Part 1 out of 8
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by Joseph C. Lincoln
On the twentieth day of April in the year 19--, the people--that is,
a majority of the grown people of Ostable--were talking of Marcellus
Hall and Mary-'Gusta.
A part of this statement is not surprising. The average person, no
matter how humble or obscure, is pretty certain to be talked about
on the day of his funeral, and Marcellus was to be buried that
afternoon. Moreover, Marcellus had been neither humble nor obscure;
also, he had been talked about a good deal during the fifty-nine
years of his sojourn on this planet. So it is not at all surprising
that he should be talked about now, when that sojourn was ended.
But for all Ostable--yes, and a large part of South Harniss--to be
engaged in speculation concerning the future of Mary-'Gusta was
surprising, for, prior to Marcellus's death, very few outside of the
Hall household had given her or her future a thought.
On this day, however, whenever or wherever the name of Marcellus
Hall was mentioned, after the disposition of Marcellus's own bones
had been discussed and those of his family skeleton disinterred and
articulated, the conversation, in at least eight cases out of ten,
resolved itself into a guessing contest, having as its problem this
"What's goin' to become of that child?"
Mr. Bethuel Sparrow, local newsgatherer for the Ostable Enterprise,
seated before his desk in the editorial sanctum, was writing an
obituary for next week's paper, under the following head:
"A Prominent Citizen Passes Away."
An ordinary man would probably have written "Dies"; but Mr. Sparrow,
being a young and very new reporter for a rural weekly, wrote
"Passes Away" as more elegant and less shocking to the reader.
It is much more soothing and refined to pass away than to die--
unless one happens to be the person most concerned, in which case,
perhaps, it may make little difference.
"The Angel of Death," wrote Mr. Sparrow, "passed through our midst
on Tuesday last and called to his reward Captain Marcellus Hall, one
of Ostable's most well-known and influential residents."
A slight exaggeration here. Marcellus had lived in Ostable but five
years altogether and, during the last three, had taken absolutely no
part in town affairs--political, religious or social. However,
"influential" is a good word and usual in obituaries, so Bethuel let
it stand. He continued:
"Captain Hall's sudden death--"
Erasure of "death" and substitution of "demise."
"--Was a shock to the community at large. It happened on account
of--" More erasures and substitutions. "--It was the result of his
taking cold owing to exposure during the heavy southeast rains of
week before last which developed into pneumonia. He grew rapidly
worse and passed away at 3.06 P.M. on Tuesday, leaving a vacancy in
our midst which will be hard to fill, if at all. Although Captain
Hall had resided in Ostable but a comparatively short period, he was
well-known and respected, both as a man and--"
Here, invention failing, Mr. Sparrow called for assistance.
"Hey, Perce," he hailed, addressing his companion, Mr. Percy Clark,
who was busy setting type: "What's a good word to use here? I say
Marcellus was respected both as a man--and somethin' else."
"Hey?" queried Percy, absently, scanning the eight point case.
"What d'ye say?"
"I asked you what would be a good thing to go with 'man'?"
"Hey? I don't know. Woman, I guess."
"Aw, cut it out. Never mind, I got it:
"--As a man and a citizen. Captain Hall was fifty-nine years of age
at the time of his demise. He was born in South Harniss and
followed the sea until 1871, when he founded the firm of Hall and
Company, which was for some years the leading dealer in fresh and
salt fish in this section of the state. When the firm--
"I say, Perce! 'Twouldn't do to say Marcellus failed in business,
would it? Might seem like hintin' at that stuff about his sister
and the rest of it. Might get us into trouble, eh?"
"Humph! I don't know who with. Everybody's talkin' about it,
anyway. Up to the boardin' house they've been talking about mighty
little else ever since he died."
"I know, but talk's one thing and print's another. I'm goin' to
leave it out.
"When the firm went out of business in 1879, Captain Hall followed
the sea again, commanding the ships Faraway, Fair Wind, and Treasure
Seeker, and the bark Apollo. Later he retired from the sea and has
not been active in the same or otherwise since. In 1894 he married
Augusta Bangs Lathrop, widow of the late Reverend Charles Lathrop,
formerly pastor of the Congregational Church in this town. Captain
Hall had been residing in his native town, South Harniss, but after
his marriage he took up his residence in Ostable, purchasing the
residence formerly owned by Elnathan Phinney on Phinney's Hill,
where he lived until his lamented demise. Mrs. Hall passed away in
1896. The sudden removal of Captain Hall from our midst leaves a
stepdaughter, Mary Augusta Lathrop, aged seven. The--"
Here Mr. Sparrow's train of thought collided with the obstruction
which was derailing many similar trains in Ostable and South
"I say, Perce," he observed "what's goin' to become of that kid of
Marcellus's--his wife's, I mean? Marcellus didn't have any
relations, as far as anybody knows, and neither did his wife. Who's
goin' to take care of Mary-'Gusta?"
Percy shook his head. "Don't know," he answered. "That's what all
hands are askin'. I presume likely she'll be looked after.
Marcellus left plenty of money, didn't he? And kids with money can
generally find guardians."
"Yup, I guess that's so. Still, whoever gets her will have their
hands full. She's the most old-fashioned, queerest young-one ever I
So much for Mr. Sparrow and his fellow laborer for the Enterprise.
Now to listen for a moment to Judge Baxter, who led the legal
profession of Ostable; and to Mrs. Baxter who, so common report
affirmed, led the Judge. The pair were upstairs in the Baxter
house, dressing for the funeral.
"Daniel," declared Mrs. Baxter, "it's the queerest thing I ever
heard of. You say they don't know--either of them--and the child
herself doesn't know, either."
"That's it, Ophelia. No one knows except myself. Captain Hall read
the letter to me and put it in my charge a year ago."
"Well, I must say!"
"Yes, I know, I said it at the time, and I've been saying it to
myself ever since. It doesn't mean anything; that is, it is not
binding legally, of course. It's absolutely unbusinesslike and
unpractical. Simply a letter, asking them, as old friends, to do
this thing. Whether they will or not the Almighty only knows."
"Well, Daniel, I must say I shouldn't have thought you, as his
lawyer, would have let him do such a thing. Of course, I don't know
either of them very well, but, from what little I've heard, I should
say they know as much about what they would be supposed to do as--as
you do about tying a necktie. For mercy sakes let me fix it! The
knot is supposed to be under your chin, not under your ear as if you
were going to be hung."
The Judge meekly elevated the chin and his wife pulled the tie into
"And so," she said, "they can say yes or no just as they like."
"Yes, it rests entirely with them."
"And suppose they say no, what will become of the child then?"
"I can't tell you. Captain Hall seemed pretty certain they wouldn't
"Humph! There! Now you look a little more presentable. Have you
got a clean handkerchief? Well, that's an unexpected miracle; I
don't know how you happened to think of it. When are you going to
speak with them about it?"
"Today, if they come to the funeral, as I suppose they will."
"I shall be in a fidget until I know whether they say yes or no.
And whichever they say I shall keep on fidgeting until I see what
happens after that. Poor little Mary-'Gusta! I wonder what WILL
become of her."
The Judge shook his head.
Over the road between South Harniss and Ostable a buggy drawn by an
aged white horse was moving slowly. On the buggy's seat were two
men, Captain Shadrach Gould and Zoeth Hamilton. Captain Gould, big,
stout, and bearded, was driving. Mr. Hamilton, small, thin, smooth-
faced and white-haired, was beside him. Both were obviously dressed
in their Sunday clothes, Captain Shadrach's blue, Mr. Hamilton's
black. Each wore an uncomfortably high collar and the shoes of each
had been laboriously polished. Their faces, utterly unlike in most
respects, were very solemn.
"Ah hum!" sighed Mr. Hamilton.
Captain Shadrach snorted impatiently.
"For the land sakes don't do that again, Zoeth," he protested.
"That's the tenth 'Ah hum' you've cast loose in a mile. I know
we're bound to a funeral but there ain't no need of tollin' the bell
all the way. I don't like it and I don't think Marcellus would
neither, if he could hear you."
"Perhaps he can hear us, Shadrach," suggested his companion, mildly.
"Perhaps he's here with us now; who can tell?"
"Humph! Well, if he is then I KNOW he don't like it. Marcellus
never made any fuss whatever happened, and he wouldn't make any at
his own funeral no more than at anybody else's. That wasn't his
way. Say nothin' and keep her on the course, that was Marcellus. I
swan I can hardly make it seem possible that he's gone!"
"Neither can I, Shadrach. And to think that you and me, his old
partners and lifelong chums as you might say, hadn't seen nor spoken
to him for over two years. It makes me feel bad. Bad and sort of
"I know; so it does me, in a way. And yet it wasn't our fault,
Zoeth. You know as well as I do that Marcellus didn't want to see
us. We was over to see him last and he scarcely said a word while
we was there. You and me did all the talkin' and he just set and
looked at us--when he wasn't lookin' at the floor. I never saw such
a change in a man. We asked--yes, by fire, we fairly begged him to
come and stay with us for a spell, but he never did. Now it ain't
no further from Ostable to South Harniss than it is from South
Harniss to Ostable. If he'd wanted to come he could; if he'd wanted
to see us he could. We went to see him, didn't we; and WE had a
store and a business to leave. He ain't had any business since he
give up goin' to sea. He--"
"Sshh! Shh!" interrupted Mr. Hamilton, mildly, "don't talk that
way, Shadrach. Don't find fault with the dead."
