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Title: Cape Cod Stories
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 "Cape Cod Stories" ***

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CAPE COD STORIES

Also Published Under The Title Of “The Old Home House”


By Joseph C. Lincoln



CONTENTS


TWO PAIRS OF SHOES

THE COUNT AND THE MANAGER

THE SOUTH SHORE WEATHER BUREAU

THE DOG STAR

THE MARE AND THE MOTOR

THE MARK ON THE DOOR

THE LOVE OF LOBELIA ‘ANKINS

THE MEANNESS OF ROSY

THE ANTIQUERS

HIS NATIVE HEATH

“JONESY”



THE “OLD HOME HOUSE”



TWO PAIRS OF SHOES


I don’t exactly know why Cap’n Jonadab and me went to the post-office
that night; we wa’n’t expecting any mail, that’s sartin. I guess likely
we done it for the reason the feller that tumbled overboard went to the
bottom--‘twas the handiest place TO go.

Anyway we was there, and I was propping up the stove with my feet and
holding down a chair with the rest of me, when Jonadab heaves alongside
flying distress signals. He had an envelope in his starboard mitten,
and, coming to anchor with a flop in the next chair, sets shifting the
thing from one hand to the other as if it ‘twas red hot.

I watched this performance for a spell, waiting for him to say
something, but he didn’t, so I hailed, kind of sarcastic, and says:
“What you doing--playing solitaire? Which hand’s ahead?”

He kind of woke up then, and passes the envelope over to me.

“Barzilla,” he says, “what in time do you s’pose that is?”

‘Twas a queer looking envelope, more’n the average length fore and aft,
but kind of scant in the beam. There was a puddle of red sealing wax on
the back of it with a “D” in the middle, and up in one corner was a kind
of picture thing in colors, with some printing in a foreign language
underneath it. I b’lieve ‘twas what they call a “coat-of-arms,” but it
looked more like a patchwork comforter than it did like any coat ever
_I_ see. The envelope was addressed to “Captain Jonadab Wixon, Orham,
Mass.”

I took my turn at twisting the thing around, and then I hands it back to
Jonadab.

“I pass,” I says. “Where’d you get it?”

“‘Twas in my box,” says he. “Must have come in to-night’s mail.”

I didn’t know the mail was sorted, but when he says that I got up and
went over and unlocked my box, just to show that I hadn’t forgot how,
and I swan to man if there wa’n’t another envelope, just like Jonadab’s,
except that ‘twas addressed to “Barzilla Wingate.”

“Humph!” says I, coming back to the stove; “you ain’t the only one
that’s heard from the Prince of Wales. Look here!”

He was the most surprised man, but one, on the Cape: I was the one. We
couldn’t make head nor tail of the business, and set there comparing the
envelopes, and wondering who on earth had sent ‘em. Pretty soon “Ily”
 Tucker heads over towards our moorings, and says he:

“What’s troubling the ancient mariners?” he says.

“Barzilla and me’s got a couple of letters,” says Cap’n Jonadab; “and we
was wondering who they was from.”

Tucker leaned away down--he’s always suffering from a rush of funniness
to the face--and he whispers, awful solemn: “For heaven’s sake, whatever
you do, don’t open ‘em. You might find out.” Then he threw off his
main-hatch and “haw-hawed” like a loon.

To tell you the truth, we hadn’t thought of opening ‘em--not yet--so
that was kind of one on us, as you might say. But Jonadab ain’t so slow
but he can catch up with a hearse if the horses stop to drink, and he
comes back quick.

“Ily,” he says, looking troubled, “you ought to sew reef-points on your
mouth. ‘Tain’t safe to open the whole of it on a windy night like this.
First thing you know you’ll carry away the top of your head.”

Well, we felt consider’ble better after that--having held our own on
the tack, so to speak--and we walked out of the post-office and up to my
room in the Travellers’ Rest, where we could be alone. Then we opened up
the envelopes, both at the same time. Inside of each of ‘em was another
envelope, slick and smooth as a mack’rel’s back, and inside of THAT was
a letter, printed, but looking like the kind of writing that used to
be in the copybook at school. It said that Ebenezer Dillaway begged the
honor of our presence at the marriage of his daughter, Belle, to Peter
Theodosius Brown, at Dillamead House, Cashmere-on-the-Hudson, February
three, nineteen hundred and so forth.

We were surprised, of course, and pleased in one way, but in another we
wa’n’t real tickled to death. You see, ‘twas a good while sence Jonadab
and me had been to a wedding, and we know there’d be mostly young folks
there and a good many big-bugs, we presumed likely, and ‘twas going to
cost consider’ble to get rigged--not to mention the price of passage,
and one thing a’ ‘nother. But Ebenezer had took the trouble to write
us, and so we felt ‘twas our duty not to disappoint him, and especially
Peter, who had done so much for us, managing the Old Home House.

The Old Home House was our summer hotel at Wellmouth Port. How me and
Jonadab come to be in the summer boarding trade is another story and
it’s too long to tell now. We never would have been in it, anyway, I
cal’late, if it hadn’t been for Peter. He made a howling success of our
first season and likewise helped himself along by getting engaged to the
star boarder, rich old Dillaway’s daughter--Ebenezer Dillaway, of the
Consolidated Cash Stores.

Well, we see ‘twas our duty to go, so we went. I had a new Sunday
cutaway and light pants to go with it, so I figgered that I was pretty
well found, but Cap’n Jonadab had to pry himself loose from considerable
money, and every cent hurt as if ‘twas nailed on. Then he had chilblains
that winter, and all the way over in the Fall River boat he was fuming
about them chilblains, and adding up on a piece of paper how much cash
he’d spent.

We struck Cashmere-on-the-Hudson about three o’clock on the afternoon of
the day of the wedding. ‘Twas a little country kind of a town, smaller
by a good deal than Orham, and so we cal’lated that perhaps after all,
the affair wouldn’t be so everlasting tony. But when we hove in sight of
Dillamead--Ebenezer’s place--we shortened sail and pretty nigh drew
out of the race. ‘Twas up on a high bank over the river, and the
house itself was bigger than four Old Homes spliced together. It had a
fair-sized township around it in the shape of land, with a high
stone wall for trimming on the edges. There was trees, and places for
flower-beds in summer, and the land knows what. We see right off
that this was the real Cashmere-on-the-Hudson; the village folks were
stranded on the flats--old Dillaway filled the whole ship channel.

“Well,” I says to Jonadab, “it looks to me as if we was getting out of
soundings. What do you say to coming about and making a quick run for
Orham again?”

But he wouldn’t hear of it. “S’pose I’ve spent all that money on duds
for nothing?” he says. “No, sir, by thunder! I ain’t scared of Peter
Brown, nor her that’s going to be his wife; and I ain’t scared of
Ebenezer neither; no matter if he does live in the Manufacturers’
Building, with two or three thousand fathom of front fence,” he says.

Some years ago Jonadab got reckless and went on a cut-rate excursion to
the World’s Fair out in Chicago, and ever sence then he’s been comparing
things with the “Manufacturers’ Building” or the “Palace of Agriculture”
 or “Streets of Cairo,” or some other outlandish place.

“All right,” says I. “Darn the torpedoes! Keep her as she is! You can
fire when ready, Gridley!”

So we sot sail for what we jedged was Ebenezer’s front-gate, and just
as we made it, a man comes whistling round the bend in the path, and
I’m blessed if ‘twa’n’t Peter T. Brown. He was rigged to kill, as usual,
only more so.

“Hello, Peter!” I says. “Here we be.”

If ever a feller was surprised, Brown was that feller. He looked like
he’d struck a rock where there was deep water on the chart.

“Well, I’ll be ----” he begun, and then stopped. “What in the ----” he
commenced again, and again his breath died out. Fin’lly he says: “Is
this you, or had I better quit and try another pipe?”

We told him ‘twas us, and it seemed to me that he wa’n’t nigh so tickled
as he’d ought to have been. When he found we’d come to the wedding,
‘count of Ebenezer sending us word, he didn’t say nothing for a minute
or so.

“Of course, we HAD to come,” says Jonadab. “We felt ‘twouldn’t be right
to disapp’int Mr. Dillaway.”

Peter kind of twisted his mouth. “That’s so,” he says. “It’ll be worth
more’n a box of diamonds to him. Do him more good than joining a ‘don’t
worry club.’ Well, come on up to the house and ease his mind.”

So we done it, and Ebenezer acted even more surprised than Peter.

I can’t tell you anything about that house, nor the fixings in it;
it beat me a mile--that house did. We had a room somewheres up on
the hurricane deck, with brass bunks and plush carpets and crocheted
curtains and electric lights. I swan there was looking glasses in every
corner--big ones, man’s size. I remember Cap’n Jonadab hollering to me
that night when he was getting ready to turn in:

“For the land’s sake, Barzilla!” says he, “turn out them lights, will
you? I ain’t over’n’ above bashful, but them looking glasses make me
feel’s if I was undressing along with all hands and the cook.”

The house was full of comp’ny, and more kept coming all the time.
Swells! don’t talk! We felt ‘bout as much at home as a cow in a dory,
but we was there ‘cause Ebenezer had asked us to be there, so we kept on
the course and didn’t signal for help. Travelling through the rooms down
stairs where the folks was, was a good deal like dodging icebergs up on
the Banks, but one or two noticed us enough to dip the colors, and one
was real sociable. He was a kind of slow-spoken city-feller, dressed as
if his clothes was poured over him hot and then left to cool. His
last name had a splice in the middle of it--‘twas Catesby-Stuart.
Everybody--that is, most everybody--called him “Phil.”

Well, sir, Phil cottoned to Jonadab and me right away. He’d get us, one
on each wing, and go through that house asking questions. He pumped me
and Jonadab dry about how we come to be there, and told us more yarns
than a few ‘bout Dillaway, and how rich he was. I remember he said that
he only wished he had the keys to the cellar so he could show us the
money-bins. Said Ebenezer was so just--well, rotten with money, as you
might say, that he kept it in bins down cellar, same as poor folks
kept coal--gold in one bin, silver half-dollars in another, quarters in
another, and so on. When he needed any, he’d say to a servant: “James,
fetch me up a hod of change.” This was only one of the fish yarns he
told. They sounded kind of scaly to Jonadab and me, but if we hinted at
such a thing, he’d pull himself together and say: “Fact, I assure you,”
 in a way to freeze your vitals. He seemed like such a good feller that
we didn’t mind his telling a few big ones; we’d known good fellers afore
that liked to lie--gunners and such like, they were mostly.

Somehow or ‘nother Phil got Cap’n Jonadab talking “boat,” and when
Jonadab talks “boat” there ain’t no stopping him. He’s the smartest
feller in a cat-boat that ever handled a tiller, and he’s won more races
than any man on the Cape, I cal’late. Phil asked him and me if we’d ever
sailed on an ice-boat, and, when we said we hadn’t he asks if we won’t
take a sail with him on the river next morning. We didn’t want to
put him to so much trouble on our account, but he said: “Not at all.
Pleasure’ll be all mine, I assure you.” Well, ‘twas his for a spell--but
never mind that now.

He introduced us to quite a lot of the comp’ny--men mostly. He’d see a
school of ‘em in a corner, or under a palm tree or somewheres, and steer
us over in that direction and make us known to all hands. Then he begin
to show us off, so to speak, get Jonadab telling ‘bout the boats he’d
sailed, or something like it--and them fellers would laugh and holler,
but Phil’s face wouldn’t shake out a reef: he looked solemn as a fun’ral
all the time. Jonadab and me begun to think we was making a great hit.
Well, we was, but not the way we thought. I remember one of the gang
gets Phil to one side after a talk like this and whispers to him,
laughing like fun. Phil says to him: “My dear boy, I’ve been to
thousands of these things”--waving his flipper scornful around the
premises--“and upon honor they’ve all been alike. Now that I’ve
discovered something positively original, let me enjoy myself. The
entertainment by the Heavenly Twins is only begun.”

I didn’t know what he meant then; I do now.

The marrying was done about eight o’clock and done with all the
trimmings. All hands manned the yards in the best parlor, and Peter and
Belle was hitched. Then they went away in a swell turnout--not like the
derelict hacks we’d seen stranded by the Cashmere depot--and Jonadab
pretty nigh took the driver’s larboard ear off with a shoe Phil gave him
to heave after ‘em.

After the wedding the folks was sitting under the palms and bushes that
was growing in tubs all over the house, and the stewards--there was
enough of ‘em to man a four-master--was carting ‘round punch and frozen
victuals. Everybody was togged up till Jonadab and me, in our new
cutaways, felt like a couple of moulting blackbirds at a blue-jay
camp-meeting. Ebenezer was so busy, flying ‘round like a pullet with
its head off, that he’d hardly spoke to us sence we landed, but Phil
scarcely ever left us, so we wa’n’t lonesome. Pretty soon he comes back
from a beat into the next room, and he says:

“There’s a lady here that’s just dying to know you gentlemen. Her name’s
Granby. Tell her all about the Cape; she’ll like it. And, by the way,
my dear feller,” he whispers to Jonadab “if you want to please
her--er--mightily, congratulate her upon her boy’s success in the
laundry business. You understand,” he says, winking; “only son and
self-made man, don’t you know.”

Mrs. Granby was roosting all by herself on a sofy in the parlor. She was
fleshy, but terrible stiff and proud, and when she moved the diamonds on
her shook till her head and neck looked like one of them “set pieces” at
the Fourth of July fireworks. She was deef, too, and used an ear-trumpet
pretty nigh as big as a steamer’s ventilator.

Maybe she was “dying to know us,” but she didn’t have a fit trying to
show it. Me and Jonadab felt we’d ought to be sociable, and so we set,
one on each side of her on the sofy, and bellered: “How d’ye do?” and
“Fine day, ain’t it?” into that ear-trumpet. She didn’t say much, but
she’d couple on the trumpet and turn to whichever one of us had hailed,
heeling over to that side as if her ballast had shifted. She acted to me
kind of uneasy, but everybody that come into that parlor--and they kept
piling in all the time--looked more’n middling joyful. They kept pretty
quiet, too, so that every yell we let out echoed, as you might say, all
‘round. I begun to git shaky at the knees, as if I was preaching to a
big congregation.

After a spell, Jonadab not being able to think of anything more to say,
and remembering Phil’s orders, leans over and whoops into the trumpet.

“I’m real glad your son done so well with his laundry,” he says.

Well, sir, Phil had give us to understand that them congratulations
would make a hit, and they done it. The women ‘round the room turned red
and some of ‘em covered their mouths with their handkerchiefs. The
men looked glad and set up and took notice. Ebenezer wa’n’t in the
room--which was a mercy--but your old mess-mate, Catesby-Stuart, looked
solemn as ever and never turned a hair.

But as for old lady Granby--whew! She got redder’n she was afore,
which was a miracle, pretty nigh. She couldn’t speak for a minute--just
cackled like a hen. Then she busts out with: “How dare you!” and
flounces out of that room like a hurricane. And it was still as could
be for a minute, and then two or three of the girls begun to squeal and
giggle behind their handkerchiefs.

Jonadab and me went away, too. We didn’t flounce any to speak of. I
guess a “sneak” would come nearer to telling how we quit. I see the
cap’n heading for the stairs and I fell into his wake. Nobody said
good-night, and we didn’t wait to give ‘em a chance.

‘Course we knew we’d put our foot in it somewheres, but we didn’t see
just how. Even then we wa’n’t really onto Phil’s game. You see, when a
green city chap comes to the Old Home House--and the land knows there’s
freaks enough do come--we always try to make things pleasant for him,
and the last thing we’d think of was making him a show afore folks.
So we couldn’t b’lieve even now ‘twas done a-purpose. But we was
suspicious, a little.

“Barzilla,” says Jonadab, getting ready to turn in, “‘tain’t possible
that that feller with the sprained last name is having fun with us, is
it?”

“Jonadab,” says I, “I’ve been wondering that myself.”

And we wondered for an hour, and finally decided to wait a while and
say nothing till we could ask Ebenezer. And the next morning one of the
stewards comes up to our room with some coffee and grub, and says
that Mr. Catesby-Stuart requested the pleasure of our comp’ny on a
afore-breakfast ice-boat sail, and would meet us at the pier in half
an hour. They didn’t have breakfast at Ebenezer’s till pretty close to
dinner time, eleven o’clock, so we had time enough for quite a trip.

Phil and the ice-boat met us on time. I s’pose it ‘twas style, but, if I
hadn’t known I’d have swore he’d run short of duds and had dressed up in
the bed-clothes. I felt of his coat when he wa’n’t noticing, and if it
wa’n’t made out of a blanket then I never slept under one. And it
made me think of my granddad to see what he had on his head--a reg’lar
nightcap, tassel and all. Phil said he was sorry we turned in so early
the night afore. Said he’d planned to entertain us all the evening. We
didn’t hurrah much at this--being suspicious, as I said--and he changed
the subject to ice-boats.

That ice-boat was a bird. I cal’lated to know a boat when I sighted one,
but a flat-iron on skates was something bran-new. I didn’t think much of
it, and I could see that Jonadab didn’t neither.

But in about three shakes of a lamb’s tail I was ready to take it all
back and say I never said it. I done enough praying in the next half
hour to square up for every Friday night meeting I’d missed sence I was
a boy. Phil got sail onto her, and we moved out kind of slow.

“Now, then,” says he, “we’ll take a little jaunt up the river. ‘Course
this isn’t like one of your Cape Cod cats, but still--”

And then I dug my finger nails into the deck and commenced: “Now I lay
me.” Talk about going! ‘Twas “F-s-s-s-t!” and we was a mile from home.
“Bu-z-z-z!” and we was just getting ready to climb a bank; but ‘fore she
nosed the shore Phil would put the helm over and we’d whirl round like
a windmill, with me and Jonadab biting the planking, and hanging on for
dear life, and my heart, that had been up in my mouth knocking the
soles of my boots off. And Cap’n Catesby-Stuart would grin, and
drawl: “‘Course, this ain’t like a Orham cat-boat, but she does fairly
well--er--fairly. Now, for instance, how does this strike you?”

It struck us--I don’t think any got away. I expected every minute to
land in the hereafter, and it got so that the prospect looked kind of
inviting, if only to get somewheres where ‘twas warm. That February wind
went in at the top of my stiff hat and whizzed out through the legs of
my thin Sunday pants till I felt for all the world like the ventilating
pipe on an ice-chest. I could see why Phil was wearing the bed-clothes;
what I was suffering for just then was a feather mattress on each side
of me.

Well, me and Jonadab was “it” for quite a spell. Phil had all the fun,
and I guess he enjoyed it. If he’d stopped right then, when the fishing
was good, I cal’late he’d have fetched port with a full hold; but no,
he had to rub it in, so to speak, and that’s where he slopped over. You
know how ‘tis when you’re eating mince-pie--it’s the “one more slice”
 that fetches the nightmare. Phil stopped to get that slice.

He kept whizzing up and down that river till Jonadab and me kind of got
over our variousness. We could manage to get along without spreading out
like porous plasters, and could set up for a minute or so on a stretch.
And twa’n’t necessary for us to hold a special religious service every
time the flat-iron come about. Altogether, we was in that condition
where the doctor might have held out some hopes.

And, in spite of the cold, we was noticing how Phil was sailing that
three-cornered sneak-box--noticing and criticising; at least, I was, and
Cap’n Jonadab, being, as I’ve said, the best skipper of small craft
from Provincetown to Cohasset Narrows, must have had some ideas on the
subject. Your old chum, Catesby-Stuart, thought he was mast-high
so fur’s sailing was concerned, anybody could see that, but he had
something to larn. He wasn’t beginning to get out all there was in that
ice-boat. And just then along comes another feller in the same kind of
hooker and gives us a hail. There was two other chaps on the boat with
him.

“Hello, Phil!” he yells, rounding his flat-iron into the wind abreast of
ours and bobbing his night-cap. “I hoped you might be out. Are you game
for a race?”

“Archie,” answers our skipper, solemn as a setting hen, “permit me to
introduce to you Cap’n Jonadab Wixon and Admiral Barzilla Wingate, of
Orham, on the Cape.”

I wasn’t expecting to fly an admiral’s pennant quite so quick, but I
managed to shake out through my teeth--they was chattering like a box
of dice--that I was glad to know the feller. Jonadab, he rattled loose
something similar.

“The Cap’n and the Admiral,” says Phil, “having sailed the raging
main for lo! these many years, are now favoring me with their advice
concerning the navigation of ice-yachts. Archie, if you’re willing to
enter against such a handicap of brains and barnacles, I’ll race you on
a beat up to the point yonder, then on the ten mile run afore the wind
to the buoy opposite the Club, and back to the cove by Dillaway’s. And
we’ll make it a case of wine. Is it a go?”

Archie, he laughed and said it was, and, all at once, the race was on.

Now, Phil had lied when he said we was “favoring” him with advice,
‘cause we hadn’t said a word; but that beat up to the point wa’n’t half
over afore Jonadab and me was dying to tell him a few things. He handled
that boat like a lobster. Archie gained on every tack and come about for
the run a full minute afore us.

And on that run afore the wind ‘twas worse than ever. The way Phil
see-sawed that piece of pie back and forth over the river was a sin and
shame. He could have slacked off his mainsail and headed dead for the
buoy, but no, he jiggled around like an old woman crossing the road
ahead of a funeral.

Cap’n Jonadab was on edge. Racing was where he lived, as you might say,
and he fidgeted like he was setting on a pin-cushion. By and by he snaps
out:

“Keep her off! Keep her off afore the wind! Can’t you see where you’re
going?”

Phil looked at him as if he was a graven image, and all the answer he
made was; “Be calm, Barnacles, be calm!”

But pretty soon I couldn’t stand it no longer, and I busts out with:
“Keep her off, Mr. What’s-your name! For the Lord’s sake, keep her off!
He’ll beat the life out of you!”

And all the good that done was for me to get a stare that was colder
than the wind, if such a thing’s possible.

But Jonadab got fidgetyer every minute, and when we come out into
the broadest part of the river, within a little ways of the buoy, he
couldn’t stand it no longer.

“You’re spilling half the wind!” he yells. “Pint’ her for the buoy or
else you’ll be licked to death! Jibe her so’s she gits it full. Jibe
her, you lubber! Don’t you know how? Here! let me show you!”

And the next thing I knew he fetched a hop like a frog, shoved Phil out
of the way, grabbed the tiller, and jammed it over.

She jibed--oh, yes, she jibed! If anybody says she didn’t you send ‘em
to me. I give you my word that that flat-iron jibed twice--once for
practice, I jedge, and then for business. She commenced by twisting and
squirming like an eel. I jest had sense enough to clamp my mittens
onto the little brass rail by the stern and hold on; then she jibed the
second time. She stood up on two legs, the boom come over with a slat
that pretty nigh took the mast with it, and the whole shebang whirled
around as if it had forgot something. I have a foggy kind of remembrance
of locking my mitten clamps fast onto that rail while the rest of me
streamed out in the air like a burgee. Next thing I knew we was scooting
back towards Dillaway’s, with the sail catching every ounce that was
blowing. Jonadab was braced across the tiller, and there, behind us, was
the Honorable Philip Catesby-Stuart, flat on his back, with his blanket
legs looking like a pair of compasses, and skimming in whirligigs over
the slick ice towards Albany. HE hadn’t had nothing to hold onto, you
understand. Well, if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have b’lieved that a
human being could spin so long or travel so fast on his back. His legs
made a kind of smoky circle in the air over him, and he’d got such a
start I thought he’d NEVER STOP a-going. He come to a place where some
snow had melted in the sun and there was a pond, as you might say,
on the ice, and he went through that, heaving spray like one of them
circular lawn sprinklers the summer folks have. He’d have been as pretty
as a fountain, if we’d had time to stop and look at him.

“For the land sakes, heave to!” I yelled, soon’s I could get my breath.
“You’ve spilled the skipper!”

“Skipper be durned!” howls Jonadab, squeezing the tiller and keeping on
the course; “We’ll come back for him by and by. It’s our business to win
this race.”

And, by ginger! we DID win it. The way Jonadab coaxed that cocked hat on
runners over the ice was pretty--yes, sir, pretty! He nipped her close
enough to the wind’ard, and he took advantage of every single chance.
He always COULD sail; I’ll say that for him. We walked up on Archie like
he’d set down to rest, and passed him afore he was within a half mile of
home. We run up abreast of Dillaway’s, putting on all the fancy frills
of a liner coming into port, and there was Ebenezer and a whole crowd of
wedding company down by the landing.

“Gosh!” says Jonadab, tugging at his whiskers: “‘Twas Cape Cod against
New York that time, and you can’t beat the Cape when it comes to getting
over water, not even if the water’s froze. Hey, Barzilla?”

Ebenezer came hopping over the ice towards us. He looked some surprised.

“Where’s Phil?” he says.

Now, I’d clean forgot Phil and I guess Jonadab had, by the way he
colored up.

“Phil?” says he. “Phil? Oh, yes! We left him up the road a piece. Maybe
we’d better go after him now.”

But old Dillaway had something to say.

“Cap’n,” he says, looking round to make sure none of the comp’ny was
follering him out to the ice-boat. “I’ve wanted to speak to you afore,
but I haven’t had the chance. You mustn’t b’lieve too much of what Mr.
Catesby-Stuart says, nor you mustn’t always do just what he suggests.
You see,” he says, “he’s a dreadful practical joker.”

“Yes,” says Jonadab, beginning to look sick. I didn’t say nothing, but I
guess I looked the same way.

“Yes,” said Ebenezer, kind of uneasy like; “Now, in that matter of Mrs.
Granby. I s’pose Phil put you up to asking her about her son’s laundry.
Yes? Well, I thought so. You see, the fact is, her boy is a broker down
in Wall Street, and he’s been caught making some of what they call ‘wash
sales’ of stock. It’s against the rules of the Exchange to do that, and
the papers have been full of the row. You can see,” says Dillaway, “how
the laundry question kind of stirred the old lady up. But, Lord! it must
have been funny,” and he commenced to grin.

I looked at Jonadab, and he looked at me. I thought of Marm Granby, and
her being “dying to know us,” and I thought of the lies about the “hod
of change” and all the rest, and I give you my word _I_ didn’t grin, not
enough to show my wisdom teeth, anyhow. A crack in the ice an inch wide
would have held me, with room to spare; I know that.

“Hum!” grunts Jonadab, kind of dry and bitter, as if he’d been taking
wormwood tea; “_I_ see. He’s been having a good time making durn fools
out of us.”

“Well,” says Ebenezer, “not exactly that, p’raps, but--”

And then along comes Archie and his crowd in the other ice-boat.

“Hi!” he yells. “Who sailed that boat of yours? He knew his business all
right. I never saw anything better. Phil--why, where IS Phil?”

I answered him. “Phil got out when we jibed,” I says.

“Was THAT Phil?” he hollers, and then the three of ‘em just roared.

“Oh, by Jove, you know!” says Archie, “that’s the funniest thing I ever
saw. And on Phil, too! He’ll never hear the last of it at the club--hey,
boys?” And then they just bellered and laughed again.

When they’d gone, Jonadab turned to Ebenezer and he says: “That taking
us out on this boat was another case of having fun with the countrymen.
Hey?”

“I guess so,” says Dillaway. “I b’lieve he told one of the guests that
he was going to put Cape Cod on ice this morning.”

I looked away up the river where a little black speck was just getting
to shore. And I thought of how chilly the wind was out there, and how
that ice-water must have felt, and what a long ways ‘twas from home.
And then I smiled, slow and wide; there was a barge load of joy in every
half inch of that smile.

“It’s a cold day when Phil loses a chance for a joke,” says Ebenezer.

“‘Tain’t exactly what you’d call summery just now,” I says. And we
hauled down sail, run the ice-boat up to the wharf, and went up to our
room to pack our extension cases for the next train.

“You see,” says Jonadab, putting in his other shirt, “it’s easy enough
to get the best of Cape folks on wash sales and lying, but when it comes
to boats that’s a different pair of shoes.”

“I guess Phil’ll agree with you,” I says.



THE COUNT AND THE MANAGER


The way we got into the hotel business in the first place come around
like this: Me and Cap’n Jonadab went down to Wellmouth Port one day
‘long in March to look at some property he’d had left him. Jonadab’s
Aunt Sophrony had moved kind of sudden from that village to Beulah
Land--they’re a good ways apart, too--and Cap’n Jonadab had come in for
the old farm, he being the only near relative.

When you go to Wellmouth Port you get off the cars at Wellmouth Center
and then take Labe Bearse’s barge and ride four miles; and then, if the
horse don’t take a notion to lay down in the road and go to sleep, or a
wheel don’t come off or some other surprise party ain’t sprung on you,
you come to a place where there’s a Baptist chapel that needs painting,
and a little two-for-a-cent store that needs trade, and two or three
houses that need building over, and any Lord’s quantity of scrub pines
and beach grass and sand. Then you take Labe’s word for it that you’ve
got to Wellmouth Port and get out of the barge and try to remember
you’re a church member.

Well, Aunt Sophrony’s house was a mile or more from the place where the
barge stopped, and Jonadab and me, we hoofed it up there. We bought some
cheese and crackers and canned things at the store, ‘cause we expected
to stay overnight in the house, and knew there wasn’t no other way of
getting provender.

We got there after a spell and set down on the big piazza with our souls
full of gratitude and our boots full of sand. Great, big, old-fashioned
house with fourteen big bedrooms in it, big barn, sheds, and one thing
or ‘nother, and perched right on top of a hill with five or six acres
of ground ‘round it. And how the March wind did whoop in off the sea and
howl and screech lonesomeness through the pine trees! You take it in
the middle of the night, with the shutters rattling and the old joists
a-creaking and Jonadab snoring like a chap sawing hollow logs, and if
it wan’t joy then my name ain’t Barzilla Wingate. I don’t wonder Aunt
Sophrony died. I’d have died ‘long afore she did if I knew I was checked
plumb through to perdition. There’d be some company where I was going,
anyhow.

The next morning after ballasting up with the truck we’d bought at the
store--the feller ‘most keeled over when he found we was going to pay
cash for it--we went out on the piazza again, and looked at the breakers
and the pine trees and the sand, and held our hats on with both hands.

“Jonadab,” says I, “what’ll you take for your heirloom?”

“Well,” he says, “Barzilla, the way I feel now, I think I’d take a
return ticket to Orham and be afraid of being took up for swindling at
that.”

Neither of us says nothing more for a spell, and, first thing you know,
we heard a carriage rattling somewhere up the road. I was shipwrecked
once and spent two days in a boat looking for a sail. When I heard that
rattling I felt just the way I done when I sighted the ship that picked
us up.

“Judas!” says Jonadab, “there’s somebody COMING!”

We jumped out of our chairs and put for the corner of the house. There
WAS somebody coming--a feller in a buggy, and he hitched his horse to
the front fence and come whistling up the walk.

He was a tall chap, with a smooth face, kind of sharp and knowing, and
with a stiff hat set just a little on one side. His clothes was new and
about a week ahead of up-to-date, his shoes shined till they lit up the
lower half of his legs, and his pants was creased so’s you could mow
with ‘em. Cool and slick! Say! in the middle of that deadliness and
compared to Jonadab and me, he looked like a bird of Paradise in a coop
of moulting pullets.

“Cap’n Wixon?” he says to me, sticking out a gloved flipper.

“Not guilty,” says I. “There’s the skipper. My name’s Wingate.”

“Glad to have the pleasure, Mr. Wingate,” he says. “Cap’n Wixon, yours
truly.”

We shook hands, and he took each of us by the arm and piloted us back
to the piazza, like a tug with a couple of coal barges. He pulled up a
chair, crossed his legs on the rail, reached into the for’ard hatch of
his coat and brought out a cigar case.

“Smoke up,” he says. We done it--I holding my hat to shut off the wind,
while Jonadab used up two cards of matches getting the first light. When
we got the cigars to going finally, the feller says:

“My name’s Brown--Peter T. Brown. I read about your falling heir to this
estate, Cap’n Wixon, in a New Bedford paper. I happened to be in New
Bedford then, representing the John B. Wilkins Unparalleled All Star
Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ten Nights in a Bar-room Company. It isn’t my
reg’lar line, the show bus’ness, but it produced the necessary ‘ham and’
every day and the excelsior sleep inviter every night, so--but never
mind that. Soon as I read the paper I came right down to look at the
property. Having rubbered, back I go to Orham to see you. Your handsome
and talented daughter says you are over here. That’ll be about all--here
I am. Now, then, listen to this.”

He went under his hatches again, rousted out a sheet of paper, unfolded
it and read something like this--I know it by heart:

“The great sea leaps and splashes before you as it leaped and splashed
in the old boyhood days. The sea wind sings to you as it sang of old.
The old dreams come back to you, the dreams you dreamed as you slumbered
upon the cornhusk mattress in the clean, sweet little chamber of the old
home. Forgotten are the cares of business, the scramble for money, the
ruthless hunt for fame. Here are perfect rest and perfect peace.

“Now what place would you say I was describing?” says the feller.

“Heaven,” says Jonadab, looking up, reverent like.

You never see a body more disgusted than Brown.

“Get out!” he snaps. “Do I look like the advance agent of Glory? Listen
to this one.”

He unfurls another sheet of paper, and goes off on a tack about like
this:

“The old home! You who sit in your luxurious apartments, attended
by your liveried servants, eating the costly dishes that bring you
dyspepsia and kindred evils, what would you give to go back once more
to the simple, cleanly living of the old house in the country? The old
home, where the nights were cool and refreshing, the sleep deep and
sound; where the huckleberry pies that mother fashioned were swimming in
fragrant juice, where the shells of the clams for the chowder were snow
white and the chowder itself a triumph; where there were no voices but
those of the wind and sea; no--”

“Don’t!” busts out Jonadab. “Don’t! I can’t stand it!”

He was mopping his eyes with his red bandanner. I was consider’ble shook
up myself. The dear land knows we was more used to huckleberry pies and
clam chowder than we was to liveried servants and costly dishes, but
there was something in the way that feller read off that slush that just
worked the pump handle. A hog would have cried; I know _I_ couldn’t help
it. As for Peter T. Brown, he fairly crowed.

“It gets you!” he says. “I knew it would. And it’ll get a heap of
others, too. Well, we can’t send ‘em back to the old home, but we can
trot the old home to them, or a mighty good imitation of it. Here it is;
right here!”

And he waves his hand up toward Aunt Sophrony’s cast-off palace.

Cap’n Jonadab set up straight and sputtered like a firecracker. A man
hates to be fooled.

“Old home!” he snorts. “Old county jail, you mean!”

And then that Brown feller took his feet down off the rail, hitched his
chair right in front of Jonadab and me and commenced to talk. And HOW
he did talk! Say, he could talk a Hyannis fisherman into a missionary.
I wish I could remember all he said; ‘twould make a book as big as a
dictionary, but ‘twould be worth the trouble of writing it down. ‘Fore
he got through he talked a thousand dollars out of Cap’n Jonadab, and it
takes a pretty hefty lecture to squeeze a quarter out of HIM. To make a
long yarn short, this was his plan:

He proposed to turn Aunt Sophrony’s wind plantation into a hotel for
summer boarders. And it wan’t going to be any worn-out, regulation kind
of a summer hotel neither.

