Read CHAPTER FOURTEEN of Phebe‚ Her Profession, free online book, by Anna Chapin Ray, on

For the next week, Cicely stalked her lion patiently, warily and in vain. Gifford Barrett had come down to Quantuck, firmly resolved that on no conditions would he consent to be lionized. His six weeks in Maine had been all that he could endure. He had at last come to the wise conclusion that his talent, if he had any, belonged to himself and his work, and was not to be spread out thin on biscuits and served up at afternoon teas. He had fled from Maine and from his admiring friends in a mood dangerously near to disgust. His nostrils were tired of incense. He wished ozone, unflavored with anything whatsoever. The symptom was a healthy one and portended good things for the future. Meanwhile, it led him to choose a resort where he knew no one, where he himself was unknown, and where he could be as independent as he liked.

During the first week of his stay, he accomplished his ends. He went his own way at his own times; he ignored the many inviting glances cast in his direction; he talked only to the bathing master, the native fishermen and the waiter at his table. With observant eyes, he took in the least details of his surroundings; but he did it in an unseeing fashion that completely misled the members of the summer colony who discussed him largely under their awnings and wrangled solemnly over the important question as to whether he was surly, or only shy.

On his side, Gifford Barrett was gaining considerable amusement from the morning conventions on the beach. As a general thing, he only watched the people in groups, and entertained himself with making shrewd guesses as to the probable relationships existing in those groups. Only two individuals made distinct impressions upon him. One of these was the tall, lithe girl in the black suit, who walked as well as she swam; the other was also a girl, but younger and less good-looking, and Gifford Barrett found himself wondering how she could possibly be in so many places at once. He appeared to be always falling over her, always coming upon her path, on the cliff, on the moors, at the tiny post office where it seemed to him that he spent half of his time waiting for the leisurely distribution of the mails to be completed. She usually wore a grey bicycle suit, and she was invariably attended by a small grey dog who took unwarrantable liberties, in the post office, with peoples trouser legs and even had been known to whet his teeth on the softer portions of umbrellas. To tell the truth, he paid more attention to the dog than he did to the girl; and he was utterly unconscious of the expression of glee that crossed Cicelys face, one day, when he exclaimed,

“Get out, you small brute!” and accompanied the words with a pettish little kick which reduced the dog to a yelping frenzy.

On one other occasion Cicely had been conscious of penetrating to the nerve centres of her hero; although, fortunately for her peace of mind, she did not know the exact way in which she had accomplished the feat. Early one morning, Mr. Barrett had been strolling along the road nearest the edge of the cliff when as if by chance, there had floated down upon his astonished ears, a high girlish voice singing the second theme of his Alan Breck Overture. For a moment, his lips had curled into a complacent little smile; the next minute, he had sucked in his breath sharply between his clenched teeth. In her excitement, Cicely had mistaken her distance; she had flatted by a full half-tone the final upper note, reducing the tonal climax of the overture to the level of a comic song.

A few days later, however, Cicely was destined to make an impression upon something besides the nerve centres of her hero. As a rule, Mr. Barrett took his baths at odd hours, either going to the beach in the early morning, or else delaying until the rest of the world was at the noon dinner which it sought ravenously, the moment it left the beach. On this particular day, however, his watch apparently had played him false, and he came down upon the sand just as the throng of bathers was at its height. In the eyes of Dragons’ Row, he immediately became an object of derision, for it was as Phebe had said, there was certainly no doubt whatever of his being extremely bow-legged, and, strong and powerful as he looked, he kept himself well away from the shock of the breaking waves.

After his wonted fashion, he paddled about in the edge of the water for a few moments, then turned to walk back to the shore. The next moment proved to be his undoing. Unconscious for the once of his appearing, Cicely had been swimming back and forth just outside the line of surf; then borne on the crest of a wave higher by far than any of its fellows had been, she came floating towards the beach. She landed on her feet as usual; but the wave, heavier than she expected, swept her off her balance and sent her sliding up the sand, straight against the retreating heels of her hero. There were two hurried exclamations, there was a splash; then the backward flow caught them, pulled them down and they reached the line of breakers again just in time to be boiled sociably together in the next in coming wave.

Gifford Barrett shook the water from his eyes and rubbed his right arm a little anxiously, as he staggered to his feet again. Cicely had fled to Allyn’s side, and the young man nodded curtly to her as he stalked back to the shore. At the water’s edge, he was greeted with a voice which sounded strangely familiar to his ears.

“How do you do? Vat was ve time you got boiled; wasn’t it?”

No childish voice ever fell unheeded on Gifford Barrett’s ears. The stoutest spot in his mental armor yielded to the touch of small fingers, and some of his best comradeships had been with tiny boys and girls. Now, in an instant, all his sense of injured dignity fell away from him, and the watchers under the awnings wondered at the sudden kindliness in his face, as he grasped Mac’s pudgy fist.

“Why, Mac, who ever dreamed of seeing you here, old man!”

