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Title: The Depot Master
Author: Lincoln, Joseph Crosby
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Depot Master" ***

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THE DEPOT MASTER

By Joseph C. Lincoln



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I.--   AT THE DEPOT

II.--  SUPPLY AND DEMAND

III.-- “STINGY GABE”

IV.--  THE MAJOR

V.--   A BABY AND A ROBBERY

VI.--  AVIATION AND AVARICE

VII.-- CAPTAIN SOL DECIDES TO MOVE

VIII.--THE OBLIGATIONS OF A GENTLEMAN

IX.--  THE WIDOW BASSETT

X.--   CAPTAIN JONADAB GOES

XI.--  THE GREAT METROPOLIS

XII.-- A VISION SENT

XIII.--DUSENBERRY’S BIRTHDAY

XIV.-- EFFIE’S FATE

XV.--  THE “HERO” AND THE COWBOY

XVI.-- THE CRUISE OF THE RED CAR

XVII.--ISSY’S REVENGE

XVIII. THE MOUNTAIN AND MAHOMET



THE DEPOT MASTER



CHAPTER I

AT THE DEPOT


Mr. Simeon Phinney emerged from the side door of his residence and
paused a moment to light his pipe in the lee of the lilac bushes. Mr.
Phinney was a man of various and sundry occupations, and his sign,
nailed to the big silver-leaf in the front yard, enumerated a few of
them. “Carpenter, Well Driver, Building Mover, Cranberry Bogs Seen to
with Care and Dispatch, etc., etc.,” so read the sign. The house was
situated in “Phinney’s Lane,” the crooked little byway off “Cross
Street,” between the “Shore Road” at the foot of the slope and the “Hill
Boulevard”--formerly “Higgins’s Roost”--at the top. From the Phinney
gate the view was extensive and, for the most part, wet. The hill
descended sharply, past the “Shore Road,” over the barren fields and
knolls covered with bayberry bushes and “poverty grass,” to the yellow
sand of the beach and the gray, weather-beaten fish-houses scattered
along it. Beyond was the bay, a glimmer in the sunset light.

Mrs. Phinney, in the kitchen, was busy with the supper dishes. Her
husband, wheezing comfortably at his musical pipe, drew an ancient
silver watch from his pocket and looked at its dial. Quarter past six.
Time to be getting down to the depot and the post office. At least a
dozen male citizens of East Harniss were thinking that very thing at
that very moment. It was a community habit of long standing to see the
train come in and go after the mail. The facts that the train bore no
passengers in whom you were intimately interested, and that you expected
no mail made little difference. If you were a man of thirty or older,
you went to the depot or the “club,” just as your wife or sisters went
to the sewing circle, for sociability and mild excitement. If you were
a single young man you went to the post office for the same reason that
you attended prayer meeting. If you were a single young lady you went
to the post office and prayer meeting to furnish a reason for the young
man.

Mr. Phinney, replacing his watch in his pocket, meandered to the
sidewalk and looked down the hill and along the length of the “Shore
Road.” Beside the latter highway stood a little house, painted a
spotless white, its window blinds a vivid green. In that house dwelt,
and dwelt alone, Captain Solomon Berry, Sim Phinney’s particular
friend. Captain Sol was the East Harniss depot master and, from long
acquaintance, Mr. Phinney knew that he should be through supper and
ready to return to the depot, by this time. The pair usually walked
thither together when the evening meal was over.

But, except for the smoke curling lazily from the kitchen chimney,
there was no sign of life about the Berry house. Either Captain Sol had
already gone, or he was not yet ready to go. So Mr. Phinney decided that
waiting was chancey, and set out alone.

He climbed Cross Street to where the “Hill Boulevard,” abiding place of
East Harniss’s summer aristocracy, bisected it, and there, standing on
the corner, and consciously patronizing the spot where he so stood, was
Mr. Ogden Hapworth Williams, no less.

Mr. Williams was the village millionaire, patron, and, in a gentlemanly
way, “boomer.” His estate on the Boulevard was the finest in the county,
and he, more than any one else, was responsible for the “buying up”
 by wealthy people from the city of the town’s best building sites, the
spots commanding “fine marine sea views,” to quote from Abner Payne,
local real estate and insurance agent. His own estate was fine enough to
be talked about from one end of the Cape to the other and he had bought
the empty lot opposite and made it into a miniature park, with flower
beds and gravel walks, though no one but he or his might pick the
flowers or tread the walks. He had brought on a wealthy friend from New
York and a cousin from Chicago, and they, too, had bought acres on the
Boulevard and erected palatial “cottages” where once were the houses of
country people. Local cynics suggested that the sign on the East Harniss
railroad station should be changed to read “Williamsburg.” “He owns the
place, body and soul,” said they.

As Sim Phinney climbed the hill the magnate, pompous, portly, and
imposing, held up a signaling finger. “Just as if he was hailin’ a horse
car,” described Simeon afterward.

“Phinney,” he said, “come here, I want to speak to you.”

The man of many trades obediently approached.

“Good evenin’, Mr. Williams,” he ventured.

“Phinney,” went on the great man briskly, “I want you to give me your
figures on a house moving deal. I have bought a house on the Shore Road,
the one that used to belong to the--er--Smalleys, I believe.”

Simeon was surprised. “What, the old Smalley house?” he exclaimed. “You
don’t tell me!”

“Yes, it’s a fine specimen--so my wife says--of the pure Colonial,
whatever that is, and I intend moving it to the Boulevard. I want your
figures for the job.”

The building mover looked puzzled. “To the Boulevard?” he said. “Why, I
didn’t know there was a vacant lot on the Boulevard, Mr. Williams.”

“There isn’t now, but there will be soon. I have got hold of the hundred
feet left from the old Seabury estate.”

Mr. Phinney drew a long breath. “Why!” he stammered, “that’s where Olive
Edwards--her that was Olive Seabury--lives, ain’t it?”

“Yes,” was the rather impatient answer. “She has been living there. But
the place was mortgaged up to the handle and--ahem--the mortgage is mine
now.”

For an instant Simeon did not reply. He was gazing, not up the Boulevard
in the direction of the “Seabury place” but across the slope of the
hill toward the home of Captain Sol Berry, the depot master. There was a
troubled look on his face.

“Well?” inquired Williams briskly, “when can you give me the figures?
They must be low, mind. No country skin games, you understand.”

“Hey?” Phinney came out of his momentary trance. “Yes, yes, Mr.
Williams. They’ll be low enough. Times is kind of dull now and I’d
like a movin’ job first-rate. I’ll give ‘em to you to-morrer. But--but
Olive’ll have to move, won’t she? And where’s she goin’?”

“She’ll have to move, sure. And the eyesore on that lot now will come
down.”

The “eyesore” was the four room building, combined dwelling and shop of
Mrs. Olive Edwards, widow of “Bill Edwards,” once a promising young man,
later town drunkard and ne’er-do-well, dead these five years, luckily
for himself and luckier--in a way--for the wife who had stuck by him
while he wasted her inheritance in a losing battle with John Barleycorn.
At his death the fine old Seabury place had dwindled to a lone hundred
feet of land, the little house, and a mortgage on both. Olive had opened
a “notion store” in her front parlor and had fought on, proudly refusing
aid and trying to earn a living. She had failed. Again Phinney stared
thoughtfully at the distant house of Captain Sol.

“But Olive,” he said, slowly. “She ain’t got no folks, has she? What’ll
become of her? Where’ll she move to?”

“That,” said Mr. Williams, with a wave of a fat hand, “is not my
business. I am sorry for her, if she’s hard up. But I can’t be
responsible if men will drink up their wives’ money. Look out for number
one; that’s business. I sha’n’t be unreasonable with her. She can stay
where she is until the new house I’ve bought is moved to that lot. Then
she must clear out. I’ve told her that. She knows all about it. Well,
good-by, Phinney. I shall expect your bid to-morrow. And, mind, don’t
try to get the best of me, because you can’t do it.”

He turned and strutted back up the Boulevard. Sim Phinney, pondering
deeply and very grave, continued on his way, down Cross Street
to Main--naming the village roads was another of the Williams’
“improvements”--and along that to the crossing, East Harniss’s business
and social center at train times.

The station--everyone called it “deepo,” of course--was then a small red
building, old and out of date, but scrupulously neat because of Captain
Berry’s rigid surveillance. Close beside it was the “Boston Grocery,
Dry Goods and General Store,” Mr. Beriah Higgins, proprietor. Beriah
was postmaster and the post office was in his store. The male citizen
of middle age or over, seeking opportunity for companionship and chat,
usually went first to the depot, sat about in the waiting room until the
train came in, superintended that function, then sojourned to the post
office until the mail was sorted, returning later, if he happened to be
a particular friend of the depot master, to sit and smoke and yarn until
Captain Sol announced that it was time to “turn in.”

When Mr. Phinney entered the little waiting room he found it already
tenanted. Captain Sol had not yet arrived, but official authority was
represented by “Issy” McKay--his full name was Issachar Ulysses Grant
McKay--a long-legged, freckled-faced, tow-headed youth of twenty, who,
as usual, was sprawled along the settee by the wall, engrossed in
a paper covered dime novel. “Issy” was a lover of certain kinds of
literature and reveled in lurid fiction. As a youngster he had, at
the age of thirteen, after a course of reading in the “Deadwood Dick
Library,” started on a pedestrian journey to the Far West, where,
being armed with home-made tomahawk and scalping knife, he contemplated
extermination of the noble red man. A wrathful pursuing parent had
collared the exterminator at the Bayport station, to the huge delight of
East Harniss, young and old. Since this adventure Issy had been famous,
in a way.

He was Captain Sol Berry’s assistant at the depot. Why an assistant
was needed was a much discussed question. Why Captain Sol, a retired
seafaring man with money in the bank, should care to be depot master
at ten dollars a week was another. The Captain himself said he took the
place because he wanted to do something that was “half way between a
loaf and a job.” He employed an assistant at his own expense because
he “might want to stretch the loafin’ half.” And he hired Issy
because--well, because “most folks in East Harniss are alike and you can
always tell about what they’ll say or do. Now Issy’s different. The Lord
only knows what HE’S likely to do, and that makes him interestin’ as a
conundrum, to guess at. He kind of keeps my sense of responsibility from
gettin’ mossy, Issy does.”

“Issy,” hailed Mr. Phinney, “has the Cap’n got here yet?”

Issy answered not. The villainous floorwalker had just proffered
matrimony or summary discharge to “Flora, the Beautiful Shop Girl,” and
pending her answer, the McKay mind had no room for trifles.

“Issy!” shouted Simeon. “I say, Is’, Wake up, you foolhead! Has Cap’n
Sol--”

“No, he ain’t, Sim,” volunteered Ed Crocker. He and his chum, Cornelius
Rowe, were seated in two of the waiting room chairs, their feet on two
others. “He ain’t got here yet. We was just talkin’ about him. You’ve
heard about Olive Edwards, I s’pose likely, ain’t you?”

Phinney nodded gloomily.

“Yes,” he said, “I’ve heard.”

“Well, it’s too bad,” continued Crocker. “But, after all, it’s Olive’s
own fault. She’d ought to have married Sol Berry when she had the
chance. What she ever gave him the go-by for, after the years they was
keepin’ comp’ny, is more’n I can understand.”

Cornelius Rowe shook his head, with an air of wisdom. Captain Sol,
himself, remarked once: “I wonder sometimes the Almighty ain’t jealous
of Cornelius, he knows so much and is so responsible for the runnin’ of
all creation.”

“Humph!” grunted Mr. Rowe. “There’s more to that business than you folks
think. Olive didn’t notice Bill Edwards till Sol went off to sea and
stayed two years and over. How do you know she shook Sol? You might just
as well say he shook her. He always was stubborn as an off ox and cranky
as a windlass. I wonder how he feels now, when she’s lost her last red
and is goin’ to be drove out of house and home. And all on account of
that fool ‘mountain and Mahomet’ business.”

“WHICH?” asked Mr. Crocker.

“Never mind that, Cornelius,” put in Phinney, sharply. “Why don’t you
let other folks’ affairs alone? That was a secret that Olive told your
sister and you’ve got no right to go blabbin’.”

“Aw, hush up, Sim! I ain’t tellin’ no secrets to anybody but Ed here,
and he ain’t lived in East Harniss long or he’d know it already. The
mountain and Mahomet? Why, them was the last words Sol and Olive had.
‘Twas Sol’s stubbornness that was most to blame. That was his one bad
fault. He would have his own way and he wouldn’t change. Olive had set
her heart on goin’ to Washin’ton for their weddin’ tower. Sol wanted
to go to Niagara. They argued a long time, and finally Olive says, ‘No,
Solomon, I’m not goin’ to give in this time. I have all the others, but
it’s not fair and it’s not right, and no married life can be happy where
one does all the sacrificin’. If you care for me you’ll do as I want
now.’

“And he laughs and says, ‘All right, I’ll sacrifice after this, but you
and me must see Niagara.’ And she was sot and he was sotter, and at last
they quarreled. He marches out of the door and says: ‘Very good. When
you’re ready to be sensible and change your mind, you can come to me.
And says Olive, pretty white but firm: ‘No, Solomon, I’m right and
you’re not. I’m afraid this time the mountain must come to Mahomet.’
That ended it. He went away and never come back, and after a long spell
she give in to her dad and married Bill Edwards. Foolish? ‘Well, now,
WA’N’T it!”

“Humph!” grunted Crocker. “She must have been a born gump to let a smart
man like him get away just for that.”

“There’s a good many born gumps not so far from here as her house,”
 interjected Phinney. “You remember that next time you look in the glass,
Ed Crocker. And--and--well, there’s no better friend of Sol Berry’s on
earth than I am, but, so fur as their quarrel was concerned, if you ask
me I’d have to say Olive was pretty nigh right.”

“Maybe--maybe,” declared the allwise Cornelius, “but just the same if I
was Sol Berry, and knew my old girl was likely to go to the poorhouse,
I’ll bet my conscience--”

“S-ssh!” hissed Crocker, frantically. Cornelius stopped in the middle
of his sentence, whirled in his chair, and looked up. Behind him in the
doorway of the station stood Captain Sol himself. The blue cap he always
wore was set back on his head, a cigar tipped upward from the corner
of his mouth, and there was a grim look in his eye and about the smooth
shaven lips above the short, grayish-brown beard.

“Issy” sprang from his settee and jammed the paper novel into his
pocket. Ed Crocker’s sunburned face turned redder yet. Sim Phinney
grinned at Mr. Rowe, who was very much embarrassed.

“Er--er--evenin’, Cap’n Sol,” he stammered. “Nice, seasonable weather,
ain’t it? Been a nice day.”

“Um,” grunted the depot master, knocking the ashes from his cigar.

“Just right for workin’ outdoor,” continued Cornelius.

“I guess it must be. I saw your wife rakin’ the yard this mornin’.”

Phinney doubled up with a chuckle. Mr. Rowe swallowed hard. “I--I TOLD
her I’d rake it myself soon’s I got time,” he sputtered.

“Um. Well, I s’pose she realized your time was precious. Evenin’, Sim,
glad to see you.”

He held out his hand and Phinney grasped it.

“Issy,” said Captain Sol, “you’d better get busy with the broom, hadn’t
you. It’s standin’ over in that corner and I wouldn’t wonder if it
needed exercise. Sim, the train ain’t due for twenty minutes yet. That
gives us at least three quarters of an hour afore it gets here. Come
outside a spell. I want to talk to you.”

He led the way to the platform, around the corner of the station, and
seated himself on the baggage truck. That side of the building, being
furthest from the street, was out of view from the post office and
“general store.”

“What was it you wanted to talk about, Sol?” asked Simeon, sitting down
beside his friend on the truck.

The Captain smoked in silence for a moment. Then he asked a question in
return.

“Sim,” he said, “have you heard anything about Williams buying the
Smalley house? Is it true?”

Phinney nodded. “Yup,” he answered, “it’s true. Williams was just
talkin’ to me and I know all about his buyin’ it and where it’s goin’.”

He repeated the conversation with the great man. Captain Sol did
not interrupt. He smoked on, and a frown gathered and deepened as he
listened.

“Humph!” he said, when his friend had concluded. “Humph! Sim, do you
have any idea what--what Olive Seabury will do when she has to go?”

Phinney glanced at him. It was the first time in twenty years that he
had heard Solomon Berry mention the name of his former sweetheart. And
even now he did not call her by her married name, the name of her late
husband.

“No,” replied Simeon. “No, Sol, I ain’t got the least idea. Poor thing!”

Another interval. Then: “Well, Sim, find out if you can, and let me
know. And,” turning his head and speaking quietly but firmly, “don’t let
anybody ELSE know I asked.”

“Course I won’t, Sol, you know that. But don’t it seem awful mean
turnin’ her out so? I wouldn’t think Mr. Williams would do such a
thing.”

His companion smiled grimly; “I would,” he said. “‘Business is
business,’ that’s his motto. That and ‘Look out for number one.’”

“Yes, he said somethin’ to me about lookin’ out for number one.”

“Did he? Humph!” The Captain’s smile lost a little of its bitterness
and broadened. He seemed to be thinking and to find amusement in the
process.

“What you grinnin’ at?” demanded Phinney.

“Oh, I was just rememberin’ how he looked out for number one the
first--no, the second time I met him. I don’t believe he’s forgot it.
Maybe that’s why he ain’t quite so high and mighty to me as he is to the
rest of you fellers. Ha! ha! He tried to patronize me when I first came
back here and took this depot and I just smiled and asked him what the
market price of johnny-cake was these days. He got red clear up to the
brim of his tall hat. Humph! ‘TWAS funny.”

“The market price of JOHNNY-CAKE! He must have thought you was loony.”

“No. I’m the last man he’d think was loony. You see I met him a fore he
came here to live at all.”

“You did? Where?”

“Oh, over to Wellmouth. ‘Twas the year afore I come back to East
Harniss, myself, after my long stretch away from it. I never intended to
see the Cape again, but I couldn’t stay away somehow. I’ve told you
that much--how I went over to Wellmouth and boarded a spell, got sick
of that, and, just to be doin’ somethin’ and not for the money, bought
a catboat and took out sailin’ parties from Wixon and Wingate’s summer
hotel.”

“And you met Mr. Williams? Well, I snum! Was he at the hotel?”

“No, not exactly. I met him sort of casual this second time.”

“SECOND time? Had you met him afore that?”

“Don’t get ahead of the yarn, Sim. It happened this way: You see, I was
comin’ along the road between East Wellmouth and the Center when I run
afoul of him. He was fat and shiny, and drivin’ a skittish horse hitched
to a fancy buggy. When he sighted me he hove to and hailed.

“‘Here you!’ says he, in a voice as fat as the rest of him. ‘Your name’s
Berry, ain’t it.’

“‘Yup,’ says I.

“‘Methusalum Berry or Jehoshaphat Berry or Sheba Berry, or somethin’
like that? Hey?’ he says.

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘the last shot you fired comes nighest the bull’s eye.
They christened me Solomon, but ‘twa’n’t my fault; I was young at the
time and they took advantage.’

“He grinned a kind of lopsided grin, like he had a lemon in his mouth,
and commenced to cuss the horse for tryin’ to climb a pine tree.

“‘I knew ‘twas some Bible outrage or other,’ he says. ‘There’s more
Bible names in this forsaken sand heap than there is Christians, a good
sight. When I meet a man with a Bible name and chin whiskers I hang on
to my watch. The feller that sets out to do me has got to have a better
make up than that, you bet your life. ‘Well, see here, King Sol; can you
run a gasoline launch?’

“‘Why, yes, I guess I can run ‘most any of the everyday kinds,’ says
I, pullin’ thoughtful at my own chin whiskers. This fat man had got me
interested. He was so polite and folksy in his remarks. Didn’t seem to
stand on no ceremony, as you might say. Likewise there was a kind of
familiar somethin’ about his face. I knew mighty well I’d never met him
afore, and yet I seemed to have a floatin’ memory of him, same as a chap
remembers the taste of the senna and salts his ma made him take when he
was little.

“‘All right,’ says he, sharp. ‘Then you come around to my landin’
to-morrer mornin’ at eight o’clock prompt and take me out in my launch
to the cod-fishin’ grounds. I’ll give you ten dollars to take me out
there and back.’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘ten dollars is a good price enough. Do I furnish--’

“‘You furnish nothin’ except your grub,’ he interrupts. ‘The launch’ll
be ready and the lines and hooks and bait’ll be ready. My own man was to
do the job, but he and I had a heart-to-heart talk just now and I told
him where he could go and go quick. No smart Alec gets the best of me,
even if he has got a month’s contract. You run that launch and put me on
the fishin’ grounds. I pay you for that and bringin’ me back again. And
I furnish my own extras and you can furnish yours. I don’t want any of
your Yankee bargainin’. See?’

“I saw. There wa’n’t no real reason why I couldn’t take the job. ‘Twas
well along into September; the hotel was closed for the season; and
about all I had on my hands just then was time.

“‘All right,’ says I, ‘it’s a deal. If you’ll guarantee to have your
launch ready, I--’

“‘That’s my business,’ he says. ‘It’ll be ready. If it ain’t you’ll get
your pay just the same. To-morrer mornin’ at eight o’clock. And don’t
you forget and be late. Gid-dap, you blackguard!’ says he to the horse.

“‘Hold on, just a minute,’ I hollers, runnin’ after him. ‘I don’t want
to be curious nor nosey, you understand, but seems ‘s if it might help
me to be on time if I knew where your launch was goin’ to be and what
your name was.’

“He pulled up then. ‘Humph!’ he says, ‘if you don’t know my name and
more about my private affairs than I do myself, you’re the only one in
this county that don’t. My name’s Williams, and I live in what you folks
call the Lathrop place over here toward Trumet. The launch is at my
landin’ down in front of the house.’

“He drove off then and I walked along thinkin’. I knew who he was
now, of course. There was consider’ble talk when the Lathrop place was
rented, and I gathered that the feller who hired it answered to the hail
of Williams and was a retired banker, sufferin’ from an enlarged income
and the diseases that go along with it. He lived alone up there in the
big house, except for a cranky housekeeper and two or three servants.
This was afore he got married, Sim; his wife’s tamed him a little. Then
the yarns about his temper and language would have filled a log book.

“But all this was way to one side of the mark-buoy, so fur as I was
concerned. I’d cruised with cranks afore and I thought I could stand
this one--ten dollars’ worth of him, anyhow. Bluster and big talk may
scare some folks, but to me they’re like Aunt Hepsy Parker’s false
teeth, the further off you be from ‘em the more real they look. So the
next mornin’ I was up bright and early and on my way over to the Lathrop
landin’.

“The launch was there, made fast alongside the little wharf. Nice,
slick-lookin’ craft she was, too, all varnish and gilt gorgeousness. I’d
liked her better if she’d carried a sail, for it’s my experience that
canvas is a handy thing to have aboard in case of need; but she looked
seaworthy enough and built for speed.

“While I was standin’ on the pier lookin’ down at her I heard footsteps
and brisk remarks from behind the bushes on the bank, and here comes
Williams, puffin’ and blowin’, followed by a sulky-lookin’ hired man
totin’ a deckload of sweaters and ileskins, with a lunch basket on top.
Williams himself wan’t carryin’ anything but his temper, but he hadn’t
forgot none of that.

“‘Hello, Berry,’ says he to me. ‘You are on time, ain’t you. Blessed if
it ain’t a comfort to find somebody who’ll do what I tell ‘em. Now you,’
he says to the servant, ‘put them things aboard and clear out as quick
as you’ve a mind to. You and I are through; understand? Don’t let me
find you hangin’ around the place when I get back. Cast off, Sol.’

“The man dumped the dunnage into the launch, pretty average ugly, and me
and the boss climbed aboard. I cast off.

“‘Mr. Williams,’ says the man, kind of pleadin’, ‘ain’t you goin’ to pay
me the rest of my month’s wages?’

“Williams told him he wa’n’t, and added trimmin’s to make it emphatic.

“I started the engine and we moved out at a good clip. All at once that
hired man runs to the end of the wharf and calls after us.

“‘All right for you, you fat-head!’ he yells. ‘You’ll be sorry for what
you done to me.’

“I cal’late the boss would have liked to go back and lick him, but I
was hired to go a-fishin’, not to watch a one-sided prize fight, and I
thought ‘twas high time we started.

“The name of that launch was the Shootin’ Star, and she certainly
lived up to it. ‘Twas one of them slick, greasy days, with no sea worth
mentionin’ and we biled along fine. We had to, because the cod ledge is
a good many mile away, ‘round Sandy P’int out to sea, and, judgin’ by
what I’d seen of Fatty so fur, I wa’n’t hankerin’ to spend more time
with him than was necessary. More’n that, there was fog signs showin’.

“‘When was you figgerin’ on gettin’ back, Mr. Williams?’ I asked him.

“‘When I’ve caught as many fish as I want to,’ he says. ‘I told that
housekeeper of mine that I’d be back when I got good and ready; it might
be to-night and it might be ten days from now. “If I ain’t back in a
week you can hunt me up,” I told her; “but not before. And that goes.”
 I’ve got HER trained all right. She knows me. It’s a pity if a man can’t
be independent of females.’

“I knew consider’ble many men that was subjects for pity, ‘cordin’ to
that rule. But I wa’n’t in for no week’s cruise, and I told him so. He
said of course not; we’d be home that evenin’.

“The Shootin’ Star kept slippin’ along. ‘Twas a beautiful mornin’ and,
after a spell, it had its effect, even on a crippled disposition like
that banker man’s. He lit up a cigar and begun to get more sociable, in
his way. Commenced to ask me questions about myself.

“By and by he says: ‘Berry, I suppose you figger that it’s a smart thing
to get ten dollars out of me for a trip like this, hey?’

“‘Not if it’s to last a week, I don’t,’ says I.

“‘It’s your lookout if it does,’ he says prompt. ‘You get ten for takin’
me out and back. If you ain’t back on time ‘tain’t my fault.’

“‘Unless this craft breaks down,’ I says.

“‘’Twon’t break down. I looked after that. My motto is to look out for
number one every time, and it’s a mighty good motto. At any rate, it’s
made my money for me.’

“He went on, preachin’ about business shrewdness and how it paid, and
how mean and tricky in little deals we Rubes was, and yet we didn’t
appreciate how to manage big things, till I got kind of sick of it.

“‘Look here, Mr. Williams,’ says I, ‘you know how I make my money--what
little I do make--or you say you do. Now, if it ain’t a sassy question,
how did you make yours?’

“Well, he made his by bein’ shrewd and careful and always lookin’ out
for number one. ‘Number one’ was his hobby. I gathered that the heft of
his spare change had come from dickers in stocks and bonds.

“‘Humph!’ says I. ‘Well, speakin’ of tricks and meanness, I’ve allers
heard tell that there was some of them things hitched to the tail of
the stock market. What makes the stock market price of--well, of wheat,
we’ll say?’

“That was regulated, so he said, by the law of supply and demand. If a
feller had all the wheat there was and another chap had to have some or
starve, why, the first one had a right to gouge t’other chap’s last cent
away from him afore he let it go.

“‘That’s legitimate,’ he says. ‘That’s cornerin’ the market. Law of
supply and demand exemplified.’

“‘’Cordin’ to that law,’ says I, ‘when you was so set on fishin’ to-day
and hunted me up to run your boat here--‘cause I was about the only chap
who could run it and wa’n’t otherwise busy--I’d ought to have charged
you twenty dollars instead of ten.’

“‘Sure you had,’ he says, grinnin’. ‘But you weren’t shrewd enough to
grasp the situation and do it. Now the deal’s closed and it’s too late.’

“He went on talkin’ about ‘pools’ and deals’ and such. How prices of
this stock and that was shoved up a-purpose till a lot of folks had
put their money in it and then was smashed flat so’s all hands but the
‘poolers’ would be what he called ‘squeezed out,’ and the gang would get
their cash. That was legitimate, too--‘high finance,’ he said.

“‘But how about the poor folks that had their savin’s in them stocks,’
I asks, ‘and don’t know high financin’? Where’s the law of supply and
demand come in for them?’

“He laughed. ‘They supply the suckers and the demand for money,’ says
he.

“By eleven we was well out toward the fishin’ grounds. ‘Twas the bad
season now; the big fish had struck off still further and there wa’n’t
another boat in sight. The land was just a yeller and green smooch along
the sky line and the waves was runnin’ bigger. The Shootin’ Star was
seaworthy, though, and I wa’n’t worried about her. The only thing that
troubled me was the fog, and that was pilin’ up to wind’ard. I’d called
Fatty’s attention to it when we fust started, but he said he didn’t care
a red for fog. Well, I didn’t much care nuther, for we had a compass
aboard and the engine was runnin’ fine. What wind there was was blowin’
offshore.

“And then, all to once, the engine STOPPED runnin’. I give the wheel a
whirl, but she only coughed, consumptive-like, and quit again. I went
for’ard to inspect, and, if you’ll believe it, there wa’n’t a drop of
gasoline left in the tank. The spare cans had ought to have been full,
and they was--but ‘twas water they was filled with.

“‘Is THIS the way you have your boat ready for me?’ I remarks,
sarcastic.

“‘That--that man of mine told me he had everything filled,’ he stammers,
lookin’ scart.

“‘Yes,’ says I, ‘and I heard him hint likewise that he was goin’ to make
you sorry. I guess he’s done it.’

“Well, sir! the brimstone names that Fatty called that man was somethin’
surprisin’ to hear. When he’d used up all he had in stock he invented
new ones. When the praise service was over he turns to me and says: ‘But
what are we goin’ to do?’

“‘Do?’ says I. ‘That’s easy. We’re goin’ to drift.’

“And that’s what we done. I tried to anchor, but we wa’n’t over the
ledge and the iron wouldn’t reach bottom by a mile, more or less. I
rigged up a sail out of the oar and the canvas spray shield, but there
wa’n’t wind enough to give us steerageway. So we drifted and drifted,
out to sea. And by and by the fog come down and shut us in, and that
fixed what little hope I had of bein’ seen by the life patrol on shore.

“The breeze died out flat about three o’clock. In one way this was a
good thing. In another it wa’n’t, because we was well out in deep water,
and when the wind did come it was likely to come harder’n we needed.
However, there wa’n’t nothin’ to do but wait and hope for the best, as
the feller said when his wife’s mother was sick.

“It was gettin’ pretty well along toward the edge of the evenin’ when
I smelt the wind a-comin’. It came in puffs at fust, and every puff was
healthier than the one previous. Inside of ten minutes it was blowin’
hard, and the seas were beginnin’ to kick up. I got up my jury rig--the
oar and the spray shield--and took the helm. There wa’n’t nothin’ to
do but run afore it, and the land knows where we would fetch up. At any
rate, if the compass was right, we was drivin’ back into the bay again,
for the wind had hauled clear around.

“The Shootin’ Star jumped and sloshed. Fatty had on all the ileskins and
sweaters, but he was shakin’ like a custard pie.

“‘Oh, oh, heavens!’ he chatters. ‘What will we do? Will we drown?’

“‘Don’t know,’ says I, tuggin’ at the wheel and tryin’ to sight the
compass. ‘You’ve got the best chance of the two of us, if it’s true that
fat floats.’

“I thought that might cheer him up some, but it didn’t. A big wave
heeled us over then and a keg or two of salt water poured over the
gunwale. He give a yell and jumped up.

“‘My Lord!’ he screams. ‘We’re sinkin’. Help! help!’

“‘Set down!’ I roared. ‘Thought you knew how to act in a boat. Set down!
d’you hear me? SET DOWN AND SET STILL!’

“He set. Likewise he shivered and groaned. It got darker all the time
and the wind freshened every minute. I expected to see that jury mast go
by the board at any time. Lucky for us it held.

“No use tellin’ about the next couple of hours. ‘Cordin’ to my reckonin’
they was years and we’d ought to have sailed plumb through the broadside
of the Cape, and be makin’ a quick run for Africy. But at last we got
into smoother water, and then, right acrost our bows, showed up a white
strip. The fog had pretty well blowed clear and I could see it.

“‘Land, ho!’ I yells. ‘Stand by! WE’RE goin’ to bump.’”

Captain Sol stopped short and listened. Mr. Phinney grasped his arm.

“For the dear land sakes, Sol,” he exclaimed, “don’t leave me hangin’ in
them breakers no longer’n you can help! Heave ahead! DID you bump?”

The depot master chuckled.

“DID we?” he repeated. “Well, I’ll tell you that by and by. Here comes
the train and I better take charge of the ship. Anything so responsible
as seein’ the cars come in without me to help would give Issy the
jumpin’ heart disease.”

He sprang from the truck and hastened toward the door of the station.
Phinney, rising to follow him, saw, over the dark green of the swamp
cedars at the head of the track, an advancing column of smoke. A whistle
sounded. The train was coming in.



CHAPTER II

SUPPLY AND DEMAND


And now life in East Harniss became temporarily fevered. Issy McKay
dashed out of the station and rushed importantly up and down the
platform. Ed Crocker and Cornelius Rowe emerged and draped themselves
in statuesque attitudes against the side of the building. Obed Gott came
hurrying from his paint and oil shop, which was next to the “general
store.” Mr. Higgins, proprietor of the latter, sauntered easily across
to receive, in his official capacity as postmaster, the mail bag. Ten or
more citizens, of both sexes, and of various ages, gathered in groups to
inspect and supervise.

The locomotive pulled its string of cars, a “baggage,” a “smoker,”
 and two “passengers,” alongside the platform. The sliding door of the
baggage car was pushed back and the baggage master appeared in the
opening. “Hi! Cap’n!” he shouted. “Hi, Cap’n Sol! Here’s some express
for you.”

But unfortunately the Captain was in conversation with the conductor at
the other end of the train. Issy, willing and officious, sprang forward.
“I’ll take it, Bill,” he volunteered. “Here, give it to me.”

The baggage master handed down the package, a good sized one marked
“Glass. With Care.” Issy received it, clutched it to his bosom, turned
and saw Gertie Higgins, pretty daughter of Beriah Higgins, stepping from
the first car to the platform. Gertie had been staying with an aunt in
Trumet and was now returning home for a day or two.

Issy stopped short and gazed at her. He saw her meet and kiss her
father, and the sight roused turbulent emotions in his bosom. He saw her
nod and smile at acquaintances whom she passed. She approached, noticed
him, and--oh, rapture!--said laughingly, “Hello, Is.” Before he could
recover his senses and remember to do more than grin she had disappeared
around the corner of the station. Therefore he did not see the young man
who stepped forward to shake her hand and whisper in her ear. This young
man was Sam Bartlett, and, as a “city dude,” Issy loathed and hated him.

No, Issy did not see the hurried and brief meeting between Bartlett and
Gertie Higgins, but he had seen enough to cause forgetfulness of mundane
things. For an instant he stared after the vanished vision. Then he
stepped blindly forward, tripped over something--“his off hind leg,” so
Captain Sol afterwards vowed--and fell sprawling, the express package
beneath him.

The crash of glass reached the ears of the depot master. He broke away
from the conductor and ran toward his prostrate “assistant.” Pushing
aside the delighted and uproarious bystanders, he forcibly helped the
young man to rise.

“What in time?” he demanded.

Issy agonizingly held the package to his ear and shook it.

“I--I’m afraid somethin’s cracked,” he faltered.

The crowd set up a whoop. Ed Crocker appeared to be in danger of
strangling.

“Cracked!” repeated Captain Sol. “Cracked!” he smiled, in spite of
himself. “Yes, somethin’s cracked. It’s that head of yours, Issy. Here,
let’s see!”

He snatched the package from the McKay hands and inspected it.

“Smashed to thunder!” he declared. “Who’s the lucky one it belongs to?
Humph!” He read the inscription aloud, “Major Cuthbertson S. Hardee. The
Major, hey! . . . Well, Is, you take the remains inside and you and I’ll
hold services over it later.”

“I--I didn’t go to do it,” protested the frightened Issy.

“Course you didn’t. If you had you wouldn’t. You’re like the feller
in Scriptur’, you leave undone the things you ought to do and do them
that--All right, Jim! Let her go! Cast off!”

The conductor waved his hand, the engine puffed, the bell rang, and
the train moved onward. For another twelve hours East Harniss was left
marooned by the outside world.

Beriah Higgins and the mail bag were already in the post office. Thither
went the crowd to await the sorting and ultimate distribution. A short,
fat little man lingered and, walking up to the depot master, extended
his hand.

“Hello, Sol!” he said, smiling. “Thought I’d stop long enough to say
‘Howdy,’ anyhow.”

“Why, Bailey Stitt!” cried the Captain. “How are you? Glad to see you.
Thought you was down to South Orham, takin’ out seasick parties for the
Ocean House, same kind of a job I used to have in Wellmouth.”

“I am,” replied Captain Stitt. “That is, I was. Just now I’ve run over
here to see about contractin’ for a supply of clams and quahaugs for our
boarders. You never see such a gang to eat as them summer folks, in your
life. Barzilla Wingate, he says the same about his crowd. He’s comin’ on
the mornin’ train from Wellmouth.”

“You don’t tell me. I ain’t seen Barzilla for a long spell. Where you
stoppin’? Come up to the house, won’t you?”

“Can’t. I’m goin’ to put up over to Obed Gott’s. His sister, Polena
Ginn, is a relation of mine by marriage. So long! Obed’s gone on ahead
to tell Polena to put the kettle on. Maybe Obed and I’ll be back again
after I’ve had supper.”

“Do. I’ll be round here for two or three hours yet.”

He entered the depot. Except the forlorn Issy, who sat in a corner,
holding the express package in his lap, Simeon Phinney was the only
person in the waiting room.

“Come on now, Sol!” pleaded Sim. “I want to hear the rest of that about
you and Williams. You left off in the most ticklish place possible,
out of spite, I do believe. I’m hangin’ on to that boat in the breakers
until I declare I believe I’m catchin’ cold just from imagination.”

“Wait a minute, Sim,” said the depot master. Then he turned to his
assistant.

“Issy,” he said, “this is about the nineteenth time you’ve done just
this sort of thing. You’re no earthly use and I ought to give you your
clearance papers. But I can’t, you’re too--well--ornamental. You’ve
got to be punished somehow and I guess the best way will be to send you
right up to Major Hardee’s and let you give him the remnants. He’ll
want to know how it happened, and you tell him the truth. The TRUTH,
understand? If you invent any fairy tales out of those novels of yours
I’ll know it by and by and--well, YOU’LL know I know. No remarks,
please. Git!”

Issy hesitated, seemed about to speak, thought better of it, took up
package and cap, and “got.”

“Let’s see,” said the Captain, sitting down in one of the station chairs
and lighting a fresh cigar; “where was Williams and I in that yarn of
mine? Oh, yes, I could see land and cal’lated we was goin’ to bump.
Well, we did. Steerin’ anyways but dead ahead was out of the question,
and all I could do was set my teeth and trust in my bein’ a member
of the church. The Shootin’ Star hit that beach like she was the real
article. Overboard went oar and canvas and grub pails, and everything
else that wa’n’t nailed down, includin’ Fatty and me. I grabbed him by
the collar and wallowed ashore.

“‘Awk! hawk!’ he gasps, chokin’, ‘I’m drownded.’

“I let him BE drownded, for the minute. I had the launch to think of,
and somehow or ‘nother I got hold of her rodin’ and hauled the anchor up
above tide mark. Then I attended to my passenger.

“‘Where are we?’ he asks.

“I looked around. Close by was nothin’ but beach-grass and seaweed and
sand. A little ways off was a clump of scrub pines and bayberry bushes
that looked sort of familiar. And back of them was a little board shanty
that looked more familiar still. I rubbed the salt out of my eyes.

“‘WELL!’ says I. ‘I swan to man!’

“‘What is it?’ he says. ‘Do you know where we are? Whose house is that?’

“I looked hard at the shanty.

“‘Humph!’ I grunted. ‘I do declare! Talk about a feller’s comin’ back to
his own. Whose shanty is that? Well, it’s mine, if you want to know.
The power that looks out for the lame and the lazy has hove us ashore on
Woodchuck Island, and that’s a piece of real estate I own.’

“It sounds crazy enough, that’s a fact; but it was true. Woodchuck
Island is a little mite of a sand heap off in the bay, two mile from
shore and ten from the nighest town. I’d bought it and put up a shanty
for a gunnin’ shack; took city gunners down there, once in a while,
the fall before. That summer I’d leased it to a friend of mine, name of
Darius Baker, who used it while he was lobsterin’. The gale had driven
us straight in from sea, ‘way past Sandy P’int and on to the island.
‘Twas like hittin’ a nail head in a board fence, but we’d done it. Shows
what Providence can do when it sets out.

“I explained some of this to Williams as we waded through the sand to
the shanty.

“‘But is this Baker chap here now?’ he asks.

“‘I’m afraid not,’ says I. ‘The lobster season’s about over, and he was
goin’ South on a yacht this week. Still, he wa’n’t to go till Saturday
and perhaps--’

“But the shanty was empty when we got there. I fumbled around in the tin
matchbox and lit the kerosene lamp in the bracket on the wall. Then I
turned to Williams.

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘we’re lucky for once in--’

“Then I stopped. When he went overboard the water had washed off
his hat. Likewise it had washed off his long black hair--which was a
wig--and his head was all round and shiny and bald, like a gull’s egg
out in a rain storm.”

“I knew he wore a wig,” interrupted Phinney.

“Of course you do. Everybody does now. But he wa’n’t such a prophet in
Israel then as he’s come to be since, and folks wa’n’t acquainted with
his personal beauties.

“‘What are you starin’ at?’ he asks.

“I fetched a long breath. ‘Nothin’,’ says I. ‘Nothin’.’

“But for the rest of that next ha’f hour I went around in a kind of
daze, as if MY wig had gone and part of my head with it. When a feller
has been doin’ a puzzle it kind of satisfies him to find out the answer.
And I’d done my puzzle.

“I knew where I’d met Mr. Williams afore.”

“You did?” cried Simeon.

“Um-hm. Wait a while. Well, Fatty went to bed, in one of the hay bunks,
pretty soon after that. He stripped to his underclothes and turned in
under the patchwork comforters. He was too beat out to want any supper,
even if there’d been any in sight. I built a fire in the rusty cook
stove and dried his duds and mine. Then I set down in the busted chair
and begun to think. After a spell I got up and took account of stock, as
you might say, of the eatables in the shanty. Darius had carted off his
own grub and what there was on hand was mine, left over from the gunnin’
season--a hunk of salt pork in the pickle tub, some corn meal in a tin
pail, some musty white flour in another pail, a little coffee, a little
sugar and salt, and a can of condensed milk. I took these things out of
the locker they was in, looked ‘em over, put ‘em back again and sprung
the padlock. Then I put the key into my pocket and went back to my chair
to do some more thinkin’.

“Next mornin’ I was up early and when the banker turned out I was fryin’
a couple of slices of the pork and had some coffee b’ilin’. Likewise
there was a pan of johnnycake in the oven. The wind had gone down
consider’ble, but ‘twas foggy and thick again, which was a pleasin’
state of things for yours truly.

“Williams smelt the cookin’ almost afore he got his eyes open.

“‘Hurry up with that breakfast,’ he says to me. ‘I’m hungry as a wolf.’

“I didn’t say nothin’ then; just went ahead with my cookin’. He got into
his clothes and went outdoor. Pretty soon he comes back, cussin’ the
weather.

“‘See here, Mr. Williams,’ says I, ‘how about them orders to your
housekeeper? Are they straight? Won’t she have you hunted up for a
week?’

“He colored pretty red, but from what he said I made out that she
wouldn’t. I gathered that him and the old lady wa’n’t real chummy. She
give him his grub and her services, and he give her the Old Harry and
her wages. She wouldn’t hunt for him, not until she was ordered to.
She’d be only too glad to have him out of the way.

“‘Humph!’ says I. ‘Then I cal’late we’ll enjoy the scenery on this
garden spot of creation until the week’s up.’

“‘What do you mean?’ says he.

“‘Well,’ I says, ‘the launch is out of commission, unless it should
rain gasoline, and at this time of year there ain’t likely to be a boat
within hailin’ distance of this island; ‘specially if the weather holds
bad.’

“He swore a blue streak, payin’ partic’lar attention to the housekeeper
for her general stupidness and to me because I’d got him, so he said,
into this scrape. I didn’t say nothin’; set the table, with one plate
and one cup and sasser and knife and fork, hauled up a chair and set
down to my breakfast. He hauled up a box and set down, too.

“‘Pass me that corn bread,’ says he. ‘And why didn’t you fry more pork?’

“He was reachin’ out for the johnnycake, but I pulled it out of his way.

“‘Wait a minute, Mr. Williams,’ says I. ‘While you was snoozin’ last
night I made out a kind of manifest of the vittles aboard this shanty.
‘Cordin’ to my figgerin’ here’s scursely enough to last one husky man
a week, let along two husky ones. I paid consider’ble attention to your
preachin’ yesterday and the text seemed to be to look out for number
one. Now in this case I’m the one and I’ve got to look out for myself.
This is my shanty, my island, and my grub. So please keep your hands off
that johnnycake.’

“For a minute or so he set still and stared at me. Didn’t seem to sense
the situation, as you might say. Then the red biled up in his face and
over his bald head like a Fundy tide.

“‘Why, you dummed villain!’ he shouts. ‘Do you mean to starve me?’

“‘You won’t starve in a week,’ says I, helpin’ myself to pork. ‘A feller
named Tanner, that I read about years ago, lived for forty days on cold
water and nothin’ else. There’s the pump right over in the corner. It’s
my pump, but I’ll stretch a p’int and not charge for it this time.’

“‘You--you--’ he stammers, shakin’ all over, he was so mad. ‘Didn’t I
hire you--’

“‘You hired me to take you out to the fishin’ grounds and back, provided
the launch was made ready by YOU. It wa’n’t ready, so THAT contract’s
busted. And you was to furnish your extrys and I was to furnish mine.
Here they be and I need ‘em. It’s as legitimate a deal as ever I see;
perfect case of supply and demand--supply for one and demand for two. As
I said afore, I’m the one.’

“‘By thunder!’ he growls, standin’ up, ‘I’ll show you--’

“I stood up, too. He was fat and flabby and I was thin and wiry. We
looked each other over.

“‘I wouldn’t,’ says I. ‘You’re under the doctor’s care, you know.’

“So he set down again, not havin’ strength even to swear, and watched me
eat my breakfast. And I ate it slow.

“‘Say,’ he says, finally, ‘you think you’re mighty smart, don’t you.
Well, I’m It, I guess, for this time. I suppose you’ll have no objection
to SELLIN’ me a breakfast?’

“‘No--o,’ says I, ‘not a mite of objection. I’ll sell you a couple of
slices of pork for five dollars a slice and--’

“‘FIVE DOLLARS a--!’ His mouth dropped open like a main hatch.

“‘Sartin,’ I says. ‘And two slabs of johnnycake at five dollars a slab.
And a cup of coffee at five dollars a cup. And--’

“‘You’re crazy!’ he sputters, jumpin’ up.

“‘Not much, I ain’t. I’ve been settin’ at your feet larnin’ high
finance, that’s all. You don’t seem to be onto the real inwardness of
this deal. I’ve got the grub market cornered, that’s all. The market
price of necessaries is five dollars each now; it’s likely to rise at
any time, but now it’s five.’

“He looked at me steady for at least two more minutes. Then he got up
and banged out of that shanty. A little later I see him down at the end
of the sand spit starin’ out into the fog; lookin’ for a sail, I presume
likely.

“I finished my breakfast and washed up the dishes. He come in by and by.
He hadn’t had no dinner nor supper, you see, and the salt air gives most
folks an almighty appetite.

“‘Say,’ he says, ‘I’ve been thinkin’. It’s usual in the stock and
provision market to deal on a margin. Suppose I pay you a one per cent
margin now and--’

“‘All right,’ says I, cheerful. ‘Then I’ll give you a slip of paper
sayin’ that you’ve bought such and such slices of pork and hunks of
johnnycake and I’m carryin’ ‘em for you on a margin. Of course there
ain’t no delivery of the goods now because--’

“‘Humph!’ he interrupts, sour. ‘You seem to know more’n I thought you
did. Now are you goin’ to be decent and make me a fair price or ain’t
you?’

“‘Can’t sell under the latest quotations,’ says I. ‘That’s five now; and
spot cash.’

“‘But hang it all!’ he says, ‘I haven’t got money enough with me. Think
I carry a national bank around in my clothes?’

“‘You carry a Wellmouth Bank check book,’ says I, ‘because I see it in
your jacket pocket last night when I was dryin’ your duds. I’ll take a
check.’

“He started to say somethin’ and then stopped. After a spell he seemed
to give in all to once.

“‘Very good,’ he says. ‘You get my breakfast ready and I’ll make out the
check.’

“That breakfast cost him twenty-five dollars; thirty really, because he
added another five for an extry cup of coffee. I told him to make the
check payable to ‘Bearer,’ as ‘twas quicker to write than ‘Solomon.’

“He had two more meals that day and at bedtime I had his checks
amountin’ to ninety-five dollars. The fog stayed with us all the time
and nobody come to pick us up. And the next mornin’s outlook was just as
bad, bein’ a drizzlin’ rain and a high wind. The mainland beach was in
sight but that’s all except salt water and rain.

“He was surprisin’ly cheerful all that day, eatin’ like a horse
and givin’ up his meal checks without a whimper. If things had been
different from what they was I’d have felt like a mean sneak thief.
BEIN’ as they was, I counted up the hundred and ten I’d made that day
without a pinch of conscience.

“This was a Wednesday. On Thursday, the third day of our Robinson
Crusoe business, the weather was still thick, though there was signs of
clearin’. Fatty come to me after breakfast--which cost him thirty-five,
payable, as usual, to ‘Bearer’--with almost a grin on his big face.

“‘Berry,’ he says, ‘I owe you an apology. I thought you was a green
Rube, like the rest down here, but you’re as sharp as they make ‘em. I
ain’t the man to squeal when I get let in on a bad deal, and the chap
who can work me for a sucker is entitled to all he can make. But this
pay-as-you-go business is too slow and troublesome. What’ll you take for
the rest of the grub in the locker there, spot cash? Be white, and make
a fair price.’

“I’d been expectin’ somethin’ like this, and I was ready for him.

“‘Two hundred and sixty-five dollars,’ says I, prompt.

“He done a little figgerin’. ‘Well, allowin’ that I have to put up on
this heap of desolation for the better part of four days more, that’s
cheap, accordin’ to your former rates,’ he says. ‘I’ll go you. But why
not make it two fifty, even?’

“‘Two hundred and sixty-five’s my price,’ says I. So he handed over
another ‘Bearer’ check, and his board bill was paid for a week.

“Friday was a fine day, clear as a bell. Me and Williams had a real
picnicky, sociable time. Livin’ outdoor this way had made him forget his
diseases and the doctor, and he showed signs of bein’ ha’fway decent. We
loafed around and talked and dug clams to help out the pork--that is, I
dug ‘em and Fatty superintended. We see no less’n three sailin’ craft
go by down the bay and tried our best to signal ‘em, but they didn’t pay
attention--thought we was gunners or somethin’, I presume likely.

“At breakfast on Saturday, Williams begun to ask questions again.

“‘Sol,’ says he, ‘it surprised me to find that you knew what a “margin”
 was. You didn’t get that from anything I said. Where did you get it?’

“I leaned back on my box seat.

“‘Mr. Williams,’ says I, ‘I cal’late I’ll tell you a little story, if
you want to hear it. ‘Tain’t much of a yarn, as yarns go, but maybe
it’ll interest you. The start of it goes back to consider’ble many year
ago, when I was poorer’n I be now, and a mighty sight younger. At that
time me and another feller, a partner of mine, had a fish weir out in
the bay here. The mackerel struck in and we done well, unusual well.
At the end of the season, not countin’ what we’d spent for livin’ and
expenses, we had a balance owin’ us at our fish dealer’s up to Boston
of five hundred dollars--two fifty apiece. My partner was goin’ to
be married in the spring and was cal’latin’ to use his share to buy
furniture for the new house with. So we decided we’d take a trip up
to Boston and collect the money, stick it into some savin’s bank where
‘twould draw interest until spring and then haul it out and use it.
‘Twas about every cent we had in the world.

“‘So to Boston we went, collected our money, got the address of a safe
bank and started out to find it. But on the way my partner’s hat blowed
off and the bank address, which was on a slip of paper inside of it, got
lost. So we see a sign on a buildin’, along with a lot of others, that
kind of suggested bankin’, and so we stepped into the buildin’ and went
upstairs to ask the way again.

“‘The place wa’n’t very big, but ‘twas fixed up fancy and there was a
kind of blackboard along the end of the room where a boy was markin’ up
figgers in chalk. A nice, smilin’ lookin’ man met us and, when we told
him what we wanted, he asked us to set down. Then, afore we knowed it
almost, we’d told him the whole story--about the five hundred and all.
The feller said to hold on a spell and he’d go along with us and show us
where the savin’s bank was himself.

“‘So we waited and all the time the figgers kept goin’ up on the board,
under signs of “Pork” and “Wheat” and “Cotton” and such, and we’d hear
how so and so’s account was makin’ a thousand a day, and the like of
that. After a while the nice man, who it turned out was one of the
bosses of the concern, told us what it meant. Seemed there was a big
“rise” in the market and them that bought now was bound to get rich
quick. Consequent we said we wished we could buy and get rich, too. And
the smilin’ chap says, “Let’s go have some lunch.”’

“Williams laughed. ‘Ho, ho!’ says he. ‘Expensive lunch, was it?’

“‘Most extravagant meal of vittles ever I got away with,’ I says. ‘Cost
me and my partner two hundred and fifty apiece, that lunch did. We
stayed in Boston two days, and on the afternoon of the second day we
was on our way back totin’ a couple of neat but expensive slips of paper
signifyin’ that we’d bought December and May wheat on a one per cent
margin. We was a hundred ahead already, ‘cordin’ to the blackboard, and
was figgerin’ what sort of palaces we’d build when we cashed in.’

“‘Ain’t no use preachin’ a long sermon over the remains. ‘Twas a simple
funeral and nobody sent flowers. Inside of a month we was cleaned
out and the wheat place had gone out of business--failed, busted, you
understand. Our fish dealer friend asked some questions, and found out
the shebang wa’n’t a real stock dealer’s at all. ‘Twas what they call
a “bucket shop,” and we’d bought nothin’ but air, and paid a commission
for buyin’ it. And the smilin’, nice man that run the swindle had been
hangin’ on the edge of bust for a long while and knowed ‘twas comin’.
Our five hundred had helped pay his way to a healthier climate, that’s
all.’

“‘Hold on a minute,’ says Fatty, lookin’ more interested. ‘What was the
name of the firm that took you greenhorns in?’

“‘’Twas the Empire Bond, Stock and Grain Exchange,’ says I. ‘And ‘twas
on Derbyshire Street.’

“He give a little jump. Then he says, slow, Hu-u-m! I--see.’

“‘Yes,’ says I. ‘I thought you would. You had a mustache then and your
name was diff’rent, but you seemed familiar just the same. When your
false hair got washed off I knew you right away.’

“He took out his pocket pen and his check book and done a little
figgerin’.

“‘Humph!’ he says, again. ‘You lost five hundred and I’ve paid you five
hundred and five. What’s the five for?’

“‘That’s my commission on the sales,’ I says.

“And just then comes a hail from outside the shanty. Out we bolted
and there was Sam Davis, just steppin’ ashore from his power boat.
Williams’s housekeeper had strained a p’int and had shaded her orders by
a couple of days.

“Williams and Sam started for home right off. I followed in the Shootin’
Star, havin’ borrered gasoline enough for the run. I reached the dock
ha’f an hour after they did, and there was Fatty waitin’ for me.

“‘Berry,’ says he, ‘I’ve got a word or two to say to you. I ain’t
kickin’ at your givin’ me tit for tat, or tryin’ to. Turn about’s fair
play, if you can call the turn. But it’s against my principles to allow
anybody to beat me on a business deal. Do you suppose,’ he says, ‘that
I’d have paid your robber’s prices without a word if I hadn’t had
somethin’ up my sleeve? Why, man,’ says he, ‘I gave you my CHECKS, not
cash. And I’ve just telephoned to the Wellmouth Bank to stop payment
on those checks. They’re no earthly use to you; see? There’s one or two
things about high finance that you don’t know even yet. Ho, ho!’

“And he rocked back and forth on his heels and laughed.

“I held up my hand. ‘Wait a jiffy, Mr. Williams,’ says I. ‘I guess these
checks are all right. When we fust landed on Woodchuck, I judged by the
looks of the shanty that Baker hadn’t left it for good. I cal’lated
he’d be back. And sure enough he come back, in his catboat, on Thursday
evenin’, after you’d turned in. Them checks was payable to “Bearer,”
 you remember, so I give ‘em to him. He was to cash ‘em in the fust thing
Friday mornin’, and I guess you’ll find he’s done it.’”

“Well, I swan to MAN!” interrupted the astonished and delighted Phinney.
“So you had him after all! And I was scart you’d lost every cent.”

Captain Sol chuckled. “Yes,” he went on, “I had him, and his eyes and
mouth opened together.

“‘WHAT?’ he bellers. ‘Do you mean to say that a boat stopped at that
dummed island and DIDN’T TAKE US OFF?’

