Part 4 out of 6
car, and it was a crest-fallen and humiliated prodigal that,
accompanied by the a fore-mentioned constable, returned to Orham
But the stubbornness remained, and the next day Perez sought
Captain Eri in a troubled frame of mind.
"Eri," he said dejectedly, "I don't know what I'm goin' to do with
that boy. He's too many for ME, that boy is. Seems he's been
plannin' this runnin' away bus'ness for more 'n a month; been doin'
errands and odd jobs 'round town and savin' up his money on
purpose. Says he won't go back to school again, no matter what we
do to him, and that he's goin' to git into the Navy if it takes ten
year. He says he'll run away again fust chance he gits, and he
WILL, too. He's got the sperit of the Old Scratch in him, and I
can't git it out. I'm clean discouraged and wore out, and I know
that he'll do somethin' pretty soon that 'll disgrace us all."
"Humph!" exclaimed his friend. "Stuffy as all that, is he? You
don't say! He ain't a bad boy, that is a REEL bad boy, either."
"No, that's jest it. He ain't reel bad--yit. But he will be if he
ain't fetched up pretty sudden. 'Course, I know what he needs is
to be made to mind fust, and then preached to afterwards. And I
know that nat'rally I'm the one that ought to do it, but I jest
can't--there! If I should start out to give him the dressin' down
he needs, I'd be thinkin' of his mother every minute, and how I
promised to treat him gentle and not be cross to him. But
SOMETHIN'S got to be done, and if you can help me out any way I'll
never forgit it, Eri."
Captain Eri scratched his chin. "Humph!" he grunted reflectively.
"He couldn't git into the Navy, he's too young. More likely to be
a stowaway on a merchantman and then roustabout on a cattle boat,
or some such thing. Even if he lied 'bout his age and did git to
be a sort of a ship's boy on a sailin' vessel, you and me know what
that means nowadays. I presume likely 'twould end in his bein'
killed in some rumshop scrimmage later on. Let--me--see. Bound to
be a sailor, is he?"
"He's dead sot on it."
"More fool he. Comes from readin' them ridic'lous story books, I
s'pose. He ain't been on the water much sence he's been down here,
"Not more 'n once or twice, except in a dory goin' to the beach, or
somethin' like that."
"That's so, that's what I thought. Well, Perez, I'll tell you.
The boy does need breakin' in, that's a fact, and I think maybe I
could do it. I could use a young feller on my boat; to go coddin'
with me, I mean. Let me have the boy under me--no meddlin' from
anybody--for a couple of months. Let him sign reg'lar articles and
ship 'long of me for that time. Maybe I could make a white man of
"I don't b'lieve he'd do it."
"I cal'late I could talk him into it. There's some butter on my
tongue when it's necessary."
"You'd have to promise not to lay a hand on him in anger. That's
what I promised his mother."
"All right, I promise it now. That's all right, Perez. You and me
are old shipmates, and bound to help each other out. Just trust
him to me, and don't ask too many questions. Is it a trade? Good!
They shook hands on it, and then Captain Eri went in to talk to the
unreconciled runaway. That young gentleman, fresh from his triumph
over his uncle, at first refused to have anything to do with the
scheme. He wasn't going to be a "cheap guy fisherman," he was
going into the Navy. The Captain did not attempt to urge him,
neither did he preach or patronize. He simply leaned back in the
rocker and began spinning sailor yarns. He told of all sorts of
adventures in all climates, and with all sorts of people. He had
seen everything under the sun, apparently, and, according to him,
there was no life so free and void of all restraint as that of an
able seaman on a merchant ship, or, preferably, on a fisherman; but
one point he made clear, and that was that, unless the applicant
had had previous training, his lot was likely to be an unhappy one.
"Of course," he said, as he rose to go, "it was my idea to sort of
train you up so's you could be ready when 'twas time to ship, but
long's you don't want to, why it's all off."
"I'll go with you, Cap!" said Josiah, whose eyes were shining.
"Good! That's the talk! You might as well sign articles right
away. Wait till I git 'em ready."
He brought pen, ink, and paper, and proceeded to indite a
formidable document to the effect that "Josiah Bartlett, able
seaman," was to ship aboard the catboat Mary Ellen for a term of
two months. Wages, five dollars a month.
"You see," he said, "I've put you down as able seaman 'cause that's
what you'll be when I git through with you. Now sign."
So Josiah signed, and then Captain Eri affixed his own signature
with a flourish.
"There!" exclaimed the Captain, bringing his big palm down on the
back of the "able seaman" with a thump that brought water into the
eyes of that proud youth, "You're my man, shipmate. We sail to-
morrer mornin' at four, rain or shine. I'll call you at quarter
of. Be ready."
"You bet, old man!" said Josiah.
Captain Perez met his friend as they came out of the parlor.
"Now, Eri," he whispered, "be easy as you can with him, won't you?"
The Captain answered in the very words of his crew.
"You bet!" he said fervently, and went away whistling. Captain
Perez slept better that night.
THE VOYAGE OF AN "ABLE SEAMAN"
Promptly at a quarter to four the next morning Captain Eri rapped
on the parlor door. Josiah, who had been dressed since three,
appeared almost instantly. They walked down to the shore together,
and the Captain's eyes twinkled as he noted the elaborate roll in
the boy's walk.
The Mary Ellen was anchored between the beaches, and they rowed off
to her in a dory. It was pitch-dark, and cold and raw. Lanterns
showed on two or three of the other boats near by, and, as Josiah
and the Captain pulled up the eelgrass-covered anchor, a dim shape
glided past in the blackness. It was the You and I, bound out.
Ira Sparrow was at the helm, and he hailed the Mary Ellen, saying
something about the weather.
"It 'll be kind of ca'm for a spell," replied Captain Eri, "but I
wouldn't wonder if we had some wind 'fore night. Here you, fo'mast
hand," he added, turning to Josiah, "stand by to git the canvas on
The mainsail was soon hoisted, and the catboat moved slowly out of
"Gee! it's dark," exclaimed Josiah. "what are you goin' way off
here for? Why don't you go straight out?"
"I gin'rally take the short cut through the narrers," replied the
Captain, "but I thought you mightn't like the breakers on the
shoals, so I'm goin' 'round the p'int flat."
"Huh! I ain't a-scared of breakers. Can't be too rough for me.
Wisht 'twould blow to beat the band."
"Maybe 'twill by and by. Pretty toler'ble slick now, though."
It was after sunrise when they reached the ledge where codfish most
do congregate. The land was a mere yellow streak on the horizon.
The stiff easterly blow of the day before had left a smooth, heavy
swell that, tripping over the submerged ledge, alternately tossed
the Mary Ellen high in air and dropped her toward the bottom. It
was cold, and the newly risen December sun did not seem to have
much warmth in it. Anchor over the side, the Captain proposed
The "able seaman" did not feel very hungry, but he managed to
swallow a hard-boiled egg and a sandwich, and then, just to show
that he had reached the dignity of manhood, leaned back against the
side of the cockpit, lit a cigarette, and observed cheerfully,
"This is hot stuff, ain't it, Cap?"
Captain Eri wiped the crumbs from his mouth, leisurely produced his
pipe, and proceeded to fill it with tobacco shaved from a chunky
"What d'you smoke them things for?" he asked contemptuously,
referring to the cigarette. "Nobody but dudes and sissies smoke
that kind of truck. Here, take this pipe, and smoke like a man."
Josiah looked askance at the proffered pipe.
"Oh, no!" he said magnanimously, "you'll want it yourself. I'll
get along with these things till I git ashore; then I'll buy a pipe
of my own."
"Never you mind 'bout me. I've got two or three more below there,
some'eres. Take it and light up."
The "able seaman" took the reeking, nicotine soaked affair, placed
it gingerly between his teeth, held a match to the bowl and
coughingly emitted a cloud of ill-smelling smoke. The pipe wheezed
and gurgled, and the Mary Ellen rocked and rolled.
"Now, then," said Captain Eri, "we've sojered long enough. Go
below, and bring up the bait bucket and the lines."
Josiah staggered into the little cabin, reappeared with the heavy
cod lines and the bucket of mussels, and watched while the Captain
"All ready!" said the skipper. "Two lines apiece, one over each
side. Watch me."
The cod bit almost immediately, and for ten minutes the work was
exciting and lively. The Captain, watching from the corner of his
eye, noticed that his assistant's pipe was wheezing less regularly,
and that his lines were thrown over more and more listlessly. At
length he said, "Haven't stopped smokin' so quick, have you?
What's the matter--gone out? Here's a match."
"I guessed I've smoked enough for now. I can't fish so well when
"Bosh! If you want to be a reel sailor you must smoke all the
time. Light up."
Reluctantly the boy obeyed, and puffed with feverish energy. Also
he swallowed with vigor. The cod smelt fishy; so did the bait, and
the catboat rolled and rolled. Suddenly Josiah pulled in his
lines, and took the pipe from his lips.
"What's the matter?" inquired the watchful skipper.
"I--I guess I won't fish any more, Cap. Kind of slow sport, ain't
it? Guess I'll go in there and take a snooze."
"I guess you won't! You shipped to fish, and you're goin' to fish.
Pick up them lines."
