Part 6 out of 6
hands as you could--ain't that so? And when her dad turned up, you
thought you saw your chance. Heman, you answer me this: Ain't it
part of your bargain with Thomas that when he gets his little girl,
he shall take her and clear out, away off somewheres, for good?
Ain't it, now--what?"
The monument was swaying, was swinging from side to side, but it
did not quite fall--not then. The congressman's cheeks hung
flabby, his forehead was wet, and he shook from head to foot; but
he clenched his jaws and made one last attempt at defiance.
"I--I don't know what you mean," he declared. "You--you seem
to be accusing me of something. Of stealing, I believe. Do you
understand who I am? I have some influence and reputation, and it
is dangerous to--to try to frighten me. Proofs are required in
"S-s-h-h! You know I've got the proofs. They were easy enough to
get, once I happened on the track of 'em. Lord sakes, Heman, I
ain't a fool! What's the use of your pretendin' to be one?
There's the deed out in 'Frisco, with yours and John's name on it.
There's the records to prove the sale. There's the receipt for the
seventy-five thousand signed by you, on behalf of yourself and your
partner's widow. There's old man Everdean alive and competent to
testify. There's John Thayer's will on file over to Orham.
Proofs! Why, you THIEF! if it's proofs you want, I've got enough
to send you to state's prison for the rest of your life. Don't you
dare say 'proofs' to me again! Heman Atkins, you owe me, as
Bos'n's guardian, thirty-seven thousand five hundred dollars, with
interest since 1854. What you goin' to do about it?"
Here was one ray, a feeble ray, of light.
"You're not her guardian," cried Atkins. "The courts have thrown
you out. And your appeal won't stand, either. If any money is
due, it belongs to her father. She isn't of age! No, sir! her
Captain Cy's patience had been giving way. Now he lost it
altogether. He strode across the room and shook his forefinger
in his victim's face.
"So!" he cried. "That's your tack, is it? By the big dipper! You
GO to her father--just you go to him and tell him! Just hint to
him that you owe his daughter thirty-odd thousand dollars, and see
what he'll do. Good heavens above! he was ready to sell her out to
me for fifty dollars' wuth of sand bank in Orham. Almost ready, he
was, till you offered a higher price to him to fight. Why, he'll
have your hide nailed up on the barn door! If you don't pay him
every red copper, down on the nail, he'll wring you dry. And then
he'll blackmail you forever and ever, amen! Unless, of course, _I_
go home and stop the blackmail by printing my story in the Breeze.
I've a precious good mind to do it. By the Almighty, I WILL do it!
unless you come off that high horse of yours and talk like a man."
And then the monument fell, fell prostrate, with a sickly, pitiful
crash. If we of Bayport could have seen our congressman then! The
great man, great no longer, broke down completely. He cried like a
baby. It was all true--all true. He had not meant to steal, at
first. He had been led into using the money in his business. Then
he had meant to send it to the heirs, but he didn't know their
whereabouts. Captain Cy smiled at this excuse. And now he
couldn't pay--he COULDN'T. He had hardly that sum in the world.
He had lost money in stocks, his property in the South had gone to
the bad! He would be ruined. He would have to go to prison. He
was getting to be an old man. And there was Alicia, his daughter!
Think of her! Think of the disgrace! And so on, over and over,
with the one recurring burden--what was the captain going to do?
what was he going to do? It was a miserable, dreadful exhibition,
and Captain Cy could feel no pride in his triumph.
"There! there!" he said at last. "Stop it, man; stop it, for
goodness sakes! Pull yourself together. I guess we can fix it up
somehow. I ain't goin' to be too hard on you. If it wan't for
your meanness in bein' willin' to let Bos'n suffer her life long
with that drunken beast of a dad of hers, I'd feel almost like
tellin' you to get up and forget it. But THAT'S got to be stopped.
Now, you listen to me."
Heman listened. He was on his knees beside the bed, his face
buried in his arms, and his gray hair, the leonine Atkins hair,
which he was wont to toss backward in the heated periods of his
eloquence, tumbled and draggled. Captain Cy looked down at him.
"This whole business about Bos'n must be stopped," he said, "and
stopped right off. You tell your lawyers to drop the case. Her
dad is only hangin' around because you pay him to. He don't want
her; he don't care what becomes of her. If you pay him enough,
he'll go, won't he? and not come back?"
The congressman raised his head.
"Why, yes," he faltered; "I think he will. Yes, I think I could
arrange that. But, Cyrus--"
The captain held up his hand.
"I intend to look out for Bos'n," he said. "She cares for me
more'n anyone else in the world. She's as much to me as my own
child ever could be, and I'll see that she is happy and provided
for. I'm religious enough to believe she was sent to me, and I
intend to stick to my trust. As for the money--"
"Yes, yes! The money?"
"Well, I won't be too hard on you that way, either. We'll talk
that over later on. Maybe we can arrange for you to pay it a
little at a time. You can sign a paper showin' that you owe it,
and we'll fix the payin' to suit all hands. 'Tain't as if the
child was in want. I've got some money of my own, and what's
mine's hers. I think we needn't worry about the money part."
"God bless you, Cyrus! I--"
"Yes, all right. I'm sure your askin' for the blessin' 'll be a
great help. Now, you do your part, and I'll do mine. No one knows
of this business but me. I didn't tell Everdean a word. He don't
know why I hustled out there and back, nor why I asked so many
questions. And he ain't the kind to pry into what don't concern
him. So you're pretty safe, I cal'late. Now, if you don't mind, I
wish you'd run along home. I'm--I'm used up, sort of."
Mr. Atkins arose from his knees. Even then, broken as he was--he
looked ten years older than when he entered the room--he could
hardly believe what he had just heard.
"You mean," he faltered, "Cyrus, do you mean that--that you're not
going to reveal this--this--"
"That I'm not goin' to tell on you? Yup; that's what I mean. You
get rid of Thomas and squelch that law case, and I'll keep mum.
You can trust me for that."
"But--but, Cyrus, the people at home? Your story in the Breeze?
"No, they needn't know, either. It'll be between you and me."
"God bless you! I'll never forget--"
"That's right. You mustn't. Forgettin' is the one thing you
mustn't do. And, see here, you're boss of the political fleet in
Bayport; you steer the school committee now. Phoebe Dawes ain't
too popular with that committee; I'd see that she was popularized."
