"IN the novels of the present day, from the first page to the last, nothing ever happens. If the young man throws away a half-burned cigar, we have a feeling of gratitude as if that were an incident, and we tell ourselves that something has occurred. But in real life, in the genuine realism, people still have adventures. They get drowned; they break their necks or their backs; they die suddenly. In fact, in real life men and women are even yet capable of falling in love, violently and unreasonably."

Thus I discoursed as we sat in front of our tent, late one afternoon. I had been reading aloud from the pages of a book recently published. My audience consisted of Carlos, Mrs. Rankin, and Max. Max was somnolent a good deal of the time, but would occasionally rouse up, and have the appearance, for the space of half a minute, of being profoundly interested. Then he would lapse into a state of unconsciousness. Mrs. Rankin sat, with her usual uprightness, in a camp-chair turned toward the water. She had been with us since noon, having brought some black huckleberries and two large cucumbers, which she insisted on giving us. She said she would n't give a cent for berry-cake without a slice of cucumber with it. She was knitting an "open-work" cotton stocking for Lily, as she sat there. The day had been one of really fearful heat, like so many days this summer. Every breath of wind had now subsided, and the water lay gleaming hotly beneath the red west.

Lily Rankin had come with her grandmother, but had been out for two hours now in a dory by herself. The child was as used to a dory, Mrs. Rankin said, as other children were to rag babies; and she seemed to think that dories were as harmless as rag babies.

The red of the west was diffusing itself through some rolling clouds. Mrs. Rankin's eyes never seemed to leave that bit of a boat that was rocking a little beyond Seal Ledge. We could just make out the figure in it, with a broad white hat hanging off the head.

"I expect Lily 's marked with the ocean," said Randy. "She'll set for hours, with the oars in the bottom of the boat, jest a-gazin' and breathin' deep. When I asked what she was thinking about, once, she told me she wasn't thinking about anything. She was jest a-drinkin' it all into her soul. Oh, I do hope that the Lord won't let that child suffer too much in this world. She c'n suffer or enjoy more in a minute than most folks can in a year."

She said this after I had closed my book. During the reading she had made but one remark.

"Seems to me," she said, "the feller that wrote that must hev known an awful lot of mighty common folks. If I met um face to face, I would n't stay with um a minute. They 'd tire me to death. But he has kind of a knack, don't he, somehow?"

We did not feel like talking. On the stretch of beach to the westward, where the cottages were, everybody was out. White dresses and gay ribbons were there. Up on the ridge all the fishermen and their wives and children were out also, sitting on the shingle, or moving indolently but restlessly; striving for some sense of ease in this close atmosphere. Presently Maria Jane Yates strolled up to our party, and sat down on the coarse grass. Everybody looked pale and fagged. We asked where Mr. Yates was, and were told that he had just gone out in his dory.

"He said," went on Maria Jane, "that he could n't stand the heat on shore another minute; and if 't wa'n't so hot out there, he should n't come back 'fore midnight. I declare, this is the toughest summer I ever did know! Is that Lily Rankin t' other side the Ledge? I seen her this long time. She does 'bout she's a mind to, don't she?"

Randy replied with asperity that "if a girl had n't a mind to do anything bad, she for one did n't know why she should n't do as she'd a mind to."

"Nor I nuther," said Maria Jane heartily. "Lily 's a girl you can't help lovin' to save your life. I guess Jim Hatch thinks so, too."

Randy started as if she had been stung. Her worn face flushed a painful crimson.

"Jim Hatch!" she said violently.

"Ther ain't a better feller on the ridge, nor a smarter codder and percher," maintained Mrs. Yates.

Mrs. Rankin had herself in hand now, though her cheeks were still red.

"I have nothing against James Hatch," she responded with dignity.

The subject was dropped.

One strong, swift breath of wind swept from the west; then all was still again. From red the clouds had assumed a greenish tint. It was now so stifling it seemed as if a huge, hot blanket had been thrown over us, and was held down by a Titan.

Randy stood up.

"I guess Lily 'd better come in," she said.

She put her hands beside her mouth, and gave a shrill, penetrating call. Lily heard her, for she took off her hat and waved it toward the bluff. With the opera-glass we could see plainly that she immediately began to row shoreward. Somewhat farther away toward the north I saw Marsh Yates, in his red shirt, sitting in his boat.

"'T won't do no good to call to Marsh," said his wife. "I might split my throat, 'n' he would n't come in till he got ready. Besides, he 's as safe there 's anywhere. I d' know's there could anything hurt him if he was in his dory."

