Excavating a Husband
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Title: Excavating a Husband
Author: Ella Bell Wallis
Release Date: September 25, 2018 [eBook #57975]
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Ella Bell Wallis
THE McLEAN COMPANY
Ella Bell Wallis
Katherine Boulby had reached her fiftieth year,and all these years had been spent in single blessedness.It is true that she had not realized theentirety of the perfect calm and peace thatabides in the maiden state, for her brotherJoseph and she lived together. But Miss Katherine—asshe was commonly called in her nativetown—was of a cheerful disposition andsaid that she felt she was indeed blessedamong women, as she had graciously beenendowed with sense enough to choose a freeand unfettered life, and the vexations and limitationscontingent upon the proximity of one of themale sex, had been mitigated as much as possiblefor her as her brother was a quiet, fairly pliantman who rarely interfered with her plans forbroadening and enriching her mind.
This mental culture was Miss Katherine’s chiefaim in life, and it was not a selfish one. She neverrefused to give abundantly of her knowledge, andever strove to correct and purify the literary andartistic tastes of her friends. It would be quite[Pg 2]impossible to state upon what lines Miss Katherinepursued her mental cultivation, for, like the greatgeniuses, she was extremely versatile, and in almostevery subject she described an avenue which,if followed to the end would lead at last to thegoal whither she was bound. As Miss Katherinestrayed from one path to another in the great labyrinthof learning, it is very probable that she wasinextricably lost and didn’t know it. But shefound pleasure and sustenance therein, and neversought to find herself.
Now, it is far from my purpose to represent myheroine as a blue-stocking or as other than a mostcharming person. Had she pursued her studiesmethodically and scientifically she might not havebeen the same delightful woman that she was, butshe flitted from romantic prose to didactic poetryand from poetry to astrology, and thence to architecture,history or biology. In Miss Katherineyou found a person who possessed a rare instinctconcerning hobbies. She never became so abstruseas to be unintelligible to her friends whowere not hobbyists. She dealt in interesting andeasy generalities.
In fact, Miss Katherine was one of a type theworld cannot spare. Of good, sound, commonsense she possessed the usual allotment, but inrare, child-like enthusiasm and love of romanceshe was richly endowed. It is true that at times[Pg 3]everything but romantic fancies seemed expelledfrom her mind, but the complications thus arisingwere of no moment when all the brightness andzest she infused into life were considered. It waspsychologically impossible for Miss Katherine toview the commonplace occurrences of everydaylife in the same light as do most of us. She foundin a very ordinary event the nucleus of somethinginteresting and romantic. So you see there wasnothing of the blue-stocking about my heroine.
There is another matter upon which the readermust be clear. One might think from Miss Katherine’sfervent thankfulness for her single statethat she had an aversion to men. Such was thecase only in theory. It seemed more fitting fora single woman of artistic temperament to avowa distaste for the society of the coarser sex, but inreality she got along rather better with men thanwomen. As a rule, men are better listeners thanwomen, and Miss Katherine found them more disposedto listen to her latest ideas and freshest aspirationsthan were women. She did not creditthese listeners with ability to understand all shewas saying and this incapacity in man was thereason she had never married. She had a susceptibleheart, but it would respond only to himwho would understand her. She was not at allaverse to marriage and kept a vigilant eye uponthe horizon that she might catch the first possible[Pg 4]glimpse of the romantic figure she confidently expectedwould one day loom thereon. His appearancewas long delayed, and, while Miss Katherinedid not mourn because of this, still she wisely consideredmoving to where she would view a newand broader horizon.
One day she came upon the following advertisement:
“For Rent—Furnished house, property of CaptainPeter Shannon; delightful situation, attractiveand comfortable house; garden contains verychoice plants and shrubs. Apply, W. J. Skinner,Ocean View.”
“There!” exclaimed Miss Katherine to herbrother, “isn’t it delightful to find just what wewant with so little trouble?”
“How do you know it’s just what we want?”asked Joseph, who had partially consented to hissister’s suggestion that they rent a house nearthe sea during the spring and summer.
Miss Katherine did not possess any occult powerby which she could visualize the property advertised,but she did have a remarkable faculty forreading between lines. It often happened thatshe found there that which defied every other interpretation,but this was possibly owing to herhighly developed imagination. She had so oftenurged her brother to develop this quality, that[Pg 5]now his utter lack of imagination made her replycrisply—
“How do I know? Because my mind has certainqualities that I see yours will never possess,and besides I think a little. Now consider this advertisementwith the aid of a very little imaginationand common sense. The owner is a seacaptain. That is a volume in itself to me. Sailorsare very fond of the picturesque, so I should expectCaptain Shannon’s house to be delightfullysituated, quaint and comfortable. I can’t imagineanyone from whom I’d rather buy property thanfrom such a man as Captain Shannon must be,”concluded Miss Katherine.