“Confound it, man!” he says, “they’re sick of hot and cold water,
elevators, bell wires with a nigger on the end, and all that. There’s a
raft of old codgers that call themselves ‘self-made men’--meanin’
that the Creator won’t own ‘em, and they take the responsibility
themselves--that are always wishing they could go somewheres like the
shacks where they lived when they were kids. They’re always talking
about it, and wishing they could go to the old home and rest. Rest! Why,
say, there’s as much rest to this place as there is sand, and there’s
enough of that to scour all the knives in creation.”

“But ‘twill cost so like the dickens to furnish it,” I says.

“Furnish it!” says he. “Why, that’s just it! It won’t cost nothing to
furnish it--nothing to speak of. I went through the house day before
yesterday--crawled in the kitchen window--oh! it’s all right, you can
count the spoons--and there’s eight of those bedrooms furnished just
right, corded bedsteads, painted bureaus with glass knobs, ‘God Bless
Our Home’ and Uncle Jeremiah’s coffin plate on the wall, rag mats on
the floor, and all the rest. All she needs is a little more of the same
stuff, that I can buy ‘round here for next to nothing--I used to buy for
an auction room--and a little paint and fixings, and there she is. All
I want from you folks is a little money--I’ll chuck in two hundred and
fifty myself--and you two can be proprietors and treasurers if you want
to. But active manager and publicity man--that’s yours cheerily, Peter
Theodosius Brown!” And he slapped his plaid vest.

Well, he talked all the forenoon and all the way to Orham on the train
and most of that night. And when he heaved anchor, Jonadab had agreed
to put up a thousand and I was in for five hundred and Peter contributed
two hundred and fifty and experience and nerve. And the “Old Home House”
 was off the ways.

And by the first of May ‘twas open and ready for business, too. You
never see such a driver as that feller Brown was. He had a new wide
piazza built all ‘round the main buildings, painted everything up fine,
hired the three best women cooks in Wellmouth--and there’s some good
cooks on Cape Cod, too--and a half dozen chamber girls and waiters.
He had some trouble getting corded beds and old bureaus for the empty
rooms, but he got ‘em finally. He bought the last bed of Beriah Burgess,
up at East Harniss, and had quite a dicker getting it.

“He thought he ought to get five dollars for it,” says Brown, telling
Jonadab and me about it. “Said he hated to part with it because his
grandmother died in it. I told him I couldn’t see any good reason why I
should pay more for a bed just because it had killed his grandmother,
so we split up and called it three dollars. ‘Twas too much money, but we
had to have it.”

And the advertisements! They was sent everywheres. Lots of ‘em was what
Peter called “reading notices,” and them he mostly got for nothing, for
he could talk an editor foolish same as he could anybody else. By the
middle of April most of our money was gone, but every room in the house
was let and we had applications coming by the pailful.

And the folks that come had money, too--they had to have to pay Brown’s
rates. I always felt like a robber or a Standard Oil director every time
I looked at the books. The most of ‘em was rich folks--self-made men,
just like Peter prophesied--and they brought their wives and daughters
and slept on cornhusks and eat chowder and said ‘twas great and just
like old times. And they got the rest we advertised; we didn’t cheat
‘em on REST. By ten o’clock pretty nigh all hands was abed, and ‘twas so
still all you could hear was the breakers or the wind, or p’raps a groan
coming from a window where some boarder had turned over in his sleep and
a corncob in the mattress had raked him crossways.

There was one old chap that we’ll call Dillaway--Ebenezer Dillaway.
That wan’t his name; his real one’s too well known to tell. He runs the
“Dillaway Combination Stores” that are all over the country. In them
stores you can buy anything and buy it cheap--cheapness is Ebenezer’s
stronghold and job lots is his sheet anchor. He’ll sell you a mowing
machine and the grass seed to grow the hay to cut with it. He’ll sell
you a suit of clothes for two dollars and a quarter, and for ten cents
more he’ll sell you glue enough to stick it together again after you’ve
worn it out in the rain. He’ll sell you anything, and he’s got cash
enough to sink a ship.

He come to the “Old Home House” with his daughter, and he took to the
place right away. Said ‘twas for all the world like where he used to
live when he was a boy. He liked the grub and he liked the cornhusks
and he liked Brown. Brown had a way of stealing a thing and yet paying
enough for it to square the law--that hit Ebenezer where he lived.

His daughter liked Brown, too, and ‘twas easy enough to see that
Brown liked her. She was a mighty pretty girl, the kind Peter called a
“queen,” and the active manager took to her like a cat to a fish.
They was together more’n half the time, gitting up sailing parties, or
playing croquet, or setting up on the “Lover’s Nest,” which was a
kind of slab summer-house Brown had rigged up on the bluff where Aunt
Sophrony’s pig-pens used to be in the old days.

Me and Jonadab see how things was going, and we’d look at one another
and wink and shake our heads when the pair’d go by together. But all
that was afore the count come aboard.

We got our first letter from the count about the third of June. The
writing was all over the plate like a biled dinner, and the English
looked like it had been shook up in a bag, but it was signed with a nine
fathom, toggle-jinted name that would give a pollparrot the lockjaw, and
had the word “Count” on the bow of it.

You never see a feller happier than Peter T. Brown.

“Can he have rooms?” says Peter. “CAN he? Well, I should rise to
elocute! He can have the best there is if yours truly has to bunk in the
coop with the gladsome Plymouth Rock. That’s what! He says he’s a count
and he’ll be advertised as a count from this place to where rolls the
Oregon.”

And he was, too. The papers was full of how Count What’s-his-Name was
hanging out at the “Old Home House,” and we got more letters from rich
old women and pork-pickling money bags than you could shake a stick at.
If you want to catch the free and equal nabob of a glorious republic,
bait up with a little nobility and you’ll have your salt wet in no time.
We had to rig up rooms in the carriage house, and me and Jonadab slept
in the haymow.

The count himself hove in sight on June fifteenth. He was a little,
smoked Italian man with a pair of legs that would have been carried away
in a gale, and a black mustache with waxed ends that you’d think would
punch holes in the pillow case. His talk was like his writing, only
worse, but from the time his big trunk with the foreign labels was
carried upstairs, he was skipper and all hands of the “Old Home House.”

And the funny part of it was that old man Dillaway was as much gone on
him as the rest. For a self-made American article he was the worst gone
on this machine-made importation that ever you see. I s’pose when you’ve
got more money than you can spend for straight goods you nat’rally go in
for buying curiosities; I can’t see no other reason.

Anyway, from the minute the count come over the side it was “Good-by,
Peter.” The foreigner was first oar with the old man and general consort
for the daughter. Whenever there was a sailing trip on or a spell of
roosting in the Lover’s Nest, Ebenezer would see that the count looked
out for the “queen,” while Brown stayed on the piazza and talked
bargains with papa. It worried Peter--you could see that. He’d set in
the barn with Jonadab and me, thinking, thinking, and all at once he’d
bust out:

“Bless that Dago’s heart! I haven’t chummed in with the degenerate
aristocracy much in my time, but somewhere or other I’ve seen that chap
before. Now where--where--where?”

For the first two weeks the count paid his board like a major; then
he let it slide. Jonadab and me was a little worried, but he was
advertising us like fun, his photographs--snap shots by Peter--was
getting into the papers, so we judged he was a good investment. But
Peter got bluer and bluer.

One night we was in the setting room--me and Jonadab and the count and
Ebenezer. The “queen” and the rest of the boarders was abed.

The count was spinning a pigeon English yarn of how he’d fought a duel
with rapiers. When he’d finished, old Dillaway pounded his knee and sung
out:

“That’s bus’ness! That’s the way to fix ‘em! No lawsuits, no argument,
no delays. Just take ‘em out and punch holes in ‘em. Did you hear that,
Brown?”

“Yes, I heard it,” says Peter, kind of absent-minded like. “Fighting
with razors, wan’t it?”

Now there wan’t nothing to that--‘twas just some of Brown’s sarcastic
spite getting the best of him--but I give you my word that the count
turned yellow under his brown skin, kind of like mud rising from the
bottom of a pond.

“What-a you say?” he says, bending for’ards.

“Mr. Brown was mistaken, that’s all,” says Dillaway; “he meant rapiers.”

“But why-a razors--why-a razors?” says the count.

Now I was watching Brown’s face, and all at once I see it light up
like you’d turned a searchlight on it. He settled back in his chair and
fetched a long breath as if he was satisfied. Then he grinned and begged
pardon and talked a blue streak for the rest of the evening.

Next day he was the happiest thing in sight, and when Miss Dillaway and
the count went Lover’s Nesting he didn’t seem to care a bit. All of
a sudden he told Jonadab and me that he was going up to Boston that
evening on bus’ness and wouldn’t be back for a day or so. He wouldn’t
tell what the bus’ness was, either, but just whistled and laughed and
sung, “Good-by, Susannah; don’t you grieve for me,” till train time.

He was back again three nights afterward, and he come right out to the
barn without going nigh the house. He had another feller with him, a
kind of shabby dressed Italian man with curly hair.

“Fellers,” he says to me and Jonadab, “this is my friend, Mr. Macaroni;
he’s going to engineer the barber shop for a while.”

Well, we’d just let our other barber go, so we didn’t think anything of
this, but when he said that his friend Spaghetti was going to stay in
the barn for a day or so, and that we needn’t mention that he was there,
we thought that was funny.

But Peter done a lot of funny things the next day. One of ‘em was to set
a feller painting a side of the house by the count’s window, that didn’t
need painting at all. And when the feller quit for the night, Brown told
him to leave the ladder where ‘twas.

That evening the same crowd was together in the setting room. Peter was
as lively as a cricket, talking, talking, all the time. By and by he
says:

“Oh, say, I want you to see the new barber. He can shave anything from
a note to a porkypine. Come in here, Chianti!” he says, opening the door
and calling out. “I want you.”

And in come the new Italian man, smiling and bowing and looking “meek
and lowly, sick and sore,” as the song says.

Well, we laughed at Brown’s talk and asked the Italian all kinds of fool
questions and nobody noticed that the count wan’t saying nothing. Pretty
soon he gets up and says he guesses he’ll go to his room, ‘cause he
feels sort of sick.

And I tell you he looked sick. He was yellower than he was the other
night, and he walked like he hadn’t got his sea legs on. Old Dillaway
was terrible sorry and kept asking if there wan’t something he could do,
but the count put him off and went out.

“Now that’s too bad!” says Brown. “Spaghetti, you needn’t wait any
longer.”

So the other Italian went out, too.

And then Peter T. Brown turned loose and talked the way he done when
me and Jonadab first met him. He just spread himself. He told of this
bargain that he’d made and that sharp trade he had turned, while we set
there and listened and laughed like a parsel of fools. And every time
that Ebenezer’d get up to go to bed, Peter’d trot out a new yarn and
he’d have to stop to listen to that. And it got to be eleven o’clock and
then twelve and then one.

It was just about quarter past one and we was laughing our heads off at
one of Brown’s jokes, when out under the back window there was a jingle
and a thump and a kind of groaning and wiggling noise.

“What on earth is that?” says Dillaway.

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” says Peter, cool as a mack’rel on ice, “if
that was his royal highness, the count.”

He took up the lamp and we all hurried outdoors and ‘round the corner.
And there, sure enough, was the count, sprawling on the ground with his
leather satchel alongside of him, and his foot fast in a big steel trap
that was hitched by a chain to the lower round of the ladder. He rared
up on his hands when he see us and started to say something about an
outrage.

“Oh, that’s all right, your majesty,” says Brown. “Hi, Chianti, come
here a minute! Here’s your old college chum, the count, been and put his
foot in it.”

When the new barber showed up the count never made another move, just
wilted like a morning-glory after sunrise. But you never see a worse
upset man than Ebenezer Dillaway.

“But what does this mean?” says he, kind of wild like. “Why don’t you
take that thing off his foot?”

“Oh,” says Peter, “he’s been elongating my pedal extremity for the last
month or so; I don’t see why I should kick if he pulls his own for a
while. You see,” he says, “it’s this way:

“Ever since his grace condescended to lend the glory of his countenance
to this humble roof,” he says, “it’s stuck in my mind that I’d seen the
said countenance somewhere before. The other night when our conversation
was trifling with the razor subject and the Grand Lama here”--that’s the
name he called the count--“was throwing in details about his carving his
friends, it flashed across me where I’d seen it. About a couple of years
ago I was selling the guileless rural druggists contiguous to Scranton,
Pennsylvania, the tasty and happy combination called ‘Dr. Bulger’s
Electric Liver Cure,’ the same being a sort of electric light for shady
livers, so to speak. I made my headquarters at Scranton, and, while
there, my hair was shortened and my chin smoothed in a neat but gaudy
barber shop, presided over by my friend Spaghetti here, and my equally
valued friend the count.”

“So,” says Peter, smiling and cool as ever, “when it all came back
to me, as the song says, I journeyed to Scranton accompanied by a
photograph of his lordship. I was lucky enough to find Macaroni in the
same old shop. He knew the count’s classic profile at once. It seems his
majesty had hit up the lottery a short time previous for a few hundred
and had given up barbering. I suppose he’d read in the papers that the
imitation count line was stylish and profitable and so he tried it on.
It may be,” says Brown, offhand, “that he thought he might marry some
rich girl. There’s some fool fathers, judging by the papers, that are
willing to sell their daughters for the proper kind of tag on a package
like him.”

Old man Dillaway kind of made a face, as if he’d ate something that
tasted bad, but he didn’t speak.

“And so,” says Peter, “Spaghetti and I came to the Old Home together,
he to shave for twelve per, and I to set traps, etcetera. That’s a good
trap,” he says, nodding, “I bought it in Boston. I had the teeth filed
down, but the man that sold it said ‘twould hold a horse. I left the
ladder by his grace’s window, thinking he might find it handy after he’d
seen his friend of other days, particularly as the back door was locked.

“And now,” goes on Brown, short and sharp, “let’s talk business. Count,”
 he says, “you are set back on the books about sixty odd for old home
comforts. We’ll cut off half of that and charge it to advertising. You
draw well, as the man said about the pipe. But the other thirty you’ll
have to work out. You used to shave like a bird. I’ll give you twelve
dollars a week to chip in with Macaroni here and barber the boarders.”

But Dillaway looked anxious.

“Look here, Brown,” he says, “I wouldn’t do that. I’ll pay his board
bill and his traveling expenses if he clears out this minute. It seems
tough to set him shaving after he’s been such a big gun around here.”

I could see right off that the arrangement suited Brown first rate and
was exactly what he’d been working for, but he pretended not to care
much for it.

“Oh! I don’t know,” he says. “I’d rather be a sterling barber than a
plated count. But anything to oblige you, Mr. Dillaway.”

So the next day there was a nobleman missing at the “Old Home House,”
 and all we had to remember him by was a trunk full of bricks. And Peter
T. Brown and the “queen” was roosting in the Lover’s Nest; and the new
Italian was busy in the barber shop. He could shave, too. He shaved me
without a pull, and my face ain’t no plush sofy, neither.

And before the season was over the engagement was announced. Old
Dillaway took it pretty well, considering. He liked Peter, and his
having no money to speak of didn’t count, because Ebenezer had enough
for all hands. The old man said he’d been hoping for a son-in-law
sharp enough to run the “Consolidated Stores” after he was gone, and it
looked, he said, as if he’d found him.



THE SOUTH SHORE WEATHER BUREAU


“But,” says Cap’n Jonadab and me together, jest as if we was “reading in
concert” same as the youngsters do in school, “but,” we says, “will it
work? Will anybody pay for it?”

“Work?” says Peter T., with his fingers in the arm-holes of the
double-breasted danger-signal that he called a vest, and with his cigar
tilted up till you’d think ‘twould set his hat-brim afire. “Work?” says
he. “Well, maybe ‘twouldn’t work if the ordinary brand of canned
lobster was running it, but with ME to jerk the lever and sound the loud
timbrel--why, say! it’s like stealing money from a blind cripple that’s
hard of hearing.”

“Yes, I know,” says Cap’n Jonadab. “But this ain’t like starting the Old
Home House. That was opening up a brand-new kind of hotel that nobody
ever heard of before. This is peddling weather prophecies when there’s
the Gov’ment Weather Bureau running opposition--not to mention the Old
Farmer’s Almanac, and I don’t know how many more,” he says.

Brown took his patent leathers down off the rail of the piazza, give the
ashes of his cigar a flip--he knocked ‘em into my hat that was on the
floor side of his chair, but he was too excited to mind--and he says:

“Confound it, man!” he says. “You can throw more cold water than a
fire-engine. Old Farmer’s Almanac! This isn’t any ‘About this time
look out for snow’ business. And it ain’t any Washington cold slaw like
‘Weather for New England and Rocky Mountains, Tuesday to Friday; cold to
warm; well done on the edges with a rare streak in the middle, preceded
or followed by rain, snow, or clearing. Wind, north to south, varying
east and west.’ No siree! this is TO-DAY’S weather for Cape Cod, served
right off the griddle on a hot plate, and cooked by the chef at that.
You don’t realize what a regular dime-museum wonder that feller is,” he
says.

Well, I suppose we didn’t. You see, Jonadab and me, like the rest of the
folks around Wellmouth, had come to take Beriah Crocker and his weather
notions as the regular thing, like baked beans on a Saturday night.
Beriah, he--

But there! I’ve been sailing stern first. Let’s get her headed right, if
we ever expect to turn the first mark. You see, ‘twas this way:

‘Twas in the early part of May follering the year that the “Old Home
House” was opened. We’d had the place all painted up, decks holy-stoned,
bunks overhauled, and one thing or ‘nother, and the “Old Home” was all
taut and shipshape, ready for the crew--boarders, I mean. Passages was
booked all through the summer and it looked as if our second season
would be better’n our first.

Then the Dillaway girl--she was christened Lobelia, like her mother,
but she’d painted it out and cruised under the name of Belle since the
family got rich--she thought ‘twould be nice to have what she called a
“spring house-party” for her particular friends ‘fore the regular season
opened. So Peter--he being engaged at the time and consequent in that
condition where he’d have put on horns and “mooed” if she’d give the
order--he thought ‘twould be nice, too, and for a week it was “all hands
on deck!” getting ready for the “house-party.”

Two days afore the thing was to go off the ways Brown gets a letter from
Belle, and in it says she’s invited a whole lot of folks from Chicago
and New York and Boston and the land knows where, and that they’ve never
been to the Cape and she wants to show ‘em what a “quaint” place it
is. “Can’t you get,” says she, “two or three delightful, queer, old
‘longshore characters to be at work ‘round the hotel? It’ll give such a
touch of local color,” she says.

So out comes Peter with the letter.

“Barzilla,” he says to me, “I want some characters. Know anybody that’s
a character?”

“Well,” says I, “there’s Nate Slocum over to Orham. He’d steal anything
that wa’n’t spiked down. He’s about the toughest character I can think
of, offhand, this way.”

“Oh, thunder!” says Brown. “I don’t want a crook; that wouldn’t be any
novelty to THIS crowd,” he says. “What I’m after is an odd stick;
a feller with pigeons in his loft. Not a lunatic, but jest a queer
genius--little queerer than you and the Cap’n here.”

After a while we got his drift, and I happened to think of Beriah and
his chum, Eben Cobb. They lived in a little shanty over to Skakit P’int
and got their living lobstering, and so on. Both of ‘em had saved a few
thousand dollars, but you couldn’t get a cent of it without giving ‘em
ether, and they’d rather live like Portugees than white men any day,
unless they was paid to change. Beriah’s pet idee was foretelling what
the weather was going to be. And he could do it, too, better’n anybody
I ever see. He’d smell a storm further’n a cat can smell fish, and he
hardly ever made a mistake. Prided himself on it, you understand, like a
boy does on his first long pants. His prophecies was his idols, so’s
to speak, and you couldn’t have hired him to foretell what he knew was
wrong, not for no money.

Peter said Beriah and Eben was just the sort of “cards” he was looking
for and drove right over to see ‘em. He hooked ‘em, too. I knew he
would; he could talk a Come-Outer into believing that a Unitarian wasn’t
booked for Tophet, if he set out to.

So the special train from Boston brought the “house-party” down, and our
two-seated buggy brought Beriah and Eben over. They didn’t have anything
to do but to look “picturesque” and say “I snum!” and “I swan to man!”
 and they could do that to the skipper’s taste. The city folks thought
they was “just too dear and odd for anything,” and made ‘em bigger fools
than ever, which wa’n’t necessary.

The second day of the “party” was to be a sailing trip clear down to the
life-saving station on Setuckit Beach. It certainly looked as if ‘twas
going to storm, and the Gov’ment predictions said it was, but Beriah
said “No,” and stuck out that ‘twould clear up by and by. Peter wanted
to know what I thought about their starting, and I told him that ‘twas
my experience that where weather was concerned Beriah was a good, safe
anchorage. So they sailed away, and, sure enough, it cleared up fine.
And the next day the Gov’ment fellers said “clear” and Beriah said
“rain,” and she poured a flood. And, after three or four of such
experiences, Beriah was all hunky with the “house-party,” and they
looked at him as a sort of wonderful freak, like a two-headed calf or
the “snake child,” or some such outrage.

So, when the party was over, ‘round comes Peter, busting with a new
notion. What he cal’lated to do was to start a weather prophesying
bureau all on his own hook, with Beriah for prophet, and him for manager
and general advertiser, and Jonadab and me to help put up the money
to get her going. He argued that summer folks from Scituate to
Provincetown, on both sides of the Cape, would pay good prices for the
real thing in weather predictions. The Gov’ment bureau, so he said,
covered too much ground, but Beriah was local and hit her right on the
head. His idee was to send Beriah’s predictions by telegraph to agents
in every Cape town each morning, and the agents was to hand ‘em to
susscribers. First week a free trial; after that, so much per prophecy.

And it worked--oh, land, yes! it worked. Peter’s letters and circulars
would satisfy anybody that black was white, and the free trial was a
sure bait. I don’t know why ‘tis, but if you offered the smallpox free,
there’d be a barrel of victims waiting in line to come down with it.
Brown rigged up a little shanty on the bluff in front of the “Old Home,”
 and filled it full of barometers and thermometers and chronometers and
charts, and put Beriah and Eben inside to look wise and make b’lieve do
something. That was the office of “The South Shore Weather Bureau,” and
‘twas sort of sacred and holy, and ‘twould kill you to see the boarders
tip-toeing up and peeking in the winder to watch them two old coots
squinting through a telescope at the sky or scribbling rubbish on paper.
And Beriah was right ‘most every time. I don’t know why--my notion
is that he was born that way, same as some folks are born lightning
calculators--but I’ll never forget the first time Peter asked him how he
done it.

“Wall,” drawls Beriah, “now to-day looks fine and clear, don’t it? But
last night my left elbow had rheumatiz in it, and this morning my bones
ache, and my right toe-j’int is sore, so I know we’ll have an easterly
wind and rain this evening. If it had been my left toe now, why--”

Peter held up both hands.

“That’ll do,” he says. “I ain’t asking any more questions. ONLY, if the
boarders or outsiders ask you how you work it, you cut out the bones
and toe business and talk science and temperature to beat the cars.
Understand, do you? It’s science or no eight-fifty in the pay envelope.
Left toe-joint!” And he goes off grinning.

We had to have Eben, though he wasn’t wuth a green hand’s wages as a
prophet. But him and Beriah stuck by each other like two flies in the
glue-pot, and you couldn’t hire one without t’other. Peter said
‘twas all right--two prophets looked better’n one, anyhow; and, as
subscriptions kept up pretty well, and the Bureau paid a fair profit,
Jonadab and me didn’t kick.

In July, Mrs. Freeman--she had charge of the upper decks in the “Old
Home” and was rated head chambermaid--up and quit, and being as we
couldn’t get another capable Cape Codder just then, Peter fetched down
a woman from New York; one that a friend of old Dillaway’s recommended.
She was able seaman so far’s the work was concerned, but she’d been
good-looking once and couldn’t forget it, and she was one of them
clippers that ain’t happy unless they’ve got a man in tow. You know the
kind: pretty nigh old enough to be a coal-barge, but all rigged up with
bunting and frills like a yacht.

Her name was Kelly, Emma Kelly, and she was a widow--whether from choice
or act of Providence I don’t know. The other women servants was all down
on her, of course, ‘cause she had city ways and a style of wearing
her togs that made their Sunday gowns and bonnets look like distress
signals. But they couldn’t deny that she was a driver so far’s her work
was concerned. She’d whoop through the hotel like a no’theaster and have
everything done, and done well, by two o’clock in the afternoon. Then
she’d be ready to dress up and go on parade to astonish the natives.

Men--except the boarders, of course--was scarce around Wellmouth Port.
First the Kelly lady begun to flag Cap’n Jonadab and me, but we sheered
off and took to the offing. Jonadab, being a widower, had had his
experience, and I never had the marrying disease and wasn’t hankering
to catch it. So Emma had to look for other victims, and the prophet-shop
looked to her like the most likely feeding-ground.

And, would you b’lieve it, them two old critters, Beriah and Eben,
gobbled the bait like sculpins. If she’d been a woman like the kind they
was used to--the Cape kind, I mean--I don’t s’pose they’d have paid any
attention to her; but she was diff’rent from anything they’d ever run
up against, and the first thing you know, she had ‘em both poke-hooked.
‘Twas all in fun on her part first along, I cal’late, but pretty soon
some idiot let out that both of ‘em was wuth money, and then the race
was on in earnest.

She’d drop in at the weather-factory ‘long in the afternoon and pretend
to be terrible interested in the goings on there.

“I don’t see how you two gentlemen CAN tell whether it’s going to rain
or not. I think you are the most WONDERFUL men! Do tell me, Mr. Crocker,
will it be good weather to-morrer? I wanted to take a little walk up to
the village about four o’clock if it was.”

And then Beriah’d swell out like a puffing pig and put on airs and look
out of the winder, and crow:

“Yes’m, I jedge that we’ll have a southerly breeze in the morning
with some fog, but nothing to last, nothing to last. The afternoon, I
cal’late, ‘ll be fair. I--I--that is to say, I was figgering on goin’ to
the village myself to-morrer.”

Then Emma would pump up a blush, and smile, and purr that she was SO
glad, ‘cause then she’d have comp’ny. And Eben would glower at Beriah
and Beriah’d grin sort of superior-like, and the mutual barometer, so’s
to speak, would fall about a foot during the next hour. The brotherly
business between the two prophets was coming to an end fast, and all on
account of Mrs. Kelly.

She played ‘em even for almost a month; didn’t show no preference
one way or the other. First ‘twas Eben that seemed to be eating up to
wind’ard, and then Beriah’d catch a puff and gain for a spell. Cap’n
Jonadab and me was uneasy, for we was afraid the Weather Bureau would
suffer ‘fore the thing was done with; but Peter was away, and we didn’t
like to interfere till he come home.

And then, all at once, Emma seemed to make up her mind, and ‘twas all
Eben from that time on. The fact is, the widder had learned, somehow or
‘nother, that he had the most money of the two. Beriah didn’t give up;
he stuck to it like a good one, but he was falling behind and he knew
it. As for Eben, he couldn’t help showing a little joyful pity, so’s to
speak, for his partner, and the atmosphere in that rain lab’ratory got
so frigid that I didn’t know but we’d have to put up a stove. The two
wizards was hardly on speaking terms.

The last of August come and the “Old Home House” was going to close up
on the day after Labor Day. Peter was down again, and so was Ebenezer
and Belle, and there was to be high jinks to celebrate the season’s
wind-up. There was to be a grand excursion and clambake at Setuckit
Beach and all hands was going--four catboats full.

Of course, the weather must be good or it’s no joy job taking females to
Setuckit in a catboat. The night before the big day, Peter came out to
the Weather Bureau and Jonadab and me dropped in likewise. Beriah was
there all alone; Eben was out walking with Emma.

“Well, Jeremiah,” says Brown, chipper as a mack’rel gull on a spar-buoy,
“what’s the outlook for to-morrer? The Gov’ment sharp says there’s a big
storm on the way up from Florida. Is he right, or only an ‘also ran,’ as
usual?”

“Wall,” says Beriah, goin’ to the door, “I don’t know, Mr. Brown. It
don’t look just right; I swan it don’t! I can tell you better in the
morning. I hope ‘twill be fair, too, ‘cause I was cal’lating to get
a day off and borrer your horse and buggy and go over to the Ostable
camp-meeting. It’s the big day over there,” he says.

Now, I knew of course, that he meant he was going to take the widder
with him, but Peter spoke up and says he:

“Sorry, Beriah, but you’re too late. Eben asked me for the horse and
buggy this morning. I told him he could have the open buggy; the other
one’s being repaired, and I wouldn’t lend the new surrey to the Grand
Panjandrum himself. Eben’s going to take the fair Emma for a ride,” he
says. “Beriah, I’m afraid our beloved Cobb is, in the innocence of his
youth, being roped in by the sophisticated damsel in the shoo-fly hat,”
 says he.

Me and Jonadab hadn’t had time to tell Peter how matters stood betwixt
the prophets, or most likely he wouldn’t have said that. It hit Beriah
like a snowslide off a barn roof. I found out afterwards that the widder
had more’n half promised to go with HIM. He slumped down in his chair
as if his mainmast was carried away, and he didn’t even rise to blow
for the rest of the time we was in the shanty. Just set there, looking
fishy-eyed at the floor.

Next morning I met Eben prancing around in his Sunday clothes and with a
necktie on that would make a rainbow look like a mourning badge.

“Hello!” says I. “You seem to be pretty chipper. You ain’t going to
start for that fifteen-mile ride through the woods to Ostable, be you?
Looks to me as if ‘twas going to rain.”

“The predictions for this day,” says he, “is cloudy in the forenoon, but
clearing later on. Wind, sou’east, changing to south and sou’west.”

“Did Beriah send that out?” says I, looking doubtful, for if ever it
looked like dirty weather, I thought it did right then.

“ME and Beriah sent it out,” he says, jealous-like. But I knew ‘twas
Beriah’s forecast or he wouldn’t have been so sure of it.

Pretty soon out comes Peter, looking dubious at the sky.

“If it was anybody else but Beriah,” he says, “I’d say this mornings
prophecy ought to be sent to Puck. Where is the seventh son of the
seventh son--the only original American seer?”

He wasn’t in the weather-shanty, and we finally found him on one of the
seats ‘way up on the edge of the bluff. He didn’t look ‘round when we
come up, but just stared at the water.

“Hey, Elijah!” says Brown. He was always calling Beriah “Elijah” or
“Isaiah” or “Jeremiah” or some other prophet name out of Scripture.
“Does this go?” And he held out the telegraph-blank with the morning’s
prediction on it.

Beriah looked around just for a second. He looked to me sort of sick
and pale--that is, as pale as his sun-burned rhinoceros hide would ever
turn.

“The forecast for to-day,” says he, looking at the water again, “is
cloudy in the forenoon, but clearing later on. Wind sou’east, changing
to south and sou’west.”

“Right you are!” says Peter, joyful. “We start for Setuckit, then. And
here’s where the South Shore Weather Bureau hands another swift jolt to
your Uncle Sam.”

So, after breakfast, the catboats loaded up, the girls giggling and
screaming, and the men boarders dressed in what they hoped was sea-togs.
They sailed away ‘round the lighthouse and headed up the shore, and the
wind was sou’east sure and sartin, but the “clearing” part wasn’t in
sight yet.

Beriah didn’t watch ‘em go. He stayed in the shanty. But by and by, when
Eben drove the buggy out of the barn and Emma come skipping down the
piazza steps, I see him peeking out of the little winder.

The Kelly critter had all sail sot and colors flying. Her dress was some
sort of mosquito netting with wall-paper posies on it, and there was
more ribbons flapping than there is reef-p’ints on a mainsail. And
her hat! Great guns! It looked like one of them pictures you see in a
flower-seed catalogue.

“Oh!” she squeals, when she sees the buggy. “Oh! Mr. Cobb. Ain’t you
afraid to go in that open carriage? It looks to me like rain.”

But Eben waved his flipper, scornful. “My forecast this morning,” says
he, “is cloudy now, but clearing by and by. You trust to me, Mis’ Kelly.
Weather’s my business.”

“Of COURSE I trust you, Mr. Cobb,” she says, “Of course I trust you, but
I should hate to spile my gown, that’s all.”

They drove out of the yard, fine as fiddlers, and I watched ‘em go. When
I turned around, there was Beriah watching ‘em too, and he was smiling
for the first time that morning. But it was one of them kind of smiles
that makes you wish he’d cry.

At ha’f-past ten it begun to sprinkle; at eleven ‘twas raining hard; at
noon ‘twas a pouring, roaring, sou’easter, and looked good for the next
twelve hours at least.

“Good Lord! Beriah,” says Cap’n Jonadab, running into the Weather
Bureau, “you’ve missed stays THIS time, for sure. Has your
prophecy-works got indigestion?” he says.

But Beriah wasn’t there. The shanty was closed, and we found out
afterwards that he spent that whole day in the store down at the Port.

By two o’clock ‘twas so bad that I put on my ileskins and went over to
Wellmouth and telephoned to the Setuckit Beach life-saving station
to find out if the clambakers had got there right side up. They’d got
there; fact is, they was in the station then, and the language Peter
hove through that telephone was enough to melt the wires. ‘Twas all in
the shape of compliments to the prophet, and I heard Central tell him
she’d report it to the head office. Brown said ‘twas blowing so they’d
have to come back by the inside channel, and that meant landing ‘way up
Harniss way, and hiring teams to come to the Port with from there.

‘Twas nearly eight when they drove into the yard and come slopping
up the steps. And SUCH a passel of drownded rats you never see. The
women-folks made for their rooms, but the men hopped around the parlor,
shedding puddles with every hop, and hollering for us to trot out the
head of the Weather Bureau.

“Bring him to me,” orders Peter, stopping to pick his pants loose from
his legs; “I yearn to caress him.”

And what old Dillaway said was worse’n that.

But Beriah didn’t come to be caressed. ‘Twas quarter past nine when we
heard wheels in the yard.

“By mighty!” yells Cap’n Jonadab; “it’s the camp-meeting pilgrims. I
forgot them. Here’s a show.”

He jumped to open the door, but it opened afore he got there and Beriah
come in. He didn’t pay no attention to the welcome he got from the gang,
but just stood on the sill, pale, but grinning the grin that a terrier
dog has on just as you’re going to let the rat out of the trap.

Somebody outside says: “Whoa, consarn you!” Then there was a thump and a
sloshy stamping on the steps, and in comes Eben and the widder.

I had one of them long-haired, foreign cats once that a British skipper
gave me. ‘Twas a yeller and black one and it fell overboard. When we
fished it out it looked just like the Kelly woman done then. Everybody
but Beriah just screeched--we couldn’t help it. But the prophet didn’t
laugh; he only kept on grinning.

Emma looked once round the room, and her eyes, as well as you could see
‘em through the snarl of dripping hair and hat-trimming, fairly snapped.
Then she went up the stairs three steps at a time.

