Part 7 out of 8
he tell your--your sister? Did he tell her how I--how I stole the
Charles shook his head.
"No," he said quietly. "No, he didn't tell either of us that. He
told us that you had tried to make him believe you took the money,
but that he knew you were not telling the truth. He knew you
didn't take it."
"Eh? Now . . . now, Charlie, that ain't so." Jed was even more
disturbed and distressed than before. "I--I told Sam I took it
and--and kept it. I TOLD him I did. What more does he want?
What's he goin' around tellin' folks I didn't for? What--"
"Hush, Jed! He knows you didn't take it. He knew it all the time
you were telling him you did. In fact he came into your shop this
afternoon to tell you that the Sage man over at Wapatomac had found
the four hundred dollars on the table in his sitting-room just
where the captain left it. Sage had just 'phoned him that very
thing. He would have told you that, but you didn't give him the
chance. Jed, I--"
But Jed interrupted. His expression as he listened had been
changing like the sky on a windy day in April.
"Here, here!" he cried wildly. "What--what kind of talk's that?
Do--do you mean to tell me that Sam Hunniwell never lost that money
at all? That all he did was leave it over at Wapatomac?"
"Yes, that's just what I mean."
"Then--then all the time when I was--was givin' him the--the other
money and tellin' him how I found it and--and all--he knew--"
"Certainly he knew. I've just told you that he knew."
Jed sat heavily down in the chair once more. He passed his hand
slowly across his chin.
"He knew!" he repeated. "He knew! . . ." Then, with a sudden gasp
as the full significance of the thought came to him, he cried:
"Why, if--if the money wasn't ever lost you couldn't--you--"
Charles shook his head: "No, Jed," he said, "I couldn't have taken
it. And I didn't take it."
Jed gasped again. He stretched out a hand imploringly. "Oh,
Lord," he exclaimed, "I never meant to say that. I--I--"
"It's all right, Jed. I don't blame you for thinking I might have
taken it. Knowing what you did about--well, about my past record,
it is not very astonishing that you should think almost anything."
Jed's agonized contrition was acute.
"Don't talk so, Charlie!" he pleaded. "Don't! I--I'd ought to be
ashamed of myself. I am--mercy knows I am! But . . . Eh? Why,
how did you know I knew about--that?"
"Ruth told me just now. After Captain Hunniwell had gone, she told
me the whole thing. About how Babbie let the cat out of the bag
and how she told you for fear you might suspect something even
worse than the truth; although," he added, "that was quite bad
enough. Yes, she told me everything. You've been a brick all
through, Jed. And now--"
"Wait, Charlie, wait. I--I don't know what to say to you. I don't
know what you must think of me for ever--ever once suspectin' you.
If you hadn't said to me only such a little spell ago that you
needed money so bad and would do most anything to get five hundred
dollars--if you hadn't said that, I don't think the notion would
ever have crossed my mind."
Phillips whistled. "Well, by George!" he exclaimed. "I had
forgotten that. No wonder you thought I had gone crooked again.
Humph! . . . Well, I'll tell you why I wanted that money. You
see, I've been trying to pay back to the man in Middleford the
money of his which--which I took before. It is two thousand
dollars and," with a shrug, "that looks a good deal bigger sum to
me now than it used to, you can bet on that. I had a few hundred
in a New York savings bank before I--well, before they shut me up.
No one knew about it, not even Sis. I didn't tell her because--
well, I wish I could say it was because I was intending to use it
to pay back what I had taken, but that wasn't the real reason why I
kept still about it. To tell you the truth, Jed, I didn't feel--
no, I don't feel yet any too forgiving or kindly toward that chap
who had me put in prison. I'm not shirking blame; I was a fool and
a scamp and all that; but he is--he's a hard man, Jed."
Jed nodded. "Seems to me Ru--your sister said he was a consider'ble
of a professer," he observed.
"Professor? Why no, he was a bond broker."
"I mean that he professed religion a good deal. Called himself a
Christian and such kind of names."
Phillips smiled bitterly. "If he is a Christian I prefer to be a
heathen," he observed.
"Um-hm. Well, maybe he ain't one. You could teach a parrot to
holler 'Praise the Lord,' I cal'late, and the more crackers he got
by it the louder he'd holler. So you never said anything about the
four hundred you had put by, Charlie."
"No. I felt that I had been treated badly and--why, Jed, the man
used to urge me to dress better than I could afford, to belong to
the most expensive club and all that sort of thing. He knew I was
in with a set sporting ten times the money I could muster, and
spending it, too, but he seemed to like to have me associate with
them. Said it was good for the business."
