Four Winds by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Alan Douglas threw down his pen with an impatient exclamation. It was
high time his next Sunday's sermon was written, but he could not
concentrate his thoughts on his chosen text. For one thing he did not
like it and had selected it only because Elder Trewin, in his call of
the evening before, had hinted that it was time for a good stiff
doctrinal discourse, such as his predecessor in Rexton, the Rev. Jabez
Strong, had delighted in. Alan hated doctrines—"the soul's
staylaces," he called them—but Elder Trewin was a man to be reckoned
with and Alan preached an occasional sermon to please him.
"It's no use," he said wearily. "I could have written a sermon in
keeping with that text in November or midwinter, but now, when the
whole world is reawakening in a miracle of beauty and love, I can't do
it. If a northeast rainstorm doesn't set in before next Sunday, Mr.
Trewin will not have his sermon. I shall take as my text instead,
'The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds has
He rose and went to his study window, outside of which a young vine
was glowing in soft tender green tints, its small dainty leaves
casting quivering shadows on the opposite wall where the portrait of
Alan's mother hung. She had a fine, strong, sweet face; the same face,
cast in a masculine mould, was repeated in her son, and the
resemblance was striking as he stood in the searching evening
sunshine. The black hair grew around his forehead in the same way; his
eyes were steel blue, like hers, with a similar expression, half
brooding, half tender, in their depths. He had the mobile, smiling
mouth of the picture, but his chin was deeper and squarer, dented with
a dimple which, combined with a certain occasional whimsicality of
opinion and glance, had caused Elder Trewin some qualms of doubt
regarding the fitness of this young man for his high and holy
vocation. The Rev. Jabez Strong had never indulged in dimples or
jokes; but then, as Elder Trewin, being a just man, had to admit, the
Rev. Jabez Strong had preached many a time and oft to more empty pews
than full ones, while now the church was crowded to its utmost
capacity on Sundays and people came to hear Mr. Douglas who had not
darkened a church door for years. All things considered, Elder Trewin
decided to overlook the dimple. There was sure to be some drawback in
Alan from his study looked down on all the length of the Rexton
valley, at the head of which the manse was situated, and thought that
Eden might have looked so in its innocence, for all the orchards were
abloom and the distant hills were tremulous and aerial in springtime
gauzes of pale purple and pearl. But in any garden, despite its
beauty, is an element of tameness and domesticity, and Alan's eyes,
after a moment's delighted gazing, strayed wistfully off to the north
where the hills broke away into a long sloping lowland of pine and
fir. Beyond it stretched the wide expanse of the lake, flashing in the
molten gold and crimson of evening. Its lure was irresistible. Alan
had been born and bred beside a faraway sea and the love of it was
strong in his heart—so strong that he knew he must go back to it
sometime. Meanwhile, the great lake, mimicking the sea in its vast
expanse and the storms that often swept over it, was his comfort and
solace. As often as he could he stole away to its wild and lonely
shore, leaving the snug bounds of cultivated home lands behind him
with something like a sense of relief. Down there by the lake was a
primitive wilderness where man was as naught and man-made doctrines
had no place. There one might walk hand in hand with nature and so
come very close to God. Many of Alan's best sermons were written after
he had come home, rapt-eyed, from some long shore tramp where the
wilderness had opened its heart to him and the pines had called to him
in their soft, sibilant speech.
With a half guilty glance at the futile sermon, he took his hat and
went out. The sun of the cool spring evening was swinging low over the
lake as he turned into the unfrequented, deep-rutted road leading to
the shore. It was two miles to the lake, but half way there Alan came
to where another road branched off and struck down through the pines
in a northeasterly direction. He had sometimes wondered where it led
but he had never explored it. Now he had a sudden whim to do so and
turned into it. It was even rougher and lonelier than the other;
between the ruts the grasses grew long and thickly; sometimes the pine
boughs met overhead; again, the trees broke away to reveal wonderful
glimpses of gleaming water, purple islets, dark feathery coasts.
Still, the road seemed to lead nowhere and Alan was half repenting the
impulse which had led him to choose it when he suddenly came out from
the shadow of the pines and found himself gazing on a sight which
Before him was a small peninsula running out into the lake and
terminating in a long sandy point. Beyond it was a glorious sweep of
sunset water. The peninsula itself seemed barren and sandy, covered
for the most part with scrub firs and spruces, through which the
narrow road wound on to what was the astonishing; feature in the
landscape—a grey and weather-beaten house built almost at the
extremity of the point and shadowed from the western light by a thick
plantation of tall pines behind it.
It was the house which puzzled Alan. He had never known there was any
house near the lake shore—had never heard mention made of any; yet
here was one, and one which was evidently occupied, for a slender
spiral of smoke was curling upward from it on the chilly spring air.
It could not be a fisherman's dwelling, for it was large and built
after a quaint tasteful design. The longer Alan looked at it the more
his wonder grew. The people living here were in the bounds of his
congregation. How then was it that he had never seen or heard of them?
He sauntered slowly down the road until he saw that it led directly to
the house and ended in the yard. Then he turned off in a narrow path
to the shore. He was not far from the house now and he scanned it
observantly as he went past. The barrens swept almost up to its door
in front but at the side, sheltered from the lake winds by the pines,
was a garden where there was a fine show of gay tulips and golden
daffodils. No living creature was visible and, in spite of the
blossoming geraniums and muslin curtains at the windows and the homely
spiral of smoke, the place had a lonely, almost untenanted, look.
When Alan reached the shore he found that it was of a much more open
and less rocky nature than the part which he had been used to
frequent. The beach was of sand and the scrub barrens dwindled down to
it almost insensibly. To right and left fir-fringed points ran out
into the lake, shaping a little cove with the house in its curve.
Alan walked slowly towards the left headland, intending to follow the
shore around to the other road. As he passed the point he stopped
short in astonishment. The second surprise and mystery of the evening
A little distance away a girl was standing—a girl who turned a
startled face at his unexpected appearance. Alan Douglas had thought
he knew all the girls in Rexton, but this lithe, glorious creature was
a stranger to him. She stood with her hand on the head of a huge,
tawny collie dog; another dog was sitting on his haunches beside her.
She was tall, with a great braid of shining chestnut hair, showing
ruddy burnished tints where the sunlight struck it, hanging over her
shoulder. The plain dark dress she wore emphasized the grace and
strength of her supple form. Her face was oval and pale, with straight
black brows and a finely cut crimson mouth—a face whose beauty bore
the indefinable stamp of race and breeding mingled with a wild
sweetness, as of a flower growing in some lonely and inaccessible
place. None of the Rexton girls looked like that. Who, in the name of
all that was amazing, could she be?
As the thought crossed Alan's mind the girl turned, with an air of
indifference that might have seemed slightly overdone to a calmer
observer than was the young minister at that moment and, with a
gesture of command to her dogs, walked quickly away into the scrub
spruces. She was so tall that her uncovered head was visible over them
as she followed some winding footpath, and Alan stood like a man
rooted to the ground until he saw her enter the grey house. Then he
went homeward in a maze, all thought of sermons, doctrinal or
otherwise, for the moment knocked out of his head.
She is the most beautiful woman I ever saw, he thought. How is it
possible that I have lived in Rexton for six months and never heard of
her or of that house? Well, I daresay there's some simple explanation
of it all. The place may have been unoccupied until lately—probably
it is the summer residence of people who have only recently come to
it. I'll ask Mrs. Danby. She'll know if anybody will. That good woman
knows everything about everybody in Rexton for three generations back.
Alan found Isabel King with his housekeeper when he got home. His
greeting was tinged with a slight constraint. He was not a vain man,
but he could not help knowing that Isabel looked upon him with a
favour that had in it much more than professional interest. Isabel
herself showed it with sufficient distinctness. Moreover, he felt a
certain personal dislike of her and of her hard, insistent beauty,
which seemed harder and more insistent than ever contrasted with his
recollection of the girl of the lake shore.
Isabel had a trick of coming to the manse on plausible errands to Mrs.
Danby and lingering until it was so dark that Alan was in courtesy
bound to see her home. The ruse was a little too patent and amused
Alan, although he carefully hid his amusement and treated Isabel with
the fine unvarying deference which his mother had engrained into him
for womanhood—a deference that flattered Isabel even while it annoyed
her with the sense of a barrier which she could not break down or
pass. She was the daughter of the richest man in Rexton and inclined
to give herself airs on that account, but Alan's gentle indifference
always brought home to her an unwelcome feeling of inferiority.
"You've been tiring yourself out again tramping that lake shore, I
suppose," said Mrs. Danby, who had kept house for three bachelor
ministers and consequently felt entitled to hector them in a somewhat
"Not tiring myself—resting and refreshing myself rather," smiled
Alan. "I was tired when I went out but now I feel like a strong man
rejoicing to run a race. By the way, Mrs. Danby, who lives in that
quaint old house away down at the very shore? I never knew of its
Alan's "by the way" was not quite so indifferent as he tried to make
it. Isabel King, leaning back posingly among the cushions of the
lounge, sat quickly up as he asked his question.