Eben didn’t say a word. He just stood there and leaked. Leaked and
smiled. Yes, sir! his face, over the mess that had been that rainbow
necktie, had the funniest look of idiotic joy on it that ever _I_ see.
In a minute everybody else shut up. We didn’t know what to make of it.

‘Twas Beriah that spoke first.

“He! he! he!” he chuckled. “He! he! he! Wasn’t it kind of wet coming
through the woods, Mr. Cobb? What does Mrs. Kelly think of the day her
beau picked out to go to camp-meeting in?”

Then Eben came out of his trance.

“Beriah,” says he, holding out a dripping flipper, “shake!”

But Beriah didn’t shake. Just stood still.

“I’ve got a s’prise for you, shipmate,” goes on Eben. “Who did you say
that lady was?”

Beriah didn’t answer. I begun to think that some of the wet had soaked
through the assistant prophet’s skull and had give him water on the
brain.

“You called her Mis’ Kelly, didn’t you?” gurgled Eben. “Wall, that
ain’t her name. Her and me stopped at the Baptist parsonage over to East
Harniss when we was on the way home and got married. She’s Mis’ Cobb
now,” he says.

Well, the queerest part of it was that ‘twas the bad weather was really
what brought things to a head so sudden. Eben hadn’t spunked up anywhere
nigh enough courage to propose, but they stopped at Ostable so long,
waiting for the rain to let up, that ‘twas after dark when they was half
way home. Then Emma--oh, she was a slick one!--said that her reputation
would be ruined, out that way with a man that wa’n’t her husband. If
they was married now, she said--and even a dummy could take THAT hint.

I found Beriah at the weather-shanty about an hour afterwards with his
head on his arms. He looked up when I come in.

“Mr. Wingate,” he says, “I’m a fool, but for the land’s sake don’t think
I’m SUCH a fool as not to know that this here storm was bound to strike
to-day. I lied,” he says; “I lied about the weather for the first time
in my life; lied right up and down so as to get her mad with him. My
repertation’s gone forever. There’s a feller in the Bible that sold
his--his birthday, I think ‘twas--for a mess of porridge. I’m him;
only,” and he groaned awful, “they’ve cheated me out of the porridge.”

But you ought to have read the letters Peter got next day from
subscribers that had trusted to the prophecy and had gone on picnics
and such like. The South Shore Weather Bureau went out of business right
then.



THE DOG STAR


It commenced the day after we took old man Stumpton out codfishing. Me
and Cap’n Jonadab both told Peter T. Brown that cod wa’n’t biting much
at that season, but he said cod be jiggered.

“What’s troubling me just now is landing suckers,” he says.

So the four of us got into the Patience M.--she’s Jonadab’s catboat--and
sot sail for the Crab Ledge. And we hadn’t more’n got our lines over the
side than we struck into a school of dogfish. Now, if you know anything
about fishing you know that when the dogfish strike on it’s “good-by,
cod!” So when Stumpton hauled a big fat one over the rail I could tell
that Jonadab was ready to swear. But do you think it disturbed your old
friend, Peter Brown? No, sir! He never winked an eye.

“By Jove!” he sings out, staring at that dogfish as if ‘twas a gold
dollar. “By Jove!” says he, “that’s the finest specimen of a Labrador
mack’rel ever I see. Bait up, Stump, and go at ‘em again.”

So Stumpton, having lived in Montana ever sence he was five years old,
and not having sighted salt water in all that time, he don’t know but
what there IS such critters as “Labrador mack’rel,” and he goes at ‘em,
hammer and tongs. When we come ashore we had eighteen dogfish, four
sculpin and a skate, and Stumpton was the happiest loon in Ostable
County. It was all we could do to keep him from cooking one of them
“mack’rel” with his own hands. If Jonadab hadn’t steered him out of the
way while I sneaked down to the Port and bought a bass, we’d have had to
eat dogfish--we would, as sure as I’m a foot high.

Stumpton and his daughter, Maudina, was at the Old Home House.
‘Twas late in September, and the boarders had cleared out. Old
Dillaway--Peter’s father-in-law--had decoyed the pair on from Montana
because him and some Wall Street sharks were figgering on buying some
copper country out that way that Stumpton owned. Then Dillaway was took
sick, and Peter, who was just back from his wedding tower, brought the
Montana victims down to the Cape with the excuse to give ‘em a good time
alongshore, but really to keep ‘em safe and out of the way till Ebenezer
got well enough to finish robbing ‘em. Belle--Peter’s wife--stayed
behind to look after papa.

Stumpton was a great tall man, narrer in the beam, and with a figgerhead
like a henhawk. He enjoyed himself here at the Cape. He fished, and
loafed, and shot at a mark. He sartinly could shoot. The only thing he
was wishing for was something alive to shoot at, and Brown had promised
to take him out duck shooting. ‘Twas too early for ducks, but that
didn’t worry Peter any; he’d a-had ducks to shoot at if he bought all
the poultry in the township.

Maudina was like her name, pretty, but sort of soft and mushy. She had
big blue eyes and a baby face, and her principal cargo was poetry. She
had a deckload of it, and she’d heave it overboard every time the wind
changed. She was forever ordering the ocean to “roll on,” but she didn’t
mean it; I had her out sailing once when the bay was a little mite
rugged, and I know. She was just out of a convent school, and you could
see she wasn’t used to most things--including men.

The first week slipped along, and everything was serene. Bulletins from
Ebenezer more encouraging every day, and no squalls in sight. But ‘twas
almost too slick. I was afraid the calm was a weather breeder, and sure
enough, the hurricane struck us the day after that fishing trip.

Peter had gone driving with Maudina and her dad, and me and Cap’n
Jonadab was smoking on the front piazza. I was pulling at a pipe, but
the cap’n had the home end of one of Stumpton’s cigars harpooned on the
little blade of his jackknife, and was busy pumping the last drop of
comfort out of it. I never see a man who wanted to get his money’s wuth
more’n Jonadab, I give you my word, I expected to see him swaller that
cigar remnant every minute.

And all to once he gives a gurgle in his throat.

“Take a drink of water,” says I, scared like.

“Well, by time!” says he, pointing.

A feller had just turned the corner of the house and was heading up in
our direction. He was a thin, lengthy craft, with more’n the average
amount of wrists sticking out of his sleeves, and with long black hair
trimmed aft behind his ears and curling on the back of his neck. He
had high cheek bones and kind of sunk-in black eyes, and altogether he
looked like “Dr. Macgoozleum, the Celebrated Blackfoot Medicine Man.”
 If he’d hollered: “Sagwa Bitters, only one dollar a bottle!” I wouldn’t
have been surprised.

But his clothes--don’t say a word! His coat was long and buttoned up
tight, so’s you couldn’t tell whether he had a vest on or not--though
‘twas a safe bet he hadn’t--and it and his pants was made of the loudest
kind of black-and-white checks. No nice quiet pepper-and-salt, you
understand, but the checkerboard kind, the oilcloth kind, the kind that
looks like the marble floor in the Boston post-office. They was pretty
tolerable seedy, and so was his hat. Oh, he was a last year’s bird’s
nest NOW, but when them clothes was fresh--whew! the northern lights and
a rainbow mixed wouldn’t have been more’n a cloudy day ‘longside of him.

He run up to the piazza like a clipper coming into port, and he sweeps
off that rusty hat and hails us grand and easy.

“Good-morning, gentlemen,” says he.

“We don’t want none,” says Jonadab, decided.

The feller looked surprised. “I beg your pardon,” says he. “You don’t
want any--what?”

“We don’t want any ‘Life of King Solomon’ nor ‘The World’s Big
Classifyers.’ And we don’t want to buy any patent paint, nor sewing
machines, nor clothes washers, nor climbing evergreen roses, nor
rheumatiz salve. And we don’t want our pictures painted, neither.”

Jonadab was getting excited. Nothing riles him wuss than a peddler,
unless it’s a woman selling tickets to a church fair. The feller swelled
up until I thought the top button on that thunderstorm coat would drag
anchor, sure.

“You are mistaken,” says he. “I have called to see Mr. Peter Brown; he
is--er--a relative of mine.”

Well, you could have blown me and Jonadab over with a cat’s-paw. We went
on our beam ends, so’s to speak. A relation of Peter T.’s; why, if he’d
been twice the panorama he was we’d have let him in when he said that.
Loud clothes, we figgered, must run in the family. We remembered how
Peter was dressed the first time we met him.

“You don’t say!” says I. “Come right up and set down, Mr.--Mr.--”

“Montague,” says the feller. “Booth Montague. Permit me to present my
card.”

He drove into the hatches of his checkerboards and rummaged around, but
he didn’t find nothing but holes, I jedge, because he looked dreadful
put out, and begged our pardons five or six times.

“Dear me!” says he. “This is embarassing. I’ve forgot my cardcase.”

We told him never mind the card; any of Peter’s folks was more’n
welcome. So he come up the steps and set down in a piazza chair like
King Edward perching on his throne. Then he hove out some remarks about
its being a nice morning, all in a condescending sort of way, as if
he usually attended to the weather himself, but had been sort of busy
lately, and had handed the job over to one of the crew. We told him all
about Peter, and Belle, and Ebenezer, and about Stumpton and Maudina.
He was a good deal interested, and asked consider’ble many questions.
Pretty soon we heard a carriage rattling up the road.

“Hello!” says I. “I guess that’s Peter and the rest coming now.”

Mr. Montague got off his throne kind of sudden.

“Ahem!” says he. “Is there a room here where I may--er--receive Mr.
Brown in a less public manner? It will be rather a--er--surprise for
him, and--”

Well, there was a good deal of sense in that. I know ‘twould surprise
ME to have such an image as he was sprung on me without any notice. We
steered him into the gents’ parlor, and shut the door. In a minute the
horse and wagon come into the yard. Maudina said she’d had a “heavenly”
 drive, and unloaded some poetry concerning the music of billows and pine
trees, and such. She and her father went up to their rooms, and when the
decks was clear Jonadab and me tackled Peter T.

“Peter,” says Jonadab, “we’ve got a surprise for you. One of your
relations has come.”

Brown, he did look surprised, but he didn’t act as he was any too
joyful.

“Relation of MINE?” says he. “Come off! What’s his name?”

We told him Montague, Booth Montague. He laughed.

“Wake up and turn over,” he says. “They never had anything like that in
my family. Booth Montague! Sure ‘twa’n’t Algernon Cough-drops?”

We said no, ‘twas Booth Montague, and that he was waiting in the gents’
parlor. So he laughed again, and said somethin’ about sending for Laura
Lean Jibbey, and then we started.

The checkerboard feller was standing up when we opened the door. “Hello,
Petey!” says he, cool as a cucumber, and sticking out a foot and a half
of wrist with a hand at the end of it.

Now, it takes considerable to upset Peter Theodosius Brown. Up to
that time and hour I’d have bet on him against anything short of an
earthquake. But Booth Montague done it--knocked him plumb out of water.
Peter actually turned white.

“Great--” he began, and then stopped and swallered. “HANK!” he says, and
set down in a chair.

“The same,” says Montague, waving the starboard extension of the
checkerboard. “Petey, it does me good to set my eyes on you. Especially
now, when you’re the real thing.”

Brown never answered for a minute. Then he canted over to port and
reached down into his pocket. “Well,” says he, “how much?”

But Hank, or Booth, or Montague--whatever his name was--he waved his
flipper disdainful. “Nun-nun-nun-no, Petey, my son,” he says, smiling.
“It ain’t ‘how much?’ this time. When I heard how you’d rung the bell
the first shot out the box and was rolling in coin, I said to myself:
‘Here’s where the prod comes back to his own.’ I’ve come to live with
you, Petey, and you pay the freight.”

Peter jumped out of the chair. “LIVE with me!” he says. “You Friday
evening amateur night! It’s back to ‘Ten Nights in a Barroom’ for
yours!” he says.

“Oh, no, it ain’t!” says Hank, cheerful. “It’ll be back to Popper
Dillaway and Belle. When I tell ‘em I’m your little cousin Henry and how
you and me worked the territories together--why--well, I guess there’ll
be gladness round the dear home nest; hey?”

Peter didn’t say nothing. Then he fetched a long breath and motioned
with his head to Cap’n Jonadab and me. We see we weren’t invited to the
family reunion, so we went out and shut the door. But we did pity Peter;
I snum if we didn’t!

It was most an hour afore Brown come out of that room. When he did he
took Jonadab and me by the arm and led us out back of the barn.

“Fellers,” he says, sad and mournful, “that--that plaster cast in a
crazy-quilt,” he says, referring to Montague, “is a cousin of mine.
That’s the living truth,” says he, “and the only excuse I can make is
that ‘tain’t my fault. He’s my cousin, all right, and his name’s Hank
Schmults, but the sooner you box that fact up in your forgetory, the
smoother ‘twill be for yours drearily, Peter T. Brown. He’s to be Mr.
Booth Montague, the celebrated English poet, so long’s he hangs out at
the Old Home; and he’s to hang out here until--well, until I can dope
out a way to get rid of him.”

We didn’t say nothing for a minute--just thought. Then Jonadab says,
kind of puzzled: “What makes you call him a poet?” he says.

Peter answered pretty snappy: “‘Cause there’s only two or three jobs
that a long-haired image like him could hold down,” he says. “I’d call
him a musician if he could play ‘Bedelia’ on a jews’-harp; but he
can’t, so’s he’s got to be a poet.”

And a poet he was for the next week or so. Peter drove down to Wellmouth
that night and bought some respectable black clothes, and the follering
morning, when the celebrated Booth Montague come sailing into the dining
room, with his curls brushed back from his forehead, and his new cutaway
on, and his wrists covered up with clean cuffs, blessed if he didn’t
look distinguished--at least, that’s the only word I can think of that
fills the bill. And he talked beautiful language, not like the slang he
hove at Brown and us in the gents’ parlor.

Peter done the honors, introducing him to us and the Stumptons as
a friend who’d come from England unexpected, and Hank he bowed and
scraped, and looked absent-minded and crazy-like a poet ought to. Oh, he
done well at it! You could see that ‘twas just pie for him.

And ‘twas pie for Maudina, too. Being, as I said, kind of green
concerning men folks, and likewise taking to poetry like a cat to fish,
she just fairly gushed over this fraud. She’d reel off a couple of
fathom of verses from fellers named Spencer or Waller, or such like, and
he’d never turn a hair, but back he’d come and say they was good, but he
preferred Confucius, or Methuselah, or somebody so antique that she nor
nobody else ever heard of ‘em. Oh, he run a safe course, and he had HER
in tow afore they turned the first mark.

Jonadab and me got worried. We see how things was going, and we didn’t
like it. Stumpton was having too good a time to notice, going after
“Labrador mack’rel” and so on, and Peter T. was too busy steering
the cruises to pay any attention. But one afternoon I come by the
summerhouse unexpected, and there sat Booth Montague and Maudina, him
with a clove hitch round her waist, and she looking up into his eyes
like they were peekholes in the fence ‘round paradise. That was enough.
It just simply COULDN’T go any further, so that night me and Jonadab had
a confab up in my room.

“Barzilla,” says the cap’n, “if we tell Peter that that relation of
his is figgering to marry Maudina Stumpton for her money, and that he’s
more’n likely to elope with her, ‘twill pretty nigh kill Pete, won’t it?
No, sir; it’s up to you and me. We’ve got to figger out some way to get
rid of the critter ourselves.”

“It’s a wonder to me,” I says, “that Peter puts up with him. Why don’t
he order him to clear out, and tell Belle if he wants to? She can’t
blame Peter ‘cause his uncle was father to an outrage like that.”

Jonadab looks at me scornful. “Can’t, hey?” he says. “And her high-toned
and chumming in with the bigbugs? It’s easy to see you never was
married,” says he.

Well, I never was, so I shut up.

We set there and thought and thought, and by and by I commenced to sight
an idee in the offing. ‘Twas hull down at first, but pretty soon I got
it into speaking distance, and then I broke it gentle to Jonadab. He
grabbed at it like the “Labrador mack’rel” grabbed Stumpton’s hook. We
set up and planned until pretty nigh three o’clock, and all the next
day we put in our spare time loading provisions and water aboard the
Patience M. We put grub enough aboard to last a month.

Just at daylight the morning after that we knocked at the door of
Montague’s bedroom. When he woke up enough to open the door--it took
some time, ‘cause eating and sleeping was his mainstay--we told him that
we was planning an early morning fishing trip, and if he wanted to go
with the folks he must come down to the landing quick. He promised to
hurry, and I stayed by the door to see that he didn’t get away. In about
ten minutes we had him in the skiff rowing off to the Patience M.

“Where’s the rest of the crowd?” says he, when he stepped aboard.

“They’ll be along when we’re ready for ‘em,” says I. “You go below
there, will you, and stow away the coats and things.”

So he crawled into the cabin, and I helped Jonadab get up sail. We
intended towing the skiff, so I made her fast astern. In half a shake we
was under way and headed out of the cove. When that British poet stuck
his nose out of the companion we was abreast the p’int.

“Hi!” says he, scrambling into the cockpit. “What’s this mean?”

I was steering and feeling toler’ble happy over the way things had
worked out.

“Nice sailing breeze, ain’t it?” says I, smiling.

“Where’s Mau-Miss Stumpton?” he says, wild like.

“She’s abed, I cal’late,” says I, “getting her beauty sleep. Why don’t
YOU turn in? Or are you pretty enough now?”

He looked first at me and then at Jonadab, and his face turned a little
yellower than usual.

“What kind of a game is this?” he asks, brisk. “Where are you going?”

‘Twas Jonadab that answered. “We’re bound,” says he, “for the Bermudas.
It’s a lovely place to spend the winter, they tell me,” he says.

That poet never made no remarks. He jumped to the stern and caught hold
of the skiff’s painter. I shoved him out of the way and picked up the
boat hook. Jonadab rolled up his shirt sleeves and laid hands on the
centerboard stick.

“I wouldn’t, if I was you,” says the cap’n.

Jonadab weighs pretty close to two hundred, and most of it’s gristle.
I’m not quite so much, fur’s tonnage goes, but I ain’t exactly a canary
bird. Montague seemed to size things up in a jiffy. He looked at us,
then at the sail, and then at the shore out over the stern.

“Done!” says he. “Done! And by a couple of ‘farmers’!”

And down he sets on the thwart.

Well, we sailed all that day and all that night. ‘Course we didn’t
really intend to make the Bermudas. What we intended to do was to cruise
around alongshore for a couple of weeks, long enough for the Stumptons
to get back to Dillaway’s, settle the copper business and break for
Montana. Then we was going home again and turn Brown’s relation over to
him to take care of. We knew Peter’d have some plan thought out by that
time. We’d left a note telling him what we’d done, and saying that we
trusted to him to explain matters to Maudina and her dad. We knew that
explaining was Peter’s main holt.

The poet was pretty chipper for a spell. He set on the thwart and
bragged about what he’d do when he got back to “Petey” again. He said we
couldn’t git rid of him so easy. Then he spun yarns about what him and
Brown did when they was out West together. They was interesting yarns,
but we could see why Peter wa’n’t anxious to introduce Cousin Henry to
Belle. Then the Patience M. got out where ‘twas pretty rugged, and she
rolled consider’ble and after that we didn’t hear much more from friend
Booth--he was too busy to talk.

That night me and Jonadab took watch and watch. In the morning it
thickened up and looked squally. I got kind of worried. By nine o’clock
there was every sign of a no’theaster, and we see we’d have to put in
somewheres and ride it out. So we headed for a place we’ll call Baytown,
though that wa’n’t the name of it. It’s a queer, old-fashioned town, and
it’s on an island; maybe you can guess it from that.

Well, we run into the harbor and let go anchor. Jonadab crawled into
the cabin to get some terbacker, and I was for’ard coiling the throat
halyard. All at once I heard oars rattling, and I turned my head; what I
see made me let out a yell like a siren whistle.

There was that everlasting poet in the skiff--you remember we’d
been towing it astern--and he was jest cutting the painter with his
jackknife. Next minute he’d picked up the oars and was heading for the
wharf, doubling up and stretching out like a frog swimming, and with his
curls streaming in the wind like a rooster’s tail in a hurricane. He
had a long start ‘fore Jonadab and me woke up enough to think of chasing
him.

But we woke up fin’lly, and the way we flew round that catboat was a
caution. I laid into them halyards, and I had the mainsail up to the
peak afore Jonadab got the anchor clear of the bottom. Then I jumped to
the tiller, and the Patience M. took after that skiff like a pup after
a tomcat. We run alongside the wharf just as Booth Hank climbed over the
stringpiece.

“Get after him, Barzilla!” hollers Cap’n Jonadab. “I’ll make her fast.”

Well, I hadn’t took more’n three steps when I see ‘twas goin’ to be a
long chase. Montague unfurled them thin legs of his and got over the
ground something wonderful. All you could see was a pile of dust and
coat tails flapping.

Up on the wharf we went and round the corner into a straggly kind of
road with old-fashioned houses on both sides of it. Nobody in the
yards, nobody at the windows; quiet as could be, except that off ahead,
somewheres, there was music playing.

That road was a quarter of a mile long, but we galloped through it so
fast that the scenery was nothing but a blur. Booth was gaining all the
time, but I stuck to it like a good one. We took a short cut through a
yard, piled over a fence and come out into another road, and up at the
head of it was a crowd of folks--men and women and children and dogs.

“Stop thief!” I hollers, and ‘way astern I heard Jonadab bellering:
“Stop thief!”

Montague dives headfirst for the crowd. He fell over a baby carriage,
and I gained a tack ‘fore he got up. He wa’n’t more’n ten yards ahead
when I come busting through, upsetting children and old women, and
landed in what I guess was the main street of the place and right
abreast of a parade that was marching down the middle of it.

First there was the band, four fellers tooting and banging like fo’mast
hands on a fishing smack in a fog. Then there was a big darky toting a
banner with “Jenkins’ Unparalleled Double Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company, No.
2,” on it in big letters. Behind him was a boy leading two great, savage
looking dogs--bloodhounds, I found out afterwards--by chains. Then come
a pony cart with Little Eva and Eliza’s child in it; Eva was all gold
hair and beautifulness. And astern of her was Marks the Lawyer, on his
donkey. There was lots more behind him, but these was all I had time to
see just then.

Now, there was but one way for Booth Hank to get acrost that street, and
that was to bust through the procession. And, as luck would have it, the
place he picked out to cross was just ahead of the bloodhounds. And the
first thing I knew, them dogs stretched out their noses and took a long
sniff, and then bust out howling like all possessed. The boy, he tried
to hold ‘em, but ‘twas no go. They yanked the chains out of his hands
and took after that poet as if he owed ‘em something. And every one of
the four million other dogs that was in the crowd on the sidewalks fell
into line, and such howling and yapping and scampering and screaming you
never heard.

Well, ‘twas a mixed-up mess. That was the end of the parade. Next minute
I was racing across country with the whole town and the Uncle Tommers
astern of me, and a string of dogs stretched out ahead fur’s you could
see. ‘Way up in the lead was Booth Montague and the bloodhounds, and
away aft I could hear Jonadab yelling: “Stop thief!”

‘Twas lively while it lasted, but it didn’t last long. There was a
little hill at the end of the field, and where the poet dove over
‘tother side of it the bloodhounds all but had him. Afore I got to the
top of the rise I heard the awfullest powwow going on in the holler, and
thinks I: “THEY’RE EATING HIM ALIVE!”

But they wan’t. When I hove in sight Montague was setting up on the
ground at the foot of the sand bank he’d fell into, and the two hounds
was rolling over him, lapping his face and going on as if he was their
grandpa jest home from sea with his wages in his pocket. And round them,
in a double ring, was all the town dogs, crazy mad, and barking and
snarling, but scared to go any closer.

In a minute more the folks begun to arrive; boys first, then girls and
men, and then the women. Marks came trotting up, pounding the donkey
with his umbrella.

“Here, Lion! Here, Tige!” he yells. “Quit it! Let him alone!” Then he
looks at Montague, and his jaw kind of drops.

“Why--why, HANK!” he says.

A tall, lean critter, in a black tail coat and a yaller vest and
lavender pants, comes puffing up. He was the manager, we found out
afterward.

“Have they bit him?” says he. Then he done just the same as Marks;
his mouth opened and his eyes stuck out. “HANK SCHMULTS, by the living
jingo!” says he.

Booth Montague looks at the two of ‘em kind of sick and lonesome.
“Hello, Barney! How are you, Sullivan?” he says.

I thought ‘twas about time for me to get prominent. I stepped up, and
was just going to say something when somebody cuts in ahead of me.

“Hum!” says a voice, a woman’s voice, and tolerable crisp and vinegary.
“Hum! it’s you, is it? I’ve been looking for YOU!”

‘Twas Little Eva in the pony cart. Her lovely posy hat was hanging on
the back of her neck, her gold hair had slipped back so’s you could see
the black under it, and her beautiful red cheeks was kind of streaky.
She looked some older and likewise mad.

“Hum!” says she, getting out of the cart. “It’s you, is it, Hank
Schmults? Well, p’r’aps you’ll tell me where you’ve been for the last
two weeks? What do you mean by running away and leaving your--”

Montague interrupted her. “Hold on, Maggie, hold on!” he begs. “DON’T
make a row here. It’s all a mistake; I’ll explain it to you all right.
Now, please--”

“Explain!” hollers Eva, kind of curling up her fingers and moving toward
him. “Explain, will you? Why, you miserable, low-down--”

But the manager took hold of her arm. He’d been looking at the crowd,
and I cal’late he saw that here was the chance for the best kind of an
advertisement. He whispered in her ear. Next thing I knew she clasped
her hands together, let out a scream and runs up and grabs the
celebrated British poet round the neck.

“Booth!” says she. “My husband! Saved! Saved!”

And she went all to pieces and cried all over his necktie. And then
Marks trots up the child, and that young one hollers: “Papa! papa!” and
tackles Hank around the legs. And I’m blessed if Montague don’t slap his
hand to his forehead, and toss back his curls, and look up at the sky,
and sing out: “My wife and babe! Restored to me after all these years!
The heavens be thanked!”

Well, ‘twas a sacred sort of time. The town folks tiptoed away, the men
looking solemn but glad, and the women swabbing their deadlights and
saying how affecting ‘twas, and so on. Oh, you could see that show would
do business THAT night, if it never did afore.

The manager got after Jonadab and me later on, and did his best to pump
us, but he didn’t find out much. He told us that Montague belonged to
the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company, and that he’d disappeared a fortni’t or
so afore, when they were playing at Hyannis. Eva was his wife, and the
child was their little boy. The bloodhounds knew him, and that’s why
they chased him so.

“What was you two yelling ‘Stop thief!’ after him for?” says he. “Has he
stole anything?”

We says “No.”

“Then what did you want to get him for?” he says.

“We didn’t,” says Jonadab. “We wanted to get rid of him. We don’t want
to see him no more.”

You could tell that the manager was puzzled, but he laughed.

“All right,” says he. “If I know anything about Maggie--that’s Mrs.
Schmults--he won’t get loose ag’in.”

We only saw Montague to talk to but once that day. Then he peeked out
from under the winder shade at the hotel and asked us if we’d told
anybody where he’d been. When he found we hadn’t, he was thankful.

“You tell Petey,” says he, “that he’s won the whole pot, kitty and all.
I don’t think I’ll visit him again, nor Belle, neither.”

“I wouldn’t,” says I. “They might write to Maudina that you was a
married man. And old Stumpton’s been praying for something alive to
shoot at,” I says.

The manager gave Jonadab and me a couple of tickets, and we went to the
show that night. And when we saw Booth Hank Montague parading about the
stage and defying the slave hunters, and telling ‘em he was a free man,
standing on the Lord’s free soil, and so on, we realized ‘twould have
been a crime to let him do anything else.

“As an imitation poet,” says Jonadab, “he was a kind of mildewed
article, but as a play actor--well, there may be some that can beat him,
but _I_ never see ‘em!”



THE MARE AND THE MOTOR


Them Todds had got on my nerves. ‘Twas Peter’s ad that brought ‘em down.
You see, ‘twas ‘long toward the end of the season at the Old Home, and
Brown had been advertising in the New York and Boston papers to “bag
the leftovers,” as he called it. Besides the reg’lar hogwash about the
“breath of old ocean” and the “simple, cleanly living of the bygone
days we dream about,” there was some new froth concerning hunting and
fishing. You’d think the wild geese roosted on the flagpole nights, and
the bluefish clogged up the bay so’s you could walk on their back fins
without wetting your feet--that is, if you wore rubbers and trod light.

“There!” says Peter T., waving the advertisement and crowing gladsome;
“they’ll take to that like your temp’rance aunt to brandy cough-drops.
We’ll have to put up barbed wire to keep ‘em off.”

“Humph!” grunts Cap’n Jonadab. “Anybody but a born fool’ll know there
ain’t any shooting down here this time of year.”

Peter looked at him sorrowful. “Pop,” says he, “did you ever hear that
Solomon answered a summer hotel ad? This ain’t a Chautauqua, this is
the Old Home House, and its motto is: ‘There’s a new victim born every
minute, and there’s twenty-four hours in a day.’ You set back and count
the clock ticks.”

Well, that’s ‘bout all we had to do. We got boarders enough from that
ridiculous advertisement to fill every spare room we had, including
Jonadab’s and mine. Me and the cap’n had to bunk in the barn loft; but
there was some satisfaction in that--it give us an excuse to get away
from the “sports” in the smoking room.

The Todds was part of the haul. He was a little, dried-up man, single,
and a minister. Nigh’s I could find out, he’d given up preaching by the
request of the doctor and his last congregation. He had a notion that he
was a mighty hunter afore the Lord, like Nimrod in the Bible, and he’d
come to the Old Home to bag a few gross of geese and ducks.

His sister was an old maid, and slim, neither of which failings was from
choice, I cal’late. She wore eye-glasses and a veil to “preserve her
complexion,” and her idee seemed to be that native Cape Codders lived in
trees and ate cocoanuts. She called ‘em “barbarians, utter barbarians.”
 Whenever she piped “James” her brother had to drop everything and report
on deck. She was skipper of the Todd craft.

Them Todds was what Peter T. called “the limit, and a chip or two over.”
 The other would-be gunners and fishermen were satisfied to slam shot
after sandpeeps, or hook a stray sculpin or a hake. But t’wa’n’t so
with brother James Todd and sister Clarissa. “Ducks” it was in the
advertising, and nothing BUT ducks they wanted. Clarissa, she commenced
to hint middling p’inted concerning fraud.

Finally we lost patience, and Peter T., he said they’d got to be quieted
somehow, or he’d do some shooting on his own hook; said too much Toddy
was going to his head. Then I suggested taking ‘em down the
beach somewheres on the chance of seeing a stray coot or loon or
something--ANYTHING that could be shot at. Jonadab and Peter agreed
‘twas a good plan, and we matched to see who’d be guide. And I got
stuck, of course; my luck again.

So the next morning we started, me and the Reverend James and Clarissa
in the Greased Lightning, Peter’s new motor launch. First part of the
trip that Todd man done nothing but ask questions about the launch; I
had to show him how to start it and steer it, and the land knows what
all. Clarissa set around doing the heavy contemptuous and turning up her
nose at creation generally. It must have its drawbacks, this roosting so
fur above the common flock; seems to me I’d be thinking all the time of
the bump that was due me if I got shoved off the perch.

Well, by and by Lonesome Huckleberries’ shanty hove in sight, and I
was glad to see it, although I had to answer a million questions about
Lonesome and his history.

I told the Todds that, so fur as nationality was concerned he was a
little of everything, like a picked-up dinner; principally Eyetalian and
Portugee, I cal’late, with a streak of Gay Head Injun. His real name’s
long enough to touch bottom in the ship channel at high tide, so folks
got to calling him “Huckleberries” because he peddles them kind of fruit
in summer. Then he mopes around so with nary a smile on his face, that
it seemed right to tack on the “Lonesome.” So “Lonesome Huckleberries”
 he’s been for ten years. He lives in the patchwork shanty on the beach
down there, he is deaf and dumb, drives a liver-colored, balky mare that
no one but himself and his daughter Becky can handle, and he has a love
for bad rum and a temper that’s landed him in the Wellmouth lock-up more
than once or twice. He’s one of the best gunners alongshore and at
this time he owned a flock of live decoys that he’d refused as high as
fifteen dollars apiece for. I told all this and a lot more.

When we struck the beach, Clarissa, she took her paint box and umbrella
and mosquito ‘intment, and the rest of her cargo, and went off by
herself to “sketch.” She was great on “sketching,” and the way she’d use
up good paint and spile nice clean paper was a sinful waste. Afore she
went, she give me three fathom of sailing orders concerning taking care
of “James.” You’d think he was about four year old; made me feel like a
hired nurse.

James and me went perusing up and down that beach in the blazing sun
looking for something to shoot. We went ‘way beyond Lonesome’s shanty,
but there wa’n’t nobody to home. Lonesome himself, it turned out
afterward, was up to the village with his horse and wagon, and his
daughter Becky was over in the wood on the mainland berrying. Todd was
a cheerful talker, but limited. His favorite remark was: “Oh, I say, my
deah man.” That’s what he kept calling me, “my deah man.” Now, my name
ain’t exactly a Claude de Montmorency for prettiness, but “Barzilla” ‘ll
fetch ME alongside a good deal quicker’n “my deah man,” I’ll tell you
that.

We frogged it up and down all the forenoon, but didn’t git a shot at
nothing but one stray “squawk” that had come over from the Cedar Swamp.
I told James ‘twas a canvasback, and he blazed away at it, but missed it
by three fathom, as might have been expected.

Finally, my game leg--rheumatiz, you understand--begun to give out. So
I flops down in the shade of a sand bank to rest, and the reverend goes
poking off by himself.

I cal’late I must have fell asleep, for when I looked at my watch it was
close to one o’clock, and time for us to be getting back to port. I
got up and stretched and took an observation, but further’n Clarissa’s
umbrella on the skyline, I didn’t see anything stirring. Brother James
wa’n’t visible, but I jedged he was within hailing distance. You can’t
see very fur on that point, there’s too many sand hills and hummocks.

I started over toward the Greased Lightning. I’d gone only a little
ways, and was down in a gully between two big hummocks, when “Bang!
bang!” goes both barrels of a shotgun, and that Todd critter busts out
hollering like all possessed.

“Hooray!” he squeals, in that squeaky voice of his. “Hooray! I’ve got
‘em! I’ve got ‘em!”

Thinks I, “What in the nation does the lunatic cal’late he’s shot?” And
I left my own gun laying where ‘twas and piled up over the edge of that
sand bank like a cat over a fence. And then I see a sight.

There was James, hopping up and down in the beach grass, squealing like
a Guinea hen with a sore throat, and waving his gun with one wing--arm,
I mean--and there in front of him, in the foam at the edge of the surf,
was two ducks as dead as Nebuchadnezzar--two of Lonesome Huckleberries’
best decoy ducks--ducks he’d tamed and trained, and thought more of
than anything else in this world--except rum, maybe--and the rest of
the flock was digging up the beach for home as if they’d been telegraped
for, and squawking “Fire!” and “Murder!”

