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Title: An Accidental Honeymoon
Author: Potter, David
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "An Accidental Honeymoon" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                        AN ACCIDENTAL HONEYMOON

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            By DAVID POTTER

                          I FASTEN A BRACELET

                        "Fine Character Drawing"

                 Colored Frontispiece by Martin Justice
                   12mo, decorated cloth, $1.25 net.

                             --------------

                          THE LADY OF THE SPUR

               "A Story of Strong Men and Healthy Women"

             Colored Frontispiece by Clarence F. Underwood
                      12mo, decorated cloth, $1.50

                        J. B. Lippincott Company
                       PUBLISHERS    PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: ALL THAT GOLDEN AFTERNOON THEY SAILED, AND ALL THE
AFTERNOON THEY TALKED (Page 135)]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        AN ACCIDENTAL HONEYMOON

                                   By

                              DAVID POTTER
     Author of "The Lady of the Spur," "I Fasten a Bracelet," etc.

                     WITH ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLOR BY

                             GEORGE W. GAGE

                           AND DECORATIONS BY

                        EDWARD STRATTON HOLLOWAY

                             [Illustration]

                        PHILADELPHIA AND LONDON
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                                  1911

------------------------------------------------------------------------

              COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
              COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

                        PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 1911

                  PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                     AT THE WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS
                         PHILADELPHIA, U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             ILLUSTRATIONS

    All that Golden Afternoon They Sailed, and all the Afternoon
    They Talked

    "But You've Been Standing in the Water all This Time! What am I
    Thinking of!"

    He Waved His Hat from the Gate

    Miss Yarnell Mounted the Pair of Steps from the Cabin

    "I'm Afraid You'll Find the Cabin-Door Catch is Broken," said
    Madge Yarnell in an Undertone

    "Good-Morning, Patience-on-a-Monument"

    "Betty, Allow Me to Drink Your Health in Jersey Molly Wine"

    All the Chivalry in Fessenden's Nature Stirred at Her Words

------------------------------------------------------------------------

              MR. FRANCIS CHARLES MCDONALD, OF PRINCETON
              UNIVERSITY, IS THE AUTHOR OF THE POEM, "BOB
              WHITE," MADE USE OF IN THIS STORY. I BEG TO
              EXPRESS MY GRATITUDE FOR HIS PERMISSION TO
              AVAIL MYSELF OF IT.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        AN ACCIDENTAL HONEYMOON



                                   I


Fessenden put the girl gently down on the flat rock at the edge of the
stream.

"There you are, little woman," he said. "You really ought to be careful
how you go splashing about. If you hadn't screamed in time----"

"Did I scream?"

"Rather! Lucky you did."

"I didn't scream because I was afraid. I stumbled and--and I thought I
saw an eel in that pool, ready to bite me. Eels _do_ bite."

"Undoubtedly--horribly!"

He stepped back with a little flourish of the hat in his hand. "I beg
your pardon," he said. "I took you for a child. That dress, you know,
and----"

"And my being in paddling."

"I'm afraid I've been rather presumptuous."

The color in her cheeks deepened a little. "Not at all. It's my own
fault. This afternoon--just for an hour or two--I've been
dreaming--pretending I wasn't grown up. It's so sad to be grown up."

His eyes sparkled with instant sympathy. "After all, are you so _very_
old?"

She was seventeen or thereabouts, he guessed--a girl lately arrived at
womanhood. Her hair was arranged in a bewildering fashion, requiring a
ribbon here and there to keep its blonde glory within bounds. Beneath
the dark brows and darker lashes blue eyes showed in sudden
flashes--like the glint of bayonets from an ambush. The delicately
rounded cheeks, just now a little blushing, and the red-lipped mouth,
made her look absurdly young.

She had sunk to a seat upon the rock. One foot was doubled under her,
and the other, a white vision veiled by the water, dangled uncertainly,
as if inclined to seek the retirement possessed by its fellow. His gaze
lingered on the curve of throat and shoulder.

"If Phidias were only alive----" he said.

"Phidias?"

[Illustration: "BUT YOU'VE BEEN STANDING IN THE WATER ALL THIS TIME!
WHAT AM I THINKING OF!"]

"A Greek friend of mine, dead some years. He would have loved to turn
you into marble."

She gave a little crowing laugh, delightful to hear. "I'd much rather
stay alive."

"You are right. Better be a Greek goddess alive, than one dead."

She laughed again, "You're--unusual."

He bowed with another flourish. "Then, so are you."

Their eyes met frankly. "Thank you for coming to my rescue," she said.
"But you've been standing in the water all this time! What am I thinking
of! Come up here."

She sprang to her feet, as if to make room for him upon the rock, but
sank back quickly. He gave her a scrutinizing glance.

"What was that I heard?"

"I asked you to get out of that horrid water. It must be frightfully
cold."

He shook an admonitory finger. "Bravely done, but you can't fool me so
easily. I heard a moan, and--and I won't remark that you're crying."

"You'd--better not."

"You hurt yourself when you stumbled." His firm hand was on her
shoulder.

"No--n-o. Well, even if I did turn my ankle, I'm not crying. It's very
tactless of you to notice."

He tried to catch a glimpse of the slim leg through the dancing water.
It swung back in vigorous embarrassment.

"The other ankle, then?"

"Ye-es."

"I'm awfully sorry. Can't I do something?"

"I think I'll go home."

"But you can't walk."

"I think so. Isn't this just too tiresome? I _will_ walk."

She rose to her feet at the word, but, once there, gave a cry, and stood
tottering. His arm caught her about the waist.

"Where do you live? Near here anywhere?"

"Oh, yes; just up the lane. But it might as well be ten miles." Her
brave laugh was half a sob.

"Not a bit of it! Hold tight."

She flushed and gave an astonished wriggle as she found herself lifted
and borne up the lane.

"Don't squirm so, child," he ordered.

"You're carrying me!"

"Oh, no! We're playing lawn-tennis."

"Goodness! You fairly _grabbed_ me."

"Perhaps I ought to have asked your permission, but if I had you might
have refused it."

She laughed. "I think I should."

"It's too late now," he said contentedly. "Does the foot hurt?"

"Not much, thank you--thank you, Mr.----"

He was obdurately silent. She tried again.

"Thank you, Mr. ----. Please, what's your name?"

"'Puddin' Tame,'" he laughed.

"'Where do you live?'" she chanted delightedly.

"'Down the lane.' No, _you_ live down the lane."

"It isn't far now. Are you tired?"

"Oh, no! I'm doing very well, thank you."

"Perhaps you'd better rest."

"By no means. I hope you live over the hills and far away."

"You aren't bashful, are you, Mr. Puddin' Tame?"

"H'm." He peered down at the injured ankle. "How's the foot?"

"A little--cold."

"I'm afraid the wrench has interfered with the circulation. Poor child!"

"Really, it doesn't hurt--not much."

"I see you were born to be a heroine."

"And you're a 'knight comes riding by, riding by, riding by'----"

"'So early in the morning,'" he finished. "If the knight were sure you
thought so"--his eyes were on her cheek--"he might claim a knight's
reward."

She fell abruptly silent.

The Maryland spring was well advanced, and the path along which they
moved was carpeted with flowers. The blue bells of the wild myrtle swung
almost at their feet. Scarlet runners rioted over the low stone wall at
their hand. The sycamores and oaks were clothed in tenderest green.
Beyond the left-hand wall, rows of peach-trees marched away, flaunting
banners of pink and white.

Fessenden heard the tinkle of the brook, winding in the shadow of
overhanging banks. Sights and sounds lulled him. He felt himself in
harmony with the quiet mood of the girl in his arms.

Truly this was an unexpected adventure! His eyes rested upon the piquant
face so near his own. It possessed a refinement of outline that was
belied by the humble fashion of her gown and by the position in which he
had surprised her. The precocious daughter of a farmer, perhaps, or at
best the neglected child of one of the war-ruined "first families of the
South."

He found himself speculating upon the sort of house he was likely to
discover at the end of the lane--perhaps a crumbling colonial mansion,
equipped with a Confederate colonel and a faithful former slave or two.

He smiled unconsciously at the red mouth, and was somewhat disconcerted
to find the blue eyes watching him.

"Were you making fun of me, Mr. Puddin' Tame?"

"Word of honor, no! I was smiling to be in harmony with the day, I
fancy."

"Maryland _is_ lovely. You're a Northern man, aren't you?"

"I freely admit it. But I'm on my way to a house-party at Sandywood."

"Sandywood?"

"Yes. You know it, of course?"

"Of course. It's just over the hill from the Landis house--our house.
Sandywood is the old Cary place."

"I don't know. I'm to visit a family named Cresap."

"It's the same place. The Cresaps are only occupying it for a while."

"Then you know Mrs. Cresap?"

"Hum-m. Aunty Landis knows her, but I suppose she doesn't know _us_--not
in the way you mean. I live with Aunt Katey Landis at White Cottage.
Uncle Bob Landis supplies Sandywood with eggs and butter and milk."

"Oh, I see."

"You've never been on the Eastern Shore before?"

"Never. But I've learned to like it already. To rescue a girl from
man-eating eels, and----"

"Girls don't go in wading every day, even on the Eastern Shore."

"If they did, I'd walk over from the railroad station straight through
the year."

"From Sandywood Station?"

"Yes. I was delayed in Baltimore on account of meeting a friend there,
so there wasn't any one at the station to meet me. I'm a good walker,
and----"

"And the fairies led you down the wood-road in time to save disobedient
me."

"Disobedient?"

She nodded. "Aunty Landis told me that I mustn't go in wading. She said
it was not becoming--that it was very improper."

"How unreasonable!"

"That's what I thought. But I wish now I'd obeyed her."

"But that would have meant that the poor knight would have ridden by
without an excuse for knowing you."

"Alas! Well, your task is nearly done. We must be near White Cottage."

"Don't say that."

She glanced about, and then gave a wriggle so violent that she almost
slipped from his arms.

"Put me down!"

"What's the matter?"

"We're nearer than I thought. There's the big oak. The lane comes right
up to the back door. The house is on the main road, you know. Put me
down!"

"But why shouldn't I carry you into the house?"

"Because--oh, because Aunty Landis would be terribly frightened! She'd
think something dreadful had happened to me. Please put me down. I can
limp along, if you'll let me use your arm."

He allowed her to slip slowly to the ground. "There you are, then; but
be careful."

A sigh of relief escaped her as she tried her weight gingerly on the
injured foot.

"It's ever so much better. I won't even have to hop." Her face was
upturned earnestly. "Thank you very much, Mr. Puddin' Tame. You've been
very kind."

"You're very welcome," he returned, and, seized by a sudden paternal
tenderness, he stooped and kissed the red-lipped mouth.

She stepped back with a sharp "Oh!" mingled of anger and the pain of her
twisted ankle. "Oh! Why did you do that? We were having such fun,
and--and now you've spoiled the whole afternoon. What a--a perfectly
silly thing to do!"

He quailed before the bayonets flashing in the blue eyes.

"I was carried away," he said humbly.

"I hate you!"

"No, no. Don't--please don't do that. Of course I was
wrong--unpardonably wrong, I suppose--but you looked so young,
and--well, so adorable, that I---- Oh, please don't hate me!"

His gloom was so profound that, in spite of herself, she felt her wrath
begin to melt.

"If you're sure you're very sorry----"

"I'm in the dust," he evaded.

"Then--all right." She smiled a little, but with caution--he should not
be allowed to think himself too easily restored to favor. "I frightened
you, didn't I? And you ought to have been frightened. But to show you I
trust you now, I'll use your arm as a crutch. Come on. Oh, _what_ a
delicious sight for poor Aunty Landis!"

Truly enough, the spectacle brought to her feet a motherly-looking woman
who had been knitting on the porch of White Cottage.

"Good gracious, child! What's the matter?" She fluttered down the steps
to meet the bedraggled adventurers. "Have you hurt yourself, dearie? Oh,
dear, dear! What is it? Have you broken your leg?"

"I'm all right, Aunty. Don't worry. My ankle _might_ be turned a little,
that's all. This gentleman has been very kind to me, and helped me
home."

The woman made Fessenden a spasmodic bow. "I'm sure we're much obliged
to you, sir. Is it your ankle, dearie? I told you not to go in wading.
The idea of such a thing, and you a young lady!"

"Now, Aunty, please don't scold me--not until my foot's fixed, at any
rate."

Although the girl's lips quivered warningly, Fessenden could have sworn
her eyes laughed slyly. But the older woman's vexation was effectually
dissolved by the other's pitiful tone.

"There, there! You poor silly baby! Come right in, and I'll put your
foot in hot water and mustard. That'll take the soreness out." She
passed her arm lovingly about the girl's slender shoulders and was
leading her away without more ado. The girl hung back.

"Aunty, I haven't thanked him--half."

"I'm sure the gentleman's been very good," said Mrs. Landis, "but he
knows your foot ought to be soaked in hot water just as soon as can be.
There won't be any too much time to do it before supper, any way."

"By all means," agreed Fessenden. "I'm very glad if I've been of
service." Mischief awoke in his glance. "I've had ample reward for
anything I've been able to do."

The blood crept into the girl's cheeks, but she was not afraid to meet
his eyes.

"Good-by," he said with evident reluctance. "I hope your ankle will be
well very soon." The laughing imps in her eyes suddenly emboldened him.
"May I come to-morrow evening to see how you're getting on?"

"Of course--if you like. We're through supper by half-past seven,
and----"

"Supper?" he returned, and paused so pointedly that the girl laughed
outright.

[Illustration: HE WAVED HIS HAT FROM THE GATE]

"O-oh! Would you care to come to supper with us, really?"

"Don't ask me unless you're in earnest."

"Will you come, then, at half-past six?"

"I'll come. Thank you--immensely. Good-night. Good-night, Mrs. Landis."

"Good-night, good-night, Mr. Puddin' Tame," called the girl as she
hobbled up the steps, supported on the older woman's arm.

He waved his hat from the gate, and the girl blew him a smiling kiss--to
the very evident embarrassment of Aunty Landis.



                                   II


Fessenden turned to the right on the main road. At a little distance he
paused to glance back at White Cottage.

There was nothing of the colonial manor-house in its lines. Clearly, it
had always been the home of humble folk. He fancied that good Aunty
Landis--whose husband supplied Sandywood "with eggs and milk and
butter"--would be the last to lay claim to gentility.

It was a little disappointing to be compelled to abandon his dream of a
Confederate colonel and of a decayed "first family."

"But the little girl is perfectly charming," he mused, and strode up the
road humming:

                    "Oh, she smashed all the hearts
                    Of the swains in them parts,
                        Did Mistress Biddy O'Toole."

The directions given him by the station-master at Sandywood Station had
been so clear that, although a stranger to this part of the country,
Fessenden had found his way thus far easily enough.

Now, as he topped the rise, his eyes fell at once upon Sandywood House:
a buff-and-white structure, with the pillared expansiveness of a true
colonial mansion. It was set upon a knoll, across an intervale, the wide
expanse of the Chesapeake shimmering in front of it. Ardent Marylanders
had been known to maintain that it was fully the equal of Mount Vernon
itself.

The avenue leading up toward the back of the house from the main road
wound a couple of hundred yards through a garden of box and lilac, then
swept the pedestrian about an ell to the steps of a demilune porch, and
almost vis-à-vis with half a dozen men and women drinking tea.

A plump, neutral-tinted woman, a trifle over-gowned, hurried forward to
greet him.

"Why, Tom Fessenden!" she exclaimed. "So here you are at last! You bad
man, you didn't come on the right train. Your things arrived this
morning, but when the car came back from the station without you, I
thought you'd backed out. The next thing I was expecting was a letter
from you, saying you couldn't come at all, you irresponsible man!"

"I _would_ have been a loser."

"Ve-ry pretty. Really, though, we _have_ a jolly crowd here. All
complete except for Roland Cary. If Roland Cary hadn't notions!"

"Is any man foolish enough to decline an invitation from you?"

"Any man? Oh, Roland Cary's a cousin."

"Lucky man! Madam, may I ask if he is so attractive that you wish he had
come instead of me?"

"I wanted--wanted him to be here with you, silly. He--he is perfectly
charming. You know, I'm half afraid of _you_. You're such a superior old
Yankee that I dare say you despise us Marylanders, and were as late in
getting here as you _dared_ to be." The perennial challenge of the
Southern belle was in her tones.

Fessenden laughed. "I ran across Danton in Baltimore. Blame it all on
him."

