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Cap'n Eri by Joseph Lincoln

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This etext was prepared by Donald Lainson, charlie@idirect.com.


by Joseph Lincoln


























"Perez," observed Captain Eri cheerfully, "I'm tryin' to average up
with the mistakes of Providence."

The Captain was seated by the open door of the dining room, in the
rocker with the patched cane seat. He was apparently very busy
doing something with a piece of fishline and a pair of long-legged
rubber boots. Captain Perez, swinging back and forth in the parlor
rocker with the patch-work cushion, was puffing deliberately at a
wooden pipe, the bowl of which was carved into the likeness of a
very rakish damsel with a sailor's cap set upon the side of her
once flaxen head. In response to his companion's remark he lazily
turned his sunburned face toward the cane-seated rocker and

"What on airth are you doin' with them boots?"

Captain Eri tied a knot with his fingers and teeth and then held
the boots out at arm's length.

"Why, Perez," he said, "I'm averagin' up, same as I told you.
Providence made me a two-legged critter, and a two-legged critter
needs two boots. I've always been able to find one of these boots
right off whenever I wanted it, but it's took me so plaguey long to
find the other one that whatever wet there was dried up afore I got
out of the house. Yesterday when I wanted to go clammin' I found
the left one on the mantelpiece, no trouble at all, but it was
pretty nigh high water before I dug the other one out of the
washb'iler. That's why I'm splicin' 'em together this way. I
don't want to promise nothin' rash, but I'm in hopes that even
Jerry can't lose 'em now."

"Humph!" grunted Captain Perez. "I don't think much of that plan.
'Stead of losin' one you'll lose both of 'em."

"Yes, but then I shan't care. If there ain't NO boots in sight;
I'll go barefoot or stay at home. It's the kind of responsibleness
that goes with havin' one boot that's wearin' me out. Where IS

"He went out to feed Lorenzo. I heard him callin' a minute ago.
That cat ain't been home sence noon, and Jerry's worried."

A stentorian shout of "Puss! puss! Come, kitty, kitty, kitty!"
came from somewhere outside. Captain Eri smiled.

"I'm 'fraid Lorenzo's gittin' dissipated in his old age," he
observed. Then, as a fat gray cat shot past the door, "There he
is! Reg'lar prodigal son. Comes home when the fatted ca'f's

A moment later Captain Jerry appeared, milk pitcher in hand. He
entered the dining room and, putting the pitcher down on the table,
pulled forward the armchair with the painted sunset on the back,
produced his own pipe, and proceeded to hunt through one pocket
after the other with a troubled expression of countenance.

"Where in tunket is my terbacker?" he asked, after finishing the
round of pockets and preparing to begin all over again.

"I see it on the top of the clock a spell ago," said Captain Perez.

"Was that yours, Jerry?" exclaimed Captain Eri. "Well, that's too
bad! I see it there and thought 'twas mine. Here 'tis, or what's
left of it."

Captain Jerry took the remnant of a plug from his friend and said
in an aggrieved tone:

"That's jest like you, Eri! Never have a place for nothin' and
help yourself to anything you happen to want, don't make no odds
whose 'tis. Why don't you take care of your terbacker, same's I do
of mine?"

"Now see here, Jerry! I ain't so sure that is yours. Let me see
it. Humph! I thought so! This is 'Navy Plug' and you always
smoke 'Sailor's Sweetheart.' Talk about havin' a place for

"That's MY terbacker, if you want to know," observed Captain Perez.
"I've got yours, Eri. Here 'tis."

"Well, then, where IS mine?" said Captain Jerry somewhat snappishly.

"Bet a dollar you've got it in your pocket," said Captain Eri.

"Bet ten dollars I ain't! I ain't quite a fool yit, Eri Hedge. I
guess I know--well, I snum! I forgot that upper vest pocket!" and
from the pocket mentioned Captain Jerry produced the missing

There was a general laugh, in which Captain Jerry was obliged to
join, and the trio smoked in silence for a time, while the expanse
of water to the eastward darkened, and the outer beach became but a
dusky streak separating the ocean from the inner bay. At length
Captain Perez rose and, knocking the ashes from his pipe, announced
that he was going to "show a glim."

"Yes, go ahead, Jerry!" said Captain Eri, "it's gittin' dark."

"It's darker in the grave," observed Captain Perez with lugubrious

"Then for the land's sake let's have it light while we can! Here,
Jerry! them matches is burnt ones. Try this, 'twon't be so
damagin' to the morals."

Captain Jerry took the proffered match and lit the two bracket
lamps, fastened to the walls of the dining room. The room, seen by
the lamplight, was shiplike, but as decidedly not shipshape. The
chronometer on the mantel was obscured by a thick layer of dust.
The three gorgeous oil paintings--from the brush of the local sign
painter--respectively representing the coasting packet Hannah M.,
Eri Hedge, Master, and the fishing schooners, Georgie Baker,
Jeremiah Burgess, Master, and the Flying Duck, Perez Ryder, Master,
were shrouded in a very realistic fog of the same dust. Even the
imposing gilt-lettered set of "Lives of Great Naval Commanders,"
purchased by Captain Perez some months before, and being slowly
paid for on an apparently never-ending installment plan, was
cloaked with it. The heap of newspapers, shoved under the couch to
get them out of the way, peeped forth in a tell-tale manner. The
windows were not too clean and the floor needed sweeping.
Incidentally the supper table had not been cleared. Each one of
the three noted these things and each sighed. Then Captain Eri
said, as if to change the subject, though no one had spoken:

"What started you talkin' about the grave, Perez? Was it them clam
fritters of Jerry's?"

"No," answered the ex-skipper of the Flying Duck, pulling at his
grizzled scrap of throat whisker and looking rather shamefaced.
"You see, M'lissy Busteed dropped in a few minutes this mornin'
while you fellers was out and--"

Both Captain Eri and Captain Jerry set up a hilarious shout.

"Haw! haw!" roared the former, slapping his knee. "I wouldn't be
so fascinatin' as you be for no money, Perez. She'll have you yit;
you can't git away! But say, I don't wonder you got to thinkin'
'bout the grave. Ten minutes of M'lissy gits me thinkin' of things
way t'other side of that!"

"Aw, belay there, Eri" protested Captain Perez testily. "'Twan't
my fault. I didn't see her comin' or I'd have got out of sight.
She was cruisin' 'round the way she always does with a cargo of
gabble, and, she put in here to unload. Talk! I never heard a
woman talk the way she can! She'd be a good one to have on board
in a calm. Git her talkin' abaft the mains'l and we'd have a
twenty-knot breeze in a shake."

"What was it this time?" asked Captain Jerry.

"Oh, a little of everything. She begun about the 'beautiful'
sermon that Mr. Perley preached at the last 'Come-Outers'' meetin'.
That was what started me thinkin' about the grave, I guess. Then
she pitched into Seth Wingate's wife for havin' a new bunnit this
season when the old one wan't ha'f wore out. She talked for ten
minutes or so on that, and then she begun about Parker's bein' let
go over at the cable station and about the new feller that's been
signed to take his place. She's all for Parker. Says he was a
'perfectly lovely' man and that 'twas outrageous the way he was
treated, and all that sort of thing."

"She ain't the only one that thinks so," observed Captain Jerry.
"There's a heap of folks in this town that think Parker was a
mighty fine feller."

"Yes," said Captain Eri, "and it's worth while noticin' who they
be. Perez' friend, M'lissy, thinks so, and 'Squealer' Wixon and
his gang think so, and 'Web' Saunders thinks so, and a lot more
like them. Parker was TOO good a feller, that's what was the
matter with him. His talk always reminded me of washday at the
poorhouse, lots of soft soap with plenty of lye in it."

"Well, M'lissy says that the men over to the station--all except
Langley, of course--are mad as all git-out because Parker was let
go, and she says somebody told somebody else, and somebody else
told somebody else, and somebody else told HER--she says it come
reel straight--that the men are goin' to make it hot for the new
feller when he comes. She says his name's Hazeltine, or somethin'
like that, and that he's goin' to get here to-morrer or next day."

"Well," said Captain Eri, "it's a mercy M'lissy found it out. If
that man should git here and she not know it aforehand 'twould kill
her sure as fate, and think what a blow that would be to you,

He took his old-fashioned watch from his pocket and glanced at the

"I mustn't be settin' round here much longer," he added. "John
Baxter's goin' to have that little patch of cranberry swamp of his
picked to-morrer, and he's expectin' some barrels down on to-
night's train. John asked me to git Zoeth Cahoon to cart 'em down
for him, but I ain't got nothin' special to do to-night, so I
thought I'd hitch up and go and git 'em myself. You and Jerry can
match cents to see who does the dishes. I did 'em last night, so
it's my watch below."

"Well, _I_ shan't do 'em," declared Captain Perez. "Blessed if I'd
do the durn things to-night if the President of the United States
asked me to."

"Humph!" sputtered Captain Jerry. "I s'pose you fellers think I'll
do 'em all the time. If you do you're mistook, that's all.
'Twan't last night you done 'em, Eri; 'twas the night afore. I
done 'em last night, and I'm ready to take my chances agin if we
match, but I'm jiggered if I let you shove the whole thing off onto
me. I didn't ship for cook no more 'n the rest of you."

Neither of the others saw fit to answer this declaration of
independence and there was a pause in the conversation. Then
Captain Jerry said moodily:

"It ain't no use. It don't work."

"What don't work?" asked Captain Eri.

"Why, this plan of ours. I thought when we fellers give up goin'
to sea reg'lar and settled down here to keep house ourselves and
live economical and all that, that 'twas goin' to be fine. I
thought I wouldn't mind doin' my share of the work a bit, thought
'twould be kind of fun to swab decks and all that. Well, 'twas for
a spell, but 'tain't now. I'm so sick of it that I don't know what
to do. And I'm sick of livin' in a pigpen, too. Look at them
dead-lights! They're so dirty that when I turn out in the mornin'
and go to look through 'em, I can't tell whether it's foul weather
or fair."