Well, my mind was in a kind of various state, as you might say, for a
minute. ‘Course, I’d known about Lonesome’s owning them decoys--told
Todd about ‘em, too--but I hadn’t seen ‘em nowhere alongshore, and I
sort of cal’lated they was locked up in Lonesome’s hen house, that being
his usual way when he went to town. I s’pose likely they’d been feeding
among the beach grass somewheres out of sight, but I don’t know for
sartin to this day. And I didn’t stop to reason it out then, neither. As
Scriptur’ or George Washin’ton or somebody says, “‘twas a condition, not
a theory,” I was afoul of.

“I’ve got ‘em!” hollers Todd, grinning till I thought he’d swaller his
own ears. “I shot ‘em all myself!”

“You everlasting--” I begun, but I didn’t get any further. There was a
rattling noise behind me, and I turned, to see Lonesome Huckleberries
himself, setting on the seat of his old truck wagon and glaring over the
hammer head of that balky mare of his straight at brother Todd and the
dead decoys.

For a minute there was a kind of tableau, like them they have at church
fairs--all four of us, including the mare, keeping still, like we was
frozen. But ‘twas only for a minute. Then it turned into the liveliest
moving picture that ever _I_ see. Lonesome couldn’t swear--being a
dummy--but if ever a man got profane with his eyes, he did right then.
Next thing I knew he tossed both hands into the air, clawed two handfuls
out of the atmosphere, reached down into the cart, grabbed a pitch-fork
and piled out of that wagon and after Todd. There was murder coming and
I could see it.

“Run, you loon!” I hollers, desperate.

James didn’t wait for any advice. He didn’t know what he’d done, I
cal’late, but he jedged ‘twas his move. He dropped his gun and put down
the shore like a wild man, with Lonesome after him. I tried to foller,
but my rheumatiz was too big a handicap; all I could do was yell.

You never’d have picked out Todd for a sprinter--not to look at him, you
wouldn’t--but if he didn’t beat the record for his class just then I’ll
eat my sou’wester. He fairly flew, but Lonesome split tacks with him
every time, and kept to wind’ard, into the bargain. When they went out
of sight amongst the sand hills ‘twas anybody’s race.

I was scart. I knew what Lonesome’s temper was, ‘specially when it had
been iled with some Wellmouth Port no-license liquor. He’d been took up
once for half killing some boys that tormented him, and I figgered if
he got within pitchfork distance of the Todd critter he’d make him the
leakiest divine that ever picked a text. I commenced to hobble back
after my gun. It looked bad to me.

But I’d forgot sister Clarissa. ‘Fore I’d limped fur I heard her calling
to me.

“Mr. Wingate,” says she, “get in here at once.”

There she was, setting on the seat of Lonesome’s wagon, holdin’ the
reins and as cool as a white frost in October.

“Get in at once,” says she. I jedged ‘twas good advice, and took it.

“Proceed,” says she to the mare. “Git dap!” says I, and we started. When
we rounded the sand hill we see the race in the distance. Lonesome had
gained a p’int or two, and Todd wa’n’t more’n four pitchforks in the
lead.

“Make for the launch!” I whooped, between my hands.

The parson heard me and come about and broke for the shore. The Greased
Lightning had swung out about the length of her anchor rope, and the
water wa’n’t deep. Todd splashed in to his waist and climbed aboard. He
cut the roding just as Lonesome reached tide mark. James, he sees it’s a
close call, and he shins back to the engine, reaching it exactly at the
time when the gent with the pitchfork laid hands on the rail. Then the
parson throws over the switch--I’d shown him how, you remember--and
gives the starting wheel a full turn.

Well, you know the Greased Lightning? She don’t linger to say farewell,
not any to speak of, she don’t. And this time she jumped like the cat
that lit on the hot stove. Lonesome, being balanced with his knees on
the rail, pitches headfust into the cockpit. Todd, jumping out of his
way, falls overboard backward. Next thing anybody knew, the launch was
scooting for blue water like a streak of what she was named for, and the
hunting chaplain was churning up foam like a mill wheel.

I yelled more orders than second mate on a coaster. Todd bubbled and
bellered. Lonesome hung on to the rail of the cockpit and let his hair
stand up to grow. Nobody was cool but Clarissa, and she was an iceberg.
She had her good p’ints, that old maid did, drat her!

“James,” she calls, “get out of that water this minute and come here!
This instant, mind!”

James minded. He paddled ashore and hopped, dripping like a dishcloth,
alongside the truck wagon.

“Get in!” orders Skipper Clarissa. He done it. “Now,” says the lady,
passing the reins over to me, “drive us home, Mr. Wingate, before that
intoxicated lunatic can catch us.”

It seemed about the only thing to do. I knew ‘twas no use explaining
to Lonesome for an hour or more yet, even if you can talk finger signs,
which part of my college training has been neglected. ‘Twas murder he
wanted at the present time. I had some sort of a foggy notion that I’d
drive along, pick up the guns and then get the Todds over to the
hotel, afterward coming back to get the launch and pay damages to
Huckleberries. I cal’lated he’d be more reasonable by that time.

But the mare had made other arrangements. When I slapped her with the
end of the reins she took the bit in her teeth and commenced to gallop.
I hollered “Whoa!” and “Heave to!” and “Belay!” and everything else I
could think of, but she never took in a reef. We bumped over hummocks
and ridges, and every time we done it we spilled something out of
that wagon. First ‘twas a lot of huckleberry pails, then a basket of
groceries and such, then a tin pan with some potatoes in it, then a jug
done up in a blanket. We was heaving cargo overboard like a leaky ship
in a typhoon. Out of the tail of my eye I see Lonesome, well out to sea,
heading the Greased Lightning for the beach.

Clarissa put in the time soothing James, who had a serious case of the
scart-to-deaths, and calling me an “utter barbarian” for driving so
fast. Lucky for all hands, she had to hold on tight to keep from being
jounced out, ‘long with the rest of movables, so she couldn’t take
the reins. As for me, I wa’n’t paying much attention to her--‘twas the
Cut-Through that was disturbing MY mind.

When you drive down to Lonesome P’int you have to ford the
“Cut-Through.” It’s a strip of water between the bay and the ocean, and
‘tain’t very wide nor deep at low tide. But the tide was coming in now,
and, more’n that, the mare wa’n’t headed for the ford. She was cuttin’
cross-lots on her own hook, and wouldn’t answer the helm.

We struck that Cut-Through about a hundred yards east of the ford, and
in two shakes we was hub deep in salt water. ‘Fore the Todds could
do anything but holler the wagon was afloat and the mare was all but
swimming. But she kept right on. Bless her, you COULDN’T stop her!

We crossed the first channel and come out on a flat where ‘twasn’t
more’n two foot deep then. I commenced to feel better. There was another
channel ahead of us, but I figured we’d navigate that same as we had the
first one. And then the most outrageous thing happened.

If you’ll b’lieve it, that pesky mare balked and wouldn’t stir another
step.

And there we was! I punched and kicked and hollered, but all that
stubborn horse would do was lay her ears back flat, and snarl up her
lip, and look round at us, much as to say: “Now, then, you land sharks,
I’ve got you between wind and water!” And I swan to man if it didn’t
look as if she had!

“Drive on!” says Clarissa, pretty average vinegary. “Haven’t you made
trouble enough for us already, you dreadful man? Drive on!”

Hadn’t _I_ made trouble enough! What do you think of that?

“You want to drown us!” says Miss Todd, continuing her chatty remarks.
“I see it all! It’s a plot between you and that murderer. I give you
warning; if we reach the hotel, my brother and I will commence suit for
damages.”

My temper’s fairly long-suffering, but ‘twas raveling some by this time.

“Commence suit!” I says. “I don’t care WHAT you commence, if you’ll
commence to keep quiet now!” And then I give her a few p’ints as to what
her brother had done, heaving in some personal flatteries every once in
a while for good measure.

I’d about got to thirdly when James give a screech and p’inted. And,
if there wa’n’t Lonesome in the launch, headed right for us, and coming
a-b’iling! He’d run her along abreast of the beach and turned in at the
upper end of the Cut-Through.

You never in your life heard such a row as there was in that wagon.
Clarissa and me yelling to Lonesome to keep off--forgitting that he
was stone deef and dumb--and James vowing that he was going to be
slaughtered in cold blood. And the Greased Lightning p’inted just so
she’d split that cart amidships, and coming--well, you know how she can
go.

She never budged until she was within ten foot of the flat, and then she
sheered off and went past in a wide curve, with Lonesome steering with
one hand and shaking his pitchfork at Todd with t’other. And SUCH faces
as he made-up! They’d have got him hung in any court in the world.

He run up the Cut-Through a little ways, and then come about, and back
he comes again, never slacking speed a mite, and running close to the
shoal as he could shave, and all the time going through the bloodiest
kind of pantomimes. And past he goes, to wheel ‘round and commence all
over again.

Thinks I, “Why don’t he ease up and lay us aboard? He’s got all the
weapons there is. Is he scart?”

And then it come to me--the reason why. HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO STOP HER.
He could steer first rate, being used to sailboats, but an electric auto
launch was a new ideal for him, and he didn’t understand her works. And
he dastn’t run her aground at the speed she was making; ‘twould have
finished her and, more’n likely, him, too.

I don’t s’pose there ever was another mess just like it afore or sence.
Here was us, stranded with a horse we couldn’t make go, being chased by
a feller who was run away with in a boat he couldn’t stop!

Just as I’d about give up hope, I heard somebody calling from the beach
behind us. I turned, and there was Becky Huckleberries, Lonesome’s
daughter. She had the dead decoys by the legs in one hand.

“Hi!” says she.

“Hi!” says I. “How do you get this giraffe of yours under way?”

She held up the decoys.

“Who kill-a dem ducks?” says she.

I p’inted to the reverend. “He did,” says I. And then I cal’late I must
have had one of them things they call an inspiration. “And he’s willing
to pay for ‘em,” I says.

“Pay thirty-five dolla?” says she.

“You bet!” says I.

But I’d forgot Clarissa. She rose up in that waterlogged cart like a
Statue of Liberty. “Never!” says she. “We will never submit to such
extortion. We’ll drown first!”

Becky heard her. She didn’t look disapp’inted nor nothing. Just turned
and begun to walk up the beach. “ALL right,” says she; “GOO’-by.”

The Todds stood it for a jiffy. Then James give in. “I’ll pay it!” he
hollers. “I’ll pay it!”

Even then Becky didn’t smile. She just come about again and walked back
to the shore. Then she took up that tin pan and one of the potaters we’d
jounced out of the cart.

“Hi, Rosa!” she hollers. That mare turned her head and looked. And, for
the first time sence she hove anchor on that flat, the critter unfurled
her ears and histed ‘em to the masthead.

“Hi, Rosa!” says Becky again, and begun to pound the pan with the
potater. And I give you my word that that mare started up, turned the
wagon around nice as could be, and begun to swim ashore. When we got
where the critter’s legs touched bottom, Becky remarks: “Whoa!”

“Here!” I yells, “what did you do that for?”

“Pay thirty-five dolla NOW,” says she. She was bus’ness, that girl.

Todd got his wallet from under hatches and counted out the thirty-five,
keeping one eye on Lonesome, who was swooping up and down in the launch
looking as if he wanted to cut in, but dasn’t. I tied the bills to
my jack-knife, to give ‘em weight, and tossed the whole thing ashore.
Becky, she counted the cash and stowed it away in her apron pocket.

“ALL right,” says she. “Hi, Rosa!” The potater and pan performance begun
again, and Rosa picked up her hoofs and dragged us to dry land. And it
sartinly felt good to the feet.

“Say,” I says, “Becky, it’s none of my affairs, as I know of, but is
that the way you usually start that horse of yours?”

She said it was. And Rosa ate the potater.

Becky asked me how to stop the launch, and I told her. She made a lot
of finger signs to Lonesome, and inside of five minutes the Greased
Lightning was anchored in front of us. Old man Huckleberries was still
hankering to interview Todd with the pitchfork, but Becky settled that
all right. She jumped in front of him, and her eyes snapped and her feet
stamped and her fingers flew. And ‘twould have done you good to see her
dad shrivel up and get humble. I always had thought that a woman wasn’t
much good as a boss of the roost unless she could use her tongue, but
Becky showed me my mistake. Well, it’s live and l’arn.

Then Miss Huckleberries turned to us and smiled.

“ALL right,” says she; “GOO’-by.”

Them Todds took the train for the city next morning. I drove ‘em to the
depot. James was kind of glum, but Clarissa talked for two. Her opinion
of the Cape and Capers, ‘specially me, was decided. The final blast was
just as she was climbing the car steps.

“Of all the barbarians,” says she; “utter, uncouth, murdering barbarians
in--”

She stopped, thinking for a word, I s’pose. I didn’t feel that I could
improve on Becky Huckleberries conversation much, so I says:

“ALL right! GOO’-by!”



THE MARK ON THE DOOR


One nice moonlight evening me and Cap’n Jonadab and Peter T., having,
for a wonder, a little time to ourselves and free from boarders, was
setting on the starboard end of the piazza, smoking, when who should
heave in sight but Cap’n Eri Hedge and Obed Nickerson. They’d come
over from Orham that day on some fish business and had drove down to
Wellmouth Port on purpose to put up at the Old Home for the night and
shake hands with me and Jonadab. We was mighty glad to see ‘em, now I
tell you.

They’d had supper up at the fish man’s at the Centre, so after Peter T.
had gone in and fetched out a handful of cigars, we settled back for a
good talk. They wanted to know how business was and we told ‘em. After
a spell somebody mentioned the Todds and I spun my yarn about the balky
mare and the Greased Lightning. It tickled ‘em most to death, especially
Obed.

“Ho, ho!” says he. “That’s funny, ain’t it. Them power boats are great
things, ain’t they. I had an experience in one--or, rather, in two--a
spell ago when I was living over to West Bayport. My doings was with
gasoline though, not electricity. ‘Twas something of an experience.
Maybe you’d like to hear it.”

“‘Way I come to be over there on the bay side of the Cape was like this.
West Bayport, where my shanty and the big Davidson summer place and the
Saunders’ house was, used to be called Punkhassett--which is Injun for
‘The last place the Almighty made’--and if you’ve read the circulars of
the land company that’s booming Punkhassett this year, you’ll remember
that the principal attraction of them diggings is the ‘magnificent water
privileges.’ ‘Twas the water privileges that had hooked me. Clams was
thick on the flats at low tide, and fish was middling plenty in the bay.
I had two weirs set; one a deep-water weir, a half mile beyond the bar,
and t’other just inside of it that I could drive out to at low water. A
two-mile drive ‘twas, too; the tide goes out a long ways over there. I
had a powerboat--seven and a half power gasoline--that I kept anchored
back of my nighest-in weir in deep water, and a little skiff on shore to
row off to her in.

“The yarn begins one morning when I went down to the shore after clams.
I’d noticed the signs then. They was stuck up right acrost the path: ‘No
trespassing on these premises,’ and ‘All persons are forbidden crossing
this property, under penalty of the law.’ But land! I’d used that
short-cut ever sence I’d been in Bayport--which was more’n a year--and
old man Davidson and me was good friends, so I cal’lated the signs was
intended for boys, and hove ahead without paying much attention to ‘em.
‘Course I knew that the old man--and, what was more important, the
old lady--had gone abroad and that the son was expected down, but that
didn’t come to me at the time, neither.

“I was heading for home about eight, with two big dreeners full of
clams, and had just climbed the bluff and swung over the fence into the
path, when somebody remarks: ‘Here, you!’ I jumped and turned round, and
there, beating across the field in my direction, was an exhibit which,
it turned out later, was ticketed with the name of Alpheus Vandergraff
Parker Davidson--‘Allie’ for short.

“And Allie was a good deal of an exhibit, in his way. His togs were cut
to fit his spars, and he carried ‘em well--no wrinkles at the peak or
sag along the boom. His figurehead was more’n average regular, and his
hair was combed real nice--the part in the middle of it looked like it
had been laid out with a plumb-line. Also, he had on white shoes and
glory hallelujah stockings. Altogether, he was alone with the price of
admission, and what some folks, I s’pose, would have called a handsome
enough young feller. But I didn’t like his eyes; they looked kind of
tired, as if they’d seen ‘bout all there was to see of some kinds of
life. Twenty-four year old eyes hadn’t ought to look that way.

“But I wasn’t interested in eyes jest then. All I could look at was
teeth. There they was, a lovely set of ‘em, in the mouth of the ugliest
specimen of a bow-legged bulldog that ever tried to hang itself at the
end of a chain. Allie was holding t’other end of the chain with both
hands, and they were full, at that. The dog stood up on his hind legs
and pawed the air with his front ones, and his tongue hung out and
dripped. You could see he was yearning, just dying, to taste of a
middle-aged longshoreman by the name of Obed Nickerson. I stared at
the dog, and he stared at me. I don’t know which of us was the most
interested.

“‘Here, you!’ says Allie again. ‘What are you crossing this field for?’

“I heard him, but I was too busy counting teeth to pay much attention.
‘You ought to feed that dog,’ I says, absent-minded like. ‘He’s hungry.’

“‘Humph!’ says he. ‘Well, maybe he’ll be fed in a minute. Did you see
those signs?’

“‘Yes,’ says I; ‘I saw ‘em. They’re real neat and pretty.’

“‘Pretty!’ He fairly choked, he was so mad. ‘Why, you cheeky,
long-legged jay,’ he says, ‘I’ll--What are you crossing this field for?’

“‘So’s to get to t’other side of it, I guess,’ says I. I was riling up a
bit myself. You see, when a feller’s been mate of a schooner, like I’ve
been in my day, it don’t come easy to be called names. It looked for a
minute as if Allie was going to have a fit, but he choked it down.

“‘Look here!’ he says. ‘I know who you are. Just because the gov’ner
has been soft enough to let you countrymen walk all over him, it don’t
foller that I’m going to be. I’m boss here for this summer. My name’s--’
He told me his name, and how his dad had turned the place over to him
for the season, and a lot more. ‘I put those signs up,’ he says, ‘to
keep just such fellers as you are off my property. They mean that you
ain’t to cross the field. Understand?’

“I understood. I was mad clean through, but I’m law-abiding, generally
speaking. ‘All right,’ I says, picking up my dreeners and starting for
the farther fence; ‘I won’t cross it again.’

“‘You won’t cross it now,’ says he. ‘Go back where you come from.’

“That was a grain too much. I told him a few things. He didn’t wait for
the benediction. ‘Take him, Prince!’ he says, dropping the chain.

“Prince was willing. He fetched a kind of combination hurrah and growl
and let out for me full-tilt. I don’t feed good fresh clams to dogs as
a usual thing, but that mouth HAD to be filled. I waited till he was
almost on me, and then I let drive with one of the dreeners. Prince and
a couple of pecks of clams went up in the air like a busted bomb-shell,
and I broke for the fence I’d started for. I hung on to the other
dreener, though, just out of principle.

“But I had to let go of it, after all. The dog come out of the collision
looking like a plate of scrambled eggs, and took after me harder’n ever,
shedding shells and clam juice something scandalous. When he was right
at my heels I turned and fired the second dreener. And, by Judas, I
missed him!

“Well, principle’s all right, but there’s times when even the best of
us has to hedge. I simply couldn’t reach the farther fence, so I made
a quick jibe and put for the one behind me. And I couldn’t make that,
either. Prince was taking mouthfuls of my overalls for appetizers. There
was a little pine-tree in the lot, and I give one jump and landed in the
middle of it. I went up the rest of the way like I’d forgot something,
and then I clung onto the top of that tree and panted and swung round
in circles, while the dog hopped up and down on his hind legs and fairly
sobbed with disapp’intment.

“Allie was rolling on the grass. ‘Oh, DEAR me!’ says he, between spasms.
‘That was the funniest thing I ever saw.’

“I’d seen lots funnier things myself, but ‘twa’n’t worth while to argue.
Besides, I was busy hanging onto that tree. ‘Twas an awful little pine
and the bendiest one I ever climbed. Allie rolled around a while longer,
and then he gets up and comes over.

“‘Well, Reuben,’ says he, lookin’ up at me on the roost, ‘you’re a good
deal handsomer up there than you are on the ground. I guess I’ll let you
stay there for a while as a lesson to you. Watch him, Prince.’ And off
he walks.

“‘You everlasting clothes-pole,’ I yells after him, ‘if it wa’n’t for
that dog of yours I’d--’

“He turns around kind of lazy and says he: ‘Oh, you’ve got no kick
coming,’ he says. ‘I allow you to--er--ornament my tree, and ‘tain’t
every hayseed I’d let do that.’

“And away he goes; and for an hour that had no less’n sixty thousand
minutes in it I clung to that tree like a green apple, with Prince
setting open-mouthed underneath waiting for me to get ripe and drop.

“Just as I was figgering that I was growing fast to the limb, I heard
somebody calling my name. I unglued my eyes from the dog and looked up,
and there, looking over the fence that I’d tried so hard to reach, was
Barbara Saunders, Cap’n Eben Saunders’ girl, who lived in the house next
door to mine.

“Barbara was always a pretty girl, and that morning she looked prettier
than ever, with her black hair blowing every which way and her black
eyes snapping full of laugh. Barbara Saunders in a white shirt-waist
and an old, mended skirt could give ten lengths in a beauty race to any
craft in silks and satins that ever _I_ see, and beat ‘em hull down at
that.

“‘Why, Mr. Nickerson!’ she calls. ‘What are you doing up in that tree?’

“That was kind of a puzzler to answer offhand, and I don’t know what I’d
have said if friend Allie hadn’t hove in sight just then and saved me
the trouble. He come strolling out of the woods with a cigarette in his
mouth, and when he saw Barbara he stopped short and looked and looked
at her. And for a minute she looked at him, and the red come up in her
cheeks like a sunrise.

“‘Beg pardon, I’m sure,’ says Allie, tossing away the cigarette. ‘May I
ask if that--er--deep-sea gentleman in my tree is a friend of yours?’

“Barbara kind of laughed and dropped her eyes, and said why, yes, I was.

“‘By Jove! he’s luckier than I thought,’ says Allie, never taking his
eyes from her face. ‘And what do they call him, please, when they want
him to answer?’ That’s what he asked, though, mind you, he’d said he
knew who I was when he first saw me.

“‘It’s Mr. Nickerson,’ says Barbara. ‘He lives in that house there. The
one this side of ours.’

“‘Oh, a neighbor! That’s different. Awfully sorry, I’m sure. Prince,
come here. Er--Nickerson, for the lady’s sake we’ll call it off. You
may--er--vacate the perch.’

“I waited till he’d got a clove-hitch onto Prince. He had to give him
one or two welts over the head ‘fore he could do it; the dog acted like
he’d been cheated. Then I pried myself loose from that blessed limb
and shinned down to solid ground. My! but I was b’iling inside.
‘Taint pleasant to be made a show afore folks, but ‘twas the feller’s
condescending what-excuse-you-got-for-living manners that riled me most.

“I picked up what was left of the dreeners and walked over to the fence.
That field was just sowed, as you might say, with clams. If they ever
sprouted ‘twould make a tip-top codfish pasture.

“‘You see,’ says Allie, talking to Barbara; ‘the gov’nor told me he’d
been plagued with trespassers, so I thought I’d give ‘em a lesson. But
neighbors, when they’re scarce as ours are, ought to be friends. Don’t
you think so, Miss--? Er--Nickerson,’ says he, ‘introduce me to our
other neighbor.’

“So I had to do it, though I didn’t want to. He turned loose some soft
soap about not realizing afore what a beautiful place the Cape was. I
thought ‘twas time to go.

“‘But Miss Saunders hasn’t answered my question yet,’ says Allie. ‘Don’t
YOU think neighbors ought to be friends, Miss Saunders?’

“Barbara blushed and laughed and said she guessed they had. Then she
walked away. I started to follow, but Allie stopped me.

“‘Look here, Nickerson,’ says he. ‘I let you off this time, but don’t
try it again; do you hear?’

“‘I hear,’ says I. ‘You and that hyena of yours have had all the fun
this morning. Some day, maybe, the boot’ll be on t’other leg.’

“Barbara was waiting for me. We walked on together without speaking for
a minute. Then I says, to myself like: ‘So that’s old man Davidson’s
son, is it? Well, he’s the prize peach in the crate, he is!’

“Barbara was thinking, too. ‘He’s very nice looking, isn’t he?’ says
she. ‘Twas what you’d expect a girl to say, but I hated to hear her say
it. I went home and marked a big chalk-mark on the inside of my shanty
door, signifying that I had a debt so pay some time or other.

“So that’s how I got acquainted with Allie V. P. Davidson. And, what’s
full as important, that’s how he got acquainted with Barbara Saunders.

“Shutting an innocent canary-bird up in the same room with a healthy cat
is a more or less risky proposition for the bird. Same way, if you take
a pretty country girl who’s been to sea with her dad most of the time
and tied to the apron-strings of a deef old aunt in a house three
miles from nowhere--you take that girl, I say, and then fetch along,
as next-door neighbor, a good-looking young shark like Allie, with a
hogshead of money and a blame sight too much experience, and that’s a
risky proposition for the girl.

“Allie played his cards well; he’d set into a good many similar games
afore, I judge. He begun by doing little favors for Phoebe Ann--she was
the deef aunt I mentioned--and ‘twa’n’t long afore he was as solid
with the old lady as a kedge-anchor. He had a way of dropping into
the Saunders house for a drink of water or a slab of ‘that delicious
apple-pie,’ and with every drop he got better acquainted with Barbara.
Cap’n Eben was on a v’yage to Buenos Ayres and wouldn’t be home till
fall, ‘twa’n’t likely.

“I didn’t see a great deal of what was going on, being too busy with my
fishweirs and clamming to notice. Allie and me wa’n’t exactly David and
Jonathan, owing, I judge, to our informal introduction to each other.
But I used to see him scooting ‘round in his launch--twenty-five foot,
she was, with a little mahogany cabin and the land knows what--and
the servants at the big house told me yarns about his owning a big
steam-yacht, with a sailing-master and crew, which was cruising round
Newport somewheres.

“But, busy as I was, I see enough to make me worried. There was a good
deal of whispering over the Saunders back gate after supper, and once,
when I come up over the bluff from the shore sudden, they was sitting
together on a rock and he had his arm round her waist. I dropped a hint
to Phoebe Ann, but she shut me up quicker’n a snap-hinge match-box.
Allie had charmed ‘auntie’ all right. And so it drifted along till
September.

“One Monday evening about the middle of the month I went over to Phoebe
Ann’s to borrow some matches. Barbara wasn’t in--gone out to lock up
the hens, or some such fool excuse. But Phoebe was busting full of joy.
Cap’n Eben had arrived in New York a good deal sooner’n was expected and
would be home on Thursday morning.

“‘He’s going from Boston to Provincetown on the steamer, Wednesday,’
says Phoebe. ‘He’s got some business over there. Then he’s coming home
from Provincetown on the early train. Ain’t that splendid?’

“I thought ‘twas splendid for more reasons than one, and I went out
feeling good. But as I come round the corner of the house there was
somebody by the back gate, and I heard a girl’s voice sayin’: ‘Oh, no,
no! I can’t! I can’t!’

“If I hadn’t trod on a stick maybe I’d have heard more, but the racket
broke up the party. Barbara come hurrying past me into the house, and
by the light from the back door, I see her face. ‘Twas white as a
clam-shell, and she looked frightened to death.

“Thinks I: ‘That’s funny! It’s a providence Eben’s coming home so soon.’

“And the next day I saw her again, and she was just as white and
wouldn’t look me in the eye. Wednesday, though, I felt better, for the
servants on the Davidson place told me that Allie had gone to Boston on
the morning train to be gone for good, and that they was going to shut
up the house and haul up the launch in a day or so.

“Early that afternoon, as I was coming from my shanty to the bluff on
my way to the shore after dinner, I noticed a steam-yacht at anchor two
mile or so off the bar. She must have come there sence I got in, and I
wondered whose she was. Then I see a dingey with three men aboard rowing
in, and I walked down the beach to meet ‘em.

“Sometimes I think there is such things as what old Parson Danvers used
to call ‘dispensations.’ This was one of ‘em. There was a feller in
a uniform cap steering the dingey, and, b’lieve it or not, I’ll be
everlastingly keelhauled if he didn’t turn out to be Ben Henry, who was
second mate with me on the old Seafoam. He was surprised enough to see
me, and glad, too, but he looked sort of worried.

“‘Well, Ben,’ says I, after we had shook hands, ‘well, Ben,’ I says, ‘my
shanty ain’t exactly the United States Hotel for gilt paint and bill of
fare, but I HAVE got eight or ten gallons of home-made cherry rum and
some terbacker and an extry pipe. You fall into my wake.’

“‘I’d like to, Obed,’ he says; ‘I’d like to almighty well, but I’ve got
to go up to the store, if there is such a thing in this metropolus, and
buy some stuff that I forgot to get in Newport. You see, we got orders
to sail in a tearing hurry, and--’

“‘Send one of them fo’mast hands to the store,’ says I. ‘You got to come
with me.’

“He hemmed and hawed a while, but he was dry, and I shook the cherry-rum
jug at him, figuratively speaking, so finally he give in.

“‘You buy so and so,’ says he to his men, passing ‘em a ten-dollar
bill. ‘And mind, you don’t know nothing. If anybody asks, remember that
yacht’s the Mermaid--M-U-R-M-A-D-E,’ he says, ‘and she belongs to Mr.
Jones, of Mobile, Georgia.’

“So the men went away, and me and Ben headed for my shanty, where we
moored abreast of each other at the table, with a jug between us for a
buoy, so’s to speak. We talked old times and spun yarns, and the tide
went out in the jug consider’ble sight faster than ‘twas ebbing on the
flats. After a spell I asked him about the man that owned the yacht.

“‘Who? Oh--er--Brown?’ he says. ‘Why, he’s--’

“‘Brown?’ says I. ‘Thought you said ‘twas Jones?’

“Well, that kind of upset him, and he took some cherry-rum to grease his
memory. Then I asked more questions and he tried to answer ‘em, and got
worse tangled than ever. Finally I had to laugh.

“‘Look here, Ben,’ says I. ‘You can’t fetch port on that tack. The
truth’s ten mile astern of you. Who does own that yacht, anyway?’

“He looked at me mighty solemn--cherry-rum solemn. ‘Obed,’ he says,
‘you’re a good feller. Don’t you give me away, now, or I’ll lose my
berth. The man that owns that yacht’s named Davidson, and he’s got a
summer place right in this town.’

“‘Davidson!’ says I. ‘DAVIDSON? Not young Allie Davidson?’

“‘That’s him,’ says he. ‘And he’s the blankety blankest meanest low-down
cub on earth. There! I feel some better. Give me another drink to take
the taste of him out of my mouth.’

“‘But young Davidson’s gone to Boston,’ I says. ‘Went this morning.’

“‘That be hanged!’ says Ben. ‘All I know is that I got a despatch from
him at Newport on Monday afternoon, telling me to have the yacht abreast
this town at twelve o’clock to-night, ‘cause he was coming off to her
then in his launch with a friend. Friend!’ And he laughed and winked his
starboard eye.

“I didn’t say much, being too busy thinking, but Ben went on telling
about other cruises with ‘friends.’ Oh, a steam-yacht can be a
first-class imitation of hell if the right imp owns her. Henry got
speaking of one time down along the Maine coast.

“‘But,’ says I, referring to what he was telling, ‘if she was such a
nice girl and come from such nice folks, how--’

“‘How do I know?’ says he. ‘Promises to marry and such kind of lies, I
s’pose. And the plain fact is that he’s really engaged to marry a swell
girl in Newport.’

“He told me her name and a lot more about her. I tried to remember the
most of it, but my head was whirling--and not from cherry rum,
either. All I could think was: ‘Obed, it’s up to you! You’ve got to do
something.’

“I was mighty glad when the sailors hailed from the shore and Ben had to
go. He ‘most cried when he said good-by, and went away stepping high and
bringing his heels down hard. I watched the dingey row off--the tide
was out, so there was barely water for her to get clear--and then I went
back home to think. And I thought all the afternoon.

“Two and two made four, anyway I could add it up, but ‘twas all
suspicion and no real proof, that was the dickens of it. I couldn’t
speak to Phoebe Ann; she wouldn’t b’lieve me if I did. I couldn’t
telegraph Cap’n Eben at Provincetown to come home that night; I’d have
to tell him the whole thing and I knew his temper, so, for Barbara’s
sake, ‘twouldn’t do. I couldn’t be at the shore to stop the launch
leaving. What right had I to stop another man’s launch, even--

“No, ‘twas up to me, and I thought and thought till after supper-time.
And then I had a plan--a risky chance, but a chance, just the same. I
went up to the store and bought four feet of medium-size rubber hose and
some rubber tape, same as they sell to bicycle fellers in the summer.
‘Twas almost dark when I got back in sight of my shanty, and instead of
going to it I jumped that board fence that me and Prince had negotiated
for, hustled along the path past the notice boards, and went down the
bluff on t’other side of Davidson’s p’int. And there in the deep hole
by the end of the little pier, out of sight of the house on shore, was
Allie’s launch. By what little light there was left I could see the
brass rails shining.

“But I didn’t stop to admire ‘em. I give one look around. Nobody was
in sight. Then I ran down the pier and jumped aboard. Almost the first
thing I put my hand on was what I was looking for--the bilge-pump. ‘Twas
a small affair, that you could lug around in one hand, but mighty handy
for keeping a boat of that kind dry.

“I fitted one end of my hose to the lower end of that pump and wrapped
rubber tape around the j’int till she sucked when I tried her over the
side. Then I turned on the cocks in the gasoline pipes fore and aft, and
noticed that the carbureter feed cup was chock full. Then I was ready
for business.

“I went for’ard, climbing over the little low cabin that was just big
enough for a man to crawl into, till I reached the brass cap in the deck
over the gasoline-tank. Then I unscrewed the cap, run my hose down into
the tank, and commenced to pump good fourteen-cents-a-gallon gasoline
overboard to beat the cars. ‘Twas a thirty-gallon tank, and full up. I
begun to think I’d never get her empty, but I did, finally. I pumped
her dry. Then I screwed the cap on again and went home, taking Allie’s
bilge-pump with me, for I couldn’t stop to unship the hose. The tide was
coming in fast.

“At nine o’clock that night I was in my skiff, rowing off to where my
power-boat laid in deep water back of the bar. When I reached her I made
the skiff fast astern, lit a lantern, which I put in a locker under a
thwart, and set still in the pitch-dark, smoking and waiting.

“‘Twas a long, wearisome wait. There was a no’thwest wind coming up, and
the waves were running pretty choppy on the bar. All I could think of
was that gasoline. Was there enough in the pipes and the feed cup on
that launch to carry her out to where I was? Or was there too much, and
would she make the yacht, after all?

“It got to be eleven o’clock. Tide was full at twelve. I was a pretty
good candidate for the crazy house by this time. I’d listened till my
ear-drums felt slack, like they needed reefing. And then at last I heard
her coming--CHUFF-chuff! CHUFF-chuff! CHUFF-chuff!

