A Sandshore Wooing by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Fir Cottage, Plover Sands.
We arrived here late last night, and all day Aunt Martha has kept her
room to rest. So I had to keep mine also, although I felt as fresh as
a morning lark, and just in the mood for enjoyment.
My name is Marguerite Forrester—an absurdly long name for so small a
girl. Aunt Martha always calls me Marguerite, with an accent of
strong disapproval. She does not like my name, but she gives me the
full benefit of it. Connie Shelmardine used to call me Rita. Connie
was my roommate last year at the Seminary. We correspond occasionally,
but Aunt Martha frowns on it.
I have always lived with Aunt Martha—my parents died when I was a
baby. Aunt Martha says I am to be her heiress if I please her—which
means—but, oh, you do not know what "pleasing" Aunt Martha means.
Aunt is a determined and inveterate man-hater. She has no particular
love for women, indeed, and trusts nobody but Mrs. Saxby, her maid. I
rather like Mrs. Saxby. She is not quite so far gone in petrifaction
as Aunt, although she gets a little stonier every year. I expect the
process will soon begin on me, but it hasn't yet. My flesh and blood
are still unreasonably warm and pulsing and rebellious.
Aunt Martha would be in danger of taking a fit if she ever saw me
talking to a man. She watches me jealously, firmly determined to guard
me from any possible attack of a roaring and ravening lion in the
disguise of nineteenth-century masculine attire. So I have to walk
demurely and assume a virtue, if I have it not, while I pine after the
untested flesh-pots of Egypt in secret.
We have come down to spend a few weeks at Fir Cottage. Our good
landlady is a capacious, kindly-souled creature, and I think she has
rather a liking for me. I have been chattering to her all day, for
there are times when I absolutely must talk to someone or go mad.
This sort of life is decidedly dull. The program of every day is the
same. I go to the sandshore with Aunt Martha and Mrs. Saxby in the
morning, read to Aunt in the afternoons, and mope around by my
disconsolate self in the evenings. Mrs. Blake has lent me, for shore
use, a very fine spyglass which she owns. She says her "man" brought
it home from "furrin' parts" before he died. While Aunt and Mrs. Saxby
meander up and down the shore, leaving me free to a certain extent, I
amuse myself by examining distant seas and coasts through it, thus
getting a few peeps into a forbidden world. We see few people,
although there is a large summer hotel about a mile up the beach. Our
shore haunts do not seem to be popular with its guests. They prefer
the rocks. This suits Aunt Martha admirably. I may also add that it
doesn't suit her niece—but that is a matter of small importance.
The first morning I noticed a white object on the rocks, about half a
mile away, and turned my glass on it. There—apparently within a
stone's throw of me—was a young man. He was lounging on a rock,
looking dreamily out to sea. There was something about his face that
reminded me of someone I know, but I cannot remember whom.
Every morning he has reappeared on the same spot. He seems to be a
solitary individual, given to prowling by himself. I wonder what Aunt
would say if she knew what I am so earnestly watching through my glass
I shall have to cease looking at the Unknown, I am afraid.
This morning I turned my glass, as usual, on his pet haunt. I nearly
fell over in my astonishment, for he was also looking through a
spyglass straight at me, too, it seemed. How foolish I felt! And yet
my curiosity was so strong that a few minutes afterward I peeped back
again, just to see what he was doing. Then he coolly laid down his
glass, rose, lifted his cap and bowed politely to me—or, at least, in
my direction. I dropped my glass and smiled in a mixture of dismay and
amusement. Then I remembered that he was probably watching me again,
and might imagine my smile was meant for him. I banished it
immediately, shut my glass up and did not touch it again. Soon after
we came home.
Something has happened at last. Today I went to the shore as usual,
fully resolved not even to glance in the forbidden direction. But in
the end I had to take a peep, and saw him on the rocks with his glass
levelled at me. When he saw that I was looking he laid down the glass,
held up his hands, and began to spell out something in the deaf-mute
alphabet. Now, I know that same alphabet. Connie taught it to me last
year, so that we might hold communication across the schoolroom. I
gave one frantic glance at Aunt Martha's rigid back, and then watched
him while he deftly spelled: "I am Francis Shelmardine. Are you not
Miss Forrester, my sister's friend?"
Francis Shelmardine! Now I knew whom he resembled. And have I not
heard endless dissertations from Connie on this wonderful brother of
hers, Francis the clever, the handsome, the charming, until he has
become the only hero of dreams I have ever had? It was too wonderful.
I could only stare dazedly back through my glass.
"May we know each other?" he went on. "May I come over and introduce
myself? Right hand, yes; left, no."
I gasped! Suppose he were to come? What would happen? I waved my
left hand sorrowfully. He looked quite crestfallen and disappointed as
he spelled out: "Why not? Would your friends disapprove?"
