“ WELL, she ain’t shipped for it yet, I reckon,” said Captain Case, with a touch of irony, as he removed the pipe from his mouth and leaned back in his stiff chair.
The tobacco smoke was thick in the low room, and unpracticed eyes might not readily have discerned the owner of a voice which came in response from the further corner; but there was no such doubt in the minds of the few silent listeners who sat gravely about, one tipped back against the window-casing, two others leaning on the deal table. They recognized Captain Small.
“'Well, no,” said the voice, “I don’t know as she’s shipped for it, and I don’t say as she’s goin’ to; but I do say that she may sign the papers pretty blame quick some mornin’, and then before she knows it she’s out o’ sight o’ land. That’s the way with women, — all of ’em.”
No one contradicted this statement, and there was a moment’s pause in the conversation. The two men by the table shifted the position of their arms, and glanced at each other and at the man in the tipped-back chair, not restlessly, but signifying a readiness to hear further testimony. The pause was due merely to the necessity on Captain Case’s part for expectoration.
“ Well,” he said again, “youcan take my affydavit for it, she stays alongshore as long as that cranky brother of hers does, —that’s all.”
The listeners had no idea of its being all; they knew’ Captain Small was not a man easy to worst in an argument, and there was plenty of time before them; it was yet early in the autumn evening. But as Captain Small prepared to give the expected reply, there was a heavy step just outside, a rattling at the latch, and as the door swung open, admitting a breath of the salt, fresh breeze from without, there stepped into the room the sort of man with whom a whiff of salt air seems the natural accompaniment. He was a tall, fine-looking, gray-haired old sailor, with regular features and an expression of sturdy good-nature very pleasant to see.
“ Good-evenin’,” he said, as he pushed the door behind him, which closed with something of a bang.
“ Good - evenin’, Cap’n Wheelock.” “How are you, cap’n ? ” “Good-evenin’,” came the various greetings, in genuine welcome.
“ It’s getting thick outside,” remarked Captain Wheelock. moving a chair forward, and sitting down in it.
“ Draw up to the stove,” urged Captain Case hospitably.
“ No stove for me at my age,” replied the old man. “ It’s all well enough for you boys to get in out of the weather.”
“ Glad to see you at the Club, cap’n,” said one of the men at the table, with a smile and a nod. “ You don’t get down as often as you used to.”
“ That’s a fact. — that’s a fact,” answered Captain Wheelock genially. “ I don’t cruise round evenings as much as I did.”
“ There ain’t as much to talk about nowadays,” suggested Captain Case, with an elaborate wink addressed to the company in general. “ Whalin’ ain’t what it w’as.”
Captain Wheelock joined in the goodhumored laugh at his expense.
“ Well, no, it ain’t,” he affirmed regretfully ; “ really it ain’t.”
Then there fell a silence upon the company. The old whaling captain’s entrance had been an interruption, albeit no unwelcome one, and there was felt a certain delicacy about taking up the thread of conversation just where it had been broken off. The pause, however, was by no means one of embarrassment or awkwardness. It was very seldom that either of these annoyed society in Seacove. The most polished of social ornaments might well envy the charm found here, in a genuineness and simplicity which was never disturbed because it never dreamed of inequality, and withal an absence of provincial narrowness which comes from the necessarily wide experience of those who go down to the sea in ships.
The men smoked ; the dim kerosene lamp flickered and grew dimmer in the clouded room. It was a lamp plucky as most, but it had a good deal against its success in life this evening. The windows rattled now and then, and from outside came the intermittent soft rush of the surf on the sandy beach. Captain Small, with a grave deliberateness which intimated to the room generally that he saw no reason for not going on with the discussion, broke the silence.
“We were talking, Cap’n Wheelock,” he said, “ as you came in, about your granddaughter there.”
“ Were you, now ? ” said the old man, with friendly interest. It was no unusual thing to discuss here the personal affairs of the Club members. It was rather flattering than otherwise, within certain bounds, which were never transgressed by the courtesy of Seacove. “ Fayal’s a good girl,” he added, with the certainty of a friendly response.
“ There ’s nobody here said anything against that, cap’n,” and a man who had not spoken before shook the ashes out of his pipe, and looked about with a little air of defiance, as though he had added, “ And I ’d like to see the land lubber who ’d dare say it, too.” No one felt himself aggrieved by this attitude of Captain Sash. In the first place, their consciences were clear; and, in the next, Captain Sash’s defiances were well understood. He was a small, sandy-haired man, with the proverbial anchor tattooed on his left forearm, a deficiency of reliable teeth, and the best heart in the world. His was not the mould to inspire uneasiness, and so much the better for it, but he looked upon himself as a figure of systematic aggression.
“ And not so much about her, either,” went on Captain Small, after various nods expressive of entire assent on the part of the company to the previous statements, “ as about that young Farnor that’s anchored here for the last two months, and that’s always round after Fayal.”