"Find fault! I ain't findin' fault. I thought as much of Marcellus
Hall as any man on earth, and nobody feels worse about his bein'
took than I do. But I'm just sayin' what we both know's a fact. He
didn't want to see us; he didn't want to see nobody. Since his wife
died he lived alone in that house, except for a housekeeper and that
stepchild, and never went anywhere or had anybody come to see him if
he could help it. A reg'lar hermit--that's what he was, a hermit,
like Peleg Myrick down to Setuckit P'int. And when I think what he
used to be, smart, lively, able, one of the best skippers and
smartest business men afloat or ashore, it don't seem possible a
body could change so. 'Twas that woman that done it, that woman
that trapped him into gettin' married."
"Sshh! Shh! Shadrach; she's dead, too. And, besides, I guess she
was a real good woman; everybody said she was."
"I ain't sayin' she wasn't, am I? What I say is she hadn't no
business marryin' a man twenty years older'n she was."
"But," mildly, "you said she trapped him. Now we don't know--"
"Zoeth Hamilton, you know she must have trapped him. You and I
agreed that was just what she done. If she hadn't trapped him--set
a reg'lar seine for him and hauled him aboard like a school of
mackerel--'tain't likely he'd have married her or anybody else, is
it? I ain't married nobody, have I? And Marcellus was years
older'n I be."
"Well, well, Shadrach!"
"No, 'tain't well; it's bad. He's gone, and--and you and me that
was with him for years and years, his very best friends on earth as
you might say, wasn't with him when he died. If it hadn't been for
her he'd have stayed in South Harniss where he belonged. Consarn
women! They're responsible for more cussedness than the smallpox.
'When a man marries his trouble begins'; that's gospel, too."
Zoeth did not answer.
Captain Gould, after a sidelong glance at his companion, took a hand
from the reins and laid it on the Hamilton knee.
"I'm sorry, Zoeth," he said, contritely; "I didn't mean to--to rake
up bygones; I was blowin' off steam, that's all. I'm sorry."
"I know, Shadrach. It's all right."
"No, 'tain't all right; it's all wrong. Somebody ought to keep a
watch on me, and when they see me beginnin' to get hot, set me on
the back of the stove or somewheres; I'm always liable to bile over
and scald the wrong critter. I've done that all my life. I'm
sorry, Zoeth, you know I didn't mean--"
"I know, I know. Ah hum! Poor Marcellus! Here's the first break
in the old firm, Shadrach."
"Yup. You and me are all that's left of Hall and Company. That is--"
He stopped short just in time and roared a "Git dap" at the horse.
He had been on the point of saying something which would have been
far more disastrous than his reference to the troubles following
marriage. Zoeth was apparently not curious. To his friend's great
relief he did not wait for the sentence to be finished, nor did he
ask embarrassing questions. Instead he said:
"I wonder what's goin' to become of that child, Mary Lathrop's girl.
Who do you suppose likely will take charge of her?"
"I don't know. I've been wonderin' that myself, Zoeth."
"Kind of a cute little thing, she was, too, as I recollect her. I
presume likely she's grown up consid'ble since. You remember how
she set and looked at us that last time we was over to see
"Remember? How she looked at ME, you mean! Shall I ever forget it?
I'd just had my hair cut by that new barber, Sim Ellis, that lived
here 'long about then, and I told him to cut off the ends. He
thought I meant the other ends, I cal'late, for I went to sleep in
the chair, same as I generally do, and when I woke up my head looked
like the main truck of the old Faraway. All it needed was to have
the bald place gilded. I give you my word that if I hadn't been
born with my ears set wing and wing like a schooner runnin' afore
the wind I'd have been smothered when I put my hat on--nothin' but
them ears kept it propped up off my nose. YOU remember that
haircut, Zoeth. Well, all the time you and me was in Marcellus's
settin'-room that stepchild of his just set and looked at my head.
Never took her eyes off it. If she'd said anything 'twouldn't have
been so bad; but she didn't--just looked. I could feel my bald spot
reddenin' up till I swan to man I thought it must be breakin' out in
blisters. 'Never see anybody that looked just like me, did you,
Sis?' I says to her, when I couldn't stand it any longer. 'No,
sir,' she says, solemn as an owl. She was right out and honest,
I'll say that for her. That's the only time Marcellus laughed while
we was inside that house. I didn't blame him much. Ho, ho! Well,
he ain't laughin' now and neither are we--or we hadn't ought to be.
Neither is the child, I cal'late, poor thing. I wonder what will
become of her."
And meanwhile the child herself was vaguely, and in childish
fashion, wondering that very thing. She was in the carriage room of
the barn belonging to the Hall estate--if the few acres of land and
the buildings owned by the late Marcellus may be called an estate--
curled up on the back seat of the old surrey which had been used so
little since the death of her mother, Augusta Hall, four years
before. The surrey was shrouded from top to floor with a dust cover
of unbleached muslin through which the sunshine from the carriage
room windows filtered in a mysterious, softened twilight. The
covered surrey was a favorite retreat of Mary-'Gusta's. She had
discovered it herself--which made it doubly alluring, of course--and
she seldom invited her juvenile friends to share its curtained
privacy with her. It was her playhouse, her tent, and her enchanted
castle, much too sacred to be made common property. Here she came
on rainy Saturdays and on many days not rainy when other children,
those possessing brothers or sisters, played out of doors. She
liked to play by herself, to invent plays all her own, and these
other children--"normal children," their parents called them--were
much too likely to laugh instead of solemnly making believe as she
did. Mary-'Gusta was not a normal child; she was "that queer
Lathrop young-one"--had heard herself so described more than once.
She did not like the phrase; "queer" was not so bad--perhaps she was
queer--but she had an instinctive repugnance to being called a
young-one. Birds and rabbits had young-ones and she was neither
feathered nor furred.
So very few of the neighborhood children were invited to the shaded
interior of the old surrey. Her dolls--all five of them--spent a
good deal of time there and David, the tortoise-shell cat, came
often, usually under compulsion. When David had kittens, which
interesting domestic event took place pretty frequently, he--or she--
positively refused to be an occupant of that surrey, growling and
scratching in a decidedly ungentlemanly--or unladylike--manner.
Twice Mary-'Gusta had attempted to make David more complacent by
bringing the kittens also to the surrey, but their parent had
promptly and consecutively seized them by the scruff of their necks
and laboriously lugged them up to the haymow again.
Just now, however, there being no kittens, David was slumbering in a
furry heap beside Mary-'Gusta at one end of the carriage seat, and
Rosette, the smallest of the five dolls, and Rose, the largest, were
sitting bolt upright in the corner at the other end. The
christening of the smallest and newest doll was the result of a
piece of characteristic reasoning on its owner's part. She was very
fond of the name Rose, the same being the name of the heroine in
"Eight Cousins," which story Mrs. Bailey, housekeeper before last
for Marcellus Hall, had read aloud to the child. When the new doll
came, at Christmas time, Mary-'Gusta wished that she might christen
it Rose also. But there was another and much beloved Rose already
in the family. So Mary-'Gusta reflected and observed, and she
observed that a big roll of tobacco such as her stepfather smoked
was a cigar; while a little one, as smoked by Eben Keeler, the
grocer's delivery clerk, was a cigarette. Therefore, the big doll
being already Rose, the little one became Rosette.
Mary-'Gusta was not playing with Rose and Rosette at the present
time. Neither was she interested in the peaceful slumbers of David.
She was not playing at all, but sitting, with feet crossed beneath
her on the seat and hands clasped about one knee, thinking. And,
although she was thinking of her stepfather who she knew had gone
away to a vague place called Heaven--a place variously described by
Mrs. Bailey, the former housekeeper, and by Mrs. Susan Hobbs, the
present one, and by Mr. Howes, the Sunday school superintendent--she
was thinking most of herself, Mary Augusta Lathrop, who was going to
a funeral that very afternoon and, after that, no one seemed to know
It was a beautiful April day and the doors of the carriage house and
the big door of the barn were wide open. Mary-'Gusta could hear the
hens clucking and the voices of people talking. The voices were
two: one was that of Mrs. Hobbs, the housekeeper, and the other
belonged to Mr. Abner Hallett, the undertaker. Mary-'Gusta did not
like Mr. Hallett's voice; she liked neither it nor its owner's
manner; she described both voice and manner to herself as "too
soothy." They gave her the shivers.
Mr. Hallett's tone was subdued at the present time, but a trifle of
the professional "soothiness" was lacking. He and Mrs. Hobbs were
conversing briskly enough and, although Mary-'Gusta could catch only
a word or two at intervals, she was perfectly sure they were talking
about her. She was certain that if she were to appear at that
moment in the door of the barn they would stop talking immediately
and look at her. Everybody whom she had met during the past two
days looked at her in that queer way. It made her feel as if she
had something catching, like the measles, and as if, somehow or
other, she was to blame.
She realized dimly that she should feel very, very badly because her
stepfather was dead. Mrs. Hobbs had told her that she should and
seemed to regard her as queerer than ever because she had not cried.
But, according to the housekeeper, Captain Hall was out of his
troubles and had gone where he would be happy for ever and ever. So
it seemed to her strange to be expected to cry on his account. He
had not been happy here in Ostable, or, at least, he had not shown
his happiness in the way other people showed theirs. To her he had
been a big, bearded giant of a man, whom she saw at infrequent
intervals during the day and always at night just before she went to
bed. His room, with the old-fashioned secretary against the wall,
and the stuffed gull on the shelf, and the books in the cupboard,
and the polished narwhal horn in the corner, was to her a sort of
holy of holies, a place where she was led each evening at nine
o'clock, at first by Mrs. Bailey and, later, by Mrs. Hobbs, to shake
the hand of the big man who looked at her absently over his
spectacles and said good night in a voice not unkindly but
expressing no particular interest. At other times she was strictly
forbidden to enter that room.