The boy sullenly turned toward the cabin door. Was he, who had
just declared himself independent of school restraint, he who had
once been the thorn in the flesh of every policeman in the --th
ward, to be ordered about by this Cape Cod countryman! "Aw, go
chase yourself!" he said contemptuously. A minute after, when he
picked himself up from the heap of slimy fish in the bottom of the
boat, he saw the Captain standing solidly on one cowhide-shod foot,
while the other was drawn easily back and rested on its toe. When
Josiah recovered his breath, the burst of bad language with which
he assailed his companion did credit to his street bringing up. It
was as short as it was fierce, however, and ended amid the cod and
the mussels from the overturned bait bucket. But, as the Captain
said afterwards, he was "spunky" and rose again, incoherent with
"You--you--I'll kill you!" he shrieked. "You promised not to touch
me, you lyin' old--"
He tried to get out of the way, but didn't succeed, and this time
merely sat up and sobbed as Captain Eri said in even tones:
"No, I'm not lyin'. I promised not to lay a hand on you in anger,
that's all. Fust place, I don't kick with my hands, and, second
place, I ain't angry. Now, then, pick up them lines."
The "able seaman" was frightened. This sort of treatment was new
to him. He judged it best to obey now and "get square" later on.
He sulkily picked up the codlines, and threw the hooks overboard.
Captain Eri, calmly resuming his fishing, went on to say, "The fust
thing a sailor has to l'arn is to obey orders. I see you've
stopped smokin'. Light up."
"I don't want to."
"Well, I want you TO. Light up."
"I won't. Oh, yes, I will!"
He eyed the threatening boot fearfully and lit the awful pipe with
shaking fingers. But he had taken but a few puffs when it went
over the side, and it seemed to Josiah that the larger half of
himself went with it. The Captain watched the paroxysm grimly.
"Sick, hey?" he grunted, "and not a capful of wind stirrin'.
You're a healthy sailor! I thought I'd shipped a man, but I see
'twas only a sassy baby. My uncle Labe had a good cure for
seasickness. You take a big hunk of fat salt pork, dip it in
"Oh, d-o-n-'t!" Another spasm.
"Dip it in molasses," repeated Captain Eri.
"Don't, Cap! PLEASE don't!"
"Another thing a sailor learns is not to call his skipper 'Cap.' A
fo'mast hand always says 'Aye, aye, sir,' when his off'cer speaks
to him. Understand that?"
"Y-e-s. Oh, Lord!"
"Ye--I mean aye, aye."
"Aye, aye, WHAT?"
"Aye, aye, SIR! OH, dear me!"
"That's better. Now pick up them lines."
Well, 'twas a dreadful forenoon for Josiah; one not to be forgotten.
The boat rolled unceasingly, his head ached, and pulling the heavy
cod made his back and shoulders lame; also, he was wet and cold.
The other boats scattered about the fishing grounds pulled up their
anchors and started for home, but Captain Eri did not budge. At
noon he opened his lunch basket again, and munched serenely. The
sight of the greasy ham sandwiches was too much for the "able
seaman." He suffered a relapse and, when it was over, tumbled on
the seat which encircled the cockpit and, being completely worn out,
went fast asleep. The Captain watched him for a minute or two,
smiled in a not unkindly way, and, going into the cabin, brought out
an old pea jacket and some other wraps with which he covered the
sleeper. Then he went back to his fishing.
When Josiah awoke the Mary Ellen was heeled over on her side, her
sail as tight as a drumhead. The wind was whistling through the
cordage, and the boat was racing through seas that were steel-blue
and angry, with whitecaps on their crests. The sun was hidden by
tumbling, dust-colored clouds. The boy felt weak and strangely
humble; the dreadful nausea was gone.
Captain Eri, standing at the tiller, regarded him sternly, but
there was the suspicion of a twinkle in his eye.
"Feelin' better?" he asked.
"Ye--aye, aye, sir."
"Humph! Want to smoke again. Pipe right there on the thwart."
"No, thank you, sir."
It was some time before anything more was said. Josiah was gazing
at the yellow sand-cliffs that, on every tack, grew nearer. At
length the Captain again addressed him.
"Perez ever tell you 'bout our fust v'yage? Never did, hey? Well,
I will. Him and me run away to sea together, you know."
And then Captain Eri began a tale that caused the cold shivers to
chase themselves from Josiah's big toe to the longest hair on his
head. It was the story of two boys who ran away and shipped aboard
an Australian sailing packet, and contained more first-class
horrors than any one of his beloved dime novels. As a finishing
touch the narrator turned back the grizzled hair on his forehead
and showed a three-inch scar, souvenir of a first mate and a
belaying pin. He rolled up his flannel shirtsleeve and displayed
a slightly misshapen left arm, broken by a kick from a drunken
captain and badly set by the same individual.
"Now," he said in conclusion, "I cal'late you think I was pretty
hard on you this mornin', but what do you figger that you'd have
got if you talked to a mate the way you done to me?"
"Don't know. S'pose I'd have been killed,--sir."
"Well, you would, mighty nigh, and that's a fact. Now, I'll tell
you somethin' else. You wanted to enlist in the Navy, I understand.
You couldn't git in the Navy, anyway, you're too young, but s'pose
you could, what then? You'd never git any higher 'n a petty
officer, 'cause you don't know enough. The only way to git into the
Navy is to go through Annapolis, and git an education. I tell you,
education counts. Me and Perez would have been somethin' more 'n
cheap fishin' and coastin' skippers if we'd had an education; don't
"I guess I don't want to be a sailor, anyway, sir. This one trip
is enough for me, thank you."
"Can't help that. You shipped 'long with me for two months, and
you'll sail with me for two months, every time I go out. You won't
run away again neither, I'll look out for that. You'll sail with
me and you'll help clean fish, and you'll mind me and you'll say
'sir.' You needn't smoke if you don't want to," with a smile. "I
ain't p'tic'lar 'bout that.
"Then," went on the Captain, "when the two months is up you'll be
your own master again. You can go back to 'Web' Saunders and
'Squealer' Wixon and 'Ily' Tucker and their tribe, if you want to,
and be a town nuisance and a good-for-nuthin'. OR you can do this:
You can go to school for a few years more and behave yourself and
then, if I've got any influence with the Congressman from this
district--and I sort of b'lieve I have, second-handed, at any rate--
you can go to Annapolis and learn to be a Navy officer. That's my
offer. You've got a couple of months to think it over in."
The catboat swung about on her final tack and stood in for the
narrows, the route which the Captain had spoken of as the "short
cut." From where Josiah sat the way seemed choked with lines of
roaring, frothing breakers that nothing could approach and keep
above water. But Captain Eri steered the Mary Ellen through them
as easily as a New York cabdriver guides his vehicle through a jam
on Broadway, picking out the smooth places and avoiding the rough
ones until the last bar was crossed and the boat entered the
sheltered waters of the bay.
"By gum!" exclaimed the enthusiastic "able seaman." "That was
"That's part of what I'll l'arn you in the next two months," said
the Captain. "'Twon't do you any harm to know it when you're in
the Navy neither. Stand by to let go anchor!"
IN JOHN BAXTER'S ROOM
If Josiah expected any relaxation in Captain Eri's stern discipline
he was disappointed, for he was held to the strict letter of the
"shipping articles." The Captain even went to the length of
transferring Perez to the parlor cot and of compelling the boy to
share his own room. This was, of course, a precaution against
further attempts at running away. Morning after morning the pair
rose before daylight and started for the fishing grounds. There
were two or three outbreaks on the part of the "able seaman," but
they ended in but one way, complete submission. After a while
Josiah, being by no means dull, came to realize that when he
behaved like a man he was treated like one. He learned to steer
the Mary Ellen, and to handle her in all weathers. Also, his
respect for Captain Eri developed into a liking.
Captain Perez was gratified and delighted at the change in his
grandnephew's behavior and manners, and was not a little curious to
learn the methods by which the result had been brought about. His
hints being fruitless, he finally asked his friend point-blank.
Captain Eri's answer was something like this:
"Perez," he said, "do you remember old man Sanborn, that kept
school here when you and me was boys? Well, when the old man run
foul of a youngster that was sassy and uppish he knocked the sass
out of him fust, and then talked to him like a Dutch uncle. He
used to call that kind of treatment 'moral suasion.' That's what
I'm doin' to Josiah; I'm 'moral suasionin' him."
Captain Perez was a little anxious concerning the first part of
this course of training, but its results were so satisfactory that
he asked no more questions. The fact is, Captain Perez' mind was
too much occupied with another subject just at this time to allow
him to be over-anxious. The other subject was Miss Patience Davis.
Miss Davis, her visit with her brother being over, was acting as
companion to an old lady who lived in a little house up the shore,
a mile or so above the station. This elderly female, whose name
was Mayo, had a son who kept a grocery store in the village and
was, therefore, obliged to be away all day and until late in the
evening. Miss Patience found Mrs. Mayo's crotchets a bit trying,
but the work was easy and to her liking, and she was, as she said,
"right across the way, as you might say, from Luther." The "way"
referred to was the stretch of water between the outer beach and
And Captain Perez was much interested in Miss patience--very much
so, indeed. His frequent visits to the Mayo homestead furnished no
end of amusement to Captain Eri, and also to Captain Jerry, who
found poking fun at his friend an agreeable change from the old
programme of being the butt himself. He wasn't entirely free from
this persecution, however, for Eri more than once asked him, in
tones the sarcasm of which was elaborately veiled, if his match-
making scheme had gotten tired and was sitting down to rest. To
which the sacrifice would reply stoutly, "Oh, it's comin' out all
right; you wait and see."
But in his heart Captain Jerry knew better. He had been wise
enough to say nothing to his friends concerning his interviews with
Elsie and Ralph, but apparently the breaking-off between the pair
was final. Hazeltine called occasionally, it is true, but his
stays were short and, at the slightest inclination shown by the
older people to leave the room, he left the house. There was some
comment by Eri and Mrs. Snow on this sudden change, but they were
far from suspecting the real reason. Elsie continued to be as
reticent as she had been of late; her school work was easier now
that Josiah was no longer a pupil.
