Old Goodwin's Wife

MY friends like me well enough, as I have some reason to suppose; for although I am as peculiar as I ever was, they no longer remonstrate with me as they used to do. Perhaps they think that marriage has cured me of all my queerness — the summer is not yet come, to prove the contrary. And I may be sure that, when it does come, I shall roam the shores, as I ever did, and hunt the elusive clam, as I ever did; and dig, or gaze, as ever; and whether the one or the other, depends upon my fancy at the moment. But if I do as I was wont to do, I shall not roam the shores alone. Eve will roam with me; and there will be two clam hoes in my shed, and two pairs of rubber boots reposing in the closet, — when they are not in use, which is like to be seldom. And the one pair will be large and clumsy, and well stained with much wading through mud, while the other pair will be small and dainty, — yes, even dainty, though they be rubber boots, — and — well — not overmuch stained, though she wade even as I. Rubber boots — for clamming — cannot be kept spotless, nor should they be, if they could. But there will be but the one basket, to serve us both. I may be sure of this, I say; but they think, forsooth, that I will have done with such foolishness — now that I am married. Wherefore, they have given over their remonstrating.

But I note that I am more popular than I was. Some of them are always to be found at my house — not the same ones, but one or mayhap two will come in of an evening and sit before my fire. My fire goes not out, ever, nor does it roar; but always there are coals in plenty, so that the logs blaze gently and send out heat. I love it so, quiet and peaceful, for it makes my content the greater; a roaring fire makes me uneasy, even though I have confidence in my chimney. And my content would be enough in any case, with a friend sitting on the one side, and my wife sitting on the other; and I — but I sit in the deep shadow, to watch Eve the better. I love to watch her — and I would not be watched; for thus I can think my thoughts — and not be bothered with knowing that I am showing them too plainly in my face. For I have not been married long; not long enough to show my feelings plainly and not to care what people think.

And if I cleave to candles — as a clammer should — what matter? Five of them give a pretty light, and a candle is long enough for an evening, even though it is winter. A short candle is as good as a clock — better, I think — for serving notice when to go. My friends have learned that, too; and when the candles have become no more than stumps, they are wont to jump up hastily, say their good-nights, and be gone. And as I cover the fire to save coals for the morning wherewith to kindle it afresh, I bethink me of my mighty wood-pile out by my shed, — it is mighty even now, and the winter nearly gone, — and I smile to myself, so that I am smiling yet as I rise from my task. Eve, seeing that, smiles too, although she knows not what she is smiling at; but her smile is ever ready — ready and waiting to break forth, like the gentle sunshine — and she holds her hand to me. And I, having taken it, blow out the candles, and we mount the stairs together.

Yes, my friends like me well enough, as I have some reason to suppose; but my neighbors do not, as I have also some reason to suppose. And, if I have no great love for them, the reason therefor is not far to seek. For they ever have seemed to think me one to be laughed at and made game of, — they knew no better, which I suppose I should have remembered,— well knowing that they might make their petty jests with impunity. And sometimes I have wondered whether it were not better to answer fools according to their folly; but my witticisms they would not comprehend, and I have held back from that, although the provocation was often great enough. For they never let slip an opportunity — and there were a plenty — of letting me hear their loud laughter as I passed them by chance; or even making a jest of me, in my hearing. So that it has come to pass that I despise them; and I have withdrawn my foot from my neighbor’s house, now these many years, for weary of him I am already. But now I find these same neighbors are well like to become my visitors, which would plague me mightily. And I marvel at it.

I was thinking upon this matter one evening, sitting by my fire. And, for a wonder, no friend was there, but Eve sat by the fire, too, a book in her hand and her sewing-basket near. For Eve, not having been brought up to sew, — save embroidery, if that be called sewing,— has developed, suddenly, a great desire for it, so that she always has her basket by her. But this evening, whereof I speak, she was not sewing, nor reading, either, though she had a book in her hand; but her hand lay in her lap for the most part, and now and then I caught her glancing at me. And when I did so catch her, she smiled at me. So I smiled, too, and at last I leaned toward her.

“Eve,” I said, “why do you smile?”

And, at that, she did but smile the more.

“Why should it be, Adam,” she answered, “except that I am happy?”

And she leaned toward me, too, and our heads were very close, and it happened that the book she had been holding slid from her lap and fell upon the floor; which should have grieved me, for it was one of my favorites and bound in full calf, with hand tooling around the edges. But I scarcely noticed it. I reached forth my hand, and it met hers, which was reaching out for mine; and I looked deep into her eyes —eyes swimming in tenderness— eyes like— No, I will not say it, for it has been said too often — though there is some excuse for the poets. And after some while I spoke.

“I am glad that you are happy,” I said; “and I am glad that there is no one here to-night — except only us two.”

And Eve said nothing, but I knew that she was glad as well as I.

“There are times,” I continued, “when I could wish that my friends were — less my friends. It is pleasant to have them, — I am glad that they like to come, — but they might give us more than one evening a week to spend together.”

Again Eve said nothing, but again she smiled; and, smiling, it chanced that her eyes fell upon the book that was lying where it had fallen, face downward, upon the floor.

“Oh, the poor book!” she cried; and stooped to pick it up. And I stooped, too, so that we were near bumping our heads, which somewhat delayed the rescue of the book. And, when it was done, it befell that Eve’s hair was a bit rumpled and she had a pretty flush.

“Now, Adam,” said she, “you must tell me the matter that bothered you. For I know well enough that it was not your friends.”

