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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 15
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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 15 Post by :brennan Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :2249

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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 15

CHAPTER XV

But there was so little that was tangible to fight, that was the trouble. If Mr. Egbert Phillips was the villain of the piece he was such a light and airy villain that it was hard to take him seriously enough. Even when Kendrick was most thoroughly angry with him and most completely convinced that he was responsible for all his own troubles, including the loss of Elizabeth Berry's friendship--even then he found it hard to sit down and deliberately plan a campaign against him. It seemed like campaigning against a butterfly. The captain disliked him extremely, but he never felt a desire to knock him down. To kick him--yes. Perhaps to thump the beaver hat over his eyes and help him down the brick path of the Harbor with the judicious application of a boot, grinning broadly during the process--that was Sears Kendrick's idea of a fitting treatment for King Egbert the Great.

The captain had done his share of fighting during an adventurous lifetime, but his opponents had always been men. Somehow Phillips did not seem to him like a man. A creature so very ornamental, with so much flourish, so superlatively elegant, so overwhelmingly correct, so altogether and all the time the teacher of singing school or dancing school--how could one seriously set about fighting such a bundle of fluff? A feather-duster seemed a more fitting weapon than a shotgun.

But the fluff was flying high and in the sunshine and was already far out of reach of the duster. Soon it would be out of reach of the shotgun. Unless the fight was made serious and deadly at once there would be none at all. Unless having already lost about all that made life worth living, Sears Kendrick wished to be driven from Bayport in inglorious rout, he had better campaign in earnest. Passive resistance must end.

As a beginning he questioned Judah once more concerning Phillips' standing in the community. It was unchanged, so Judah said. He was quite as popular, still the brave and uncomplaining martyr, always the idol of the women and a large proportion of the men.

"Did you hear about him down to the Orthodox church fair last week?" asked Mr. Cahoon. "You didn't! Creepin'! I thought everybody aboard had heard about that. Seems they'd sold about everything there was to sell, but of course there was a few things left, same as there always is, and amongst 'em was a patchwork comforter that old Mrs. Jarvis--Capn' Azariah Jarvis's second wife she was--you remember Cap'n Azariah, don't ye, Cap'n Sears? He was the one that used to swear so like fury. Didn't mean nothin' by it, just a habit 'twas, same as usin' tobacco or rum is with some folks. Didn't know when---- Eh? Oh, yes, about that comforter. Why, old Mrs. Jarvis she made it for the fair and it wan't sold. 'Twas one of them log-cabin quilts, you know. I don't know why they call 'em log cabins, they don't look no more like a log cabin than my head does. I cal'late they have to call 'em somethin' so's to tell 'em from the risin' sun quilts and the mornin'-glory quilts and--and the Lord-knows-what quilts. The womenfolks make mo-ore kinds of them quilts and comforters, seems so, than----

"Eh? Oh, yes, I'm beatin' up to Egbert, Cap'n Sears; I'll be alongside him in a minute, give me steerage way. Well, the log-cabin quilt wan't sold and they wanted to sell it, partly because old Mrs. Jarvis would feel bad if nobody bought it, and partly because the meetin'-house folks would feel worse if any money got away from 'em at a fair. So Mr. Dishup he says, 'We'll auction of it off,' he says, 'and our honored and beloved friend, Mr. Phillips, will maybe so be kind enough to act as auctioneer.' So Eg, he got up and apologized for bein' chose, and went on to say what a all-'round no-good auctioneer he'd be but how he couldn't say no to the folks of the church where his dear diseased wife had worshiped so long, and then he started in to sell that comforter. Did he _sell it? Why, creepin', crawlin', hoppin' ... Cap'n Sears, he could have sold a shipload of them log-cabins if he'd had 'em handy. He held the thing up in front of 'em, so they tell me, and he just praised it up same as John B. Gough praises up cold water at a temp'rance lecture. He told how the old woman had worked over it, and set up nights over it, and got her nerves all into a titter and her finger ends all rags, as you might say, and how she had done it just to do somethin' for the meetin'-house she thought so much of, the church that her loved and lost husband used to come to so reg'lar. _That was all fiddlesticks, 'cause Cap'n Az never went to church except for the six weeks after he was married, and pretty scattern' 'long the last three of _them_.