Christmas was rather a failure. There were presents, of course,
but the planned festivities were omitted owing to a change in John
Baxter's condition. From growing gradually better, he now grew
slowly, but surely, worse. Dr. Palmer's calls were more frequent,
and he did not conceal from Mrs. Snow or the captains his anxiety.
They hid much of this from Elsie, but she, too, noticed the change,
and was evidently worried by it. Strange to say, as his strength
ebbed, the patient's mind grew clearer. His speech, that in his
intervals of consciousness had heretofore dealt with events of the
past, was now more concerned with recent happenings. But Captain
Eri had never heard him mention the fire.
One afternoon in January Mrs. Snow and Captain Eri were together in
the sick room. The rest of the household was absent on various
errands; Captain Perez paying a visit to the life-saver's sister
and Elsie staying after school to go over some examination papers.
There was snow on the ground, and a "Jinooary thaw" was causing the
eaves to drip, and the puddles in the road to grow larger. The
door of the big stove was open, and the coals within showed red-
hot. Captain Baxter was apparently asleep.
"Let me see," said Mrs. Snow musingly, in a low tone. "I've been
here now, two, three, over four months. Seems longer, somehow."
"Seems almost as if you'd always been here," replied Captain Eri.
"Queer how soon we git used to a change. I don't know how we got
along afore, but we did some way or other, if you call it gittin'
along," he added with a shrug. "I should hate to have to try it
"It's always seemed funny to me," remarked the lady, "that you men,
all sailors so--and used to doin' for yourselves, should have had
such a time when you come to try keepin' house. I should have
expected it if you was--well, doctors, or somethin' like that--used
to havin' folks wait on you, but all sea captains, it seems queer."
"It does, don't it? I've thought of that myself. Anybody'd think
we was the most shif'less lot that ever lived, but we wa'n't. Even
Jerry--and he's the wust one of the three when it comes to leavin'
things at loose ends--always had a mighty neat vessel, and had the
name of makin' his crews toe the mark. I honestly b'lieve it come
of us bein' on shore and runnin' the shebang on a share and share
alike idee. If there'd been a skipper, a feller to boss things,
we'd have done better, but when all hands was boss--nobody felt
like doin' anything. Then, too, we begun too old. A feller gits
sort of sot in his ways, and it's hard to give in to the other
"Now, take that marryin' idee," he went on. "I laughed at that a
good deal at fust and didn't really take any stock in it, but I
guess 'twas real hoss sense, after all. Anyhow, it brought you
down here, and what we'd done without you when John was took sick,
_I_ don't know. I haven't said much about it, but I've felt
enough, and I know the other fellers feel the same way. You've
been so mighty good and put up with so many things that must have
fretted you like the nation, and the way you've managed--my!"
The whole-souled admiration in the Captain's voice made the
housekeeper blush like a girl.
"Don't say a word, Cap'n Eri," she protested. "It's been jest a
pleasure to me, honest. I've had more comfort and--well, peace,
you might say, sence I've been in this house than I've had afore
"When I think," said the Captain, "of what we might have got for
that advertisement, I swan it makes my hair curl. Advertisin' that
way in that kind of a paper, why we might have had a--a play
actress, or I don't know what, landed on us. Seems 's if there was
a Providence in it: seems 's if you was kind of SENT--there!"
"I don't know what you must think of me answerin' an advertisement
for a husband that way. It makes me 'shamed of myself when I think
of it, I declare. And in that kind of a paper, too."
"I've wondered more times than a few how you ever got a hold of
that paper. 'Tain't one you'd see every day nat'rally, you know."
Mrs. Snow paused before she answered. Then she said slowly, "Well,
I'm s'prised you ain't asked that afore. I haven't said much about
myself sence I've been here, for no p'tic'lar reason that I know
of, except that there wasn't much to tell and it wasn't a very
interestin' yarn to other folks. My husband's name was Jubal
"You don't say!" exclaimed the Captain. "Why, Jerry used to know
"I shouldn't wonder. Jubal knew a lot of folks on the Cape here.
He was a good husband--no better anywheres--and he and I had a good
life together long as he was well. I've sailed a good many v'yages
with him, and I feel pretty nigh as much at home on the water as I
do on land. Our trouble was the same that a good many folks have;
we didn't cal'late that fair weather wouldn't last all the time,
"It wasn't his fault any more than 'twas mine. We saved a little
money, but not enough, as it turned out. Well, he was took down
sick and had to give up goin' to sea, and we had a little place
over in Nantucket, and settled down on it. Fust along, Jubal was
able to do a little farmin' and so on, and we got along pretty
well, but by and by he got so he wa'n't able to work, and then
'twas harder. What little we'd saved went for doctor's bills and
this, that, and t'other. He didn't like to have me leave him, so I
couldn't earn much of anything, and fin'lly we come to where
somethin' had to be done right away, and we talked the thing over
and decided to mortgage the house. The money we got on the
mortgage lasted until he died.
"He had a little life insurance, not enough, of course, but a
little. He was plannin' to take on more, but somehow it never
seemed as if he could die, he so big and strong, and we put it off
until he got so he couldn't pass the examination. When the
insurance money come I took it to Jedge Briar, a mighty good friend
of Jubal's and mine and the one that held the mortgage on the
house, and I told him I wanted to pay off the mortgage with it,
so's I'd have the house free and clear. But the Jedge advised me
not to, said the mortgage was costin' me only six per cent., and
why didn't I put the money where 'twas likely to be a good
investment that would pay me eight or ten per cent.? Then I'd be
makin' money, he said. I asked him to invest it for me, and he put
it into the Bay Shore Land Company, where most of his own was."
"Sho! I want to know!" broke in the Captain. "He did, hey! Well,
I had some there, too, and so did Perez. Precious few fam'lies on
the Cape that didn't."
"Yes, he thought 'twas the safest and best place he knew of. The
officers bein' sons of Cape people and their fathers such fine men,
everybody said 'twas all right. I got my dividends reg'lar for a
while, and I went out nussin' and did sewin' and got along reel
well. I kept thinkin' some day I'd be able to pay off the mortgage
and I put away what little I could towards it, but then _I_ was
took sick and that money went, and then the Land Company went up
The Captain nodded. The failure of the company had brought poverty
to hundreds of widows. Mrs. Snow's case was but another instance.
"Let me see," said the lady. "Where was I? Oh, yes! the Land
Company's failin'. Well, it failed and the insurance money went
with it. It was discouragin', of course, but I had my house,
except for the mortgage, and I had my health again, and, if I do
say it, I ain't afraid of work, so I jest made up my mind there was
no use cryin' over spilt milk, and that I must git along and begin
to save all over again. Then Jedge Briar died and his nephew up to
Boston come into the property. I was behind in my payments a
little, and they sent me word they should foreclose the mortgage,
and they did."
"Well, I swan! The mean sculpins! Didn't you have NOBODY you
could go to; no relations nor nothin'?"
"I've got a brother out in Chicago, but he married rich and his
wife doesn't care much for her husband's relations. I never saw
her but once, and then one of the first things she asked me was if
it was true that there was more crazy people in Nantucket than in
any other place of its size on earth, and afore I could answer she
asked me what made 'em crazy. I told her I didn't know unless it
was answerin' city folks' questions. She didn't like that very
well, and I haven't heard from Job--that's my brother--for a long
time. All my other near relations are dead.
"So they foreclosed the mortgage, and gave me notice to move out.
I packed my things, and watered my flowers--I had quite a pretty
flower garden--for the last time, and then come in and set down in
the rocker to wait for the wagon that was goin' to move me. I got
to thinkin' how proud Jubal and me was when we bought that house
and how we planned about fixin' it up, and how our baby that died
was born in it, and how Jubal himself had died there, and told me
that he was glad he was leavin' me a home, at any rate; and I got
so lonesome and discouraged that I jest cried, I couldn't help it.
But I've never found that cryin' did much good, so I wiped my eyes
and looked for somethin' to read to take up my mind. And that
Chime paper was what I took up.
"You see, there'd been a big excursion from Boston down the day
before, and some of the folks come down my way to have a sort of
picnic. Two of 'em, factory girls from Brockton, they was, come to
the house for a drink of water. They were gigglin', foolish enough
critters, but I asked 'em in, and they eat their lunches on my
table. They left two or three story papers and that Chime thing
when they went away.
"Well, I looked it over, and almost the first thing I saw was that
advertisement signed 'Skipper.' It didn't read like the other
trashy things in there, and it sounded honest. And all of a sudden
it come over me that I'd answer it. I was lonesome and tired and
sort of didn't care, and I answered it right off without waitin'
another minute. That's all there is to tell. When I come here
to be housekeeper I wrote the folks that's takin' care of my
furniture--they're reel kind people; I was goin' to board there if
I had stayed in Nantucket--to keep it till I come back. There! I
meant to tell you this long ago, and I don't know why I haven't."
The Captain knew why she hadn't. It was easy to read between the
lines the tale of the years of disappointment and anxiety. Such
stories are not easy to tell, and he respected the widow more than
ever for the simple way in which she had told hers.
"That Land Company bus'ness," he said, "carried off a good lot of
Cape Cod money. I never saw but one man that I thought was glad it
busted, and that was old Caleb Weeks, over to Harniss. The old man
was rich, but closer 'n the bark of a tree--he'd skin a flea for
the hide and taller--and used to be a hard case into the bargain.
One time they had a big revival over there and he got religion.
The boys used to say what caught Caleb was the minister's sayin'
salvation was free. Well, anyhow, he got converted and j'ined the
church. That was all right, only while the fit was fresh he
pledged himself to give five hundred dollars to help build the new
chapel. When he cooled down a little he was sorry, and every time
they'd hint at his comin' down with the cash, he'd back and fill,
and put it off for a spell. When the Land Company went up he was
the only happy one in town, 'cause he said he'd lost all his money.
