THE sombre tints of Grayhead were slightly suffused by a pink light sifting from the west through the clear air. The yachts in the harbor lay idly beneath the mellow influences of the passing of the summer day,— idly as only sailboats can lie, a bit of loose sail or cordage now and then flapping inconsistently in a breath of wind, which seemed to come out of the west for no other purpose, and to retire into the east afterward, its whole duty done. On board, men were moving about, hanging lanterns, making taut here, setting free there, all with an air of utter peace and repose such as is found only on placid waterways beneath a setting sun. Occasionally an oar dipped in the still water, a hint of action, modified, softened, into repose. Along one of the quaint streets of the irregular town, winding where it wound, climbing where it climbed, hurried an angular figure, that of a woman of about fifty, whose tense expression suggested an unrest at variance with the keen calmness of that of the other faces about the streets and doorways. Not that it was feverish in its intensity; rather, it was an expression of resolution, undeviating and persistent, but not sure of sympathy or support.
“ They ‘ve gone down yonder, t’other side of the wharf, Mis’ Pember,” said a middle-aged sea captain, whose interest in his kind had not been obliterated by the forced loneliness of northern voyages.
The woman paused, and glanced doubtfully down one of the byways that led between small, weather-beaten houses and around disconcerting abutments to the water, and then forward, straight along the way she had been traveling, which led out of the town.
“ I’d rather fixed on their going down Point-ways this evening,”she said.
“ Well, they ain’t,” rejoined Captain Phippeny, with that absence of mere rhetoric characteristic of people whose solid work is done otherwise than by speech.
Mrs. Pember nodded, at once in acknowledgment and farewell, and, turning about, followed the path he bad indicated, her gait acquiring a certain precipitancy as she went down the rough, stony slope. At the foot of the descent she paused again, and looked to the right and left. Captain Phippeny was watching her from his vantage ground above. His figure was one unmistakably of the seaboard. His trousers were of a singular cut, probably after a pattern evolved in all its originality by Mrs. Phippeny, her active imagination working towards practical effect. In addition, he wore a yellow flannel shirt ribbed with purple, which would hopelessly have jaundiced a roseleaf complexion, but which, having exhausted its malignancy without producing any particular effect, ended by gently harmonizing with the captain’s sandy hair, reddish beard, and tanned skin. His mouth was like a badly made buttonhole, which gaped a little when he smiled. He had a nose like a parrot’s beak, and his eyes were blue, kindly and wise in their straightforwardness. When he would render his costume absolutely de rigueur, he wore a leathern jacket with manifold pockets, from one to another of which trailed a gold watch-chain with a dangling horseshoe charm.
“ I wonder the old woman don’t take a dog with her and trace ’em out, she spends so much time on the hunt,” he said to himself. “ I declare for ‘t, it’s a sing’lar thing the way she everlastin’ does get onto them ’prentices. That’s all they be,— just ’prentices; ain’t old enough to talk about settin’ sail by themselves.”
His quid of tobacco again resumed its claim to his undivided attention, and he leaned back against the fence and waited as idly as the drooping sails for a breath of something stirring. By and by it appeared in the shape of another old sailor, between whom and himself there was the likeness of two peas, save for a slight discrepancy of feature useful for purposes of identification.
“ You told her where they ’d gone, I reckon,” he remarked, with a slight chuckle, as he too leaned up against the fence and looked out over the harbor.
“ Yes, I did,” replied Captain Phippeny. “ I did n’t have no call to tell her a lie.”
“ Kinder hard on the young-uns,” observed the new-comer.
“ They ain’t ever anythin’ as hard on the young-uns as on the old-uns,” asserted Captain Phippeny, “because — well, because they ‘re young, I guess. That’s Chivy’s yacht that came in just at sundown, ain’t it? ”
“ Yare. They say she ’s seen dirty weather since she was here last.”
“ Has ? Well, you can’t stay in harbor allers, and git your livin’ at the same time. She’s got toler’ble good men to handle her.”