I looked at her in some amusement. “Why,” I answered, “that is true. I marvel that you should have guessed it, although my marveling is not so great as it was, for women have a way of getting at the meat of a matter without being at the trouble of cracking the shell. Oh, I am learning. And whom should I tell if not my wife ? ”

Eve laughed, a low laugh and sweet. “I am to be the sharer of your sorrows,” she said, “hereafter. Remember that, Adam. And now out with it.”

And I did out with it. “ It is my neighbors that bother me,” I said. “For I see plainly that they are well like to become my visitors; and they like me not at all, nor ever did. I know no reason why they should have had a change of heart. Certainly, it is none of my doing.”

Eve did not answer this directly, but sat looking at me with a queer smile, so that I grew restive under it.

“Adam,” she said, “do you believe that Solomon was a wise man?”

“ I was brought up in that belief,” I observed, “but, notwithstanding, I have my doubts.”

“Oh, you have your doubts?” she asked. “And why do you doubt his wisdom ?”

“For the best reason in the world,” I answered; and I laughed as I spoke. “ And I hold that I am wiser than he — as I have said before. For he had seven hundred wives, while I have one — but that one, Eve ” —

But Eve had stopped my mouth. “Now, Adam,” she said, “I have missed some pretty speech of yours, — and I love your pretty speeches, — but you may make another for me when I am done. For I have a purpose. Did you know that?”

“Yes,” I said. “I was sure that you had. You generally have a purpose — which you invariably accomplish. So ask, and I will answer; and if my answers are not what are expected of me, it will be but my misfortune. My intentions are of the best.”

And, at that, she laughed. “Well, then,” she said, “was not Solomon a wise man?”

“He had that reputation,” I replied meekly; “and I believe that he has it still — though it is a marvel to me that a dead man can have anything in this world. Yes, I think there can be no doubt that he was the wisest man in the world.”

“That will do — nicely, on the whole,” said Eve, having weighed my answer carefully, “although it leaves something to be desired. Now, — do you know what Solomon said about despising your neighbors ?”

She was lookingdown,— and trembling at her boldness, I made no doubt, — and so she did not see the look of grieved astonishment that came into my face. I was silent for some while, trying to recall just what Solomon did say about despising one’s neighbors. He said such a vast number of things. And, at last, Eve looked up — and I saw that she had not been trembling at her boldness, for she was quite at her ease, and smiling at me.

“Eve,” I said, —and I tried to be severe, but failed lamentably, for I smiled, too; and there is some excuse for me, for how could any one, meeting that smile of hers, remember such a purpose? — “Eve,” I said, “I did not think it of you, that you would thus put your own husband to shame. For I do remember, and would you imply that I am void of wisdom ? I have no doubt that I, myself, could write proverbs well enough ” —

But Eve interrupted me. “Do you remember,” she asked, “ the Welsh giant ? ”

Now what had the Welsh giant to do with it ? “I was about to say,” I continued, “when you interrupted me, that I had no doubt that I, myself, could write proverbs, — quite passable proverbs, — if Solomon had not covered the field completely, some thousands of years ago.”

And I looked at Eve — but she was leaning back in her chair, looking at me and smiling still; and she made me no answer. So I resumed.

“ Out of my own mouth,’I said, “ have you convicted me. But there is yet more, Eve. Do you remember what it is ? ”

And, on a sudden, she had left her chair and was on the arm of mine; and when she had made an end of rumpling my hair she spoke.

“So you think, Adam,” she said, “that you have proved yourself a man of understanding ? Well, then, perhaps you have. But you may yet have these same neighbors to visit with you, for I find much good in them. And now,” she added, with a blush that well became her, “I must sew.”

So again she sat her in her chair and she took her basket from the table; and, with another glance at me, — a glance half shy and wholly sweet, — she drew forth, from some secret place, her sewing. And I sat watching her, a tender smile upon my face — or what passed for that — Eve seemed to like it — and I thought my thoughts. They were pleasant thoughts. And Eve’s sewing — it was as she were dressing a doll. As I watched her fingers moving skillfully, but with no haste, I marveled that she sewed so well; and as I watched her face I marveled yet again. For her face was filled with love, — a love that was not for me, — filled with love and a great yearning. And all that love she seemed to sew into the little thing within her hands. But ever she had more, that each stitch was done with it and yet it grew with every stitch she took. And again Eve glanced up at me. I did but smile the more, until I grinned like any Cheshire cat.

“Eve,” I said, “how do you know that they will fit,” — I considered, and saw nothing else for it, — “how do you know that they will fit it?”

But I was wrong. “It!” she cried. “ It! Adam, I take shame to myself that you would so call your first-born. Him, sir. I am sure of it.” She put her sewing down, tenderly, and came to me. And her arms were around my neck and her face was hidden on my shoulder. “ Adam, Adam,” she whispered, “my love for him is become so big, it hurts. How can I bear to wait all the long months until I see him — my son ? How can I, Adam ? ”

And I — what could I do — or say ? What but comfort her as best I might? And God knows I had the best will in the world to it, but the fashion of it was poor enough.

“In the fullness of time, Eve,” I whispered. “In the fullness of time.”

But she seemed to take some comfort from my words — or mayhap the intent. So she lay as she was, but in some while she went back to her sewing again. She held it up, for me to see; and I could but wonder that any piece of humanity should be such a morsel as to go into that garment. I said as much. But Eve only smiled and fell to sewing — her eyes very bright.