"Charlie Danton? Oh, isn't he most exasperating! Now, come up and meet
everybody. Boys and girls, this is Mr. Fessenden--Mrs. Randall and Dick
Randall, over there. And Pinckney--Pinck, do get out of that chair long
enough to be polite!--my lord and master, Tom. That's my cousin, May
Belle--May Belle Cresap--and Harry Cleborne; and _this_ is Miss Yarnell,
the celebrated Miss Madge Yarnell; and--and that's all. How funny! I do
believe I'm the only one of us you've ever met before."

"That proves how benighted I've been," he returned. "But what can you
expect of a man who's never been on the Eastern Shore?"

Detecting something proprietary in the manner of the young man who hung
over the back of Miss May Belle Cresap's chair, he abandoned his thought
of taking a seat next that languid lady, and instead inserted himself
deftly between Pinckney Cresap and Miss Madge Yarnell.

Cresap shook hands heartily. "Glad to see you, Fessenden. I've heard a
lot of you from Polly ever since she knew you in New York--before she
did me the honor to marry me. Glad you've got down to see us on our
native heath at last." He poked a rather shaky finger at the stranded
mint-leaf in the empty glass before him. "A julep? No? You mentioned
Charlie Danton just now. You've heard about his high doings, I suppose.
Perhaps you're in his confidence?"

"Not at all. He's in mine, to the extent of persuading me to buy a small
yacht of his this morning--sight unseen. He promised to telegraph over
this way somewhere and have it sent around to your boat-landing--if
you'll allow me."

"Of course. My man will take care of it when it turns up. Danton's a
queer one." He rattled his empty glass suggestively at his wife.

"He seemed as cynical as ever," commented Fessenden.

"He ought to be. They say that if it were befo' de wah' he'd have to
meet a certain Baltimore man on the field of honor--a married man, you
understand. Coffee and pistols for two!"

Fessenden was willing to elude the foreshadowed gossip. "We're shocking
Miss Yarnell, I'm afraid."

The girl was, indeed, sitting with averted head, her face set rather
sternly.

"Eh! Oh, I beg your pardon, Madge," said Cresap, with real concern.

"I hardly heard what you were saying," she rejoined. "I was thinking of
something else."

Her voice was unusually deep and mellow, and Fessenden's sensitive ear
thrilled pleasurably. He glanced toward her.

She was a decided brunette. Her eyes as they met his had a certain
defiant challenge, a challenge at once bold and baffling. The distance
between her eyes was a trifle too great for perfect beauty, but her
complexion was transparently pale, and her teeth were wonderfully white
and even. The poise of her head was almost regal, and she had a trick of
coming very close to one as she talked, that was very disconcerting.

On the whole, Miss Yarnell was a charming person of twenty-three or
four, and he began to have a decided appreciation of the adjective Polly
Cresap had applied to her. Moreover, the sombre challenge in her dark
eyes impelled him to further investigation, under the clatter of teacups
and small talk about them.

"Why 'celebrated,' Miss Yarnell?" he began. "Why 'celebrated' rather
than 'beautiful' or 'stunning' or downright 'handsome'?"

"Polly's rather silly," said Miss Yarnell.

"Are you dodging?"

"I never dodge. But Polly _is_ silly--yes, she's unkind, although she'd
be in tears if she dreamed I thought so. She ought not to have called me
_that_. No, I don't dodge, but I suppose I can refuse to answer."

He declined to notice the ungraciousness of her response. "Oh, of
course, but I'm certain to learn the reason you're 'celebrated' from
some one--badly garbled, too," he laughed.

Contrary to the spirit of his badinage, she seemed resolved to take
him seriously. "That's true. I may as well tell you. I'm
celebrated--'notorious' would be a better word--because of that affair
in Baltimore last year. I was an idiot."

"Hard words for yourself. I think I don't understand."

"You don't know Baltimore, then?"

"Very little. The Club is about all, and that not more than once or
twice a year."

"The Club! If you've been there once this winter, I'm afraid you've
heard of _me_. I'm Madge Yarnell, _the_ Madge Yarnell, the girl who tore
down the flag at the cotillion."

"O-oh!" He gave her a long stare. "It was _you_."

She winced before the contempt in his tone, and her eyes glistened
suddenly. "I'm confessing to you," she reminded him with a humility that
he knew instinctively was wholly unwonted. "I'm not proud of what I did,
although some of my friends"--her glance swept over Polly Cresap--"are
still foolish enough to tease me about it."

Compelled by his eyes and the light touch of his hand on her arm, she
rose with him, and they sauntered together to the isolation of a pillar
on the porch-edge.

The great bay, now purpling with the first hint of sunset, stretched
from the foot of the knoll to the hazy hills of the western shore.
Little red glints flashed from the surface of the water and seemed to be
reflected in the depths of Miss Yarnell's sombre eyes.

She stood with her hands behind her, her head turned a little from him,
but held very proudly. A strong woman, evidently; a passionate one,
perhaps; a devoted one, if the right man were found. Fessenden, studying
her covertly, realized that for the second time that day he had
encountered a girl who stirred in him an interest novel and delightful.

"Tell me about it, Miss Yarnell," he said at last. "I've only heard that
you refused to enter the cotillion room so long as the Stars and Stripes
decorated the doorway, and that finally you took down the flag with your
own hands. I remember the _Evening Post_ had a solemn editorial on the
sinister significance of your alleged performance. It couldn't have been
true--I realize that now that I know you. No one could accuse you--you
of--that is----"

"Of vulgarity. Thank you for being too kind to say it. But I'm afraid
most of it's true."

"I can't believe it."

She turned a grateful glance upon him. His steady, reassuring smile
seemed to give her a long-needed sense of comfort and protection. In
spite of herself, her eyes fell before his, and her cheeks reddened a
little.

"I'll tell you all about it," she said. "I did it on a dare. A year ago
I was unbelievably silly--I've learned a great deal in a year. A man
dared me--and I did it."

"I don't acquit you--quite; but what an egregious cad the man must have
been!"

"No, no, don't think that. He never dreamed I would really dare. But I
was determined to show him I wasn't afraid--wasn't afraid of
anything--not even of him."

"Of him?"

"Yes."

"O-oh!" he said slowly. "I see. Well, _were_ you afraid--afterward?"

She swung her hands from behind her back and struck them together with a
sudden gesture of anger.

"No, but I hated him. I hate him! Not that he wasn't game. When I turned
to him with that dear flag dangling in my hand, he swept me off in a
two-step, flag and all. But he smiled. Oh, how he smiled!" She drew a
long breath. "D---- his smile!" Her desperate little oath was only
pathetic. "I can see that triumphant twist about the corner of his mouth
now, like a crooked scar."

"Good Lord! Charlie Danton!"

Her startled look confirmed the guess her words denied. "No, no."

"By Jove! don't I know that smile? We were in college together, you
know, and I've made him put on the gloves with me more than once on
account of that devilish smile. But I'll do him the justice to believe
that he didn't really suppose you'd take that dare." He interrupted
himself to laugh a little. "How seriously we're talking! After all, it's
no great matter if a--a rather foolish girl did a rather foolish thing."

She refused to be enlivened. "I had it out with him," she said. "And
since then we haven't seen anything of each other. You heard what
Pinckney Cresap said just now?"

"About Danton and the possibility of a duel?"

"Yes. I'm afraid that's partly my fault. I sent him away, and----"

"I see. If he's weak enough to seek consolation in that way, he deserves
to lose you."

She smiled frankly. "You're very, very comforting. I'm glad I confessed
to you--it's done me good."

The clatter of the group at the tea-table behind them had effectually
muffled the sound of their voices. Their eyes and thoughts, too, had
been so preoccupied that it was only now they became aware of a small
boy standing on the gravelled walk in front of them. He wore a checked
shirt and patched trousers on his diminutive person, and freckles and a
disgusted expression on his face.

"Gee Whilliken!" exclaimed this apparition, with startling vehemence. "I
been standin' here 'most an hour, I bet, without you lookin' at me
oncet. I'm Jimmy Jones."

"Welcome, scion of an illustrious family!" said Fessenden. "What is your
pleasure?"

"Ah, g'wan," returned Master Jones. "I got a letter, that's what. I got
a letter here for----" He broke off to scan his questioner closely.
"You're the man, ain't you? Tall, good-looker, wet pants. Say, Mister,
ain't your name Puddin' Tame?"

"'Puddin' Tame'?" asked Miss Yarnell, smiling. "Is it a game you want to
play, kiddy?"

"No, ma'am, 'tain't a game. I want to see _him_. Say, ain't you Puddin'
Tame?"

"I've been called so," admitted Fessenden, surprised but greatly
diverted. "But I'll let you into a secret, Jimmy: it's not my real
name."

"Aw, who said it was? Don't I know it's a nickname? Guess I heard of
Puddin' Tame before you was born."

"I believe your guess is incorrect, James."

"No, 'tain't neither. Say, here's the letter for you. There ain't no
answer." He thrust an envelope into Fessenden's fingers, and disappeared
around the corner of the house with a derisive whoop.

The sound served to divert the tea-drinkers from their chatter.

"What! A _billet doux_ already?" said Mrs. Dick Randall. "This _is_
rushing matters, Mr. Fessenden. I think it's only fair you should let us
know who she is." A chorus of exclamations followed, in which, however,
Miss Yarnell did not join.

"Polly," said Cresap at last, "don't tease Fessenden. Rather, if your
inferior half may venture the humble suggestion, I would urge a casual
glance at his trousers. What do you see, Little Brighteyes?"

"Goodness, Tom! They're _wet_. Positively dripping!"

"I lost my way coming over, and had to wade through a brook."

"And I never noticed it until now. And I declare I haven't given you a
chance to get to your room yet. Pinck, why _didn't_ you remind me? Ring
the bell, please. Tom, you must change your things right away."

Alone in his room, Fessenden read the note delivered by the cadet of the
house of Jones.

    DEAR MR. PUDDIN' TAME:

    Shall we have it for a secret that you're coming to supper at
    our house to-morrow? We aren't quality folk, and maybe Mrs.
    Cresap wouldn't like it. So please don't breathe it to a soul,
    but just steal away, and come.

                                                              BETTY.



                                  III


Before luncheon the next day, Fessenden had begun to acquire some
acquaintance with the members of the Sandywood house-party--a particular
acquaintance with the celebrated Miss Yarnell. It did not take him long
to perceive that Miss Yarnell and he had been provided for each other's
amusement. Harry Cleborne's fatuous devotion to May Belle
Cresap--Fessenden rather disliked the two-part Christian name--and the
good-natured cliquishness of the four married people, threw upon him the
duty of entertaining the unattached bachelor girl. He took up the burden
with extraordinary cheerfulness.

Pinckney Cresap watched his progress, frankly interested. Once, indeed,
he took occasion to compliment him.

"You Northerners _have_ some temperament, I see. If only Roland Cary
were here, my boy!"

"He would have even more, I suppose," laughed Fessenden. "Polly told me
about him yesterday."

"Eh? Oh, yes, so she was telling me. Oh, I'm not sure about the
temperament--unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to judge." He
chuckled. "But there's a charm there, that's certain." He chuckled
again, as if vastly amused at the recollection of some humor of Roland
Cary's. "An eligible _parti_," he went on. "The head of _the_ first
family of Maryland. Father and mother both dead--brought up by a doting
great-uncle."

"Confound him! I'm quite jealous. Where is he? Doesn't he dare show
himself?"

"Off on some philanthropic scheme, I believe. Roland Cary has notions.
But you needn't be jealous--you're doing very well with Madge Yarnell."

Toward noon, as they were all debating whether or not a game of tennis
was worth while, a trim-looking sloop rounded a wooded point of the bay
shore, and ran down toward the boat-landing.

"I think that's your yacht, Fessenden," said Cresap. "If Danton has been
keeping her up at the Polocoke River Club, she'd be just about due here
now."

"Let's all go down and have a look at her."

A hat or two had to be gotten, and by the time they reached the
landing-stage the boat was already tied up. A sunburned man touched his
cap to the party.

"Mr. Charles Danton's _Will-o'-the-Wisp_," he said. "I was to deliver
her at the Cary place, to Mr. Fessenden."

"I'm Mr. Fessenden. She looks like a good boat."

"There ain't any better of her class from Cape May to Hatteras," said
the boatman. "It's a pity Mr. Danton's got the power-boat idea in his
head."

"Yes, he told me that was one of the reasons he's giving up the
_Will-o'-the-Wisp_. He's bought a hundred-ton steam-yacht, I believe."

"That's right, sir. Well, she's all right, and I'm to be master of her,
so I guess I hadn't ought to complain, but, after all, a real sailer is
better, _I_ think, sir."

The boat was sloop-rigged, seaworthy rather than fast, and, for her
length, very broad of beam and astonishingly roomy. Spars and deck were
spick and span in new ash, and her sides glistened with white paint.

"Would you like to go over her?" suggested the boatman. "Here's the keys
to everything, Mr. Fessenden--the rooms, and these are for the lockers
and the water-tanks."

The party clambered aboard and proceeded to explore the little craft.
The women exclaimed with surprise and delight.

"Two cabins!" said Mrs. Dick Randall. "One at each end--do you see,
Polly? And what's this cunning cubby-hole between the rooms?"

"That's the galley, ma'am," answered the boatman. "The kitchen, you'd
call it. Do you see that little oil-stove, there? Big enough to do
what's wanted plenty. Yes'm, she's as well found as any old-time
Baltimore clipper, she is. A cabin aft for the owner, and a fok's'l room
for me. Mr. Danton used to say he had a right to make me comfortable, if
he wanted to. You know his queer ways, maybe. We kept the stores in
those lockers. She's got some of 'em aboard yet."

"I should say so," declared Polly, who had been rummaging about. "Potted
tongue and jams, and a whole ham, and, I declare, here's the sweetest
little coffee-tin full of coffee!"

"Mr. Danton was thinkin' of takin' a cruise," explained the boatman.
"And when you bought the _Wisp_, sir, he telegraphed to turn her over
right away, in case you wanted to use her while you was here. Well,
gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, I'll be walkin' over to the station to
catch my train back to Polocoke." He touched his cap and tramped away up
the knoll toward the road.

"Let's all go for a sail in her," said May Belle.

At the suggestion, an idea sprang full-grown into Fessenden's mind.

"Some other time," he returned. "I'd rather try her out by myself first.
I want to see if she has any mean tricks before I risk any life besides
my own. If the wind's right, I may tack about a bit this afternoon."

He realized that he had explained too elaborately--Miss Yarnell bent an
intent look upon him. As he was returning up the pathway at her
side--the others a safe distance ahead--she touched his arm.

"Please take me with you when you go sailing this afternoon?"

"Oh, I may not go. If I do, I think you'd better not. You see, the
_Wisp_ may be a crank."

"Nonsense! Besides, I'm a good sailor--swimmer too. I shouldn't care if
we were capsized."

"I'd care for you."

"Please take me. I want particularly to go."

"Really, I can't."

"You mean you won't!"

"I'd rather not, at any rate."

Again her intent look surprised him. "Not if I bent 'on bended knee' to
you?"

"Not if you begged me with bitter tears," he laughed.

"I thought you wouldn't, before I asked you," she said broodingly. "I
knew it would be of no use."

"You did? Why do you want so much to go?"

"If I tell you that, will you tell me why you won't take me?"

"I can't promise. But what reason can there be except that I don't care
to risk your life in a boat I know nothing about?"

"What solicitude!" she said with sarcasm. "'Men were deceivers ever.'"

She gave him an enigmatic smile as they took up their tennis rackets.

Beyond an amused wonder at the vagaries of the modern American--or, at
any rate, Maryland--girl, this incident made little impression on
Fessenden's mind, occupied as it was with schemes of its own. By the
time luncheon had been over an hour or two, however, and it drew on to
the time when he might be expected to take out the _Will-o'-the-Wisp_,
he confidently anticipated a renewal of Miss Yarnell's request.

He was downright disappointed, therefore, when the young woman in
question announced that she had a slight headache and thought a nap
would do her good. Polly and Mrs. Dick chorused hearty approval, and
Pinckney advised a julep.

Thus supported, Miss Yarnell mounted the staircase from the wide
hallway, not vouchsafing a single glance at Fessenden, who lingered
rather ostentatiously about in his yachting flannels. Although his
determination--as whimsical as the girl who had inspired it--to keep his
projected visit to White Cottage a secret forbade the presence of Madge
Yarnell upon the _Wisp_, he would willingly have had another trial of
wits with her. However, this was denied him.

