Part 3 out of 8
"A parachute's somethin' that comes down, ain't it," suggested
Zoeth, remembering the balloon ascension he had seen at the county
"Humph! So 'tis. Seems as if 'twasn't parachute she said. 'Twas--
"Parasol?" suggested Isaiah, who was an interested listener.
"No, no; nor paralysis neither. Paragon, that's what 'twas.
Teacher said that child was a paragon."
"What's a paragon?" asked Mr. Chase.
"I don't know. But it's what she is, anyway."
The paragon continued to progress in her studies. Also she
continued, more and more, to take an interest in the housework and
the affairs of her adopted uncles and Isaiah Chase. Little by
little changes came in the life of the family. On one memorable
Sunday Captain Shadrach attended church. It was the first time in a
good many years and whether the congregation or Zoeth or the Captain
himself was the more astonished at the latter's being there is a
question. Mary-'Gusta was not greatly astonished. It was the
result of careful planning on her part, planning which had as its
object the relieving of Mr. Hamilton's mind. Zoeth never missed a
Sunday service or a Friday night prayer meeting. And, being
sincerely religious, he was greatly troubled because his friend and
partner took little interest in such things.
Shadrach's aversion to churches dated back to a sermon preached by a
former minister. The subject of that sermon was Jonah and the
whale. The Captain, having been on several whaling voyages in his
younger days, had his own opinion concerning the prophet's famous
If the minister had been a younger and more tactful man the argument
which followed might have ended pleasantly and the break have been
avoided. But the clergyman was elderly, as set in his ways as the
Captain was in his, and the disagreement was absolute and final.
"The feller is a regular wooden-head," declared Shadrach, hotly. "I
was willin' to be reasonable; I was willin' to give in that this
Jonah man might have been out of his head and, after he was hove
overboard and cast ashore, thought he'd been swallowed by a whale or
somethin' or 'nother. I picked up a sailor once who'd drifted
around in a boat for a week and he couldn't remember nothin' of what
happened after the first day or so. If you'd told him he'd been
swallowed by a mackerel he wouldn't have said no. But I've helped
kill a good many whales--yes, and I've helped cut 'em up, too--and I
know what they look like inside. No man, whether his name was Jonah
or Jehoshaphat, could have lived three days in a whale's stomach.
How'd he breathe in there, eh? Cal'late the whale had ventilators
and a skylight in his main deck? How'd the whale live all that time
with a man hoppin' 'round inside him? Think I'd live if I--if I
swallowed a live mouse or somethin'? No, sir-ee! Either that mouse
would die or I would, I bet you! I've seen a whole parcel of things
took out of a whale's insides and some of the things had been alive
once, too; but they wasn't alive then; they was in chunks and part
digested. Jonah wasn't digested, was he? And the whale wasn't dead
of dyspepsy neither. That's what I told that minister. 'You try it
yourself,' I says to him. 'There's whales enough back of the Crab
Ledge, twenty mile off Orham,' said I. 'You're liable to run in
sight of 'em most any fair day in summer. You go off there and jump
overboard some time and see what happens. First place, no whale
would swallow you; next place, if it did 'twould chew you or sift
you fine first; and, third place, if you was whole and alive that
whale would be dead inside of ten minutes. You try it and see.'
Good fair offer, wasn't it? But did he take it up? Not much. Said
I was a scoffer and an infidel and didn't know anything about
Scripture! 'I know about whales, anyhow,' I told him. And he
slammed off and wouldn't speak to me again. Don't talk to ME! I'll
never go inside that meetin'-house again."
And he never had until Mary-'Gusta coaxed him into it. She was a
regular attendant at Sunday school, but on Sunday mornings in
pleasant weather she had been accustomed to take a walk with
Shadrach. These walks they both enjoyed hugely, but one bright
morning she announced that she was not going for a walk, but was
going to church with Uncle Zoeth. Shadrach was disappointed and
"Land sakes! What's this mean?" he demanded. "Thought you liked to
walk with me."
"I do. I like it very much. But I don't think it's fair for me to
do it every Sunday. Uncle Zoeth ALWAYS goes to church and he feels
real bad 'cause you don't go. He told me so. He says the church
folks think you won't go to Heaven when you die and that makes him
feel dreadful. He's goin' to Heaven, you know."
"Oh, he is, eh?"
"Of course. He couldn't help it, he's so good. Don't you think
he'll go to Heaven, Uncle Shad?"
"Who? Zoeth? Sartin I do. If he don't, nobody will."
"Wouldn't it make you feel bad if you was afraid he wouldn't go
"Humph! Maybe so, but I ain't afraid."
"I know, but he is afraid YOU won't. He thinks an awful lot of you;
as much as you do of him, you know. Uncle Shad, I'm goin' to
meetin' with Uncle Zoeth this mornin', and I want you to go with us;
The Captain pulled his beard.
"Look here, Mary-'Gusta," he said. "What's all this about, anyway?
You don't cal'late I'd take you walkin' Sundays if I thought 'twas
wicked, do you?"
"No, sir; but Uncle Zoeth thinks not goin' to church is wicked. If
you and I went to church with him 'twould please him ever so much."
"Maybe so, but 'twould please you and me if he went walkin' with us.
I've asked him times enough. Why can't he do what I want as well as
my doin' what he wants?"
"'Cause he thinks it's wrong. You don't think goin' to church is
wrong, do you, Uncle Shad?"
Shadrach shook his head. "By fire!" he exclaimed. "You're a
regular young lawyer, you are, Mary-'Gusta. Judge Baxter hasn't got
you beat when it comes to makin' out a case. Look here, now; be
honest; hadn't you rather go to walk with me than go to that
"Yes, sir," frankly; "I'd rather."
"Oh, you had, eh? But all the same you want us to give up our walk
and go to church every Sunday just to please Zoeth. Is that it?"
Mary-'Gusta took his hand. "No, sir," she said shyly, "but I
thought perhaps we could divide up. You and I could go with him one
Sunday and to walk the next Sunday. That would be fair. I'm his
little girl same as I am yours, Uncle Shad, ain't I?"
Shadrach was stumped, and he went to church that Sunday morning.
The sermon had nothing to do with Jonah or the whale, so his
feelings were not ruffled. Zoeth was mightily pleased and Mary-
'Gusta was happy because he was. The plan of alternate Sundays was
adopted. It was but one instance of the "managing" quality which
the girl possessed. Isaiah declared that she wound all hands around
her little finger, but even he seemed to enjoy the winding.
As she grew older Mary-'Gusta learned more and more concerning her
uncles, their habits, their contrasting temperaments and their past
history. She learned a little of Hall and Company, the prosperous
firm of which they had been partners, with Marcellus Hall, her
stepfather, as the head. Isaiah told her a little concerning the
firm: "No bigger on Cape Cod," he declared. She asked why it had
not continued in business. Mr. Chase brusquely answered that it
hadn't, that's all, and would not give any particulars. She
questioned the steward concerning Shadrach and Zoeth. The former
had never married; that was funny; why hadn't he? Isaiah said he
did not know. Hadn't Uncle Zoeth ever married, either? Yes, Zoeth
"Who did--" began Mary-'Gusta, but Isaiah cut short the catechizing.
"You mustn't ask such questions," he declared.
"Why mustn't I?"
"'Cause you mustn't. Your uncles wouldn't like it a mite if they
knew you was pryin' into their affairs. You mustn't ever say a word
about your Uncle Zoeth's gettin' married."
"Wouldn't he like me any more if I did?"
"No, you bet he wouldn't; he'd--I don't know's he wouldn't come to
hate you. And you mustn't say it to Cap'n Shad neither."
The idea of being hated by Uncle Zoeth was a dreadful one and Mary-
'Gusta avoided the tabooed subject. But she thought about it a good
deal. She noticed that in neither of the two lots in the cemetery,
one where the Goulds were buried and the other the Hamiltons, was a
stone erected to the memory of the "beloved wife of Zoeth Hamilton,"
although other beloved wives of the former generations were
commemorated. This seemed odd. As her education progressed she
read more and more and from her reading she built up several
imaginative romances with Zoeth as the hero, and as the heroines
beautiful creatures who had died young, in shipwreck, probably, and
whose names were not to be mentioned because. . . . She could not
find a satisfactory solution of the because. Shipwreck or burial at
sea she deduced from the fact of there being no grave in the
cemetery. Mothers and fathers of several of her schoolmates had
been buried at sea. Perhaps the late Mrs. Hamilton had been so
buried. But Zoeth had never been a seafaring man.
One Saturday afternoon--she was about ten years old at the time--she
was in the garret. The garret had taken the place of the old surrey
at Ostable, and thither she retired when she wished to be alone to
read, or play, or study. This afternoon she was rummaging through
the old trunks and sea chests in search of a costume for Rose. It
was to be a masculine costume, of course, for there was no feminine
apparel in that garret, but in the games which the girl played when
alone with her dolls, Rose, the largest of the family, was
frequently obliged to change her sex with her raiment.
Mary-'Gusta had ransacked these trunks and chests pretty thoroughly
on previous occasions, but this time she made a discovery. In an
old trunk which had obviously belonged to Captain Shadrach she found
a sort of pocket on the under side of the lid, a pocket closing with
a flap and a catch. In this pocket were some papers, old receipts
and the like, and a photograph. The photograph interested her
exceedingly. It was yellow and faded but still perfectly distinct.
There was a large building standing on posts fixed in the sand, and
beyond it were wharves and a glimpse of schooners and the sea.
Barrels, a good many barrels, were piled upon the wharves and at the
end of the building. Over the door was the sign, "Hall and Company,
Wholesale Fish Dealers."
This sign of itself was interesting enough. Evidently here was the
place where her stepfather and Captain Gould and Mr. Hamilton had
done business years before. But more interesting still was the
group of men standing on the platform under the sign. There were
four of these men, dressed in clothes and hats which--especially the
hats--looked queer and old-fashioned now. Two of the men Mary-
'Gusta recognized, or thought she did. They were Captain Shadrach
and Mr. Hamilton. Much younger they looked, of course; their hair
was not gray and Zoeth wore a beard, while Shadrach had only a
mustache. But, in spite of these things and the odd clothes they
wore, she was sure she recognized them. And, having recognized
them, she also recognized the man in the center of the group as her
stepfather, Captain Marcellus Hall. The fourth man, evidently
younger than the others, a handsome, square-shouldered chap in his
shirtsleeves, she did not know.
