Part 2 out of 2
"Yew got the pip!" retorted Captain Darby contemptuously, and trotting
quickly around to the side of the bed, he seized Abe by the shoulders
and began to drag him out upon the floor, crying again, "Git up!"
The sick man could account for this remarkable behavior in no way except
by concluding that his old captain had gone into senile dementia--oh,
cruel, cruel afflictions that life brings to old folks when life is
almost done! Well, thought Abe, he would rather be sick and die in his
right mind than go crazy. He began to whimper, whereupon Samuel threw
him back upon his pillows in disgust.
"Cryin'! Oh, I swan, he's cryin'!" Darby gave a short laugh pregnant
with scorn. "Abe Rose, dew yew know what ails yew?" he demanded fixing
his eyes fiercely upon the invalid. "Dew yew know what'll happen tew yew
ef yew don't git out o' this bed an' this here house? Either yer
beard'll fall out an' yew'll dwindle deown ter the size o' a baby or
yew'll turn into a downright old woman--Aunt Abraham!--won't that sound
nice? Or yew'll die or yew'll go crazy. _Git out er bed!_"
The patient shook his head and sank back, closing his eyes, more
exhausted than ever. And he himself had heard Angy warn this man in a
whisper not to "rile him up!" Remorselessly went on the rejuvenated
"Hain't a-goin' ter git up, heh? Yew old mollycoddle! Yew baby! Old Lady
31! Kiffy calf! But I hain't a-blamin' yew; ef I had lived in this here
place a year an' a half, I'd be stark, starin' mad! Leetle
tootsie-wootsie! _Git up_!"
Abe had opened his eyes and was once more staring at the other, his mind
slowly coming to the light of the realization that Samuel might be more
sane than himself.
"That's what I told Angy all along," he ventured. "I told her, I says,
says I, 'Humbug! Foolishness! Ye 're a-makin' a reg'lar baby of me.
Why,' I says, 'what's the difference between me an' these here
women-folks except that I wear a beard an' smoke a pipe?'"
"Then why don't yew git up?" demanded the inexorable Samuel. "Git up an'
fool 'em; or, gosh-all-hemlock! they'll be measurin' yew fer yer coffin
next week. When I come inter the hall, what dew yew think these here
sisters o' yourn was a-discussin'? They was a-arguin' the p'int as to
whether they'd bury yew in a shroud or yer Sunday suit."
Abraham put one foot out of bed. Samuel took hold of his arm and with
this assistance the old man managed to get up entirely and stand, though
shaking as if with the palsy, upon the floor.
"Feel pooty good, don't yew?" demanded Samuel, but with less severity.
"A leetle soft, a leetle soft," muttered the other. "Gimme my cane.
Thar, ef one o' them women comes in the door I'll--I'll--" Abraham
raised his stick and shook it at the innocent air. "Whar's my pipe? Mis'
Homan, she went an' hid it last week."
After some searching, Samuel found the pipe in Abe's hat-box underneath
the old man's beaver, and produced from his own pocket a package of
tobacco, whereupon the two sat down for a quiet smoke, Samuel chuckling
to himself every now and again, Abe modestly seeking from time to time
to cover his bare legs with the skirt of his pink-striped night-robe,
not daring to reach for a blanket lest Samuel should call him names
again. With the very first puff of his pipe, the light had come back
into the invalid's eyes; with the second, the ashen hue completely left
his cheek; and when he had pulled the tenth time on the pipe, Abe was
ready to laugh at the sisters, the whole world, and even himself.
"Hy-guy, but it's splendid to feel like a man ag'in!"
The witch of Hawthorne's story never gazed more fondly at her
"Feathertop" than Samuel now gazed at Abraham puffing away on his pipe;
but he determined that Abraham's fate should not be as poor
"Feathertop's." Abe must remain a man.
"Naow look a-here, Abe," he began after a while, laying his hand on the
other's knee, "dew yew know that yew come put' nigh gittin' swamped in
the big breakers? Ef I hadn't come along an' throwed out the life-line,
"Sam'l," interrupted the new Abraham, not without a touch of asperity,
"whar yew been these six months? A-leavin' me ter die of apron-strings
an' doctors! Of course I didn't 'spect nuthin' o' yew when yew was jist
a bachelor, an' we'd sort o' lost sight er each other fer many a year,
but arter yew got connected with the Hum by marriage sorter--"
"Connected with the Hum by marriage!" broke in Samuel with a snort of
indignant protest. "Me!" Words failed him. He stared at Abe with burning
eyes, but Abe only insisted sullenly:
"Whar yew an' Blossy been all this time?"
"Dew yew mean ter tell me, Abe Rose, that yew didn't know that Aunt
Nancy forbid Blossy the house 'cause she didn't go an' ask her
permission ter git spliced? Oh, I fergot," he added. "Yew'd gone
up-stairs ter take a nap that day we come back from the minister's."
Abraham flushed. He did not care to recall Samuel's wedding-day. He
hastened to ask the other what had decided him and Blossy to come to-day,
and was informed that Miss Abigail had written to tell Blossy that if
she ever expected to see her "Brother Abe" alive again, she must come
over to Shoreville at the earliest possible moment.
"Then I says ter Blossy," concluded Captain Darby, "I says, says I,
'Jest lemme see that air pore old hen-pecked Abe Rose. I'll kill him er
cure him!' I says. Here, yer pipe 's out. Light up ag'in!"
Abe struck the match with a trembling hand, unnerved once more by the
speculation as to what might have happened had Samuel's treatment worked
the other way.
"I left Blossy an' Aunt Nancy a-huggin' an' a-kissin' down-stairs."
Abe sighed: "Aunt Nancy allers was more bark than bite."
"Humph! Barkin' cats must be tryin' ter live with. Abe," he tapped the
old man's knee again, "dew yew know what yew need? A leetle vacation, a
change of air. Yew want ter cut loose from this all-fired old ladies'
shebang an' go sky-larkin'." Abe hung on Samuel's words, his eyes
a-twinkle with anticipation. "Yes--yes, go sky-larkin'! Won't we make
"Thar's hummin' an' hummin'," objected Abe, with a sudden show of
caution. "Miss Abigail thinks more o' wash-day than some folks does o'
heaven. Wharabouts dew yew cak'late on a-goin'?"
"Tew Bleak Hill!"
Abraham's face lost its cautious look, his eyes sparkled once more. Go
back to the Life-saving Station where he had worked in his lusty
youth--back to the sound of the surf upon the shore, back to the pines
and cedars of the Beach, out of the bondage of dry old lavender to the
goodly fragrance of balsam and sea-salt! Back to active life among men!
"Men, men, nawthin' but men!" Samuel exploded as if he had read the
other's thought. "Nawthin' but men fer a hull week, that's my
perscription fer yew! Haow dew yew feel naow, mate?"
For answer Abe made a quick spring out of his chair, and in his bare
feet commenced to dance a gentle, rheumatic-toe-considering breakdown,
crying, "Hy-guy, Cap'n Sam'l, you've saved my life!" While Darby clapped
his hands together, proud beyond measure at his success as the
emancipator of his woman-ridden friend.
Neither heard the door open nor saw Angy standing on the threshold, half
paralyzed with fear and amazement, thinking that she was witnessing the
mad delirium of a dying man, until she called out her husband's name.
At the sound of her frightened voice, Abe stopped short and reached for
the blanket with which to cover himself.
"Naow don't git skeered, Mother, don't git skeered," he abjured her.
"I'm all right in my head. Cap'n Sam'l here, he brung me some wonderful
"Blossy said you did!" interrupted Angy, a light of intense gratitude
flashing across her face as she turned eagerly to Darby. "Lemme see the
"I chucked it out o' the winder," affirmed Samuel without winking, and
Abe hastened to draw Angy's attention back to himself.
"See, Mother, I kin stand as good as anybody; hain't got no fever; I
kin walk alone. Yew seen me dancin' jest naow, tew. An' ef I had that
pesky leetle banty rooster of a doctor here, I'd kick him all the way
deown-stairs. Cap'n Sam'l's wuth twenty-five o' him."
"Yew kept the perscription, didn't yer, cap'n?" demanded Angy. "Naow ef
he should be took ag'in an'--"
Samuel turned away and coughed.
"Mother, Mother," cried Abe, "shet the door an' come set deown er all
the sisters'll come a-pilin' in. I've had a invite, I have!"
Angy closed the door and came forward, her wary suspicious eye trailing
from the visitor to her husband.
"Hy-guy, ain't it splendid!" Abe burst forth. "Me an' Cap'n Sam'l here
is a-goin' over ter Bleak Hill fer a week."
"Bleak Hill in December!" Angy cried, aghast. "Naow, see here, Father,"
resolutely, "medicine er no medicine--"
"He's got ter git hardened up," firmly interposed Dr. Darby; "it'll be
the makin' o' him."
Angy turned on Samuel with ruffled feathers.
"He'll freeze ter death. Yew shan't--"
Here Abe's stubborn will, so rarely set against Angy's gentle
persistence, rose up in defiance:
"We're a-gwine on a reg'lar A No. 1 spree with the boys, an' no
women-folks is a-goin' ter stop us neither."
