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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 12
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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 12 Post by :brennan Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :1093

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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII

Elizabeth did not visit the Minot place that evening, as she had said she meant to do. It may be that Sears was a trifle disappointed, but even he would have been obliged to confess that that particular evening was not the time for him to receive callers. He ate his supper--a very small portion of the meal which Judah had provided for him--and, soon afterward, retired to the spare stateroom and bed. Undressing was a martyrdom, and he had hard work to keep back the groans which the pain in his legs tempted him to utter. There was no doubt that he had twisted those shaky limbs of his more than he realized. He had wrenched them severely, how severely he scarcely dared think. But they forced him to think all that night, and the next morning Judah insisted on going for the doctor.

Doctor Sheldon examined the "spliced timbers," fumed and scolded a good deal, but at last grudgingly admitted that no irreparable harm had been done.

"You're luckier than you deserve, Cap'n," he declared. "It's a wonder you aren't ruined altogether. Now you stay right in that bed until I tell you to get up. And that won't be to-day, or to-morrow either. Perhaps the day after that--well, we'll see. But those legs of yours need absolute rest. Judah, you see that they get it, will you? If he tries to get up you knock him back again. Those are orders. Understand?"

"Aye, aye, sir," replied Judah, promptly. "I'll have a handspike handy. He won't turn out, I'll see to it."

Sears' protestations that he couldn't waste time in bed, that he had too many important things to attend to, went for nothing. According to Sheldon and Judah his legs were the only things of real importance just then and they needed absolute rest. Down inside him the captain realized that this was true, and so grumblingly resigned himself to the two days of imprisonment. With the most recent issues of the _Cape Cod Item and one or two books from the shelves in the sitting room closet, books of the vintage of the '40's and '50's, but fortunately of a strong sea flavor, he endeavored to console himself, while Judah attended to the household duties or went down town on errands.

Elizabeth called that first forenoon, but did not see him. The doctor had warned Judah to head off visitors. "They may not do any harm, but they certainly won't do any good, and I want him to have absolute rest," said Sheldon. So Judah guarded the outer portal, and, when he went out, hung up a warning placard. "OUT. NO ADMITENTS. DOORS LOKED. KEY UNDER MAT." The information concerning the key was for the doctor's benefit.

But Elizabeth sent her good wishes and sympathy. So did her mother. So, too, did Esther Tidditt, and Miss Snowden, and Miss Peasley, and in fact all the Fair Harbor inmates. For the first day Mr. Cahoon was kept busy transmitting messages to the spare stateroom.

But about this time Bayport began to rock with a new series of sensations and, except by the very few, Captain Kendrick was forgotten. The news of Judge Knowles' various legacies became known and spread through the village like fire in a patch of dead weeds. The Fair Harbor sat up nearly all of one night discussing and commenting upon the good fortune which had befallen the Berrys. And by no means all of the time was used in congratulations.

"Humph!" sniffed Susanna Brackett, her lips squeezed so tightly together that her mustache stood on end. "Humph!"

Miss Snowden nodded. "Of course," she said, "I'm not a person to hint, or anything of that sort. But--_but if somebody'll tell me _why the judge left all that money to her I should like to hear 'em."

Mrs. Brackett opened her lips sufficiently to observe that so should she. "Of course," she added, "the five thousand that Lobelia left Cordelia might have been expected, they was real friendly always. But why did Judge Knowles leave it all to Elizabeth and not one cent to her mother? _That I _can't understand."

Miss Peasley smiled. "We used to wonder why Elizabeth kept runnin' to the judge's all the time," she said. "He was sick and feeble and we thought 'twas queer her pesterin' him so. _Now_--well, it pays to hang around sick folks, don't it? They're easier to coax, maybe, than the well kind.... Course I ain't sayin' there was any coaxin' done."

Little Mrs. Tidditt's feathers had begun to rise. "Oh, no!" she snapped. "You ain't _sayin' anything, any of you. Judge Knowles was business head of this--this old cats' home afore he app'inted Cap'n Kendrick to the job, and you know that. Elizabeth _had to go to him about all sorts of money matters, and you know that, too. As for her tryin' to coax him to leave her money, that's just rubbish. He always liked her, thought the world of her ever since she was a little girl, and he left her the twenty thousand because of that and for no other reason. That's why _I think he left it to her; but, if some of the rest of you would be better satisfied, I'll tell her what you say--or _ain't sayin', Desire--and let her answer it herself."