Course, under the circumstances, they couldn't ask him to pay, so
he didn't. From what I hear he lost as much as fifty dollars."
They both laughed, and Mrs. Snow was about to answer when she was
"Eri," said a weak voice. "Eri."
The Captain started, turned sharply, and saw the sick man watching
him, his eyes fixed and unwavering.
"Eri," said John Baxter again, "come here."
Mrs. Snow hurried to her patient, but the latter impatiently bade
her let him alone.
"Not you," he said, "I want Eri."
Captain Eri stooped down beside the bed.
"What is it, John?" he asked.
"Eri s'pose God called you to break man's law and keep his, what
would you do?"
The Captain glanced anxiously at the house-keeper. Then he said
"Oh, that's all right, John. Don't worry 'bout that. You and me
settled that long ago. How are you feelin' now?"
"I know, I know," with the monotonous persistence of those whose
minds are wandering,--and then cleanly once more, "Eri, I've been
"Ssh-h! That's all right, John; that's all right. Don't you want
Mrs. Snow to fix your piller? P'raps you'd lay a little easier,
then. Now, Mrs. Snow, if you'll jest turn it while I lift him.
So; that's better now, ain't it, shipmate, hey?" But the sick man
muttered an unintelligible something, and relapsed once more into
the half-doze, half-stupor that was his usual state.
Captain Eri sighed in relief.
"That was queer, wa'n't it?" he observed.
"He's had two or three of those spells in the last day or two," was
The Captain wondered what his friend might have said during those
"spells," but he was afraid to inquire. Instead, he asked, "What
did the doctor say when he was here this mornin'?"
"Nothin' very hopeful. I asked him plain what he thought of the
case, and he answered jest as plain. He said Cap'n Baxter had
failed dreadful in the last week, and that he wouldn't be s'prised
if he dropped off most any time. Then again, he said he might live
"I see, I see."
They were silent for a while, watching the sick man, whose sleep,
or stupor, was not as tranquil as usual. Two or three times his
eyes opened, and he muttered audibly.
"I never saw him so restless afore," commented Captain Eri
"He was so last night."
"Did Elsie see him?"
"No, I was alone here, and she was asleep in the next room. I got
up and shut the door."
The Captain glanced keenly at the housekeeper, but her face was
placid and inscrutable. He shifted uneasily and then said,
"Elsie's late to-night, ain't she? I wonder what's keepin' her."
"School work, I s'pose. She's workin' harder 'n she ought to, I
The word was shouted, and the room rang with it. John Baxter,
whose weakness had hitherto been so great that he could not turn
himself in bed, was leaning on his elbow and pointing with
outstretched finger to the open stove door.
"Fire!" he shouted again. "It's blazin'! It's burnin'! It's
wipin' the plague spot from the earth. I hear you, Lord! I'm old,
but I hear you, and your servant's ready. Where will it be to-
morrer? Gone! burnt up! and the ways of the wicked shan't
They forced him back on the pillow, but he fought them fiercely for
a moment or two. After they thought they had quieted him, he broke
out again, talking rapidly and clearly.
"I hear the call, Lord," he said. "I thank thee for showin' it to
me in your Book. 'And they burnt all their cities wherein they
dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.' With fire! With
"Ssh-h! There, there, John! Don't talk so," entreated the
"Where's the kerosene?" continued the old man. "And the matches?
Now softly, softly. The shavin's. It's dark. Here, in the
corner. Ah, ha! ah, ha! 'And all their goodly castles with fire!'
Now, Web Saunders, you wicked man! Now! Burn! I've done it,
Lord! I've done it!"
"Hush!" almost shouted the agonized Captain Eri. "Hush, John! Be
"There, there, Cap'n Baxter," said Mrs. Snow soothingly, laying her
hand on the sick man's forehead. Somehow, the touch seemed to
quiet him; his eyes lost their fire, and he muttered absently that
he was tired. Then the eyes closed and he lay still, breathing
"Land of love!" exclaimed the Captain. "That was awful! Hadn't I
better go for the doctor?"
"I don't think so, unless he gits worse. He had jest such a turn,
as I told you, last night."
"Did he talk like he did jest now?"
"Jest the same."
"'Bout the same things?"
The Captain gasped. "Then you knew!" he said.
"That he set the billiard room afire? Yes. I've always rather
suspicioned that he did, and last night, of course, made me sure of
"Well, well! You haven't said nothin' 'bout it to anybody?"
"Of course not."
"No, 'course you haven't. You must excuse me--I'm kind of upset, I
guess. Dear! dear! Did you think _I_ knew it?"
"I sort of guessed that you did."
"Well, I did. I've known it ever sence that night he was found.
He had his coat on when I found him, and 'twas all burnt, and there
was an empty kerosene bottle in his pocket. I hid the coat, and
threw the bottle away, and turned him so he was facin' towards the
saloon 'stead of from it. And I lied when I told the doctor that
he was jest as he fell. There! the murder's out! Now, what do you
think of me?"
"Think? I think you did exactly right."
"I sartinly do."
"Well, I snum! I've been over that thing time and time again, and
I've felt like I was sort of a firebug myself sometimes. I've
heard folks layin' it to fust one and then the other, and
cal'latin' that Web did it himself to git the insurance, and all
the time I've known who really did do it, and haven't said
anything. I jest couldn't. You see, John and me's been brothers
almost. But I didn't s'pose anybody else would see it the same
"Cap'n Eri, do you s'pose I blame you for tryin' to keep your best
friend out of trouble that he got into by bein'--well--out of his
head. Why, land of mercy! He ain't no more to be held responsible
than a baby. You did what I'd have done if I'd been in your place,
and I respect you for it."
The Captain's voice shook as he answered:
"Marthy Snow," he said, "you're the kind of woman that I'd like to
have had for a sister."
It was perhaps a half-hour later when Captain Eri started for the
schoolhouse to bring Elsie home. John Baxter had not wakened, and
Mrs. Snow said she was not afraid to remain alone with him. The
thaw had turned to a light rain and the Captain carried an umbrella.
It was dark by this time, and when he came in sight of the
schoolhouse he saw a light in the window.
One of the scholars--a by no means brilliant one--whose principal
educational achievement was the frequency with which he succeeded
in being "kept after school," was seated on the fence, doing his
best to whittle it to pieces with a new jackknife.
"Hello, sonny!" said the Captain. "Miss Preston gone yit?"
"No, she ain't," replied the boy, continuing to whittle. "She's up
there. Mr. Saunders is there, too."
"Saunders? WEB SAUNDERS?"
"Yup. I see him go in there a little while ago." Captain Eri
started toward the schoolhouse at a rapid pace; then he suddenly
stopped; and then, as suddenly, walked on again. All at once he
dropped his umbrella and struck one hand into the palm of the other
with a smack.
When he reached the door, he leaned the umbrella in the corner and
walked up the stairs very softly, indeed.
A BUSINESS CALL
That enterprising business man, Mr. "Web" Saunders, opened the door
of his renovated billiard room a little later than usual the next
morning. It was common report about the village that Mr. Saunders
occasionally sampled the contents of some of the "original packages"
which, bearing the name and address of a Boston wholesale liquor
dealer, came to him by express at irregular intervals. It was also
reported, probably by unreliable total abstainers, that during these
"sampling" seasons his temper was not of the best. Perhaps Mrs.
Saunders might have said something concerning this report if she had
been so disposed, but unless a discolored eye might be taken as
evidence, she never offered any. The injury to her eye she
explained by saying that something "flew up and hit her." This
was no doubt true.
But, gossip aside, Mr. Saunders did not seem in good humor on this
particular morning. A yellow cur, of nondescript breed, taken
since the fire, in payment of a debt from "Squealer" Wixon, who had
described it as a "fust-class watchdog," rose from its bed behind
the cigar counter, yawned, stretched, and came slinking over to
greet its master. "Web" forcibly hoisted it out of the door on the
toe of his boot. Its yelp of pained surprise seemed to afford the
business man considerable relief, for he moved more briskly
afterward, and proceeded to sweep the floor with some degree of
The forenoon trade at the billiard room was never very lively, and
this forenoon was no exception. "Bluey" Batcheldor drifted in,
stepped into the little room the door of which was lettered "Ice
Cream Parlor," and busied himself with a glass and bottle for a few
moments. Then he helped himself to a cigar from the showcase, and
told his friend to "chalk it up." This Mr. Saunders didn't seem to
care to do, and there was a lively argument. At length "Bluey's"
promise to "square up in a day or so" was accepted, under protest,
and the customer departed.
At half-past eleven the man of business was dozing in a chair by
the stove, and the "watchdog," having found it chilly outside and
venturing in, was dozing near him. The bell attached to the door
rang vigorously, and both dog and man awoke with a start. The
visitor was Captain Eri.
Now, the Captain was perhaps the last person whom the proprietor of
the billiard room expected to see, but a stranger never would have
guessed it. In fact, the stranger might reasonably have supposed
that the visitor was Mr. Saunders' dearest friend, and that his
call was a pleasure long looked forward to.
"Why, Cap'n!" exclaimed "Web," "how are you? Put her there! I'm
glad to see you lookin' so well. I said to 'Squealer' the other
day, s'I, 'Squealer, I never see a man hold his age like Cap'n
Hedge. I'll be blessed if he looks a day over forty,' I says.
Take off your coat, won't you?"
Somehow or other, the Captain must have lost sight of "Web's"
extended hand. Certainly, the hand was large enough to be seen,
but he did not take it. He did, however, accept the invitation to
remove his coat, and, slipping out of the faded brown pea jacket,
threw it on a settee at the side of the room. His face was stern
and his manner quiet, and in spite Of Mr. Saunders' flattering
reference to his youthful appearance, this morning he looked at
least more than a day past forty.
