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It was the sudden discovery of Brooks, sitting half hidden behind the opened door, which caused the transformation. It was pitiful to see her embarrassment. She seemed to look in vain for some crack or corner where she might creep and hide herself. If she had twisted her apron or bit her finger tips, in the conventional way, the Captain would have been relieved of his oppressive sense of guilt. But she stood utterly helpless, looking at him with the blank reproach of a creature which suffers but cannot retaliate.
"Wal now, I'll be blowed ef I hain't
gone and done it," exclaimed the old mariner with a kind of half-hearted bravado; but he saw the vanity of persevering on that tack and promptly took his bearings. "I didn't mean to hurt yer, child," he added ruefully. "Ye know I be an old fool."
THE island of Poltucket is about as flat as a pancake. There is a saying there that, if your children go astray, you only have to stand up on a chair and look through an opera-glass; then you are sure to find them. To make assurance doubly sure, however, most of the houses in Poltucket are provided with a square platform or balcony on the roof, right around the chimney; and there you may see the aged sea-captains sit by the hour, sweeping the horizon with their telescopes. It may not be their children they are looking after; as these are apt to be beyond the age of parental tutelage, but anything, living or inanimate, on land or sea, affords a welcome break in the heavy monotony of life. A ship, if it be sound, calls half the population to their roofs; a wreck the whole. Charity Howland was therefore perfectly in order when, the day after Brooks's visit, she was seen seated on the roof with her glass leveled toward some distant object. It was only Miss Herkomer, at Mrs. Morgan's, who found her action reprehensible; and that was probably because Miss Herkomer was herself, at that moment, engaged in marine observation. She had gotten Brooks in her focus, as he lay "scupping" in a boat out at the bellbuoy; and she had a suspicion that Charity's glass was leveled in the same direction. She had been Charity's champion, as long as she believed the whole affair to be a mere idle excitement, bred in the fancy of hysterical spinsters. But now a sharp pang of jealousy nestled in her heart; and she began to suspect that she was not so disinterested as she had imagined. And Charity, when suddenly she found Miss Herkomer's gaunt image in her focus with quite a sinister expression, and the threatening glass pointed unmistakably at herself, was smitten by her conscience, and in guilty
confusion tumbled down the stairs.
oring to convince herself
that her real passion was a delusion. A man was such a remote and formidable kind of creat
ure to her, that it had never seri
ously entered into her calculations that he was indispensable to any sort of love romance ending in bliss or misery. But since her ad
venture at the
Miss Anastasia, in the deadly tedium of Mrs. Morgan's piazza, spent much time pondering on the relation of Brooks to Charity. Her own life had been desperately barren and devoid of incident. She had taken refuge in intellectual pursuits, as a dernier ressort, in order
to make existence endurable. Otherwise she would have gone mad from sheer boredom. She had taken a lively interest in Char
ity, as long as she believed her to be a wronged member of her own sex. But she found
it hard to forgive her the enjoyment of romantic misery and agitation. The telescope incident put a new face
upon everything; it made her hate Charity, and yet vaguely desire to be near her. I
"The poor little girl in Captain Jewell's garret stood with fear and trembling." am not sure that she resolved to outshine her intellectually, and by her superior charms to introduce an unpleasant complication into the romance which might otherwise run too smoothly. I think rather it was a dim craving for excitement which impelled her, and a dim but tantalizing curiosity as to what was really going on between those two mysterious and uncommunicative persons. She accordingly surprised
Such an hour,
When the shriveled life-germs burst into Captain Jewell with a visit one afternoon,
flower, Compensates in a breath
and quite dumfounded him by her lively interest in his baskets. She bought half
For the chill and the darkness of death.
Miss Herkomer, feeling unequal to the further pursuit of the subject, transferred her interest to the wreck, and sat down on an empty soap-box, while the Captain consented to part with some fragments of information concerning the memorable event. He was endeavoring, with the utmost difficulty, to explain the uses of the life-saving apparatus, when the door to the kitchen was opened, and Charity entered. Miss Herkomer jumped up, put her arms about her waist, and kissed her with much effusion. She did not allow the girl's look of surprise in the least to dampen her ardor.