Occasionally, but very rarely, she had eaten Sunday dinner with
Marcellus. She and the housekeeper usually ate together and Mr.
Hall's meals were served in what the child called "the smoke room,"
meaning the apartment just described, which was at all times
strongly scented with tobacco. The Sunday dinners were stately and
formal affairs and were prefaced by lectures by the housekeeper
concerning sitting up straight and not disturbing Cap'n Hall by
talking too much. On the whole Mary-'Gusta was rather glad when the
meals were over. She did not dislike her stepfather; he had never
been rough or unkind, but she had always stood in awe of him and had
felt that he regarded her as a "pesky nuisance," something to be fed
and then shooed out of the way, as Mrs. Hobbs regarded David, the
cat. As for loving him, as other children seemed to love their
fathers; that the girl never did. She was sure he did not love her
in that way, and that he would not have welcomed demonstrations of
affection on her part. She had learned the reason, or she thought
she had: she was a STEPCHILD; that was why, and a stepchild was
almost as bad as a "changeling" in a fairy story.
Her mother she remembered dimly and with that recollection were
memories of days when she was loved and made much of, not only by
Mother, but by Captain Hall also. She asked Mrs. Bailey, whom she
had loved and whose leaving was the greatest grief of her life, some
questions about these memories. Mrs. Bailey had hugged her and had
talked a good deal about Captain Hall's being a changed man since
his wife's death. "He used to be so different, jolly and good-
natured and sociable; you wouldn't know him now if you seen him
then. When your mamma was took it just seemed to wilt him right
down. He was awful sick himself for a spell, and when he got better
he was like he is today. Seems as if HE died too, as you might say,
and ain't really lived since. I'm awful sorry for Cap'n Marcellus.
You must be real good to him when you grow up, Mary-'Gusta."
And now he had gone before she had had a chance to grow up, and
Mary-'Gusta felt an unreasonable sense of blame. But real grief,
the dreadful paralyzing realization of loss which an adult feels
when a dear one dies, she did not feel.
She was awed and a little frightened, but she did not feel like
crying. Why should she?
"Mary-'Gusta! Mary-'Gusta! Where be you?"
It was Mrs. Hobbs calling. Mary-'Gusta hurriedly untwisted her legs
and scrambled from beneath the dust cover of the surrey. David,
whose slumbers were disturbed, rose also, yawned and stretched.
"Here I be, Mrs. Hobbs," answered the girl. "I'm a-comin'."
Mrs. Hobbs was standing in the doorway of the barn. Mary-'Gusta
noticed that she was not, as usual, garbed in gingham, but was
arrayed in her best go-to-meeting gown.
"I'm a-comin'," said the child.
"Comin', yes. But where on earth have you been? I've been hunting
all over creation for you. I didn't suppose you'd be out here, on
this day of all others, with--with that critter," indicating David,
who appeared, blinking sleepily.
"I must say I shouldn't think you'd be fussin' along with a cat
today," declared Mrs. Hobbs.
"Yes'm," said Mary-'Gusta. David yawned, apparently expressing a
bored contempt for housekeepers in general.
"Come right along into the house," continued Mrs. Hobbs. "It's high
time you was gettin' ready for the funeral."
"Ready? How?" queried Mary-'Gusta.
"Why, changin' your clothes, of course."
"Do folks dress up for funerals?"
"Course they do. What a question!"
"I didn't know. I--I've never had one."
"I mean I've never been to any. What do they dress up for?"
"Why--why, because they do, of course. Now don't ask any more
questions, but hurry up. Where are you goin' now, for mercy sakes?"
"I was goin' back after Rose and Rosette. They ought to be dressed
up, too, hadn't they?"
"The idea! Playin' dolls today! I declare I never see such a
child! You're a reg'lar little--little heathen. Would you want
anybody playin' dolls at your own funeral, I'd like to know?"
Mary-'Gusta thought this over. "I don't know," she answered, after
reflection. "I guess I'd just as soon. Do they have dolls up in
Heaven, Mrs. Hobbs?"
"Mercy on us! I should say not. Dolls in Heaven! The idea!"
"Nor cats either?"
"No. Don't ask such wicked questions."
Mary-'Gusta asked no more questions of that kind, but her conviction
that Heaven--Mrs. Hobbs' Heaven--was a good place for housekeepers
and grown-ups but a poor one for children was strengthened.
They entered the house by the kitchen door and ascended the back
stairs to Mary-'Gusta's room. The shades in all the rooms were
drawn and the house was dark and gloomy. The child would have asked
the reason for this, but at the first hint of a question Mrs. Hobbs
bade her hush.
"You mustn't talk," she said.
"Why mustn't I?"
"Because 'tain't the right thing to do, that's why. Now hurry up
and get dressed."
Mary-'Gusta silently wriggled out of her everyday frock, was led to
the washstand and vigorously scrubbed. Then Mrs. Hobbs combed and
braided what she called her "pigtails" and tied a bow of black
ribbon at the end of each.
"There!" exclaimed the lady. "You're clean for once in your life,
anyhow. Now hurry up and put on them things on the bed."
The things were Mary-'Gusta's very best shoes and dress; also a pair
of new black stockings.
When the dressing was finished the housekeeper stood her in the
middle of the floor and walked about her on a final round of
"There!" she said again, with a sigh of satisfaction. "Nobody can
say I ain't took all the pains with you that anybody could. Now you
come downstairs and set right where I tell you till I come. And
don't you say one single word. Not a word, no matter what happens."
She took the girl's hand and led her down the front stairs. As they
descended Mary-'Gusta could scarcely restrain a gasp of surprise.
The front door was open--the FRONT door--and the child had never
seen it open before, had long ago decided that it was not a truly
door at all, but merely a make-believe like the painted windows on
the sides of her doll house. But now it was wide open and Mr.
Hallett, arrayed in a suit of black, the coat of which puckered
under the arms, was standing on the threshold, looking more soothy
than ever. The parlor door was open also, and the parlor itself--
the best first parlor, more sacred and forbidden even than the
"smoke room"--was, as much of it as she could see, filled with
Mrs. Hobbs led her into the little room off the parlor, the "back
settin'-room," and, indicating the haircloth and black walnut sofa
against the wall, whispered to her to sit right there and not move.
"Mind now," she whispered, "don't talk and don't stir. I'll be back
by and by."
Mary-'Gusta, left alone, looked wide-eyed about the little back
sitting-room. It, too, was changed; not changed as much as the
front parlor, but changed, nevertheless. Most of the furniture had
been removed. The most comfortable chairs, including the rocker
with the parrot "tidy" on the back, had been taken away. One or two
of the bolt-upright variety remained and the "music chair" was still
there, but pushed back into a corner.
Mary-'Gusta saw the music chair and a quiver of guilty fear tinged
along her spine; that particular chair had always been, to her, the
bright, particular glory of the house. Not because it was
beautiful, for that it distinctly was not; but because of the
marvellous secret hidden beneath its upholstered seat. Captain
Marcellus had brought it home years and years before, when he was a
sea-going bachelor and made voyages to Hamburg. In its normal
condition it was a perfectly quiet and ugly chair, but there was a
catch under one arm and a music box under the seat. And if that
catch were released, then when anyone sat in it, the music box
played "The Campbell's Are Coming" with spirit and jingle. And,
moreover, kept on playing it to the finish unless the catch was
pushed back again.
To Mary-'Gusta that chair was a perpetual fascination. She had been
expressly forbidden to touch it, had been shut in the dark closet
more than once for touching it; but, nevertheless, the temptation
was always there and she had yielded to that temptation at intervals
when Mrs. Hobbs and her stepfather were out. And the last time she
had touched it she had broken the catch. She had wound up the music
box, after hearing it play, but the catch which made it a perfectly
safe seat and not a trap for the unwary had refused to push back
into place. And now there it was, loaded and primed, so to speak,
and she was responsible. Suppose--Oh, horrible thought!--suppose
anyone should sit in it that afternoon!
She gasped and jumped off the sofa. Then she remembered Mrs. Hobbs'
parting command and stopped, hesitating. Mr. Hallett, standing at
the end of the hall, by the front door, heard her move and tiptoed
to the sitting-room.
"What's the matter, little girl?" he whispered, soothingly.
"No-nothin'," gasped Mary-'Gusta.
"All right. Then you set down on the sofa and keep still. You
mustn't make any noise. The folks are comin' now. Set right down on
the sofy, that's a good girl!"
So back to the sofa went Mary-'Gusta, trembling with apprehension.
From her seat she could see along the hall and also through the
other door into the "big settin'-room," where, also, there were rows
of chairs. And, to her horror, these chairs began to fill. People,
most of them dressed in church-going garments which rattled and
rustled, were tiptoeing in and sitting down where she could see them
and they could see her. She did not dare to move now; did not dare
go near the music chair even if going near it would have done any
good. She remained upon the sofa, and shivered.
A few moments later Mrs. Hobbs appeared, looking very solemn and
Sundayfied, and sat beside her. Then Judge and Mrs. Baxter were
shown into the little room and took two of the remaining chairs.
The Judge bowed and smiled and Mrs. Baxter leaned over and patted
her hand. Mary-'Gusta tried to smile, too, but succeeded only in
looking more miserable. Mrs. Hobbs whispered to her to sit up
There was a steady stream of people through the front door now.
