Part 1 out of 6
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CY WHITTAKER'S PLACE
by JOSEPH C. LINCOLN
I.--THE PERFECT BOARDING HOUSE
II.--THE WANDERER'S RETURN
IV.--BAILEY BANGS'S EXPERIMENT
V.--A FRONT DOOR CALLER
VI.--ICICLES AND DUST
VII.--CAPTAIN CY PROVES DELINQUENT
VIII.--THE "COW LADY"
IX.--POLITICS AND BIRTHDAYS
X.--A LETTER AND A VISITOR
XI.--A BARGAIN OFF
XV.--DEBBY BEASLEY TO THE RESCUE
XVI.--A REMARKABLE DRIVE AND WHAT FOLLOWED
XVII.--THE CAPTAIN REMEMBERS HIS AGE
XIX.--THE TOPPLING OF A MONUMENT
XXI.--CAPTAIN CY'S "PICTURE"
CY WHITTAKER'S PLACE
THE PERFECT BOARDING HOUSE
It is queer, but Captain Cy himself doesn't remember whether the
day was Tuesday or Wednesday. Asaph Tidditt's records ought to
settle it, for there was a meeting of the board of selectmen that
day, and Asaph has been town clerk in Bayport since the summer
before the Baptist meeting house burned. But on the record the
date, in Asaph's handwriting, stands "Tuesday, May 10, 189-" and,
as it happens, May 10 of that year fell on Wednesday, not Tuesday
Keturah Bangs, who keeps "the perfect boarding house," says it was
Tuesday, because she remembers they had fried cod cheeks and
cabbage that day--as they have every Tuesday--and neither Mr.
Tidditt nor Bailey Bangs, Keturah's husband, was on hand when the
dinner bell rang. Keturah says she is certain it was Tuesday,
because she remembers smelling the boiled cabbage as she stood at
the side door, looking up the road to see if either Asaph or Bailey
was coming. As for Bailey, he says he remembers being late to
dinner and his wife's "startin' to heave a broadsides into him"
because of it, but he doesn't remember what day it was. This isn't
surprising; Keturah's verbal cannonades are likely to make one
forgetful of trifles.
At any rate, whether Tuesday or Wednesday, it is certain that it
was quarter past twelve, according to the clock presented to the
Methodist Society by the Honorable Heman Atkins, when Asaph Tidditt
came down the steps of the townhall, after the selectmen's meeting,
and saw Bailey Bangs waiting for him on the opposite side of the
"Hello, Ase!" hailed Mr. Bangs. "You'll be late to dinner, if you
don't hurry. I was headin' for home, all sail sot, when I see you.
What kept you?"
"Town business, of course," replied Mr. Tidditt, with the
importance pertaining to his official position. "What kept YOU,
for the land sakes? Won't Ketury be in your wool?"
Bailey hasn't any "wool" worth mentioning now, and he had very
little more then, but he mopped his forehead, or the extension
above it, taking off his cap to do so.
"I cal'late she will," he said, uneasily. "Tell you the truth,
Ase, I was up to the store, and Cap'n Josiah Dimick and some more
of 'em drifted in and we got talkin' about the chances of the
harbor appropriation, and one thing or 'nother, and 'twas later'n
I thought 'twas 'fore I knew it."
The appropriation from the government, which was to deepen and
widen our harbor here at Bayport, was a very vital topic among us
just then. Heman Atkins, the congressman from our district, had
promised to do his best for the appropriation, and had for a time
been very sanguine of securing it. Recently, however, he had not
been quite as hopeful.
"What's Cap'n Josiah think about the chances?" asked Asaph eagerly.
"Well, sometimes he thinks 'Yes' and then again he thinks 'No,'"
replied Bailey. "He says, of course, if Heman is able to get it he
will, but if he ain't able to, he--he--"
"He won't, I s'pose. Well, _I_ can think that myself, and I don't
set up to be no inspired know-it-all, like Joe Dimick. He ain't
heard from Heman lately, has he?"
"No, he ain't. Neither's anybody else, so fur as I can find out."
"Oh, yes, they have. _I_ have, for one."
Mr. Bangs stopped short in his double-quick march for home and
dinner, and looked his companion in the face.
"Ase Tidditt!" he cried. "Do you mean to tell me you've had a
letter from Heman Atkins, from Washin'ton?"
Asaph nodded portentously.
"Yes, sir," he declared. "A letter from the Honorable Heman G.
Atkins, of Washin'ton, D. C., come to me last night. I read it
afore I turned in."
"You did! And never said nothin' about it?"
"Why should I say anything about it? 'Twas addressed to me as town
clerk, and was concernin' a matter to be took up with the board of
s'lectmen. I ain't in the habit of hollerin' town affairs through
a speakin' trumpet. Folks that vote for me town-meetin' day know
that, I guess. Angie Phinney says to me only yesterday, 'Mr.
Tidditt,' says she, 'there's one thing I'll say for you--you don't
Miss Phinney boarded with the Bangses, and Bailey was acquainted
with her personal peculiarities; for that matter so were most of
Bayport's permanent residents.
"Humph!" he snorted indignantly. "She thought 'twas a good thing
not to talk, hey? SHE did? Well, by mighty! you never get no
CHANCE to talk when she's around. Angie Phinney! Why, when that
poll parrot of hers died, Alph'us Smalley declared up and down that
what killed it was jealousy and disapp'inted ambition; he said it
broke its heart tryin' to keep up with Angie. Her ma was the same
breed of cats. I remember--"
The talking proclivities of females is the one topic upon which
Keturah's husband is touchiest. Asaph knew this, but he delighted
to stir up his chum occasionally. He chuckled as he interrupted
the flow of reminiscence.
"There, there, Bailey!" he exclaimed. "I know as much about
Angie's tribe as you do, I cal'late. Ain't we a little mite off
the course? Seems to me we was talkin' about Heman's letter."
"Is that so? I judged from what you said we wa'n't goin' to talk
about it. Aw, don't be so mean, Ase! Showin' off your importance
like a young one! What did Heman say about the appropriation? Is
he goin' to get it?"
Mr. Tidditt paused before replying. Then, bending over, he
whispered in his chum's ear:
"He never said one word about the appropriation, Bailey; not one
word. He wanted to know if we'd got this year's taxes on the
Whittaker place. And, if we hadn't, what was we goin' to do about
it? Bailey, between you and me and the mizzenmast, Heman Atkins
wants to get ahold of that place the worst way."
"He does? He DOES? For the land sakes, ain't he got property
enough already? Ain't a--a palace like that enough for one man,
without wantin' to buy a rattletrap like THAT?"
The first "that" was emphasized by a brandished but reverent left
hand; the second by a derisively pointing right. The two friends
had reached the crest of the long slope leading up from the
townhall. On one side of the road stretched the imposing frontage
of the "Atkins estate," with its iron fence and stone posts; on the
other slouched the weed-grown, tumble-down desolation of the "Cy
Whittaker place." The contrast was that of opulent prosperity and
If our village boasted one of those horseless juggernauts, such as
are used to carry sightseers in Boston from the old North Church to
the Public Library and other points of interest--that is, if there
was a "seeing Bayport" car, it is from this hill that its occupants
would be given their finest view of the village and its surroundings.
As Captain Josiah Dimick always says: "Bayport is all north and
south, like a codfish line. It puts me in mind of Seth Higgins's
oldest boy. He was so tall and thin that when they bought a suit of
clothes for him, they used to take reefs in the sides of the jacket
and use the cloth to piece onto the bottoms of the trousers' legs."
What Captain Joe means is that the houses in the village are all
built beside three roads running longitudinally. There is the
"main road" and the "upper road"--or "Woodchuck Lane," just as you
prefer--and the "lower road," otherwise known as "Bassett's Holler."
The "upper road" is sometimes called the "depot road," because the
railroad station is conveniently located thereon--convenient for
the railroad, that is--the station being a full mile from Simmons's
"general store," which is considered the center of the town. The
upper road enters the main road at the corner by the store, and
there also are the Methodist meetinghouse and the schoolhouse. The
townhall is in the hollow farther on. Then comes the big hill--
"Whittaker's Hill"--and from the top of this hill you can, on a
clear day, see for miles across the salt marshes and over the bay
to the eastward, and west as far as the church steeple in Orham.
If there happens to be a fog, with a strong easterly wind, you
cannot see the marshes or the bay, but you can smell them, wet and
salty and sweet. It is a smell that the born Bayporter never
forgets, but carries with him in memory wherever he goes; and that,
in the palmy days of the merchant marine, was likely, to be far,
for every male baby in the village was born with web feet, so
people said, and was predestined to be a sailor.
When Heman Atkins came back from the South Seas early in the '60's,
"rich as dock mud," though still a young man, he promptly tore down
his father's old house, which stood on the crest of Whittaker's
Hill, and built in its place a big imposing residence. It was by
far the finest house in Bayport, and Heman made it finer as the
years passed. There were imitation brownstone pillars supporting
its front porch, iron dogs and scroll work iron benches bordering
its front walk, and a pair of stone urns, in summer filled with
flowers, beside its big iron front gate.
Heman was our leading citizen, our representative in Washington,
and the town's philanthropist. He gave the Atkins memorial window
and the Atkins tower clock to the Methodist Church. The Atkins
town pump, also his gift, stood before the townhall. The Atkins
portrait in the Bayport Ladies' Library was much admired; and the
size of the Atkins fortune was the principal subject of conversation
at sewing circle, at the table of "the perfect boarding house,"
around the stove in Simmons's store, or wherever Bayporters were
used to gather. We never exactly worshipped Heman Atkins, perhaps,
but we figuratively doffed our hats when his name was mentioned.
The "Cy Whittaker place" faced the Atkins estate from the opposite
side of the main road, but it was the general opinion that it ought
to be ashamed to face it. Almost everybody called it "the Cy
Whittaker place," although some of the younger set spoke of it as
the "Sea Sight House." It was a big, old-fashioned dwelling,
gambrel-roofed and brown and dilapidated. Originally it had
enjoyed the dignified seclusion afforded by a white picket fence
with square gateposts, and the path to its seldom-used front door
had been guarded by rigid lines of box hedge. This, however, was
years ago, before the second Captain Cy Whittaker died, and before
the Howes family turned it into the "Sea Sight House," a hotel for
The Howeses "improved" the house and grounds. They tore down the
picket fence, uprooted the box hedges, hung a sign over the sacred
front door, and built a wide veranda under the parlor windows.
