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The Rise of Roscoe Paine by Joseph C. Lincoln

Part 4 out of 9

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Don't get mad. I'm not--not now. This is a business matter
between friends and--"

"Friends!"

"Sure. Business friends. I'm talking to you as I would to any
other chap I intended to beat in a deal; there's nothing personal
about it. When I get you so you're ready to sell I'll give you
five thousand dollars for that strip of land."

I actually staggered. I said what Lute had said to me.

"You're crazy!" I cried. "Five thousand dollars for that land!"

"Yes. Oh, I know what it's worth. Five hundred is for the land
itself. The other forty-five hundred is payment for the privilege
of having my own way. Want to close with me now?"

It took me some time to answer. "No," is a short and simple word,
but I found it tremendously difficult to pronounce. Yet I did
pronounce it, I am glad to say. After all that I had said before I
would have been ashamed to do anything else.

He did not appear surprised at my refusal.

"All right," he said. "I'm not going to coax you. Just remember
that the offer holds good and when you get ready to accept it, sing
out. Well!" looking at his watch, "I must be going. My wife will
think I've fallen into the bay, or been murdered by the hostile
natives. Nerves are mean things to have in the house; you can take
my word for that. Good-by, Paine. Thank you again for last night
and the rest of it. Mabel will thank you herself when she sees
you, I presume."

He was on his way to the door when I recovered presence of mind
sufficient to remember ordinary politeness.

"Your daughter--er--Miss Colton is well?" I stammered. "No ill
effects from her wetting--and the shock?"

"Not a bit. She's one of the kind of girls they turn out nowadays.
Athletics and all that. Her grandmother would have died probably,
after such an upset, but she's as right as I am. Oh . . . er--
Paine, next time you go shooting let me know. Maybe I'd like to go
along. I used to be able to hit a barn door occasionally."

He stopped long enough to bite the end from a cigar and strolled
away, smoking. I sat down in the armchair. "Five thousand
dollars!" . . . "Carver won't do." . . . "I will have the Lane
some time or other" . . . "Five thousand dollars!" . . . "Next
time you go shooting." . . . "Friends!" . . . "Five thousand
dollars!"

Oh, this was a nightmare! I must wake up before it got any worse.

CHAPTER X

Mother was the only one to whom I told the whole story of my
experience in the "tempest" and of Colton's call. She and I had a
long talk. She was as surprised to hear of the five thousand
dollar offer as I had been, but that I had refused it did not
surprise her. She seemed to take my refusal as a matter of course,
whereas I was more and more doubtful of my sanity at the time. I
knew well enough what the opinion of others would be concerning
that sanity and I wondered whether or not they might be right. In
fact, I rather resented her calm certainty.

"Mother," said I, "you speak as if the offer had been five cents
instead of five thousand dollars."

"What difference does it make, Boy?" she asked. "If it had been
only a matter of price you would have sold for six hundred and
fifty. That is a good deal more than the land is worth, isn't it."

"I suppose so. But five thousand is a small fortune to us. I am
not sure that we have the right to refuse it."

"Roscoe, if you were alone in this matter--if I were not here to be
considered at all--would you have sold the land, no matter what he
offered?"

"I don't know, Mother. I think, perhaps, I should."

"I know you would not. And I know the only reason you feel the
refusal may be wrong is because you are thinking what the money
might do for me. Do you suppose I will permit you to sacrifice a
principle you know is right simply that I may have a few more
luxuries which I don't need?"

"But you do need them. Why, there are so many things you need."

"No, I don't need one. So long as I have you I am perfectly happy.
And it would not make me more happy to know that you accepted a
bribe--that is what it is, a bribe--because of me. No, Boy, you
did exactly right and I am proud of you."

"I am not particularly proud of myself."

"You should be. Can't you see how differently Mr. Colton regards
you already? He does not condescend or patronize now."

"Humph! he is grateful because I helped his daughter out of a
scrape, that's all."

"It is more than that. He respects you because you are what he
called you, a man. I fancy it is a new experience to him to find
some one, down here at any rate, to whom his millions make
absolutely no difference."

"I am glad of it. It may do him good."

"Yes, I think it will. And what you told him about the townspeople
may do him good, too. He will find, as you and I have found, that
there are no kinder, better people anywhere. You remember I warned
you against misjudging the Coltons, Roscoe. They, too, I am sure,
are good people at heart, in spite of their wealth."

"Mother, you are too charitable for this earth--too unworldly
altogether."

"Haven't you and I reason to be charitable? There! there! let us
forget the land and the money. Roscoe, I should like to meet this
Miss Colton. She must be a brave girl."

"She is brave enough."

"I suppose poor Mr. Carver is in disgrace. Perhaps it was not his
fault altogether."

This was a trifle too much. I refused to be charitable to Victor.

I heard from him, or of him, next day. I met Captain Jed Dean at
the bank, where I had called to see Taylor and inquire concerning
how he and Nellie got home from the festival. They had had a damp,
though safe, journey, I learned, and the Methodist ladies had
cleared seventy-four dollars and eighty-five cents from the
entertainment.

Captain Jed entered the door as I left the cashier's gate.

"Ship ahoy, Ros!" hailed the captain, genially. "Make port safe
and sound after the flood? I'd have swapped my horse and buggy for
Noah's Ark that night and wouldn't have asked any boot neither.
Did you see Mullet's bridge? Elnathan says he cal'lates he's got
willow kindlin' enough to last him all summer. Ready split too--
the lightnin' attended to that. Lute Rogers don't talk about
nothin' else. I cal'late he wishes lightnin' would strike your
woodpile; then he'd be saved consider'ble labor, hey?"

He laughed and I laughed with him.

"I understood Princess Colton was out in the wust of it," went on
Captain Jed. "Did you hear how her horse ran away?"

"Yes," I answered, shortly; "I heard about it."

"Never stopped till it got half way to West Bayport. The coachman
hangin' onto the reins and swearin' at the top of his lungs all the
time. 'Bije Ellis, who lives up that way, says the road smells
like a match factory even yet--so much brimstone in the air. The
girl got home somehow or other, they tell me. I cal'late her fine
duds got their never-get-over. Nellie says the hat she was wearin'
come from Paris, or some such foreign place. Well, the rain falls
on the just and unjust, so scriptur tells us, and it's true enough.
Only the unjust in this case can afford new hats better'n the just,
a consider'ble sight. Denboro's lost a promisin' new citizen; did
you know it?"

"Whom do you mean?"

"Hadn't you heard? That young Carver feller shook the dust--the
mud, I mean--of our roads off his shoes this mornin'. He went away
on the up train."

Here was news. "The up train?" I repeated. "You mean he has gone
for good?"

"I should call it for good, for our good, anyhow. Yes, he's gone.
Went to the depot in Colton's automobile. His majesty went with
him fur's the platform. The gang that saw the proceedin's said the
good-bys wan't affectin'. Colton didn't shed any tears and young
Carver seemed to be pretty down at the mouth."

"But what makes you think he has gone for good?" I asked.

"Why, Alvin Baker was there, same as he usually is, and he managed
to be nigh enough to hear the last words--if there had been any."

"And there were not?"

"Nothin' to amount to much. Nothin' about comin' back, anyhow.
Colton said somethin' about bein' remembered to the young feller's
ma, and Carver said, 'Thanks,' and that was all. Alvin said 'twas
pretty chilly. They've got it all figgered out at the post-office;
you see, Carver was to come back to the meetin' house and pick up
his princess, and he never come. She started without him and got
run away with. Some of the folks paddlin' home from the festival
saw the auto go by and heard the crowd inside singin' and laughin'
and hollerin'. Nobody's goin' to sing a night like that unless
they've got cargo enough below decks to make 'em forget the wet
outside. And Beriah Doane was over to Ostable yesterday and he
says it's town talk there that young Parker--the boy the auto crowd
was sayin' good-by to at the hotel--had to be helped up to his
room. No, I guess likely the Colton girl objected to her feller's
gettin' tight and forgettin' her, so he and she had a row and her
dad, the emperor, give him his discharge papers. Sounds reasonable;
don't you think so, yourself?"

I imagined that the surmise was close to the truth. I nodded and
turned away. I did not like Carver, I detested him, but somehow I
no longer felt triumph at his discomfiture. I wondered if he
really cared for the girl he had lost. It was difficult to think
of him as really caring for any one except himself, but if I had
been in his place and had, through my own foolishness, thrown away
the respect and friendship of such a girl. . . . Yes, I was
beginning to feel a little of Mother's charity for the young idiot,
now that he could no longer insult and patronize me.

Captain Jed followed me to the bank door.

"Say, Ros," he said, "changed your mind about sellin' that Lane
land yet?"

"No," I answered, impatiently. "There's no use talking about that,
Captain Dean."

"All right, all right. Humph! the fellers are gettin' consider'ble
fun out of that Lane."

"In what way?"