"Yes, yes; she shall be. She shall not be disturbed. Is there
anything else I can do?"
"Why, yes, I guess there is. Speakin' of popularity made me think
of it. That harbor appropriation had better go through."
A very faint tinge of color came into the congressman's chalky
face. He hesitated in his reply.
"I--I don't know about that, Cyrus," he said. "The bill will
probably be voted on in a few days. It is made up and--"
"Then I'd strain a p'int and make it over. I'd work real hard on
it. I'm sorry about that sugar river, but I cal'late Bayport 'll
have to come first. Yes, it'll have to, Heman; it sartin will."
The reference to the "sugar river" was the final straw. Evidently
this man knew everything.
"I--I'll try my best," affirmed Heman. "Thank you, Cyrus. You
have been more merciful than I had a right to expect."
"Yes, I guess I have. Why do I do it?" He smiled and shook his
head. "Well, I don't know. For two reasons, maybe. First, I'd
hate to be responsible for tippin' over such a sky-towerin' idol as
you've been to make ruins for Angie Phinney and the other blackbirds
to peck at and caw over. And second--well, it does sound presumin',
don't it, but I kind of pity you. Say, Heman," he added with a
chuckle, "that's a kind of distinction, in a way, ain't it? A good
many folks have hurrahed over you and worshipped you--some of 'em, I
guess likely, have envied you; but, by the big dipper! I do believe
I'm the only one in this round world that ever PITIED you. Good-by.
The elevator's right down the hall."
It required some resolution for the Honorable Atkins to walk down
that corridor and press the elevator button. But he did it,
somehow. A guest came out of one of the rooms and approached him
as he stood there. It was a man he knew. Heman squared his
shoulders and set every nerve and muscle.
"Good evening, Mr. Atkins," said the man. "A miserable night,
"Miserable, indeed," replied the congressman. The strength in his
voice surprised him. The man passed on. Heman descended in the
elevator, walked steadily through the crowded lobby and out to the
curb where his cab was waiting. The driver noticed nothing strange
in his fare's appearance. He noticed nothing strange when the
Atkins residence was reached and its tenant mounted the stone steps
and opened the door with his latchkey. But, if he had seen the
dignified form collapse in a library chair and moan and rock back
and forth until the morning hours, he would have wondered very much
Meanwhile Captain Cy, coughing and shivering by the radiator, had
been summoned from that warm haven by a knock at his door. A bell
boy stood at the threshold, holding a brown envelope in his hand.
"The clerk sent this up to you, sir," he said. "It came a week
ago. When you went away, you didn't leave any address, and
whatever letters came for you were sent back to Bayport,
Massachusetts. The clerk says you registered from there, sir.
But he kept this telegram. It was in your box, and the day clerk
forgot to give it to you this afternoon."
The captain tore open the envelope. The telegram was from his
lawyer, Mr. Peabody. It was dated a week before, and read as
"Come home at once. Important."
The blizzard began that night. Bayport has a generous allowance of
storms and gales during a winter, although, as a usual thing, there
is more rain than snow and more wind than either. But we can count
with certainty on at least one blizzard between November and April,
and about the time when Captain Cy, feverish and ill, the delayed
telegram in his pocket and a great fear in his heart, boarded the
sleeper of the East-bound train at Washington, snow was beginning
to fall in our village.
Next morning, when Georgianna came downstairs to prepare Bos'n's
breakfast--the housekeeper had ceased to "go home nights" since the
captain's absence--the world outside was a tumbled, driving whirl
of white. The woodshed and barn, dimly seen through the smother,
were but gray shapes, emerging now and then only to be wiped from
the vision as by a great flapping cloth wielded by the mighty hand
of the wind. The old house shook in the blasts, the windowpanes
rattled as if handfuls of small shot were being thrown against
them, and the carpet on the floor of the dining room puffed up in
School was out of the question, and Bos'n, her breakfast eaten,
prepared to put in a cozy day with her dolls and Christmas
"When DO you s'pose Uncle Cyrus will get home?" she asked of the
housekeeper. She had asked the same thing at least three times a
day during the fortnight, and Georgianna's answer was always just
"I don't know, dearie, I'm sure. He'll be here pretty soon,
though, don't you fret."
"Oh, I ain't going to fret. I know he'll come. He said he would,
and Uncle Cy always does what he says he will."
About twelve Asaph made his appearance, a white statue.
"Godfrey scissors!" he panted, shaking his snow-plastered cap over
the coal hod. "Say, this is one of 'em, ain't it? Don't know's I
ever see more of a one. Drift out by the front fence pretty nigh
up to my waist. This 'll be a nasty night along the Orham beach.
The lifesavers 'll have their hands full. Whew! I'm about
"Been to the post office?" asked Georgianna in a low tone.
"Yup. I been there. Mornin' mail just this minute sorted.
Train's two hours late. Gabe says more'n likely the evenin' train
won't be able to get through at all, if this keeps up."
"Was there anything from--"
Mr. Tidditt glanced at Bos'n and shook his head.
"Not a word," he said. "Funny, ain't it? It don't seem a bit like
him. And he can't be to Washin'ton, because all them letters came
back. I--I swan to man, I'm beginnin' to get worried."
"Worried? I'm pretty nigh crazy! What does Phoebe Dawes say?"
"She don't say much. It's pretty tough, when everything else is
workin' out so fine, thanks to her, to have this happen. No, she
don't say much, but she acts pretty solemn."
"Say, Mr. Tidditt?"
"Yes, what is it?"
"You don't s'pose anything that happened betwixt her and Cap'n
Whittaker that afternoon is responsible for--for his stayin' away
so, do you? You know what he told me to tell her--about her not
Asaph fidgeted with the wet cap.
"Aw, that ain't nothin'," he stammered. "That is, I hope it ain't.
I did say somethin' to him that--but Phoebe understands. She's a
"You haven't told them boardin' house tattletales about the--Emmie,
you go fetch me a card of matches from the kitchen, won't you--of
what's been found out about that Thomas thing?"
"Course I ain't. Didn't Peabody say not to tell a soul till we was
sure? S'pose I'd tell Keturah and Angie? Might's well paint it on
a sign and be done with it. No, no! I've kept mum and you do the
same. Well, I must be goin'. Hope to goodness we hear some good
news from Whit by to-morrer."