“ I don’t know as he’s after her,” said Captain Wheelock slowly, while an anxious expression crossed his rugged face.
“ Well, we don’t think he ’ll make much headway,” struck in Captain Case, “ as long as she keeps so close alongside of Rod.”
“ That’s a fact,” and Captain Wheelock’s face brightened again. “ I guess you ’re right, cap’n. There ain’t room for any other vessel in that port.”
“ It’s a queer thing,” said Captain Small meditatively, “ the kind of thing women tie up to.”
Captain Small was credited with even more than the sailor’s usual devotion to the fair sex, — a circumstance which imparted a shade of melancholy to his general observations thereupon, and caused them to be listened to with great respect. “ So it is, cap’n, so it is.” assented Captain Sash.
“ No, I don’t know as Rod is worth it,” asserted Captain Wheelock, shaking his head. “ Fayal’s a good girl, and I don’t say Rod’s worth it.”
It was not the first time that Rod’s misdemeanors had brought his name into this intimate and sympathetic circle.
“ What’s he doing now, Cap‘n Wheelock ? ” asked one of the more silent men, with respectful interest.
“Nothing,” answered Captain Wheelock gloomily, “ nothing, — or else mischief.”
The darkness in the room threatened to become impenetrable. The stove door was bright enough, to be sure, but the lamp let its discouragement be seen and began to smoke. Captain Trent set his chair noisily on four legs, and turned up the wick. The increased illumination suggested a change in the tone of conversation, which was growing depressed.
“ That Farnor, — where does he come from ? ” asked. Captain Small.
“ He’s of Seacove extract,” answered Captain Case. “ His grandmother was a Wheelock, kind of third or fourth cousin of the cap’n’s, and she married a nothing that came down here from the inland, and went away with him. This is the first one of the tribe that’s come back. Ain’t that so, cap’n ? ”
“ That’s so.”
“ And he might as well have stayed away, according to my reckoning,” went on Captain Case.
“ That’s a fact,” assented Captain Wheelock for the second time. Then he roused himself from what threatened to be a fit of abstraction. “ What that boy needs,” he went on with decision, and a glance around him whose little touch of self-consciousness showed that he anticipated the verdict of his audience, “ is a whalin’ voyage.” He paused, as one who could bring forward corroborative evidence if demanded by the situation, but who forbore to force an opening for it. This opening was instantly afforded by the good breeding of the company.
“ Guess you ‘re about right, cap’n,” said Captain Trent. “ That ’ll take the stiffenin’ out of ’most anybody.”
“ Well, I guess it will,” said the captain, while his eyes sparkled, and he leaned forward and knocked his pipe on the table edge. But he waited still for the stimulus of further interest.
“ The kind of weather you have up there don’t suit land lubbers,” remarked Captain Small.
“ Weather ! ” Captain Wheelock exclaimed. “ A man that’s been round Cape Horn three times don’t have much to say about the weather. When I ” — The auditors settled back in their chairs : the lamp flickered, the atmosphere grew more stifling, the sound of the waves on the beach deeper, but the little circle within were in the northern seas with harpoon and grappling-iron.
It was an hour later that Captain Trent, carelessly glancing out of the window at his right, saw approaching swiftly a bright spot on the thick darkness. He said nothing, however, but watched it as he listened, and in a few moments the light of the lantern flashed through the low window, a light step sounded on the doorstone, then a subdued swish of a skirt against the door itself, and a sharp, quick knock on the panels. There was a scraping of chairs. Captain Wheelock suspended his narration, and Captain Case called out, “ Come in! ”
The door swung back, and in the dark opening, illuminated only by the upward flash of the lantern in her hand, stood a young girl. Even the feeble light of the lamp blinded her, after the cool, soft darkness without, and she paused a moment, a smile on her lips, peering uncertainly into the smoky room. Her short, plain skirt was dull blue, and her blouse waist was like it, with a deep white sailor collar, out of which her graceful throat and head rose like a flower. Her dark hair was twisted into a thick, close knot behind, and she wore a small red cap pulled down almost to her ears. A few dark locks fell over her forehead, under which her starlike eyes looked out brilliantly and fearlessly. Her small nose and charming, smiling mouth made up a singularly beautiful face.
“ Good-evenin’, Miss Fayal. Come in! Come in ! ” rose the chorus, with a hospitable waving of pipes.
“ Well, Fay, I guess you ’ve come after me,” supplemented Captain Wheelock, with a somewhat shamefaced abandonment of his role of narrator.
“ Good-evening,” said Fayal, stepping into the room, with a laughing nod to the whole group. “ Well, grandpa, I guess I have come after you,” and she went over to the old man, and laid her hand on his shoulder. There was an absolute unconsciousness of her beauty in her manner, and yet a full, friendly appreciation of the admiring and affectionate glances of the half dozen weatherbeaten old sailors that was charming.
