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Title: Five nights at the Five Pines

Author: Harriet A. Gaul

Release date: May 3, 2024 [eBook #73520]

Language: English

Original publication: New York: The Century Co, 1922

Credits: Susan E., David E. Brown, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)



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Copyright, 1922, by
The Century Co.




I The House of the Five Pines 3
II Mattie “Charles T. Smith” 24
III The Winkle-man and the Will 41
IV The Boycott 51
VThe Shoals of Yesterday 65
VI Lobster-Pots 76
VII The First Night at Five Pines 89
VIII A Message from Mattie 103
IX The Second Night 118
X The Cat or the Captain 134
XI The Third Night 149
XII The Little Coffin 162
XIII The Séance of Horns 178
XIV The Fourth Night 191
XV Beach-Plums 207
XVI The Fifth Night 225
XVII Dawn 231
XVIII The Disappearance of Mrs. Dove 247
XIX I Hide the Ghost 260
XX Jezebel 273







A SEA of yellow sand rose, wave on wave, around us. High hills, carved by the bitter salt winds into tawny breakers, reared towering heads, peak upon peak. Like combers that never burst into spray, their static curves remained suspended above us, their tops bent back upon the leeward side, menacing, but never engulfing, the deep pools of purple shadows that lay beneath them. The sand was mauve in the hollows, and black upon white were the cupped dunes hung over their own heights. They were like water that did not move, or mountains with no vegetation. They did not support as much life upon their surface as that which crawls upon the floor of the ocean. They were naked and unashamed as the day when they were tossed up[4] out of the bed of the sea. Only tufts of sharp green grass clung to some of the slopes, their silhouettes flattened out before them like the pin-feathers of a young bird, inadequate and scant, accentuating the barrenness of the saffron sand.

Centuries ago some gigantic upheaval of Neptune had forced this long ridge out of the shielding water, to lie prone in the sight of the sun, like a prehistoric sea-monster forever drying its hide. More isolated than an island, the head of the cape, with the town in its jaws, fought the encroaching sea, which thundered upon it in constant endeavor to separate it from the tail, extending a hundred miles to the mainland. From the height on which we stood, the line of ocean far away was dark blue, following in a frothy scallop the indentations of the coast. The sound of the surf came to us like a repeated threat. It could bend the cape, but never break it, twist and turn it, change the currents and the sand-bars, and toss back upon its shore the wreckage of such vessels as men essayed to sail in, but the sand-dunes continued to bask blandly. Sometimes they shifted, but so silently and gradually that they seemed not so much to[5] move as to vanish. To-day there would be a dune in the way of our path to the sea, so steep as to make a barrier, impossible to scale. To-morrow the force of the wind upon its surface, and the strength of the far-away tide which continually seeped its roots, would have leveled it. The very footsteps one followed, trying to trace a track across the waste, would have melted away.

On this desert each traveler must be his own guide and climb to some eminence which topped all others, to get his bearings from the strip of deep blue that marked the ocean’s rim. Nor could he say to himself, securely, “Here is east,” although he looked out on the Atlantic. Land played a trick upon the wayfarer who trusted it, and turned its back upon the sea, and curled up like a snail, so that the inside of the cape, where the town lay behind us in its green verdure, faced south, and the outside sea, where the sun set, curved west and north. The glory of light in the afternoon struck first upon the hills and was reflected back from the sheltered bay to the little fishing-village.

The path from the woods, by which you entered the dunes, lost itself to sight under the foliage of the scrub-oak trees, and unless[6] you had tied a white rag to the last branch, marking the point where you climbed up out of the forest, you would never find it again. There were many foot-paths through the thicket which separated the hamlet on the inside of the horn from the immense dry sea-bed, but none of them were visible, once you had left them. By day you must mark the entrance to the desert of your own footsteps, by night it was useless to look for them.

This must have been the place, I thought, where Dorothy Bradford was lost. Brave as the Pilgrim Fathers were, they had not loitered here after dark to look for William’s young wife! They had conscientiously attended to their laundry work, on that first November day when the Mayflower landed, and, having finished their domestic duties, waited no longer for any scatterbrain of the party who had been foolish enough to venture from the fold, but weighed anchor without finding her and put off for Plymouth Rock!

As I looked about me at the profound grandeur of space, it seemed to me that I understood why Dorothy had not hurried back to the boat. She had embarked upon the Mayflower, a bride, strange to the ways of[7] men and of marriage, and for sixty-three days the stern-faced Puritans had been her only companions and the rolling sea her entire horizon. Her quarters must have become a prison to her before the voyage was over. When at last this finger of land, reaching into the Atlantic, had beckoned to the mariners, her heart must have sung like a caged canary, even as mine responded when first I saw the cape. Did she linger with the other virtuous housewives at the first spring, to wash her husband’s dirty linen? Not she! I liked to think that in glad escape she ran from all those stuff gowns and starched kerchiefs, through the woods, chasing the scarlet-winged blackbirds on and on, picking the wintergreen berries and ravenously eating them, gathering her arms full of bright autumn leaves, feeding her hungry eyes on the vivid color of growing things and her starved soul, at last, upon the dunes. It was not the Indians who prevented Dorothy Bradford from returning to the ship; it was her own heart. If Indians saw her, they must have fallen on their red knees in the sand and worshiped her for a sprite of limitless space, running past them with gay branches clasped to her gray[8] dress and a wreath of waxy bayberries on her fair young head. It was her wayward feet that forbade her from following further the fortunes of the Pilgrims. No doubt, from some high point on the dunes she watched them sail away, and laughed, taking off her shoes upon the sand and dancing, fleeing further. That is what I would have done. That is what I wanted to do now. Something starving in my heart found food here; a hardness that had been growing within me for two years dissolved, as my mind relaxed, and the troubles that had driven me here appeared insignificant. The tired spirit of hope that had been driven deeper and deeper down beneath the weight of disillusion began to bubble up. There might be a way of regaining the nice balance of life, after all, if one could weigh it every afternoon upon the sand-dunes!

Ruth and I were sitting on a pyramid, where we had brought a picnic lunch, and were watching her children play in the hollows.

“Do people get lost here nowadays?” I asked her.

“The natives never come here,” she answered; “at least, not for fun. They only follow the wagon-track to the coast-guard station[9] on ‘the outside,’ and that is about all the summer people do. It is three miles across the soft sand to the sea, and most people get discouraged and turn back before they reach the further shore. But enough children and strangers have been lost here in recent years to scare away the others! The townspeople say the dunes are haunted, and that at night strange shapes flit across the sand, spirits of those who have never been found. They will not come near the white fields at moonlight, when they are wrapped in mystery. The landmarks are not permanent. Every storm changes them, just as it changes the shoals on ‘the outside.’ The sailors are more afraid of this neck of land than any one else. Do you see how far distant the big steamers keep?” She pointed out to me a thin line of smoke on the horizon. “Hundreds of ships have run aground off here in less than that many years. There are lighthouses at every point now, but the bed of the sea moves constantly. That is why they call this coast the ‘Graveyard of the Cape.’”

“Have there been any wrecks since you have lived here?”

Ruth’s eyes darkened. “A year ago a fleet[10] of fishing-vessels were caught in a sudden tempest and half of them were lost. Eleven men were drowned, all from this town! Star Harbor raises her sons upon the sandy flats of the bay at her doorway, and when they grow old enough they sail away from her, and she knows that one day, sooner or later, they will fail to return. In the meantime the mothers do not bring their boys out here on the dunes to play, as we do our children from the cities. It is too much like dancing on their own graves! They try to forget the dunes are here, and walk up and down the front street of the village.”

“I do not want to forget them,” said I. “They mean something to me, Ruth, something that I have needed for a long time.”

Ruth smiled at me fondly, without replying. We had known each other for a long time.

“It is like the touch of a hand on the heart,” I tried to explain, “or like a song heard outside a window in the dark—or a flaming embroidery on a stucco wall.”

The sun shone down upon the tawny sand, illuminating the dunes with so blinding a radiance that description was futile. The effect of so much heat and light was soothing and[11] restful, and at the same time stimulating. The body drank up enough electricity, through contact with the sand, to renew its youth and send the worn years reeling backward. The children were shouting and sliding down the inside of a crater below us, transposing their winter sports to the summertime, climbing up the opposite slope, only to shoot down again on the seats of their rompers, laughing and crawling up, and repeating the game, in ecstasy of abandonment.

“I would like to do that, too,” said I.

Ruth smiled. “You would get sand in your sneakers.”

“Sneakers!” I scoffed.

“And wear holes in your silk stockings.”

“Silk stockings! No one should wear stockings out here. They should run barefoot before the wind, and leap from peak to peak. It is absurd, in the face of this vast emptiness, to wear clothes at all!”

“So many people feel that way,” said Ruth, dryly.

But I refused to be rebuffed.

“We need it, Ruth,” I cried. “We, who are cooped up in cities, are starving for this very thing—space and sunlight, air and[12] warmth. Not the suffocating heat of the area-ways, but the glow that glances off the sun-kissed sand. Our eyes are blind with gray pavements and white asphalt, stone and cement, nothing but colors as hard as the substance we tread on. We hunger for blue and for purple, for the sea and the seacoast shadows, for green that is brighter than burnt sod, and for living red and yellow. The craving for earth under our feet is still natural to us. It is what has made possible the barefoot cult of the people who choose to get up in the morning and run around in the dew, and the ‘back to all fours’ cult of those who put their hands down on the floor and prance like a trained bear. And the ‘stand on your head’ cult, who pick out a cushion which best suits their psychic soul and balance themselves with their feet in the air for hours at a time. Perhaps it is true that it is stimulating to the brain. But Ruth, joking aside, there must be a fundamental reason for all of this ‘simple life’ movement—the elemental need for relaxation, which is what this sort of exercise gives to the worn human machine. I am going to give up my apartment in New York and pitch a tent on the sand-dunes!”

[13]Ruth laughed.

I thought that probably she would point out to me how impractical I was. But she did not. She seemed to be weighing the matter, taking me more seriously than I took myself. Ruth had a penetrating quality of sympathy with another’s trouble that made of it an immediate problem for her to solve and for the sufferer to relinquish. I had come up here a week ago, for no other reason than that life had reached the stage with me where I had to run away from the confusion of my own ménage. I needed another line of vision, another angle from which to approach it, and I considered it worth taking the long dull journey up the cape to get my friend’s point of view. All that quiet August afternoon, while we had watched her children playing on the sand-dunes, we had been talking over life and our place in it as only two women can who had known each other since childhood and have managed to keep friends, although both of them are married. Our conversation had been mostly about New York, from which I was escaping, and that offshoot of society which has its roots among actors and producers and its branches in the motion-picture[14] studios. Ruth was far removed from this forcing frame, spending her winters, more happily, in Charleston, and her summers on Cape Cod, so that I thought I could get from her the calm point of view and the fresh focus that I needed.

“Well, if you want to live here and get back to nature by way of the sand-dunes, by all means do so,” she was saying dispassionately; “that would be saner than running on all fours and standing on your head in the city. But don’t pitch a tent out here! It has been demonstrated that hurricanes have an antipathy for canvas. Buy a house in town, and at least have shingles over your head and running water in the kitchen. Even the birds refuse to drink from the rank pools in this desert. There is alkali on the surface and quicksands along the edges of the ponds. I’ll show you a house in Star Harbor that has been waiting for years for some one like you to come along and take a chance on moving into it.”

She stood up and, giving a long “Woo-ooh!” through her hands to the turbulent young ones, led me back over the dunes to the green edge of the woods.

“There,” she said, pointing over the tree-tops[15] to the town that nestled at the edge of the encircled bay, “do you see five pine-trees standing up higher than all the others? That is the place.”

I saw below me a mass of scrubby oaks and stunted pines, which wore out to a thin edge on the shore where the fishing-village huddled. The bright white paint of the cottages, with the sun at their backs, picked them out distinctly from the blue bay beyond them, and one house, larger than any of the others, thrust its sloping roof into prominence beside a row of pines.

“That!” I exclaimed. “But how large it is—for only my husband and myself! We would rattle around in it. We haven’t enough furniture!”

I was alarmed at the expansive turn of Ruth’s imagination. Even if you have put yourself in the power of a friend’s advice, or perhaps just because of that, you are not ready to admit that she, with one slash of unprejudiced judgment, has cut the knot which you have been patiently trying to untangle.

“Furniture!” scoffed Ruth. “If that is all that is worrying you—There is more furniture[16] in that house than any other house on Cape Cod. That is a captain’s place, old Captain Jeremiah Hawes, and he brought home fine mahogany from wherever he dropped anchor. In his day they sailed to England for their Chippendale and to China for a set of dishes.”

“What good would that do me?”

“You don’t seem to understand,” Ruth explained patiently; “it all goes together. There is hardly a house sold in Star Harbor but what the furniture is included in the deal. You get whatever the house contains, when you buy it.”

We were retracing the path through the woods by which we had entered the dunes earlier in the day. The children ran before us, playing wood-tag from tree to tree, exploring “fairy circles,” and stopping from time to time to let us catch up with them, when they would drop completely out of sight among the blueberry-bushes. These grew so thick at our feet that you could pull the berries off by the handful and munch them as you strolled along.

“Tell me more about the house,” I begged.[17] My mouth was full of blueberries, but my mind was full of plans.

“It was built over a hundred years ago, by ships’ carpenters who came down here all the way from Boston. They don’t know how to do that kind of cabinet-work any more. The soil in the yard was hauled here by the wagon-load from ten miles down the cape to make the garden—no sea sand left there to sprout burrs! The Old Captain knew what he wanted and where to get it. He made what was, in those days, a fortune. He was master of a fleet of fishing-vessels, and used to make yearly voyages to the banks of Newfoundland for cod and to Iceland for sperm-oil whales. A pair of his big iron testing-kettles are still down in his wharf-shed, and the house is full of valuable maps and charts. Not that any one has ever seen them.”

“Why not? How long has it been vacant?”

“It has never been vacant at all! That’s the trouble. After old Captain Hawes and his wife died, their son, whom every one calls the ‘New Captain,’ lived on there in the house for years, along with the same woman who had always been a servant to his mother. He died[18] after we came here, five years ago, under peculiar circumstances, but she still lives on, behind closed shutters.”

“Is the house for sale?”

“It’s been for sale ever since the New Captain died, but the old woman who lives in it won’t let any one inside the door to look at it.”

“I’d take it without seeing it, if it’s all you say it is,” I answered. “Why don’t they put the old woman out?”

Ruth shrugged, as one who would suggest that no outsider could hope to understand how business was managed on the cape.

“Let’s go and see it on our way home,” I suggested.

“All right; we can send the children on.”

They were scampering through the brush ahead of us, chasing limp-winged yellow butterflies and spilling their precious garnered blueberries as they ran. Their bare legs, covered with sand from the dunes and scratched by the briers of the woods, stood the strain of the long walk better than ours, in their flimsy stockings and hot rubber-soled shoes. I wanted to sit on a log in the shady woods and rest, but no one else seemed tired[19] and the thought of the old house lured me on to hurry to its doorstep.

It needed only that difficulty of getting possession to make me sure that this was the very house for which I had been waiting all my life. I knew, too, that the romance of the situation would be the deciding point in any opposition that I might well expect to meet from my husband, who was still in New York. Jasper was a fiction-writer, at present aspiring to be a playwright, and it was true that he needed for his work an atmosphere that he could people with the phantoms of his own mind, rather than the disturbing congestion of the apartment where we now lived. In setting out to follow Ruth’s advice and buy a house on Cape Cod, I felt that I was doing my best not only for myself and the sort of family life that I felt would naturally follow, but for my husband and his exacting career. I realized that it would be for both of us a solution of the philosophy of living. Jasper had reached that stage in the beginning of success when it seemed to his friends that he was working too hard and playing too hard, squandering his talents upon Carthaginian gods who would only burn him up in the end.

[20]I had been following Ruth in silence, for the way through the wood was hard, but now we came into the outskirts of the fishing-village and, crossing the single railroad track that ran the length of the cape, struck the easy tread of the boardwalks. There were only two streets in Star Harbor, front and back, and, sending the children on to Ruth’s house by the back way, their pockets oozing with blueberries, we emerged to the front street and faced the bay, just as the Pond-Lily Man was passing.

He was returning from his day’s work, peddling pond-lilies up and down the cape on his bicycle, a great basket of them dripping from his arm now, their luscious white heads closed, although not wilted; and he offered them all to Ruth hopefully, to get rid of them.

“Pond-lilies,” he repeated automatically, as he saw us coming into sight. “Pond-lilies. Five cents a bunch!”

He was a thin little man with a tired face, apologetic, but stubborn about his trade, selling his flowers with a mildness and a persistence that was deceptive.

Ruth bought them all, only asking if he[21] would, as a favor, carry them up to her cottage.

“As a favor,” he replied; “this time!”

“Pond-lilies! Pond-lilies!” he called again, as he started off, seeming to forget that we had purchased the entire stock.

“Poor thing,” said Ruth; “that cry is a habit with him. He must do it in his sleep. He used to be a parson of some sort, but his ‘health failed him’ and that’s the way he supports his family. They say his children all get out in a flat-bottomed boat on Pink Pond, down the cape, and pick them for him every morning before it is light.”

“They work hard up here,” said I, feeling rather inadequate to the occasion, which was so tremendously local.

“They do,” replied Ruth, with her usual sympathy and few words.

We paused to rest a moment by the bay. The water sparkled happily, with none of the menace that shrouded the deep blue of the ocean which we had left on “the outside” beyond the dunes. Here were merry little white-caps, as innocent as the children who played upon the flats, and before us the fishing-boats, riding at anchor, had no more flavor of adventure than so many rocking-horses.[22] The sunlight, mirrored from the bright waves, shone upon houses at the water’s edge with a glow that turned the glass of the windows into flame and burnished the brass knockers on the doors. The white paint glistened as if it had been varnished that very afternoon, and the green blinds and the red roses climbing on the cottages were raised in tone to the height of the color of ornaments on a Christmas-tree. The whole village had the aspect of a gaily painted toy. The dust of the road was rose-tinted. The leaves of the trees looked as if they had been scrubbed and polished, and the sails of the vessels on the bay were as white as the clouds that skipped across the bright blue sky.

It was the contrast between this radiant shimmer of sea and cloud, this flicker of sunshine and dazzle of window-pane, this green of the short trimmed grass and crimson of the flowers, that caused my amazement when I first saw the house that was to be mine. I was bewildered by its drab melancholy, and I would have turned away, had not an inner courage urged me on. For it seemed to me, that August afternoon, that I had come to a crossroads in my married life, and it was in[23] the mood of a weary traveler approaching a wayside shrine that I turned through the hedge at last and beheld the House of the Five Pines.



THE old mansion stood back from the road along the bay in a field of high, burnt grass. Drooping dahlias and faded old-fashioned pinks and poppies bordered the half-obscured flagstones which led to a fan-topped door. It was so long since the house had been painted that it had the appearance of having turned white with age, or something more, some terror that had struck it overnight. Wooden blinds, blanched by the salt wind to a dull peacock-blue, hung disjointedly from the great square-paned windows. A low roof sloped forward to the eaves of the first story, its austere expanse interrupted by a pointed gable above the kitchen. Beneath the dormer-window was a second closed and shuttered door.

At some period, already lost in obscurity, a wing had been thrust back into the neglected garden behind the house, and over its gray[25] shingles stood the five pine-trees which we had seen from the sand-dunes. Old Captain Jeremiah Hawes had planted them for a wind-break, and during a century they had raised their gaunt necks, waiting to be guillotined by the winter storms. Faithfully trying to protect their trust from the ravages of wind-driven spray and stinging sand, they extended their tattered arms in sighing protest above the worn old house.

We went wonderingly up the flagging and knocked at the small door of the “porch.” There was no answer. We knocked again, staring, as is the way of strangers, to each side of us and endeavoring to peer through the green shutter. We had to jerk ourselves back and look quickly upward when the dormer-window over our heads went rattling up and an old woman craned her neck out.

“That’s Mattie,” whispered Ruth, “Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith’!”

Gray wisps of hair framed a face thin and brown as a stalk of seaweed, with sharp eyes, like those of a hungry cat, above a narrow mouth. The creature did not ask us what we wanted; she knew. Her perception was clairvoyant. Long experience in dealing with[26] house-hunters made her understand what we had come for without the formality of any explanation. We brushed straight past the first half of what would ordinarily have been the procedure of conversation, and I came to the gist of what was uppermost in my mind and Mattie’s.

“Why won’t you let any one in?” I asked, bluntly.

Ruth looked at me in some surprise.

Mattie put up a long thin arm to keep the window from falling on her shoulders. “I dunno as I need to say,” she answered me, directly.

“What?” said Ruth. My friend, being complacent-minded, had not followed the argument so fast.

But Mattie did not repeat herself. She and I understood each other. She kept on gazing straight at me in that piercing way which I knew instinctively had driven many a purchaser from her inscrutable doorway.

“Will you let me in if I get a permit from the agent?” I insisted.

“That depends,” replied Mattie.

Her lean body withdrew from the frame of the upper gable, her eyes still holding mine,[27] until her face gradually disappeared into the gloom of the room behind her. The last thing I saw were two veined hands gradually lowering the sash, and the last sound was a little click as it shut.

Ruth, having brought me to see the house, was murmuring words of apologetic responsibility. But I did not feel daunted.

“I think I will take it, anyway,” I said, “just for the view.”

From the doorstep of the House of the Five Pines we faced the bay across the road, where many little fishing-boats were anchored, and white sails, rounding the lighthouse-point, made a home-coming procession into Star Harbor. Remembering Mattie “Charles T. Smith” at her upper window, I wondered if she, too, saw the picture as I did and loved it the same way. But Mattie would have seen far more—not only what lay before us, but the ships that “used to be” and the wharf of old Captain Jeremiah Hawes, the piles of which were left on the beach now, like teeth of some buried sea-monster protruding from the sand. She would have counted the drying-frames hung with salt cod in pungent rows upon the bank of the shore lot, and she would have seen[28] the burly fishermen themselves, who used to tramp back from the flats to the “Big House” for their breakfast. She had been a part of that former life which was gone, and now, like an old hull on the flats, she was waiting for that last great storm that was to sweep her out to sea. Sympathy for her made me almost wish to abandon my own project before it was begun, and yet it seemed to me that her life was almost over and that the House of the Five Pines needed the youth that we could bring it as much as we needed the shelter it could offer us. I brushed aside the thought of Mattie as if it were a cobweb that clung to my face in the woods.

“Take me to the trustee, or whoever controls the place,” I begged my friend; “let’s see what can be done!”

“Now?” asked Ruth.

We had turned reluctantly through the hedge into the road.

“Why not?” I answered. “I’m going back to New York to-morrow.”

“You can’t do things so quickly around here.”

She must have noticed my disappointment, for she added, “There are no telephones or[29] street-cars, and whenever you go to see people, the first three times you call they always happen to be out.”

“Don’t be lazy,” I urged, so full of my own enthusiasm that I had no mercy on plump and pretty Ruth. “How far is it to this man’s office?”

“Office? He doesn’t have any office. His house is at the other end of town.”

Clang-kilang! Clang-kilang!

The clamor of bell-ringing finished our argument.

Down the boardwalk, to meet us, hobbled a strange figure. Supporting a great copper bell, which he swung with a short stroke of his stumpy right arm, was a stodgy man dressed in a tight, faded, sailor’s suit, a straw hat on his bald head, fringed with red hair, and a florid face that at present was all open mouth and teeth and tongue. He was the town crier.

In front of the deserted House of the Five Pines he stopped and, holding a printed dodger high in the air, read off it, in stentorian tones, “Hi Yi, Gu Jay, Be Boom Bee Boy!”

“Whatever in the world is he trying to say?” I gasped.

[30]“I don’t know,” said Ruth. “Nobody ever knows. You can’t understand him.”

“But what does he do that for?”

“Why,” smiled Ruth, “that’s the way we get the news around. If there is a meeting in the town hall, you give the town crier a dollar, and he goes up and down the boardwalk and rings his bell.”

“But if no one can understand him?”

“Oh, they ask each other afterward. The man who sends the crier out always knows. He tells some one, who tells the next, so that often the news travels faster than the crier does and you know what it is beforehand.”

“It’s well you do!”

“Yes,” Ruth agreed, “because for the most part he gives out the notices in front of a vacant lot. And if you ask him to repeat, he is furious with you. I’ll show you. O Dave,” she called after him, “what is the news?”

The town crier turned upon the sweet-mannered city woman like an angry child on his partner in a game of croquet who has not obeyed the rules. He clanged down his bell insolently, and kept on clanging it up and down as he turned on his heel and strode away.

[31]Ruth laughed. “You see!” she said.

“I see.”

“He is the last town crier in America. We are very proud of him!”

“I should think you would be,” I replied. It seemed to me that I understood why the race had become extinct. I would have traded him for a telephone.

We walked slowly down the village street. To the right of us the fishermen’s cottages, behind their white picket-fences and green, well-tended squares of lawn, made patches of paint as gay as the quilts that hung airing on their clothes-lines. They looked as if each one had been done over with what was left in the bottom of the can after their owners had finished painting their boats. On the side of the street toward the bay freshly tarred nets were spread to dry upon low bushes, dories were dragged up and turned over, and straggling wharves, with their long line of storm-bent buildings, stretched their necks out into the flats. We passed a great, ugly cold-storage house, which had superseded the private industry of the old days, the company which owned it controlling all of the seines in the bay, for whom the fishermen rose at four[32] to pull up the nets which had once been theirs.

“You can’t buy fresh fish in Star Harbor now,” Ruth was saying; “it all goes to Boston on ice and comes back again on the train.”

Down the steep roadways beside the wharves one caught sight of tall-masted schooners, anchored to unload, and the dead herring thrown from the packing-houses to the beach, rotting in the stale tidewater, made an unwholesome stench. In front of the fish-houses swarthy Portuguese sat drowsing in the sun. Their day’s work had begun with the trip to the seines at dawn and had ended with their big breakfast at noon. Their children swarmed about them in the streets, quarreling over ice-cream cones, which they shared, lick for lick, with their dogs. On the corner near the government wharf we had to turn into the road to avoid a crowd of noisy middies who were taking up all the sidewalk, laughing like schoolboys at recess, enjoying their two hours’ leave from the big destroyer anchored in the harbor. They had no contact with the town except through mild flirtation with the girls, and no festivity while on shore greater than eating pop-corn on the curb, but they seemed to feel satisfied that they were “seeing the[33] world” and were quite hilarious about it. They were as much a part of the port as the Portuguese sailors, and more vital to it than the stray artists whom we had seen, absorbed each in his own canvas, which he had pitched in some picturesque—and cool—spot along the water-front.

Passing through a neighborhood where the little shops filled their fly-specked windows with shell souvenirs for visitors, we turned up an alleyway and entered the yard of a house built squarely behind the row of front store buildings. In this neighborhood they did not mind because they had no view of the sea. They were tired of looking at it and were more than glad to be shut off from its sharp wind in the winter.

Judge Bell was sitting on the open porch that ran around three sides of his pink house like the deck of a ship. He was perfectly content with the location.

“We have come to see you,” I began, “about buying the House of the Five Pines.”

The judge marked the book he was reading and laid it down, looking at us mildly, without surprise.

“I’ll do all I can for you,” he replied, with[34] what seemed to me undue emphasis on the “can.” “Won’t you come up and set down? We might talk it over, anyway.”

“Talk it over!” I repeated impatiently, rocking violently in one of his big chairs. “How much is it, and how soon can I get it?”

I felt Ruth and the judge exchanging glances over my head.

“It ain’t quite so simple as that,” he said quietly, weighing me, as all these Cape Cod people do, with unveiled, appraising eyes. “Two thousand dollars is all I’m asking for it now, as trustee—”

“I thought it was three!” Ruth could not help exclaiming. “I was told you were holding it for three.”

“I’m holding it,”—his big leathery face broke into the lines of a smile—“for Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith’ to move out. That’s all I’m holding it for. I could ’a’ sold it five times a year in the last five years, if it hadn’t been for her. And it’s gettin’ a name now. I’d be glad to be rid of it.” He passed his heavy hand over his face speculatively, and held his lower jaw down as he weighed me once more. “I’d be real glad to get shet with the whole deal!”

[35]“I’ll take it,” said I.

Even Ruth looked startled. She remembered what I did not, in my sudden enthusiasm; that I had yet to get my husband’s consent to living here—and the money. But it seemed so ridiculously cheap that I was already in that cold real-estate sweat which breaks out on the novice in his first venture for fear that some one else, between night and morning or while he goes for his lunch, will get the treasure that he has set his heart on.

“How soon can you get Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith’ out?” I asked nervously.

The judge’s lower jaw went up with a snap.

