Ellen Forth and the Painter Boy

I

I WAS running for harbor under close-reefed mainsail and the remnant of my jib, before a roaring southerly gale. I had known that something was coming, of course, before I started on my night run, but I had not expected that it would come so soon or that there would be so much of it. That was one of the times when I was fooled. I have been fooled many times, and shall be many more, but I am not often fooled by the weather. And I was behind time, and thought I would make up a little. I did.

It came on to blow hard about eleven o’clock, when the hospitable harbor which I had left was well astern, and a most inhospitable shore stretched for miles and miles; and I reefed down under difficulties, for I was alone, and it was so dark that I could scarcely make out the reef-points, and my jib split from top to bottom. I managed to tie down the jib somehow. I have no clear recollection of the further events of that night. It is all a nightmare of wind, and more wind, and lashing rain, and great seas which came at me out of the darkness fiercely, as if they would devour me. But I knew they would not. I knew my boat. There is every comfort in knowing your boat.

Morning dawned at last. I shall never forget that morning. I seemed to be alone in the middle of the Atlantic, which was but a mass of spume and spray and roaring seas. The wind came in fierce gusts, and each fresh gust, fiercer than the last, came howling and whistling and singing over the water, driving before it the spray from the tops of the waves. There was a mist of spray for six feet or so above the surface of the water, and it stung where it struck, and obscured my vision. I could not tell whether it was raining or not; but the dark clouds overhead were rolling and twisting and writhing just out of reach, and the driving scud seemed as low as my masthead. My mast is not very tall. Hours passed, and I caught a glimpse, through the spray, of a heavily-laden coaster under very short sail, and then of land, and I knew where I was. There was a little haven which I would run for. Haven! It seemed like Heaven, the very sound of it.

So I was roaring in for harbor under a close-reefed mainsail and the remnant of my jib, before a southerly gale. I was wet through and cold and sleepy and hungry and almost worn out. Everything aboard the boat was wet. I had breakfasted on a few soggy pilot biscuits, for I could not leave the wheel to cook anything, even if I had wanted to cook. I had few desires left, and the desire to cook was probably the least of them. I had had my fill of cooking. I would not cook another meal if I had to live on ready-cooked canned things for the rest of my life. I had rather starve. As I stood dripping at the wheel and listened and waited for each fresh gust to come roaring and whistling and singing over the water, it seemed to me that it would be easy to starve. One would have nothing to do but to do nothing. And then that roaring and howling gust would strike the boat, and she would careen until the sea was racing almost level with my cockpit rail, and I would have my hands full, and my thoughts too, and cooking had no place in them.

These were unfamiliar waters, but I had no time to look at the chart. I was coming to a lighthouse perched up on a rock at some distance from shore, and there must have been a tide-rip there, for there was a tremendously high, short sea. I passed the lighthouse, and got into water which was not so rough; and I raced along a shore which I did not know, and I saw before me a breakwater with uneasy masts behind it. That must be my haven. And I raced into it, and found several large boats near the mouth, a couple of schooners and a sloop or two, and a ketch; and I saw, farther on, where the harbor narrowed, a forest of rocking masts of smaller schooners and knockabouts and catboats. There were wharves there too, and I kept on.

I had to cut the lashings of my anchor, for they were as hard as iron with their drenching, and my fingers were too cold and stiff to loose them; and I dropped the anchor overboard, and lowered my sails, and tied stops about them roughly, and got into some better clothes, — not dry ones; there was nothing dry on the boat, — and rowed ashore. There I found nobody, but I poked about until I came to a blacksmith’s shop, and the blacksmith at his forge.

He looked up and nodded as I entered and sat on a wooden chair by the door, a chair from which the back was gone. I was glad of the quiet and the warmth.

In a few minutes he looked at me again, and spoke.

‘Blowing pretty hard,’ he observed.

‘More than that,’ I answered. ‘I’ve just got in. I was out in it all night.’

He stopped his measured working of the bellows. ‘Boat?’ he asked.

I nodded. ‘She’s right off the wharf in the mess.’

He started toward the door.

‘The little one,’ I added.