"When?" asked Angy faintly, feeling Abe's brow, but to her surprise
finding it cool and healthy.
"Ter-morrer!" proclaimed Samuel; whereupon Abe looked a little dubious
and lifted up his two feet, wrapped as they were in the blanket, to
determine the present strength of his legs.
"Don't yer think yer'd better make it day after ter-morrer?" he
"Or 'long erbout May er June?" Angy hastily amended.
Samuel gave an exasperated grunt.
"See here, whose spree is this?" Abe demanded of the little old wife.
She sighed, then resolved on strategy:
"Naow, Abe, ef yew be bound an' possessed ter go ter the Beach, yew go;
but I'm a-goin' a-visitin' tew, an' I couldn't git the pair o' us ready
inside a week. I'm a-goin' deown ter see Blossy. She ast me jist naow,
pendin', she says, Cap'n Sam'l here cures Abe up ernough ter git him
off. I thought she was crazy then."
Samuel knocked the ashes out of his pipe against the window-sill and
arose to go.
"Waal," he said grudgingly, "make it a week from ter-day then, rain
shine, snow er blow, er a blizzard. Ef yer ever a-goin' ter git
hardened, Abe, naow's the time! I'll drive over 'long erbout ten o'clock
an' git somebody ter sail us from here; er ef the bay freezes over
'twixt naow an' then, ter take us in a scooter."
A "scooter," it may be explained, is an ice-boat peculiar to the Great
South Bay--a sort of modified dingy on runners.
"Yes--yes, a scooter," repeated Samuel, turning suddenly on Abe with the
sharp inquiry: "Air yew a-shiverin'? Hain't, eh? Waal then, a week from
ter-day, so be it!" he ended. "But me an' Blossy is a-comin' ter see yew
off an' on pooty frequent meanstwhile; an', Abe, ef ever I ketch yew
a-layin' abed, I'll leave yew ter yer own destruction."
"A PASSEL OF MEDDLERS"
Angy's secret hope that Abe would change his mind and abandon the
projected trip to the Beach remained unfulfilled, in spite of the fact
that cold weather suddenly descended on the South Side, and the bay
became first "scummed" over with ice, and then frozen so solid that all
its usual craft disappeared, and the "scooters" took possession of the
Abe and Samuel held stubbornly to their reckless intentions; and the
sisters, sharing Angy's anxiety, grew solicitous almost to the point of
active interference. They withheld nothing in the way of counsel,
criticism, or admonition which could be offered.
"Naow," said Mrs. Homan in her most commanding tones at the end of a
final discussion in the big hall, on the evening before the date set for
departure, "ef yew're bound, bent, an' determined, Brother Abe, to run
in the face of Providence, yew want tew mind one thing, an' wear yer
best set of flannels ter-morrer."
"Sho, thar hain't no danger of me ketchin' cold," decried Abe.
"I didn't say yer thickest set of flannels; I said yer best. When a man
gits throwed out onto the ice ker flump, the thickness of his clo'es
ain't goin' to help him much. The fust thing I allus taught my husbands
was to have everything clean an' whole on, when thar was any likelihood
of a sudden death."
"Yew 'spect me tew go an' prink up fer a sudden death?" thundered
Abraham. "I hain't never heard tell on a scooter a-killin' nobody yit;
it's them plagued ice-boats up State what--"
"That's all very well," persisted Mrs. Homan, not to be diverted from
her subject; "but when old Dr. Billings got run over by the train at
Mastic Crossin' on Fourth o' July eight year ago, his wife told me with
her own lips that she never would git over it, cuz he had his hull big
toe stickin' out o' the end of his stockin'. I tell yew, these days
we've got tew prepare fer a violent end."
The patient Angy somewhat tartly retorted, that during the last week
she had spent even more time upon Father's wardrobe than she had upon
her own; while Abe inwardly rejoiced to think that for seven days to
come--seven whole days--he and Angy would be free from the surveillance
of the sisters.
Mrs. Homan, in no way nonplussed, boomed on:
"Thar, I most fergot about his necktie. 'Course, they don't dress up
much at the Station; but jest the same that air tie o' yourn, Brother
Abe, is a disgrace. I told yew yew'd spile it a-wearin' it tew bed.
Naow, I got a red an' green plaid what belonged to my second stepson,
Henry O. He never would 'a' died o' pneumony, either, ef he'd a-took my
advice an' made himself a newspaper nightcap last time he substituted
with the 'Savers. An' yew kin have that necktie jest as well as not.
Naow, don't say a word; I'm better able to part with it 'n yew be not to
No one ever attempted the fruitless task of stopping Mrs. Homan once
fully launched; but when at last she permitted her back to rest against
her chair, folding her arms with the manner of one who makes a sacrifice
in a worthy cause, Abe broke into an explosive protest.
If any one fretted him in his somewhat fretful convalescence, it was
this grenadier member of the household, who since Blossy's marriage had
endeavored to fill the vacant post of "guardeen angel."
"Mis' Homan," he sputtered, rising to his feet, "I wouldn't wear a red
an' green plaid tie to a eel's funeral!"
Then with a somewhat ungracious "good-night" to the company in general,
he trudged across the hall and up the stairs, muttering something to
himself about a "passel of meddlers."
Well-meaning Miss Abigail, who had been nodding half asleep, roused
herself to call after him, and he paused unwillingly to heed.
"Naow, don't yew lose no sleep ter-night," she admonished, "a-worryin'
erbout the change in yer vittles. I told Cap'n Sam'l that hardtack an'
sech like wouldn't never do fer yer weak stummick, an' he promised me
faithful he'd send somebody tew the mainland every day fer milk."
"Dew yew think I be a baby?" shouted Abraham, turning on his heel. "I
know now what makes my teeth so sore lately," mumbling to himself; "it's
from this here arrer-root an' all these puddin'y messes. They need
THE PRODIGAL'S DEPARTURE
Abraham was up betimes in the morning to greet a day crisp and cold,
quiet, yet with sufficient breeze stirring the evergreens in the yard
outside to make him predict a speedy voyage.
The old man was nervous and excited, and, in spite of his buoyant
anticipations, somewhat oppressed, now that the day had actually come,
with a sense of timidity and fear. Still, he put on a bold face while
Angeline fastened his refractory collar and tied his cravat.
This was neither Mrs. Roman's offering nor Abe's own old, frayed tie,
but a new black one which had mysteriously been thrust through the crack
under the door during the night.
So, the last finishing touches having been put upon his toilet, and Angy
having made ready by lamplight for her own trip, even before the old man
was awake, there seemed nothing left to be done until the breakfast bell
Abe sat down, and looking hard at his open carpet-bag wondered audibly
if they had "everythin' in." The last time they two had packed Abe's
wardrobe for a visit to Bleak Hill had been many years ago, when Samuel
Darby, though somewhat Abe's junior, was keeper of the Life-saving
Station, and Abe was to be gone for a whole season's duty. Then all of
his possessions had been stowed in a long, bolster-like canvas bag for
the short voyage.
Both Angy and her husband recalled that time now--the occasion of their
first, and almost of their last, real separation.
"A week'll pass in no time," murmured Angy very quickly, with a catch in
her voice. "Lookin' ahead, though, seven days seems awful long when yer
old; but--Oh, law, yes; a week'll pass in no time," she repeated. "Only
dew be keerful, Abe, an' don't take cold."
She perched herself on her little horsehair trunk which she had packed
to take to Blossy's, looking in her time-worn silk gown like a rusty
blackbird, and, like a bird, she bent her head first to one side and
then the other, surveying Abe in his "barrel clothes" with a critical
but complimentary eye.
"Wonder who made that necktie?" she questioned. "I'll bet yer 't was
Aunt Nancy; she's got a sharp tongue, but a lot of silk pieces an' a
tender spot in her heart fer yew, Abe. Ruby Lee says she never thought
yew'd bring her around; yew're dretful takin' in yer ways, Father,
thar's no use a-talkin'."
Abraham glanced at himself in the glass, and pulled at his beard, his
countenance not altogether free from a self-conscious vanity.
"I hain't sech a bad-lookin' feller when I'm dressed up, be I, Mother? I
dunno ez it's so much fer folks ter say I look like Abe Lincoln, after
all; he was dretful humbly."
"Father," Angy said coaxingly, "why don't yer put some o' that air
'sweet stuff' Miss Abigail give yer on yer hair? She'll feel real hurt
ef she don't smell it on yer when yew go down-stairs."
Abe made a wry face, took up the tiny bottle of "Jockey Club," and
rubbed a few drops on his hands. His hands would wash, and so he could
find some way of removing the odor before he reached the station
"I'll be some glad ter git away from these here fussy old hens fer a
spell," he grumbled, as he slammed the vial back on the bureau; but Angy
looked so reproachful and grieved that he felt ashamed of his
ingratitude, and asked with more gentleness:
"Yew goin' ter miss me, Mother?"
Then the old wife was ashamed to find herself shaking of a sudden, and
grown wretchedly afraid--afraid of the separation, afraid of the
"hardening" process, afraid of she knew not what.
"I'm glad 't ain't goin' ter be fer all winter this time," she said
simply; then arose to open the door in order that he might not see the
rush of tears to her foolish, old eyes.
