Part 3 out of 9
You put your trust in me. I'll keep her jumpin'. I understand.
He went out hurriedly, and, though I shouted after him, he only
waved and ducked behind a beach-plum bush. He did not believe me
serious in my refusal to sell; neither did Dean, or Colton, or,
apparently, any one else. They all thought me merely shrewd, a
sharp trader driving a hard bargain, as they would have done in my
place. They might think so, if they wished; I should not explain.
As a matter of fact, I could not have explained my attitude, even
Yet this very attitude made a difference, a perceptible difference,
in my position in Denboro. I noticed it each time I went up to the
village. I saw the groups at the post-office and at the depot turn
to watch me as I approached and as I went away. Captain Jedediah
did not mention the Lane again--at least for some time--but he
always hailed me cordially when we met and seemed anxious to be
seen in my company. Eldredge, of course, was effusive; so was
Alvin Baker. And other people, citizens of consequence in the
town, who had heretofore merely bowed, now stopped to speak with me
on the street. Members of the sewing circle called on Mother more
frequently, and Matilda Dean, Captain Jed's wife, came regularly
once a week. Sometimes she saw Mother and sometimes she did not,
depending upon Dorinda's state of mind at the time.
Lute, always a sort of social barometer, noticed the change in the
"Everybody's talkin' about you, Ros," he declared. "They cal'late
you're a pretty smart feller. They don't just understand what
you're up to, but they think you're pretty smart."
"No?" I commented, ironically. "Lute, you astonish me. Why am I
"Well, they don't know exactly, but they cal'late you must be. Oh,
I hear things. Cap'n Jed said t'other night you'd make a pretty
"_I_ would? A Selectman?"
"Yup. He as much as hinted that to me; wondered if you'd take the
nomination provided he could fix it for you. Sim Eldredge and
Alvin and some more all said they'd vote for you if they got a
chance. ARE you figgerin' to charge toll on the Lane?"
"Toll? What put that idea in your head?"
"Nothin', only some of the fellers wondered if you was. You see,
you won't sell, and so--"
"I see. That's a brilliant suggestion, Lute. When I adopt it I'll
appoint you toll-keeper."
"By time! I wish you would. I'd make Thoph Newcomb pay up. He
owes me ten cents; bet it one time and never settled."
Yes, my position in Denboro had changed. But I took no pride in
the change, as I had at first; I knew the reason for this sudden
burst of popularity. The knowledge made me more cynical than ever--
cynical, and lonely. For the first time since I came to the Cape
I longed for a real friend, not a relative or an acquaintance, but
a friend to trust and confide in. Some one, with no string of his
own to pull, who cared for me because I was myself.
And all the time I had such a friend and did not realize it. The
knowledge came to me in this way. Mother had one of her seizures,
one of the now infrequent "sinking spells," as the doctor called
them, on an evening when I was alone with her. Dorinda and Lute
had gone, with the horse and buggy, to visit a cousin in Bayport.
They were to stay over night and return before breakfast the next
I was alone in the dining-room when Mother called my name. There
was something in her tone which alarmed me and I hastened to her
bedside. One glance at her face was enough.
"Boy," she said, weakly, "I am afraid I am going to be ill. I have
tried not to alarm you, but I feel faint and I am--you won't be
alarmed, will you? I know it is nothing serious."
I told her not to worry and not to talk. I hurried out to the
kitchen, got the hot water and the brandy, made her swallow a
little of the mixture, and bathed her forehead and wrists with
vinegar, an old-fashioned restorative which Dorinda always used.
She said she felt better, but I was anxious and, as soon as it was
safe to leave her, hurried out to bring the doctor. She begged me
not to go, because it was beginning to rain and I might get wet,
but I assured her it was not raining hard, and went.
It was not raining hard when I started, but there was every sign of
a severe storm close at hand. It was pitch dark and I was weary
from stumbling through the bushes and over the rough path when I
reached the corner of the Lane and the Lower Road. Then a carriage
came down that road. It was an open wagon and George Taylor was
the driver. He had been up to the Deans' and was on his way home.
I hailed the vehicle, intending to ask for a ride, but when Taylor
discovered who his hailer was he insisted on my going back to the
house. He would get the doctor, he said, and bring him down at
once. I was afraid he would be caught in the storm, and hesitated
in accepting the offer, but he insisted. I did go back to the
house, found Mother in much the same condition as when I left her,
and had scarcely gotten into the kitchen again when Taylor once
"I brought Nellie along to stay with your mother," he said. "The
Cap'n and the old lady"--meaning Matilda--"were up at the meeting-
house and we just left a note saying where we'd gone. Nellie's all
right. Between you and me, she don't talk you deaf, dumb and blind
like her ma, and she's good company for sick folks. Now I'll fetch
the doctor and be right back."
"But it's raining pitchforks," I said. "You'll be wet through."
"No, I won't. I'll have Doc Quimby here in no time."
He drove off and Nellie Dean went into Mother's room. I had always
considered Nellie a milk-and-watery young female, but somehow her
quiet ways and soft voice seemed just what were needed in a sick
room. I left the two together and came out to wait for Taylor and
But they did not come. The storm was under full headway now, and
the wind was dashing the rain in sheets against the windows. I
waited nearly an hour and still no sign of the doctor.
Nellie came out of Mother's room and closed the door softly behind
"She's quiet now," she whispered. "I think she's asleep. Where do
you suppose George is?"
"Goodness knows!" I answered. "I shouldn't have let him go, a
night like this."
"I'm afraid you couldn't stop him if his mind was made up. He's
dreadful determined when he sets out to be."
"He's a good fellow," I said, to please her. She worshipped the
cashier, a fact of which all Denboro was aware, and which caused
gossip to report that she did the courting for the two.
She blushed and smiled.
"He thinks a lot of you," she observed. "He's always talking to me
about you. It's a good thing you're a man or I should be jealous."
I smiled. "I seem to be talked about generally, just now," said I.
"Are you? Oh, you mean about the Shore Lane. Yes, Pa can't make
you out about that. He says you've got something up your sleeve
and he hasn't decided what it is. I asked George what Pa meant and
he just laughed. He said whatever you had in your sleeve was your
affair and, if he was any judge of character, it would stay there
till you got ready to shake it out. He always stood up for you,
even before the Shore Lane business happened. I think he likes you
better than any one else in Denboro."
"Present company excepted, of course."
"Oh, of course. If that wasn't excepted I should REALLY be
jealous. Then," more seriously, "Roscoe, does it seem to you that
George is worried or troubled about something lately?"
I thought of Taylor's sudden change of expression that day in the
bank, and of his remark that he wished he had my chance. But I
concealed my thoughts.
"The prospect of marriage is enough to make any man worried, isn't
it?" I asked. "I imagine he realizes that he isn't good enough for
There was sarcasm in this remark, sarcasm of which I should have
been ashamed. But she took it literally and as a compliment. She
looked at me reproachfully.
"Good enough for me!" she exclaimed. "He! Sometimes I wonder if
it is right for me to be so happy. I feel almost as if it was
wrong. As if something must happen to punish me for it."
I did not answer. To tell the truth, I was envious. There was
real happiness in the world. This country girl had found it; that
Mabel Colton would, no doubt, find it some day--unless she married
her Victor, in which case I had my doubts. But what happiness was
in store for me?
Nellie did most of the talking thereafter; principally about
George, and why he did not come. At last she went in to see if
Mother needed her, and, twenty minutes later, when I looked into
the bedroom, I saw that she had fallen asleep on the couch.
Mother, too, seemed to be sleeping, and I left them thus.
It was almost eleven o'clock when the sound of carriage wheels in
the yard brought me to the window and then to the door. Doctor
Quimby had come at last and Taylor was with him. The doctor, in
his mackintosh and overshoes, was dry enough, but his companion was
wet to the skin.
"Sorry I'm so late, Ros," said the doctor. "I was way up to
Ebenezer Cahoon's in West Denboro. There's a new edition of
Ebenezer, made port this morning, and I was a little bit concerned
about the missus. She's all right, though. How's your mother?"
"Better, I think. She's asleep now. So is Nellie. I suppose
George told you she was with her."
"Yes. George had a rough passage over that West Denboro road.
It's bad enough in daylight, but on a night like this--whew! I
carried away a wheel turning into Ebenezer's yard, and if George
hadn't had his team along I don't know how I'd have got here. I'll
go right in and see Mrs. Paine."
He left us and I turned to Taylor.
"You're soaked through," I declared. "Come out to the kitchen
stove. What in the world made you drive way up to that forsaken
place? It's a good seven miles. Come out to the kitchen. Quick!"
He sat down by the stove and put his wet boots on the hearth. I
mixed him a glass of the brandy and hot water and handed him a
"Why did you do it, George?" I said. "I never would have thought
of asking such a thing."
