After—the Deluge by Annie Eliot Trumbull
THE sombre tints of Grayhead were
slightly suffused by a pink light
sifting from the west through the clear air.
The yachts in the harbor lay idly beneath
the mellow influences of the passing of
the summer day,—idly as only sailboats
can lie, a bit of loose sail or cordage now
and then flapping inconsistently in a breath
of wind, which seemed to come out of
the west for no other purpose, and to retire
into the east afterward, its whole duty
done. On board, men were moving
about, hanging lanterns, making taut here,
setting free there, all with an air of utter
peace and repose such as is found only on
placid waterways beneath a setting sun.
Occasionally an oar dipped in the still
water, a hint of action, modified, softened
into repose. Along one of the quaint
streets of the irregular town, winding
where it would, climbing where it climbed,
hurried an angular figure,—that of a
woman of about fifty years, whose tense
expression suggested an unrest at variance
with the keen calmness of that
of the other faces about the streets and
doorways. Not that it was feverish in
its intensity; rather, it was an expression
of resolution, undeviating and persistent,
but not sure of sympathy or support.
"They've gone down yonder, t'other
side of the wharf, Mis' Pember," said a
middle-aged sea captain, whose interest in
his kind had not been obliterated by the
forced loneliness of northern voyages.
The woman paused and glanced doubtfully
down one of the byways that led
between small, weather-beaten houses and
around disconcerting abutments to the
water, and then forward, straight along
the way she had been travelling, which led
out of the town.
"I'd rather fixed on their going down
Point-ways this evening," she said.
"Well, they ain't," rejoined Captain
Phippeny, with that absence of mere rhetoric
characteristic of people whose solid
work is done otherwise than by speech.
Mrs. Pember nodded, at once in acknowledgment
and farewell, and, turning
about, followed the path he had indicated,
her gait acquiring a certain precipitancy
as she went down the rough, stony slope.
At the foot of the descent she paused
again, and looked to the right and left.
Captain Phippeny was watching her from
his vantage ground above. His figure
was one unmistakably of the seaboard.
His trousers were of a singular cut, probably
after a pattern evolved in all its
originality by Mrs. Phippeny, her active
imagination working towards practical effect.
In addition, he wore a yellow flannel
shirt ribbed with purple, which would
hopelessly have jaundiced a rose-leaf complexion,
but which, having exhausted its
malignancy without producing any particular
effect, ended by gently harmonizing
with the captain's sandy hair, reddish
beard, and tanned skin. His mouth was
like a badly made buttonhole, which gaped
a little when he smiled. He had a nose
like a parrot's beak, and his eyes were
blue, kindly, and wise in their straightforwardness.
When he would render his
costume absolutely de rigueur, he wore a
leathern jacket with manifold pockets,
from one to another of which trailed a
gold watch-chain with a dangling horseshoe
"I wonder the old woman don't take a
dog with her and trace 'em out, she spends
so much time on the hunt," he said to himself.
"I declare for't, it's a sing'lar thing
the way she everlastin' does get onto them
'prentices; ain't old enough to talk about
settin' sail by themselves."
His quid of tobacco again resumed its
claim to his undivided attention, and he
leaned back against the fence and waited
as idly as the drooping sails for a breath of
something stirring. By and by it appeared
in the shape of another old sailor, between
whom and himself there was the likeness
of two peas, save for a slight discrepancy
of feature useful for purposes of identification.
"You told her where they'd gone,
I reckon," he remarked, with a slight
chuckle, as he too leaned up against the
fence and looked out over the harbor.
"Yes, I did," replied Captain Phippeny.
"I didn't have no call to tell her a lie."
"Kinder hard on the young uns," observed
"They ain't ever anythin' as hard on
the young uns as on the old uns," asserted
Captain Phippeny, "because—well, because
they're young, I guess. That's
Chivy's yacht that came in just at sundown,
"Yare. They say she's seen dirty
weather since she was here last."
"Has? Well, you can't stay in harbor
allers, and git your livin' at the same time.