They took boarders for five consecutive summers; then they gave up
the unprofitable undertaking, returned to Concord, New Hampshire,
their native city, and left the Cy Whittaker place to bear the
ravages of Bayport winters and Bayport small boys as best it might.
For years it stood empty. The weeds grew high about its foundations;
the sparrows built nests behind such of its shutters as had not been
ripped from their hinges by February no'theasters; its roof grew
bald in spots as the shingles loosened and were blown away; the
swallows flew in and out of its stone-broken windowpanes. Year by
year it became more of a disgrace in the eyes of Bayport's neat and
thrifty inhabitants--for neat and thrifty we are, if we do say it.
The selectmen would have liked to tear it down, but they could not,
because it was private property, having been purchased from the
Howes heirs by the third Cy Whittaker, Captain Cy's only son, who
ran away to sea when he was sixteen years old, and was disinherited
and cast off by the proud old skipper in consequence. Each March,
Asaph Tidditt, in his official capacity as town clerk, had been
accustomed to receive an envelope with a South American postmark,
and in that envelope was a draft on a Boston banking house for the
sum due as taxes on the "Cy Whittaker place." The drafts were
signed "Cyrus M. Whittaker."
But this particular year--the year in which this chronicle begins--
no draft had been received. Asaph waited a few weeks and then
wrote to the address indicated by the postmark. His letter was
unanswered. The taxes were due in March and it was now May. Mr.
Tidditt wrote again; then he laid the case before the board of
selectmen, and Captain Eben Salters, chairman of that august body,
also wrote. But even Captain Eben's authoritative demand was
ignored. Next to the harbor appropriation, the question of what
should be done about the "Cy Whittaker place" filled Bayport's
thoughts that spring. No one, however, had supposed that the
Honorable Heman might wish to buy it. Bailey Bangs's surprise was
"What in the world," repeated Bailey, "does Heman want of a shebang
like that? Ain't he got enough already?"
His friend shook his head.
"'Pears not," he said. "I judge it's this way, Bailey: Heman, he's
a proud man--"
"Well, ain't he got a right to be proud?" broke in Mr. Bangs,
hastening to resent any criticism of the popular idol. "Cal'late
you and me'd be proud if we was able to carry as much sail as he
does, wouldn't we?"
"Yes, I guess like we would. But you needn't get red in the face
and strain your biler just because I said that. I ain't finding
fault with Heman; I'm only tellin' you. He's proud, as I said, and
"She's dead this four year. What are you resurrectin' her for?"
"Land! you're peppery as a West Injy omelet this mornin'. Let me
alone till I've finished. His wife, when she was alive, she was
proud, too. And his daughter, Alicia, she's eight year old now,
and by and by she'll be grown up into a high-toned young woman.
Well, Heman is fur-sighted, and I s'pose likely he's thinkin' of
the days when there'll be young rich fellers--senators and--and--
well, counts and lords, maybe--cruisin' down here courtin' her. By
that time the Whittaker place'll be a worse disgrace than 'tis now.
I presume he don't want those swells to sit on his front piazza and
see the crows buildin' nests in the ruins acrost the road. So--"
"Crows! Did you ever see a crow build a nest in a house? I never
"Oh, belay! Crows or canary birds, what difference does it make?
SOMETHIN' 'll nest there, if it's only A'nt Sophrony Hallett's
hens. So Heman he writes to the board, askin' if the taxes is
paid, if we've heard any reason why they ain't paid, and what we're
goin' to do about it. If there's a sale for taxes he wants to be
fust bidder. Then, when the place is his, he can tear down or
rebuild, just as he sees fit. See?"
"Yes, I see. Well, I feel about that the way Joe Dimick felt when
he heard the doctor had told Elviry Pepper she must stop singin' in
the choir or lose her voice altogether. 'Whichever happens 'll be
an improvement,' says Cap'n Joe; and whatever Heman does 'll help
the Whittaker place. What did you decide at the meetin'?"
"Nothin'. We can't decide yet. We ain't sure about the law and we
want to wait a spell, anyhow. But I know how 'twill end: Atkins
'll get the place. He always gets what he wants, Heman does."
Bailey turned and looked back at the old house, forlorn amidst its
huddle of blackberry briers and weeds, and with the ubiquitous
"silver-leaf" saplings springing up in clusters everywhere about it
and closing in on its defenseless walls like squads of victorious
soldiery making the final charge upon a conquered fort.
"Well," sighed Mr. Bangs, "so that 'll be the end of the old
Whittaker place, hey? Sho! things change in a feller's lifetime,
don't they? You and me can remember, Ase, when Cap'n Cy Whittaker
was one of the biggest men we had in this town. So was his dad
afore him, the Cap'n Cy that built the house. I wonder the looks
of things here now don't bring them two up out of their graves. Do
you remember young Cy--'Whit' we used to call him--or 'Reddy Whit,'
'count of his red hair? I don't know's you do, though; guess you'd
gone to sea when he run away from home."
Mr. Tidditt shook his head.
"No, no!" he said. "I was to home that year. Remember 'Whit'?
Well, I should say I did. He was a holy terror--yes, sir! Wan't
no monkey shines or didos cut up in this town that young Cy wan't
into. Fur's that goes, you and me was in 'em, too, Bailey. We was
all holy terrors then. Young ones nowadays ain't got the spunk we
used to have."
His friend chuckled.
"That's so," he declared. "That's so. Whit was a good-hearted
boy, too, but full of the Old Scratch and as sot in his ways as his
dad, and if Cap'n Cy wan't sot, then there ain't no sotness.
'You'll go to college and be a parson,' says the Cap'n. 'I'll go
to sea and be a sailor, same as you done,' says Whit. And he did,
too; run away one night, took the packet to Boston, and shipped
aboard an Australian clipper. Cap'n Cy didn't go after him to
fetch him home. No, sir--ee! not a fetch. Sent him a letter plumb
to Melbourne and, says he: 'You've made your bed; now lay in it.
Don't you never dast to come back to me or your ma,' he says. And
Whit didn't, he wan't that kind."
"Pretty nigh killed the old lady--Whit's ma--that did," mused
Asaph. "She died a little spell afterwards. And the old man pined
away, too, but he never give in or asked the boy to come back.
Stubborn as all get-out to the end, he was, and willed the place,
all he had left, to them Howes folks. And a nice mess THEY made of
it. Young Cy, he--"
"Young Cy!" interrupted Bailey. "We're always callin' him 'young
Cy,' and yet, when you come to think of it, he must be pretty nigh
fifty-five now; 'most as old as you and I be. Wonder if he'll ever
come back here."
"You bet he won't!" was the oracular reply. "You bet he won't!
From what I hear he got to be a sea cap'n himself and settled down
there in Buenos Ayres. He's made all kinds of money, they say, out
of hides and such. What he ever bought his dad's old place for,
_I_ can't see. He'll never come back to these common, one-horse
latitudes, now you mark my word on that!"
It was a prophecy Mr. Tidditt was accustomed to make each year to
the crowd at the post office, when the receipt for the draft for
taxes caused him to wax reminiscent. The younger generation here
in Bayport regard their town clerk as something of an oracle, and
this regard has made Asaph a trifle vain and positive.
Bailey chuckled again.
"We WAS a spunky, dare-devil lot in the old days, wan't we, Ase?"
he said. "Spunk was kind of born in us, as you might say. And
even now we're--"
The Atkins tower clock boomed once--a solemn, dignified stroke.
Mr. Tidditt and his companion started and looked at each other.
"Godfrey scissors!" gasped Asaph. "Is that half past twelve?"
Mr. Bangs pulled a big worn silver watch from his pocket and
glanced at the dial.
"It is!" he moaned. "As sure's you're born, it is! We've kept
Ketury's dinner waitin' twenty minutes. You and me are in for it
now, Ase Tidditt! Twenty minutes late! She'll skin us alive."
Mr. Tidditt did not pause to answer, but plunged headlong down the
hill at a race-horse gait, Bailey pounding at his heels. For "born
dare-devils," self-confessed, they were a nervous and apprehensive
The "perfect boarding house" is situated a quarter of a mile beyond
"Whittaker's Hill," nearly opposite the Salters homestead. The
sign, hung on the pole by the front gate, reads, "Bayport Hotel.
Bailey Bangs, Proprietor," but no one except the stranger in
Bayport accepts that sign seriously. When, owing to an unexpected
change in the administration at Washington, Mr. Bangs was obliged
to relinquish his position as our village postmaster, his wife came
to the rescue with the proposal that they open a boarding house.
"'Whatsoe'er you find to do,' quoted Keturah at sewing-circle
meeting, 'do it then with all your might!' That's a good Sabbath-
school hymn tune and it's good sense besides. I intend to make it
my life work to run just as complete a--a eatin' and lodgin'
establishment as I can. If, when I'm laid to rest, they can put
onto my gravestone, 'She run the perfect boardin' house,' I'LL be
This remark, and subsequent similar declarations, were widely
quoted, and, therefore, though casual visitors may refer to the
"Bayport Hotel," to us natives the Bangs residence is always
"Keturah's perfect boarding house." As for the sign's affirmation
of Mr. Bangs proprietorship, that is considered the cream of the
joke. The idea of meek, bald-headed little Bailey posing as
proprietor of anything while his wife is on deck, tickles Bayport's
sense of humor.
The perspiring delinquents panted into the yard of the perfect
boarding house and tremblingly opened the door leading to the
dining room. Dinner was well under way, and Mrs. Bangs, enthroned
at the end of the long table, behind the silver-plated teapot, was
waiting to receive them. The silence was appalling.
"Sorry to be a little behindhand, Ketury," stammered Asaph hurriedly.
"Town affairs are important, of course, and can't be neglected. I--"
"Yes, yes; that's so, Ketury," cut in Mr. Bangs.