This not being at all what Miss Peasley and the others wished, no more was said about undue influence at the time. But much was said at times when the pugnacious Esther was not present, and there was marked speculation concerning what Miss Berry would do with her money, what Mr. Phillips would do when he returned to Bayport, whether or not Cordelia Berry would continue to be matron at the Harbor, and what Sears Kendrick's plans for the future might be.

"Of course," said Mrs. Brackett, "the judge fixed it so he would get his fifteen hundred so long as he stays manager. But will he stay long? There's Mr. Phillips to be considered now, I should think. _He'll have somethin' to say about the--er--retreat his wife founded, won't he?"

Mrs. Constance Cahoon made a remark.

"George Kent'll come in for a nice windfall some of these days, it looks like," she observed, significantly. "What makes you look so funny, Elviry?"

Miss Snowden smiled. "Will he?" she inquired.

"Well, won't he? When he marries Elizabeth----"

"Yes. Yes, _when he does."

"Well, he's goin' to, ain't he? Why, he's been keepin' comp'ny with her for two years. Everybody cal'lates they're engaged."

"Yes. But _they don't say they are.... Oh, what is it Aurora?"

Mrs. Chase, who had been listening with her hand at her ears, had caught a little of the conversation.

"If you mean her and George Kent is engaged, Constance," she declared, "they ain't. I asked Elizabeth if they was, myself, asked her much as a month ago, and she said no. Pretty nigh took my head off, too."

Elvira's smile broadened. She nodded, slowly and with mysterious significance. "I'm not so sure about that engagement," she observed. "Some things I've seen lately have set me to thinking. To thinking a good deal.... Um ... yes. It looks to me as if somebody--_somebody_, I mention no names--may have had a hint of what was coming and began to lay plans according.... No, I shan't say any more--now. And I give in that it seems too perfectly ridiculous to believe. But things like that sometimes do happen, and ... Well, we'll wait and see."

Happy in the knowledge that she had aroused curiosity as well as envy of her superior knowledge, she subsided. Mrs. Tidditt concluded that portion of the discussion.

"Well," she remarked, crisply, "I don't see why we need to sit here talkin' about engagements or folks' gettin' married. Nobody has shown any symptoms of wantin' to marry any of _this crowd, so far as I can make out."

While the town was at the very height of its agitation concerning the Knowles will, there came another earthquake. Egbert Phillips returned. He alighted from the train at the Bayport depot on the second morning of Sears's imprisonment in the spare stateroom and before night the information that he imparted--confidentially, of course--and the hints he gave concerning his plans for the future, made the Berry legacies and all the other legacies take second place as gossip kindlers.

Judah came rushing into the house later that afternoon, his arms full of bundles--purchases at Eliphalet's store--and his mouth full of words. He dropped everything, eggs, salt fish, tea and shoe laces, on the kitchen table and tore pell-mell into his lodger's bedroom. Captain Kendrick, propped up with pillows, was of course stretched out in bed. There was what appeared to be a letter in his hand, a letter apparently just received, for a recently opened envelope lay on the comforter beside him, and upon his face was an expression of bewilderment, surprise and marked concern. Judah was too intent upon his news to notice anything else and Sears hastily gathered up letter and envelope and thrust them beneath the pillow. Then Judah broke loose.

Egbert had come back, had come back to Bayport to live, for good. He had come on the morning train. Lots of folks saw him; some of them had talked with him. "And what do you cal'late, Cap'n Sears? You'll never guess in _this world! By the crawlin' prophets, he swears he ain't rich, the way all hands figured out he was. No, sir, he ain't! 'Cordin' to his tell he ain't got no money at all, scarcely. All them stocks and--and bonds and--and securitums and such like have gone on the rocks. They was unfort'nate infestments, he says. He says he's in straightened out circumstances, whatever they be, but he's come back here to spend his declinin' days--that's what Joe Macomber says he called 'em, his declinin' days--in Bayport, 'cause he loves the old place, 'count of Lobelia, his wife, lovin' it so, and he can maybe scratch along here on what income he's got, and--and----"

And so on, for sentence after sentence. Sears heard some of it, but not all. The letter he had just read--the letter from Judge Knowles which Bradley had handed him before he left Orham--was of itself too startling and disturbing to be dismissed from his thoughts; but he heard some, enough to make him realize that there might be, in all probability was, trouble ahead. Just why Phillips had returned to Bayport, to take up his abode there permanently, was hard to understand, but there certainly must be some reason beside his "love" for the place and its people. Neither place nor people should, so it seemed to the captain, appeal strongly to a citizen of the world, of the fashionable world, like Mr. Egbert Phillips. It is true that he might perhaps live cheaper there than in most communities, but still.... No, Sears was sure that the former singing teacher had returned to the Cape in pursuance of a plan. What that plan might be he could not guess, unless the widower contemplated contesting his wife's gift to the Fair Harbor. That would be a losing fight, was certain to be, for Judge Knowles had seen to that. But if not that--what?

