She knew then what she had done. Here was a monster of her own making. She had sacrificed her lover on the altar of success. Jimmie needed her no longer.
I would not have you think this an unhappy ending. Elise has all that she had asked, and Jimmie, with fame for a mistress, is no longer an unwilling captive in the old house. The prisoner loves his prison, welcomes his chains.
But Duncan and I talk at times of the young Jimmie who came years ago into our office. The Jimmie Harding who works down in Albemarle, and who struts a little in New York when he makes his speeches, is the ghost of the boy we knew. But he loves us still.
The mystery of Nancy Greer’s disappearance has never been explained. The man she was to have married has married another woman. For a long time he mourned Nancy. He has always held the theory that she was drowned while bathing, and the rest of Nancy’s world agrees with him. She had left the house one morning for her usual swim. The fog was coming in, and the last person to see her was a fisherman returning from his nets. He had stopped and watched her flitting wraith-like through the mist. He reported later that Nancy wore a gray bathing suit and cap and carried a blue cloak.
“You are sure she carried a cloak?” was the question which was repeatedly asked. For no cloak had been found on the sands, and it was unlikely that she had worn it into the water. The disappearance of the blue cloak was the only point which seemed to contradict the theory of accidental drowning. There were those who held that the cloak might have been carried off by some acquisitive individual. But it was not likely; the islanders are, as a rule, honest, and it was too late in the season for “off-islanders.”
I am the only one who knows the truth. And as the truth would have been harder for Anthony Peak to bear than what he believed had happened, I have always withheld it.
There was, too, the fear that if I told they might try to bring Nancy back. I think Anthony would have searched the world for her. Not, perhaps, because of any great and passionate need of her, but because he would have thought her unhappy in what she had done, and would have sought to save her.
I am twenty years older than Nancy, her parents are dead, and it was at my house that she always stayed when she came to Nantucket. She has island blood in her veins, and so has Anthony Peak. Back of them were seafaring folk, although in the foreground was a generation or two of cosmopolitan residence. Nancy had been educated in France, and Anthony in England. The Peaks and the Greers owned respectively houses in Beacon Street and in Washington Square. They came every summer to the island, and it was thus that Anthony and Nancy grew up together, and at last became engaged.
As I have said, I am twenty years older than Nancy, and I am her cousin. I live in the old Greer house on Orange Street, for it is mine by inheritance, and was to have gone to Nancy at my death. But it will not go to her now. Yet I sometimes wonder—will the ship which carried her away ever sail back into the harbor? Some day, when she is old, will she walk up the street and be sorry to find strangers in the house?