The Tempting of Tavernake
II.2. The Simple Life
So Tavernake became a boat-builder. Summer passed into winter and this hamlet by the
sea seemed, indeed, as though it might have been one of the forgotten spots upon the
earth. Save for that handful of cottages, the two farmhouses a few hundred yards inland,
and the deserted Hall half-hidden in its grove of pine trees, there was no dwelling-place
nor any sign of human habitation for many miles. For eight hours a day Tavernake
worked, mostly out of doors, in the little yard which hung over the beach. Sometimes he
rested from his labors and looked seaward, looked around him as though rejoicing in that
unbroken solitude, the emptiness of the gray ocean, the loneliness of the land behind.
What things there were which lay back in the cells of his memory, no person there knew,
for he spoke of his past to no one, not even to Ruth. He was a good workman, and he
lived the simple life of those others without complaint or weariness. There was nothing in
his manner to denote that he had been used to anything else. The village had accepted
him without question. It was only Ruth who still, gravely but kindly enough, disapproved
of his presence.
One day she came and sat with him as he smoked his after-dinner pipe, leaning against an
overturned boat, with his eyes fixed upon that line of gray breakers.
"You spend a good deal of your time thinking, Mr. Tavernake," she remarked quietly.
"Too much," he admitted at once, "too much, Miss Nicholls. I should be better employed
planing down that mast there."
"You know that I did not mean that," she said, reprovingly, "only sometimes you make
me--shall I confess it?--almost angry with you."
He took his pipe from his mouth and knocked out the ashes. As they fell on the ground so
he looked at them.
"All thought is wasted time," he declared, grimly, "all thought of the past. The past is like
those ashes; it is dead and finished."
She shook her head.
"Not always," she replied. "Sometimes the past comes to life again. Sometimes the
bravest of us quit the fight too soon."
He looked at her questioningly, almost fiercely. Her words, however, seemed spoken
"So far as mine is concerned," he pronounced, "it is finished. There is a memorial stone
laid upon it, and no resurrection is possible."