As Eve sewed, I fell to musing on what she had said about my neighbors. For she was right, as she was ever, and I had not seen the good that was in them — I had not been at the pains to see it, though I knew it was there; and I had flattered myself that I had held my peace, and thereby had proved me a man of understanding. And I saw plainly, I might as well have stood upon the corner of the street and cried aloud unto Heaven, giving thanks that I was not as other men, until the bubble of my conceit had been pricked by Eve — and how gently! And presently the candles were burned low, and Eve, glancing at them, put her sewing by, and I knew that the time was come for me to cover the fire.

That done, I took the hand that Eve held out, and I blew out the candles, and I was moved to kiss the hand I held.

“For you have shown me, Eve,” I said, “that I have been in the wrong. I will not withhold good from them to whom it is due. And I bless God for my wife.”

For I felt very humble. And what answer I got to that I shall not tell; but it satisfied me, and we mounted the stairs together.

I opened my window wide. There was the steady drip of melting snow, and the air held a hint of spring, but the stars were bright. And, gazing at them, I thought upon my son that was to be, — or haply a daughter, it mattered not which, — and I remembered the time when I first knew it. There had been the start of surprise, the impulse at rejoicing — then the dread of it — the fear for Eve. And she had seen them all. She hung upon my neck, weeping with the joy of it.

“Never fear for me, dear,” she cried. “Never fear for me. But rejoice exceedingly.”

And so I did. And I gazed at a faint star,— a little one, just showing to the naked eye, — and as I gazed, I thought that I saw the eyes of my son looking at me with an infinite knowledge and compassion — and an infinite love. And as I gazed, behold, the eyes were the eyes of Eve. And if my son shall have the spirit that his mother has, I shall be well content. So thinking, I turned from the window and got me into bed; and having drawn the covers close, I slept.

One may guess that my friends did not desert me, so long as Eve was there; and she was like to be there long. For if it had not been well with Eve, this story had never been written. There is grief enough in the world without my adding to the sum of it — and I doubt much if I should have the heart to write it down. So I kept my friends, and they came as they had been wont and sat them by my fire; but I noted that they sat not still, but they were apt to rise and stroll about the room, and then they sat only to rise again. For the season got on toward spring; and spring ever breeds a restless fire in the bones of man that grows and glows until he can get him out-of-doors again. Then he finds that peace that seemed like to escape him. I doubted if my friends knew what ailed them — even knew that they were restless; but I knew well. And I advised with them, and counseled that they turn their thoughts to gardening — and their restless bodies, too. For a man must needs do his digging for himself. What is a hired gardener but an abomination ? Let a man dig, if he would find peace. It has taken refuge in the earth; and he that seeks shall find it.

So I watched the snow melt on my garden and the ground soften; and it was come to the first week in April. But the ground was too wet for working. I tried it, every day, with my hoe, and the earth clung to the hoe; for it was but mud, and the frost went deep. But at last came a day when the earth clung no longer, but came away and left the hoe clean. And I knew that the spring had come. And, having made the test, I hurried to the house.

“Eve,” I shouted, — I must needs shout, with the spring rioting in my veins, — “Eve, the spring is here!”

And Eve laughed, and came out a door at my elbow. “Why do you shout it so, Adam ? Have I not known it this last month ? For the song sparrows came long since, and the bluebirds, and it is weeks since I saw the first robin. And now the birds are coming fast. Why shout it ? As well come in and shout that the sun is shining.”

“Truly, that would be well done, too,” I answered; “for the sun shines as it has not shone these many months. And a song sparrow does not make a spring, — he comes while it is yet winter, and so do the bluebirds. And I must dig, Eve, or I shall burst.” And, with that, I seized her about the waist and whirled her until we both were dizzy; and, with a kiss, I released her, and she leaned against the door, laughing again.

There she leaned until she had got back her breath. “I suppose you will have me to see your digging,” she said then, “and there is no help for it.” But she smiled as she spoke, so that I knew she was minded to it as well as I. “Well, then, I will get my things on, and come.”

So I had what I wanted, and I betook me to my digging. And soon came Eve, in her coat; for she did no digging, and the air held some faint chill, though the sun shone warm. And, with our digging and our planning, we were busy for some while; but at last I straightened up, and there was Judson, leaning upon his fence and watching us.

Now Judson lives next me, on the side where lies my garden, so that he may have a good view of it whenever he will; but never before have I found him watching me. And, although he and I have been next-door neighbors these many years, never have I exchanged a dozen words with him. Not that I had any fault to find with him — he is an old man now, spending long days in his garden, grubbing the weeds or pottering about — it is a brave weed that will sprout in his garden, but he can always hoe and dig — not that I could find any fault with Judson, but I classed him with those others, with whom I held no communion; and, after all, they too — well, — I doubt if I care to learn their opinion of me. For Judson was born where he lives, — and the others, likewise, for the most part, — while I have held my land a scant ten years; and he has held his peace, though he might well think me but an interloper. He has more wisdom than I, and it grows with his years. And again I was glad of my wife, that she had opened my eyes. And, thinking such thoughts as these, I hailed him standing there.

“Good-morning, Mr. Judson,” I called to him. “It is a fine spring morning.”

He did but smile and wave his hand for greeting. And I heard Eve’s voice beside me. “Adam,” she said, and in her voice was wonder at what she had noted, “Mr. Judson is very deaf. Did you not know it?”

I took shame to myself that I did not know it — much shame; for here was I that had been his neighbor so long, and the thing about him that was most obvious I had not observed. I marveled somewhat that Eve should know it.

“Eve,” I answered, “I am ashamed. Come, let us talk with him.”

