“I—I don’t know what you must think of me,” he stammered. “I have been—that is, I was thinking of other things and I— Dear me! Oh, dear! I am very grateful to you. But you shouldn’t take so much trouble.”
“It wasn’t any trouble. The suit was hangin’ in your closet and I noticed how wrinkled and out of shape it was. And the stains on the trousers—my!”
“Yes—ah—yes. I wore it over at the cemetery the other day and I—ah—imagine I must have gotten down on my knees to examine the tombstones.”
“I guess likely. It looked as if you might have crawled from here to the cemetery and back. Now don’t say any more, Mr. Bangs. It was no trouble at all. I always used to take care of father’s clothes. He used to say I kept him all taut and shipshape.”
Lulie met them at the door.
“Where is Primmie?” she asked.
“She’ll be over pretty soon,” replied Martha. “I knew you wouldn’t need her yet to help with the supper and the longer she stays away the more talk there will be for the rest of us. She is to eat in the kitchen, Lulie, remember that. I won’t have her chatterin’ all through our meal.”
“She and Zacheus are to eat together,” replied Lulie. “It is all settled. Now if Nelson will only come. He is going to get away just as soon as the down train leaves.”
He arrived soon afterward, having bicycled over from South Wellmouth. Primmie arrived also and bursts of her energetic conversation, punctuated by grumblings in Mr. Bloomer’s bass, drifted in from the kitchen. Supper was a happy meal. Young Howard, questioned by Martha and Lulie—the latter evidently anxious to “show off” her lover—told of his experiences aboard one of Uncle Sam’s transports and the narrow escape from a German submarine. Galusha, decoyed by Miss Phipps, was led into Egypt and discoursed concerning that marvelous country. Lulie laughed and chatted and was engagingly charming and vivacious. Martha was her own cheerful self and the worried look disappeared, for the time, from her face.
After supper was over, the ladies helped Primmie clear the table while the men sat in the sitting room and smoked. The sitting room of the light keeper’s home was even more nautical than that at the Phipps’ place. There was no less than six framed paintings of ships and schooners on the walls, and mantel and what-not bore salt-water curios of many kinds handed down by generations of seafaring Halletts—whales’ teeth, little ships in bottles, idols from the South Sea islands, bead and bone necklaces, Eskimo lance-heads and goodness knows what. And below the windows, at the foot of the bluff on the ocean side, the great waves pounded and muttered and growled, while high above the chimneys of the little house Gould’s Bluffs light thrust its flashing spear of flame deep into the breast of the black night.
It was almost half past eight when Martha Phipps, whose seat was near the front window of the sitting room, held up a warning hand.