"I know it," he said. "Course you wouldn't ask it. There's plenty
in this town that would, but you wouldn't. Maybe that's one reason
I was so glad to do it for you."
"I am almost sorry you did. It is too great a kindness altogether.
I'm afraid I shouldn't have done as much for you."
"Go on! Yes, you would. I know you."
I shook my head.
"No, you don't," I answered. "Captain Jed--your prospective
father-in-law--said the other day that he had been mistaken; he
thought he knew me, but he was beginning to find he did not."
"Did he say that? What did he mean?"
"I imagine he meant he wasn't sure whether I was the fool he had
believed me to be, or just a sharp rascal."
Taylor looked at me over the edge of his glass.
"You think that's what he meant, do you?"
"I know it."
He put the glass on the floor beside him and laid a hand on my
"Ros," he said, "I don't know for sure what the Cap'n meant, though
if he thinks you're either one of the two he's the fool. But _I_
know you--better, maybe, than you know yourself. At least I
believe I know you better than any one else in the town."
"That wouldn't be saying much."
"Wouldn't it? Well, maybe not. But whose fault is it? It's
yours, the way I look at it. Ros, I've been meaning to have a talk
with you some day; perhaps this is as good a time as any. You make
a big mistake in the way you treat Denboro and the folks in it."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean just that. Your whole attitude is wrong, has been wrong
ever since you first came here to live. You never gave any of us a
chance to know you and like you--anybody but me, I mean, and even I
never had but half a chance. You make a mistake, I tell you.
There's lots of good folks in this town, lots of 'em. Cap'n Elisha
Warren's one of 'em and there's plenty more. They're countrymen,
same as I am, but they're good, plain, sensible folks, and they'd
like to like you if they had a chance. You belong to the Town
Improvement Society, but you never go to a meeting. You ought to
get out and mix more."
I shrugged my shoulders. "I guess my mixing wouldn't be very
welcome," I said. "And, besides, I don't care to mix."
"I know you don't, but you ought to, just the same."
"Nonsense! George, I'm not blind, or deaf. Don't you suppose I
know what Warren and Dean and the rest think of me? They consider
me a loafer and no good. I've heard what they say. I've noticed
how they treat me."
"How you treat them, you mean. You are as cold and freezing as a
cake of ice. They was willing to be friends but you wouldn't have
it. And, as for their calling you a loafer--well, that's your own
fault, too. You OUGHT to do something; not work, perhaps, but
you'd be a whole lot better off if you got really interested in
something. Get into politics; get into town affairs; get out and
know the people you're living with."
"I don't care to know them; and I'm sure they don't care to know
"Yes, they do. I understand how you feel. In this Shore Lane
matter now: you think Cap'n Jed and Colton, because they pretend to
call you a fool, don't respect you for taking the stand you have.
They do. They don't understand you, maybe, but they can't help
respecting you and, if they knew you even as well as I do, they'd
like you. Come! I ain't throwin' any bouquets, but why do you
suppose I'd be willing to drive to West Denboro forty times over,
on forty times worse nights than this, for you? Why?"
"Heaven knows! Would you?"
"I would. I like you, Ros. I took a shine to you the first time I
met you. I don't know why exactly. Why does anybody like anybody
else? But I think a whole lot of you. I know this sounds foolish,
and you don't feel that way towards me, but it's the truth."
I was amazed. I had always liked George Taylor, but I never felt
any strong affection for him. I was a little less indifferent to
him than to others in Denboro, that was all. And I had taken it
for granted that his liking for me was of the same casual, lukewarm
variety. To hear him declare himself in this way was astonishing--
he, the dry, keen, Yankee banker.
"But why, George?" I repeated.
"I don't know why; I told you that. It's because I can't help it,
I suppose. Or because, as I said, I know you better than any one
I sighed. "Nobody knows me here," I said.
"One knows you, Ros. I know you."
"You may think you do, but you don't. You can thank God for your
"Maybe I ain't so ignorant."
I looked at him. He was looking me straight in the eye.
"What do you know?" I asked, slowly.
"I know, for one thing, that your name ain't Paine."
I could not answer. I am not certain whether I attempted to speak
or move. I do remember that the pressure of his hand on my knee
"It's all right, Ros," he said, earnestly. "Nobody knows but me,
and nobody ever shall know if I can help it."
"How--how much do you know?" I stammered.
"Why, pretty much all, I guess. I've known ever since your mother
was taken sick. Some things I read in the paper, and the pictures
of--of your father, put me on, and afterwards I got more certain of
it. But it's all right. Nobody but me knows or shall know."
I leaned my head on my hand. He patted my knee, gently.
"Are--are you sure no one else knows?" I asked.
"Certain sure. There was one time when it might have all come out.
A reporter fellow from one of the Boston papers got on the track
somehow and came down here to investigate. Luckily I was the first
man he tackled, and I steered him away. I presume likely I lied
some, but my conscience is easy so far as that goes."
"And you have told no one? Not even Nellie?"
"No. I tell Nellie most things, but not all--not all."
I remembered afterwards that he sighed as he said this and took his
hand from my knee; but then my agitation was too great to do more
than casually notice it. I rose to my feet.
"George! George!" I cried. "I--I can't say to you what I should
like. But why--WHY did you shield me? And lie for me? Why did
you do it? I was hardly more than a stranger."
He sighed. "Don't know," he answered. "I never could quite see
why a man's sins should be visited on the widows and fatherless.
And, of course, I realized that you and your mother changed your
name and came down here to get away from gossip and talk. But I
guess the real reason was that I liked you, Ros. Love at first
sight, same as we read about; hey?"
He looked up and smiled. I seized his hand.
"George," I said, chokingly, "I did not believe I had a real friend
in the world, except Mother and Dorinda and Lute, of course. I
can't thank you enough for shielding us all these years; there's no
use in my trying. But if ever I can do anything to help YOU--
anything--I'll do it. I'll swear to that."
He shook my hand.
"I know you will, Ros," he said. "I told you I knew you."
"If ever I can do anything--"
He interrupted me.
"There's one thing you can do right now," he said. "That's get out
and mix. That'll please me as much as anything. And begin right
off. Why, see here, the Methodist society is going to give a
strawberry festival on the meeting-house lawn next Thursday night.
About everybody's going, Nellie and I included. You come, will
I hesitated. I had heard about the festival, but I certainly had
not contemplated attending.
"Come!" he urged. "You won't say no to the first favor I ask you.
Promise me you'll be on hand."
Before I could answer, we heard the door of Mother's room open.
George and I hastened into the dining-room. Doctor Quimby and
Nellie Dean were there. Nellie rushed over to her lover's side.
"You bad boy," she cried. "You're wet through."
Doctor Quimby turned to me.
"Your ma's getting on all right," he declared. "About all that
ails her now is that she wants to see you."
George was assisting Nellie to put on her wraps.
"Got to leave you now, Ros," he said. "Cap'n Jed and Matildy'll
think we've eloped ahead of time. Good-night. Oh, say, will you
promise me to take in the strawberry festival?"
"Why" I answered, "I suppose-- Yes, Mother, I'm coming-- Why,
yes, George, I'll promise, to please you."
I have often wondered since what my life story would have been if I
had not made that promise.
The Methodist church stood on the slope of a little hill, back from
the Main Road, and the parsonage was next door. Between the church
and the parsonage was a stretch of lawn, dotted with shrubs and
cedars and shaded by two big silver-leaf poplars. It was on this
lawn that, provided the night was fair, the strawberry festival was
to be held. If the weather should be unpropitious the festival was
to be in the church vestry.
All that day Dorinda was busy baking and icing cake. She was not
going to the festival--partly because I was going and she could not
leave Mother--but principally because such affairs were altogether
too frivolous to fit in her scheme of orthodoxy. "I don't
recollect," she said, "that the apostles did much strawberry
festivalin'; they had other things to attend to." Lute, however,
was going and if he had been invited to a Presidential reception he
could not have been much more excited. He was dressed and ready at
supper time, although the festival did not begin until seven-
"Think I'm all right, Dorindy, do you?" he queried, anxiously
turning himself about for his wife's inspection. "How about these
new pants? Fur enough down on my boots, be they?"
Dorinda looked him over with a critical eye. "Um-hm," she
observed, "that end of 'em seems to be all right. But I cal'late
the upper end ain't been introduced to your vest yet. Anyhow, the
two don't seem to be well enough acquainted to associate close."
Lute bent forward to inspect the hiatus between trousers and
waistcoat. "By time!" he exclaimed, "I told Sim Eldredge they was
too short in the waist. He said if they was any longer they'd
wrinkle under the arms. I don't know what to do. If I hist 'em up
they'll be what the fellers call high-water, won't them?"