She's got toler'ble good men to handle
There was a pause. The soft twilight
was battening down the hatches of the
day, to drop into the parlance of the
"Well, I do suppose old Pember warn't
an easy shipmate, blow or no blow," observed
Captain Smart. He was a small,
keen-eyed, quickly moving old man, seasoned
"I reckon he warn't. And she thinks
she can keep that girl of hers out of the
same kind of discipline that she had to
take,—that's the truth of it."
"Cur'ous, ain't it?" ruminated Captain
Smart. "A woman's bound to take it one
way or 'nother; there seems to be more
sorts of belayin' pins to knock 'em over
with than they, any on 'em, kinder cal'late
on at first."
"So there be," assented Captain Phippeny.
Near the water, with its fading, rose-colored
reflections, not so far from the
anchored vessels but they might, had they
chosen, have spoken across to those on
board, the monotonous, austere, and yet
vaguely soft gray of the old town rising
behind them against the melting sky, sat
Mellony Pember and Ira Baldwin.
"If you'd only make up your mind,
Mellony," urged the young man.
"I can't, Ira; don't ask me." The
young girl's face, which was delicate in
outline, was troubled, and the sensitive
curves of her lips trembled. The faded
blue of her dress harmonized with the
soft tones of the scene; her hat lay beside
her, an uncurled, articulated ostrich feather
standing up in it like an exclamation point
of brilliant red.
The young man pulled his hat over his
eyes and looked over to the nearest boat.
Mellony glanced at him timidly.
"You see, I'm all she's got," she
"I ain't goin' to take you away from
her, unless you want to go," he replied,
without looking at her.
"She thinks I'll be happier if I don't—if
I don't marry."
"Happier!"—he paused in scorn—"and
she badgerin' you all the time if you
take a walk with me, and watchin' us as
if we were thieves! You ain't happy
now, are you?"
"No." Mellony's eyes filled, and a
sigh caught and became almost a sob.
"Well, I wish she'd give me a try at
makin' you happy, that's all." His
would-be sulkiness softened into a tender
sense of injury. Mellony twisted her
hands together, and looked over beyond
the vessels to the long, narrow neck of
land with its clustering houses, beyond
which again, unseen, were booming the
waves of the Atlantic.
"Oh, if I only knew what to do!"
she exclaimed,—"if I only knew what
"I'll tell you what to do, Mellony,"
"There's ma, now," she interrupted.
Ira turned quickly and looked over his
shoulder. Across the uneven ground,
straight towards them, came the figure
of Mrs. Pember. The tenseness of her
expression had further yielded to resolution,
which had in turn taken on a stolidity
which declared itself unassailable.
No one of the three spoke as she seated
herself on a bit of timber near them,
and, folding her hands, waited with the
immobility and the apparent impartiality
of Fate itself. At last Mellony spoke,
for of the three she was the most
acutely sensitive to the situation, and the
least capable of enduring it silently.
"Which way did you come, ma?" she
"I come down Rosaly's Lane," Mrs.
Pember answered. "I met Cap'n Phippeny,
and he told me you was down
"I'm obligated to Cap'n Phippeny,"
observed Ira, bitterly.
"I dono as he's partickler to have
you," remarked Mrs. Pember, imperturbably.
There was another silence. Mrs.
Pember's voice had a marked sweetness
when she spoke to her daughter, which
it lost entirely when she addressed her
daughter's companion, but always it was
penetrated by the timbre of a certain
The shadows grew deeper on the water,
the glow-worms of lanterns glimmered
more sharply, and the softness of the
night grew more palpable.
"I guess I may as well go back, ma,"
said Mellony, rising.
"I was wonderin' when you cal'lated
on going," remarked her mother, as
she rose too, more slowly and stiffly,
and straightened her decent black
"I suppose you was afraid Mellony
wouldn't get back safe without you came
after her," broke out Ira.
"I guess I can look after Mellony
better than anybody else can, and I count
on doing it, and doing it right along," she
"Come, ma," said Mellony, impatiently;
but she waited a moment and
let her mother pass her, while she looked
back at Ira, who stood, angry and helpless,
kicking at the rusted timbers.