“With all my heart,” she said; “for he is a good man, Adam, and a wise, and — and” —

I laughed. “And it will do me good,” I finished for her. “ Why hesitate, Eve ? For you are beyond me in wisdom, and so is Judson, I do not doubt. Why hesitate ? ”

And she, uncertain whether to laugh or not, looked up at me to see. For my conversion was but recent, and I was yet somewhat sore with it. But, having looked at me, she smiled and slipped her hand within my arm — which soothed my ruffled temper to a marvel, and I smiled down at her. And so we were come to the wall — the fence was a stone fence — where stood Judson, smiling, too.

Once there, we talked long of things appropriate to the season: of what to plant, and when, and peas and beans and what not; and he wondered that I had no rhubarb and no asparagus, — grass, he called it. So I asked him over the wall,— for the first time in ten years, — and he came, most willing; and we wandered about my garden, discussing, and finally we sat us down on a bench, that was before my shed, in the sun. Then Eve, noting the pipe that he held in his worn fingers, bade him fill and light it; which he did, with some apology, but to his great content. And there we sat, basking, until, at last, Judson arose, excusing himself for staying so long. Eve asked him to come again, often.

“And,” she said, “I would like it much if I might run in to see Mrs. Judson.”

The old man was pleased at that. “ So do,” he said; “so do. She ’ll be glad to see ye.”

And we watched his bent figure, crossing the garden; and, having got over the wall again, and on his own side, he paused a moment to wave his hand and to smile at us as we still sat. I felt a glow at my heart that warmed it mightily, even as the sun warmed my body. It was worth while being friends with Judson — and that I might have been ten years ago had I but known. But a fool in his folly —

“Eve,” I said, “again I have to thank you. But you should have appeared to me ten years ago. Where were you, Eve ? ”

“I was but a child, Adam,” she replied, “or scarcely more.” And as she spoke she smiled at me and sat closer; for she well knew that I was sore hurt in my self-esteem. She well knew, too, how to heal the hurt so that it leave but a scar — for she would not have me forget again.

And presently she drew a letter from the pocket of her coat. “See,” she said. “I have a letter from my father. They will come down soon — in two weeks. It is a full month before their time.”

I drew the letter forth. It was characteristic of Old Goodwin, — only two lines, in his rapid writing, telling of their coming, and sending love to her and Adam. Eve had had a letter like this one — about as long — twice a month; he had no time for writing more. I had seen them all; and I had noted what was missing — missing from them all.

“No word from your mother, Eve?”

She glanced up at me. “Not yet,” she said. “But I have no fear, Adam. She is proud and she is stubborn, — but they come a month early. No, I have no fear.”

And I looked out to my pine, where the hole was scooped in the ground and the seat was builded against the tree. The hole was filled full with dried leaves and other rubbish, and the seat needed some repairing.

“It behooves me to see to my oven,” I said, “for as it seems to me, we are like to have a clambake soon. And I have a mind to ask Judson — and his wife.” Eve beamed at me for that. “ And I may have to get some new stones.”

Eve slipped her hand within my arm. “Do the stones grow cold, Adam?” she asked softly.

And that made me remember. I stooped and kissed her. “Truly,” I answered, “the stones have been passing cold, and now they grow warm again. But it does not matter about the stones, for we have kept the fire warm upon the hearth, — and in our hearts, Eve. And it behooves me to look at my clam beds, too. We may watch the sunset if you will, — watch it from the bank.”

She rejoiced at that. “With all my heart, Adam.”

So it befell that we wended, that afternoon, over to our clam beds, along the shore where the water lapped ever. And, as it chanced, the tide was low and would yet be lower, for it was a spring tide. And we walked hand in hand — there was nobody about — and what if there were ? Shall a man not hold his wife’s hand, in going along the shore ? And shall he not kiss her if he will — and if she will ? Though in such matters we should, no doubt, bow to convention. And, as we went, the Great Painter spread his colors as he was wont to do, and the still waters were covered with all manner of reds and purples. We saw our flats just awash, and now and then there broke upon them a wave that ran across in ripples of color, and left the wet sand shining in a coat of shimmering green. For, though the water was calm, the waves yet broke upon the sands. It was a day of promise now well-nigh come to an end, but yet it held a promise of other days. And such a day maketh the soul of a man to rejoice, — if he be in truth a man, and not a mere beast of burden, —it maketh the soul of him to rejoice within him and his heart to sing; and of such as rejoice not in such a day, there is little hope.

And Eve and I came to the bank, where the pebbles shone in the sun — save some few that had been washed out in the storms of winter. Eve cried out at that, and set herself to find others, to make the names whole again. And I looked up at our path, which still showed bravely, with little piles of snow in the deeply shaded spots, the remnants of great drifts — but they were going fast. And the grass showed green on the slope — the tender green of spring. Seeing all this, I sighed and turned me from it to our clam beds.

They were well uncovered by this, and I took my hoe and pottered about and slopped here and there, digging where I would. And now and again I made me straight — for some months past I had not bent my back so steadily — and gazed at the changing colors or at the old sun, which was drawing near to the western hills; then I bent my back again. And the clams that I found I did but restore, with care, to bury themselves once more, — we had no basket, not wanting clams as yet, — and I found many. They seemed good thriving clams, big and lusty, and none the worse for the winter.

At last I was done with my digging, and I straightened up and looked for Eve; and there she was, beyond me, in the water, with her skirts tucked up, and she was paddling like any schoolgirl. And the sun shone through the wisps of hair, — they straggled, ever, those wisps, and sadly bothered her with their wanderings, — the sun shone through the wandering locks and made an aureole about her head. But now she minded them not. And so I gazed long at her, and I saw the colors that she stirred with her paddling, and I saw her standing in their midst. At last she looked up at me.

