horses fabulous, I listened, rapt with wonder and
admiration.

The sun went down, the moon arose, and still I listened.  I was not
weary, I was not hungry; I was absorbed in sincere and awful attention.
But the world is callous and cold, and I shall not repeat those tales.

The world is callous and cold; but, as the shifty spectre at last
pointed me, unwilling, homeward, he murmured, with tears in his eyes:
"I never found sech an intellergent listener as you be--not in the
whole length and breadth of Californy."



VIII

"VESTY 'S MARRIED"

"Vesty 's married Gurd!  Vesty 's gone and got married to Gurd!" said
the children, big and joyful with news, on their way to school.

Yes, that was what she had done!  I leaned heavily for a moment where I
stood.  That was Vesty!

Oh, child-madness!  Sweet, lost child!  Oh, pity of the world! and I
crawling on with such a hurt; I did not think that should have wrung me
so.

I was getting near her door; not anywhere else could I have gone.  She
would be at the Rafes' cottage now--so easily do the Basin brides move,
without wedding journey or trousseau.

The wash-tubs and cooking-stove stood at one end of the long,
low-raftered room, the cabinet organ and violins at the other.  Captain
Rafe and the boys were out, hauling their sea-traps, and Vesty had been
doing the washing that they were wont to do for themselves; the mother,
like her own, being dead.

The room was nice as I had never seen it before, and Vesty was putting
some pitiful little ornaments to rights at the cabinet-organ end.

She turned to me with so strange and febrile a look, yet with so wild
and startled a welcome in her eyes.

"Hush!" I said.  "You wanted me, child; I am here."

I saw that she had turned to lean against the organ, and that she was
shaken with sobs.

"What have you done, Vesty?  Wicked and false beyond any woman I
know--_you_!"

"Have you seen him?" she sobbed.

"No, I have not seen Notely.  You were married only last night."

"I wrote to him.  There was only one way to save Notely from marrying
me--only one way."

"You might have waited."

"Notely would never have waited.  Notely meant to marry me."

"You should have married him, and not been false."

"I would rather be false than ruin Notely."

"You thought that it would ruin him?  You had some assistance in that
belief; his lady mother came to see you; the property is hers.  If he
transgresses, no property, no wealthy Grace Langham, no easy glory at
the bar or in the state.  What were those to your love, Vesty?"

She looked up, dim, and shook her head.  "You have done a wilful,
blind, impetuous thing.  You were piqued, proud, angry, and so you gave
yourself, body and soul, to this mad leap."

"I don't care for my body (sob) or soul (sob) if Notely isn't sick."

"There is One who is above Notely, to punish as well as to pity, Vesty."

"God"--very softly--"oh, yes!"  The bewildered, grief-tormented eyes
looked faith into mine.  "I didn't mean that.  I asked Him.  I could
only find one way.  He won't let Notely come to harm, but help him to
make the best of himself."

"Your lover is a brave man.  He would not have been selfish toward you
as this great hulk, Gurdon.  He knew you intelligently.  He would have
lifted, considered, cared for you."

Vesty held herself aloft, pale.  "Gurdon is good.  If any one ever
asked Gurd for anything he always gave it to them."

I leaned my head on my hand, my heart leaping.  Vesty came near me.
"Tell me that you do not think it is a great mistake--such a great--a
lost--mistake; for Notely's sake, tell me!  I looked so for you to
come.  I wanted you."

To have touched one thread of her dark hair, bowed there before me!  I
did not touch her.

"Ah, the mistake!" I said; "ah, the pity of it!  You do not tell me how
_you_ have suffered, Vesty; how your own heart has been torn."

She took my hand, and, turning her head, pushed it gently away from
her, as some blind instrument of torture.

"The last time I heard you sing, Vesty, you put your hands on Uncle
Benny's poor, confused head and soothed and guided him.  Who was there
to help or guide you, motherless child, confused and lost?"

"Could you have seen the way?"  How she entreated me!

"No one sees the way.  But a broken heart and a life--misguided and
lost though it be--_given_."

She looked up, dim, again.

"You will make them happy here," I added.  Ah, that she understood!
She looked about the room with a sad, brave pride, and rose and stood
again, a striking picture there.

"They did need _me_," she said; "_he_ needed me more than Notely.  And
I shall get time, besides, to go over to father's and help with the
children."

I nodded.  "Oh, it is bravely done," I said.  "We shall get on."  For
she was worn from her long mental struggle, and nearly wild in those
dark-circled eyes.  "There will be no more feathers in Captain Rafe's
cake.  Did I tell you?  He and the boys invited me here to tea.  They
had been dressing birds and baking in the same morning.  The plum cake
was full of feathers, Vesty."

She laughed, and looked at me with shocked gratitude because I had made
her laugh.

"Not chopped or sugared feathers, Vesty, but whole winged feathers of
the natural flavor."

"Oh!" she said, "shouldn't you think they needed me?"

"Infinitely."

"Wait.  Won't you come--come and see me often?  Come evenings and hear
the boys play--they _can_ play!--and tell me"--her hands
trembled--"tell me about Notely!"  Her soul bare in her uplifted eyes.
Only to one as a wraith, a shadow, out of the ordinary pale of
humanity, could she have looked like that!

"Always, whatever I hear or know," I answered her.  "Gurdon will not be
jealous of me."  I smiled at her.

She smiled back in her dim way.  "Jealous?" she said.  "What! after we
are married?"

"Ay, surely!  The Basins are true to each other then always."

"That is the way," she said.

"That is the way," I said, and left her.


When Notely Garrison received the letter that Vesty had written him he
read at the end: "When you get this I shall be married;" and the "for
love of you, Notely, God knows that!  You must make the most of all He
gives you."  Notely seemed to see her eyes.

Then he lost them and went down into a mental gulf.  He locked himself
in his room, to be ever alone; thoughts came to him that he could not
bear: he rose and filled a glass twice with brandy and drained it.  He
ran his hand through the tumbled light hair that Vesty had so loved,
and reeled out of the room with a laugh on his lips and a flush on his
face.

"Mother, I have lost my girl!"

"O Notely! however mistaken I have been, what have I loved, whom have I
loved in all this world but you, my child?  Do not break my heart!"

"No, no, mother!" said Notely, going and standing beside her; "I am
your natural--natural--protector."

As he stood thus, looking out with his drunken yet bright and tender
eyes, the child of her breast whom she had robbed, she laid her head on
his shoulder and began to cry.  "Why, mother!" he said, almost sobered
for the instant.  Never had this son seen this mother weep.  He led her
to a lounge.

"I think," he said, struggling for thought very seriously; he racked
his stormy, fuddled brain for what would most please her.  "Now, when
shall we have a wedding, mother?  Grace--Grace Langham."

"O Notely!"  She tried to detain him with her hand.

"I'll go--go ask her," he said.  He passed out with an easy
exaggeration of his usual lordly air, debonair and high, and at the
same time genial.

Grace was alone in the arbor, in her favorite hammock, with a book,
when Notely came up.

The look she gave him was full of amusement and anger and disgust.

These qualities somehow attracted him now.  He was a gentleman; he
tried to hold himself very erect against the trellis, and put the
question delicately.

"Light--light--light of my soul!" he said.

Grace threw down her book and screamed.  Then she put her hands over
her face and fell to crying.

Notely took out his handkerchief and wiped his own eyes with the
choicest deliberation of sympathy.

"All--all seem to be weeping to-day," he said.

"Oh, you wretch! you brute! you brute!" cried Grace.

Notely, though much flattered, continued diplomatically mopping his
eyes.

At length he desisted; and Grace, looking out and seeing his keen,
handsome profile staring out so desolately, came down from the hammock.

She shivered a little; drunken men were horrid, even dangerous.  But
Notely!  She came up heroically and put her hand on his sleeve.

"There is one condition, Notely, on which I can--consider your
proposal."

"Name," said Notely, with touching legal precision, "condition on which
you'll marry me."

"You must never, never drink like this again.  I did not know that you
ever did this.  Oh, how it has hurt me!"  The lace fell back from her
white arms, there was a perfume of flowers about her; bright brown eyes
are lovelier when suffused with tears.

"Thanks!" said Notely, meaning to come up to the full measure of the
occasion.  "I'm not--not worthy.  No--no--no previous engagement,
how'ver."

But he was so gentle, she took his arm and led him in.  Mrs. Langham,
who always spoiled him, entering stately in silk and gems, engaged him
in a game of cribbage, humoring gravely all his startling and original
vagaries in the game.

"What does it mean?" cried Grace to Mrs. Garrison.

"It was an accident, not an excess, my child," said the mother, smiling
proudly.  "It should never be mentioned in connection with my son; it
is no part of _him_."

Mrs. Garrison was strangely assured in her own heart that Vesty
Kirtland would never tell the son of his mother's visit to her.  She
did not mean that Grace Langham should ever know the full cause that
had unsettled him.

"We must be very tender with him, keep near to him," she said, "or,
when he recovers, he may do himself harm, with remorse, and--the fear
of losing your love, Grace."

They were very tender with him.  And by good chance, too, the post
brought a famed "Review," copying entire the brilliant fellow's essay
on "American Politics," with the editor's comment of "masterly."

"See!" screamed Grace; "it says 'masterly.'"

"Of course it 's mast--mast--masterly," said Notely, his beautiful eyes
burning.

They drove with him, the stout coachman perched for safety on the seat
beside him.  At evening he tried to catch Grace in the arbor and kiss
her.  She screamed and escaped.

"Come, dearest!" said his mother.  She left the door wide between his
sleeping-room and hers, and laid the triumphant review at his hand for
his waking in the morning.

But on the morrow he was neither remorseful nor subdued, though his
eyes were hollow.  He smoked a great deal, and sang melancholy,
unembarrassed snatches of song, after the manner of Captain Pharo, and
made love to Grace, who was beautiful.

At evening he tucked his violin under his arm.  "I am going down to
call on the new Basin bride," he said, with airy, cheerful contempt for
that class.

His mother paled.  He went up to her and kissed her.  "Do not fear,
mother," he whispered.

The boys welcomed him somewhat eagerly.  He had been their teacher on
the violin, as well as the original donor of those beloved instruments.
And they had thought he might not come to that house again.

"I've a new tune for you, boys," he said.  Vesty came in.  He rose and
bowed, taking her hand.  "I congratulate the new bride!"  He would not
look at her pallor or her great beseeching eyes.

"I've this to show you, boys, that I've been practising to-day."  He
had not touched the strings for forty-eight hours!  There was a covert
smile, sad, playful, not malicious, on his face as his hands touched
them now.

Where he had been "practising" indeed!  From what source he had got
that music that he played for them now!  He would never play the like
again.

"Bah!" said he, at the close, with his old cheerful manner; "it is too
sad!  When one is possessed only for minor strains better cease
fiddling.  Do you want me to break this, or throw it into the fire when
I get home, Gurdon?  Then take her, lad!  She 's a fine one, finer than
yours.  Take her in all good faith.  Come!"

Gurdon reached out his hand, hesitating, voiceless pity in his honest
eyes.

Notely sat and listened to the others; applauded in the old way.  "You
are beyond my teaching, lads," he said--and they played exquisitely.
"You excel your master now.  Well, well, my mellow old fiddle is better
here with you."  But he would never once look at Vesty, so pale and
beseeching.

As he passed out Vesty started impulsively, then looked at her husband.

"Go and speak to him, Vesty," said Gurdon.  "Maybe he wanted to speak
with you a moment."

Vesty stepped out into the dark, and she called, almost in a breathless
voice: "Notely!"

"Ah!"  He came back.

She held out her hands to him.  "Forgive me, Notely!  I meant it for
your--I meant----"

He took her hands firmly in his and pressed his lips down to hers.  "My
wife!" he said, slowly and solemnly; "my wife!" and dropped her hands
and left her.

She stepped back through the doorway, sobbing.

"Was he angry with you, Vesty?" her husband said.

"No! no!"

"Did he say as he was still fond of you, or anything like that?" said
the bold brother Fluke.

"Nay! nay!" said Gurdon.  "Vesty's married now: nor Vesty nor he would
ever have word like that."



IX

THE TALE OF CAPTAIN LEEZUR'S SLY COURTSHIP

It has not been a seven months, surely, since I heard the roar of those
waters down in the Basin's Greater Bay!

Captain Leezur has not been housed through icy snow-fall and winter
blast!--nay, he has been ever there, as when I left him sitting on the
log, beaming, tranquil heir of eternity.

"Ilein' my saw, ye see," said he, springing up and grasping my hand;
"ef I remembers right, I was settin' here ilein' my saw, when ye come
and bid me good-by?"

"You were."

"And here I be, right in the same place, ilein' of 'er ag'in!" he
cried, struck with joyful surprise at such a phenomena of coincidence.
"Set deown! why, sartin ye must!  I carn't let ye go."

Oh, the taste, sweeter than ancient wine, of that nervine lozenge once
more!  The time was weary while I was away.  Now that I am back again,
it seems as nothing.

"Some neow 's all'as runnin' their saw right through everythin', no
marter heow hard she wrarstles and complains ag'in' it.  But when mine
gives the first squeak, I sets right deown with 'er and examines of
'er, and then I takes a swab-cloth and I swabs her.
Forced-to-go--'specially ef she ain't iled--never gits far, ye know."

O delicious sound of uncorrupted philosophy once more!

Mrs. Leezur came out to welcome me, and sat on the doorstep near.  She
was chopping salt codfish in a tray for dinner.  When her knife struck
a bone, she put on her glasses, and after deliberate and kindly
research extracted it.

"Did ye hear anything from Jaffy?" said the mellow, glad voice of
Captain Leezur.

"I'm inclined to think what you heard was true, captain.  It seems to
be confirmed from every source; she is gone."

"Thar' neow!  I told 'em 't you'd make inquiries.  I could see, says I,
when I was talkin' to him 'beout it, 't he'd got waked up to more 'n
common interest in the subjec'.  Wal, I'm glad on 't; she'd sot there
so long neow--didn't ye hit a bone then, mother?  Seounded kind o' as
though ye struck a bone, but mebbe 'twas only the bottom o' the tray."

"We've been threatenin' to clean dooryard," said Mrs. Leezur, looking
about on a scene that demanded no more particular explanation.

"Thar' 's three times," said Captain Leezur, "that I've had them bresh
'n' things all hove up into piles, 'n' every time the wind 's raked in
and swep' 'em areound all over the farmimunt ag'in."

"Perhaps, father," said Mrs. Leezur, in a mildly suggestive tone, as
far from sarcasm as heaven is from earth; "perhaps, if 't when you'd
got 'em up in piles, you'd keeried of 'em off, they wouldn't 'a' got
swep' areound ag'in."

"Wal, I don' know 's they would, mother; but it 's been a dreadful busy
time o' year, ye know," said Captain Leezur, mellifluously.  "Didn't ye
strike a bone then, mother?  Seounded 's though ye run afoul of a bone,
but mebbe, arfter all, 'twas only the bottom o' the tray."

"I like the yard," I said.  "I wouldn't like to miss those--things."

"I guess you're kind o' like that artis' that was here, 't was so
keeried away with the picturusque.  He run afeoul o' a couple o' old
sheep o' mine up on the headlan's somewheres, an' spent a 'tarnal three
months a-paintin' of 'em deown onto some canvarss.  I told 'im, says I,
'Thar'!' says I, 'I'm glad to see them sheep put somewheres 't they'll
stay,' says I.  'It'll be the first time in existence 't they hain't
broke fence,' says I.  'I'm r'a'ly obleeged to ye.  I hain't seen the
livin' presence o' them sheep senct I don't know when,' says I.  'I've
been a-threatenin' these tew years t' go and hunt em up, but the
glimpst I've had o' 'em in this 'ere pictur'll dew jest as well,' says
I; 'fur 's I can see, they look promisin', an' gettin' better points 'n
ever for light-weight jumpers,' says I----Sartin ye hit a bone then,
mother!  Thar'!  I told ye so.  Heave 'er eout.  I knowed 't you'd
fetch 'er, mother.  Did I ever tell ye," said Captain Leezur to me,
"heow sly I was when I went a-courtin'?"

"No," said I.  Mother Leezur's face was modest, yet all beautifully
alight.

"Wal neow," said Captain Leezur seriously, "my experience has been,
there ain't nothin' so onpleasant, when ye're eatin' picked-up codfish,
's to feel the rufe o' yer mouth all runnin' in afeoul along o' a mess
o' bones.

"So 't when it got at an age and a time 't I was goin' courtin', I was
jest as sly abeout it as could be, 'nd I never let on nothin' o' what
port in pertick'lar I was steerin' for.

"So 't I was up settin' a spall with Tryphosy Rogers--she 't was; 'nd
says she, 'Neow what shall I get for tea, Leezur?' (The gals all made a
great deal on me in them days.)  'They ain't nothin' I likes so well,'
says I, 'as a mess o' codfish mixed up along o' eggs and thickenin'.'
Wal, she flew 'reound 'nd got supper, 'nd we sot deown together--and I
swan! ef that 'ar mess o' codfish 't Tryphosy heaped onto my plate
wa'n't worse tangled up with bones 'n the maze o' human destiny.

"Wal, I knew 't Tryphosy had bo's enough; 'nd all ain't so pertick'lar
abeout codfish, ye know, as some be.  So 't I didn't trouble 'er to get
up no more teas for me.

"'Nd still I kep' sly: they hadn't nobody the least idee o' what port I
was steerin' for.  I tried four or five jest in the same way, but they
hadn't moderation enough o' dispersition, ye see, to set deown
beforehand and have a calm previous wrarstlin' o' the spirit along o'
them codfish bones.

"Wal, Leony Rogers--she 't was--cousin to Tryphosy--she was called the
harndsomest gal in them parts, 'nd I had considerable hopes.  So 't
when she asts me, 'Neow what 'll ye have for tea, Leezur?'--'They ain't
nothin' I likes so well,' says I, ''s a mess o' codfish mixed up along
o' eggs and thickenin'.'

"Wal, we sot deown together, 'nd she was so purty I stowed away a
mouthful, hardly thinkin'--'nd I run one o' these here main off-shutes
from the backbone of a ten-pound cod, abeout tew inches up into the
shrouds 'n' riggin' o' my left-hand upper jaw.

"I was in sech a desp'rit agerny to git home that night I got onto
Leony's father's old white mar', 't was feedin' along by the road, an'
puttin' of 'er deown the hill, I'm dumed ef she didn't stumble and hove
me clean over her bows----"

"Father!"

"Wal, mother?"

"Ye swore, father!"

"Wal, thar'! mebbe I did, mother.  But ye know when I jined the church
forty year ago, there was a kind o' takkit agreement atween Parson Roe
'n' me 't I could sweer when I wastellin' that pertick'lar story.

"Wal, the rute o' the matter was, 't as soon 's I was healed up inter
some shape ag'in, I went and see Phoeby Hamlin--she 't was."

No need for personal explanation.  Captain Leezur's tone!  Mother
Leezur's softly shrouded eyes!

"'What'll ye have for tea, Leezur?' says she.  'They ain't nothin' I
likes so well,' says I, ''s a mess o' codfish mixed up along o' eggs
and thickenin'.'  Wal, Phoeby, she went eout, and she was gone a long
time--looked kind o' 's though I was gittin' into port.

"'Nd thar I sot and sot; 'nd every minute 't I sot there I was gittin'
surer somehow 't I was sightin' land.  By 'n' by, Phoeby, she comes in,
and we sot deown together, 'nd I kep' takin' one help arfter another;
for arfter what I'd been through I was goin' to make sure whether I'd
got inter safe harbor or not.  But deown she all went, slick as ile,
an' nary bone nor sign o' bone anywheres.

"'Phoeby,' says I, 'ye've wrarstled, and ye've conquered!'  'What on
'arth d'ye mean, Leezur?' says she.  For figgeral language, ye know,
requires a very moderate dispersition; and women, even the moderatest
on 'em, haves tew quick perceptions for t' be entertained long with
figgeral language."



X

A CALL FROM NOTELY'S YACHT

"Why did you never come?  I sent for you."

"I was afraid, Vesty, that new burden of motherhood, which you carried,
might take some physical mark or blight from a presence like mine.  But
he is beautiful!"

He lay upon her arm, and he was beautiful, full fed from her breasts,
formed large and fair, his hair already waved as by a court barber!
Her eyes rested on him.  Would all the weak and miserable of the world
be well-nigh forgotten now?  She raised them to me again--Basin
eyes--all the weak and miserable of the world were dearer.

"He looks that proud way," she laughed, "when the boys play him to
sleep; they played him to sleep again before they went to their traps
this morning.  They used to play me to sleep, before baby came.  I used
to think of so many things.  I wanted to see you."

"Things cannot ever be thought out, after all, Vesty; but if the boys
can play one to sleep--well, that is best."

She took my hand; the tenderness in her eyes covered their pity.  I
felt no sting.  "I feel safe when you will come sometimes," she said;
"you are so strong--so strong!"  She touched my hand admonishingly; it
was as though she lifted me.

"I misjudged your husband, Vesty; rather, I did not know him.  He is a
good lad, this Gurdon."

"Oh, he is!"  A dream swept over her face, as dreams will; the mad
birds whistling "love" down by the sea-wall, the gay waters
flashing--Notely Garrison.

"And so the father plays him to sleep?  Many a duke would give half his
possessions for a boy like that!"

She buried her face rapturously beside him for a moment, then turned to
me calmly:

"What do you know of Notely?" she said.

"Only what rumor knows, what may have been told you.  His wife found no
enduring attractions in this locality, you know: they have built a
summer place at Bar Harbor; his wife and his mother and Mrs. Langham,
it is said, are all devoted to his happiness.  He has a fine yacht now,
and is sometimes seen skipping by off shore.  He is gifted in address
and with the pen.  His name is seen often."

Vesty listened hungrily.

"Have you seen him?  Is he happy?"

"I saw him only as he was passing me, with some of his companions; they
had come ashore to see the old Garrison place.  He looked very happy."

"Then I am glad!" said Vesty of the Basins, clasping her hands.  I
looked at her; if he was happy she was utterly glad.

"He will be a great man," she said: "he is already famous, that _is_ to
be great."


  "As Christ went down the Lonesome Road,"

sang Uncle Benny, who was voluntary housekeeper at Vesty's during some
hours of the day, while the father and boys were away at the fishing:

  "As Christ went down the Lonesome Road--
    Sail away to Galilee.
  He left the Crown and He took the Cross!
    Sail away to Galilee.
    Sail away to Galilee--
  Oh, He left the Crown and He took the Cross--
    Sail away to Galilee!"


He came forward to take the baby, who had awakened before he began to
sing.  The Basin matrons ran in very much, but there was no "Vesty" to
enter and take the continued care, in this case, until the young mother
should be strong again.

"You can sweep up, major," said Uncle Benny, cheerfully pointing me to
the broom.

  "Sail away to Galilee,
  Sail away to Galilee--"

he sang, walking so proudly with the infant that his gait was most
innocently jaunty and affected.

Vesty laughed and shook her head at me, but I had the broom and was
hobbling about at work with it, pleased to find that Uncle Benny had
rather neglected this humble office for the more important one of
minding the baby.

He next set me to washing the dishes and turning the churn; he would
not trust me with the child, and wisely.  That he held in his own
strong arms, but he sat down beside me after my work was done and
gently commiserated me.

"Nature has not done so much for you as she has for some, you know," he
said.

"No, indeed," I murmured.

At that he took off his blue necktie and held it toward me, with a tear
of pity in his eye.

I took it and tied it simply around my neck above the collar.

"It improves you--some," he said, but his look only too plainly
indicated that there was still much to be desired.

We were sitting thus on the doorstep, Uncle Benny with the baby, and I
peeling the potatoes, with his blue ribbon tied around my neck, when I
heard a half-familiar little scream and laugh, and, looking up, beheld
a fashionable company.

"We hailed Gurdon, off Reef Island, and he said we might come and see
the son and heir--hurrah!"

Notely spoke in his gay voice, but the look he gave Vesty's
child--Vesty's sweet self in that form--leaped with a passionate pain.

There was a small, brilliant-looking woman beside him, with
eye-glasses.  "O you divine infant!" she exclaimed, regarding the
child.  "Where is the Madonna?"

Now, I was purposely gathering up the potato peelings very slowly from
the doorway, so that the "Madonna" might have time to take down a
certain blue sack from the bedpost at hand, and put it on, and give
those little finger-touches to the hair that women covet; so I stumbled
over the peelings and got mixed up with them, until even Uncle Benny
felt called upon to apologize for me.

"He looks some better," he said dubiously, touching his neck: "but," he
continued, in a very soft and confidential tone, "Nature has not done
so much for him as she has for some, you know."

All the party had the air of having just had a very merry luncheon on
board the yacht.

By the side of Notely's bride was one of the handsomest young athletes,
almost as handsome as Fluke and Gurdon Rafe.

"What-th--what-th the admithion?" he whispered to Grace, plunging his
hand in among the coin in his pockets; "ith--ith there any more of the
thame kind inthide?"

"Hush!" said she quickly, for she knew that I had heard.  She lifted a
hand impulsively toward his mouth: he caught her hand and looked as
though he would have held it; she drew it away, blushing sweetly, and
sighed, as she had sighed at Notely.

Vesty saw that, as they entered; saw Notely enter with his easy,
unobservant swagger, lest the unexpected visit of this fashionable
company should embarrass her.  He walked across the room, humming an
air, to his old violin.

He touched a strain or two.  "Do you remember, Vesty," he said airily,
drawing nearer, "this?--and this?  You have such a beautiful little
boy, Vesty!  I am so glad!--so glad!  And this?--do you remember?"  He
played as though he could play away the pallor from that tender face
upon the pillows; the pitiful, fine little blue sack added to it.  I
had left the dust-pan loaded with its spoils, the ragged handle, as I
now perceived, not quite hidden behind the door: it caught on to the
skirts of the brilliant lady with the eye-glasses, and went trailing
loudly after her along the floor.  As I stooped down to detach it,
sheltered behind those fine draperies, I gave Vesty such a side glance
that a smile and color came over her face in spite of herself.

"Such power of attraction!" said Notely, turning to the lady his
laughing eyes, with that unconscious pathos which a lovely woman never
failed to discover in them; "even the dust-pans"--he swept the strings
of the violin--"even the dust-pans become attached to you."

"On the contrary," said she, giving him a sharp glance which he
relished from her very bright though near-sighted eyes; "it is not
often that I have become attached to anything so useful."

He laughed with mettlesome good-nature.

The bride, with her attendant brave, had gone up to Uncle Benny and the
baby.

"Let me take him," she said, holding up her beautiful arms.

Uncle Benny smiled at her, half remembering her--it was an old joke,
his becoming engaged to every pretty woman he met--but shook his head.

"It 's a particular trust," he said, in his very soft, sweet voice;
"from Jesus Christ and mother.  What if somebody should drop him, or
hurt him?  I have to be very careful, for it 's a trust.