He gave very little thought to the matter at the time, for Judge Knowles' letter and its astounding proposition were monopolizing his mental machinery. That letter would have, as he might have expressed it, knocked him on his beam ends even if the Foam Flake's unexpected outbreak had not knocked him there already. The letter was rather long, but it was to the point, nevertheless. Judge Knowles begged him--him, Sears Kendrick--to accept the appointment of trustee in charge of Elizabeth Berry's twenty thousand dollar inheritance. The latter was hers in trust until she was thirty.

"I have seen enough of you to believe in you, Kendrick," so the judge had written. "Besides, you know the Berrys, mother and daughter, by this time, better than any one else--even Bradley--and you know my opinion of Cordelia's headpiece. I don't want her soft-headedness or foolishness to get any of Elizabeth's money away from her. Elizabeth is a dutiful daughter and an unselfish girl and she may feel--or be led to feel--that her mother ought to have this money or a large part of it. I don't want this to happen. Of course I expect Elizabeth to share her income with her mother, but I don't want the principal disturbed. After she is thirty she can, of course, do what she likes with it, but that time isn't now by some years. And then there is that Egbert. Look out for him. I say again, look out for him. If _he ever got a penny of this money I should turn over in my grave. Perhaps you think I am an old fool and am treating him with more seriousness than he deserves. You won't think so when you know him as well as I do, mark my words. And I think you are the one man around here that has had worldly experience enough, backed by brains and common-sense, to see through him and handle him. I don't mean that there aren't other smart men in town, but most of the smartest are in active service and at sea a good share of the time. You will be right here for a few years at least. And you are honest, and you like Elizabeth Berry, and will look out for her interests.... Of course I can't compel you to take this trusteeship, but I hope you will, as a favor to her and to me. I have written her a letter similar to this, but I have left her a free choice in the matter. If she does not want you for her trustee then that ends it. Being the kind of girl she is, I think she will be mighty glad to have you...."

And this was the proposition which was causing the captain so much anxiety and perplexity. It interfered with the sleep which Doctor Sheldon seemed to feel necessary to his patient's complete recovery from the setback. It prevented his keeping those damaged legs of his absolutely quiet. Time and time again Judah, at work in what he always referred to as the "galley," heard his lodger tossing about in the spare stateroom and occasionally muttering to himself.

For Sears, facing the problem of accepting or declining the trust, was quite aware that the dilemma upon which the judge had perched him had two very sharp horns. If he declined--always of course supposing that Elizabeth Berry asked him to accept--if he declined he would be acting contrary to her wishes and Judge Knowles'. If he did decline, then Bradley would be the trustee. Knowles, in a part of the letter not quoted, had said that he imagined that would have to be the alternative. And Bradley--a good man, an honest and capable man--was not a resident of Bayport and could not, as he could, keep an eye upon the Berrys nor upon those who might try to influence them. And Bradley did not know Bayport as he, Kendrick, did.

But on the other hand, suppose Elizabeth begged him to take the trusteeship and he did take it? To begin with, he dreaded the added responsibility and distrusted his ability to handle investments. His record as a business man ashore was brief enough and not of a kind to inspire self-confidence. And what would people say concerning it and him? He and Elizabeth were in daily contact. Their association in the management of the Fair Harbor was close already. If he should be given charge of her fortune--for it was a fortune, in Bayport eyes--would not his every action be liable to misconstruction? Would not malicious gossip begin to whisper all sorts of things? To misconstrue motives and ...? Perhaps they were already whispering. He had seen Elvira Snowden but once since she and Mrs. Chase surprised him and Elizabeth in the Eyrie, but on that one occasion Elvira had, so it seemed to him, looked queer--and knowing. It was foolish, of course; it was ridiculous, and wicked. He and Elizabeth were friendly, had come to be very good friends indeed, but----

And here his train of thought stopped dead, while the same guilty shiver he had before felt ran up and down his spine.... Good Lord above! _what was he thinking of? What could be the matter with him? Why, even if things were as they had been he would be crazy to.... And now she was a rich woman, rich compared to him, at least.

