Part 3 out of 6
Noah Hamlin, whose father peddled fish and whose everyday costume
was a checkered "jumper" and patched overalls.
The school committee, that is, the majority of it, was delighted
with the new teacher. Lemuel Myrick boasted loudly of his good
judgment in voting for her. But Tad Simpson and Darius Ellis and
others of the Atkins following still scoffed and hinted at trouble
in the future.
"A new broom sweeps fine," quoted Mr. Simpson. "She's doin' all
right now, maybe. Anyway, the young ones are behavin' themselves,
but disCIPline ain't the whole thing. Heman told me that the
teacher he wanted could talk French language and play music and all
kinds of accomplishments. Phoebe--not findin' any fault with her,
you understand--don't know no more about music than a hen; my wife
says she don't even sing in church loud enough for anybody to hear
her. And as for French! why everybody knows she uses the commonest
sort of United States, just as easy to understand as what I'm
Miss Dawes boarded at the perfect boarding house. There opinion
was divided concerning her. Bailey and Mr. Tidditt liked her, but
the feminine boarders were not so favorably impressed.
"I think she's altogether too pert about what don't concern her,"
commented Angeline Phinney. "Sarah Emma Simpson dropped in t'other
day to dinner, and we church folks got to talkin' about the
minister's preachin' such 'advanced' sermons. And Sarah Emma told
how she'd heard he said he'd known some real moral Universalists in
his time, or some such unreligious foolishness. And I said I
wondered he didn't get a new tail coat; the one he preached in
Sundays was old as the hills and so outgrown it wouldn't scurcely
button acrost him. 'A man bein' paid nine hundred a year,' I says,
'ought to dress decent, anyhow.' And that Phoebe Dawes speaks up,
without bein' asked, and says for her part she'd ruther hear a
broad man in a narrer coat than t'other way about. 'Twas a regular
slap in the face for me, and Sarah Emma and I ain't got over it
Captain Cy heard the gossip concerning the new teacher and it
rather pleased him. She appeared to be independent, and he liked
independence. He met her once or twice on the street, but she
merely bowed and passed on. Once he tried to thank her again for
her part in the cow episode, but she would not listen to him.
Bos'n was making good progress with her studies. She was naturally
a bright child--not the marvel the captain and the "Board of
Strategy" considered her, but quick to learn. She was not a saint,
however, and occasionally misbehaved in school and was punished for
it. One afternoon she did not return at her usual hour. Captain
Cy was waiting at the gate when Asaph Tidditt happened along.
Bailey, too, was with him.
"Waitin' for Bos'n, was you?" asked the town clerk. "Well, you'll
have to wait quite a spell, I cal'late. She's been kept after
"Yes; and she's got to write fifty lines of copy," added Bailey.
Captain Cy was highly indignant.
"Get out!" he cried. "She ain't neither."
"Yes, she has, too. One of the Salters young ones told me. I knew
you'd be mad, though I s'pose folks that didn't know her's well's
we do would say she's no different from other children."
This was close to heresy, according to the captain's opinion.
"She ain't!" he cried. "I'd like to know why not! If she ain't
twice as smart as the run of young ones 'round here then-- Humph!
And she's kept after school! Well, now; I won't have it! There's
enough time for studyin' without wearin' out her brains after
hours. Oh, I guess you're mistaken."
"No, we ain't. I tell you, Whit, if I was you I'd make a fuss
about this. She's a smart child, Bos'n is; I never see a smarter.
And she ain't any too strong."
"That's so, she ain't." The idea that Emily's health was "delicate"
had become a fixed fact in the minds of the captain and the "Board."
It made a good excuse for the systematic process of "spoiling" the
girl, which the indulgent three were doing their best to carry on.
"I wouldn't let her be kept, Cy," urged Bailey. "Why don't you go
right off and see Phoebe and settle this thing? You've got a right
to talk to her. She wouldn't be teacher if it wasn't for you."
Asaph added his arguments to those of Mr. Bangs. Captain Cy,
carried away by his firm belief that Bos'n was a paragon of all
that was brilliant and good, finally yielded.
"All right!" he exclaimed. "Come on! That poor little thing
shan't be put upon by nobody."
The trio marched majestically down the hill. As they neared the
schoolhouse Bailey's courage began to fail. Miss Dawes was a
boarder at his house, and he feared consequences should Keturah
learn of his interference.
"I--I guess you don't need me," he stammered. "The three of us 'll
scare that teacher woman most to death. And she's so little and
meek, you know. If I should lose my temper and rare up I might say
somethin' that would hurt her feelin's. I'll set on the fence and
wait for you and Ase, Whit."
Mr. Tidditt's scornful comments concerning "white feathers" and
"backsliders" had no effect. Mr. Bangs perched himself on the
"Give it to her, fellers!" he called after them.
"Talk Dutch to her! Let her know that there's one child she can't
At the foot of the steps Asaph paused.
"Say, Cy," he whispered, "don't you think I better not go in? It
ain't really my business, you know, and--and-- Well, I'm on the
s'lectmen and she might be frightened if she see me pouncin' down
on her. 'Tain't as if I was just a common man. I'll go and set
along of Bailey and you go in and talk quiet to her. She'd feel so
sort of ashamed if there was anyone else to hear the rakin' over--
"Now, see here, Ase," expostulated the captain, "I don't like to do
this all by myself! Besides, 'twas you chaps put me up to it. You
ain't goin' to pull out of the race and leave me to go over the
course alone, are you? Come on! what are, you afraid of?"
His companion hotly denied that he was "afraid" of anything. He
had all sorts of arguments to back his decision. At last Captain
Cy lost patience.
"Well, BE a skulk, if you want to!" he declared. "I've set out to
see this thing through, and I'm goin' to do it. Only," he muttered,
as he entered the downstairs vestibule, "I wish I didn't feel quite
so much as if I was stealin' hens' eggs."
Miss Dawes herself opened the door in response to his knock.
"Oh, it's you, Cap'n Whittaker," she said. "Come in, please."
Captain Cy entered the schoolroom. It was empty, save for the
teacher and himself and one little girl, who, seated at a desk, was
writing busily. She looked up and blushed a vivid red. The little
girl was Bos'n.
"Sit down, Cap'n," said Miss Phoebe, indicating the visitor's
chair. "What was it you wanted to see me about?"
The captain accepted the invitation to be seated, but he did not
immediately reply to Miss Dawes's question. He dropped his hat on
the floor, crossed his legs, uncrossed them, and then observed that
it was pretty summery weather for so late in the fall. The teacher
admitted the truth of his assertion and waited for him to continue.
"I--I s'pose school's pretty full, now that cranb'ryin' 's over,"
said Captain Cy.
"Yes, pretty full."
"Gettin' along first rate with the scholars, I hear."
This was a most unpromising beginning, really no beginning at all.
The captain cleared his throat, set his teeth, and, without looking
at his companion, dove headlong into the business which had brought
"Miss Dawes," he said, "I--I s'pose you know that Bos'n--I mean
Emily there--is livin' at my house and that I'm taking care of her
for--for the present."
The lady smiled.
"Yes," she said. "I gathered as much from what you said when we
She herself had said one or two things on that occasion. Captain
Cy remembered them distinctly.
"Yes, yes," he said hastily. "Well, my doin's that time wasn't
exactly the best sample of the care, I will say. Wan't even a fair
sample, maybe. I try to do my best with the child, long as she
stays with me, and--er--and--er--I'm pretty particular about her
"I'm glad to hear it."
"Yes. Now, Miss Phoebe, I appreciate what you did for Bos'n and me
that Sunday, and I'm thankful for it. I've tried to thank--"
"I know. Please don't say any more about it. I imagine there is
something else you want to say, isn't there?"
"Why, yes, there is. I--I heard that Emmie had been kept after
school. I didn't believe it, of course, but I thought I'd run up
and see what--"
He hesitated. The teacher finished the sentence for him.
"To see if it was true?" she said. "It is. I told her to stay and
write fifty lines."
"You did? Well, now that's what I wanted to speak to you about.
Course I ain't interferin' in your affairs, you know, but I just
wanted to explain about Bos'n--Emmie, I mean. She ain't a common
child; she's got too much head for the rest of her. If you'd lived
with her same as I have you'd appreciate it. Her health's delicate."
"Is it? She seems strong enough to me. I haven't noticed any
"Course not, else you wouldn't have kept her in. But _I_ know, and
I think it's my duty to tell you. Never mind if she can't do quite
so much writin'. I'd rather she wouldn't; she might bust a blood
vessel or somethin'. Such things HAVE happened, to extry smart
young ones. You just let her trot along home with me now and--"
"Cap'n Whittaker," Miss Dawes had risen to her feet with a
determined expression on her face.
"Yes, ma'am," said the captain, rising also.
"Cap'n Whittaker," repeated the teacher, "I'm very glad that you
called. I've been rather expecting you might, because of certain
things I have heard."
"You heard? What was it you heard--if you don't mind my askin'?"
"No, I don't, because I think we must have an understanding about
Emily. I have heard that you allow her to do as she pleases at
home; in other words, that you are spoiling her, and--"
"SPOILIN' her! _I_ spoilin' her? Who told you such an unlikely
yarn as that? I ain't the kind to spoil anybody. Why, I'm so
strict that I'm ashamed of myself sometimes."
He honestly believed he was. Miss Phoebe calmly continued.
"Of course, what you do at home is none of my business. I shouldn't
mention it anyhow, if you hadn't called, because I pay very little
attention to town talk, having lived in this county all my life and
knowing what gossip amounts to. I like Emily; she's a pretty good
little girl and well behaved, as children go. But this you must
understand. She can't be spoiled here. She whispered this
afternoon, twice. She has been warned often, and knows the rule. I
kept her after school because she broke that rule, and if she breaks
it again, she will be punished again. I kept the Edwards boy two
hours yesterday and--"
"Edwards boy! Do you mean to compare that--that young rip of a Ben
Edwards with a girl like Bos'n? I never heard--"
"I'm not comparing anybody. I'm trying to be fair to every scholar
in this room. And, so long as Emily behaves herself, she shall be
treated accordingly. When she doesn't, she shall be punished. You
must understand that."
