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The Woman at Seven Brothers
BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE
From _Land's End_, by Wilbur Daniel Steele. Copyright, 1908, by Harper and Brothers. By permission of the publishers and Wilbur Daniel Steele.
I tell you sir, I was innocent. I didn't know any more about the world at twenty-two than some do at twelve. My uncle and aunt in Duxbury brought me up strict; I studied hard in high school, I worked hard after hours, and I went to church twice on Sundays, and I can't see it's right to put me in a place like this, with crazy people. Oh yes, I know they're crazy--you can't tell _me._ As for what they said in court about finding her with her husband, that's the Inspector's lie, sir, because he's down on me, and wants to make it look like my fault.
No, sir, I can't say as I thought she was handsome--not at first. For one thing, her lips were too thin and white, and her color was bad. I'll tell you a fact, sir; that first day I came off to the Light I was sitting on my cot in the store-room (that's where the assistant keeper sleeps at the Seven Brothers), as lonesome as I could be, away from home for the first time, and the water all around me, and, even though it was a calm day, pounding enough on the ledge to send a kind of a _woom-woom-woom_ whining up through all that solid rock of the tower. And when old Fedderson poked his head down from the living-room with the sunshine above making a kind of bright frame around his hair and whiskers, to give me a cheery, "Make yourself to home, son!" I remember I said to myself: "_He's_ all right. I'll get along with _him_. But his wife's enough to sour milk." That was queer, because she was so much under him in age--'long about twenty-eight or so, and him nearer fifty. But that's what I said, sir.
Of course that feeling wore off, same as any feeling will wear off sooner or later in a place like the Seven Brothers. Cooped up in a place like that you come to know folks so well that you forget what they _do_ look like. There was a long time I never noticed her, any more than you'd notice the cat. We used to sit of an evening around the table, as if you were Fedderson there, and me here, and her somewhere back there, in the rocker, knitting. Fedderson would be working on his Jacob's-ladder, and I'd be reading. He'd been working on that Jacob's-ladder a year, I guess, and every time the Inspector came off with the tender he was so astonished to see how good that ladder was that the old man would go to work and make it better. That's all he lived for.
If I was reading, as I say, I daren't take my eyes off the book, or Fedderson had me. And then he'd begin--what the Inspector said about him. How surprised the member of the board had been, that time, to see everything so clean about the light. What the Inspector had said about Fedderson's being stuck here in a second-class light--best keeper on the coast. And so on and so on, till either he or I had to go aloft and have a look at the wicks.
He'd been there twenty-three years, all told, and he'd got used to the feeling that he was kept down unfair--so used to it, I guess, that he fed on it, and told himself how folks ashore would talk when he was dead and gone--best keeper on the coast--kept down unfair. Not that he said that to me. No, he was far too loyal and humble and respectful, doing his duty without complaint, as anybody could see.