There was a pause. The soft twilight was battening down the hatches of the day, to drop into the parlance of the locality.
“ Well, I do suppose old Pember war n’t an easy shipmate, blow or no blow,” observed Captain Smart. He was a small, keen-eyed, quickly-moving old man, seasoned with salt.
“ I reckon he war n’t. And she thinks she can keep that girl of hers out of the same kind of discipline that she had to take,— that’s the truth of it.”
“ Cur’ous, ain’t it ? ” ruminated Captain Smart; “a woman’s bound to take it one way or ’nother ; there seems to be more sorts of belayin’ pins to knock ’em over with than they, any on ’em, kinder cal’late on at first.”
“ So there be,” assented Captain Phippeny.
Near the water, with its fading, rosecolored reflections, not so far from the anchored vessels but they might, had they chosen, have spoken across to those on board, the monotonous, austere, and yet vaguely soft gray of the old town rising behind them against the melting sky, sat Mellony Pember and Ira Baldwin.
“If you’d only make up your mind, Mellony,” urged the young man.
“I can’t, Ira; don’t ask me.” The young girl’s face, which was delicate in outline, was troubled, and the sensitive curves of her lips trembled. The faded blue of her dress harmonized with the soft tones of the scene ; her hat lay beside her, an uncurled, articulated ostrich feather standing up in it like an exclamation point of brilliant red.
The young man pulled his hat over his eyes and looked over to the nearest boat. Mellony glanced at him timidly.
“ You see, I ’m all she’s got,” she said.
“ I ain’t goin’ to take you away from her, unless you want to go,” he replied, without looking at her.
“ She thinks I ‘11 be happier if I don’t — if I don’t marry.”
“ Happier ! ” — he paused in scorn,— “and she badgerin’ you all the time if you take a walk with me, and watchin’ us as if we were thieves! You ain’t happy now, are you ? ”
“No.” Mellony’s eyes filled, and a sigh caught and became almost a sob.
“ Well, I wish she ’d give me a try at makin’ you happy, that’s all.” His would-be sulkiness softened into a tender sense of injury. Mellony twisted her hands together, and looked over beyond the vessels to the long narrow neck of land with its clustering houses, beyond which again, unseen, were booming the waves of the Atlantic.
“Oh, if I only knew what to do!” she exclaimed, — “ if I only knew what to do! ”
“ I ‘ll tell you what to do, Mellony,” he began.
“There’s ma now,” she interrupted.
Ira turned quickly and looked over his shoulder. Across the uneven ground, straight towards them came the figure of Mrs. Pember. The tenseness of her expression had further yielded to resolution, which had in turn taken on a stolidity which declared itself unassailable. No one of the three spoke as she seated herself on a bit of timber near them, and, folding her hands, waited with the immobility and the apparent impartiality of Fate itself. At last Mellony spoke, for of the three she was the most acutely sensitive to the situation, and the least capable of enduring it silently.
“Which way did you come, ma?" she asked.
“ I come down Rosaly’s Lane,” Mrs. Pember answered. “ I met Cap’n Phippeny, and he told me you was down here.”
“ I’m obligated to Cap’n Phippeny,” observed Ira bitterly.
“ I done as he’s partickler to have you,” remarked Mrs. Pember imperturbably.
There was another silence. Mrs. Pember’s voice had a marked sweetness when she spoke to her daughter which it lost entirely when she addressed her daughter’s companion, but always it was penetrated by the timbre of a certain inflexibility.
The shadows grew deeper on the water, the glowworms of lanterns glimmered more sharply, and the softness of the night grew more palpable.
“I guess I may as well go back, ma,” said Mellony, rising.
“I was wondering when you col’lated on going,” remarked her mother, as she rose too, more slowly and stiffly, and straightened her decent black bonnet.
“ I suppose you was afraid Mellony would n’t get back safe without you came after her,” broke out Ira.
“ I guess I can look after Mellony better than anybody else can, and I count on doing it, and doing it right along,” she replied.