"But Ben Edwards! Why, he's a wooden-head, same as his dad was a
fore him! And Emmie's the smartest scholar in this town."
"Oh, no, she isn't! She's a good scholar, but there are others
just as good and even quicker to learn."
This was piling one insult upon another. Other children as
brilliant as Bos'n! Captain Cy was bursting with righteous
"Well!" he exclaimed. "Well! for a teacher that we've called to--"
"And that's another thing," broke in Miss Dawes quickly. "I've
been told that you, Cap'n Whittaker, are the one directly
responsible for my being chosen for this place. I don't say that
you are presuming on that, but--"
"I ain't! I never thought of such a thing!"
"But if you are you mustn't, that's all. I didn't ask for the
position and, now that I've got it, I shall try to fill it without
regard to one person more than another. Emily stays here until her
lines are written. I don't think we need to say any more. Good
She opened the door. Captain Cy picked up his hat, swallowed hard,
and stepped across the threshold. Then Miss Phoebe added one more
"Cap'n," she said, "when you were in command of a ship did you
allow outsiders to tell you how to treat the sailors?"
The captain opened his mouth to reply. He wanted to reply very
much, but somehow he couldn't find a satisfying answer to that
"Ma'am," he said, "all I can say is that if you'd been in South
America, same as I have, and seen the way them half-breed young
ones act, you'd--"
The teacher smiled, in spite of an apparent effort not to.
"Perhaps so," she said, "but this is Massachusetts. And--well,
Emily isn't a half-breed."
Captain Cy strode through the vestibule. Just before the door
closed behind him he heard a stifled sob from poor Bos'n.
The Board of Strategy was waiting at the end of the yard. Its
members were filled with curiosity.
"Did you give it to her good?" demanded Asaph. "Did you let her
understand we wouldn't put up with such cruelizin'?"
"Where's Bos'n?" asked Mr. Bangs.
Their friend's answers were brief and tantalizingly incomplete. He
walked homeward at a gait which caused plump little Bailey to puff
in his efforts to keep up, and he would say almost nothing about
the interview in the schoolroom.
"Well," said Mr. Tidditt, when they reached the Whittaker gate, "I
guess she knows her place now; hey, Cy? I cal'late she'll be
careful who she keeps after school from now on."
"Didn't use no profane language, did you, Cy?" asked Bailey. "I
hope not, 'cause she might have you took up just out of spite. Did
she ask your pardon for her actions?"
"No!" roared the captain savagely. Then, banging the gate behind
him, he strode up the yard and into the house.
Bos'n came home a half hour later. Captain Cy was alone in the
sitting room, seated in his favorite rocker and moodily staring at
nothing in particular. The girl gazed at him for a moment and then
climbed into his lap.
"I wrote my fifty lines, Uncle Cyrus," she said. "Teacher said I'd
done them very nicely, too."
The captain grunted.
"Uncle Cy," whispered Bos'n, putting her arms around his neck, "I'm
awful sorry I was so bad."
"Bad? Who--you? You couldn't be bad if you wanted to. Don't talk
that way or I'll say somethin' I hadn't ought to."
"Yes, I could be bad, too. I was bad. I whispered."
"Whispered! What of it? That ain't nothin'. When I was a young
one in school I used to whis-- . . . Hum! Well, anyhow, don't you
think any more about it. 'Tain't worth while."
They rocked quietly for a time. Then Bos'n said:
"Uncle Cyrus, don't you like teacher?"
"Hey? LIKE her? Well, if that ain't a question? Yes, I like her
about as well as Lonesome likes Eben Salter's dog."
"I'm sorry. I like her ever so much."
"You DO? Go 'long! After the way she treated you, poor little
"She didn't treat me any worse than she does the other girls and
boys when they're naughty. And I did know the rule about
"Well, that's different. Comparin' you with that Bennie Edwards--
the idea! And then makin' you cry!"
"She didn't make me cry."
"Did, too. I heard you."
The child looked up at him and then hid her face in his waistcoat.
"I wasn't crying about her," she whispered. "It was you."
"ME!" The captain gasped. "Good land!" he muttered. "It's just
as I expected. She's studied too hard and it's touchin' her
"No, sir, it isn't. It isn't truly. I did cry about you because I
didn't like to hear you talk so. And I was so sorry to have you
"Yes, sir. Other children's folks don't come when they're bad.
And I kept feeling so sort of ashamed of you."
"Ashamed of ME?"
Bos'n nodded vigorously.
"Yes, sir. Everything teacher said sounded so right, and what you
said didn't. And I like to have you always right."
"Do, hey? Hum!" Captain Cy didn't speak again for some few
minutes, but he held the little girl very tight in his arms. At
length he drew a long breath.
"By the big dipper, Bos'n!" he exclaimed. "You're a wonder, you
are. I wouldn't be surprised if you grew up to be a mind reader,
like that feller in the show we went to at the townhall a spell
ago. To tell you the honest Lord's truth, I've been ashamed of
myself ever since I come out of that schoolhouse door. When that
teacher woman sprung that on me about my fo'mast hands aboard ship
I was set back about forty fathom. I never wanted to answer
anybody so bad in MY life, and I couldn't 'cause there wasn't
anything to say. I cal'late I've made a fool of myself."
Bos'n nodded again.
"We won't do so any more, will we?" she said.
"You bet we won't! _I_ won't, anyhow. You haven't done anything."
"And you'll like teacher?"
The captain stamped his foot.
"No, SIR!" he declared. "She may be all right in her way--I s'pose
she is; but it's too Massachusettsy a way for me. No, sir! I
don't like her and I WON'T like her. No, sir-ee, never! She--she
ain't my kind of a woman," he added stubbornly. "That's what's the
matter! She ain't my kind of a woman."
POLITICS AND BIRTHDAYS
"Town meeting" was called for the twenty-first of November.
With the summer boarders gone, the cranberry picking finished,
state election over, school begun and under way, and real winter
not yet upon us, Bayport, in the late fall, distinctly needs
something to enliven it. The Shakespeare Reading Society and the
sewing circle continue, of course, to interest the "women folks,"
there is the usual every evening gathering at Simmons's, and the
young people are looking forward to the "Grand Ball" on Thanksgiving
eve. But for the men, on week days, there is little to do except to
"putter" about the house, banking its foundations with dry seaweed
as a precaution against searching no'theasters, whitewashing the
barns and outbuildings, or fixing things in the vegetable cellar
where the sticks of smoked herring hang in rows above the barrels of
cabbages, potatoes, and turnips. The fish weirs, most of them, are
taken up, lest the ice, which will be driven into the bay later on,
tear the nets to pieces. Even the hens grow lazy and lay less
frequently. Therefore, away back in the "airly days," some
far-sighted board of selectmen arranged that "town meeting" should
be held during this lackadaisical season. A town meeting--and
particularly a Bayport town meeting, where everything from personal
affairs to religion is likely to be discussed--can stir up excitement
when nothing else can.
This year there were several questions to be talked over and
settled at town meeting. Two selectmen, whose terms expired, were
candidates for re-election. Lem Myrick had resigned from the
school committee, not waiting until spring, as he had announced
that he should do. Then there was the usual sentiment in favor of
better roads and the usual opposition to it. Also there was the
ever-present hope of the government appropriation for harbor
Mr. Tidditt was one of the selectmen whose terms expired. In his
dual capacity as selectman and town clerk Asaph felt himself to be
a very important personage. To elect some one else in his place
would be, he was certain, a calamity which would stagger the
township. Therefore he was a busy man and made many calls upon his
fellow citizens, not to influence their votes--he was careful to
explain that--but just, as he said, "to see how they was gettin'
along," and because he "thought consider'ble of 'em" and "took a
real personal interest, you understand," in their affairs.
To Captain Cy he came, naturally, for encouragement and help,
being--as was his habit at such times--in a state of gloom and
"No use, Whit," he groaned. "'Tain't no use at all. I'm licked.
I'm gettin' old and they don't want me no more. I guess I'd better
get right up afore the votin' begins and tell 'em my health ain't
strong enough to be town clerk no longer. It's better to do that
than to be licked. Don't you think so?"
"Sure thing!" replied his friend, with sarcasm. "If I was you I'd
be toted in on a bed so they can see you're all ready for the
funeral. Might have the doctor walkin' ahead, wipin' his eyes, and
the joyful undertaker trottin' along astern. What's the particular
disease that's got you by the collar just now--facial paralysis?"
"No. What made you think of that?"
"Oh, nothin'! Only I heard you stopped in at ten houses up to the
west end of the town yesterday, and talked three quarters of an
hour steady at everyone. That would fit me for the scrap heap
inside of a week, and you've been goin' it ever since September
nearly. What does ail you--anything?"
"Why, no; nothin' special that way. Only there don't seem to be
any enthusiasm for me, somehow. I just hint at my bein' a
candidate and folks say, 'Yes, indeed. Looks like rain, don't it?'
and that's about all."
"Well, that hadn't ought to surprise you. If anybody came to me
and says, 'The sun's goin' to rise to-morrer mornin',' I shouldn't
dance on my hat and crow hallelujahs. Enthusiasm! Why, Ase,
you've been a candidate every two years since Noah got the ark off
the ways, or along there. And there ain't been any opposition to
you yet, except that time when Uncle 'Bial Stickney woke up in the
wrong place and hollered 'No,' out of principle, thinkin' he was to
home with his wife. If I was you I'd go and take a nap. You'll
read the minutes at selectmen's meetings for another fifty year,
more or less; take my word for it. As for the school committee,
that's different. I ain't made up my mind about that."
There had been much discussion concerning the school committee.