But, if Captain Eri was more than usually quiet and reserved, "Web"
was unchanged, and, if he noticed that the handshake was declined,
said nothing about it. His smile was sweetness itself, as he
observed, "Well, Cap'n, mighty mod'rate weather we're having for
this time of year, ain't it? What's new down your way? That's
right, have a chair."
The Captain had no doubt anticipated this cordial invitation, for
he seated himself before it was given, and, crossing his legs,
extended his dripping rubber boots toward the fire. The rain was
still falling, and it beat against the windows of the saloon in
"Web," said Captain Eri, "set down a minute. I want to talk to
"Why, sure!" exclaimed the genial man of business, pulling up
another chair. "Have a cigar, won't you? You don't come to see me
very often, and I feel's though we ought to celebrate. Ha! ha! ha!"
"No, I guess not, thank you," was the answer. "I'll smoke my pipe,
if it's all the same to you."
Mr. Saunders didn't mind in the least, but thought he would have a
cigar himself. So he lit one and smoked in silence as the Captain
filled his pipe. "Web" knew that this was something more than an
ordinary social visit. Captain Eri's calls at the billiard room
were few and far between. The Captain, for his part, knew what his
companion was thinking, and the pair watched each other through the
The pipe drew well, and the Captain sent a blue cloud whirling
toward the ceiling. Then he asked suddenly, "Web, how much money
has Elsie Preston paid you altogether?"
Mr. Saunders started the least bit, and his small eyes narrowed a
trifle. But the innocent surprise in his reply was a treat to
"Elsie? Paid ME?" he asked.
"Yes. How much has she paid you?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Yes, you do. She's been payin' you money reg'lar for more 'n a
month. I want to know how much it is."
"Now, Cap'n Hedge, I don't know what you're talkin' about.
Nobody's paid me a cent except them that's owed me. Who did you
say? Elsie Preston? That's the school-teacher, ain't it?"
"Web, you're a liar, and always was, but you needn't lie to me this
mornin', 'cause it won't be healthy; I don't feel like hearin' it.
You understand that, do you?"
Mr. Saunders thought it time to bluster a little. He rose to his
"Cap'n Hedge," he said, "no man 'll call me a liar."
"There's a precious few that calls you anything else."
"You're an old man, or I'd--"
"Never you mind how old I am. A minute ago you said I didn't look
more 'n forty; maybe I don't feel any older, either."
"If that Preston girl has told you any--"
"She hasn't told me anything. She doesn't know that I know
anything. But I do know. I was in the entry upstairs at the
schoolhouse for about ten minutes last night."
Mr. Saunders' start was perceptible this time. He stood for a
moment without speaking. Then he jerked the chair around, threw
himself into it, and said cautiously, "Well, what of it?"
"I come up from the house to git Elsie home 'cause 'twas rainin'.
I was told you was with her, and I thought there was somethin'
crooked goin' on; fact is, I had a suspicion what 'twas. So when I
got up to the door I didn't go in right away; I jest stood
"Listenin', hey! Spyin'!"
"Yup. I don't think much of folks that listens, gin'rally speakin',
but there's times when I b'lieve in it. When I'm foolin' with a
snake I'd jest as soon hit him from behind as in front. I didn't
hear much, but I heard enough to let me know that you'd been takin'
money from that girl right along. And I think I know why."
"You do, hey?"
Then Mr. Saunders asked the question that a bigger rascal than he
had asked some years before. He leaned back in his chair, took a
pull at his cigar, and said sneeringly, "Well, what are you goin'
to do 'bout it?"
"I'm goin' to stop it, and I'm goin' to make you give the money
back. How much has she paid you?"
"None of your d--n bus'ness."
The Captain rose to his feet. Mr. Saunders sprang up, also, and
reached for the coal shovel, evidently expecting trouble. But if
he feared a physical assault, his fear was groundless. Captain Eri
merely took up his coat.
"Maybe it ain't none of my bus'ness," he said. "I ain't a
s'lectman nor sheriff. But there's such things in town, and p'raps
they'll be int'rested. Seems to me that I've heard that
blackmailin' has got folks into State's prison afore now."
"Is that so? Never heard that folks that set fire to other
people's prop'ty got there, did you? Yes, and folks that helps 'em
gits there, too, sometimes. Who was it hid a coat a spell ago?"
It was Captain Eri's turn to start. He hesitated a moment, tossed
the pea jacket back on the settee and sat down once more. Mr.
Saunders watched him, grinning triumphantly.
"Well?" he said with a sneer.
"A coat, you say?"
"Yes, a coat. Maybe you know who hid it; I can guess, myself.
That coat was burned some. How do you s'pose it got burned? And
say! who used to wear a big white hat round these diggin's? Ah,
ha! Who did?"
There was no doubt about the Captain's start this time. He wheeled
sharply in his chair, and looked at the speaker.
"Humph!" he exclaimed. "You found that hat, did you?"
"That's what I done! And where do you think I found it? Why,
right at the back of my shed where the fire started. And there'd
been a pile of shavin's there, too, and there'd been kerosene on
'em. Who smashed the bottle over in the field, hey?"
Captain Eri seemed to be thinking. "Web" evidently set his own
interpretation on this silence, for he went on, raising his voice
as he did so.
"Did you think I was fool enough not to know who set that fire? I
knew the night she burned, and when I met Dr. Palmer jest comin'
from your house, and he told me how old Baxter was took sick goin'
to the fire--oh, yes, GOIN'--I went up on that hill right off, and
I hunted and I found things, and what I found I kept. And what I
found when I pulled that burned shed to pieces I kept, too. And
I've got 'em yit!"
"You have, hey? Dear! dear!"
"You bet I have! And somebody's goin' to pay for 'em. Goin' to
pay, pay, PAY! Is that plain?"
The Captain made no answer. He thrust his hands into his pockets
and looked at the stove dolefully, so it seemed to the man of
"Fust off I thought I'd have the old cuss jailed," continued Mr.
Saunders. "Then, thinks I, 'No, that won't pay me for my buildin'
and my bus'ness hurt and all that.' So I waited for Baxter to git
well, meanin' to make him pay or go to the jug. But he stayed sick
a-purpose, I b'lieve, the mean, white-headed, psalm-singin'--"
Captain Eri moved uneasily and broke in, "You got your insurance
money, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did, but whose fault is that? 'Twa'n't his, nor any other
darned 'Come-Outer's.' It don't pay me for my trouble, nor it
don't make me square with the gang. I gen'rally git even sometime
or 'nother, and I'll git square now. When that girl come here,
swellin' 'round and puttin' on airs, I see my chance, and told her
to pay up or her granddad would be shoved into Ostable jail. That
give her the jumps, I tell you!"
"You wrote her a letter, didn't you?"
"You bet I did! She come 'round to see me in a hurry. Said she
didn't have no money. I told her her granddad did, an she could
git that or go to work and earn some. I guess she thought she'd
ruther work. Oh, I've got her and her prayin', house-burnin'
granddad where I want 'em, and I've got you, too, Eri Hedge,
stickin' your oar in. Talk to me 'bout blackmail! For two cents
I'd jail the old man and you, too!"
This was the real Mr. Saunders. He usually kept this side of his
nature for home use; his wife was well acquainted with it.
Captain Eri was evidently frightened. His manner had become almost
"Well," he said, "I wouldn't do that if I was you, Web. I heard
you tell Elsie last night she wa'n't payin' you enough, and I
"I know what you thought. You thought you could scare me. You
didn't know I had the coat and hat, did you? Well, what I said I
stand by. The girl AIN'T payin' me enough. Fourteen dollars a
week she gits, and she's only been givin' up ten. I want more. I
But here Captain Eri interrupted him.
"I guess that 'll do," he said calmly. "You've told me what I
wanted to know. Ten dollars a week sence the middle of November.
'Bout seventy dollars, rough figgerin'. Now, then, hand it over."
"Hand over that seventy dollars."
"Hand over hell! What are you talkin' 'bout?"
The Captain rose and, leaning over, shook his forefinger in Mr.
Saunders' flabby red face.
"You low-lived, thievin' rascal," he said, "I'm givin' you a chance
you don't deserve. Either you'll pay me that money you've stole
from that girl or I'll walk out of that door, and when I come in
again the sheriff 'll be with me. Now, which 'll it be? Think
Web's triumphant expression was gone, and rage and malice had taken
its place. He saw, now, that the Captain had tricked him into
telling more than he ought. But he burst out again, tripping over
words in his excitement.
"Think!" he yelled. "I don't need to think. Bring in your
sheriff. I'll march down to your house and I'll show him the man
that set fire to my buildin'. What 'll you and that snivelin'
granddaughter of his do then? You make off to think a turrible lot
of the old prayer-machine 'cause he's your chum. How'd you like to
see him took up for a firebug, hey?"
"I ain't afraid of that."
"You ain't? You AIN'T! Why not?"
"'Cause he's gone where you can't git at him. He died jest afore I
left the house."
Mr. Saunders' brandished fist fell heavily on the arm of his chair.
His face turned white in patches, and then flamed red again.
"Died!" he gasped.
"You--you're a liar!"
"No, I ain't. John Baxter's dead. He was a chum of mine--you're
right there--and if I'd known a sneak like you was after him I'd
have been here long afore this. Why, you--"
The Captain's voice shook, but he restrained himself and went on.
"Now, you see where you stand, don't you? Long's John lived you
had the proof to convict him; I'll own up to that much. I hid the
coat; I smashed the bottle. The hat I didn't know 'bout. I might
have told you at fust that all that didn't amount to anything, but
I thought I'd wait and let you tell me what more I wanted to know.
John Baxter's gone, poor feller, and all your proof ain't worth a
cent. Not one red cent. Understand?"