"Well, he hadn't talked that way very long afore he had that whole vestry as damp as a fishin' schooner's deck in a Banks fog. All hands--even the men that had been spendin' money for the fair things, tidies and aprons and splint work picture-frames and such, even they was cryin'. And then old Mrs. Jarvis--and she was cryin', too--she went and whispered to the minister and he whispered to Phillips and Phillips, he says: 'Ladies and gentlemen,' he says, 'I have just learned that a part of this quilt was made from a suit of clothes worn by Cap'n Jarvis on his last v'yage,' he says. '_Just think of it,' says he, 'this blue strip here is a part of the coat worn by him as he trod the deck of his ship homeward bound--bound home to his wife, bound home to die.'

"Well, all hands cried more'n ever at that, and Mrs. Jarvis got up, with the tears a-runnin', and says she: 'It wan't his coat,' she says. 'I sold the coat and vest to a peddler. 'Twas his----' But Egbert cut in afore she could tell what 'twas, and then he got 'em to biddin'. Creepin' Henry, Cap'n Sears! that log-cabin quilt sold for nine dollars and a half, and the man that bought it was Philander Comstock, the tailor over to Denboro. And Philander told me himself that he didn't know why he bought it. '_I made that suit of clothes for Cap'n Azariah, myself,' he says, 'and he died afore I got half my pay for it. But that Phillips man,' he says, 'could sell a spyglass to a blind man.'"

The captain asked Judah if he had heard any testimony on the other side; were there any people in Bayport who did not like Mr. Phillips. Judah thought it over.

"We-ll," he said, reflectively, "I don't know as I've ever heard anybody come right out and call him names. Anybody but Esther Tidditt, that is; she's down on him like a sheet anchor on a crab. Sometimes Elviry snaps out somethin' spiteful, but most of that's jealousy, I cal'late. You see, Elviry had her cap all set for this Egbert widower--that is, all hands seems to cal'late she had--and then she began to find her nose was bein' put out of j'int. You know who they're sayin' put it out, Cap'n Sears? There seems to be a general notion around town that----"

Kendrick interrupted; this was a matter he did not care to discuss with Judah or any one else. There had been quite enough said on that subject.

"Yes, yes, all right, Judah," he said, hastily. "But the men? Do the men like him as well as the women?"

"Why--why, yes, I guess so. Not quite so well, of course. That wouldn't be natural, would it, Cap'n Sears?"

"Perhaps not. But have you ever heard any man say anything against him, anything definite? Does he pay his bills?"

"Eh? Why, I don't know. I ain't never----"

"All right. Who does he chum around with mostly? Who are his best friends?"

Mr. Cahoon gave a list of them, beginning of course with the Wingates and the Dishups and the members of the Shakespeare Reading Society and ending with George Kent.

"He cruises along with George a whole lot," declared Judah. "Them two are together about half the time. George don't work to the store no more. You knew that, didn't you?"

If Sears had heard it, he had forgotten. Judah went on to explain.

"He hove up his job at Eliphalet's quite a spell ago," he said "He's studyin' law along with Bradley same as ever, but 'he's busy lawin' here in Bayport, too. Some of his relations died and left a lot of money, so folks tell, and George is what they call administer of the estate. It's an awful good thing for him, all hands cal'late. Some say he's rich."

The captain vaguely remembered Kent's disclosure to him concerning his appointment as administrator of his aunt's estate. He had not exchanged a word with the young man since the evening of the latter's call and Elizabeth's interruption. It seemed a long while ago. Much--and so much that was unpleasant--had happened since then. Kent and he had met, of course, and on the first two or three occasions, Kendrick had spoken. The young fellow had not replied. Now, at the mention of his name, Kendrick felt an uneasy pang, almost of guilt. He had done nothing wrong, of course yet if it had not been for him perhaps the two young people might still have been friends or even more than friends. It was true that Elizabeth had told him but there, what difference did it make what she told him? She had told him other things since, things that he could not forget.

"Well, all right, Judah," he said. "It wasn't important. Run along."

Judah did not run along. He remained, looking at his lodger with a troubled expression. The latter noticed it.

"What is it, Judah?" he asked. "Anything wrong?"

Mr. Cahoon's fingers moved uneasily through the heavy foliage upon his chin. "Why--why, Cap'n Sears," he stammered, "can I ask you somethin'?"

"Certain. Fire away."

"Well--well--it--it ain't true, is it, that you done anything to set Elizabeth Berry against that young Kent feller? You never told her nothin'--or did nothin'--or--or----"

He seemed to find it hard to finish his sentence. The captain did not wait, but asked a question of his own.

