Read CHAPTER XIX - PLOTS AND PLANS of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

“The best laid schemes o’ mice and men,” etc., proved itself true in Frank Nason’s case. He had consoled himself during the many months of hard study with visions of a yachting-trip in July and August, when perhaps in some manner Alice Page could be induced to come, with his mother and sisters to chaperone her, and her brother and some other friends to complete the party.

He had the “Gypsy” put in first-class shape and all her state-rooms refurnished, and one in particular, which he intended Alice should occupy, upholstered in blue. So well formed were his plans that he timed the start so as to utilize the July moon for the first ten days, and mapped out a trip taking in all the Maine coast, spending a week at Bar Harbor and then a run up as far east as Annapolis Bay and the coast of Acadia.

He had described all the charms of this trip to Alice and extended to her the most urgent invitation. He had obtained her brother’s promise to supplement it and also to make one of the party, and he had persuaded his sister Blanch to aid him with his mother, but he had met discouragement on all sides. In the first place, Alice wrote it was doubtful if she could go. It would be a delightful outing, and one she would enjoy, but it would not be right to leave Aunt Susan alone for so long, and then as her school did not close until the last of June, she would have no time to get ready. These were not the sole reasons for her reluctance, and in fact she made no mention of what was her principal reason. He did not understand that Alice Page was too proud-spirited to appear willing to put herself in his way and accept an invitation having for its ultimate object the giving of an opportunity to him to court her. Then to accept his family’s protectorship and hospitality for that same end was even more obnoxious. With true feminine discretion she did not dare confide this reason to her brother, and perhaps it was wise she did not.

To cap the climax of Frank’s discomfiture, when July came his mother announced that she had decided to go to the mountains for the summer, and then he saw his nicely laid plans were to be an utter failure.

“It’s no use, Bert,” he said to his friend one evening, “I wanted your sister to go to Maine with us, and mother and the girls and a few more to make a party, but it’s no go. I can’t induce your sister to join us, and it’s no use if she would, for mother has determined to go to Bethlehem, and that settles it. I feel like going out and getting full. If you and I have any outing on the yacht, we must make up a gander party.”

“That suits me just as well as, and in fact better than, the other plan,” replied Albert consolingly. “If we have a lot of ladies along we must dance attendance upon them, and if not we can fish, smoke, play cards, sing, or go to sleep when we feel like it. I tell you, Frank,” he continued, evidently desiring to cheer up that young man, “girls are all right as companions at home or at balls and theatres, but on a yacht they are in the way. Not only are they liable to seasickness, but at every bit of rough water they will get scared and make no end of trouble.”

It was very good philosophy and to a certain extent true, although it did not agree with Frank’s feelings, but then it must be remembered that he was suffering from the pangs of love, while his mentor was not.

A week afterward, and early one bright morning, the “Gypsy,” with skipper, crew, and a party of eight jolly young men on board, sailed out of Boston and that night dropped anchor under the lee of an island in Casco Bay. She remained there one full day and the next ran to Boothbay and found shelter in a landlocked cove forming part of the coast line of Southport Island. It was after dinner next day, and while the rest of the party were either playing cards or napping in hammocks under the awning, that Albert Page took one of the boats, his pipe, and sketch book, and rowed down the coast a mile to an inlet he had noticed the day before. The outer point of this was formed by a bold cliff that he desired to sketch, and pulling the boat well up behind the inner point, tying the painter to a rock and taking the cushions along, he found a shady spot and sat down. The sloping rock he selected for a seat was a little damp, but he thought nothing of it, and lighting his pipe began sketching. He worked for an hour, putting the weed-draped rocks and long swells that broke over them into his book, and then, lulled perhaps by the monotonous rhythm of the ocean, lay back on the cushions and fell asleep. The next he knew he was awakened by a cold sensation and found the tide had risen until it wet his feet. Hastily getting up, he took the cushions and returned to where he had left the boat, only to find it had disappeared. The rising tide had lifted the boat and painter from the rocks, and it was nowhere to be seen.