"Humph! I'd ruther have 'em high-water than shoal in the middle of
the channel. You'll have to average up somehow. I ought to have
known better than to trust you to buy anything all by yourself."
She condescended to approve of my appearance when, an hour later, I
came downstairs, garbed in my best.
"Humph!" she vouchsafed, after a long look. "I declare! I'd
hardly know you, Roscoe. You look more as you used to when you
fust come here to live."
"Thanks," I answered, drily. "I'm glad to see that you respect old
age. This suit is venerable enough to command that kind of
"'Tain't the suit, though that's all right enough. It's the way
you wear it, I guess. You look BETTER than you used to. You're
browned up and broadened out and it's real becomin'. But," she
added, with characteristic caution, "you must remember that good
looks don't count for much. My father used to say to me that
handsome is that handsome does. Not that I was so homely I'd scare
the crows, but he didn't want me to be vain. Now don't fall
overboard in THAT suit, will you?"
Mother noticed my unwonted grandeur when I went in to say good-
night to her.
"Why, Roscoe!" she exclaimed. "You must consider this strawberry
festival very important."
"Because you've taken such pains to dress for it."
"It did not require a great deal of pains. I merely put on what
Dorinda calls my Sunday clothes. I don't know why I did, either.
I certainly don't consider the festival important."
"I am glad you did. I have been a little troubled about you of
late, Boy. It has seemed to me that you were growing--well, not
careless, exactly, but indifferent. As if you were losing interest
in life. I don't blame you. Compelled to waste your time here in
the country, a companion to a bedridden old woman like me."
"Hush, Mother. You're not old; and as to wasting my time--why,
Mother, you know--"
"Yes, yes, Boy, I know what you would say. But it does trouble me,
nevertheless. I ought to bid you go back into the world, and take
your place among men. A hundred times I have been upon the point
of telling you to leave me, but--but--I am SO selfish."
"Hush, Mother, please."
"Yes, I AM selfish and I know it. I am growing stronger every day;
I am sure of it. Just a little longer, Roscoe, just a little
longer, and then--"
"There, there!" she stroked my hand. "We won't be sad, will we.
It pleases me to see you taking an interest in affairs. I think
this Shore Lane matter may be a good thing, after all. Dorinda
says that Luther tells her you are becoming very popular in town
because of your independent stand. Everyone recognizes your public
"Did she tell you that?"
"Not in those words. You know Dorinda. But what amounts to that.
I am sure the Denboro people are very proud of you."
I thought of my "popularity" and the admiration of my "public
spirit" as manifested in the attentions of Captain Jed and Eldredge
and their followers, and I turned my head away so that she might
not see my face.
"And I am glad you are going to the strawberry festival. I can't
remember when you attended such a function before. Boy--"
"There isn't any reason, any special reason, for your going, is
"Why, what do you mean?"
"I mean--well, you are young and I did not know but, perhaps, some
one else was going, some one you were interested in, and--and--"
I laughed aloud. "Mother!" I said, reproachfully.
"Why not? I am very proud of my handsome boy, and I know that--"
"There! there! I haven't noticed that my beauty is so fascinating
as to be dangerous. No, Mother, there is no 'special reason' for
my going to-night. I promised George Taylor, that was all."
"Well, I am sure you will have a good time. Kiss me, Boy. Good-
I was by no means so sure of the good time. In fact, I loitered on
my way to the village and it was well past eight o'clock when I
paid my fifteen cents admission fee to Elnathan Mullet at the gate
of the church grounds and sauntered up the slope toward the lights
and gaiety of the strawberry festival.
The ladies of the Methodist society, under whose management the
affair was given, were fortunate in their choice of an evening.
The early risen moon shone from a cloudless sky and there was so
little breeze that the Japanese lanterns, hung above the tables,
went out only occasionally. The "beauty and elite of Denboro"--see
next week's Cape Cod Item--were present in force and, mingling with
them, or, if not mingling, at least inspecting them with interest,
were some of the early arrivals among the cottagers from South
Denboro and Bayport. I saw Lute, proudly conscious of his new
lavender trousers, in conversation with Matilda Dean, and I
wondered who was the winner in that wordy race. Captain Jedediah
strutted arm in arm with the minister. Thoph Newcomb and Alvin
Baker were there with their wives. Simeon Eldredge had not yet put
in an appearance but I knew that he would as soon as the evening
mail was sorted.
I found Nellie Dean in charge of a table, and George Taylor seated
at that table. I walked over and joined them.
"Good evening, Nellie," said I. "Well, George, here I am, you
He shook my hand heartily. "I see you are," he said. "Good boy!
How does it seem to splash into society?"
"I haven't splashed yet. I have only just arrived."
"Oh, trying the feel of the water, hey? Guess you won't find it
very chilly. As a preparatory tonic I'd recommend strawberries and
cream. Nellie, get Ros a saucer of those genuine home-raised
berries, why don't you?"
Nellie laughed. "Roscoe," she said, "isn't he dreadful! He knows
we bought these berries in Boston. It's much too early for the
native ones. But they really are very nice, though he does make
such fun of them."
She went into the vestry to get the berries and I sat down at the
table beside Taylor and looked about me.
"Most everybody's here," he observed. "And they'll be glad to see
you, Ros. Get out and shake hands and be sociable, after you've
done your duty by the fruit. How are things at home?"
"Mother is herself again, I am glad to say. George, I have
scarcely thought of anything except what you told me the other
"Then it's time you did. That's one reason why I wanted you to
come here. You've been thinking too much about yourself."
"It isn't of myself, but of Mother. If you had dropped a hint when
that Boston reporter came--"
"Now, look here, Ros, would YOU have dropped hints if things had
been the other way around?"
"I don't know."
"I know you wouldn't. What's the use of giving the Denboro gossip
mill a chance to run over time? Great heavens! it works twelve
hours a day as 'tis."
"It was mighty good of you, just the same."
"No, it wasn't. The whole affair was your business and nobody
"Well, as I said before, if ever I have an opportunity to do as
much for you--not that I ever will."
"How do you know you won't? Anybody's liable to be gossiped about
some time or other."
"Not you. You are Denboro's shining light. The mothers and
fathers here point you out as an example of what industry and
ambition and honest effort may rise to. I--"
"Shut up!" He said it almost savagely. "There!" he added,
quickly, "let's change the subject. Talk about something worth
while. Humph! I guess they must be opening another crate of those
Boston 'homegrowns,' judgin' by the time it takes Nellie to get
"I am in no hurry. How are affairs at the bank?"
"Oh, so, so. Don't know a good man who wants a job, do you? Henry
Small's going to leave the middle of next month."
"Small, the bookkeeper? Why?"
"Got a better chance up to the city. I don't blame him. Don't
tell anybody yet; it's a secret. Say, Ros, DO you know of a good,
sharp, experienced fellow?"
I smiled. "Is it likely?" I asked. "How large is my acquaintance
among sharp, experienced fellows down here?"
"Not so large as it ought to be, I'll give in to that. But you
"Do I, indeed? Who is he?"
"Yourself. You wouldn't take Small's job, would you?"
"I?" I laughed aloud.
"It's no joke. You've had a lot of banking experience. I've heard
about it among my city friends, who don't know I know you. Course
I realize the place is way beneath what you ought to have, but--"
"Oh, don't be sarcastic. No, thank you, George."
"All right, if you say so. But I meant it. You don't need the
salary, I know. But--Ros, do you mind if I talk plain for a
I wondered what was coming now. "No," I answered. "Go ahead and
"Well then, I tell you, as a friend, that 'twould be a good thing
for you if you did take that job, or some other one. Don't make
much matter what it is, but you ought to do something. You're too
clever a fellow to be hanging around, shooting and fishing. You're
wasting your life."
"That was wasted long ago."
"No, it wasn't. But it will be if you don't change pretty soon. I
tell you you ought to get interested in something that counts. You
might make a big name for yourself yet."
"That's enough of that. I have a name already. You know it, and
you know what was made of it."
"YOU didn't make it that kind of a name, did you? And you're young
enough to make it something altogether different. You ought to.
You owe it to your mother and you owe it to yourself. As it is, if
you keep on, you'll--"
"George, you've said enough. No one but you would have been
permitted to say as much. You don't understand."
"Maybe not, but, Ros, I don't like to have people around here call
"I don't care a continental what they call me. I don't want them
to know who I am, but for public opinion generally I care nothing."
He leaned back in his chair. His face was in shadow and I could
not see it, but his tone was grave enough.
"You think you don't," he said, slowly, "but there may come a time
when you will. There may come a time when you get so interested in
something, or some person, that the thought of what folks would say
if--if anything went wrong would keep you awake night after night.
