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The Woman-Haters by Joseph C. Lincoln

Part 5 out of 5

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Or had Ruth Graham been alone all through the miserable night?
Under ordinary circumstances he would have gone over and asked if
all was well. He would have done that, even if Seth were at home--
he was past the point where the lightkeeper or their compact could
have prevented him--but he could not muster courage to go now. She
must have found the note he had tucked under the door, and he was
afraid to hear her answer. If it should be no, then--well, then he
did not care what became of him.

He watched the bungalow for a time, hoping that she might come out--
that he might at least see her--but the door did not open. Auguring
all sorts of dismal things from this, he moped gloomily back to the
kitchen. He was tired and had not slept for thirty hours, but he
felt no desire for bed. He could not go to bed anyway until Atkins
returned--and he did not want to.

He sat down in a chair and idly picked up one of a pile of
newspapers lying in the corner. They were the New York and Boston
papers which the grocery boy had brought over from Eastboro, with
the mail, the previous day. Seth had not even looked at them, and
Brown, who seldom or never read newspapers, found that he could not
do so now. He tossed them on the table and once more went out of
doors. After another glance at the bungalow, he walked to the edge
of the bluff and looked over.

He was astonished to see how far the tide had risen in the night.
The line of seaweed and drift marking its highest point was well up
the bank. Now the ebb was foaming past the end of the wharf. He
looked for the lobster car, which should have been floating at its
moorings, but could not see it. Either it was under the wharf or it
had been swept away and was gone. And one of the dories was gone,
too. No, there it was, across the cove, high and dry on the beach.
If so much damage was visible from where he stood, it was probable
that a closer examination might show even more. He reentered the
kitchen, took the boathouse key from its nail--the key to Seth's
wonderful purchase, the spring lock which was to keep out thieves
and had so far been of no use except as a trouble-maker--and started
for the wharf. As he passed the table he picked up the bundle of
newspapers and took them with him. The boathouse was the repository
for rubbish, old papers and magazines included, and these might as
well be added to the heap. Atkins had not read this particular lot,
but the substitute assistant did not think of this.

The lobster car was not under the wharf. The ropes which had moored
it were broken, and the car was gone. Splinters and dents in the
piles showed where it had banged and thumped in the grasp of the
tide before breaking loose. And, lying flat on the wharf and
peering under it, it seemed to him that the piles themselves were a
trifle aslant; that the whole wharf had settled down on the outer

He rose and was about to go further out for another examination,
when his foot struck the pile of papers he had brought with him. He
picked them up, and, unlocking the boathouse door--it stuck and
required considerable effort to open it--entered the building,
tossed the papers on the floor, and turned to go out. Before he
could do so the door swung shut with a bang and a click.

At first he did not realize what the click meant. Not until he
tried to open it did he understand. The settling of the wharf had
thrown the door and its frame out of the perpendicular. That was
why it stuck and opened with such reluctance. When he opened it, he
had, so to speak, pushed it uphill. Its own weight had swung it
back, and the spring lock--in which he had left the key--had worked
exactly as the circular of directions declared it would do. He was
a prisoner in that boathouse.

Even then he did not fully grasp the situation. He uttered an
exclamation of impatience and tugged at the door; but it was heavy,
jammed tight in its frame, and the lock was new and strong. He
might as well have tried to pull up the wharf.

After a minute of fruitless effort he gave up the attempt on the
door and moved about the little building, seeking other avenues of
escape. The only window was a narrow affair, high up at the back,
hung on hinges and fastened with a hook and staple. He climbed up
on the fish nets and empty boxes, got the window open, and thrust
his head and one shoulder through the opening. That, however, was
as far as he could go. A dwarf might have squeezed through that
window, but not an ex-varsity athlete like Russell Brooks or a husky
longshoreman like "John Brown." It was at the back, facing the
mouth of the creek and the sea, and afforded a beautiful marine
view, but that was all. He dropped back on the fish nets and
audibly expressed his opinion of the lock and the man who had bought

Then he tried the door again, again gave it up, and sat down on the
fish nets to think. Thinking was unsatisfactory and provoking. He
gave that up, also, and, seeing a knothole in one of the boards in
the landward side of his jail, knelt and applied his eye to the
aperture. His only hope of freedom, apparently, lay in the arrival
home of the lightkeeper. If Seth had arrived he could shout through
that knothole and possibly be heard.