But when to-morrow came news of any kind was unobtainable. No
trains could get through, and the telephone and telegraph wires
were out of commission, owing to the great storm. Bayport was
buried under a white coverlet, three feet thick on a level, which
shone in the winter sun as if powdered with diamond dust. The
street-shoveling brigade, meaning most of the active male citizens,
was busy with plows and shovels. Simmons's was deserted in the
evenings, for most of the regular habitues went to bed after
supper, tired out.
Two days of this. Then Gabe Lumley, his depot wagon replaced by a
sleigh, drove the panting Daniel into the yard of the Cy Whittaker
place. Gabe was much excited. He had news of importance to
communicate and was puffed up in consequence.
"The wire's all right again, Georgianna," he said to the housekeeper,
who had hurried to the door to meet him. "Fust message just come
through. Guess who it's for?"
"Stop your foolishness, Gabe Lumley!" ordered Miss Taylor. "Hand
over that telegram this minute. Don't you stop to talk! Hand it
Gabe didn't intend to be "corked" thus peremptorily.
"It's pretty important news, Georgianna," he declared. "Kind of
bad news, too. I think I'd ought to prepare you for it, sort of.
When Cap'n Obed Pepper died, I--"
"DIED! For the land sakes! WHAT are you sayin'? Give me that,
you foolhead! Give it to me!"
She snatched the telegram from him and tore it open. It was not as
bad as might have been, but it was bad enough. Lawyer Peabody
wired that Captain Cyrus Whittaker was at his home in Ostable, sick
in bed, and threatened with pneumonia.
Captain Cy, hurrying homeward in response to the attorney's former
telegram, had reached Boston the day of the blizzard. He had taken
the train for Bayport that afternoon. The train had reached
Ostable after nine o'clock that night, but could get no farther.
The captain, burning with fever and torn by chills, had wallowed
through the drifts to his lawyer's home and collapsed on his
doorstep. Now he was very ill and, at times, delirious.
For two weeks he lay, fighting off the threatened attack of
pneumonia. But he won the fight, and, at last, word came to the
anxious ones at Bayport that he was past the danger point and would
pull through. There was rejoicing at the Cy Whittaker place. The
Board of Strategy came and performed an impromptu war dance around
the dining-room table.
"Whe-e-e!" shouted Bailey Bangs, tossing Bos'n above his head.
"Your Uncle Cy's weathered the Horn and is bound for clear water
now. Three cheers for our side! Won't we give him a reception
when we get him back here!"
"Won't we?" crowed Asaph. "Well, I just guess we will! You ought
to hear Angie and the rest of 'em chant hymns of glory about him.
A body'd think they always knew he was the salt of the earth.
Maybe I don't rub it in a little, hey? Oh, no, maybe not!"
"And Heman!" chimed in Mr. Bangs. "And Heman! Would you ever
believe HE'D change so all of a sudden? Bully old Whit! I can
mention his name now without Ketury's landin' onto me like a
snowslide. Whee! I say, wh-e-e-e!"
He continued to say it; and Georgianna and Asaph said what amounted
to the same thing. A change had come over our Bayport social
atmosphere, a marvelous change. And at Simmons's and--more
wonderful still--at Tad Simpson's barber' shop, plans were being
made and perfected for proceedings in which Cyrus Whittaker was to
play the most prominent part.
Meanwhile the convalescence went on at a rapid rate. As soon as he
was permitted to talk, Captain Cy began to question his lawyer.
How about the appeal? Had Atkins done anything further? The
answers were satisfactory. The case had been dropped: the
Honorable Heman had announced its withdrawal. He had said that he
had changed his mind and should not continue to espouse the Thomas
cause. In fact, he seemed to have whirled completely about on his
pedestal and, like a compass, now pointed only in one direction--
toward his "boyhood friend" and present neighbor, Cyrus Whittaker.
"It's perfectly astounding," commented Peabody. "What in the
world, captain, did you do to him while you were in Washington?"
"Oh! nothin' much," was the rather disinterested answer. "Him and
me had a talk, and he saw the error of his ways, I cal'late. How's
Bos'n to-day? Did you give her my love when you 'phoned?"
"So far as the case is concerned," went on the lawyer, "I think we
should have won that, anyway. It's a curious thing. Thomas has
disappeared. How he got word, or who he got it from, _I_ don't
know; but he must have, and he's gone somewhere, no one knows
where. And yet I'm not certain that we were on the right trail.
It seemed certain a week ago, but now--"
The captain had not been listening. He was thinking. Thomas had
gone, had he! Good! Heman was living up to his promises. And
Bos'n, God bless her, was free from that danger.
"Have you heard from Emmie, I asked you?" he repeated.
He would not listen to anything further concerning Thomas, either
then or later. He was sick of the whole business, he declared, and
now that everything was all right, didn't wish to talk about it
again. He asked nothing about the appropriation, and the lawyer,
acting under strict orders, did not mention it.
Only once did Captain Cy inquire concerning a person in his home
town who was not a member of his household.
"How is--er--how's the teacher?" he inquired one morning.
"Why--Phoebe Dawes, the school-teacher. Smart, is she?"
"Yes, indeed! Why, she has been the most--"
The doctor came in just then and the interview terminated. It was
not resumed, because that afternoon Mr. Peabody started for Boston
on a business trip, to be gone some time.
And at last came the great day, the day when Captain Cy was to be
taken home. He was up and about, had been out for several short
walks, and was very nearly his own self again. He was in good
spirits, too, at times, but had fits of seeming depression which,
under the circumstances, were unexplainable. The doctor thought
they were due to his recent illness and forbade questioning.
The original plan had been for the captain to go to Bayport in the
train, but the morning set for his departure was such a beautiful
one that Mr. Peabody, who had the day before returned from the
city, suggested driving over. So the open carriage, drawn by the
Peabody "span," was brought around to the front steps, and the
captain, bundled up until, as he said, he felt like a wharf rat
inside a cotton bale, emerged from the house which had sheltered
him for a weary month and climbed to the back seat. The attorney
got in beside him.