  "'There 's a tree I see in Paradise--'"

he suddenly broke into the song again in a loud and perfectly
unembarrassed tone:

    "'Sail away to Galilee.
  It 's the beautiful, waiting Tree of Life--
    Sail away to Galilee.
    Sail away to Galilee.'"

      *      *      *      *      *      *

"Good gwaciouth!" said the young man, fumbling the coin in his pockets
and listening in a dazed state of appreciation at the unexpected
resources of this menagerie.

"Doctor!" cried Notely--and that address delighted Uncle Benny--"Dr.
Spearmint, let me make you acquainted with Mrs. Forrester"--some
wailing strains from the violin--"she could get a divorce from her
present consort, I suppose--ahem!--if there were encouragement enough
from some one sufficiently endowed by nature."

"It is better to be simple than to be wicked," instantly retorted the
bright little woman, regarding Uncle Benny humorously and not without
compassion.

But Uncle Benny was not to be disturbed again; he had his cue.

"Oh, thank you!" he murmured; "but I couldn't think of it, anyway.
I've got so many trusts.  There 's Vesty's baby, and there 's the
little children I take to school every day and go to fetch them.  I'm
very careful, because they're trusts, you see;" and he marched on
gladly with the baby, singing.

"You ought to be ashamed, all of you!" said Mrs. Forrester; and sat
down by Vesty with friendly advice and prattle about her own babies.

Notely dreamed away on his violin: that made it easy for the rest.  His
bride and the handsome young man flirted with ardor, yet quite
transparently: there was a smile wholly devoid of bitterness on
Notely's lips.

"Grace!" cried the sharp little woman at last; "we've some superfluous
shawls on board the yacht that would make such charming rugs for Mrs.
Rafe's baby.  If Mrs. Rafe could send one of her servants down to the
shore to call a man from the boat."

"I'd thend--thend the one with the body," said the young man, still
afflicted with wonder at Uncle Benny and myself, and indicating Uncle
Benny the more hopefully.

"I prefer the one with the mind," said Mrs. Forrester gravely, snapping
a glance at him that was not without meaning.  "Why, when you have been
drinking too much wine, Cousin Jack, can you not go and sit down in a
corner and amuse yourself innocently by yourself as Mr. Garrison does?"

At that Notely looked up and shot at her a long, gay challenge without
words: his eyes in themselves seemed to fascinate her, as they did most
people; she brightened with a caressing, artistic sense of pleasure in
them.

"Well, I like that!" said her cousin, having by this time framed a
rejoinder to her question.  "Grace and I haven't thpooned anything like
you and Note did, thailing down, only you're so deuced thly about it!"

"You are disgusting," said she, too lofty and serene to be annoyed.

I had my hat and was slipping out on my errand to the boat.  Vesty,
with evident distress, was about to explain: I put my finger to my lips
with another side glance of such meaning that she kept still and even
smiled again.

I called a man and brought him to the house for Mrs. Forrester's
directions.  He soon returned with the rugs, which Vesty accepted for
her baby as well as she could; Uncle Benny all the time singing
gleefully.

The party moved to go; in passing through the door Mrs. Forrester
dropped her handkerchief.  I picked it up and handed it to her.

"Thank you, my poor fellow," she said; "you have the manners of a
prince!" and put a coin in my hand--a piece of silver.  I took the
money.

Vesty was still, after they were gone, her hands over her face.  I knew
well what thoughts she was thinking.

"Do not go," she said to me, and her voice was like the low cry of her
own child; "you are smiling still."  She looked at me with strained
eyes.

"Well, perhaps because I am glad Mrs. Garrison would not adopt you and
take you away from the Basin; perhaps because I am glad no handsome
rake will ever ogle you as our lisping young man did Mrs. Notely
Garrison."

"It meant nothing between them all," said Vesty, her hand over her
eyes; "you know that better than I.  It is only the way they do."

"It meant nothing!  It is only the way they do."

I put away the violin Notely's fingers had so lately touched.  The
tears stole down Vesty's cheeks and trembled on her lips.

"He does not care," she said; "that is the worst!  He does not care as
he did once."

"For what, Vesty?"

"For anything but having a good time and making fun with people, and
all that.  He used to talk with me--oh, so high and noble, about
things!"  Her eyes flashed, then darkened again with pain.

"Ay, I know he has seen the model and been pierced with it.  He can
never forget; he will come back."

"The model?"

"You know once there was a Master who was determined all his people
should paint him a picture after a great model he had set before them.
It seemed not to be an attractive model; it seemed full of pain and
loss; the world looked to be full of other designs more desirable.

"So that there were hardly any but that wandered from it, to paint
pictures of their own; there was hardly, if ever, a great or a true and
patient artist--for they are the same thing.

"Some found the colors at hand so brilliant, and were so possessed with
the beauty of dreams of their own, that they spent long years in
painting for themselves splendid houses in bewitching landscapes, red
passion roses, and heaps of glittering gold, that looked like
treasures, but were nothing.

"Some painted dark, sad glimpses of earth and sea and sky that were
called beautiful, the skill in them was so perfect.  Looking at them,
one saw only the drear night drawing on.

"But there were some who had no great dreams of their own to work out,
or if they had they turned from them with obedience above all: and
many, many, broken-hearted from their failure in their own designs, who
turned now to follow the Master's model.  And it was strange, but as
they regarded it intently and faithfully there grew to be in it for
them a beauty ever more and more surpassing all earthly dreams.

"They were dim of sight and trembling of hand; often they mixed the
colors wrong, they spilled them, they made great blotches and mistakes;
but they washed them out with tears and went to work again, yearning
pitifully after the model; in hope or despair, living or dying, their
fingers still moved at the task as they kept looking there.

"And always the Master knew.  This was the strangest of all, that some
of the dimmest, wavering outlines, some of the saddest blotted details,
were the beautifullest in his eyes, because he read just the depth of
the endeavor underneath; until, in this light, as he lifted it up, some
poor, weary, tearful, bungled work shone fairer than the sun!"

Keeping faithful watch of the clock, Uncle Benny at the appointed hour
had given up the baby to Vesty, to go and bring the children home from
school.  We heard him in the distance still singing joyfully his "Sail
away to Galilee!"

"There is a faithful artist," I said, and smiled; "would God I had come
up to him, with his unceasing watch over the little ones!  And Blind
Rodgers too, who never complains, and who will not trouble anybody, but
keeps his life so spotless."

Vesty lay very still.  "Do you think Notely was painting a picture of
his own?" she said.  "Do you think I was proud because he could paint
such pictures of his own, and wanted him to?  You said he had been
pierced with it"--she was talking to herself now--"he will come back."

"He will come back."

"Who are you?" she said, her Basin eyes turned clear and full upon me.
"You let them call you my servant!"

"Not because I was afflicted with humility, but because I was proud and
happy to be that.  And because it was a good joke: you do not mind my
enjoying a good joke, I hope?  Then you do not know how happy it made
me; I have had so much done for me, and have been so little useful."

Vesty was not satisfied.  Her clear, impersonal gaze held me with a
look fearless of its compassion, single and direct.

"I wish you would not leave the Basin," she said.  "I am never--I am
never happy when you are away."

"God bless you, my little girl!" I said, and hobbled away to finish the
housework, but my heart seemed to take on a pair of pure white wings,
like dove's wings.  I forgot withal that I was lame.



XI

ANOTHER NAIL

"Chipadees sing pretty," said Captain Pharo, drawing a match along the
leg of his trousers and lighting his pipe, as we stood amid the song of
birds in the lane--"but robins is noisy creeturs, always at the same
old tune--poo! poo! hohum!  Wal, wal--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'My days are as the grass, Or as--'"]

he paused there, having his pipe well going.

"Yes," said I, gulping down some unworthy emotions of my own; "yes,
indeed."

"Come down to see ef ye wouldn't like t' go up t' the Point with us, t'
git a nail put in the hoss's shu-u?"

"Oh, yes, thank you! by all means," I replied.

"My woman heered--poo! poo!--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'Or as the morn-ing flow'r,']

--she heered 't there was goin' to be a show up thar' to-night--some
play-actor folks.  'Ten Nights in a Ba-ar Room'"--the captain took the
pipe out of his mouth and yawned with affected unconcern.  "I've heered
o' worse names for a show; but ye know what women-folks is when there
's any play-actin' around.  They're jest like sheep next to a turnip
patch."

"Are they?"

"Oh, by clam! ye don't know nothin' 'bout female grass yit,
major--nothin'.  Bars can't shet 'em out."  I followed his sad gaze to
the west, and we sighed in unison.

"By the way, how 's your show stock gittin' along, major?"

"My show stock?"

"Why, sartin; we thinks all the more on ye, ef that c'd be, for havin'
some business.  Ye see, the way my woman found it out, she runs over to
Lunette's every mail day and helps her sort the mail, 'nd she said all
the letters 't come directed to 'Mr. Paul Henry' had a mess o' wax run
onto the fold of every envelope with a pictur' stamped inter it o' a
couple o' the cur'osest-lookin' creeturs; said 'twas jest the head an'
necks of 'em an' they looked to be retchin' up ter eat out o' the same
soup plate; said 't must be your stock to the circus; for business
folks often has their business picturs put on outside their envelopes,
ye know, and jedgin' by the cur'osity of 'em, she thought they must be
doin' pretty well by ye."

"Oh, they are, captain," I sighed; "yes, they're doing pretty well by
me."

"Wal now, ef you've got a comf'tably good thing, major, be content with
it; 'tain't easy to git onto a new job nowadays.  Ain't there some
pertick'lar spear o' grass ye'd like t' have set on the back seat with
ye?" he continued cheerfully.  "She rides easier for havin'
consid'rable ballast, ye know."

"I don't know of any.  Mrs. Lester is away at her daughter-in-law's."

"Hain't ye never thought--poo! poo! hohum!--wal, wal--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'The blighting wind sweeps o'er, she--']

hain't ye never thought o' Miss Pray?"

"In what way, captain?"

"Wal, as a--poo! poo!--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'She--']

as a pertick'lar spear, ye know?"

"No."

"In course human nature turns natchally to pink and white clover, like
Vesty; but I tell ye, major, when it comes to a honest jedgment o'
grass thar' 's lots o' comfort arter all to be took out o' old red
timothy.  Old red timothy goes to shutin' right up straight an' minds
her own business.  She ain't a-tryin' so many o' these d--d ructions on
ye.  My foot 's some better," said he, lifting the maimed member; "but
she ain't yit what she use ter be.  It 'u'd make a home for ye, 'ithout
payin' no board, an' ef ye got red o' payin' yer board ye wouldn't mind
ef she didn't treat ye quite so well--for that's the way 'ith all
female grass, clover 'n' all, when they once gits spliced onto ye.  But
'ith what ye gits from yer show ye c'd buy a hoss, an' when the wind 's
in the nor'-east ye c'd tack away from home on some arrant--see?  But
don't arsk her, 'less ye means ter stand by it, major, for the
women-folks has got to settin' onaccountable store by ye, ye kind o'
humors of 'em so."

I limped down the lane to invite Miss Pray on our excursion, with light
feet.  Was it the air again, or was it the new consciousness that I was
developing into a beloved and coveted beau?

I stepped into the cottage through the low window, as I often did.  At
the same moment the cover of the wood-box flew up, and I beheld the
rosy, good-natured visage of Miss Pray's orphan girl looking out: she
put her finger on her lip.

"Sh!"

"What is it?" I said.

She pointed upward.  I saw on the long spike which held the horseshoe
over the door a pail of water so delicately hung that whoever first
entered there must receive its contents in one fell unmitigated deluge
upon the crown.

"Sh!  It 's Wesley's" (her fellow-orphan) "it 's Wesley's birthday.  I
ain't got no present to give him, so I'm going to _souze_ him with cold
water: he 's bringin' in some wood--there 's steps!  Sh!"

She ducked into the wood-box, which had subterranean channels of
escape, with anticipated delight, and put down the cover, leaving me
alone in the room with the approaching victim and in the unenviable
position of appearing to be the sole perpetrator of this malign deed.

I had the merest time to master this idea, when the door swung in upon
its hinges, and not Wesley, but Miss Pray herself, stood before me, a
mad and a blighted object.

I gazed at her, horror-struck, and was endeavoring to speak, when
Wesley, staggering in behind her with his arms full of wood, came to my
relief.  "O Miss Pray, 'twan't major, honest 'twan't, nor 'twan't me,
Miss Pray: 'twas that Belle O'Neill, an' she 's mos' got to the graves
by this time.  I seed her runnin', through the windy.  O Lord!  O Miss
Pray! how wet you looks when you're as wet as you be now, Miss Pray!"

"Indeed it was not meant for you," I cried.  "Belle meant it for a
birthday jest on Wesley."

"Oh, I wish it had b'en, Miss Pray," gasped poor Wesley, with ill-timed
sympathy; "I'm so much more used to bein' wet 'n you be."

It was doubtful toward which Miss Pray was waxing most warm--the
recusant Belle O'Neill, or the stupid, open-mouthed Wesley--when I
stepped in at this juncture and entreated her with the Kobbes'
invitation.

"I'll go," said she, with evident satisfaction gleaming even through
her dripping state, "'s soon 's I've changed my do's and whipped Belle
O'Neill."

During the former process I volunteered, as one whom she would trust,
to watch for Belle, and lure her, if possible, to the house.  I
repeatedly saw that damsel's head peering out from behind the
gravestones of Miss Pray's ancestors, down by the sea-wall, and making
signals to me to know if advance were safe.

And every time, prostituting sublime justice to a weak sense of
compassion, I waved her back to her fastness until after we should be
gone.

"Shall I tell her 't you'll whip her after you git back, Miss Pray?"
said Wesley, with deep relish.

"No," said Miss Pray, who had now appeared, resplendent in holiday
attire.  "Do you want her to run away, and leave me without help?
All'as keep your mouth shet--that 's the safest commands for you;
all'as keep your mouth shet."

Wesley closed that wide organ, with a look of wondering surprise.

Miss Pray was lean and resplendent, not gray and comfortable like my
friend Mrs. Lester.  There was no blueberry "turnover" to devour.  As
we passed over the jolting road I clung desperately to the carriage
bars.

But it appeared that the captain had an abnormal design, before
entering the Point, of descending into a shallow branch of Crooked
River, there to wash the mud of past happy epochs from the carriage.

"Wal, Cap'n Pharo Kobbe," said his young wife, stultified with amaze at
this proceeding, "I should like to know what's took you!"

"Adm'r'l bet, spell ago, 't he could scrape twenty-five pound o' mud
off'n my two-seated kerridge next time I driv her to the Point.  Jest
keep yer eyes up the road," said Captain Pharo, standing, diligently
and furtively swashing, with his unconscious boots submerged in water,
"t' see that thar' ain't nobody lookin'."

"What 's he goin' to give ye, if ye win the bet, cap'n?" said his
lively wife.

The captain cast me a dark and fleeting wink over his shoulder.  "Poo!
poo!" he sang: "hohum!

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'My days are as the grass.  Or as--']

anybody in sight, major?"

"No; the road is all clear."

"What 's he goin' to give ye, Cap'n Pharo Kobbe, if ye win the bet?"

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'Or as the morn-ing flow'r, The
blight--'"]


"Ye needn't keep on singin', Captain Pharo Kobbe; for the sake o' the
company, I shan't ask ye nothin' more."

Saddened by this blight, his evil and surreptitious deed being
accomplished, Captain Pharo backed out of the stream.

But the triumphant smile returned to his countenance as he advanced on
the Point and found Admiral 'S I Sums-it-up sitting within the porch of
the grocery with other of his townsmen.

"Adm'r'l," said Captain Pharo, "I want ye to step down here and scrape
twenty-five pound o' mud off'n my two-seated kerridge."

The admiral regarded us fixedly for some moments, fireless pipe in
expressionless mouth, and then rose and descended to us.  The women had
already contemptuously left our company and gone about their shopping.

"Come along, Kobbe!" said the admiral, "and bring"--he glanced with
calm, meaningless vision at me--"bring all the rest on ye."

He led us under the loud sign of a tin shop, where, after sedate
speculation in the matter of purchasing a tea-kettle with a consuming
leak in the bottom, he cleared his throat.  "'S I sums it up," said he
to the proprietor, without further utterance; that individual looked
doubtfully at me.

"Oh, he 's all right," said Captain Pharo; "he 's a cousin o' mine in
the show business."

This introduction proving more than satisfactory, we were ushered into
a small room apart and the door locked behind us: but missing Uncle
Coffin's inspiration in this case, and remembering the quality of the
liquid, I made a smart show of drinking, without in the least
diminishing the contents of the bottle.

Not so, however, good Captain Pharo: from this time on his conduct
waxed sunny and genial, as well as irresponsible of the grave duties
which had hitherto afflicted him.

"Thar' 's a lot o' winter cabbage, 't was sp'ilin' down in my suller,
't I put in onto the kerridge floor, major," said he; "ef ye're mind
ter sell 'em out for what ye can git, to harves, ye're welcome.  Sell
'em out to hulls, by clam!" he called after me.  "I ain't so mean 't I
carn't help a young man along a little."

I returned to the carriage and arranged my fading cabbages as
attractively as possible, offset by the glories of the star bed-quilt;
and whether it was because the news had already spread that I was in
the show business, or by reason of some of those occult charms at which
Captain Pharo had hinted, I was soon surrounded by a lively group of
women.

"Here 's one 't ain't worth but two cents," said one fair creature,
holding up a specimen of my stock, whose appearance beside her own
fresh beauty caused me to writhe for shame.  "I shan't give a mite more
for her."

"O madam, is she worth that?" I denied impulsively.

The woman, speechless, dropped the cabbage to the earth.

"Here 's a nickel, anyway, for your bein' so honest," she exclaimed,
soon afterward.

I took it with a bow.  And here sordid considerations ceased, as they
had begun: my pious emotions toward the sex conquered, and I became not
the base purveyor but the elegant distributor of cabbages, right and
left, only with murmured apologies for gifts so unworthy.

I was now evidently classified as belonging high in the spectacular
drama; when the horse, having finished the meal of cracked corn he had
been enjoying by the roadside, with the reins thrown slack over his
neck, suddenly lifted his head with an air of arriving at some instant
conclusion and started merrily down the road.

Too lame to jump from a moving vehicle, my first emotions of dismay
gradually disappeared, however, as I found that our passage was not
disturbed even by the most untoward outward events.  For a base-ball
from the bat of some players in an adjoining field hit the noble animal
full in the flank without occasioning any alarm to his gait or
divergence from his resolved purpose.

He turned down the Artichoke road and went straight to Uncle Coffin's.
"I've come to take you and Aunt Salomy to the show," I said, lifted out
and knocked hither and thither by my friend in his tender ecstasy.

"Cruisin' out on the high seas without no rudder, you--you young spark,
you!" he cried delightedly.  "You're 'most too full o' the devil t'
exist!" he exclaimed at last, holding me out at arm's-length admiringly.

Proud now of my wickedness as I had formerly been of my charms, I
steered my friends to the Point by the conventional means of the
rudder.  Captain Pharo, who had been so congenially occupied that he
had not even missed me, heaped encomiums upon me, and receiving Uncle
Coffin almost with tears of joy in his eyes, led him away to the tin
shop.

I secured more cracked corn for the horse and shed-room, where I tied
him with retrospective security.  There being no restaurant, I obtained
some biscuits and cheese, and with these and six tickets for the very
front row, Aunt Salomy and Mrs. Kobbe and Miss Pray and I stole early
into the hall and sat us down to rest.

There were already figures as for a rehearsal behind the curtain;
indeed, that thin structure revealed angry silhouettes, and loud voices
reached us.

"Sh!" came from that source: "or them fools down there, eatin' crackers
an' cheese, 'll hear ye."

"I don't care if the whole town hears me," replied a passionate female
voice.  "You said I could have twenty dollars, and now you won't give
it to me.  I won't play to-night till I do have it--hear that!"

"Sh! or I'll shake ye!  Don't make a fool o' yourself, Maud.  Wait till
I get to-night's receipts----"

"I won't!  I'd like to see you shake me; ha! ha!"

Here the angry figures became plastic and tilted at each other
menacingly; the woman seized something and threw it; there was a crash.

Aunt Salomy choked placidly over her cracker crumbs.  Mrs. Kobbe gazed
with faithful interest.

Soon the very tall and hard-looking young man who had sold me the
tickets came down from behind the curtain, with a hang-dog air, and his
handkerchief bound about his head, and returned to the office at the
door.

Almost at the same moment Captain Pharo and Uncle Coffin walked
fearlessly up the aisle, their familiar hats on their heads, their
pipes in harmonious glowing action, and sat down beside us with beams
of recognition.

The hard young man, who appeared to be pecuniary manager as well as
leading star of the show, came to us.  "No smoking here!" he said,
severely.

"No smokin'!" replied Captain Pharo.  "Ye'd orter put it on yer
plackards then!  D'ye s'pose I'd come to yer show ef I'd known that?
Come along, Coffin!  I'm goin' ter hang out outside, by clam!

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'My days are as the grass, Or as--'"]

"No singing, either, sir, on the part of the audience.  This company is
from Boston, sir."

"Is she?" said Captain Pharo, with blighting sarcasm, new-lighting his
pipe preparatory to leaving the hall; "I thought she was from Jaffy!"

"Dodrabbit ye, Pharo!" said Uncle Coffin, wirily folding his powerful
arms; "keep yer seat, Pharo, and keep yer pipe.  Ef any man from
Boston, or any other man, wants ter take the pipe outer my mouth, or
outer Pharo Kobbe's mouth, let 'im come on an' try it!"

At this opportunity, I silently pressed a coin of such meaning into the
manager's hand that he skipped gracefully past us to the stage, where
he proceeded to explain--while the ribs of court-plaster with which he
had endeavored to conceal his wounds kept constantly falling upon the
floor--that, owing to the unavoidable illness of some of the actors, he
should be obliged to give us a choice variety entertainment instead of
the play advertised.

Captain Pharo and Uncle Coffin, not yet comprehending this idea, and
smoking triumphantly with their hats on, listened to several ranting
recitations from the wife who had so inopportunely defaced her
husband's visage; but when, after a brief recess, she again appeared
with a stage bow, Captain Pharo looked blankly at Uncle Coffin.

"Where 's the ba-ar, Coffin?"

"I kind o' suspicion they've giv' it up, Pharo; goin' to have
recitationers 'nstead."

"Curfew _shall_ not ring to-night!" yelled the woman on the stage, with
a leap of several feet perpendicularly.

"By clam!" cried poor Captain Pharo, rising; "I don' know what she is,
but she is goin' to ring, and she 's goin' to ring loud too, by clam!
I come here to see 'Ten Nights in a Ba-ar Room,' I didn't come here t'
see contortioners and recitationers.  Give us any more o' yer----"

Here, an onion, thrown from the rear of the room by some sympathetic
partner in Captain Pharo's woes, came whizzing over our heads and just
missed the woman, by good aim; she retreated without the formality of
her usual sweeping bow.  The manager began hastily to get together his
stage setting for the play.  A table and a bottle were first produced;
Captain Pharo and Uncle Coffin began to nudge each other with choice
anticipation of the advancing drama, when another onion, thrown with
unerring vision, took the bottle and shattered it, with its contents,
upon the stage floor, directly under our faces.

Captain Pharo leaned forward and sniffed; so did Uncle Coffin.

"Water!  Coffin, by clam!" said Captain Pharo, rising.  "Plackards said
'twas goin' to be a re'listic play--and here, by clam!  I've rode
twelve miles over a hubbly road an' waited 'round here all day, jest t'
hear a spear o' female grass screech, an' see a pint bottle o' water
busted!  Come along!  I'm goin' home."

How futile indeed are the poor effects of the stage compared with the
ever new and varied drama of life itself!

As Miss Pray and I came in sight of her cottage, at this now uncanny
hour of the night, we saw that the house was all alight, and Belle
O'Neill stood in the doorway, loudly and gleefully ringing the
dinner-bell.

"O Miss Pray, there was a dead pig washed ashore to-day, right down on
your clam-bottoms--such a beautiful one!--jest as fat!--and me and
Wesley brought it up and roasted it, and we've been expectin' you, an'
expectin' you, an' tryin' to keep it hot----"

"A dead pig!" hissed Miss Pray.  "Do you want to murder us?  Do you
want to drown me in the morning and p'ison me at night, Belle O'Neill?
For heaven's sake, have you et any of it?"

The appearance of the dish testified only too plainly that she and
Wesley had dined.

"You're p'isoned!" shrieked Miss Pray: "be you prepared, Belle O'Neill?
Fat pig!  He was prob'bly bloated with p'ison!  Oh, dear! oh, mercy!
you're prob'bly dyin' this very minit."

Belle O'Neill began to howl, Wesley to weep dismally with low moans,
his fists in his eyes.

I had a medicine which I administered to the two, in case the exigency
were as fearful as Miss Pray predicted, which I strongly doubted.  From
this, as Belle O'Neill recovered, she turned to Miss Pray with the
confessional fearlessness of one who has been at the grave's brink.

"And, oh, Miss Pray! the brindle cow 's calved and hid it in the woods!"

"So you've been down by the sea-wall, hunting up things to p'ison the
only friend you ever had on earth with, and left the brindle cow and
her calf to die in the woods?"

But Belle O'Neill had reached that plane of despondency where the
slings and arrows of outrageous fortune could no longer sting her.

"I meant it for the best, Miss Pray," she said, as we all started, with
the lantern, for the woods.

Never had I engaged in a scene of such eerie fascinations; especially
as, when we discovered the cow with her calf, and endeavored to set the
latter on its feet and lead it, the cow shook her horns at us with such
an aggressive lunge, I fled without apology behind a tree, where Miss
Pray and Wesley, dropping the lantern, pursued me with entreaties for
protection!

But Belle O'Neill, seemingly conscious that she had to redeem herself
by some heroic act or die, picked up the lantern and continued leading
the calf, at which the cow singled her out with respect and obediently
followed her: so that we who had witnessed her disgrace now followed
meekly, afar off, her triumphal procession homeward.

"That girl has done nobly," I said.

"Belle O'Neill," said Miss Pray, before we finally sought that repose
which is the guerdon of all nobly sustained adventure, "the drownin'
and the p'isonin' is both forgot, and next time the jew'lry pedler
comes along you shall have a breas'pin--that is, if you're livin',
Belle O'Neill."

"Oh, Belle will live," I cried; "the danger is over."

"Whether I lives or whether I dies," said Belle O'Neill, calm now on
heights above us all, "I meant that roast pig for the best, Miss Pray."

But before I could get to sleep that night I gave myself up to folly; I
rolled in inextinguishable fits of laughter.  My gray heraldry, my
ancient coat of arms, innocently maligned as they had been, stared down
reproachfully at me through the night.  I feebly wiped my weeping eyes
and rolled and laughed the more, and slept at last such a sleep as only
the foolish and blessed of mortality know.