"Sartin! More crackers for Polly. Go on."
"I intended that he should never have that money, but after I came
here, after I had been here for a time, I changed my mind. I saw
things in a different light. I wrote him a letter, told him I
meant to pay back every cent of the two thousand I had taken and
enclosed my check for the seven hundred and fifty I had put by.
Since then I have paid him two hundred and fifty more, goodness
knows how. I have squeezed every penny from my salary that I could
spare. I have paid him half of the two thousand and, if everything
had gone on well, some day or other I would have paid the other
Jed laid a hand on his companion's knee. "Good boy, Charlie," he
said. "And how did the--er--professin' poll parrot act about your
payin' it back?"
Charles smiled faintly. "Just before I talked with you that day,
Jed," he said, "I received a letter from him stating that he did
not feel I was paying as rapidly as I could and that, if he did not
receive another five hundred shortly he should feel it his duty to
communicate with my present employers. Do you wonder I said I
would do almost anything to get the money?"
Jed's hand patted the knee sympathetically.
"Sho, sho, sho!" he exclaimed. "Have you heard from him since?"
"No, I wrote him that I was paying as fast as I could and that if
he communicated with my employers that would end any chances of his
ever getting more. He hasn't written since; afraid of stopping the
golden egg supply, I presume. . . . But there," he added, "that's
enough of that. Jed, how could you do it--just for me? Of course
I had come to realize that your heart was as big as a bushel
basket, and that you and I were friends. But when a fellow gives
up four hundred dollars of his own money, and, not only does that,
but deliberately confesses himself a thief--when he does that to
save some one else who, as he knew, had really been a thief and who
he was pretty sure must have stolen again--why, Jed, it is
unbelievable. Why did you do it? What can I say to you?"
Jed held up a protesting hand.
"Don't say anything," he stammered. "Don't! It's--it's all
"Foolishness! It's--oh, I don't know what it is! And to sacrifice
your reputation and your character and your friendship with Captain
Hunniwell, all for me! I can't understand it."
"Now--now--now, Charlie, don't try to. If I can't understand
myself more'n half the time, what's the use of your strainin' your
brains? I--I just took a notion, that's all. I--"
"But, Jed, why did you do it--for me? I have heard of men doing
such things for--for women, sacrificing themselves to save a woman
they were in love with. You read of that in books and--yes, I
think I can understand that. But for you to do it--for ME!"
Jed waved both hands this time. "Sshh! sshh!" he cried, in frantic
protest. His face was a brilliant crimson and his embarrassment
and confusion were so acute as to be laughable, although Phillips
was far from laughing. "Sshh, sshh, Charlie," pleaded Jed. "You--
you don't know what you're talkin' about. You're makin' an awful
fuss about nothin'. Sshh! Yes, you are, too. I didn't have any
notion of tellin' Sam I stole that four hundred when I first gave
it to him. I was goin' to tell him I found it, that's all. That
would keep him bottled up, I figgered, and satisfied and then--then
you and I'd have a talk and I'd tell you what I'd done and--well,
some day maybe you could pay me back the money; don't you see? I
do hope," he added anxiously, "you won't hold it against me, for
thinkin' maybe you had taken it. Course I'd ought to have known
better. I would have known better if I'd been anybody but Shavin's
Winslow. HE ain't responsible."
"Hush, Jed, hush! But why did you say you had--kept it?"
"Eh? Oh, that was Sam's doin's. He commenced to ask questions,
and, the first thing I knew, he had me on the spider fryin' over a
hot fire. The more I sizzled and sputtered and tried to get out of
that spider, the more he poked up the fire. I declare, I never
knew lyin' was such a job! When I see how easy and natural it
comes to some folks I feel kind of ashamed to think what a poor
show I made at it. Well, Sam kept pokin' the fire and heatin' me
up till I got desperate and swore I stole the money instead of
findin' it. And that was hoppin' out of the fryin' pan INTO the
fire," he drawled reflectively.
Charles smiled. "Captain Sam said you told him you took the money
to buy a suit of clothes with," he suggested.
"Eh? Did I? Sho! That was a real bright idea of mine, wasn't it?
A suit of clothes. Humph! Wonder I didn't say I bought shoe laces
or collar buttons or somethin'. . . . Sho! . . . Dear, dear!
Well, they say George Washin'ton couldn't tell a lie and I've
proved I can't either; only I've tried to tell one and I don't
recollect that he ever did that. . . . Humph! . . . A suit of
clothes. . . . Four hundred dollars. . . . Solomon in all his
glory would have looked like a calico shirt and a pair of overalls
alongside of me, eh? . . . Humph!"