“ It’s time you were home, you know it is. No wonder you looked put by when I came in. Now I know what you were saying,” and she looked slowly around the group, who grinned in assenting enjoyment. “ Yes, I know, and there’s no use in denying it. You were saying, just as I came in, that you did n’t believe there was anybody could kill a whale quicker than you could.”
The grin deepened into a loud laugh of confirmation, joined in by the old captain with some deprecation.
“ Oh, I know you, you old whaler,” repeated the girl, nodding and swinging the lantern. “Come along home.”
Captain Wheelock rose, and in a minute the two, with a gay “ Good-night ” from Fayal, left the murky atmosphere of good-fellowship, and stepped out into the damp darkness, lightened by the twinkling lantern and penetrated by the sound of the waves below.
The usual silence of people who are in no haste to express what is in the minds of all followed their exit. Then Captain Sash remarked, “Well, I guess she ain’t off her soundings yet,” and looked defiantly around for somebody to contradict him. Nobody did. Even Captain Small’s pessimistic views of the attendant difficulties of woman’s career were modified by the vision of the young, beautiful, and courageous creature who had just left them.
It was perhaps twenty minutes later. The conversation had been renewed upon subjects dear to seafaring men. There was another rapid tread outside, the door opened abruptly for the third time, and a young man stepped into the room, whose quick glance had taken in all the occupants before he responded to their deliberate nods of recognition. He was a heavily built fellow, rather good looking in a not particularly attractive way, with overhanging eyebrows, beneath which his eyes looked watchfully forth to see what people were thinking of him. His was a not unintelligent face, though far from intellectual. His manner, gait, and voice were permeated by a sense of his own importance, which restrained within bounds what might otherwise have been a turbulent nature. His passions, naturally strong and tenacious, could he wrought upon only through this medium of self-consideration, which, without concealing their existence from even indifferent observers, usually withheld them from reaching active demonstration or real depth. Yet this armor of Farnor’s was not proof against his own carking doubt of the entire success of the impression he made upon others, by which suggestion perfect self-satisfaction is untroubled.
“ Come for your mail, Mr. Favnor ? ” asked Captain Sash. It was noteworthy that no one suspected him of having come for the social advantages of the place.
Yes, captain,” answered the young man, with an attempt at ease and familiarity. “ Anybody brought it over ? ”
“ Here you are,” and Captain Sash shoved towards him a small pile of letters lying on the table. “ Went over myself to-night.”
Farnor picked up the pile, and ran them through, laying aside one or two addressed to himself. This was the usual mode of mail distribution at Seacove. The men sat around, smoking silently and watching him.
“ Don’t see any that belong up my way, or I ’d take them along, too,” he said, laying down the last letter and picking up his hat.
“ Most of ’em been in. Cap’n Wheelock was the last.”
Farnor looked quickly at the speaker, and then, with something of an effort, asked carelessly, “ So the cap’n’s been down this evening, has he ? ”
“ Yes. Left about half an hour ago.” There was a pause, somewhat oppressive to Farnor, who kicked the table leg with assumed carelessness. “ Him and Fayal,” concluded Captain Trent.
“ Yes,” supplemented Captain Sash. “ She came down and towed him home,” and he glanced around to see if anybody had anything to say against that.
“ Ah, yes ? ” murmured Farnor interrogatively. “ Well, what are the prospects for codfishing, cap’n ? ”
“ Get out to-morrow or next day,” was the reply, “if it don’t blow too hard.”
“ I’d like to get a chance to go out with you, some time.”
“ Plenty of chances before the fishing ’s over, I guess,” was the not too cordial statement.
“ Well,” and Farnor opened the door, “ I ’ll say good-evening, gentlemen.”
“ Good-night,” answered the two men upon whom generally devolved those social duties of Seacove that no one else cared to attend to.
It struck Farnor that there was more cordiality in their parting salutation than had been in their greeting; and though this was not a reflection that affected his self-esteem, it was something very like an oath that passed his lips as he stepped from the threshold and strode away into the darkness.
Meanwhile, Fayal and her grandfather were walking slowly along the uneven road towards home. They passed through several of the little ten-feetwide streets, on each side of which the small houses of the fishermen clustered and smiled at each other, and made their way to the Wheelock cottage, which stood a little apart from the rest, at the head of a lane. In one place a footbridge across a deep gully was broken down, and they had to descend and ascend the steep banks on either side; no easy matter, in the darkness, with the loose dirt and rolling stones. But Fayal’s foot was as sure as a deer’s, and to the old man the way was as familiar as his own sitting-room floor; while the swinging lantern gave the necessary assistance at critical points. Here and there gleamed through the curtainless windows the ray of a lamp right across the narrow footpath, and twice they met a wayfarer, like themselves, whose lantern warned them of his approach, and with whom they exchanged a good-evening. Always in their ears was the tumbling of waves on the beach, just beyond the line of tiny houses which ran along the edge of the steep sand bluff on their right; and above the darkness of land and water were wind-driven mists, and above the mists were the halfveiled stars.