“Why don’t he live in it himself, then, if it’ssuch a fine place?” inquired Joseph with an attemptat sarcasm which was quite beyond him.
“Can he live in a house on the land and sail onthe sea at the same time?” demanded his disgustedsister.
“Well, if I had such a place as you say it is Iwouldn’t be risking my neck on the sea. I’d stayright there and raise vegetables,” returned Joseph.
Joseph was several years older than his sisterand as he had just retired from business with theintention of spending the remainder of his days inpeace and calm, he thought it wise not to jeopardizethis residue of his life by running counter toany fixed idea of his sister. But in yielding to[Pg 6]Miss Katherine’s strong desire to spend the springand summer near the sea, Joseph was not solelyactuated by fear of her displeasure. He thoughtthat a few months of undisturbed gardening wouldbe the purest possible happiness, so readily consentedto Miss Katherine’s going to view the placefor rent. She went, she saw and she was captivated.Such a view! Such a garden! Nothingcould be more delightful.
Ocean View was not far distant from theirhome, so the day after his sister’s return Josephset out to see the house for himself. He foundMiss Katherine’s praise very just. It was indeeda most pleasant place, and though the gardensadly needed care, that fact, in Joseph’s eyes, didnot detract from the desirability of the place.Beneath a very impassive exterior he concealed atenderness and real passion for flowers and a garden.He had passed his days in his hardware shopamong unlovely objects, and had never gratifiedthis one passion, which was still strong. But nowJoseph thought of the long spring and summerdays spent in the garden, and went in haste to interviewthe agent.
“Captain Shannon’s place, eh?” said Mr. Skinner.“It used to be a pretty place when the Captainlived there, and I have had good tenants whohave kept it up pretty well, but we didn’t rent it[Pg 7]last year so it’s grown up rather wild. Wouldyou happen to be fond of flowers, now?”
Upon Joseph’s replying that he was, Mr. Skinnercontinued:
“Captain Shannon lived there only two yearswhen he took to sea again. I don’t knowwhether he’s dead or alive, for that’s sevenyears ago, and I’ve never seen or heard fromhim since. I send the rent to his bank in NewYork, but it’s my opinion that he’s gonewhere he don’t need money, for if he was alivewhy wouldn’t he come back and spend the rest ofhis days here? He ain’t a young man by anymeans, about sixty, I think. But I was going totell you why I asked if you were fond of flowers.The Captain was crazy about them and kept arecord of all his choice plants. That book’s in thelibrary now. Well, when he told me he was goingto sea again and asked to rent the place, he saidto get a tenant that would look after the plants.It just seemed to me he wanted to stay, but thesea pulled too strong for him and he had to go.But now if you like pottering round in a garden,that’s just the place for you.”
Joseph felt it was but did not express himselftoo strongly until he had concluded a very goodbargain.
To Miss Katherine’s extreme delight Josephwas ready to move to Ocean View without delay.[Pg 8]She had drawn from him all the information concerningCaptain Shannon that he had obtainedfrom Mr. Skinner. She had immediately jumpedto the conclusion that the Captain had been lostat sea. To tell the truth, although she had as tendera heart as woman ever possessed, the owner’stragic end rather increased her delight in her surroundings.It wasn’t every day one had the opportunityof handling things that had belonged toone for whom fate had destined such a tragic end.
It was towards the books in the library that shefelt most reverently. Not for a moment could sheforget that these books had been selected, readand loved by Captain Peter Shannon, victim ofthe cavernous seas. But soon she came to valuethe books for themselves, for she found themmuch to her taste. There was nothing in literaturethat so captivated Miss Katherine as talesof daring on land or sea, and of these the Captain’slibrary was full.
“Captain Shannon must have been a very interestingman,” she remarked rather sadly to Joseph.“I can tell by his books. His tastes werejust like mine,” she added naively.
“Don’t let your mind run on him too much,Katie,” advised Joseph. “It would only lead todisappointment, for he’s most likely drowned ordead, it don’t matter which.”
[Pg 9]“I’d try to exercise a little common sense, JosephBoulby,” returned his sister acidly.
“Why, ain’t I?” asked Joseph. “I don’t see anythingunreasonable about warning you not to setyour heart upon a dead man. There’s not muchchance of a corpse coming to life these days.”
Joseph’s delight in his garden was actually makinghim facetious.
However strongly Miss Katherine became convincedthat, had he lived, there would have been astrong affinity and perhaps something more betweenCaptain Shannon and herself, she did notbecome depressed. But without doubt there enteredinto Miss Katherine’s heart a sentiment thatshe had never experienced before.
In a closet full of rubbish she found a portraitof a seamanly looking, heavily whiskered man.This she rightly conjectured to be a feeble attemptto reproduce on canvas