"Who said I did, Judah?" he asked.

"Hey?... Oh, I--I don't know. Why--why, some of them sculpin'-mouths down to the store they say that you--that you told Elizabeth a lot of things--or did somethin' or 'nother to spite George with her. Of course _I knew 'twan't so, but--but----"

"But they said it was, eh? Well, it isn't true. I haven't done anything of that kind, Judah."

The Cahoon fist descended upon the kitchen table with a thump. "I knew it!" roared Judah. "I knew dum well 'twas a cargo of lies. Now just wait. Let one of them swabs just open his main hatch and start to unload another passel of that cargo. If I don't----"

"Shh, shh! Don't do that. I tell you what to do. If you want to help me, Judah, you say nothin', but try and find out who told them these things. Some one has been pretty busy tellin' things to my discredit for some time. Don't let any one know what you're after, but see if you can find out who is responsible. Will you?"

"Sartin sure I will. And when I do find out----"

"When you do, let me know. And Judah, one thing more: Find out all that you can find out about this Phillips man. See if he owes anybody money. See if he pays his debts. See if he--well, find out all you can about him; but don't let any one know you're tryin' to find out, that's all. Do you understand?"

"Eh?... Why, I guess likely I do.... But--but.... Eh? Cap'n Sears, do you mean to say you cal'late that that Eg Phillips is at the back of all this talk against you in Bayport? Do you mean that?"

"Humph! So there is talk against me; a lot of it, I suppose?"

Judah forgot to be discreet. "Talk!" he shouted. "There's more underhand, sneakin' lies about you goin' around this flat-bottomed, leaky, gurry-and-bilgewater tub of a town than there is fiddlers in Tophet. I've denied 'em and contradicted 'em till I'm hoarse from hollerin'. I've offered to fight anybody who dast to say they was true, but, by the hoppin' Henry, nobody ever said any more than that they'd heard they was. And I never could find out who started 'em. And do you mean to say you believe that long-legged critter with the beaver hat and the--the mustache like a drowned cat's tail is responsible?"

Captain Kendrick hesitated for an instant. Then he nodded. "I think he is, Judah," he said, solemnly.

"Then, by the creepin', crawlin'----"

"Wait! I don't know that he is. I don't know much about him. But I mean to find out all about him, if I can. And I want you to help me."

"I'll help. And when you find out, Cap'n?"

"Well, that depends. If I find out anything that will give me the chance, I'll--I'll smash him as flat as that."

_He struck the table now, with his open palm. Mr. Cahoon grinned delightedly.

"I bet you will, Cap'n Sears!" he vowed. "And if he ain't flat enough then I'll come and jump on him. And I ain't no West Injy hummin'-bird neither."

Kendrick's next move was to talk with his sister. Her visits at the Minot place had not been quite as frequent of late. She came, of course, but not as often, or so it seemed to the captain, and when she came she carefully avoided all reference to her new boarder. Sears knew the reason, or thought he did. He had hurt her feelings by intimating that Mr. Phillips might not be as altogether speckless as she thought him. He had not enthused over her giving up the best parlor to his Egbertship and Sarah was disappointed. But, loyal and loving soul that she was, she would not risk even the slightest disagreement with her brother, and so when she called, spoke of everything or everybody but the possible cause of such disagreement. Yet the cause was there and between brother and sister, as between Elizabeth and Sears, lay the slim, lengthy, gracefully undulating shadow of Judge Knowles' pet bugbear, who was rapidly becoming Sears Kendrick's bugbear as well.

The captain had not visited the Macomber home more than twice since Judah carted him away from it in the blue truck-wagon. One fine day, however, he and the Foam Flake made the journey again, although with the buggy, not the wagon. He chose a time when he knew Kent was almost certain to be over at Bradley's office in Orham and when Phillips was not likely to be in his rooms. Of course there was a chance that he might encounter the latter, but he thought it unlikely. His guess was a good one and Egbert was out, had gone for a ride, so Mrs. Macomber said. Mrs. Cap'n Elkanah Wingate had furnished the necessary wherewithal for riding. "The Wingates let him use their horse and team real often," said Sarah. "They're awful fond of him, Mrs. Wingate especial. I don't know as Cap'n Elkanah is so much; he is kind of cross-grained sometimes and it's hard for him to like anybody very long."