Mrs. Dick and Polly made perfunctory petitions to accompany him, easily
waved aside. Dick Randall himself and Cresap were too lazy even to offer
their companionship. May Belle and her follower had taken themselves off
an hour before. Thus Fessenden found nothing to hinder his announced
plan of trying out the _Wisp_ alone.

"I'm off," he declared. "By the way, if I'm not back for dinner, don't
worry, and don't wait dinner for me. The wind may fall and make it a
drifting match against time, you know, so don't think of delaying
dinner, if I don't turn up."

Once on board the sloop, he cast off, hoisted mainsail and jib, and
stood away to the northward.

Although unfamiliar with the dry land of Maryland, Fessenden was not
entirely so with its waters. Once or twice he had taken a cruise on the
fickle Chesapeake, and he was fairly well acquainted with the character
of the sailing and the configuration of the bay.

Moreover, he had given a half-hour's close study to some of Cresap's
charts that morning. He knew, therefore, that his first long reach on
the starboard tack would take him well clear of the land. Thence he
planned to come about and sail with the wind to a little cove he had
noticed on the map. This cove lay a mile or so above Sandywood, and was
concealed therefrom by a heavily-wooded point. He counted upon making a
landing there about six o'clock.

It was a delightful day for sailing. The breeze was firm, but not too
strong--just brisk enough to ruffle the water with a steady purr under
the bow as the sloop slid up into the wind.

In pure enjoyment Fessenden whistled shrilly and sang snatches of song.
His trip had enough of mystery about it to arouse all the boy in him.
The thought of his evasion of Miss Yarnell's importunity, too, made him
laugh aloud. To be sure, his merriment was a little diminished by his
recollection that she had shown no desire to accompany him at the last.
Was she merely whimsical, he wondered, or had she acted with a motive?

He hauled the mainsail a trifle tauter, and watched with critical eye
the flattening of the canvas. The _Wisp_ fairly sailed herself, and
needed little attention. He burst into song:

                 "And bends the gallant mast, my boys,
                   While, like the eagle fre-e-e,
                 Away the good ship flies and leaves
                   Old England on her lee."

He stopped. The wind pushed persistently at the flattening sail; the
water purred under the bow; the shore was already hazy behind him. These
things were as they ought to be, yet he had become conscious that
something extraordinary had interrupted his flow of song.

His eyes, sweeping the whole horizon, came back to the sloop, surveyed
her slowly from bowsprit to rudder-post, and rested finally on the
closed double-doors of the little cabin that faced him across the
cockpit.

At that moment a loud knocking shook the latticed doors. Then a mellow
voice spoke distinctly:

                "'Behind no prison grate,' she said,
                  'That slurs the sunshine half a mile,
                Live captives so uncomforted
                  As souls behind a smile--
                God's pity let us pray,' she said."

The doors were flung open, and framed in the hatchway appeared the upper
part of the body, the dark hair, the defiant eyes, and the
faintly-smiling mouth of the celebrated Miss Madge Yarnell.

[Illustration: MISS YARNELL MOUNTED THE PAIR OF STEPS FROM THE CABIN]



                                   IV


For a moment Fessenden could only stare. Then he gave a long whistle.

"This Maryland climate is--extraordinary!" he remarked to the horizon.

Miss Yarnell mounted the pair of steps from the cabin to the level of
the cockpit, and seated herself on the lockers.

"I simply had to come," she explained.

"Marvellous impulsion!"

"I'm not welcome, then?"

"I'm afraid you've guessed it."

"Obstinate--man!"

"Artful--woman!"

"You are a very chilly person. I think I'll begin to hate you pretty
soon."

"Really!"

"Now that I'm here, you might as well make the best of it. Please, sir,
I'll try to be very agreeable and entertaining, if you'll only be kind
to me."

"You'd move a heart of stone, but mine's a diamond. You're always
charming--I admit that freely--but I can't consider that in this
particular situation. No, no. 'Off with your head; so much for
Bolingbroke.'" He braced the wheel against his knee and began to haul in
the sheet.

"You're going back?"

"Yes."

"To put me ashore?"

"Right, my lady."

"Then you intend to sail off again to--to do what you like?"

"Humanly speaking, yes."

In spite of the heeling deck she rose abruptly, her eyes wide and
resolute.

"Mr. Fessenden, I'm going with you this afternoon, wherever you go. If
you take me back to the landing, I won't go on shore. You'll have to use
force, and I warn you I'll resist, and I'm strong for a woman. I
solemnly vow I'll make a dreadful scene. And I'll scream, and I can
scream _hideously_!"

Her words were utterly convincing. He let go the sheet and stared. "By
Jove! you _are_ a terror. What in the world is all this about?"

"Never mind."

"But you make me mind. Surely all this can't be a mere freak on your
part. Or is it a joke?"

"No. I've a reason for my--my very unlady-like conduct."

"Strike out the adjective. But what's the reason?"

"I'd rather not tell." She resumed her seat, as if she thought the
victory won. Her eyes dwelt on the lines of his powerful figure, well
set off by his gray flannels. "You are a distinctly good-looking man,
but obstinate."

"And you're a remarkably lovely girl, but eccentric; very--eccentric."

"You don't know my reasons."

"I've asked for them."

She laughed evasively. "Isn't it about time to come about?" she said.

"It is. But how do you know that? Are you a witch?"

"In with the weather braces," she commanded. "Stand by to tack ship!
Ready about! Helm's a-lee! Round we go, now. Make fast! All snug, sir."

Accompanying her rather uncertain display of nautical language with a
pull at the sheets that proved her strength, she gave Fessenden her
assistance in bringing the _Wisp_ before the wind.

Afterward there was silence between them for a long time. The knots
slipped away under the keel of the little yacht, and she drew rapidly in
toward land. Fessenden consulted his watch. It was half past five. He
decided that it was time to land--time to send his unwelcome visitor
away, and to keep his appointment with Betty for supper at White
Cottage.

Miss Yarnell examined the little binnacle beside the wheel.

"Due east," she said sombrely, "almost. If you go back to Sandywood, Mr.
Fessenden, remember, I've given you fair warning."

"Fear not, mademoiselle. Far be it from me to force you to try your
screaming powers on me! I shudder at the thought. No, no. Do you see
that cape two or three points south of east? Piney Point, it's called.
That's the place I'm aiming for. Are you content?"

"Perfectly content."

She met his puzzled frown with a faint smile. "You beat the Dutch," he
declared in an injured tone.

It was just six o'clock when the _Wisp_ grounded gently on the sandy
beach of Piney Cove. The westering sun flung red bands across the pine
woods, here growing almost to the water's edge.

Fessenden led a line ashore and made it fast to a convenient tree. "Now,
Miss Yarnell," he smiled, "the voyage is over. I'll really have to ask
you to leave me--with my thanks for a delightful afternoon, after all.
If you follow the bay shore, you'll be at Sandywood in half an hour, I
fancy."

She had joined him as he stood on the beach. "Thank you," she said
gravely, "but I'm going with you."

"Really, this is rather--rather----"

"Impossible," she supplied. "Yes, I'll agree to anything you like to say
of me, but, Mr. Fessenden, it's very important for me to go with you--to
your appointment."

He stared, bewildered not only by her audacity, but by her apparent
knowledge of his plans.

"Do you deny that you have an appointment with some one near here?" she
demanded.

"I don't deny it. But what if I have? This is too ridiculous! I don't
know how you know where I'm bound, but--I don't want to be rude, Miss
Yarnell--but even if you do know, I don't see how it matters to you."

"It does matter to me," she said, sudden passion in her voice. "It
matters terribly."

Her suppressed excitement, her entire seriousness, could no longer be
doubted.

"I don't understand," he said. "I think you must be making some
mistake."

"No, no. I don't know exactly where you're going, I admit, but I know
who it is you're going to see."

He felt a baffling sense of amazement over an impossible situation. "Who
is it, then?" he demanded.

"Please, _please_ don't let us mention names. But I know. Mr. Fessenden,
I recognized the envelope that boy brought up yesterday."

"The envelope? O-oh! You did?"

"Yes. I've seen that style of envelope too often not to know it. Now do
you understand why I want to go with you?--why I _must_ go?"

"I'm as much at sea as ever. Why?"

She flushed vividly. "If you really can't guess, I--I can't tell you."

He stared at her helplessly, then tossed both hands in a gesture of
despair. "I give it up. I give _you_ up, in fact. You fairly make my
head spin! It's getting late, Miss Yarnell. I think you'll find a path
behind the grove."

"I'm not going to Sandywood."

"Then I'll leave you in possession of the yacht. Good-night."

He took off his cap smilingly, and, turning, walked rapidly inland. He
had not gone half a dozen yards when he heard a light footstep behind
him, and wheeled to find her at his very heels.

"I'm going with you."

"You'll dog me across country?" he asked incredulously.

She flushed painfully, but stood her ground. "I'm going with you," she
repeated.

"Oh, Lord!" he groaned. For a moment he eyed her rather malevolently.
"Come back to the sloop, then. We'll talk it over."

She followed obediently as he clambered over the low rail of the _Wisp_.

"I don't know what to make of you," he complained.

"I hardly know what to make of myself."

"If I had more time, I might be able to get at things."

"You'd better simply take me with you."

"Hum-m," he said contemplatively.

They were standing side by side on the floor of the cockpit. He waved
his hand toward the bay. "All this beautiful scenery ought to be good
for your malady--whatever that may be. Look at that sunset, Miss
Yarnell. Why, hello! What's that? Dead into the sun! Can't you see it?"

She peered beneath the arch of her hand to mark the point. At that
moment her elbows were gripped as if by a giant. She felt herself
lifted, then thrust firmly, although gently, downward into the little
cabin.

It was all done in an instant. Fessenden slammed the double-doors deftly
upon his prisoner and dropped the catch into the slot.

"Good-night," he called reassuringly. He leaped ashore and hurried
inland.



                                   V


Fessenden was well aware that the frail catch that held the doors of the
_Wisp's_ cabin would not long hold prisoner so vigorous a young woman as
Madge Yarnell. He guessed that in ten minutes she would be wending her
disconsolate way toward Sandywood. But ten minutes would be enough--he
gave himself no further concern about her.

He followed a cow-path beyond the pine grove, crossed a meadow or two,
and struck the road not far above White Cottage.

A quail called in a field of early wheat, and was answered from a
thicket of elderberry near at hand--a charmingly intimate colloquy.
Fessenden was serenely conscious that it was good to be only
twenty-eight, and on his way to dine, or sup, with an artless girl.

In ten minutes he was halting at the gate of White Cottage. Although it
was only the dusk of the day, the window shades were down, and the
lighted lamps within sent a glow across the wide porch. The door stood
invitingly open.

As he clicked the gate behind him, he felt as if he were about to enter
another world than the one he had left at Sandywood--the enchanted world
of boyhood.

At the thought, he pursed his lips and sent the rounded notes of the
quail through the evening haze.

He had not time to repeat them before a slender figure, appearing as if
by magic, extended him a warm little hand.

"Bob White!" she said gaily. "I'm very glad to see you. I was in the
hammock under the hickory there. That gives me a new name for you--I was
tired of Puddin' Tame." Her lips echoed the whistle.

[Illustration: musical notes of bird song: Bob White.]

"I'm glad you've come, Mr. Bob White."

"Did you dream for a moment I wouldn't?"

"I was a little afraid you might forget your promise. No, what I was
really afraid of was that you wouldn't find a chance to steal away. You
_did_ steal away, didn't you, ve-ry quietly?"

"I did. I sailed away, at any rate, and I didn't tell a soul where I was
bound."

"I knew you were a reliable man."

"How is the sprained ankle? You don't seem to be noticeably crippled."

"Of course not. That's all well now--I've been resting in the hammock
all day. But come into the house. Supper is ready, and Aunty Landis has
the most delicious chocolate, with whipped cream."

She tripped ahead of him up the pathway and into the house, calling:
"Aunty Landis! Uncle Landis! Here he is. Here's Mr. Bob White. He's
ready for supper, I'm sure."

The long-suffering good wife met him in the living-room. "Good-evening,
Mr.--ah----"

"My name is----"

"Bob White," interrupted the girl. "Please let it be Bob White. That
_must_ be your name. Don't you like it?"

"Very much."

"Then that's what we'll call him, please, Aunty Landis. Yesterday you
were Puddin' Tame, to-day you're Bob White, and all the time you're
really somebody else. I'll have the fun of meeting a new man any moment
I like."

Mrs. Landis received this remark with a look as nearly approaching to
sternness as she was capable of. "Betty, you must behave. Remember, you
ain't as much of a baby as the gentleman maybe takes you for."

The girl fell silent, and seated herself upon a chintz-covered sofa.
Fessenden scanned her more closely than the dusk outside had permitted
him to do.

Her hair was gathered in a shining braid that hung quite to her waist, a
girlish and charming fashion. Her blue eyes watched him demurely from
beneath a broad, low forehead. The sailor suit of yesterday had given
place to a simple white frock--Fessenden noticed that it came fairly to
her ankles, now discreetly slippered and stockinged.

At the moment of seating themselves at table, they were joined by Uncle
Landis, a middle-aged farmer whose preternaturally-shining face and
plastered hair, not to mention a silence unbroken throughout the meal,
gave plain proof of recent rigorous social instruction on the part of
his help-meet.

The memory of that supper has always been a delight to Fessenden. The
omelet was all golden foam; the puffed potatoes a white-and-brown cloud.
The spiced cantaloupe and brandied peaches reminded him of the wonderful
concoctions his Grandmother Winthrop had made--she who would never allow
any one but herself to wash the glass and silver.

The hot Maryland beaten biscuits were crusty to the smoking hearts of
them, withstanding his teeth's assault just long enough to make their
crumbling to fragments the more delicious. The chocolate, in blue china
cups not too small, was served as the Spaniards serve it and as it ought
to be served--of the consistency of molasses candy when poured into the
pan.

And then came the creamy rice pudding for dessert, whereupon Fessenden
won Mrs. Landis forever by asking for the receipt and gravely jotting it
down in his notebook, in spite of Betty's laughing eyes.

Betty's talk flashed and sparkled to his sallies. She showed a
self-possession remarkable in a farmer's daughter who was encountering a
man of the world for what must have been the first time in her life, as
he fancied. Once or twice he felt that she had led him on to talk of
himself and to expand his own ideas to a degree unusual in him.

"Betty, you're a witch," he declared at last. "I've been clattering away
here like a watchman's rattle. You can't be interested in all this stuff
about my cart-tail speeches for honest city government."

"But I am interested, decidedly. I like to hear about men that do
something--they're a novelty." Her frank smile warmed him. "I know there
are enough worthless men in the world to make the useful ones count all
the more. 'Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.' That's
as true in Maryland as anywhere."

"You're a worldly-wise small person."

"Oh, I read and think a little, Mr. Bob White." She nodded her head at
him until the blonde braid danced.

After supper Uncle Landis abruptly vanished. Aunty Landis lingered in
the dining-room on the plea of clearing off the supper things--in point
of fact, Fessenden saw her no more that night. Betty led the way to a
couple of steamer-chairs at a corner of the porch.

The breeze had freshened a little, and he tucked her knitted scarf about
her shoulders with a care not altogether fatherly.

"Thank you, Bob White. You're very kind."

"Who wouldn't be kind to you, Betty? Look there! Over the top of the
hill. Even the stars are peeping out to see if you're comfortable."

She gave her little crowing laugh. "What a poet! I always think of
Emerson's verse about the stars. Do you remember it?

                 "Over our heads are the maple buds,
                   And over the maple buds is the moon;
                 And over the moon are the starry studs
                   That drop from the angel's shoon."

"Where did you learn Emerson?"

"I had a teacher who liked him."

"Did any one ever tell you that you talk as a prima donna ought to talk,
but never does--'soft, gentle, and low'?"

"Is that a compliment?"

"Certainly. Perhaps you sing."

"I'll get my guitar."

She flashed into the house and back again. The starlight enabled him to
see her indistinctly as she tightened the keys of a small guitar.

"I like this song," she explained. "It was written by Fessenden, you
know."

"By whom?"

"Thomas Fessenden, _the_ Fessenden, the man who----"

"Oh, of course."

To hear himself thus referred to, to hear one of his own casual songs
launched from the lips of a country girl in the splendor of a Maryland
night, was a novel experience even for Fessenden. He realized with
amusement that his identity was wholly unknown to Betty, that capricious
young person not having allowed him as yet to mention his own name.