“And HOW she did come! She walked up abreast of me, went past me, a
hundred yards or so off. Thinks I: ‘It’s all up. He’s going to make it.’

“And then, all at once, the ‘chuff-chuff-ing’ stopped. Started up
and stopped again. I gave a hurrah, in my mind, pulled the skiff up
alongside and jumped into her, taking the lantern with me, under my
coat. Then I set the light between my feet, picked up the oars and
started rowing.

“I rowed quiet as I could, but he heard me ‘fore I got to him. I heard
a scrambling noise off ahead, and then a shaky voice hollers: ‘Hello!
who’s that?’

“‘It’s me,’ says I, rowing harder’n ever. ‘Who are you? What’s the row?’

“There was more scrambling and a slam, like a door shutting. In another
two minutes I was alongside the launch and held up my lantern. Allie was
there, fussing with his engine. And he was all alone.

“Alone he was, I say, fur’s a body could see, but he was mighty shaky
and frightened. Also, ‘side of him, on the cushions, was a girl’s
jacket, and I thought I’d seen that jacket afore.

“‘Hello!’ says I. ‘Is that you, Mr. Davidson? Thought you’d gone to
Boston?’

“‘Changed my mind,’ he says. ‘Got any gasoline?’

“‘What you doing off here this time of night?’ I says.

“‘Going out to my--’ He stopped. I s’pose the truth choked him. ‘I was
going to Provincetown,’ he went on. ‘Got any gasoline?’

“‘What in the nation you starting to Provincetown in the middle of the
night for?’ I asks, innocent as could be.

“‘Oh, thunder! I had business there, that’s all. GOT ANY GASOLINE?’

“I made my skiff’s painter fast to a cleat on the launch and climbed
aboard. ‘Gasoline?’ says I. ‘Gasoline? Why, yes; I’ve got some gasoline
over on my power-boat out yonder. Has yours give out? I should
think you’d filled your tank ‘fore you left home on such a trip as
Provincetown. Maybe the pipe’s plugged or something. Have you looked?’
And I caught hold of the handle of the cabin-door.

“He jumped and grabbed me by the arm. ‘’Tain’t plugged,’ he yells,
sharp. ‘The tank’s empty, I tell you.’

“He kept pulling me away from the cabin, but I hung onto the handle.

“‘You can’t be too sure,’ I says. ‘This door’s locked. Give me the key.’

“‘I--I left the key at home,’ he says. ‘Don’t waste time. Go over to
your boat and fetch me some gasoline. I’ll pay you well for it.’

“Then I was sartin of what I suspicioned. The cabin was locked, but
not with the key. THAT was in the keyhole. The door was bolted ON THE
INSIDE.

“‘All right,’ says I. ‘I’ll sell you the gasoline, but you’ll have to
go with me in the skiff to get it. Get your anchor over or this craft’ll
drift to Eastham. Hurry up.’

“He didn’t like the idee of leaving the launch, but I wouldn’t hear of
anything else. While he was heaving the anchor I commenced to talk to
him.

“‘I didn’t know but what you’d started for foreign parts to meet that
Newport girl you’re going to marry,’ I says, and I spoke good and loud.

“He jumped so I thought he’d fall overboard.

“‘What’s that?’ he shouts.

“‘Why, that girl you’re engaged to,’ says I. ‘Miss--’ and I yelled her
name, and how she’d gone abroad with his folks, and all.

“‘Shut up!’ he whispers, waving his hands, frantic. ‘Don’t stop to lie.
Hurry up!’

“‘’Tain’t a lie. Oh, I know about it!’ I hollers, as if he was deef. I
meant to be heard--by him and anybody else that might be interested.
I give a whole lot more partic’lars, too. He fairly shoved me into the
skiff, after a spell.

“‘Now,’ he says, so mad he could hardly speak, ‘stop your lying and row,
will you!’

“I was willing to row then. I cal’lated I’d done some missionary work
by this time. Allie’s guns was spiked, if I knew Barbara Saunders. I
p’inted the skiff the way she’d ought to go and laid to the oars.

“My plan had been to get him aboard the skiff and row
somewheres--ashore, if I could. But ‘twas otherwise laid out for me. The
wind was blowing pretty fresh, and the skiff was down by the stern, so’s
the waves kept knocking her nose round. ‘Twas dark’n a pocket, too. I
couldn’t tell where I WAS going.

“Allie got more fidgety every minute. ‘Ain’t we ‘most there?’ he asks.
And then he gives a screech. ‘What’s that ahead?’

“I turned to see, and as I done it the skiff’s bow slid up on something.
I give an awful yank at the port oar; she slewed and tilted; a wave
caught her underneath, and the next thing I knew me and Allie and the
skiff was under water, bound for the bottom. We’d run acrost one of the
guy-ropes of my fish-weir.

“This wa’n’t in the program. I hit sand with a bump and pawed up for
air. When I got my head out I see a water-wheel doing business close
along-side of me. It was Allie.

“‘Help!’ he howls. ‘Help! I’m drowning!’

“I got him by the collar, took one stroke and bumped against the
weir-nets. You know what a fish-weir’s like, don’t you, Mr. Brown?--a
kind of pound, made of nets hung on ropes between poles.

“‘Help!’ yells Allie, clawing the nets. ‘I can’t swim in rough water!’

“You might have known he couldn’t. It looked sort of dubious for a
jiffy. Then I had an idee. I dragged him to the nighest weir-pole.
‘Climb!’ I hollers in his ear. ‘Climb that pole.’

“He done it, somehow, digging his toes into the net and going up like a
cat up a tree. When he got to the top he hung acrost the rope and shook.

“‘Hang on there!’ says I. ‘I’m going after the boat.’ And I struck out.
He yelled to me not to leave him, but the weir had give me my bearings,
and I was bound for my power-boat. ‘Twas a tough swim, but I made it,
and climbed aboard, not feeling any too happy. Losing a good skiff was
more’n I’d figgered on.

“Soon’s I got some breath I hauled anchor, started up my engine and
headed back for the weir. I run along-side of it, keeping a good lookout
for guy-ropes, and when I got abreast of that particular pole I looked
for Allie. He was setting on the rope, a-straddle of the pole, and
hanging onto the top of it like it owed him money. He looked a good deal
more comfortable than I was when he and Prince had treed me. And the
remembrance of that time come back to me, and one of them things they
call inspiration come with it. He was four feet above water, ‘twas full
tide then, and if he set still he was safe as a church.

“So instead of running in after him, I slowed ‘way down and backed off.

“‘Come here!’ he yells. ‘Come here, you fool, and take me aboard.’

“‘Oh, I don’t know,’ says I. ‘You’re safe there, and, even if the
yacht folks don’t come hunting for you by and by--which I cal’late they
will--the tide’ll be low enough in five hours or so, so’s you can walk
ashore.’

“‘What--what do you mean?’ he says. ‘Ain’t you goin’ to take me off?’

“‘I was,’ says I, ‘but I’ve changed my plans. And, Mr. Allie
Vander-what’s-your-name Davidson, there’s other things--low-down, mean
things--planned for this night that ain’t going to come off, either.
Understand that, do you?’

“He understood, I guess. He didn’t answer at all. Only gurgled, like
he’d swallered something the wrong way.

“Then the beautiful tit for tat of the whole business come to me, and I
couldn’t help rubbing it in a little. ‘As a sartin acquaintance of mine
once said to me,’ I says, ‘you look a good deal handsomer up there than
you do in a boat.’

“‘You--you--etcetery and so forth, continued in our next!’ says he, or
words to that effect.

“‘That’s all right,’ says I, putting on the power. ‘You’ve got no kick
coming. I allow you to--er--ornament my weir-pole, and ‘tain’t every
dude I’d let do that.’

“And I went away and, as the Fifth Reader used to say, ‘let him alone in
his glory.’

“I went back to the launch, pulled up her anchor and took her in tow. I
towed her in to her pier, made her fast and then left her for a while.
When I come back the little cabin-door was open and the girl’s jacket
was gone.

“Then I walked up the path to the Saunders house and it done me good to
see a light in Barbara’s window. I set on the steps of that house until
morning keeping watch. And in the morning the yacht was gone and the
weir-pole was vacant, and Cap’n Eben Saunders come on the first train.

“So’s that’s all there is of it. Allie hasn’t come back to Bayport
sence, and the last I heard he’d married that Newport girl; she has my
sympathy, if that’s any comfort to her.

“And Barbara? Well, for a long time she’d turn white every time I met
her. But, of course, I kept my mouth shut, and she went to sea next
v’yage with her dad. And now I hear she’s engaged to a nice feller up to
Boston.

“Oh, yes--one thing more. When I got back to my shanty that morning I
wiped the chalkmark off the door. I kind of figgered that I’d paid that
debt, with back interest added.”



THE LOVE OF LOBELIA ‘ANKINS


Obed’s yarn being done, and friend Davidson done too, and brown at that,
Peter T. passed around another relay of cigars and we lit up. ‘Twas
Cap’n Eri that spoke first.

“Love’s a queer disease, anyway,” says he. “Ain’t it, now? ‘Twould
puzzle you and me to figger out what that Saunders girl see to like in
the Davidson critter. It must be a dreadful responsible thing to be so
fascinating. I never felt that responsibleness but once--except when I
got married, of course--and that was a good many years ago, when I was
going to sea on long v’yages, and was cruising around the East Indies,
in the latitude of our new troubles, the Philippines.

“I put in about three months on one of them little coral islands off
that way once. Hottest corner in the Lord’s creation, I cal’late, and
the laziest and sleepiest hole ever I struck. All a feller feels like
doing in them islands is just to lay on his back under a palm tree all
day and eat custard-apples, and such truck.

“Way I come to be there was like this: I was fo’mast hand on a Boston
hooker bound to Singapore after rice. The skipper’s name was Perkins,
Malachi C. Perkins, and he was the meanest man that ever wore a
sou’-wester. I’ve had the pleasure of telling him so sence--‘twas in
Surinam ‘long in ‘72. Well, anyhow, Perkins fed us on spiled salt junk
and wormy hard-tack all the way out, and if a feller dast to hint that
the same wa’n’t precisely what you’d call Parker House fare, why the
skipper would knock him down with a marline-spike and the first mate
would kick him up and down the deck. ‘Twan’t a pretty performance to
look at, but it beat the world for taking the craving for fancy cooking
out of a man.

“Well, when I got to Singapore I was nothing but skin and bone, and
considerable of the skin had been knocked off by the marline-spike and
the mate’s boots. I’d shipped for the v’yage out and back, but the first
night in port I slipped over the side, swum ashore, and never set eyes
on old Perkins again till that time in Surinam, years afterward.

“I knocked round them Singapore docks for much as a month, hoping to
get a berth on some other ship, but ‘twan’t no go. I fell in with a
Britisher named Hammond, ‘Ammond, he called it, and as he was on the
same hunt that I was, we kept each other comp’ny. We done odd jobs now
‘n’ again, and slept in sailors’ lodging houses when we had the price,
and under bridges or on hemp bales when we hadn’t. I was too proud to
write home for money, and Hammond didn’t have no home to write to, I
cal’late.

“But luck ‘ll turn if you give it time enough. One night Hammond come
hurrying round to my sleeping-room--that is to say, my hemp bale--and
gives me a shake, and says he:

“‘Turn out, you mud ‘ead, I’ve got you a berth.’

“‘Aw, go west!’ says I, and turned over to go to sleep again. But he
pulled me off the bale by the leg, and that woke me up so I sensed what
he was saying. Seems he’d found a feller that wanted to ship a couple of
fo’mast hands on a little trading schooner for a trip over to the Java
Sea.

“Well, to make a long story short, we shipped with this feller, whose
name was Lazarus. I cal’late if the Lazarus in Scriptur’ had been up to
as many tricks and had come as nigh being a thief as our Lazarus was,
he wouldn’t have been so poor. Ourn was a shrewd rascal and nothing more
nor less than a pearl poacher. He didn’t tell us that till after we sot
sail, but we was so desperate I don’t know as ‘twould have made much
diff’rence if he had.

“We cruised round for a spell, sort of prospecting, and then we landed
at a little one-horse coral island, where there wa’n’t no inhabitants,
but where we was pretty dead sartin there was pearl oyster banks in
the lagoon. There was five of us on the schooner, a Dutchman named
Rhinelander, a Coolie cook and Lazarus and Hammond and me. We put up a
slab shanty on shore and went to work pearl fishing, keeping one eye out
for Dutch gunboats, and always having a sago palm ready to split open
so’s, if we got caught, we could say we was after sago.

“Well, we done fairly good at the pearl fishing; got together quite a
likely mess of pearls, and, as ‘twas part of the agreement that the crew
had a certain share in the stake, why, Hammond and me was figgering
that we was going to make enough to more’n pay us for our long spell of
starving at Singapore. Lazarus was feeling purty middling chipper, the
cook was feeding us high, and everything looked lovely.

“Rhinelander and the Coolie and the skipper used to sleep aboard the
boat, but Hammond and me liked to sleep ashore in the shanty. For one
thing, the bunks on the schooner wa’n’t none too clean, and the Coolie
snored so that he’d shake the whole cabin, and start me dreaming
about cyclones, and cannons firing, and lions roaring, and all kind of
foolishness. I always did hate a snorer.

“One morning me and Hammond come out of the shanty, and, lo and behold
you! there wa’n’t no schooner to be seen. That everlasting Lazarus had
put up a job on us, and had sneaked off in the night with the cook and
the Dutchman, and took our share of the pearls with him. I s’pose he’d
cal’lated to do it from the very first. Anyway, there we was, marooned
on that little two-for-a-cent island.

“The first day we didn’t do much but cuss Lazarus up hill and down dale.
Hammond was the best at that kind of business ever I see. He invented
more’n four hundred new kind of names for the gang on the schooner, and
every one of ‘em was brimstone-blue. We had fish lines in the shanty,
and there was plenty of water on the island, so we knew we wouldn’t
starve to death nor die of thirst, anyhow.

“I’ve mentioned that ‘twas hot in them parts? Well, that island was the
hottest of ‘em all. Whew! Don’t talk! And, more’n that, the weather was
the kind that makes you feel it’s a barrel of work to live. First day
we fished and slept. Next day we fished less and slept more. Third day
‘twas too everlasting hot even to sleep, so we set round in the shade
and fought flies and jawed each other. Main trouble was who was goin’ to
git the meals. Land, how we did miss that Coolie cook!

“‘W’y don’t yer get to work and cook something fit to heat?’ says
Hammond. ‘’Ere I broke my bloomin’ back ‘auling in the fish, and you
doing nothing but ‘anging around and letting ‘em dry hup in the ‘eat.
Get to work and cook. Blimed if I ain’t sick of these ‘ere custard
apples!’

“‘Go and cook yourself,’ says I. ‘I didn’t sign articles to be cook for
no Johnny Bull!’

“Well, we jawed back and forth for an hour, maybe more. Two or three
times we got up to have it out, but ‘twas too hot to fight, so we set
down again. Fin’lly we eat some supper, custard apples and water, and
turned in.

“But ‘twas too hot to sleep much, and I got up about three o’clock in
the morning and went out and set down on the beach in the moonlight.
Pretty soon out comes Hammond and sets down alongside and begins to give
the weather a general overhauling, callin’ it everything he could lay
tongue to. Pretty soon he breaks off in the middle of a nine-j’inted
swear word and sings out:

“‘Am I goin’ crazy, or is that a schooner?’

“I looked out into the moonlight, and there, sure enough, was a
schooner, about a mile off the island, and coming dead on. First-off
we thought ‘twas Lazarus coming back, but pretty soon we see ‘twas a
considerable smaller boat than his.

“We forgot all about how hot it was and hustled out on the reef right at
the mouth of the lagoon. I had a coat on a stick, and I waved it for a
signal, and Hammond set to work building a bonfire. He got a noble one
blazing and then him and me stood and watched the schooner.

“She was acting dreadful queer. First she’d go ahead on one tack and
then give a heave over and come about with a bang, sails flapping and
everything of a shake; then she’d give another slat and go off another
way; but mainly she kept right on toward the island.

“‘W’at’s the matter aboard there?’ says Hammond. ‘Is hall ‘ands drunk?’

“‘She’s abandoned,’ says I. ‘That’s what’s the matter. There ain’t
NOBODY aboard of her.’

“Then we both says, ‘Salvage!’ and shook hands.

“The schooner came nearer and nearer. It begun to look as if she’d smash
against the rocks in front of us, but she didn’t. When she got opposite
the mouth of the lagoon she heeled over on a new tack and sailed in
between the rocks as pretty as anything ever you see. Then she run
aground on the beach just about a quarter of a mile from the shanty.

“‘Twas early morning when we climbed aboard of her. I thought Lazarus’
schooner was dirty, but this one was nothing BUT dirt. Dirty sails, all
patches, dirty deck, dirty everything.

“‘Won’t get much salvage on this bally tub,’ says Hammond; ‘she’s one of
them nigger fish boats, that’s w’at she is.’

“I was kind of skittish about going below, ‘fraid there might be some
dead folks, but Hammond went. In a minute or so up he comes, looking
scary.

“‘There’s something mighty queer down there,’ says he: ‘kind of w’eezing
like a puffing pig.’

“‘Wheezing your grandmother!’ says I, but I went and listened at the
hatch. ‘Twas a funny noise I heard, but I knew what it was in a minute;
I’d heard too much of it lately to forget it, right away.

“‘It’s snoring,’ says I; ‘somebody snoring.’

“‘’Eavens!’ says Hammond, ‘you don’t s’pose it’s that ‘ere Coolie come
back?’

“‘No, no!’ says I. ‘Where’s your common sense? The cook snored bass;
this critter’s snoring suppraner, and mighty poor suppraner at that.’

“‘Well,’ says he, ‘’ere goes to wake ‘im hup!’ And he commenced to
holler, ‘Ahoy!’ and ‘Belay, there!’ down the hatch.

“First thing we heard was a kind of thump like somebody jumping out er
bed. Then footsteps, running like; then up the hatchway comes a sight I
shan’t forget if I live to be a hundred.

“‘Twas a woman, middling old, with a yeller face all wrinkles, and a
chin and nose like Punch. She was dressed in a gaudy old calico gown,
and had earrings in her ears. She give one look round at the schooner
and the island. Then she see us and let out a whoop like a steam
whistle.

“‘Mulligatawny Sacremento merlasess!’ she yells. ‘Course that wa’n’t
what she said, but that’s what it sounded like. Then, ‘fore Hammond
could stop her, she run for him and give him a rousing big hug. He was
the most surprised man ever you see, stood there like a wooden image. I
commenced to laff, but the next minute the woman come for me and hugged
me, too.

“‘’Fectionate old gal,’ says Hammond, grinning.

“The critter in the calirco gown was going through the craziest
pantomime ever was; p’intin’ off to sea and then down to deck and then
up to the sails. I didn’t catch on for a minute, but Hammond did. Says
he:

“‘Showing us w’ere this ‘ere palatial yacht come from. ‘Ad a rough
passage, it looks like!’

“Then the old gal commenced to get excited. She p’inted over the side
and made motions like rowing. Then she p’inted down the hatch and shut
her eyes and purtended to snore. After that she rowed again, all the
time getting madder and madder, with her little black eyes a-snapping
like fire coals and stomping her feet and shaking her fists. Fin’lly she
finished up with a regular howl, you might say, of rage.

“‘The crew took to the boat and left ‘er asleep below,’ says Hammond.
‘’Oly scissors: they’re in for a lively time if old Nutcrackers ‘ere
ever catches ‘em, ‘ey?’

“Well, we went over the schooner and examined everything, but there
wa’n’t nothing of any value nowheres. ‘Twas a reg’lar nigger fishing
boat, with dirt and cockroaches by the pailful. At last we went ashore
agin and up to the shanty, taking the old woman with us. After eating
some more of them tiresome custard apples for breakfast, Hammond and me
went down to look over the schooner agin. We found she’d started a plank
running aground on the beach, and that ‘twould take us a week to get her
afloat and watertight.

“While we was doing this the woman come down and went aboard. Pretty
soon we see her going back to the shanty with her arms full of bundles
and truck. We didn’t think anything of it then, but when we got home
at noon, there was the best dinner ever you see all ready for us. Fried
fish, and some kind of beans cooked up with peppers, and tea--real store
tea--and a lot more things. Land, how we did eat! We kept smacking our
lips and rubbing our vests to show we was enjoying everything, and the
old gal kept bobbing her head and grinning like one of them dummies you
wind up with a key.

“‘Well,’ says Hammond, ‘we’ve got a cook at last. Ain’t we,
old--old--Blimed if we’ve got a name for ‘er yet! Here!’ says he,
pointing to me. ‘Looky here, missis! ‘Edge! ‘Edge! that’s ‘im! ‘Ammond!
‘Ammond! that’s me. Now, ‘oo are YOU?’

“She rattled off a name that had more double j’ints in it than an eel.

“‘Lordy!’ says I; ‘we never can larn that rigamarole. I tell you! She
looks for all the world like old A’nt Lobelia Fosdick at home down on
Cape Cod. Let’s call her that.’

“‘She looks to me like the mother of a oysterman I used to know in
Liverpool. ‘Is name was ‘Ankins. Let’s split the difference and call ‘er
Lobelia ‘Ankins.’

“So we done it.

“Well, Hammond and me pounded and patched away at the schooner for the
next three or four days, taking plenty of time off to sleep in, ‘count
of the heat, but getting along fairly well.

“Lobelia ‘Ankins cooked and washed dishes for us. She done some noble
cooking, ‘specially as we wa’n’t partic’lar, but we could see she had a
temper to beat the Old Scratch. If anything got burned, or if the kittle
upset, she’d howl and stomp and scatter things worse than a cyclone.

“I reckon ‘twas about the third day that I noticed she was getting sweet
on Hammond. She was giving him the best of all the vittles, and used
to set at the table and look at him, softer’n and sweeter’n a bucket of
molasses. Used to walk ‘longside of him, too, and look up in his face
and smile. I could see that he noticed it and that it was worrying him a
heap. One day he says to me:

“‘’Edge,’ says he, ‘I b’lieve that ‘ere chromo of a Lobelia ‘Ankins is
getting soft on me.’

“‘’Course she is,’ says I; ‘I see that a long spell ago.’

“‘But what’ll I DO?’ says he. ‘A woman like ‘er is a desp’rate
character. If we hever git hashore she might be for lugging me to the
church and marrying me by main force.’

“‘Then you’ll have to marry her, for all I see,’ says I. ‘You shouldn’t
be so fascinating.’

“That made him mad and he went off jawing to himself.

“The next day we got the schooner patched up and off the shoal and
‘longside Lazarus’ old landing wharf by the shanty. There was a little
more tinkering to be done ‘fore she was ready for sea, and we cal’lated
to do it that afternoon.

“After dinner Hammond went down to the spring after some water and
Lobelia ‘Ankins went along with him. I laid down in the shade for a
snooze, but I hadn’t much more than settled myself comfortably when
I heard a yell and somebody running. I jumped up just in time to see
Hammond come busting through the bushes, lickety smash, with Lobelia
after him, yelling like an Injun. Hammond wa’n’t yelling; he was saving
his breath for running.

“They wa’n’t in sight more’n a minute, but went smashing and crashing
through the woods into the distance. ‘Twas too hot to run after ‘em, so
I waited a spell and then loafed off in a roundabout direction toward
where I see ‘em go. After I’d walked pretty nigh a mile I heard Hammond
whistle. I looked, but didn’t see him nowheres. Then he whistled again,
and I see his head sticking out of the top of a palm tree.

“‘Is she gone?’ says he.

“‘Yes, long ago,’ says I. ‘Come down.’

“It took some coaxing to git him down, but he come after a spell, and he
was the scaredest man ever I see. I asked him what the matter was.

“‘’Edge,’ says he, ‘I’m a lost man. That ‘ere ‘orrible ‘Ankins houtrage
is either going to marry me or kill me. ‘Edge,’ he says, awful solemn,
‘she tried to kiss me! S’elp me, she did!’

“Well, I set back and laughed. ‘Is that why you run away?’ I says.

“‘No,’ says he. ‘When I wouldn’t let ‘er she hups with a rock as big as
my ‘ead and goes for me. There was murder in ‘er eyes, ‘Edge; I see it.’

“Then I laughed more than ever and told him to come back to the shanty,
but he wouldn’t. He swore he’d never come back again while Lobelia
‘Ankins was there.

“‘That’s it,’ says he, ‘larf at a feller critter’s sufferings. I honly
wish she’d try to kiss you once, that’s all!’

“Well, I couldn’t make him budge, so I decided to go back and get the
lay of the land. Lobelia was busy inside the shanty when I got there
and looking black as a thundercloud, so I judged ‘twa’n’t best to say
nothing to her, and I went down and finished the job on the schooner. At
night, when I come in to suppers she met me at the door. She had a big
stick in her hand and looked savage. I was a little nervous.

“‘Now, Lobelia ‘Ankins,’ says I, ‘put down that and be sociable, there’s
a good girl.’

“‘Course I knew she couldn’t understand me, but I was whistling to keep
my courage up, as the saying is.

“‘’Ammond!’ says she, p’inting toward the woods.

“‘Yes,’ says I, ‘Hammond’s taking a walk for his health.’

“‘’Ammond!’ says she, louder, and shaking the stick.

“‘Now, Lobelia,’ says I, smiling smooth as butter, ‘do put down that
club!’

“‘’AMMOND!’ she fairly hollers. Then she went through the most
blood-curdling pantomime ever was, I reckon. First she comes up to me
and taps me on the chest and says, ‘’Edge.’ Then she goes creeping round
the room on tiptoe, p’inting out of the winder all the time as much as
to say she was pertending to walk through the woods. Then she p’ints to
one of the stumps we used for chairs and screeches ‘AMMOND!’ and fetches
the stump an awful bang with the club. Then she comes over to me and
kinder snuggles up and smiles, and says, ‘’Edge,’ and tried to put the
club in my hand.

“My topnot riz up on my head. ‘Good Lord!’ thinks I, ‘she’s making love
to me so’s to get me to take that club and go and thump Hammond with
it!’

“I was scared stiff, but Lobelia was between me and the door, so I kept
smiling and backing away.

“‘Now, Lobelia,’ says I, ‘don’t be--’

“‘’Ammond!’ says she.

“‘Now, Miss ‘Ankins, d-o-n’t be hasty, I--’

“‘’AMMOND!

“Well, I backed faster and faster, and she follered me right up till at
last I begun to run. Round and round the place we went, me scart for my
life and she fairly frothing with rage. Finally I bust through the door
and put for the woods at a rate that beat Hammond’s going all holler.
I never stopped till I got close to the palm tree. Then I whistled and
Hammond answered.

“When I told him about the rumpus, he set and laughed like an idiot.

“‘’Ow d’you like Miss ‘Ankin’s love-making?’ he says.

“‘You’ll like it less’n I do,’ I says, ‘if she gets up here with that
club!’

“That kind of sobered him down again, and we got to planning. After a
spell, we decided that our only chance was to sneak down to the schooner
in the dark and put to sea, leaving Lobelia alone in her glory.

“Well, we waited till twelve o’clock or so and then we crept down to the
beach, tiptoeing past the shanty for fear of waking Lobelia. We got on
the schooner all right, hauled up anchor, h’isted sail and stood out of
the lagoon with a fair wind. When we was fairly to sea we shook hands.

“‘Lawd!’ says Hammond, drawing a long breath, ‘I never was so ‘appy in
my life. This ‘ere lady-killing business ain’t in my line.’

“He felt so good that he set by the wheel and sung, ‘Good-by, sweet’art,
good-by,’ for an hour or more.

“In the morning we was in sight of another small island, and, out on a
p’int, was a passel of folks jumping up and down and waving a signal.

“‘Well, if there ain’t more castaways!’ says I.

“‘Don’t go near ‘em!’ says Hammond. ‘Might come there was more Lobelias
among ‘em.’

“But pretty quick we see the crowd all pile into a boat and come rowing
off to us. They was all men, and their signal was a red flannel shirt on
a pole.

“We put about for ‘em and picked ‘em up, letting their boat tow behind
the schooner. There was five of ‘em, a ragged and dirty lot of Malays
and half-breeds. When they first climbed aboard, I see ‘em looking
the schooner over mighty sharp, and in a minute they was all jabbering
together in native lingo.

“‘What’s the matter with ‘em?’ says Hammond.

“A chap with scraggy black whiskers and a sort of worried look on his
face, stepped for’ard and made a bow. He looked like a cross between a
Spaniard and a Malay, and I guess that’s what he was.

“‘Senors,’ says he, palavering and scraping, ‘boat! my boat!’

“‘W’at’s ‘e giving us?’ says Hammond.

“‘Boat! This boat! My boat, senors,’ says the feller. All to once I
understood him.

“‘Hammond,’ I says, ‘I swan to man if I don’t believe we’ve picked up
the real crew of this craft!’

“‘Si, senor; boat, my boat! Crew! Crew!’ says Whiskers, waving his hands
toward the rest of his gang.

“‘Hall right, skipper,’ says Hammond; ‘glad to see yer back haboard.
Make yerselves well at ‘ome. ‘Ow d’ yer lose er in the first place?’

“The feller didn’t seem to understand much of this, but he looked more
worried than ever. The crew looked frightened, and jabbered.

“‘Ooman, senors,’ says Whiskers, in half a whisper. ‘Ooman, she here?’

“‘Hammond,’ says I, ‘what’s a ooman?’ The feller seemed to be thinkin’
a minute; then he began to make signs. He pulled his nose down till it
most touched his chin. Then he put his hands to his ears and made loops
of his fingers to show earrings. Then he took off his coat and wrapped
it round his knees like make-b’lieve skirts. Hammond and me looked at
each other.

“‘’Edge,’ says Hammond, ‘’e wants to know w’at’s become of Lobelia
‘Ankins.’

“‘No, senor,’ says I to the feller; ‘ooman no here. Ooman there!’ And I
p’inted in the direction of our island.

“Well, sir, you oughter have seen that Malay gang’s faces light up! They
all bust out a grinning and laffing, and Whiskers fairly hugged me and
then Hammond. Then he made one of the Malays take the wheel instead of
me, and sent another one into the fo’castle after something.

“But I was curious, and I says, p’inting toward Lobelia’s island:

“‘Ooman your wife?’

“‘No, no, no,’ says he, shaking his head like it would come off, ‘ooman
no wife. Wife there,’ and he p’inted about directly opposite from my
way. ‘Ooman,’ he goes on, ‘she no wife, she--’

“Just here the Malay come up from the fo’castle, grinning like a chessy
cat and hugging a fat jug of this here palm wine that natives make. I
don’t know where he got it from--I thought Hammond and me had rummaged
that fo’castle pretty well--but, anyhow, there it was.

“Whiskers passed the jug to me and I handed it over to Hammond. He stood
up to make a speech.

“‘Feller citizens,’ says he, ‘I rise to drink a toast. ‘Ere’s to the
beautchous Lobelia ‘Ankins, and may she long hornament the lovely island
where she now--’

“The Malay at the wheel behind us gave an awful screech. We all turned
sudden, and there, standing on the companion ladder, with her head and
shoulders out of the hatch, was Lobelia ‘Ankins, as large as life and
twice as natural.

“Hammond dropped the jug and it smashed into finders. We all stood
stock-still for a minute, like folks in a tableau. The half-breed
skipper stood next to me, and I snum if you couldn’t see him shrivel up
like one of them things they call a sensitive plant.

“The tableau lasted while a feller might count five; then things
happened. Hammond and me dodged around the deckhouse; the Malays broke
and run, one up the main rigging, two down the fo’castle hatch and one
out on the jib-boom. But the poor skipper wa’n’t satisfied with any of
them places; he started for the lee rail, and Lobelia ‘Ankins started
after him.

“She caught him as he was going to jump overboard and yanked him back
like he was a bag of meal. She shook him, she boxed his ears, she pulled
his hair, and all the time he was begging and pleading and she was
screeching and jabbering at the top of her lungs. Hammond pulled me by
the sleeve.

“‘It’ll be our turn next,’ says he; ‘get into the boat! Quick!’

“The little boat that the crew had come in was towing behind the
schooner. We slid over the stern and dropped into it. Hammond cut the
towline and we laid to the oars. Long as we was in the hearing of the
schooner the powwow and rumpus kept up, but just as we was landing on
the little island that the Malays had left, she come about on the port
tack and stood off to sea.

“‘Lobelia’s running things again,’ says Hammond.

“Three days after this we was took off by a Dutch gunboat. Most of
the time on the island we spent debating how Lobelia come to be on the
schooner. Finally we decided that she must have gone aboard to sleep
that night, suspecting that we’d try to run away in the schooner just as
we had tried to. We talked about Whiskers and his crew and guessed about
how they came to abandon their boat in the first place. One thing we was
sartin sure of, and that was that they’d left Lobelia aboard on purpose.
We knew mighty well that’s what we’d a-done.

“What puzzled us most was what relation Lobelia was to the skipper. She
wa’n’t his wife, ‘cause he’d said so, and she didn’t look enough like
him to be his mother or sister. But as we was being took off in the
Dutchman’s yawl, Hammond thumps the thwart with his fist and says he:

“‘I’ve got it!’ he says; ‘she’s ‘is mother-in-law!’

“‘’Course she is!’ says I. ‘We might have known it!’”



THE MEANNESS OF ROSY


Cap’n Jonadab said that the South Seas and them islands was full of
queer happenings, anyhow. Said that Eri’s yarn reminded him of one that
Jule Sparrow used to tell. There was a Cockney in that yarn, too, and
a South Sea woman and a schooner. But in other respects the stories was
different.

“You all know Wash Sparrow, here in Wellmouth,” says the Cap’n. “He’s
the laziest man in town. It runs in his family. His dad was just the
same. The old man died of creeping paralysis, which was just the disease
he’d pick out TO die of, and even then he took six years to do it in.
Washy’s brother Jule, Julius Caesar Sparrow, he was as no-account and
lazy as the rest. When he was around this neighborhood he put in his
time swapping sea lies for heat from the post-office stove, and the only
thing that would get him livened up at all was the mention of a feller
named ‘Rosy’ that he knew while he was seafaring, way off on t’other
side of the world. Jule used to say that ‘twas this Rosy that made him
lose faith in human nature.

“The first time ever Julius and Rosy met was one afternoon just as the
Emily--that was the little fore-and-aft South Sea trading schooner Jule
was in--was casting off from the ramshackle landing at Hello Island.
Where’s Hello Island? Well, I’ll tell you. When you get home you take
your boy’s geography book and find the map of the world. About amidships
of the sou’western quarter of it you’ll see a place where the Pacific
Ocean is all broke out with the measles. Yes; well, one of them measle
spots is Hello Island.

“‘Course that ain’t the real name of it. The real one is spelt with four
o’s, three a’s, five i’s, and a peck measure of h’s and x’s hove in
to fill up. It looks like a plate of hash and that’s the way it’s
pronounced. Maybe you might sing it if ‘twas set to music, but no white
man ever said the whole of it. Them that tried always broke down on
the second fathom or so and said ‘Oh, the hereafter!’ or words to that
effect. ‘Course the missionaries see that wouldn’t do, so they twisted
it stern first and it’s been Hello Island to most folks ever since.