“‘Oh,’ says I, ‘Darius didn’t feel called on to take you off, not after
I told him who you was. You see, Mr. Williams,’ I says, ‘Darius Baker
was my partner in that wheat speculation I was tellin’ you about.’”

The Captain drew a long breath and re-lit his cigar, which had gone out.
His friend pounded the settee ecstatically.

“There!” he cried. “I knew the name ‘Darius Baker’ wa’n’t so strange to
me. When was you and him in partners, Sol?”

“Oh, ‘way back in the old days, afore I went to sea at all, and afore
mother died. You wouldn’t remember much about it. Mother and I was
livin’ in Trumet then and our house here was shut up. I was only a kid,
or not much more, and Williams was young, too.”

“And that’s the way he made his money! HIM! Why, he’s the most respected
man in this neighborhood, and goes to church, and--”

“Yes. Well, if you make money ENOUGH you can always be respected--by
some kinds of people--and find some church that’ll take you in. Ain’t
that so, Bailey?”

Captain Stitt and his cousin, Obed Gott, the paint dealer, were standing
in the doorway of the station. They now entered.

“I guess it’s so,” replied Stitt, pulling up a chair, “though I don’t
know what you was talkin’ about. However, it’s a pretty average safe bet
that what you say is so, Sol, ‘most any time. What’s the special ‘so,’
this time?”

“We was talkin’ about Mr. Williams,” began Phinney.

“The Grand Panjandrum of East Harniss,” broke in the depot master. “East
Harniss is blessed with a great man, Bailey, and, like consider’ble many
blessin’s he ain’t entirely unmixed.”

Obed and Simeon looked puzzled, but Captain Stitt bounced in his chair
like a good-natured rubber ball. “Ho! ho!” he chuckled, “you don’t
surprise me, Sol. We had a great man over to South Orham three years ago
and he begun by blessin’s and ended with--with t’other thing. Ho! ho!”

“What do you mean?” demanded Sim.

“Why, I mean Stingy Gabe. You’ve heard of Stingy Gabe, ain’t you?”

“I guess we’ve all heard somethin’ about him,” laughed Captain Sol; “but
we’re willin’ to hear more. He was a reformer, wa’n’t he?”

“He sartin was! Ho! ho!”

“For the land sakes, tell it, Bailey,” demanded Mr. Gott impatiently.
“Don’t sit there bouncin’ and gurglin’ and gettin’ purple in the face.
Tell it, or you’ll bust tryin’ to keep it in.”

“Oh, it’s a great, long--” began Captain Bailey protestingly.

“Go on,” urged Phinney. “We’ve got more time than anything else, the
most of us. Who was this Stingy Gabe?”

“Yes,” urged Gott, “and what did he reform?”

Captain Stitt held up a compelling hand. “It’s all of a piece,” he
interrupted. “It takes in everything, like an eatin’-house stew. And,
as usual in them cases, the feller that ordered it didn’t know what was
comin’ to him.

“Stingy Gabe was that feller. His Sunday name was Gabriel Atkinson
Holway, and his dad used to peddle fish from Orham to Denboro and back.
The old man was christened Gabriel, likewise. He owed ‘most everybody,
and, besides, was so mean that he kept the scales and trimmin’s of the
fish he sold to make chowder for himself and family. All hands called
him ‘Stingy Gabe,’ and the boy inherited the name along with the
fifteen hundred dollars that the old man left when he died. He cleared
out--young Gabe did--soon as the will was settled and afore the
outstandin’ debts was, and nobody in this latitude see hide nor hair of
him till three years ago this comin’ spring.

“Then, lo and behold you! he drops off the parlor car at the Orham
station and cruises down to South Orham, bald-headed and bay-windowed,
sufferin’ from pomp and prosperity. Seems he’d been spendin’ his life
cornerin’ copper out West and then copperin’ the corners in Wall Street.
The folks in his State couldn’t put him in jail, so they sent him to
Congress. Now, as the Honorable Atkinson Holway, he’d come back to the
Cape to rest his wrist, which had writer’s cramp from signin’ stock
certificates, and to ease his eyes with a sight of the dear old home of
his boyhood.

“Bill Nickerson comes postin’ down to me with the news.

“‘Bailey,’ says he, ‘what do you think’s happened? Stingy Gabe’s struck
the town.’

“‘For how much?’ I asks, anxious. ‘Don’t let him have it, whatever
‘tis.’

“Then he went on to explain. Gabe was rich as all get out, and ‘twas
his intention to buy back his old man’s house and fix it up for a summer
home. He was delighted to find how little change there was in South
Orham.

“‘No matter if ‘tain’t but fifteen cents he’ll get it, if the s’lectmen
don’t watch him,’ I says; and the bills, too. I know HIS tribe.’

“‘You don’t understand,’ says Nickerson. ‘He ain’t no thief. He’s rich,
I tell you, and he’s cal’latin’ to do the town good.’

“‘Course he is,’ I says. ‘It runs in the family. His dad done it good,
too--good as ‘twas ever done, I guess.’

“But next day Gabe himself happens along, and I see right off that I’d
made a mistake in my reckonin’. The Honorable Atkinson Holway wa’n’t
figgerin’ to borrow nothin’. When a chap has been skinnin’ halibut,
minnows are too small for him to bother with. Gabe was full of fried
clams and philanthropy.

“‘By Jove! Stitt,’ he says, ‘livin’ here has been the dream of my life.’

“‘You’ll be glad to wake up, won’t you?’ says I. ‘I wish I could.’

“‘I tell you,’ he says, ‘this little old village is all right! All it
needs is a public-spirited resident to help it along. I propose to be
the P. S. R.’

“And on that program he started right in. Fust off he bought his dad’s
old place, built it over into the eight-sided palace that’s there now,
fetched down a small army of servants skippered by an old housekeeper,
and commenced to live simple but complicated. Then, havin’ provided
the needful charity for himself, he’s ready to scatter manna for the
starvin’ native.

“He had a dozen schemes laid out. One was to build a free but expensive
library; another was to pave the main road with brick; third was to give
stained-glass windows and velvet cushions to the meetin’ house, so’s
the congregation could sleep comfortable in a subdued light. The
stained-glass idee put him in close touch with the minister, Reverend
Edwin Fisher, and the minister suggested the men’s club. And he took to
that men’s club scheme like an old maid to strong tea; the rest of the
improvements went into dry dock to refit while Admiral Gabe got his
men’s club off the ways.

“‘Twas the billiard room that made the minister hanker for a men’s club.
That billiard room was the worry of his life. Old man Jotham Gale run
it and had run it sence the Concord fight, in a way of speakin’. You
remember his sign, maybe: ‘Jotham W. Gale. Billiard, Pool, and Sipio
Saloon. Cigars and Tobacco. Tonics and Pipes. Minors under Ten Years of
Age not Admitted.’ Jotham’s customers was called, by the outsiders, ‘the
billiard-room gang.’

“The billiard room gang wa’n’t the best folks in town, I’ll own right up
to that. Still, they wa’n’t so turrible wicked. Jotham never sold rum,
and he’d never allow no rows in his place. But, just the same, his
saloon was reckoned a bad influence. Young men hadn’t ought to go
there--most of us said that. If there was a nicer place TO go, argues
the minister, ‘twould help the moral tone of the community consider’ble.
‘Why not,’ says he to Stingy Gabe, ‘start a free club for men that’ll
make the billiard room look like the tail boat in a race?’ And says
Gabe: ‘Bully! I’ll do it.’”

Captain Stitt paused long enough to enjoy a chuckle all by himself.
Before he had quite finished his laugh, slow and reluctant steps were
heard on the back platform and Issy appeared on the threshold. He was
without the package, but did not look happy.

“Well, Is,” inquired the depot master, “did you give the remains to the
Major?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Issy.

“Did you tell him how the shockin’ fatality happened? How the thing got
broken?”

“Yes, sir, I told him.”

“What did he say? Didn’t let his angry passions rise, did he?”

“No-o; no, sir, he didn’t rise nothin’. He didn’t get mad neither. But
you could see he felt pretty bad. Talked about ‘old family glass’ and
‘priceless airloons’ or some such. Said much as he regretted to, he
should feel it no more’n justice to have somebody pay damages.”

“Humph!” Captain Sol looked very grave. “Issy, I can see your finish.
You’ll have to pay for somethin’ that’s priceless, and how are you goin’
to do that? ‘Old family glass,’ hey? Hum! And I thought I saw the label
of a Boston store on that package.”

Obed Gott leaned forward eagerly.

“Is that Major Hardee you’re talkin’ about?” he asked.

“Yes, sir. He’s the only Major we’ve got. Cap’ns are plenty as June
bugs, but Majors and Gen’rals are scarce. Why?”

“Oh, nothin’. Only--” Mr. Gott muttered the remainder of the sentence
under his breath. However, the depot master heard it and his eye
twinkled.

“You’re glad of it!” he exclaimed. “Why, Obed! Major Cuthbertson Scott
Hardee! I’m surprised. Better not let the women folks hear you say
that.”

“Look here!” cried Captain Stitt, rather tartly, “am I goin’ to finish
that yarn of mine or don’t you want to hear it?”

“BEG your pardon, Bailey. Go on. The last thing you said was what Stingy
Gabe said, and that was--”



CHAPTER III

“STINGY GABE”


“And that,” said Captain Bailey, mollified by the renewed interest of
his listeners, “was, ‘Bully! I’ll do it!’

“So he calls a meetin’ of everybody interested, at his new house. About
every respectable man in town was there, includin’ me. Most of the
billiard-room gang was there, likewise. Jotham, of course, wa’n’t
invited.

“Gabe calls the meetin’ to order and the minister makes a speech tellin’
about the scheme. ‘Our generous and public-spirited citizen, Honorable
Atkinson Holway,’ had offered to build a suitable clubhouse, fix it up,
and donate it to the club, them and their heirs forever, Amen. ‘Twas to
belong to the members to do what they pleased with--no strings tied to
it at all. Dues would be merely nominal, a dollar a year or some such
matter. Now, who favored such a club as that?

“Well, ‘most everybody did. Daniel Bassett, chronic politician, justice
of the peace, and head of the ‘Conservatives’ at town meetin’, he made
a talk, and in comes him and his crew. Gaius Ellis, another chronic, who
is postmaster and skipper of the ‘Progressives,’ had been fidgetin’
in his seat, and now up he bobs and says he’s for it; then every
‘Progressive’ jines immediate. But the billiard-roomers; they didn’t
jine. They looked sort of sheepish, and set still. When Mr. Fisher begun
to hint p’inted in their direction, they got up and slid outdoor. And
right then I’d ought to have smelt trouble, but I didn’t; had a cold in
my head, I guess likely.

“Next thing was to build the new clubhouse, and Gabe went at it hammer
and tongs. He had a big passel of carpenters down from the city, and
inside of three months the buildin’ was up, and she was a daisy, now I
tell you. There was a readin’ room and a meetin’ room and an ‘amusement
room.’ The amusements was crokinole and parchesi and checkers and the
like of that. Also there was a gymnasium and a place where you could
play the pianner and sing--till the sufferin’ got acute and somebody
come along and abated you.

“When I fust went inside that clubhouse I see ‘twas bound to be
‘Good-by, Bill,’ for Jotham. His customers would shake his ratty old
shanty for sartin, soon’s they see them elegant new rooms. I swan, if I
didn’t feel sorry for the old reprobate, and, thinks I, I’ll drop around
and sympathize a little. Sympathy don’t cost nothin’, and Jotham’s
pretty good company.

“I found him settin’ alongside the peanut roaster, watchin’ a couple of
patients cruelize the pool table.

“‘Hello, Bailey!’ says he. ‘You surprise me. Ain’t you ‘fraid of
catchin’ somethin’ in this ha’nt of sin? Have a chair, anyhow. And a
cigar, won’t you?’

“I took the chair, but I steered off from the cigar, havin’ had
experience. Told him I guessed I’d use my pipe. He chuckled.

“‘Fur be it from me to find fault with your judgment,’ he says.
‘Terbacker does smoke better’n anything else, don’t it.’

“We set there and puffed for five minutes or so. Then he sort of jumped.

“‘What’s up?’ says I.

“‘Oh, nothin’!’ he says. ‘Bije Simmons got a ball in the pocket, that’s
all. Don’t do that too often, Bije; I got a weak heart. Well, Bailey,’
he adds, turnin’ to me, ‘Gabe’s club’s fixed up pretty fine, ain’t it?’

“‘Why, yes,’ I says; ‘’tis.’

“‘Finest ever I see,’ says he. ‘I told him so when I was in there.’

“‘What?’ says I. ‘You don’t mean to say YOU’VE been in that clubroom?’

“‘Sartin. Why not? I want to take in all the shows there is--‘specially
the free ones. Make a good billiard room, that clubhouse would.’

“I whistled. ‘Whew!’ says I. ‘Didn’t tell Gabe THAT, did you?’

“He nodded. ‘Yup,’ says he. ‘I told him.’

“I whistled again. ‘What answer did he make?’ I asked.

“‘Oh, he wa’n’t enthusiastic. Seemed to cal’late I’d better shut up my
head and my shop along with it, afore he knocked off one and his club
knocked out t’other.’

“I pitied the old rascal; I couldn’t help it.

“‘Jotham,’ says I, ‘I ain’t the wust friend you’ve got in South Orham,
even if I don’t play pool much. If I was you I’d clear out of here and
start somewheres else. You can’t fight all the best folks in town.’

“He didn’t make no answer. Just kept on a-puffin’. I got up to go. Then
he laid his hand on my sleeve.

“‘Bailey,’ says he, ‘when Betsy Mayo was ailin’, her sister’s tribe was
all for the Faith Cure and her husband’s relations was high for patent
medicine. When the Faith Curists got to workin’, in would come some of
the patent mediciners and give ‘em the bounce. And when THEY went home
for the night, the Faithers would smash all the bottles. Finally they
got so busy fightin’ ‘mong themselves that Betsy see she was gettin’ no
better fast, and sent for the reg’lar doctor. HE done the curin’, and
got the pay.’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘what of it?’

“‘Nothin’,’ says he. ‘Only I’ve been practisin’ a considerable spell. So
long. Come in again some time when it’s dark and the respectable element
can’t see you.’

“I went away thinkin’ hard. And next mornin’ I hunted up Gabe, and says
I:

“‘Mr. Holway,’ I says, ‘what puzzles me is how you’re goin’ to elect the
officers for the new club. Put up a Conservative and the Progressives
resign. H’ist the Progressive ensign and the Conservatives’ll mutiny. As
for the billiard-roomers--providin’ any jine--they’ve never been known
to vote for anybody but themselves. I can’t see no light yet--nothin’
but fog.’

“He winks, sly and profound. ‘That’s all right,’ says he. ‘Fisher and I
have planned that. You watch!’

“Sure enough, they had. The minister was mighty popular, so, when ‘twas
out that he was candidate to be fust president of the club, all hands
was satisfied. Two vice presidents was named--one bein’ Bassett and
t’other Ellis. Secretary was a leadin’ Conservative; treasurer a head
Progressive. Officers and crew was happy and mutiny sunk ten fathoms.
ONLY none of the billiard-room gang had jined, and they was the fish we
was really tryin’ for.

“‘Twas next March afore one of ‘em did come into the net, though we’d
have on all kinds of bait--suppers and free ice cream Saturday nights,
and the like of that. And meantime things had been happenin’.

“The fust thing of importance was Gabe’s leavin’ town. Our Cape winter
weather was what fixed him. He stood the no’theasters and Scotch
drizzles till January, and then he heads for Key West and comfort.
Said his heart still beat warm for his native village, but his feet was
froze--or words similar. He cal’lated to be back in the spring. Then
the Reverend Fisher got a call to somewheres in York State, and felt
he couldn’t afford not to hear it. Nobody blamed him; the salary paid
a minister in South Orham is enough to make any feller buy patent ear
drums. But that left our men’s club without either skipper or pilot, as
you might say.

“One week after the farewell sermon, Daniel Bassett drops in casual on
me. He was passin’ around smoking material lavish and regardless.

“‘Stitt,’ says he, ‘you’ve always voted for Conservatism in our local
affairs, haven’t you?’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘I didn’t vote to roof the town hall with a new
mortgage, if that’s what you mean.’

“‘Exactly,’ he says. ‘Now, our men’s club, while not as yet the success
we hoped for, has come to be a power for good in our community. It needs
for its president a conservative, thoughtful man. Bailey,’ he says, ‘it
has come to my ears that Gaius Ellis intends to run for that office. You
know him. As a taxpayer, as a sober, thoughtful citizen, my gorge rises
at such insolence. I protest, sir! I protest against--’

“He was standin’ up, makin’ gestures with both arms, and he had his
town-meetin’ voice iled and runnin’. I was too busy to hanker for a
stump speech, so I cut across his bows.

“‘All right, all right,’ says I. ‘I’ll vote for you, Dan.’

“He fetched a long breath. ‘Thank you,’ says he. ‘Thank you. That makes
ten. Ellis can count on no more than nine. My election is assured.’

“Seein’ that there wa’n’t but nineteen reg’lar voters who come to the
club meetin’s, if Bassett had ten of ‘em it sartin did look as if he’d
get in. But on election night what does Gaius Ellis do but send a wagon
after old man Solomon Peavey, who’d been dry docked with rheumatiz
for three months, and Sol’s vote evened her up. ‘Twas ten to ten, a
deadlock, and the election was postponed for another week.

“This was of a Tuesday. On Wednesday I met Bije Simmons, the chap who
was playin’ pool at Jotham’s.

“‘Hey, Bailey!’ says he. ‘Shake hands with a brother. I’m goin’ to jine
the men’s club.’

“‘You BE?’ says I, surprised enough, for Simmons was a billiard-roomer
from ‘way back.

“‘Yup,’ he says. ‘I’ll be voted in at next meetin’, sure. I’m studyin’
up on parchesi now.’

“‘Hum!’ I says, thinkin’. ‘How you goin to vote?’

“‘Me?’ says he. ‘Me? Why, man, I wonder at you! Can’t you see the
fires of Conservatism blazin’ in my eyes? I’m Conservative bred and
Conservative born, and when I’m dead there’ll be a Conservative gone.
By, by. See you Tuesday night.’

“He went off, stoppin’ everybody he met to tell ‘em the news. And on
Thursday Ed Barnes dropped in to pay me the seventy-five cents he’d
borrowed two years ago come Fourth of July. When I’d got over the
fust shock and had counted the money three times, I commenced to ask
questions.

“‘Somebody die and will you a million, Ed?’ I wanted to know.

“‘No,’ says he. ‘It’s the reward of virtue. I’m goin’ to be a better
man. I’m jinin’ the men’s club.’

“‘NO!’ says I, for Ed was as strong a billiard-roomer as Bije.

“‘Sure!’ he answers. ‘I’m filled full of desires for crokinole and
progressiveness. See you Tuesday night at the meetin’.’

“And, would you b’lieve it, at that meetin’ no less’n six confirmed
members of the billiard-room gang was voted into the men’s club. ‘Twas
a hallelujah gatherin’. I couldn’t help thinkin’ how glad and proud
Gabe and Mr. Fisher would have been to see their dreams comin’ true.
But Bassett and Ellis looked more worried than glad, and when the votin’
took place I understood the reason. Them new members had divided even,
and the ballots stood Bassett thirteen and Ellis thirteen. The tie was
still on and the election was put off for another week.

“In that week, surprisin’ as it may seem, two more billiard-roomers seen
a light and jined with us. However, one was for Bassett and t’other for
Ellis, so the deadlock wa’n’t broken. Jotham had only a couple of his
reg’lars left, and I swan to man if THEY didn’t catch the disease inside
of the follerin’ fortni’t and hand in their names. The ‘Billiard, Pool,
and Sipio Saloon,’ from bein’ the liveliest place in town, was now the
deadest. Through the window you could see poor Jotham mopin’ lonesome
among his peanuts and cigars. The sayin’ concernin’ the hardness of
the transgressor’s sleddin’ was workin’ out for HIM, all right. But the
conversions had come so sudden that I couldn’t understand it, though I
did have some suspicions.

“‘Look here, Dan,’ says I to Bassett, ‘are you goin’ to keep this up
till judgment? There ain’t but thirty votin’ names in this place--except
the chaps off fishin’, and they won’t be back till fall. Fifteen is for
you and fifteen for Gaius. Most astonishin’ agreement of difference ever
I see. We’ll never have a president, at this rate.’

“He winked. ‘Won’t, hey?’ he says. ‘Sure you’ve counted right? I make it
thirty-one.’

“‘I don’t see how,’ says I, puzzled. ‘Nobody’s left outside the club but
Jotham himself, and he--’

“‘That’s all right,’ he interrupts, winkin’ again. ‘You be on hand next
Tuesday night. You can’t always tell, maybe somethin’ll happen.’

“I was on hand, all right, and somethin’ did happen, two somethin’s, in
fact. We hadn’t much more’n got in our seats afore the door opened,
and in walked Gaius Ellis, arm in arm with a man; and the man was the
Honorable Stingy Gabe Atkinson Holway.

“‘Gentlemen,’ sings out Gaius, bubblin’ over with joy, ‘I propose three
cheers for our founder, who has returned to us after his long absence.’

“We give the cheers--that is, some of the folks did. Bassett and our
gang wa’n’t cheerin’ much; they looked as if somebody had passed ‘em
a counterfeit note. You see, Gabe Holway was one of the hide-boundest
Progressives afloat, and a blind man could see who’d got him back again
and which way he’d vote. It sartinly looked bad for Bassett now.

“Gaius proposes that, out of compliment, as founder of the club, Mr.
Holway be asked to preside. So he was asked, though the Conservatives
wa’n’t very enthusiastic. Gabe took the chair, preached a little sermon
about bein’ glad to see his native home once more, and raps for order.

“‘If there’s no other business afore the meetin’,’ says he, ‘we will
proceed to ballot for president.’

“But it turned out that there was other business. Dan Bassett riz to his
feet and commenced one of the most feelin’ addresses ever I listened to.

“Fust he congratulated all hands upon the success of Mr. Holway’s
philanthropic scheme for the betterment of South Orham’s male citizens.
Jeered at at fust by the unregenerate, it had gone on, winnin’ its way
into the hearts of the people, until one by one the said unregenerate
had regenerated, and now the club numbered thirty souls and the
Honorable Atkinson.

“‘But,’ says Dan, wavin’ his arms, ‘one man yet remains outside. One
lone man! The chief sinner, you say? Yes, I admit it. But, gentlemen,
a repentant sinner. Alone he sits amid the wreck of his business--a
business wrecked by us, gentlemen--without a customer, without a friend.
Shall it be said that the free and open-handed men’s club of South Orham
turned its back upon one man, merely because he HAS been what he was?
Gentlemen, I have talked with Jotham Gale; he is old, he is friendless,
he no longer has a means of livelihood--we have taken it from him. We
have turned his followers’ steps to better paths. Shall we not turn
his, also? Gentlemen and friends, Jotham Gale is repentant, he feels
his ostrichism’--whatever he meant by that--‘he desires to become
self-respecting, and he asks us to help him. He wishes to join this
club. Gentlemen, I propose for membership in our association the name of
Jotham W. Gale.’

“He set down and mopped his face. And the powwow that broke loose was
somethin’ tremendous. Of course ‘twas plain enough what Dan’s game was.
This was the ‘somethin’’ that was goin’ to happen.

“Ellis see the way the land lay, and he bounces up to protest. ‘Twas
an outrage; a scandal; ridiculous; and so forth, and so on. Poor Gabe
didn’t know what to do, and so he didn’t do nothin’. A head Conservative
seconds Jotham’s nomination. ‘Twas put to a vote and carried easy. Dan’s
speech had had its effect and a good many folks voted out of sympathy.
How did I vote? I’LL never tell you.

“And then Bassett gets up, smilin’, goes to the outside door, opens it,
and leads in the new member. He’d been waitin’ on the steps, it turned
out. Jotham looked mighty quiet and meek. I pitied the poor old codger
more’n ever. Snaked in, he was, out of the wet, like a yeller dog, by
the club that had kicked him out of his own shop.

“Chairman Gabe pounds for order, and suggests that the votin’ can go on.
But Ellis jumps up, and says he:

“‘What’s the sense of votin’ now?’ he asks sarcastic. ‘Will the lost
lamb we’ve just yanked into the fold have the face to stand up and bleat
that he hasn’t promised to vote Conservative? Dan Bassett, of all the
contemptible tricks that ever--’

“Bassett’s face was redder’n a ripe tomatter. He shakes his fist in
Gaius’s face and yells opinions and comments.

“‘Don’t you talk to me about tricks, you ward-heeler!’ he hollers.
‘Why did you fetch Mr. Holway back home? Why did you, hey? That was the
trickiest trick that I--’

“Gabe pretty nigh broke his mallet thumpin’.

“‘Gentlemen! gentlemen!’ says he. ‘This is most unseemly. Sit down,
if you PLEASE. Mr. Ellis, when the purpose of this association is
considered, it seems to me very wrong to find fault because the chief of
our former antagonists has seen the error of his ways and become one of
us. Mr. Bassett, I do not understand your intimation concernin’ myself.
I shall adjourn this meetin’ until next Friday evenin’, gentlemen.
Meanwhile, let us remember that we ARE gentlemen.’

“He thumped the desk once, and parades out of the buildin’, dignified
as Julius Caesar. The rest of us toddled along after him, all talkin’ at
once. Bassett and Ellis glowered at each other and hove out hints about
what would happen afore they got through. ‘Twas half-past ten afore I
got to bed that night, and Sarah J.--that’s Mrs. Stitt--kept me awake
another hour explainin’ whys and wherefores.

“For the next three days nobody done anything but knock off work and
talk club politics. You’d see ‘em on the corners and in the post office
and camped on the meetin’-house steps, arguin’ and jawin’. Dan and Gaius
was hurryin’ around, moppin’ their foreheads and lookin’ worried. On
Thursday there was all sorts of rumors afloat. Finally they all simmered
down to one, and that one was what made me stop Stingy Gabe on the
street and ask for my bearin’s.

“‘Mr. Holway,’ says I, ‘is it true that Dan and Gaius have resigned and
agreed to vote for somebody else?’

“He nodded, grand and complacent.

“‘Then who’s the somebody?’ says I. ‘For the land sakes! tell me. It’s
as big a miracle as the prodigal son.’

“I remember now that the prodigal son ain’t a miracle, but I was excited
then.

“‘Stitt,’ says he, ‘I am the “somebody,” as you call it. I have decided
to let my own wishes and inclinations count for nothin’ in this affair,
and to accept the office of president myself. It will be announced at
the meetin’.’

“I whistled. ‘By gum!’ says I. ‘You’ve got a great head, Mr. Holway, and
I give you public credit for it. It’s the only course that ain’t full of
breakers. Did you think of it yourself?’

“He colored up a little. ‘Why, no, not exactly,’ he says. ‘The fact is,
the credit belongs to our new member, Mr. Gale.’

“‘To JOTHAM?’ says I, astonished.

“‘Yes. He suggested my candidacy, as a compromise. Said that he, for
one, would be proud to vote for me. Mr. Gale seems thoroughly repentant,
a changed man. I am counting on him for great things in the future.’

“So the fuss seemed settled, thanks to the last person on earth you’d
expect would be peacemaker. But that afternoon I met Darius Tompkins,
Bassett’s right-hand man.

“‘Bailey,’ says he, ‘you’re a Conservative, ain’t you? You’re for Dan
through thick and thin?’

“‘Why!’ says I, ‘I understand Dan and Gaius are both out of it now, and
it’s settled on Holway. Dan’s promised to vote for him.’

“‘HE has,’ says Tompkins, with a wink, ‘but the rest of us ain’t. We
pledged our votes to Dan Bassett, and we ain’t the kind to go back on
our word. Dan himself’ll vote for Gabe; so’ll Gaius and his reg’lar
tribe. That’ll make twelve, countin’ Holway’s own.’

“‘Make seventeen, you mean,’ says I. ‘Gaius and his crowd’s fifteen and
Dan’s sixteen and Gabe’s seven--’

“He winked again, and interrupted me. ‘You’re countin’ wrong, my boy,’
says he. ‘Five of Gaius’s folks come from the old billiard-room gang.
Just suppose somethin’ happened to make that five vote, on the quiet,
for Bassett. Then--’

“A customer come in then, and Tompkins had to leave; but afore he went
he got me to one side and whispers:

“‘Keep mum, old man, and vote straight for Dan. We’ll show old Holway
that we can’t be led around by the nose.’

“‘Tompkins,’ says I, ‘I know your head well enough to be sartin that it
didn’t work this out by itself. And why are you so sure of the billiard
roomers? Who put you up to this?’

“He rapped the side of his nose. ‘The smartest politician in this
town,’ says he, ‘and the oldest--J. W. Gale, Esq.! S-s-sh-h! Don’t say
nothin’.’

“I didn’t say nothin’. I was past talk. And that evenin’ as I went past
the billiard room on my way home, who should come out of it but Gaius
Ellis, and HE looked as happy as Tompkins had.

“Friday night that clubroom was filled. Every member was there, and most
of ‘em had fetched their wives and families along to see the fun. There
was whisperin’ and secrecy everywheres. Honorable Gabe took the chair
and makes announcements that the shebang is open for business.

“Up gets Dave Bassett and all but sheds tears. He says that he made up
his mind to vote, not for himself, but for the founder and patron of
the club, the Honorable Atkinson Holway. He spread it over Gabe thick
as sugar on a youngster’s cake. And when he set down all hands applauded
like fury. But I noticed that he hadn’t spoke for nary Conservative but
himself.

“Then Gaius Ellis rises and sobs similar. He’s stopped votin’ for
himself, too. His ballot is for that grand and good man, Gabriel
Atkinson Holway, Esq. More applause and hurrahs.

“And then who should get up but Jotham Gale. He talks humble, like a
has-been that knows he’s a back number, but he says it’s his privilege
to cast his fust vote in that club for Mr. Holway, South Orham’s pride.
Nobody was expectin’ him to say anything, and the cheers pretty nigh
broke the winders.

“Gabe was turrible affected by the soft soap, you could see that. He
fairly sobbed as he sprinkled gratitude and acceptances. When the agony
was over, he says the votin’ can begin.

“I cal’lated he expected somebody’d move to make it unanimous, but they
didn’t. So the blank ballots was handed around, and the pencils got
busy. Gabe app’ints three tellers, Bassett and Ellis, of course, for
two--and the third, Jotham Gale.

“‘As a compliment to our newest member,’ says the chairman, smilin’
philanthropic.

“When the votes was in the hat, the tellers retired to the amusement
room to count up. It took a long time. I see the Conservatives and
Progressives nudgin’ each other and winkin’ back and forth. Five
minutes, then ten, then fifteen.

“And all of a sudden the biggest row bu’st loose in that amusement room
that ever you heard. Rattlety--bang! Biff! Smash! The door flew open,
and in rolled Bassett and Ellis, all legs and arms. Gabe and some of the
rest hauled ‘em apart and held ‘em so, but the language them two hove at
each other was enough to bring down a judgment.

“‘Gentlemen! gentlemen!’ hollers poor Gabe. ‘What in the world? I am
astounded! I--’

“‘You miserable traitor!’ shrieks Gaius, wavin’ a fist at Dan.

“‘You low-down hound!’ whoops Dan back at him.

“‘Silence!’ bellers Gabe, poundin’ thunder storms on the desk. ‘Will
some one explain why these maniacs are--Ah, Mr. Gale--thank goodness,
YOU at least are sane!’

“Jotham walks to the front of the platform. He was holdin’ the hat and a
slip of paper with the result set down on it.

“‘Ladies and feller members,’ says he, ‘there’s been some surprisin’
votin’ done in this election. Things ain’t gone as we cal’lated they
would, somehow. Mr. Holway, your election wa’n’t unanimous, after all.’

“The way he said it made most everybody think Gabe was elected, anyhow,
and I guess Holway thought so himself, for he smiled forgivin’ and says:

“‘Never mind, Mr. Gale,’ says he. ‘A unanimous vote was perhaps too much
to expect. Go on.’

“‘Yes,’ says Jotham. ‘Well, here’s the way it stands. I’ll read it to
you.’

“He fixes his specs and reads like this:

“‘Number of votes cast, 32.’

“‘Honorable Atkinson Holway has 4.’

“‘WHAT?’ gasps Stingy Gabe, fallin’ into his chair.

“‘Yes, sir,’ says Jotham. ‘It’s a shame, I know, but it looks as nobody
voted for you, Mr. Holway, but yourself and me and Dan and Gaius. To
proceed:

“‘Daniel Bassett has 9.’

“The Conservatives and their women folks fairly groaned out loud.
Tompkins jumped to his feet, but Jotham held up a hand.

“‘Just a moment, D’rius,’ he says. ‘I ain’t through yet.’

“‘Gaius Ellis has 9.’

“Then ‘twas the Progressives’ turn to groan. The racket and hubbub was
gettin’ louder all the time.

“‘There’s ten votes left,’ goes on Jotham, ‘and they bear the name
of Jotham W. Gale. I can’t understand it, but it does appear that I’m
elected president of this ‘ere club. Gentlemen, I thank you for the
honor, which is as great as ‘tis unexpected.’

“Gabe and the Progressives and the Conservatives set and looked at each
other. And up jumps ‘Bije Simmons, and calls for three cheers for the
new president.

“Nobody jined in them cheers but the old billiard room gang; they did,
though, every one of ‘em, and Jotham smiled fatherly down on his flock.

“I s’pose there ain’t no need of explainin’. Jotham had worked it all,
from the very fust. When the tie business begun and Gaius and Dan was
bribin’ the billiard roomers to jine the club, ‘twas him that fixed how
they should vote so’s to keep the deadlock goin’. ‘Twas him that put
Bassett up to proposin’ him as a member. ‘Twas him that suggested Gabe’s
comin’ back to Gaius. ‘Twas him that--But what’s the use? ‘Twas him all
along. He was IT.

“That night everybody but the billiard-room gang sent in their
resignation to that club. We refused to be bossed by such people. Gabe
resigned, too. He was disgusted with East Harniss and all hands in it.
He’d have took back the clubhouse, but he couldn’t, as the deed of gift
was free and clear. But he swore he’d never give it another cent.

“Folks thought that would end the thing, because it wouldn’t be
self-supportin’, but Jotham had different idees. He simply moved his
pool tables and truck up from the old shop, and now he’s got the finest
place of the kind on the Cape, rent free.

“‘I told you ‘twould make a good billiard saloon, didn’t I, Bailey?’ he
says, chucklin’.

“‘Jotham,’ says I, ‘of your kind you’re a perfect wonder.’

“‘Well,’ says he, ‘I diagnosed that men’s club as sufferin’ from acute
politics. I’ve been doctorin’ that disease for a long time. The trouble
with you reformers,’ he adds, solemn, ‘is that, when it comes to
political doin’s, you ain’t practical.’

“As for Stingy Gabe, he shut up his fine house and moved to New York.
Said he was through with helpin’ the moral tone.

“‘When I die,’ he says to me, ‘if I go to the bad place I may start in
reformin’ that. It don’t need it no more’n South Orham does, but ‘twill
be enough sight easier job.’

“And,” concluded Captain Stitt, as soon as he could be heard above the
“Haw! haws!” caused by the Honorable Holway’s final summing-up of his
native town, “I ain’t so sure that he was greatly mistook. What do you
think, Sol?”

The depot master shook his head. “Don’t know, Bailey,” he answered,
dryly. “I’ll have to visit both places ‘fore I give an opinion. I HAVE
been to South Orham, but the neighborhood that your friend Gabe compared
it to I ain’t seen--yet. I put on that ‘yet,’” he added, with a wink,
“‘cause I knew Sim Phinney would if I didn’t.”

Captain Bailey rose and covered a yawn with a plump hand.

“I believe I’ll go over to Obed’s and turn in,” he said. “I’m sleepy as
a minister’s horse tonight. You don’t mind, do you, Obed?”

“No-o,” replied Mr. Gott, slowly. “No, I don’t, ‘special. I kind of
thought I’d run into the club a few minutes and see some of the other
fellers. But it ain’t important--not very.”

The “club” was one of the rooms over Mr. Higgins’s store and post
office. It had been recently fitted up with chairs and tables from
its members’ garrets and, when the depot and store were closed, was a
favorite gathering place of those reckless ones who cared to “set up
late”--that is, until eleven o’clock. Most of the men in town belonged,
but many, Captain Berry among them, visited the room but seldom.

“Checkers,” said the depot master, referring to the “club’s” favorite
game, “is too deliberately excitin’ for me. To watch Beriah Higgins and
Ezra Weeks fightin’ out a game of checkers is like gettin’ your feet
froze in January and waitin’ for spring to come and thaw ‘em out. It’s a
numbin’ kind of dissipation.”

But Obed Gott was a regular attendant at the “club,” and to-night he
had a particular reason for wishing to be there. His cousin noticed his
hesitation and made haste to relieve his mind.

“That’s all right, Obed,” he said, “go to the club, by all means. I
ain’t such a stranger at your house that I can’t find my way to bed
without help. Good-night, Sim. Good-night, Issy. Cheer up; maybe the
Major’s glassware IS priceless. So long, Cap’n Sol. See you again some
time tomorrer.”

He and Mr. Gott departed. The depot master rose from his chair. “Issy,”
 he commanded, “shut up shop.”

Issy obeyed, closing the windows and locking the front door. Captain
Sol himself locked the ticket case and put the cash till into the small
safe.

“That’ll do, Is,” said the Captain. “Good-night. Don’t worry too much
over the Major’s glass. I’ll talk with him, myself. You dream about
pleasanter things--your girl, if you’ve got one.”

That was a chance shot, but it struck Issy in the heart. Even during
his melancholy progress to and from Major Hardee’s, the vision of Gertie
Higgins had danced before his greenish-blue eyes. His freckles were
engulfed in a surge of blushes as, with a stammered “Night, Cap’n
Berry,” he hurried out into the moonlight.

The depot master blew out the lamps. “Come on, Sim,” he said, briefly.
“Goin’ to walk up with me, or was YOU goin’ to the club?”

“Cal’late I’ll trot along with you, if you don’t mind. I’d just as soon
get home early and wrastle with the figures on that Williams movin’
job.”

They left the depot, locked and dark, passed the “general store,” where
Mr. Higgins was putting out his lights prior to adjournment to the
“club” overhead, walked up Main Street to Cross Street, turned and began
climbing the hill. Simeon spoke several times but his friend did not
answer. A sudden change had come over him. The good spirits with which
he told of his adventure with Williams and which had remained during
Phinney’s stay at the depot, were gone, apparently. His face, in the
moonlight, was grave and he strode on, his hands in his pockets.

At the crest of the hill he stopped.

“Good-night, Sim,” he said, shortly, and, turning, walked off.

The building mover gazed after him in surprise. The nearest way to the
Berry home was straight down Cross Street, on the other side of the
hill, to the Shore Road, and thence along that road for an eighth of
a mile. The Captain’s usual course was just that. But to-night he had
taken the long route, the Hill Boulevard, which made a wide curve before
it descended to the road below.

Sim, who had had a shrewd suspicion concerning his friend’s silence and
evident mental disturbance, stood still, looking and wondering. Olive
Edwards, Captain Berry’s old sweetheart, lived on the Boulevard. She
was in trouble and the Captain knew it. He had asked, that very evening,
what she was going to do when forced to move. Phinney could not tell
him. Had he gone to find out for himself? Was the mountain at last
coming to Mohammed?

For some minutes Simeon remained where he was, thinking and surmising.
Then he, too, turned and walked cautiously up the Boulevard. He
passed the Williams mansion, its library windows ablaze. He passed
the twenty-five room “cottage” of the gentleman from Chicago. Then
he halted. Opposite him was the little Edwards dwelling and shop. The
curtains were up and there was a lamp burning on the small counter.
Beside the lamp, in a rocking chair, sat Olive Edwards, the widow,
sewing. As he gazed she dropped the sewing in her lap, and raised her
head.

Phinney saw how worn and sad she looked. And yet, how young, considering
her forty years and all she had endured and must endure. She put her
hand over her eyes, then removed it wearily. A lump came in Simeon’s
throat. If he might only help her; if SOME ONE might help her in her
lonely misery.

And then, from where he stood in the shadow of the Chicago gentleman’s
hedge, he saw a figure step from the shadows fifty feet farther on.
It was Captain Solomon Berry. He walked to the middle of the road
and halted, looking in at Olive. Phinney’s heart gave a jump. Was the
Captain going into that house, going to HER, after all these years? WAS
the mountain--

But no. For a full minute the depot master stood, looking in at the
woman by the lamp. Then he jammed his hands into his pockets, wheeled,
and tramped rapidly off toward his home. Simeon Phinney went home, also,
but it was with a heavy heart that he sat down to figure the cost of
moving the Williams “pure Colonial” to its destined location.



CHAPTER IV

THE MAJOR


The depot master and his friend, Mr. Phinney, were not the only ones
whose souls were troubled that evening. Obed Gott, as he stood at the
foot of the stairs leading to the meeting place of the “club,” was vexed
and worried. His cousin, Captain Stitt, had gone into the house and up
to his room, and Obed, after seeing him safely on his way, had returned
to the club. But, instead of entering immediately, he stood in the
Higgins doorway, thinking, and frowning as he thought. And the subject
of his thought was the idol of feminine East Harniss, the “old-school
gentleman,” Major Cuthbertson Scott Hardee.

The Major first came to East Harniss one balmy morning in March--came,
and created an immediate sensation. “Redny” Blount, who drives the
“depot wagon,” was wrestling with a sample trunk belonging to the
traveling representative of Messrs. Braid & Gimp, of Boston, when he
heard a voice--and such a voice--saying:

“Pardon me, my dear sir, but may I trouble you for one moment?”

Now “Redny” was not used to being addressed as “my dear sir.” He turned
wonderingly, and saw the Major, in all his glory, standing beside him.
“Redny’s” gaze took in the tall, slim figure in the frock coat tightly
buttoned; took in the white hair, worn just long enough to touch
the collar of the frock coat; the long, drooping white mustache and
imperial; the old-fashioned stock and open collar; the black and white
checked trousers; the gaiters; and, last of all, the flat brimmed,
carefully brushed, old-fashioned silk hat. Mr. Blount gasped.

“Huh?” he said.

“Pardon me, my dear sir,” repeated the Major, blandly, smoothly, and
with an air of--well, not condescension, but gracious familiarity. “Will
you be so extremely kind as to inform me concerning the most direct
route to the hotel or boarding house?”

The word “hotel” was the only part of this speech that struck home to
“Redny’s” awed mind.

“Hotel?” he repeated, slowly. “Why, yes, sir. I’m goin’ right that way.
If you’ll git right into my barge I’ll fetch you there in ten minutes.”

There was enough in this reply, and the manner in which it was
delivered, to have furnished the station idlers, in the ordinary course
of events, with matter for gossip and discussion for a week. Mr. Blount
had not addressed a person as “sir” since he went to school. But no
one thought of this; all were too much overcome by the splendor of the
Major’s presence.

“Thank you,” replied the Major. “Thank you. I am obliged to you, sir.
Augustus, you may place the baggage in this gentleman’s conveyance.”

Augustus was an elderly negro, very black as to face and a trifle shabby
as to clothes, but with a shadow of his master’s gentility, like a
reflected luster, pervading his person. He bowed low, departed, and
returned dragging a large, old style trunk, and carrying a plump valise.

“Augustus,” said the Major, “you may sit upon the seat with the driver.
That is,” he added, courteously, “if Mr.--Mr.--”

“Blount,” prompted the gratified “Redny.”

“If Mr. Blount will be good enough to permit you to do so.”

“Why, sartin. Jump right up. Giddap, you!”

There was but one passenger, besides the Major and Augustus, in the
“depot wagon” that morning. This passenger was Mrs. Polena Ginn, who had
been to Brockton on a visit. To Mrs. Polena the Major, raising his hat
in a manner that no native of East Harniss could acquire by a lifetime
of teaching, observed that it was a beautiful morning. The flustered
widow replied that it “was so.” This was the beginning of a conversation
that lasted until the “Central House” was reached, a conversation that
left Polena impressed with the idea that her new acquaintance was as
near the pink of perfection as mortal could be.

“It wa’n’t his clothes, nuther,” she told her brother, Obed Gott, as
they sat at the dinner table. “I don’t know what ‘twas, but you could
jest see that he was a gentleman all over. I wouldn’t wonder if he was
one of them New York millionaires, like Mr. Williams--but SO different.
‘Redny’ Blount says he see his name onto the hotel register and ‘twas
‘Cuthbertson Scott Hardee.’ Ain’t that a tony name for you? And his
darky man called him ‘Major.’ I never see sech manners on a livin’ soul!
Obed, I DO wish you’d stop eatin’ pie with a knife.”

Under these pleasing circumstances did Major Cuthbertson Scott Hardee
make his first appearance in East Harniss, and the reputation spread
abroad by Mr. Blount and Mrs. Ginn was confirmed as other prominent
citizens met him, and fell under the spell. In two short weeks he
was the most popular and respected man in the village. The Methodist
minister said, at the Thursday evening sociable, that “Major Hardee is
a true type of the old-school gentleman,” whereupon Beriah Higgins, who
was running for selectman, and therefore felt obliged to be interested
in all educational matters, asked whereabouts that school was located,
and who was teaching it now.

It was a treat to see the Major stroll down Main Street to the post
office every pleasant spring morning. Coat buttoned tight, silk hat the
veriest trifle on one side, one glove on and its mate carried with
the cane in the other hand, and the buttonhole bouquet--always the
bouquet--as fresh and bright and jaunty as its wearer himself.

It seemed that every housekeeper whose dwelling happened to be situated
along that portion of the main road had business in the front yard at
the time of the Major’s passing. There were steps to be swept, or rugs
to be shaken, or doorknobs to be polished just at that particular time.
Dialogues like the following interrupted the triumphal progress at three
minute intervals:

“Good-morning, Mrs. Sogberry. GOOD-morning. A delightful morning. Busy
as the proverbial bee once more, I see. I can never cease to admire the
industry and model neatness of the Massachusetts housekeeper. And how is
your charming daughter this morning? Better, I trust?”

“Well, now, Major Hardee, I don’t know. Abbie ain’t so well’s I wish she
was. She set up a spell yesterday, but the doctor says she ain’t gittin’
along the way she’d ought to. I says to him, s’I, ‘Abbie ain’t never
what you’d call a reel hearty eater, but, my land! when she don’t eat
NOTHIN’,’ I says--”

And so on and so on, with the Major always willing to listen, always
sympathetic, and always so charmingly courteous.

The Central House, East Harniss’s sole hotel, and a very small one at
that, closed its doors on April 10th. Mr. Godfrey, its proprietor,
had come to the country for his health. He had been inveigled, by an
advertisement in a Boston paper, into buying the Central House at East
Harniss. It would afford him, so he reasoned, light employment and a
living. The employment was light enough, but the living was lighter. He
kept the Central House for a year. Then he gave it up as a bad job and
returned to the city. “I might keep my health if I stayed,” he admitted,
in explaining his position to Captain Berry, “but if I want to keep
to what little money I have left, I’d better go. Might as well die of
disease as starvation.”

Everyone expected that the “gentleman of the old school” would go also,
but one evening Abner Payne, whose business is “real estate, fire and
life insurance, justice of the peace, and houses to let and for sale,”
 rushed into the post office to announce that the Major had leased the
“Gorham place,” furnished, and intended to make East Harniss his home.

“He likes the village so well he’s goin’ to stay here always,” explained
Abner. “Says he’s been all ‘round the world, but he never see a place he
liked so well’s he does East Harniss. How’s that for high, hey? And you
callin’ it a one-horse town, Obed Gott!”

The Major moved into the “Gorham place” the next morning. It--the
“place”--was an old-fashioned house on the hill, though not on Mr.
Williams’ “Boulevard.” It had been one of the finest mansions in town
once on a time, but had deteriorated rapidly since old Captain Elijah
Gorham died. Augustus carried the Major’s baggage from the hotel to
the house. This was done very early and none of the natives saw the
transfer. There was some speculation as to how the darky managed to
carry the big trunk single-handed; one of two persons asked Augustus
this very question, but they received no satisfactory answer. Augustus
was habitually close-mouthed. Mr. Godfrey left town that same morning on
the first train.

The Major christened his new home “Silver-leaf Hall,” because of two
great “silver-leaf” trees that stood by the front door. He had some
repairing, paper hanging and painting done, ordered a big stock of
groceries from the local dealer, and showed by his every action that
his stay in East Harniss was to be a lengthy one. He hired a pew in the
Methodist church, and joined the “club.” Augustus did the marketing for
“Silver-leaf Hall,” and had evidently been promoted to the position of
housekeeper.

The Major moved in April. It was now the third week in June and
his popularity was, if possible, more pronounced than ever. On this
particular, the evening of Captain Bailey Stitt’s unexpected arrival,
Obed had been sitting by the tea table in his dining room after supper,
going over the account books of his paint, paper, and oil store. His
sister, Mrs. Polena Ginn, was washing dishes in the kitchen.

“Wat’s that letter you’re readin’, Obed?” she called from her post by
the sink.

“Nothin’,” said her brother, gruffly, crumpling up the sheet of note
paper and jamming it into his pocket.

“My sakes! you’re shorter’n pie crust to-night. What’s the matter?
Anything gone wrong at the store?”

“No.”

Silence again, only broken by the clatter of dishes. Then Polena said:

“Obed, when are you goin’ to take me up to the clubroom so’s I can see
that picture of Major Hardee that he presented the club with? Everybody
says it’s just lovely. Sarah T. says it’s perfectly elegant, only not
quite so handsome as the Major reelly is. She says it don’t flatter him
none.”

“Humph! Anybody’d think Hardee was some kind of a wonder, the way you
women folks go on ‘bout him. How do you know but what he might be a
reg’lar fraud? Looks ain’t everything.”

“Well, I never! Obed Gott, I should think you’d be ‘shamed of yourself,
talkin’ that way. I shan’t speak another word to you to-night. I never
see you act so unlikely. An old fraud! The idea! That grand, noble man!”

Obed tried to make some sort of half-hearted apology, but his sister
wouldn’t listen to it. Polena’s dignity was touched. She was a woman of
consequence in East Harniss, was Polena. Her husband had, at his death,
left her ten thousand dollars in her own right, and she owned bonds
and had money in the Wellmouth Bank. Nobody, not even her brother, was
allowed to talk to her in that fashion.

To tell the truth, Obed was sorry he had offended his sister. He had
been throwing out hints of late as to the necessity of building an
addition to the paint and oil store, and had cast a longing look upon
a portion of Polena’s ten thousand. The lady had not promised to extend
the financial aid, but she had gone so far as to say she would think
about it. So Obed regretted his insinuations against the Major’s
integrity.

After a while he threw the account books upon the top of the chest of
drawers, put on his hat and coat and announced that he was going over
to the depot for a “spell.” Polena did not deign to reply, so, after
repeating the observation, he went out and slammed the door.

Now, two hours later, as he stood in the doorway of the club, he was
debating what he should do in a certain matter. That matter concerned
Major Hardee and was, therefore, an extremely delicate one. At length
Mr. Gott climbed the narrow stairs and entered the clubroom. It was blue
with tobacco smoke.

The six or eight members present hailed him absently and went on with
their games of checkers or “seven-up.” He attempted a game of checkers
and lost, which did not tend to make his temper any sweeter. His ill
nature was so apparent that Beriah Higgins, who suffered from dyspepsia
and consequent ill temper, finally commented upon it.

“What’s the matter with you, Obed?” he asked tartly. “Too much of
P’lena’s mince pie?”

“No,” grunted Mr. Gott shortly.

“What is it, then? Ain’t paint sellin’ well?”

“Sellin’ well ‘nough. I could sell a hundred ton of paint to-morrow,
more’n likely, but when it come to gittin’ the money for it, that would
be another story. If folks would pay their bills there wouldn’t be no
trouble.”

“Who’s stuck you now?”

“I don’t s’pose anybody has, but it’s just as bad when they don’t
pay up. I’ve got to have money to keep a-goin’ with. It don’t make
no diff’rence if it’s as good a customer as Major Hardee; he ought to
remember that we ain’t all rich like him and--”

A general movement among all the club members interrupted him. The
checker players left their boards and came over; the “seven-up” devotees
dropped their cards and joined the circle.

“What was that you said?” asked Higgins, uneasily. “The Major owin’ you
money, was it?”

“Oh, course I know he’s all right and a fine man and all that,”
 protested Obed, feeling himself put on the defensive. “But that ain’t
it. What’s a feller goin’ to do when he needs the money and gets a
letter like that?”

He drew the crumpled sheet of note paper from his pocket, and threw it
on the table. Higgins picked it up and read it aloud, as follows:


SILVERLEAF HALL, June 20th.

MY DEAR MR. GOTT: I am in receipt of your courteous communication of
recent date. I make it an unvarying rule to keep little ready money here
in East Harniss, preferring rather to let it remain at interest in the
financial institutions of the cities. Another rule of mine, peculiar,
I dare say--even eccentric, if you like--is never to pay by check. I am
expecting remittances from my attorneys, however, and will then bear you
in mind. Again thanking you for your courtesy, and begging you to extend
to your sister my kindest regards, I remain, my dear sir,

Yours very respectfully,

CUTHBERTSON SCOTT HARDEE.

P. S.--I shall be delighted to have the pleasure of entertaining your
sister and yourself at dinner at the hall on any date agreeable to you.
Kindly let me hear from you regarding this at your earliest convenience.
I must insist upon this privilege, so do not disappoint me, I beg.


The reception accorded this most gentlemanly epistle was peculiar. Mr.
Higgins laid it upon the table and put his hand into his own pocket. So
did Ezra Weeks, the butcher; Caleb Small, the dry goods dealer; “Hen”
 Leadbetter, the livery stable keeper; “Bash” Taylor, the milkman, and
three or four others. And, wonder of wonders, each produced a sheet of
note paper exactly like Obed’s.

They spread them out on the table. The dates were, of course, different,
and they differed in other minor particulars, but in the main they were
exactly alike. And each one of them ended with an invitation to dinner.

The members of the club looked at each other in amazement. Higgins was
the first to speak.

“Godfrey mighty!” he exclaimed. “Say, this is funny, ain’t it? It’s
more’n funny; it’s queer! By jimmy, it’s more’n that--it’s serious! Look
here, fellers; is there anybody in this crowd that the Major’s paid for
anything any time?”

They waited. No one spoke. Then, with one impulse, every face swung
about and looked up to where, upon the wall, hung the life-size
photograph of the Major, dignified, gracious, and gilt-framed. It
had been presented to the club two months before by Cuthbertson Scott
Hardee, himself.

“Ike--Ike Peters,” said Higgins. “Say, Ike--has he ever paid you for
havin’ that took?”

Mr. Peters, who was the town photographer, reddened, hesitated, and then
stammered, “Why, no, he ain’t, yet.”

“Humph!” grunted Higgins. No one else said anything. One or two took
out pocket memorandum books and went over some figures entered therein.
Judging by their faces the results of these calculations were not
pleasing. Obed was the first to break the painful silence:

“Well!” he exclaimed, sarcastically; “ain’t nobody got nothin’ to say?
If they ain’t, I have. Or, at any rate, I’ve got somethin’ to do.” And
he rose and started to put on his coat.

“Hi! hold on a minute, Obed, you loon!” cried Higgins. “Where are you
goin’?”

“I’m goin’ to put my bill in Squire Baker’s hands for c’lection, and I’m
goin’ to do it tonight, too.”

He was on his way to the door, but two or three ran to stop him.

“Don’t be a fool, Obed,” said Higgins. “Don’t go off ha’f cocked. Maybe
we’re gittin’ scared about nothin’. We don’t know but we’ll get every
cent that’s owed us.”

“Don’t KNOW! Well, I ain’t goin’ to wait to find out. What makes me
b’ilin’ is to think how we’ve set still and let a man that we never saw
afore last March, and don’t know one blessed thing about, run up bills
and RUN ‘em up. How we come to be such everlastin’ fools I don’t see!
What did we let him have the stuff for? Why didn’t we make him pay? I--”

“Now see here, Obed Gott,” broke in Weeks, the butcher, “you know why
just as well as we do. Why, blast it!” he added earnestly, “if he was to
come into my shop to-morrow and tip that old high hat of his, and smile
and say ‘twas a fine mornin and ‘How’s the good lady to-day?’ and all
that, he’d get ha’f the meat there was in the place, and I wouldn’t say
‘Boo’! I jest couldn’t, that’s all.”

This frank statement was received with approving nods and a chorus of
muttered “That’s so’s.”

“It looks to me this way,” declared Higgins. “If the Major’s all right,
he’s a mighty good customer for all of us. If he ain’t all right, we’ve
got to find it out, but we’re in too deep to run resks of gettin’ him
mad ‘fore we know for sure. Let’s think it over for a week. Inside of
that time some of us’ll hint to him, polite but firm, you understand,
that we’ve got to have something on account. A week from to-night we’ll
meet in the back room of my store, talk it over and decide what to do.
What do you say?”

Everybody but Obed agreed. He declared that he had lost money enough
and wasn’t going to be a fool any longer. The others argued with him
patiently for a while and then Leadbetter, the livery stable keeper,
said sharply:

“See here, Obe! You ain’t the only one in this. How much does the Major
owe you?”