"Hum! Yes, I see." Keturah's tone was several degrees below
freezing. "Hum! I s'pose 'twas town affairs kept you, too, hey?"
"Well, well--er--not exactly, as you might say, but--" Bailey
squeezed himself into the armchair at the end of the table opposite
his wife, the end which, with sarcasm not the less keen for being
unintentional, was called the "head." "Not exactly town affairs,
'twan't that kept me, Ketury, but--My! don't them cod cheeks smell
good? You always could cook cod cheeks, if I do say it."
The compliment was wasted. Mrs. Bangs had a sermon to deliver, and
its text was not "cod cheeks."
"Bailey Bangs," she began, "when I was brought to realize that my
husband, although apparently an able-bodied man, couldn't support
me as I'd been used to be supported, and when I was forced to
support HIM by keepin' boarders, I says, 'If there's one thing that
my house shall stand for it's punctual promptness at meal times. I
say nothing,' I says, 'about the inconvenience of gettin' on with
only one hired help when we ought to have three. If Providence, in
its unscrutable wisdom,' I says, 'has seen fit to lay this burden
onto me, the burden of a household of boarders and a husband whom--'"
And just then the power referred to by Mrs. Bangs intervened to
spare her husband the remainder of the preachment. From the
driveway of the yard, beside the dining-room windows, came the
rattle of wheels and the tramp of a horse's feet. Mrs. Matilda
Tripp, who sat nearest the windows, on that side, rose and peered
"It's the depot wagon, Ketury," she said. "There's somebody inside
it. I wonder if they're comin' here."
"Transients" were almost unknown quantities at the Bayport Hotel
in May. Consequently, all the boarders and the landlady herself
crowded to the windows. The "depot wagon" had drawn up by the
steps, and Gabe Lumley, the driver, had descended from his seat and
was doing his best to open the door of the ancient vehicle. It
stuck, of course; the doors of all depot wagons stick.
"Hold on a shake!" commanded some one inside the carriage. "Wait
till I get a purchase on her. Now, then! All hands to the ropes!
Heave--ho! THERE she comes!"
The door flew back with a bang. A man sprang out upon the lower
step of the porch. The eye of every inmate of the perfect boarding
house was on him. Even the "hired help" peered from the kitchen
"He's a stranger," whispered Mrs. Tripp. "I never see him before,
did you, Mr. Tidditt?"
The town clerk did not answer. He was staring at the depot wagon's
passenger, staring with a face the interested expression of which
was changing to that of surprise and amazed incredulity. Mrs.
Tripp turned to Mr. Bangs; he also was staring, open-mouthed.
"Godfrey scissors!" gasped Asaph, under his breath. "Godfrey--
SCISSORS! Bailey, I--I believe--I swan to man, I believe--"
"Ase Tidditt!" exclaimed Mr. Bangs, "am I goin' looney, or is that--
Neither finished his sentence. There are times when language seems
so pitifully inadequate.
THE WANDERER'S RETURN
Here in Bayport, nowadays, the collecting of "antiques" is a
favorite amusement of our summer visitors. Those of us who were
fortunate enough to possess a set of nicked blue dishes, a warming
pan, or a tall clock with wooden wheels, have long ago parted with
these treasures for considerable sums. Oddly enough Sylvanus
Cahoon has profited most by this craze. Sylvanus used to be judged
the unluckiest man in town; of late this judgment has been revised.
It was Sylvanus who, confined to the house by an illness brought on
by eating too much "sugar cake" at a free sociable given by the
Methodist Society, arose in the night and drank copiously of what
he supposed to be the medicine left by the doctor. It happened to
be water-bug poison, and Sylvanus was nearly killed by the dose.
He is reported as having admitted that he "didn't mind dyin' so
much, but hated to die such a dum mean death."
While convalescent he took to smoking in bed and was burned out of
house and home in consequence. Then it was that his kind-hearted
fellow citizens donated, for the furnishing of his new residence,
all the cast-off bits of furniture and odds and ends from their
garrets. "Charity," observed Captain Josiah Dimick at the time,
"begins at home with us Bayporters, and it generally begins up
attic, that bein' nighest to heaven."
Later Sylvanus sold most of the donations as "antiques" and made
money enough therefrom to buy a new plush parlor set. Miss
Angeline Phinney never called on the Cahoons after that without
making her appearance at the front door. "I'll get some good out
of that plush sofy I helped to pay for," declared Angeline, "if
it's only to wear it out by settin' on it."
There are two "antiques" in Bayport which have not yet been sold or
even bid for. One is Gabe Lumley's "depot wagon," and the other is
"Dan'l Webster," the horse which draws it. Both are very ancient,
sadly in need of upholstery, and jerky of locomotion.
Gabe was, as usual, waiting at the station when the down train
arrived, on the Tuesday--or Wednesday--of the selectmen's meeting.
The train was due, according to the time-table, at eleven forty-
five. This time-table, and the signboard of the "Bayport Hotel"
are the only bits of humorous literature peculiar to our village,
unless we add the political editorials of the Bayport Breeze.
So, at eleven forty-five, Mr. Lumley was serenely dozing on the
baggage truck, which he had wheeled to the sunny side of the
platform. At five minutes past twelve, he yawned, stretched, and
looked at his watch. Then, rolling off the truck, he strolled to
the edge of the platform and spoke authoritatively to "Dan'l
"Hi there! stand still!" commanded Mr. Lumley.
Standing still being Dan'l's long suit, the order was obeyed.
Gabe then loafed to the door of the station and accosted the depot
master, who was nodding in his chair beside the telegraph instrument.
"Where is she now, Ed?" asked Mr. Lumley, referring to the train.
"Just left South Harniss. Be here pretty soon. What's your hurry?
"Naw; nobody that I know of, special. Sophrony Hallett's gone to
Ostable, but she won't be back till to-morrow I cal'late. Hello!
there she whistles now."
Needless to say it was the train, not the widow Hallett, that had
whistled. The depot master rose from his chair. A yellow dog, his
property, scrambled from beneath it, and rushing out of the door
and to the farther end of the platform, barked furiously. Cephas
Baker, who lives across the road from the depot, slouched down to
his front gate. His wife opened the door of her kitchen and stood
there, her wet arms wrapped in her apron. The five Baker children
tore round the corner of the house, over the back fence, and lined
up, whooping joyously, on the platform. A cloud of white smoke
billowed above the clump of cedars at the bend of the track. Then
the locomotive rounded the curve and bore down upon the station.
"Stand still, I tell you!" shouted Gabe, addressing the horse.
Dan'l Webster opened one eye, closed it and relapsed into slumber.
The train, a combination baggage car and smoker, two freight cars
and a passenger coach, rolled ponderously alongside the platform.
From the open door of the baggage car were tossed the mail sack and
two express packages. The conductor stepped from the passenger
coach. Following him came briskly a short, thickset man with a
reddish-gray beard and grayish-red hair.
"Goin' down to the village, Mister?" inquired Mr. Lumley. "Carriage
The stranger inspected the driver of the depot wagon, inspected him
deliberately from top to toe. Then he said:
"Down to the village? Why, yes, I wouldn't wonder. Say! you're a
Lumley, ain't you?"
"Why! why--yes, I be! How'd you know that? Ain't ever seen you
afore, have I?"
"Guess not," with a quiet chuckle. "I've never seen you, either,
but I've seen your nose. I'd know a Lumley nose if I run across it
The possessor of the "Lumley nose" rubbed that organ in a bewildered
fashion. Recovering in a measure he laughed, rather half-heartedly,
and begged to know if the trunk, then being unloaded from the
baggage car, belonged to his prospective passenger. As the answer
was an affirmative nod, he secured the trunk check and departed,
still rubbing his nose.
When he returned, with the trunk on the truck, he found the
stranger, with his hands in his pockets, standing before Dan'l
Webster and gazing at that animal with an expression of acute
"Is this your--horse?" demanded the newcomer, pausing before the
final word of his question.
"It's so cal'lated to be," replied Gabe, with dignity.
"Hum! Does he work nights?"
"Work nights? No, course he don't!"
"Oh, all right! Then you can wake him up with a clear conscience.
I didn't know but he needed the sleep. What's his record?"
"Yup; his trottin' record. Anybody can see he's built for speed,
narrow in the beam and sharp fore and aft. Shall I get aboard the
The depot master, who was on hand to help with the trunk, grinned
broadly. Mr. Lumley sulkily made answer that his passenger might
get aboard if he wanted to. Apparently he wanted to, for he sprang
into the depot wagon with a bounce that made the old vehicle rock
on its springs.
"Jerushy!" he exclaimed, "she rolls some, don't she? Never mind,
MY ballast 'll keep her on an even keel. Trunk made fast astern?
All right! Say! you might furl some of this spare canvas so's I
can take an observation as we go along. Don't go so fast that the
scenery gets blurred, will you? It's been some time since I made
this cruise, and I'd rather like to keep a lookout."
The driver "furled the canvas"--that is, he rolled up the curtains
at the sides of the carryall. Then he climbed to the front seat
and took up the reins.
"Git up!" he shouted savagely. Dan'l Webster did not move.
The passenger offered a suggestion. "Why don't you try hangin' an
alarm clock in his fore-riggin'?" he asked.
"Haw! haw!" roared the depot master.
"Git up, you--you lump!" bellowed the harassed Mr. Lumley. Dan'l
pricked up one ear, then a hoof, and slowly got under way. As the
equipage passed the Baker homestead, the whole family was clustered
about the gate, staring at the occupant of the wagon. The stare
"Who lives in there?" demanded the stranger. "Who are those folks?"
"Ceph Baker's tribe," was the sullen answer.
"Baker, hey? Humph! new folks, I presume likely. Used to be Seth
Snow's house, that did. Where'd Seth go to?"
Gabe grunted that he did not know. He believed Mr. Snow was dead,
had died years before.
"Humph! dead, hey? Then I know where he went. Do you ever smoke--
or does drivin' this horse make you too nervous?"
Mr. Lumley thawed a bit at the sight of the proffered cigar. He
admitted that he smoked occasionally and that he guessed "'twouldn't
interfere with the drivin' none."
"Good enough! then we'll light up. I can talk better if I'm under
a head of steam. There's a new house; who built that?"