"Are you coming, too, Ira?" she
asked in a low voice.
"No," he exclaimed, "I ain't coming!
I don't want to go along back with your
mother and you, as if we weren't old
enough to be out by ourselves. I might
as well be handcuffed, and so might you!
If you'll come round with me the way we
came, and let her go the way she came,
I'll go with you fast enough."
Mellony's eyes grew wet again, as
she looked from him to her mother, and
again at him. Mrs. Pember had paused,
also, and stood a little in advance of them.
Her stolidity showed no anxiety; she was
too sure of the result.
"No,"—Mellony's lips framed the
words with an accustomed but grievous
patience,—"I can't to-night, Ira; I
must go with ma."
"It's to-night that'll be the last chance
there'll be, maybe," he muttered, as he
flung himself off in the other direction.
The two women walked together up
the rough ascent, and turned into Rosaly's
Lane. Mellony walked wearily, her eyes
down, the red feather, in its uncurled, unlovely
assertiveness, looking more like the
oriflamme of a forlorn hope than ever.
But Mrs. Pember held herself erect, and
as if she were obliged carefully to repress
what might have been the signs of an ill-judged
Ira prolonged his walk beyond the limits
of the little gray town, goaded by the irritating
pricks of resentment. He would
bear it no longer, so he told himself.
Mellony could take him or leave him.
He would be a laughing-stock not another
week, not another day. If Mellony
would not assert herself against her tyrannical
old mother, he would go away and
leave her! And then he paused, as he had
paused so often in the flood of his anger,
faced by the realization that this was just
what Mrs. Pember wanted, just what
would satisfy her, what she had been
waiting for,—that he should go away
and leave Mellony alone. It was an exasperating
dilemma, his abdication and her
triumph, or his uncertainty and her anxiety.
Mellony and her mother passed Captain
Phippeny and Captain Smart, who still
stood talking in the summer evening, the
fence continuing to supply all the support
their stalwart frames needed in this their
hour of ease. Captain Smart nudged
Captain Phippeny as the two figures
turned the corner of Rosaly's Lane.
"So you found 'em, Mis' Pember,"
remarked Captain Phippeny. He spoke
to the mother, but he looked, not without
sympathy at the daughter.
"Yes, I found 'em."
"You reckoned on fetchin' only one of
'em home, I take it," said Captain Smart.
"I ain't responsible but for one of
'em," replied Mrs. Pember with some
grimness, but with her eyes averted from
Mellony's crimsoning face.
"Come, ma," said Mellony again, and
they passed on.
"Mis' Pember is likely enough lookin'
woman herself," observed Captain Smart;
"it's kind of cur'ous she should be so set
agen marryin,' just as marryin'."
"'Tis so," assented Captain Phippeny,
thoughtfully, looking after the two women.
Without speaking, Mellony and her
mother entered the little house where they
lived, and the young girl sank down in the
stiff, high-backed rocker, with its thin
calico-covered cushion tied with red braid,
that stood by the window. Outside, the
summer night buzzed and hummed, and
breathed sweet odors. Mrs. Pember moved
about the room, slightly altering its arrangements,
now and then looking at her daughter
half furtively, as if waiting for her to
speak; but Mellony's head was not turned
from the open window, and she was utterly
silent. At last this immobility had a sympathetic
effect upon the mother, and she
seated herself not far from the girl, her
hands, with their prominent knuckles and
shrunken flesh, folded in unaccustomed
idleness, and waited, while in the room dusk
grew to dark. To Mellony the hour was
filled with suggestions that emphasized
and defined her misery. In her not turbulent
or passionate nature, the acme of
its capacity for emotional suffering had been
reached. Hitherto this suffering had been
of the perplexed, patient, submissive kind;
to-night, the beauty of the softly descending
gloom, the gentle freedom of the placid
harbor, the revolt of her usually yielding
lover, deepened it into something more
"Mellony," said her mother, with a
touch of that timidity which appeared only
in her speech with her daughter, "did you
count on going over to the Neck to-morrow,
as you promised?"