He looked out, and came back and stood before me, and whistled slowly, and smiled.

‘ Well! I’m glad I was n’t out in her — not last night. I guess you’re tired and cold and wet.’

‘ And hungry. Is there a hotel here?’

He shook his head. ‘ We don’t run to hotels. Perhaps Ellen Forth will take care of you. I can’t promise.’

I would try Ellen Forth presently, but I wanted to dry myself a little first, and I went and stood by the forge. When I had steamed enough, and had some heart in me again, the blacksmith went to the door with me, wiping his hands on his leather apron.

‘That’s her house,’ he said, ‘that square one, half-way up the hill. I wish you luck.’

I thanked him and set out. The house was a well-to-do, square old house, set high, with huge old elms before it, and a well-kept barn behind; and on either side well-kept fields in which a few cows were grazing. It did not look promising. It was too good.

But I kept on, and I saw, suspended from great painters’ hooks in the edge of the roof, a ladder laid flat, and on the ladder a board to serve as floor; and on the board was a pot of paint, and a boy in painter’s overalls and blouse and white hat and sneakers. The whole thing, ladder and boy and pot of paint, was swaying wildly in the wind. There was nothing to be seen of the boy himself, for he had his white hat pulled down to his neck, and he was facing the side of the house and painting merrily, and humming while he worked. Occasionally he stopped painting for a moment, and put his head on one side to contemplate his work, and then he broke forth into song in a beautiful high tenor, and began to paint again vigorously.

I stood for some time in the wide gateway, watching him, and listening. At last I interrupted him.

‘Ahoy!’ I said. ‘Aloft there!’

The boy turned a startled, handsome face toward me. Then he smiled.

‘Ahoy, the deck!’ he answered. ‘You almost made me drop the brush. Think what a pretty streak it would have made all down the clapboards. And I should have had to come all the way down after it, or make you tie it on the end of a line, and heave the line up here. Can you heave a line?’

‘I don’t believe I have strength enough left — now. Is Miss Forth within?’

‘How should I know? I am painting the house. But, as it happens, I do know. She is out just at present.’

‘Is it Miss Forth or Mrs. Forth? I could n’t be sure whether the blacksmith — ’

‘The blacksmith! What has he to do with it?’

‘He said that Ellen Forth might take care of me, but he could n’t promise.’

‘ Oh! Well, it was Miss Forth when I came up here. I don’t know what has happened down there since.’

‘ I thought that — perhaps — you might be her husband.'

‘Her husband! Me!’ And the boy laughed as if it was an excellent joke. ‘But I wish I were. A man might do a great deal worse. Many do.’

‘I should like to see Miss Forth,’ I murmured.

‘Why not try ringing the bell?’

Truly, why not? I had forgotten that. I began to move.

‘It would n’t do any good,’ said the boy. ‘It would n’t be answered.’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘do you know where she is?’

The boy hesitated. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I suppose I do. She’s not available just now. Suppose you tell me your errand.’

Thereupon I stated it. ‘I don’t know where else to go,’ I added, ‘and I’m very hungry, and not quite dry yet.’

‘Dry!’ the boy exclaimed quickly. ‘What wet you? Was it you that I saw driving in there, an hour ago?’ He waved his hand toward the harbor.

I nodded. I seemed to have succeeded in capturing his interest at last.

‘Well,’ he said, laying down his brush, ‘I’ll tell ’em — if they’re in yet. I think Miss Forth ’ll be in in a minute now. You might wait around by the front door and see what happens.’

He drew up his sneakers carefully, and disappeared within a little halfsize window of the third story. I waited around by the front door to see what happened. Nothing happened for a long time, but the wind whipped the elms, and there was a fine view of the harbor filled with whitecaps and with tossing boats, and of some windmills on the other shore, and of misty hills.

A maid came at last, and ushered me into a half-darkened room, in which I was left alone with two ebony cabinets containing all kinds of deep-sea shells. The shells were well polished, and ran to luminous pinks and purples on their inner surfaces.

