Part 1 out of 4
This eBook was produced by Don Lainson.
CAPE COD STORIES
ALSO PUBLISHED UNDER THE TITLE OF "THE OLD HOME HOUSE"
JOSEPH C. LINCOLN
TWO PAIRS OF SHOES
THE COUNT AND THE MANAGER
THE SOUTH SHORE WEATHER BUREAU
THE DOG STAR
THE MARE AND THE MOTOR
THE MARK ON THE DOOR
THE LOVE OF LOBELIA 'ANKINS
THE MEANNESS OF ROSY
HIS NATIVE HEATH
THE "OLD HOME HOUSE"
TWO PAIRS OF SHOES
I don't exactly know why Cap'n Jonadab and me went to the post-
office that night; we wa'n't expecting any mail, that's sartin.
I guess likely we done it for the reason the feller that tumbled
overboard went to the bottom--'twas the handiest place TO go.
Anyway we was there, and I was propping up the stove with my feet
and holding down a chair with the rest of me, when Jonadab heaves
alongside flying distress signals. He had an envelope in his
starboard mitten, and, coming to anchor with a flop in the next
chair, sets shifting the thing from one hand to the other as if it
'twas red hot.
I watched this performance for a spell, waiting for him to say
something, but he didn't, so I hailed, kind of sarcastic, and says:
"What you doing--playing solitaire? Which hand's ahead?"
He kind of woke up then, and passes the envelope over to me.
"Barzilla," he says, "what in time do you s'pose that is?"
'Twas a queer looking envelope, more'n the average length fore and
aft, but kind of scant in the beam. There was a puddle of red
sealing wax on the back of it with a "D" in the middle, and up in
one corner was a kind of picture thing in colors, with some
printing in a foreign language underneath it. I b'lieve 'twas what
they call a "coat-of-arms," but it looked more like a patchwork
comforter than it did like any coat ever _I_ see. The envelope was
addressed to "Captain Jonadab Wixon, Orham, Mass."
I took my turn at twisting the thing around, and then I hands it
back to Jonadab.
"I pass," I says. "Where'd you get it?"
"'Twas in my box," says he. "Must have come in to-night's mail."
I didn't know the mail was sorted, but when he says that I got up
and went over and unlocked my box, just to show that I hadn't
forgot how, and I swan to man if there wa'n't another envelope,
just like Jonadab's, except that 'twas addressed to "Barzilla
"Humph!" says I, coming back to the stove; "you ain't the only one
that's heard from the Prince of Wales. Look here!"
He was the most surprised man, but one, on the Cape: I was the one.
We couldn't make head nor tail of the business, and set there
comparing the envelopes, and wondering who on earth had sent 'em.
Pretty soon "Ily" Tucker heads over towards our moorings, and says
"What's troubling the ancient mariners?" he says.
"Barzilla and me's got a couple of letters," says Cap'n Jonadab;
"and we was wondering who they was from."
Tucker leaned away down--he's always suffering from a rush of
funniness to the face--and he whispers, awful solemn: "For
heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't open 'em. You might find
out." Then he threw off his main-hatch and "haw-hawed" like a
To tell you the truth, we hadn't thought of opening 'em--not yet--
so that was kind of one on us, as you might say. But Jonadab ain't
so slow but he can catch up with a hearse if the horses stop to
drink, and he comes back quick.
"Ily," he says, looking troubled, "you ought to sew reef-points on
your mouth. 'Tain't safe to open the whole of it on a windy night
like this. First thing you know you'll carry away the top of your
Well, we felt consider'ble better after that--having held our own
on the tack, so to speak--and we walked out of the post-office and
up to my room in the Travellers' Rest, where we could be alone.
Then we opened up the envelopes, both at the same time. Inside of
each of 'em was another envelope, slick and smooth as a mack'rel's
back, and inside of THAT was a letter, printed, but looking like
the kind of writing that used to be in the copybook at school. It
said that Ebenezer Dillaway begged the honor of our presence at the
marriage of his daughter, Belle, to Peter Theodosius Brown, at
Dillamead House, Cashmere-on-the-Hudson, February three, nineteen
hundred and so forth.
We were surprised, of course, and pleased in one way, but in
another we wa'n't real tickled to death. You see, 'twas a good
while sence Jonadab and me had been to a wedding, and we know
there'd be mostly young folks there and a good many big-bugs, we
presumed likely, and 'twas going to cost consider'ble to get
rigged--not to mention the price of passage, and one thing a'
'nother. But Ebenezer had took the trouble to write us, and so we
felt 'twas our duty not to disappoint him, and especially Peter,
who had done so much for us, managing the Old Home House.
The Old Home House was our summer hotel at Wellmouth Port. How me
and Jonadab come to be in the summer boarding trade is another
story and it's too long to tell now. We never would have been in
it, anyway, I cal'late, if it hadn't been for Peter. He made a
howling success of our first season and likewise helped himself
along by getting engaged to the star boarder, rich old Dillaway's
daughter--Ebenezer Dillaway, of the Consolidated Cash Stores.
Well, we see 'twas our duty to go, so we went. I had a new Sunday
cutaway and light pants to go with it, so I figgered that I was
pretty well found, but Cap'n Jonadab had to pry himself loose from
considerable money, and every cent hurt as if 'twas nailed on.
Then he had chilblains that winter, and all the way over in the
Fall River boat he was fuming about them chilblains, and adding up
on a piece of paper how much cash he'd spent.
We struck Cashmere-on-the-Hudson about three o'clock on the
afternoon of the day of the wedding. 'Twas a little country kind
of a town, smaller by a good deal than Orham, and so we cal'lated
that perhaps after all, the affair wouldn't be so everlasting tony.
But when we hove in sight of Dillamead--Ebenezer's place--we
shortened sail and pretty nigh drew out of the race. 'Twas up on a
high bank over the river, and the house itself was bigger than four
Old Homes spliced together. It had a fair-sized township around it
in the shape of land, with a high stone wall for trimming on the
edges. There was trees, and places for flower-beds in summer, and
the land knows what. We see right off that this was the real
Cashmere-on-the-Hudson; the village folks were stranded on the
flats--old Dillaway filled the whole ship channel.
"Well," I says to Jonadab, "it looks to me as if we was getting out
of soundings. What do you say to coming about and making a quick
run for Orham again?"
But he wouldn't hear of it. "S'pose I've spent all that money on
duds for nothing?" he says. "No, sir, by thunder! I ain't scared
of Peter Brown, nor her that's going to be his wife; and I ain't
scared of Ebenezer neither; no matter if he does live in the
Manufacturers' Building, with two or three thousand fathom of front
fence," he says.
Some years ago Jonadab got reckless and went on a cut-rate
excursion to the World's Fair out in Chicago, and ever sence then
he's been comparing things with the "Manufacturers' Building" or
the "Palace of Agriculture" or "Streets of Cairo," or some other
"All right," says I. "Darn the torpedoes! Keep her as she is!
You can fire when ready, Gridley!"
So we sot sail for what we jedged was Ebenezer's front-gate, and
just as we made it, a man comes whistling round the bend in the
path, and I'm blessed if 'twa'n't Peter T. Brown. He was rigged to
kill, as usual, only more so.
"Hello, Peter!" I says. "Here we be."
If ever a feller was surprised, Brown was that feller. He looked
like he'd struck a rock where there was deep water on the chart.
"Well, I'll be ----" he begun, and then stopped. "What in the ----"
he commenced again, and again his breath died out. Fin'lly he
says: "Is this you, or had I better quit and try another pipe?"
We told him 'twas us, and it seemed to me that he wa'n't nigh so
tickled as he'd ought to have been. When he found we'd come to the
wedding, 'count of Ebenezer sending us word, he didn't say nothing
for a minute or so.
"Of course, we HAD to come," says Jonadab. "We felt 'twouldn't be
right to disapp'int Mr. Dillaway."
Peter kind of twisted his mouth. "That's so," he says. "It'll be
worth more'n a box of diamonds to him. Do him more good than
joining a 'don't worry club.' Well, come on up to the house and
ease his mind."
So we done it, and Ebenezer acted even more surprised than Peter.
I can't tell you anything about that house, nor the fixings in it;
it beat me a mile--that house did. We had a room somewheres up on
the hurricane deck, with brass bunks and plush carpets and
crocheted curtains and electric lights. I swan there was looking
glasses in every corner--big ones, man's size. I remember Cap'n
Jonadab hollering to me that night when he was getting ready to
"For the land's sake, Barzilla!" says he, "turn out them lights,
will you? I ain't over'n' above bashful, but them looking glasses
make me feel's if I was undressing along with all hands and the
The house was full of comp'ny, and more kept coming all the time.
Swells! don't talk! We felt 'bout as much at home as a cow in a
dory, but we was there 'cause Ebenezer had asked us to be there, so
we kept on the course and didn't signal for help. Travelling
through the rooms down stairs where the folks was, was a good deal
like dodging icebergs up on the Banks, but one or two noticed us
enough to dip the colors, and one was real sociable. He was a kind
of slow-spoken city-feller, dressed as if his clothes was poured
over him hot and then left to cool. His last name had a splice in
the middle of it--'twas Catesby-Stuart. Everybody--that is, most
everybody--called him "Phil."
Well, sir, Phil cottoned to Jonadab and me right away. He'd get
us, one on each wing, and go through that house asking questions.
He pumped me and Jonadab dry about how we come to be there, and
told us more yarns than a few 'bout Dillaway, and how rich he was.
I remember he said that he only wished he had the keys to the
cellar so he could show us the money-bins. Said Ebenezer was so
just--well, rotten with money, as you might say, that he kept it in
bins down cellar, same as poor folks kept coal--gold in one bin,
silver half-dollars in another, quarters in another, and so on.
When he needed any, he'd say to a servant: "James, fetch me up a
hod of change." This was only one of the fish yarns he told. They
sounded kind of scaly to Jonadab and me, but if we hinted at such a
thing, he'd pull himself together and say: "Fact, I assure you,"
in a way to freeze your vitals. He seemed like such a good feller
that we didn't mind his telling a few big ones; we'd known good
fellers afore that liked to lie--gunners and such like, they were
Somehow or 'nother Phil got Cap'n Jonadab talking "boat," and when
Jonadab talks "boat" there ain't no stopping him. He's the
smartest feller in a cat-boat that ever handled a tiller, and he's
won more races than any man on the Cape, I cal'late. Phil asked
him and me if we'd ever sailed on an ice-boat, and, when we said we
hadn't he asks if we won't take a sail with him on the river next
morning. We didn't want to put him to so much trouble on our
account, but he said: "Not at all. Pleasure'll be all mine, I
assure you." Well, 'twas his for a spell--but never mind that now.