The knothole, however, commanded a view, not of the lighthouse
buildings, but of the cove and the bungalow. The bungalow! Ruth
Graham! Suddenly, and with a shock, flashed to his mind the thought
that his imprisonment, if at all prolonged, was likely to be, not a
joke, but the most serious catastrophe of his life.

For Ruth Graham was going to leave the bungalow and Eastboro that
very day. He had begged to see her once more, and this day was his
last chance. He had written her, pleading to see her and receive
his answer. If he did not see her, if Seth did not return before
long and he remained where he was, a prisoner and invisible, the
last chance was gone. Ruth would believe he had repented of his
declaration as embodied in the fateful note, and had fled from her.
She had intimated that he was a coward in not seeing his fiancee and
telling her the truth. She did not like his writing that other girl
and running away. Now she would believe the cowardice was inherent,
because he had written her, also--and had run away. Horrible!

Through the knothole he sent a yell for rescue. Another and
another. They were unheard--at least, no one emerged from the
bungalow. He sprang to his feet and made another circle of the
interior of the boathouse. Then he sank down upon the heap of nets
and again tried to think. He must get out. He must--somehow!

The morning sunshine streamed through the little window and fell
directly upon the pile of newspapers he had brought from the kitchen
and thrown on the floor. His glance chanced to rest for an instant
upon the topmost paper of the pile. It was a New York journal which
devotes two of its inside pages to happenings in society. When he
threw it down it had unfolded so that one of these pages lay
uppermost. Absently, scarcely realizing that he was doing so, the
substitute assistant read as follows:

"Engagement in High Life Announced. Another American Girl to Wed a
Nobleman. Miss Ann Gardner Davidson to become the Baroness

With a shout he fell upon his knees, seized the paper and read on:

"Another contemplated matrimonial alliance between one of New York's
fairest daughters and a scion of the English nobility was made
public yesterday. Miss Ann Gardner Davidson, of this city, the
breaking of whose engagement to Russell Agnew Brooks, son of George
Agnew Brooks, the wealthy cotton broker, was the sensation of the
early spring, is to marry Herbert Ainsworth-Ainsworth, Baron
Hardacre, of Hardacre Towers, Surrey on Kent, England. It was said
that the young lady broke off her former engagement with Young
Brooks because of--"

The prisoner in the boathouse read no further. Ruth Graham had said
to him the day before that, in her opinion, he had treated Ann
Davidson unfairly. He should have gone to her and told her of his
quarrel with his father. Although he did not care for Ann, she
might care for him. Might care enough to wait and . . . Wait?
Why, she cared so little that, within a few months, she was ready to
marry another man. And, if he owed her any debt of honor, no matter
how farfetched and fantastic, it was canceled now. He was
absolutely free. And he had been right all the time. He could
prove it. He would show Ruth Graham that paper and . . .

His jaw set tight, and he rose from the heap of fish nets with the
folded paper clinched like a club in his hand. He was going to get
out of that boathouse if he had to butt a hole through its boards
with his head.

Once more he climbed to the window and made an attempt to squeeze
through. It was futile, of course, but this time it seemed to him
that the sill and the plank to which it was attached gave a little.
He put the paper between his teeth, seized the sill with both hands,
braced his feet against a beam below, and jerked with all his
strength. Once--twice--three times! It was giving! It was pulling
loose! He landed on his back upon the nets, sill and a foot of
boarding in his hands. In exactly five seconds, the folded
newspaper jammed in his trousers pocket, he swung through the
opening and dropped to the narrow space between the building and the
end of the wharf.

The space was a bare six inches wide. As he struck, his ankle
turned under him, he staggered, tried wildly to regain his balance,
and fell. As he fell he caught a glimpse of a blue-clad figure at
the top of the bluff before the bungalow. Then he went under with a
splash, and the eager tide had him in its grasp.