He laughed. "Oh, nothin'," he observed, with a wink, "only. . . .
Heard any extry hurrahin' over to your place lately?"

"No. Captain, what do you mean?"

"I don't mean nothin'. But I shouldn't wonder if the Great
Panjandrum and his folks was reminded that that Lane was still
open, that's all. Ho! ho! So long, Ros."

I did not catch his meaning at the time. A few days later I
discovered it by accident. I had been up to the village and was on
my way home by the short cut. As I crossed the field behind
Sylvanus Snow's abandoned house, the spot where Miss Colton and I
had waited on the porch the night of the thunder shower, I heard
the rattle of a cart going down the Lane. There was nothing
unusual in this, of itself, but with it I heard the sound of loud
voices. One of these voices was so loud that I caught the words:

"Now, boys, start her up! Three cheers for the Star Spangled
Banner and make 'em loud. Let her go!"

The cheers followed, uproarious ones.

"Try it again," commanded the voice. "And keep her up all the way
along. We'll shake up the 'nerves' I guess. Hooray!"

This was enough. I understood now what Dean had meant by the
Coltons realizing that the Lane was still open. I ran at full
speed through the scrub and bushes, through the grove, and emerged
upon the Lane directly opposite the Colton estate. The wagon--Zeb
Kendrick's weir cart--was approaching. Zeb was driving and behind
him in the body of the cart were four or five young fellows whom I
recognized as belonging to the "billiard room gang," an unorganized
society whose members worked only occasionally but were responsible
for most of the mischief and disorder in our village. Tim Hallet,
a sort of leader in that society, with the reputation of having
been expelled from school three times and never keeping a job
longer than a fortnight, was on the seat beside Kendrick, his back
to the horse. Zeb was grinning broadly.

The wagon came nearer, the horse barely moving. Tim Hallet waved
his arm.

"Now, boys," he shouted, "let's have some music."

"'Everybody works but father,
And he sets around all day.'--

Whoop her up!"

They whooped her up. I stepped out into the road.

"Here!" I shouted. "Stop that! Stop it, do you hear! Kendrick,
what is all this?"

The song stopped in the middle of the verse. Zeb jerked the reins
and shouted "Whoa!" Hallet and his chorus turned. They had been
gazing at the big house, but now they turned and looked at me.

"Hello, Ros!" said Kendrick, still grinning, but rather sheepishly.
"How be you? Got quite a band aboard, ain't I."

"Hello!" cried Hallet. "It's Ros himself! Ros, you're all RIGHT!
Hi, boys! let's give three cheers for the feller that don't toady
to nobody--millionaires nor nobody else--hooray for Ros Paine!"

The cheering that followed was not quite as loud as the previous
outburst--some of the "gang" may have noticed my attitude and
expression--but it was loud enough. Involuntarily I glanced toward
the Colton mansion. I saw no one at the windows or on the veranda,
and I was thankful for that. The blood rushed to my face. I was
so angry that, for the moment, I could not speak.

Tim Hallet appeared to consider my silence and my crimson cheeks as
acknowledgments of the compliment just paid me.

"Cal'late they heard that over yonder," he crowed. "Don't you
think so, Ros. We've showed 'em what we think of you; now let's
give our opinion of them. Three groans for old Colton! Come on!"

Even Zeb seemed to consider this as going too far, for he
protested.

"Hold on, Tim!" he cautioned. "A joke's a joke, but that's a
little too much; ain't it, Ros."

"Too much be darned!" scoffed Hallet. "We'll show 'em! Now,
boys!"

The groans were not given. I sprang into the road, seized the
horse by the bridle and backed the wagon into the bank. Tim,
insecurely balanced, fell off the seat and joined his comrades on
the cart floor.

"Hi!" shouted the startled driver. "What you doin', Ros? What's
that for?"

"You go back where you come from," I ordered. "Turn around. Get
out of here!"

I saved him the trouble by completing the turn. When I dropped the
bridle the horse's head was pointing toward the Lower Road.

"Now get out of here!" I repeated. "Go back where you come from."

"But--but, Ros," protested Zeb, "I don't want to go back. I'm
goin' to the shore."

"Then you'll have to go some other way. You can't cross my
property."

Hallet, on his knees, looked out over the seat.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked, angrily. "Didn't you say
the town could use this Lane?"

"Yes. Any one may use it as long as he behaves himself. When he
doesn't behave he forfeits the privilege. Kendrick, you hear me!
Go back."

"But I don't want to go back, Ros. If I do I'll have to go clear
round by Myrick's, two mile out of my way."

"You should have thought of that before you brought that crowd with
you. I won't have this Lane made a public nuisance by any one.
Zeb, I'm ashamed of you."

Zeb turned to his passengers. "There!" he whined, "I told you so,
Tim. I said you hadn't ought to act that way."

"Aw, what are you givin' us!" sneered Hallet. "You thought 'twas
as funny as anybody, Zeb Kendrick. Look here, Ros Paine! I
thought you was down on them Coltons. We fellers are only havin' a
little fun with 'em for bein' so stuck-up and hoggish. Can't you
take a joke?"

"Not your kind. Go back, Zeb."

"But--but can't I use the Lane NO more?" pleaded the driver. "I
won't fetch 'em here agin."

"We'll see about that. You can't use it this time. Now go."

Zeb reluctantly spoke to his horse and the wagon began to move.
Hallet swore a string of oaths.

"I'm on to you, Paine!" he yelled. "You're standin' in with 'em,
after all. You wait till I see Captain Jed."

In three strides I was abreast the cart-tail.

"See him then," said I. "And tell him that if any one uses this
Lane for the purpose of wilfully annoying those living near it I'll
not only forbid his using it, but I'll prosecute him for trespass.
I mean that. Stop! I advise you not to say another word."

I did not intend to prosecute Jim, he was not worth it, but I
should have thoroughly enjoyed dragging him out of that wagon and
silencing him by primitive methods. My anger had not cooled to any
extent. He did not speak to me again, though I heard him muttering
as the cart moved off. I remained where I was until I saw it turn
into the Lower Road. Then I once more started for home.

I was very much annoyed and disturbed. Evidently this sort of
thing had been going on for some time and I had just discovered it.
It placed me in a miserable light. When Colton had declared, as he
had in both our interviews, that the Lane was a nuisance I had
loftily denied the assertion. Now those idiots in the village were
doing their best to prove me a liar. I should have expected such
behavior from Hallet and his friends, but for Captain Dean to
tacitly approve their conduct was unexpected and provoking. Well,
I had made my position plain, at all events. But I knew that Tim
would distort my words and that the idea of my "standing in" with
the Coltons, while professing independence, would be revived. I
was destined to be detested and misunderstood by both sides. Yes,
Dorinda was right in saying that I might find sitting on the fence
uncomfortable. It was all of that.

I entered the grove and was striding on, head down, busy with these
and similar reflections, when some one said: "Good morning, Mr.
Paine."

I stopped short, came out of the day dream in which I had been
giving Captain Jed my opinion of his followers' behavior, looked
up, and saw Miss Colton in the path before me.

She was dressed in white, a light, simple summer gown. Her straw
hat was simple also, expensive simplicity doubtless, but without a
trace of the horticultural exhibits with which Olinda Cahoon, our
Denboro milliner, was wont to deck the creations she prepared for
customers. Matilda Dean would have sniffed at the hat and gown;
they were not nearly as elaborate as those Nellie, her daughter,
wore on Sundays. But Matilda or Nellie at their grandest could not
have appeared as well dressed as this girl, no matter what she
wore. Just now she looked, as Lute or Dorinda might have said, "as
if she came out of a band box."

"Good morning," she said, again. She was perfectly self-possessed.
Remembrance of our transit of Mullet's cranberry brook did not seem
to embarrass her in the least. Nellie Dean would have giggled and
blushed, but she did not.

_I_ was embarrassed, I admit it, but I had sufficient presence of
mind to remove my hat.

"Good morning," said I. There flashed through my mind the thought
that if she had been in that grove for any length of time she must
have overheard my lively interview with Kendrick and Tim Hallet. I
wondered if she had.

Her next remark settled that question.

"I suppose," she said, soberly, but with the same twinkle in her
eye which I had observed once or twice in her father's, "that I
should apologize for being here, on your property, Mr. Paine. I
judge that you don't like trespassers."

I was more nettled at Zeb and his crowd than ever. "So you saw
that performance," I said. "I'm sorry."

"I saw a little of it, and I'm afraid I heard the rest. I was
walking here by the bluff and I could not help seeing and hearing."

"Humph! Well, I hope you understand, Miss Colton, that I did not
know, until just now, this sort of thing was going on."

She smiled. "Oh, I understand that," she said. "You made that
quite plain. Even those people in the wagon understood it, I
should imagine."

"I hope they did."

"I did not know you could be so fierce, Mr. Paine. I had not
expected it. You almost frightened me. You were so very--well,
mild and long-suffering on the other occasions when we met."