Oh, I tell you, Ros-- Hello, Nellie! thought you'd gone South to
pick those berries yourself. Two saucers full! Well, I suppose I
must eat the other to save it--unless Ros here wants both."
I said one would be quite sufficient for the present, and we three
chatted until Mrs. Dean came over and monopolized the chat.
"Don't go, Roscoe," protested the matron. "The Cap'n's here and
he'll want to talk to you. He's dreadful interested in you just
now. Don't talk about nobody else, scurcely. You set still and
I'll go fetch him."
But I refused to "set." I knew the cause of Captain Jedediah's
interest, and what he wished to talk about. I rose and announced
that I would stroll about a bit. Taylor spoke to me as I was
"Ros," he said, earnestly, "you think of what I told you, will
I saw a group of people hurrying toward the entrance of the grounds
and I followed them, curious as to the cause of the excitement. An
automobile had stopped by the gate. Sim Eldredge came hastening up
and seized me by the arm.
"Gosh! it's Ros," he exclaimed, in his mysterious whisper. "I
hadn't seen you afore; just got here myself. But I'm glad you ARE
here. I'll see that you and him get a chance to talk private."
"Who?" I asked, trying to pull my arm free.
"Why, Mr. Colton. Didn't you know? Yes, sir, that's his car.
He's come and so's his daughter and that young Carver feller. I
believe they've come to take in the sociable. There they be! See
'em! See 'em!"
I saw them. Colton and Victor had already alighted and Miss Colton
was descending from the tonneau. There were two other men in the
car, beside Oscar, the chauffeur.
"Who are those other people?" I asked.
"I don't know," whispered Sim, excitedly. "Stay where you be and
I'll find out. I'll be right back, now. Don't you move."
I did not move, not because he had ordered me to stay where I was,
but because I was curious. The spot where I stood was in shadow
and I knew they could not see me.
Colton and his daughter were talking with Victor, who remained by
the step of the auto.
"Well, Mabel," observed "Big Jim," "here we are, though why I don't
know. I hope you enjoy this thing more than I am likely to."
"Of course I shall enjoy it, Father. Look at the decorations.
Aren't they perfectly WONDERFUL!"
"Especially the color scheme," drawled Victor. "Mabel, I call your
attention to the red, blue and purple lanterns. Some class? Yes?
Well, I must go. I'll be back in a very short time. If Parker
wasn't starting for Europe to-morrow I shouldn't think of leaving,
but I'm sure you'll forgive me, under the circumstances."
"I forgive you, Victor," replied the girl, carelessly. "But don't
be too long."
"No, don't," added her father. "I promised Mrs. Colton that I
should not be away more than an hour. She's very nervous to-night
and I may be sent for any time. So don't keep us waiting."
"No fear of that. I'll be back long before you are ready to go. I
wouldn't miss this--er--affair myself for something. Ah, our
combination friend, the undertaking postmaster."
Sim's hat was in his hand and he was greeting Mr. Colton.
"Proud to see you amongst us, sir," said Sim, with unction. "The
Methodist folks are havin' quite a time to-night, ain't they?"
"How d'ye do, Eldredge," was the great man's salutation, not at all
effusive. "Where does all this crowd come from? Didn't know there
were so many people in the neighborhood."
"'Most everybody's out to-night. Church'll make consider'ble
money. Good evenin', Miss Colton. Mr. Carver, pleased to meet you
The young lady merely nodded. Victor, whose foot was on the step
of the car, did not deign to turn.
"Thanks," he drawled. "I am--er--embalmed, I'm sure. All ready,
Phil. Let her go, Oscar."
The auto moved off. Mr. Colton gave his arm to his daughter and
they moved through the crowd, Eldredge acting as master of
"It's all right, Elnathan," ordered Sim, addressing the gate-
keeper. "Don't bother Mr. Colton about the admission now. I'll
settle with you, myself, later. Now, Mr. Colton, you and the lady
come right along with me. Ain't met the minister yet, have you?
He said you wan't to home when he called. And you let me get you
some strawberries. They're fust-rate, if I do say it."
He led the way toward the tables. I watched the progress from
where I stood. It was interesting to see how the visitors were
treated by the different groups. Some, like Sim, were gushing and
obsequious. A few, Captain Jed among them, walked stubbornly by,
either nodding coldly or paying no attention. Others, like George
Taylor and Doctor Quimby, were neither obsequious nor cold, merely
bowing pleasantly and saying, "Good evening," as though greeting
acquaintances and equals. Yes, there WERE good people in Denboro,
quiet, unassuming, self-respecting citizens.
One of them came up to me and spoke.
"Hello, Ros," said Captain Elisha Warren, "Sim's havin' the time of
his life, isn't he?"
"He seems to be," I replied.
"Yes. Well, there's some satisfaction in havin' a thick shell;
then you don't mind bein' stepped on. Yet, I don't know; sometimes
I think fellers of Sim's kind enjoy bein' stepped on, provided the
boot that does it is patent leather."
"I wonder why they came here," I mused.
"Who? the Coltons? Why, for the same reason children go to the
circus, I shouldn't wonder--to laugh at the clowns. I laugh myself
sometimes--though 'tain't always at their kind of clowns. Speakin'
of that, young Carver's in good company this evenin', ain't he?"
"Who were those fellows in the auto?" I asked.
"Didn't you recognize them? One was Phil Somers--son of the rich
widow who owns the big cottage at Harniss. 'Tother is a bird of
the same flock down visitin' em. Carver's takin' 'em over to
Ostable to say good-by to another specimen, a college mate, who is
migratin' to Europe tomorrow. The chauffeur told Dan, my man,
about it this afternoon. The chauffeur figgered that, knowin' the
crowd, 'twas likely to be a lively farewell. Hello! there's Abbie
hailin' me. See you later, Ros."
I knew young Somers by reputation. He and his friends were a wild
set, if report was true.
Eldredge had hinted that he intended arranging an interview between
Colton and myself. The prospect did not appeal to me. At first I
decided to go home at once, but something akin to Captain Dean's
resentful stubbornness came over me. I would not be driven home by
those people. I found an unoccupied camp chair--one of Sim's,
which he rented for funerals--and carried it to a dark spot in the
shrubbery near the border of the parsonage lawn and not far from
the gate. There I seated myself, lit a cigar and smoked in
Elnathan Mullet, evidently considering his labors as door-keeper
over, was counting his takings by lantern light. The moon was low
in the west and a little breeze was now stirring the shrubbery. It
was very warm for the season and I mentally prophesied thunder
showers before morning.
I had smoked my cigar perhaps half through when a carriage came
down the road and stopped before the gate. The driver leaned
forward and called to Mullet.
"Hi, Uncle!" he shouted. "You, by the gate! Is Mr. Colton here?"
Elnathan, who was, apparently, half asleep, looked up.
"Hey?" he queried. "Mr. Colton? Yes, he's here. Want him, do
"Yes. Where is he?"
"Up yonder somewheres. There he is, by Sarah Burgess's table. Mr.
Colton! Mr. Col--ton! Somebody wants ye!"
"What in blazes did you yell like that for?" protested the
coachman, springing from the carriage. "Stop it, d'ye hear?"
"You said you wanted him, didn't you? Mr. Colton! Hi! Come
Colton came hurrying down to the gate, his daughter following more
"What's the matter?" he asked.
The coachman touched his hat.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said; "this man started yelling before
I could stop him. I was coming to tell you. Mrs. Colton says
she's very nervous, sir, and please come home at once."
Colton turned with a shrug to his daughter. "We might have
expected it, Mabel," he said. "Come."
But the young lady seemed to hesitate. "I believe I won't go yet,
Father," she said. "Mother doesn't need both of us. Victor will
be here very soon, and we promised to wait for him, you know."
"We can leave word. You'd better come, Mabel. Heavens and earth!
you don't want any MORE of this, do you?"
It was evident that he had had quite enough of the festival. She
"I'm finding it very entertaining," she said. "I never saw so many
quaint people. There is one girl, a Miss Dean, whom I am really
getting acquainted with. She's as country as can be, but she's
"Humph! she must be. Dean, hey? Daughter of my particular friend,
the ancient mariner, I suppose. I don't like to leave you here.
What shall I tell your mother?"
"Tell her I am quite safe and in perfectly respectable company."
"Humph! I can imagine how respectable she'll think it is. Well, I
know it's useless to urge if you have made up your mind. I don't
see where you get your stubbornness from."
"Don't you? I can guess."
"It isn't from your dad. Now do be careful, won't you? If Victor
doesn't come soon I shall send the carriage."
"Oh, he will come. It's all right, Father, dear. I am quite able
to take care of myself."