He introduced us to quite a lot of the comp'ny--men mostly. He'd
see a school of 'em in a corner, or under a palm tree or
somewheres, and steer us over in that direction and make us known
to all hands. Then he begin to show us off, so to speak, get
Jonadab telling 'bout the boats he'd sailed, or something like it--
and them fellers would laugh and holler, but Phil's face wouldn't
shake out a reef: he looked solemn as a fun'ral all the time.
Jonadab and me begun to think we was making a great hit. Well, we
was, but not the way we thought. I remember one of the gang gets
Phil to one side after a talk like this and whispers to him,
laughing like fun. Phil says to him: "My dear boy, I've been to
thousands of these things--" waving his flipper scornful around the
premises--" and upon honor they've all been alike. Now that I've
discovered something positively original, let me enjoy myself. The
entertainment by the Heavenly Twins is only begun."
I didn't know what he meant then; I do now.
The marrying was done about eight o'clock and done with all the
trimmings. All hands manned the yards in the best parlor, and
Peter and Belle was hitched. Then they went away in a swell
turnout--not like the derelict hacks we'd seen stranded by the
Cashmere depot--and Jonadab pretty nigh took the driver's larboard
ear off with a shoe Phil gave him to heave after 'em.
After the wedding the folks was sitting under the palms and bushes
that was growing in tubs all over the house, and the stewards--
there was enough of 'em to man a four-master--was carting 'round
punch and frozen victuals. Everybody was togged up till Jonadab
and me, in our new cutaways, felt like a couple of moulting
blackbirds at a blue-jay camp-meeting. Ebenezer was so busy,
flying 'round like a pullet with its head off, that he'd hardly
spoke to us sence we landed, but Phil scarcely ever left us, so we
wa'n't lonesome. Pretty soon he comes back from a beat into the
next room, and he says:
"There's a lady here that's just dying to know you gentlemen. Her
name's Granby. Tell her all about the Cape; she'll like it. And,
by the way, my dear feller," he whispers to Jonadab "if you want to
please her--er--mightily, congratulate her upon her boy's success
in the laundry business. You understand," he says, winking; "only
son and self-made man, don't you know."
Mrs. Granby was roosting all by herself on a sofy in the parlor.
She was fleshy, but terrible stiff and proud, and when she moved
the diamonds on her shook till her head and neck looked like one of
them "set pieces" at the Fourth of July fireworks. She was deef,
too, and used an ear-trumpet pretty nigh as big as a steamer's
Maybe she was "dying to know us," but she didn't have a fit trying
to show it. Me and Jonadab felt we'd ought to be sociable, and so
we set, one on each side of her on the sofy, and bellered: "How
d'ye do?" and "Fine day, ain't it?" into that ear-trumpet. She
didn't say much, but she'd couple on the trumpet and turn to
whichever one of us had hailed, heeling over to that side as if her
ballast had shifted. She acted to me kind of uneasy, but everybody
that come into that parlor--and they kept piling in all the time--
looked more'n middling joyful. They kept pretty quiet, too, so
that every yell we let out echoed, as you might say, all 'round.
I begun to git shaky at the knees, as if I was preaching to a big
After a spell, Jonadab not being able to think of anything more to
say, and remembering Phil's orders, leans over and whoops into the
"I'm real glad your son done so well with his laundry," he says.
Well, sir, Phil had give us to understand that them congratulations
would make a hit, and they done it. The women 'round the room
turned red and some of 'em covered their mouths with their
handkerchiefs. The men looked glad and set up and took notice.
Ebenezer wa'n't in the room--which was a mercy--but your old mess-
mate, Catesby-Stuart, looked solemn as ever and never turned a
But as for old lady Granby--whew! She got redder'n she was afore,
which was a miracle, pretty nigh. She couldn't speak for a minute--
just cackled like a hen. Then she busts out with: "How dare
you!" and flounces out of that room like a hurricane. And it was
still as could be for a minute, and then two or three of the girls
begun to squeal and giggle behind their handkerchiefs.
Jonadab and me went away, too. We didn't flounce any to speak of.
I guess a "sneak" would come nearer to telling how we quit. I see
the cap'n heading for the stairs and I fell into his wake. Nobody
said good-night, and we didn't wait to give 'em a chance.
'Course we knew we'd put our foot in it somewheres, but we didn't
see just how. Even then we wa'n't really onto Phil's game. You
see, when a green city chap comes to the Old Home House--and the
land knows there's freaks enough do come--we always try to make
things pleasant for him, and the last thing we'd think of was
making him a show afore folks. So we couldn't b'lieve even now
'twas done a-purpose. But we was suspicious, a little.
"Barzilla," says Jonadab, getting ready to turn in, "'tain't
possible that that feller with the sprained last name is having fun
with us, is it?"
"Jonadab," says I, "I've been wondering that myself."
And we wondered for an hour, and finally decided to wait a while
and say nothing till we could ask Ebenezer. And the next morning
one of the stewards comes up to our room with some coffee and grub,
and says that Mr. Catesby-Stuart requested the pleasure of our
comp'ny on a afore-breakfast ice-boat sail, and would meet us at
the pier in half an hour. They didn't have breakfast at Ebenezer's
till pretty close to dinner time, eleven o'clock, so we had time
enough for quite a trip.
Phil and the ice-boat met us on time. I s'pose it 'twas style,
but, if I hadn't known I'd have swore he'd run short of duds and
had dressed up in the bed-clothes. I felt of his coat when he
wa'n't noticing, and if it wa'n't made out of a blanket then I
never slept under one. And it made me think of my granddad to see
what he had on his head--a reg'lar nightcap, tassel and all. Phil
said he was sorry we turned in so early the night afore. Said he'd
planned to entertain us all the evening. We didn't hurrah much at
this--being suspicious, as I said--and he changed the subject to
That ice-boat was a bird. I cal'lated to know a boat when I
sighted one, but a flat-iron on skates was something bran-new.
I didn't think much of it, and I could see that Jonadab didn't
But in about three shakes of a lamb's tail I was ready to take it
all back and say I never said it. I done enough praying in the
next half hour to square up for every Friday night meeting I'd
missed sence I was a boy. Phil got sail onto her, and we moved out
kind of slow.
"Now, then," says he, "we'll take a little jaunt up the river.
'Course this isn't like one of your Cape Cod cats, but still--"
And then I dug my finger nails into the deck and commenced: "Now I
lay me." Talk about going! 'Twas "F-s-s-s-t!" and we was a mile
from home. "Bu-z-z-z!" and we was just getting ready to climb a
bank; but 'fore she nosed the shore Phil would put the helm over
and we'd whirl round like a windmill, with me and Jonadab biting
the planking, and hanging on for dear life, and my heart, that had
been up in my mouth knocking the soles of my boots off. And Cap'n
Catesby-Stuart would grin, and drawl: "'Course, this ain't like a
Orham cat-boat, but she does fairly well--er--fairly. Now, for
instance, how does this strike you?"
It struck us--I don't think any got away. I expected every minute
to land in the hereafter, and it got so that the prospect looked
kind of inviting, if only to get somewheres where 'twas warm. That
February wind went in at the top of my stiff hat and whizzed out
through the legs of my thin Sunday pants till I felt for all the
world like the ventilating pipe on an ice-chest. I could see why
Phil was wearing the bed-clothes; what I was suffering for just
then was a feather mattress on each side of me.
Well, me and Jonadab was "it" for quite a spell. Phil had all the
fun, and I guess he enjoyed it. If he'd stopped right then, when
the fishing was good, I cal'late he'd have fetched port with a full
hold; but no, he had to rub it in, so to speak, and that's where he
slopped over. You know how 'tis when you're eating mince-pie--it's
the "one more slice" that fetches the nightmare. Phil stopped to
get that slice.
He kept whizzing up and down that river till Jonadab and me kind of
got over our variousness. We could manage to get along without
spreading out like porous plasters, and could set up for a minute
or so on a stretch. And twa'n't necessary for us to hold a special
religious service every time the flat-iron come about. Altogether,
we was in that condition where the doctor might have held out some
And, in spite of the cold, we was noticing how Phil was sailing
that three-cornered sneak-box--noticing and criticising; at least,
I was, and Cap'n Jonadab, being, as I've said, the best skipper of
small craft from Provincetown to Cohasset Narrows, must have had
some ideas on the subject. Your old chum, Catesby-Stuart, thought
he was mast-high so fur's sailing was concerned, anybody could see
that, but he had something to larn. He wasn't beginning to get out
all there was in that ice-boat. And just then along comes another
feller in the same kind of hooker and gives us a hail. There was
two other chaps on the boat with him.
"Hello, Phil!" he yells, rounding his flat-iron into the wind
abreast of ours and bobbing his night-cap. "I hoped you might be
out. Are you game for a race?"
"Archie," answers our skipper, solemn as a setting hen, "permit me
to introduce to you Cap'n Jonadab Wixon and Admiral Barzilla
Wingate, of Orham, on the Cape."
I wasn't expecting to fly an admiral's pennant quite so quick, but
I managed to shake out through my teeth--they was chattering like a
box of dice--that I was glad to know the feller. Jonadab, he
rattled loose something similar.
"The Cap'n and the Admiral," says Phil, "having sailed the raging
main for lo! these many years, are now favoring me with their
advice concerning the navigation of ice-yachts. Archie, if you're
willing to enter against such a handicap of brains and barnacles,
I'll race you on a beat up to the point yonder, then on the ten
mile run afore the wind to the buoy opposite the Club, and back to
the cove by Dillaway's. And we'll make it a case of wine. Is it a
Archie, he laughed and said it was, and, all at once, the race was
Now, Phil had lied when he said we was "favoring" him with advice,
'cause we hadn't said a word; but that beat up to the point wa'n't
half over afore Jonadab and me was dying to tell him a few things.
He handled that boat like a lobster. Archie gained on every tack
and come about for the run a full minute afore us.
And on that run afore the wind 'twas worse than ever. The way Phil
see-sawed that piece of pie back and forth over the river was a sin
and shame. He could have slacked off his mainsail and headed dead
for the buoy, but no, he jiggled around like an old woman crossing
the road ahead of a funeral.
Cap'n Jonadab was on edge. Racing was where he lived, as you might
say, and he fidgeted like he was setting on a pin-cushion. By and
by he snaps out:
"Keep her off! Keep her off afore the wind! Can't you see where
Phil looked at him as if he was a graven image, and all the answer
he made was; "Be calm, Barnacles, be calm!"
