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Mary-'Gusta by Joseph C. Lincoln

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"Sellin' them Youngs a whole passel of stuff and lettin' 'em charge
it up!" went on Shadrach. "They owe us enough now to keep a decent
family all winter. Reg'lar town dead-beats, that's what they are.
You couldn't get a cent out of Rastus Young if you were to run a
dredge through him."

Mr. Hamilton groaned remorsefully. "If I'd only stayed at home!" he

"If you'd stayed to home you'd have charged up the stuff just the
same as she did. You're the softest thing, outside of a sponge, in
this town. Anybody can impose on you, and you know it, Zoeth."

Zoeth's habitual mildness gave way to resentment, mild resentment.

"Why, Shadrach," he retorted, "how you talk! You was the one that
charged up the last things Rastus's folks bought. You know you

The Captain looked as if he had been caught napping.

"Well, what's that got to do with it?" he sputtered. "'Twasn't
nothin' but some corn meal and a few yards of calico. How could I
help chargin' it up, with that woman cryin' and goin' on about their
havin' nothin' to eat nor wear in the house? I couldn't let 'em
starve, could I? Nor freeze neither?"

"'Twas only last week she did it," protested his partner. "Folks
don't freeze in April, seems to me."

"Aw, be still! Don't talk no more about it. By fire!" with a
sudden change of subject and a burst of enthusiasm, "look at that
horse, will you! Turned right in at the gate without my pullin' the
helm once or sayin' a word--knows as much as a Christian, that horse

The buggy had rocked and plowed its way over the hummocks and
through the sand of the narrow lane and was at the top of a grass-
covered knoll, a little hill. At the foot of the hill was the
beach, strewn with seaweed, and beyond, the Sound, its waters now a
rosy purple in the sunset light. On the slope of the hill toward
the beach stood a low, rambling, white house, a barn, and several
sheds and outbuildings. There were lilac bushes by the front door
of the house, a clam-shell walk from the lane to that door, and,
surrounding the whole, a whitewashed picket fence. A sandy rutted
driveway led from the rear of the house and the entrance of the barn
down to a big gate, now wide open. It was through this gateway and
along this drive that the sagacious Major was pulling the buggy.

Mary-'Gusta stared at the house. As she stared the back door was
thrown open and a tall, thin man came out. He was in his
shirtsleeves, his arms were bare to the elbow, and to Mary-'Gusta's
astonishment he wore an apron, a gingham apron similar to those worn
by Mrs. Hobbs when at work in the kitchen.

"Ahoy, there, Isaiah!" hailed the Captain. "Here we are."

The man with the apron took a big nickel watch from the upper pocket
of his vest, looked at it, and shook his head. Upon his face, which
was long and thin like the rest of him, there was a grieved

"A little mite late, ain't we, Isaiah?" said Zoeth, hastily. "Hope
we ain't kept supper waitin' too long?"

The tall man returned the watch to the pocket.

"Only twenty-three minutes, that's all," he drawled, with the
resignation of a martyr. "Twenty-three minutes ain't much in a
lifetime, maybe--but it don't help fried potatoes none. Them
potatoes was ready at half-past five."

"Well, 'tain't six yet," protested Captain Shad.

"Maybe 'tain't, but it's twenty-three minutes later'n half-past
five. Last thing you said to me was, 'Have supper ready at half-
past five!' I had it ready. Them potatoes went on the fire at--"

"There! there!" interrupted the Captain. "Never mind the potatoes.
We'll 'tend to them in a minute. Give us a hand with this dunnage.
There's a satchel here and some more stuff. Sooner this craft's
unloaded the sooner we can eat. All ashore that's goin' ashore."

Zoeth climbed out of the buggy. He lifted their passenger to the

"Mary-'Gusta," he said, "here's where Cap'n Gould and I live. This
is Mr. Isaiah Chase. Isaiah, this is Mary Lathrop, Cap'n
Marcellus's little girl. She's come to--t--"

"To make us a little visit," put in the Captain, promptly. "You
want to get acquainted with Isaiah, Mary-'Gusta; he's cook and
steward for me and Mr. Zoeth. That's right; shake hands and be

Mary-'Gusta extended her hand and Mr. Chase, after wiping his own
hand on the apron, pumped hers up and down.

"Pleased to meet you," he said, solemnly.

"Now for the dunnage," said Captain Shad. "There's the satchel and--
and the other things. Look out for that basket! LOOK OUT!"

Mr. Chase had seized the basket and swung it out of the buggy.
David, frightened at the sudden aerial ascension, uttered a howl.
Isaiah dropped the basket as if it was red hot.

"What in tunket!" he exclaimed.

"Nothin' but a cat," explained the Captain. "'Twon't hurt you."

"A cat! What--whose cat?"

"Mine," said Mary-'Gusta, running to the rescue. "He's a real good
cat. He ain't cross; he's scared, that's all. Honest, he ain't
cross. Are you, David?"

David howled and clawed at the cover of the basket. Mr. Chase
backed away.

"A cat!" he repeated. "You fetched a cat--here?"

"Sartin we fetched it." Captain Shadrach was evidently losing
patience. "Did you think we'd fetch an elephant? Now get out them--
them doll babies and things."

Isaiah stared at the dolls. Mary-'Gusta stopped patting the basket
and hastened to the side of the buggy. "I'll take the dollies," she
said. "They're mine, too."

A moment later they entered the house. Mary-'Gusta bore three of
the dolls. Mr. Hamilton carried the other two, and Isaiah, with the
valise in one hand and the basket containing the shrieking David at
arm's length in the other, led the way. Captain Shad, after
informing them that he would be aboard in a jiffy, drove on to the

The room they first entered was the kitchen. It was small, rather
untidy, and smelt strongly of fish and the fried potatoes.

"Come right along with me, Mary-'Gusta," said Zoeth. "Fetch the
satchel, Isaiah."

"Hold on," shouted the perturbed "cook and steward." "What--what in
the nation will I do with this critter?"

The "critter" was David, who was apparently turning somersaults in
the basket.

Zoeth hesitated. Mary-'Gusta settled the question.

"Put him right down, please," she said. "He'll be better soon as
he's put down. He's never traveled before and it's kind of strange
to him. He'll be all right and I'll come back and let him out
pretty soon. Mayn't I, Mr.--Mr. Chase?"

"Huh? Yes, yes, you can if you want to, I cal'late. I don't want
to, that's sure."

He deposited the basket on the floor at his feet. Mary'-Gusta
looked at it rather dubiously and for an instant seemed about to
speak, but she did not, and followed Mr. Hamilton from the kitchen,
through the adjoining room, evidently the dining-room, and up a
narrow flight of stairs.

"I cal'late we'll put her in the spare room, won't we, Isaiah?"
queried Zoeth, with some hesitation.

Isaiah grunted. "Guess so," he said, ungraciously, "Ain't no other
place that I know of. Bed ain't made, though."

The spare room was of good size, and smelled shut up and musty, as
spare rooms in the country usually do. It was furnished with a
bureau, washstand, and two chairs, each painted in a robin's egg
blue with sprays of yellow roses. There were several pictures on
the walls, their subjects religious and mournful. The bed was, as
Mr. Chase had said, not made; in fact it looked as if it had not
been made for some time.

"I've been cal'latin' to make up that bed for more'n a month,"
explained Isaiah. "Last time 'twas unmade was when Zoeth had that
minister from Trumet here of a Saturday and Sunday. Every day I've
cal'lated to make up that bed, but I don't seem to get no time. I'm
so everlastin' busy I don't get time for nothin', somehow."

"I can make the bed," declared Mary-'Gusta, eagerly. "I can make
beds real well. Mrs. Hobbs told me so--once."

The two men looked at each other. Before either could speak a
tremendous racket broke out on the floor below, a sound of
something--or somebody--tumbling about, a roar in a human voice and
a feline screech. Mary-'Gusta rushed for the stairs.

"I knew he would," she said, frantically. "I was afraid somebody
would. It was RIGHT in front of the door. Oh! David, dear! I'm a-
comin'! I'm a-comin'!"

From the kitchen came Captain Shadrach's voice. It sounded excited
and angry.

"Who in blazes left that dum critter right under my feet?" he
hollered. "I--I swan, I believe I've broke my neck--or his--one or

When Zoeth and Isaiah reached the kitchen they found the Captain
sitting in a chair, rubbing his knees, and Mary-'Gusta seated on the
floor beside the open basket, hugging the frightened and struggling

"I--I guess he's all right," panted the child. "I was so afraid
he'd be killed. You ain't killed, are you, David?"

David appeared to be remarkably sound and active. He wriggled from
his owner's arms and bolted under the stove.

"No; he's all right," said Mary-'Gusta. "Isn't it nice he ain't
hurt, Mr.--I mean Cap'n Gould?"

Captain Shad rubbed his knee. "Um--yes," he said, with elaborate
sarcasm; "it's lovely. Course I don't mind breakin' both MY legs,
but if that cat had been--er--bruised or anything I should have felt
bad. Well, Isaiah," he added, tartly, turning to the grinning
"steward," "are them fried potatoes of yours real or just in your

"Eh? Why--why they're right there on the stove, Cap'n Shad."

"Want to know! Then suppose you put 'em on the table. I'm hungry
and I'd like to eat one more square meal afore somethin' else
happens to finish me altogether. By fire! if this ain't been a day!
First that chair, and then that will and letter of Marcellus's, and
then this. Humph! Come on, all hands, let's eat supper. I need
somethin' solid to brace me up for tomorrow's program; if it's up to
this, I'll need strength to last it through. Come on!"

That first supper in the white house by the shore was an experience
for Mary-'Gusta. Mrs. Hobbs, in spite of her faultfinding and
temper, had been a competent and careful housekeeper. Meals which
she prepared were well cooked and neatly served. This meal was
distinctly different. There was enough to eat--in fact, an
abundance--fried cod and the fried potatoes and hot biscuits and
dried-apple pie; but everything was put upon the table at the same
time, and Mr. Chase sat down with the others and did not even
trouble to take off his apron. The tablecloth was not very clean
and the knives and forks and spoons did not glitter like those the
child had been accustomed to see.