Captain Eri looked at the windows toward which his friend pointed
and signed assent.

"There's no use talkin'," he observed, "we've got to have a steward
aboard this craft."

"Yes," said Captain Perez emphatically, "a steward or a woman."

"A WOMAN!" exclaimed Captain Eri. Then he shook his head solemnly
and added, "There, Jerry! What did I tell you? M'lissy!"

But Captain Perez did not smile.

"I ain't foolin'," he said; "I mean it."

Captain Jerry thought of the spick-and-span days of his wife, dead
these twenty years, and sighed again. "I s'pose we might have a
housekeeper," he said.

"Housekeeper!" sneered Captain Eri. "Who'd you hire? Perez don't,
seemin'ly, take to M'lissy, and there ain't nobody else in Orham
that you could git, 'less 'twas old A'nt Zuby Higgins, and that
would be actin' like the feller that jumped overboard when his boat
sprung a leak. No, sir! If A'nt Zuby ships aboard here I heave up
MY commission."

"Who said anything about A'nt Zuby or housekeepers either?"
inquired Captain Perez. "I said we'd got to have a woman, and we
have. One of us 'll have to git married, that's all."

"MARRIED!" roared the two in chorus.

"That's what I said, married, and take the others to board in this
house. Look here now! When a shipwrecked crew's starvin' one of
'em has to be sacrificed for the good of the rest, and that's what
we've got to do. One of us has got to git married for the benefit
of the other two."

Captain Eri shouted hilariously. "Good boy, Perez!" he cried.
"Goin' to be the first offerin'?"

"Not unless it's my luck, Eri. We'll all three match for it, same
as we do 'bout washin' the dishes."

"Where are you goin' to find a wife?" asked Captain Jerry.

"Now that's jest what I'm goin' to show you. I see how things was
goin', and I've been thinkin' this over for a consid'rable spell.
Hold on a minute till I overhaul my kit."

He went into the front bedroom, and through the open door they
could see him turning over the contents of the chest with P. R. in
brass nails on the lid. He scattered about him fish-lines, hooks,
lead for sinkers, oilcloth jackets, whales' teeth, and various
other articles, and at length came back bearing a much-crumpled
sheet of printed paper. This he spread out upon the dining table,
first pushing aside the dishes to make room, and, after adjusting
his spectacles, said triumphantly:

"There! There she is! The Nup-ti-al Chime. A Journal of
Matrimony. I see a piece about it in the Herald the other day, and
sent a dime for a sample copy. It's chock-full of advertisements
from women that wants husbands."

Captain Eri put on his spectacles and hitched his chair up to the
table. After giving the pages of the Nuptial Chime a hurried
inspection, he remarked:

"There seems to be a strong runnin' to 'vi-va-ci-ous brunettes' and
'blondes with tender and romantic dispositions.' Which of them
kinds are you sufferin' for, Perez? Oh, say! here's a lady that's
willin' to heave herself away on a young and handsome bachelor with
a income of ten thousand a year. Seems to me you ought to answer

"Oh, hush up, Eri! 'Tain't likely I'd want to write to any of
them in there. The thing for us to do would be to write out a
advertisement of our own; tell what sort of woman we want, and
then set back and wait for answers. Now, what do you say?"

Captain Eri looked at the advocate of matrimony for a moment
without speaking. Then he said: "Do you really mean it, Perez?"

"Sartin I do."

"What do you think of it, Jerry?"

"Think it's a good idee," said that ancient mariner decisively.
"We've got to do somethin', and this looks like the only sensible

"Then Eri's GOT to do it!" asserted Captain Perez dogmatically.
"We agreed to stick together, and two to one's a vote. Come on
now, Eri, we'll match."

Captain Eri hesitated.

"Come on, Eri!" ordered Captain Jerry. "Ain't goin' to mutiny, are

"All right!" said Captain Eri, "I'll stick to the ship. Only," he
added, with a quizzical glance at his companions, "it's got to be
settled that the feller that's stuck can pick his wife, and don't
have to marry unless he finds one that suits him."

The others agreed to this stipulation, and Captain Perez, drawing a
long breath, took a coin from his pocket, flipped it in the air and
covered it, as it fell on the table, with a big hairy hand.
Captain Eri did likewise; so did Captain Jerry. Then Captain Eri
lifted his hand and showed the coin beneath; it was a head.
Captain Jerry's was a tail. Under Captain Perez' hand lurked the
hidden fate. The Captain's lips closed in a grim line. With a
desperate glance at the others he jerked his hand away.

The penny lay head uppermost. Captain Jerry was "stuck."

Captain Eri rose, glanced at his watch, and, taking his hat from
the shelf where the dishes should have been, opened the door.
Before he went out, however, he turned and said:

"Perez, you and Jerry can be fixin' up the advertisement while I'm
gone. You can let me see it when I come back. I say, Jerry," he
added to the "sacrifice," who sat gazing at the pennies on the
table in a sort of trance, "don't feel bad about it. Why, when you
come to think of it, it's a providence it turned out that way. Me
and Perez are bachelors, and we'd be jest green hands. But you're
a able seaman, you know what it is to manage a wife."

"Yes, I do," groaned Captain Jerry lugubriously. "Durn it, that's
jest it!"

Captain Eri was chuckling as, lantern in hand, he passed around the
corner of the little white house on the way to the barn. He
chuckled all through the harnessing of Daniel, the venerable white
horse. He was still chuckling as, perched on the seat of the
"truck wagon," he rattled and shook out of the yard and turned into
the sandy road that led up to the village. And an outsider,
hearing these chuckles, and knowing what had gone before, might
have inferred that perhaps Captain Eri did not view the "matching"
and the matrimonial project with quite the deadly seriousness of
the other two occupants of the house by the shore.



There is in Orham a self-appointed committee whose duty it is to
see the train come in. The committeemen receive no salary for
their services; the sole compensation is the pleasure derived from
the sense of duty done. Rain, snow, or shine, the committee is on
hand at the station--the natives, of course, call it the "deepo"--
to consume borrowed tobacco and to favor Providence with its advice
concerning the running of the universe. Also it discusses local
affairs with fluency and more or less point.

Mr. "Squealer" Wixon, a lifelong member of this committee, was the
first to sight Captain Eri as the latter strolled across the tracks
into the circle of light from the station lamps. The Captain had
moored Daniel to a picket in the fence over by the freight-house.
He had heard the clock in the belfry of the Methodist church strike
eight as he drove by that edifice, but he heard no whistle from the
direction of the West Orham woods, so he knew that the down train
would arrive at its usual time, that is, from fifteen to twenty
minutes behind the schedule.

"Hey!" shouted Mr. Wixon with enthusiasm. "Here's Cap'n Eri!
Well, Cap, how's she headin'?"

"'Bout no'theast by no'th," was the calm reply. "Runnin' fair, but
with lookout for wind ahead."

"Hain't got a spare chaw nowheres about you, have you, Cap'n?"
anxiously inquired "Bluey" Batcheldor. Mr. Batcheldor is called
"Bluey" for the same reason that Mr. Wixon is called "Squealer,"
and that reason has been forgotten for years.

Captain Eri obligingly produced a black plug of smoking tobacco,
and Mr. Batcheldor bit off two-thirds and returned the balance.
After adjusting the morsel so that it might interfere in the least
degree with his vocal machinery, he drawled:

"I cal'late you ain't heard the news, Eri. Web Saunders has got
his original-package license. It come on the noon mail."

The Captain turned sharply toward the speaker. "Is that a fact?"
he asked. "Who told you?"

"See it myself. So did Squealer and a whole lot more. Web was
showin' it round."

"We was wonderin'," said Jabez Smalley, a member of the committee
whose standing was somewhat impaired, inasmuch as he went fishing
occasionally and was, therefore, obliged to miss some of the
meetings, "what kind of a fit John Baxter would have now. He's
been pretty nigh distracted ever sence Web started his billiard
room, callin' it a 'ha'nt of sin' and a whole lot more names.
There ain't been a 'Come-Outers' meetin' 'sence I don't know when
that he ain't pitched into that saloon. Now, when he hears that
Web's goin' to sell rum, he'll bust a biler sure."

The committee received this prophecy with an hilarious shout of
approval and each member began to talk. Captain Eri took advantage
of this simultaneous expression of opinion to walk away. He looked
in at the window of the ticket-office, exchanged greetings with Sam
Hardy, the stationmaster, and then leaned against the corner of the
building furthest removed from Mr. Wixon and his friends, lit his
pipe and puffed thoughtfully with a troubled expression on his

From the clump of blackness that indicated the beginning of the
West Orham woods came a long-drawn dismal "toot"; then two shorter
ones. The committee sprang to its feet and looked interested. Sam
Hardy came out of the ticket office. The stage-driver, a sharp-
looking boy of about fourteen, with a disagreeable air of cheap
smartness sticking out all over him, left his seat in the shadow of
Mr. Batcheldor's manly form, tossed a cigarette stump away and
loafed over to the vicinity of the "depot wagon," which was backed
up against the platform. Captain Eri knocked the ashes from his
pipe and put that service-stained veteran in his pocket. The train
was really "coming in" at last.