No! And over and over again, No! He would decline the trusteeship. And he would make it his business to get well and to sea again as soon as possible. As soon as she came to him to mention the judge's letter and its insane request he would settle that proposal once and for all.

But she did not come. On the third day the doctor refused to permit him to leave the bed.

"You stay where you are for another two days," commanded Sheldon. "It will do you good, and while I'm boss you shan't take chances. Cahoon and I have got you where we want you now and we'll keep you there till we pipe you on deck. Eh, Judah?"

Judah grinned. "Aye, aye," was his rejoinder. "Got the handspike ready to my fist, Doctor. He'll stay put if I have to lash him to the bunk with a chain cable. It's all for your good, Cap'n Sears. That's what my ma used to tell me when she dosed me up every spring with brimstone and molasses."

So, reluctantly realizing that it was for his good, Sears "stayed put." He had a few callers, although Judah saw to it that their calls were brief. Elizabeth was not one of these. She came at least once a day to inquire about him, but she did not ask to see him. The captain, trying not to be disappointed, endeavored to console himself with the idea that she was following Judge Knowles' advice, as repeated by Bradley, and meant to take plenty of time before making up her mind concerning the trusteeship.

One of his visitors was George Kent. On the fourth day, on his way to the Macombers for dinner, the young fellow called at the Minot place. Judah was out, but Sears heard his visitor's voice and step through the open doors of the dining room and kitchen and shouted to him to come in. His manner when he entered was, so it seemed to the captain, a trifle constrained, but his inquiries concerning the latter's health were cordial enough. As for Sears, he, of course, made it a point to be especially cordial.

They talked of many things, but not of their recent encounter on the Orham road. Sears did not like to be the first to mention it and it appeared as if Kent wished to avoid it altogether. But at last, after a short interval of silence, a break in the conversation, he did refer to it.

"Cap'n Kendrick," he said, reddening and looking rather nervous and uncomfortable, "I--I suppose you thought I was--was pretty disagreeable the other evening. I mean when we met in the rain and Elizabeth was with you."

"Eh? Disagreeable?"

"Yes. I wasn't very pleasant, I know. I'm sorry. That--that was one of the things I came to say. I lost my temper, I guess."

"Well, if you did I don't know as I blame you, George. A night like that is enough to lose any one's temper. I lost mine. The Foam Flake ran away with it. But he's repentin' in sackcloth and ashes, I guess. Judah says the old horse is lamer than I am."

He laughed heartily. Kent's laugh was short. His uneasiness seemed to increase.

"Yes," he said, returning to the subject which was evidently uppermost in his mind. "Yes, I did--er--lose my temper, perhaps. But--but it seems almost as if I had a--er--well, some excuse. You see--well, you see, Cap'n Kendrick, I didn't like it very much, the idea of Elizabeth's going over to Orham with--with you, you know."

Sears looked at him in surprise. "Why, she went with me because it was the simplest way to get there," he explained. "I was goin' anyhow, and Bradley had asked her to be there, too. So, it was natural enough that we should go together."

"Well--well, I don't see why she didn't tell me she was going."

"Perhaps she didn't think to tell you."

"Nonsense!... I mean.... Well, anyhow, if she had told me I should have looked out for her, of course. I could have hired a rig and driven her over."

"But she knew you were at work down at the store. She said that, didn't she? Seems to me I remember hearin' her say that she didn't want you to--to feel that you must take the afternoon off on her account."

The young man stirred impatiently. "That's foolishness," he declared. "She seems to think Bassett has a mortgage on my life. He hasn't, not by a long shot. I don't mean to keep his books much longer; I've got other things to attend to. My law is getting on pretty well."

"Glad to hear it, George."

"Yes. I shall read with Bradley for a while longer, of course, but after that--well, I don't know. I was talking with--with a man who has had a good deal of experience with lawyers--real city lawyers, not the one-horse sort--and he says the thing for an ambitious young fellow to do is to get into one of those city offices. Then you have a chance."

"Oh--I see. But isn't it kind of hard to get in, unless you have some acquaintance or influence?"

"I don't know as it is. And I guess this man will help me if I want him to."

"So? That's good. Did he say he would?"

"No-o, not exactly, but I think he will. And he's got the acquaintances, all right enough. He knows almost everybody that's worth while."

"That's the kind to tie to. Who is he? Somebody up in Boston?"

George shifted again. "I'd rather not mention his name just now," he said. "Our talks have been rather--er--confidential and I don't know that I should have said anything about them. But I've got plans, you see. Then there is my aunt's estate. I am the administrator of that."