"Dear me, you don't mean to say you've never heard of Captain
Anthony—Captain Anthony Oliver?" said Mrs. Danby. "He lives down
there at Four Winds, as they call it—he and his daughter and an old
Isabel King bent forward, her brown eyes on Alan's face.
"Did you see Lynde Oliver?" she asked with suppressed eagerness.
Alan ignored the question—perhaps he did not hear it.
"Have they lived there long?" he asked.
"For eighteen years," said Mrs. Danby placidly. "It's funny you
haven't heard them mentioned. But people don't talk much about the
Captain now—he's an old story—and of course they never go anywhere,
not even to church. The Captain is a rank infidel and they say his
daughter is just as bad. To be sure, nobody knows much about her, but
it stands to reason that a girl who's had her bringing up must be odd,
to say no worse of her. It's not really her fault, I suppose—her
wicked old scalawag of a father is to blame for it. She's never
darkened a church or school door in her life and they say she's always
been a regular tomboy—running wild outdoors with dogs, and fishing
and shooting like a man. Nobody ever goes there—the Captain doesn't
want visitors. He must have done something dreadful in his time, if it
was only known, when he's so set on living like a hermit away down on
that jumping-off place. Did you see any of them?"
"I saw Miss Oliver, I suppose," said Alan briefly. "At least I met a
young lady on the shore. But where did these people come from? Surely
more is known of them than this."
"Precious little. The truth is, Mr. Douglas, folks don't think the
Olivers respectable and don't want to have anything to do with them.
Eighteen years ago Captain Anthony came from goodness knows where,
bought the Four Winds point, and built that house. He said he'd been a
sailor all his life and couldn't live away from the water. He brought
his wife and child and an old cousin of his with him. This Lynde
wasn't more than two years old then. People went to call but they
never saw any of the women and the Captain let them see they weren't
wanted. Some of the men who'd been working round the place saw his
wife and said she was sickly but real handsome and like a lady, but
she never seemed to want to see anyone or be seen herself. There was
a story that the Captain had been a smuggler and that if he was caught
he'd be sent to prison. Oh, there were all sorts of yarns, mostly
coming from the men who worked there, for nobody else ever got inside
the house. Well, four years ago his wife disappeared—it wasn't known
how or when. She just wasn't ever seen again, that's all. Whether she
died or was murdered or went away nobody ever knew. There was some
talk of an investigation but nothing came of it. As for the girl,
she's always lived there with her father. She must be a perfect
heathen. He never goes anywhere, but there used to be talk of
strangers visiting him—queer sort of characters who came up the lake
in vessels from the American side. I haven't heard any reports of such
these past few years, though—not since his wife disappeared. He keeps
a yacht and goes sailing in it—sometimes he cruises about for
weeks—that's about all he ever does. And now you know as much about
the Olivers as I do, Mr. Douglas."
Alan had listened to this gossipy narrative with an interest that did
not escape Isabel King's observant eyes. Much of it he mentally
dismissed as improbable surmise, but the basic facts were probably as
Mrs. Danby had reported them. He had known that the girl of the shore
could be no commonplace, primly nurtured young woman.
"Has no effort ever been made to bring these people into touch with
the church?" he asked absently.
"Bless you, yes. Every minister that's ever been in Rexton has had a
try at it. The old cousin met every one of them at the door and told
him nobody was at home. Mr. Strong was the most persistent—he didn't
like being beaten. He went again and again and finally the Captain
sent him word that when he wanted parsons or pill-dosers he'd send
for them, and till he did he'd thank them to mind their own business.
They say Mr. Strong met Lynde once along shore and wanted to know if
she wouldn't come to church, and she laughed in his face and told him
she knew more about God now than he did or ever would. Perhaps the
story isn't true. Or if it was maybe he provoked her into saying it.
Mr. Strong wasn't overly tactful. I believe in judging the poor girl
as charitably as possible and making allowances for her, seeing how
she's been brought up. You couldn't expect her to know how to behave."
Somehow, Alan resented Mrs. Danby's charity. Then, his sense of humour
being strongly developed, he smiled to think of this commonplace old
lady "making allowances" for the splendid bit of femininity he had
seen on the shore. A plump barnyard fowl might as well have talked of
making allowances for a seagull!
Alan walked home with Isabel King but he was very silent as they went
together down the long, dark, sweet-smelling country road bordered by
its white orchards. Isabel put her own construction on his absent
replies to her remarks and presently she asked him, "Did you think
Lynde Oliver handsome?"
The question gave Alan an annoyance out of all proportion to its
significance. He felt an instinctive reluctance to discuss Lynde
Oliver with Isabel King.
"I saw her only for a moment," he said coldly, "but she impressed me
as being a beautiful woman."
"They tell queer stories about her—but maybe they're not all true,"
said Isabel, unable to keep the sneer of malice out of her voice. At
that moment Alan's secret contempt for her crystallized into
pronounced aversion. He made no reply and they went the rest of the
way in silence. At her gate Isabel said, "You haven't been over to see
us very lately, Mr. Douglas."
"My congregation is a large one and I cannot visit all my people as
often as I might wish," Alan answered, all the more coldly for the
personal note in her tone. "A minister's time is not his own, you
"Shall you be going to see the Olivers?" asked Isabel bluntly.
"I have not considered that question. Good-night, Miss King."
On his way back to the manse Alan did consider the question. Should he
make any attempt to establish friendly relations with the residents of
Four Winds? It surprised him to find how much he wanted to, but he
finally concluded that he would not. They were not adherents of his
church and he did not believe that even a minister had any right to
force himself upon people who plainly wished to be let alone.
When he got home, although it was late, he went to his study and began
work on a new text—for Elder Trewin's seemed utterly out of the
question. Even with the new one he did not get on very well. At last
in exasperation he leaned back in his chair.
Why can't I stop thinking of those Four Winds people? Here, let me put
these haunting thoughts into words and see if that will lay them. That
girl had a beautiful face but a cold one. Would I like to see it lighted
up with the warmth of her soul set free? Yes, frankly, I would. She
looked upon me with indifference. Would I like to see her welcome me as
a friend? I have a conviction that I would, although no doubt everybody
in my congregation would look upon her as a most unsuitable friend for
me. Do I believe that she is wild, unwomanly, heathenish, as Mrs. Danby
says? No, I do not, most emphatically. I believe she is a lady in the
truest sense of that much abused word, though she is doubtless
unconventional. Having said all this, I do not see what more there is
to be said. And—I—am—going—to—write—this—sermon.
Alan wrote it, putting all thought of Lynde Oliver sternly out of his
mind for the time being. He had no notion of falling in love with her.
He knew nothing of love and imagined that it counted for nothing in
his life. He admitted that his curiosity was aflame about the girl,
but it never occurred to him that she meant or could mean anything to
him but an attractive enigma which once solved would lose its
attraction. The young women he knew in Rexton, whose simple, pleasant
friendship he valued, had the placid, domestic charm of their own
sweet-breathed, windless orchards. Lynde Oliver had the fascination of
the lake shore—wild, remote, untamed—the lure of the wilderness and
the primitive. There was nothing more personal in his thought of her,
and yet when he recalled Isabel King's sneer he felt an almost
During the following fortnight Alan made many trips to the shore—and
he always went by the branch road to the Four Winds point. He did not
attempt to conceal from himself that he hoped to meet Lynde Oliver
again. In this he was unsuccessful. Sometimes he saw her at a distance
along the shore but she always disappeared as soon as seen.
Occasionally as he crossed the point he saw her working in her garden
but he never went very near the house, feeling that he had no right to
spy on it or her in any way. He soon became convinced that she avoided
him purposely and the conviction piqued him. He felt an odd masterful
desire to meet her face to face and make her look at him. Sometimes he
called himself a fool and vowed he would go no more to the Four Winds
shore. Yet he inevitably went. He did not find in the shore the
comfort and inspiration he had formerly found. Something had come
between his soul and the soul of the wilderness—something he did not
recognize or formulate—a nameless, haunting longing that shaped
itself about the memory of a cold sweet face and starry, indifferent
eyes, grey as the lake at dawn.
Of Captain Anthony he never got even a glimpse, but he saw the old
cousin several times, going and coming about the yard and its
environs. Finally one day he met her, coming up a path which led to a
spring down in a firry hollow. She was carrying two heavy pails of
water and Alan asked permission to help her.
He half expected a repulse, for the tall, grim old woman had a rather
stern and forbidding look, but after gazing at him a moment in a
somewhat scrutinizing manner she said briefly, "You may, if you like."
Alan took the pails and followed her, the path not being wide enough
for two. She strode on before him at a rapid, vigorous pace until they
came out into the yard by the house. Alan felt his heart beating
foolishly. Would he see Lynde Oliver? Would—
"You may carry the water there," the old woman said, pointing to a
little outhouse near the pines. "I'm washing—the spring water is
softer than the well water. Thank you"—as Alan set the pails down on
a bench—"I'm not so young as I was and bringing the water so far
tires me. Lynde always brings it for me when she's home."
