Part 6 out of 8
Of course the partners asked hundreds more questions concerning the
plans. Mary's answers were still disappointingly vague. Before she
could tell just what she meant to do, she said she must be sure, and
she was not sure yet. A great deal would depend upon her Boston
trip. They must be patient until she returned from that.
So they were patient--that is to say, Zoeth was really so and
Captain Shadrach was as patient as it was his nature to be. Mary
was absent nearly a week. When she returned she had much to tell.
She had visited Mr. Green at his office on Commercial Street. His
surprise and embarrassment were all that she had prophesied. He
offered profuse apologies for his blunder at the Howes'.
"Of course, if I had known of your relationship to Captain Gould and
Mr. Hamilton," he began, "I should never-- Really, I am--I assure
you I hadn't the slightest idea--"
He was floundering like a stranded fish. Mary helped him off the
shoals by taking the remainder of his apologies for granted.
"Of course you hadn't," she said. "But I am very glad you told me,
Mr. Green. It was high time I knew. Don't say another word about
it, please. I have come to you to ask advice and, perhaps, help of
a sort. May I have a little of your time?"
Mr. Green seized the opportunity thus offered. Indeed, she might
have time, all the time she wanted. Anything in his power to do--
and so on. Being a bachelor and something of an elderly beau who
prided himself upon making a good impression with the sex, it had
annoyed him greatly, the memory of his mistake. Also he had been
distinctly taken with Mary and was anxious to reinstate himself in
her opinion. So his willingness to atone was even eager.
"As it happens," he said, "I am not at all busy this afternoon. I
can give you the rest of the day, if you wish. Now what can I do
Mary explained that she had come to speak with him concerning her
uncles' business affairs, his house being Hamilton and Company's
largest creditor. She told of her investigations, of the condition
in which she had found the accounts, and of her determination to
remain at South Harniss and work for the upbuilding of the concern.
"Of course I am not a business person like yourself, Mr. Green," she
said. "I am only a girl. But I worked in my uncles' store and, in
a way, managed it for two years or more before I came to Boston to
school. Beside that I have talked during these last few days with
some of South Harniss's most prominent people--permanent residents,
not summer people. From what they and others tell me I am convinced
that the sole reason why my uncles' business has fallen behind is
because of a lack of keeping up to the times in the face of
competition. Everyone likes Uncle Zoeth and Uncle Shadrach and
wishes them well--they couldn't help that, you know."
She made this assertion with such evident pride and with such
absolute confidence that Mr. Green, although inclined to smile, felt
it might be poor judgment to do so. So he agreed that there was no
doubt of Shadrach's and Zoeth's universal popularity.
"Yes," went on Mary, "they are dears, both of them, and they think
everyone else is as honest as they are, which is a mistake, of
course. So some people impose on them and don't pay their bills. I
intend to stop that."
She evidently expected her listener to make some comment, so he
said, "Oh, indeed!"
"Yes," continued Mary. "I intend to stop their trusting everyone
under the sun and I shall try my hardest to collect from those they
have already trusted. There is almost enough due to pay every bill
we owe, and I believe two-thirds of that is collectible if one
really goes after it."
"And you will go after it, I presume?"
"I most certainly shall. You are smiling, Mr. Green. I suppose it
sounds like a joke, a girl like myself making such statements about
things men are supposed to understand and women not to understand at
all. It isn't a joke in this case, because I think I understand my
uncles business better than they do. I think I can collect what is
owed us, pay what we owe, and make money there in South Harniss.
But to do that I must have time and, by and by, credit, for we need
goods. And that is what I came to talk to you about."
She had brought with her copies of the Hamilton and Company trial
balance, also a list of the firm's debtors and creditors. These she
put upon the desk before Mr. Green and ran a finger down the pages
with explanatory remarks such as, "This is good, I know," "This can
be collected but it may take a lawyer to get it," or, as in the case
of 'Rastus Young's long-standing indebtedness, "This isn't worth
anything and shouldn't be counted."
"You see," she said, in conclusion, "we aren't in such a VERY bad
state; it isn't hopeless, anyway. Now here are the accounts we owe.
Yours is the largest. Here are the others. All these bills are
going to be paid, just as I said, but they can't be paid at all
unless I have time. I have been thinking, thinking very hard, Mr.
Green nodded. "I can see that," he put in, good-naturedly.
"Yes. Well, this is what I want to ask you: Will you give us six
months more to pay the whole of this bill in? I don't think we
shall need so much time, but I want to be sure. And if at the end
of two months we have paid half of it, will you give us credit for
another small bill of goods for the summer season, so that we may be
stocked and ready? The summer is our best season, you see," she
Mr. Green nodded. Her businesslike manner he found amusing,
although he by no means shared her confidence in the future.
"We shall be very glad to extend the time," he said. "You may
remember I told you the other evening that so far as our house was
concerned, we should probably be willing to sell your uncles
indefinitely, for old times' sake."
His visitor frowned.
"We are not asking it for old times' sake," she said. "It is the
new times I am interested in. And please understand this isn't
sentiment but business. If you do not believe what I ask to be a
safe business risk, that one your firm would be justified in
accepting from anybody, then you mustn't do it."
Mr. Green hesitated. "Suppose I do not accept that risk," he said;
"Then I shall go and see some other creditors, the principal ones,
and make them similar propositions."
"And suppose they don't accept?"
"I think they will, most of them. If they don't--well, then there
is another way. My uncles own their house and store. They have
been thinking of selling their property to pay their debts. I
should hate to have them sell, and I don't believe it is necessary.
I have been talking with Judge Baxter over at Ostable--I stopped
there on my way to Boston--and he suggested that they might mortgage
and raise money that way. It could be done, couldn't it? Mortgages
are a kind of business I don't know anything about. They sound
"Sometimes they are. Miss Lathrop, if I were you I shouldn't sell
or mortgage yet. I am inclined to believe, judging by this balance
sheet and what you say, that you have a chance to pull Hamilton and
Company out of the fire, and I'm very sure you can do it if anyone
can. Are you going to be in the city for a day or two? Good! Then
will you let me consider this whole matter until--say--Thursday? By
that time I shall have made up my mind and may have something to say
which will be worth while. Can you come in Thursday afternoon at
two? And will you? Very well. Oh, don't thank me! I haven't done
anything yet. Perhaps I shall not be able to, but we shall hope for
Mary went straight to Mrs. Wyeth's home on Pinckney Street and once
more occupied her pleasant room on the third floor. In spite of her
determination not to care she could not help feeling a little pang
as she walked by the Misses Cabot's school and remembered that she
would never again enjoy the privileges and advantages of that
exclusive institution. She wondered how the girls, her classmates,
had felt and spoken when they heard the news that she had left them
and returned to Cape Cod and storekeeping. Some would sneer and
laugh--she knew that--and some might be a little sorry. But they
would all forget her, of course. Doubtless, most of them had
forgotten her already.
But the fact that all had not forgotten was proved that very evening
when, as she and Mrs. Wyeth and Miss Pease were sitting talking
together in the parlor, Maggie, the maid, answering the ring of the
doorbell, ushered in Miss Barbara Howe. Barbara was, as usual,
arrayed like the lilies of the field, but her fine petals were
decidedly crumpled by the hug which she gave Mary as soon as she
laid eyes upon her.
"You bad girl!" she cried. "Why didn't you tell me you were in
town? And why didn't you answer my letter--the one I wrote you at
South Harniss? I didn't hear a word and only tonight, after dinner,
I had the inspiration of phoning Mrs. Wyeth and trying to learn from
her where you were and what you meant by dropping all your friends.
Maggie answered the phone and said you were here and I threw on my
things--yes, 'threw' is the word; nothing else describes the
process--and came straight over. How DO you do? And WHAT are you
Mary said she was well and that she had been too busy to reply to
Miss Howe's letter. But this did not satisfy. Barbara wanted to
know why she had been busy and how, so Mary told of her
determination to remain in South Harniss and become a business
woman, Barbara was greatly excited and enthusiastic.
"Won't it be perfectly splendid!" she exclaimed. "I only wish I
were going to do it instead of having to stay at that straight-up-
and-down school and listen to Prissy's dissertations on Emerson.
She told the Freshman class the other day that she had had the honor
of meeting Mr. Emerson when very young--when SHE was young, she
meant; she always tells every Freshman class that, you know--and one
of the Freshies spoke up and asked if she ever met him afterwards
when he was older. They said her face was a picture; I wish I might
have seen it. But do tell me more about that wonderful store of
yours. I am sure it will be a darling, because anything you have
anything to do with is sure to be. Are you going to have a tea-
Mary shook her head. "No," she said, laughing. "I think not.
There's too much competition."
"Oh, but you ought to have one. Not of the ordinary kind, you know,
but the--the other kind, the unusual kind. Why, I have a cousin--a
second--no, third cousin, a relative of Daddy's, she is--who hadn't
much money and whose health wasn't good and the doctor sent her to
live in the country. Live there all the time! Only fancy! Oh, I
forgot you were going to do the same thing. Do forgive me! I'm so
sorry! WHAT a perfect gump I am! Oh, dear me! There I go again!
And I know you abhor slang, Mrs. Wyeth."
"Tell me more about your cousin, Barbara," put in Mary, before the
shocked Mrs. Wyeth could reply.
"Oh, she went to the country and took an old house, the funniest old
thing you ever saw. And she put up the quaintest little sign! And
opened a tea-room and gift shop. I don't know why they call them
'gift shops.' They certainly don't give away anything. Far, far
from that, my dear! Daddy calls this one of Esther's 'The Robbers'
Roost' because he says she charges forty cents for a gill of tea and
two slices of toast cut in eight pieces. But I tell him he doesn't
pay for the tea and toast alone--it is the atmosphere of the place.
He says if he had to pay for all his atmosphere at that rate he
would be asphyxiated in a few months. But he admires Esther very
much. She makes heaps and heaps of money."
"Then her tea-room and gift shop is a success?"
"A success! Oh, my dear! It's a scream of a success! Almost any
day in summer there are at least a dozen motor cars outside the
door. Everybody goes there; it's the proper thing to do. I know
all this because it isn't very far from our summer home in Clayton--
in the mountains, you know."
"So she made a success," mused Mary. "Were there other tea-rooms
"Oh, dozens! But they're not original; hers is. They haven't the--
the something--you know what I mean, Esther has the style, the
knack, the--I can't say it, but you know. And you would have it,
too; I'm perfectly sure you would."
Mary was evidently much interested.
"I wish I might meet your cousin," she said.
"Why, you can. She is here in Boston now, buying for the summer.
I'll phone her and we three will lunch together tomorrow. Don't say
you won't; you've just got to."