When he came to the surface and shook the water from his eyes, he
was already some distance from the wharf. This, an indication of
the force of the tide, should have caused him to realize his danger
instantly. But it did not. His mind was intent upon the
accomplishment of one thing, namely, the proving to Ruth Graham, by
means of the item in the paper, that he was no longer under any
possible obligation to the Davidson girl. Therefore, his sole
feeling, as he came sputtering to the top of the water, was disgust
at his own clumsiness. It was when he tried to turn and swim back
to the wharf that he grasped the situation as it was. He could not
swim against that tide.

There was no time to consider what was best to do. The breakers
were only five hundred yards off, and if he wished to live he must
keep out of their clutches. He began to swim diagonally across the
current, putting all his strength into each stroke. But for every
foot of progress toward the calmer water he was borne a yard toward
the breakers.

The tide bubbled and gurgled about him. Miniature whirlpools tugged
at his legs, pulling him under. He fought nobly, setting his teeth
and swearing inwardly that he would make it, he would not give up,
he would not drown. But the edge of the tide rip was a long way
off, and he was growing tired already. Another whirlpool sucked him
down, and when he rose he shouted for help. It was an instinctive,
unreasoning appeal, almost sure to be useless, for who could hear
him?--but he shouted, nevertheless.

And the shout was answered. From somewhere behind him--a long, long
distance, so it seemed to him--came the clear call in a woman's

"All right! I'm coming. Keep on, just as you are."

He kept on, or tried to. He swam--and swam--and swam. He went
under, rose, went under again, fought his way up, and kept on
swimming. Through the gurgle and hiss of the water, sounding dully
above the humming in his ears and the roar of the blood in his tired
brain, came the clear voice again:

"Steady now! Just as you are! one more stroke! Now one more!
Quick! Quick! Now! Can you get aboard?"

The wet, red side of a dory's bow pushed past his laboring shoulder.
A hand clutched his shirt collar. He reached up and grasped the
boat's gunwale, hung on with all his weight, threw one leg over the
edge, and tumbled into the dory's bottom.

"Thanks," he panted, his eyes shut. "That--was--about the closest
call I--ever had. Hey? Why! RUTH!"

She was panting, also, but she was not looking at him. She was
rowing with all her might, and gazing fearfully over her shoulder.
"Are you strong enough to help me row?" she asked breathlessly. "We
must head her away from here, out of this tide. And I'm afraid that
I can't do it alone."

He raised his head and looked over the rail. The breakers were
alarmingly close. He scrambled to the thwart, pushed her aside and
seized the oars. She resisted.

"Only one," she gasped. "I can manage the other."

So, each with an oar, they fought the tide, and won--but by the
narrowest of margins. The dory edged into stiller and shoaler
water, crept out of the eddying channel over the flat where the
depth was but a scant four feet, turned almost by inches, and, at
last, slid up on the sandy beach below the bungalow. The girl sat
bowed over the handle of her oar, her breast heaving. She said
nothing. Her companion likewise said nothing. Staggering, he
stepped over the side, walked a few feet up the beach, and then
tumbled in an unconscious heap on the sand.

He was not unconscious long, being a healthy and robust young
fellow. His first thought, upon opening his eyes, was that he must
close them again as quickly as possible because he wanted the dream
to continue. To lie with one's head in the lap of an angel, while
that angel strokes your forehead and cries over you and begs you for
her sake not to die, is too precious a delusion to lose. But the
opening of one's eyes is a mistake under such circumstances, and he
had made it. The angel's next remark was entirely unromantic and

"Are you better?" she asked. "You're all right now, aren't you?"

Her patient's reply was also a question, and irrelevant.

"DO you care?" he asked faintly.

"Are you better?" she asked in return.

"Did you get my note? The note I put under the door?"

"Answer me. Are you all right again?"

"You answer ME. Did you get my note?"

"Yes. . . . Don't try to get up. You're not strong enough yet.
You must wait here while I go and get you some--"

"Don't go!" He almost shouted it. "If--if you do I'll--I'll--I
think I'm going to faint again."

"Oh, no, you're not. And I must go and get you some brandy or
something. Stay just where you are."

"Ruth Graham, if you go away now, I'll go with you, if I have to
crawl. Maybe I can't walk, but I swear I'll crawl after you on my
hands and knees unless you answer my question. DO you care enough
for me to wait?"

She looked out at the little bay, at the narrow, wicked tide race,
at the breakers beyond. Then she looked down again at him.