“ Why did n’t Rod come with you, for company?” asked Captain Wheelock.
“ Oh, Rod was studying,” answered Fayal quickly, turning on her heel towards her grandfather, whom she was preceding, and walking backwards, as she spoke, over the short green turf which was now under their feet. “ He wanted to come with me, but I would n’t let him. I thought he ’d much better stay where he was.”
“ Yes, if he was studying, I should think he had.”
Fayal was quick to perceive the critical implication.
“Now, grandpa, you know Miss Round says that there ’s no one can get ahead of Rod Grant when he wants to study. And who wants a boy to study during the day? You wouldn’t yourself.”'
“ No,” admitted Captain Wheelock. He did not add that there certainly was little danger of such a mistake. He knew his granddaughter’s line of argumentative reply by this time.
“ I thought perhaps Farnor would have come along with you, if Rod did n’t,” he resumed.
Fayal turned indifferently on her heel again, and went forward, swinging her lantern, while she answered in a voice out of which all the interest had gone :
“ I guess he thought so, too. He asked me if he could come. There was n’t much use in saying I did n’t want him, so I told him to wait for me at Rose Lane, and I came round by Sash Corner. I guess he ’s there now. Any way, he has n’t sighted as yet,” and Fayal laughed aloud.
“ Well, I don’t know as I’d play those sort of tricks with Farnor,” said Captain Wheelock a little uneasily. “ He doesn’t seem just the right kind.”
“ Why, grandpa ! ” and Fayal swung round again. “I guess you don’t want me to he afraid of Dan Farnor! ”
“ Well, no, I guess I don’t,” said the captain apologetically, as they turned one of the many little corners of the toy village, and found themselves facing the old white house which was home for both. The door opened, and in the doorway stood a charmingly pretty old woman.
“ I sighted your lantern when you turned into the lane,” said she, as they went in. “ Seems to me you took the long way round.”
“ And what if we did, grandma ? ” said Fayal, who, depositing the lantern in the corner, put her arm about the old woman and drew her into the sittingroom, which opened directly from the little square place of entrance which could not be called a hall. “ I guess you did n’t worry about us much, did you ? ”
“Worry! Land, what’d I worry about ? ” said her grandmother, sitting down, and picking up her four steel needles and the dependent stocking. “ I never was much of a whittle.”
“Where’s Rod?” asked Fayal, with a quick glance about the room.
“ Gone to fetch some wood ; the fire ’s getting kind o’ low.”
“Oh!” and Fayal tossed off her red cap, and dropped into a rather uncompromising rocking-chair. But it might have been a divan of Oriental luxury, so graceful were the curves of her figure and so suggestive of indolent comfort, as she threw one arm over her head, and looked, smiling, from one to the other of the old couple. Mrs. Wheelock’s hair was snow-white, and, parted in the middle, was decorously smoothed back and wound in a knot behind. Her eyes were blue, with that vivid color which we associate usually with youth alone. Her features were regular, and her smile was childishly sweet. The old sea-captain’s eyes dwelt upon her with loving satisfaction. He felt he had been away some time, and he was glad to see her again.
“ Well ? ” said she, looking up to meet his eyes with a little nod and smile. It was as pretty as if they had been eighteen and twenty.
“No,” said the captain, smiling too. “ You were n’t ever anything of a whittle ; not even in the winters when I was off after whales.”
“ Oh, whales ! ” said Mrs. Wheelock, with a little toss of mock contempt. Captain Wheelock enjoyed the contempt immensely.
“ She used to write me letters,” he said to Fayal, with a nod. “ She can write a mighty good letter. Used to be a school-marm, you know.”
Just then the door opened, and a boy of eighteen came in with an armful of wood. Fayal sprang to her feet, and, with a smile of pleasure playing about her lips, which dimpled into a laugh at his overloaded appearance, helped him deposit the wood on the hearth.
“ Hullo, Fayal; got back, have you ? ” was the boyish greeting. “ Well, grandpa, how was the Club to-night ? Did you spin ’em a yarn that knocked Cap’n Sash out of sight ? ”
“ Of course he did,” answered Fayal for him; “and he’d have been spinning ‘em yet, if I had n’t brought him home.”
Fayal had resumed her seat, but her eyes dwelt upon her brother, who tossed a knot of wood into the stove, slammed the iron door, picked up a book, and threw himself on the stiff sofa under the mantelpiece, as if everything he did was of absorbing interest. He was a very handsome boy, and looked much like his sister ; but his face lacked the spirit and will that intensified hers, and the coloring was quite different. The eyes, with their long lashes, were blue, like his grandmother’s ; the mouth was sensitive and willful; and his manner conveyed a hint of constant restlessness, which might develop into activity, and might prove something less desirable. He was sure to find women to condone his offenses, whatever they might be; that much might be easily read in a certain appealing look in his blue eyes, and a general air of irresponsible charm. That he had not hitherto won golden opinions from his own sex was undoubtedly the unfortunate effect of their stormy lives, which unfitted them for the enjoyment of the less sturdy graces.