She turned the photograph over. On its back was written:
Firm of Hall and Company. Taken August 19th, 1877.
Zoeth J. Hamilton
Edgar S. Farmer
Shadrach B. Gould.
The names were in differing handwritings. Evidently each man had
signed the photograph.
Mary-'Gusta scrutinized the photograph again. Then, with it in her
hand, she descended to the kitchen. Isaiah was sitting in a chair
by the stove reading a newspaper.
"Mr. Chase," said Mary-'Gusta, "who was Edgar S. Farmer?"
If that kitchen chair had been the never-to-be-forgotten piece of
furniture with the music box beneath it and that box had started to
play, Isaiah could not have risen more promptly. He literally
jumped to his feet and the paper flew from his hands. He whirled
upon the questioner.
"What?" he demanded. "What's that you said?"
He was pale, actually pale. Mary-'Gusta was frightened.
"Why--why, I just asked--" she faltered, "I just asked who--who--
What CAN be the matter, Mr. Chase?"
Isaiah waved his hand. "WHAT did you ask?" he demanded.
"I asked--I asked who Edgar S. Farmer was, that's all. I didn't
mean--I didn't know--"
"Be still! Be still, for mercy sakes! What do you know about Ed
Farmer? Who told you about him?"
The girl was more frightened than ever. Isaiah's next move did not
tend to reassure her. He strode to the door, looked up the lane,
and closed and locked the door before she could find words to
"Now, then," he said, coming close to her and looking her straight
in the face, "who told you about Ed Farmer?"
"Nobody told me. Honest, they didn't."
"Somebody must have told you; else how did you know?"
Mary-'Gusta hesitatingly held up the photograph. "It's written on
this," she said.
Mr. Chase snatched it from her hand. He looked at the picture and
then at her.
"It's written on the back," went on the girl.
Isaiah turned the photograph over.
"Humph!" he said suspiciously. "I see. Who gave this to you?"
"Nobody gave it to me. I found it in an old trunk up in the attic."
"Humph! You did, eh? Well, I swan to man! Have you showed it to
anybody else but me?"
"No, sir. Honest, I haven't. I just found it this minute."
"Well, I swan, that's lucky. 'Twas in a trunk, eh? Whose trunk?"
"One of Uncle Shad's, I guess."
"Humph! I presume likely. Well, what made you ask about--about the
one you did ask about?"
"I knew who the others were. I knew my father and Uncle Zoeth and
Uncle Shad. But I didn't know who the Farmer one was. It says
'Firm of Hall and Company,' and all those names are signed. So I
thought maybe Mr. Farmer was--"
Never you mind who he was. He was a darned blackguard and his name
ain't mentioned in this house. That's all I can tell you and you
mustn't ask any more questions. Why, if your Uncle Zoeth--yes, or
your Uncle Shad either--was to hear you askin' about him--they'd--I
don't know what they'd do. I'm goin' to tear this thing up."
He would have torn the photograph across, but the girl seized his
"Oh, no, you mustn't," she cried. "Please don't. It isn't mine.
It belongs to Uncle Shad. You mustn't tear it--give it to me."
Isaiah hesitated. "Give it to you?" he repeated. "What'll you do
"I'll put it right back where I found it. Truly, I will. I will,
honest, Mr. Chase."
Isaiah reflected. Then, and with considerable reluctance, he handed
her the photograph.
"All right," he said, "only be sure you do it. And look here, Mary-
'Gusta, don't you ever touch it again and don't you ever tell either
of your uncles or anybody else that you found it. You hear?"
Mary-'Gusta said that she heard. She ran to the garret and replaced
the photograph in the pocket of the trunk. She did not mention it
again nor did Isaiah, but thereafter when her active imagination
constructed a life romance with Mr. Zoeth Hamilton as its hero, that
romance contained a villain also, and the villain's name was Edgar
S. Farmer. And the firm of Hall and Company, her father's firm, had
a fourth and most mysterious partner who was a blackguard.
The summers and winters came and went and Mary-'Gusta's birthdays
came and went with them. She grew taller and more mature. Her
place as assistant housekeeper was recognized now and even Isaiah
consulted her on matters of household management. As for her
uncles, she managed them whether consulted or not. They took the
place of the discarded dolls; she was too old for dolls now,
although David was still mothered and petted as much as ever. But
when Uncle Zoeth had a cold it was she who insisted upon his
wrapping up and saw that the wraps were ready, and if Uncle Shad was
caught wearing socks with holes in them he was scolded and supplied
with fresh ones. She selected the clothes they should wear and
insisted that they black their boots on Sunday. She helped them in
the store and it became occasionally possible for them to leave that
place of business at the same time without engaging the services of
Annabel. At first the partners, Captain Shadrach especially,
protested against the supervision and the innovations, but Mary-
'Gusta tactfully and diplomatically carried each point, and, after a
time, the Captain ceased to protest and accepted the inevitable
almost with meekness.
"No use, Zoeth," he said on one occasion; "I've talked and talked
but I'm wearin' the necktie just the same. I told her 'twas too
good to wear weekdays and it ought to be saved for Sunday, but it
ain't Sunday and I've got it on. She said 'twas becomin' and the
one I've been wearin' wasn't and that she crocheted it for me and I
don't know what all. So here I am. Got so I ain't even boss of my
"Well, 'tis becomin'," observed Zoeth. "And she did crochet it for
you. I noticed you didn't stop her tyin' it on you even while you
was vowin' you wouldn't wear it."
Shadrach sighed. "To think," he groaned, "that I, Cap'n Shad Gould,
a man that's handled as many fo'mast hands as I have, should come to
be led around by the nose by a slip of a girl! By fire, I--I can't
hardly believe it. It's disgraceful."
Zoeth smiled. "Oh, be still, Shadrach," he said. "You bear up
under the disgrace as well as anybody ever I saw. You know
perfectly well you was tickled to death to have her tie that necktie
on you. You was grinnin' like a Chessy cat all the time."
"I wasn't, neither. I was chokin', not grinnin'. You don't know a
grin from a choke."
Zoeth changed the subject. "It's a mighty pretty necktie," he
declared. "There ain't anybody in this town, unless it's Philander
Bearse's wife, that can crochet any better'n that girl of ours."
Shadrach snorted. "What are you talkin' about?" he demanded. "Etta
Bearse never saw the day she could crochet like that. No, nor do
anything else so well, either. Look at the way our candy trade has
picked up since Mary-'Gusta fixed up the showcase. You cal'lated
'twas all right the way 'twas afore and thought 'twas foolish to
change, but she changed it and--well, we've sold a third again as
Zoeth's smile broadened. "Seems as if I remember your sayin' a few
things about that showcase," he remarked. "You gave me fits for
lettin' her fuss with it. Annabel was in t'other day and she said
folks thought 'twas queer enough our lettin' a thirteen-year-old
child run our store for us."
"She did, eh? She's jealous, that's what ails her. And to think of
HER sayin' it. That Annabel's all brass, like a ship's spyglass.
By the jumpin' Judas! I'm proud of that showcase and I'm proud of
Mary-'Gusta. She don't make many mistakes: I can't remember of her
"Neither can I, not even in neckties. There, there, Shadrach! I
know you. You talk about disgrace and such, but you're as crazy
about Mary-'Gusta as--as--"
"As you are, eh? Well, maybe I am, Zoeth. When she was first
willed to us, as you might say, I used to wonder how we'd ever get
along with her; now I wonder how we got along without her. If she
should be--er--took away from us, I don't know--"
"Sshh, shh, Shadrach! Don't talk about anything like that."
Mary-'Gusta was making good progress at school. At fourteen she
graduated from the grammar school and in the fall was to enter the
high school. She was popular among her mates, although she never
At picnics and church sociables she had always a small circle about
her and the South Harniss boys were prominent in that circle. But
Mary-'Gusta, although she liked boys and girls well enough, never
showed a liking for one more than the other and she was too busy at
the house and in the store to have her young friends hanging about.
They bothered her, she said. As for having a particular friend of
the other sex, which some of the girls in her class no older than
she seemed to think a necessary proof of being in their teens, she
laughed at the idea. She had her adopted uncles and Isaiah to take
care of and boy beaux were silly. Talking about them as these girls
did was sillier still.
That summer--the summer preceding Mary-'Gusta's fifteenth birthday--
was the liveliest South Harniss had known. The village was
beginning to feel the first symptoms of its later boom as a summer
resort. A number of cottages had been built for people from Boston
and New York and Chicago, and there was talk of a new hotel. Also
there was talk of several new stores, but Hamilton and Company were
inclined to believe this merely talk and did not worry about it.
Their trade was unusually brisk and the demand for Mary-'Gusta's
services as salesgirl interfered considerably with her duties as
One fine, clear July morning she came up to the store early in order
that the partners might go down to the house for breakfast. They
had gone and she had just finished placing on the counters and in
other likely spots about the store sheets of sticky fly paper.
Flies are a nuisance in South Harniss in midsummer and Captain Shad
detested them. Just as the last sheet was laid in place, a young
fellow and a girl came in. Mary-'Gusta recognized them both. The
girl was the seventeen-year-old daughter of a wealthy summer
resident, a Mr. Keith from Chicago. The Keiths had a fine cottage
on the bluff at the other end of the village. The young chap with
her was, so gossip reported, a college friend of her brother. His
surname was prosaic enough, being Smith, but his first name was
Crawford and his home was somewhere in the Far West. He was big and
good-looking, and the Boston papers mentioned him as one of the most
promising backs on the Harvard Freshman eleven. Next year, so the
sporting writers opined, he would almost certainly make the Varsity
team. Most of Mary-'Gusta's feminine friends and acquaintances
rated him "perfectly splendid" and regarded Edna Keith with envious
This morning both he and the Keith girl were arrayed in the gayest
of summer regalia. Young Smith's white flannel trousers were
carefully creased, his blue serge coat was without a wrinkle, his
tie and socks were a perfect match, and his cap was of a style which
the youth of South Harniss might be wearing the following summer,
but not this one. Take him "by and large," as Captain Shadrach
would have said, Crawford Smith was an immaculate and beautiful
exhibit; of which fact he, being eighteen years of age, was
doubtless quite aware.