I was looking at a large shell which seemed to have imprisoned a sunset, when I was aware that I was not alone. I turned and saw a girl just within the doorway. She was of a slender figure, and just above medium height. She had wavy, dark-brown hair, and pleasant, dark eyes. They were very expressive eyes. They were smiling at me now, and there was compassion in their depths, as she stood, her hands clasped in front of her.

‘I am Miss Forth,’ she said. ‘My painter boy has been telling me about you. I shall be happy to give you your dinner if you will take what I have.’

Her voice was low and full and sweet and rich. I think I was in love with her voice — and her eyes — from that moment. I hastened to apologize, and said that I should not have come if I had fully understood, but the blacksmith had given no explanation, and my boat was wet — everything in it — and the idea of cooking anything was repugnant to me — and I thought —

She smiled. ‘I know,’ she interrupted. ‘I know exactly how you felt. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.’

That dinner was nectar and ambrosia to me, but Miss Forth was not present. I waited around for some time, hoping that she would appear; but she did not, so I strolled down to the wharf. The wind was falling, and it was not too warm in the sun, and I leaned against a pile and looked out. The sun, the sound of the blowing wind, the faint noises from the harbor, all together, were too much for me, and I fell asleep standing; and I barely recovered myself from falling, and I had just sense enough to go to a bench which was set against a building on the wharf.

I must have slept there for hours; for, when I opened my eyes again, the wind had fallen to the gentlest breeze, and the sounds from the harbor were inexpressibly soothing. On the string-piece before me sat some men, fishing idly. For a little I sat there, looking out at the pleasant sights, and hearing the pleasant sounds, while the sun got lower, illuminating the sides of the boats and the quiet masts with a reddish light, and making the slowly moving windmills on the opposite shore no more than silhouettes against a reddish sky. I got up slowly, and saw the boats lying on a sea of crimson and blue. The silent fishermen reeled in their lines and went silently away; and I followed, not knowing where I was going.

I went up to Ellen Forth’s, of course, and I saw her coming from the barn. She smiled when she saw me.

‘A bad penny,’ I said.

‘Yes, I see,’ she replied. ‘What brings you back?’

She was almost laughing as she asked the question, and that took the sting out of it.

‘ My feet,’ I answered. ‘ They turned this way of their own accord.’

‘ And did your feet,’ she asked, ‘ know that it is almost supper-time? Was that it?’

‘ I suppose it was, partly, although I was not conscious of it.’

‘And what was the other part?’

‘To thank you for giving me a good dinner, and — and because this was the natural road for my feet to take.’

She laughed then. ‘You are invited to supper, — you poor man! I could n’t do less, could I?’

So I had supper with Ellen Forth. And I was nervous and excited, but she was amused and smiling. Rarely she laughed, a low sweet laugh. I found myself waiting and listening for it.

I prolonged that meal as much as I dared, but at last she rose.

‘Your breakfast will be ready at eight,’ she remarked,

‘What! ’I cried. ‘Am I to be asked—’

‘It is to save trouble,’ she said. ‘You know you would be hanging around, hoping for it. It will be more convenient for me. And you need not begin your cooking yet.’

Then she seemed to be waiting for me to go, so I thanked her, and went. The boat was still wet, but I always sleep in my boat. I make a point of it. And I ate my breakfast alone at eight, and I did not hang around more than half an hour, but I caught no glimpse of Ellen Forth. The staging was there, lower than on the day before, but no painter boy. I wandered down to the wharf, got my tender, and rowed out.

II

I had put the boat to rights, and was sitting in the cockpit, smoking and wondering what I should do, when I heard a hail.

‘Ahoy, the deck!’

I looked up quickly, and there stood the painter boy on the edge of the wharf. He was smiling broadly and merrily.

‘Ahoy yourself!’ I cried. ‘Were you hailing me?’

‘ No other,’ he said. ‘ Don’t you want a crew?’

He looked more like a sailor boy than a painter, with his white blouse, and his white trousers, and his white hat, but his hat was tall and ended in a sort of peak. He would have made a good Pierrot, just as he stood. I got into my tender and rowed back.

‘Why should I want a crew?’ I demanded.