She stood before him in the narrow doorway, blocking his exit, and
looked at him with keen, deep-set dark eyes. In spite of her withered
aspect and wrinkled face, she was not an uncomely old woman and there
was about her a dignity of carriage and manner that pleased Alan. It
did not occur to him to wonder why it should please him. If he had
hunted that feeling down he might have been surprised to discover that
it had its origin in a curious gratification over the thought that the
woman who lived with Lynde had a certain refinement about her. He
preferred her unsmiling dourness to vulgar garrulity.
"Are you the young minister up at Rexton?" she asked bluntly.
"I thought so. Lynde said she had seen you on the shore once.
Well"—she cast an uncertain glance over her shoulder at the
house—"I'm much obliged to you."
Alan had an idea that that was not what she had thought of saying, but
as she had turned aside and was busying herself with the pails, there
seemed nothing for him to do but to go.
"Wait a moment." She faced him again, and if Alan had been a vain man
he might have thought that admiration looked from her piercing eyes.
"What do you think of us? I suppose they've told you tales of us up
there?"—with a scornful gesture of her hand in the direction of
Rexton. "Do you believe them?"
"I believe no ill of anyone until I have absolute proof of it," said
Alan, smiling—he was quite unconscious what a winning smile he had,
which was the best of it—"and I never put faith in gossip. Of course
you are gossipped about—you know that."
"Yes, I know it"—grimly—"and I don't care what they say about the
Captain and me. We are a queer pair—just as queer as they make us
out. You can believe what you like about us, but don't you believe a
word they say against Lynde. She's sweet and good and beautiful. It's
not her fault that she never went to church—it's her father's. Don't
you hold that against her."
The fierce yet repressed energy of her tone prevented Alan from
feeling any amusement over her simple defence of Lynde. Moreover, it
sounded unreasonably sweet in his ears.
"I won't," he promised, "but I don't suppose it would matter much to
Miss Oliver if I did. She did not strike me as a young lady who would
worry very much about other people's opinions."
If his object were to prolong the conversation about Lynde, he was
disappointed, for the old woman had turned abruptly to her work again
and, though Alan lingered for a few moments longer, she took no
further notice of him. But when he had gone she peered stealthily
after him from the door until he was lost to sight among the pines.
"A well-looking man," she muttered. "I wish Lynde had been home. I
didn't dare ask him to the house for I knew Anthony was in one of his
moods. But it's time something was done. She's woman grown and this is
no life for her. And there's nobody to do anything but me and I'm not
able, even if I knew what to do. I wonder why she hates men so.
Perhaps it's because she never knew any that were real gentlemen. This
man is—but then he's a minister and that makes a wide gulf between
them in another way. I've seen the love of man and woman bridge some
wider gulfs though. But it can't with Lynde, I'm fearing. She's so
bitter at the mere speaking of love and marriage. I can't think why.
I'm sure her mother and Anthony were happy together, and that was all
she's ever seen of marriage. But I thought when she told me of meeting
this young man on the shore there was something in her look I'd never
noticed before—as if she'd found something in herself she'd never
known was there. But she'll never make friends with him and I can't.
If the Captain wasn't so queer—"
She stopped abruptly, for a tall lithe figure was coming up from the
shore. Lynde waved her hand as she drew near.
"Oh, Emily, I've had such a splendid sail. It was glorious. Bad Emily,
you've been carrying water. Didn't I tell you never to do that when I
"I didn't have to do it. That young minister up at Rexton met me and
brought it up. He's nice, Lynde."
Lynde's brow darkened. She turned and walked away to the house without
On his way home that night Alan met Isabel King on the main shore
road. She carried an armful of pine boughs and said she wanted the
needles for a cushion. Yet the thought came into Alan's mind that she
was spying on him and, although he tried to dismiss it as unworthy, it
continued to lurk there.
For a week he avoided the shore, but there came a day when its
inexplicable lure drew him to it again irresistibly. It was a warm,
windy evening and the air was sweet and resinous, the lake misty and
blue. There was no sign of life about Four Winds and the shore seemed
as lonely and virgin as if human foot had never trodden it. The
Captain's yacht was gone from the little harbour where it was
generally anchored and, though every flutter of wind in the scrub firs
made Alan's heart beat expectantly, he saw nothing of Lynde Oliver. He
was on the point of turning homeward, with an unreasoning sense of
disappointment, when one of Lynde's dogs broke down through the hedge
of spruces, barking loudly.
Alan looked for Lynde to follow, but she did not, and he speedily saw
that there was something unusual about the dog's behaviour. The animal
circled around him, still barking excitedly, then ran off for a short
distance, stopped, barked again, and returned, repeating the
manoeuvre. It was plain that he wanted Alan to follow him, and it
occurred to the young minister that the dog's mistress must be in
danger of some kind. Instantly he set off after him; and the dog, with
a final sharp bark of satisfaction, sprang up the low bank into the
Alan followed him across the peninsula and then along the further
shore, which rapidly grew steep and high. Half a mile down the cliffs
were rocky and precipitous, while the beach beneath them was heaped
with huge boulders. Alan followed the dog along one of the narrow
paths with which the barrens abounded until nearly a mile from Four
Winds. Then the animal halted, ran to the edge of the cliff and
It was an ugly-looking place where a portion of the soil had evidently
broken away recently, and Alan stepped cautiously out to the brink and
looked down. He could not repress an exclamation of dismay and alarm.
A few feet below him Lynde Oliver was lying on a mass of mossy soil
which was apparently on the verge of slipping over a sloping shelf of
rock, below which was a sheer drop of thirty feet to the cruel
boulders below. The extreme danger of her position was manifest at a
glance; the soil on which she lay was stationary, yet it seemed as if
the slightest motion on her part would send it over the brink.
Lynde lay movelessly; her face was white, and both fear and appeal
were visible in her large dilated eyes. Yet she was quite calm and a
faint smile crossed her pale lips as she saw the man and the dog.
"Good faithful Pat, so you did bring help," she said.
"But how can I help you, Miss Oliver?" said Alan hoarsely. "I cannot
reach you—and it looks as if the slightest touch or jar would send
that broken earth over the brink."
"I fear it would. You must go back to Four Winds and get a rope."
"And leave you here alone—in such danger?"
"Pat will stay with me. Besides, there is nothing else to do. You will
find a rope in that little house where you put the water for Emily.
Father and Emily are away. I think I am quite safe here if I don't
move at all."
Alan's own common sense told him that, as she said, there was nothing
else to do and, much as he hated to leave her alone thus, he realized
that he must lose no time in doing it.
"I'll be back as quickly as possible," he said hurriedly.
Alan had been a noted runner at college and his muscles had not
forgotten their old training. Yet it seemed to him an age ere he
reached Four Winds, secured the rope, and returned. At every flying
step he was haunted by the thought of the girl lying on the brink of
the precipice and the fear that she might slip over it before he could
rescue her. When he reached the scene of the accident he dreaded to
look over the broken edge, but she was lying there safely and she
smiled when she saw him—a brave smile that softened her tense white
face into the likeness of a frightened child's.
"If I drop the rope down to you, are you strong enough to hold to it
while the earth goes and then draw yourself up the slope hand over
hand?" asked Alan anxiously.
"Yes," she answered fearlessly.
Alan passed down one end of the rope and then braced himself firmly to
hold it, for there was no tree near enough to be of any assistance.
The next moment the full weight of her body swung from it, for at her
first movement the soil beneath her slipped away. Alan's heart
sickened; what if she went with it? Could she cling to the rope while
he drew her up?
Then he saw she was still safe on the sloping shelf. Carefully and
painfully she drew herself to her knees and, dinging to the rope,
crept up the rock hand over hand. When she came within his reach he
grasped her arms and lifted her up into safety beside him.
"Thank God," he said, with whiter lips than her own.
For a few moments Lynde sat silent on the sod, exhausted with fright
and exertion, while her dog fawned on her in an ecstasy of joy.
Finally she looked up into Alan's anxious face and their eyes met. It
was something more than the physical reaction that suddenly flushed
the girl's cheeks. She sprang lithely to her feet.
"Can you walk back home?" Alan asked.
"Oh, yes, I am all right now. It was very foolish of me to get into
such a predicament. Father and Emily went down the lake in the yacht
this afternoon and I started out for a ramble. When I came here I saw
some junebells growing right out on the ledge and I crept out to
gather them. I should have known better. It broke away under me and
the more I tried to scramble back the faster it slid down, carrying me
with it. I thought it would go right over the brink"—she gave a
little involuntary shudder—"but just at the very edge it stopped. I
knew I must lie very still or it would go right over. It seemed like
days. Pat was with me and I told him to go for help, but I knew there
was no one at home—and I was horribly afraid," she concluded with
another shiver. "I never was afraid in my life before—at least not
with that kind of fear."