She was hard at work, ironing this time, but she would have put the flatiron back on the stove and taken her brother to the sitting room if he had permitted. "The idea of a man like you, Sears, havin' to sit on an old broken-down chair out here in the wash-shed," she exclaimed. "It ain't fittin'."

The captain sniffed. "I guess if it's fittin' for you to be workin' out here I shouldn't complain at sittin' here," he observed. "Is that Joel's shirt? He's gettin' awfully high-toned--and high collared, seems to me."

Mrs. Macomber was slightly confused. "Why, no," she said, "this isn't Joe's shirt. It's Mr. Phillips's. Ain't it lovely linen? I don't know as I ever saw any finer."

Her brother leaned back in the broken chair. "Do you do his washin' for him, Sarah?" he demanded.

"Why--why, yes, Sears. You see, he's real particular about how it's done, and of course you can't blame him, he has such lovely things. He tried two of the regular washwomen, Elsie Doyle and Peleg Carpenter's wife, and they did 'em up just dreadful. So, just to help him out one time, I tried 'em myself. And they came out real nice, if I do say it, and he was so pleased. So ever since then I have been doin' 'em for him. It's hardly any trouble--any extra trouble. I have to do our own washin', you know."

Sears did know, also he knew the size of that washing.

"Does he pay you for it?" he asked, sharply. "Pay you enough, I mean?"

"Why--why, yes. Of course he doesn't pay a whole lot. Not as much maybe as if he was a stranger, somebody who didn't pay me regular board, you know."

"Humph! Do you get your money?"

"Why, yes. Of course I do."

"He doesn't owe you anything, then, for board or lodgin' or anything?"

Mrs. Macomber hesitated. "Nothin' much," she replied, after a moment. "Of course he gets a little behind sometimes, everybody does that, you know. But then his dividend payments or somethin' come to him and he pays right up in a lump. It's kind of nice havin' it come that way, seems more, you know."

"Yes. So long as it keeps on comin'. His dividends, you say? I thought the story was that he hadn't any stocks left to get dividends from. I thought he told all hands that he was poverty-stricken, that when he was cut out of the Harbor property and the fifty thousand he hadn't a copper."

"Oh no not as bad as that. He had some stocks and bonds, of course. Why, if he hadn't where would he get _any money from? How could he live?"

"I don't know. He seems to be livin', though, and pretty well. Has he got the parlor yet?"

"Yes, and it's fixed up so pretty. He's got his pictures and things around. Wouldn't you like to see it? He's out, you know."

They went into the parlor and the bedroom adjoining, that which the captain had occupied during his stay. Both rooms were as neat as wax--Sears expected that, knowing his sister's housekeeping--but he had scarcely expected to find the rooms so changed. The furniture was the same, but the wall decorations were not.

"What's become of the alum basket and the wax wreath and the Rock of Ages chromo?" he asked.

"Oh, he took 'em down. That is, he didn't do it himself, of course, but he had Joel do it. They're up attic. Mr. Phillips said they was so like the things that his wife used to have in the dear old home that he couldn't bear to see 'em. They reminded him so of her. He asked if we would mind if they was removed and we said no, of course."

"Humph! And the Macomber family coffin plates, those you had set out on black velvet with all Joel's dead relations names on 'em, in the plush and gilt frame? Are those up attic, too?"

"Yes."

"I should have thought 'twould have broken Joel's heart to part with _them_!"

"Sears, you're makin' fun. I don't blame you much. I always did hate those coffin plates, but Joel seemed to like 'em. They were in his folks' front parlor, he says."

"Yes. That 'Death of Washin'ton' picture and the rounder-case thing with the locks of hair in it were there, too, you told me once. That must have been a lively room. Those--er--horse pictures are Egbert's, I suppose?"

"Yes. He is real fond of horses."

The "horse pictures" were colored plates of racers.

"That's a portrait of his wife over there," explained Sarah. "She had it painted in Italy on purpose for him."

"Is that so? Well, I'm glad it was for him. I shouldn't think it was hardly fittin' for anybody outside the family. Of course Italy's a warm climate, but----"

"_Sears!_" Mrs. Macomber blushed. "Of course I didn't mean _that picture," she protested. "And you know I didn't. I wouldn't have that one up at all if I had _my way. But he says it's an old master and very famous and all like that. Maybe so, but I'm thankful the children ain't allowed in here. That's Lobelia over there."

In the bedroom were other pictures, photographs for the most part. Many of them were autographed.