According to the arrangement, Captain Darby was to drive over from Twin
Coves with his hired man, and Ezra, after taking the two old men to the
bay, was to return to the Home for Angy and her little trunk.
When Samuel drove up to the front door, he found Abe pacing the porch,
his coat-collar turned up about his neck, his shabby fur cap pulled over
his brow, his carpet-bag on the step, and, piled on the bench at the
side of the door, an assortment of woolen articles fully six feet high,
which afterward developed to be shawls, capes, hoods, comforters,
wristlets, leggings, nubias, fascinators, guernseys, blankets, and
Abe was fuming and indignant, scornful of the contributions, and vowing
that, though the sisters might regard a scooter as a freight
ocean-liner, he would carry nothing with him but what he wore and his
"An' right yer be," pronounced Samuel, with a glance at the laden bench
and a shake of his head which said as plainly as words, "Brother, from
what am I not delivering thee?"
The sisters came bustling out of the door, Mrs. Homan in the lead, Angy
submerged in the crowd, and from that moment there was such a fuss, so
much excitement, so many instructions and directions for the two
adventurers, that Abraham found himself in the carriage before he had
kissed Angy good-by.
He had shaken hands, perhaps not altogether graciously, with every one
else, even with the deaf-and-dumb gardener who came out of his
hiding-place to witness the setting-out. Being dared to by all the
younger sisters, he had waggishly brushed his beard against Aunt Nancy
Smith's cheek, and then he had taken his place beside Samuel without a
touch or word of parting to his wife.
He turned in his seat to wave to the group on the porch, his eyes
resting in a sudden hunger upon Angeline's frail, slender figure, as he
remembered. She knew that he had forgotten in the flurry of his
leave-taking, and she would have hastened down the steps to stop the
carriage; but all the old ladies were there to see, and she simply
stood, and gazed after the vehicle as it rolled away slowly behind the
jog trot of Samuel's safe, old calico-horse. She stood and looked,
holding her chin very high, and trying to check its unsteadiness.
A sense of loneliness and desolation fell over the Home. Piece by piece
the sisters put away all the clothing they had offered in vain to Abe.
They said that the house was already dull without his presence. Miss
Abigail began to plan what she should have for dinner the day of his
No one seemed to notice Angy. She felt that her own departure would
create scarcely a stir; for, without Abraham, she was only one of a
group of poor, old women in a semi-charity home.
Slowly she started up the stairs for her bonnet and the old broche
shawl. When she reached the landing, where lay the knitted mat of the
three-star pattern, the matron called up to her in tragic tones:
"Angy Rose, I jest thought of it. He never kissed yew good-by!"
Angy turned, her small, slender feet sinking deep into one of the
woolly stars, her slim figure encircled by the light from the upper hall
window. She saw a dozen faces uplifted to her, and she answered with
"Abe wouldn't think of kissin' me afore folks."
Then quickly she turned again, and went to her room--their room--where
she seated herself at the window, and pressed her hand against her heart
which hurt with a new, strange, unfamiliar pain, a pain that she could
not have shown "afore folks."
CUTTING THE APRON-STRINGS
The usual hardy pleasure-seekers that gather at the foot of Shore Lane
whenever the bay becomes a field of ice and a field of sport as well
were there to see the old men arrive, and as they stepped out of the
carriage there came forward from among the group gathered about the fire
on the beach the editor of the "Shoreville Herald."
Ever since his entrance into the Old Ladies' Home, Abe had never stopped
chafing in secret over the fact that until he died, and no doubt
received a worthy obituary, he might never again "have his name in the
In former days the successive editors of the local sheet had been
willing, nay, eager, to chronicle his doings and Angy's, whether Abe's
old enemy, rheumatism, won a new victory over him or Angy's second
cousin Ruth came from Riverhead to spend the day or--wonder indeed to
relate!--the old man mended his roof or painted the front fence. No
matter what happened of consequence to Captain and Mrs. Rose, Mr. Editor
had always been zealous to retail the news--before the auction sale of
their household effects marked the death of the old couple, and of Abe
especially, to the social world of Shoreville. What man would care to
read his name between the lines of such a news item as this?
The Old Ladies' Home is making preparations for its annual quilting
bee. Donations of worsted, cotton batting, and linings will be
Mr. Editor touched his cap to the two old men. He was a keen-faced,
boyish little man with a laugh bigger than himself, but he always wore a
worried air the day before his paper, a weekly, went to press, and he
wore that worried look now. Touching his hand to his fur cap, he
informed Samuel and Abe that news was "as scarce as hens' teeth"; then
added: "What's doing?"
"Oh, nawthin', nawthin'," hastily replied Samuel, who believed that he
hated publicity, as he gave Abe's foot a sly kick. "We was jest a-gwine
ter take a leetle scooter sail." He adjusted the skirt of his coat in
an effort to hide Abe's carpet-bag, his own canvas satchel, and a huge
market-basket of good things which Blossy had cooked for the
life-savers. "Seen anythink of that air Eph Seaman?" Samuel added;
shading his eyes with his hand and peering out upon the gleaming surface
of the bay, over which the white sails of scooters were darting like a
flock of huge, single-winged birds.
"Eph's racing with Captain Bill Green," replied the newspaper man.
"Captain Bill's got an extra set of new runners at the side of his
scooter and wants to test them. Say, boys," looking from one to the
other of the old fellows, "so you're going scootering, eh? Lively sport!
Cold kind of sport for men of your age. Do you know, I've a good mind
to run in to-morrow an article on 'Long Island and Longevity,' Taking
head-line, eh? Captain Rose," turning to Abe as Samuel would do no more
than glower at him, "to what do you attribute your good health at your
time of life?"
Abe grinned all over his face and cleared his throat importantly, but
before he could answer, Samuel growled:
"Ter me! His health an' his life both. I dragged him up out of a
deathbed only a week ago."
The editor took out his note-book and began scribbling.
"What brought you so low, Captain Rose?" he inquired without glancing
up. Again, before Abe could answer, Samuel trod on his toe.
"Thirty mollycoddling women-folks."
Abe found his voice and slammed the fist of one hand against the palm of
"If you go an' put that in the paper, I'll--I'll--"
Words failed him. He could see the sisters fairly fighting for the
possession of the "Shoreville Herald" to-morrow evening, as they always
scrambled each for the first glance at the only copy taken at the Home,
and he could hear one reading his name aloud--reading of the black
ingratitude of their brother member.
"Jest say," he added eagerly, "that the time fer old folks ter stick
home under the cellar-door has passed, an' nobody is tew old ter go
a-gallivantin' nowadays. An' then yew might mention"--the old man's
face was shining now as he imagined Angy's pleasure--"that Mis' Rose is
gone deown ter Twin Coves ter visit Mis' Sam'l Darby fer a week, an'
Cap'n Darby an' Cap'n Abraham Rose," his breast swelling out, "is
a-goin' ter spend a week at Bleak Hill. Thar, hain't that Cap'n Eph
a-scootin' in naow? I guess them air new runners o' Bill Green's didn't
work. He hain't nowhere in sight. He--"
"Le' 's be a-gwine, Abe," interrupted Samuel, and leaving the editor
still scribbling, he led the way down the bank with a determined trudge,
his market-basket in one hand, his grip in the other, and his lips
muttering that "a feller couldn't dew nuthin' in Shoreville without
gittin' his name in the paper." But a moment later, when the two were
walking gingerly over the ice to the spot where Eph had drawn his
scooter to a standstill, Samuel fell into a self-congratulatory chuckle.
"He didn't find out though that I had my reasons fer leavin' home tew.
Women-folks, be it only one, hain't good all the time fer nobody. I come
ter see Blossy twict a year afore we was married reg'lar; an' naow, I
cak'late ter leave her twict a year fer a spell. A week onct every six
months separate an' apart," proceeded the recently made benedict, "is
what makes a man an' his wife learn haow ter put up with one another in
"Why, me an' Angy," began Abe, "have lived tergether year in an' year
"All aboard!" interrupted Captain Eph with a shout. "It's a fair wind. I
bet on making it in five minutes and fifty seconds!"
Seven minutes had been the record time for the five-mile sail over the
ice to Bleak Hill, but Samuel and Abe, both vowing delightedly that the
skipper couldn't go too fast for them, stepped into the body of the boat
and squatted down on the hard boards. They grinned at each other as the
scooter started and Eph jumped aboard--grinned and waved to the people
on the shore, their proud old thoughts crying:
"I guess folks will see now that we're as young as we ever was!"
They continued to grin as the boat spun into full flight and went
whizzing over the ice, whizzing and bumping and bouncing. Both their
faces grew red, their two pairs of eyes began to water, their teeth
began to chatter; but Samuel shouted at the top of his voice in defiance
of the gale:
"Abe, we've cut the apron-strings!"
"Hy-guy!" Abe shouted in return, his heart flying as fast as the sail,
back to youth and manhood again, back to truant-days and the
vacation-time of boyhood. "Hy-guy, Sam'l! Hain't we a-gwine ter have a
reg'lar A No. 1 spree!"