They all entered the parlor and many stayed there, but others passed
on into the "big settin'-room." The chairs there were almost all
taken; soon all were taken and Mr. Hallett was obliged to remove one
of those in the small room. There were but two left empty, one a
tall, straight antique with a rush seat, a family heirloom, and the
other the music chair. Mary-'Gusta stared at the music chair and
hoped and hoped.
Mr. Sharon, the minister, entered and shook hands with the Judge and
Mrs. Baxter and with Mrs. Hobbs and Mary-'Gusta. He also patted the
child's hand. Mrs. Hobbs whispered to him, with evident pride, that
it was "goin' to be one of the biggest funerals ever given in
Ostable." Mr. Sharon nodded. Then, after waiting a moment or two,
he tiptoed along the front hall and took up his stand by the parlor
door. There was a final rustle of gowns, a final crackle of Sunday
shirtfronts, and then a hushed silence.
The silence was broken by the rattle of wheels in the yard. Mr.
Hallett at the door held up a warning hand. A moment later he
ushered two people in at the front door and led them through the
parlor into the "big settin'-room." Mary-'Gusta could see the late
comers plainly. They were both men, one big and red-faced and
bearded, the other small, and thin, and white-haired. A rustle
passed through the crowd and everyone turned to look. Some looked
as if they recognized the pair, but they did not bow; evidently it
was not proper to bow at funerals.
Mr. Hallett, on tiptoe, of course, glided into the little room from
the big one and looked about him. Then, to the absolute
stupefaction of Mary-'Gusta, he took the rush-seated chair in one
hand and the music chair in the other and tiptoed out. He placed
the two chairs in the back row close to the door of the smaller room
and motioned to the two men to sit.
Mary-'Gusta could stand it no longer. She was afraid of Mrs. Hobbs,
afraid of Mr. Hallett, afraid of the Baxters and all the staring
crowd; but she was more afraid of what was going to happen. She
tugged at the housekeeper's sleeve.
"Mrs. Hobbs!" she whispered, quiveringly. "Oh, Mrs. Hobbs!"
Mrs. Hobbs shook off the clutch at her sleeve.
"Sshh!" she whispered. "Sshh!"
"But--but please, Mrs. Hobbs--"
"Sshh! You mustn't talk. Be still. Be still, I tell you."
The small, white-haired man sat down in the rush-seated chair. The
big man hesitated, separated his coat tails, and then he, too, sat
And the music box under the seat of the chair he sat in informed
everyone with cheerful vigor that the Campbells were coming, Hurrah!
Captain Shadrach Gould arose from that chair, arose promptly and
without hesitation. Mr. Zoeth Hamilton also rose; so did many
others in the vicinity. There was a stir and a rustle and whispered
exclamations. And still the news of the imminent arrival of the
Campbells was tinkled abroad and continued to tinkle. Someone
giggled, so did someone else. Others said, "Hush!"
Mrs. Judge Baxter said, "Heavens and earth!"
Mrs. Hobbs looked as if she wished to say something very much
Captain Shadrach's bald spot blazed a fiery red and he glared about
Mr. Hallett, who was used to unexpected happenings at funerals--
though, to do him justice, he had never before had to deal with
anything quite like this--rushed to the center of the disturbance.
Mrs. Hobbs hastened to help. Together and with whisperings, they
fidgeted with the refractory catch. And still the music box played--
and played--and played.
At last Mr. Hallett gave it up. He seized the chair and with it in
his arms rushed out into the dining-room. Captain Shadrach Gould
mopped his face with a handkerchief and stood, because there was
nowhere for him to sit. Mrs. Hobbs, almost as red in the face as
Captain Shad himself, hastened back and collapsed upon the sofa.
Mr. Sharon cleared his throat.
And still, from behind the closed door of the dining-room the music
chair tinkled on:
"The Campbells are coming! Hurrah! Hurrah!" Poor little guilty,
frightened Mary-'Gusta covered her face with her hands.
"And now, gentlemen," said Judge Baxter, "here we are. Sit down and
make yourselves comfortable. I shall have a good deal to say and I
expect to surprise you. Sit down."
Captain Gould and Mr. Hamilton were in the Judge's library at his
home. The funeral was over, all that was mortal of Marcellus Hall
had been laid to rest in the Ostable cemetery, and his two friends
and former partners had, on their return from that cemetery, stopped
at the Judge's, at the latter's request. He wished, so he said, to
speak with them on an important matter.
"Why don't you sit down, Captain?" asked the Judge, noticing that,
although Zoeth had seated himself in the rocker which his host had
indicated, Shadrach was still standing.
Captain Shadrach laid a hand on the back of the armchair and
regarded the lawyer with a very grave face, but with a twinkle in
"To tell you the truth, Judge," he said, slowly, "I don't cal'late I
ever shall set down again quite so whole-hearted as I used to. You
spoke of a surprise, didn't you? I've had one surprise this
afternoon that's liable to stay with me for a spell. I'm an
unsuspectin' critter, generally speakin', but after that--Say, you
ain't got a brass band nor fireworks hitched to THIS chair, have
Judge Baxter laughed heartily. "No," he said, as soon as he could
speak. "No, Captain, my furniture isn't loaded."
The Captain shook his head. "Whew!" he whistled, sitting down
gingerly in the armchair. "Well, that's a mercy. I ain't so young
as I used to be and I couldn't stand many such shocks. Whew! Don't
talk to ME! When that devilish jig tune started up underneath me
I'll bet I hopped up three foot straight. I may be kind of slow
sittin' down, but you'll bear me out that I can GET UP sudden when
it's necessary. And I thought the dum thing never would STOP."
Mr. Hamilton stirred uneasily. "Hush, hush, Shadrach!" he pleaded.
"Don't be so profane. Remember you've just come from the graveyard."
"Come from it! By fire! There was a time there when I'd have been
willin' to go to it--yes, and stay. All I wanted was to get out of
that room and hide somewheres where folks couldn't look at me. I
give you my word I could feel myself heatin' up like an airtight
stove. Good thing I didn't have on a celluloid collar or 'twould
have bust into a blaze. Of all the dummed outrages to spring on a
"There, there, Zoeth! I'll calm down. But as for swearin'--well,
if you knew how full of cusswords I was there one spell you wouldn't
find fault; you'd thank me for holdin' 'em in. I had to batten down
my hatches to do it, though; I tell you that."
Mr. Hamilton turned to their host. "You'll excuse Shadrach, won't
you, Judge," he said, apologetically. "He don't mean nothin'
wicked, really. And he feels as bad as I do about Marcellus's bein'
"Course I do!" put in the Captain. "Zoeth's always scared to death
for fear I'm bound to the everlastin' brimstone. He forgets I've
been to sea a good part of my life and that a feller has to talk
strong aboard ship. Common language may do for keepin' store, but
it don't get a vessel nowheres; the salt sort of takes the tang out
of it, seems so. I'm through for the present, Zoeth. I'll keep the
rest till I meet the swab that loaded up that chair for me."
The Judge laughed again. Then he opened his desk and took from a
drawer two folded papers.
"Gentlemen," he said, gravely, "I asked you to come here with me
because there is an important matter, a very important matter, which
I, as Captain Hall's legal adviser, must discuss with you."
Captain Shadrach and Zoeth looked at each other. The former tugged
at his beard.
"Hum!" he mused. "Somethin' to do with Marcellus's affairs, is it?"
"Want to know! And somethin' to do with me and Zoeth?"
"Yes, with both of you. This," holding up one of the folded papers,
"is Captain Hall's will. I drew it for him a year ago and he has
appointed me his executor."
Zoeth nodded. "We supposed likely he would," he observed.
"Couldn't get a better man," added Shadrach, with emphasis.
"Thank you. Captain Hall leaves all he possessed--practically all;
there is a matter of two hundred dollars for his housekeeper, Mrs.
Hobbs, and a few other personal gifts--but he leaves practically all
he possessed to his stepdaughter, Mary Lathrop."
Both his hearers nodded again. "We expected that, naturally," said
the Captain. "It's what he'd ought to have done, of course. Well,
she'll be pretty well fixed, won't she?"
Judge Baxter shook his head. "Why, no--she won't," he said,
soberly. "That is a part of the surprise which I mentioned at
first. Captain Hall was, practically, a poor man when he died."
That the prophesied surprise was now a reality was manifest. Both
men looked aghast.
"You--you don't mean that, Judge?" gasped Zoeth.
"Poor? Marcellus poor?" cried Shadrach. "Why--why, what kind of
talk's that? He didn't have no more than the rest of us when--" he
hesitated, glanced at Zoeth, and continued, "when the firm give up
business back in '79; but he went to sea again and made
considerable, and then he made a whole lot in stocks. I know he
did. You know it, too, Zoeth. How could he be poor?"
"Because, like so many other fortunate speculators, he continued to
speculate and became unfortunate. He lost the bulk of his winnings
in the stock market and--well, to be quite frank, Captain Hall has
been a broken man, mentally as well as physically, since his wife's
death and his own serious illness. You, yourselves, must have
noticed the change in his habits. From being an active man, a man
of affairs, he became almost a hermit. He saw but few people,
dropped the society of all his old friends, and lived alone--alone
except for his various housekeepers and Mary-'Gusta--the little
girl, I mean. You must have noticed the change in his relations
Mr. Hamilton sighed. "Yes," he said, "we noticed he never came to
see us and--and--"
"And wasn't over'n above sociable when we come to see him," finished
Captain Shadrach. "Yes, we noticed that. But I say, Judge, he must
have had SOME money left. What became of it?"
"Goodness knows! He was a child, so far as money matters went, in
his later years. Very likely he frittered it away in more stock
ventures; I know he bought a lot of good for nothing mining shares.