"I'll never count on doing anything
again," said Mellony, in a voice she tried
to make cold and even, but which vibrated
notwithstanding,—"never, so long as I
live. I'll never think, or plan, or—or
speak, if I can help it—of what I mean
to do. I'll never do anything but just
work and shut my eyes and—and live, if
I've got to!" Her voice broke, and she
turned her head away from the open window
and looked straight before her into the
shadowed room. Her mother moved uneasily,
and her knotted hands grasped the
arms of the stiff chair in which she sat.
"Mellony," she said again, "you've no
call to talk so."
"I've no call to talk at all. I've no
place anywhere. I'm not anybody. I
haven't any life of my own." The keen
brutality of the thoughtlessness of youth,
and its ignoring of all claims but those of
its own happiness, came oddly from the
lips of submissive Mellony. Mrs. Pember
quivered under it.
"You know you're my girl, Mellony,"
she answered gently. "You're all I've
"Yes," the other answered indifferently,
"that's all I am,—Mellony Pember, Mrs. Pember's
"Ain't that enough? Ain't that something
to be,—all I plan for and work
for? Ain't that enough for a girl to be?"
Mellony turned her eyes from emptiness,
and fixed them upon her mother's
face, dimly outlined in the vagueness.
"Is that all you've been," she asked,
"just somebody's daughter?"
It was as if a heavy weight fell from
her lips and settled upon her mother's
heart. There was a silence. Mellony's
eyes, though she could not see them,
seemed to Mrs. Pember to demand an
answer in an imperative fashion unlike
their usual mildness.
"It's because I've been,—it's because
I'd save you from what I have been that
I—do as I do. You know that," she
"I don't want to be saved," returned
the other, quickly and sharply.
The older woman was faced by a situation
she had never dreamed of,—a
demand to be allowed to suffer! The
guardian had not expected this from her
carefully shielded charge.
"I want you to have a happy life," she
"A happy life!" flashed the girl. "And
you're keeping me from any life at all!
That's what I want,—life, my own life,
not what anybody else gives me of theirs.
Why shouldn't I have what they have,
even if it's bad now and then? Don't
save me in spite of myself! Nobody likes
to be saved in spite of themselves."
It was a long speech for Mellony. A
large moon had risen, and from the low
horizon sent golden shafts of light almost
into the room; it was as if the placidity
of the night were suddenly penetrated by
something more glowing. Mellony stood
looking down at her mother, like a judge.
Mrs. Pember gazed at her steadily.
"I'm going to save you, Mellony,"
she said, her indomitable will making her
voice harsher than it had been, "whether
you want to be saved or not. I'm not
going to have you marry, and be sworn at
and cuffed." Mellony moved to protest,
but her strength was futility beside her
mother's at a time like this. "I'm not
going to have you slave and grub, and get
blows for your pains. I'm going to follow
you about and set wherever you be,
whenever you go off with Ira Baldwin, if
that'll stop it; and if that won't, I'll try
some other way,—I know other ways.
I'm not going to have you marry! I'm
going to have you stay along with me!"
With a slight gesture of despair, Mellony
turned away. The flash had burned
itself out. The stronger nature had reasserted
itself. Silently, feeling her helplessness,
frightened at her own rebellion
now that it was over, she went out of the
room to her own smaller one, and closed
Mrs. Pember sat silent in her turn, reviewing
her daughter's resentment, but
the matter admitted no modifications in
her mind; her duty was clear, and her
determination had been taken long ago.
Neither did she fear anything like persistent
opposition; she knew her daughter's
submissive nature well.
Brought up in a country village, an earnest
and somewhat apprehensive member
of the church, Mrs. Pember had married
the captain early in life, under what she
had since grown to consider a systematic
illusion conceived and maintained by the
Evil One, but which was, perhaps, more
logically due to the disconcerting good
looks and decorously restrained impetuosity
of Captain Pember himself. Possibly he
had been the victim of an illusion too, not
believing that austerity of principle could
exist with such bright eyes and red cheeks
as charmed him in the country girl. At
least, he never hesitated subsequently, not
only to imply, but to state baldly, a sense
of the existence of injury. Captain Phippeny
was one of those sailors whom the
change of scene, the wide knowledge of
men and of things, the hardships and dangers
of a sea life, broaden and render tolerant
and somewhat wise. Pember had
been brutalized by these same things.