It was quite evident that Mr. Saunders did understand, for his
countenance showed it. But the bluster was not out of him yet.
"All right," he said. "Anyhow, the girl's left, and if she don't
pay I'll show her granddad up for what he was. And I'll show you
up, too. Yes, I will!" he shouted, as this possibility began to
dawn on him. "I'll let folks know how you hid that coat and--and
all the rest of it."
"No, you won't."
"Why won't I?"
"'Cause you won't dare to. You've been hittin' at a sick man
through a girl; neither of 'em could hit back. But now you're
doin' bus'ness with me, and I ain't sick. If you open your mouth
to anybody,--if you let a soul know who set that fire,--I'll walk
straight to Jedge Baker, and I'll tell him the whole story. I'll
tell him what I did and why I did it. And THEN I'll tell him what
you did--how you bullied money out of that girl that hadn't no more
to do with the fire than a baby. If it comes to facin' a jury I'll
take my chances, but how 'bout you? You, runnin' a town nuisance
that the s'lectmen are talkin' of stoppin' already; sellin' rum by
the drink when your license says it shan't be sold 'cept by the
bottle. Where'll YOUR character land you on a charge of blackmail?
"And another thing. The folks in this town knew John Baxter afore
he was like what he's been lately. A good many of 'em swore by
him--yes, sir, by mighty, some of 'em loved him! This is a law-
abidin' town, but s'pose--jest s'pose I should go to some of the
fellers that used to sail with him, and tell 'em what you've been
up to. Think you'd stay here long? _I_ think you'd move out--on a
Captain Eri paused and sat on the arm of his chair, grimly watching
his opponent, whose turn for thinking had come. The face of the
billiard magnate was an interesting study in expression during the
Captain's speech. From excited triumph it had fallen to fear and
dejection; and now, out of the wreck, was appearing once more the
oily smile, the sugared sweetness of the every-day Mr. Saunders.
"Now, Cap'n Hedge," purred the reconstructed one, "you and me has
always been good friends. We hadn't ought to fight like this. I
don't think either of us wants to go to court. Let's see if we
can't fix the thing up some way."
"We'll fix it up when you pay me the seventy dollars."
"Now, Cap'n Hedge, 'tain't likely I've got seventy dollars in my
pocket. Seems to me you're pretty hard on a poor feller that's
jest been burnt out. I think we'd ought to--"
"How much HAVE you got?"
After a good deal of talk and protestation Mr. Saunders acknowledged
being the possessor of twenty-six dollars, divided between the cash
drawer and his pocket. This he reluctantly handed to the Captain.
Then the Captain demanded pen, ink, and paper; and when they were
brought he laboriously wrote out a screed to the effect that
Webster Saunders had received of Elsie Preston forty-four dollars,
which sum he promised to pay on demand.
"There," he said, pushing the writing materials across the table.
At first Mr. Saunders positively refused to sign. Then he
intimated that he had rather wait and think it over a little while.
Finally he affixed his signature and spitefully threw the pen
across the room.
Captain Eri folded up the paper and put it in his pocket. Then he
rose and put on his pea jacket.
"Now, there's jest one thing more," he said. "Trot out that coat
"What do you mean?"
"Trot out that coat and hat of John's. I want 'em."
"I shan't do it."
"All right, then. It's all off. I'll step over and see the Jedge.
You'll hear from him and me later."
"Hold on a minute, Cap'n. You're in such a everlastin' hurry. I
don't care anything 'bout the old duds, but I don't know's I know
where they are. Seems to me they're up to the house somewheres.
I'll give 'em to you to-morrer."
"You'll give 'em to me right now. I'll tend shop while you go
For a moment it looked as though the man of business would rebel
outright. But the Captain was so calm, and evidently so determined
to do exactly what he promised, that "Web" gave up in despair.
Muttering that maybe they were "'round the place, after all," he
went into the back room and reappeared with the burned coat and the
scorched white felt hat. Slamming them down on the counter, he
said sulkily, "There they be. Any more of my prop'ty you'd like to
Captain Eri didn't answer. Coolly tearing off several sheets of
wrapping paper from the roll at the back of the counter, he made a
bundle of the hat and coat, and tucked it under his arm. Then he
put on his own hat and started for the door.
"Good-mornin'," he said.
The temper of the exasperated Mr. Saunders flared up in a final
"You think you're almighty smart, don't you?" he growled between
his teeth. "I'll square up with you by and by."
The Captain turned sharply, his hand on the latch.
"I wish you'd try," he said. "I jest wish to God you'd try. I've
held in more 'n I thought I could when I come up here, but if you
want to start a reel fust-class rumpus, one that 'll land you where
you b'long and rid this town of you for keeps, jest try some of
your tricks on me. And if I hear of one word that you've said
'bout this whole bus'ness, I'll know it's time to start in. Now,
you can keep still or fight, jest as you please. I tell you
honest, I 'most wish you'd fight."
The door slammed. Mr. Saunders opened it again and gazed
vindictively after the bulky figure splashing through the slush.
The dog came sneaking up and rubbed his nose against his master's
hand; it was an impolitic move on his part.
"Git out! " roared "Web," delighted at the opportunity. "You good-
for-nothin' pup! How's that set?"
"That" was a kick that doubled the cur up against the settee. As
it scrambled to its feet, Mr. Saunders kicked it again. And then
the "watchdog" exhibited the first evidence of spirit that it had
ever been known to show. With a snarl, as the man turned away, it
settled its teeth into the calf of his leg, and then shot out of
the door and, with its tail between its legs, went down the road
like a yellow cannon ball.
THROUGH FIRE AND WATER
It was true--John Baxter was dead. His violent outbreak of the
previous afternoon had hastened the end that the doctor had
prophesied. There was no harrowing death scene. The weather-
beaten old face grew calmer, and, the sleep sounder, until the tide
went out--that was all. It was like a peaceful coming into port
after a rough voyage. No one of the watchers about the bed could
wish him back, not even Elsie, who was calm and brave through it
all. When it was over, she went to her room and Mrs. Snow went
with her. Captain Eri went out to make his call upon Mr. Saunders.
The funeral was one of the largest ever held in Orham. The little
house was crowded. Old friends, who had drifted away from the
fanatic in his latter days, came back to pay tribute to the strong
man whom they had known and loved. There was some discussion among
the captains as to who should preach the funeral sermon. Elsie had
left this question to Captain Eri for settlement, and the trio and
Mrs. Snow went into executive session immediately.
"If John had had the settlin' of it himself," observed Eri, "he'd
have picked Perley, there ain't no doubt 'bout that."
"I know it," said Captain Perez, "but you must remember that John
wa'n't himself for years, and what he'd have done now ain't what
he'd have done 'fore he broke down. I hate to think of Perley's
doin' it, somehow."
"Isn't Mr. Perley a good man?" asked the housekeeper.
"He's good enough, fur's I know," replied Captain Jerry, "but I
know what Perez means. A funeral, seems to me, ought to be a
quiet, soothin' sort of a thing, and there ain't nothin' soothin'
'bout Come-Outer' preachin'. He'll beller and rave 'round, I'm
'fraid, and stir up poor Elsie so she won't never git over it."
"I know it," agreed Captain Eri. "That's what I've been afraid of.
And yit," he added, "I should feel we was doin' somethin' jest
opposite from what John would like, if we had anybody else."
"Couldn't you see Mr. Perley beforehand," suggested Mrs. Snow, "and
tell him jest the kind of sermon he must preach. Tell him it must
be quiet and comfortin' and--"
"And short." Captain Eri finished the sentence for her. "I guess
that's the way we'll have to settle it. I'll make him understand
one thing, though--he mustn't drag in rum sellin' and all the rest
of it by the heels. If he does I'll--I don't know what I'll do to
The interview with the Reverend Perley that followed this
conversation must have been effective, for the sermon was
surprisingly brief and as surprisingly calm. In fact, so rational
was it that a few of the more extreme among the preacher's
following were a bit disappointed and inquired anxiously as to
their leader's health, after the ceremony was over.
The procession of carryalls and buggies followed the hearse to the
cemetery among the pines, and, as the mourners stood about the
grave, the winter wind sang through the evergreen branches a song
so like the roar of the surf that it seemed like a dirge of the sea
for the mariner who would sail no more. As they were clearing away
the supper dishes that night Captain Eri said to Mrs. Snow, "Well,
John's gone. I wonder if he's happier now than he has been for the
last ten years or so."
"I think he is," was the answer.
"Well, so do I, but if he hadn't been a 'Come Outer' I don't s'pose
Brother Perley and his crowd would have figgered that he had much
show. Seems sometimes as if folks like that--reel good-hearted
folks, too, that wouldn't hurt a fly--git solid comfort out of the
feelin' that everybody that don't agree with 'em is bound to
everlastin' torment. I don't know but it's wicked to say it, but
honest, it seems as if them kind would 'bout as soon give up the
hopes of Heaven for themselves as they would the satisfaction of
knowin' 'twas t'other place for the other feller."
To which remark the somewhat shocked housekeeper made no reply.
The following day Elsie went back to her school. Captain Eri
walked up with her, and, on the way, told her of his discovery of
her secret, and of his interview with "Web" Saunders. It was
exactly as the Captain had surmised. The note she had received on
the evening of the return from the life-saving station was from the
proprietor of the billiard saloon, and in it he hinted at some dire
calamity that overshadowed her grandfather, and demanded an
immediate interview. She had seen him that night and, under threat
of instant exposure, had promised to pay the sum required for
silence. She had not wished to use her grandfather's money for
this purpose, and so had taken the position as teacher.
"Well," said the Captain, "I wish you'd have come to me right away,
and told me the whole bus'ness. 'Twould have saved a pile of
The young lady stopped short and faced him.