The "new" house was fifteen years old, but Gabe gave the name of
its builder. Then, thinking that the catechising had been
altogether too one-sided, he ventured an observation of his own.
"This is a pretty good cigar, Mister," he said. "Smokes like a
"Like a what?"
"Like a Snowflake. That's about the best straight five center you
can get around here. Simmons used to keep 'em, but the drummer's
cart ain't called lately and he's all out."
"That's a shame. I told the train boy that these smoked like
somethin', but I didn't know what to call it. Much obliged to you.
Here's another; put it in your pocket. Oh, no thanks; pleasure's
all mine. Who's Simmons?"
Gabe described the Simmons general store and its proprietor. Then
"I was noticin' that trunk of yours, mister; it's all plastered
over with labels, ain't it? Cal'late that trunk's done some
"Think so, do you?"
"Yup. Gee! I'd like to travel myself. But no! I got to stay all
my life in this dead 'n' alive hole. I wanted to go to Boston and
clerk in a store, but the old man put his foot down, and here I've
stuck ever sence. Git up, Dan'l! What's the matter with you?"
The passenger smiled, but there was a dreamy look in his gray eyes.
"Don't find fault, son," he said. "There's worse places in the
world than old Bayport, and worse judgment than mindin' your dad.
Don't forget that or you may be sorry for it some day." He sniffed
eagerly. "Ah!" he exclaimed, "just smell that, will you? Ain't
"Humph! that's the flats. You can smell 'em any time when the
tide's out and the wind's right. You see, the tide goes out pretty
fur here and--"
"Don't I know it? Son, I've been waitin' thirty odd year for that
smell and here 'tis at last. Drive slow and let me fill up on it.
Just blow that--that Snowstorm of yours the other way for a spell,
won't you? Thanks."
The request to be driven slow was so superfluous that Mr. Lumley
paid no attention to it. He puffed industriously at the Snowflake
and watched his companion, who, leaning forward on the seat, was
gazing out at the town and the bay beyond it. The "depot hill" is
not as high as Whittaker's Hill, but the view is almost as
"Excuse me, Mister," observed Gabe, after an interval, "but you
ain't said where you're goin'."
The passenger came out of his day dream with a start.
"Why, that's right!" he exclaimed. "So I haven't! Well, now,
where would you go, if you was me? Is there a hotel or tavern or
"Yup. There's the Bayport Hotel. 'Tain't exactly a hotel, neither.
We call it the perfect boardin' house 'round here. You see--"
He proceeded to tell the story of "the perfect boarding house."
His listener seemed greatly interested, and although he laughed,
did not interrupt until the tale was ended.
"So!" he said, chuckling. "Bailey Bangs, hey? Stub Bangs! Well,
well! And he married Ketury Payson! How in time did he ever find
spunk enough to propose? And Ketury runs the perfect boardin'
house! Well, that ought to be job enough for one woman. She runs
Bailey, too, on the side, I s'pose?"
"You bet you! He don't dast to say 'boo' to a chicken when she's
'round. I say, Mister! I don't know's I know your name, do I? I
judge you've been here afore so--"
"Yes, I've been here before. Whose is that big place up there
across our bows? The one with the cupola on the main truck?"
"That, sir," said Mr. Lumley, oratorically, "belongs to the
Honorable Heman G. Atkins, and it's probably the finest in this
county. Heman is our representative in Washin'ton, and-- Did you
The passenger had said something, but he did not repeat it. He was
leaning from the carriage and gazing steadily up the slope ahead.
And his gaze, strange to say, was not directed at the imposing
Atkins estate, but at its opposite neighbor, the old "Cy Whittaker
Slowly, laboriously, Dan'l Webster mounted the hill. At the crest
he would have paused to take breath, but the driver would not let
"Git along, you!" he commanded, flapping the reins.
And then Mr. Lumley suffered the shock of a surprise. The hitherto
cool and self-possessed occupant of the rear seat seemed very much
excited. His big red hand clasped Mr. Lumley's over the reins, and
Dan'l was brought to an abrupt standstill.
"Heave to!" he ordered, sharply, and the tone was that of one who
has given many orders and expects them to be obeyed. "Belay!
Whoa, there! Great land of love! look at that! LOOK at it! Who
The mate to the big red hand pointed to the front door of the
Whittaker place. Gabe was alarmed.
"Done what? Done which?" he gasped. "What you talkin' about?
There ain't nobody lives in there. That house has been empty for--"
"Where's the front fence?" demanded the excited passenger. "What's
become of the hedge? And who put up that--that darned piazza?"
The piazza had been where it now was almost since Mr. Lumley could
remember. He hastened to reply that he didn't know; he wasn't
sure; he presumed likely 'twas "them New Hampshire Howeses," when
they ran a summer boarding house.
The stranger drew a long breath. "Well, of all the--" he began.
Then he choked, hesitated, and ordered his driver to heave ahead
and run alongside the hotel as quick as the Almighty would let him.
Gabe hastened to obey. He was now absolutely certain that his
companion was an escaped lunatic, and the sooner another keeper was
appointed the better. The remainder of the trip was made in
Mrs. Bangs opened the door of the perfect boarding house and stood
majestically waiting to receive the prospective guest. Over her
shoulders peered the faces of the boarders.
"Good afternoon," began the landlady. "I presume likely you would
She was interrupted. The newcomer turned toward her and extended
"Hello, Ketury!" he said. "I ain't seen you sence you wore your
hair up, but you're just as good-lookin' as ever. And ain't that
Bailey? Yes, 'tis, and Asaph, too! How are you, boys? Shake!"
Mr. Bangs and his chum, the town clerk, had emerged from the
doorway. Their mouths and eyes were wide open and they seemed to
be suffering from a sort of paralysis.
"Well? What's the matter with you?" demanded the arrival. "Ain't
too stuck up to shake hands after all these years, are you?"
Bailey's mouth closed in order that it's possessor might swallow.
Then it slowly reopened.
"I swan to man!" he ejaculated. "WELL! I swan to man! I--I b'lieve
you're Cy Whittaker!"
"Course I am. Have to dye my carrot top if I want to play anybody
else. But look here, boys, you answer my question: who had the
cheek to rig up that blasted piazza on my house? It starts to come
down to-morrow mornin'!"
Miss Angeline Phinney made no less than nine calls that afternoon.
Before bedtime it was known, from the last house in Woodchuck Lane
to the fish shanties at West Bayport, that "young Cy" Whittaker had
come back; that he had come back "for good"; that he was staying
temporarily at the perfect boarding house; that he was "awful well
off"--having made lots of money down in South America; that he
intended to "fix over" the Whittaker place, and that it was to be
fixed over, not in a modern manner, with plush parlor sets--a la
Sylvanus Cahoon--nor with onyx tables and blue and gold chairs like
those adorning the Atkins mansion. It was to be, as near as
possible, a reproduction of what it had been in the time of the
late "Cap'n Cy," young Cy's father.
"_I_ think he's out of his head," declared Miss Phinney, in
confidence, to each of the nine females whom she favored with her
calls. "Not crazy, you understand, but sort of touched in the
upper story. I says so to Matildy Tripp, said it right out, too:
'Matildy,' I says, 'he's got a screw loose up aloft just as sure as
you're a born woman!' 'What makes you think so?' says she.
'Well,' says I, 'do you s'pose anybody that wan't foolish would be
for spendin' good money on an old house to make it OLDER?' I says.
Goin' to tear down the piazza the fust thing! Perfectly good
piazza that cost ninety-eight dollars and sixty cents to build; I
know, because I see the bill when the Howeses had it done. And
he's goin' to set out box hedges, somethin' that ain't been the
style in this town sence Congressman Atkins pulled up his. 'What
in the world, Cap'n Whittaker,' says I to him, 'do you want of box
hedges? Homely and stiff and funeral lookin'! I might have 'em
around my grave in the buryin' ground,' I says, 'but nowheres
else.' 'All right, Angie,' says he, 'you shall have 'em there;
I'll cut some slips purpose for you. It'll be a pleasure,' he
says. Now ain't that crazy talk for a grown man?"
Miss Phinney was not the only one in our village to question
Captain Cy Whittaker's sanity during the next few months. The
majority of our people didn't understand him at all. He was
generally liked, for although he had money, he did not put on airs,
but he had his own way of doing things, and they were not Bayport
True to his promise, he had a squad of carpenters busy, on the day
following his arrival, tearing down the loathed piazza. These
carpenters, and more, were kept busy throughout that entire spring
and well into the summer. Then came painters and gardeners. The
piazza disappeared; a new picket fence, exactly like the old one
torn down by the Howeses, was erected; new shutters were hung; new
windowpanes were set; the roof was newly shingled. Captain Cy,
Senior, had, in his day, cherished a New England fondness for white
and green paint; therefore the new fence was white and the house
was white and the blinds a brilliant green. Rows of box hedge, the
plants brought from Boston, were set out on each side of the front
walk. The Howes front-door bell--a clamorous gong--was removed,
and a glass knob attached to a spring bell of the old-fashioned
"jingle" variety took its place. An old-fashioned flower garden--
Cap'n Cy's mother had loved posies--was laid out on the west lawn
beyond the pear trees. All these changes the captain superintended;
when they were complete he turned his attention to interior
And now Captain Cy proceeded to, literally, astonish the natives.
Among the Howes "improvements" were gilt wall papers and modern
furniture for the lower floor of the house. The furniture they had
taken with them; the wall paper had perforce been left behind. And
the captain had every scrap of that paper stripped from the walls,
and the latter re-covered with quaint, ugly, old-fashioned patterns,
stripes and roses and flowered sprays with impossible birds flitting
among them. The Bassett decorators has pasted the gilt improvement
over the old Whittaker paper, and it was the Whittaker paper that
the captain did his best to match, sending samples here, there, and
everywhere in the effort. Then, upon the walls he hung old-fashioned
pictures, such as Bayport dwellers had long ago relegated to their
attics, pictures like "From Shore to Shore," "Christian Viewing the
City Beautiful," and "Signing the Declaration." To these he added,
bringing them from the crowded garret of the homestead, oil paintings
of ships commanded by his father and grandfather, and family
portraits, executed--which is a peculiarly fitting word--by deceased
local artists in oil and crayon.