“ Come, ma,” said Mellony impatiently ; but she waited a moment and let her mother pass her, while she looked back at Ira, who stood, angry and helpless, kicking at the rusted timbers.
“ Are you coming, too, Ira ? ” she asked in a low voice.
“ No,” he exclaimed, “ I ain’t coming ! I don’t want to go along back with your mother and you, as if we were n’t old enough to be out by ourselves. I might as well be handcuffed, and so might you ! If you ’ll come round with me the way we came, and let her go the way she came, I ’ll go with you fast enough ! ”
Mellony’s eyes grew wet again, as she looked from him to her mother, and again at him. Mrs. Pember had paused, also, and stood a little in advance of them. Her stolidity showed no anxiety ; she was too sure of the result.
“ No,” — Mellony’s lips framed the words with an accustomed but grievous patience, — “ I can’t to-night, Ira ; I must go with ma.”
“ It’s to-night that ’ll be the last chance there ‘ll be, maybe,” he muttered, as he flung himself off in the other direction.
The two women walked together up the rough ascent, and turned into Rosaly ’s Lane. Mellony walked wearily, her eyes down ; the red feather, in its uncurled, unlovely assertiveness, looking more like the oriflamme of a forlorn hope than ever. But Mrs. Pember held herself erect, and as if she were obliged carefully to repress what might have been the signs of an ill-judged triumph.
Ira prolonged his walk beyond the limits of the little gray town, goaded by the irritating pricks of resentment. He would bear it no longer, he told himself. Mellony could take him or leave him. He would be a laughing-stock not another week, not another day. If Mellony would not assert herself against her tyrannical old mother, he would go away and leave her ! And then he paused, as he had paused so often in the flood of his anger, faced by the realization that this was just what Mrs. Pember wanted, just what would satisfy her, what she had been waiting for, — that he should go away and leave Mellony alone. It was an exasperating dilemma, his abdication and her triumph, or his uncertainty and her anxiety.
Mellony and her mother passed Captain Phippeny and Captain Smart, who still stood talking in the summer evening, the fence continuing to supply all the support their stalwart frames needed in this their hour of ease. Captain Smart nudged Captain Phippeny as the two figures turned the corner of Rosaly’s Lane.
“ So you found ’em, Mis’ Pember,” remarked Captain Phippeny. He spoke to the mother, but he looked, not without sympathy, at the daughter.
“Yes, I found ’em.”
“ You reckoned on fetchin’ only one of ’em home, I take it,” said Captain Smart.
“ I ain’t responsible but for one of ’em,” replied Mrs. Pember with some grimness, but with her eyes averted from Mellony’s crimsoning face.
“ Come, m,” said Mellony again, and they passed on.
“ Mis’ Pember is a likely enough lookin’ woman herself,” observed Captain Smart; “ it’s kind of cur’ons she should be so set agen marryin’ just as marryin’.”
“ “T is so,” assented Captain Phippeny thoughtfully, looking after the two women.
Without speaking, Mellony and her mother entered the little house where they lived, and the young girl sank down in the stiff, high-backed rocker, with its thin calico-covered cushion tied with red braid, that stood by the window. Outside, the summer night buzzed and hummed, and breathed sweet odors. Mrs. Pember moved about the room, slightly altering its arrangements, now and then looking at her daughter half furtively, as if waiting for her to speak ; but Mellony’s head was not turned from the open window, and she was utterly silent. At last this immobility had a sympathetic effect upon her, and she seated herself not far from her daughter, her hands, with their prominent knuckles and shrunken flesh, folded in unaccustomed idleness, and waited while in the room dusk grow to dark. To Mellony the hour was filled with suggestions that emphasized and defined her misery. In her not turbulent or passionate nature, the acme of its capacity for emotional suffering had been reached. Hitherto this suffering had been of the perplexed, patient, submissive kind ; tonight, the beauty of the softly descending gloom, the gentle freedom of the placid harbor, the revolt of her usually yielding lover, deepened it into something more acute.