She felt she had struck a false note there, before the words were fairly uttered; but her lips went mechanically and blundered on. There seemed to be
a demon in her tongue, who delighted in this kind of transparent mendacity which deceived no one. She felt she was getting into deeper waters the longer she talked; and yet she could not stop without, somehow, appearing to herself awkward and foolish. The fact was, she was new to the rôle, having never cared enough for men to compromise her conscience on their account. But this miserable Brooks, in whom she had interested herself, at first, as a joke, had revenged himself by taking possession of her mind in a wholly unprecedented manner. She was now perfectly aware that she had lodged in Charity's heart the very suspicion she had intended to avert. She was looking anxiously toward the door, expecting, every moment, to see Brooks enter. Charity was sitting, with a kind of chilly wonder, watching her face, and dodging her direct questions with a childlike ingenuity which was admirable, because it looked like candor. As killing time was the object, Miss Anastasia again addressed herself to the Captain, who had been braiding his osiers automatically, and deplored the frequency of wrecks upon the Poltucket coast.
"It ain't no use whimperin', mum," the old man replied; "ef wrecks wasn't good fer somethin', the Lord wouldn't send 'em."
"Good for something!" exclaimed Miss Herkomer; "you don't mean to say that you like to see people perish!"
"I didn't say nuthin' of the sort, mum; but our folks has got ter live: and there ain't nuthin' else fer them to live on now, sence the guvernment killed the shippin'."
"Then you are, on the whole, glad when you hear of a wreck.”
"I didn't say that, mum; I don't pray the Lord fer ships ter be wrecked; but I do pray the Lord that ef ships has ter be wrecked, they be wrecked on Poltucket."
The Captain showed a vigor of intellect on this one topic which was the more impressive, because of his decrepitude.
"I tell you, mum," he went on, after having moved his jaws, for some minutes, in silent indignation, "I voted the Republican ticket every blessed year, but now I don't no more. ence they put up the two life-savin' stations on the island and six light-houses, I am a Democrat. And many more with me, mum; as they'll find out by and by, mum, when they put up their next man fer President."
BROOKS was laboring under a difficulty which in all lands makes greatness more or less inconvenient. He was so conspicuous a figure in Poltucket that everything he did or said made something of a sensation. It seemed unchivalrous to him to expose the young girl who filled his thoughts to the cruel village gossip, unless he was irrevocably determined to ask her the fatal question. He despised himself for entertaining such pusillanimous considerations; for his ideal of a lover was a daring and unscrupulous Don Giovanni, whose joyous march of conquest was strewn with wrecked hearts. He saw himself constantly in spirit doing all sorts of audacious things which in the body he never could hope to attain. That little, timorous girl with the sweet, demure face, who looked up at him with those large, trustful blue eyes, how could he afford to experiment with her fragile heart, and throw it away, in case it should not prove to be worth keeping? He knew that, in case he made such a discovery, his pusillanimous conscience would get the better of his heroic aspiration, and he would end by keeping her heart, regardless of its value. He went occasionally to visit the Captain, and for want of anything better to do,
presented him with high-flavored imported cigars, which the mariner ruthlessly bit in two, putting one half into his mouth and chewing it, and the other into his vest-pocket. After having chewed them, he dried the leaves and smoked them in a pipe. Brooks invariably, on these occasions, met Miss Herkomer (for she watched his movements through her telescope with great exactness) and was drawn into conversation with her about all sorts of nightmarish literary topics, which gave her a chance to parade her intelligence. It was obvious that the Fates were against him. There never was a courtship attended with more hopeless difficulties. The wrath of a father with a shot-gun, or of a deceived rival, thirsting for gore, would have been trifles compared with the dire vigilance of Miss Herkomer and a hundred other morbid moralists who sat in windows, on piazzas, and on the house-tops, taking social observations, all on the qui vive for scandalous developments.