"You have had a terrible experience and a narrow escape," said Alan
lamely. He could think of nothing more to say; his usual readiness of
utterance seemed to have failed him.
"You saved my life," she said, "you and Pat—for doggie must have his
share of credit."
"A much larger share than mine," said Alan, smiling. "If Pat had not
come for me, I would not have known of your danger. What a magnificent
fellow he is!"
"Isn't he?" she agreed proudly. "And so is Laddie, my other dog. He
went with Father today. I love my dogs more than people." She looked
at him with a little defiance in her eyes. "I suppose you think that
"I think many dogs are much more lovable—and worthy of love—than
many people," said Alan, laughing.
How childlike she was in some ways! That trace of defiance—it was so
like a child who expected to be scolded for some wrong attitude of
mind. And yet there were moments when she looked the tall proud queen.
Sometimes, when the path grew narrow, she walked before him, her hand
on the dog's head. Alan liked this, since it left him free to watch
admiringly the swinging grace of her step and the white curves of her
neck beneath the thick braid of hair, which today was wound about her
head. When she dropped back beside him in the wider spaces, he could
only have stolen glances at her profile, delicately, strongly cut,
virginal in its soft curves, childlike in its purity. Once she looked
around and caught his glance; again she flushed, and something strange
and exultant stirred in Alan's heart. It was as if that maiden blush
were the involuntary, unconscious admission of some power he had over
her—a power which her hitherto unfettered spirit had never before
felt. The cold indifference he had seen in her face at their first
meeting was gone, and something told him it was gone forever.
When they came in sight of Four Winds they saw two people walking up
the road from the harbour and a few further steps brought them face to
face with Captain Anthony Oliver and his old housekeeper.
The Captain's appearance was a fresh surprise to Alan. He had expected
to meet a rough, burly sailor, loud of voice and forbidding of manner.
Instead, Captain Anthony was a tall, well-built man of perhaps fifty.
His face, beneath its shock of iron-grey hair, was handsome but wore a
somewhat forbidding expression, and there was something in it, apart
from line or feature, which did not please Alan. He had no time to
analyze this impression, for Lynde said hurriedly, "Father, this is
Mr. Douglas. He has just done me a great service."
She briefly explained her accident; when she had finished, the Captain
turned to Alan and held out his hand, a frank smile replacing the
rather suspicious and contemptuous scowl which had previously
"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Douglas," he said cordially. "You must
come up to the house and let me thank you at leisure. As a rule I'm
not very partial to the cloth, as you may have heard. In this case it
is the man, not the minister, I invite."
The front door of Four Winds opened directly into a wide,
low-ceilinged living room, furnished with simplicity and good taste.
Leaving the two men there, Lynde and the old cousin vanished, and Alan
found himself talking freely with the Captain who could, as it
appeared, talk well on many subjects far removed from Four Winds. He
was evidently a clever, self-educated man, somewhat opinionated and
given to sarcasm; he never made any references to his own past life or
experiences, but Alan discovered him to be surprisingly well read in
politics and science. Sometimes in the pauses of the conversation Alan
found the older man looking at him in a furtive way he did not like,
but the Captain was such an improvement on what he had been led to
expect that he was not inclined to be over critical. At least, this
was what he honestly thought. He did not suspect that it was because
this man was Lynde's father that he wished to think as well as
possible of him.
Presently Lynde came in. She had changed her outdoor dress, stained
with moss and soil in her fall, for a soft clinging garment of some
pale yellow material, and her long, thick braid of hair hung over her
shoulder. She sat mutely down in a dim corner and took no part in the
conversation except to answer briefly the remarks which Alan addressed
to her. Emily came in and lighted the lamp on the table. She was as
grim and unsmiling as ever, yet she cast a look of satisfaction on
Alan as she passed out. One dog lay down at Lynde's feet, the other
sat on his haunches by her side and laid his head on her lap. Rexton
and its quiet round of parish duties seemed thousands of miles away
from Alan, and he wondered a little if this were not all a dream.
When he went away the Captain invited him back.
"If you like to come, that is," he said brusquely, "and always as the
man, not the priest, remember. I don't want you by and by to be slyly
slipping in the thin end of any professional wedges. You'll waste your
time if you do. Come as man to man and you'll be welcome, for I like
you—and it's few men I like. But don't try to talk religion to me."
"I never talk religion," said Alan emphatically. "I try to live it.
I'll not come to your house as a self-appointed missionary, sir, but I
shall certainly act and speak at all times as my conscience and my
reverence for my vocation demands. If I respect your beliefs, whatever
they may be, I shall expect you to respect mine, Captain Oliver."
"Oh, I won't insult your God," said the Captain with a faint sneer.
Alan went home in a tumult of contending feelings. He did not
altogether like Captain Anthony—that was very clear to him, and yet
there was something about the man that attracted him. Intellectually
he was a worthy foeman, and Alan had often longed for such since
coming to Rexton. He missed the keen, stimulating debates of his
college days and, now there seemed a chance of renewing them, he was
eager to grasp it. And Lynde—how beautiful she was! What though she
shared—as was not unlikely—in her father's lack of belief? She could
not be essentially irreligious—that were impossible in a true woman.
Might not this be his opportunity to help her—to lead her into dearer
light? Alan Douglas was a sincere man, with himself as well as with
others, yet there are some motives that lie, in their first inception,
too deep even for the probe of self-analysis. He had not as yet the
faintest suspicion as to the real source of his interest in Lynde
Oliver—in his sudden forceful desire to be of use and service to
her—to rescue her from spiritual peril as he had that day rescued her
from bodily danger.
She must have a lonely, unsatisfying life, he thought. It is my duty
to help her if I can.
It did not then occur to him that duty in this instance wore a much
more pleasing aspect than it had sometimes worn in his experience.
Alan did not mean to be oversoon in going back to Four Winds, but
three days later a book came to him which Captain Anthony had
expressed a wish to see. It furnished an excuse for an earlier call.
After that he went often. He always found the Captain courteous and
affable, old Emily grimly cordial, Lynde sometimes remote and demure,
sometimes frankly friendly. Occasionally, when the Captain was away in
his yacht, he went for a walk with her and her dogs along the shore or
through the sweet-smelling pinelands up the lake. He found that she
loved books and was avid for more of them than she could obtain; he
was glad to take her several and discuss them with her. She liked
history and travels best. With novels she had no patience, she said
disdainfully. She seldom spoke of herself or her past life and Alan
fancied she avoided any personal reference. But once she said
abruptly, "Why do you never ask me to go to church? I've always been
afraid you would."
"Because I do not think it would do you any good to go if you didn't
want to," said Alan gravely. "Souls should not be rudely handled any
more than bodies."
She looked at him reflectively, her finger denting her chin in a
meditative fashion she had.
"You are not at all like Mr. Strong. He always scolded me, when he got
a chance, for not going to church. I would have hated him if it had
been worthwhile. I told him one day that I was nearer to God under
these pines than I could be in any building fashioned by human hands.
He was very much shocked. But I don't want you to misunderstand me.
Father does not go to church because he does not believe there is a
God. But I know there is. Mother taught me so. I have never gone to
church because Father would not allow me, and I could not go now in
Rexton where the people talk about me so. Oh, I know they do—you know
it, too—but I do not care for them. I know I'm not like other girls.
I would like to be but I can't be—I never can be—now."
There was some strange passion in her voice that Alan did not quite
understand—a bitterness and a revolt which he took to be against the
circumstances that hedged her in.
"Is not some other life possible for you if your present life does not
content you?" he said gently.
"But it does content me," said Lynde imperiously. "I want no other—I
wish this life to go on forever—forever, do you understand? If I were
sure that it would—if I were sure that no change would ever come to
me, I would be perfectly content. It is the fear that a change will
come that makes me wretched. Oh!" She shuddered and put her hands over
Alan thought she must mean that when her father died she would be
alone in the world. He wanted to comfort her—reassure her—but he did
not know how.
One evening when he went to Four Winds he found the door open and,
seeing the Captain in the living room, he stepped in unannounced.
Captain Anthony was sitting by the table, his head in his hands; at
Alan's entrance he turned upon him a haggard face, blackened by a
furious scowl beneath which blazed eyes full of malevolence.
"What do you want here?" he said, following up the demand with a
string of vile oaths.
Before Alan could summon his scattered wits, Lynde glided in with a
white, appealing face. Wordlessly she grasped Alan's arm, drew him
out, and shut the door.
"Oh, I've been watching for you," she said breathlessly. "I was afraid
you might come tonight—but I missed you."
"But your father?" said Alan in amazement. "How have I angered him?"
"Hush. Come into the garden. I will explain there."
He followed her into the little enclosure where the red and white
roses were now in full blow.
"Father isn't angry with you," said Lynde in a low shamed voice. "It's
just—he takes strange moods sometimes. Then he seems to hate us
all—even me—and he is like that for days. He seems to suspect and
dread everybody as if they were plotting against him. You—perhaps you
think he has been drinking? No, that is not the trouble. These
terrible moods come on without any cause that we know of. Even Mother
could not do anything with him when he was like that. You must go away
now—and do not come back until his dark mood has passed. He will be
just as glad to see you as ever then, and this will not make any
difference with him. Don't come back for a week at least."