The next day, Fayal stood on the doorsill, looking out over the intense glittering blue of the sea. Just below her was Rod, and her arm rested on his shoulder. It was a brilliant day. The air at Seacove was remarkably clear; there was none of that distant haze which so often shadows the outlines about a place by the sea. Every low building rose clear and sharp against the sky, and beyond the village stretched the sweep of flat land, clothed in smoky browns and smouldering reds, to the very horizon line ; while on the other side expanded
Blue breadth of sea, without a break.”
“ It’s just the day for it,” said Fayal positively. “I ’m sure it’s quite cold enough.”
“ They went earlier than this, last year,” said Rod, “and got a good haul.”
Down the lane came a fine-looking woman, with a shawl tied over her head.
“ Good-morning, Mrs. Trent’ ’ called out Fayal. “ Are they going codfishing to-day ? ”
“ Morning, Fayal. They ’re going at eleven o’clock. I just stopped in at Peter Sash’s to tell him Janies thought they might as well try their luck. I told James I’d bet a shad they would n’t get a fish, and he said it was the first time he ever knew a Seacove woman bet awn anything but a certainty. All the same, I’m reckoning awn fried cod for my supper.”
Mrs. Trent was leaning on the palings of the trifling fence, which seemed intended more to keep the house from coming into the road than from encroachments the other way, so close it stood to the low windows. Mrs. Trent had plenty of time this morning; no one was ever in much of a hurry at Seacove.
“ Who’s going ? ” asked Rod eagerly.
“ Only two boats, Rawd,” answered Mrs. Trent. (This elongation of the letter o was characteristic of the place.) “ Peter Sash and James in one, and Abel Small and John Mason in the other.”
“ Good-day, Mary Jane Trent,” said Mrs. Wheelock, behind Fayal. Her little shawl was crossed on her breast; she wore a fresh white cap, and the soft plump outlines of her old face were tinted like a girl’s. “So they ’re going out to-day, are they ? ”
“ Yes, Mrs, Wheeloek, they ’re going to see if the fish have come up yet. Where’s the captain ? He ought to go and launch ’em.”
“ He ’s cruisin’ round,” answered the old lady placidly. “I guess he’ll he down about the time they start.”
Fayal and Rod had dashed into the house for their caps, and were now on their way to the beach, where already a little group of men stood about two heavy row-boats.
“ There’s Cap’n Small now,” said Rod, as they drew near, “and Cap’n Trent’s with him.”
The men who were to go were clad in oilskin suits, and were packing now a spear and now a coil of rope in their several boats, and answering the questions and the chaff of the bystanders. Two or three women stood about, with housewifely foresight, engaging a share of the possible spoil. As Fayal and Rod drew near, a figure separated itself from the group and approached them. Fayal nodded indifferently, but Rod called out, “Hullo, Dan ! Don’t you wish we were going too ? ”
“Not to-day. What’s the fun of it, any way ? Beastly hard work, and no fish, probably,” answered Dan Farnor, shrugging his shoulders.
Rod looked at him with some admiration ; he envied the knowledge of larger excitements that made the stranger so indifferent to Seacove episodes, but at present could not imitate it, and rushed down to the boats, leaving Farnor with his sister.
“That was a nice trick you played me last night, Miss Fayal,” said Farnor, stopping short and looking into the girl’s face.
Fayal stopped, too, and met his glance fearlessly, though at first in some bewilderment. In the interest of the moment she had forgotten all about the incident of the evening before. Then she broke into a laugh, long and merry, which made the young man’s cheek flush deeper with anger.
“ You cruised round considerable before you gave it up, did n’t you ? ” she laughed.
“Never mind,” he replied shortly. “I ’ll pay you up for your tricks yet.”
“Did you go into the Club ? ” she questioned, with renewed amusement. “ If you did, I know you hung yourself, — they’d all be sure to know you came after me.”
“They did n’t know anything of the sort.”
They had walked on again, but though they were quite near the men and the boat their voices were inaudible, for the sound of the beating surf.
“But, Fayal, why do you treat me so?” said the man, in another tone. “You know I love you ; why don’t you act like any other girl?” There was real passion in his voice, but he kept a close guard on his eyes and manner, that the people near might know nothing of what was going on.
“I don’t know much how other girls act,” said Fayal coolly. “You know I never cared much for other girls. I had Rod,” and she looked up as if sure of sympathy in this her great love.
“And how when Rod begins to care for other girls ? ” said Farnor, with a sneer.
Fayal’s face grew grave suddenly, then brightened again.
“Oh, pshaw!” she answered, “he won’t. In the first place, there are not any girls here he would like as much as me, any way.”
“And you, —do you mean to say you never expect to care for any man as much as you do for Rod ? ” exclaimed Farnor, angry at this persistent obtuseness.