He and the Keith girl were, so Mary-'Gusta learned, a committee of
two selected to purchase certain supplies for a beach picnic, a
combination clambake and marshmallow toast, which was to take place
over at Setuckit Point that day. Sam Keith, Edna's brother, and the
other members of the party had gone on to Jabez Hedges' residence,
where Jabez had promised to meet them with the clams and other
things for the bake. Edna and her escort, having made their
purchases at Hamilton and Company's, were to join them at the "clam-
man's." Then the whole party was to go down to the wharf and the
Miss Edna, who was a talkative damsel, informed Mary-'Gusta of these
facts at once. Also she announced that they must hurry like
"You see," she said, "we told Sam and the rest we'd be at the clam-
man's in ten minutes, and, if we're not there, Sam will be awfully
cross. He hates to wait for people. And we've been too long
already. It's all your fault, Crawford; you would stop to hear that
fruit man talk. I told you you mustn't."
The "fruit man" was Mr. Gaius Small, and, although he stammered, he
loved the sound of his own voice. The demand for a dozen oranges
furnished Gaius with subject sufficient for a lengthy monologue--
"forty drawls and ten stutters to every orange," quoting Captain
"I told you you mustn't get him started," went on Miss Keith,
gushingly. "He'll talk forever if he has a chance. But you would
do it. Asking him if he kept pomegranates and bread-fruit! The
idea! I'm sure he doesn't know what a pomegranate is. You were SO
solemn and he was SO ridiculous! I thought I should DIE. You
really are the drollest person, Crawford Smith! I don't know what I
shall do with you."
It was evident that her opinion of young Smith was not different
from that of other young ladies of her age. Also that Crawford
himself was not entirely unconscious of that opinion. At eighteen,
to be set upon a pedestal and worshiped, to have one's feeblest joke
hailed as a masterpiece of wit, is dangerous for the idol; the
effort of sustaining the elevated position entails the risk of a
fall. Crawford was but eighteen and a good fellow, but he had been
worshiped a good deal. He was quite as sensible as other young
chaps of his age, which statement means exactly that and no more.
"Well," he said, with a complacent grin, "we learned how to
pronounce 'pomegranate' at any rate. You begin with a pup-pup-pup,
as if you were calling a dog, and you finish with a grunt like a
pig. I wish I had asked him for a persimmon; then he'd have made a
noise like a cat."
Miss Keith, when she recovered from her spasm of merriment, declared
her companion "perfectly killing."
"But we must hurry," she said. "We really must Crawford, you buy
the things. I should think of that fruit man and laugh all the
time, I know I should."
She remained by the door and the young gentleman strolled to the
counter. He cast an amused glance about the store; its display of
stock was, thanks to Mary-'Gusta's recent efforts at tidiness, not
quite the conglomerate mass it had been when the partners were
solely responsible, but the variety was still strikingly obvious.
"Humph!" observed Crawford; "I've forgotten what we came to buy, but
I'm sure it is here, whatever it is. Some emporium, this!
Introduce me to the proprietor, will you, Edna?"
"She isn't the proprietor," she said. "She is just the clerk,
that's all. Her name is--I've forgotten your name, dear. What is
"Mary Lathrop," replied Mary-'Gusta, shortly. She objected to being
addressed as "dear" and she strongly objected to the patronizing
tone in which it was uttered. Edna Keith was older than she, but
not old enough to patronize.
"Oh, yes, so it is," said the young lady. "But that isn't what
everyone calls you. They call you something else--something funny--
Oh, I know! Mary-'Gusta, that's it. I knew it was funny. Mary-
'Gusta, this is Mr. Smith. He wants to buy some things. And he's
in a GREAT hurry."
"Charmed, Mary-'Gusta," said Mr. Smith. Mary'-Gusta did not appear
charmed. She asked him what he wanted.
"Search ME," said the young gentleman, cheerfully. "There was a
list, wasn't there, Edna? You have it, I think."
Edna produced the list, scrawled in pencil on the back of an
envelope. Crawford looked it over.
"Sam's writing isn't exactly print," he observed, "but I can guess
at it. Let's see--a pound of butter. Where's the butter department
of this Bon Marche, Edna?"
Edna, after another convulsion, declared she didn't know.
"No doubt Miss--er--Mary Jane knows," went on her companion. "Why,
yes, of course she does. Right there, behind the oilskin jacket.
Remove jacket, open door--behold, the icebox and the butter. Neat,
compact, and convenient. One pound only, Elizabeth Eliza. Thank
"Her name isn't Elizabeth Eliza," giggled Miss Keith. "Isn't he
awful, Mary-'Gusta! You mustn't mind him."
"I don't," said Mary-'Gusta, promptly. "What else do you want?"
Crawford consulted the list. "The next item," he said, "appears to
be a--er--certain kind of ham. I blush to mention it, but I must.
It is deviled ham. Have you that kind of ham, Mary-'Gusta?"
Mary-'Gusta took the can of deviled ham from the shelf. Crawford
shook his head.
"To think that one so young should be so familiar with ham of that
kind!" he said. "She didn't speak its name, though. Suppose I had
asked you what kind of ham you had, Miss--er--'Gusta how would you
have got around it?"
Mary-'Gusta did not answer. She was very angry, but she was
determined that her tormentor should not know it.
"A young lady of few words," commented Mr. Smith. "Next item
appears to be six boxes of marshmallows. Where is the marshmallow
department, Mary Jane?"
Mary-'Gusta hesitated. The tin boxes of marshmallows were on the
shelf behind the counter under the candy case. But there was a
fresh assortment in an unopened packing box in the back room, a box
which had just come from the wholesale confectioner's in Boston.
Her Uncle Zoeth had expressed a fear that those beneath the counter
were rather stale.
Miss Keith fidgeted. "Oh, dear!" she exclaimed. "This is SO slow.
I know Sam and the rest won't wait for us at the clam-man's much
Her companion whistled. "Is the word 'hurry' in the South Harniss
dictionary, Edna?" he inquired. "How about it, Mary Jane?"
Mary-'Gusta was determined not to hurry. This superior young man
wished her to do so and that was reason sufficient for delay.
Young Smith sighed resignedly. "Edna," he said, "suppose we sit
down. The word is NOT in the dictionary."
There was but one chair, except those behind the counters, in the
store. Miss Keith took that with an exclamation of impatience.
Crawford Smith, whistling a mournful dirge, sauntered to the end of
the counter and sat down upon a nail keg.
Mary-'Gusta also uttered an exclamation. It is well to look before
one leaps, also, occasionally, before one sits. That keg had,
spread across its top, a sheet of the fresh and very sticky fly
paper. Before she could have protested, even if she had wished to
do so, the young gentleman's spotless white flannels and the fly
paper came in contact, close and clinging contact.
Mary-'Gusta put a hand to her mouth. Crawford looked at her, caught
the direction of her look, and looked in that direction himself.
His whistle stopped in the middle of a note and his face immediately
became a match for his socks and tie, a beautiful rich crimson, the
chosen color of his University.
Miss Keith, from her seat by the door, could not see beyond the end
of the counter. Consequently she was unaware of the mishap to the
white flannels. But Mary-'Gusta saw and knew; also she could see
that Mr. Smith knew.
"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Edna, impatiently. "We are dreadfully late
now. We'll never get there on time. Sam won't wait for us; I know
he won't. Where are those marshmallows? Can't you please hurry,
Mary-'Gusta's eyes were sparkling. Her manner was provokingly
deliberate. She took a box of marshmallows from beneath the
"There are some here," she said, "but I'm afraid they aren't very
fresh. The fresh ones, those that have just come, are in a box in
the back room. That box hasn't been opened yet. If you can wait
I'll open it for you."
Young Smith said nothing. Miss Keith, however, spoke her mind.
"Of course we can't wait," she declared. "I'm sure these will do.
They will do, won't they, Crawford?"
And still Crawford remained silent. Mary-'Gusta, who was enjoying
this portion of the interview as much as she had disliked its
beginning, offered a suggestion.
"If you will just come here and look at these," she said, with
mischievous gravity, addressing the young gentleman on the nail keg,
"perhaps you can tell whether they're fresh enough."
The young gentleman did not rise. His face retained its brilliant
color and his lips moved, but his answer was not audible. At his
age the dread of appearing ridiculous, especially in the presence of
a youthful and charming female, is above all others hateful. And
Edna Keith was not the only girl in the picnic party; there were
others. She would be certain to tell them. Crawford Smith foresaw
a horrible day, a day of disgrace and humiliation, one in which he
was destined to furnish amusement without sharing the fun. And Sam
Keith, who had remarked upon the splendor of his friend's attire,
would gloat--not only here in South Harniss, but elsewhere--in
Cambridge, for instance. An older man would have risen, laughed
whether he felt like laughing or not--and have expressed his opinion
of fly paper. Crawford was not yet a man; he was in the transition
stage, a boy fondly hoping that other people might think him a man.
So he sat still until it was too late to rise, and then wished he
had risen in the first place.
"My goodness!" exclaimed the fidgety Miss Keith, "why don't you look
at them, Crawford? What are you waiting for?"
Mary-'Gusta, the box of marshmallows in her hand, regarded the boy
on the nail keg. His eyes met hers and in them was a look of such
utter misery that the girl relented. Her feeling of satisfied
resentment changed to one almost of pity. She had been made to feel
ridiculous herself at various times in her short life and she
remembered the sensation. Mary-'Gusta, as has been mentioned before
in this history, was old for her years.
She considered a moment. Then she thrust the box beneath the
"I guess I'd better not sell you those, anyway," she said with
decision. "Uncle Zoeth said they weren't fresh. I'll open the case
in the back room."
Edna stamped her foot.
"We can't wait for that," she declared. "We must go without them, I
suppose. Oh, dear! And they depended on us to get them. It's so
provoking. Now we can't have any toast at all and it would have
been such fun."