So Mary, rather reluctantly, consented to make one of the luncheon
party. Afterward she was glad that she did, for Miss Esther
Hemingway--this was the cousin's name--was an interesting person.
She told Mary all about her tea-room and gift shop, how she started
in business, the mistakes she made at first, and the lessons she had
learned from experience. Because Barbara had asked her to do so she
brought with her photographs of the establishment, its attractive
and quaint exterior and its equally delightful interior.
"The whole secret," she said, "is in keeping everything in good
taste and simple. Choose the right location, fit up your rooms in
taste and cheerfully, serve the best you can find, and sell the
unusual and the attractive things that other people do not have, or
at least are not likely to have. Then charge adequate prices."
"Adequate being spelled A double D," observed Barbara significantly.
Mary parted from Miss Hemingway with a new idea in her head, an idea
that sometime or other she meant to put into practice.
On Thursday afternoon she called upon Mr. Green. That gentleman,
having had his opportunity to think, was ready with a proposition.
Briefly it was this: He had personally seen the principal creditors
of Hamilton and Company--they were all Boston business houses--and
he and they had agreed to make the following offer: Hamilton and
Company's credit upon debts already owed was to be extended six
months. Mary was to go home, endeavor to collect what money she
could, and with it buy for cash whatever goods were needed for the
summer season. If that season was a success and the business
promised well for the future, then arrangements could be made for
future buying and for paying the old debt a little at a time.
"At any rate," concluded Mr. Green, "this postpones the mortgaging
or selling for a time at least, and you always have it to fall back
on if you can't make your new undertaking pay. I believe you can.
I advise you to accept. Your other creditors feel the same way."
He did not add, as he might have done, that the opinion of those
other creditors had been influenced almost entirely by his own and
that in one or two instances he had been obliged practically to
underwrite the payment of Hamilton and Company's indebtedness before
gaining consent. He had talked with Mr. Howe, who in turn had
called his daughter into consultation, and Barbara's enthusiastic
praise of her friend had strengthened the favorable impression which
the girl had already made upon both gentlemen. "Do you know, I
believe she may win out," observed Mr. Howe.
"I am inclined to think she will," concurred Green.
"Of course she will!" declared Barbara hotly. "No one who ever knew
her would be silly enough to think she wouldn't."
Hence Mr. Green's underwriting expedition and the proposition to
Mary as the representative of Hamilton and Company.
Mary accepted, of course. She was very grateful and said so.
"I don't know how to thank you, Mr. Green. I can't promise
anything, but if trying hard will win, I can promise that," she
"That's all right, that's all right. I know you'll try, and I think
you'll succeed. Now, why don't you go up and pick out some of those
summer goods? You don't need them yet, and you needn't pay for them
yet, but now is the time to select. Give my regards to your uncles
when you see them and tell them I wish them luck. I may be motoring
down the Cape this summer and if I do I shall drop in on you and
Mary had news to tell when she reached South Harniss. It was
listened to with attention, if not entirely in silence. Captain
Shadrach's ejaculations of "You don't say!" "I want to know!" and
"Jumpin' fire, how you talk!" served as punctuation marks during the
narration. When she had finished her story, she said:
"And now, Uncle Zoeth and Uncle Shad--now that you've heard the
whole of it, and know what my plan is, what do you think of it?"
Both answers were characteristic. Zoeth drew a long breath.
"The Almighty sent you to us, Mary-'Gusta," he vowed. "There was a
time a little spell ago when I begun to think He'd pretty nigh
deserted us. I was almost discouraged and it shook my trust--it
shook my trust. But now I can see He was just tryin' us out and in
His good time He sent you to haul us off the shoals. He'll do it,
too; I know it and I'll thank Him tonight on my knees."
Shadrach shook his head. "By fire!" he cried. "Mary'-Gusta, I
always said you was a wonder. You've given us a chance to get clear
of the breakers, anyhow, and that's somethin' we'd never have done
ourselves. Now, if you can collect that money from Jeremiah
Clifford I'll--I'll--I swan to man I'll believe anything's possible,
even Jonah's swallowin' the whale."
"Oh, Shadrach!" protested his partner. "If you wouldn't be so
"All right, I'll behave. But it's just as I say: if Mary'-Gusta can
get Jerry Clifford to pay up I'll swallow Jonah and the whale, too.
'Twas Moses that hit the rock and the water gushed out, wa'n't it?
Um--hm! Well, that was somethin' of a miracle, but strikin' Jerry
Clifford for ten cents and gettin' it would be a bigger one. Why,
that feller's got fists like--like one of those sensitive plants my
mother used to have in the settin'-room window when I was a boy.
You touch a leaf of one of those plants and 'twould shrivel up
tight. Jerry's fists are that way--touch one of 'em with a nickel
and 'twill shut up, but not until the nickel's inside. No, sir!
"If you knew all this, Uncle Shad," suggested Mary, "why in the
world did you sell Mr. Clifford at all? If he wouldn't pay, why
Mr. Hamilton answered.
"He always did pay," he said. "You see, he had to have groceries
and clothes and such and whenever he needed more and thought he owed
us so much we wouldn't put more on the bill he'd pay a little on
account. That way we managed to keep up with him."
"Not exactly up with him," commented the Captain. "We was always a
couple of laps astern, but we could keep him in sight. Now the new
stores have come and he can get trusted there he don't buy from us--
or pay, either. What's the use? That's what he thinks, I cal'late."
Mary considered. "The mean old sinner!" she said. "I should judge,
Uncle Shad, that what you told me once, when I was a little girl,
about the Free Masons might apply to Mr. Clifford's pocketbook. You
said that once in Masonry a man never got out. A dollar in Mr.
Clifford's pocketbook never gets out, either, does it?"
Shadrach chuckled. "You bet it don't!" he agreed. "It's got a life
sentence. And, so fur as that goes, they generally open a Mason
lodge meetin' with prayer, but 'twould take more'n that to open
Jerry's pocketbook, I'LL bet you!"
"And, nevertheless," declared Mary, laughing, "I mean to make him
pay our bill."
She did make the tight-fisted one pay up eventually, but months were
to elapse before that desirable consummation was reached. In the
meantime she set herself to collecting other amounts owed Hamilton
and Company and to building up the trade at the store. The
collecting was not so difficult as she had expected. The Captain
and Mr. Hamilton had been reluctant to ask their friends and
neighbors to be prompt in their payments, and largely through
carelessness accounts had been permitted to drop behind. Mary
personally saw the debtors and in most cases, by offering slight
discounts or by accepting installments, she was able to obtain at
least the greater part of the money due. In some cases she could
obtain nothing and expected nothing, but these cases, among them
that of 'Rastus Young, were rather to be considered in the light of
good riddance even at the price. As Shadrach said, it was worth a
few dollars not to have to listen to 'Rastus or Mrs. 'Rastus cry
over their troubles whenever they wanted to hold up the firm for
"Last time 'Rastus was in to buy anything," declared the Captain,
"he shed so blamed many tears into my rubber boots that I got wet
feet and sent the boots to the cobbler's to have 'em plugged. I
cal'lated they leaked; I didn't realize 'twas Rat workin' me out of
four dollars worth of groceries by water power."
The collections, then, those from Mr. Young and his ilk excepted,
were satisfactory. Mary was enabled to buy and pay for a modest
assortment of summer supplies, those she had selected while in
Boston. The store she had thoroughly cleaned and renovated. The
windows were kept filled with attractive displays of goods, and the
prices of these goods, as set forth upon tickets, were attractive
also. Business began to pick up, not a great deal at first, but a
little, and as May brought the first of the early-bird summer
cottagers to South Harniss, the silent partner of Hamilton and
Company awaited the coming of what should be the firm's busiest
season with hope and some confidence.
During all this time she had heard from Crawford at least once a
week. He would have written oftener than that, had she permitted
it. And in spite of her determination so bravely expressed in their
interview over the telephone, she had written him more than the one
letter she had promised. In that letter--her first--she told him
the exact situation there at home; of her discovery that her uncles
were in trouble, that the small, but to them precious, business they
had conducted so long was in danger, and of her determination to
give up school and remain at South Harniss where, she knew, she was
needed. Then she went on to tell of her still greater discovery,
that instead of being a young woman of independent means, she was
and always had been dependent upon the bounty of her uncles.
You can imagine how I felt when I learned this [she wrote], when I
thought of all the kindness I had accepted at their hands, accepted
it almost as if it was my right, thinking as I did that my own money
paid. And now to learn that all the time I had nothing and they had
given of their own when they had so little, and given it so
cheerfully, so gladly. And, Crawford, when I told them what I had
done, they would not accept thanks, they would not let me even speak
of the great debt I owed them. So far from that they acted as if
they were the ones who owed and as if I had caught them in some
disgraceful act. Why, if they could, they would have sent me back
to Boston and to school, while they remained here to work and worry
until the bankruptcy they expected came.
Do you wonder that I feel my first and whole duty is to them and
that nothing, NOTHING must be permitted to interfere with it? I am
going to stay here and try to help. Perhaps I shall succeed, and
perhaps, which is just as probable, I may fail; but at any rate
while my uncles live and need me I shall not leave them. They gave
all they had to me when there was no real reason why they should
give anything. The very least I can do is to be with them and work
for them now when they are growing old.
I am sure you must understand this and that, therefore, you will
She paused. "Forget" was a hard word to write. Fortunately she had
written it at the top of a page, so she tore up that sheet and began
the line again.
I am sure you will understand and that you will see my duty as I see
it myself. It seems to me clear. Everyone has duties, I suppose,
but you and I have ours very plainly shown us, I think. Yours is to
your father and mine to my uncles.
Bringing that letter to an end was a difficult task. There were
things which must be said and they were so very hard to say. At
last, after many attempts:
I have not referred [she wrote] to what you said to me when we last
met. It seems almost useless to refer to it, doesn't it? You see
how I am placed here, and I have written you what I mean to do. And
please understand I am doing it gladly, I am happy in having the
opportunity to do it; but it does mean that for years my life and
interest must be here with them. Even if I were sure of my own
feelings--and perhaps I am not really sure--I certainly should not
think of asking one I cared for to wait so long. You have your
future to think of, Crawford, and you must think of it. And there
is your father. Of course, I don't know, but I somehow feel certain
that he will not wish you to marry me. Don't you think it better
for us both to end it now? It seems so hopeless.
Which, she flattered herself, was brave and sensible and right.
