SOMETHING very curious occurred here yesterday afternoon between the hours of three and four. My friend and I must have thought on the same subject a great deal today, for every time we have looked at each other we have laughed. Even the mastiff has appeared to observe this unusual hilarity, and has gazed at us often with intent, questioning expression. As many as five times this forenoon we have said, "I do hope nobody will hear of it," and then have reassured ourselves by saying, "They won't be likely to speak of it, and I'm sure that we shall be silent."

An hour ago, however, we knew that "it had got out." Cap'n Asel has recovered from his rheumatism so far as to be able to be hobbling about collecting items. If we were in "society," his services would be priceless for a society journal.

Cap'n Asel has been a good deal out of temper since he has been kept at home, for he has missed a good many things. Not the least among his lost opportunities was the chance to see us rescued from Salt Pond. This mishap and this rescue are now, however, put somewhat aside to make room for other topics. But he has expressed deep thankfulness that he was up and permitted to attend Mr. Jonas Rankin's funeral, which took place in Mrs. Rankin's house. Cap'n Asel and his Prince Albert coat were present; the Cap'n said it was as good a funeril as he had attended in some years. The fact that the new widder hed separated from her husband made the services a deal more interestin,. The house was crowded in consequence of that fact. "Ef I had n't er gone a full hour before the time set," went on Cap'n Asel, as he sat in our tent the next day, " I should n't er got no seat. I should er stopped jest the same, for I was bound ter see if the widder took it hard; but it ain't no great fun for a man with one leg to stand through a whole funeril, with the t akin' leave of the corpse into the bargain. And it was the takin' leave that I was partic'larly anxious about. P'r'aps you ain't never thought nothin' 'bout it, but you c'n jedge mighty well if a person 's got much feelin' ef you watch um clost when they are a-takin' leave of the remains. I allers mean to be where I c'n hev a good view of um at that time. Wall, Randy, she was jest as calm as a mill-pond. She did n't shed a tear. She looked uncommon pale and holler-checked, but she did n't cry a drop. Fact is, 't was as calm a funeril, take it all round, as any I ever knew. And Mr. Rankin, he was one of the pleasantest men ye ever see. But he ain't ben mourned like some as has been known to speak sharp once 'n a while. There wa'n't no sobbin', even when they sung the hymn-tune. I've noticed that when the singin' begins the cryin' is usually more harder. But if it hadn't er ben for the corpse, you'd hardly known this was a funeril. Still, 't was consid'able interestin'. I s'pose John 'll hev what prop'ty his father left. Some money in the bank, I expect. Randy can't expect nothin', of course".

It was thus Cap'n Asel discoursed to us after these services. As we listened to him, we wondered how many of the people hereabouts made it a point to be where they could have a "good view" of the mourners. We wondered also if there could be anything more barbaric, more ghoulish, than a certain set of country people can be at the time of a death in their midst.

Captn Asel has just stopped at our tent. He did n't say a great deal, but he looked a great deal. It is clear he is displeased, deeply displeased, with us. He stood firmly planted between his crutches, and glared more than he talked.

"Women is fools," was the first thing he said. We assented cheerfully to this remark, and our assent seemed to exasperate him. He lifted his right crutch and set it down deep in the sand. "Fools they be," he said louder. Then he added, "Mebbe you think it's smart of ye to throw away chances. But ye'll be sorry when it's too late. Do ye think ye c'n pick and choose, do ye? I tell ye, women can't do that; especially women as ain't so young as they was. I ain't no patience with ye."

With these words he turned and stumped away, evidently not daring to trust himself to speak any further.

Then we knew that what we had said we would keep hidden in our hearts was abroad on the ridge. Every fisherman and his wife and children would know it. Either Cap'n Asel had been near the tent and had listened, or the parties of the other part had told.

Yesterday afternoon, at twenty minutes after three, while we were reading novels calmly in our shelter, two people appeared at the entrance. They were Mr. Thomas Simms and his sister, Mrs. Waters. Mr. Simms was dressed in a light gray suit, and he carried a cane. There was a curious look of resolution and fortitude on his face, which my friend and I both remarked directly. They had never called on us before, and we tried to conceal our surprise. Mrs. Waters was very anxious in appearance and face. We offered them seats, but Mrs. Waters said she thought she would go down to the beach and see the waves come in; and she had just had a letter from her son Francis--emphasis on the last syllable, as usual--which she had not yet had time to read thoroughly. She would leave her brother, and call for him soon. Her brother was improving in a wonderful manner, of late. She had not known his liver to be so active in three years as it was now.

Having given us this information, she walked away, leaving her charge sitting like one of his own nightmares in our tent.