Mary-'Gusta glanced once more at the occupant of the keg.
"I was thinking," she said, slowly, "that you needn't both wait
unless you wanted to. Perhaps Miss Keith might go on and tell the
others and--er--Mr. Smith could stay here until I opened the box.
Then he could meet you at the boat."
Edna hesitated. "Shall I, Crawford?" she asked.
Her companion did not hesitate. "I think perhaps you'd better,
Edna," he said. "I--I guess I won't be long."
Miss Keith hurried out. Mary-'Gusta turned her attention to the
"You can get up now," she said. "Some of it will tear off, anyway,
and if you hurry you will have time to run home and change your--
Crawford was evidently much surprised, also his embarrassment was
not lessened; but he rose.
"Then--then you knew?" he stammered.
"Of course I knew. I saw you sit down on it, didn't I? If I'd
known what you were going to do I'd have told you to look out. But
you did it so quick I couldn't. Now tear off as much as you can."
The young gentleman obeyed orders. "Does it show much?" he queried.
"I can't see. Is there much left?"
Mary-'Gusta smiled. His contortions were as violent as they were
vain. "There's enough," she said simply. "Here are the things you
bought. Now go out of the back door and cut across the fields.
It's the shortest way home."
Mr. Smith took his various parcels, including the six boxes of
marshmallows which Mary-'Gusta produced from beneath the counter.
"I thought you said these were stale," he observed, wonderingly.
"I said they weren't real fresh, but they're fresh enough for a
toast. I said that so that the Keith girl wouldn't wait. I didn't
think you wanted her to."
"You bet your life I didn't! So that's why you said you would have
to open the other box? Just--just to help me out?"
"Yes. Now don't stop any longer. You'll have to run, you know. Go
out the back way."
Crawford started for the door of the back room, but at that door he
"Say," he said, feelingly, "this is mighty white of you, do you know
it? And after the way I guyed you when I first came in! I guess I
was rather fresh, wasn't I?"
"Yes, you were."
"Yes, yes, I guess I was. I thought you were just a country kid,
you know, and I--say, by George, you WERE white. If I'd been you
I'd have got square. You had the chance; 'twould have served me
right for playing the smart Aleck. I beg your pardon. You're all
RIGHT! And I'm awfully sorry I was such a chump."
It was a straightforward, honest apology and confession of fault.
Mary-'Gusta was pleased, but she did not show it. He had referred
to her as a kid and she did not like that.
"If you don't hurry--yes, and run like everything," she said, "you
won't have time to get home and change and meet the others at the
boat. And somebody else will see you, too. You'd better go."
The young man went without further delay. Mary'-Gusta watching from
the back door saw him racing across the fields in the direction of
the Keith cottage. When her uncles returned she said nothing of the
occurrence. She considered it funny, but she knew Crawford Smith
did not, and she was sure he would prefer to have the secret kept.
The following afternoon the partners of Hamilton and Company
entertained a caller at the store. That evening Shadrach spoke of
the call to Mary-'Gusta.
"That young Smith feller that's been visitin' the Keiths was in
today," said the Captain. "Didn't want to buy nothin'; said he just
happened in, that's all. Asked where you was, he did. I didn't
know he knew you, Mary-'Gusta."
Mary-'Gusta, who was busy clearing the supper table, answered
without looking round. "He and Edna Keith bought some things at the
store yesterday," she said.
"Yes, so he said. He said tell you everything was all right and he
had a fine time at the picnic. Seemed to cal'late you was a pretty
bright girl. We knew that afore, of course, but it was nice of him
to say so. He's leavin' on tomorrow mornin's train. Goin' way out
West, he is, to Nevada; that's where he and his dad live. His ma's
dead, so he told us. Must be tough to live so fur off from salt
water: I couldn't stand it, I know that. Funny thing about that
young feller, too; his face looked sort of familiar to me and Zoeth.
Seemed as if he looked like somebody we knew, but of course we
didn't know any of his folks; we don't know any Smiths from way off
The subject was dropped for the time, but two days later the
expressman brought a package to the house. The package was
addressed to Miss Mary Augusta Lathrop and contained a five-pound
basket of expensive chocolates and bonbons. There was a note with
it which read as follows:
Hope you'll like these. They are fresh, at least Huyler's people
swear they are, but I don't believe they are as good as those
marshmallows. And I KNOW they are not as fresh as a certain person
was at a certain time. Please eat them and forget the other
You were a perfect little brick not to tell.
Mary-'Gusta was obliged to tell then, but she made her uncles and
Isaiah promise not to do so. She, with the able assistance of the
other members of the household, ate the contents of the basket in
due time. The basket itself was taken to the parlor, where it was
given a place beside the other curiosities. As for the note, that
disappeared. And yet, if one had investigated the contents of the
small drawer of Mary-'Gusta's bureau, where she kept her most
intimate treasures, the mystery of its disappearance might have been
It was the only epistle of its kind the girl had yet received; and,
after all, good-looking young college men are what they are. And
Mary-'Gusta, in spite of her queerness, was feminine--and human.
When Mary-'Gusta was seventeen a great event took place. The
happening which led to it was trivial enough, but the results were
important and far-reaching. They led to the second great change in
her life, a change as important as that brought about by her
memorable "visit" to South Harniss.
She was a girl in years still, but tall for her age, and in thought
and manner almost a young woman. Her management of her uncles and
Isaiah was now complete. They no longer protested, even to each
other, against the management and, in fact, gloried in it. The cook
and steward accepted her orders concerning the daily marketing and
he and she audited the monthly bills. The white house by the shore
was a different place altogether now and "chicken-pox tablecloths"
and tarnished silver were things of the forgotten past. At the
store she had become almost a silent partner, and Hamilton and
Company's "emporium" was, thanks to her judgment and tact, if not
yet an up-to-date establishment, at least a shop where commodities
to be sold were in places where they might be seen by prospective
purchasers and readily located by the proprietors.
She spent a good deal of her time, except in school hours, at the
store and much of the buying as well as the selling was done by her.
The drummers representing New York and Boston wholesale houses knew
her and cherished keen respect for her abilities as a selector and
purchaser of goods.
"Say," said one of these gentlemen, after a lengthy session during
which his attempts to work off several "stickers" had been
frustrated by Mary-'Gusta's common sense and discernment--"Say, that
girl of yours is a wonder, do you know it? She's the sharpest buyer
I ever run across on my trips down here. I don't take a back seat
for anybody when it comes to selling goods, and there's mighty
little I can't sell; but I can't bluff her. She knows what's what,
you hear me!"
Shadrach, to whom this remark was made, chuckled. "You bet you!" he
declared, with enthusiasm. "Anybody that gets ahead of our Mary-
'Gusta has got to turn out afore the mornin' watch. She's smart.
Zoeth and me ain't aboard the same craft with her."
"I should say not. And you can't get gay with her, either. Most
girls of her age and as good a looker as she is don't object to a
little ragging: they're used to it and they like it--but not her.
She isn't fishing for boxes of candy or invitations to dances. That
line of talk means good-by and no sale where she is. Business and
just business, that's all there is to her. How long are you goin'
to keep her here?"
"How long? Why, forever, I hope. What are you talkin' about?"
The drummer winked. "That's all right," he observed. "You want to
keep her, I don't doubt: but one of these days somebody else'll be
wanting her more than you do. Mr. Right'll be coming along here
some time and then--good night! She's young yet, but in a couple of
years she'll be a queen and then--well, then maybe I'll stand a
better chance of unloading those last summer caps the house has got
in stock. Girls like her don't stay single and keep store; there's
too much demand and not enough competition. Gad! If I wasn't an
antique and married already I don't know but I'd be getting into
line. That's what!"
Captain Shadrach was inclined to be angry, but, although he would
not have admitted it, he realized the truth of this frank statement.
Mary-'Gusta was pretty, she was more than that, and the line was
already forming. Jimmie Bacheldor had long ago ceased to be a
competitor; that friendship had ended abruptly at the time of
David's narrow escape; but there were others, plenty of them.
Daniel Higgins, son of Mr. Solomon Higgins, the local lumber dealer
and undertaker, was severely smitten. Dan was at work in Boston,
where he was engaged in the cheerful and remunerative business of
selling coffins for the American Casket Company. He was diligent
and active and his future promised to be bright, at least so his
proud father boasted. He came home for holidays and vacations and
his raiment was anything but funereal, but Mary-'Gusta was not
impressed either by the raiment or the personality beneath it. She
treated the persistent Daniel as a boy and a former schoolmate.
When he assumed manly airs she laughed at him and when he invited
her to accompany him to the Cattle Show at Ostable she refused and
said she was going with Uncle Zoeth.
Dan Higgins was not the only young fellow who found the store of
Hamilton and Company an attractive lounging place. Some of the
young gentlemen not permanent residents of South Harniss also
appeared to consider it a pleasant place to visit on Summer
afternoons. They came to buy, of course, but they remained to chat.
Mary-'Gusta might have sailed or picknicked a good deal and in the
best of company, socially speaking, if she had cared to do so. She
did not so care.
"They don't want me, Uncle Shad," she said. "And I don't want to
"Course they want you," declared Shadrach, stoutly. "If they didn't
want you they wouldn't ask you, 'tain't likely. And I heard that
young Keith feller askin' you to go out sailin' with him this very
"You didn't hear his sister ask me, did you? There, there, Uncle
Shad, don't worry about me. I'm having a good time; a very much
better time than if I went sailing with the Keiths."
"What's the matter with the Keiths? They're as nice folks as come
to South Harniss."
"Of course they are."
"Well, then! And you're as good as they are, ain't you?"
"I hope so. Uncle Shad, why don't you wear a white flannel suit in
hot weather? Mr. Keith, Sam's father, wore one at the church garden
party the other day."
The Captain stared at her. "Why don't I wear--what?" he stammered.
"A white flannel suit. You're as good as Mr. Keith, aren't you?"
"I guess I am. I don't know why I ain't. But what kind of a
question's that? I'd look like a plain fool tagged out in one of
them things: anyway, I'd feel like one. I don't belong in a white
flannel suit. I ain't no imitation dude."