Even Mr. Hamilton, to whom most of the things of this world--his
beloved store excepted--seemed to be unessential trivialities, spoke
of the table linen.

"Seems to me," he observed, in his gentle and hesitating way, "this
tablecloth's sort of spotted up. Don't you think so, Shadrach?"

Captain Shad's reply was emphatic and to the point.

"Looks as if 'twas breakin' out with chicken-pox," he replied.
"Ain't we got a clean one in the locker, Isaiah?"

Mr. Chase's face assumed an aggrieved expression.

"Course we have," he answered, "but I didn't know you was goin' to
have company."

"Neither did we. But we could stand a clean table-cloth, even at

"I've got somethin' to do besides changin' tablecloths every day."

"Every day! Every Thanksgivin' Day, you mean. This one--"

"Now, look-a-here, Cap'n Shad; you know well as I do that Sarah J.
never come to do the washin' last week. She was down with the grip
and couldn't move. If you expect me to do washin' as well as cook
and sweep and keep house and--and shovel snow, and--"

"Shovel snow! What kind of talk's that? There ain't been any snow
since February."

"Don't make no difference. When there was I shoveled it, didn't I?
It ain't no use; I try and try, but I can't give satisfaction and I
might's well quit. I don't have to stay here and slave myself to
death. I can get another job. There's folks in this town that's
just dyin' to have me work for em."

Captain Shadrach muttered something to the effect that if Isaiah did
work for them they might die sooner. Mr. Chase rose from his seat.

"All right," he said, with dignity. "All right, this settles it.
I'm through. After all the years I sailed cook along with you, Shad
Gould, and after you beggin' me--yes, sir, beggin' on your knees, as
you might say, for me to run this house for you long as you lived--
after that, to--to-- Good-by. I'll try not to lay it up against

He was moving--not hastily, but actually moving--toward the kitchen
door. Zoeth, who was evidently much disturbed, rose and laid a hand
on his arm.

"There, there, Isaiah," he pleaded. "Don't act so. We ain't
findin' any fault. Shadrach wasn't findin' fault, was you,

"No, no, course I wasn't. Don't talk so foolish, Isaiah. Nobody
wants you to quit. All I said was-- Come back here and set down.
Your tea's gettin' all cold."

To Mary-'Gusta it seemed as if the tea had been at least cool to
begin with. However, Mr. Chase suffered himself to be led back to
the table and attacked his supper in injured silence. Mary-'Gusta
offered a suggestion.

"I guess I could wash a tablecloth," she said. "I always wash my
dolls' things."

Her three companions were plainly surprised. The Captain was the
first to speak.

"You don't say!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, sir, I do. And," with a glance at the silver, "I can scour
knives and forks and spoons, too. I used to help Mrs. Hobbs scour
'em sometimes."

Even Shadrach had no remark to make. He gazed at the child, then at
Zoeth, and drew a long breath.

As soon as supper was over the Captain and Mr. Hamilton hastened up
to the village and the store.

"You better go to bed pretty soon, Mary-'Gusta," said Zoeth.
"You're tired, I know. Isaiah'll make your bed for you. We'll be
on hand and see you first thing in the morning. Isaiah'll go up
with you and blow out your light and all. Good night."

The Captain said good night also and the pair hurried out.

When at ten o'clock they returned they found Mr. Chase up and
awaiting them. Isaiah had a story to tell.

"I never see a young-one like that in this world," declared Isaiah.
"You know what she done after you left? Helped me do the dishes.
Yes, sir, by time, that's what she done. And she wiped 'em first-
rate, too; good enough to satisfy ME, and you know that means
somethin' 'cause I ain't easy to satisfy. And talk! Say, I never
had a child talk same as she does. How old is she, for the land

Zoeth told them the visitor's age.

"Well, maybe so," went on Isaiah, "but she don't talk seven; nigher
seventeen, if you ask me. Pumpin' me about funerals, she was, and
about folks dyin' and so on. Said she cal'lated she'd have a doll's
funeral some time. 'For mercy sakes, what for?' I says. 'Can't you
think up anything pleasanter'n that to play? That kind of game
would give me the blue creeps!' She, thought that over--she
generally thinks about a thing for five minutes afore she talks
about it--and says she, 'I know,' she says, 'but a person must go to
funerals and so it's better to get used to 'em and know how to
behave. I shouldn't want my dolls,' she says, 'to do things at
funerals that make people feel bad and laugh.' I couldn't get that
through my head. 'If they felt bad they wouldn't laugh, would
they?' says I. 'THEY wouldn't--the ones that felt bad wouldn't,'
says she, 'but others might laugh at them. And that would make the
person who was to blame feel TERRIBLY.' Now what was all that
about? Can you make any sense of it?"

Captain Shadrach smiled sheepishly. "I cal'late me and Zoeth have
an idea what she was drivin' at," he said. "Go on, Isaiah; what
else did she say?"

"What didn't she say? Wanted to know if I thought God would knock
anybody's head off that had done wrong, even if they didn't mean to.
Yes, sir, that's what she said---if God would knock anybody's head
off. Mine pretty nigh come off when she said that. I told her
that, fur's I knew, He wasn't in the habit of doin' it. She said
that Mrs. Hobbs told her that if she wasn't punished for her
wickedness in this world she would be in the next. She was real
kind of scared about it, seemed to me. Now what's she done that's
wicked, a little critter like her?"

Zoeth said nothing, but he looked vexed and disturbed.

"I'd knock SOMEBODY'S head off if I had my way," observed Shadrach.
"Or if I didn't, I'd like to. Where is she now, Isaiah?"

"She's up in the spare room, asleep I cal'late. And she's got her
dolls along with her, three on one side and two on t'other. Wanted
me to be sure and wake all hands of 'em up on time in the mornin'.
He, he! She undressed them dolls, every one of 'em, afore they
turned in. Oh, yes, and she helped me make the bed, too. She CAN
make a bed, blessed if she can't. And all the time a-talkin', one
minute like a child and the next like a forty-year-old woman. She's
the queerest young-one!"

"I guess she's had a kind of queer bringin' up," said Zoeth.

"Where's that--where's Saul--er--Elijah--what's his name--David?"
asked the Captain. "Where's the cat?"

"He's out in the barn, locked in. She had to go out along with me
when I toted him there, and kiss him good night and tell him not to
be frightened, and goodness knows what all--you'd think she was that
cat's mother, to hear her. How long's she goin' to stay?"

"Don't know," replied Shadrach, hastily. "That ain't settled yet."

"How'd you come to fetch her over here? You're the last ones I ever
thought would be fetchin' a child to visit you. Say, you ain't
cal'latin' to keep her for good, are you?"

Zoeth hesitated. Shadrach's answer was emphatic.

"Course not," he snapped. "What do Zoeth and me know about managin'
a child? Keep her for good, the idea!"

Isaiah chuckled. "'Cordin' to my notion," he said, "you wouldn't
have to know much. You wouldn't have to manage her. If she wasn't
managin' you--yes, and me, too--inside of a month, I'd miss my
guess. She's a born manager. You ought to see her handle them
dolls and that cat."

When the two partners of Hamilton and Company went upstairs to their
own bedrooms they opened the door of the spare room and peeped in.
Mary-'Gusta's head and those of the dolls were in a row upon the
pillow. It was a strange sight in that room and that house.

"I declare!" whispered Zoeth. "And this mornin' we never dreamed of
such a thing. How long this day has been!"

"Judgin' by the state of my nerves and knees it's been two year,"
replied Shadrach. "I've aged that much, I swan to man. Humph! I
wonder if Marcellus knows what's happened."

His tone was not loud, but it or the lamplight in her face awakened
Mary-'Gusta. She stirred, opened her eyes and regarded them

"Is it mornin'?" she asked.

"No, no," replied Zoeth. "It's only ten o'clock. Captain Shadrach
and I was goin' to bed and we looked in to see if you was all right,
that's all. You must go right to sleep again, dearie."

"Yes, sir," said Mary-'Gusta, obediently. Then she added, "I said
my prayers to myself but I'll say 'em to you if you want me to."

The embarrassed Captain would have protested, but the girl's mind
seemed to be made up.

"I guess I will say 'em again," she said. "There's somethin' in 'em
maybe you'd ought to hear." She closed her eyes. "Please God bless
Father--Oh, I forgot--bless Mrs. Hobbs and Cap'n Gould and Mr.
Hamilton. I thought I'd ask him to bless you, you know, because I'm
visitin' here. And bless David and Rose and Rosette and Emma and
Christobel and Minnehaha. They're my dolls. And please, God,
forgive me for breakin' the music chair and makin' it go off,
because you know I am very sorry and won't do it again. And--and,
Oh, yes!--bless Mr. Chase, Amen. You don't mind my puttin' you and
Mr. Chase in, do you?"

"No, dearie, not a mite," said Zoeth.

Captain Shad, looking more embarrassed than ever, shook his head.
"Good night," said Mary-'Gusta. Zoeth hesitated, then he walked
over and kissed her.

"Good night, little girl," he said.

"Good night, Mr. Hamilton," said Mary-'Gusta. Then she turned
expectantly toward the Captain. Shadrach fidgeted, turned to go,
and then, turning back, strode to the bed, brushed the soft cheek
with his rough one and hastened out into the hall. Zoeth followed
him, bearing the lamp. At the door of the Captain's room, they

"Well, good night, Zoeth," said Shadrach, brusquely.

"Good night, Shadrach. This--this is queer business for you and me,
ain't it?"

"I should think 'twas. Humph! You said this morning that maybe
Marcellus was alongside of us today. If he is he knows what's
happened, don't he?"