“I don’t know,” he said, tapping the arms of his chair with his hammerhead fingers, “as I can ever get her out.”

“You mean as long as she lives?”

“As long as she lives, certainly—and after that, maybe never.”

He got up and spit over the porch-rail.

As he did so I picked up the book that he had knocked to the floor—“Brewster’s Natural Magic,” edited in London in 1838. It was full of diagrams of necromancy and open at a chapter on phantom ships. I[36] showed the title to Ruth surreptitiously. She nodded.

“They are all that way up here,” she said.

But the shrewd old judge had heard her.

“I’ll let you read that book,” he said, “if you can understand it.”

“I’d like to,” I answered, to cover my embarrassment. “But I do understand you. You mean that her influence would remain.”

“I mean more than that.”

I would have liked nothing better than to have started the judge talking on “natural magic,” but just for this one afternoon it seemed as if we ought to keep to real estate. If I lived here, I could come back and talk to him again on psychic subjects.

“You think, then, that Mattie has some claim on the place?”

“No legal claim, no. But there is claims and claims. The claims on parents that children have, and the claims on children that parents have. And the claims of them that are not the true children of their parents, but adopted. Maybe not legally; but morally, yes. If people take children and bring them up, like Captain Jeremiah Hawes done, that makes them have some obligation toward[37] them, doesn’t it? And then there are the claims that married people have on each other, and the people that ain’t married, and I sometimes think that the people that ain’t legally married have more claim on each other than people who are, just on account of that. It puts it up to the individual. And if the individual fails, it is more of a moral breakdown than if the law fails. For the law is only responsible to man, but man, he is responsible to God. Do you follow me?”

“All the way,” I said.

The judge got up and spit over the rail of the porch again.

“As I was sayin’, Mattie ain’t got no legal claim to the House of the Five Pines, and I could put her out in a minute if I was a mind to. I expect I could have done it five years ago, when the New Captain died, only it seemed the town would have to take care of her all the rest of her natural days. We’ve saved five years’ board on her at the poor-farm now, and it looks as if she might live quite a while longer. Plenty of ’em get to be a hundred around here, and she ain’t over seventy; not any older than I am, likely. At least, she didn’t used to be when she was[38] young!” He sighed, as if suddenly feeling the weight of his days. “And the town, as a town, don’t hanker after the responsibility of taking on Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith.’”

“Why do they call her that?” interrupted Ruth. “Is that her name?”

“That’s as good a name as any for a person who ain’t got one of her own. Charles T. Smith was the vessel old Captain Hawes was sailin’ in, the time he picked her up out of the sea.”

“Picked her up out of the sea!” we both exclaimed.

“Didn’t you ever hear about that?” he asked. “Well it’s so common known around here there’s no need in my concealing it from you.

“Captain Hawes was up on the Grand Banks fishing, along in the fifties, and had all his small boats out from the ship when a hurricane struck him. The sea was standing right up on its legs. Just as he was trying to get back his men, and letting all the cod go to do it, too, there he see a big sloop right on top of him, almost riding over him, on the crest of a wave as high as that dune back there. High and solid like that, and yellow. But instead[39] of comin’ over on him, like he fully expected an’ was praying against, the vessel slipped back. By the time he rode the crest, there she was diving stern down into the bottom of the trough. And she never come up again. The only thing that come up was this here Mattie. Sebastian Sikes, he was out in a small boat still, and he leaned over and grabbed her up, a little girl, tied to a life-preserver. The captain was for letting her go adrift again when he come ashore, but Mis’ Hawes wouldn’t let him. She said as long as Mattie was the only thing he salvaged out of the whole voyage, the Lord He meant they should keep her.

“The child couldn’t even speak the language at first. They thought it must be Portuguese she was jabberin’, but the sailors they said no, they wouldn’t claim it neither. So they come to think afterward it might have been French, her being picked up there off Newfoundland, and all them French sailors coming out that way from Quebec. But by the time somebody had thought of that, she had forgot how to speak it, anyway. She was only about five. The missis had her baptized ‘Matilda,’ after a black slave her father had[40] brought home to Maine when she was a girl herself, up to Wiscasset. But ‘Mattie’ it came to be, and ‘Charles T. Smith,’ after the ship that saved her.”

“And didn’t he leave her anything in his will, after all that?”

“Neither Jeremiah Hawes nor his wife left any will,” replied Judge Bell. “The only will there is is the one the New Captain made. It’s up to Caleb Snow’s place.”

“Can I see it?”

“You can if he ain’t out winkling.” The judge picked up his “Natural Magic” as if he hoped that we were going.

“What’s ‘winkling’?” I whispered to Ruth, as we turned away.

“Oh, nothing important—something the children do out on the flats, gathering little shell-fish they use for bait.”

“He’ll be in if the tide ain’t out,” the judge called after us.



WE found the man who gathers winkles sitting on the floor of the sail-loft. Caleb Snow combined the resources of real estate with the independence of a fisherman, and sent his daughter to the State normal-school on the proceeds. When one can go out on the flats at low tide and pick up a living with a pronged stick, why worry about rents? Judge Bell, himself too busy attending séances to give the matter his best thought, had persuaded Caleb Snow to handle the House of the Five Pines. We wondered if the Winkle-Man would take any interest in either it or us.

“Judge Bell told us that we might ask you to show us the will of the late Captain Hawes,” I began.

“You mean the New Captain.”

Caleb went on with the deft mending of the great tarred net, in the center of which he was bent like some old spider. He was a little[42] man, and he made us feel even taller than we were as he peered up at us in the dusk of the low-beamed room, shadowed by the hanging sails and paraphernalia of ships which obscured the lights from the dusty windows.

“It’s up in the loft,” he said wiping his greasy hands on the seat of his overalls.

“Can’t we go up there?”

“Can ye?” he answered. He walked slowly over to a steep ladder that led up into a black hole and began to mount. Near the top he turned around and called down to us:

“I ain’t a-goin’ to bring it below, not for no one!”

I started after him.

“Isn’t there any light up there?” asked Ruth cravenly, from the bottom rung.

For answer he swung open a pair of double doors, and the glory of the afternoon sunshine streamed in upon us. Gold and bronze the water fell in the long lines of the incoming tide. Deep blue shadows pooled the mirrored surface beneath the boats that were anchored along the shore. The radiance of the bay filled the dark corners of the sail-loft like a blessing.

Caleb Snow bent over an old safe under[43] the eaves and presently lifted out a manuscript in a long envelope.

“I don’t show this to many folks,” he said; “it wouldn’t do.”

“Will you read it to us?”

“Oh, no.” He thrust it into my hands so quickly that I wondered if he were afraid of it, or if it was that he simply could not read.

Ruth and I sat down on the lid of an old sea-chest and carefully examined the document. First there were the usual unintelligible legal clauses, and then the sum of the whole text—that the New Captain bequeathed the proceeds of his entire estate to found a home for stray animals, especially cats.

“Why cats?” I turned to Caleb.

“Well, she allus had ’em,” he explained, “Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith.’ She used to take ’em in when the summer people went away and left ’em on the beach. Wild like, they get, and dangerous. She had him taught to notice ’em. That’s why.”

Poor Mattie! Her example had trained his only virtue to her own detriment. There was not a word about the New Captain’s leaving any of his money to her, nor even a stick of furniture. I read further.

[44]“It is my wish that Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith’ sit in the room with my body for a week after I die, thereby fulfilling a last solemn trust.”

“Why did he say that?” I gasped.

Caleb Snow was sitting in the upper doorway, with his legs hanging out, whittling at a piece of wood.

“Well, you see, he died once before and come to life again, and this time he didn’t want to disappoint nobody.”


“He simply stretched out dead one day, like he had heart-failure, and after Mattie had got the old crape out of the chest and tacked it on the door, and the undertaker was there going about his business, the New Captain come to again. It was the coffin turned the trick. He wouldn’t let ’em put him into it. He had an awful hate towards coffins after that. Said coffin-makers was a low form of life. He took up some foreign religion and read books to prove it by. Claimed undertakers would be caterpillars in their next life, crawling on their bellies and never coming out of their own cocoons. I bet he don’t stay in his, neither!”

[45]“Nonsense,” said I; “those things don’t happen twice.”

“If things happen once that hadn’t ought to happen at all, they got a right to happen twice,” said Caleb doggedly, “or three or four times, for that matter!”

“But he was cataleptic.”

“Call him anything you like.” Caleb went on whittling. “All I know is, he was so scairt he would be buried alive, he made Mattie promise she would watch him for a week.”

“And did she do it?”

“Yep. It was two years after the first time that he died the second time, and they had it all planned out. She sat there in the back room, with the shutters closed, and never took her eyes off him. Folks would go in and out and offer her a cup of tea once in a while, but she let on as how she didn’t know them. She never was a hand to speak to any one before that, and after that she never has spoke to any one at all. If you ask her anything, like I’m obliged to, strictly business, she looks as if she didn’t have it on her mind what you was talking about. Nor on anything else, for that matter. It turned her.”

[46]“I should think it would!” said Ruth and I together.

“Yep,” Caleb continued, “he was dead all right when they took him out. Leastwise, as dead as he will ever get. I didn’t see him; nobody went to the funeral except Judge Bell, but he O. K.’d it. An’ if Mattie decided he was beyond recall, why he was; that settles it. For if he had been only halfway, like the other time, she would ’a’ fetched him back herself.”

He gave us a look profoundly mysterious.

“You think, then, that Mattie has the power to raise people from the dead?”

“Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to have it said I say so,” he evaded. “Not humans, maybe, but cats! I’ve seen her take a dead cat up off the beach in her apron, drowned or starved, no difference to her, and the next day there it would be, lapping up milk on the doorstep.” He paused a minute to let us weigh this, and then he added, “An’ cats ain’t the only things that has nine lives.”

Ruth and I stared blankly at him and at each other, and back to the faded ink-written pages of the New Captain’s will.

“Did Mattie ever show this—power—in any other way?”

[47]“I don’t know,” replied Caleb testily. “I don’t know her at all. Nobody does. She don’t go around where folks are.”

“Didn’t she ever attend church?”

“Not her! She’s got a system of her own. Her and the New Captain got it up together. The Old Captain and his wife was regular members, but down to the public library Mis’ Katy says the New Captain used to ask for books that a Christian would ’a’ been ashamed to be seen carrying up the street under his arm.”

“Occultism, probably.”

“The judge can tell you. He understands them things.”

“Is he a spiritualist?”

“Not precisely, but leanin’. Goes to the First Baptist on Sunday mornings, and all over the cape week-days, to parlor meetings. It was the New Captain started him off, too. The judge, he thinks if he keeps after it, he’ll get a message from him, and he’s real worried, waitin’. But Mattie—she goes around in the yard, even, talking out loud to the cap’n, as if he was right there, diggin’ in the garden.”

“Lots of people talk to themselves.”

“To themselves, yes! I know they do. But[48] Turtle’s boy—he takes the groceries, and he is the only one that will go in there now—he says sometimes it’s more than he can stand. He jest puts the stuff down on the step and runs away. She gets that cross-eyed girl next door to go on errands for her. All that family is—” he tapped his head significantly, “and don’t know the difference.”

“You mean that Mattie is crazy?” I asked indignantly. “She’s no more crazy than you or me.”

Ruth smiled then at the look Caleb gave me. It was as much as to say that he had suspected I was right along, and that now I had admitted it.

“She only appears to us to act,” my friend defended me, “as any one might who had always lived in one place and felt she had a right to stay there. Especially, because she is out of contact with life and does not know any longer how to take it up. There is nothing weak-minded in the course she is pursuing.”

“No mind at all,” Caleb contradicted her.

But there was something important that I wanted to find out.

[49]“Why,” I asked, “didn’t the New Captain leave Mattie anything in his will?”

Caleb cocked one eye at the thing that he was whittling.

“He was past the place.”

“You mean that there was a time when he would have left her his money?”

“There was a time when he would have married her—only his mother wouldn’t let him.”

Somehow the idea of the rugged Captain Hawes, a sailor in his youth and a terrifying figure in his old age, a recluse around whom strange tales had been woven by his townspeople, did not seem like a man who could have been prevented by his mother from marrying an orphan girl.

“You can laugh,” Caleb scolded us; “you never saw her!”

“Old Jeremiah Hawes’ wife?”

“Her!” Caleb jabbed with his jack-knife as he spoke, as if he wished that it was the old lady he had under his blade.

“But I don’t see why the New Captain could not have married Mattie after his mother died. They must have lived a long time together[50] in the House of the Five Pines after that.”

“Forty years is all. Same reason that he didn’t leave her nothin’. He was past the place where he wanted to.”

Caleb had finished what he was whittling now, and, as if he knew that Ruth carried all such things home to her children, he handed it to her with an apologetic smile. It was the hull of a little fishing-boat, with two masts and a rudder all in place.

We thanked him and backed out down the ladder.

Looking at the toy in the sunlight, Ruth exclaimed. The name of that fatal ship which had brought the little half-drowned French child to the sterile land of her adoption had been carved by the Winkle-Man upon this tiny model—Charles T. Smith.

“It must have looked just like that!” I cried.

“It’s like Caleb,” said Ruth, with her slow, fond smile.



“I ’M going home to-day,” I announced to Ruth after breakfast the next morning, “to secure Jasper’s consent to buying the House of the Five Pines. I’ll go round on the back street now, while you are busy, and get my washing from Mrs. Dove, so that I can pack it.”

As I passed the big old house it looked so innocent that I scoffed at the stories that it had gathered to itself, as a ship gathers barnacles. “All I need to do is to have it painted,” I thought, “and I will have the finest place on the cape. I’ll see how much it will cost to have a few things done.”

I turned into Turtle’s store, and after a search found the proprietor out in the back room making himself an ice-cream cone. I asked him if he knew any one whom I could get to paint a house.

[52]“What house?” he parried, as if it made all the difference in the world.

“The House of the Five Pines.”

“What do you want to paint that for?”

I tried to keep my temper. “I’m going to buy it.”

“Well, you’ll probably never move in,” was his reply. “I wouldn’t waste no paint on it.”

As I turned out of his hostile door I bumped into a man coming in with open pails of white lead in each hand.

“Can you give me an estimate on a house—the House of the Five Pines?”

He looked from me to Mr. Turtle. “Why, I don’t do no painting,” he replied.

“What’s that?” I pointed to the evidence he had forgotten he was carrying.

“Well, hardly any,” he corrected; “just a little now and then to oblige a friend, when I ain’t busy.”

Ruth had warned me of this. The independent son of the Puritan Fathers on Cape Cod will only work as a favor, and out of kindness charges you more than if he were drawing union wages.

“What do you do when you are busy?”


[53]“Wouldn’t you have time in the fall?”

“In the fall I won’t be here,” he answered, with a relieved sigh.

Mr. Turtle gave a guffaw, but when I looked at him sharply he was methodically cutting a piece of cheese. “Will you have a sample?” he asked me, holding a sliver out to me on the end of a knife.

I slammed the screen-door.

As soon as I arrived in the hospitable back-yard of Mrs. Dove, I asked her what was wrong with them, or with me, that they should rebuff me so. Stout and red-faced with exertion, she was laboriously washing on a bench under the trees and kept on splashing the suds. Being the only laundry in town, she could not waste time on explanations. Mrs. Dove contracted to do the summer people’s clothing by the dozen, and, counting almost everything that was given her as not rightfully within that dozen, supplied herself with sufficient funds to hibernate for the winter. During the dull season she prepared for the next year’s trade by making rag-rugs and mats with button-eyed cats, the patterns for which had traditionally been brought back from Newfoundland by the sailors. After[54] she had listened to my story and hung up the stockings, she took the clothes-pins out of her mouth long enough to answer.

“You’ll have a hard time all right, getting any one to go near the place. They’re all against it.”

“But why?”

“Well, it has a bad name around here.”

That was what the judge had said. That was the reason he was willing to sell it cheap.

“Do you mean it is haunted?”

Mrs. Dove held a child’s rompers up to the sunlight, soaped a spot on the seat, and rubbed hard again.

“Well, not ghosts, precisely, but there’s always been strange goings-on there, things a person could not understand and that never has been explained. All the men is down on it, because the New Captain didn’t hire none of them to work on the wing he built.”

“But that was years ago!”

“Fifty, maybe. The house was put up in the first place by ships’ carpenters from Boston, and there’s some is still jealous of that. Still, when the New Captain added to it, seems as if he might have hired folks around[55] here. Instead of that he was so stingy that he built it all himself, him and Mattie. He had her working around there just like a man. Pretty near killed her carrying lumber. I’d ’a’ seen myself hammerin’ and climbing up and down ladders for any of them Haweses!”

“Did she really do that?”

“She did anything he said. Anything at all! From the time that he used to chase her barefooted in and out of the drying-frames on the shore lot where the cod was spread, she just worshiped him. And what good did it do her? Mis’ Hawes was so set against her that she made her life a torment, trying to keep her busy and away from him.”

“Why wouldn’t she let him marry her?”

“How did you know about that? Oh, you seen Caleb Snow! People that talk all the time has to say something. I bet the judge didn’t mention it!”

“He said that Mattie was picked up out of the sea.”

“Oh, as for that!”

“And that Mrs. Hawes came from Maine.”

“Did he? Well, she did, then. And she always thought there was nothing good enough for her in Star Harbor. There was hardly a[56] family on Cape Cod that she would associate with. Her father was one of them old sea-captains, pirates, I call them, who took slaves up there in his own vessels, and she just naturally had it in her to make Mattie into a slave of her own. She would no more have let her son marry that orphan girl than if she was a nigger. I was a child then myself, and I used to hear her hollerin’ at Mattie. She was bedridden the last six years, and she used to lie by the window, downstairs in the front room, and call out to people passing in the street. Stone deaf, Mis’ Hawes was, and so as she could hear the sound of her own voice she used to shout loud enough to call the hands in off the ships in the harbor. Yes, ma’am, her lightest whisper could be heard all over the bay.”

“Did she live longer than her husband?”

“Oh, years and years! He went down with the White Wren—they got his body off the point. It was after that she had the stroke and was so mean to Mattie and the New Captain. They was young people then, and just the age. She wouldn’t let him have a penny of the Old Captain’s fortune. I suppose it was because she wouldn’t give him any cash to[57] do it with that he had to build the new wing himself. She was dead set against it. But it served her right. Mattie got so wore out with it that she had to go to a hospital in Boston and get laid up for a while. Some say she fell off the roof, but I used to be right around there watchin’ them half the time and I never see her fall off any roof. And Mis’ Hawes, she had a miserable time of it while Mattie was gone. Once you get depending on any one, it’s them that is the masters.

“I don’t believe Mattie ever would ’a’ come back after that, she was so long away, only one day the New Captain hitched up his horse and went and fetched her. His mother simply couldn’t do without her another minute. It was winter and there was no ships plying. The harbor was ice from here way over to the lighthouse-point; I remember it. And we didn’t have trains clear down the cape in those times. So what did the New Captain do but drive all the way down to Boston and back in his square box-buggy. He was gone days and days. I saw them coming home that night, the horse’s coat all roughed up and sweaty and his breath steaming into the cold, like smoke, the side-curtains drawn tight[58] shut and the lamps lit. I was bringing back our cow, and I drew to one side of the road to let them pass, and I could hear her whimpering-like inside. He must have thought a powerful sight of Mattie to have made that journey for her.”

“Were they happy after that?”

“Not that anybody knows of. There was old Mis’ Hawes so set against his marrying her that she would fly into a passion if she saw you was even so much as thinking of such a thing; and yet, what could she do about it? Or what did she even know about it, shut up in one room? Yes, ma’am, there’s been strange goings-on in that house, and there is still. That’s why the men they won’t go near it. When the New Captain wanted the roof shingled or the pipes mended from time to time, he had to do it himself.”

“Well, I’m not going to paint the house myself,” I said. “After I get in and have it all opened up, they will feel differently about it.” I held up my chin defiantly.

“That is, if you ever get in,” rejoined Mrs. Dove.

I walked on down the back street with my[59] clean white skirts, that she had washed, over my arm, and thought things over.

To every house, as to every human being, is granted two sorts of life, physical and spiritual. These wear out. To renew the physical life, all that is needed is a few shingles and a can of white lead and a thorough overhauling of the drains. The regeneration of the spiritual is more complex, requiring a change of occupant. The deterioration of a family within the walls of a house leaves an aroma of decay that only the complete relinquishment of the last surviving occupant can dissipate. Even then, the new tenant, in order to be exempt from the influence of past psychological experiences, must be unaware of them. I was learning too much about the House of the Five Pines. I determined that I would inquire no further, but brush these revelations from my mind and make a clean beginning. I would go back to New York now, remembering the house only in its external aspect, impressing that alone upon my husband and forestalling his reaction to the side of the situation that lent itself to fiction, which was his profession, by not telling him[60] all of these legends that I had recently unearthed. Jasper was more sensitive to such suggestions than myself, and I felt that if he knew what I did we should have no peace. To protect myself from exhaustive argument and speculation, it would be wiser to repeat nothing.

The road where I was walking led across the rear of the premises of the House of the Five Pines, which extended a block, from what was always called the “Front Street” to the “Back Street.” From here one had a view of the garden and the four-foot brick walls that held up the precious earth hauled from such a distance. The century’s growth of the five pine-trees had burst open the wall along one side, and their roots, extending into the next yard, had been ruthlessly chopped off. I hoped that these new neighbors would not extend their animosity to me. The land sloped gradually down from the house until it rose again in a wooded hill on the further side of Back Street. This incline had necessitated the placing of piles, topped with inverted tin pans, as they are in country corn-bins, to hold up the rear of the captain’s wing. The space thus formed beneath[61] the house, called the “under,” was filled with the rubbish of years. There were no doors at the back of the house, nor did this one-story addition have any entrance. There was a big chimney in the center of the end-wall and windows on either side. No barns or outbuildings fringed the road. The needs of seafaring folk demanded that they keep their properties in sheds upon their wharves.

At first there was no sign of Mattie, but as I lingered in Back Street, lost in speculation, a little old woman came around the side of the mysterious house. She was dragging two heavy oars behind her which she propped against a tree, and, setting down a wicker fish-basket beside them, lifted out a live green lobster.

She wore a yellow oilskin hat, with the brim bent down around her withered face, and a dirty sailor’s middy over a bedraggled skirt. Holding her freshly-caught lobster in a way that would have been precarious to most people, she talked to it like a pet, and as I continued to watch her, fascinated, she carried it tenderly away. I wondered if she would drop it into boiling water, which was its natural destiny, or take it into the[62] kitchen and feed it a saucer of milk. She did not appear again, but realizing that from behind some shutter she might be observing me, I became self-conscious and moved on.

Judge Bell was leaning against the door of the Winkle-Man’s loft and greeted me like an old friend as I passed. I knew that he had strolled up there this morning to find out what had transpired after I left him the day before.

“Are you going to take the house?” he asked.

“I hope so. I’m going back home this afternoon and tell my husband about it.”

“Oh, ye’ve got a husband, have ye?” said Caleb, appearing with his winkle-fork in his hand.

“What would I want that big house for if I didn’t have any husband?”

“Give it up! What do you want it for anyway? The judge and me have give up wondering what summer people wants anything for, ain’t we, judge?”

Judge Bell would not answer; he was afraid Caleb was going to spoil the sale.

“They always pick out the worst ramshackle down-at-the-heels places that they can get for nothin’, and talks about the ‘possibilities’ of[63] ’em, like a revivalist prayin’ over a sinner, until you would think the blessed old rat-trap was something!”

“The House of the Five Pines isn’t a rat-trap,” said the judge, touchily.

“No, it ain’t,” grinned Caleb, shouldering his long fork and picking up his bait-bucket. “It’s a man-trap!”

He slouched off down the bank.

“Don’t you worry,” I reassured the judge, who was looking sour. “I’ll take the house if I possibly can. You put your mind on getting Mattie moved out of it, and I’ll write you.”

I told Ruth about my interviews when I reached the cottage. “You’ve found out more about that house in the last twenty-four hours,” she replied in her leisurely way, “than I’ve ever heard in the five years I’ve lived here. I only pray you will take it now. The town-people won’t like it if you don’t; you’ve got their hopes aroused.”

“I have my own aroused,” I replied. “I have more hope now for the future than I have had for the last six months.”

Ruth saw me off cheerfully on the afternoon train, but I knew that in her kind heart[64] were forebodings as to what might happen in my life before she could see me again. Her whole family would migrate soon now, and our winters would be spent in cities too far apart for us to help each other. If she could have known how much I was going to need her, she would never have left Star Harbor.



AFTER I had been back in New York for a month I had about decided that Mrs. Dove was right.

Jasper had greeted my idea about buying the house with enthusiasm, but, when it came to details, with a stubborn refusal to face the facts and sign a check. To my entreaties that he go down and look at it, or write to Judge Bell about it, or arrange to move there soon, I was constantly met with, “Wait till after the play.”

We lived in four rooms in the old arcade near Columbus Circle which we had originally chosen because artists lived there, and at that time I had thought of myself as an artist. I did, in truth, have some flair for it, and a little education, which had been laboriously acquired at the School of Design associated with the Carnegie Technical Schools. Two years of[66] marriage had seen the dwindling away of my aspirations by attrition. The one room that we had which possessed a window facing north, which by any stretch of good-will might have been called a studio, had been given up for our common sleeping-room, and Jasper, because of the constant necessity of his profession to keep late hours, was never out of bed until long after the sun had slid around to the court. I bore fate no grudge because of this. It was quite true, as he often pointed out to me, that I could paint out-of-doors or in some one else’s studio, but the day that I felt free to do this never came. When, after two years of married life, our finances still necessitated the curtailment of every extravagance, paints and canvas seemed one of the most plausible things to do without. It was only when prompted by the exhibition of some woman painter, who had evidently managed these things better, my husband would ask me why I did not paint any more, that I suffered momentarily. For the rest of the time his own work seemed to me much more important.

This was the night at last that my husband’s play was to go on, the plot of which he had[67] developed from a mystery that I had suggested one morning a year ago, when I used to wake up so happily, full of ideas. I did not rise as exuberantly now. I hated to get up at all. Our studio was crowded with things and with people that we did not want from morning until night, and from night until morning again. It had become my chief duty to sort out all the component parts of our ménage, producing just the influences that would further the work of my husband and suppressing all others. To-day I had been answering questions constantly on the telephone, from complaints about the box-office, with which I had nothing at all to do, to reproaches from the ingénue because she could not find the author. It seemed to me, thinking it over while pressing out the dress I was going to wear, that Myrtle was spending altogether too much time looking for my husband. Just because he wrote the play and she was acting in it was no reason that I could see why she should lunch with him every day. I sometimes wished that all of these young girls who thought it was part of their education to flirt with him could have the pleasure of getting[68] him his breakfast every day, as I did, and of waiting up for him for a thousand and one nights.

I did not reproach Jasper; I loved him too much for that. When one is jealous it is the contortions of a member of his own sex, of whom he is suspicious, not the dear one upon whom he is dependent for happiness. A woman will drop her best friend to save her husband, without letting him know she has done so.

I blamed the city in which we worked for most of the confusion. Had we lived in some other place, it would have been in a saner way. And Jasper could have lived anywhere he chose; he carried his earning capacity in his imagination. Nowhere are conditions so mad as in New York, so enticingly witless. In this arcade building, cut up in its old age into so-called living apartments, with rickety bridges connecting passages that had no architectural relation to each other, whispers followed one in bleak corridors and intrigue loafed on the stairs. We had outgrown unconventional (which is the same as inconvenient) housekeeping. Jasper was getting bored and I was becoming querulous before[69] our married life had been given any opportunity to expand. Dogs were not allowed in our arcade; children would have been a scandal.

Thinking of the big rooms in that cool, quiet house on the cape during the hot month of September, I could not help longing to be there, and I had written several times to the judge. Thus I knew that Mattie “Charles T. Smith” had once more refused to vacate, and unless we were coming up there immediately, the judge would not evict her before spring.

“We ought to decide something,” I was saying to myself, when I heard my husband coming down the hall, and my heart forgot forebodings. I hurried to hide the ironing-board, there still being a pretense between us that it was not necessary to do these things, and put on the tea-kettle.

Jasper was tall and angular, with wispy light hair always in disorder above a high forehead and gray eyes wide open in happy excitement. He looked straight into life, eager to understand it, and never seemed to know when it came back at him, hitting him in the face. He had that fortunate quality of making people take him seriously, even his jokes. In a world eager to give him what he wanted, I[70] was proud that he still chose me, and prayed that he might continue.

He was pathetically glad to get some hot tea, assuring me that the play was rotten, that the manager was a pig, and that none of the actors knew their business. He had been with them all day.

“Jasper,” I said, after I had given him all the telephone messages, to which he paid no heed at all, “have you any idea of taking that house on Cape Cod this fall?”