"They're girl friends of his wife's," said Sarah. "She met 'em over abroad. Real pretty, some of them, ain't they?"

They were, and the inscriptions were delightfully informal and friendly. Lobelia Phillips' name was not inscribed, but her husband's was occasionally. Upon the table, by a half-emptied cigar box, lay a Boston paper of the day before. It was folded with the page of stock market quotations uppermost. Sears picked it up. One item was underscored with a pencil. It was the record of the day's sales of "C. M.," a stock with which the captain was quite unfamiliar. His unfamiliarity was not surprising; he had little acquaintance with the stock market.

Back in the wash-shed, brother and sister chatted while the ironing continued. Sears led the conversation around until it touched upon George Kent. George was still boarding with them, so Sarah said. Yes, he had given up his place as bookkeeper at Bassett's store.

"He's administrator of his aunt's estate," she went on. "You knew that, Sears? It's a pretty responsible position for such a young man, I guess. I'm afraid it's a good deal of worry for him. He's seemed to me kind of troubled lately. I thought at first it might be on account of Elizabeth Berry--everybody knows they've had some quarrel or somethin'--but I'm beginnin' to be afraid it may be somethin' else. He and Mr. Phillips are together about all the time. They're great friends, and I'm so glad, because if George _should be in any trouble--about business or anything--a man of Mr. Phillips' experience would be a wonderful friend to have."

"What makes you think it may be a business trouble?" asked the captain, casually.

Mrs. Macomber hesitated. "Why," she said, "I heard somethin' yesterday that made me think so. It wasn't meant for me to hear, but I just happened to. I don't know as I'd ought to say anything about it--I shouldn't to anybody but you, Sears--yet it has worried me a good deal. Mr. Phillips and George were standin' together in the hall as I went by. They didn't see me, and I heard George say, 'Somethin' _must be done about it,' he says. 'It can't go on for another week.' And Mr. Phillips said, kind and comfortin'--nice as he always is, but still it did seem to me a little mite impatient--'I tell you it is all right,' he said. 'Wait a while and it will be all right.' Then George said somethin' that I didn't catch, and Mr. Phillips said, 'But I can't, I tell you. I'm in exactly the same boat.' And George said, 'You've _got to! you've got to! If you don't it'll be the end of me.' That was what he said--'It will be the end of me.' And oh, Sears, he did sound _so distressed. It has troubled me ever since. What do you suppose it could be that would be the end of him?"

Her brother shook his head. "Give it up," he said. "Humph!... And Egbert said he was in the same boat, did he? That's interestin'. It must be a pretty swell liner; he wouldn't be aboard anything else."

But Mrs. Macomber declined to joke. "You wouldn't laugh," she declared, "if you had heard George talk. He's just a boy, Sears, a real kind-hearted, well-meanin' boy, and I hate to think of him as in any more trouble."

"Any more? What do you mean by more?"

"Why--why--oh, well, everybody knows he and Elizabeth ain't keepin' company any longer. And--and----"

"And everybody thinks I am to blame. Well, I'm not, Sarah. Not intentionally, anyhow. And, if George would let me, I should be glad to be a friend of his. Not as grand and top-lofty a friend as Admiral Egbert, of course, but as good as my rank and ratin' in life will let me be."

"Sears," reproachfully, "I hate to hear you speak in that sarcastic way. And I can't see why you mistrust Mr. Phillips so."

"Can't you? Well, I don't know as I can, myself; but if I live long enough I may find a reason.... As for Kent--well, I tell you, Sarah: You keep an eye on the boy. If he still seems worried, or more worried, and you think it advisable, you might give him a message from me. You remind him that one time he told me if he ever got into real trouble he should come to me for help. You can say--if you think it advisable--that I am just as willin' to give that help now as ever I was."

"Oh, Sears, do you mean it? Why, I thought--I was afraid that you and he----"

"That's all right. I am the young fellow's friend--if he wants me to be. And, although I'm a thousand sea miles from guaranteein' to be able to help him, I'm willin' to try my hardest.... But there! the chances are he won't listen if you do tell him, so use your own judgment in the matter. But, Sarah, will you do me a favor?"

"Sears! How can you! As if I wouldn't do anything for you!"

"I know you would. And this isn't so very much, either. I'm kind of interested in this Phillips man's dividends and things. I'd like to know how he makes his money. I noticed that that newspaper in his room was folded with the stock price page on top. Is he interested in stock and such things?"