‘So that you can get your sails furled before midnight,’ he answered quickly. ‘And I am an able seaman.’

‘Come on.’

He scrambled over the string-piece and dropped into the boat, as light as thistle-down.

He took the oars. ‘ I have to be back by twelve,’ he remarked. ‘But it can be managed, and you will want to get back yourself.’

‘ How do you know I will? ’ I growled. ‘Confound your impudence!’

‘Dinner!’ he replied with a triumphant smile. ‘You would n’t miss it, would you?’

It was true, I would not miss it willingly. But I said nothing, and the boy pulled me to the side of my boat in a seamanlike manner, and jumped out, and made the painter fast astern, and proceeded to loose my sails, and to get up the mainsail. It was all done before I knew it, and we were off. Then he dived below, and got an old broom, and cleaned the anchor, and got it in on deck, and coiled up all the ropes in sight, cast an eye up at the sails, and seeing that all was snug, came and sat crosslegged on the overhang. We were but just out of the harbor.

‘There!’ he said. ‘That’s done, and here we are. Now what do you want to do?’

I did not want to do anything but just sail — anywhere. So we went on aimlessly, and the boy showed me the points of interest as we came to them. There was a fish-trap in which I had come very near to getting tangled the day before, although I had not seen it at all in the smother. A fish-hawk was sitting hunched up but alert on one of its stakes, while its mate sailed over the water ahead of us, until he was attacked by a flock of screaming terns, and driven off his fishing grounds. And there was a rock showing its bare back above the water. I had not seen that either, and I must have passed very near it, and still nearer to another outcropping of the ledge which was waving its fringe of weed on the surface. The boy pointed it out to me.

‘Providence takes care of fools,’ I remarked. ‘I might have piled up on that yesterday. I wonder what would have happened. But I can’t be expected to learn my Coast Pilot in one lesson. I shall have to take you with me often.’

‘I shall be glad to go,’ he said, ‘when Miss Forth can spare me.’

‘Why are you painting the house?’ I asked abruptly.

‘Why,’ he said, looking at me in some surprise, ‘it needed painting.’

‘And Miss Forth hired you?’

‘Yes,’ he replied, hesitating; ‘that is, I saw that it needed paint, and she got it, and I am putting it on. She is n’t paying me — in money. Ellen Forth’s interests and mine,’ he added, laughing, ‘are indissolubly connected. Indeed, you might call them identical. She is very good to me.’

‘You seem to be very generous,’ I observed. ’I wish I could —’

‘Not so generous,’ the boy interrupted, chuckling. ‘Not so very generous.’

With that we fell silent; and presently he called my attention to the position of the sun, and to a low-lying bank of fog out at sea. I had seen the fog, and had been watching it. It would be in toward the end of the afternoon. We came about. He rose to trim the sheets, and again seated himself on the overhang.

‘Ellen Forth,’ he said, ‘has not had an easy time these last few years, since her father died. Her father was more intent upon giving her an education than upon saving, and sent her to one of the best schools in the country. She was not trained for a farmer’s life. ’

He seemed about to say more, but he did not.

It was a little after twelve when we dropped anchor. The boy rowed me ashore furiously, leaped out and ran up the wharf, and disappeared under Miss Forth’s elms, while I watched him, wondering.

That was only the first of many times when the painter boy sailed with me. I did not know when he did his painting, unless it was very early in the morning, before my breakfast; but the painting was getting done. He was a very efficient sailor. So I took him when I could, and as the summer went on, that was nearly every day.

He was a great comfort to me. Ellen Forth was not. I rarely saw her except occasionally at supper and when I loafed in at the barn about four o’clock with my purpose very obvious. She was too busy, I suppose, with her cows and her little farm. She had but one man to help her, and he was not gifted with overmuch sense. There was the boy, of course, but I never saw him now, except on my boat. One day I aired my grievance against her, and asked her why I saw so little of her.

She smiled at me indulgently, as if I had been a small boy who must be humored when that was possible. It seemed as if I afforded her some amusement. Indeed, as I thought upon the matter, that had become her attitude toward me — an attitude which I like well enough, but there was something lacking.