And, having reached this commendable conclusion and sealed and
posted the letter, she came back to the house, went upstairs to her
room, and, throwing herself upon the bed, cried bitterly for many
Yet, in a way, her tears were wasted. It takes two to make a
bargain and although she might notify Crawford Smith that his case
was hopeless, it by no means followed that that young gentleman
would accept the notification as final. His reply to her letter was
prompt and convincing. All the references to ending it were calmly
brushed aside. There could be but two endings, one being their
marriage--this, of course, the logical and proper ending--and the
other Mary's notifying him that she did not love him. Anything else
was nonsense and not worth consideration. Wait! He would wait
fifty years if necessary, provided she would wait for him. He was
about to take up his studies again, but now he would feel that he
was working for her. His father, he was sorry to say, was not at
all well. He was very nervous, weak and irritable.
I came home [he wrote] fully determined to tell him of you and my
determination to marry you--always provided you will have me, you
know--on the very night of my arrival. But when I saw how poor old
Dad was feeling and after the doctor told me how very necessary it
was that his nervous system be allowed a complete rest, I decided I
must wait. So I shall wait; perhaps I shall not tell him for
months; but just as soon as he is able to hear, I shall speak, and I
am sure he will say, "Good luck and God bless you." But if he
doesn't, it will make not the slightest difference. If you will
have me, Mary dear, nothing on this earth is going to stop my having
you. That's as settled and solid a fact as the Rocky Mountains.
He pleaded for a letter at least once a week.
You needn't put a word of love in it [he wrote]. I know how
conscientious you are, and I know perfectly well that until your
mind is made up you won't feel it right to encourage me in the
least. But do please write, if only to tell me how you are getting
on with Hamilton and Company. I only wish I were there to help you
pull those fine old uncles of yours out of the hot water. I know
you'll do it, though. And meanwhile I shall be digging away out
here and thinking of you. Please write OFTEN.
So Mary, after considerable thought and indecision, did write,
although Crawford's suggestion that her letters have no word of love
in them was scrupulously followed. And so, while the summer came
and went, the letters crossed and the news of the slow but certain
building up of the business of Hamilton and Company was exchanged
for that of Edwin Smith's steady regaining of health and strength.
And Hamilton and Company's business was reviving. Even the skeptics
could see the signs. The revival began before the summer residents
arrived in South Harniss, but after the latter began to come and the
cottages to open, it was on in earnest. John Keith helped to give
it its first big start. Mrs. Wyeth wrote him of Mary's leaving her
school work to go to the rescue of Shadrach and Zoeth, and the
girl's pluck and uncomplaining acceptance of the task she considered
set for her made Keith's eyes twinkle with admiration as he read the
letter. The family came early to South Harniss and this year he
came with them. One of his first acts after arrival was to stroll
down to the village and enter Hamilton and Company's store. Mary
and the partners were there, of course. He shook hands with them
"Well, Captain," he said, addressing Shadrach, "how is the new hand
Shadrach grinned. "Hand?" he repeated. "I don't know's we've got
any new hand, Mr. Keith. Ain't, have we, Zoeth?"
Zoeth did not recognize the joke. "He means Mary'-Gusta, I
cal'late, Shadrach," he said. "She's doin' splendid, Mr. Keith. I
don't know how we ever got along without her."
"I do," put in his partner promptly; "we didn't, that's how. But,
Mr. Keith, you hadn't ought to call Mary'-Gusta a 'hand.' Zoeth and
me are the hands aboard this craft. She's skipper, and engineer,
and purser, and--yes, and pilot, too. And don't she make us tumble
up lively when she whistles! Whew! Don't talk!"
"She is the boss, then, is she?" observed Keith.
"Boss! I guess SO! She's got US trained! Why, I've got so that I
jump out of bed nights and run round the room in my sleep thinkin'
she's just hollered to me there's a customer waitin'. Oh, she's a
hard driver, Mary-'Gusta is. Never had a fust mate aboard drove
harder'n she does. And it's havin' its effect on us, too. Look at
Zoeth! He's agin' fast; he's a year older'n he was twelve months
Keith laughed, Mary smiled, and Mr. Hamilton, judging by the
behavior of the company that there was a joke somewhere on the
premises, smiled too.
"You mustn't mind Uncle Shad, Mr. Keith," said Mary. "He talks a
"Talkin's all the exercise my face gets nowadays," declared the
Captain instantly. "She keeps me so busy I don't get time to eat.
What do you think of the store, Mr. Keith? Some improvement, ain't
Keith, who had already noticed the trim appearance of the store and
the neat and attractive way in which the goods were displayed,
expressed his hearty approval.
"And how is business?" he asked.
"Tiptop!" declared Shadrach.
"It's improvin' consider'ble," said Zoeth.
"It is a little better, but it must be far better before I am
satisfied," said Mary.
"How is the cottage trade?" asked Keith.
"Why, not so very good. There aren't many cottagers here yet."
When Keith reached home he called his wife into consultation.
"Gertrude," he asked, "where do we buy our household supplies,
groceries and the like?"
"In Boston, most of them. The others--those I am obliged to buy
here in South Harniss--at that new store, Baker's."
"I want you to buy them all of Hamilton and Company hereafter."
"THAT old-fogy place! Why?"
"Because the partners, Captain Gould and the other old chap, are
having a hard struggle to keep going and I want to help them."
Mrs. Keith tossed her head. "Humph!" she sniffed. "I know why you
are so interested. It is because of that upstart girl you think is
so wonderful, the one who has been boarding with Clara Wyeth."
"You're right, that's just it. She has given up her studies and her
opportunities there in Boston and has come down here to help her
uncles. Clara writes me that she was popular there in the school,
that the best people were her friends, and you know of her summer in
Europe with Letitia Pease. Letitia isn't easy to please and she is
enthusiastic about Mary Lathrop. No ordinary girl could give up all
that sort of thing and come back to the village where everyone knows
her and go to keeping store again, and do it so cheerfully and
sensibly and without a word of complaint. She deserves all the help
and support we and our friends can give her. I mean to see that she
Mrs. Keith looked disgusted. "You're perfectly infatuated with that
girl, John Keith," she said. "It is ridiculous. If I were like
some women I should be jealous."
"If I were like some men you might be. Now, Gertrude, you'll buy in
future from Hamilton and Company, won't you?"
"I suppose so. When your chin sets that way I know you're going to
be stubborn and I may as well give in first as last. I'll patronize
your precious Mary-'Gusta, but I WON'T associate with her. You
needn't ask that."
"Don't you think we might wait until she asks it first?"
"Tut! tut! Really, John, you disgust me. I wonder you don't order
Sam to marry her."
"From what Clara writes he might not have needed any orders if he
had received the least encouragement from her. Sam might do worse;
I imagine he probably will."
So, because John Keith's chin was set, the Keith custom shifted to
Hamilton and Company. And because the Keiths were wealthy and
influential, and because the head of the family saw that that
influence was brought to bear upon his neighbors and acquaintances,
their custom followed. Hamilton and Company put a delivery wagon--a
secondhand one--out on the road, and hired a distinctly secondhand
boy to drive it. And Mary and Shadrach and Zoeth and, in the
evenings, the boy as well, were kept busy waiting on customers. The
books showed, since the silent partner took hold, a real and
tangible profit, and the collection and payment of old debts went
The partners, Shadrach and Zoeth, were no longer silent and glum.
The Captain whistled and sang and was in high spirits most of the
time. At home he was his old self, chaffing Isaiah about the
housekeeping, taking a mischievous delight in shocking his friend
and partner by irreverent remarks concerning Jonah or some other Old
Testament personage, and occasionally, although not often, throwing
out a sly hint to Mary about the frequency of letters from the West.
Mary had told her uncles of Crawford's leaving Boston and returning
to Nevada because of his father's ill health. The only item of
importance she had omitted to tell was that of the proposal of
marriage. She could not speak of that even to them. They would ask
what her answer was to be, and if she loved Crawford. How could she
answer that--truthfully--without causing them to feel that they were
blocking her way to happiness? They felt that quite keenly enough,
as it was.
So when Captain Shad declared the illness of the South Harniss
postmaster--confined to his bed with sciatica--to be due to his
having "stooped to pick up one of them eighty-two page Wild West
letters of yours, Mary'-Gusta, and 'twas so heavy he sprained his
back liftin' it," Mary only laughed and ventured the opinion that
the postmaster's sprained back, if he had one, was more likely due
to a twist received in trying to read both sides of a postcard at
once. Which explanation, being of the Captain's own brand of humor,
pleased the latter immensely.
"Maybe you're right, Mary-'Gusta," he chuckled. "Maybe that's what
'twas. Seth [the postmaster] is pure rubber so far as other folks'
mail is concerned; maybe he stretched the rubber too far this time
and it snapped."
Zoeth did not joke much--joking was not in his line--but he showed
his relief at the improvement in the firm's affairs in quieter but
as unmistakable ways. When Mary was at the desk in the evenings
after the store had closed, busy with the books, he would come and
sit beside her, saying little but occasionally laying his hand
gently on her shoulder or patting her arm and regarding her with a
look so brimful of love and gratitude that it made her feel almost
guilty and entirely unworthy.
"Don't, Uncle Zoeth," she protested, on one such occasion. "Don't
look at me like that. I--I-- Really, you make me feel ashamed. I
haven't done anything. I am not doing half enough."
He shook his head.
"You're doin' too much, I'm afraid, Mary-'Gusta," he said. "You're
givin' up everything a girl like you had ought to have and that your
Uncle Shadrach and I had meant you should have. You're givin' it up
just for us and it ain't right. We ain't worthy of it."
"Hush, hush, Uncle Zoeth! Please! When I think what you have given
up for me--"
"'Twa'n't nothin', Mary-'Gusta. You came to your Uncle Shadrach and
to me just when we needed somethin' to keep our lives sweet. Mine
especial was bitter and there was danger 'twould always be so. And
then we brought you over from Ostable in the old buggy and--and the
Almighty's sunshine came with you. You was His angel. Yes, sir!
His angel, that's what you was, only we didn't know it then. I was
pretty sore and bitter in those days, thought I never could forget.
And yet--and yet, now I really am forgettin'--or, if I don't forget,
I'm more reconciled. And you've done it for me, Mary-'Gusta."
Mary was puzzled. "Forget what?" she asked. "Do you mean the
business troubles, Uncle Zoeth?"
Zoeth seemed to waken from a sort of dream. "Business troubles?" he
repeated. "No, no; long, long afore that these troubles were, Mary-
'Gusta. Don't let's talk about 'em. I can't talk about 'em even
now--and I mustn't think. There are some troubles that--that--" He
caught his breath and his tone changed. "I called you an angel just
now, dearie," he went on. "Well, you was and you are. There are
angels in this world--but there's devils, too--there's devils, too.