"And I don't belong in Sam Keith's yacht. At least Mr. Keith and
Edna would feel that I didn't. I don't want to be considered an
Shadrach shook his head. "You ain't like anybody else," he said.
"You're a funny girl, Mary-'Gusta."
"I suppose I am; but I'm not as funny as I should be if I tried to
BE somebody else. No, Uncle Shad, you'll just have to bear with me
as I am, funniness and all."
A few days after this Keith, senior, came into the store. He was
not arrayed in the white flannels but was wearing a rather shabby
but very comfortable tweed jacket and trousers and a white canvas
hat of the kind which Hamilton and Company sold for fifty cents.
His shirt was of the soft-collared variety and his shoes were what
South Harniss called "sneakers."
John Keith's visits to Cape Cod were neither very frequent nor
lengthy. His wife and family came in June and remained until late
September, but his sojourns were seldom longer than a week at a time
and there were intervals of a month or more between them. In
Chicago he was the head of a large business and that business
demanded close attention. When he left it he left his cares with it
and enjoyed himself in his own way. That way included old clothes,
golf, a boat, and just as few tea and garden parties as his wife
He was planning a fishing trip and had stopped at the store to buy
some tobacco. The partners had gone home for dinner and Mary-'Gusta
was tending shop. At that moment she was busy with the traveling
representative of Messrs. Bernstein, Goldberg and Baun, of
Providence, wholesale dealers in stationery, cards and novelties.
The time was August, but Mr. Kron, the drummer, was already booking
orders for the Christmas season. His samples were displayed upon
the counter and he and Mary-'Gusta were deep in conversation.
"That's what you ought to have," declared Mr. Kron, with enthusiasm.
"Believe me, there's goin' to be some call for that line of stuff
this year. The house can't turn 'em out fast enough."
"But what is it?" asked Mary-'Gusta. "What's it for?"
"It's a combination calendar and beauty-box," explained Mr. Kron.
"Hang it on the wall by your bureau--see? In the mornin' you can't
remember what day it is. All right, there's the calendar. Then you
want to doll yourself up for--well, for the party you're goin' to--"
"The same morning?" interrupted Mary-'Gusta.
Mr. Kron grinned. He was a young man and this was his first trip in
that section. His clothes were neither modest nor retiring and he,
himself, did not suffer from these failings. Also he prided himself
on having a way with the ladies, especially the younger ladies. And
Mary-'Gusta was distinctly the most attractive young person he had
met on this trip.
He laughed in appreciation of the joke.
"Say," he observed, admiringly, "you're up to the minute, ain't you!
You're some kidder, all right. Are there many more in this burg
like you? If there are I'm goin' to move in and settle down.
Mary-'Gusta did not laugh, nor did she answer. Instead, she turned
to the gentleman who had entered the store.
"Good morning, Mr. Keith," she said. "Was there anything you
Keith smiled. "No hurry," he said. "I've got a little time to kill
and if you don't mind I'll kill it here. I'll sit down and wait, if
I may. That boatman of mine will be along pretty soon."
He took the chair by the door. Mr. Kron continued his exploitation
of the combination calendar and beauty-box.
"You are goin' to a party," he went on, "either that night or that
afternoon or sometime. Sure you are! Girls like you ain't handed
the go-by on many parties in this neck of the woods--am I right?
Well, then, when the time comes, you pull down the flap. There's
your beauty-box, lookin'-glass, powder puff and powder, all
complete. Now a novelty like that will sell--"
"We couldn't use it," interrupted Mary-'Gusta. "Show me something
Mr. Kron, disappointed but far from discouraged, showed her
something else--many somethings. Concerning each he was
enthusiastic, slangy, and familiar. Mary-'Gusta paid little
attention to slang or enthusiasm; the familiarity she ignored
utterly. She selected several of the novelties, a rather extensive
line of Christmas cards, and in the matters of price and cash
discounts was keen and businesslike. Keith watched and listened, at
first with amusement, then with growing admiration for the girl's
simplicity and good sense.
Mr. Kron's admiration was outspoken.
"Say," he said, as he repacked his samples, "you're a mighty clever
buyer, do you know it? That line of stuff you've ordered is the
cream, that's what it is. You made a mistake in not layin' in a
dozen or two of those combination beauty-boxes, but that's all
right. Here, have one for yourself. Take it with my compliments."
Mary-'Gusta declined. "No, thank you," she said.
"Why not? It don't come out of my pocket. The firm expects me to
hand out little keepsakes like that. I've been plantin' 'em with
the girls all the way down."
"No, thank you," she replied.
Mr. Kron, having finished his business as representative of Messrs.
Bernstein, Goldberg and Baun, attempted a stroke of his own.
"Say," he said, "I've got a little spare time on my hands this
evenin'; I shan't make the next town until tomorrow. There's a new
movie theater just opened over to Orham. They tell me it's all to
the mustard. I can hire a rig here and you and me might drive over
tonight and take it in. What do you say, Kid?"
"No, thank you," said Mary-'Gusta again.
"No, thank you. Good day."
She turned away to enter the order she had just given in a book on
the desk. Mr. Kron tried again, but she did not appear to hear him.
He grinned, observed "Oh, very well!" and, with a wink at Mr. Keith,
went out, a suitcase in each hand.
Keith rose from the chair and, walking over to the counter,
requested to be supplied with the tobacco he had come to buy. Mary-
'Gusta gave it to him. Her cheeks were red and Keith was surprised
to notice that she looked almost as if she would like to cry. He
guessed the reason.
"That young man will get himself thoroughly kicked some day," he
observed; "I'm not sure that I oughtn't to have done it myself just
now. He annoyed you, I'm afraid."
Mary-'Gusta answered without looking at him.
"That's all right," she said. "I'm foolish, I guess. He meant to
be nice, perhaps. Some girls may like that sort of niceness; I
"Why didn't you tell him to get out?"
"I wanted to see his samples. It is time for us to buy our
Christmas things and I had rather choose them myself, that's all."
"Oh! But Mr. Hamilton or the Captain--I should think--"
"Oh, they might have bought some that we couldn't sell."
"The beauty-boxes, for instance?"
Mary-'Gusta smiled. "Why, yes," she admitted; "perhaps."
"I see. But it was rather an ordeal for you. Do you have to endure
much of that sort of thing?"
"No more than any girl who keeps store, I guess."
At the dinner table that evening Keith referred to his experience as
listener in Hamilton and Company's shop.
"That girl with the queer name," he said, "a niece of those two old
chaps who run the place, I believe she is. Do you know anything
about her, Gertrude?"
Before Mrs. Keith could reply, Edna spoke:
"Ask Sam, Dad," she said, mischievously. "Sam knows about her. He
just adores that store; he spends half his time there."
"Nonsense, Edna!" protested Sam, turning red. "I don't do any such
"Oh, yes, you do. And you know about Mary-'Gusta too. He says
she's a peach, Daddy."
"Humph!" grunted her brother, indignantly. "Well, she is one.
She's got every girl in your set skinned a mile for looks. But I
don't know anything about her, of course."
Mrs. Keith broke in. "Skinned a mile!" she repeated, with a
shudder. "Sam, what language you do use! Yes, John," she added,
addressing her husband. "I know the girl well. She's pretty and
she is sensible. For a girl who has had no opportunities and has
lived all her life here in South Harniss she is really quite
remarkable. Why do you speak of her, John?"
Mr. Keith related a part of the conversation between Mary-'Gusta and
"She handled the fellow splendidly," he said. "She talked business
with him and she wouldn't let him talk anything else. But it was
plain enough to see that she felt insulted and angry. It seems a
pity that a girl like that should have to put up with that sort of
thing. I wonder if her uncles, old Mr. Hamilton and Captain
Shadrach, realize what happens when they're not about? How would
they take it, do you think, if I dropped a hint?"
Edna laughed. "You would have to be very careful, Daddy," she said.
"Mr. Hamilton and the Captain idolize Mary-'Gusta and she just
worships them. Besides, she isn't really their niece, you know.
She is a young lady of independent means--at least, so everybody
Her father was surprised. He asked what she meant by "independent
means." Mrs. Keith answered.
"The means are not very extensive, I imagine," she said. "The story
is that this Mary-'Gusta--why they persist in calling her by that
dreadful name I can't understand--is the daughter of a former friend
and partner. Mr. Hamilton and Captain Gould adopted her and she has
lived with them ever since. She has money of her own, though no two
of the townspeople agree as to how much. I've heard it estimated
all the way from five to fifty thousand. She never speaks of it and
those queer old uncles of hers keep their affairs very much to
themselves. But I agree with you, John; it is a shame that she
should have to spend her life here in South Harniss. I think we
ought to do something for her, if we can. I shall think it over."
Mrs. Keith was always doing something for somebody. At home in
Chicago she was president of her women's club and identified with
goodness knows how many charitable societies. In South Harniss she
was active in church and sewing circles. Her enthusiasm was always
great, but her tact was sometimes lacking. South Harniss people,
some of them, were inclined to consider her as a self-appointed boss
interfering where she had no business.
Her husband looked a trifle dubious.
"Be careful, Gertrude," he cautioned. "Look out you don't offend.
These Cape Codders are self-respecting and touchy, you know. Anyone
interfering with their private affairs is likely to get into
His wife resented the warning. "Don't throw cold water on
everything, John," she said. "I know more about Cape Codders than
you do. You only meet them for a few weeks each summer. I flatter
myself that I know them and that they know and trust me. Of COURSE
I shall be careful. And I shall think the Mary-'Gusta matter over."
She did think it over and a week later she came to her husband
overflowing with the excitement of a brilliant idea. A cousin of
hers, a maiden lady of sixty or thereabouts, wealthy and a semi-
invalid who cherished her ill-health, was in need of a female
companion. Mrs. Keith was certain that Mary-'Gusta would be just
the person to fill that need.
Mr. Keith was by no means so certain. He raised some objections.