XII

THE MASTER REVELLER

"Notely!  You will be leading Fluke to go wrong, Notely.  He takes no
interest at home or in the fishing since you and those pleasure-men you
have with you have been keeping open house at the Neck.  When he comes
home he has been wild and drinking, and is moody.  It is a week since
you have been away from your home and wife with your yacht anchored
here off shore, hunting and cruising, and such times at the old
Garrison place at night--it is the talk!"

Notely laughed and rose.  Vesty had been standing looking down at him
earnestly, where he sat in her doorway: she held her baby asleep on one
strong arm, its face against her neck.

Notely turned his own face away a little, jingling the free coin in his
pockets.  "Why, I have been making money on my own account, Mrs. Gurdon
Rafe," he cried gayly, "since I opened the quarry.  And no man, nor no
woman either, now says to me, Do this or do that, go here or go there.
From all accounts, moreover, my wife and mother are enjoying themselves
extremely well as ever during my absence.  As for Fluke Rafe, he is a
good fellow, but he was always wild as a hawk."

"O Notely! if you would only help such men, as you might, instead of
being as wild as a hawk with them!"

"It takes a hawk to catch a hawk, my dear: all the ministers will tell
you that."

"Is that what you are doing it for?"

"Well, no; since you are a Basin, and only truth avails, there has been
hitherto no deep moral design in my merry orgies at the Neck.  But
to-night, Vesty, is my grand affair; to be hallowed by the presence of
all the Basins: my feast and ball to them, you know--my oldest and best
friends.  And you--why, Vesty," he went on, in another tone, "you
remember we had always a dance a week at the Basin, and you and I led
them off together.  Come, then, for the sake of old times and the
feeling of the rest, though you may enjoy it yourself no more."

He spoke with reckless meaning, and his eyes, that had such fatal power
of expression in them, looked deep into hers.  She paled; the baby
threw up a sleeping hand against her face.

"There is another thing, Notely," she said.  "Gurdon does not like it
that you come here for an hour or more every day to sit and talk alone
with me while they are at the fishing.  He is not much to suspect, and
he was always fond of you and trusted you; but it is not doing right by
Gurdon."

Her eyes looked infinitely sorrowful into his; blushes, like pain, dyed
her cheeks.

"O Vesty, my pure one!--then tell me that you love me still--love me as
you used to do--and I'll go away content, and not come any more.  Touch
my head as you used to do; kiss me once more, with those words, and----"

The baby's white, sleeping palm pressed hard against the mother's
burning cheek.

"Such words must not be any more, Notely.  Go away and be the good,
powerful man God meant you to be, and I shall love you more than I ever
did in my life."

"Saint Vesta!  I have lost you!" said Notely: his voice shook with
passion; the thin, strong hand that he put up, as if shading his eyes,
hid wild and angry tears.

"I have been faithfully engaged in the career to which you so tenderly
and considerately dedicated me," he went on.  "What will you have?  I
worked last winter like a dog; nothing is easy won, I think: but there
is no young man in this State who has been so flattered with public
notice as I.  I am making my own money--no young man more shrewdly,
they say.  What will you have?  I have growing fame, prosperity, an
accomplished society woman for my wife.  Was not that what you wished
for me?"  His words stung.

Vesty had her dim look; she had turned cold; her speech groped
pitifully.  "But I think I saw--I think I understood a little, after
all--because I loved you--what are you doing it _for_, Notely?"

"Ah, there, indeed!--what for?  I have lost my object, you know, Saint
Vesta.  For fame and frolic and the devil, I suppose--since we are
talking face to face with an immortal Basin--and to fill up the time
generally."

"I am glad that I did what I did," cried the poor girl, her tongue
touched with sudden fire, as if from outside herself; "you loved me a
little, but you did not love me much!"

"Ah!" he caught his breath, his deep eyes thrilled her.

"If you had loved me much--such a man as to be true to me through hard
work and time and sorrow and all--then you could not have borne to be
any less a man, Notely Garrison, though you lost me, or whatever you
lost.  But if anything could turn you from _that_, then time and trial
and all would have turned you, sooner or later, to be unkind and untrue
to me.  I know it.  Before God, I know it!  You loved me a little, but
you did not love me much!"

"I am glad, for your sake and for my own," she said; "I am glad that I
did not marry you."

Then, as the fire flamed out, tears of despair rushed to her eyes,
because he looked as though she had hurt him so--his face more like a
beautiful cameo than ever, pure and sharp; he who was so debonair and
generous with them all, genial toward them always, and familiar with
the simplest and poorest.  She longed impulsively to take him to her
heart, to give him with yearning tenderness the one caress he had
pleaded for: but, still seeing dimly where he was blind, she would not.

Notely watched that struggle, saw the impulse fade upon her face into a
white resolve; watched her keenly meanwhile with tumultuous hope.

"Vesty, once when we were little more than children, we were playing on
Ladle Rock and I fell.  You did not leave me, frightened; insensible as
I was, you bathed my face and stayed by me.  When I came to myself my
head was in your lap.  You had on a brown cotton frock, made in an
old-womanish grave fashion, and you were looking down at me.  From that
moment all my life changed--who can explain it?  I was a child in my
feeling toward you no longer, with childish thoughts.  I loved
you--loved you as I love you now--but you have robbed me of my life."

"No," she said.  That sad fire from outside herself came back to her.
"You have only been denied one pleasure the more that you wanted, and
that would not have been so dear to you long if you had not lost it.
Life is above that, you used to tell me, but you have forgotten."

"Rather, I have grown wiser," he said, but for the instant he set his
clear, fine face away from her.  "It is a distorted notion that our
existence here is for cold denial, from however pure an imagination.
It is better to run with life, to follow joyfully the great trend of
nature."

He looked at her: her staid, unreproachful eyes, her calm and holy
face, smote him.

"My pleasure-friends, as you call them, say that the Basins are simple.
That is a superficial observation;" he laughed with despair, and
proceeded to fill his pipe.  "The Basins are like a rock."

"Notely," said she very slowly then, "your face is dear to me as this
little one upon my breast; it eats into my heart."

All life's sorrow looked through her, and a faith, a purpose, stronger
than life.  Notely cast his misery from him with a sigh; the game was
over.

"Saint Vesta," said he simply, "I have lost you; that is the sad fact,
and I accept it.  Still, since you care for me some, I shall be a
little merry.  Come to my ball--Gurdon promised me you would both come."



XIII

CAPTAIN LEEZUR RELATES HOW MIS' GARRISON ATE CROW

"It 's said," said Captain Leezur, who sat on the log fondly applying
his deer-bone toothpick, which had been restored to him for a season,
"'t ye keep yer mouth shet, and ye won't eat no crow."

His smile embraced the heavens, as the source of such philosophy, with
transcendent admiration.

"That 's figgeral language, ye know.  Have a narvine lozenge.  I all'as
enj'ys 'em with a friend more'n what I dew meltin' on 'em deown alone."

We sucked deliciously.

"Afore I got my dispersition moderated deown inter the shape she is
neow, I was dreadful kind o' sly and ongodly abeout cuttin' up tricks,"
he continued, his countenance now conveying only the tranquillity of
one restored and forgiven.

"Mis' Garrison, Notely's mother, she was all'as puttin' on airs tew the
Basins, 's if they was beneath her; and when they'd first begun to live
over there to the Neck, she sent a man deown t' me, 't said Mis'
Garrison had 'ordered' a pair o' partridge on me.

"'What?' says I to the man.

"'Mis' Garrison said t' order a couple o' partridge on ye,' says he,
'an' she wants 'em at tew o'clock.'

"'All right,' says I; 'yew go home an' tell her 't she shall have that
'ere order filled eout complete,' says I.

"So I went eout and gunned one partridge and one old crow, 't had been
ha'ntin' my corn patch ever senct I could remember, so 't he was jest
as familiar tew me as the repair on the slack o' my britches, and I
dressed 'em both, dreadful tasty an' slick--they was jest 'beout the
same size dressed--an' rigged 'em eout esthetiky with some strips o'
pink caliker; and 'long at the 'p'inted time the man he come deown
arter 'em.

"'Yew tell Mis' Garrison,' says I, ''t birds is so thick 'reound my
premmuses this year I couldn't think o' chargin' nothin' for 'em,
'specially to an old Basin like her!'

"For in them days, 'fore I got moderated, I didn't mind p'intin' hints
at nobody, or weoundin' their feelin's, 'specially ef it jibed along in
with playin' some ongodly trick on 'em."

The joy of a ransomed soul played across Captain Leezur's features.

"Wal, Notely was areound a day or tew arter-wards--Notely an' me was
great mates--'nd says I, 'Heow'd yer mother like them birds I sent up
tew 'er?' says I.  'Why, one on 'em was r'al good, Uncle Leezur,' says
he, 'and one on 'em'"--Captain Leezur glanced cautiously toward the
house-door before he continued--"'one on 'em was tough as the devil's
kite-string; tough as a d--d old crow!' says he.

"Wal, I made it up to Note in more ways 'n one, for him and me was
great mates; but I never let on 'beout that pertickaler mess o' birds.
Keep yer mouth shet, ye know, and ye won't eat no crow--that is, 'less
somebody 's been playin' some ongodly trick on ye."

Captain Leezur never laughed aloud: his smile simply widened and
broadened until it became a scintillating sun, without the disgrace of
cachinnation.

"Neow there 's all'as a meanin' in figgeral language," he continued,
"an' when Mis' Garrison got set ag'inst Note and Vesty's marryin', jest
'cause Vesty was poor an' a Basin, an' set ter work ter break it off by
fair means or by feoul, she got her meouth open for a good-sized
ondigestible mess o' crow.

"In figgeral language; for I don't reck'lect jest the exac' date when
she did r'a'ly eat crow; 'twas a good many years ago, 'n' I wouldn't
have her hear of it neow for nothin'.  I'm natch'ally ashamed o' them
ongodly tricks neow--'nd besides, it 'u'd lay harder on her stommick 'n
a high-school grammar."

"I won't tell her," I said.  "I'm hardly acquainted with her, anyway."

"I'd give all I've got, every mite, ef it c'd help save Note," said
Captain Leezur, a tear trickling down his sun-face.  "All things is
good ef we use 'em in moderation; but we've got ter use moderation, in
eatin' an' drinkin', an' lobster sallid--yes, an' even in passnips.
Nothin' 'll dew but the same old rewl, even in passnips.

"I heered voices deown to the shore last night," he continued, with a
sort of yearning confidence toward me, so that I bent my ear nearer,
with some of his own sorrow.  "I reckoned one on 'em was Notely's
voice, talkin' and larfin' as hilar'ous as ef 'twas sun-up.  So I went
deown there, and there was Note and one o' them fellers with him, each
on 'em with a stiff tod o' whiskey aboard, a-pullin' there for dear
life, an' the dory anchored fast as fast could be to the staple!

"They was lookin' for lan'marks and pullin' and sheoutin' and
larfin'--'twas kinder moonlight, ye know--and one on 'em says, 'Seems
ter me 't takes a cussed long time t' git to the Neck to-night,' says
he.  I sot there an' watched 'em; knew 'twouldn't do 'em no harm t'
pull, knew 'twas doin' 'em good an' steadyin' of 'em.  By an' by, I ups
an' says, 'Ship ahoy!'

"'Hello!' says Note.

"'Why don't ye weigh anchor?' says I.

"Wal, when that idee come deown atop of 'em, ye never see a couple
sobered so quick as they was.  They giv' three cheers, an' nothin' 'd
dew but I must git into the dory an' go up to the Neck with 'em.

"Wal, I had my objec'; an' when they took me in t' treat me, the rest
o' Note's company was settin' 'reound there, an' I ups an' says, 'Jest
one glass, an' ef _yew_ takes _any_ more I won't tetch even that,' says
I.  'Yew've had enough--tew much,' says I.  'Moderation in all things,'
says I, 'even as low deown as passnips.'

"They all giv' me another three cheers; but they didn't drink no more.
An' nothin' 'd dew but I must set deown, an' then nothin' 'd dew but I
must give 'em my views on moderation!"

Captain Leezur did swallow a little hard with the effort not to appear
too highly flattered!

"So I sot there an' giv' 'em my views on moderation.  I must say for
'em, they appeared dreadful interested; they sot kind o' leanin'
forrards, with their meouths not more 'n harf--'n' sartin not more 'n a
quarter ways--shet; an' when I'd got through, they giv' me another
reousin' three cheers ag'in.

"They told me all abeout Lot's wife, tew," said Captain Leezur, with
grateful seriousness; "they've been great travellers, ye know; all
abeout the appearance o' that location where she sot, an' heow it
looked arfter she'd got up an' went, an' the aspec's o' Jaffy, an' all
them interestin' partickalers, more'n what I ever heered from anybody
afore."

I looked at Captain Leezur to see if no suspicion of earthly treachery
was on his sun-blessed visage.  None.

I lifted my hat with a nameless reverence too deep for words, and left
him, still smiling upward.



XIV

"TAR-A-TA!" OF THE TRUMPET

Fluke played, with the dense black hair tossing above his handsome
eyes, but Gurdon with a calm brow, though he too loved the music and
dancing.

"Go and have a turn with Vesty yourself," said Fluke; "we'll keep up
fiddling, change about, with the organ."

For Notely, studying every heart-throb of the Basins, had had a little
parlor organ brought in for the night and put up in place of his piano;
at it sat Mrs. Judah Kobbe, cousin and guest of the Pharo Kobbes,
playing with such lively spirit and abandon that the very lamps danced
upon the organ-brackets in untripping time with the feet of the dancers
on the floor.

I had already detected in the tone of society toward Mr. and Mrs. Judah
Kobbe that they were awesome cosmopolites from some source.  I now
learned that they were from a crowded mart called Machias.  Captain
Pharo also told me mysteriously, in the pauses of his pipe, "'t they
was l'arneder 'n any fish 't swims;" so I gazed at them with wonder
from a distance, but did not much dream that it would be for me to
speak with them.

All along the edges of the floor were strewn children and babies,
comfortably wrapped and laid to sleep; the habit of the Basins, who had
no servants at home wherewith to leave them.

Notely Garrison had led the dance with Vesty; now she sat rocking her
baby, near Gurdon, who turned to them with a smile and swept a softer
strain now and then, as when he played them to sleep at home.

"Introduce me to the 'mezzo-tint' study yonder, the mediaeval picture
over there, rocking her infant, back of the fiddlers."

Notely slightly turned from his fellow-reveller, flushing.

"There are pretty girls enough here for you to dance with, Sid; she
would not like it.  They are such simple people they would not
understand.  She is married, you see."

"You danced with her."

"Oh, I am an old friend."

"Tar-a-ta! tar-a-ta!" went Captain Judah's trumpet, and I looked up to
see what new event its blast denoted.  For, Captain Judah was a stage
driver, and having brought his horn along as a signal compliment to the
occasion, he was now conducting the first stages of the ball with those
loud flourishes and elegant social convenances which only those
sophisticated by extreme culture are supposed to understand.

"Tar-a-ta! tar-a-ta!"

I saw that Vesty and Gurdon had risen to dance together.  Vesty wrapped
and laid her sleeping baby among the others, and Gurdon stepped out to
perform first that solitary jig or shuffle which is demanded of every
householder among the Basins, before he can lead his partner to the
dance.

Notely and the young man he had called "Sid" watched him shaking his
long legs, his heavy, noble face perfectly sincere and unembarrassed;
for was it not the ancient, honorable custom of the Basins?

"Stolid cart-horse, by Jove!" sneered Sid, casting a glowing glance at
Vesty, "for such a Venus!"

Notely did not like the tone.  "There 's some stolid granite in my
quarry," he snarled softly; "but it 's everlasting good granite, all
the same, Sid."

"You've been knocked over, I see," said the irrepressible Sid, smiling
intelligently at him.  "Well, I'm off for the jig."

"Tar-a-ta! tar-a-ta!"

The trumpet punctually announced the appearance of so much colorless
linen and broadcloth on the floor; but the Basins, who were fine, gazed
at his severe costume with tender pity.

"Sid," appreciating this, dared not laugh: he endeavored to redeem this
lack of beauty by a display of his white bediamonded hand on his
watch-guard, as he entreated a partner for the dance, but he was not
held for much; that was evident.

Now and then in the reel he touched Vesty's hand, or swung with her,
and he stared at her consistently and immoderately throughout; but
always for him the holy lids were low over her eyes.

My heart exulted something like the next blast of the trumpet; I turned
to look.  Vesty was safe.

"Tar-a-ta! tar-a-ta!"

But Captain Pharo needed no stirring strain to his consciousness as he
walked, with scarcely perceptible limp, to the middle of the floor.

That flowered jacket, the arnica bloom glowing like sunrise on the
back!  Those new trousers, of "middling" sacks, "Brand No. 1" proudly
distinct upon the right leg!

"Give me sea-room here, give me sea-room," said the hero; "and jest
wait till I git my spavins warmed up a little!"

A wide, clear swath was cut from the billows that surrounded Captain
Pharo.

"Now then," said he, pulling his pipe from his pocket, and drawing a
match in the usual informal way; "Poo! poo! hohum!--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'My days are as the grass, Or as--']

strike up somethin' lively over there, Gurd.  Give us 'The Wracker's
Darter,' by clam!"

Gurdon, who had returned to relieve Fluke at the violin, good-naturedly
struck up "The Wrecker's Daughter."

"Can't ye put a little sperrit into 'er, Gurd?  Is this 'ere a fun'al?
That 's it!  Now then--'Touch and go is a good pilot.'"

With these words, Captain Pharo sprang with ox-like levity from the
floor, and amid the giddy swiftness of the music I was occasionally
conscious of hearing his mailed heels flow together with a clash that
made the rafters ring.  He descended at last ominously, but when the
reverberations died away I looked, and saw that he was whole.

Notely came over and shook hands with him, laid an arm proudly on his
proud shoulder, and led him away to the "mess" room, where his stewards
were busy.

"Dodrabbit ye, Pharo!" cried a voice from the fondest of the
Artichokes, seizing him with an exultant pride which he affected to
hide under derogatory language; "was that you I seen in there jest now,
stompin' the frescoes off'n the ceilin'?"

"Altogether most entertaining jig that has been danced this evening,"
said one of Notely's broadcloth guests, very superciliously.

"Oh, I hain't danced none yit," said Captain Pharo, too confident to
show contempt; "only warmin' my spavins;" and he heartlessly turned the
complete flower in view for the further annihilation of the gentleman
in black.

"Ef I c'd 'a' got on my scuffs," said Captain Leezur, his sun-visage
showing against the crimson back of an easy-chair, "I don't know but
what I sh'd been 'most tempted ter jine the darnce myself.  But no; I
couldn't pervail with 'em--so long sence I've wrarstled with 'em--so I
come right 'long in my felts."

"No, ye can't dance 'The Wracker's Darter,' that is, not as she orter
be danced, in felts," said Captain Pharo; "she 's a tune 't wants the
emphasis brought right down onto her; felts won't do it, nor scuffs
neither."

"That off foot o' mine kind o' b'longs to the church, anyway," said
Captain Leezur sweetly; "has for years; don't pain me much as I knows
on, but she ain't seound: if t'other one starts off kind o' skittish
she 's sartin to hold back----"

"Ye'd orter be thankful 't ye only has to contend with natch'al
diserbilities," interposed Captain Pharo, "'n' don't have any o' these
d--d ructions played on ye."

"Oh, by the way, what are 'ructions'?" inquired the guest of
supercilious temperament.

"Le' me see," said Captain Pharo; "you're the one 't Note said was from
Washin'ton, ain't ye?  Washin'ton, D.C.?"

"Certainly."

"P'litical centre o' the United States of Ameriky?"

"Why, yes."

"An' you don't know what ructions be!"

Loud laughter greeted this sally; only the man who had been in
California sat moody, his basilisk eye fixed upon me.

"Then I'll tell ye what ructions be," proceeded Captain Pharo,
breathing stertorously through his pipe; "it's repealin' all our
optional acts, for one thing!  We can't institoot an optional act down
here, but what you go an' repeal it!"

"Oh, stuff!" said the high and hot-headed young man, quite taken off
his level by the laughter round him; "I don't either!"

"I say ye do!" said Captain Pharo, waxing more and more wroth; "ye sets
some feller t' work there, 't never see salt water, t' make our laws
for us; 'lows us to ketch all the spawn lobsters and puts injunctions
onter the little ones: like takin' people when they gits to be sixteen
or twenty year old, 'n' choppin' their heads off--yer race is goin' to
multiply almighty fast, ain't it?"

"I hadn't observed any lack of increase in your amiable race, sir."

"Ye hadn't, hadn't yer?" said Captain Pharo, in the voice of a
smouldering volcano, laying a fresh match to his pipe.

"Moderation," liquidly pealed in the voice of Captain
Leezur--"moderation 's the rewl----"

"'N' I'll tell ye of another optional act o' ourn 't ye repeals; but ye
can tell 'em 't we git it jest the same--though it 's racktified 'tell
it 's p'ison."

"Ye can't all'as git it, even racktified," said Shamgar: "onct when the
boat wa'n't in for a couple o' weeks, I got kind o' desp'rit over a
pain in my chist; hadn't nothin' but two bottles o' 'Lightnin' External
Rheumatiz Cure,' so I took 'em straight.  They said 't for a spell
thar' I was the howlin'est case o' drunk they ever see."

"The wu'st case o' 'nebr'ancy this State 's ever known," said Captain
Dan Kirtland, "was a man up to Callis jail, 't had been 'bleedged to
take a spree on 'lemon extract;' he sot fire t' everything he could lay
his hand to."

"Look a' that, will ye?" said Captain Pharo to the haughty
Washingtonian; "yit you don't know nothin' 'bout ructions.  You can
repeal every optional act 't a man makes, but you ain't got no idee o'
ructions----"

Captain Pharo's voice had now reached such a pathetic and eloquent
pitch that Captain Judah left his trumpet in the ball-room and joined
us, in time to mingle with the cheers that were still further
discomfiting the high and hot-headed young man.

"What you talkin' about?" retorted the latter through his dazzling
white teeth.  "I'm not in politics."

"Why didn't ye say so, then?" said Captain Pharo calmly, "and not keep
me standin' here wastin' my breath on ye?"

"Moderation," sweetly chimed in the voice of Captain
Leezur--"moderation in all things, even as low down as passnips."

The man who had been in California had been constantly drawing near me,
but Captain Judah, anticipating him, was already at my side.

"You're a stranger," said he: "perhaps you never heard any of Angie
Fay--Angie Fay Kobbe's poetry?"

He had a rosy face: in spite of former long sea-wear, not blowzed, but
delicately tinted; he snuffled when he talked in a way which I could
only define as classical; and it was admitted that his nosegay vest and
blue coat, as far as tender refinement went, far surpassed anything in
the room.

"That's Angie Fay Kobbe, my wife, at the organ.  Ten years ago, when I
was still cruising, I found and rescued her from a southern cyclone!"

I murmured astonishment, though in truth something of a cyclonic
atmosphere still hovered about Mrs. Kobbe, not only in her method of
performance on the organ, but in her sparkling features, young and
beautiful, her wide-flowing curled hair.

"How old does she seem to you to be, sir?"

"She looks to me," I said, with honesty, "to be eighteen or
twenty--twenty-five at the most."

"Sir, she is forty!" said Captain Judah proudly.  Angie Fay shot him a
bewitching glance through the open door.

"She is not only a skilled performer on the keys, as you see, but she
is a wide-idead thinker.  If it would not detain you, sir, against
previous inclination to the ball-room, I should like to read you some
of her poetry."

Glances too oppressed by awe to contain envy were cast upon me by my
former companions from afar; even the man who had been in California
was retreating in baffled dismay.

"This first," said Captain Judah, drawing a roll from his pocket,
"though brief, has been called by many wide-idead thinkers a 'rounded
globe of pathos:' men, strong men, have wept over it.  It has had a
yard built around it; in other words, it has been framed, and hung in
many a bereaved household; let me read:

  "'Farewell, my husband dear, farewell!
  Adieu! farewell to you.
  And you, my children dear, adieu!
  Farewell! farewell to thee!
  Adieu! farewell! adieu!'


"Were you looking for your handkerchief, sir?"

"Yes," said I, accidentally swallowing whole a nervine lozenge which
Captain Leezur had given me.

"This," said Captain Judah, with an expressive smile, as he opened
another roll, "if you will excuse the egotism, refers to an experience
of my own.  I was once, when master of a whaler, nearly killed in a
conflict with a whale; in fact, I am accustomed to speak of it
paradoxically--or shall I say hyperbolically--as 'The time when I was
killed!'  My account of it made a great impression upon Angie; but I
will read:

  "'Upon the deep and foaming brine,
    My Judah's blood was spilled.
  The anguished tears gush from my eyes.
    O Judah, wast thou killed?

  "'Had I beheld that awful scene,
    I should have turned me pale,
  My eyes were mercifully hence,
    When Judah killed the whale.'


"It was I, so to speak, that was killed," said Captain Judah, with his
peculiar smile; "the whale escaped.  But for the sake of symphony,
Angie has used that poetic license, familiar, as you know, to
wide-idead thinkers.  Or let me read you this----"

Dimmer and dimmer grew the faces of my former jovial company; but I had
one friend, stout, even for this emergency.

I heard a voice coming--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'Or as the morn-ing flow'r, The
blight--']

Judah!  Judah!  Judah! drop 'er, I say, an' come along!" Captain Pharo
winked.

"On some other occasion, sir," said Captain Judah, returning the roll
to his pocket with cheerful haste, "I shall be happy."

Almost before I was aware that I was liberated, the shifty spectre,
whose basilisk eye had not released me, stood at my side.

"You oughter have seen," he began, "the time 't I was killed in
Californy----"

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'The blighting wind sweeps o'er, she
with-']

Major! major! major! drop 'er, I say, an' come along, by clam!"

There was naught to do, in Captain Pharo's exalted frame of mind, but
to follow the commanding flower; but when that had become once more
congenially distracted I returned to the ball-room to observe there.

The dancers were at rest, and Angie Fay too, the stewards serving them
with refreshments; but Fluke and Gurdon were playing softly together on
their violins, Fluke with waved hair on his forehead, Gurdon with still
brow.  Vesty had taken up her sleeping child and was holding him.  The
Basins loved sad music, low, mournful lullabys on the wind; they
listened.

I listened so deeply, so strangely, it was like the awaking from a
dream when I heard Notely and his guests inviting the dancers again to
the floor.

"Good-night, major," Vesty whispered kindly, coming to me.  She had her
shawl wrapped over herself and her infant, and was departing quietly
with her father-in-law, Captain Rafe.

"I--I didn't get one eye-beam from her the whole evenin'--no, by Jove!
Note," said "Sid," watching that gently retreating figure; "not one!
And she just now leaned over and showered a whole peck of 'em on that
poor little----"

"Hush!" said Notely.

