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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 14
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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 14 Post by :brennan Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :1294

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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 14

CHAPTER XIV

If Elizabeth noticed that Sears was not as frequent a visitor at the Fair Harbor as he had formerly been she said nothing about it. She herself had ceased to run in at the Minot place to ask this question or that. Since the occasion when Mr. Phillips interrupted the business talk in the office and his apologies had brought about the slight disagreement--if it may be called that--between the captain and Miss Berry, the latter had, so Sears imagined, been a trifle less cordial to him than before. She was not coldly formal or curt and disagreeable--her mother was all of these things to the captain now, and quite without reason so far as he could see--Elizabeth was not like that, but she was less talkative, less cheerful, and certainly less confidentially communicative. At times he caught her looking at him as if doubtful or troubled. When he asked her what was the matter she said "Nothing," and began to speak of the bills they had been considering.

On one occasion she asked him a point blank question, one quite irrelevant to the subject at hand.

"Cap'n Kendrick," she asked, "how do you think Judge Knowles came to appoint you to be manager here at the Harbor?"

He was taken by surprise, of course. "Why," he stammered, "I--why, I don't know. That is, all I know about it is what he told me. He said he felt he ought to have some one, and I was near at home, and--and so he thought of me, I suppose."

"Yes, I know. You told me that.... But--but how did he know you wanted the position?"

"Wanted it? Good heavens and earth, I didn't want it! I fought as hard as I could not to take it. Why, I told you--you remember, that day when I first came over here; that time when Elvira and the rest wanted to buy the cast-iron menagerie; I told you then----"

"Yes," she interrupted again. "Yes, I know you did. But.... And the judge had never heard from you--had never...."

"Heard from me! Do you mean had I sent in an application for the job?"

"Oh, no, no! Not that. But you and he had never been--er--close friends in the old days, when you were here before?"

He could not guess what she was driving at. "Look here, Elizabeth," he said, "I've told you that I scarcely knew Judge Knowles before he sent for me and offered me this place. No man alive was ever more surprised than I was then. Why, I gathered that the judge had talked about me to you before he sent for me. Not as manager here, of course, but as--well, as a man. He told you that I was goin' to call, you said so, and I _know you and he had talked and laughed together about my fight with the hens in Judah's garden."

The trouble, whatever its cause, seemed to vanish. She smiled. "Yes, yes," she said. "Of course we had. He did like you, Judge Knowles did, and that was all--of course it was."

"All what?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing. How is Judah? I haven't seen him for two days."

She would not mention Judge Knowles again, but for the remainder of their session with the accounts she was more like her old self than she had been for at least a week, or so it seemed to him.

This was but one of those queer and disconcerting flare-ups of hers. One day, a week or so after she had questioned him concerning his appointment, he happened to be in the Harbor kitchen, and alone--of itself a surprising thing. Elvira Snowden and her group were holding some sort of committee meeting in the sitting room. Elvira was continually forming committees or circles for this purpose or that, purposes which fizzled out at about the third meeting of each group. Esther Tidditt was supposed to be in charge of the kitchen on this particular morning, but she had gone into the committee meeting in order to torment Elvira and Mrs. Brackett, a favorite amusement with her.

So Sears, wandering into the kitchen, happened to notice that the door of the store closet had been left open, and he was standing in front of it idly looking in. He was brought out of his day dream, which had nothing to do with the closet or its contents, by Elizabeth's voice. She had entered from the dining room and he had not heard her.

"Well," she asked, "I trust you find everything present or accounted for?"

Her tone was so crisply sarcastic that he turned in astonishment.

"Why--what?" he faltered.

"I said I trusted that you found everything in that closet as it should be. Have you measured the flour? My mother is matron here, Cap'n Kendrick, and she will be glad to have you take any precautions of that kind, I am sure. So shall I. But don't you think it might as well be done while she or I are here?"

He was bewildered.

"I don't know what you mean, Elizabeth," he said.

"Don't you?"

"No, I don't. I came in just now by the back door, and there was no one in the kitchen, so--so I waited for a minute."

"Why did you come by the back door? You didn't use to. Mother and I are usually in the office, or, at least, we are always glad to come there when you call."