If this had been an August evening instead of a September one, both
train and platform would have been crowded. But the butterfly
summer maiden had flitted and, as is his wont, the summer man had
flitted after her, so the passengers who alighted from the two
coaches that, with the freight car, made up the Orham Branch train,
were few in number and homely in flavor. There was a very stout
lady with a canvas extension case and an umbrella in one hand and a
bulging shawl-strap and a pasteboard box in the other, who panted
and wheezed like the locomotive itself and who asked the brakeman,
"What on airth DO they have such high steps for?" There was a
slim, not to say gawky, individual with a chin beard and rubber
boots, whom the committee hailed as "Andy" and welcomed to its
bosom. There were two young men, drummers, evidently, who nodded
to Hardy, and seemed very much at home. Also, there was another
young man, smooth-shaven and square-shouldered, who deposited a
suit-case on the platform and looked about him with the air of
being very far from home, indeed.

The drummers and the stout lady got into the stage. The young man
with the suit-case picked up the latter and walked toward the same
vehicle. He accosted the sharp boy, who had lighted another

"Can you direct me to the cable station?" he asked.

"Sure thing!" said the youth, and there was no Cape Cod twist to
his accent. "Git aboard."

"I didn't intend to ride," said the stranger.

"What was you goin' to do? Walk?"

"Yes, if it's not far."

The boy grinned, and the members of the committee, who had been
staring with all their might, grinned also. The young man's
mention of the cable station seemed to have caused considerable

"Oh, it ain't too FAR!" said the stage-driver. Then he added:
"Say, you're the new electrician, ain't you?"

The young man hesitated for a moment. Then he said, "Yes," and
suggested, "I asked the way."

"Two blocks to the right; that's the main road, keep on that for
four blocks, then turn to the left, and if you keep on straight
ahead you'll get to the station."

"Blocks?" The stranger smiled. "I think you must be from New

"Do you?" inquired the youthful prodigy, climbing to the wagon
seat. "Don't forget to keep straight ahead after you turn off the
main road. Git dap! So long, fellers!" He leaned over the wheel,
as the stage turned, and bestowed a wink upon the delighted
"Squealer," who was holding one freckled paw over his mouth; then
the "depot wagon" creaked away.

The square-shouldered young man looked after the equipage with an
odd expression of countenance. Then he shrugged his shoulders,
picked up the suitcase, and walked off the platform into the

Mr. Wixon removed the hand from his mouth and displayed a mammoth
grin, that grew into a shriek of laughter in which every member of
the committee joined.

"Haw! haw!" bellowed "Bluey," "so that's the feller that done
Parker out of his job! Well, he may be mighty smart, but if that
Joe Bartlett ain't smarter then I'm a skate, that's all! Smartest
boy ever I see! 'If you keep on straight ahead you'll git to the
station!' Gosh! he'll have to wear rubbers!"

"Maybe he's web-footed," suggested Smalley, and they laughed again.

A little later Captain Eri, with a dozen new, clean-smelling
cranberry barrels in the wagon behind him, drove slowly down the
"depot road." It was a clear night, but there was no moon, and
Orham was almost at its darkest, which is very dark, indeed. The
"depot road"--please bear in mind that there are no streets in
Orham--was full of ruts, and although Daniel knew his way and did
his best to follow it, the cranberry barrels rattled and shook in
lively fashion. There are few homes near the station, and the
dwellers in them conscientiously refrain from showing lights except
in the ends of the buildings furthest from the front. Strangers
are inclined to wonder at this, but when they become better
acquainted with the town and its people, they come to know that
front gates and parlors are, by the majority of the inhabitants,
restricted in their use to occasions such as a funeral, or,
possibly, a wedding. For the average Orham family to sit in the
parlor on a week evening would be an act bordering pretty closely
on sacrilege.

It is from the hill by the Methodist church that the visitor to
Orham gets his best view of the village. It is all about him, and
for the most part below him. At night the lights in the houses
show only here and there through the trees, but those on the
beaches and at sea shine out plainly. The brilliant yellow gleam a
mile away is from the Orham lighthouse on the bluff. The smaller
white dot marks the light on Baker's Beach. The tiny red speck in
the distance, that goes and comes again, is the flash-light at
Setuckit Point, and the twinkle on the horizon to the south is the
beacon of the lightship on Sand Hill Shoal.

It is on his arrival at this point, too, that the stranger first
notices the sound of the surf. Being a newcomer, he notices this
at once; after he has been in the village a few weeks, he ceases to
notice it at all. It is like the ticking of a clock, so incessant
and regular, that one has to listen intently for a moment or two
before his accustomed ear will single it out and make it definite.
One low, steady, continuous roar, a little deeper in tone when the
wind is easterly, the voice of the old dog Ocean gnawing with
foaming mouth at the bone of the Cape and growling as he gnaws.

It may be that the young man with the square shoulders and the
suit-case had paused at the turn of the road by the church to
listen to this song of the sea; at any rate he was there, and when
Captain Eri steered Daniel and the cranberry barrels around the
corner and into the "main road," he stepped out and hailed.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "I'm afraid I'm mixed in my
directions. The stage-driver told me the way to the cable station,
but I've forgotten whether he said to turn to the right when I
reached here, or to the left."

Captain Eri took his lantern from the floor of the wagon and held
it up. He had seen the stranger when the latter left the train,
but he had not heard the dialogue with Josiah Bartlett.

"How was you cal'latin' to go to the station?" he asked.

"Why, I intended to walk."

"Did you tell them fellers at the depot that you wanted to walk?"


"Well, I swan! And they give you the direction?"

"Yes," a little impatiently; "why shouldn't they? So many blocks
till I got to the main street, or road, and so many more, till I
got somewhere else, and then straight on."

"Blocks, hey? That's Joe Bartlett. That boy ought to be
mastheaded, and I've told Perez so more'n once. Well, Mister, I
guess maybe you'd better not try to walk to the cable station to-
night. You see, there's one thing they forgot to tell you. The
station's on the outer beach, and there's a ha'f mile of pretty wet
water between here and there."

The young man whistled. "You don't mean it!" he exclaimed.

"I sartin do, unless there's been an almighty drought since I left
the house. I tell you what! If you'll jump in here with me, and
don't mind waitin' till I leave these barrels at the house of the
man that owns 'em, I'll drive you down to the shore and maybe find
somebody to row you over. That is," with a chuckle, "if you ain't
dead set on walkin'."

The stranger laughed heartily. "I'm not so stubborn as all that,"
he said. "It's mighty good of you, all the same."

"Don't say a word," said the Captain. "Give us your satchel. Now
your flipper! There you are! Git dap, Dan'l!"

Daniel accepted the Captain's command in a tolerant spirit. He
paddled along at a jog-trot for perhaps a hundred yards, and then,
evidently feeling that he had done all that could be expected,
settled back into a walk. The Captain turned towards his companion
on the seat:

"I don't know as I mentioned it," he observed, "but my name is

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Hedge," said the stranger. "My name is

"I kind of jedged it might be when you said you wanted to git to
the cable station. We heard you was expected."

"Did you? From Mr. Langley, I presume."

"No-o, not d'rectly. Of course, we knew Parker had been let go,
and that somebody would have to take his place. I guess likely it
was one of the operators that told it fust that you was the man,
but anyhow it got as fur as M'lissy Busteed, and after that 'twas
plain sailin'. You come from New York, don't you?"


"Well, you know how 'tis when a thing gits into the papers. Orham
ain't big enough to have a paper of its own, so the Almighty give
us M'lissy, I jedge, as a sort of substitute. She can spread a
little news over more country than anybody I know. If she spreads
butter the same way, she could make money keepin' boarders. Is
this your fust visit to the Cape?"

"Yes. I hardly know why I'm here now. I have been with the Cable
Company at their New York experimental station for some years, and
the other day the General Manager called me into his office and
told me I was expected to take the position of electrician here. I
thought it might add to my experience, so I accepted."

"Humph! Did he say anything about the general liveliness of things
around the station?"

Mr. Hazeltine laughed. "Why," he answered, "now that you speak of
it, I remember that he began by asking me if I had any marked
objection to premature burial."

The Captain chuckled. "The outer beach in winter ain't exactly a
camp-meeting for sociableness," he said. "And the idea of that
Bartlett boy tellin' you how to walk there!"

"Is he a specimen of your Cape Cod youngsters?"

"Not exactly. He's a new shipment from New York. Grand-nephew of
a messmate of mine, Cap'n Perez Ryder. Perez, he's a bachelor, but
his sister's daughter married a feller named Bartlett. Maybe you
knew him; he used to run a tugboat in the Sound."

Mr. Hazeltine, much amused, denied the acquaintance.

"Well, I s'pose you wouldn't, nat'rally," continued the Captain.
"Anyhow, Perez's niece's husband died, and the boy sort of run
loose, as yer might say. Went to school when he had to, and raised
Ned when he didn't, near's I can find out. 'Lizabeth, that's his
ma, died last spring, and she made Perez promise--he being the only
relation the youngster had--to fetch the boy down here and sort of
bring him up. Perez knows as much about bringing up a boy as a hen
does about the Ten Commandments, and 'Lizabeth made him promise not
to lick the youngster and a whole lot more foolishness. School
don't commence here till October, so we got him a job with Lem
Mullett at the liv'ry stable. He's boardin' with Lem till school
opens. He ain't a reel bad boy, but he knows too much 'bout some
things and not ha'f enough 'bout others. You've seen fellers like
that, maybe?"

Hazeltine nodded. "There are a good many of that kind in New York,
I'm afraid," he said.

Captain Eri smiled. "I shouldn't wonder," he observed. "The boys
down here think Josiah's the whole crew, and the girls ain't fur
behind. There's been more deviltry in this village sence he landed
than there ever was afore. He needs somethin', and needs it bad,
but I ain't decided jest what it is yit. Are you a married man?"


"Same here. Never had the disease. Perez, he's had symptoms every
once in a while, but nothin' lastin'. Jerry's the only one of us
three that's been through the mill. His wife died twenty year ago.
I don't know as I told you, but Jerry and Perez and me are keepin'
house down by the shore. That is, we call it keepin' house, but--"

Here the Captain broke off and seemed to meditate.