‘Why,’ she said, ‘you are looking at me now.’

‘A very agreeable occupation,’ I replied. ‘I should like more of it.’

She laughed, and shook her head slowly.

‘What do you want me to do?’

‘ Sail with me sometimes. You ought to be a good sailor, — and to like it, — with your inheritance.’

‘ My father was a sea captain, as you must have found out, and I do like it. But I’m very busy, and I’m afraid,’ she finished, smiling and shaking her head again, ‘ that you’ll have to be content with what you get.’

‘Your painter boy? He is very comforting, but — not enough.’

But I could get nothing more out of her, and she turned away to weigh the milk.

I was morose and glum the next morning. My sailor boy saw it.

‘ What’s the matter? ’ he asked, when we were well under way, and he had seated himself on the overhang, as usual. ‘I will diagnose your trouble if you like.’

‘Well?’ I said curtly.

‘You’re in love,’ said the boy. ‘I know the symptoms.’

‘What!’ I cried. ‘Not that I am aware. And what do you know about love, anyway?’

‘I know a lot about it,’ the boy replied. ‘I’m in love myself. And a man never is aware of it until he is told.’

‘In love!’ I exclaimed pettishly. ‘Pshaw! I’m not. I’m put out because Ellen Forth won’t —’

The boy laughed merrily. ‘I knew it! You’re in love with Ellen Forth. You ’re not the first man to be in love with her.’

I glowered at him. ‘Perhaps you’re in love with her yourself,’ I growled.

The boy laughed more merrily than before; as if it were an excruciating joke. ‘That’s the best yet,’ he said. ‘No, I’m not. It was Ellen Forth who pointed out to me that I was in love. And she told me the very person, too.’

‘ She seems to be most perspicacious,’ I returned. ‘ Would you advise me to ask her counsel?’

‘Yes, yes,’ the boy cried, beating his hands upon his knees. ‘Go to it! Faint heart, you know. Go right up to her, and say something tender — and do whatever suggests itself. That part will take care of itself.’

I could not forbear smiling. ‘ But,’ I objected, ‘suppose she should n’t like the something tender — and whatever suggested itself. I should have to look around for a new boarding-place, or up anchor and leave.’

‘Oh, well,’ said the boy, crestfallen, ‘if the board is all you care for!’

‘It is not!’ I cried indignantly. ‘I care very little for the board. But she rarely comes to the table, and she won’t go sailing with me. What should a man think? And you would be along,’ I added.

‘Of course,’ said the boy, ‘I should be along. I wish that you could get her to go when I was along.’

And he burst into song, in his beautiful high tenor, but he did not sing anything in particular, only tra-la-la-la.

‘Oh, dry up!’ I said in disgust. ‘Sing something you know.’

He laughed. ‘How can I dry up and sing at the same time? Which shall it be?’

‘Sing!’

He had sung to me often. In fact, he usually sang when circumstances favored that exercise. He sang to me now, and I leaned back and watched the terns and the two fish-hawks and the clouds, and heard the gentle hiss of the water beside me. One of the hawks caught a fish, and went to a rock on the shore, and began to devour it—the fish, not the rock.

The boy broke off his song suddenly.

‘Ellen Forth,’ he observed, ‘is not busy in the evenings. She sits on the piazza until nine o’clock; sits on the piazza and looks out at the harbor. I happen to know it. And what then?’

I laughed. ‘I’ll try it,’ I said, ‘if it will please you. But how should I know — ’

‘Oh, fiddle!’ the boy retorted scornfully. ‘ Please yourself. She won’t put you off the piazza. Faint heart!’

‘Will you keep still?’ I cried angrily.

‘I will remove myself.’

And he went up forward, singing something about ‘faint heart,’ and seated himself on the heel of the bowsprit, and sang that detestable song at the top of his lungs.

‘Here!’ I called. ‘Come back here! Don’t you know that it puts her down by the head to have you up forward? Come here where you belong.’

‘Aye, aye, sir,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Better down by the head than down by the heart. You would n’t put her down by the heart.’ And he came and sat behind me again.