"All ashore that's goin' ashore," observed Captain Cy. Then to the
driver, who stood by the horses' heads, he added: "Stand by to get
ship under way, commodore. I'm homeward bound, and there's a
little messmate of mine waitin' on the dock already, I wouldn't
wonder. So don't hang around these waters no longer'n you can
But Mr. Peabody smiled and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Just a minute, captain," he said. "We've got another passenger.
She came to the house last evening, but Dr. Cole thought this would
be an exciting day for you, and you must sleep in preparation for
it. So we kept her in the background. It was something of a job
but-- Hurrah! here she is!"
Mrs. Peabody, the lawyer's wife, opened the front door. She was
laughing. The next moment a small figure shot past her, down the
steps, and into the carriage like a red-hooded bombshell.
"Uncle Cyrus!" she screamed joyously. "Uncle Cyrus, it's me! Here
And Captain Cy, springing up and shedding wraps and robes, received
the bombshell with open arms and hugged it tight.
"Bos'n!" he shouted. "By the big dipper! BOS'N! Why, you little--
That was a wonderful ride. Emily sat in the captain's lap--he
positively refused to let her sit beside him on the seat, although
Peabody urged it, fearing the child might tire him--and her tongue
rattled like a sewing machine. She had a thousand things to tell,
about her school, about Georgianna, about her dolls, about
Lonesome, the cat, and how many mice he had caught, about the big
"Georgianna wanted me to stay at home and wait for you, Uncle Cy,"
she said, "but I teased and teased and finally they said I could
come over. I came yesterday on the train. Mr. Tidditt went with
me to the depot. Mrs. Peabody let me peek into your room last
night and I saw you eating supper. You didn't know I was there,
"You bet I didn't! There'd have been a mutiny right then if I'd
caught sight of you. You little sculpin! Playin' it on your Uncle
Cy, was you? I didn't know you could keep a secret so well."
"Oh, yes I can! Why, I know an ever so much bigger secret, too.
It is-- Why! I 'most forgot. You just wait."
The captain laughingly begged her to divulge the big secret, but
she shook her small head and refused. The horses trotted on at a
lively pace, and the miles separating Ostable and Bayport were
subtracted one by one. It was magnificent winter weather. The
snow had disappeared from the road, except in widely separated
spots, but the big drifts still heaped the fields and shone and
sparkled in the sunshine. Against their whiteness the pitch pines
and cedars stood darkly green and the skeleton scrub oaks and
bushes cast delicate blue-penciled shadows. The bay, seen over the
flooded, frozen salt meadows and distant dunes, was in its winter
dress of the deepest sapphire, trimmed with whitecaps and fringed
with stranded ice cakes. There was a snap and tang in the breeze
which braced one like a tonic. The party in the carriage was a gay
"Getting tired, captain?" asked Peabody.
"Who? Me? Well, I guess not. 'Most home, Bos'n. There's the
salt works ahead there."
They passed the abandoned salt works, the crumbling ruins of a dead
industry, and the boundary stone, now half hidden in a drift,
marking the beginning of Bayport township. Then, from the pine
grove at the curve farther on, appeared two capped and coated
figures, performing a crazy fandango.
"Who's them two lunatics," inquired Captain Cy, "whoopin' and
carryin' on in the middle of the road? Has anybody up this way had
a jug come by express or-- Hey! WHAT? Why, you old idiots you!
COME here and let me get a hold of you!"
The Board of Strategy swooped down upon the carriage like Trumet
mosquitoes on a summer boarder. They swarmed into the vehicle,
Bailey on the front seat and Asaph in the rear, where, somehow or
other, they made room for him. There were handshakings and thumps
on the back.
"What you doin' 'way up here in the west end of nowhere?" demanded
Captain Cy. "By the big dipper, I'm glad to see you! How'd you
"Walked," cackled Bailey. "Frogged it all the way. Soon's Mrs.
Peabody wired you was goin' to ride, me and Ase started to meet
you. Wan't you surprised?"
"We wanted to be the fust to say howdy, old man," explained Asaph.
"Wanted to welcome you back, you know."
The captain was immensely pleased.
"Well, I'm glad I've got so much popularity, anyhow," he said.
"Guess 'twill be different when I get down street, hey? Don't
cal'late Tad and Angie 'll shed the joyous tear over me. Never
mind; long's my friends are glad I don't care about the rest."
The Board looked at each other.
"Tad?" repeated Bailey. "And Angie? What you talkin' about? Why,
The last exclamation was the result of a tremendous dig in the ribs
from the Tidditt fist. Asaph, who had leaned forward to administer
it, was frowning and shaking his head. Mr. Bangs relapsed into a
West Bayport seemed to be deserted. At one or two houses, however,
feminine heads appeared at the windows. One old lady shook a
calico apron at the carriage. A child beside her cried: "Hurrah!"
"Aunt Hepsy h'istin' colors by mistake," laughed the captain. "She
ain't got her specs, I guess, and thinks I'm Heman. That comes of
ridin' astern of a span, Peabody."
But as they drew near the Center flags were flying from front-yard
poles. Some of the houses were decorated.
"What in the world--" began Captain Cy. "Land sakes! look at the
schoolhouse. And Simmons's! And--and Simpson's!"
The schoolhouse flag was flapping in the wind. The scarred wooden
pillars of its portico were hidden with bunting. Simmons's front
displayed a row of little banners, each bearing a letter--the
letters spelled "Welcome Home." Tad's barber shop was more or less
artistically wreathed in colored tissue paper. There, too, a flag
was draped over the front door. Yet not a single person was in
"For goodness' sake!" cried the bewildered captain. "What's all
this mean? And where is everybody. Have all hands--"
He stopped in the middle of the sentence. They were at the foot of
Whittaker's Hill. Its top, between the Atkins's gate and the
Whittaker fence, was black with people. Children pranced about the
outskirts of the crowd. A shout came down the wind. The horses,
not in the least fatigued by their long canter, trotted up the
slope. The shouting grew louder. A wave of youngsters came racing
to meet the equipage.
"What--what in time?" gasped Captain Cy. "What's up? I--"
And then the town clerk seized him by the arm. Peabody shook his
other hand. Bos'n threw her arms about his neck. Bailey stood up
and waved his hat.
"It's you, you old critter!" whooped Asaph. "It's YOU, d'you
"The appropriation has gone through," explained the lawyer, "and
this is the celebration in consequence. And you are the star
attraction because, you see, everyone knows you are responsible for
"That's what!" howled the excited Bangs. "And we're goin' to show
you what we think of you for doin' it. We've been plannin' this
for over a fortni't."
