“No, she didn’t.”
“But you know the reason? You’re keeping something from me. Did she say when she would come back?”
“No, not exactly, but, of course—”
“I know you’re keeping something from me. What has happened?”
“Happened? Land sakes! does anything ever happen in Trumet?”
“I think a good many things have happened lately. And the longer you keep the truth from me the more I shall suspect.”
“Mr. Ellery, you set still in that chair, or, when the doctor comes, he’ll put you to bed. I’ve got some cookin’ to do and I can’t set here gossipin’ no longer. You behave yourself and stop frettin’. I’m skipper here now—er—for a while, anyhow—and you’ve got to take orders from me. There! now I cal’late you’re scared, ain’t you?”
He did not seem greatly frightened, nor in awe of his new skipper. Instead, he was evidently preparing to ask more questions. Mrs. Higgins hurriedly fled to the living room and closed the door behind her.
The minister heard her rattling pans and dishes at a great rate. The noise made him nervous and he wished she might be more quiet. He moved to the chair nearest the window and looked out over the dunes and the wide stretch of tumbling blue sea. The surf was rolling up the shore, the mackerel gulls were swooping and dipping along the strand, the beach grass was waving in the wind. A solitary fish boat was beating out past the spar buoy. She was almost over the spot when the San Jose had first anchored.
The view was a familiar one. He had seen it in all weathers, during a storm, at morning when the sun was rising, at evening when the moon came up to tip the watery ridges with frosted silver. He had liked it, tolerated it, hated it, and then, after she came, loved it. He had thought it the most beautiful scene in all the world and one never to be forgotten. The dingy old building, with its bare wooden walls, had been first a horror, then a prison, and at last a palace of contentment. With the two women, one a second mother to him, and the other dearest of all on earth, he could have lived there forever. But now the old prison feeling was coming back. He was tired of the view and of the mean little room. He felt lonely and deserted and despairing.
His nerves were still weak and it was easy, in his childish condition, to become despondent. He went over the whole situation and felt more and more sure that his hopes had been false ones and that he had builded a fool’s paradise. After all, he remembered, she had given him no promise; she had found him ill and delirious and had brought him there. She had been kind and thoughtful and gracious, but that she would be to anyone, it was her nature. And he had been content, weak as he was, to have her near him, where he would see her and hear her speak. Her mere presence was so wonderful that he had been satisfied with that and had not asked for more.