I signalled: "Yes."
"Are you displeased at my boldness?" was his next question.
Where had all Aunt Martha's precepts flown to then? I blush to record
that I lifted my left hand shyly and had just time to catch his
pleased expression when Aunt Martha came up and said it was time to go
home. So I picked myself meekly up, shook the sand from my dress, and
followed my good aunt dutifully home.
When we went to the shore this morning I had to wait in spasms of
remorse and anxiety until Aunt got tired of reading and set off along
the shore with Mrs. Saxby. Then I reached for my glass.
Mr. Shelmardine and I had quite a conversation. Under the
circumstances there could be no useless circumlocution in our exchange
of ideas. It was religiously "boiled down," and ran something like
"You are not displeased with me?"
"No—but I should be."
"It is wrong to deceive Aunt."
"I am quite respectable."
"That is not the question."
"Cannot her prejudices be overcome?"
"Mrs. Allardyce, who is staying at the hotel, knows her well. Shall I
bring her over to vouch for my character?"
"It would not do a bit of good."
"Then it is hopeless."
"Would you object to knowing me on your own account?"
"Do you ever come to the shore alone?"
"No. Aunt would not permit me."
"Must she know?"
"Yes. I would not come without her permission."
"You will not refuse to chat with me thus now and then?"
"I don't know. Perhaps not."
I had to go home then. As we went Mrs. Saxby complimented me on my
good colour. Aunt Martha looked her disapproval. If I were really ill
Aunt would spend her last cent in my behalf, but she would be just as
well pleased to see me properly pale and subdued at all times, and not
looking as if I were too well contented in this vale of tears.
I have "talked" a good deal with Mr. Shelmardine these past four days.
He is to be at the beach for some weeks longer. This morning he
signalled across from the rocks: "I mean to see you at last. Tomorrow
I will walk over and pass you."
"You must not. Aunt will suspect."
"No danger. Don't be alarmed. I will do nothing rash."
I suppose he will. He seems to be very determined. Of course, I cannot
prevent him from promenading on our beach all day if he chooses. But
then if he did, Aunt would speedily leave him in sole possession of
I wonder what I had better wear tomorrow.
Yesterday morning Aunt Martha was serene and unsuspicious. It is
dreadful of me to be deceiving her and I do feel guilty. I sat down on
the sand and pretended to read the "Memoirs of a Missionary"—Aunt
likes cheerful books like that—in an agony of anticipation. Presently
Aunt said, majestically: "Marguerite, there is a man coming this
way. We will move further down."
And we moved. Poor Aunt!
Mr. Shelmardine came bravely on. I felt my heart beating to my very
finger tips. He halted by the fragment of an old stranded boat. Aunt
had turned her back on him.
I ventured on a look. He lifted his hat with a twinkle in his eye.
Just then Aunt said, icily: "We will go home, Marguerite. That
creature evidently intends to persist in his intrusion."
Home we came accordingly.
This morning he signalled across: "Letter from Connie. Message for
you. I mean to deliver it personally. Do you ever go to church?"
Now, I do go regularly to church at home. But Aunt Martha and Mrs.
Saxby are both such rigid church people that they would not darken the
doors of the Methodist church at Plover Sands for any consideration.
Needless to say, I am not allowed to go either. But it was impossible
to make this long explanation, so I merely replied: "Not here."
"Will you not go tomorrow morning?"
"Aunt will not let me."
"Coaxing never has any effect on her."
"Would she relent if Mrs. Allardyce were to call for you?"
Now, I have been cautiously sounding Aunt about Mrs. Allardyce, and I
have discovered that she disapproves of her. So I said: "It would be
useless. I will ask Aunt if I may go, but I feel almost sure that she
will not consent."
This evening, when Aunt was in an unusually genial mood, I plucked up
heart of grace and asked her.
"Marguerite," she said impressively, "you know that I do not attend
"But, Aunt," I persisted, quakingly, "couldn't I go alone? It is not
very far—and I will be very careful."
Aunt merely gave me a look that said about forty distinct and separate
things, and I was turning away in despair when Mrs. Saxby—bless her
heart—said: "I really think it would be no harm to let the child go."
As Aunt attaches great importance to Mrs. Saxby's opinion, she looked
at me relentingly and said: "Well, I will think it over and let you
know in the morning, Marguerite."
Now, everything depends on the sort of humour Aunt is in in the
This morning was perfect, and after breakfast Aunt said,
condescendingly: "I think you may attend church if you wish,
Marguerite. Remember that I expect you to conduct yourself with
becoming prudence and modesty."