"Perhaps he knows that and more, Shadrach. Perhaps he can see
what'll happen in the future. Perhaps he knows that, too."

"Humph! Well, if he does, he knows a heap more'n I do. Good


Mary-'Gusta awoke next morning to find the sun shining in at the
window of her bedroom. She had no means of knowing the time, but
she was certain it must be very late and, in consequence, was almost
dressed when Isaiah knocked at the door to tell her breakfast would
be ready pretty soon. A few minutes later she appeared in the
kitchen bearing the pitcher from the washstand in her room.

"What you doin' with that?" demanded Mr. Chase, who was leaning
against the door-post looking out into the yard.

"I was goin' to fill it," said the child. "There wasn't any water
to wash with."

Isaiah sniffed. "I ain't had no time to fill wash pitchers," he
declared. "That one's been on my mind for more'n a fortni't but
I've had other things to do. You can wash yourself in that basin in
the sink. That's what the rest of us do."

Mary-'Gusta obediently washed in the tin basin and rubbed her face
and hands dry upon the roller towel behind the closet door.

"Am I late for breakfast?" she asked, anxiously.

"No, I guess not. Ain't had breakfast yet. Cap'n Shad's out to the
barn 'tendin' to the horse and Zoeth's feedin' the hens. They'll be
in pretty soon, if we have luck. Course it's TIME for breakfast,
but that's nothing. I'm the only one that has to think about time
in this house."

The girl regarded him thoughtfully.

"You have to work awful hard, don't you, Mr. Chase?" she said.

Isaiah looked at her suspiciously.

"Huh?" he grunted. "Who told you that?"

"Nobody. I just guessed it from what you said."

"Humph! Well, you guessed right. I don't have many spare minutes."

"Yes, sir. Are you a perfect slave?"

"Eh? What?"

"Mrs. Hobbs says she is a perfect slave when she has to work hard."

"Who's Mrs. Hobbs?"

"She's--she keeps house--that is, she used to keep house for my
father over in Ostable. I don't suppose she will any more now he's
dead. She'll be glad, I guess. Perhaps she won't have to be a
perfect slave now. She used to wear aprons same as you do. I never
saw a man wear an apron before. Do you have to wear one?"

"Hey? Have to? No, course I don't have to unless I want to."

Mary-'Gusta reflected.

"I suppose," she went on, after a moment, "it saves your pants.
You'd get 'em all spotted up if you didn't wear the apron.
Pneumonia is a good thing to take out Spots."

Isaiah was surprised.

"What is?" he asked.

"Pneumonia. . . . No, I don't think that's right. It's pneumonia
that makes you sick. Somethin' else takes out the spots. I know
now; it's am-monia. It's very good for spots but you mustn't smell
the bottle. I smelled the bottle once and it went right up into my

"What on earth are you talkin' about? The bottle went up into your

"No, the ammonia smell did. It was awful; like--like--" she paused,
evidently in search of a simile; "like sneezin' backwards," she
added. "It was terrible."

Isaiah laughed. "I should think 'twould be," he declared.
"Sneezin' backwards! Ho, ho! That's a good one!"

Mary-'Gusta's eyes were still fixed upon the apron.

"Mr.--I mean Cap'n Gould said you was the cook and steward," she
observed. "I don't know as I know what a steward is, exactly. Is
it the one that stews things?"

"Ha, ha!" roared Isaiah. Mary-'Gusta's dignity was hurt. The color
rose in her cheeks.

"Was it funny?" she asked. "I didn't know. I know that a cook
cooked things, and a baker baked things, so I thought maybe a
steward stewed 'em."

Mr. Chase continued to chuckle. The girl considered.

"I see," she said, with a solemn nod. "It was funny, I guess. I
remember now that a friar doesn't fry things. He is a--a kind of
minister. Friar Tuck was one in 'Robin Hood,' you know. Mrs.
Bailey read about him to me. Do you like 'Robin Hood,' Mr. Chase?"

Isaiah said he didn't cal'late that he knew anybody of that name.
The dialogue was interrupted here by the arrival of Zoeth and, a
moment later, Captain Shadrach. Breakfast was put upon the table in
the dining-room and the quartette sat down to eat.

Mary-'Gusta was quiet during the meal; she answered when spoken to
but the only questions she asked were concerning David.

"He's all right," said Captain Shad. "Lively as can be. He'll have
a good time out in that barn; there's considerable many mice out
there. Likes mice, don't he?"

"Yes, sir. He's a good mouser. Did he look as if he missed me?"

"Eh? Well, I didn't notice. He never mentioned it if he did. You
can go see him after breakfast. What do you think she can find to
do today, Zoeth?"

Mr. Hamilton had evidently considered the problem.

"I thought maybe she'd like to go up to the store 'long of you and
me," he suggested. "Would you, Mary'Gusta?"

Mary-'Gusta hesitated. "I'd like to very much," she said, "only--"

"Only what?"

"Only I've got to see to David and the dolls first. Couldn't I come
up to the store afterwards?"

The Captain answered. "Why, I guess likely you could," he said.
"It's straight up the road to the corner. You can see the store
from the top of the hill back here. Isaiah'll show you the way.
But you can 'tend to--what's that cat's name?--Oh, yes, David--you
can 'tend to David right off. Isaiah'll give the critter his
breakfast, and the dolls can wait 'til noontime, can't they?"

Mary-'Gusta's mind was evidently divided between inclination and
duty. Duty won.

"They ain't dressed yet," she said, gravely. "And besides they
might think I'd gone off and left 'em and be frightened. This is a
strange place to them, same as it is to me and David, you know.
None of us have ever been visitin' before."

So it was decided that she should wait until her family had been
given parental attention, and come to the store by herself. The
partners left for their place of business and she and Mr. Chase
remained at the house. Her first act, after leaving the table, was
to go to the barn and return bearing the cat in her arms. David ate
a hearty breakfast and then, after enduring a motherly lecture
concerning prudence and the danger of getting lost, was permitted to
go out of doors.

Mary-'Gusta, standing in the doorway, gazed after her pet.

"I hope there's no dogs around here," she said. "It would be
dreadful if there was a dog."

Isaiah tried to reassure her. "Oh, I cal'late there ain't no dog
nigh enough to do any harm," he said; "besides, most cats can run
fast enough to get out of the way."

The child shook her head. "I didn't mean that," she said. "I meant
it would be dreadful for the dog. David doesn't have a mite of
patience with dogs. He doesn't wait to see if they're nice ones or
not, he just goes for 'em and then--Oh! He most always goes for
'em. When he has kittens he ALWAYS does."

Mr. Chase's reply to this illuminating disclosure was that he wanted
to know.

"Yes," said Mary-'Gusta, "David doesn't take to dogs, some way. Why
don't cats like dogs, Mr. Chase?"

Isaiah said that he cal'lated 'twas the nature of the critters not
to. Mary-'Gusta agreed with him.

"Natures are queer things, ain't they?" she said, solemnly. "I
guess everybody has a nature, cats and all. Mrs. Hobbs says my
nature is a contrary one. What's your kind, Mr. Chase?

"Do you suppose," she said, a few moments later, when the cook and
steward had shown symptoms of doing something beside lean against
the sink and whistle, "do you suppose you could get along for a few
minutes while I went up and dressed my dolls?"

Isaiah turned to stare at her.

"Well," he stammered, "I--I cal'late maybe I could if I tried hard.
If you don't beat anything ever I see! What are you doin' with that

The girl was holding the wash pitcher under the pump.

"I'm fillin' it," she answered. "Then you won't have to have it on
your mind any more. I'll hurry back just as fast as I can."

She hastened out, bearing the brimming pitcher with both hands.
Isaiah gazed after her, muttering a word or two, and then set about
clearing the breakfast table.

She was down again shortly, the two favorites, Rose and Rosette, in
her arms. She placed them carefully in the kitchen chair and bade
them be nice girls and watch mother do the dishes.

"I left the others in the bedroom," she explained. "Minnehaha ain't
very well this mornin'. I guess the excitement was too much for
her. She is a very nervous child."

Isaiah's evident amusement caused her to make one of her odd changes
from childish make-believe to grown-up practicability.

"Of course," she added, with gravity, "I know she ain't really
nervous. She's just full of sawdust, same as all dolls are, and she
couldn't have any nerves. But I like to play she's nervous and
delicate. It's real handy to say that when I don't want to take her
with me. I'm a nervous, excitable child myself; Mrs. Hobbs says so.
That's why I've hardly ever been anywhere before, I guess."

She insisted upon wiping the dishes while Isaiah washed them. Also,
she reminded him that the tablecloth which had been so severely
criticized the previous evening had not as yet been changed. The
steward was inclined to treat the matter lightly.

"Never mind if 'tain't," he said. "It's good enough for a spell
longer. Let it stay. Besides," he added, "the washin' ain't been
done this week and there ain't another clean one aboard."

Mary-'Gusta smiled cheerfully.

"Oh, yes, there is," she said. "There's a real nice one in the
bottom drawer of the closet. I've been huntin' and I found it.
Come and see."

She led him into the dining-room and showed him the cloth she had

"It's a real pretty one, I think," she said. "Shall we put it on,
Mr. Chase?"

"No, no, course not. That's the best tablecloth. Don't use that
only when there's company--or Sundays."

Mary-'Gusta considered. She counted on her fingers.

"How long have we used this dirty one?" she asked.

"Eh? Oh, I don't know. Four or five days, maybe." Then, evidently
feeling that the repetition of the "we" implied a sense of
unwarranted partnership in the household management, he added with
dignity, "That is, I'VE seen fit to use it that long."

The sarcasm was wasted. The girl smiled and nodded.

"That makes it all right," she declared. "If we put this one on now
it'll be Sunday long before it's time to change. And we can wash
the other one today or tomorrow."

"Oh, WE can, eh?"