But pretty soon I couldn't stand it no longer, and I busts out
with: "Keep her off, Mr. What's-your name! For the Lord's sake,
keep her off! He'll beat the life out of you!"
And all the good that done was for me to get a stare that was
colder than the wind, if such a thing's possible.
But Jonadab got fidgetyer every minute, and when we come out into
the broadest part of the river, within a little ways of the buoy,
he couldn't stand it no longer.
"You're spilling half the wind!" he yells. "Pint' her for the buoy
or else you'll be licked to death! Jibe her so's she gits it full.
Jibe her, you lubber! Don't you know how? Here! let me show you!"
And the next thing I knew he fetched a hop like a frog, shoved Phil
out of the way, grabbed the tiller, and jammed it over.
She jibed--oh, yes, she jibed! If anybody says she didn't you send
'em to me. I give you my word that that flat-iron jibed twice--
once for practice, I jedge, and then for business. She commenced
by twisting and squirming like an eel. I jest had sense enough to
clamp my mittens onto the little brass rail by the stern and hold
on; then she jibed the second time. She stood up on two legs, the
boom come over with a slat that pretty nigh took the mast with it,
and the whole shebang whirled around as if it had forgot something.
I have a foggy kind of remembrance of locking my mitten clamps fast
onto that rail while the rest of me streamed out in the air like a
burgee. Next thing I knew we was scooting back towards Dillaway's,
with the sail catching every ounce that was blowing. Jonadab was
braced across the tiller, and there, behind us, was the Honorable
Philip Catesby-Stuart, flat on his back, with his blanket legs
looking like a pair of compasses, and skimming in whirligigs over
the slick ice towards Albany. HE hadn't had nothing to hold onto,
you understand. Well, if I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have
b'lieved that a human being could spin so long or travel so fast on
his back. His legs made a kind of smoky circle in the air over
him, and he'd got such a start I thought he'd NEVER STOP a-going.
He come to a place where some snow had melted in the sun and there
was a pond, as you might say, on the ice, and he went through that,
heaving spray like one of them circular lawn sprinklers the summer
folks have. He'd have been as pretty as a fountain, if we'd had
time to stop and look at him.
"For the land sakes, heave to!" I yelled, soon's I could get my
breath. "You've spilled the skipper!"
"Skipper be durned!" howls Jonadab, squeezing the tiller and
keeping on the course; "We'll come back for him by and by. It's
our business to win this race."
And, by ginger! we DID win it. The way Jonadab coaxed that cocked
hat on runners over the ice was pretty--yes, sir, pretty! He
nipped her close enough to the wind'ard, and he took advantage of
every single chance. He always COULD sail; I'll say that for him.
We walked up on Archie like he'd set down to rest, and passed him
afore he was within a half mile of home. We run up abreast of
Dillaway's, putting on all the fancy frills of a liner coming into
port, and there was Ebenezer and a whole crowd of wedding company
down by the landing.
"Gosh!" says Jonadab, tugging at his whiskers: "'Twas Cape Cod
against New York that time, and you can't beat the Cape when it
comes to getting over water, not even if the water's froze. Hey,
Ebenezer came hopping over the ice towards us. He looked some
"Where's Phil?" he says.
Now, I'd clean forgot Phil and I guess Jonadab had, by the way he
"Phil?" says he. "Phil? Oh, yes! We left him up the road a
piece. Maybe we'd better go after him now."
But old Dillaway had something to say.
"Cap'n," he says, looking round to make sure none of the comp'ny
was follering him out to the ice-boat. "I've wanted to speak to
you afore, but I haven't had the chance. You mustn't b'lieve too
much of what Mr. Catesby-Stuart says, nor you mustn't always do
just what he suggests. You see," he says, "he's a dreadful
"Yes," says Jonadab, beginning to look sick. I didn't say nothing,
but I guess I looked the same way.
"Yes," said Ebenezer, kind of uneasy like; "Now, in that matter of
Mrs. Granby. I s'pose Phil put you up to asking her about her
son's laundry. Yes? Well, I thought so. You see, the fact is,
her boy is a broker down in Wall Street, and he's been caught
making some of what they call 'wash sales' of stock. It's against
the rules of the Exchange to do that, and the papers have been full
of the row. You can see," says Dillaway, "how the laundry question
kind of stirred the old lady up. But, Lord! it must have been
funny," and he commenced to grin.
I looked at Jonadab, and he looked at me. I thought of Marm
Granby, and her being "dying to know us," and I thought of the lies
about the "hod of change" and all the rest, and I give you my word
_I_ didn't grin, not enough to show my wisdom teeth, anyhow. A
crack in the ice an inch wide would have held me, with room to
spare; I know that.
"Hum!" grunts Jonadab, kind of dry and bitter, as if he'd been
taking wormwood tea; "_I_ see. He's been having a good time making
durn fools out of us."
"Well," says Ebenezer, "not exactly that, p'raps, but--"
And then along comes Archie and his crowd in the other ice-boat.
"Hi!" he yells. "Who sailed that boat of yours? He knew his
business all right. I never saw anything better. Phil--why, where
I answered him. "Phil got out when we jibed," I says.
"Was THAT Phil?" he hollers, and then the three of 'em just roared.
"Oh, by Jove, you know!" says Archie, "that's the funniest thing I
ever saw. And on Phil, too! He'll never hear the last of it at
the club--hey, boys?" And then they just bellered and laughed
When they'd gone, Jonadab turned to Ebenezer and he says: "That
taking us out on this boat was another case of having fun with the
"I guess so," says Dillaway. "I b'lieve he told one of the guests
that he was going to put Cape Cod on ice this morning."
I looked away up the river where a little black speck was just
getting to shore. And I thought of how chilly the wind was out
there, and how that ice-water must have felt, and what a long ways
'twas from home. And then I smiled, slow and wide; there was a
barge load of joy in every half inch of that smile.
"It's a cold day when Phil loses a chance for a joke," says
"'Tain't exactly what you'd call summery just now," I says. And we
hauled down sail, run the ice-boat up to the wharf, and went up to
our room to pack our extension cases for the next train.
"You see," says Jonadab, putting in his other shirt, "it's easy
enough to get the best of Cape folks on wash sales and lying, but
when it comes to boats that's a different pair of shoes."
"I guess Phil'll agree with you," I says.
THE COUNT AND THE MANAGER
The way we got into the hotel business in the first place come
around like this: Me and Cap'n Jonadab went down to Wellmouth Port
one day 'long in March to look at some property he'd had left him.
Jonadab's Aunt Sophrony had moved kind of sudden from that village
to Beulah Land--they're a good ways apart, too--and Cap'n Jonadab
had come in for the old farm, he being the only near relative.
When you go to Wellmouth Port you get off the cars at Wellmouth
Center and then take Labe Bearse's barge and ride four miles; and
then, if the horse don't take a notion to lay down in the road and
go to sleep, or a wheel don't come off or some other surprise party
ain't sprung on you, you come to a place where there's a Baptist
chapel that needs painting, and a little two-for-a-cent store that
needs trade, and two or three houses that need building over, and
any Lord's quantity of scrub pines and beach grass and sand. Then
you take Labe's word for it that you've got to Wellmouth Port and
get out of the barge and try to remember you're a church member.
Well, Aunt Sophrony's house was a mile or more from the place where
the barge stopped, and Jonadab and me, we hoofed it up there. We
bought some cheese and crackers and canned things at the store,
'cause we expected to stay overnight in the house, and knew there
wasn't no other way of getting provender.
We got there after a spell and set down on the big piazza with our
souls full of gratitude and our boots full of sand. Great, big,
old-fashioned house with fourteen big bedrooms in it, big barn,
sheds, and one thing or 'nother, and perched right on top of a hill
with five or six acres of ground 'round it. And how the March wind
did whoop in off the sea and howl and screech lonesomeness through
the pine trees! You take it in the middle of the night, with the
shutters rattling and the old joists a-creaking and Jonadab snoring
like a chap sawing hollow logs, and if it wan't joy then my name
ain't Barzilla Wingate. I don't wonder Aunt Sophrony died. I'd
have died 'long afore she did if I knew I was checked plumb through
to perdition. There'd be some company where I was going, anyhow.
The next morning after ballasting up with the truck we'd bought at
the store--the feller 'most keeled over when he found we was going
to pay cash for it--we went out on the piazza again, and looked at
the breakers and the pine trees and the sand, and held our hats on
with both hands.
"Jonadab," says I, "what'll you take for your heirloom?"
"Well," he says, "Barzilla, the way I feel now, I think I'd take a
return ticket to Orham and be afraid of being took up for swindling
Neither of us says nothing more for a spell, and, first thing you
know, we heard a carriage rattling somewhere up the road. I was
shipwrecked once and spent two days in a boat looking for a sail.
When I heard that rattling I felt just the way I done when I
sighted the ship that picked us up.
"Judas!" says Jonadab, "there's somebody COMING!"
We jumped out of our chairs and put for the corner of the house.
There WAS somebody coming--a feller in a buggy, and he hitched his
horse to the front fence and come whistling up the walk.
He was a tall chap, with a smooth face, kind of sharp and knowing,
and with a stiff hat set just a little on one side. His clothes
was new and about a week ahead of up-to-date, his shoes shined till
they lit up the lower half of his legs, and his pants was creased
so's you could mow with 'em. Cool and slick! Say! in the middle
of that deadliness and compared to Jonadab and me, he looked like a
bird of Paradise in a coop of moulting pullets.
"Cap'n Wixon?" he says to me, sticking out a gloved flipper.
"Not guilty," says I. "There's the skipper. My name's Wingate."
"Glad to have the pleasure, Mr. Wingate," he says. "Cap'n Wixon,
We shook hands, and he took each of us by the arm and piloted us
back to the piazza, like a tug with a couple of coal barges. He
pulled up a chair, crossed his legs on the rail, reached into the
for'ard hatch of his coat and brought out a cigar case.
"Smoke up," he says. We done it--I holding my hat to shut off the
wind, while Jonadab used up two cards of matches getting the first
light. When we got the cigars to going finally, the feller says:
"My name's Brown--Peter T. Brown. I read about your falling heir
to this estate, Cap'n Wixon, in a New Bedford paper. I happened to
be in New Bedford then, representing the John B. Wilkins
Unparalleled All Star Uncle Tom's Cabin and Ten Nights in a Bar-
room Company. It isn't my reg'lar line, the show bus'ness, but it
produced the necessary 'ham and' every day and the excelsior sleep
inviter every night, so--but never mind that. Soon as I read the
paper I came right down to look at the property. Having rubbered,
back I go to Orham to see you. Your handsome and talented daughter
says you are over here. That'll be about all--here I am. Now,
then, listen to this."