I witnessed with some sadness how Captain Pharo and Captain Judah were
walking the room, arm-in-arm, Captain Judah reading from some of Angie
Fay's most affecting strains, and Captain Pharo willingly melted to
tears thereat.

"Read that ag'in, Judah," I heard Captain Pharo snivel, as they were
passing me.

Then I heard the melodramatic snuffle of that "Adieu! farewell! adieu!"

Still farther down the room sobs were echoed back to me from Captain
Pharo's bursting heart.

So that I was gratified, at the next round, to hear Captain Pharo
declare that he felt the necessity of going home at once to have a copy
of the verses made and "a ya-ard built around 'em, Judah."

Most of the Basins had gone; there were still some of the prettiest
girls upon the floor, not with proper Basin escort, but with Notely's
broadcloth guests, who were whispering sweet words of adulation to
tingling, unaccustomed ears.

"Come!" Gurdon whispered to Fluke; "we should give up playing at this
hour, and take those girls home."

Fluke shook his head.  "Go home, you," he said: "one fiddle is enough!
If we want a merry time, don't bother."

Gurdon stayed patiently, but with a brow waxing determined.  The
flattered girls, the broadcloth guests cast unwelcome glances at him.

"Go home, Gurd!" said Fluke, at last.  "You spoil it all with a face
like that.  Go on, and don't mind us, or you and I shall quarrel."

"Not till those girls are ready to be taken home," said Gurdon.

Fluke threw down his fiddle with an oath.  "I said that you and I
should quarrel."

"I would not strike my twin-brother for all the false men and foolish
girls in Christendom!" said Gurdon, standing before Fluke's threat,
with folded arms, and such a look at him that Fluke came to himself,
wincing.

"We may as well go home," he said sulkily.

The young men of the world watched this scene with amusement not
untempered with choler, while they proceeded elaborately to assist the
pretty Basins, who were wrapping themselves in their thin shawls.

"I fancy we are not to be trusted to escort these young ladies home?"
said "Sid," with an elegant sarcastic inclination toward Gurdon.

"No," said poor Gurdon stonily.  For he had played for them with a
gracious heart all the evening, and it was hard to be hated.  But he
marshalled his flock away without flinching.



XV

THE BROTHERS

"There 's got to be a new deal to me in this world pretty soon," said
Wesley, "or I shall kick."

I found him among the clam flats, leaning his spent and hopeless being
on his rake.

"What is it, Wesley?"

"Belle O'Neill got me to help her set a trap to ketch a mink and a fox;
she said we should git two dollars apiece; and we caught--we caught
Miss Pray's tom-cat!"

Wesley rubbed his grimy hand across his eyes.

"She scolded awful and told us to go down to the clam flats and not to
come home till we'd got two bushels o' clams for the hens.  Fast as I
get a roller full and go over and emp'y 'em on the bank the crows come
'n' eat 'em up--look a' there!"

I saw.

"Wesley, your load does seem greater than you can bear."  He wore
trousers of a style prevalent among the Basins, of meal sacks; only his
were not shaped at all--there was simply a sack for each leg, tied with
gathering strings at the ankles.  His jacket was as much too small for
his stout little person as his trousers were voluminous; and Miss Pray,
who was artistic by freaks, had made it with an impertinent little tail
like a bird's tail.

Wesley was not only afflicted, he was ludicrous in the face of high
heaven.

"There 's got to be a new deal," blubbered he, with his fist in his
eyes, "or I shall kick."

"_Could_ you kick in those trousers, Wesley?" I said.

He regarded me curiously, then replied with evident faith: "I could,
nights."

"Ah!  I'm so lame that I couldn't even kick much, nights, Wesley."

His countenance changed from its self-pity; he removed the fist from
his eyes.  "I've always wondered," he said, "'t you didn't kick more."

"Where is Belle O'Neill?"

"I told 'er 't she'd got me to set the trap, 'nd she orter, 't least,
keep the crows off'n the clams; but she went over to Lunette's and
borrowed the book, 'n' she's settin' there in the graves, where Miss
Pray can't see her, readin' it."

I sighed to think how early, among his other trials, Wesley was
learning the frailties of the lovable sex.

"I will go up and keep the crows off of the clams for you, Wesley."

"I think," said Wesley innocently, his face expressing a kindlier
gratitude than his words conveyed, "'t you could scare 'em off
first-rate!"

While I reclined on the green bank, not far from the clams, a solemn
and fearful reprehension to the crows, I heard Belle O'Neill's voice
reading to herself aloud among the graves.  The Basins possessed but
one secular volume, which they were accustomed to lend from house to
house, and which was designated without confusion as "the book."

Belle O'Neill, peeping out from the graves, saw me, and came forward,
blushing timidly.  Wesley rose from the clam flats and hissed at her
for her treachery, but she was very fair, and I received her kindly.

"Major Henry," said she, "will you show me what this means, please?"

She sat down close to me--for nobody minded me--and put her finger on
the place.

Now "the book," though jointly purchased by the Basins from a
travelling salesman, as a highly illuminated volume, promising much of
a lively nature, had turned out to be to an altogether unexpected
degree serious and didactic.

I followed Belle O'Neill's finger.


  "Impressive Lesson.
    Perishableness!"

[Illustration: Skull]


"What does it mean?" said the girl, with pale, inquiring lips.

Now as I loved the courtly valor of my race, I laughed.

"You do not understand those long words, Belle.  It means, in those
peculiar words, something about a Jack-o'-lantern."

"Oh," said Belle, gazing at it with sudden refreshment, "I guess it 's
the only funny one in the book!  They're usually so solemn."

We turned to the next page:


  "Important Lesson.
    Discontent.

The Bachelor's Button that wanted to be a sunflower: the scow that
wanted to be a schooner."


"Why," said Belle, with her finger on the cut of the angry and
resentful bachelor's button that was throwing down its petals because
it could not be a sunflower--"why did it want to be a sunflower?"

"I can't imagine," I said.

"Wouldn't you just as soon be a bachelor's button as a sunflower?"

"Well, I don't know," I murmured; but while I affected still to be
pondering this subject doubtfully, Wesley came up from the clam flats.

He pointed to the cut on the opposite page:


  "Warning Lesson.
    Slothfulness."


A plump and evidently highly contented maiden was here represented as
lolling on a sofa.

"'T means _lazy_.  She looks jest like Belle O'Neill, don't she?" said
Wesley, grinning maliciously.

"Who"--flamed up Belle O'Neill--"put straws into the cow's teats, an'
let the milk run, while he laid out on the grass an' slep', and Miss
Pray found it out and flailed him with the broomstick?"

Wesley's grin froze on his features; he returned wearily to his rake.


    "Comforting Lesson.
  A saint walking among the saved, on Revival Terrace."


But the saint, though tall and bearded, wore a ball dress such as the
unchastened belles of society sport upon earth, a profuse skirt, with
flashing train; and he was walking quite alone.

"Where are the 'saved'?" said Belle, with ghastly hope.

"They are just around the corner," said I cheerfully; "where that
suggestion of clouds is--see!"

"N-no, but I guess they are.  Ain't he the lookin'est thing you ever
saw?"

"Quite the lookin'est!"

Belle giggled.  I bore her out in it sympathetically.

Wesley, who observed how we were at least keeping the crows off of the
clams, smiled upon us with feeble indulgence.

But as we read on, Belle did come to a lesson of such useful terror
that she decided to take her rake and assist Wesley among the flats.

I approved her, and lay back, smiling, in the I heard Wesley's little
old voice pipe up, considerately: "You'll scare 'em jest as well if you
do go to sleep, major."

I kept on smiling.  The sun seemed a lake of glory and I a boatman,
fair and free, sailing vast distances upon it with just one stroke of
my wand-oar--and here I began to scare the crows unconsciously.

The air of the Basin anon exhilarated one, anon soothed one into
wondrous, deep, peace-drunken slumber.

When I awoke Vesty stood over me, calling me.

There was a purple, dark sky--now but little after mid-day--glowing
with red at the edges like a sunset; the wind was blowing strong.  It
was dark, yet all was distinct about me.  I sprang to my feet with a
sort of solemn exultation and bared my head.

"Wake, major, wake!" Vesty cried to me.  She drew me and pointed out to
sea.  "Notely's boat--it was trying to make home--it is on the reefs."

I saw it then by a flash of that unearthly light, the wind descending
like the last of days.  I hastened with Vesty to the low beach, where
the people were moving strangely, looking out on the sea with its
swift-crested breakers.

From the yacht, beating helpless on the ledges, Notely and the few who
had sailed with him that morning were putting out the life-boat; but
Captain Rafe kept running his weather-stained hand down his white face,
his head shaking.

"Bare chance t' save half of 'em in the gale--they'll swamp her; nay,
nay, they'll never get her home with that freight; and it's no sea--it
's a herricane, above and below.  I see the sky in broad day like that
but once before, and then----"

His voice was hushed, the boat was off, was lost; then once again we
saw her; we felt the gale rushing; when we could see again, there were
a few struggling in the waves, a few climbing back upon the sinking
masts of the vessel, with wild signals.

The little Basin boats were old and frail; only Gurdon had lately been
building a new fishing-boat.  While we were looking off he had been
hauling it down the steep bank by the cottage.

Now when we saw him Vesty ran to him and put the child in his arms and
clung to him.  I saw a great light come over his face.

"Gurd," said his father sternly, the old stained hand still stroking
his white face, "ye have strength and skill above the most--but look at
yon!  Put up your boat, lad; it's no use.  Moreover, there are five men
yonder on the masts--your boat, tested in an ordinar' sea, holds but
five alone!"

"Will ye go out jest to give them another chance to wrack themselves,
and ye put yerself by to drown?" said another, with a trembling,
half-ferocious laugh.  "Look to yer wife and child.  Don't be a fool!"

"There 's not one o' ye," cried Gurdon, "but if ye had a boat fit 'u'd
do all ye could, an' men sinkin' and a-wavin' ye like that--let me off!
There 's no other way----"

His voice broke.  He looked at his wife and child, a look the woman
understood for all eternity.

Vesty stood like marble; her shawl had escaped from her own throat, but
was warm about the child that Gurdon had placed back on her breast.

As we waited, watching, transfixed, Fluke came running breathless from
the woods where he had been as guide with the party of Notely's
pleasure-seekers who had stayed behind that morning.

Captain Rafe ran to him, with the hand still stroking his pallid face:
"That was Gurdon out there, making so near the sinking boat--he would
go--only five----"

But Fluke heard never a word.  He saw; his face flushed with a kind of
mad joy; he tossed his hair back, and leaping into the waves, swam to
his own frail little fishing-boat that was tossing at anchor.

His voice leaped back to us above the tumult of the wind: "Gurd and
me'll come home together!"

There was a lull in the gale; the five were put off from the sinking
craft in Gurdon's boat.

And the men were standing with ropes on the shore; but I only saw, as
the tempest moaned, to swell again, one figure on a bending mast,
between sea and sky, and one in a frail shell toiling toward him.

The tempest fell and smote.  Then did nothing seem to me fated
underneath those awful heavens, but grand and free; freest, mightiest
of all that figure imprisoned between storm and cloud, overwhelmed,
buried----triumphant, imperishable!  Then did the dead that I had known
come forth and walk upon the waves before me: and I beheld that they
were not dead, but glorious and strong--that, rather, I was dead.

Then all seemed black about me.  I would have clutched at somewhat, but
I felt a cold hand grasp mine in appealing agony.  They brought in with
ropes through the breakers the five men who had neared the shore in the
young sailor's new fishing-boat.

But the "Twin Brothers," the sublime figure on the mast, the toiling
figure in the boat, had "gone home together!"



XVI

THE POPLAR LEAVES TREMBLE

It was Vesty's hand that had wrung mine.  Captain Rafe, after he lost
his sons, hardly spoke without drawing his own trembling hand along his
piteous face.

"Notely fell from the mast and was stunted; they put him in the boat:
else he wouldn't 'a' come and left my Gurd, I b'lieve."  Tears rolled
down his cheeks.

Vesty spoke to me so softly, as if her head were turned, or she were
wandering in a dream.  "When Gurdon had anything that anybody needed,
and they asked him for it, he always gave it them.  So they asked him
for his life--and he gave that!"

Notely, on recovering consciousness, had been carried to his house at
the Neck: by the next morning they had his mother with him; he was in a
fever.

Would Vesty remember now the promise she had asked of Mrs. Garrison?

At all events, the sick man babbled deliriously of past days, had
fallen from the rock once more, and would have Vesty to nurse him:
"where," asking ever, "is Vesty?"

Mrs. Garrison herself went to her, pleading his pain and danger.  Vesty
came.

"Hello! we're saved!--the Vesty!" cried Notely, whose fever had been
plunging him in cold sea-waves, his voice a feeble echo of its old gay
tone, as he put up his hand to her.

So ashy and sunken was his face, Vesty took him on her arm as she would
her child; he fell asleep.

"Vesty stops the pain--no one lifts me like Vesty--sing, Vesty!" from
pathetic lips and wandering blue eyes that would die if one recalled
them to their sorrow.

"Only stay," said Mrs. Garrison.  "His life hangs upon it.  Surely you
are not afraid to have your child with me?"

Her heart was full of tenderness for the girl.  "I would die rather
than anything should happen to your child, Vesty," she cried, with a
sincere impulse.

Vesty lifted those Basin eyes.

"Oh, he is not old enough yet to understand my worldliness," said Mrs.
Garrison, with bitter lips.

For, from entrusting the child at first to her servants, while Vesty
was in the sick-room, Mrs. Garrison had grown to have a jealous care
for him herself.  He had taken an occasion, and he had conquered her.

When she pleased him he dimpled and gave her, on appeal, an
ostentatious kiss, composed wholly of noise and vanity.  When she first
displeased him he had tried conclusions with her by unhesitatingly
administering a slap on the face.

Mrs. Garrison, the select and haughty, tingling from this direct Basin
blow, watched the flame die out of the baby's eyes, in astonishment,
not in anger.  The blow felt good to her.  Vesty treated her, though
unconsciously, from such a height.

"My darling," she said sorrowfully, lifting the child in her arms,
"would you hurt me, when I love you so?"

A bit of sugar sealed the reconciliation: while he devoured it little
Gurdon leaned his head in tender remorse upon Mrs. Garrison's neck.
She had handsome eyes--for him, full only of love and longing--and he
saw strange tears in them.  He never treated her again to corporeal
punishment; while she, on her part, indulged him fully.

The attachment was so marked between them that he would, when he was
well and had dined, very cheerfully leave Vesty for her society, to
Vesty's secret chagrin and Mrs. Garrison's beating heart of joy.

"Do you mean to say that you will take the child back again--back to
that squalid home--yes, for such it is, Vesty--that you will deprive
him of all that might be, and give him up to a fisherman's wretched
life and dreary fate?"

"Will you make a better man of him in the world than his father was?"
said Vesty simply.

"You know that I worship Gurdon Rafe's memory," cried Mrs. Garrison,
with adroit heat.  "What do you think would please him best for his
wife and child--misery and cold with an old man who could have a better
home among his own kin, had he not to make the effort to support
you--or happiness and warmth and love, and a great sphere of
usefulness, happiness, and education for his child?"

"You see," said Vesty, on the plain Basin path, "in trying to get those
things we might miss the only--the greatest--thing, that Gurdon had.
I'd rather my boy should learn to have that, and miss all the others."

"O my dear! you shall teach your child, you shall be always with him.
I have some things to remember and regret, Vesty.  I promise you
solemnly--and I do not break my word--I will not interfere.  You shall
teach and guide your child as you will."

Notely was awake and calling.

"Go to him," said Mrs. Garrison, excitement in her eyes; "he will
explain to you, my child."  There was a tenderness, a hope, a
voluptuousness of sweet earthly things in her manner toward the poor
girl now, which all her life Vesty had missed.

Heart and flesh were weary, and Notely, who had been the light of her
life once, looked up at her with that weight of sorrow, so much darker
and heavier than her own; so much heavier because it was dark.

"Help me to bear it!" he said.

She understood all; she laid her head beside him, sobbing.

"Vesty, you know the doctors say that I shall live; but--now that I am
sane again, I do not know why I should wish to live."

She put her hand on his.  Alas! in spite of reckless wandering and
tragedy, and forsaken faith and duty, the touch only thrilled him with
his own dreams as of old.

"Listen, Vesty!--just as you used to be my little woman and reason with
me.  Ugh! how weak I am!  I'm not worth saving.  It is of little
consequence, truly; but, such as it is, it all lies with you.  Some
time, Vesty--I am speaking of what must be some time, dearest; and
remember, it is often done in the world, among those who are highest
and richest and socially recognized--well, it is a familiar thing: as
soon as it can be well arranged--and that soon, now--my wife and I
shall be divorced.  We have both wished it, we are unhappy together, it
is a wrong for us to live together.  She has been untrue enough to me,
as I to her, but let that pass; such things are not for your ears to
hear, only you need have no qualms.  Grace will be more congenially
wedded within two months after we are parted.

"And then--Vesty?  Well, will you not speak to me?  Is it to be life
and honor, with your love at last, or despair and death?  You were
promised to me once.  In spite of all, you cannot hold yourself your
own; you are mine; the wife God meant for me.  O Vesty! let us blot out
the confused past with all its mistakes!  It is killing me--will kill
me body and soul if you leave me now.  Let me find my lost home at
last: let me rest a little while before I die!"

His weak and gasping breath warned her; she stilled his hands, the low
lids hiding the anguish in her eyes.

So there was a way out of it all, easy, luxurious, convenient for the
passions!  And there was a straight Basin way, a high promise before
God and man, that, to the Basin sense, there was no taking back: Vesty
could not see upon any other road; she shuddered.

But Notely's wasted, broken life clinging to her!

"That was never done among the Basins, Notely.  When we are married we
promise, and we hold to it till death.  It would never seem to me that
I was your wife, but wicked and false to you and her--always that.  I
would rather die!"

"My Vesty, the Basin is a little, little part of the world, and
ignorant of life.  I tell you what is right.  You used to have faith in
me--so much that, if you would, you might still believe in me and my
ceaseless love for you.  Do you think that I will ever leave you here?
My mother wants you and the child: we will be happy together at last,
with such quiet or such pleasures as you will.  My quarries are turning
out wealth for me--it is for you and Gurdon's child.  Think of Gurdon's
little boy!"

As he spoke, Vesty seemed to see again a pale face with a great light
upon it, turning without question to its stern duty.

"Notely, Gurdon gave me up, and the baby that he worshipped; though I
clung to him, he put us by, because, though it was hard, it was
right--it was the only way.  I think it is often so between those two,
the right and what we want.  I think that love, somehow, in this world
seems to be putting by--putting by what we want."

Vesty struggled again in her dim way.

"Why need it be?" cried Notely sharply.  He raised himself on the
pillows as if stung; a deep crimson rushed to his cheeks.

"It is," said Vesty sadly, quietly--"it is.  What we want--putting by.
Do you think I did not care for you?"

His haggard face turned to her.

"Will not always care for you?  But you will never be a great man till
you can put by what you want, when they stand against each other, for
what is right, though it be hard.  Then one would not only admire and
love you; they would trust you to death's door, though all the way was
hard."

Notely had no answer for the tongue-loosed Basin.  Besides, her words
had comforted him, her tears fell on him.

"I do not think," she said, with a look and voice of such tenderness,
as though it were her farewell, "that it was all to us, that I should
marry you, or you should marry me--until we could live brave and true,
though we lost one another, and follow the only way we saw, though it
was hard.  I do not believe we should have been happy--without
that--after a little while.

"I could not love you if you left your wife and married me.  I should
never trust you.  I would rather we should both die.  Go back to her
and win her with your own love and kindness, and be true to her, and I
shall never lose my love for you."

"Do you know what love is?" said Notely, with clinched teeth, tears
springing from between the wasted fingers pressed against his eyes.
"Do you know what it is to suffer?"

She gave him no flaming retort.  She put her head beside him.

The past came back to him, and her poor, burdened, self-sacrificing
life.  Wild sobs shook his heart.  "All lost! all lost!" he moaned.

"No, only not found yet," she said, looking at him through her tears;
"all waiting."

It was such a simple Basin path, knowing so few things, but unswerving.

"Not here, I know," she said, "for nothing is for long or without loss
and sorrow here.  There is always somebody sick or hurt; and the poplar
trees, that the cross was made from, are always trembling and sighing:
but some time Christ will lay his hand upon them, and they will be
still and blessed again."



XVII

GOIN' TO THE DAGARRIER'S

"Ever sence the accident," said Captain Pharo, with a gloom not wholly
impersonal, "my woman 's been d'tarmined to haul me over to a
dagarrier's to have my pictur' took.

"I told 'er that there wa'n't no danger in the old 'Lizy Rodgers,' sech
weather as I go out in.  'But ye carn't never tell,' says she; 'and
asides,' says she, 'ye're a kind o' baldin' off an' dryin' away, more
or less, every year,' says she, 'an' I want yer pictur' took afore----'

"Gol darn it all!" said Captain Pharo, making an unsuccessful attempt
to light his pipe, and kicking out his left leg testily.

"'Afore ye gits to lookin' any meachiner,' says she.

"'When I dies,' says I, 'th' inscription on my monniment won't be by no
drowndin',' says I; 'it'll be jest plain, "Pestered ter death,"' says I.

"Wal, 't that she began a-boohooin', so in course I told 'er, says I,
'I s'pose I c'n go and have my dagarrier took ef you're so set on it,'
says I.

"For with regards t' female grass, major, my exper'ence has all'as made
me think o' that man in Scriptur' 't was told to do somethin'.  'No, by
clam!' says he, 'I ain't a-goin' to,' and hadn't more 'n got the words
outer his mouth afore somehow he found himself a-shutin' straight outer
the front door to go to executin' of it.

"When I thinks o' that tex'--an' I ponders on it more 'n what I does on
mos' any other tex' in Scriptur'--I says to myself, 'Thar' 's Pharo
Kobbe--thar' 's my dagarrier, 'ithout no needs o' goin' nowheres to
have it took."

"I should think it would be very nice," I said, "to have somebody
wanting your picture.--I am not pressed with entreaties for mine."

Captain Pharo sighed kindly; his pipe was going.

"Poo! poo! hohum!  Never mind; never mind.

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'My days are as the grass.  Or as--']

I s'pose ye hain't never worked yerself up to the p'int o' propoundin'
nothin' yit to Miss Pray, have ye?"

"No."

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'Or as the morning flow'r,--]


"Why don't ye, major?"

"When I think of how much better off she is with seven dollars a week
for my board than she would be taking me as a husband, for nothing----"

"Oh, pshaw! major, pshaw!" said Captain Pharo, with deep returning
gloom; "seven dollars a week ain't nothin' to the pleasure she'd take,
arfter she'd once got spliced onto ye, in houndin' on ye, an' pesterin'
ye, an' swipin' the 'arth with ye."

Conscious that he had rather over-reached himself in presenting this
picture of marital joys to my horizon, Captain Pharo resumed the
subject with sprightliness.

"In course the first preliminary essence o' all these 'ere ructions
'ith female grass is, 't ye've got to go a-co'tin'."

"Yes."

"And in goin' a-co'tin', ye've got to ile yer ha'r out some, an' put
essence on yer han'kercher, an' w'ar a smile continnooal, an' keep
a-arskin' 'em ef tobakker smoke sickens on 'em, an' all sech o' these
ere s'ciety flourishes an' gew-gaws 's that."

"Yes," said I, attentively.

"I'd ort ter know," said Captain Pharo, alone with me in the lane,
assuming a gay and confident air, "f'r I've been engaged in co'tin'
three times, an' ain't had nary false nibble, but landed my fish every
time."

"I know you have."

"Now ef you don't feel rickless enough, major, and kind o' wanter see
how it 's done, you ask Miss Pray t' sail along with us up to Millport,
whar I've got to go to have my condum' pictur' took."

The recollection of personal grievances again beclouded Captain Pharo;
he was silent.

"And what?" I said.

"Wal," said my soul's companion, with the fire all gone from his
manner, "I'll kinder han' 'er into the boat, an' shake my han'kercher
at 'er an' smile, when Mis' Kobbe ain't lookin', an' the rest o' these
ere s'ciety ructions, jest t' show ye how."

I appreciated the motives, the sacrifice even, of this conduct as
anticipated toward Miss Pray, whose society, as far as his own peculiar
taste went, Captain Pharo always rather tolerated than affected.

Still, it was with doubtful emotions, on the whole, that I wended my
steps with Miss Pray toward the enterprise.

The scow "Eliza Rodgers" was waiting for us at anchor among the
captain's flats.  We went first to the house.

There it became at once evident to me that, rather than preparing
himself with oil and incense for the occasion, Captain Pharo had been
undergoing severe and strict manipulations at the hands of his wife.
He had on the flowered jacket, but as proof against the sea air until
he should be photographed, Mrs. Kobbe had applied paste to the locks of
hair flayed out formidably each side of his head beyond his ears.

Altogether, I could not but divine that during my absence his flesh had
been growing more and more laggard to the enterprise, his spirit testy
and unreconciled.

"'F I can't find my pipe I shan't go," said he, with secret source of
sustainment; "stay t' home 'nless I c'n find my pipe, that's sartin as
jedgment."

Now I knew from the way the captain's hand reposed in his pocket that
his treasure was safely hidden there--that he was dallying with us.
Knowing, too, that he could not escape by such means, but was only
weakly delaying his fate, I took occasion to whisper in his ear, as I
affected to join in the search:

"Take her out, captain, and light her up.  Let 's go through with it.
Remember you promised to show me how to act."

"Hello! why, here she is a-layin' right on the sofy," said he, in a
tone of forlorn acquiescence that could never have recommended him to
the footlights, especially as this remark antedated, by some anxious
breathings on my part, the sheepish and bungling withdrawal of his pipe
from his pocket.

"Captain Pharo Kobbe," said his wife, regarding him, "ain't you a smart
one!"

The captain's manner certainly did not justify this taunt.  As he led
us, with an exaggerated limp, toward the beach, I looked in vain for
any of those light and elegant attentions toward Miss Pray at which he
had hinted.  But when we arrived in view of the "Eliza Rodgers" and saw
that the tide had so far receded that we must pick our way gingerly
thither over the mud flats, by stepping on the sparsely scattered
stones, Captain Pharo looked at me and took a stand.

"Miss Pray," said he, "'f it 's agreeable to you, I'll hist ye up an'
carry on ye over."

"Cap'n Pharo Kobbe," said his wife, as if it were suddenly and
startlingly a subject of physics, "whatever is the matter with you?"

"Carn't I be p'lite ef I want to?" roared the captain; but as he
surveyed his contemplated burden, who was a good many inches taller
than he, and by all odds sprightlier, he paled.

"Ef 't you _could_ get anything, Cap'n Kobbe," said his wife, "I sh'd
think you had."

This unblessed dark reminder of a causeless deprivation settled it.
Captain Pharo seized Miss Pray, blushing with alarm and amaze at such
sudden retributive lightning on the part of her long-delayed charms,
and bore her out into the mud.