"Oh? I didn't know. Your aunt, eh?"

"Yes, my Aunt Charlotte, mother's sister. She was single and lived up in Meriden, Connecticut. She died about a month ago and left everything to my half-sister and me--my married sister in Springfield, you know. I have charge of--of the estate, settling it and all that."

Sears smiled inwardly at the self-satisfaction with which the word "estate" was uttered. But outwardly he was serious enough.

"Good for you, George!" he exclaimed. "Congratulations. I hope you've come in for a big thing."

His visitor colored slightly. "Well--well, of course," he admitted, "the estate isn't very large, but----"

"But it's an estate. I'm glad for you, son."

"Yes--er--yes.... But really, Cap'n, I didn't mean to talk about that. I--I just wanted to say that--that I was sorry if I--er--wasn't as polite as I might have been the other night, and--well, I thought--it seemed as if I--I ought to say--to say----"

Whatever it was it seemed to be hard to say. The captain tried to help.

"Yes, of course, George," he prompted. "Heave ahead and say it."

"Well--well, it's just this, Cap'n Kendrick: Elizabeth and you are--are together a good deal, in the Fair Harbor affairs, you know, and--and--she doesn't think, of course--and you _are a lot older than she is--but all the same----"

Sears interrupted.

"Here! Hold on, George!" he put in, sharply. "What's all this?"

Kent's embarrassment increased. "Why--why, nothing," he stammered. "Nothing, of course. But you see, Cap'n, people are silly--they don't stop to count ages and things like that. They see you with her so much.... And when they see you taking her to ride--alone----"

"Here! That'll do!" All the cordiality had left the captain's voice. "George," he said, after a moment, "I guess you'd better not say any more. I don't think I had better hear it. Miss Elizabeth is a friend of mine. She is, as you say, years younger than I am. I _am with her a good deal, have to be because of our Fair Harbor work together. I took her to Orham with me just as I'd take her mother, or you, or any other friend who had to go and wanted a lift. But--_but if you or any one else is hintin' that.... There, there! George, don't be foolish. Maybe you'd better run along now. The doctor says I mustn't get excited."

His visitor looked remarkably foolish, but the stubbornness had not altogether left his face or tone as he said: "Well, that's all right, Cap'n. I knew you would understand. _I didn't mean anything, but--but, you see, in Elizabeth's case I feel a--a sort of responsibility. You--you understand."

Even irritated and angry as he was, Sears could not help smiling at the last sentence.

"George," he observed, "you've been fairly open and aboveboard in your remarks to me. Suppose I ask you a question. Just what _is your responsibility in the case? I have heard said, and more than once, that you and Elizabeth Berry are engaged to be married. Is it so?"

The young man grew redder yet, hesitated, and turned to the door.

"I--I'm not at liberty to say," he declared.

"Wait! Hold on! There is this responsibility business. If you're not engaged--well, honestly, George, I don't quite see where your responsibility comes in."

Kent hesitated a moment longer. Then he seemed to make up his mind.

"Well, then, we are--er--er--practically," he said.

"Practically?... Oh! Well, I--I certainly do congratulate you."

George had his hand on the latch, but turned back.

"Don't--please don't tell any one of it," he said earnestly. "It--it mustn't be known yet.... You see, though, why I--I feel as if you--as if we all ought to be very careful of--of appearances--and--and such things."

"Yes.... Yes, of course. Well, all right, George. Good-by. Call again."

Judah, who had been over at the Fair Harbor doing some general chores around the place, came in a little later. His lodger called to him.

"Judah," he commanded, "come in here. I want to talk to you." When Mr. Cahoon obeyed the order, he was told to sit down a moment.

"I want to ask you some questions," said the captain. "What is the latest news of Egbert Phillips? Where is he nowadays? And what is he doin'?"

Judah was quite ready to give the information, even eager, but he hesitated momentarily.

"Sure you want me to talk about him, Cap'n?" he asked. "Last time I said anything about him--day afore yesterday 'twas--you told me to shut up. Said you had somethin' more important to think about."

"Did I, Judah? Well, 'twas true then, I guess."

"Um-hm. And you ordered me not to mention his name again till you h'isted signals, or somethin' like that."

"Yes, seems to me I did. Well, the signals are up. What is he doin'?"