Ralph Hazeltine forbore to interrupt, and occupied himself by
scrutinizing the buildings that they were passing. They were
nearing the center of the town now, and the houses were closer
together than they had been on the "depot road," but never so close
as to be in the least crowded. Each house had its ample front
yard, and the new arrival could smell the box hedges and see, now
and then, the whiteness of the kalsomined stones that bordered a
driveway. It was too dark for the big seashells at the front steps
to be visible, but they were there, all the same; every third house
of respectability in Orham has them. There was an occasional shop,
too, with signs like "Cape Cod Variety Store," or "The Boston Dry
Goods Emporium," over their doors. On the platform of one a small
crowd was gathered, and from the interior came shouts of laughter
and the sound of a tin-panny piano.

"That's the billiard saloon," volunteered Captain Eri, suddenly
waking from his trance. "Play pool, Mr. Hazeltine?"


"What d'ye play it with?"

"Why, with a cue, generally speaking."

"That so! Most of the fellers in there play it with their mouths.
Miss a shot and then spend the rest of the evenin' tellin' how it

"I don't think I should care to play it that way," said Ralph,

"Well, it has its good p'ints. Kind of all-round exercise;
develops the lungs and strengthens the muscles, as the patent-
medicine almanac says. Parker played it considerable."

"I judge that your opinion of my predecessor isn't a high one."

"Who? Oh, Parker! He was all right in his way. Good many folks
in this town swore by him. I understand the fellers over at the
station thought he was about the ticket."

"Mr. Langley included?"

"Oh, Mr. Langley, bein' manager, had his own ideas, I s'pose!
Langley don't play pool much; not at Web Saunders' place, anyhow.
We turn in here."

They rolled up a long driveway, very dark and overgrown with trees,
and drew up at the back door of a good-sized two-story house.
There was a light in the kitchen window.

"Whoa, Dan'l!" commanded the Captain. Then he began to shout,
"Ship ahoy!" at the top of his lungs.

The kitchen door opened and a man came out, carrying a lamp, its
light shining full upon his face. It was an old face, a stern
face, with white eyebrows and a thin-lipped mouth. Just such a
face as looked on with approval when the executioner held up the
head of Charles I., at Whitehall. There was, however, a tremble
about the chin that told of infirm health.

"Hello, John!" said Captain Eri heartily. "John, let me make you
acquainted with Mr. Hazeltine, the new man at the cable station.
Mr. Hazeltine, this is my friend, Cap'n John Baxter."

The two shook hands, and then Captain Eri said:

"John, I brought down them barrels for you. Hawkins got 'em here,
same as he always does, by the skin of his teeth. Stand by now,
'cause I've got to deliver Mr. Hazeltine at the station, and it's
gittin' late."

John Baxter said nothing, beyond thanking his friend for the good
turn, but he "stood by," as directed, and the barrels were quickly
unloaded. As they were about to drive out of the yard, Captain Eri
turned in his seat and said:

"John, guess I'll be up some time to-morrow. I want to talk with
you about that billiard-room business."

The lamp in Baxter's hand shook.

"God A'mighty's got his eye on that place, Eri Hedge," he shouted,
"and on them that's runnin' it!"

"That's all right," said the Captain. "Then the job's in good
hands, and we ain't got to worry. Good-night."

But, in spite of this assurance, Hazeltine noticed that his driver
was silent and preoccupied until they reached the end of the road
by the shore, when he brought the willing Daniel to a stand still
and announced that it was time to "change cars."

It is a fifteen-minute row from the mainland to the outer beach,
and Captain Eri made it on schedule time. Hazeltine protested that
he was used to a boat, and could go alone and return the dory in
the morning, but the Captain wouldn't hear of it. The dory slid up
on the sand and the passenger climbed out. The sound of the surf
on the ocean side of the beach was no longer a steady roar, it was
broken into splashing plunges and hisses with, running through it,
a series of blows like those of a muffled hammer. The wind was wet
and smelt salty.

"There's the station," said the Captain, pointing to a row of
lighted windows a quarter of a mile away. "It IS straight ahead
this time, and the walkin's better'n it has been for the last few
minutes. Good-night!"

The electrician put his hand in his pocket, hesitated, and then
withdrew it, empty.

"I'm very much obliged to you for all this," he said. "I'm glad to
have made your acquaintance, and I hope we shall see each other

"Same here!" said the Captain heartily. "We're likely to git
together once in a while, seein' as we're next-door neighbors,
right across the road, as you might say. That's my berth over
yonder, where you see them lights. It's jest 'round the corner
from the road we drove down last. Good-night! Good luck to you!"

And he settled himself for the row home.



The house where the three Captains lived was as near salt water as
it could be and remain out of reach of the highest tides. When
Captain Eri, after beaching and anchoring his dory and stabling
Daniel for the night, entered the dining room he found his two
messmates deep in consultation, and with evidences of strenuous
mental struggle written upon their faces. Captain Perez's right
hand was smeared with ink and there were several spatters of the
same fluid on Captain Jerry's perspiring nose. Crumpled sheets
of note paper were on the table and floor, and Lorenzo, who was
purring restfully upon the discarded jackets of the two mariners,
alone seemed to be enjoying himself.

"Well, you fellers look as if you'd had a rough v'yage," commented
Captain Eri, slipping out of his own jacket and pulling his chair
up beside those of his friends. "What's the trouble?"

"Gosh, Eri, I'm glad to see you!" exclaimed Captain Perez, drawing
the hand, just referred to, across his forehead and thereby putting
that portion of his countenance into mourning. "How do you spell

"I don't, unless it's owner's orders," was the answer. "What do
you want to spell it for?"

"We've writ much as four hundred advertisements, I do believe!"
said Captain Jerry, "and there ain't one of them fit to feed to a
pig. Perez here, he's got such hifalutin' notions, that nothin'
less than a circus bill 'll do him. _I_ don't see why somethin'
plain and sensible like 'Woman wanted to do dishes and clean house
for three men,' wouldn't be all right; but no, it's got to have
more fancy trimmin's than a Sunday bunnit. Foolishness, I call

"You'd have a whole lot of women answerin' that advertisement, now
wouldn't you?" snorted Captain Perez hotly. "'To do dishes for
three men!' That's a healthy bait to catch a wife with, ain't it?
I can see 'em comin'. I cal'late you'd stay single till Jedgment,
and then you wouldn't git one. No, sir! The thing to do is to be
sort of soft-soapy and high-toned. Let 'em think they're goin' to
git a bargain when they git you. Make believe it's goin' to be a
privilege to git sech a husband."

"Well, 'tis," declared the sacrifice indignantly. "They might git
a dum-sight worse one."

"I cal'late that's so, Jerry," said Captain Eri. "Still, Perez
ain't altogether wrong. Guess you'd better keep the dishwashin'
out of it. I know dishwashin' would never git ME; I've got so I
hate the sight of soap and hot water as bad as if I was a Portugee.
Pass me that pen."

Captain Perez gladly relinquished the writing materials, and
Captain Eri, after two or three trials, by which he added to the
paper decorations of the floor, produced the following:

"Wife Wanted--By an ex-seafaring man of steady habbits. Must be
willing to Work and Keep House shipshape and aboveboard. No sea-
lawyers need apply. Address--Skipper, care the Nuptial Chime,
Boston, Mass."

The line relating to sea-lawyers was insisted upon by Captain
Jerry. "That'll shut out the tonguey kind," he explained. The
advertisement, with this addition, being duly approved, the
required fifty cents was inclosed, as was a letter to the editor of
the matrimonial journal requesting all answers to be forwarded to
Captain Jeremiah Burgess, Orham, Mass. Then the envelope was
directed and the stamp affixed.

"There," said Captain Eri, "that's done. All you've got to do now,
Jerry, is to pick out your wife and let us know what you want for a
weddin' present. You're a lucky man."

"Aw, let's talk about somethin' else," said the lucky one rather
gloomily. "What's the news up at the depot, Eri?"

They received the tidings of the coming of Hazeltine with the
interest due to such an event. Captain Eri gave them a detailed
account of his meeting with the new electrician, omitting, however,
in consideration for the feelings of Captain Perez, to mention the
fact that it was the Bartlett boy who started that gentleman upon
his walk to the cable station.

"Well, what did you think of him?" asked Captain Perez, when the
recital was finished.

"Seemed to me like a pretty good feller," answered Captain Eri
deliberately. "He didn't git mad at the joke the gang played on
him, for one thing. He ain't so smooth-tongued as Parker used to
be and he didn't treat Baxter and me as if Cape Codders was a kind
of animals, the way some of the summer folks do. He had the sense
not to offer to pay me for takin' him over to the station, and I
liked that. Take it altogether, he seemed like a pretty decent
chap--for a New Yorker," he added, as an after thought.

"But say," he said a moment later, "I've got some more news and it
ain't good news, either. Web Saunders has got his liquor license."

"I want to know!" exclaimed Captain Perez.

"You don't tell me!" said Captain Jerry.

Then they both said, "What will John Baxter do now?" And Captain
Eri shook his head dubiously.

The cod bit well next morning and Captain Eri did not get in from
the Windward Ledge until afternoon. By the way, it may be well to
explain that Captain Jerry's remarks concerning "settlin' down" and
"restin'," which we chronicled in the first chapter must not be
accepted too literally. While it is true that each of the trio had
given up long voyages, it is equally true that none had given up
work entirely. Some people might not consider it restful to rise
at four every weekday morning and sail in a catboat twelve miles
out to sea and haul a wet cod line for hours, not to mention the
sail home and the cleaning and barreling of the catch. Captain Eri
did that. Captain Perez was what he called "stevedore"--that is,
general caretaker during the owner's absence, at Mr. Delancy
Barry's summer estate on the "cliff road." As for Captain Jerry,
he was janitor at the schoolhouse.