THE "HARDENING" PROCESS
The Life-saving Station was very still. Nos. 3 and 5 had gone out on the
eight-o'clock patrol. The seventh man was taking his twenty-four hours
off at his home on the shore. The keeper was working over his report in
the office. The other members of the crew were up-stairs asleep, and Abe
and Samuel were bearing each other company in the mess-room.
Abe lay asleep on the carpet-covered sofa which had been dragged out of
the captain's room for him, so that the old man need not spend the night
in the cold sleeping-loft above. He was fully dressed except for his
boots; for he was determined to conform to the rules of the Service, and
sleep with his clothes on ready for instant duty.
"Talk erbout him a-dyin'!" growled Samuel to himself, lounging wearily
in a chair beside the stove. "He's jest startin' his life. He's a
reg'lar hoss. I didn't think he had it in him."
Samuel's tone was resentful. He was a little jealous of the distinction
which had been made between him and Abe; and drawing closer to the fire,
he shivered in growing distaste for the cot assigned to him with the
crew up-stairs, where the white frost lay on the window-latches.
What uncomfortable chairs they had in this station! Samuel listened to
the mooing of the breakers, to the wind rattling at the casements,--and
wondered if Blossy had missed him. About this time, she must be sitting
in her chintz-covered rocker, combing out the ringlets of her
golden-white hair in the cheery firelight.
Now, that would be a sight worth seeing! Abe opened his mouth and began
to snore. What disgusting, hideous creatures men were, reflected Samuel.
Six months' living with an unusually high-bred woman had insensibly
raised his standards.
Why should he spend a week of his ever-shortening life with such
inferior beings, just for Abraham's sake--for Abraham's sake, and to
bear out a theory of his own, which he had already concluded a mistake?
Abe gave a snort, opened his eyes, and muttered sleepily: "This is what
I call a A No. 1 spree. Naow, ter-morrer--" But mumbling incoherently he
relapsed into slumber, puffing his lips out into a whistling sound.
Samuel reached for a newspaper on the table, folded it into a missile,
and started to fling it into the innocent face of the sleeper. But,
fortunately for Abraham, it was Captain Darby's custom to count ten
whenever seized by an exasperated impulse, and at the ninth number he
regretfully dropped the paper.
Then he began to count in another way. Using the forefinger of his right
hand as a marker, he counted under his breath, "one" on his left thumb,
then after a frowning interval, "two" on his left forefinger, "three" on
the middle digit, and so on, giving time for thought to each number,
until he had exhausted the fingers of his left hand and was ready to
start on the right.
Count, count, went Samuel, until thrice five was passed, and he began to
Once more Abe awoke, and inquired if the other were trying to reckon the
number of new wigwags and signals which the Service had acquired since
they had worked for the government; but on being sharply told to "Shet
up!" went to sleep again.
What the projector of the trip was really trying to recall was how many
times that day he had regretted saving Abe from the devastating clutches
of the old ladies.
"Him need hardenin'?" muttered Samuel blackly. "Why, he's harder now 'n
nails an' hardtack!"
Again he ran over on his fingers the list of high crimes and
misdemeanors of which Abe had been guilty.
First,--thumb, left hand,--Abe had insisted on extending their scooter
sail until he, Samuel, had felt his toes freezing in his boots.
Second,--forefinger, left hand,--on being welcomed by the entire force
at Bleak Hill and asked how long they expected to stay, Abe had blurted
out, "A hull week," explaining that Samuel's rule requiring at least
seven days of exile from his wife every six months barred them from
returning in less time.
The keeper was a widower, all the other men bachelors. How could they
be expected to understand? They burst into a guffaw of laughter, and
Abe, not even conscious that he had betrayed a sacred confidence,
sputtered and laughed with the rest.
Samuel had half a mind to return to-morrow, "jest to spite 'em." Let's
see, how many days of this plagued week were left? Six. Six whole
twenty-four hours away from Blossy and his snug, warm, comfortable nest.
She wasn't used to keepin' house by herself, neither. Would she remember
to wind the clock on Thursday, and feed the canary, and water the
abutilon and begonias reg'lar?
Grimly Samuel took up offense No. 3. Abraham had further told the men
that he had been brought over here for a hardening process; but he was
willing to bet that if Samuel could keep up with him, he could keep up
Then followed offense on offense. Was Samuel to be outdone on his own
one-time field of action by an old ladies' darling? No!
When Abe sat for a half-hour in the lookout, up in the freezing, cold
cupola, and did duty "jest to be smart," Samuel sat there on top of his
own feet, too.
When Abe helped drag out the apparatus-cart over the heavy sands for the
drill, Samuel helped, too. And how tugging at that rope brought back his
When Abe rode in the breeches-buoy, Samuel insisted on playing the sole
survivor of a shipwreck, too, and went climbing stiffly and lumberingly
up the practice-mast.
Abraham refused to take a nap after dinner; so did Samuel. Abe went down
to the out-door carpenter-shop in the grove, and planed a board just for
the love of exertion. Samuel planed two boards and drove a nail.
"We've got two schoolboys with us," said the keeper and the crew.
"Ef I'd a-knowed that yew had more lives 'n my Maltese cat," Samuel was
muttering over Abe by this time, "I'd--"
Count, count went Captain Darby's fingers. He heard the keeper rattling
papers in the office just across the threshold, heard him say he was
about to turn in, and guessed Samuel had better do likewise; but Samuel
kept on counting.
Count, count went the arraigning fingers. Gradually he grew drowsy, but
still he went over and over poor Abe's offenses, counting on until of a
sudden he realized that he was no longer numbering the sins of his
companion; he was measuring in minutes the time he must spend away from
Blossy and Twin Coves, and the begonias, and the canary, and the cat.
What would Blossy say if she could feel the temperature of the room in
which he was supposed to sleep? What would Blossy say if she knew how
his back ached? Whatever would Blossy do to Abe Rose if she could
suspect how he had tuckered out her "old man?"
"He's a reg'lar hoss," brooded Samuel. "Oh, my feet!" grabbing at his
right boot. "I'll bet yer all I got it's them air chilblains. That's
what," he added, unconsciously speaking aloud.
Abe's lids slowly lifted. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. He turned his
head on his hard, blue gingham-covered pillow, and stared sleepily at
"Yew been noddin', Sam'l? Ain't gittin' sleepy a'ready, are yer?" He
glanced at the clock. "Why, it's only half past nine. Say, what's the
matter with me an' yew goin' west ter meet No. 5? Leetle breath o' fresh
air 'll make us sleep splendid."
He started up from the couch, but dropped back, too heavy with weariness
to carry off his bravado. Samuel, however, not noticing the discrepancy
between speech and action, was already at the door leading up-stairs.
"Yew don't drag me out o' this station ter-night, Abe Rose. Yew 're a
reg'lar hoss; that 's what yew be. A reg'lar hoss! A reg'lar--a
He flung open the door and went trudging as fast as his smarting feet
could carry him up the steep and narrow steps, wherein the passing of
other feet for many years had worn little hollows on either side.
Abraham limped from the couch to the door himself, and called after him:
"Sam'l, don't yew want tew sleep by the fire? Yew seem a leetle softer
than I be. Let me come up-stairs."
There was no answer beyond the vicious slamming of Samuel's boots upon
the floor above.
Abe raised his voice again, and now came in answer a roar of wrath from
the cot next to Samuel's.
"Go to bed!" shouted No. 6, a burly, red-headed Irishman. "Go to bed,
wid ye! Th' young folks do be nadin' a little schlape!"
"A REG'LAR HOSS"
Abe flung himself back on his hard couch, drew the thick, gray blanket
over him, and straightway fell into a deep, childlike slumber from which
he was aroused by the rough but hearty inquiry:
"Say, Cap, like to have some oyster-stew and a cup of coffee?"
Abe sat up, rubbing his eyes, wondering since when they had begun to
serve oyster-stew for breakfast on the Beach; then he realized that he
had not overslept, and that it was not morning.
The clock was striking twelve, the midnight patrol was just going out,
and the returning "runners" were bidding him partake of the food they
had just prepared to cheer them after their cold tramp along the surf.
The old man whiffed the smell of the coffee, tempted, yet withheld by
the thought of Angy's horror, and the horror of the twenty-nine sisters.
"Cap'n Abe"--Clarence Havens, No. 5, with a big iron spoon in his hand
and a blue gingham apron tied around his bronzed neck, put him on his
mettle, however--"Cap'n Abe, I tell yew, we wouldn't have waked no other
fellow of your age out of a sound sleep. Cap'n Darby, he could snooze
till doomsday; but we knowed you wouldn't want to miss no fun a-going."
"Cap'n Sam'l does show his years," Abe admitted. "Much obliged fer yew
a-wakin' me up, boys," as he drew on his boots. "I was dreamin' I was
hungry. Law, I wish I had a dollar apiece fer all the eyester-stews I've
et on this here table 'twixt sunset an' sunrise."
Under the stimulus of the unaccustomed repast, Abe expanded and began to
tell yarns of the old days on the Beach--the good old days. His cheeks
grew red, his eyes sparkled. He smoked and leaned back from the table,
and ate and drank, smoked and ate again.
"A week amongst yew boys," he asserted gaily, "is a-goin' tew be the
makin' of me. Haow Sam'l kin waste so much time in sleep, I can't
"I don't think he is asleep," said No. 3. "When I was up-stairs jest
now fer my slippers, I heard him kind o' sniffin' inter his piller."