"Why, yes, he is. I've heard him and George talkin' about what they call the 'market.' That means stocks, doesn't it?"

"Um-hm, usually. Well, Sarah, if he happens to mention any particular stock he owns, or anything like that, try and remember and let me know, will you?"

"Yes, of course, if you want me to. But why, Sears? There's nothing wrong in a man like Mr. Phillips bein' interested in such things, is there? I should think it would be--well, sort of natural for a person who has been rich as he used to be to keep up his interest."

"I presume likely it is."

"Then why do you want to know about it?"

The captain picked up his hat. "Oh, for no particular reason, maybe, Sarah," he replied. "Perhaps _I shall be rich sometime--if I live to be a hundred and eighty and save a dollar a day as I go along--and then I shall want to know how to invest my money. Let me know if you hear anything worth while, won't you, Sarah?"

"Yes, Sears. And if I get a chance I am goin' to tell George what you said about bein' his friend and willin' to help him. Good-by, Sears. I'm _so glad you came down. Come again soon, won't you? You're the only brother I've got, you know."

Kendrick drove the Foam Flake back to the Minot place, reflecting during the journey upon what he had seen and heard while visiting his sister. It amounted to very little in the way of tangible evidence against Egbert Phillips. Sporting prints and dashing photographs were interesting perhaps, and in a way they illuminated the past; but they did not illumine the present, they shed no light upon their owner's means of living, nor the extent of those means. Egbert occupied the best rooms at the Macomber's, but, apparently, he paid for his board and lodging--yes, and his washing. He might be interested in stocks, but there was nothing criminal in that, of itself. The Kendrick campaign was, so far, an utter failure.

Another week dragged by with no developments worth while. Judah, much inflated with the importance of his commission as a member of the Kendrick secret service, made voluminous and wordy reports, but they amounted to nothing. Mr. Phillips had borrowed five dollars of Caleb Snow. Had he paid the debt? Oh, yes, he had paid it. He smoked "consider'ble many" cigars, "real good cigars, too; cost over ten cents a piece by the box," so he told Thoph Black. But, so far as Black or Judah knew, he had paid for them. He owed a fair-sized bill at the livery-stable, but the stable owner "wan't worried none." There was little of interest here. No criminal record, rather the contrary.

Esther Tidditt dropped in from time to time, loaded, as Judah said, "to the guards" with Fair Harbor gossip. Captain Sears did not encourage her visits. Aside from learning what he could concerning the doings of Egbert Phillips, he was little interested in petty squabbles and whispers among the "mariners' women." Except by Esther he was almost entirely ignored by the inmates. Elizabeth he saw daily for a short time, but for her sake he made those times as brief as he could. Her mother he saw occasionally; she spoke to him only when necessary. Elvira, Mrs. Brackett, Desire Peasly and the rest gave him the snippiest of bows when they met and whispered and giggled behind his back.

It had seemed to him that Elizabeth looked more careworn of late. He did not mention it to her, of course, but it troubled him. He speculated concerning the cause and was inclined, entirely without good reason, to suspect Egbert, just as he was inclined to suspect him of being the cause of most unpleasantness. Something that Mrs. Tidditt said during one of her evening "dropping-ins" supplied a possible base for suspicion in this particular case.

"Elizabeth and her mother has had some sort of a rumpus," declared Esther. "They ain't hardly on speakin' terms with one another these days. That is," she added, "Cordelia ain't. I guess likely Elizabeth would be as nice as she always is if her ma would give her the chance. Cordelia goes around all divided up between tears and joy, as you might say. When she's nigh her daughter she looks as if she was just about ready to cry--lee scuppers all awash, as my husband used to say when I was in the same condition; which wan't often, for cryin' ain't much in my line. Yes, when Elizabeth's lookin' at her she's right on the ragged edge of tears. But you let that dratted Eg heave in sight with all sail sot and signals flyin' and she's all smiles in a minute. Oh, what a fool a fool woman can be when she sets out to be!... Hey? What did you say, Cap'n Kendrick?"

"I didn't say anything, Esther."

"Oh, didn't you? I thought you did. There's one ray of comfort over acrost, anyhow. Elizabeth ain't in love with old Eggie, even if her mother is. She and he have had a run-in or I miss my guess."

The captain was interested now. "What makes you think that?" he asked.