“There must be some road back up on the island,” he thought, “that will lead me near the cove where the ‘Gypsy’ is,” and still retaining the cushions, he started to find it. But he was a stranger to Southport Island and the farther away from the sea he got, the thicker grew the tangle of scrub spruce and briers. It was too thick to see anywhere, and after a half hour of desperate scrambling, the afternoon sun began to seem about due east! He had long since dropped the cushions, and finally, in sheer exhaustion, sat down on a rock to collect himself. “It looks as though I’m billed to stay here all night,” he thought, as he noted the lowering sun, “and nobody knows how much longer! There must be a road somewhere, though, and I’m going to find it if the light lasts long enough.” He started once more and had not gone ten rods ere he came to one, and then he breathed easier. His clothes were torn, his hands and face scratched by briers, and to save himself he couldn’t make it seem but that the sun was setting in the east! He sat down to think. All sound of the ocean was gone and a stillness that seemed to crawl out of the thicket was around him. He rested a few moments more, and then suddenly heard the sound of wheels and presently saw, coming around the curve, an old-fashioned carryall, worn and muddy, and, driving the horse at a jog trot, a man as dilapidated-looking as the vehicle. Gladdened at the sight, he arose, and holding up his hand as a signal, halted the team. “Excuse me, sir,” he said to the man, who eyed him curiously, “but will you tell me where I am?”

“Wal,” was the answer in a slow drawl, “ye’r’ on Southport Island, and ‘bout four miles from the jumpin’ off place. Whar might ye be goin’? Ye look bushed.”

“I am,” answered Page, “and badly bushed too. I lost my boat over back here on the shore, and have had a cheerful time among the Mohawk briers. I belong to a yacht that is anchored in a cove of this island, I can’t tell where, and if you will take me to her I’ll pay you well.”

The man in the wagon laughed.

“Say, stranger,” he observed with a chuckle, “you ‘mind me o’ the feller that got full and wandered round for a spell till he fetched up to a house, an’ sed to the man that cum to the door, ’If you will tell me who I am, or whar I am, or whar I want ter go, I’ll give ye a dollar!’”

Page had to laugh in spite of his plight, for the humorous twinkle in the old man’s eyes as he uttered his joke was infectious.

“I’d like tercommodate ye,” he added, “but as I’m carryin’ Uncle Sam’s mail, an’ must git home an’ tend the light, and as ye don’t know whar ye want ter go, ye best jump in an’ go down to Saint’s Rest, whar I live, an’ in the mornin’ we’ll try an’ hunt up yer boat.”

It seemed the only thing to do, and Albert availed himself of the chance.

“Can you tell the spot where you found me?” he said to the man as they started on. “I’d like to go back there to-morrow and find my cushions.”

“Wal,” was the answer, “as I’ve druv over this road twice a day for nigh onto thirty year, I’m tolerable familiar with it. My name’s Terry, an’ I’m keeper o’ the light at the Cape, an’ carry the mail to sorter piece out on. Who might ye be?”

“My name’s Page, and I’m from Boston, and a lawyer by profession,” replied Albert.

Uncle Terry eyed him rather sharply.

“I wouldn’t ‘a’ took ye fer one o’ them dern pickpockets,” he said, “ye look too honest. I ain’t much stuck on lawyers,” he added, with a chuckle. “I’ve had ’sperence with ’em. One of ’em sold me a hole in the ground onct, an’ it cost me the hull o’ twenty years’ savin’s! You’ll ‘scuse me fer bein’ blunt-it’s my natur.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” responded Albert laughingly; “not all of my profession are thieves, though some are. You mustn’t judge us all by one rascal.”