The inhabitants of Grayhead were distinguished
by the breadth and suggestiveness
of their profanity, and Captain Pember
had been a past master of the accomplishment.
Praise from Sir Hubert Stanley
could have been no more discriminating
than the local acknowledgment of his
proficiency in this line. No wonder Mrs.
Pember looked back at the ten years of
her married life with a shudder. With
the rigid training of her somewhat dogmatic
communion still potent, she listened
in a horrified expectancy, rather actual
than figurative, for the heavens to strike
or the earth to swallow up her nonchalant
husband. Nor was this all. The weakness
for grog, unfortunately supposed to
be inherent in a nautical existence, was
carried by Captain Pember to an extent
inconsiderate even in the eyes of a seafaring
public; and when, under its genial
influence, he knocked his wife down and
tormented Mellony, the opinion of this
same public declared itself on the side of
the victims with a unanimity which is not
always to be counted upon in such cases.
In fact, her married life had, as it were,
formalized many hitherto somewhat vague
details of Mrs. Pember's conception of the
place of future punishment; and when
her husband died in an appropriate and indecorous
fashion as the result of a brawl,
he continued to mitigate the relief of the
event by leaving in his wife's heart a
haunting fear, begotten of New England
conscientiousness, that perhaps she ought
not to be so unmistakably glad of it. It
was thus that, with Mellony's growth
from childhood to womanhood, the burning
regret for her former unmarried state,
whose difficulties had been mainly theological,
had become a no less burning resolve
that her child should never suffer as she
had suffered, but should be guarded from
matrimony as from death. That she
failed to distinguish between individuals,
that she failed to see that young Baldwin
was destitute of those traits which her
sharpened vision would now have detected
in Pember's youth, was both the fault of
her perceptive qualities and the fruit of
her impregnable resolve. She had been
hurt by Mellony's rebellion, but not influenced
by so much as a hair's-breadth.
Early one morning, two or three days
later, Mrs. Pember, lying awake waiting
for the light to grow brighter that she
might begin her day, heard a slight sound
outside, of a certain incisiveness out of
proportion to its volume. With an idleness
that visited her only at early day-break,
she wondered what it was. It was
repeated, and this time, moved by an insistent
curiosity blended with the recognition
of its probable cause, she rose and
looked out of the window which was close
to the head of her bed. A little pier was
a stone's throw from the house on that
side, at which were moored several boats
belonging to the fishermen about. It was
as she thought; a stooping figure, dim and
hazy in the morning fog, which blurred
the nearest outlines and veiled the more
distant, was untying one of the boats, and
had slipped the oars into the rowlocks.
"Going fishing early," she said to herself.
"I wonder which of 'em it is.
They are all alike in this light."
Then she stood and looked out upon
the morning world. It would soon be
sunrise. Meanwhile, the earth was silent,
save for the soft rippling of the untired
waves that scarcely rose and fell in this
sheltered harbor; the land had been at
rest through the short night, but they had
climbed and lapsed again steadily through
its hours; the paling stars would soon
have faded into the haze. The expectation
of the creature waited for the
Softly the boat floated away from its
moorings. It seemed propelled without
effort, so quietly it slipped through the
water. In the bottom lay the sail and the
nets, a shadowy mass; the boat itself was
little more than a shadow, as it glided on
into the thicker fog which received and
enveloped it, as into an unknown vague
future which concealed and yet held
promise and welcome.
Mrs. Pember glanced at the clock. It
was very early, but to go back to bed
was hardly worth while. The sun was
already beginning to glint through the
fog. She dressed, and, passing softly the
door of the room where Mellony slept,—rather
fitfully of late,—began to make
The morning broadened and blazed
into the day, and the whole town was
making ready for its breakfast. Mellony
was later than usual,—her mother did not
hear her moving about, even; but she
was unwilling to disturb her; she would
wait a while longer before calling her.