“Pretty nigh twenty dollars.”

“Humph! You’re lucky. He owes me over thirty, and I guess Higgins is
worse off than any of us. Ain’t that so, Beriah?”

“About seventy, even money,” answered the grocer, shortly. “No use,
Obed, we’ve got to hang together. Wait a week and then see. And,
fellers,” he added, “don’t tell a soul about this business, ‘specially
the women folks. There ain’t a woman nor girl in this town that don’t
think Major Hardee’s an A1, gold-plated saint, and twouldn’t be safe to
break the spell on a guess.”

Obed reached home even more disgruntled than when he left it. He sat up
until after twelve, thinking and smoking, and when he went to bed he had
a brilliant idea. The next morning he wrote a letter and posted it.



CHAPTER V

A BABY AND A ROBBERY


The morning train for Boston, at that season of the year, reached East
Harniss at five minutes to six, an “ungodly hour,” according to the
irascible Mr. Ogden Williams, who, in company with some of his wealthy
friends, the summer residents, was petitioning the railroad company for
a change in the time-table. When Captain Sol Berry, the depot master,
walked briskly down Main Street the morning following Mr. Gott’s
eventful evening at the club, the hands of the clock on the Methodist
church tower indicated that the time was twenty minutes to six.

Issy McKay was already at the depot, the doors of which were open.
Captain Sol entered the waiting room and unlocked the ticket rack and
the little safe. Issy, languidly toying with the broom on the front
platform, paused in his pretense of sweeping and awaited permission to
go home for breakfast. It came, in characteristic fashion.

“How’s the salt air affectin’ your appetite, Is?” asked the Captain,
casually.

Issy, who, being intensely serious by nature, was uneasy when he
suspected the presence of a joke, confusedly stammered that he cal’lated
his appetite was all right.

“Payin’ for the Major’s glass ain’t kept you awake worryin’, has it?”

“No-o, sir. I--”

“P’r’aps you thought he was the one to ‘do the worryin’, hey?”

“I--I don’t know.”

“Well, what’s your folks goin’ to have to eat this mornin’?”

Issy admitted his belief that fried clams were to be the breakfast.

“So? Clams? Is, did you ever read the soap advertisement about not bein’
a clam?”

“I--I don’t know’s I ever did. No, sir.”

“All right; I only called your attention to it as a warnin’, that’s all.
When anybody eats as many clams as you do there’s a fair chance of his
turnin’ into one. Now clear out, and don’t stay so long at breakfast
that you can’t get back in time for dinner. Trot!”

Issy trotted. The depot master seated himself by the door of the ticket
office and fell into a reverie. It was interrupted by the entrance of
Hiram Baker. Captain Hiram was an ex-fishing skipper, fifty-five years
of age, who, with his wife, Sophronia, and their infant son, Hiram Joash
Baker, lived in a small, old-fashioned house at the other end of the
village, near the shore. Captain Hiram, having retired from the sea, got
his living, such as it was, from his string of fish traps, or “weirs.”

The depot master hailed the new arrival heartily.

“Hello, there, Hiram!” he cried, rising from his chair. “Glad to see you
once in a while. Ain’t goin’ to leave us, are you? Not goin’ abroad for
your health, or anything of that kind, hey?”

Captain Baker laughed.

“No,” he answered. “No further abroad than Hyannis. And I’ll be back
from there tonight, if the Lord’s willin’ and the cars don’t get off the
track. Give me a round trip ticket, will you, Sol?”

The depot master retired to the office, returning with the desired
ticket. Captain Hiram counted out the price from a confused mass of
coppers and silver, emptied into his hand from a blackened leather
purse, tied with a string.

“How’s Sophrony?” asked the depot master. “Pretty smart, I hope.”

“Yup, she’s smart. Has to be to keep up with the rest of the
family--‘specially the youngest.”

He chuckled. His friend laughed in sympathy.

“The youngest is the most important of all, I s’pose,” he observed. “How
IS the junior partner of H. Baker and Son?”

“He ain’t a silent partner, I’ll swear to that. Honest, Sol, I b’lieve
my ‘Dusenberry’ is the cutest young one outside of a show. I said so
only yesterday to Mr. Hilton, the minister. I did, and I meant it.”

“Well, we’re all gettin’ ready to celebrate his birthday. Ho, ho!”

This was a standard joke and was so recognized and honored. A baby born
on the Fourth of July is sure of a national celebration of his birthday.
And to Captain Baker and his wife, no celebration, however widespread,
could do justice to the importance of the occasion. When, to answer the
heart longings of the child-loving couple married many years, the baby
came, he was accepted as a special dispensation of Providence and valued
accordingly.

“He’s got a real nice voice, Hiram,” said Sophronia, gazing proudly
at the prodigy, who, clutched gingerly in his father’s big hands, was
screaming his little red face black. “I shouldn’t wonder if he grew up
to sing in the choir.”

“That’s the kind of voice to make a fo’mast hand step lively!” declared
Hiram. “You’ll see this boy on the quarter deck of a clipper one of
these days.”

Naming him was a portentous proceeding and one not to be lightly gone
about. Sophronia, who was a Methodist by descent and early confirmation,
was of the opinion that the child should have a Bible name.

The Captain respected his wife’s wishes, but put in an ardent plea for
his own name, Hiram.

“There’s been a Hiram Baker in our family ever since Noah h’isted
the main-r’yal on the ark,” he declared. “I’d kinder like to keep the
procession a-goin’.”

They compromised by agreeing to make the baby’s Christian name Hiram and
to add a middle name selected at random from the Scriptures. The big,
rickety family Bible was taken from the center table and opened with
shaking fingers by Mrs. Baker. She read aloud the first sentence that
met her eye: “The son of Joash.”

“Joash!” sneered her husband. “You ain’t goin’ to cruelize him with that
name, be you?”

“Hiram Baker, do you dare to fly in the face of Scriptur’?”

“All right! Have it your own way. Go to sleep now, Hiram Joash, while I
sing ‘Storm along, John,’ to you.”

Little Hiram Joash punched the minister’s face with his fat fist when he
was christened, to the great scandal of his mother and the ill-concealed
delight of his father.

“Can’t blame the child none,” declared the Captain. “I’d punch anybody
that christened a middle name like that onto me.”

But, in spite of his name, the baby grew and prospered. He fell out of
his crib, of course, the moment that he was able, and barked his shins
over the big shells by the what-not in the parlor the first time that
he essayed to creep. He teethed with more or less tribulation, and once
upset the household by an attack of the croup.

They gave up calling him by his first name, because of the Captain’s
invariably answering when the baby was wanted and not answering when he
himself was wanted. Sophronia would have liked to call him Joash, but
her husband wouldn’t hear of it. At length the father took to calling
him “Dusenberry,” and this nickname was adopted under protest.

Captain Hiram sang the baby to sleep every night. There were three songs
in the Captain’s repertoire. The first was a chanty with a chorus of

     John, storm along, storm along, John,
     Ain’t I glad my day’s work’s done.

The second was the “Bowline Song.”

     Haul on the bowline, the ‘Phrony is a-rollin’,
     Haul on the bowline! the bowline HAUL!

At the “haul!” the Captain’s foot would come down with a thump. Almost
the first word little Hiram Joash learned was “haul!” He used to shout
it and kick his father vigorously in the vest.

These were fair-weather songs. Captain Hiram sang them when everything
was going smoothly. The “Bowline Song” indicated that he was feeling
particularly jubilant. He had another that he sang when he was worried.
It was a lugubrious ditty, with a refrain beginning:

     Oh, sailor boy, sailor boy, ‘neath the wild billow,
     Thy grave is yawnin’ and waitin’ for thee.

He sang this during the worst of the teething period, and, later, when
the junior partner wrestled with the whooping cough. You could always
tell the state of the baby’s health by the Captain’s choice of songs.

Meanwhile Dusenberry grew and prospered. He learned to walk and to talk,
after his own peculiar fashion, and, at the mature age of two years and
six months, formally shipped as first mate aboard his father’s dory. His
duties in this responsible position were to sit in the stern, securely
fastened by a strap, while the Captain and his two assistants rowed out
over the bar to haul the nets of the deep water fish weir.

The first mate gave the orders, “All hands on deck! ‘Tand by to det ship
under way!” There was no “sogerin’” aboard the Hiram Junior--that was
the dory’s name--while the first officer had command.

Captain Hiram, always ready to talk of the wonderful baby, told the
depot master of the youngster’s latest achievement, which was to get the
cover off the butter firkin in the pantry and cover himself with butter
from head to heel.

“Ho, ho, ho!” he roared, delightedly, “when Sophrony caught him at it,
what do you s’pose he said? Said he was playin’ he was a slice of bread
and was spreadin’ himself. Haw! haw!”

Captain Sol laughed in sympathy.

“But he didn’t mean no harm by it,” explained the proud father. “He’s
got the tenderest little heart in the world. When he found his ma felt
bad he bust out cryin’ and said he’d scrape it all off again and when it
come prayer time he’d tell God who did it, so He’d know ‘twa’n’t mother
that wasted the nice butter. What do you think of that?”

“No use talkin’, Hiram,” said the depot master, “that’s the kind of boy
to have.”

“You bet you! Hello! here’s the train. On time, for a wonder. See you
later, Sol. You take my advice, get married and have a boy of your own.
Nothin’ like one for solid comfort.”

The train was coming and they went out to meet it. The only passenger
to alight was Mr. Barzilla Wingate, whose arrival had been foretold
by Bailey Stitt the previous evening. Barzilla was part owner of a
good-sized summer hotel at Wellmouth Neck. He and the depot master were
old friends.

After the train had gone Wingate and Captain Sol entered the station
together. The Captain had insisted that his friend come home with him to
breakfast, instead of going to the hotel. After some persuasion Barzilla
agreed. So they sat down to await Issy’s arrival. The depot master could
not leave the station until the “assistant” arrived.

“Well, Barzilla,” asked Captain Sol, “what’s the newest craze over to
the hotel?”

“The newest,” said Wingate, with a grin, “is automobiles.”

“Automobiles? Why, I thought ‘twas baseball.”

“Baseball was last summer. We had a championship team then. Yes, sir, we
won out, though for a spell it looked pretty dubious. But baseball’s an
old story. We’ve had football since, and now--”

“Wait a minute! Football? Why, now I do remember. You had a football
team there and--and wa’n’t there somethin’ queer, some sort of a--a
robbery, or stealin’, or swindlin’ connected with it? Seems’s if I’d
heard somethin’ like that.”

Mr. Wingate looked his friend over, winked, and asked a question.

“Sol,” he said, “you ain’t forgot how to keep a secret?”

The depot master smiled. “I guess not,” he said.

“Well, then, I’m goin’ to trust you with one. I’m goin’ to tell you the
whole business about that robbin’. It’s all mixed up with football and
millionaires and things--and it’s a dead secret, the truth of it. So
when I tell you it mustn’t go no further.

“You see,” he went on, “it was late into August when Peter T. was took
down with the inspiration. Not that there was anything ‘specially new
in his bein’ took. He was subject to them seizures, Peter was, and every
time they broke out in a fresh place. The Old Home House itself was one
of his inspirations, so was the hirin’ of college waiters, the openin’
of the two ‘Annex’ cottages, the South Shore Weather Bureau, and a whole
lot more. Sometimes, as in the weather-bureau foolishness, the disease
left him and t’other two patients--meanin’ me and Cap’n Jonadab--pretty
weak in the courage, and wasted in the pocketbook; but gen’rally they
turned out good, and our systems and bank accounts was more healthy than
normal. One of Peter T.’s inspirations was consider’ble like typhoid
fever--if you did get over it, you felt better for havin’ had it.

“This time the attack was in the shape of a ‘supplementary season.’
‘Twas Peter’s idea that shuttin’ up the Old Home the fust week in
September was altogether too soon.

“‘What’s the use of quittin’,’ says he, ‘while there’s bait left and the
fish are bitin’? Why not keep her goin’ through September and October?
Two or three ads--MY ads--in the papers, hintin’ that the ducks and wild
geese are beginnin’ to keep the boarders awake by roostin’ in the
back yard and hollerin’ at night--two or three of them, and we’ll have
gunners here by the regiment. Other summer hotels do it, the Wapatomac
House and the rest, so why not us? It hurts my conscience to see good
money gettin’ past the door ‘count of the “Not at Home” sign hung on the
knob. What d’you say, partners?’ says he.

“Well, we had consider’ble to say, partic’lar Cap’n Jonadab. ‘Twas
too risky and too expensive. Gunnin’ was all right except for one
thing--that is, that there wa’n’t none wuth mentionin’.

“‘Ducks are scurser round here than Democrats in a Vermont
town-meetin’,’ growled the Cap’n. ‘And as for geese! How long has it
been since you see a goose, Barzilla?’

“‘Land knows!’ says I. ‘I can remember as fur back as the fust time
Washy Sparrow left off workin’, but I can’t--’

“Brown told us to shut up. Did we cal’late he didn’t know what he was
talkin’ about?

“‘I can see two geese right now,’ he snaps; ‘but they’re so old and
leather-headed you couldn’t shoot an idea into their brains with a
cannon. Gunnin’ ain’t the whole thing. My makin’ a noise like a duck is
only to get the would-be Teddy Roosevelts headed for this neck of the
woods. After they get here, it’s up to us to keep ‘em. And I can think
of as many ways to do that as the Cap’n can of savin’ a quarter. Our
baseball team’s been a success, ain’t it? Sure thing! Then why not a
football team? Parker says he’ll get it together, and coach and cap’n
it, too. And Robinson and his daughter have agreed to stay till October
fifteenth. So there’s a start, anyhow.’

“‘Twas a start, and a pretty good one. The Robinsons had come to the Old
Home about the fust of August, and they was our star boarders. ‘G. W.
Robinson’ was the old man’s name as entered on the hotel log, and his
daughter answered to the hail of ‘Grace’--that is, when she took
a notion to answer at all. The Robinsons was what Peter T. called
‘exclusive.’ They didn’t mix much with the rest of the bunch, but
kept to themselves in their rooms, partic’lar when a fresh net full of
boarders was hauled aboard. Then they seemed to take an observation of
every arrival afore they mingled; questioned the pedigree and statistics
of all hands, and acted mighty suspicious.

“The only thing that really stirred Papa Robinson up and got him excited
and friendly was baseball and boat racin’. He was an old sport, that was
plain, the only real plain thing about him; the rest was mystery. As
for Grace, she wa’n’t plain by a good sight, bein’ what Brown called
a ‘peach.’ She could have had every single male in tow if she’d wanted
‘em. Apparently she didn’t want em, preferrin’ to be lonesome and sad
and interestin’. Yes, sir, there was a mystery about them Robinsons, and
even Peter T. give in to that.

“‘If ‘twas anybody else,’ says he, ‘I’d say the old man was a crook,
down here hidin’ from the police. But he’s too rich for that, and always
has been. He ain’t any fly-by-night. I can tell the real article without
lookin’ for the “sterlin’” mark on the handle. But I’ll bet all the
cold-storage eggs in the hotel against the henyard--and that’s big
odds--that he wa’n’t christened Robinson. And his face is familiar to
me. I’ve seen it somewhere, either in print or in person. I wish I knew
where.’

“So if the Robinsons had agreed to stay--them and their two
servants--that was a big help, as Brown said. And Parker would help,
too, though we agreed there wa’n’t no mystery about him. He was a big,
broad-shouldered young feller just out of college somewheres, who had
drifted our way the fortni’t after the Robinsons came, with a reputation
for athletics and a leanin’ toward cigarettes and Miss Grace. She leaned
a little, too, but hers wa’n’t so much of a bend as his was. He was dead
gone on her, and if she’d have decided to stay under water, he’d
have ducked likewise. ‘Twas easy enough to see why HE believed in a
‘supplementary season.’

“Me and Jonadab argued it out with Peter, and finally we met halfway,
so’s to speak. We wouldn’t keep the whole shebang open, but we’d shut
up everything but one Annex cottage, and advertise that as a Gunner’s
Retreat. So we done it.

“And it worked. Heavens to Betsy--yes! It worked so well that by the
second week in September we had to open t’other Annex. The gunnin’ was
bad, but Peter’s ads fetched the would-be’s, and his ‘excursions’ and
picnics and the football team held ‘em. The football team especial.
Parker cap’ned that, and, from the gunnin’ crew and the waiters and some
fishermen in the village, he dug up an eleven that showed symptoms of
playin’ the game. We played the Trumet High School, and beat it, thanks
to Parker, and that tickled Pa Robinson so that he bought a two-handled
silver soup tureen--‘lovin’ cup,’ he called it--and agreed to give it to
the team round about that won the most of the series. So the series was
arranged, the Old Home House crowd and the Wapatomac House eleven and
three high-school gangs bein’ in it. And ‘twas practice, practice,
practice, from then on.

“When we opened the second Annex, the question of help got serious. Most
of our college waiters had gone back to school, and we was pretty shy
of servants. So we put some extry advertisin’ in the Cape weeklies, and
trusted in Providence.

“The evenin’ followin’ the ad in the weeklies, I was settin’ smokin’ on
the back piazza of the shut-up main hotel, when I heard the gate click
and somebody crunchin’ along the clam-shell path. I sung out: ‘Ahoy,
there!’ and the cruncher, whoever he was, come my way. Then I made out
that he was a tall young chap, with his hands in his pockets.

“‘Good evenin’,’ says he. ‘Is this Mr. Brown?’

“‘Thankin’ you for the compliment, it ain’t,’ I says. ‘My name’s
Wingate.’

“‘Oh!’ says he. ‘Is that so? I’ve heard father speak of you, Mr.
Wingate. He is Solomon Bearse, of West Ostable. I think you know him
slightly.’

“Know him? Everybody on the Cape knows Sol Bearse; by reputation,
anyhow. He’s the richest, meanest old cranberry grower and
coastin’-fleet owner in these parts.

“‘Is Sol Bearse your dad?’ I asks, astonished. ‘Why, then, you must be
Gus?’

“‘No,’ he says. ‘I’m the other one--Fred.’

“‘Oh, the college one. The one who’s goin’ to be a lawyer.’

“‘Well, yes--and no,’ says he. ‘I WAS the college one, as you call it,
but I’m not goin’ to be a lawyer. Father and I have had some talk on
that subject, and I think we’ve settled it. I--well, just at present,
I’m not sure what I’m goin’ to be. That’s what I’ve come to you for. I
saw your ad in the Item, and--I want a job.’

“I was set all aback, and left with my canvas flappin’, as you might
say. Sol Bearse’s boy huntin’ a job in a hotel kitchen! Soon’s I could
fetch a whole breath, I wanted partic’lars. He give ‘em to me.

“Seems he’d been sent out to one of the colleges in the Middle West by
his dad, who was dead set on havin’ a lawyer in the family. But the more
he studied, the less he hankered for law. What he wanted to be was a
literature--a book-agent or a poet, or some such foolishness. Old Sol,
havin’ no more use for a poet than he had for a poor relation, was red
hot in a minute. Was this what he’d been droppin’ good money in the
education collection box for? Was this--etcetery and so on. He’d
be--what the church folks say he will be--if Fred don’t go in for law.
Fred, he comes back that he’ll be the same if he does. So they disowned
each other by mutual consent, as the Irishman said, and the boy marches
out of the front door, bag and baggage. And, as the poetry market seemed
to be sort of overly supplied at the present time, he decided he must
do somethin’ to earn a dollar, and, seein’ our ad, he comes to Wellmouth
Port and the Old Home.

“‘But look here,’ says I, ‘we ain’t got no job for a literary. We need
fellers to pass pie and wash dishes. And THAT ain’t no poem.’

“Well, he thought perhaps he could help make up advertisin’.

“‘You can’t,’ I told him. ‘One time, when Peter T. Brown was away, me
and Cap’n Jonadab cal’lated that a poetry advertisement would be a good
idee and we managed to shake out ten lines or so. It begun:

     “When you’re feelin’ tired and pale
     To the Old Home House you ought to come without fail.”

“‘We thought ‘twas pretty slick, but we never got but one answer, and
that was a circular from one of them correspondence schools of authors,
sayin’ they’d let us in on a course at cut rates. And the next thing we
knew we see that poem in the joke page of a Boston paper. I never--’

“He laughed, quiet and sorrowful. He had the quietest way of speakin’,
anyhow, and his voice was a lovely tenor. To hear it purrin’ out of his
big, tall body was as unexpected as a hymn tune in a cent-in-the-slot
talkin’ machine.

“‘Too bad,’ he says. ‘As a waiter, I’m afraid--’

“Just then the door of one of the Annex houses opened sudden, and there
stood Grace Robinson. The light behind her showed her up plain as could
be. I heard Fred Bearse make a kind of gaspin’ noise in his throat.

“‘What a lovely night!’ she says, half to herself. Then she calls:
‘Papa, dear, you really ought to see the stars.’

“Old man Robinson, who I judged was in the settin’ room, snarled out
somethin’ which wa’n’t no compliment to the stars. Then he ordered
her to come in afore she catched cold. She sighed and obeyed orders,
shuttin’ the door astern of her. Next thing I knew that literary tenor
grabbed my arm--‘twa’n’t no canary-bird grip, neither.

“‘Who was that?’ he whispers, eager.

“I told him. ‘That’s the name they give,’ says I, ‘but we have doubts
about its bein’ the real one. You see, there’s some mystery about them
Robinsons, and--’

“‘I’ll take that waiter’s place,’ he says, quick. ‘Shall I go right in
and begin now? Don’t stop to argue, man; I say I’ll take it.’

“And he did take it by main strength, pretty nigh. Every time I’d open
my mouth he’d shut it up, and at last I give in, and showed him where he
could sleep.

“‘You turn out at five sharp,’ I told him. ‘And you needn’t bother to
write no poems while you’re dressin’, neither.’

“‘Good night,’ he answers, brisk. ‘Go, will you, please? I want to
think.’

“I went. ‘Tain’t until an hour later that I remembered he hadn’t asked
one word concernin’ the wages. And next mornin’ he comes to me and
suggests that perhaps ‘twould be as well if I didn’t tell his real name.
He was pretty sure he’d been away schoolin’ so long that he wouldn’t be
recognized. ‘And incognitos seem to be fashionable here,’ he purrs, soft
and gentle.

“I wouldn’t know an incognito if I stepped on one, but the tenor voice
of him kind of made me sick.

“‘All right,’ I snaps, sarcastic. ‘Suppose I call you “Willie.” How’ll
that do?’

“‘Do as well as anything, I guess,’ he says. Didn’t make no odds to him.
If I’d have called him ‘Maud,’ he’d have been satisfied.

“He waited in Annex Number Two, which was skippered by Cap’n Jonadab.
And, for a poet, he done pretty well, so the Cap’n said.

“‘But say, Barzilla,’ asks Jonadab, ‘does that Willie thing know the
Robinsons?’

“‘Guess not,’ I says. But, thinkin’ of the way he’d acted when the girl
come to the door: ‘Why?’

“‘Oh, nothin’ much. Only when he come in with the doughnuts the fust
mornin’ at breakfast, I thought Grace sort of jumped and looked funny.
Anyhow, she didn’t eat nothin’ after that. P’r’aps that was on account
of her bein’ out sailin’ the day afore, though.’

“I said I cal’lated that was it, but all the same I was interested.
And when, a day or so later, I see Grace and Willie talkin’ together
earnest, out back of the kitchen, I was more so. But I never said
nothin’. I’ve been seafarin’ long enough to know when to keep my main
hatch closed.

“The supplementary season dragged along, but it wa’n’t quite the success
it looked like at the start. The gunnin’ that year was even worse than
usual, and excursions and picnics in late September ain’t all joy, by
no manner of means. We shut up the second Annex at the end of the month,
and transferred the help to Number One. Precious few new boarders come,
and a good many of the old ones quit. Them that did stay, stayed on
account of the football. We was edgin’ up toward the end of the series,
and our team and the Wapatomac crowd was neck and neck. It looked as if
the final game between them and us, over on their grounds, would settle
who’d have the soup tureen.

“Pa Robinson and Parker had been quite interested in Willie when he
fust come. They thought he might play with the eleven, you see. But he
wouldn’t. Set his foot right down.

“‘I don’t care for athletics,’ he says, mild but firm. ‘They used to
interest me somewhat, but not now.’

“The old man was crazy. He’d heard about Willie’s literature leanin’s,
and he give out that he’d never see a writer yet that wa’n’t a ‘sissy.’
Wanted us to fire Bearse right off, but we kept him, thanks to me. If
he’d seen the ‘sissy’ kick the ball once, same as I did, it might have
changed his mind some. He was passin’ along the end of the field when
the gang was practicin’, and the ball come his way. He caught it on the
fly, and sent it back with his toe. It went a mile, seemed so, whirlin’
and whizzin’. Willie never even looked to see where it went; just kept
on his course for the kitchen.

“The big sensation hit us on the fifth of October, right after supper.
Me and Peter T. and Jonadab was in the office, when down comes Henry,
old Robinson’s man servant, white as a sheet and wringin’ his hands
distracted.

“‘Oh, I say, Mr. Brown!’ says he, shakin’ all over like a quicksand.
‘Oh, Mr. Brown, sir! Will you come right up to Mr. Sterz--I mean Mr.
Robinson’s room, please, sir! ‘E wants to see you gentlemen special.
‘Urry, please! ‘Urry!’

“So we ‘’urried,’ wonderin’ what on earth was the matter. And when we
got to the Robinson rooms, there was Grace, lookin’ awful pale, and the
old man himself ragin’ up and down like a horse mack’rel in a fish weir.

“Soon as papa sees us, he jumped up in the air, so’s to speak, and when
he lit ‘twas right on our necks. His daughter, who seemed to be the
sanest one in the lot, run and shut the door.

“‘Look here, you!’ raved the old gent, shakin’ both fists under Peter
T.’s nose. ‘Didn’t you tell me this was a respectable hotel? And ain’t
we payin’ for respectability?’

“Peter admitted it, bein’ too much set back to argue, I cal’late.

“‘Yes!’ rages Robinson. ‘We pay enough for all the respectability in
this state. And yet, by the livin’ Moses! I can’t go out of my room
to spoil my digestion with your cussed dried-apple pie, but what I’m
robbed!’

“‘Robbed!’ the three of us gurgles in chorus.

“‘Yes, sir! Robbed! Robbed! ROBBED! What do you think I came here for?
And why do I stay here all this time? ‘Cause I LIKE it? ‘Cause I can’t
afford a better place? No, sir! By the great horn spoon! I come here
because I thought in this forsaken hole I could get lost and be safe.
And now--’

“He tore around like a water spout, Grace trying to calm him, and
Henry and Suzette, the maid, groanin’ and sobbin’ accompaniments in the
corner. I looked at the dresser. There was silver-backed brushes and all
sorts of expensive doodads spread out loose, and Miss Robinson’s watch
and a di’mond ring, and a few other knickknacks. I couldn’t imagine a
thief’s leavin’ all that truck, and I said so.

“‘Them?’ sputters Pa, frantic. ‘What the brimstone blazes do you think
I care for them? I could buy that sort of stuff by the car-load, if I
wanted to. But what’s been stole is--Oh, get out and leave me alone!
You’re no good, the lot of you!’

“‘Father has had a valuable paper stolen from him,’ explains Grace. ‘A
very valuable paper.’

“‘Valuable!’ howls her dad. ‘VALUABLE! Why, if Gordon and his gang get
that paper, they’ve got ME, that’s all. Their suit’s as good as won, and
I know it. And to think that I’ve kept it safe up to within a month
of the trial, and now--Grace Sterzer, you stop pattin’ my head. I’m no
pussy-cat! By the--’ And so on, indefinite.

“When he called his daughter Sterzer, instead of Robinson, I cal’lated
he was loony, sure enough. But Peter T. slapped his leg.

“‘Oh!’ he says, as if he’d seen a light all to once. ‘Ah, NOW I begin
to get wise. I knew your face was--See here, Mr. Sterzer--Mr. Gabriel
Sterzer--don’t you think we’d better have a real, plain talk on this
matter? Let’s get down to tacks. Was the paper you lost something to do
with the Sterzer-Gordon lawsuit? The Aluminum Trust case, you know?’

“The old man stopped dancin’, stared at him hard, and then set down and
wiped his forehead.

“‘Something to DO with it?’ he groans. ‘Why, you idiot, it was IT!
If Gordon’s lawyers get that paper--and they’ve been after it for a
year--then the fat’s all in the fire. There’s nothin’ left for me to do
but compromise.’

“When Peter T. mentioned the name of Gabriel Sterzer, me and Jonadab
begun to see a light, too. ‘Course you remember the bust-up of the
Aluminum Trust--everybody does. The papers was full of it. There’d
been a row among the two leadin’ stockholders, Gabe Sterzer and ‘Major’
Gordon. Them two double-back-action millionaires practically owned the
trust, and the state ‘twas in, and the politics of that state, and all
the politicians. Each of ‘em run three or four banks of their own, and
a couple of newspapers, and other things, till you couldn’t rest. Then
they had the row, and Gabe had took his playthings and gone home, as
you might say. Among the playthings was a majority of the stock, and the
Major had sued for it. The suit, with pictures of the leadin’
characters and the lawyers and all, had been spread-eagled in the papers
everywheres. No wonder ‘Robinson’s’ face was familiar.

“But it seemed that Sterzer had held the trump card in the shape of the
original agreement between him and Gordon. And he hung on to it like
the Old Scratch to a fiddler. Gordon and his crowd had done everything,
short of murder, to get it; hired folks to steal it, and so on, because,
once they DID get it, Gabe hadn’t a leg to stand on--he’d have to divide
equal, which wa’n’t his desires, by a good sight. The Sterzer lawyers
had wanted him to leave it in their charge, but no--he knew too much for
that. The pig-headed old fool had carted it with him wherever he went,
and him and his daughter had come to the Old Home House because he
figgered nobody would think of their bein’ in such an out-of-the-way
place as that. But they HAD thought of it. Anyhow, the paper was gone.

“‘But Mr. Robinzer--Sterson, I mean--’ cut in Cap’n Jonadab, ‘you could
have ‘em took up for stealin’, couldn’t you? They wouldn’t dare--’

“‘’Course they’d dare! S’pose they don’t know I wouldn’t have that
agreement get in the papers? Dare! They’d dare anything. If they get
away with it, by hook or crook, all I can do is haul in my horns and
compromise. If they’ve got that paper, the suit never comes to trial.’

“‘Well, they ain’t got it yet,’ says Peter, decided. ‘Whoever stole the
thing is right here in this boardin’-house, and it’s up to us to see
that they stay here. Barzilla, you take care of the mail. No letters
must go out to-night. Jonadab, you set up and watch all hands, help and
all. Nobody must leave this place, if we have to tie em. And I’ll keep a
gen’ral overseein’ of the whole thing, till we get a detective. And--if
you’ll stand the waybill, Mr. Sterzer--we’ll have the best Pinkerton in
Boston down here in three hours by special train. By the way, are you
sure the thing IS lifted? Where was it?’

“Old Gabe kind of colored up, and give in that ‘twas under his pillow.
He always kept it there after the beds was made.

“‘Humph!’ grunts Brown. ‘Why didn’t you hang it on the door-knob? Under
the pillow! If I was a sneak thief, the first place I’d look would be
under the pillow; after that I’d tackle the jewelry box and the safe.’

“There was consider’ble more talk. Seems the Sterzers had left Henry on
guard, same as they always done, when they went to supper. They could
trust him and Suzette absolute, they said. But Henry had gone down
the hall after a drink of water, and when he had got back everything
apparently was all right. ‘Twa’n’t till Gabe himself come up that he
found the paper gone. I judged he’d made it interestin’ for Henry; the
poor critter looked that way.

“All hands agreed to keep mum for the present and to watch. Peter
hustled to the office and called up the Pinkertons over the long
distance.”

Mr. Wingate paused. Captain Sol was impatient.

“Go on,” he said. “Don’t stop now, I’m gettin’ anxious.”

Barzilla rose to his feet. “Here’s your McKay man back again,” he said.
“Let’s go up to your house and have breakfast. We can talk while we’re
eatin’. I’m empty as a poorhouse boarder’s pocketbook.”



CHAPTER VI

AVIATION AND AVARICE


Breakfast at Capt. Sol Berry’s was a bountiful meal. The depot master
employed a middle-aged woman who came in each day, cooked his meals and
did the housework, returning to her own home at night. After Mr. Wingate
had mowed a clean swath through ham and eggs, cornbread and coffee,
and had reached the cooky and doughnut stage, he condescended to speak
further concerning the stolen paper.

“Well,” he said, “Brown give me and Jonadab a serious talkin’ to when he
got us alone.”

“‘Now, fellers,’ he says, ‘we know what we’ve got to do. Nothin’ll be
too good for this shebang and us if we get that agreement back. Fust
place, the thing was done a few minutes after the supper-bell rung.
That is, unless that ‘Enry is in on the deal, which ain’t unlikely,
considerin’ the price he could get from the Gordon gang. Was anybody
late at the tables?’

“Why, yes; there were quite a few late. Two of the ‘gunners,’ who’d been
on a forlorn-hope duck hunt; and a minister and his wife, out walkin’
for their health; and Parker and two fellers from the football team,
who’d been practicin’.

“‘Any of the waiters or the chambermaids?’ asked Peter.

“I’d been expectin’ he’d ask that, and I hated to answer.

“‘One of the waiters was a little late,’ says I. ‘Willie wa’n’t on hand
immediate. Said he went to wash his hands.’

“Now the help gen’rally washed in the fo’castle--the servants’
quarters, I mean--but there was a wash room on the floor where the
Sterzer-Robinsons roomed. Peter looked at Jonadab, and the two of ‘em at
me. And I had to own up that Willie had come downstairs from that wash
room a few minutes after the bell rung.

“‘Hum!’ says Peter T. ‘Hum!’ he says. ‘Look here, Barzilla, didn’t you
tell me you knew that feller’s real name, and that he had been studying
law?’

“‘No,’ says I, emphatic. ‘I said ‘twas law he was tryin’ to get away
from. His tastes run large to literation and poetry.’

“‘Hum!’ says Peter again. ‘All papers are more or less literary--even
trust agreements. Hum!’

“‘All the same,’ says I, ‘I’ll bet my Sunday beaver that HE never took
it.’

“They didn’t answer, but looked solemn. Then the three of us went on
watch.

“Nobody made a move to go out that evenin’. I kept whatever mail was
handed in, but there was nothin’ that looked like any agreements,
and nothin’ addressed to Gordon or his lawyers. At twelve or so, the
detective come. Peter drove up to the depot to meet the special. He told
the whole yarn on the way down.

“The detective was a nice enough chap, and we agreed he should be ‘Mr.
Snow,’ of New York, gunnin’ for health and ducks. He said the watch must
be kept up all night, and in the mornin’ he’d make his fust move. So
said, so done.

“And afore breakfast that next mornin’ we called everybody into the
dinin’ room, boarders, help, stable hands, every last one. And Peter
made a little speech. He said that a very valuable paper had been taken
out of Mr. Robinson’s room, and ‘twas plain that it must be on the
premises somewhere. ‘Course, nobody was suspicioned, but, speakin’
for himself, he’d feel better if his clothes and his room was searched
through. How’d the rest feel about it?

“Well, they felt diff’rent ways, but Parker spoke up like a brick, and
said he wouldn’t rest easy till HIS belongin’s was pawed over, and then
the rest fell in line. We went through everybody and every room on the
place. Found nothin’, of course. Snow--the detective--said he didn’t
expect to. But I tell you there was some talkin’ goin’ on, just the
same. The minister, he hinted that he had some doubts about them
dissipated gunners; and the gunners cal’lated they never see a parson
yet wouldn’t bear watchin’. As for me, I felt like a pickpocket, and,
judgin’ from Jonadab’s face, he felt the same.

“The detective man swooped around quiet, bobbin’ up in unexpected
places, like a porpoise, and askin’ questions once in a while. He asked
about most everybody, but about Willie, especial. I judged Peter T. had
dropped a hint to him and to Gabe. Anyhow, the old critter give out
that he wouldn’t trust a poet with the silver handles on his grandmarm’s
coffin. As for Grace, she acted dreadful nervous and worried. Once I
caught her swabbin’ her eyes, as if she’d been cryin’; but I’d never
seen her and Willie together but the one time I told you of.

“Four days and nights crawled by. No symptoms yet. The Pinkertons was
watchin’ the Gordon lawyers’ office in New York, and they reported
that nothin’ like that agreement had reached there. And our own
man--Snow--said he’d go bail it hadn’t been smuggled off the premises
sense HE struck port. So ‘twas safe so far; but where was it, and who
had it?

“The final football game, the one with Wapatomac, was to be played over
on their grounds on the afternoon of the fifth day. Parker, cap’n of the
eleven, give out that, considerin’ everything, he didn’t know but we’d
better call it off. Old Robinson--Sterzer, of course--wouldn’t hear of
it.

“‘Not much,’ says he. ‘I wouldn’t chance your losin’ that game for forty
papers. You sail in and lick ‘em!’ or words to that effect.

“So the eleven was to cruise across the bay in the Greased Lightnin’,
Peter’s little motor launch, and the rooters was to go by train later
on. ‘Twas Parker’s idee, goin’ in the launch. ‘Twould be more quiet,
less strain on the nerves of his men, and they could talk over plays and
signals on the v’yage.

“So at nine o’clock in the forenoon they was ready, the whole
team--three waiters, two fishermen, one carpenter from up to Wellmouth
Center, a stable hand, and Parker and three reg’lar boarders. These last
three was friends of Parker’s that he’d had come down some time afore.
He knew they could play football, he said, and they’d come to oblige
him.

“The eleven gathered on the front porch, all in togs and sweaters,
principally provided and paid for by Sterzer. Cap’n Parker had the ball
under his arm, and the launch was waitin’ ready at the landin’. All the
boarders--except Grace, who was upstairs in her room--and most of the
help was standin’ round to say good luck and good-by.

“Snow, the detective, was there, and I whispered in his ear.

“‘Say,’ I says, ‘do you realize that for the fust time since the robbery
here’s a lot of folks leavin’ the house? How do you know but what--’

“He winked and nodded brisk. ‘I’ll attend to that,’ he says.

“But he didn’t have to. Parker spoke fust, and took the wind out of his
sails.

“‘Gentlemen,’ says he, ‘I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but, as
for me, I don’t start without clear skirts. I suggest that Mr. Brown and
Mr. Wingate here search each one of us, thoroughly. Who knows,’ says he,
laughin’, ‘but what I’ve got that precious stolen paper tucked inside my
sweater? Ha! ha! Come on, fellers! I’ll be first.’

“He tossed the ball into a chair and marched into the office, the
rest of the players after him, takin’ it as a big joke. And there the
searchin’ was done, and done thorough, ‘cause Peter asked Mr. Snow to
help, and he knew how. One thing was sure; Pa Gabe’s agreement wa’n’t
hid about the persons of that football team. Everybody laughed--that is,
all but the old man and the detective. Seemed to me that Snow was kind
of disappointed, and I couldn’t see why. ‘Twa’n’t likely any of THEM was
thieves.

“Cap’n Parker picked up his football and started off for the launch.
He’d got about ha’fway to the shore when Willie--who’d been stand-in’
with the rest of the help, lookin’ on--stepped for’ard pretty brisk and
whispered in the ear of the Pinkerton man. The detective jumped, sort
of, and looked surprised and mighty interested.

“‘By George!’ says he. ‘I never thought of that.’ Then he run to the
edge of the piazza and called.

“‘Mr. Parker!’ he sings out. ‘Oh, Mr. Parker!’

“Parker was at the top of the little rise that slopes away down to the
landin’. The rest of the eleven was scattered from the shore to the
hotel steps. He turns, without stoppin’, and answers.

“‘What is it?’ he sings out, kind of impatient.

“‘There’s just one thing we forgot to look at,’ shouts Snow. ‘Merely a
matter of form, but just bring that--Hey! Stop him! Stop him!’

“For Parker, instead of comin’ back, had turned and was leggin’ it for
the launch as fast as he could, and that was some.

“‘Stop!’ roars the Pinkerton man, jumpin’ down the steps. ‘Stop, or--’

“‘Hold him, Jim!’ screeched Parker, over his shoulder. One of the
biggest men on the eleven--one of the three ‘friends’ who’d been so
obligin’ as to come down on purpose to play football--made a dive,
caught the detective around the waist, and threw him flat.

“‘Go on, Ed!’ he shouts. ‘I’ve got him, all right.’

“Ed--meanin’ Parker--was goin’ on, and goin’ fast. All hands seemed
to be frozen stiff, me and Jonadab and Peter T. included. As for me, I
couldn’t make head nor tail of the doin’s; things was comin’ too quick
for MY understandin’.

“But there was one on that piazza who wa’n’t froze. Fur from it! Willie,
the poet waiter, made a jump, swung his long legs over the porch-rail,
hit the ground, and took after that Parker man like a cat after a field
mouse.

“Run! I never see such runnin’! He fairly flashed across that lawn and
over the rise. Parker was almost to the landin’; two more jumps and he’d
been aboard the launch. If he’d once got aboard, a turn of the switch
and that electric craft would have had him out of danger in a shake. But
them two jumps was two too many. Willie riz off the ground like a flyin’
machine, turned his feet up and his head down, and lapped his arms
around Parker’s knees. Down the pair of ‘em went ‘Ker-wallop!’ and the
football flew out of Parker’s arms.

“In an eyewink that poet was up, grabs the ball, and comes tearin’ back
toward us.

“‘Stop him!’ shrieks Parker from astern.

“‘Head him off! Tackle him!’ bellers the big chap who was hangin’ onto
the detective.

“They tell me that discipline and obeyin’ orders is as much in football
as ‘tis aboard ship. If that’s so, every one of the Old Home House
eleven was onto their jobs. There was five men between Willie and the
hotel, and they all bore down on him like bats on a June bug.

“‘Get him!’ howls Parker, racin’ to help.

“‘Down him!’ chimes in big Jim, his knee in poor Snow’s back.

“‘Run, Bearse! Run!’ whoops the Pinkerton man, liftin’ his mouth out of
the sand.

“He run--don’t you worry about that! Likewise he dodged. One chap
swooped at him, and he ducked under his arms. Another made a dive, and
he jumped over him. The third one he pushed one side with his hand.
‘Pushed!’ did I say? ‘Knocked’ would be better, for the feller--the
carpenter ‘twas--went over and over like a barrel rollin’ down hill. But
there was two more left, and one of ‘em was bound to have him.

“Then a window upstairs banged open.

“‘Oh, Mr. Bearse!’ screamed a voice--Grace Sterzer’s voice. ‘Don’t let
them get you!’

“We all heard her, in spite of the shoutin’ and racket. Willie heard
her, too. The two fellers, one at each side, was almost on him, when
he stopped, looked up, jumped back, and, as cool as a rain barrel in
January, he dropped that ball and kicked it.

“I can see that picture now, like a tableau at a church sociable. The
fellers that was runnin’, the others on the ground, and that literary
pie passer with his foot swung up to his chin.

“And the ball! It sailed up and up in a long curve, began to drop,
passed over the piazza roof, and out of sight.

“‘Lock your door, Miss Sterzer,’ sung out Fred Bearse--‘Willie’ for
short. ‘Lock your door and keep that ball. I think your father’s paper
is inside it.’

“As sure as my name is Barzilla Wingate, he had kicked that football
straight through the open window into old Gabe’s room.”

The depot master whooped and slapped his knee. Mr. Wingate grinned
delightedly and continued:

“There!” he went on, “the cat’s out of the bag, and there ain’t much
more to tell. Everybody made a bolt for the room, old Gabe and Peter
T. in the lead. Grace let her dad in, and the ball was ripped open in a
hurry. Sure enough! Inside, between the leather and the rubber, was
the missin’ agreement. Among the jubilations and praise services nobody
thought of much else until Snow, the Pinkerton man, come upstairs, his
clothes tore and his eyes and nose full of sand.

“‘Humph!’ says he. ‘You’ve got it, hey? Good! Well, you haven’t got
friend Parker. Look!’

“Such of us as could looked out of the window. There was the launch,
with Parker and his three ‘friends’ in it, headin’ two-forty for blue
water.

“‘Let ‘em go,’ says old Gabe, contented. ‘I wouldn’t arrest ‘em if I
could. This is no police-station job.’

“It come out afterwards that Parker was a young chap just from law
school, who had gone to work for the firm of shysters who was attendin’
to the Gordon interests. They had tracked Sterzer to the Old Home House,
and had put their new hand on the job of gettin’ that agreement. Fust
he’d tried to shine up to Grace, but the shine--her part of it--had wore
off. Then he decided to steal it; and he done it, just how nobody knows.
Snow, the detective, says he cal’lates Henry, the servant, is wiser’n
most folks thinks, fur’s that’s concerned.

“Snow had found out about Parker inside of two days. Soon’s he got the
report as to who he was, he was morally sartin that he was the thief.
He’d looked up Willie’s record, too, and that was clear. In fact, Willie
helped him consider’ble. ‘Twas him that recognized Parker, havin’ seen
him play on a law-school team. Also ‘twas Willie who thought of the
paper bein’ in the football.

“Land of love! What a hero they made of that waiter!

“‘By the livin’ Moses!’ bubbles old Gabe, shakin’ both the boy’s hands.
‘That was the finest run and tackle and the finest kick I ever saw
anywhere. I’ve seen every big game for ten years, and I never saw
anything half so good.’

“The Pinkerton man laughed. ‘There’s only one chap on earth who can kick
like that. Here he is,’ layin’ his hand on ‘Willie’s’ shoulder. Bearse,
the All-American half-back last year.’

“Gabe’s mouth fell open. ‘Not “Bung” Bearse, of Yarvard!’ he sings out.
‘Why! WHY!’

“‘Of course, father!’ purrs his daughter, smilin’ and happy. ‘I knew
him at once. He and I were--er--slightly acquainted when I was at
Highcliffe.’

“‘But--but “Bung” Bearse!’ gasps the old gent. ‘Why, you rascal! I saw
you kick the goal that beat Haleton. Your reputation is worldwide.’

“Willie--Fred Bearse, that is--shook his head, sad and regretful.

“‘Thank you, Mr. Sterzer,’ says he, in his gentle tenor. ‘I have no
desire to be famous in athletics. My aspirations now are entirely
literary.’

“Well, he’s got his literary job at last, bein’ engaged as sportin’
editor on one of Gabe’s papers. His dad, old Sol Bearse, seems to be
pretty well satisfied, partic’lar as another engagement between the
Bearse family and the Sterzers has just been given out.”

Barzilla helped himself to another doughnut. His host leaned back in his
chair and laughed uproariously.

“Well, by the great and mighty!” he exclaimed, “that Willie chap
certainly did fool you, didn’t he. You can’t always tell about these
college critters. Sometimes they break out unexpected, like chickenpox
in the ‘Old Men’s Home.’ Ha! ha! Say, do you know Nate Scudder?”

“Know him? Course I know him! The meanest man on the Cape, and livin’
right in my own town, too! Well, if I didn’t know him I might trust him,
and that would be the beginnin’ of the end--for me.”

“It sartin would. But what made me think of him was what he told
me about his nephew, who was a college chap, consider’ble like your
‘Willie,’ I jedge. Nate and this nephew, Augustus Tolliver, was mixed up
in that flyin’-machine business, you remember.”

“I know they was. Mixed up with that Professor Dixland the papers are
makin’ such a fuss over. Wellmouth’s been crazy over it all, but it
happened a year ago and nobody that I know of has got the straight
inside facts about it yet. Nate won’t talk at all. Whenever you ask him
he busts out swearin’ and walks off. His wife’s got such a temper that
nobody dared ask her, except the minister. He tried it, and ain’t been
the same man since.”

“Well,” the depot master smilingly scratched his chin, “I cal’late I’ve
got those inside facts.”

“You HAVE?”

“Yes. Nate gave ‘em to me, under protest. You see, I know Nate pretty
well. I know some things about him that . . . but never mind that part.
I asked him and, at last, he told me. I’ll have to tell you in his
words, ‘cause half the fun was the way he told it and the way he looked
at the whole business. So you can imagine I’m Nate, and--”

“‘Twill be a big strain on my imagination to b’lieve you’re Nate
Scudder, Sol Berry.”

“Thanks. However, you’ll have to do it for a spell. Well, Nate said that
it really begun when the Professor and Olivia landed at the Wellmouth
depot with the freight car full of junk. Of course, the actual
beginnin’ was further back than that, when that Harmon man come on from
Philadelphy and hunted him up, makin’ proclamation that a friend of
his, a Mr. Van Brunt of New York, had said that Scudder had a nice quiet
island to let and maybe he could hire it.

“Course Nate had an island--that little sun-dried sandbank a mile or
so off shore, abreast his house, which we used to call ‘Horsefoot Bar.’
That crazy Van Brunt and his chum, Hartley, who lived there along
with Sol Pratt a year or so ago, re-christened it ‘Ozone Island,’ you
remember. Nate was willin’ to let it. He’d let Tophet, if he owned it,
and a fool come along who wanted to hire it and could pay for the rent
and heat.

“So Nate and this Harmon feller rowed over to the Bar--to Ozone Island,
I mean--and the desolation and loneliness of it seemed to suit him to
perfection. So did the old house and big barn and all the tumbledown
buildin’s stuck there in the beach-grass and sand. Afore they’d left
they made a dicker. He wa’n’t the principal in it. He was the private
secretary and fust mate of Mr. Professor Ansel Hobart Dixland, the
scientist--perhaps Scudder’d heard of him?

“Perhaps he had, but if so, Nate forgot it, though he didn’t tell him
that. Harmon ordered a fifteen-foot-high board fence built all around
the house and barn, and made Nate swear not to tell a soul who was
comin’ nor anything. Dixland might want the island two months, he said,
or he might want it two years. Nate didn’t care. He was in for good
pickin’s, and begun to pick by slicin’ a liberal commission off that
fencebuildin’ job. There was a whole passel of letters back and forth
between Nate and Harmon, and finally Nate got word to meet the victims
at the depot.

“There was the professor himself, an old dried-up relic with whiskers
and a temper; and there was Miss Olivia Dixland, his niece and
housekeeper, a slim, plain lookin’ girl, who wore eyeglasses and a
straight up and down dress. And there was a freight car full of crates
and boxes and land knows what all. But nary sign was there of a private
secretary and assistant. The professor told Nate that Mr. Harmon’s
health had suddenly broke down and he’d had to be sent South.

“‘It’s a calamity,’ says he; ‘a real calamity! Harmon has been with
me in my work from the beginnin’; and now, just as it is approachin’
completion, he is taken away. They say he may die. It is very annoyin’.’

“‘Humph!’ says Nate. ‘Well, maybe it annoys HIM some, too; you can’t
tell. What you goin’ to do for a secretary?’

“‘I understand,’ says the professor, ‘that there is a person of
consider’ble scientific attainment residin’ with you, Mr. Scudder, at
present. Harmon met him while he was here; they were in the same class
at college. Harmon recommended him highly. Olivia,’ he says to the
niece, ‘what was the name of the young man whom Harmon recommended?’

“‘Tolliver, Uncle Ansel,’ answers the girl, lookin’ kind of disdainful
at Nate. Somehow he had the notion that she didn’t take to him fust
rate.

“‘Hey?’ sings out Nate. ‘Tolliver? Why, that’s Augustus! AUGUSTUS! well,
I’ll be switched!’

“Augustus Tolliver was Nate’s nephew from up Boston way. Him and Nate
was livin’ together at that time. Huldy Ann, Mrs. Scudder, was out West,
in Omaha, takin’ care of a cousin of hers who was a chronic invalid and,
what’s more to the purpose, owned a lot of stock in copper mines.

“Augustus was a freckle-faced, spindle-shanked little critter, with
spectacles and a soft, polite way of speakin’ that made you want to
build a fire under him to see if he could swear like a Christian. He
had a big head with consider’ble hair on the top of it and nothin’
underneath but what he called ‘science’ and ‘sociology.’ His science
wa’n’t nothin’ but tommy-rot to Nate, and the ‘sociology’ was some kind
of drivel about everybody bein’ equal to everybody else, or better.
‘Seemed to think ‘twas wrong to get a good price for a thing when you
found a feller soft enough to pay it. Did you ever hear the beat of that
in your life?’ says Nate.

“However, Augustus had soaked so much science and sociology into that
weak noddle of his that they kind of made him drunk, as you might say,
and the doctor had sent him down to board with the Scudders and sleep it
off. ‘Nervous prostration’ was the way he had his symptoms labeled, and
the nerve part was all right, for if a hen flew at him he’d holler and
run. Scart! you never see such a scart cat in your born days. Scart of a
boat, scart of being seasick, scart of a gun, scart of everything! Most
special he was scart of Uncle Nate. The said uncle kept him that way
so’s he wouldn’t dast to kick at the grub him and Huldy Ann give him, I
guess.

“‘Augustus Tolliver,’ says old Dixland, noddin’. ‘Yes, that is the name.
Has he had a sound scientific trainin’?’

“‘Scientific trainin’!’ says Nate. ‘Scientific trainin’? Why, you bet
he’s had it! That’s the only kind of trainin’ he HAS had. He’ll be just
the feller for you, Mr. Dixland.’

“So that was settled, all but notifyin’ Augustus. But Scudder sighted
another speculation in the offin’, and hove alongside of it.

“‘Mr. Harmon, when he was here,’ says he, ‘he mentioned you needin’
a nice, dependable man to live on the island and be sort of general
roustabout. My wife bein’ away just now, and all, it struck me that I
might as well be that man. Maybe my terms’ll seem a little high, at fust
mention, but--’

“‘Very good,’ says the professor, ‘very good. I’m sure you’ll be
satisfactory. Now please see to the unloading of that car. And be
careful, VERY careful.’

“Nate broke the news to Augustus that afternoon. He had his nose stuck
in a book, as usual, and never heard, so Nate yelled at him like a mate
on a tramp steamer, just to keep in trainin’.

“‘Who? Who? Who? What? What?’ squeals Augustus, jumpin’ out of the
chair as if there was pins in it. ‘What is it? Who did it? Oh, my poor
nerves!’

“‘Drat your poor nerves!’ Nate says. ‘I’ve got a good promisin’ job for
you. Listen to this.’

“Then he told about the professor’s wantin’ Gus to be assistant and help
do what the old man called ‘experiments.’

“‘Dixland?’ says Gus, ‘Ansel Hobart Dixland, the great scientist! And
I’m to be HIS assistant? Assistant to the man who discovered DIXIUM and
invented--’

“‘Oh, belay there!’ snorts Nate, impatient. Tell me this--he’s awful
rich, ain’t he?’

“‘Why, I believe--yes, Harmon said he was. But to think of MY bein’--’

“‘Now, nephew,’ Nate cut in, ‘let me talk to you a minute. Me and your
Aunt Huldy Ann have been mighty kind to you sence you’ve been here, and
here’s your chance to do us a good turn. You stick close to science and
the professor and let me attend to the finances. If this family ain’t
well off pretty soon it won’t be your Uncle Nate’s fault. Only don’t you
put your oar in where ‘tain’t needed.’

“Lord love you, Gus didn’t care about finances. He was so full of joy at
bein’ made assistant to the great Ansel Whiskers Dixland that he forgot
everything else, nerves and all.

“So in another day the four of ‘em was landed on Ozone Island and so was
the freight-car load of crates and boxes. Grub and necessaries was to be
provided by Scudder--for salary as stated and commission understood.

“It took Nate less than a week to find out what old Dixland was up to.
When he learned it, he set down in the sand and fairly snorted disgust.
The old idiot was cal’latin’ to FLY. Seems that for years he’d been
experimentin’ with what he called ‘aeroplanes,’ and now he’d reached the
stage where he b’lieved he could flap his wings and soar. ‘Thinks I,’
says Nate, ‘your life work’s cut out for you, Nate Scudder. You’ll spend
the rest of your days as gen’ral provider for the Ozone private asylum.’
Well, Scudder wa’n’t complainin’ none at the outlook. He couldn’t make a
good livin’ no easier.

“The aeroplane was in sections in them boxes and crates. Nate and
Augustus and the professor got out the sections and fitted ‘em together.
The buildin’s on Ozone was all joined together--first the house, then
the ell, then the wash-rooms and big sheds, and, finally, the barn.
There was doors connectin’, and you could go from house to barn, both
downstairs and up, without steppin’ outside once.

“‘Twas in the barn that they built what Whiskers called the ‘flyin’
stage.’ ‘Twas a long chute arrangement on trestles, and the idea was
that the aeroplane was to get her start by slidin’ down the chute, out
through the big doors and off by the atmosphere route to glory. I say
that was the IDEA. In practice she worked different.

“Twice the professor made proclamations that everything was ready, and
twice they started that flyin’ machine goin’. The fust time Dixland
was at the helm, and him and the aeroplane dropped headfust into the
sandbank just outside the barn. The machine was underneath, and the
pieces of it acted as a fender, so all the professor fractured was his
temper. But it took ten days to get the contraption ready for the next
fizzle. Then poor, shaky, scart Augustus was pilot, and he went so deep
into the bank that Nate says he wondered whether ‘twas wuth while doin’
anything but orderin’ the gravestone. But they dug him out at last,
whole, but frightened blue, and his nerves was worse than ever after
that.