She sang, her eyes laughing upon him as her lips rounded to the whistle
of the quail in the refrain.

             "At morn when first the rosy gleam
               Of rising sun proclaimed the day,
             There reached me, through my last sweet dream,
               This oft-repeated lay:
                 (Too sweet for cry,
                   Too brief for song,
                   'Twas borne along
                 The reddening sky)

                             _Bob White!
                   Daylight, Bob White!
                             Daylight!_"

             "At eve, when first the fading glow
               Of setting sun foretold the night,
             The tender call came, soft and low,
               Across the dying light:
                 (Too sweet for cry,
                   Too brief for song,
                   'Twas but a long
                 Contented sigh)

                             _Bob White!
                   Good-night, Bob White!
                             Good-night!_"

Fessenden applauded softly, and his young hostess smiled appreciation.

"Tell me about yourself, Bob White," she said. "Are you 'tinker, tailor,
soldier, sailor'?"

"Betty, perhaps _you_ can tell _me_ something. I got away to you without
letting any one at Sandywood know, by going for a sail in my sloop."

"A ve-ry good idea."

"Don't be too sure. After I'd gotten well off, one of the house-party--a
girl--coolly appeared from the cabin. She'd been bound to come with me,
you see."

"Why?"

"That's the problem. She was very mysterious, and persistent, no name!
When we landed in Piney Cove, she insisted upon following me."

"Goodness me!"

"We had the most extraordinary time--I fastened her in the cabin by main
force. I don't understand it at all. She said she knew I was coming to
meet you, and seemed very much wrought up about it. Hold on! She didn't
mention your name, but she said she knew who it was I had my appointment
with."

"How could she guess?"

"We happened to be standing together when your little friend, Jimmy
Jones, brought your note. She said this afternoon that she recognized
the style of the envelope."

Betty's guitar slipped from her lap to the floor. "Bob White, Bob
White!" she exclaimed. "What's her name?"

"Didn't I say? She's a Miss Yarnell--Miss Madge Yarnell, from Baltimore.
Do you know anything about her?"

The girl stooped to rescue the guitar. Her warm cheek touched his as he,
too, groped for it, and both recoiled a little consciously--Fessenden in
amusement at his own confusion.

"Do you know about Miss Yarnell?" he repeated.

"I've heard her name. A girl--the woman who gave me that song--knows who
she is. Isn't she the girl who tore down the flag?"

"Yes, that's the one. Can you imagine why she pursued me so? Do you
suppose she really recognized your writing paper? And even if she did,
what is it to her?"

She twanged a careless chord or two. "Oh, perhaps she was vexed because
you didn't stay at the house-party," she suggested; "because you
preferred White Cottage to Sandywood."

After a while he struck a match and looked at his watch. "Nine o'clock.
I must be going. If I stay much longer, the Cresaps will be sending out
their launch to tow me home. You know, I'm supposed to be becalmed out
in the bay. I hate to go. I've had a bully time."

"Really?"

"Perfect. Betty, look here! I'm staying at Sandywood only until Tuesday,
and to-day's Friday. H-i-n-t!"

She rose and made him an adorable curtsy. "Bob White, Esquire, I
respectfully invite you to come to my picnic to-morrow."

"Will there be a picnic, really?"

"Yes--for you and me."

"Great! I'll come, and humbly thank you."

"Then you must be at the foot of the lane by the brook at ten o'clock
to-morrow morning. And it's another secret, remember. Do you think you
can get away?"

"I _will_ get away. Perhaps I can invent a business letter that will
call me to Baltimore."

She clapped her hands. "Oh, I'll attend to that. You know Jimmy Jones is
really the Sandywood Station telegraph boy, and he'll do anything for
me."

"I don't doubt it. There's at least one other person in the same happy
condition."

"Haven't you a friend in Baltimore who might possibly send you a
telegram--somebody so real you could just show it to the Cresaps, and
they'd believe it? What fun!"

He chuckled. "This is a real conspiracy. The only friend the Cresaps and
I have in common is Danton."

"Who?"

"Charles Danton. D-a-n-t-o-n."

"I'll remember."

"All right. At ten o'clock to-morrow, at the foot of the lane. You'll
meet me there, honest Injun, Betty?"

"Honest Injun! Hope I may die!"

She had followed him to the edge of the porch and stood looking down at
him as he lingered a couple of steps below.

"Good-night, Betty."

Her hand slipped into his outstretched palm. "Good-night, Bob White."

"I've had a lovely time."

"So have I."

He had not released her hand, and now she leaned toward him until the
great braid of her hair fell across her breast.

"Bob White, I'm rather sorry I was so--so violent yesterday, when you
were carrying me and--and did what you did."

She was so close to him that he felt her hair brush his forehead. The
blood was pounding in his ears, and his throat was parched. He lifted
his left hand slowly to her neck to draw her lips to his. Then, all at
once, he steadied himself.

"Oh, you little witch!" he said. "I swear I don't know whether you're an
innocent or a demon. No, no, Betty! The next time I kiss you, you must
ask me outright, not merely _look_ at me! Do you ask me?"

She snatched her hand away. "Certainly not. Never!"

"Good-night, then."

"Good-night, Bob White."

She stood motionless until he was lost in the darkness, then whistled
softly:

[Illustration: musical notes of bird song: Bob White.]

She waited until the call was answered from the slope of the hill; then,
laughing rather wistfully, she sought Aunty Landis.



                                   VI


Fessenden joined the others at Sandywood while they were still lingering
over coffee in the library. His belated appearance, casual and
unconcerned as he endeavored to make it seem, was greeted with a storm
of badinage.

"Oh, my prophetic soul! You were becalmed sure enough."

"Does the poor boy want a bite to eat?"

"We were just organizing a relief expedition for you, old man."

"What a lonely time you must have had of it, Mr. Fessenden!" This last
thrust was from no less a person than Miss Yarnell. He gave her a broad
smile in return.

He allowed the others to believe what they would, explaining only that
he had been compelled to leave the _Will-o'-the-Wisp_ in Piney Cove.
Cresap promised to send his man up to bring her back to the
landing-stage.

[Illustration: "I'M AFRAID YOU'LL FIND THE CABIN-DOOR CATCH IS BROKEN,"
SAID MADGE YARNELL IN AN UNDERTONE]

"I'm afraid you'll find the cabin-door catch is broken," said Madge
Yarnell in an undertone, as she halted near Fessenden on her way to bed.

"If I hadn't been sure you'd smashed through easily enough, I should
have come back to the sloop and sailed away with you."

"With me?"

"Certainly--made you captive like an old buccaneer. Willy-nilly, I
should have clapped you under hatches, and sailed for the Spanish Main."

Her brooding eyes dwelt long upon him. "That's very interesting." She
struck her hands softly together. "It's worth thinking about. Thank you
for the suggestion, Mr. Fessenden."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"Of course you don't. You're only a man."

In the morning, although he was not down for breakfast until nine
o'clock, he was ahead of any of the others. One of the servants handed
him a telegram. He read it with amusement over Betty's cleverness.

    THOMAS FESSENDEN,
    Sandywood, Polocoke County, Maryland.

    Meet me Club one o'clock. Important personal matter. Want your
    advice. Don't fail me.

                                                     CHARLES DANTON.

He requested the butler to turn over the telegram to Mr. and Mrs.
Cresap, and to explain to them that he would be back at Sandywood before
dinner. On the plea that he vastly preferred a walk, he managed to evade
the man's suggestion that the car be brought round to take him to
Sandywood Station.

Precisely at ten o'clock he was cooling his heels on the stone wall at
the foot of the lane.

In that shaded hollow the sun had not yet pierced to dry the dew from
the wild myrtle. Now and then the clambering creepers rustled where a
field-mouse ran shyly through them. An oriole flashed from a sycamore,
like an orange tossed deftly skyward. Spring was a living
presence--Fessenden was stirred by its exuberance as he had not been
these ten years.

By and by a rattle of wheels came to his ears. Presently a serene gray
mare hove in sight, escorting, rather than pulling, a low-swung landau
with an ancient calash-top. So capacious was the hood that at first he
could descry no one in its depths. Then the mare came to a condescending
halt, and a laughing face leaned into view.

[Illustration: "GOOD-MORNING, PATIENCE-ON-A-MONUMENT"]

"Good-morning, Patience-on-a-Monument."

"Good-morning, Grief. Grief, that's the fluffiest hat I ever saw."

"Have you been waiting long?"

"Hours and hours."

"Then, come, get in. We're going driving 'over the hills and far away.'"

She clucked to her steed, and the old mare, disdainfully obedient,
conveyed them straight through the brook--the water rising to the
hub--and up the windings of a wood-road beyond.

"The first thing a man wants to know on a picnic," affirmed Betty
sagely, "is whether or not there's enough to eat. There isn't, but there
will be."

"I rest content. Betty, who taught you to dress like that?"

"Do you like me--my clothes, I mean?"

"I like both, profoundly."

She was all in white--fluffy hat, linen shirt-waist, duck skirt, and low
shoes. Her hair was done into some sort of knot on her neck--Fessenden
was rather weak at deciphering a girl's coiffure. Her eyes shone
wonderfully clear, and her smiles were frequent but uncertain, as if she
bubbled with jokes too ethereal to share even with him.

"Betty," he said, "do you mind my remarking that you look adorable
to-day?"

"Only to-day?"

"Always, you witch! Betty, don't tell me that any mere district school
made half of _you_."

"Why not?"

"Well, it sounds a bit impertinent of me, but your voice--your
talk--your dress! And, above all, you have the air--ah----"

"Of a lady, Mr. Critic?"

"Exactly. One doesn't expect to find _l'air distingué_ in a farmer's
daughter."

"A farmer's niece."

"Of course. Perhaps that makes all the difference. Do you mind my asking
who your mother was, Betty?"

"My mother was related to the first families of Maryland."

He could hardly forbear a smile at the pride manifest in her tone. "I
see. She has a right to be proud of her daughter."

"Really? Bob White, that's the very nicest thing you could say to me if
you'd tried a hundred years. Mother died when I was quite a little
girl."

Fessenden was silent. For a while, the girl guided the gray mare from
wood-road to rambling lane, from lane to turnpike, and from turnpike
back to lane. As they rounded a low hill, Fessenden felt the salt breath
of the bay upon his face.

"Where are we bound?" he asked.

"To Jim George's. It's a sort of inn--a very rustic inn. He cooks
delicious things. People come here for dinners from as far as Baltimore,
but I think it's too early in the season yet for anybody to be here but
us."

"I hope so with all my heart."

They ascended a sandy track through a little forest of pine, and emerged
upon an open space. At the foot of a bluff the bay stretched to the
horizon. On the forest side stood a log-cabin, amplified on all sides by
a veranda of unbarked pine.

From this structure promptly hobbled a white-haired darky.

"Mawnin', lady. Mawnin', gemman, sah. A day o' glory fo' the time o'
year. Yas, sah, yas, ma'am, a real day o' glory. Won't you 'light down,
ma'am?"

"Of course we will, Jim George, and we want some of your best shad."

"Ah d'clar to gracious! Is that yo'all, Miss Betty? Good Lan'! it's been
a coon's age since I seen yo' purty face round hyah. It does me proud to
see a----"

"Shad and corn-pone, Jim George," she interrupted. "I want you to show
this gentleman we can still cook in the South."

"Ah'll show him. Ah'll show him, Miss Betty. Rufe! Rufe! Come hyah and
take Miss Betty's hoss."

A boy led the mare away, and Fessenden and the girl established
themselves in a hammock under a solitary oak at the bluff's edge.

He drew a long breath of the salt air and smiled at his companion. "This
is Paradise, and not even a serpent to mar it."

In an incredibly short time Jim George appeared, bearing a tray piled
high with eatables, and proceeded to spread the cloth on a table under
the oak.

"Miss Betty," he said, "and, gemman, sah, there's a shad-roe as _is_ a
shad-roe. Jes' yo' eat it with all the buttah yo' kin spread on it. This
hyah co'n-pone needs a _spoon_ for _it_. Them baked 'taters growed
theirselfs right hyah in the patch behint the house. They's as sweet as
honey. And hyah's some milk. Yo' 'member Jersey Molly, Miss Betty?
Yas'm, this is _her_ milk. None o' yo' _pastorilized_ stuff
neither--this is jes' plain _milk_."

"Betty," said Fessenden, when Jim George had left them to themselves,
"allow me to drink your health in Jersey Molly wine."

[Illustration: "BETTY, ALLOW ME TO DRINK YOUR HEALTH IN JERSEY MOLLY
WINE"]

She touched her tumbler laughingly to his. "Skoal! Bob White, do you
know it was only the day before yesterday you picked me out of the
brook?"

"I was just thinking of that. At any rate, we're better acquainted than
people ordinarily are in months."

"In three days?"

"Certainly," he maintained.

"You're a very funny man."

"I'm perfectly serious."

"I was wondering why you should care to come on a picnic with me. I'm
only a country girl, after all, and you--you're different."

"I care to come because _you_ are _you_, and that's plenty reason
enough."

"Hum-m."

"Can you say as much?"

"I'm not sure."

"Cruel child!"

"I didn't say no--I only said I wasn't sure."

The afternoon slipped away, and at last they ordered their equipage for
the homeward drive. Old Jim George bowed them off.

"Good-by, Miss Betty. Good-by, gemman, sah. Ah hope yo' bofe come hyah
agin right soon--yas, indeedy, and I hope yo' come togedder, too. Yah
ha!" He screened his mouth behind his hand and added in a stage whisper:
"Miss Betty, that's a mighty fine gemman yo's got, he is so, mighty
fine."

They pursued the even tenor of their way homeward. The early butterflies
flicked the gray mare's nose. Blackbirds pilfered a meal from the plowed
fields beside the road. Once a thrush--to Betty's infinite
delight--perched on the dashboard and sang a hasty trill.

"Spring is lovely," declared Betty.

"Lovely," agreed Fessenden with enthusiasm, and did not feel guilty of a
commonplace.

Into the calm of their content came the clatter of distant hoofs.

"There's some one riding down that crossroad there," said Betty. "A
woman. Is she waving at us, do you think?"

They peered out from the calash-top, and made out a horsewoman galloping
down a side-path toward them. Her whip was going on her horse's flank,
and now and then she brandished it as if to signal the two in the
landau.

Betty pulled up. "Let's see what she wants."

In another moment the horsewoman was near enough to bring an exclamation
of recognition from Fessenden. "Hello! I believe it's Miss Yarnell."

"Miss Yarnell?"

"The girl who said she recognized the envelope you sent me the other
day. Perhaps she wants to ask the way home."

Miss Yarnell rode out of the crossroad full tilt, and only checked her
sorrel when his nose was within a foot of the gray mare's. Fessenden
viewed this characteristic impetuosity with curiosity, which changed to
amazement when his eyes fell upon her face. Her eyes were blazing, and
her teeth were clenched.

She did not wait to be interrogated, but faced the calash-top.

"I've been looking for you!" she cried. "Come out here where we can
talk." Her tones were not loud, but her voice was choked with passion,
and she lifted her riding-whip as she spoke. "Come out! I want to have a
talk with you."

The response was more prompt than she could have anticipated. Before she
could carry out her evident purpose of forcing her uneasy horse to the
very dashboard, Fessenden slipped from the landau, ducked under the
mare's head, and, seizing the sorrel by the bit, forced him back.

"What's up, Miss Yarnell?" he said, with stern jocularity. "You mustn't
ride into people's laps, you know."

"Oh, I don't want _you_," she said. "I want _her_." Again the
silver-mounted whip was brandished toward the calash-top.

Betty's piquant face emerged from its depths. "Are you looking for me?"
she asked very sweetly.

Miss Yarnell's arm fell. She stared at the childish face--at the
wide-opened blue eyes and slender figure.

"O-oh!" Her voice was tremulous, all hint of violence gone from it.
"_You!_ I thought it was--I thought it was some one else."

"At any rate, it isn't proper to threaten one with a whip," said Betty
gravely.

"I--I know it. There!" Her arm swung up, and the whip spun a flashing
arc through the air before falling into a field of ripening wheat. "The
hateful thing!" She faced the girl again. "I'm sorry. I've been acting
like a fool. I beg your pardon--and yours too, Mr. Fessenden."

She checked the horse she had already started to wheel, and appealed to
Betty. "I _must_ ask you. I came after you because I thought you
were--were some one else. I thought so because of that envelope
Thursday."

"A Baltimore friend of mine happens to have lent me a box of her
notepaper." There was impatience in Betty's explanation.