"I am not always so mild, Miss Colton. However, if I had known you
were within hearing I might not have been quite so emphatic."

"Then I am glad you didn't know. I think those ruffians were
treated as they deserved."

"Not half as they deserved. I shall watch from now on and if there
are any more attempts at annoying you or your people I shall do
more than talk."

"Thank you. They have been troublesome--of late. I am sure we are
very much obliged to you, all of us."

"Not at all."

"Oh yes, we are. Not only for this, but for--all the rest. For
your help the other night especially; I want to thank you for
that."

"It was nothing," I answered, awkwardly.

"Nothing! You are not very complimentary, Mr. Paine."

"I mean--that is, I--"

"You may consider rescuing shipwrecked young ladies, afloat and
ashore, nothing--perhaps you do it so often that it is of little
consequence to you; but I am not so modest. I estimate my safety
as worth something, even if you do not."

"I did not mean that, of course, Miss Colton. You know I did not.
I meant that--that what I did was no more than any one else would
have done under the same circumstances. You were in no danger; you
would have been safe enough even if I had not happened along.
Please don't say anything more about it."

"Very well. But I am very glad you happened along, nevertheless.
You seem to have the faculty of happening along just at the right
time."

This sounded like a reference to the episode in the bay, and I did
not care to discuss that.

"You--I believe your father said you were not ill after your
experience," I observed hastily.

"Not in the least, thank you. And you?"

"Oh, I was all right. Rather wet, but I did not mind that. I sail
and fish a good deal, and water, fresh or salt, doesn't trouble
me."

This was an unlucky remark, for it led directly to the subject I
was trying to avoid.

"So I should imagine," she answered. "And that reminds me that I
owe you another debt of thanks for helping me--helping us out of
our difficulty in the boat. I am obliged to you for that also.
Even though what you saved was NOT worth five dollars."

I looked up at her quickly. She was biting her lips and there was
a smile at the corners of her mouth. I could not answer
immediately for the life of me. I would have given something if I
had not told Colton of Victor's message and my reply.

"Your father misrepresented my meaning, I'm afraid," I stammered.
"I was angry when I sent that message. It was not intended to
include you."

"Thank you. Father seemed inclined to agree with your estimate--
part of it, at least. He is very much interested in you, Mr.
Paine."

"Yes," I answered, dryly. "I can understand that."

Her smile broke into a ripple of laughter.

"You are quite distinctive, in your way," she said. "You may not
be aware of it, but I have never known father to be so disturbed
and puzzled about any one as he is about you."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, he is, indeed."

"I am sorry that I am the cause of so much mental strain."

"No, you are not. From what I have learned about you, from him, I
think you enjoy it. You must. It is great fun."

"Fun! Well, perhaps. Does your--does Mrs. Colton find it funny?"

She hesitated. "Well," she answered, more slowly, "to be perfectly
frank--I presume that is what you want me to be--I think Mother
blames you somewhat. She is not well, Mr. Paine, and this Lane of
yours is her pet bugbear just now. She--like the rest of us--
cannot understand why you will not sell, and, because you will not,
she is rather--rather--"

"I see. I'm not sure that I blame her. I presume she has blamed
me for these outrageous disturbances in the Lane such as you have
just witnessed."

She hesitated again. "Why yes," she said, more slowly still; "a
little, I think. She is not well, as I said, and she may have
thought you were, if not instigating them, at least aware of what
was going on. But I am sure father does not think so."

"But you, Miss Colton; did you believe me responsible for them?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because, from what I have seen of you, you did not seem to me like
that kind of a man. You kept your temper that day in the boat,
though you had a good reason for losing it. All this," with a
gesture toward the Lane, "the shouting and noise and petty insults,
was so little and mean and common. I did not believe you would
permit it, if you knew. And, from what I have learned about you, I
was sure you would not."

"From what you learned about me? From your father?"

"No."

"Then from whom, pray?"

"From your friends. From that Mr. Taylor and Miss Dean and the
others. They spoke of you so highly, and of your mother and your
care of her. They described you as a gentleman, and no gentleman
would countenance THAT."

I was so astonished that I blurted out my next question without
thinking.

"You were speaking to them about ME?" I cried.

Her manner changed. Possibly she thought I was presuming on our
chance acquaintance, or that she made a mistake in admitting even a
casual interest; I might consider that interest to be real, instead
of merely perfunctory. At any rate, I noticed a difference in her
tone. It was as if she had suddenly withdrawn behind the fence
which marked the border of our social line.

"Oh," she said, carelessly, "I did not cross-question, of course.
Puzzles are always interesting, more or less. And a puzzle which
perplexed my father was certainly unique. So I was a trifle
curious, that's all."

I came to earth with a thud.

"I see," I said, curtly. "Well, I presume I should thank my
friends for the testimonials to my character. And I promise you
that you shall not be annoyed again. Good morning, Miss Colton."

I was turning away when she spoke my name.

"Mr. Paine," she said.

"Yes, Miss Colton."

"I have not explained why I was here, on your land, this morning."

"That is all right. You are quite welcome to be here at any time."

"Thank you. I told you I was walking by the bluff; that is true,
but it isn't the whole truth. I was trying to muster courage to
call on your mother."

I looked at her in amazement.

"Call on Mother!" I repeated.

"Yes, I have heard a great deal about your mother, and nothing
except the very best. I think I should like to know her. Do you
think she would consider me presuming and intrusive if I did call?"

"Why, Miss Colton, I--"

"Please be frank about it, Mr. Paine. And please believe that my
call would not be from idle curiosity. I should like to know her.
Of course, if this disagreement about the land makes a difference,
if she feels resentful toward us, I will not think of such a thing.
Does she? Why do you smile? I am in earnest."

"I did not mean to smile, Miss Colton. The idea of Mother's
feeling resentment toward any one seemed absurd to me, that was
all."

"Then may I call on her?"

"Certainly. That is, if--if you think it wise. If your mother--"

"Oh, Mother has long ago given up trying to solve me. I am a
greater puzzle to her than you seem to be to everyone, Mr. Paine.
I have spoken to my father about it and he is quite willing. His
difference with you is purely a business one, as you know."

Some of the "business" had been oddly conducted, but I did not
raise the point. I could not reason just then. That this spoiled,
city-bred daughter of "Big Jim" Colton should wish to know my
mother was beyond reasoning.

She said good morning and we parted. I walked home, racking my
brains to find the answer to this new conundrum. It was a whim on
her part, of course, inspired by something George or Nellie had
told her. I did not know whether to resent the whim or not,
whether to be angry or indifferent. If she intended to inspect
Mother as a possible object of future charity I should be angry and
the first call would be the last. But Mother herself would settle
all questions of charity; I knew that. And the girl had not spoken
in a patronizing way. She had declared that idle curiosity had no
part in her wish. She seemed in earnest. What would Mother say
when I told her?

Lute was just coming through the gate as I approached it. He was
in high good humor.

"I'm goin' up street," he declared. "Anything you want me to fetch
you from the store, Ros?"

I looked at my watch. It was only eleven o'clock.

"Up street?" I repeated. "I thought you were slated to wash
windows this forenoon. I heard Dorinda give you your orders to
that effect. You haven't finished washing them already?"

"No," with a broad grin, "I ain't finished 'em. Fact is, I ain't
begun 'em yet."

"So! Does Dorinda know that you are going up street?"

"Um-hm. She knows. Anyhow, she knows I'm goin' somewheres. She
told me to go herself."

"She did! Why?"

"Don't ask ME. I was all ready to wash the windows; had the bucket
pumped full and everything. But when I come into the dinin'-room
she sung out to know what I was doin' with all that water on her
clean floor. 'Why, Dorindy!' I says, 'I'm a-goin' to wash them
windows same's you told me to.' 'No, you ain't,' says she. 'But
what will I do?' says I. 'I don't care,' says she. 'Clear out of
here, that's all.' 'But where'll I clear out to?' I wanted to
know. 'I don't care!' she snaps again, savage as a settin' hen,
'so long's you clear out of my sight.' So here I be. Don't ask me
why she changed her mind: _I_ don't know. Nothin' you want to the
store?"

"No."

"Say, Ros, you know what I think?"

"Far be it from me to presume to guess your thoughts, Lute."

"Well, I think this is a strange world and the strangest thing in
it is a woman. You never can tell what they'll do ten minutes at a
stretch. I--"

"All right, Lute. I'll hear the rest of the philosophy later."

"Philosophy or not, it's the livin' truth. And when you're as old
as I be you'll know it."

I went in through the dining-room, steering clear of Dorinda, who
scarcely looked up from her floor scrubbing.

"Mother," said I, entering the darkened bedroom, "I just met the
Colton girl and what do you suppose she told me?"

"That she was very grateful to you for coming to her rescue the
other night."

"That, of course. But she told me something else. She said she
was coming to call on you. On YOU, Mother!"

I don't know what answer I expected. I flung the announcement like
a bombshell and was ready for almost any sort of explosion at all.

