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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Woman-haters: A Yarn Of Eastboro Twin-lights - Chapter 17. Woman-Haters
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The Woman-haters: A Yarn Of Eastboro Twin-lights - Chapter 17. Woman-Haters Post by :brennan Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph Crosby Lincoln Date :May 2012 Read :3161

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The Woman-haters: A Yarn Of Eastboro Twin-lights - Chapter 17. Woman-Haters

CHAPTER XVII. WOMAN-HATERS

"But what," asked Ruth, as they entered the bungalow together, "has happened to Mr. Atkins, do you think? You say he went away yesterday noon and you haven't seen him or even heard from him since. I should think he would be afraid to leave the lights for so long a time. Has he ever done it before?"

"No. And I'm certain he would not have done it this time of his own accord. If he could have gotten back last night he would, storm or no storm."

"But last night was pretty bad. And," quite seriously, "of course he knew that you were here, and so everything would be all right."

"Oh, certainly," with sarcasm, "he would know that, of course. So long as I am on deck, why come back at all? I'm afraid Atkins doesn't share your faith in my transcendent ability, dear."

"Well," Miss Graham tossed her head, "I imagine he knew he could trust you to attend to his old lighthouses."

"Perhaps. If so, his faith has developed wonderfully. He never has trusted me even to light the lanterns. No, I'm afraid something has happened--some accident. If the telephone was in working order I could soon find out. As it is, I can only wait and try not to worry. By the way, is your housekeeper--Mrs. What's-her-name--all serene after her wet afternoon? When did she return?"

"She hasn't returned. I expected her last evening--she said she would be back before dark--but she didn't come. That didn't trouble me; the storm was so severe that I suppose she stayed in the village overnight."

"So you were alone all through the gale. I wondered if you were; I was tremendously anxious about you. And you weren't afraid? Did you sleep?"

"Not much. You see," she smiled oddly, "I received a letter before I retired, and it was such an important--and surprising--communication that I couldn't go to sleep at once."

"A letter? A letter last night? Who--What? You don't mean my letter? The one I put under your door? You didn't get THAT last night!"

"Oh, yes, I did."

"But how? The bungalow was as dark as a tomb. There wasn't a light anywhere. I made sure of that before I came over."

"I know. I put the light out, but I was sitting by the window in the dark, looking out at the storm. Then I saw some one coming up the hill, and it was you."

"Then you saw me push it under the door?"

"Yes. What made you stay on the step so long after you had pushed it under?"

"Me? . . . Oh," hastily, "I wanted to make sure it was--er--under. And you found it and read it--then?"

"Of course. I couldn't imagine what it could be, and I was curious, naturally."

"Ruth!"

"I was."

"Nonsense! You knew what it must be. Surely you did. Now, truly, didn't you? Didn't you, dear?"

"Why should I? . . . Oh, your sleeve is wet. You're soaking wet from head to foot."

"Well, I presume that was to be expected. This water out here is remarkably damp, you know, and I was in it for some time. I should have been in it yet if it hadn't been for you."

"Don't!" with a shudder, "don't speak of it. When I saw you fall into that tide I . . . But there! you mustn't stay here another moment. Go home and put on dry things. Go at once!"

"Dry things be hanged! I'm going to stay right here--and look at you."

"You're not. Besides, I am wet, too. And I haven't had my breakfast."

"Haven't you? Neither have I." He forgot that he had attempted to have one. "But I don't care," he added recklessly. Then, with a flash of inspiration, "Why can't we breakfast together? Invite me, please."

"No, I shall not. At least, not until you go back and change your clothes."

"To hear is to obey. 'I go, but I return,' as the fellow in the play observes. I'll be back in just fifteen minutes."

He was back in twelve, and, as to make the long detour about the marshes would, he felt then, be a wicked waste of time and the marshes themselves were covered with puddles left by the tide, his "dry things" were far from dry when he arrived. But she did not notice, and he was too happy to care, so it was all right. They got breakfast together, and if the coffee had boiled too long and the eggs not long enough, that was all right, also.

They sat at opposite sides of the little table, and he needed frequent reminding that eating was supposed to be the business on hand. They talked of his father and of Ann Davidson--whom Ruth declared was to be pitied--of the wonderful coincidence that that particular paper, the one containing the "Personal" and the "Engagement in High Life" item, should have been on top of the pile in the boathouse, and--of other things. Occasionally the talk lapsed, and the substitute assistant merely looked, looked and smiled vacuously. When this happened Miss Graham smiled, also, and blushed. Neither of them thought of looking out of the window.

If they had not been so preoccupied, if they had looked out of that window, they would have seen a horse and buggy approaching over the dunes. Seth and Mrs. Bascom were on the buggy seat, and the lightkeeper was driving with one hand. The equipage had been hired at the Eastboro livery stable. Joshua was undergoing repairs and enjoying a much-needed rest at the blacksmith shop in the village.

As they drew near the lights, Seth sighed contentedly.

"Well, Emeline," he observed, "here we be, safe and sound. Home again! Yes, sir, by jiminy crimps, HOME! And you ain't goin' to Boston to-day, neither."

Mrs. Bascom, the practical, moved toward the edge of the seat.

"Take your arm away, Seth," she cautioned. "They'll see you."

"Who'll see me? What do I care who sees me? Ain't a man got a right to put his arm around his own wife, I'd like to know?"

"Humph! Well, all right. I can stand it if you can. Only I cal'late your young Brown man is in for somethin' of a shock, that's all. HE don't know that I'm your wife."