There; the Lord forgive me! What am I talkin' about? We'll forget
what's gone and be thankful for what's here. Give your old uncle a
He was happy in Mary's society and happy in the steady improvement
of the business, but the girl and Captain Shadrach were a little
worried concerning his general health. For years he had not been a
very strong or active man, but now he looked paler and more frail
than ever. He walked to and from the store and house several times
a day, but he retired almost as soon as he entered the house at
night and his appetite was not good.
"His nerves ain't back where they'd ought to be," declared Shadrach.
"He was awful shook up when it looked as if Hamilton and Company was
goin' to founder. He didn't keep blowin' off steam about it the way
I did--my safety-valve's always open--but he kept it all inside his
biler and it's put his engine out of gear. He'll get along all
right so long's it's smooth sailin', but what I'm afraid of is a
rock showin' up in the channel unexpected. The doctor told me that
Zoeth mustn't worry any more and he mustn't work too hard. More'n
all, he mustn't have any scares or shocks or anything like that."
"We must try to see that he doesn't have any," said Mary.
"Sartin sure we must, but you can't always see those things in time
to head 'em off. Now take my own case. I had a shock this mornin'.
'Rastus Young paid me a dollar on account."
"WHAT? 'Rastus Young PAID you?"
"Well, I don't know's he paid it, exactly. He borrowed the dollar
of one of those summer fellers over at Cahoon's boardin' house and
he was tellin' Ab Bacheldor about it at the corner by the post-
office. Ab, naturally, didn't believe any sane man would lend
Rastus anything, so he wanted proof. 'Rastus hauled the dollar out
of his pocket to show, and I who happened to be standin' behind 'em
without their knowin' it reached out and grabbed it."
"You did? Why, Uncle Shad!"
"Yes. I told 'Rastus I'd credit his account with it, but I don't
know's I hadn't ought to give it back to the summer feller. Anyhow,
gettin' it was a shock, same as I said at the beginnin'. 'Rastus
says he's goin' to sue me. I told him I'd have sued HIM long ago if
I'd supposed he could STEAL a dollar, let alone borrow one."
It was late in August when Mary received the letter from Crawford in
which he told of his determination to wait no longer but to tell his
father of his love for her. Edwin Smith was much better. By way of
proof, his son inclosed a photograph which he had taken of his
father sitting beneath a tree on the lawn of their home. The
picture showed Mr. Smith without his beard, which had been shaved
off during his illness. Either this or the illness itself had
changed him a great deal. He looked thinner and, which was odd
under the circumstances, younger. Mary, looking at this photograph,
felt more than ever the impossible conviction that somewhere or
other at some time in her life she must have met Mr. Edwin Smith.
So, in my next letter [wrote Crawford], I shall have news to tell.
And I am sure it will be good news. "Ask your father first," you
said. Of course you remember that, and I have remembered it every
moment since. Now I am going to ask him. After that you will give
me your answer, won't you? And it can't be anything but yes,
because I won't let it be.
What Mary's feelings were when she received this letter, whether or
not she slept as soundly that night and other nights immediately
following, whether or not the sight of Isaiah returning from the
post-office at mail times caused her breath to come a little quicker
and her nerves to thrill--these are questions the answers to which
must be guessed. Suffice it to say that she manifested no marked
symptoms of impatience and anxiety during that week and when at last
Isaiah handed her another letter postmarked Carson City the
trembling of the hand which received it was so slight as to be
unnoticed by Mr. Chase.
She put aside the letter until that night when she was alone in her
room. Then she opened it and read what Crawford had written. His
father had not only refused consent to his son's contemplated
marriage but had manifested such extraordinary agitation and such
savage and unreasonable obstinacy that Crawford was almost inclined
to believe his parent's recent illness had affected his mind.
That is the only explanation I can think of [he wrote]. It seems as
if he must be insane. And yet he seemed rational enough at the
beginning of our first interview and during most of the second.
Even when I had broken the news that there was a girl in whom I felt
an especial interest he did not show any sign of the outbreak that
came afterward. It wasn't until I began to tell how I first met you
there at South Harniss, who you were, and about Captain Gould and
Mr. Hamilton, that I noticed he was acting queerly. I was head over
heels in my story, trying to make plain how desperate my case was
and doing my best to make him appreciate how tremendously lucky his
son was to have even a glimmer of a chance to get a girl like you
for a wife, when I heard him make an odd noise in his throat. I
looked up--I don't know where I had been looking before--certainly
not at him--and there he was, leaning back in his chair, his face as
white as his collar, and waving a hand at me. I thought he was
choking, or was desperately ill or something, and I sprang toward
him, but he waved me back. "Stop! Wait!" he said, or stammered, or
choked; it was more like a croak than a human voice. "Don't come
here! Let me be! What are you trying to tell me? Who--who is this
girl?" I asked him what was the matter--his manner and his look
frightened me--but he wouldn't answer, kept ordering me to tell him
again who you were. So I did tell him that you were the daughter of
the Reverend Charles Lathrop and Augusta Lathrop, and of your
mother's second marriage to Captain Marcellus Hall. "But he died
when she was seven years old," I went on, "and since that time she
has been living with her guardians, the two fine old fellows who
adopted her, Captain Shadrach Gould and Zoeth Hamilton. They live
at South Harniss on Cape Cod." I had gotten no further than this
when he interrupted me. "She--she has been living with Zoeth
Hamilton?" he cried. "With Zoeth Hamilton! Oh, my God! Did--did
Zoeth Hamilton send you to me?" Yes, that is exactly what he said:
"Did Zoeth Hamilton send you to me?" I stared at him. "Why, no,
Dad," I said, as soon as I could say anything. "Of course he
didn't. I have met Mr. Hamilton but once in my life. What IS the
matter? Sit down again. Don't you think I had better call the
doctor?" I thought surely his brain was going. But no, he wouldn't
answer or listen. Instead he looked at me with the wildest,
craziest expression and said: "Did Zoeth Hamilton tell you?" "He
told me nothing, Dad," I said, as gently as I could. "Of course he
didn't. I am almost a stranger to him. Besides, what in the world
was there to tell? I came to you because I had something to tell.
I mean to marry Mary Lathrop, if she will have me--" I got no
further than that. "No!" he fairly screamed. "No! No! No! Oh, my
God, no!" And then the doctor came running in, we got Dad to bed,
and it was all over for that day, except that I naturally was
tremendously upset and conscience-stricken. I could see that the
doctor thought I was to blame, that I had confessed something or
other--something criminal, I imagine he surmised--to Dad and that it
had knocked the poor old chap over. And I couldn't explain, because
what I had told him was not for outsiders to hear.
Well, after a terribly anxious night and a worrisome forenoon the
doctor told me that father was himself again and wanted to see me at
once. "I've said all I can against it," said the doctor. "I don't
know what sort of rumpus you two had yesterday, but it came
dangerously near being the finish for him. And it must not be
repeated; I'm making that as emphatic as I can." I assured him that
so far as I was concerned there would not be a scene, and then went
in to Dad's room. He looked white enough and sick enough but he was
rational and his mind was keen and clear. He got me to tell the
whole story about you all over again and he asked a lot of
questions; in fact, he cross-examined me pretty thoroughly. When I
had finished his tone was calm, but I noticed that his hand was
shaking and he seemed to be holding himself in. "And so you think
you want to marry this down-east country girl, do you?" he said. "I
certainly do," said I. He laughed, a forced laugh--didn't sound
like his at all--and he said: "Well, my boy, you'll get over it.
It's a whole lot better to get over it now than to do so by and by
when it's too late. It's a good thing I called you home when I did.
You stay here and keep on with your studies and I'll keep on getting
into shape again. By next summer, when we go on our fishing trip,
you'll have forgotten all about your Down-Easter." Well, THAT was a
staggerer, coming from him. It didn't sound like him at all, and
again I had that feeling that his mind was going. You see, Mary, I
never asked Dad for anything I didn't get--never. Now, I wasn't
asking, I was just telling him what I had made up my mind to have,
and he treated me this way. I answered him calmly and quietly,
telling him I was serious and what you meant to me. He wouldn't
listen at first; then when he did, he wouldn't agree. Pleaded with
me--he was lonesome, I was his only son, he needed me, he couldn't
share me with anyone else, and so on. There is no use going into
all the details. We didn't get any nearer an agreement, we did get
nearer and nearer to bad temper on my part and shouts and hysterics
on his. So I left him, Mary. That was last night. I knew Dad was
inclined to be stubborn, and I knew he had strong prejudices, but I
never imagined he could behave like this to me. And I am sure he
would not if he were himself. So I shall say no more to him on the
subject for a day or two. Then, when he is better, as I am hoping
he may be soon, he and I will have another talk. But understand,
Mary dear, my mind was made up before I spoke to him at all. What
he says or what he does will make no difference, so far as you and I
are concerned. I know you are a believer in duty; well, so am I. I
would stick by Dad through thick and thin. If I knew he was right
in asking me to do or not to do a thing, even if I knew he had been
wrong in asking other things, I would stick by him and try to do as
he asked. But not this. I love Dad, God knows I do, but I love
you, Mary, and as I have vowed to myself every day since I last saw
you, I am going to marry you if you will only have me. As for Dad--
well, we'll hope within a day or two I may have better news to
Mary read and reread the long letter. Then she leaned back in her
chair and with the letter in her lap sat there--thinking. She had
been right in her forebodings; it was as she had expected, had
foreseen: Edwin Smith, man of affairs, wealthy, arbitrary,
eccentric, accustomed to having his own way and his prejudices,
however absurd, respected--a man with an only son for whom,
doubtless, plans definite and ambitious had been made, could not be
expected calmly to permit the upsetting of those plans by his boy's
marriage to a poor "Down-Easter." So much she had foreseen from the
first, and she had never shared Crawford's absolute confidence in
his parent's acquiescence. She had been prepared, therefore, to
read that Mr. Smith had refused his consent.
But to be prepared for a probability and to face a certainty are
quite different. It was the certainty she was facing now. Unless
Mr. Smith changed his mind, and the chances were ten to one against
that, he and his son would quarrel. Crawford had inherited a
portion of his father's stubbornness; he was determined, she knew.
He loved her and he meant what he said--if she would have him he
would marry her in spite of his father. It made her proud and happy
to know that. But she, too, was resolute and had meant what she
said. She would not be the cause of a separation between father and
son. And, besides, marriage had become for her a matter of the
distant future; for the present her task was set there at South
What should she do? It was hard for Crawford, poor fellow. Yes,
but it was hard for her, too. No one but she knew how hard. He
would write her again telling her that his decision was unchanged,
begging her to say she loved him, pleading with her to wait for him.