Jasper went on looking through his papers as if he had not heard me.

“Where is that correction I made last night for Myrtle?” he asked.

“I’m sure I don’t know.”

“Well, what—” he began impatiently, and then, turning on me, he read in my face, I suppose, how much the House of the Five Pines had come to mean to me.

“Now, see here,” he finished more kindly, “I can’t think about houses to-day; you know I can’t. Ask me to-morrow.”

“All right, dear; I’ll ask you to-morrow. Have you got my seat for to-night?”


“Yes, a ticket to get in with. I suppose[71] I’ll have to have a pass of some sort, won’t I? I don’t want to stand up behind the stage.”

“Why, I’m sorry; I never thought of it. I’ll run up to the theater before I come back and get you something.”

“You won’t have time; you’re going out for dinner, aren’t you?”

“I was.”

“Well, go ahead. I’ll see about the ticket somehow. Don’t bother.”

I smiled a little ruefully after he had gone. Why did I think I had to have any more child than just him? I had always supposed that when a man’s play was produced his wife had a box and all her friends gathered around her with congratulations, and that the wives of the actors were all arrayed, family style, to see them come on. But it did not develop that way among the members of “the profession” as I knew them. The wives were mostly staying at home with the children, or lived outside the city and couldn’t afford to come in, or frankly had another engagement. They were “not expected.”

It was raining when I crowded my way into the foyer and begged a seat for “The Shoals of Yesterday” from the man at the window.[72] He gave me the best he had, without any comment, and I took off my rubbers and laid down my umbrella in the balcony. From this point I was as interested as if I did not know every line that was to be said—almost every gesture. After the first act I relaxed and enjoyed it.

The play went of its own volition, developing an amazing independent vitality which withstood the surprising shocks administered to it by the actors. I smiled benignly when the audience sat tense, and wept when I saw them burst into laughter.

Jasper’s hurried hand-pressure, when he found me, and his whispered “Is everything all right out here, dear?” made me feel that I, too, had some part in it, outside of its original conception, which of course every one had forgotten. As a watcher of the first performance, alert to catch any criticism that might be useful, I sat up all night with the play that I had tended from infancy. When the curtain went up upon “The Shoals of Yesterday,” it was a manuscript from our apartment; when the asbestos went down, it was upon a Broadway success.

I found my way back to the dressing-rooms[73] and met Jasper coming along with a crowd of actors, Myrtle crowding close. She wore an orange-feathered toque, which set off her light hair like a flame, and a sealskin wrap, drawn tight around her slim, lightly clothed body. She was one of those competent blond girls who know not only how to make their own clothes but how to get some one to buy them, so that they will not have to, and how to wear them after they get them. It is vanity which forces them into bizarre conquests. I could not tell whether her absorption of Jasper’s time had in it elements that would ever come to hurt me, or whether she was simply using him to further her own advancement. Probably she did not know herself.

“Isn’t he a bright little boy?” She petted him and hung upon his neck. “We’re going to take him out and buy him a supper, so we are; him’s hungry.”

I knew perfectly well that it would be Jasper who would pay for the supper, but at that moment I could not bear any one ill-will. I even recognized that, for Myrtle, this was generosity. It would have been more like her to have spoken of the play in terms of herself.

[74]“It went awfully well,” I said to him over their heads. I thought he would be waiting for some word from me.

But he did not reply. He was laughing and talking with the whole group. In that intimate moment he was not aware of me in the way that I was of him. Something inside me withdrew, so that I saw myself standing there, waiting. I became embarrassed.

“Shall I go on home?” I asked.

Jasper looked relieved.

“I’ll be right along,” he assured me.

I went out with my umbrella and tried to call a taxi. But there were not enough; there never are when it rains, and a single woman has no chance at all. Men were running up the street a block and jumping into them and driving down to the awning with the door half-open looking for their girls or their wives along the sidewalk. I wished that some one was looking for me. A hand closed over mine where I held the handle of the umbrella and a pleasant voice said:

“Can I take you home?”

I looked up into the eyes of a bald-headed man I had never seen before, who was smiling at me as if he had known me something more[75] than all my life. I jerked away and hurried down the street. After that I somehow did not dare even to take a car; I walked home; in fact, I ran. And all the way I kept thinking: “Why doesn’t Jasper take any better care of me? Why doesn’t he care what happens to me? That’s it; he doesn’t care.”

It is a dangerous thing to pity oneself when one’s husband is out with another woman.

“All I can have to eat is what is left over in the ice-box,” I said, raising the lid and holding the lettuce in one hand while I felt around in the dark for the bottle of milk. But there was no milk. And I had to laugh at myself then or cry, and so I laughed, a very little, and went to bed.

When Jasper came in it was so late that I pretended that I did not hear him.



GETTING up and out of the apartment before my husband was awake, I bought all the morning papers at the nearest kiosk and carried them back to my breakfast-table. At least I would know first, for my wakefulness, what the edict of the critics was. I hated to read what I knew in my heart to be their immature and sometimes even silly opinions, but such is the power of the press over the theaters that I could not wait for my coffee to boil before I unfolded the first sheet. These sophisticated young writers, many of whom I knew and whose opinions I respected less on that account, wielded the power of life or death over their subjects, the playwrights, who struggled in the arena of life for their approval and were never safe from their august “thumbs down.” Sometimes I thought the older men, who should have known better, were the most irresponsible. Bored out of all[77] possibility of forming any constructive opinion of a first night, they waited only to see that every actor came on as advertised, and then scuttled back to their typewriters to pound off something, anything that would leave them free for half an hour’s game in the back of the newspaper office before going home. What had they done to us and to our play, to the cross-section of life which we had labored over all summer?

They were better than I had expected—probably because it was in September and the dramatic critics were not yet jaded. Possibly, fresh from the mountains, with the sunburn not yet worn off, they had actually been to see the play and had had a good time meeting one another in the lobby and comparing mileage. At any rate, their remarks were universally good-natured, if not profound, and their intentions beyond cavil. They had one criticism in common—they did not like our ingénue, and I could not blame them any for that.

Will Turnball, on the “Gazette,” said that Myrtle Manners had done all she could to ruin it, but fortunately the play did not depend upon her for its success. He was not aware that it was the playwright who was[78] himself dependent upon her, who put her interests above any one else’s in the cast. I remembered that Turnball knew the girl, and wondered if he had said that deliberately and perhaps on my account. One never knows where an obscure sense of chivalry is going to crop out in a modern knight. We were old friends. He had read “The Shoals of Yesterday” beforehand, one happy day in the middle of last summer, when we were all down at ’Sconset together over a Sunday. And, at the time, he had objected to Myrtle Manners taking that part. He had said she was a trouble-maker, but Jasper, having only recently secured his contract with Burton, who was going to produce the play, did not feel like stepping in and dictating the cast. I had stupidly sustained him. And now Turnball, knowing that what he said could not fail to make Myrtle angry, had nevertheless gone out of his way to say it. I smiled at the reaction I knew would follow, and picked up the next paper.

I was surprised to find that the man on the “Tribune” agreed with him. I did not know this critic at all. And the “Globe” said:

“‘The Shoals of Yesterday,’ the new play[79] by Jasper Curdy, well-known short-story writer, opened last night at the Lyric with great success.... When so many girls are out of work this fall, why hire Myrtle Manners?”

I finished my breakfast with the feeling that I had been revenged.

Jasper had not chosen her, I came to his defense. The manager picked her out, Burton himself, for no better reason than that her father played baseball with him on the high-school team back in Plainfield, New Jersey, and she had come to him with a letter and a sob-story and a pair of blue eyes. She was ambitious, she had told him, and she wanted to work hard. Well, she understood herself; she was all of ambitious, but who was to do the hard work was more doubtful. She was never up at the hour of the day when most of the hard work is done. To do Jasper justice, he had not seen the girl until the first rehearsal, although she had hardly been out of his sight since. Discontented with the part as it was originally written, Myrtle had insisted on changes in it until the whole fabric of the play was endangered. The part of ingénue was not originally important, but her insistence,[80] and Jasper’s willingness to please her, had altered it until it threatened the lead. Therefore it had come about that Gaya Jones, who was creating the difficult part of a society crook, was herself becoming restless. There was no need of antagonizing Gaya. She had started out at the beginning of the rehearsals with all the good-will in the world, and worked up her character with her usual dependable artistry. If she had her lines cut and Myrtle Manners had hers made increasingly important, there was going to be grave trouble. I had looked for Gaya in vain in the crowd who were going out for supper last night. Probably, like myself, she had gone home alone. I wished her better luck in her ice-box than I had found in mine.

Now that the play had been launched I wondered if these two women, upon whose acting it depended, would become reconciled to each other.

The telephone interrupted my foreboding with a new fear.

“O Mrs. Curdy? Myrtle talking. Have you seen the papers? Is Jasper up? Isn’t he? Why, he went home awfully early. He always does, doesn’t he? Broke up the[81] party; so sorry you couldn’t go along! I suppose you’ve read what the papers say about me? I got up to find out; might as well go back to bed again! Some of them were grand, but the ‘Tribune’—Wait till Jasper reads what that awful man said in the ‘Tribune.’ And the ‘Gazette’! I don’t believe they sent any one over at all! That must have been written at the desk by the office-boy! The ‘Globe’ was grouchy, too, but I know why that was; that Jones who writes their stuff is married, you know, and he’s sore at me. Last night, when we were all having supper, it was this way—”

I put my hand over the receiver so that I would not have to listen to her story about the supper. I knew perfectly well that dramatic critics were not loitering around restaurants after plays; they had to get their reviews written before twelve o’clock.

“No, Jasper isn’t up yet,” I replied, taking my hand away just in time to hear her insistent question. “All right.”

But the sunshine had been taken out of the room for me, as if a blind had been drawn. Was this what we had been working for—this? Failure might have drawn us together,[82] might have made us need each other more—or did I not mean that it would have made my husband need me just a little? But now he was forever a part of a production—as long as “The Shoals of Yesterday” should live, its slave and its nurse. Nor did I want it to die precisely, nor quarrel with my bread and butter, but, like many another, wanted success without the price of success, and fame without the penalty. If, after the production, Jasper had to spend all of his time mollifying this girl, if he had to get right up out of bed to answer her demands, what had he gained? I was so tired of the whole circle of my life! Tired of plays and of writers, of actors and of stages, of newspapers and of telephones. The list ran on in my mind like a stanza of Walt Whitman. I could think of just as many nouns as he could, and of all of them I was tired. The thought of leaving New York altogether was to my mind like a fresh breeze on a sultry noon. There was nothing more to detain Jasper. Why not go?

I looked about the room where I was sitting with eyes suddenly grown cold to it. There was a hinge loose on the gate-legged table that had once been our pride, so that a wing would[83] go down if one kicked it. The leather cushion on the big davenport in the windows was worn white. The curtains were half-dirty and stuck to the screen. The silver needed cleaning. The painted chairs, which furnished that intimate “arty” touch, were like a woman who has slept in her rouge without washing her face and needed touching up. The living-room was too near. I wanted rooms where to leave one was not to look back into it continually, rooms from which there was some escape, that did not merge into one another. Particularly desirable to me at that moment was a separate kitchen, incorrigibly isolated. I felt that I would not care if it were in the basement or in another building, if only I did not have to see the grapefruit rinds on the kitchen sink while I was eating my egg.

That house on the cape! Two thousand dollars! The price of a car, and Jasper had said he was going to get a car—to take Myrtle out in, probably. I decided right then that if he bought a car, instead of a house, I would never ride in it. (But I knew that I lied, even as I did so.) It seemed to me that our life here was ended. More real was the House of the Five Pines, the sand-dunes and[84] the sea, the little road and the vessels in the harbor. They were enduring; they had been there before us and would indifferently outlast our brief sojourn, if we lived with them the rest of our lives. They were the sum of the hopes of simple men and the fabric of their dreams. I could hear the voices of the children who would run around in that great yard, if it were ever mine, and smell the hollyhocks that again would bloom in orderly rows against the freshly painted house.

I took the mail in from the janitor—a letter from Star Harbor.

Dear Madam:

Mattie “Charles T. Smith” was drowned yesterday while taking up her lobster-pots. I know that you will feel sorry for her demise, but Providence has now made clear the way for you to have the house you wanted. Please advise, as I would like to close the deal.

Yours truly,
John Bell.

I sat quite still, with the letter trembling in my hand.

Mattie had gone back to the sea, back to that ancient mother of hers out of whose arms she had been taken.

[85]I knew the place where the lobster-pots were put out. A long row from Mattie’s wharf, over in one shallow pool of the bay behind the stone breakwater, where children played on the flats at low tide and the horseshoe-crabs held carnival. No cottages were near this spot, no fishermen’s houses stood up on the bank, for deep-pooled marshes stretched behind it and to one side and beyond the breakwater was nothing but sand and mosquitoes. The breakwater itself was too lonely a walk for any one but lovers, who have the nocturnal habits of the cat, but who do not patrol distant beaches to see the sunrise. And no other person would ever have been in shouting distance of the place where Mattie must have been drowned. I could see it all as it must have been. An early morning; fiery clouds veiling the rising sun, turning the whole bay to heliotrope and silver; fishing-vessels at anchor, their crews still asleep; sea-gulls flapping up lazily to roost again on pile tops, each one a gargoyle in the morning mist; and a little old woman rowing a heavy boat to her traps, standing to tug at the slippery line. An extra pull that drew her over the edge; a stagger to recover her balance as she floundered;[86] a cry that no one heard on those desolate flats; a boat left rocking, half-full of water; and an old withered body, found when the tide went out, caught fast in the lobster-pots.

Mattie “Charles T. Smith”! Cast upon the mercy of these hard fisher-folk and in the end snatched back by the sea, which always claims its own! At least, and I was glad for it, she had been spared the ignominy of being turned out of her home by me or any of my kind. The manner of her going was like the way of her living—an accident of fate, a silence, and a mystery.

Jasper startled me, coming into the room in his bath-robe, asking for coffee. “Oh, let’s see the papers.”

I had forgotten the papers. I pushed them all toward him and went out to make fresh toast.

The letter lay there. I did not know whether to show it to him or not. For the first time in our married life I was afraid. I wanted so passionately to have him go away with me, to have a place in which to be together alone, a home, and yet at the same time I knew that he would have to choose it for himself or the project would be futile. I hated to be refused, and I would not force a[87] decision. Had he risen on this morning of his great success thinking only of that little actress and what it would mean to her, or had he, after all, created this thing for our own future—for me?

“You’re burning it!” called Jasper.

I hurried in with the toast.

“What are you crying for?”

“I’m not.”

“You’re up too early. Nerves. You ought to take more rest.”

I watched him miserably while he ate and looked through all the newspapers.

“That’s fine,” he said. “That settles that! The old boys certainly were nice to me!—Better than I deserve! Looks as if we were going to have money in the bank!”

Then he picked up the letter.

“Read it,” I whispered. But I could not bear to see him, and I got up and would have run away. He caught me in the doorway and, his arms around me, kissed away my fears.

“I’m glad the old woman’s drowned!” he cried.

“Oh no, don’t say that!”

“Aren’t you?”

“But don’t put it that way!”

[88]“What way? What’s the difference what way we put it, so long as she’s out of it and we can get the house!”

“Shall we get it?”

“Do you want it?”

I broke down then and wept upon his shoulder.

“Don’t cry,” he kept saying, “don’t cry. All you need is sleep. We’ll go up there and get rested. That’s the best news this morning. Why didn’t you tell me right away?”

“I didn’t know whether you’d be interested.”

Jasper laughed, and, through my tears, I laughed, too.

“Don’t get any funny ideas in your head,” he said. “You know very well that—”

It was too hard to say. I spared him.

“What I need is not sleep, Jasper,” I whispered; “it’s just—you.”

He looked at me quickly, with his chin thrown up, and did not smile. Then he gathered me close to him, as if he had not seen me for a long, long time.

“If that is all you want,” he said; “if that is all you want!”

And that was all I wanted.



IT was only a matter of two weeks before we rounded up our affairs in New York, packed the furniture that had sufficed us in the studio in the arcade, and took the long ride down the cape on the afternoon train from Boston. It was early October, and traffic was all going the other way. Hardly a passenger was left on the sooty little local when, after dark, it panted in exhausted and threw us out with the mail-bags, covered with sand and dust.

In August when I had been at Star Harbor many people had met the train, summer boarders and jeering natives had made of this an evening’s diversion; but now only the baggage-master was on duty. The ticket-office was closed, and the conductor picked up a lantern and walked away up the dark road. No one jumped to take our bags or to force upon us a ride in either a station-barge or a jitney,[90] and after standing on the platform until we realized that we might wait there all night without any interference, we picked up our things and sought the front street.

If we had arrived only a little earlier, by daylight, I would have insisted on going right up to the House of the Five Pines, but now supper was an immediate necessity. No one can wax enthusiastic about even his first home on an empty stomach.

The “Sailor’s Rest” was lighted up, although the doors were shut and there were no longer any chairs out on the sidewalk. It was not the custom here for the hotel to hang expectant on the arrival of the train. At this season of the year only the townspeople came and went on the accommodation, and they hurried home to eat with their own families. If we had been a schooner, now, putting in at Long Wharf, our host might have laid a couple of extra plates for the captain and the mate. He was deeply engrossed in his winter’s occupation of cataloguing stamps, which he had spread out all over the desk.

“Can we get something to eat here?” asked Jasper.

[91]“I don’t know,” replied Alf, without looking at us. Then he got up slowly, as if annoyed at the interruption, and tiptoed out from behind his barricade.

“Don’t breathe on them,” he warned us, and went out through a swinging door.

The room we were in was big and clean, with hanging oil-lamps, a new linoleum, and shining brass spittoons. We shook the cinders off our coats carefully, so as not to blow away any of the postage-stamps, and sank down in two chairs. I had expected Jasper to say something caustic, but his writer’s sense had begun to reassert itself and he was sniffing the air like a hound. I saw that I had been right in bringing him up here.

“Supper’s all over,” said Alf, “and the girls is gone home, but you can have some clams and some coffee, if that will help you out any.”

We couldn’t drink the coffee, but the steamed clams and a big loaf of Portuguese bread as full of holes as a Swiss cheese were devoured before we spoke another word. By that time our host had put away his stamp collection and had joined us in the empty[92] dining-room. He showed symptoms of a hesitant curiosity as to whether we were expecting to stay all night.

“We are going up to the House of the Five Pines,” I informed him. “We’re the people who bought it.”

“Are you?” His relief at our not wanting a bed at his “Sailor’s Rest” was mingled with skepticism. “To-night?”

I was very firm about to-night. Jasper did not say anything. I think he would have preferred to stay where he was, but did not like to say so. As the two men were silent, and rather sententiously smoked their pipes, I continued, “I want to sleep under my own roof.”

“If you can sleep!” said Alf.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s none of my business, but if I was just picking out a place to get a good night’s rest, it wouldn’t be the House of the Five Pines.”

“You think there is something wrong with it?”

“I know gosh-darn well there is! Pardon me. Wrong as rain. Of course I’m just telling you this out of friendliness.”

[93]“You haven’t told us anything yet,” reminded Jasper.

“I ain’t got anything much to tell.”

“Then we might as well be going.”

This was only a bluff, and I thought that Jasper had misjudged his man. I was exasperated because, without any pretense of being able to understand anybody, I knew that I could have had the whole story out of him.

“Ghosts are everywhere,” I remarked expansively. “We have them where we came from. I’m used to them.”

“I suppose you’re used to people dying two or three times and coming to life again, ain’t you?”

“Why? Do you think the old captain is still alive?”

“The ‘New Captain’!” he contradicted me; it seems as if I never could learn this title. “Well, if it ain’t him, who is it that’s sliding right through the house, vanishing into a blank wall that has no doors? People that’s been abroad at midnight has seen some one turning in off the back street, cutting across the lawn, but never coming out on the front.”

“Who’s seen him doing that?”

“Brown’s boy. Not that I say he seen him;[94] but I say he says he seen him! Of course I know that all them Browns ain’t reliable; too much fish eating, it makes them that way!”

“Does it?” asked Jasper, all interest.

Alf would not answer him, but went on directing his conversation to me. “Put ’em back on meat and they come around all right. The ‘town home’ over on the back street is full of crazy people the only thing that’s the matter with is too much herring. Scientifically speaking, it overkeys up the brain.”

Having explained, he relapsed into silence, allowing us to sift the evidence.

“But did this Brown boy see a ghost while Mattie was alive?”

“I don’t know as he did, but if he did he wouldn’t have been likely to circulate it around. He ain’t so foolish as all that!”

“Poor Mattie! Every one was afraid of her.”

“Not of her exactly, but if you was to say of her power, I’d partly agree. Suppose, as happened, a boy was to come out from swimming under her wharf, by mistake—Lord knows he wouldn’t ’a’ come up there on purpose—and she was to look at him through a knot-hole in the floor—just look, mind you,[95] and not say a word—and he was to go home and die of a chill, what would you think?”

“I’d think he caught cold in his bathing-suit.”

“Bathing-suit!” Alf scorned the word, as if the probability that the boy did not have one on refuted my suggestion.

“But,” I insisted, “she was drowned, in the end, naturally enough, like anybody else.”

“Was she?”

“Why not?”

“Well, would any one else that was raised around here and could row a boat out to the lighthouse-point and swim two miles back, as easy as you could walk across the street, upset in ten feet of water and get drowned, if they didn’t want to?”

“You think Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith’ drowned herself?” I exclaimed in horror. The thought, freighted with terrible responsibility, was too dreadful to accept.

“She was going to get turned out of her house, wasn’t she? And she wasn’t on speaking terms with a town that she would have to accept the crust of charity from. There’s some as says she was crazy, and that was why she fell out of her boat, but me, I[96] claim it was the most sensible thing she ever done.”

The subject had become so depressing that I was more than ready to discontinue it. Jasper was restlessly picking up our bags.

“Let’s go,” said he. “How about the key?”

“We’ll have to go to Judge Bell and get it,” I was beginning, but Alf interrupted me.

“Oh, it ain’t locked! Don’t worry, nobody would steal anything out of that house; they wouldn’t go near it.” He wished us good-night in a tone that suggested that it was nothing to him if we chose to be murdered in our beds, but kindly insisted on lending us matches and candles and a can of kerosene.

We went happily up the boardwalk, arm in arm, and in five minutes turned into our own yard and opened the front door.

Jasper threw his electric flash on the white paneling of a narrow hall, with stairs running up between the walls. As he did so, something rushed past us through the entry and out into the dark.

I shrank back against the wall and pointed after it. A starving “miau” came floating back. It was a cat that had been shut up[97] in the House of the Five Pines ever since Mattie’s death.

We laughed, remembering how, in his will, the New Captain had desired to found a home for stray animals, but we were both a little shaken. We lit all the lamps that we could find and, with the aid of their bright circle, looked into the shadows to discover what we could about the house that we had purchased without entering. Never having been inside the door, it would have been a just rebuke to our ignorance if we had been badly disappointed. But fate had been capriciously kind. The bargain was better than we had dared to dream.

Each room was large and high, with white woodwork and panels beneath the square-paned windows, and the furniture was of the period of the house, a hundred years old, much of it mahogany. We would have to wait until morning to justify an impression of it. The household belongings were all just as Mattie had left them—curtains and rugs, dishes and kitchen-utensils, even food. I knew that I would never eat any of the food.

[98]Some of the rooms were in the sort of disorder that comes through disuse, but the kitchen looked as if Mattie had lived there, and gave us an uncomfortable sense of intruding. Nothing remained of her now in the house where she had spent so many years but her feeling that she ought to continue there, and that permeated the place like a live presence, a protest in every room. She seemed not only at war with us, but in a surer and more subtle way fighting against some other presence, also unseen, but strongly felt. It made us aware that we had allied ourselves with her enemy and that the captain gloated over our arrival. I could not pretend to understand this antagonism, because I knew that they were held to have been lovers, but I felt that it was antecedent to his death and to his will—to be, in fact, the cause of that cryptic document. I began to fear that the peace which we had come so far to find was not waiting us. We would have to introduce that note ourselves into the symphony of the House of the Five Pines.

Jasper was thinking of architecture.

“Have you noticed,” he asked, “that none of the rooms are in their right places?”

[99]I saw what he meant. The kitchen was to the right of the hall, in the part of the house called the “porch,” and behind it had been built the “captain’s wing,” which was simply a large living-room, one story high, hardly pretentious enough to have caused so much jealousy. To the left of the hall, the front room was a bedroom, the same room, doubtless, from which the bedridden “Old Mis’ Hawes” used to shout at passers-by on the street. Behind the bedroom was the dining-room, evidently seldom used, for it had no access to the kitchen except through the front hall. Upstairs the rooms in the main part of the house were divided as if a child had laid them out with blocks, each one leading into the next. To the right of the stairs was the room over the kitchen, with its dormer-window facing the sea, the very window from which Mattie had leaned on the only occasion that I had ever seen her. This room was habitable, and here we decided to spend the night.

“Nothing can keep me awake,” yawned Jasper, and we both thought of Alf’s pessimism when we had left him at the Sailor’s Rest.

I was sorry that what my husband said[100] would undoubtedly be true. I have always found that in the more elusive moments of life the male partner escapes much responsibility and untold anxiety by simply being asleep.

We stood at the dormer-window and looked out on the dark bay, where the little boats, at anchor, were rocking so gently and so unaware, until we had won a measure of that quiet which we had been searching for, and then we said a thankful and a wishful prayer for our new life in this house before we blew out the candle. We thought that it was the most intimate spot that any one had ever chosen for a home and that this was the first of many evenings that we would stand there in the window together, looking out to star-rise on the sea.

As a matter of fact, we never stood there together again.

Jasper was so exhausted that he went to sleep without turning over, but I was too tired to shut my eyes. I stared into the darkness until it became vivid, and when the cold October moonlight checkered the walls, through the small-paned windows, the little room was alive again.

There were five doors. The walls had[101] been painted a dark blue, and each of these doors shot out into significance like the white marble slabs of a tomb. None of them would stay shut. Their iron latches clicked with every stray gust of the night, and first one and then another would swing gently open. I gave up trying to close them and let them bang as they would. They had rattled for a hundred years; why not one night more? On the inside of the room two doors marked either side of a blind white chimney-shelf, one of them opening into the upper hall and the other into a small hall bedroom. On the outer wall opposite, two small doors opened into closets under the eaves, and between them a third topped the kitchen-stairs, which pitched down steeply, like a ship’s companionway. The wooden bed, with high painted headboard decorated with a medallion of carnations, stood against the back wall, facing the dormer-window. The bureau and the wash-stand matched its faded blue, and the chair-backs held gold spread-eagles, half obliterated. In one corner was an old sea-chest with rope handles. I got up out of bed to see what was in it. There was nothing.

All of the stories of the sea that I had ever[102] heard came drifting back to me, borne in upon the waves of moonlight. Things half heard and never understood became more true than reality. A clock far away struck a long hour.

I was looking at the five white doors and the bright window and thinking that the wall at the head of the bed was the only blank wall in the room, when I felt as if I were being pushed. Or as if the headboard were gradually bending. Certainly, the bed was coming down on me!

I sat up quickly and watched. The high wooden headboard bulged. As I looked it sprang back into place again. This was repeated.

I tried to call out.

The headboard bowed once more. I sprang up and pushed it back with my bare hands and beat upon it.


My throat was paralyzed with terror and made no sound.



WITH my frantic demonstration of human antagonism, the pressure on the headboard was removed. Whatever had caused it ceased its malign exertion. The menace had withdrawn.

In the morning I woke up numb and cold at the foot of the bed, where I must have crawled for safety, although I could remember nothing about it.

Jasper said it was the best night’s sleep he ever had had.

I tried to tell him what had happened. “What I had dreamed,” he called it, and I could not make him take the matter seriously. He had awakened refreshed and full of enthusiasm, only complaining that there was no shower and seriously considering taking a plunge into the ocean, until I had to give up my megrims to enter into an argument about the chances there were for and against pneumonia[104] for one who was not accustomed to swimming in October. I persuaded him to go around and examine the furniture while I found something to eat, and while I was trying to accomplish this I realized ruefully that I had succeeded too well in sparing my husband the psychic reaction that I had been subjected to during the night. He had not been prepared for it, and my fright had no significance to him. Consequently, I received no sympathy. This was what I had wanted, to guard against our both falling prey to hallucinations, but I had not foreseen in how defenceless a position it was going to place me. I determined that if anything like the night’s performance ever happened again, I would explain to Jasper every detail that had led up to the phenomenon and let him solve it as he would. Two heads would be immeasurably better than one, if we had to smoke out the ghost. I would sooner have found rats in that house, as the Winkle-Man had suggested, than a bending wall.

