I looked at the thick clouds that were rolling blackly in from the south-east and then at the white-crested waves breaking over the black, jagged rocks. The tide was coming in very swiftly. The float that held half-a-dozen little row-boats was thumping restlessly against the pier where I stood. A single yacht was dancing up and down like a feather at her moorings a few rods away.
"She 'll part her cables afore mornin', I'll be bound."
I looked at the old skipper. He shaded his shaggy eyebrows with a weather-beaten hand, and gazed alternately at sky and sea. "Ef I owned that boat I 'd take her round to the shelter o' the cove in a minit."
"Then you think we are in for a heavy storm?"
"No doubt, sir; no doubt."
I watched the ever-roughening sea several minutes in silence. The pier was trembling beneath my feet, and I found it hard to stand upright against the fresh, strong wind. I had never seen such sworls of spray before, nor such a foreboding sky, - a long oblique strip of blackness, like a pall, with ragged edges dipping to the very sea. Then I turned and slowly walked up the path to the little brown house, where the tall elms were swaying madly to and fro. A bright face welcomed me from the window. It was the little granddaughter of the old skipper in whose house I had spent the last two months. I had come there to recover from the effects of a long and tedious illness. I was strong and sturdy enough now; and I was sorry to think of parting from this genuine and wholesome New England family, whose quaint and kindly ways had much endeared them to me.
The face I had seen at the window appeared at the doorway when I entered the hall.
"Why, Mira, you come upon me like a ghost!"
Even as I spoke I saw how pale the child was, though she was smiling at me from the sweetest eyes in the world. Since that very first day, when I came to the house, pale and feeble, she had devoted herself very closely to me, - thoughtful and tender always, with the naive thoughtfulness and tenderness of unspoiled childhood. The keen sea air works marvels with flesh and blood, I know; but it may have been partly her devotion that had restored me so quickly. A strong feeling of regard for the child had grown up within me; perhaps it was because I had never known what it was to have a younger sister. We were firm friends; indeed, I think she lavished upon me that sort of love which a boy may sometimes feel for a woman many years his senior. I knew I should miss her greatly. . . . But when I saw her in the doorway smiling at me, her pale face struck me with something like terror.
"Don't mind the wind, Mira. What do we care? I hardly think the storm will carry us away, if the tide be ever so high."
But I saw that she was somehow restless; and after supper, when I had drawn my chair before the glowing wood-fire, "Let me tell you a story, Mira," I said. And with that she seated herself by my side, and, slipping her little hand in mine, she listened dreamily.
By and by my slender stock of stories was exhausted. But she still sat there, very thoughtful and silent.
"Grandfather said you were going away next week. Next week is very near - and you must go?"
"Yes, Mira, I am sorry to say that I must go."
"I 'm glad you 're sorry. You see," she explained artlessly, "I like you so much!"