And she would wait--Oh, how gladly, how joyfully she could wait--for
him!--if she knew she was doing right in permitting him to wait for
her. If she was sure that in permitting him to give up his father's
love and his home and money and all that money could buy she was
justified. There is a love which asks and a love which gives
without asking return; the latter is the greater love and it was
hers. She had written Crawford that perhaps she was not sure of her
feeling toward him. That was not true. She was sure; but because
she was fearful that his knowledge might be the means of entailing a
great sacrifice on his part, she would not tell him.
What should she do? She considered, as the little Mary-'Gusta used
to consider her small problems in that very room. And the result of
her considerations was rather unsatisfactory. There was nothing she
could do now, nothing but wait until she heard again from Crawford.
Then she would write.
She brushed her eyes with her handkerchief and read the letter
again. There were parts of it which she could not understand. She
was almost inclined to adopt Crawford's suggestion that his father's
mind might have been affected by his illness. Why had he received
so passively the news that his son had fallen in love and yet become
so violent when told the object of that love? He did not know her,
Mary Lathrop; there could be no personal quality in his objection.
And what could he have meant by asking if Zoeth Hamilton had sent
Crawford to him? That was absolutely absurd. Zoeth, and Shadrach,
too, had talked with Mary of Crawford's people in the West, but
merely casually, as of complete strangers, which, of course, they
were. It was all strange, but explainable if one considered that
Mr. Smith was weak and ill and, perhaps, flighty. She must not
think any more about it now--that is, she must try not to think.
She must not give way, and above all she must not permit her uncles
to suspect that she was troubled. She must try hard to put it from
her mind until Crawford's next letter came.
But that letter did not come. The week passed, then another, but
there was no word from Crawford. Mary's anxiety grew. Each day as
Isaiah brought the mail she expected him to give her an envelope
addressed in the familiar handwriting, but he did not. She was
growing nervous--almost fearful. And then came a happening the
shock of which drove everything else from her mind for the time and
substituted for that fear another.
It was a Tuesday and one o'clock. Mary and Captain Shadrach, having
had an early dinner, had returned to the store. Zoeth, upon their
arrival, went down to the house for his own meal. Business, which
had been very good indeed, was rather slack just then and Shadrach
and Mary were talking together. Suddenly they heard the sound of
rapid footsteps in the lane outside.
"Who's hoofin' it up to the main road at that rate?" demanded the
Captain, lounging lazily toward the window. "Has the town pump got
on fire or is somebody goin' for the doctor?"
He leaned forward to look. His laziness vanished.
"Eh! Jumpin' Judas!" he cried, springing to the door. "It's
Isaiah, and runnin' as if the Old Boy was after him! Here! You!
Isaiah! What's the matter?"
Isaiah pounded up the platform steps and staggered against the
doorpost. His face flamed so red that, as Shadrach said afterward,
it was "a wonder the perspiration didn't bile."
"I--I--I--" he stammered. "I--Oh, dear me! What shall I do? He--
he--he's there on the floor and--and--Oh, my godfreys! I'm all out
of wind! What SHALL I do?"
"Talk!" roared the Captain. "Talk! Use what wind you've got for
that! What's happened? Sing out!"
"He's--he's all alone there!" panted Mr. Chase. "He won't speak,
scurcely--only moans. I don't know's he ain't dead!"
"Who's dead? Who? Who? Who?" The irate Shadrach seized his
steward by the collar and shook him, not too gently. "Who's dead?"
he bellowed. "Somebody will be next door to dead right here in a
minute if you don't speak up instead of snortin' like a puffin' pig.
Isaiah swallowed, gasped and waved a desperate hand. "Let go of
me!" he protested. "Zoeth--he--he's down in a heap on the kitchen
floor. He's had a--a stroke or somethin'."
"God A'mighty!" cried Shadrach, and bolted out of the door. Mary
followed him and a moment later, Mr. Chase followed her. The store
was left to take care of itself.
They found poor Zoeth not exactly in a heap on the floor of the
kitchen, but partially propped against one of the kitchen chairs.
He was not unconscious but could speak only with difficulty. They
carried him to the bedroom and Isaiah was sent on another gallop
after the doctor. When the latter came he gave his patient a
thorough examination and emerged from the sickroom looking grave.
"You must get a nurse," he said. "This is likely to last a long
while. It is a slight paralytic stroke, I should say, though what
brought it on I haven't the least idea. Has Mr. Hamilton had any
sudden shock or fright or anything of that sort?"
He had not, so far as anyone knew. Isaiah, being questioned, told
of Zoeth's coming in for dinner and of his--Isaiah's--handing him
the morning's mail.
"I fetched it myself down from the post-office," said Isaiah.
"There was a couple of Hamilton and Company letters and the
Wellmouth Register and one of them circulum advertisements about So-
and-So's horse liniment, and, and--yes, seems to me there was a
letter for Zoeth himself. He took 'em all and sot down in the
kitchen to look 'em over. I went into the dinin'-room. Next thing
I knew I heard him say, 'O God!' just like that."
"Avast heavin', Isaiah!" put in Captain Shadrach. "You're way off
your course. Zoeth never said that. That's the way I talk, but he
"He done it this time," persisted Isaiah. "I turned and looked
through the doorway at him and he was standin' in the middle of the
kitchen floor. Seems to me he had a piece of white paper in his
hand--seem's if he did. And then, afore I could say a word, he kind
of groaned and sunk down in--in a pile, as you might say, right on
the floor. And I couldn't get him up, nor get him to speak to me,
nor nothin'. Yet he must have come to enough to move after I left
and to crawl acrost and lean against that chair."
The horse liniment circular and the Wellmouth Register were there on
the kitchen table just where Mr. Hamilton had laid them. There,
also, were the two letters addressed to Hamilton and Company. Of
the letter which Isaiah seemed to remember as addressed to Zoeth
personally, there was no sign.
"Are you sure there was such a letter, Isaiah?" asked Mary.
Mr. Chase was not sure; that is to say, he was not sure more than a
minute at a time. The minute following he was inclined to think he
might have been mistaken, perhaps it was yesterday or the day before
or even last week that his employer received such a letter.
Captain Shadrach lost patience.
"Sure 'twan't last Thanksgivin'?" he demanded. "Are you sure about
anything? Are you sure how old you are?"
"No, by godfreys, I ain't!" roared Isaiah in desperation. "I'm so
upsot ever since I looked into that kitchen and see the poor soul
down on the floor there that--that all I'm sure of is that I ain't
sure of nothin'"
"Well, I don't know's I blame you much, Isaiah," grunted the
Captain. "Anyway, it doesn't make much difference about that
letter, so fur as I see, whether there was one or not. What did you
want to know for, Mary?"
Mary hesitated. "Why," she answered, "I--perhaps it is foolish, but
the doctor said something about a shock being responsible for this
dreadful thing and I didn't know--I thought perhaps there might have
been something in that letter which shocked or alarmed Uncle Zoeth.
Of course it isn't probable that there was."
Shadrach shook his head.
"I guess not," he said. "I can't think of any letter he'd get of
that kind. There's nobody to write it. He ain't got any relations
nigher than third cousin, Zoeth ain't. Anyhow, we mustn't stop to
guess riddles now. I'll hunt up the letter by and by, if there was
one and I happen to think of it. Now I've got to hunt up a nurse."
The nurse was found, a Mrs. Deborah Atkins, of Ostable, and she
arrived that night, bag and baggage, and took charge of the patient.
Deborah was not ornamental, being elderly and, as Captain Shadrach
said, built for tonnage more than speed; but she was sensible and
capable. Also, her fee was not excessive, although that was by no
means the principal reason for her selection.
"Never mind what it costs," said Mary. "Get the best you can. It's
for Uncle Zoeth, remember."
Shadrach's voice shook a little as he answered.
"I ain't likely to forget," he said. "Zoeth and I've cruised
together for a good many years and if one of us has to go under I'd
rather 'twas me. I haven't got much money but what I've got is his,
and after that so long as I can get trusted. But there," with an
attempt at optimism, "don't you fret, Mary-'Gusta. Nobody's goin'
under yet. We'll have Zoeth up on deck doin' the fishers' hornpipe
in a couple of weeks."
But it was soon plain to everyone, the Captain included, that many
times two weeks must elapse before Mr. Hamilton would be able to
appear on deck again, to say nothing of dancing hornpipes. For days
he lay in partial coma, rallying occasionally and speaking at rare
intervals but evidently never fully aware of where he was and what
"He will recover, I think," said the doctor, "but it will be a slow
Mary did not again refer to the letter regarding which Isaiah's
memory was so befogged. In fact, she forgot it entirely. So also
did Captain Shad. For both the worry of Zoeth's illness and the
care of the store were sufficient to drive trifles from their minds.
And for Mary there was another trouble, one which she must keep to
herself. Three weeks had elapsed since Crawford's letter, that
telling of his two fateful interviews with his father, and still no
word had come from him. Mary could not understand his silence. In
vain she called her philosophy to her rescue, striving to think that
after all it was best if she never heard from him again, best that a
love affair which could never end happily were ended at once, best
that he should come to see the question as his father saw it--best
for him, that is, for his future would then be one of ease and
happiness. All this she thought--and then found herself wondering
why he had not written, imagining all sorts of direful happenings
and feeling herself responsible.
One evening, about a week after Mr. Hamilton's sudden seizure, Mary
was in her room alone. She had again reread Crawford's latest
letter and was sitting there trying to imagine the scene as he had
described it. She was trying to picture Edwin Smith, the man who--
as his son had so often told her--indulged that son's every whim,
was kindness and parental love personified, and yet had raved and
stormed like a madman because the boy wished to marry her, Mary
She rose, opened the drawer of her bureau, and took out the
photograph of Mr. Smith, the one which showed him without his beard,
the one taken since his illness. Crawford had written that this
photograph, too, had been taken on the sly.
"Dad's prejudice against photos is as keen as ever," he wrote. "He
would slaughter me on the spot if he knew I had snapped him."
The face in the picture was not that of the savage, unrelenting
parent of the old plays, who used to disinherit his sons and drive
his daughters out into blinding snowstorms because they dared thwart
his imperial will. Edwin Smith was distinctly a handsome man, gray-
haired, of course, and strong-featured, but with a kind rather than
a stern expression. As Mary had said when she first saw his
likeness, he looked as if he might have had experiences. In this
photograph he looked very grave, almost sad, but possibly that was
because of his recent sickness.
She was looking at the picture when Isaiah's voice was heard outside
"Hi, Mary-'Gusta," whispered Mr. Chase. "Ain't turned in yet, have
you? Can I speak with you a minute?"
"Certainly, Isaiah," said Mary. "Come in!"