“Then old Dixland announces that he has discovered somethin’ wrong in
the principle of the thing, and they had to wait while he ordered some
new fittin’s from Boston.

“Meanwhile there was other complications settin’ in. Scudder was kept
busy providin’ grub and such like and helpin’ the niece, Olivia,
with the housework. Likewise he had his hands full keepin’ the
folks alongshore from findin’ out what was goin’ on. All this flyin’
foolishness had to be a dead secret.

“But, busy as he was, he found time to notice the thick acquaintance
that was developin’ between Augustus and Olivia. Them two was what the
minister calls ‘kindred sperrits.’ Seems she was sufferin’ from science
same as he was and, more’n that, she was loaded to the gunwale with
‘social reform.’ To hear the pair of ‘em go on about helpin’ the poor
and ‘settlement work’ and such was enough, accordin’ to Nate, to make
you leave the table. But there! He couldn’t complain. Olivia was her
uncle’s only heir, and Nate could see a rainbow of promise ahead for the
Scudder family.

“The niece was a nice, quiet girl. The only thing Nate had against her,
outside of the sociology craziness and her not seemin’ to take a shine
to him, was her confounded pets. Nate said he never had no use for
pets--lazy critters, eatin’ up the victuals and costin’ money--but
Olivia was dead gone on ‘em. She adopted an old reprobate of a tom-cat,
which she labeled ‘Galileo,’ after an Eyetalian who invented spyglasses
or somethin’ similar, and a great big ugly dog that answered to the hail
of ‘Phillips Brooks’; she named him that because she said the original
Phillips was a distinguished parson and a great philanthropist.

“That dog was a healthy philanthropist. When Nate kicked him the first
time, he chased him the whole length of the barn. After that they had to
keep him chained up. He was just pinin’ for a chance to swaller Scudder
whole, and he showed it.

“Well, as time went on, Olivia and Augustus got chummier and chummier.
Nate give ‘em all the chance possible to be together, and as for old
Professor Whiskers, all he thought of, anyway, was his blessed flyin’
machine. So things was shapin’ themselves well, ‘cordin’ to Scudder’s
notion.

“One afternoon Nate come, unexpected, to the top of a sand hill at
t’other end of the island, and there, below, set Olivia and Augustus.
He had a clove hitch ‘round her waist, and they was lookin’ into each
other’s spectacles as if they was windows in the pearly gates. Thinks
Nate: ‘They’ve signed articles,’ and he tiptoed away, feelin’ that life
wa’n’t altogether an empty dream.

“They was lively hours, them that followed. To begin with, when Nate got
back to the barn he found the professor layin’ on the floor, under the
flyin’ stage, groanin’ soulful but dismal. He’d slipped off one of the
braces of the trestles and sprained both wrists and bruised himself till
he wa’n’t much more than one big lump. He hadn’t bruised his tongue
none to speak of, though, and his language wa’n’t sprained so that you’d
notice it. What broke him up most of all was that he’d got his aeroplane
ready to ‘fly’ again, and now he was knocked out so’s he couldn’t be
aboard when she went off the ways.

“‘It is the irony of fate,’ says he.

“‘I got it off the blacksmith over to Wellmouth Centre,’ Nate told him;
‘but HE might have got it from Fate, or whoever you mean. ‘Twas slippery
iron, I know that, and I warned you against steppin’ on it yesterday.’

“The professor more’n hinted that Nate was a dunderhead idiot, and then
he commenced to holler for Tolliver; he wanted to see Tolliver right
off. Scudder thought he’d ought to see a doctor, but he wouldn’t, so
Nate plastered him up best he could, got him into the big chair in the
front room, and went huntin’ Augustus. Him and Olivia was still
camped in the sand bank. Gus’s right arm had got tired by this time, I
cal’late, but he had a new hitch with his left. Likewise they was still
starin’ into each other’s specs.

“‘Excuse me for interruptin’ the mesmerism,’ says Nate, ‘but the
professor wants to see you.’

“They jumped and broke away. But it took more’n that to bring ‘em down
out of the clouds. They’d been flyin’ a good sight higher than the old
aeroplane had yet.

“‘Uncle Nathan,’ says Augustus, gettin’ up and shakin’ hands, ‘I have
the most wonderful news for you. It’s hardly believable. You’ll never
guess it.’

“‘Give me three guesses and I’ll win on the fust,’ says Nate. ‘You two
are engaged.’

“They looked at him as if he’d done somethin’ wonderful. ‘But, Uncle,’
says Gus, shakin’ hands again, ‘just think! she’s actually consented to
marry me.’

“‘Well, that’s gen’rally understood to be a part of engagin’, ain’t
it?’ says Nate. ‘I’m glad to hear it. Miss Dixland, I congratulate you.
You’ve got a fine, promisin’ young man.’

“That, to Nate’s notion, was about the biggest lie he ever told, but
Olivia swallered it for gospel. She seemed to thaw toward Scudder a
little mite, but ‘twa’n’t at a permanent melt, by no means.

“‘Thank you, Mr. Scudder,’ says she, still pretty frosty. ‘I am full
aware of Mr. Tolliver’s merits. I’m glad to learn that YOU recognize
them. He has told some things concernin’ his stay at your home which--’

“‘Yes, yes,’ says Nate, kind of hurried. ‘Well, I’m sorry to dump bad
news into a puddle of happiness like this, but your Uncle Ansel, Miss
Dixland, has been tryin’ to fly without his machine, and he’s sorry for
it.’

“Then he told what had happened to the professor, and Olivia started on
the run for the house. Augustus was goin’, too, but Nate held him back.

“‘Wait a minute, Gus,’ says he. ‘Walk along with me; I want to talk with
you. Now, as an older man, your nighest relation, and one that’s come to
love you like a son--yes, sir, like a son--I think it’s my duty just now
to say a word of advice. You’re goin’ to marry a nice girl that’s comin’
in for a lot of money one of these days. The professor, he’s kind of
old, his roof leaks consider’ble, and this trouble is likely to hurry
the end along.

“‘Now, then,’ Nate goes on, ‘Augustus, my boy, what are you and that
simple, childlike girl goin’ to do with all that money? How are you
goin’ to take care of it? You and ‘Livia--you mustn’t mind my callin’
her that ‘cause she’s goin’ to be one of the family so soon--you’ll
want to be fussin’ with science and such, and you won’t have no time
to attend to the finances. You’ll need a good, safe person to be your
financial manager. Well, you know me and you know your Aunt Huldy Ann.
WE know all about financin’; WE’VE had experience. You just let us
handle the bonds and coupons and them trifles. We’ll invest ‘em for you.
We’ll be yours and ‘Livia’s financial managers. As for our wages, maybe
they’ll seem a little high, but that’s easy arranged. And--’

“Gus interrupted then. ‘Oh, that’s all settled,’ he says. ‘Olivia and I
have planned all that. When we’re married we shall devote our lives to
social work--to settlement work. All the money we ever get we shall use
to help the poor. WE don’t want any of it. We shall live AMONG the poor,
live just as frugally as they do. Our money we shall give--every cent of
it--to charity and--’

“‘Lord sakes!’ yells Nate, ‘DON’T talk that way! Don’t! Be you crazy,
too? Why--’

“But Gus went on, talkin’ a steady streak about livin’ in a little
tenement in what he called the ‘slums’ and chuckin’ the money to this
tramp and that, till Nate’s head was whirlin’. ‘Twa’n’t no joke. He
meant it and so did she, and they was just the pair of loons to do it,
too.

“Afore Nate had a chance to think up anything sensible to say, Olivia
comes hollerin’ for Gus to hurry. Off he went, and Nate followed
along, holdin’ his head and staggerin’ like a voter comin’ home from a
political candidate’s picnic. All he could think of was: ‘THIS the end
of all my plannin’! What--WHAT’LL Huldy Ann say to THIS?’

“Nate found the professor bolstered up in his chair, with the other
two standin’ alongside. He was layin’ down the law about that blessed
aeroplane.

“‘No! no! NO! I tell you!’ he roars, ‘I’ll see no doctor. My invention
is ready at last, and, if I’m goin’ to die, I’ll die successful.
Tolliver, you’ve been a faithful worker with me, and yours shall be the
privilege of makin’ the first flight. Wheel me to the window, Olivia,
and let me see my triumph.’

“But Olivia didn’t move. Instead, she looked at Augustus and he at her.
‘Wheel me to the window!’ yells Dixland. ‘Tolliver, what are you waitin’
for? The doors are open, the aeroplane is ready. Go this instant and
fly.’

“Augustus was a bird all right, ‘cordin’ to Nate’s opinion, but he
didn’t seem anxious to spread his wings. He was white, and them nerves
of his was all in a twitter. If ever there was a scart critter, ‘twas
him then.

“‘Go out and fly,’ says Nate to him, pretty average ugly. ‘Don’t you
hear the boss’s order? Here, professor, I’ll push you to the window.’

“‘Thank you, Scudder,’ says Dixland. And then turnin’ to Gus: ‘Well,
sir, may I ask why you wait?’

“‘Twas Olivia that answered. ‘Uncle Ansel,’ says she, ‘I must tell you
somethin’. I should have preferred tellin’ you privately,’ she puts in,
glarin’ at Nate, ‘but it seems I can’t. Mr. Tolliver and I are engaged
to be married.’

“Old Whiskers didn’t seem to care a continental. All he had in his
addled head was that flyin’ contraption.

“‘All right, all right,’ he snaps, fretty, ‘I’m satisfied. He appears to
be a decent young man enough. But now I want him to start my aeroplane.’

“‘No, Uncle Ansel,’ goes on Olivia, ‘I cannot permit him to risk his
life in that way. His nerves are not strong and neither is his heart.
Besides, the aeroplane has failed twice. Luckily no one was killed in
the other trials, but the chances are that the third time may prove
fatal.’

“‘Fatal, you imbecile!’ shrieks the professor. ‘It’s perfected, I tell
you! I--’

“‘It makes no difference. No, uncle, Augustus and I have made up our
minds. His life and health are too precious; he must be spared for the
grand work that we are to do together. No, Uncle Ansel, he shall NOT
fly.’

“Did you ever see a cat in a fit? That was the professor just then, so
Nate said. He tried to wave his sprained wrists and couldn’t; tried to
stamp his foot and found it too lame. But his eyeglasses flashed sparks
and his tongue spit fire.

“‘Are you goin’ to start that machine?’ he screams at the blue-white,
shaky Augustus.

“‘No, Professor Dixland,’ stammers Gus. ‘No, sir, I’m sorry, but--’

“‘Why don’t you ask Mr. Scudder to make the experiment, uncle?’ suggests
that confounded niece, smilin’ the spitefullest smile.

“‘Scudder,’ says the professor, ‘I’ll give you five thousand dollars
cash to start in that aeroplane this moment.’

“For a jiffy Nate was staggered. Five thousand dollars CASH--whew! But
then he thought of how deep Gus had been shoved into that sandbank.
And there was a new and more powerful motor aboard the thing now. Five
thousand dollars ain’t much good to a telescoped corpse. He fetched a
long breath.

“‘Well, now, Mr. Dixland,’ he says, ‘I’d like to, fust rate, but you see
I don’t know nothin’ about mechanics.’

“‘Professor--’ begins Augustus. ‘Twas the final straw. Old Whiskers
jumped out of the chair, lameness and all.

“‘Out of this house, you ingrate!’ he bellers. ‘Out this instant! I
discharge you. Go! go!’

“He was actually frothin’ at the mouth. I cal’late Olivia thought he was
goin’ to die, for she run to him.

“‘You’d better go, I think,’ says she to her shakin’ beau. ‘Go, dear,
now. I must stay with him for the present, but we will see each other
soon. Go now, and trust me.’

“‘I disown you, you ungrateful girl,’ foams her uncle. ‘Scudder, I order
you to put that--that creature off this island.’

“‘Yes, sir,’ says Nate, polite; ‘in about two shakes of a heifer’s
tail.’

“He started for Augustus, and Gus started for the door. I guess Olivia
might have interfered, but just then the professor keels over in a kind
of faint and she had to tend to him. Gus darts out of the door with Nate
after him. Scudder reached the beach just as his nephew was shovin’ off
in the boat, bound for the mainland.

“‘Consarn your empty head!’ Nate yelled after him. ‘See what you get by
not mindin’ me, don’t you? I’m runnin’ things on this island after this.
I’m boss here; understand? When you’re ready to sign a paper deedin’
over ha’f that money your wife’s goin’ to get to me and Huldy Ann, maybe
I’ll let you come back. And perhaps then I’ll square things for you with
Dixland. But if you dare to set foot on these premises until then I’ll
murder you; I’ll drown you; I’ll cut you up for bait; I’ll feed you to
the dog.’

“He sculled off, his oars rattlin’ ‘Hark from the tomb’ in the rowlocks.
He b’lieved Nate meant it all. Oh, Scudder had HIM trained all right.”



CHAPTER VII

CAPTAIN SOL DECIDES TO MOVE


“Trust Nate for that,” interrupted Wingate. “He’s just as much a born
bully as he is a cheat and a skinflint.”

“Yup,” went on Captain Sol. “Well, when Nate got back to the house the
professor was alone in the chair, lookin’ sick and weak. Olivia was up
in her room havin’ a cryin’ fit. Nate got the old man to bed, made him
some clam soup and hot tea, and fetched and carried for him like he was
a baby. The professor’s talk was mainly about the ungrateful desertion,
as he called it, of his assistant.

“‘Keep him away from this island,’ he says. ‘If he comes, I shall commit
murder; I know it.’

“Scudder promised that Augustus shouldn’t come back. The professor
wanted guard kept night and day. Nate said he didn’t know’s he could
afford so much time, and Dixland doubled his wages on the spot. So Nate
agreed to stand double watches, made him comfort’ble for the night, and
left him.

“Olivia didn’t come downstairs again. She didn’t seem to want any
supper, but Nate did and had it, a good one. Galileo, the cat, came
yowlin’ around, and Nate kicked him under the sofy. Phillips Brooks
was howlin’ starvation in the woodshed, and Scudder let him howl. If
he starved to death Nate wouldn’t put no flowers on his grave. Take it
altogether, he was havin’ a fairly good time.

“And when, later on, he set alone up in his room over the kitchen, he
begun to have a better one. Prospects looked good. Maybe old Dixland
WOULD disown his niece. If he did, Nate figgered he was as healthy a
candidate for adoption as anybody. And Augustus would have to come to
terms or stay single. That is, unless him and Olivia got married on
nothin’ a week, paid yearly. Nate guessed Huldy Ann would think he’d
managed pretty well.

“He set there for a long while, thinkin’, and then he says he cal’lates
he must have dozed off. At any rate, next thing he knew he was settin’
up straight in his chair, listenin’. It seemed to him that he’d heard a
sound in the kitchen underneath.

“He looked out of the window, and right away he noticed somethin’. ‘Twas
a beautiful, clear moonlight night, and the high board fence around the
buildin’s showed black against the white sand. And in that white
strip was a ten-foot white gape. Nate had shut that gate afore he went
upstairs. Who’d opened it? Then he heard the noise in the kitchen again.
Somebody was talkin’ down there.

“Nate got up and tiptoed acrost the room. He was in his stockin’ feet,
so he didn’t make a sound. He reached into the corner and took out his
old duck gun. It was loaded, both barrels. Nate cocked the gun and crept
down the back stairs.

“There was a lamp burnin’ low on the kitchen table, and there, in a
couple of chairs hauled as close together as they could be, set
that Olivia niece and Augustus. They was in a clove hitch again and
whisperin’ soft and slushy.

“My! but Scudder was b’ilin’! He give one jump and landed in the middle
of that kitchen floor.

“‘You--you--you!’ he yelled, wavin’ the shotgun. ‘You’re back here, are
you? You know what I told you I’d do to you? Well, now, I’ll do it.’

“The pair of ‘em had jumped about as far as Nate had, only the opposite
way. Augustus was a paralyzed statue, but Olivia had her senses with
her.

“‘Run, Augustus!’ she screamed. ‘He’ll shoot you. Run!’

“And then, with a screech like a siren whistle, Augustus commenced to
run. Nate was between him and the outside door, so he bolted headfirst
into the dining room. And after him went Nate Scudder, so crazy mad he
didn’t know what he was doin’.

“‘Twas pitch dark in the dining room, but through it they went rattlety
bang! dishes smashin’, chairs upsettin’ and ‘hurrah, boys!’ to pay
gen’rally. Then through the best parlor and into the front hall.

“I cal’late Nate would have had him at the foot of the front stairs if
it hadn’t been for Galileo. That cat had been asleep on the sofy, and
the noise and hullabaloo had stirred him up till he was as crazy as the
rest of ‘em. He run right under Nate’s feet and down went Nate sprawlin’
and both barrels of the shotgun bust loose like a couple of cannon.

“Galileo took for tall timber, whoopin’ anthems. Up them front stairs
went Augustus, screechin’ shrill, like a woman; he was SURE Nate meant
to murder him now. And after him his uncle went on all fours, swearin’
tremendous.

“Then ‘twas through one bedroom after another, and each one more crowded
with noisy, smashable things than that previous. Nate said he could
remember the professor roarin’ ‘Fire!’ and ‘Help!’ as the two of ‘em
bumped into his bed, but they didn’t stop--they was too busy. The whole
length of the house upstairs they traveled, then through the ell, then
the woodshed loft, and finally out into the upper story of the barn. And
there Nate knew he had him. The ladder was down.

“‘Now!’ says Nate. ‘Now, you long-legged villain, if I don’t give you
what’s comin’ to you, then--Oh, there ain’t no use in your climbin’ out
there; you can’t get down.’

“The big barn doors was open, and, in the moonlight, Nate could see
Gus scramblin’ up and around on the flyin’ stage where the professor’s
aeroplane was perched, lookin’ like some kind of magnified June bug.

“‘Come back, you fool!’ Scudder yelled at him. ‘Come back and be
butchered. You might as well; it’s too high for you to drop. You won’t?
Then I’ll come after you.’

“Nate says he never shall forget Augustus’s face in the blue light when
he see his uncle climbin’ out on that stage after him. He was simply
desperate--that’s it, desperate. And the next thing he did was jump into
the saddle of the machine and pull the startin’ lever.

“There was the buzz of the electric motor, a slippery, slidin’ sound,
one awful hair-raisin’ whoop from Augustus, and then--‘F-s-s-s-t!’--down
the flyin’ stage whizzed that aeroplane and out through the doors.

“Nate set down on the trestles and waited for the sound of the smash.
I guess he actually felt conscience stricken. Of course, he’d only done
his duty, and yet--

“But no smash came. Instead, there was a long scream from the
kitchen--Olivia’s voice that was. And then another yell that for pure
joy beat anything ever heard.

“‘It flies!’ screamed Professor Ansel Hobart Whiskers Dixland, from his
bedroom window. ‘At last! At last! It FLIES!’

“It took Nate some few minutes to paw his way back through the shed loft
and the ell over the things him and Gus knocked down on the fust lap,
until he got to his room where the trouble had started. Then he went
down to the kitchen and outdoor.

“Olivia, a heavenly sort of look on her face, was standin’ in the
moonlight, with her hands clasped, lookin’ up at the sky.

“‘It flies!’ says she, in a kind of whisper over and over again. ‘Oh! it
FLIES!’

“Alongside of her was old Dixland, wrapped in a bedquilt, forgettin’ all
about sprains and lameness; and he likewise was staring at the sky and
sayin’ over and over:

“‘It flies! It really FLIES!’

“And Nate looked up, and there, scootin’ around in circles, now up high
and now down low, tippin’ this way and tippin’ that, was that aeroplane.
And in the stillness you could hear the buzz of the motor and the yells
of Augustus.

“Down flopped Scudder in the sand. ‘Great land of love,’ he says, ‘it
FLIES!’

“Well, for five minutes or so they watched that thing swoop and duck and
sail up there overhead. And then, slow and easy as a feather in a May
breeze, down she flutters and lands soft on a hummock a little ways off.
And that Augustus--a fool for luck--staggers out of it safe and sound,
and sets down and begins to cry.

“The fust thing to reach him was Olivia. She grabbed him around the
neck, and you never heard such goin’s on as them two had. Nate come
hurryin’ up.

“‘Here you!’ he says, pullin’ ‘em apart. ‘That’s enough of this. And
you,’ he adds to Gus, ‘clear right out off this island. I won’t make
shark bait of you this time, but--’

“And then comes Dixland, hippity-hop over the hummocks. ‘My noble boy!’
he sings out, fallin’ all of a heap onto Augustus’s round shoulders. ‘My
noble boy! My hero!’

“Nate looked on for a full minute with his mouth open. Olivia went away
toward the house. The professor and Gus was sheddin’ tears like a couple
of waterin’ pots.

“‘Come! come!’ says Scudder finally; ‘get up, Mr. Dixland; you’ll catch
cold. Now then, you Tolliver, toddle right along to your boat. Don’t you
worry, professor, I’ll fix him so’s he won’t come here no more.’

“But the professor turned on him like a flash.

“‘How dare you interfere?’ says he. ‘I forgive him everything. He is a
hero. Why, man, he FLEW!’

“Olivia came up behind and touched Nate on the shoulders. ‘Don’t
you think you’d better go, Mr. Scudder?’ she purred. ‘I’ve unchained
Phillips Brooks.’

“Nate swears he never made better time than he done gettin’ to the shore
and the boat Augustus had come over in. But that philanthropist dog only
missed the supper he’d been waitin’ for by about a foot and a half, even
as ‘twas.

“And that was the end of it, fur’s Nate was concerned. Olivia was boss
from then on, and Scudder wa’n’t allowed to land on his own island. And
pretty soon they all went away, flyin’ machine and all, and now Gus and
Olivia are married.”

“Well, by gum!” cried Wingate. “Say, that must have broke Nate’s heart
completely. All that good money goin’ to the poor. Ha! ha!”

“Yes,” said Captain Sol, with a broad grin. “Nate told me that every
time he realized that Gus’s flyin’ at all was due to his scarin’ him
into it, it fairly made him sick of life.”

“What did Huldy Ann say? I’ll bet the fur flew when SHE heard of it!”

“I guess likely it did. Scudder says her jawin’s was the worst of all.
Her principal complaint was that he didn’t take up with the professor’s
five-thousand offer and try to fly. ‘What if ‘twas risky?’ she says.
‘If anything happened to you the five thousand would have come to your
heirs, wouldn’t it? But no! you never think of no one but yourself.’”

Mr. Wingate glanced at his watch. “Good land!” he cried, “I didn’t
realize ‘twas so late. I must trot along down and meet Stitt. He and I
are goin’ to corner the clam market.”

“I must be goin’, too,” said the depot master, rising and moving toward
the door, picking up his cap on the way. He threw open the door and
exclaimed, “Hello! here’s Sim. What you got on your mind, Sim?”

Mr. Phinney looked rather solemn. “I wanted to speak with you a minute,
Sol,” he began. “Hello! Barzilla, I didn’t know you was here.”

“I shan’t be here but one second longer,” replied Mr. Wingate, as he and
Phinney shook hands. “I’m late already. Bailey’ll think I ain’t comin’.
Good-by, boys. See you this afternoon, maybe.”

“Yes, do,” cried Berry, as his guest hurried down to the gate. “I want
to hear about those automobiles over your way. You ain’t bought one,
have you, Barzilla?”

Wingate grinned over his shoulder. “No,” he called, “I ain’t. But other
folks you know have. It’s the biggest joke on earth. You and Sim’ll want
to hear it.”

He waved a big hand and walked briskly up the Shore Road. The depot
master turned to his friend.

“Well, Sim?” he asked.

“Well, Sol,” answered the building mover gravely, “I’ve just met Mr.
Hilton, the minister, and he told me somethin’ about Olive Edwards,
somethin’ I thought you’d want to know. You said for me to find out what
she was cal’latin’ to do when she had to give up her home and--”

“I know what I said,” interrupted the depot master rather sharply. “What
did Hilton say?”

“Mr. Hilton told me not to tell,” continued Phinney, “and I shan’t tell
nobody but you, Sol. I know you wont t mention it. The minister says
that Olive’s hard up as she can be. All she’s got in the world is the
little furniture and store stuff in her house. The store stuff don’t
amount to nothin’, but the furniture belonged to her pa and ma, and she
set a heap by it. Likewise, as everybody knows, she’s awful proud and
self-respectin’. Anything like charity would kill her. Now out West--in
Omaha or somewheres--she’s got a cousin who owed her dad money. Old
Cap’n Seabury lent this Omaha man two or three thousand dollars and set
him up in business. Course, the debt’s outlawed, but Olive don’t
realize that, or, if she did, it wouldn’t count with her. She couldn’t
understand how law would have any effect on payin’ money you honestly
owe. She’s written to the Omaha cousin, tellin’ him what a scrape she’s
in and askin’ him to please, if convenient, let her have a thousand or
so on account. She figgers if she gets that, she can go to Bayport or
Orham or somewheres and open another notion store.”

Captain Berry lit a cigar. “Hum!” he said, after a minute. “You say
she’s written to this chap. Has she got an answer yet?”

“No, not any definite one. She heard from the man’s wife sayin’ that her
husband--the cousin--had gone on a fishin’ trip somewheres up in Canady
and wouldn’t be back afore the eighth of next month. Soon’s he does come
he’ll write her. But Mr. Hilton thinks, and so do I--havin’ heard a
few things about this cousin--that it’s mighty doubtful if he sends any
money.”

“Yes, I shouldn’t wonder. Where’s Olive goin’ to stay while she’s
waitin’ to hear?”

“In her own house. Mr. Hilton went to Williams and pleaded with him, and
he finally agreed to let her stay there until the ‘Colonial’ is moved
onto the lot. Then the Edwardses house’ll be tore down and Olive’ll have
to go, of course.”

The depot master puffed thoughtfully at his cigar.

“She won’t hear before the tenth, at the earliest,” he said. “And if
Williams begins to move his ‘Colonial’ at once, he’ll get it to her lot
by the seventh, sure. Have you given him your figures for the job?”

“Handed ‘em in this very mornin’. One of his high-and-mighty servants,
all brass buttons and braid, like a feller playin’ in the band, took my
letter and condescended to say he’d pass it on to Williams. I’d liked
to have kicked the critter, just to see if he COULD unbend; but I jedged
‘twouldn’t be good business.”

“Probably not. If the ‘Colonial’ gets to Olive’s lot afore she hears
from the Omaha man, what then?”

“Well, that’s the worst of it. The minister don’t know what she’ll do.
There’s plenty of places where she’d be more’n welcome to visit a spell,
but she’s too proud to accept. Mr. Hilton’s afraid she’ll start for
Boston to hunt up a job, or somethin’. You know how much chance she
stands of gettin’ a job that’s wuth anything.”

Phinney paused, anxiously awaiting his companion’s reply. When it came
it was very unsatisfactory.

“I’m goin’ to the depot,” said the Captain, brusquely. “So long, Sim.”

He slammed the door of the house behind him, strode to the gate, flung
it open, and marched on. Simeon gazed in astonishment, then hurried
to overtake him. Ranging alongside, he endeavored to reopen the
conversation, but to no purpose. The depot master would not talk. They
turned into Cross Street.

“Well!” exclaimed Mr. Phinney, panting from his unaccustomed hurry,
“what be we, runnin’ a race? Why! . . . Oh, how d’ye do, Mr. Williams,
sir? Want to see me, do you?”

The magnate of East Harniss stepped forward.

“Er--Phinney,” he said, “I want a moment of your time. Morning, Berry.”

“Mornin’, Williams,” observed Captain Sol brusquely. “All right, Sim.
I’ll wait for you farther on.”

He continued his walk. The building mover stood still. Mr. Williams
frowned with lofty indignation.

“Phinney,” he said, “I’ve just looked over those figures of yours, your
bid for moving my new house. The price is ridiculous.”

Simeon attempted a pleasantry. “Yes,” he answered, “I thought ‘twas
ridic’lous myself; but I needed the money, so I thought I could afford
to be funny.”

The Williams frown deepened.

“I didn’t mean ridiculously low,” he snapped; “I meant ridiculously
high. I’d rather help out you town fellows if I can, but you can’t work
me for a good thing. I’ve written to Colt and Adams, of Boston, and
accepted their offer. You had your chance and didn’t see fit to take it.
That’s all. I’m sorry.”

Simeon was angry; also a trifle skeptical.

“Mr. Williams,” he demanded, “do you mean to tell me that THEM people
have agreed to move you cheaper’n I can?”

“Their price--their actual price may be no lower; but considering their
up-to-date outfit and--er--progressive methods, they’re cheaper. Yes.
Morning, Phinney.”

He turned on his heel and walked off. Mr. Phinney, crestfallen and
angrier than ever, moved on to where the depot master stood waiting for
him. Captain Sol smiled grimly.

“You don’t look merry as a Christmas tree, Sim,” he observed. “What did
his Majesty have to say to you?”

Simeon related the talk with Williams. The depot master’s grim smile
grew broader.

“Sim,” he asked, with quiet sarcasm, “don’t you realize that progressive
methods are necessary in movin’ a house?”

Phinney tried to smile in return, but the attempt was a failure.

“Yes,” went on the Captain. “Well, if you can’t take the Grand
Panjandrum home, you can set on the fence and see him go by. That
ought to be honor enough, hadn’t it? However, I may need some of your
ridiculous figgers on a movin’ job of my own, pretty soon. Don’t be TOO
comical, will you?”

“What do you mean by that, Sol Berry?”

“I mean that I may decide to move my own house.”

“Move your OWN house? Where to, for mercy sakes?”

“To that lot on Main Street that belongs to Abner Payne. Abner has
wanted to buy my lot here on the Shore Road for a long time. He knows
it’ll make a fine site for some rich bigbug’s summer ‘cottage.’ He would
have bought the house, too, but I think too much of that to sell it.
Now Abner’s come back with another offer. He’ll swap my lot for the Main
Street one, pay my movin’ expenses and a fair ‘boot’ besides. He don’t
really care for my HOUSE, you understand; it’s my LAND he’s after.”

“Are you goin’ to take it up?”

“I don’t know. The Main Street lot’s a good one, and my house’ll look
good on it. And I’ll make money by the deal.”

“Yes, but you’ve always swore by that saltwater view of yours. Told me
yourself you never wanted to live anywheres else.”

Captain Sol took the cigar from his lips, looked at it, then threw it
violently into the gutter.

“What difference does it make where I live?” he snarled. “Who in blazes
cares where I live or whether I live at all?”

“Sol Berry, what on airth--”

“Shut up! Let me alone, Sim! I ain’t fit company for anybody just now.
Clear out, there’s a good feller.”

The next moment he was striding down the hill. Mr. Phinney drew a long
breath, scratched his head and shook it solemnly. WHAT did it all mean?



CHAPTER VIII

THE OBLIGATIONS OF A GENTLEMAN


The methods of Messrs. Colt and Adams, the Boston firm of building
movers, were certainly progressive, if promptness in getting to work
is any criterion. Two days after the acceptance of their terms by Mr.
Williams, a freight car full of apparatus arrived at East Harniss. Then
came a foreman and a gang of laborers. Horses were hired, and within a
week the “pure Colonial” was off its foundations and on its way to the
Edwards lot. The moving was no light task. The big house must be brought
along the Shore Road to the junction with the Hill Boulevard, then swung
into that aristocratic highway and carried up the long slope, around the
wide curve, to its destination.

Mr. Phinney, though he hated the whole operation, those having it in
charge, and the mighty Williams especially, could not resist stealing
down to see how his successful rivals were progressing with the work
he had hoped to do. It caused him much chagrin to see that they were
getting on so very well. One morning, after breakfast, as he stood at
the corner of the Boulevard and the Shore Road, he found himself engaged
in a mental calculation.

Three days more and they would swing into the Boulevard; four or five
days after that and they would be abreast the Edwards lot. Another day
and . . . Poor Olive! She would be homeless. Where would she go? It
was too early for a reply from the Omaha cousin, but Simeon, having
questioned the minister, had little hope that that reply would be
favorable. Still it was a chance, and if the money SHOULD come before
the “pure Colonial” reached the Edwards lot, then the widow would at
least not be driven penniless from her home. She would have to leave
that home in any event, but she could carry out her project of opening
another shop in one of the neighboring towns. Otherwise . . . Mr.
Phinney swore aloud.

“Humph!” said a voice behind him. “I agree with you, though I don’t
know what it’s all about. I ain’t heard anything better put for a long
while.”

Simeon spun around, as he said afterwards, “like a young one’s
pinwheel.” At his elbow stood Captain Berry, the depot master, hands
in pockets, cigar in mouth, the personification of calmness and
imperturbability. He had come out of his house, which stood close to the
corner, and walked over to join his friend.

“Land of love!” exclaimed Simeon. “Why don’t you scare a fellow to
death, tiptoein’ around? I never see such a cat-foot critter!”

Captain Sol smiled. “Jumpin’ it, ain’t they?” he said, nodding toward
the “Colonial.” “Be there by the tenth, won’t it?”

“Tenth!” Mr. Phinney sniffed disgust. “It’ll be there by the sixth, or I
miss my guess.”

“Yup. Say, Sim, how soon could you land that shanty of mine in the road
if I give you the job to move it?”

“I couldn’t get it up to the Main Street lot inside of a fortnight,”
 replied Sim, after a moment’s reflection. “Fur’s gettin’ it in the road
goes, I could have it here day after to-morrow if I had gang enough.”

The depot master took the cigar out of his mouth and blew a ring of
smoke. “All right,” he drawled, “get gang enough.”

Phinney jumped. “You mean you’ve decided to take up with Payne’s offer
and swap your lot for his?” he gasped. “Why, only two or three days ago
you said--”

“Ya-as. That was two or three days ago, and I’ve been watchin’ the
‘Colonial’ since. I cal’late the movin’ habit’s catchin’. You have your
gang here by noon to-day.”

“Sol Berry, are you crazy? You ain’t seen Abner Payne; he’s out of
town--”

“Don’t have to see him. He’s made me an offer and I’ll write and accept
it.”

“But you’ve got to have a selectmen’s permit to move--”

“Got it. I went up and saw the chairman an hour ago. He’s a friend of
mine. I nominated him town-meetin’ day.”

“But,” stammered Phinney, very much upset by the suddenness of it all,
“you ain’t got my price nor--”

“Drat your price! Give it when I ask it. See here, Sim, are you goin’ to
have my house in the middle of the road by day after to-morrer? Or was
that just talk?”

“‘Twa’n’t talk. I can have it there, but--”

“All right,” said Captain Sol coolly, “then have it.”

Hands in pockets, he strolled away. Simeon sat down on a rock by the
roadside and whistled.

However, whistling was a luxurious and time-wasting method of expressing
amazement, and Mr. Phinney could not afford luxuries just then. For the
rest of that day he was a busy man. As Bailey Stitt expressed it, he
“flew round like a sand flea in a mitten,” hiring laborers, engaging
masons, and getting his materials ready. That very afternoon the masons
began tearing down the chimneys of the little Berry house. Before the
close of the following day it was on the rollers. By two of the day
after that it was in the middle of the Shore Road, just when its mover
had declared it should be. They were moving it, furniture and all,
and Captain Sol was, as he said, going to “stay right aboard all the
voyage.” No cooking could be done, of course, but the Captain arranged
to eat at Mrs. Higgins’s hospitable table during the transit. His sudden
freak was furnishing material for gossip throughout the village, but he
did not care. Gossip concerning his actions was the last thing in the
world to trouble Captain Sol Berry.

The Williams’s “Colonial” was moving toward the corner at a rapid
rate, and the foreman of the Boston moving firm walked over to see Mr.
Phinney.

“Say,” he observed to Simeon, who, the perspiration streaming down
his face, was resting for a moment before recommencing his labor of
arranging rollers; “say,” observed the foreman, “we’ll be ready to turn
into the Boulevard by tomorrer night and you’re blockin’ the way.”

“That’s all right,” said Simeon, “we’ll be past the Boulevard corner by
that time.”

He thought he was speaking the truth, but next morning, before work
began, Captain Berry appeared. He had had breakfast and strolled around
to the scene of operations.

“Well,” asked Phinney, “how’d it seem to sleep on wheels?”

“Tiptop,” replied the depot master. “Like it fust rate. S’pose my next
berth will be somewheres up there, won’t it?”

He was pointing around the corner instead of straight ahead. Simeon
gaped, his mouth open.

“Up THERE?” he cried. “Why, of course not. That’s the Boulevard. We’re
goin’ along the Shore Road.”

“That so? I guess not. We’re goin’ by the Boulevard. Can go that way,
can’t we?”

“Can?” repeated Simeon aghast. “Course we CAN! But it’s like boxin’ the
whole compass backward to get ha’f a p’int east of no’th. It’s way round
Robin Hood’s barn. It’ll take twice as long and cost--”

“That’s good,” interrupted the Captain. “I like to travel, and I’m
willin’ to pay for it. Think of the view I’ll get on the way.”

“But your permit from the selectmen--” began Phinney. Berry held up his
hand.

“My permit never said nothin’ about the course to take,” he answered,
his eye twinkling just a little. “There, Sim, you’re wastin’ time. I
move by the Hill Boulevard.”

And into the Boulevard swung the Berry house. The Colt and Adams foreman
was an angry man when he saw the beams laid in that direction. He rushed
over and asked profane and pointed questions.

“Thought you said you was goin’ straight ahead?” he demanded.

“Thought I was,” replied Simeon, “but, you see, I’m only navigator of
this craft, not owner.”

“Where is the blankety blank?” asked the foreman.

“If you’re referrin’ to Cap’n Berry, I cal’late you’ll find him at
the depot,” answered Phinney. To the depot went the foreman. Receiving
little satisfaction there, he hurried to the home of his employer, Mr.
Williams. The magnate, red-faced and angry, returned with him to
the station. Captain Sol received them blandly. Issy, who heard the
interview which followed, declared that the depot master was so cool
that “an iceberg was a bonfire ‘longside of him.” Issy’s description
of this interview, given to a dozen townspeople within the next three
hours, was as follows:

“Mr. Williams,” said the wide-eyed Issy, “he comes postin’ into the
waitin’ room, his foreman with him. Williams marches over to Cap’n Sol
and he says, ‘Berry,’ he says, ‘are you responsible for the way that
house of yours is moved?’

“Cap’n Sol bowed and smiled. ‘Yes,’ says he, sweet as a fresh scallop.

“‘You’re movin’ it to Main Street, aren’t you? I so understood.’

“‘You understood correct. That’s where she’s bound.’

“‘Then what do you mean by turning out of your road and into mine?’

“‘Oh, I don’t own any road. Have you bought the Boulevard? The selectmen
ought to have told us that. I s’posed it was town thoroughfare.’

“Mr. Williams colored up a little. ‘I didn’t mean my road in that
sense,’ he says. ‘But the direct way to Main Street is along the
shore, and everybody knows it. Now why do you turn from that into the
Boulevard?’

“Cap’n Sol took a cigar from his pocket. ‘Have one?’ says he, passin’ it
toward Mr. Williams. ‘No? Too soon after breakfast, I s’pose. Why do
I turn off?’ he goes on. ‘Well, I’ll tell you. I’m goin’ to stay right
aboard my shack while it’s movin’, and it’s so much pleasanter a ride up
the hill that I thought I’d go that way. I always envied them who could
afford a house on the Boulevard, and now I’ve got the chance to have one
there--for a spell. I’m sartin I shall enjoy it.’

“The foreman growled, disgusted. Mr. Williams got redder yet.

“‘Don’t you understand?’ he snorts. ‘You’re blockin’ the way of the
house I’M movin’. I have capable men with adequate apparatus to move
it, and they would be able to go twice as fast as your one-horse country
outfit. You’re blockin’ the road. Now they must follow you. It’s an
outrage!’

“Cap’n Sol smiled once more. ‘Too bad,’ says he. ‘It’s a pity such
a nice street ain’t wider. If it was my street in my town--I b’lieve
that’s what you call East Harniss, ain’t it?--seems to me I’d widen it.’

“The boss of ‘my town’ ground his heel into the sand. ‘Berry,’ he snaps,
‘are you goin’ to move that house over the Boulevard ahead of mine?’

“The Cap’n looked him square in the eye. ‘Williams,’ says he, ‘I am.’

“The millionaire turned short and started to go.

“‘You’ll pay for it,’ he snarls, his temper gettin’ free at last.

“‘I cal’late to,’ purrs the Cap’n. ‘I gen’rally do pay for what I want,
and a fair price, at that. I never bought in cheap mortgages and held
‘em for clubs over poor folks, never in my life. Good mornin’.’

“And right to Mr. Williams’s own face, too,” concluded Issy. “WHAT do
you think of that?”

Here was defiance of authority and dignity, a sensation which should
have racked East Harniss from end to end. But most of the men in the
village, the tradespeople particularly, had another matter on their
minds, namely, Major Cuthbertson Scott Hardee, of “Silverleaf Hall.” The
Major and his debts were causing serious worriment.

The creditors of the Major met, according to agreement, on the Monday
evening following their previous gathering at the club. Obed Gott, one
of the first to arrive, greeted his fellow members with an air of gloomy
triumph and a sort of condescending pity.

Higgins, the “general store” keeper, acting as self-appointed chairman,
asked if anyone had anything to report. For himself, he had seen the
Major and asked point-blank for payment of his bill. The Major had been
very polite and was apparently much concerned that his fellow townsmen
should have been inconvenienced by any neglect of his. He would write to
his attorneys at once, so he said.

“He said a whole lot more, too,” added Higgins. “Said he had never been
better served than by the folks in this town, and that I kept a fine
store, and so on and so forth. But I haven’t got any money yet. Anybody
else had any better luck?”

No one had, although several had had similar interviews with the master
of “Silverleaf Hall.”

“Obed looks as if he knew somethin’,” remarked Weeks. “What is it,
Obed?”

Mr. Gott scornfully waved his hand.

“You fellers make me laugh,” he said. “You talk and talk, but you don’t
do nothin’. I b’lieve in doin’, myself. When I went home t’other night,
thinks I: ‘There’s one man that might know somethin’ ‘bout old Hardee,
and that’s Godfrey, the hotel man.’ So I wrote to Godfrey up to Boston
and I got a letter from him. Here ‘tis.”

He read the letter aloud. Mr. Godfrey wrote that he knew nothing about
Major Hardee further than that he had been able to get nothing from him
in payment for his board.

“So I seized his trunk,” the letter concluded. “There was nothing in it
worth mentioning, but I took it on principle. The Major told me a
lot about writing to his attorneys for money, but I didn’t pay much
attention to that. I’m afraid he’s an old fraud, but I can’t help liking
him, and if I had kept on running my hotel I guess he would have got
away scot-free.”

“There!” exclaimed the triumphant Obed, with a sneer, “I guess that
settles it, don’t it? Maybe you’d be willin’ to turn your bills over to
Squire Baker now.”

But they were not willing. Higgins argued, and justly, that although the
Major was in all probability a fraud, not even a lawyer could get water
out of a stone, and that when a man had nothing, suing him was a waste
of time and cash.

“Besides,” he said, “there’s just a chance that he may have attorneys
and property somewheres else. Let’s write him a letter and every one of
us sign it, tellin’ him that we’ll call on him Tuesday night expectin’
to be paid in full. If we call and don’t get any satisfaction, why,
we ain’t any worse off, and then we can--well, run him out of town, if
nothin’ more.”

So the letter was written and signed by every man there. It was a long
list of signatures and an alarming total of indebtedness. The letter was
posted that night.

The days that followed seemed long to Obed. He was ill-natured at home
and ugly at the shop, and Polena declared that he was “gettin’ so a body
couldn’t live with him.” Her own spirits were remarkably high, and Obed
noticed that, as the days went by, she seemed to be unusually excited.
On Thursday she announced that she was going to Orham to visit her
niece, one Sarah Emma Cahoon, and wouldn’t be back right off. He knew
better than to object, and so she went.

That evening each of the signers of the letter to Major Hardee received
a courteous note saying that the Major would be pleased to receive the
gentlemen at the Hall. Nothing was said about payment.

So, after some discussion, the creditors marched in procession across
the fields and up to “Silverleaf Hall.”

“Hardee’s been to Orham to-day,” whispered the keeper of the livery
stable, as they entered the yard. “He drove over this mornin’ and come
back to-night.”

“DROVE over!” exclaimed Obed, halting in his tracks. “He did? Where’d he
get the team? I’ll bet five dollars you was soft enough to let him have
it, and never said a word. Well, if you ain’t--By jimmy! you wait till I
get at him! I’ll show you that he can’t soft soap me.”

Augustus met them at the door and ushered them into the old-fashioned
parlor. The Major, calm, cool, and imperturbably polite, was waiting to
receive them. He made some observation concerning the weather.

“The day’s fine enough,” interrupted Obed, pushing to the front, “but
that ain’t what we come here to talk about. Are you goin’ to pay us what
you owe? That’s what we want to know.”

The “gentleman of the old school” did not answer immediately. Instead he
turned to the solemn servant at his elbow.

“Augustus,” he said, “you may make ready.” Then, looking serenely at the
irate Mr. Gott, whose clenched fist rested under the center table, which
he had thumped to emphasize his demands, the Major asked:

“I beg your pardon, my dear sir, but what is the total of my
indebtedness to you?”

“Nineteen dollars and twenty-eight cents, and I want you to understand
that--”

Major Hardee held up a slim, white hand.

“One moment, if you please,” he said. “Now, Augustus.”

Augustus opened the desk in the corner and produced an imposing stack of
bank notes. Then he brought forth neat piles of halves, quarters, dimes,
and pennies, and arranged the whole upon the table. Obed’s mouth and
those of his companions gaped in amazement.

“Have you your bill with you, Mr. Gott?” inquired the Major.

Dazedly Mr. Gott produced the required document.

“Thank you. Augustus, nineteen twenty-eight to this gentleman. Kindly
receipt the bill, Mr. Gott, if you please. A mere formality, of course,
but it is well to be exact. Thank you, sir. And now, Mr. Higgins.”

One by one the creditors shamefacedly stepped forward, received the
amount due, receipted the bill, and stepped back again. Mr. Peters, the
photographer, was the last to sign.

“Gentlemen,” said the Major, “I am sorry that my carelessness in
financial matters should have caused you this trouble, but now that you
are here, a representative gathering of East Harniss’s men of affairs,
upon this night of all nights, it seems fitting that I should ask for
your congratulations. Augustus.”

The wooden-faced Augustus retired to the next room and reappeared
carrying a tray upon which were a decanter and glasses.

“Gentlemen,” continued the Major, “I have often testified to my
admiration and regard for your--perhaps I may now say OUR--charming
village. This admiration and regard has extended to the fair daughters
of the township. It may be that some of you have conscientious scruples
against the use of intoxicants. These scruples I respect, but I am sure
that none of you will refuse to at least taste a glass of wine with me
when I tell you that I have this day taken one of the fairest to love
and cherish during life.”

He stepped to the door of the dining room, opened it, and said quietly,
“My dear, will you honor us with your presence?”

There was a rustle of black silk and there came through the doorway the
stately form of her who had been Mrs. Polena Ginn.

“Gentlemen,” said the Major, “permit me to present to you my wife, the
new mistress of ‘Silverleaf Hall.’”

The faces of the ex-creditors were pictures of astonishment. Mr. Gott’s
expressive countenance turned white, then red, and then settled to a
mottled shade, almost as if he had the measles. Polena rushed to his
side.

“O Obed!” she exclaimed. “I know we’d ought to have told you, but ‘twas
only Tuesday the Major asked me, and we thought we’d keep it a secret
so’s to s’prise you. Mr. Langworthy over to Orham married us, and--”

“My dear,” her husband blandly interrupted, “we will not intrude our
private affairs upon the patience of these good friends. And now,
gentlemen, let me propose a toast: To the health and happiness of the
mistress of ‘Silverleaf Hall’! Brother Obed, I--”

The outside door closed with a slam; “Brother Obed” had fled.

A little later, when the rest of the former creditors of the Major came
out into the moonlight, they found their companion standing by the
gate gazing stonily into vacancy. “Hen” Leadbetter, who, with Higgins,
brought up the rear of the procession, said reflectively:

“When he fust fetched out that stack of money I couldn’t scarcely
b’lieve my eyes. I begun to think that we fellers had put our foot in
it for sartin, and had lost a mighty good customer; but, of course, it’s
all plain enough NOW.”

“Yes,” remarked Weeks with a nod; “I allers heard that P’lena kept a
mighty good balance in the bank.”

“It looks to me,” said Higgins slyly, “as if we owed Obed here a vote of
thanks. How ‘bout that, Obed?”

And then Major Hardee’s new brother-in-law awoke with a jump.

“Aw, you go to grass!” he snarled, and tramped savagely off down the
hill.



CHAPTER IX

THE WIDOW BASSETT


These developments, Major Hardee’s marriage and Mr. Gott’s discomfiture,
overshadowed, for the time, local interest in the depot master’s house
moving. This was, in its way, rather fortunate, for those who took the
trouble to walk down to the lower end of the Boulevard were astonished
to see how very slowly the moving was progressing.

“Only one horse, Sim?” asked Captain Hiram Baker. “Only one! Why, it’ll
take you forever to get through, won’t it?”

“I’m afraid it’ll take quite a spell,” admitted Mr. Phinney.

“Where’s your other one, the white one?”

“The white horse,” said Simeon slowly, “ain’t feelin’ just right and
I’ve had to lay him off.”

“Humph! that’s too bad. How does Sol act about it? He’s such a hustler,
I should think--”

“Sol,” interrupted Sim, “ain’t unreasonable. He understands.”

He chuckled inwardly as he said it. Captain Sol did understand. Also Mr.
Phinney himself was beginning to understand a little.

The very day on which Williams and his foreman had called on the depot
master and been dismissed so unceremoniously, that official paid a short
visit to his mover.

“Sim,” he said, the twinkle still in his eye, “his Majesty, Williams
the Conqueror, was in to see me just now and acted real peevish. He was
pretty disrespectful to you, too. Called your outfit ‘one horse.’ That’s
a mistake, because you’ve got two horses at work right now. It seems a
shame to make a great man like that lie. Hadn’t you better lay off one
of them horses?”

“Lay one OFF?” exclaimed Simeon. “What for? Why, we’ll be slow enough,
as ‘tis. With only one horse we wouldn’t get through for I don’t know
how long.”

“That’s so,” murmured the Captain. “I s’pose with one horse you’d hardly
reach the middle of the Boulevard by--well, before the tenth of the
month. Hey?”

The tenth of the month! The TENTH! Why, it was on the tenth that that
Omaha cousin of Olive Edwards was to--Mr. Phinney began to see--to see
and to grin, slow but expansive.

“Hm-m-m!” he mused.

“Yes,” observed Captain Sol. “That white horse of yours looks sort of
ailin’ to me, Sim. I think he needs a rest.”

And, sure enough, next day the white horse was pronounced unfit and
taken back to the stable. The depot master’s dwelling moved, but that is
all one could say truthfully concerning its progress.

At the depot the Captain was quieter than usual. He joked with his
assistant less than had been his custom, and for the omission Issy
was duly grateful. Sometimes Captain Sol would sit for minutes without
speaking. He seemed to be thinking and to be pondering some grave
problem. When his friends, Mr. Wingate, Captain Stitt, Hiram Baker, and
the rest, dropped in on him he cheered up and was as conversational as
ever. After they had gone he relapsed into his former quiet mood.

“He acts sort of blue, to me,” declared Issy, speaking from the depths
of sensational-novel knowledge. “If he was a younger man I’d say he was
most likely in love. Ah, hum! I s’pose bein’ in love does get a feller
mournful, don’t it?”

Issy made this declaration to his mother only. He knew better than to
mention sentiment to male acquaintances. The latter were altogether too
likely to ask embarrassing questions.

Mr. Wingate and Captain Stitt were still in town, although their stay
was drawing to a close. One afternoon they entered the station together.
Captain Sol seemed glad to see them.

“Set down, fellers,” he ordered. “I swan I’m glad to see you. I ain’t
fit company for myself these days.”

“Ain’t Betsy Higgins feedin’ you up to the mark?” asked Stitt. “Or is
house movin’ gettin’ on your vitals?”

“No,” growled the depot master, “grub’s all right and so’s movin’,
I cal’late. I’m glad you fellers come in. What’s the news to Orham,
Barzilla? How’s the Old Home House boarders standin’ it? Hear from
Jonadab regular, do you?”

Mr. Wingate laughed. “Nothin’ much,” he said. “Jonadab’s too busy
to write these days. Bein’ a sport interferes with letter writing
consider’ble.”

“Sport!” exclaimed Captain Bailey. “Land of Goshen! Cap’n Jonadab is the
last one I’d call a sport.”

“That’s ‘cause you ain’t a good judge of human nature, Bailey,” chuckled
Barzilla. “When ancient plants like Jonadab Wixon DO bloom, they’re gay
old blossoms, I tell you!”

“What do you mean?” asked the depot master.

“I mean that Jonadab’s been givin’ me heart disease, that’s what; givin’
it to me in a good many diff’rent ways, too. We opened the Old Home
House the middle of April this year, because Peter T. Brown thought we
might catch some spring trade. We did catch a little, though whether it
paid to open up so early’s a question. But ‘twas June ‘fore Jonadab got
his disease so awful bad. However, most any time in the last part of May
the reg’lar programme of the male boarders was stirrin’ him up.

“Take it of a dull day, for instance. Sky overcast and the wind aidgin’
round to the sou’east, so’s you couldn’t tell whether ‘twould rain or
fair off; too cold to go off to the ledge cod fishin’ and too hot for
billiards or bowlin’; a bunch of the younger women folks at one end
of the piazza playin’ bridge; half a dozen men, includin’ me and Cap’n
Jonadab, smokin’ and tryin’ to keep awake at t’other end; amidships a
gang of females--all ‘fresh air fiends’--and mainly widows or discards
in the matrimony deal, doin’ fancywork and gossip. That would be about
the usual layout.

“Conversation got to you in homeopath doses, somethin’ like this:

“‘Did you say “Spades”? WELL! if I’d known you were going to make us
lose our deal like that, I’d never have bridged it--not with THIS hand.’

“‘Oh, Miss Gabble, have you heard what people are sayin’ about--’ The
rest of it whispers.

“‘A--oo--OW! By George, Bill! this is dead enough, isn’t it? Shall we
match for the cigars or are you too lazy?’

“Then, from away off in the stillness would come a drawn-out ‘Honk!
honk!’ like a wild goose with the asthma, and pretty soon up the road
would come sailin’ a big red automobile, loaded to the guards with
goggles and grandeur, and whiz past the hotel in a hurricane of dust and
smell. Then all hands would set up and look interested, and Bill would
wink acrost at his chum and drawl:

“‘That’s the way to get over the country! Why, a horse isn’t
one--two--three with that! Cap’n Wixon, I’m surprised that a sportin’
man like you hasn’t bought one of those things long afore this.’

“For the next twenty minutes there wouldn’t be any dullness. Jonadab
would take care of that. He’d have the floor and be givin’ his opinions
of autos and them that owned and run ‘em. And between the drops of his
language shower you’d see them boarders nudgin’ each other and rockin’
back and forth contented and joyful.

“It always worked. No matter what time of day or night, all you had to
say was ‘auto’ and Cap’n Jonadab would sail up out of his chair like one
of them hot-air balloons the youngsters nowadays have on Fourth of July.
And he wouldn’t come down till he was empty of remarks, nuther. You
never see a man get so red faced and eloquent.

“It wa’n’t because he couldn’t afford one himself. I know that’s the
usual reason for them kind of ascensions, but ‘twa’n’t his. No, sir!
the summer hotel business has put a considerable number of dollars in
Jonadab’s hands, and the said hands are like a patent rat trap, a
mighty sight easier to get into than out of. He could have bought three
automobiles if he’d wanted to, but he didn’t want to. And the reason he
didn’t was named Tobias Loveland and lived over to Orham.”

“I know Tobias,” interrupted Captain Bailey Stitt.

“Course you do,” continued Barzilla. “So does Sol, I guess. Well,
anyhow, Tobias and Cap’n Jonadab never did hitch. When they was boys
together at school they was always rowin’ and fightin’, and when they
grew up to be thirty and courted the same girl--ten years younger than
either of ‘em, she was--twa’n’t much better. Neither of ‘em got her,
as a matter of fact; she married a tin peddler named Bassett over to
Hyannis. But both cal’lated they would have won if t’other hadn’t been
in the race, and consequently they loved each other with a love that
passed understandin’. Tobias had got well to do in the cranberry-raisin’
line and drove a fast horse. Jonadab, durin’ the last prosperous year
or two, had bought what he thought was some horse, likewise. They met
on the road one day last spring and trotted alongside one another for a
mile. At the end of that mile Jonadab’s craft’s jib boom was just astern
of Tobias’s rudder. Inside of that week the Cap’n had swapped his horse
for one with a two-thirty record, and the next time they met Tobias was
left with a beautiful, but dusty, view of Jonadab’s back hair. So HE
bought a new horse. And that was the beginnin’.