“Why Jule was at Hello Island is too long a yarn. Biled down it amounts
to a voyage on a bark out of Seattle, and a first mate like yours, Eri,
who was a kind of Christian Science chap and cured sick sailors by the
laying on of hands--likewise feet and belaying pins and ax handles and
such. And, according to Jule’s tell, he DID cure ‘em, too. After he’d
jumped up and down on your digestion a few times you forgot all about
the disease you started in with and only remembered the complications.
Him and Julius had their final argument one night when the bark was
passing abreast one of the Navigator Islands, close in. Jule hove a
marlinespike at the mate’s head and jumped overboard. He swum ashore
to the beach and, inside of a week, he’d shipped aboard the Emily. And
‘twas aboard the Emily, and at Hello Island, as I said afore, that he
met Rosy.

“George Simmons--a cockney Britisher he was, and skipper--was standing
at the schooner’s wheel, swearing at the two Kanaka sailors who were
histing the jib. Julius, who was mate, was roosting on the lee rail
amid-ships, helping him swear. And old Teunis Van Doozen, a Dutchman
from Java or thereabouts, who was cook, was setting on a stool by the
galley door ready to heave in a word whenever ‘twas necessary. The
Kanakas was doing the work. That was the usual division of labor aboard
the Emily.

“Well, just then there comes a yell from the bushes along the shore.
Then another yell and a most tremendous cracking and smashing. Then out
of them bushes comes tearing a little man with spectacles and a black
enamel-cloth carpetbag, heaving sand like a steam-shovel and seemingly
trying his best to fly. And astern of him comes more yells and a big,
husky Kanaka woman, about eight foot high and three foot in the beam,
with her hands stretched out and her fingers crooked.

“Julius used to swear that that beach was all of twenty yards wide and
that the little man only lit three times from bush to wharf. And he
didn’t stop there. He fired the carpetbag at the schooner’s stern and
then spread out his wings and flew after it. His fingers just hooked
over the rail and he managed to haul himself aboard. Then he curled up
on the deck and breathed short but spirited. The Kanaka woman danced to
the stringpiece and whistled distress signals.

“Cap’n George Simmons looked down at the wrecked flying machine and
grunted.

“‘Umph!’ says he. ‘You don’t look like a man the girls would run after.
Lady your wife?’

“The little feller bobbed his specs up and down.

“‘So?’ says George. ‘’Ow can I bear to leave thee, ‘ey? Well, ain’t
you ashamed of yourself to be running off and leaving a nice, ‘andsome,
able-bodied wife that like? Look at ‘er now, over there on ‘er knees a
praying for you to come back.’

“There was a little p’int making out from the beach close by the edge of
the channel and the woman was out on the end of it, down on all fours.
Her husband raised up and looked over the rail.

“‘She ain’t praying,’ he pants, ducking down again quick. ‘She’s
a-picking up stones.’

“And so she was. Julius said he thought sure she’d cave in the Emily’s
ribs afore she got through with her broadsides. The rocks flew like
hail. Everybody got their share, but Cap’n George got a big one in the
middle of the back. That took his breath so all the way he could express
his feelings was to reach out and give his new passenger half a dozen
kicks. But just as soon as he could he spoke, all right enough.

“‘You mis’rable four-eyed shrimp!’ he says. ‘’Twould serve you right if
I ‘ove to and made you swim back to ‘er. Blow me if I don’t believe I
will!’

“‘Aw, don’t, Cap’n; PLEASE don’t!’ begs the feller. ‘I’ll be awful
grateful to you if you won’t. And I’ll make it right with you, too. I’ve
got a good thing in that bag of mine. Yes, sir! A beautiful good thing.’

“‘Oh, well,’ says the skipper, bracing up and smiling sweet as he could
for the ache in his back. ‘I’ll ‘elp you out. You trust your Uncle
George. Not on account of what you’re going to give me, you understand,’
says he. ‘It would be a pity if THAT was the reason for ‘elpin’ a feller
creat--Sparrow, if you touch that bag I’ll break your blooming ‘ead.
‘Ere! you ‘and it to me. I’ll take care of it for the gentleman.’

“All the rest of that day the Cap’n couldn’t do enough for the
passenger. Give him a big dinner that took Teunis two hours to cook, and
let him use his own pet pipe with the last of Jule’s tobacco in it, and
all that. And that evening in the cabin, Rosy told his story. Seems he
come from Bombay originally, where he was born an innocent and trained
to be a photographer. This was in the days when these hand cameras
wa’n’t so common as they be now, and Rosy--his full name was Clarence
Rosebury, and he looked it--had a fine one. Also he had some plates and
photograph paper and a jug of ‘developer’ and bottles of stuff to make
more, wrapped up in an old overcoat and packed away in the carpetbag. He
had landed in the Fijis first-off and had drifted over to Hello Island,
taking pictures of places and natives and so on, intending to use ‘em in
a course of lectures he was going to deliver when he got back home. He
boarded with the Kanaka lady at Hello till his money give out, and
then he married her to save board. He wouldn’t talk about his married
life--just shivered instead.

“‘But w’at about this good thing you was mentioning, Mr. Rosebury?’ asks
Cap’n George, polite, but staring hard at the bag. Jule and the cook was
in the cabin likewise. The skipper would have liked to keep ‘em out, but
they being two to one, he couldn’t.

“‘That’s it,’ answers Rosy, cheerful.

“‘W’at’s it?’

“‘Why, the things in the grip; the photograph things. You see,’ says
Rosy, getting excited, his innocent, dreamy eyes a-shining behind his
specs and the ridge of red hair around his bald spot waving like a hedge
of sunflowers; ‘you see,’ he says, ‘my experience has convinced me that
there’s a fortune right in these islands for a photographer who’ll take
pictures of the natives. They’re all dying to have their photographs
took. Why, when I was in Hello Island I could have took dozens, only
they didn’t have the money to pay for ‘em and I couldn’t wait till they
got some. But you’ve got a schooner. You could sail around from one
island to another, me taking pictures and you getting copra and--and
pearls and things from the natives in trade for ‘em. And we’d leave a
standing order for more plates to be delivered steady from the steamer
at Suva or somewheres, and--’

“‘’Old on!’ Cap’n George had been getting redder and redder in the face
while Rosy was talking, and now he fairly biled over, like a teakettle.
‘’Old on!’ he roars. ‘Do I understand that THIS is the good thing
you was going to let me in on? Me to cruise you around from Dan to
Beersheby, feeding you, and giving you tobacco to smoke--’

“‘’Twas my tobacco,’ breaks in Julius.

“‘Shut up! Cruising you around, and you living on the fat of--of
the--the water, and me trusting to get my pay out of tintypes of
Kanakas! Was that it? Was it?’

“‘Why--why, yes,’ answers Rosy. ‘But, cap’n, you don’t understand--’

“‘Then,’ says George, standing up and rolling up his pajama sleeves,
‘there’s going to be justifiable ‘omicide committed right now.’

“Jule said that if it hadn’t been that the skipper’s sore back got to
hurting him he don’t know when him and the cook would have had their
turn at Rosy. ‘Course they wanted a turn on account of the tobacco
and the dinner, not to mention the stone bruises. When all hands was
through, that photographer was a spiled negative.

“And that was only the beginning. They ain’t much fun abusing Kanakas
because they don’t talk back, but first along Rosy would try to talk
back, and that give ‘em a chance. Julius had learned a lot of things
from that mate on the bark, and he tried ‘em all on that tintype man.
And afterward they invented more. They made him work his passage, and
every mean and dirty job there was to do, he had to do it. They took
his clothes away from him, and, while they lasted, the skipper had three
shirts at once, which hadn’t happened afore since he served his term in
the Sydney jail. And he was such a COMFORT to ‘em. Whenever the dinner
wa’n’t cooked right, instead of blaming Teunis, they took it out of
Rosy. By the time they made their first port they wouldn’t have parted
with him for no money, and they locked him up in the fo’castle and kept
him there. And when one of the two Kanaka boys run away they shipped
Rosy in his place by unanimous vote. And so it went for six months, the
Emily trading and stealing all around the South Seas.

“One day the schooner was off in an out-of-the way part of the
ocean, and the skipper come up from down below, bringing one of the
photographing bottles from the carpetbag.

“‘See ‘ere,’ says he to Rosy, who was swabbing decks just to keep him
out of mischief, ‘w’at kind of a developer stuff is this? It has a
mighty familiar smell.’

“‘That ain’t developer, sir,’ answers Rosy, meek as usual. ‘That’s
alcohol. I use it--’

“‘Alcohol!’ says George. ‘Do you mean to tell me that you’ve ‘ad alcohol
aboard all this time and never said a word to one of us? If that ain’t
just like you! Of all the ungrateful beasts as ever I--’

“When him and the other two got through convincing Rosy that he
was ungrateful, they took that bottle into the cabin and begun
experimenting. Julius had lived a few months in Maine, which is a
prohibition State, and so he knew how to make alcohol ‘splits’--one-half
wet fire and the rest water. They ‘split’ for five days. Then the
alcohol was all out and the Emily was all in, being stove up on a coral
reef two mile off shore of a little island that nobody’d ever seen
afore.

“They got into the boat--the four white men and the Kanaka--histed the
sail, and headed for the beach. They landed all right and was welcomed
by a reception committee of fifteen husky cannibals with spears, dressed
mainly in bone necklaces and sunshine. The committee was glad to see
‘em, and showed it, particular to Teunis, who was fat. Rosy, being
principally framework by this time, wa’n’t nigh so popular; but he
didn’t seem to care.

“The darkies tied ‘em up good and proper and then held a committee
meeting, arguing, so Julius cal’lated, whether to serve ‘em plain or
with greens. While the rest was making up the bill of fare, a few set
to work unpacking the bags and things, Rosy’s satchel among ‘em. Pretty
soon there was an awful jabbering.

“‘They’ve settled it,’ says George, doleful. ‘Well, there’s enough of
Teunis to last ‘em for one meal, if they ain’t ‘ogs. You’re a tough old
bird, cooky; maybe you’ll give ‘em dyspepsy, so they won’t care for the
rest of us. That’s a ray of ‘ope, ain’t it?’

“But the cook didn’t seem to get much hope out of it. He was busy
telling the skipper what he thought of him when the natives come up.
They was wildly excited, and two or three of ‘em was waving square
pieces of cardboard in their hands.

“And here’s where the Emily’s gang had a streak of luck. The Kanaka
sailor couldn’t talk much English, but it seems that his granddad, or
some of his ancestors, must have belonged to the same breed of cats as
these islanders, for he could manage to understand a little of their
lingo.

“‘Picture!’ says he, crazy-like with joy. ‘Picture, cappy; picture!’

“When Rosy was new on board the schooner, afore George and the rest had
played with him till he was an old story, one of their games was to have
him take their photographs. He’d taken the cap’n’s picture, and Julius’s
and Van Doozen’s. The pictures was a Rogues’ Gallery that would have got
‘em hung on suspicion anywhere in civilization, but these darkies
wa’n’t particular. Anyhow they must have been good likenesses, for the
committee see the resemblance right off.

“‘They t’ink witchcraft,’ says the Kanaka. ‘Want to know how make.’

“‘Lord!’ says George. ‘You tell ‘em we’re witches from Witch Center.
Tell ‘em we make them kind of things with our eyes shut, and if they eat
us we’ll send our tintypes to ‘aunt ‘em into their graves. Tell ‘em that
quick.’

“Well, I guess the Kanaka obeyed orders, for the islanders was all shook
up. They jabbered and hurrahed like a parrot-house for ten minutes or
so. Then they untied the feet of their Sunday dinners, got ‘em into
line, and marched ‘em off across country, prodding ‘em with their
spears, either to see which was the tenderest or to make ‘em step
livelier, I don’t know which.

“Julius said that was the most nervous walk ever he took. Said afore
‘twas done he was so leaky with spear holes that he cast a shadder like
a skimmer. Just afore sunset they come to the other side of the island,
where there was a good sized native village, with houses made of grass
and cane, and a big temple-like in the middle, decorated fancy and
cheerful with skulls and spareribs. Jule said there was places where
the decorations needed repairs, and he figgered he was just in time to
finish ‘em. But he didn’t take no pride in it; none of his folks cared
for art.

“The population was there to meet ‘em, and even the children looked
hungry. Anybody could see that having company drop in for dinner was
right to their taste. There was a great chair arrangement in front of
the temple, and on it was the fattest, ugliest, old liver-colored
woman that Julius ever see. She was rigged up regardless, with a tooth
necklace and similar jewelry; and it turned out that she was the queen
of the bunch. Most of them island tribes have chiefs, but this district
was strong for woman suffrage.

“Well, the visitors had made a hit, but Rosy’s photographs made a
bigger one. The queen and the head men of the village pawed over ‘em and
compared ‘em with the originals and powwowed like a sewing circle. Then
they called up the Kanaka sailor, and he preached witchcraft and hoodoos
to beat the cars, lying as only a feller that knows the plates are
warming for him on the back of the stove can lie. Finally the queen
wanted to know if the ‘long pigs’ could make a witch picture of HER.

“‘Tell ‘er yes,’ yells George, when the question was translated to him.
‘Tell ‘er we’re picture-makers by special app’intment to the Queen and
the Prince of Wales. Tell ‘er we’ll make ‘er look like the sweetest old
chocolate drop in the taffy-shop. Only be sure and say we must ‘ave a
day or so to work the spells and put on the kibosh.’

“So ‘twas settled, and dinner was put off for that night, anyhow. And
the next day being sunny, Rosy took the queen’s picture. ‘Twas an awful
strain on the camera, but it stood it fine; and the photographs he
printed up that afternoon was the most horrible collection of mince-pie
dreams that ever a sane man run afoul of. Rosy used one of the grass
huts for a dark room; and while he was developing them plates, they
could hear him screaming from sheer fright at being shut up alone with
‘em in the dark.

“But her majesty thought they was lovely, and set and grinned proud at
‘em for hours at a stretch. And the wizards was untied and fed up and
given the best house in town to live in. And Cap’n George and Julius and
the cook got to feeling so cheerful and happy that they begun to kick
Rosy again, just out of habit. And so it went on for three days.

“Then comes the Kanaka interpreter--grinning kind of foolish.

“‘Cappy,’ says he, ‘queen, she likes you. She likes you much lot.’

“‘Well,’ says the skipper, modest, ‘she’d ought to. She don’t see a man
like me every day. She ain’t the first woman,’ he says.

“‘She like all you gentlemen,’ says the Kanaka. ‘She say she want witch
husband. One of you got marry her.”

“‘HEY?’ yells all hands, setting up.

“‘Yes, sir. She no care which one, but one white man must marry her
to-morrow. Else we all go chop plenty quick.’

“‘Chop’ is Kanaka English for ‘eat.’ There wa’n’t no need for the boy to
explain.

“Then there was times. They come pretty nigh to a fight, because Teunis
and Jule argued that the skipper, being such a ladies’ man, was the
natural-born choice. Just as things was the warmest; Cap’n George had an
idea.

“‘ROSY!’ says he.

“‘Hey?’ says the others. Then, ‘Rosy? Why, of course, Rosy’s the man.’

“But Rosy wa’n’t agreeable. Julius said he never see such a stubborn
mule in his life. They tried every reasonable way they could to convince
him, pounding him on the head and the like of that, but ‘twas no go.

“‘I got a wife already,’ he says, whimpering. ‘And, besides, cap’n,
there wouldn’t be such a contrast in looks between you and her as there
would with me.’

“He meant so far as size went, but George took it the other way, and
there was more trouble. Finally Julius come to the rescue.

“‘I tell you,’ says he. ‘We’ll be square and draw straws!’

“‘W’at?’ hollers George. ‘Well, I guess not!’

“‘And I’ll hold the straws,’ says Jule, winking on the side.

“So they drew straws, and, strange as it may seem, Rosy got stuck. He
cried all night, and though the others tried to comfort him, telling him
what a lucky man he was to marry a queen, he wouldn’t cheer up a mite.

“And next day the wedding took place in the temple in front of a wood
idol with three rows of teeth, and as ugly almost as the bride, which
was saying a good deal. And when ‘twas over, the three shipmates come
and congratulated the groom, wishing him luck and a happy honeymoon and
such. Oh, they had a bully time, and they was still laughing over it
that night after supper, when down comes a file of big darkies with
spears, the Kanaka interpreter leading ‘em.

“‘Cappy,’ says he. ‘The king say you no stay in this house no more. He
say too good for you. Say, bimeby, when the place been clean up, maybe
he use it himself. You got to go.’

“‘Who says this?’ roars Cap’n George, ugly as could be.

“‘The king, he say it.’

“‘The queen, you mean. There ain’t no king.’

“‘Yes, sir. King AND queen now. Mr. Rosy he king. All tribe proud to
have witch king.’

“The three looked at each other.

“‘Do you mean to say,’ says the skipper, choking so he could hardly
speak, ‘that we’ve got to take orders from ‘IM?’

“‘Yes, sir. King say you no mind, we make.’

“Well, sir, the language them three used must have been something awful,
judging by Jule’s tell. But when they vowed they wouldn’t move, the
spears got busy and out they had to get and into the meanest, dirtiest
little hut in the village, one without hardly any sides and great holes
in the roof. And there they stayed all night in a pouring rain, the kind
of rains you get in them islands.

“‘Twa’n’t a nice night. They tried huddling together to keep dry, but
‘twa’n’t a success because there was always a row about who should be in
the middle. Then they kept passing personal remarks to one another.

“‘If the skipper hadn’t been so gay and uppish about choosing Rosy,’
says Julius, ‘there wouldn’t have been no trouble. I do hate a smart
Aleck.’

“‘Who said draw straws?’ sputters George, mad clean through. ‘And who
‘eld ‘em? ‘Ey? Who did?’

“‘Well,’ says Teunis, ‘_I_ didn’t do it. You can’t blame me.’

“‘No. You set there like a bump on a log and let me and the mate put our
feet in it. You old fat ‘ead! I--’

“They pitched into the cook until he got mad and hit the skipper. Then
there was a fight that lasted till they was all scratched up and tired
out. The only thing they could agree on was that Rosy was what the
skipper called a ‘viper’ that they’d nourished in their bosoms.

“Next morning ‘twas worse than ever. Down comes the Kanaka with his
spear gang and routs ‘em out and sets ‘em to gathering breadfruit all
day in the hot sun. And at night ‘twas back to the leaky hut again.

“And that wa’n’t nothing to what come later. The lives that King Rosy
led them three was something awful. ‘Twas dig in and work day in and day
out. Teunis had to get his majesty’s meals, and nothing was ever cooked
right; and then the royal army got after the steward with spear handles.
Cap’n George had to clean up the palace every day, and Rosy and the
queen--who was dead gone on her witch husband, and let him do anything
he wanted to--stood over him and found fault and punched him with sharp
sticks to see him jump. And Julius had to fetch and carry and wait, and
get on his knees whenever he spoke to the king, and he helped up again
with a kick, like as not.

“Rosy took back all his own clothes that they’d stole, and then he took
theirs for good measure. He made ‘em marry the three ugliest old women
on the island--his own bride excepted--and when they undertook to use a
club or anything, he had THEM licked instead. He wore ‘em down to skin
and bone. Jule said you wouldn’t believe a mortal man could treat his
feller creatures so low down and mean. And the meanest part of it was
that he always called ‘em the names that they used to call him aboard
ship. Sometimes he invented new ones, but not often, because ‘twa’n’t
necessary.

“For a good six months this went on--just the same length of time that
Rosy was aboard the Emily. Then, one morning early, Julius looks out
of one of the holes in the roof of his house and, off on the horizon,
heading in, he sees a small steamer, a pleasure yacht ‘twas. He lets out
a yell that woke up the village, and races head first for the Emily’s
boat that had been rowed around from the other side of the island, and
laid there with her oars and sail still in her. And behind him comes Van
Doozen and Cap’n George.

“Into the boat they piled, while the islanders were getting their eyes
open and gaping at the steamer. There wa’n’t no time to get up sail, so
they grabbed for the oars. She stuck on the sand just a minute; and, in
that minute, down from the palace comes King Rosy, running the way he
run from his first wife over at Hello. He leaped over the stern, picked
up the other oar, and off they put across the lagoon. The rudder was in
its place and so was the tiller, but they couldn’t use ‘em then.

“They had a good start, but afore they’d got very far the natives had
waked up and were after ‘em in canoes.

“‘’Ere!’ screams Cap’n George. ‘This won’t do! They’ll catch us sure.
Get sail on to ‘er lively! Somebody take that tiller.’

“Rosy, being nearest, took the tiller and the others got up the sail.
Then ‘twas nip and tuck with the canoes for the opening of the barrier
reef at the other side of the lagoon. But they made it first, and, just
as they did, out from behind the cliff comes the big steam-yacht, all
white and shining, with sailors in uniform on her decks, and awnings
flapping, and four mighty pretty women leaning over the side. All of the
Emily gang set up a whoop of joy, and ‘twas answered from the yacht.

“‘Saved!’ hollers Cap’n George. ‘Saved, by thunder! And now,’ says he,
knocking his fists together, ‘NOW to get square with that four-eyed
thief in the stern! Come on, boys!’

“Him and Julius and Teunis made a flying leap aft to get at Rosy. But
Rosy see ‘em coming, jammed the tiller over, the boom swung across and
swept the three overboard pretty as you please.

“There was a scream from the yacht. Rosy give one glance at the women.
Then he tossed his arms over his head.

“‘Courage, comrades!’ he shouts. ‘I’ll save you or die with you!’

“And overboard he dives, ‘kersplash!’

“Julius said him and the skipper could have swum all right if Rosy had
give ‘em the chance, but he didn’t. He knew a trick worth two of that.
He grabbed ‘em round the necks and kept hauling ‘em under and splashing
and kicking like a water-mill. All hands was pretty well used up when
they was pulled aboard the yacht.

“‘Oh, you brave man!’ says one of the women, stooping over Rosy, who was
sprawled on the deck with his eyes shut, ‘Oh, you HERO!’

“‘Are they living?’ asks Rosy, faint-like and opening one eye. ‘Good!
Now I can die content.’

“‘Living!’ yells George, soon’s he could get the salt water out of his
mouth. ‘Living! By the ‘oly Peter! Let me at ‘im! I’ll show ‘im whether
I’m living or not!’

“‘What ails you, you villain?’ says the feller that owned the yacht,
a great big Englishman, Lord Somebody-or-other. ‘The man saved your
lives.’

“‘He knocked us overboard!’ yells Julius.

“‘Yes, and he done it a-purpose!’ sputters Van Doozen, well as he could
for being so waterlogged.

“‘Let’s kill him!’ says all three.

“‘Did it on purpose!’ says the lord, scornful. ‘Likely he’d throw you
over and then risk his life to save you. Here!’ says he to the mate.
‘Take those ungrateful rascals below. Give ‘em dry clothes and then set
‘em to work--hard work; understand? As for this poor, brave chap, take
him to the cabin. I hope he’ll pull through,’ says he.

“And all the rest of the voyage, which was to Melbourne, Julius and his
two chums had to slave and work like common sailors, while Rosy, the
hero invalid, was living on beef tea and jelly and champagne, and being
petted and fanned by the lord’s wife and the other women. And ‘twas
worse toward the end, when he pretended to be feeling better, and could
set in a steamer-chair on deck and grin and make sarcastic remarks under
his breath to George and the other two when they was holystoning or
scrubbing in the heat.

“At Melbourne they hung around the wharf, waiting to lick him, till the
lord had ‘em took up for vagrants. When they got out of the lockup they
found Rosy had gone. And his lordship had given him money and clothes,
and I don’t know what all.

“Julius said that Rosy’s meanness sickened him of the sea. Said ‘twas
time to retire when such reptiles was afloat. So he come home and
married the scrub-woman at the Bay View House. He lived with her till
she lost her job. I don’t know where he is now.”

            *       *       *       *       *

‘Twas purty quiet for a few minutes after Jonadab had unloaded this
yarn. Everybody was busy trying to swaller his share of the statements
in it, I cal’late. Peter T. looked at the Cap’n, admiring but
reproachful.

“Wixon,” says he. “I didn’t know ‘twas in you. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Oh,” says Jonadab, “I ain’t responsible. ‘Twas Jule Sparrow that told
it to me.”

“Humph!” says Peter. “I wish you knew his address. I’d like to hire him
to write the Old Home ads. I thought MY invention was A 1, but I’m in
the kindergarten. Well, let’s go to bed before somebody tries to win the
prize from Sparrow.”

‘Twas after eleven by then, so, as his advice looked good, we follered
it.



THE ANTIQUERS


We’ve all got a crazy streak in us somewheres, I cal’late, only the
streaks don’t all break out in the same place, which is a mercy, when
you come to think of it. One feller starts tooting a fish horn and
making announcements that he’s the Angel Gabriel. Another poor sufferer
shows his first symptom by having his wife’s relations come and live
with him. One ends in the asylum and t’other in the poorhouse; that’s
the main difference in them cases. Jim Jones fiddles with perpetual
motion and Sam Smith develops a sure plan for busting Wall Street and
getting rich sudden. I take summer boarders maybe, and you collect
postage stamps. Oh, we’re all looney, more or less, every one of us.

Speaking of collecting reminds me of the “Antiquers”--that’s what Peter
T. Brown called ‘em. They put up at the Old Home House--summer before
last; and at a crank show they’d have tied for the blue ribbon. There
was the Dowager and the Duchess and “My Daughter” and “Irene dear.”
 Likewise there was Thompson and Small, but they, being nothing but
husbands and fathers, didn’t count for much first along, except when
board was due or “antiques” had to be settled for.

The Dowager fetched port first. She hove alongside the Old Home one
morning early in July, and she had “My Daughter” in tow. The names, as
entered on the shipping list, was Mrs. Milo Patrick Thompson and Miss
Barbara Millicent Thompson, but Peter T. Brown he had ‘em re-entered as
“The Dowager” and “My Daughter” almost as soon as they dropped anchor.
Thompson himself come poking up to the dock on the following Saturday
night; Peter didn’t christen him, except to chuck out something about
Milo’s being an “also ran.”

The Dowager was skipper of the Thompson craft, with “My
daughter”--that’s what her ma always called her--as first mate, and Milo
as general roustabout and purser.

‘Twould have done you good to see the fleet run into the breakfast room
of a morning, with the Dowager leading, under full sail, Barbara close
up to her starboard quarter, and Milo tailing out a couple of lengths
astern. The other boarders looked like quahaug dories abreast of the
Marblehead Yacht Club. Oh, the Thompsons won every cup until the Smalls
arrived on a Monday; then ‘twas a dead heat.

Mamma Small was built on the lines of old lady Thompson, only more so,
and her daughter flew pretty nigh as many pennants as Barbara. Peter
T. had ‘em labeled the “Duchess” and “Irene dear” in a jiffy. He didn’t
nickname Small any more’n he had Thompson, and for the same reasons. Me
and Cap’n Jonadab called Small “Eddie” behind his back, ‘count of his
wife’s hailing him as “Edwin.”

Well, the Dowager and the Duchess sized each other up, and, recognizing
I jedge, that they was sister ships, set signals and agreed to cruise in
company and watch out for pirates--meaning young men without money who
might want to talk to their daughters. In a week the four women was
thicker than hasty-pudding and had thrones on the piazza where they
could patronize everybody short of the Creator, and criticize the other
boarders. Milo and Eddie got friendly too, and found a harbor behind the
barn where they could smoke and swap sympathy.

‘Twas fair weather for pretty near a fortni’t, and then she thickened
up. The special brand of craziness in Wellmouth that season was
collecting “antiques,” the same being busted chairs and invalid bureaus
and sofys that your great grandmarm got ashamed of and sent to the
sickbay a thousand year ago. Oh, yes, and dishes! If there was one thing
that would drive a city woman to counting her fingers and cutting paper
dolls, ‘twas a nicked blue plate with a Chinese picture on it. And the
homelier the plate the higher the price. Why there was as many as six
families that got enough money for the rubbage in their garrets to
furnish their houses all over with brand new things--real shiny,
hand-painted stuff, not haircloth ruins with music box springs, nor
platters that you had to put a pan under for fear of losing cargo.

I don’t know who fetched the disease to the Old Home House. All I’m
sartain of is that ‘twan’t long afore all hands was in that condition
where the doctor’d have passed ‘em on to the parson. First along it
seemed as if the Thompson-Small syndicate had been vaccinated--they
didn’t develop a symptom. But one noon the Dowager sails into the
dining-room and unfurls a brown paper bundle.

“I’ve captured a prize, my dear,” says she to the Duchess. “A veritable
prize. Just look!”

And she dives under the brown paper hatches and resurrects a pink plate,
suffering from yaller jaundice, with the picture of a pink boy, wearing
curls and a monkey-jacket, holding hands with a pink girl with pointed
feet.

“Ain’t it perfectly lovely?” says she, waving the outrage in front of
the Duchess. “A ginuwine Hall nappy! And in SUCH condition!”

“Why,” says the Duchess, “I didn’t know you were interested in
antiques.”

“I dote on ‘em,” comes back the Dowager, and “my daughter” owned up that
she “adored” ‘em.

“If you knew,” continues Mrs. Thompson, “how I’ve planned and contrived
to get this treasure. I’ve schemed--My! my! My daughter says she’s
actually ashamed of me. Oh, no! I can’t tell even you where I got it.
All’s fair in love and collecting, you know, and there are more gems
where this came from.”

She laughed and “my daughter” laughed, and the Duchess and “Irene dear”
 laughed, too, and said the plate was “SO quaint,” and all that, but
you could fairly hear ‘em turn green with jealousy. It didn’t need a
spyglass to see that they wouldn’t ride easy at their own moorings till
THEY’D landed a treasure or two--probably two.

And sure enough, in a couple of days they bore down on the Thompsons,
all sail set and colors flying. They had a pair of plates that for
ugliness and price knocked the “ginuwine Hall nappy” higher ‘n the main
truck. And the way they crowed and bragged about their “finds” wa’n’t
fit to put in the log. The Dowager and “my daughter” left that dinner
table trembling all over.

Well, you can see how a v’yage would end that commenced that way.
The Dowager and Barbara would scour the neighborhood and capture more
prizes, and the Duchess and her tribe would get busy and go ‘em one
better. That’s one sure p’int about the collecting business--it’ll stir
up a fight quicker’n anything I know of, except maybe a good looking
bachelor minister. The female Thompsons and Smalls was “my dear-in’”
 each other more’n ever, but there was a chill setting in round them
piazza thrones, and some of the sarcastic remarks that was casually hove
out by the bosom friends was pretty nigh sharp enough to shave with. As
for Milo and Eddie, they still smoked together behind the barn, but the
atmosphere on the quarter-deck was affecting the fo’castle and there
wa’n’t quite so many “old mans” and “dear boys” as there used to was.
There was a general white frost coming, and you didn’t need an Old
Farmer’s Almanac to prove it.

The spell of weather developed sudden. One evening me and Cap’n Jonadab
and Peter T. was having a confab by the steps of the billiard-room,
when Milo beats up from around the corner. He was smiling as a basket of
chips.

“Hello!” hails Peter T. cordial. “You look as if you’d had money left
you. Any one else remembered in the will?” he says.

Milo laughed all over. “Well, well,” says he, “I AM feeling pretty good.
Made a ten-strike with Mrs. T. this afternoon for sure.

“That so?” says Peter. “What’s up? Hooked a prince?”

A friend of “my daughter’s” over at Newport had got engaged to a
mandarin or a count or something ‘nother, and the Dowager had been
preaching kind of eloquent concerning the shortness of the nobility crop
round Wellmouth.

“No,” says Milo, laughing again. “Nothing like that. But I have got hold
of that antique davenport she’s been dying to capture.”

One of the boarders at the hotel over to Harniss had been out antiquing
a week or so afore and had bagged a contraption which answered to the
name of a “ginuwine Sheriton davenport.” The dowager heard of it, and
ever since she’d been remarking that some people had husbands who cared
enough for their wives to find things that pleased ‘em. She wished she
was lucky enough to have that kind of a man; but no, SHE had to depend
on herself, and etcetery and so forth. Maybe you’ve heard sermons
similar.

So we was glad for Milo and said so. Likewise we wanted to know where he
found the davenport.

“Why, up here in the woods,” says Milo, “at the house of a queer old
stick, name of Rogers. I forget his front name--‘twas longer’n the
davenport.”

“Not Adoniram Rogers?” says Cap’n Jonadab, wondering.

“That’s him,” says Thompson.

Now, I knew Adoniram Rogers. His house was old enough, Lord knows; but
that a feller with a nose for a bargain like his should have hung on
to a salable piece of dunnage so long as this seemed ‘most too tough to
believe.

“Well, I swan to man!” says I. “Adoniram Rogers! Have you seen the--the
davenport thing?”

“Sure I’ve seen it!” says Milo. “I ain’t much of a jedge, and of course
I couldn’t question Rogers too much for fear he’d stick on the price.
But it’s an old davenport, and it’s got Sheriton lines and I’ve got the
refusal of it till to-morrow, when Mrs. T’s going up to inspect.”

“Told Small yet?” asked Peter T., winking on the side to me and Jonadab.

Milo looked scared. “Goodness! No,” says he. “And don’t you tell him
neither. His wife’s davenport hunting too.”

“You say you’ve got the refusal of it?” says I. “Well, I know Adoniram
Rogers, and if _I_ was dickering with him I’d buy the thing first and
get the refusal of it afterwards. You hear ME?”

“Is that so?” repeats Milo. “Slippery, is he? I’ll take my wife up there
first thing in the morning.”

He walked off looking worried, and his tops’ls hadn’t much more’n sunk
in the offing afore who should walk out of the billiard room behind us
but Eddie Small.

“Brown,” says he to Peter T., “I want you to have a horse and buggy
harnessed up for me right off. Mrs. Small and I are going for a little
drive to--to--over to Orham,” he says.

‘Twas a mean, black night for a drive as fur as Orham and Peter looked
surprised. He started to say something, then swallered it down, and told
Eddie he’d see to the harnessing. When Small was out of sight, I says:

“You don’t cal’late he heard what Milo was telling, do you, Peter?” says
I.

Peter T. shook his head and winked, first at Jonadab and then at me.

And the next day there was the dickens to pay because Eddie and the
Duchess had driven up to Rogers’ the night afore and had bought the
davenport, refusal and all, for twenty dollars more’n Milo offered for
it.

Adoniram brought it down that forenoon and all hands and the cook was on
the hurricane deck to man the yards. ‘Twas a wonder them boarders didn’t
turn out the band and fire salutes. Such ohs and ahs! ‘Twan’t nothing
but a ratty old cripple of a sofy, with one leg carried away and most
of the canvas in ribbons, but four men lugged it up the steps and the
careful way they handled it made you think the Old Home House was a
receiving tomb and they was laying in the dear departed.