Who should be chosen to replace Mr. Myrick on the board was the
gravest question to come before the meeting. Many names had been
proposed at Simmons's and elsewhere, but some of those named had
refused to run, and others had not, after further consideration,
seemed the proper persons for the office. In the absence of Mr.
Atkins, Tad Simpson was our leader in the political arena. But Tad
so far had been mute.
"Wait a while," he said. "There's some weeks afore town meetin'
day. This is a serious business. We can't have no more--I mean no
unsuitable man to fill such an important place as that. The
welfare of our posterity," he added, and we all recognized the
quotation, "depends upon the choice that's to be made."
A choice was made, however, on the very next day but one after this
declaration. A candidate announced himself. Asaph and Bailey
hurried to the Cy Whittaker place with the news. Captain Cy was in
the woodshed building a doll house for Bos'n. "Just for my own
amusement," he hastily explained. "Somethin' for her to take along
when she goes out West to Betsy."
Mr. Tidditt was all smiles.
"What do you think, Cy?" he cried. "The new school committee man's
as good as elected. 'Lonzo Snow's goin' to take it."
The captain laid down his plane.
"'Lonzo Snow!" he repeated. "You don't say! Humph! Well, well!"
"Yes, sir!" exclaimed Bailey. "He's come forward and says it's his
duty to do so. He--"
"Humph! His duty, hey? I wonder who pointed it out to him?"
"Well, I don't know. But even Tad Simpson's glad; he says that he
knows Heman will be pleased with THAT kind of a candidate and so he
won't have to do any more huntin'. He thinks 'Lonzo's comin' out
by himself this way is a kind of special Providence."
"Yes, yes! I shouldn't wonder. Did you ever notice how dead sure
Tad and his kind are that Providence is workin' with 'em? Seems to
me 'twould be more satisfactory if we could get a sight of the
other partner's signature to the deed."
"What's the matter with you?" demanded Asaph. "You ain't findin'
fault with 'Lonzo, are you? Ain't he a good man?"
"Good! Sure thing he's good! Nobody can say he isn't and tell the
No one could truthfully speak ill of Alonzo Snow, that was a fact.
He lived at the lower end of the village, was well to do, a leading
cranberry grower, and very prominent in the church. A mild,
easygoing person was Mr. Snow, with an almost too keen fear of doing
the wrong thing and therefore prone to be guided by the opinion of
others. He was distinctly not a politician.
"Then what ails you?" asked Asaph hotly.
"Why, nothin', maybe. Only I'm always suspicious when Tad pats
Providence on the back. I generally figure that I can see through
a doughnut, when there's a light behind the hole. Who is 'Lonzo's
best friend in this town? Who does he chum with most of anybody?"
"Why, Darius Ellis, I guess. You know it."
"Um--hum. And Darius is on the committee--why?"
"Well, I s'pose 'cause Heman Atkins thought he'd be a good feller
to have there. But--"
"Yes, and 'Lonzo's pew in church is right under the Atkins memorial
window. The light from it makes a kind of halo round his bald head
"Well, what of it? Heman, nor nobody else, could buy 'Lonzo Snow."
"Buy him? Indeed they couldn't. But there are some things you get
without buyin'--the measles, for instance. And the one that's
catchin' 'em don't know he's in danger till the speckles break out.
Fellers, this committee voted in Phoebe Dawes by just two votes to
one, and one of the two was Lem Myrick. Darius was against her.
Now with Tad and his 'Providence' puttin' in 'Lonzo Snow, and Heman
Atkins settin' behind the screen workin' his Normal School music
box so's they can hear the tune--well, Phoebe MAY stay this term
out, but how about next?"
"Hey? Why, I don't know. Anyhow, you're down on Phoebe as a
thousand of brick. I don't see why you worry about HER. After the
way she treated poor Bos'n and all."
Captain Cy stirred uneasily and kicked a chip across the floor.
"Well," he said, "well, I--I don't know's that's-- That is,
right's right and wrong's wrong. I've seen bullfights down yonder--"
jerking his thumb over his shoulder in the vague direction of
Buenos Ayres, "and every time my sympathy's been with the bull.
Not that I loved the critter for his own sake, but because all
Greaserdom was out to down him. From what I hear, this Phoebe
Dawes--for all her pesky down-East stubbornness--is teachin' pretty
well, and anyhow she's one little woman against Tad Simpson and
Heman Atkins and--and Tad's special brand of Providence. She
deserves a fair shake and, by the big dipper, she's goin' to have
it! Look here, you two! how would I look on the school committee?"
"You?" repeated the pair in concert. "YOU?"
"Yes, me. I ain't a Solomon for wisdom, but I cal'late I'd be as
near the top of the barrel as Darius Ellis, and only one or two
layers under Eben Salters or 'Lonzo Snow. I'm a candidate--see?"
"But--but, Whit," gasped the town clerk, "are you popular enough?
Could you get elected?"
"I don't know, but I can find out. You and Bailey 'll vote for me,
"Course we will, but--"
"All right. There's two votes. A hundred and odd more'll put me
in. Here goes for politics and popularity. I may be president
yet; you can't tell. And say! this town meetin' won't be DULL,
whichever way the cat jumps."
This last was a safe prophecy. All dullness disappeared from
Bayport the moment it became known that Captain Cyrus Whittaker was
"out" for the school committee. The captain began his electioneering
at once. That very afternoon he called upon three people--Eben
Salters, Josiah Dimick, and Lemuel Myrick.
Captain Salters was chairman of selectmen as well as chairman of
the committee. He was a hard-headed old salt, who had made money
in the Australian packet service. He had common sense, independence,
and considerable influence in the town. Next to Congressman Atkins
he was, perhaps, our leading citizen. And, more than all, he was
not afraid, when he thought it necessary, to oppose the great Heman.
"Well," he said reflectively, after listening to Captain Cy's brief
statement of his candidacy, "I cal'late I'll stand in with you, Cy.
I ain't got anything against 'Lonzo, but--but--well, consarn it!
maybe that's the trouble. Maybe he's so darned good it makes me
jealous. Anyhow, I'll do what I can for you."
Joe Dimick laughed aloud. He was an iconoclast, seldom went to
church, and was entirely lacking in reverence. Also he really
liked the captain.
"Ho, ho!" he crowed. "Whit, do you realize that you're underminin'
this town's constitution? Oh, sartin, I'm with you, if it's only
to see the fur fly! I do love a scrap."
With Lem Myrick Captain Cy's policy was different. He gently
reminded that gentleman of the painting contract, intimated that
other favors might be forthcoming, and then, as a clincher, spoke
of Tad Simpson's comment when Mr. Myrick voted for Phoebe Dawes.
"Of course," he added, "if you think Tad's got a right to boss all
hands and the cook, why, I ain't complainin'. Only, if _I_ was a
painter doin' a good, high-class trade, and a one-hoss barber tried
to dictate to me, I shouldn't bow down and tell him to kick easy as
he could. Seems to me I'd kick first. But I'M no boss; I mustn't
Lemuel was indignant.
"No barber runs me," he declared. "You stand up for me when that
townhall paintin's to be done and I'll work hard for you now, Cap'n
Whittaker. 'Lonzo Snow's an elder and all that, but I can't help
it. Anyway, his place was all fixed up a year ago and I didn't get
the job. A feller has to look after himself these days."
With these division commanders to lead their forces into the
enemy's country and with Asaph and Bailey doing what they could to
help, Captain Cy's campaign soon became worthy of respectful
consideration. For a while Tad Simpson scoffed at the opposition;
then he began to work openly for Mr. Snow. Later he marshaled his
trusted officers around the pool table in the back room of the
barber shop and confided to them that it was anybody's fight and
that he was worried.
"It's past bein' a joke," he said. "It's mighty serious. We've
got to hustle, we have. Heman trusted me in this job, and if I
fall down it 'll be bad for me and for you fellers, too. I wish he
was home to run things himself, but he's got business down South
there--some property he owns or somethin'--and says he can't leave.
But we must win! By mighty! we've GOT to. So get every vote you
can. Never mind how; just get 'em, that's all."
Captain Cy was thoroughly enjoying himself. The struggle suited
him to perfection. He was young, in spite of his fifty-five years,
and this tussle against odds, reminding him of other tussles during
his first seasons in business, aroused his energies and, as he
expressed it, "stirred up his vitals and made him hop round like a
dose of 'pain killer.'"
He did not, however, forget Bos'n. He and she had their walks and
their pleasant evenings together in spite of politics. He took the
child into his confidence and told her of the daily gain, or loss,
in votes, as if she were his own age. She understood a little of
all this, and tried hard to understand the rest, preaching between
times to Georgianna how "the bad men were trying to beat Uncle
Cyrus because he was gooder than they, but they couldn't, 'cause
everybody loved him so." Georgianna had some doubts, but she kept
them to herself.
Among the things in Bos'n's "box" was a long envelope, sealed with
wax and with a lawyer's name printed in one corner. The captain
opened it, at Emily's suggestion, and was astonished to find that
the inclosure was a will, dated some years back, in which Mrs. Mary
Thomas, the child's mother, left to her daughter all her personal
property and also the land in Orham, Massachusetts, which had been
willed to her by her own mother. There was a note with the will in
which Mrs. Thomas stated that no one save herself had known of this
land, not even her husband. She had not told him because she
feared that, like everything else, it would be sold and the money
wasted in dissipation. "He suspected something of the sort," she
added, "but he did not find out the secret, although he--" She had
evidently scratched out what followed, but Captain Cy mentally
filled in the blank with details of abuse and cruelty. "If
anything happens to me," concluded the widow, "I want the land sold
and the money used for Emily's maintenance as long as it lasts."
The captain went over to Orham and looked up the land. It was a
strip along the shore, almost worthless, and unsalable at present.
The taxes had been regularly paid each year by Mary Thomas, who had
sent money orders from Concord. The self-denial represented by
these orders was not a little.