At any rate it has gone, all except a few thousands. The house and
land where he lived is mortgaged up to the handle, and I imagine
there are debts, a good many of them. But whatever there is is left
to Mary-'Gusta--everyone calls her that and I seem to have caught
the habit. It is left to her--in trust."
Captain Shadrach thought this over. "In trust with you, I presume
likely," he observed. "Well, as I said afore, he couldn't have
found a better man."
"HE thought he could, two better men. I rather think he was right.
You are the two, gentlemen."
This statement did not have the effect which the Judge expected. He
expected exclamations and protests. Instead his visitors looked at
each other and at him in a puzzled fashion.
"Er--er--what was that?" queried Mr. Hamilton. "I didn't exactly
seem to catch that, somehow or 'nother."
Judge Baxter turned to the Captain.
"You understood me, didn't you, Captain Gould?" he asked.
Shadrach shook his head.
"Why--why, no," he stammered; "it didn't seem to soak in, somehow.
Cal'late my head must have stopped goin'; maybe the shock I had a
spell ago broke the mainspring. All I seem to be real sartin of
just now is that the Campbells are comin'. What was it you said?"
"I said that Captain Marcellus Hall has left whatever property he
owned, after his creditors are satisfied, to his stepdaughter. He
has left it in trust until she becomes of age. And he asks you two
to accept that trust and the care of the child. Is that plain?"
It was plain and they understood. But with understanding came,
apparently, a species of paralysis of the vocal organs. Zoeth
turned pale and leaned back in his chair. Shadrach's mouth opened
and closed several times, but he said nothing.
"Of course," went on Baxter, "before I say any more I think you
should be told this: It was Captain Hall's wish that you jointly
accept the guardianship of Mary'-Gusta--of the girl--that she live
with you and that you use whatever money comes to her from her
stepfather's estate in educating and clothing her. Also, of course,
that a certain sum each week be paid you from that estate as her
board. That was Marcellus's wish; but it is a wish, nothing more.
It is not binding upon you in any way. You have a perfect right to
Captain Shadrach interrupted.
"Heave to!" he ordered, breathlessly. "Come up into the wind a
minute, for mercy sakes! Do you mean to say that me and Zoeth are
asked to take that young-one home with us, and take care of her, and
dress her, and--and eat her, and bring her up and--and--"
He paused, incoherent in his excitement. The Judge nodded.
"Yes," he replied, "that is what he asks you to do. But, as I say,
you are not obliged to do it; there is no legal obligation. You can
say no, if you think it best."
"If we think--for thunder sakes, Baxter, what was the matter with
Marcellus? Was he out of his head? Was he loony?"
"No, he was perfectly sane."
"Then--then, what--Zoeth," turning wildly to Mr. Hamilton, who still
sat, pale and speechless, in his chair; "Zoeth," he demanded, "did
you ever hear such craziness in your life? Did you ever HEAR such
Zoeth merely shook his head. His silence appeared to add to his
"Did you?" he roared.
Zoeth muttered something to the effect that he didn't know as he
"You don't know! Yes, you do know, too. Speak up, why don't you?
Don't sit there like a ship's figgerhead, starin' at nothin'. You
know it's craziness as well's I do. For God sakes, say somethin'!
Mr. Hamilton talked--to this extent:
"Hush, Shadrach," he faltered. "Don't be profane."
"Profane! Pup-pup-profane! You set there and--and-- Oh, jumpin',
creepin' Judas! I--I--" Language--even his language--failed to
express his feelings and he waved his fists and sputtered. Baxter
seized the opportunity.
"Before you make your decision, gentlemen," he said, "I hope you
will consider the situation carefully. The girl is only seven years
old; she has no relations anywhere, so far as we know. If you
decline the trust a guardian will have to be appointed by the
courts, I suppose. Who that guardian will be, or what will become
of the poor child I'm sure I don't know. And Captain Marcellus was
perfectly sane; he knew what he was doing."
"He did!" he shouted. "Well, then, I must say--"
"Just a minute, please, I have a letter here which he wrote at the
time he made his will. It is addressed to both of you. Here it is.
Shall I read it to you, or had you rather read it yourselves?"
Zoeth answered. "I guess maybe you'd better read it, Judge," he
said. "I don't cal'late Shadrach nor me are capable of readin' much
of anything just this minute. You read it. Shadrach, you be still
now and listen."
The Captain opened his mouth and raised a hand. "Be still,
Shadrach," repeated Zoeth. The hand fell. Captain Gould sighed.
"All right, Zoeth," he said. "I'll keep my batch closed long's I
can. Heave ahead, Judge."
The letter was a long one, covering several sheets of foolscap. It
To Shadrach, Gould and Zoeth Hamilton, my old partners and friends.
DEAR SHAD AND ZOETH:
I am writing this to you because I have known you pretty much all my
life and you are the only real friends I have got in this world.
"I was his friend, or I tried to be," commented Baxter, interrupting
his reading; "but he considered you two, and always spoke of you, as
his oldest and nearest friends. He has often told me that he knew
he could depend on you. Now listen."
The letter went on to state that the writer realized his health was
no longer good, that he was likely to die at any time and was quite
I should be glad to go [Captain Hall had written], if it was not for
one thing. Since my wife was took from me I care precious little
for life and the sooner it ends the better. That is the way I look
at it. But I have a stepdaughter, Mary Augusta Lathrop, and for her
sake I must stick to the ship as long as I can. I have not been the
right kind of father to her. I have tried, but I don't seem to know
how and I guess likely I was too old to learn. When I go she won't
have a relation to look out for her. That has troubled me a lot and
I have thought about it more than a little, I can tell you. And so
I have decided to leave her in your care. I am hoping you will take
charge of her and bring her up to be a good girl and a good woman,
same as her mother was before her. I know you two will be just the
ones for the job.
"Jumpin' fire!" broke in Shadrach, the irrepressible.
"Hush, Shadrach," continued Mr. Hamilton. "Go on, Judge."
Baxter continued his reading. The letter told of the will, of the
property, whatever it might be, left in trust for the child, and of
the writer's desire that it might be used, when turned into money,
for her education. There were two pages of rambling references to
stocks and investments, the very vagueness of these references
proving the weakening shrewdness and lack of business acumen of
Captain Hall in his later years. Then came this:
When this first comes to you I know you will both feel you are not
fitted to take charge of my girl. You will say that neither of you
has had any children of his own and you have not got experience in
that line. But I have thought it over and I know I am right. I
couldn't find better pilots afloat or ashore. Shadrach has been to
sea and commanded vessels and is used to giving orders and having
them carried out. He sailed mate with me for a good many voyages
and was my partner ashore. I know him from truck to keelson. He is
honest and able and can handle any craft. He will keep the girl on
the course she ought to sail in her schooling and such and see she
does not get on the rocks or take to cruising in bad company. Zoeth
has had the land training. He is a pious man and as good outside
the church as he is in, which is not always the case according to my
experience. He has the name all up and down the Cape of being a
square, honest storekeeper. He will look out for Mary's religious
bringing up and learn her how to keep straight and think square.
You are both of you different from each other in most ways but you
are each of you honest and straight in his own way. I don't leave
Mary in the care of one but in the charge of both. I know I am
"He said that very thing to me a good many times," put in the Judge.
"He seemed to feel that the very fact of your being men of different
training and habits of thought made the combination ideal. Between
you, so he seemed to think, the girl could not help but grow up as
she should. I am almost through; there is a little more."
I want you fellows to do this for my sake. I know you will, after
you have thought it over. You and I have been through good times
and bad together. We have made money and we have seen it go faster
than it came. Shad has seen his savings taken away from him, partly
because I trusted where he did not, and he never spoke a word of
complaint nor found a mite of fault. Zoeth has borne my greatest
trouble with me and though his share was far away bigger than mine,
he kept me from breaking under it. I have not seen as much of you
lately as I used to see, but that was my fault. Not my fault
exactly, maybe, but my misfortune. I have not been the man I was
and seeing you made me realize it. That is why I have not been to
South Harniss and why I acted so queer when you came here. I was
sort of ashamed, I guess. You remember when the old Hall and
Company firm started business there were four of us who agreed to
stick by each other through foul weather and fair till we died. One
of that four broke his promise and pretty nigh wrecked us all, as he
did wreck the firm. Now I am asking you two to stick by me and
mine. I am trusting and believing that you are going to do it as I
write this. When you read it I shan't be on hand. But, if I am
where I can see and hear I shall still be believing you will do this
last favor for your old messmate.
Judge Baxter folded the sheets of foolscap and laid them on the
table. Then he took off his spectacles and wiped them with his
"Well, gentlemen?" he said, after a moment.
Captain Gould drew a long breath.
"I don't think it's well," he observed. "I think it's about as sick
as it can be, and I cal'late Zoeth feels the same; eh, Zoeth?"
Mr. Hamilton did not answer. He neither spoke nor moved.
"Of course," said the lawyer, "it is not necessary that you make up
your minds this instant. You will probably wish a few days to think
the matter over in and then you can let me know what you decide.
You have heard the letter and I have explained the situation. Are
there any questions you would like to ask?"
Shadrach shook his head.
"No, not far's I'm concerned," he said. "My mind is made up now. I
did think there wasn't anything I wouldn't do for Marcellus. And I
would have done anything in reason. But this ain't reason--it's
what I called it in the beginnin', craziness. Me and Zoeth can't go
crazy for anybody."
"Then you decline?"
"Yes, sir; I'm mighty sorry but of course we can't do such a thing.