‘Twas set down on the piazza and then the friends had a chance to
view the remains. The Duchess and “Irene dear” gurgled and gushed and
received congratulations. Eddie stood around and tried to look modest
as was possible under the circumstances. The Dowager sailed over, tilted
her nose up to the foretop, remarked “Humph”’ through it and come about
and stood at the other end of the porch. “My daughter” follers in her
wake, observes “Humph!” likewise and makes for blue water. Milo comes
over and looks at Eddie.

“Well?” says Small. “What do you think of it?”

“Never mind what I think of IT,” answers Thompson, through his teeth.
“Shall I tell you what I think of YOU?”

I thought for a minute that hostilities was going to begin, but they
didn’t. The women was the real battleships in that fleet, the men wa’n’t
nothing but transports. Milo and Eddie just glared at each other and
sheered off, and the “ginuwine Sheriton” was lugged into the sepulchre,
meaning the trunk-room aloft in the hotel.

And after that the cold around the thrones was so fierce we had to move
the thermometer, and we had to give the families separate tables in the
dining-room so’s the milk wouldn’t freeze. You see the pitcher set right
between ‘em, and--Oh! I didn’t expect you’d believe it.

The “antiquing” went on harder than ever. Every time the Thompsons
landed a relic, they’d bring it out on the veranda or in to dinner and
gloat over it loud and pointed, while the Smalls would pipe all hands
to unload sarcasm. And the same vicy vercy when ‘twas t’other way about.
‘Twas interesting and instructive to listen to and amused the populace
on rainy days, so Peter T. said.

Adoniram Rogers had been mighty scurce ‘round the Old Home sense the
davenport deal. But one morning he showed up unexpected. A boarder had
dug up an antique somewheres in the shape of a derelict plate, and
was displaying it proud on the piazza. The Thompsons was there and the
Smalls and a whole lot more. All of a sudden Rogers walks up the steps
and reaches over and makes fast to the plate.

“Look out!” hollers the prize-winner, frantic. “You’ll drop it!”

Adoniram grunted. “Huh!” says he. “‘Tain’t nothing but a blue dish. I’ve
got a whole closet full of them.”

“WHAT?” yells everybody. And then: “Will you sell ‘em?”

“Sell ‘em?” says Rogers, looking round surprised. “Why, I never see
nothing I wouldn’t sell if I got money enough for it.”

Then for the next few minutes there was what old Parson Danvers used to
call a study in human nature. All hands started for that poor, helpless
plate owner as if they was going to swoop down on him like a passel of
gulls on a dead horse-mack’rel. Then they come to themselves and stopped
and looked at each other, kind of shamefaced but suspicious. The Duchess
and her crowd glared at the Dowager tribe and got the glares back with
compound interest. Everybody wanted to get Adoniram one side and talk
with him, and everybody else was determined they shouldn’t. Wherever he
moved the “Antiquers” moved with him. Milo watched from the side lines.
Rogers got scared.

“Look here,” says he, staring sort of wild-like at the boarders. “What
ails you folks? Are you crazy?”

Well, he might have made a good deal worse guess than that. I don’t know
how ‘twould have ended if Peter T. Brown, cool and sassy as ever, hadn’t
come on deck just then and took command.

“See here, Rogers,” he says, “let’s understand this thing. Have you got
a set of dishes like that?”

Adoniram looked at him. “Will I get jailed if I say yes?” he answers.

“Maybe you will if you don’t,” says Peter. “Now, then, ladies and
gentlemen, this is something we’re all interested in, and I think
everybody ought to have a fair show. I jedge from the defendant’s
testimony that he HAS got a set of the dishes, and I also jedge, from
my experience and three years’ dealings with him, that he’s too
public-spirited to keep ‘em, provided he’s paid four times what they’re
worth. Now my idea is this; Rogers will bring those dishes down here
tomorrer and we’ll put ‘em on exhibition in the hotel parlor. Next day
we’ll have an auction and sell ‘em to the highest cash bidder. And,
provided there’s no objection, I’ll sacrifice my reputation and be
auctioneer.”

So ‘twas agreed to have the auction.

Next day Adoniram heaves alongside with the dishes in a truck wagon, and
they was strung out on the tables in the parlor. And such a pawing
over and gabbling you never heard. I’d been suspicious, myself, knowing
Rogers, but there was the set from platters to sassers, and blue enough
and ugly enough to be as antique as Mrs. Methusalem’s jet earrings. The
“Antiquers” handled ‘em and admired ‘em and p’inted to the three holes
in the back of each dish--the same being proof of age--and got more
covetous every minute. But the joy was limited. As one feller said,
“I’d like ‘em mighty well, but what chance’ll we have bidding against
green-back syndicates like that?” referring to the Dowager and the
Duchess.

Milo and Eddie was the most worried of all, because each of ‘em had been
commissioned by their commanding officers not to let t’other family win.

That auction was the biggest thing that ever happened at the Old Home.
We had it on the lawn out back of the billiard room and folks came
from Harniss and Orham and the land knows where. The sheds and barn was
filled with carriages and we served thirty-two extra dinners at a dollar
a feed. The dishes was piled on a table and Peter T. done his auctioneer
preaching from a kind of pulpit made out of two cracker boxes and a tea
chest.

But there wa’n’t any real bidding except from the Smalls and Thompsons.
A few of the boarders and some of the out-of-towners took a shy long at
first, but their bids was only ground bait. Milo and Eddie, backed by
the Dowager and the Duchess, done the real fishing.

The price went up and up. Peter T. whooped and pounded and all but shed
tears. If he’d been burying a competition hotel keeper he couldn’t have
hove more soul into his work. ‘Twas, “Fifty! Do I hear sixty? Sixty do
I hear? Fifty dollars! THINK of it? Why, friends, this ain’t a church
pound party. Look at them dishes! LOOK at ‘em! Why, the pin feathers on
those blue dicky birds in the corners are worth more’n that for mattress
stuffing. Do I hear sixty? Sixty I’m bid. Who says seventy?”

Milo said it, and Eddie was back at him afore he could shake the reefs
out of the last syllable. She went up to a hundred, then to one hundred
and twenty-five, and with every raise Adoniram Roger’s smile lengthened
out. After the one-twenty-five mark the tide rose slower. Milo’d raise
it a dollar and Eddie’d jump him fifty cents.

And just then two things happened. One was that a servant girl come
running from the Old Home House to tell the Duchess and “Irene dear”
 that some swell friends of theirs from the hotel at Harniss had driven
over to call and was waiting for ‘em in the parlor. The female Smalls
went in, though they wa’n’t joyful over it. They give Eddie his sailing
orders afore they went, too.

The other thing that happened was Bill Saltmarsh’s arriving in port.
Bill is an “antiquer” for revenue only. He runs an antique store over
at Ostable and the prices he charges are enough to convict him without
hearing the evidence. I knew he’d come.

Saltmarsh busts through the crowd and makes for the pulpit. He nods to
Peter T. and picks up one of the plates. He looks at it first ruther
casual; then more and more careful, turning it over and taking up
another.

“Hold on a minute, Brown,” says he. “Are THESE the dishes you’re
selling?”

“Sure thing,” comes back Peter. “Think we’re serving free lunch? No,
sir! Those are the genuine articles, Mr. Saltmarsh, and you’re cheating
the widders and orphans if you don’t put in a bid quick. One thirty-two
fifty, I’m bid. Now, Saltmarsh!”

But Bill only laughed. Then he picks up another plate, looks at it, and
laughs again.

“Good day, Brown,” says he. “Sorry I can’t stop.” And off he puts
towards his horse and buggy.

Eddie Small was watching him. Milo, being on the other side of the
pulpit, hadn’t noticed so partic’lar.

“Who’s that?” asks Eddie, suspicious. “Does he know antiques?”

I remarked that if Bill didn’t, then nobody did.

“Look here, Saltmarsh!” says Small, catching Bill by the arm as
he shoved through the crowd. “What’s the matter with those
dishes--anything?”

Bill turned and looked at him. “Why, no,” he says, slow. “They’re all
right--of their kind.” And off he put again.

But Eddie wa’n’t satisfied. He turns to me. “By George!” he says. “What
is it? Does he think they’re fakes?”

I didn’t know, so I shook my head. Small fidgetted, looked at Peter, and
then run after Saltmarsh. Milo had just raised the bid.

“One hundred and thirty-three” hollers Peter, fetching the tea chest a
belt. “One thirty-four do I hear? Make it one thirty-three fifty. Fifty
cents do I hear? Come, come! this is highway robbery, gentlemen. Mr.
Small--where are you?”

But Eddie was talking to Saltmarsh. In a minute back he comes, looking
more worried than ever. Peter T. bawled and pounded and beckoned at him
with the mallet, but he only fidgetted--didn’t know what to do.

“One thirty-three!” bellers Peter. “One thirty-three! Oh, how can I look
my grandmother’s picture in the face after this? One thirty-three--once!
One thirty-three--twice! Third and last call! One--thirty--”

Then Eddie begun to raise his hand, but ‘twas too late.

“One thirty-three and SOLD! To Mr. Milo Thompson for one hundred and
thirty-three dollars!”

And just then come a shriek from the piazza; the Duchess and “Irene
dear” had come out of the parlor.

Well! Talk about crowing! The way that Thompson crowd rubbed it in on
the Smalls was enough to make you leave the dinner table. They had the
servants take in them dishes, piece by piece, and every single article,
down to the last butter plate, was steered straight by the Small crowd.

As for poor Eddie, when he come up to explain why he hadn’t kept on
bidding, his wife put him out like he was a tin lamp.

“Don’t SPEAK to me!” says she. “Don’t you DARE speak to me.”

He didn’t dare. He just run up a storm sail and beat for harbor back of
the barn. And from the piazza Milo cackled vainglorious.

Me and Cap’n Jonadab and Peter T. felt so sorry for Eddie, knowing what
he had coming to him from the Duchess, that we went out to see him. He
was setting on a wrecked hencoop, looking heart-broke but puzzled.

“‘Twas that Saltmarsh made me lose my nerve,” he says. “I thought when
he wouldn’t bid there was something wrong with the dishes. And there WAS
something wrong, too. Now what was it?”

“Maybe the price was too high,” says I.

“No, ‘twa’n’t that. I b’lieve yet he thought they were imitations. Oh,
if they only were!”

And then, lo and behold you, around the corner comes Adoniram Rogers.
I’d have bet large that whatever conscience Adoniram was born with had
dried up and blown away years ago. But no; he’d resurrected a remnant.

“Mr. Small,” stammered Mr. Rogers, “I’m sorry you feel bad about not
buying them dishes. I--I thought I’d ought to tell you--that is to say,
I--Well, if you want another set, I cal’late I can get it for you--that
is, if you won’t tell nobody.”

“ANOTHER set?” hollers Eddie, wide-eyed. “Anoth--Do you mean to say
you’ve got MORE?”

“Why, I ain’t exactly got ‘em now, but my nephew John keeps a furniture
store in South Boston, and he has lots of sets like that. I bought that
one off him.”

Peter T. Brown jumps to his feet.

“Why, you outrageous robber!” he hollers. “Didn’t you say those dishes
were old?”

“I never said nothing, except that they were like the plate that feller
had on the piazza. And they was, too. YOU folks said they was old, and I
thought you’d ought to know, so--”

Eddie Small threw up both hands. “Fakes!” he hollers. “Fakes! AND
THOMPSON PAID ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-THREE DOLLARS FOR ‘EM! Boys,
there’s times when life’s worth living. Have a drink.”

We went into the billard-room and took something; that is, Peter and
Eddie took that kind of something. Me and Jonadab took cigars.

“Fellers,” said Eddie, “drink hearty. I’m going in to tell my wife. Fake
dishes! And I beat Thompson on the davenport.”

He went away bubbling like a biling spring. After he was gone Rogers
looked thoughtful.

“That’s funny, too, ain’t it?” he says.

“What’s funny?” we asked.

“Why, about that sofy he calls a davenport. You see, I bought that off
John, too,” says Adoniram.



HIS NATIVE HEATH


I never could quite understand why the folks at Wellmouth made me
selectman. I s’pose likely ‘twas on account of Jonadab and me and Peter
Brown making such a go of the Old Home House and turning Wellmouth Port
from a sand fleas’ paradise into a hospital where city folks could
have their bank accounts amputated and not suffer more’n was necessary.
Anyway, I was elected unanimous at town meeting, and Peter was mighty
anxious for me to take the job.

“Barzilla,” says Peter, “I jedge that a selectman is a sort of dwarf
alderman. Now, I’ve had friends who’ve been aldermen, and they say
it’s a sure thing, like shaking with your own dice. If you’re straight,
there’s the honor and the advertisement; if you’re crooked, there’s the
graft. Either way the house wins. Go in, and glory be with you.”

So I finally agreed to serve, and the very first meeting I went to,
the question of Asaph Blueworthy and the poorhouse comes up. Zoeth
Tiddit--he was town clerk--he puts it this way:

“Gentlemen,” he says, “we have here the usual application from Asaph
Blueworthy for aid from the town. I don’t know’s there’s much use for
me to read it--it’s tolerable familiar. ‘Suffering from lumbago and
rheumatiz’--um, yes. ‘Out of work’--um, just so. ‘Respectfully begs that
the board will’--etcetery and so forth. Well, gentlemen, what’s your
pleasure?”

Darius Gott, he speaks first, and dry and drawling as ever. “Out of
work, hey?” says Darius. “Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask if anybody
here remembers the time when Ase was IN work?”

Nobody did, and Cap’n Benijah Poundberry--he was chairman at that
time--he fetches the table a welt with his starboard fist and comes out
emphatic.

“Feller members,” says he, “I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but
it’s my opinion that this board has done too much for that lazy loafer
already. Long’s his sister, Thankful, lived, we couldn’t say nothing, of
course. If she wanted to slave and work so’s her brother could live
in idleness and sloth, why, that was her business. There ain’t any law
against a body’s making a fool of herself, more’s the pity. But she’s
been dead a year, and he’s done nothing since but live on those that’ll
trust him, and ask help from the town. He ain’t sick--except sick of
work. Now, it’s my idea that, long’s he’s bound to be a pauper, he
might’s well be treated as a pauper. Let’s send him to the poorhouse.”

“But,” says I, “he owns his place down there by the shore, don’t he?”

All hands laughed--that is, all but Cap’n Benijah. “Own nothing,” says
the cap’n. “The whole rat trap, from the keel to maintruck, ain’t worth
more’n three hundred dollars, and I loaned Thankful four hundred on
it years ago, and the mortgage fell due last September. Not a cent of
principal, interest, nor rent have I got since. Whether he goes to the
poorhouse or not, he goes out of that house of mine to-morrer. A man
can smite me on one cheek and maybe I’ll turn t’other, but when, after
I HAVE turned it, he finds fault ‘cause my face hurts his hand, then I
rise up and quit; you hear ME!”

Nobody could help hearing him, unless they was deefer than the feller
that fell out of the balloon and couldn’t hear himself strike, so all
hands agreed that sending Asaph Blueworthy to the poorhouse would be a
good thing. ‘Twould be a lesson to Ase, and would give the poorhouse one
more excuse for being on earth. Wellmouth’s a fairly prosperous town,
and the paupers had died, one after the other, and no new ones had come,
until all there was left in the poorhouse was old Betsy Mullen, who was
down with creeping palsy, and Deborah Badger, who’d been keeper ever
since her husband died.

The poorhouse property was valuable, too, specially for a summer
cottage, being out on the end of Robbin’s Point, away from the town, and
having a fine view right across the bay. Zoeth Tiddit was a committee
of one with power from the town to sell the place, but he hadn’t found
a customer yet. And if he did sell it, what to do with Debby was more
or less of a question. She’d kept poorhouse for years, and had no other
home nor no relations to go to. Everybody liked her, too--that is,
everybody but Cap’n Benijah. He was down on her ‘cause she was a
Spiritualist and believed in fortune tellers and such. The cap’n, bein’
a deacon of the Come-Outer persuasion, was naturally down on folks who
wasn’t broad-minded enough to see that his partic’lar crack in the roof
was the only way to crawl through to glory.

Well, we voted to send Asaph to the poorhouse, and then I was appointed
a delegate to see him and tell him he’d got to go. I wasn’t enthusiastic
over the job, but everybody said I was exactly the feller for the place.

“To tell you the truth,” drawls Darius, “you, being a stranger, are the
only one that Ase couldn’t talk over. He’s got a tongue that’s buttered
on both sides and runs on ball bearings. If I should see him he’d work
on my sympathies till I’d lend him the last two-cent piece in my baby’s
bank.”

So, as there wa’n’t no way out of it, I drove down to Asaph’s that
afternoon. He lived off on a side road by the shore, in a little,
run-down shanty that was as no account as he was. When I moored my horse
to the “heavenly-wood” tree by what was left of the fence, I would have
bet my sou’wester that I caught a glimpse of Brother Blueworthy, peeking
round the corner of the house. But when I turned that corner there was
nobody in sight, although the bu’sted wash-bench, with a cranberry crate
propping up its lame end, was shaking a little, as if some one had set
on it recent.

I knocked on the door, but nobody answered. After knocking three or
four times, I tried kicking, and the second kick raised, from somewheres
inside, a groan that was as lonesome a sound as ever I heard. No human
noise in my experience come within a mile of it for dead, downright
misery--unless, maybe, it’s Cap’n Jonadab trying to sing in meeting
Sundays.

“Who’s that?” wails Ase from ‘tother side of the door. “Did anybody
knock?”

“Knock!” says I. “I all but kicked your everlasting derelict out of
water. It’s me, Wingate--one of the selectmen. Tumble up, there! I want
to talk to you.”

Blueworthy didn’t exactly tumble, so’s to speak, but the door opened,
and he comes shuffling and groaning into sight. His face was twisted up
and he had one hand spread-fingered on the small of his back.

“Dear, dear!” says he. “I’m dreadful sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr.
Wingate. I’ve been wrastling with this turrible lumbago, and I’m ‘fraid
it’s affecting my hearing. I’ll tell you--”

“Yes--well, you needn’t mind,” I says; “‘cordin’ to common tell, you
was born with that same kind of lumbago, and it’s been getting no better
fast ever since. Jest drag your sufferings out onto this bench and come
to anchor. I’ve got considerable to say, and I’m in a hurry.”

Well, he grunted, and groaned, and scuffled along. When he’d got planted
on the bench he didn’t let up any--kept on with the misery.

“Look here,” says I, losing patience, “when you get through with the
Job business I’ll heave ahead and talk. Don’t let me interrupt the
lamentations on no account. Finished? All right. Now, you listen to me.”

And then I told him just how matters stood. His house was to be seized
on the mortgage, and he was to move to the poorhouse next day. You never
see a man more surprised or worse cut up. Him to the poorhouse? HIM--one
of the oldest families on the Cape? You’d think he was the Grand
Panjandrum. Well, the dignity didn’t work, so he commenced on the
lumbago; and that didn’t work, neither. But do you think he give up the
ship? Not much; he commenced to explain why he hadn’t been able to earn
a living and the reasons why he’d ought to have another chance. Talk!
Well, if I hadn’t been warned he’d have landed ME, all right. I never
heard a better sermon nor one with more long words in it.

I actually pitied him. It seemed a shame that a feller who could argue
like that should have to go to the poorhouse; he’d ought to run a summer
hotel--when the boarders kicked ‘cause there was yeller-eyed beans in
the coffee he would be the one to explain that they was lucky to get
beans like that without paying extra for ‘em. Thinks I, “I’m an idiot,
but I’ll make him one more offer.”

So I says: “See here, Mr. Blueworthy, I could use another man in the
stable at the Old Home House. If you want the job you can have it. ONLY,
you’ll have to work, and work hard.”

Well, sir, would you believe it?--his face fell like a cook-book cake.
That kind of chance wa’n’t what he was looking for. He shuffled and
hitched around, and finally he says: “I’ll--Ill consider your offer,” he
says.

That was too many for me. “Well, I’ll be yardarmed!” says I, and went
off and left him “considering.” I don’t know what his considerations
amounted to. All I know is that next day they took him to the poorhouse.

And from now on this yarn has got to be more or less hearsay. I’ll have
to put this and that together, like the woman that made the mince meat.
Some of the facts I got from a cousin of Deborah Badger’s, some of them
I wormed out of Asaph himself one time when he’d had a jug come down
from the city and was feeling toler’ble philanthropic and conversationy.
But I guess they’re straight enough.

Seems that, while I was down notifying Blueworthy, Cap’n Poundberry
had gone over to the poorhouse to tell the Widow Badger about her new
boarder. The widow was glad to hear the news.

“He’ll be somebody to talk to, at any rate,” says she. “Poor old Betsy
Mullen ain’t exactly what you’d call company for a sociable body. But
I’ll mind what you say, Cap’n Benijah. It takes more than a slick tongue
to come it over me. I’ll make that lazy man work or know the reason
why.”

So when Asaph arrived--per truck wagon--at three o’clock the next
afternoon, Mrs. Badger was ready for him. She didn’t wait to shake hands
or say: “Glad to see you.” No, sir! The minute he landed she sent him
out by the barn with orders to chop a couple of cords of oak slabs that
was piled there. He groaned and commenced to develop lumbago symptoms,
but she cured ‘em in a hurry by remarking that her doctor’s book said
vig’rous exercise was the best physic, for that kind of disease, and
so he must chop hard. She waited till she heard the ax “chunk” once or
twice, and then she went into the house, figgering that she’d gained the
first lap, anyhow.

But in an hour or so it come over her all of a sudden that ‘twas awful
quiet out by the woodpile. She hurried to the back door, and there was
Ase, setting on the ground in the shade, his eyes shut and his back
against the chopping block, and one poor lonesome slab in front of him
with a couple of splinters knocked off it. That was his afternoon’s
work.

Maybe you think the widow wa’n’t mad. She tip-toed out to the wood-pile,
grabbed her new boarder by the coat collar and shook him till his head
played “Johnny Comes Marching Home” against the chopping block.

“You lazy thing, you!” says she, with her eyes snapping. “Wake up and
tell me what you mean by sleeping when I told you to work.”

“Sleep?” stutters Asaph, kind of reaching out with his mind for a
life-preserver. “I--I wa’n’t asleep.”

Well, I don’t think he had really meant to sleep. I guess he just set
down to think of a good brand new excuse for not working, and kind of
drowsed off.

“You wa’n’t hey?” says Deborah. “Then ‘twas the best imitation ever _I_
see. What WAS you doing, if ‘tain’t too personal a question?”

“I--I guess I must have fainted. I’m subject to such spells. You see,
ma’am, I ain’t been well for--”

“Yes, I know. I understand all about that. Now, you march your boots
into that house, where I can keep an eye on you, and help me get supper.
To-morrer morning you’ll get up at five o’clock and chop wood till
breakfast time. If I think you’ve chopped enough, maybe you’ll get the
breakfast. If I don’t think so you’ll keep on chopping. Now, march!”

Blueworthy, he marched, but ‘twa’n’t as joyful a parade as an Odd
Fellers’ picnic. He could see he’d made a miscue--a clean miss, and
the white ball in the pocket. He knew, too, that a lot depended on his
making a good impression the first thing, and instead of that he’d gone
and “foozled his approach,” as that city feller said last summer when
he ran the catboat plump into the end of the pier. Deborah, she went out
into the kitchen, but she ordered Ase to stay in the dining room and set
the table; told him to get the dishes out of the closet.

All the time he was doing it he kept thinking about the mistake he’d
made, and wondering if there wa’n’t some way to square up and get solid
with the widow. Asaph was a good deal of a philosopher, and his motto
was--so he told me afterward, that time I spoke of when he’d been
investigating the jug--his motto was: “Every hard shell has a soft spot
somewheres, and after you find it, it’s easy.” If he could only find
out something that Deborah Badger was particular interested in, then
he believed he could make a ten-strike. And, all at once, down in the
corner of the closet, he see a big pile of papers and magazines. The one
on top was the Banner of Light, and underneath that was the Mysterious
Magazine.

Then he remembered, all of a sudden, the town talk about Debby’s
believing in mediums and spooks and fortune tellers and such. And he
commenced to set up and take notice.

At the supper table he was as mum as a rundown clock; just set in his
chair and looked at Mrs. Badger. She got nervous and fidgety after a
spell, and fin’lly bu’sts out with: “What are you staring at me like
that for?”

Ase kind of jumped and looked surprised. “Staring?” says he. “Was I
staring?”

“I should think you was! Is my hair coming down, or what is it?”

He didn’t answer for a minute, but he looked over her head and then
away acrost the room, as if he was watching something that moved. “Your
husband was a short, kind of fleshy man, as I remember, wa’n’t he?” says
he, absent-minded like.

“Course he was. But what in the world--”

“‘Twa’n’t him, then. I thought not.”

“HIM? My husband? What DO you mean?”

And then Asaph begun to put on the fine touches. He leaned acrost the
table and says he, in a sort of mysterious whisper: “Mrs. Badger,” says
he, “do you ever see things? Not common things, but strange--shadders
like?”

“Mercy me!” says the widow. “No. Do YOU?”

“Sometimes seems’s if I did. Jest now, as I set here looking at you, it
seemed as if I saw a man come up and put his hand on your shoulder.”

Well, you can imagine Debby. She jumped out of her chair and whirled
around like a kitten in a fit. “Good land!” she hollers. “Where? What?
Who was it?”

“I don’t know who ‘twas. His face was covered up; but it kind of come to
me--a communication, as you might say--that some day that man was going
to marry you.”

“Land of love! Marry ME? You’re crazy! I’m scart to death.”

Ase shook his head, more mysterious than ever. “I don’t know,” says he.
“Maybe I am crazy. But I see that same man this afternoon, when I was in
that trance, and--”

“Trance! Do you mean to tell me you was in a TRANCE out there by the
wood-pile? Are you a MEDIUM?”

Well, Ase, he wouldn’t admit that he was a medium exactly, but he give
her to understand that there wa’n’t many mediums in this country that
could do business ‘longside of him when he was really working. ‘Course
he made believe he didn’t want to talk about such things, and, likewise
of course, that made Debby all the more anxious TO talk about ‘em.
She found out that her new boarder was subject to trances and had
second-sight and could draw horoscopes, and I don’t know what all.
Particular she wanted to know more about that “man” that was going to
marry her, but Asaph wouldn’t say much about him.

“All I can say is,” says Ase, “that he didn’t appear to me like a
common man. He was sort of familiar looking, and yet there was something
distinguished about him, something uncommon, as you might say. But this
much comes to me strong: He’s a man any woman would be proud to get, and
some time he’s coming to offer you a good home. You won’t have to keep
poorhouse all your days.”

So the widow went up to her room with what you might call a case of
delightful horrors. She was too scart to sleep and frightened to stay
awake. She kept two lamps burning all night.

As for Asaph, he waited till ‘twas still, and then he crept downstairs
to the closet, got an armful of Banners of Light and Mysterious
Magazines, and went back to his room to study up. Next morning there was
nothing said about wood chopping--Ase was busy making preparations to
draw Debby’s horoscope.

You can see how things went after that. Blueworthy was star boarder
at that poorhouse. Mrs Badger was too much interested in spooks and
fortunes to think of asking him to work, and if she did hint at such a
thing, he’d have another “trance” and see that “man,” and ‘twas all off.
And we poor fools of selectmen was congratulating ourselves that Ase
Blueworthy was doing something toward earning his keep at last. And
then--‘long in July ‘twas--Betsy Mullen died.

One evening, just after the Fourth, Deborah and Asaph was in the dining
room, figgering out fortunes with a pack of cards, when there comes a
knock at the door. The widow answered it, and there was an old chap,
dressed in a blue suit, and a stunning pretty girl in what these summer
women make believe is a sea-going rig. And both of ‘em was sopping wet
through, and as miserable as two hens in a rain barrel.

It turned out that the man’s name was Lamont, with a colonel’s pennant
and a million-dollar mark on the foretop of it, and the girl was his
daughter Mabel. They’d been paying six dollars a day each for sea air
and clam soup over to the Wattagonsett House, in Harniss, and either
the soup or the air had affected the colonel’s head till he imagined he
could sail a boat all by his ownty-donty. Well, he’d sailed one acrost
the bay and got becalmed, and then the tide took him in amongst the
shoals at the mouth of Wellmouth Crick, and there, owing to a mixup of
tide, shoals, dark, and an overdose of foolishness, the boat had upset
and foundered and the Lamonts had waded half a mile or so to shore.
Once on dry land, they’d headed up the bluff for the only port in sight,
which was the poorhouse--although they didn’t know it.

The widow and Asaph made ‘em as comfortable as they could; rigged ‘em
up in dry clothes which had belonged to departed paupers, and got ‘em
something to eat. The Lamonts was what they called “enchanted” with the
whole establishment.

“This,” says the colonel, with his mouth full of brown bread, “is
delightful, really delightful. The New England hospitality that we read
about. So free from ostentation and conventionality.”

When you stop to think of it, you’d scurcely expect to run acrost much
ostentation at the poorhouse, but, of course, the colonel didn’t know,
and he praised everything so like Sam Hill, that the widow was ashamed
to break the news to him. And Ase kept quiet, too, you can be sure of
that. As for Mabel, she was one of them gushy, goo-gooey kind of girls,
and she was as struck with the shebang as her dad. She said the house
itself was a “perfect dear.”

And after supper they paired off and got to talking, the colonel with
Mrs. Badger, and Asaph with Mabel. Now, I can just imagine how Ase
talked to that poor, unsuspecting young female. He sartin did love an
audience, and here was one that didn’t know him nor his history, nor
nothing. He played the sad and mysterious. You could see that he was a
blighted bud, all right. He was a man with a hidden sorrer, and the way
he’d sigh and change the subject when it come to embarrassing questions
was enough to bring tears to a graven image, let alone a romantic girl
just out of boarding school.

Then, after a spell of this, Mabel wanted to be shown the house, so as
to see the “sweet, old-fashioned rooms.” And she wanted papa to see ‘em,
too, so Ase led the way, like the talking man in the dime museum. And
the way them Lamonts agonized over every rag mat, and corded bedstead
was something past belief. When they was saying good-night--they HAD to
stay all night because their own clothes wa’n’t dry and those they had
on were more picturesque than stylish--Mabel turns to her father and
says she:

“Papa, dear,” she says, “I believe that at last we’ve found the very
thing we’ve been looking for.”

And the colonel said yes, he guessed they had. Next morning they was up
early and out enjoying the view; it IS about the best view alongshore,
and they had a fit over it. When breakfast was done the Lamonts takes
Asaph one side and the colonel says:

“Mr. Blueworthy,” he says, “my daughter and I am very much pleased with
the Cape and the Cape people. Some time ago we made up our minds that
if we could find the right spot we would build a summer home here.
Preferably we wish to purchase a typical, old-time, Colonial homestead
and remodel it, retaining, of course, all the original old-fashioned
flavor. Cost is not so much the consideration as location and the house
itself. We are--ahem!--well, frankly, your place here suits us exactly.”

“We adore it,” says Mabel, emphatic.

“Mr. Blueworthy,” goes on the colonel, “will you sell us your home? I am
prepared to pay a liberal price.”

Poor Asaph was kind of throwed on his beam ends, so’s to speak. He
hemmed and hawed, and finally had to blurt out that he didn’t own the
place. The Lamonts was astonished. The colonel wanted to know if it
belonged to Mrs. Badger.

“Why, no,” says Ase. “The fact is--that is to say--you see--”

And just then the widow opened the kitchen window and called to ‘em.

“Colonel Lamont,” says she, “there’s a sailboat beating up the harbor,
and I think the folks on it are looking for you.”

The colonel excused himself, and run off down the hill toward the back
side of the point, and Asaph was left alone with the girl. He see, I
s’pose, that here was his chance to make the best yarn out of what was
bound to come out anyhow in a few minutes. So he fetched a sigh that
sounded as if ‘twas racking loose the foundations and commenced.

He asked Mabel if she was prepared to hear something that would shock
her turrible, something that would undermine her confidence in human
natur’. She was a good deal upset, and no wonder, but she braced up and
let on that she guessed she could stand it. So then he told her that
her dad and her had been deceived, that that house wa’n’t his nor Mrs.
Badger’s; ‘twas the Wellmouth poor farm, and he was a pauper.

She was shocked, all right enough, but afore she had a chance to ask
a question, he begun to tell her the story of his life. ‘Twas a fine
chance for him to spread himself, and I cal’late he done it to the
skipper’s taste. He told her how him and his sister had lived in their
little home, their own little nest, over there by the shore, for years
and years. He led her out to where she could see the roof of his old
shanty over the sand hills, and he wiped his eyes and raved over it.
You’d think that tumble-down shack was a hunk out of paradise; Adam and
Eve’s place in the Garden was a short lobster ‘longside of it. Then, he
said, he was took down with an incurable disease. He tried and tried to
get along, but ‘twas no go. He mortgaged the shanty to a grasping money
lender--meanin’ Poundberry--and that money was spent. Then his sister
passed away and his heart broke; so they took him to the poorhouse.

“Miss Lamont,” says he, “good-by. Sometimes in the midst of your
fashionable career, in your gayety and so forth, pause,” he says, “and
give a thought to the broken-hearted pauper who has told you his life
tragedy.”

Well, now, you take a green girl, right fresh from novels and music
lessons, and spring that on her--what can you expect? Mabel, she cried
and took on dreadful.

“Oh, Mr. Blueworthy!” says she, grabbing his hand. “I’m SO glad you told
me. I’m SO glad! Cheer up,” she says. “I respect you more than ever, and
my father and I will--”

Just then the colonel comes puffing up the hill. He looked as if he’d
heard news.

“My child,” he says in a kind of horrified whisper, “can you realize
that we have actually passed the night in the--in the ALMSHOUSE?”

Mabel held up her hand. “Hush, papa,” she says. “Hush. I know all about
it. Come away, quick; I’ve got something very important to say to you.”

And she took her dad’s arm and went off down the hill, mopping her
pretty eyes with her handkerchief and smiling back, every once in a
while, through her tears, at Asaph.

Now, it happened that there was a selectmen’s meeting that afternoon
at four o’clock. I was on hand, and so was Zoeth Tiddit and most of the
others. Cap’n Poundberry and Darius Gott were late. Zoeth was as happy
as a clam at high water; he’d sold the poorhouse property that very day
to a Colonel Lamont, from Harniss, who wanted it for a summer place.

“And I got the price we set on it, too,” says Zoeth. “But that wa’n’t
the funniest part of it. Seems’s old man Lamont and his daughter was
very much upset because Debby Badger and Ase Blueworthy would be turned
out of house and home ‘count of the place being sold. The colonel was
hot foot for giving ‘em a check for five hundred dollars to square
things; said his daughter’d made him promise he would. Says I: ‘You
can give it to Debby, if you want to, but don’t lay a copper on that
Blueworthy fraud.’ Then I told him the truth about Ase. He couldn’t
hardly believe it, but I finally convinced him, and he made out the
check to Debby. I took it down to her myself just after dinner. Ase was
there, and his eyes pretty nigh popped out of his head.

“‘Look here,’ I says to him; ‘if you’d been worth a continental
you might have had some of this. As it is, you’ll be farmed out
somewheres--that’s what’ll happen to YOU.’”