"Yes, sir"

Isaiah looked as if he wished to say something but was at a loss for
words. The Sunday cloth was spread upon the table while he was
still hunting for them.

"And now," said Mary-'Gusta, "if you're sure you don't need me any
more just now I guess I'd like to go up and see the store. May I?"

Site found the store of Hamilton and Company an exceedingly
interesting place. Zoeth and his partner greeted her cordially and
she sat down upon a box at the end of the counter and inspected the
establishment. It was not very large, but there was an amazing
variety in its stock. Muslin, tape, calico, tacks, groceries, cases
of shoes, a rack with spools of thread, another containing a few
pocket knives, barrels, half a dozen salt codfish swinging from
nails overhead, some suits of oilskins hanging beside them, a
tumbled heap of children's caps and hats, even a glass-covered case
containing boxes of candy with placards "1 c. each" or "3 for 1 c."
displayed above them.

"Like candy, do you?" asked Mr. Hamilton, noticing her scrutiny of
the case and its contents.

"Yes, sir," said Mary-'Gusta.

"How about sassafras lozengers? Like them?"

"Yes, sir."

She was supplied with a roll of the lozenges and munched them
gravely. Captain Shad, who had been waiting on a customer, regarded
her with an amused twinkle.

"Sassafras lozengers are good enough for anybody, eh?" he observed.

"Yes, sir," replied Mary-'Gusta. Then she added, politely: "Only I
guess these are wintergreen."

She stayed at the store until noon. Then she walked home with the
Captain whose turn it was to dine first that day. The hiring of
Annabel had been an unusual break in the business routine.
Ordinarily but one of the partners left that store at a time.

"Well," inquired the Captain, as they walked down the lane, "what do
you think of it? Pretty good store for a place like South Harniss,
ain't it?"

"Yes, sir."

"I bet you! Different from the Ostable stores, eh?"

"Yes, sir; I--I guess it is."

"Um-hm. Well, how different?"

Mary-'Gusta took her usual interval for consideration.

"I guess there's more--more things in it with separate smells to
'em," she said.

Captain Shad had no remark to make for a moment. Mary-'Gusta,
however, was anxious to please.

"They're nice smells," she hastened to add. "I like 'em; only I
never smelled 'em all at the same time before. And I like the
lozengers VERY much."

The two or three days which Captain Shad had set as the limit of the
child's visit passed; as did the next two or three. She was busy
and, apparently, enjoying herself. She helped Isaiah with the
housework, and although he found the help not altogether unwelcome,
he was inclined to grumble a little at what he called her "pesterin'

"I never see such a young-one," he told his employers. "I don't ask
her to do dishes nor fill pitchers nor nothin'; she just does it on
her own hook."

"Humph!" grunted Captain Shadrach. "So I judged from what I see.
Does it pretty well, too, don't she?"

"Um-hm. Well enough, I guess. Yes," with a burst of candor, "for
her age, she does it mighty well."

"Then what are you kickin' about?"

"I ain't kickin'. Who said I was kickin'? Only--well, all I say is
let her do dishes and such, if she wants to, only--only--"

"Only what?"

"Only I ain't goin' to have her heavin' out hints about what I ought
to do. There's two skippers aboard this craft now and that's
enough. By time!" with another burst, "that kid's a reg'lar born
mother. She mothers that cat and them dolls and the hens already,
and I swan to man I believe she'd like to adopt me. I ain't goin'
to be mothered and hinted at to do this and that and put to bed and
tucked in by no kid. I'll heave up my job first."

He had been on the point of heaving up his job ever since the days
when he sailed as cook aboard Captain Shadrach's schooner. When the
Captain retired from the sea for the last time, and became partner
and fellow shopkeeper with Zoeth, Isaiah had retired with him and
was engaged to keep house for the two men. The Captain had balked
at the idea of a female housekeeper.

"Women aboard ship are a dum nuisance," he declared. "I've carried
'em cabin passage and I know. Isaiah Chase is a good cook, and,
besides, if the biscuits are more fit for cod sinkers than they are
for grub, I can tell him so in the right kind of language. We don't
want no woman steward, Zoeth; you hear ME!"

Zoeth, although the Captain's seafaring language was a trial to his
gentle, churchly soul, agreed with his partner on the main point.
His experience with the other sex had not been such as to warrant
further experiment. So Isaiah was hired and had been cook and
steward at the South Harniss home for many years. But he made it a
practice to assert his independence at frequent intervals, although,
as a matter of fact, he would no more have dreamed of really leaving
than his friends and employers would of discharging him. Mr. Chase
was as permanent a fixture in that house as the ship's chronometer
in the dining-room; and that was screwed to the wall.

And, in spite of his grumbling, he and Mary-'Gusta were rapidly
becoming fast friends. Shadrach and Zoeth also were beginning to
enjoy her company, her unexpected questions, her interest in the
house and the store, and shrewd, old-fashioned comments on persons
and things. She was a "queer young-one"; they, like the people of
Ostable, agreed on that point, but Mr. Hamilton was inclined to
think her ways "sort of takin'" and the Captain admitted that maybe
they were. What he would not admit was that the girl's visit,
although already prolonged for a fortnight, was anything but a

"I presume likely," hinted Zoeth, "you and me'll have to give the
Judge some sort of an answer pretty soon, won't we? He'll be
wantin' to know afore long."

"Know? Know what?"

"Why--why whether we're goin' to say yes or no to what Marcellus
asked us in that letter."

"He does know. Fur's I'm consarned, he knows. I spoke my mind
plain enough to pound through anybody's skull, I should think."

"Yes--yes, I know you did. But, Shadrach, if she don't stay here
for good where will she stay? She ain't got anybody else to go to."

"She is stayin', ain't she? She--she's makin' us a visit, same as I
said she could. What more do you want? Jumpin' fire! This fix is
your doin' anyway. 'Tain't mine. If you had paid attention to what
I said, the child wouldn't have been here at all."

"Now, Shadrach! You know you was the one that would fetch her over
that very day."

"Oh, blame it onto me, of course!"

"I ain't blamin' anybody. But she's here and we've got to decide
whether to send her away or not. Shall we?"

They were interrupted by Mary-'Gusta herself, who entered the barn,
where the discussion took place, a doll under one arm and a very
serious expression on her face.

"Hello!" hailed Zoeth. "What's the matter?"

Mary-'Gusta seated herself upon an empty cranberry crate. The
partners had a joint interest in a small cranberry bog and the crate
was one of several unused the previous fall.

"There's nothin' the matter," she said, solemnly. "I've been
thinkin', that's all."

"Want to know!" observed the Captain. "Well, what made you do
anything as risky as that?"

Mary-'Gusta's forehead puckered.

"I was playin' with Jimmie Bacheldor yesterday," she said, "and he
made me think."

Abner Bacheldor was the nearest neighbor. His ramshackle dwelling
was an eighth of a mile from the Gould-Hamilton place. Abner had
the reputation of being the meanest man in town; also he had a large
family, of which Jimmie, eight years old, was the youngest.

"Humph!" sniffed Captain Shad. "So Jimmie Bacheldor made you think,
eh? I never should have expected it from one of that tribe. How'd
he do it?"

"He asked me about my relations," said Mary-'Gusta, "and when I said
I hadn't got any he was awful surprised. He has ever so many,
sisters and brothers and aunts and cousins and--Oh, everything. He
thought 'twas dreadful funny my not havin' any. I think I'd ought
to have some, don't you?"

The partners, looking rather foolish, said nothing for a moment.
Then Zoeth muttered that he didn't know but she had.

"Yes," said Mary-'Gusta, "I--I think so. You see I'm--I mean I was
a stepchild 'long as father was here. Now he's dead and I ain't
even that. And I ain't anybody's cousin nor nephew nor niece. I
just ain't anything. I'm different from everybody I know. And--
and--" very solemnly--"I don't like to be so different."

Her lip quivered as she said it. Sitting there on the cranberry
crate, hugging her dolls, she was a pathetic little figure. Again
the partners found it hard to answer. Mr. Hamilton looked at the
Captain and the latter, his fingers fidgeting with his watchchain,
avoided the look. The girl went on.

"I was thinking," she said, "how nice 'twould have been if I'd had
a--a brother or somebody of my very own. I've got children, of
course, but they're only dolls and a cat. They're nice, but they
ain't real folks. I wish I had some real folks. Do you suppose if--
if I have to go to the--the orphans' home, there'd be anybody there
that would be my relation? I didn't know but there might be another
orphan there who didn't have anybody, same as me, and then we could
make believe we was--was cousins or somethin'. That would be better
than nothin', wouldn't it?"

Zoeth stepped forward and, bending over, kissed her cheek. "Never
you mind, Mary-'Gusta," he said. "You ain't gone there yet and
afore you do maybe Cap'n Shad and I can think up some relations for

"Real relations?" asked Mary-'Gusta, eagerly.

"Well, no, not real ones; I'm afraid we couldn't do that. But when
it comes to make-believe, that might be different." He hesitated an
instant, glanced at the Captain, and then added: "I tell you what
you do: you just pretend I'm your relation, a--well, an uncle,
that's better'n nothin'. You just call me 'Uncle Zoeth.' That'll
be a start, anyhow. Think you'd like to call me 'Uncle Zoeth'?"

Mary-'Gusta's eyes shone. "Oh, yes!" she cried. "Then I could tell
that Jimmie Bacheldor I had one relation, anyhow. And shall I call
Cap'n Gould 'Uncle Shadrach'?"

Zoeth turned to his companion. "Shall she, Shadrach?" he asked,
with a mischievous smile.

If it had not been for that smile the Captain's reply might have
been different. But the smile irritated him. He strode to the

"Zoeth Hamilton," he snapped, "how long are you goin' to set here?
If you ain't got anything else to attend to, I have. I'm goin' up
to the store. It's pretty nigh eight o'clock in the mornin' and
that store ain't open yet."