“ Mellony,” said her mother, with a touch of that timidity which appeared only in her speech with her daughter, “ did you count on going over to the Neck, to-morrow, as you promised ? ”
“ I ’ll never count on doing anything again,” said Mellony, in a voice she tried to make cold and even, but which vibrated notwithstanding, — “ never so long as I live. I ’ll never think, or plan, or — or speak, if I can help it — of what I mean to do. I ’ll never do anything but just work and shut my eyes and—and live, if I’ve got to ! ” Her voice broke, and she turned her head away from the open window and looked straight before her into the shadowed room. Her mother moved uneasily, and her knotted hands grasped the arms of the stiff chair in which she sat.
“ Mellony,” she said again, “ you’ve no call to talk so.”
“ I’ve no call to talk at all. I’ve no place anywhere. I ’m not anybody. I have n’t any life of my own.” The keen brutality of the thoughtlessness of youth, and its ignoring of all claims but those of its own happiness, came oddly from the lips of yielding Mellony. Mrs. Pember quivered under it.
“You know you ’re my girl, Mellony,” she answered gently. “ You’re all I’ve got.”
“ Yes,” the other answered indifferently, “ that’s all I am, — Mellony Pember, Mrs. Pember’s girl, — just that.”
“ Ain’t that enough ? Ain’t that something to be — all I plan for and work for ? Ain’t that enough for a girl to be ? ”
Mellony turned her eyes from emptiness, and fixed them upon her mother’s face, dimly outlined in the vagueness.
“ Is that all you’ve been,” she asked, “ just somebody’s daughter.”
It was as if a heavy weight fell from her lips and settled upon her mother’s heart. There was a silence. Mellony’s eyes, though she could not see them, seemed to Mrs. Pember to demand an answer in an imperative fashion unlike their usual mildness.
“It’s because I have n’t been — it’s because I’d save you from what I have been that I — do as I do. You know that,” she said.
“ I don’t want to be saved,” rejoined the other, quickly and sharply.
The older woman was faced by a situation she had never dreamed of, a demand to be allowed to suffer ! The guardian had not expected this from her carefully shielded charge.
“ I want you to have a happy life,”she added.
“ A happy life ! ” flashed the girl.
“ And you are keeping me from any life at all ! That’s what I want, — life, my own life, not what anybody else gives me of theirs. Why should I be happier than other people ? Why should n’t I have what they have, even if it’s bad now and then? Don’t save me in spite of myself ! Nobody likes to be saved in spite of themselves ! ”
It was a long speech for Mellony. A large moon had risen, and from the low horizon sent golden shafts of light almost into the room ; it was as if the placidity of the night were suddenly penetrated by something more glowing. Mellony stood looking down at her mother, like a judge. Mrs. Pember gazed at her steadily.
“ I ’m going to save you, Mellony,” she said, her indomitable will making her voice harsher than it had been, " whether you want to be saved or not. I’m not going to have you marry, and be sworn at and cuffed.” Mellony moved to protest, but her strength was futility beside her mother’s at a time like this. “ I ’m not going to have you slave and grub, and get blows for your pains. I’m going to follow you about and set wherever you be, whenever you go off with Ira Baldwin, if that ‘ll stop it; and if that won’t, 1 ‘ll try some other way, — I know other ways. I’m not going to have you marry ! I ’m going to have you stay along with me ! ”
With a slight gesture of despair, Mellony turned away. The flash had burned itself out. The stronger nature had reasserted itself. Silently, feeling her helplessness, frightened at her own rebellion now that it was over, she went out of the room to her own smaller one, and closed the door.
Mrs. Pember sat silent in her turn, reviewing her daughter’s resentment, but the matter admitted no modifications in her mind ; her duty was clear, and her determination had been taken long ago. Neither did she fear anything like persistent opposition ; she knew her daughter’s submissive nature well.