He went under his hatches again, rousted out a sheet of paper,
unfolded it and read something like this--I know it by heart:
"The great sea leaps and splashes before you as it leaped and
splashed in the old boyhood days. The sea wind sings to you as it
sang of old. The old dreams come back to you, the dreams you
dreamed as you slumbered upon the cornhusk mattress in the clean,
sweet little chamber of the old home. Forgotten are the cares of
business, the scramble for money, the ruthless hunt for fame. Here
are perfect rest and perfect peace.
"Now what place would you say I was describing?" says the feller.
"Heaven," says Jonadab, looking up, reverent like.
You never see a body more disgusted than Brown.
"Get out!" he snaps. "Do I look like the advance agent of Glory?
Listen to this one."
He unfurls another sheet of paper, and goes off on a tack about
"The old home! You who sit in your luxurious apartments, attended
by your liveried servants, eating the costly dishes that bring you
dyspepsia and kindred evils, what would you give to go back once
more to the simple, cleanly living of the old house in the country?
The old home, where the nights were cool and refreshing, the sleep
deep and sound; where the huckleberry pies that mother fashioned
were swimming in fragrant juice, where the shells of the clams for
the chowder were snow white and the chowder itself a triumph; where
there were no voices but those of the wind and sea; no--"
"Don't!" busts out Jonadab. "Don't! I can't stand it!"
He was mopping his eyes with his red bandanner. I was consider'ble
shook up myself. The dear land knows we was more used to
huckleberry pies and clam chowder than we was to liveried servants
and costly dishes, but there was something in the way that feller
read off that slush that just worked the pump handle. A hog would
have cried; I know _I_ couldn't help it. As for Peter T. Brown, he
"It gets you!" he says. "I knew it would. And it'll get a heap of
others, too. Well, we can't send 'em back to the old home, but we
can trot the old home to them, or a mighty good imitation of it.
Here it is; right here!"
And he waves his hand up toward Aunt Sophrony's cast-off palace.
Cap'n Jonadab set up straight and sputtered like a firecracker.
A man hates to be fooled.
"Old home!" he snorts. "Old county jail, you mean!"
And then that Brown feller took his feet down off the rail, hitched
his chair right in front of Jonadab and me and commenced to talk.
And HOW he did talk! Say, he could talk a Hyannis fisherman into a
missionary. I wish I could remember all he said; 'twould make a
book as big as a dictionary, but 'twould be worth the trouble of
writing it down. 'Fore he got through he talked a thousand dollars
out of Cap'n Jonadab, and it takes a pretty hefty lecture to
squeeze a quarter out of HIM. To make a long yarn short, this was
He proposed to turn Aunt Sophrony's wind plantation into a hotel
for summer boarders. And it wan't going to be any worn-out,
regulation kind of a summer hotel neither.
"Confound it, man!" he says, "they're sick of hot and cold water,
elevators, bell wires with a nigger on the end, and all that.
There's a raft of old codgers that call themselves 'self-made
men'--meanin' that the Creator won't own 'em, and they take the
responsibility themselves--that are always wishing they could go
somewheres like the shacks where they lived when they were kids.
They're always talking about it, and wishing they could go to the
old home and rest. Rest! Why, say, there's as much rest to this
place as there is sand, and there's enough of that to scour all the
knives in creation."
"But 'twill cost so like the dickens to furnish it," I says.
"Furnish it!" says he. "Why, that's just it! It won't cost
nothing to furnish it--nothing to speak of. I went through the
house day before yesterday--crawled in the kitchen window--oh! it's
all right, you can count the spoons--and there's eight of those
bedrooms furnished just right, corded bedsteads, painted bureaus
with glass knobs, 'God Bless Our Home' and Uncle Jeremiah's coffin
plate on the wall, rag mats on the floor, and all the rest. All
she needs is a little more of the same stuff, that I can buy 'round
here for next to nothing--I used to buy for an auction room--and a
little paint and fixings, and there she is. All I want from you
folks is a little money--I'll chuck in two hundred and fifty
myself--and you two can be proprietors and treasurers if you want
to. But active manager and publicity man--that's yours cheerily,
Peter Theodosius Brown!" And he slapped his plaid vest.
Well, he talked all the forenoon and all the way to Orham on the
train and most of that night. And when he heaved anchor, Jonadab
had agreed to put up a thousand and I was in for five hundred and
Peter contributed two hundred and fifty and experience and nerve.
And the "Old Home House" was off the ways.
And by the first of May 'twas open and ready for business, too.
You never see such a driver as that feller Brown was. He had a new
wide piazza built all 'round the main buildings, painted everything
up fine, hired the three best women cooks in Wellmouth--and there's
some good cooks on Cape Cod, too--and a half dozen chamber girls
and waiters. He had some trouble getting corded beds and old
bureaus for the empty rooms, but he got 'em finally. He bought the
last bed of Beriah Burgess, up at East Harniss, and had quite a
dicker getting it.
"He thought he ought to get five dollars for it," says Brown,
telling Jonadab and me about it. "Said he hated to part with it
because his grandmother died in it. I told him I couldn't see any
good reason why I should pay more for a bed just because it had
killed his grandmother, so we split up and called it three dollars.
'Twas too much money, but we had to have it."
And the advertisements! They was sent everywheres. Lots of 'em
was what Peter called "reading notices," and them he mostly got for
nothing, for he could talk an editor foolish same as he could
anybody else. By the middle of April most of our money was gone,
but every room in the house was let and we had applications coming
by the pailful.
And the folks that come had money, too--they had to have to pay
Brown's rates. I always felt like a robber or a Standard Oil
director every time I looked at the books. The most of 'em was
rich folks--self-made men, just like Peter prophesied--and they
brought their wives and daughters and slept on cornhusks and eat
chowder and said 'twas great and just like old times. And they got
the rest we advertised; we didn't cheat 'em on REST. By ten
o'clock pretty nigh all hands was abed, and 'twas so still all you
could hear was the breakers or the wind, or p'raps a groan coming
from a window where some boarder had turned over in his sleep and a
corncob in the mattress had raked him crossways.
There was one old chap that we'll call Dillaway--Ebenezer Dillaway.
That wan't his name; his real one's too well known to tell. He
runs the "Dillaway Combination Stores" that are all over the
country. In them stores you can buy anything and buy it cheap--
cheapness is Ebenezer's stronghold and job lots is his sheet
anchor. He'll sell you a mowing machine and the grass seed to grow
the hay to cut with it. He'll sell you a suit of clothes for two
dollars and a quarter, and for ten cents more he'll sell you glue
enough to stick it together again after you've worn it out in the
rain. He'll sell you anything, and he's got cash enough to sink a
He come to the "Old Home House" with his daughter, and he took to
the place right away. Said 'twas for all the world like where he
used to live when he was a boy. He liked the grub and he liked the
cornhusks and he liked Brown. Brown had a way of stealing a thing
and yet paying enough for it to square the law--that hit Ebenezer
where he lived.
His daughter liked Brown, too, and 'twas easy enough to see that
Brown liked her. She was a mighty pretty girl, the kind Peter
called a "queen," and the active manager took to her like a cat to
a fish. They was together more'n half the time, gitting up sailing
parties, or playing croquet, or setting up on the "Lover's Nest,"
which was a kind of slab summer-house Brown had rigged up on the
bluff where Aunt Sophrony's pig-pens used to be in the old days.
Me and Jonadab see how things was going, and we'd look at one
another and wink and shake our heads when the pair'd go by
together. But all that was afore the count come aboard.
We got our first letter from the count about the third of June.
The writing was all over the plate like a biled dinner, and the
English looked like it had been shook up in a bag, but it was
signed with a nine fathom, toggle-jinted name that would give a
pollparrot the lockjaw, and had the word "Count" on the bow of it.
You never see a feller happier than Peter T. Brown.
"Can he have rooms?" says Peter. "CAN he? Well, I should rise to
elocute! He can have the best there is if yours truly has to bunk
in the coop with the gladsome Plymouth Rock. That's what! He says
he's a count and he'll be advertised as a count from this place to
where rolls the Oregon."
And he was, too. The papers was full of how Count What's-his-Name
was hanging out at the "Old Home House," and we got more letters
from rich old women and pork-pickling money bags than you could
shake a stick at. If you want to catch the free and equal nabob of
a glorious republic, bait up with a little nobility and you'll have
your salt wet in no time. We had to rig up rooms in the carriage
house, and me and Jonadab slept in the haymow.
The count himself hove in sight on June fifteenth. He was a
little, smoked Italian man with a pair of legs that would have been
carried away in a gale, and a black mustache with waxed ends that
you'd think would punch holes in the pillow case. His talk was
like his writing, only worse, but from the time his big trunk with
the foreign labels was carried upstairs, he was skipper and all
hands of the "Old Home House."
And the funny part of it was that old man Dillaway was as much gone
on him as the rest. For a self-made American article he was the
worst gone on this machine-made importation that ever you see. I
s'pose when you've got more money than you can spend for straight
goods you nat'rally go in for buying curiosities; I can't see no
Anyway, from the minute the count come over the side it was "Good-
by, Peter." The foreigner was first oar with the old man and
general consort for the daughter. Whenever there was a sailing
trip on or a spell of roosting in the Lover's Nest, Ebenezer would
see that the count looked out for the "queen," while Brown stayed
on the piazza and talked bargains with papa. It worried Peter--
you could see that. He'd set in the barn with Jonadab and me,
thinking, thinking, and all at once he'd bust out:
"Bless that Dago's heart! I haven't chummed in with the degenerate
aristocracy much in my time, but somewhere or other I've seen that
chap before. Now where--where--where?"
For the first two weeks the count paid his board like a major; then
he let it slide. Jonadab and me was a little worried, but he was
advertising us like fun, his photographs--snap shots by Peter--was
getting into the papers, so we judged he was a good investment.
But Peter got bluer and bluer.
One night we was in the setting room--me and Jonadab and the count
and Ebenezer. The "queen" and the rest of the boarders was abed.
The count was spinning a pigeon English yarn of how he'd fought a
duel with rapiers. When he'd finished, old Dillaway pounded his
knee and sung out:
"That's bus'ness! That's the way to fix 'em! No lawsuits, no
argument, no delays. Just take 'em out and punch holes in 'em.
Did you hear that, Brown?"
"Yes, I heard it," says Peter, kind of absent-minded like.
"Fighting with razors, wan't it?"