Seth removed his arm. His expression changed.

"That's so," he admitted. "He will be set back three or four rows, won't he?"

"I shouldn't wonder. He'll think your woman-hate has had a relapse, I guess."

The lightkeeper looked troubled; then he nodded grimly.

"His ain't what you'd call a desp'rate case," he declared. "Judgin' by what I've seen in the cove for the last month, he's gettin' better of it fast. I ain't no worse than he is, by time! . . . Wonder where he is! This place looks deader'n the doleful tombs."

He hitched the horse to the back fence and assisted his wife to alight from the buggy. They entered the kitchen. No one was there, and Seth's hurried search of the other rooms resulted in finding them untenanted likewise.

"Maybe he's out in one of the lights," he said, "wait here, Emeline, and I'll go see."

But she would not wait. "I'm goin' right over to the bungalow," she said. "I'm worried about Miss Ruth. She was alone all last night, and I sha'n't rest easy till I know nothin's happened to her. You can come when you find your young man. You and me have got somethin' to tell 'em, and we might as well get the tellin' done as soon as possible. Nothin's ever gained by putting off a mean job. Unless, of course," she added, looking at him out of the corners of her eyes, "you want to back out, Seth. It ain't too late even now, you know."

He stared at her. "Back out!" he repeated; "back out! Emeline Bascom, what are you talkin' about? You go to that bungalow and go in a hurry. Don't stop to talk! go! Who's runnin' this craft? Who's the man in this family--you or me?"

She laughed. "You seem to be, Seth," she answered, "just now."

"I am. I've been a consider'ble spell learnin' how to be, but I've learned. You trot right along."

Brown was in neither of the light towers, and Seth began to be worried about him. He descended to the yard and stood there, wondering what on earth could have happened. Then, looking across the cove, he became aware that his wife was standing on the edge of the bluff, making signals with both hands.

He opened his mouth to shout a question, but she frantically signaled for silence. Then she beckoned. He ran down the path at full speed. She met him at the other side of the cove.

"Come here!" she whispered. "Don't say a word, but just come--and look."

He followed her, crept close to the bungalow window and peeped in. His helper, "John Brown," and Miss Ruth Graham were seated at the table. Also the substitute assistant was leaning across that table with the young lady's hand in his; the pair were entirely oblivious of anything in the world except each other.

A few moments later a thunderous knock shook the bungalow door. The knock was not answered immediately; therefore, Seth opened the door himself. Miss Graham and the lightkeeper's helper were standing some distance apart; they gazed speechlessly at the couple who now entered the room.

"Well," observed Seth, with sarcasm, "anybody got anything to say? You," turning to the young man, "seems to me you ought to say SOMETHIN'. Considerin' a little agreement you and me had, I should imagine I was entitled to some triflin' explanation. What are you doin' over here--with HER? Brown--"

The young gentleman came to himself with a start. He walked across to where Miss Graham was standing, and once more took her hand.

"My name is not Brown," he said firmly. "It is Brooks; and this is the young lady I am to marry."

He naturally expected his superior to be surprised. As a matter of fact, he was the surprised party. Seth reached out, drew the bungalow housekeeper toward him, and put his arm about her waist. Then he smiled; and the smile was expressive of pride, triumph, and satisfaction absolute.

"ATKINS!" gasped Brooks.

"My name ain't Atkins," was the astonishing reply; "it's Bascom. And this," indicating by a tightening of his arm the blushing person at his side, "is the lady I married over five year ago."


After the stories had been told, after both sides had told theirs and explained and been exclaimed over and congratulated, after the very last question had been asked and answered, Brown--or Brooks--asked one more.

"But this other fellow," he queried, "this brother-in-law--By George, it is perfectly marvelous, this whole business!--where is he? What has become of him?"

Seth chuckled. "Bennie D.?" he said. "Well, Bennie D. is leavin' Eastboro on the noon train. I paid his fare and give him fifty dollars to boot. He's goin' somewhere, but he ain't sartin where. If you asked me, I should say that, in the end, he'd most likely have to go where he's never been afore, so far's I ever heard--that's to work. Now--seein' as the important business has been talked over and settled--maybe you'll tell me about the lights, and how you got along last night."

But the lighthouse subject was destined to be postponed for a few minutes. The person in whose care the Lights had been left during the past twenty hours or so looked at the speaker, then at the other persons present, and suddenly began to laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" asked Miss Graham. "Why, Russell, what is it?"

Russell Agnew Brooks, alias "John Brown," ex-substitute assistant at Eastboro Twin-Lights, sank into a chair, shaking from head to heel.

"It is hysterics," cried Ruth, hastening to his side. "No wonder, poor dear, considering what he has been through. Hush, Russell! don't, you frighten me. What IS it?"

Her fiance waved a reassuring hand. "It--it's all right," he gasped. "I was just laughing at . . . Oh," pointing an unsteady finger at the lightkeeper, "ask him; he knows."

"Ask him?" repeated the bewildered young lady. "Why, Mr. Atkins--Bascom, I mean--what. . . ."

And then Seth began to laugh. Leaning against the doorpost, he at first chuckled and then roared.

"Seth!" cried his wife. "Seth, you old idiot! Why, I never see two such loons in my life! Seth, answer me! What are you two laughin' at?"

Seth Atkins Bascom wiped the tears from his eyes. "I cal'late," he panted, "I rather guess--Ho, ho!--I rather guess we're both laughin' at woman-haters."


(THE END)
Joseph Crosby Lincoln's Book: Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-Lights

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