"O-oh, I see! But--please!--that telegram from Charlie to him"--she
indicated Fessenden. "I supposed--some one--had sent that--to put me off
the track."

"It wasn't sent from White Cottage."

"Then it was real?"

"I know nothing about it," returned the girl icily.

Miss Yarnell wheeled her horse. "It was real! And I've been wasting
time--wasting time!" Going helter-skelter, she was out of sight before
Fessenden had time to resume his seat in the carriage.

"Whew!" he said, as they resumed their jog-trot pace. "She _is_ a queer
fish! But, Betty, why tell a tarradiddle, even to get rid of her?"

"I didn't."

"I mean about the telegram you sent me."

"I didn't send you one."

"What! One came--signed by Charles Danton, too, just as we arranged last
night."

"I had nothing to do with it. After you went away, I remembered that I
didn't know your real name, and I was afraid a telegram for 'Bob White,
Esquire,' left in the servants' hands, would go wrong. So I didn't send
it. I wondered how you'd get away to meet me, but I knew you would
contrive some excuse."

In his mind's eye, he saw the address of the telegram, "Thomas
Fessenden," yet it was true that his identity was unknown to his
companion--through her own caprice, to be sure.

He gave a long whistle. "Then that wire really was from Danton. By Jove!
if he wanted my advice about anything, he ought to have let me know in
time. Confound him, it's too late now! It serves him right."

He turned to look for sympathy in Betty's eyes, only to find there a
light that baffled him.

"Are you angry with me about anything?"

"I'm not sure whether I am or not. Men are so--so bad, and so
presumptuous."

"Good heavens! Have _I_ done anything?"

But in spite of all he could do to solve this new Betty, she set him
down at the foot of the lane a very perplexed young man.



                                  VII


At Sandywood, Fessenden was little surprised to learn that Miss Yarnell
had been summoned home to Baltimore--on account of sickness in her
family.

"I think she must have gotten a telegram at the station," said Polly
Cresap. "She'd been out riding, and when she came in she was in quite a
flutter, and told us she had to go home immediately. I really didn't
understand just who was sick. We're to send her things after her. You
didn't see her at Sandywood Station, did you, Tom? She must have taken
the same train you came in on."

"No," returned Fessenden, truthfully enough. "She's rather a headlong
sort, don't you think?"

"Yes, I suppose so. But, poor girl, she has a good deal on her mind! You
know, before this disgraceful affair of Charlie Danton's with----"

"Polly!" said her husband warningly.

"I don't care, Pinck. You know everybody says so."

"But nobody knows anything, my dear."

"At any rate," she rattled on, "before this affair, Madge was quite fond
of Charlie Danton, and now I believe she's eating her heart out."

"Remember, Fessenden has just been up to Baltimore to meet Danton,"
cautioned Cresap. "How do you know it wasn't about this very thing?"

"Oh, goodness, Tom! Am I rushing in where angels fear to tread?"

"Not at all," he assured her. "Danton didn't mention the matter at all."

"Besides, Polly," said Cresap, "no girl eats her heart out nowadays.
That sort of thing dates back to hoop-skirts and all that. Madge Yarnell
can take care of herself, I'll wager."

The next day was Sunday, and for Fessenden the morning dragged rather
wearily. But after luncheon he had the inspiration to suggest a sail in
the _Will-o'-the-Wisp_. May Belle and Cleborne announced that they had
already arranged to go for a walk together, but the others avowed their
willingness to sail.

The wind was fresh, and Mrs. Dick Randall sat beside Fessenden at the
wheel, and met the flying spray merrily. Dick himself flirted with Polly
Cresap under the protection of the jibsail forward. Cresap drowsed
accommodatingly at full length in the lee gangway.

"Harry Cleborne and May Belle think two are company," said Mrs. Dick.

"Are they engaged?"

"Oh, I imagine there's only an understanding."

"Do you think that sort of arrangement is dignified?"

"What a funny way to put it! No, I don't think so, now that you put it
that way. Madge Yarnell, now--Charlie Danton and she had only an
understanding--everybody took it for granted they'd be married some
day--and look how it's turned out."

"But I understood their falling-out was due to outside influence--wasn't
it?"

"Partly, of course. But a regular engagement would have had more dignity
about it, just as you say, and they would have had to be more careful."

"No doubt."

"Now, there's Roland Cary--" went on Mrs. Dick.

"The handsome cousin Polly spoke of the other day?"

"Yes. There's a dignified person for you. Hum-m! Dignified in some ways,
but a perfect dee-vil in others."

"He must be a very interesting sort. I'd like to meet him."

"Oh, he--he _is_ interesting. But I'm worried about Madge and Charlie
Danton's case."

"I agree with Cresap--Miss Yarnell will follow her own course, whatever
that may be."

"I suppose so."

The bracing air and the dancing yacht, if not the conversation, held
Fessenden's interest for an hour or two. As he headed toward home, the
glory of the day put a happy idea into his head. He would return Betty's
picnic of yesterday by a day's sail on the _Wisp_. Somehow he would
manage to elude his Sandywood responsibilities again.

Darkness always fell long before dinner was served at Sandywood.
Therefore, Fessenden, going for a stroll in the wilderness of a garden,
ostensibly to indulge in an ante-prandial cigar, found in the dusk no
difficulty in extending his walk to White Cottage.

A boyish sense of romance always took possession of him when he
approached Betty's vicinity. A knock at the cottage door, and a direct
inquiry for her, would have been too commonplace. No workaday method of
communication would suffice under a sky shot with stars and in an air
a-tingle with spring.

Lights shone in a couple of rooms in the upper part of the house, while
the lower story was in darkness. Apparently, the farmer's family was
already preparing to retire for the night.

Fessenden scouted about the place, smiling to himself at the absurdity
of his own action.

There was nothing to indicate which room was Betty's, and at a venture
he tossed a handful of gravel against the panes of the corner room--then
another.

Betty's head and shoulders were the response, framed in the glow of the
lamp gleaming through the white curtain behind her. The face, delicately
oval, and the slender throat, seemed wrought of gold.

"'So shines a good deed in a naughty world,'" said Fessenden aloud.

"Who's there?" she called.

"It's I."

"Oh, _you_!"

"Yes. Can you came down a minute?"

"No."

"Please come down, Betty. I want to see you about something."

"No-o, I can't. Is it anything important?"

"Immensely important. You aren't vexed with me still, are you?"

"Of course not. And, Bob White, I didn't tell you yesterday, but I did
appreciate it very much."

"Good!--but what?"

"The way you jumped out of the carriage and seized her horse, when she
was so belligerent. It was very capable in you."

"If it weren't dark down here, you could see me blushing. Come down and
see."

"No. Bob White, you haven't come around here like a Romeo to--to say
good-by, have you?"

"Heaven forbid, Betty! I want to ask you to go on a picnic with _me_
to-morrow, in my sailboat."

"Oh, goody! Hum-m! I don't know. For how long?"

"All day. We can sail down to Rincoteague Island and back."

"Who's to go?"

"Only you and I, of course."

"I'm afraid that wouldn't be quite--well, quite--"

"Oh, I see. Then your aunt is invited, too, of course--but reluctantly."

"We'll come," she said, with decision. "Shall we bring the luncheon?"

"No. The sloop has a lot of stuff on board now. Besides, there used to
be a hotel on Rincoteague--such as it was. I'll have the _Wisp_ in Piney
Cove at nine to-morrow. We must start early, you know."

"We'll be there. Thank you very much."

"Betty, do come out a minute--long enough to shake hands. I haven't seen
you all day."

"You funny man!" she said. "If I weren't--a farmer's girl, I should
think you were flirting."

He was unable to muster an instant reply. A shade, snapped sharply down,
cut the fair hair and laughing face from his view.

There was nothing left for him to do but to make his way back to
Sandywood, which he did very thoughtfully.

After dinner the men grouped themselves in easy chairs at a corner of
the porch, to enjoy their cigarettes. Harry Cleborne drew his chair to
Fessenden's.

"Will you try one of my home-growns, Mr. Fessenden?" he proffered. "That
tobacco was raised on my own plantation."

Fessenden accepted a cigar, suddenly conscious that Cleborne's unwonted
attentions must have an ulterior motive.

"Thank you. You're a Marylander, then?"

"Virginian," returned the other. "My home's in old Albemarle. I've seen
a good deal of Maryland the last year or two, though." His eyes strayed
toward the white gowns of the women.

"Maryland has its attractions," said Fessenden.

"Yes, that's so--even for you?"

"Oh, yes, for me, too."

Cleborne folded his arms, crossed one leg over the other, and blew a
long cloud of smoke. "Look here, Mr. Fessenden," he said, "that's what I
want to speak to you about--Maryland attractions." He spoke with evident
embarrassment. "May Belle--Miss Cresap--and I saw you yesterday, sitting
on the wall at the end of the lane to White Cottage."

"Hum! You did?"

"Yes. We were out for an early morning walk. Of course, then, we know
you didn't go to Baltimore--not on the morning train, at any rate."

"Well?"

Impatience showed in Fessenden's tone, and the other went on quickly:
"We were out for a stroll again this evening, and--you may think it's
none of my business, but we saw _her_. She was at the window as we
passed the house."

"You seem to be fond of walking."

"It was entirely an accident both times. But it won't do, Mr.
Fessenden."

"May I ask _what_ won't do?"

"I don't want to be impertinent, sir--you're an older man than I--but,
of course, it's easy enough to guess that you've been going over to
White Cottage because _she's_ there. Isn't that so?"

"Certainly it's so. But is there any harm in that?"

"There may not be any harm _yet_, but won't there be?"

"This is ridiculous. Betty isn't much more than a child--a very charming
one, I admit."

"Who?" demanded Cleborne, "Betty?"

"Betty Landis, man. Aren't you talking about her?"

"Never heard of her," returned the other shortly. "I'm talking about you
know whom, Mr. Fessenden. I'm sorry I spoke. I wanted to give you a
friendly hint that you should let another man look after his--his _own_
himself. I don't care to be laughed at in this way."

"What the devil do you mean?"

Cleborne pushed back his chair savagely. "I'm through," he snapped.

As good as his word, he stalked off to join May Belle.



                                  VIII


Dawn was reddening the leaves of the oak outside the window when
Fessenden awoke. From the great bay below the house came the ruffle of
water--the wind was freshening. But it was not the mutter along the
shore, nor the tang of the salt air, that had aroused him.

What could that idiot, Cleborne, have been driving at in his talk of
Betty? No, Cleborne had declared he had never heard of her. Then whom
could his dark hints be about? Was the Virginian a subtle joker, acting
at the instigation of Polly or Mrs. Dick? It was not unlikely. And did
Madge Yarnell's peculiar conduct have any connection with the matter?

While he was still puzzling over Cleborne's words, he fell asleep, and
when he awoke again, at a more reasonable hour, his mind instantly
became too full of plans for the day's excursion with Betty to hold any
conflicting thoughts.

At eight o'clock he ate his eggs, toast, and coffee, solving the problem
of presenting a sufficient excuse for his proposed day's absence by the
simple process of not attempting it.

At the last moment, the freshening wind suggested the probable need of
ample protection from the weather. Accordingly, he carried a double
armful of steamer-rugs and rain-coats from the house to the _Wisp_.

In five minutes he was standing for Piney Cove. It took him half an hour
or more to reach it, for the wind, blowing steadily from the northwest,
held him back. He was rewarded by finding Betty and Aunty Landis
awaiting him on the beach.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Landis. Hail, Dryad of the Pines!"

"Hail, Old Man of the Sea!"

Her eyes were as clear as twin pools; her lips were smiling, ready as
always to laugh with him or at him, as opportunity might offer. She held
her head with that defiant tilt of the chin that was to him one of her
always-remembered characteristics. The sunlight flashed from the bay to
the shining braid of her hair.

Her white sailor suit was set off by two daring bands of color--a
scarlet handkerchief at her throat, and a scarlet sash about her waist.
That most effective head-dress, a man-o'-war's-man's white hat, crowned
her head. Fessenden's eyes dwelt upon her with such frank delight that
she blushed a little as Mrs. Landis followed her on board the _Wisp_.

The course was set southeast for Rincoteague Island. After a dubious
phrase or two about the weather, Aunty Landis ensconced herself just
within the opened doors of the little cabin. Here she produced an
infinite number of gigantic stockings (male) from a work-bag, and
proceeded to darn them.

"I hope both you and your aunt are good sailors," said Fessenden. "It
promises to be a bit rough before we get back."

"Oh, yes. I hope it does blow. To be wet and cold, and to see the water
boiling up ready to drown us--that would be living!"

"You strange child! You have a philosophy all your own. Did you know
that?"

She nodded sagely. "Of course. I hate people who haven't. That's one
reason I like you."

"Thank you. I'm glad to hear you confess that there's more reasons than
one. I like _you_ because--because you seem to me to be all golden.
Perhaps the sun dazzles me."

"Perhaps," she smiled.

"You and the day are golden, but remember the song in Cymbeline:

                   "Golden lads and girls all must
                   As chimney sweepers come to dust."

"Golden lads and girls," she repeated softly. "Oh, they can never come
to dust while there are days like this to sail and sail!"

Her arms, extended yearningly, as if she would have plucked the secret
of youth from the tossing bay, fell to her side. "I wish we could sail
forever--never to go back to the sad land."

He thrilled. "So do I. Let's do it--you and I together."

"And Aunty Landis?"

"I'm not so sure about Aunty Landis. The stockings might give out, you
know."

They had left Piney Cove not long after nine. With the strong
northwester behind them, they made such progress that before two o'clock
they were in sight of their destination.

Rincoteague Island lies on the very border-line between ocean and bay.
On the eastern side, it is crowned by a straggling forest of pine and
oak, and looks almost boldly toward the near waters of the Atlantic. A
small hotel, and rows of bath-houses, mark it as a "resort"--a resort
sustained by the excursion steamer that makes daily trips thereto from
the towns of the mainland.

Although aware that the _Wisp_ had been making extraordinary speed, it
was not until Fessenden bore up direct for Rincoteague that he realized
how the wind was freshening. He had put his helm down a little
carelessly, and instantly a cupful of water took him in the back. He
glanced astern, to find quite a sea racing after.

"Positively it's roughing up," he said. "Will you be afraid to face a
head sea going home, Betty?"

"No, indeed; not with such a sailor as you, Bob White."

"Good! The sloop could live through a hurricane, 'so let the wild winds
blow-ow-ow.'"

They stood in for Rincoteague pier. The excursion steamer had just
disgorged its passengers there, and the sight of the horde convinced the
party on the _Wisp_ that the inevitable fish-and-oyster dinner at the
hotel was not likely to prove a thing of beauty. Accordingly, Betty took
the wheel and skilfully put the sloop alongside a smaller pier--rather
rotted and insecure, to be sure--on the lee or ocean side of the island.

While Fessenden was making the _Wisp_ fast, Mrs. Landis and Betty
explored the larder, with highly satisfactory results. Potted slices of
chicken, strawberry jam, boxed crackers, pickles, and aerated waters of
several sorts, furnished "eatin' stuff enough for anybody," as Mrs.
Landis avowed. She herself had thought to bring half a dozen wooden
picnic plates and a complement of knives, forks, and spoons.

"Did you stock the _Wisp_ for a polar expedition, Bob White?" asked
Betty.

"Oh, all this stuff was left in her by the man I bought her from. I
suppose it would have been more trouble to move the stores than they
were worth. Have you everything you want? Then 'all ashore that's going
ashore!'"

They ate their luncheon in a sheltered hollow at the lower end of the
islet. A projecting clay bank, a huge stranded log, and an overhanging
holly-tree made almost a cave of it. Aunty Landis was a highly
satisfactory chaperon. After luncheon, when she was not darning, she was
perusing a pamphlet of Sunday School lessons. And when this was
finished, she brought a leather-bound memorandum-book from the
bottomless work-bag, and entered upon an intricate calculation of
household accounts.

Fessenden chatted with Betty. He had not yet begun to analyze the
reasons for the pleasure he felt in her company, or hardly to understand
that the farmer's daughter who could hold a man of his experience by her
side for the better part of three days must possess extraordinary charm.

"Now we are in the pirates' den," said Betty, "and that log is a
treasure-chest full of--of what?"

"Of doubloons and pieces of eight. I'm the pirate chief, and you are my
captured bride."

"Oh, goodness!"

"Do you know, I made a remark something like that to Miss Yarnell the
other day, and she took it quite seriously?"