"Humph," he said. "Well, Gertrude, to be frank, I don't think much
of the scheme. Cousin Clara has had one companion after the other
for thirty years. None of them has stayed with her very long. She
requires a sort of combination friend and lady's maid and secretary
and waitress, and I don't think our Mary-'Gusta would enjoy that
sort of job. I certainly shouldn't--with Clara."
His wife was indignant. "I might have known you would be ready with
the cold water," she declared. "Clara is--well, cranky, and
particular and all that, but the opportunity is wonderful. The girl
would travel and meet the best people--"
"She might remove their wraps, I admit."
"Nonsense! And if Clara took a fancy to her she might leave her a
good sum of money when she died."
"Perhaps, providing the girl didn't die first. No, Gertrude, I'm
sorry to disappoint you, but I don't think much of your idea.
Anyway, according to my belief, you're approaching this thing from
the wrong end. It isn't the girl herself you should try to
influence, but her uncles, or guardians, or whatever they are. If I
know her, and I've been making some inquiries, she won't leave them.
She will consider that they need her at the house and store and
she'll stay. They are the ones to influence. If the matter of her
welfare and future was put to them in the right light they might--
well, they might sacrifice themselves to benefit her."
"Rubbish! I know I'm right. She'll jump at the opportunity. I
shall tell her about it this very afternoon."
"She won't accept; I'll bet on it."
His principal reason for non-belief in Mary-'Gusta's acceptance was
his knowledge of his wife's lack of tact. The girl did not consider
herself, nor was she, a subject of charity. And the position of
combination friend and servant would not appeal to her. John Keith
had an idea of his own concerning Mary-'Gusta, but it could wait
until his wife's had failed.
It failed, of course, and Mrs. Keith, that evening, was indignant
"I never was so treated in my life," she declared. "That girl
didn't know her place at all. I'm through. I wash my hands of the
"Wasn't she polite?" inquired Keith.
"Oh, she was polite enough, as far as that goes, but she wouldn't
even consider my proposal. Wouldn't even hear me through. She said
she had no thought of leaving South Harniss. She was quite
satisfied and contented where she was. One would think I had come
to ask a favor instead of conferring one. Why, she seemed to think
my plan almost ridiculous."
"Did she say so?"
"No, of course she didn't. She thanked me and all that; but she
snubbed me just the same. I'm disgusted. I'm through--absolutely
and completely through trying to help that girl!"
Keith did not say, "I told you so"; in fact, he said little or
nothing more at the time. But a day or two afterwards he called at
the store. Zoeth and Captain Shadrach were alone there, their niece
having gone down to the house, a fact of which the caller was aware.
The partners liked John Keith. They considered him, as Captain Shad
said, "a first-rate, everyday sort of feller," who did not patronize
nor put on airs, even though he was a "summer man" and rich. When
he talked with them it was of things they understood, local affairs,
the cranberry crop, fishing, and the doings of the Board of
Selectmen. He was willing to listen as well as talk and he did not
refer to permanent residents as "natives," a habit of his wife's
which irritated the Captain extremely.
"Jumpin' fire!" said the latter on one occasion, "every time that
woman calls us town folks 'natives' I feel as if she cal'lated I
lived up a tree and chucked coconuts at folks. I don't wonder some
of the South Sea Islands heathen eat missionaries. If I ATE that
woman she might agree with me; she don't as 'tis. Every time I say
yes she says no, and that makes me think yes harder'n ever."
So Mrs. Keith was not popular with the South Harniss natives,
perhaps because she tried so hard to be; her husband, who apparently
did not try to be, was. He and his opinions were liked and
respected. When he came into the store, therefore, on this
occasion, Zoeth and Shad welcomed him, asked him to sit down, and
the conversation began with the astonishing rise in the price of
sea-front property and drifted from that to other timely and general
Just how it drifted to Mary-'Gusta and her future neither of the
partners could have told--however, drift there it did, and they
found themselves chanting her praises to their caller, who seemed
"She is a remarkably capable girl," observed Mr. Keith. "And before
we realize it she will be a young woman. Are you planning that she
shall keep store and keep house for you the rest of her life, or the
rest of yours?"
Zoeth shook his head. "Why," he said, mildly, "I don't know's we've
planned much about it so fur. Those things sort of take care of
themselves, always seemed to me. Or the Almighty takes care of 'em
Their visitor smiled. "Someone else will be willing and anxious to
take care of her before many years, or I miss my guess," he said.
"She is likely to marry, you know. There must be some promising
young fellows down here."
Shadrach sniffed. It was a subject he never discussed with his
partner and did not like even to think about. The remark of the hat
and cap drummer concerning the coming of a "Mr. Right" had troubled
him not a little.
"Ugh!" he grunted; "there's promisin' ones enough. Most of those
that are contented to stay here in South Harniss are nothin' BUT
promise; they ain't so strong on makin' good. 'Tain't like 'twas
when Zoeth and me were young ourselves. Now all the smart,
ambitious boys go up to the city to work."
"Some of the girls go up there, too, don't they? To school, or
college? Didn't I hear that Christopher Mullet's daughter was at
school in Bridgewater?"
"Ugh!" grunted Shadrach again. "I cal'late you did hear. If you
didn't you're the only one in town that ain't. Becky Mullet--yes,
and Chris, too--ain't done anything but brag about their Irene's
goin' off to what they call 'finishin' school.' Judas! I see HER
finish. She ain't got--I swan that girl ain't got anything in her
head but gas, and every time she opens her mouth she loses enough of
that to keep a lighthouse lit up all night."
"Shadrach," murmured Zoeth, "don't say such unlikely things about
folks. Be charitable as you can."
"Judas! I am--as much as I can. If I wasn't charitable to that
Mullet girl I'd be talkin' yet. I hove to afore I'd got scarcely
Keith put in a word. "Finishing schools are not all bad, by any
means," he said. "There are various kinds and grades, of course,
but a good private school for girls is a fine thing. It teaches
them to meet and judge people of all kinds, and that fine feathers
don't always make fine birds. Then, too, a girl at a good school of
that sort is under strict discipline and her acquaintances, male
acquaintances especially, are chosen with care. Sixteen to eighteen
is a dangerous age for the average girl.
"By the way," he added, "did your niece tell you of her experience
with that traveling salesman the other day, the fellow selling
Christmas novelties? No? Well, I happened to be here at the time.
It was rather interesting."
He told of Mary-'Gusta's session with Mr. Kron. The partners
listened with growing indignation.
"Well, by the jumpin'!" exclaimed Captain Shad. "Did you ever hear
such brassy talk in your life! I wish to thunder I'd been here.
There'd have been one mighty sick patient ready for the doctor and
he wouldn't have been a South Harniss native either. But Mary'-
Gusta didn't take none of his sauce, I tell you; that girl of ours
is all right!"
"Yes, she is all right. But she didn't enjoy the experience, that
was plain enough, and, so far as I can see, she is likely to have a
good many others of the same kind. Now it isn't my business, I know
that; you can tell me to shut up and clear out any time you like, of
course; but do you think it is just fair to a girl like your niece
to condemn her to a life of storekeeping or the alternative of
marrying one of the promising young men you've been talking about?
Don't you think such a girl as she is deserves a chance; every
chance you can give her?"
The two partners stared at him open-mouthed. Shadrach, as usual,
"Condemn her?" he repeated. "Condemn Mary'-Gusta? A chance? Why--"
"Hush, Shadrach," interrupted Zoeth. "Mr. Keith ain't done yet.
He's goin' to tell us what he means. Go on, Mr. Keith, what do you
Keith, having broken the ice, and found the water not so chilly as
he had feared it might be, plunged in.
"Well, I mean this," he said. "I confess frankly that I have been
very favorably impressed by your niece. She is an unusual girl--
unusually pretty, of course, but much more than that. She is simple
and brave and sensible and frank. If she were my daughter I should
be very proud of her. I know you are. She should have, it seems to
me, the opportunity to make the most of her qualities and
personality. I've been thinking about her a great deal ever since
my call at the store here the other day. Now I've got a suggestion
to make. You can take it or leave it, but I assure you it is made
with the best of intentions and solely in her interest as I see it;
and I hope you'll take it after you've thought it over. Here it is."
He went on to impart the suggestion. His hearers listened, Zoeth
silently and Shadrach with occasional mutterings and exclamations.
"So there you are," said Keith in conclusion. "The school is a good
one, one of the best in Boston. Two years there will do worlds for
your niece. It has done worlds for other girls I have known. It is
rather expensive, of course, but, as I understand it, Mary has money
of her own of which you, as her guardians, have charge. She
couldn't spend a portion of that money to better advantage."
Zoeth said nothing, but he looked at the Captain and the Captain
looked at him.
"She HAS money of her own, hasn't she?" inquired Mr. Keith. "I have
been told she was left an independent fortune by her father."
There was another interval of silence. The partners were quite
aware of the general belief in Mary-'Gusta's independent fortune.
They had not discouraged that belief. It was no one's business but
theirs and their respect and affection for Marcellus Hall had
prevented the disclosure of the latter's poverty. That secret not
even Mary-'Gusta knew; she, too, believed that the money which paid
for her clothes and board and all the rest was her own. Her uncles
had helped her to think so.
So when their visitor asked the pointed question Zoeth looked at
Shadrach and the latter shook his head.
"Yup," he answered, brusquely, "it's true enough, I cal'late.
Marcellus left her all he had. But--but look here, Mr. Keith. Do I
understand you to advise us to send Mary-'Gusta away--to school--for
two years? Jumpin' fire! How--how could we? She--why, what would
we do without her?"
"It would be harder for you here in the store, of course."
"The store! 'Tain't the store I'm thinkin' about; it's me and
Zoeth. What'll WE do without her? Why, she--why, no daughter could
mean more to us than that girl does, and if Zoeth and me was her
own--er--mother and father we couldn't think more of her. We'd be
adrift and out of sight of land if Mary-'Gusta went away. No, no,
we couldn't think of such a thing."
"Not even for her sake? She's worth a pretty big sacrifice, a girl
A long discussion followed, a discussion interrupted by the arrival
of occasional customers but resumed as soon as each of these
individuals departed. Zoeth asked a question.
"This--this Miss--er--What's-her-name's school you're talkin'
about," he asked, "a reg'lar boardin' school, is it?"