He was still bewildered, but irritated, too.

"Why did I come by the back door?" he repeated. "Why, I've come that way a dozen times in the last fortnight. Don't you want me to come that way?"

Now she looked a trifle confused, but the flush was still on her cheeks and the sparkle in her eye.

"I'm sure I don't care how often you come that way," she said. "But--well, mother is matron here, Cap'n Kendrick. She may not be--perhaps she isn't--the most businesslike and orderly person in the world, but she is my mother. If you have any complaints to make, if you want to find out how things are kept, or managed, or----"

"Here!" he broke in. "Wait! What do you mean? Do you suppose I sneaked into this kitchen by myself to peek into that closet, and--and spy on your mother's managin'?... You don't believe anything of that kind. You can't."

She was more embarrassed now. "Why--why, no, I don't, Cap'n Kendrick," she admitted. "Of course I know you wouldn't sneak anywhere. But--but I have been given to understand that you and--well, Mr. Bradley--have not been--are not quite satisfied with the management--with mother's management. And----"

"Wait! Heave to!" Sears was excited now, and, as usual when excited, drifted into nautical phraseology. "What do you mean by sayin' I am not satisfied? Who told you that?"

"Why--well, you are not, are you? You questioned her about the coal a week ago, about how much she used in a week. And then you asked her about keeping the fires overnight, if she saw how many were kept, and if there was much waste. And two or three times you have been seen standing by the bins--figuring."

"Good Lord!" His exclamation this time was one of sheer amazement. "Good Lord!" he said again. "Why, I have been tryin', now winter is comin' on, to figure out how to save coal cost for this craft--for the Fair Harbor. You know I have. I asked your mother about the fires because I know how much waste there is likely to be when a fire is kept carelessly. And as for Bradley and I not bein' satisfied with your mother that is the wildest idea of all. I never talked with Bradley about the management here. It isn't his business, for one reason."

She was silent. Her expression had changed. Then she said, impulsively, "I'm sorry. Please don't mind what I said, Cap'n Kendrick. I--I am rather nervous and--and troubled just now. Of course, you are not obliged to come over here as--as often as you used.... But things I have heard---- Oh, I shouldn't pay attention to them, I suppose. I--I am very sorry."

But he was not quite in the mood to forgive. And one sentence in particular occupied his attention.

"Things you have heard," he repeated. "Yes.... I should judge you must have heard a good deal. But who did you hear it from?... Look here, Elizabeth; how did you know I was here in the kitchen now? Did you just happen to come out and find me by accident?"

She reddened. "Why--why----" she stammered.

"Or did some one tell you I was out here--spyin' on the pickles?"

His tone was a most unusual one from him to her. She resented it.

"No one told me you were 'spying'," she replied; coldly. "I have never thought of you as--a spy, Cap'n Kendrick. I have always considered you a friend, a disinterested friend of mother's and mine."

"Well?... What does that 'disinterested' mean?"

"Why, nothing in particular."

"It must mean somethin' or you wouldn't have said it. Does it mean that you are beginnin' to doubt the disinterested part?... I'd like to have you tell me, if you don't mind, how you knew I was alone here in the kitchen? Who took the pains to tell you that?"

Her answer now was prompt enough.

"No one took particular pains, I should imagine," she said, crisply. "Mr. Phillips told me, as it happened. Or rather, he told mother and mother told me. He is to speak to the--to Elvira's 'travel-study' committee in the sitting room, and, as he often does, he walked around by the garden path. When he passed the window he saw you standing by the closet, that was all."

Sears did not speak. He turned to the door.

She called to him. "Wait--wait, please," she cried. "Mr. Phillips did not say anything, so far as I know, except to mention that you were here."

The captain turned back again. "Somebody said somethin'," he declared. "Somebody said enough to send you out here and make you speak to me like--like that. And somebody has been startin' you to think about how I got the appointment as manager. Somebody has been whisperin' that I am not satisfied with your mother's way of doin' things and am schemin' against her. Somebody has been droppin' a hint here and a hint there until even you have begun to believe 'em.... Well, I can't stop your belief, I suppose, but maybe some day I shall stop Commodore Egbert, and when I do he'll stop hard."