"Doin'? He ain't doin' nothin'--much. He's roomin' up to the Central House yet, but from what I hear tell he ain't goin' to stay there. He's cal'latin', so the folks down to the store say, to find some nice home place where he can board. He don't call it boardin'. Thoph Black says he said what he wanted was a snug little den where him and his few remainin' household gods could be together. Thoph said he couldn't make out what household gods was, and I'm plaguey sure _I can't. Sounds heathenish to me. And I told Thoph, says I, 'That ain't no way to hunt a boardin' house, goin' round hollerin' for a den. If I was takin' in boarders and a feller hove alongside and says, "Can I hire one of them dens of yours?" he'd get somethin' that he wan't lookin' for.' Huh! Den! Sounds like a circus menagerie, don't it? Not but what I've seen boardin'-house rooms that was like dens. Why, one time, over in Liverpool 'twas, me and a feller named----"

"Yes, yes, all right, Judah. I've heard about it. But what else is he doin'? Where does he go? Is he makin' friends? Is he talkin' much about his plans? What do folks say about him?"

Judah answered the last question first.

"They like him," he declared. "All hands are so kind of sorry for him, you see. Course we all cal'lated he was rich, but he ain't. And them bonds and such that him and his wife had all went to nawthin' and he come back here after she died, figgerin', I presume likely, same as anybody would, that he owned the Fair Harbor property and that the fifty thousand was just a sort of--er--loan, as you might say. He told Joe Macomber--or George Kent, I forget which 'twas--he's with George consider'ble; I guess likely 'twas him--that, of course, he wouldn't have disturbed the property or the fifty thousand for the world, not for a long spell anyhow, but ownin' it give him a feelin' of security, like an anchor to wind'ard, you understand, and----"

"So folks like him, do they?"

"You bet you they do. He don't complain a mite, that's one reason they like him. Says at first, of course, he was kind of took all aback with his canvas flappin', but now he's thought it over and realizes 'twas his dear wife's notion and her wishes is law and gospel to him, so he's resigned."

"And he doesn't blame anybody, then?"

Mr. Cahoon hesitated. "Why--er--no, not really, fur's I hear. Anyhow, if there was any influence used same as it shouldn't be, he says, he forgives them that used it. And, so far as that goes, he don't repute no evil motives to nobody, livin' or dead."

"Repute? Oh, impute, you mean."

"I guess so, some kind of 'pute'. He uses them old-fashioned kind of words all the time. That's why he's so pop'lar amongst the Shakespeare Readin' Society and the rest. _They've took him up, I tell ye! Minister Dishup and his wife they've had him to dinner, and Cap'n Elkanah and his wife have had him to supper and yesterday noon he was up here to the Harbor for dinner."

"Oh, was he?"

"Yus. He made 'em a little speech, too. All hands came into the parlor after dinner and he kind of--of preached to 'em. Told about his travelin' in foreign lands and a lot about Lobelia and how she loved the Harbor and everybody in it, and how him and her used to plan for it, and the like of that. Desire Peasley told me that 'twas the most movin' talk ever _she listened to. Said about everybody was cryin' some. 'Twas a leaky session, I judged. Oh, they love him over to the Harbor, I tell you!"

The captain was silent for a moment. Then he asked, "Did I understand you to say he and young Kent were friendly?"

"Yes, indeed. He seems to have took quite a fancy to George. Drops in to see him at the store and last night he went home along with him to your sister's--to Sary's. Had supper and spent the evenin', I believe."

Judah was dismissed then and the talk ended, but Sears had now something else to think about. There was little doubt in his mind who the "man of experience" was, the person who had advised Kent concerning the getting of a position with a law firm in the city. He wondered what other advice might have been given. Was it Mr. Phillips who had suggested to Kent the impropriety of Elizabeth's being seen so much in his--Kendrick's--company? If so, why had he done it? What was Egbert's little plan?

Of course it was possible that there was no plan of any kind. Sears had taken a dislike to Phillips when they met and that fact, and Judge Knowles' hatred of the man, might, he realized, have set him to hunting mares' nests. Well, he would not hunt any more at present. He would await developments. But he would not lie in that bed and wait for them. He had been there long enough. In spite of Judah's protests and with the latter's help, commandeered and insisted upon, he got up, dressed, and spent the rest of that afternoon and evening in the rocking chair in the kitchen.

And that evening Elizabeth came to see him. He was almost sure why she had come, and as soon as she entered, sent Judah down town after smoking tobacco. Judah declared there was "up'ards of ha'f a plug aboard the ship somewheres" and wanted to stay and hunt for it, but the captain, who had the plug in his pocket, insisted on his going. So he went and Sears and Elizabeth were alone. He was ready for the interview. If she asked him to accept the trusteeship of her twenty thousand dollars he meant to refuse, absolutely.