He boarded up the fireplace in the sitting room and installed a
base-burner stove, resurrected from the tinsmith's barn. He
purchased a full "haircloth set" of parlor furniture from old Mrs.
Penniman, who never had been known to sell any of her hoarded
belongings before, even to the "antiquers," and wouldn't have done
so now, had it not been that the captain's offer was too princely
to be real, and the old lady feared she might be dreaming and would
wake up before she received the money. And from Trumet to Ostable
he journeyed, buying a chair here and a table there, braided rag
mats from this one, and corded bedsteads and "rising sun" quilts
from that. At least half of Bayport believed with Gabe Lumley and
Miss Phinney that, if Captain Cy had not escaped from a home for
the insane, he was a likely candidate for such an institution.
At the table of the perfect boarding house the captain was not
inclined to be communicative regarding his reasons and his
intentions. He was a prime favorite there, praising Keturah's
cooking, joking with Angeline concerning what he was pleased to call
her "giddy" manner of dressing and wearing "side curls," and telling
yarns of South American dress and behavior, which would probably
have shocked Mrs. Tripp--she having recently left the Methodist
church to join the "Come-Outers," because the Sunday services of the
former were, with the organ and a paid choir, altogether "too
play-actin'"--if they had not been so interesting, and if Captain Cy
had not always concluded them with the observation: "But there! you
can't expect nothin' more from ignorant critters denied the
privileges of congregational singin' and experience meetin's; hey,
Mrs. Tripp would sigh and admit that she supposed not.
"Only I do wish Mr. Daniels, OUR minister, might have a chance to
preach over 'em, poor things!"
"So do I," with a covert wink at Mrs. Bangs, who was a stanch
adherent of the regular faith. "South America 'd be just the place
for him; ain't that so, Keturah?"
He evaded all personal questions put to him by the boarders,
explaining that he was renovating the old place just for fun--he
always had had a gang of men working for him, and it seemed natural
somehow. But to the friends of his boyhood, Asaph Tidditt and
Bailey Bangs, he told the real truth.
"I swan to man!" exclaimed Bailey, almost tearfully, as the trio
wandered through the rooms of the Cy Whittaker place, dodging paper
hangers and plasterers; "I swan to man, Whit, if it don't almost
seem as though I was a boy again. Why! it's your dad's house come
back alive, it is so! Look at this settin' room! Seem's if I
could see him now a-settin' by that ere stove, and Mrs. Whittaker,
your ma, over there a-sewin', and old Cap'n Cy--your granddad--
snoozin' in that big armchair-- Why! why, whit! it's the very
image of the chair he always set in!"
Captain Cy laughed aloud.
"It's more n' that, Bailey," he said; "it's THE chair. 'Twas up
attic, all busted and crippled, but I had it made over like new.
And there's granddad's picture, lookin' just as I remember him--
only he wan't quite so much of a frozen wax image as he's painted
there. I'm goin' to hang it where it always hung, over the
mantelpiece, next to the lookin' glass.
"Great land of love, boys!" he went on, "you fellers don't know
what this means to me. Many and many's the time I've had this old
house and this old room in my mind. I've seen 'em aboard ship in a
howlin' gale off the Horn. I've seen 'em down in Surinam of a hot
night, when there wan't a breath scurcely and the Caribs went
around dressed in a handkerchief and a paper cigar, and it made you
wish you could. I've seen 'em--but there! every time I've seen 'em
I've swore that some day I'd come back and LIVE 'em, and now, by
the big dipper! here I am. Oh, I tell you, chummies, you want to
be fired OUT of a home and out of a town to appreciate 'em! Not
that I blame the old man; he and I was too much alike to cruise in
company. But Bayport I was born in, and in the Bayport graveyard
they can plant me when I'm ready for the scrap heap. It's in the
blood and-- Why, see here! Don't I TALK like a Bayporter?"
"You sartin do!" replied Asaph emphatically.
"A body 'd think you'd been diggin' clams and pickin' cranberries
in Bassett's Holler all your life long, to hear you."
"You bet! Well, that's pride; that's what that is. I prided
myself on hangin' to the Bayport twang through thick and thin.
Among all the Spanish 'Carambas' and 'Madre de Dioses' it did me
good to come out with a good old Yankee 'darn' once in a while.
Kept me feelin' like a white man. Oh, I'm a Whittaker! _I_ know
it. And I've got all the Whittaker pig-headedness, I guess. And
because the old man--bless his heart, I say now--told me I
shouldn't BE a Whittaker no more, nor live like a Whittaker, I
simply swore up and down I would be one and come back here, when
I'd made my pile, to heave anchor and stay one till I die. Maybe
that's foolishness, but it's me."
He puffed vigorously at the pipe which had taken the place of the
Snowflake cigar, and added:
"Take this old settin' room--why, here it is; see! Here's dad in
his chair and ma in hers, and, if you go back far enough, granddad
in his, just as you say, Bailey. And here's me, a little shaver,
squattin' on the floor by the stove, lookin' at the pictures in a
heap of Godey's Lady's Book. And says dad, 'Bos'n,' he says--he
used to call me 'Bos'n' in those days--'Bos'n,' says dad, 'run down
cellar and fetch me up a pitcher of cider, that's a good feller.'
Yes, yes; that's this room as I've seen it in my mind ever since I
tiptoed through it the night I run away, with my duds in a bundle
under my arm. Do you wonder I was fightin' mad when I saw what
that Howes tribe had done to it?"
Superintending the making over of the old home occupied most of
Captain Cy's daylight time that summer. His evenings were spent at
Simmons's store. We have no clubs in Bayport, strictly speaking,
for the sewing circle and the Shakespeare Reading Society are
exclusively feminine in membership; therefore Simmons's store is
the gathering place of those males who are bachelors or widowers
or who are sufficiently free from petticoat government to risk an
occasional evening out. Asaph Tidditt was a regular sojourner at
the store. Bailey Bangs, happening in to purchase fifty cents'
worth of sugar or to have the molasses jug filled, lingered
occasionally, but not often. Captain Cy explained Bailey's absence
in characteristic fashion.
"Variety," observed the captain, "is the spice of life. Bailey
gets talk enough to home. What's the use of his comin' up here to
"Oh, I don't know," said Josiah Dimick, with a grin, "we let him do
some of the talkin' himself up here. Down at the boardin' house
Keturah and Angie Phinney do it all."
"Yes. Still, if a feller was condemned to live over a biler
factory he wouldn't hanker to get a job IN it, would he? When
Bailey was a delegate to the Methodist Conference up in Boston, him
and a crowd visited the deef and dumb asylum. When 'twas time to
go, he was missin', and they found him in the female ward lookin'
at the inmates. Said that the sight of all them women, every one
of 'em not able to say a word, was the most wonderful thing ever he
laid eyes on. Said it made him feel kind of reverent and holy,
almost as if he was in Paradise. So Ase Tidditt says, anyway; it's
"'Tain't nuther, Cy Whittaker!" declared the indignant Asaph. "If
you expect I'm goin' to father all your lies, you're mistaken."
The crowd at Simmons's discuss politics, as a general thing; state
and national politics in their seasons, but county politics and
local affairs always. The question in Bayport that summer, aside
from that of the harbor appropriation, was who should be hired as
downstairs teacher. Our schoolhouse is a two-story building, with
a schoolroom on each floor. The lower room, where the little tots
begin with their "C--A--T Cat," and progress until they have
mastered the Fourth Reader, is called " downstairs." "Upstairs"
is, of course, the second story, where the older children are
taught. To handle some of the "big boys" upstairs is a task for a
healthy man, and such a one usually fills the teacher's position
there. Downstairs being, in theory, at least, less strenuous, is
presided over by a woman.
Miss Seabury, who had been downstairs teacher for one lively term,
had resigned that spring in tears and humiliation. Her scholars
had enjoyed themselves and would have liked her to continue, but
the committee and the townspeople thought otherwise. There was a
general feeling that enjoyment was not the whole aim of education.
"Betty," said Captain Dimick, referring to his small granddaughter,
"has done fust rate so fur's marksmanship and lung trainin' goes.
I cal'late she can hit a nail head ten foot off with a spitball
three times out of four, and she can whisper loud enough to be
understood in Jericho. But, not wishing to be unreasonable, still
I should like to have her spell 'door' without an 'e.' I've always
been used to seein' it spelled that way and--well, I'm kind of old-
There was a difference of opinion concerning Miss Seabury's
successor. A portion of the townspeople were for hiring a graduate
of the State Normal School, a young woman with modern training.
Others, remembering that Miss Seabury had graduated from that
school, were for proved ability and less up-to-date methods. These
latter had selected a candidate in the person of a Miss Phoebe
Dawes, a resident of Wellmouth, and teacher of the Wellmouth
"downstairs" for some years. The arguments at Simmons's were hot
"What's the use of hirin' somebody from right next door to us, as
you might say?" demanded Alpheus Smalley, clerk at the store.
"Don't we want our teachin' to be abreast of the times, and is
Wellmouth abreast of ANYthing?"
"It's abreast of the bay, that's about all, I will give in,"
replied Mr. Tidditt. "But, the way I look at it, we need disCIPline
more 'n anything else, and Phoebe Dawes has had the best disCIPline
in her school, that's been known in these latitudes. Order? Why,
say! Eben Salters told me that when he visited her room over there
'twas so still that he didn't dast to rub one shoe against t'other,
it sounded up so. He had to set still and bear his chilblains best
he could. And POPULAR! Why, when she hinted that she might leave
in May, her scholars more 'n ha'f of 'em, bust out cryin'. Now you
hear me, I--"
"It seems to me," put in Thaddeus Simpson, who ran the barber shop
and was something of a politician, "it seems to me, fellers, that
we'd better wait and hear what Mr. Atkins has to say in this
matter. I guess that's what the committee 'll do, anyhow. We
wouldn't want to go contrary to Heman, none of us; hey?"
"Tad" Simpson was known to be deep in Congressman Atkins's
confidence. The mention of the great man's name was received with
reverence and nods of approval.