"Was she afraid of the pirate chief?"

"She eyed me in that brooding, blazing way of hers--you remember how she
looked when she tried to ride over us on the road the other day?"

"Remember!"

"Exactly. She eyed me in that fashion, then thanked me for the
suggestion."

"What did she mean?"

"I haven't the least idea. Betty, what do you know about her?"

The girl put her hand suddenly on his arm. "What was that? A drop of
water? I do believe it's going to rain. And hear the surf! It's fairly
roaring. It must be blowing hard. I wonder if the yacht is all right."

The thought brought them to their feet, and out of their sheltered
hollow. They found a changed world.

While they ate, clouds had been gathering west and north, and now seemed
to fill the whole space from bay to sky. A mile or two beyond the
island, a white line advancing over the churning waters gave promise of
a furious squall. Worst of all, the wind had risen until, even on their
leeward side of the island, the swell was momentarily growing heavier.

"By George!" said Fessenden. "It looks as if we were in for it. Betty,
we'd better have a look at the _Wisp_. That rotten old wharf!"

"I'll race you to it!" she cried.

He overtook her in half a dozen strides, and throwing his arm about her
shoulders, fairly swept her along with himself. She came no higher than
his shoulders as she ran. Her eyes laughed up at him, and her shining
hair brushed his lips. Aunty Landis was left hopelessly in the rear.

At the old pier, the waves, running far in beneath the flooring, were
breaking against the ancient piles, while the structure complained in
every joint. The _Wisp_, tied stem and stern to a string-piece, was
plunging furiously.

"She seems to be all right," said Fessenden, "but I think I'll put an
extra half-hitch in each of those lines." He still steadied Betty
against the wind as he spoke. "It wouldn't be pleasant to be forced to
go home in that excursion boat."

Releasing his companion, reluctantly enough, he made his way out on the
wharf. She promptly followed.

"Go back, child. The wind will blow you away."

"I'm--all--right," she gasped as he bent over the stern-line. "The rain
will be here in a minute, and we'll need the rain-coats." She sprang
aboard gaily.

"Come back!" he ordered. "I don't believe it's safe, Betty."

"Only a minute," she called. She waved a careless hand and dived into
the cabin.

At that instant, a wave struck the _Wisp_ on the inboard quarter and
heaved her strongly outward. The stern-line held staunchly, but under
the tremendous strain the string-piece gave way like the rotted punk it
was, not a foot in front of Fessenden.

"Betty!" he roared. "Betty!"

His cry stirred the heart of the girl within the cabin, and brought her
instantly onto the floor of the cockpit. Before she could realize the
danger of the situation, the worst had occurred.

He was already kneeling at the forward line, heaving hand over hand to
haul the bow of the _Wisp_ alongside. The sloop was almost within reach
when another wave struck her. The line was snatched from his fingers,
and the yacht, flung to the full length of the rope, carried away the
string-piece as before. The _Wisp_ was adrift!

As the timber sank under his feet, Fessenden clutched at a wharf
stanchion. By a miracle, he saved himself from going overboard.

As if recoiling from the freedom so suddenly won, the _Wisp_ took a
slight sheer toward the pier. The tide, running like a mill-race, swept
her broadside past Fessenden.

"Betty!"

The girl, her body lithe and alert, had been steadying herself by the
safety-rail of the cabin roof. Her face had whitened at the sight of
Fessenden's peril, but it was only now, in response to his hoarse shout,
that a sound escaped her.

"Bob White!" she cried, her arms suddenly extended in piteous appeal.
"Oh, Bob White!"

The watery space between the wharf and the sloop was hopelessly wide,
but, uttering an inarticulate and despairing oath, he took two running
steps and leaped.

He struck fair on his feet on the very rail of the _Wisp_, stood
tottering, fought wildly for his balance--and then Betty's firm little
hand plucked him safely inboard.

"Thank you, Bob White," she said.

There was no time to return even a smile in answer. He gripped the wheel
and gave the sloop a sheer with the hope of beaching her outright. But
wind and wave caught her.

"Close the hatch!" he roared.

As it happened, the forward hatch-cover was already in place. Betty
snapped to the sliding storm-door of the cabin barely in time. A sea
swept the Wisp from end to end, flattening Betty against the side of the
cabin, and nearly swamping the yacht at a blow.

Fessenden was glad to escape by putting the craft dead before the wind.
Bare-poled as she was, the Wisp fled southeastward like a frightened
thing. The rain, the clouds, and the night overtook them together.

With a thrill, Fessenden felt a long, regular swell suddenly begin to
lift the battling yacht. There was still enough of daylight to permit
him a sight of Betty's pale little face.

"Betty," he said, "don't be frightened, but I'm afraid we're clear of
the Capes. This feels like the Atlantic."

She made a staggering rush and reached the lockers. There she sat down
beside him as he struggled with the wheel. The spray flew clear over
them again and again.

She laid her wet cheek an instant against his arm. "The ocean?" she
said. "I hope you won't be seasick, Bob White. I know _I_ won't."

"You're a trump," he said.



                                   IX


Now and then the sloop yawed alarmingly as they ran before the wind.

"This won't do," said Fessenden. "I must get some sail on to steady her.
Do you think you're strong enough to hold the wheel, Betty?"

She gripped the spokes, her hands beneath his. The quiet strength of his
clasp comforted her mind no less than her body,--in a moment she nodded
confidently.

Leaving the helm in her charge, Fessenden literally crawled forward.
Ordinarily, the jib was handled by means of the sheet led aft through a
couple of small blocks to the helmsman, so that one man could both sail
and steer without moving from his place. Now, however, the fierceness of
the wind impelled Fessenden to extra precautions in his endeavor to make
sail.

He took care to wrap the sheet twice about a cleat before hoisting away,
but as soon as the jib rose above the low gunwale, the wind tore it from
the lower bolt-ropes, and it blew straight out, held only by the
bowsprit halliard.

He would have attempted to recover the ironed-out sail by reaching for
it with a boat-hook--a foolhardy undertaking at any time--but Betty,
divining his intention as he showed black against the whitening crest of
the waves, screamed so shrilly that he desisted. There was nothing left
for him to do but to make his way back to the wheel.

"Child," he said, "you're wet through, and I'm afraid we've a wetter
time before us. There's no use in your staying out here to get soaked
every other minute. Go in the cabin, out of harm's way."

"But you're being soaked, too."

"I'm a man."

"I'll stay with you."

"No, you won't. I can't think of letting you do that. Watch your chance
and get inside there. Slide the hatch-cover to, sharp, before any water
gets in."

Rather to his surprise, she yielded, and dexterously slipped into the
cabin. Although her presence had been more comfort to him than he
realized until she was gone, he bent his whole attention to keeping the
_Wisp_ from broaching to, which would have meant the end.

The worst of the rain-squall had passed, but the night was as black as a
wolf's mouth. The wind blowing half a gale, piled up the waves behind
the _Wisp_ to a height that might well have proved a menace to a craft
three times her size. Thanks to her tight-closed hatches and her
sea-worthiness, she shed water like a petrel, yet the towering swell of
the Atlantic might crush her at any moment. If they fell an instant into
the trough of the sea, they were lost.

Fessenden contemplated the possibility of constructing a sea-anchor. But
whatever might have been possible for an experienced seaman, his
nautical knowledge was too limited for him to undertake the work.

And even if he could make and successfully launch a sea-anchor, the most
dangerous part of the task would follow--that long and terrible moment
it would take for the sloop to swing round, head on to the sea. The
waves might roll her over and over before he could even clasp Betty in
his arms. The risk was too great. He breathed an inward prayer, and held
the _Wisp_ resolutely before the wind.

He had three dangers to face--the ever-present terror of being overtaken
by the following sea, the likelihood of being dashed against a hidden
coast in the black night, and the chance of being run down by some
merchantman or man-o'-war, threshing through the dark.

Suddenly the cabin hatch snapped open and shut again.

"Betty!"

"I'm going to stay with you."

"Go back."

"No. See, I'm wrapped up splendidly. And here are oilskins for you."

Indeed, a quaint figure she made of it, in a rain-coat miles too big for
her slender body, and a sou'wester hat, somewhere discovered, fairly
engulfing her little head.

For the first time that night, he laughed boyishly. "You dear child! You
mustn't stay, though."

"Put these on, Bob White. Perhaps you'll get dry underneath."

Still keeping a controlling hand on the wheel, he managed with Betty's
help to encase himself in the fisherman's oilskins she had found.

"Now, then," he said, "you must go in."

For answer, she seated herself beside him. "No, I want to stay here. I'm
afraid to be alone in there--with you out here, and the dreadful black
water all about."

"I thought you weren't afraid of anything."

"I'm going to stay."

"You can't, Betty. I order you to go in."

"I won't go."

"Betty," he cried in despair, "it will be better for me if you're out of
the way. Don't you see?"

"No-o, I don't."

"You'll be safer."

"You know I won't. You're only trying to make me comfortable, while you
are left out here in the cold and wet. Let me stay. If--if we must be
drowned, I want to be near you, Bob White--please."

There was no resisting this appeal. A thrill of pity went through him as
he looked down at the slight form crouching under the all-too-low
gunwale. She should not die if he could prevent it.

"Can you see the compass?" he asked. "How are we heading?"

She rubbed a little of the brine from the binnacle-glass. "Yes; now I
see it. North is where that mark is, isn't it? Oh, I know--southwest by
south."

"What? Look again."

"That's right. Sou'west by sou'."

"Then the wind is shifting to the northeast. Betty, we're headed for
Cape Hatteras."

The dread name apparently produced no alarm in the girl's mind. "I've
always wanted to be in a storm off Hatteras."

"Well, you're likely to have your wish before morning, if this gale
keeps up."

"If we reach Cape Hatteras in the dark like this--abruptly--what will
happen?"

"I fancy we'll hurt Cape Hatteras's feelings."

"Oh!"

After a silence, he felt her hand touch his arm as if she needed
comfort.

"Poor little girl," he said. "Don't worry. I won't let anything hurt
you."

"I know. I'm--all right,"

"There's plenty of ocean about Hatteras," he went on, rather to reassure
her than because of his belief in what he said. "We may not get near the
land. Even if we do, Pamlico Sound is just behind it--there's only a
sort of stretched-out island between the sound and the ocean. We might
slip right through an inlet into the Sunny South."

"It isn't--very likely, is it?"

"It's quite possible," he maintained.

Presently, to his delight as well as to his surprise, he heard a little
crowing laugh.

"What is it?"

"Aunty Landis! Goodness! I never thought of her until this minute. What
will she do?"

"Go home on the excursion steamer, of course. But she'll have to stay
all night at the hotel. The steamer isn't likely to risk crossing the
bay during this blow."

"You don't suppose she'll think we're drowned? She may be in a terrible
fright over us."

"Oh, I hope not."

Hour after hour wore on, and still the storm drove them southward. All
night Fessenden, in a way that was afterward a marvel to himself, fought
a ceaseless battle with the sea and wind. His hands were numb and his
feet were like ice, but he stood staunchly to his task.

In spite of his urgings, renewed from time to time, Betty crouched
beside him all night long. She too was cold, colder even than he, for
she could not warm herself by action. Still she held her post. Perhaps
she knew that her presence there was an inspiration to him as real as
the sight of the flag to the fighting soldier.

Toward morning the clouds broke overhead. The stars began to shine
through. Then, to the relief of the _Wisp's_ crew, the wind began to
fall, and about dawn the waves had ceased to be formidable.

"Betty," said Fessenden joyfully, "I really believe we've pulled
through."

"Hurrah!"

While she held the wheel, he managed to lay hold of the now flapping
jib, and to set it after a fashion. This greatly steadied the sloop.

Then, at last, Betty consented to listen to his persuasions to turn in
in the cabin.

"We're pretty well out of danger now," he declared, "Go in and rest,
Betty. Take off those dripping clothes--"

"Only steaming, please."

"Amendment accepted! But take them off and go to bed. I'm afraid you'll
be sick--and then what should I do?"

"Will you promise to wake me in an hour? _You_ are the tired one. I've
loafed all night."

"I'll wake you when I think it's time to turn the wheel over to you. I
promise you that."

"I'll go to bed, then."

"Good! And, Betty, light that oil range and dry your clothes by it. Now,
off with you, quick!"

It was full daylight, although the sun was not yet visible. For the
first time in many hours their faces were plain to each other's view.
Both were pale with the long night's exposure, but both were smiling.

Betty lingered in the act of closing the cabin-hatch upon herself.
"You'll be sure to wake me soon?"

"Yes."

"What a night we've had!"

"Rather lively, wasn't it? I assure, I'm glad to see you this morning."

"I'm glad to see _you_. Oh, very glad!"

She closed the hatch gently behind her. No sound of a sliding bolt
followed--she trusted him too innocently to lock the door against him.

For a while he heard her moving about, then all was quiet. He pictured
her tired little body cuddled under the blankets while a grateful warmth
crept over her. He smiled to the gray sea at the thought.

The wind and sea diminished rapidly. The sun rose out of the waste to
the east, and the last of the foul weather fled before it. In an hour or
so he ventured to hoist the mainsail. The sloop bore it well, and under
it made swift progress toward the southwest. Sooner or later, he knew he
must sight land in that direction.

Indeed, it was not yet ten o'clock when a remote gray line took shape
off the starboard bow. He could not repress a shout of joy:

"Land! Land ho! Land!"

In a moment the cabin-hatch was opened wide enough to let a sleepy voice
be heard. "Did you call me, Bob White?"

"I didn't mean to wake you, child, but land's in sight."

"Land? Oh, that's good! But I must have been sleeping for hours. You
oughtn't to have let me be so selfish."

"Not at all. You can do your trick at the wheel whenever you're ready,
and I'll turn in a while."

"I'll be out in ten minutes--no, twenty, for I'm going to get breakfast
for you."

"Breakfast!"

"Certainly. Do you think you can drink a cup of hot coffee?"

"Jupiter Pluvius! Hot coffee? Alas, I must be mad."

"You'll see," she laughed. "In twenty minutes."

Indeed, it was not long before she again appeared. "I've just come to
say good-morning."

"Did you sleep well?"

"De-li-ciously. I can only stay a minute--breakfast is cooking. You poor
man, you're still in your wet clothes, while I'm as dry as toast."

Her garments, down to her very shoes, spread since dawn on the racks
above the range, were dry and even smoothed. Only the scarlet sash and
handkerchief were missing--the salt water had ruined them.

The braid of shining hair no longer hung down her back, but now
encircled her head in heavy coils, a new and charming arrangement. He
was vaguely conscious that it made her look strangely mature, and
endowed her with a mysterious dignity.

"I haven't been really wet for some time," he assured her. "If you'll
take charge, I'll have a look at the chart in the locker here. Perhaps
we can tell where we are."

"I'm not at all sure," he announced after a brief study, "but I think we
aren't so far down as Hatteras--the wind fell away very rapidly toward
the last. That may be the North Carolina coast, though--Currituck
Island, perhaps. You know the sounds run Currituck, Albemarle, and
Pamlico."

"I know the coffee must be boiled and the ham broiled by this time. Take
the wheel and let the cook attend to her duties."

She flatly refused to touch any breakfast until he had eaten his fill
and waited upon him in spite of his protests. Never had broiled ham,
hard crackers, and marmalade tasted so good. And the strong, hot coffee
warmed his very soul.

"You wonder!" he said, as he presented the tin cup for more. "Where did
you get this gorgeous dinner-set?"

"I found it among the pots and pans in the galley. There's quite an
assortment your predecessor left."

"Oh, that coffee! You miracle of a child!"

Her eyes sparkled as she watched him swallow a second cup. "What do you
think of the cook?"

"I think the cook's an angel."

"Have you finished? Then to bed with you."

"I'm off. Just hold the _Wisp_ to the course she's on. Call me when you
can make out the land distinctly."

He patted her benevolently upon the shoulder and started forward. "Well,
here goes the weary sea-boy to his slumbers."

She waved her hand as he descended the forecastle ladder.

In a little while he slid back the overhead hatch a foot or so and
looked out. He was invisible to the fair helmswoman, but the coils of
her hair shone just above the top of the cabin roof.

"I'm almost asleep," he called. "Good-night, Betty dear."

He held his breath. Would the intimacy wrought of the night's peril and
companionship avail? An answer, low and very gentle, went with him to
his dreams.

"Good-night, Bob White--dear."



                                   X


When he awoke, it seemed to him that he had slept a scant half-hour, but
his watch, which had come unscathed through the wettings of the night,
showed that mid-afternoon had come.