I flew upstairs and pulled my prettiest dress out of my trunk. It is a
delicate, shimmering grey stuff with pearly tints about it. Every time
I get anything new, Aunt Martha and I have a battle royal over it. I
verily believe that Aunt would like me to dress in the fashions in
vogue in her youth. There is always a certain flavour of
old-fashionedness about my gowns and hats. Connie used to say that it
was delicious and gave me a piquant uniqueness—a certain unlikeness
to other people that possessed a positive charm. That is only Connie's
view of it, however.
But I had had my own way about this dress and it is really very
becoming. I wore a little silvery-grey chip hat, trimmed with pale
pink flowers, and I pinned at my belt the sweetest cluster of
old-fashioned blush rosebuds from the garden. Then I borrowed a hymn
book from Mrs. Blake and ran down to undergo Aunt Martha's scrutiny.
"Dear me, child," she said discontentedly, "you have gotten yourself
up very frivolously, it seems to me."
"Why, Aunty," I protested, "I'm all in grey—every bit."
Aunt Martha sniffed. You don't know how much Aunt can express in a
sniff. But I tripped to church like a bird.
The first person I saw there was Mr. Shelmardine. He was sitting right
across from me and a smile glimmered in his eyes. I did not look at
him again. Through the service I was subdued enough to have satisfied
even Aunt Martha.
When church came out, he waited for me at the entrance to his pew. I
pretended not to see him until he said "Good morning," in a voice
vibrating and deep, which sounded as though it might become infinitely
tender if its owner chose. When we went down the steps he took my
hymnal, and we walked up the long, bowery country road.
"Thank you so much for coming today," he said—as if I went to oblige
"I had a hard time to get Aunt Martha's consent," I declared frankly.
"I wouldn't have succeeded if Mrs. Saxby hadn't taken my part."
"Heaven bless Mrs. Saxby," he remarked fervently. "But is there any
known way of overcoming your aunt's scruples? If so, I am ready to
"There is none. Aunt Martha is very good and kind to me, but she will
never stop trying to bring me up. The process will be going on when I
am fifty. And she hates men! I don't know what she would do if she saw
Mr. Shelmardine frowned and switched the unoffending daisies viciously
with his cane.
"Then there is no hope of my seeing you openly and above-board?"
"Not at present," I said faintly.
After a brief silence we began to talk of other things. He told me how
he happened to see me first.
"I was curious to know who the people were who were always in the same
place at the same time, so one day I took my telescope. I could see
you plainly. You were reading and had your hat off. When I went back
to the hotel I asked Mrs. Allardyce if she knew who the boarders at
Fir Cottage were and she told me. I had heard Connie speak of you, and
I determined to make your acquaintance."
When we reached the lane I held out my hand for the hymnal.
"You mustn't come any further, Mr. Shelmardine," I said hurriedly.
"Aunt—Aunt might see you."
He took my hand and held it, looking at me seriously.
"Suppose I were to walk up to the cottage tomorrow and ask for you?"
I gasped. He looked so capable of doing anything he took it into his
head to do.
"Oh, you wouldn't," I said piteously. "Aunt Martha would—you are not
"I suppose not," he said regretfully. "Of course I would not do
anything that would cause you unpleasantness. But this must not—shall
not be our last meeting."
"Aunt will not let me come to church again," I said.
"Does she ever take a nap in the afternoon?" he queried.
I wriggled my parasol about in the dust uneasily.
"I shall be at the old boat tomorrow afternoon at two-thirty," he
I pulled my hand away.
"I couldn't—you know I couldn't," I cried—and then I blushed to my
"Are you sure you couldn't?" bending a little nearer.
"Quite sure," I murmured.
He surrendered my hymnal at last.
"Will you give me a rose?"
I unpinned the whole cluster and handed it to him. He lifted it until
it touched his lips. As for me, I scuttled up the lane in the most
undignified fashion. At the turn I looked back. He was still standing
there with his hat off.
On Monday afternoon I slipped away to the shore while Aunt Martha and
Mrs. Saxby were taking their regular nap and I was supposed to be
reading sermons in my room.
Mr. Shelmardine was leaning against the old boat, but he came swiftly
across the sand to meet me.
"This is very kind of you," he said.
"I ought not to have come," I said repentantly. "But it is so lonely
there—and one can't be interested in sermons and memoirs all the
Mr. Shelmardine laughed.
"Mr. and Mrs. Allardyce are on the other side of the boat. Will you
come and meet them?"
How nice of him to bring them! I knew I should like Mrs. Allardyce,
just because Aunt Martha didn't. We had a delightful stroll. I never
thought of the time until Mr. Shelmardine said it was four o'clock.
"Oh, is it so late as that?" I cried. "I must go at once."
"I'm sorry we have kept you so long," remarked Mr. Shelmardine in a
tone of concern. "If she should be awake, what will the consequences
"Too terrible to think of," I answered seriously. "I'm sorry, Mr.