But he had labored but a few steps with her, giving vent meanwhile to
audible, involuntary groans, before it became evident to her, or to
them both, that his grasp was failing, his feet sinking.  She threw up
a hand and partly dislodged his pipe; it was instantly a question of
dropping his pipe or Miss Pray; the captain dropped Miss Pray.

Both women were now angry with him; between all that sea and sky
Captain Pharo appeared not to have a friend save his pipe and me.

Miss Pray indignantly picked the rest of her steps alone.  "Ye'll have
to do the rest o' yer co'tin' in yer own way," murmured the captain to
me, darkly and vaguely, as he stepped into the boat: "but my 'dvice to
ye is, drop it! drop it right whar 'tis!"

"Oh, that is all right," I tried to assure him.  "I--I hadn't hardly
begun, you know."

We scoured the bottom successfully with the "Eliza Rodgers," but as we
got into deep water there fell a perfect calm.

"'T 'd be bad enough," said Captain Pharo, set against the world, and
tugging wrathfully at the oars, "t' go on sech idjit contractions as
these 'ith a breeze t' set sail to, but when 't comes to pullin' over
thar' twenty mile, with the sea as flat as a floor, t' have yer darn
fool pictur' took----"  He laid down the oars with an undoubted air of
permanency, and lit his pipe.

Mrs. Kobbe pressed her handkerchief to her eyes.  "Cap'n Pharo Kobbe,
them 't knew you afore ever I was born say as 't you was the best
master of a vessel 't ever sailed, and everybody knows 't you can sail
this coast in the dark, an' though--though you did act queer a little
while ago, I don't--don't like to have you call yourself a da--darn
fool."

Captain Pharo glanced at me with suicidal despair.

Mrs. Kobbe and Miss Pray took out their knitting, with the implicit
Basin superstition of "knitting up a breeze."  They as seriously
advised me to "scratch the mast and whistle," which, agreeably, I began
to do.

Thus occupied, I saw a sudden light break over the captain's face, as
sighting something on the waves.

"Fattest coot I've seen this year, by clam!" said he, seizing his gun
from the bottom of the scow and firing.  He fired again, and then rowed
eagerly up to it.  It was a little wandering wooden buoy bobbing
bird-like on the waters.

We did not look at him.  Mrs. Kobbe and Miss Pray knitted; I scratched
the mast with painful diligence.

A breeze arose.  The captain silently hoisted sail; at length he lit
his pipe again, and returned, in a measured degree, to life.

As we sailed thus at last with the wind into Millport it seemed that
the "Eliza Rodgers" and we were accosted as natural objects of marvel
and delight by the loafers on the wharf.

"What po-ort?" bawled a merry fellow, speaking to us through his hands.

"Why, don't ye see?" said a companion, pointing to Captain Pharo, who
was taking down sail, with the complete flower turned shoreward;
"they're Orientiles!"

A loud burst of laughter arose.  Personal allusions equally
glove-fitting were made to Mrs. Kobbe, to Miss Pray, to me, and to the
"Eliza Rodgers."

"Say! come to have your pictures took?" bawled the first merry fellow,
as the height of sarcasm and quintessence of a joke.

"Look a' here, major," almost wept poor Captain Pharo, "how in thunder
'd they find that out?"

"Never mind," said I; "we're going up to the hotel, and we'll have a
better dinner than they ever dreamed of."

"Afore I'm took to the dagarrier's?"

"Yes, indeed."

"See here, wife!" said Captain Pharo, completely broken down--for we
were all suffering, as usual, from the generic emptiness and craving of
our natures for food--"major says 't we're goin' up to git baited,
afore I'm took to the dagarrier's."

"I wish 't you could have your picture took jest as you look now,
Captain Pharo Kobbe!" exclaimed his wife kindly and admiringly.

At the inn the most conspicuous object in the reception-room was a sink
of water, with basins for ablutions.

Captain Pharo waited, visibly holding the leash on his impatience, for
a "runner"--or travelling salesman--to complete his bath, when he
plunged in gleefully, face and hands.  Mrs. Kobbe drew him away with
dismay.  The paste that had endured the whole sea voyage he had now
ruthlessly washed from one side of his head, the locks on the other
side still standing out ebullient.

"'M sorry, wife," said the captain.  But the captain, smelling the
smoke from the kitchen, was not the forlorn companion of our
treacherous voyage.  "I reckon she'll stan' out ag'in, mebbe," said he,
"soon 's she 's dry."  But he winked at me with daring inconsequence.

In vain Mrs. Kobbe tried to flay out those locks to their former
attitude with the hotel brush and comb, which the runner had finally
abandoned.

"Poo! poo! woman, never mind," said the captain; "one side 's fa'r to
wind'ard, anyhow.  I can have a profiler took, jest showin' one side on
me, ye know."

"I didn't want a profiler," lamented Mrs. Kobbe; "I wanted a
full-facer."

"Wal, wal, woman, I hain't washed my face off, have I?" said the
captain cheerfully, resurrecting his pipe.  "Put up them thar' public
belayin' pins," he added, referring to the hotel brush and comb, "and
don't le's worry 'bout nothin' more, 'long as we're goin' to be baited."

The "runner" meanwhile was looking at us with the pale, scientific
interest of one who covets curiosities which he yet dare not approach
too intimately.

"Do you smoke before eating, sir?" said he to the captain, at the same
time standing off a little way from the elephant.

"Poo! poo!" said Captain Pharo, turning the whole flower indifferently
to his questioner, and drawing a match with a slight, genteel uplifting
of the leg; "I smoke, as the 'postle says, on all 'ccasions t' all men,
in season an' outer season, an' 'specially when I'm a darn min' ter."

The runner, withered, vanquished by horse and foot, thereafter regarded
us silently.

At the table I made haste first of all to catch the eye of our waiter,
who was also the proprietor of the little inn.  I pressed a wordless
plea into his hand.  "We are eccentric," I murmured in explanation,
"and you must look well to our wants."

He winked at me as though we had been life-long cronies.  "Eccentric
all ye wan' ter," said he, "the more on 'er the better."

I pointed to the captain, who, the table-cloth before him, sat rigid
with hunger.

"The ladies will consider the bill of fare," I said, "and request that
Captain Kobbe may be first served."

"Which'll ye have--boil' salmon, corn' beef, beef-steak, veal stew,
liver an' bacon?" quickly bawled the proprietor into the captain's ear.

"Sartin, sartin, fetch 'em along," said the compliant and nervy
captain, "and don't stand thar' no'ratin' about 'em--'ceptin' liver,"
he added.  "I hain't got so low down yit 's to eat liver."

The runner, sitting with a few guests at another table, served by the
proprietor's daughter, gazed at us with fixed vision, not even having
taken up his knife and fork, for that pale, scientific interest which
absorbed him.

"I know that squar's are fash'nable," said the captain, taking up the
napkin by his plate on the point of his knife and giving it an airy
toss into the middle of the table; "but I'd ruther have the sea-room.
Is your mess all fillers to-day, or have ye got some wrappers?"

"Wrappers?  Oh, certainly--doughnuts, mince pie, apple pie, an' rhubub
pie."

"Sartin, sartin; fetch 'em along.  I'll try a double decker o'
rhubub--I'm ruther partial to 'er.  Fetch 'em all in: all'as survey yer
country, ye know, afore ye lays yer turnpike.  F'r all these favors, O
Lord, make us duly thankful.  Touch-and-go is a good pilot," mumbled
the captain in a religious monotone, and began.

From this time on our table fairly scintillated with mirth and good
cheer, in the midst of which, his first hunger appeased, the captain's
resonant tones were frequently heard pealing through the dining-room,
singing, as if particularly, it seemed, to the edification of the pale
runner, that "His days were as the grass, or as the morning flower."

I observed how Mrs. Kobbe and Miss Pray now and then warily conveyed a
"doughnut" from the table to their pockets, with an air of dark
declension from the moral laws.  Having filled their own receptacles,
they whispered me an entreaty to do the same, as we might be late with
the tide and hungry on our way home.  I complied in this, as in every
case, gallantly; but in my very first essay was detected by the
proprietor with a large edible of this description half-way to my
trousers' pocket.  He winked unconsciously and obligingly turned his
back.  Captain Pharo, however, oblivious to sense of guilt, approved my
action in clear words: "Tuck in the cheese too, major," said he; "it'll
do for the mouse-trap."

I was equally unfortunate when, some time after, in settling for our
dinner I drew out first, instead of my purse, the very same fried cake
which had formerly betrayed me; and, to add to my discomfiture, Miss
Pray and Mrs. Kobbe, who had six of these stolen products each in their
capacious pockets, retired into a corner, innocently giggling.

But an unexpected formidable dilemma arose when Captain Pharo, braced
up to such a degree by his dinner and his pipe, declared that "He
didn't know as he should be took to any dagarrier's, after all!  Tide
and wind both serve f'r a fa'r sail home," said he, "and I'm a-goin'."

"Not till we've been to a tobacconist's," said I, "anyway."

I purchased a quantity of smoking tobacco.  With this parcel peeping
enticingly from my pocket, and with persuasive argument that I could
never again leave the Basin without his likeness, as aid to Mrs.
Kobbe's tears, we at last seduced him up the stairs of the studio to
the long-anticipated ordeal.

Now if young Mrs. Kobbe had had the discretion to keep silence!  But "I
wish, pa," said she, made bodeful by the agonized and even villanous
aspect of the captain's usually stoical features, "'t you could look
just as you did when major said he was goin' to take us up to dinner!"

"Good Lord! woman, how can I tell how I looked then?  I didn't see
myself, did I?"

"You looked so--so happy!" moaned Mrs. Kobbe, "and your face was all
break--breaking out into a smile, and you didn't have that
suf--sufferin' kinder look 't you've got now."

"I think, myself, sir," said the bland photographer--"ah! let me
arrange your hair a little, just this side--or this?--which side?--ah!
so--that a little less severe expression--we all have our trials, I
know, but----"

"I hain't!" said the captain ferociously.  "I hain't got a darn thing
t' worry me.  'F my woman wants me ter have to git a boat an' row out
for the 'Lizy Rodgers' on high tide, an' not git home till sun-up, I
don't care.  What ye screwin' my head into--hey?"

"Merely a head-rest, sir; merely an assistance toward composing
the--ah--features."

"I can compose my feetur's without any darn nihilism machine back on
me," said the captain; which he straightway did in a manner that froze
the operator's veins.

"Has nothing pleasant occurred to you recently, sir.  No--ah?"

"O Cap'n Kobbe," exclaimed his wife, with desperate fated mirth, "think
o' how you shot the buoy this mornin' 'stead of a coot!"

The photographer, observing Mrs. Kobbe's face rather than his victim's,
and seizing this as probably the opportune moment, transferred the
captain's features to his camera.

We waited for the result.  After some time our artist approached us
with mincing steps and a hand thrust in his breast-pocket as if for
possible recourse to defence.

In the type before us, even the gloom and wrath of the captain's
countenance were lost sight of in the final skittish and disastrous
arrangement, through the day's perils, of his hair.

"Ye see now what ye've done, don't ye?" said the captain to his wife.

Mrs. Kobbe came over and stood beside me.

"'T looks 'like somethin' 't the cat brought in, don't it?" said she,
still gazing, pale with curiosity.

"I don't know," I said, not knowing what to say; "does she bring in a
great variety?"

"Awful!" said Mrs. Kobbe.  Having said which, she put up her piteous
little hands to her face and began weeping as if her heart would break.

The captain, like the man that he was, took a strong new tack.

"Never mind, darlin'," said he; "ye've got me, 'n' that 's better to ye
'n all the dagarriers.  We'll stompede the blasted thing, 'n' we'll go
'n' have a nice sail home.

"Ef I ever sees or hears or knows," he added to the photographer,
"anywheres on the face o' this 'ere wide an' at the same time narrer
'arth, o' any o' these here dagarrier-ructions 't you've played off on
me this day, bein' otherwise 'n destriyed, I sh'll take the first fa'r
wind up here, an' if thar' ain't no wind I sh'll paddle, an' my
settlemunt 'ith you'll be a final one.  Good-arternoon."

The captain and his wife strolled down to the beach, arm in arm, Miss
Pray and I following, forlorn and forgotten, behind.  We saw the
captain tenderly pin the shawl about his wife's neck before he left us
on the windy wharf, to go out without a murmur to bring in the "Eliza
Rodgers."

"How shall we get major down the slip?" I heard Mrs. Kobbe whisper
anxiously to Miss Pray.

The "slip" was an inclined plane of boards, of some thirty feet in
length, ending in the water; it was without steps or railing, smooth,
green with sea-water and slime, and it was, at the present state of the
tide, the only way of boarding the "Eliza Rodgers."

The captain now stood in the boat below, holding her to the slip.

Mrs. Kobbe and Miss Pray, leaving me with an encouraging smile, both
sat themselves down, and by the simplest means of descent slid safely
and swiftly down the incline, amid ringing cheers and acclamation from
the wharf.

"Come on, major!" called the captain.  "Touch-and-go----"

And I!  Where now are my faithful henchmen, the men of mighty stature
who do my bidding, the liveried giants who open the door of my
carriage?  The breeze blew in my face, and the "Eliza Rodgers" waited
below, and I heard the rough audience from the wharf shouting that I
should be up to that much!

Ay, and far more.

I sat me down with a smile: that strange and swift period of passage is
still fresh in my memory; how the wind, aided by some slimy intervening
objects, turned me completely about, so that I bounded at last with
affectionate violence, back foremost, into the enfolding arms of my
friends below; cheered, too, from the wharf, especially as, not having
been able to make so judicious an arrangement of my earthly vestments
as Mrs. Kobbe and Miss Pray had done, I was now a startlingly marked
object of ridicule.

Little cared we.  That adventure down the slip, ignominious though it
was, had put fire into my heart.  I entered eagerly into the captain's
scheme of hauling and rifling the Millport lobster-traps, in the
convenient fog which, as if sent by heaven, hid us for a little space
from the land.  The blood of ancestral pirates and robbers bounded
hilariously once more in my long-easeful, sluggish veins.

The floor of our boat was covered with bright sea-spoils, the fog
lifted, the wind blew fair and strong.  Hungry eternally, we munched
our stolen fried cakes with delight.

The sun set in a spendthrift glory of state and color, the water was as
if translated to celestial climes, languidly the fair moon arose.

And I--forever Vesty's face, in some dream of youth and happiness,
outlying my estate; pictured, apart from me, yet new-creating me with
joy.  Afar off in earth-meadows, the love-note of the thrush--not for
me, yet passing dear and sweet.  That slender, languorous moon pointed
me to humble village spires and grass-grown paths, pale lovers
whispering at a rustic gate.  I, poor sprite, stooped down and loved
and blessed them, though I sped away to sail forever and forever on the
seas!



XVIII

UNCLE BENNY SAILS AWAY TO GALILEE

Say the philosophers how, to the properly sane mind, there is no
sorrow.  But Vesty, only a Basin, fighting Christ's war against the
flesh--Vesty had sorrow.

"It was," she confessed to me alone, I being as a ghost or
confessor--"it was like pulling my heart out, to have Notely go away
so.  It was like taking little Gurd away--but it was the only way."

"He has gone back to his wife?"

"Yes."  Vesty shivered.  I had chanced to meet her in the lane, and the
wind was chill.

"And what are you going to do, Vesty?"

"I am going where they want me to help."  She held the thin, frayed
shawl at her neck, the rosy child wrapped as usual on her arm: "there
is always some one wanting me to help, and little Gurd is not so much
care now but I can get along with it."

"You go out as general drudge or charwoman!"  I felt my nostrils quiver
and a bitter harshness in my voice.

Vesty looked at me with surprise.  "I go to help," she said, "just as
you helped me, with Uncle Benny, when I was sick."

"Oh, I could do"--the child knew not with what a glance I studied her
face--"what it is hard to let you do, Vesty."

A gentle pallor at that, as though I had been strong and seemly in her
sight; the Basin eyes fixed on me as if with a community of experience
and sorrow.

"Shall you go away from the Basin this winter, as you did before?"

"I think so;" for myself, I could not look at her.  "You see, I have
my--'show,' that I must attend to a little in the winter: and here,
exposed to the hard climate, if I were taken ill, or should be in want,
there is no one who would care for me, you know."

"You should never want or suffer," cried Vesty of the Basins, "while I
have two hands to work with!"

"Perhaps then," I murmured gravely, with sphinx face, "I might stay.  I
have to ask so much, Vesty, you see.  All my life seems to be asking,
not giving."

"I don't know who you are!" said she, with puzzled brow, the utter
frankness of Basin speech escaping her unawares.  "What I thought
first, when I saw you--I never mind that now.  And you are poor and all
alone, and you never make anything of yourself--but somehow I always
think you are pretending; somehow--I think--you are stronger than us
all."

"You are a little arch-flatterer," I said; "and the Basin, out of its
goodness of heart, has made me vain, that is all.  It won't do.  I need
to sweep some more floors and peel some more potatoes."  She would not
smile; she shook her puzzled head at me.  "And, Vesty," I said, "where
are you going now?"

"Why, to Uncle Benny's!  Didn't you know?" exclaimed the girl eagerly,
with whom the realities of life were always pressing, stern.  "He stood
out in the water, _that day_, helping get the men in, and he was around
that evening, singing, without any dry clothes or fire; nobody thought,
then.  And you know he 's had a cough ever since, and now--he 's sick."

A thought smote me.  "He won't lead the children to school any more,
then?"

Vesty's lip quivered.  "Come," she said; "he has asked for you."

At sight of Vesty with her child and me, Uncle Benny, to whom the
shadows were coming as to the truly sane, without grief or surprise,
touched his unribboned throat with feeble apology.

"I look dreadful," he murmured.  That was not troubling him!  He had a
secret beyond all that, I saw.

"There 's been ten in to call to-day," he exulted sweetly, with folded
hands of satisfaction, death's bloom high in his cheeks;
"ten!--ahem!--to call."

Vesty looked at me with her sad smile.  "It is because we love you,
Uncle Benny," she said, "and you took--take such care of the children.
Who?" she asked, for his mind was on it.

"Mother," said Uncle Benny, since he was sane now, "and"--he mentioned
a number of the living Basins, and went on, in the same tone--"and
Fluke and Gurd."

Vesty looked at him with touching sorrow and despair, being troubled
and not sane.

"They played," he said, his hands moving with the recollection of the
melody; "they played wonderful--but sometimes it was an organ!"

"Good!" I said, Vesty stood so pale.  "We are getting health, I see.
We are on the straight road now."

Uncle Benny, hearing my voice, beckoned me.

"All the things in the drawer!" he said, "because you were 'flicted."
His eyes shone lovingly and compassionately on me.  "All for you.  But
go and see!"

Enough surely to relieve all physical defects!  The worn and treasured
blue necktie, for one thing; a little pocket hand-glass, a pin-cushion
devoted to the tender ingathering of strayed and crooked pins, some
sprays of mint and lavender among the rest.

I felt his eyes beaming proudly on me--treasures beautiful from long
habit, now yielded in a spirit so complete and lofty!  I brushed the
back of my hand along my eyes, in the Basin way.

"You mustn't feel bad," said Uncle Benny, as I came back to him:
"nature didn't do much for you, but it 's going to be all right.  I had
a talk with mother."

"I am glad of that, Uncle Benny."

"Oh, yes! it 's going to be all right."  So full of secrets! he spoke
excitedly, with discreetly covered joy; "you needn't feel bad."

He lay back, lest he should say too much.  And so, as he, wise, covered
up his sublime knowledge among us, unwise, with smiling lips, he sank
into a sleep.

Uncle Benny, dying, slept with a smile on his lips; and little Gurd,
homeless, fatherless, laid in this poor habitation or in that, humbly
and roughly, slept in beautiful health with a smile on his lips; and
we, unwise, watched dolefully.

"You must not stay," said Vesty.  "You are not used to lose your rest.
I am so used to watching, and--I am not afraid.  Lunette said she would
come to help me before morning."

Starless, moonless darkness showed through the low window, and the
candle was burning dimly on the table.

"I shall stay," I said.  I had a student's knowledge of death.  "He
will wake soon, and then--it will be morning."

But Vesty's dear face turned to me with the sorrow of dying.

I was not used to lose my rest.  I dozed faintly, with faithfully
sleepless lids.  In that east of heavy blackness the candle made a
strange sun.  The world, elsewhere so far from heaven, here at the
Basin ascended to it by a common stairway, and little children and the
pure of heart climbed upward without dread.

"May I go?" I said, watching them.

"If a child leads thee," said a voice.

So I looked to a little child, to take my hand, and I saw my mother's
face waiting from above, and the beams of glory narrowed; it was the
candle burning dimly on the table.

"Notely!" I heard a voice calling.

I started up.

"Notely!" called Uncle Benny, very sweetly and tremulously from the
bed.  "Where is he?  I led him to school."

Vesty had gone to the door, and leaned her head there, as if to press
back the unbearable anguish and pathos sweeping over her like a flood.

"Notely!  Little Note!  He was the handsomest of them all, but
sometimes he ran away.  Notely!  Little Note! come home with Uncle
Benny now; come home!"

"He will come," I said, going to him: "he will come home."

"Vesty!  Where is she?  I led her to school."

She tottered toward him and pressed her warm hands upon his, cold.

"And you," he said, trying to turn to me, lovingly, faintly, "you are
one of them.  I will bring you home.  Sing, Vesty; sing 'Sail away----'"

  "'As Christ went down the Lonesome Road'"

Vesty's voice broke.

"Sing, little one," said Uncle Benny, covering his glad secrets again
with a sort of heavenly duplicity; "it 's all right--sing."

  "'He left the crown and He took the cross--
    Sail away to Galilee!
  He left the crown and He took the cross--
    Sail away to Galilee,
    Sail away to Galilee!
      *      *      *      *
  "'There 's a tree I see in Paradise----'"


"Sing, Vesty!"

  "It 's the beautiful waiting Tree of Life--
    Sail away to Galilee!
  It 's the beautiful----'"


Uncle Benny hushed her with an awed motion of the hand, and a look
upward of unspeakable recognition--he, without doubt, seeing now,
beyond us blind.



XIX

THE BASIN

"What I thought first when I saw you--I never mind that now."

Vesty's words: and "You shall never want or suffer while I have hands
to work with."  So it seems that, at the Basin, even one poor and
afflicted may have good hope to be sustained!

There was a woman once, beautiful and high, who, spurning me, would
have married me for my wealth and name.

But pity is sweet and true.  I am not ashamed of pity.  Some time--if
all things failed her--should I even say, "Vesty, could you marry me,
for pity--for pity, Vesty?"  For it was the thought of the Basins that
compassion was greater than love, in some way the diviner side of love.

Then should I turn on her and say, sly as Captain Leezur--alas! so much
slyer: "My lady!  My Lady of M----; there are none, even among the rich
and high, who can condescend to you; wide lands have you, you and your
little son, possessions and palaces; and others you shall build where
you will, only come and be pitiful where you move: the world needs not
these, but love and pity like thine, O Vesty of the Basins!"

But the time was not yet to plead my cause for pity.  I shall know if
ever that time comes.  I have never mistaken Vesty.  I wait.

"For pity"--for it is not in the power of gold or rank to exalt her.  I
cannot exalt her.

It is sweet to bear about with one the secret of a strange country.
But, ah me!  I love the Basin.  I love the ragged shawl that Vesty
holds at her throat.  Nowhere else will the winter come so dreary and
beautiful, with wild hearth fires.  And Fate, bidding me hope, may
crush me.  As God wills.  I wait.

It is but late summer now.  There is a meeting.

"It 's been a very busy time o' year," said Elder Skates, with timid,
inoffensive apology; "and we've ruther neglected religion lately.  But
I hope we've gathered here to the old school-house once more this
Sunday afternoon, with a dispersition and a willin' and firm
determination that as for us we will not let 'er drop."

Vesty had a native sense of the humorous, but the holy lids were down;
only the mouth trembled a little.  Captain Pharo and Captain Shamgar
were finishing a game of croquet with the one set of those implements
which the Basin possessed, dedicated for Sundays, and to the
school-house yard, as being dimly understood to be a sort of Sabbatical
pastime.  Their voices pealed in with unconscious vigor through the
open windows:

"Did ye shove her through the wire, Pharo?"

"Yis, by clam! and I'm a-comin' for ye, Shamgar, an' the next crack I
git on that thar rollin' cruiser o' yourn, she'll wish she'd 'a' died
las' week!"

The Basin conception of the game not being based on a spirit of
emulation so much as on the cheerful clash of immediate vivid strokes,
Captain Shamgar laughed loudly.

"We are now open for remarks," intimated Elder Skates feebly, afflicted
but firm in his rubber boots.

After a season of respectful silence within the school-house there was
a sepulchral whisper from one elderly female to another on the back
seats:

"Did ye know 't Elvine had plucked her geese?"

"Sartin.  She plucked 'em too clost, and they was around fryin' in the
sun scand'lous; but I don't surmise as she knew no better."

"In course not.  Ye know Miss Lester's boardin' some folks 't Gov'ment
sent down t' inspect the lighthouse.  It's a young man, an' he brought
his wife, an' after he'd finished his job they liked it so well they're
jest stayin' on, cruisin' 'round an' playin' tricks on each other.  So,
ef you'll believe me, what does that Gov'ment young man do one day but
go an' bring home a passel o' snakes----"

The voice, to the eager ears of the listeners, ventured more and more
upon audibility--

"An' he fixed 'em in a box in the woodshed, with a string to the cover,
an' then stepped into the kindlin'-closet, holdin' the string, ter wait
till the women came out, ter pull it an' then see what the verdick
would be!  Wal, what think you--but his wife she suspicioned of 'im,
an' she was around thar hidin', an' jest as soon as he stepped into the
closet, afore he could pull the string, she flounced up an' fastened
the door on the outside.  An' she kep' 'im in there till he'd say:
'Wife, wife, there's lots o' green in my eye; but I'll make my supper
on humble pie.  I'll dump them snakes in the pond, dear wife; an' ef
you'll only let me out I'll be good all my life."

"Wal, thar now!" said an admiring voice; "I should think she must be
r'al gifted.  Did he say it?"

"Yes, he got it out, somewheres along in the shank o' the evenin'.  But
Miss Lester says it's jest as good as bein' to the front seat in a
show, the whole livin', endurin' time."

"Gov'ment pays their board, in course?"

"Sartin, and well it c'n be some use now an' then, settin' 'round
there, not knowin' nothin' in this world what to do with its surplice."

A sharp peal rang through the window.

"Thar, Pharo!  Ef ye want to find yerself, ye'd better start on down t'
the south eend o' the Basin, 'n' negotiate around to leeward o'
Leezur's bresh-heap; that's the d'rection yer ball was a-startin' for,
las' time I seen 'er!"