Jasper had discovered a Chippendale chair in the old lady’s bedroom, and a three-cornered cupboard in the room behind it, full of Canton china, and he would speak of nothing else.

[105]“A regular gold mine!” he kept saying. “Gee! I wish Thompson could see this!” (Thompson was a collector he knew in New York.) And then, later, when the full force of the value of his possessions had come to him: “I wouldn’t let Thompson see this for anything.”

We had known that whatever was in the house went with it, but we had not expected much. No one had been inside the door for so many years that it had no reputation for containing antiques, as had so many of the old houses of Star Harbor, and it had escaped the weeding out and selling off that leaves to most of them in this generation only the mid-Victorian walnut and the modern white iron bed. The House of the Five Pines still held its original Colonial furniture—great horse-hair sofas and mahogany chests of drawers, hand-made chairs and rope-strung beds, and chests full of homespun linen and intricately patched quilts. It would take weeks to inventory all of it. As a before-breakfast sport, it had to be abandoned. We were so pleased with ourselves for our foresight, as we chose to term it, in acquiring a house with such unspoiled plunder that we almost forgot to eat.[106] But finally our appetites could withstand the zest of the salt air no longer.

We laid out the breakfast on the clean red cloth of the kitchen-table, under the window next the shuttered door, and were babbling like happy children when our celebration was cut short by the arrival of a boy on a bicycle.

He knocked timidly at the porch door, and held out a telegram at arm’s length.

“I’ve got to go back to New York,” said Jasper, reading it; “they want me for the play.”

“But you can’t!” I cried; “we’ve just come!”

“I know.” Jasper was absently folding the paper up into a tiny yellow square, without looking at me.

“They told you they were all through with you.”

“I know it.”

“Who signed the telegram?”

“Why,—Tyrrell Burton.” He handed it to me.

Trouble again. Have fired M. M. Must change part or Gaya walks out on us. For God’s sake come and help me.


[107]Tyrrell Burton was the manager. It was all perfectly evident; it might even have been foreseen. Myrtle Manners and Gaya Jones had jumped at each other’s throat the second Jasper had left the city, and Tyrrell was trying to keep the better of the two. He knew that Myrtle’s part must be rewritten—it had become so top-heavy in her favor—and a new actress would want to start fresh, with the rôle more as it was first written. I was ashamed. My first thought had been that Myrtle had telegraphed for Jasper and that he was folding up the telegram so that I could not see it. I hoped he had not read my thoughts.

“Well?” he asked, impatiently.

In reaction, the tears had sprung into my eyes, and I stood there on the doorstep of our house and the threshold of our new life that was to be lived in it, crying. I had not yet had a chance to drink a cup of coffee and I had been up for hours.

Why is it that, no matter how bravely we face the future, how we seemingly have forgotten and, by every effort of the will and mind, have forgiven, still the thing we dread lies smoldering deep within us, a subdued but never an extinguished fire, ready at the first[108] suspicion to leap into devouring flame? I had failed myself and my own faith more than Jasper.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

He did not more than half understand me. He had not been thinking of me and my relationship to him; his mind had been racing to the problem of what in the world to do next with “The Shoals of Yesterday.”

“Well, if that is the way you feel about it,” he began, “I won’t go.”

“You must.”

The boy, tired of listening, swung his leg over the bicycle.

“Any answer?”

“Yes, wait. There is only one train, Jasper. Take it. Write out an answer for the boy. I’ll get you started.”

There it was. I had to force Jasper to answer this urgent summons, had to pack his bag and hurry him off and appear glad to see him go, when all the time I was furious with the fate that took him and the power there was in material circumstances to keep us separated. Once in a year or so comes a glad day to each of us when he can control destiny, when the thing that he has set his heart on[109] doing is accomplished between sunrise and sunset and his spiritual house is set in order, as it habitually pretends to be. This was not one of the days.

After he had gone I set myself to finding out what was the matter with the headboard. I went up to the little bedroom over the kitchen, where we had spent the night, and prepared to move the furniture. There never was a house in which one tenant can follow another without changing every stick in it, and I had a particularly urgent reason for beginning on the bed.

Subconsciously, perhaps, I was looking for it; at least, I was not surprised when I found it. Behind the headboard was another door.

This door was little and low, and had a hand-made brass latch that sprang open when I tried it. Stooping down, I found myself in a long blind closet under the eaves, where the roof of the ell that made the big room behind the kitchen was fastened to the old house. We had not supposed there was a room above the one below, which was the one that the New Captain had added for his own uses, but now I began to see, coming out of the darkness, the outlines of another[110] door in a second wall, from which one would draw the conclusion that it must open on an attic-chamber. I tried it, but the latch would not lift up; it was fastened on the inside.

I listened. There was no sound within. But suddenly there swept over me the remembrance of the night before. As vividly as if it were again occurring, I felt the pressure that had been thrown against my headboard, and I knew that it had been directed by some force struggling to get out of this room into mine. Overcome by horror, but with feet so fascinated by an uncanny attraction that they almost refused to carry me away, I crept out of the cubbyhole and fled down the stairs, out into the sunlight.

My first thought was of Ruth. If Ruth were only here! But in the six weeks that I had been in New York she had packed her trunks and gone. There was no use in asking sympathy of the Winkle-Man, or Alf, or any of those townsmen who had so generously, and so thoroughly, insisted on warning me not to move in. My troubles were most peculiarly my own. And Jasper had gone.

The thought of Jasper and the cold October sunshine revived my courage. Jasper[111] would have laughed. I could see the way he would have opened the door and made copy of it for future use in fiction. It would mean a great deal to him, the little doorway under the eaves; he would be glad we had it. To his observation that none of the rooms were in their right places, he could now add the fact that there was one room which did not belong to the house at all. It would be depriving him of a pleasure for me to have the first delight of opening the door and discovering what lay beyond. I would save it until he came back—a day or two, at most—and we would lift up the latch together.

I walked around to the back of the house and looked up. Now I could see clearly how the roof of the captain’s wing had been built. It was quite high enough to admit of a loft beneath the ridge-pole and was lighted by a skylight. I noticed, too, while I was in the yard, the accumulation of cast-off lumber that filled the “under.” Everything that had been thrown out in the last fifty years had been left here, instead of being taken to the “town dump” on the sand-dunes. There were rungless chairs and stepless ladders, oil-stoves and a spinning-wheel, two rowboats and half a[112] dozen mattresses. I determined to have them removed that day. There might be no cellar and no attic to the House of the Five Pines, but that was no reason why the family refuse should lie out in plain sight under the house.

A high two-wheeled cart was going down the back street, and in my innocence I thought that this would be just the thing to secure for hauling away the rubbish.

I do not know to this day what those blue wagons are used for. The ones that I have seen have always been empty, with an insolent driver in a flannel shirt staring at the people he passes like an emperor in a Roman chariot. I would like to ride in one some time; it would be a restoring experience to get that superior attitude toward pedestrians. A chauffeur in a Rolls-Royce in a traffic jam does not achieve such aplomb. There is a superstition on Cape Cod that these carts are built for the sand roads over the dunes, but the only vehicles that I have ever met on those desolate tracks are the buggies of the life-saving crew, amiably plodding back and forth.

I called out to the driver:

“Yoo-hoo! Wait a minute!”

He looked at me, but kept on driving past.


Even if he were one of the Portuguese, he could not have misunderstood the meaning of that call; the children of every continent have hailed each other by that syllable since before speech was invented.

But my stoical friend never hesitated. In fact, as I started to run after him, he picked up his whip and, standing up in the sand-wagon, laid such a blow on the horse’s back that he jumped up and down without making any headway. I could hear the fellow swearing at him, urging him by all the saints to hurry. He must have thought that I was the reincarnation of Mattie, or was warned by his guiding angel to have no traffic with any woman queer enough to live in the House of the Five Pines.

In the village I had no better luck. People were too used to a display of skeletons in their own yards to take any interest in mine or, having disposed of theirs, felt no further civic responsibility. Money could not hire any native of the cape to crawl under the house and drag out that heavy stuff. They only worked “for a friend” or out of curiosity, which I failed to arouse. By noon I began to[114] think of Mrs. Dove’s ominous prediction that I never would get any one to help me at the House of the Five Pines, and saw that this was going to resolve itself into another little job for Jasper on his return. I had promised to have everything in order for him, but if my settling was going to be limited to what I could do with my own hands, the agreement was nil. It is difficult enough anywhere to begin housekeeping after a move. One always finds he has the trunks, but not the keys, and a dozen eggs, without any frying-pan; but an efficiency expert would have quailed at my undertaking. I had to arrange not only my own belongings, when by the grace of the baggagemen’s strike and the cape train they should have arrived, but the offscourings of a family which had tenanted an eight-room house for generations. New Englanders never throw away anything! This I had to do without any means of locomotion except my own legs, carrying everything from a tack-hammer to a can of beans, cooking without any gas, washing without any hot water, and, for candle-power, using wax instead of electricity.

I stopped at the Sailor’s Rest for lunch,[115] remembering to shut the door quietly so as not to disturb the stamps. As I came in, Alf was saying,

“Nicaragua, four, six, and eight—pink—eighty-four.” It sounded like the echo of a football game.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked.

“Fine,” I lied.

“Go right in to dinner.” He waved his hand. “It’s better than what you got here last night—beef!”

I hoped he hadn’t ordered it on my account.

“Alf,” said I, interrupting him between the Chile greens and yellows, “Is there any attic to that house of mine?”

“Nope,” he replied, “they ain’t. They never was. They don’t have ’em around here.”

That was what I wanted to find out. The room over the captain’s wing had never been heard of by the townspeople.

“They don’t build the roofs that high,” he explained, anxious to defend the architecture of the cape from ignorant criticism, “on account of the wind. It would rip ’em right off, take a big tempest.”

“What do they do with their old furniture, then?”

[116]“Use it.”

“Or throw it under the house?”

“Don’t you go worrying about what’s under the house,” said Alf. “You got enough to worry about with what’s in it.”

I did not like to hear him say that. By this time I had come to realize that what the natives thought about the house was probably more than true. I wished that they would stop talking about it and putting curses on it. I ate my boiled beef in chastened silence and wandered on home.

This seemed as good a time as any to unpack Jasper’s books and papers and get ready for his return, because I knew that he would begin on a new manuscript before he paused to cut the grass. I would have his things in order, at least. There was a high bookcase over a desk that looked as if it would be useful if I cleaned off some of the shelves. I stood on a chair and began taking down the old books.

From the first volume that I held in my hand fluttered a letter. I might have absently dropped it into the scrap-basket, but leaning down to get it, the address arrested my attention:

[117]To the new missus.

That might be me.

I opened it, and, on a piece of ruled pad-paper, read:

I would a been here yet if it hadn’t a been for you.

It did not take any signature to make me know that this cryptic message was left by Mattie.

Alf was right; I had enough to worry about with what was in the house.



SO Mattie had committed suicide.

The knowledge changed the day for me, altered the whole circumstance of our moving in, made a mist of what had before been as clear as sunlight, forced me from the relationship of a buyer into the moral position of a murderer. It seemed hardly possible that one could, with no intent of evil, be the sole cause of such a tragedy! And we had been frankly glad, had almost laughed, when we had found that she was dead! Never was I further from hilarity than that second evening in our new home, when I stood at the great window looking at the bit of sea through the pine-trees, the note from Mattie crumpled in my hand.

The sun had set behind the sand-dunes and the bay was liquid red with the reflection. It had lost the quality of water and had become blood. So must it have looked to Mattie, not once but many times during the years[119] that she had tended the terrible “Mis’ Hawes,” after she had grown out of being the barefoot girl whom the boy had chased through the drying-frames. There was no cod spread out to the salt winds now. The whole industry had vanished as completely as the owners of it, and, to take the place of these persons indigenous to the sea, was only myself, a stranger sleeping in their beds, one who could only guess out their histories and who knew nothing of their thwarted ambitions and their dreams.

Tell me your dreams!... But your dream is you.
We are our dreams—and the dream is all!

What had Mattie’s reveries been during all those twilights when she must have stood at this same window with the New Captain and, after him, alone? However dreary, they could not have included the possibility of being driven forth. It had been left for me, in my presumptuous selfishness, to add that cataclysm. Now I was the one to be alone here. Was it to be the lot of some woman always to be left at this window at sunset, to face the growing shadows in solitude? Would it be that way with me, too?

[120]Some Puritanical instinct in me, deeper-rooted than the casual conscience of the Middle West where I had been born, tracing back to forefathers whose stern necessities of doctrine were related to this atmosphere, made me wonder if the justice which ought to be meted out to me, the murderer of Mattie, would be that, for some reason still obscure, my husband would never return and fate would force me to change places with the woman whose house I had usurped and leave me stranded there.

I checked myself. This was no mood with which to meet the night. That life had stripped Mattie at last even of her dwelling, leaving her body as bereft as her soul, was no precedent for me to follow, or I would end, as she had, in the bottom of the bay. I was grateful to her that she had not chosen the house for her act of renunciation. If her revenge upon me had taken the form of hanging herself, so that I would have unexpectedly come upon her body, swinging from the kitchen-rafters, in the dark—I put that thought away, too, and tried to occupy myself.

The sunset, flaming through the windows that faced the west, now made a red light everywhere that touched into form the tall bookcase[121] where I had found the message from Mattie, burnished the gold in a Chinese cabinet brought back by some seafarer, and fell softly upon the ivory mantel at the end of the room. I made a fire with driftwood which lay piled in a rough box, had my tea in front of it, and then began again on the books. There was no likelihood that more notes would tumble out of them, unless it should be a will, or maybe an old tintype or a valentine. I shook each volume carefully.

There are people who can straighten up a library or turn a vacuum-cleaner on a bookcase in a hurry, but to me it is a labor that time forgets. There is always a clipping to be cut from a stale newspaper, or a review that has not been read before, or old acquaintances among long-closed volumes that lure one on, page by page. It takes me hours to go over a five-foot bookshelf with a dust-rag. And to-night was no exception. Particularly fascinating were the books of the New Captain on esoteric philosophy. There was no getting away from them; here was the “foreign religion” he and Mattie had embraced and the “books to prove it by.”

[122]There was nothing modern. One great tome was Madame Blavatsky’s “Isis Unveiled,” Eastern theosophy set forth in defiant terms to a skeptical audience of 1875. Luckily, I had read it before, or I should have been reading it yet. I was already informed as to the writings on the Temple of Karnac that were identical with those on the walls of a ruin in Yucatan, proving that the religious rites of Asia and America were the same in the days before the Pyramids, when Atlantis was a continent in the middle of the ocean and the British Isles were under the sea. I wished that the New Captain had heard a certain lecture that I had recently heard delivered by a savant, who claimed that the secret of how to cut a canal from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean was well understood by the Magi of the Orient and that it was only due to international politics that it had never been attempted. Because, forsooth, it would incidentally cause the Sahara to be partially inundated and to “bloom like a rose,” but that the redistribution of the waters of the world would engulf all of England. Poor England! As if she, like myself, did not have enough trouble with what was in her house,[123] without being swamped by what was under it! However, this erudite lecturer had just been released from a sanitarium, we learned afterward, and to it he was shortly returned, the Mecca of most of those who follow worlds too far.

Blavatsky’s story of the ball of fire which turned itself into a cat and frisked around the room, before floating up the chimney, was marked. It could have happened in this very room. There was a white sheet of paper pinned to the wall opposite me, with a round black disk on it, that might have been there when she wished to go into a trance. I felt that if I looked at it long enough I might see means by which Mattie aided concentration a ball of fire turning into a cat. I wondered what they would have thought of Hudson’s drummer, who, although locked up in a cell, played upon his drum which was left behind in his lodging-house to keep awake the enemies who had thrown him into jail? Or of Conan Doyle’s poltergeists who threw pebbles at the man seeking shelter in a bomb-cellar? But they had manifestations of their own, no doubt, and perhaps I should come across some record of them, although they had worked out their[124] philosophy before the days when one could simply seize a pencil and write upon a roll of wall-paper facts dictated by one’s “control.”

Mattie and the New Captain had had no opportunity to be influenced by the great mass of post-war spiritualistic literature. The fragments from which they formed their code were bits of gold for which they had to wash many cold streams of Calvinistic thought. They must have gloated over each discovery like misers. I could see them sitting here in this room on a winter evening, the shutters closed, the lean fire crackling, the two heads bent beneath the oil-lamp, exclaiming over some nugget of wisdom which would corroborate their own experiences. Those were the times when “old Mis’ Hawes” must have called and bellowed and pounded on the floor without getting Mattie to answer any summons to the front bedroom on the other side of the house.

Mattie and the New Captain may not have known anything about photographing fairies, or the S. P. R., or the S. P. C. A., for that matter, but cats they knew. I had found the saucers of seven of them in the kitchen and[125] strings on all the chairs, as if Mattie had sometimes tied them up. There was a book on the shelves about a cat: “The World of Wonders, or Divers Developments Showing the Thorough Triumph of Animal Magnetism in New England, Illustrated by the Power of Prevision in Matilda Fox,” published in Boston in 1838. It was enlivened with pen-and-ink drawings showing Mrs. Matilda Fox being hypnotized by a feather, with the cat in her lap, which, according to the text, licked her neck until it sent her spirit soaring from her body in aërial journeys to distant lands. As far as I had time to read I could not ascertain whether the author was in earnest or whether he was trying to ridicule animal magnetism, but I could not help wondering if the book had not had some influence on the legacy in favor of a home for cats, which had defrauded Mattie. If any one could be put in a trance by the manipulation of the tongue of a cat, perhaps she had not been entirely altruistic in her harboring of the creatures. Certainly, the one who had rushed wildly out of the house as we came in was glad to make its escape. Where were the rest of the cats that belonged[126] to the saucers? Catching fish on the beach in the moonlight, possibly, and hypnotizing sand-pipers.

The books that told of cataleptic sleep were all well worn. The New Captain lived in the days when the subject of a wandering mesmerist would allow himself to be stretched out in a village drugstore window, remaining inert between two chairs for days at a time, while the curious glued their eyes to the glass and tried to stay there long enough to see him move or catch a confederate sneaking in to feed him. But this sleep was only the imperfect imitation of the somnambulance which the East Indians had practised for centuries. Theirs was true life-in-death, when the heart ceased to beat and the body grew cold, and yet, to a disciple of the occult, there was a way of reviving it. The theory of vampires rose from this phenomenon, and that of catalepsy, for if a tomb were opened and the corpse found without decay it was easy enough to ascribe the wilting of a child, in the meantime, to the thirst of the absent spirit for blood to satisfy its coffined body. More persons would have lived for longer periods if, instead of making sure of death by driving[127] a stake through the possessed one’s heart, they had made sure of life by breathing into his mouth and unwinding the tight shroud. The ancient Orientals understood this. The holy fakirs permitted themselves to be buried and dug up again, to the glory of God, only making sure beforehand that their bodies were not interred in ground infested with white ants. But the New Captain had the Puritan’s respect for life and death. He dreaded that he would come to life again in an iron-bound box, or he would not have despised undertakers or written into the will which we had seen at the Winkle-Man’s the clause about Mattie spending a week beside his body. He must have thought it was only due to her that he had been called back before from the first of the seven planes, and that his celestial passport was spurious unless she signed it. Poor Mattie! No one had sat beside her after her tired spirit had freed itself.

I picked up another book.

French, this time. It was called “Les Secrets du Petit Albert,” and dealt with necromancy of the eighteenth century. There was also a French book on astrology, illustrated with crude drawings of the sacred[128] signs of the zodiac and diagrams of potent numbers. Another one, “Le Dragon Rouge, ou L’Art de Commander les Esprits Célestes,” was not more than three by four inches, and half an inch thick. Its brittle yellow pages were bound in worn calfskin, and gave explicit directions how to conjure up the devil and how to send him back to his own kingdom when one had done with him. My scant school French could barely master the archaic forms, but I gave Mattie full credit for being able to read all the volumes stored on her top shelf. Her ancestry was traditionally French, according to the judge’s story, for she had been picked up from a ship just off Quebec, and the grooves of her mind would run easily to the mother-tongue. A recluse will master a foreign language for the mental exercise it affords. Perhaps in some other nook of the house I should find her French grammar, but here, indeed, were books that some one must have been able to read,—a significant part of their highly specialized library.

I began reading aloud from “Le Dragon Rouge”:

“Je te conjure, O Esprit! Deparoitre dans[129] la minute par la force du grand Adonay, par Eloim, par Ariel, par Jehovam, par Agla, Tagla, Mathon, Oarios, Almouzin, Arios, Menbrot, Varios, Pithona, Magots, Silphae, Cabost, Salamandre, Tabots, Gnomus Terrae, Coelis, Godens, Aqua, Gingua, Janua, Etituamus, Zariatnatmik, A. E. A. J. A. T. M. O. A. A. M. V. P. M. S. C. T. G. T. C. G. A. J. E. Z.”

[“I conjure thee, O Spirit, to appear instantly through the will of the great Adonay”—etc.]

The little magic book then went on to say that if this were repeated twice, Lucifer would appear immediately. I thought perhaps it would be just as well to discontinue reading.

Had they actually attempted materialization up here in this very room in the old house on the tip end of the cape? There was nothing against it. If it were possible anywhere to conjure up the shades of the dead, or the devils themselves, this was as apt a place as any—a hamlet at the tip of a barren cape that extended into the ocean a hundred and forty miles, a house separated from that hamlet by its bad repute, as well as its location, a[130] room cut off from the rest of the house, and two people in it who had no contact with realities, to whom each was the other’s world and this world not all. If any one was able to cut through the opaque cloud of dogma surrounding metaphysical subjects to a glimpse of realities beyond, I believed that Mattie had done so. And then, I realized that I had come by a circuitous path of my own to the very same conclusion that all the townspeople had long since come to—that Mattie was clairvoyant.

Would that help her now? Did she know where her spirit would dwell more accurately than those who were orthodox? Could she return the more easily from Stygian shores? Or was that power of prevision only a mortal faculty that passed with her passing and that, while it was able to call up others from the further world, could not bring back itself?

There was a story of an old nurse of mine that I wished I had forgotten—how she was once governess in a house where a strange foreign gentleman had intercourse with spirits; how he used to talk to them as he walked about the rooms—and was happy in their[131] friendship and sullen when they would not appear.

“That was all right for him,” she used to say; “but after he left, the spirits that he had called up to amuse him still hung around. That they did, and I could never get rid of them. Try as I would,—paint, paper, or insect-powder,—every dark night when I was alone one or the other of them would brush up against me and stay just where I could never quite see it until dawn.”

It was a dark night and I was alone. I sincerely hoped that whatever had been conjured up by Mattie would not brush past me. At any rate, I had no mind to sleep upstairs again in that little gabled room. I did not argue with myself about the headboard; it was too late at night for that. I opened up a folding sofa in the room that I was in, where the New Captain must have slept many times, and lay down. The sound of the full tide on the rising, answering the questioning of the Five Pines trees, made a lullaby.

It was with a shock and the feeling that I had been asleep a long time that I woke up, hearing some one coming down the stairs.[132] The little kitchen-stairs, it must be, that pitched down from the upper room like a ladder, for the main stairs were too far away for me to have heard any footfall on them. And this was not the clumping step of a full-sized man. This was the stealthy, soundless tread of a body without weight. But still it was unmistakable.

I sat up in chilled terror, gathering the bed-clothes around me with that involuntary gesture known to all women surprised in their sleep, and waited for whoever it was to come through the kitchen into my room.

But no one entered my room.

At the foot of the stairs some one tried a door, rattled a latch, and went back up again. For a brave second I thought I would leap out of bed and run and push the bolt on the kitchen door, but before I managed to start I heard the footsteps coming down upon me. This time they would keep on, I thought; but again slowly, laboriously, they went back up, and every time they lost themselves upstairs it seemed as if I heard the weight of a person thrown against a door. Or did it go through the door and then throw its weight against it? I strained to listen. Then the steps[133] would come down again. The inside door of the eaves closet upstairs was locked. I had left it the way I had found it, but the steps seemed not to be within that secret room to-night, but without, as if last night a presence had been struggling to get through the closet into my room and now was trying to get back. Tortured, restless footsteps going up and down the stairs, up and down, up and down.

Every time they reached the bottom and tried the kitchen door, I swooned with terror. When they rattled the latch and went back up again I clutched my knees and did not breathe till they returned.

At cockcrow they ceased of their own volition, and, my will released, my body fell exhausted.



WHEN I awoke the sun was shining in the windows on both sides of the study where I had gone to bed, the neighbor’s chickens were clucking through my back-yard, and the boats on the bay were putting up their sails. The past night seemed unreal.

The door at the foot of the kitchen companionway was not only wide open, but fastened back with a brick. I had forgotten that. Then how could I have heard some one trying the latch? And upstairs the little room was just as I had left it, not a thing disturbed. No one could have thrown himself against the small eaves-closet door from this side, because the bed was still in front of it, and no one could have been shut in on the other side and at the same time be pacing up and down steps. I went into the upper hall and looked at the big main stairs. Had[135] any one been climbing them? But if any one had, I should have hardly been able to hear him, away off in the wing behind the kitchen. Perhaps I could persuade the judge to come to the house and practise going up and down the flight of stairs, while I listened from the study.

I had been reading too much last night in the old vellum-bound books of occult sciences. Without understanding the manner of doing so, I had evidently hypnotized myself into the condition in which the thing that I thought probable seemed to be true. I had made up my mind that Mattie was a clairvoyant and could materialize spirits and that those spirits might still linger in the house; thereupon I myself had materialized one, unconsciously. The first night I had half-expected to hear or see something uncanny, and it had followed that I had. These manifestations were due to the influence upon me of what I had heard about the House of the Five Pines, and to nothing else. Jasper had not known all the harrowing stories that were in circulation, and so he had not seen the moving headboard. If he had been with me on the second night he doubtless would[136] not have heard footsteps. It was all perfectly simple when you understand psychology; that was it, to keep a firm hold on yourself, not to be carried away by imaginings.

And then I defended myself that any one left alone in a big house like that would be hearing things at night and that I was no more weak-minded than the rest.

After breakfast I began again upon the settling.

One of the features of the House of the Five Pines was that everything in it was included in the sale. Perhaps because there were no heirs, or because Judge Bell, as the trustee, was not grasping; perhaps, and most probable of all, because the townspeople had such a dread of it that they would take nothing from it. The family linen still was packed away in the big sea-chest—homespun sheets and thin yellow blankets, pillow-cases with crocheted lace. The family china remained in the cupboard behind the front hall—firestone pitchers and teapots, in pink and faded purple, luster bowls, and white plates as heavy as dumb bells, each with a gold leaf in the center; and in a corner cupboard in the dining-room was almost a full set of willow-ware, with all the[137] lids unbroken on the little rice-cups. The big mahogany bureaus, and there were at least two in each room, four drawers below and three little ones above, contained the clothing of two generations of Haweses. This meant more in the Old Captain’s family than the usual sixty years; it meant a hundred, for two more generations could easily have been born in the old homestead if “Mis’ Hawes” had not been so set against the New Captain’s marriage. Her brass-handled high-boy held calico dresses and muslin underwear, yellow and stiff with starch, that Mattie had neither disposed of nor used. Upstairs there was apparel that must have dated back past the era of the New Captain into that of his father, Jeremiah. In Mattie’s room was less than in the others. She had found herself at the end of her life with barely a change of linen.

In the study two doors at either side of the finely carved mantel opened into closets. One was filled with shelves on which were papers and magazines that had been stored for twenty years. The other was filled with the out-of-door clothes of the New Captain—a worn cardigan jacket, and a thick blue coat with brass buttons, two felt hats, and a[138] yellow oilskin. A red shawl hung on a hook at the end of the closet. I took it down to see if there were moths in it, then dropped it and backed away. The hook that I had lifted the shawl from was an old iron latch. The whole end of the closet was a wall-paper covered door.

I was afraid. The flat sealed door might open on the latch, or it might not. It might be fastened on the other side. I could not tell. But I did not want to know what was on the other side. I did not want to stay here any longer.

I fled out to the sunlight and around to the back of the house. There was nothing visible; I had known that all the time. The wall-paper covered door inside must lead either up or down. Down, there was nothing but space beneath the house, the “under,” filled with rubbish. Up—?

I remembered the footsteps of the night before and knew now why the kitchen door and the little one in the upper room had looked so unmolested. Those steps that I had heard had been traveling not the kitchen companionway nor the main front stairway, but secret stairs built in this wall behind the chimney,[139] connecting with the room above. That was where the restless spirit had been promenading, just as it had been the first night, and that was where it still must be.

I could not wait for Jasper to return from New York to solve this mystery. Neither did I dare to face it alone nor put it off longer. I would go and get Judge Bell, and together we would hurry back and find out who or what was living in my house.