"Want to come along, Mary-'Gusta?" asked Zoeth. "She can come,
can't she, Shad?"

"Yes, yes, course she can," more genially. "Cal'late there's some
of those sassafras--checkerberry lozengers left yet. Come on, Mary-
'Gusta, if you want to."

But the child shook her head. She looked wistful and a trifle

"I--I guess maybe I'd better stay here," she said. "I ought to see
to Minnehaha's sore throat. I'm goin' to put some red flannel
'round it; Mr. Chase says he cal'lates he knows where there is some.
Good-by, Uncle Zoeth. Good-by--er--Cap'n Gould."

The partners did not converse on the way to the store. Zoeth made
an attempt, but Shadrach refused to answer. He was silent and, for
him, grumpy all the forenoon. Another fortnight passed before the
subject of the decision which must, sooner or later, be given Judge
Baxter was mentioned by either of the pair.


Mary-'Gusta was growing accustomed to the life in the South Harniss
home. She found it a great improvement over that which she had
known on Phinney's Hill at Ostable. There was no Mrs. Hobbs to nag
and find fault, there were no lonely meals, no scoldings when
stockings were torn or face and hands soiled. And as a playground
the beach was a wonderland.

She and Jimmie Bacheldor picked up shells, built sand forts, skipped
flat stones along the surface of the water at high tide, and picked
up scallops and an occasional quahaug at low water. Jimmie was,
generally speaking, a satisfactory playmate, although he usually
insisted upon having his own way and, when they got into trouble
because of this insistence, did not permit adherence to the truth to
obstruct the path to a complete alibi. Mary-'Gusta, who had been
taught by the beloved Mrs. Bailey to consider lying a deadly sin,
regarded her companion's lapses with alarmed disapproval, but she
was too loyal to contradict and more than once endured reproof when
the fault was not hers. She had had few playmates in her short life
and this one, though far from perfect, was a joy.

They explored the house together and found in the big attic and the
stuffy, shut-up best parlor the most fascinating of treasure hordes.
The former, with its rows of old trunks and sea chests under the low
eaves, the queer garments and discarded hats hanging on the nails,
the dusky corners where the light from the little windows scarcely
penetrated even on a sunny May afternoon, was the girl's especial
Paradise. Here she came to play by herself on rainy days or when
she did not care for company. Her love of make-believe and romance
had free scope here and with no Jimmie to laugh and make fun of her
imaginings she pretended to her heart's content. Different parts of
that garret gradually, in her mind, came to have names of their own.
In the bright spot, under the north window, was Home, where she and
the dolls and David--when the cat could be coaxed from prowlings and
mouse hunts to quiet and slumber--lived and dined and entertained
and were ill or well or happy or frightened, according to the day's
imaginative happenings. Sometimes Home was a castle, sometimes a
Swiss Family Robinson cave, sometimes a store which transacted
business after the fashion of Hamilton and Company. And in other
more or less fixed spots and corners were Europe, to which the
family voyaged occasionally; Niagara Falls--Mrs. Bailey's honeymoon
had been spent at the real Niagara; the King's palace; the den of
the wicked witch; Sherwood Forest; and Jordan, Marsh and Company's
store in Boston.

Jimmie Bacheldor liked the garret well enough, but imagination was
not his strongest quality and the best parlor had more charms for
him. In that parlor were the trophies of Captain Shadrach's
seafaring days--whales' teeth, polished and with pictures of ships
upon them; the model of a Chinese junk; a sea-turtle shell,
flippers, head and all, exactly like a real turtle except, as Mary-
'Gusta said, 'it didn't have any works'; a glass bottle with a model
of the bark Treasure Seeker inside; an Eskimo lance with a bone
handle and an ivory point; a cocoanut carved to look like the head
and face of a funny old man; a Cuban machete; and a set of ivory
chessmen with Chinese knights and kings and queens, all complete and
set out under a glass cover.

The junk and the lance and the machete and the rest had a
fascination for Jimmie, as they would have had for most boys, but
for him the parlor's strongest temptation lay in the fact that the
children were forbidden to play there. Zoeth and the Captain,
having been brought up in New England families of the old-fashioned
kind, revered their parlor as a place too precious for use. They,
themselves, entered it not oftener than three times a year, and
Isaiah went there only when he felt inclined to dust, which was not
often. Shadrach had exhibited its treasures to the children one
Sunday morning when Zoeth was at church, but he cautioned them
against going there by themselves. "You'd be liable to break
somethin'," he told them, "and some of them things in there you
couldn't buy with money. They've been brought from pretty much
everywheres in creation, those things have."

But, in spite of the warning, or because of it, Jimmie was, as
Isaiah would have said, "possessed" to visit that parlor. He coaxed
and teased and dared Mary-'Gusta to take advantage of the steward's
stepping out of the house or being busy in the kitchen to open that
parlor door and go in with him and peep at and handle the treasures.
Mary-'Gusta protested, but young Bacheldor called her a coward and
declared he wouldn't play with cowards and 'fraid-cats, so rather
than be one of those detestable creatures she usually swallowed her
scruples and followed the tempter. It was a risk, of course, but a
real adventure; and, like many adventurers, the pair came to grief.
They took David into the parlor and the cat wriggled from its
owner's arms, jumped upon the table, knocked the case containing the
chessmen to the floor, and not only broke the glass but decapitated
one of the white knights.

Even the mild Mr. Hamilton was incensed when Isaiah told the news at
supper time. And Captain Shad, who had bought those chessmen at
Singapore from the savings of a second mate's wages, lost patience

"Didn't I tell you young-ones not to go into that parlor?" he

"Yes, sir," admitted Mary-'Gusta, contritely.

"Yes, by fire, I did! And you went just the same."

"Yes, sir."

"And you fetched that everlastin'--er--Goliath in there, too. Don't
you know you've been a bad girl?"

"Ye--yes, sir."

Zoeth protested. "She ain't a bad girl, Shadrach," he said. "You
know she ain't."

"Well--er--maybe she ain't, generally speakin'. I cal'late 'twas
that Bacheldor brat that was responsible; but just the same I ain't
goin' to have it happen any more. Mary-'Gusta, if you and that
consarned--what's-his-name--Jimmie--go into that parlor again,
unless Isaiah or one of us are with you, I--I--by the jumpin' Judas,
me and Zoeth won't let you go to the Sunday school picnic. There!
I mean that and so does Zoeth. Shut up, Zoeth! You do mean it,
too. You know mighty well either your dad or mine would have
skinned us alive if we'd done such a thing when we was young-ones.
And," turning to the culprit, "if you fetch that cat in there, I'll--
I'll--I don't know what I'll do."

The Sunday school picnic was to be held on the second Saturday in
June and Mary-'Gusta wished to attend it. She had never been to a
real picnic, though the other children in Ostable had described such
outings in glowing colors. Now, although she, a visitor, was not a
regular member of the South Harniss Methodist Sunday school, the
superintendent personally had invited her to go and Zoeth and the
Captain had given their consent. Not to go would be a heart-
breaking calamity. She finally resolved to be very, very good and
obedient from that time on.

But good resolutions are broken occasionally, even by grown-ups, and
in childhood much can be forgotten in nine days. So, on the
afternoon of the tenth day, which was the day before the picnic,
Mary-'Gusta walking alone in the field which separated the Gould-
Hamilton property from that of Abner Bacheldor, Jimmie's father--
Mary'-Gusta, walking in that field, was depressed and melancholy.
Her state of mind was indicated by the fact that she had left all
her dolls, even Rose and Rosette, at home. She felt guilty and
wicked and conscience-stricken. She had been a bad girl; only one
other knew how bad she bad been and he, being guilty likewise, would
not betray her. But at home Isaiah Chase was, as he said, "heatin'
himself to a bile" baking apple turnovers for her to take to the
picnic. And Captain Shadrach had announced his intention of
bringing her, from the store, candy and bananas to go into the lunch
basket with the turnovers and sandwiches and cake. And the Captain
had that very day called her a good girl. If he only knew!

There had been a flurry of excitement in the kitchen just after
dinner. Mr. Bacheldor had appeared at the door with the request
that he might "borrer the loan of Cap'n Gould's shotgun." The day
before, at a quarter after four--Mr. Bacheldor was certain as to the
time because he had been "layin' down two or three minutes on the
sofy afore goin' out to look at some wood there was to cut in the
shed, and I'd just got up and looked at the clock afore I looked out
of the settin'-room winder"--looking out of that window he had seen
a cat running from his henyard with one of his recently hatched
Plymouth Rock chickens in its mouth.

"If I'd had a gun then," declared Abner, "I could have blowed the
critter to thunder-and-gone. But I'll get him next time. Let me
have the gun, will you, Isaiah? I know Shad'll say it's all right
when you tell him."

That shotgun was a precious arm. It had been given to the Captain
years before by the officers of a sinking schooner, whom Shadrach's
boat's crew, led by Shadrach himself, had rescued at a big risk off
the Great South School. It had the Captain's name, with an
inscription and date, on a silver plate fastened to the stock.
Isaiah was not too willing to lend it, but chicken stealing is a
capital offense in South Harniss, as it is in most rural
communities, and the cat caught in the act is summarily executed.

So Mr. Chase went to the Captain's room and returned with the gun.

"There you be, Ab," he said. "Hope you get the critter."

"Oh, I'll get him all right, don't you fret. Say, Isaiah--er--er--"
Mr. Bacheldor hesitated. "Say," he went on, "you couldn't let me
have two or three cartridges, could you? I ain't got none in the

Isaiah looked more doubtful than ever, but he brought the
cartridges. After making sure, by inquiry and inspection, that
they were loaded, the borrower started to go.

"Oh, I say, Ab," Mr. Chase called after him; "know whose cat 'twas?"

Mr. Bacheldor did not appear to hear, so the question was repeated.
Abner answered without turning.