“I live here now,” Mac said gravely; “me and my mamma and everybody, only papa.”

“I thought you lived in Helena.”

“Not now. We like it better here; it’s so funny to sit in ve sand and build pies. Can you build pies?”

“Yes, and forts.”

Mac fell to prancing delightedly, quite regardless of the havoc his small shoes were creating among the bare toes of his companion.

“Oh, can you? Truly, no joking? Make me one now.”

“Mac!” The call came from the nearest awning.

“Vat’s mamma,” Mac said. “She wants us. Come.” And he tugged at Gifford Barrett’s hand.

“Not just now, old man.”

“Come. Aunt Teddy’s vere, and all ve rest. Come.”

“Mac!” This time, the voice was more decided.

“Yes, mamma; but he won’t come.”

“Mac, come here at once.”

There was a brief skirmish; then as usual, Mac conquered, and Gifford Barrett was led, an unwilling victim, to the awning where sat Mac’s mother, beyond her a serried rank of Mac’s relatives and, beyond them all, a tall girl in a black suit who watched him with dancing eyes.

The situation was not an easy one. It was Theodora who relieved it.

“Isn’t this Mr. Gifford Barrett?” she asked, rising to meet him with the easy dignity which she assumed at times and which made her husband feel so proud of her. “You may not remember me, Mrs. Farrington; but I think I met you in New York, two years ago, at a dinner that Mrs. Goodyear gave.” And, as she spoke, Theodora was distinctly grateful for the accident which had left a dozen old letters in the tray of her trunk.

With a grave courtesy all his own, Gifford Barrett went through the trying ordeal of an introduction in his bathing suit. Even Phebe was forced to admit that he was well-bred, while, in the distance, Cicely capered about madly, half in rapture that the desired meeting had taken place, half in rage that she could not with dignity annex herself to the group. For one short, ecstatic moment, she held her breath; then she vented her feelings by plunging headlong into the next wave and swimming off as fast as she could. Instead of making his bow and then beating the decorous retreat of an eccentric recluse, Mr. Gifford Barrett, the composer of the Alan Breck Overture, had deposited his tall form in his rose-colored bathing suit on the sand at Theodora’s feet.

“No; I thought I wouldn’t go in to-day,” she said. “I don’t care very much about it, when the surf is running so high.”

“Your sister doesn’t seem to mind any amount of surf,” Mr. Barrett said, glancing at Phebe.

Coming nearer him, one saw that his brown eyes were frank and kindly, that his face was attractive when he smiled. Theodora liked him unreservedly; she even began to remember him a little, in a vague sort of way, and she hoped that Phebe would be in one of her more lenient moods. In vain.

“Yes, I like to swim,” Phebe said briefly.

“Evidently, for no one could swim as you do, without enjoying it,” Mr. Barrett observed, with an enthusiasm which was almost boyish.

“Mr. Drayton swims magnificently, and he hates it.”

“Is this your first season here at Quantuck?”


Under cover of her gown Theodora gave Phebe a furtive poke. Phebe turned abruptly and stared at her.

“Well?” she asked.

“Well what?” Theodora said, with a smile.

“What did you want? You poked me; didn’t you?”

“I beg your pardon. Did I hit you? I get stiff with so long sitting still. Is Quantuck an old ground of yours, Mr. Barrett?”

“No; I am a stranger here. Your little nephew is the first friendly face I have seen.”

“I hope you will be neighborly at the Lodge, then. It is just on the edge of the bluff, and the latch-string is always out. So are we, for that matter. We spend most of our time down here, all of us but Phebe. She infests the golf links.”

“You are a golf enthusiast, then Miss McAlister?”

“Yes. Aren’t you?”

“No; not just now, at least. Have they good links here?”

“Very.” Phebe rose as she spoke.

“Where are you going, Babe?” Hope asked.

“Down to take one more plunge, then back to the house. I’m going out early this afternoon, and I must be ready.”

Theodora’s next remark fell upon empty ears. Gifford Barrett was watching Phebe as she went away, admiring her tall, lithe figure, her well-set head, and wondering why in the name of all that was musical this girl should snub him so roundly. He searched his mind in vain for some just cause of personal offence; he could not realize that, in Phebe’s present state of mind, there was no interest at all for her in a man who could neither swim nor play golf, and that it was characteristic of Phebe McAlister never to hide her feelings. Meanwhile, it was the first time in his life that he had been snubbed by any girl, and he found the experience novel, interesting and by no means satisfactory. As he left the awning and strolled away up the beach, he was resolving that incense and solitude should give way to snubbing. He would see more, much more of this taciturn young woman, force her to talk and, if possible, undermine her antipathy to himself.

Unhappily for Gifford Barrett, however, his conceit was playing him false. Phebe felt no antipathy to him, none whatever; she was only completely indifferent to the very fact of his existence, and she went round the links, that afternoon with a healthy forgetfulness of the fact that she had ever set eyes upon the tall person of the greatest American composer.