We all, save Mrs. Rankin, settled back again into our languor, and ceased to watch the sea or the sky. She began to move restlessly about. She took the opera-glass and gazed. Then she shaded her eyes and gazed. Lily's dory was gliding toward us slowly over the still water. The countless figures sauntered on the beach in front of the cottages. It was growing darker. Suddenly it was no longer still. A wind came from we knew not where. It bent us over as we stood on the cliff. The gay crowd off there scattered like butterflies. The black water boiled and foamed. The green cloud was rising in the sky, trailing funnel-shaped toward the zenith. Lightning played on its bosom. Until now there had been no thunder; now it began to crash and crackle. We could not stand upright, but we tried to do so that we might watch the dories.

"Marsh always did say he'd rusher be in his boat in a tempest," said Mrs. Yates in a shrill voice.

But her face belied her words. The small flat-bottomed boats went about like chips. Randy was the only one who could stand erect. All at once she dropped the glass. I was close by her, and something made me take fast hold of her arm. She turned to me, but I do not think she saw me.

"Lily 's lost an oar," she said.

I knew by the movement of her lips what her words were. Carlos stooped and picked up the lorgnette. The next moment she. put her mouth to Randy's ear and shouted:

"Marsh will save her! He has almost reached her! "

Even if she had not lost an oar, could the child have done anything in such a time? But Marsh, the big fisherman, was at home out there. Maria Jane was on her knees, peering forward. There was a glow on her face,--a glow of pride in her husband. She glanced at us as if she said that now, at last, we should know what stuff Marsh was made of. We could see that he was like a giant, and he had need to be. The green cloud spread and spread. The wind came in violent gusts, with moments of ominous calm between. In spite of the coming tempest, the people in the fishing settlement here gathered near us, crouching against the gale when it came; looking out at the two dories. In one of the calms a voice croaked out hoarsely: -

"Marsh can't do it. No man can't. Two's too many for a dory in such a time."

It was Cap'n Asel. Randy heard and shivered, but did not speak. Maria Jane turned fiercely on the speaker.

"I guess you 'll see that my husband knows what he's about," she said. Her handsome dark face became, however, more and more rigid, and her eyes more strained. The next instant she threw her clasped hands up in the air. "See!" she cried out, "Marsh c'n do it!"

It had taken both strength and skill to light Lily out of her boat into his own, but Marsh had done it. I began to have Maria Jane's faith.

"Can Lily swim?" I asked of her grandmother.

"Like a frog," was the answer.

In the lull, Marsh's strong, skillful strokes brought his dory several rods nearer. We could begin to see Lily's streaming light hair. She sat with perfect quietness, just where Marsh had placed her. If for three minutes the tempest would hold off! They were now inside of Seal Ledge, almost in the shoal water. It was nearly high tide. In spite of us, Randy dashed down the cliff and appeared on the stony beach below us, opposite the boat. Maria was still on her knees, bending forward.

"Marsh could er got in, if he had n't stopped for Lily," I heard her say to herself.

The tempest did not hold off. Now came a flash, a crashing of thunder. A bolt went down before us into the water. The green cloud was overhead. But still it did not rain. The wind came again. When our eyes ceased to be so blinded, we tried to see. Marsh's dory was split clean in two parts, and floating away to the left. Marsh and Lily were in the water. Marsh's face was upturned in a strange, still way, and Lily was holding him with one hand, while she swam slowly shoreward with her burden.

I never knew how we went. It was only a breath of time before we were all at the water's edge. James Hatch, who had just come, dashed in and swam out the few yards between us and those two. Randy waded in waist-high. But Maria Jane stood perfectly still, her feet in the curling foam of the incoming tide. In a moment Lily staggered up, then fell into her grandmother's arms. But Marsh only moved as the waves moved him.

He had been struck by that last flash, which had broken his boat and killed him, but had not hurt Lily.

The cloud above all at once veered off to the north, and a bit of blue sky showed, with a pale star in it. The people from the cottages yonder flocked out-of-doors again; doubtless they discussed the lovely effects of cloud and sky and ocean. Somebody ran to Salt Pond and leaped into a boat, rowing across to fetch a doctor. But we all knew a doctor would be of no use. Two men lifted the dead fisherman, and began to carry him toward the shabby house on the ridge. Still Maria Jane stood there in the white, shallow foam; and the night deepened rapidly. We all looked at her, with no help to give. Presently Randy withdrew herself from her clinging granddaughter, and went and put her arms about the widow. As she did so, I saw her rugged face suffused with an infinite tenderness. Maria Jane turned, with a piteous yearning movement of her body, toward the older woman.

"Marsh could er got in if he had n't stopped for Lily," she said.

"God knows he could!" cried Randy, holding the woman close to her.


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