"Yes," she said. . . . "OH, are you going to faint again? Don't!
Please don't!"

Russell Agnew Brooks, the late "John Brown," opened his eyes. "I am
not going to faint," he observed. "I was merely trying to realize
that I was fully conscious."

Some time after this--hours and minutes do not count in paradise--he
remembered the item in the paper.

"By George!" he exclaimed, "I had something to show you. I'm afraid
I've lost it. Oh, no I here it is."

He extracted from his trousers pocket the water soaked lump that had
been the New York newspaper. The page containing the sensational
announcement of the engagement in high life was quite undecipherable.
Being on the outside of the folded paper, it had rubbed to a pulpy
blur. However, he told her about it, and she agreed that his
judgment of the character of the future Baroness Hardacre had
been absolutely correct.

"You were very wise," she said sagely.

"Not so wise as I've become since," he asserted with decision. Then
he added, with a rather rueful smile, "I'm afraid, dear, people
won't say as much for you, when they know."

"I'm satisfied."

"You may have to wait all those years--and years--you spoke of."

"I will."

But she did not have to. For, at that moment, the miracle of wisdom
beside her sat up and pointed to the wet newspaper lying on the sand
at her feet.

"Has my happiness affected my wits?" he demanded. "Or does salt
water bring on delusions? Aren't those my initials?"

He was pointing to a paragraph in the "Personals" column of the New
York paper. This, being on one of the inner pages, had remained
comparatively dry and could be read. The particular "Personal" to
which he pointed was this:

"R. A. B." Wherever you are. This is to certify that I hereby
acknowledge that you have been absolutely correct in the A. D.
matter; witness news elsewhere. I was a fool, and I apologize
publicly. Incidentally I need a head like yours in my business.
Come back. Partnership awaiting you. Come back; and marry anybody
or nobody as you see fit.




"But what," asked Ruth, as they entered the bungalow together, "has
happened to Mr. Atkins, do you think? You say he went away
yesterday noon and you haven't seen him or even heard from him
since. I should think he would be afraid to leave the lights for so
long a time. Has he ever done it before?"

"No. And I'm certain he would not have done it this time of his own
accord. If he could have gotten back last night he would, storm or
no storm."

"But last night was pretty bad. And," quite seriously, "of course
he knew that you were here, and so everything would be all right."

"Oh, certainly," with sarcasm, "he would know that, of course. So
long as I am on deck, why come back at all? I'm afraid Atkins
doesn't share your faith in my transcendent ability, dear."

"Well," Miss Graham tossed her head, "I imagine he knew he could
trust you to attend to his old lighthouses."

"Perhaps. If so, his faith has developed wonderfully. He never has
trusted me even to light the lanterns. No, I'm afraid something has
happened--some accident. If the telephone was in working order I
could soon find out. As it is, I can only wait and try not to
worry. By the way, is your housekeeper--Mrs. What's-her-name--all
serene after her wet afternoon? When did she return?"

"She hasn't returned. I expected her last evening--she said she
would be back before dark--but she didn't come. That didn't trouble
me; the storm was so severe that I suppose she stayed in the village

"So you were alone all through the gale. I wondered if you were; I
was tremendously anxious about you. And you weren't afraid? Did
you sleep?"

"Not much. You see," she smiled oddly, "I received a letter before
I retired, and it was such an important--and surprising--
communication that I couldn't go to sleep at once."

"A letter? A letter last night? Who--What? You don't mean my
letter? The one I put under your door? You didn't get THAT last

"Oh, yes, I did."

"But how? The bungalow was as dark as a tomb. There wasn't a light
anywhere. I made sure of that before I came over."

"I know. I put the light out, but I was sitting by the window in
the dark, looking out at the storm. Then I saw some one coming up
the hill, and it was you."

"Then you saw me push it under the door?"

"Yes. What made you stay on the step so long after you had pushed
it under?"

"Me? . . . Oh," hastily, "I wanted to make sure it was--er--under.
And you found it and read it--then?"

"Of course. I couldn't imagine what it could be, and I was curious,


"I was."

"Nonsense! You knew what it must be. Surely you did. Now, truly,
didn't you? Didn't you, dear?"