The _Wisp_ rose and fell very gently, and he thought with satisfaction
that the sea must be entirely calm.

In the tiny bath-room of the forecastle, he revelled in a fresh-water
bath. As he passed the looking-glass, he surveyed his face ruefully. In
vain to lament his looming beard! A diligent search failed to reveal the
razor he had hoped Danton's boatman might have left.

It was only when fully dressed and engaged in smoothing down his hair as
best he could that he became aware of a strange thing. There was no
sound of rippling water under the _Wisp's_ bow.

And then he realized that the gentle motion of the sloop could not be
caused by the rise and fall of the Atlantic swell--a swell majestic even
at its calmest. The _Wisp_ was not under way, but was at anchor in quiet
waters!

He ran up the ladder, shouting: "Betty! Betty! What's up?"

For his pains, he bumped his head on the half-closed hatch-cover, and
for answer to his call heard--nothing. With another cry of "Betty!" he
leaped upon deck.

There was no Betty. In a quiet inlet the _Wisp_ was lying alongside a
float connected by a plank to a pebbly beach. A tongue of land separated
the harbor from the outer ocean. At a little distance on this sandy
tract appeared a straggling group of houses, and anchored near the
_Wisp_ was a steam yacht, a pretty craft all white and gold.

All this he took in at a glance. A second disclosed a note pinned to the
hatch-cover. He had it open in short order.

    BOATSWAIN BOB:

    I couldn't bear to wake you. A man who helped me make fast the
    _Wisp_ says this is Currituck Sound, and the city (?) is Kitty
    Hawk. I've gone to get some things. Be sure your clothes are
    dry.

                                                     NANCY LEE, A.B.

Kitty Hawk was on the chart--of so much he was certain--and he guessed
that it contained a shop to supply its needs. He determined to purchase
some sadly needed apparel for himself. In the shop, too, he would be
certain to find Betty.

Still a little languid from his experiences of the night, he strolled
leisurely along the sandy path. The day was clear and pleasantly warm.
On his left the sun glinted upon the now kindly sea, and on his right
the seagulls shrieked and fought above the waters of the sound. And
presently he would see Betty.

He entered the village. The few people he met greeted him with a stare
of frank curiosity, a stare generally followed by a friendly nod.

As he had anticipated, he soon came upon a building bearing a sign:

                    BAZAAR. DRYGOODS AND GROCERIES.
                              POST-OFFICE.

In front of it a wooden bench extending along the sidewalk, and three or
four lank loungers thereupon, furnished irrefutable proof that the
centre of Kitty Hawk's business activities was at hand.

He remembered that he had not had a sight of Betty for five hours, and
he pushed open the door of the "Bazaar" eager to see again the roguish
mouth.

To his disappointment, she was not in the shop. However, the proprietor,
a sandy-haired native inclining to corpulency, was prompt to supply his
needs, nor was he backward in answering Fessenden's question as to
whether or not he had seen a young woman in a white sailor-suit.

"You-all are off the sloop 'at come in jest aftah the big yacht, I
reckon. Yes, suh, yoah wife's jest been heah."

"My wife!"

He could have bitten his tongue off the next instant, for the man gave
him a sharp, not to say suspicious, look.

"Yes. The young lady's yoah wife, I reckon, suh. Her and you-all come
togethah, didn't yo'?"

"Yes--no--that is--" stammered Fessenden.

The shopkeeper stopped in the act of wrapping the assortment of
haberdashery and razors Fessenden had picked out.

"It ain't my way to quawl with good money," he said, "but I'm a
professin' Baptist, and I'm _obliged_ to say if yo' two folks have come
sailin' round these parts 'ithout bein' lawfully married--well"--he
sighed regretfully--"then, suh, you-all can't buy nothin' in my stoah."

But by this time Fessenden had recovered his wits. "No, no, man," he
said. "You don't understand. She's my daughter."

"Oh, yoah daughtah? Then it's all right, of co'se. Yes, suh, I can see
now she does favah you-all a heap." Although desirous of being
convinced, his suspicions still lingered. "But you-all are a pretty
young-lookin' fathah, that's a fact, suh."

"Forty isn't very young," returned Fessenden mendaciously. "Which way
did you say she went?"

"Why, she met some of yoah friends from the big yacht. They was in aftah
theyah mail. They-all went out togethah. Yoah friends beat you-all
consid'abul, didn't they?"

His friends on the big yacht? What was the fellow talking about?
Fessenden repressed a half-uttered question. No need to reawaken the
man's slumbering suspicions as to the character of himself and Betty! He
settled his bill, and left the "Bazaar," bundle in hand.

The shopkeeper's talk had stirred him profoundly. Betty? Good Lord! For
the first time he saw how others might look upon their enforced cruise
together. She was almost a child, true; but was she near enough to
childhood to be beyond the breath of scandal? This was a devilish mess!

He could not bear to think of himself in such a light. Far less could he
patiently endure that through any fault of his--yet his fault was only
his presence--her name should be blackened. What could he do? His feet
lagged as he pondered, his head hanging.

He knew that Aunty Landis must have borne the news of their disaster to
Sandywood. What would thoughtless Polly Cresap say when she learned that
he and the farmer's pretty daughter were not drowned after all? And
impertinent Harry Cleborne? How would Madge Yarnell judge him? With
brooding scorn, perhaps. As for Charlie Danton--Fessenden could picture
all-too-clearly his bitter smile, the scar-line twitching the corner of
his mouth. By God! he would suffer no sneer from Danton.

He wondered if any of the villagers had conveyed to Betty, even by a
look, the suspicions that accursed shopkeeper had thrust upon him! He
would find her at once. His presence might act as some sort of shield
for her.

Conscious that some one blocked his way, he glanced up sharply. Charlie
Danton stood before him--Danton, not sneering, not even smiling, but
watching him very gravely.



                                   XI


So near had Danton been to Fessenden's thoughts that he was able
instantly to connect the Baltimorean's presence with the shopkeeper's
talk of the people from the steam yacht. He was the first to speak.

"Where's Betty?"

"She's with my wife--on the _West Wind_."

"Your wife?"

"Yes. I was married two days ago."

"Danton! You--married? You're joking, old man."

"Not in the least. I was married last Sunday--to Madge Yarnell."

"Madge Yarnell! What!"

"Is Mrs. Charles Danton," said the other.

Fessenden was too dumfounded to do aught but stare. His friend slipped
an arm through his and turned him about.

"There's room for us on the bench there. Let's talk it over. Madge and
Betty are doing the same down in the sand-hills now."

Fessenden yielded without a word, and they seated themselves on the
bench.

Danton was a man under thirty years. He was slight and pale, and had
much of the abrupt manner of that ancestor who had come to Baltimore in
the train of Jerome Bonaparte, and who, like his master, had found a
wife there.

"You're really married?" said Fessenden. "By Jove! I can't get over it.
To Madge Yarnell, too. Then what in the world has become of--of--ah--"

"Of a certain other lady?" appended his friend with perfect coolness. "I
don't blame you for wondering about her. But never mind now. I want to
tell you about my wedding. It was unique in the history of the
Chesapeake, I promise you." His laugh had a ring of heartiness that
surprised his listener. "Tom," he went on, "I'll be frank with you. I've
been in more than one crooked path in my time, but I'm through with that
sort of thing. Thank Heaven!"

The other's amazement found expression. "I swear I don't know you.
What's come over you?"

"Love," said Danton simply. "Madge's love, and all that it means. She
says she has told you of that tearing down the flag matter last year.
That proved to me and to her that I owned _her_--I'd known for a long
time that she owned _me_, you understand--but after that affair she sent
me away, and I, in revenge, went after--I was a cad, I know. Well, I
hope I'll never be again."

"About your wedding, old man?"

"I'm coming to that--and I'll skip the long story between. Last
Saturday, after Madge met you and Betty on the road, she galloped to
Sandywood Station, and sent me a reply to the wire I'd sent you."

"A bit cool, that."

"I've got it my pocket now. Here!" He read the bluish slip, smiling
faintly the while.

    CHARLES DANTON
    The Club, Baltimore.

    Impossible to come, but understand. She promises to be _West
    Wind_ eight o'clock Sunday night, ready.

"Hum! What did that mean?"

"It meant that I thought I understood. I thought that you had discovered
the--the Other Lady, in the farmhouse where she was hiding from me. I
believed she'd told you to tell me she was ready--at last. I'd had the
_Wisp_ stored for that very reason, you know, and then shifted to the
_West Wind_ because it was larger and more seaworthy, in case _she_
wanted to go right across to Gibraltar."

"Was it as near a thing as that?"

"No matter now. The result of the telegram was that I was at Polocoke
landing and aboard the _West Wind_ by eight o'clock Sunday night. I give
you my word I never dreamed of a trick--who would?"

"I don't see----"

"You will in a moment. My skipper, Williams, met me as I came aboard.
'She's below, sir,' he said, 'and gave orders we were to put to sea just
as soon as you turned up.' Faithful soul! He didn't know he'd been
tricked either--doesn't know it yet, for that matter. He'd run away with
the Queen of India if he thought I wanted it done. 'Right,' I told him.
'Shove off, and go full speed as soon as you're clear.' With that, I
dived down into the main cabin. She wasn't there, and I looked into my
stateroom. I couldn't see her there either, so I stepped to the inner
stateroom--the two connect, you understand--where I thought she must
be."

He smiled soberly at Fessenden's interested face. "Tom," he said, "every
word I'm telling you is for your soul's good. It's all the truth, but
it's a parable, too--for you. Well, as I reached the doorway between the
two rooms, somebody seized both my elbows from behind. By George! She's
as strong as a man."

"What! Not----"

"Yes, Madge."

"Great Scott! I begin to have a glimmer."

"I had just time to see that it _was_ Madge before she pushed me
inside--into the inner room--and slammed the door behind me. It locked
with a spring."

"She was outside?"

"Yes, in my room. I was inside that."

"I understand."

"Precisely. I fancy I don't need to tell you much more. I was a prisoner
in my own yacht, and that yacht headed full speed down the bay, my men
acting upon what they thought were my own orders. A lovely girl was in
my room. I was as much separated from her as if I were in the moon, but
my own crew couldn't know that, and neither could the world."

"She's a heroine."

"She is--the most adorable in the world! She talked to me through the
closed door. What she said--well, that's only for her and me. I saw at
last what a mad fool I'd been. Then--then she threw herself on my
mercy."

"You seem to have played the man."

"She'd make a man of a snake! I saw myself in my true light at last; and
I understood her at last. God bless her!"

"Amen!"

"We ran on down to Old Point Comfort, and the chaplain at the fort
married us that same night."

The two men shook hands.

"After we left Old Point," went on Danton, "we cruised about a bit, got
mussed up by the storm, and ran in here. And then you--you and _Betty_
appeared."

His emphasis brought a penetrating look from Fessenden.

"You said you were telling me a parable. You don't mean--surely you
can't--Betty!"

"I do."

"Do you dare to think----"

"I don't think anything. What I say is that my case furnishes a parallel
to yours."

"Speak out, man! What! You mean you think I ought to marry her?"

"Well, then--yes."

"Good God! Marry Betty!"

"Yes."

Fessenden rose abruptly to his feet and walked away a few paces. He
stared unseeingly across the stretch of sand to the sea beyond.

A hundred images of Betty flitted before his mind's eye--images graceful
and smiling, sad and gay, merry and serious, always infinitely winsome.
Her voice sounded in his ear--teasing, angry, kind--always low-toned and
charming.

He faced Danton. "Marry her? I've been wanting to do that very thing
since the first minute I saw her--only, I didn't know it."

His friend's face shone with relief and pleasure. He broke into a boyish
laugh.

"Great!" he said. "You're the right sort, Tom. I knew it, and I told
Madge so."

Fessenden could not respond to the other's mood. "All very well. But
what will Betty say?"

"Ask her."

"I intend to. But is she old enough--is she in a position--to
understand?"

"I tell you, yes."

"And I tell you I'm very doubtful. A mere child, a country girl,
ignorant of the world, ignorant, perhaps, of what marriage means! It's a
hard position for me, and it may be worse--it may be horrible--for her."

"Ask her," repeated Danton. "Look there!" He levelled his walking-stick.
"Do you see the dunes there--the second hill? Somewhere beyond that
you'll find Madge and Betty."

Without another word, Fessenden pulled his cap over his eyes and strode
off.

He skirted the first hillock, and on its farther side came abruptly upon
Madge Danton. She gave him a warm hand. Her eyes had lost their defiant
look; rather, it seemed to him, they included the world in their gentle
glance.

"You'll find her beyond the next hill," she said.

"You've talked to her--as Danton talked to me?"

"Yes. She understands--her position. I know I don't need to warn you to
be--careful."

"No, no."

He did not find Betty beyond the next hill, nor the next. But, hastening
down the hollow ways, he almost stumbled over her at last--on a sunny
slope above the sea.

She looked up at him, her eyes as clear as crystal. "Hello, Boatswain
Bob!"

The greeting steadied him immeasurably. He knew that not so much what he
should say in the next few minutes, as how he should say it, might
determine the course of their lives. He longed with all his strength to
be given a divine tact and a divine gift of speech.

He threw himself on the sand at a respectful distance. "Hello, Nancy
Lee!"

Thanks to Kitty Hawk's "Bazaar," a scarlet ribbon again shone at Betty's
throat. Her hair was as he had last seen it--coiled superbly about her
head. Again he felt the air of dignity and aloofness of which the coiled
hair seemed the symbol.

Fessenden's eyes, quiet and tender, met her own, his glance as clear as
hers.

"Betty," he said, very simply, "we've been through a lot together, and I
want you to marry me. Will you? Don't think I'm asking you because of
any chivalrous fancy. I want you because I love you, and for nothing
else in the world." His own words fired him. "Dearest, I've loved you
since the first minute I saw you. You know that--in the bottom of your
heart, you know that's true."

Her eyes, which at first had met his unwaveringly, quailed a little. The
red crept slowly into her cheeks.

[Illustration: ALL THE CHIVALRY IN FESSENDEN'S NATURE STIRRED AT HER
WORDS]

"I'm only a--a country girl," she said. "And you're the famous Mr.
Thomas Fessenden. I didn't know your real name until Madge told me, you
know."

"Will you marry me, Betty?"

She eyed him soberly. "Madge said I _must_ say yes, if you asked me."

"You poor child! Don't mind what she says. I want you to love me, if you
can."

"I like you thoroughly, Bob White."

"Is that all?"

"That's all--I'm sorry," she answered gravely. "To marry a man, and not
to love him, would be--horrible."

All the chivalry in Fessenden's nature stirred at her words. His
clenched hands sank to the wrists in the soft sand, and his voice shook
a little as he answered:

"Not if--if we marry, and still remain only--friends."

Her glance searched his soul. "O-oh! Can you--mean what you say?"

"I give you my word of honor. Do you remember that night--good heavens!
was it only last Friday?--that night I had supper at your house, and
what I told you when you looked as if you were willing to say good-night
in a certain way?"

"I remember."

"Well, I'll stick by that."

She rose to her feet.

"You haven't answered me yet," he protested.

Her face flushed exquisitely. "There's a church in Kitty Hawk," she
said. "And I believe a minister comes over from the mainland once a
month. Madge says he is due--to-morrow."



                                  XII


They were married in the little Kitty Hawk church at noon the next day.

Before the hour of the wedding came, certain matters had been attended
to. Letters had been written in time to catch the launch which would
return with the minister from Kitty Hawk to the mainland. The clothing
stock of the "Bazaar" had been materially reduced by the demands both
Betty and Fessenden had made upon it. The _Wisp_ had been loaded with
everything in the way of food, water, and utensils, that could be needed
for a fortnight's cruise.

"Why bother with the sloop?" Danton had demanded. "There's plenty of
room on the _West Wind_. We can all go honeymooning together, eh, Madge?
Over to Bermuda, if you like."

To Fessenden's infinite relief, Betty had declined this well-meant
offer. "No, thank you," she had said, blushing a little. "After
to-night, I'll go back to the dear little _Wisp_--where I'll belong, you
know. Bob White is going to take me down through the sounds, and then
back through the Dismal Swamp, home."

Madge and Danton, supplemented by the entire crew of the _West Wind_,
were the witnesses at the wedding.

It seemed to Fessenden that Betty's eyes were bluer than the sea that
broke on the inlet bar, and the light in them more mysterious and
wonderful. She looked a fair and innocent child.