But the Judge was not at home. Dropping down on his front porch I thought of what Ruth had said to me last summer, that the first three times you attempted to call on any one that person was always out! Well, I could wait. I was in no rush to return to the House of the Five Pines. I could stay here all day, if necessary.

At noon Judge Bell’s Portuguese cook came out and looked me over.

“The judge he won’t be back,” she volunteered.

“Why not?”

She only smirked without replying.

“Why not? Doesn’t he come for lunch?”

She stuck her second finger in the roof of her mouth and looked away.

[140]“Not always, he don’t. Not to-day, anyhow.”

“Where is he?” I intended to follow him to his lair, wherever it was, but Isabella seemed to think I was prying.

“I ain’t to say where he went,” she answered, twisting one bare foot over the other. “He says if anybody asts me I don’ know.”

“And don’t you?” I could not resist.

But she only stuck her finger further into her mouth until I was afraid that she would choke. I saw that I was tempting her to be unfaithful to a trust, and dropped the matter. The judge must have gone off down the cape to a séance, leaving orders with Isabella to uphold the majesty of the law.

My next stop was the Sailor’s Rest.

I hoped to find Alf there. He would not be so stanch an ally as the judge in this emergency, because he believed in ghosts himself and could scarcely be convincing in his reassurances. But he might be persuaded to break open those doors for me, and I would repay him by promising to look over all the antique correspondence tucked away in the pigeonholes of the desk for stamps. There might well be some rare ones left at the House[141] of the Five Pines. I opened the office door carefully this time, remembering not to raise a draft that would blow his collection away.

Behind the ledger sat a strange girl in a georgette waist, dressed to take tickets at a motion-picture window, who informed me firmly that “Mr. Alfred had gone to Boston.”

To Boston! It was then that I realized how dear Alf was to me.

I turned sadly into the dining-room and tried to eat the beef-hash. One could follow the developments of the hotel’s cuisine by lunching there daily. First the roast and then the stew, then the hash, and then the soup—just like home. And fresh clams every day,—unless they were the same clams! After lunch I loitered around the lobby for an hour, trying to pick out some one among the strangers who came in and out at infrequent intervals who would be likely to go back to the House of the Five Pines with me willingly, as a matter of course, without asking too many pertinent questions. I planned what I would say and what the man thus addressed would answer.

I would say, “There is a door at my house that is locked on the further side of a secret[142] closet behind the bed that I want to open, and another one downstairs, in—” How absurd! If it were only one door it might not sound so preposterous.

I might begin: “My husband is in New York, and I want you to come up to my house and open a door of a secret room—” No, that was worse yet. To a beginning like that a man would only say, “Indeed?” and walk off; or he might reply, “Thanks awfully!”

There was no use in accosting any one. They all looked as if they would turn and run. If only some summer people were here—adventurous artists, or intrepid college boys, or those Herculean chauffeurs that haunt the soda-fountains while their grande dames take a siesta! But there was no one.

Finally I remembered the Winkle-Man, and hurried up there.

I was surprised to find outside that the wind had turned, the sun had gone, and a storm was coming up—a “hurricane,” as they call it on the cape. A fisherman knocked into me, hurrying down to the beach to drag his dory up beyond the rising. Outside of the point, where the lighthouse stood, one could see a procession of ships coming in, a whole[143] line of them. I counted seven sweeping up the tip of the cape, like toys drawn by children along the nursery floor. They seemed to ride the sand rather than the sea, their sails appearing above that treacherous neck which lay between them and me. Their barometers must have registered this storm hours ago, for they were converging from all the far-off fishing-banks. The bay was black. Near shore the sailors were stripping their canvas, letting out their anchors, or tying up to the wharves. There was a bustle and a stir in the harbor like the confusion of a house whose occupants run wildly into one another while they slam the windows. I ought to go up to the House of the Five Pines and shut mine.

The tide was far out. Beyond the half-mile of yellow beach it beat a frothy, impatient tattoo upon the water-line. When it came in it would sweep up with a rush, covering the green seaweed and the little rills with white-capped waves, pounding far up against the breakwaters, setting the ships rocking and straining at their ropes, carrying away everything that it could pry loose. Now it was waiting, getting ready, lashing itself into a fury of anticipation. There was a feeling of[144] suspense to the air itself, cold in an under-stratum that came across the sea, hot above where it hung over the torpid land. It seemed as if you could feel the wind on your face, but not a leaf stirred. People were hastening into their homes, even as the boats were scurrying into the harbor. No one wanted to be abroad when the storm struck.

The Winkle-Man’s loft was deserted. I saw him far out upon the flats, still picking up his winkles with his pronged fork, hurrying to get all he could before the tide covered them, knowing with the accuracy of an alarm-clock when that would be. Should I wait for him? He might not come back, for he did not live in this shack and where his home was I did not know. I stood wondering what to do, when suddenly down the street came a horse and wagon, the boy beating the beast to make it go even faster, although it was galloping up and down in the shafts and the stones were rattling out of the road. The dust flew into my face when they flashed by. Then, as quickly, the whole fantastic equipage stopped.

“Whoa!” yelled the boy. You could hear him up and down the street.

He jumped over the back of the seat and[145] threw something—a great box, as nearly as I could make out—into the road, and then, turning the wagon on two wheels, came careening back again, still beating the horse as he went past me, standing up and lashing it with the whip, cursing like a sailor, and vanishing in his own cloud.

All this to get back before it rained?

I looked down the street to where the box lay in the middle of the road, and then I saw that he had dropped it in front of my house. It was my box he had delivered, and his hurry had not been entirely because of the storm. I suppose I might expect to have all my packages dropped in the road by fleeing rogues too craven to go near the dwelling.

Vexed with him for being such a fool, knowing I could not leave my belongings there in the street through a hurricane that might develop into a three days’ storm, yet still having no one to help me, I ran up the path as the first drops came down on my head and, getting an old wheelbarrow out of the yard, hoisted the heavy thing into it and pushed it up to the door. It was a box of books, packed in my husband’s sketchy manner, with openings between the boards on top through which newspapers[146] showed. Not the sort of covering to withstand a northwest storm! And it was very heavy. A bitter gust drove a flying handful of straw up the street and whirled it round and round in the yard till it caught in the tops of the pine-trees like a crow’s-nest. They bent and swayed and squeaked under the high wind. A sheet of solid rain swept across the bay like a curtain just as I succeeded in shoving the box of books over the threshold and shut the door behind me.

Something had come in with me. It eyed me from under the stove. There was the skinny cat that had bounded out of the house with our arrival and had never been seen since! Tired with my futile trip, overwrought with the approaching storm, angry over my struggles with the box, I leaped upon the creature as if it was the cause of all my troubles.

“Get out! You can’t stay here! I don’t want you! Scat!”

But the cat thought otherwise.

It leaped past my clutch, scampering through the kitchen and on into the study beyond. I followed fast. The room was half-dark with the storm that beat around it;[147] the rain made a cannonade upon the roof and blinded the windows with a steady downpour. The whole house shook. The five pine-trees outside bent beneath the onslaught as if they would snap and crash down upon me. I knew that the old shingles must be leaking, but first of all I must get that cat, I must put that horrible beast out!

As if it knew my thoughts it jumped upon the mantel and raised its back at me. Its eyes were green in its small head and its tail waved high above it. It did not seem to be a cat at all, but the reincarnation of some sinister spirit, tantalizing and defiant, aloof, and at the same time inexorable. I was so excited that I picked up the poker and would have struck it dead. But it dodged and leaped away—into the coat-closet, and I after it. I made a lunge with the poker, missed the cat, and struck the latch of the forbidden door. It flew open. The cat sprang—and disappeared. I followed. As I found myself climbing steep steps hand over hand in a black hole, I had time to think, like a drowning man, that anyway I had the poker, and if it was the captain hiding up there, he must[148] be an old man and I could knock him down. I did not want to be locked in the house in a hurricane with a black cat and God knows what. I wanted to find out.

What I found was more of a shock than what I was ready to meet.



THIS was a child’s room; there were playthings on the floor.

The rain fell heavily on the low roof, blanketing the skylight and making the loft so dark that for a few seconds I could not see.

A sound came from a far corner. High-strung with terror, I thought it was some witless creature who had been concealed up here for many years, waiting for death to unburden it from a life that could never grow old.

It moved—and I saw it was the cat.

Again I could have killed it, but instead I sank down on the floor and began to laugh and cry.

“Come here, Cat! I won’t hurt you. We’re all mad together.”

But the cat mistrusted me. She slunk away, and for a while watched me very carefully, until, deciding that I had lost interest in[150] her, she sat up and licked her tail. I wondered if this was her regular abode and if it was she whom I had heard walking above me at night, and, if so, how she managed an entrance when the doors were closed. Perhaps she was feline by day and by night was psychic. But she was not a confidential cat. Something fell coldly on my hand. I looked up. The skylight was leaking.

I could distinguish the furniture in the loft now. I saw a wash-bowl on a little stand, and put it under the loose-paned glass in the roof beneath which a pool was spreading. There was a low bureau in the room and a short turned bed, painted green, with a quilt thrown over one end, two little hand-made chairs, and one of those solid wooden rocking-horses, awesomely brave in the dusk. An open sea-chest held picture-books and paints and bent lead soldiers, and strewn upon the floor were quahaug-shells and a string of buoys. The room appeared as if its owner had just stepped out, and once more I took a cautious look around, behind me and in all the corners. Running my hand over the quilt I found that the dust of years was thick upon it. This attic had not been lived in[151] recently. Its disturbed face was only the kind of confusion that is left after some one has died whose belongings are too precious to touch.

I opened one of the drawers of the cherry bureau and discovered that it was full of the clothes of a little boy, of a period so long ago that I could not fathom the mystery of who he might have been. Tears came to my eyes as I unfolded the little ruffled shirts made by hand out of faded anchor-printed calico, and picked up the knitted stockings. This had been a real child; there were real holes in the stockings.

My theory that it was the captain who was living up here was exploded. Like a percussion-cap under a railroad train it had gone off when I blundered into the room. Nothing remained of it now but a wan smile and a sensation of relief. I only regretted that I had not broken open both doors behind my bed after the first night and rid my mind of the obsession at once. I walked across the room to the door at the far end and found it was not locked after all, only that the rusty latch was stuck. Forcing it up, I found myself,[152] as I had expected, in the eaves closet, where the little door ahead of me led into Mattie’s room. I would have to go down the other way and move the bed in order to open it, but I felt assured that no one had been before me and escaped by retreating through here. I peered up and down the black length of the closet, whose floor was the adjacent edge of the roof of the old part of the house. Obviously no one was concealed. But from the rain that filtered in and the shaking of the attic beneath the storm, I felt that drafts alone might have caused the bending of the wall. Wind was sure to be playing tag at midnight in this space between two partitions, and a neurasthenic imagination could supply the rest.

I only wished that I had all those miserable hours back that I had wasted during the day, wrestling with the mystery. The best theory that I had evolved was that the New Captain had not died at all, but that Mattie, watching him during that legendary week, had managed to raise him out of his cataleptic sleep, and, although the townspeople thought he had been buried, she had kept his life a secret for the last five years. She could easily have[153] hidden him in this unknown room. That would explain why she was so loath to show the house to any one. It would also explain why she refused to move out and why, in the end, she committed suicide rather than do so. Not daring to abandon him and have him discovered by the next occupant, an event which would end by their both being incarcerated in the same poor-house, she had done away with herself. The significance of this move would have been that Mattie was no longer dependent on the New Captain nor enchained to him by the spirit, as she was always reported to have been. Loving him, she would never have deserted him. But thinking of him in the rôle of a cataleptic old man, resuscitated after his second death, it was plausible to suppose that he would be so loathsome as to have worn out all her emotions, even faithfulness. He must have been no more than a crazy man, shut up in that loft, and love, though as strong as Mattie’s had been, cannot live forever on mere remembrance. So, according to my solution, she had at last forsaken him, after having provisioned him beforehand, as for a siege. It had been only the short length of a month after her drowning[154] that we had moved in, and during that time no one else had been near the place. After my arrival, perhaps as before, he had lain quiet all day. By night he had prowled around trying to get out.

It was a grand theory—while it lasted. I did not analyse the flaws in it, now I had given it up. Another night did that!

However, so many things had been solved by my heroic journey into the unknown and the unknowable, and I was so interested in them, that I forgot the rest. Here was the crux of the building of the captain’s wing, the reason for not hiring workmen in the town, and why Mattie alone had helped to carry lumber and worked until she fell exhausted from her own roof. Without dwelling on the secret room that had become a nursery, considering that room in its original aspect as part of the passageway between Mattie’s room and the New Captain’s, here was cause enough for not wanting any outside help. Mrs. Dove had been wrong in her conclusion that because he had employed no village carpenters they had afterward boycotted him. He would never have given them the opportunity. Also, the architectural[155] idiosyncrasies of that room were her excuse for not showing the house when the judge had tried to sell it. A person who would buy it as I had, without going inside the door, was an exception. There were not many whose need was so urgent; most house-shoppers would have poked behind her bed and pried into all the closets before the deal was closed.

Mattie had managed to keep this room hidden all her life. Alf, at the Sailor’s Rest, had told me squarely that there was no attic, and he knew as much as any one else in the town about the House of the Five Pines. Old Mis’ Hawes had died without knowing that after Mattie had plumped up her pillows and thrust the brass warming-pan into her bed, and taken her candle and gone upstairs, she was able to come down again and spend the evening with the New Captain. I would keep the secret, too, partly out of loyalty to Mattie, who had bequeathed it to me, and partly because it would be a lark to have it known only to my dear one. I could hear Jasper’s exclamation of pleased surprise when, some night after he had tucked me in, I appeared again through his study-closet. It would be a game for winter evenings.

[156]I let myself down the steep steps behind the chimney and, going through the study and the kitchen, came up into Mattie’s room. Shoving the bed away from the little door in the eaves closet, I opened it and walked straight back into the attic-chamber. That was the way of it—a complete loop through the house!

Mattie’s room was to be mine for no other reason than its mysterious means of egress. If I had any servants or any visiting relatives, I would put them in the two big bedrooms on the other side of the upper hall and turn the hall bedroom into a bath-room. But if I ever had any babies, if we ever had, I knew where I would put them. There was a room next mine waiting for some child to play with the wall-eyed rocking-horse and sleep in the little turned bed. Dormer-windows could be cut on both sides and running water be brought up, and such a nursery would bloom beneath the old roof that the art magazines would send up representatives to take pictures of it. I could hardly restrain my impatience to begin to make it ready, although as yet there was no need for it. For the first time since we moved into the house I was happy and contented.

[157]I was in the mood to write Jasper a long and intimate letter, telling him of my hopes for our life up here and how the House of the Five Pines was all ready for us. Of my hallucinations about the attic I said, “Nothing was locked in the room but my own fears.”

The tide had turned, and from my window at the big desk in the lower room I watched the lines of foaming spray licking up the beach. There was no longer any horizon between sea and sky. All was one blur of moving gray water, picked out with breaking white-caps and roaring as it fought to engulf the land. I thought, as I often had before: suppose the tide does not pause at the crest and retreat into the ocean, but keeps on creeping up and over, over the bank and over the road, over the hedge and over the house. However, as always, it halted in its race, pawed upon the stone breakwater, and I knew that by morning it would have slunk out again, and that children would be wading where waves had been, and Caleb Snow would be picking up winkles. Living was like that; the tide of our passions turns. The New Captain had built this double room for the great storm that had swept through his life, bearing[158] away the barricades of his traditions; but its force was spent now, and the skeleton laid as bare as a fish-bone on the sandy flats where strangers walked.

As I sat at the desk I smelled coffee cooking. The impression was so strong that I went into the kitchen and walked over to the stove to shove back the coffee-pot that I fancied had been left there since morning. The fire must have caught on a smoldering coal and the grounds were boiling up. But the coffee-pot was not on the stove. I found it still on the shelf, and the coffee was safe in the can. The odor must have come from out-of-doors.

I was too tired to figure the matter out, and ended by making some for myself, and going to bed. This was my third night at the House of the Five Pines, and I retired peacefully, in confidence, without any disturbing inhibitions. Everything had been solved.

I had shut the door in the secret stairs in the study-closet and fastened it with a piece of wire. In Mattie’s room I dropped down on the bed where I had shoved it across the floor that afternoon. Afterward I rose and pushed the bureau in front of the little door.[159] I do not know what subconscious motive impelled this, but a woman who is living alone in a house with nine known rooms, none of which are in their right places, and three stairs, front, back, and secret, ought to be forgiven for locking up what she can.

Rain fell in wearied gusts; the worst was over. The wind, still high, blew dense clouds across the face of the moon and carried them on again over the sea, so that the waste was momentarily illumined. Whenever the veils of mist were torn aside the oval mirror in its frame above my bureau reflected the moonlight. I watched it for a long time on my way to sleep.

At exactly twelve o’clock I found myself sitting up in bed.

There was moonlight in the room, that fell in quivering patches on the bed-quilt and lightened up the dark walls, throwing into relief all the five white doors. But there was also another light, on the ceiling, that moved steadily up and down. Forcing my hypnotized glance away from it, I turned to the haunted door and the bureau that I had placed in front of it, and saw with sickening understanding that the mirror above it was swaying[160] on its hinges, swinging back and forth. This caused the moonlight reflected from the water to dance like a sun-spot. The glass turned as if it were being pushed and could not keep its balance. I crawled over to it and put my hand out to steady it, and the whole thing turned.

As I drew back, the pressure on the other side of the wall withdrew. I could hear footsteps receding until they fell away down what I now knew was the stairway at the other end of the secret room. I had heard them the night before and I was sure. Whatever was in there had given up trying to get out at this side and was going back to try and get out of the door in the study-closet. I had wired that; the footsteps would return.

There was no use in trying to convince myself for the third time that this phenomenon was caused by the cat. I had put her out in the rain. And if I were mistaken, if after all, I had locked her up in the loft, could the weight of a cat shake a wall so that a mirror would swing on its hinges? This was the footstep of something larger than a cat and, Heaven help me, smaller than a man!

I heard it coming back, stealthily, walking[161] softly, picking a barefooted course across the upper chamber toward the thin partitions that separated its room from mine. I knew that in a second more it would try one door and then the other, and that the whole wall would shake and give and the mirror I was clutching would tip again and throw fantastic lights. I heard it lift the latch.



IN the morning I was lying on the floor where I had fainted, between the bureau and the bed.

Was it going to turn out that I could not live in the House of the Five Pines after all, that I should never be at peace with it? Would there be another manifestation the next night, and another the night after, until my mind was gone? I felt that it was going now.

At midnight I could not help but think that what I heard was caused by ghosts; by day I refused to accept anything supernatural and forced myself to a material explanation.

Did I, or did I not, lock the cat inside the haunted room?

There was only one way to find out. I unwired the door and climbed up again, and found in the sunlight that there was nothing more alive in the attic than the rocking-horse.[163] Opening the eaves closet, a shaft of light disclosed a hole in one end large enough to admit a cat, granting that she could climb to the roof by means of one of the pine-trees. But cats do not prowl around in the rain.

Why had I been so certain that the New Captain had not preceded me through the eaves closet the day before? While I was coming up the stairs he could have pushed the little door wide enough open to crawl out under the bed and put the bed back again. He might do it another time, or half a dozen times a day, until I put a nail into it, playing hide-and-seek up one stairway and down the other. He could have crept up the secret stairs and been hiding in the attic at the very time that I wired up the door at the foot.

This time I tried to make the fastening more secure, but found that the flimsy partition had warped with the wet weather; and I ended by locking the outside door of the coat-closet with a key that I managed to fit to it after trying each one in the house. The two doors of the eaves closet upstairs I nailed securely from my side.

“Now get out if you can,” I said aloud. I felt like some one who steps up on the stage[164] and ties the hands of the magician. At the same time I realized perfectly that if whatever was not there in the attic when I fastened it up could get in later, it could also get out.

I went back to the theory that I held yesterday.

One thing troubled me. Why, if the New Captain was living, had he permitted his will to be found? He could have hidden it, or have had Mattie dispose of it, so as to prevent its working against himself. By the terms that he had drawn up the house was to be sold; nothing could be more inconvenient to one who was trying to hide in it. Unless he deliberately planned to have it sold for the malicious purpose of driving out Mattie! He had bequeathed her nothing. If the house passed into other hands, she would inevitably be forced out; while he, as long as he lived furtively between two walls, was safe. Or perhaps he meant to make himself manifest after she had gone. Perhaps that was what he was trying to convey.

Why had he come to hate her? Yesterday I was sure that it was she who had tired of him, wearied of a liaison with a daft person,[165] glad to go; to-day I was convinced that it was he who had grown restless under the oppression of her management. In doubt that death would release him from her spell, fearing to survive another cataleptic burial, he had cunningly drawn up this document which would rid him of her.

To test this hypothesis would be to ascertain beyond a doubt whether or not the New Captain was actually buried. There was a vault in the cemetery in the Hawes name, but unless I investigated the interior I would never feel sure that the old rogue was in it. I determined to make the judge show me the New Captain’s coffin.

On my way through the town I sent a telegram to Jasper, paralleling my letter and contradicting the substance of it:

Don’t like house. May give it up.

That would prepare him, should I decide to leave.

The judge was at home, but “busy.” Would I wait? I would, I assured Isabella.

The age of leisure has not vanished from the earth; it has taken the “accommodation” train, gone down the cape, and stopped off[166] at Star Harbor. While my host finished washing his Ford, or whatever he was loitering over, I had full time to recognize the oddity of my behavior. Judge Bell himself was not so surprised to receive me as I was to be there. And yet a canny sense of the value of silence kept me from straightway breaking down and confessing the details of the sleepless nights which had led up to my demand. I felt, self-consciously, that, having bought the House of the Five Pines in spite of warnings, it had become so much my house and my mystery that I had no right to complain. If I confided in the judge, he would not try to help me. He would take my ghosts to his bosom as just so much corroborative evidence of his own pet psychic formulas. The time to explain was after I had solved my problems.

So when my host finally appeared I only said that I wanted to be sure the New Captain was in his coffin, and the judge replied that he could not blame me much for that.

“Are you sorry you bought the place?” he asked, switching the late asters with his cane as we crossed the downs.

“I’m sorry that we had to turn Mattie out.”

[167]The message in the book I did not mention.

“Some one would have bought it,” the judge declared, speaking officially, and then he added, as his own thought, “She was done with life, anyway, long ago.”

The cemetery lay on one side of a low hill, behind the roof-tops of the town. The gravestones were small, and sheep nibbled the grass between them, so that as we approached it looked like nothing more than a pasture sprinkled with boulders.

A late, traveling circus had pitched its tents at the foot of the slope, and we were silent as we threaded our way through the rough-looking professionals who were standing around in the sun, trying to dry out after last night’s storm. Men were shaving, their pocket-mirrors hung upon a tree; women were combing their hair or sitting smoking, half-dressed, in the open. A charred fire showed where their breakfast had been cooked, and the open flap of a tent exposed their sleeping-quarters, with some of the ill-favored crew still under the blankets.

The elephant, as large as a monument, had been led down to the brook.

“We’ll have to hurry or we won’t get back[168] in time for the parade,” the judge said. “I hear they are going to have a parade.”

He was as pleased as a child, and stopped and patted the elephant.

I could hear the caravan’s laughter behind us when we reached the old Hawes tomb. From the edge of the graveyard the circus band was tuning up. Grief was taking a holiday.

The judge unlocked the gate of the iron fence around the vault, and then he unlocked the grating and we went down two steps into the damp interior. The sunlight from the open door behind us flooded the cellar-like aperture, making its contents crudely visible. The stone walls gave out no hint of horror. Only an aroma of melancholy filled the resting-place of this strange family who had once been a dynamic force in their corner of the world and were now become a row of rusty boxes.

I saw the coffin marked with the brass plate of old Captain Jeremiah Hawes, and the coffin of “Mis’ Hawes,” his wife, and, on the lowest tier, that of the New Captain.

“Where is Mattie?” I asked.

The judge waved his hand ambiguously[169] toward the bay. I took it to mean that she had not been honored with the sanctuary of the family vault. In the end, she was not a Hawes. Without saying anything more, it seemed as if we understood each other. Mattie had been buried in unhallowed ground.

Not that the New Captain was ever anything more than an infidel. I was indignant when I realized how much better he had fared than she. Some one, probably the judge, had white-washed his soul in spite of his preferences and given him a Christian burial. With Mattie things were different, in death even as in life. I did not dare to inquire any further for fear I would learn that they had taken her poor drowned body and thrown it under a heap of stones at a crossroads. Customs of the Old World and superstitions of the New lingered in this neck of New England where, not too many years ago, forlorn old women had been burned as witches.

The New Captain’s great iron box was strong and solid; it did not look as if anything could get out of it or ever had. The judge and I stood staring at it.

“I saw him myself,” the judge said, “before the lid was fastened down, and he had been[170] lying in that room a week then, like he asked to in his will. He was dead all right; you didn’t need to look at him.”

“Was there a funeral service?”

“You bet there was. The Old Captain’s parson saw to that—Brother Jimps—gone now, too. There was some talk against it. The new minister he said he wouldn’t ’a’ done it, but I knew enough not to ask him.”

The judge chuckled over his grim recollections.

“Yes, I saw the thing was all done proper at the time; but I guess it wouldn’t be going outside of my rights any if I was to open the coffin now and set your mind at rest.”

“Please don’t!”

“I brought a chisel—”

“Stop! No wonder she was queer.”



“Oh, yes, she was queer all right. But then, she always was. You don’t want me to open it?”

It struck me that there was a great deal of the inquisitive little boy left in the old judge, but I did not have the courage to gratify him.

[171]“Let’s go,” I answered. “I’ve seen everything I need.”

It was at this precise moment that I caught sight of a small coffin. It did not lie in state on the stone shelves on each side of the vault, but was pushed back into a dark corner.

“What’s that?” I asked sharply.

The old judge did not answer.

“Did the Old Captain have another child? Did the New Captain have a brother—or a sister?”

The judge stood in the open doorway, his face turned toward the downs. I could hardly hear his words when at length he answered.

“That is his son.”

Not understanding, I looked at him and then at the little coffin; and then at him again.


“The New Captain’s. He never had any brothers nor any sisters.”

“But,” I protested, “I did not know he had a child.”

“Nobody else knows it.”

He drew me outside and locked up the grating with his large, hand-made, iron key.

[172]We walked away in silence. But it was more than I could stand.

“Did he live in the house?” I asked, at last.

“I don’t know anything about it,” answered the judge unhappily. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask.” There was upon his face an oldness and discouragement with life that I had never seen there before. “I was his best friend, and his only friend at the end, and he never told me anything about it. The day we buried his mother, old Mis’ Hawes, I saw that little coffin in the vault, just like you did, only there weren’t so much dust on it then. I was staring down at it, after the other pallbearers had gone. The New Captain seen me.

“‘What are you looking at? Come on!’ said he. And I said, ‘Who is that?’ and he said, ‘That’s my son; now you know who it is.’

“That’s all he ever said and all I ever asked him, and I never mentioned it to any one since then.”

A great comprehension suddenly came to me, and I was dazed with what was whirling through my mind. I would have acknowledged the finding of the loft to him, except,[173] from the way the judge had dealt with the matter all these years, I realized that he preferred to be left in ignorance. What he had never inquired into he did not want to know. I did not attempt to intimate to him how much the discovery of the little coffin meant to me. It was one secret more added to the burden of the House of the Five Pines, but one mystery less.

After a while I asked, “How long ago was that, judge?”

And he answered, “Mis’ Hawes died in the early eighties.”

A whiff of vault-like air seemed to pass over my heart. I was back once more in the dark loft, with the rain beating down on the roof. That was the period when boys wore fluted calico shirts.

The judge and I walked slowly down the slope between the headstones and the crosses. On one grave was a carved stone lamb, and a stray live one had lain down beside it. Milk-bottles blossoming with petunias and lard-pails filled with earth in which bloomed yellow nasturtiums made a brave display. Tall Lorraine crosses, with Portuguese names[174] carved in the weathered wood, were lettered in red and gold. The wreaths were of beads, such as they use in the Western Islands, from which far lands the fishers had brought the customs of their forefathers. Many little mounds were enclosed with a low wooden fence, marked with a headboard at one end, as if an open-bottomed crib had been set down on the grass. Here and there an old musket stuck into the ground or a cheap flag, faded since last Decoration Day, showed that from this village, too, our country had taken toll in the fighting of its wars. Some of the soldiers’ graves were dated 1777.

At one side of the hill, where the grass dwindled away into the encroaching sand, was a sort of potters’ field, with unpainted pine crosses of uniform size. Thinking that perhaps it was a military section, I bent down and read the names.