“It went along that way for twelve months. Fust one feller’s nag would
come home freighted with perspiration and glory, and then t’other’s. One
week Jonadab would be so bloated with horse pride that he couldn’t find
room for his vittles, and the next he’d be out in the stable growlin’
‘cause it cost so much for hay to stuff an old hide rack that wa’n’t
fit to put in a museum. At last it got so that neither one could find a
better horse on the Cape, and the two they had was practically an even
match. I begun to have hopes that the foolishness was over. And then the
tin peddler’s widow drifts in to upset the whole calabash.

“She made port at Orham fust, this Henrietta Bassett did, and the style
she slung killed every female Goliath in the Orham sewin’ circle dead.
Seems her husband that was had been an inventor, as a sort of side line
to peddlin’ tinware, and all to once he invented somethin’ that worked.
He made money--nobody knew how much, though all hands had a guess--and
pretty soon afterwards he made a will and Henrietta a widow. She’d been
livin’ in New York, so she said, and had come back to revisit the scenes
of her childhood. She was a mighty well-preserved woman--artificial
preservatives, I cal’late, like some kinds of tomatter ketchup--and her
comin’ stirred Orham way down to the burnt places on the bottom of the
kettle.”

“I guess I remember HER, too,” put in Captain Bailey.

“Say!” queried Mr. Wingate snappishly, “do you want to tell about her?
If you do, why--”

“Belay, both of you!” ordered the depot master. “Heave ahead, Barzilla.”

“The news of her got over to Wellmouth, and me and Jonadab heard of it.
He was some subject to widows--most widower men are, I guess--but he
didn’t develop no alarmin’ symptoms in this case and never even hinted
that he’d like to see his old girl. Fact is, his newest horse trade had
showed that it was afraid of automobiles, and he was beginnin’ to get
rabid along that line. Then come that afternoon when him and me was out
drivin’ together, and we--Well, I’ll have to tell you about that.

“We was over on the long stretch of wood road between Trumet and
Denboro, nice hard macadam, the mare--her name was Celia, but Jonadab
had re-christened her Bay Queen after a boat he used to own--skimmin’
along at a smooth, easy gait, when, lo and behold you! we rounds a turn
and there ahead of us is a light, rubber-tired wagon with a man and
woman on the seat of it. I heard Jonadab give a kind of snort.

“‘What’s the matter?’ says I.

“‘Nothin’,’ says he, between his teeth. ‘Only, if I ain’t some mistaken,
that’s Tobe Loveland’s rig. Wonder if he’s got his spunk with him? The
Queen’s feelin’ her oats to-day, and I cal’late I can show him a few
things.’

“‘Rubbish!’ says I, disgusted. ‘Don’t be foolish, Jonadab. I don’t know
nothin’ about his spunk, but I do know there’s a woman with him. ‘Tain’t
likely he’ll want to race you when he’s got a passenger aboard.’

“‘Oh, I don’t know!’ says he. ‘I’ve got you, Barzilla; so ‘twill be two
and two. Let’s heave alongside and see.’

“So he clucked to the Queen, and in a jiffy we was astern of t’other
rig. Loveland looked back over his shoulder.

“‘Ugh!’ he grunts, ‘bout as cordial as a plate of ice cream. ‘’Lo,
Wixon, that you?’

“‘Um-hm,’ begins Jonadab. ‘How’s that crowbait of yours to-day, Tobe?
Got any go in him? ‘Cause if he has, I--’

“He stopped short. The woman in Loveland’s carriage had turned her head
and was starin’ hard.

“‘Why!’ she gasps. ‘I do believe--Why, Jonadab!’

“‘HETTIE!’ says the Cap’n.

“Well, after that ‘twas pull up, of course, and shake hands and talk.
The widow, she done most of the talkin’. She was SO glad to see him. How
had he been all these years? She knew him instantly. He hadn’t changed
a mite--that is, not so VERY much. She was plannin’ to come over to the
Old Home House and stay a spell later on; but now she was havin’ SUCH a
good time in Orham, Tobias--Mr. Loveland--was makin’ it SO pleasant for
her. She did enjoy drivin’ so much, and Mr. Loveland had the fastest
horse in the county--did we know that?

“Tobias and Jonadab glowered back and forth while all this gush was
bein’ turned loose, and hardly spoke to one another. But when ‘twas over
and we was ready to start again, the Cap’n says, says he:

“‘I’ll be mighty glad to see you over to the hotel, when you’re ready to
come, Hettie. I can take you ridin’, too. Fur’s horse goes, I’ve got a
pretty good one myself.’

“‘Oh!’ squeals the widow. ‘Really? Is that him? It’s awful pretty, and
he looks fast.’

“‘She is,’ says Jonadab. ‘There’s nothin’ round here can beat her.’

“‘Humph!’ says Loveland. ‘Git dap!’

“‘Git dap!’ says Jonadab, agreein’ with him for once.

“Tobias started, and we started. Tobias makes his horse go a little
faster, and Jonadab speeded up some likewise. I see how ‘twas goin’ to
be, and therefore I wa’n’t surprised to death when the next ten minutes
found us sizzlin’ down that road, neck and neck with Loveland, dust
flyin’, hoofs poundin’, and the two drivers leanin’ way for’ard over
the dash, reins gripped and teeth sot. For a little ways ‘twas an even
thing, and then we commenced to pull ahead a little.

“‘Loveland,’ yells Jonadab, out of the port corner of his mouth, ‘if
I ain’t showin’ you my tailboard by the time we pass the fust house in
Denboro, I’ll eat my Sunday hat.’

“I cal’late he would ‘a’ beat, too. We was drawin’ ahead all the time
and had a three-quarter length lead when we swung clear of the woods and
sighted Denboro village, quarter of a mile away. And up the road comes
flyin’ a big auto, goin’ to beat the cars.

“Let’s forget the next few minutes; they wa’n’t pleasant ones for me.
Soon’s the Bay Queen sot eyes on that auto, she stopped trottin’ and
commenced to hop; from hoppin’ she changed to waltzin’ and high jumpin’.
When the smoke had cleared, the auto was out of sight and we was in the
bushes alongside the road, with the Queen just gettin’ ready to climb
a tree. As for Tobias and Henrietta, they was roundin’ the turn by the
fust house in Denboro, wavin’ by-bys to us over the back of the seat.

“We went home then; and every foot of the way Cap’n Jonadab called an
automobile a new kind of name, and none complimentary. The boarders,
they got wind of what had happened and begun to rag him, and the more
they ragged, the madder he got and the more down on autos.

“And, to put a head on the whole business, I’m blessed if Tobias
Loveland didn’t get in with an automobile agent who was stoppin’ in
Orham and buy a fifteen-hundred-dollar machine off him. And the very
next time Jonadab was out with the Queen on the Denboro road, Tobias
and the widow whizzed past him in that car so fast he might as well have
been hove to. And, by way of rubbin’ it in, they come along back pretty
soon and rolled alongside of him easy, while Henrietta gushed about Mr.
Loveland’s beautiful car and how nice it was to be able to go just as
swift as you wanted to. Jonadab couldn’t answer back, nuther, bein’ too
busy keepin’ the Queen from turnin’ herself into a flyin’ machine.

“‘Twas then that he got himself swore in special constable to arrest
auto drivers for overspeedin’; and for days he wandered round layin’ for
a chance to haul up Tobias and get him fined. He’d have had plenty of
game if he’d been satisfied with strangers, but he didn’t want them
anyhow, and, besides, most of ‘em was on their way to spend money at the
Old Home House. ‘Twould have been poor business to let any of THAT cash
go for fines, and he realized it.

“‘Twas in early June, only a few weeks ago, that the widow come to our
hotel. I never thought she meant it when she said she was comin’, and so
I didn’t expect her. Fact is, I was expectin’ to hear that she and Tobe
Loveland was married or engaged. But there was a slip up somewheres, for
all to once the depot wagon brings her to the Old Home House, she hires
a room, and settles down to stay till the season closed, which would be
in about a fortn’t.

“From the very fust she played her cards for Jonadab. He meant to be
middlin’ average frosty to her, I imagine--her bein’ so thick with
Tobias prejudiced him, I presume likely. But land sakes! she thawed
him out like hot toddy thaws out some folks’ tongues. She never took no
notice of his coldness, but smiled and gushed and flattered, and looked
her prettiest--which was more’n average, considerin’ her age--and by the
end of the third day he was hangin’ round her like a cat round a cook.

“It commenced to look serious to me. Jonadab was a pretty old fish to
be caught with soft soap and a set of false crimps; but you can’t
never tell. When them old kind do bite, they gen’rally swallow hook and
sinker, and he sartinly did act hungry. I wished more’n once that Peter
T. Brown, our business manager, was aboard to help me with advice, but
Peter is off tourin’ the Yosemite with his wife and her relations, so
whatever pilotin’ there was I had to do. And every day fetched Jonadab’s
bows nigher the matrimonial rocks.

“I’d about made up my mind to sound the fog horn by askin’ him straight
out what he was cal’latin’ to do; but somethin’ I heard one evenin’, as
I set alone in the hotel office, made me think I’d better wait a spell.

“The office window was open and the curtain drawed down tight. I was
settin’ inside, smokin’ and goin’ over the situation, when footsteps
sounded on the piazza and a couple come to anchor on the settee right by
that window. Cap’n Jonadab and Henrietta! I sensed that immediate.

“She was laughin’ and actin’ kind of queer, and he was talkin’ mighty
earnest.

“‘Oh, no, Cap’n! Oh, no!’ she giggles. ‘You mustn’t be so serious on
such a beautiful night as this. Let’s talk about the moon.’

“‘Drat the moon!’ says Jonadab. ‘Hettie, I--’

“‘Oh, just see how beautiful the water looks! All shiny and--”

“‘Drat the water, too! Hettie, what’s the reason you don’t want to talk
serious with me? If that Tobe Loveland--’

“‘Really, I don’t see why you bring Mr. Loveland’s name into the
conversation. He is a perfect gentleman, generous and kind; and as for
the way in which he runs that lovely car of his--’

“The Cap’n interrupted her. He ripped out somethin’ emphatic.

“‘Generous!’ he snarls. ‘’Bout as generous as a hog in the feed trough,
he is. And as for runnin’ that pesky auto, if I’d demean myself to own
one of them things, I’ll bet my other suit I could run it better’n he
does. If I couldn’t, I’d tie myself to the anchor and jump overboard.’

“The way she answered showed pretty plain that she didn’t believe him.
‘Really?’ she says. ‘Do you think so? Good night, Jonadab.’

“I could hear her walkin’ off acrost the piazza. He went after her.
‘Hettie,’ he says, ‘you answer me one thing. Are you engaged to Tobe
Loveland?’

“She laughed again, sort of teasin’ and slow. ‘Really,’ says she, ‘you
are--Why, no, I’m not.’

“That was all, but it set me to thinkin’ hard. She wa’n’t engaged to
Loveland; she said so, herself. And yet, if she wanted Jonadab, she was
actin’ mighty funny. I ain’t had no experience, but it seemed to me that
then was the time to bag him and she’d put him off on purpose. She was
ages too ancient to be a flirt for the fun of it. What was her game?”



CHAPTER X

CAPTAIN JONADAB GOES


Mr. Wingate stopped and roared a greeting to Captain Hiram Baker, who
was passing the open door of the waiting room.

“Hello, there, Hime!” he shouted. “Come up in here! What, are you too
proud to speak to common folks?”

Captain Hiram entered. “Hello!” he said. “You look like a busy gang, for
sure. What you doin’--seatin’ chairs?”

“Just now we’re automobilin’,” observed Captain Sol. “Set down, Hiram.”

“Automobilin’?” repeated the new arrival, evidently puzzled.

“Sartin. Barzilla’s takin’ us out. Go on, Barzilla.”

Mr. Wingate smiled broadly. “Well,” he began, “we HAVE just about
reached the part where I went autoin’. The widow and me and Jonadab.”

“Jonadab!” shouted Stitt. “I thought you said--”

“I know what I said. But we went auto ridin’ just the same.

“‘Twas Henry G. Bradbury that took us out, him and his bran-new big
tourin’ car. You see, he landed to board with us the next day after
Henrietta come--this Henry G. did--and he was so quiet and easy spoken
and run his car so slow that even a pizen auto hater like Jonadab
couldn’t take much offense at him. He wa’n’t very well, he said, subject
to some kind of heart attacks, and had come to the Old Home for rest.

“Him and the Cap’n had great arguments about the sins of automobilin’.
Jonadab was sot on the idee that nine folks out of ten hadn’t machine
sense enough to run a car. Bradbury, he declared that that was a fact
with the majority of autos, but not with his. ‘Why, a child could run
it,’ says he. ‘Look here, Cap’n: To start it you just do this. To stop
it you do so and so. To make her go slow you haul back on this lever. To
make her go faster you shove down this one. And as for steerin’--well,
a man that’s handled the wheels of as many catboats as you have would
simply have a picnic. I’m in entire sympathy with your feelin’s against
speeders and such--I’d be a constable if I was in your shoes--but this
is a gentleman’s car and runs like one.’

“All Jonadab said was ‘Bosh!’ and ‘Humph!’ but he couldn’t help actin’
interested, particular as Mrs. Bassett kept him alongside of the machine
and was so turrible interested herself. And when, this partic’lar
afternoon, Henry G. invites us all to go out with him for a little ‘roll
around,’ the widow was so tickled and insisted so that he just HAD to
go; he didn’t dast say no.

“Somehow or ‘nother--I ain’t just sure yet how it happened--the seatin’
arrangements was made like this: Jonadab and Bradbury on the front seat,
and me and Henrietta in the stuffed cockpit astern. We rolled out and
purred along the road, smooth as a cat trottin’ to dinner. No speedin’,
no joltin’, no nothin’. ‘TWAS a ‘gentleman’s car’; there wa’n’t no doubt
about that.

“We went ‘way over to Bayport and Orham and beyond. And all the time
Bradbury kept p’intin’ out the diff’rent levers to Jonadab and tellin’
him how to work ‘em. Finally, after we’d headed back, he asked Jonadab
to take the wheel and steer her a spell. Said his heart was feelin’ sort
of mean and ‘twould do him good to rest.

“Jonadab said no, emphatic and more’n average ugly, but Henry G. kept
beggin’ and pleadin’, and pretty soon the widow put in her oar. He must
do it, to please her. He had SAID he could do it--had told her so--and
now he must make good. Why, when Mr. Loveland--

“‘All right,’ snarls Jonadab. ‘I’ll try. But if ever--’

“‘Hold on!’ says I. ‘Here’s where I get out.’

“However, they wouldn’t let me, and the Cap’n took the wheel. His jaw
was set and his hands shakin’, but he done it. Hettie had give her
orders and she was skipper.

“For a consider’ble spell we just crawled. Jonadab was steerin’ less
crooked every minute and it tickled him; you could see that.

“‘Answers her hellum tiptop, don’t she?’ he says.

“‘Bet your life!’ says Bradbury. ‘Better put on a little more speed,
hadn’t we?’”

He put it on himself, afore the new pilot could stop him, and we
commenced to move.

“‘When you want to make her jump,’ he says, you press down on that with
your foot, and you shove the spark back.’

“‘Shut up!’ howls Jonadab. ‘Belay! Don’t you dast to touch that. I’m
scart to death as ‘tis. Here! you take this wheel.’

“But he wouldn’t, and we went on at a good clip. For a green hand the
Cap’n was leavin’ a pretty straight wake.

“‘Gosh!’ he says, after a spell; ‘I b’lieve I’m kind of gettin’ the hang
of the craft.’

“‘Course you are,’ says Bradbury. ‘I told--Oh!’

“He straightens up, grabs at his vest, and slumps down against the back
of the seat.

“‘What IS it?’ screams the widow. ‘Oh, what IS it, Mr. Bradbury?’

“He answers, plucky, but toler’ble faintlike. My heart!’ he gasps.
‘I--I’m afraid I’m goin’ to have one of my attacks. I must get to a
doctor quick.’

“‘Doctor!’ I sings out. ‘Great land of love! there ain’t a doctor nigher
than Denboro, and that’s four mile astern.’

“‘Never mind,’ cries the Bassett woman. ‘We must go there, then. Turn
around, Jonadab! Turn around at once! Mr. Bradbury--’

“But poor Henry G. was curled up against the cushions and we couldn’t
get nothin’ out of him but groans. And all the time we was sailin’ along
up the road.

“‘Turn around, Jonadab!’ orders Henrietta. ‘Turn around and go for the
doctor!’

“Jonadab’s hands was clutched on that wheel, and his face was white as
his rubber collar.

“‘Jerushy!’ he groans desperate, ‘I--I don’t know HOW to turn around.’

“‘Then stop, you foolhead!’ I bellers. ‘Stop where you be!’

“And he moans--almost cryin’ he was: ‘I--I’ve forgotten how to STOP.’

“Talk about your situations! If we wa’n’t in one then I miss my guess.
Every minute we was sinkin’ Denboro below the horizon.

“‘We MUST get to a doctor,’ says the widow. ‘Where is there another one,
Mr. Wingate?’

“‘The next one’s in Bayport,’ says I, ‘and that’s ten mile ahead if it’s
a foot.’

“However, there wa’n’t nothin’ else for it, so toward Bayport we put.
Bradbury groaned once in a while, and Mrs. Bassett got nervous.

“‘We’ll never get there at this rate,’ says she. ‘Go faster, Jonadab.
Faster! Press down on--on that thing he told you to. Please! for MY
sake.’

“‘Don’t you--’ I begun; but ‘twas too late. He pressed, and away we
went. We was eatin’ up the road now, I tell you, and though I was
expectin’ every minute to be my next, I couldn’t help admirin’ the way
the Cap’n steered. And, as for him, he was gettin’ more and more set up
and confident.

“‘She handles like a yacht, Barzilla,’ he grunts, between his teeth.
‘See me put her around the next buoy ahead there. Hey! how’s that?’

“The next ‘buoy’ was a curve in the road, and we went around it
beautiful. So with the next and the next and the next. Bayport wa’n’t so
very fur ahead. All to once another dreadful thought struck me.

“‘Look here!’ I yells. ‘How in time are we goin’ to stop when we--OW!’

“The Bassett woman had pinched my arm somethin’ savage. I looked at her,
and she was scowlin’ and shakin’ her head.

“‘S-sh-sh!’ she whispers. ‘Don’t disturb him. He’ll be frightened and--’

“‘Frightened! Good heavens to Betsy! I cal’late he won’t be the only one
that’s fri--’

“But she looked so ugly that I shut up prompt, though I done a heap of
thinkin’. On we went and, as we turned the next ‘buoy,’ there, ahead of
us, was another auto, somethin’ like ours, with only one person in it, a
man, and goin’ in the same direction we was, though not quite so fast.

“Then I WAS scart. ‘Hi, Jonadab!’ I sings out. ‘Heave to! Come about!
Shorten sail! Do you want to run him down? Look OUT!’

“I might as well have saved my breath. Heavin’ to and the rest of it
wa’n’t included in our pilot’s education. On we went, same as ever. I
don’t know what might have happened if the widow hadn’t kept her head.
She leaned over the for’ard rail of the after cockpit and squeezed a
rubber bag that was close to Jonadab’s starboard arm. It was j’ined to
the fog whistle, I cal’late, ‘cause from under our bows sounded a beller
like a bull afoul of a barb-wire fence.

“The feller in t’other car turned his head and looked. Then he commenced
to sheer off to wind’ard so’s to let us pass. But all the time he kept
lookin’ back and starin’ and, as we got nigher, and I could see him
plainer through the dust, he looked more and more familiar. ‘Twas
somebody I knew.

“Then I heard a little grunt, or gasp, from Cap’n Jonadab. He was
leanin’ for’ard over the wheel, starin’ at the man in the other auto.
The nigher we got, the harder he stared; and the man in front was
actin’ similar in regards to him. And, all to once, the head car stopped
swingin’ off to wind’ard, turned back toward the middle of the road, and
begun to go like smoke. The next instant I felt our machine fairly jump
beneath me. I looked at Jonadab’s foot. ‘Twas pressed hard down on the
speed lever.

“‘You crazy loon!’ I screeched. ‘You--you--you--Stop it! Take your foot
off that! Do you want to--!’

“I was climbin’ over the back of the front seat, my knee pretty nigh on
Bradbury’s head. But, would you believe it, that Jonadab man let go of
the wheel with one hand--let GO of it, mind you--and give me a shove
that sent me backward in Henrietta Bassett’s lap.

“‘Barzilla!’ he growled, between his teeth, ‘you set where you be
and keep off the quarterdeck. I’m runnin’ this craft. I’ll beat that
Loveland this time or run him under, one or t’other!’

“As sure as I’m alive this minute, the man in the front car was Tobias
Loveland!

“And from then on--Don’t talk! I dream about it nights and wake up with
my arms around the bedpost. I ain’t real sure, but I kind of have an
idee that the bedpost business comes from the fact that I was huggin’
the widow some of the time. If I did, ‘twa’n’t knowin’ly, and she never
mentioned it afterwards. All I can swear to is clouds of dust, and horns
honkin’, and telegraph poles lookin’ like teeth in a comb, and Jonadab’s
face set as the Day of Judgment.

“He kept his foot down on the speed place as if ‘twas glued. He shoved
the ‘spark’--whatever that is--‘way back. Every once in a while he
yelled, yelled at the top of his lungs. What he yelled hadn’t no sense
to it. Sometimes you’d think that he was drivin’ a horse and next that
he was handlin’ a schooner in a gale.

“‘Git dap!’ he’d whoop. ‘Go it, you cripples! Keep her nose right in the
teeth of it! She’s got the best of the water, so let her bile! Whe-E-E!’

“We didn’t stop at Bayport. Our skipper had made other arrangements.
However, the way I figgered it, we was long past needin’ a doctor, and
you can get an undertaker ‘most anywhere. We went through the village
like a couple of shootin’ stars, Tobias about a length ahead, his hat
blowed off, his hair--what little he’s got--streamin’ out behind, and
that blessed red buzz wagon of his fairly skimmin’ the hummocks and
jumpin’ the smooth places. And right astern of him comes Jonadab,
hangin’ to the wheel, HIS hat gone, his mouth open, and fillin’ the dust
with yells and coughs.

“You could see folks runnin’ to doors and front gates; but you never saw
‘em reach where they was goin’--time they done that we was somewheres
round the next bend. A pullet run over us once--yes, I mean just that.
She clawed the top of the widow’s bunnit as we slid underneath her, and
by the time she lit we was so fur away she wa’n’t visible to the
naked eye. Bradbury--who’d got better remarkable sudden--was pawin’ at
Jonadab’s arm, tryin’ to make him ease up; but he might as well have
pawed the wind. As for Henrietta Bassett, she was acrost the back of the
front seat tootin’ the horn for all she was wuth. And curled down in a
heap on the cockpit floor was a fleshy, sea-farin’ person by the name of
Barzilla Wingate, sufferin’ from chills and fever.

“I think ‘twas on the long stretch of the Trumet road that we beat
Tobias. I know we passed somethin’ then, though just what I ain’t
competent to testify. All I’m sure of is that, t’other side of Bayport
village, the landscape got some less streaked and you could most
gen’rally separate one house from the next.

“Bradbury looked at Henrietta and smiled, a sort of sickly smile. She
was pretty pale, but she managed to smile back. I got up off the floor
and slumped on the cushions. As for Cap’n Jonadab Wixon, he’d stopped
yellin’, but his face was one broad, serene grin. His mouth, through
the dust and the dirt caked around it, looked like a rain gully in a
sand-bank. And, occasional, he crowed, hoarse but vainglorious.

“‘Did you see me?’ he barked. ‘Did you notice me lick him? He’ll laugh
at me, will he?--him and his one-horse tin cart! Ho! HO! Why, you’d
think he was settin’ down to rest! I’ve got him where I want him now!
Ho, ho! Say, Henrietta, did you go swift as you--? Land sakes! Mr.
Bradbury, I forgot all about you. And I--I guess we must have got a good
ways past the doctor’s place.’

“Bradbury said never mind. He felt much better, and he cal’lated he’d do
till we fetched the Old Home dock. He’d take the wheel, now, he guessed.

“But, would you b’lieve it, that fool Jonadab wouldn’t let him! He was
used to the ship now, he said, and, if ‘twas all the same to Henry G.
and Hettie, he’d kind of like to run her into port.

“‘She answers her hellum fine,’ he says. ‘After a little practice I
cal’late I could steer--’

“‘Steer!’ sings out Bradbury. ‘STEER! Great Caesar’s ghost! I give you
my word, Cap’n Wixon, I never saw such handlin’ of a machine as you did
goin’ through Bayport, in my life. You’re a wonder!’

“‘Um-hm,’ says Jonadab contented. ‘I’ve steered a good many vessels in
my time, through traffic and amongst the shoals, and never run afoul
of nothin’ yet. I don’t see much diff’rence on shore--‘cept that it’s a
little easier.’

“EASIER! Wouldn’t that--Well, what’s the use of talkin’?

“We got to the Old Home House safe and sound; Jonadab, actin’ under
Bradbury’s orders, run her into the yard, slowin’ up and stoppin’ at
the front steps slick as grease. He got out, his chest swelled up like
a puffin’ pig, and went struttin’ in to tell everybody what he’d done to
Loveland. I don’t know where Bradbury and the widow went. As for me, I
went aloft and turned in. And ‘twas two days and nights afore I got up
again. I had a cold, anyway, and what I’d been through didn’t help it
none.

“The afternoon of the second day, Bradbury come up to see me. He was
dressed in his city clothes and looked as if he was goin’ away. Sure
enough, he was; goin’ on the next train.

“‘Where’s Jonadab?’ says I.

“‘Oh, he’s out in his car,’ he says. ‘Huntin’ for Loveland again,
maybe.’

“‘HIS car? You mean yours.’

“‘No, I mean his. I sold my car to him yesterday mornin’ for twenty-five
hundred dollars cash.’

“I set up in bed. ‘Go ‘long!’ I sings out. ‘You didn’t nuther!’

“‘Yes, I did. Sure thing. After that ride, you couldn’t have separated
him from that machine with blastin’ powder. He paid over the money like
a little man.’

“I laid down again. Jonadab Wixon payin’ twenty-five hundred dollars for
a plaything! Not promisin’, but actually PAYIN’ it!

“‘Has--has the widow gone with him?’ I asked, soon’s I could get my
breath.

“He laughed sort of queer. ‘No,’ he says, ‘she’s gone out of town for
a few days. Ha, ha! Well, between you and me, Wingate, I doubt if
she comes back again. She and I have made all we’re likely to in this
neighborhood, and she’s too good a business woman to waste her time.
Good-by; glad to have met you.’

“But I smelt rat strong and wouldn’t let him go without seein’ the
critter.

“‘Hold on!’ I says. ‘There’s somethin’ underneath all this. Out with it.
I won’t let on to the Cap’n if you don’t want me to.’

“‘Well,’ says he, laughin’ again, ‘Mrs. Bassett WON’T come back and
I know it. She and I have sold four cars on the Cape in the last five
weeks, and the profits’ll more’n pay vacation expenses. Two up in
Wareham, one over in Orham, to Loveland--’

“‘Did YOU sell Tobias his?’ I asks, settin’ up again.

“‘Hettie and I did--yes. Soon’s we landed him, we come over to bag old
Wixon. I thought one time he’d kill us before we got him, but he didn’t.
How he did run that thing! He’s a game sport.’

“‘See here!’ says I. ‘YOU and Hettie sold--What do you mean by that?’

“‘Mrs. Bassett is my backer in the auto business,’ says he. ‘She put in
her money and I furnished the experience. We’ve got a big plant up in--’
namin’ a city in Connecticut.

“I fetched a long breath. ‘WELL!’ says I. ‘And all this makin’ eyes at
Tobe and Jonadab was just--just--’

“‘Just bait, that’s all,’ says he. ‘I told you she was a good business
woman.’

“I let this sink in good. Then says I, ‘Humph! I swan to man! And how’s
your heart actin’ now?’

“‘Fine!’ he says, winkin’. ‘I had that attack so’s the Cap’n would learn
to run on his own hook. I didn’t expect quite so much of a run, but
I’m satisfied. Don’t you worry about my heart disease. That twenty-five
hundred cured it. ‘Twas all in the way of business,’ says Henry G.
Bradbury.”

“Whew!” whistled Captain Hiram as Barzilla reached into his pocket for
pipe and tobacco. “Whew! I should say your partner had a narrer escape.
Want to look out sharp for widders. They’re dangerous, hey, Sol?”

The depot master did not answer. Captain Hiram asked another question.
“How’d Jonadab take Hettie’s leavin’?” he inquired.

“Oh,” said Barzilla, “I don’t think he minded so much. He was too crazy
about his new auto to care for anything else. Then, too, he was b’ilin’
mad ‘cause Loveland swore out a warrant against him for speedin’.

“‘Nice trick, ain’t it?’ he says. ‘I knew Tobe was a poor loser, but
I didn’t think he’d be so low down as all that. Says I was goin’ fifty
mile an hour. He! he! Well, I WAS movin’, that’s a fact. I don’t care.
‘Twas wuth the twenty-dollar fine.’

“‘Maybe so,’ I says, ‘but ‘twon’t look very pretty to have a special
auto constable hauled up and fined for breakin’ the law he’s s’posed to
protect.’

“He hadn’t thought of that. His face clouded over.

“‘No use, Barzilla,’ says he; ‘I’ll have to give it up.’

“‘Guess you will,’ says I. ‘Automobilin’ is--’

“‘I don’t mean automobilin’,’ he snorts disgusted. ‘Course not! I mean
bein’ constable.’

“So there you are! From cussin’ automobiles he’s got so that he can’t
talk enough good about ‘em. And every day sence then he’s out on the
road layin’ for another chance at Tobias. I hope he gets that chance
pretty soon, because--well, there’s a rumor goin’ round that Loveland is
plannin’ to swap his car for a bigger and faster one. If he does . . .”

“If he does,” interrupted Captain Sol, “I hope you’ll fix the next race
for over here. I’d like to see you go by, Barzilla.”

“Guess you’d have to look quick to see him,” laughed Stitt. “Speakin’
about automobiles--”

“By gum!” ejaculated Wingate, “you’d have to look somewheres else to
find ME. I’ve got all the auto racin’ I want!”

“Speakin’ of automobiles,” began Captain Bailey again. No one paid the
slightest attention.

“How’s Dusenberry, your baby, Hiram?” asked the depot master, turning to
Captain Baker. “His birthday’s the Fourth, and that’s only a couple of
days off.”

The proud parent grinned, then looked troubled.

“Why, he ain’t real fust-rate,” he said. “Seems to be some under
the weather. Got a cold and kind of sore throat. Dr. Parker says he
cal’lates it’s a touch of tonsilitis. There’s consider’ble fever, too.
I was hopin’ the doctor’d come again to-day, but he’s gone away on
a fishin’ cruise. Won’t be home till late to-morrer. I s’pose me and
Sophrony hadn’t ought to worry. Dr. Parker seems to know about the
case.”

“Humph!” grunted the depot master, “there’s only two bein’s in creation
that know it all. One’s the Almighty and t’other’s young Parker. He’s
right out of medical school and is just as fresh as his diploma. He
hadn’t any business to go fishin’ and leave his patients. We lost a
good man when old Dr. Ryder died. He . . . Oh, well! you mustn’t
worry, Hiram. Dusenberry’ll pull out in time for his birthday. Goin’ to
celebrate, was you?”

Captain Baker nodded. “Um-hm,” he said. “Sophrony’s goin’ to bake a
frosted cake and stick three candles on it--he’s three year old, you
know--and I’ve made him a ‘twuly boat with sails,’ that’s what he’s been
beggin’ for. Ho! ho! he’s the cutest little shaver!”

“Speakin’ of automobiles,” began Bailey Stitt for the third time.

“That youngster of yours, Hiram,” went on the depot master, “is the
right kind. Compared with some of the summer young ones that strike this
depot, he’s a saint.”

Captain Hiram grinned. “That’s what I tell Sophrony,” he said.
“Sometimes when Dusenberry gets to cuttin’ up and she is sort of
provoked, I say to her, ‘Old lady,’ I say, ‘if you think THAT’S a
naughty boy, you ought to have seen Archibald.’”

“Who was Archibald?” asked Barzilla.

“He was a young rip that Sim Phinney and I run across four years ago
when we went on our New York cruise together. The weir business had been
pretty good and Sim had been teasin’ me to go on a vacation with him, so
I went. Sim ain’t stopped talkin’ about our experiences yet. Ho! ho!”

“You bet he ain’t!” laughed the depot master. “One mix-up you had with
a priest, and a love story, and land knows what. He talks about that to
this day.”

“What was it? He never told me,” said Wingate.

“Why, it begun at the Golconda House, the hotel where Sim and I was
stayin’. We--”

“Did YOU put up at the Golconda?” interrupted Barzilla. “Why, Cap’n
Jonadab and me stayed there when we went to New York.”

“I know you did. Jonadab recommended it to Sim, and Sim took the
recommendation. That Golconda House is the only grudge I’ve got against
Jonadab Wixon. It sartin is a tough old tavern.”

“I give in to that. Jonadab’s so sot on it account of havin’ stopped
there on his honeymoon, years and years ago. He’s too stubborn to
own it’s bad. It’s a matter of principle with him, and he’s sot on
principle.”

“Yes,” continued Baker. “Well, Sim and me had been at that Golconda
three days and nights. Mornin’ of the fourth day we walked out of the
dinin’ room after breakfast, feelin’ pretty average chipper. Gettin’
safe past another meal at that hotel was enough of itself to make a chap
grateful.

“We walked out of the dinin’ room and into the office. And there, by the
clerk’s desk, was a big, tall man, dressed up in clothes that was loud
enough to speak for themselves, and with a shiny new tall hat, set with
a list to port, on his head. He was smooth-faced and pug-nosed, with an
upper lip like a camel’s.

“He didn’t pay much attention to us, nor to anybody else, for the matter
of that. He was as mournful as a hearse, for all his joyful togs.

“‘Fine day, ain’t it?’ says Sim, social.

“The tall chap looked up at him from under the deck of the beaver hat.

“‘Huh!’ he growls out, and looks down again.

“‘I say it’s a fine day,’ said Phinney again.

“‘I was after hearin’ yez say it,’ says the man, and walks off, scowlin’
like a meat ax. We looked after him.

“‘Who was that murderer?’ asks Sim of the clerk. ‘And when are they
going to hang him?’

“‘S-sh-sh!’ whispers the clerk, scart. ‘’Tis the boss. The bloke what
runs the hotel. He’s a fine man, but he has troubles. He’s blue.’

“‘So that’s the boss, hey?’ says I. ‘And he’s blue. Well, he looks it.
What’s troublin’ him? Ain’t business good?’

“‘Never better. It ain’t that. He has things on his mind. You see--’

“I cal’late he’d have told us the yarn, only Sim wouldn’t wait to hear
it. We was goin’ sight-seein’ and we had ‘aquarium’ and ‘Stock Exchange’
on the list for that afternoon. The hotel clerk had made out a kind of
schedule for us of things we’d ought to see while we was in New York,
and so fur we’d took in the zoological menagerie and the picture museum,
and Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge.

“On the way downtown in the elevated railroad Sim done some preachin’.
His text was took from the Golconda House sign, which had ‘T. Dempsey,
Proprietor,’ painted on it.

“‘It’s that Dempsey man’s conscience that makes him so blue, Hiram,’
says Sim. ‘It’s the way he makes his money. He sells liquor.’

“‘Oh!’ says I. ‘Is THAT it? I thought maybe he’d been sleepin’ on one
of his own hotel beds. THEY’RE enough to make any man blue--black and
blue.’

“The ‘aquarium’ wa’n’t a success. Phinney was disgusted. He give one
look around, grabbed me by the arm, and marched me out of that building
same as Deacon Titcomb, of the Holiness Church at Denboro, marched his
boy out of the Universalist sociable.

“‘It’s nothin’ but a whole passel of fish,’ he snorts. ‘The idea of
sendin’ two Cape Codders a couple of miles to look at FISH. I’ve looked
at ‘em and fished for ‘em, and et ‘em all the days of my life,’ he says,
‘and when I’m on a vacation I want a change. I’d forgot that “aquarium”
 meant fish, or you wouldn’t have got me within smellin’ distance of
it. Necessity’s one thing and pleasure’s another, as the boy said about
takin’ his ma’s spring bitters.’

“So we headed for the Stock Exchange. We got our gallery tickets at the
bank where the Golconda folks kept money, and in a little while we was
leanin’ over a kind of marble bulwarks and starin’ down at a gang of men
smokin’ and foolin’ and carryin’ on. ‘Twas a dull day, so we found out
afterward, and I guess likely that was true. Anyway, I never see such
grown-up men act so much like children. There was a lot of poles stuck
up around with signs on ‘em, and around every pole was a circle of
bedlamites hollerin’ like loons. Hollerin’ was the nighest to work
of anything I see them fellers do, unless ‘twas tearin’ up papers and
shovin’ the pieces down somebody’s neck or throwin’ ‘em in the air like
a play-actin’ snowstorm.

“‘What’s the matter with ‘em?’ says I. ‘High finance taken away their
brains?’

“But Phinney was awful interested. He dumped some money in a mine once.
The mine caved in on it, I guess, for not a red cent ever come to the
top again, but he’s been a kind of prophet concernin’ finances ever
sence.

“‘I want to see the big fellers,’ says he. ‘S’pose that fat one is
Morgan?’

“‘I don’t know,’ says I. ‘Me and Pierpont ain’t met for ever so long.
Don’t lean over and point so; you’re makin’ a hit.’

“He was, too. Some of the younger crew on the floor was lookin’ up and
grinnin’, and more kept stoppin’ and joinin’ in all the time. I cal’late
we looked kind of green and soft, hangin’ over that marble rail, like
posies on a tombstone; and green is the favorite color to a stockbroker,
they tell me. Anyhow, we had a good-sized congregation under us in
less than no time. Likewise, they got chatty, and commenced to unload
remarks.

“‘Land sakes!’ says one. ‘How’s punkins?’

“‘How’s crops down your way?’ says another.

“Now there wa’n’t nothin’ real bright and funny about these
questions--more fresh than new, they struck me--but you’d think they
was gems from the comic almanac, jedgin’ by the haw-haws. Next minute
a little bald-headed smart Alec, with clothes that had a tailor’s sign
hull down and out of the race, steps to the front and commences to make
a speech.

“‘Gosh t’mighty, gents,’ says he. ‘With your kind permission, I’ll sing
“When Reuben Comes to Town.”’

“And he did sing it, too, in a voice that needed cultivatin’ worse’n
a sandy front yard. And with every verse the congregation whooped and
laughed and cheered. When the anthem was concluded, all hands set up a
yell and looked at us to see how we took it.

“As for me, I was b’ilin’ mad and mortified and redhot all over. But Sim
Phinney was as cool as an October evenin’. Once in a while old Sim
comes out right down brilliant, and he done it now. He smiled, kind
of tolerant and easy, same as you might at the tricks of a hand-organ
monkey. Then he claps his hands, applaudin’ like, reaches into his
pocket, brings up a couple of pennies, and tosses ‘em down to little
baldhead, who was standin’ there blown up with pride.

“For a minute the crowd was still. And THEN such a yell as went up! The
whole floor went wild. Next thing I knew the gallery was filled with
brokers, grabbin’ us by the hands, poundin’ us on the back, beggin’ us
to come have a drink, and generally goin’ crazy. We was solid with the
‘system’ for once in our lives. We could have had that whole buildin’,
from marble decks to gold maintruck, if we’d said the word. Fifty
yellin’ lunatics was on hand to give it to us; the other two hundred was
joyfully mutilatin’ the baldhead.

“Well, I wanted to get away, and so did Sim, I guess; but the crowd
wouldn’t let us. We’d got to have a drink; hogsheads of drinks. That was
the best joke on Eddie Lewisburg that ever was. Come on! We MUST come
on! Whee! Wow!

“I don’t know how it would have ended if some one hadn’t butted head
first through the mob and grabbed me by the shoulder. I was ready to
fight by this time, and maybe I’d have begun to fight if the chap who
grabbed me hadn’t been a few inches short of seven foot high. And,
besides that, I knew him. ‘Twas Sam Holden, a young feller I knew when
he boarded here one summer. His wife boarded here, too, only she wa’n’t
his wife then. Her name was Grace Hargrave and she was a fine girl.
Maybe you remember ‘em, Sol?”

The depot master nodded.

“I remember ‘em well,” he said. “Liked ‘em both--everybody did.”

“Yes. Well, he knew us and was glad to see us.

“‘It IS you!’ he sings out. ‘By George! I thought it was when I came on
the floor just now. My! but I’m glad to see you. And Mr. Phinney, too!
Bully! Clear out and let ‘em alone, you Indians.’

“The crowd didn’t want to let us alone, but Sam got us clear somehow,
and out of the Exchange Buildin’ and into the back room of a kind of
restaurant. Then he gets chairs for us, orders cigars, and shakes hands
once more.

“‘To think of seein’ you two in New York!’ he says, wonderin’. ‘What are
you doin’ here? When did you come? Tell us about it.’

“So we told him about our pleasure cruise, and what had happened to us
so fur. It seemed to tickle him ‘most to death.

“‘Grace and I are keepin’ house, in a modest way, uptown,’ says Sam,
‘and she’ll be as glad to see you as I am. You’re comin’ up to dinner
with me to-night, and you’re goin’ to make us a visit, you know,’ he
says.

“Well, if we didn’t know it then, we learned it right away. Nothin’
that me or Simeon could say would make him change the course a point. So
Phinney went up to the Golconda House and got our bags, and at half-past
four that afternoon the three of us was in a hired hack bound uptown.

“On the way Sam was full of fun as ever. He laughed and joked, and asked
questions about East Harniss till you couldn’t rest. All of a sudden he
slaps his knee and sings out:

“‘There! I knew I’d forgotten somethin’. Our butler left yesterday,
and I was to call at the intelligence office on my way home and see if
they’d scared up a new one.’

“I looked at Simeon, and he at me.

“‘Hum!’ says I, thinkin’ about that ‘modest’ housekeepin’. ‘Do you keep
a butler?’

“‘Not long,’ says he, dry as a salt codfish. And that’s all we could get
out of him.

“I s’pose there’s different kinds of modesty. We hadn’t more’n got
inside the gold-plated front door of that house when I decided that the
Holden brand of housekeepin’ wa’n’t bashful enough to blush. If I’D been
runnin’ that kind of a place, the only time I’d felt shy and retirin’
was when the landlord came for the rent.

“One of the fo’mast hands--hired girls, I mean--went aloft to fetch Mrs.
Holden, and when Grace came down she was just as nice and folksy and
glad to see us as a body could be. But she looked sort of troubled, just
the same.

“‘I’m ever so glad you’re here,’ says she to me and Simeon. ‘But, oh,
Sam! it’s a shame the way things happen. Cousin Harriet and Archie came
this afternoon to stay until to-morrow. They’re on their way South.
And I have promised that you and I shall take Harriet to see Marlowe
to-night. Of course we won’t do it now, under any consideration, but you
know what she is.’

“Sam seemed to know. He muttered somethin’ that sounded like a Scripture
text. Simeon spoke up prompt.

“‘Indeed you will,’ says he, decided. ‘Me and Hiram ain’t that kind.
We’ve got relations of our own, and we know what it means when they
come a-visitin’. You and Mr. Holden’ll take your comp’ny and go to
see--whatever ‘tis you want to see, and we’ll make ourselves to home
till you get back. Yes, you will, or we clear out this minute.’

“They didn’t want to, but we was sot, and so they give in finally. It
seemed that this Cousin Harriet was a widow relation of the Holdens, who
lived in a swell country house over in Connecticut somewhere, and was
rich as the rest of the tribe. Archie was her son. ‘Hers and the Evil
One’s,’ Sam said.

“We didn’t realize how much truth there was in this last part until we
run afoul of Archie and his ma at dinner time. Cousin Harriet was tall
and middlin’ slim, thirty-five years old, maybe, at a sale for
taxes, but discounted to twenty at her own valuation. She was got up
regardless, and had a kind of chronic, tired way of talkin’, and a
condescendin’ look to her, as if she was on top of Bunker Hill monument,
and all creation was on its knees down below. She didn’t warm up to
Simeon and me much; eyed us over through a pair of gilt spyglasses, and
admitted that she was ‘charmed, I’m sure.’ Likewise, she was afflicted
with ‘nerves,’ which must be a divil of a disease--for everybody but the
patient, especial.

“Archie--his ma hailed him as ‘Archibald, dear’--showed up pretty
soon in tow of his ‘maid,’ a sweet-faced, tired-out Irish girl named
Margaret. ‘Archibald, dear,’ was five years old or so, sufferin’ from
curls and the lack of a lickin’. I never see a young one that needed a
strap ile more.

“‘How d’ye do Archie?’ says Simeon, holdin’ out his hand.

“Archie didn’t take the hand. Instead of that he points at Phinney and
commences to laugh.

“‘Ho, ho!’ says he, dancin’ and pointin’. ‘Look at the funny whiskers.’

“Sim wa’n’t expectin’ that, and it set him all aback, like he’d run into
a head squall. He took hold of his beard and looked foolish. Sam and
Grace looked ashamed and mad. Cousin Harriet laughed one of her lazy
laughs.

“‘Archibald, de-ar,’ she drawls, ‘you mustn’t speak that way. Now be
nice, and play with Margaret durin’ dinner, that’s a good boy.’

“‘I won’t,’ remarks Archie, cheerful. ‘I’m goin’ to dine with you,
mama.’

“‘Oh, no, you’re not, dear. You’ll have your own little table, and--’

“Then ‘twas’ Hi, yi!’ ‘Bow, wow!’ Archibald wa’n’t hankerin’ for little
tables. He was goin’ to eat with us, that’s what. His ma, she argued
with him and pleaded, and he yelled and stamped and hurrahed. When
Margaret tried to soothe him he went at her like a wild-cat, and kicked
and pounded her sinful. She tried to take him out of the room, and then
Cousin Harriet come down on her like a scow load of brick.

“‘Haven’t I told you,’ says she, sharp and vinegary, ‘not to oppose the
child in that way? Archibald has such a sensitive nature,’ she says to
Grace, ‘that opposition arouses him just as it did me at his age. Very
well, dear; you MAY dine with us to-night, if you wish. Oh, my poor
nerves! Margaret, why don’t you place a chair for Master Archibald? The
creature is absolutely stupid at times,’ she says, talkin’ about that
poor maid afore her face with no more thought for her feelin’s than
if she was a wooden image. ‘She has no tact whatever. I wouldn’t have
Archibald’s spirit broken for anything.’

“‘Twas his neck that needed breakin’ if you asked ME. That was a joyful
meal, now I tell you.

“There was more joy when ‘twas over. Archie didn’t want to go to bed,
havin’ desires to set up and torment Simeon with questions about his
whiskers; askin’ if they growed or was tied on, and things like that.
Course he didn’t know his ma was goin’ to the show, or he wouldn’t have
let her. But finally he was coaxed upstairs by Margaret and a box of
candy, and, word havin’ been sent down that he was asleep, Sam got
out his plug hat, and Grace and Cousin Harriet got on their fur-lined
dolmans and knit clouds, and was ready for the hack.

“‘I feel mighty mean to go off and leave you this way,’ says Sam to
me and Simeon. ‘But you make yourself at home, won’t you? This is your
house to-night, you know; servants and all.’

“‘How about that boy’s wakin’ up?’ says I.

“‘Oh, his maid’ll attend to him. If she needs any help you can give it
to her,’ he says, winkin’ on the side.

“But Cousin Harriet was right at his starboard beam, and she heard him.
She flew up like a settin’ hen.

“‘Indeed they will NOT!’ she sings out. ‘If anyone but Margaret was to
attempt to control Archibald, I don’t dare think what might happen.
I shall not stir from this spot until these persons promise not to
interfere in ANY way; Archibald, dear, is such a sensitive child.’

“So we promised not to interfere, although Sim Phinney looked
disappointed when he done it. I could see that he’d had hopes afore he
give that promise.”



CHAPTER XI

IN THE GREAT METROPOLIS


“So they left you and Sim Phinney to keep house, did they, Hiram?”
 observed Wingate.

“They did. And, for a spell, we figgered on bein’ free from too much
style.

“After they’d gone we loafed into the settin’ room or libr’ry, or
whatever you call it, and come to anchor in a couple of big lazy chairs.

“‘Now,’ says I, takin’ off my coat, ‘we can be comf’table.’

“But we couldn’t. In bobs a servant girl to know if we ‘wanted
anything.’ We didn’t, but she looked so shocked when she see me in my
shirt sleeves that I put the coat on again, feelin’ as if I’d ought
to blush. And in a minute back she comes to find out if we was SURE we
didn’t want anything. Sim was hitchin’ in his chair. Between ‘nerves’
and Archibald, his temper was raw on the edges.

“‘Say,’ he bursts out, ‘you look kind of pale to me. What you need is
fresh air. Why don’t you go take a walk?’

“The girl looked at him with her mouth open.

“‘Oh,’ says she, ‘I couldn’t do that, thank you, sir. That would leave
no one but the cook and the kitchen girl. And the master said you was to
be made perfectly comf’table, and--’

“‘Yes,’ says Sim, dry, ‘I heard him say it. And we can’t be comf’table
with you shut up in the house this nice evenin’. Go and take a walk, and
take the cook and stewardess with you. Don’t argue about it. I’m skipper
here till the boss gets back. Go, the three of you, and go NOW. D’ye
hear?’

“There was a little more talk, but not much. In five minutes or so the
downstairs front door banged, and there was gigglin’ outside.

“‘There,’ says Simeon, peelin’ off HIS coat and throwin’ himself back in
one chair with his feet on another one. ‘Now, by Judas, I’m goin’ to be
homey and happy like poor folks. I don’t wonder that Harriet woman’s got
nerves. Darn style, anyhow! Pass over that cigar box, Hiram.’

“‘Twas half an hour later or so when Margaret, the nursemaid, came
downstairs. I’d almost forgot her. We was tame and toler’ble contented
by that time. Phinney called to her as she went by the door.

“‘Is that young one asleep?’ he asked.

“‘Yes, sir,’ says she, ‘he is. Is there anything I can do? Did you want
anything?’

“Simeon looks at me. ‘I swan to man, it’s catchin’!’ he says. ‘They’ve
all got it. No, we don’t want anything, except--What’s the matter? YOU
don’t need fresh air, do you?’

“The girl looked as if she’d lost her last friend. Her pretty face was
pale and her eyes was wet, as if she’d been cryin’.

“‘No, sir,’ says she, puzzled. ‘No, sir, thank you, sir.’

“‘She’s tired out, that’s all,’ says I. I swan, I pitied the poor thing.
‘You go somewheres and take a nap,’ I told her. ‘Me and my friend won’t
tell.’

“Oh, no, she couldn’t do that. It wa’n’t that she was tired--no more
tired than usual--but she’d been that troubled in her mind lately,
askin’ our pardon, that she was near to crazy.

“We was sorry for that, but it didn’t seem to be none of our business,
and she was turnin’ away, when all at once she stops and turns back
again.

“‘Might I ask you gintlemen a question?’ she says, sort of pleadin’.
‘Sure I mane no harm by it. Do aither of you know a man be the name of
Michael O’Shaughnessy?’

“Me and Sim looked at each other. ‘Which?’ says I. ‘Mike O’ who?’ says
Simeon.

“‘Aw, don’t you know him?’ she begs. ‘DON’T you know him? Sure I hoped
you might. If you’d only tell me where he is I’d git on me knees and
pray for you. O Mike, Mike! why did you leave me like this? What’ll
become of me?’

“And she walks off down the hall, coverin’ her face with her hands and
cryin’ as if her heart was broke.

“‘There! there!’ says Simeon, runnin’ after her, all shook up. He’s a
kind-hearted man--especially to nice-lookin’ females. ‘Don’t act so,’ he
says. ‘Be a good girl. Come right back into the settin’ room and tell
me all about it. Me and Cap’n Baker ain’t got nerves, and we ain’t rich,
neither. You can talk to us. Come, come!’

“She didn’t know how to act, seemingly. She was like a dog that’s been
kicked so often he’s suspicious of a pat on the head. And she was cryin’
and sobbin’ so, and askin’ our pardon for doin’ it, that it took a good
while to get at the real yarn. But we did get it, after a spell.

“It seems that the girl--her whole name was Margaret Sullivan--had
been in this country but a month or so, havin’ come from Ireland in a
steamboat to meet the feller who’d kept comp’ny with her over there. His
name was Michael O’Shaughnessy, and he’d been in America for four years
or more, livin’ with a cousin in Long Island City. And he’d got a good
job at last, and he sent for her to come on and be married to him.
And when she landed ‘twas the cousin that met her. Mike had drawn a
five-thousand-dollar prize in the Mexican lottery a week afore, and
hadn’t been seen sence.

“So poor Margaret goes to the cousin’s to stay. And she found them poor
as Job’s pet chicken, and havin’ hardly grub enough aboard to feed the
dozen or so little cousins, let alone free boarders like her. And so,
havin’ no money, she goes out one day to an intelligence office where
they deal in help, and puts in a blank askin’ for a job as servant girl.
‘Twas a swell place, where bigbugs done their tradin’, and there she
runs into Cousin Harriet, who was a chronic customer, always out of
servants, owin’ to the complications of Archibald and nerves. And
Harriet hires her, because she was pretty and would work for a shavin’
more’n nothin’, and carts her right off to Connecticut. And when
Margaret sets out to write for her trunk, and to tell where she is, she
finds she’s lost the cousin’s address, and can’t remember whether it’s
Umpty-eighth Street or Tin Can Avenue.

“‘And, oh,’ says she, ‘what SHALL I do? The mistress is that hard to
please, and the child is that wicked till I want to die. And I have no
money and no friends. O Mike! Mike!’ she says. ‘If you only knew you’d
come to me. For it’s a good heart he has, although the five thousand
dollars carried away his head,’ says she.

“I don’t believe I ever wanted to make a feller’s acquaintance more than
I done that O’Shaughnessy man’s. The mean blackguard, to leave his girl
that way. And ‘twas easy to see what she’d been through with Cousin
Harriet and that brat. We tried to comfort her all we could; promised to
have a hunt through Long Island and the directory, and to help get her
another place when she got back from the South, and so on. But ‘twas
kind of unsatisfactory. ‘Twas her Mike she wanted.

“‘I told the Father about it at the church up there,’ she says, ‘and he
wrote, but the letters was lost, I guess. And I thought if I might see
a priest here in New York he might help me. But the mistress is to go at
noon to-morrer, and I’ll have no time. What SHALL I do?’ says she, and
commenced to cry again.

“Then I had an idea. ‘Priest?’ says I. ‘There’s a fine big church, with
a cross on the ridgepole of it, not five minutes’ walk from this house.
I see it as we was comin’ up. Why don’t you run down there this minute?’
I says.

“No, she didn’t want to leave Archibald. Suppose he should wake up.

“‘All right,’ says I. ‘Then I’ll go myself. And I’ll fetch a priest up
here if I have to tote him on my back, like the feller does the codfish
in the advertisin’ picture.’

“I didn’t have to tote him. He lived in a mighty fine house, hitched
onto the church, and there was half a dozen assistant parsons to help
him do his preachin’. But he was big and fat and gray-haired and as
jolly and as kind-hearted a feller as you’d want to meet. He said he’d
come right along; and he done it.

“Phinney opened the door for us. ‘What’s the row?’ says I, lookin’ at
his face.

“‘Row?’ he snorts; ‘there’s row enough for six. That da--excuse me,
mister--that cussed Archibald has woke up.’

“He had; there wa’n’t no doubt about it. And he was raisin’ hob, too.
The candy, mixed up with the dinner, had put his works in line with his
disposition, and he was poundin’ and yellin’ upstairs enough to wake the
dead. Margaret leaned over the balusters.

“‘Is it the Father?’ she says. ‘Oh, dear! what’ll I do?’

“‘Send some of the other servants to the boy,’ says the priest, ‘and
come down yourself.’

“Simeon, lookin’ kind of foolish, explained what had become of the other
servants. Father McGrath--that was his name--laughed and shook all over.

“‘Very well,’ says he. ‘Then bring the young man down. Perhaps he’ll be
quiet here.’

“So pretty soon down come Margaret with Archibald, full of the Old
Scratch, as usual, dressed up gay in a kind of red blanket nighty, with
a rope around the middle of it. The young one spotted Simeon, and set up
a whoop.

“‘Oh! there’s the funny whiskers,’ he sings out.

“‘Good evenin’, my son,’ says the priest.

“‘Who’s the fat man?’ remarks Archibald, sociable. ‘I never saw such a
red fat man. What makes him so red and fat?’

“These questions didn’t make Father McGrath any paler. He laughed, of
course, but not as if ‘twas the funniest thing he ever heard.

“‘So you think I’m fat, do you, my boy?’ says he.

“‘Yes, I do,’ says Archibald. ‘Fat and red and funny. Most as funny as
the whisker man. I never saw such funny-lookin’ people.’

“He commenced to point and holler and laugh. Poor Margaret was so
shocked and mortified she didn’t know what to do.

“‘Stop your noise, sonny,’ says I. ‘This gentleman wants to talk to your
nurse.’

“The answer I got was some unexpected.

“‘What makes your feet so big?’ says Archie, pointin’ at my Sunday
boots. ‘Why do you wear shoes like that? Can’t you help it? You’re
funny, too, aren’t you? You’re funnier than the rest of ‘em.’