And as Zoeth was telling this, in comes Cap’n Benijah. He was happy,
too.

“I cal’late the Lamonts must be buying all the property alongshore,”
 he says when he heard the news. “I sold that old shack that I took
from Blueworthy to that Lamont girl to-day for three hundred and fifty
dollars. She wouldn’t say what she wanted of it, neither, and I didn’t
care much; _I_ was glad to get rid of it.”

“_I_ can tell you what she wanted of it,” says somebody behind us. We
turned round and ‘twas Gott; he’d come in. “I just met Squire Foster,”
 he says, “and the squire tells me that that Lamont girl come into his
office with the bill of sale for the property you sold her and made him
deed it right over to Ase Blueworthy, as a present from her.”

“WHAT?” says all hands, Poundberry loudest of all.

“That’s right,” said Darius. “She told the squire a long rigamarole
about what a martyr Ase was, and how her dad was going to do some thing
for him, but that she was going to give him his home back again with her
own money, money her father had given her to buy a ring with, she said,
though that ain’t reasonable, of course--nobody’d pay that much for a
ring. The squire tried to tell her what a no-good Ase was, but she froze
him quicker’n--Where you going, Cap’n Benije?”

“I’m going down to that poorhouse,” hollers Poundberry. “I’ll find out
the rights and wrongs of this thing mighty quick.”

We all said we’d go with him, and we went, six in one carryall. As we
hove in sight of the poorhouse a buggy drove away from it, going in
t’other direction.

“That looks like the Baptist minister’s buggy,” says Darius. “What on
earth’s he been down here for?”

Nobody could guess. As we run alongside the poorhouse door, Ase
Blueworthy stepped out, leading Debby Badger. She was as red as an
auction flag.

“By time, Ase Blueworthy!” hollers Cap’n Benijah, starting to get out
of the carryall, “what do you mean by--Debby, what are you holding that
rascal’s hand for?”

But Ase cut him short. “Cap’n Poundberry,” says he, dignified as a boy
with a stiff neck, “I might pass over your remarks to me, but when you
address my wife--”

“Your WIFE?” hollers everybody--everybody but the cap’n; he only sort of
gurgled.

“My wife,” says Asaph. “When you men--church members, too, some of
you--sold the house over her head, I’m proud to say that I, having a
home once more, was able to step for’ard and ask her to share it with
me. We was married a few minutes ago,” he says.

“And, oh, Cap’n Poundberry!” cried Debby, looking as if this was the
most wonderful part of it--“oh, Cap’n Poundberry!” she says, “we’ve
known for a long time that some man--an uncommon kind of man--was coming
to offer me a home some day, but even Asaph didn’t know ‘twas himself;
did you, Asaph?”

We selectmen talked the thing over going home, but Cap’n Benijah didn’t
speak till we was turning in at his gate. Then he fetched his knee a
thump with his fist, and says he, in the most disgusted tone ever I
heard:

“A house and lot for nothing,” he says, “a wife to do the work for him,
and five hundred dollars to spend! Sometimes the way this world’s run
gives me moral indigestion.”

Which was tolerable radical for a Come-Outer to say, seems to me.



JONESY


‘Twas Peter T. Brown that suggested it, you might know. And, as likewise
you might know, ‘twas Cap’n Jonadab that done the most of the growling.

“They ain’t no sense in it, Peter,” says he. “Education’s all right in
its place, but ‘tain’t no good out of it. Why, one of my last voyages
in the schooner Samuel Emory, I had a educated cook, feller that had
graduated from one of them correspondence schools. He had his diploma
framed and hung up on the wall of the galley along with tintypes of two
or three of his wives, and pictures cut out of the Police News, and the
like of that. And cook! Why, say! one of the fo’mast hands ate half a
dozen of that cook’s saleratus biscuit and fell overboard. If he hadn’t
been tangled up in his cod line, so we could haul him up by that, he’d
have been down yet. He’d never have riz of his own accord, not with them
biscuits in him. And as for his pie! the mate ate one of them bakeshop
paper plates one time, thinking ‘twas under crust; and he kept sayin’
how unusual tender ‘twas, at that. Now, what good was education to that
cook? Why--”

“Cut it out!” says Peter T., disgusted. “Who’s talking about cooks?
These fellers ain’t cooks--they’re--”

“I know. They’re waiters. Now, there ‘tis again. When I give an order
and there’s any back talk, I want to understand it. You take a passel of
college fellers, like you want to hire for waiters. S’pose I tell one
of ‘em to do something, and he answers back in Greek or Hindoo, or such.
_I_ can’t tell what he says. I sha’n’t know whether to bang him over the
head or give him a cigar. What’s the matter with the waiters we had last
year? They talked Irish, of course, but I understood the most of that,
and when I didn’t ‘twas safe to roll up my sleeves and begin arguing.
But--”

“Oh, ring off!” says Peter. “Twenty-three!”

And so they had it, back and forth. I didn’t say nothing. I knew how
‘twould end. If Peter T. Brown thought ‘twas good judgment to hire a
mess of college boys for waiters, fellers who could order up the squab
in pigeon-English and the ham in hog-Latin, I didn’t care, so long as
the orders and boarders got filled and the payroll didn’t have growing
pains. I had considerable faith in Brown’s ideas, and he was as set on
this one as a Brahma hen on a plaster nest-egg.

“It’ll give tone to the shebang,” says he, referring to the hotel; “and
we want to keep the Old Home House as high-toned as a ten-story organ
factory. And as for education, that’s a matter of taste. Me, I’d just as
soon have a waiter that bashfully admitted ‘Wee, my dam,’ as I would one
that pushed ‘Shur-r-e, Moike!’ edge-ways out of one corner of his mouth
and served the lettuce on top of the lobster, from principle, to keep
the green above the red. When it comes to tone and tin, Cap’n, you trust
your Uncle Pete; he hasn’t been sniffling around the tainted-money bunch
all these days with a cold in his head.”

So it went his way finally, as I knew it would, and when the Old Home
opened up on June first, the college waiters was on hand. And they was
as nice a lot of boys as ever handled plates and wiped dishes for their
board and four dollars a week. They was poor, of course, and working
their passage through what they called the “varsity,” but they attended
to business and wa’n’t a mite set up by their learning.

And they made a hit with the boarders, especially the women folks. Take
the crankiest old battle ship that ever cruised into breakfast with
diamond headlights showing and a pretty daughter in tow, and she would
eat lumpy oatmeal and scorched eggs and never sound a distress signal.
How could she, with one of them nice-looking gentlemanly waiters hanging
over her starboard beam and purring, “Certainly, madam,” and “Two lumps
or one, madam?” into her ear? Then, too, she hadn’t much time to find
fault with the grub, having to keep one eye on the daughter. The amount
of complaints that them college boys saved in the first fortnight was
worth their season’s wages, pretty nigh. Before June was over the Old
Home was full up and we had to annex a couple of next-door houses for
the left-overs.

I was skipper for one of them houses, and Jonadab run the other. Each
of us had a cook and a waiter, a housekeeper and an up-stairs girl.
My housekeeper was the boss prize in the package. Her name was Mabel
Seabury, and she was young and quiet and as pretty as the first bunch
of Mayflowers in the spring. And a lady--whew! The first time I set
opposite to her at table I made up my mind I wouldn’t drink out of my
sasser if I scalded the lining off my throat.

She was city born and brought up, but she wa’n’t one of your common “He!
he! ain’t you turrible!” lunch-counter princesses, with a head like a
dandelion gone to seed and a fish-net waist. You bet she wa’n’t! Her
dad had had money once, afore he tried to beat out Jonah and swallow
the stock exchange whale. After that he was skipper of a little society
library up to Cambridge, and she kept house for him. Then he died and
left her his blessing, and some of Peter Brown’s wife’s folks, that knew
her when she was well off, got her the job of housekeeper here with us.

The only trouble she made was first along, and that wa’n’t her fault.
I thought at one time we’d have to put up a wire fence to keep them
college waiters away from her. They hung around her like a passel of
gulls around a herring boat. She was nice to ‘em, too, but when you’re
just so nice to everybody and not nice enough to any special one, the
prospect ain’t encouraging. So they give it up, but there wa’n’t a male
on the place, from old Dr. Blatt, mixer of Blatt’s Burdock Bitters and
Blatt’s Balm for Beauty, down to the boy that emptied the ashes, who
wouldn’t have humped himself on all fours and crawled eight miles if
she’d asked him to. And that includes me and Cap’n Jonadab, and we’re
about as tough a couple of women-proof old hulks as you’ll find afloat.

Jonadab took a special interest in her. It pretty nigh broke his heart
to think she was running my house instead of his. He thought she’d ought
to be married and have a home of her own.

“Well,” says I, “why don’t she get married then? She could drag out and
tie up any single critter of the right sex in this neighborhood with
both hands behind her back.”

“Humph!” says he. “I s’pose you’d have her marry one of these
soup-toting college chaps, wouldn’t you? Then they could live on Greek
for breakfast and Latin for dinner and warm over the leavings for
supper. No, sir! a girl hasn’t no right to get married unless she gets
a man with money. There’s a deck-load of millionaires comes here every
summer, and I’m goin’ to help her land one of ‘em. It’s my duty as a
Christian,” says he.

One evening, along the second week in July ‘twas, I got up from the
supper-table and walked over toward the hotel, smoking, and thinking
what I’d missed in not having a girl like that set opposite me all these
years. And, in the shadder of the big bunch of lilacs by the gate, I see
a feller standing, a feller with a leather bag in his hand, a stranger.

“Good evening,” says I. “Looking for the hotel, was you?”

He swung round, kind of lazy-like, and looked at me. Then I noticed
how big he was. Seemed to me he was all of seven foot high and broad
according. And rigged up--my soul! He had on a wide, felt hat, with a
whirligig top onto it, and a light checked suit, and gloves, and slung
more style than a barber on Sunday. If I’D wore them kind of duds they’d
have had me down to Danvers, clanking chains and picking straws, but on
this young chap they looked fine.

“Good evening,” says the seven-footer, looking down and speaking to me
cheerful. “Is this the Old Ladies’ Home--the Old Home House, I should
say?”

“Yes, sir,” says I, looking up reverent at that hat.

“Right,” he says. “Will you be good enough to tell me where I can find
the proprietor?”

“Well,” says I, “I’m him; that is, I’m one of him. But I’m afraid we
can’t accommodate you, mister, not now. We ain’t got a room nowheres
that ain’t full.”

He knocked the ashes off his cigarette. “I’m not looking for a room,”
 says he, “except as a side issue. I’m looking for a job.”

“A job!” I sings out. “A JOB?”

“Yes. I understand you employ college men as waiters. I’m from Harvard,
and--”

“A waiter?” I says, so astonished that I could hardly swaller. “Be you a
waiter?”

“_I_ don’t know. I’ve been told so. Our coach used to say I was the best
waiter on the team. At any rate I’ll try the experiment.”

Soon’s ever I could gather myself together I reached across and took
hold of his arm.

“Son,” says I, “you come with me and turn in. You’ll feel better in the
morning. I don’t know where I’ll put you, unless it’s the bowling alley,
but I guess that’s your size. You oughtn’t to get this way at your age.”

He laughed a big, hearty laugh, same as I like to hear. “It’s straight,”
 he says. “I mean it. I want a job.”

“But what for? You ain’t short of cash?”

“You bet!” he says. “Strapped.”

“Then,” says I, “you come with me to-night and to-morrer morning you go
somewheres and sell them clothes you’ve got on. You’ll make more out of
that than you will passing pie, if you passed it for a year.”

He laughed again, but he said he was bound to be a waiter and if
I couldn’t help him he’d have to hunt up the other portion of the
proprietor. So I told him to stay where he was, and I went off and found
Peter T. You’d ought to seen Peter stare when we hove in sight of the
candidate.

“Thunder!” says he. “Is this Exhibit One, Barzilla? Where’d you pick up
the Chinese giant?”

I done the polite, mentioning Brown’s name, hesitating on t’other
chap’s.

“Er-Jones,” says the human lighthouse. “Er-yes; Jones.”

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Jones,” says Peter. “So you want to be a waiter,
do you? For how much per?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’ll begin at the bottom, being a green hand. Twenty
a week or so; whatever you’re accustomed to paying.”

Brown choked. “The figure’s all right,” he says, “only it covers a month
down here.”

“Right!” says Jones, not a bit shook up. “A month goes.”

Peter stepped back and looked him over, beginning with the tan shoes and
ending with the whirligig hat.

“Jonesy,” says he, finally, “you’re on. Take him to the servants’
quarters, Wingate.”

A little later, when I had the chance and had Brown alone, I says to
him:

“Peter,” says I, “for the land sakes what did you hire the emperor for?
A blind man could see HE wa’n’t no waiter. And we don’t need him anyhow;
no more’n a cat needs three tails. Why--”

But he was back at me before I could wink. “Need him?” he says. “Why,
Barzilla, we need him more than the old Harry needs a conscience. Take
a bird’s-eye view of him! Size him up! He puts all the rest of the
Greek statues ten miles in the shade. If I could only manage to get his
picture in the papers we’d have all the romantic old maids in Boston
down here inside of a week; and there’s enough of THEM to keep one hotel
going till judgment. Need him? Whew!”

Next morning we was at the breakfast-table in my branch establishment,
me and Mabel and the five boarders. All hands was doing their best to
start a famine in the fruit market, and Dr. Blatt was waving a banana
and cheering us with a yarn about an old lady that his Burdock Bitters
had h’isted bodily out of the tomb. He was at the most exciting part,
the bitters and the undertaker coming down the last lap neck and neck,
and an even bet who’d win the patient, when the kitchen door opens and
in marches the waiter with the tray full of dishes of “cereal.” Seems
to me ‘twas chopped hay we had that morning--either that or shavings; I
always get them breakfast foods mixed up.

But ‘twa’n’t the hay that made everybody set up and take notice. ‘Twas
the waiter himself. Our regular steward was a spindling little critter
with curls and eye-glasses who answered to the hail of “Percy.” This
fellow clogged up the scenery like a pet elephant, and was down in the
shipping list as “Jones.”

The doc left his invalid hanging on the edge of the grave, and stopped
and stared. Old Mrs. Bounderby h’isted the gold-mounted double spyglass
she had slung round her neck and took an observation. Her daughter
“Maizie” fetched a long breath and shut her eyes, like she’d seen her
finish and was resigned to it.

“Well, Mr. Jones,” says I, soon’s I could get my breath, “this is kind
of unexpected, ain’t it? Thought you was booked for the main deck.”

“Yes, sir,” he says, polite as a sewing-machine agent, “I was, but Percy
and I have exchanged. Cereal this morning, madam?”

Mrs. Bounderby took her measure of shavings and Jones’s measure at the
same time. She had him labeled “Danger” right off; you could tell that
by the way she spread her wings over “Maizie.” But I wa’n’t watching her
just then. I was looking at Mabel Seabury--looking and wondering.

The housekeeper was white as the tablecloth. She stared at the Jones
man as if she couldn’t believe her eyes, and her breath come short and
quick. I thought sure she was going to cry. And what she ate of that
meal wouldn’t have made a lunch for a hearty humming-bird.

When ‘twas finished I went out on the porch to think things over. The
dining room winder was open and Jonesy was clearing the table. All of a
sudden I heard him say, low and earnest:

“Well, aren’t you going to speak to me?”

The answer was in a girl’s voice, and I knew the voice. It said:

“You! YOU! How COULD you? Why did you come?”

“You didn’t think I could stay away, did you?”

“But how did you know I was here? I tried so hard to keep it a secret.”

“It took me a month, but I worked it out finally. Aren’t you glad to see
me?”

She burst out crying then, quiet, but as if her heart was broke.

“Oh!” she sobs. “How could you be so cruel! And they’ve been so kind to
me here.”

I went away then, thinking harder than ever. At dinner Jonesy done the
waiting, but Mabel wa’n’t on deck. She had a headache, the cook said,
and was lying down. ‘Twas the same way at supper, and after supper Peter
Brown comes to me, all broke up, and says he:

“There’s merry clink to pay,” he says. “Mabel’s going to leave.”

“No?” says I. “She ain’t neither!”

“Yes, she is. She says she’s going to-morrer. She won’t tell me why, and
I’ve argued with her for two hours. She’s going to quit, and I’d rather
enough sight quit myself. What’ll we do?” says he.

I couldn’t help him none, and he went away, moping and miserable. All
round the place everybody was talking about the “lovely” new waiter,
and to hear the girls go on you’d think the Prince of Wales had landed.
Jonadab was the only kicker, and he said ‘twas bad enough afore, but
now that new dude had shipped, ‘twa’n’t the place for a decent,
self-respecting man.

“How you goin’ to order that Grand Panjandrum around?” he says. “Great
land of Goshen! I’d as soon think of telling the Pope of Rome to empty
a pail of swill as I would him. Why don’t he stay to home and be a
tailor’s sign or something? Not prance around here with his high-toned
airs. I’m glad you’ve got him, Barzilla, and not me.”

Well, most of that was plain jealousy, so I didn’t contradict. Besides
I was too busy thinking. By eight o’clock I’d made up my mind and I went
hunting for Jones.

I found him, after a while, standing by the back door and staring up at
the chamber winders as if he missed something. I asked him to come along
with me. Told him I had a big cargo of talk aboard, and wouldn’t be able
to cruise on an even keel till I’d unloaded some of it. So he fell into
my wake, looking puzzled, and in a jiffy we was planted in the rocking
chairs up in my bedroom.

“Look here,” says I, “Mr.--Mr.--”

“Jones,” says he.

“Oh, yes--Jones. It’s a nice name.”

“I remember it beautifully,” says he, smiling.

“All right, Mr. Jones. Now, to begin with, we’ll agree that it ain’t
none of my darn business, and I’m an old gray-headed nosey, and the like
of that. But, being that I AM old--old enough to be your dad, though
that’s my only recommend for the job--I’m going to preach a little
sermon. My text is found in the Old Home Hotel, Wellmouth, first house
on the left. It’s Miss Seabury,” says I.

He was surprised, I guess, but he never turned a hair. “Indeed?” he
says. “She is the--the housekeeper, isn’t she?”

“She was,” says I, “but she leaves to-morrer morning.”

THAT hit him between wind and water.

“No?” he sings out, setting up straight and staring at me. “Not really?”

“You bet,” I says. “Now down in this part of the chart we’ve come to
think more of that young lady than a cat does of the only kitten left
out of the bag in the water bucket. Let me tell you about her.”

So I went ahead, telling him how Mabel had come to us, why she come, how
well she was liked, how much she liked us, and a whole lot more. I guess
he knew the most of it, but he was too polite not to act interested.

“And now, all at once,” says I, “she gives up being happy and well and
contented, and won’t eat, and cries, and says she’s going to leave.
There’s a reason, as the advertisement folks say, and I’m going to make
a guess at it. I believe it calls itself Jones.”

His under jaw pushed out a little and his eyebrows drew together. But
all he said was, “Well?”

“Yes,” I says. “And now, Mr. Jones, I’m old, as I said afore, and nosey
maybe, but I like that girl. Perhaps I might come to like you, too; you
can’t tell. Under them circumstances, and with the understanding that
it didn’t go no farther, maybe you might give me a glimpse of the lay
of the land. Possibly I might have something to say that would help. I’m
fairly white underneath, if I be sunburned. What do you think about it?”

He didn’t answer right off; seemed to be chewing it over. After a spell
he spoke.

“Mr. Wingate,” says he, “with the understanding that you mentioned, I
don’t mind supposing a case. Suppose you was a chap in college. Suppose
you met a girl in the vicinity that was--well, was about the best ever.
Suppose you came to find that life wasn’t worth a continental without
that girl. Then suppose you had a dad with money, lots of money. Suppose
the old fo--the gov’nor, I mean--without even seeing her or even
knowing her name or a thing about her, said no. Suppose you and the old
gentleman had a devil of a row, and broke off for keeps. Then suppose
the girl wouldn’t listen to you under the circumstances. Talked rot
about ‘wasted future’ and ‘throwing your life away’ and so on. Suppose,
when you showed her that you didn’t care a red for futures, she ran
away from you and wouldn’t tell where she’d gone. Suppose--well, I guess
that’s enough supposing. I don’t know why I’m telling you these things,
anyway.”

He stopped and scowled at the floor, acting like he was sorry he spoke.
I pulled at my pipe a minute or so and then says I:

“Hum!” I says, “I presume likely it’s fair to suppose that this break
with the old gent is for good?”

He didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to; the look on his face was
enough.

“Yes,” says I. “Well, it’s likewise to be supposed that the idea--the
eventual idea--is marriage, straight marriage, hey?”

He jumped out of his chair. “Why, damn you!” he says. “I’ll--”

“All right. Set down and be nice. I was fairly sure of my soundings, but
it don’t do no harm to heave the lead. I ask your pardon. Well, what you
going to support a wife on--her kind of a wife? A summer waiter’s job at
twenty a month?”

He set down, but he looked more troubled than ever. I was sorry for him;
I couldn’t help liking the boy.

“Suppose she keeps her word and goes away,” says I. “What then?”

“I’ll go after her.”

“Suppose she still sticks to her principles and won’t have you? Where’ll
you go, then?”

“To the hereafter,” says he, naming the station at the end of the route.

“Oh, well, there’s no hurry about that. Most of us are sure of a free
one-way pass to that port some time or other, ‘cording to the parson’s
tell. See here, Jones; let’s look at this thing like a couple of men,
not children. You don’t want to keep chasing that girl from pillar to
post, making her more miserable than she is now. And you ain’t in no
position to marry her. The way to show a young woman like her that you
mean business and are going to be wuth cooking meals for is to get the
best place you can and start in to earn a living and save money. Now,
Mr. Brown’s father-in-law is a man by the name of Dillaway, Dillaway of
the Consolidated Cash Stores. He’ll do things for me if I ask him to,
and I happen to know that he’s just started a branch up to Providence
and is there now. Suppose I give you a note to him, asking him, as a
favor to me, to give you the best job he can. He’ll do it, I know. After
that it’s up to you. This is, of course, providing that you start for
Providence to-morrer morning. What d’you say?”

He was thinking hard. “Suppose I don’t make good?” he says. “I never
worked in my life. And suppose she--”

“Oh, suppose your granny’s pet hen hatched turkeys,” I says, getting
impatient, “I’ll risk your making good. I wa’n’t a first mate, shipping
fo’mast hands ten years, for nothing. I can generally tell beet greens
from cabbage without waiting to smell ‘em cooking. And as for her, it
seems to me that a girl who thinks enough of a feller to run away from
him so’s he won’t spile his future, won’t like him no less for being
willing to work and wait for her. You stay here and think it over. I’m
going out for a spell.”

When I come back Jonesy was ready for me.

“Mr. Wingate,” says he, “it’s a deal. I’m going to go you, though I
think you’re plunging on a hundred-to-one shot. Some day I’ll tell you
more about myself, maybe. But now I’m going to take your advice and
the position. I’ll do my best, and I must say you’re a brick. Thanks
awfully.”

“Good enough!” I says. “Now you go and tell her, and I’ll write the
letter to Dillaway.”

So the next forenoon Peter T. Brown was joyful all up one side because
Mabel had said she’d stay, and mournful all down the other because his
pet college giant had quit almost afore he started. I kept my mouth
shut, that being the best play I know of, nine cases out of ten.

I went up to the depot with Jonesy to see him off.

“Good-by, old man,” he says, shaking hands. “You’ll write me once in a
while, telling me how she is, and--and so on?”

“Bet you!” says I. “I’ll keep you posted up. And let’s hear how you
tackle the Consolidated Cash business.”

July and the first two weeks in August moped along and everything at the
Old Home House kept about the same. Mabel was in mighty good spirits,
for her, and she got prettier every day. I had a couple of letters from
Jones, saying that he guessed he could get bookkeeping through his skull
in time without a surgical operation, and old Dillaway was down over one
Sunday and was preaching large concerning the “find” my candidate was
for the Providence branch. So I guessed I hadn’t made no mistake.

I had considerable fun with Cap’n Jonadab over his not landing a rich
husband for the Seabury girl. Looked like the millionaire crop was going
to be a failure that summer.

“Aw, belay!” says he, short as baker’s pie crust. “The season ain’t over
yet. You better take a bath in the salt mack’rel kag; you’re too fresh
to keep this hot weather.”

Talking “husband” to him was like rubbing pain-killer on a scalded pup,
so I had something to keep me interested dull days. But one morning he
comes to me, excited as a mouse at a cat show, and says he:

“Ah, ha! what did I tell you? I’ve got one!”

“I see you have,” says I. “Want me to send for the doctor?”

“Stop your foolishing,” he says. “I mean I’ve got a millionaire. He’s
coming to-night, too. One of the biggest big-bugs there is in New York.
Ah, ha! what did I tell you?”

He was fairly boiling over with gloat, but from between the bubbles I
managed to find out that the new boarder was a big banker from New
York, name of Van Wedderburn, with a barrel of cash and a hogshead of
dyspepsy. He was a Wall Street “bear,” and a steady diet of lamb with
mint sass had fetched him to where the doctors said ‘twas lay off for
two months or be laid out for keeps.

“And I’ve fixed it that he’s to stop at your house, Barzilla,” crows
Jonadab. “And when he sees Mabel--well, you know what she’s done to the
other men folks,” he says.

“Humph!” says I, “maybe he’s got dyspepsy of the heart along with the
other kind. She might disagree with him. What makes you so cock sartin?”

“‘Cause he’s a widower,” he says. “Them’s the softest kind.”

“Well, you ought to know,” I told him. “You’re one yourself. But,
from what I’ve heard, soft things are scarce in Wall Street. Bet you
seventy-five cents to a quarter it don’t work.”

He wouldn’t take me, having scruples against betting--except when he
had the answer in his pocket. But he went away cackling joyful, and that
night Van Wedderburn arrived.

Van was a substantial-looking old relic, built on the lines of the
Boston State House, broad in the beam and with a shiny dome on top. But
he could qualify for the nervous dyspepsy class all right, judging
by his language to the depot-wagon driver. When he got through making
remarks because one of his trunks had been forgot, that driver’s
quotation, according to Peter T., had “dropped to thirty cents, with a
second assessment called.” I jedged the meals at our table would be as
agreeable as a dog-fight.

However, ‘twas up to me, and I towed him in and made him acquainted with
Mabel. She wa’n’t enthusiastic--having heard some of the driver sermon,
I cal’late--until I mentioned his name. Then she gave a little gasp
like. When Van had gone up to his rooms, puffing like a donkey-engyne
and growling ‘cause there wa’n’t no elevators, she took me by the arm
and says she:

“WHAT did you say his name was, Mr. Wingate?”

“Van Wedderburn,” says I. “The New York millionaire one.”

“Not of Van Wedderburn & Hamilton, the bankers?” she asks, eager.

“That’s him,” says I. “Why? Do you know him? Did his ma used to do
washing at your house?”

She laughed, but her face was all lit up and her eyes fairly shone. I
could have--but there! never mind.

“Oh, no,” she says, “I don’t know him, but I know of him--everybody
does.”

Well, everybody did, that’s a fact, and the way Marm Bounderby and
Maizie was togged out at the supper-table was a sin and a shame. And the
way they poured gush over that bald-headed broker was enough to make him
slip out of his chair. Talk about “fishers of men”! them Bounderbys was
a whole seiner’s crew in themselves.

But what surprised me was Mabel Seabury. She was dressed up, too; not
in the Bounderbys’ style--collar-bones and diamonds--but in plain white
with lace fuzz. If she wa’n’t peaches and cream, then all you need is
lettuce to make me a lobster salad.

And she was as nice to Van as if he was old Deuteronomy out of the
Bible. He set down to that meal with a face on him like a pair of
nutcrackers, and afore ‘twas over he was laughing and eating apple pie
and telling funny yarns about robbing his “friends” in the Street. I
judged he’d be sorry for it afore morning, but I didn’t care for that. I
was kind of worried myself; didn’t understand it.

And I understood it less and less as the days went by. If she’d been
Maizie Bounderby, with two lines in each hand and one in her teeth, she
couldn’t have done more to hook that old stock-broker. She cooked little
special dishes for his dyspepsy to play with, and set with him on the
piazza evenings, and laughed at his jokes, and the land knows what.
Inside of a fortni’t he was a gone goose, which wa’n’t surprising--every
other man being in the same fix--but ‘TWAS surprising to see her helping
the goneness along. All hands was watching the game, of course, and it
pretty nigh started a mutiny at the Old Home. The Bounderbys packed
up and lit out in ten days, and none of the other women would speak
to Mabel. They didn’t blame poor Mr. Van, you understand. ‘Twas all
her--“low, designing thing!”

And Jonadab! he wa’n’t fit to live with. The third forenoon after Van
Wedderburn got there he come around and took the quarter bet. And the
way he crowed over me made my hands itch for a rope’s end. Finally I
owned up to myself that I’d made a mistake; the girl was a whitewashed
tombstone and the whitewash was rubbing thin. That night I dropped a
line to poor Jonesy at Providence, telling him that, if he could get
a day off, maybe he’d better come down to Wellmouth, and see to his
fences; somebody was feeding cows in his pasture.

The next day was Labor Day, and what was left of the boarders was going
for a final picnic over to Baker’s Grove at Ostable. We went, three
catboats full of us, and Van and Mabel Seabury was in the same boat. We
made the grove all right, and me and Jonadab had our hands full, baking
clams and chasing spiders out of the milk, and doing all the chores that
makes a picnic so joyfully miserable. When the dinner dishes was washed
I went off by myself to a quiet bunch of bayberry bushes half a mile
from the grove and laid down to rest, being beat out.

I guess I fell asleep, and what woke me was somebody speaking close by.
I was going to get up and clear out, not being in the habit of listening
to other folks’ affairs, but the very first words I heard showed me that
‘twas best, for the feelings of all concerned, to lay still and keep on
with my nap.

“Oh, no!” says Mabel Seabury, dreadful nervous and hurried-like; “oh,
no! Mr. Van Wedderburn, please don’t say any more. I can’t listen to
you, I’m so sorry.”

“Do you mean that--really mean it?” asks Van, his voice rather shaky
and seemingly a good deal upset. “My dear young lady, I realize that I’m
twice your age and more, and I suppose that I was an old fool to hope;
but I’ve had trouble lately, and I’ve been very lonely, and you have
been so kind that I thought--I did hope--I--Can’t you?”

“No,” says she, more nervous than ever, and shaky, too, but decided.
“No! Oh, NO! It’s all my fault. I wanted you to like me; I wanted you to
like me very much. But not this way. I’m--I’m--so sorry. Please forgive
me.”

She walked on then, fast, and toward the grove, and he followed,
slashing at the weeds with his cane, and acting a good deal as if he’d
like to pick up his playthings and go home. When they was out of sight I
set up and winked, large and comprehensive, at the scenery. It looked to
me like I was going to collect Jonadab’s quarter.

That night as I passed the lilac bushes by the gate, somebody steps out
and grabs my arm. I jumped, looked up, and there, glaring down at me out
of the clouds, was friend Jones from Providence, R. I.

“Wingate,” he whispers, fierce, “who is the man? And where is he?”

“Easy,” I begs. “Easy on that arm. I might want to use it again. What
man?”

“That man you wrote me about. I’ve come down here to interview him.
Confound him! Who is he?”

“Oh, it’s all right now,” says I. “There was an old rooster from New
York who was acting too skittish to suit me, but I guess it’s all off.
His being a millionaire and a stock-jobber was what scart me fust along.
He’s a hundred years old or so; name of Van Wedderburn.”

“WHAT?” he says, pinching my arm till I could all but feel his thumb and
finger meet. “What? Stop joking. I’m not funny to-night.”

“It’s no joke,” says I, trying to put my arm together again. “Van
Wedderburn is his name. ‘Course you’ve heard of him. Why! there he is
now.”

Sure enough, there was Van, standing like a statue of misery on the
front porch of the main hotel, the light from the winder shining full on
him. Jonesy stared and stared.

“Is that the man?” he says, choking up. “Was HE sweet on Mabel?”

“Sweeter’n a molasses stopper,” says I. “But he’s going away in a day or
so. You don’t need to worry.”

He commenced to laugh, and I thought he’d never stop.

“What’s the joke?” I asks, after a year or so of this foolishness. “Let
me in, won’t you? Thought you wa’n’t funny to-night.”

He stopped long enough to ask one more question. “Tell me, for the
Lord’s sake!” says he. “Did she know who he was?”

“Sartin,” says I. “So did every other woman round the place. You’d think
so if--”

He walked off then, laughing himself into a fit. “Good night, old man,”
 he says, between spasms. “See you later. No, I don’t think I shall worry
much.”

If he hadn’t been so big I cal’lated I’d have risked a kick. A man hates
to be made a fool of and not know why.

A whole lot of the boarders had gone on the evening train, and at our
house Van Wedderburn was the only one left. He and Mabel and me was the
full crew at the breakfast-table the follering morning. The fruit season
was a quiet one. I done all the talking there was; every time the broker
and the housekeeper looked at each other they turned red.

Finally ‘twas “chopped-hay” time, and in comes the waiter with the
tray. And again we had a surprise, just like the one back in July. Percy
wa’n’t on hand, and Jonesy was.

But the other surprise wa’n’t nothing to this one. The Seabury girl was
mightily set back, but old Van was paralyzed. His eyes and mouth opened
and kept on opening.

“Cereal, sir?” asks Jones, polite as ever.

“Why! why, you--you rascal!” hollers Van Wedderburn. “What are you doing
here?”

“I have a few days’ vacation from my position at Providence, sir,”
 answers Jones. “I’m a waiter at present.”

“Why, ROBERT!” exclaims Mabel Seabury.

Van swung around like he was on a pivot. “Do you know HIM?” he pants,
wild as a coot, and pointing.

‘Twas the waiter himself that answered.

“She knows me, father,” he says. “In fact she is the young lady I told
you about last spring; the one I intend to marry.”

Did you ever see the tide go out over the flats? Well, that’s the way
the red slid down off old Van’s bald head and across his cheeks. But it
came back again like an earthquake wave. He turned to Mabel once more,
and if ever there was a pleading “Don’t tell” in a man’s eyes, ‘twas in
his.

“Cereal, sir?” asks Robert Van Wedderburn, alias “Jonesy.”

Well, I guess that’s about all. Van Senior took it enough sight more
graceful than you’d expect, under the circumstances. He went straight
up to his room and never showed up till suppertime. Then he marches to
where Mabel and his son was, on the porch, and says he:

“Bob,” he says, “if you don’t marry this young lady within a month I’ll
disown you, for good this time. You’ve got more sense than I thought.
Blessed if I see who you inherit it from!” says he, kind of to himself.

Jonadab ain’t paid me the quarter yet. He says the bet was that she’d
land a millionaire, and a Van Wedderburn, afore the season ended, and
she did; so he figgers that he won the bet. Him and me got wedding cards
a week ago, so I suppose “Jonesy” and Mabel are on their honeymoon
now. I wonder if she’s ever told her husband about what I heard in the
bayberry bushes. Being the gamest sport, for a woman, that ever I see,
I’ll gamble she ain’t said a word about it.


THE END





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