“Oh, Adam,” she cried, “I am having such a beautiful time. Stop your digging and come out here with me, — and paddle. It is great fun. See, I can almost catch that streak of gold. Oh, now it is gone.”

“Truly, Eve,” I said, “I am amazed at you. But I will come, — and paddle,— although that is what I never thought that I should come to; for I am done with my digging. And soon we must go in, for the sun is almost set. It is not yet summer.”

Then Eve laughed, and I went and stood beside her, and we paddled nobly — until I was laughing, too. And the sun set; he had already passed the tree that was like a spire, — I saw it for a moment against his southern edge as he coasted down the slope, — and we bade him goodnight together, as we had been wont to do. Eve turned to me.

“I am cold, Adam,” she said. “I confess it.”

Indeed, that water was passing cold, for there were in it all the melting snows of winter. And so we raced along the shore in our rubber boots, — Eve’s are less of a burden than mine, so that I was beaten in the race, — and climbed the steep path; and in the house our fire burned upon the hearth.

As I sat there before the fire, musing upon many things, — with my back feeling tired and comfortable among the cushions, — I heard a robin calling sleepily from my pine. It sent a glow through me. Verily, spring is here.

So the season grew and filled me with joy. And as evening came, I sat before my fire, but. I withdrew somewhat from its heat; and I had no interest in the book that I took up, but I must needs lay it down in my lap. For, first, I found myself reading but words and getting no sense from them, that I knew not whether I had read a passage or no. And I would struggle awake and read a line, or mayhap two, and make sense of it; and then I read the same line again, as like as not, and knew not where I was nor what my author would be at. Then I would let the book fall into my lap and care not for my author nor for aught else, and suck at my pipe, — it was as like to be out as burning,— and doze, and dream. And Eve would glance at me and smile and go on with the making of doll’s clothes. For I had been out all day in my garden,— with Judson giving me counsel, if I asked it, never, if I did not, — and it was borne in upon me that he that withholdeth advice, if it be unasked, is a wise man, — I had been all day in the garden, hoeing and digging and planting. When Judson did his planting was a mystery — probably about daylight; but he had got in the way of coming over the wall, and I would no sooner be at work than there would appear Judson at the wall, waving his hand in greeting. I think I shall make a gate there if he does not object. It is hard for an old man to climb walls.

And I wondered at the apparent defection of my friends; for they came seldom, so that Eve made some progress with her doll’s wardrobe. I wondered, I say, until I reflected upon the advice I had given them, myself. No doubt they were busy as well as I; and if they made gardens they went to bed early.

So it was come to be the first of May, and all my planting was done except my corn. The birds had become noisy, — they sang as though they would split their throats; and, as I planted, I heard the shrill whistle of the meadow larks, — but I could not stop to enjoy it. Only at evening I sat me on my seat under the great pine, with Eve beside me, and drank my fill of music. And the leaves were coming out upon the trees.

I marveled somewhat that Eve had had no word more from her father; but I must plant my corn. And my first planting of corn was done; and as I straightened up from it, sighing with weariness, I heard a low, chuckling laugh. I turned quickly, and behold, there was Old Goodwin watching me; and beside him, Eve. He was still laughing.

I hurried across my garden, the earth sticking to my boots; and made some apologies for my hands. The hands of a delver in the earth are not fit for contact with the Rich.

But what did Old Goodwin care for that? “It is clean dirt, Adam,” said he, “and honest. The hands that I have to take every day, they are — well — it turns me nearly sick at times to take them — though they are white enough, and soft.” He looked out over my garden that showed already unbroken rows of green, where the early peas had come through the earth. “So your planting is all done ? ” he asked. “I am sorry, for I had hoped to have a hand in it.”

“And so you may,” I answered, “if you will. There are yet some plantings of corn to be put in — but nothing for two weeks.” I hesitated, and blundered on. “And Mrs. Goodwin — she is well ?”

“Quite well,” he said, and smiled as he spoke, and so did Eve. “Yes, she is quite well. She came down, too. You may get a glimpse of her now and then, I think, about the grounds, for she is restless this spring, and out more than she has been used to be. No doubt,” he added, “it is the weather.”

“No doubt,” I said; but I knew not how to take it, and I glanced at Eve to see. “Yes, no doubt it is the weather.”

Then I went in, for I would change my boots, and Old Goodwin wandered about my place with Eve beside him. When I came again I found him on the seat under the pine; and he was gazing at the stones, and then off over my clam beds, where the water danced in the sun and the little waves broke upon the sands. But Eve was not there. I marveled somewhat at it.

“She is gone to see her mother,” he said, answering the thought unspoken. “She will be back presently. And how are the clams, Adam ? ”

I laughed, it was so exactly what I expected of him.

“Pretty well, I thank you,” I replied; “or they were, two weeks ago. I have not seen them lately, for I have been busy. You may dig whenever you will. They thrive, I think.”

He smiled again — his thanks. “And the stones — you have put some fresh ones in, I see — they are all ready ? ”

“They are all ready,” I answered, “and the weed lies in heaps along the shore. But I find that my appetite for baked clams is not yet ripe” —

But he interrupted. “Ah, Adam,” he said, “but you have this with you all the year.” He waved his hand about. “That is much to be thankful for. But I — the memory of those baked clams is all that has carried me over many a hard place. For I realize — sometimes — that I am an old man; but when I am here” —

“You are not,” I finished for him. “And that is reason enough for staying. You have a roof over your head — such as it is — and a crust of bread — with a chop or two when there is need. No man, however poor, can ask more, — and no man, however rich, can get more. So I foretell ” —

Old Goodwin was roaring with laughter. “Yes,” he said, as soon as he could speak, “I have a roof over my head — such as it is — and the tiles upon it may last through a winter; and I shall have, no doubt, a crust of bread — with a chop or two when there is need. And so you would have me give up my house in town. Well, well, there is something to be said for it. We shall see. We shall see.”