“We all went into the library then, and Father McGrath tried to ask
Margaret some questions. I’d told him the heft of the yarn on the way
from the church, and he was interested. But the questionin’ was mighty
unsatisfyin’. Archibald was the whole team, and the rest of us was
yeller dogs under the wagon.

“‘Can’t you keep that child quiet?’ asks the priest, at last, losin’ his
temper and speakin’ pretty sharp.

“‘O Archie, dear! DO be a nice boy,’ begs Margaret, for the eight
hundredth time.

“‘Why don’t you punish him as he deserves?’

“‘Father, dear, I can’t. The mistress says he’s so sensitive that he has
to have his own way. I’d lose my place if I laid a hand on him.’

“‘Come on into the parlor and see the pictures, Archie,’ says I.

“‘I won’t,’ says Archibald. ‘I’m goin’ to stay here and see the fat man
make faces.’

“‘You see,’ says Sim, apologizin’ ‘we can’t touch him, ‘cause we
promised his ma not to interfere. And my right hand’s got cramps in the
palm of it this minute,’ he adds, glarin’ at the young one.

“Father McGrath stood up and reached for his hat. Margaret began to cry.
Archibald, dear, whooped and kicked the furniture. And just then the
front-door bell rang.

“For a minute I thought ‘twas Cousin Harriet and the Holdens come back,
but then I knew it was hours too early for that. Margaret was too much
upset to be fit for company, so I answered the bell myself. And who in
the world should be standin’ on the steps but that big Dempsey man, the
boss of the Golconda House, where me and Simeon had been stayin’; the
feller we’d spoke to that very mornin’.

“‘Good evenin’, sor,’ says he, in a voice as deep as a well. ‘I’m glad
to find you to home, sor. There’s a telegram come for you at my place,’
he says, ‘and as your friend lift the address when he come for the
baggage this afternoon, I brought it along to yez. I was comin’ this
way, so ‘twas no trouble.’

“‘That’s real kind of you,’ I says. ‘Step inside a minute, won’t you?’

“So in he comes, and stands, holdin’ his shiny beaver in his hand, while
I tore open the telegram envelope. ‘Twas a message from a feller I knew
with the Clyde Line of steamboats. He had found out, somehow, that we
was in New York, and the telegram was an order for us to come and make
him a visit.

“‘I hope it’s not bad news, sor,’ says the big chap.

“‘No, no,’ says I. ‘Not a bit of it, Mr. Dempsey. Come on in and have a
cigar, won’t you?’

“‘Thank you, sor,’ says he. ‘I’m glad it’s not the bad news. Sure, I ax
you and your friend’s pardon for bein’ so short to yez this mornin’, but
I’m in that throuble lately that me timper is all but gone.’

“‘That so?’ says I. ‘Trouble’s thick in this world, ain’t it? Me and Mr.
Phinney got a case of trouble on our hands now, Mr. Dempsey, and--’

“‘Excuse me, sor,’ he says. ‘My name’s not Dempsey. I suppose you seen
the sign with me partner’s name on it. I only bought into the business
a while ago, and the new sign’s not ready yit. Me name is O’Shaughnessy,
sor.’

“‘What?’ says I. And then: ‘WHAT?’

“‘O’Shaughnessy. Michael O’Shaughnessy. I--’

“‘Hold on!’ I sung out. ‘For the land sakes, hold on! WHAT’S your name?’

“He bristled up like a cat.

“‘Michael O’Shaughnessy,’ he roars, like the bull of Bashan. ‘D’yez
find any fault with it? ‘Twas me father’s before me--Michael Patrick
O’Shaughnessy, of County Sligo. I’ll have yez know--WHAT’S THAT?’

“‘Twas a scream from the libr’ry. Next thing I knew, Margaret, the nurse
girl, was standin’ in the hall, white as a Sunday shirt, and swingin’
back and forth like a wild-carrot stalk in a gale.

“‘Mike!’ says she, kind of low and faint. ‘Mary be good to us! MIKE!’

“And the big chap dropped his tall hat on the floor and turned as white
as she was.

“‘MAGGIE!’ he hollers. And then they closed in on one another.

“Sim and the priest and Archie had followed the girl into the hall. Me
and Phinney was too flabbergasted to do anything, but big Father McGrath
was cool as an ice box. When Archibald, like the little imp he was, sets
up a whoop and dives for them two, the priest grabs him by the rope of
the blanket nighty and swings him into the libr’ry, and shuts the door
on him.

“‘And now,’ says he, takin’ Sim and me by the arms and leadin’ us to the
parlor, ‘we’ll just step in here and wait a bit.’

“We waited, maybe, ten minutes. Archibald, dear, shut up in the libr’ry,
was howlin’ blue murder, but nobody paid any attention to him. Then
there was a knock on the door between us and the hall, and Father
McGrath opened it. There they was, the two of ‘em--Mike and
Maggie--lookin’ red and foolish--but happy, don’t talk!

“‘You see, sor,’ says the O’Shaughnessy man to me, ‘’twas the
five-thousand-dollar prize that done it. I’d been workin’ at me trade,
sor--larnin’ to tind bar it was--and I’d just got a new job where the
pay was pretty good, and I’d sint over for Maggie, and was plannin’ for
the little flat we was to have, and the like of that, when I drew that
prize. And the joy of it was like handin’ me a jolt on the jaw. It put
me out for two weeks, sor, and when I come to I was in Baltimore, where
I’d gone to collect the money; and two thousand of the five was gone,
and I knew me job in New York was gone, and I was that shamed and sick
it took me three days more to make up me mind to come to me Cousin
Tim’s, where I knew Maggie’d be waitin’ for me. And when I did come back
she was gone, too.’

“‘And then,’ says Father McGrath, sharp, ‘I suppose you went on another
spree, and spent the rest of the money.’

“‘I did not, sor--axin’ your pardon for contradictin’ your riverence.
I signed the pledge, and I’ll keep it, with Maggie to help me. I put
me three thousand into a partnership with me friend Dempsey, who was
runnin’ the Golconda House--‘tis over on the East Side, with a fine bar
trade--and I’m doin’ well, barrin’ that I’ve been crazy for this poor
girl, and advertisin’ and--’

“‘And look at the clothes of him!’ sings out Margaret, reverentlike.
‘And is that YOUR tall hat, Mike? To think of you with a tall hat! Sure
it’s a proud girl I am this day. Saints forgive me, I’ve forgot Archie!’

“And afore we could stop her she’d run into the hall and unfastened
the libr’ry door. It took her some time to smooth down the young one’s
sensitive feelin’s, and while she was gone, me and Simeon told the
O’Shaughnessy man a little of what his girl had had to put up with along
of Cousin Harriet and Archibald. He was mad.

“‘Is that the little blackguard?’ he asks, pointin’ to Archibald, who
had arrived by now.

“‘That’s the one,’ says I.

“Archibald looked up at him and grinned, sassy as ever.

“‘Father McGrath,’ asks O’Shaughnessy, determined like, ‘can you marry
us this night?’

“‘I can,’ says the Father.

“‘And will yez?’

“‘I will, with pleasure.’

“‘Maggie,’ says Mike, ‘get your hat and jacket on and come with the
Father and me this minute. These gintlemen here will explain to your
lady when she comes back. But YOU’LL come back no more. We’ll send for
your trunk to-morrer.’

“Even then the girl hesitated. She’d been so used to bein’ a slave that
I suppose she couldn’t realize she was free at last.

“‘But, Mike, dear,’ she says. ‘I--oh, your lovely hat! Put it down,
Archie, darlin’. Put it down!’

“Archibald had been doin’ a little cruisin’ on his own hook, and he’d
dug up Mike’s shiny beaver where it had been dropped in the hall. Now he
was dancin’ round with it, bangin’ it on the top as if it was a drum.

“‘Put it down, PLEASE!’ pleads Margaret. ‘Twas plain that that plug was
a crown of glory to her.

“‘Drop it, you little thafe!’ yells O’Shaughnessy, makin’ a dive for the
boy.

“‘I won’t!’ screams Archibald, and starts to run. He tripped over the
corner of a mat, and fell flat. The plug hat was underneath him, and it
fell flat, too.

“‘Oh! oh! oh!’ wails Margaret, wringin’ her hands. ‘Your beautiful hat,
Mike!’

“Mike’s face was like a sunset.

“‘Your reverence,’ says he, ‘tell me this; don’t the wife promise to
“obey” in the marriage service?’

“‘She does,’ says Father McGrath.

“‘D’ye hear that, you that’s to be Margaret O’Shaughnessy? You do? Well,
then, as your husband that’s to be in tin minutes, I order you to give
that small divil what’s comin’ to him. D’ye hear me? Will yez obey me,
or will yez not?’

“She didn’t know what to do. You could see she wanted to--her fingers
was itchin’ to do it, but--And then Archie held up the ruins of the hat
and commenced to laugh.

“That settled it. Next minute he was across her knee and gettin’ what
he’d been sufferin’ for ever sence he was born; and gettin’ all the back
numbers along with it, too.

“And in the midst of the performance Sim Phinney leans over to me with
the most heavenly, resigned expression on his face, and says he:

“‘It ain’t OUR fault, Hiram. We promised not to interfere.’”

“What did Sam Holden and his wife say when they got home?” asked Captain
Sol, when the triumphant whoops over Archibald’s righteous chastisement
had subsided.

“We didn’t give him much of a chance to say anything. I laid for him in
the hall when he arrived and told him that Phinney had got a telegram
and must leave immediate. He wanted to know why, and a whole lot more,
but I told him we’d write it. Neither Sim nor me cared to face Cousin
Harriet after her darlin’ son had spun his yarn. Ha! ha! I’d like to
have seen her face--from a safe distance.”

Captain Bailey Stitt cleared his throat. “Referrin’ to them
automobiles,” he said, “I--”

“Say, Sol,” interrupted Wingate, “did I ever tell you of Cap’n Jonadab’s
and my gettin’ took up by the police when WE was in New York?”

“No,” replied the astounded depot master. “Took up by the POLICE?”

“Um--hm. Surprises you, don’t it? Well, that whole trip was a surprise
to me.

“When Laban Thorp set out to thrash his son and the boy licked him
instead, they found the old man settin’ in the barnyard, holdin’ on to
his nose and grinnin’ for pure joy.

“‘Hurt?’ says he. ‘Why, some. But think of it! Only think of it! I
didn’t believe Bill had it in him.’

“Well, that’s the way I felt when Cap’n Jonadab sprung the New York plan
on to me. I was pretty nigh as much surprised as Labe. The idea of a man
with a chronic case of lockjaw of the pocketbook, same as Jonadab had
worried along under ever sence I knew him, suddenly breakin’ loose with
a notion to go to New York on a pleasure cruise! ‘Twas too many for me.
I set and looked at him.

“‘Oh, I mean it, Barzilla,’ he says. ‘I ain’t been to New York sence I
was mate on the Emma Snow, and that was ‘way back in the eighties. That
is, to stop I ain’t. That time we went through on the way to Peter T.’s
weddin’ don’t count, ‘cause we only went in the front door and out the
back, like Squealer Wixon went through high school. Let’s you and me go
and stay two or three days and have a real high old time,’ says he.

“I fetched a long breath. ‘Jonadab,’ I says, don’t scare a feller this
way; I’ve got a weak heart. If you’re goin’ to start in and be divilish
in your old age, why, do it kind of gradual. Let’s go over to the
billiard room and have a bottle of sass’parilla and a five-cent cigar,
just to break the ice.’

“But that only made him mad.

“‘You talk like a fish,’ he says. ‘I mean it. Why can’t we go? It’s
September, the Old Home House is shut up for the season, you and me’s
done well--fur’s profits are concerned--and we ought to have a change,
anyway. We’ve got to stay here in Orham all winter.’

“‘Have you figgered out how much it’s goin’ to cost?’ I asked him.

“Yes, he had. ‘It won’t be so awful expensive,’ he says. ‘I’ve got some
stock in the railroad and that’ll give me a pass fur’s Fall River. And
we can take a lunch to eat on the boat. And a stateroom’s a dollar;
that’s fifty cents apiece. And my daughter’s goin’ to Denboro on a
visit next week, so I’d have to pay board if I stayed to home. Come on,
Barzilla! don’t be so tight with your money.’

“So I said I’d go, though I didn’t have any pass, nor no daughter to
feed me free gratis for nothin’ when I got back. And when we started,
on the followin’ Monday, nothin’ would do but we must be at the depot
at two o’clock so’s not to miss the train, which left at quarter past
three.

“I didn’t sleep much that night on the boat. For one thing, our
stateroom was a nice lively one, alongside of the paddle box and just
under the fog whistle; and for another, the supper that Jonadab had
brought, bein’ mainly doughnuts and cheese, wa’n’t the best cargo to
take to bed with you. But it didn’t make much diff’rence, ‘cause we
turned out at four, so’s to see the scenery and git our money’s worth.
What was left of the doughnuts and cheese we had for breakfast.

“We made the dock on time, and the next thing was to pick out a hotel.
I was for cruisin’ along some of the main streets until we hove in sight
of a place that looked sociable and not too expensive. But no; Jonadab
had it all settled for me. We was goin’ to the ‘Wayfarer’s Inn,’ a
boardin’ house where he’d put up once when he was mate of the Emma Snow.
He said ‘twas a fine place and you could git as good ham and eggs there
as a body’d want to eat.

“So we set sail for the ‘Wayfarer’s,’ and of all the times gittin’ to a
place--don’t talk! We asked no less than nine policemen and one hundred
and two other folks, and it cost us thirty cents in car fares, which
pretty nigh broke Jonadab’s heart. However, we found it, finally, ‘way
off amongst a nest of brick houses and peddler carts and children, and
it wa’n’t the ‘Wayfarer’s Inn’ no more, but was down in the shippin’
list as the ‘Golconda House.’ Jonadab said the neighborhood had changed
some sence he was there, but he guessed we’d better chance it, ‘cause
the board was cheap.

“We had a nine-by-ten room up aloft somewheres, and there we set down on
the edge of the bed and a chair to take account of stock, as you might
say.

“‘Now, I tell you, Jonadab,’ says I; ‘we don’t want to waste no time,
and we’ve got the day afore us. What do you say if we cruise along
the water front for a spell? There’s ha’f a dozen Orham folks aboard
diff’rent steamers that hail from this port, and ‘twouldn’t be no more’n
neighborly to call on ‘em. There’s Silas Baker’s boy, Asa--he’s with the
Savannah Line and he’d be mighty glad to see us. And there’s--’

“But Jonadab held up his hand. He’d been mysterious as a baker’s mince
pie ever sence we started, hintin’ at somethin’ he’d got to do when we’d
got to New York. And now he out with it.

“‘Barzilla,’ he says, ‘I ain’t sayin’ but what I’d like to go to the
wharves with you, first rate. And we will go, too. But afore we do
anything else I’ve got an errand that must be attended to. ‘Twas give
to me by a dyin’ man,’ he says, ‘and I promised him I’d do it. So that
comes first of all.’

“He got his wallet out of his inside vest pocket, where it had been
pinned in tight to keep it safe from robbers, unwound a foot or so of
leather strap, and dug up a yeller piece of paper that looked old enough
to be Methusalem’s will, pretty nigh.

“‘Do you remember Patrick Kelly in Orham?’ he asks.

“‘Who?’ says I. ‘Pat Kelly, the Irishman, that lived in the little old
shack back of your barn? Course I do. But he’s been dead for I don’t
know how long.’

“‘I know he has. Do you remember his boy Jim that run away from home?’

“‘Let’s see,’ I says. ‘Seems to me I do. Freckled, red-headed rooster,
wa’n’t he? And of all the imps of darkness that ever--’

“‘S-sh-sh!’ he interrupted solemn. ‘Don’t say that now, Barzilla. Sounds
kind of irreverent. Well, me and old Pat was pretty friendly, in a way,
though he did owe me rent. When he was sick with the pleurisy he sends
for me and he says, “Cap’n ‘Wixon,” says he, “you’re pretty close with
the money,” he says--he was kind of out of his head at the time and
liable to say foolish things--“you’re pretty close,” he says, “but
you’re a man of your word. My boy Jimmie, that run away, was the apple
of my eye.”’

“‘That’s what he said about his girl Maggie that was took up for
stealin’ Mrs. Elkanah Higgins’s spoons,’ I says. ‘He had a healthy crop
of apples in HIS orchard.’

“‘S-sh-h! DON’T talk so! I feel as if the old man’s spirit was with
us this minute. “He’s the apple of my eye,” he says, “and he run away,
after me latherin’ the life out of him with a wagon spoke. ‘Twas all
for his good, but he didn’t understand, bein’ but a child. And now I’ve
heard,” he says, “that he’s workin’ at 116 East Blank Street in the city
of New York. Cap’n Wixon, you’re a man of money and a travelin’ man,” he
says (I was fishin’ in them days). “When you go to New York,” he says,
“I want you to promise me to go to the address on this paper and hunt
up Jimmie. Tell him I forgive him for lickin’ him,” he says, “and die
happy. Will you promise me that, Cap’n, on your word as a gentleman?”
 And I promised him. And he died in less than ten months afterwards, poor
thing.’

“‘But that was sixteen--eighteen--nineteen years ago,’ says I. ‘And the
boy run away three years afore that. You’ve been to New York in the past
nineteen years, once anyhow.’

“‘I know it. But I forgot. I’m ashamed of it, but I forgot. And when
I was goin’ through the things up attic at my daughter’s last Friday,
seein’ what I could find for the rummage sale at the church, I come
across my old writin’ desk, and in it was this very piece of paper with
the address on it just as I wrote it down. And me startin’ for New York
in three days! Barzilla, I swan to man, I believe something SENT me to
that attic.’

“I knew what sent him there and so did the church folks, judgin’ by
their remarks when the contribution came in. But I was too much set back
by the whole crazy business to say anything about that.

“‘Look here, Jonadab Wixon,’ I sings out, ‘do you mean to tell me that
we’ve got to put in the whole forenoon ransackin’ New York to find a boy
that run off twenty-two years ago?’

“‘It won’t take the forenoon,’ he says. ‘I’ve got the number, ain’t I?’

“‘Yes, you’ve got the number where he WAS. If you want to know where I
think he’s likely to be now, I’d try the jail.’

“But he said I was unfeelin’ and disobligin’ and lots more, so, to cut
the argument short, I agreed to go. And off we put to hunt up 116
East Blank Street. And when we located it, after a good hour of askin’
questions, and payin’ car fares and wearin’ out shoe leather, ‘twas a
Chinese laundry.

“‘Well,’ I says, sarcastic, ‘here we be. Which one of the heathen do you
think is Jimmie? If he had an inch or so more of upper lip, I’d gamble
on that critter with the pink nighty and the baskets on his feet. He has
a kind of familiar chicken-stealin’ look in his eye. Oh, come down on
the wharves, Jonadab, and be sensible.’

“Would you believe it, he wa’n’t satisfied. We must go into the wash
shop and ask the Chinamen if they knew Jimmie Kelly. So we went in and
the powwow begun.

“‘Twas a mighty unsatisfyin’ interview. Jonadab’s idea of talkin’ to
furriners is to yell at ‘em as if they was stone deef. If they don’t
understand what you say, yell louder. So between his yells and the
heathen’s jabber and grunts the hullabaloo was worse than a cat in a hen
yard. Folks begun to stop outside the door and listen and grin.

“‘What did he say?’ asks the Cap’n, turnin’ to me.

“‘I don’t know,’ says I, ‘but I cal’late he’s gettin’ ready to send
a note up to the crazy asylum. Come on out of here afore I go loony
myself.’

“So he done it, finally, cross as all get out, and swearin’ that all
Chinese was no good and oughtn’t to be allowed in this country. But he
wouldn’t give up, not yet. He must scare up some of the neighbors and
ask them. The fifth man that we asked was an old chap who remembered
that there used to be a liquor saloon once where the laundry was now.
But he didn’t know who run it or what had become of him.

“‘Never mind,’ I says. ‘You’re as warm as you’re likely to be this trip.
A rum shop is just about the place I’d expect that Kelly boy WOULD be
in. And, if he’s like the rest of his relations on his dad’s side, he
drank himself to death years ago. NOW will you head for the Savannah
Line?’

“Not much, he wouldn’t. He had another notion. We’d look in the
directory. That seemed to have a glimmer of sense somewheres in its
neighborhood, so we found an apothecary store and the clerk handed us
out a book once again as big as a church Bible.

“‘Kelly,’ says Jonadab. ‘Yes, here ‘tis. Now, “James Kelly.” Land of
Love! Barzilla, look here.’

“I looked, and there wa’n’t no less than a dozen pages of James Kellys
beginning with fifty James A.’s and endin’ with four James Z.’s. The Y
in ‘New York’ ought to be a C, judgin’ by that directory.

“‘Godfrey mighty!’ I says. ‘This ain’t no forenoon’s job, Jonadab. If
you’re goin’ through that list you’ll have to spend the rest of your
life here. Only, unless you want to be lonesome, you’ll have to change
your name to Kelly.’

“‘If I’d only got his middle letter,’ says he, mournful, ‘’twould have
been easier. He had four middle names, if I remember right--the old man
was great on names--and ‘twas too much trouble to write ‘em all down.
Well, I’ve done my duty, anyhow. We’ll go and call on Ase Baker.’

“But ‘twas after eleven o’clock then, and the doughnuts and cheese I
had for breakfast was beginnin’ to feel as if they wanted company. So we
decided to go back to the Golconda and have some dinner first.

“We had ham and eggs for dinner, some that was left over from the last
time Jonadab stopped there, I cal’late. Lucky there was hot bread and
coffee on the bill or we’d never got a square meal. Then we went up to
our room and the Cap’n laid down on the bed. He was beat out, he said,
and wanted to rest up a spell afore haulin’ anchor for another cruise.”



CHAPTER XII

A VISION SENT


“Where’s the arrestin’ come in?” demanded Stitt.

“Comes quick now, Bailey. Plenty quick enough for me and Jonadab, I tell
you that! After we got to our room the Cap’n went to sleep pretty soon
and I set in the one chair, readin’ the newspaper and wishin’ I hadn’t
ate so many of the warm bricks that the Golconda folks hoped was
biscuit. They made me feel like a schooner goin’ home in ballast. I
guess I was drowsin’ off myself, but there comes a most unearthly yell
from the bed and I jumped ha’f out of the chair. There was Jonadab
settin’ up and lookin’ wild.

“‘What in the world?’ says I.

“‘Oh! Ugh! My soul!’ says he.

“‘Your soul, hey?’ says I. ‘Is that all? I thought mebbe you’d lost a
quarter.’

“‘Barzilla,’ he says, comin’ to and starin’ at me solemn, ‘Barzilla,
I’ve had a dream--a wonderful dream.’

“‘Well,’ I says, ‘I ain’t surprised. A feller that h’isted in as much
fried dough as you did ought to expect--’

“‘But I tell you ‘twas a WONDERFUL dream,’ he says. ‘I dreamed I was on
Blank Street, where we was this mornin’, and Patrick Kelly comes to me
and p’ints his finger right in my face. I see him as plain as I see
you now. And he says to me--he said it over and over, two or three
times--Seventeen,” says he, “Seventeen.” Now what do you think of that?’

“‘Humph!’ I says. ‘I ain’t surprised. I think ‘twas just seventeen
of them biscuits that you got away with. Wonder to me you didn’t see
somebody worse’n old Pat.’

“But he was past jokin’. You never see a man so shook up by the
nightmare as he was by that one. He kept goin’ over it and tellin’ how
natural old Kelly looked and how many times he said ‘Seventeen’ to him.

“‘Now what did he mean by it?’ he says. ‘Don’t tell me that was a common
dream, ‘cause twa’n’t. No, sir, ‘twas a vision sent to me, and I know
it. But what did he mean?’

“‘I think he meant you was seventeen kinds of an idiot,’ I snorts,
disgusted. ‘Get up off that bed and stop wavin’ your arms, will you?
He didn’t mean for you to turn yourself into a windmill, that’s sartin
sure.’

“Then he hits his knee a slap that sounds like a window blind blowin’
to. ‘I’ve got it!’ he sings out. ‘He meant for me to go to number
seventeen on that street. That’s what he meant.’

“I laughed and made fun of him, but I might as well have saved my
breath. He was sure Pat Kelly’s ghost had come hikin’ back from the
hereafter to tell him to go to 17 Blank Street and find his boy. ‘Else
why was he ON Blank Street?’ he says. ‘You tell me that.’

“I couldn’t tell him. It’s enough for me to figger out what makes live
folks act the way they do, let alone dead ones. And Cap’n Jonadab was a
Spiritu’list on his mother’s side. It ended by my agreein’ to give the
Jimmie chase one more try.

“‘But it’s got to be the last,’ I says. ‘When you get to number
seventeen don’t you say you think the old man meant to say “seventy” and
stuttered.’

“Number 17 Blank Street was a little combination fruit and paper store
run by an Eyetalian with curly hair and the complexion of a molasses
cooky. His talk sounded as if it had been run through a meat chopper.
All he could say was, ‘Nica grape, genta’men? On’y fifteen cent a pound.
Nica grape? Nica apple? Nica pear? Nica ploom?’

“‘Kelly?’ says Jonadab, hollerin’ as usual. ‘Kelly! d’ye understand?
K-E-L-Kel L-Y-ly, Kelly. YOU know, KELLY! We want to find him.’

“And just then up steps a feller about six feet high and three foot
through. He was dressed in checkerboard clothes, some gone to seed, and
you could hardly see the blue tie he had on for the glass di’mond in
it. Oh, he was a little wilted now--for the lack of water, I judge--but
‘twas plain that he’d been a sunflower in his time. He’d just come out
of a liquor store next door to the fruit shop and was wipin’ his mouth
with the back of his hand.

“‘What’s this I hear?’ says he, fetchin’ Jonadab a welt on the back like
a mast goin’ by the board. ‘Is it me friend Kelly you’re lookin’ for?’

“I was just goin’ to tell him no, not likin’ his looks, but Jonadab cut
in ahead of me, out of breath from the earthquake the feller had landed
him, but excited as could be.

“‘Yes, yes!’ says he. ‘It’s Mr. Kelly we want. Do you know him?’

“‘Do I know him? Why, me bucko, ‘tis me old college chum he is. Come on
with me and we’ll give him the glad hand.’

“He grabs Jonadab by the arm and starts along the sidewalk, steerin’ a
toler’ble crooked course, but gainin’ steady by jerks.

“‘I was on me way to Kelly’s place now,’ says he. ‘And here it is. Sure
didn’t I bate the bookies blind on Rosebud but yesterday--or was it the
day before? I don’t know, but come on, me lads, and we’ll do him again.’

“He turned in at a little narrer entry-like, and went stumblin’ up a
flight of dirty stairs. I caught hold of Jonadab’s coat tails and pulled
him back.

“‘Where you goin’, you crazy loon?’ I whispered. ‘Can’t you see he’s
three sheets in the wind? And you haven’t told him what Kelly you want,
nor nothin’.’

“But I might as well have hollered at a stone wall. ‘I don’t care if
he’s as fur gone in liquor as Belshazzer’s goat,’ sputters the Cap’n,
all worked up. ‘He’s takin’ us to a Kelly, ain’t he? And is it likely
there’d be another one within three doors of the number I dreamed
about? Didn’t I tell you that dream was a vision sent? Don’t lay to NOW,
Barzilla, for the land sakes! It’s Providence a-workin’.’

“‘Cording to my notion the sunflower looked more like an agent from
t’other end of the line than one from Providence, but just then he
commenced to yell for us and upstairs we went, Jonadab first.

“‘Whisht!’ says the checkerboard, holdin’ on to Jonadab’s collar and
swingin’ back and forth. ‘Before we proceed to blow in on me friend
Kelly, let us come to an understandin’ concernin’ and touchin’
on--and--and--I don’t know. But b’ys,’ says he, solemn and confidential,
‘are you on the square? Are yez dead game sports, hey?’

“‘Yes, yes!’ says Jonadab. ‘Course we be. Mr. Kelly and us are old
friends. We’ve come I don’t know how fur on purpose to see him. Now
where’s--’

“‘Say no more,’ hollers the feller. ‘Say no more. Come on with yez.’ And
he marches down the dark hall to a door with a ‘To let’ sign on it and
fetches it a bang with his fist. It opens a little ways and a face shows
in the crack.

“‘Hello, Frank!’ hails the sunflower, cheerful. ‘Will you take that ugly
mug of yours out of the gate and lave me friends in?’

“‘What’s the matter wid you, Mike?’ asks the chap at the door. ‘Yer
can’t bring them two yaps in here and you know it. Gwan out of this.’

“He tried to shut the door, but the checkerboard had his foot between it
and the jamb. You might as well have tried to shove in the broadside of
an ocean liner as to push against that foot.

“‘These gents are friends of mine,’ says he. ‘Frank, I’ll do yez the
honor of an introduction to Gin’ral Grant and Dan’l O’Connell. Open that
door and compose your face before I’m obliged to break both of ‘em.’

“‘But I tell you, Mike, I can’t,’ says the door man, lookin’ scared.
‘The boss is out, and you know--’

“‘WILL you open that door?’ roars the big chap. And with that he hove
his shoulder against the panels and jammed the door open by main force,
all but flattenin’ the other feller behind it. ‘Walk in, Gin’ral,’ he
says to Jonadab, and in we went, me wonderin’ what was comin’ next, and
not darin’ to guess.

“There was a kind of partitioned off hallway inside, with another door
in the partition. We opened that, and there was a good-sized room,
filled with men, smokin’ and standin’ around. A high board fence was
acrost one end of the room, and from behind it comes a jinglin’ of
telephone bells and the sounds of talk. The floor was covered with
torn papers, the window blinds was shut, the gas was burnin’ blue, and,
between it and the smoke, the smells was as various as them in a fish
glue factory. On the fence was a couple of blackboards with ‘Belmont’
and ‘Brighton’ and suchlike names in chalk wrote on ‘em, and
beneath that a whole mess in writin’ and figures like, ‘Red Tail
4--Wt--108--Jock Smith--5--1,’ ‘Sourcrout 5--Wt--99--Jock Jones--20--5,’
and similar rubbish. And the gang--a mighty mixed lot--was scribblin’
in little books and watchin’ each other as if they was afraid of havin’
their pockets picked; though, to look at ‘em, you’d have guessed the
biggest part had nothin’ in their pockets but holes.

“The six-foot checkerboard--who, it turned out, answered to the hail of
‘Mike’--seemed to be right at home with the gang. He called most of ‘em
by their first names and went sasshayin’ around, weltin’ ‘em on the back
and tellin’ ‘em how he’d ‘put crimps in the bookies rolls t’other day,’
and a lot more stuff that they seemed to understand, but was hog Greek
to me and Jonadab. He’d forgot us altogether which was a mercy the way I
looked at it, and I steered the Cap’n over into a corner and we come to
anchor on a couple of rickety chairs.

“‘What--why--what kind of a place IS this, Barzilla?’ whispers Jonadab,
scared.

“‘Sh-h-h!’ says I. ‘Land knows. Just set quiet and hang on to your
watch.’

“‘But--but I want to find Kelly,’ says he.

“‘I’d give somethin’ to find a back door,’ says I. ‘Ain’t this a
collection of dock rats though! If this is a part of your dream,
Jonadab, I wish you’d turn over and wake up. Oh land! here’s one
murderer headin’ this way. Keep your change in your fist and keep the
fist shut.’

“A more’n average rusty peep, with a rubber collar on and no necktie,
comes slinkin’ over to us. He had a smile like a crack in a plate.

“‘Say, gents,’ he says, ‘have you made your bets yet? I’ve got a dead
straight line on the handicap,’ says he, ‘and I’ll put you next for a
one spot. It’s a sure t’ing at fifteen to three. What do you say?’

“I didn’t say nuthin’; but that fool dream was rattlin’ round in
Jonadab’s skull like a bean in a blowgun, and he sees a chance for a
shot.

“‘See here, mister,’ he says. ‘Can you tell me where to locate Mr.
Kelly?’

“‘Who--Pete?’ says the feller. ‘Oh, he ain’t in just now. But about that
handicap. I like the looks of youse and I’ll let youse in for a dollar.
Or, seein’ it’s you, we’ll say a half. Only fifty cents. I wouldn’t do
better for my own old man,’ he says.

“While the Cap’n was tryin’ to unravel one end of this gibberish I spoke
up prompt.

“‘Say,’ says I, ‘tell me this, will you? Is the Kelly who owns
this--this palace, named Jimmie--James, I mean?’

“‘Naw,’ says he. ‘Sure he ain’t. It’s Pete Kelly, of course--Silver
Pete. But what are you givin’ us? Are you bettin’ on the race, or ain’t
you?’

“Well, Jonadab understood that. He bristled up like a brindled cat.
If there’s any one thing the Cap’n is down on, it’s gamblin’ and
such--always exceptin’ when he knows he’s won already. You’ve seen that
kind, maybe.

“‘Young feller,’ he says, perkish, ‘I want you to know that me and my
friend ain’t the bettin’ kind. What sort of a hole IS this, anyway?’

“The rubber collared critter backed off, lookin’ worried. He goes acrost
the room, and I see him talkin’ to two or three other thieves as tough
as himself. And they commenced to stare at us and scowl.

“‘Come on,’ I whispered to Jonadab. ‘Let’s get out of this place while
we can. There ain’t no Jimmie Kelly here, or if there is you don’t want
to find him.’

“He was as willin’ to make tracks as I was, by this time, and we headed
for the door in the partition. But Rubber Collar and some of the others
got acrost our bows.

“‘Cut it out,’ says one of ‘em. ‘You can’t get away so easy. Hi, Frank!
Frank! Who let these turnip pullers in here, anyhow? Who are they?’

“The chap who was tendin’ door comes out of his coop. ‘You’ve got me,’
he says. ‘They come in with Big Mike, and he was loaded and scrappy and
jammed ‘em through. Said they was pals of his. Where is he?’

“There was a hunt for Mike, and, when they got his bearin’s, there
he was keeled over on a bench, breathin’ like an escape valve. And an
admiral’s salute wouldn’t have woke him up. The whole crew was round us
by this time, some ugly, and the rest laffin’ and carryin’ on.

“‘It’s the Barkwurst gang,’ says one.

“‘It’s old Bark himself,’ says another. ‘Look at them lace curtains.’
And he points to Jonadab’s whiskers.

“‘This one’s Jacobs in disguise,’ sings out somebody else. ‘You can tell
him by the Rube get-up. Haw! haw!’

“‘Soak ‘em! Do ‘em up! Don’t let ‘em out!’ hollers a ha’f dozen more.

“Jonadab was game; I’ll say that for him. And I hadn’t been second mate
in my time for nothin’.

“‘Take your hands off me!’ yells the Cap’n. ‘I come in here to find
a man I’m lookin’ for, James Kelly it was, and--You would, would you!
Stand by, Barzilla!’

“I stood by. Rubber Collar got one from me that made him remember home
and mother, I’ll bet. Anyhow, my knuckles ached for two days afterwards.
And Jonadab was just as busy. But I cal’late we’d have been ready for
the oven in another five minutes if the door hadn’t bu’st open with a
bang, and a loud dressed chap, with the sweat pourin’ down his face,
come tearin’ in.

“‘Beat it, fellers!’ he yells. ‘The place is goin’ to be pinched. I’ve
just had the tip, and they’re right on top of me.’

“THEN there was times. Everybody was shoutin’ and swearin’ and fallin’
over each other to get out. I was kind of lost in the shuffle, and
the next thing I remember for sartin is settin’ up on Rubber Collar’s
stomach and lookin’ foggy at the door, where the loud dressed man was
wrestlin’ with a policeman. And there was police at the windows and all
around.

“Well, don’t talk! I got up, resurrects Jonadab from under a heap of
gamblers and furniture, and makes for harbor in our old corner. The
police was mighty busy, especially a fat, round-faced, red-mustached
man, with gold bands on his cap and arms, that the rest called ‘Cap’n.’
Him and the loud dressed chap who’d give the alarm was talkin’ earnest
close to us.

“‘I can’t help it, Pete,’ says the police cap’n. ‘’Twas me or the Vice
Suppression crowd. They’ve been on to you for two weeks back. I only
just got in ahead of ‘em as it was. No, you’ll have to go along with
the rest and take your chances. Quiet now, everybody, or you’ll get it
harder,’ he roars, givin’ orders like the skipper of a passenger boat.
‘Stand in line and wait your turns for the wagon.’

“Jonadab grabbed me by the wrist. He was pale and shakin’ all over.

“‘Oh, Lordy!’ says he, ‘we’re took up. Will we have to go to jail, do
you think?’

“‘I don’t know,’ I says, disgusted. ‘I presume likely we will. Did you
dream anything like this? You’d better see if you can’t dream yourself
out now.’ Twas rubbin’ it in, but I was mad.

“‘Oh! oh!’ says he, flappin’ his hands. ‘And me a deacon of the church!
Will folks know it, do you think?’

“‘Will they know it! Sounds as if they knew it already. Just listen to
that.’

“The first wagon full of prizes was bein’ loaded in down at the front
door, and the crowd outside was cheerin’ ‘em. Judgin’ by the whoops and
hurrahs there wa’n’t no less than a million folks at the show, and they
was gettin’ the wuth of admission.

“‘Oh, dear!’ groans Jonadab. ‘And it’ll be in the papers and all! I
can’t stand this.’

“And afore I could stop him he’d run over and tackled the head
policeman.

“‘Mister--Mister Cap’n,’ he says, pantin’, ‘there’s been a mistake, an
awful mis--take--’

“‘That’s right,’ says the police cap’n, ‘there has. Six or eight of you
tin horns got clear. But--’ Then he noticed who was speakin’ to him
and his mouth dropped open like a hatch. ‘Well, saints above!’ he says.
‘Have the up-state delegates got to buckin’ the ponies, too? Why ain’t
you back home killin’ pertater bugs? You ought to be ashamed.’

“‘But we wa’n’t gamblin’--me and my friend wa’n’t. We was led in here
by mistake. We was told that a feller named Kelly lived here and we’re
huntin’ for a man of that name. I’ve got a message to him from his poor
dead father back in Orham. We come all the way from Orham, Mass.--to
find him and--’

“The police cap’n turned around then and stared at him hard. ‘Humph!’
says he, after a spell. ‘Go over there and set down till I want you. No,
you’ll go now and we’ll waste no breath on it. Go on, do you hear!’

“So we went, and there we set for ha’f an hour, while the rest of the
gang and the blackboards and the paper slips and the telephones and Big
Mike and his chair was bein’ carted off to the wagon. Once, when one of
the constables was beatin’ acrost to get us, the police cap’n spoke to
him.

“‘You can leave these two,’ he says. ‘I’ll take care of them.’

“So, finally, when there was nothin’ left but the four walls and us and
some of the police, he takes me and Jonadab by the elbows and heads for
the door.

“‘Now,’ says he, ‘walk along quiet and peaceable and tell me all about
it. Get out of this!’ he shouts to the crowd of small boys and loafers
on the sidewalk, ‘or I’ll take you, too.’

“The outsiders fell astern, lookin’ heartbroke and disapp’inted that we
wa’n’t hung on the spot, and the fat boss policeman and us two paraded
along slow but grand. I felt like the feller that was caught robbin’
the poorhouse, and I cal’late Jonadab felt the same, only he was so
busy beggin’ and pleadin’ and explainin’ that he couldn’t stop to feel
anything.

“He told it all, the whole fool yarn from one end to t’other. How old
Pat give him the message and how he went to the laundry, and about his
ridiculous dream, every word. And the fat policeman shook all over, like
a barrel of cod livers.

“By and by we got to a corner of a street and hove to. I could see
the station house loomin’ up large ahead. Fatty took a card from his
pocketbook, wrote on it with a pencil, and then hailed a hack, one of
them stern-first kind where the driver sits up aloft ‘way aft. He pushed
back the cap with the gilt wreath on it, and I could see his red hair
shinin’ like a sunset.

“‘Here,’ says he to the hack driver, ‘take these--this pair of salads
to the--what d’ye call it?--the Golconda House, wherever on top of the
pavement that is. And mind you, deliver ‘em safe and don’t let the truck
horses get a bite at ‘em. And at half-past eight to-night you call for
‘em and bring ‘em here,’ handin’ up the card he’d written on.

“‘’Tis the address of my house, I’m givin’,’ he says, turnin’ to
Jonadab. ‘I’ll be off duty then and we’ll have dinner and talk about old
times. To think of you landin’ in Silver Pete’s pool room! Dear! dear!
Why, Cap’n Wixon, barrin’ that your whiskers are a bit longer and a
taste grayer, I’d ‘a’ known you anywheres. Many’s the time I’ve stole
apples over your back fence. I’m Jimmie Kelly,’ says he.”

“Well, by mighty!” exclaimed the depot master, slapping his knee. “So HE
was the Kelly man! Humph!”

“Funny how it turned out, wa’n’t it?” said Barzilla. “Course, Cap’n
Jonadab was perfectly sat on spiritu’lism and signs and omens and such
after that. He’s had his fortune told no less’n eight times sence, and,
nigh’s I can find out, each time it’s different. The amount of blondes
and brunettes and widows and old maids that he’s slated to marry,
accordin’ to them fortune tellers, is perfectly scandalous. If he lives
up to the prophecies, Brigham Young wouldn’t be a twospot ‘longside of
him.”

“It’s funny about dreams,” mused Captain Hiram. “Folks are always
tellin’ about their comin’ true, but none of mine ever did. I used to
dream I was goin’ to be drowned, but I ain’t been yet.”

The depot master laughed. “Well,” he observed, “once, when I was a
youngster, I dreamed two nights runnin’ that I was bein’ hung. I asked
my Sunday school teacher if he believed dreams come true, and he said
yes, sometimes. Then I told him my dream, and he said he believed in
that one. I judged that any other finish for me would have surprised
him. But, somehow or other, they haven’t hung me yet.”

“There was a hired girl over at the Old Home House who was sat on
fortune tellin’,” said Wingate. “Her name was Effie, and--”

“Look here!” broke in Captain Bailey Stitt, righteous indignation in his
tone, “I’ve started no less than nineteen different times to tell you
about how I went sailin’ in an automobile. Now do you want to hear it,
or don’t you?”

“How you went SAILIN’ in an auto?” repeated Barzilla. “Went ridin’, you
mean.”

“I mean sailin’. I went ridin’, too, but--”

“You’ll have to excuse me, Bailey,” interrupted Captain Hiram, rising
and looking at his watch. “I’ve stayed here a good deal longer’n I
ought to, already. I must be gettin’ on home to see how poor little
Dusenberry, my boy, is feelin’. I do hope he’s better by now. I wish Dr.
Parker hadn’t gone out of town.”

The depot master rose also. “And I’ll have to be excused, too,” he
declared. “It’s most time for the up train. Good-by, Hiram. Give my
regards to Sophrony, and if there’s anything I can do to help, in case
your baby should be sick, just sing out, won’t you?”

“But I want to tell about this automobilin’ scrape,” protested Captain
Bailey. “It was one of them things that don’t happen every day.”

“So was that fortune business of Effie’s,” declared Wingate. “Honest,
the way it worked out was queer enough.”

But the train whistled just then and the group broke up. Captain Sol
went out to the platform, where Cornelius Rowe, Ed Crocker, Beriah
Higgins, Obed Gott, and other interested citizens had already assembled.
Wingate and Stitt followed. As for Captain Hiram Baker, he hurried home,
his conscience reproving him for remaining so long away from his wife
and poor little Hiram Joash, more familiarly known as “Dusenberry.”



CHAPTER XIII

DUSENBERRY’S BIRTHDAY


Mrs. Baker met her husband at the door.

“How is he?” was the Captain’s first question. “Better, hey?”

“No,” was the nervous answer. “No, I don’t think he is. His throat’s
terrible sore and the fever’s just as bad.”

Again Captain Hiram’s conscience smote him.

“Dear! dear!” he exclaimed. “And I’ve been loafin’ around the depot
with Sol Berry and the rest of ‘em instead of stayin’ home with you,
Sophrony. I KNEW I was doin’ wrong, but I didn’t realize--”

“Course you didn’t, Hiram. I’m glad you got a few minutes’ rest, after
bein’ up with him half the night. I do wish the doctor was home, though.
When will he be back?”

“Not until late to-morrer, if then. Did you keep on givin’ the
medicine?”

“Yes, but it don’t seem to do much good. You go and set with him now,
Hiram. I must be seein’ about supper.”

So into the sick room went Captain Hiram to sit beside the crib and
sing “Sailor boy, sailor boy, ‘neath the wild billow,” as a lugubrious
lullaby.

Little Hiram Joash tossed and tumbled. He was in a fitful slumber when
Mrs. Baker called her husband to supper. The meal was anything but
a cheerful one. They talked but little. Over the home, ordinarily so
cheerful, had settled a gloom that weighed upon them.

“My! my!” sighed Captain Hiram, “how lonesome it seems without him
chatterin’ and racketin’ sound. Seems darker’n usual, as if there was a
shadow on the place.”

“Hush, Hiram! don’t talk that way. A shadow! Oh, WHAT made you say that?
Sounds like a warnin’, almost.”

“Warnin’?”

“Yes, a forewarnin’, you know. ‘The valley of the shadow--’”

“HUSH!” Captain Baker’s face paled under its sunburn. “Don’t say such
things, Sophrony. If that happened, the Lord help you and me. But it
won’t--it won’t. We’re nervous, that’s all. We’re always so careful of
Dusenberry, as if he was made out of thin china, that we get fidgety
when there’s no need of it. We mustn’t be foolish.”

After supper Mrs. Baker tiptoed into the bedroom. She emerged with a
very white face.

“Hiram,” she whispered, “he acts dreadful queer. Come in and see him.”

The “first mate” was tossing back and forth in the crib, making odd
little choky noises in his swollen throat. When his father entered he
opened his eyes, stared unmeaningly, and said: “‘Tand by to det der ship
under way.”

“Good Lord! he’s out of his head,” gasped the Captain. Sophronia and he
stepped back into the sitting room and looked at each other, the same
thought expressed in the face of each. Neither spoke for a moment, then
Captain Hiram said:

“Now don’t you worry, Sophrony. The Doctor ain’t home, but I’m goin’ out
to--to telegraph him, or somethin’. Keep a stiff upper lip. It’ll be all
right. God couldn’t go back on you and me that way. He just couldn’t.
I’ll be back in a little while.”

“But, oh, Hiram! if he should--if he SHOULD be taken away, what WOULD we
do?”

She began to cry. Her husband laid a trembling hand on her shoulder.

“But he won’t,” he declared stoutly. “I tell you God wouldn’t do such a
thing. Good-by, old lady. I’ll hurry fast as I can.”

As he took up his cap and turned to the door he heard the voice of the
weary little first mate chokily calling his crew to quarters. “All hands
on deck!”

The telegraph office was in Beriah Higgins’s store. Thither ran the
Captain. Pat Sharkey, Mr. Higgins’s Irish helper, who acted as telegraph
operator during Gertie Higgins’s absence, gave Captain Hiram little
satisfaction.

“How can I get Dr. Parker?” asked Pat. “He’s off on a cruise and land
knows where I can reach him to-night. I’ll do what I can, Cap, but it’s
ten chances out of nine against a wire gettin’ to him.”

Captain Hiram left the store, dodging questioners who were anxious to
know what his trouble might be, and dazedly crossed Main Street, to the
railway station. He thought of asking advice of his friend, the depot
master.

The evening train from Boston pulled out as he passed through the
waiting room. One or two passengers were standing on the platform. One
of these was a short, square-shouldered man with gray side whiskers and
eyeglasses. The initials on his suit case were J. S. M., Boston, and
they stood for John Spencer Morgan. If the bearer of the suit case had
followed the fashion of the native princes of India and had emblazoned
his titles upon his baggage, the commonplace name just quoted might have
been followed by “M.D., LL.D., at Harvard and Oxford; vice president
American Medical Society; corresponding secretary Associated Society of
Surgeons; lecturer at Harvard Medical College; author of ‘Diseases of
the Throat and Lungs,’ etc., etc.”

But Dr. Morgan was not given to advertising either his titles or
himself, and he was hurrying across the platform to Redny Blount’s depot
wagon when Captain Hiram touched him on the arm.

“Why, hello, Captain Baker,” exclaimed the Doctor, “how do you do?”

“Dr. Morgan,” said the Captain, “I--I hope you’ll excuse my presumin’ on
you this way, but I want to ask a favor of you, a great favor. I want to
ask if you’ll come down to the house and see the boy; he’s on the sick
list.”

“What, Dusenberry?”

“Yes, sir. He’s pretty bad, I’m ‘fraid, and the old lady’s considerable
upsot about him. If you just come down and kind of take an observation,
so’s we could sort of get our bearin’s, as you might say, ‘twould be a
mighty help to all hands.”

“But where’s your town physician? Hasn’t he been called?”

The Captain explained. He had inquired, and he had telegraphed, but
could get no word of Dr. Parker’s whereabouts.

The great Boston specialist listened to Captain Hiram’s story in an
absent-minded way. Holidays were few and far between with him, and when
he accepted the long-standing invitation of Mr. Ogden Williams to run
down for the week end he determined to forget the science of medicine
and all that pertained to it for the four days of his outing. But an
exacting patient had detained him long enough to prevent his taking the
train that morning, and now, on the moment of his belated arrival, he
was asked to pay a professional call. He liked the Captain, who had
taken him out fishing several times on his previous excursions to East
Harniss, and he remembered Dusenberry as a happy little sea urchin, but
he simply couldn’t interrupt his pleasure trip to visit a sick baby.
Besides, the child was Dr. Parker’s patient, and professional ethics
forbade interference.

“Captain Hiram,” he said, “I am sorry to disappoint you, but it will
be impossible for me to do what you ask. Mr. Williams expected me this
morning, and I am late already. Dr. Parker will, no doubt, return soon.
The baby cannot be dangerously ill or he would not have left him.”

The Captain slowly turned away.

“Thank you, Doctor,” he said huskily. “I knew I hadn’t no right to ask.”

He walked across the platform, abstractedly striking his right hand into
his left. When he reached the ticket window he put one hand against the
frame as if to steady himself, and stood there listlessly.

The enterprising Mr. Blount had been hanging about the Doctor like a cat
about the cream pitcher; now he rushed up, grasped the suit case, and
officiously led the way toward the depot wagon. Dr. Morgan followed more
slowly. As he passed the Captain he glanced up into the latter’s face,
lighted, as it was, by the lamp inside the window.

The Doctor stopped and looked again. Then he took another step forward,
hesitated, turned on his heel, and said:

“Wait a moment, Blount. Captain Hiram, do you live far from here?”

The Captain started. “No, sir, only a little ways.”

“All right. I’ll go down and look at this boy of yours. Mind you, I’ll
not take the case, simply give my opinion on it, that’s all. Blount,
take my grip to Mr. Williams’s. I’m going to walk down with the
Captain.”


“Haul on ee bowline, ee bowline, haul!” muttered the first mate, as they
came into the room. The lamp that Sophronia was holding shook, and the
Captain hurriedly brushed his eyes with the back of his hand.

Dr. Morgan started perceptibly as he bent forward to look at the little
fevered face of Dusenberry. Graver and graver he became as he felt the
pulse and peered into the swollen throat. At length he rose and led the
way back into the sitting room.

“Captain Baker,” he said simply, “I must ask you and your wife to be
brave. The child has diphtheria and--”

“Diphthery!” gasped Sophronia, as white as her best tablecloth.

“Good Lord above!” cried the Captain.

“Diphtheria,” repeated the Doctor; “and, although I dislike extremely to
criticize a member of my own profession, I must say that any physician
should have recognized it.”

Sophronia groaned and covered her face with her apron.

“Ain’t there--ain’t there no chance, Doctor?” gasped the Captain.

“Certainly, there’s a chance. If I could administer antitoxin by
to-morrow noon the patient might recover. What time does the morning
train from Boston arrive here?”

“Ha’f-past ten or thereabouts.”

Dr. Morgan took his notebook from his pocket and wrote a few lines in
pencil on one of the pages. Then he tore out the leaf and handed it to
the Captain.

“Send that telegram immediately to my assistant in Boston,” he said.
“It directs him to send the antitoxin by the early train. If nothing
interferes it should be here in time.”

Captain Hiram took the slip of paper and ran out at the door bareheaded.

Dr. Morgan stood in the middle of the floor absent-mindedly looking at
his watch. Sophronia was gazing at him appealingly. At length he put his
watch in his pocket and said quietly:

“Mrs. Baker, I must ask you to give me a room. I will take the case.”
 Then he added mentally: “And that settles my vacation.”


Dr. Morgan’s assistant was a young man whom nature had supplied with a
prematurely bald head, a flourishing beard, and a way of appearing ten
years older than he really was. To these gifts, priceless to a young
medical man, might be added boundless ambition and considerable common
sense.

The yellow envelope which contained the few lines meaning life or death
to little Hiram Joash Baker was delivered at Dr. Morgan’s Back Bay
office at ten minutes past ten. Dr. Payson--that was the assistant’s
name--was out, but Jackson, the colored butler, took the telegram
into his employer’s office, laid it on the desk among the papers, and
returned to the hall to finish his nap in the armchair. When Dr. Payson
came in, at 11:30, the sleepy Jackson forgot to mention the dispatch.

The next morning as Jackson was cleaning the professional boots in the
kitchen and chatting with the cook, the thought of the yellow envelope
came back to his brain. He went up the stairs with such precipitation
that the cook screamed, thinking he had a fit.

“Doctah! Doctah!” he exclaimed, opening the door of the assistant’s
chamber, “did you git dat telegraft I lef’ on your desk las’ night?”

“What telegraph?” asked the assistant sleepily. By way of answer Jackson
hurried out and returned with the yellow envelope. The assistant opened
it and read as follows:


Send 1,500 units Diphtheritic Serum to me by morning train. Don’t fail.
Utmost importance.

J. S. MORGAN.


Dr. Payson sprang out of bed, and running to the table took up the
Railway Guide, turned to the pages devoted to the O. C. and C. C.
Railroad and ran his finger down the printed tables. The morning train
for Cape Cod left at 7:10. It was 6:45 at that moment. As has been said,
the assistant had considerable common sense. He proved this by wasting
no time in telling the forgetful Jackson what he thought of him. He sent
the latter after a cab and proceeded to dress in double-quick time. Ten
minutes later he was on his way to the station with the little wooden
case containing the precious antitoxin, wrapped and addressed, in his
pocket.

It was seven by the Arlington Street Church clock as the cab rattled
down Boylston Street. A tangle of a trolley car and a market wagon
delayed it momentarily at Harrison Avenue and Essex Street. Dr. Payson,
leaning out as the carriage swung into Dewey Square, saw by the big
clock on the Union Station that it was 7:13. He had lost the train.

Now, the assistant had been assistant long enough to know that
excuses--in the ordinary sense of the word--did not pass current with
Dr. Morgan. That gentleman had telegraphed for antitoxin, and said it
was important that he should have it; therefore, antitoxin must be sent
in spite of time-tables and forgetful butlers. Dr. Payson went into the
waiting room and sat down to think. After a moment’s deliberation he
went over to the ticket office and asked:

“What is the first stop of the Cape Cod express?”

“Brockboro,” answered the ticket seller.

“Is the train usually on time?”

“Well, I should smile. That’s Charlie Mills’s train, and the old man
ain’t been conductor on this road twenty-two years for nothin’.”

“Mills? Does he live on Shawmut Avenue?”

“Dunno. Billy, where does Charlie Mills live?”

“Somewhere at the South End. Shawmut Avenue, I think.”

“Thank you,” said the assistant, and, helping himself to a time-table,
he went back rejoicing to his seat in the waiting room. He had stumbled
upon an unexpected bit of luck.

There might be another story written in connection with this one; the
story of a veteran railroad man whose daughter had been very, very ill
with a dreaded disease of the lungs, and who, when other physicians
had given up hope, had been brought back to health by a celebrated
specialist of our acquaintance. But this story cannot be told just now;
suffice it to say that Conductor Charlie Mills had vowed that he would
put his neck beneath the wheels of his own express train, if by so doing
he could confer a favor on Dr. John Spencer Morgan.

The assistant saw by his time-table that the Cape Cod express reached
Brockboro at 8:05. He went over to the telegraph office and wrote two
telegrams. The first read like this:


CALVIN S. WISE, The People’s Drug Store, 28 Broad Street, Brockboro,
Mass.:

Send package 1,500 units Diphtheritic Serum marked with my name to
station. Hand to Conductor Mills, Cape Cod express. Train will wait.
Matter life and death.


The second telegram was to Conductor Mills. It read:


Hold train Brockboro to await arrival C. A. Wise. Great personal favor.
Very important.


Both of these dispatches were signed with the magic name, “J. S. Morgan,
M.D.”

“Well,” said the assistant as he rode back to his office, “I don’t know
whether Wise will get the stuff to the train in time, or whether Mills
will wait for him, but at any rate I’ve done my part. I hope breakfast
is ready, I’m hungry.”

Mr. Wise, of “The People’s Drug Store,” had exactly two minutes in which
to cover the three-quarters of a mile to the station. As a matter of
course, he was late. Inquiring for Conductor Mills, he was met by a
red-faced man in uniform, who, watch in hand, demanded what in the vale
of eternal torment he meant by keeping him waiting eight minutes.