“Care as much as I do for Rod! ” cried Fayal. “Oh, go along! ” and she laughed in sheer amusement at the question. “ I guess you know you ’re not talking sense now. Come on. They’re going to launch her.”
The other two salts had arrived while they were talking, and Fayal danced down to the group, followed by Farnor, trying to conceal his chagrin under his usual air of self-importance. The men were dragging one boat to the water’s edge. The waves were boisterous, and it seemed to a novice a hazardous undertaking to launch her in the midst of them.
“Good luck, cap’n!” said Fayal, laying her hand in that of Captain Trent, who stood nearest to her. Captain Trent grasped it heartily and shook it, his brawny arm bared above the elbow, with a singularly nice thing in the way of an anchor and lover’s knot showing in fine relief. Mary Jane could have told a tale of Captain Trent’s devotion to sentiment as therein indicated.
“ Good luck to all of you ! ” and she stood back, as one of the heavy men clambered into the bow and picked up the oars, while the other, assisted by friendly hands, pushed the boat down into the ripple of the receding wave, and waited with practiced eye for the right moment for the final shove. It came at last, and with a cheer from those on shore the craft rode out over the crests of the breakers, with the two men pulling hard at the oars. Fayal’s eyes were shining, and she held her breath and clasped her hands in excitement. It was not without its romantic side, this matter-of-fact expedition for codfish, and she was susceptible to shades of emotion.
“ Well, now,” said Mary Jane Trent, at her side, with what passed for enthusiasm at Seacove, “ I do like to see ’em go out like that awn the tawp of the waves, don’t you ? ”
“ Yes, I do,” said Fayal.
They stood and watched the launching of the other boat, which followed immediately, and then the group dispersed ; only a few, including Fayal, waiting to see the fishermen become dots on the blue expanse of the ocean. The year’s work had begun. Farnor waited because Fayal did, and turned to walk away with her at last.
“You may as well listen to me, Fayal,” he said, an obstinate look settling down about his eyes. “ I shall tell you every day that I love you. There ’s no use trying to turn me off.”
“ I don’t know as I’m trying very hard to turn you off,” said Fayal easily.
“ Yes, you are,” retorted Farnor. “ You are always trying it in one way or another, and, by George ! I don’t know how I stand it from you ! Other girls have n’t behaved so with me, I can tell you.”
“ Why don’t you go after one of them, then ? ” incpiired Fayal, with a lack of active interest that must have been trying.
“ Because I don’t want any of them ! ” he answered angrily. “Because it’s you that I want. But I don’t know how long you expect a man to hang around waiting for you, and making himself the laughing-stock of these old coves around here for proposing to you.”
“ Oh, I’ve kept it private as murder,” said Fayal, with some scorn. She was not experienced, but she felt the egotism of the man as keenly as a more subtle analyzer would have done.
“ It isn’t that I care about,” asserted Farnor hastily and untruthfully, “ but it’s all-fired hard on a man who is in love with you.”
Fayal looked over her shoulder, and then paused. Farnor paused, too, looking into her eyes for a gleam of encouragement. His was an honest passion; it only felt the limitations of his character.
“There he comes, poor boy!” said Fayal, in a tender tone. “ He wanted to go with them.”
“Who are you talking about ? ” said Farnor roughly.
“ Rod,”answered Fayal.
“ Damn him ! ” came from the man’s white lips.
Fayal looked at him a moment with eyes flashing anger; then turned, and, leaving him, went back to meet her brother. Farnor’s eyes followed her a moment, and then he too went on, with an ugly look about the corners of his mouth.
It was two weeks after, in the early evening, that Fayal came again into the sitting-room from out-of-doors, and asked, as she had done that other time, with a quick glance about, —
“ Where ’s Rod ? ”
This time, however, there was more anxiety in her tone; her eyes, too, were anxious, as she looked at her grandmother, waiting her answer, before she tossed down the cap she held in her hand, and took her usual seat in the stiff rocking-chair.
“Well, Dan Farnor came for him just after you went out,” answered Mrs. Wheelock placidly, as usual. “ I guess they ’re cruisin’ round somewhere.”
Fayal seated herself wearily, and said nothing.
“ I wish he ’d shipped with another mate,” remarked the captain.
“ Now, you let Rod alone,” said Mrs. Wheelock, with a little nod of autocratic decision.
Captain Wheelock smiled broadly. He thought her charming. “ I have n’t said anything about Rod,” he protested. “Have I, Fay ? ”
“No, grandpa,” answered Fayal absently. “ You are always very good.” It was almost admitting that he might have found something to say. She was absent indeed.
“ And why should n’t he be ? ” inquired Mrs. Wheelock. “ Why should n’t he be, I ‘d like to know? ”
It was easy to see that the tones of her soft old voice were intended to signify excitement.