“Your house in town would be but a burden,” I said then. “No man can live in two houses — two at once — having but one body. And you might well give up — it is time to retire, having enough of means. And these fields and this water and the woods are a never-ending delight. You need not fear your nerves. For look at me. Am I nervous ? And I have retired — retired these many years — retired before my career was well begun. I find amusement — and I am like to live long. And you should know Judson — you must know him. He has lived long and will yet live some while. He should have been here this morning.”

Old Goodwin looked at me, questioning. “Your neighbor?” he asked. “I should like it much. But I thought you did not care for neighbors, Adam.”

I was ashamed. “I did not,” I answered, “but Eve has shown me — I was wrong.” Old Goodwin smiled at that, his quiet smile of peace. And I went on. “But you” —

“I will consider,” he said; and I remembered me of a time when Eve had said those very words. But she said more. There was “good fisherman, ”if I remembered me aright. “I wall consider the matter,” said Old Goodwin. “And I must consult” —

“Ah!” I cried. “I had forgot.” And I smiled, more broadly than I meant to; but it mattered not, for Old Goodwin was smiling, too.

“There comes Eve,” he said. And indeed, I knew it well. Was I not looking for her every minute that she was gone from me?

And that evening we sat before my fire, as we were wont to do, Eve and I; but beside us sat Old Goodwin. It occurred to me to think that Mrs. Goodwin was likely to be lonely, if she depended at all upon her husband for company, and if he continued as he had begun. If it were Eve and I, there would be a compromise — or a surrender — in short order. But, I reflected, all married people are not as Eve and I; and we have been married but a few months, — although it will be the same when the months are become years, I do believe. And Eve and her mother are two very different persons. So, as we sat, Eve sewed upon her doll’s dresses, unabashed; and Old Goodwin, if he noted it, and saw upon what her fingers were busy, gave no sign of his surprise, — it is not easy to surprise him, — but he seemed to find pleasure in the sight. And, indeed, it was a pleasant sight to see Eve sewing there — pleasant for a prospective father, and for a prospective grandfather it was as pleasant, as I judge. I doubt me much that Mrs. Goodwin sewed, ever, of an evening; or ever had, even when sewing was to be done for Eve’s coming. The clothes that she had made for her baby were of the finest and the softest and the richest, no doubt, — but she had them made: and can even the finest and the softest and the richest, made by the hand of another, mean as much as these, with love sewed under every stitch ? I do not think so. And the one thing she could not evade if she would; but she had but the one child,and I think that was a sorrow to Old Goodwin. So we sat, and talked little or not at all; and the candles burned low, that they were but stumps. Noting that, Old Goodwin took his leave. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Then followed other days; and, first of all, Old Goodwin must betake him to the digging of clams and I must help him at it. And, having digged many clams, we must needs have a clambake, for I would not destroy good clams to no purpose; but it was a sorry clambake, lacking the corn and the sweet potatoes and the lobster. And, though I sacrificed a chicken to it, the sacrifice went to my heart, for early in May is no time to kill chickens. I asked Judson to our clambake, and, though he came, his appetite for clams was no more ripe than mine. But Judson and Old Goodwin met, and enjoyed the meeting mightily; and sat upon their boxes and talked until I thought they would never have done. So Eve and I left them there, sitting upon their boxes. And presently they rose and wandered over into Judson’s place, and I saw Old Goodwin no more that day.

So June was come. It was in June that my appetite for clams was ripe; and we digged in my clam beds more than ever, and put some heart into the digging. It was Old Goodwin and I that did the digging, for the most part, — he loved it, — while Eve sat on the bank and watched us. Sometimes she would dig, but more often she did but watch, cheering us, the while, with observations; and, now and then, I would go and sit beside her and leave Old Goodwin. But he did not mind — did not appear to notice. Every evening, after supper, we came, Eve and I, to the bank. And Old Goodwin joined us there, and we stayed until the sun was set and we had said our good-nights to him. And it befell, on an evening that was thick with fog, — it is apt to be a thick fog toward the last of June; out at sea the fog lies all day, rolling in over the land by the end of the afternoon, — it befell, on this evening, that I had been watching the fog. It sent its skirmishers ahead and covered the shore, only to uncover it; for the skirmisher must move fast, and it is not large, being but a skirmisher. And then would come another and hide another piece of shore — haply my point with the pine upon it; and I could see the top of the pine sticking up out of it, like a sentinel. But always the main body of the fog followed fast after, dark and dim and gray. And as it enveloped us at last, something made me turn about; and there, in the path, up under the trees, stood Eve’s mother. No doubt she thought she was safe there and would not be seen. And I saw there, for a moment, a mighty pride that struggled for its life, and grief and longing that were yet mightier. Ghostlike I saw it — but I saw it. Then it, too, was blotted out. I thought that I heard a faint cry in the fog.

And Eve turned toward me, startled. “What was that, Adam?” she asked. “I thought I heard some one cry out.”

“In a fog, Eve,” I answered, “one hears many strange sounds.”

Old Goodwin turned and smiled at me, a smile of comprehension.