It would never have occurred to Brooks that his chief persecutor should be the very one to extricate him from this sad dilemma. Miss Anastasia was inclined to believe that she had now advanced far enough in the young man's favor to risk a change of programme. She knew that the moon had the reputation of stimulating the hidden springs of sentiment in the masculine heart, and determined to arrange a moonlight sail, in which Brooks and herself should be the principal participators. She broached her plan cautiously to the Rev. Mr. Nichols, who, without suspecting ulterior motives, went headlong into the trap. He pleaded, with clerical innocence, for half an hour, to be allowed to invite Brooks, as the young man had, he thought, now been sufficiently punished for his faux pas, which had, after all, not been anything more than a youthful indiscretion. It is superfluous to add that Anastasia was convinced by this argument, and gave Mr. Nichols the desired permission. But when Brooks had accepted, she was not at all anxious to extend her hospitality further. wanted a small, congenial party, she said, and Mr. Nichols was finally persuaded to coincide in her view. By
nocence, Miss Herkomer," he exclaimed with mock entreaty; "what have I done to thee, that thou should'st thus maltreat me?"
"I fear, Mr. Brooks, you are one of those who disapprove of intellect in women," Miss Herkomer rejoined, with a primness which was in itself a rebuke to his levity.
"Not at all. I only hold that there are some things which are more valuable than intellect."
some clever manoeuvring, several were invited who, it was known, would be unable to go, and in the end the select and congenial party, when it met at three o'clock in the afternoon on the wharf, was found to consist of but four persons, the fourth of whom was Charity Howland. Brooks, who had done a little plotting of his own, had persuaded Nichols to hire Captain Jewell's catboat, (on charitable grounds as he urged) and as the young girl was amply competent to sail it, the guileless parson had concluded to engage her, and dispense with a sailing-master. That seemed, in view of what had occurred between him and Brooks (in whose good graces he was anxious to re-establish himself), a sort of amende honorable-a vote of confidence, as it were, the delicacy of which no one could fail to appreciate.
I shall not attempt to describe Anastasia's feelings, when she found herself outplotted in this shameful manner. She had to display a cheerful mask, of course, but it cost her a considerable effort. The plan was, to spend the afternoon fishing, take supper on board and sail home by moonlight, returning about 10 or 11 o'clock in the evening. The wind was fair, and the boat shot ahead at a good speed. Charity sat bare-headed at the rudder, holding the tiller with a firm grasp, and with a cool professional glance (which Brooks found ravishing) watching the sail, the water, and the horizon. She commanded "heads which such intellectual attainments down" when she jibed, with a sang froid in which there was no trace of her customary timidity. The low sanddunes that inclosed the harbor floated like enchanted isles upon the bosom of the sea, the vast vault of the sky was steeped in sunshine, and the gulls who rejoiced in its freedom seemed embodiments of bliss. If it had been Nichols and not Miss Herkomer who, in the midst of his glorious absorption in the elements, had asked Brooks what his opinion was of George Eliot's "Theophrastus Such," he would have felt tempted to do him bodily harm. In fact, the question jarred so violently on him that he had to exercise all his selfrestraint, in order to give a polite an
"Oh, have pity on my youth and in
"More valuable than intellect! What are they, pray?"
"Health, first of all; innocence and simplicity of soul, sweet and unspoiled emotions."
He looked directly at the unconscious girl at the rudder, as if he read out of her face all the things which he found most admirable.
"You mean to say," demanded Miss Herkomer, with a note of exasperation which she found it hard to suppress, "that the mere crude health which any peasant or fisher-girl possesses is more valuable to the world than the noble intellect of a George Sand or a George Eliot?"
"If it is a question of universal application, I should say yes," answered Brooks fearlessly; "if you mean only in rare individual cases, I should say no. In my opinion, the world could better afford to spare in its womankind the intellect of George Eliot than the health
would be apt to undermine. George Eliot, as you know, died childless; if all womankind died childless, but with towering intellects, civilization would expire with us, and we should all have lived in vain."
Mr. Nichols, who had been trolling a bluefish line, here gave a shout, which happily interrupted the discussion. He rose in the boat with visible excitement, and began to haul with all his might.
"Keep your line taut," cried Charity, her eyes suddenly afire with interest; -"no, no! not that way, or you'll unhook him!"
"But he cuts my hands cruelly," whimpered Nichols. "I don't think I can stand it much longer."
'Take the tiller quick; and I'll haul him," said the girl, with quiet decision;