He answered the minister's questions, and even signed the marriage
certificate, in a sort of daze, a daze from which he roused himself only
after they had eaten the wedding breakfast on the _West Wind_, and
having boarded the _Wisp_, were waving farewell to the others across the
water.

Betty serenely assumed command. "I'll take the wheel, Boatswain Bob,"
she said, "and you get up sail."

He cast off from the float, and set jib, flying jib, and mainsail in a
trice. As the sloop gathered headway, the helmswoman stood under the
stern of the larger yacht.

"Good-by, good-by, children," called Danton patronizingly.

"_Bon voyage_, children," chorused Madge. "Be sure to love each other."

"Good-by, old married people," retorted Fessenden.

The _Wisp_ stood wing-and-wing down the sound. Fessenden lounged at his
ease beside the charming captain.

"Betty," he said, "has it yet occurred to you that you are really my
wife?"

She gave him a swift, half-frightened glance. "No-o. I haven't really
had much time to think about it, you know."

"Just now it came over me in a sort of wave. If you don't object, I'll
call you 'dear' occasionally, simply to assure myself it's true."

"Whenever you like," she returned politely.

"Dear!"

"Oh! That's rather--pronounced, isn't it?"

"Very well pronounced. Very pleasant to pronounce, in fact."

She sat down trustfully beside him, a guiding hand on the wheel. "Do you
know, Bob White, I've often thought it would be delightful to sail like
this with a ra-ther good-looking--comrade?"

"Am I the man, may I ask?"

"You are."

"Thank you--dear. And do you know that for the last two or three days
I've been thinking I'd give my hope of salvation to sail like this with
Betty Landis?"

She gave him another quick glance. "With whom?"

"I mean with Betty Fessenden, of course."

"O-oh!"

"I'm dreaming now of sailing on and on with her. The other night I
dreamed that she put 'dear' after my name, and that if we could only
sail and sail long enough she might do it again."

His half-closed lids hid the warmth in his eyes, but his voice shook
with the passion he struggled to control. She shrank a little.

"You needn't," he said. "Please don't. You can trust me absolutely. I--I
was merely dreaming, you know."

"I didn't mean to hurt you, Bob White--dear. Trust you? My presence here
shows that I do--you know that." Her fingers touched his hair so
fleetingly that he hardly dared believe she had meant it for a caress.

Presently she relinquished the wheel to him and took his place among the
cushions.

He noticed how round her throat was, and how deliciously white. The
rose-tipped chin and red mouth held him fascinated, until the glint of
bayonets in the eyes warned him to control his glances.

"You're the most adorable skipper I ever saw," he declared.

"I've a confession to make, Boatswain."

"Confess then, Nancy Lee."

"My ankle wasn't hurt that day in the brook. I didn't really stumble."

"What!"

She nodded contritely. "No. I did it on purpose. Wasn't it perfectly
shameless?"

"I've had a far-away feeling that you made a miraculous recovery from
that strain. But why did you pretend?"

"Just as a game. I wanted to see what the--the good-looking stranger
would do."

"You found out."

"Goodness, yes, didn't I!" They laughed together at the thought.

"Madge and Charlie Danton," she went on--"do you think they're really in
love? I mean, do you think their love will last?"

"Don't you?"

"Ye-es, I do. She has just enough _esprit de diable_ to hold him. It is
'infinite variety' that pleases him, I fancy, and Madge is twenty women
in one."

"You're a philosopher. By the way, where did you learn French? Do they
teach that in the 'little red-roofed schoolhouse' in Maryland?"

"Haven't I told you about my teacher? And I went to a very good school
in Baltimore, if you please."

"That reminds me that I know hardly anything about my own wife--only
that her name was Betty Landis. You once told me that your mother was
well-connected, Betty. Who was she?"

The mainsail sheet, which she had been carelessly handling, at that
moment slipped through her fingers, and the boom went flying out. He was
barely able to keep the sloop from jibing.

"Be careful, child," he warned. "Take a turn or two around that cleat
there."

"Bob White," she said, when affairs were again in order, "I've been
thinking--of what you must be giving up in marrying _me_. I don't mean
only your bachelor freedom, although I know that's precious to a man.
But you are giving up--everything."

"I'm lucky to get the chance."

"Perhaps I've spoiled your career."

"Nonsense!"

"It may not be nonsense. You are a man of a different world from the
country one you found _me_ in. It was only an hour ago we were married,
but I can see already that I was perfectly mad and unutterably selfish
to let you sacrifice yourself for me. A braver girl--a better
girl--wouldn't have cared what silly society might say. I was wicked to
marry you!"

"Tut! tut!"

"I'm perfectly serious--miserably serious."

"Then I'll be serious, too. I admit that you and I ought to be
different, but we aren't. I don't know why it should be so, dear, but we
both 'belong.' We're the same sort. You must feel it as well as I."

All that golden afternoon they sailed, and all the afternoon they
talked. Her mind played with a hundred fancies, grave and gay, and
Fessenden heard her with delight, and with ever-renewed wonder. She
seemed to him a sort of Admirable Crichton, possessing heaven-sent
intuition of all that was rare and charming and useful.

At dusk they lowered all sail, let go the anchor, and made the sloop
secure for the night.

Then, with his respectful help, Betty cooked the dinner, and served it
on a camp-table in the cockpit.

That dinner was Olympian. A sirloin steak, deliciously broiled--"I
intend to give you a _man's_ dinner," she had declared; French fried
potatoes, as hot as the flames they came hissing from; coffee, as clear
as amber; and fresh tea-biscuits which one was allowed to dip in Kitty
Hawk honey.

When the dinner things had been cleared away, they sat under the stars
and watched the lights twinkle here and there from lonely cabins
along-shore. Now and then Betty's fingers strayed over the guitar she
had borrowed from the West Wind. The light breeze sighed an answer
through the cypress and tamarack trees of the swampy cape near-by.

Betty pointed dreamily shoreward. "The 'swampers' down here are a wild
lot. During the war my uncle was attacked by them--on the way down to
his district."

"His district?"

"He commanded the Eastern Military District of North Carolina, you know,
and--and--" She broke off abruptly. "Oh, dear! My foot's
asleep--terribly! Will you put a cushion under it for me?"

"One minute," he said. "I don't quite make this out. If your uncle
commanded a military district here during the war, he must have been a
Federal general, a man of distinction, yet you--"

"My foot's asleep, and prickles dreadfully."

"Just a moment." She could feel the growing fixedness of his glance.
"I--remember--this sort of thing has happened before. On the
island--Rincoteague--when I asked you what you knew about Madge Yarnell,
you suddenly discovered that it was raining. This morning, too,
something was said about your mother, and somehow the sail got adrift at
that very moment. You had hold of it. And just now your foot falls
asleep in the nick of time. Betty, I don't like this sort of thing! I've
had enough confidence in you to marry you--to marry you very much in the
dark. Isn't it fair you should have confidence in me, a little?"

She was listening with half-averted face and a smile that baffled him.

As he watched her, a score of confusing recollections rushed through his
mind like fiery phantoms: Madge Yarnell's recognition of the envelope
received from White Cottage; her determined effort to accompany him
thither the next day; her theatric assault upon them, whip in hand, on
the road from Jim George's--even yet he found it hard to believe that
they had narrowly escaped a tragedy!

Harry Cleborne, Fessenden had then imagined, had warned him against his
pursuit of an innocent country girl, and had puzzled him by obscure
reference to another man, and on top of this had denied all knowledge of
Betty Landis.

He recalled a hundred reticences and reservations on the part of Betty,
natural enough at the time, but now possessed of a disturbing
significance. Her knowledge of the world; her voice and bearing; the
words she had let slip of her mother, of her Baltimore friends and
school, of her uncle, the Union general! What did these things mean?

Light began to break upon him. Madge had not pressed upon them that day
because she had discovered only him where she had expected to find
Danton. Cleborne had really babbled of Danton and the Other Lady. Danton
himself, in their talk on the beach at Kitty Hawk, had said that the
Other had been in seclusion--hiding from his pursuit of her--in a
farmhouse on the Eastern Shore.

He towered over Betty in sudden fury. "What! What _is_ all this? Who are
you? Who are you, I say?"

The smile died from the girl's lips, and she shrank before his white
face and fierce eyes.

Shame and rage so choked him that his words were almost incoherent, but
they were the more terrible for that. She cowered away from him to the
very limits of the gunwale.

"Oh, please!" she said. "Don't! Don't! Oh, please!"

The tenderness he had lately felt for her came over him in a wave as he
looked down at the shrinking figure.

"I--I beg your pardon," he said. "I lost my head. Don't be afraid--it's
all over now. I beg your pardon."

Without another word or look he turned and sought his room in the
forecastle.

Half an hour later, as he lay staring into the darkness, he heard a
muffled beat, as of a drum. Betty was playing her guitar in her room.

Gradually the drum-beat increased and quickened until it grew into a
continuous roll, a throbbing cadence that thrilled through and through
him. The roar of the wind and the mutter of the sea were in the
shattering roll of the drum.

At the very height of its clamor--while he strove in vain to catch its
meaning--it passed abruptly into silence. He was left staring into the
dark.



                                  XIII


Toward midnight, the girl lying wakeful in the after cabin heard a tap
at the door.

"Betty, are you awake?"

"Yes."

"Don't be frightened, but I think there may be a little excitement out
here pretty soon."

"What is it?"

"Some of the 'swampers' up to a bit of thieving, I fancy."

"I'll be out in a moment, Bob White."

She found him, clad only in shirt and trousers, leaning against the side
of the cabin, and staring shoreward. She divined his frank smile, and
smiled in return.

"Thieves?" she asked in a whisper.

"I'm almost sure of it," he answered in the same tone. "I heard a boat
bump against the side of the _Wisp_ a few minutes ago. I think they were
drifting down with the tide to reconnoitre, and were swept in closer
than they had expected to be."

"Have you a pistol?"

"On the locker there. Lucky Danton lent me one of his. You aren't
afraid?"

"Not--with you."

"I dare say they won't come back. Listen now! See if you can make out
anything to starboard. I'll watch on this side."

The night was very dark. The stars were obscured by light clouds, nor
was there a moon visible. Their eyes could penetrate the darkness little
farther than the rails where a whitish mist hid the surface of the
water.

Betty gazed intently. A sidelong glance showed her Fessenden kneeling on
the locker opposite her, his half-bared arms folded on his chest. His
powerful form gave her a comforting sense of protection. She stared
again to starboard.

From the mist two great hands gripped the rail of the sloop! Then a
face--the face of a negro--rose into view, a knife gripped in his teeth.
So impossible, so barbaric, did the apparition seem, that for a long
breath Betty stared spell-bound.

Then her scream whirled Fessenden about. He crossed the cockpit at a
bound, and struck savagely at the negro's jaw. The latter ducked with
the skill of a trained boxer. Throwing up a hand, he caught the other by
the throat, dragging him forward.

Fessenden struck again, grappled with his antagonist, tottered, and
plunged headforemost over the rail upon him. Both went down struggling
wildly.

Betty snatched up the revolver, hardly knowing what she did, and stared
down upon the boiling water.

Fessenden's ghastly face, his groping fingers, his throat from which
stood up the handle of the recking knife! The possibility of these
things strained her mind to the breaking point. A horror of what the
loss of him would mean to her drew a piercing cry:

"Bob White! Oh, Bob White!"

As if summoned by the sound, the two men rose into view--a yard apart.
Betty fired on the instant. The shot went wild, but the negro, for the
first time aware that firearms were at hand, dived deep. They saw him
but once again, his head a black spot in the mist as he swam frenziedly
for his drifting punt.

Her shaking hands helped Fessenden over the rail.

"You--that dreadful knife!--you aren't hurt?"

"I knocked that out of his mouth the first thing. A couple of teeth
along with it! But the fellow can swim like an alligator--he would have
drowned me at his leisure, if you hadn't fired. Thank you, child." He
patted her shoulder. "The row must have been rather rough on you."

"It doesn't matter--so long as you're safe."

"It's all right. Well, that 'swamper' won't bother us any more to-night,
I'll swear--so I'll get out of these wet togs. Lucky they're the
flannels I borrowed from Danton."

She reached both hands to his dripping shoulders. "Tom! Tom! I want to
talk to you." She was laughing, yet half in tears. "Oh, it's
ridiculous--it's pitiful to think we are husband and wife, and--and you
don't even know my real name."

He stared down at her. A slow tremor shook him. "Then you admit--that I
don't?"

"I know you don't, you--you silly boy! Go and change your clothes. Then
come back and talk to me. Come soon!"

In a wonderfully short time he rejoined her. Only his damp hair showed
his late struggle with the robber, but his very quietness betrayed his
emotion.

She was awaiting him on the cushioned locker, a lighted reading-lamp
beside her.

"Sit down here," she said. "Close! You needn't be afraid of me. I--oh,
I've a hundred things to say to you!"

"Good. It was thoughtful of you to bring out that lamp. I can see your
face better while you talk."

"And I yours--you dear boy."

"Betty! Be careful what you say. I've got myself pretty well in hand,
but I can't stand much of that sort of thing."

She laughed deliriously. "I brought the lamp to let you read something."
She produced an official-looking document. "Look at this. Do you know
what it is?"

He peered at it. "No-o. Yes, of course. It's our marriage certificate,
isn't it?"

"It is. Mr. Thomas Fessenden, do you realize that you signed that
document some twelve hours ago and didn't even read the name just above
your own?"

"Above mine? That must be _your_ name, Betty!"

"Of course, silly boy. But you haven't yet seen it. You were so excited
that you may have married an Abiatha Prudence or a Mary Ann, for all you
know."

He gave her a penetrating glance, then snatched up the lamp and held it
so that its rays fell full upon the certificate.

Just above his own signature was another in a feminine hand: "Roland
Elizabeth Cary."

He repeated it stupidly, "Roland Elizabeth Cary."

She nodded, blushing hotly.

"You?"

"Yes--please."

"Not Landis?"

"She was my old nurse. I've always called her Aunty Landis."

"_Roland Cary_ that they all talked about! Not a man, but _you_?"

"Are you awfully disappointed? I was named after my great-uncle, General
Roland Cary."

"Great Scott! Polly Cresap said _Roland Cary_ was charming. Mrs. Dick
Randall told me that he--no, that _Roland Cary_ was a 'dee-vil.' Cresap
quite raved over--over Roland Cary. I've been as blind as an owl!"

"It was wicked of me to fool you so long, but it was such a joke. All my
cousins always call me Roland Cary, as if it were my only name."

"Then you're Elizabeth Cary--the Miss Cary of Baltimore that people made
such a fuss about when you came out last year--'the' Cary of 'the'
Carys?"

"I suppose I am."

"I hope you'll give me credit for never believing that you were an
ordinary person."

"Yes, I do."

"But _why_ did you do it--masquerade in the Landis farmhouse? I remember
somebody said 'Roland Cary' had 'notions.'"

"I did it to be near a friend--to have a chance to shelter a friend
without attracting notice. A woman--the Other--the one that Charlie
Danton--"

"O-oh! It must have been she Cleborne saw at the window--and I thought
he was warning me about you!"

"I kept her out of harm's way--really in hiding. I didn't know how it
would all end, but it did end perfectly."

"You mean that Madge Yarnell ran away with Charlie Danton, and solved
the problem?"

"Not only that. The very night before _our_ elopement--yours and
mine--she received a letter, a _dear_ letter, from her husband. They'd
been on the point of making it up for weeks. You see, nothing
_impossible_ had occurred."

"I see."

He had put down the lamp so suddenly that the light had flickered out.
The mist was gone, and the velvety blackness stretched unbroken from
shore to shore. Far down the sound, the red rim of the moon was rising
from the water.

"Child," he said, "for a young woman of your position you have married
in a very reckless and off-hand way."

"I knew you were--real. I knew I could trust you."

He gave a short laugh. "Thank you. But if we're going up and down this
weary world in--in this fashion, forever, I think I'll soon begin to
wish that the 'swamper' had put his knife into my heart."

She caught him tenderly by the chin. "Oh, Bob White! If you had never
come back to me--out of that black water!"

He trembled from head to foot. "Betty!"

"I know--I know. Dear--will you kiss me?"

"For God's sake, Betty! You don't know what you're saying. After all,
we're husband and wife--a kiss between you and me can't be play any
longer. It means--it must mean--everything."

She leaned toward him, her eyes exquisitely tender.

"I know, dear," she said. "Must I ask you again? Will--will you kiss
me?"


                                THE END.





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