So June came to an end, and July was come. And, now and then, I came again upon Mrs. Goodwin at our bank, and twice I found her on the shore near the steep path that led up to my pine. But each time, she swiftly turned and fled so fast that I should have had some trouble in catching her, save in a foot-race. And that, I thought, seemed to lack dignity. Racing along the beach after Mrs. Goodwin, as if she had been some trespasser! I laughed — which was the wrong thing to do. For she but went the faster as she heard my laugh — was well-nigh running. Poor lady! To be laughed at by her sonin-law! But I was not laughing at her. I saw her shoulders shake as she were sobbing, and she put her hands up quickly to her eyes.

The terns were come, long since. And, one morning, I was watching them lazily from my bank. I was alone, that morning, lying stretched out on the sand, my head against the bank; and I saw the terns, in regular procession, flying swiftly down the wind, along the shore, and beating slowly up against it. Now and then a tern would stop, and hover for an instant; then again take up his slow beating, his beak pointing at the water and moving restlessly from side to side. Or, if he dove, it was too far for me to see whether his strike succeeded; for the fish that they catch are very small and hard to see. But over my clam beds — just before me — was a favored spot. Here, each tern hovered for some while, and dove; dove once or twice or thrice, it might be, — until he had succeeded in his fishing, — then began, once more, his beat to windward. For their fishing was successful, here; and, with a rapid flutter of the wings, they gobbled their victims down, whole — and, I suppose, alive. Poor little fish! Alive in a living tomb! And, as I thought these thoughts, I heard a sound behind me, on the bank. I raised my head — and there was Mrs. Goodwin. She was leaning against a tree, — Eve’s tree, — and she was gazing at the terns, too, but mournfully. And, with all her gazing, I doubt whether she saw aught of the sight that was before her eyes.

Slowly I got upon my feet, for I would not startle her. But she was startled none the less. She showed it in her eyes as they met mine.

“Mrs. Goodwin,” I said softly, “Mrs. Goodwin” —

What I would have said more I do not know, for she broke in upon my speech.

“You!” she said. “You!” And she said no more, but rose quickly; and gathered her skirts about her and fled up the path and was gone from me.

I hesitated for a moment, gazing after her; then I sat me down again. And I fell to musing, and I watched the terns. They had scattered, with screams of anger, as I rose, but were, by this, once more busied with their fishing. What could I do ? I doubted not that I had done the wrong thing, rising up before her; but, it seemed, I had a talent for the wrong thing — else aught that I might do would seem wrong in her eyes. Eve went to see her every day, but I — I sighed and put the matter from me. I had done my best, and would do my best, whatever befell. And I saw the terns, at their fishing, and I bethought me that I was hungry, for it must be dinner time. I glanced up at the sun — I carry no watch — what should a clammer do with a watch ? And I saw that he had passed the noon-point a half hour since, and something more. It should be nearly one o’clock. So I took my way homeward, along the shore.

So the summer passed. And we — Old Goodwin and Eve and I, with some one of my friends or of my neighbors, as it chanced — scarce gave the stones time to cool before we had them hot again. I had some fear that my clam beds would give out. Mrs. Goodwin I saw as I had seen her: on the shore or on the bank, but always at a distance — and she fled, ever, at the sight of me. So I took no notice of her; and that seemed to be the wrong thing, too. It did not matter what I did. And the summer was come to an end, — a happy summer for me, and for Old Goodwin, too, I think, — and I had had my fill of clams. It was October; and in my house was a nurse, white-capped and white-aproned,— it gave me the horrors, making my house seem a hospital, — and she was waiting.

Paternity has its responsibilities, so I am told by all who have the good fortune to be fathers; and from those who have not, I hear no less of it — more, perhaps. But, though I squared my shoulders, the load is light as yet, so that they bear it passing well. For who could feel the load heavy, for a mite that lies by his mother, as yet, and turns to the world but a red and wrinkled face, serious and thoughtful and unsmiling ? For he has not yet smiled, and I doubt whether I am right in calling his face thoughtful. He is bent upon two things; and to those two things he directs all his attention, with a concentration that is commendable. And no sooner is his hunger satisfied than he composes him to sleep, graciously permitting Eve to hold his little red fist — if it is quite comfortable for himself. He regards me with a grave contemplation, on occasion, as if I were some unknown animal, — which, of course, I am; no doubt he would look upon a hippopotamus or upon a bear with as little fear and as much affection, — and, on occasion, he gives way to his feelings and laments loudly. Then I disappear, and he stops crying, instantly. And I, — I have not ventured to touch him yet, — I regard him with an awe which grows as I regard him. For here is he — my son — that was not; and within these few days there has been born a new soul. It is the one great mystery, and I marvel; but a mystery I am content to leave it.

I remember well enough,— it is not so long ago that I should forget it, — I remember well that night — I had waited since midnight — and the morning that followed. I could not eat, and I but paced to and fro, still waiting. And at last came the nurse, smiling, and said that I could soon go in to Eve.

So presently, after some further waiting, I went in. And there lay Eve, very white but very happy; and she smiled to see me come. And, having received my greeting, she turned back the covers and showed me my son. Only for an instant I saw him, then he was covered again. And I was impelled to be respectful. But I must go, for Eve would rest her. Again I kissed her, and again she smiled.

“I am so happy, Adam,” she said.

And I went down the stairs, and I nearly forgot my breakfast, in my joy. But, having eaten hastily, I went out, my heart glad within me. I took a turn up and down the yard, and paused under the pine to look along the shore. There was Mrs. Goodwin, and she was almost at the path. I waved my hat to her.

“You have a grandson, Mrs. Goodwin,” I called to her, “and Eve is doing well.”

I know not what she did then — I did not care what she did; for I was still waving my hat. Soon I should be shouting aloud. That would not do, for Eve; and I hurried out at my gate and almost ran Old Goodwin down.