“Do you realize,” demanded the red-faced man, “that I’m liable to lose
my job? I’ll have you to understand that if any other man than Doc.
Morgan asked me to hold up the Cape Cod express, I’d tell him to go
right plumb to--”

Here Mr. Wise interrupted to hand over the package and explain that it
was a matter of life and death. Conductor Mills only grunted as he swung
aboard the train.

“Hump her, Jim,” he said to the engineer; “she’s got to make up those
eight minutes.”

And Jim did.


And so it happened that on the morning of the Fourth of July,
Dusenberry’s birthday, Captain Hiram Baker and his wife sat together in
the sitting room, with very happy faces. The Captain had in his hands
the “truly boat with sails,” which the little first mate had so ardently
wished for.

She was a wonder, that boat. Red hull, real lead on the keel, brass
rings on the masts, reef points on the main and fore sail, jib,
flying jib and topsails, all complete. And on the stern was the name,
“Dusenberry. East Harniss.”

Captain Hiram set her down in front of him on the floor.

“Gee!” he exclaimed, “won’t his eyes stick out when he sees that
rig, hey? Wisht he would be well enough to see it to-day, same as we
planned.”

“Well, Hiram,” said Sophrony, “we hadn’t ought to complain. We’d ought
to be thankful he’s goin’ to get well at all. Dr. Morgan says, thanks to
that blessed toxing stuff, he’ll be up and around in a couple of weeks.”

“Sophrony,” said her husband, “we’ll have a special birthday celebration
for him when he gets all well. You can bake the frosted cake and we’ll
have some of the other children in. I TOLD you God wouldn’t be cruel
enough to take him away.”

And this is how Fate and the medical profession and the O. C. and C.
C. Railroad combined to give little Hiram Joash Baker his birthday, and
explains why, as he strolled down Main Street that afternoon, Captain
Hiram was heard to sing heartily:

     Haul on the bowline, the ‘Phrony is a-rollin’,
     Haul on the bowline, the bowline, HAUL!



CHAPTER XIV

EFFIE’S FATE


Surely, but very, very slowly, the little Berry house moved on its
rollers up the Hill Boulevard. Right at its heels--if a house may be
said to have heels--came the “pure Colonial,” under the guidance of the
foreman with “progressive methods.” Groups of idlers, male and female,
stood about and commented. Simeon Phinney smilingly replied to their
questions. Captain Sol himself seemed little interested. He spent most
of his daylight time at the depot, only going to the Higginses’ house
for his meals. At night, after the station was closed, he sought his own
dwelling, climbed over the joist and rollers, entered, retired to his
room, and went to bed.

Each day also he grew more taciturn. Even with Simeon, his particular
friend, he talked little.

“What IS the matter with you, Sol?” asked Mr. Phinney. “You’re as glum
as a tongue-tied parrot. Ain’t you satisfied with the way I’m doin’ your
movin’? The white horse can go back again if you say so.”

“I’m satisfied,” grunted the depot master. “Let you know when I’ve
got any fault to find. How soon will you get abreast the--abreast the
Seabury lot?”

“Let’s see,” mused the building mover. “Today’s the eighth. Well, I’ll
be there by the eleventh, SURE. Can’t drag it out no longer, Sol,
even if the other horse is took sick. ‘Twon’t do. Williams has been
complainin’ to the selectmen and they’re beginnin’ to pester me. As for
that Colt and Adams foreman--whew!”

He whistled. His companion smiled grimly.

“Williams himself drops in to see me occasional,” he said. “Tells me
what he thinks of me, with all the trimmin’s added. I cal’late he gets
as good as he sends. I’m always glad to see him; he keeps me cheered up,
in his way.”

“Ye-es, I shouldn’t wonder. Was he in to-day?”

“He was. And somethin’ has pleased him, I guess. At any rate he was in
better spirits. Asked me if I was goin’ to move right onto that Main
Street lot soon as my house got there.”

“What did you say?”

“I said I was cal’latin’ to. Told him I hated to get out of the
high-society circles I’d been livin’ in lately, but that everyone had
their comedowns in this world.”

“Ho, ho! that was a good one. What answer did he make to that?”

“Well, he said the ‘high society’ would miss me. Then he finished up
with a piece of advice. ‘Berry,’ says he, ‘don’t move onto that lot TOO
quick. I wouldn’t if I was you.’ Then he went away, chucklin’.”

“Chucklin’, hey? What made him so joyful?”

“Don’t know”--Captain Sol’s face clouded once more--“and I care less,”
 he added brusquely.

Simeon pondered. “Have you heard from Abner Payne, Sol?” he asked. “Has
Ab answered that letter you wrote sayin’ you’d swap your lot for the
Main Street one?”

“No, he hasn’t. I wrote him that day I told you to move me.”

“Hum! that’s kind of funny. You don’t s’pose--”

He stopped, noticing the expression on his friend’s face. The depot
master was looking out through the open door of the waiting room. On
the opposite side of the road, just emerging from Mr. Higgins’s “general
store,” was Olive Edwards, the widow whose home was to be pulled down
as soon as the “Colonial” reached its destination. She came out of
the store and started up Main Street. Suddenly, and as if obeying an
involuntary impulse, she turned her head. Her eyes met those of Captain
Sol Berry, the depot master. For a brief instant their glance met, then
Mrs. Edwards hurried on.

Sim Phinney sighed pityingly. “Looks kind of tired and worried, don’t
she?” he ventured. His friend did not speak.

“I say,” repeated Phinney, “that Olive looks sort of worn out and--”

“Has she heard from the Omaha cousin yet?” interrupted the depot master.

“No; Mr. Hilton says not. Sol, what DO you s’pose--”

But Captain Sol had risen and gone into the ticket office. The door
closed behind him. Mr. Phinney shook his head and walked out of the
building. On his way back to the scene of the house moving he shook his
head several times.

On the afternoon of the ninth Captain Bailey Stitt and his friend
Wingate came to say good-by. Stitt was going back to Orham on the “up”
 train, due at 3:30. Barzilla would return to Wellmouth and the Old Home
House on the evening (the “down”) train.

“Hey, Sol!” shouted Wingate, as they entered the waiting room. “Sol!
where be you?”

The depot master came out of the ticket office. “Hello, boys!” he said
shortly.

“Hello, Sol!” hailed Stitt. “Barzilla and me have come to shed the
farewell tear. As hirelin’s of soulless corporations, meanin’ the Old
Home House at Wellmouth and the Ocean House at Orham, we’ve engaged all
the shellfish along-shore and are goin’ to clear out.”

“Yes,” chimed in his fellow “hireling,” “and we thought the pleasantest
place to put in our few remainin’ hours--as the papers say when a
feller’s goin’ to be hung--was with you.”

“I thought so,” said Captain Bailey, with a wink. “We’ve been havin’
more or less of an argument, Sol. Remember how Barzilla made fun of
Jonadab Wixon for believin’ in dreams? Yes, well that was only make
believe. He believes in ‘em himself.”

“I don’t either,” declared Wingate. “And I never said so. What I said
was that sometimes it almost seemed as if there was somethin’ IN fortune
tellin’ and such.”

“There is,” chuckled Bailey with another wink at the depot master.
“There’s money in it--for the fortune tellers.”

“I said--and I say again,” protested Barzilla, “that I knew a case at
our hotel of a servant girl named Effie, and she--”

“Oh, Heavens to Betsy! Here he goes again, I steered him in here on
purpose, Sol, so’s he’d get off that subject.”

“You never neither. You said--”

The depot master held up his hand. “Don’t both talk at once,” he
commanded. “Set down and be peaceful, can’t you. That’s right. What
about this Effie, Barzilla?”

“Now look here!” protested Stitt.

“Shut up, Bailey! Who was Effie, Barzilla?”

“She was third assistant roustabout and table girl at the Old Home
House,” said Wingate triumphantly. “Got another cigar, Sol? Thanks. Yes,
this Effie had never worked out afore and she was greener’n a mess of
spinach; but she was kind of pretty to look at and--”

“Ah, ha!” crowed Captain Bailey, “here comes the heart confessions. Want
to look out for these old bachelors, Sol. Fire away, Barzilla; let us
know the worst.”

“I took a fancy to her, in a way. She got in the habit of tellin’ me her
troubles and secrets, me bein’ old enough to be her dad--”

“Aw, yes!” this from Stitt, the irrepressible. “That’s an old gag. We
know--”

“WILL you shut up?” demanded Captain Sol. “Go on, Barzilla.”

“Me bein’ old enough to be her dad,” with a glare at Captain Bailey,
“and not bein’ too proud to talk with hired help. I never did have that
high-toned notion. ‘Twa’n’t so long since I was a fo’mast hand.

“So Effie told me a lot about herself. Seems she’d been over to the
Cattle Show at Ostable one year, and she was loaded to the gunwale with
some more or less facts that a fortune-tellin’ specimen by the name of
the ‘Marvelous Oriental Seer’ had handed her in exchange for a quarter.

“‘Yup,’ says she, bobbin’ her head so emphatic that the sky-blue ribbon
pennants on her black hair flapped like a loose tops’l in a gale of
wind. ‘Yup,’ says she, ‘I b’lieve it just as much as I b’lieve anything.
How could I help it when he told me so much that has come true already?
He said I’d seen trouble, and the dear land knows that’s so! and that I
might see more, and I cal’late that’s pretty average likely. And he said
I hadn’t been brought up in luxury--’

“‘Which wa’n’t no exaggeration neither,’ I put in, thinkin’ of the shack
over on the Neck Road where she and her folks used to live.

“‘No,’ says she; ‘and he told me I’d always had longin’s for better and
higher things and that my intellectuals was above my station. Well, ever
sence I was knee high to a kitchen chair I’d ruther work upstairs than
down, and as for intellectuals, ma always said I was the smartest
young one she’d raised yet. So them statements give me consider’ble
confidence. But he give out that I was to make a journey and get money,
and when THAT come true I held up both hands and stood ready to swaller
all the rest of it.’

“‘So it come true, did it?’ says I.

“‘Um-hm,’ says she, bouncin’ her head again. ‘Inside of four year I
traveled ‘way over to South Eastboro--‘most twelve mile--to my Uncle
Issy’s fun’ral, and there I found that he’d left me nine hundred dollars
for my very own. And down I flops on the parlor sofy and says I: “There!
don’t talk superstition to ME no more! A person that can foretell Uncle
Issy’s givin’ anybody a cent, let alone nine hundred dollars, is a good
enough prophet for ME to tie to. Now I KNOW that I’m going to marry the
dark-complected man, and I’ll be ready for him when he comes along.
I never spent a quarter no better than when I handed it over to that
Oriental Seer critter at the Cattle Show.” That’s what I said then and I
b’lieve it yet. Wouldn’t you feel the same way?’

“I said sure thing I would. I’d found out that the best way to keep
Effie’s talk shop runnin’ was to agree with her. And I liked to hear her
talk.

“‘Yup,’ she went on, ‘I give right in then. I’d traveled same as the
fortune teller said, and I’d got more money’n I ever expected to see,
let alone own. And ever sence I’ve been sartin as I’m alive that the
feller I marry will be of a rank higher’n mine and dark complected and
good-lookin’ and distinguished, and that he’ll be name of Butler.’

“‘Butler?’ says I. ‘What will he be named Butler for?’

“‘’Cause the Seer critter said so. He said he could see the word Butler
printed out over the top of my head in flamin’ letters. Pa used to say
‘twas a wonder it never set fire to my crimps, but he was only foolin’.
I know that it’s all comin’ out true. You ain’t acquaintanced to any
Butlers, are you?’

“‘No,’ says I. ‘I heard Ben Butler make a speech once when he was
gov’nor, but he’s dead now. There ain’t no Butlers on the Old Home
shippin’ lists.’

“‘Oh, I know that!’ she says. ‘And everybody round here is homelier’n a
moultin’ pullet. There now! I didn’t mean exactly EVERYbody, of course.
But you ain’t dark complected, you know, nor--’

“‘No,’ says I, ‘nor rank nor distinguished neither. Course the handsome
part might fit me, but I’d have to pass on the rest of the hand. That’s
all right, Effie; my feelin’s have got fire-proofed sence I’ve been
in the summer hotel business. Now you’d better run along and report to
Susannah. I hear her whoopin’ for you, and she don’t light like a canary
bird on the party she’s mad with.’

“She didn’t, that was a fact. Susannah Debs, who was housekeeper for us
that year, was middlin’ young and middlin’ good-lookin’, and couldn’t
forget it. Also and likewise, she had a suit for damages against the
railroad, which she had hopes would fetch her money some day or other,
and she couldn’t forget that neither. She was skipper of all the hired
hands and, bein’ as Effie was prettier than she was, never lost a chance
to lay the poor girl out. She put the other help up to pokin’ fun at
Effie’s green ways and high-toned notions, and ‘twas her that started
‘em callin’ her ‘Lady Evelyn’ in the fo’castle--servants’ quarters, I
mean.

“‘I’m a-comin’, ‘screams Effie, startin’ for the door. ‘Susannah’s in a
tearin’ hurry to get through early to-day,’ she adds to me. ‘She’s got
the afternoon off, and her beau’s comin’ to take her buggy ridin’.
He’s from over Harniss way somewheres and they say he’s just lovely. My
sakes! I wisht somebody’d take ME to ride. Ah hum! cal’late I’ll have to
wait for my Butler man. Say, Mr. Wingate, you won’t mention my fortune
to a soul, will you? I never told anybody but you.’

“I promised to keep mum and she cleared out. After dinner, as I was
smokin’, along with Cap’n Jonadab, on the side piazza, a horse and
buggy drove in at the back gate. A young chap with black curly hair was
pilotin’ the craft. He was a stranger to me, wore a checkerboard suit
and a bonfire necktie, and had his hat twisted over one ear. Altogether
he looked some like a sunflower goin’ to seed.

“‘Who’s that barber’s sign when it’s to home?’ says I to Jonadab. He
snorted contemptuous.

“‘That?’ he says. ‘Don’t you know the cut of that critter’s jib? He
plays pool “for the house” in Web Saunders’s place over to Orham. He’s
the housekeeper’s steady comp’ny--steady by spells, if all I hear’s
true. Good-for-nothin’ cub, I call him. Wisht I’d had him aboard a
vessel of mine; I’d ‘a’ squared his yards for him. Look how he cants his
hat to starboard so’s to show them lovelocks. Bah!’

“‘What’s his name?’ I asks.

“‘Name? Name’s Butler--Simeon Butler. Don’t you remember . . . Hey? What
in tunket . . .?’

“Both of us had jumped as if somebody’d touched off a bombshell under
our main hatches. The windows of the dining room was right astern of us.
We whirled round, and there was Effie. She’d been clearin’ off one of
the tables and there she stood, with the smashed pieces of an ice-cream
platter in front of her, the melted cream sloppin’ over her shoes, and
her face lookin’ like the picture of Lot’s wife just turnin’ to salt.
Only Effie looked as if she enjoyed the turnin’. She never spoke nor
moved, just stared after that buggy with her black eyes sparklin’ like
burnt holes in a blanket.

“I was too astonished to say anything, but Jonadab had his eye on that
smashed platter and HE had things to say, plenty of ‘em. I walked off
and left Effie playin’ congregation to a sermon on the text ‘Crockery
costs money.’ You’d think that ice-cream dish was a genuine ugly, nicked
‘antique’ wuth any city loon’s ten dollars, instead of bein’ only new
and pretty fifty-cent china. I felt real sorry for the poor girl.

“But I needn’t have been. That evenin’ I found her on the back steps,
all Sunday duds and airs. Her hair had a wire friz on it, and her dress
had Joseph’s coat in Scriptur’ lookin’ like a mournin’ rig. She’d have
been real handsome--to a body that was color blind.

“‘My, Effie!’ says I, ‘you sartin do look fine to-night.’

“‘Yup,’ she says, contented, ‘I guess likely I do. Hope so, ‘cause I’m
wearin’ all I’ve got. Say, Mr. Wingate,’ says she, excited as a cat in a
fit, ‘did you see him?’

“‘Him?’ says I. ‘Who’s him?’

“‘Why, HIM! The one the Seer said was comin’. The handsome,
dark-complected feller I’m goin’ to marry. The Butler one. That was him
in the buggy this afternoon.’

“I looked at her. I’d forgot all about the fool prophecy.

“‘Good land of love!’ I says. ‘You don’t cal’late he’s comin’ to marry
YOU, do you, just ‘cause his name’s Butler? There’s ten thousand Butlers
in the world. Besides, your particular one was slated to be high ranked
and distinguished, and this specimen scrubs up the billiard-room floor
and ain’t no more distinguished than a poorhouse pig.’

“‘Ain’t?’ she sings out. ‘Ain’t distinguished? With all them beautiful
curls, and rings on his fingers, and--’

“‘Bells on his toes? No!’ says I, emphatic. ‘Anyhow, he’s signed for
the v’yage already. He’s Susannah Debs’s steady, and they’re off buggy
ridin’ together right now. And if she catches you makin’ eyes at her
best feller--Whew!’

“Didn’t make no difference. He was her Butler, sure. ‘Twas Fate--that’s
what ‘twas--Fate, just the same as in storybooks. She was sorry for poor
Susannah and she wouldn’t do nothin’ mean nor underhanded; but couldn’t
I understand that ‘twas all planned out for her by Providence and that
everlastin’ Seer? Just let me watch and see, that’s all.

“What can you do with an idiot like that? I walked off disgusted and
left her. But I cal’lated to watch. I judged ‘twould be more fun than
any ‘play-actin’ show ever I took in.

“And ‘twas, in a way. Don’t ask me how they got acquainted, ‘cause I
can’t tell you for sartin. Nigh’s I can learn, Susannah and Sim had some
sort of lover’s row durin’ their buggy ride, and when they got back to
the hotel they was scurcely on speakin’ terms. And Sim, who always had a
watch out for’ard for pretty girls, see Effie standin’ on the servants’
porch all togged up regardless and gay as a tea-store chromo, and
nothin’ to do but he must be introduced. One of the stable hands done
the introducin’, I b’lieve, and if he’d have been hung afterwards
‘twould have sarved him right.

“Anyhow, inside of a week Butler come round again to take a lady friend
drivin’, but this time ‘twas Effie, not the housekeeper, that was
passenger. And Susannah glared after ‘em like a cat after a sparrow,
and the very next day she was for havin’ Effie discharged for
incompetentiveness. I give Jonadab the tip, though, so that didn’t go
through. But I cal’late there was a parrot and monkey time among the
help from then on.

“They all sided with Susannah, of course. She was their boss, for one
thing, and ‘Lady Evelyn’s’ high-minded notions wa’n’t popular, for
another. But Effie didn’t care--bless you, no! She and that Butler sport
was together more and more, and the next thing I heard was that they was
engaged. I snum, if it didn’t look as if the Oriental man knew his job
after all.

“I spoke to the stable hand about it.

“‘Look here,’ says I, ‘is this business betwixt that pool player and our
Effie serious?’

“He laughed. ‘Serious enough, I guess,’ he says. ‘They’re goin’ to
be married pretty soon, I hear. It’s all ‘cordin’ to the law and the
prophets. Ain’t you heard about the fortune tellin’ and how ‘twas
foretold she’d marry a Butler?’

“I’d heard, but I didn’t s’pose he had. However, it seemed that Effie
hadn’t been able to keep it to herself no longer. Soon as she’d hooked
her man she’d blabbed the whole thing. The fo’mast hands wa’n’t talkin’
of nothin’ else, so this feller said.

“‘Humph!’ says I. ‘Is it the prophecy that Butler’s bankin’ on?’

“He laughed again. ‘Not so much as on Lady Evelyn’s nine hundred, I
cal’late,’ says he. Sim likes Susannah the best of the two, so we all
reckon, but she ain’t rich and Effie is. And yet, if the Debs woman
should win that lawsuit of hers against the railroad she’d have pretty
nigh twice as much. Butler’s a fool not to wait, I think,’ he says.

“This was of a Monday. On Friday evenin’ Effie comes around to see me. I
was alone in the office.

“‘Mr. Wingate,’ she says, ‘I’m goin’ to leave to-morrer night. I’m goin’
to be married on Sunday.’

“I’d been expecting it, but I couldn’t help feelin’ sorry for her.

“‘Don’t do nothin’ rash, Effie,’ I told her. ‘Are you sure that Butler
critter cares anything about you and not your money?’

“She flared up like a tar barrel. ‘The idea!’ she says, turnin’ red. ‘I
just come in to give you warnin’. Good-by.’

“‘Hold on,’ I sung out to her. ‘Effie, I’ve thought consider’ble about
you lately. I’ve been tryin’ to help you a little on the sly. I realized
that ‘twa’n’t pleasant for you workin’ here under Susannah Debs, and
I’ve been tryin’ to find a nice place for you. I wrote about you to Bob
Van Wedderburn; he’s the rich banker chap who stopped here one summer.
“Jonesy,” we used to call him. I know him and his wife fust rate, and
he’d do ‘most anything as a favor to me. I told him what a neat, handy
girl you was, and he writes that he’ll give you the job of second girl
at his swell New York house, if you want it. Now you just hand that Sim
Butler his clearance papers and go work for Bob’s wife. The wages are
double what you get here, and--’

“She didn’t wait to hear the rest. Just sailed out of the room with her
nose in the air. In a minute, though, back she come and just put her
head in the door.

“‘I’m much obliged to you, Mr. Wingate,’ says she. ‘I know you mean
well. But you ain’t had your fate foretold, same’s I have. It’s all
been arranged for me, and I couldn’t stop it no more’n Jonah could help
swallerin’ the whale. I--I kind of wish you’d be on hand at the back
door on Sunday mornin’ when Simeon comes to take me away. You--you’re
about the only real friend I’ve got,’ she says.

“And off she went, for good this time. I pitied her, in spite of her
bein’ such a dough head. I knew what sort of a husband that pool-room
shark would make. However, there wa’n’t nothin’ to be done. And next day
Cap’n Jonadab was round, madder’n a licked pup. Seems Susannah’s lawyer
at Orham had sent for her to come right off and see him. Somethin’ about
the suit, it was. And she was goin’ in spite of everything. And with
Effie’s leavin’ at the same time, what was we goin’ to do over Sunday?
and so forth and so on.

“Well, we had to do the best we could, that’s all. But that Saturday
was busy, now I tell you. Sunday mornin’ broke fine and clear and, after
breakfast was over, I remembered Effie and that ‘twas her weddin’ day.
On the back steps I found her, dressed in all her grandeur, with her
packed trunk ready, waitin’ for the bridegroom.

“‘Ain’t come yet, hey, Effie?’ says I.

“‘No,’ says she, smilin’ and radiant. ‘It’s a little early for him yet,
I guess.’

“I went off to ‘tend to the boarders. At half past ten, when I made the
back steps again, she was still there. T’other servants was peekin’ out
of the kitchen windows, grinnin’ and passin’ remarks.

“‘Hello!’ I calls out. ‘Not married yet? What’s the matter?’

“She’d stopped smilin’, but she was as chipper as ever, to all
appearances.

“‘I--I guess the horse has gone lame or somethin’,’ says she. ‘He’ll be
here any time now.’

“There was a cackle from the kitchen windows. I never said nothin’.
She’d made her nest; now let her roost on it.

“But at twelve Butler hadn’t hove in sight. Every hand, male and female,
on the place, that wa’n’t busy, was hangin’ around the back of the
hotel, waitin’ and watchin’ and ridiculin’ and havin’ a high time. Them
that had errands made it a p’int to cruise past that way. Lots of the
boarders had got wind of the doin’s, and they was there, too.

“Effie was settin’ on her trunk, tryin’ hard to look brave. I went up
and spoke to her.

“‘Come, my girl,’ says I. ‘Don’t set here no longer. Come into the house
and wait. Hadn’t you better?’

“‘No!’ says she, loud and defiant like. ‘No, sir! It’s all right. He’s a
little late, that’s all. What do you s’pose I care for a lot of jealous
folks like those up there?’ wavin’ her flipper scornful toward the
kitchen.

“And then, all to once, she kind of broke down, and says to me, with a
pitiful sort of choke in her voice:

“‘Oh, Mr. Wingate! I can’t stand this. Why DON’T he come?’

“I tried hard to think of somethin’ comfortin’ to say, but afore I
could h’ist a satisfyin’ word out of my hatches I heard the noise of a
carriage comin’. Effie heard it, too, and so did everybody else. We all
looked toward the gate. ‘Twas Sim Butler, sure enough, in his buggy and
drivin’ the same old horse; but settin’ alongside of him on the seat was
Susannah Debs, the housekeeper. And maybe she didn’t look contented with
things in gen’ral!

“Butler pulled up his horse by the gate. Him and Susannah bowed to all
hands. Nobody said anything for a minute. Then Effie bounced off the
trunk and down them steps.

“‘Simmie’ she sung out, breathless like, ‘Simeon Butler, what does this
mean?’

“The Debs woman straightened up on the seat. ‘Thank you, marm,’ says
she, chilly as the top section of an ice chest, ‘I’ll request you not to
call my husband by his first name.’

“It was so still you could have heard yourself grow. Effie turned white
as a Sunday tablecloth.

“‘Your--husband?’ she gasps. ‘Your--your HUSBAND?’

“‘Yes, marm,’ purrs the housekeeper. ‘My husband was what I said. Mr.
Butler and me have just been married.’

“‘Sorry, Effie, old girl,’ puts in Butler, so sassy I’d love to have
preached his fun’ral sermon. ‘Too bad, but fust love’s strongest, you
know. Susie and me was engaged long afore you come to town.’

“THEN such a haw-haw and whoop bust from the kitchen and fo’castle as
you never heard. For a jiffy poor Effie wilted right down. Then she
braced up and her black eyes snapped.

“‘I wish you joy of your bargain, marm,’ says she to Susannah. ‘You’d
ought to be proud of it. And as for YOU,’ she says, swingin’ round
toward the rest of the help, ‘I--’

“‘How ‘bout that prophet?’ hollers somebody.

“‘Three cheers for the Oriental!’ bellers somebody else.

“‘When you marry the right Butler fetch him along and let us see him!’
whoops another.

“She faced ‘em all, and I gloried in her spunk.

“‘When I marry him I WILL come back,’ says she. ‘And when I do you’ll
have to get down on your knees and wait on me. You--and you--Yes, and
YOU, too!’

“The last two ‘yous’ was hove at Sim and Susannah. Then she turned and
marched into the hotel. And the way them hired hands carried on was
somethin’ scandalous--till I stepped in and took charge of the deck.

“That very afternoon I put Effie and her trunk aboard the train. I
paid her fare to New York and give her directions how to locate the Van
Wedderburns.

“‘So long, Effie,’ says I to her. ‘It’s all right. You’re enough sight
better off. All you want to do now is to work hard and forget all that
fortune-tellin’ foolishness.’

“She whirled on me like a top.

“‘Forget it!’ she says. ‘I GUESS I shan’t forget it! It’s comin’ true,
I tell you--same as all the rest come true. You said yourself there was
ten thousand Butlers in the world. Some day the right one--the handsome,
high-ranked, distinguished one--will come along, and I’ll get him. You
wait and see, Mr. Wingate--just you wait and see.’”



CHAPTER XV

THE “HERO” AND THE COWBOY


“So that was the end of it, hey?” said Captain Bailey. “Well, it’s what
you might expect, but it wa’n’t much to be so anxious to tell; and as
for PROVIN’ anything about fortune tellin’--why--”

“It AIN’T the end,” shouted the exasperated Barzilla. “Not nigh the end.
‘Twas the beginnin’. The housekeeper left us that day, of course, and
for the rest of that summer the servant question kept me and Jonadab
from thinkin’ of other things. Course, the reason for the Butler scamp’s
sudden switch was plain enough. Susannah’s lawyer had settled the case
with the railroad and, even after his fee was subtracted, there was
fifteen hundred left. That was enough sight better’n nine hundred, so
Sim figgered when he heard of it; and he hustled to make up with his old
girl.

“Fifteen hundred dollars doesn’t last long with some folks. At the
beginnin’ of the next spring season both of ‘em was round huntin’ jobs.
Susannah was a fust-rate waitress, so we hired her for that--no more
housekeeper for hers, and served her right. As for her husband, we took
him on in the stable. He wouldn’t have been wuth his salt if it hadn’t
been for her. She said she’d keep him movin’ and she did. She nagged and
henpecked him till I’d have been sorry if ‘twas anybody else; as ‘twas,
I got consider’ble satisfaction out of it.

“I got one letter from Effie pretty soon after she left, sayin’ she
liked her new job and that the Van Wedderburns liked her. And that’s all
I did hear, though Bob himself wrote me in May, sayin’ him and
Mabel, his wife, had bought a summer cottage in Wapatomac, and me and
Jonadab--especially me--must be sure and come to see it and them. He
never mentioned his second girl, and I almost forgot her myself.

“But one afternoon in early July a big six-cylinder automobile come
sailin’ down the road and into the Old Home House yard. A shofer--I
b’lieve that’s what they call the tribe--was at the helm of it, and on
the back seat, lollin’ luxurious against the upholstery, was a man and
a woman, got up regardless in silk dusters and goggles and veils and
prosperity. I never expect to see the Prince of Wales and his wife, but
I know how they’d look--after seein’ them two.

“Jonadab was at the bottom step to welcome ‘em, bowin’ and scrapin’ as
if his middle j’int had just been iled. I wa’n’t fur astern, and every
boarder on deck was all eyes and envy.

“The shofer opens the door of the after cockpit of the machine, and the
man gets out fust, treadin’ gingerly but grand, as if he was doin’ the
ground a condescension by steppin’ on it. Then he turns to the woman and
she slides out, her duds rustlin’ like the wind in a scrub oak. The pair
sails up the steps, Jonadab and me backin’ and fillin’ in front of ‘em.
All the help that could get to a window to peek had knocked off work to
do it.

“‘Ahem!’ says the man, pompous as Julius Caesar--he was big and
straight and fine lookin’ and had black side whiskers half mast on his
cheeks--ahem!’ says he. ‘I say, good people, may we have dinner here?’

“Well, they tell us time and tide waits for no man, but prob’ly that
don’t include the nobility. Anyhow, although ‘twas long past our reg’lar
dinner time, I heard Jonadab tellin’ ‘em sure and sartin they could. If
they wouldn’t mind settin’ on the piazza or in the front parlor for a
spell, he’d have somethin’ prepared in a jiffy. So up to the piazza they
paraded and come to anchor in a couple of chairs.

“‘You can have your automobile put right into the barn,’ I says, ‘if you
want to.’

“‘I don’t know as it will be necessary--’ began the big feller, but the
woman interrupted him. She was starin’ through her thick veil at the
barn door. Sim Butler, in his overalls and ragged shirt sleeves, was
leanin’ against that door, interested as the rest of us in what was
goin’ on.

“‘I would have it put there, I think,’ says the woman, lofty and
superior. ‘It is rather dusty, and I think the wheels ought to be
washed. Can that man be trusted to wash ‘em?’ she asks, pointin’ kind of
scornful at Simeon.

“‘Yes, marm, I cal’late so,’ I says. ‘Here, Sim!’ I sung out, callin’
Butler over to the steps. ‘Can you wash the dust off them wheels?’

“He said course he could, but he didn’t act joyful over the job. The
woman seemed some doubtful.

“‘He looks like a very ignorant, common person,’ says she, loud and
clear, so that everybody, includin’ the ‘ignorant person’ himself, could
hear her. ‘However, James’ll superintend. James,’ she orders the shofer,
‘you see that it is well done, won’t you? Make him be very careful.’

“James looked Butler over from head to foot. ‘Humph!’ he sniffs,
contemptuous, with a kind of half grin on his face. ‘Yes, marm, I’ll
‘tend to it.’

“So he steered the auto into the barn, and Simeon got busy. Judgin’ by
the sharp language that drifted out through the door, ‘twas plain that
the shofer was superintendin’ all right.

“Jonadab heaves in sight, bowin’, and makes proclamation that dinner
is served. The pair riz up majestic and headed for the dinin’ room. The
woman was a little astern of her man, and in the hall she turns brisk to
me.

“‘Mr. Wingate,’ she whispers, ‘Mr. Wingate.’

“I stared at her. Her voice had sounded sort of familiar ever sence I
heard it, but the veil kept a body from seein’ what she looked like.

“‘Hey?’ I sings out. ‘Have I ever--’

“‘S-s-h-h!’ she whispers. ‘Say, Mr. Wingate, that--that Susannah thing
is here, ain’t she? Have her wait on us, will you, please?’

“And she swept the veil off her face. I choked up and staggered bang!
against the wall. I swan to man if it wa’n’t Effie! EFFIE, in silks and
automobiles and gorgeousness!

“Afore I could come to myself the two of ‘em marched into that dining
room. I heard a grunt and a ‘Land of love!’ from just ahead of me. That
was Jonadab. And from all around that dinin’ room come a sort of gasp
and then the sound of whisperin’. That was the help.

“They took a table by the window, which had been made ready. Down they
set like a king and a queen perchin’ on thrones. One of the waiter girls
went over to em.

“But I’d come out of my trance a little mite. The situation was miles
ahead of my brain, goodness knows, but the joke of it all was gettin’ a
grip on me. I remembered what Effie had asked and I spoke up prompt.

“‘Susannah,’ says I, ‘this is a particular job and we’re anxious to
please. You’d better do the waitin’ yourself.’

“I wish you could have seen the glare that ex-housekeeper give me. For
a second I thought we’d have open mutiny. But her place wa’n’t any too
sartin and she didn’t dare risk it. Over she walked to that table, and
the fun began.

“Jonadab had laid himself out to make that meal a success, but they ate
it as if ‘twas pretty poor stuff and not by no means what they fed on
every day. They found fault with ‘most everything, but most especial
with Susannah’s waitin’. My! how they did order her around--a mate on a
cattle boat wa’n’t nothin’ to it. And when ‘twas all over and they got
up to go, Effie says, so’s all hands can hear:

“‘The food here is not so bad, but the service--oh, horrors! However,
Albert,’ says she to the side-whiskered man, ‘you had better give the
girl our usual tip. She looks as if she needed it, poor thing!’

“Then they paraded out of the room, and I see Susannah sling the half
dollar the man had left on the table clear to Jericho, it seemed like.

“The auto was waitin’ by the piazza steps. The shofer and Butler was
standin’ by it. And when Sim see Effie with her veil throwed back he
pretty nigh fell under the wheels he’d been washin’ so hard. And he
looked as if he wisht they’d run over him.

“‘Oh, dear!’ sighs Effie, lookin’ scornful at the wheels. ‘Not half
clean, just as I expected. I knew by the looks of that--that PERSON that
he wouldn’t do it well. Don’t give him much, Albert; he ain’t earned
it.’

“They climbed into the cockpit, the shofer took the helm, and they was
ready to start. But I couldn’t let ‘em go that way. Out I run.

“‘Say--say, Effie!’ I whispers, eager. ‘For the goodness’ sakes, what’s
all this mean? Is that your--your--’

“‘My husband? Yup,’ she whispers back, her eyes shinin’. ‘Didn’t I tell
you to look out for my prophecy? Ain’t he handsome and distinguished,
just as I said? Good-by, Mr. Wingate; maybe I’ll see you again some
day.’

“The machinery barked and they got under way. I run along for two steps
more.

“‘But, Effie,’ says I, ‘tell me--is his name--?’

“She didn’t answer. She was watchin’ Sim Butler and his wife. Sim had
stooped to pick up the quarter the Prince of Wales had hove at him. And
that was too much for Susannah, who was watchin’ from the window.

“‘Don’t you touch that money!’ she screams. ‘Don’t you lay a finger on
it! Ain’t you got any self-respect at all, you miser’ble, low-lived--’
and so forth and so on. All the way to the front gate I see Effie
leanin’ out, lookin’ and listenin’ and smilin’.

“Then the machine buzzed off in a typhoon of dust and I went back to
Jonadab, who was a livin’ catechism of questions which neither one of us
could answer.”

“So THAT’S the end!” exclaimed Captain Bailey. “Well--”

“No, it ain’t the end--not even yet. Maybe it ought to be, but it ain’t.
There’s a little more of it.

“A fortni’t later I took a couple of days off and went up to Wapatomac
to visit the Van Wedderburns, same as I’d promised. Their ‘cottage’ was
pretty nigh big enough for a hotel, and was so grand that I, even if I
did have on my Sunday frills, was ‘most ashamed to ring the doorbell.

“But I did ring it, and the feller that opened the door was big and
solemn and fine lookin’ and had side whiskers. Only this time he wore a
tail coat with brass buttons on it.

“How do you do, Mr. Wingate?’ says he. Step right in, sir, if you
please. Mr. and Mrs. Van Wedderburn are out in the auto, but they’ll be
back shortly, and very glad to see you, sir, I’m sure. Let me take
your grip and hat. Step right into the reception room and wait, if you
please, sir. Perhaps,’ he says, and there was a twinkle in his port eye,
though the rest of his face was sober as the front door of a church,
‘perhaps,’ says he, ‘you might wish to speak with my wife a moment. I’ll
take the liberty of sendin’ her to you, sir.’

“So, as I sat on the gunwale of a blue and gold chair, tryin’ to settle
whether I was really crazy or only just dreamin’, in bounces Effie,
rigged up in a servant’s cap and apron. She looked polite and demure,
but I could see she was just bubblin’ with the joy of the whole
bus’ness.

“‘Effie,’ says I, ‘Effie, what--what in the world--?’

“She giggled. ‘Yup,’ she says, ‘I’m chambermaid here and they treat me
fine. Thank you very much for gettin’ me the situation.’

“‘But--but them doin’s the other day? That automobile--and them silks
and satins--and--?’

“‘Mr. Van Wedderburn lent ‘em to me,’ she said, ‘him an’ his wife. And
he lent us the auto and the shofer, too. I told him about my troubles
at the Old Home House and he thought ‘twould be a great joke for me
to travel back there like a lady. He’s awful fond of a joke--Mr. Van
Wedderburn is.’

“‘But that man?’ I gasps. ‘Your husband? That’s what you said he was.’

“‘Yes,’ says she, ‘he is. We’ve been married ‘most six months now. My
prophecy’s all come true. And DIDN’T I rub it in on that Susannah Debs
and her scamp of a Sim? Ho! ho!’

“She clapped her hands and pretty nigh danced a jig, she was so tickled.

“‘But is he a Butler?’ I asks.

“‘Yup,’ she nods, with another giggle. ‘He’s A butler, though his name’s
Jenkins; and a butler’s high rank--higher than chambermaid, anyhow. You
see, Mr. Wingate,’ she adds, ‘’twas all my fault. When that Oriental
Seer man at the show said I was to marry a butler, I forgot to ask him
whether you spelt it with a big B or a little one.’”

The unexpected manner in which Effie’s pet prophecy had been fulfilled
amused Captain Sol immensely. He laughed so heartily that Issy McKay
looked in at the door with an expression of alarm on his face. The
depot master had laughed little during the past few days, and Issy was
surprised.

But Captain Stitt was ready with a denial. He claimed that the prophecy
was NOT fulfilled and therefore all fortune telling was fraudulent.
Barzilla retorted hotly, and the argument began again. The two were
shouting at each other. Captain Sol stood it for a while and then
commanded silence.

“Stop your yellin’!” he ordered. “What ails you fellers? Think you can
prove it better by screechin’? They can hear you half a mile. There’s
Cornelius Rowe standin’ gawpin’ on the other side of the street this
minute. He thinks there’s a fire or a riot, one or t’other. Let’s change
the subject. See here, Bailey, didn’t you start to tell us somethin’
last time you was in here about your ridin’ in an automobile?”

“I started to--yes. But nobody’d listen. I rode in one and I sailed in
one. You see--”

“I’m goin’ outdoor,” declared Barzilla.

“No, you’re not. Bailey listened to you. Now you do as much for him. I
heard a little somethin’ about the affair at the time it happened and
I’d like to hear the rest of it. How was it, Bailey?”

Captain Stitt knocked the ashes from his pipe.

“Well,” he began, “I didn’t know the critter was weak in his top riggin’
or I wouldn’t have gone with him in the fust place. And he wa’n’t
real loony, nuther. ‘Twas only when he got aboard that--that ungodly,
kerosene-smellin’, tootin’, buzzin’, Old Harry’s gocart of his that the
craziness begun to show. There’s so many of them weak-minded city folks
from the Ocean House comes perusin’ ‘round summers, nowadays, that
I cal’lated he was just an average specimen, and never examined him
close.”

“Are all the Ocean House boarders weak-minded nowadays?” asked the depot
master.

Mr. Wingate answered the question.

“My land!” he snapped; “would they board at the Ocean House if they
WA’N’T weak-minded?”

Captain Bailey did not deign to reply to this jibe. He continued calmly:

“This feller wa’n’t an Ocean Houser, though. He was young Stumpton’s
automobile skipper-shover, or shofer, or somethin’ they called him. He
answered to the hail of Billings, and his home port was the Stumpton
ranch, ‘way out in Montana. He’d been here in Orham only a couple of
weeks, havin’ come plumb across the United States to fetch his boss the
new automobile. You see, ‘twas early October. The Stumptons had left
their summer place on the Cliff Road, and was on their way South for
the winter. Young Stumpton was up to Boston, but he was comin’ back in
a couple of days, and then him and the shover was goin’ automobilin’ to
Florida. To Florida, mind you! In that thing! If it was me I’d buy my
ticket to Tophet direct and save time and money.

“Well, anyhow, this critter Billings, he ain’t never smelt salt water
afore, and he don’t like the smell. He makes proclamations that Orham is
nothin’ but sand, slush, and soft drinks. He won’t sail, he can’t
swim, he won’t fish; but he’s hankerin’ to shoot somethin’, havin’ been
brought up in a place where if you don’t shoot some of the neighbors
every day or so folks think you’re stuck up and dissociable. Then
somebody tells him it’s the duckin’ season down to Setuckit P’int, and
he says he’ll spend his day off, while the boss is away, massycreein’
the coots there. This same somebody whispers that I know so much about
ducks that I quack when I talk, and he comes cruisin’ over in the buzz
cart to hire me for guide. And--would you b’lieve it?--it turns out that
he’s cal’latin’ to make his duckin’ v’yage in that very cart. I was for
makin’ the trip in a boat, like a sensible man, but he wouldn’t hear of
it.

“‘Land of love!’ says I. ‘Go to Setuckit in a automobile?’

“‘Why not?’ he says. ‘The biscuit shooter up at the hotel tells me
there’s a smart chance of folks goes there a-horseback. And where a hoss
can travel I reckon the old gal here’--slappin’ the thwart of the auto
alongside of him--‘can go, too!’

“‘But there’s the Cut-through,’ says I.

“‘’Tain’t nothin’ but a creek when the freshet’s over, they tell me,’
says he. ‘And me and the boss have forded four foot of river in this
very machine.’

“By the ‘freshet’ bein’ over I judged he meant the tide bein’ out. And
the Cut-through ain’t but a little trickle then, though it’s a quarter
mile wide and deep enough to float a schooner at high water. It’s the
strip of channel that makes Setuckit Beach an island, you know. The
gov’ment has had engineers down dredgin’ of it out, and pretty soon fish
boats’ll be able to save the twenty-mile sail around the P’int and into
Orham Harbor at all hours.

“Well, to make a long story short, I agreed to let him cart me to
Setuckit P’int in that everlastin’ gas carryall. We was to start at four
o’clock in the afternoon, ‘cause the tide at the Cut-through would be
dead low at half-past four. We’d stay overnight at my shanty at the
P’int, get up airly, shoot all day, and come back the next afternoon.

“At four prompt he was on hand, ready for me. I loaded in the guns and
grub and one thing or ‘nother, and then ‘twas time for me to get aboard
myself.

“‘You’ll set in the tonneau,’ says he, indicatin’ the upholstered after
cockpit of the concern. I opened up the shiny hatch, under orders from
him, and climbed in among the upholstery. ‘Twas soft as a feather bed.

“‘Jerushy!’ says I, lollin’ back luxurious. This is fine, ain’t it?’

“‘Cost seventy-five hundred to build,’ he says casual. ‘Made to order
for the boss. Lightest car of her speed ever turned out.’

“‘Go ‘way! How you talk! Seventy-five hundred what? Not dollars?’

“‘Sure,’ he says. Then he turns round--he was in the bow, hangin’ on to
the steerin’ wheel--and looks me over, kind of interested, but superior.
‘Say,’ he says, ‘I’ve been hearin’ things about you. You’re a hero,
ain’t you?’

“Durn them Orham gabblers! Ever sence I hauled that crew of seasick
summer boarders out of the drink a couple of years ago and the gov’ment
gave me a medal, the minister and some more of his gang have painted out
the name I was launched under and had me entered on the shippin’ list
as ‘The Hero.’ I’ve licked two or three for callin’ me that, but I can’t
lick a parson, and he was the one that told Billings.

“‘Oh, I don’t know!’ I answers pretty sharp. ‘Get her under way, why
don’t you?’

“All he done was look me over some more and grin.

“‘A hero! A real live gov’ment-branded hero!’ he says. ‘Ain’t scared of
nothin’, I reckon--hey?’

“I never made no answer. There’s some things that’s too fresh to eat
without salt, and I didn’t have a pickle tub handy.

“‘Hum!’ he says again, reverend-like. ‘A sure hero; scared of nothin’!
Never rode in an auto afore, did you?’

“‘No,’ says I, peppery; ‘and I don’t see no present symptom of ridin’ in
one now. Cast off, won’t you?’

“He cast off. That is to say, he hauled a nickel-plated marlinespike
thing toward him, shoved another one away from him, took a twist on the
steerin’ wheel, the gocart coughed like a horse with the heaves, started
up some sort of buzz-planer underneath, and then we begun to move.

“From the time we left my shanty at South Orham till we passed the pines
at Herrin’ Neck I laid back in that stuffed cockpit, feelin’ as grand
and tainted as old John D. himself. The automobile rolled along smooth
but swift, and it seemed to me I had never known what easy trav’lin’ was
afore. As we rounded the bend by the pines and opened up the twelve-mile
narrow white stretch of Setuckit Beach ahead of us, with the ocean on
one side and the bay on t’other, I looked at my watch. We’d come that
fur in thirteen minutes.

“‘Land sakes!’ I says. ‘This is what I call movin’ right along!’

“He turned round and sized me up again, like he was surprised.

“‘Movin’?’ says he. ‘Movin’? Why, pard, we’ve been settin’ down to rest!
Out our way, if a lynchin’ party didn’t move faster than we’ve done so
fur, the center of attraction would die on the road of old age. Now, my
heroic college chum,’ he goes on, callin’ me out of my name, as usual,
‘will you be so condescendin’ as to indicate how we hit the trail?’

“‘Hit--hit which? Don’t hit nothin’, for goodness’ sake! Goin’ the way
we be, it would--’

“‘Which way do we go?’

“‘Right straight ahead. Keep on the ocean side, ‘cause there’s more hard
sand there, and--hold on! Don’t do that! Stop it, I tell you!’

“Them was the last rememberable words said by me durin’ the next quarter
of an hour. That shover man let out a hair-raisin’ yell, hauled the
nickel marlinespike over in its rack, and squeezed a rubber bag that was
spliced to the steerin’ wheel. There was a half dozen toots or howls or
honks from under our bows somewheres, and then that automobile hopped
off the ground and commenced to fly. The fust hop landed me on my knees
in the cockpit, and there I stayed. ‘Twas the most fittin’ position
fur my frame of mind and chimed in fust-rate with the general religious
drift of my thoughts.

“The Cut-through is two mile or more from Herrin’ Neck. ‘Cordin’ to my
count we hit terra cotta just three times in them two miles. The fust
hit knocked my hat off. The second one chucked me up so high I looked
back for the hat, and though we was a half mile away from it, it hadn’t
had time to git to the ground. And all the while the horn was a-honkin’,
and Billings was a-screechin, and the sand was a-flyin’. Sand! Why,
say! Do you see that extra bald place on the back of my head? Yes? Well,
there was a two-inch thatch of hair there afore that sand blast ground
it off.

“When I went up on the third jounce I noticed the Cut-through just
ahead. Billings see it, too, and--would you b’lieve it?--the lunatic
stood up, let go of the wheel with one hand, takes off his hat and waves
it, and we charge down across them wet tide flats like death on the
woolly horse, in Scriptur’.

“‘Hi, yah! Yip!’ whoops Billings. ‘Come on in, fellers! The water’s
fine! Yow! Y-e-e-e! Yip!’

“For a second it left off rainin’ sand, and there was a typhoon of
mud and spray. I see a million of the prettiest rainbows--that is, I
cal’lated there was a million; it’s awful hard to count when you’re
bouncin’ and prayin’ and drowndin’ all to once. Then we sizzed out of
the channel, over the flats on t’other side, and on toward Setuckit.

“Never mind the rest of the ride. ‘Twas all a sort of constant changin’
sameness. I remember passin’ a blurred life-savin’ station, with
three--or maybe thirty--blurred men jumpin’ and laughin’ and hollerin’.
I found out afterwards that they’d been on the lookout for the bombshell
for half an hour. Billings had told around town what he was goin’ to
do to me, and some kind friend had telephoned it to the station. So the
life-savers was full of anticipations. I hope they were satisfied. I
hadn’t rehearsed my part of the show none, but I feel what the parson
calls a consciousness of havin’ done my best.

“‘Whoa, gal!’ says Billings, calm and easy, puttin’ the helm hard down.
The auto was standin’ still at last. Part of me was hangin’ over the lee
rail. I could see out of the part, so I knew ‘twas my head. And there
alongside was my fish shanty at the P’int, goin’ round and round in
circles.

“I undid the hatch of the cockpit and fell out on the sand. Then I
scrambled up and caught hold of the shanty as it went past me. That fool
shover watched me, seemin’ly interested.

“‘Why, pard,’ says he, ‘what’s the matter? Do you feel pale? Are you
nervous? It ain’t possible that you’re scared? Honest, now, pard, if it
weren’t that I knew you were a genuine gold-mounted hero I’d sure think
you was a scared man.’

“I never said nothin’. The scenery and me was just turnin’ the mark buoy
on our fourth lap.

“‘Dear me, pard!’ continues Billings. ‘I sure hope I ain’t scared you
none. We come down a little slow this evenin’, but to-morrow night, when
I take you back home, I’ll let the old girl out a little.’

“I sensed some of that. And as the shanty had about come to anchor, I
answered and spoke my mind.

“‘When you take me back home!’ I says. ‘When you do! Why, you
crack-brained, murderin’ lunatic, I wouldn’t cruise in that hell wagon
of yours again for the skipper’s wages on a Cunarder. No, nor the mate’s
hove in!’

“And that shover he put his head back and laughed and laughed and
laughed.”



CHAPTER XVI

THE CRUISE OF THE RED CAR


“I don’t wonder he laughed,” observed Wingate, who seemed to enjoy
irritating his friend. “You must have been good as a circus.”

“Humph!” grunted the depot master. “If I remember right you said YOU
wa’n’t any ten-cent side show under similar circumstances, Barzilla.
Heave ahead, Bailey!”

Captain Stitt, unruffled, resumed:

“I tell you, I had to take it that evenin’,” he said. “All the time I
was cookin’ and while he was eatin’ supper, Billings was rubbin’ it
into me about my bein’ scared. Called me all the saltwater-hero names
he could think of--‘Hobson’ and ‘Dewey’ and the like of that, usin’ em
sarcastic, of course. Finally, he said he remembered readin’ in school,
when he was little, about a girl hero, name of Grace Darlin’. Said he
cal’lated, if I didn’t mind, he’d call me Grace, ‘cause it was heroic
and yet kind of fitted in with my partic’lar brand of bravery. I didn’t
answer much; he had me down, and I knew it. Likewise I judged he was
more or less out of his head; no sane man would yell the way he done
aboard that automobile.

“Then he commenced to spin yarns about himself and his doin’s, and
pretty soon it come out that he’d been a cowboy afore young Stumpton
give up ranchin’ and took to automobilin’. That cleared the sky line
some, of course; I’d read consider’ble about cowboys in the ten-cent
books my nephew fetched home when he was away to school. I see right off
that Billings was the livin’ image of Deadwood Dick and Wild Bill and
the rest in them books; they yelled and howled and hadn’t no regard for
life and property any more’n he had. No, sir! He wa’n’t no crazier’n
they was; it was in the breed, I judged.

“‘I sure wish I had you on the ranch, Grace,’ says he. ‘Why don’t you
come West some day? That’s where a hero like you would show up strong.’

“‘Godfrey mighty!’ I sings out. ‘I wouldn’t come nigh such a nest of
crazy murderers as that fur no money! I’d sooner ride in that automobile
of yours, and St. Peter himself couldn’t coax me into THAT again, not if
‘twas fur a cruise plumb up the middle of the golden street!’

“I meant it, too, and the next afternoon when it come time to start
for home he found out that I meant it. We’d shot a lot of ducks, and
Billings was havin’ such a good time that I had to coax and tease him
as if he was a young one afore he’d think of quittin’. It was quarter
of six when he backed the gas cart out of the shed. I was uneasy, ‘cause
‘twas past low-water time, and there was fog comin’ on.

“‘Brace up, Dewey!’ says he. ‘Get in.’

“‘No, Mr. Billings,’ says I. ‘I ain’t goin’ to get in. You take that
craft of yourn home, and I’ll sail up alongside in my dory.’

“‘In your which?’ says he.

“‘In my dory,’ I says. ‘That’s her hauled up on the beach abreast the
shanty.’

“He looked at the dory and then at me.

“‘Go on!’ says he. ‘You ain’t goin’ to pack yourself twelve mile on THAT
SHINGLE?’

“‘Sartin I am! says I. ‘I ain’t takin’ no more chances.’

“Do you know, he actually seemed to think I was crazy then. Seemed to
figger that the dory wa’n’t big enough; and she’s carried five easy
afore now. We had an argument that lasted twenty minutes more, and the
fog driftin’ in nigher all the time. At last he got sick of arguin’,
ripped out somethin’ brisk and personal, and got his tin shop to movin’.

“‘You want to cross over to the ocean side,’ I called after him. ‘The
Cut-through’s been dredged at the bay end, remember.’

“‘Be hanged!’ he yells, or more emphatic. And off he whizzed. I see him
go, and fetched a long breath. Thanks to a merciful Providence, I’d come
so fur without bein’ buttered on the undercrust of that automobile or
scalped with its crazy shover’s bowie knife.

“Ten minutes later I was beatin’ out into the bay in my dory. All
around was the fog, thin as poorhouse gruel so fur, but thickenin’ every
minute. I was worried; not for myself, you understand, but for that
cowboy shover. I was afraid he wouldn’t fetch t’other side of the
Cut-through. There wa’n’t much wind, and I had to make long tacks. I
took the inshore channel, and kept listenin’ all the time. And at last,
when ‘twas pretty dark and I was cal’latin’ to be about abreast of the
bay end of the Cut-through, I heard from somewheres ashore a dismal
honkin’ kind of noise, same as a wild goose might make if ‘twas chokin’
to death and not resigned to the worst.

“‘My land!’ says I. ‘It’s happened!’ And I come about and headed
straight in for the beach. I struck it just alongside the gov’ment
shanty. The engineers had knocked off work for the week, waitin’ for
supplies, but they hadn’t took away their dunnage.

“‘Hi!’ I yells, as I hauled up the dory. ‘Hi-i-i! Billings, where be
you?’

“The honkin’ stopped and back comes the answer; there was joy in it.

“‘What? Is that Cap’n Stitt?’

“‘Yes,’ I sings out. ‘Where be you?’

“‘I’m stuck out here in the middle of the crick. And there’s a flood on.
Help me, can’t you?’

“Next minute I was aboard the dory, rowin’ her against the tide up the
channel. Pretty quick I got where I could see him through the fog and
dark. The auto was on the flat in the middle of the Cut-through, and
the water was hub high already. Billings was standin’ up on the for’ard
thwart, makin’ wet footmarks all over them expensive cushions.

“‘Lord,’ says he, ‘I sure am glad to see you, pard! Can we get to land,
do you think?’

“‘Land?’ says I, makin’ the dory fast alongside and hoppin’ out into the
drink. ‘’Course we can land! What’s the matter with your old derelict?
Sprung a leak, has it?’

“He went on to explain that the automobile had broke down when he struck
the flat, and he couldn’t get no farther. He’d been honkin’ and howlin’
for ten year at least, so he reckoned.

“‘Why in time,’ says I, ‘didn’t you mind me and go up the ocean side?
And why in nation didn’t you go ashore and--But never mind that now. Let
me think. Here! You set where you be.’

“As I shoved off in the dory again he turned loose a distress signal.

“‘Where you goin’?’ he yells. ‘Say, pard, you ain’t goin’ to leave me
here, are you?’

“‘I’ll be back in a shake,’ says I, layin’ to my oars. ‘Don’t holler so!
You’ll have the life-savers down here, and then the joke’ll be on us.
Hush, can’t you? I’ll be right back!’

“I rowed up channel a little ways, and then I sighted the place I
was bound for. Them gov’ment folks had another shanty farther up the
Cut-through. Moored out in front of it was a couple of big floats, for
their stone sloops to tie up to at high water. The floats were made of
empty kerosene barrels and planks, and they’d have held up a house easy.
I run alongside the fust one, cut the anchor cable with my jackknife,
and next minute I was navigatin’ that float down channel, steerin’ it
with my oar and towin’ the dory astern.