"Yes, but there are day pupils. It was my idea, provided you two
were willing to listen to my suggestion at all, to suggest that Mary
attend as a day pupil. She might live near the school instead of at
it. That would be much less expensive."
"Um-hm," mused Shadrach, "but--but she'd have to live somewheres,
and I for one would want to be mighty particular what sort of a
place she lived at."
"Naturally. Well, I have thought of that, too, and here is
suggestion number three: I have a cousin--a cousin of my first
wife's--who lives on Pinckney Street, which is not far from the
Misses Cabot's school. This cousin--Mrs. Wyeth is her name--is a
widow and she hasn't too much money. She doesn't keep a boarding
house exactly, but she has been known to take a few of what she
calls 'paying guests.' She's very Bostonian and very particular
concerning the references and family connections of those guests,
but I think I could manage that. If your niece were placed in her
care she would have a real home and meet only the sort of people you
would wish her to meet."
He might have added that Mrs. Wyeth, being under many obligations,
pecuniary and otherwise, to her wealthy Chicago relative, would need
only a hint from him to give Mary-'Gusta the care and attention of a
parent, a very particular, Boston first-family parent. But, unlike
his present wife, he was not in the habit of referring to his
charities, so he kept this information to himself.
Zoeth sighed. "I declare," he said, "you're mighty kind in all
this, Mr. Keith. I know that you're sartin this goin' away to
school would do Mary-'Gusta a sight of good. But--but I swan I--I
can't hardly bear to think of our lettin' her go away from us."
"I don't wonder at that. Just think it over and we'll have another
Mr. Keith and the Captain had that later talk--several talks, in
fact--and a week after their first one Captain Shadrach suddenly
announced that he was cal'latin' to run up to Boston just for a day
on business and that Mary-'Gusta had better go along with him for
company. Zoeth could tend store and get along all right until they
returned. The girl was not so certain of the getting along all
right, but Mr. Hamilton as well as the Captain insisted, so she
consented at last. The Boston trip was not exactly a novelty to
her--she had visited the city a number of times during the past few
years--but a holiday with Uncle Shad was always good fun.
They took the early morning train and reached Boston about ten
o'clock. Shadrach's business in the city seemed to be of a rather
vague nature this time. They called at the offices of two or three
of his old friends--ship-chandlers and marine outfitters on
Commercial Street and Atlantic Avenue--and then the Captain, looking
at his watch, announced that it was pretty nigh noontime and he
cal'lated they had better be cruisin' up towards Pinckney Street.
"Got an errand up in that latitude," he added.
Pinckney Street was on the hill in the rear of the Common and the
State House and was narrow and crooked and old-fashioned.
"What in the world are we doing up here?" queried Mary-'Gusta.
"There aren't any wholesale houses here, I'm sure. Haven't you made
a mistake, Uncle Shad?" Shadrach, who had been consulting a page of
his pocket memorandum book, replied that he cal'lated he'd got his
bearin's, and, to the girl's astonishment, stopped before a brick
dwelling with a colonial doorway and a white stone step which
actually shone from scrubbing, and rang the bell.
The maid who answered the bell wore a white apron which crackled
with starch. She looked as if she too had, like the step, been
scrubbed a few minutes before.
"This is No.--, ain't it?" inquired the Captain. "Humph! I thought
so. I ain't so much of a wreck yet but that I can navigate Boston
without a pilot. Is Mr. Keith in?"
The maid, who had received the pilot statement with uncomprehending
astonishment, looked relieved.
"Yes, sir," she said. "Mr. Keith's here. Are you the ones he's
expectin'? Walk in, please."
They entered the house. It was as spotlessly tidy within as
without. The maid ushered them into a parlor where old mahogany and
old family portraits in oil were very much in evidence.
"Sit down, please," she said. "I'll tell Mr. Keith you're here."
She left the room. Mary-'Gusta turned to the Captain in amazed
"Uncle Shad," she demanded, "why on earth did you come HERE to see
Mr. Keith? Couldn't you have seen him at South Harniss?"
Shadrach shook his head. "Not today I couldn't," he said. "He's up
"But what do you want to see him for?"
"Business, business, Mary-'Gusta. Mr. Keith and me are tryin' to do
a little stroke of business together. We've got a hen on, as the
feller said. Say, this is kind of a swell house, ain't it? And
clean--my soul! Judas! did I move this chair out of place? I
didn't mean to. Looks as if it had set right in that one spot for a
Keith entered at that moment, followed by an elderly lady whose gown
was almost as old-fashioned as the furniture. She was a rather thin
person but her face, although sharp, was not unkind in expression
and her plainly arranged hair was white. Mary-'Gusta liked her
looks; she guessed that she might be very nice indeed to people she
knew and fancied; also that she would make certain of knowing them
"Hello, Captain Gould," hailed Keith. "Glad to see you. Found the
place all right, I see."
"Yes--yes, I found it, Mr. Keith."
"I thought you wouldn't have any difficulty. Mary, how do you do?"
Mary-'Gusta and Mr. Keith shook hands.
"Captain," said Keith, "I want to introduce you to my cousin, Mrs.
Mrs. Wyeth bowed with dignity.
"How do you do, Captain Gould," she said.
"Why--why, I'm pretty smart, thank you, ma'am," stammered Shadrach,
rather embarrassed at all this ceremony. "Pleased to meet you,
"And this young lady," went on Keith, "is Miss Mary Lathrop. Miss
Lathrop, this lady is Mrs. Wyeth, my cousin."
Mary-'Gusta, with the uneasy feeling that Mrs. Wyeth's gaze had been
fixed upon her since she entered the room, bowed but said nothing.
"And now," said Mr. Keith, heartily, "we'll have luncheon. You're
just in time and Mrs. Wyeth has been expecting you."
The Captain's embarrassment reached its height at this invitation.
"No, no," he stammered, "we--we can't do that. Couldn't think of
it, you know. We--we ain't a mite hungry. Had breakfast afore we
left home, didn't we, Mary-'Gusta?"
Keith laughed. "Yes, I know," he said; "and you left home about
half-past five. I've taken that early train myself. If you're not
hungry you ought to be and luncheon is ready. Emily--Mrs. Wyeth--
has been expecting you. She will be disappointed if you refuse."
Mrs. Wyeth herself put in a word here. "Of course they won't
refuse, John," she said with decision. "They must be famished.
Refuse! The idea! Captain Gould, Mr. Keith will look out for you;
your niece will come with me. Luncheon will be ready in five
minutes. Come, Mary. That's your name--Mary--isn't it? I'm glad
to hear it. It's plain and it's sensible and I like it. The
employment bureau sent me a maid a week ago and when she told me her
name I sent her back again. It was Florina. That was enough.
Mercy! All I could think of was a breakfast food. Come, Mary.
Now, John, do be prompt."
That luncheon took its place in Mary-'Gusta's memory beside that of
her first supper in the house at South Harniss. They were both
memorable meals, although alike in no other respects. Mrs. Wyeth
presided, of course, and she asked the blessing and poured the tea
with dignity and businesslike dispatch. The cups and saucers were
of thin, transparent China, with pictures of mandarins and pagodas
upon them. They looked old-fashioned and they were; Mrs. Wyeth's
grandfather had bought them himself in Hongkong in the days when he
commanded a clipper ship and made voyages to the Far East. The
teaspoons were queer little fiddle-patterned affairs; they were made
by an ancestor who was a silversmith with a shop on Cornhill before
General Gage's army was quartered in Boston. And cups and spoons
and napkins were so clean that it seemed almost sacrilegious to soil
them by use.
Captain Shadrach did not soil his to any great extent at first. The
Captain was plainly overawed by the genteel elegance of his
surrounding and the manner of his hostess. But Mr. Keith was very
much at ease and full of fun and, after a time, a little of
Shadrach's self-consciousness disappeared. When he learned that
grandfather Wyeth had been a seafaring man he came out of his shell
sufficiently to narrate, at Keith's request, one of his own
experiences in Hongkong, but even in the midst of his yarn he never
forgot to address his hostess as "ma'am" and he did not say "Jumpin
After luncheon Mr. Keith and the Captain left the house together.
"Goin' to attend to that little mite of business I spoke to you
about, Mary-'Gusta," explained Shadrach, confidentially. "We'll be
back pretty soon. I cal'late maybe you'd better wait here, that
is," with a glance at Mrs. Wyeth, "if it'll be all right for you
"Of course it will be all right," declared Mrs. Wyeth promptly. "I
shall be glad to have her."
"Thank you, ma'am. If she won't be in the way I--"
"If she were likely to be in the way I should say so. She won't
"Yes--er--yes, ma'am," stammered Shadrach. "Thank you, ma'am."
When he and Mr. Keith were out of the house he drew a long breath.
"Judas!" he observed, feelingly. "Say, that cousin of yours don't
waste any words, does she? When it comes to speakin' what's in her
mind she don't fool around none. She's as right up and down as a
Keith laughed heartily. "Emily is blunt and outspoken," he said.
"She prides herself on that. But she is as square as a brick. She
never says one thing to your face and another behind your back."
"No, I--I judge that's so. Well, that's all right; I ain't got any
objections to that way of talkin' myself. But say, if every woman
was like her there wouldn't be many sewin' circles, would there?
The average sewin' circle meetin' is one part sew and three parts
what So-and-so said."
When the little mite of business had been transacted and the pair
returned to the Wyeth house they found Mrs. Wyeth and Mary-'Gusta
awaiting them in the parlor. The girl had the feeling that she had
been undergoing a rather vigorous cross-examination. Mrs. Wyeth had
not talked a great deal herself and her manner, though brusque and
matter of fact, was kind; but she had asked questions about Mary-
'Gusta's home life, about Captain Gould and Mr. Hamilton, about
school and friends and acquaintances. And her comments, when she
made any, were direct and to the point.
She and Mr. Keith exchanged looks when the latter entered the room.
Keith raised his eyebrows inquiringly. She nodded as if giving
emphatic assent to his unspoken question.
Shadrach and Mary-'Gusta left the house soon afterward. While the
Captain and Mr. Keith were whispering together in the hall, Mrs.