“ Who’d he be good to if not his own daughter’s children ? I’d like to see him anything but good to ’em ! A great rough sea-captain like him ! ” and she nodded tremendously, and looked at him with a scorn which convulsed the delighted captain. “If he behaved here as he did on board ship, he ‘d see ! I’d manage him ! ”
“You’d set me adrift entirely, would n’t you, now ? ” asked the captain, with an air of recognizing harsh facts. “ Well, you see, I’m careful, — I’m careful. I know her,” he added to Fayal. “We ’ve been married sixty-one years, — kind o’ got the run of each other.”
Usually Fayal delighted in the coquetting of her grandfather and grandmother, but this evening she could hardly smile in response to the appeals made to her. It was a relief when, at the usual early hour for retirement, they left her alone in the sitting-room by the smouldering fire to wait for Rod. Into her eyes, as she waited, came two slow tears, — those eyes which, until the last ten days, had never looked upon life as anything which brings burdens, in the bearing of which hearts are bowed down and willing steps are made to falter, but rather as a practically limitless opportunity for the enjoyment of sun, health, and affection. To speak nearer the truth, she had never looked upon life at all ; she had lived. These two tears were all she shed then ; it was not the way of the Seacove women to cry very much over their misfortunes. Nor were these tears of protest or of helpless grief; they were rather a tribute to the loneliness of the present, position. She who almost never in her whole life had spent a half-hour alone; she who, many and many an evening, had watched the fire die out, with Rod’s curly head close beside her, while they talked of the delightful things they were doing every day, and the brilliant things they would do some time together; she was sitting alone, while the old clock ticked away one hour, and then another, — alone and lonely, while Rod — Rod was — where ? She knew’ well enough; and a little frown drew together the beautifully penciled eyebrows. Down at the Resort, playing cards with Farnor. No such respectable meeting-place was the Resort as the Club, where Fayal could break in, and, laughing, carry home her brother or her grandfather, as the case might be. Neither would it fairly be considered a den of iniquity. It was the place where the young men of Seacove, not yet fitted by experience or consideration for the solemn conclave of the Club, met to while away the many idle hours of life in a fishing-village, cut off for so much of the year from any active intercourse with the outside world. Whether or not it might have remained a place of entirely innocent amusement must be left to experts in original sin ; but, unfortunately, there was not wanting the spirit of temptation existing outside the souls of the younger members. The black sheep of the older population, shut out by social lines from the respectable atmosphere of the Club, or finding there a lack of necessary excitement; strangers, young and old, who, like Dan Farnor, drifted into the village, bearing with them the aroma of metropolitan dissipation, — these and other influences, together with the harum-scarum element existing in any community, made the Resort a place strongly disapproved of by conservative Seacove. Hitherto, Rod had not shown the slightest inclination for the place, and even now his occasional presence there would not perhaps have caused Fayal overweening anxiety; for, with the optimistic philosophy of Seacove in general, and her own youth and temperament in particular, she would not have expected her Rod to imbibe any great harm while under her watchful guardianship.
But to-night she heard again Dan Farnor’s words, and saw again the sulky fire in his eyes, when he had last met and spoken to her in the village street; words and look had haunted her, in spite of herself. It was the day after the fishingboat episode. She was dodging the little irregular houses, on her way to Julia Sash’s for some yeast, when, around the corner of one of them, Farnor came towards her. Most of the doorways of Seacove bore the semblance of one or more wonders of the sea perched above them, striking the beholder with a new awe of the possible contents of the gay, glittering element from which such things could be brought as trophies. A special favorite of Fayal’s was that over Captain Small’s, — a mermaid, of course ; such an admirer of the sex could do no less than patronize a mermaid; but it would be a most susceptible mariner who would suffer himself to be decoyed by this wooden representative of siren fascination. She was plain of feature and deficient in outline, but her red waist, suggestive of firemen and a readiness to connect a hose with her native element, was startling of hue, and her green skirt tapered with delicate discrimination and appropriateness of color into a somewhat vague fish’s tail. In order that there might be lacking no charm to endear her to the patriot, she bore under one arm the shield of the United States. Her face was turned towards the ocean, and Fayal fancied her longing to ride again at the head of a gallant whaling-ship and greet her companion Lorelei upon the distant rocks. Fayal was pleasing herself with this fancy, and did not see Farnor until he was close in front of her.
“ I have something to say to you, Miss Fayal,” he said.
“ You generally do have,” was the nonchalant reply.
“ I have to warn you this time.”
“ To warn me ! ”
“ Yes. You think you won’t mind, but you will. It seems that no man can reach you except through your brother Rod ; that no man can make you think of him without you think of him first. Very well. You shall think of me when you think of Rod! You won’t be able to think of him without thinking of me ! The next time I tell you that I love you. you ‘ll listen to me. That’s all I ’ve got to say to you. Miss Fayal,” and he passed on.
He had spoken so rapidly that Fayal could only look and listen, but her look was so fearless that it angered the man more.