“‘Twas no slouch of a job, pilotin’ that big float, but part by steerin’
and part by polin’ I managed to land her broadside on to the auto. I
made her fast with the cable ends and went back after the other float.
This one was a bigger job than the fust, but by and by that gas wagon,
with planks under her and cable lashin’s holdin’ her firm, was restin’
easy as a settin’ hen between them two floats. I unshipped my mast,
fetched it aboard the nighest float, and spread the sail over the
biggest part of the brasswork and upholstery.

“‘There,’ says I, ‘if it rains durin’ the night she’ll keep pretty
dry. Now I’ll take the dory and row back to the shanty after some spare
anchors there is there.’

“‘But what’s it fur, pard?’ asks Billings for the nine hundred and
ninety-ninth time. ‘Why don’t we go where it’s dry? The flood’s risin’
all the time.’

“‘Let it rise,’ I says. ‘I cal’late when it gets high enough them
floats’ll rise with it and lift the automobile up, too. If she’s
anchored bow and stern she’ll hold, unless it comes on to blow a gale,
and to-morrow mornin’ at low tide maybe you can tinker her up so she’ll
go.’

“‘Go?’ says he, like he was astonished. ‘Do you mean to say you’re
reckonin’ to save the CAR?’

“‘Good land!’ I says, starin’ at him. ‘What else d’you s’pose? Think I’d
let seventy-five hundred dollars’ wuth of gilt-edged extravagance go to
the bottom? What did you cal’late I was tryin’ to save--the clam flat?
Give me that dory rope; I’m goin’ after them anchors. Sufferin’ snakes!
Where IS the dory? What have you done with it?’

“He’d been holdin’ the bight of the dory rodin’. I handed it to him so’s
he’d have somethin’ to take up his mind. And, by time, he’d forgot all
about it and let it drop! And the dory had gone adrift and was out of
sight.

“‘Gosh!’ says he, astonished-like. ‘Pard, the son of a gun has slipped
his halter!’

“I was pretty mad--dories don’t grow on every beach plum bush--but there
wa’n’t nothin’ to say that fitted the case, so I didn’t try.

“‘Humph!’ says I. ‘Well, I’ll have to swim ashore, that’s all, and go up
to the station inlet after another boat. You stand by the ship. If she
gets afloat afore I come back you honk and holler and I’ll row after
you. I’ll fetch the anchors and we’ll moor her wherever she happens to
be. If she shouldn’t float on an even keel, or goes to capsize, you jump
overboard and swim ashore. I’ll--’

“‘Swim?’ says he, with a shake in his voice. ‘Why, pard, I can’t swim!’

“I turned and looked at him. Shover of a two-mile-a-minute gold-plated
butcher cart like that, a cowboy murderer that et his friends for
breakfast--and couldn’t swim! I fetched a kind of combination groan and
sigh, turned back the sail, climbed aboard the automobile, and lit up my
pipe.

“‘What are you settin’ there for?’ says he. ‘What are you goin’ to do?’

“‘Do?’ says I. ‘Wait, that’s all--wait and smoke. We won’t have to wait
long.’

“My prophesyin’ was good. We didn’t have to wait very long. It was pitch
dark, foggy as ever, and the tide a-risin’ fast. The floats got to be
a-wash. I shinned out onto ‘em, picked up the oar that had been left
there, and took my seat again. Billings climbed in, too, only--and
it kind of shows the change sence the previous evenin’--he was in the
passenger cockpit astern, and I was for’ard in the pilot house. For a
reckless daredevil he was actin’ mighty fidgety.

“And at last one of the floats swung off the sand. The automobile tipped
scandalous. It looked as if we was goin’ on our beam ends. Billings let
out an awful yell. Then t’other float bobbed up and the whole shebang,
car and all, drifted out and down the channel.

“My lashin’s held--I cal’lated they would. Soon’s I was sure of that I
grabbed up the oar and shoved it over the stern between the floats. I
hoped I could round her to after we passed the mouth of the Cut-through,
and make port on the inside beach. But not in that tide. Inside of five
minutes I see ‘twas no use; we was bound across the bay.

“And now commenced a v’yage that beat any ever took sence Noah’s time,
I cal’late; and even Noah never went to sea in an automobile, though
the one animal I had along was as much trouble as his whole menagerie.
Billings was howlin’ blue murder.

“‘Stop that bellerin’!’ I ordered. ‘Quit it, d’you hear! You’ll have the
station crew out after us, and they’ll guy me till I can’t rest. Shut
up! If you don’t, I’ll--I’ll swim ashore and leave you.’

“I was takin’ big chances, as I look at it now. He might have drawed a
bowie knife or a lasso on me; ‘cordin’ to his yarns he’d butchered folks
for a good sight less’n that. But he kept quiet this time, only gurglin’
some when the ark tilted. I had time to think of another idee. You
remember the dory sail, mast and all, was alongside that cart. I clewed
up the canvas well as I could and managed to lash the mast up straight
over the auto’s bows. Then I shook out the sail.

“‘Here!’ says I, turnin’ to Billings. ‘You hang on to that sheet. No,
you needn’t nuther. Make it fast to that cleat alongside.’

“I couldn’t see his face plain, but his voice had a funny tremble to it;
reminded me of my own when I climbed out of that very cart after he’d
jounced me down to Setuckit the day before.

“‘What?’ he says. ‘Wh-what? What sheet? I don’t see any sheet. What do
you want me to do?’

“‘Tie this line to that cleat. That cleat there! CLEAT, you lubber!
CLEAT! That knob! MAKE IT FAST! Oh, my gosh t’mighty! Get out of my
way!’

“The critter had tied the sheet to the handle of the door instead of the
one I meant, and the pull of the sail hauled the door open and pretty
nigh ripped it off the hinges. I had to climb into the cockpit and
straighten out the mess. I was losin’ my temper; I do hate bunglin’
seamanship aboard a craft of mine.

“‘But what’ll become of us?’ begs Billings. ‘Will we drown?’

“‘What in tunket do we want to drown for? Ain’t we got a good sailin’
breeze and the whole bay to stay on top of--fifty foot of water and
more?’

“‘Fifty foot!’ he yells. ‘Is there fifty foot of water underneath us
now? Pard, you don’t mean it!’

“‘Course I mean it. Good thing, too!’

“‘But fifty foot! It’s enough to drown in ten times over!’

“‘Can’t drown but once, can you? And I’d just as soon drown in fifty
foot as four--ruther, ‘cause ‘twouldn’t take so long.’

“He didn’t answer out loud; but I heard him talkin’ to himself pretty
constant.

“We was well out in the bay by now, and the seas was a little mite more
rugged--nothin’ to hurt, you understand, but the floats was all foam,
and once in a while we’d ship a little spray. And every time that
happened Billings would jump and grab for somethin’ solid--sometimes
‘twas the upholstery and sometimes ‘twas me. He wa’n’t on the thwart,
but down in a heap on the cockpit floor.

“‘Let go of my leg!’ I sings out, after we’d hit a high wave and that
shover had made a more’n ordinary savage claw at my underpinnin’. ‘You
make me nervous. Drat this everlastin’ fog! somethin’ll bump into us if
we don’t look out. Here, you go for’ard and light them cruisin’ lights.
They ain’t colored ‘cordin’ to regulations, but they’ll have to do. Go
for’ard! What you waitin’ for?’

“Well, it turned out that he didn’t like to leave that cockpit. I was
mad.

“‘Go for’ard there and light them lights!’ I yelled, hangin’ to the
steerin’ oar and keepin’ the ark runnin’ afore the wind.

“‘I won’t!’ he says, loud and emphatic. ‘Think I’m a blame fool? I sure
would be a jack rabbit to climb over them seats the way they’re buckin’
and light them lamps. You’re talkin’ through your hat!’

“Well, I hadn’t no business to do it, but, you see, I was on salt water,
and skipper, as you might say, of the junk we was afloat in; and if
there’s one thing I never would stand it’s mutiny. I hauled in the oar,
jumped over the cockpit rail, and went for him. He see me comin’, stood
up, tried to get out of the way, and fell overboard backwards. Part of
him lit on one of the floats, but the biggest part trailed in the water
between the two. He clawed with his hands, but the planks was slippery,
and he slid astern fast. Just as he reached the last plank and slid off
and under I jumped after him and got him by the scruff of the neck. I
had hold of the lashin’ end with one hand, and we tailed out behind the
ark, which was sloppin’ along, graceful as an elephant on skates.

“I was pretty well beat out when I yanked him into that cockpit
again. Neither of us said anything for a spell, breath bein’ scurce as
di’monds. But when he’d collected some of his, he spoke.

“‘Pard,’ he says, puffin’, ‘I’m much obleeged to you. I reckon I sure
ain’t treated you right. If it hadn’t been for you that time I’d--’

“But I was b’ilin’ over. I whirled on him like a teetotum.

“‘Drat your hide!’ I says. ‘When you speak to your officer you say sir!
And now you go for’ard and light them lights. Don’t you answer back!
If you do I’ll fix you so’s you’ll never ship aboard another vessel!
For’ard there! Lively, you lubber, lively!’

“He went for’ard, takin’ consider’ble time and hangin’ on for dear life.
But somehow or ‘nuther he got the lights to goin’; and all the time
I hazed him terrible. I was mate on an Australian packet afore I went
fishin’ to the Banks, and I can haze some. I blackguarded that shover
awful.

“‘Ripperty-rip your everlastin’ blankety-blanked dough head!’ I roared
at him. ‘You ain’t wuth the weight to sink you. For’ard there and get
that fog horn to goin’! And keep it goin’! Lively, you sculpin! Don’t
you open your mouth to me!’

“Well, all night we sloshed along, straight acrost the bay. We must
have been a curious sight to look at. The floats was awash, so that the
automobile looked like she was ridin’ the waves all by her lonesome; the
lamps was blazin’ at either side of the bow; Billings was a-tootin’
the rubber fog horn as if he was wound up; and I was standin’ on the
cushions amidships, keepin’ the whole calabash afore the wind.

“We never met another craft the whole night through. Yes, we did meet
one. Old Ezra Cahoon, of Harniss, was out in his dory stealin’ quahaugs
from Seth Andrews’s bed over nigh the Wapatomac shore. Ezra stayed long
enough to get one good glimpse of us as we bust through the fog; then he
cut his rodin’ and laid to his oars, bound for home and mother. We could
hear him screech for half an hour after he left us.

“Ez told next day that the devil had come ridin’ acrost the bay after
him in a chariot of fire. Said he could smell the brimstone and hear
the trumpet callin’ him to judgment. Likewise he hove in a lot of
particulars concernin’ the personal appearance of the Old Boy himself,
who, he said, was standin’ up wavin’ a red-hot pitchfork. Some folks
might have been flattered at bein’ took for such a famous character; but
I wa’n’t; I’m retirin’ by nature, and besides, Ez’s description
wa’n’t cal’lated to bust a body’s vanity b’iler. I was prouder of the
consequences, the same bein’ that Ezra signed the Good Templars’ pledge
that afternoon, and kept it for three whole months, just sixty-nine days
longer than any previous attack within the memory of man had lasted.

“And finally, just as mornin’ was breakin’, the bows of the floats slid
easy and slick up on a hard, sandy beach. Then the sun riz and the
fog lifted, and there we was within sight of the South Ostable
meetin’-house. We’d sailed eighteen miles in that ark and made a better
landin’ blindfold than we ever could have made on purpose.

“I hauled down the sail, unshipped the mast, and jumped ashore to find
a rock big enough to use for a makeshift anchor. It wa’n’t more’n three
minutes after we fust struck afore my boots hit dry ground, but Billings
beat me one hundred and seventy seconds, at that. When I had time to
look at that shover man he was a cable’s length from high-tide mark,
settin’ down and grippin’ a bunch of beach grass as if he was afeard the
sand was goin’ to slide from under him; and you never seen a yallerer,
more upset critter in your born days.

“Well, I got the ark anchored, after a fashion, and then we walked up to
the South Ostable tavern. Peleg Small, who runs the place, he knows me,
so he let me have a room and I turned in for a nap. I slept about three
hours. When I woke up I started out to hunt the automobile and Billings.
Both of ‘em looked consider’ble better than they had when I see ‘em
last. The shover had got a gang of men and they’d got the gas cart
ashore, and Billings and a blacksmith was workin’ over--or rather
under--the clockwork.

“‘Hello!’ I hails, comin’ alongside.

“Billings sticks his head out from under the tinware.

“‘Hi, pard!’ says he. I noticed he hadn’t called me ‘Grace’ nor ‘Dewey’
for a long spell. Hi, pard,’ he says, gettin’ to his feet, ‘the old gal
ain’t hurt a hair. She’ll be good as ever in a couple of hours. Then you
and me can start for Orham.’

“‘In HER?’ says I.

“‘Sure,’ he says.

“‘Not by a jugful!’ says I, emphatic. ‘I’ll borrer a boat to get to
Orham in, when I’m ready to go. You won’t ketch me in that man killer
again; and you can call me a coward all you want to!’

“‘A coward?’ says he. ‘You a coward? And--Why, you was in that car all
night!’

“‘Oh!’ I says. ‘Last night was diff’rent. The thing was on water then,
and when I’ve got enough water underneath me I know I’m safe.’

“‘Safe!’ he sings out. ‘SAFE! Well, by--gosh! Pard, I hate to say it,
but it’s the Lord’s truth--you had me doin’ my “Now I lay me’s”!’

“For a minute we looked at each other. Then says I, sort of thinkin’ out
loud, ‘I cal’late,’ I says, ‘that whether a man’s brave or not depends
consider’ble on whether he’s used to his latitude. It’s all accordin’.
It lays in the bringin’ up, as the duck said when the hen tried to
swim.’

“He nodded solemn. ‘Pard,’ says he, ‘I sure reckon you’ve called the
turn. Let’s shake hands on it.’

“So we shook; and . . .”

Captain Bailey stopped short and sprang from his chair. “There’s my
train comin’,” he shouted. “Good-by, Sol! So long, Barzilla! Keep away
from fortune tellers and pretty servant girls or YOU’LL be gettin’
married pretty soon. Good-by.”

He darted out of the waiting room and his companions followed. Mr.
Wingate, having a few final calls to make, left the station soon
afterwards and did not return until evening. And that evening he heard
news which surprised him.

As he and Captain Sol were exchanging a last handshake on the platform,
Barzilla said:

“Well, Sol, I’ve enjoyed loafin’ around here and yarnin’ with you, same
as I always do. I’ll be over again in a month or so and we’ll have some
more.”

The Captain shook his head. “I may not be here then, Barzilla,” he
observed.

“May not be here? What do you mean by that?”

“I mean that I don’t know exactly where I shall be. I shan’t be depot
master, anyway.”

“Shan’t be depot master? YOU won’t? Why, what on airth--”

“I sent in my resignation four days ago. Nobody knows it, except you,
not even Issy, but the new depot master for East Harniss will be here to
take my place on the mornin’ of the twelfth, that’s two days off.”

“Why! Why! SOL!”

“Yes. Keep mum about it. I’ll--I’ll let you know what I decide to do. I
ain’t settled it myself yet. Good-by, Barzilla.”



CHAPTER XVII

ISSY’S REVENGE


The following morning, at nine o’clock, Issy McKay sat upon the heap of
rusty chain cable outside the blacksmith’s shop at Denboro, reading,
as usual, a love story. Issy was taking a “day off.” He had begged
permission of Captain Sol Berry, the permission had been granted,
and Issy had come over to Denboro, the village eight miles above East
Harniss, in his “power dory,” or gasoline boat, the Lady May. The Lady
May was a relic of the time before Issy was assistant depot master, when
he gained a precarious living by quahauging, separating the reluctant
bivalve from its muddy house on the bay bottom with an iron rake, the
handle of which was forty feet long. Issy had been seized with a desire
to try quahauging once more, hence his holiday. The rake was broken
and he had put in at Denboro to have it fixed. While the blacksmith was
busy, Issy laboriously spelled out the harrowing chapters of “Vivian,
the Shop Girl; or Lord Lyndhurst’s Lowly Love.”

A grinning, freckled face peered cautiously around the corner of the
blacksmith’s front fence. Then an overripe potato whizzed through the
air and burst against the shop wall a few inches from the reader’s head.
Issy jumped.

“You--you everlastin’ young ones, you!” he shouted fiercely. “If I
git my hands onto you, you’ll wish you’d--I see you hidin’ behind that
fence.”

Two barefooted little figures danced provokingly in the roadway and two
shrill voices chanted in derision:

     “Is McKay--Is McKay--
     Makes the Injuns run away!

“Scalped anybody lately, Issy?”

Alas for the indiscretions of youth! The tale of Issy’s early expedition
in search of scalps and glory was known from one end of Ostable County
to the other. It had made him famous, in a way.

“If I git a-holt of you kids, I’ll bet there’ll be some scalpin’ done,”
 retorted the persecuted one, rising from the heap of cable.

A second potato burst like a bombshell on the shingles behind him.
McKay was a good general, in that he knew when it was wisest to retreat.
Shoving the paper novel into his overalls pocket, he entered the shop.

“What’s the matter, Is?” inquired the grinning blacksmith. Most people
grinned when they spoke to Issy. “Gittin’ too hot outside there, was it?
Why don’t you tomahawk ‘em and have ‘em for supper?”

“Humph!” grunted the offended quahauger. “Don’t git gay now, Jake
Larkin. You hurry up with that rake.”

“Oh, all right, Is. Don’t sculp ME; I ain’t done nothin’. What’s the
news over to East Harniss?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Not much. Sam Bartlett, he started for Boston this
mornin’.”

“Who? Sam Bartlett? I want to know! Thought he was down for six weeks.
You sure about that, Is?”

“Course I’m sure. I was up to the depot and see him buy his ticket and
git on the cars.”

“Did, hey? Humph! So Sam’s gone. Gertie Higgins still over to her Aunt
Hannah’s at Trumet?”

Issy looked at his questioner. “Why, yes,” he said suspiciously.
“I s’pose she’s there. Fact, I know she is. Pat Starkey’s doin’ the
telegraphin’ while she’s away. What made you ask that?”

The blacksmith chuckled. “Oh, nothin’,” he said. “How’s her dad’s
dyspepsy? Had any more of them sudden attacks of his? I cal’late they’ll
take the old man off some of these days, won’t they? I hear the doctor
thinks there’s more heart than stomach in them attacks.”

But the skipper of the Lady May was not to be put off thus. “What you
drivin’ at, Jake?” he demanded. “What’s Sam Bartlett’s goin’ away got to
do with Gertie Higgins?”

In his eagerness he stepped to Mr. Larkin’s side. The blacksmith caught
sight of the novel in his customer’s pocket. He snatched it forth.

“What you readin’ now, Is?” he demanded. “More blood and brimstone?
‘Vivy Ann, the Shop Girl!’ Gee! Wow!”

“You gimme that book, Jake Larkin! Gimme it now!”

Fending the frantic quahauger off with one mighty arm, the blacksmith
proceeded to read aloud:

“‘Darlin’,’ cried Lord Lyndhurst, strainin’ the beautiful and blushin’
maid to his manly bosom, ‘you are mine at last. Mine! No--’ Jerushy! a
love story! Why, Issy! I didn’t know you was in love. Who’s the lucky
girl? Send me an invite to your weddin’, won’t you?”

Issy’s face was a fiery red. He tore the precious volume from its
desecrator’s hand, losing the pictured cover in the struggle.

“You--you pesky fool!” he shouted. “You mind your own business.”

The blacksmith roared in glee. “Oh, ho!” he cried. “Issy’s in love and
I never guessed it. Aw, say, Is, don’t be mean! Who is she? Have you
strained her to your manly bosom yit? What’s her name?”

“Shut up!” shrieked Issy, and strode out of the shop. His tormentor
begged him not to “go off mad,” and shouted sarcastic sympathy after
him. But Mr. McKay heeded not. He stalked angrily along the sidewalk.
Then espying just ahead of him the boys who had thrown the potatoes,
he paused, turned, and walking down the carriageway at the side of the
blacksmith’s place of business, sat down upon a sawhorse under one of
its rear windows. He could, at least, be alone here and think; and he
wanted to think.

For Issy--although he didn’t look it--was deeply interested in another
love story as well as that in his pocket. This one was printed upon
his heart’s pages, and in it he was the hero, while the heroine--the
unsuspecting heroine--was Gertie Higgins, daughter of Beriah Higgins,
once a fisherman, now the crotchety and dyspeptic proprietor of the
“general store” and postmaster at East Harniss.

This story began when Issy first acquired the Lady May. The Higgins home
stood on the slope close to the boat landing, and when Issy came in from
quahauging, Gertie was likely to be in the back yard, hanging out the
clothes or watering the flower garden. Sometimes she spoke to him of her
own accord, concerning the weather or other important topics. Once
she even asked him if he were going to the Fourth of July ball at the
town-hall. It took him until the next morning--like other warriors, Issy
was cursed with shyness--to summon courage enough to ask her to go to
the ball with him. Then he found it was too late; she was going with
her cousin, Lennie Bloomer. But he felt that she had offered him the
opportunity, and was happy and hopeful accordingly.

This, however, was before she went to Boston to study telegraphy. When
she returned, with a picture hat and a Boston accent, it was to preside
at the telegraph instrument in the little room adjoining the post office
at her father’s store. When Issy bowed blushingly outside the window
of the telegraph room, he received only the airiest of frigid nods. Was
there what Lord Lyndhurst would have called “another”? It would seem
not. Old Mr. Higgins, her father, encouraged no bows nor attentions from
young men, and Gertie herself did not appear to desire them. So Issy
gave up his tales of savage butchery for those of love and blisses,
adored in silence, and hoped--always hoped.

But why had the blacksmith seemed surprised at the departure of Sam
Bartlett, the “dudey” vacationist from the city, whose father had, years
ago, been Beriah Higgins’s partner in the fish business? And why had he
coupled the Bartlett name with that of Gertie, who had been visiting her
father’s maiden sister at Trumet, the village next below East Harniss,
as Denboro is the next above it? Issy’s suspicions were aroused, and he
wondered.

Suddenly he heard voices in the shop above him. The window was open and
he heard them plainly.

“Well! WELL!” It was the blacksmith who uttered the exclamation. “Why,
Bartlett, how be you? What you doin’ over here? Thought you’d gone back
to Boston. I heard you had.”

Slowly, cautiously, the astonished quahauger rose from the sawhorse and
peered over the window sill. There were two visitors in the shop. One
was Ed Burns, proprietor of the Denboro Hotel and livery stable. The
other was Sam Bartlett, the very same who had left East Harniss that
morning, bound, ostensibly, for Boston. Issy sank back again and
listened.

“Yes, yes!” he heard Sam say impatiently; “I know, but--see here, Jake,
where can I hire a horse in this God-forsaken town?”

“Well, well, Sam!” continued Larkin. “I was just figurin’ that Beriah
had got the best of you after all, and you’d had to give it up for this
time. Thinks I, it’s too bad! Just because your dad and Beriah Higgins
had such a deuce of a row when they bust up in the fish trade, it’s a
shame that he won’t hark to your keepin’ comp’ny with Gertie. And you
doin’ so well; makin’ twenty dollars a week up to the city--Ed told me
that--and--”

“Yes, yes! But never mind that. Where can I get a horse? I’ve got to be
in Trumet by eight to-night sure.”

“Trumet? Why, that’s where Gertie is, ain’t it?”

“Look a-here, Jake,” broke in the livery-stable keeper. “I’ll tell you
how ‘tis. Oh, it’s all right, Sam! Jake knows the most of it; I told
him. He can keep his mouth shut, and he don’t like old crank Higgins any
better’n you and me do. Jake, Sam here and Gertie had fixed it up to run
off and git married to-night. He was to pretend to start for Boston this
mornin’. Bought a ticket and all, so’s to throw Beriah off the scent.
He was to get off the train here at Denboro and I was to let him have a
horse ‘n’ buggy. Then, this afternoon, he was goin’ to drive through the
wood roads around to Trumet and be at the Baptist Church there at eight
to-night sharp. Gertie’s Aunt Hannah, she’s had her orders, and bein’ as
big a crank as her brother, she don’t let the girl out of her sight. But
there’s a fair at the church and Auntie’s tendin’ a table. Gertie, she
steps out to the cloak room to git a handkerchief which she’s forgot;
see? And she hops into Sam’s buggy and away they go to the minister’s.
After they’re once hitched Old Dyspepsy can go to pot and see the kittle
bile.”

“Bully! By gum, that’s fine! Won’t Beriah rip some, hey?”

“Yes, but there’s the dickens to pay. I’ve only got two horses in the
stable to-day. The rest are let. And the two I’ve got--one’s old Bill,
and he couldn’t go twenty mile to save his hide. And t’other’s the gray
mare, and blamed if she didn’t git cast last night and use up her off
hind leg so’s she can’t step. And Sam’s GOT to have a horse. Where can I
git one?”

“Hum! Have you tried Haynes’s?”

“Yes, yes! And Lathrop’s and Eldredge’s. Can’t git a team for love nor
money.”

“Sho! And he can’t go by train?”

“What? With Beriah postmaster at East Harniss and always nosin’ through
every train that stops there? You can’t fetch Trumet by train without
stoppin’ at East Harniss and--What was that?”

“I don’t know. What was it?”

“Sounded like somethin’ outside that back winder.”

The two ran to the window and looked out. All they saw was an overturned
sawhorse and two or three hens scratching vigorously.

“Guess ‘twas the chickens, most likely,” observed the blacksmith. Then,
striking his blackened palms together, he exclaimed:

“By time! I’ve thought of somethin’! Is McKay is in town to-day. Come
over in the Lady May. She’s a gasoline boat. Is would take Sam to Trumet
for two or three dollars, I’ll bet. And he’s such a fool head that he
wouldn’t ask questions nor suspicion nothin’. ‘Twould be faster’n a
horse and enough sight less risky.”

And just then the “fool head,” his brain whirling under its carroty
thatch, was hurrying blindly up the main street, bound somewhere, he
wasn’t certain where.

A mushy apple exploded between his shoulders, but he did not even turn
around. So THIS was what the blacksmith meant! This was why Mr. Higgins
watched his daughter so closely. This was why Gertie had been sent off
to Trumet. She had met the Bartlett miscreant in Boston; they had been
together there; had fallen in love and--He gritted his teeth and shook
his fists almost in the face of old Deacon Pratt, who, knowing the
McKay penchant for slaughter, had serious thoughts of sending for the
constable.

Beriah Higgins must be warned, of course, but how? To telegraph was
to put Pat Starkey in possession of the secret, and Pat was too good a
friend of Gertie’s to be trusted. There was no telephone at the store.
Issy entered the combination grocery store and post office.

“Has the down mail closed yet?” he panted.

The postmaster looked out of his little window.

“Yes,” he replied. “Why? Got a letter you want to go? Take it up to the
depot. The train’s due, but ‘tain’t here yit. If you run you can make
it.”

Issy took a card from his pocket. It was the business card of the firm
to whom he sold his quahaugs. On the back of the card he wrote in pencil
as follows:

“Mr. Beriah Higgins, your daughter Gertrude is going to meet Sam’l
Bartlett at the Baptist Church in Trumet at 8 P.M. to-night and get
married to him. LOOK OUT!!!”

After an instant’s consideration he signed it “A True Friend,” this
being in emulation of certain heroes of the Deadwood Dick variety. Then
he put the card into an envelope and ran at top speed to the railway
station. The train came in as he reached the platform. The baggage
master was standing in the door of his car.

“Here, mister!” panted Issy. “Jest hand this letter to Beriah Higgins
when he takes the mail bag at East Harniss, won’t you? It’s mighty
important. Don’t forgit. Thanks.”

The train moved off. Issy stared after it, grinning malevolently.
Higgins would get that note in ample time to send word to the watchful
Aunt Hannah. When the unsuspecting eloper reached the Trumet church, it
would be the aunt, not the niece, who awaited him. Still grinning, Mr.
McKay walked off the platform, and into the arms of Ed Burns, the stable
keeper, and Sam Bartlett, his loathed and favored rival.

“Here he is!” shouted Burns. “Now we’ve got him.”

The foiler of the plot turned pale. Was his secret discovered? But no;
his captors began talking eagerly, and gradually the sense of their
pleadings became plain. They wanted him--HIM, of all people--to convey
Bartlett to Trumet in the Lady May.

“You see, it’s a business meetin’,” urged Burns. “Sam’s got to be there
by ha’f past seven or he’ll--he won’t win on the deal, will you, Sam?
Say yes, Issy; that’s a good feller. He’ll give you--I don’t know’s he
won’t give you five dollars.”

“Ten,” cried Bartlett. “And I’ll never forget it, either. Will you, Is?”

A mighty “No!” was trembling on Issy’s tongue. But before it was uttered
Burns spoke again.

“McKay’s got the best boat in these parts,” he urged. “She’s got a
tiptop engine in her, and--”

The word “engine” dropped into the whirlpool of Issy’s thoughts with a
familiar sound. In the chapter of “Vivian” that he had just finished,
the beautiful shopgirl was imprisoned on board the yacht of the
millionaire kidnaper, while the hero, in his own yacht, was miles
astern. But the hero’s faithful friend, disguised as a stoker, was
tampering with the villain’s engine. A vague idea began to form in
Issy’s brain. Once get the would-be eloper aboard the Lady May, and,
even though the warning note should remain undelivered, he--

Issy smiled, and the ghastliness of that smile was unnoticed by his
companions.

“I--I’ll do it,” he cried. “By mighty! I WILL do it. You be at the wharf
here at four o’clock. I wouldn’t do it for everybody, Sam Bartlett, but
for you I’d do consider’ble, just now. And I don’t want your ten dollars
nuther.”


Doctoring an engine may be easy enough--in stories. But to doctor a
gasoline engine so that it will run for a certain length of time and
THEN break down is not so easy. Three o’clock came and the problem was
still unsolved. Issy, the perspiration running down his face, stood
up in the Lady May’s cockpit and looked out across the bay, smooth and
glassy in the afternoon sun.

The sky overhead was clear and blue, but along the eastern and southern
horizon was a gray bank of cloud, heaped in tumbled masses.

A sunburned lobsterman in rubber boots and a sou’wester was smoking on
the wharf.

“What time you goin’ to start for home, Is?” he asked.

“Oh, in an hour or so,” was the absent-minded reply.

“Humph! You’d better cast off afore that or you’ll be fog bound. It’ll
be thicker’n dock mud toward sundown, and you’ll fetch up in Waptomac
‘stead of East Harniss, ‘thout you’ve got a good compass.”

“Oh, my compass is all right,” began Issy, and stopped short.
The lobsterman made other attempts at conversation, but they were
unproductive. McKay was gazing at the growing fog bank and thinking
hard. To doctor an engine may be difficult, but to get lost in a fog--He
took the compass from the glass-lidded binnacle by the wheel, and
carrying it into the little cabin, placed it in the cuddy forward.

It was nearer five than four when the Lady May, her engine barking
aggressively, moved out of Denboro Harbor. Mr. Bartlett, the passenger,
had been on time and had fumed and fretted at the delay. But Issy was
deliberation itself. He had forgotten his quahaug rake, and the lapse
of memory entailed a trip to the blacksmith’s. Then the gasoline tank
needed filling and the battery had to be overhauled.

“Are you sure you can make it?” queried Sam anxiously. “It’s important,
I tell you. Mighty important.”

The skipper snorted in disgust. “Make it?” he repeated. “If the Lady May
can’t make fourteen mile in two hours--let alone two’n a ha’f--then I
don’t know her. She’s one of them boats you read about, she is.”

The Cape makes a wide bend between Denboro and Trumet. The distance
between these towns is twenty long, curved miles over the road; by water
it is reduced to a straight fourteen. And midway between the two, at the
center of the curve, is East Harniss.

The Lady May coughed briskly on. There was no sea, and she sent long,
widening ripples from each side of her bow. Bartlett, leaning over the
rail, gazed impatiently ahead. Issy, sprawled on the bench by the wheel,
was muttering to himself. Occasionally he glanced toward the east. The
gray fog bank was now half way to the zenith and approaching rapidly.
The eastern shore had disappeared.

“Is! Hi, Is! What are you doing? Don’t kill him before my eyes.”

Issy came out of his trance with a start.

“What--what’s that?” he asked. His passenger was grinning broadly.

“What? Kill who?”

“Why, the big chief, or whoever you had under your knee just then.
You’ve been rolling your eyes and punching air with your fist for the
last five minutes. I was getting scared. You’re an unmerciful sinner
when you get started, ain’t you, Is? Who was the victim that time? ‘Man
Afraid of Hot Water’? or who?”

The skipper scowled. He shoved the fist into his pocket.

“Naw,” he growled. “‘Twa’n’t.”

“So? Not an Indian? Then it must have been a white man. Some fellow
after your girl, perhaps. Hey?”

The disconcerted Issy was speechless. His companion’s chance shot had
scored a bull’s-eye. Sam whooped.

“That’s it!” he crowed. “Sure thing! Give it to him, Is! Don’t spare
him.”

Mr. McKay chokingly admitted that he “wa’n’t goin’ to.”

“Ho, ho! That’s the stuff! But who’s SHE, Is? When are you going to
marry her?”

Issy grunted spitefully. “You ain’t married yourself--not yit,” he
observed, with concealed sarcasm.

The unsuspecting Bartlett laughed in triumph. “No,” he said. “I’m not,
that’s a fact; but maybe I’m going to be some of these days. It looked
pretty dubious for a while, but now it’s all right.”

“‘Tis, hey? You’re sure about that, be you?”

“Guess I am. Great Scott! what’s that? Fog?”

A damp breath blew across the boat. The clouds covered the sky overhead
and the bay to port. The fog was pouring like smoke across the water.

“Fog, by thunder!” exclaimed Bartlett.

Issy smiled. “Hum! Yes, ‘tis fog, ain’t it?” he observed.

“But what’ll we do? It’ll be here in a minute, won’t it?”

“Shouldn’t be a mite surprised. Looks ‘s if twas here now.”

The fog came on. It reached the Lady May, passed over her, and shut her
within gray, wet walls. It was impossible to see a length from her side.
Sam swore emphatically. The skipper was provokingly calm. He stepped to
the engine, bent over it, and then returned to the wheel.

“What are you doing?” demanded Bartlett.

“Slowin’ down, of course. Can’t run more’n ha’f speed in a fog like
this. ‘Tain’t safe.”

“Safe! What do I care? I want to get to Trumet.”

“Yes? Well, maybe we’ll git there if we have luck.”

“You idiot! We’ve GOT to get there. How can you tell which way to steer?
Get your compass, man! get your compass!”

“Ain’t got no compass,” was the sulky answer. “Left it to home.”

“Why, no, you didn’t. I--”

“I tell you I did. ‘Twas careless of me, I know, but--”

“But I say you didn’t. When you went uptown after that quahaug rake I
explored this craft of yours some. The compass is in that little closet
at the end of the cabin. I’ll get it.”

He rose to his feet. Issy sprang forward and seized him by the arm.

“Set down!” he yelled. “Who’s runnin’ this boat, you or me?”

The astounded passenger stared at his companion.

“Why, you are,” he replied. “But that’s no reason--What’s the matter
with you, anyway? Have your dime novels driven you loony?”

Issy hesitated. For a moment chagrin and rage at this sudden upset of
his schemes had gotten the better of his prudence. But Bartlett was
taller than he and broad in proportion. And valor--except of the
imaginative brand--was not Issy’s strong point.

“There, there, Sam!” he explained, smiling crookedly. “You mustn’t mind
me. I’m sort of nervous, I guess. And you mustn’t hop up and down in a
boat that way. You set still and I’ll fetch the compass.”

He stumbled across the cockpit and disappeared in the dusk of the cabin.
Finding that compass took a long time. Sam lost patience.

“What’s the matter?” he demanded. “Can’t you find it? Shall I come?”

“No, no!” screamed Issy vehemently. “Stay where you be. Catch a-holt of
that wheel. We’ll be spinnin’ circles if you don’t. I’m a-comin’.”

But it was another five minutes before he emerged from the cabin,
carrying the compass box very carefully with both hands. He placed it in
the binnacle and closed the glass lid.

“‘Twas catched in a bluefish line,” he explained. “All snarled up,
‘twas.”

Sam peered through the glass at the compass.

“Thunder!” he exclaimed. “I should say we had spun around. Instead of
north being off here where I thought it was, it’s ‘way out to the right.
Queer how fog’ll mix a fellow up. Trumet’s about northeast, isn’t it?”

“No’theast by no’th’s the course. Keep her just there.”

The Lady May, still at half speed, kept on through the mist. Time
passed. The twilight, made darker still by the fog, deepened. They lit
the lantern in order to see the compass card. Issy had the wheel now.
Sam was forward, keeping a lookout and fretting at the delay.

“It’s seven o’clock already,” he cried. “For Heaven’s sake, how late
will you be? I’ve got to be there by quarter of eight. D’you hear? I’ve
GOT to.”

“Well, we’re gittin’ there. Can’t expect to travel so fast with part of
the power off. You’ll be where you’re goin’ full as soon as you want to
be, I cal’late.”

And he chuckled.

Another half hour and, through the wet dimness, a light flashed,
vanished, and flashed again. Issy saw it and smiled grimly. Bartlett saw
it and shouted.

“‘What’s that light?” he cried. “Did you see it? There it is, off
there.”

“I see it. There’s a light at Trumet Neck, ain’t there?”

“Humph! It’s been years since I was there, but I thought Trumet light
was steady. However--”

“Ain’t that the wharf ahead?”

Sure enough, out of the dark loomed the bulk of a small wharf, with
catboats at anchor near it. Higher up, somewhere on the shore, were the
lighted windows of a building.

“By thunder, we’re here!” exclaimed Sam, and drew a long breath.

Issy shut off the power altogether, and the Lady May slid easily up to
the wharf. Feverishly her skipper made her fast.

“Yes, sir!” he cried exultantly. “We’re here. And no Black Rover nor
anybody else ever done a better piece of steerin’ than that, nuther.”

He clambered over the stringpiece, right at the heels of his impatient
but grateful passenger. Sam’s thanks were profuse and sincere.

“I’ll never forget it, Is,” he declared. “I’ll never forget it. And
you’ll have to let me pay you the--What makes you shake so?”

Issy pulled his arm away and stepped back.

“I’ll never forget it, Is,” continued Sam. “I--Why! What--?”

He was standing at the shore end of the wharf, gazing up at the lighted
windows. They were those of a dwelling house--an old-fashioned house
with a back yard sloping down to the landing.

And then Issy McKay leaned forward and spoke in his ear.

“You bet you won’t forgit it, Sam Bartlett!” he crowed, in trembling but
delicious triumph. “You bet you won’t! I’ve fixed you just the same as
the Black Rover fixed the mutineers. Run off with my girl, will ye? And
marry her, will ye? I--”

Sam interrupted him. “Why! WHY!” he cried. “That’s--that’s Gertie’s
house! This isn’t Trumet! IT’S EAST HARNISS!”

The next moment he was seized from behind. The skipper’s arms were
around his waist and the skipper’s thin legs twisted about his own. They
fell together upon the sand and, as they rolled and struggled, Issy’s
yells rose loud and high.

“Mr. Higgins!” he shrieked. “Mr. Higgins! Come on! I’ve got him! I’ve
got the feller that’s tryin’ to steal your daughter! Come on! I’ve got
him! I’m hangin’ to him!”

A door banged open. Some one rushed down the walk. And then a girl’s
voice cried in alarm:

“What is it? Who is it? What IS the matter?”

And from the bundle of legs and arms on the ground two voices exclaimed:
“GERTIE!”

“But where IS your father?” asked Sam. Issy asked nothing. He merely sat
still and listened.

“Why, he’s at Trumet. At least I suppose he is. Mrs. Jones--she’s gone
to telephone to him now--says that he came home this morning with one
of those dreadful ‘attacks’ of his. And after dinner he seemed so sick
that, when she went for the doctor, she wired me at Auntie’s to come
home. I didn’t want to come--you know why--but I COULDN’T let him die
alone. And so I caught the three o’clock train and came. I knew you’d
forgive me. But it seems that when Mrs. Jones came back with the doctor
they found father up and dressed and storming like a crazy man. He had
received some sort of a letter; he wouldn’t say what. And, in spite of
all they could do, he insisted on going out. And Cap’n Berry--the depot
master--says he went to Trumet on the afternoon freight. We must have
passed each other on the way. And I’m so--But why are you HERE? And what
were you and Issy doing? And--”

Her lover broke in eagerly. “Then you’re alone now?” he asked.

“Yes, but--”

“Good! Your father can’t get a train back from Trumet before to-morrow
morning. I don’t know what this letter was--but never mind. Perhaps
friend McKay knows more about it. It may be that Mr. Higgins is waiting
now outside the Baptist church. Gertie, now’s our chance. You come with
me right up to the minister’s. He’s a friend of mine. He understands.
He’ll marry us, I know. Come! We mustn’t lose a minute. Your dad may
take a notion to drive back.”

He led her off up the lane, she protesting, he urging. At the corner of
the house he turned.

“I say, Is!” he called. “Don’t you want to come to the wedding? Seems
to me we owe you that, considering all you’ve done to help it along. Or
perhaps you want to stay and fix that compass of yours.”

Issy didn’t answer. Some time after they had gone he arose from the
ground and stumbled home. That night he put a paper novel into the
stove. Next morning, before going to the depot, he removed an iron spike
from the Lady May’s compass box. The needle swung back to its proper
position.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE MOUNTAIN AND MAHOMET


The eleventh of July. The little Berry house stood high on its joists
and rollers, in the middle of the Hill Boulevard, directly opposite
the Edwards lot. Close behind it loomed the big “Colonial.” Another
twenty-four hours, and, even at its one-horse gait, the depot master’s
dwelling would be beyond the strip of Edwards fence. The “Colonial”
 would be ready to move on the lot, and Olive Edwards, the widow, would
be obliged to leave her home. In fact, Mr. Williams had notified
her that she and her few belongings must be off the premises by the
afternoon of the twelfth.

The great Williams was in high good-humor. He chuckled as he talked with
his foreman, and the foreman chuckled in return. Simeon Phinney did
not chuckle. He was anxious and worried, and even the news of Gertie
Higgins’s runaway marriage, brought to him by Obed Gott, who--having
been so recently the victim of another unexpected matrimonial
alliance--was wickedly happy over the postmaster’s discomfiture, did not
interest him greatly.

“Well, I wonder who’ll be the next couple,” speculated Obed. “First
Polena and old Hardee, then Gertie Higgins and Sam Bartlett! I declare,
Sim, gettin’ married unbeknownst to anybody must be catchin’, like the
measles. Nobody’s safe unless they’ve got a wife or husband livin’. Me
and Sol Berry are old baches--we’d better get vaccinated or WE may come
down with the disease. Ho! ho!”

After dinner Mr. Phinney went from his home to the depot. Captain Sol
was sitting in the ticket office, with the door shut. On the platform,
forlornly sprawled upon the baggage truck, was Issy McKay, the picture
of desolation. He started nervously when he heard Simeon’s step. As
yet Issy’s part in the Bartlett-Higgins episode was unknown to the
townspeople. Sam and Gertie had considerately kept silence. Beriah had
not learned who sent him the warning note, the unlucky missive which had
brought his troubles to a climax. But he was bound to learn it, he would
find out soon, and then--No wonder Issy groaned.

“Come in here, Sim,” said the depot master. Phinney entered the ticket
office.

“Shut the door,” commanded the Captain. The order was obeyed. “Well,
what is it?” asked Berry.

“Why, I just run in to see you a minute, Sol, that’s all. What are you
shut up in here all alone for?”

“‘Cause I want to be alone. There’s been more than a thousand folks in
this depot so far to-day, seems so, and they all wanted to talk. I don’t
feel like talkin’.”

“Heard about Gertie Higgins and--”

“Yes.”

“Who told you?”

“Hiram Baker told me first. He’s a fine feller and he’s so tickled, now
that his youngster’s ‘most well, that he cruises around spoutin’ talk
and joy same as a steamer’s stack spouts cinders. He told me. Then Obed
Gott and Cornelius Rowe and Redny Blount and Pat Starkey, and land knows
how many more, came to tell me. I cut ‘em short. Why, even the Major
himself condescended to march in, grand and imposin’ as a procession, to
make proclamations about love laughin’ at locksmiths, and so on. Since
he got Polena and her bank account he’s a bigger man than the President,
in his own estimate.”

“Humph! Well, he better make the best of it while it lasts. P’lena ain’t
Hetty Green, and her money won’t hold out forever.”

“That’s a fact. Still Polena’s got sense. She’ll hold Hardee in check,
I cal’late. I wouldn’t wonder if it ended by her bossin’ things and the
Major actin’ as a sort of pet poodle dog--nice and pretty to walk out
with, but always kept at the end of a string.”

“You didn’t go to Higgins’s for dinner to-day, did you?”

“No. Nor I shan’t go for supper. Beriah’s bad enough when he’s got
nothin’ the matter with him but dyspepsy. Now that his sufferin’s are
complicated with elopements, I don’t want to eat with him.”

“Come and have supper with us.”

“I guess not, thank you, Sim. I’ll get some crackers and cheese and such
at the store. I--I ain’t very hungry these days.”

He turned his head and looked out of the window. Simeon fidgeted.

“Sol,” he said, after a pause, “we’ll be past Olive’s by to-morrer
night.”

No answer. Sim repeated his remark.

“I know it,” was the short reply.

“Yes--yes, I s’posed you did, but--”

“Sim, don’t bother me now. This is my last day here at the depot, and
I’ve got things to do.”

“Your last day? Why, what--?”

Captain Sol told briefly of his resignation and of the coming of the new
depot master.

“But you givin’ up your job!” gasped Phinney. “YOU! Why, what for?”

“For instance, I guess. I ain’t dependent on the wages, and I’m sick of
the whole thing.”

“But what’ll you do?”

“Don’t know.”

“You--you won’t leave town, will you? Lawsy mercy, I hope not!”

“Don’t know. Maybe I’ll know better by and by. I’ve got to think things
out. Run along now, like a good feller. Don’t say nothin’ about my
quittin’. All hands’ll know it to-morrow, and that’s soon enough.”

Simeon departed, his brain in a whirl. Captain Solomon Berry no longer
depot master! The world must be coming to an end.

He remained at his work until supper time. During the meal he ate and
said so little that his wife wondered and asked questions. To avoid
answering them he hurried out. When he returned, about ten o’clock, he
was a changed man. His eyes shone and he fairly danced with excitement.

“Emeline!” he shouted, as he burst into the sitting room. “What do you
think? I’ve got the everlastin’est news to tell!”

“Good or bad?” asked the practical Mrs. Phinney.

“Good! So good that--There! let me tell you. When I left here I went
down to the store and hung around till the mail was sorted. Pat Starkey
was doin’ the sortin’, Beriah bein’ too upsot by Gertie’s gettin’
married to attend to anything. Pat called me to the mail window and
handed me a letter.

“‘It’s for Olive Edwards,’ he says. ‘She’s been expectin’ one for a
consider’ble spell, she told me, and maybe this is it. P’r’aps you’d
just as soon go round by her shop and leave it.’

“I took the letter and looked at it. Up in one corner was the printed
name of an Omaha firm. I never said nothin’, but I sartinly hustled on
my way up the hill.

“Olive was in her little settin’ room back of the shop. She was pretty
pale, and her eyes looked as if she hadn’t been doin’ much sleepin’
lately. Likewise I noticed--and it give me a queer feelin’ inside--that
her trunk was standin’, partly packed, in the corner.”

“The poor woman!” exclaimed Mrs. Phinney.

“Yes,” went on her husband. “Well, I handed over the letter and started
to go, but she told me to set down and rest, ‘cause I was so out of
breath. To tell you the truth, I was crazy to find out what was in that
envelope and, being as she’d give me the excuse, I set.

“She took the letter over to the lamp and looked at it for much as
a minute, as if she was afraid to open it. But at last, and with her
fingers shakin’ like the palsy, she fetched a long breath and tore off
the end of the envelope. It was a pretty long letter, and she read it
through. I see her face gettin’ whiter and whiter and, when she reached
the bottom of the last page, the letter fell onto the floor. Down went
her head on her arms, and she cried as if her heart would break. I never
felt so sorry for anybody in my life.

“‘Don’t, Mrs. Edwards,’ I says. ‘Please don’t. That cousin of yours is
a darn ungrateful scamp, and I’d like to have my claws on his neck this
minute.’

“She never even asked me how I knew about the cousin. She was too much
upset for that.

“‘Oh! oh!’ she sobs. ‘What SHALL I do? Where shall I go? I haven’t got a
friend in the world!’

“I couldn’t stand that. I went acrost and laid my hand on her shoulder.

“‘Mrs. Edwards,’ says I, ‘you mustn’t say that. You’ve got lots of
friends. I’m your friend. Mr. Hilton’s your friend. Yes, and there’s
another, the best friend of all. If it weren’t for him, you’d have been
turned out into the street long before this.’”

Mrs. Phinney nodded. “I’m glad you told her!” she exclaimed. “She’d
ought to know.”

“That’s what I thought,” said Simeon.

“Well, she raised her head then and looked at me.

“‘You mean Mr. Williams?’ she asks.

“That riled me up. ‘Williams nothin’!’ says I. ‘Williams let you stay
here ‘cause he could just as well as not. If he’d known that this other
friend was keepin’ him from gettin’ here, just on your account, he’d
have chucked you to glory, promise or no promise. But this friend, this
real friend, he don’t count cost, nor trouble, nor inconvenience. Hikes
his house--the house he lives in--right out into the road, moves it to a
place where he don’t want to go, and--’

“‘Mr. Phinney,’ she sighs out, ‘what do you mean?’

“And then I told her. She listened without sayin’ a word, but her eyes
kept gettin’ brighter and brighter and she breathed short.

“‘Oh!’ she says, when I’d finished. ‘Did he--did he--do that for ME?’

“‘You bet!’ says I. ‘He didn’t tell me what he was doin’ it for--that
ain’t Sol’s style; but I’m arithmetiker enough to put two and two
together and make four. He did it for you, you can bet your last red on
that.’

“She stood up. ‘Oh!’ she breathes. ‘I--I must go and thank him. I--’

“But, knowin’ Sol, I was afraid. Fust place, there was no tellin’ how
he’d act, and, besides, he might not take it kindly that I’d told her.

“‘Wait a jiffy,’ I says. ‘I’ll go out and see if he’s home. You stay
here. I’ll be back right off.’

“Out I put, and over to the Berry house, standin’ on its rollers in the
middle of the Boulevard. And, just as I got to it, somebody says:

“‘Ahoy, Sim! What’s the hurry? Anybody on fire?’

“‘Twas the Cap’n himself, settin’ on a pile of movin’ joist and smokin’
as usual. I didn’t waste no time.

“‘Sol,’ says I, ‘I’ve just come from Olive’s. She’s got that letter from
the Omaha man. Poor thing! all alone there--’

“He interrupted me sharp. ‘Well?’ he snaps. ‘What’s it say? Will the
cousin help her?’

“‘No,’ I says, ‘drat him, he won’t!’

“The answer I got surprised me more’n anything I ever heard or ever will
hear.

“‘Thank God!’ says Sol Berry. ‘That settles it.’

“And I swan to man if he didn’t climb down off them timbers and march
straight across the street, over to the door of Olive Edwards’s home,
open it, and go in! I leaned against the joist he’d left, and swabbed my
forehead with my sleeve.”

“He went to HER!” gasped Mrs. Phinney.

“Wait,” continued her husband. “I must have stood there twenty minutes
when I heard somebody hurryin’ down the Boulevard. ‘Twas Cornelius Rowe,
all red-faced and het up, but bu’stin’ with news.

“‘’Lo, Sim!’ says he to me. ‘Is Cap’n Sol home? Does he know?’

“‘Know? Know what?” says I.

“‘Why, the trick Mr. Williams put up on him? Hey? You ain’t heard? Well,
Mr. Williams’s fixed him nice, HE has! Seems Abner Payne hadn’t answered
Sol’s letter tellin’ him he’d accept the offer to swap lots, and
Williams went up to Wareham where Payne’s been stayin’ and offered him a
thumpin’ price for the land on Main Street, and took it. The deed’s all
made out. Cap’n Sol can’t move where he was goin’ to, and he’s left with
his house on the town, as you might say. Ain’t it a joke, though? Where
is Sol? I want to be the fust to tell him and see how he acts. Is he to
home?’

“I was shook pretty nigh to pieces, but I had some sense left.

“‘No, he ain’t,’ says I. ‘I see him go up street a spell ago.’”

“Why, Simeon!” interrupted Mrs. Phinney once more. “Was that true? How
COULD you see him when--”

“Be still! S’pose I was goin’ to tell him where Sol HAD gone? I’d have
lied myself blue fust. However, Cornelius was satisfied.

“‘That so?’ he grunts. ‘By jings! I’m goin’ to find him.’

“Off he went, and the next thing I knew the Edwards door opened, and
I heard somebody callin’ my name. I went acrost, walkin’ in a kind of
daze, and there, in the doorway, with the lamp shinin’ on ‘em, was Cap’n
Sol and Olive. The tears was wet on her cheeks, but she was smilin’ in
a kind of shy, half-believin’ sort of way, and as for Sol, he was one
broad, satisfied grin.

“‘Cap’n,’ I begun, ‘I just heard the everlastin’est news that--’

“‘Shut up, Sim!’ he orders, cheerful. ‘You’ve been a mighty good friend
to both of us, and I want you to be the fust to shake hands.’

“‘Shake hands?’ I stammers, lookin’ at ‘em. ‘WHAT? You don’t mean--’

“‘I mean shake hands. Don’t you want to?’

“Want to! I give ‘em both one more look, and then we shook, up to the
elbows; and my grin had the Cap’n’s beat holler.

“‘Sim,’ he says, after I’d cackled a few minutes, ‘I cal’late maybe that
white horse is well by this time. P’r’aps we might move a little faster.
I’m kind of anxious to get to Main Street.’

“Then I remembered. ‘Great gosh all fish-hooks!’ I sings out. ‘Main
Street? Why, there AIN’T no Main Street!’

“And I gives ‘em Cornelius’s news. The widow’s smile faded out.

“‘Oh!’ says she. ‘O Solomon! And I got you into all this trouble!’

“Cap’n Sol didn’t stop grinnin’, but he scratched his head. ‘Huh!’ says
he. ‘Mark one up for King Williams the Great. Humph!’

“He thought for a minute and then he laughed out loud. ‘Olive,’ he says,
‘if I remember right, you and I always figgered to live on the Shore
Road. It’s the best site in town. Sim, I guess if that white horse IS
well, you can move that shanty of mine right to Cross Street, down that,
and back along the Shore Road to the place where it come from. THAT
land’s mine yet,’ says he.

“If that wa’n’t him all over! I couldn’t think what to say, except that
folks would laugh some, I cal’lated.

“‘Not at us, they won’t,’ says he. ‘We’ll clear out till the laughin’ is
over. Olive, to-morrer mornin’ we’ll call on Parson Hilton and then take
the ten o’clock train. I feel’s if a trip to Washin’ton would be about
right just now.’

“She started and blushed and then looked up into his face. ‘Solomon,’
she says, low, ‘I really would like to go to Niagara.’

“He shook his head. ‘Old lady,’ says he, ‘I guess you don’t quite
understand this thing. See here’--p’intin’ to his house loomin’ big and
black in the roadway--‘see! the mountain has come to Mahomet.’”

Mrs. Phinney had heard enough. She sprang from her chair and seized her
husband’s hands.

“Splendid!” she cried, her face beaming. “Oh, AIN’T it lovely! Ain’t you
glad for ‘em, Simeon?”

“Glad! Say, Emeline; there’s some of that wild-cherry bounce down
cellar, ain’t there? Let’s break our teetotalism for once and drink a
glass to Cap’n and Mrs. Solomon Berry. Jerushy! I got to do SOMETHIN’ to
celebrate.”


On the Hill Boulevard the summer wind stirred the silverleaf poplars.
The thick, black shadows along the sidewalks were heavy with the perfume
of flowers. Captain Sol, ex-depot master of East Harniss, strolled on
in the dark, under the stars, his hands in his pockets, and in his heart
happiness complete and absolute.

Behind him twinkled the lamp in the window of the Edwards house, so soon
to be torn down. Before him, over the barberry hedge, blazed the windows
of the mansion the owner of which was responsible for it all. The
windows were open, and through them sounded the voices of the mighty
Ogden Hapworth Williams and his wife, engaged in a lively altercation.
It was an open secret that their married life was anything but peaceful.

“What are you grumbling about now?” demanded ‘Williams. “Don’t I give
you more money than--”

“Nonsense!” sneered Mrs. Williams, in scornful derision. “Nonsense,
I say! Money is all there is to you, Ogden. In other things, the real
things of this world, those you can’t buy with money, you’re a perfect
imbecile. You know nothing whatever about them.”

Captain Sol, alone on the walk by the hedge, glanced in the direction
of the shrill voice, then back at the lamp in Olive’s window. And he
laughed aloud.





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translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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