"And I knew it all the time," squealed Bos'n, "and I didn't tell a
word, did I?"
"Three cheers for Captain Whittaker!" bellowed a person in the
crowd. This person--wonder of wonders!--was Tad Simpson.
The cheering was, considering the size of the crowd, tremendous.
Bewildered and amazed, Captain Cy was assisted from the carriage
and escorted to his front door. Amidst the handkerchief-waving,
applauding people he saw Keturah Bangs and Alpheus Smalley and
Angeline Phinney and Captain Salters--even Alonzo Snow, his recent
opponent in town meeting. Josiah Dimick was there, too, apparently
having a fit.
On the doorstep stood Georgianna and--and--yes, it was true--beside
her, grandly extending a welcoming hand, the majestic form of the
Honorable Heman Atkins. Some one else was there also, some one who
hurriedly slipped back into the crowd as the owner of the Cy
Whittaker place came up the path between the hedges.
Mr. Atkins shook the captain's hand and then, turning toward the
people, held up his own for silence. To all outward appearance, he
was still the great Heman, our district idol, philanthropist, and
leader. His silk hat glistened as of old, his chest swelled in the
old manner, his whiskers were just as dignified and awe-inspiring.
For an instant, as he met the captain's eye, his own faltered and
fell, and there was a pleading expression in his face, the lines of
which had deepened just a little. But only for an instant; then he
began to speak.
"Cyrus," he said, "it is my pleasant duty, on behalf of your
neighbors and friends here assembled, to welcome you to your--
er--ancestral home after your trying illness. I do it heartily,
sincerely, gladly. And it is the more pleasing to me to perform
this duty, because, as I have explained publicly to my fellow-
townspeople, all disagreement between us is ended. I was wrong--
again I publicly admit it. A scheming blackleg, posing in the
guise of a loving father, imposed upon me. I am sorry for the
trouble I have caused you. Of you and of the little girl with you
I ask pardon--I entreat forgiveness."
He paused. Captain Cy, the shadow of a smile at the corner of his
mouth, nodded, and said briefly:
"All right, Heman. I forgive you." Few heard him: the majority
were applauding the congressman. Sylvanus Cahoon, whispering in
the ear of "Uncle Bedny," expressed as his opinion that "that was
about as magnaminious a thing as ever I heard said. Yes, sir!
mag-na-min-ious--that's what _I_ call it."
"But," continued the great Atkins, "I have said all this to you
before. What I have to say now--what I left my duties in
Washington expressly to come here and say--is that Bayport thanks
you, _I_ thank you, for your tremendous assistance in obtaining the
appropriation which is to make our harbor a busy port where our
gallant fishing fleet may ride at anchor and unload its catch,
instead of transferring it in dories as heretofore. Friends, I
have already told you how this man"--laying a hand on the captain's
shoulder--"came to the Capital and used his influence among his
acquaintances in high places, with the result that the thirty
thousand dollars, which I had despaired of getting, was added to
the bill. I had the pleasure of voting for that bill. It passed.
I am proud of that vote."
Tremendous applause. Then some one called for three cheers for Mr.
Atkins. They were given. But the recipient merely bowed.
"No, no," he said deprecatingly. "No, no! not for me, my friends,
much as I appreciate your gratitude. My days of public service are
nearly at an end. As I have intimated to some of you already, I am
seriously considering retiring from political life in the near
future. But that is irrelevant; it is not material at present.
To-day we meet, not to say farewell to the setting, but to greet
the rising sun. _I_ call for three cheers for our committee of
one--Captain Cyrus Whittaker."
When the uproar had at last subsided, there were demands for a
speech from Captain Cy. But the captain, facing them, his arms
about the delighted Bos'n, positively declined to orate.
"I--I'm ever so much obliged to you, folks," he stammered. "I am
so. But you'll have to excuse me from speechmaking. They--they
didn't teach it afore the mast, where I went to college. Thank
you, just the same. And do come and see me, everybody. Me and
this little girl," drawing Emily nearer to him, "will be real glad
to have you."
After the handshaking and congratulating were over, the crowd
dispersed. It was a great occasion; all agreed to that, but the
majority considered it a divided triumph. The captain had done a
lot for the town, of course, but the Honorable Atkins had made
another splendid impression by his address of welcome. Most people
thought it as fine as his memorable effort at town meeting. Unlike
that one, however, in this instance it is safe to say that none,
not even the adoring and praise-chanting Miss Phinney, derived
quite the enjoyment from the congressman's speech that Captain Cy
did. It tickled his sense of humor.
"Ase," he observed irrelevantly when the five--Tidditt, Georgianna,
Bailey, Bos'n, and himself were at last alone again in the sitting
room, "it DON'T pay to tip over a monument, does it--not out in
public, I mean. You wouldn't want to see me blow up Bunker Hill,
"Blow up Bunker Hill!" repeated Asaph in alarmed amazement.
"Godfrey scissors! I believe you're goin' loony. This day's been
too much for you. What are you talkin' about?"
"Oh, nothin'," with a quiet chuckle. "I was thinkin' out loud,
that's all. Did you ever notice them imitation stone pillars on
Heman's house? They're holler inside, but you'd never guess it.
And, long as you do know they're holler, you can keep a watch on
'em. And there's one thing sure," he added, "they ARE ornamental."
CAPTAIN CY'S "PICTURE"
"Wonder where Phoebe went to," remarked Mr. Tidditt, a little
later. "I thought I saw her with Heman and Georgianna on the front
steps when we drove up."
"She was there," affirmed the housekeeper. "She'd been helpin' me
trim up the rooms here. What do you think of 'em, Cap'n Cyrus?
Ain't they pretty?"
The sitting room and dining room were gay with evergreens and old-
fashioned flowers. Our living room windows in the winter time are
usually filled with carefully tended potted plants, and the
neighbors had loaned their geraniums and fuchsias and heliotrope
and begonias to brighten the Whittaker house for its owner's
return. Captain Cy, who was sitting in the rocker, with Bos'n on
his knee, looked about him. Now that the first burst of excitement
was over, he seemed grave and preoccupied.
