This was what Grimsby told Eben, and he smiled to himself as he glanced at the unsuspecting lad at the wheel. He was playing into his hands, and he felt perfectly sure of him now. His next move was with Miss Randall and John Hampton. He was silent a long time as the boat glided on her way. Eben thought he was half asleep, but in reality he was very much awake, revolving in his mind a scheme which had been suggested by the mention of the coal mine near Island Lake. The more he thought it over, the more pleased he became, and by the time they came in sight of his house, he had the plan pretty well worked out.
“Guess you’d better let me off at my own shore,” he remarked.
“Why, I thought ye was goin’ home with me,” Eben replied.
“I did intend to. But I’d like to visit my own family first. I haven’t seen them for several days. I’ll be on hand with Donaster to-morrow, so you be all ready.”
In less than a half hour Eben rounded up the “Eb and Flo” near the shore in front of the Grimsby house, which was a poor, ramshackle affair. The water here was deep, so he was able to run close to the bank. A long-haired, ragged, dirty boy pushed off for his father in a leaky boat, and took him ashore. In a few minutes more the “Eb and Flo” was again under way, clipping along under the light breeze, bound for Beech Cove several miles beyond.
The garden in front of the Hampton cottage was at its best on a bright summer afternoon. As Mrs. Hampton stood in the midst of the flowers, her eyes shone with pride. She was very much at home here, and loved each flower, from the delicate, fragrant mignonette to the gaily-coloured, boisterous tiger-lily. The fence surrounding the garden was lost in a wealth of vines, chief among which was the morning-glory, whose vase-shaped blossoms were drooping sleepily beneath the sun’s hot glare.
Close to the garden ran the main highway, and at times Mrs. Hampton lifted her head and looked longingly down the road as if expecting someone. She was a woman of generous mould, and graceful bearing, scarcely past the meridian of life. It was not age which had whitened her hair, and years of toil had not stamped the furrows upon her brow, nor fixed the sad expression in her clear blue eyes. Something more subtle than the silent alchemy of time had wrought the change, and of this Mrs. Hampton was thinking now.
The click of the garden gate startled her, and turning quickly she saw Gabriel Grimsby, hot and dust-laden coming toward her. His face was beaming as usual, but more sunburnt, and he was mopping his forehead with a big red handkerchief. Mrs. Hampton smiled as she held out a hand of welcome.
“I am glad to see you, Gabriel,” she accosted. “It has been a long time since you were here. Busy, I suppose?”