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- Castle Nowhere - 4/23 -
'They are so happy here,' she said; 'it was dull for them on shore. I would not live on the shore! Would you?'
'Certainly not,' replied Waring, with an air of having spent his entire life upon a raft. 'But you did not find all these blossoms on the shores about here, did you?'
'Father found them,--he finds everything; in his boat almost every night is something for me. I hope he will come soon; he will be so glad to see you.'
'Will he? I wish I was sure of that,' thought Waring. Then aloud, 'Has he any men with him?' he asked carelessly.
'O no; we live here all alone now,--father, Lorez, and I.'
'But you were expecting a Jacob?'
'I have been expecting Jacob for more than two years. Every night I watch for him, but he comes not. Perhaps he and Aunt Shadow will come together,--do you think they will?' said Silver, looking up into his eyes with a wistful expression.
'Certainly,' replied Waring.
'Now am I glad, so glad! For father and Lorez will never say so. I think I shall like you, Jarvis.' And, leaning on a box of mignonette, she considered him gravely with her little hands folded.
Waring, man of the world,--Waring, who had been, under fire,--Waring, the impassive,--Waring,--the unflinching,--turned from this scrutiny.
Supper was eaten at one end of the long table; the dishes, tablecloth, and napkins were marked with an anchor, the food simple but well cooked.
'Fish, of course, and some common supplies I can understand,' said the visitor; 'but how do you obtain flour like this, or sugar?'
'Father brings them,' said Silver, 'and keeps them locked in his storeroom. Brown sugar we have always, but white not always, and I like it so much! Don't you?'
'No; I care nothing for it,' said Waring, remembering the few lumps and the little white teeth.
The old negress waited, and peered at the visitor out of her small bright eyes; every time Silver spoke to her, she broke into a radiance of smiles and nods, but said nothing.
'She lost her voice some years ago,' explained the little mistress when the black had gone out for more coffee; 'and now she seems to have forgotten how to form words, although she understands us.'
Lorez returned, and, after refilling Waring's cup, placed something shyly beside his plate, and withdrew into the shadow. 'What is it?' said the young man, examining the carefully folded parcel.
'Why, Lorez, have you given him that!' exclaimed Silver as he drew out a scarlet ribbon, old and frayed, but brilliant still. 'We think it must have belonged to her young master,' she continued in a low tone. 'It is her most precious treasure, and long ago she used to talk about him, and about her old home in the South.'
The old woman came forward after a while, smiling and nodding like an animated mummy, and taking the red ribbon threw it around the young man's neck, knotting it under the chin. Then she nodded with treble radiance and made signs; of satisfaction.
'Yes, it is becoming,' said Silver, considering the effect thoughtfully, her small head with its veil of hair bent to one side, like a flower swayed by the wind.
The flesh-pots of Egypt returned to Jarvis Waring's mind: he remembered certain articles of apparel left behind in civilization, and murmured against the wilderness. Under the pretence of examining the vases, he took an early opportunity of, looking into the round mirror. 'I am hideous,' he said to himself, uneasily.
'Decidedly so,' echoed the Spirit in a cheerful voice. But he was not; only a strong dark young man of twenty-eight, browned by exposure, clad in a gray flannel shirt and the rough attire of a hunter.
The fire on the hearth sparkled gayly. Silver had brought one of her little white gowns, half finished, and sat sewing in its light, while the old negress came and went about her household tasks.
'So you can sew?' said the visitor.
'Of course I can. Aunt Shadow taught me,' answered the water-maiden, threading her needle deftly. 'There is no need to do it, for I have so many dresses; but I like to sew, don't you?'
'I cannot say that I do. Have you so many dresses then?'
'Yes; would you like to see them? Wait.'
Down went the little gown trailing along the floor, and away she flew, coming back with her arms full,--silks, muslins, laces, and even jewelry. 'Are they not beautiful?' she asked, ranging her splendor over the chairs.
'They are indeed,' said Waring, examining the garments with curious eyes. 'Where did you get them?'
'Father brought them. O, there he is now, there he is now! I hear the oars. Come, Lorez.'
She ran out; the old woman hastened, carrying a brand from the hearth; and after a moment Waring followed them. 'I may as well face the old rogue at once,' he thought.
The moon had not risen and the night was dark; under the balcony floated a black object, and Lorez, leaning over, held out her flaming torch. The face of the old rogue came out into the light under its yellow handkerchief, but so brightened and softened by loving gladness that the gazer above hardly knew it. 'Are you there, darling, safe and well?' said the old man, looking up fondly as he fastened his skiff.
'Yes, father; here I am and so glad to see you,' replied the water-maiden, waiting at the top of the ladder. 'We have a visitor, father dear; are you not glad, so glad to see him?'
The two men came face to face, and the elder started back. 'What are you doing here?' he said sternly.
'Looking for my property.'
'Take it, and begone!'
'I will, to-morrow.'
All this apart, and with the rapidity of lightning.
'His name is Jarvis, father, and we must keep him with us,' said Silver.
'Yes, dear, as long as he wishes to stay; but no doubt he has home and friends waiting for him.'
They went within, Silver leading the way. Old Fog's eyes gleamed and his hands were clinched. The younger man watched him warily.
'I have been showing Jarvis all my dresses, father, and he thinks them beautiful.'
'They certainly are remarkable,' observed Waring, coolly.
Old Fog's hands dropped, he glanced nervously towards the visitor.
'What have you brought for me to-night, father dear?'
'Nothing, child; that is, nothing of any consequence. But it is growing late; run off to your nest'
'O no, papa, you have had no supper, nor--'
'I am not hungry. Go, child, go; do not grieve me,' said the old man in a low tone.
'Grieve you? Dear papa, never!' said the girl, her voice softening to tenderness in a moment. 'I will run straight to my room.--Come, Lorez.'
The door closed. 'Now for us two,' thought Waring.
But the cloud had passed from old Fog's face, and he drew up his chair confidentially. 'You see how it is,' he began in an apologetic tone; 'that child is the darling of my life, and I could not resist taking those things for her; she has so few books, and she likes those little lumps of sugar.'
'And the Titian picture?' said Waring, watching him doubtfully.
'A father's foolish pride; I knew she was lovelier, but I wanted to see the two side by side. She is lovelier, isn't she?'
'I do not think so.'
'Don't you?' said old Fog in a disappointed tone. 'Well, I suppose I am foolish about her; we live here all alone, you see: my sister brought her up.'
'The Aunt Shadow who has gone away?'
'Yes; she was my sister, and--and she went away last year,' said the old man. 'Have a pipe?'
'I should think you would find it hard work to live here.'
'I do; but a poor man cannot choose. I hunt, fish, and get out a few furs sometimes; I traffic with the Beaver people now and then. I bought all this furniture in that way; you would not think it, but they have a great many nice things down at Beaver.'
'It looks like steamboat furniture.'
'That is it; it is. A steamer went to pieces down there, and they saved almost all her furniture and stores; they are very good sailors,
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