Isaiah entered. "'Twan't nothin' special," he said. "I was just
goin' to tell you that Debby T. cal'lates Zoeth is a little mite
easier tonight. She just said so and I thought you'd like to know."
By "Debby T." Isaiah meant Mrs. Atkins. Mary understood.
"Thank you, Isaiah," she said. "I am ever so glad to hear it.
Thank you for telling me."
"That's all right, Mary-'Gusta. Hello! who's tintype's that?"
He had caught sight of the photograph upon the arm of Mary's chair.
He picked it up and looked at it. She heard him gasp. Turning, she
saw him staring at the photograph with an expression of absolute
amazement--amazement and alarm.
"Why, Isaiah!" she cried. "What is the matter?"
Isaiah, not taking his eyes from the picture, extended it in one
hand and pointed to it excitedly with the other.
"For godfreys mighty sakes!" he demanded. "Where did you get that?"
"Get what? The photograph?"
"Yes! Yes, yes! Where'd you get it? Where'd it come from?"
"It was sent to me. What of it? What is the matter?"
Isaiah answered neither question. He seemed to have heard only the
"SENT to you!" he repeated. "Mary-'Gusta Lathrop, have you been
tryin' to find out--Look here! who sent you Ed Farmer's picture?"
Mary stared at him. "WHOSE picture?" she said. "What are you
talking about, Isaiah?"
Isaiah thrust the photograph still closer to the end of her nose.
Also he continued to point at it.
"Who sent you Ed Farmer's picture?" he repeated. "Where--where'd
you get it? You tell me, now."
Mary looked him over from head to foot.
"I don't know whether to send for Uncle Shad or the doctor," she
said, slowly. "If you don't stop hopping up and down and waving
your arms as if they worked by strings I shall probably send for
both. Isaiah Chase, behave yourself! What is the matter with you?"
Isaiah, during his years as sea cook, had learned to obey orders.
Mary's tone had its effect upon him. He dropped one hand, but he
still held the photograph in the other. And he stared at it as if
it possessed some sort of horrible charm which frightened and
fascinated at the same time. Mary had never seen him so excited.
"Ed Farmer!" he exclaimed. "Oh, I swan to man! I don't see how--
Say, it IS him, ain't it, Mary-'Gusta? But of course 'tis! I can
see 'tis with my own eyes. My godfreys mighty!"
Mary shook her head. "If I didn't know you were a blue ribboner,
Isaiah," she said, "I should be suspicious. That photograph was
sent me from the West. It is a picture of a gentleman named Edwin
Smith, someone I have never seen and I'm perfectly sure you never
have. Why in the world it should make you behave as if you needed a
strait-jacket I can't see. Does Mr. Smith resemble someone you
Isaiah's mouth fell open and remained so as he gazed first at the
photograph and then at her.
"Ed--Edwin Smith," he repeated. "Edwin Smith! I--I don't know no
Edwin Smith. Look here, now; honest, Mary-'Gusta, AIN'T that a
picture of Ed Farmer?"
Mary laughed. "Of course it isn't," she said. "Who is Ed Farmer,
Isaiah did not answer. He was holding the photograph near the end
of his own nose now and examining it with eager scrutiny, muttering
comments as he did so.
"If it ain't him it's a better picture than if 'twas," was one of
his amazing observations. "Don't seem as if two folks could look so
much alike and not be. And yet--and yet I can see--I can see now--
this feller's hair's pretty nigh white and Ed's was dark brown. But
then if this feller was Ed he'd be--he'd be--let's see--he'd be all
of thirty-five years older than he was thirty-five years ago and
that would account--"
Mary burst out laughing.
"Do be still, Isaiah!" she broke in. "You are perfectly idiotic.
That man's name is Smith, I tell you."
Mr. Chase heaved a sigh. "You're sartin 'tis?" he asked.
"Of course I am."
"Well, then I cal'late it must be. But if Ed Farmer had lived all
these years and had had his tintype took he wouldn't get one to
favor him more than that does, I bet you. My, it give me a start,
comin' onto me so unexpected!"
"But who is Ed Farmer?" asked Mary. The name had meant nothing to
her so far. And yet, even as she spoke she remembered. Her
"Do you mean--" she cried, eagerly. "Why, Isaiah, do you mean the
man in that old photograph I found in the garret ever and ever so
long ago? The one you told me was a--a blackguard?"
Isaiah, still staring at Mr. Smith's likeness, answered emphatically.
"That's the one," he said. "That's the one I meant. My, this
feller does look like him, or the way I cal'late he would look if he
lived as long as this!"
"Is he dead, then?"
"I don't know. We don't any of us know around here. I ain't laid
eyes on him since the day afore it happened. I remember just as
well as if 'twas yesterday. He come out of the office onto the
wharf where I was workin' and he says to me, 'Isaiah,' he says,
knockin' on the head of a barrel with his hand--the right hand
'twas, the one that had the bent finger; he got it smashed under a
hogshead of salt one time and it never came straight again--
'Isaiah,' says he, 'it's a nice day, ain't it.' And I answered up
prompt--I liked him fust-rate; everybody liked him them days--'Yes,
sir,' I says, 'this is a good enough day to go see your best girl
in.' I never meant nothin' by it, you understand, just a sayin'
'twas, but it seemed to give him a kind of start. He looked at me
hard. 'Did anyone tell you where I was goin'?' says he, sharp.
'Why, no,' says I. 'Why should they?' He didn't answer, just kept
on starin' at me. Then he laughed and walked away. I didn't know
where he was goin' then, but I know now, darn him! And the next day
he went--for good."
He stopped speaking. Mary waited a moment and then asked, quietly:
"Went where, Isaiah? Where did he go?"
Isaiah, who was standing, the photograph still in his hand, started,
turned and looked at her.
"What's that?" he asked.
"I say, where did this Mr. Farmer go?"
"Eh? Oh, I don't know. He went away, that's all. Don't ask me any
more questions. I've been talkin' too much, anyhow, I cal'late.
Cap'n Shad would skin me alive if he knew I'd said as much as I
have. Say, Mary-'Gusta, don't you say nothin' to either him or
Zoeth, will you? You see--it's--it's a kind of little secret we
have amongst us and--and nobody else is in on it. 'Twas this
plaguey tintype got me to talkin'. No wonder neither! I never see
such a look on two folks. I--there, there! Good night, Mary-
'Gusta, good night."
He tossed the photograph on the bureau and hurried out of the room.
Mary called after him, but he would neither stop nor answer.
After he had gone Mary took up the photograph, seated herself once
more in the chair, and studied the picture for a long time. Then
she rose and, lamp in hand, left the room, tiptoed along the hall
past the door of Captain Shadrach's room, and up the narrow stairs
to the attic, her old playground.
Her playthings were there still, arranged in her customary orderly
fashion along the walls. Rose and Rosette and Minnehaha and the
other dolls were seated in their chairs or the doll carriage or with
their backs against Shadrach's old sea chest. She had never put
them away out of sight. Somehow it seemed more like home to her,
the knowledge that though she would never play with them again, they
were there waiting for her in their old places. While she was away
at school they had been covered from the dust by a cloth, but now
the cloth had been taken away and she herself dusted them every
other morning before going up to the store. As Shadrach said, no
one but Mary-'Gusta would ever have thought of doing such a thing.
She did, because she WAS Mary-'Gusta.
However, the dolls did not interest her now. She tiptoed across the
garret floor, taking great care to avoid the boards which creaked
most, and lifted the lid of the old trunk which she had first opened
on that Saturday afternoon nearly ten years before. She found the
pocket on the under side of the lid, opened it and inserted her
hand. Yes, the photograph of Hall and Company was still there, she
could feel the edge of it with her fingers.
She took it out, and closed the pocket and then the trunk, and
tiptoed down the stairs and to her room again. She closed the door,
locked it--something she had never done in her life before--and
placing the photograph she had taken from the trunk beside that sent
her by Crawford, sat down to compare them.
And as she looked at the two photographs her wonder at Isaiah's odd
behavior ceased. It was not strange that when he saw Mr. Edwin
Smith's likeness he was astonished; it was not remarkable that he
could scarcely be convinced the photograph was not that of the
mysterious Ed Farmer. For here in the old, yellow photograph of the
firm of "Hall and Company, Wholesale Fish Dealers," was Edgar S.
Farmer, and here in the photograph sent her by Crawford was Edwin
Smith. And save that Edgar S. Farmer was a young man and Edwin
Smith a man in the middle sixties, they were almost identical in
appearance. Each time she had seen Mr. Smith's photograph she had
felt certain she must have met the original. Here was the reason--
this man in the other photograph. The only difference was the
difference of age. Edwin Smith had a nose like Edgar Farmer's, and
a chin like his and eyes like his. And Isaiah had just said that
Edgar Farmer had a crooked finger on his right hand caused by an
accident with a hogshead of salt. Mary remembered well something
Crawford had told her, that his father had a finger on the right
hand which had been hurt in a mine years before he, Crawford, was
It could not be, of course--it could not be--and yet-- Oh, WHAT did
In his own room at the end of the second-story hall, over the
kitchen, Mr. Chase was sitting reading the local paper before
retiring. It was a habit he had, one of which Captain Shadrach
pretended to approve highly. "Best thing in the world, Isaiah,"
declared the Captain. "Sleep's what everybody needs and I can't
think of any surer way of gettin' to sleep than readin' the South
Harniss news in that paper."
Whether or not this unkind joke was deserved is not material; at all
events Isaiah was reading the paper when he was very much startled
by a knock at the door.
"Who--who is it?" he stammered.
"It is Mary," whispered a voice outside the door. "I want to speak
with you, Isaiah. You're not in bed, are you?"
Isaiah reluctantly relinquished the paper. "No, no," he replied, "I
ain't in bed. What's the matter? Zoeth ain't no worse, is he?"
"Let me in and I'll tell you."
"Come on in. You don't need no lettin'."
Mary entered. She was very grave and very earnest.
"What in the nation," began Isaiah, "are you prowlin' around this
hour of the night for?"
"Hush! Isaiah, you must tell me everything now. There's no use to
say you won't--you MUST. Who was Edgar Farmer and what wrong did he
do my uncles?"
Isaiah said nothing; he did not attempt to answer. Instead he gaped
at her with such an expression of guilty surprise, fright, and
apprehension that at any other time she would have laughed. Just
now, however, she was far from laughing.
"Come! come!" she said, impatiently. "I mean it. I want you to
tell me all about this Edgar Farmer."
"Now--now, Mary-'Gusta, I told you--"
"You told me a very little. Now I want to know the rest. Everyone
else in this family knows it and it is time I did. I'm not a child
any more. Tell me the whole story, Isaiah."