"Never mind, Bos'n," said Captain Cy, when he returned from the
Orham trip. "Your ancestral estates ain't much now but a sand-flea
menagerie. However, if this section ever does get to be the big
summer resort folks are prophesying for it, you may sell out to
some millionaire and you and me'll go to Europe. Meantime, we'll
try to keep afloat, if the Harniss Bank don't spring a leak."
On the day following this conversation he took a flying trip to
Ostable, the county seat, returning the same evening, and saying
nothing to anyone about his reasons for going nor what he had done
Bos'n's birthday was the eighteenth of November. The captain, in
spite of the warmth of his struggle for committee honors, determined
to have a small celebration on the afternoon and evening of that
day. It was to be a surprise for Emily, and, after school was over,
some of her particular friends among the scholars were to come in,
there was to be a cake with eight candles on it, and a supper at
which ice cream--lemon and vanilla, prepared by Mrs. Cahoon--was to
be the principal feature. Also there would be games and all sorts
Captain Cy was tremendously interested in the party. He spent
hours with Georgianna and the Board of Strategy, preparing the list
of guests. His cunning in ascertaining from the unsuspecting child
who, among her schoolmates, she would like to invite, was deep and
"Now, Bos'n," he would say, "suppose you was goin' to clear out and
leave this town for a spell, who--"
"But, Uncle Cyrus--" Bos'n's eyes grew frightened and moist in a
moment, "I ain't going, am I? I don't want to go."
"No, no! Course you ain't goin'--that is, not for a long while,
anyhow," with a sidelong look at the members of the "Board," then
present. "But just suppose you and me was startin' on that Europe
trip. Who'd you want to say good-by to most of all?"
Each name given by the child was surreptitiously penciled by Bailey
on a scrap of paper. The list was a long one and, when the great
afternoon came, the Whittaker house was crowded.
The supper was a brilliant success. So was the cake, brought in
with candles ablaze, by the grinning Georgianna. Beside the
children there were some older people present, Bailey and Asaph, of
course, and the "regulars" from the perfect boarding house, who had
been invited because it was fairly certain that Mr. Bangs wouldn't
be allowed to attend if his wife did not. Miss Dawes had also been
asked, at Bos'n's well-understood partiality, but she had declined.
Toward the end of the meal, when the hilarity at the long table was
at its height, an unexpected guest made his appearance. There was
a knock at the dining-room door, and Georgianna, opening it, was
petrified to behold, standing upon the step, no less a personage
than the Honorable Heman Atkins, supposed by most of us to be then
somewhere in that wide stretch of territory vaguely termed "the
"Good evening, all," said the illustrious one, removing his silk
hat and stepping into the room. "What a charming scene! I trust I
do not intrude."
Georgianna was still speechless, in which unwonted condition she
was not alone, Messrs. Bangs and Tidditt being also stricken dumb.
But Captain Cy rose to the occasion grandly.
"Intrude?" he repeated. "Not a mite of it! Mighty glad to see
you, Heman. Here, give us your hat. Pull up to the table. When
did you get back? Thought you was in the orange groves somewheres."
"Ahem! I was. Yes, I was in that neighborhood. But it is hard to
stay away from dear old Bayport. Home ties, you know, home ties.
I came down on the morning train, but I stopped over at Harniss on
business and drove across. Ahem! Yes. The housekeeper informed
me that my daughter was here, and, seeing the lights and hearing
the laughter, I couldn't resist making this impromptu call. I'm
sure as an old friend and neighbor, Cyrus, you will pardon me.
Alicia, darling, come and kiss papa."
Darling Alicia accepted the invitation with a rustle of silk and
an ecstatic squeal of delight. During this affecting scene Asaph
whispered to Bailey that he "cal'lated" Heman had had a hurry-up
distress signal from Simpson; to which sage observation Mr. Bangs
replied with a vigorous nod, showing that Captain Cy's example had
had its effect, in that they no longer stood in such awe of their
representative at Washington.
However true Asaph's calculation might have been, Mr. Atkins made
no mention of politics. He was urbanity itself. He drew up to the
table, partook of the ice cream and cake, and greeted his friends
and neighbors with charming benignity.
"Wan't it sweet of him to come?" whispered Miss Phinney to Keturah.
"And him so nice and everyday and sociable. And when Cap'n
Whittaker's runnin' against his friend, as you might say."
Keturah replied with a dubious shake of the head.
"I think Captain Cyrus is goin' to get into trouble," she said.
"I've preached to Bailey more 'n a little about keepin' clear, but
"Games in t'other room now," ordered Captain Cy. But Mr. Atkins
held up his hand.
"Pardon me, just a moment, Cyrus, if you please," he said. "I feel
that on this happy occasion, it is my duty and pleasure to propose
a toast." He held his lemonade glass aloft. "Permit me," he
proclaimed, to wish many happy birthdays and long life to Miss-- I
beg pardon, Cyrus, but what is your little friend's name?"
"Emily Richards Thayer," replied the captain, carried away by
enthusiasm and off his guard for once.
"To Em--" began Heman. Then he paused and for the first time in
his public life seemed at a loss for words. "What?" he asked, and
his hand shook. "I fear I didn't catch the name."
"No wonder," laughed Mr. Tidditt. "Cy's so crazy to-night he'd
forget his own name. Know what you said, Cy? You said she was
Emily Richards THAYER! Haw! haw! She ain't a Thayer, Heman; her
last name's Thomas. She's Emily Richards Thayer's granddaughter
though. Her granddad was John Thayer, over to Orham. Good land!
I forgot. Well, what of it, Cy? 'Twould have to be known some
Everyone looked at Captain Cy then. No one observed Mr. Atkins for
the moment. When they did turn their gaze upon the great man he
had sunk back in his chair, the glass of lemonade was upset upon
the cloth before him, and he, with a very white face, was staring
at Emily Richards Thomas.
"What's the matter, Heman?" asked the captain anxiously. "Ain't
sick, are you?"
The congressman started.
"Oh, no!" he said hurriedly. "Oh, no! but I'm afraid I've soiled
your cloth. It was awkward of me. I--I really, I apologize--I--"
He wiped his face with his handkerchief. Captain Cy laughed.
"Oh, never mind the tablecloth," he said. "I cal'late it's too
soiled already to be hurt by a bath, even a lemon one. Well,
you've all heard the toast. Full glasses, now. Here's TO you,
Bos'n! Drink hearty, all hands, and give the ship a good name."
If the heartiness with which they drank is a criterion, the good
name of the ship was established. Then the assembly adjourned to
the sitting room and--yes, even the front parlor. Not since the
days when that sacred apartment had been desecrated by the
irreverent city boarders, during the Howes regime, had its walls
echoed to such whoops and shouts of laughter. The children played
"Post Office" and "Copenhagen" and "Clap in, Clap out," while the
grown folks looked on.
"Ain't they havin' a fine time, Cap?" gushed Miss Phinney. "Don't
it make you wish you was young again?"
"Angie," replied Captain Cy solemnly, "don't tempt me; don't! If
they keep on playin' that Copenhagen and you stand right alongside
of me, there's no tellin' what 'll happen."
Angeline declared that he was "turrible," but she faced the
threatened danger nevertheless, and bravely remained where she was.
Mr. Atkins went home early in the evening, taking Alicia with him.
He explained that his long railroad journey had--er--somewhat
fatigued him and, though he hated to leave such a--er--delightful
gathering, he really felt that, under the circumstances, his
departure would be forgiven. Captain Cy opened the door for him
and stood watching as, holding his daughter by the hand, he marched
majestically down the path.
"Hum!" mused the captain aloud. "I guess he has been travelin'
nights. Thought he ought to be here quick, I shouldn't wonder. He
does look tired, that's a fact, and kind of pale, seemed to me."
"Well, there, now!" exclaimed Mrs. Tripp, who was looking over his
shoulder. "Did you see that?"
"No; what was it?"
"Why, when he went to open his gate, one of them arbor vity bushes
he set out this spring knocked his hat off. And he never seemed to
notice, but went right on. If 'Licia hadn't picked it up, that
nice new hat would have been layin' there yet. That's the most
undignified thing ever I see Heman Atkins do. He MUST be tired
out, poor man!"
A LETTER AND A VISITOR
"Whit," asked Asaph next day, "wan't you surprised to see Heman
Captain Cy nodded. He was once more busy with the doll house, the
construction of which had progressed slowly of late, owing to the
demands which the party and politics made upon its builder's time.
"Yup," he said, "I sartinly was. Pretty good sign, I shouldn't
wonder. Looks as if friend Tad had found the tide settin' too
strong against him and had whistled for a tug. All right; the more
scared the other side get, the better for us."
"But what in the world made Heman come over and have supper? He
never so much as stepped foot in the house afore, did he? That's
the biggest conundrum of all."
"Well, I guess I've got the answer. Strikes me that Heman's
sociableness is the best sign yet. Heman's a slick article, and
when he sees there's danger of losin' the frostin' on the cake he
takes care to scrape the burnt part off the bottom. I may be
school committeeman after town meetin'. He'll move all creation to
stop me, of course--in his quiet, round-the-corner way--but, if I
do win out, he wants to be in a position to take me one side and
tell me that he's glad of it; he felt all along I was the right
feller for the job, and if there's anything he can do to make
things easier for me just call on him. That's the way I size it
"Cy, I never see anybody like you. You're dead set against Heman,
and have been right along. And he's never done anything to you,
fur's I see. He's given a lot to the town, and he's always been
the most looked-up-to man we've got. Joe Dimick and two or three
more chronic growls have been the only ones to sling out hints
against him, till you come. Course I'm working for you, tooth and
nail, and I will say that you seem to be gettin' the votes some way
or other. But if Heman SHOULD step right out and say: 'Feller
citizens, I'm behind Tad Simpson in this fight, and as a favor to
me and 'cause I think it's right and best, I want 'Lonzo Snow
elected'--well, _I_ don't believe you'd have more'n one jack and a
ten spot to count for game."