"I do not like to leave you in such trouble, Miss Oliver."
"Oh, it doesn't matter about me—I have Emily. And there is nothing
you could do. Please go at once. Father knows I am talking to you and
that will vex him still more."
Alan, realizing that he could not help her and that his presence only
made matters worse, went away perplexedly. The following week was a
miserable one for him. His duties were distasteful to him and meeting
his people a positive torture. Sometimes Mrs. Danby looked dubiously
at him and seemed on the point of saying something—but never said it.
Isabel King watched him when they met, with bold probing eyes. In his
abstraction he did not notice this any more than he noticed a certain
subtle change which had come over the members of his congregation—as
if a breath of suspicion had blown across them and troubled their
confidence and trust. Once Alan would have been keenly and instantly
conscious of this slight chill; now he was not even aware of it.
When he ventured to go back to Four Winds he found the Captain on the
point of starting off for a cruise in his yacht. He was urbane and
friendly, utterly ignoring the incident of Alan's last visit and
regretting that business compelled him to go down the lake. Alan saw
him off with small regret and turned joyfully to Lynde, who was
walking under the pines with her dogs. She looked pale and tired and
her eyes were still troubled, but she smiled proudly and made no
reference to what had happened.
"I'm going to put these flowers on Mother's grave," she said, lifting
her slender hands filled with late white roses. "Mother loved flowers
and I always keep them near her when I can. You may come with me if
Alan had known Lynde's mother was buried under the pines but he had
never visited the spot before. The grave was at the westernmost end of
the pine wood, where it gave out on the lake, a beautiful spot, given
over to silence and shadow.
"Mother wished to be buried here," Lynde said, kneeling to arrange her
flowers. "Father would have taken her anywhere but she said she wanted
to be near us and near the lake she had loved so well. Father buried
her himself. He wouldn't have anyone else do anything for her. I am so
glad she is here. It would have been terrible to have seen her taken
far away—my sweet little mother."
"A mother is the best thing in the world—I realized that when I lost
mine," said Alan gently. "How long is it since your mother died?"
"Three years. Oh, I thought I should die too when she did. She was
very ill—she was never strong, you know—but I never thought she
could die. There was a year then—part of the time I didn't believe in
God at all and the rest I hated Him. I was very wicked but I was so
unhappy. Father had so many dreadful moods and—there was something
else. I used to wish to die."
She bowed her head on her hands and gazed moodily on the ground. Alan,
leaning against a pine tree, looked down at her. The sunlight fell
through the swaying boughs on her glory of burnished hair and lighted
up the curve of cheek and chin against the dark background of wood
brown. All the defiance and wildness had gone from her for the time
and she seemed like a helpless, weary child. He wanted to take her in
his arms and comfort her.
"You must resemble your mother," he said absently, as if thinking
aloud. "You don't look at all like your father."
Lynde shook her head.
"No, I don't look like Mother either. She was tiny and dark—she had a
sweet little face and velvet-brown eyes and soft curly dark hair. Oh,
I remember her look so well. I wish I did resemble her. I loved her
so—I would have done anything to save her suffering and trouble. At
least, she died in peace."
There was a curious note of fierce self-gratulation in the girl's voice
as she spoke the last sentence. Again Alan felt the unpleasant
impression that there was much in her that he did not understand—might
never understand—although such understanding was necessary to perfect
friendship. She had never spoken so freely of her past life to him
before, yet he felt somehow that something was being kept back in
jealous repression. It must be something connected with her father,
Alan thought. Doubtless, Captain Anthony's past would not bear
inspection, and his daughter knew it and dwelt in the shadow of her
knowledge. His heart filled with aching pity for her; he raged secretly
because he was so powerless to help her. Her girlhood had been
blighted, robbed of its meed of happiness and joy. Was she likewise to
miss her womanhood? Alan's hands clenched involuntarily at the
On his way home that evening he again met Isabel King. She turned and
walked back with him but she made no reference to Four Winds or its
inhabitants. If Alan had troubled himself to look, he would have seen
a malicious glow in her baleful brown eyes. But the only eyes which
had any meaning for him just then were the grey ones of Lynde Oliver.
During Alan's next three visits to Four Winds he saw nothing of Lynde,
either in the house or out of it. This surprised and worried him.
There was no apparent difference in Captain Anthony, who continued to
be suave and friendly. Alan always enjoyed his conversations with the
Captain, who was witty, incisive, and pungent; yet he disliked the man
himself more at every visit. If he had been compelled to define his
impression, he would have said the Captain was a charming scoundrel.
But it occurred to him that Emily was disturbed about something.
Sometimes he caught her glance, full of perplexity and—it almost
seemed—distrust. She looked as if she felt hostile towards him. But
Alan dismissed the idea as absurd. She had been friendly from the
first and he had done nothing to excite her disapproval. Lynde's
mysterious absence was a far more perplexing problem. She had not gone
away, for when Alan asked the Captain concerning her, he responded
indifferently that she was out walking. Alan caught a glint of
amusement in the older man's eyes as he spoke. He could have sworn it
was malicious amusement.
One evening he went to Four Winds around the shore. As he turned the
headland of the cove, he saw Lynde and her dogs not a hundred feet
away. The moment she saw him she darted up the bank and disappeared
among the firs.
Alan was thunderstruck. There was no room for doubt that she meant to
avoid him. He walked up to the house in a tumult of mingled feelings
which he did not even then understand. He only realized that he felt
bitterly hurt and grieved—puzzled as well. What did it all mean?
He met Emily in the yard of Four Winds on her way to the spring and
stopped her resolutely.
"Miss Oliver," he said bluntly, "is Miss Lynde angry with me? And
Emily looked at him piercingly.
"Have you no idea why?" she asked shortly.
"None in the world."
She looked at him through and through a moment longer. Then, seeming
satisfied with her scrutiny, she picked up her pail.
"Come down to the spring with me," she said.
As soon as they were out of sight of the house, Emily began abruptly.
"If you don't know why Lynde is acting so, I can't tell you, for I
don't know either. I don't even know if she is angry. I only thought
perhaps she was—that you had done or said something to vex
her—plaguing her to go to church maybe. But if you didn't, it may not
be anger at all. I don't understand that girl. She's been different
ever since her mother died. She used to tell me everything before
that. You must go and ask her right out yourself what is wrong. But
maybe I can tell you something. Did you write her a letter a
"A letter? No."
"Well, she got one then. I thought it came from you—I didn't know who
else would be writing to her. A boy brought it and gave it to her at
the door. She's been acting strange ever since. She cries at
night—something Lynde never did before except when her mother died.
And in daytime she roams the shore and woods like one possessed. You
must find out what was in that letter, Mr. Douglas."
"Have you any idea who the boy was?" Alan asked, feeling somewhat
relieved. The mystery was clearing up, he thought. No doubt it was the
old story of some cowardly anonymous letter. His thoughts flew
involuntarily to Isabel King.
Emily shook her head.
"No. He was just a half-grown fellow with reddish hair and he limped a
"Oh, that is the postmaster's son," said Alan disappointedly. "That
puts us further off the scent than ever. The letter was probably
dropped in the box at the office and there will consequently be no way
of tracing the writer."
"Well, I can't tell you anything more," said Emily. "You'll have to
ask Lynde for the truth."
This Alan was determined to do whenever he should meet her. He did not
go to the house with Emily but wandered about the shore, watching for
Lynde and not seeing her. At length he went home, a prey to stormy
emotions. He realized at last that he loved Lynde Oliver. He wondered
how he could have been so long blind to it. He knew that he must have
loved her ever since he had first seen her. The discovery amazed but
did not shock him. There was no reason why he should not love
her—should not woo and win her for his wife if she cared for him. She
was good and sweet and true. Anything of doubt in her antecedents
could not touch her. Probably the world would look upon Captain
Anthony as a somewhat undesirable father-in-law for a minister, but
that aspect of the question did not disturb Alan. As for the trouble
of the letter, he felt sure he would easily be able to clear it away.
Probably some malicious busybody had become aware of his frequent
calls at Four Winds and chose to interfere in his private affairs
thus. For the first time it occurred to him that there had been a
certain lack of cordiality among his people of late. If it were really
so, doubtless this was the reason. At any other time this would have
been of moment to him. But now his thoughts were too wholly taken up
with Lynde and the estrangement on her part to attach much importance
to anything else. What she thought mattered incalculably more to Alan
than what all the people in Rexton put together thought. He had the
right, like any other man, to woo the woman of his choice and he would
certainly brook no outside interference in the matter.
After a sleepless night he went back to Four Winds in the morning.