"That's right. We mustn't do nothin' to displease Heman," was the
Captain Cy did not join the chorus. He refilled his pipe and
crossed his legs.
"Humph!" he grunted. "Heman Atkins seems to be-- Give me a match,
Ase, won't you? Thanks. I understand there's a special prayer
meetin' at the church to-morrow night, Alpheus. What's it for?"
"For?" Mr. Smalley seemed surprised. "It's to pray for rain,
that's what. You know it, Cap'n, as well's I do. Ain't everybody's
garden dryin' up and the ponds so low that we shan't be able to
get water for the cranberry ditches pretty soon? There's need
to pray, I should think!"
"Humph! Seems a roundabout way of gettin' a thing, don't it? Why
don't you telegraph to Heman and ask him to fix it for you? Save
This remark was received in horrified silence. Tad Simpson was the
first to recover.
"Cap'n," he said, "you ain't met Mr. Atkins yet. When you do,
you'll feel same as the rest of us. He's comin' home next week;
then you'll see."
A part at least of Mr. Simpson's prophecy proved true. The Honorable
Atkins did come to Bayport the following week, accompanied by his
little daughter Alicia, the housekeeper, and the Atkins servants.
The Honorable and his daughter had been, since the adjournment of
Congress, on a pleasure trip to the Yosemite and Yellowstone Park,
and now they were to remain in the mansion on the hill for some
time. The big house was opened, the stone urns burst into refulgent
bloom, the iron dogs were refreshed with a coat of black paint, and
the big iron gate was swung wide. Bayport sat up and took notice.
Angeline Phinney was in her glory.
The meeting between Captain Cy and Mr. Atkins took place the
morning after the latter's return. The captain and his two chums
had been inspecting the progress made by the carpenters and were
leaning over the new fence, then just erected, but not yet painted.
Down the gravel walk of the mansion across the road came strolling
its owner, silk-hatted, side-whiskered, benignant.
"Godfrey!" exclaimed Asaph. "There's Heman. See him, Whit?"
"Yup, I see him. Seems to be headin' this way."
"I--I do believe he's comin' across," whispered Mr. Bangs. "Yes,
he is. He's real everyday, Cy. HE won't mind if you ain't dressed
"Won't he? That's comfortin'. Well, I'll do the best I can
without stimulants, as the doctor says. If you hear my knees
rattle just nudge me, will you, Bailey?"
Mr. Tidditt removed his hat. Bailey touched his. Captain Cy
looked provokingly indifferent; he even whistled.
"Good mornin', Mr. Atkins," hailed the town clerk, raising his
voice because of the whistle. "I'm proud to see you back among us,
sir. Hope you and Alicia had a nice time out West. How is she--
Mr. Atkins smiled a bland, congressional smile. He approached the
group by the fence and extended his hand.
"Ah, Asaph!" he said; "it is you then? I thought so. And Bailey,
too. It is certainly delightful to see you both again. Yes, my
daughter is well, I thank you. She, like her father, is glad to be
back in the old home nest after the round of hotel life and gayety
which we have--er--recently undergone. Yes."
"Mr. Atkins," said Bailey, glancing nervously at Captain Cy, who
had stopped whistling and was regarding the Atkins hat and whiskers
with an interested air, "I want to make you acquainted with your
new neighbor. You used to know him when you was a boy, but--but--
er--Mr. Atkins, this is Captain Cyrus Whittaker. Cy, this is
Congressman Atkins. You've heard us speak of him."
The great man started.
"Is it possible!" he exclaimed. "Is it possible that this is
really my old playmate Cyrus Whittaker?"
"Yup," replied the captain calmly. "How are you, Heman? Fatter'n
you used to be, ain't you? Washin'ton must agree with you."
Bailey and Asaph were scandalized. Mr. Atkins himself seemed a
trifle taken aback. Comments on his personal appearance were not
usual in Bayport. But he rallied bravely.
"Well, well!" he cried. "Cyrus, I am delighted to welcome you back
among us. I should scarcely have known you. You are older--yes,
"Well, forty year more or less, added to what you started with, is
apt to make a feller some older. Don't need any Normal School
graduate to do that sum for us. I'm within seven or eight year of
bein' as old as you are, Heman, and that's too antique to be sold
Mr. Atkins changed the subject.
"I had heard of your return, Cyrus," he said. "It gave me much
pleasure to learn that you were rebuilding and--er--renovating
"The old home nest? Yup, I'm puttin' back a few feathers. Old
birds like to roost comf'table. You've got a fairly roomy coop
"Hum! Isn't it--er--I should suppose you would find it rather
expensive. Can you--do you--"
"Yes, I can afford it, thank you. Maybe there'll be enough left in
the stockin' to buy a few knickknacks for the yard. You can't
The captain glanced at the iron dogs guarding the Atkins gate. His
tone was rather sharp.
"Yes, yes, certainly; certainly; of course. It gives me much
pleasure to have you as a neighbor. I have always felt a fondness
for the old place, even when you allowed it--even when it was most--
er--run down, if you'll excuse the term. I always felt a liking
for it and--"
"Yes," was the significant interruption. "I judged you must have,
from what I heard."
This was steering dangerously close to the selectmen and the
contemplated "sale for taxes." The town clerk broke in nervously.
"Mr. Atkins," he said, "there's been consider'ble talk in town
about who's to be teacher downstairs this comin' year. We've sort
of chawed it over among us, but naturally we wanted your opinion.
What do you think? I'm kind of leanin' toward the Dawes woman,
The Congressman cleared his throat.
"Far be it from me," he said, "to speak except as a mere member of
our little community, an ordinary member, but, AS such a member,
with the welfare of my birthplace very near and dear to me, I
confess that I am inclined to favor a modern teacher, one educated
and trained in the institution provided for the purpose by our
great commonwealth. The Dawes--er--person is undoubtedly worthy
and capable in her way, but--well--er--we know that Wellmouth is
The reference to "our great commonwealth" had been given in the
voice and the manner wont to thrill us at our Fourth-of-July
celebrations and October "rallies." Two of his hearers, at least,
were visibly impressed. Asaph looked somewhat crestfallen, but he
surrendered gracefully to superior wisdom.
"That's so," he said. "That's so, ain't it, Cy? I hadn't thought
"What's so?" asked the captain.
"Why--why, that Wellmouth ain't Bayport."
"No doubt of it. They're twenty miles apart."
"Yes. Well, I'm glad to hear you put it so conclusive, Mr. Atkins.
I can see now that Phoebe wouldn't do. Hum! Yes."
Mr. Atkins buttoned the frock coat and turned to go.
"Good day, gentlemen," he said. "Cyrus, permit me once more to
welcome you heartily to our village. We--my daughter and myself--
will probably remain at home until the fall. I trust you will be a
frequent caller. Run in on us at any time. Pray do not stand upon
"No," said Captain Cy shortly, "I won't."
"That's right. That's right. Good morning."
He walked briskly down the hill. The trio gazed after him.
"Well," sighed Mr. Tidditt. "That's settled. And it's a comfort
to know 'tis settled. Still I did kind of want Phoebe Dawes; but
of course Heman knows best."
"Course he knows best!" snapped Bailey. "Ain't he the biggest gun
in this county, pretty nigh? I'd like to know who is if he ain't.
The committee 'll call the Normal School girl now, and a good
Captain Cy was still gazing at the dignified form of the "biggest
gun in the county."
"Let's see," he asked. "Who's on the school committee? Eben
Salters, of course, and--"
"Yes. Eben's chairman and he'll vote Phoebe, anyhow; he's that
pig-headed that nobody--not even a United States Representative--
could change him. But Darius Ellis 'll be for Heman's way and so
'll Lemuel Myrick.
"Lemuel Myrick? Lem Myrick, the painter?"
"Sartin. There ain't but one Myrick in town."
"Hum!" murmured the captain and was silent for some minutes.
The school committee met on the following Wednesday evening. On
Thursday morning a startling rumor spread throughout Bayport.
Phoebe Dawes had been called, by a vote of two to one, to teach the
downstairs school. Asaph, aghast, rushed out of Simmons's store
and up to the hill to the Cy Whittaker place. He found Captain Cy
in the front yard. Mr. Myrick, school committeeman and house
painter, was with him.
"Hello, Ase!" hailed the captain. "What's the matter? Hasn't the
tide come in this mornin'?"
Asaph, somewhat embarrassed by the presence of Mr. Myrick, hesitated
over his news. Lemuel came to his rescue.
"Ase has just heard that we called Phoebe," he said. "What of it?
I voted for her, and I ain't ashamed of it."
"But--but Mr. Atkins, he--"
"Well, Heman ain't on the committee, is he? I vote the way I think
right, and no one in this town can change me. Anyway," he added,
"I'm going to resign next spring. Yes, Cap'n Whittaker, I think
three coats of white 'll do on the sides here."
"Lem's goin' to do my paintin' jobs," explained Captain Cy. "His
price was a little higher than some of the other fellers, but I
like his work."
Mr. Tidditt pondered deeply until dinner time. Then he cornered
the captain behind the Bangs barn and spoke with conviction.
"Whit," he said, "you're the one responsible for the committee's
hirin' Phoebe Dawes. You offered Lem the paintin' job if he'd vote
for her. What did you do it for? You don't know her, do you?"
"Never set eyes on her in my life."
"Then--then-- You heard Heman say he wanted the other one. What
made you do it?"
Captain Cy grinned.
"Ase," he said, "I've always been a great hand for tryin'
experiments. Had one of my cooks aboard put raisins in the
flapjacks once, just to see what they tasted like. I judged Heman
had had his own way in this town for thirty odd year. I kind of
wanted to see what would happen if he didn't have it."
BAILEY BANGS'S EXPERIMENT
Lemuel Myrick's painting jobs have the quality so prized by our
village small boys in the species of candy called "jaw breakers,"
namely, that of "lasting long." But even Lem must finish sometime
or other and, late in July, the Cy Whittaker place was ready for
occupancy. The pictures were in their places on the walls, the
old-fashioned furniture filled the rooms, there was even a pile of
old magazines, back numbers of Godey's Lady's Book, on the shelf in
the sitting room closet.