Now there wan't nothing to that--'twas just some of Brown's
sarcastic spite getting the best of him--but I give you my word
that the count turned yellow under his brown skin, kind of like mud
rising from the bottom of a pond.
"What-a you say?" he says, bending for'ards.
"Mr. Brown was mistaken, that's all," says Dillaway; "he meant
"But why-a razors--why-a razors?" says the count.
Now I was watching Brown's face, and all at once I see it light up
like you'd turned a searchlight on it. He settled back in his
chair and fetched a long breath as if he was satisfied. Then he
grinned and begged pardon and talked a blue streak for the rest of
Next day he was the happiest thing in sight, and when Miss Dillaway
and the count went Lover's Nesting he didn't seem to care a bit.
All of a sudden he told Jonadab and me that he was going up to
Boston that evening on bus'ness and wouldn't be back for a day or
so. He wouldn't tell what the bus'ness was, either, but just
whistled and laughed and sung, "Good-by, Susannah; don't you grieve
for me," till train time.
He was back again three nights afterward, and he come right out to
the barn without going nigh the house. He had another feller with
him, a kind of shabby dressed Italian man with curly hair.
"Fellers," he says to me and Jonadab, "this is my friend, Mr.
Macaroni; he's going to engineer the barber shop for a while."
Well, we'd just let our other barber go, so we didn't think
anything of this, but when he said that his friend Spaghetti was
going to stay in the barn for a day or so, and that we needn't
mention that he was there, we thought that was funny.
But Peter done a lot of funny things the next day. One of 'em was
to set a feller painting a side of the house by the count's window,
that didn't need painting at all. And when the feller quit for the
night, Brown told him to leave the ladder where 'twas.
That evening the same crowd was together in the setting room.
Peter was as lively as a cricket, talking, talking, all the time.
By and by he says:
"Oh, say, I want you to see the new barber. He can shave anything
from a note to a porkypine. Come in here, Chianti!" he says,
opening the door and calling out. "I want you."
And in come the new Italian man, smiling and bowing and looking
"meek and lowly, sick and sore," as the song says.
Well, we laughed at Brown's talk and asked the Italian all kinds of
fool questions and nobody noticed that the count wan't saying
nothing. Pretty soon he gets up and says he guesses he'll go to
his room, 'cause he feels sort of sick.
And I tell you he looked sick. He was yellower than he was the
other night, and he walked like he hadn't got his sea legs on.
Old Dillaway was terrible sorry and kept asking if there wan't
something he could do, but the count put him off and went out.
"Now that's too bad!" says Brown. "Spaghetti, you needn't wait any
So the other Italian went out, too.
And then Peter T. Brown turned loose and talked the way he done
when me and Jonadab first met him. He just spread himself. He
told of this bargain that he'd made and that sharp trade he had
turned, while we set there and listened and laughed like a parsel
of fools. And every time that Ebenezer'd get up to go to bed,
Peter'd trot out a new yarn and he'd have to stop to listen to
that. And it got to be eleven o'clock and then twelve and then
It was just about quarter past one and we was laughing our heads
off at one of Brown's jokes, when out under the back window there
was a jingle and a thump and a kind of groaning and wiggling noise.
"What on earth is that?" says Dillaway.
"I shouldn't be surprised," says Peter, cool as a mack'rel on ice,
"if that was his royal highness, the count."
He took up the lamp and we all hurried outdoors and 'round the
corner. And there, sure enough, was the count, sprawling on the
ground with his leather satchel alongside of him, and his foot fast
in a big steel trap that was hitched by a chain to the lower round
of the ladder. He rared up on his hands when he see us and started
to say something about an outrage.
"Oh, that's all right, your majesty," says Brown. "Hi, Chianti,
come here a minute! Here's your old college chum, the count, been
and put his foot in it."
When the new barber showed up the count never made another move,
just wilted like a morning-glory after sunrise. But you never see
a worse upset man than Ebenezer Dillaway.
"But what does this mean?" says he, kind of wild like. "Why don't
you take that thing off his foot?"
"Oh," says Peter, "he's been elongating my pedal extremity for the
last month or so; I don't see why I should kick if he pulls his own
for a while. You see," he says, "it's this way:
"Ever since his grace condescended to lend the glory of his
countenance to this humble roof," he says, "it's stuck in my mind
that I'd seen the said countenance somewhere before. The other
night when our conversation was trifling with the razor subject and
the Grand Lama here"--that's the name he called the count--"was
throwing in details about his carving his friends, it flashed
across me where I'd seen it. About a couple of years ago I was
selling the guileless rural druggists contiguous to Scranton,
Pennsylvania, the tasty and happy combination called 'Dr. Bulger's
Electric Liver Cure,' the same being a sort of electric light for
shady livers, so to speak. I made my headquarters at Scranton,
and, while there, my hair was shortened and my chin smoothed in a
neat but gaudy barber shop, presided over by my friend Spaghetti
here, and my equally valued friend the count."
"So," says Peter, smiling and cool as ever, "when it all came back
to me, as the song says, I journeyed to Scranton accompanied by a
photograph of his lordship. I was lucky enough to find Macaroni in
the same old shop. He knew the count's classic profile at once.
It seems his majesty had hit up the lottery a short time previous
for a few hundred and had given up barbering. I suppose he'd read
in the papers that the imitation count line was stylish and
profitable and so he tried it on. It may be," says Brown, offhand,
"that he thought he might marry some rich girl. There's some fool
fathers, judging by the papers, that are willing to sell their
daughters for the proper kind of tag on a package like him."
Old man Dillaway kind of made a face, as if he'd ate something that
tasted bad, but he didn't speak.
"And so," says Peter, "Spaghetti and I came to the Old Home
together, he to shave for twelve per, and I to set traps, etcetera.
That's a good trap," he says, nodding, "I bought it in Boston. I
had the teeth filed down, but the man that sold it said 'twould
hold a horse. I left the ladder by his grace's window, thinking he
might find it handy after he'd seen his friend of other days,
particularly as the back door was locked.
"And now," goes on Brown, short and sharp, "let's talk business.
Count," he says, "you are set back on the books about sixty odd for
old home comforts. We'll cut off half of that and charge it to
advertising. You draw well, as the man said about the pipe. But
the other thirty you'll have to work out. You used to shave like a
bird. I'll give you twelve dollars a week to chip in with Macaroni
here and barber the boarders."
But Dillaway looked anxious.
"Look here, Brown," he says, "I wouldn't do that. I'll pay his
board bill and his traveling expenses if he clears out this minute.
It seems tough to set him shaving after he's been such a big gun
I could see right off that the arrangement suited Brown first rate
and was exactly what he'd been working for, but he pretended not to
care much for it.
"Oh! I don't know," he says. "I'd rather be a sterling barber
than a plated count. But anything to oblige you, Mr. Dillaway."
So the next day there was a nobleman missing at the "Old Home
House," and all we had to remember him by was a trunk full of
bricks. And Peter T. Brown and the "queen" was roosting in the
Lover's Nest; and the new Italian was busy in the barber shop. He
could shave, too. He shaved me without a pull, and my face ain't
no plush sofy, neither.
And before the season was over the engagement was announced. Old
Dillaway took it pretty well, considering. He liked Peter, and his
having no money to speak of didn't count, because Ebenezer had
enough for all hands. The old man said he'd been hoping for a son-
in-law sharp enough to run the "Consolidated Stores" after he was
gone, and it looked, he said, as if he'd found him.
THE SOUTH SHORE WEATHER BUREAU
"But," says Cap'n Jonadab and me together, jest as if we was
"reading in concert" same as the youngsters do in school, "but,"
we says, "will it work? Will anybody pay for it?"
"Work?" says Peter T., with his fingers in the arm-holes of the
double-breasted danger-signal that he called a vest, and with his
cigar tilted up till you'd think 'twould set his hat-brim afire.
"Work?" says he. "Well, maybe 'twouldn't work if the ordinary
brand of canned lobster was running it, but with ME to jerk the
lever and sound the loud timbrel--why, say! it's like stealing
money from a blind cripple that's hard of hearing."
"Yes, I know," says Cap'n Jonadab. "But this ain't like starting
the Old Home House. That was opening up a brand-new kind of hotel
that nobody ever heard of before. This is peddling weather
prophecies when there's the Gov'ment Weather Bureau running
opposition--not to mention the Old Farmer's Almanac, and I don't
know how many more," he says.
Brown took his patent leathers down off the rail of the piazza,
give the ashes of his cigar a flip--he knocked 'em into my hat that
was on the floor side of his chair, but he was too excited to mind--
and he says:
"Confound it, man!" he says. "You can throw more cold water than a
fire-engine. Old Farmer's Almanac! This isn't any 'About this
time look out for snow' business. And it ain't any Washington cold
slaw like 'Weather for New England and Rocky Mountains, Tuesday to
Friday; cold to warm; well done on the edges with a rare streak in
the middle, preceded or followed by rain, snow, or clearing. Wind,
north to south, varying east and west.' No siree! this is TO-DAY'S
weather for Cape Cod, served right off the griddle on a hot plate,
and cooked by the chef at that. You don't realize what a regular
dime-museum wonder that feller is," he says.
Well, I suppose we didn't. You see, Jonadab and me, like the rest
of the folks around Wellmouth, had come to take Beriah Crocker and
his weather notions as the regular thing, like baked beans on a
Saturday night. Beriah, he--
But there! I've been sailing stern first. Let's get her headed
right, if we ever expect to turn the first mark. You see, 'twas
'Twas in the early part of May follering the year that the "Old
Home House" was opened. We'd had the place all painted up, decks
holy-stoned, bunks overhauled, and one thing or 'nother, and the
"Old Home" was all taut and shipshape, ready for the crew--
boarders, I mean. Passages was booked all through the summer and
it looked as if our second season would be better'n our first.
Then the Dillaway girl--she was christened Lobelia, like her
mother, but she'd painted it out and cruised under the name of
Belle since the family got rich--she thought 'twould be nice to
have what she called a "spring house-party" for her particular
friends 'fore the regular season opened. So Peter--he being
engaged at the time and consequent in that condition where he'd
have put on horns and "mooed" if she'd give the order--he thought
'twould be nice, too, and for a week it was "all hands on deck!"
getting ready for the "house-party."
Two days afore the thing was to go off the ways Brown gets a letter
from Belle, and in it says she's invited a whole lot of folks from
Chicago and New York and Boston and the land knows where, and that
they've never been to the Cape and she wants to show 'em what a
"quaint" place it is. "Can't you get," says she, "two or three
delightful, queer, old 'longshore characters to be at work 'round
the hotel? It'll give such a touch of local color," she says.
So out comes Peter with the letter.