"Did she?" observed Mother, placidly. "I am very glad. I have no
doubt I shall like her."

My next remark had nothing to do with Miss Colton.

"Well, by George!" I exclaimed, with emphasis. "Lute IS a
philosopher, after all. I take off my hat to him."

CHAPTER XI

I met Mabel Colton several times during the following week. Once,
at the place where I had met her before, in the grove by the edge
of the bluff, and again walking up the Lane in company with her
father. Once also on the Lower Road, though that could scarcely be
called a meeting, for I was afoot and she and her father and mother
were in the automobile.

Only at the meeting in the grove were words exchanged between us.
She bowed pleasantly and commented on the wonderful view.

"I am trespassing again, you see," she said. "Taking advantage of
your good-nature, Mr. Paine. This spot is the most attractive I
have found in Denboro."

I observed that the view from her verandas must be almost the same.

"Almost, but not quite," she said. "These pines shut off the inlet
below, and all the little fishing boats. One of them is yours, I
suppose. Which?"

"That is my launch there," I replied, pointing.

"The little white one? You built it yourself, I think Father
said."

"He was mistaken, if he said that. I am not clever enough to build
a boat, Miss Colton. I bought the Comfort, second-hand."

I don't know why I added the "second-hand." Probably because I had
not yet freed my mind from the bitterness--yes, and envy--which the
sight of this girl and her people always brought with it. It is
comparatively easy to be free from envy if one is what George
Taylor termed a "never-was"; for a "has been" it is harder.

The boat's name was the only portion of my remark which attracted
her attention.

"The Comfort?" she repeated. "That is a jolly name for a pleasure
boat."

"It is my mother's name," I answered.

"Is it? Why, I remember now. Miss Dean told me. I beg your
pardon, Mr. Paine. It is a pretty name, at all events."

"Thank you."

"I must have misunderstood Father. I was sure he said that boat
building was your business."

"No. He saw me overhauling the engine, and perhaps that gave him
the impression that I was a builder. I told him I was not, but no
doubt he forgot. I have no business, Miss Colton."

I think she was surprised. She glanced at me curiously and her
lips opened as if to ask another question. She did not ask it
however, and, except for a casual remark or two about the view and
the blueness of the water in the bay, she said nothing more. I
rather expected she would refer to her intention of calling on
Mother, but she did not mention the subject. I inferred that she
had thought better of her whim.

On the other occasions when we met she merely bowed. "Big Jim"
nodded carelessly. Mrs. Colton, from her seat in the auto, nodded
also, though her majestic bow could scarcely be termed a nod. It
was more like the acknowledgment, by a queen in her chariot, of the
applauding citizen on the sidewalk. She saw me, and she deigned to
let me know that I was seen, that was all.

But when I inferred that her daughter had forgotten, or had decided
not to make the call at our house, I misjudged the young lady. I
returned, one afternoon, from a cruise up and down the bay in the
Comfort, to find our small establishment--the Rogers portion of it,
at least--in a high state of excitement. Lute and Dorinda were in
the kitchen and before I reached the back door, which was open, I
heard their voices in animated discussion.

"Why wouldn't I say it, Dorinda?" pleaded Lute. "You can't blame
me none. There I was, with my sleeves rolled up and just settin'
in the chair, restin' my arms a jiffy and thinkin' which window I'd
wash next, when there come that knock at the door. Thinks I, 'It's
Asa Peters' daughter's young-one peddlin' clams.' That's what come
to my mind fust. That idee popped right into my head, it did."

"Found plenty of room when it got there, I cal'late," snapped
Dorinda. "Must have felt lonesome."

"That's it! keep on pitchin' into me. I swan to man! sometimes I
get so discouraged and wore out and reckless--hello! here's Ros.
You ask him now! Ros, she's layin' into me because I didn't
understand what--"

"Roscoe," broke in his wife, "I never was more mortified in all my
born days. He--"

"Let me tell you all about it, Ros. I went to the door--thinkin'
'twas a peddler, you know; had this old suit on, all sloshed up
with soapsuds and water, and a wet rag in my hand; and there she
stood, styled up like the Queen of Sheby. Well, sir! I'll leave it
to you if 'tain't enough to surprise anybody. HER! comin' HERE!"

"That wan't any reason why you should behave like a natural born--"

"Hold on! you let me finish tellin' Roscoe. 'Good afternoon,' says
she. 'Is Mrs. Paine in?' Said it just like that, she did. I was
so flustered up from the sight of her that I didn't sense it right
off and I says, 'What ma'am?' 'Is Mrs. Paine in?' says she. 'In?'
says I--"

"Just like a poll parrot," interjected Dorinda.

"Are you goin' to let me tell this or ain't you? 'In?' says I;
hadn't sensed it yet, you see. 'Is Mrs. Paine to home?' she says.
Now your ma, Ros, ain't never been nowheres else BUT home sence
land knows when, so I supposed she must mean somebody else. 'Who?'
says I, again. 'Mrs. Comfort Paine,' says she. She raised her
voice a little; guessed I was deef, probably."

"If she'd guessed you was dumb she wouldn't have been fur off,"
commented Dorinda. I had not seen her so disturbed for many a day.

Her husband disdained to notice this interruption.

"'Mrs. Comfort Paine,' says she," he continued. "'She is in? And
I says 'In?'"

"No, you didn't. You said, 'In where?' And she had all she could
do to keep from laughin'. I see her face as I got to the door, and
it's a mercy I got there when I did. Land knows what you'd have
said next!"

"But, Dorindy, I tell you I thought--"

"YOU thought! I know what SHE must have thought. That she'd made
a mistake and run afoul of an asylum for the feeble-minded."

"Umph! I should have GOT feeble-minded if I'd had any more of that
kind of talk. What made her ask if a sick woman like Comfort was
'in' and 'to home'? Couldn't be nowheres else, could she?"

"Rubbish! she meant could Mrs. Paine see folks, that's all."

"See 'em! How you talk! She ain't blind."

"Oh, my soul and body! She was tryin' to ask if she might make a
call on Comfort."

"Well then, why didn't she ask it; 'stead of wantin' to know if she
was in?"

"That's the high-toned way TO ask, and you'd ought to have known
it."

"Humph! Do tell! Well, I ain't tony, myself. Don't have no
chance to be in this house. Nothin' but work, work, work! tongue,
tongue, tongue! for me around here. I'm disgusted, that's what I
am."

"YOU'RE disgusted! What about, me?"

I had listened to as much of this little domestic disagreement as I
cared to hear.

"Wait a minute," I said. "What is all this? Who has been here to
see Mother?"

Both answered at once.

"That Colton girl," cried Lute.

"That Mabel Colton," said Dorinda.

"Miss Colton? She has been here? this afternoon."

"Um-hm," Dorinda nodded emphatically. "She stayed in your ma's
room 'most an hour."

"'Twas fifty-three minutes," declared Lute. "I timed her by the
clock. "And she fetched a great, big bouquet. Comfort says she--"

I waited to hear no more, but went into Mother's room. The little
bed chamber was fragrant with the perfume of flowers. A cluster of
big Jacqueminot roses drooped their velvety petaled heads over the
sides of the blue and white pitcher on the bureau. Mother loved
flowers and I frequently brought her the old fashioned posies from
Dorinda's little garden or wild blossoms from the woods and fields.
But roses such as these were beyond my reach now-a-days. They grew
in greenhouses, not in the gardens of country people.

Mother did not move as I entered and I thought she was asleep. But
as I bent over the roses she turned on the pillow and spoke.

"Aren't they beautiful, Roscoe?" she said.

"Yes," I answered. "They are beautiful."

"Do you know who brought them to me?"

"Yes, Mother. Lute told me."

"She did call, you see. She kept her word. It was kind of her,
wasn't it?"

I sat down in the rocking chair by the window.

"Well," I asked, after a moment, "what did she say? Did she
condescend to pity her pauper neighbors?"

"Roscoe!"

"Did she express horrified sympathy and offer to call your case to
the attention of her cousin in charge of the Poor Ward in the City
General Hospital, like that woman from the Harniss hotel last
summer?"

"Boy! How can you!"

"Oh, well; I am a jealous beast, Mother; I admit it. But I have
not been able to bring you flowers like that and it galls me to
think that others can. They don't deserve to have all the
beautiful things in life, while the rest of us have none."

"But it isn't her fault that she has them, is it? And it was kind
to share them with us."

"I suppose so. Well, what did she say to you? Dorinda says she
was with you nearly an hour. What did you and she talk about? She
did not offer charity, did she?"

"Do you think I should have accepted it, if she had? Roscoe, I
have never seen you so prejudiced as you are against our new
neighbors. It doesn't seem like you, at all. And if her father
and mother are like Miss Mabel, you are very wrong. I like her
very much."

"You would try to like any one, Mother."