The catch was heavy the next morning, as has been said, and by the
time the last fish was split and iced and the last barrel sent to
the railway station it was almost supper time. Captain Eri had
intended calling on Baxter early in the day, but now he determined
to wait until after supper.

The Captain had bad luck in the "matching" that followed the meal,
and it was nearly eight o'clock before he finished washing dishes.
This distasteful task being completed, he set out for the Baxter

The Captain's views on the liquor question were broader than those
of many Orham citizens. He was an abstainer, generally speaking,
but his scruples were not as pronounced as those of Miss Abigail
Mullett, whose proudest boast was that she had refused brandy when
the doctor prescribed it as the stimulant needed to save her life.
Over and over again has Miss Abigail told it in prayer-meeting; how
she "riz up" in her bed, "expectin' every breath to be the last"
and said, "Dr. Palmer, if it's got to be liquor or death, then
death referred to!"--meaning, it is fair to presume, that death was
preferred rather than the brandy. With much more concerning her
miraculous recovery through the aid of a "terbacker and onion

On general principles the Captain objected to the granting of a
license to a fellow like "Web" Saunders, but it was the effect that
this action of the State authorities might have upon his friend
John Baxter that troubled him most.

For forty-five years John Baxter was called by Cape Cod people "as
smart a skipper as ever trod a plank." He saved money, built an
attractive home for his wife and daughter, and would, in the
ordinary course of events, have retired to enjoy a comfortable old
age. But his wife died shortly after the daughter's marriage to a
Boston man, and on a voyage to Manila, Baxter himself suffered from
a sunstroke and a subsequent fever, that left him a physical wreck
and for a time threatened to unsettle his reason. He recovered a
portion of his health and the threatened insanity disappeared,
except for a religious fanaticism that caused him to accept the
Bible literally and to interpret it accordingly. When his daughter
and her husband were drowned in the terrible City of Belfast
disaster, it is an Orham tradition that John Baxter, dressed in
gunny-bags and sitting on an ash-heap, was found by his friends
mourning in what he believed to be the Biblical "sackcloth and
ashes." His little baby granddaughter had been looked out for by
some kind friends in Boston. Only Captain Eri knew that John
Baxter's yearly trip to Boston was made for the purpose of visiting
the girl who was his sole reminder of the things that might have
been, but even the Captain did not know that the money that paid
her board and, as she grew older, for her gowns and schooling, came
from the bigoted, stern old hermit, living alone in the old house
at Orham.

In Orham, and in other sections of the Cape as well, there is
a sect called by the ungodly, "The Come-Outers." They were
originally seceders from the Methodist churches who disapproved of
modern innovations. They "come out" once a week to meet at the
houses of the members, and theirs are lively meetings. John Baxter
was a "Come-Outer," and ever since the enterprising Mr. Saunders
opened his billiard room, the old man's tirades of righteous wrath
had been directed against this den of iniquity. Since it became
known that "Web" had made application for the license, it was a
regular amusement for the unregenerate to attend the gatherings of
the "Come-Outers" and hear John Baxter call down fire from Heaven
upon the billiard room, its proprietor, and its patrons. Orham
people had begun to say that John Baxter was "billiard-saloon

And John Baxter was Captain Eri's friend, a friendship that had
begun in school when the declaimer of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or
Death" speech on Examination Day took a fancy to and refused to
laugh at the little chap who tremblingly ventured to assert that he
loved "little Pussy, her coat is so warm." The two had changed
places until now it was Captain Eri who protected and advised.

When the Captain rapped at John Baxter's kitchen door no one
answered, and, after yelling "Ship ahoy!" through the keyhole a
number of times, he was forced to the conclusion that his friend
was not at home.

"You lookin' fer Cap'n Baxter?" queried Mrs. Sarah Taylor, who
lived just across the road. "He's gone to Come-Outers' meetin', I
guess. There's one up to Barzilla Small's to-night."

Mr. Barzilla Small lived in that part of the village called "down
to the neck," and when the Captain arrived there, he found the
parlor filled with the devout, who were somewhat surprised to see

"Why, how do you do?" said Mrs. Small, resplendent in black
"alpaca" and wearing her jet earrings. "I snum if you ain't a
stranger! We'll have a reel movin' meetin' to-night because Mr.
Perley's here, and he says he feels the sperrit a-workin'. Set
right down there by the what-not. Luther," to her oldest but
three, "give Cap'n Hedge your chair. You can set on the cricket.
Yes, you can! Don't answer back!"

"Aw, ma!" burst out the indignant Luther, "how d'yer think I'm
goin' to set on that cricket? My laigs 'll be way up under my
chin. Make Hart set on it; he's shorter'n me."

"Shan't nuther, Lute Small!" declared Hartwell, a freckle-faced
youngster, who was the next step downward in the family stair of
children. "Set on it yourself. Make him, ma, now! You said he'd
have to."

"Now, ma, I--"

"Be still, both of you! I sh'd think you'd be ashamed, with
everybody here so! Oh, my soul and body!" turning to the company,
"if it ain't enough to try a saint! Sometimes seems's if I SHOULD
give up. You be thankful, Abigail," to Miss Mullett, who sat by
the door, "that you ain't got nine in a family and nobody to help
teach 'em manners. If Barzilla was like most men, he'd have some
dis-CIP-line in the house; but no, I have to do it all, and--"

Mr. Small, thus publicly rebuked, rose from his seat in the corner
by the melodeon and proclaimed in a voice that he tried hard not to
make apologetic:

"Now, Luther, if I was you I'd be a good boy and mind ma."

Even this awe-inspiring command had little effect upon the
reluctant Luther, but Captain Eri, who, smiling and bowing right
and left, had been working his passage to the other side of the
room, announced that he was all right and would "squeeze in on the
sofy 'side of Cap'n Baxter." So there was peace once more, that
is, as much peace as half a dozen feminine tongues, all busy with
different subjects, would allow.

"Why, Eri" whispered John Baxter, "I didn't expect to see you here.
I'm glad, though; Lord knows every God-fearin' man in this town has
need to be on his knees this night. Have you heard about it?"

"Cap'n John means about the rum-sellin' license that Web Saunders
has got," volunteered Miss Melissa Busteed, leaning over from her
seat in the patent rocker that had been the premium earned by Mrs.
Small for selling one hundred and fifty pounds of tea for a much-
advertised house. "Ain't it awful? I says to Prissy Baker this
mornin', soon 's I heard of it, 'Prissy,' s' I, 'there 'll be a
jedgment on this town sure's you're a livin' woman,' s' I. Says
she, 'That's so, M'lissy,' s' she, and I says--"

Well, when Miss Busteed talks, interruptions are futile, so Captain
Eri sat silent, as the comments of at least one-tenth of the
population of Orham were poured into his ears. The recitation was
cut short by Mrs. Small's vigorous pounding on the center table.

"We're blessed this evenin'," said the hostess with emotion, "in
havin' Mr. Perley with us. He's goin' to lead the meetin'."

The Reverend Mr. Perley--Reverend by courtesy; he had never been
ordained--stood up, cleared his throat with vigor, rose an inch or
two on the toes of a very squeaky pair of boots, sank to heel level
again and announced that everyone would join in singing, "Hymn
number one hundred and ten, omitting the second and fourth stanzas:
hymn number one hundred and ten, second and fourth stanzas
omitted." The melodeon, tormented by Mrs. Lurania Bassett,
shrieked and groaned, and the hymn was sung. So was another, and
yet another. Then Mr. Perley squeaked to his tiptoes again,
subsided, and began a lengthy and fervent discourse.

Mr. Perley had been a blacksmith in Ostable before he "got
religion," and now spent the major portion of his time in "boardin'
'round" with "Come-Outers" up and down the Cape and taking part in
their meetings. His services at such gatherings paid for his food
and lodging. He had been a vigorous horseshoer in the old days;
now he preached just as vigorously.

He spoke of the faithful few here gathered together. He spoke
of the scoffing of those outside the pale and hinted at the
uncomfortable future that awaited them. He ran over the various
denominations one by one, and one by one showed them to be
worshipers of idols and followers after strange gods. He sank
hoarsely into the bass and quavered up into falsetto and a chorus
of "Amens!" and "Hallelujahs!" followed him.

"Oh, brothers and sisters!" he shouted, "here we are a-kneelin' at
the altar's foot and what's goin' on outside? Why, the Devil's got
his clutches in our midst. The horn of the wicked is exalted.
They're sellin' rum--RUM--in this town! They're a-sellin' rum and
drinkin' of it and gloryin' in their shame. But the Lord ain't
asleep! He's got his eye on 'em! He's watchin' 'em! And some of
these fine days he'll send down fire out of Heaven and wipe 'em off
the face of the earth!" ("Amen! Glory! Glory! Glory!")

John Baxter was on his feet, his lean face working, the perspiration
shining on his forehead, his eyes gleaming like lamps under his
rough white eyebrows, and his clenched fists pounding the back of
the chair in front of him. His hallelujahs were the last to cease.
Captain Eri had to use some little force to pull him down on the
sofa again.

Then Mrs. Small struck up, "Oh, brother, have you heard?" and they
sang it with enthusiasm. Next, Miss Mullett told her story of the
brandy and the defiance of the doctor. Nobody seemed much
interested except a nervous young man with sandy hair and a
celluloid collar, who had come with Mr. Tobias Wixon and was
evidently a stranger. He had not heard it before and seemed
somewhat puzzled when Miss Abigail repeated the "Death referred to"

There was more singing. Mrs. Small "testified." So did Barzilla,
with many hesitations and false starts and an air of relief when it
was over. Then another hymn and more testimony, each speaker
denouncing the billiard saloon. Then John Baxter arose and spoke.