Lynde would not expect him at that time and he would have more chance
of finding her. The result justified his idea, for he met her by the
Alan felt shocked at the change in her appearance. She looked as if
years of suffering had passed over her. Her lips were pallid, and
hollow circles under her eyes made them appear unnaturally large. He
had last left the girl in the bloom of her youth; he found her again a
woman on whom life had laid its heavy hand.
A burning flood of colour swept over her face as they met, then
receded as quickly, leaving her whiter than before. Without any waste
of words, Alan plunged abruptly into the subject.
"Miss Oliver, why have you avoided me so of late? Have I done anything
to offend you?"
"No." She spoke as if the word hurt her, her eyes persistently cast
"Then what is the trouble?"
There was no answer. She gave an unvoluntary glance around as if
seeking some way of escape. There was none, for the spring was set
about with thick young firs and Alan blocked the only path.
He leaned forward and took her hands in his.
"Miss Oliver, you must tell me what the trouble is," he said firmly.
She pulled her hands away and flung them up to her face, her form
shaken by stormy sobs. In distress he put his arm about her and drew
"Tell me, Lynde," he whispered tenderly.
She broke away from him, saying passionately, "You must not come to
Four Winds any more. You must not have anything more to do with
us—any of us. We have done you enough harm already. But I never
thought it could hurt you—oh, I am sorry, sorry!"
"Miss Oliver, I want to see that letter you received the other
evening. Oh"—as she started with surprise—"I know about it—Emily
told me. Who wrote it?"
"There was no name signed to it," she faltered.
"Just as I thought. Well, you must let me see it."
"I cannot—I burned it."
"Then tell me what was in it. You must. This matter must be cleared
up—I am not going to have our beautiful friendship spoiled by the
malice of some coward. What did that letter say?"
"It said that everybody in your congregation was talking about your
frequent visits here—that it had made a great scandal—that it was
doing you a great deal of injury and would probably end in your having
to leave Rexton."
"That would be a catastrophe indeed," said Alan drily. "Well, what
"Nothing more—at least, nothing about you. The rest was about
myself—I did not mind it—much. But I was so sorry to think that I
had done you harm. It is not too late to undo it. You must not come
here any more. Then they will forget."
"Perhaps—but I should not forget. It's a little too late for me.
Lynde, you must not let this venomous letter come between us. I love
you, dear—I've loved you ever since I met you and I want you for my
Alan had not intended to say that just then, but the words came to his
lips in spite of himself. She looked so sad and appealing and weary
that he wanted to have the right to comfort and protect her.
She turned her eyes full upon him with no hint of maidenly shyness or
shrinking in them. Instead, they were full of a blank, incredulous
horror that swallowed up every other feeling. There was no mistaking
their expression and it struck an icy chill to Alan's heart. He had
certainly not expected a too ready response on her part—he knew that
even if she cared for him he might find it a matter of time to win her
avowal of it—but he certainly had not expected to see such evident
abject dismay as her blanched face betrayed. She put up her hand as if
warding a blow.
"Don't—don't," she gasped. "You must not say that—you must never say
it. Oh, I never dreamed of this. If I had thought it possible you
could—love me, I would never have been friends with you. Oh, I've
made a terrible mistake."
She wrung her hands piteously together, looking like a soul in
torment. Alan could not bear to see her pain.
"Don't feel such distress," he implored. "I suppose I've spoken too
abruptly—but I'll be so patient, dear, if you'll only try to care for
me a little. Can't you, dear?"
"I can't marry you," said Lynde desperately. She leaned against a slim
white bole of a young birch behind her and looked at him wretchedly.
"Won't you please go away and forget me?"
"I can't forget you," Alan said, smiling a little in spite of his
suffering. "You are the only woman I can ever love—and I can't give
you up unless I have to. Won't you be frank with me, dear? Do you
honestly think you can never learn to love me?"
"It is not that," said Lynde in a hard, unnatural voice. "I am married
Alan stared at her, not in the least comprehending the meaning of her
words. Everything—pain, hope, fear, passion—had slipped away from
him for a moment, as if he had been stunned by a physical blow. He
could not have heard aright.
"Married?" he said dully. "Lynde, you cannot mean it?"
"Yes, I do. I was married three years ago."
"Why was I not told this?" Alan's voice was stern, although he did not
mean it to be so, and she shrank and shivered. Then she began in a low
monotonous tone from which all feeling of any sort seemed to have
"Three years ago Mother was very ill—so ill that any shock would kill
her, so the doctor Father brought from the lake told us. A man—a
young sea captain—came here to see Father. His name was Frank Harmon
and he had known Father well in the past. They had sailed together.
Father seemed to be afraid of him—I had never seen him afraid of
anybody before. I could not think much about anybody except Mother
then, but I knew I did not quite like Captain Harmon, although he was
very polite to me and I suppose might have been called handsome. One
day Father came to me and told me I must marry Captain Harmon. I
laughed at the idea at first but when I looked at Father's face I did
not laugh. It was all white and drawn. He implored me to marry Captain
Harmon. He said if I did not it would mean shame and disgrace for us
all—that Captain Harmon had some hold on him and would tell what he
knew if I did not marry him. I don't know what it was but it must have
been something dreadful. And he said it would kill Mother. I knew it
would, and that was what drove me to consent at last. Oh, I can't tell
you what I suffered. I was only seventeen and there was nobody to
advise me. One day Father and Captain Harmon and I went down the lake
to Crosse Harbour and we were married there. As soon as the ceremony
was over, Captain Harmon had to sail in his vessel. He was going to
China. Father and I came back home. Nobody knew—not even Emily. He
said we must not tell Mother until she was better. But she was never
better. She only lived three months more—she lived them happily and
at rest. When I think of that, I am not sorry for what I did. Captain
Harmon said he would be back in the fall to claim me. I waited, sick
at heart. But he did not come—he has never come. We have never heard
a word of or about him since. Sometimes I feel sure he cannot be still
living. But never a day dawns that I don't say to myself, 'Perhaps he
will come today'—and, oh—"
She broke down again, sobbing bitterly. Amid all the daze of his own
pain Alan realized that, at any cost, he must not make it harder for
her by showing his suffering. He tried to speak calmly, wisely, as a
"Could it not be discovered whether your—this man—is or is not
living? Surely your father could find out."
Lynde shook her head.
"No, he says he has no way of doing so. We do not know if Captain
Harmon had any relatives or even where his home was, and it was his
own ship in which he sailed. Father would be glad to think that Frank
Harmon was dead, but he does not think he is. He says he was always a
fickle-minded fellow, one fancy driving another out of his mind. Oh, I
can bear my own misery—but to think what I have brought on you! I
never dreamed that you could care for me. I was so lonely and your
friendship was so pleasant—can you ever forgive me?"
"There is nothing to forgive, as far as you are concerned, Lynde,"
said Alan steadily. "You have done me no wrong. I have loved you
sincerely and such love can be nothing but a blessing to me. I only
wish that I could help you. It wrings my heart to think of your
position. But I can do nothing—nothing. I must not even come here any
more. You understand that?"
There was an unconscious revelation in the girl's mournful eyes as she
turned them on Alan. It thrilled him to the core of his being. She
loved him. If it were not for that empty marriage form, he could win
her, but the knowledge was only an added mocking torment. Alan had not
known a man could endure such misery and live. A score of wild
questions rushed to his lips but he crushed them back for Lynde's sake
and held out his hand.
"Good-bye, dear," he said almost steadily, daring to say no more lest
he should say too much.
"Good-bye," Lynde answered faintly.
When he had gone she flung herself down on the moss by the spring and
lay there in an utter abandonment of misery and desolation.
Pain and indignation struggled for mastery in Alan's stormy soul as he
walked homeward. So this was Captain Anthony's doings! He had
sacrificed his daughter to some crime of his dubious past. Alan never
dreamed of blaming Lynde for having kept her marriage a secret; he put
the blame where it belonged—on the Captain's shoulders. Captain
Anthony had never warned him by so much as a hint that Lynde was not
free to be won. It had all probably seemed a good joke to him. Alan
thought the furtive amusement he had so often detected in the
Captain's eyes was explained now.
He found Elder Trewin in his study when he got home. The good Elder's
face was stern and anxious; he had called on a distasteful errand—to
tell the young minister of the scandal his intimacy with the Four
Winds people was making in the congregation and remonstrate with him
concerning it. Alan listened absently, with none of the resentment he
would have felt at the interference a day previously. A man does not
mind a pin-prick when a limb is being wrenched away.
"I can promise you that my objectionable calls at Four Winds will
cease," he said sarcastically, when the Elder had finished. Elder
Trewin got himself away, feeling snubbed but relieved.
"Took it purty quiet," he reflected. "Don't believe there was much in
the yarns after all. Isabel King started them and probably she
exaggerated a lot. I suppose he's had some notion like as not of
bringing the Captain over to the church. But that's foolish, for he'd
never manage it, and meanwhile was giving occasion for gossip. It's
just as well to stop it. He's a good pastor and he works hard—too
hard, mebbe. He looked real careworn and worried today."