"You have no right to say I believe anything against you. I have always refused to believe that. Do you suppose if I hadn't believed in and trusted you absolutely I should have.... But there! You know I did--and do. It is only when--when----"

"When Egbert hints."

"_Oh! ... How you do hate Mr. Phillips, don't you?"

"Hate him?... Why, I--I don't know as you'd call it hate."

"I know. It is plain to see. You have hated him ever since he came. But why? He has never--you won't believe this, but it is true--he has never, to me at least, said one word except in your praise. He likes and admires you. He has told me so."

"Does he tell your mother the same thing?"

She looked at him. "Why do you couple my mother's name with his?" she demanded quickly. "Why should he tell her anything that he doesn't tell me?"

It was a question which Sears could not answer. For some time he had noticed and guessed and feared, but he could not tell her. So he was silent, and to remain silent was perhaps the worst thing he could have done.

"What do you know against Mr. Phillips?" she asked. "Tell me. Do you know _anything to his discredit?"

Again he did not answer. She turned away.

"I thought not," she said. "Oh, envy is such a _mean trait. Well, I suppose I shouldn't expect to have many friends--lasting friends."

"Here! hold on, Elizabeth. Don't say that."

"What else can I say? I am sorry I spoke to you as I did, but--I think you have more than paid the debt.... Yes, mother, I am coming."

She went out of the room and Sears limped moodily home, reflecting, as most of mankind has reflected at one time or another, upon the unaccountableness of the feminine character. So far as he could see he had said much less than he would have been justified in saying. She had goaded him into saying even that. He pondered and puzzled over it the greater part of the night and then reached the conclusion which the male usually reaches under such circumstances, namely, that he had better ask her pardon.

So when they next met he did that very thing and she accepted the apology. And at that meeting, and others immediately following it, no word was said by either concerning "spying" or Mr. Egbert Phillips. Yet the wall between them was left a little higher than it had been before, their friendship was not quite the same, and an experienced person, not much of a prophet at that, could have foretold that the time was coming when that friendship was to end.

It was little Esther Tidditt who laid the coping of the dividing wall. Elvira Snowden built some of the upper tiers, but Esther finished the job. Almost unbelievable as it may seem, she did not like Mr. Phillips. Of course with her tendency to take the off side in all arguments and to be almost invariably "agin the government," the fact that the rest of feminine Bayport adored the glittering Egbert might have been of itself sufficient to set up her opposition. But he had, or she considered that he had, snubbed her on several occasions and she was a dangerous person to snub. Judah expressed it characteristically when he declared that anybody who "set out" to impose on Esther Tidditt would have as lively a time as a bare-footed man trying to dance a hornpipe on a wasp's nest. "She'll keep 'em hoppin' high, _I tell ye," proclaimed Judah.

Little Mrs. Tidditt would have liked to keep Mr. Phillips hopping high, and did administer sly digs to his grandeur whenever she could. In the praise services among the "inmates" which were almost sure to follow a call of the great man at the Fair Harbor it was disconcerting and provoking to the worshipers to have Esther refer to the idol as "that Eg." Mrs. Brackett took her to task for it.

"You ought to have more respect for his wife's memory, if nothin' else," snapped Susanna. "If it hadn't been for her and her generosity you wouldn't be here, Esther Tidditt."

"Yes, and if it hadn't been for her _he wouldn't be here. He'd have been teachin' singin' school yet--if he wasn't in jail. _You can call him Po-or de-ar Mr. Phillips,' if you want to; _I call him 'Old Eg.' And he is a bad egg, too, 'cordin' to my notion. Prob'ly that's why his wife and Judge Knowles hove him out of the nest."

And, as Egbert climbed in popularity while Captain Sears Kendrick slipped back, it followed naturally that Mrs. Tidditt became more and more the friend and champion of the latter. She went out of her way to do him favors and she made it her business to keep him posted on the happenings and gossip at the Fair Harbor. He did not encourage her in this, in fact he attempted tactfully to discourage her, but Esther was not easily discouraged.