"Probably not, Ase; I presume likely not. But you take a day off
some time and see if you can remember that Heman EVER stepped right
out and said things. Blame it! that's just it. As for WHY he
riles me up and makes me stubborn as a balky mule, I don't know
exactly. All I'm sure is that he does. Maybe it's 'cause I don't
like the way he wears his whiskers. Maybe it's because he's so
top-lofty and condescendin'. A feller can whistle to me and say:
'Come on, Bill,' and I'll trot at his heels all day. But when he
pats me on the head and says: 'There there! nice doggie. Go under
the bed and lay down,' my back bristles up and I commence to growl
right off. There's consider'ble Whittaker in me, as I've told you
The town clerk pondered over this rather unsatisfactory line of
reasoning for some minutes. His companion fitted a wooden chimney
on the doll house, found it a trifle out of plumb, and proceeded to
whittle a shaving off the lower edge. Then Asaph sighed, as one
who gives up a perplexing riddle, put his hand in his pocket, and
produced a bundle of papers.
"I made out a list of fellers down to the east'ard that I'm goin'
to see this afternoon," he said. "Some of 'em I guess 'll vote for
you, but most of 'em are pretty sartin' for 'Lonzo. However, I--
Where is that list? I had it somewhere's. And--well, I swan! I
come pretty near forgettin' it myself. I'm 'most as bad as
From the bundle of papers he produced a crumpled envelope.
"That Bailey," he observed, "must be in love, I cal'late, though I
don't know who with. Ketury, I s'pose, 'cordin' to law and order,
but-- Well, anyhow, he's gettin' more absent-minded all the time.
Here's a letter for you, Cy, that he got at the post-office a week
ago Monday. 'Twas the night of the church sociable, and he had on
his Sunday cutaway, and he ain't worn it sence, till the party
yesterday. When he took off the coat, goin' to bed, the letter
fell out of it. I guess he was ashamed to fetch it round himself,
so he asked me to do it. Better late than never, hey? Here's that
list at last."
He produced the list and handed it to the captain for inspection.
The latter looked it over, made a few comments and suggestions, and
told his friend to heave ahead and land as many of the listed as
possible. This Mr. Tidditt promised to do, and, replacing the
papers in his pocket, started for the gate.
"Oh! Say, Ase!"
The town clerk, his hand on the gate latch, turned.
"Well, what is it?" he asked. "Don't keep me no longer'n you can
help. I got work to do, I have."
"All right, I won't stop you. Only fallin' in love is kind of
epidemic down at the boardin' house, I guess. Who is it that's got
you in tow--Matildy?"
"What are you talkin' about? Didn't I tell you to quit namin' me
with Matildy Tripp? I like a joke as well as most folks, but when
it's wore into the ground I--"
"Sho, sho! Don't get mad. It's your own fault. You said that
absent-mindedness was a love symptom, so I just got to thinkin',
that's all. That letter that Bailey forgot--you haven't given it
to me yet."
Asaph turned red and hastily snatched the papers from his pocket.
He strode back to the door of the woodshed, handed his friend the
crumpled envelope, and stalked off without another word. The
captain chuckled, laid the letter on the bench beside him and went
on with his work. It was perhaps ten minutes later when, happening
to glance at the postmark on the envelope, he saw that it was
"Concord, N. H."
Asaph's vote-gathering trip "to the east'ard" made a full day for
him. He returned to the perfect boarding house just at supper
time. During the meal he realized that Mr. Bangs seemed to be
trying to attract his attention. Whenever he glanced in that
gentleman's direction his glance was met by winks and mystifying
shakes of the head. Losing patience at last, he demanded to know
what was the matter.
"Want to say somethin' to me, do you?" he inquired briskly. "If
you do, out with it! Don't set there workin' your face as if 'twas
wound up, like a clockwork image."
This remark had the effect of turning all the other faces toward
Bailey's. He was very much upset.
"No, no!" he stammered. "No, no! I don't want you for nothin'.
Was I makin' my face go? I--I didn't know it. I've been washin'
carriages and cleanin' up the barn all day and I cal'late I've
overdone. I'm gettin' old, and hard work's likely to bring on
shakin' palsy to old folks."
His wife tartly observed that, if WORK was the cause of it, she
guessed he was safe from palsy for quite a spell yet. At any rate,
a marked recovery set in and he signaled no more during the meal.
But when it was over, and his task as dish-wiper completed, he
hurried out of doors and found Mr. Tidditt, shivering in the
November wind, on the front porch.
"Now what is it?" asked Asaph sharply. "I know there's somethin'
and I've froze to death by sections waitin' to hear it."
"Have you seen Cy?" whispered Bailey, glancing fearfully over his
shoulder at the lighted windows of the house.
"No, not sence mornin'. Why?"
"Well, there's somethin' the matter with him. Somethin' serious.
I was swabbin' decks in the barn about eleven o'clock, when he come
postin' in, white and shaky, and so nervous he couldn't stand
still. Looked as if he had had a stroke almost. I--"
"Godfrey scissors! You don't s'pose Heman's comin' back has
knocked out his chances for the committee, do you?"
"No, sir-ee! 'twan't that. Cy's anxious to be elected and all, but
you know his politics are more of a joke with him than anything
else. And any rap Heman or Tad could give him would only make him
fight harder. And he wouldn't talk politics at all; didn't seem to
give a durn about 'em, one way or t'other. No, 'twas somethin'
about that letter, the one I forgot so long. He wanted to know why
in time I hadn't given it to him when it fust come. He was real
ugly about it, for him, and kept pacin' up and down the barn floor
and layin' into me, till I begun to think he was crazy. I guess he
see my feelin's were hurt, 'cause, just afore he left, he held out
his hand and said I mustn't mind his talk; he'd been knocked on his
beam ends, he said, and wan't really responsible."
"Wouldn't he say what had knocked him?"
"No, couldn't get nothin' out of him. And when he quit he went off
toward home, slappin' his fists together and actin' as if he didn't
see the road across his bows. Now, you know how cool and easy
goin' Whit generally is. I swan to man, Ase! he made me so sorry
for him I didn't know what to do."
"Ain't you been up to see him sence?"
"No, Ketury was sot on havin' the barn cleaned, and she stood over
me with a rope's end, as you might say. I couldn't get away a
minute, though I made up more'n a dozen errands at Simmons's and
the like of that. You hold on till I sneak into the entry and get
my cap and we'll put for there now. I won't be but a jiffy. I'm
They entered the yard of the Cy Whittaker place together and
approached the side door. As they stood on the steps Asaph touched
his chum on the arm and pointed to the window beside them. The
shade was half drawn and beneath it they had a clear view of the
interior of the sitting room. Captain Cy was in the rocker before
the stove, holding Bos'n in his arms. The child was sound asleep,
her yellow braid hanging over the captain's broad shoulder. He was
gazing down into her face with a look which was so full of yearning
and love that it brought a choke into the throats of the pair who
They entered the dining room. The captain sprang from his chair
and, still holding the little girl close against his breast, met
them at the sitting-room door. When he saw who the visitors were,
he caught his breath, almost with a sob, and seemed relieved.
"S-s-h-h!" he whispered warningly. "She's asleep."
The members of the Board of Strategy nodded understandingly and sat
down upon the sofa. Captain Cy tiptoed to the bedroom, turned back
the bedclothes with one hand and laid Bos'n down. They saw him
tuck her carefully in and then stoop and kiss her. He returned to
the sitting room and closed the door behind him.
"We see she was asleep afore we come in," explained Asaph. "We see
you and her through the window."
The captain looked hurriedly at the window indicated. Then he
stepped over and pulled the shade down to the sill, doing the same
with the curtains of the other two windows.
"What's the matter?" inquired Bailey, trying to be facetious.
"'Fraid of 'Lonzo's crowd spyin' on us?"
Captain Cy did not reply. He did not even sit down, but remained
standing, his back to the stove.
"Well?" he asked shortly. "Did you fellers want to see me for
"Wanted to see what had struck you all to once," replied Mr. Tidditt.
"Bailey says you scared him half to death this forenoon. And you
look now as if somebody's ghost had riz and hollered 'Boo!' at you.
For the land sakes, Whit, what IS it?"
The captain drew his hand across his forehead.
"Ghost?" he repeated absently. "No, I haven't SEEN a ghost.
There! there! don't mind me. I ain't real well to-day, I guess."
He smiled crookedly.
"Don't you want to hear about my vote-grabbin' cruise?" asked
Tidditt. "I was flatterin' myself you'd be tickled to hear I'd
done so well. Why, even Marcellus Parker says he may vote for
you--if he makes up his mind that way."
Marcellus was a next-door neighbor of Alonzo Snow's. But Captain
Cy didn't seem to care.
"Hey?" he murmured. "Yes. Well?"
"WELL! Is that all you've got to say? Are you really sick, Cy?
Or is Bos'n sick?"
"No!" was the answer, almost fierce in its utterance. "She isn't
sick. Don't be a fool."
"What's foolish about that? I didn't know but she might be.
There's mumps in town and--"
"She's all right; so shut up, will you! There, Ase!" he added.
"I'm the fool myself. Don't mind my barkin'; I don't mean it. I
am about sick, I cal'late. Be better to-morrer, maybe."
"What's got into you? Was that letter of Bailey's--"
"Hush!" The captain held up his hand. "I thought I heard a team."
"Depot wagon, most likely," said Bailey. "About time for it!
Humph! seems to be stoppin', don't it? Was you expectin' anybody?
Shall I go and--"
"No! Set still."
The pair on the sofa sat still. Captain Cy stood like a statue in
the middle of the floor. He squared his shoulders and jammed his
clenched fists into his pockets. Steps crunched the gravel of the
walk. There came a knock at the door of the dining room.