"Barzilla," he says to me, "I want some characters. Know anybody
that's a character?"
"Well," says I, "there's Nate Slocum over to Orham. He'd steal
anything that wa'n't spiked down. He's about the toughest
character I can think of, offhand, this way."
"Oh, thunder!" says Brown. "I don't want a crook; that wouldn't be
any novelty to THIS crowd," he says. "What I'm after is an odd
stick; a feller with pigeons in his loft. Not a lunatic, but jest
a queer genius--little queerer than you and the Cap'n here."
After a while we got his drift, and I happened to think of Beriah
and his chum, Eben Cobb. They lived in a little shanty over to
Skakit P'int and got their living lobstering, and so on. Both of
'em had saved a few thousand dollars, but you couldn't get a cent
of it without giving 'em ether, and they'd rather live like
Portugees than white men any day, unless they was paid to change.
Beriah's pet idee was foretelling what the weather was going to be.
And he could do it, too, better'n anybody I ever see. He'd smell a
storm further'n a cat can smell fish, and he hardly ever made a
mistake. Prided himself on it, you understand, like a boy does on
his first long pants. His prophecies was his idols, so's to speak,
and you couldn't have hired him to foretell what he knew was wrong,
not for no money.
Peter said Beriah and Eben was just the sort of "cards" he was
looking for and drove right over to see 'em. He hooked 'em, too.
I knew he would; he could talk a Come-Outer into believing that a
Unitarian wasn't booked for Tophet, if he set out to.
So the special train from Boston brought the "house-party" down,
and our two-seated buggy brought Beriah and Eben over. They didn't
have anything to do but to look "picturesque" and say "I snum!" and
"I swan to man!" and they could do that to the skipper's taste.
The city folks thought they was "just too dear and odd for
anything," and made 'em bigger fools than ever, which wa'n't
The second day of the "party" was to be a sailing trip clear down
to the life-saving station on Setuckit Beach. It certainly looked
as if 'twas going to storm, and the Gov'ment predictions said it
was, but Beriah said "No," and stuck out that 'twould clear up by
and by. Peter wanted to know what I thought about their starting,
and I told him that 'twas my experience that where weather was
concerned Beriah was a good, safe anchorage. So they sailed away,
and, sure enough, it cleared up fine. And the next day the
Gov'ment fellers said "clear" and Beriah said "rain," and she
poured a flood. And, after three or four of such experiences,
Beriah was all hunky with the "house-party," and they looked at him
as a sort of wonderful freak, like a two-headed calf or the "snake
child," or some such outrage.
So, when the party was over, 'round comes Peter, busting with a new
notion. What he cal'lated to do was to start a weather prophesying
bureau all on his own hook, with Beriah for prophet, and him for
manager and general advertiser, and Jonadab and me to help put up
the money to get her going. He argued that summer folks from
Scituate to Provincetown, on both sides of the Cape, would pay good
prices for the real thing in weather predictions. The Gov'ment
bureau, so he said, covered too much ground, but Beriah was local
and hit her right on the head. His idee was to send Beriah's
predictions by telegraph to agents in every Cape town each morning,
and the agents was to hand 'em to susscribers. First week a free
trial; after that, so much per prophecy.
And it worked--oh, land, yes! it worked. Peter's letters and
circulars would satisfy anybody that black was white, and the free
trial was a sure bait. I don't know why 'tis, but if you offered
the smallpox free, there'd be a barrel of victims waiting in line
to come down with it. Brown rigged up a little shanty on the bluff
in front of the "Old Home," and filled it full of barometers and
thermometers and chronometers and charts, and put Beriah and Eben
inside to look wise and make b'lieve do something. That was the
office of "The South Shore Weather Bureau," and 'twas sort of
sacred and holy, and 'twould kill you to see the boarders tip-
toeing up and peeking in the winder to watch them two old coots
squinting through a telescope at the sky or scribbling rubbish on
paper. And Beriah was right 'most every time. I don't know why--
my notion is that he was born that way, same as some folks are born
lightning calculators--but I'll never forget the first time Peter
asked him how he done it.
"Wall," drawls Beriah, "now to-day looks fine and clear, don't it?
But last night my left elbow had rheumatiz in it, and this morning
my bones ache, and my right toe-j'int is sore, so I know we'll have
an easterly wind and rain this evening. If it had been my left toe
Peter held up both hands.
"That'll do," he says. "I ain't asking any more questions. ONLY,
if the boarders or outsiders ask you how you work it, you cut out
the bones and toe business and talk science and temperature to beat
the cars. Understand, do you? It's science or no eight-fifty in
the pay envelope. Left toe-joint!" And he goes off grinning.
We had to have Eben, though he wasn't wuth a green hand's wages as
a prophet. But him and Beriah stuck by each other like two flies
in the glue-pot, and you couldn't hire one without t'other. Peter
said 'twas all right--two prophets looked better'n one, anyhow;
and, as subscriptions kept up pretty well, and the Bureau paid a
fair profit, Jonadab and me didn't kick.
In July, Mrs. Freeman--she had charge of the upper decks in the
"Old Home" and was rated head chambermaid--up and quit, and being
as we couldn't get another capable Cape Codder just then, Peter
fetched down a woman from New York; one that a friend of old
Dillaway's recommended. She was able seaman so far's the work was
concerned, but she'd been good-looking once and couldn't forget it,
and she was one of them clippers that ain't happy unless they've
got a man in tow. You know the kind: pretty nigh old enough to be
a coal-barge, but all rigged up with bunting and frills like a
Her name was Kelly, Emma Kelly, and she was a widow--whether from
choice or act of Providence I don't know. The other women servants
was all down on her, of course, 'cause she had city ways and a
style of wearing her togs that made their Sunday gowns and bonnets
look like distress signals. But they couldn't deny that she was a
driver so far's her work was concerned. She'd whoop through the
hotel like a no'theaster and have everything done, and done well,
by two o'clock in the afternoon. Then she'd be ready to dress up
and go on parade to astonish the natives.
Men--except the boarders, of course--was scarce around Wellmouth
Port. First the Kelly lady begun to flag Cap'n Jonadab and me, but
we sheered off and took to the offing. Jonadab, being a widower,
had had his experience, and I never had the marrying disease and
wasn't hankering to catch it. So Emma had to look for other
victims, and the prophet-shop looked to her like the most likely
And, would you b'lieve it, them two old critters, Beriah and Eben,
gobbled the bait like sculpins. If she'd been a woman like the
kind they was used to--the Cape kind, I mean--I don't s'pose they'd
have paid any attention to her; but she was diff'rent from anything
they'd ever run up against, and the first thing you know, she had
'em both poke-hooked. 'Twas all in fun on her part first along, I
cal'late, but pretty soon some idiot let out that both of 'em was
wuth money, and then the race was on in earnest.
She'd drop in at the weather-factory 'long in the afternoon and
pretend to be terrible interested in the goings on there.
"I don't see how you two gentlemen CAN tell whether it's going to
rain or not. I think you are the most WONDERFUL men! Do tell me,
Mr. Crocker, will it be good weather to-morrer? I wanted to take a
little walk up to the village about four o'clock if it was."
And then Beriah'd swell out like a puffing pig and put on airs and
look out of the winder, and crow:
"Yes'm, I jedge that we'll have a southerly breeze in the morning
with some fog, but nothing to last, nothing to last. The
afternoon, I cal'late, 'll be fair. I--I--that is to say, I was
figgering on goin' to the village myself to-morrer."
Then Emma would pump up a blush, and smile, and purr that she was
SO glad, 'cause then she'd have comp'ny. And Eben would glower at
Beriah and Beriah'd grin sort of superior-like, and the mutual
barometer, so's to speak, would fall about a foot during the next
hour. The brotherly business between the two prophets was coming
to an end fast, and all on account of Mrs. Kelly.
She played 'em even for almost a month; didn't show no preference
one way or the other. First 'twas Eben that seemed to be eating up
to wind'ard, and then Beriah'd catch a puff and gain for a spell.
Cap'n Jonadab and me was uneasy, for we was afraid the Weather
Bureau would suffer 'fore the thing was done with; but Peter was
away, and we didn't like to interfere till he come home.
And then, all at once, Emma seemed to make up her mind, and 'twas
all Eben from that time on. The fact is, the widder had learned,
somehow or 'nother, that he had the most money of the two. Beriah
didn't give up; he stuck to it like a good one, but he was falling
behind and he knew it. As for Eben, he couldn't help showing a
little joyful pity, so's to speak, for his partner, and the
atmosphere in that rain lab'ratory got so frigid that I didn't know
but we'd have to put up a stove. The two wizards was hardly on
The last of August come and the "Old Home House" was going to close
up on the day after Labor Day. Peter was down again, and so was
Ebenezer and Belle, and there was to be high jinks to celebrate the
season's wind-up. There was to be a grand excursion and clambake
at Setuckit Beach and all hands was going--four catboats full.
Of course, the weather must be good or it's no joy job taking
females to Setuckit in a catboat. The night before the big day,
Peter came out to the Weather Bureau and Jonadab and me dropped in
likewise. Beriah was there all alone; Eben was out walking with
"Well, Jeremiah," says Brown, chipper as a mack'rel gull on a spar-
buoy, "what's the outlook for to-morrer? The Gov'ment sharp says
there's a big storm on the way up from Florida. Is he right, or
only an 'also ran,' as usual?"
"Wall," says Beriah, goin' to the door, "I don't know, Mr. Brown.
It don't look just right; I swan it don't! I can tell you better
in the morning. I hope 'twill be fair, too, 'cause I was
cal'lating to get a day off and borrer your horse and buggy and go
over to the Ostable camp-meeting. It's the big day over there," he
Now, I knew of course, that he meant he was going to take the
widder with him, but Peter spoke up and says he:
"Sorry, Beriah, but you're too late. Eben asked me for the horse
and buggy this morning. I told him he could have the open buggy;
the other one's being repaired, and I wouldn't lend the new surrey
to the Grand Panjandrum himself. Eben's going to take the fair
Emma for a ride," he says. "Beriah, I'm afraid our beloved Cobb
is, in the innocence of his youth, being roped in by the
sophisticated damsel in the shoo-fly hat," says he.
Me and Jonadab hadn't had time to tell Peter how matters stood
betwixt the prophets, or most likely he wouldn't have said that.
It hit Beriah like a snowslide off a barn roof. I found out
afterwards that the widder had more'n half promised to go with HIM.
He slumped down in his chair as if his mainmast was carried away,
and he didn't even rise to blow for the rest of the time we was in
the shanty. Just set there, looking fishy-eyed at the floor.