The laugh which followed brought the keeper out of the office in his
carpet slippers, a patchwork quilt over his shoulders. His quick eyes
took in the scene--the lamp sputtering above the table, the empty
dishes, the two members of the crew sleepily jocular, with their blue
flannel elbows spread over the board, the old man's rumpled bed, and his
brilliant cheeks and bright eyes.
"Boys, you shouldn't have woke up Cap'n Rose," he said reprovingly. "I'm
afraid, sir," turning to Abraham, "that you find our manners pretty
rough after your life among the old ladies."
Abe dropped his eyes in confusion. Was he never to be rid of those
"Well, there's worse things than good women," proceeded the captain. "I
wish we had a few over here." He sighed with the quiet, dull manner of
the men who have lived long on the Beach. "Since they made the rule that
the men must eat and sleep in the station, it's been pretty lonely.
That's why there's so many young fellows in the Service nowadays;
married men with families won't take the job."
"Them empty cottages out thar," admitted Abe, pointing to the window,
"does look kind o' lonesome a-goin' ter rack an' ruin. Why, the winter I
was over here, every man had his wife an' young 'uns on the Beach,
'cept me an' Sam'l."
Again the keeper sighed, and drew his coverlid closer. "Now, it's just
men, men, nothing but men. Not a petticoat in five miles; and I tell
you, sometimes we get mad looking at one another, don't we, boys?"
The two young men had sobered, and their faces also had taken on that
look engendered by a life of dull routine among sand-hills at the edge
of a lonely sea, with seldom the sound of a woman's voice in their ears
or the prattle of little children.
"For two months last winter nobody came near us," said Havens, "and we
couldn't get off ourselves, either, half the time. The bay broke up into
porridge-ice after that big storm around New Year's; yew dasn't risk a
scooter on it or a cat-boat. Feels to me," he added, as he rose to his
feet, "as if it was blowin' up a genuwine old nor'-easter again."
The other man helped him clear the table. "I'm goin' to get married in
June," he said suddenly, "and give up this here blamed Service."
"A wife," pronounced Abe, carrying his own dishes into the kitchen, "is
dretful handy, onct yew git used to her."
The keeper went into the office with a somewhat hurried "Good-night,"
and soon Abe found himself alone again, the light in the kitchen beyond,
no sound in the room save that of the booming of the surf, the rattling
of the windows, and now and again the fall of a clinker in the stove.
The old man was surprised to find that he could not fall back into that
blissful slumber again. Not sleeping, he had to think. He thought and
thought,--sober night thoughts,--while the oysters "laid like a log in
his stummick" and the coffee seemed to stir his brain to greater
"Suppose," said the intoxicated brain, "another big storm should swoop
down upon you and the bay should break up, and you and Samuel should be
imprisoned on the beach for two or three months with a handful of
"Moo! Moo!" roared the breakers on the shore. "Serve you right for
finding fault with the sisters!"
Come to think of it, if he had not been so ungracious of Miss Abigail's
concern for him, he would now be in possession of a hop pillow to lull
him back to sleep. Well, he had made his bed, and he would have to lie
on it, although it was a hard old carpet-covered lounge. Having no hop
pillow, he would count sheep--
One sheep going over the fence, two sheep, three--How tired he was! How
his bones ached! It's no use talking, you can't make an old dog do the
tricks of his puppy days. What an idiot he had been to climb that
practice-mast! If he had fallen and broken his leg?
Four sheep. Maybe he was too old for gallivanting, after all. Maybe he
was too old for anything except just to be "mollycoddled" by thoughtful
old ladies. Now, be honest with yourself, Abe. Did you enjoy yourself
to-day--no, yesterday? Did you? Well, yes and--no! Now, if Angy had been
Angy! That was why he could not go to sleep! He had forgotten to kiss
her good-by! Wonder if she had noticed it? Wonder if she had missed him
more on account of that neglect? Pshaw! What nonsense! Angy knew he
wa'n't no hand at kissin', an' it was apt to give him rheumatism to bend
down so far as her sweet old mouth.
He turned to the wall at the side of the narrow lounge, to the emptiness
where her pillow should be. "Good-night, Mother," he muttered huskily.
Mother did not answer for the first time in nights beyond the counting.
Mother would not be there to answer for at least six nights to come. A
week, thought this old man, as the other old man had reflected a few
hours before, is a long time when one has passed his threescore years
and ten, and with each day sees the shadows growing longer.
Abraham put out his hard time-shrunken hand and touched in thought his
wife's pillow, as if to persuade himself that she was really there in
her place beside him. He remembered when first he had actually touched
her pillow to convince himself that she was really there, too awed and
too happy to believe that his youth's dream had come true; and he
remembered now how his gentle, strong hand had crept along the linen
until it cupped itself around her cheek; and he had felt the cheek grow
hot with blushes in the darkness. She had not been "Mother" then; she
had been "Dearest!" Would she think that he was growing childish if he
should call her "Dearest" now?
Smiling to himself, he concluded that he would try the effect of the
tender term when he reached home again. He drew his hand back,
whispering once more, "Good-night, Mother." Then he fancied he could
hear her say in her soft, reassuring tone, "Good-night, Father." Father
turned his back on the empty wall, praying with a sudden rush of
passionate love that when the last call should come for him, it would be
after he had said "Good-night, Mother," to Angy and after she had said
"Good-night, Father," to him, and that they might wake somewhere,
somehow, together with God, saying, "Good-morning, Mother,"
"Good-morning, Father!" And "Fair is the day!"
At dawn the Station was wide-awake and everybody out of bed. Samuel
crept down-stairs in his stocking-feet, his boots in his hand, his eyes
heavy with sleeplessness, and his wig awry. He shivered as he drew close
to the fire, and asked in one breath for a prescription for chilblains
and where might Abe be. Abe's lounge was empty and his blankets neatly
folded upon it.
The sunrise patrol from the east, who had just returned, made reply
that he had met Captain Abe walking along the surf to get up an
appetite for his griddle-cakes and salt pork. Samuel sat down suddenly
on the lounge and opened his mouth.
"Didn't he have enough exercise yist'day, for marcy's sake! Put' nigh
killed me. I was that tired las' night I couldn't sleep a wink. I
declar', ef 't wa'n't fer that fool newspaper a-comin' out ter-night,
I'd go home ter-day. Yer a-gwine acrost, hain't yer, Havens?"
Havens laughed in response. Samuel glowered at him.
"I want home comforts back," he vowed sullenly. "The Beach hain't what
it used ter be. Goin' on a picnic with Abe Rose is like settin' yer
teeth into a cast-iron stove lid covered with a thin layer o' puddin'.
I'm a-goin' home."
The keeper assured him that no one would attempt to detain him if he
found the Station uncomfortable, and that if he preferred to leave
Abraham behind, the whole force would take pleasure in entertaining the
more active old man.
"That old feller bates a phonograph," affirmed the Irishman. "It's good
ter hear that he'll be left anyhow for comp'ny with this storm a-comin'
Samuel rushed to the window, for up-stairs the panes had been too frosty
for him to see out. A storm coming up? The beach did look gray and
desolate, dun-colored in the dull light of the early day, with the
winter-killed grass and the stunted green growth of cedar and holly and
pine only making splotches of darkness under a gray sky which was filled
with scurrying clouds. The wind, too, had risen during the night, and
the increased roar of the surf was telling of foul weather at sea.
A storm threatening! And the pleasant prospect of being shut in at the
beach with the cast-iron Abraham and these husky life-savers for the
remainder of the winter! No doubt Abe would insist upon helping the men
with the double duties imposed by thick weather, and drag Samuel out on
"When dew yew start, Havens?" demanded Samuel in shaking tones. "Le' 's
get off afore Abe gits back an' tries ter hold me. He seems ter be so
plagued stuck on the life over here, he'll think I must be tew."
But, though Havens had to wait for the return of the man who had gone
off duty yesterday morning, still Abe had not put in an appearance when
Samuel and the life-saver trudged down the trail through the woods to
the bay. As he stepped into the scooter, Samuel's conscience at last
began to prick him.
"Yew sure the men will look arter the old fellow well an' not let him
But the whizz of the flight had already begun and the scooter's nose was
set toward Twin Coves, her sail skimming swiftly with the ring of the
steel against the ice over the shining surface of the bay.
"Law, yes," Samuel eased his conscience; "of course they will. They
couldn't hurt him, anyhow. I never seen nobody take so kindly ter
hardenin' as that air Abe."
The shore at Twin Coves was a somewhat lonely spot, owing to stretches
of marshland and a sweep of pine wood that reached almost to the edge of
Samuel, however, having indicated that he wished to be landed at the
foot of a path through the pines, found himself on the home shore
scarcely ten minutes after he had left Bleak Hill--Havens already
speeding toward his home some miles to the eastward, the bay seemingly
deserted except for his sail, a high wind blowing, and the snow
beginning to fall in scattered flakes.
Samuel picked up his grip, trudged through the heavy sand of the narrow
beach, and entered the sweet-smelling pine wood. He was stiff with cold
after the rough, swift voyage; his feet alone were hot--burning hot with
chilblains. Away down in his heart he was uneasy lest some harm should
come to Abe and the old man be caught in the approaching storm on the
Beach. But, oh, wasn't he glad to be home!