Then, when Captain Cy had notified Mrs. Bangs that the perfect
boarding house would shelter him no longer than the coming week, a
new problem arose.
"Whit," said Asaph earnestly, "you've sartin made the place rise up
out of its tomb; you have so. It's a miracle, pretty nigh, and I
cal'late it must have cost a heap, but you've done it--all but the
old folks themselves. You can't raise them up, Cy; money won't do
that. And you can't live in this great house all alone. Who's
goin' to cook for you, and sweep and dust, and swab decks, and one
thing a'nother? You'll have to have a housekeeper, as I told you a
spell ago. Have you done any thinkin' about that?"
And the captain, taking his pipe from his lips, stared blankly at
his friend, and answered:
"By the big dipper, Ase, I ain't! I remember we did mention it,
but I've been so busy gettin' this craft off the ways that I forgot
all about it."
The discussion which followed Mr. Tidditt's reminder was long and
serious. Asaph and Bailey Bangs racked their brains and offered
numerous suggestions, but the majority of these were not favorably
"There's Matildy Tripp," said Bailey. "She'd like the job, I'm
sartin. She's a widow, too, and she's had experience keepin' house
along of Tobias, him that was her husband. But, if you do hire
her, don't let Ketury know I hinted at it, 'cause we're goin' to
lose one boarder when you quit, and that's too many, 'cordin' to
the old lady's way of thinkin'."
"You can keep Matildy, for all me," replied the captain decidedly.
"Come-Outer religion's all right, for those that have that kind of
appetite, but havin' it passed to me three times a day, same as
I've had it at your house, is enough; I don't hanker to have it
warmed over between meals. If I shipped Matildy aboard here she
and the Reverend Daniels would stand over me, watch and watch, till
I was converted or crazy, one or the other."
"Well, there's Angie. She--"
"Angie!" sniffed Mr. Tidditt. "Stop your jokin', Bailey. This is
a serious matter."
"I wan't jokin'. What--"
"There! there! boys," interrupted the captain; "don't fight.
Bailey didn't mean to joke, Ase; he's full of what the papers call
'unconscious humor.' I'll give in that Angie is about as serious a
matter as I can think of without settin' down to rest. Humph! so
fur we haven't gained any knots to speak of. Any more candidates
on your mind?"
More possibilities were mentioned, but none of them seemed to fill
the bill. The conference broke up without arriving at a decision.
Mr. Bangs and the town clerk walked down the hill together.
"Do you know, Bailey," said Asaph, "the way I look at it, this
pickin' out a housekeeper for Whit ain't any common job. It's
somethin' to think over. Cy's a restless critter; been cruisin'
hither and yon all his life. I'm sort of scared that he'll get
tired of Bayport and quit if things here don't go to suit him. Now
if a real good nice woman--a nice LOOKIN' woman, say--was to keep
house for him it--it--"
"Well, I mean--that is, don't you s'pose if some such woman as that
was to be found for the job he might in time come to like her and--
"Ase Tidditt, what are you drivin' at?"
"Why, I mean he might come to marry her; there! Then he'd be
contented to settle down to home and stay put. What do you think
of the idea?"
"Think of it? I think it's the dumdest foolishness ever I heard.
I declare if the very mention of a woman to some of you old baches
don't make your heads soften up like a jellyfish in the sun! Ain't
Cy Whittaker got money? Ain't he got a nice home? Ain't he happy?"
"Yes, he is now, I s'pose, but--"
"WELL, then! And you want him to get married! What do you know
about marryin'? Never tried it, have you?"
"Course I ain't! You know I ain't."
"All right. Then I'd keep quiet about such things, if I was you."
"You needn't fly up like a settin' hen. Everybody's wife ain't--"
He stopped in the middle of the sentence.
"What's that?" demanded his companion, sharply.
"Nothin'; nothin'. _I_ don't care; I was only tryin' to fix things
comf'table for Whit. Has Heman said anything about the harbor
appropriation sence he's been home? I haven't heard of it if he
Mr. Bangs's answer was a grunt, signifying a negative. Congressman
Atkins had been, since his return to Bayport, exceedingly
noncommittal concerning the appropriation. To Tad Simpson and a
very few chosen lieutenants and intimates he had said that he hoped
to get it; that was all. This was a disquieting change of
attitude, for, at the beginning of the term just passed, he had
affirmed that he was GOING to get it. However, as Mr. Simpson
reassuringly said: "The job's in as good hands as can be, so
what's the use of OUR worryin'?"
Bailey Bangs certainly was not troubled on that score; but the town
clerk's proposal that Captain Cy be provided with a suitable wife
did worry him. Bailey was so very much married himself and had
such decided, though unspoken, views concerning matrimony that such
a proposal seemed to him lunacy, pure and simple. He had liked and
admired his friend "Whit" in the old days, when the latter led them
into all sorts of boyish scrapes; now he regarded him with a liking
that was close to worship. The captain was so jolly and outspoken;
so brave and independent--witness his crossing of the great Atkins
in the matter of the downstairs teacher. That was a reckless piece
of folly which would, doubtless, be rewarded after its kind, but
Bailey, though he professed to condemn it, secretly wished he had
the pluck to dare such things. As it was, he didn't dare contradict
With the exception of one voyage as cabin boy to New Orleans, a
voyage which convinced him that he was not meant for a seaman, Mr.
Bangs had never been farther from his native village than Boston.
Captain Cy had been almost everywhere and seen almost everything.
He could spin yarns that beat the serial stories in the patent
inside of the Bayport Breeze all hollow. Bailey had figured that,
when the "fixin' over" was ended, the Cy Whittaker place would be
for him a delightful haven of refuge, where he could put his boots
on the furniture, smoke until dizzy without being pounced upon, be
entertained and thrilled with tales of adventure afloat and ashore,
and even express his own opinion, when he had any, with the voice
and lung power of a free-born American citizen.
And now Asaph Tidditt, who should know better, even though he was a
bachelor, wanted to bring a wife into this paradise; not a paid
domestic who could be silenced, or discharged, if she became a
nuisance, but a WIFE! Bailey guessed not; not if he could prevent
So he lay awake nights thinking of possible housekeepers for
Captain Cy, and carefully rejecting all those possessing dangerous
attractions of any kind. Each morning, after breakfast, he ran
over the list with the captain, taking care that Asaph was not
present. Captain Cy, who was very busy with the finishing touches
at the new old house, wearied on the third morning.
"There, there, Bailey!" he said. "Don't bother me now. I've got
other things on my mind. How do I know who all these women folks
are you're stringing off to me? Let me alone, do."
"But you must have a housekeeper, Cy. You'll move in Monday and
you won't have nobody to--"
"Oh, dry up! I want to think who I must see this morning. There's
Lem and old lady Penniman, and--"
"But the housekeeper, Cy! Don't you see--"
"Hire one yourself, then. You know 'em; I don't."
"Hey? Hire one myself? Do you mean you'll leave it in my hands?"
"Yes, yes! I guess so. Run along, that's a good feller."
He departed hurriedly. Mr. Bangs scratched his head. A weighty
responsibility had been laid upon him.
Monday morning after breakfast Captain Cy's trunk was put aboard
the depot wagon, and Dan'l Webster drew it to its owner's home.
The farewells at the perfect boarding house were affecting. Mrs.
Tripp said that she had spoken to the Reverend Mr. Daniels, and he
would be sure to call the very first thing. Keturah affirmed that
the captain's stay had been a real pleasure.
"You never find fault, Cap'n Whittaker," she said. "You're such a
manly man, if you'll excuse my sayin' so. I only wish there was
more like you," with a significant glance at her husband. As for
Miss Phinney, she might have been saying good-by yet if the captain
had not excused himself.
Asaph accompanied his friend to the house on the hill. The trunk
was unloaded from the wagon and carried into the bedroom on the
first floor, the room which had been Captain Cy's so long ago.
Gabe shrieked at Dan'l Webster, and the depot wagon crawled away
toward the upper road.
"Got to meet the up train," grumbled the driver. "Not that anybody
ever comes on it, but I cal'late I'm s'posed to be there. Be more
talk than a little if I wan't. Git dap, Dan'l! you're slower'n the
"So you're goin' to do your own cookin' for a spell, Cy?" observed
Asaph, a half hour later, "Well, I guess that's a good idea, till
you can find the right housekeeper. I ain't been able to think of
one that would suit you yet."
"Nor I, either. Neither's Bailey, I judge, though for a while he
was as full of suggestions as a pine grove is of woodticks. He
started to say somethin' about it to me last night, but Ketury hove
in sight and yanked him off to prayer meetin'."
"Yes, I know. She cal'lates to get him into heaven somehow."
"I guess 'twouldn't BE heaven for her unless he was round to pick
at. There he comes now. How'd he get out of wipin' dishes?"
Mr. Bangs strolled into the yard.
"Hello!" he hailed. "I was on my way to Simmons's on an errand and
I thought I'd stop in a minute. Got somethin' to tell you, Whit."
"All right. Overboard with it! It won't keep long this hot
Bailey smiled knowingly. "Didn't I hear the up train whistle as I
was comin' along?" he asked. "Seems to me I did. Yes; well, if I
ain't mistaken somebody's comin' on that train. Somebody for you,
"Somebody for ME?"
"Um--hum! I can gen'rally be depended on, I cal'late, and when you
says to me: 'Bailey, you get me a housekeeper,' I didn't lose much
time. I got her."
Mr. Tidditt gasped.
"GOT her?" he repeated. "Got who? Got what? Bailey Bangs, what
in the world have--"
"Belay, Ase!" ordered Captain Cy. "Bailey, what are you givin'
"Givin' you a housekeeper, and a good one, too, I shouldn't wonder.
She may not be one of them ten-thousand-dollar prize museum
beauties," with a scornful wink at Asaph, "but if what I hear's
true she can keep house. Anyhow she's kept one for forty odd year.
