And he did. She was there by the supper-table? waiting for him. Her eyes were red. John pretended to have dropped something, and went back for a moment to look for it. When he returned, neither spoke.
Years passed—many years. Their life ran on in its old groove.
John toiled from early morning to sunset, as before—and yet not quite as before. There was a difference, and Captain Tangye would, no doubt, have perceived it long before had not Death one day come on him in an east wind and closed his activities with a snap, much as he had so often closed his telescope.
For a year or two after Zeke’s departure, John went on enlarging his garden-bounds, though more languidly. Then followed four or five years during which his conquests seemed to stand still. And then little by little, the brambles and wild growth rallied. Perhaps—who knows?—the assaulted wilderness had found its Joan of Arc. At any rate, it stood up to him at length, and pressed in upon him and drove him back. Year by year, on one excuse or another, an outpost, a foot or two, would be abandoned and left to be reclaimed by the weeds. They were the assailants now. And there came a time when they had him at bay, a beaten man, in a patch of not more than fifty square feet, the centre of his former domain. “Time, not Corydon,” had conquered him.
He was working here one afternoon when a boy came up the lower path from the ferry, and put a telegram into his hands. He read it over, thought for a while, and turned to climb the old track towards the summer-house, but brambles choked it completely, and he had to fetch a circuit and strike the grass walk at the head of the slope.
He had not entered the summer-house for years, but he found Hester knitting there as usual; and put the telegram into her hands.
“Zeke is drowned.” He paused and added—he could not help it—“You’ll not need to be looking out to sea any more.”
Hester made as if to answer him, but rose instead and laid a hand on his breast. It was a thin hand, and roughened with housework. With the other she pointed to where the view had lain seaward. He turned. There was no longer any view. The brambles hid it, and must have hidden it for many years.
“Then what have you been thinkin’ of all these days?”
Her eyes filled; but she managed to say, “Of you, John.”
“It’s with you as with me. The weeds have us, every side, each in our corner.” He looked at his hands, and with sudden resolution turned and left her.
“Where are you going?”
“To fetch a hook. I’ll have that view open again before nightfall, or my name’s not John Penaluna.”
A REPORTED TALE OF TWO FRIGATES AND TWO LUGGERS