Her father shook his head. "Yes," he observed, "I guess you are.
All right, Jenkins."
He got into the carriage and was driven off. Miss Colton turned
and walked back to the tables. I relit my cigar.
Another half-hour passed.
Mullet finished his counting, took up his money box and lantern and
left the gate unguarded. Groups of home-going people began to come
down the hill. Horses, which had been standing under the church
sheds or hitched in neighboring yards, appeared and the various
buggies and two-seaters to which they were attached were filled and
driven away. Captain Warren and Miss Abbie Baker, his housekeeper,
were among the first to leave. Abijah Hammond, the sexton, began
taking down the lanterns. The strawberry festival was almost over.
I rose from my camp chair and prepared to start for home. As I
stepped from behind the shrubbery the moonlight suddenly went out,
as if it had been turned off like a gas jet. Except for the few
remaining lanterns and the gleams from the church windows and door
the darkness was complete. I looked at the western sky. It was
black, and low down along the horizon flashes of lightning were
playing. My prophecy of showers was to be fulfilled.
The ladies of the Methodist Society, assisted by their husbands and
male friends, were hurrying the tables and chairs indoors. I
picked up and folded the chair I had been occupying and joined the
busy group. It was so dark that faces were almost invisible, but I
recognized Sim Eldredge by his voice, and George Taylor and I
bumped into each other as we seized the same table.
"Hello, Ros!" exclaimed the cashier. "Thought you'd gone. Going
to have a tempest, ain't we."
"Tempest" is Cape Cod for thunderstorm. I agreed that one was
"Hold on till I get this stuff into the vestry," continued Taylor,
"and I'll drive you home. I'll be ready pretty soon."
I declined the invitation. "I'll walk," I answered. "You have
Nellie to look after. If you have a spare umbrella I'll borrow
that. Where is Nellie?"
"Oh, she's over yonder with Miss Colton. They have been making
each other's acquaintance. Say, Ros, she's a good deal of a girl,
that Colton one, did you know it?"
I did not answer.
"Oh, I know you're down on the whole lot of 'em," he added,
laughing; "but she is, just the same. Kind of top-lofty and
condescending, but that's the fault of her bringing-up. She's all
right underneath. Too good for that Carver cub. By the way, if he
doesn't come pretty soon I'll phone her pa to send the carriage for
her. If I was Colton I wouldn't put much confidence in Carver's
showing up in a hurry. You saw the gang he was with, didn't you?
They don't get home till morning, till daylight doth appear, as a
usual thing. Hello! that's the carriage now, ain't it? Guess papa
wasn't taking any chances."
Sure enough, there were the lights of a carriage at the gate, and I
heard the voice of Jenkins, the coachman, shouting. Nellie Dean
called Taylor's name and he hurried away. A few moments later he
"She's off, safe and sound," he said. "I judged she wasn't any too
well pleased with her Victor for not showing up to look out for
A sharp flash of lightning cut the sky and a rattling peal of
"Right on top of us, ain't it!" exclaimed George. "Sure you don't
want me to drive you home? All right; just as you say. Hold on
till I get you that umbrella."
He borrowed an umbrella from the parsonage. I took it, thanked
him, and hastened out of the church grounds. I looked up the road
as I passed through the gate. I could have seen an auto's lamps
for a long distance, but there were none in sight. With a
malicious chuckle I thought that my particular friend Victor was
not taking the surest way of making himself popular with his
fiancee, if that was what she was.
The storm overtook me before I was half-way down the Lower Road. A
few drops of rain splashed the leaves. A lightning stroke so near
and sharp that I fancied I could hear the hiss was accompanied by a
savage thunder-clap. Then came the roar of wind in the trees by
the roadside and down came the rain. I put up my umbrella and
began to run. We have few "tempests" in Denboro, those we do have
are almost worthy of the name.
I had reached the grove of birches perhaps two hundred yards from
the Shore Lane when out of the wet darkness before me came plunging
a horse drawing a covered carriage. I had sprung to one side to
let it go by when I heard a man's voice shouting, "Whoa!" The
voice did not come from the carriage but from the road behind it.
"Whoa! Stop him!" it shouted.
I jumped back into the road. The horse saw me appear directly in
front of him, shied and reared. The carriage lamps were lighted
and by their light I saw the reins dragging. I seized them and
held on. It was all involuntary. I was used to horses and this
one was frightened, that was all.
"Whoa, boy!" I ordered. "Whoa! Stand still!"
The horse had no intention of standing still.
He continued to rear and plunge. I, clinging to the reins, found
myself running alongside. I had to run to avoid the wheels. But I
ran as slowly as I could, and my one hundred and ninety pounds made
running, on the animal's part, a much less easy exercise.
The voice from the rear continued to shout and, in another moment,
a man seized the reins beside me. Together we managed to pull the
horse into a walk. Then the man, whom I recognized as the Colton
coachman, vented his feelings in a comprehensive burst of
profanity. I interrupted the service.
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"Oh, this blessed--"or words to that effect--"horse is scared of
thunder; that's all. He's a new one; we just bought him before we
came down here and I hadn't learned his little tricks. Whoa! stand
still, or I'll break your dumb neck! Say," turning to me, "go
back, will you, and see if she's all right."
"Miss Colton--the old man's daughter. She got out when he began to
dance and I was holding him by the bridle. Then came that big
flash and he broke loose. Go back and see to her, will you? I
can't leave this horse."
For just a moment I hesitated. I am ashamed of my hesitation now,
but this is supposed to be a truthful chronicle. Then I went back
down the road. By another flash of lightning I saw the minister's
umbrella upside down in the bushes where I had dropped it, and I
took it with me. I was about as wet as I well could be but I am
glad to say I remembered that the umbrella was a borrowed one.
After I had walked, or stumbled, or waded a little way I stopped
"Miss Colton," I called. "Where are you?"
"Here," came the answer from just ahead. "Is that you, Jenkins?"
I did not reply until I reached her side.
"You are not hurt?" I asked.
"No, not at all. But who is it?"
"I am--er--your neighbor. Paine is my name."
"Oh!" the tone was not enthusiastic. "Where is Jenkins?"
"He is attending to the horse. Pardon me, Miss Colton, but won't
you take this umbrella?"
This seemed to strike her as a trifle absurd. "Why, thank you,"
she said, "but I am afraid an umbrella would be useless in this
storm. Is the horse all right?"
"Yes, though he is very much frightened. I--"
I was interrupted by another flash and terrific report from
directly overhead. The young lady came closer to me.
"Oh!" she exclaimed.
I had an idea. The flash had made our surroundings as light as day
for an instant and across the road I saw Sylvanus Snow's old house,
untenanted, abandoned and falling to decay. I took Miss Colton's
"Come!" I said.
She hung back. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"Just across the road to that old house. On the porch we shall be
out of the rain."
She made no further objections and together we stumbled through the
wet grass and over Sylvanus's weed-grown flower beds. I presume I
shall never again smell the spicy fragrance of "old maids' pinks"
without thinking of that night.
I found the edge of the piazza by the direct process of barking my
shins against it, and helped her up on to the creaking boards. My
sanguine statement that we should be out of the rain proved not
quite true. There was a roof above us, but it leaked. I unfurled
the wet umbrella and held it over her head.
For some moments after we reached the piazza neither of us spoke.
The roar of the rain on the shingles of the porch and the splash
and gurgle all about us would have made conversation difficult,
even if we had wished to talk. I, for one, did not. At last she
"Do you see or hear anything of Jenkins?"
I listened, or tried to. I was wondering myself what had become of
"No," I answered, "I don't hear him."
"Where do you suppose he is? He could not have been far away when
you met him."
"He was not. And I know he intended to come back at once."
"You don't suppose Caesar--the horse--ran away again? When that
second crack came?"
I was wondering that very thing. That particular thunder clap was
louder and more terrifying than those preceding it. However, there
was no use in alarming her.
"I guess not," I answered. "He'll be here soon, I am sure."
But he did not come. The storm seemed to be passing over. The
flashes were just as frequent, but there was a longer interval
between each flash and its thunder peal. The rain was still a
Miss Colton was plainly growing more anxious.
"Where can he be?" she murmured.
"Don't be frightened," I urged. "He is all right. I'll go and
look him up, if you don't mind being left alone."
"Can't--can't we go together?"
"We could, of course, but there is no use in your getting wetter
than you are. If you are willing to stay here I will run up the
road and see if I can find him."
"Thank you. But you will get wet yourself."
"Oh, I am wet already. Take the umbrella. I'll be back in a
I pressed the handle of the umbrella into her hand--it was as
steady as mine--and darted out into the flood. I think she called
me to come back, but I did not obey. I ran up the road until I was
some distance beyond the point where I had stopped the runaway, but
there were no signs of horse, carriage or coachman. I called
repeatedly, but got no reply. Then, reluctantly, I gave it up and
returned to the porch.