His house was still half a mile away; but he was once more on good,
solid, dry land.
"I'll tell Blossy haow that air Abe Rose behaved," he reassured himself,
when he pictured his wife's astonished and perhaps reproachful greeting,
"an' then she won't wonder that I had ter quit him an' come back."
He recollected that Angy would be there, and hoped fervently that she
might not prove so strenuous a charge as Abraham. Moreover, he hoped
that she would not so absorb Blossy's attention as to preclude a wifely
ministering to his aching feet and the application of "St. Jerushy Ile"
to his lame and sore back.
The torture of the feet and back made walking harder, too, than he had
believed possible with the prospect of relief so near. As he limped
along he was forced to pause every now and again and set down the
carpet-bag, sometimes to rub his back, sometimes to seat himself on a
stump and nurse for a few moments one of those demon-possessed feet.
Could he have made any progress at all if he had not known that at
home, no matter if there was company, there would at least be no Abe
Rose to keep him going, to spur him on to unwelcome action, to force him
to prove himself out of sheer self-respect the equal, if not the
superior, in masculine strength?
Abe had led him that chase over at the Station, Samuel was convinced,
"a-purpose" to punish him for having so soundly berated him when he lay
a-bed. That was all the thanks you ever got for doing things for "some
Samuel hobbled onward, his brow knit with angry resentment. Did ever a
half-mile seem so long, and had he actually been only twenty-three hours
from home and Blossy? Oh, oh! his back and his feet! Oh, the weight of
that bag! How much he needed sleep! How good it would be to have Blossy
tuck him under the covers, and give him a hot lemonade with a stick of
ginger in it!
If only he had hold of Abe Rose now to tell him his opinion of him!
Well, he reflected, you have to summer and winter with a person before
you can know them. This one December day and night with Abe had been
equal to the revelations of a dozen seasons. The next time Samuel tried
to do good to anybody more than sixty-five, he'd know it. The next time
he was persuaded into leaving his wife for over night, he'd know that,
too. Various manuals for the young husband, which he had consulted, to
the contrary notwithstanding, the place for a married man was at home.
Samuel sat down on a fallen tree which marked the half-way point between
his place and the bay. The last half of the journey would seem shorter,
and, at the end, there would be Blossy smiling a welcome, for he never
doubted but that Blossy would be glad to see him. She thought a good
deal of him, nor had she been especially anxious for that week of
His face smoothed its troubled frowns into a look of shining
anticipation--the look that Samuel's face had worn when first he ushered
Blossy into his tidy, little home and murmured huskily:
"Mis' Darby, yew're master o' the vessel naow; I'm jest fo'castle hand."
Forgetting all his aches, his pains, his resentments, Samuel took a
peppermint-lozenge out of his pocket, rolled it under his tongue, and
walked on. Presently, as he saw the light of the clearing through the
trees, he broke into a run,--an old man's trot,--thus proving
conclusively that his worry of lumbago and chilblains had been merely a
wrongly diagnosed case of homesickness.
He grinned as he pictured Abe's dismay on returning to the Station to
find him gone. Still, he reflected, maybe Abe would have a better time
alone with the young fellows; he had grown so plagued young himself all
of a sudden. Samuel surely need not worry about him.
More and more good-natured grew Samuel's face, until a sociable rabbit,
peeping at him from behind a bush, decided to run a race with the old
gentleman, and hopped fearlessly out into the open.
"Ah, yew young rascal!" cried Samuel. "Yew're the feller that eat up all
my winter cabbages."
At this uncanny reading of his mind, Mr. Cottontail darted off into the
woods again to seek out his mate and inform her that their guilt had
Finally, Samuel came to the break in the woodland, an open field of rye,
green as springtime grass, and his own exquisitely neat abode beckoning
across the gray rail-fence to him.
How pretty Blossy's geraniums looked in the sitting-room windows! Even
at this distance, too, he could see that she had not forgotten to water
his pet abutilon and begonias. How welcome in the midst of this flurry
of snow--how welcome to his eye was that smoke coming out of the
chimneys! All the distress of his trip away from home seemed worth while
now for the joy of coming back.
Before he had taken down the fence-rail and turned into the path which
led to his back door, he was straining his ears for the sound of
Blossy's voice gossiping with Angy. Not hearing it, he hurried the
The kitchen door was locked. The key was not under the mat; it was not
in the safe on the porch, behind the stone pickle-pot. He tried the door
again, and then peered in at the window.
Not even the cat could be discerned. The kitchen was set in order, the
breakfast dishes put away, and there was no sign of any baking or
preparations for dinner.
He knocked, knocked loudly. No answer. He went to a side door, to the
front entrance, and found the whole house locked, and no key to be
discovered. It was still early in the morning, earlier than Blossy would
have been likely to set out upon an errand or to spend the day; and
then, too, she was not one to risk her health in such chilly, damp
weather, with every sign of a heavy storm.
Samuel became alarmed. He called sharply, "Blossy!" No answer. "Mis'
Rose!" No answer. "Ezra!" And still no sound in reply.
His alarm increased. He went to the barn; that was locked and Ezra
nowhere in sight. By standing on tiptoe, however, and peeping through a
crack in the boards, he found that his horse and the two-seated surrey
"Waal, I never," grumbled Samuel, conscious once more of all his
physical discomforts. "The minute my back's turned, they go
a-gallivantin'. I bet yer," he added after a moment's thought, "I bet
yer it's that air Angy Rose. She's got ter git an' gad every second same
as Abe, an' my poor wife has been drug along with her."
There was nothing left for him to do but seek refuge in his shop and
await their return. Like nearly every other bayman, he had a one-room
shanty, which he called the "shop," and where he played at building
boats, and weaving nets, and making oars and tongs.
This structure stood to the north of the house, and fortunately had an
old, discarded kitchen stove in it. There, if the wanderers had not
taken that key also, he could build a fire, and stretch out before it on
a bundle of sail-cloth.
He gave a start of surprise, however, as he approached the place; for
surely that was smoke coming out of the chimney!
Ezra must have gone out with the horse, and Blossy must be entertaining
Angy in some outlandish way demanded by the idiosyncrasies of the Rose
Samuel flung open the door, and strode in; but only to pause on the
threshold, struck dumb. Blossy was not there, Angy was not there, nor
any one belonging to the household. But sitting on that very bundle of
canvas, stretching his lean hands over the stove, with Samuel's cat on
his lap, was the "Old Hoss"--Abraham Rose!
EXCHANGING THE OLIVE-BRANCH
The cat jumped off Abe's lap, running to Samuel with a mew of
recognition. Abe turned his head, and made a startled ejaculation.
"Sam'l Darby," he said stubbornly, "ef yew've come tew drag me back to
that air Beach, yew 're wastin' time. I won't go!"
Samuel closed the door and hung his damp coat and cap over a suit of old
oilskins. He came to the fire, taking off his mittens and blowing on his
fingers, the suspicious and condemnatory tail of his eye on Abraham.
"Haow'd yew git here?" he burst forth. "What yew bin an' done with my
wife, an' my horse, an' my man, an' my kerridge? Haow'd yew git here?
What'd yew come fer? When'd yew git here?"
"What'd yew come fer?" retorted Abe with some spirit. "Haow'd yew git
"None o' yer durn' business."
A glimmer of the old twinkle came back into Abe's eye, and he began to
"I guess we might as waal tell the truth, Sam'l. We both tried to be so
all-fired young yesterday that we got played out, an' concluded
unanermous that the best place fer a A No. 1 spree was ter hum."
Samuel gave a weak smile, and drawing up a stool took the cat upon his
"Yes," he confessed grudgingly, "I found out fer one that I hain't no
"Ner me, nuther," Abe's old lips trembled. "I had eyester-stew an' drunk
coffee in the middle o' the night; then the four-o'clock patrol wakes me
up ag'in. 'Here, be a sport,' they says, an' sticks a piece o' hot
mince-pie under my nose. Then I was so oneasy I couldn't sleep. Daybreak
I got up, an' went fer a walk ter limber up my belt, an' I sorter
wandered over ter the bay side, an' not a mile out I see tew men with
one o' them big fishin'-scooters a-haulin' in their net. An' I walked a
ways out on the ice, a-signalin' with my bandana han'kercher; an' arter
a time they seen me. 'T was Cap'n Ely from Injun Head an' his boy. Haow
them young 'uns dew grow! Las' time I see that kid, he wa' n't knee-high
tew a grasshopper.
"Waal, I says tew 'em, I says: 'Want ter drop a passenger at Twin
Coves?' 'Yes, yes,' they says. 'Jump in.' An' so, Sam'I, I gradooated
from yer school o' hardenin' on top a ton o' squirmin' fish, more er
less. I thought I'd come an' git Angy," he ended with a sigh, "an' yer
hired man 'd drive us back ter Shoreville; but thar wa' n't nobody hum
but a mewin' cat, an' the only place I could git inter was this here
shop. Wonder whar the gals has gone?"