Brought up in a country village, an earnest and somewhat apprehensive member of the church, Mrs. Pember had married the captain early in life, under what she had since grown to consider a systematic illusion conceived and maintained by the Evil One, but which was, perhaps, more logically due to the disconcerting good looks and decorously restrained impetuosity of Captain Pember himself. Possibly he had been the victim of an illusion, too, not believing that such austerity of principle could exist with such bright eyes and red cheeks as charmed him in the country girl. At least he never hesitated subsequently, not only to imply, but to state baldly, a sense of the existence of injury. Captain Phippeny was one of those sailors whom the change of scene, the wide knowledge of men and of things, the hardships and dangers of a sea life, broaden and render tolerant and somewhat wise. Pember had been brutalized by these same things.
The inhabitants of Grayhead were distinguished by the breadth and suggestiveness of their profanity, and Captain Pember had been a past master of the accomplishment. Praise from Sir Hubert Stanley could have been no more discriminating than the local acknowledgment of his proficiency in this line. No wonder Mrs. Pember looked back at the ten years of her married life with a shudder. With the rigid training of her somewhat dogmatic communion still potent, she listened in a horrified expectancy, rather actual than figurative, for the heavens to strike or the earth to swallow up her nonchalant husband. Nor was this all. The weakness for grog, unfortunately supposed to be inherent in a nautical existence, was carried by Captain Pember to an extent inconsiderate even in the eyes of a seafaring public; and when, under its genial influence, he knocked his wife down and tormented Mellony, the opinion of this same public declared itself on the side of the victims with a unanimity which is not always to be counted upon in such cases. In fact, her married life had, as it were, formalized many hitherto somewhat vague details of Mrs. Pember’s conceptions of the place of future punishment; and when her husband died in an appropriate and indecorous fashion as the result of a brawl, he continued to mitigate the relief of the event by leaving in his wife’s heart a haunting fear, begotten of New England conscientiousness, that perhaps she ought not to be so unmistakably glad of it. It was thus that, with Mellony’s growth from childhood to womanhood, the burning regret for her former unmarried state, whose difficulties had been mainly theological, had become a no less burning resolve that her child should never suffer as she had suffered, but should be guarded from matrimony as from death. That she failed to distinguish between individuals, that she failed to see that young Baldwin was destitute of those traits which her sharpened vision would now have detected in Pember’s youth, was both the fault of her perceptive qualities and the fruit of her impregnable resolve. She had been hurt by Mellony’s rebellion, but not influenced by so much as a hair’s breadth.
Early one morning, two or three days later, Mrs. Pember, lying awake waiting for the light to grow brighter that she might begin her day, heard a slight sound outside, of a certain incisiveness out of proportion to its volume. With an idleness that visited her only at early daybreak, she wondered what it was. It was repeated, and this time, moved by an insistent curiosity blended with the recognition of its probable cause, she rose and looked out of the window which was close to the head of her bed. A little pier was a stone’s throw from the house on that side, at which were moored several boats belonging to the fishermen about. It was as she thought: a stooping figure, dim and hazy in the morning fog which blurred the nearest outlines and veiled the more distant, was untying one of the boats, and had slipped the oars into the rowlocks.
“ Going fishing early,” she said to herself. “ I wonder which of ’em it is. They are all alike in this light.”
Then she stood and looked out upon the morning world. It would soon be sunrise. Meanwhile, the earth was silent, save for the soft rippling of the untired waves that scarcely rose and fell in this sheltered harbor ; the land had been at rest through the short night, but they had climbed and lapsed again steadily through its hours ; the paling stars would soon have faded into the haze. The expectation of the creature waited for the manifestation.
Softly the boat floated away from its moorings. It seemed propelled without effort, so quietly it slipped through the water. In the bottom lay the sail and the nets, a shadowy mass ; the boat itself was little more than a shadow, as it glided on into the thicker fog which received and enveloped it, as into an unknown vague future which concealed and yet held promises and welcome.
Mrs. Pember glanced at the clock. It was very early, but to go back to bed was hardly worth while. The sun was already beginning to glint through the fog. She dressed, and passing softly the door of the room where Mellony slept — rather fitfully of late — began to make the fire.