"I know," he declared. "I know all right," and hurried on. Isaiah
looked after him and sniffed disdainfully.

"Anybody on earth but that feller," he said, "would have been
ashamed to beg cartridges after beggin' the gun, but not Ab
Bacheldor, no sir! Wonder he didn't want to borrer my Sunday hat to
practice shootin' at."

Mary-'Gusta considered shooting a cat the height of cruelty and
dreadfulness but she was aware of the universal condemnation of
chicken stealing and kept her thought to herself. Besides, she had
her own wickedness to consider.

She walked slowly on across the field, bound nowhere in particular,
thinking hard and feeling very wretched and miserable. The pleasure
of the next day, the day she had been anticipating, was spoiled
already for her. If she went to that picnic without making a full
and free confession she knew she would feel as mean and miserable as
she was feeling now. And if she did confess, why then--

Her meditations were interrupted in a startling manner. She was
midway of the field, upon the other side of which was a tumbledown
stone wall, and a cluster of wild cherry trees and bayberry bushes
marking the boundary of the Bacheldor land. From behind the wall
and bushes sounded the loud report of a gun; then the tramp of
running feet and an excited shouting:

"You missed him," screamed a voice. "You never hit him at all.
There he goes! There he goes! Give him t'other barrel quick!"

Mary-'Gusta, who had been startled nearly out of her senses by the
shot and the shouting, stood perfectly still, too surprised and
frightened even to run. And then out of the bushes before her
darted a scared tortoise-shell cat, frantically rushing in her
direction. The cat was David.

"He's hidin' in them bushes," shouted the voice again. "Stay where
you be, Pop. I'll scare him out and then you give it to him."

Mary-'Gusta stood still no longer. The sight of her idolized pet
running for his life was enough to make her forget fright and
everything else. She too ran, but not toward home.

"David!" she screamed. "Oh, David! Come here! David!"

David may have recognized the voice, but if so the recognition made
no difference. The cat kept straight on. The girl ran across its
path. It dodged and darted into a beachplum thicket, a cul-de-sac
of tangled branches and thick grass. Before the animal could
extricate itself Mary-'Gusta had seized it in her arms. It
struggled and fought for freedom but the child held it tight.

"David!" she panted. "Oh, don't, David! Please be still! They
shan't hurt you; I won't let 'em. Please!"

Through the bushes above the wall appeared the freckled face of Con--
christened Cornelius--Bacheldor. Con was Jimmie's elder brother.

"He must have got through," he shouted. "He--no, there he is.
She's got him, Pop. Make her put him down."

Mr. Abner Bacheldor crashed through to his son's side. He was
carrying a gun.

"You put that cat down," screamed Con, threateningly.

Mary-'Gusta said nothing. Her heart was beating wildly but she held
the struggling David fast.

"It's that kid over to Shad Gould's," declared Con. "Make her give
you a shot, Pop."

Mr. Abner Bacheldor took command of the situation.

"Here, you!" he ordered. "Fetch that critter here. I want him."

Still Mary-'Gusta did not answer. She was pale and her small knees
shook, but she neither spoke nor moved from where she stood. And
her grip upon the cat tightened.

"Fetch that cat here," repeated Abner. "We're goin' to shoot him;
he's been stealin' our chickens."

At this accusation and the awful threat accompanying it, Mary-'Gusta
forgot her terror of the Bacheldors, of the gun, forgot everything
except her pet and its danger.

"I shan't!" she cried frantically. "I shan't! He ain't! He's my
cat and he don't steal chickens."

"Yes, he does, too," roared Con. "Pop and I see him doin' it."

"You didn't! I don't believe it! When did you see him?"

"Yesterday afternoon. We see him, didn't we, Pop?"

"You bet your life we did," growled Abner. "And he was on my land
again just now; comin' to steal more, I cal'late. Fetch him here."

"I--I shan't! He shan't be shot, even if he did steal 'em. And I
know he didn't. If you shoot him I'll--I'll tell Uncle Zoeth and--
and Cap'n Gould. And I won't let you have him anyhow. I won't,"
with savage defiance. "If you shoot him you'll have to shoot me,

Con climbed over the wall. "You just wait, Pop," he said. "I'll
take him away from her."

But his father hesitated. There were certain reasons why he thought
it best not to be too arbitrary.

"Hold on, Con," he said. "Look here, sis, I'm sorry to have to kill
your cat, but I've got to. He steals chickens and them kind of cats
has to be shot. I see him myself yesterday afternoon. I told
Isaiah Chase myself that . . . why, you was there and heard me! You
heard me tell how I was lookin' out of the winder at quartet past
four and see that cat--"

Mary-'Gusta interrupted. Her expression changed. She was still
dreadfully frightened but in her tone was a note of relief, of
confident triumph.

"You didn't see him," she cried. "It wasn't David; it wasn't this
cat you saw. I KNOW it wasn't."

"Well, I know it was. Now don't argue no more. You fetch that cat
here or I'll have Con take him away from you. Hurry up!"

"I know it wasn't David," began Mary-'Gusta. Then, as Con started
in her direction, she turned and ran, ran as hard as she could,
bearing David in her arms. Con ran after her.

It was the cat that saved the situation and its life at the same
time. Mary-'Gusta was near the edge of the pine grove and Con was
close at her heels. David gave one more convulsive, desperate
wriggle, slid from the girl's arms and disappeared through the pines
like a gray projectile.

Mary-'Gusta collapsed on the grass and burst into frightened,
hysterical sobs. Con took one or two steps after the flying cat and
gave up the chase. Mr. Bacheldor, from behind the wall, swore
emphatically and at length.

"Come here, Con, you fool," he yelled, when the expression of his
true feelings had reached a temporary end. "Come here! let the kid
alone. We'll get into trouble if we don't. As for that dummed cat,
we'll get him next time. He'll see his finish. Come on, I tell

Con reluctantly rejoined his parent and the pair departed, muttering
threats. Mary-'Gusta, the tears running down her cheeks, ran home
to find David and plead with Mr. Chase for her pet's safety and
protection from its persecutors. But Isaiah had gone up to the
store on an errand. David, however, was crouching, a trembling
heap, under the kitchen stove. The girl pulled him out, fled with
him to the garret, and there, with the door locked, sat shivering
and sobbing until Captain Shad came home for supper that night.

The Captain's first question when he arrived was concerning Mary-
'Gusta's whereabouts. Isaiah said he had not seen her for two hours
or more. And just then the child herself appeared, entering the
kitchen from the door leading to the back stairs.

"Hello, Mary-'Gusta!" hailed Shadrach. "Thought you was lost.
Supper's about ready to put on the table. Why, what's the matter?
Been cryin', ain't you?"

Mary-'Gusta went straight to him and clutched his hand. "Please,
Cap'n Gould," she begged, "will you come into the sittin'-room a
minute? I--I want to ask you somethin'. I want you to do somethin'
for me, will you?"

"Sartin sure I will. What is it?"

Mary-'Gusta glanced at Isaiah's face. "I'd--I'd rather tell you,
just you alone," she said. "Please come into the sittin'-room."

She tugged at his hand. Much puzzled, he followed her through the
dining-room and into the sitting-room.

"Well, Mary-'Gusta," he said, kindly, "now what is it? What's the
big secret?"

Mary-'Gusta closed the door. She was very solemn and her lip
quivered but she did not hesitate.

"It's about David," she said. "Somethin's happened to David. I--
I'm goin' to tell you about it, Cap'n Gould."

She told of her adventure and of David's peril. Shadrach listened.
When he heard of the accusation which was the cause of the affair he
shook his head.

"My, my!" he exclaimed. "That's pretty bad, that is. I'd hate to
have your cat killed, Mary-'Gusta, land knows I would. But if the
critter's a chicken thief--"

"But he ain't! I KNOW he ain't!"

"Humph! You can't always tell, you know cats are cats and--"

"But I know David wasn't the cat that did it. I KNOW he wasn't"

"Oh, you know, do you. Hm! you do seem pretty sartin, that's a
fact. How do you know?"

The girl looked at him. "Please, Cap'n Gould," she said, "I--I'd
rather tell you over to Mr. Bacheldor's. That's what I wanted to
ask you; won't you please go right over to Mr. Bacheldor's with me?
I--I'll tell you how I know when we're there."

Captain Shadrach was more puzzled than ever. "You want me to go to
Ab Bacheldor's with you?" he repeated. "You want to tell me
somethin' over there? Why not tell me here?"

"'Cause--'cause Mr. Bacheldor thinks David did it and he'll kill
him. He said he would. I want HIM to know David wasn't the one.
And if, if you're there when he knows, he'll know YOU know he knows
and he won't dast shoot at David any more. Please come, Cap'n
Gould. Please, right away."

Shadrach tugged at his beard. "Humph!" he muttered. "There's more
'knows' in that than there is knots in a snarled fish line. You
want me as a witness, nigh's I can make out. Is that it?"

"Yes, sir. Will you go with me right off?"

"Right off, eh? Can't it wait till after supper?"

"I--I don't want any supper. PLEASE!"

So supper was postponed, in spite of Isaiah's grumblings, and the
Captain and Mary-'Gusta started forthwith for the home of their
nearest neighbor. Mr. Chase, his curiosity aroused, would have
asked a dozen questions, but Mary-'Gusta would neither answer nor
permit Shadrach to do so.

The Bacheldor family were at supper when the callers arrived. Abner
himself opened the door and he looked rather embarrassed when he saw
the pair on the steps. Captain Shad did not wait for an invitation
to enter; he walked in and Mary-'Gusta followed him.

"Now then, Ab," said the Captain, briskly, "what's this about our
cat stealin' your chickens?"

Mr. Bacheldor and Con, separately and together, burst into a tirade
of invective against the offending David.

"That's all right, that's all right," broke in the Captain, crisply.
"If that cat stole your chicken it ought to be shot. But are you
sure of the cat? Do you know ours did it? This girl here says
'twasn't ours at all."