He began by saying that the people of Orham had been slothful in
the Lord's vineyard. They had allowed weeds to spring up and wax
strong. They had been tried and found wanting.

"I tell you, brothers and sisters," he declaimed, leaning over the
chair back and shaking a thin forefinger in Mr. Perley's face, "God
has given us a task to do and how have we done it? We've set still
and let the Devil have his way. We've talked and talked, but what
have we done? Nothin'! Nothin' at all; and now the grip of Satan
is tighter on the town than it ever has been afore. The Lord set
us a watch to keep and we've slept on watch. And now there's a
trap set for every young man in this c'munity. Do you think that
that hell-hole down yonder is goin' to shut up because we talk
about it in meetin'? Do you think Web Saunders is goin' to quit
sellin' rum because we say he ought to? Do you think God's goin'
to walk up to that door and nail it up himself? No, sir! He don't
work that way! We've talked and talked, and now it's time to DO.
Ain't there anybody here that feels a call? Ain't there axes to
chop with and fire to burn? I tell you, brothers, we've waited
long enough! I--old as I am--am ready. Lord, here I am! Here I

He swayed, broke into a fit of coughing, and sank back upon the
sofa, trembling all over and still muttering that he was ready.
There was a hushed silence for a moment or two, and then a storm of
hallelujahs and shouts. Mr. Perley started another hymn, and it
was sung with tremendous enthusiasm.

Just behind the nervous young man with the celluloid collar sat a
stout individual with a bald head. This was Abijah Thompson, known
by the irreverent as "Barking" Thompson, a nickname bestowed
because of his peculiar habit of gradually puffing up, like a frog,
under religious excitement, and then bursting forth in an
inarticulate shout, disconcerting to the uninitiated. During
Baxter's speech and the singing of the hymn his expansive red
cheeks had been distended like balloons, and his breath came
shorter and shorter. Mr. Perley had arisen and was holding up his
hand for silence, when with one terrific "Boo!" "Barking"
Thompson's spiritual exaltation exploded directly in the ear of the
nervous stranger.

The young man shot out of his chair as if Mr. Thompson had fired a
dynamite charge beneath him. "Oh, the Devil!" he shrieked, and
then subsided, blushing to the back of his neck.

Somehow this interruption took the spirit out of the meeting.
Giggles from Luther and the younger element interfered with the
solemnity of Mr. Perley's closing remarks, and no one else was
brave enough to "testify" under the circumstances. They sang
again, and the meeting broke up. The nervous young man was the
first one to leave.

Captain Eri got his friend out of the clutches of the "Come-Outers"
as quickly as possible, and piloted him down the road toward his
home. John Baxter was silent and absent-minded, and most of the
Captain's cheerful remarks concerning Orham affairs in general went
unanswered. As they turned in at the gate the elder man said:

"Eri, do you believe that man's law ought to be allowed to
interfere with God's law?"

"Well, John, in most cases it's my jedgment that it pays to steer
pretty close to both of 'em."

"S'pose God called you to break man's law and keep His; what would
you do?"

"Guess the fust thing would be to make sure 'twas the Almighty that
was callin'. I don't want to say nothin' to hurt your feelin's,
but I should advise the feller that thought that he had that kind
of a call to 'beware of imitations,' as the soap folks advertise."

"Eri, I've got a call."

"Now, John Baxter, you listen. You and me have been sailin'
together, as you might say, for forty odd years. I ain't a
religious man 'cordin' to your way of thinkin', but I've generally
found that the Lord runs things most as well as us folks could run
'em. When there's a leak at one end of the schooner it don't pay
to bore a hole at the other end to let the water out. Don't you
worry no more about Web Saunders and that billiard saloon. The
s'lectmen 'll attend to them afore very long. Why don't you go up
to Boston for a couple of weeks? 'Twill do you good."

"Do you think so, Eri? Well, maybe 'twould--maybe 'twould.
Sometimes I feel as if my head was kind of wearin' out. I'll think
about it."

"Better not think any more; better go right ahead."

"Well, I'll see. Good-night."

"Good-night, John."

"Perez," said Captain Eri, next day, "seems to me some kinds of
religion is like whisky, mighty bad for a weak head. I wish
somebody 'd invent a gold cure for Come-Outers."



Something over a fortnight went by and the three captains had
received no answers from the advertisement in the Nuptial Chime.
The suspense affected each of them in a different manner. Captain
Jerry was nervous and apprehensive. He said nothing, and asked no
questions, but it was noticeable that he was the first to greet the
carrier of the "mail box" when that individual came down the road,
and, as the days passed and nothing more important than the Cape
Cod Item and a patent-medicine circular came to hand, a look that a
suspicious person might have deemed expressive of hope began to
appear in his face.

Captain Perez, on the contrary, grew more and more disgusted with
the delay. He spent a good deal of time wondering why there were
no replies, and he even went so far as to suggest writing to the
editor of the Chime. He was disposed to lay the blame upon Captain
Eri's advertisement, and hinted that the latter was not "catchy"

Captain Eri, alone of the trio, got any amusement out of the
situation. He pretended to see in Captain Jerry an impatient
bridegroom and administered comfort in large doses by suggesting
that, in all probability, there had been so many replies that it
had been found necessary to charter a freight-car to bring them

"Cheer up, Jerry!" he said. "It's tough on you, I know, but think
of all them poor sufferin' females that's settin' up nights and
worryin' for fear they won't be picked out. Why, say, when you
make your ch'ice you'll have to let the rest know right off;
'twould be cruelty to animals not to. You ought to put 'em out of
their misery quick's possible."

Captain Jerry's laugh was almost dismal.

The first batch of answers from the Chime came by an evening mail.
Captain Eri happened to beat the post-office that night and brought
them home himself. They filled three of his pockets to overflowing,
and he dumped them by handfuls on the dining table, under the nose
of the pallid Jerry.

"What did I tell you, Jerry?" he crowed. "I knew they was on the
way. What have you got to say about my advertisement now, Perez?"

There were twenty-six letters altogether. It was surprising how
many women were willing, even anxious, to ally themselves with "an
ex-seafaring man of steady habbits." But most of the applicants
were of unsatisfactory types. As Captain Perez expressed it,
"There's too many of them everlastin' 'blondes' and things."

There was one note, however, that even Captain Eri was disposed to
consider seriously. It was postmarked Nantucket, was written on
half a sheet of blue-lined paper, and read as follows:


"Sir: I saw your advertisements in the paper and think perhaps you
might suit me. Please answer these questions by return mail. What
is your religious belief? Do you drink liquor? Are you a profane
man? If you want to, you might send me your real name and a
photograph. If I think you will suit maybe we might sign articles.

Yours truly,



"What I like about that is the shipshape way she puts it,"
commented Captain Perez. "She don't say that she 'jest adores the

"She's mighty handy about takin' hold and bossin' things; there
ain't no doubt of that," said Captain Eri. "Notice it's us that's
got to suit her, not her us. I kind of like that 'signin'
articles,' too. You bet she's been brought up in a seagoin'

"I used to know a Jubal Snow that hailed from Nantucket," suggested
Perez; "maybe she's some of his folks."

'Tain't likely," sniffed Captain Jerry. "There's more Snows in
Nantucket than you can shake a stick at. You can't heave a rock
without hittin' one."

"I b'lieve she's jest the kind we want," said Captain Perez with

"What do you say, Jerry?" asked Captain Eri. "You're goin' to be
the lucky man, you know."

"Oh, I don't know. What's the use of hurryin'? More 'n likely the
next lot of letters 'll have somethin' better yit."

"Now, that's jest like you, Jerry Burgess!" exclaimed Perez
disgustedly. "Want to put off and put off and put off. And the
house gittin' more like the fo'castle on a cattleboat every day."

"I don't b'lieve myself you'd do much better, Jerry," said Captain
Eri seriously. "I like that letter somehow. Seems to me it's
worth a try."

"Oh, all right! Have it your own way. Of course, _I_ ain't got
nothin' to say. I'm only the divilish fool that's got to git
married and keep boarders; that's all _I_ am!"

"Be careful! She asked if you was a profane man."

"Aw, shut up! You fellers are enough to make a minister swear.
_I_ don't care what you do. Go ahead and write to her if you want
to, only I give you fair warnin', I ain't goin' to have her if she
don't suit. I ain't goin' to marry no scarecrow."

Between them, and with much diplomacy, they soothed the indignant
candidate for matrimony until he agreed to sign his name to a
letter to the Nantucket lady. Then Captain Perez said:

"But, I say, Jerry; she wants your picture. Have you got one to
send her?"

"I've got that daguerreotype I had took when I was married afore."

He rummaged it out of his chest and displayed it rather proudly.
It showed him as a short, sandy-haired youth, whose sunburned face
beamed from the depths of an enormous choker, and whose head was
crowned with a tall, flat-brimmed silk hat of a forgotten style.

"I s'pose that might do," said Cap'n Perez hesitatingly.

"Do! 'Twill HAVE to do, seein' it's all he's got," said Captain
Eri. "Good land!" he chuckled; "look at that hat! Say, Jerry,
she'll think you done your seafarin' in Noah's ark."

But Captain Jerry was oblivious to sarcasm just then. He was
gazing at the daguerreotype in a sentimental sort of way, blowing
the dust from the glass, and tilting it up and down so as to bring
it to the most effective light.

"I swan!" he mused, "I don't know when I've looked at that afore.
I remember when I bought that hat, jest as well. Took care of it
and brushed it--my! my! I don't know but it's somewheres around
now. I thought I was jest about the ticket then, and--and I wa'n't
BAD lookin', that's a fact!"