Shelmardine, but you mustn't come any further."
"We will be here tomorrow afternoon," he said.
"Mr. Shelmardine!" I protested. "I wish you wouldn't put such ideas
into my head. They won't come out—no, not if I read a whole volume of
sermons right through."
We looked at each other for a second. Then he began to smile, and we
both went off into a peal of laughter.
"At least let me know if Miss Fiske rampages," he called after me as I
But Aunt Martha was not awake—and I have been to the shore three
afternoons since then. I was there today, and I'm going tomorrow for a
boat sail with Mr. Shelmardine and the Allardyces. But I am afraid the
former will do something rash soon. This afternoon he said: "I don't
think I can stand this much longer."
"Stand what?" I asked.
"You know very well," he answered recklessly. "Meeting you in this
clandestine manner, and thereby causing that poor little conscience of
yours such misery. If your aunt were not so—unreasonable, I should
never have stooped to it."
"It is all my fault," I said contritely.
"Well, I hardly meant that," he said grimly. "But hadn't I better go
frankly to your aunt and lay the whole case before her?"
"You would never see me again if you did that," I said hastily—and
then wished I hadn't.
"That is the worst threat you could make," he said.
It is all over, and I am the most miserable girl in the world. Of
course this means that Aunt Martha has discovered everything and the
deserved punishment of my sins has overtaken me.
I slipped away again this afternoon and went for that boat sail. We
had a lovely time but were rather late getting in, and I hurried home
with many misgivings. Aunt Martha met me at the door.
My dress was draggled, my hat had slipped back, and the kinks and curls
of my obstreperous hair were something awful. I know I looked very
disreputable and also, no doubt, very guilty and conscience-stricken.
Aunt gave me an unutterable look and then followed me up to my room in
"Marguerite, what does this mean?"
I have lots of faults, but untruthfulness isn't one of them. I
confessed everything—at least, almost everything. I didn't tell about
the telescopes and deaf-mute alphabet, and Aunt was too
horror-stricken to think of asking how I first made Mr. Shelmardine's
acquaintance. She listened in stony silence. I had expected a terrible
scolding, but I suppose my crimes simply seemed to her too enormous
When I had sobbed out my last word she rose, swept me one glance of
withering contempt, and left the room. Presently Mrs. Saxby came up,
"My dear child, what have you been doing? Your aunt says that we are
to go home on the afternoon train tomorrow. She is terribly upset."
I just curled up on the bed and cried, while Mrs. Saxby packed my
trunk. I will have no chance to explain matters to Mr. Shelmardine.
And I will never see him again, for Aunt is quite capable of whisking
me off to Africa. He will just think me a feather-brained flirt. Oh, I
am so unhappy!
I am the happiest girl in the world! That is quite a different strain
from yesterday. We leave Fir Cottage in an hour, but that doesn't
I did not sleep a wink last night and crawled miserably down to
breakfast. Aunt took not the slightest notice of me, but to my
surprise she told Mrs. Saxby that she intended taking a farewell walk
to the shore. I knew I would be taken, too, to be kept out of
mischief, and my heart gave a great bound of hope. Perhaps I would
have a chance to send word to Francis, since Aunt did not know of the
part my spyglass had played in my bad behaviour.
I meekly followed my grim guardians to the shore and sat dejectedly on
my rug while they paced the sand. Francis was on the rocks. As soon as
Aunt Martha and Mrs. Saxby were at a safe distance, I began my
message: "All discovered. Aunt is very angry. We go home today."
Then I snatched my glass. His face expressed the direst consternation
and dismay. He signalled: "I must see you before you go."
"Impossible. Aunt will never forgive me. Good-bye."
I saw a look of desperate determination cross his face. If forty Aunt
Marthas had swooped down upon me, I could not have torn my eyes from
"I love you. You know it. Do you care for me? I must have my answer
What a situation! No time or chance for any maidenly hesitation or
softening aureole of words. Aunt and Mrs. Saxby had almost reached the
point where they invariably turned. I had barely time to spell out a
plain, blunt "yes" and read his answer.
"I shall go home at once, get Mother and Connie, follow you, and
demand possession of my property. I shall win the day. Have no fear.
Till then, good-bye, my darling."
"Marguerite," said Mrs. Saxby at my elbow, "it is time to go."
I got up obediently. Aunt Martha was as grim and uncompromising as
ever, and Mrs. Saxby looked like a chief mourner, but do you suppose I
cared? I dropped behind them just once before we left the shore. I
knew he was watching me and I waved my hand.
I suppose I am really engaged to Francis Shelmardine. But was there
ever such a funny wooing? And what will Aunt Martha say?