The lawyer was a tower of strength. He started Emma Campbell, who didn’t want to linger in New York, on her way to Riverton. Emma wanted to get home as fast as the fastest train could carry her. But Peter didn’t want to go back to Riverton—yet. And then Vandervelde made a suggestion which rather pleased Peter. Why not go to a little place he knew, a quiet and very beautiful place on the Maine coast? Very few people knew of its existence. Vandervelde had stumbled upon it on a motor trip a few years before, and he was rather jealous of his discovery. The people were sturdy, independent Maine folk, the climate and scenery unsurpassed; Peter would be well looked after by the old lady to whom Vandervelde would recommend him. And to make perfectly sure that he’d be undisturbed, to drop more completely out of the world and find the rest he needed, why not call himself, say, Mr. Jones, or Mr. Smith, letting Peter Champneys the artist hide for a while behind that homely disguise? Vandervelde almost stammered in his eagerness. His eyes shone, his face flushed. He leaned across his desk, watching Peter with a curious intensity.
Peter liked the idea of the Maine coast. Sea and forest, open spaces, quietude; plain folk going about their own business, letting him go about his. Long days to loaf through, in which to reorganize his existence in accordance with his newer values. Isolation was the balm his spirit craved. Let him have that, let it help him to become his own man again, and he’d be ready to face life and work like a giant refreshed.
“You’ll go?” Vandervelde’s voice was studiously restrained; he had lowered his lids to hide the eagerness of his eyes.
“I think such a place as you describe is exactly what I need,” said Peter.
“I’m quite sure it is. And the sooner you go, the better.”
Peter got up and walked around the office. A typewriter was clacking monotonously, the telephone bell was constantly ringing. Peter turned his head restlessly.
Vandervelde had made his suggestion at precisely the right moment. Peter felt grateful to him. Very nice man, Vandervelde. Kind as he could be, too! One liked and trusted him. Clever of him to have so instantly understood just what Peter most craved!
“I quite agree with you,” said Peter. “I’ll start to-night.”
Vandervelde leaned back in his chair. His heart thumped. He drew a deep breath, the corners of his mouth curling noticeably, and beamed at Peter Champneys through his glasses. He said aloud, cheerfully, “Well, why not?”
Grandma Baker’s cottage formed the extreme right horn of the crescent that was the village. The middle of the crescent backed up against a hill, the horns dipped toward the shore-line and the water. Near Grandma Baker’s front gate were currant bushes, and a path bordered with dahlias and gillyflowers led to the door, which had two stone slabs for steps, and on both sides of which were large lilac bushes,—she called them “lay-locks.” Behind the house were apple-trees, and more currant bushes, as well as gooseberries and raspberries. A herb garden grew under her kitchen windows, so that her kitchen and pantry always smelled of thyme and wintergreen, and her bedrooms were fragrant with lavender.