The Rexton gossip soon ceased with the cessation of the young
minister's visits to Four Winds. A month later it suffered a brief
revival when a tall grim-faced old woman, whom a few recognized as
Captain Anthony's housekeeper, was seen to walk down the Rexton road
and enter the manse. She did not stay there long—watchers from a
dozen different windows were agreed upon that—and nobody, not even
Mrs. Danby, who did her best to find out, ever knew why she had
Emily looked at Alan with grim reproach when she was shown into his
study, and as soon as they were alone she began with her usual
abruptness, "Mr. Douglas, why have you given up coming to Four Winds?"
"You must ask Lynde that, Miss Oliver," he said quietly.
"I have asked her—and she says nothing."
"Then I cannot tell you."
Anger glowed in Emily's eyes.
"I thought you were a gentleman," she said bitterly. "You are not. You
are breaking Lynde's heart. She's gone to a shadow of herself and
she's fretting night and day. You went there and made her like
you—oh, I've eyes—and then you left her."
Alan bent over his desk and looked the old woman in the face
"You are mistaken, Miss Oliver," he said earnestly. "I love Lynde and
would be only too happy if it were possible that I could marry her. I
am not to blame for what has come about—she will tell you that
herself if you ask her."
His look and tone convinced Emily.
"Who is to blame then? Lynde herself?"
"The Captain then?"
"Not in the sense you mean. I can tell you nothing more."
A baffled expression crossed the old woman's face. "There's a mystery
here—there always has been—and I'm shut out of it. Lynde won't
confide in me—in me who'd give my life's blood to help her. Perhaps I
can help her—I could tell you something. Have you stopped coming to
Four Winds—has she made you stop coming—because she's got such a
wicked old scamp for a father? Is that the reason?"
Alan shook his head.
"No, that has nothing to do with it."
"And you won't come back?"
"It is not a question of will. I cannot—must not go."
"Lynde will break her heart then," said Emily in a tone of despair.
"I think not. She is too strong and fine for that. Help her all you
can with sympathy but don't torment her with any questions. You may
tell her if you like that I advise her to confide the whole story to
you, but if she cannot don't tease her to. Be very gentle with her."
"You don't need to tell me that. I'd rather die than hurt her. I came
here full of anger against you—but I see now you are not to blame.
You are suffering too—your face tells that. All the same, I wish
you'd never set foot in Four Winds. She wasn't happy before but she
wasn't so miserable as she is now. Oh, I know Anthony is at the bottom
of it all in some way but I won't ask you any more questions since you
don't feel free to answer them. But are you sure that nothing can be
done to clear up the trouble?"
"Too sure," said Alan's white lips.
The autumn dragged away. Alan found out how much a man may suffer and
yet go on living and working. As for that, his work was all that made
life possible for him now and he flung himself into it with feverish
energy, growing so thin and hollow-eyed over it that even Elder Trewin
remonstrated and suggested a vacation—a suggestion at which Alan
merely smiled. A vacation which would take him away from Lynde's
neighbourhood—the thought was not to be entertained.
He never saw Lynde, for he never went to any part of the shore now;
yet he hungered constantly for the sight of her, the sound of her
voice, the glance of her luminous eyes. When he pictured her eating
her heart out in the solitude of Four Winds, he clenched his hands in
despair. As for the possibility of Harmon's return, Alan could never
face it for a moment. When it thrust its ugly presence into his
thoughts, he put it away desperately. The man was dead—or his fickle
fancy had veered elsewhere. Nothing else could explain his absence.
But they could never know, and the uncertainty would forever stand
between him and Lynde like a spectre. But he thought more of Lynde's
pain than his own. He would have elected to bear any suffering if by
so doing he could have freed her from the nightmare dread of Harmon's
returning to claim her. That dread had always hung over her and now it
must be intensified to agony by her love for another man. And he could
do nothing—nothing. He groaned aloud in his helplessness.
One evening in late November Alan flung aside his pen and yielded to
the impulse that urged him to the lake shore. He did not mean to seek
Lynde—he would go to a part of the shore where there would be no
likelihood of meeting her. But get away by himself he must. A November
storm was raging and there would be a certain satisfaction in
breasting its buffets and fighting his way through it. Besides, he
knew that Isabel King was in the house and he dreaded meeting her.
Since his conviction that she had written that letter to Lynde, he
could not tolerate the girl and it tasked his self-control to keep
from showing his contempt openly. Perhaps Isabel felt it beneath all
his outward courtesy. At least she did not seek his society as she had
It was the second day of the storm; a wild northeast gale was blowing
and cold rain and freezing sleet fell in frequent showers. Alan
shivered as he came out into its full fury on the lake shore. At first
he could not see the water through the driving mist. Then it cleared
away for a moment and he stopped short, aghast at the sight which met
Opposite him was a long low island known as Philip's Point, dwindling
down at its northeastern side to two long narrow bars of quicksand.
Alan's horrified eyes saw a small schooner sunk between the bars; her
hull was entirely under water and in the rigging clung one solitary
figure. So much he saw before the Point was blotted out in a renewed
downpour of sleet.
Without a moment's hesitation Alan turned and ran for Four Winds,
which was only about a quarter of a mile away around a headland. With
the Captain's assistance, something might be done. Other help could
not be obtained before darkness would fall and then it would be
impossible to do anything. He dashed up the steps of Four Winds and
met Emily, who had flung the door open. Behind her was Lynde's pale
face with its alarmed questioning eyes.
"Where is the Captain?" gasped Alan. "There's a vessel on Philip's
Point and one man at least on her."
"The Captain's away on a cruise," said Emily blankly. "He went three
"Then nothing can be done," said Alan despairingly. "It will be dark
long before I can get to the village."
Lynde stepped out, tying a shawl around her head.
"Let us go around to the Point," she said. "Have you matches? No?
Emily, get some. We must light a bonfire at least. And bring Father's
"It is not a fit night for you to be out," said Alan anxiously. "You
are sheltered here—you don't feel it—but it's a fearful storm down
"I am not afraid of the storm. It will not hurt me. Let us hurry. It
is growing dark already."
In silence they breasted their way to the shore and around the
headland. Arriving opposite Philip's Point, a lull in the sleet
permitted them to see the sunken schooner and the clinging figure.
Lynde waved her hand to him and they saw him wave back.
"It won't be necessary to light a fire now that he has seen us," said
Lynde. "Nothing can be done with village help till morning and that
man can never cling there so long. He will freeze to death, for it is
growing colder every minute. His only chance is to swim ashore if he
can swim. The danger will be when he comes near shore; the undertow of
the backwater on the quicksand will sweep him away and in his probably
exhausted condition he may not be able to make head against it."
"He knows that, doubtless, and that is why he hasn't attempted to swim
ashore before this," said Alan. "But I'll meet him in the backwater
and drag him in."
"You—you'll risk your own life," cried Lynde.
"There is a little risk certainly, but I don't think there is a great
one. Anyhow, the attempt must be made," said Alan quietly.
Suddenly Lynde's composure forsook her. She wrung her hands.
"I can't let you do it," she cried wildly. "You might be
drowned—there's every risk. You don't know the force of that
backwater. Alan, Alan, don't think of it."
She caught his arm in her white wet hands and looked into his face
with passionate pleading.
Emily, who had said nothing, now spoke harshly.
"Lynde is right, Mr. Douglas. You have no right to risk your life for
a stranger. My advice is to go to the village for help, and Lynde and
I will make a fire and watch here. That is all that can be expected of
you or us."
Alan paid no heed to Emily. Very tenderly he loosened Lynde's hold on
his arm and looked into her quivering face.
"You know it is my duty, Lynde," he said gently. "If anything can be
done for that poor man, I am the only one who can do it. I will come
back safe, please God. Be brave, dear."
Lynde, with a little moan of resignation, turned away. Old Emily
looked on with a face of grim disapproval as Alan waded out into the
surf that boiled and swirled around him in a mad whirl of foam. The
shower of sleet had again slackened, and the wreck half a mile away,
with its solitary figure, was dearly visible. Alan beckoned to the man
to jump overboard and swim ashore, enforcing his appeal by gestures
that commanded haste before the next shower should come. For a few
moments it seemed as if the seaman did not understand or lacked the
courage or power to obey. The next minute he had dropped from the
rigging on the crest of a mighty wave and was being borne onward to
Speedily the backwater was reached and the man, sucked down by the
swirl of the wave, threw up his arms and disappeared. Alan dashed in,
groping, swimming; it seemed an eternity before his hand clutched the
drowning man and wrenched him from the undertow. And, with the seaman
in his arms, he staggered back through the foam and dropped his
burden on the sand at Lynde's feet. Alan was reeling from exhaustion
and chilled to the marrow, but he thought only of the man he had
rescued. The latter was unconscious and, as Alan bent over him, he
heard Lynde give a choking little cry.
"He is living still," said Alan. "We must get him up to the house as
soon as possible. How shall we manage it?"