David Lester, Lost at sea, 1856.... Jo Lippa, aged 19. Lost on the Veronica, off the Great Banks, 1890.... Capt. Miles Longsworth, 1790-1830. Drowned with six of his crew on an Iceland Voyage.... Samuel Polk, 1880-1915. Lost at Sea.

A group of them would bear the same dates,[175] as if half a dozen had been drowned in the same disaster.

“What does it mean?” I asked.

“They are all sailors,” replied the judge, gravely, “who were lost at sea. When their bodies are not recovered, their families feel better if they can give them a grave with the others on the hill. Sometimes we have the funeral, too, if many have gone down together. Last year there was eleven on one vessel.”

I remembered what Ruth had told me about wrecks and the “graveyard of the cape.”

“But I would rather have my boy’s cross here,” I vowed, “than there!”—with a gesture back toward the Hawes’s big vault. “Passers-by at least may know what these sailors’ names are and that they once have lived.”

The old judge bowed his head.

I put my hand in his rough hand and led him on. “I’m sorry,” I said.

He smiled at me a little in a far-off way, as if it were some one else he were smiling at. I could not bear to watch his face. The peculiarities that his isolated life had cultivated did not separate us so much now. He seemed pathetically human and, like all of us, needing sympathy, struggling forlornly against[176] the obstacles that his own limitations had created. It no longer seemed strange that he was attempting divination and second sight, trying to wrest the undiscoverable from the mute unknown. After all, he might be the only one of us whose philosophy was right.

Materialism fell away from me in that sand-swept graveyard where only the gray sheep moved among the symbols of the dead. Objectivity lost its grip; the subjective was the only reality. I recalled what the Hindus believed: that this world was an unnecessary torment, valuable only for the acquiring of grace, which might as well be accomplished by sitting upon a pillar; that the only truth was the life of the spirit, which had begun with the spinning of the Wheel and would endure so long as it revolved. The ascetics of all religions had preached nearly the same thing, in terms understandable to their own generation and their own race. The impulse of the soul, confined in its body’s prison, to reach out to souls which had left theirs but which still hovered near, was the only pastime worth an adult’s serious attention.

Out on the daisy-covered downs where the rain-washed sunlight blinded one to the immediate[177] vista, where the reluctant storm-clouds overhead moved in white masses through the brilliant sky and banked themselves upon the ocean’s rim, the strength of the judge’s spiritualism subdued my worldliness. In a new meekness and dependence of will I did not want to lose sight of him. And I had no impulse whatever to return to the House of the Five Pines.

As we came near the circus grounds the line of skinny horses and the tarnished animal-wagon, the weary clown and the dusty elephant, were already winding their way to the village. The judge began to hurry.

“What are you going to do this afternoon?” I asked.

He looked as uncomfortable as his Isabella.

“Why, to tell the truth, I—I’m busy,” he stumbled.

“Judge, are you going to the circus?”

“No, I ain’t.”

“Well, whatever it is, I’m going to do it, too.”

“Do you mean that?” His eyes penetrated mine as a seer who would probe the faith of a novitiate. “All right. Be around to my house at two-thirty. I’ll take you to a séance.”



TWO-THIRTY found me on the porch of the judge’s house again, picking up a modern magazine of the occultists which lay there on the table. This time, because I would have liked to read it, the judge showed up on the minute.

“You can take it home with you,” he said, noting my disappointment.

Was he glad of a proselyte, I wondered.

The townspeople stared when we appeared on the front street together, but then, they always stared at me. I had not asked where we were going—to one of the rickety store-buildings on the water-front, I fancied, in some back room over tidewater.

Instead, we turned off at the railroad track and skirting the town dump, where, on a briery height, the refuse of the entire population was spread out to breed mosquitoes, took a little path through the marshy woods at[179] the base of the sand-dunes, and followed it two miles. Blueberry-bushes at our feet grew green and high, rid of their prolific harvest. Wintergreen berries were turning red, anticipating frost. The leaves of the sumac were wine-colored, and the dark racemes hung like tassels heavy with their glutinous ripened seeds. Goldenrod and purple asters rioted along the path, and tiger-lilies bordered the black ponds. Scarlet-winged blackbirds flitted through the low branches of the oaks, and wild canaries dived from sight. Bayberry and sassafras made the air sweet, and the brown pine-cones crunched under foot. The October sunshine, released after yesterday’s storm, danced between the interlacings of the wild grape-vine, which covered the undergrowth with its mocking pattern.

The soil of the woods was shallow, and the trees, sending their roots too quickly into sterile sea sand, shriveled and died before they had reached maturity, so that the forest was half-new and half as dead as if it had been burned. Growth here was quick and almost tropical, a glad green and a fast sunset of color, and then stale brown stalks. The dunes, bearing down upon the woods from[180] the ocean on the far side of the cape, spared nothing. Little by little they covered the trees—first a soft pile of sand, no larger than a child would play with, heaped upon the surface roots, then a half-hill, out of which the fighting trunks protruded, and at last a hard plateau, with the remnants of the highest branches thrusting futile twigs, barren of leaves, up into the mocking sun. The sand suffocated the pines and buried them, so that, climbing up out of the swampy valley into the immensity of the yellow dunes, we walked upon buried forests.

“How far?” I asked the judge. I supposed that we would trudge on to the sea.

“Not far,” he answered.

To my surprise, he turned to the right along the crest of the last great dune above the tree-tops, then slid back, down an unbroken hill into the woods once more, and I felt the roof of a hut under my feet. Here was a hermitage, not on the path where wandering steps would ever find it, but hidden in this spot accessible only to those who knew the way.

The top of the low cabin hidden under the trees was half-buried in the sand of the dune[181] behind it. We slid down off the roof and knocked at the front door. A colored man opened it cautiously, bowed gravely, and let us in. We found ourselves in a darkened room with five other persons, who were quietly waiting for us, sitting in a half-circle on the bare floor.

A colored man on Cape Cod is as exotic a growth as mistletoe. Where this one dark-skinned man had come from I could not guess; why he stayed was easier to imagine. His power as the representative of another race was as unquestioned as a white man’s is in an African jungle or a Chinese in Alaska. He was not so old as to have lost the use of his keenest faculties, nor so young as to under-estimate them. He was small of stature, with an intellectual face and quick-moving light-palmed hands. He wore a white tight-fitting jersey and high-turned corduroy trousers. The great toes of his bare feet were separated, like those of an ape. He seemed like a mixture of a cave-man and the motion-picture conception of a cave-man; as if, knowing the value of his picturesqueness, he not so much cultivated as accepted it. There were no chairs or tables; the bunk was covered with[182] boughs and fastened to the wall, but there was a very capable-looking blue-flame oil-stove and also a phonograph. The windows on either side were shielded with curtains of yellow-batiked cheese-cloth that our host must have purloined from an art-student.

“He’s educated,” whispered the judge, motioning me to join the circle seated on the sandy floor.

“I can see that,” I answered.

The men who had met here were all matter-of-fact and uncompromisingly solid. One was a captain of a fishing-vessel, another a “gob” off one of our cruisers, a third I recognized as the proprietor of the “Bee-hive” general store. The other two were Portuguese. The store proprietor kept talking about having to get back at five to let “Will” go home for supper. The captain was garrulously explaining about other séances he had attended, better ones, which statement was heartily argued by the sailor-boy, who claimed he had attended them from Maine to Panama, and never found any one as good as this here colored man. One of the Portuguese kept asking over and over again, “Do you see anything new for me?” in a hopeless[183] voice, and the other one continually urged him to “shut up.”

The medium began to speak.

“This is very unusual,” he said, “to give a séance by daylight. I only agreed to it to please our friend here of the navy, who has been an inspiration to me in his enthusiasm and who was most anxious to get into contact with his dear ones once more before he left us for foreign waters. I trust all will go well, as usual. You will pardon me while I darken the room.”

I was left gasping. He spoke with the accent of Harvard, in the manner of an English drawing-room. I had half-expected some African voodoo revelations. Now I did not know what to expect.

The judge smiled at me.

The medium went outside the hut and closed the wooden shutters. Instantly we were plunged into impenetrable dark. I could just see the circle of strained faces as he reëntered, closed the door, and bolted it. I had not known that a séance would be like this. “Take hold of hands,” he commanded, and I grasped that of the judge on my right and, on my left, the horny palm of the sailor.

[184]“Don’t be afraid, little girl,” whispered the “gob.” “This is going to be good.”

Then the phonograph began to play, and to my overstrained nerves the ordinary xylophone record, put on with a soft needle and some attachment which made it repeat for half an hour, sounded like a far-off echo of the jungle days which this son of the African tribes was trying to reproduce. He had seated himself on a stool with his back to the wall before us and half a dozen long megaphones at his feet.

“Watch the horns,” he drawled in a sing-song voice. “Ebenezer is a long time coming.”

But I could not see them now; I could see nothing. Only a white blur marked the place where his body might still be; I could not swear to it. Then a voice began to sing with the phonograph, an unmistakable negro voice, rising and wailing with a maudlin sentimental cadence, without pause and without words. I wanted to scream out, “Stop singing! Stop that music! I can’t think.” And then I had just wit enough left to realize that that was precisely what he wanted—we were being hypnotized. I felt my mind oozing out into the blackness and only knew, because[185] of the tightened grip on my hands of the judge and of the sailor, that my body was left behind. Something touched me on the shoulder.

“Look out, there’s the horn! Don’t you see it?” Some one whispered.

I strained my eyes above my head, but I could see nothing.

“There it goes!” This was the judge’s excited comment.

Still I could see nothing. The medium continued to sing.

“It’s flying around the room,” breathed the captain.

What did they mean was flying around the room? It was most aggravating. Was it supposed to be the horn that was flying around the room?

“It’s stopped in front of you, judge,” whispered the sailor.

I felt the judge’s hand tighten on mine. “Is that you, Ebenezer?” he asked, quaveringly.

And the voice, a throaty disguise of the voice of the medium, answered: “This is Ebenezer. What can I do for you? How de do, how de do, folks!” It seemed to come[186] from all over the room at once, now above my head, now across from me. “How de do, how de do to-day!”

“Fine,” some one answered.

“Ebenezer, how about that money you promised me?” the sailor began, trying to force his personality upon the control. But Ebenezer would have none of him. “This is Mattie, this is Mattie,” it was whispering.

What? I had not been listening accurately. It had never crossed my mind that this farce could be directed toward me.

“Ask it something,” urged the judge in a fierce whisper.

“You ask,” I whispered back.

“Aw, who is Mattie?” the disappointed sailor growled under his breath.

But the excitement of the quest had caught me at last, and I was panting for the next words from that strange, disembodied voice.

“This is Mattie,” it repeated, fainter now. “Doesn’t anybody want to speak to Mattie?”

“Where are you, Mattie?” demanded the judge.

There was a dreadful silence.

“They never answer that,” whispered the ship-captain. “You’d better try something[187] else.” Then, addressing the spirit of Mattie directly, the captain asked: “Who do you want to speak to? Can you tell?”

“To the woman,” wailed the voice.

“To you,” they all hissed at me.

“What do you want?” I besought it.

“You must leave.”

“Leave where?”

“The house.”

A murmur of opposition went around the circle. Enmeshed in a bad dream as I was, I was grateful to them for their loyalty. They would not have me put out. And then another meaning to these words made my flesh creep. The judge at the same moment asked the question that was trembling on my lips.

“What house?”

“The house of th-three—seven—”

“It’s trying to say it,” he assured me; “they can’t get numbers very well. Yes, Mattie?”

But the control had been seized by another spirit and, with a great pounding of the trumpet on the floor, announced: “Is the captain here? Is the captain here? I am Jacques Davit who went down on the Dolly B.

[188]This was a great strong masculine spirit. I had no hope of hearing from Mattie now.

The captain sat up stiffly and was swearing under his breath. “Gosh willikins, I’m a son of a— Jacques Davit! Hello, Jack!”

“Too bad,” murmured the judge to me. “Wait, we’ll get her again.”

“I’m out o’ luck all around!” said my horny-handed colleague in deep disgust.

One of the Portuguese kept repeating: “Do you see any change for me? Do you see any change for me?”

I could not keep my mind on what the control was perpetrating in the name of Jacques. Like the veriest devotee among them I wished to get hold of Mattie again.

“Get Mattie back,” I whispered to the judge.

And immediately the masculine tones changed to the light fluttering voice that had been hers. “Five pines, five pines, five pines,” it repeated rapidly, like a telephone-operator.

“Mattie,” I demanded, no longer surprised at my own voice, “what is in that secret room?”

“Huh?” interrupted the sailor, grasping my hand harder.

[189]I felt that every one in the circle was straining for the answer. The phrase “secret room” had won instant coöperation. We bent forward in abysmal darkness, listening through the silence, till even the sand blown down on the roof grated on our raw nerves. The phonograph had stopped playing. Then one word hung in the air like a floating feather:


That was all. As if the circle had been cut with a sharp knife, every one dropped hands and pushed back from the others. Some one rushed over to the door and unbolted it, and the light struck in across the floor.

The horns lay in a disordered heap at the foot of the medium, who was slowly running his fingers through his kinky hair, as if coming back to life. The men stood up and breathed hard, without looking at one another.

“What was it she asked?” the Portuguese was saying; but no one answered him. Nor did they look at me. They made me feel guilty, an accomplice to some dark deed they did not understand. No more did I understand it, I wanted to scream at them! The judge was taking money out of his pocket,[190] and handed five one-dollar bills to the colored man, who had revived enough by now to take up a general collection.

“Good-by,” said the sailor genially. “I didn’t find out nothin’, but it was worth it, anyway, to be in on that. Say, he’s good, ain’t he?” He followed me to the door. “Say,” he whispered, “if anything, you know, turns up, let me know, will you? I’d take it as a favor. I’m off from three to five, short leave. See you to-morrow, corner of Long Wharf.”

I smiled hysterically. These were strange days for me. I had been at a séance, and made a date with a sailor!



JUDGE BELL and I climbed up the shifting cliff of sand and paused at the top, out of breath.

While we had been in the cabin holding the séance, a fog had risen. The sun was hidden behind a gray bank, barely causing a brighter patch of mother-of-pearl in the western sky, where feathery clouds were heaped high, one upon the other, like the soft silken cushions of the fairy princess’s bed. Mist swept around the top of the dunes and filled the hollows. Lakes of fog spread themselves at our feet, deceptively solidifying the craters between the hills into opaque pools of silver. Vapor eddied in slow masses backward and forward, disclosing the dunes and hiding them again at the will of the sluggish wind. Outlines were dim; the blue of the ocean had become invisible. Distances were so distorted that it seemed as if in three strides one might[192] reach the outside shore, where the surf was roaring.

The rain of yesterday had pounded every track out of the wet dark sand, leaving it imprinted with a wind-stamped water-mark. The grass-topped pyramid where Ruth and I had played with the children last summer was dissolved. There was no formation in all that desolate region which bore any resemblance to it. The dunes must have challenged the sea to a wild race during the hurricane, with a gale driving the bitter sand so swiftly that whole hills were moved. The pounding of the breakers was reminiscent of the orgy they had indulged in during the storm, crashing as clearly across the waste as if we were listening where the foam fell. Our damp clothes clung to us, and our faces became wet and our lips tasted salt.

I turned to the silent judge, whose rugged figure, buffeted by many tempests of the soul as well as of the sea, stood staunchly beside me in the dusk, a strong defense. His introspective vision penetrated further than the eye could follow.

“Who do you think was speaking to us, back there in the hut?” I asked.

[193]“Why, Mattie,” he answered in a surprised tone.

“But I do not understand it.”

Judge Bell smiled slowly, making no reply. He did not expect me to understand.

We descended from the dripping dunes at the place where the judge had left his handkerchief tied to a tree-top to mark the path that dipped into the thicket. The groaning of a fog-horn at the coast-guard station followed us, and the tidal breeze laid an icy hand upon our backs.

The way home was traversed quickly, for it was downhill most of the distance. When we drew near the railroad tracks I caught the judge by his coat.

“Judge,” I said, “I was going to the Sailor’s Rest, because I can’t stay in the House of the Five Pines any longer, but if you will come up and spend the night there, too, I will go back. I hadn’t intended to tell you, but—there are very strange manifestations in that old house, far more amazing than what we saw this afternoon, and you ought to know about them. You owe it to yourself not to miss them; it is research work.[194] I’ll stay there once more if you will. Can you come?”

The judge’s face glowed like a scientist about to resolve the atmosphere into its component parts.

“I’ll come,” he swore. “I’ll be there; watch out for me!”

“Well, then, now!”

“No,” he insisted, “not right away. I’ve got to go home first—the cow—but I’ll be back. Depend on me!”

He started off on a dog-trot up the railroad track, making a short-cut through the back of the town. Reluctantly I turned away toward my own house and sat down on the step. It did not seem worth while to go in and unpack any more of Jasper’s things. I might never live there.

While light lasted I lingered outside and looked at the quiet bay and the fishermen returning from their boats. They wore high red rubber boots and gray flannel shirts open at the throat. Barefooted children in denim overalls came running to meet them on the boardwalk, and tugged at their brown hands and begged for rides upon their shoulders.... And I had thought that some[195] day children might be running down our flagging—but now, I did not know.

I could see the old arcade grinning at me, were I forced to go back to New York, and the sign in the corridors leaped into malicious letters, “Dogs and children not allowed.” I remembered the sort of man who returned there at night, stepping languidly out of a yellow cab, light-wood cane under one arm while he paid the driver, nothing waiting for him but a fresh bunch of bills under his door. And those other ne’er-do-well tenants, hatless and unpressed, affecting sandals to save socks, having nothing in common with their sporty neighbors but the garbage-pail on the fire-escape. After three days of the promised land, must I go back to that?

Why didn’t the judge come?

I went inside and lit the lamps, because I dared not let the house grow dark before entering, then sank down by the window and rocked nervously, watching the street. But what I saw was not the stalwart figure of my old friend approaching through the evening haze, but the grotesque contour of the town crier, preceded by his bell.

Clang, clang, clankety-clang! He swung[196] the big brass tongue as if all the world were waiting for his message.

In front of the House of the Five Pines he stopped short and with his back to it, read out to the bay: “Burr ... buzz.... Sheriff’s auction ... Long Nook Road ... Monday....”

He swung his bell again and hobbled up the street. It was late for the town crier to be abroad and he was in a hurry.

“That will be the next thing,” I thought; “that will happen to me. Some day the bell-man will be going up and down the boardwalk advertising another house for sale, and that one will be mine.”

The idea was so discouraging that I tried to think of something not so lugubrious. Where was the judge? I picked up the magazine that he had thrust upon me earlier in the day and began to read it.

The cover had a large eye in the center from which shot orange rays, and underneath were symbols I did not understand. The paper was cheap but well printed, one of those ventures in sect literature which, like those dedicated to social propaganda, are always coming and going on the market and[197] sending out subscription-blanks with every issue. The advertisements were, for the most part, how to get fat and how to get thin, where to send words for songs and how to sell motion-picture scenarios. The editorial matter was equally erratic. One erudite article held my interest: a savant had written of the “aura” that surrounds a person. This is the light which exudes from his body, an excrescence imperceptible to the agnostic outside the realm of “truth,” but plainly visible to the initiate. The aura was supposed to radiate various distances, depending on the magnetism of the subject, and its hue changed with the individual. Red was the color of youth and exuberance, blue designated the purist, purple betrayed sex passion, and yellow surrounded the intellectual. Pink and heliotrope were the auras of the artistic; green was the halo of genius. In life this color might not be evident, but after death, the body being expressed in highly magnetized atoms, the color of the aura was quite clear, being, in fact, the sole attribute of the apparition. That is, instead of being visited by the subject reincarnated in mortal form, you beheld his astral color. Understanding his[198] temperament in life, you recognized him by the aura which represented him. Although most difficult to discern with the naked eye, this aura could easily be photographed, and photographs were reproduced on the next page—shadowy outlines of nude figures. Much space was devoted to the female aura, posed in interesting silhouette with a wavy water-line around it, like the coast upon a map. The subjects’ names were given. It was hoped that later they would be able to reproduce the aura of a specter, to print a colored photograph of light alone.

I shut the magazine. It had made fascinating reading, but I would have to procure the observations of more than one savant to be convinced. I began to see how profound a study the psychic might become, and why Mattie and the New Captain had spent all their time on it and gathered together so many books on the occult. It was not so simple as I had supposed when I knew nothing at all about it. Did the judge believe this? I wished that he would come.

It was nine o’clock.

If only this gnawing in my fagged brain to discover the cause of my nocturnal obsessions[199] had taken some other form of elucidation! Why did I force my addled intellect to prove or disprove this theory of spiritism, this revived dogma of the Dark Ages, culled from all religions? I had never subjected Christianity to such severe criticism. After childhood, one ceases to question the code of morality under which he has been brought up; it is his then, for better or for worse. To argue is to lose the nuance of faith. Would a child, I wondered, brought up in the House of the Five Pines, take ghosts as easily as I took Jonah? He certainly would not grow up into materialism by believing that the age of miracles was past. He would take the supernatural as a matter of course. One could hear the family arguing at the breakfast-table:

“I heard something last night; it must have been grandmother.”

And another child, with its mouth full of grapefruit: “No, great-grandmother. I saw her.”

And the bobbed-hair one: “It couldn’t have been Grandmother Brown, because the aura was yellow, and she never had anything in her bean.”

[200]Then they would go roller-skating, leaving the subleties of color emanations to solve or dissolve themselves.

But I had not been brought up that way. I had plunged into this atmosphere unprepared. I never felt more ancient than at that moment, when I realized that I was too old to learn.

What was keeping the judge?

It was ten o’clock.

I got up and looked out of the window. The street was quiet and dark as the water beyond it. Cold stars shone feebly through the clouds above the bay, and the revolving planet at the lighthouse on Long Point blinked every minute. From the highlands another light shone steadily, and at the entrance to the harbor a bell-buoy swung sadly back and forth. The waves, rocking the floating tongue, set it ringing louder as they rose in strength, and let it die away again to the tinkle of a tea-bell. I was glad the fog-horns were not groaning in the harbor. I hate fog-horns.

No man ever knows the weariness of a woman who waits for him. No man has ever experienced to the full the hours when the[201] night grows longest, when the mind catches at the faintest sound in the thoroughfare and listens to the ebb of footsteps that after all were not quite the ones expected. Because, universally, it is the woman who is in the house and the man who is outside, he has missed for centuries the finest form of torture devised by the unthinking and the tardy and the dissipated for those who must sit at the window. There is no use in saying afterward, “Why did you wait up?” and the tired reply, “I won’t again.” She will do so again, goaded by forebodings that grow with the minutes, and she will keep on sitting up for him until the end of life, when, if there is any justice, the man will go first into the meandering meadows and on the banks of the last river wait for a cycle or two.

Every far-away sound attaches profound significance to itself—a piano, a child crying, a window being raised; and the night seems full of freight-trains chugging up a grade, although you never hear an engine all day long. I have heard the whistle of steamboats in inland cities. But worse is that rattle and bang up the street, that clinking of bottles and running feet, that continued panting of[202] the engine which it is not worth while to shut off, by which you know that you have sat up till the milk is being delivered and that it is too late!

Why did the judge not come? It was after eleven o’clock.

I wished that it was Jasper for whom I was waiting, for more reasons than the obvious one. Jasper would prove that the phenomena which had harassed the House of the Five Pines were not psychic; Judge Bell would prove that they were.

A hand on the window-pane! On the outside of the window-pane was a hand. There was no body to it, but in the lower corner of the window where I sat a hand was feeling around. It was a small hand. It knocked.

At the sound of flesh on glass my heart rebelled; it ceased functioning altogether.

The hand knocked again, impatiently. Then a voice was added.

“Let me in! Anybody home?”

Something about the homely words released a spring, and my heart jumped.

“Who is it?”

[203]“Me! Open the door!”

I unlatched the kitchen shutter and peered out. A diminutive youngster, too short to be visible above the window-sash, was coming around from the side of the captain’s wing.

“Gee, I pretty near went away again, only I saw the window was lighted.”

“Why didn’t you go to the door?”

“I did! The front door.”

That was why I had not heard him.

“I would have gone,” the boy continued, still full of his own troubles, “only he give me the quarter before I came.”

“The judge?” I interrupted.

“No, Isabella; he broke his arm.”

“He broke his arm?”

“Cranking his Ford.” The boy made a windmill motion. “He was just starting out.”

“Coming here?”

“I don’t know. My mother said likely—She leave me come to tell you, but she said it was just as well.”

“Just as well?”

“Yes, she was helpin’ over there to-night; everybody is. He said to tell you if you was afraid to stay here alone all night, to come[204] back down to his house with me; but my mother says she wouldn’t if she was you, and anyway, there ain’t room.”

For a moment I was too stunned to be angry. Then I thought I might as well take the matter easily. The child had no idea what he was repeating.

“Tell the judge it will be all right,” I answered. “And tell your mother— Don’t tell your mother anything!”

He had admitted receiving his quarter, and he had frightened me so badly that I would not offer him more. He backed away and slid through the hedge, and then he ran.

However, I did not immediately reënter the house. With my cape wrapped round me I stood outside, wondering what to do.

It was too late to go anywhere. Alf locked up the Sailor’s Rest at the respectable hour of ten, and every cottage in the village was dark by half-past. Even before that they would have given me scant welcome, for I could tell from the remarks repeated by the boy that I had fallen heir to the suspicion in which they held Mattie. The judge’s home, my natural refuge, was full of sickness and of gossips, of bandages and hostility. I was[205] furious with the judge for breaking his arm. Why didn’t he install a self-starter?

I considered the possibility of finding my way to the Winkle-Man’s or to Mrs. Dove’s, my old laundress, but as I never had taken them into my confidence before, it was literally too late to begin. I could not imagine living in the town longer than to-morrow morning if I was found in the position of begging lodging from door to door. And I had not actually made up my mind to abandon the place altogether; the instinct for home-making was too strong.

The night was damp and foggy, but still I lingered in the yard.

The old house fairly yawned with peace. Such a quiet, innocent, companionable house! The five pine-trees swept the roof with the rhythm of the sea in their misty branches.

My chance glance clung to them.

There was a red light in the tops of the trees.

The red light came from the skylight—the skylight of my house—in the roof of the loft. The red light was shining from the little secret room.

Could it be a fire? No flames crackled up[206] through the rotten shingles.... Some one—? There had not been a sound to-night.

The red light made a glowing rectangle so bright that the roof was invisible. It had the effect of being suspended high in space, like a phantasmagoric banner of the witches. The outlines of four panes of glass made a black cross upon it.

“The attribute of the apparition.... The aura of youth is red,” said the savant.

I did not stay to take any photographs. I fled.

Like the boy before me, I backed out of the yard, stumbled through the hedge, and then ran. Turning to look back, I saw that the skylight still burned on redly through the branches of the pines.

I spent the night under an old dory on the beach.



DID you ever wake up looking at the inside of a boat?

My impulse to sit up came to an abrupt finish with a stunning blow on the head, where the seat struck me across the eyes. I lay blinking at it. The roof of the interior rounded over me securely, resting upon the beach on one gunwale and on the other side leaving a tipped-up opening under which I had crawled. Through this slit I could see waves curling up at the water’s edge and was glad that whoever owned the dory had pulled it well beyond the rising. Had it stood where the tide reached it I would have been under it just the same.

I was wondering how I had come there and why, when two mammoth feet crunched across the sand toward me. Before I had time to slide out of my retreat, great hands turned the dory over and I was gazing into[208] the face of a fisherman. He held a pair of bleached oars under one arm and from his hairy fist dripped a punctured bait-bucket.

“Gosh!” was all he said.

He set down his pail, dropped his oars, and, wiping his hands across his mouth, sized me up with unmixed disapproval in which there was no particle of respect.

I tried to twist my damp hair out of my face, but the pins had fallen from it and were lost, and my dress, drenched with sea salt, clung to me like the shriveled skin of a dead fish. I staggered to my feet, not knowing how to explain myself.

But by this time the fisherman had his own line of attack well in hand.

“Where’s your partner?” he asked rudely.


“You don’t sleep down here on the beach alone, do you?”

The hot blood rushed to my colorless face, and for the first time that dreadful foggy morning I felt warm. Who or what did the creature think I was?

“You do not understand!”

He was pushing the dory across the beach with great sweeping pulls along one side.[209] “Oh,” he grunted, between jerks, “I—think—I—do!”

The evil imagination of these people was too much for me to cope with. I could neither forestall nor refute it. I stood wretchedly watching him, without trying to say a word in my defense.

Prow in the water, he turned back accusingly. “You been here before,” he sneered; “night after night.”

“I haven’t!”

“I seen the marks in the sand!” His brute eyes leered at me. “What’s your name?”

