Moving back to escape the encroaching tide, Clarice saw the cap lying, caught on the cragged point of rock before her. Oh, she knew it well! She stooped,—she took it up,—she need not wait for any other token. She dared not look upon the sea again. She turned away. But whither? Where now was her home? So long a time, since she was a child, it had been in the heart of Luke! Where was that heart lying? What meant this token sent to her from the deep sea? Oh, life and love! was not all now over? Heart still, hand powerless, home lost, she sat on the beach till night fell. At sunset she stood up to look once more up and down the mighty field of waters, along the shore, as far as her eyes could reach,—but saw nothing. Then she sat down again, and waited until long after the stars appeared. Once or twice the thought that her mother would wonder at her long absence moved her; but she impatiently controlled the feeble impulse to arise and return, until she recalled the words of Bondo Emmins. Luke’s mother, too,—and the cap in her care. If no one else had tidings for her, she had tidings.
Her father had reached home before her, and there was now no watcher on the beach, so far as Clarice could discover. Perhaps there was no longer any doubt in any mind. She hurried to the cabin. At the door she met Bondo Emmins coming out. He had a lantern in his hand.
“Is that you, Clarice?” said he. “I was just going to look for you.”
She scanned his face by the glare of the lantern with terrible eagerness, to see what tidings he had for her. He only looked grave. It was a face whose signs Clarice had never wholly trusted, but she did not doubt them now.
“I have found his cap,” said she, in a low, troubled voice. “You said, that, if he was alive, you would find him. I heard you. What have you found?”
Then she passed by him, though he would have spoken further. She went into the house and sat down on the hearth with Luke’s cap in her hand, which she held up before the fire to dry. So she sat one morning holding the tiny basket which the waves had dashed ashore.
Briton and his wife looked at each other, and at young Emmins, who, after a moment’s hesitation, had put out the lantern light, and followed her back into the house.
“It is his cap,” said Bondo, in a low voice, but not so low as to escape the ear of Clarice.
“The sea sent it for a token,” said she, without turning her gaze from the fire.
The old people moved up to the hearth.
“Sit down, Emmins,” said Briton. “You’ve served us well to-day.” In any trouble Old Briton’s comfort was in feeling a stout wall of flesh around him.
Bondo sat down. Then he and Briton helped each other explain the course taken by themselves and the other boat-men that day, and they talked of what they would do on the morrow; but they failed to comfort Clarice, or to awaken in her any hope. She knew that in reality they had no hope themselves.