She gave a little gasp of relief when I reached her side.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, "did you find him?"
"No," I answered. "He seems to have gone on. He cannot have gone
far. It is only a little way to the Corners."
"Is--isn't there a house, a house with people living in it, near
"No nearer than your house, Miss Colton. We seem to have chosen
the most forsaken spot in Denboro to be cast away in. I am very
"I am not frightened for myself. But I know my father and mother
will be alarmed if I don't come soon. I am sure Caesar must have
run away again, and I am afraid Jenkins must be hurt."
I had thought of that, too. Only an accident could explain the
coachman's non-appearance or, at least, his not sending help to his
"If you are really not afraid to remain here, Miss Colton," I said,
"I will go to your house myself."
"Oh no! Some one will come soon. I can't understand where Victor--
Mr. Carver--can be. He was to have joined me at the church."
I did not answer. Knowing Mr. Carver's associates and the errand
upon which he had gone, I imagined I could guess the cause of his
delay. But I did not speak my guess.
"The storm is not as severe just now," I said. "I can get to your
house in a little while, if you are willing I should leave you."
She put her hand on my arm. "Come," she said. "Shall we start
"But you must not go. You couldn't get there on foot, such a night
"Yes, I can. I mean to. Please come."
I still hesitated. She took her hand from my arm and stepped out
into the rain. "Are you coming?" she said.
I joined her, still protesting. We splashed on through the mud and
water, she clinging lightly to my arm and I holding the perfectly
useless umbrella over her head. The rain was descending steadily
and the sky overhead was just black, but along the western horizon,
as I caught a glimpse of it between the trees, I fancied the
blackness was a little less opaque. The storm was passing over,
But before it passed it gave us one goodby salute. We had about
reached the point on the Shore Lane where I first met her and
Carver in the auto. The shaky bridge over Mullet's cranberry brook
was just ahead. Then, without warning, the black night split wide
open, a jagged streak of fire shot from heaven to earth and seemed
to explode almost in our faces. I was almost knocked off my feet
and my fingers tingled as if I had been holding the handles of an
electric battery. The umbrella flew out of my hands and, so far as
I was concerned, vanished utterly. I believe Elnathan picked up
the ruin next day, but just then I neither knew nor cared what had
become of it. I had other things to think of.
But for a moment I could not think at all. I was conscious of a
great crashing and rustling and splintering directly in front of me
and then I realized that the young lady was no longer clinging to
my arm. I looked about and up through the darkness. Then down.
She was lying at my feet.
I bent over her.
"Miss Colton!" I cried. "Miss Colton! Are you hurt?"
She neither answered nor moved. My brain was still numb from the
electric shock and I had a dazed fear that she might be dead. I
shook her gently and she moaned. I spoke again and again, but she
did not answer, nor try to rise. The rain was pouring down upon us
and I knew she must not lie there. So once more, just as I had
done in the dingy, but now under quite different circumstances and
with entirely different feelings, I stooped and lifted her in my
My years of outdoor life in Denboro had had one good effect at
least; they had made me strong. I carried her with little effort
to the bridge. And there I stopped. The bridge was blocked,
covered with a mass of wet leafy branches and splintered wood. The
lightning bolt had missed us by just that much. It had overthrown
and demolished the big willow tree by the brook and to get through
or over the tangle was impossible.
So again history repeated itself. I descended the bank at the side
of the bridge and waded through the waters with Mabel Colton in my
arms. I staggered up the opposite bank and hurried on. She lay
quiet, her head against my shoulder. Her hat had fallen off and a
wet, fragrant strand of her hair brushed my cheek. Once I stopped
and bent my head to listen, to make sure that she was breathing.
She was, I felt her breath upon my face. Afterwards I remembered
all this; just then I was merely thankful that she was alive.
I had gone but a little way further when she stirred in my arms and
"What is it?" she asked. "What is the matter?"
"Nothing," I answered, with a sigh of relief. "It is all right.
We shall be there soon."
"But what is the matter? Why are you--let me walk, please."
"You had better stay as you are. You are almost home."
"But why are you carrying me? What is the matter?"
"You--you fainted, I think. The lightning--"
"Oh yes, I remember. Did I faint? How ridiculous! Please let me
walk now. I am all right. Really I am."
"But I think--"
"Please. I insist."
I set her gently on her feet. She staggered a little, but she was
plucky and, after a moment, was able to stand and walk, though
"You are sure you can manage it?" I asked.
"Of course! But why did I faint? I never did such a thing before
in my life."
"That flash was close to us. It struck the big willow by the
"Did it! As near as that?"
"Yes. Don't try to talk."
"But I am all right . . . I am not hurt at all. Are we almost
"Yes. Those are the lights of your house ahead there."
We moved on more rapidly. As we turned in at the Colton walk she
said, "Why; it has stopped raining."
It had, though I had not noticed it. The flash which smashed the
willow had been the accompaniment of what Lute would call the
"clearing-up shower." The storm was really over.
We stepped up on the portico of the big house and I rang the bell.
The butler opened the door. His face, as he saw the pair of
dripping, bedraggled outcasts before him, was worth looking at. He
was shocked out of his dignity.
"Why! Why, Miss Mabel!" he stammered, with almost human agitation.
A voice, a petulant female voice, called from the head of the
"Johnson," it quavered, "who is it? Mabel, is that you?"
The library door flew open and Mr. Colton himself appeared.
"Eh? What?" he exclaimed. "By George! Mabel, where have you
been? I have been raising heaven and earth to locate you. The
'phone seems to be out of order and-- Great Scott, girl! you're
wet through. Jenkins, what--? Hey? Why, it isn't Jenkins!"
The fact that his daughter's escort was not the coachman had just
dawned upon him. He stared at me in irate bewilderment. Before he
could ask a question or his daughter could speak or explain there
came a little shriek from the stairs, a rustle of silken skirts,
and a plump, white-faced woman in an elaborate house gown rushed
across the hall with both white arms outstretched.
"Mabel!" she cried, "where HAVE you been. You poor child! I have
been almost beside myself, and--"
Miss Colton laughingly avoided the rush. "Take care, Mother," she
warned. "I am very wet."
"Wet? Why! you're absolutely drenched! Jenkins-- Mabel, where is
Jenkins? And who is this--er--person?"
I thought it quite time for me to withdraw.
"Good night, Miss Colton," I said, and stepped toward the door.
But "Big Jim" roared my name.
"It's that--it's Paine!" he exclaimed. "Here! what does this mean,
I think his daughter was about to explain, when there came another
interruption. From the driveway sounded the blare of an auto horn.
Johnson threw open the door just as the big car whirled up to the
"Here we are!" laughed Carver, emerging from behind the drawn
curtains of the machine. "Home again from a foreign shore. Come
in, fellows, and have a drink. We've had water enough for one
night. Come in."
He stumbled as he crossed the sill, recovered his balance, laughed,
and then all at once seemed to become aware of the group in the
hall. He looked about him, swaying a little as he did so.
"Ah, Mabel!" he exclaimed, genially. "Got here first, didn't you?
Sorry I was late, but it was all old Parker's fault. Wouldn't let
us say goodby. But we came some when we did come. The bridge is
down and we made Oscar run her right through the water. Great ex-
experience. Hello! Why, what's matter? Who's this? What? it's
Reuben, isn't it! Mabel, what on earth--"
She paid no attention to him. I was at the door when she overtook
"Mr. Paine," she said, "I am very grateful for your kindness. Both
for what you have done tonight and for your help the other
afternoon. Thank you."
She held out her hand. I took it, scarcely knowing that I did so.
"Thank you," she said, again. I murmured something or other and
went out. As I stepped from the porch I heard Victor's voice.
"Well, by Jove!" he exclaimed. "Mabel!"
I looked back. He was standing by the door. She went past him
without replying or even looking at him. From the automobile I
heard smothered chuckles and exclamations. The butler closed the
I walked home as fast as I could. Dorinda was waiting up for me.
What she said when she saw the ruin of my Sunday suit had better
not be repeated. She was still saying it when I took my lamp and
went up to bed.
The strawberry festival and the "tempest" were, of course, the
subjects most discussed at the breakfast table next morning. Lute
monopolized the conversation, a fact for which I was thankful, for
it enabled me to dodge Dorinda's questions as to my own adventures.