At last, however, the conviction of the
immorality of late rising could no longer
be ignored, and she turned the knob of
Mellony's door and stepped into the
She had been mistaken in supposing
that Mellony was asleep; the girl must
have risen early and slipped out, for the
room was empty, and Mrs. Pember
paused, surprised that she had not heard
her go. It must have been while she was
getting kindling-wood in the yard that
Mellony had left by the street door. And
what could she have wanted so early in
the village?—for to the village she must
have gone; she was nowhere about the
little place, whose flatness dropped, treeless,
to the shore. Her mother went
again to the kitchen, and glanced up and
down the waterside. There was no one
on the little wooden pier, and the boats
swung gently by its side, their own among
them, so Mellony had not gone out in
that. Yes, she must have gone to the
village, and Mrs. Pember opened the front
door and scanned the wandering little
street. It was almost empty; the early
morning activity of the place was in other
With the vague uneasiness that unaccustomed
and unexplained absence always
produces, but with no actual apprehension,
Mrs. Pember went back to her work.
Mellony had certain mild whims of her
own, but it was surprising that she should
have left her room in disorder, the bed
unmade; that was not like her studious
neatness. With a certain grimness Mrs.
Pember ate her breakfast alone. Of
course no harm had come to Mellony, but
where was she? Unacknowledged, the
shadow of Ira Baldwin fell across her
wonder. Had Mellony cared so much for
him that her disappointment had driven
her to something wild and fatal? She did
not ask the question, but her lips grew
white and stiff at the faintest suggestion
of it. Several times she went to the door,
meaning to go out, and up the street to
look for her daughter, but each time something
withheld her. Instead, with that
determination that distinguished her, she
busied herself with trifling duties. It was
quite nine o'clock when she saw Captain
Phippeny coming up the street. She
stood still and watched him approach.
His gait was more rolling than ever, as he
came slowly towards her, and he glanced
furtively ahead at her house, and then
dropped his eyes and pretended not to
have seen her. She grew impatient to
have him reach her, but she only pressed
her lips together and stood the more rigidly
still. At last he stood in front of
her doorstone, his hat in his hand. The
yellow shirt and the leathern jacket were
more succinctly audacious than ever, but
doubt and irresolution in every turn of
his blue eyes and line of his weather-beaten
face had taken the place of the
"It's a warm mornin', Mis' Pember,"
he observed, more disconcerted than ever
by her unsmiling alertness.
"You came a good ways to tell me
that, Captain Phippeny."
"Yes, I did. Leastways I didn't," he
responded. "I come to tell you about—about
"What about Mellony, Captain Phippeny?"
she demanded, pale, but uncompromising.
"What have you got to tell
me about Mellony Pember?" she reiterated
as he paused.
"Not Mellony Pember," gasped the
captain, a three-cornered smile trying to
make headway against his embarrassment
as he recalled the ancient tale of breaking
the news to the Widow Smith; "Mellony
"Mellony Baldwin!" repeated Mrs.
Pember, stonily, not yet fully comprehending.
The captain grew more and more
"Yes," he proceeded, with the haste of
despair, "yes. Mis' Pember, you see Mellony—Mellony's
"Mellony married!" Strangely enough
she had not thought of that. She grasped
the doorpost for support.
"Yes, she up and married him," went
on the captain more blithely. "I hardly
thought it of Mellony," he added in not
unpleasurable reflection, "nor yet of Ira."
"Nor I either." Mrs. Pember's lips
moved with difficulty. Mellony married!
The structure reared with tears and
prayers, the structure of Mellony's happiness,
seemed to crumble before her eyes.
"And I was to give you this;" and
from the lining of his hat the captain drew
forth a folded paper.
"Then you knew about it?" said Mrs.
Pember, in a flash of cold wrath.