‘To-morrow,’ he went on, ‘I’d like to give you a lesson.’

‘In what?’

‘Making love. You need it.’

I declined his kind offices. He was an outrageous boy. But I followed his suggestion that evening, and sat with Ellen Forth on her piazza.

Next morning, the boy greeted me with an insinuating smile, but he said nothing until his work was done and we were out of the harbor. Then he came and sat cross-legged on the deck behind me.

‘Did you have a pleasant evening?’ he asked.

I kept my gaze straight ahead. ‘Very pleasant,’ I replied.

‘Is that all? At least, you managed a tender whisper in her ear?’

I shook my head.

‘Oh, dear!’ the boy sighed. ‘You’re very backward. You’ll never get anywhere, at this rate. Why, the summer is almost gone.’

‘What would Miss Forth have thought ? ’

‘Of the whisper in her ear? I know very well what she would have thought. I don’t know what she might have said. But you can’t tell by what they say.’

I laughed. ‘A lot you know about it!’

‘I do, though. It’s queer, is n’t it, that they should like such a monotony, but they seem to.’

I said nothing. I would hold no further conversation with the boy upon that subject.

He waited for some time. ‘ Oh, well,’ he said at last, ‘if you want to get huffy about it, you may.’

He went forward and sat with his back against the mast, and looked out ahead, humming to himself all the while. I let him sit there for nearly fifteen minutes, and then I called him back. I was not happy. I liked to have him near me.

That evening, I dawdled on the wharf for half an hour, and then went back to Ellen Forth’s, having decided that I would not do so. I got into the habit of spending my evenings there. She was always pleasant, and seemed glad enough to see me; but not too glad, not as glad as I was to be there. Her manner toward me was that of an indulgent aunt. I would have given something to know wherein I afforded her amusement. I was making no headway, and I knew it, and the knowledge did not tend to make me more pleasing.

Every morning I went sailing with my sailor boy, and almost every afternoon I went alone, for I could not persuade Miss Forth to go, although I tried many times. And each time that I failed, my sailor boy would discover it somehow. He seemed to know it by intuition. It was uncanny.

‘What’s the matter with you?' he cried one day. ‘Must you go mooning around like a sick calf whenever Ellen refuses to go sailing?’

‘I don’t like being made a fool of,’ I said gruffly.

‘Nobody’s making a fool of you except yourself. You ’ll find out one of these days, when you manage to get up your courage. I don’t believe you’ve got any courage.’

I had mighty little where she was concerned. I sighed; and the boy laughed in delight.

‘Cheer up!’ he cried, giving me a gentle pat on the shoulder. ‘ We can go for a long sail to-morrow. The lovely Ellen will put us up a lunch. I spoke to her about it.’

III

Accordingly, the next morning, the boy appeared with a huge hamper, which he deposited carefully in the cabin. There was not much wind, and the boat almost steered herself. We said little. I was thinking that here it was September, and in the natural course of events I should go for good — or for ill — within a few weeks, and it looked as if I should go alone. I think that I have as much courage as the next man, but Ellen Forth had given me absolutely no reason to believe that her attitude was other than that of an indulgent aunt.

I do not know of what the boy was thinking, but he did not seem inclined to talk, which was contrary to his habit, which was distinctly cheerful and merry. I closed my eyes for a bit, — I can steer very well with my eyes shut, for a little while, if there is not too much wind, — and presently the boy began to sing.

His voice was extraordinarily rich and sweet and high, and I listened, and did not move or speak, and I opened my eyes only occasionally and for the briefest instant. He was flat on his back on the deck, with the brim of his hat turned down, and he looked up at the clouds, I suppose, for I glanced at him once or twice, but I could not see his eyes. He sang for more than an hour, I should think.

Suddenly he stopped, and leaped to his feet.

‘Fog’s coming,’ he cried, ‘and wind with it.’

He had seen the little ragged wisps of fog driving overhead.

I had been very nearly asleep for a long time, lulled by his voice, but I was wide-awake in an instant. There was the fog nearly upon us, a great gray cloud which blotted out everything. The boy trimmed in the sheets, and then the fog came, and the wind with it, as he had said.