"I know a dum sight better," began Abner, savagely. But this time
it was Mary-'Gusta who interrupted.

"Cap'n Gould," she said, "please ask him what time it was yesterday
afternoon when he saw the cat run off with the chicken."

Bacheldor did not wait to be asked.

"'Twas quarter-past four yesterday afternoon," he declared. "I know
the time."

"I don't see what the time's got to do with it," put in Shadrach.

"But it's got everything to do with it," urged Mary'-Gusta. "Honest
truly it has."

"Oh, it has, eh? Why?"

"'Cause--'cause--Ask him if he's sure?"

Again Abner did not wait. "Course I'm sure," he replied. "I told
Isaiah Chase--yes, and I told that young-one, too--that I looked at
the clock just afore I looked out of the window and see the critter
in the very act. Yes, and Con see him too."

Mary-'Gusta stamped her foot in triumph. "Then it wasn't David,"
she said. "It wasn't David at all. 'Twas somebody else's cat, Mr.

"Somebody else's nothin'! Don't you suppose I know--"

"Hold on! Heave to, Ab. Mary-'Gusta, how do you know 'twasn't our

"'Cause--'cause David was with me from four o'clock till most five;
that's how. He was in the--in our house with me. So,"
triumphantly, "he couldn't have been anywhere else, could he?"

Con and his father both began a protest, but Shadrach cut it short.

"Keep still, for mercy sakes," he ordered. "This ain't Shoutin'
Methodist camp meetin'. Let's get soundin's here. Now, Mary-
'Gusta, you say the cat was with you from four till five; you're
sure of that?"

"Yes, sir. I know because Mr. Chase had gone out and we knew he
wouldn't be back until five 'cause he said he wouldn't. So we
looked at the clock before we went in."

"Went in? Went in where?"

The girl hung her head. It was evident that the answer to this
question was one she dreaded to make. But she made it,

"Before we went into--into the parlor," she said, faintly.

Captain Shad was the only one of her hearers who grasped the full
significance of this confession. No, there was one other, and he
turned red and then white.

"The parlor?" repeated the Captain, slowly. "The best parlor?"

"Ye-yes, sir."

"Do you mean you went into the best parlor over to our house and--

"Yes, sir."

"Well, I swan to man! Did you forget what I told you would happen
if you went into that parlor again? And especially if you lugged
that cat in? Did you forget that?"

"N-no, sir. I didn't forget it. You--you said I couldn't go to the

Shadrach shook his head. "Well," he groaned, "if this don't beat
the nation! What under the sun did you do it for?"

"'Cause--'cause we wanted to play pirates with--with the swords and
things," faltered Mary-'Gusta. "And we took David 'cause he was
goin' to be one of the passengers on the ship we took. But," with a
sudden return to the main point at issue, "that proves David wasn't
the cat he saw, the one that stole his chicken."

The Captain looked at her. "By fire, it does, that's right," he
muttered. Abner Bacheldor roared in indignation.

"It don't prove nothin'," he cried. "All it proves is that the
kid's a liar. She's lyin' so's to save that dummed thief of a cat.
All kids'll lie when they think they can make somethin' out of it."

Shadrach grunted. "Maybe so," he said, "but I ain't caught this one
in a lie so far. And I doubt if she's lyin' now. Now, Mary-'Gusta,
is there any way you can prove you was in that parlor, and--what's
his name--David was there at the time you say? Is there?"

Again Mary-'Gusta hesitated. Her eyes wandered about the faces in
the room, until their gaze rested upon the face of Jimmie Bacheldor.
And Jimmie looked white and scared.

"N-no, sir, I--I guess not," she faltered.

"I guess not, too," declared Con, with a sarcastic laugh.

But the Captain was suspicious. He had seen the child's look.

"Hold on," he commanded. "There's more to this than a blind man
could see through a board fence. Mary-'Gusta, was there anybody
else except David in that parlor along with you? Was there?"

Mary-'Gusta looked at the floor.

"Yes, sir," she faltered.

"So? I kind of had an idea there might be. Who was it?"

Again the look and then: "I--I ain't goin' to tell."

Con laughed once more. "You bet she ain't," he exclaimed. "She
can't. The whole yarn's a lie. Don't pay no attention to it, Pop."

Shadrach turned sharply in his direction. "I'M payin' attention to
it," he snapped, "and that's enough. So you ain't goin' to tell,
Mary-'Gusta, eh? Remember now, if you do tell it'll prove your
story's true and David'll come out on top. Think it over."

Evidently Mary-'Gusta was thinking it over. Her eyes filled with
tears, but she shook her head.

The Captain looked down at her. "Keepin' mum, eh?" he said. "Well,
that's all right. I cal'late we're pretty good guessers, some of
us, anyway. Jim," with a sudden look straight at the youngest
member of his neighbor's family, who was fidgeting with his spoon
and acting remarkably nervous, "what have you got to say? Have a
good time in that parlor playin' pirates, did you?"

Jimmie gasped. The suddenness of the attack knocked his defenses
flat. He gurgled, stammered, and then broke into a wail of

"I--I didn't mean to," he sobbed, wildly. "'Twas her. She said do
it; I never. I--I--"

"Why, Jimmie Bacheldor!" exclaimed Mary-'Gusta, shocked into protest
by her fellow culprit's distortion of the truth. "How can you say
so! What a story! You know--"

"I guess he knows," broke in Shadrach. "And I cal'late I know, too.
Now then, Jim, what time was it when you looked at the clock? Shut
up, Abner, let the boy answer. Tell us, Jim; nobody'll hurt you."

"It--it was four o'clock," hollered Jimmie, in agony. "I--I never
done it a purpose. I won't do so no more."

"No, I don't cal'late you will. Cal'late you won't have a chance.
Well, Ab, I guess we've proved our client's case. Next time you go
out cat shootin' you better be sure you're gunnin' for the right
one. Come on, Mary-'Gusta."

Con Bacheldor sprang to his feet.

"Pop," he shouted, "be you goin' to let 'em go this way? And that
cat stealin' our chickens right along. Ain't you goin' to tell 'em
you'll kill the critter next time he comes on our land?"

Abner was silent. He seemed oddly anxious to see the last of his
visitors. It was the Captain who spoke.

"No, Con," he said, crisply, "he ain't goin' to tell me that. And
you listen while I tell YOU somethin'. If that cat of ours gets
hurt or don't show up some time I'll know who's responsible. And
then--well, then maybe I'LL go gunnin'. Good night, all hands."

All the way back across the fields and through the grove the Captain
was silent. Mary-'Gusta clinging to his hand was silent too,
dreading what she knew was sure to follow. When they entered the
kitchen Shadrach turned to her:

"Well, Mary-'Gusta," he said, "I'm glad your cat's turned out to be
no chicken thief, but--but that don't alter what you did, does it?"

"No, sir," stammered the girl.

"No, I'm afraid it don't. I told you what would happen if you went
into that parlor, and you went just the same. I cal'late you know
what to expect, don't you?"

"Ye-yes, sir," in a low tone. "You mean I can't go to the Sunday
school picnic."

Shadrach cleared his throat. He was not enjoying this episode, as a
matter of fact his unhappiness was almost as keen as the child's.
But as a boy he had been reared in the old-fashioned way, and he
felt that he had a duty to perform.

"I'm afraid that's what I mean," he said, gravely. "Now set down
and have your supper."

Mary-'Gusta tried hard to be brave, but the disappointment was too
great. The tears streamed down her cheeks and she ran from the
room. Shadrach strode after her.

"Here!" he called. "Mary-'Gusta, where are you goin'? Come back
and have your supper."

But Mary-'Gusta did not come back. She was already on the stairs.

"I--I don't want any supper," she sobbed. "Please, oh, PLEASE don't
make me eat it."

The Captain hesitated, turned back, and jerked his own chair to the

"Well," he demanded brusquely, "the supper's here and somebody's got
to eat it, I cal'late. Fetch it on, Isaiah! What are you starin'
at me like that for, you dumbhead?"

Isaiah brought in the supper. Then he demanded to know what the
fuss was all about. Shadrach told him. Isaiah's chief interest
seemed to center on the attempted shooting.

"Why the son of a swab!" he cried, excitedly. "Of all the cheek I
ever heard of in my life that Abner Bacheldor's got the heft! To
borrer a man's own gun--yes, and cartridges, too--to kill that man's
own cat with! Of all the solid brass! He never told me 'twas our
cat. All he wanted to know was could he borrer your gun and
somethin' to load it with. If I'd known--"

His employer interrupted him. "WHAT?" he roared. "Do you mean to
say that Ab Bacheldor came here and borrowed MY gun to--to do what
he done with?"

"Sartin sure he did. And only this very afternoon, too."

"And did he know whose cat 'twas?"

"He said he did. Mary-'Gusta was here 'long with me when he come.
I says: 'Know whose cat 'tis?' and says he, 'I know all right!' I
thought he acted kind of sheepish and funny. I--Here! where you

The Captain was on his feet and his cap was in his hand.

"Goin'!" he snarled. "I'm going to make another call on Abner.
And," with his hand on the latch, "if you hear somebody bein'
murdered over in that direction you needn't call the constable,

"But--but, hold on, Cap'n Shad! You ain't finished your own supper
yet and Zoeth's waiting up to the store for you to come back so's he
can come down and get his."

The reply was emphatic and, in its way, conclusive.

"To the blue brimstone with the supper!" roared Shadrach. "It can
wait and so can Zoeth. If he can't he can do the next best."

He was absent for half an hour. When he returned Mr. Hamilton was
in the dining-room. Shadrach entered, bearing the precious shotgun.
He stood it carefully in the corner. There was a satisfied look in
his eye.