It was she who first called his attention to Miss Snowden's fondness for the Phillips society.

"Elviry's set her cap for him," declared Mrs. Tidditt. "The way she sets and looks mushy at him when he's preachin' about Portygee pictures and such is enough to keep a body from relishin' their meals."

But of late, according to Esther, Elvira was no longer the first violin in the Phillips orchestra.

"She's second fiddle," announced the little woman. "There's another craft cut acrost her bows. If you ask me who 'tis I can tell you, too, Cap'n Sears."

And Sears made it a point not to ask. Once it was Elvira herself who more than hinted, and in the presence of Elizabeth and the captain. The latter pair were at the desk together when Miss Snowden passed through the room.

"Where is mother?" asked Elizabeth. "Have you seen her, Elvira?"

Elvira's thin lips were shut tight.

"Don't ask _me_," she snapped, viciously. "She's out trapping, I suppose."

"Trapping!" Elizabeth stared at her. "What are you talking about? Trapping what?"

"I don't know. _I'm not layin' traps to catch anything--or any_body either."

She sailed out of the room. Miss Berry turned to Sears.

"Do you know what she means, Cap'n Kendrick?" she asked.

Sears did know, or would have bet heavily on his guess. But he shook his head. Elizabeth was not satisfied.

"Why do you look like that?" she persisted. "_Do you know?"

"Eh?... Oh, no, no; of course not.... I--I think I saw your mother goin' out of the gate as I came across lots. She--I presume likely she was goin' to the store or somewhere."

"She didn't tell me she was going. Was she alone?"

"Why--why, no; I think--seems to me Mr. Phillips was with her."

For the next few minutes the captain devoted his entire attention to the letter he was writing. He did not look up, but he was quite conscious that her eyes were boring him through and through. During the rest of his stay she was curt and cool. When he went she did not bid him good-by.

So the fuse was burning merrily and the inevitable explosion came three days later. The scene was this time not the Fair Harbor office, but the Minot kitchen. Judah was out and the captain was alone, reading the _Item_. The fire in the range was a new one and the kitchen was very warm, so Sears had opened the outer door in order to cool off a bit. It was a beautiful late October forenoon.

The captain was deep in the _Item's account of the recent wreck on Peaked Hill Bars. A British bark had gone ashore there and the crew had been rescued with difficulty. He was himself dragged, metaphorically speaking, from the undertow by a voice just behind him.

"Well, you're takin' it easy, ain't you, Cap'n Sears?" observed Mrs. Tidditt. "I wish _I didn't have nothin' to do but set and read the news."

"Oh, good mornin', Esther," said the captain. He was not particularly glad to see her. "What's wrong; anything?"

"Nothin' but my batch of gingerbread, and a quart of molasses'll save that. Can you spare it? Oh, don't get up. I know where Judah keeps it; I've been here afore."

She went to the closet, found the molasses jug, and filled her pitcher. Then she came back and sat down. She had not been invited to sit, but Esther scorned ceremony.

"No, sir," she observed, as if carrying on an uninterrupted conversation, "_I can't set and read the newspapers. And I can't go to walk neither, even if 'tis such weather as 'tis to-day. Some folks can, though, and they've gone."

Sears turned the page of the _Item_. He made no comment. His silence did not in the least disturb his caller.

"Yes, they've gone," she repeated. "Right in the middle of the forenoon, too.... Oh, well! when the Admiral of all creation comes to get you to go cruisin' along with him, you go, I suppose. That is, some folks do. I'd like to see the man _I'd make such a fool of myself over."

The captain was reading the "Local Jottings" now. Mrs. Tidditt kept serenely on.

"I wouldn't let any man make such a soft-headed fool of me," she declared. "'Twould take more than a mustache and a slick tongue to get _my money away from me--if I had any."

Sears was obliged to give up the Jottings. He sighed and put down the paper.

"What's the matter, Esther?" he asked. "Who's after your money?"

"Nobody, and good reason why, too. And I ain't out cruisin' 'round the fields with an Eg neither."

"With an egg? Who is?"

