The old-fashioned garden welcomed her with its fragrance; her cat, which she had been unable to give away and had not the heart to destroy at the time of her departure, came to the little white gate to meet her and rubbed against her, purring contentedly—apparently none the worse for a month of vagabondage and richer by a litter of kittens that blinked at Nan from under the kitchen stoop. From across the Bight of Tyee, the morning breeze brought her the grateful odor of the sea, while the white sea-gulls, prinking themselves on the pile-butts at the outer edge of the Sawdust Pile, raised raucous cries at her approach and hopped toward her in anticipation of the scraps she had been wont to toss them. She resurrected the key from its hiding-place under the eaves, and her hot tears fell so fast that it was with difficulty she could insert it in the door. Poor derelict on the sea of life, she had gone out with the ebb and had been swept back on the flood, to bob around for a little while in the cross-currents of human destinies before going out again with the ebb.
The air in the little house was hot and fetid; so she threw open the doors and windows. Dust had accumulated everywhere and, with a certain detachment, she noted, even in her distress, that she had gone away without closing the great square piano. She ran her fingers over the dusty keys and brought forth a few, sonorous chords; then she observed that the little, ancient, half-portion grandfather’s clock had died of inanition; so she made a mental note to listen for the twelve-o’clock whistle on the Tyee mill and set the clock by it. The spigot over the kitchen sink was leaking a little, and it occurred to her, in the same curious detached way, that it needed a new gasket.
She sighed. Once more, in this silent little house so fraught with happy memories, the old burden of existence was bearing upon her—the feeling that she was in jail. For a month she had been free—free to walk the streets, to look in shop windows, to seek a livelihood and talk to other human beings without that terrible feeling that, no matter how pleasant they might appear to be, their eyes were secretly appraising her—that they were thinking. And now to be forced to abandon that freedom—
“Oh, well! It can’t last forever,” she soliloquized, and, blinking away her tears, she proceeded to change into a house dress and put her little home in order. Presently, the local expressman arrived with her baggage and was followed by sundry youths bearing sundry provisions; at twelve-thirty, when she and young Don sat down to the luncheon she had prepared, her flight to New York and return appeared singularly unreal, like the memory of a dream.
She visited the hospital next day, choosing an hour when Port Agnew was at its evening meal and too preoccupied with that important detail to note her coming and going. She returned to her home under cover of darkness.