"They look mighty pretty, Georgianna," he said. "Fine enough. But
what was that you just said? Did--"
"Yup," interrupted Miss Taylor, who had scarcely ceased talking
since breakfast that morning. "Yes, 'twas teacher that helped fix
'em. Not that I wouldn't have got along without her, but I had
more to do than a little, cleanin' and scrubbin' up. So Phoebe she
come in, and-- Oh! yes, as I was sayin', she was out front with
me, but the minute your carriage drove up with that lovely span--
AIN'T that a fine span! I cal'late they're--"
"What become of teacher?" broke in Bailey.
"Why, she run off somewheres. I didn't see where she went to; I
was too busy hollerin' at Cap'n Whittaker and noticin' that span.
I bet you they made Angie Phinney's eyes stick out. I guess she
realizes that we in this house are some punkins now. If I don't
lord it over her when I run acrost her these days, then I miss my
"Belay!" ordered Captain Cy, his gravity more pronounced than ever.
"How does it happen that you-- See here, Georgianna, did you tell
Ph--er--Miss Dawes what I told you to tell her when I went away?"
"Why, yes, I told her. I hated to, dreadful, but I done it. She
was awful set back at fust, but I guess she asked Mr. Tidditt--
Where you goin', Mr. Tidditt?"
The town clerk, his face red, was on his way to the door.
"Asked Ase?" repeated the captain. "Ase, come here! Did you tell
Asaph was very much embarrassed.
"Well," he stammered, "I didn't mean to, Cy, but she got to askin'
me questions, and somehow or nother I did tell her about our
confab, yours and mine. I told her that I knew folks was talkin',
and I felt 'twas my duty to tell you so. That's why I done it, and
I told her you said--well, you know what you said yourself, Cy."
Captain Cy was evidently much disturbed. He put Bos'n down, and
rose to his feet.
"Well," he asked sharply, "what did she say?"
"Oh! she was white and still for a minute or two. Then she kind of
stamped her foot and went off and left me. But next time she met
me she was nice as pie. She's been pretty frosty to Angie and the
rest of 'em, but she's been always nice to Bailey and me. Why,
when I asked her pardon, she said not at all, she was very glad to
know the truth; it helped her to understand things. And you could
see she meant it, too. She--"
"So she has been comin' here ever since. And the gossip has been
goin' on, I s'pose. Well, by the big dipper, it'll stop now! I'll
see to that."
The Board of Strategy and the housekeeper were amazed.
"Gossip!" repeated Bailey. "Well, I guess there ain't nothin' said
against her now--not in THIS town, there ain't! Why, all hands
can't praise her enough for her smartness in findin' out about that
Thomas. If it wan't for her, he'd be botherin' you yet, Cy. You
know it. What are you talkin' about?"
Captain Cy passed his hand over his forehead.
"Bos'n," he said slowly, "you run and help Georgianna in the
kitchen a spell. She's got her dinner to look out for, I guess
likely. Georgianna," to the housekeeper, who looked anything but
eager, "you better see to your dinner right off, and take Emmie
Miss Taylor reluctantly departed, leading Bos'n by the hand. The
child was loath to leave her uncle, but he told her he wouldn't
give a cent for his first dinner at home if she didn't help in
preparing it. So she went out happy.
"Now, then," demanded the captain, "what's this about Phoebe and
Thomas? I want to know. Stop! Don't ask another question.
Answer me first."
So the Board of Strategy, by turns and in concert, told of the
drive to Trumet and the call on Debby Beasley. Asaph would have
narrated the story of the upset sulky, but Bailey shut him up in
"Never mind that foolishness," he snapped. "You see, Cy, Debby had
just been out to Arizona visitin' old Beasley's niece. And she'd
fell in with a woman out there whose husband had run off and left
her. And Debby, she read the advertisement about him in the
Arizona paper, and it said he had the spring halt in his off hind
leg, or somethin' similar. Now, Thomas, he had that, too, and
there was other things that reminded Phoebe of him. So she don't
say nothin' to nobody, but she writes to this woman askin' for more
partic'lars and a photograph of the missin' one. The partic'lars
come, but the photograph didn't; the wife didn't have none, I
b'lieve. But there was enough to send Phoebe hotfoot to Mr.
Peabody. And Peabody he writes to his lawyer friend in Butte,
Montana. And the Butte man he--"
"Well, the long and short of it is," cut in Tidditt, "that it
looked safe and sartin that Thomas HAD married the Arizona woman
while his real wife, Bos'n's ma, was livin', and had run off and
left her same as he did Mary. And the funny part of it is--"
"The funny part of it is," declared Bangs, drowning his friend's
voice by raising his own, "that somebody out there, some scalawag
friend of this Thomas, must have got wind of what was up, and sent
word to him. 'Cause, when they went to hunt for him in Boston,
he'd gone, skipped, cut stick. And they ain't seen him since. He
was afraid of bein' took up for bigamist, you see--for bein' a
bigamy, I mean. Well, you know what I'm tryin' to say. Anyhow, if
it hadn't been for me and Phoebe--"
"YOU and Phoebe!" snorted Asaph. "You had a whole lot to do with
it, didn't you? You and Aunt Debby 'll do to go together. I
understand she's cruisin' round makin' proclamations that SHE was
responsible for the whole thing. No, sir-ree! it's Phoebe Dawes
that the credit belongs to, and this town ain't done nothin' but
praise her since it come out. You never see such a quick come-
about in your life--unless 'twas Heman's. But you knew all this
afore, Whit. Peabody must have told you."
Captain Cy had listened to his friends' story with a face
expressive of the most blank astonishment. As he learned of the
trip to Trumet and its results, his eyes and mouth opened, and he
repeatedly rubbed his forehead and muttered exclamations. Now, at
the mention of his lawyer's name, he seemed to awaken.
"Hold on!" he interrupted, waving his hand. "Hold on! By the big
dipper! this is--is-- Where IS Peabody? I want to see him."
"Here I am, captain," said the attorney. He had been out to the
barn to superintend the stabling of the span, but for the past
five minutes had been standing, unnoticed by his client, on the
threshold of the dining room.
"See here," demanded Captain Cy, "see here, Peabody; is this yarn
true? IS it, now? this about--about Phoebe and all?"
"Certainly it's true. I supposed you knew it. You didn't seem
surprised when I told you the case was settled."