And she did ask him that very thing. After inquiries concerning his injured limbs and repeated cautions concerning his never taking such risks again, "even with the old Foam Flakes," she came directly to the subject. She spoke of Judge Knowles' letter to her, the letter which Bradley had handed her at the time when he gave Sears his. She had read it over and over again, she said.

"You know what he wrote me, Cap'n Kendrick," she went on. "I can't show you the letter, it is too personal, too--too.... Oh, I can't show it to any one--now, not even to mother. But you must know what he asked--or suggested, because he says he has written you a letter asking you to take charge of my money for me, to be my trustee. I suppose you must think it queer that I have let all these days go by without coming to speak with you about it. I hope----"

He interrupted. "Now, Elizabeth, before we go any further," he said, earnestly, "don't you suppose any such thing. The judge wrote me he had asked us both not to decide in a hurry, but to take plenty of time to think it over. I have thought it over, in fact, I haven't thought of much else since I opened that letter, and I have made up my mind----"

"Wait. Please wait a minute. I haven't been taking time to think over that at all. I have been thinking about the whole matter; whether I should accept the money--so very, very, very much money----"

"What! Not accept it? Of course you'll take it. He wanted you to take it. It was what he wanted as much as anybody could want anything. Why, don't you dare----"

"Hush! hush! You mustn't be so excited. And you mustn't move from that chair. If you do I shall go home this minute. I am going to accept the money."

"Good! Of course you are."

"Yes, I am. Because I do believe that he wanted me to have it so much. I know people will say--perhaps they are already saying all sorts of wicked, mean things. I don't--I won't let myself think what some of them may be saying about my influencing the judge, or things like that. But I don't care--that is, I care ever so much more for what _he said and what he wished. And he wanted you to take care of the money for me. You will, won't you, Cap'n Kendrick?"

Now it was Sears' turn. He had gone over a scene like this, the scene which he had foreseen, many times. He was kind, but he was firm. He told her that he should not accept the trusteeship. He could not. It was too great a responsibility for a man with as little--and that little unfortunate--business experience as he had had.

"It needs a banker or a lawyer for that job, Elizabeth," he declared. "What does a sailor know about handlin' money? You go to Bradley; Bradley's the man."

But she did not want Bradley. The judge only mentioned Bradley as second choice.

"He wanted you, Cap'n Kendrick. He had every confidence in you. You should see what he says about your ability and common-sense and--and honesty in the letter. Please."

"No, Elizabeth. As far as honesty goes I guess he's right. I am honest, at least I hope I should be. But for the rest--he's partial there. He seemed to take a fancy to me, and goodness knows I liked him. But you mustn't feel you've got to do this thing. He wrote me it was only a suggestion. You are absolutely free--he wrote me so--to go to Bradley or----"

"No." She rose to her feet. "I shan't go to Bradley or anybody but you. I am like him, Cap'n Kendrick; I trust you. I have come to know you and to believe in you. I like you. Why, you don't know how glad I was to find that he wanted you to do this for me. Glad! I--I felt----"

"Why, Elizabeth!"

He had not meant to speak. The words were forced from him involuntarily. Her tone, her eyes, the eager earnestness in her voice.... He did not say any more, nor did he look at her. Instead he looked at the patchwork comforter which had fallen from his knees to the floor, and fervently hoped that he had not already said too much. He stooped and picked up the comforter.

"And you will do it for me, won't you?" she pleaded.

"I can't. It wouldn't be right."

"Then I shall not take the money at all. _He gave it to me, _he asked me--the very last thing he asked was that you should do it. He put the trust in your hands. And you won't do it--for him--or for me?"

"Well, but--but---- Oh, good Lord! how can I?"

"Why can't you?"

The real reason he could not tell her. According to Kent--whether inspired by Phillips or not made little difference--people were already whispering and hinting. How much more would they hint and whisper if they knew that he had taken charge of her money? The thought had not occurred to her, of course; the very idea was too ridiculous for her to imagine; but that made but one more reason why he must think for her.

"No," he said, again. "No, I can't."

"But why? You haven't told me why."

He tried to tell her why, but his words were merely repetitions of what he had said before. He was not a good business man, he did not know how to handle money, even his own money. The judge had been very ill when he wrote those letters, if he had been well and himself he never would have thought of him as trustee. She listened for a time, her impatience growing. Then she rose.