They drove on, and as they jogged up and down the sharp hills he caught sight here and there of the ocean, and alongside the road, which consisted of two ruts, a path, and two grass-grown ridges, he saw wild roses in endless profusion. On either hand was an interminable thicket. In the little valleys grew masses of rank ferns, and on the ridges, interspersed between the wild roses, clusters of red bunch-berries. The sun was almost down when they reached the top of a long hill and he saw at its foot a small harbor connected with the ocean by a narrow inlet, and around it a dozen or more brown houses. Beyond was a tangle of rocks and, rising above them, the top of a white lighthouse. Uncle Terry, who had kept up a running fire of questions all the time, halted the horse and said:

“Ye can now take yer first look at Saint’s Rest, otherwise known as the Cape. We ketch some lobsters an’ fish here an’ hev prayer-meetin’s once a week.” Then he chirruped to the horse and they rattled down the hill to a small store where he left a mail pouch, and then followed a winding road between the scattered houses and out to the point, where stood a neat white dwelling close beside a lighthouse.

“I’ll take ye into the house,” said Uncle Terry as the two alighted, “an’ tell the wimmin folks to put on an extra plate, an’ then I’ll put up the hoss.”

“I’m afraid I’m putting your family to some inconvenience,” responded Albert, “and as it is not dark yet, I will walk out on the point. I may see the yacht and save you all trouble.”

The sun, a ball of fire, was almost at the horizon, the sea all around lay an unruffled expanse of dark blue, undulating with the ground swells that caught the red glow of the sinking sun as they came in and broke upon the rocks. Albert walked on to the highest of the shore rocks and looked about. There was no sign of the “Gypsy,” and only one boat was visible, and that a dory rowed by a man standing upright. Over the still waters Albert could detect the measured stroke of his oars. That and the low rumble of the ground swells, breaking almost at his feet, were the only sounds. It was like a dream of solitude, far removed from the world and all its distractions. For a few moments he stood contemplating the ocean alight with the setting sun’s red glow, the gray rocks at his feet and the tall white lighthouse towering above him, and then started around the point. He had not taken ten steps when he saw the figure of a girl leaning against a rock and watching the setting sun. One elbow was resting on the rock, her face reposing in her open hand and fingers half hid in the thick masses of hair that shone in the sunlight like burnished gold. A broad sun-hat lay on the rock, and the delicate profile of her face was sharply outlined against the western sky.

She had not heard Albert’s steps, but stood there unconscious of his scrutiny. He noted the classic contour of her features; the delicate oval of her lips and chin; and his artist eye dwelt upon and admired her rounded bosom and perfect shoulders. Had she posed for a picture, she could not have chosen a better position, and so alluring, and withal so sweet and unconscious, that for a moment he forgot all else, even his own rudeness in standing there and staring at her. Then he recovered himself, and turning, softly retraced his steps so as not to disturb her. Who she was he had no idea, and was still wondering, when he met Uncle Terry, who at once invited him into the house.

“This ’ere’s Mr. Page, Lissy,” he said, as they entered, and met a stout, elderly, and gray-haired woman; “I found him up the road a spell, an’ wantin’ to know whar he was!”

Albert bowed, and was surprised to see her advance and greet him with a cordial handshake.

“I am sorry to intrude,” he said, “but I had lost my boat, and all points of the compass, when your husband kindly took me in charge.”

He started to say he would pay for all trouble, but fortunately did not, and then being offered a chair, sat down and was left alone. For ten minutes, that seemed longer, he surveyed the plainly furnished sitting-room, with open fireplace, a many colored rag-carpet on the floor, old-fashioned chairs, and dozens of pictures on the walls. They caught his eye at once, mainly because of the oddity of the frames, which were evidently home-made, for it was too dark to see more, and then a door was opened, and Uncle Terry invited him into a lighted room where a table was set. The elderly lady was standing at one end of it, and beside her a younger one, and as Albert entered he heard Uncle Terry say: “This is our gal Telly, Mr. Page,” and as he bowed he saw, garbed in spotless white, the girl he had seen leaning against the rock and watching the sunset.