Next morning I met Eben prancing around in his Sunday clothes and
with a necktie on that would make a rainbow look like a mourning
"Hello!" says I. "You seem to be pretty chipper. You ain't going
to start for that fifteen-mile ride through the woods to Ostable,
be you? Looks to me as if 'twas going to rain."
"The predictions for this day," says he, "is cloudy in the
forenoon, but clearing later on. Wind, sou'east, changing to south
"Did Beriah send that out?" says I, looking doubtful, for if ever
it looked like dirty weather, I thought it did right then.
"ME and Beriah sent it out," he says, jealous-like. But I knew
'twas Beriah's forecast or he wouldn't have been so sure of it.
Pretty soon out comes Peter, looking dubious at the sky.
"If it was anybody else but Beriah," he says, "I'd say this
mornings prophecy ought to be sent to Puck. Where is the seventh
son of the seventh son--the only original American seer?"
He wasn't in the weather-shanty, and we finally found him on one of
the seats 'way up on the edge of the bluff. He didn't look 'round
when we come up, but just stared at the water.
"Hey, Elijah!" says Brown. He was always calling Beriah "Elijah"
or "Isaiah" or "Jeremiah" or some other prophet name out of
Scripture. "Does this go?" And he held out the telegraph-blank
with the morning's prediction on it.
Beriah looked around just for a second. He looked to me sort of
sick and pale--that is, as pale as his sun-burned rhinoceros hide
would ever turn.
"The forecast for to-day," says he, looking at the water again, "is
cloudy in the forenoon, but clearing later on. Wind sou'east,
changing to south and sou'west."
"Right you are!" says Peter, joyful. "We start for Setuckit, then.
And here's where the South Shore Weather Bureau hands another swift
jolt to your Uncle Sam."
So, after breakfast, the catboats loaded up, the girls giggling and
screaming, and the men boarders dressed in what they hoped was sea-
togs. They sailed away 'round the lighthouse and headed up the
shore, and the wind was sou'east sure and sartin, but the
"clearing" part wasn't in sight yet.
Beriah didn't watch 'em go. He stayed in the shanty. But by and
by, when Eben drove the buggy out of the barn and Emma come
skipping down the piazza steps, I see him peeking out of the little
The Kelly critter had all sail sot and colors flying. Her dress
was some sort of mosquito netting with wall-paper posies on it, and
there was more ribbons flapping than there is reef-p'ints on a
mainsail. And her hat! Great guns! It looked like one of them
pictures you see in a flower-seed catalogue.
"Oh!" she squeals, when she sees the buggy. "Oh! Mr. Cobb. Ain't
you afraid to go in that open carriage? It looks to me like rain."
But Eben waved his flipper, scornful. "My forecast this morning,"
says he, "is cloudy now, but clearing by and by. You trust to me,
Mis' Kelly. Weather's my business."
"Of COURSE I trust you, Mr. Cobb," she says, "Of course I trust
you, but I should hate to spile my gown, that's all."
They drove out of the yard, fine as fiddlers, and I watched 'em go.
When I turned around, there was Beriah watching 'em too, and he was
smiling for the first time that morning. But it was one of them
kind of smiles that makes you wish he'd cry.
At ha'f-past ten it begun to sprinkle; at eleven 'twas raining
hard; at noon 'twas a pouring, roaring, sou'easter, and looked good
for the next twelve hours at least.
"Good Lord! Beriah," says Cap'n Jonadab, running into the Weather
Bureau, "you've missed stays THIS time, for sure. Has your
prophecy-works got indigestion?" he says.
But Beriah wasn't there. The shanty was closed, and we found out
afterwards that he spent that whole day in the store down at the
By two o'clock 'twas so bad that I put on my ileskins and went over
to Wellmouth and telephoned to the Setuckit Beach life-saving
station to find out if the clambakers had got there right side up.
They'd got there; fact is, they was in the station then, and the
language Peter hove through that telephone was enough to melt the
wires. 'Twas all in the shape of compliments to the prophet, and I
heard Central tell him she'd report it to the head office. Brown
said 'twas blowing so they'd have to come back by the inside
channel, and that meant landing 'way up Harniss way, and hiring
teams to come to the Port with from there.
'Twas nearly eight when they drove into the yard and come slopping
up the steps. And SUCH a passel of drownded rats you never see.
The women-folks made for their rooms, but the men hopped around the
parlor, shedding puddles with every hop, and hollering for us to
trot out the head of the Weather Bureau.
"Bring him to me," orders Peter, stopping to pick his pants loose
from his legs; "I yearn to caress him."
And what old Dillaway said was worse'n that.
But Beriah didn't come to be caressed. 'Twas quarter past nine
when we heard wheels in the yard.
"By mighty!" yells Cap'n Jonadab; "it's the camp-meeting pilgrims.
I forgot them. Here's a show."
He jumped to open the door, but it opened afore he got there and
Beriah come in. He didn't pay no attention to the welcome he got
from the gang, but just stood on the sill, pale, but grinning the
grin that a terrier dog has on just as you're going to let the rat
out of the trap.
Somebody outside says: "Whoa, consarn you!" Then there was a
thump and a sloshy stamping on the steps, and in comes Eben and the
I had one of them long-haired, foreign cats once that a British
skipper gave me. 'Twas a yeller and black one and it fell
overboard. When we fished it out it looked just like the Kelly
woman done then. Everybody but Beriah just screeched--we couldn't
help it. But the prophet didn't laugh; he only kept on grinning.
Emma looked once round the room, and her eyes, as well as you could
see 'em through the snarl of dripping hair and hat-trimming, fairly
snapped. Then she went up the stairs three steps at a time.
Eben didn't say a word. He just stood there and leaked. Leaked
and smiled. Yes, sir! his face, over the mess that had been that
rainbow necktie, had the funniest look of idiotic joy on it that
ever _I_ see. In a minute everybody else shut up. We didn't know
what to make of it.
'Twas Beriah that spoke first.
"He! he! he!" he chuckled. "He! he! he! Wasn't it kind of wet
coming through the woods, Mr. Cobb? What does Mrs. Kelly think of
the day her beau picked out to go to camp-meeting in?"
Then Eben came out of his trance.
"Beriah," says he, holding out a dripping flipper, "shake!"
But Beriah didn't shake. Just stood still.
"I've got a s'prise for you, shipmate," goes on Eben. "Who did you
say that lady was?"
Beriah didn't answer. I begun to think that some of the wet had
soaked through the assistant prophet's skull and had give him water
on the brain.
"You called her Mis' Kelly, didn't you?" gurgled Eben. "Wall, that
ain't her name. Her and me stopped at the Baptist parsonage over
to East Harniss when we was on the way home and got married. She's
Mis' Cobb now," he says.
Well, the queerest part of it was that 'twas the bad weather was
really what brought things to a head so sudden. Eben hadn't
spunked up anywhere nigh enough courage to propose, but they
stopped at Ostable so long, waiting for the rain to let up, that
'twas after dark when they was half way home. Then Emma--oh, she
was a slick one!--said that her reputation would be ruined, out
that way with a man that wa'n't her husband. If they was married
now, she said--and even a dummy could take THAT hint.
I found Beriah at the weather-shanty about an hour afterwards with
his head on his arms. He looked up when I come in.
"Mr. Wingate," he says, "I'm a fool, but for the land's sake don't
think I'm SUCH a fool as not to know that this here storm was bound
to strike to-day. I lied," he says; "I lied about the weather for
the first time in my life; lied right up and down so as to get her
mad with him. My repertation's gone forever. There's a feller in
the Bible that sold his--his birthday, I think 'twas--for a mess of
porridge. I'm him; only," and he groaned awful, "they've cheated
me out of the porridge."
But you ought to have read the letters Peter got next day from
subscribers that had trusted to the prophecy and had gone on
picnics and such like. The South Shore Weather Bureau went out of
business right then.
THE DOG STAR
It commenced the day after we took old man Stumpton out codfishing.
Me and Cap'n Jonadab both told Peter T. Brown that cod wa'n't
biting much at that season, but he said cod be jiggered.
"What's troubling me just now is landing suckers," he says.
So the four of us got into the Patience M.--she's Jonadab's
catboat--and sot sail for the Crab Ledge. And we hadn't more'n got
our lines over the side than we struck into a school of dogfish.
Now, if you know anything about fishing you know that when the
dogfish strike on it's "good-by, cod!" So when Stumpton hauled a
big fat one over the rail I could tell that Jonadab was ready to
swear. But do you think it disturbed your old friend, Peter Brown?
No, sir! He never winked an eye.
"By Jove!" he sings out, staring at that dogfish as if 'twas a gold
dollar. "By Jove!" says he, "that's the finest specimen of a
Labrador mack'rel ever I see. Bait up, Stump, and go at 'em
So Stumpton, having lived in Montana ever sence he was five years
old, and not having sighted salt water in all that time, he don't
know but what there IS such critters as "Labrador mack'rel," and he
goes at 'em, hammer and tongs. When we come ashore we had eighteen
dogfish, four sculpin and a skate, and Stumpton was the happiest
loon in Ostable County. It was all we could do to keep him from
cooking one of them "mack'rel" with his own hands. If Jonadab
hadn't steered him out of the way while I sneaked down to the Port
and bought a bass, we'd have had to eat dogfish--we would, as sure
as I'm a foot high.
Stumpton and his daughter, Maudina, was at the Old Home House.
'Twas late in September, and the boarders had cleared out. Old
Dillaway--Peter's father-in-law--had decoyed the pair on from
Montana because him and some Wall Street sharks were figgering on
buying some copper country out that way that Stumpton owned. Then
Dillaway was took sick, and Peter, who was just back from his
wedding tower, brought the Montana victims down to the Cape with
the excuse to give 'em a good time alongshore, but really to keep
'em safe and out of the way till Ebenezer got well enough to finish
robbing 'em. Belle--Peter's wife--stayed behind to look after
Stumpton was a great tall man, narrer in the beam, and with a
figgerhead like a henhawk. He enjoyed himself here at the Cape.
He fished, and loafed, and shot at a mark. He sartinly could
shoot. The only thing he was wishing for was something alive to
shoot at, and Brown had promised to take him out duck shooting.
'Twas too early for ducks, but that didn't worry Peter any; he'd
a-had ducks to shoot at if he bought all the poultry in the
Maudina was like her name, pretty, but sort of soft and mushy.
