Ellen did not respond to the suggestion except to say: “We go into all sorts of places. This morning we went up on that schooner that’s drawn up on the beach, and the old man who was there was very pleasant. I thought it was a wreck, but Mr. Breckon says they are always drawing their ships that way up on the sand. The old man was patching some of the wood-work, and he told Mr. Breckon—he can speak a little Dutch—that they were going to drag her down to the water and go fishing as soon as he was done. He seemed to think we were brother and sister.” She flushed a little, and then she said: “I believe I like the dunes as well as anything. Sometimes when those curious cold breaths come in from the sea we climb up in the little hollows on the other side and sit there out of the draft. Everybody seems to do it.”
Apparently Ellen was submitting the propriety of the fact to her mother, who said: “Yes, it seems to be quite the same as it is at home. I always supposed that it was different with young people here. There is certainly no harm in it.”
Ellen went on, irrelevantly. “I like to go and look at the Scheveningen women mending the nets on the sand back of the dunes. They have such good gossiping times. They shouted to us last evening, and then laughed when they saw us watching them. When they got through their work they got up and stamped off so strong, with their bare, red arms folded into their aprons, and their skirts sticking out so stiff. Yes, I should like to be like them.”
“Yes; why not?”
Mrs. Kenton found nothing better to answer than,
“They were very material looking.”
“They are very happy looking. They live in the present. That is what I should like: living in the present, and not looking backwards or forwards. After all, the present is the only life we’ve got, isn’t it?”
“I suppose you may say it is,” Mrs. Kenton admitted, not knowing just where the talk was leading, but dreading to interrupt it.
“But that isn’t the Scheveningen woman’s only ideal. Their other ideal is to keep the place clean. Saturday afternoon they were all out scrubbing the brick sidewalks, and clear into the middle of the street. We were almost ashamed to walk over the nice bricks, and we picked out as many dirty places as we could find.”
Ellen laughed, with a light-hearted gayety that was very strange to her, and Mrs. Kenton, as she afterwards told her husband, did not know what to think.
“I couldn’t help wondering,” she said, “whether the poor child would have liked to keep on living in the present a month ago.”
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t say so,” the judge answered.