We glanced at him in curiosity and some amazement. The expression of determination deepened every moment; he seemed, in face and attitude, to be fast becoming rigid with some concealed decision.

My friend made an observation on the; fact that the shore was now very gay where the cottages and hotels were.

Mr. Simms said, "It is," and then turned to me and gave me this corroboration of his sister's words:--

"It is true that my liver has become very active," he said. "All physicians have always told me that, if I could get my liver to be active, I should soon be all right."

"Then we must congratulate you," said I.

"Thank you; you are very kind."

Our caller remained silent for a time, both hands resting on his cane, his eyes on the floor. We believed him to be engaged in contemplation of his liver; and we would not disturb him.

Finally he raised his eyes, and said, "Yes; I think I have reason to believe that my liver is again active."

We murmured something, and waited, not daring to start any subject unconnected with the bodily ailments of Mr. Simms.

Again he looked up, and this time he said, with his eyes on me, "I come more particularly to call on you."

Carlos rose instantly, looking unnaturally solemn.

"I will take a stroll on the beach," she said, and left us.

I felt myself getting as rigid as my visitor looked. Could it be possible--but no. If a woman always knows when she is loved, she certainly does not always know when she is, as Maria Jane Yates once said, "a-goin' to be proposed to."

"I called," said Mr. Simms, with a still more perceptible show of resolution, "I called to ask if you would marry me." He did not beat about the bush. Although my muscles had somewhat stiffened beneath a vague expectation, I believe I was calm.

"But I am not half as good a nurse as my friend would be," I responded immediately.

"That's what I told my sister," said he, with flattering frankness, "but she said you were stronger; she was quite sure you were stronger. Do you think you are stronger?" anxiously.

I told him I did not think there was much difference on the score of strength, but that I was sure my friend had a far greater aptitude for nursing an invalid. As for me, I really did not think I could accept the position. I hoped he would excuse me.

He appeared to find no trouble in excusing me; his mind was now turned toward my friend. He asked if she would be back soon. He suggested that I might signal to her. I went out and waved my handkerchief, feeling a malicious pleasure in doing so, and making sure that we would each have an offer of marriage from the same man in one and the same afternoon.

"My sister Harriet," said Mr. Simms, when I returned to the tent, "is contemplating a second marriage, although she has given me her promise that it should be her life-work to take care of me. It is very inconsiderate of her, very. If my liver had not, very unexpectedly, become more active, I should have been hardly able to sustain the emotion her disclosure caused me. It is very ungrateful of her, very. I have allowed her to take care of me for nearly six years; I have confided all my symptoms to her. She knows them all. It would require a long time before any one else could know every symptom as well as she does."

Mr. Simms spoke as if his symptoms were very valuable possessions which he had bestowed upon his ungrateful relative.

I said hypocritically that I should think it must be very interesting to know so much of disease as Mrs. Waters must necessarily have learned from her long association with him. Before he could reply the drapery at the entrance was put eagerly aside, and Carlos entered, with the air of expecting to find me alone.

"Mr. Simms wishes to see you," I said, and immediately left them.

Here was an opportunity for a lifelong chipperin" up of Mr. Simms.

I went beyond hearing, and sat down on the cliff, trying to look off at the sea.

It seemed to me that I had hardly seated myself before the gentleman left the tent, and went and stood on the edge of the bluff, looking for his sister. She came directly, and the two walked away over the ridge. Then I returned to my abode. I found my friend standing in the middle of the floor.

"I told him," she said, "that I thought there were nurses trained specially for the liver; or if there were not, he could hire one and train her himself. He seemed some what offended. I assured him that I did not even know when any one was bilious; I was ignorant of the difference between chyme and bile."

"In short," I asked, "you refused him?"

"Yes," she said.

This happened yesterday. You must admit that we two women must be deeply interested in anything like this. But we had not told any one, though the silence was hard. It was also superfluous, for to-day everybody knows it.

Marsh Yates brought us some perch, and he burst out laughing the instant he saw us; and he continued laughing while he skinned the fish. The woman who lives on the hill-slope near us, where we get our milk, said, apropos of nothing, that we "must not be too particular." Cap'n Asel has made the general assertion that "women was fools." Mrs. Marlow, from the ma'sh end, where the Simmses board, took occasion to stop here this morning, and she winked so much as she talked to us that we felt it difficult to look at her. When she left she said, also with apparently entire irrelevance, that" some folks went through the woods and picked up a crooked stick at last."

"It almost seems, 'said my friend just now," as if people think we ought to have accepted Mr. Simms. But do you suppose they think we should both have accepted him? "

We are now desirous to know if Cap'n Asel was behind the tent when the proposals were made; and if he were there, where was Max?


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