"I shan't neither. Oh, by godfreys, this is what I get by sayin'
more'n I ought to! And yet how could I help it when I see that
tintype? It's just my luck! Nobody else but me would have had the
dratted luck to have that picture stuck into their face and eyes
unexpected. And 'twas just so when you found that other one years
ago up attic. I had to be the one you sprung it on! I had to be!
But I shan't tell you nothin'!"
"Yes, you will. You must tell me everything."
"Well, I shan't."
"Very well. Then I shall go straight to Uncle Shad."
"To who? To CAP'N SHAD! Oh, my godfreys mighty! You go to him and
see what he'll say! Just go! Why, he'd shut up tighter'n a clam at
low water and he'd give you fits besides. Go to Cap'n Shad and ask
about Ed Farmer! My soul! You try it! Aw, don't be foolish, Mary-
"I'm not going to be foolish, Isaiah. If I go to Uncle Shad I shall
tell him that it was through you I learned there was such a person
as the Farmer man and that there was a secret connected with him,
that it was a disagreeable secret, that--"
"Hush! Land sakes alive! Mary-'Gusta, DON'T talk so! Why, if you
told Cap'n Shad he'd--I don't know what he wouldn't do to me. If he
knew I told you about Ed Farmer he'd--I swan to man I believe he'd
pretty nigh kill me!"
"Well, you'll soon know what he will do, for unless you tell me the
whole story, I shall certainly go to him."
"I surely shall. And if he won't tell me I shall go to someone
outside the family--to Judge Baxter, perhaps. He would tell me, I'm
sure, if I asked. No, Isaiah, you tell me. And if you do tell me
all freely and frankly, keeping nothing back, I'll say nothing to
Uncle Shad or Uncle Zoeth. They shall never know who told."
Mr. Chase wrung his hands. Ever since he had been cook at the white
house by the shore he had had this duty laid upon him, the duty of
keeping his lips closed upon the name of Edgar Farmer and the story
connected with that name. When Captain Shadrach first engaged him
for his present situation the Captain had ordered him never to speak
the name or mention the happenings of that time. And after little
Mary Lathrop became a regular and most important member of the
family, the command was repeated. "She mustn't ever know if we can
help it, Isaiah," said Shadrach, solemnly. "You know Zoeth and how
he feels. For his sake, if nothin' else, we mustn't any of us drop
a hint so that she will know. She'll find out, I presume likely,
when she gets older; there'll be some kind soul around town that'll
tell her, consarn 'em; but WE shan't tell her; and if YOU tell her,
Isaiah Chase, I'll--I declare to man I'll heave you overboard!"
And now after all these years of ignorance during which the expected
had not happened and no one of the village gossips had revealed the
secret to her--now, here she was, demanding that he, Isaiah Chase,
reveal it, and threatening to go straight to Captain Gould and tell
who had put her upon the scent. No wonder the cook and steward
wrung his hands in despair; the heaving overboard was imminent.
Mary, earnest and determined as she was to learn the truth, the
truth which she was beginning to believe might mean so much to her,
nevertheless could not help pitying him.
"Come, come, Isaiah," she said, "don't look so tragic. There isn't
anything so dreadful about it. Have you promised--have you given
your word not to tell? Because if you have I shan't ask you to
break it. I shall go to Judge Baxter instead--or to Uncle Shad.
But of course I shall be obliged to tell how I came to know--the
little I do know."
Mr. Chase did not like the prospect of her going to the Captain,
that was plain. For the first time his obstinacy seemed to waver.
"I--I don't know's I ever give my word," he admitted. "I never
promised nothin', as I recollect. Cap'n Shad he give me orders--"
"Yes, yes, of course he did. Well, now I'M giving you orders. And
I promise you, Isaiah, if it ever becomes necessary I'll stand
between you and Uncle Shad. Now tell me."
Isaiah sat down upon the bed and wiped his forehead.
"Oh, Lordy!" he moaned. "I wisht my mouth had been sewed up afore
ever I said a word about any of it. . . . But--but . . . Well,"
desperately, "what is it you want to know?"
"I want to know everything. Begin at the beginning and tell me who
Mr. Farmer was."
Mr. Chase marked a pattern on the floor with his slippered foot.
Then he began:
"He come from up Cape Ann way in the beginnin'," he said. "The rest
of the firm was Cape Codders, but he wan't. However, he'd been a-
fishin' and he knew fish and after the firm was fust started and
needed an extry bookkeeper he applied and got the job. There was
three of 'em in Hall and Company at fust, all young men they was,
too; your stepfather, Cap'n Marcellus Hall, he was the head one; and
Mr. Zoeth, he was next and Cap'n Shad next. 'Twan't until three or
four year afterwards that Ed Farmer was took in partner. He was so
smart and done so well they give him a share and took him in.
"Everybody liked him, too. He was younger even than the rest, and
fine lookin' and he had a--a kind of way with him that just made you
like him. The way the business was handled was somethin' like this:
Cap'n Marcellus, your stepfather, Mary-'Gusta, he and Cap'n Shad
done the outside managin', bossin' the men--we had a lot of 'em on
the wharf them days, too, and there was always schooners unloadin'
and carts loadin' up and fellers headin' up barrels--Oh, Hall and
Company's store and docks was the busiest place on the South Shore.
You ask anybody that remembers and they'll tell you so.
"Well, Cap'n Marcellus and Cap'n Shad was sort of outside bosses,
same as I said, and Zoeth he was sort of general business boss,
'tendin' to the buyin' supplies and payin' for 'em and gettin' money
and the like of that, and Ed--Edgar Farmer, I mean--he was inside
office boss, lookin' out for the books and the collections and the
bank account and so on. Marcellus and Zoeth and Cap'n Shad was old
chums and had been for years; they was as much to each other as
brothers and always had been; but it wan't so very long afore they
thought as much of Farmer as they did of themselves. He was that
kind--you couldn't help takin' a notion to him.
"When I get to talkin' about Hall and Company I could talk for a
month of Sundays. Them was great days--yes, sir, great days for
South Harniss and the fish business. Why I've seen, of a Saturday
mornin' in the mackerel season, as many as forty men ashore right
here in town with money in their pockets and their hats on onesided,
lookin' for fun or trouble just as happened along. And Cap'n
Marcellus and his partners was looked up to and respected; not much
more'n boys they wan't, but they was big-bugs, I tell you, and they
wore beaver hats to church on Sunday, every man jack of 'em. Fur's
that goes, I wore one, too, and you might not think it, but 'twas
becomin' to me if I do say it. Yes, sir-ee! 'Twas a kind of curl-
up brim one, that hat was, and--"
"Never mind the hat now, Isaiah," interrupted Mary. "Tell me about
Isaiah looked offended. "I am tellin' you, ain't I?" he demanded.
"Ain't I tellin' you fast as I can?"
"Perhaps you are. We won't argue about it. Go on."
"Well--well, where was I? You've put me clear off my course."
"You were just going to tell me what Mr. Farmer did."
"What he did! What didn't he do, you'd better say! The blackguard!
He smashed the firm flat, that's what he done! And he run off with
"Marcellus's sister! My stepfather's sister! I didn't know he ever
had a sister. Are you sure he had?"
"Am I sure! What kind of talk's that? Course I'm sure! She was
younger than Marcellus and pretty--say, she WAS pretty! Yes, the
outside of her figurehead was mighty hard to beat, everybody said
so; but the inside was kind of--well, kind of rattly, as you might
say. She'd laugh and talk and go on and Ed Farmer he'd hang over
the desk there in the office and look at her. Just look--and look--
and look. How many times I've seen 'em that way! It got so that
folks begun to talk a little mite. Marcellus didn't, of course; he
idolized that girl, worshiped her like a vain thing, so's to speak.
And Cap'n Shad, course he wouldn't talk because he's always down on
tattle-tales and liars, but I've always thought he was a little mite
suspicious and troubled. As for poor Zoeth--well, it's always his
kind that are the last to suspect. And Zoeth was as innocent then
as he is now. And as good, too.
"And then one day it come out, come down on us like the mainmast
goin' by the board. No, come to think of it, it didn't come all to
once that way. Part of it did, but the rest didn't. The rest kind
of leaked out along slow, gettin' a little mite worse every day. I
can see it just as plain as if 'twas yesterday--Marcellus and
Shadrach in the office goin' over the books and addin' up on pieces
of paper, and it gettin' worse and worse all the time. And the
whole town a-talkin'! And poor Zoeth lyin' in his bedroom there to
home, out of his mind and ravin' distracted and beggin' and pleadin'
with his partners not to chase 'em, to let 'em go free for her sake.
And the doctor a-comin'! And--"
Mary began to feel that she, too, was in danger of raving
distraction. Between her anxiety to hear the story and her
forebodings and growing suspicions she was becoming more and more
nervous as Isaiah rambled on.
"Wait! Wait, please, Isaiah!" she begged. "I don't understand.
What had happened?"
Isaiah regarded her with surprise and impatience.
"Ain't I been tellin' you?" he snapped, testily. "Ain't I this
minute told you? This Ed Farmer had cleared out and run off and
he'd took with him every cent of Hall and Company's money that he
could rake and scrape. He'd been stealin' and speculatin' for
years, it turned out. 'Twas him, the dum thief, him and his
stealin's that made the firm fail. Wan't that enough to happen, I'd
like to know? But that wan't all; no, sir, that wan't the worst of
He paused, evidently expecting his hearer to make some comment. She
was leaning forward, her eyes fixed upon his face, but she did not
speak. Mr. Chase, judging by her expression that he had created the
sensation which, as story-teller, he considered his due, went on.
"No, sir-ee! that wan't the worst of it. You and me might have
thought losin' all our money was the worst that could be, but
Marcellus and Shadrach didn't think so. Marcellus was pretty nigh
stove in himself--there was nothin' on earth he loved the way he
loved that sister of his--but when he and Cap'n Shad thought of poor
Zoeth they couldn't think of much else. Shadrach had liked her and
Marcellus had loved her, but Zoeth had fairly bowed down and
worshiped the ground she trod on. Anything she wanted, no matter
what, she could have if 'twas in Zoeth's power to get it for her.
He'd humored her and spiled her as if she was a child and all he
asked for doin' it was that she'd pat him on the head once in a
while, same as you would a dog. And now she'd gone--run off with
that thief! Why--"
Mary interrupted again. "Wait! Wait, Isaiah," she cried. "I tell
you I don't understand. You say--you say Captain Hall's sister had
gone with Mr. Farmer?"
"Sartin! she run off with him and nobody's laid eyes on either of
'em since. That was why--"
"Stop! stop! What I don't understand is why Uncle Zoeth was so
stricken by the news. Why had HE humored and spoiled her? Was he
in love with her?"
