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- THE WOMAN-HATERS - 1/44 -
by JOSEPH C. LINCOLN
(By Way of Explanation)
A story of mine called, like this, "The Woman-Haters," appeared recently in one of the magazines. That story was not this one, except in part--the part dealing with "John Brown" and Miss Ruth Graham. Readers of the former tale who perhaps imagine they know all about Seth Atkins and Mrs. Emeline Bascom will be surprised to find they really know so little. The truth is that, when I began to revise and rearrange the magazine story for publication as a book, new ideas came, grew, and developed. I discovered that I had been misinformed concerning the lightkeeper's past and present relations with the housekeeper at the bungalow. And there was "Bennie D." whom I had overlooked, had not mentioned at all; and that rejuvenated craft, the Daisy M.; and the high tide which is, or should be, talked about in Eastboro even yet; all these I had omitted for the very good reason that I never knew of them. I have tried to be more careful this time. During the revising process "The Woman-Haters" has more than doubled in length and, let us hope, in accuracy. Even now it is, of course, not a novel, but merely a summer farce-comedy, a "yarn." And this, by the way, is all that it pretends to be.
JOSEPH C. LINCOLN.
I.--MR. SETH ATKINS
II.--MR. JOHN BROWN
III.--MR. BROWN PUTS IN AN APPLICATION
IV.--THE COMING OF JOB
V.--THE GOING OF JOSHUA
VII.--OUT OF THE BAG
VIII.--NEIGHBORS AND WASPS
IX.--THE BUNGALOW GIRL
X.--THE BUNGALOW WOMAN
XI.--BEHIND THE SAND DUNE
XII.--THE LETTER AND THE 'PHONE
XIII.--"JOHN BROWN" CHANGES HIS NAME
XV.--THE VOYAGE OF THE Daisy M.
XVI.--THE EBB TIDE
MR. SETH ATKINS
The stars, like incandescent lights fed by a fast weakening dynamo, grew pale, faded, and, one by one, went out. The slate-colored sea, with its tumbling waves, changed color, becoming a light gray, then a faint blue, and, as the red sun rolled up over the edge of the eastern horizon, a brilliant sapphire, trimmed with a silver white on the shoals and along the beach at the foot of the bluff.
Seth Atkins, keeper of the Eastboro Twin-Lights, yawned, stretched, and glanced through the seaward windows of the octagon-shaped, glass-enclosed room at the top of the north tower, where he had spent the night just passed. Then he rose from his chair and extinguished the blaze in the great lantern beside him. Morning had come, the mists had rolled away, and the dots scattered along the horizon--schooners, tugs, and coal barges, for the most part--no longer needed the glare of Eastboro Twin-Lights to warn them against close proximity to the dangerous, shoal-bordered coast. Incidentally, it was no longer necessary for Mr. Atkins to remain on watch. He drew the curtains over the polished glass and brass of the lantern, yawned again, and descended the winding iron stairs to the door at the foot of the tower, opened it and emerged into the sandy yard.
Crossing this yard, before the small white house which the government provided as a dwelling place for its lightkeepers, he opened the door of the south tower, mounted the stairs there and repeated the extinguishing process with the other lantern. Before again descending to earth, however, he stepped out on the iron balcony surrounding the light chamber and looked about him.
The view, such as it was, was extensive. To the east the open sea, the wide Atlantic, rolling lazily in the morning light, a faint breeze rippling the surfaces of the ground-swell. A few sails in sight, far out. Not a sound except the hiss and splash of the surf, which, because of a week of calms and light winds, was low even for that time of year--early June.
To the north stretched the shores of the back of the Cape. High clay bluffs, rain-washed and wrinkled, sloping sharply to the white sand of the beach a hundred feet below. Only one building, except those connected with the lighthouses, near at hand, this a small, gray-shingled bungalow about two hundred yards away, separated from the lights by the narrow stream called Clam Creek--Seth always spoke of it as the "Crick"--which, turning in behind the long surf-beaten sandspit known, for some forgotten reason, as "Black Man's Point," continued to the salt-water pond which was named "The Cove." A path led down from the lighthouses to a bend in the "Crick," and there, on a small wharf, was a shanty where Seth kept his spare lobster and eel-pots, dory sails, nets, and the like. The dory itself, with the oars in her, was moored in the cove.
A mile off, to the south, the line of bluffs was broken by another inlet, the entrance to Pounddug Slough. This poetically named channel twisted and wound tortuously inland through salt marshes and between mudbanks, widening at last to become Eastboro Back Harbor, a good-sized body of water, with the village of Eastboro at its upper end. In the old days, when Eastboro amounted to something as a fishing port, the mackerel fleet unloaded its catch at the wharves in the Back Harbor. Then Pounddug Slough was kept thoroughly dredged and buoyed. Now it was weed-grown and neglected. Only an occasional lobsterman's dory traversed its winding ways, which the storms and tides of each succeeding winter rendered more difficult to navigate. The abandoned fish houses along its shores were falling to pieces, and at intervals the stranded hulk of a fishing sloop or a little schooner, rotting in the sun, was a dismal reminder that Eastboro's ambitious young men no longer got their living alongshore. The town itself had gone to sleep, awakening only in the summer, when the few cottagers came and the Bay Side Hotel was opened for its short season.
Behind the lighthouse buildings, to the west--and in the direction of the village--were five miles of nothing in particular. A desolate wilderness of rolling sand-dunes, beach grass, huckleberry and bayberry bushes, cedar swamps, and small clumps of pitch-pines. Through this desert the three or four rutted, crooked sand roads, leading to and from the lights, turned and twisted. Along their borders dwelt no human being; but life was there, life in abundance. Ezra Payne, late assistant keeper at the Twin-Lights, was ready at all times to furnish evidence concerning the existence of this life.
"My godfreys domino!" Ezra had exclaimed, after returning from a drive to Eastboro village, "I give you my word, Seth, they dummed nigh et me alive. They covered the horse all up, so that he looked for all the world like a sheep, woolly. I don't mind moskeeters in moderation, but when they roost on my eyelids and make 'em so heavy I can't open 'em, then I'm ready to swear. But I couldn't get even that relief, because every time I unbattened my mouth a million or so flew in and choked me. That's what I said--a million. Some moskeeters are fat, but these don't get a square meal often enough to be anything but hide-racks filled with cussedness. Moskeeters! My godfreys domino!"
Ezra was no longer assistant lightkeeper. He and his superior had quarreled two days before. The quarrel was the culmination, on Ezra's part, of a gradually developing "grouch" brought on by the loneliness of his surroundings. After a night of duty he had marched into the house, packed his belongings in a battered canvas extension case, and announced his intention of resigning from the service.
"To the everlastin' brimstone with the job!" he snarled, addressing Mr. Atkins, who, partially dressed, emerged from the bedroom in bewilderment and sleepy astonishment. "To thunder with it, I say! I've had all the gov'ment jobs I want. Life-savin' service was bad enough, trampin' the condemned beach in a howlin' no'theaster, with the sand cuttin' furrers in your face, and the icicles on your mustache so heavy you got round-shouldered luggin' 'em. But when your tramp was over, you had somebody to talk to. Here, by godfreys! there ain't nothin' nor nobody. I'm goin' fishin' again, where I can be sociable."
"Humph!" commented Seth, "you must be lonesome all to once. Ain't my company good enough for you?"
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