"Poo! poo!" said Captain Pharo, drawing a Sunday "parlor" match
explosively along his boot-leg; "jest hold on thar, Shamgar.  Jest hold
on till I git my old chimley here a-goin' ag'in----"

"The meetin' is open and patiently waitin' for remarks," said Brother
Skates, poising himself wearily but ever enduringly on one boot.

After an appreciative silence within, the whisper finally arose once
more: "But he paid her off pretty well."

"Dew tell!"

"She took 'n' hid his pipe one day, and her clo's was hangin' out on
the line--she wears the mos' beautiful, 'labberotest-trimmed clo's you
ever see--so what does he do but go an' git a padlock an' padlocked
them clo's onto the line.  'When you git me my pipe,' says he, 'I'll
unlock your wardrobe,' says he."

"Wal, I never!  Ain't them ructions!"

"Did the peddler come around to your house this month?"

"He did so.  I bought a pictur' 't was named 'Logan.'  It's a fancy
skitch, I guess, 'but I'm goin' to have that pictur', Cap'n Nason Ted,'
says I, 'ef 't takes every egg the hens is ekil to from now t'
deer-stalkin',' says I.  It jest completely drored me somehow; it had
sech a feelin' look."

"Did Nason let ye buy it?"

"Yis, he did; but he was dreadful sneakish an' j'ilous.  'It's jest a
fancy skitch,' says he; "'tain't nothin' 't ever slammed around in
shoes,' says he."

"I bought a pair o' black stockings," said the voice of a young matron.
"I remember 'cause I wore 'em the very day that Johnny swallowed six
buttons--and _smut!_--wal----"  A picture too dark for the imagination
was relieved by the hum of a discussion now bravely finding voice on
the male side of the house.

"There's some difference in the price of a hoss afore blueberryin' and
after blueberryin', I can tell ye."

"All the difference 'twixt black an' white.  Wal, thar's mos' things I
can do without, but when you find me without a hoss you'll find me done
'ith trouble altogether an' stretched out ca'm an' laid on the cooler."

"Skates's raisin' a pretty good colt thar, 'ceptin' 't she's a leetle
twisty in her off hin' leg.  What do you consider on her worth, Skates?"

"I refused two hunderd dollars for 'er last week," said Brother Skates,
in a clearly round, secular tone of voice.

"Now look a-here, Skates; that stock o' yourn's good workin'-stock, but
they're tirrible hard feeders.  Ef you've been offered two hunderd
dollars for that colt don't you wait 'tell after blueberryin'."

"Mebbe you think," said Brother Skates, now firmly established on both
boots, "'t I'm as green as a yaller cucumber!"

"Look out thar, Shamgar!" rang through the windows.  "Give me sea-room
here!--give me sea-room!"--we saw and heard the preparatory swinging of
Captain Pharo's mallet--"cl'ar the way thar, Shamgar; for by the
everlastin' clam, I'm a-goin' to give ye a clip that'll send ye t' the
west shore o' Machias!"

A mighty concussion followed.

Elder Skates, as if reminded by these thunders of his duty, blushed
deeply with shame and penitence.

"Vesty," he pleaded tremulously, "will you start 'Carried by the
Angels'?"

Vesty went to the little organ.

Now we forgot all the rest, all that was rude and incongruous, forgot
how mean the school-house was, how few protective boards left upon it.
Captain Pharo and Captain Shamgar dropped their mallets at the first
sound of Vesty's voice, and came in on tiptoe, with changed faces,
reverent.

For there was the Basin sorrow in Vesty's voice, enough to subdue
greater discords, and the Basin hope in it, implicit, wonderful,
thrilled to tearful vision by a word:

  "Carried by the angels,"

she sang.

    "Carried by the angels.
  Carried by the angels to the skies.
    Carried by the angels,
    Carried by the angels,
  "Gathered with the lost in Paradise."


Coat-sleeves began to do duty across moist eyes; seeing--we all being
simple Basins--winged white forms in the still air outside the battered
schoolhouse, bearing worn, earth-weary forms away--

  "Gathered with the lost in Paradise."

It was not so hard to speak now.

"I've got my finger on a tex' here," said a white-haired,
weather-beaten Basin, rising; "'In His love and in His pity He redeemed
us.'  Now thar was a time when I didn't want nobody to say a word to me
about pity--no sir!  Love I wanted and admirin' I wanted, but no pity;
that thar set me broilin'.  But--now--I'd e'en a'most ruther have pity
than love; 'nd I thank God most o' all that, in my pride and in my
stren'th, and not wantin' no help an' gittin' mad at the thought of
it--all'as He pitied me, an' He pitied me cl'ar through to the end.

"For I tell ye, thar can be love and admirin', that flashes up in the
pan mighty strong at first, an' goes out, an' nary mite o' pity in it.
But thar' ain't no pity 'ithout love; and it's a love 't ain't no
fine-spun thread, but a ten-inch hawser; a love 't stands by ye when
thar' 's a trackless path afore and a lost trail ahind; when ye're
scuddin' afore the squall, an' the seas come thunderin' down on ye;
when yer boat 's in splinters, and ye're a-bitin' the sand.  Yis, an'
when yer cruisin' 's all done at las', an' ye're jest a poor old hulk
around in the way, driftin' in an' out 'ith the tides, 't calls out to
ye, as ef ye was somebody, 'Ship ahoy!  What port?'

"An' ye says, kind o' hopin', but not darin' nothin', 'The port as they
calls Heaven.'

"An' 't shouts back to ye, strong across the wave, 'What are ye
doubtin', man?  That 's a port sure! and home 's thar, and folks 's
thar, and the little children ye lost is thar.  D'ye want a pilot?'

"'Ay, ay, sir!--ay, ay, sir!'"

The deep voice sank in tears, then broke out again:

"Git under the lee o' the wrack!

"For days an' nights once, in a storm 't I shall never forgit, we
pulled under the lee o' a wracked vessel, 'n' no other way could we 'a'
been saved.

"An' it was so, 't, in this sea o' life, all open ter the winds o'
sorrer an' temptation, Christ come down, an' He giv' up joy an' a safe
harbor, 'n' all that, jest ter be made a wrack on, so 't we might git
under His lee, an' foller safe.

"It 's the great Breakwater o' the seas; don't ye fear but it 's a safe
one!

"Young man, I know 't ye think o' somethin' more'n this, an' vary
diffur'nt from this, a-startin' out each one in his clipper-bark, gay
an' hunky in every strand, 'ith a steady follerin' breeze, an'
everythin' set from skysail pole to the water's edge.

"All right!  ye are the lad for me; ye can pull side an' feather
stroke; ye can cl'ar a tops'l reef-tackle when the sail is full, ye are
the lad for me.  Steer bold; only steer true, by night an' day.  I wish
't ye might no' meet wi' fogs an' icebergs an' collisions an' gales----

"An' yit, I wish it not.  The sea an' the storm is jest to teach us t'
git under the lee o' the great wrack o' Love an' Pity, 't made hisself
lost for us; ay, an' so to make a wrack o' our own happiness for the
poor an' weak, 't's out a-tossin' shelterless, to lead 'em to the true
Breakwater.  That 's life, that 's the sea, that 's the lesson.  Till
we pass on, up the roads, into the harbor----"

The old mariner's voice failed him; he sat down.

"Vesty," said Elder Skates, and cleared his throat huskily; "Vesty,
will you start 'The Tempests broke on Thee'?"

Vesty's voice:

  "'O Christ, it broke on Thee!
  Thy open bosom was my ward,
  It braved the storm for me.
  Thy form was scarred, Thy visage marred,--
  O Christ, it broke on Thee!'"


Great preachers have I heard dry-eyed, and skilled plaintive music
enough; but now I looked out through the broken Basin windows, on the
clear Basin sky, through a mist.

"Vesty," said Elder Skates, "let 's keep right along into 'Beautiful
Valley o' Eden'!"

  "'How often amid the wild billows,
  I dream of thy rest, sweet rest,
    Sweet rest.'"

sang Vesty, with eyes darkly circled and sunken, and the beautiful,
strong hand, labor-worn, and the thin old shawl fallen back from her
shoulders.

There was a different tone now in the parting salutations of the Basins.

"I'm a-comin' up to help ye paper," said one woman to another; "ye got
sick last year, and I'm a-comin', whether ye want me to or not."

"Oh, I want ye bad enough, Mar'ette."

But I knew what a struggle had been gone through with when I heard Miss
Pray say:

"Car' Ann, if ye want to borry my ice-cream freezer I ain't a-usin' it
for to-morrer."

Miss Pray alone of the Basins had acquired the monumental honor of
possessing an ice-cream freezer, esteemed by others with a no less
sacred jealousy than by herself; but she had hitherto refused all
intimations tending toward social interchange and fellowship in the
matter.

"Vesty's kind o' poorin' away," said one matron, looking wistfully
after the girl.

"No wonder, with that great boy, and all she does.  Aunt Low-ize tried
to hold him, jest while Vesty was singin', an' she had to take him out
and walk twict around Blueberry Hill t' keep him still; he's one o'
this 'ere all-alive, jumpin' kind.  I sh'd think he'd kill her."

I overtook Vesty in the lane; she was gathering flowers in Sunday
pastime for the baby.

She turned to look at me with quiet gladness, kindness.

"I love to hear Captain Seabale.  He doesn't come very often," said
she, "but he makes me cry."

"I believe he made me cry," I answered.  I watched her shaking a
handful of flowers over the laughing boy.  "How far do you think pity
could ever go, Vesty?"

"Why?"--there was that high, grave study of me in her eyes, that
haunting thought that I was sly!  But for all her pains, too simple was
she!  No discovery; only the beautiful Basin unconsciousness.  "Christ
never said where to stop, did He?"



XX

SOCIAL DIVERSIONS AT THE "POST-OFFICE"

Leafless and brown are the trees, but the Basin has diviner glories
than at midsummer, in colors unspeakable of sea and sky, of
wild-sailing cloud, of sunset and of moon.

There come great news of Notely.  In pursuance of which, "Did ye ever
notice," said Captain Leezur, sitting on the log in the late sunshine,
ambrosially sucking a nervine lozenge; "did ye ever notice, major, how
't all the great folks, or them 't 's risin' tew be great--how 't they
all comes from a squantum place like this?"

"Yes," I said, "I've heard it as a remarkable fact."

"I don't mean t' say 't _everybody_ in a squantum place is beound and
destined tew be great or die!" said Captain Leezur, with whole-souled
disparagement of such a thought: "no, no; they can't carry it on us so
fur as that.  'Forced-to-go,' ye know."

"No, indeed!" I consented.

I accepted a nervine lozenge, and we braced ourselves firmly on the
log, placid, but set, against all resistance, not to be great!

"What is this rewmer abeout Notely, major?  I heered how 't you took a
lot o' noos-sheets."

"It is fine.  He is making for himself a name in your politics, and at
the same time there 's the old fire in him, flashing out over
conventions; one can almost hear him laugh.  He rings out, clear, amid
any false notes; it is a grand satire; sometimes the dry bones quake."

"Lord sakes!" said Captain Leezur, turning on me with deep-smitten
dismay; "I heered how't he was bein' successful!"

"His financial speculations seem touched with magic, they say; he is
courted, feared, praised, maligned; he laughs and rings out, the true
note!  His health is not strong, never since that fall.  There; you
have all I know, Captain Leezur."

Captain Leezur meditated.  "There _be_ times--I sh'd never want this
said except between you an' me, major--when I'm glad 't Notely Garrison
didn't marry Vesty, after all!  Notely 'n' me was great mates, all'as.
But I'll tell ye this, when Notely got everythin' he wanted he'd carry
sail enough to sink the boat, all'as; couldn't never jump rough enough
or fast enough on a high sea; kept the rest on us bailin' water: that
was Note, when he had all the wind he wanted; that was Note,
all'as--but I all'as loved him better 'n them 't was more keerful
sailors."

The sun saw itself globed in a tear that fell on Captain Leezur's felts.

"Moderation in all things, ye know," he added, beaming, not to distress
me; "even in passnips."

I mused with him in silent sympathy.  "Oiling the saw again, I see," I
said at last glancing with reverent admiration of such benign industry
at the oil-can.

"No," said Captain Leezur kindly; "I wa'n't, I was a-goin' deown, by
'n' by, to the cove, to ca'm the water deown, 'n' see ef I c'd spear up
a few fleounders; but I ain't in no hurry.  I'd jest as soon set
areound on the int'rust o' my money!"

This was a joke insatiable between us, always bubbling over, always
enough of it left for next rime.  At its utterance Captain Leezur's
countenance was accustomed to break up entirely, while I laughed with
an appreciation that never fainted or palled.

We felt that there was never aught sparkling enough to be said after
it, but parted in succulent silence, Captain Leezur with his oil-can,
going down to compose the waters, while I pursued my less omnipotent
way to the Basin "post-office."

"Ef there 's anything trying," said Lunette, though with the peculiarly
official air she always wore on post days, "it is dressin' sand-peeps.
But thar!  Tyson come home with a harf-bushel, an' what are ye goin' to
do?  Onct a year, Ty says, he wants ter jest stuff himself to the
collar-bone on sand-peep pie, an' then he don't want to see nary one,
nor hear 'em mentioned in his sight--not for another year."

It might have troubled the casual observer at first to discover, in the
variety of Lunette's official capacity, which was post-office and which
was sand-peeps, so agreeably and informally did these two elements
combine in her surroundings.

"Mis' Pharo Kobbe!" she called.

That lady, thus summarily summoned, sprang forward from a cloud of
witnesses, as choice and flattered assistant.

"Won't you take them letters 't Major Henry's jest brought in, and
deface the stamps on 'em?  Turn the ink enter them pictur's o' George
Washin'ton so 't his own mother's son wouldn't know him.  I don't
calk'late to have no stamps 't 's sent out from the Basin post-office
washed out an' used over ag'in.  The defacement they gets here is for
everlastin' an' for aye."

I watched helplessly a full discharge of this command on the part of
Mrs. Pharo Kobbe, and proceeded to pluck one of the sand-peeps
meanwhile, along with the rest, waiting the arrival of the post bag.

"Some o' the rusticators 't was here in the summer," continued Lunette,
sneezing over a culinary preparation of pepper, "though 't we ought to
have two mails a week!  Ef I was so dyin' crazy for news 's that, I'd
go an' live to Machias!"

"That does seem dissipated and unreasonable, certainly," I assented,
interested in the endeavor to extract the minutest pin-feathers from
the tail of the sand-peep.

"Ef they was all like Major Henry, I told 'em, the post-office 'ud be
easy runnin', an' I don't care if I do say it afore his face.  I'd say
it afore the meet'n-house--ef there was one.  The very first time 't
Major Henry ever stepped inter this post-office he come up to me an'
handed me a five-dollar bill, 'n' says he:

"'Mardam, could you kin'ly put my mail t' one side, me not all'as bein'
convienent to be here at its openin', maybe; an' all the mail that
ain't called for at its openin' bein' thrun up onter the top pantry
shelf,' says he, ''nd everybody 't comes in lookin' it over t' see ef
they've got anything, is a most beautiful compliment to human natur','
says he, 'an' one that I wish I could interduce everywhere; but me not
bein' vary tall,' he says, 'an' kind o' near-sighted, I'm afeered as I
might git somethin' 't didn't belong to me.  Have ye got anythin' like
a dror, or anythin' 't ye could lock up?' says he.

"'No,' says I, 'I hain't, but I'll tell ye what I can do.  I can put
'em inter th' old Gran'mother Tyson soup-turreen, 't I don't believe
the led of it 's been lifted this ten year; they'll be as safe as ef
they was buried an' in their graves,' says I.  An' so I thought, but ye
know how things is all'as sartin to happen.

"What, in the name o' ructions, did Ty do but come home that afternoon
with a bag o' ches'nits, which he knows I won't have in the pantry on
account o' breedin' worms; but me bein' over to Mis' Kobbe's, what does
he do, manlike, but dump them letters inter the churn, an' go an' sneak
his ches'nits inter th' old Granm'er Tyson soup-turreen.

"Wal, I all'as churn my butter Friday mornin', come hail, come wind: so
I gits up--an' 'twas kind o' dark yit--an' in I pours the pail o' cream
an' begins to churn, an' thinks I, 'This spatters onaccountable this
mornin',' an' took off the cover to see what the ructions was!

"Wal, the verdick of it was, after I'd laid into Ty, I went down to
major with the five-dollar bill an' another atop of it, all I had in
this livin' world--'An' ef that 's any objec', major,' says I, a-wipin'
of my eyes, 'it's all I c'n do.'

"Wall, what think you, but major laughs, an' wouldn't tetch ary cent of
it, but took 'is letters, an' says he, 'They've ackired a peculiar
richness,' says he, 'an' I'd orter be up there mail-openin' an' not
make a lady so much trouble,' says he.  That's the kind o' poppolation
's I, for one, sh'd like to fill up the Basin with!" said Lunette,
flourishing her rolling-pin.

A murmur of approval ran through the room.

Blushing, embarrassed, but swollen with pride, I picked up another
sand-peep to pluck.

At that instant "Snipe," the household and post-office dog, ran across
the floor with high-careering head, holding a huge envelope in his
teeth.

"Stop him! stop him!" cries arose: "it's Elvine's registered letter, 't
's goin' to Boston for a tea-set!"

A rush followed Snipe into the bedroom, the door of which stood open;
the evil dog ran under the bed and into the farthest corner, where,
with his jaws formed into the semblance of a menace and a mocking
laugh, he assumed an attack upon that potential tea-set.

Lunette rushed in after him.  Now the bed, in default, for some unknown
though doubtless wise Basin reasons, of other stanchions, was set up on
four chairs, one at each corner, and as Lunette rushed under it, she
displaced the outermost chair; whereat the bed at that source collapsed
with a crash, imprisoning both her and the dog.

"I've been a-threatenin' to have that bed fixed," said Tyson, with
politic zeal, as his wife and dog were delivered.

Lunette with voiceless indignation seized one of a buttress of
birch-switches behind the door, and began applying it to the
consciously ruined Snipe, at the arising of whose howls the
post-carrier drove up, and, entering, threw the bag, in loud token of
his arrival, upon the floor.

Snipe, of all places, ran and entrenched himself behind my feeble legs!
Whereat, "Don't whip him any more," I pleaded, being already flattered,
in one way and another, as high as mortal could sustain.

Lunette turned unwillingly to the post.  The post-driver stood about
seven feet in his boots, with a handsome face, all mud-bespattered.
Many voices beset him familiarly.

"Say, Will, did ye bring down my molasses?"  "Say, Will, did ye match
that ribbin f'r me?"  "Say, Will," etc., etc.

"You bet I did, every time!" he answered jovially, showing his white
teeth.  Interest in the post was comparatively moribund; a general
parcel-distributing and hand-shaking followed--until we were startled
by a cry from Lunette:

"Look a' this, Will Hunson!" said she; "look a' this, will ye?  A whole
pot o' strawberry jam soaked right plumb inter the middle o' the United
States Governmunt!"

It was only too true.  The pile of letters and papers which she had
emptied onto the moulding table were red and glowing as the summer rose.

Will hung his dismayed head.

"Be them ructions, or ain't they?" coldly demanded Lunette, pointing to
the awful pile.

"I didn't mean to," said Will.

"Didn't mean to!" cried Lunette.  "Didn't mean to, lived in a lean-to!"

Blasted by terror and sarcasm, we all hung our heads.  Snipe grovelled
in still farther behind my legs.

"There 's got to be something done!" cried Lunette.  "Folks's got to
learn 't the United States Governmunt is a awful an' a solemn an' a
turrible thing.  What ef it sh'd be told 't we hadn't no more respec'
for her down here to the Basin 'n to soak her through with strawberry
jam an' molarsses!  These here ructions have been a-goin' on too long
with the Basin post-office.  I'm a-goin' to fill out a blank an' send
it to Washin'ton!"

Snipe howled.  Lively apprehension, none the less poignant for being
vague, sat on every pale brow.

"Here," continued Lunette, "'s major's business letters, looks as
though they'd been a-settin' in the dentist's chair, havin' all the old
stumps extracted for a whole set of uppers and unders!"

Lunette's comparison, though tragic, was not inapt.

"Here"--blind terror yielded to curiosity on many features--"here is
Jennie Cossey's letter from her beau, down to New London, with a
cardboard dagarrier in it.  Yes," said Lunette, manipulating the
envelope curiously and holding it to the light; "I knew 't the next
thing he'd be sendin' his pictur'.  How 'd you feel, Will Hunson, ef
you was stan'in' in his shoes an' had gone an' combed yer hair 'tell
yer arm ached, an' stuck the end o' yer hankercher outer yer pocket,
an' had yer pictur' took, an' then sot down an' wrote a lot o'
sweetness to wrop around it--an' when she took it out have it look like
Injuns a-yellin' on the warpath!"

"Say, Lunette," said honest Will, his handsome face redder than any of
the lively imageries she had called up to terrorize his conscience; "I
got that front hair fascinater ye wanted, an' I sold the spruce gum for
two dollars for ye.  Look a' here!"

"Will Hunson, don't ye ride no more strawberry jam an' molarsses down
here in the middle o' the United States Governmunt ag'in, will ye?"
said Lunette, determined to fall gently.

But it appeared then that no blank was to be filled out and sent to
Washington!

With a sharp yelp of joy Snipe sprang from behind the impregnable
covert of my legs, and rushed out into the free and gladsome elements.

I gathered up my portion of matter from the illuminated heap of
"government," beside the sand-peep pie on the table, and with a fond
smile at Lunette I also departed.



XXI

BROKEN WINDOWS

Always now on the evening of post day, after I had read my newspapers,
came the worn shawl and the dark, weary eyes--Vesty, to sit awhile with
Miss Pray.

"Is there any news of Notely, Major Henry?"

Now and then I made her put the question, but oftener I was kind and
volunteered any information on this subject that I had been able to
glean; and at the news of joy or success for him, how her eyes glowed!
Basin pure and great, with no thought for the shadow of her own
lot--Vesty of the Basins.

"Is there any news of Notely, Major Henry?"

She was pinning the shawl at her throat after a short call, before
going out; and she gave me her direct, reproachful look, as though I
had been teasing her.

But I was not teasing her; my heart yearned over her where she stood,
facing the dark.

"I will tell you what I have read," I said, "as I walk home with you.
You are 'helping' them at your own father's again now?"

She bowed her head.  Her dark eyes filled me with a kind of frenzy to
make rest and comfort about her; and I had hard news for her!

"In my papers of the past week the beginning of what concerned Notely
Garrison was a medley.  'Reformer,' 'The old never-heeded cry of a St.
John in the wilderness,' and again, from the other side, 'Fanatic,'
'Visionary,' 'Throwing out his by no means boundless wealth like water
for the sake of chimeras, ideally noble enough, but still vain
chimeras!'  And the news at the week's end, 'Young Garrison stricken: a
shock.  Overwork, over-excitement, and the result of an accident
suffered not long since.  Recovery very doubtful.'"

"I want to go to him," said Vesty.  I heard her breath coming painfully
and quick.

"I knew that.  I have already made arrangements for you to leave early
in the morning."

"Just to see him.  I promised him.  Notely!  Notely!  I can't bear
it--just as though it was little Gurd."

"You shall see him by to-morrow night.  I have sent a messenger to make
special arrangements for conveyance, in case you should desire this."

"Major Henry, I forgot.  I cannot; I have no money."

"Ah, but you can and must.  It is arranged."

"And I do not know the way.  I was never from the Basin."

"I am going with you.  In my country high ladies travel with a servant,
thus.  Get what rest you can and be ready at four.  They will take good
care of little Gurd while you are gone."

"Some time," said Vesty, on the morrow, "when Gurd is a little older,
and I can take him away somewhere where I can earn wages, I can pay
you, Major Henry.  They want me now--his mother wants me, somehow, I
know."

"You are safe to think that."

"My clothes are not like theirs," said Vesty quietly, when we came at
night more and more into the throngs of civilized life.  "Do you mind?
I knew that I should not be dressed like them."

"In my country high ladies wear what they will."

She gave a low, perplexed laugh, looking at me with curious sorrow for
my hallucinations.

"But I am only Vesty."

"Surely.  But you remind me so of a lady."

At least Vesty travelled as a princess might.  I brought her the long
and devious journey swiftly, with as little fatigue as possible: but it
was late at night when we mounted the steps of the Garrison town
residence; the house was all alight.

Mrs. Garrison brushed past the servant at the door.

"Vesty Rafe!  I knew it was you.  I knew you would come, somehow,
child."  She drew her in, and fell on her neck, weeping.

"He is dying?" murmured Vesty then, with cold lips.

"He has not spoken since the shock.  He does not know us; but it may be
he will know you!  Come!"

Servants from the doorways of the wide, rich hall were staring
strangely at Vesty and at me.  Vesty turned to me now, to consider me.

I gave her the warning look.  "I came to show Vesty the way," I said in
simple Basin speech.  "I will go to my hotel.  I will call."

The girl's sad eyes looked reproach at me, but she obeyed me.

"Wait," she said then; "I want to speak with Major Henry."  She came to
me in the door.

"When will you come back?" she murmured, low.

"I will call in the morning."

"You will come?"  A strange abandoned distress was in her eyes, as of a
child lost in crowded city ways.

"Vesty!"

She turned, chidden, but with a sort of wilful content.

My heart bounded as I limped down the steps.  I smiled to myself, safe
in the dark, sardonically.  Make what you will of it, with other men
she was strong, womanly, serene; with me, she had the sweet grace to
show weakness.

The carriage bounded over the paving-stones and stopped at my hotel.
The driver lifted his hat obsequiously.  I, with sardonic smile,
entered the hotel, where I was not unknown.  No doubt was made as to
the character of my apartments.

I rested sumptuously, but could not sleep.

"How was he now, who lay stricken yonder?  Had he known her, or would
those rare blue eyes be lifted to her too, unrecognizing, and so break
her heart?"

Eyes once seen, to haunt one, the handsomest in form and color and
expression that I had ever seen in human head.

Now I saw them again, as I had first seen them at the meeting in the
Basin school-house; the firm, brown hand grasping the sailor's bonnet;
eyes omnipotent with health and joy, casting their mischievous,
beautiful glances over toward Vesty--she, patient, struggling, with her
holy look!

And the Basin wind blew in through the cracked windows, and a bird flew
upward:

  "Softly through the storm of life,
  Clear above the whirlwind's cry"--


It all resolved itself into that at last; the human voice crying
upward, shivering, like the bird's flight; but with sure aim now!

I saw how it was at the first look at Vesty's face, when I called the
next morning.

Notely, waking once, had not known her among the group of doctors and
attendants; only stared at her as one of them, kindly, vaguely.

But, for the most part, he slept in weary bliss.  Once, later, they
thought her face had awakened some old memory.

"The school-house--is growing--dark," he murmured, in indistinct,
half-recovered speech, then fell off again into his soundless slumbers.

The doctors knew.  I knew.  The mother read no hope.