"No, no, I didn't. My daughter's
boy brought this to me, and I was to tell
you they was married. And why they
set the job onto me the Lord he only
knows!" and Captain Phippeny wiped his
heated forehead with feeling; "but that's
all I know."
Slowly, her fingers trembling, she unfolded
"I have married Ira, mother," she read.
"He took me away in a boat early this
morning. It was the only way. I will
come back when you want me. If I am
to be unhappy, I'd rather be unhappy this
way. I can't be unhappy your way any
longer. I'm sorry to go against you,
mother; but it's my life, after all, not
As Mrs. Pember's hands fell to her side
and the note slipped from her fingers, the
daily tragedy of her married life seemed to
pass before her eyes. She saw Captain
Pember reel into the house, she shuddered
at his blasphemy, she felt the sting of the
first blow he had given her, she cowered
as he roughly shook Mellony's little frame
by her childish arm.
"She'd better be dead!" she murmured.
"I wish she was dead."
Captain Phippeny pulled himself together.
"No, she hadn't,—no, you
don't, Mis' Pember," he declared stoutly.
"You're making a mistake. You don't
want to see Mellony dead any more'n I
do. She's only got married, when all's
said and done, and there's a sight of folks
gets married and none the worse for it.
Ira Baldwin ain't any great shakes,—I
dono as he is; he's kinder light complected
and soft spoken,—but he ain't a
born fool, and that's a good deal, Mis'
Pember." He paused impressively, but
she did not speak. "And he ain't goin'
to beat Mellony, either; he ain't that
sort. I guess Mellony could tackle him,
if it came to that, anyhow. I tell you,
Mis' Pember, there's one thing you don't
take no reckonin' on,—there's a difference
in husbands, there's a ter'ble difference
in 'em!" Mrs. Pember looked at
him vaguely. Why did he go on talking?
Mellony was married. "Mellony's got
one kind, and you—well," he went on,
with cautious delicacy, "somehow you got
another. I tell you it's husbands as
makes the difference to a woman when it
comes to marryin'."
Mrs. Pember stooped, picked up the
note, turned and walked into the living-room
and sat down. She looked about
her with that sense of unreality that visits
us at times. There was the chair in which
Mellony sat the night of her rebellious
outbreak,—Mellony, her daughter, her
married daughter. Other women talked
about their "married daughters" easily
enough, and she had pitied them; now she
would have to talk so, too. She felt unutterably
lonely. Her household, like her
hope, was shattered. She looked up and
saw that Captain Phippeny had followed
her in and was standing before her, turning
his hat in his brown, tattooed hands.
"Mis' Pember," he said, "I thought,
mebbe, now Mellony was married, you'd
be thinkin' of matrimony yourself agen."
As Mrs. Pember gazed at him dumbly it
seemed as if she must all at once have
become another person. Matrimony had
suddenly become domesticated, as it were.
Her eyes travelled over the horseshoe
charm and the long gold chain, as she listened,
and from pocket to pocket. "And
so I wanted to say that I'd like to have
you think of me, if you was making out
the papers for another v'yage. The first
mate I sailed with, she says to me when
she died, 'You've been a good husband,
Phippeny,' says she. I wouldn't say
anythin' to you, I wouldn't take the resk,
if she hadn't said that to me. Mis'
Pember, and I'm tellin' it to you now
because there's such a difference; and I
feel kinder encouraged by it to ask you
to try me. I'd like to have you marry
me, Mis' Pember."
It was a long speech, and the captain
was near to suffocation when it was finished,
but he watched her with anxious
keenness as he waited for her to reply.
The stern lines of her mouth relaxed
slowly. A brilliant red geranium in the
window glowed in the sunlight which had
just reached it. The world was not all
dark. The room seemed less lonely with
the captain in it, as she glanced around it
a second time. She scanned his face: the
buttonhole of a mouth had a kindly twist;
he did not look in the least like handsome
Dick Pember. Mellony had married, and
her world was in fragments, and something
must come after.
"I never heard as you weren't a good
husband to Mis' Phippeny," she said
calmly, "and I dono as anybody'll make any
objection if I marry you, Captain Phippeny."