"I did not have to try to like her. And I was a little prejudiced,
too, at first. She was so wealthy, and an only child; I feared she
might be conceited and spoiled. But she isn't."

"Not conceited! Humph!"

"No, not really. At first she seemed a trifle distant, and I
thought her haughty; but, afterward, when her strangeness and
constraint had worn away, she was simple and unaffected and
delightful. And she is very pretty, isn't she."

"Yes."

"She told me a great deal about herself. She has been through
Vassar and has traveled a great deal. This is the first summer
since her graduation which she has not spent abroad. She and I
talked of Rome and Florence. I--I told her of the month I spent in
Italy when you were a baby, Roscoe."

"You did not tell her anything more, Mother? Anything she should
not know?"

"Boy!" reproachfully.

"Pardon me, Mother. Of course you didn't. Did she tell you why
she called on us--on you, I mean?"

"Yes, in a way. I imagine--though she did not say so--that you
are responsible for that. She and Nellie Dean seem to be well
acquainted, almost friendly, which is odd, for I can scarcely think
of two girls more different. But she likes Nellie, that is
evident, and Nellie and George have told her about you and me."

"I see. And so she was curious concerning the interesting invalid.
Probably anything even mildly interesting is a godsend to her, down
here. Did she mention the Shore Lane rumpus?"

"Yes. Although I mentioned it first. It was plain that she could
not understand your position in the matter, Roscoe, and I explained
it as well as I could. I told her that you felt the Lane was a
necessity to the townspeople, and that, under the circumstances,
you could not sell. I told her how deeply you sympathized with her
mother--"

"Did you tell her that?"

"Why, yes. It is true, isn't it?"

"Humph! Mildly so, maybe. What more did she say?"

"She said she thought she understood better now. I told her about
you, Boy, and what a good son you had been to me. How you had
sacrificed your future and your career for my sake. Of course I
could not go into particulars, at all, but we talked a great deal
about you, Roscoe."

"That must have been deliriously interesting--to her."

"I think it was. She told me of your helping her home through the
storm, and of something else you had not told me, Boy: of your
bringing her and Mr. Carver off the flat in the boat that day. Why
did you keep that a secret?"

"It was not worth telling."

"She thought it was. She laughed about it; said you handled the
affair in a most businesslike and unsentimental way; she never felt
more like a bundle of dry-goods in her life, but that that appeared
to be your manner of handling people. It was a somewhat startling
manner, but very effective, she said. I don't know what she meant
by that."

I knew, but I did not explain.

"You don't mean to say, Mother, that you glorified me to her for an
hour?" I demanded.

"No, indeed. We talked of ever so many things. Of books, and
pictures, and music. I'm afraid I was rather wearisome. It seemed
so good to have some one--except you, of course, dear--to discuss
such subjects with. Most of my callers are not interested in
them."

I was silent.

"She is coming again, she says," continued Mother. "She has some
new books she is going to lend me. You must read them to me. And
aren't those roses wonderful? She picked them, herself, in their
conservatory. I told her how fond you were of flowers."

I judged that the young lady must have gone away with the idea that
I was a combination of longshore lout and effeminate dilettante,
with the financial resources of the former. She might as well have
that idea as any other, I supposed, but, in her eyes, I must be
more of a freak than ever. I should take care to keep out of the
sight of those eyes as much as possible. But that the millionaire's
daughter had made a hit on the occasion of her first call was plain.
Not only had Mother been favorably impressed, but even the practical
and unromantic Dorinda's shell was dented. She deigned to observe
that the young lady seemed to have "consider'ble common-sense,
considerin' her bringin' up." This, from Dorinda, was high praise,
and I wondered what the caller had said or done to win such a
triumph. Lute made the matter clear.

"By time!" he said, when he and I were together, "that girl's a
smart one. I'd give somethin' to have her kind of smartness.
Dorindy was terrible cranky all the time she was in your ma's room
and I didn't know what would happen when she come out. But the
fust thing she done when she come out was to look around the dinin'
room and say, 'Oh! what a pleasant, homey place! And so clean!
Why, it is perfectly spotless!' Land sakes! the old lady thawed
out like a cranberry bog in April. After that they talked about
housekeepin' and cookin' and such, sociable as could be. Dorindy's
goin' to give her her receipt for doughnuts next time she comes.
And I bet that girl never cooked a doughnut in her life or ever
will. If I could think of the right thing to say, like that,
'twould save me more'n one ear-ache. But I never do think of it
till the next day, and then it's too late."

He borrowed my tobacco, filled his pipe, and continued:

"Say, Ros," he asked, "what's your idea of what made her come here?"

"To see Mother, of course," I answered.

"That's your notion, is it?"

"Certainly. What else?"

"Humph! There's other sick folks in town. Why don't she go to see
them?"

"Perhaps she does. I don't know."

"I bet you ten cents she don't. No, I've been reasonin' of it out,
same as I gen'rally do, and I've got some notions of my own. You
don't cal'late her pa sent her so's to sort of soft soap around
toward his gettin' the Shore Lane? You don't cal'late 'twas part
of that game, do you?"

That supposition had crossed my mind more than once. I was ashamed
of it and now I denied it, indignantly.

"Of course not," I answered.

"Well, I don't think so, myself. But if 'tain't that it's another
reason. She may be interested in Comfort; I don't say she ain't;
but that ain't all she's interested in."

"What do you mean?"

"Never mind. I ain't said nothin'. I'm just waitin' to see,
that's all. I have had some experience in this world, I have.
There's different times comin' for this family, you set that down
in your log-book, Ros Paine."

"Look here, Lute; if you are hinting that Miss Colton or her people
intend offering us charity--"

"Who said anything about charity? No; if she had that idee in her
head, her talk with your ma would drive it out. 'Tain't charity, I
ain't sayin' what 'tis. . . . I wonder how 'twould seem to be
rich."

"Lute, you're growing more foolish every day."

"So Dorindy says; but she nor you ain't offered no proof yet. All
right, you wait and see. And say, Ros, don't mention our talk to
Dorindy. She's more'n extry down on me just now, and if I breathe
that Mabel Colton's name she hops right up in the air. How'd I
know that askin' if a woman who's been sick in bed six year or more
was 'in' meant could she have folks come to see her?"

Mother would have discussed the Coltons with me frequently, but I
avoided the subject as much as possible. The promised books
arrived--brought over by Johnson, the butler, who viewed our humble
quarters with lofty disdain--and I read one of them aloud to
Mother, a chapter each evening. More flowers came also and the
darkened bedroom became a bower of beauty and perfume. If I had
yielded to my own wishes I should have returned both roses and
books. It was better, as I saw it, that we and our wealthy
neighbors had nothing to do with each other. Real friendship was
out of the question; the memory of Mrs. Colton's frigid bow and her
reference to me as a "person" proved that. Her daughter might
think otherwise, or might think that she thought so, but I knew
better. However, I did not like to pain Mother by refusing
offerings which, to her, were expressions of sympathy and regard,
so I had no protest and tried to enthuse over the gifts and loans.
After all, what did they amount to? One tea-rose bred from
Dorinda's carefully tended bush, or one gushful story book selected
by Almena Doane from the new additions to the town library and sent
because she thought "Mrs. Comfort might find it sort of soothin'
and distractin'," meant more real unselfish thought and kindly
feeling than all the conservatory exotics and new novels which the
rich girl's whim supplied from her overflowing store. I was
surprised only that the whim lasted so long.

Behind all this, I think, and confirming my feeling, was the fact
that Miss Colton did not repeat her call. A week or more passed
and she did not come. I caught glimpses of her occasionally in the
auto, or at the post-office, but I took care that she should not
see me. I did not wish to be seen, though precisely why I could
not have explained even to myself. The memory of that night in the
rain, and of our meetings in the grove, troubled me because I could
not keep them from my mind. They kept recurring, no matter what I
did or where I went. No, I did not want to meet her again.
Somehow, the sight and memory of her made me more dissatisfied and
discontented than ever. I found myself moodily wishing for things
beyond my reach, longing to be something more than I was--more than
the nobody which I knew I must always be. I remembered my feelings
on the morning of the day when I first saw her. Now they seemed
almost like premonitions.

I kept away; not only from her, but from George Taylor and Captain
Dean and the townspeople. I went to the village scarcely at all.
Sim Eldredge, who had evidently received orders from headquarters
to drop the Lane "agency," troubled me no more, merely glowering
reproachfully when we met; and Alvin Baker, whose note had been
renewed, although he hailed me with effusive cordiality, did not
press his society upon me, having no axe to grind at present. Zeb
Kendrick was using the Lane again, but he took care to bring no
more "billiard roomers" as passengers. I had as yet heard nothing
from my quarrel with Tim Hallet.