I did not care to talk about the latter. My feelings concerning
them were curiously mixed. Was I glad or sorry that Fate had
chosen me to play once more the role of rescuer of a young female
in distress? That my playing of the role had altered my standing
in Mabel Colton's mind I felt reasonably sure. Her words at
parting with me rang true. She was grateful, and she had shaken
hands with me. Doubtless she would tell her father the whole story
and he, too, in common decency, would be grateful to me for helping
his daughter. But, after all, did I care for gratitude from that
family? And what form would that gratitude take? Would Colton,
like Victor Carver, offer to pay me for my services? No, hardly
that, I thought. He was a man of wide experience and, if he did
offer payment, it would be in some less crude form than a five
But I did not want payment in any form. I did not want condescension
and patronizing thanks. I did not want anything--that was it. Up
to now, the occupants of the big house and I had been enemies, open
and confessed. I had, so far as possible, kept out of their way and
hoped they would keep out of mine. But now the situation was more
complicated. I did not know what to expect. Of course there was no
chance of our becoming friends. The difference in social position,
as they reckoned it, made that too ridiculous to consider as a
possibility, even if I wished it, which I distinctly did not. But
something, an interview, awkward and disagreeable for both sides, or
a patronizing note of thanks, was, at the very least, certain to
follow the happenings of the previous night. I wished I had gone
home when the Coltons first came to the festival. I wished I had
not promised Taylor that I would attend that festival. I wished--I
wished a great many things. The thought of young Carver's public
snubbing before his friends was my one unmixed satisfaction. I
rather imagined that he was more uncomfortable than I was or could
Lute crowed vaingloriously over his own good judgment in leaving
for home early.
"I don't know how 'twas," he declared. "Somethin' seemed to tell
me we was in for a turrible tempest. I was settin' talkin' with
Alvin Baker and eatin' my second sasser of berries, when--"
"SECOND sasser?" interrupted Dorinda, sharply. "Where'd you get
money for two sassers? I gave you thirty cents when you started
for that festival. It cost you fifteen to get inside the gate, and
Matildy Dean told me the church folks was cal'latin' to charge
fifteen for a helpin' of berries and cream. And you had two
sassers, you say. Who paid for the second one?"
Her husband swallowed half a cup of coffee before replying. Then
his reply had nothing to do with the question.
"I don't know how 'twas," he went on. "I just had the feelin',
that's all. Sort of a present--presentuary, I guess, come over me.
I looked up at the sky and 'twas gettin' black, and then I looked
to the west-ard and I see a flash of lightnin'. 'Nothin' but heat
lightnin',' says Alvin. 'Heat lightnin' nothin'!' says I, 'I tell
"Who paid for that second sasser of berries?" repeated his wife,
"Why now, Dorindy--"
"Who paid for 'em? If 'twas Alvin Baker you ought to be ashamed of
yourself, spongin' on him for your vittles."
"Alvin! Good land! did you ever know him to pay for anything he
didn't have to?"
"Never mind what I know. Did you get trusted for 'em? How many
times have I told you--"
"I never got trusted. I ain't that kind. And I didn't sponge 'em,
neither. I paid cash, right out of my own pocket, like a man."
"You did! Um-hm. I want to know! Well then--MAN, where did the
cash in that pocket come from?"
Lute squirmed. "I--I--" he stammered.
"Where did it come from? Answer me."
"Well--well, Dorindy, you see--when you sent me up to the store
t'other day after the brown sugar and--and number 50 spool cotton
you give me seventy-five cents. You remember you did, yourself."
"Yes, and I remember you said there was a hole in your pocket and
you lost the change. I ain't likely to forget it, and I shouldn't
think you'd be."
"I didn't forget. By time! my ears ain't done singin' yet. But
that shows how reckless you talk to me. I never lost that change
at all. I found it afterwards in my vest, so all your jawin' was
just for nothin'. Ros, she ought to beg my pardon, hadn't she?
Hadn't she now?"
Dorinda saved me the trouble of answering.
"Um-hm!" she observed, dryly. "Well, I'll beg my own pardon
instead, for bein' so dumb as not to go through your vest myself.
So THAT'S where the other fifteen cents come from! I see. Well,
you march out to the woodpile and chop till I tell you to quit."
"But, Dorindy, I've got one of my dyspepsy spells. I don't feel
real good this mornin'. I told you I didn't."
"Folks that make pigs of themselves on stolen berries hadn't ought
to feel good. Exercise is fine for dyspepsy. You march."
Lute marched, and I marched with him as far as the back yard.
There I left him, groaning before the woodpile, and went down to
the boat house.
The Comfort's overhauling was complete and I had launched her the
week before. Now she lay anchored at the edge of the channel. For
the want of something more important to do I took down my shot gun
and began to polish its already glittering barrels.
Try as I might I could not get the memory of my adventure in the
"tempest" out of my head. I reviewed it from end to end, thinking
of many things I might have done which, in the light of what
followed, would have been better and more sensible. If, instead of
leaving the coachman, I had remained to help him with the frightened
horse, I should have been better employed. Between us we could have
subdued the animal and Miss Colton might have ridden home. I
wondered what had become of Jenkins and the horse. I wondered if
the girl knew I carried her through the brook. Victor had said the
bridge was down; she must know. I wondered what she thought of the
proceeding; probably that splashing about with young ladies in my
arms was a habit of mine.
I told myself that I did not care what she thought. I resolved to
forget the whole affair and to focus my attention upon cleaning the
gun. But I could not forget. I waded that brook a dozen times as
I sat there. I remembered every detail; how still she lay in my
arms; how white her face looked as the distant lightning flashes
revealed it to me; how her hair brushed my cheek as I bent over
her. I was using a wad of cotton waste to polish the gun barrel,
and I threw it into a corner, having the insane notion that, in
some way, the association of ideas came from that bunch of waste.
It--the waste--was grimy and anything but fragrant, as different
from the dark lock which the wind had blown against my face as
anything well could be, but the hurry with which I discarded it
proves my imbecility at that time. Confound the girl! she was a
nuisance. I wanted to forget her and her family, and the
sulphurous personage to whose care I had once consigned the head of
the family apparently took a characteristic delight in arranging
matters so that I could not.
The shot gun was, at last, so spotless that even a pretense of
further cleaning was ridiculous. I held it level with my eye and
squinted through the barrels.
"Don't shoot," said a voice from the doorway; "I'll come down."
I lowered the gun, turned and looked. "Big Jim" Colton was
standing there, cigar in mouth, cap on the back of his head and
both hands in his pockets, exactly as he had appeared in that same
doorway when he and I first met. The expected had happened, part
of it at least. He had come to see me; the disagreeable interview
I had foreseen was at hand.
He nodded and entered without waiting for an invitation.
"Morning," he said.
"Good morning," said I, guardedly. I wondered how he would begin
the conversation. Our previous meeting had ended almost in a
fight. We had been fighting by proxy ever since. I was prepared
for more trouble, for haughty condescension, for perfunctory
apology, for almost anything except what happened. His next remark
might have been addressed to an acquaintance upon whom he had
casually dropped in for a friendly call.
"That's a good looking gun you've got there," he observed. "Let's
I was too astonished to answer. "Let's look at it," he repeated,
holding out his hand.
Mechanically I passed him the gun. He examined it as if he was
used to such things, broke it, snapped it shut, tried the locks
with his thumb and handed it back to me.
"Anything worth shooting around here?" he asked, pulling the
armchair toward him and sitting.
I think I did not let him see how astonished I was at his attitude.
I tried not to.
"Why yes," I answered, "in the season. Plenty of coots, some black
duck, and quail and partridge in the woods."
"That so! Peters, that carpenter of mine, said something of the
sort, I remember, but I wouldn't believe him under oath. I could
shoot HIM with more or less pleasure, but there seems to be no open
session for his species. Where's your launch?"
"Out yonder." I pointed to the Comfort at her moorings. He
looked, but made no comment. I rose and put the gun in the rack.
Then I returned to my chair. He swung around in his seat and
looked at me.
"Well," he said, grimly, but with a twinkle in his eye, "the last
time you and I chatted together you told me to go to the devil."
This was quite true and I might have added that I was glad of it.
But what would be the use? I did not answer at all.
"I haven't gone there yet," he continued. "Came over here instead.
Got dry yet?"
"Yes. You were anything but dry when I saw you last night. Have
many such cloudbursts as that in these parts?"
"Not many. No."
"I hope not. I don't want another until I sell that horse of mine.
The chap who stuck me with him is a friend of mine. He warranted
the beast perfectly safe for an infant in arms to drive and not
afraid of anything short of an earthquake. He is a lovely liar. I
admire his qualifications in that respect, and hope to trade with
him again. He bucks the stock market occasionally."
He smiled as he said it. There was not the slightest malice in his
tone, but, if I had been the "friend," I should have kept clear of
stocks for awhile.
"What became of the horse?" I asked.