"Why should I? . . . Oh, your sleeve is wet. You're soaking wet
from head to foot."

"Well, I presume that was to be expected. This water out here is
remarkably damp, you know, and I was in it for some time. I should
have been in it yet if it hadn't been for you."

"Don't!" with a shudder, "don't speak of it. When I saw you fall
into that tide I . . . But there! you mustn't stay here another
moment. Go home and put on dry things. Go at once!"

"Dry things be hanged! I'm going to stay right here--and look at

"You're not. Besides, I am wet, too. And I haven't had my

"Haven't you? Neither have I." He forgot that he had attempted to
have one. "But I don't care," he added recklessly. Then, with a
flash of inspiration, "Why can't we breakfast together? Invite me,

"No, I shall not. At least, not until you go back and change your

"To hear is to obey. 'I go, but I return,' as the fellow in the
play observes. I'll be back in just fifteen minutes."

He was back in twelve, and, as to make the long detour about the
marshes would, he felt then, be a wicked waste of time and the
marshes themselves were covered with puddles left by the tide, his
"dry things" were far from dry when he arrived. But she did not
notice, and he was too happy to care, so it was all right. They got
breakfast together, and if the coffee had boiled too long and the
eggs not long enough, that was all right, also.

They sat at opposite sides of the little table, and he needed
frequent reminding that eating was supposed to be the business on
hand. They talked of his father and of Ann Davidson--whom Ruth
declared was to be pitied--of the wonderful coincidence that that
particular paper, the one containing the "Personal" and the
"Engagement in High Life" item, should have been on top of the pile
in the boathouse, and--of other things. Occasionally the talk
lapsed, and the substitute assistant merely looked, looked and
smiled vacuously. When this happened Miss Graham smiled, also, and
blushed. Neither of them thought of looking out of the window.

If they had not been so preoccupied, if they had looked out of that
window, they would have seen a horse and buggy approaching over the
dunes. Seth and Mrs. Bascom were on the buggy seat, and the
lightkeeper was driving with one hand. The equipage had been hired
at the Eastboro livery stable. Joshua was undergoing repairs and
enjoying a much-needed rest at the blacksmith shop in the village.

As they drew near the lights, Seth sighed contentedly.

"Well, Emeline," he observed, "here we be, safe and sound. Home
again! Yes, sir, by jiminy crimps, HOME! And you ain't goin' to
Boston to-day, neither."

Mrs. Bascom, the practical, moved toward the edge of the seat.

"Take your arm away, Seth," she cautioned. "They'll see you."

"Who'll see me? What do I care who sees me? Ain't a man got a
right to put his arm around his own wife, I'd like to know?"

"Humph! Well, all right. I can stand it if you can. Only I
cal'late your young Brown man is in for somethin' of a shock, that's
all. HE don't know that I'm your wife."

Seth removed his arm. His expression changed.

"That's so," he admitted. "He will be set back three or four rows,
won't he?"

"I shouldn't wonder. He'll think your woman-hate has had a relapse,
I guess."

The lightkeeper looked troubled; then he nodded grimly.

"His ain't what you'd call a desp'rate case," he declared. "Judgin'
by what I've seen in the cove for the last month, he's gettin'
better of it fast. I ain't no worse than he is, by time! . . .
Wonder where he is! This place looks deader'n the doleful tombs."

He hitched the horse to the back fence and assisted his wife to
alight from the buggy. They entered the kitchen. No one was there,
and Seth's hurried search of the other rooms resulted in finding
them untenanted likewise.

"Maybe he's out in one of the lights," he said. "wait here,
Emeline, and I'll go see."

But she would not wait. "I'm goin' right over to the bungalow," she
said. "I'm worried about Miss Ruth. She was alone all last night,
and I sha'n't rest easy till I know nothin's happened to her. You
can come when you find your young man. You and me have got
somethin' to tell 'em, and we might as well get the tellin' done as
soon as possible. Nothin's ever gained by putting off a mean job.
Unless, of course," she added, looking at him out of the corners of
her eyes, "you want to back out, Seth. It ain't too late even now,
you know."

He stared at her. "Back out!" he repeated; "back out! Emeline
Bascom, what are you talkin' about? You go to that bungalow and go
in a hurry. Don't stop to talk! go! Who's runnin' this craft?
Who's the man in this family--you or me?"