"Oh, from things I've seen. He's all soft soap and sweet ile to her same as he always was--little more so, if anything--but she is cold as the bottom of a well to him. No, they've had a row and of course the reason's plain enough. That night over here when she called me a spy and a lot more names I told her a few things for her own good. I told her she had better think over what I said about that Eg's schemin' to get her mother and the five thousand dollars. I told her to think that over and think Eg over, too. She was terribly high and mighty then, but I bet you she's done some thinkin' since. Yes, and come to the conclusion that, spy or no spy, I was tellin' the plain truth.... Hey, Cap'n Kendrick?"

"Eh?... Oh, yes, yes; I shouldn't wonder, Esther."

"I shouldn't wonder, neither. But it won't have no effect on Cordelia. She'd put her best Sunday bonnet on the ground and let that Eg dance the grand fandango on it if he asked her to. Poor, soft-headed critter."

"Yes, yes.... Humph! Any other news? How is Elvira?"

"Oh, she's full of spite and jealousy as a yeast jug is full of pop. She pretends that the idea of anything serious between Cordelia and Phillips is just silliness. Might as well talk about King Solomon in all his glory marryin' the woman that done his washin'--that's what she pretends to believe. It's all Cordelia and not Eg at all, that's what she says. But she knows better, just the same. She's got somethin' else to think about now. That aunt of hers over to Ostable, the one that owns them iron images she wanted the Harbor to buy--she's sick, the aunt is. Elviry's pretty worried about her; she's the old woman's only relation."

Kendrick had heard nothing further from his sister in the matter of young Kent and his trouble, whatever the latter might be. Sears had pondered a good deal concerning it and tried to guess in what possible way the boy could be "in the same boat" with Egbert. There was little use in guessing, however, and he had given up trying. And another week passed, another fruitless, dreary, hopeless week.

Judah's lodge night came around again and Mr. Cahoon, after asking his skipper's permission, departed for the meeting, leaving Sears Kendrick alone. It was a beastly November evening, cold and with a heavy rain beating against the windows of the Minot kitchen, and a wind which shrieked and howled about the corners and gables of the old house, rattled every loose shingle, and set the dry bones of the wisteria vine scratching and thumping against the walls. The water was thrown in bucketfuls against the ancient panes and poured from the sashes as if the latter were miniature dams in flood time.

Sears sat by the kitchen stove, smoking and trying to read. He could make a success of the smoking, but the attempt at reading was a failure. It was so much easier to think, so much easier to let his thoughts dwell upon his own dismal, wretched, discouraging story than to follow the fortunes of Thaddeus of Warsaw through the long succession of printed pages. And he had read Thaddeus's story before. He knew exactly how it would end. But how would his own story end? He might speculate much, but nowhere in all his speculations was there a sign of a happy ending.

His pipe went out, he tossed the book upon the table among the supper dishes--Judah had been in too great a hurry to clear away--and leaned back in his chair. Then he rose and walked--he could walk pretty well now, the limp was but slight--to the window and, lifting the shade, peered out.

He could see nothing, or almost nothing. The illumined windows made yellow pools of light upon the wet bricks below them, and across the darkness above were shining ribbons of rain. Against the black sky shapes of deeper blackness were moving rapidly, the bare thrashing branches of the locust tree. It was a beastly night, so he thought as he looked out at it; a beastly night in a wretched world.

Then above the noises of screeching wind and splashing water he heard other sounds, sounds growing louder, approaching footsteps. Some one was coming up the walk from the road.

He thought of course that it was Judah returning. He could not imagine why he should return, but it was more impossible to imagine any one else being out and coming to the Minot place on such a night. A figure, bent to the storm, passed across the light from the window. Captain Kendrick dropped the shade and strode through the little entry to the back door. He threw it open.

"Come in, Judah," he ordered. "Come in quick, before we both drown."

But the man who came in was not Judah Cahoon. He was George Kent.

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Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 16 Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 16

Fair Harbor: A Novel - Chapter 16
CHAPTER XVIThe young man plunged across the threshold, the skirts of his dripping overcoat flapping about his knees and the water pouring from the brim of his hat. He carried the ruin of what had been an umbrella in his hand. It had been blown inside out, and was now but a crumpled tangle of wet fabric and bent and bristling wire. He stumbled over the sill, halted, and turning, addressed the man who had opened the door. "Cap'n," he stammered, breathlessly, "I--I--I've come to see you. I--I know you must think--I don't know what you can think--but--but----" Kendrick interrupted. He
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CHAPTER XIVIf 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
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