“I live in the House of the Five Pines,” I answered, with all the dignity that five hours’ sleep on a wet beach could put into my limp manner. “I’m the woman who bought it.”

With one foot in the dory, he looked me up and down.

“I thought as much!”

He pushed out into the bay.

I was sorry then that I had told him who I was. I ought to have answered, “Maud Smith,” or something. I was only adding to the ill-repute that surrounded that luckless dwelling and any one who set his foot within it. Last night insinuations had been[210] made about my having asked the judge to stay with me; this morning a vile construction had been placed upon my sleeping on the beach. For innocence and charity and sweet faith in each other, let me commend the country mind! It is as willing to wallow in scandal as a pig in mud.

After the fisherman’s appraisal I dared not face any one without going back to the house and cleaning up. Ghost or no, some sort of toilet would have to be made before I was ready to face the world. I felt shaken and degraded, and as willing as any one else to believe the worst about myself. Perhaps my traveling clothes would restore my self-respect.

I was leaving.

The green-shuttered door of the kitchen was open, as I had left it last night, and, turning up the broken flagging, the house seemed so beseechingly friendly that I was half-ashamed of my mood of hatred. I was even willing to believe that the trouble was with me, instead of with the house. It was not its fault that hateful mysteries had attached themselves to it with the grafting[211] on of the captain’s wing. Probably the old house resented the secret room and the apparitions as much as I did, for in its youth it had been highly respected, holding its head above all the other houses on the cape. I felt the same sort of pity for it that I had for myself after my recent experience on the beach.

“We’re both old ruins,” I said to the House of the Five Pines. “We ought to stick together.”

Everything within was just as I had left it, the door of the closet downstairs locked and the one upstairs nailed. I felt like a deserter all the time I packed my trunk. With tears in my eyes and a heavy pain in my heart, I went out of the front door, which Jasper and I had opened so hopefully, and closed it after me.

On the flagging was the boy from the telegraph-office, snapping a yellow envelope at the tall grass as he loitered along.

“Is that for me?” I ripped it open before I paused to sign.

Don’t give up house. Am returning Saturday morning. Wait.


[212]And this was Friday! Our trains would pass each other.

Well, if I were out of my mind, as I more than half-suspected, one night more or less would not make any difference. A sanatorium was very much like a jail. I put my hat and bag inside the door and wandered off to think it over. This might be my last day of freedom.

I had no impulse to call on the judge. He could not help me solve anything, because his point of view was too much like mine. Moreover, I was still angry with him in an unreasonable way because he had failed me last night. Why hadn’t he arrived quietly, as he had promised, instead of getting into a scrape which necessitated explanations to the whole town? He had no right to break his arm!

I took the back street and followed it to the edge of the village, and there, in front of Mrs. Dove’s cottage, met her coming out of the white picket-gate with a tin pail on her arm. She smiled as if the world were just as usual and I one of her best friends. I was so surprised and grateful to meet some one who still considered me a normal human being that I could have kissed her.

[213]“Do you want to join me?” asked Mrs. Dove. “I’m going to pick beach-plums. If you are going to be a regular householder up here, you ought to learn where to find them.”

“What do you do with them after you get them?”

I was already suiting my step to hers.


“Will you put mine up for me?”

“Why, the idea! Anybody can do it. There’s no trick to beach-plums.”

“But I want you to come down to the house to-night, and we’ll do them together.”

“Down to your house?” Mrs. Dove looked at me strangely.

“There’s a good range in the House of the Five Pines,” I hastened to add, “and everything is convenient.”

She opened her mouth and closed it again without speaking.

“You can stay all night with me,” I hurried on, before she had the courage to refuse, “and we can work all evening.”

Mrs. Dove was flustered, but at last had an excuse. “Why, I don’t know whatever in the world Will would say!” she answered, “I[214] ain’t used to going out nights, unless it’s to nurse somebody—”

I took hold of both of her hands, much to her embarrassment. “Mrs. Dove,” I said, “pretend you are nursing me. The truth is, I’m afraid to stay alone. To-morrow my husband will return. I’ll promise you, this is the very last night.”

She drew back like a shy girl. “If that’s the case, I guess Will will leave me come over.”

I drew a breath of relief. That settled that. I began to enjoy the scenery.

We had passed the last straggling house, and, following the pike down the cape, had come to a high, wide part of it where the dunes were covered with coarse grass and bordered little fresh-water lakes. Leaving the main road for a path between the rushes, we came to a height which commanded a view of the sea in all directions—before us, to the left, where the backbone of the cape turned east to the mainland, and behind us, where it rounded northwest toward the outside lighthouse. Three miles of moors separated us from its deep blue, but it looked almost as close as the bay on our immediate right. At our feet[215] was a fourth bit of water, Pink Pond, where lilies were cut in the summer and ice in the winter, a bright blue sheet bordered with tall brown cat-tails. Far away, on the outside sea, jetties of suspended smoke marked the passing of an invisible ocean liner; near at hand, in the bay, rocked the fishing-boats; and at the entrance to Star Harbor a government cruiser was turning its gray nose northward.

I remembered my sailor, whom I had promised to meet at three o’clock this afternoon, but even as I wished that I might in some way take advantage of his eagerness to help me smoke burst out of the black funnels and the cruiser glided past the point. The sailor would have to pursue his investigations of the psychic in some other port.

“Pretty, ain’t it?” said Mrs. Dove. “The beach-plums is further on.”

We found them growing on a hillside on stunted trees no larger than bushes, as wild and untended as a patch of blackberries whose briers were all around us and hindered our progress. They were a hard, cherry-sized fruit all shades of ripening-red and purple, thick upon each tree, but the trees were separated by clumps of sassafras and the low[216] brittle bayberry whose pale wax clusters are used for candle-making. I tasted a beach-plum and found it juicy and tart, but almost all pit.

“The green ones is good, too,” Mrs. Dove advised me. “They make it jell.”

The day was as warm as Indian summer, now that the early fog had melted, and the moist heat, oozing up from the humid ground, was soothing to my tired body. The convolutions of my brain seemed to uncoil and extend themselves into a flat surface, like a piece of table-linen laid in the sun to bleach. I did not pick as many beach-plums, perhaps, as Mrs. Dove, but I was more benefited by the day’s work. I began to feel revived and almost normal.

“I brought lunch along,” announced my wonderful companion. She pulled some paper-wrapped packages out of her capacious pockets, and we sat on a rock and ate lobster-sandwiches and muffins spread with sweet butter till I was ashamed. It seemed a long time since I had tasted anything that I ate. I felt so grateful that I wanted to cry. Mrs. Dove sensed my mood and my need, and kept right on mothering me.

[217]“We’ll put the plums on as soon as we get back,” she said, “and have some jam for supper, maybe, or to-morrow when your husband comes, anyway. He’ll enjoy them; mine always does.”

It was hard to tell her that to-morrow I was going to leave, her plans sounded so pleasant.

“That house is funny, Mrs. Dove,” I said; “I don’t know whether I will live in it.”

“I thought you’d come to that!” she answered.

And another time, when we were picking plums, I tried again to explain to her how things stood, because I felt that if she were going to be any help to me she must know the truth about the House of the Five Pines, in so far as that was possible.

“I know what you heard crying in the captain’s buggy, that night you told me about when he brought Mattie home.”

And she said, “I’ve often wondered.”

“There’s a secret room in the loft of the captain’s wing; it’s a child’s room.”

“You don’t say!”

“That’s why he wouldn’t ask any men to help him build it.”

[218]“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

She bore with me in that patient way which country women have of greeting life, expecting nothing and counting extraordinary circumstances as merely phases of the conditions they have always known. Something like children, to whom all things are strange and equally incredible.

“How many have you in that poke?” she changed the subject. And when I held up the juice-stained bag to show her, “We’ll keep on till we get a gallon.”

We said no more, and nothing was heard but the thud of the beach-plums as the fruit fell into her pail. I was so drowsy I did not pick very fast.

“I bet they hated each other,” Mrs. Dove said, unexpectedly.

I had been thinking about Mattie and the New Captain, too; I thought of little else. But the intensity of her remark, coming as it did out of nothing and cutting the still afternoon like a curse, surprised me.

“Nobody could keep it up,” she went on deliberately, giving me the sum of her silent rumination, “a secret like that. Always guarding, always watching, always afraid the[219] other one would do something to give it away! Between watching it and each other they must have been wore out. Beats me how old Mis’ Hawes never got on to it. She must ’a’ been dead.”

“It died before she did; I saw the little coffin in the vault.”

“How did it die?”

“I don’t know.”

“What did you go over to the cemetery for?”

“To see if the captain was in his coffin.”

“Was he?”

“Yes,—that is, the coffin was there; I didn’t open it.”

“I would ’a’!” said Mrs. Dove.

It struck me that she had put her finger on two weak parts of the story. I was resting on the belief that I knew all there was to know about the history of Mattie’s life, but it was true that I had not looked inside any of the coffins, and it was equally true that I did not know—yet—how the child met his death.

I was well enough informed in occultism by now to realize that this spectral apparition had not put in its last appearance. It would keep on coming, like Hamlet’s ghost, until its[220] tragedy was explained. That was what was keeping it near this plane, hovering about the scene of its death till it had made itself understood. Not until the evil done to it in life had been revenged could its spirit move on into the higher astral regions and be at peace with the infinite. As long as I did not know how the child had died, I might be sure of phantoms.

“Poor Mattie!” sighed Mrs. Dove.

“Her coffin wasn’t there,” said I.

“Of course not!”

“Where did they bury her?”

“They didn’t bury her.”

But before my horror had reached articulation she added, absent-mindedly, “They never found her.”

I put my bag of beach-plums down and began to reconstruct my ideas. What had been told me and what I had imagined were confused in my mind.

“Do you mean to say,” I asked, “that they never found Mattie out there on the flats, caught in the lobster-pots after the tide had gone out?”

“Law!” said Mrs. Dove, “She went out with it. They scarcely ever gets ’em back[221] from behind the breakwater. The current is too strong.”

I wondered why the judge had not told me that. He must have been thinking of something else when I asked him where Mattie was. I remembered his wide gesture toward the bay, which I had misconstrued into meaning that she had been buried in some place other than the family vault. Evidently I was the only one who knew she had committed suicide. I had never told any one of the note I had found in the bookcase, and I was glad now that I had not. Her message was safe with me. I resolved that I would have a tombstone erected for Mattie in that part of the cemetery which is sacred to those who are lost at sea.

At four o’clock we walked back to Mrs. Dove’s house and gained her husband’s consent to her staying all night with me. We asked Mr. Dove if he wanted to come, too, but he scorned the idea. And Mrs. Dove did not urge it, I noticed; she seemed to think that this was something we had planned by ourselves and that no men-folks were wanted. She divided the beach-plums scrupulously in half, in spite of my protest, and soon had my[222] share simmering upon the range. The House of the Five Pines relaxed and became filled with good smells and homelike noises and made a pretense of being all that a house should be.

Mrs. Dove ran from room to room, exclaiming with enthusiasm over what she found, just as Jasper and I had done. She was so pleased with everything that she restored my courage.

“You never in the world are going to give this up,” she said. “I won’t let you.”

The secret stairs did not interest her half as much as the Canton china and the patchwork quilts.

“I never knew Mis’ Hawes had that pattern,” she would say; or, “It’s a wonder they never put that out on the line!” I could see that she was going to relish telling the rest of the town what the House of the Five Pines contained. She was stealing a march on them.

“Didn’t you ever come here?” I asked.

She was scandalized at the suggestion.

“Nobody did. Not since old Mother Hawes died, anyway. And before that we just used to talk to her through the window. That was her room, that nice one across the[223] hall in front of the dining-room. Shall we sleep there?”

I showed her Mattie’s little room upstairs.

“But this is the hired girl’s bedroom,” she objected. “With all them grand rooms furnished with mahogany, I don’t see why you should pick this one out for yourself.”

I confessed to her my attachment for the little room in the loft behind it and my feeling that if I did decide to stay here, this was the very part of the house I would want.

“You never can tell about people,” said Mrs. Dove.

She was more moved by the reason for my desire to stay in the old house than she had been by any of the mysteries.

“I would never have thought it of you,” she kept saying. And when she took the beach-plum jelly off the stove and hung it up in a bag to drip overnight, she added: “It’s just as well you are learning how to make this. They like lots of it. I know. I raised seven.”

We let the cat in and went to bed. As I settled down behind the portly back of Mrs. Dove, I reassured myself with the thought that in the morning Jasper would surely be[224] here and that, no matter what might happen, this would be my last night in the House of the Five Pines.

One never knows.



MY sense of security was so natural that housekeeping was my last thought. I fell to thinking of how I would have made over the room if I had decided to stay in the house. The dark walls would have to be painted lighter and the stuffy feather-bed changed for new box-springs. I turned over and over, trying to find a place that was neither on the hard edge of the frame of the bed nor directly under my comfortable companion.

It was not easy to be neurasthenic when in the society of Mrs. Dove, even if she was asleep. To look at her and hear her quiet breathing was like watching a peaceful baby. All the repose of the country was embodied in her relaxed form, from the tired hand resting on the patchwork quilt, to the head indulging in its one vanity of hair-curlers. I was wishing that Mrs. Dove had stayed at the[226] house on the four preceding nights when, unconsciously, I drifted off into dreams. Nothing untoward could happen, I thought, when Mrs. Dove was near. What I had needed was another woman to keep the vigil with me.

The house was too still.

I woke up thinking that I heard something, but there was not a sound.

The tide was out and there was no noise of waves lapping the beach. There was no wind and no murmur in the pine-trees. Then I heard what I had heard before. Some one was crying!

Mrs. Dove slept on beside me, the high mound of the bed-clothes rising regularly with her deep inhalations. If only I could sleep like that! But in spite of the fact that I had gone to bed in peace and was rested from my day in the sunlight, although I had been thinking happy domestic thoughts dear to the heart of contented women and far removed from overwrought nervous hallucinations, still I could not deceive myself—I heard crying! They were weeping softly, in a smothered way, as if they were trying not to be heard, as if they knew well they must[227] not allow themselves to be heard, but as if their grief had passed beyond human control.

At the sound all my scant and precious reserve of courage was dissipated. The calm repose of spirit that I had been developing during the day was gone. The unearthly manifestation played on my chilled heart. I was appalled.

It was such a wailing suffocated cry! Like some one in a nightmare, or a child struggling in its sleep—or a child shut up in a room!... That was it!

I tried not to comprehend the meaning of this horror. I wanted to hide under the bed-clothes, but a voice rose above the weeping. I raised my cowardly head to be sure that what I was straining to listen to was there.... It was like the séance. I did not believe in it, but I heard it just the same. The tones were not unlike those last faint whispers I had heard in that eery hut on the sand-dunes. It was a woman’s voice, frightened and trembling and shut away from me by two partitions, but still I understood it.

“No— No— You can’t go! He would kill you if you ever got out.”

[228]The cry was distraught and agonized, terrified as only a mother bird’s is when the young robin hops out of the nest to the branch and a cat crouches under the tree, or of a lioness whose cub is facing a coiled snake at the mouth of her deep cave.

Some one moaned. I looked sharply at Mrs. Dove, but she was sleeping. Had I uttered that despairing sigh myself, or was it only a fitful gust in the tops of the five pine-trees?

Again there was wild weeping, and once more, barely distinguishable, “Don’t go! Don’t go!

But even that thwarted mother-love, defeated in life and restless in death, could not hold back the elusive footsteps. I heard them start, as they always had, to cross the room and try the doors and go up and down the stairs.

Suddenly I remembered that after I had shown the secret way behind the chimney to Mrs. Dove I had not wired or locked the doors again. I had left everything open, thinking she might want to go up there, and afterward we had forgotten. Guilt overwhelmed me. Something urged me to go[229] immediately and lock the downstairs closet. I felt that I had to do this thing as much as if some one were telling me to and urging me not to put it off. There was barely time if I was to turn the key before twelve o’clock. And at the same time I felt that nothing I could do would make any difference, that what was about to happen had happened that way before. Afraid, but drawn on despite myself, I slipped out of bed and down through the kitchen to the captain’s room.

There I stopped. Some one was in the room. I could not see any one in the room, but I knew some one was there. The moonlight flooded every corner of it and the giant pine-trees outside cast great shadows that ran like bars across the floor. The closet door was partly open, and a faint red light shone through. But that there was something alive in the room I felt so sure that I dared not take another step. I was equally unable to go forward or to retreat. Then I heard soft steps descending the chimney, heard them distinctly, as I had heard them that night when I had slept down here in this room, only now I knew them for what they were.

[230]I strained to hear the latch lifted, but did not. This was my fault. I had left the door open and it would slip out. Its mother would not want it to get out!

I tried to call a warning, but it was too late. Something brushed across the red crack of the doorway, something that was no more than an ugly gesture, a hiss, or a black shadow. There was the sound of impact and a blow, a body falling, a moan, a door banging. Then all was still.

The red aura had vanished.

Murder!” I screamed.

I staggered back to the kitchen companionway, gasping and calling out, “Help! Help! Murder!”

A light was descending the stairs and Mrs. Dove was behind it. She stood on the step in her starched white night-dress, holding a candle high above her curl-papers.

“Murder!” I sobbed, and threw myself at her feet.

“Why, dearie,” said Mrs. Dove, “I didn’t hear nothing.”



Four by the clock.
Four by the clock. And yet not day;
But the great world rolls and wheels away,
With its cities on land and its ships at sea,
Into the dawn that is to be.
Only the lamp in the anchored bark
Sends its glimmer across the dark,
And the heavy breathing of the sea
Is the only sound that comes to me.

AT dawn I leaned over and blew out the kitchen-lamp.

All night we had sat there shivering, with the wick burning down on the table between us, not daring to go upstairs again nor even to move. There had not been another sound, unless it was the well-nigh inaudible drip of the beach-plum jelly where it hung in a cheese-cloth bag above a yellow bowl.

Mrs. Dove was asleep now, her poor tired[232] head upon her bare arms on the table. In the growing light I saw a shawl upon a hook, which all night had looked to me like a person hanging there, and I took it down and laid it around her shoulders. Outside the fog still shrouded the bay, so that nothing was visible. The faint outlines of houses along the shore grew momentarily more solid. The lights of early risers began to appear in the windows. Star Harbor had slept right through the tragedy of the House of the Five Pines as it had been sleeping for almost fifty years.

Determined to be ready to leave as soon as my husband returned, I went back up the kitchen companionway to Mattie’s room to dress. The bed-clothes were tossed wildly over the foot, where Mrs. Dove had thrown them when she had dived for the candle and made her hurried exit, but the rest of the room was as I had left it. I pulled the bureau away from the little door and tried it. It was still nailed tight. When I came down again Mrs. Dove was bending over the fire in the range.

“Get me a few kindlings, will you, dearie?” were the first words she said.

[233]Without answering, I got them. Then she looked up and saw I had my hat on.

“Why, wherever in the world are you going?” she asked.


“Don’t you do a thing,” she admonished, “until you have something to eat.”

“How about yourself?” I tried to muster a smile.

“What, me? I’m all right. Don’t worry about me.”

She looked all right. She had found a skirt somewhere and tucked the shawl into the belt of it, and put a mob-cap on over her curlers and gone to housekeeping. How could she be so methodical after all that had happened? I sat down meekly in a tall-backed rocking-chair beside the red-clothed table, too weak to resist her ordered comfort, and before I could check myself I had fallen asleep.

The hands of the banjo-clock on the wall were at ten when I sat up. Mrs. Dove was pouring hot jelly into a row of glasses.

“It turned out fine,” she said. “Do you want a taste?”

I put my finger tentatively into the sticky[234] saucer and suddenly woke up, realizing that here was something delicious that I had never tried before and that doubtless life still held many new sensations if one had wit enough to enjoy them. But I had not. Housekeeping, jelly-making, were nothing to me this morning. I had only one impulse, one thought, one purpose—to leave.

The black cat came miawing around for her breakfast. It seemed strange to me that after I had put her out in the storm that night she should keep coming back.

“Which of your nine lives are you living, kitty?” I asked, endeavoring to give her a caress which she avoided. The cat had never admitted that I lived in her house.

“It might have been her you heard,” said Mrs. Dove, pouring out a saucer of milk.

“If it was, she and Mattie are the same thing.”

“What do you mean?” asked Mrs. Dove sharply.

But I was too worn out to explain.

“I don’t know anything about such things,” said Mrs. Dove impatiently, “and don’t you go thinking that you do, either. All I know is that if you had put the cat down cellar,[235] you could be sure it wasn’t her prowling around.”

“Cellar? Why, there is no cellar.”

“Isn’t there?” asked Mrs. Dove. “Where did you think you was going to put the jelly?”

“I hadn’t thought.”

The captain’s wing had so much space beneath it that, were it not for the rubbish stored there, a cow could have walked under the floor without grazing her horns. The rest of the house stood on open brick piles.

“Don’t put away the beach-plum jelly at all,” I said. “I’ll take it back to New York with me.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure till I saw my husband.”

Mrs. Dove belonged to a different generation.

“It’s time to meet him now,” I replied. “Will you be here when I come back? We sha’n’t stay any longer than we have to, but I know he will want to see things for himself. I’d like my husband to know you, Mrs. Dove; you’ve been so kind!”

Mrs. Dove blushed. “I’ll just finish up here,” she answered. “I ain’t in any hurry.”

She stood in the doorway, smiling comfortably,[236] as I walked off. She looked like part of the house as she lingered there, motherly and pleasant, more congenial to it than Mattie had ever been or I would ever have become.

“There is no use,” I thought, “in putting a foreign waif or a city woman in a Cape Cod house. It simply refuses to assimilate them. It was a grand adventure—but it is over!”

The Winkle-Man was mending his nets in the sail-loft when I passed. He came to the doorway and called to me.

“Say, how about them vines and shrubs you asked me to get for you? Do you want ’em to-day? It’s time to get ’em in before frost.”

“I’m leaving,” I confessed. “I’m giving up the house.”

Caleb Snow nodded understandingly.

“I been hearing things,” he suggested.

“What have you heard?”

“Well, that you was sleeping down on the beach the other night.”

So it was all over town!

“What else?”

“And that the judge broke his arm.”

“Well, what of that?”

[237]“‘What of that?’” repeated Caleb. “That’s what I says to ’em: ‘What of it?’”

They all must have been discussing me.

“I says,” Caleb continued, anxious to inform me of his defense in my behalf, “that I didn’t blame you none.” He held out his hand gravely. “You show your good sense by leaving.”

“And will you say good-by to the judge for me?” I asked. I felt all choked up.

“Sure! Say, come back next summer and visit that lady friend of yours; that’s the way to do it—visit! I never could see what anybody wanted to buy one of them old houses for.”

A long whistle sounded.

“That’s your train,” said the Winkle-Man. “Oh, no hurry! It lets off steam five miles down the cape.”

I began to run, and passed other people doing the same thing. Half a dozen of us turned simultaneously at the crossing and arrived out of breath on the platform. There was so little to do in Star Harbor that it was easy to miss the only excitement. One got entirely out of the habit of keeping engagements.

[238]There were two Fords drawn up, an old white horse and phaëton, the station-barge, and a two-wheeled wagon. A short-sleeved boy in one of the jitneys kept honking his horn, trying to hasten trade. The baggage-master importantly pushed his truck alongside the track, and some loafers, who had been sitting on their heels against the station, stood up. A sea-captain spit out his plug of tobacco and wiped off his face with a red handkerchief. We were all ready.

With a great grinding of brakes and shouting of orders the cape train rounded the curve and drew up at the end of the line. The engineer leaned out of the cab and began a conversation where he had left off yesterday with one of the yardmen. The mail and a bundle of newspapers were thrown out and snatched away. A clinking of milk-cans sounded from the baggage-car. Jasper was swinging off the last platform, and I rushed toward him, suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved in tears.

He looked so different from any one whom I had seen in five days that he seemed a magnificent stranger. He waved his hat, dropped his luggage, and ran to meet me. When I felt[239] his rough, tweed coat against my face, I could hardly look up into his eyes. It was too much to believe that this was my husband.

“Jasper,” I said, “I nearly died while you were gone.”

“So did I,” said Jasper, keeping his arm around me and gathering up suit-cases with the other hand. “Horrible in the city! I don’t see why people live there.”

He looked fagged, and I realized that he had been working hard and fast to get back here the sooner. He had never understood that I was not going to stay.

“I brought the typewriter.” He pointed out a square black box. “All ready to go to work again. I suppose you’ve got things fixed?”

“No,” I answered helplessly. “Things aren’t ready at all.” Hating to disillusion him, yet knowing I must get rid of my burden somehow, I threw down three more words. “Not even lunch!”

“Not even lunch?”

The full significance of a disastrous domestic breakdown finally overwhelmed him. “What do you mean, my darling? What is the matter up there at the House of the Five Pines?”

[240]So I told him, sitting down on the empty truck on the sunny platform after the crowd had scattered, for I thought he might as well know before going any further. There was no need in carrying suit-cases and typewriters up the street, only to lug them back. The afternoon train would leave at three, and I intended to take it.

Jasper listened in silence, giving me close attention and now and then a little pat on the arm or a sympathetic squeeze. Toward the end, as I came to the part about the séance and the aura and the fourth and fifth nights, I could see that he wanted to interrupt me and was barely able to restrain himself till I had finished. Then he jumped off the truck, laughed, and said,

“Now I’ll tell you what is the matter with you.”

And because I looked so doubtful and pathetic, I suppose, he hastened to add, “Oh, it’s nothing much, but it all works out so easily; it doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to understand it!”

“What is it, then?”

“Self-hypnotism! No, don’t be angry!”—for I had turned away in disgust; I had really[241] thought he might elucidate the mystery. “It is a pure case of materialization from the subconscious mind, drawing an image of the subconscious across the threshold of consciousness and reproducing it in sound, or motion, or color, or some other tangible form. It is the same thing that the spiritualists take for evidence of the return of the dead, but it is actually only the return, or the recall, of dead thoughts.”

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘actually,’ if I were you,” I said.

“No, but wait. I have been listening to you for half an hour, and, while it was very interesting, you must see, my dear—” Jasper looked into my eyes so earnestly that I almost laughed, for I knew he thought I was on the verge of insanity and I had a dreadful temptation to convince him of it by giggling hysterically and not listening at all. “You must see,” he repeated, “that these manifestations, these nightly hallucinations, follow a regular sequence. First you fill yourself up on the traditions of the house before you enter it. You do not share them with any one, not even me, and the first night you are subjected to a sort of dream about the headboard moving.[242] I was here that night, but I did not see it. Then you read a lot of stuff about materialization, and when you try to go to sleep your disordered brain conjures up footsteps.”

“My what?” I demanded.

Jasper did not bother to contradict his outrageous statement.

“The third night, after you had discovered the secret room, you materialize the child who you have decided lived in it. The fourth night, after you read about auras, you contrive one of your own in the skylight. The fifth night you conjure up the scene of the murder which was suggested to you by that fraud over there on the sand-dunes. By the way, I’m going over there and have that place raided. He’s a fake. He knew all about you. He’s the same colored man that came up on the train with us last Monday.

“The only thing I’m not sure about is the cat. There is something tremendously psychic about a cat. I haven’t gone into the science of the occult very extensively, but I would not pretend to say that there is nothing in it. The theory of reincarnation is just as plausible a theory of what becomes of the spirit as any[243] other, so far as I know. Personally, I don’t believe or disbelieve anything.”

“I have heard you say so before,” I interrupted, “but you do believe in the cat.” I was glad to point out to him that his logic was not invulnerable. “There is not a soul living who is not superstitious about something. Call it what you like. Say I am crazy and that the cat is ‘actually’ the soul of a woman who is drowned. It is all the same to me. But as the cat is left over from the régime of Mattie, her soul must have been reincarnated before she died, which is spinning the ‘wheel of life’ a little fast, isn’t it?”

Jasper grinned.

“If we are going to walk back to the House of the Five Pines,” I finished more amiably, “we had better start, or we shall miss the afternoon train.”

We left the luggage, the new suit-case that Jasper had invested in and the typewriter that he had carried for three hundred miles, and walked off up the street. He told me then about his play that he had been working over, and I tried to renew my interest in New York. Myrtle had been dropped unconditionally[244] and ignominiously, much to her chagrin. She had attempted to get an interview with my husband for the purpose of being reinstated by him over the expressed wishes of the manager, but he had succeeded in avoiding her devices and had at last left the city without seeing her at all. (“And I am dragging him back there!” I said to myself.) Gaya Jones had persuaded Burton to try a young friend of hers in the part of ingénue, and the two were doing such excellent team-work that the play was swinging in triumph through its difficult first six weeks and was billed to last all winter.