Walking steadily, but with a face set as the figurehead on one of
his own ships, the captain went to answer the knock. They heard
the door open, and then a man's voice asked:
"Is this Cap'n Whittaker?"
"Yes," was the short answer.
"Well, Cap, I guess you don't know me, though maybe you know some
of my family. Ha, ha! Don't understand that, hey? Well, you let
me in and I'll explain the joke."
The captain's reply was calm and deliberate.
"I shouldn't wonder if I understood it," he said. "Come in.
Don't--" The remainder of the sentence was whispered and the
listeners on the sofa could not hear it. A moment later Captain Cy
entered the sitting room, followed by his caller.
The latter was a stranger. He was a broad-shouldered man of medium
height, with a yellowish mustache and brown hair. He was dressed
in rather shabby clothes, without an overcoat, and he had a soft
felt hat in his hand. The most noticeable thing about him was a
slight hesitancy in his walk. He was not lame, he did not limp,
yet his left foot seemed to halt for an instant as he brought it
forward in the step. They learned afterwards that it had been hurt
in a mine cave-in. He carried himself with a swagger, and, after
his entrance, there was a perceptible aroma of alcohol in the room.
He stared at the Board of Strategy and the stare was returned in
full measure. Bailey and Asaph were wildly curious. They, of
course, connected the stranger's arrival with the mysterious letter
and the captain's perturbation of the day.
But their curiosity was not to be satisfied, at least not then.
"How are you, gents?" hailed the newcomer cheerfully. "Like the
looks of me, do you?"
Captain Cy cut off further conversation.
"Ase," he said, "this--er--gentleman and I have got some business
to talk over. I know you're good enough friends of mine not to
mind if I ask you to clear out. You'll understand. You WILL
understand, boys, won't you?" he added, almost entreatingly.
"Sartin sure!" replied Mr. Tidditt, rising hurriedly. "Don't say
another word, Whit." And the mystified Bangs concurred with a
"Yes, yes! Why, of course! Didn't have nothin' that amounts to
nothin' to stay for anyhow. See you to-morrer, Cy."
Outside and at the gate they stopped and looked at each other.
"Well!" exclaimed Asaph. "If that ain't the strangest thing! Who
was that feller? Where'd he come from? Did you notice how Cy
acted? Seemed to be holdin' himself in by main strength."
"Did you smell the rum on him?" returned Bailey. "On that t'other
chap, I mean? Didn't he look like a reg'lar no-account to you?
And say, Ase, didn't he remind you of somebody you'd seen
somewheres--kind of, in a way?"
They walked home in a dazed state, asking unanswerable questions
and making profitless guesses. But Asaph's final remark seemed to
sum up the situation.
"There's trouble comin' of this, Bailey," he declared. "And it's
trouble for Cy Whittaker, I'm afraid. Poor old Cy! Well, WE'LL
stand by him, anyhow. I don't believe he'll sleep much to-night.
Didn't look as though he would, did he? Who IS that feller?"
If he had seen Captain Cy, at two o'clock the next morning, sitting
by Bos'n's bedside and gazing hopelessly at the child, he would
have realized that, if his former predictions were wiped off the
slate and he could be judged by the one concerning the captain's
sleepless night, he might thereafter pose as a true prophet.
A BARGAIN OFF
"Mornin', Georgianna," said Captain Cy to his housekeeper as the
latter unlocked the back door of the Whittaker house next morning.
"I'm a little ahead of you this time."
Miss Taylor, being Bayport born and bred, was an early riser. She
lodged with her sister, in Bassett's Hollow, a good half mile from
the Cy Whittaker place, but she was always on hand at the latter
establishment by six each morning, except Sundays. Now she glanced
quickly at the clock. The time was ten minutes to six.
"Land sakes!" she exclaimed. "I should say you was! What in the
world got you up so early? Ain't sick, are you?"
"No," replied the captain wearily. "I ain't sick. I didn't sleep
very well last night, that's all."
Georgianna looked sharply at him. His face was haggard and his
eyes had dark circles under them.
"Humph!" she grunted. "No, I guess you didn't. Looks to me as if
you'd been up all night." Then she added an anxious query:
"'Tain't Bos'n--she ain't sick, I hope?"
"No. She's all right. I say, Georgianna, you put on an extry
plate this mornin'. Got company for breakfast."
The housekeeper was surprised.
"For breakfast?" she repeated. "Land of goodness! who's comin' for
breakfast? I never heard of company droppin' in for breakfast.
That's one meal folks generally get to home. Who is it? Mr.
Tidditt? Has Ketury turned him out door because he's too bad an
example for her husband?"
"No, 'tain't Ase. It's a--a friend of mine. Well, not exactly a
friend, maybe, but an acquaintance from out of town. He came last
evenin'. He's up in the spare bedroom."
"Well, I never! Come unexpected, didn't he? I wish I'd known he
was comin'. That spare room bed ain't been aired I don't know
"I guess he can stand it. I cal'late he's slept in consider'ble
worse--Hum! Yes, he did come kind of sudden."
"What's his name?"
"What difference does that make? I don't know's his name makes any
odds about gettin' his breakfast for him."
Georgianna was hurt. Her easy-going employer had never used this
tone before when addressing her.
"Oh!" she sniffed. "Is THAT the way you feel? All right! I can
mind my own business, thank you. I only asked because it's
convenient sometimes to know whether to call a person Bill Smith or
Sol Jones. But I don't care if it's Nebuchadnezzar. I know when
to keep my tongue still, I guess."
She flounced over to the range. Captain Cy looked ashamed of
"I'm kind of out of sorts to-day," he said. "Got some headache.
Why, his name is--is--yes, 'tis Smith, come to think of it--John
Smith. Funny you should guess right, wan't it?"
"Humph!" was the ungracious answer. "Names don't interest me, I
The captain was in the dining room when Bos'n appeared.
"Good morning, Uncle Cyrus," she said. "You've been waiting,
haven't you? Am I late? I didn't mean to be."
"No, no! you ain't late. Early, if anything. Breakfast ain't
quite ready yet. Come here and set in my lap. I want to talk to
He took her on his knee. She looked up into his face.
"What's the matter, Uncle Cy?" she asked. "What makes you so
"Sober? If you ain't the oldest young one for eight years I ever
saw! Why, I ain't sober. No, no! Say, Bos'n, do you like your
school as well as ever?"
"Yes, sir. I like it better all the time."
"Do, hey? And that teacher woman--go on likin' her?"
The child nodded emphatically. "Yes, sir," she said. "And I
haven't been kept after since that once."
"Sho! sho! Course you ain't'! So you think Bayport's as nice as
Concord, do you?"
"Oh! lots nicer! If mamma was only here I'd never want to be
anywhere else. And not then, maybe, unless you was there, too."
"Hum! Want to know! Say, Bos'n, how would you feel if you had to
go somewheres else?"
"To live? Have we got to? I'd feel dreadful, of course. But if
you've got to go, Uncle Cyrus, why--"
"Me? No; I ain't got to go anywheres. But 'twas you I was thinkin'
of. Wouldn't want to leave the old man, hey?"
"To leave YOU! Oh, Uncle Cyrus!"
She was staring at him now and her chin was trembling.
"Uncle," she demanded, "you ain't going to send me away? Haven't I
been a good girl?"
The captain's lips shut tight. He waited a moment before replying.
"'Deed you've been a good girl!" he said brusquely. "I never saw a
better one. No, I ain't goin' to SEND you away. Don't you worry
"But Alicia Atkins said one time you told somebody you was going to
send me out West, after a while. I didn't believe it, then, she's
so mean, but she said you said--"
"SAID!" Captain Cy groaned. "The Lord knows what I ain't said!
I've been a fool, dearie, and it's a judgment on me, I guess."
"But ain't you goin' to keep me? I--I--"
She sobbed. The captain stroked her hair.
"Keep you?" he muttered. "Yes, by the big dipper! I'm goin' to
keep you, if I can--if I can."
"Hello!" said a voice. The pair looked up. The man who had
arrived on the previous night stood in the sitting-room doorway.
How long he had been standing there the captain did not know. What
he did know was that Mr. John Smith by daylight was not more
prepossessing than the same individual viewed by the aid of a lamp.
Emily saw the stranger and slid from Captain Cy's knees. The
"Bos'n," he said, "this is Mr.--er--Smith, who's goin' to make us a
little visit. I want you to shake hands with him."
The girl dutifully approached Mr. Smith and extended her hand. He
took it and held it in his own.
"Is this the--" he began.
Captain Cy bowed assent.
"Yes," he said, his eyes fixed on the visitor's face. "Yes. Don't
forget what you said last night."
Smith shook his head.
"No," he replied. "I ain't the kind that forgets, unless it pays
pretty well. There's some things I've remembered for quite a few
He looked the child over from head to foot and his brows drew
together in an ugly frown.
"So this is her, hey?" he muttered musingly. "Humph! Well, I
don't know as I'd have guessed it. Favors the other side of the
house more--the respectable side, I should say. Still, there's a
little brand of the lost sheep, hey? Enough to prove property,
huh? Mark of the beast, I s'pose the psalm-singin' relations would
call it. D--n em! I--"
"Steady!" broke in the captain. Mr. Smith started, seemed to
remember where he was, and his manner changed.
"Come and see me, honey," he coaxed, drawing the girl toward him by
the hand he was holding. "Ain't you got a nice kiss for me this
fine mornin'? Don't be scared. I won't bite."
Bos'n looked shrinkingly at Mr. Smith's unshaven cheeks and then at
Captain Cy. The latter's face was absolutely devoid of expression.
He merely nodded.
So Emily kissed one of the bristling cheeks. The kiss was returned
full upon the mouth. She wiped her lips and darted away to her
chair by the table.
"What's your hurry?" inquired the visitor. "Don't I do it right?
Been some time since I kissed a girl--a little one, anyhow," he
added, winking at his host. "Never mind, we'll know each other
better by and by."