"He has so much to leave," she sobbed, turning ever to Vesty, who, numb
with sorrow, yet tried to comfort her.

So much to leave!--but who knows ever to how much going!  Not so Mrs.
Garrison.  The bright way ended at this pass, in blank darkness.

And Notely slept on, wearied, heedless; soft, luxurious trappings of
life all about him; his reconciled young wife; his hope now of an heir
for his name and fortune; the work he had struggled at last so
unrestingly to do; and the dear, lost love of his youth, Vesty, bending
over him.

Leaving them, not able to be heedful, so deep-wrapped in unknown
dreams.  Waking once more and turning from them vaguely (ah, the
sublime, unconscious contempt of death!); turning from them vaguely, as
though in some far Basin the dawn were breaking!

"Uncle Benny," said he, holding out his wasted hand, "the school-house
is very dark--I'll go home now."

      *      *      *      *      *      *

So Vesty's heart was broken in her, and to me she came, as to a father,
or more as to a friendly, favoring ghost.

"Take me back to the Basin!"

"Yes."

She sat in a kind of patient apathy, numb, her heart faithful with the
dead.

"How little Gurd will call for you when he sees you again!" I spoke;
but to waken her was to bring such a torrent of tears, choking, she
entreated me not.

But, "It is well, I believe," I said to her; "there is life enough!  Be
sure he does not lack for life.  What! do you think we have found the
best of it, and all of it, here?  I imagine God has enough!  It is not
because His bread fails Him that any go hungry, or because He lacks for
gold that any are poor, but only for His purpose--we must guess--and
when the poor, shattered school-house grows dark the light breaks
elsewhere."

Vesty had not slept for two nights; the sweet face was haggard.

Again passing among crowds of restless, hurrying life, faces cold and
strange, or often staring curiously, the haunted look of one lost came
again into her eyes.

"I must go and take care of Gurd," she said, "as well as I can, while I
live.  O God!  I hope he never may get lost, out in the world."

"No; how could he, in God's world?"

"When we get back to the Basin then you will be tired of staying there
in the bleak and cold.  You will never wait for me to pay you; you will
laugh at me, and you will go back to the world."

"Vesty!"

Wearily she turned her heavy eyes on me--a ghost; there was the forced,
unconscious cry in them of the child, or even of the woman.

Sacredly I shielded their glance, and ghostly; it was as though I had
not seen.

"You mistake my courage.  There is no winter," I said, smiling, "strong
enough to drive me from the Basin."



XXII

"NEIGHBORIN'"

Vesty never said "Stay!" but that unconscious look in her eyes made a
sort of forlorn fireplace of hope to me, desolate, open to all the
winds.  As God wills.  I wait.

I went often to Captain Leezur; the nervine lozenges were potent.

"We all'as dew neighbor a great deal in winter," said he approvingly,
stretching those dear felts before the blaze.

"Is that a piece of the log we used to sit on?" I inquired mournfully.

"Wal, neow!  I r'a'ly believe ye feel a kind o' heart-leanin' to'ds
her, don't ye?"

"How can I help it?"

"Sartin! sartin!" said he, delighted; "we're jest like twin-brothers.
But neow don't you werry one mite.  She 's done a good werk an' she 's
returnin' to Natur's God.  I've got another one 't I'm goin' to roll
deown, first hint o' spring.  I don't calk'late ever to be feound, like
them wise an' foolish virgins, without no log to set on."

"Thar 's somethin' abeout a log," continued Captain Leezur; "when ye go
inter the heouse in warm weather, an' sets deown in a cheer, the women
kind o' looks at ye as though you was sick or dreffle lazy; but when
ye're eout settin' on a log ye feels as though God was on yewr side,
an' man nor woman wa'n't able to afflict ye.  They 's a depth an' a
ca'm to the feelin' of it, 't them 't sets on fringe an' damarsk sofys
don't know nothin' abeout."

"You must have required a great deal of oil in sawing up the old log,
captain," I said.

The captain gave the restful sigh of battles overpast.

"Mebbe you think 't the drippin's o' one skunk did it," said he; "but
they didn't.  Did ye ever think," he resumed, "o' what a wonderful
thing ile is, an' what 'd we dew without 'er?--heow the wringin'
machine 'ud seound when ye was turnin' on 'er for yer wife, Monday
mornin's?"

"No," said I sadly.

"Then ag'in, it 's ile in yer natur' keeps ye ca'm an' c'llected, an'
it's ile in yer dispersition l'arns ye t' say, 'Moderation 's the rewl,
even in passnips.'"

Lubricated with a sense of peace and blessing, I arose.

"Ye're jest like me," gurgled Captain Leezur; "ye don't feel easy in a
cheer!  Ye wanter be eout on the old log, don't ye?"

"Yes," said I.  "This isn't quite like."

"We're nateral twin-brothers!" he exclaimed, following me to the door.
There he looked cautiously backward.

"Dew you remember what I said to ye once," said he, "on the subject o'
kile?"

"Ahem!--female affection?" I inquired gently.  "Yes."

"Some calls it that," said my twin-brother, beaming on me, "and some
calls it kile.  Wal, neow, ef a sartin person shows a dispersition to
kile, let 'em!  Let 'em," said Captain Leezur, irradiating my thin
being with the glory of his countenance; "let em."

"Ah," said I, and shook my head again sadly, "I think more and more we
will have to go our pilgrimage without that, my friend."

"Neow you look a' here," said Captain Leezur.  "I ain't a-sayin'
nothin', that they will or that they won't, but if they dew, let 'em.
Did ye ever think o' what a heap o' wisdom there is in a poor old
bean-pole?

"Mornin' glory comes up an' looks at it.  Bean-pole stands up stiff,
without no feelin's: don't look at 'er, nor bend over an' kiss 'er, nor
nothin'.  Mornin' glory don't git skeered, an' she peouts out a lot o'
leaves an' tenderls an' begins to kile.  Bean-pole takes a chaw o'
terbakker an' looks off t'other eend o' the field t' see what the
pertater crop 's goin' to be.  Mornin' glory peouts out more leaves an'
blossoms, an' keeps a-kilin'.  By 'n' by thar ain't no poor old
God-forsaken bean-pole standin' there--it 's all one mess o' kile an
mornin' glory!

"I tell ye, major, we need once in a while for t' l'arn a lesson from
natur'.  I ain't a-goin' to press ye to stay longer, for I know ye
wanter go neighborin'!"

Dazzled, I turned away from the refulgent keenness of his wink.

But I did not take the direction that wink had indicated.  I had an
invitation, not from Vesty, but from the two most ancient of the Basins
to tea, and I stopped in, a solitary and thoughtful bean-pole, at
Captain Pharo's on the way.

The music-box was playing.  I was glad to hear that; a tune in
undertone, like waves slowly, softly breaking.

"She used ter play fifteen different tunes when we first had her," said
Captain Pharo pensively; "but she got to squeakin', an' so we had
Leezur up to ile 'er, an' ever sence she 's played one tune fifteen
times!  Poo! poo! hohum!  Wal, wal--

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'My days are as the grass--']

Shouldn't care so much, though, ef 'twas only 'The Wracker's Darter.'

"I've threatened a good many times to overhaul her myself, but I ain't
no knowledge o' instermental music, and I s'pose I might spend a week
on 'er, and not combine 'er insides up to playin' no 'Wracker's
Darter,' arter all.  Hohum!

[Illustration: Music fragment: 'Or as the morning flow'r.]


At each successive pause the organs of the music-box wheezed,
struggled, almost faintly let go of life, then began again the
undertone, of waves softly breaking.

"I like it," I said.  "I like it wonderfully."

Captain Pharo gave me a keen look and went to the door and winked.  I
was no longer supine under such invitations.  I rose and followed him.
"Look a' here, major," said he, when we were alone, coughed.  "My foot
's 'most well."

"I am glad of it, captain."

"Look a' here, major," said he, desperately, "what makes you so took up
with that 'ere monotonous tune in thar?  I'm afeered I may 'a' misled
ye, times past, with regards to female grass."  He coughed again and
lit his pipe.  I waited.

"'Specially," he groaned, "some things I may h've said with regards to
red and white clover."

Still I waited.

"Look a' here, major, when anybody sets down 'n' admires to sech a
monotonous tune as that in thar, thar's somethin' the matter with 'em."

Still I would not speak.  Tears almost were in his eyes.

"Now I may h've said some things on partickaler pesterin' 'casions in
times past, but in general my verdick--hohum!--is fav'rable to female
grass; 'specially--hohum! hohum!--wal, wal, ye knows my meanin',
major--'specially with regards to red and white clover: hohum! how 's
Vesty?"

The captain gave a sigh that would have exculpated him from the gravest
of crimes, and looked steadfastly toward the west.

"I haven't seen her to-day."

"Ye'll think it over, won't ye, major?" said he, still with that far
withdrawn vision.

"Well, yes; I'll think it over."

I had proceeded but a little way when he called me back.

"I had it on my mind to tell ye," said he, "when I heered 't ye'd been
'nvited down t' Aunt Gozeman's and Aunt Electry's t' tea; ef they give
ye some o' their green melon an' ginger persarves, do ye manage to
bestow 'em somewhar's without eatin' of 'em, somehow.  They're amazin'
proud an' ch'ice of 'em, an' ye don't want to hurt their feelin's, but
ye'd better shove 'em right outer the sasser inter yer britches pocket
'n eat 'em--leastways that 's the way they 'fected me."

Visions of a past mortal suffering flitted across Captain Pharo's face.

"I'll try," I said.

"Ef thar 's melon an' ginger persarves settin' by yer plate, d'ye ask
them two old women, in some kind of genteel s'ciety ructions sort o' a
way, ter go outer the room an' git ye somethin', an' soon 's they've
gone d'ye jump up an' thring a shawl over that darn' parrot o' theirn
't stands there noticin' 'an' swearin', an' chuck 'em in over behind
the wood-box or somewhar's, but don't eat 'em."

"All right," I said, as he shook my hand with suggestive earnestness
once more in parting.

The sisters, by mutual adoption, not by birth, lived together in the
"Laury Gleeson;" the sign of a wrecked schooner nailed up over their
shanty door.

"And why not?  We be all a-sailin', been't we?" said Aunt Electry, who
was ninety years old, lighting her pipe; "only I wish 't some 't 's
sailin' solitary had mates 't 's fit for 'em--how is Vesty?"

"I don't know," I began, afflicted with a sort of lightness of head.  I
wanted to take out Uncle Benny's pocket-mirror that I carried with me
now.  Was I beautiful, and tall, and fair?  What had happened me!

"Lectry 's a great girl for straight-for'ard langwidge," said Miss
Gozeman kindly, pitying my confusion; she was only eighty and did not
smoke.

They led me out more nimbly, almost, than I could follow, to show me
the "stock"--some forlorn, fantastic stumps of trees, long dead, all
whitewashed with tender art! the pet coon, the tame crow, the wicked
goat.

There was another treasure; who, as we came in and sat down to tea,
eyed me from his cage with grudging and disfavor: it was the parrot;
and I presume injunctions were upon him to keep still, but I did not
know.

"Does he talk?" I Inquired kindly.

He snapped viciously at the cage.

"A friend 't had him on shipboard gave him to us long ago," explained
Miss Gozeman, with gentle evasion; "we ain't ever been able to break
him of it."  What the habit was of which they had not been able to
break him I sadly inferred.

There was a munificent dish of the green melon and ginger preserves by
my plate.  I was chatting with my friends, and at the same time
meditating what to do, when the tame crow, who had slyly entered the
house behind us and stolen Miss Gozeman's spectacles, was now
discovered through the window hastening to hide them in the chip-pile.

My entertainers trotted nimbly out after him.  I rose, and, lifting the
cover of the stove, dashed in the contents of my saucer--when I was
startled by a shrill voice and a mocking laugh.

"Oh, I see ye!  I'll tell!"

I had forgotten to cover the parrot.

"You are no gentleman if you do!" I retorted, forgetting with whom or
what I was talking.

"Shut up!" said the parrot, and laughed.  "I see ye, d--n ye!  I'll
tell!"

At all events I turned, with the intention of going out to assist the
ladies in their search for the spectacles, when the scene through the
window held me for a moment spellbound.

The crow, having accomplished his mischievous device, was perched near
by, gravely regarding the search of the two estimable and time-honored
women, who were peering with their faces near the earth, and their
backs turned unconsciously; when the cherished goat, creeping
maliciously up, made a rush at them from the rear, and pitched them
both into the chip heap.

This unspeakably base proceeding had the result, however, of
discovering to them the glasses, with which they soon after entered,
smiling.

"Bill often hides our glasses," said Aunt Electry.

"Does the goat often bunt you over?" I inquired, with dismay.

"Shut up!" said the parrot, at the sound of my voice.  "Oh, I see ye!
I'll tell!"

My kind friends gave him a sharp glance, but considerately did not look
at me.  They saw my emptied preserve plate, however, and concluding
that I had taken advantage of their absence the more greedily to gorge
myself on its contents, they generously piled it full again of what
they imagined to be the same coveted substance.

Seeing this, the parrot shrieked with fiendish joy.

"Indeed it is excellent----" I began.

"Oh, stow your gab!" sneered the parrot, in a suddenly gruff bass voice.

Aunt Electry rose and stamped her foot at him.

"He only knows what he 's been taught long ago--by a friend," said Aunt
Gozeman reassuringly; "he can't--tell anything new, right out!"

All the crime they imputed to me then was gluttony in the matter of
preserves!  Very well; I preferred that.

"They were really so delightful," I began, with the natural reaction
from my qualms.

"Oh, wur-r-r!" interrupted that horrible grating voice, and then
laughed high and loud.

The sisters in affliction rose and bore the cage out into the shed  But
I heard oaths and cackles of malicious intention fired at me through
the door.

"Sing 'We be a-sailin',' sister," said Aunt Electry, when we had
retired again to the fireside.

Miss Gozeman obediently began, in a soft, timid tremulo.

"We are _eout_ on the ocean _sail_ing," came in mocking, strident
accents from the wood-shed; "Oh, h--ll! give us a rest!"  But dear Aunt
Gozeman sang right on, smiling pitifully:

    "'To our home beyond the tide.'"


Ah, what tides! what tides had been in these two lives!  And stranded
here for a little, how they cherished with a great heart of compassion
the dead trees that bore them no fruit, loving and pitying the wicked
parrot that mocked at them, the crow that stole from them, the goat
that upset them.

My own notions of charity seemed so little and mean in comparison.

"Ask me again," I pleaded; "I have been so seldom invited to tea.  I
have enjoyed it."

Even the fate of the green melon and ginger preserves lay hard on my
awakened conscience.  But I made up for that.  Not for this winter nor
any winter, so long as they live, should Aunt Electry or Aunt Gozeman
want either for preserves or less brilliant condiments.

Indeed, I play at making home and occupation, and they of the Basin are
to me as my sheep through this wild, strange winter; and I as their sly
shepherd--sly, like Captain Leezur.

All except Vesty.  To her child I can make gifts, unknown, through my
stanch friend, Lunette, even of food and clothing, but not to her.  The
old frayed shawl is grander than any ermine, and the goddess' chest is
erect and broad; the winter will not kill her--but I have gazed sadly
in the mirror, and I go often to Captain Leezur.



XXIII

THE "FLAG-RAISIN'," OR "THE OCCASION"

"If there 's any fun going on," frankly admits Mrs. Kobbe, "you'll
all'as find me up an' dressed!"  Perhaps I sympathize more truly with
her kind-hearted spouse, who says with a deep sigh: "We mustn't be
tackiturn jest because the wind's off the snow-banks."

So I go to the flag-raising.

"The Crooked Rivers and Capers have had their flag up these three
weeks," said Lunette; "and I heard how the Artichokes had h'isted
theirn yesterday.  When the Artichokes have got their flag up, seems as
though the Basins had better be thinkin' o' what time it is in the
mornin'!"

"What is the flag to be raised for?" I inquired, with unsuspecting
innocence.

There was an afflicted silence; still they loved me.  Lunette alone
answered at last, turning to Tyson, not to me.

"I should think it 's enough to have a flag-raisin' without a-askin'
what it is for!" said she.  "What does trees grow for?  What does
anything in natur' act the way it does for?"

I, ever safe anchored behind Lunette's championship, looked out
securely at the derelict Tyson, to see if he could answer.  He could
not, but was abashed.  Still I so far appropriated the hint, wisely and
delicately delivered, that I made no further inquiries, only giving
myself unhesitatingly to the joy of preparation.

The flag was to be raised over the school-house, and instead of wending
our way dissonantly thither, as was our habit in attending the
meetings, we were to go in procession!

A curious awe attached to this idea, in which I fully shared, as, being
formed in line, I tried to limp martially behind the valiant Lunette.

"Halt, by clam!" said our general.

"What is it?" came in whispers along the line.

"Jakie Teel" (one of the sculpins) "'s got his trousers on hind side
afore!"

"Flory dressed him by candlelight this mornin', so 't she could get
time to make three loaves o' angel-cake for the flag-raisin'."

The victim of this mysterious adventure was led away by his mother for
reaccoutrement, while we as a regiment waited patiently for his return
to warlike rank and file.

"If these condummit ructions are over," said our general--for the wind
was blowing cold--"forwards ag'in, by clam!" and we marched upon the
schoolhouse; but we encountered so many difficulties, of wayward ropes,
in hoisting our ensign, that Captain Pharo declared, rubbing his
chilled hands:

"'T we'd omit the usual cheerin' 'tell we'd been in and thawed out--ef
they was any thaw to us--leastways baited."

Vesty was there with the rest, munching a slice of angel-cake--fit food
for her!  I smiled kindly upon her, but did not forget that I was an
indifferent bean-pole.

"Major!" cried the Basin, toward the close of the repast, with its
mouth sweet and full--"Major, a speech! a speech!"

Now I had a heart given to the Basin, with a simple thought or two, and
I requisitioned the best of my forces for the "Occasion," conscious of
my morning glory there--oh, she of the skies! munching angel's food.

Whatever I had said or done, moreover, the Basin would have applauded;
yet such cheers as I heard now left no doubt upon my too-willing and
plastic sense of a phenomenal and hitherto unsuspected ability.

"Vesty," said Elder Skates, starting to his feet, "will you
start--start--start--anything?"

"We always _do_ sing

  "'In the prison cells I set,
  Thinking, mother dear, of you,'

to flag-raisin'," said the ever well-informed and officious Lunette.

"Somehow," said Captain Pharo, shrugging his shoulders, "thar 's too
much of a sea-rake blowin' acrost the back o' my neck t' sing 'Prison
Cells;' 'tain't clost enough for it here.  What d'ye say to 'Hold the
Fort'?"

What they said was unanimous.  Even Captain Leezur knew it, and the
sculpins, of terrible voice.  It was sung with such complete personal
abandonment to strong oral gifts that, at the second verse, the
remaining quota of plastering upon the school-house roof became
loosened and fell with a crash upon the head of that very unfortunate
sculpin who under other blighting circumstances had been forced to
undergo temporary absence from our ranks in the morning.

He uttered a mature sea-oath, and was again marched violently from our
presence by his mother; but I was happy to see that he returned soon
afterward and renewed his portion of the song with a gusto which the
added quality of defiance now rendered deafening, while through all our
din sounded true the flute of Vesty's sweet voice.

"We mustn't forgit the occasion, I s'pose," said Captain Pharo, our
general, at length.  "Poo! poo! hohum!  I s'pose it's about time we was
thinkin' o' goin' out to cheer the flag.  Forwards, by clam!  Poo! poo!
hohum!  Wal, wal--

[Illustration: Music fragment: "'My days are as the grass--'"]


"Sh!" said Mrs. Kobbe, deftly getting audience at his ear.

"Ladies an' gentlemen an' childern," said Captain Pharo, taking his
place beside the flag; "we've h'isted of 'er, an' here she blows"--he
put his hand in his pocket for his pipe, and drew from his vest a match.

Mrs. Kobbe coughed loudly, and even shook her head at him: he put them
back.

"We have h'isted on 'er," he continued, "an' here she blows!"

Mrs. Kobbe's cough of deeper warning and high-mounting blushes on his
account nerved him.

"We've h'isted of 'er," he shouted with desperate defiance, "and thar
she blows, don't she, by clam! on the full, the free, the glorious, an'
the ever-lastin' h'ist!"

A sturdy round of applause was not wanting, but on this point Mrs.
Kobbe was visibly sceptical: she received her lord with sniffs of
disdain.

"'The full, the free, the glorious, an' the ever-lastin' h'ist'!" said
she.  "Where was you eddicated, Cap'n Pharo Kobbe?"

"It don't make but darn little difference whar ye've been eddicated,"
replied Captain Pharo, "when ye're tryin' to make a speech, an' one o'
them devil-fish boys goes around behind ye an' snaps a live lobster
onto the slack o' yer britches!"

Giggles from a school of sculpins safe hidden somewhere lent further
aggravation to the dilemma.

"Jakie Teel an' Pharie Kobbe, Junior, 'll come to judgment," cried Mrs.
Kobbe, in a loud voice, "'specially Pharie Kobbe as soon 's ever he
gits home," whereat giggling from that miscreant quarter ceased, and
she relieved her lord of his painful embarrassment.

But at this point a new and surprising development arose.  The Basin
horses attached to some wholesale herring-boxes, extemporized as
sleighs, were driven to the scene.  Captain Pharo, with heart-whole joy
at the sight, lit his pipe and declared, with now beaming countenance:

"It has been arranged, to crown this happy 'casion, for all our
unmarried Basins over sixteen year o' age, not forgettin' widders under
forty, to have a sleigh ride.  Elder Skates'll reel off the names,
accordin' to which you can pile yerselves in accordin'ly, two 'n' two,
side by side, thus 'n' so, male an' female, created He them!"

Flushed with inspiration, Captain Pharo glanced triumphantly at his
wife, who, at this more than Pentateuchal illustration, refused to
sneer.

So absorbed was I in watching the gleeful embarkation, and so little
dreamed I of being considered in a case like this, it had not even
occurred to me that I too was an unmarried Basin widely over sixteen
years of age, and yet a little under forty, when--

To the choicest seat in the very largest herring-box, the back of which
was stylishly bedizened by the splendors of the star bedquilt, I heard
my own name called:

"Major Paul Henry and the Widder Rafe!"

Who and where was the Widow Rafe?  Lo!  Vesty stepped out.  To be
sure--the formal, the flag-raising, the "Occasion" name of Vesty!

I led her to her place, but, as for me, I sat down, lost to mortal
woes, silent and dazed, among the stars.

"Didn't you want to sit with me?" said Vesty, her face rather grave.

"Oh, why do you ask that?"

"You looked, when they called our names, as though you didn't want to."

Now I tried to dwell upon the words of Captain Leezur, but, however
callous I succeeded in appearing on the outside, at heart I was a
happy, happy bean-pole.

"I was stunned," I said.  "Besides, you see, I did not expect to be
invited."

"Why not, Major Henry?"

Oh, the beautiful Basin! the beautiful Basin!  I tried to speak, but
could not.

"You never seemed before," said she, a sea-shell color glowing in her
cheeks, "to feel above us!"

She felt humbled, and my poor brain was too dizzy and incredulous to
frame fitting words.  I swallowed hard; that was a Basin prerogative,
and by exerting it a direct Basin inspiration seemed to come to me.

"Feel above you!  O Vesty!"

At that the sea-shell color went away down low, even to her lips, but
no further illumination came to me.

Past ghostly hill and moor and still-gleaming flood we flew.  "I am
happy," I could say at last, "as I ought not to be.  In all scenes and
places where I may ever be I shall remember this, Vesty."

She shivered a little.  Ah! the sad old shawl!  I clinched my hands.

Past hill and moor and still-gleaming flood: the light of day changed
to one unfathomed, possible, as of sweet, unspoken dreams becoming
blessed at nightfall.

Then all at once, round and full above a distant hill-top, rose the
hoyden moon, and the Basins saluted her with shouts of natural delight,
all save Vesty and I, who were silent.

Now, I saw, was the hour when each Basin put his arm about his girl.  I
could not have touched my girl, not under all the rollicking moonbeams
that ever fired the heart of youth and man.  Farther she seemed to me
than that far white hill-top, glittering and high.

Yet it pierced me that it was a gloomy ride for her.  "It was good and
kind of them," I said, "to place a poor old fellow like me here beside
you; but you should have one of those rosy, handsome lads with you; you
so young, though we forget it.  Your life is yet to live."

At the reproach in her eyes--a look of anger, too, but for its wild and
dark distress--my heart had almost leaped to my lips.

But--too merry the rollickers, who had fallen behind us, driving on the
homeward road; there had been several laughing, reckless adventures of
overturned herring-boxes in the snow-drifts; now the pole attached to
one of these had broken; the frightened horses had cleared themselves
and were veering madly on the narrow road, with the swinging cross-bar,
toward that side of the sled where my girl sat, unconscious of the
danger, still and pale.

I sprang, fell in a heap, but rose again somehow; and now at last I put
up my arm.  It was not without strength--in this case more than mortal
strong--still, in the end, I fell.

When I came to myself we were still flying through the wild,
swift-changing scene, homeward bound; one of my hands was numb, and my
wrist bandaged, and my head--was on Vesty's shoulder!  We were in right
Basin fashion now, only by needs it was Vesty's arm that was about me.

"Am I dead, Vesty?" said I, half believing it in my bliss; besides, I
had ever a great appreciation of the Irish humor.

"Oh, don't, major; don't!" said Vesty; "you saved me from getting
terribly hurt, they say--or----"

"Ugh!" I groaned.

"Your poor arm!" said she.  "Oh, the pain!"

"Nothing pains me," said I.

"Your arm wasn't broken, major; but it 's terribly bruised and
sprained."

"And my neck, Vesty--you are sure that was not broken?"

She sighed, but since I was bent, she followed my humor.

"Never fear," said this demure young woman; "that 's too proud ever to
get a twist."

Here was a dilemma--that I should be developing into a wit and Vesty
into a coquette!

"Well," said I, "I must try and straighten myself up again," and with
that endeavor the pain did cut me so cruelly I fainted, quite without
any maiden affectation, back again on to Vesty's arm.

"Try and think," said she, when I could hear her voice, "that I am some
old woman, just trying to take care of you--somebody not disagreeable
to you, and keep still till we get home."

"Very well," said I, tormenting myself with the thought that she was
acting under some compelling sense of obligation; and that should never
be.

So I answered briefly all at once; and no sooner had I spoken than I
endured a gnawing consciousness that I was the hatefullest thing that
had escaped extermination that night.  I kept still, however; the pain
was something to dread.

At least I had my beautiful mother's hair, thick and curling; that was
all Vesty could see now there on her shoulder.  I comforted myself with
that thought as a child.  I was weak, and I let some tears roll down my
face that Vesty could not see.

When the strong fellows took me out of the sleigh and bore me very
gently up to the door they stopped there for a moment, while I
wondered; and if any bitter sense of their physical supremacy pierced
me at that moment it ceased forever, as with a preconcerted signal from
the foremost they lifted the caps from their heads and cheered my name,
thrice and again, and again, with ringing cheers--and Vesty standing by!