The morning broadened and blazed into the day, and the whole town was making ready for its breakfast. Mellony was later than usual, — her mother did not hear her moving about, even ; but she was unwilling to disturb her ; she would wait awhile longer before calling her. At last, however, the conviction of the immorality of late rising could no longer be ignored, and she turned the knob of Mellony’s door and stepped into the room. She had been mistaken in supposing that Mellony was asleep ; the girl must have risen early and slipped out, for the room was empty, and Mrs. Pember paused, surprised that she had not heard her go. It must have been while she was getting kindling wood in the yard that Mellony had left by the street door. And what could she have wanted so early in the village ? — for to the village she must have gone ; she was nowhere about the little place, whose flatness dropped, treeless, to the shore. Her mother went again to the kitchen, and glanced up and down the waterside. There was no one on the little wooden pier, and the boats swung gently by its side, their own among them, so Mellony had not gone out in that. Yes, she must have gone to the village, and Mrs. Pember opened the front door and scanned the wandering little street. It was almost empty; the early morning activity of the place was in other directions.
With the vague uneasiness that unaccustomed and unexplained absence always produces, but with no actual apprehension, Mrs. Pember went back to her work. Mellony had certain mild whims of her own, but it was surprising that she should have left her room in disorder, the bed unmade ; that was not like her studious neatness. With a certain grimness Mrs. Pember ate her breakfast alone. Of course no harm had come to Mellony, but where was she? Unacknowledged, the shadow of Ira Baldwin fell across her wonder. Had Mellony cared so much for him that her disappointment had driven her to something wild and fatal ? She did not ask the question, but her lips grew white and stiff at the faintest suggestion of it. Several times she went to the door, meaning to go out and up the street to look for her daughter, but each time something withheld her. Instead, with that determination that distinguished her, she busied herself with trifling duties. It was quite nine o’clock when she saw Captain Phippeny coming up the street. She stood still and watched him approach. His gait was more rolling than ever, as he came slowly towards her, and he glanced furtively ahead at her house, and then dropped his eyes and pretended not to have seen her. She grew impatient to have him reach her, but she only pressed her lips together and stood the more rigidly still. At last he stood in front of her doorstone, his hat in his hand. The yellow shirt and the leathern jacket were more succinctly audacious than ever, but doubt and irresolution in every turn of his blue eyes and line of his weatherbeaten face had taken the place of the tolerant kindliness.
“ It’s a warm mornin’, Mis’ Pember,” he observed, more disconcerted than ever by her unsmiling alertness.
“ You came a good ways to tell me that, Captain Phippeny.”
“Yes, I did. Leastways I did n’t,” he responded. “ I come to tell you about — about Mellony.”
“What about Mellony, Captain Phippeny?” she demanded, pale but uncompromising. “ What have you got to tell me about Mellony Pember ? ” she reiterated as he paused.
“ Not Mellony Pemher,” gasped the captain, a three-cornered smile trying to make headway against his embarrassment as he recalled the ancient tale of breaking the news to the Widow Smith ; “Mellony Baldwin.”
“ Mellony Baldwin ! ” repeated Mrs. Pember stonily, not yet fully comprehending.
The captain grew more and more nervous.
“Yes,” he proceeded, with the haste of despair, “ yes, Mis’ Pember, you see Mellony —Mellony’s married.”
“ Mellony married! ” Strangely enough she had not thought of that. She grasped the doorpost for support.
“Yes, she up and married him,” went on the captain more blithely. “I hardly thought it of Mellony,” he added in not unpleasurable reflection, “nor yet of Ira.”
“Nor I either.” Mrs. Pember’s lips moved with difficulty. Mellony married ! The structure reared with tears and prayers, the structure of Mellony’s happiness, seemed to crumble before her eyes.
“ And I was to give you this,” and from the lining of his hat the captain drew forth a folded paper.
“Then you knew about it? " said Mrs. Pember, in a flash of cold wrath.
“ No, no, I did n’t. My daughter’s boy brought this to me, and I was to tell you they was married. And why they set the job on to me the Lord He only knows ! ” and Captain Phippeny wiped his heated forehead with feeling; “but that’s all I know.”