"Surprised? Why, no! I thought Heman had-- Never mind that.
Land of love! SHE did it. She!"
He sat weakly down. The lawyer looked anxious.
"Mr. Tidditt," he whispered, "I think perhaps he had better be left
alone for the present. He's just up from a sick bed, and this has
been a trying forenoon. Come in again this afternoon. I shall try
to persuade him to take a nap."
The Board of Strategy, its curiosity unsatisfied, departed
reluctantly. When Mr. Peabody returned to the sitting room he found
that naps were far, indeed, from the captain's thoughts. The latter
was pacing the sitting-room floor.
"Where is she?" he demanded. "She was standin' on the steps with
Heman. Have you seen her since?"
His friend was troubled.
"Why, yes, I've seen her," he said. "I have been talking with her.
She has gone away."
"Gone AWAY! Where? What do you mean? She ain't--ain't left
"No, no. What in the world should she leave Bayport for? She has
gone to her boarding house, I guess; at all events, she was headed
in that direction."
"Why didn't she shake hands with me? What made her go off and not
say a word? Oh, well, I guess likely I know the why!" He sighed
despondently. "I told her never to come here again."
"You did? What in the world--"
"Well, for what I thought was good reasons; all on her account they
was. And yet she did come back, and kept comin', even after Ase
blabbed the whole thing. However, I s'pose that was just to help
Georgianna. Oh, hum! I AM an old fool."
The lawyer inspected him seriously.
"Well, captain," he said slowly, "if it is any comfort for you to
know that your reason isn't the correct one for Miss Dawes's going
away, I can assure you on that point. I think she went because she
was greatly disappointed, and didn't wish to see you just now."
"Disappointed? What do you mean?"
"Humph! I didn't mean to tell you yet, but I judge that I'd
better. No one knows it here but Miss Dawes and I, and probably no
one but us three need ever know it. You see, the fact is that the
Arizona woman, Desire Higgins, isn't Mrs. Thomas at all. He isn't
her missing husband."
"Yes, it's so. Really, it was too much of a coincidence to be
possible, and yet it certainly did seem that it would prove true.
This Higgins woman was, apparently, so anxious to find her missing
man that she was ready to recognize almost any description; and the
slight lameness and the fact of his having been in Montana helped
along. If we could have gotten a photograph sooner, the question
would have been settled. Only last week, while I was in Boston, I
got word from the detective agency that a photo had been received.
I went to see it immediately. There was some resemblance, but not
enough. Henry Thomas was never Mr. Higgins."
"But--but--they say Thomas has skipped out."
"Yes, he has. That's the queer part of it. At the place where he
boarded we learned that he got a letter from Arizona--trust the
average landlady to look at postmarks--that he seemed greatly
agitated all that day, and left that night. No one has seen him
since. Why he went is a puzzle. Where, we don't care. So long as
he keeps out of our way, that's enough."
Captain Cy did not care, either. He surmised that Mr. Atkins might
probably explain the disappearance. And yet, oddly enough, this
explanation was not the true one. The Honorable Heman solemnly
assured the captain that he had not communicated with Emily's
father. He intended to do so, as a part of the compact agreed upon
at the hotel, but the man had fled. And the mystery is still
unsolved. The supposition is that there really was a wife somewhere
in the West. Who or where she was no Bayporter knows. Henry Thomas
has never come back to explain.
"I told Miss Dawes of the photograph and what it proved," went on
Peabody. "She was dreadfully disappointed. She could hardly speak
when she left me. I urged her to come in and see you, but she
wouldn't. Evidently she had set her heart on helping you and the
child. It is too bad, because, practically speaking, we owe
everything to her. There is little doubt that the inquiry set on
foot by her scared the Thomas fellow into flight. And she has
worked night and day to aid us. She is a very clever woman,
Captain Whittaker, and a good one. You can't thank her enough.
Here! what are you about?"
Captain Cy strode past him into the dining room. The hat rack hung
on the wall by the side door. He snatched his cap from the peg,
and was struggling into his overcoat.
"Where are you going?" demanded the lawyer. "You mustn't attempt to
walk now. You need rest."
"Rest! I'll rest by and by. Just now I've got business to attend
to. Let go of that pea-jacket."
"No buts about it. I'll see you later. So long."
He threw open the door and hurried down the walk. The lawyer
watched him in amazement. Then a slow smile overspread his face.
"Captain," he called. "Captain Whittaker."
Captain Cy looked back over his shoulder. "What do you want?" he
Mr. Peabody's face was now intensely solemn, but there was a
twinkle in his eye.
"I think she's at the boarding house," he said demurely. "I'm
pretty certain you'll find her there."
All the regulars at the perfect boarding house had, of course,
attended the reception at the Cy Whittaker place. None of them,
with the exception of the schoolmistress, had as yet returned.
Dinner had been forgotten in the excitement of the great day, and
Keturah and Angeline and Mrs. Tripp had stopped in at various
dwellings along the main road, to compare notes on the captain's
appearance and the Atkins address. Asaph and Bailey and Alpheus
Smalley were at Simmons's.
Captain Cy knew better than to attempt his hurried trip by way of
the road. He had no desire to be held up and congratulated. He
went across lots, in the rear of barns and orchards, wading through
drifts and climbing fences as no sane convalescent should. But the
captain at that moment was suffering from the form of insanity
known as the fixed idea. She had done all this for him--for HIM.
And his last message to her had been an insult.
He approached the Bangs property by the stable lane. No one locks
doors in our village, and those of the perfect boarding house were
unfastened. He entered by way of the side porch, just as he had
done when Gabe Lumley's depot wagon first deposited him in that
yard. But now he entered on tiptoe. The dining room was empty.
He peeped into the sitting room. There, by the center table, sat
Phoebe Dawes, her elbow on the arm of her chair, and her head
resting on her hand.
"Ahem! Phoebe!" said Captain Cy.
She started, turned, and saw him standing there. Her eyes were
wet, and there was a handkerchief in her lap.
"Phoebe," said the captain anxiously, "have you been cryin'?"
She rose on the instant. A great wave of red swept over her face.
The handkerchief fell to the floor, and she stooped and picked it
"Crying?" she repeated confusedly. "Why, no, of course--of course
not! I-- How do you do, Captain Whittaker? I'm--we're all very
glad to see you home again--and well."