No mention of the alarm that he must by this time have caused at the
Station. No consciousness of having committed any breach against the
laws of hospitality. But there was that in the old man's face, in his
worn and wistful look, which curbed Samuel's tongue and made him
understand that as a little child misses his mother so Abe had missed
Angy, and as a little homesick child comes running back to the place he
knows best so Abe was hastening back to the shelter he had scorned.
So, with an effort, Samuel held his peace, merely resolving that as soon
as he could get to a telephone he would inform their late hosts of Abe's
There was no direct way of telephoning; but a message could be sent to
the Quogue Station, and from there forwarded to Bleak Hill.
"I've had my lesson," said Abe. "The place fer old folks is with old
"But"--Samuel recovered his authoritative manner--"the place fer an old
man ain't with old hens. Naow, Abe, ef yew think yew kin behave yerself
an' not climb the flagpole or jump over the roof, I want yer to stay
right here, yew an' Angy both, an' spend yer week out. Yes, yes," as Abe
would have thanked him. "I take it," plunging his hand into his pocket,
"yew ain't stowed away nothin' since that mince-pie; but I can't offer
yer nothin' to eat till Blossy gits back an' opens up the house, 'cept
these here pepp'mints. They're fine; try 'em."
With one of those freakish turns of the weather that takes the conceit
out of all weather-prophets, the snow had now ceased to fall, the sun
was struggling out of the clouds, and the wind was swinging around to
Neither of the old men could longer fret about their wives being caught
in a heavy snow; but, nevertheless, their anxiety concerning the
whereabouts of the women did not cease, and the homesickness which Abe
felt for Angy, and Samuel for Blossy, rather increased than diminished
as one sat on the roll of canvas and the other crouched on his stool,
and both hugged the fire, and both felt very old, and very lame, and
very tired and sore.
Toward noontime they heard the welcome sound of wheels, and on rushing
to the door saw Ezra driving alone to the barn. He did not note their
appearance in the doorway of the shop; but they could see from the look
on his face that nothing had gone amiss.
Samuel heard the shutting of the kitchen door, and knew that Blossy was
at home, and a strange shyness submerged of a sudden his eagerness to
What would she say to this unexpected return? Would she laugh at him, or
"Yew go fust," he urged Abe, "an' tell my wife that I've got the
chilblains an' lumbago so bad I can't hardly git tew the house, an' I
had ter come hum fer my 'St. Jerushy Ile' an' her receipt fer frosted
THE FATTED CALF
Abe had no such qualms as Samuel. He wanted to see Angy that minute, and
he did not care if she did know why he had returned.
He fairly ran to the back door under the grape arbor, so that Samuel,
observing his gait, was seized with a fear that he might be that young
Abe of the Beach, during his visit, after all.
Abraham rushed into the kitchen without stopping to knock. "I'm back,
Mother," he cried, as if that were all the joyful explanation needed.
She was struggling with the strings of her bonnet before the
looking-glass which adorned Blossy's parlor-kitchen. She turned to him
with a little cry, and he saw that her face had changed
marvelously--grown young, grown glad, grown soft and fresh with a new
excited spirit of jubilant thanksgiving.
"Oh, Father! Weren't yew s'prised tew git the telephone? I knowed yew'd
come a-flyin' back."
Blossy appeared from the room beyond, and slipped past them, knowing
intuitively where she would find her lord and master; but neither of
them observed her entrance or her exit.
Angy clung to Abe, and Abe held her close. What had happened to her, the
undemonstrative old wife? What made her so happy, and yet tremble so?
Why did she cry, wetting his cheek with her tears, when she was so
palpably glad? Why had she telephoned for him, unless she, too, had
missed him as he had missed her?
Recalling his memories of last night, the memories of that long-ago
honeymoon-time, he murmured into his gray beard, "Dearest!"
She did not seem to think he was growing childish. She was not even
surprised. At last she said, half between sobbing and laughing:
"Oh, Abe, ain't God been good to us? Ain't it jist bewtiful to be rich?
Rich!" she cried. "Rich!"
Abe sat down suddenly, and covered his face with his hands. In a flash
he understood, and he could not let even Angy see him in the light of
"The minin' stock!" he muttered; and then low to himself, in an awed
whisper: "Tenafly Gold! The minin' stock!"
After a while he recovered himself sufficiently to explain that he had
not received the telephone message, and therefore knew nothing.
"Did I git a offer, Mother?"
"A offer of fifteen dollars a share. The letter come last night fer yew,
"Fifteen dollars a share!" He was astounded. "An' we've got five
thousand shares! Fifteen dollars, an' I paid ninety cents! Angy, ef ever
I ketch yew fishin' yer winter bunnit out of a charity barrel ag'in,
"But that ain't the best of it," interrupted Angy. "I couldn't sleep a
wink, an' Blossy says not ter send word tew yew, 'cuz mebbe 't was a
joke, an' to wait till mornin' an' go see Sam'l's lawyer down ter Injun
Head. That's whar we've jest come from, an' we telephoned ter Quogue
Station from thar. An' the lawyer at fust he didn't 'pear tew think very
much of it; but Blossy, she got him ter call up some broker feller in
'York, an' 'Gee whizz!' he says, turnin' 'round all excited from the
'phone. 'Tenafly Gold is sellin' fer twenty dollars on the Curb right
this minute!' An' he says, says he: 'Yew git yer husband, an' bring that
air stock over this arternoon; an',' says he, 'I'll realize on it fer
yer ter-morrer mornin'.'"
Abe stared at his wife, at her shining silk dress with its darns and
careful patches, at her rough, worn hands, and at the much mended lace
over her slender wrists.
"That mine was closed down eighteen years ago; they must 'a' opened it
up ag'in"; he spoke dully, as one stunned. Then with a sudden burst of
energy, his eyes still on his wife's figure: "Mother, that dress o'
yourn is a disgrace fer the wife of a financierer. Yew better git a new
silk fer yerself an' Miss Abigail, tew, fust thing. Her Sunday one
hain't nothin' extry."
"But yer old beaver, Abe!" Angy protested. "It looks as ef it come out
"Last Sunday yew said it looked splendid"; his tone was absent-minded
again. He seemed almost to ramble in his speech. "We must see that
Ishmael gits fixed up comfortable in the Old Men's Home; yew remember
haow he offered us all his pennies that day we broke up housekeepin'.
An' we must do somethin' handsome fer the Darbys, tew. Ef it hadn't been
fer Sam'l, I might be dead naow, an' never know nothin' erbout this here
streak o' luck. Tenafly Gold," he continued to mutter. "They must 'a'
struck a new lead. An' folks said I was a fool tew invest."
His face lightened. The weight of the shock passed. He threw off the awe
of the glad news. He smiled the smile of a happy child.
"Naow, Mother, we kin buy back our old chair, the rocker with the red
roses onto it. Seems ter me them roses must 'a' knowed all the time
that this was a-goin' ter happen. They was jest as pert an' sassy that
Angy laughed. She laughed softly and with unutterable pride in her
"Why, Father, don't yer see yew kin buy back the old chair, an' the old
place, too, an' then have plenty ter spare?"
"So we kin, Mother, so we kin"; he nodded his head, surprised. He
plunged his hands into his pockets, as if expecting to find them filled
with gold. "Wonder ef Sam'l wouldn't lend me a dollar or so in small
change. Ef I only had somethin' ter jingle, mebbe I could git closer to
this fac'." He drew her to him, and gave her waist a jovial squeeze.
"Hy-guy, Mother, we're rich! Hain't it splendid?"
Their laughter rang out together--trembling, near-to-tears laughter.
The old place, the old chair, the old way, and--plenty! Plenty to mend
the shingles. Aye, plenty to rebuild the house, if they chose. Plenty
with which to win back the smiles of Angy's garden. The dreadful dream
of need, and lack, and want, of feeding at the hand of charity, was gone
Plenty! Ah, the goodness and greatness of God! Plenty! Abe wanted to cry
it out from the housetops. He wanted all the world to hear. He wished
that he might gather his wealth together and drop it piece by piece
among the multitude. To give where he had been given, to blossom with
abundance where he had withered with penury!
The little wife read his thoughts. "We'll save jest enough fer ourselves
ter keep us in comfort the rest of our lives an' bury us decent."
They were quiet a long while, both sitting with bowed heads as if in
prayer; but presently Angy raised her face with an exclamation of
"Don't it beat all, that it happened jest tew late ter git in this
week's 'Shoreville Herald'!"
"Tew late?" exclaimed the new-fledged capitalist. "Thar hain't nothin'
tew late fer a man with money. We'll hire the editor tew git out another
paper, fust thing ter-morrer!"
"OUR BELOVED BROTHER"
The services of the "Shoreville Herald," however, were not required to
spread the news. The happiest and proudest couple on Long Island saw
their names with the story of their sudden accession to wealth in a
great New York daily the very next morning.
A tall, old gentleman with a real "barber's hair-cut," a shining, new
high hat, a suit of "store clothes" which fitted as if they had been
made for him, a pair of fur gloves, and brand-new ten-dollar boots; and
a remarkably pretty, old lady in a violet bonnet, a long black velvet
cape, with new shoes as well as new kid gloves, and a big silver-fox
muff--this was the couple that found the paper spread out on the hall
table at the Old Ladies' Home, with the sisters gathered around it,
peering at it, weeping over it, laughing, both sorrowing and rejoicing.