“I’m glad I’m through with it,” finished Jasper. “It’s funny how sick you get of a thing, even a good thing, before you finish grinding it out. I had no idea plays were so difficult. Writing them is all right, but it’s a life job to get rid of them. I’m going to settle down here and write a long novel. I’ve got it all worked out.” He began to tell me the beginning. “It will take me all winter, and I’m not going back to New York at all. I’m tired of that crowd. Quiet is what a person needs. Christmas on the cape! How will that be?”

[245]I stared at him mutely.

“What is the matter with you, my dear?” he asked. “You’ve told me what is the matter with the house, but that’s nothing. If you think anything is wrong with me—anything has happened,” he went on lamely, “that would make any difference between us—why, you are wasting your worries. Everything is just as I have told you, my darling, and everything is all right. I want to be with you, and I am glad you found this place. We can afford to live anywhere we please as long as ‘The Shoals of Yesterday’ lasts. Why do you try and create obstacles?”

And I, who had been struggling for this very opportunity, who had withstood the city and endured the country to this end, that we might have a home together where we wanted it, was now the one to refuse what I had longed for when it lay in the palm of my hand.

“I’m sorry, Jasper,” I said. “I’m terribly sorry. I know I was the one to bring you up here, and now I won’t stay. But all I can say is that I am sorry, and that I won’t stay. You take a look at the house yourself.”

He took one long look inside the kitchen[246] door and stopped short. Then with an exclamation of horror, he dove out of sight. By the time I stood where he had been standing, no one was there.



A YAWNING hole was in the center of the kitchen floor.

“Jasper,” I called, “where are you?”

“Here!” answered a far-off voice.

The kitchen oilcloth had been torn up and rolled to one side, exposing a trap-door. I leaned over the edge and peered into a pit.

“Are you there, Jasper?”


“Is Mrs. Dove there?”


“Anybody else?”

“No, nobody but me; come on down.”

But on learning that he was safe, my fears leaped to the finding of Mrs. Dove. If it was she who had opened up that trap-door, or if some one had unfastened it from underneath, I was terror-stricken. What had burst forth, and what had happened to her?

“Mrs. Dove!” I called out. “O Mrs. Dove!”

[248]There was chowder scorching in the bottom of a kettle on the stove, which she must have forgotten. I ran through the house, looking into corners and stairways for her and crying everywhere, “Mrs. Dove!”

But there was no one in them; the rooms were so quiet that they seemed to have been deserted for a long time.

Jasper’s voice followed me. “Come here!” he kept shouting.

I let myself backward through the trap-door in the kitchen floor and felt the top rung of a ladder under my feet. The next rung was gone, and I slid. Jasper caught me.

We were in a circular underground room, like a dry cistern, about twelve feet across, with plastered sides and a damp earth floor. The first thing I saw was a mattress, strewn with clothing, overalls, shirts, and trousers. On a hanging shelf were quantities of cans, some of them empty. A portable stove with dozens of boxes of condensed cubes showed how cooking had been done. I remembered the coffee I had smelled, not made by human hands. There was a can of oil and a pail half-full of water. I picked up a ship’s lantern with a red bull’s-eye.

[249]“The aura,” said I, handing it to Jasper.

“The what?”

“The aura.”

But he had never seen it; the red light meant nothing to him.

“Look!” he said; “he got out that way!”

In the gloom I made out double wooden doors halfway up the further wall of the round room, one of which was open, but through which came no light. I followed his lead up over a box that had been placed beneath them, and found myself in the “under.” We crawled out from behind a boat which concealed and darkened the entrance, and discovered that we were banked in on every side by the stuff that had been stored there.

“What is it all about?” asked Jasper.

“I hardly know myself,” said I, “but those doors must have been in plain sight at the back of the house, if they were there before the captain’s wing was built. The rubbish thrown in here from year to year has covered them up. Perhaps they used that place for something.”

“Some one is using it now, all right,” said Jasper. “Who do you think it is?”

“Oh, don’t ask me.”

[250]I doubled up in a heap on an old wheelbarrow. Neither of us could stand upright, or we would have bumped our heads on the flooring. Jasper was leaning over me, uncertain what to do.

“Go and find Mrs. Dove!” I wept. “Run down to her house on the back street; she may have gone there, if she got away at all. And bring her husband back with you.” I pointed out the direction from beneath the house. “Run! We’ve got to find her. Hurry!”

Jasper, with a perplexed glance at the chaos he was leaving, dashed off down the yard. If I had had my wits about me, I should never have sent him. He had no sooner left than I heard something moving. Peeping between the heaps of piled-up furniture, I saw two legs vanishing upward at the further end of the “under.”

“Mrs. Dove!” I called wildly. But Mrs. Dove did not wear red rubber boots.

I began crawling over to where they had disappeared, and found a well defined path in that direction, as if the broken beds and old chests had been drawn aside to make it possible for some one, crouching, to reach the[251] further end of the “under” without being seen.

Standing upright at last, in the higher part beneath the chimney, I suddenly realized that I had raised myself much too far. What was I looking at? My head had passed the floor and my eyes were on a level with the captain’s room. There was the old rosewood desk and the cat asleep in the rocking-chair. Wheeling about, I confronted the back entrance to the secret stairs.

I had stood up directly under the chimney-closet, whose whole floor was lifted against the wall. There it was, to one side, with the hasp that had fastened it from underneath hanging loosely. In the hasp was an open padlock.

I had no time to wonder how it came to be that way or why I had never noticed it before. Some one had just opened this door and gone through it. He was still going. I could hear him on the secret stairs.

We were not so far behind the ghost as I had thought. I swung myself up into the opening, but could climb no further. Horror held me and gripped me from above and from below. What was I chasing? What would I find? I slammed the trap at my feet, which[252] comprised the entire floor of the closet, and, stepping on it firmly, wired shut the door of the secret stairs. It would be futile to lock the door of the closet that led into the captain’s room. I wondered how many times that strong looking copper wire had been unfastened and fastened again, while I remained oblivious beyond the further door. As I wound the wire around the hook all was silent, but when I had finished and had withdrawn I heard footsteps crossing overhead. I ran through the kitchen, skirting the great rolled-up oilcloth and avoiding the opening in the floor, and climbed the kitchen companionway three steps at a time. I must be sure that the little door above was still nailed shut, and as a double precaution I shoved the bureau once more in front of it.

“If you can’t get out by night,” I muttered, “you won’t get out by day!”

The footsteps came to the inside door of the eaves closet, tried the latch, shook it furiously, and, leaning against it, shoved with mortal might. But the mirror of the bureau did not move, the door on the further side of the eaves closet held, and the frail partition remained firm. I heard the footsteps[253] start the other way, and ran down to watch results.

In the kitchen doorway two men were standing, open-jawed. I did not even pause to see who they were, but dashed on into the captain’s room, and was in time to see the latch of the secret door raised stealthily, then dropped, then clicked again. Some one rattled and shook it, but it would not open.

I smiled grimly.

“It’s different, isn’t it,” I said, “when some one wires it up after you get in? You’re human, you are; you can’t get out of there any more than I could!”

“Who are you talking to?” asked the judge. It was he who had arrived with his arm in a sling, and Alf had followed him.

“I don’t know,” said I. “Wait a while and we will all find out.”

They seemed in doubt as to how to take this information.

“What’s up?” asked Alf, pointing to the kitchen floor.

“You can see,” I answered.

“I see the door open to the round cellar, but what for?”

[254]“You know as much about it as I do! Why would any one build a round cellar?”

“So the sand can’t wedge off the corners. You know,” Alf reminded me, “I told you they didn’t build cellars on the cape. Well, they don’t, not regular ones, but that’s the kind they do build. Round, like a well under the kitchen, to keep food cool.”

“Sure,” said the judge, seeing the doubt in my eyes. “All the good houses have them. I’ve got one myself.”

“I never heard of such a thing,” said I. “But then,” I added, “there are so many things I never heard of.”

“That reminds me,” said the judge. “I heard you was leaving. We came to say good-by.”

“I haven’t got time to go just now,” I answered.

“I brought this back.” The judge showed me a wooden sign he was carrying—“For Sale. Enquire Within.”

Much good it had ever done any one to enquire within!

“I’m glad we got here when we did,” said Alf. “Looks as if we was in on the killin’.”

I winced. I was strung so taut that every[255] word vibrated on naked nerves. I could hear the footsteps over my head, pacing back and forth, as they always did, trying one door and then the other, and I knew, with nameless dread, that whatever they were, this would be the last hour they would walk that floor.

“What became of Mrs. Dove?” asked the judge.

“Oh,” I broke down, “I don’t know! I wish I knew!”

He picked up the great iron poker that had once mounted the secret stairs with me and weighed it speculatively.

“I guess that’s all right,” he said, “for a one-armed man to handle.”

Jasper came running back across the yard with Will Dove, who carried a shotgun, and Caleb Snow, whom they had annexed with his winkle-fork.

“Did you find any one?” shouted Jasper.

We motioned to him to be quiet and pointed to the room above.

“How about Mrs. Dove?” I asked anxiously.

“Oh, she’s all right,” said her husband; “she’s to home.”

The men fell silent, listening to the ominous[256] footsteps that crossed and recrossed the ceiling.

Will Dove began to whisper. “My wife, she thought”—we all drew closer together—“she had to find a place to put the beach-plum jelly—she’s like that! She looked all over the rooms, and then decided she would rip up the kitchen oilcloth and see what was below. And there it was—the door to the round cellar! While she was taking up the tacks she kept hearing noises, so she thought she must be right and kept on going. Maybe it was rats running around. She ain’t afraid of rats.

“The trap wasn’t locked, just covered over, and she jerked it up and was going down, when she see a man in there.

“‘Who’s that?’ she yelled.

“He never answered, but he disappeared! He wasn’t there any more! She looked down, and lit a candle and held it over, but he was gone. She could see where he had been livin’, but it was empty.

“That was too much for her. My wife ain’t afraid of rats or men, but that cellar was too much for her. She cleared out by the kitchen door, and run all the way home. I[257] can tell you I was scairt myself, the way she looked when she come pantin’ in. She ain’t a hand to carry on; I never seen her that way; and when she said there was something wrong over here—why, I believed her. I was just thinkin’ about puttin’ my hat on, when he,” indicating Jasper, “showed up! Then the missus she had another fit. She says it must have been the captain livin’ down in the round cellar the last five years, ever since he was supposed to be dead, and if it was, he was a crazy man by this time, and it was all tom-foolishness to leave the lady here in the house with him loose. And if it wasn’t the captain, it wouldn’t be anything that we could catch anyhow, but for the Lord’s sake to hurry!”

As he stopped whispering the footsteps upstairs ceased. There was a new sound. Something was being dragged across the floor.

We did not stand and talk about it any longer. The judge seized the poker and vanished up the kitchen companionway.

“Even a man with a broken arm can guard a door that’s nailed tight shut,” he called back.

Will Dove made for the front door.

[258]“I’ll watch outside,” he said. “I’ve got a gun.”

The other three men fell into a single file. Jasper flourished a gourd that had hung over the sink; Alf had a great glass paperweight; Caleb Snow came last, with his winkle-fork ahead of him.

“Good-by,” said Jasper. “I may never see you again!”

I laughed, and to my own ears it had a horrid sound.

“It’s more likely,” I answered, “that you won’t see anything up there.”

Simultaneously they turned and frowned at me, as if they did not like the strangeness of my remark. Jasper leaned down and whispered,

“Steady, dear!”

But what I said was true.

I unwired the door, and as they crept up the secret stairs fear fastened my feet to the spot on which I stood.

The dragging and pushing noise increased. There was the crash of glass, and before any one realized what was happening a black shadow slid down off the roof. I ran to the window and saw a little old man pick himself[259] up off the ground and crawl quickly under the house.

At the same time Will Dove’s gun went off, wildly. He had aimed for the skylight, and knocked off two shingles.

“Quit that!” called one of the men above. They were rushing about the empty room, wrenching open the doors of the eaves closet, trying to mount through the hole in the roof and getting in each other’s way.

I let myself down the ladder into the round cellar just as the ghost came scrambling into it by the outside door.

The little scuttling figure wilted down in a heap at my feet upon the earthen floor. Confronted by me, when he thought he had reached a haven, the pitiful thing collapsed. Raising hunted eyes, clawing at my skirt with skinny hands, he moaned in a queer thin voice, “Save me!”

The oilskin hat fell back from the creature’s head, and there was the scraggly, drawn-back, wispy gray hair of a woman. I had seen that face and heard that voice before, and in spite of the flannel shirt and rubber boots, in spite of the fact that she was drowned, I knew that I looked at Mattie!



I  COULD hear the men above me, like bloodhounds on the trail.

Will Dove, following his shot, had rushed off down the back street, hoping to find what he had aimed at. I drew down the cellar doors which opened beneath the house and locked them, just as Alf began to prowl around the “under.”

“Stay here!” I whispered.

Mounting the ladder, I shut the trap-door before the judge had time to negotiate the kitchen companionway.

“There is no one in the round cellar,” I lied.

And he was saying, “No one entered Mattie’s room.”

“Look over on the back street,” I advised, and so got rid of him.

To every one I met I gave the same word; “I saw him jump off the roof and escape that way,” pointing in the direction Will Dove had taken, and seeing his retreating figure yelling[261] and brandishing the shotgun they did not lose any time in following. The house was soon cleared.

Only to Jasper did I say, at a moment when no one heard me, “Wait, I’ve caught the ghost!”

But as soon as I had said it I regretted confiding in him. Unequal to facing the horror alone, he immediately set up a shout after the last man in sight, “Hi, wait a minute!”

Luckily the Winkle-Man did not hear him and kept on going. He had tripped on his long fork two or three times and was desperately trying to catch up.

“Before they return,” said I, “look here!” And I opened the trap and led Jasper down the ladder.

A huddled figure lay prone upon the earth where it had fallen, as if it had not moved since I had left.


“Stop!” I cried, for Jasper would have wrenched the creature to its feet. “Can’t you see?” I turned the lifeless body over and tried to raise it from the damp floor. “Help me lift her on the mattress!”

[262]Jasper caught hold of the limp form, and at the feel of the light body in his strong arms exclaimed again, “What—what is it?”

“It’s Mattie,” said I. “Don’t you understand? Mattie ‘Charles T. Smith.’”

“She’s not dead?” he asked.

“I hope not!”

I bathed her face with water from the pail and made her limbs lie comfortably.

“I think we had better leave her here till she comes to,” I said. “I don’t want all those men pursuing her.”

“Just as you say,” he answered. He was nonplussed and confused, willing to let me manage matters any way I wanted to. “Suppose you stay down here and watch, and I’ll go up to the door and head them off if they come back. If you want anything, call. I’ll be right near.”

Jasper went up the ladder again, and I sat down beside the prostrate form of Mattie and waited for her return to consciousness.

The round cellar was dark now. Early dusk was stealing the light of the short autumn day, and except for the shaft of strained sunshine that seeped through the trap-door the pit was dark. I opened the doors into the[263] “under,” but only a faint ray filtered in from behind the boat.

“How gloomy it always must have been!” I thought. “If it had not been for that outside door, she would not even have had air. I suppose it was when she was going for water to the spring in the woods that the half-witted child saw her and told people it was the New Captain. That was what she wanted every one to think! She has always counted on that.... She must have gone out of here through the ‘under’ and up the stairs to the secret room every night. But why?”

“I went because I always went,” said Mattie.

Had I been talking aloud or had she answered my unspoken thought? Startled, I looked at the prone figure of the haggard woman in the tattered overalls and saw she had not even opened her eyes but was lying in the same exhausted position in which we had dropped her—that not a muscle moved, except for the faint breathing of her flat chest and her trembling jaw. She was speaking, or trying to speak again, and I leaned over her in the dark to catch every precious word. It was as if I listened to the unrelated utterances of an oracle. No one could tell whether[264] Mattie would recover from this wanton chase or live through her devastating imprisonment. Each syllable, I thought, might be her last, and whatever clue she gave was important.

The house above me, where Jasper sat waiting on the doorstep, was so silent that I thought perhaps he might be able to hear her talking. I took hold of one of Mattie’s claw-like hands and stroked it gently.

“I went—up there,” the fluttering voice repeated, “because I always went. Every night of my life I spent in that room—ever since—it happened.”

“Yes, Mattie,” I whispered, trying not to frighten her.

“Jerry was a beautiful boy,” murmured Mattie. “Jerry—we named him for his grandfather—but his grandmother never knew it. Don’t you think his grandmother would have liked to know it?”

“Yes, Mattie.”

“You would never have forgotten him if you had ever seen him.”

“I shall never forget him now,” I said softly.

“No one ever saw him.”

The burden of her life came back to her[265] as she regained consciousness completely. Tears trickled down her withered cheeks beneath her closed veined lids.

“No one ever saw him,” she repeated.

I was crying.

It was Mattie who sat up weakly and laid her thin arm around my shaking shoulders, the mood of motherliness so strong in her that she could protect even her worst enemy.

“Don’t take on,” she said; “it can’t be helped. It never could be helped.”

But I wept on and would not be comforted. For the five nights that I had spent listening to her presentation of her story, and the five days I had wondered whether it were true, and for all the empty days of Mattie’s life, and the lost opportunity of her neighbors and the lonely people whom she served, tears of contrition coursed unchecked.

“Mattie,” I sobbed, “what can I do for you, what can I do for you?”

She answered my question strangely.

“I’m ready to go,” she said.

I thought she meant that she was prepared to die.

Jasper could not stand the sound of crying any longer and had descended the ladder.[266] When she saw him she looked worried, swung her two feet in their absurd boots to the floor, and stood up shakily.

“You can take me to the town home now,” she said, with a brave little swagger.

Jasper and I were too surprised to speak.

At the amazement on our faces she became disconcerted herself. A new terror assailed her.

“Or is it the jail you will take me to, eh? Is it against the law to be a ghost?” She staggered back against the white-washed wall.

Jasper caught her in his arms.

“Here,” he cried to me, “let’s get her out of this! Put her in bed, for Heaven’s sake. We’ve been down in this cave long enough!”

“Where are you taking me?” she implored.

“To your own room,” said I; “to the gabled room over the kitchen, where you belong.”

Between us we managed her, and as I laid her down once more and stripped off the captain’s ridiculous old clothes, and dressed her in a decent nightgown and tucked her in between the linen sheets with a hot-water bottle, she said brokenly,

“Seems as if I couldn’t stand havin’ you sleep in my bed.”

[267]“I know. It won’t be that way any more, I promise you.”

Jasper went back to his vigil on the doorstep.

Mattie looked from me to the bureau and the nailed-up door.

“You’ve changed things,” she mumbled drowsily, and then; “my, but you are a brave woman!”

I smiled, and she smiled, too.

“I thought you would leave the house after the first time,” she continued. “I didn’t mean to do it before you come—not when I wrote that note. I never meant to bother you. Did you get a letter from me in a book?”


“But afterward, when I knew you was asleep in my room, the both of you, I just gave way and threw myself against the little door. I didn’t care if you found me and settled things then and there, but you didn’t do nothing. You never did.”

“No,” I answered, “I didn’t think you were anything—but my imagination.”

Mattie turned her face from me.

“You didn’t imagine nothing,” she replied.

[268]My heart stood still.

“I didn’t make anything up. I just went over and over it, like I always done, in my mind. Seems as if I never thought of anything else ever since.”

“Then the only psychic thing,” said I, more to myself than to her, “was thought-transference.”

I fell silent, but Mattie knew what was in my mind.

“That last night—” she began, and seemed to strangle.

“Hush, Mattie, it’s all right; nobody believes anything about that fifth night but me, and I’m your friend!”

Her eyes burned into mine, beseechingly.

“I believe you are.” And then her feeble fingers began to pick at the basket-pattern in the quilt. “I never had none,” she said, at length.

“Mattie,” I tried to make her understand, “you have me now to take care of you, and you can have this room and stay here as long as you live.”

“I can still work,” said Mattie, with a tired sigh.

“No, I don’t mean that. I don’t want you[269] to work for me. I just want you to be here and be one of us, and—if you can—be happy.”

Mattie shook her head as if she hardly believed me.

“That is,” I added, “if you are willing to let me and my husband live here, too.”

Her answer surprised me.

“Have you any children?”

I looked at her and hesitated, blushing to the roots of my hair.

“Why, no.”

“I’d be more glad to stay,” said Mattie, “if you had some children. Oh, don’t go away! I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings after you’ve been so kind to me, and all. I only meant there’s plenty of room in the house for all of us, and room for more than us, too.... Because it always seemed to me, when people were married and everything was easy for them, and everybody knew it and was glad, and would bring them presents—wedding-presents and silver spoons for christenings—and they could show the little dresses all around—well, I don’t understand it, that’s all, them not having any.... You must excuse me.”

I wished that Jasper had heard what she[270] said, just as she said it, for I never could repeat it to him in the same way, although I went right downstairs and tried.

We sat for a long time on the doorstep talking it over and reconstructing our lives to suit new necessities. Building our lives around the house, one might have called it, instead of building a house around our lives. It was easy to do that, with a home like the House of the Five Pines. A life built around the way we had been living hitherto would have been as difficult as growing ivy on a moving-van.

“The only disappointment is our room,” I said. “I have given it back to Mattie.”

“Well, there are three other bedrooms upstairs,” replied Jasper, “and one down.”

Probably he would never understand how much that little room, where so many things had happened, had come to mean to me.

“The nursery is all ready,” I continued, following my own train of thought; “and a nurse is living with us who not only will never leave, but fairly begs that we give her something to rock to sleep.”

My husband smiled, and put his hand over[271] mine as we lingered there in our doorway, in the starlight.

Our intimate conversation was interrupted by Caleb Snow and Judge Bell, who came back tired and discouraged from the chase on which I had sent them. Will Dove had dropped off at his own house on the way back from the woods, and Alf had been obliged to give up the hunt long ago and go back to the Sailor’s Rest for supper.

“So it was Mattie!” said the judge, trying to cover his disappointment. “I thought so all the time.”

“Yes, you did!” The Winkle-Man waxed indignant. “You didn’t know no more who it was than the rest of us.”

“Didn’t I keep telling Will Dove not to fire that gun off in the woods?”

“Sure! You says that he couldn’t hit nothin’ with nothin’; that’s what you says!”

“Well, I meant that it was either Mattie or her ghost.”

“I don’t know what you meant,” said Caleb, “but when I told him to quit shootin’ I meant I was gosh-darned afraid he was goin’ to hit me.”

[272]They continued their argument as they went down the street, and Jasper and I sat and smiled. They were not half so surprised as I thought they would be. They had lived too close to the sea to be much amazed at anything. If we wanted to keep Mattie and take care of her, they had no objections. The ways of city people were inexplicable, but as we had taken the burden of decision off their hands, they were glad to be relieved. The future of Mattie “Charles T. Smith” would not rest with the town council and the town home, nor would her financial needs embarrass the tax-payers. They eased their conscience by saying we would not be bothered very long. Consoling us and congratulating themselves, they went off arguing. It was something, after the trouble of their long evening’s hunt through the woods, to have the glory of spreading the news.



“BUT what made her do it?” asked Jasper.

We had gone into the house and prepared a supper, and as it was the first meal either of us had eaten since early morning, we were sitting a long time at the kitchen table. The oil-lamp shed a cosy radiance over the blue china on the red checkered cloth, and a bowl of golden-rod between four brass candlesticks added a touch of festivity to our late repast. We had begun our home-making.

“She wanted to frighten us away,” I answered.

“Do you think she was here, all those weeks before we moved in, after they thought she was drowned?”

“She never left the house, I fancy; she moved into the cellar. You see, Jasper, she always thought the place belonged to her.[274] All her life she had known no other home, no other way of living, except here. She could not allow herself to be evicted, because she had nowhere to go. The New Captain left her nothing to live on, and she had no earning capacity. You heard how those men talked. She would have become an unwelcome public charge, and she had suffered too much from the townspeople to tolerate having them support her. She preferred death.”

“Well, then, why didn’t she really drown herself, instead of just pretending she did?”

“Ah, that is different,” I answered; “that leads us out of practical speculation into the realms of psychology. She was not that kind of person.”

I had thought so much about Mattie that it seemed to me she was perfectly apparent in her motives and sane in her actions.

“To each one who takes his own life there must be five who go to the brink of death and, looking over its fearful abyss, retreat again and let their bark drift on the tide without them. It has never been demonstrated that people who take their lives in their own hands do better with it than God. The[275] wreckage of one’s life is mostly caused by self. Mattie was the sort of person who does not take any sinful initiative, but to whom life is a whiphandle. The crimes of those around her made her what she was. In other circumstances she would have been what is known as ‘a good woman.’ The old mother who refused to let them marry might have had enough determination to have committed suicide if she had wanted to, but not Mattie. Or the New Captain might have taken his own life, for he took Mattie’s life and spoiled it, and her son’s—and willed her home away from her in his evil legacy after he had no further use for it himself.”

Jasper motioned for me not to speak so loud.

“Do you still believe—about the boy—what you told me coming from the train?”

“More than ever,” I answered sadly.

We did not want to question Mattie. We felt that the repose due her spirit was as important as that which must resuscitate her weakened body, if she was ever to be a normal human being again. And so for months, all the time that we were getting ready for winter[276] on the cape, we learned nothing more about her story.

The walking up and down of the first three nights was self-evident, as was the bending wall and the swinging mirror; the aura had been created by her natural need for light and the fact that her only lantern happened to be red. That I had only seen the aura on the night I read the occult magazine was not her responsibility; she must have always had the lantern with her when she went up to the secret room. It was the boy who arrived with the message from the judge that tempted me outside, where I happened to see the red light shining through the skylight. The séance was more readily understandable when one day Mattie happened to mention casually that she was afraid to go to the spring for water because once, when she was masquerading, she had met a colored man there late at night who asked her questions. The rogue had not known who she was, but he had doubtless followed her and guessed enough to piece out a plausible spirit for his control to interpret at the séance.

It was not until one quiet evening the following[277] winter, when we three sat in front of the blazing fire in the captain’s chimney, as was our custom, that Mattie brought up the subject of the fifth night. We had been snow-bound for a week, and the white frost sparkled on the crust of the drifts when I opened the door upon the starlight and let in Mattie’s cat. The creature had been hunting fish too long on the icy shore and was stiff with cold, despairing in its dumb way of regaining our hospitality before it froze to death on the doorstep. It bounded into the house like a bad omen, as it had done that day before the hurricane, and dashed through the kitchen and into Mattie’s arms, leaping upon her before she could straighten herself up in her chair and shake off her fireside doze. She tumbled the cat back to the hearth and looked at it reproachfully.

“That’s the way you done, Jezebel, that night you seen me through the crack in the door,” she said. “You jumped at me as I was carrying my lantern down them steep steps and knocked me over. I had hardly time”—she turned to us with her wistful crinkled smile—“to get back down through[278] the trap-door. I thought sure you would catch me.”

“I didn’t try,” said I, and Jasper laid down his book and leaned forward intently to listen. “I thought it part of the manifestations—the way that the New Captain murdered his son.”

There was an acute silence, broken by the pine-logs crackling higher in the fireplace.

Mattie put her hands across her eyes to shield them from the blaze.

“It was,” she whispered.

The fire died down again. We waited. But she said no more. After a while she rose, as if weary of her own thoughts, and said she would go up now to her room. At the doorway she turned back to us.

“Only I never intended to tell you,” she faltered. “I never meant it to go so far, not so far as that. That was what I didn’t want you to know.”

So we always pretended that we did not know.

The part that Jezebel played was one of those coincidences of life which make of tragedy a greater drama in the living than the presentation of it can ever be.

[279]If you are ever in Star Harbor the House of the Five Pines will be pointed out to you as one of the show places.

There is a high, well trimmed box-hedge along the street, but if you look through the gate you will see the wide, close-cut lawn, with its old-fashioned rose-garden and the sun-dial on one side, and on the other the children’s playground, with the slide and the seesaw and the little fountain they love for the birds’ bath. The flagging to the green-shuttered portal is just as it used to be, but both the doors with their brass knockers stand wide open. Against the clean white house hollyhocks paint their gay faces and lean upon the kitchen lovingly. Ruffled dotted-muslin curtains at all the square-paned windows show that people live within to whom no detail of housekeeping is too much trouble. You cannot see the garage that has been built beneath the captain’s wing in place of the “under” filled with rubbish, but if you will walk along the back street, after you have finished staring in from the front, you will notice the driveway that curves past the new entrance cut in the rear, behind the hall, and you will see the playhouse made out of a boat. The children will be there, romping, taking[280] turns riding their old hand-made rocking-horse; and the loving arbiter of all their quarrels is that little gray-haired woman in the soft black dress who sits knitting peacefully in the shadow of the five pines.


Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.

Archaic or variant spelling has been retained.