I spent a good deal of my time in the Comfort, or wandering about
the shore and in the woods. One warm, cloudy morning the notion
seized me to go up to the ponds and try for black bass. There are
bass in some of the larger ponds--lakes they would be called
anywhere else except on Cape Cod--and, if one is lucky, and the
weather is right, and the bait tempting, they may be caught. This
particular morning promised to furnish the proper brand of weather,
and a short excursion on the flats provided a supply of shrimps and
minnows for bait. Dorinda, who happened to be in good humor, put
up a lunch for me and, at seven o'clock, with my rod and landing
net in their cases, strapped, with my fishing boots and coffee pot,
to my back, and my bait pail in one hand and lunch basket in the
other, I started on my tramp. It was a long four miles to
Seabury's Pond, my destination, and Lute, to whom, like most
country people, the idea of a four-mile walk was sheer lunacy,
urged my harnessing the horse and driving there. But I knew the
overgrown wood roads and the difficulty of piloting a vehicle
through them, and, moreover, I really preferred to go afoot. So I
marched off and left him protesting.

Very few summer people--and only summer people or irresponsible
persons like myself waste time in freshwater fishing on the Cape--
knew where Seabury's Pond was. It lay far from macadam roads and
automobile thoroughfares and its sandy shores were bordered with
verdure-clad hills shutting it in like the sides of a bowl. To
reach it from Denboro one left the Bayport road at "Beriah Holt's
place," followed Beriah's cow path to the pasture, plunged into the
oak and birch grove at the southern edge of that pasture, emerged
on a grass-grown and bush-encumbered track which had once been the
way to some early settler's home, and had been forsaken for years,
and followed that track, in all its windings, until he saw the
gleam of water between the upper fringe of brush and the lower
limbs of the trees. Then he left the track and clambered down the
steep slope to the pond.

I am a good walker, but I was tired long before I reached the
slope. The bait pail, which I refilled with fresh water at
Beriah's pump, grew heavier as I went on, and I began to think Lute
knew what he was talking about when he declared me to be "plumb
crazy, hoofin' it four mile loaded down with all that dunnage."
However, when the long "hoof" was over, and I sat down in a patch
of "hog-cranberry" vines for a smoke, with the pond before me, I
was measurably happy. This was the sort of thing I liked. Here
there were no Shore Lane controversies, but real independence and
peace.

After my smoke was finished and I had rested, I carried my
"dunnage" around to the point where I intended to begin my fishing,
put the lunch basket in a shady place beneath the bushes, and the
bait pail in the water nearby, changed my shoes for the fishing
boots, rigged my rod and was ready.

At first the fishing was rather poor. The pond was full of perch
and they were troublesome. By and by, however, I hooked a four-
pound pickerel and he stirred my lagging ambition. I waded on,
casting and playing beyond the lily pads and sedge. At last I got
my first bass, a small one, and had scarcely landed him than a big
fellow struck, fought, rose and broke away. That was spur
sufficient. All the forenoon I waded about the shores of that
pond. When at half-past eleven the sun came out and I knew my
sport was over, for the time at least, I had four bass--two of them
fine ones--and two, pickerel. Then I remembered my appetite and
Dorinda's luncheon.

I went back to the point and inspected the contents of the basket.
Sandwiches, cold chicken, eggs, doughnuts and apple puffs. They
looked good to me. Also there were pepper and salt in one paper,
sugar in another, coffee in a third, and milk in a bottle. I
collected some dry chips and branches and prepared to kindle a
fire. As I bent over the heap of sticks and chips I heard the
sound of horses' hoofs in the woods near by.

I was surprised and annoyed. The principal charm of Seabury Pond
was that so few people visited it. Also fewer still knew how good
the fishing was there. I was not more than ordinarily selfish, but
I did not care to have the place overrun with excursionists from
the city, who had no scruples as to number and size of fish caught
and would ruin the sport as they had ruined it at other and better
known ponds. The passerby, whoever he was--a native probably--
would, if he saw me, ask questions concerning my luck, and be
almost sure to tell every one he met. I left my fire unkindled,
stepped back to the shade of the bushes and waited in silence,
hoping the driver would go on without stopping. There was no real
road on this side of the pond, but there was an abandoned wood
track, like that by which I had come. The horse was approaching
along the track; the sounds of hoofs and crackling branches grew
plainer.

The odd part of it was that I heard no rattle of wheels. It was
almost as if the person was on horseback. This seemed impossible,
because no one in Denboro or Bayport--no one I could think of, at
least--owned or rode a saddle horse. Yet the hoof beats grew
louder and there was no squeak, or jolt, or rattle to bear them
company. They came to a point in the woods directly opposite where
I sat in the shade of the bushes and there they stopped. Then they
recommenced and the crackle of branches was louder than ever. The
rider, whoever he was, was coming down the bank to the pond.

A moment more and the tall swamp-huckleberry bushes at the edge of
the sandy beach parted and between them stepped gingerly a clean-
cut, handsome brown horse, which threw up its head at the sight of
the water and then trotted lightly toward it. The rider, who sat
so easily in the saddle, was a girl. And the girl was Mabel
Colton!

She did not notice me at first, but gave her attention to the
horse. The animal waded into the water to its knees and, in
obedience to a pull on the reins, stopped, bent its head, and began
to drink. Then the rider turned in her seat, looked about her, saw
the heap of wood for the fire, the open lunch basket, the rods and
landing-net, and--me.

I had stepped from the bushes when she first appeared and was
standing motionless, staring, I imagine, like what Dorinda
sometimes called her husband--a "born gump." There was Fate in
this! no doubt about it. The further I went to avoid this girl,
and the more outlandish and forsaken the spot to which I fled, the
greater the certainty of our meeting. A feeling of helplessness
came over me, as if I were in the clutch of destiny and no effort
of mine could break that clutch.

For a moment she looked as if she might be thinking the same thing.
She started when she saw me and her lips parted.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, softly. Then we gazed at each other without
speaking.

She was the first to recover from the surprise. Her expression
changed. The look of alarm caused by my sudden appearance left her
face, but the wonder remained.

"Why! Why, Mr. Paine!" she cried. "Is it you?"

I stepped forward.

"Why, Miss Colton!" said I.

She drew a breath of relief. "It IS you!" she declared. "I was
beginning to believe in hallucinations. How you startled me! What
are you doing here?"

"That is exactly what I was going to ask you," I replied. "I am
here for a fishing excursion. But what brought you to this out-of-
the-way place?"

She smiled and patted the horse's shoulder. "Don here brought me,"
she answered. "He saw the water and I knew he was thirsty, so I
came straight down the bank. But I didn't expect to find any one
here. I haven't seen a horse or a human being for an hour. What a
pretty little lake this is. What is its name?"

"It is called Seabury's Pond. How did you find it?"

"I didn't. Don found it. He and I came for a gallop in the woods
and I let him choose his own paths. I have been in his charge all
the morning. I haven't the least idea where we are. There, Don!
you have had enough and you are splashing us dreadfully. Come
back!"

She backed the horse out of the water and turned his head toward
the woods.

"It is great fun to be lost," she observed. "I didn't suppose any
one could be lost in Denboro."

"But this isn't Denboro. Seabury's Pond is in Bayport township."

"Is it, really? In Bayport? Then I must be a long way from home."

"You are; four miles and a half, at least. More than that over the
road."

She looked at her watch and frowned slightly.

"Dear me!" she said. "And it is after twelve already. I am
perfectly sure I can't find the way back in time for luncheon."

"I shall be glad to go with you and show you the way."

"No, indeed! Don and I will get home safely. This isn't the first
time we have been lost together, though not on Cape Cod. Of course
I shouldn't think of taking you from your fishing. Have you had
good luck?"

"Pretty fair. Some bass and two good-sized pickerel."

"Really! Bass? I didn't know there were any about here. May I
see them?"

"Certainly. They are over there in the bushes."

She swung lightly down from the saddle and, taking her horse by the
bridle, led him toward the spot where my catch lay, covered with
leaves and wet grass. I removed the covering and she bent over the
fish.

"Oh, splendid!" she exclaimed, with enthusiasm. "That big one must
be a three-pounder. I envy you. Bass fishing is great sport. Did
you get these on a fly--the bass, I mean?"

"No. I use a fly in the spring and fall, but seldom in June or
July, here. Those were taken with live bait-shrimp. The pickerel
with minnows. Are you fond of fishing, Miss Colton?"

"Yes, indeed. Whoa, Don! steady! Yes, I fish a good deal in
September, when we are at our lodge in the Adirondacks. Trout
there, principally. But I have caught bass in Maine. I thought I
must give it up this year. I did not know there were fish, in
fresh water, on the Cape."

"There are, a few. The people about here pay no attention to them.
They scorn such small fry. Cod and pollock are more in their
line."

"I suppose so. But that is all the better for you, isn't it? Were
you fishing when I interrupted you?"

"No, I was just getting ready for lunch. My fire was ready to
kindle."

"Fire? Why did you need a fire?"

"For my coffee."

"Coffee! You are a luxurious picnicer, Mr. Paine. Hot coffee on a
fishing trip! and without a guide. And you are unfeeling, besides,
for you remind me that I am very hungry. I must go at once. How
far am I from home? Four miles, did you say?"