Slowly, her fingers trembling, she un folded the note.
“ I have married Ira, mother, " she read. “He took me away in a boat early this morning. It was the only way.
I will come back when you want me. If I am to be unhappy, I ‘d rather be unhappy this way. I can’t be unhappy your way any longer. I ‘m sorry to go against you, mother ; but it ’s my life, after all, not yours. MELLONY.”
As Mrs. Pember’s hands fell to her side and the note slipped from her fingers, the daily tragedy of her married life seemed to pass before her eyes. She saw Captain Pember reel into the house, she shuddered at his blasphemy, she felt the sting of the first blow he had given her, she cowered as he roughly shook Mellony’s little frame by her childish arm.
“She’d better be dead!” she murmured. “ I wish she was dead.”
Captain Phippeny pulled himself together. “ No, she had n’t, — no, you don’t, Mis’ Pember,” he declared stoutly. “You’re making a mistake. You don’t want to see Mellony dead any more ’n I do. She’s only got married, when all’s said and done, and there ’s a sight of folks gets married and none the worse for it. Ira Baldwin ain’t any great shakes, — I dono as he is ; he ’s kinder light complected and soft spoken, — but he ain’t a born fool, and that’s a good deal, Mis’ Pember.” He paused impressively, but she did not speak. “And he ain’t goin’ to beat Mellony, either; he ain’t that sort. I guess Mellony could tackle him, if it came to that, anyhow.
I tell you,Mis’ Pember, there’s one thing you don’t take no reckonin’ on, — there’s a difference in husbands, there’s a ter’ble difference in ’em ” Mrs. Pember looked at him vaguely. Why did he go on talking? Mellony was married. “Mellony’s got one kind, and you — well, he went on, with cautious delicacy, “ somehow you got another. I tell you it’s husbands as makes the difference to a woman when it comes to marryin’.”
Mrs. Pember stooped, picked up the note, turned and walked into the livingroom and sat down. She looked about her with that sense of unreality that visits us at times. There was the chair in which Mellony sat the night of her rebellious outbreak, — Mellony, her daughter, her married daughter. Other women talked about their “ married daughters ” easily enough, and she had pitied them ; now she would have to talk so, too. She felt unutterably lonely. Her household, like her hope, was shattered. She looked up and saw that Captain Phippeny had followed her in and was standing before her, turning his hat in his brown, tattooed hands.
“ Mis’ Pember,” he said, “ I thought mebbe, now Mellony was married, you ‘d be thinkin’ of matrimony yourself agen.” As Mrs. Pember gazed at him dumbly, it seemed as if she must all at once have become another person. Matrimony had suddenly become domesticated, as it were. Her eyes traveled over the horseshoe charm and the long gold chain as she listened, and from pocket to pocket. “ And so I wanted to say that I ‘d like to have you think of me if you was makin’ out the papers for another v’yage. The first mate I sailed with, she says to me when she died, ; You ‘ve been a good husband, Phippeny,’ says she. I would n’t say anythin’ to you, I would n’ t take the resk, if she hadn’t said that to me, Mis’ Pember, and I’m tellin’ it to you now because there’s such a difference ; and I feel kinder encouraged by it to ask you to try me. I ‘d like to have you marry me, Mis’ Pember.”
It was a long speech, and the captain was near to suffocation when it was finished, but he watched her with anxious keenness as he waited for her to reply. The stern lines of her mouth relaxed slowly. A brilliant red geranium in the window glowed in the sunlight which had just reached it. The world was not all dark. The room seemed less lonely with the captain in it, as she glanced around it a second time. She scanned his face : the buttonhole of a mouth had a kindly twist; he did not look in the least like handsome Dick Pember. Mellony had married, and her world was in fragments, and something must come after.
“ I never heard as you were n’t a good husband to Mis’ Phippeny,” she said calmly, “ and I dono as anybody ’ll make any objection if I marry you, Captain Phippeny.”