She laughed. "You seem to be, Seth," she answered, "just now."

"I am. I've been a consider'ble spell learnin' how to be, but I've
learned. You trot right along."

Brown was in neither of the light towers, and Seth began to be
worried about him. He descended to the yard and stood there,
wondering what on earth could have happened. Then, looking across
the cove, he became aware that his wife was standing on the edge of
the bluff, making signals with both hands.

He opened his mouth to shout a question, but she frantically
signaled for silence. Then she beckoned. He ran down the path at
full speed. She met him at the other side of the cove.

"Come here!" she whispered. "Don't say a word, but just come--and

He followed her, crept close to the bungalow window and peeped in.
His helper, "John Brown," and Miss Ruth Graham were seated at the
table. Also the substitute assistant was leaning across that table
with the young lady's hand in his; the pair were entirely oblivious
of anything in the world except each other.

A few moments later a thunderous knock shook the bungalow door. The
knock was not answered immediately; therefore, Seth opened the door
himself. Miss Graham and the lightkeeper's helper were standing
some distance apart; they gazed speechlessly at the couple who now
entered the room.

"Well," observed Seth, with sarcasm, "anybody got anything to say?
You," turning to the young man, "seems to me you ought to say
SOMETHIN'. Considerin' a little agreement you and me had, I should
imagine I was entitled to some triflin' explanation. What are you
doin' over here--with HER? Brown--"

The young gentleman came to himself with a start. He walked across
to where Miss Graham was standing, and once more took her hand.

"My name is not Brown," he said firmly. "It is Brooks; and this is
the young lady I am to marry."

He naturally expected his superior to be surprised. As a matter of
fact, he was the surprised party. Seth reached out, drew the
bungalow housekeeper toward him, and put his arm about her waist.
Then he smiled; and the smile was expressive of pride, triumph, and
satisfaction absolute.

"ATKINS!" gasped Brooks.

"My name ain't Atkins," was the astonishing reply; "it's Bascom.
And this," indicating by a tightening of his arm the blushing person
at his side, "is the lady I married over five year ago."

After the stories had been told, after both sides had told theirs
and explained and been exclaimed over and congratulated, after the
very last question had been asked and answered, Brown--or Brooks--
asked one more.

"But this other fellow," he queried, "this brother-in-law-- By
George, it is perfectly marvelous, this whole business!--where is
he? What has become of him?"

Seth chuckled. "Bennie D.?" he said. "Well, Bennie D. is leavin'
Eastboro on the noon train. I paid his fare and give him fifty
dollars to boot. He's goin' somewhere, but he ain't sartin where.
If you asked me, I should say that, in the end, he'd most likely
have to go where he's never been afore, so far's I ever heard--
that's to work. Now--seein' as the important business has been
talked over and settled--maybe you'll tell me about the lights, and
how you got along last night."

But the lighthouse subject was destined to be postponed for a few
minutes. The person in whose care the Lights had been left during
the past twenty hours or so looked at the speaker, then at the other
persons present, and suddenly began to laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" asked Miss Graham. "Why, Russell, what
is it?"

Russell Agnew Brooks, alias "John Brown," ex-substitute assistant at
Eastboro Twin-Lights, sank into a chair, shaking from head to heel.

"It is hysterics," cried Ruth, hastening to his side. "No wonder,
poor dear, considering what he has been through. Hush, Russell!
don't, you frighten me. What IS it?"

Her fiance waved a reassuring hand. "It--it's all right," he
gasped. "I was just laughing at . . . Oh," pointing an unsteady
finger at the lightkeeper, "ask him; he knows."

"Ask him?" repeated the bewildered young lady. "Why, Mr. Atkins--
Bascom, I mean--what. . . ."

And then Seth began to laugh. Leaning against the doorpost, he at
first chuckled and then roared.

"Seth!" cried his wife. "Seth, you old idiot! Why, I never see two
such loons in my life! Seth, answer me! What are you two laughin'

Seth Atkins Bascom wiped the tears from his eyes. "I cal'late," he
panted, "I rather guess--Ho, ho!--I rather guess we're both laughin'
at woman-haters."

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