Her name's Deborah Beasley, she's a widow over to East Trumet, and
if I don't miss my guess, she's in the depot wagon now headed in
Captain Cy whistled. Mr. Tidditt was too much surprised to do even
"I was speakin' to the feller that drives the candy cart," continued
Bailey, "and I asked him if he'd run acrost anybody, durin' his
trips 'round the country, who'd be likely to hire out for a
housekeeper. He thought a spell and then named over some. Among 'em
was this Beasley one. I asked some more questions and, the answers
bein' satisfactory to ME, though they might not be to some folks--"
another derisive wink at Asaph--"I set down and wrote her, tellin'
what you'd pay, Cy, what she'd have to do, and when she'd have to
come. Saturday night I got a letter, sayin' terms was all right,
and she'd be on hand by this mornin's train. Course she's only on
trial for a month, but you had to have SOMEBODY, and the candy-cart
The town clerk slapped his knee.
"Debby Beasley!" he cried. "I know who she is! I've got a cousin
in Trumet. Debby Beasley! Aunt Debby, they call her. Why! she's
old enough to be Methusalem's grandmarm, and--"
"If I recollect right," interrupted Bailey, with dignity, "Cy never
said he wanted a YOUNG woman--a frivolous, giddy critter, always
riggin' up and chasin' the fellers. He wanted a sot, sober
"Godfrey! Aunt Debby ain't frivolous! She couldn't chase a lame
clam--and catch it. And DEEF! Godfrey--scissors! she's deefer 'n
one of them cast-iron Newfoundlands in Heman's yard! Do you mean
to say, Bailey Bangs, that you went ahead, on your own hook, and
hired that old relic to--"
"I did. And I had my authority, didn't I, Whit? You told me you'd
leave it in my hands, now didn't you?"
The captain smiled somewhat ruefully, and scratched his head.
"Why, to be honest, Bailey, I believe I did," he admitted. "Still,
I hardly expected--Humph! is she deef, as Ase says?"
"I understand she's a little mite hard of hearin'," replied Mr.
Bangs, with dignity; "but that ain't any drawback, the way I look
at it. Fact is, I'd call it an advantage, but you folks seem to be
hard to please. I ruther imagined you'd thank me for gettin' her,
but I s'pose that was too much to expect. All right, pitch her
out! Don't mind MY feelin's! Poor homeless critter comin' to--"
"Homeless!" repeated Asaph. "What's that got to do with it? Cy
ain't runnin' the Old Woman's Home."
"Well, well!" observed the captain resignedly. "There's no use in
rowin' about what can't be helped. Bailey says he shipped her for
a month's trial, and here comes the depot wagon now. That's her on
the aft thwart, I judge. She AIN'T what you'd call a spring
pullet, is she!"
She certainly was not. The occupant of the depot wagon's rear seat
was a thin, not to say scraggy, female, wearing a black, beflowered
bonnet and a black gown. A black knit shawl was draped about her
shoulders and she wore spectacles.
"Whoa!" commanded Mr. Lumley, piloting the depot wagon to the side
door of the Whittaker house. Dan'l Webster came to anchor
immediately. Gabe turned and addressed his passenger.
"Here we be!" he shouted.
"Hey?" observed the lady in black.
"Here--we--be!" repeated Gabe, raising his voice.
"See? See what?"
"Oh, heavens to Betsey! I'm gettin' the croup from howlin'. I--
say--HERE--WE--BE! GET OUT!"
He accompanied the final bellow with an expressive pantomime
indicating that the passenger was expected to alight. She seemed
to understand, for she opened the door of the carriage and slowly
descended. Mr. Bangs advanced to meet her.
"How d'ye do, Mrs. Beasley!" he said. "Glad to see you all safe
Mrs. Beasley shook his hand; hers were covered, as far as the
knuckles, by black mitts.
"How d'ye do, Cap'n Whittaker?" she said, in a shrill voice. "You
Bailey hastened to explain.
"I ain't Cap'n Whittaker," he roared. "I'm Bailey Bangs, the one
that wrote to you."
Mr. Lumley and Asaph chuckled. Bailey colored and tried again.
"I ain't the cap'n," he whooped. "Here he is--here!"
He led her over to her prospective employer and tapped the latter
on the chest.
"How d'ye do, sir?" said the housekeeper. "I don't know's I just
caught your name."
In five minutes or so the situation was made reasonably clear.
Mrs. Beasley then demanded her trunk and carpet bag. The grinning
Lumley bore them into the house. Then he drove away, still
grinning. Bailey looked fearfully at Captain Cy.
"She IS kind of hard of hearin', ain't she?" he said reluctantly.
"You remember I said she was."
The captain nodded.
"Yes," he answered, "you're a truth-tellin' chap, Bailey, I'll say
that for you. You don't exaggerate your statements."
"Hard of hearin'!" snapped Mr. Tidditt. "If the last trump ain't a
steam whistle she'll miss Judgment Day. I'll stop into Simmons's
on my way along and buy you a bottle of throat balsam, Cy; you're
goin' to need it."
The captain needed more than throat balsam during the fortnight
which followed. The widow Beasley's deafness was not her only
failing. In fact she was altogether a failure, so far as her
housekeeping was concerned. She could cook, after a fashion, but
the fashion was so limited that even the bill of fare at the
perfect boarding house looked tempting in retrospect.
"Baked beans again, Cy!" exclaimed Asaph, dropping in one evening
after supper. "'Tain't Saturday night so soon, is it?"
"No," was the dismal rejoinder. "It's Tuesday, if my almanac ain't
out of joint. But we had beans Saturday and they ain't all gone
yet, so I presume we'll have 'em till the last one's swallowed.
Aunt Debby's got what the piece in the Reader used to call a
'frugal mind.' She don't intend to waste anything. Last Thursday
I spunked up courage enough to yell for salt fish and potatoes--
fixed up with pork scraps, you know, same's we used to have when I
was a boy. We had 'em all right, and if beans of a Saturday hadn't
been part of her religion we'd be warmin' 'em up yet. I took in a
cat for company 'tother day, but the critter's run away. To see it
look at the beans in its saucer and then at me was pitiful; I felt
like handin' myself over to the Cruelty to Animals' folks."
"Is she neat?" inquired Mr. Tidditt.
"I don't know. I guess so--on the installment plan. It takes her
a week to scrub up the kitchen, and then one end of it is so dirty
she has to begin again. Consequently the dust is so thick in the
rest of the house that I can see my tracks. If 'twan't so late in
the season I'd plant garden stuff in the parlor--nice soil and lots
of shade, with the curtains down."
From the rooms in the rear came the words of a gospel hymn sung in
a tremulous soprano and at concert pitch.
"Music with my meals, just like a high-toned restaurant," commented
"But what makes her sing so everlastin' LOUD?"
"Can't hear herself if she don't. I could stand her deefness,
because that's an affliction and we may all come to it; but--"
The housekeeper, still singing, entered the room and planted
herself in a chair.
"Good evenin', Mr. Tidditt," she said, smiling genially. "Nice
weather we've been havin'."
"Sociable critter, ain't she!" observed the captain. "Always
willin' to help entertain. Comes and sets up with me till bedtime.
Tells about her family troubles. Preaches about her niece out
West, and how set the niece and the rest of the Western relations
are to have her make 'em a visit. I told her she better go--I
thought 'twould do her good. I know 'twould help ME consider'ble
to see her start.
"She's got so now she finds fault with my neckties," he added,
"says I must be careful and not get my feet wet. Picks out what I
ought to wear so's I won't get cold. She'll adopt me pretty soon.
Oh, it's all right! She can't hear what you say. Are your dishes
done?" he shrieked, turning to the old lady.
"One? One what?" inquired Mrs. Beasley.
"They won't BE done till you go, Ase," continued the master of the
house. "She'll stay with us till the last gun fires. T'other day
Angie Phinney called and I turned Debby loose on her. I didn't
believe anything could wear out Angie's talkin' machinery, but she
did it. Angeline stayed twenty minutes and then quit, hoarse as a
Here the widow joined in the conversation, evidently under the
impression that nothing had been said since she last spoke.
Continuing her favorable comments on the weather she observed that
she was glad there was so little fog, because fog was hard for
folks with "neuralgy pains." Her brother's wife's cousin had
"neuralgy" for years, and she described his sufferings with
enthusiasm and infinite detail. Mr. Tidditt answered her questions
verbally at first; later by nods and shakes of the head. Captain
Cy fidgeted in his chair.
"Come on outdoor, Ase," he said at last. "No use to wait till she
runs down, 'cause she's a self-winder, guaranteed to keep goin' for
a year. Good-night!" he shouted, addressing Mrs. Beasley, and
heading for the door.
"Where you goin'?" asked the old lady.
"No. Yes. Who said so? Hooray! Three cheers for Gen'ral Scott!
Come on, Ase!" And the captain, seizing his friend by the arm,
dragged him into the open air, and slammed the door.
"Are you crazy?" demanded the astonished town clerk. "What makes
you talk like that?"
"Might as well. She wouldn't understand it any better if 'twas
Scripture, and it saves brain work. The only satisfaction I get is
bein' able to give my opinion of her and the grub without hurtin'
her feelin's. If I called her a wooden-headed jumpin' jack she'd
only smile and say No, she didn't think 'twas goin' to rain, or
somethin' just as brilliant."
"Well, why don't you give her her walkin' papers?"
"I shall, when her month's up."
"I wouldn't wait no month. I'd heave her overboard to-night. You
Captain Cy shook his head.
"I can't, very well," he replied. "I hate to make her feel TOO
bad. When the month's over I'll have some excuse ready, maybe.
The joke of it is that she don't really need to work out. She's
got some money of her own, owns cranberry swamps and I don't know
what all. Says she took up Bailey's offer 'cause she cal'lated I'd
be company for her. I had to laugh, even in the face of those
beans, when she said that."
"Humph! if I don't tell Bailey what I think of him, then--"
"No, no! Don't you say a word to Bailey. It's principally on his
account that I'm tryin' to stick it out for the month. Bailey did
his best; he thought he was helpin'. And he feels dreadfully
because she's so deef. Only yesterday he asked me if I believed
there was anything made that would fix her up and make it more
comfortable for me. I could have prescribed a shotgun, but I
didn't. You see, he thinks her deefness is the only trouble; I
haven't told him the rest, and don't you do it, either. Bailey's a
"Humph! his heart may be good, but his head's goin' to seed. I'll