Me and Zoeth, one of us a bach all his life, and t'other one a--a
widower for twenty years, for us to take a child to bring up! My
soul and body! Havin' hung on to the heft of our senses so far,
course we decline! We can't do nothin' else."
"And you, Mr. Hamilton?"
Zoeth appeared to hesitate. Then he asked:
"What sort of a girl is she?"
"Mary-'Gusta? She's a bright child, and a well-behaved one,
generally speaking. Rather old for her years, and a little--well,
peculiar. That isn't strange, considering the life she has led
since her mother's death. But she is a good girl and a pretty
little thing. I like her; so does my wife."
"That was her at the cemetery, wasn't it? She was with that Hobbs
"I thought so. Shadrach and I met her when we was over here two
years ago. I thought the one at the graveyard was her. Poor little
critter! Where is she now; at the house--at Marcellus's?"
"Yes; that is, I suppose she is."
"Do you--do you cal'late we could see her if we went there now?"
"Yes, I am sure you could."
"Come on, Shadrach," he said, "let's go."
The Captain stared at him.
"Go?" he repeated. "Where? Home, do you mean?"
"No, not yet. I mean over to Marcellus's to see that little girl."
"Zoeth Hamilton! Do you mean to tell me-- What do you want to see
her for? Do you want to make it harder for her and for us and for
all hands? What good is seein' her goin' to do? Ain't it twice as
easy to say no now and be done with it?"
"I suppose likely 'twould be, but it wouldn't be right Marcellus
asked us to do this thing for him and--"
"Jumpin' Judas! ASKED us! Do you mean to say you're thinkin' of
doin' what he asked? Are you loony, too? Are you--"
"Shh, Shadrach! He asked us, as a last favor, to take charge of his
girl. I feel as you do that we can't do it, 'tain't sensible nor
possible for us to do it, but--"
"There ain't any buts."
"But the very least we can do is go and see her and talk to her."
"What for? So we'll feel meaner and more sneaky when we HAVE to say
no? I shan't go to see her."
"All right. Then I shall. You can wait here for me till I come
"Hold on, Zoeth! Hold on! Don't--"
But Mr. Hamilton was at the door and did not turn back. Judge
Baxter, who was following him, spoke.
"Sit right here, Captain," he said. "Make yourself as comfortable
as you can. We shan't be long."
For an instant Shadrach remained where he was. Then he, too, sprang
to his feet. He overtook the lawyer just as the latter reached the
"Hello, Captain," exclaimed Baxter, "changed your mind?"
"Changed nothin'. Zoeth's makin' a fool of himself and I know it,
but he ain't goin' to be a fool ALL by himself. I've seen him try
it afore and 'tain't safe."
"What do you mean?"
The Captain grunted scornfully.
"I mean there's safety in numbers, whether it's the number of fools
or anything else," he said. "One idiot's a risky proposition, but
two or three in a bunch can watch each other. Come on, Judge, and
be the third."
The white house on Phinney's Hill looked desolate and mournful when
the buggy containing Judge Baxter and his two companions drove into
the yard. The wagon belonging to Mr. Hallett, the undertaker, was
at the front door, and Hallett and his assistant were loading in the
folding chairs. Mr. Hallett was whistling a popular melody, but,
somehow or other, the music only emphasized the lonesomeness. There
is little cheer in an undertaker's whistle.
Captain Gould, acting under the Judge's orders, piloted his horse up
the driveway and into the back yard. The animal was made fast to
the back fence and the three men alighted from the buggy and walked
up to the side door of the house.
"Say, Judge," whispered the Captain, as they halted by the step,
"you don't cal'late I can find out who loaded up that music-box
chair on me, do you? If I could meet that feller for two or three
minutes I might feel more reconciled at bein' fool enough to come
Mrs. Hobbs answered the knock at the door--she invited them in.
When told that they had come to see Mary-'Gusta she sniffed.
"She's in her room," she said, rather sharply. "She hadn't ought to
be let out, but of course if you want to see her, Judge Baxter, I
presume likely she'll have to be. I'll go fetch her."
"Wait a minute, Mrs. Hobbs," said Baxter. "What's the matter? Has
the child been behaving badly?"
Mrs. Hobbs' lean fingers clinched. "Behavin' badly!" she repeated.
"I should say she had! I never was so mortified in my life. And at
her own father's funeral, too!"
"What has she done?"
"Done? She--" Mrs. Hobbs hesitated, glanced at Captain Shadrach,
and left her sentence unfinished. "Never mind what she done," she
went on. "I can't tell you now; I declare I'd be ashamed to. I'll
go get her."
She marched from the room. Zoeth rubbed his forehead.
"She seems sort of put out, don't she," he observed, mildly.
Baxter nodded. "Susan Hobbs has the reputation of getting 'put out'
pretty often," he said. "She has a temper and it isn't a long one."
"Has she been takin' care of Marcellus's girl?" asked Zoeth.
"Yes. As much care as the child has had."
Captain Shad snorted. It was evident that the housekeeper's manner
had not impressed him favorably.
"Humph!" he said. "I'd hate to have her take care of me, judgin' by
the way she looked just now. Say," hopefully, "do you suppose SHE
was the one fixed that chair?"
They heard Mrs. Hobbs on the floor above, shouting:
"Mary-'Gusta! Mary-'Gusta! Where are you? Answer me this minute!"
"Don't seem to be in that room she was talkin' about," grumbled
Shadrach. "Tut! Tut! What a voice that is! Got a rasp to it like
a rusty saw."
Mrs. Hobbs was heard descending the stairs. Her face, when she
reentered the sitting-room, was red and she looked more "put out"
"She ain't there," she answered, angrily. "She's gone."
"Gone?" repeated Zoeth and Shadrach in chorus.
"Gone?" repeated the Judge. "Do you mean she's run away?"
"No, no! She ain't run away--not for good; she knows better than
that. She's sneaked off and hid, I suppose. But I know where she
is. I'll have her here in a minute."
She was hurrying out again, but the Captain detained her.
"Wait!" he commanded. "What's that you say? You know where she
"Yes, or I can guess. Nine chances to one she's out in that barn."
"In the barn? What's she doin" there--playin' horse?"
"No, no. She's hidin' in the carriage room. Seems as if the child
was possessed to get out in that dusty place and perch herself in
the old carryall. She calls it her playhouse and you'd think 'twas
Heaven the way she loves to stay there. But today of all days! And
with her best clothes on! And after I expressly told her--"
"Yes, yes; all right. Humph! Well, Zoeth, what do you say? Shall
we go to Heaven and hunt for her? Maybe 'twill be the only chance
some of us'll get, you can't tell," with a wink at Baxter.
"Hush, Shadrach! How you do talk!" protested the shocked Mr.
"Let's go out to the barn and find the young-one ourselves," said
the Captain. "Seems the simplest thing to do, don't it?"
Mrs. Hobbs interrupted.
"You don't need to go at all," she declared. "I'll get her and
bring her here. Perhaps she ain't there, anyway."
"Well, if she ain't there we can come back again. Come on, boys."
He led the way to the door. The housekeeper would have accompanied
them, but he prevented her doing so.
"Don't you trouble yourself, ma'am," he said. "We'll find her. I'm
older'n I used to be, but I ain't so blind but what I can locate a
barn without a spyglass."
"It won't be any trouble," protested the lady.
"I know, but it might be. We'll go alone."
When the three were in the back yard, and the discomfited
housekeeper was watching them from the door, he added:
"I don't know why that woman rubs my fur the wrong way, but she
does. Isaiah Chase says he don't like mosquitoes 'cause they get on
his nerves. I never thought I wore my nerves on the back of my
neck, which is where Isaiah gets skeeter-bit mostly, but anyhow,
wherever they be, that Hobbs woman bothers 'em. There's the barn,
ain't it? Don't look very heavenly, but it may seem that way after
a spell in t'other place. Now where's the carriage room?"
The door of the carriage room was open, and they entered. A buggy
and the muslin draped surrey were there, but no living creature was
in sight. They listened, but heard nothing.
"Mary! Mary-'Gusta!" called Baxter. "Are you here?"
No answer. And then, from beneath the cover of the surrey, appeared
a fat tortoise-shell cat, who jumped lightly to the floor, yawned,
stretched, and blinked suspiciously at the visitors.
"Humph!" grunted Captain Shadrach. "There's one stowaway, anyhow.
Maybe there's another; I've had 'em come aboard in pairs."
The Judge walked over to the surrey, and raised the cover. From
behind it came a frightened little squeal.
"Oh, there you are!" said Baxter. "Mary-'Gusta, is that you?"
There was a rustle, a sob, and then a timid voice said, chokingly,
"Come out," said the Judge, kindly. "Come out; here are some
friends who want to meet you."
Another sob and then: "I--I don't want to."
"Oh, yes, you do. We won't hurt you. We only want to see you and
talk with you, that's all. Come, that's a good girl."
"I--I ain't a good girl."
"Never mind. We want to see you, anyway. I guess you're not very
"Yes, I--I am. Is--is Mrs. Hobbs there?"
"No. Come now, please."
A moment's wait, then, from beneath the cover, appeared a small foot
and leg, the latter covered by a black stocking. The foot wiggled
about, feeling for the step. It found it, the cover was thrown
aside and Mary-'Gusta appeared, a pathetic little figure, with
rumpled hair and tear-stained cheeks. Rose and Rosette, the two
dolls, were hugged in her arms.
Judge Baxter patted her on the head. Zoeth and Shadrach looked
solemn and ill at ease. Mary-'Gusta looked at the floor and sniffed
"Mary-'Gusta," said the Judge, "these two gentlemen are old friends
of your father's and," with a pardonable stretching of the truth,
"they have come all the way from South Harniss to meet you. Now you
must shake hands with them. They like little girls."