He looked on in wondering disgust as Bos'n said her "grace."
"What in blazes!" he burst out when the little blessing was
finished. "Who put her up to that? A left-over from the psalm-
singers, is it?"
"I don't know," answered the captain, speaking with deliberation.
"I do know that I like to have her do it and that she shall do it
as long's she's at this table."
"Oh! she shall, hey? Well, I reckon--"
"She shall--AS LONG AS SHE'S AT THIS TABLE. Is that real plain and
understandable, or shall I write it down?"
There was an icy clearness in the captain's tone which seemed to
freeze further conversation on the part of Mr. Smith. He merely
grunted and ate his breakfast in silence. He ate a great deal and
ate it rapidly.
Bos'n departed for school when the meal was over. Captain Cy
helped her on with her coat and hood. Then, as he always did of
late, he kissed her good-by.
"Hi!" called Mr. Smith from the sitting room. "Ain't I in on that?
If there's any kisses goin' I want to take a hand before the deal's
"Must I?" whispered Bos'n pleadingly. "Must I, Uncle Cy? I don't
want to. I don't like him."
"Come on!" called Mr. Smith. "I'm gettin' over my bashfulness
fast. Hurry up!"
"Must I kiss him, Uncle Cyrus?" whispered Bos'n. "MUST I?"
"No!" snapped the captain sharply. "Trot right along now, dearie.
Be a good girl. Good-by."
He entered the sitting room. His guest had found the Sunday box
and was lighting one of his host's cigars.
"Well," he inquired easily, "what's next on the bill? Anything
goin' on in this forsaken hole?"
"There's a barber shop down the road. You might go there first, I
should say. Not that you need it, but just as a novelty like."
"Humph! I don't know. What's the matter with your razor?"
"Nothin'. At least I ain't found anything wrong with it yet."
"Oh! Say, look here! you're a queer guy, you are. I ain't got you
right in my mind yet. One minute butter wouldn't melt in your
mouth, and the next you're fresh as a new egg. What IS your little
game, anyway? You've got one, so don't tell me you ain't."
Captain Cy was plainly embarrassed. He gazed at the "Shore to
Shore" picture on the wall as he answered.
"No game about it," he said. "Last night you and I agreed that
nothin' was to be said for a few days. You was to stay here and
I'd try to make you comfort'ble, that's all. Then we'd see about
that other matter, settle on a fair price, and--"
"Yes, I know. That's all right. But you're too willin'. There's
something else. Say!" The ugly scowl was in evidence again.
"Say, look here, you! you ain't got somethin' up your sleeve, have
you? There ain't somethin' more that I don't know about, is there?
No more secrets than that--"
"No! You hear me? No! You'll get your rights, and maybe a little
more than your rights, if you're decent. And it'll pay you to be
"Humph!" Mr. Smith seemed to be thinking. Then he added, looking
up keenly under his brows: "How about the--the incumbrance on the
property? Of course, when I go I'll have to take that with me,
Captain Cy interrupted.
"There! there!" he exclaimed, and there was a shake in his voice,
"there! there! Don't let's talk about such things now. I--I--
Let's wait a spell. We'll have some more plans to make, maybe. If
you want to use my razor it's right in that drawer. Just help
The visitor laughed aloud. He nodded as if satisfied. "Ho! ho!"
he chuckled. "I see! Humph! yes--I see. The fools ain't all
dead, and there's none to beat an old one. Well! well! All right,
pard! I guess you and me'll get along fine. I've changed my mind;
I WILL go to the barber shop, after all. Only I'm a little shy of
dust just at present. So, to oblige a friend, maybe you'll hand
The captain reached into his pocket, extracted a two-dollar bill,
and passed it to the speaker. Mr. Smith smiled and shook his head.
"You can't come in on that, pard," he said. "The limit's five."
Captain Cy took back the bill and exchanged it for one with a V in
each corner. The visitor took it and turned toward the door.
"Ta! ta!" he said, taking his hat from the peg in the dining room.
"I'm off for the clippers. When I come back I'll be the sweetest
little Willie in the diggin's. So long."
Bos'n and the captain sat down to the dinner at noon alone. Mr.
Smith had not returned from his trip to the barber's. He came in,
however, just before the meal was over, still in an unshorn
condition, somewhat flushed and very loquacious.
"Say!" he exclaimed genially. "That Simpson's the right sort,
ain't he? Him and me took a shine to each other from the go-off.
He's been West himself and he's got some width to him. He's no
"Humph!" commented the captain, with delicate sarcasm. "He don't
seem to be much of a barber, either. What's the matter? Gone out
of business, has he? Or was you so wild or woolly he got discouraged
before he begun?"
"Great snakes!" exclaimed the visitor. "I forgot all about the
clippers! Well, that's one on me, pard! I'll make a new try
soon's grub's over. Don't be so tight-fisted with the steak; this
is a plate I'm passin', not a contribution box."
He winked at Bos'n and would have chucked her under the chin if she
had not dodged. She seemed to have taken a great aversion to Mr.
Smith and was plainly afraid of him.
"Is he going to stay very long, Uncle Cyrus?" she whispered, when
it was school time once more. "Do you think he's nice?"
Captain Cy did not answer. When she had gone and the guest had
risen from the table and put on his hat, the captain said
"There's one little bit of advice I want to give you, Mister Man:
A bargain's a bargain, but it takes two to keep it. Don't let your
love for Tad Simpson lead you into talkin' too much. Talk's cheap,
they say, but too much of it might be mighty dear for you.
Smith patted him on the back. "Lord love you, pard!" he chuckled,
"I'm no spring chicken. I'm as hard to open as a safe, I am. It
takes a can opener to get anything out of me."
"Yes; well, you can get inside some folks easier with a corkscrew.
I've been told that Tad's a kind of a medium sometimes. If he
raises any spirits in that back room of his, I'd leave 'em alone,
if I was you. So long as you're decent, I'll put up with--"
But Mr. Smith was on his way to the gate, whistling as if he hadn't
a care in the world. Captain Cy watched him go down the road, and
then, with the drawn, weary look on his face which had been there
since the day before, he entered the sitting room and threw himself
into a chair.
Miss Phoebe Dawes, the school teacher, worked late that evening.
There were examination papers to be gone over, and experience had
demonstrated that the only place where she could be free from
interruptions was the schoolroom itself. At the perfect boarding
house the shrill tones of Keturah's voice and those of Miss Phinney
and Mrs. Tripp penetrated through shut doors. It is hard to figure
percentages when the most intimate details of Bayport's family life
are being recited and gloated over on the other side of a thin
partition. And when Matilda undertook to defend the Come-Outer
faith against the assaults of the majority, the verbal riot was, as
Mr. Tidditt described it, "like feedin' time in a parrot shop."
So Miss Phoebe came to the boarding house for supper and then
returned to the schoolroom, where, with a lighted bracket lamp
beside her on the desk, she labored until nine o'clock. Then she
put on her coat and hat, extinguished the light, locked the door,
and started on her lonely walk home.
"The main road" in our village is dark after nine o clock. There
is a street light--a kerosene lamp--on a post in front of the
Methodist meeting house, but the sexton forgets it, generally
speaking, or, at any rate, neglects to fill it except at rare
intervals. Simmons's front windows are ablaze, of course, and so
are the dingy panes of Simpson's barber shop. But these two
centers of sociability are both at the depot road corner, and when
they are passed the only sources of illumination are the scattered
gleams from the back windows of dwellings. As most of us retire by
half-past eight, the glow along the main road is not dazzling, to
say the very least.
Miss Dawes was not afraid of the dark. She had been her own escort
for a good many years. She walked briskly on, heard the laughter
and loud voices in the barber shop die away behind her, passed the
schoolhouse pond, now bleak and chill with the raw November wind
blowing across it, and began to climb the slope of Whittaker's
Hill. And here the wind, rushing in unimpeded over the flooded
salt meadows from the tumbled bay outside, wound her skirts about
her and made climbing difficult and breath-taking.
She was, perhaps, half way up the long slope, when she heard, in
the intervals between the gusts, footsteps behind her. She knew
most of the village people by this time and the thought of company
was not unpleasant. So she paused and pantingly waited for whoever
was coming. She could not see more than a few yards, but the
footsteps sounded nearer and nearer, and, a moment later, a man's
voice began singing "Annie Rooney," a melody then past its prime in
the cities, but popularized in Bayport by some departed batch of
She did not recognize the voice and she did not particularly
approve of singing in the streets, especially such loud singing.
So she decided not to wait longer, and was turning to continue her
climb, when the person behind stopped his vocalizing and called.
"Hi!" he shouted. "Hello, ahead there! Who is it? Hold on a
minute, pard! I'm comin'."
She disobeyed the order to "hold on," and began to hurry. The
hurry was of no avail, however, for the follower broke into a run
and soon was by her side. He was a stranger to her.
"Whee! Wow!" he panted. "This is no race track, pard. Pull up,
and let's take it easy. My off leg's got a kink in it, and I don't
run so easy as I used to. Great snakes; what's your rush? Ain't
you fond of company? Hello! I believe it's a woman!"
She did not answer. His manner and the smell of liquor about him
were decidedly unpleasant. The idea that he might be a tramp
occurred to her. Tramps are our bugaboos here in Bayport.
"A woman!" exclaimed the man hilariously. "Well, say! I didn't
believe there was one loose in this tail-end of nowhere. Girlie,
I'm glad to see you. Not that I can see you much, but never mind.
All cats are gray in the dark, hey? You can't see me, neither, so
we'll take each other on trust. 'She's my sweetheart, I'm her
beau.' Say, Maud, may I see you home?"
She was frightened now. The Whittaker place on the hilltop was the
nearest house, and that was some distance off.
"What's the matter, Carrie?" inquired the man. "Don't be scared.
I wouldn't hurt you. I'm just lonesome, that's all, and I need
society. Don't rush, you'll ruin your complexion. Here! come
under my wing and let's toddle along together. How's mamma?"