"Who do you think? Cordelia Berry, of course. Him and her have gone for what he calls a little stroll. He said she was workin' her poor brain too hard and a little fresh air would do her good. Pity about her poor brain, ain't it? Well, if 'twan't a poor one he'd never coax her into marryin' _him_, that's sartin."

"Esther, don't talk foolish."

"Nothin' foolish about it. If them two ain't keepin' company then I never saw anybody that was. He's callin' on her, and squirin' her 'round, and waitin' on her mornin', noon and night. And she--my patience! she might as well hang out a sign, 'Ready and Willin'.' She says he's the one real aristocrat she has seen since she left her father's home. Poor Cap'n Ike, he's all forgotten."

Sears stirred uneasily. Barring Tidditt exaggeration, he was inclined to believe all this very near the truth. It merely confirmed his own suspicions.

His visitor went gayly on. "I'm sorry for Elizabeth," she said. "I don't know whether the poor girl realizes how soon she's liable to have that Eg for a step-pa. I shouldn't wonder if she suspected a little. I don't see how she can help it. But, Elviry Snowden--oh, dear, dear! If _she ain't the sourest mortal these days. I do get consider'ble fun out of Elviry. She's the one thing that keeps me reconciled to life."

The captain thought he saw an opportunity to shift Mrs. Berry from the limelight and substitute some one else.

"I thought Elvira Snowden was the one you said meant to get Egbert," he suggested.

"So I did, and so she was. But she don't count nowadays."

"Why doesn't she?"

"Well, if you ask me I shall give you an answer. Elviry Snowden ain't fell heir to five thousand dollars and Cordelia Berry has. That's why."

Sears uneasily shifted again. This conversation was following much too closely his own line of reasoning.

"Five thousand isn't any great fortune," he observed, "to a man like Phillips."

The little woman nodded. "It's five thousand dollars to a man just _like Phillips--now," she said, significantly. "And, more'n that, Cordelia's matron at the Harbor. The Fair Harbor ain't a Eyetalian palace maybe, but it's a nice, comf'table place where the matron's husband might live easy and not pay board.... That's _my guess. Other folks can have theirs and welcome."

"But----"

"There ain't no buts about it, Cap'n Kendrick. You know it's so. Eg Phillips is goin' to marry Cordelia Berry. My name ain't Elijah nor Jeremiah--no, nor Deuteronomy nuther--but I can prophesy that much."

She rose with a triumphant bounce, turned to the open door behind her, and saw Elizabeth Berry standing there. Sears Kendrick saw her at the same time.

There are periods in the life of each individual when it seems as if Fate was holding a hammer above that individual's head and, at intervals, as the head ventures to lift itself, knocking it down again. Each successive tap seems a bit harder, and the victim, during the interval of its falling, wonders if it is to be the final and finishing thump.

Sears did not wonder this time, he knew. His thought, as he saw her there, saw the expression upon her face and realized what she must have heard, was: "Here it is! This is the end."

Yet he was the first of the two to speak. Elizabeth, white and rigid, said nothing, and even Mrs. Tidditt's talking machinery seemed to be temporarily thrown out of gear. So the captain made the attempt, a feeble one.

"Why, Elizabeth," he faltered, "is that you?... Come in, won't you?"

She did come in, that is, she came as far as the door mat. Then she turned, not to him, but to his companion.

"What do you mean by speaking in that way of my mother?" she demanded.

Esther was still a trifle off balance. Her answer was rather incoherent.

"I--I don't know's I--as I said--as I said much of anything--much," she stammered.

"I heard you. How dare you tell such--such _lies_?"

"Lies?"

"Yes; mean, miserable lies. What else are they? How dare you run to--to _him with them?"

Mrs. Tidditt's hand, that grasping the handle of the molasses pitcher, began to quiver. Her eyes, behind her steel-rimmed spectacles, winked rapidly.

"Elizabeth Berry," she snapped, with ominous emphasis, "don't you talk to me like that!"

"I shall talk to you as--as.... Oh, I should be ashamed to talk to you at all. My mother--my kind, trustful, unsuspecting mother! And you--you and he _dare_----"

Kendrick, in desperation, tried to put in a word.