Mary-'Gusta obediently moved forward, shifted Rosette to the arm
clasping Rose, and extended a hand. Slowly she raised her eyes, saw
Mr. Hamilton's mild, gentle face and then, beside it, the face of
Captain Shadrach Gould. With a cry she dropped both dolls, ran back
to the surrey and fumbled frantically with the dust cover.
Baxter, surprised and puzzled, ran after her and prevented her
climbing into the carriage.
"Why, Mary-'Gusta," he demanded, "what is the matter?"
The child struggled and then, bursting into a storm of sobs, hid her
face in the dust cover.
"I--I didn't mean to," she sobbed, wildly. "I didn't mean to.
Honest I didn't. I--I didn't know. I didn't mean to. Please don't
let him. PLEASE!"
The Judge held her close and did his best to calm her.
"There, there, child," he said. "No one's going to hurt you."
"Yes--yes, they are. Mrs. Hobbs said she shouldn't wonder if he
knocked my--my head right off."
"Knocked your head off! Who?"
She raised her hand and pointed a shaking finger straight at Captain
All three of her hearers were surprised, of course, but in the case
of the Captain himself amazement was coupled with righteous
"Wha-what?" he stammered. "Who said so? What kind of talk's that?
Said I was goin' to knock your head off? I was?"
Baxter laughed. "No, no, Mary-'Gusta," he said; "you're mistaken.
Mrs. Hobbs couldn't have said any such thing. You're mistaken,
"No, I ain't," with another sob; "she did say so. She said he would
knock my head--ah--ah--off and--and put me in jail, too. And I
didn't mean to do it; honest, truly I didn't."
The Judge looked at his companions and shook his head as if the
conundrum was beyond his guessing. Captain Shad groaned.
"By fire!" he ejaculated. "All hands have gone loony, young-ones
and all. And," with conviction, "I'm on the road myself."
Zoeth Hamilton stepped forward and held out his hands.
"Come here, dearie," he said, gently; "come here and tell me all
about it. Neither me nor the Cap'n's goin' to hurt you a mite. We
like little girls, both of us do. Now you come and tell me about
Mary-'Gusta's sobs ceased. She looked at the speaker doubtfully.
"Come, don't be scared," begged Zoeth. "We're goin' to be good
friends to you. We knew your father and he thought everything of
us. You ain't goin' to be afraid of folks that was your Pa's chums.
You come here and let's talk it over."
Slowly Mary-'Gusta crossed the room. Zoeth sat down upon an empty
box near the door and lifted the girl to his knee.
"Now you ain't afraid of me, be you?" he asked quietly.
Mary-'Gusta shook her head, but her big eyes were fixed upon Captain
"No-o," she faltered. "I--I guess I ain't. But you wasn't the one
I did it to. It was him."
Judging by the Captain's expression his conviction that all hands,
himself included, had lost their reason was momentarily growing
"ME?" he gasped. "You done somethin' to me and I--well, by Judas,
"Hush, Shadrach! What was it you done, Mary, that made you afraid
of Cap'n Gould? Tell me. I won't hurt you and I won't let anybody
"YOU won't let--Zoeth Hamilton, I swan, I--"
"Be still, Shadrach, for mercy sakes! Now, what was it, dearie?"
Mary-'Gusta hesitated. Then she buried her face in Mr. Hamilton's
jacket and sobbed a confession.
"I--I made it go," she cried. "I--I broke the--the catch--and it
was wound up and--and it went off. But I didn't know. I didn't
"There, there, course you didn't. We know you didn't. What was it
that went off?"
"The--the music chair. It was in the corner and Mr. Hallett took it
and--and I couldn't say anything 'cause Mrs. Hobbs said I mustn't
speak a word at the funeral. And--and he set in it and it played
and--Oh, don't let him put me in jail! Please don't."
Another burst of tears. Mary-'Gusta clung tightly to the Hamilton
jacket. Judge Baxter looked as if a light had suddenly broken upon
the darkness of his mind.
"I see," he said. "You were responsible for the 'Campbells.' I
Shadrach drew a long breath.
"Whew!" he whistled. "So she was the one. Well, I swan!"
Zoeth stroked the child's hair.
"That's all right, dearie," he said. "Now don't you worry about
that. We didn't know who did it, but now we do and it's all right.
We know you didn't mean to."
"Won't--won't he knock my head off?"
"No, no, course he won't. Tell her so, Shadrach."
Captain Shadrach pulled at his beard. Then he burst into a laugh.
"I won't hurt you for nothin', sis," he said, heartily. "It's all
right and don't you fret about it. Accidents will happen even in
the best regulated--er--funerals; though," with a broad grin, "I
hope another one like that'll never happen to ME. Now don't you cry
Mary-'Gusta raised her head and regarded him steadily.
"Won't I be put in jail?" she asked, more hopefully.
"Indeed you won't. I never put anybody in jail in my life; though,"
with an emphatic nod, "there's some folks ought to go there for
frightenin' children out of their senses. Did that Mrs. Hobbs tell
you I was goin' to--what was it?--knock your head off and all the
"Yes, sir, she did."
"Well, she's a--she's what she is. What else did she say to you?"
"She--she said I was a bad, wicked child and she hoped I'd be sent
to the--the orphans' home. If she was to have the care of me, she
said, she'd make me walk a chalk or know why. And she sent me to my
room and said I couldn't have any supper."
Zoeth and the Captain looked at each other. Baxter frowned.
"On the very day of her father's funeral," he muttered.
"Can't I have any supper?" begged Mary-'Gusta. "I'm awful hungry; I
didn't want much dinner."
Zoeth nodded. His tone, when he spoke, was not so mild as was usual
"You shall have your supper," he said.
"And--and must I go to the orphans' home?"
No one answered at once. Zoeth and Captain Shad again looked at
each other and the Judge looked at them both.
"Must I?" repeated Mary-'Gusta. "I--I don't want to. I'd rather
die, I guess, and go to Heaven, same as Mother and Father. But Mrs.
Hobbs says they don't have any dolls nor cats in Heaven, so I don't
know's I'd want to go there."
Baxter walked to the window and looked out. Captain Shadrach
reached into his pocket, produced a crumpled handkerchief, and blew
his nose violently. Zoeth stroked the child's hair.
"Mary-'Gusta," he said, after a moment, "how would you like to go
over to South Harniss and--and see me and Cap'n Gould a little
while? Just make us a visit, you know. Think you'd like that?"
The Captain started. "Good land, Zoeth!" he exclaimed. "Be careful
what you're sayin'."
"I ain't sayin' anything definite, Shadrach. I know how you feel
about it. I just wanted to see how she felt herself, that's all.
Think you'd like that, Mary-'Gusta?"
Mary-'Gusta thought it over. "I guess maybe I would," she said, "if
I could take my dolls and David. I wouldn't want to leave David.
Mrs. Hobbs don't like cats."
And at that moment Mrs. Hobbs herself appeared in the doorway of the
carriage room. She saw the child and her eyes snapped.
"So she was here," she said. "I thought as much. Mary-'Gusta, what
did you run away from that room for? Didn't I forbid you leavin'
it? She's been a bad girl, Judge Baxter," she added, "and I can't
make her behave. I try my best, but I'm sure I don't know what to
Captain Shadrach thrust both hands into his pockets.
"I tell you what to do," he said, sharply. "You go into the house
and put some of her things into a valise or satchel or somethin'.
And hurry up as fast as you can."
Mrs. Hobbs was astonished.
"Put 'em in a satchel?" she repeated. "What for? Where's she
"She's goin' home along with me and Zoeth. And she's got to start
inside of half an hour. You hurry."
"There ain't any 'buts'; haven't got time for 'em."
Mr. Hamilton regarded his friend with an odd expression.
"Shadrach," he asked, "do you realize what you're sayin'?"
"Who's sayin'? You said it, I didn't. Besides takin' her home with
us today don't mean nothin', does it? A visit won't hurt us.
Visits don't bind anybody to anything. Jumpin' Judas! I guess
we've got room enough in the house to have one young-one come
visitin' for--for a couple of days, if we want to. What are you
makin' such a fuss about? Here you," turning to the housekeeper,
"ain't you gone yet? You've got just thirteen minutes to get that
Mrs. Hobbs departed, outraged dignity in her walk and manner.
"Am--am I goin'?" faltered Mary-'Gusta.
"Yes," he said, "you're goin'. Unless, of course, you'd rather stay
"No, I'd rather go, if--if I can take David and the dolls. Can I?"
"Can she, Shadrach?"
Captain Shad, who was pacing the floor, turned savagely.
"What do you ask me that for?" he demanded. "This is your doin's,
'tain't mine. You said it first, didn't you? Yes, yes, let her
take the dolls and cats--and cows and pigs, too, if she wants to.
Jumpin' fire! What do I care? If a feller's bound to be a fool, a
little live stock more or less don't make him any bigger one. . . .
Land sakes! I believe she's goin' to cry again. Don't do that!
What's the matter now?"
The tears were starting once more in the girl's eyes.
"I--I don't think you want me," she stammered. "If you did you--you
wouldn't talk so."
The Captain was greatly taken aback. He hesitated, tugged at his
beard, and then, walking over to the child, took her by the hand.
"Don't you mind the way I talk, Mary-'Gusta," he said. "I'm liable
to talk 'most any way, but I don't mean nothin' by it. I like
little girls, same as Zoeth said. And I ain't mad about the jig-
tune chair, neither. Say," with a sudden inspiration; "here we are
settin' here and one of our passengers has left the dock. We got to
find that cat, ain't we? What did you say his name was--Solomon?"