This last with a burst of enthusiasm.

"Ho, ho! Perez," roared Captain Eri; "Jerry's fallin' in love with
his own picture. Awful thing for one so young, ain't it?"

"I ain't such a turrible sight older 'n you be, Eri Hedge,"
sputtered the prospective bridegroom with righteous indignation.
Then he added in a rather crestfallen tone, "But I am a heap older
'n I was when I had that daguerreotype took. See here; if I send
that Nantucket woman this picture won't she notice the difference
when she sees me?"

"What if she does?" broke in Captain Perez. "You can tell her how
'twas. Talk her over. A feller that's been married, like you,
ought to be able to talk ANY woman over."

Captain Jerry didn't appear sanguine concerning his ability to
"talk her over," but his fellow-conspirators made light of his
feeble objections, and the daguerreotype, carefully wrapped, was
mailed the next morning, accompanied by a brief biographical sketch
of the original and his avowed adherence to the Baptist creed and
the Good Templar's abstinence.

"I hope she'll hurry up and answer," said the impatient Captain
Perez. "I want to get this thing settled one way or another.
Don't you, Jerry?"

"Yes," was the hesitating reply. "One way or another."

Captain Eri had seen John Baxter several times since the evening of
the "Come-Outers'" meeting. The old man was calmer apparently, and
was disposed to take the billiard-saloon matter less seriously,
particularly as it was reported that the town selectmen were to
hold a special meeting to consider the question of allowing Mr.
Saunders to continue in business. The last-named gentleman had
given what he was pleased to call a "blow-out" to his regular
patrons in celebration of the granting of the license, and
"Squealer" Wixon and one or two more spent a dreary day and night
in the town lock-up in consequence. Baxter told the Captain that
he had not yet made up his mind concerning the proposed Boston
trip, but he thought "more 'n likely" he should go.

Captain Eri was obliged to be content with this assurance, but he
determined to keep a close watch on his friend just the same.

He had met Ralph Hazeltine once or twice since the latter's arrival
in Orham, and, in response to questions as to how he was getting on
at the station, the new electrician invariably responded, "First-
rate." Gossip, however, in the person of Miss Busteed, reported
that the operators were doing their best to keep Mr. Hazeltine's
lot from being altogether a bed of roses, and there were dark hints
of something more to come.

On the morning following the receipt of the letter from the
Nantucket lady, Captain Eri was busy at his fish shanty, putting
his lines in order and sewing a patch on the mainsail of his
catboat. These necessary repairs had prevented his taking the
usual trip to the fishing grounds. Looking up from his work, he
saw, through the open door, Ralph Hazeltine just stepping out of
the cable-station skiff. He tucked his sail needle into the canvas
and hailed the young man with a shouted "Good-morning!"

"How do you do, Cap'n Hedge?" said Hazeltine, walking toward the
shanty. "Good weather, isn't it?"

"Tip-top. Long 's the wind stays westerly and there ain't no
Sunday-school picnics on, we don't squabble with the weather folks.
The only thing that 'll fetch a squall with a westerly wind is a
Sunday-school picnic. That 'll do it, sure as death. Busy over

"Pretty busy just now. The cable parted day before yesterday, and
I've been getting things ready for the repair ship. She was due
this morning, and we're likely to hear from her at any time."

"You don't say! Cable broke, hey? Now it's a queer thing, but
I've never been inside that station since 'twas built. Too handy,
I guess. I've got a second cousin up in Charlestown, lived there
all his life, and he's never been up in Bunker Hill monument yit.
Fust time I landed in Boston I dug for that monument, and I can
tell you how many steps there is in it to this day. If that cable
station was fifty mile off I'd have been through it two weeks after
it started up, but bein' jest over there, I ain't ever done it.
Queer, ain't it?"

"Perhaps you'd like to go over with me. I'm going up to the post-
office, and when I come back I should be glad of your company."

"Well, now, that's kind of you. I cal'late I will. You might sing
out as you go past. I've got a ha'f-hour job on this sail and then
it's my watch below."

The cable station at Orham is a low whitewashed building with many
windows. The vegetation about it is limited exclusively to "beach
grass" and an occasional wild-plum bush. The nearest building
which may be reached without a boat is the life-saving station, two
miles below. The outer beach changes its shape every winter. The
gales tear great holes in its sides, and then, as if in recompense,
throw up new shoals and build new promontories. From the cable-
station doorway in fair weather may be counted the sails of over
one hundred vessels going and coming between Boston and New York.
They come and go, and, alas! sometimes stop by the way. Then the
life-saving crews are busy and the Boston newspapers report another
wreck. All up and down the outer beach are the sun-whitened bones
of schooners and ships; and all about them, and partially covering
them, is sand, sand, sand, as white and much coarser than
granulated sugar.

Hazeltine's post-office trip and other errands had taken much more
time than he anticipated, and more than two hours had gone by
before he called for Captain Eri. During the row to the beach the
electrician explained to the Captain the processes by which a break
in the cable is located and repaired.

"You see," he said, "as soon as the line breaks we set about
finding where it is broken. To do this we use an instrument called
the Wheatstone bridge. In this case the break is about six hundred
miles from the American shore. The next thing is to get at the
company's repair ship. She lies, usually, at Halifax when she
isn't busy, and that is where she was this time. We wired her and
she left for the spot immediately. It was up to me to get ready
the testing apparatus--we generally set up special instruments for
testing. Judging by the distance, the ship should have been over
the break early this morning. She will grapple for the broken
cable ends, and as soon as she catches our end she'll send us a
message. It's simple enough."

"Like takin' wormwood tea--easy enough if you've been brought up
that way. I think I'd make more money catchin' codfish, myself,"
commented the Captain dryly.

Ralph laughed. "Well, it really is a very simple matter," he said.
"The only thing we have to be sure of is that our end of the line
is ready by the time the ship reaches the break. If the weather is
bad the ship can't work, and so, when she does work, she works
quick. I had my instruments in condition yesterday, so we're all
right this time."

They landed at the little wharf and plodded through the heavy sand.

"Dismal-looking place, isn't it?" said Hazeltine, as he opened the
back door of the station.

"Well, I don't know; it has its good p'ints," replied his
companion. "Your neighbors' hens don't scratch up your garden, for
one thing. What do you do in here?"

"This is the room where we receive and send. This is the receiver."

The captain noticed with interest the recorder, with its two brass
supports and the little glass tube, half filled with ink, that,
when the cable was working, wrote the messages upon the paper tape
traveling beneath it.

"Pretty nigh as finicky as a watch, ain't it?" he observed.

"Fully as delicate in its way. Do you see this little screw on the
centerpiece? Turn that a little, one way or the other, and the
operator on the other side might send until doomsday, we wouldn't
know it. I'll show you the living rooms and the laboratory now."

Just then the door at the other end of the room opened, and a man,
whom Captain Eri recognized as one of the operators, came in. He
started when he saw Hazeltine and turned to go out again. Ralph
spoke to him:

"Peters," he said, "where is Mr. Langley?"

"Don't know," answered the fellow gruffly.

"Wait a minute. Tell me where Mr. Langley is."

"I don't know where he is. He went over to the village a while

"Where are the rest of the men?"

"Don't know."

The impudence and thinly veiled hostility in the man's tone were
unmistakable. Hazeltine hesitated, seemed about to speak, and then
silently led the way to the hall.

"I'll show you the laboratory later on," he said. "We'll go up to
the testing room now." Then he added, apparently as much to
himself as to his visitor, "I told those fellows that I wouldn't be
back until noon."

There was a door at the top of the stairs. Ralph opened this
quietly. As they passed through, Captain Eri noticed that Peters
had followed them into the hall and stood there, looking up.

The upper hall had a straw matting on the floor. There was another
door at the end of the passage, and this was ajar. Toward it the
electrician walked rapidly. From the room behind the door came a
shout of laughter; then someone said:

"Better give it another turn, hadn't I, to make sure? If two turns
fixes it so we don't hear for a couple of hours, another one ought
to shut it up for a week. That's arithmetic, ain't it?"

The laugh that followed this was cut short by Hazeltine's throwing
the door wide open.

Captain Eri, close at the electrician's heels, saw a long room,
empty save for a few chairs and a table in the center. Upon this
table stood the testing instruments, exactly like those in the
receiving room downstairs. Three men lounged in the chairs, and
standing beside the table, with his fingers upon the regulating
screw at the centerpiece of the recorder, was another, a big
fellow, with a round, smooth-shaven face.

The men in the chairs sprang to their feet as Hazeltine came in.
The face of the individual by the table turned white and his
fingers fell from the regulating screw, as though the latter were
red hot. The Captain recognized the men; they were day operators
whom he had met in the village many times. Incidentally, they were
avowed friends of the former electrician, Parker. The name of the
taller one was McLoughlin.

No one spoke. Ralph strode quickly to the table, pushed McLoughlin
to one side and stooped over the instruments. When he straightened
up, Captain Eri noticed that his face also was white, but evidently
not from fear. He turned sharply and looked at the four operators,
who were doing their best to appear at ease and not succeeding.
The electrician looked them over, one by one. Then he gave a short

"You damned sneaks!" he said, and turned again to the testing

He began slowly to turn the regulating screw on the recorder. He
had given it but a few revolutions when the point of the little
glass siphon, that had been tracing a straight black line on the
sliding tape, moved up and down in curving zigzags. Hazeltine
turned to the operator.

"Palmer," he said curtly, "answer that call."

The man addressed seated himself at the table, turned a switch, and
clicked off a message. After a moment the line on the moving tape
zigzagged again. Ralph glanced at the zigzags and bit his lip.