"This'll be good-by ter Brother Abe," Aunt Nancy had sniffed when the
news came over the telephone the day before; and though Miss Abigail had
assured her that she knew Abe would come to see them real often, the
matriarch still failed to be consoled.
"Hain't you noticed, gals," she persisted, "that thar hain't been a
death in the house sence we took him in? An' I missed my reg'lar spell
o' bronchitis last winter an' this one tew--so fur," she added dismally,
and began to cough and lay her hands against her chest. "That was allus
the way when I was a young 'un," she continued after a while; "I never
had a pet dog or cat or even a tame chicken that it didn't up an' run
erway sooner or later. This here loss, gals, 'll be the death o' me!
Naow, mark my words!"
Then followed a consultation among the younger sisters, the result of
which was that they met Abe in the morning with a unanimous petition.
They could neither ask nor expect him to remain; that was impossible,
"Hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!" cried Abe, waving an imaginary flag as
he entered. "Sam'l dropped us at the gate. Him an' Blossy went on ter
see Holmes tew dicker erbout buyin' back the old place. Takes Blossy an'
Sam'l tew dew business. They picked out my clothes between them yist'day
arternoon deown ter Injun village, in the Emporium. Haow yew like 'em?
Splendid, eh? See my yaller silk handkerchief, tew? We jest dropped in
ter git our things. We thought mebbe yew'd want ter slick up the room
an' git ready fer the new--"
He was allowed to say no more. The sisters, who had been kissing and
hugging Angy one by one, now swooped upon him. He was hugged, too, with
warm, generous congratulation, his hands were both shaken until they
ached, and his clothes and Angy's silently admired. But no one said a
word, for not one of the sisters was able to speak. Angy, thinking that
she divined a touch of jealousy, hastened to throw off her wrap and
display the familiar old worn silk gown beneath.
"I told Abe I jest wouldn't git a new silk until you each had one made
tew. Blossy sent for the samples. Blossy--"
"All I need's a shroud," interrupted Aunt Nancy grimly.
Angy and Abe both stared at her. She did look gray this morning. She did
seem feeble and her cough did sound hollow. The other sisters glanced
also at Aunt Nancy, and Sarah Jane took her hand, while she nudged Mrs.
Homan with her free elbow and Mrs. Homan nudged Ruby Lee and Ruby Lee
glanced at Lazy Daisy and Lazy Daisy drawled out meaningly:
Then Miss Abigail, twisting the edge of her apron nervously, spoke:
"Much obliged to you I be in behalf o' all the sisters, Brother Abe an'
ter Angy tew. We know yew'll treat us right. We know that yew," resting
her eyes on Abe's face, "will prove ter be the 'angel unawares' that we
been entertainin', but we don't want yew ter waste yer money on a
cart-load o' silk dresses. All we ask o' yew is jest ernough tew allow
us ter advertise fer another brother member ter take yer place."
Who could describe the expression that flashed across Abe's face?--hurt
astonishment, wounded pride, jealous incomprehension.
"Ter take my place!" he glanced about the hall defiantly. Who dared to
enter there and take his place?--_his place_!
"This is a old ladies' home," he protested. "What right you got a-takin'
in a good-fer-nuthin' old man? Mebbe he'd rob yew er kill yew! When men
git ter rampagin', yew can't tell what they might dew."
Sarah Jane nodded her head knowingly, as if to exclaim:
"I told yer so!"
But Miss Abigail hurriedly explained that it was a man and wife that
they wanted. She blushed as she added that of course they would not
take a man without his wife.
"No, indeed! That'd be highly improper," smirked Ruby Lee.
Then Abe went stamping to the stairway, saying sullenly:
"All right. I'll give yew all the money yew want fer advertisin', an'
yew kin say he'll be clothed an' dressed proper, tew, an' supplied with
terbaccer an' readin'-matter besides; but jest wait till the directors
read that advertisement! They had me here sorter pertendin' ter be
unbeknownst. Come on, Angy. Let 's go up-stairs an' git our things.
Aunt Nancy half arose from her chair, resting her two shaking hands on
the arms of it.
"Brother Abe," she called quaveringly after the couple, "I guess yew
kin afford ter fix up any objections o' the directors."
Angy pressed her husband's arm as she joined him in the upper hall.
"Don't yer see, Abe. They don't realize that that poor old gentleman,
whoever he may be, won't be yew. They jest know that _yew_ was _yew_;
an' they want ter git another jest as near like yew as they kin."
Abe grunted, yet nevertheless went half-way down-stairs again to call
more graciously to the sisters that he would give them a reference any
time for knowing how to treat a man just right.
"That feller'll be lucky, gals," he added in tremulous tones. "I hope
he'll appreciate yew as I allers done."
Then Abe went to join Angy in the room which the sisters had given to
him that bitter day when the cry of his heart had been very like unto:
"_Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani_!"
After all, what was there of his and Angy's here? Their garments they
did not need now. They would leave them behind for the other old couple
that was to come. There was nothing else but some simple gifts. He took
up a pair of red wristlets that Mrs. Homan had knit, and tucked them in
his new overcoat pocket. He also took Abigail's bottle of "Jockey Club"
which he had despised so a few days ago, and tucked that in his
watch-pocket. When he bought himself a watch, he would buy a new clock
for the dining-room down-stairs, too,--a clock with no such asthmatic
strike as the present one possessed. All his personal belongings--every
one of them gifts--he found room for in his pockets. Angy had even less
than he. Yet they had come practically with nothing--and compared with
that nothing, what they carried now seemed much. Angy hesitated over the
pillow-shams. Did they belong to them or to the new couple to come? Abe
gazed at the shams too. They had been given to him and Angy last
Christmas by all the sisters. They were white muslin with white cambric
frills, and in their centers was embroidered in turkey-red cotton,
"Mother," on one pillow, "Father," on the other. Every sister in the
Home had taken at least one stitch in the names.
Father and Mother--not Angy and Abe! Why Father and Mother? A year ago
no one could have foreseen the fortune, nor have prophesied the
possession of the room by another elderly couple.
Angy drew near to Abe, and Abe to Angy. They locked arms and stood
looking at the pillows. He saw, and she saw, the going back to the old
bedroom in the old home across the woods and over the field--the going
back. And in sharp contrast they each recalled the first time that they
had stepped beneath that roof nearly half a century ago,--the first
home-coming,--when her mother-heart and his father-heart had been filled
with the hope of children--children to bless their marriage, children to
complete their home, children to love, children to feed them with love
"Let's adopt some leetle folks," said Angy, half in a whisper. "I'm
afeard the old place'll seem lonesome without--"
"Might better adopt the sisters"; he spoke almost gruffly. "I allers did
think young 'uns would be the most comfort tew yew after they growed
"A baby is dretful cunnin'," Angy persisted. "But," she added sadly, "I
don't suppose a teethin' mite would find much in common with us."
"Anyway," vowed Abe, suddenly beginning to unfasten the pillow-shams,
"these belong ter us, an' I'm a-goin' ter take 'em."
They went down-stairs silently, the shams wrapped in a newspaper
carried under his arm.
"Waal, naow,"--he tried to speak cheerfully as they rejoined the others,
and he pushed his way toward the dining-room,--"I'll go an' git my cup
But Miss Abigail blocked the door, again blushing, again confused.
"That 'Tew-our-Beloved-Brother' cup," she said gently, her eyes not
meeting the wound in his, "we 'bout concluded yew'd better leave here
fer the one what answers the ad. Yew got so much naow, an' him--"
She did not finish. She could not. She felt rather than saw the blazing
of Abe's old eyes. Then the fire beneath his brows died out and a mist
obscured his sight.
"Gals," he asked humbly, "would yew ruther have a new 'beloved
For a space there was no answer. Aunt Nancy's head was bowed in her
hands. Lazy Daisy was openly sobbing. Miss Ellie was twisting her
fingers nervously in and out--she unwound them to clutch at Angy's arm
as if to hold her. At last Miss Abigail spoke with so unaccustomed a
sharpness that her voice seemed not her own:
"Sech a foolish question as that nobody in their sound senses would
Abe sat down in his old place at the fireside and smiled a thousand
smiles in one. He smiled and rubbed his hands before the blaze. The
blaze itself seemed scarcely more bright and warm than the light from
within which transfigured his aged face.
"Gals," he chuckled in his old familiar way, "I dunno how Sam'l Darby'll
take it; but if Mother's willin', I guess I won't buy back no more of
the old place, 'cept'n' jest my rockin'-chair with the red roses onto
it; an' all the rest o' this here plagued money I'll hand over ter the
directors, an' stay right here an' take my comfort."
Angy bent down and whispered in his ear: "I'd ruther dew it, tew,
Father. Anythin' else would seem like goin' a-visitin'. But yew don't
want ter go an' blame me," she added anxiously, "ef yew git all riled up
an' sick abed ag'in."
"Pshaw, Mother," he protested; "yew fergit I was _adopted_ then; naow I
be _adoptin_'. Thar's a big difference."
She lifted her face, relieved, and smiled into the relieved and radiant
faces of Abe's "children," and her own.