He seized her arm and pulled her back beside him. She tried to
free herself, but could not. Her unwelcome escort held her fast
and she was obliged to move as slowly as he did. It was very dark.
"Say, what IS your name?" coaxed the man. "Is is Maud, hey? Or
Julia? I always liked Julia. Don't be peevish. Tell us, that's a
She gave a quick jerk and managed to pull her arm from his grasp,
giving him a violent push as she did so. He, being unsteady on his
feet, tumbled down the low bank which edged the sidewalk. Then she
ran on up the hill as fast as she could. She heard him swear as he
She had nearly reached the end of the Whittaker fence when he
caught her. He was laughing, and that alarmed her almost as much
as if he had been angry.
"Naughty! naughty!" he chuckled, holding her fast. "Tryin' to
sneak, was you? Not much! Not this time! Did you ever play
forfeits when you was little? Well, this is a forfeit game and
you're It. You must bow to the prettiest, kneel to the wittiest,
and kiss the one you love best. And I'll let you off on the first
two. Come now! Pay up!"
Then she screamed. And her scream was answered at once. A gate
swung back with a bang and she heard some one running along the
walk toward her.
"O Cap'n Whittaker!" she called. "Come! Come quick, please!"
How she knew that the person running toward her was Captain Cy has
not been satisfactorily explained even yet. She cannot explain it
and neither can the captain. And equally astonishing was the
latter's answer. He certainly had not heard her voice often enough
to recognize it under such circumstances.
"All right, teacher!" he shouted. "I'm comin'! Let go of that
woman, you-- Oh, it's you, is it?"
He had seized Mr. Smith by the coat collar and jerked him away from
his victim. Miss Dawes took refuge behind the captain's bulky
form. The two men looked at each other. Smith was recovering his
"It's you, is it?" repeated Captain Cy. Then, turning to Miss
Phoebe, he asked: "Did he hurt you?"
"No! Not yet. But he frightened me dreadfully. Who is he? Do
you know him?"
Her persecutor answered the question.
"You bet your life he knows me!" he snarled. "He knows me mighty
well! Pard, you keep your nose out of this, d'you see! You mind
your own business. I wan't goin' to hurt her any."
The captain paid no attention to him.
"Yup, I know him," he said grimly. Then he added, pointing toward
the lighted window of the house ahead: "You--Smith, you go in
there and stay there! Trot! Don't make me speak twice."
But Mr. Smith was too far gone with anger and the "spirits" raised
by Tad Simpson to heed the menace in the words.
"Smith, hey?" he sneered. "Oh, yes, SMITH! Well, Smith ain't
goin', d'you see! He's goin' to do what he pleases. I reckon I'm
on top of the roost here! I know what's what! You can't talk to
me. I've got rights, I have, and--"
"Blast your rights!"
"What? WHAT? Blast my rights, hey? Oh, yes! Think because
you've got money you can cheat me out of 'em, do you? Well, you
can't! And how about the other part of those rights? S'pose I
walk right into that house and--"
"Stop it! Shut up! You'd better not--"
"And into that bedroom and just say: 'Emmie, here's your--'"
He didn't finish the sentence. Captain Cy's big fist struck him
fairly between the eyes, and the back of his head struck the walk
with a "smack!" Then, through the fireworks which were
illuminating his muddled brain, he heard the captain's voice.
"You low - down, good - for - nothin' scamp!" growled Captain Cy.
"All this day I've been hatin' myself for the way I've acted to
you. I've hated myself and been tryin' to spunk up courage to say
'It's all off!' But I was too much of a coward, I guess. And now
the Lord A'mighty has MADE me say it. You want your rights, do
you? So? Then get 'em if you can. It's you and me for it, and
we'll see who's the best man. Teacher, if you're ready I'll walk
home with you now."
Mr. Smith was not entirely cowed.
"You go!" he yelled. "Go ahead! And I'll go to a lawyer's to-
morrow. But to-night, and inside of five minutes, I'll walk into
that house of yours and get my--"
The captain dropped Miss Dawes's arm and strode back to where his
antagonist was sitting in the dust of the walk. Stooping down, he
shook a big forefinger in the man's face.
"You've been out West, they tell me," he whispered sternly. "Yes!
Well, out West they take the law into their own hands, sometimes, I
hear. I've been in South America, and they do it there, too. Just
so sure as you go into my house to-night and touch--well, you know
what I mean--just so sure I'll kill you like a dog, if I have to
chase you to Jericho. Now you can believe that or not. If I was
you I'd believe it."
Taking the frightened schoolmistress by the arm once more he walked
away. Mr. Smith said nothing till they had gone some distance.
Then he called after them.
"You wait till to-morrow!" he shouted. "You just wait and see
what'll happen to-morrow!"
Captain Cy was silent all the way to the gate of the perfect
boarding house. Miss Dawes was silent likewise, but she thought a
great deal. At the gate she said:
"Captain Whittaker, I'm EVER so much obliged to you. I can't thank
"Don't try, then. That's what you said to me about the cow."
"But I'm almost sorry you were the one to come. I'm afraid that
man will get you into trouble. Has he--can he-- What did he mean
about to-morrow? Who IS he?"
The captain pushed his cap back from his forehead.
"Teacher," he said, "there's a proverb, ain't there, about lettin'
to-morrow take care of itself? As for trouble--well, I did think
I'd had trouble enough in my life to last me through, but I
cal'late I've got another guess. Anyhow, don't you fret. I did
just the right thing, and I'm glad I did it. If it was only me I
wouldn't fret, either. But there's--" He stopped, groaned, and
pulled the cap forward again. "Good night," he added, and turned
Miss Dawes leaned forward and detained him.
"Just a minute, Cap'n Whittaker," she said. "I was a little
prejudiced against you when I came here. I was told that you got
me the teacher's position, and there was more than a hint that you
did it for selfish reasons of your own. When you called that
afternoon at the school I was--"
"Don't say a word! I was the biggest fool in town that time, and
I've been ashamed to look in the glass ever since. I ain't always
such an idiot."
"But I've had to judge people for myself in my lifetime," continued
the schoolmistress, " and I've made up my mind that I was mistaken
about you. I should like to apologize. Will you shake hands?"
She extended her hand. Captain Cy hesitated.
"Hadn't you better wait a spell?" he asked. "You've heard that
swab call me partner. Hadn't--"
"No; I don't know what your trouble is, of course, and I certainly
shan't mention it to anyone. But whatever it is I'm sure you are
right and it's not your fault. Now will you shake hands?"
The captain did not answer. He merely took the proffered hand,
shook it heartily, and strode off into the dark.
"This is goin' to be a meMOriable town meetin'!" declared Sylvanus
Cahoon, with unction, rising from the settee to gaze about him over
the heads of the voters in the townhall. "I bet you every able-
bodied man in Bayport 'll be here this forenoon. Yes, sir! that's
what I call it, a me-MO-riable meetin'!"
"See anything of Cy?" inquired Josiah Dimick, who sat next to
"No, he ain't come yet. And Heman ain't here, neither. Hello!
there's Tad. Looks happy, seems to me."
Captain Dimick stood up to inspect Mr. Simpson.
"Humph!" he muttered. "Well, unless my count's wrong, he ain't got
much to be happy about. 'Lonzo Snow's with him. Tad does look
sort of joyful, don't he? Them that laughs last laughs best. When
the vote for school committee's all in we'll see who does the
grinnin'. But I can't understand-- Hello! there's Tidditt.
Asaph! Ase! S-s-t-t! Come here a minute."
Mr. Tidditt, trembling with excitement, and shaking hands effusively
with everyone he met, pushed his way up the aisle and bent over
"Say, Ase," whispered Josiah, "where's Whit? Why ain't he on hand?
Nothin's happened, has it?"
"No," replied the town clerk. "Everything seems to be all right.
I stopped in on the way along and Cy said not to wait; he'd be here
on time. He's been kind of off his feed for the last day or so,
and I cal'late he didn't feel like hurryin'. Say, Joe, now honest,
what do you think of my chances?"
Such a confirmed joker as Dimick couldn't lose an opportunity like
this. With the aid of one trying to be cheerful under discouragement
he answered that, so far, Asaph's chances looked fair, pretty fair,
but of course you couldn't always sometimes tell. Mr. Tidditt
rushed away to begin the handshaking all over again.
From this round of cordiality he was reluctantly torn and conducted
to the platform. After thumping the desk with his fist he announced
that the gathering would "come to order right off, as there was
consider'ble business to be done and it ought to be goin' ahead."
He then proceeded to read the call for the meeting. This ceremony
was no sooner over than Abednego Small, "Uncle Bedny," was on his
feet loudly demanding to be informed why the town "hadn't done
nothin'" toward fixing up the Bassett's Hollow road. Uncle Bedny's
speech had proceeded no further than "Feller citizens, in the name
of an outrageous--I should say outraged portion of our community
I--" when he was choked off by a self-appointed committee who knew
Mr. Small of old and had seated themselves near him to be ready for
just such emergencies. The next step, judged by meetings of other
years, should have been to unanimously elect Eben Salters moderator;
but as Captain Eben refused to serve, owing to his interest in the
Whittaker campaign, Alvin Knowles was, by a small majority, chosen
for that office. Mr. Knowles was a devout admirer of the great
Atkins, and his election would have been considered a preliminary
victory for the opposition had it not been that many of Captain Cy's
adherents voted for Alvin from a love of mischief, knowing from
experience his ignorance of parliamentary law and his easy-going
rule. "Now there'll be fun!" declared one delighted individual.
"Anything's in order when Alvin's chairman."
The proceedings of the first half hour were disappointingly tame.
Most of us had come there to witness a political wrestling match
between Tad Simpson and Cyrus Whittaker. Some even dared hope that
Congressman Atkins might direct his fight in person. But neither
the Honorable nor Captain Cy was in the hall as yet. Solon