"Four and a half, or more, by road. And the roads are like those
you have been traveling this morning. I doubt if you could find
the way, even with your horse's help. I must insist upon going
with you as far as the main road between Denboro and Bayport."

"I shall not permit it."

"But I insist."

Her answer was a little laugh. She put her foot in the stirrup and
vaulted to the saddle.

"Your insisting is useless, you see," she said. "You are on foot
and I have the advantage. No, Don and I will go alone, thank you.
Now, will you please tell me the way?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "Go back along the road you came," I
said, "until you reach the second, no, the third, path to the
right. Follow that to the second on the left. Then follow that
for two hundred yards or so until--well, until you reach a clump of
bushes, high bushes. Behind these is another path, a blind one,
and you must take care to pick the right clump, because there is
another one with a path behind it and that path joins the road to
Harniss. If you should take the Harniss road you would go miles
out of your way. Take the blind path I speak of and--"

She interrupted me. "Stop! stop!" she exclaimed; "please don't. I
am absolutely bewildered already. I had no idea I was in such a
maze. Let me see! Second to the right; third to the left--"

"No, third to the right and second to the left."

"And then the bushes and the choice of blind paths. Don, I see
plainly that you and I must trust to Providence. Well, it is
fortunate that the family are accustomed to my ways. They won't be
alarmed, no matter how late I may be."

"Miss Colton, I am not going to allow you to go alone. Of course I
am not. I can set you on the right road and get back here in
plenty of time for fishing. The fish are not hungry in the middle
of the day."

"No, but you are. I know you must be, because--no, good day, Mr.
Paine."

She spoke to the horse and he began to move. I took my courage
between my teeth, ran after the animal and seized the bridle.

"You are not going alone," I said, decidedly. I was smiling, but
determined.

She looked at me in surprised indignation.

"What do you mean?" she said.

I merely smiled. Her chin lifted and her brows drew together. I
recognized that look; I had seen it before, on that afternoon when
I announced my intention of carrying her from the dingy to the
skiff.

"Will you be good enough to let go of my rein?" she asked. Every
word was a sort of verbal icicle. I felt the chill and my smile
was rather forced; but I held the bridle.

"No," I said, serenely as I could. For a minute--I suppose it was
not longer than that, it seemed an hour to me--we remained as we
were. Then her lips began to curl upward at the corners, and, to
my surprise, she burst out laughing.

"Really, Mr. Paine," she said, "you are the most impossible person
I ever met. Do you always order people about this way? I feel as
if I were about five years old and you were my nurse. Are we to
stand here the rest of the afternoon?"

"Yes; unless you permit me to go with you and show you the way."

"But I can't. I'm not going to spoil your picnic. I know you want
your lunch. You must. Or, if you don't, I want mine."

"If you go alone, there are nine chances in ten that you will not
get home in time for dinner, to say nothing of lunch."

She looked at me oddly, I thought, and started to speak. Whatever
it was she was going to say she evidently thought better of it, for
she remained silent.

Then I had a new idea. Whether or not it was her look which
inspired it I do not know. I think it must have been; I never
would have dared such a thing without inspiration.

"Miss Colton," I said, hesitatingly, "if you really are not--if you
are sure your people will not worry about you--I--I should be glad
to share my lunch with you. Then we could go home together
afterward."

She did not look at me now. Instead she turned her head.

"Are--are you sure there is enough for two?" she asked, in a
curiously choked tone.

By way of answer I led the horse to the bushes, drew the lunch
basket from the shade, and threw back the cover. Dorinda's picnic
lunches were triumphs and she had never put up a more tempting one.

Miss Colton looked down into the basket.

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

"There appears to be enough, doesn't there?" I observed, drily.

"But--but I couldn't think of . . . Are you sure I won't be . . .
Thank you. Yes, I'll stay."

Before I could offer my hand to help her from the saddle she sprang
to the ground. Her eyes were sparkling.

"Mr. Paine," she said, in a burst of confidence, "it is shameless
to tell you so, I know, but I was dreadfully afraid you weren't
going to ask me. I am absolutely STARVED."

CHAPTER XII

"And now," continued Miss Colton, after an interval during which,
I presume, she had been waiting for some reply to her frank
declaration concerning mind and appetite, "what must I do to help?
Shall I unpack the basket?"

I was struggling, as we say in Denboro, to get the ship under
control. I had been taken aback so suddenly that I had lost
steerage way. My slight experience with the vagaries of the
feminine mind had not prepared me for the lightning changes of this
kind. Not two minutes before she had, if one might judge by her
look and tone, been deeply offended, almost insulted, because I
refused to permit her wandering off alone into the woods. My
invitation to lunch had been given on the spur of the moment and
with no idea that it would be accepted. And she not only accepted,
but had expected me to invite her, had been fearful that I might
not do so. She told me so, herself.

"Shall I unpack the basket?" she repeated. She was looking at me
intently and the toe of her riding boot was patting the leaves.
"What is the matter? Are you sorry I am going to stay?"

It was high time for me to get under way. There were squalls on
the horizon.

"Oh, no, no!" I exclaimed, hastily. "Of course not. I am
delighted. But you need not trouble to help. Just let me attend
to your horse and I will have lunch ready in a jiffy."

I led Don over to the little green belt of meadow between the trees
and the sand of the beach, unbuckled the reins and made him fast to
a stout birch. He bent his head and began to pull big mouthfuls of
the rich grass. He, too, was evidently glad to accept my
invitation.

When I returned to my camping ground I found the basket unpacked
and the young lady arranging the eatables.

"You shouldn't have done that," I said. "I am the host here."

She did not look up. "Don't bother the table maid," she observed,
briskly. "That fire is not kindled yet."

I lit the fire and, going over to the bushes, selected two of the
fish, a bass and a pickerel. I carried them down to the shore of
the pond and began cleaning them, using my jacknife and a flat
stone. I was nearing the end of the operation when she came over
to watch.

"Why are you doing that?" she asked. "You are not going to cook
them--now--are you?"

"I am going to try," I replied.

"But how? You haven't anything to cook them in."

"I don't need it. You don't appreciate the conveniences of this
hotel, Miss Colton. There! now we're ready."

I rose, washed my hands in the pond, and picked up two other flat
stones, large ones, which I had previously put aside. These I
carried to the fire and, raking aside the burning logs with a
stick, laid the stones in a bed of hot coals.

"Those are our frying pans," I informed her. "When they are hot
enough they will cook the fish. At least, I hope they will. Now
for the coffee."

But she waved me aside. "The coffee is my affair," she said. "I
insist upon making the coffee. Oh, you need not look at me like
that. I am not altogether useless. I studied Domestic Science--a
little--in my prep school course. As much as I studied anything
else," laughingly.

"But--"

"Mr. Paine, I am not on horseback now and you can't hold my bridle
as you did Don's. If you will fill the coffee pot and put it on to
boil. Thank you. I am glad to see that even you obey orders,
sometimes."

I had cooked fish in out-of-door fashion often before, but I am
quite sure I never took such pains as I did with these. They were
not culinary triumphs, even at that, but my guest was kind enough
to pronounce them delicious. The lunch basket contained two
plates, but only one knife and fork. These I insisted upon her
using and I got on very well with sharpened sticks and a spoon.
The coffee was--well, it had one qualification, strength.

We conversed but little during the meal. The young lady said she
was too hungry to talk and I was so confounded with the strangeness
of the whole affair that I was glad to be silent. Sitting opposite
me, eating Dorinda's doughnuts and apple puffs and the fish that
I--_I_ had cooked, was "Big Jim" Colton's daughter, the automobile
girl, the heiress, the "incarnation of snobbery," the young lady
whose father I had bidden go to the devil and to whom, in company
with the rest of the family, I had many times mentally extended the
same invitation. And now we were picnicing together as if we were
friends of long standing. Why, Nellie Dean could not appear more
unpretentious and unconscious of social differences than this girl
to-day! What would her parents say if they saw us like this? What
would Captain Jed, and the rest of those in rebellion against the
Emperor of New York, say? That I was a traitor, hand and glove
with the enemy. Well, I was not; and I did not intend to be. But
for her to--

She interrupted my meditations.

"Mr. Paine," she observed, suddenly, "you will excuse my mentioning
it, but you are distinctly not entertaining. You have not spoken a
word for five minutes. And you are not attending to my needs. The
apple puffs are on your side of the--table."

I hastened to pass the paper containing the puffs.

"I beg your pardon," I said, hurriedly. "I--I was daydreaming, I
guess."

"So I imagined. I forgive you; this lunch would tempt me to
forgive greater sins than yours. Did that delightful old
housekeeper of yours cook all these nice things?"

"She did. So you think Dorinda delightful, do you?"

"Yes. She is so sincere and good-hearted. And so odd and bright
and funny. I could listen to her for hours."