She had big blue eyes and a baby face, and her principal cargo was
poetry. She had a deckload of it, and she'd heave it overboard
every time the wind changed. She was forever ordering the ocean to
"roll on," but she didn't mean it; I had her out sailing once when
the bay was a little mite rugged, and I know. She was just out of
a convent school, and you could see she wasn't used to most things--
The first week slipped along, and everything was serene. Bulletins
from Ebenezer more encouraging every day, and no squalls in sight.
But 'twas almost too slick. I was afraid the calm was a weather
breeder, and sure enough, the hurricane struck us the day after
that fishing trip.
Peter had gone driving with Maudina and her dad, and me and Cap'n
Jonadab was smoking on the front piazza. I was pulling at a pipe,
but the cap'n had the home end of one of Stumpton's cigars
harpooned on the little blade of his jackknife, and was busy
pumping the last drop of comfort out of it. I never see a man who
wanted to get his money's wuth more'n Jonadab, I give you my word,
I expected to see him swaller that cigar remnant every minute.
And all to once he gives a gurgle in his throat.
"Take a drink of water," says I, scared like.
"Well, by time!" says he, pointing.
A feller had just turned the corner of the house and was heading up
in our direction. He was a thin, lengthy craft, with more'n the
average amount of wrists sticking out of his sleeves, and with long
black hair trimmed aft behind his ears and curling on the back of
his neck. He had high cheek bones and kind of sunk-in black eyes,
and altogether he looked like "Dr. Macgoozleum, the Celebrated
Blackfoot Medicine Man." If he'd hollered: "Sagwa Bitters, only
one dollar a bottle!" I wouldn't have been surprised.
But his clothes--don't say a word! His coat was long and buttoned
up tight, so's you couldn't tell whether he had a vest on or not--
though 'twas a safe bet he hadn't--and it and his pants was made of
the loudest kind of black-and-white checks. No nice quiet pepper-
and-salt, you understand, but the checkerboard kind, the oilcloth
kind, the kind that looks like the marble floor in the Boston post-
office. They was pretty tolerable seedy, and so was his hat. Oh,
he was a last year's bird's nest NOW, but when them clothes was
fresh--whew! the northern lights and a rainbow mixed wouldn't have
been more'n a cloudy day 'longside of him.
He run up to the piazza like a clipper coming into port, and he
sweeps off that rusty hat and hails us grand and easy.
"Good-morning, gentlemen," says he.
"We don't want none," says Jonadab, decided.
The feller looked surprised. "I beg your pardon," says he. "You
don't want any--what?"
"We don't want any 'Life of King Solomon' nor 'The World's Big
Classifyers.' And we don't want to buy any patent paint, nor
sewing machines, nor clothes washers, nor climbing evergreen roses,
nor rheumatiz salve. And we don't want our pictures painted,
Jonadab was getting excited. Nothing riles him wuss than a
peddler, unless it's a woman selling tickets to a church fair.
The feller swelled up until I thought the top button on that
thunderstorm coat would drag anchor, sure.
"You are mistaken," says he. "I have called to see Mr. Peter
Brown; he is--er--a relative of mine."
Well, you could have blown me and Jonadab over with a cat's-paw.
We went on our beam ends, so's to speak. A relation of Peter T.'s;
why, if he'd been twice the panorama he was we'd have let him in
when he said that. Loud clothes, we figgered, must run in the
family. We remembered how Peter was dressed the first time we met
"You don't say!" says I. "Come right up and set down, Mr.--Mr.--"
"Montague," says the feller. "Booth Montague. Permit me to
present my card."
He drove into the hatches of his checkerboards and rummaged around,
but he didn't find nothing but holes, I jedge, because he looked
dreadful put out, and begged our pardons five or six times.
"Dear me!" says he. "This is embarassing. I've forgot my
We told him never mind the card; any of Peter's folks was more'n
welcome. So he come up the steps and set down in a piazza chair
like King Edward perching on his throne. Then he hove out some
remarks about its being a nice morning, all in a condescending sort
of way, as if he usually attended to the weather himself, but had
been sort of busy lately, and had handed the job over to one of the
crew. We told him all about Peter, and Belle, and Ebenezer, and
about Stumpton and Maudina. He was a good deal interested, and
asked consider'ble many questions. Pretty soon we heard a carriage
rattling up the road.
"Hello!" says I. "I guess that's Peter and the rest coming now."
Mr. Montague got off his throne kind of sudden.
"Ahem!" says he. "Is there a room here where I may--er--receive
Mr. Brown in a less public manner? It will be rather a--er--
surprise for him, and--"
Well, there was a good deal of sense in that. I know 'twould
surprise ME to have such an image as he was sprung on me without
any notice. We steered him into the gents' parlor, and shut the
door. In a minute the horse and wagon come into the yard. Maudina
said she'd had a "heavenly" drive, and unloaded some poetry
concerning the music of billows and pine trees, and such. She and
her father went up to their rooms, and when the decks was clear
Jonadab and me tackled Peter T.
"Peter," says Jonadab, "we've got a surprise for you. One of your
relations has come."
Brown, he did look surprised, but he didn't act as he was any too
"Relation of MINE?" says he. "Come off! What's his name?"
We told him Montague, Booth Montague. He laughed.
"Wake up and turn over," he says. "They never had anything like
that in my family. Booth Montague! Sure 'twa'n't Algernon Cough-
We said no, 'twas Booth Montague, and that he was waiting in the
gents' parlor. So he laughed again, and said somethin' about
sending for Laura Lean Jibbey, and then we started.
The checkerboard feller was standing up when we opened the door.
"Hello, Petey!" says he, cool as a cucumber, and sticking out a
foot and a half of wrist with a hand at the end of it.
Now, it takes considerable to upset Peter Theodosius Brown. Up to
that time and hour I'd have bet on him against anything short of an
earthquake. But Booth Montague done it--knocked him plumb out of
water. Peter actually turned white.
"Great--" he began, and then stopped and swallered. "HANK!" he
says, and set down in a chair.
"The same," says Montague, waving the starboard extension of the
checkerboard. "Petey, it does me good to set my eyes on you.
Especially now, when you're the real thing."
Brown never answered for a minute. Then he canted over to port and
reached down into his pocket. "Well," says he, "how much?"
But Hank, or Booth, or Montague--whatever his name was--he waved
his flipper disdainful. "Nun-nun-nun-no, Petey, my son," he says,
smiling. "It ain't 'how much?' this time. When I heard how you'd
rung the bell the first shot out the box and was rolling in coin, I
said to myself: 'Here's where the prod comes back to his own.'
I've come to live with you, Petey, and you pay the freight."
Peter jumped out of the chair. "LIVE with me!" he says. "You
Friday evening amateur night! It's back to 'Ten Nights in a
Barroom' for yours!" he says.
"Oh, no, it ain't!" says Hank, cheerful. "It'll be back to Popper
Dillaway and Belle. When I tell 'em I'm your little cousin Henry
and how you and me worked the territories together--why--well, I
guess there'll be gladness round the dear home nest; hey?"
Peter didn't say nothing. Then he fetched a long breath and
motioned with his head to Cap'n Jonadab and me. We see we weren't
invited to the family reunion, so we went out and shut the door.
But we did pity Peter; I snum if we didn't!
It was most an hour afore Brown come out of that room. When he did
he took Jonadab and me by the arm and led us out back of the barn.
"Fellers," he says, sad and mournful, "that--that plaster cast in a
crazy-quilt," he says, referring to Montague, "is a cousin of mine.
That's the living truth," says he, "and the only excuse I can make
is that 'tain't my fault. He's my cousin, all right, and his
name's Hank Schmults, but the sooner you box that fact up in your
forgetory, the smoother 'twill be for yours drearily, Peter T.
Brown. He's to be Mr. Booth Montague, the celebrated English poet,
so long's he hangs out at the Old Home; and he's to hang out here
until--well, until I can dope out a way to get rid of him."
We didn't say nothing for a minute--just thought. Then Jonadab
says, kind of puzzled: "What makes you call him a poet?" he says.
Peter answered pretty snappy: "'Cause there's only two or three
jobs that a long-haired image like him could hold down," he says.
"I'd call him a musician if he could play 'Bedelia' on a jews'-
harp; but he can't, so's he's got to be a poet."
And a poet he was for the next week or so. Peter drove down to
Wellmouth that night and bought some respectable black clothes, and
the follering morning, when the celebrated Booth Montague come
sailing into the dining room, with his curls brushed back from his
forehead, and his new cutaway on, and his wrists covered up with
clean cuffs, blessed if he didn't look distinguished--at least,
that's the only word I can think of that fills the bill. And he
talked beautiful language, not like the slang he hove at Brown and
us in the gents' parlor.
Peter done the honors, introducing him to us and the Stumptons as a
friend who'd come from England unexpected, and Hank he bowed and
scraped, and looked absent-minded and crazy-like a poet ought to.
Oh, he done well at it! You could see that 'twas just pie for him.
And 'twas pie for Maudina, too. Being, as I said, kind of green
concerning men folks, and likewise taking to poetry like a cat to
fish, she just fairly gushed over this fraud. She'd reel off a
couple of fathom of verses from fellers named Spencer or Waller, or
such like, and he'd never turn a hair, but back he'd come and say
they was good, but he preferred Confucius, or Methuselah, or
somebody so antique that she nor nobody else ever heard of 'em.
Oh, he run a safe course, and he had HER in tow afore they turned
the first mark.
Jonadab and me got worried. We see how things was going, and we
didn't like it. Stumpton was having too good a time to notice,
going after "Labrador mack'rel" and so on, and Peter T. was too
busy steering the cruises to pay any attention. But one afternoon
I come by the summerhouse unexpected, and there sat Booth Montague
and Maudina, him with a clove hitch round her waist, and she
looking up into his eyes like they were peekholes in the fence
'round paradise. That was enough. It just simply COULDN'T go any
further, so that night me and Jonadab had a confab up in my room.
"Barzilla," says the cap'n, "if we tell Peter that that relation of
his is figgering to marry Maudina Stumpton for her money, and that
he's more'n likely to elope with her, 'twill pretty nigh kill Pete,
won't it? No, sir; it's up to you and me. We've got to figger out
some way to get rid of the critter ourselves."
"It's a wonder to me," I says, "that Peter puts up with him. Why
don't he order him to clear out, and tell Belle if he wants to?
She can't blame Peter 'cause his uncle was father to an outrage
Jonadab looks at me scornful. "Can't, hey?" he says. "And her
high-toned and chumming in with the bigbugs? It's easy to see you
never was married," says he.
Well, I never was, so I shut up.
We set there and thought and thought, and by and by I commenced to
sight an idee in the offing. 'Twas hull down at first, but pretty
soon I got it into speaking distance, and then I broke it gentle to