‘Let me have her,’ he said. ‘I’ll take her into a little cove I know, and we’ll have our lunch.’

How he managed it was a mystery to me, for the shore had been but a smudge of indigo on the horizon before the fog came, and now the fog was as thick as cheese. But he did it cleanly, and we anchored, with the white sand of the beaches just visible on either side of us through the fog. We had our lunch at our leisure, and emptied Ellen Forth’s hamper in that enveloping silence. Then we stretched ourselves at our ease.

Presently he got up slowly. The fog was not as thick as it had been.

‘Shall we up anchor?’ he asked. ‘This will clear away soon.’

He hoisted the mainsail, and by the time the halyards were coiled down the sun was beginning to struggle through. We were getting up the anchor, the boy and I, and had it hanging over the bows, when she began to pay off. The sheet caught, and she came up again, and the boy muttered something impatiently, and started to run aft. She paid off again, on the other tack, and the boy was nearly there, but on the lee side, when the sheet came loose suddenly, and the boom swung off. It carried the boy with it, and dropped him neatly into the water.

I let the anchor run, and I ran aft, and I threw over one of my cushions. They are life-preservers. The boy had disappeared, and I was afraid he might be under the boat. I stripped off my coat and shoes, and dived in.

I found him down there. He had got caught, for a few seconds, against the side of the boat, and had just got free and was coming up; and I thought I saw him smile, but you cannot see clearly under water, and there was the shadow of the hull. I reached for him, and the boat began to drift astern, and we came up together under her bows. I saw that he had lost his peaked hat, and I thought that I saw something else; but streams of water were running over my eyes. I brushed the water off, and looked again. The loss of the peaked hat had freed masses of dark hair, which streamed over my arm; and the face which looked up from my shoulder, regarding me with eyes filled with amusement, was the face of Ellen Forth.

In my amazement, I almost dropped her.

‘Oh, don’t let me go!’ she cried softly. ‘Don’t let me go!’

Then her amusement was too much for her, and she laughed. Oh, how she laughed!

‘Ellen Forth!’ I cried, out of all manner of patience. ‘I—I’d like to shake you!’

‘Why don’t you?’ she asked. ‘Why don’t you do it? You may if you like.’

‘I will,’ I said; ‘and the only reason I don’t treat you worse is that I love you too much.’

‘And I never guessed it!’ she said. ‘To think that I could be so blind!’ And she laughed again.

I kissed her. ‘ You ’re an awful fraud, Ellen.’

‘I can swim perfectly well,’ she replied, ‘ if you mean that. But you don’t care if I am a fraud, do you? Say you don’t.’

‘Well, I don’t. But, if you’re going to keep on being one — ’

‘I’m not,’ she interrupted hastily. ‘Never fear, for I’m not. And now don’t you think we’d better get aboard ?’

Two hours later, we walked slowly under her great elms, and she mounted the steps more slowly yet, and she sat down on the top step while I stood below, and she looked at me and smiled.

She had put on a spare white suit of mine, and I carried my sailor boy’s clothes in a wet bundle. I tossed them on the step beside her.

She put her hand upon them with a loving gesture.

‘I suppose my little game is up,’ she said, sighing regretfully. ‘It was such fun, — such fun, — after I had found out something.’

‘How did you do it?’ I asked. ‘The change of costume is not enough.’

‘Oh, no. That would be too easy. It is change of expression. I took a course in it.’

‘And which is you — really you?’

‘Both,’ she answered; ‘both, but the boy is best, I think. Ellen had to be repressed when you were here. I very nearly exploded. Which did you like best?’

‘Both,’ I answered.

I suppose my eyes must have expressed my intention.

‘No,’ she said, shaking her head, ‘not now.’ Still she sat and looked at me, a soft light shining in her eyes. ‘I shall be at home this evening.’

The impatient lowing of cows came to us from the barn.

‘Mercy!’ Ellen cried in dismay. She got up quickly. ‘I have to milk the cows. I had forgotten all about the cows. Will you come?’

She was holding out her hand to me. Would I come!