"Ran away again. Jenkins had just got back into the carriage when
another one of those thunder claps started more trouble. The horse
ran four miles, more or less, and stopped only when the wheels got
jammed between two trees. I paid nine hundred dollars for that
"And the coachman?"
"Oh, he lit on his head, fortunately, and wasn't hurt. Spent half
the night trying to find a phone not out of commission but failed.
Got home about four o'clock, leading the horse. Paine--"
"Of course you know what I've come here for. I'm much obliged to
"That's all right. You're welcome."
"Maybe I am, but I am obliged, just the same. Not only for the
help you gave Mabel--my daughter--last night, but for that business
in the bay the other afternoon."
So she had told him the whole story. Remembering her last words,
as I left her in the hall, I had rather imagined she would.
"That didn't amount to anything," I said, shortly.
"Why, yes, it did. It might have amounted to a whole lot. I asked
Peters some questions about the tides out here and, from what he
said, I judge that being stuck on the shoals in a squall might not
be altogether a joke. Mabel says you handled the affair mighty
I did not answer. He chuckled.
"How did young Carver enjoy playing second fiddle?" he asked.
"From what I've seen of him he generally expects to lead the band.
Happy, was he?"
I remained silent. He smiled broadly.
"He isn't any too happy this morning," he went on. "That young man
won't do. I never quoted him within twenty points of par, but
Mabel seemed to like him and her mother thought he was the real
thing. Mrs. C. couldn't forget that his family is one of the
oldest on the list. Personally I don't gamble much on families;
know a little about my own and that little is enough. But women
are different. However, family or not, he won't do. I should tell
him so myself, but I guess Mabel will save me the trouble. She's
got a surprising amount of common-sense, considering that she's an
only child--and who her parents are. By the way, Paine, what did
Carver say when you put him ashore?"
"He--he said--oh, nothing of importance."
"Yes, I know that. I listened to his explanations last night. But
did he say anything?"
"Why, he offered to pay me for my work."
"Did he? How much?"
"I did not wait to find out."
"And you haven't heard from him since?"
"Have you?" he repeated.
"Well, I--I received a note from him next day."
"Humph! Offering apologies?"
"Sent you money, didn't he?"
I looked at him in surprise. "Did he tell you?" I asked.
"No, nobody told me. I'm only trying to find out whether or not I
have lost all my judgment of human nature since I struck this sand
heap. He did send you money then. How much?"
"Mr. Colton, I--"
"Come now! How much?"
"Well--he sent me five dollars."
"No! he didn't!"
"I am telling you the truth."
"Yes," slowly, "I know you are. I've got that much judgment left.
Sent you five dollars, did he. And you sent it back."
"Any message with it?"
I was tired of being catechized. I had not meant to tell him
anything. Now I decided to tell him all. If it angered him, so
much the better.
"I sent him word that what I saved wasn't worth the money."
To my amazement he was not angry. Instead he slapped his knee and
"Ho! ho!" he shouted. "Humph! Well, that was. . . . I'd like to
have seen his face when he got that message. No, that young man
won't do. He won't do at all."
It was not for me to dispute this conclusion, even if I had
disagreed with him, which I did not. I said nothing. He rubbed
his knee for a moment and then changed the subject.
"How did you happen to be on the Lower Road at that time of the
night?" he asked. "I'm mighty glad you were there, of course, but
where did you come from?"
"I left the festival rather late and--"
"Festival? Oh, that thing up at the church. I didn't see you
I had taken pains that he should not see me.
"Do you mean to tell me," he continued, "that you enjoy a thing
like that? What in blazes made Mabel want to go I don't see! She
and Carver were set on going; and it would be the treat of a
lifetime, or words to that effect. I can't see it myself. Of all
the wooden headed jays I ever laid eyes on this town holds the
finest collection. Narrow and stubborn and blind to their own
This was more like what I expected from him and I resented it. It
may seem odd that I, of all persons, should have taken upon myself
the defense of Denboro and its inhabitants, but that is what I did.
"They are no more narrow and stubborn in their way than city people
are in theirs," I declared. "They resent being ordered about as if
their opinions and wishes counted for nothing, and I honor them for
"Yes, I do. Mr. Colton, I tell you that you are all wrong. Simply
because a man lives in the country it does not follow that he is a
blockhead. No one in Denboro is rich, as you would count riches,
but plenty of them are independent and ask no help from any one.
You can't drive them."
"No, you can't. And if you want favors from men here you must ask
for them, not try to bully."
"I don't want favors. I want to be treated decently, that's all.
When I came here I intended doing things to help the town. I
should have enjoyed doing it. I told some of them so. Look at the
money I've spent. Look at the taxes I'll pay. Why, they ought to
be glad to have me here. They ought to welcome me."
"So they would if you had not behaved as if you were what some of
them call you--'Emperor of New York'. I tell you, Mr. Colton,
you're all wrong. I know the people here."
"So? Well, from what I've been able to learn about you, you
haven't associated with many of them. You've been playing a little
at the high and mighty yourself."
Chickens do come home to roost. My attitude of indifference and
coldness toward my fellow citizens had been misinterpreted, as it
deserved to be. George Taylor was right when he said I had made a
"I have been foolish," I said, hotly, "but not for the reason you
suppose. I don't consider myself any better than the people here--
no, nor even the equal of some of them. And, from what I have seen
of you, Mr. Colton, I don't consider you that, either."
Even this did not make him angry. He looked at me as if I puzzled
"Say, Paine," he said, "what in the world are you doing down in a
place like this?"
"What do you mean?"
"Just that. You upset my calculations. I thought I spotted you
and put you in the class where you belonged when you and I first
met. I can usually size up a man. You've got me guessing. What
are you doing down here? You're no Rube."
If he intended this as a compliment I was not in the mood to accept
it as such. I should have told him that what I was or was not was
no business of his. But he went on without giving me the
"You've got me guessing," he repeated. "You talk like a man. The
way you looked out for my daughter last night and the way,
according to her story, you handled her and Victor the other
afternoon was a man's job. Why are you wasting your life down
"Mr. Colton, I don't consider--"
"Never mind. You're right; that's your affair, of course. But I
hate to quit till I have the answer, and nobody around here seems
to have the answer to you. Ready to sell me that land yet?"
"Going to sell to the public-spirited bunch? Dean and the rest?"
"You mean that? All right--all right. Say, Paine, I admire your
nerve a good deal more than I do your judgment. You must
understand that I am going to close that fool Lane of yours some
time or other."
"Your understanding and mine differ on that point."
"Possibly, but they'll agree before I'm through. I am going to
close that Lane."
"I think not."
"I'm going to close it for two reasons. First, because it's a
condemned nuisance and ought to be closed. Second, because I make
it a point to get what I go after. I can't afford not to. It is
doing that very thing that has put me where I am."
There was nothing to be said in answer to a statement like that. I
did not try to answer it.
"Where you're holding down a job like mine," he continued, crossing
his knees and looking out across the bay, "you have to get what you
go after. I'm down here and I mean to stay here as long as I want
to, but I haven't let go of my job by a good deal. I've got
private wires--telegraph and telephone--in my house and I keep in
touch with things in the Street as much as I ever did. If anybody
tries to get ahead of the old man because they think he's turned
farmer they'll find out their mistake in a hurry."
This seemed to be a soliloquy. I could not see how it applied to
me. He went on talking.
"Sounds like bragging, doesn't it?" he said, reading my thoughts as
if I had spoken them. "It isn't. I'm just trying to show you why
I can't afford not to have my own way. If I miss a trick, big or
little, somebody else wins. When I was younger, just butting into
the game, there was another fellow trying to get hold of a lead
mine out West that I was after. He beat me to it at first. He was
a big toad in the puddle and I was a little one. But I didn't
quit. I waited round the corner. By and by I saw my chance. He
was in a hole and I had the cover to the hole. Before I let him
out I owned that mine. It cost me more than it was worth; I lost
money on it. But I had my way and he and the rest had found out
that I intended to have it. That was worth a lot more than I lost
in the mine. Now this Lane proposition is a little bit of a thing;
it's picayune; I should live right along if I didn't get it. But
because I want it, because I've made up my mind to have it, I'm
going to have it, one way or another. See?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "This seems to me like wasting time, Mr.
Colton," I said.
"Then your seeing is away off. Look here, Paine, I'm through
fiddling with the deal. I'm through with that undertaker
postmaster or any other go-between. I just wanted you to
understand my position; that's why I've told you all this. Now
we'll talk figures. I might go on bidding, and you'd go on saying
no, of course. But I shan't bid. I'll just say this: When you
are ready to sell--and I'll put you where you will be some day--"
I rose. "Mr. Colton," I said, sharply, "you had better not say any
more. I'm not afraid of you, and--"
"There! there! there! who said anything about your being afraid?