The old Basin flag--almost as dilapidated as I--had heard nothing like
it; but when they dressed the swollen arm pain sent me off into
oblivion again.  Vesty's was the last face I saw bending over me:

"Do you"--timidly--"do you want me to come to-morrow, and see how you
are?"

"Oh, if you will--thank you!  Still, I am all right--I shall be all
right, never fear."

She lingered still a moment, but spoke calmly:

"If you don't care anything about me why did you risk your life to save
me from getting hurt?"

A demon possessed me.  Pity I could have endured, but if she were stung
on by that inflicted sense of gratitude?

"Why did you risk your life to save me?"

"Oh, it was _pity_, child," I answered her; the surging bitterness
within made it almost a sneer--"natural human pity: it is strong in all
my race."

She looked at me with a beautiful sorrow, and as though she called me
proudly, to a better contempt of myself.

"I wish you had a mother," said she then, and flushed, the holy eyelids
low, pinning the old shawl--"as it is, I don't know what to say."



XXIV

THE STORY OF THE SACRED COW

Vesty came next day at evening, but she took pains to be found in
company with almost the entire Basin.

I was so much better that I was able to be about and receive my guests;
at sight of Uncle Coffin even the maimed hand seemed to tingle
healthily.  He marched me to a chair with an ostentation of violence,
that really treated me, however, with the softest gentleness, and sat
me down.

"Dodrabbit ye!" he cried, standing off and regarding me.  "What ye been
a-doin' of, you young smashin', slashin', cavortin'-all-around young
spark, you!"

"Well," said I, naturally feeling rakish after this, "I will tell you.
Miss Pray had a brood of chickens come off unseasonably to-day, who
desired particularly and above all things, having taken a general
outlook on life, not to live.  Under Miss Fray's directions I have been
amusing myself with trying to defeat that purpose.  I have watched for
any signs of hope in their world-disgusted eyes, dipped their unwilling
beaks in food, put chips upon their backs to help them maintain an
earthly equilibrium--so little desired by them, however, that oftener
they have toppled over and turned their infantile legs entreatingly
upward; but I have conquered; they live."

"Wal, neow," said Captain Leezur, my chiefest admirer, "ef you ain't a
case to describe anything in natur'!  Ef I had you areound I shouldn't
never want no dagarrier of a sick chicken, for you'd call 'em right up
afore me!"

I murmured my low thanks, blushing as usual under flattery.

Vesty was talking brilliantly with some of the company, quite away from
me.  She had a bright, disdainful look, when I chanced to glance that
way, new to her, but quite befitting--ah me! ah me!--some lady one
might dream of, of high, disdainful quality.

"Ain't he a case neow to describe anything in natur'?" joyfully
reiterated Captain Leezur to Uncle Coffin.

Uncle Coffin, with his hands on his knees, shook his head at me,
finding no words quite to the mark.

"Dodrabbit ye!" said he; "you sly young dog, you!"

"That's what I tell him!" rippled the deep-gurgling brook of Captain
Leezur's voice; "we're jest like nateral twin-brothers.  Only," he
added tenderly and gravely, "he ain't nigh so ongodly as I use' ter be."

"Ongodly!  Why, dodrabbit ye, Leezur!" said this native Artichoke, "ye
never done an ongodly thing in yer life--'cept, maybe," he added, "to
cuss a little when ye was fishin' for the bucket."

"'Specially," said Captain Leezur intelligently, "when the women folks
has been thar afore ye, r'ilin' the water and jabbin' of her furder
deown."

Uncle Coffin gave me an irresistible but a loving and true, not a
malicious, wink.

"Speakin' o' women folks, Leezur," said he, "is there any news from
Lot's wife?"

Captain Leezur cleared the mellow symphonies of those organs through
which he intoned his speech; and was about to reply, fully and sweetly,
when Captain Pharo made his appearance at the door.

Uncle Coffin sprang from his chair, and with a grave face, which only
later broke out into those beams of affection which were storming his
bosom, shook him violently by the collar, dragged him across the floor,
and set him in a chair by the fireplace with a loud, conclusive thump.

"Dodrabbit ye, man!" said he, "I hain't heered your voice since I was a
baby."

Captain Pharo, with a countenance full of delight and sympathy, pulled
his ruffled jacket down nearer to the waist line, and lit his pipe.

"Dodrabbit ye, Pharo!" continued Uncle Coffin, and turned from his pet
to me with another wink, "what are yer days like now?  They ain't like
the grass, are they?  I b'lieve they are, jest like the same old grass,
or like the morning flower, the blighting wind sweeps o'er.  She
withers in an'--why don't ye never finish on 'er out, Pharo?  Why don't
ye never ring the last note on 'er--eh?"

"Because, Coffin," said Captain Pharo, with a smile of deep meaning,
"because thar's so many things that when they're onct finished they 're
completely done for in this world; eat a meal o' vittles and thar 's
the end on't; smoke a pipe an' she runs dead; I like t' have one thing
left over.  I like to feel, Coffin, by clam! 't thar's somethin' 't
thar ain't go'n' to be no end on!"

Uncle Coffin had been studying him attentively, with his hands on his
knees.

"Kobbe," said he, "you're a philosoffarer."

Captain Pharo wiggled uneasily.

"I don't say hippopotamar nor rhinosossarer," said Uncle Coffin; "I say
philosoffarer."

Captain Pharo drew a strange breath of relief.

"Mebbe we're a little alike in that respec'," Captain Leezur assured
him deliciously; "'cept 't he ain't nigh so ongodly as I use' ter be."

"I don' know," said Captain Pharo.  "I have worked sometimes,
Sundays--poo! poo! hohum!--but not 'less 'twas somethin' 'mportant,
gettin' in hay or somethin' like that.  And I have--poo! poo! hohum!
Wal, wal--hauled out my lobster car sometimes Sundays waitin' for the
smack--hohum!"

"Pharo," said Uncle Coffin, holding up his finger, "no more!  I know
ye.  Thar ain't an ongodly bone in yer body--'cept maybe when ye've
lost yer pipe an' cussed a little."

"An' the women folks wants to haul ye over somewhar's on a flat sea to
have yer gol darn pictur' took!" said Captain Pharo, with poignant
recollection of a still unquiet grief.

"Kobbe," said Uncle Coffin, "no more!"

  "'I know not why I love her,
    The fair an' beau'chus she;
  She bro't the cuss upon me,
    Und'neath the apple-tree:
  But she asked me for my jack knife,
    And halved 'er squar' with me,
  Sence all'as lovely woman
    Gives the biggest half to thee.'"


"Judah's wife writ that," exclaimed Captain Pharo, with a generic awe
of poetry as poetry.

"She did," said Uncle Coffin, with eyes appreciative of the muse fixed
gravely on the fire, "she did."

There was a daughter of Eve who was treating me very severely.

Instead of the old encouraging smile and gleam of merry recognition or
sympathy in her eyes, there was now an averted gaze, bent very
brightly, it seemed, on every one but me; in that direction alone, a
studied coldness, a haughty carriage of the head.  What could I
expect?--but it broke my heart.

I subscribed silently to the mood of Belle O'Neill, whose mind was
subject to vagaries, and who in the midst of the gay company was
playing weird, plaintive "revival" tunes upon the mouth-harp,
enthusiastically absorbed in her art.

Her mistress, Miss Pray, who notably for some time had been receiving
the attentions of Pershal, the man who had been in California, had
withdrawn with him, with tacit understanding of apologies, to the
kitchen, where they were carrying on their courting, as all good Basins
should, undisturbed.

The young people were playing a game of forfeits.  I heard Vesty's
penalty pronounced; it was, to go and put her hand upon "the handsomest
man in the room."

She began to move, with her lovely, erect head and brilliant, averted
smile, toward the fireplace.  Surely she would not put any ignominy or
mockery upon me--ah, no!  I knew in my heart.  But she came nearer, and
I gazed, spellbound; and then she bowed her beautiful head with a
tender, laughing smile, and laid her hand on Captain Leezur's shoulder.

"Here!" she said.

Oh, how he laughed!  Robins by the brook, and sun-sparkles.

"That 's right, Vesty!" he exclaimed; "that 's right, darlin'.  Come
and kile yourself areound them 't 's got some feelin's!"

He winked at Captain Pharo and Uncle Coffin.  The sweet girl blushed
disdainfully--for some one--and, with a lingering touch on the dear
man's shoulder, went away.

"I've all'as been kiled over a good deal," explained Captain Leezur
gently, with a smile the subtlety of which he sought in a measure to
hide.

"And we mustn't forgit," he added, "that thar 's a time for all things
under the sun.  Thar 's a time to be a bean-pole and thar 's a time to
kile."

He winked at me; fearing that I had not understood, he winked still
broader; then, moving his back toward his two companions, he directed
full upon me a wink so vast and expressive that I endeavored at once to
signify my enlightenment by replying in kind; but, unpractised as I was
in the art, I could only infer what the unlovely aspect of my features
must have been from the look of sorrowful disgust which immediately
thereafter overspread Vesty's own.

But it transpired that that look of disgust was not for me.  It was for
Belle O'Neill, who, moved by another inspiration, had thoughtfully
abandoned her mouth-harp to creep through the surreptitious channel of
the wood-box and learn how Miss Pray and Pershal were progressing in
their courting.

She returned with a face of excitement.

"Be they j'indin' hands, or anything like that?" we asked.

"No," said Belle O'Neill: "he told 'er winter pears was the pears for
him, an' she giv' him a slap an' started down suller to get a dish o'
fruit, an' he told 'er when she come back he was goin' ter tell her a
story 't he hadn't never told or dreamed o' tellin' to anybody but her;
he said he'd all'as kep' it to himself, 'cause folks 't hadn't been in
Californy was ign'runt an' env'ous, an' wouldn't believe nothin' 't was
told 'em, but he guessed she loved him well enough to b'lieve it; an'
he said the name of it was 'The Story o' the Sacred Cow!'"

On uttering these words with a countenance of feverish eagerness and
expectation, Belle O'Neill unhesitatingly turned and crept back through
the passage.

Not long afterward I found myself lifted bodily over into the wood-box,
and guided by the silent wake of Captain Pharo's pipe before, and
entreated gently by Uncle Coffin from behind, I crawled to the little
store-room adjoining the kitchen.

The door was slightly ajar; and with whatever shame I have only to
record that I stood with delectation by this door and waited for the
Man-Who-had-Been-in-California to tell "The Story of the Sacred Cow."

"Arter all, Jane," said he, plunging his knife into a choice pear,
"you'd orter seen the winter fruit we use' ter have in Californy!"

Miss Fray's face fell.  We heard Captain Pharo groan silently;
moreover, his pipe had gone out, and he dared not relight it.

"I thought you was goin' to tell a new one--about the Sacred Cow?" said
Miss Pray.

"So I will, Jane," said Pershal; "but the fact is, it 's sech a true,
sech a solemn an' myster'ous thing, that I fa'rly dread to tackle it!"

Belle O'Neill would have gasped, had she dared.  She kicked the calf of
my lame leg convulsively instead.

"Thar's been a great many stories," continued Pershal, "about sacred
cows.  Folks has claimed t' seen 'em.  Circuses has claimed t' had 'em:
but the fact, an' the solemn fact, is, thar wa'n't never but one Sacred
Cow, and that was raised on my farm in Californy.

"She was white, and nothin' monst'ous, jest about the size of an
ordinary cow"--Captain Pharo drew an inaudible sigh of relief--"it was
the intellex of her and the sacredness; wal, the go-to-meet'n-ness of
her, as ye might say, that was so monst'ous an' so strange that I
trem'le to call it up ag'in; but I've promised, an' I will."

Belle O'Neill, pale in the darkness, stifled another gasp.

"She wa'n't nothin' byordinar' as a calf; run an' gambil around with
the other calves, bunt everythin', an' shake her heels out with the
sinfullest.  It was when she got to be a cow, and a old cow, that these
here ructions o' sacredness, as ye might say, begun to develop
themselves in her.

"First I knew, she wouldn't eat nothin': we warmed her mess an' we
salted it; no, nothin' 'u'd do.  We tried all manner o' gimcracks an'
fussin' with her.  Finally says Jim--my man--say she: 'Perhaps she's
the Sacred Cow,' says he, laffin', an' went in an' got a hymn-book an'
sot it up afore her, and"--Belle O'Neill shivered--"what does the old
cow do but pitch in and eat her mess regalar!  Minit we took that
hymn-book away or shet it up, she'd stop eatin'."

Captain Pharo and Uncle Coffin nudged each other in voiceless agony.  I
felt, but could not see, the calm irradiance of Captain Leezur's look.

"Then another singalar thing begun to be noticed.  All them 't drunk
the milk from her was took an' possessed to jine the church!  I use'
ter send out peddlin' carts o' milk--for my ranch was the biggest in
that section--it use' ter be all mixed together in course, an' the
smallest elemunt o' that old cow's milk in it made it jest the same as
ef 'twas all hern.  Sometimes I thought ser'ously whether I hadn't
ought to take her and go around an' start seasons o' special interest
with her all over the kentry; and then thinks I--no, I'll stay here and
I'll let 'em build new churches.  So they kep' a-goin' up--three new
Baptis', four new Methodis', in a month's time."

Captain Leezur was softly but strenuously sucking a nervine lozenge.  I
heard Captain Pharo crunching one down stormily, at the same time one
was pressed into my hand.  "They come high," whispered the beloved
voice; "cent apiece, dollar a hunderd, but----"

"But the strangest and singalarest of it all, I didn't find out till
'long toward the last.  I was a-milkin' on her one day, an' I spilled
the milk accidental, an' I said a word that I hadn't ort'er said.  When
she heered that she up an' kicked me, an' I give her tail a yank, an'
she began to sing----"

Belle O'Neill clutched me by the neck.

"I don' say that she sung as Vesty doos.  I don' say that she
pernounced the words jest regalar; but as fur as tune goes, she hit the
tune right squar' in the bull's eye every time.  She sung:

  "'From Greenlan's icy mountings,
    From Injy's coral stran',
  Whar Aferk's sunny fountings
    Roll down their goldin' san';'"

And when she got as fur as that"--Pershall showed evidences of lively
distress--"she keeled right over an' died."

"You've heered o' the tewn 't the old cow died on?  Wal, that 's whar
it all started, Jane; right thar.  That was the very cow and the very
event.  It was _my_ old cow that died."

"Give me sea-room here, by clam!" muttered Captain Pharo, shooting his
arms about.

"Ef I b'lieved in gho's, I sh'd say 't your but'ry was harnted, Jane,"
came from the kitchen the solemn and shifty voice of the
Man-Who-had-Been-in-California: "le's step around by the outside way to
the door whar the folks is.  Jest look at the stars, Jane," he
continued, when they were safe out.  "See anythin' o' my old cow up in
the Milky Way?  Down in the southern latitude, whar I was, the Milky
Way use' ter be so plain some nights 't ye could see----"

We lost it in the distance, as we returned, by the honorable and
legitimate highway now offered us, to the guest-room.  "I never keered
so much about money in the bank," said Uncle Coffin, giving me a nudge;
"all 't I ever as't for was luck!"

But I yearned in secret to know the developments of the Milky Way;
especially as the length of time absorbed by Pershal and Miss Pray in
walking between the two doors advised me with an only too tragic hint
of the marvel and interest I had lost.

I could not wonder that Vesty was now loftier toward me than ever.
Uncle Coffin, Captain Pharo, Captain Leezur and I kept close together
as a sort of brazen and disgraceful community.  Uncle Coffin, having to
retrace his steps to Artichoke, was the first to leave the party.

"I can't tell ye, Miss Pray," said he, "how much I've enjiyed the
evenin'--no, honest, I can't tell ye!"--he winked at Captain Pharo, who
choked and had to resort to song--"but I und'stand thar 's a happy
event comin', an' I wish ye jiy; ye know I do!"

As he disappeared down the road he indulged in a continued, loud, and
exact imitation of Admiral 'S I Sums-it-up (who was also a justice of
the peace, and who married people):

"G'long, ye old fool!  Git up, ye old skate!"

At which we all, including Pershal and Miss Pray, laughed inordinately,
gazing out into the sweet Basin night; and indeed I was even ready to
avow with my life that it was a joke of the extremest savor.  Even had
all Uncle Coffin's sins been known, he would have been forgiven.

Captain Leezur put on Vesty's shawl for her:

"Sence I'm the han'somest man in the room," he gurgled.

"So you are!"  The tender, girlish light of her great eyes was on him;
no kind look for me.

"Vesty!" Captain Leezur whispered, but a whisper that could not be dark
and secret to save itself; I heard: "why don't ye speak to major?  Ye
ain't spoke tew words tew him the hull endurin' evenin'."

She darted a dark flash at him too.

"Vesty!  Vesty!" said the beloved old man, in that whisper that so
thoroughly deceived him--"I know 't I set ye up to this bean-pole
business.  But it won't dew for both on ye to be bean-poles.  One or
the other on ye 's got to kile.  Neow, Vesty, ye know 't major 's got
some misfortin's in his looks 't makes him beound to be preoud; ye
wouldn't have him other ways.  Ye see, Vesty, he don't know 't----"

She stopped him with a haughty look.

"An' in course," said he, "I don't know, neither.  But it dews make me
feel dreadful t' think I've started sech a rank bean-pole farm as this,
when I've all'as told ye, my little gal, 't we'd ort'er use
moderation"--Captain Leezur wiped his blessed shining eyes--"moderation
in all things, even in passnips--I have said--an' neow I change it to
bean-poles."

Vesty's mouth quivered; her eyes looked fit to enfold the whole sinful
world for his sake.

"Good-night, major!" she said coldly; but she had spoken.  And,
beautiful and tall, she passed out of sight.

As Captain Leezur turned to me, in spite of the dark duplicity of his
conduct toward me, my heart gushed out to him unawares.  I grasped his
hand silently.



XXV

IN THE LANE

I met her on the morrow in the lane.  She would have passed me with a
mere morning salutation, but I spoke to her.  "I will tell the story at
least," I thought, "before I go away."

"Vesty," said I timidly.  Even the handsomest of the Basins were timid
in putting the question; and I, so miserable, and believing it not to
be a question at all, but only a confession, was choking.

"Yes, sir," said Vesty, with reassuring meekness, but there was
something wicked about her mouth and eyes.  O Vesty, had you been of
the world I fear you would have been a sad one!

"What did you mean," said I, starting in wise Basin fashion, at a
millennium distance from the intended point, "what did you mean, the
other night, when you said that you wished I had a mother?"

"Oh, because we all need them, for comfort--and then, sometimes--for
correction."

"And which did you think that I needed one for?"

Vesty turned her sheathed eyes away toward the safe west with a smile
that gave me no other answer.

"It is lifting to be a glorious day," I said.

"If you want to talk about the weather," rippled the girl's voice,
quite gently, "why don't you go and sit on the log with Captain Leezur?
He rolled down another this morning."

"I am going," I sighed.  "What do you think he would tell me about the
weather?"

"What we all say: 'The wind's canting in from the west, and you'll see
this fog hop.'"

"It is what I say, and shall say forever, in such a case.  'The wind's
canting in from the west, and you'll see this fog hop.'"

"You only pretend to be a Basin!"

"God forgive you!  No; I don't pretend.  I shall never get over it.  I
shall be one forever and ever, wherever I go, Vesty."

She looked down and paled.  "Are you going away, major?"

"Yes."  Then said I, looking at her, "How far do you think pity could
lead one, Vesty--you, so pitiful and kind?  Do you think that it could
even lead you--to marry me?  To take little Gurd and go away with
me--and help me to live--for pity?"

"No! oh, no!" she gasped.

"Then," said I, grasping hard on my cane with my feeble hand, "as God
wills!"

"Because," said Vesty, "I'm not so unselfish as that.  I can't marry
you for that reason--because--I love you!"

The red of the Basin sunset, that would be by and by unsurpassed,
glowed in her cheeks.

As for me--forever a Basin--I dashed my hand across my eyes.  A Voice
above land and sea rolled toward me in that moment, through her voice,
in gathering waves that covered all the pitiful accident and despair of
a maimed, halting, birth-marked universe:

"And the crooked places shall be made straight; and the rough places
plain.  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart."



XXVI

JUST THE SCHOOL-HOUSE

Waves, slowly, softly breaking, not on the Basin shore: though ever, in
remotest lands, we dream of that.

We hold it mystic more and more, for love of it!--ay, we have it
mingled in our thoughts with that one safe and sweet possession, the
Land unspoken, the Basin whose colors dawn at eventide!

And we never count: "Such an one was lost," and, "Such an one was
living, when we knew."  For there, there are none lost.  They live
again!

I suggested once that we should build a house fitting those grand
sea-cliffs, sometimes to occupy it.

But Vesty, ever wise, was silent, troubled, and I read her thought.

No, we should introduce no discordant element there, of liveries and
servants, and riches and seclusive walls, of _mine_ and _thine_.

"Mine _is_ thine if thou needest it," was ever the Basin code: "even my
life!"  Before such a spirit the admission of worldly wealth and rank
were tawdry.

But Vesty communicates with them (dear to me when they arrive are the
stamps unutterably erased by Lunette's faithful art): and we know that
they are happier for us, and by us comforted.

And do I never blush for Vesty in her new position?  Ay, a thousand
times, for pride and joy!  Her manners are from a high source indeed;
you will not find me any that are higher.

Full are her hands of charity and mercy, given, as the great Founder of
our nobilities gave, without stooping, of condescension.  Saint Vesta!
who gives a glory to my name it never had before--the high and noble
lady of my house!

And love makes, as fully as may be in this world, security about her
steps, which yet it would not hamper.

Driven in her state carriage, robed in velvet and sable, she is royal;
yet not so queenly, not so matchless, as when walking, pitiful, lonely,
and strong against misfortune, by the Basin shores, with her child
upheld upon her arm, and the old shawl.

One evening I found her by the window, gazing out wistfully where the
wind was tossing the rain, which ceased now and then in strange
intermittent gusts, still wild of the tempest.

She looked up at me with a smile, trustful, but earnest and pathetic.

"I want to go out in the storm," she said.

"Then go, child," I answered her.  "Your possessions are wide, and, as
we of the Basin say, you are not made of sugar, to melt; neither," I
added, "are you like Lot's wife."

She showed her fine teeth over that old tender and beloved
reminiscence, but the wistful look, and sad, was still in her eyes.

"And--I would like to put on the old shawl again, just this once," she
said.

"Oh," said I, "that is another thing.  That is priceless, and I have
it, as you know, locked among my treasures.  Still, this once, yes."
And I brought it to her.

Still smiling at me, as pleading for her fancy, she held it at her
throat as of old.

I made haste to resume my reading with seeming preoccupation apart, for
I thought she wished to go alone.

"Aren't you coming?" said she, wistfully again, and paled and turned to
me.

The look in her eyes--she wanted me!  Oh, how my heart leaped--a trick
taught it at the Basin, which now it will never get over.

But, sly as Captain Leezur, I hid my delight in the folds of my great
overcoat.

Long we walked together.  "What inspired you to this?  This is best of
all," I said.

"Why?" said Vesty, glowing and beautiful.

"Because now I see again that you are 'Vesty.'  And my Lady of M----
was a possible dream always.  But Vesty seemed unattainable.

"That rose color," I added, looking at her cheeks, "I never saw
anywhere except at certain sunsets--you know where."

For we of the Basin--however wilfully inclined sometimes, as Captain
Pharo--at heart bow down to our wives, and make love to them, long,
long after we are married: quite, indeed, until death do us part, as
all true Basins should.

"Paul!" said Vesty.  Now "Paul" was really my name, with considerable
before and after it, but never mind all that.

"Paul!"

"Well?" I said.

Confused with the rose-color blushes: "I forgot," she murmured, "what I
was going to say."

No, she had not forgotten it!  Her face was eloquent; only she cannot
talk with that fluency with which she can look beautiful and sigh.
Especially when she would express anything of deep feeling, she has a
way of brushing a speck of dust from my right shoulder, and letting her
hand rest there a moment, that tells me worlds, but would not go for
much, I admit, on a smart female rostrum.

But "Paul!" that voice creeps to me at all times, for counsel, for
sympathy; comes impulsively, that is the best of it--comes ever
impulsively.  I do not know why I am so blessed among my fellows!  Just
as the lad comes to me--he, too, of the highest breeding.  I never saw
a look of wonder or shrinking on his face; and once, in an illness that
he had he clung to me, cried for me, even above his mother.

I gave my heart to him then.  When a sick child, with a mother like
Vesty, turns and clings to one--well, it is like to set one up.

He quotes me, refers to me, defends me, apes all my mannerisms, and
struts with them proudly as clear legal type and documentary evidence.

He has my name, Gurdon "Paul," with the rest: he is my heir.  Handsome,
stalwart, as our race has notably been; loving, generous, fearless, all
that the world can give him will be his besides; tutors, splendors,
wide, luxurious travel, the entrance to glittering courts--only, God
grant that he may find just the Basin at last!--the true, the pitiful,
the pure of heart: that he may come up to the stature of his father,
who knew but one plain path, and that the royal one; who, in the battle
with fear and death, was greater than the storm.

So, often in rich and high cathedrals with Vesty by my side, the organ
has but to peal forth plaintively, and those stately, emblematic
windows fade away to others, broken, swaying in the wind, and the roar
of the tides comes in, and high above the great clouds pass wondrously.

And I think how the Christ, painted in purple and crimson glories in
these walls, and before whose image the hosts bow down, was a poor
Basin of the Basins, in His birth and in His death; who had never a
sure pillow, and who minded all woes save His own.

And above the written scroll of the preacher I hear the old prophetic
voice, how "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not
many noble, are called." . . .

Vesty walks this new way with me, that was not of her knowledge or
choosing with a patience in any tedious form or imposed convention, far
surpassing mine.

Then I tell her that I am only an adopted Basin, and have missed so
many of the first important years of good breeding; when I was taught
to be only moody, if I would, and solitary and selfish.

Then she turns the rose-color, and her eyes shine on me; and if I have
been patient with some vapid visitor, uttering weary commonplaces
(longing, oh how infinitely, all the while in my heart, for Captain
Leezur and the log!) she comes to me afterward, and leans over me with
a caress and says, "That 's a dear Basin!"

Thus I observe always my lady's rank, and am happy when she exalts me
to it.

Sometimes in dark hours, when gigantic shadows, unexplained, oppress
heart and soul----lo! the "Boys" play softly to us once again upon
instruments above our art, with a touch that thrills above these
masters.

We recognize that life is not a draught, either of joy or misery, but a
sweet, stern task set us, in a failing tenement; and half between
smiles and tears we dream how, to that darkening school-house, when the
shadows grow heartbroken and weary, some loving Basin, only great
because of the faith that was in him, shall come to lead us home.



THE END





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