"Elizabeth," he begged, "don't misunderstand. Esther hasn't been runnin' here to tell me things. She came over to borrow some molasses from Judah, that's all."

"Oh, stop! I tell you I heard what she said. And you were listening. Listening! Without a word of protest. I suppose you encouraged her. Of course you did. No doubt this isn't the first time. This may be her usual report. Not content with--with prying into closets and--and coal bins and--and----"

"Elizabeth!"

"Doing these things for yourself was not enough, I suppose. You must encourage her--pay her, perhaps--to listen and whisper scandal and to spy----"

"Stop! Stop right there!" The captain was not begging now. Even in the midst of her impassioned outburst the young woman paused, halted momentarily by the compelling force of that order. But she halted unwillingly.

"I shall not stop," she declared. "I shall say----"

"You have said a whole lot too much already. And you don't mean what you have said."

"I do! I do! Oh, I can't tell you what I think of you."

"Well," dryly, "you have made a pretty fair try at tellin' it. If it is what you really think of me it'll do--it will be quite enough. I shan't need any more."

He was looking at her gravely and steadily and before his look her own gaze wavered. If they had been alone it is barely possible that ... but they were not alone. Mrs. Tidditt was there and, by this time, as Judah would have said, "her neck-feathers were on end" and her spurs sharpened for battle. She hopped into the pit forthwith.

"_I need consider'ble more," she cackled, defiantly. "I've been called a spy and a scandal whisperer and the Lord knows what else. Now I'll say somethin'."

"Esther, be still."

"I shan't be still till I'm ready, not for you, Sears Kendrick, nor for her nor nobody else. I ain't a spy, 'Liz'beth Berry, and I ain't paid by no livin' soul. But I see what I see with the eyes the Almighty give me to see with, and after I've seen it--not alone once but forty dozen times--I'll talk about it if I want to, when I want to, to anybody I want to. Now that's that much."

Elizabeth, scornfully silent, was turning to the door, but the little woman hopped--that seems the only word which describes it--in her way.

"You ain't goin'," she declared, "till I've finished. 'Twon't take me long to say it, but it's goin' to be said. I told Cap'n Sears that Eg Phillips was chasin' 'round with your mother. He is. And if she ain't glad to have him chase her then I never see anybody that was. I said them two was cal'latin' to get married. Well ... well, if they ain't then they'd ought to be, that's all I'll say about _that_. And don't you ever call me a spy again as long as you live, 'Liz'beth Berry."

She hopped again, to the doorway this time. There she turned for a farewell cackle.

"One thing more," she said. "I told the cap'n I believed the reason that that Eg man wanted to marry Cordelia was on account of her bein' able to give him five thousand dollars and the Fair Harbor to live in. I do believe it. And you can tell her so--or him so. But afore I told anybody I'd think it over, if I was you, 'Liz'beth Berry. And I'd think _him over a whole lot afore I'd let him and his 'ily tongue make trouble between you and your _real friends.... There! Good-by."

She went away. Kendrick pulled at his beard.

"Elizabeth," he began, hastily, "I'm awfully sorry that this happened. Of course you know that I----"

She interrupted him. "I know," she said, "that if I ever speak to you again it will be because I am obliged to, not because I want to."

She followed Mrs. Tidditt. Sears Kendrick sat down once more in the rocking chair.

He did a great deal of hard and unpleasant thinking before he rose from it. When he did rise it was to go to the drawer in the bureau of the spare stateroom where he kept his writing materials, take therefrom pen, ink and paper and sit down at the table to write a letter. The letter was not long of itself, but composing it was a rather lengthy process. It was addressed to Elizabeth Berry and embodied his resignation as trustee and guardian of her inheritance from Judge Knowles.