"Captain Eri," she said, "how could I? I was sure grandfather had
set the fire. I knew how ill he was, and I knew that any shock
might kill him. Besides, how could I drag you into it, when you
had done so much already? It would have been dreadful. No, I
thought it all out, and decided I must face it alone."
"Well, I tell you this, Elsie; pretty gin'rally a mean dog 'll bite
if he sees you're afraid of him. The only way to handle that kind
is to run straight at him and kick the meanness out of him. The
more he barks the harder you ought to kick. If you run away once
it 'll be mighty uncomf'table every time you go past that house.
But never mind; I cal'late this p'tic'lar pup won't bite; I've
pulled his teeth, I guess. What's your plans, now? Goin' to keep
on with the school, or go back to Boston?"
Miss Preston didn't know; she said she had not yet decided, and, as
the schoolhouse was reached by this time, the Captain said no more.
There was, however, another question that troubled him, and that
seemed to call for almost immediate settlement. It was: What
should be done with Mrs. Snow? The housekeeper had been hired to
act as such while John Baxter was in the house. Now he was gone,
and there remained the original marriage agreement between Captain
Jerry and the widow, and honor called for a decision one way or the
other. Mrs. Snow, of course, said nothing about it, neither did
Captain Jerry, and Captain Eri felt that he must take the
initiative as usual. But, somehow, he was not as prompt as was his
wont, and sat evening after evening, whittling at the clipper and
smoking thoughtfully. And another week went by.
Captain Perez might, and probably would, have suggested action upon
this important matter, had not his mind been taken up with what, to
him, was the most important of all. He had made up his mind to ask
Patience Davis to marry him.
Love is like the measles; it goes hard with a man past fifty, and
Captain Perez was severely smitten. The decision just mentioned
was not exactly a brand-new one, his mind had been made up for some
time, but he lacked the courage to ask the momentous question.
Something the lady had said during the first stages of their
acquaintance made a great impression on the Captain. She gave it
as her opinion that a man who loved a woman should be willing to go
through fire and water to win her. Captain Perez went home that
night pondering deeply.
"Fire and water!" he mused. "That's a turrible test. But she's a
wonderful woman, and would expect it of a feller. I wonder if I
could do it; seems 's if I would now, but flesh is weak, and I
might flunk, and that would settle it. Fire and water! My! my!
So the Captain delayed and Miss Patience, who had cherished hopes,
found need of a good share of the virtue for which she was named.
But one afternoon at the end of the week following that of the
funeral, Perez set out for a call upon his intended which he meant
should be a decisive one. He had screwed his courage up to the top
notch, and as he told Captain Eri afterwards, he meant to "hail her
and git his bearin's, if he foundered the next minute."
He found the lady alone, for old Mrs. Mayo had gone with her son,
whose name was Abner, to visit a cousin in Harniss, and would not
be back until late in the evening. Miss Patience was very glad to
have company, and it required no great amount of urging to persuade
the infatuated swain to stay to tea. When the meal was over--they
washed the dishes together, and the Captain was so nervous that it
is a wonder there was a whole plate left--the pair were seated in
the parlor. Then said Captain Perez, turning red and hesitating,
"Pashy, do you know what a feller told me 'bout you?"
Now, this remark was purely a pleasant fiction, for the Captain was
about to undertake a compliment, and was rather afraid to shoulder
the entire responsibility.
"No; I'm sure I don't, Perez," replied Miss Davis, smiling sweetly.
"Well, a feller told me you was the best housekeeper in Orham. He
said that the man that got you would be lucky."
This was encouraging. Miss Patience colored and simpered a little.
"Land sake!" she exclaimed. "Whoever told you such rubbish as
that? Besides," with downcast eyes, "I guess no man would ever
"Oh, I don't know." The Captain moved uneasily in his chair, as if
he contemplated hitching it nearer to that occupied by his
companion. "I guess there's plenty would be mighty glad to git
you. Anyhow, there's--there's one that--that--I cal'late the fog's
thick as ever, don't you?"
But Miss Patience didn't mean to give up in this way.
"What was it you was goin' to say?" she asked, by way of giving the
bashful one another chance.
"I was goin' to say, Pashy, that--that--I asked if you thought the
fog was as thick as ever."
"Oh, dear me! Yes, I s'pose likely 'tis," was the discouraged
"Seems to me I never see such weather for this time of year. The
ice is all out of the bay, and there ain't a bit of wind, and it's
warm as summer, pretty nigh. Kind of a storm-breeder, I'm afraid."
"Well, I'm glad you're here to keep me comp'ny. I've never been
sole alone in this house afore, and I should be dreadful lonesome
if you hadn't come." This was offered as a fresh bait.
"Pashy, I've got somethin' I wanted to ask you. Do you think you
"I wanted to ask you"--the Captain swallowed several times--"to ask
you--What in the nation is that?"
"Oh, that's nothin' only the hens squawkin'. Go on!"
"Yes, but hens don't squawk this time of night 'thout they have
some reason to. It's that fox come back; that's what 'tis."
Miss Patience, earlier in the evening, had related a harrowing tale
of the loss of two of Mrs. Mayo's best Leghorns that had gone to
furnish a Sunday meal for a marauding fox. As the said Leghorns
were the pride of the old lady's heart, even the impending proposal
was driven from Miss Davis' mind.
"Oh, Perez! you don't s'pose 'tis the fox, do you?"
"Yes, MA'AM, I do! Where's the gun?"
"There 'tis, behind the door, but there ain't a mite of shot in the
house. Abner's been goin' to fetch some from the store for I don't
know how long, but he's always forgot it."
"Never mind. I'll pound the critter with the butt. Come quick,
and bring a lamp."
The noise in the henyard continued, and when they opened the door
it was louder than ever.
"He's in the henhouse," whispered Miss Patience. "He must have
gone in that hole at the side that had the loose board over it."
"All right," murmured the Captain. "You go 'round with the lamp
and open the door. That 'll scare him, and I'll stand at the hole
and thump him when he comes out."
So, shielding the lamp with her apron, the guardian of Mrs. Mayo's
outraged Leghorns tiptoed around to the henhouse door, while
Captain Perez, brandishing the gun like a club, took up his stand
by the hole at the side.
Without the lamp the darkness was pitchy. The Captain, stooping
down to watch, saw something coming out of the hole--something
that was alive and moved. He swung the gun above his head, and,
bringing it down with all his might, knocked into eternal oblivion
the little life remaining in the finest Leghorn rooster.
"Consarn it!" yelled the executioner, stooping and laying his hand
on the victim, "I've killed a hen!"
Just then there came a scream from the other side of the henhouse,
followed by a crash and the sound of a fall. Running around the
corner the alarmed Perez saw his lady-love stretched upon the
ground, groaning dismally.
"Great land of Goshen!" he cried. "Pashy, are you hurt?"
"Oh, Perez!" gasped the fallen one. "Oh, Perez!"
This pitiful appeal had such an effect upon the Captain that he
dropped upon his knees and, raising Miss Davis' head in his hands,
begged her to say she wasn't killed. After some little time she
obligingly complied, and then, having regained her breath,
explained the situation.
What had happened was this: The fox, having selected his victim
the rooster, had rendered it helpless, and was pushing it out of
the hole ahead of him. The Captain had struck the rooster just as
Miss Patience opened the door, and the fox, seizing this chance of
escape, had dodged by the lady, upsetting her as he went.
"Well," she said, laughing, "there's no great harm done. I'm sorry
for the rooster, but I guess the fox had fixed him anyway. Oh, my
soul and body! look there!"
Perez turned, looked as directed, and saw the henhouse in flames.
The lighted lamp, which Miss Patience had dropped as she fell, lay
broken on the floor, and the blazing oil had run in every direction.
The flames were making such headway that they both saw there was
practically no chance of saving the building. The frightened hens
were huddled in the furthest corner, gazing stupidly at the fire.
"Oh, those poor Leghorns!" wailed Miss Patience. "Those hens Mrs.
Mayo thought the world of, and left me to look out for. Last thing
she asked me was to be sure they was fed. And now they'll be all
burned up! What SHALL I do?"
Here the lady began to cry.
"Pashy!" roared the Captain, whom the sight of his charmer's tears
had driven almost wild, "don't say another word. I'll save them
hens or git cooked along with 'em!"
And turning up his coat collar, as though he was going into a
refrigerator instead of a burning building, Captain Perez sprang
through the door.
Miss Davis screamed wildly to him to come back, and danced about,
wringing her hands. The interior of the henhouse was now a mass of
black smoke, from which the voices of the Captain and the Leghorns
floated in a discordant medley, something like this:
"Hold still, you lunatics! ("Squawk! squawk!") Druther be roasted
than have me catch you, hadn't you? ("Squawk! squawk!") A--
kershew! Land! I'm smothered! NOW I've got you! Thunderation!
Hold STILL! HOLD STILL, I tell you!"
Just as the agonized Miss Patience was on the point of fainting,
the little window at the back of the shanty was thrown open and two
hens, like feathered comets, shot through it. Then the red face of
the Captain appeared for an instant as he caught his breath with a
"Woosh!" and dived back again. This performance was repeated six
times, the Captain's language and the compliments he paid the hens
becoming more picturesque every moment.
At length he announced, "That's all, thank goodness!" and began to
climb through the window. This was a difficult task; for the
window was narrow and, in spite of what Captain Eri had called his
"ingy-rubber" make up, Captain Perez stuck fast.
"Catch hold of my hands and haul, will you, Pashy?" he pleaded.
"That's it; pull hard! It's gittin' sort of muggy in behind here.
I'll never complain at havin' cold feet ag'in if I git out of this.
Now, then! Ugh! Here we be!"