Wyeth bade the girl good-by.
"I like you, my dear," said the lady. "You seem to be a sweet,
sensible girl, and I don't meet as many of that kind nowadays as I
could wish. I am sure we shall be good friends."
"And WHAT did she mean by that?" demanded Mary'-Gusta, as she and
the Captain walked along Pinckney Street together. "Why should we
be good friends? Probably I'll never meet her again."
Shadrach smiled. "Oh, you can't always tell," he said. "Sometimes
you meet folks oftener'n you think in this world."
Mary-'Gusta looked at him. "Uncle Shad," she said, "what does all
this mean, anyway? Why did you go to her house? And what was the
mysterious business of yours with Mr. Keith?"
The Captain shook his head. "We've got a hen on, same as I told
you," he declared. "When it's time for the critter to come off the
nest you'll see what's been hatched same as the rest of us. How'd
you like that Mrs. Wyeth? Had a pretty sharp edge on her tongue,
Mary-'Gusta considered. "Yes," she answered; "she was outspoken and
blunt, of course. But she is a lady--a real lady, I think--and I'm
sure I should like her very much when I knew her better. I think,
though, that she would expect a person to behave--behave in her way,
"Judas! I should say so. Don't talk! I ain't felt so much as if I
was keepin' my toes on a chalk mark since I went to school. I don't
know what her husband died of, but I'll bet 'twasn't curvature of
the spine. If he didn't stand up straight 'twasn't his wife's
Mary-'Gusta's curiosity concerning the mysterious business which had
brought them to the city became greater than ever before it was time
to take the train for home. Apparently all of that business,
whatever it might be, had been transacted when her uncle and Mr.
Keith took their short walk together after luncheon. Captain
Shadrach seemed to consider his Boston errand done and the pair
spent half of the hour before train time wandering along Tremont and
Washington Streets looking into shop windows, and the other half in
the waiting room of the South Station.
Great and growing as was her curiosity, the girl asked no more
questions. She was determined not to ask them. And the Captain,
neither while in the city nor during the homeward journey, referred
to the "hen" in which he and his friend from Chicago were mutually
interested. It was not until nine o'clock that evening, when supper
was over and Zoeth, having locked up the store, was with them in the
sitting-room, that the hitherto secretive fowl came off the nest.
Then Shadrach, having given his partner a look and received one in
return, cleared his throat and spoke.
"Mary-'Gusta," he said, "me and your Uncle Zoeth have got some news
for you. I cal'late you've been wonderin' a little mite what that
business of Mr. Keith's and mine was, ain't you?"
Mary-'Gusta smiled. "I have wondered--just a little," she observed,
with mild sarcasm.
"Yes--yes, I ain't surprised. Well, the business is done and it's
settled, and it's about you."
"About me? Why, Uncle Shad! How can it be about me?"
"'Cause it can and it is, that's why. Mary-'Gusta, me and Zoeth
have been thinkin' about you a good deal lately and we've come to
the conclusion that we ain't treated you just right."
"Haven't treated me right? YOU?"
"Yes, us. You're a good girl and a smart girl--the smartest and
best girl there is in this town. A girl like that ought to do
somethin' better'n than stay here in South Harniss and keep store.
Keepin' store's all right for old hulks like Zoeth Hamilton and Shad
Gould, but you ain't an old hulk; you're a young craft right off the
ways and you ought to have a chance to cruise in the best water
"Uncle Shad, what are you talking about? Cruise in the best water?"
"That's what I said. You ought to mix with the best folks and get a
fine education and meet somebody besides drummers and--and Sol
Higgins's son. Selling coffins may be a good job, I don't say
'tain't; somebody's got to do it and we'll all have to invest in
that kind of--er--furniture sometime or 'nother. And Dan Higgins is
a good enough boy, too. But he ain't your kind."
"My kind! Uncle Shad, what in the world have I got to do with Dan
Higgins and coffins--and all the rest of it?"
"Nothin', nothin' at all. That's what I'm tryin' to tell you if
you'll give me a chance. Mary-'Gusta, your Uncle Zoeth and I have
decided that you must go to school up to Boston, at the Misses
Cabot's school there. You'll board along with that Mrs. Wyeth, the
one we met today. She's a good woman, I cal'late, though she is so
everlastin' straight up and down. You'll board there and you'll go
to school to those Cabot women. And--"
But Mary-'Gusta interrupted. The hen was off the nest now, there
was no doubt of that, and of all unexpected and impossible hatchings
hers was the most complete. The absurdity of the idea, to the
girl's mind, overshadowed even the surprise of it.
"What?" she said. "Uncle Shad, what--? Do you mean that you and
Uncle Zoeth have been in conspiracy to send me away to school? To
send me away to Boston?"
"No conspiracy about it," he declared. "Me and Zoeth and Mr. Keith,
"Mr. Keith? Yes, yes, I see. It was Mr. Keith who put the idea in
your head. How perfectly silly!"
"Silly? Why is it silly?"
"Because it is. It's ridiculous."
"No, it ain't, it's common sense. Other girls go to city finishin'
schools, don't they? That Irene Mullet's just gone, for one. Don't
you think we figger to do as much for our girl as Becky Mullet can
do for hers? Jumpin' fire! If you ain't worth a hogshead of girls
like Irene Mullet then I miss my guess."
"Hush, Uncle Shad; what difference does that make?"
And now Zoeth put in a word. "Mary-'Gusta," he said, "you know what
a good school like the one Shad's been speakin' of can do for a
girl. I know you know it. Now, be right down honest; wouldn't you
like to have a couple of years, say, at a school like that, if you
could have 'em just as well as not? Didn't you say not more'n a
fortni't ago that you was glad Irene Mullet was goin' to have such a
chance to improve herself?"
Mary-'Gusta had said that very thing; she could not truthfully deny
"Of course I did," she answered. "And I am glad. But Irene's case
and mine are different. Irene isn't needed at home. I am, and--"
Shadrach broke in. "Ah, ha! Ah, ha! Zoeth," he crowed,
triumphantly. "Didn't I tell you she'd say that? I knew she'd say
she wouldn't go 'cause she'd think she'd ought to stay here and look
out for us. Well, Mary'-Gusta, you listen to me. Zoeth and I are
your guardians, lawfully appointed. We're your bosses, young lady,
for a spell yet. And you're goin' to do as we say."
"There ain't any 'buts.' The 'buts' are all past and gone. Mr.
Keith has arranged for you to board and room along with Mrs. Wyeth
and I've arranged for your schoolin' at the Cabot place. Yes, and
I've done more'n that: I paid for your first year's schoolin' this
very afternoon. So there! THAT'S ended."
It was not ended, of course. Mary-'Gusta went to her room that
night declaring she would not leave her uncles to attend any
finishing school. They went to theirs vowing that she should. The
real end came the next day when Zoeth put the subject before her in
a new light by saying:
"Look here, Mary-'Gusta; just listen to me a minute and think.
Suppose the boot was on t'other foot: suppose you wanted us to do
somethin' to please you, you'd expect us to do it, wouldn't you?
Anyhow, you know mighty well we WOULD do it. Now we want you to do
this to please us. We've set our hearts on it."
Mary-'Gusta was silent for a minute or more. The partners watched
her anxiously. Then she asked an unusual question, one concerning
her own financial status.
"Can I afford it?" she asked. "Have I money enough of my own?"
Zoeth looked troubled. Shadrach, however, answered promptly and
"Haven't I told you," he said, "that Zoeth and me are your
guardians? And didn't I say we'd gone into the thing careful and
deliberate? And didn't I pay your first year's schoolin' yesterday?
Don't that alone show what we think about the money. Be still,
Zoeth; that's enough. Well, Mary-'Gusta?"
Mary-'Gusta considered a moment longer. Then she rose and, crossing
the room, gave them each a kiss.
"I'll go," she said, simply. "I'll go because I think you mean it
and that it will please you. For that reason and no other I'll go."
The Misses Cabot's school was to open on the fifteenth of September
and, on the morning of the fourteenth, Mary-'Gusta bade her
guardians good-by on the platform of the South Harniss railway
station. Shadrach had intended going to Boston with her, but she
had firmly insisted on going alone.
"I must get used to being away from you both," she said, "and you
must get used to having me go. It will be best for all of us to say
good-by here. It won't be for VERY long; I'll be home at Christmas,
The three weeks prior to the fateful fourteenth had been crowded
with activities. Twice the girl and Captain Shadrach had journeyed
to Boston, where in company with Mrs. Wyeth, whose services had been
volunteered in a crisp but kindly note, they visited shops and
selected and purchased--that is, the feminine members of the party
selected and the Captain paid for--a suit and waists and hats and
other things which it appeared were necessary for the wardrobe of a
young lady at finishing school. Shadrach would have bought
lavishly, but Mrs. Wyeth's common sense guided the selections and
Mary-'Gusta was very particular as to price. Shadrach, at the
beginning, made a few suggestions concerning colors and styles, but
the suggestions were disregarded. The Captain's taste in colors was
not limited; he fancied almost any hue, provided it was bright
enough. His ward would have looked like an animated crazy quilt if
he had had his way.
He grumbled a little as they journeyed back to South Harniss.
"She may be all right, that Wyeth woman," he said, "but she's too
everlastin' sober-sided to suit me. Take that hat you and she
bought; why, 'twas as plain, and hadn't no more fuss and feathers
than a minister's wife's bonnet. You ain't an old maid; no, nor a
Boston first-family widow, neither. Now, the hat I liked--the
yellow and blue one--had some get-up-and-git. If you wore that out
on Tremont Street folks would turn around and look at you."
Mary-'Gusta laughed and squeezed his hand. "You silly Uncle Shad,"
she said, "don't you know that is exactly what I don't want them to
Shadrach turned his gaze in her direction. She was at the end of
the car seat next to the window and against the light of the setting
sun her face and head were silhouetted in dainty profile. The
"Well," he said, philosophically, "I don't know's we need to argue.
I cal'late they'll look some as 'tis."
Her parting instructions to her uncles were many and diversified.
Zoeth must be sure and change to his heavy flannels on the first of
October. He must not forget rubbers when the ground was damp, and