“ Well, you’ve laid your course, have n’t you ? ” she called after him indifferently. undismayed by his vehemence, and nodded at the mermaid sympathetically as she went on.
But since that time dismay had grown upon her, nevertheless, though she did not call it by its name. Day after day had seen Rod in the company of Dan Farnor. Evening after evening he had wandered off, now and again to bring up at the Resort. He had been out fishing once or twice, but had come back without his usual enthusiasm. To-night Fayal acknowledged that Farnor had spoken the truth to her that morning. Since then she had hardly thought of Rod that she had not been forced to think of Farnor too; in a shadowy, unacknowledged way, to be sure, like an unimportant guest in the presence of the heart’s idol, but there nevertheless. It did not make him the chief figure through angry, indignant, scornful thought of him, as it would have done with some women. This was, perhaps, what he had hoped for; for Farnor fancied himself versed in women’s books, and knew that hatred is not too far off from love, both being in the torrid zone, though on opposite sides of the sphere of emotion. No, it was Rod still that she thought of, — Rod and herself; but she knew, too, that there were four of them, two other unimportant people, — Farnor and the mermaid, who had mixed herself up with them, unaccountably, ever since that morning when she had been brought back from contemplation of her by the Sound of Farnor’s voice. There was a last flicker inside of the stove; the fire had gone out entirely, but the somewhat overheated room was the more comfortable.
Voices were heard from the road. Fayal turned her head to listen. Yes, Rod was coming home, and Dan Farnor with him. It was not necessary that Fayal should go to unbolt the door; bolts and locks were unknown at Seacove. Who would want to come in except people who had business there, and whom there was no object in shutting out? She sat quietly and waited. There was a pause outside, and then Rod entered, and Farnor went on alone. He could not see Fayal as he passed the curtainless window ; her high-hacked chair concealed her, but he was quite sure that she was there.
“ Here I am, Rod,” said Fayal, turning her face around with a smile.
“Oh, Fay! What did you sit up for?” he said a little impatiently, as he came forward.
“Sit up!” said Fayal, with grieved surprise. “ When did I ever go to bed when you were n’t in the house ? I ’m not sleepy.”
“ No, of course you ‘re not,” said Rod, with some compunction, bending over and kissing her heartily. Not even Farnor’s laughing inquiry as to whether his sister was waiting for him with a lighted candle to take up-stairs could make him indifferent to her whose companionship up to this time had been all sufficient.
“ Where have you been ? ” asked Fayal. There was no tone of reproof in her voice; only interest, made a little pathetic by the fact that she found it necessary to ask.
“ Oh, playing cards at the Resold.”
“ With Dan Farnor ? ”
“ Yes. He’s an awfully entertaining fellow, Fay.”
“ Oh, I know he can talk like Hob.”
“Well, he can. I should almost think you ‘d take a fancy to him,” said Rod boyishly.
“ Well, I don’t,” answered Fayal coldly. Then she sat up, with a sudden sense of grieved humiliation, and, leaning forward. looked down into his eyes as he sat on the floor by her side. “ Rod,” — there were almost tears in her voice, — “ do you want to have me ? ”
“ Oh, no, of course not. Why should I ? ” be answered carelessly.
Fayal leaned back again, relieved.
“ He’s been teaching me a new game,” went on Rod, with eagerness. “ And he says he never saw such a lucky fellow as I am,” and he laughed with pleasure.
“ Did you play for money, Rod ? ”
“Well, yes, but I didn’t get out over my head, Fay; you needn’t worry,” said the boy reassuringly. “ It was only just to have something to play for; and you know I earned some money this summer.”
“ I don’t see why you can’t play for the fun of it,” said Fayal, pulling at the curly rings of his hair.
“Oh, well, it isn’t rulable not to play for money in this particular game,” said Rod patronizingly. “It doesn’t make any difference, any way, but I won everything.”
“I’d rather Dan Farnor won your money than that you won his,” said Fayal quickly.
“ Oh, if that is n’t just like a girl! ”
“ I wish it was like you ! It’s like grandpa, too.”
“ Dan Farnor says that grandpa must be quite well off for a whaling cap’n,” said Rod thoughtfully.
“ He’s no business to say anything of the sort! ” blazed Fayal. “And, Rod, Rod, how can yon talk with him about it! What has come over you that you talk with Dan Farnor about your own grandfather ? ” Fayal had risen, and pushed back her chair.
Rod was startled by her impetuosity. “Why, he didn’t mean anything, Fay,” he said; “ and neither did I, I ’m sure.”
“Well, go to bed, any way,” said Fayal wearily. “I’m going. Dan Farnor never says anything that he does n’t mean,” she added. It was a conviction that had suddenly come to her. “ Goodnight.,” and she threw her arms around the boy’s neck and kissed him.
There was a dull ache in her throat, and a blinded sensation in her eyes, and a helpless, hurt feeling all over, as Fayal laid her head on the pillow that night. She was all unused to crying herself to sleep.