“You have a grandson,” I cried, for the second time; “ and Eve is doing well.”

And he made no reply, but smiled and smiled; and I shook him by the hand until he made a face and took his hand away and looked at it. And I did but laugh and push by him.

“Go in,” I said, “go in. Eve is sleeping, and I — I must walk.”

So he went in, and I went on, down the road. At the next corner I met Burdon; and, though I had not spoken to him for years, — I have forgot what was the cause of it, — I rushed up and took him by the hand. He seemed astonished, as well he might.

“Congratulate me,” I cried; “for I have a son.”

At that, he grinned. “Mother doing well?” he asked. “I am glad — very glad.” And he shook my hand with heartiness. I left him, looking after me, and grinning still.

But I went on, swiftly, until the houses were all behind me, and before me were the woods and the everlasting hills. Yet a little while I waited, — until the woods had shut me in, — then I could wait no longer. I waved my hands and shouted to the echoing woods.

“Why hop ye so,” I cried, “ye high hills ? ” And the hills sent me back my question again. And — well, I am glad that there was no one there to see what I did — they would surely have thought me gone out of my wits. And when I was, in a measure, quieted, I turned me about and went soberly back again; though I was ready enough to laugh if there had been any to laugh with me.

And now my son has grown apace, and no longer shows to the world a red and wrinkled face, but one that is fair, with some pink color in his cheeks, where it should be. And his hair, — he has a quantity of hair, which, as I understand, is not the habit of new-born infants, — his hair is not black, as it was at first, but shows yellow at the ends. Indeed, I marveled somewhat at the blackness of his hair, for my hair is not black, and certainly Eve’s is not. But, when I mentioned the matter, the nurse did but smile at my ignorance and say that it would be light enough, in time. And my son has smiled at last — he does little else now, save when he is laughing. And I — I am become his slave, being no longer a strange animal, and when he wills, I bend my head and let him twine his fingers in my hair, and pull. He pulls well, and laughs the while, and crows mightily with the joy of it.

And now, though it is come to the last of November, the fall is kind to us, and Eve walks beside the coach as the nurse wheels it. Where they go when I am not with them I do not know — but I suspect. For Mrs. Goodwin sent, every day, a maid to get the news of Eve. She would not come, herself, though she was near it, twenty times, and had well-nigh set her foot to the steep path; but, always, her stubborn pride prevented. But Old Goodwin is his grandson’s shadow. I shall yet be jealous of him. And so it was come time that we speak of a certain weighty matter.

“Eve,” said I, one day, “I suppose that you will have him christened.” For whenever we say “him” we mean our son; and no doubt I should have said baptized — I did not know about such things.

And Eve was smiling. “Yes,” she answered, “I should like it — and soon, Adam, if we may.”

“And what is his name to be?” I asked. “For that is a trifle that must be settled first, I suppose.”

“I suppose it must,” she said. “And I — what would you name him, Adam ? ”

“I had thought of giving him your father’s name,” I answered, “but” — And I stammered and hesitated and grew red. But come it must. “That rich man, Eve ” —

She laughed aloud, with joy, I thought; and she seized me about the neck and kissed me. “Oh,” she cried, “I hoped you would. And I will write to him, for he must be godfather.”

And so she did write to him, and he came — laden with peace-offerings. And as I met him at my gate, he took my hand and gripped it.

“Adam,” he said — and this time, too, I doubted if he knew what he called me, but I did not care. “Adam, it was good of you to think of me — it was kind.” His voice was not steady; but Eve was close behind me, and he must say his greetings to her. So I did not find out whether my voice was any steadier than his.

He spread his gifts before my son; and it befell that my son passed them all by, with no more than a grunt of approval, until he came to the silver cup. It was huge, more like a tankard than a cup, and Eve and I had laughed at it as a gift for a baby; but we let it pass — at least it had no sharp corners. And when my son, in his inspection, had come to that cup, he gave a crow of delight and grasped it by the two handles, one on either side, and lifted it. I had not thought it possible, for it was heavy; but he had his heart set upon it, and he did it — and I was proud and let my pride show. And he managed to get the cup well-nigh over his face, and roared into it; and the cup roared back at him again. He was astonished — he slipped the cup aside to see how we took it — then, seeing us laugh, he laughed, too, and roared again. Now he lies and plays by the hour with that cup, roaring into it, and making all manner of queer noises, and listens to it. And that rich man sits beside him, and they play together.

Eve had the christening — or baptizing — in our little country church. I had left the whole to her, to manage as she saw fit; and when, in the church, I looked about, and saw those that she had bid to the feast, I was somewhat surprised — until I remembered. There were Old Goodwin and that rich man, of course, and my friends; but there, too, were Judson and Burdon and my other neighbors. And there was Mrs. Goodwin, looking — but I did not look at her, after the first, so I know not how she looked. And when it was all done, I lingered, for a reason of my own, and walked with Judson, and Burdon walked with us. An old man walks but slowly. So it came to pass that we were the last. And, having entered my own house, I found Eve and Old Goodwin and that other rich man sitting in a half circle; and, at the centre of that circle, with my son in her arms, sat Mrs. Goodwin.

I walked up to her quickly. “Mrs. Goodwin,” I said, “I rejoice that you are here, — at last. ”

So speaking, I held out my hand. And she took it, and would have spoken, too, but she could not. She hid her face on the shoulder of him that was but just baptized; and he, thinking, no doubt, that he had had enough of water, for one day, set up a wail. And I turned me about and went forth and left them.

  1. For the characters in this story, see “ The Clanmier ” in the Atlantic for August, 1905, and “A Daughter of the Rich ” in the December number.