She extended her hand. Captain Cy reached forward to take it; then
"I don't think I'd ought to let you shake hands with me, Phoebe,"
he said. "Not until I beg your pardon."
"Beg my pardon? Why?"
He absently took the hand and held it.
"For the word I sent to you when I went away. 'Twas an awful thing
to say, but I meant it for your sake, you know. Honest, I did."
She laughed nervously.
"Oh! that," she said. "Well, I did think you were rather particular
as to your visitors. But Mr. Tidditt explained, and then-- You
needn't beg my pardon. I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I knew
you meant to be kind to me."
"That's what I did. But you didn't obey orders. You kept comin'.
"Why? Did you suppose that _I_ cared for the malicious gossip of--
such people? I came because you were in trouble, and I hoped to
help you. And--and I thought I had helped, until a few minutes
Her lip quivered. That quiver went to the captain's heart.
"Helped?" he faltered. "Helped? Why, you've done so much that I
can't ever thank you. You've been the only real helper I've had in
all this miserable business. You've stood by me all through."
"But it was all wrong. He isn't the man at all. Didn't Mr.
Peabody tell you?"
"Yes, yes, he told me. What difference does that make? Peabody be
hanged! He ain't in this. It's you and me--don't you see? What
made you do all this for me?"
She looked at the floor and not at him as she answered.
"Why, because I wanted to help you," she said. "I've been alone in
the world ever since mother died, years ago. I've had few real
friends. Your friendship had come to mean a great deal to me. The
splendid fight you were making for that little girl proved what a
man you were. And you fought so bravely when almost everyone was
against you, I couldn't help wanting to do something for you. How
could I? And now it has come to nothing--my part of it. I'm so
"It ain't, neither. It's come to everything. Phoebe, I didn't
mean to say very much more than to beg your pardon when I headed
for here. But I've got to--I've simply got to. This can't go on.
I can't have you keep comin' to see me--and Bos'n. I can't keep
meetin' you every day. I CAN'T."
She looked up, as if to speak, but something, possibly the
expression in his face, caused her to look quickly down again.
She did not answer.
"I can't do it," continued the captain desperately. "'Tain't for
what folks might say. They wouldn't say much when I was around, I
tell you. It ain't that. It's because I can't bear to have you
just a friend. Either you must be more'n that, or--or I'll have to
go somewheres else. I realized that when I was in Washin'ton and
cruisin' to California and back. I've either got to take Bos'n and
go away for good, or--or--"
She would not help him. She would not speak.
"You see?" he groaned. "You see, Phoebe, what an old fool I am.
I can't ask you to marry me, me fifty-five, and rough from knockin'
round the world, and you, young and educated, and a lady. I ain't
fool enough to ask such a thing as that. And yet, I couldn't stay
here and meet you every day, and by and by see you marry somebody
else. By the big dipper, I couldn't do it! So that's why I can't
shake hands with you to-day--nor any more, except when I say good-
by for keeps."
Then she looked up. The color was still bright in her face, and
her eyes were moist, but she was smiling.
"Can't shake hands with me?" she said. "Please, what have you been
doing for the last five minutes?"
Captain Cy dropped her hand as if his own had been struck with
"Good land!" he stammered. "I didn't know I did it; honest truth,
Phoebe's smile was still there, faint, but very sweet.
"Why did you stop?" she queried. "I didn't ask you to."
"Why did I stop? Why, because I--I--I declare I'm ashamed--"
She took his hand and clasped it with both her own.
"I'm not," she said bravely, her eyes brightening as the wonder and
incredulous joy grew in his. "I'm very proud. And very, very
There was to be a big supper at the Cy Whittaker place that night.
It was an impromptu affair, arranged on the spur of the moment by
Captain Cy, who, in spite of the lawyer's protests and anxiety
concerning his health, went serenely up and down the main road,
inviting everybody he met or could think of. The captain's face
was as radiant as a spring sunrise. His smile, as Asaph said,
"pretty nigh cut the upper half of his head off." People who had
other engagements, and would, under ordinary circumstances, have
refused the invitation, couldn't say no to his hearty, "Can't come?
Course you'll come! Man alive! I WANT you."
"Invalid, is he?" observed Josiah Dimick, after receiving and
accepting his own invitation. "Well, I wish to thunder I could be
took down with the same kind of disease. I'd be willin' to linger
along with it quite a spell if it pumped me as full of joy as Whit
seems to be. Don't give laughin' gas to keep off pneumonia, do
they? No? Well, I'd like to know the name of his medicine, that's
Supper was to be ready at six. Georgianna, assisted by Keturah
Bangs, Mrs. Sylvanus Cahoon, and other volunteers, was gloriously
busy in the kitchen. The table in the dining room reached from one
end of the big apartment to the other. Guests would begin to
arrive shortly. Wily Mr. Peabody, guessing that Captain Cy might
prefer to be alone, had taken the Board of Strategy out riding
behind the span.
In the sitting room, around the baseburner stove, were three
persons--Captain Cy, Bos'n, and Phoebe. Miss Dawes had "come
early," at the captain's urgent appeal. Now she was sitting in the
rocker, at one side of the stove, gazing dreamily at the ruddy
light behind the isinglass panes. She looked quietly, blissfully
contented and happy. At her feet, on the braided mat, sat Bos'n,
playing with Lonesome, who purred lazily. The little girl was
happy, too, for was not her beloved Uncle Cyrus at home again, with
all danger of their separation ended forevermore?
As for Captain Cy himself, the radiant expression was still on his
face, brighter than ever. He looked across at Phoebe, who smiled
back at him. Then he glanced down at Bos'n. And all at once he
realized that this was the fulfillment of his dream. Here was his
"picture"; the sitting room was now as he had always loved to think
of it--as it used to be. He was in his father's chair, Phoebe in
the one his mother used to occupy, and between them--just where he
had sat so often when a boy--the child. The Cy Whittaker place had
again, and at last, come into its own.
He drew a long breath, and looked about the room; at the stove, the
lamp, the old, familiar furniture, at his grandfather's portrait
over the mantel. Then, in a flash of memory, his father's words
came back to him, and he said, laughing aloud from pure happiness:
"Bos'n, run down cellar and get me a pitcher of cider, won't you?--
there's a good feller."