"No, sir; David."
"David, sure enough. If I'd been up in Scripture the way Zoeth--Mr.
Hamilton, here--is, I wouldn't have made that mistake, would I?
Come on, let's you and me go find David and break the news to him.
Say, he'll be some surprised to find he's booked for a foreign
v'yage, won't he? Come on, we'll go find him."
Mary-'Gusta slowly rose from Mr. Hamilton's knee. She regarded the
Captain steadily for a moment; then, hand in hand, they left the
Judge Baxter whistled. "Well!" he exclaimed. "I must say I didn't
Zoeth smiled. "There ain't many better men than Shadrach Gould," he
Mary-'Gusta, even though she lives to be a very old woman, will
never forget that ride to South Harniss. It was the longest ride
she had ever taken, and that of itself would have made it
unforgettable. Then, too, she was going visiting, and she had never
been visiting before. Also, she was leaving Mrs. Hobbs and, for a
time at least, that lady could not remind her of her queerness and
badness. More than all, she was going on a journey, a real journey,
like a grown-up or a person in a story, and her family--David and
the dolls--were journeying with her. What the journey might mean to
her, or to what sort of place she was going--these questions did not
trouble her in the least. Childlike, she was quite satisfied with
the wonderful present, and to the future, even the dreaded orphans'
home, she gave not a thought.
Perched on the buggy seat, squeezed in between Captain Shad and Mr.
Hamilton, she gazed wide-eyed at the houses and fields and woods
along the roadside. She did not speak, unless spoken to, and the
two men spoke but seldom, each apparently thinking hard.
Occasionally the Captain would sigh, or whistle, or groan, as if his
thoughts were disturbing and most unusual. Once he asked her if she
"Yes, sir," she said.
"Havin' a good time? Like to go to ride, do you?"
Mary-'Gusta assumed her most grown-up air.
"Yes, sir," she said. "I just love to travel. It's been the dream
of my life."
"Gosh! I want to know!" exclaimed the astonished Shadrach; then he
shook his head, chuckled, and ordered the horse to hurry up.
The dolls were arranged in a row against the back of the dashboard.
In front of them, and between the Captain's feet and Zoeth's, the
battered satchel containing the child's everyday dress and visiting
essentials was squeezed. Mary-'Gusta's feet stuck straight out and
rested on the top of the satchel. David, in a basket with the lid
tied fast, was planted between the last mentioned feet. David did
not appear to share his--or her--owner's love of travel. The cat
wailed lugubriously at intervals.
Zoeth made the next attempt at conversation.
"Never been to South Harniss, have you, Mary'-Gusta?" he inquired.
"No, sir," gravely. "But," remembering the housekeeper's final
charge not to forget her manners, if she had any, "I'm sure I'll
like it very much."
"Oh, you are, eh? Well, that's nice. What makes you so sure?"
Mary-'Gusta reflected. She remembered what Mrs. Bailey had said
after a week's visit in Bayport, which is fourteen miles from
Ostable. "I think everybody enjoys a change of air," she observed.
"My soul and body!" exclaimed Mr. Hamilton.
Captain Shad looked down at his small passenger.
"How old are you, sis?" he demanded.
"I'm seven. But I ain't a sis; I haven't got any brothers or
"Oh! Well, that's a fact, too, now I come to think of it. How old
did you say; seventy, was it?"
"No, sir. Seven. Did you think I said seventy?"
"Eh? No, I guess not."
"I couldn't be seventy. If I was I'd be lots bigger, you know."
"That's so; I presume likely you would."
More reflection. Then: "If I was seventy I guess you wouldn't have
"Sho! Wouldn't I? Why not?"
"'Cause grown-up folks don't like to be asked how old they are. I
asked Mrs. Hobbs how old she was once and she didn't like it."
"No, sir. She told me to mind my own business."
The Captain laughed aloud. Then, turning to Mr. Hamilton, he said:
"Say, Zoeth, Isaiah'll be a little mite surprised when he sees this
craft make port, eh?"
Zoeth smiled. "I shouldn't wonder," he replied.
"Um-hm. I'd like to have a tintype of Isaiah's face. Well, sis--
er, Mary-'Gusta, I mean--there's South Harniss dead ahead. How do
you like the looks of it?"
They had emerged from a long stretch of woods and were at the summit
of a little hill. From the crest of this hill the road wound down
past an old cemetery with gray, moss-covered slate tombstones, over
a bridge between a creek and a good-sized pond, on through a clump
of pines, where it joined the main highway along the south shore of
the Cape. This highway, in turn, wound and twisted--there are few
straight roads on Cape Cod--between other and lower hills until it
became a village street, the main street of South Harniss. The sun
was low in the west and its light bathed the clustered roofs in a
warm glow, touched windows and vanes with fire, and twinkled and
glittered on the waters of Nantucket Sound, which filled the whole
southern horizon. There was little breeze and the smoke from the
chimneys rose almost straight. So, too, did the smoke from the
distant tugs and steamers. There were two or three schooners far
out, and nearer shore, a sailboat. A pretty picture, one which
artists have painted and summer visitors enthused over many times.
To Mary-'Gusta it was new and wonderful. The child was in a mood to
like almost anything just then. Mrs. Hobbs was miles away and the
memory of the music chair and her own disgrace and shame were but
memories. She drew a long breath and looked and looked.
"Like it, do you?" asked Zoeth, echoing his friend's question.
Mary-'Gusta nodded. "Yes, sir," she said. "It--it's lovely."
Captain Shadrach nodded. "Best town on earth, if I do say it," he
said, emphatically. "So you think it's lovely, eh?"
"Yes, sir." Then, pointing, she asked: "Is that your house?"
The Captain grinned. "Well, no, not exactly," he said. "That's the
town hall. Nobody lives there but the selectmen and they ain't
permanent boarders--that is, I have hopes some of 'em 'll move after
town-meetin' day. Our house is over yonder, down nigh the shore."
The old horse pricked up his ears at sight of home and the buggy
moved faster. It rolled through the main street, where the Captain
and Mr. Hamilton were kept busy answering hails and returning bows
from citizens, male and female. Through the more thickly settled
portion of the village it moved, until at a point where there were
fewer shops and the houses were older and less up-to-date, it
reached the corner of a narrow cross road. There it stopped before
a frame building bearing the sign, "Hamilton and Company, Dry Goods,
Groceries, Boots and Shoes and Notions." There was a narrow
platform at the front of the building and upon this platform were
several men, mostly of middle age or older. Mary-'Gusta noticed
that most of these men were smoking. If she had been older she
might have noticed that each man either sat upon the platform steps
or leaned against the posts supporting its roof. Not one was
depending solely upon his own muscles for support; he sat upon or
leaned against something wooden and substantial.
As the buggy drew alongside the platform the men evinced
considerable interest. Not enough to make them rise or relinquish
support, but interest, nevertheless.
"Hello, Shad!" hailed one. "Home again, be you?"
"Pretty big funeral, was it?" drawled another.
"Who's that you got aboard?" queried a third.
Captain Shadrach did not answer. Mr. Hamilton leaned forward.
"Where's Annabel?" he asked.
"She's inside," replied the first questioner. "Want to see her?
Hi, Jabe," turning his head and addressing one of the group nearest
the door, "tell Annabel, Zoeth and Shad's come."
"Jabe," who was propped against a post, languidly pushed himself
away from it, opened the door behind him and shouted: "Annabel, come
out here!" Then he slouched back and leaned against the post again.
The door opened and a stout, red-faced young woman appeared. She
looked much more like an Eliza than an Annabel. She had a newspaper
in her hand.
"Hey?" she drawled. "Who was that hollerin'? Was it you, Jabez
Jabez did not take the trouble to answer. Instead he took a hand
from his trousers pocket and waved it toward the buggy. Annabel
looked; then she came down the steps.
"Hello!" she said. "I see you got back all right."
Zoeth nodded. "How'd you get along in the store?" he asked,
anxiously. "How's business?"
"Wasn't none to speak of," replied Annabel carelessly. "Sold a
couple of spools of cotton and--and some salt pork and sugar. Ezra
Howland bought the pork. He wasn't satisfied; said there wasn't
enough lean in it to suit him, but I let him have it a cent cheaper,
so he took it."
Mr. Hamilton seemed a trifle disappointed. "Was that all?" he
asked, with a sigh.
"Yup. No, 'twa'n't neither, come to think of it. Rastus Young's
wife, come in with her two young-ones and bought some shoes and hats
"Did she pay cash?" demanded Captain Shadrach sharply.
"No; she said charge 'em up, so I done it. Say, ain't you comin' in
pretty soon? It's 'most my supper time."
Zoeth opened his mouth to answer, but the Captain got ahead of him.
"It's our supper time, too," he said, crisply. "When we've had it
you can have yours. Get dap, January."
The horse, whose name was Major but who was accustomed to being
addressed by almost any name, jogged on. Mr. Hamilton sighed once
"I'm 'fraid one of us had ought to stayed in the store, Shadrach,"
he said. "Annabel means well, she's real obligin'; but she ain't a
good hand at business."
Shadrach snorted. "Obligin' nothin'!" he retorted. "We're the ones
that was obligin' when we agreed to pay her seventy-five cents for
settin' astern of the counter and readin' the Advocate. I told you
when you hired her that she wasn't good for nothin' but ballast."
"I know, Shadrach. I'd ought to have stayed to home and kept store
myself. But I did feel as if I must go to Marcellus's funeral."