"Lynde and I can go and bring the Captain's mattress down," said
Emily. Now that Alan was safe she was eager to do all she could. "Then
you and I can carry him up to the house."
"That will be best," said Alan. "Go quickly."
He did not look at Lynde or he would have been shocked by the agony on
her face. She cast one glance at the prostrate man and followed Emily.
In a short time they returned with the mattress, and Alan and Emily
carried the sailor on it to Four Winds. Lynde walked behind them,
seemingly unconscious of both. She watched the stranger's face as one
At Four Winds they carried the man to a room where Emily and Alan
worked over him, while Lynde heated water and hunted out stimulants in
a mechanical fashion. When Alan came down she asked no questions but
looked at him with the same strained horror on her face which it had
borne ever since Alan had dropped his burden at her feet.
"Is he—conscious?" asked Lynde, as if she forced herself to ask the
"Yes, he has come back to life. But he is delirious and doesn't
realize his surroundings at all. He thinks he is still on board the
vessel. He'll probably come round all right. Emily is going to watch
him and I'll go up to Rexton and send Dr. Ames down."
"Do you know who that man you have saved is?" asked Lynde.
"No. I asked him his name but could not get any sensible answer."
"I can tell you who he is—he is Frank Harmon."
Alan stared at her. "Frank Harmon. Your—your—the man you married?
"It is he. Do you think I could be mistaken?"
Dr. Ames came to Four Winds that night and again the next day. He
found Harmon delirious in a high fever.
"It will be several days before he comes to his senses," he said.
"Shall I send you help to nurse him?"
"It isn't necessary," said Emily stiffly. "I can look after him—and
the Captain ought to be back tomorrow."
"You've no idea who he is, I suppose?" asked the doctor.
"No." Emily was quite sincere. Lynde had not told her, and Emily did
not recognize him.
"Well, Mr. Douglas did a brave thing in rescuing him," said Dr. Ames.
"I'll be back tomorrow."
Harmon remained delirious for a week. Alan went every day to Four
Winds, his interest in a man he had rescued explaining his visits to
the Rexton people. The Captain had returned and, though not absolutely
uncivil, was taciturn and moody. Alan reflected grimly that Captain
Anthony probably owed him a grudge for saving Harmon's life. He never
saw Lynde alone, but her strained, tortured face made his heart ache.
Old Emily only seemed her natural self. She waited on Harmon and Dr.
Ames considered her a paragon of a nurse. Alan thought it was well
that Emily knew nothing more of Harmon than that he was an old friend
of Captain Anthony's. He felt sure that she would have walked out of
the sick room and never reentered it had she guessed that the patient
was the man whom, above all others, Lynde dreaded and feared.
One afternoon when Alan went to Four Winds Emily met him at the door.
"He's better," she announced. "He had a good sleep this afternoon and
when he woke he was quite himself. You'd better go up and see him. I
told him all I could but he wants to see you. Anthony and Lynde are
away to Crosse Harbour. Go up and talk to him."
Harmon turned his head as the minister approached and held out his
hand with a smile.
"You're the preacher, I reckon. They tell me you were the man who
pulled me out of that hurly-burly. I wasn't hardly worth saving but
I'm as grateful to you as if I was."
"I only—did—what any man would have done," said Alan, taking the
"I don't know about that. Anyhow, it's not every man could have done
it. I'd been hanging in that rigging all day and most of the night
before. There were five more of us but they dropped off. I knew it was
no use to try to swim ashore alone—the backwater would be too much
for me. I must have been a lot of trouble. That old woman says I've
been raving for a week. And, by the way I feel, I fancy I'll be
stretched out here another week before I'll be able to use my pins.
Who are these Olivers anyhow? The old woman wouldn't talk about the
"Don't you know them?" asked Alan in astonishment. "Isn't your name
"That's right—Harmon—Alfred Harmon, first mate of the schooner,
"Alfred! I thought your name was Frank!"
"Frank was my twin brother. We were so much alike our own mammy
couldn't tell us apart. Did you know Frank?"
"No. This family did. Miss Oliver thought you were Frank when she saw
"I don't feel much like myself but I'm not Frank anyway. He's dead,
poor chap—got shot in a spat with Chinese pirates three years ago."
"Dead! Man, are you speaking the truth? Are you certain?"
"Pop sure. His mate told me the whole story. Say, preacher, what's the
matter? You look as if you were going to keel over."
Alan hastily drank a glass of water.
"I—I am all right now. I haven't been feeling well of late."
"Guess you didn't do yourself any good going out into that freezing
water and dragging me in."
"I shall thank God every day of my life that I did do it," said Alan
gravely, new light in his eyes, as Emily entered the room. "Miss
Oliver, when will the Captain and Lynde be back?"
"They said they would be home by four."
She looked at Alan curiously.
"I will go and meet her," he said quickly.
He came upon Lynde, sitting on a grey boulder under the shadow of an
overhanging fir coppice, with her dogs beside her.
She turned her head indifferently as Alan's footsteps sounded on the
pebbles, and then stood slowly up.
"Are you looking for me?" she asked.
"I have some news for you, Lynde," Alan said.
"Has he—has he come to himself?" she whispered.
"Yes, he has come to himself. Lynde, he is not Frank Harmon—he is his
twin brother. He says Frank Harmon was killed three years ago in the
For a moment Lynde's great grey eyes stared into Alan's, questioning.
Then, as the truth seized on her comprehension, she sat down on the
boulder and put her hands over her face without a word. Alan walked
down to the water's edge to give her time to recover herself. When he
came back he took her hands and said quietly, "Lynde, do you realize
what this means for us—for us? You are free—free to love me—to be
Lynde shook her head.
"Oh, that can't be. I am not fit to be your wife."
"Don't talk nonsense, dear," he smiled.
"It isn't nonsense. You are a minister and it would ruin you to marry
a girl like me. Think what the Rexton people would say of it."
"Rexton isn't the world, dearest. Last week I had a letter from home
asking me to go to a church there. I did not think of accepting
then—now I will go—we will both go—and a new life will begin for
you, clear of the shadows of the old."
"That isn't possible. No, Alan, listen—I love you too well to do you
the wrong of marrying you. It would injure you. There is Father. I
love him and he has always been very kind to me. But—but—there's
something wrong—you know it—some crime in his past—"
"The only man who knew that is dead."
"We do not know that he was the only man. I am the daughter of a
criminal and I am no fit wife for Alan Douglas. No, Alan, don't plead,
please. I won't think differently—I never can."
There was a ring of finality in her tone that struck dismay to Alan's
heart. He prepared to entreat and argue, but before he could utter a
word, the boughs behind them parted and Captain Anthony stepped down
from the bank.
"I've been listening," he announced coolly, "and I think it high time
I took a share in the conversation. You seem to have run up against a
snag, Mr. Douglas. You say Frank Harmon is dead. That's good riddance
if it's true. Is it true?"
"His brother declares it is."
"Well, then, I'll help you all I can. I like you, Mr. Douglas, and I
happen to be fond of Lynde, too—though you mayn't believe it. I'm
fond of her for her mother's sake and I'd like to see her happy. I
didn't want to give her to Harmon that time three years ago but I
couldn't help myself. He had the upper hand, curse him. It wasn't for
my own sake, though—it was for my wife's. However, that's all over
and done with and I'll do the best I can to atone for it. So you won't
marry your minister because your father was not a good man, Lynde?
Well, I don't suppose he was a very good man—a man who makes his
wife's life a hell, even in a refined way, isn't exactly a saint, to
my way of thinking. But that's the worst that could be said of him and
it doesn't entail any indelible disgrace on his family, I suppose. I
am not your father, Lynde."
"Not my father?" Lynde echoed the words blankly.
"No. Your father was your mother's first husband. She never told you
of him. When I said he made her life a hell, I said the truth, no
more, no less. I had loved your mother ever since I was a boy, Lynde.
But she was far above me in station and I never dreamed it was
possible to win her love. She married James Ashley. He was a
gentleman, so called—and he didn't kick or beat her. Oh no, he just
tormented her refined womanhood to the verge of frenzy, that was all.
He died when you were a baby. And a year later I found out your mother
could love me, rough sailor and all as I was. I married her and
brought her here. We had fifteen years of happiness together. I'm not
a good man—but I made your mother happy in spite of her wrecked
health and her dark memories. It was her wish that you should be known
as my daughter, but under the present circumstances I know she would
wish that you should be told the truth. Marry your man, Lynde, and go
away with him. Emily will go with you if you like. I'm going back to
the sea. I've been hankering for it ever since your mother died. I'll
go out of your life. There, don't cry—I hate to see a woman cry. Mr.
Douglas, I'll leave you to dry her tears and I'll go up to the house
and have a talk with Harmon."
When Captain Anthony had disappeared behind the Point, Alan turned to
Lynde. She was sobbing softly and her face was wet with tears. Alan
drew her head down on his shoulder.
"Sweetheart, the dark past is all put by. Our future begins with
promise. All is well with us, dear Lynde."
Like a child, she put her arms about his neck and their lips met.