"For goodness' sake, Shadrach!" exclaimed Zoeth, "what have you been
thinkin' of? There I was waitin' and waitin' and hankerin' and
hankerin' and no you nor no supper. I had to lock up the store
finally. 'Twas either that or starve. I ain't a fault-finder,
generally speakin', but I have to eat, same as other folks."

His partner paid not the least attention. His first remark was in
the form of a question addressed to Mr. Chase.

"Look here, Isaiah," he demanded, "did I understand you to say that
Mary-'Gusta was with you when that sculpin come to borrow my gun?"

"Yup. She was here."

"And she knew that he was goin' to shoot a cat with it?"

"Sartin, she heard him say so."

Shadrach strode to the mantel, took from it a hand-lamp, lighted the
lamp and with it in his hand walked from the room and ascended the
stairs. Zoeth called after him, but he did not answer.

He entered Mary-'Gusta's room. The child was in bed, the dolls
beside her. She was not asleep, however. The tear stains on her
cheeks and the dampness of the pillow showed how she had spent the
time since leaving the dining-room.

Shadrach put the lamp upon the washstand, pulled a chair beside the
bed and sat down. He took her hand in his.

"Mary-'Gusta," he said, gently, "you knew 'twas my gun that Ab
Bacheldor was tryin' to shoot David with?"

Mary-'Gusta moved her head up and down on the pillow.

"Yes, sir," she said.

"You was here when he borrowed it?"

"Yes, sir. And then I knew it was yours when he had it there in the
field. I saw the silver name thing on the handle. It kind of
shined in the sun."

"Um-hm. Yes, yes. I see. You knew it, of course. But you didn't
tell me. Why on earth didn't you? Didn't you know that if I'd
realized that swab had borrered my gun to kill my cat that would
have been enough? If the critter had stole a million chickens
'twouldn't have made any difference if I'd known THAT. The cheeky
lubber! Well, he won't shoot at anything of ours for one spell,
I'll bet. But why didn't you tell me?"

Mary-'Gusta's answer was promptly given.

"Why, 'cause," she said, "that was just it. I knew if you knew that
you wouldn't care whether David stole the chicken or not. And I
wanted you to know he didn't."

"Um, I see. But if you had told me you wouldn't have had to tell
about the parlor. I'D never asked a single question."

"Ye-yes, sir; but I wanted you to know David doesn't steal

Shadrach swallowed hard. "I see," he said. "Yes, yes, I see. So
just to clear that cat you was willin' to give up the picnic and

Mary-'Gusta sobbed: "I--I did want to go so," she moaned.

The Captain lifted her from the pillow and put his arm about her.

"You ARE goin'," he declared, emphatically, "you just bet you're

"Oh! Oh, am I? Am I really? I--I know I hadn't ought to. I was a
bad girl."

"You! You're a dummed good girl! The best and squarest--yes, and
the spunkiest little girl I ever saw. You're a brick."

"I'm awful sorry I went into the parlor, Cap'n Gould."

"Blast the parlor! I don't care if you stay in there a week and
smash everything in it. And--and, see here, Mary-'Gusta, don't you
call me 'Cap'n Gould' any more. Call me 'Uncle Shad,' will you?"

Just before bedtime that night Mr. Hamilton broached a subject which
had troubled him all day.

"Shadrach," he said, timidly. "I--I guess I ought to tell you
somethin'. I know you won't want to talk about it, but seems 's if
I must tell you. I had a letter this morning from Judge Baxter. He
says he can't wait much longer for an answer from us about
Marcellus's girl. He's got to know what we've decided to do with

Shadrach, who was smoking, took his pipe from his mouth.

"Well, give him the answer then," he said, shortly. "You know what
'tis, well as I do."

Zoeth looked troubled.

"I know you don't want to keep her," he said, "but--"

"Who said I didn't?"

"Who? Why, Shadrach Gould! You said--"

"I said a good many things maybe; but that's nothin'. You knew what
I meant as well as I did."

"Why, Shadrach! You--you don't mean you ARE willin' to keep her--
here, with us, for good? You don't mean THAT?"

The Captain snorted impatiently. "Don't be so foolish, Zoeth," he
protested. "You knew plaguey well I never meant anything else."


The next day Captain Shadrach drove to Ostable and spent several
hours in consultation with Judge Baxter. Adjusting matters by
correspondence is a slow process at best, and the Captain, having
surrendered unconditionally, was not the man to delay.

"I can settle more in ten minutes' talk," he told his partner, "than
the three of us could in a month's letter-writin', especially if I
had to write any of the letters. I never was any hand to write
letters; you know that, Zoeth. And when I do write one the feller I
send it to is liable to come around and ask me to read it 'cause he
can't. Like as not I can't either, if it's had time to get cold,
and there we are, right where we started. No, I'll go and see the
Judge and when I fetch port tonight there'll have been somethin'

This prophecy was fulfilled. Before the Captain left Ostable for
the homeward drive a good deal had been done. Judge Baxter, in his
capacity as administrator, had already been looking into the affairs
of his late client and, as he had expected, those affairs were badly
tangled. When the outstanding debts were paid there would be little
left, a thousand or two, perhaps, but certainly no more.

"So there you are, Shadrach," he said. "I'm mighty glad you and
Zoeth have decided to keep the girl, but I'm afraid she'll come to
you with very little property of her own. If she is to have the
good education and all the rest that Marcellus wanted her to have I
guess it'll be your money that pays for it. That's the honest
truth, and I think you ought to know it."

The Captain nodded. "That's all right," he said. "I expected just
about that, account of what you said the day of the funeral. Me and
Zoeth are about, as fur from bein' rich as the ship's cat is from
bein' skipper, but we've put by a little and the store fetches us in
a decent livin'. We'll take the young-one and do our best by her.
Land knows what that best'll be," he added, with a dubious shake of
the head. "Speakin' for myself, I feel that I'm about as competent
to bring up a child as a clam is to fly."

Baxter laughed. "Marcellus seemed confident that you and Hamilton
were perfectly suited to the job," he said.

"Um; yes, I know; Marcellus had confidence in a good many things,
the stock market included. However, what is to be will be and we
all have to take chances, as the feller that was just married said
when he tackled his wife's first mince pie. You get those guardian
papers, whatever they are, made out, and Zoeth and me'll sign 'em.
As for the competent part--well," with a chuckle, "that child's
pretty competent herself. I have a notion that, take it five or six
years from now, it'll be her that'll be bringin' us up in the way we
should go. I feel a good deal as if I was signin' on for a long
voyage with the chances that I'd finish mate instead of skipper."

"Say, Judge," he added, just before leaving for home, "there's one
thing more I'd like to say. 'Most everybody thinks Marcellus left
his stepdaughter a consider'ble sight of money, don't they?"

"Why, yes; I suppose they do."

"All right, let 'em think so. 'Twill give 'em somethin' to talk
about. They'll be guessin' how rich the child is instead of markin'
off in the almanac the days afore Zoeth and me head for the

"Humph! I see. You don't care to have it known that you and your
partner are adopting and supporting her purely from motives of
kindness and generosity."

"Pooh! pooh! No generosity about it. Besides, Marcellus was kind
and generous enough to us in the old days. Pity if we couldn't take
our trick at the wheel now."

The Judge smiled. "You're a good deal more willing to take that
trick than you were when I saw you last, Captain Shad," he observed.
"You seem to have changed your mind completely."

The Captain grinned. "Well, yes, I have," he admitted. "Maybe
'tain't so big a change as you think; I have a habit of blowin' up a
squall when I'm gettin' ready to calm down. But, anyway, that
young-one would change anybody's mind. She's different from any
girl of her age ever I saw. She's pretty as a little picture and
sweet and wholesome as a--as a summer sweet apple. She don't
pester, and she don't tease, and she don't lie--no, sir, not even
when I'd consider layin' the course a p'int or two from the truth a
justifiable proceedin'. She's got inside my vest, somehow or
'nother, and I did think I was consider'ble of a hard-shell. She's
all right, Mary-'Gusta is. I'm about ready to say 'Thank you' to

And so it was settled, and Mary-'Gusta Lathrop was no longer a
visitor, but a permanent member of the odd household at South
Harniss. She was delighted when she heard the news, although,
characteristically, she said very little beyond confiding to her two
"uncles" that she was going to be a good girl and not take David
into the parlor again. The remainder of her "things" and belongings
were sent over by the Judge and, in due time, the guardianship
papers were signed.

"There!" exclaimed Zoeth, laying down the pen. "That settles it, I
cal'late. Now, Mary-'Gusta, you're our little girl, mine and your
Uncle Shad's, for good and all."

"Not quite so long as that, Zoeth," put in the smiling Shadrach.
"We'll hang on to her for a spell, I shouldn't wonder; but one of
these days, a hundred years from now or such matter, there's liable
to be a good-lookin' young feller sparkin' 'round here and he'll
want to marry her and take her somewheres else. What'll you say
when it comes to that, Mary-'Gusta?"

Mary-'Gusta thought it over. "If 'twas a hundred years from now,"
she said, "I guess he wouldn't want me."

The Captain laughed uproariously. "Well, maybe we can discount that
hundred some for cash," he admitted. "Make it twelve or fifteen
years. Then suppose somebody--er--er--" with a wink at Zoeth--
"suppose Jimmie Bacheldor, we'll say, comes and wants us to put you
in his hands, what'll you say then?"

The answer was prompt enough this time.

"I'll say no," asserted Mary-'Gusta, with decision. "Jimmie
Bacheldor hates to wash his hands; he told me so."

All that summer she played about the house or at the store or on the
beach and, when the fall term began, the partners sent her to
school. They were happy and proud men when Miss Dobson, the primary
teacher, said the girl was too far advanced for the first class and
entered her in the second. "Just natural smartness," Captain
Shadrach declared. "Natural smartness and nothin' else. She ain't
had a mite of advantages, but up she goes just the same. Why,
Teacher told me she considered her a reg'lar parachute."

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