"Apologize to them," he said to Palmer. "Tell them we regret
exceedingly that the ship should have been kept waiting. Tell them
our recorder was out of adjustment."

The operator cabled the message. The three men at the end of the
room glanced at each other; this evidently was not what they

Steps sounded on the stairs and Peters hurriedly entered.

"The old man's comin'," he said.

Mr. Langley, the superintendent of the station, had been in the
company's employ for years. He had been in charge of the Cape Cod
station since it was built, and he liked the job. He knew cable
work, too, from A to Z, and, though he was a strict disciplinarian,
would forgive a man's getting drunk occasionally, sooner than
condone carelessness. He was eccentric, but even those who did not
like him acknowledged that he was "square."

He came into the room, tossed a cigar stump out of the window, and
nodded to Captain Eri.

"How are you, Captain Hedge?" he said. Then, stepping to the
table, he picked up the tape.

"Everything all right, Mr. Hazeltine?" he asked. "Hello! What
does this mean? They say they have been calling for two hours
without getting an answer. How do you explain that?"

It was very quiet in the room when the electrician answered.

"The recorder here was out of adjustment, sir," he said simply.

"Out of adjustment! I thought you told me everything was in
perfect order before you left this morning."

"I thought so, sir, but I find the screw was too loose. That would
account for the call not reaching us."

"Too loose! Humph!" The superintendent looked steadfastly at
Hazeltine, then at the operators, and then at the electrician once

"Mr. Hazeltine," he said at length, "I will hear what explanations
you may have to make in my office later on. I will attend to the
testing myself. That will do."

Captain Eri silently followed his young friend to the back door of
the station. Hazeltine had seen fit to make no comment on the
scene just described, and the captain did not feel like offering
any. They were standing on the steps when the big operator,
McLoughlin, came out of the building behind them.

"Well," he said gruffly to the electrician. "Shall I quit now or
wait until Saturday?"


"Shall I git out now or wait till Saturday night? I suppose you'll
have me fired."

Then Hazeltine's pent-up rage boiled over.

"If you mean that I'll tell Mr. Langley of your cowardly trick and
have you discharged--No! I don't pay my debts that way. But I'll
tell you this,--you and your sneaking friends. If you try another
game like that,--yes, or if you so much as speak to me, other than
on business while I'm here, I WILL fire you--out of the window.
Clear out!"

"Mr. Hazeltine," said Captain Eri a few moments later, "I hope you
don't mind my sayin' that I like you fust-rate. Me and Perez and
Jerry ain't the biggest bugs in town, but we like to have our
friends come and see us. I wish you'd drop in once 'n a while."

"I certainly will," said the young man, and the two shook hands.
That vigorous handshake was enough of itself to convince Ralph
Hazeltine that he had made, at any rate, one friend in Orham.

And we may as well add here that he had made two. For that evening
Jack McLoughlin said to his fellow conspirators:

"He said he'd fire me out of the window,--ME, mind you! And, by
thunder! I believe he'd have DONE it too. Boys, there ain't any
more 'con' games played on that kid while I'm around--Parker or no
Parker. He's white, that's what HE is!"



Conversation among the captains was, for the next two days,
confined to two topics, speculation as to how soon they might
expect a reply from the Nantucket female and whether or not Mr.
Langley would discharge Hazeltine. On the latter point Captain Eri
was decided.

"He won't be bounced," said the Captain; "now you just put that
down in your log. Langley ain't a fool, and he can put two and two
together as well as the next feller. If I thought there was any
need of it, I'd just drop him a hint myself, but there ain't, so I
shan't put my oar in. But I wish you two could have heard that
youngster talk to that McLoughlin critter; 'twould have done you
good. That boy's all right."

Captain Jerry was alone when the expected letter came. He glanced
at the postmark, saw that it was Nantucket, and stuck the note
behind the clock. He did his best to forget it, but he looked so
guilty when Captain Perez returned at supper time that that
individual suspected something, made his friend confess, and, a
little later when Captain Eri came in, the envelope, bearing many
thumb-prints, was propped up against the sugar bowl in the middle
of the table.

"We didn't open it, Eri," said Perez proudly. "We did want to, but
we thought all hands ought to be on deck when anything as important
as this was goin' to be done."

"He's been holdin' it up to the light for the last ha'f hour,"
sneered Captain Jerry. "Anybody 'd think it had a million dollars
in it. For the land's sake, open it, Eri, 'fore he has a fit!"

Captain Eri picked up the letter, looked it over very deliberately,
and then tore off the end of the envelope. The inclosure was
another sheet of note paper like the first epistle. The Captain
took out his spectacles, wiped them, and read the following aloud:


"Sir: I like your looks well enough, though it don't pay to put too
much dependence in looks, as nobody knows better than me. Besides,
I judge that picture was took quite a spell ago. Anyway, you look
honest, and I am willing to risk money enough to carry me to Orham
and back, though the dear land knows I ain't got none to throw away.
If we don't agree to sign articles, I suppose likely you will be
willing to stand half the fare. That ain't any more than right, the
way I look at it. I shall come to Orham on the afternoon train,
Thursday. Meet me at the depot.

"Yours truly,


"P. S.--I should have liked it better if you was a Methodist, but
we can't have everything just as we want it in this world."

Nobody spoke for a moment after the reading of this intensely
practical note. Captain Eri whistled softly, scratched his head,
and then read the letter over again to himself. At length Captain
Perez broke the spell.

"Jerusalem!" he exclaimed. "She don't lose no time, does she?"

"She's pretty prompt, that's a fact," assented Captain Eri.

Captain Jerry burst forth in indignation:

"Is THAT all you've got to say?" he inquired with sarcasm, "after
gittin' me into a scrape like this? Well now, I tell you one
thing, I--"

"Don't go on your beam ends, Jerry," interrupted Captain Eri.
"There ain't no harm done yit."

"Ain't no harm done? Why how you talk, Eri Hedge! Here's a woman
that I ain't never seen, and might be a hundred years old, for all
I know, comin' down here to-morrow night to marry me by main force,
as you might say, and you set here and talk about--"

"Now, hold on, hold on, Jerry! She ain't goin' to marry you unless
you want her to, 'tain't likely. More I think of it, the more I
like the woman's way of doin' things. She's got sense, there's no
doubt of that. You can't sell HER a cat in a bag. She's comin'
down here to see you and talk the thing over, and I glory in her

"Wants me to pay her fare! I see myself doin' it! I've got ways
enough to spend my money without paying fares for Nantucket folks."

"If you and she sign articles, as she calls it, you'll have to pay
more than fares," said Captain Perez, in a matter-of-fact tone. "I
think same as Eri does; she's a smart woman. We'll have to meet
her at the depot, of course."

"Well _I_ won't! Cheeky thing! Let her find out where I am! I
cal'late she'll have to do some huntin'."

"Now, see here, Jerry," said Captain Eri, "you was jest as anxious
to have one of us get married as anybody else. You haven't got to
marry the woman unless you want to, but you have got to help us see
the thing through. I wish myself that we hadn't been quite so
pesky anxious to give her the latitude and longitude, and had took
some sort of an observation ourselves; but we didn't, and now we've
got to treat her decent. You'll be at that depot along with Perez
and me."

When Captain Eri spoke in that tone his two cronies usually obeyed
orders. Even the rebellious Jerry, who had a profound respect for
his younger friend, gave in after some grumbling.

They sat up until late, speculating concerning the probable age and
appearance of the expected visitor. Captain Perez announced that
he didn't know why it was, but he had a notion that she was about
forty and slim. Captain Jerry, who was in a frame of mind where
agreement with anyone was out of the question, gave it as his
opinion that she was thirty odd and rather plump. Captain Eri
didn't hazard a guess, but suggested that they wait and see.

But even Captain Eri's calmness was more or less assumed, for he
did not go fishing the next morning, but stayed about the house,
whittling at the model of a clipper ship and tormenting Captain
Jerry. The model was one that he had been at work upon at odd
times ever since he gave up sea-going. It had never been completed
for the very good reason that when one part was finished the
Captain tore another part to pieces, and began over again. It was
a sort of barometer of his feelings, and when his companions saw
him take down the clipper and go to work, they knew he was either
thinking deeply upon a perplexing problem or was troubled in his

Captain Perez sang a good deal, principally confining his musical
efforts to a ballad with a chorus of,

"Storm along, John;
John, storm along;
Ain't I glad my day's work's done!"

Also, he glanced at his watch every few minutes and then went to
consult the chronometer to make sure of the time.

Captain Jerry went up to the schoolhouse and gave its vacant rooms
a thorough sweeping for no particular reason except to be doing
something. His appetite was poor, and he actually forgot to feed
Lorenzo, a hitherto unheard-of slight, and one that brought down
upon him a long lecture from Captain Eri, who vowed that loss of
memory was a sure sign of lovesickness.

They started for the railway station immediately after supper. As
they passed John Baxter's house they noticed a light in an upper
chamber, and wondered if the old man was ill. Captain Eri would
have stopped to find out, but Captain Perez insisted that it could
be done just as well when they came back, and expressed a fear that
they might miss the train. Captain Jerry hadn't spoken since they
left home, and walked gloomily ahead with his hands in his pockets.

Mr. "Web" Saunders, fat and in his pink-striped shirtsleeves, sat
upon the steps of his saloon as they went by. He wished them an
unctuous good-evening. The oily smoothness of Mr. Saunders' voice
cannot be described with plain pen and ink; it gurgled with
sweetness, like molasses poured from a jug. This was not a special
tone put on for the occasion; no one except his wife ever heard him
speak otherwise.

The response from the three captains was not enthusiastic, but Mr.
Saunders continued to talk of the weather, the fishing, and the
cranberry crop until a customer came and gave them a chance to get

"Slick! slick! slick!" commented Captain Eri, as they hurried

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