He came out with a jerk, like a cork out of a bottle, and rolled on
the ground at his lady's feet.
"Oh, Perez!" she exclaimed, "are you hurt?"
"Nothin' but my feelin's," growled the rescuer, scrambling upright.
"I read a book once by a feller named Joshua Billin's, or somethin'
like it. He was a ignorant chap--couldn't spell two words right--
but he had consider'ble sense. He said a hen was a darn fool, and
he was right; she's all that."
The Captain's face was blackened, and his clothes were scorched,
but his spirit was undaunted.
"Pashy," he said, "do you realize that if we don't git help, this
whole shebang, house and all, will burn down?"
"Perez, you don't mean it!"
"I wouldn't swear that I didn't. Look how that thing's blazin'!
There's the barn t'other side of it, and the house t'other side of
"But can't you and me put it out?"
"I don't dare resk it. No, sir! We've got to git help, and git it
in a hurry, too!"
"Won't somebody from the station see the light and come over?"
"Not in this fog. You can't see a hundred foot. No, I've got to
go right off. Good land! I never thought! Is the horse gone?"
"No; the horse is here. Abner took one of the store horses to go
to Harniss with. But he did take the buggy, and there's no other
carriage but the old carryall, and that's almost tumblin' to
"I was cal'latin' to go horseback."
"What! and leave me here alone with the house afire? No, indeed!
If you go, I'm goin', too."
"Well, then, the carryll's got to do, whether or no. Git on a
shawl or somethin', while I harness up."
It was a frantic harnessing, but it was done in a hurry, and the
ramshackle old carryall, dusty and cobwebbed, was dragged out of
the barn, and Horace Greeley, the horse, was backed into the
shafts. As they drove out of the yard the flames were roaring
through the roof of the henhouse, and the lath fence surrounding it
was beginning to blaze.
"Everything's so wet from the fog and the melted snow," observed
the Captain, "that it 'll take some time for the fire to git to the
barn. If we can git a gang here we can save the house easy, and
maybe more. By mighty!" he ejaculated, "I tell you what we'll do.
I'll drive across the ford and git Luther and some of the station
men to come right across. Then I'll go on to the village to fetch
more. It was seven when I looked at the clock as we come in from
washin' dishes, so the tide must be still goin' out, and the ford
jest right. Git dap!"
"Hurry all you can, for goodness' sake! Is this as fast as we can
"Fast as we can go with this everlastin' Noah's Ark. Heavens! how
them wheels squeal!"
"The axles ain't been greased for I don't know when. Abner was
going to have the old carriage chopped up for kindlin' wood."
"Lucky for him and us 'tain't chopped up now. Git dap, slow-poke!
Better chop the horse up, too, while he's 'bout it."
The last remark the Captain made under his breath.
"My gracious, how dark it is! Think you can find the crossin'?"
"GOT to find it; that's all. 'Tis dark, that's a fact."
It was. They had gone but a few hundred yards; yet the fire was
already merely a shapeless, red smudge on the foggy blackness
behind them. Horace Greeley pounded along at a jog, and when the
Captain slapped him with the end of the reins, broke into a jerky
gallop that was slower than the trot.
"Stop your hoppin' up and down!" commanded Perez, whose temper was
becoming somewhat frayed. "You make me think of the walkin' beam
on a steamboat. If you'd stop tryin' to fly and go straight ahead
we'd do better."
They progressed in this fashion for some distance. Then Miss
Davis, from the curtained depths of the back seat, spoke again.
"Oh, dear me!" she exclaimed. "Are you sure you're on the right
track? Seems 's if we MUST be abreast the station, and this road's
Captain Perez had remarked the roughness of the road. The carryall
was pitching from one hummock to another, and Horace Greeley
stumbled once or twice.
"Whoa!" commanded the Captain. Then he got down, lit a match, and,
shielding it with his hands, scrutinized the ground. "I'm kind of
'fraid," he said presently, "that we've got off the road somehow.
But we must be 'bout opposite the crossin'. I'm goin' to drive
down and see if I can find it."
He turned the horse's head at right angles from the way they were
going, and they pitched onward for another hundred yards. Then
they came out upon the hard, smooth sand, and heard the water
lapping on the shore. Captain Perez got out once more and walked
along the strand, bending forward as he walked. Soon Miss Patience
heard him calling.
"I've found it, I guess," he said, coming back to the vehicle.
"Anyhow, it looks like it. We'll be over in a few minutes now.
Git dap, you!"
Horace Greeley shivered as the cold water splashed his legs, but
waded bravely in. They moved further from the shore and the water
seemed to grow no deeper.
"Guess this is the crossin' all right," said the Captain, who had
cherished some secret doubts. "Here's the deep part comin'. We'll
be across in a jiffy."
The water mounted to the hubs, then to the bottom of the carryall.
Miss Davis' feet grew damp and she drew them up.
"Oh, Perez!" she faltered, "are you sure this is the ford?"
"Don't git scared, Pashy! I guess maybe we've got a little to one
side of the track. I'll turn 'round and try again."
But Horace Greeley was of a different mind. From long experience
he knew that the way to cross a ford was to go straight ahead. The
bottom of the carryall was awash.
"Port your hellum, you lubber!" shouted the driver, pulling with
all his might on one rein. "Heave to! Come 'bout! Gybe! consarn
Then Horace Greeley tried to obey orders, but it was too late. He
endeavored to touch bottom with his forelegs, but could not; tried
to swim with his hind ones, but found that impossible; then
wallowed wildly to one side and snapped a shaft and the rotten
whiffletree short off. The carryall tipped alarmingly and Miss
"Whoa!" yelled the agitated Perez. "'Vast heavin'! belay!"
The animal, as much frightened by his driver's shouts as by the
water, shot ahead and tried to tear himself loose. The other sun-
warped and rotten shaft broke. The carryall was now floating, with
the water covering the floor.
"No use; I'll have to cut away the wreck, or we'll be on our beam
ends!" shouted the Captain.
He took out his jackknife, and reaching over, severed the traces.
Horace Greeley gave another wallow, and finding himself free,
disappeared in the darkness amid a lather of foam. The carriage,
now well out in the channel, drifted with the current.
"Don't cry, Pashy!" said the Captain, endeavoring to cheer his
sobbing companion, "we ain't shark bait yit. As the song used to
"'We're afloat, we're afloat,
And the rover is free.'
"I've shipped aboard of 'most every kind of craft," he added, "but
blessed if I ever expected to be skipper of a carryall!"
But Miss Patience, shut up in the back part of the carriage like a
water nymph in her cave, still wept hysterically. So Captain Perez
continued his dismal attempt at facetiousness.
"The main thing," he said, "is to keep her on an even keel. If she
teeters to one side, you teeter to t'other. Drat that fox!" he
ejaculated. "I thought when Web's place burned we'd had fire
enough to last for one spell, but it never rains but it pours."
"Oh, dear!" sobbed the lady. "Now everything 'll burn up, and
they'll blame me for it. Well, I'll be drownded anyway, so I
shan't be there to hear 'em. Oh, dear! dear!"
"Oh, don't talk that way. We're driftin' somewheres, but we're
spinnin' 'round so I can't tell which way. Judas!" he exclaimed,
more soberly, "I remember, now; it ain't but a little past seven
o'clock, and the tide's goin' out."
"Of course it is," resignedly, "and we'll drift into the breakers
in the bay, and that 'll be the end."
"No, no, I guess not. We ain't dead yit. If I had an oar or
somethin' to steer this clipper with, maybe we could git into shoal
water. As 'tis, we'll have to manage her the way Ote Wixon used to
manage his wife, by lettin' her have her own way."
They floated in silence for a few moments. Then Miss Patience, who
had bravely tried to stifle her sobs, said with chattering teeth,
"Perez, I'm pretty nigh froze to death."
It will be remembered that the Captain had spoken of the weather as
being almost as warm as summer. This was a slight exaggeration.
It happened, fortunately for the castaways, that this particular
night, coming as it did just at the end of the long thaw, was the
mildest of the winter and there was no wind, but the air was chill,
and the damp fog raw and biting.
"Well, now you mention it," said Captain Perez, "it IS cold, ain't
it? I've a good mind to jump overboard, and try to swim ashore and
tow the carryall."
"Don't you DO it! My land! if YOU should drown what would become
It was the tone of this speech, as much as the words, that hit the
Captain hard. He himself almost sobbed as he said:
"Pashy, I want you to try to git over on this front seat with me.
Then I can put my coat 'round you, and you won't be so cold. Take
hold of my hand."
Miss Patience at first protested that she never could do it in the
world, the carriage would upset, and that would be the end. But
her companion urged her to try, and at last she did so. It was a
risky proceeding, but she reached the front seat somehow, and the
carryall still remained right-side-up. Luckily, in the channel
between the beaches there was not the slightest semblance of a
Captain Perez pulled off his coat, and wrapped it about his
protesting companion. He was obliged to hold it in place, and he
found the task rather pleasing.
"Oh, you're SO good!" murmured Miss Patience. "What should I have
done without you?"
"Hush! Guess you'd have been better off. You'd never gone after
that fox if it hadn't been for me, and there wouldn't have been
none of this fuss."
"Oh, don't say that! You've been so brave. Anyhow, we'll die
together, that's a comfort."
"Pashy," said Captain Perez solemnly, "it's mighty good to hear you
It is, perhaps, needless to explain that the "dying" portion of the
lady's speech was not that referred to by the Captain; the word
"together" was what appealed to him. Miss Patience apparently
"Is it?" she said softly.
"Yes--yes, 'tis." The arm holding the coat about the lady's
shoulder tightened just a little. The Captain had often dreamed of
something like this, but never with quite these surroundings.
However, he was rapidly becoming oblivious to such trivial details