* * * * *

"As I see it (he wrote) I am not the one to have charge of that money. I took the job, as you know, because the judge asked me to and because you asked me. I took it with a good deal of doubt. Now, considering the way you feel towards me, I haven't any doubt that I should give it up. I don't want you to make the mistake of thinking that I feel guilty. So far as I know I have not done anything which was not square and honest and aboveboard, either where you were concerned, or your mother, or what I believed to be the best interests of the Fair Harbor. And I am not giving up my regular berth as general manager of the Harbor itself. Judge Knowles asked me to keep that as long as I thought it was necessary for the good of the institution. I honestly believe it is more necessary now than it ever was. And I shall stay right on deck until I feel the need is over. I shan't bother you with my company any more than I can help, but you will have to put up with it about every once in so often while we go over business affairs. So much for that. The trusteeship is different and I resign it to Mr. Bradley, who was the judge's second choice."

* * * * *

He paused here, deliberated for a time, and then added another paragraph.

* * * * *

"I feel sure Bradley will take it (he wrote). If he should refuse I will not give it up to any one else. At least not unless I am perfectly satisfied with the person chosen. This is for your safety and for no other reason."

* * * * *

He sent the letter over by Judah. Two days later he received a reply. It, too, was brief and to the point.

* * * * *

"I accept your resignation (wrote Elizabeth). It was Judge Knowles' wish that you be my trustee, and, as you know, it was mine also. Apparently you no longer feel bound by either wish, and of course I shall not beg you to change your mind. I have no right to influence you in any way. I have seen Mr. Bradley and he has consented to act as trustee for me. He will see you in a day or two. As for the other matters I have nothing to say. Whenever you wish to consult with me on business affairs I shall be ready."

* * * * *

There was a postscript. It read:

"I feel that I should thank you for what you have already done. I do thank you sincerely."

* * * * *

So that ended it, and ended also what had been a happy period for Sears Kendrick. He made no more informal daily visits to the Fair Harbor. Twice a week, at stated times, he and Elizabeth met in the office and conferred concerning bills, letters and accounts. She was calm and impersonal during these interviews, and he tried to be so. There was no reference to other matters and no more cheerful and delightful chats, no more confidences between them. It did seem to him that she was more absent-minded, less alert and attentive to the business details than she had been, and at times he thought that she looked troubled and careworn. Perhaps, however, this was but his imagining, a sort of reflection of his own misery. For he was miserable--miserable, pessimistic and pretty thoroughly disgusted with life. His health and strength were gaining always, but he found little consolation in this. He could not go to sea just yet. He had promised Judge Knowles to stick it out and stick he would. But he longed--oh, how he longed!--for the blue water and a deck beneath his feet. Perhaps, a thousand miles from land, with a gale blowing and a ship to handle, as a real deep-sea skipper he could forget--forget a face and a voice and a succession of silly fancies which could not, apparently, be wholly forgotten by the middle-aged skipper of an old women's home.

One morning, after a troubled night, on his way to a conference with Elizabeth at the Fair Harbor office, he met Mr. Egbert Phillips. The latter, serene, benign, elegant, was entering at the gateway beneath the swinging sign which proclaimed to the other world that within the Harbor all was peace. Of late Captain Kendrick had found a certain flavor of irony in the wording of that sign.

Kendrick and Phillips reached the gate at the same moment. They exchanged good mornings. Egbert's was sweetly and condescendingly gracious, the captain's rather short and brusque. Since the encounter in the office where, in the presence of Elizabeth, Phillips' polite inuendoes had goaded Sears into an indiscreet revelation of his real feeling toward the elegant widower--since that day relations between the two had been maintained on a basis of armed neutrality. They bowed, they smiled, they even spoke, although seldom at length. Kendrick had made up his mind not to lose his temper again. His adversary should not have that advantage over him.

But this morning to save his life he could not have appeared as unruffled as usual. The night had been uncomfortable, his waking thoughts disturbing. His position was a hard one, he was feeling rebellious against Fate and even against Judge Knowles, who, as Fate's agent, had gotten him into that position. And the sight of the tall figure, genteelly swinging its cane and beaming patronage upon the world in general, was a little too much for him. So his good morning was more of a grunt than a greeting.

It may be that Egbert noticed this. Or it may be that with his triumph so closely approaching a certainty he could not resist a slight gloat. At all events he paused for an instant, a demure gleam in his eye and the corner of his lip beneath the drooping mustache lifting in an amused smile.

"A beautiful day, Captain," he said.