"Very well," she said. "Then I shall not accept the twenty thousand. To me one wish of Judge Knowles' is as sacred as the other. He wanted you to take that trust just as much as he wanted me to have the money. If you won't respect one wish I shall not respect the other."

He could not believe she meant it, but she certainly looked and spoke as if she did. He faltered and hesitated, and she pressed her advantage. And at last he yielded.

"All right," he said desperately. "All right--or all wrong, whichever it turns out to be. I'll take the trustee job--try it for a time anyhow. But, I tell you, Elizabeth, I'm afraid we're both makin' a big mistake."

She was not in the least afraid, and said so.

"You have made me very happy, Cap'n Kendrick," she declared. "I can't thank you enough."

He shook his head, but before he could reply there came a sharp knock on the outer door, the back door of the house.

"Who on earth is that?" exclaimed Sears. Then he shouted, "Come in."

The person who came in was George Kent.

"Why, George!" said Elizabeth. Then she added. "What is it? What is the matter?"

The young man looked as if something was the matter. His expression was not at all pleasant.

"Evenin', George," said the captain. "Glad to see you. Sit down."

Kent ignored both the invitation and the speaker.

"Look here," he demanded, addressing Miss Berry: "do you know what time it is? It is ten o'clock."

His tone was so rude--so boyishly rude--that Sears looked up quickly and Elizabeth drew back.

"It's nearly ten o'clock," repeated Kent. "And you are over here."

"George!" exclaimed Sears, sharply.

"You are over here--with him--again."

It was Elizabeth who spoke now. She said but one word.

"Well?" she asked.

There was an icy chill about that "Well?" which a more cautious person that George Kent might have noticed and taken as a warning. But the young man was far from cautious at that moment.

"_Well?_" he repeated hotly. "I don't think it's well at all. I come see you and--I find you over here. And I find that every one else knows you are here. And they think it queer, too; I could see that they did.... Of course, I don't say----"

"I think you have said enough. I came here to talk with Cap'n Kendrick on a business matter. I told mother where I was going when I left the house. The others heard me, I suppose; I certainly did not try to conceal it. Why should I?"

"Why should you? Why, you should because--because---- Well, if you don't know why you shouldn't be here, he does."

"He? Cap'n Kendrick?"

"Yes. I--I told him why, myself. Only this noon I told him. I was here and I told him people were beginning to talk about you and he being together so much and--and his taking you to ride, and all that sort of thing. I told him he ought to be more careful of appearances. I said of course you didn't think, but he ought to. I explained that----"

"Stop!" Her face was crimson and she was breathing quickly. "Do you mean to say that--that people are talking--are saying things about--about.... What people?"

"Oh--oh, different ones. Of course they don't say anything much--er--not yet. But if we aren't careful they will. You see----"

"Wait. Are they--are they saying that--that---- Oh, it is _too wicked and foolish to speak! Are they saying that Cap'n Kendrick and I----"

Sears spoke. "Hush, hush, Elizabeth!" he begged. "They aren't sayin' anything, of course. George is--is just a little excited over nothin', that's all. He has heard Elvira or some other cat over there at the Harbor, probably. They're jealous because you have had this money left you."

"It is nothing to do with the money," Kent asserted. "Didn't I tell you this noon that you--that we had to be careful of appearances? Didn't I say----"

Again Elizabeth broke in.

"You have said all I want to hear--in this room, now," she declared. "There are a good many things for us both to say--and listen to, but not here.... Good night, Cap'n Kendrick. I am sorry I kept you up so late, and I hope all this--I hope you won't let this wicked nonsense trouble you. It isn't worth worrying about. Good night."

"But, Elizabeth," urged Sears, anxiously, "don't you think----"

"Good night. George, you had better come with me. I have some things to say to you."

She went out. Kent hesitated, paused for a moment, and then followed her. When Judah returned with the tobacco and a fresh cargo of rumors concerning Egbert Phillips he found his lodger not the least interested in either smoke or gossip.

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CHAPTER XIThe reading of the Knowles will, so Bradley had said, was to take place at the lawyer's office in Orham on Monday. It was Friday when Bradley called at the Minot place, and on Saturday morning Sears and Elizabeth discussed the matter. "Mr. Bradley said your name was on the list of those the judge asked to be on hand when the will was read," said the captain. "He asked me not to speak about the will to outsiders, and of course I haven't, but you're not an outsider. You're goin' over, I suppose?" She hesitated slightly. "Why, yes," she
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