Isaiah stared at her in blank astonishment.
"In love with her!" he repeated. "Course he was! Why wouldn't he
be? Wan't she his wife?"
There was no doubt about the sensation now. The color slowly faded
from Mary's cheeks.
"His WIFE?" she repeated slowly.
"Sartin! They'd been married 'most five year. Didn't I tell you?
She was a good deal younger'n he was, but--"
"Wait! What--what was her name?"
"Eh? Didn't I tell you that neither? That's funny. Her name was
The last doubt was gone. Clear and distinct to Mary's mind came a
sentence of Crawford's: "I saw her name first on the gravestone and
it made an impression on me because it was so quaint and old-
fashioned. 'Patience, wife of Edwin Smith.'"
She heard very little of Isaiah's story thereafter. Scattered
sentences reached her ears. Isaiah was telling how, because of
Zoeth's pleading and the latter's desire to avoid all the public
scandal possible, no attempt was made to trace the fugitives.
"They went West somewheres," said Isaiah. "Anyhow 'twas supposed
they did 'cause they was seen together on the Chicago train by an
Orham man that knew Farmer. Anybody but Marcellus and your uncles,
Mary-'Gusta, would have sot the sheriff on their track and hauled
'em back here and made that Farmer swab give up what he stole. I
don't imagine he had such a terrible lot with him, I cal'late the
heft of it had gone in stock speculatin', but he must have had
somethin' and they could have got a-holt of that. But no, Zoeth he
says, 'Don't follow 'em! For her sake and mine--don't make the
shame more public than 'tis.' You see, Zoeth was the same then as
he is now; you'd have thought HE was to blame to hear him talk. He
never said a word against her then nor since. A mighty good man,
your Uncle Zoeth Hamilton is, Mary-'Gusta. Saint on earth, I call
He went on to tell how Marcellus and Shadrach had fought to keep the
firm on its feet, how for a time it struggled on against the load of
debt left it by their former partner, only to go down at last.
"Marcellus went down with it, as you might say," continued Isaiah.
"Between losin' his sister and losin' his business he never was the
same man afterwards, though he did make consider'ble money in other
ways. Him and Cap'n Shadrach both went back to seafarin' again and
after a spell I went with 'em. Poor Zoeth, when he got on his feet,
which took a long spell, he started a little store that by and by,
when Cap'n Shad joined in with him, was Hamilton and Company, same
as now. And when Shadrach come I come too, as cook and steward, you
understand. But from that day to this there's been two names never
mentioned in this house, one's Patience Hall's and t'other's Ed
Farmer's. You can see now why, when I thought that tintype was his,
I was so took aback. You see, don't you, Mary-'Gusta? Why! Where
Mary had risen from her chair, taken up the lamp, and was on her way
to the door.
"I'm going to my room," she said. "Good night, Isaiah."
"What are you goin' now for? I could tell you a lot more
partic'lars if you wanted to hear 'em. Now I've told so much I
might as well tell the rest. If I'm goin' to be hove overboard for
tellin' I might as well make a big splash as a little one. If you
got any questions to ask, heave ahead and ask 'em. Fire away, I
don't care," he added, recklessly.
But Mary shook her head. She did not even turn to look at him.
"Perhaps I may ask them some other time," she said. "Not now.
Thank you for telling me so much. Good night."
Alone in her own room once more she sat down to think. It was plain
enough now. All the parts of the puzzle fitted together. Edwin
Smith having been proved to be Edgar Farmer, everything was
explainable. It had seemed queer to her, Mr. Smith's aversion to
the East, his refusal to come East even to his son's graduation; but
it was not at all queer that Edgar Farmer, the embezzler, should
feel such an aversion, or refuse to visit a locality where, even
after all these years, he might be recognized. It was not odd that
he disliked to be photographed. And it certainly was not strange
that he should have behaved as he did when his son announced the
intention of marrying her, Mary Lathrop, stepdaughter of one of his
former partners and victims' and adopted niece and ward of the other
What a terrible surprise and shock Crawford's communication must
have been to him! The dead past, the past he no doubt had believed
buried forever, had risen from the tomb to confront him. His only
son, the boy he idolized, who believed him to be a man of honor,
whose love and respect meant more than the world to him--his only
son asking to marry the ward of the man whom he had wronged beyond
mortal forgiveness, asking to marry her and intimating that he would
marry her whether or no. And the secret which he had guarded so
jealously, had hidden from his son and the world with such infinite
pains, suddenly threatening to be cried aloud in the streets for
all, his boy included, to hear. Mary shuddered as she realized what
the man must have felt. It must have seemed to him like the direct
hand of avenging Providence. No wonder he at first could not
believe it to be merely accident, coincidence; no wonder that he
asked if Zoeth Hamilton had sent Crawford to him, and had demanded
to know what Zoeth Hamilton had told.
It was dreadful, it was pitiful. She found herself pitying Edwin
Smith--or Edgar Farmer--even though she knew the retribution which
had come upon him was deserved.
She pitied him--yes; but now she could spare little pity for others,
she needed as much herself. For minute by minute, as she sat there
thinking out this great problem just as the little Mary-'Gusta used
to think out her small ones, her duty became clear and more clear to
her mind. Edgar Farmer's secret must be kept. For Crawford's sake
it must be. He need not--he must not--learn that the father he had
honored and respected all his life was unworthy of that honor and
respect. And her uncles--they must not know. The old skeleton must
not be dug from its grave. Her Uncle Zoeth had told her only a
little while before that he was learning to forget, or if not to
forget at least to be more reconciled. She did not understand him
then; now she did. To have him learn that Edgar Farmer was alive,
that his son-- Oh, no, he must not learn it! Ill as he was, and
weak as he was likely to be always, the shock might kill him. And
yet sooner or later he would learn unless the secret remained, as it
had been for years, undisclosed.
And to keep it still a secret was, she saw clearly, her duty. She
might rebel against it, she might feel that it was wicked and cruel,
the spoiling of her life to save these others, but it was her duty
nevertheless. Because she loved Crawford--and she was realizing now
that she did love him dearly, that there could never be another love
in the world for her---she must send him away, she must end the
affair at once. If she did that she could save him from learning of
his father's disgrace, could avert the otherwise inevitable quarrel
between them, could make his career and his future secure. And her
uncles would be happy, the skeleton would remain undisturbed.
Yes, she must do it. But it was so hard to do. Philosophy did not
help in the least. She had tried to convince herself when she gave
up her school work that it meant the end of her romance also. She
had tried to tell Crawford so. But she had been weak, she had
permitted herself to hope. She had realized that for the present,
perhaps for years, she must work for and with the old men who had
been father and mother both to her, but--he had said so--Crawford
would wait for her, and some day--perhaps--
But now there was no perhaps--now she knew. She must receive no
more letters from him. She must never see him again. The break
must be absolute and final. And there was but one way to bring that
about. He had said repeatedly that only her declaration that she
did not love him would ever prevent his marrying her. Very well,
then for his sake she must lie to him; she must tell him that very
thing. She must write him that she had been considering the matter
and had decided she could never love him enough to become his wife.
It was almost two o'clock when she reached this decision but she sat
down at her desk to write then and there the letter containing it,
the last letter she would ever write him. And when the morning
light came streaming in at the windows she still sat there, the
letter unwritten. She had made many beginnings, but not an end.
She must try again; she was too tired, too nervous, too hopeless and
heartbroken to make another attempt that morning, but before the day
was over it should be done. She threw herself down upon the bed but
she could not sleep. Why had she been selected to bear this burden?
What had she done that God should delight to torture her in this
That difficult letter was never written. In the afternoon, business
at the store being rather quiet and Mrs. Atkins, the nurse, desiring
an hour's leave to do an errand in the village, Mary had taken her
place in the sickroom. Zoeth was improving slowly, so the doctor
said, but he took very little interest in what went on, speaking but
seldom, asking few questions, and seeming to be but partially
sensible of his surroundings. Best not to try to rouse him, the
physician said. Little by little he would gain mentally as well as
physically and, by and by, there was reason to hope, would be up and
about again. Probably, however, he would never be so strong as he
had been before his sudden seizure, the cause of which--if there had
been a definite cause--was still unknown.
Just then he was asleep and Mary, sitting in the rocking-chair by
the bed, was thinking, thinking, thinking. If she could only stop
thinking for a little while! Uncle Zoeth, there on the bed, looked
so calm and peaceful. If only she might have rest and peace again!
If she might be allowed to forget!
The door opened gently and Mr. Chase appeared. He beckoned to her
to come out. With a glance at the patient, she tiptoed from the
room into the hall.
"What is it, Isaiah?" she asked.
Isaiah seemed to be excited about something.
"I've got a surprise for you, Mary-'Gusta," he whispered. "There's
somebody downstairs to see you."
His manner was so important and mysterious that Mary was puzzled.
"Someone to see me?" she repeated. "Who is it?"
Mr. Chase winked.
"It's somebody you wan't expectin' to see, I bet you!" he declared.
"I know I wan't. When I opened the door and see him standin' there
"Saw him? Who? Who is it, Isaiah? Stop that ridiculous winking
this instant. Who is it?"
"It's that young Crawford Smith feller from way out West, that's who
'tis. Ah, ha! I told you you'd be surprised."
She was surprised, there could be no doubt of that. For a moment
she stood perfectly still. Had it not been that the hall was almost
dark in the shadows of the late afternoon Isaiah would have noticed
how pale she had become. But it was evident that he did not notice
it, for he chuckled.
"I told you you'd be some surprised," he crowed. "Well, ain't you
comin' on down to see him? Seems to me if I had a beau--excuse me,
a gentleman friend--who come a-cruisin' all the way from t'other
side of creation to see me I wouldn't keep him waitin' very long.
Mary did not answer at once. When she did she was surprised to find
that she was able to speak so calmly.
"I shall be down in a moment," she said. "Isaiah, will you please
go in and stay with Uncle Zoeth until I come?"
Isaiah looked chagrined and disappointed. Visitors from the far
West were rare and especially rare was a young gentleman who Mr.
Chase, with what Captain Shadrach termed his "lovesick imagination,"
surmised was Mary-'Gusta's beau. He wished to see more of him.
"Aw, say, Mary-'Gusta," he pleaded, "I'm awful busy. I don't see
how I can set along of Zoeth-- Say, Mary'Gusta!"
But Mary had gone. She was hurrying along the hall toward her own
room. So Isaiah, remembering that the doctor had said Mr. Hamilton
must not be left alone, grumblingly obeyed orders and went in to sit
In her own room Mary stood, white and shaken, striving to regain her
composure. She must regain it, she must be cool and calm in order
to go through the ordeal she knew was before her. His coming could