Kendrick admitted the day's beauty. He would have passed through the gateway, but Mr. Phillips' figure and Mr. Phillips' cane blocked the way.

"It seems to me that we do not see as much of you here at the Harbor as we used, Captain Kendrick," observed Egbert. "Or is that my fancy merely?"

The captain's answer was noncommittal. Again he attempted to pass and again the Phillips' walking-stick casually prevented.

"I trust that nothing serious has occurred to deprive us of your society, Captain?" queried the owner of the stick, solicitously. "No accident, no further accident, or anything of that sort?"

"No."

"And you are quite well? Pardon me, but I fancied that you looked--ah--shall I say disturbed--or worried, perhaps?"

"No. I'm all right."

"I am so glad to hear it. I gathered--that is, I feared that perhaps the cares incidental to your--" again the slight smile--"your labors as general supervisor of the Harbor might be undermining your health. I am charmed to have you tell me that that is not the case."

"Thanks."

"Of course--" Mr. Phillips drew a geometrical figure with the cane in the earth of the flower bed by the path--"of course," he said, "speaking as one who has had some sad experience with illness and that sort of thing, it has always seemed to me that one should not take chances with one's health. If the cares of a particular avocation--situation--position--whatever it may be--if the cares and--ah--disappointments incidental to it are affecting one's physical condition it has always seemed to me wiser to sacrifice the first for the second. And make the sacrifice in time. You see what I mean?"

Kendrick, standing by the post of the gateway, looked at him.

"Why, no," he said, slowly, "I don't know that I do. What do you mean?"

The cane was drawn through the first figure in the flower bed and began to trace another. Again Mr. Phillips smiled.

"Why, nothing in particular, my dear sir," he replied. "Perhaps nothing at all.... I had heard--mere rumor, no doubt--that you contemplated giving up your position as superintendent here. I trust it is not true?"

"It isn't."

"I am delighted to hear you say so. We--we of the Harbor--should miss you greatly."

"Thanks. Do you mind telling me who told you I was goin' to give up the superintendent's position?"

"Why, I don't remember. It came to my ears, it seemed to be a sort of general impression. Of course, now that you tell me it is not true I shall take pains to deny it. And permit me to express my gratification."

"Just a minute. Did they say--did this general impression say why I was givin' up the job?"

"No-o, no, I think not. I believe it was hinted that you were not well and--perhaps somewhat tired--a little discouraged--that sort of thing. As I say, it was mere rumor."

Sears smiled now--that is, his lips smiled, his eyes were grave enough.

"Well," he observed, deliberately, "if you have a chance, Mr. Phillips, you can tell those mere rumorers that I'm not tired at all. My health is better than it has been for months. So far from bein' discouraged, you can tell 'em that--well, you know what Commodore Paul Jones told the British cap'n who asked him to surrender; he told him that he had just begun to fight. That's the way it is with me, Mr. Phillips, I've just begun to fight."

The cane was lifted from the flower bed. Egbert nodded in polite appreciation.

"Really?" he said. "How interesting, Captain!"

Kendrick nodded, also. "Yes, isn't it?" he agreed. "Were you goin' into the Harbor, Phillips? So am I. We'll walk along together."

But that night he went to his bed in better spirits. Egbert's little dig had been the very thing he needed, and now he knew it. He had been discouraged; in spite of his declaration in his letter to Elizabeth Berry, he had wished that it were possible to run away from the Fair Harbor and everything connected with it. But now--now he had no wish of that kind. If Judge Knowles could rise from the grave and bid him quit he would not do it.

Quit? Not much! Like Paul Jones, he had just begun to fight.

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CHAPTER XIIISo Judah was obliged to postpone the telling of his most important news item. But the following morning when, looking heavy-eyed and haggard, as if he had slept but little, Captain Kendrick limped into the kitchen for breakfast, Mr. Cahoon served that item with the salt mackerel and fried potatoes. It was surprising, too--at least Sears found it so. Egbert Phillips, so Judah declared, had given up his rooms at the Central House and had gone, household goods and all, to board and lodge at Joel Macomber's. He was occupying, so Judah said, the very room that Sears himself had
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