"Humph! Well, if you were a member of her household you would have
that privilege often. I doubt if her husband considers it such a
privilege."

"Her husband? Oh, yes! I met him. He is a character, too, isn't
he?"

"Yes; a weak one."

She put down her coffee cup and sighed, contentedly.

"I think I never tasted anything so good as this lunch," she
observed. "And I'm quite sure I never ate so much at one sitting.
I am going to help you clear away, but please don't ask me to do it
just now. Have you finished? You may smoke, if you like."

I had been longing for a smoke and now I filled my pipe and lighted
it.

"Now we can talk, can't we?" she said. "I want you to tell me
about your mother. How is she?"

"Just as she was when you saw her," I answered. "Mother is always
the same."

"She is a dear. I had heard so many nice things about her and I
was not disappointed. I intended to make only a short call and I
stayed and stayed. I hope I did not tire her."

"Not at all. Mother enjoyed your call exceedingly."

"Did she? I am so glad. I really am. I went to your house with a
good deal of misgiving, Mr. Paine. I feared that my coming might
be considered an intrusion."

"I told you that it would not."

"I know. But, under the circumstances--Father's disagreement with--
considering all the--the-- Oh, what shall I call it?"

"The late unpleasantness," I suggested.

Again came the twinkle in her eye. She nodded.

"Thank you," she said. "That is a quotation, but it was clever of
you to think of it. Yes, considering the late unpleasantness, I
was afraid my visit might be misunderstood. I was fearful that
your mother or--someone--might think I came there with an ulterior
motive, something connected with that troublesome Lane dispute. Of
course no one did think such a thing?"

She asked the question quickly and with intense seriousness. I
remembered Lute's hint and my own secret suspicions, but I answered
promptly.

"Of course not," I said.

"You did not think that, did you?"

"No," unblushingly.

"I came because from what I had heard of your mother I was sure she
must be a wonderful woman. I wanted to meet her. And she IS
wonderful; and so patient and sweet and good. I fell in love with
her. Everyone must love her. You should be proud of your mother,
Mr. Paine."

"I am," I answered, simply.

"You have reason. And she is very proud of you."

"Without the reason, I'm afraid."

She did not speak. Her silence hurt. I felt that I knew what she
was thinking and I determined to make her say it.

"Without the reason," I repeated.

"I did not say that."

"But you thought it."

My stubborn persistence was a mistake. Again, as at our meeting in
the grove, I had gone too far. Her answer was as completely
indifferent as speech and tone could be.

"Indeed?" she said, coldly. "It is barely possible that I did not
think about it at all. . . . Now, Mr. Paine, if you are ready
shall we clear away?"

The clearing, most of it, was done silently. I washed the plates,
the coffee pot and other things, in the pond and she packed them in
the basket. As I returned with the knife and forks I found her
looking at the coffee pot and smiling.

"What is the matter?" I asked, sulkily. I was provoked with myself
for forgetting who and what I was, and with her for making me
forget. "Isn't it clean?"

"Why, yes," she answered, "surprisingly so. Did they teach
Domestic Science at your college, too?"

I started. "MY college!" I repeated. "How did you know I had been
at college? Did Mother tell you?"

She laughed gleefully.

"Did Mother tell you?" I demanded. "If she did--"

"Well, what if she did? However, she did not. But you have told
me now. Harvard, was it? or Yale?"

I tossed the knife and fork into the basket and turned away.

"Princeton, perhaps," suggested Miss Colton.

I walked over and began to unjoint my rod. I was a fool to be
trapped like this. No one in Denboro except Mother and George
Taylor knew of my brief college career, and now I had, practically,
told this girl of it. She might--if she were sufficiently
interested to remember, which was fortunately not probable--tell
her father and he might ask other questions concerning my history.
Where would those questions lead?

I was angrily tugging at the rod when I heard her step behind me.
I did not turn.

"I beg your pardon," she said.

I pretended not to hear.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Paine," she said again.

"It's all right," I muttered. "No apologies are necessary."

I said it like a sullen schoolboy. There was another moment of
silence. Then I heard her move away. I looked over my shoulder.
She was walking toward the meadow where Don, the horse, was
picketed. There was offended dignity in every line of her figure.

For a moment I fought with my pride and injured self-respect. Then
I hurried after her.

"Miss Colton," I said.

"Well?" she neither turned nor stopped.

"Miss Colton, I should not have answered like that. I was rude."

She stopped. "You were," she said.

"I know it. I am sorry. I apologize."

"No apologies are necessary."

Here was tit for tat. I did not know what more to say, so I said
nothing.

"Do I understand that you ask my pardon?" she inquired, still
without turning.

"I do. If you will permit me, I will explain. I--"

She whirled about and faced me. To my astonishment she was smiling
once more.

"Of course you won't explain," she declared. "I had no right to
ask you about your college. But I couldn't help guessing. I told
you that I liked puzzles. We'll say no more about it. I have
enjoyed this picnic and I won't have it spoiled. Now why are you
taking your rod apart?"

"Because I know you want to go home and I am going with you to show
you the way."

"But I don't have to go yet, do I? It is not late. And I thought
perhaps you would let me see you catch another bass. Won't you?
Please."

Once more she had me at a disadvantage. I had no desire for more
fishing, and I was fearful of further questions, but what could I
do? And it was not late--but a little past two o'clock.

So I rigged the rod again and led the way down the shore to the
spot where the sedge extended out into the pond, with the lily pads
beyond it. She walked beside me. Then she seated herself on a
fallen tree and I baited the hook with a lively minnow and cast.
For some time I got not even a nibble. As I waited she and I
talked. But now it was I who questioned.

"Do you like Denboro?" I asked.

"I am beginning to like it very much. At first I thought it very
dull, but now I am getting acquainted."

"There are few cottagers and summer people here. But in Harniss
there is a large colony. Very nice people, I believe."

"Yes, I have met some of them. But it was not the summer people I
meant. I am beginning to know the townspeople and to like some of
them. I met that delightful old Captain Warren the other day."

"He is as good as they make."

"Indeed he is. And I had an interview with another captain, Miss
Dean's father, yesterday. We had an interesting encounter."

"So I should imagine. Captain Jed! Whew! It MUST have been
interesting."

"It was. Oh, we were very fierce at first--at least he was, and I
fought for my side as hard as I could. He said Father was a
selfish pig for wanting to close the Lane, and I said it was
because of its use by the pigs that he wished to close it."

"Ha! ha! How did it end?"

"Oh, we agreed to disagree. I respect Captain Dean for his fight;
but Father will win, of course. He always does."

"He won't win this time, Miss Colton."

"Why not? Oh, I actually forgot I was talking to the head and
front of the opposition. So you think he will not win, Mr. Paine?"

"I am sure of it. He cannot close that Lane until I sell it, and I
shall not sell."

She regarded me thoughtfully, her chin upon her hand.

"It would be odd if he should not, after all," she said. "He
prides himself on having his own way. It would be strange if he
should be beaten down here, after winning so often in New York.
Your mother told me something of your feeling in the matter, Mr.
Paine. Father has offered you a good price for the land, hasn't
he?"

"He has offered me a dozen times what it is worth."

"Yes. He does not count money when he has set his heart upon
anything. And you refused?"

"Yes."

"But Nellie Dean says the town also wished to buy and you refused
its offer, too."

"Yes."

"You don't seem to care for money, either, Mr. Paine. Are all Cape
Cod people so unmercenary? Or is it that you all have money
enough--. . . Pardon me. That was impolite. I spoke without
thinking."

"Oh, never mind. I am not sensitive--on that point, at least."

"But I do mind. And I am sorry I said it. And I should like to
understand. I see why the townspeople do not want the Lane closed.
But you have not lived here always. Only a few years, so Miss Dean
says. She said, too, that that Mr. Taylor, the cashier, was almost
the only intimate friend you have made since you came. Others
would like to be friendly, but you will not permit them to be.
And, yet for these people, mere acquaintances, you are sacrificing
what Father would call a profitable deal."

"Not altogether for them. I can't explain my feeling exactly. I
know only that to sell them out and make money--and heaven knows I
need money--at their expense seems to me dead wrong."

"Then why don't you sell to THEM?"

"I don't know. Unless it was because to refuse your father's offer
and accept a lower one seemed a mean trick, too. And I won't be
bullied into selling to anyone. I guess that is it, as much as
anything."

"My! how stubborn you must be."

"I don't know why I have preached this sermon to you, Miss Colton.
your sympathies in the fight are with your father, naturally."

"Oh, no, they are not."

I almost dropped the rod.

"Not--with--" I repeated.

"Not altogether. They are with you, just at present. If you had
sold--if you had given in to Father, feeling as you do, I should
not have any sympathy with you at all. As it is--"

"As it is?" I asked eagerly--too eagerly. I should have done
better to pretend indifference.

"As it is," she answered, lightly, "I respect you as I would any
sincere fighter for a losing cause. And I shall probably feel some

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