Phillips shook his head. "Nevertheless, Jed," he declared, "I
can't understand why you did it and I never--never shall forget it.
Neither will Ruth. She will tell you so to-morrow."
Jed was frightened. "No, no, no, she mustn't," he cried, quickly.
"I--I don't want her to talk about it. I--I don't want anybody to
talk about it. Please tell her not to, Charlie! Please! It's--
it's all such foolishness anyhow. Let's forget it."
"It isn't the sort of thing one forgets easily. But we won't talk
of it any more just now, if that pleases you better. I have some
other things to talk about and I must talk about them with some
one. I MUST--I've got to."
Jed looked at him. The words reminded him forcibly of Ruth's on
that day when she had come to the windmill shop to tell him her
brother's story and to discuss the question of his coming to Orham.
She, too, had said that she must talk with some one--she MUST.
"Have--you talked 'em over with--with your sister?" he asked.
"Yes. But she and I don't agree completely in the matter. You
see, Ruth thinks the world of me, she always did, a great deal more
than I deserve, ever have deserved or ever will. And in this
matter she thinks first of all of me--what will become of me
provided--well, provided things don't go as I should like to have
them. That isn't the way I want to face the question. I want to
know what is best for every one, for her, for me and--and for some
one else--most of all for some one else, I guess," he added.
Jed nodded slowly. "For Maud," he said.
Charles looked at him. "How on earth--?" he demanded. "What in
blazes are you--a clairvoyant?"
"No-o. No. But it don't need a spirit medium to see through a
window pane, Charlie; that is, the average window pane," he added,
with a glance at his own, which were in need of washing just then.
"You want to know," he continued, "what you'd ought to do now that
will be the right thing, or the nighest to the right thing, for
your sister and Babbie and yourself--and Maud."
"Yes, I do. It isn't any new question for me. I've been putting
it up to myself for a long time, for months; by, George, it seems
"I know. I know. Well, Charlie, I've been puttin' it up to
myself, too. Have you got any answer?"
"No, none that exactly suits me. Have you?"
"I don't know's I have--exactly."
"Exactly? Well, have you any, exact or otherwise?"
"Um. . . . Well, I've got one, but . . . but perhaps it ain't an
answer. Perhaps it wouldn't do at all. Perhaps . . . perhaps . . ."
"Never mind the perhapses. What is it?"
"Um. . . . Suppose we let it wait a little spell and talk the
situation over just a little mite. You've been talkin' with your
sister, you say, and she don't entirely agree with you."
"No. I say things can't go on as they've been going. They can't."
"Um-hm. Meanin'--what things?"
"Everything. Jed, do you remember that day when you and I had the
talk about poetry and all that? When you quoted that poem about a
chap's fearing his fate too much? Well, I've been fearing my fate
ever since I began to realize what a mess I was getting into here
in Orham. When I first came I saw, of course, that I was skating
on thin ice, and it was likely to break under me at any time. I
knew perfectly well that some day the Middleford business was bound
to come out and that my accepting the bank offer without telling
Captain Hunniwell or any one was a mighty risky, not to say mean,
business. But Ruth was so very anxious that I should accept and
kept begging me not to tell, at least until they had had a chance
to learn that I was worth something, that I gave in and . . . I
say, Jed," he put in, breaking his own sentence in the middle,
"don't think I'm trying to shove the blame over on to Sis. It's
Jed nodded. "Sho, sho, Charlie," he said, "course 'tain't. I
"No, I'll take the blame. I was old enough to have a mind of my
own. Well, as I was saying, I realized it all, but I didn't care
so much. If the smash did come, I figured, it might not come until
I had established myself at the bank, until they might have found
me valuable enough to keep on in spite of it. And I worked mighty
hard to make them like me. Then--then--well, then Maud and I
became friends and--and--oh, confound it, you see what I mean! You
The Winslow knee was clasped between the Winslow hands and the
Winslow foot was swinging. Jed nodded again.
"I see, Charlie," he said.
"And--and here I am. The smash has come, in a way, already.
Babbitt, so Ruth tells me, knows the whole story and was threatening
to tell, but she says Grover assures her that he won't tell, that he,
the major, has a club over the old fellow which will prevent his
telling. Do you think that's true?"
"I shouldn't be surprised. Major Grover sartinly did seem to put
the fear of the Lord into Phin this afternoon. . . . And that's
no one-horse miracle," he drawled, "when you consider that all
the ministers in Orham haven't been able to do it for forty odd
years. . . . Um. . . . Yes, I kind of cal'late Phin'll keep his
hatches shut. He may bust his b'iler and blow up with spite, but
he won't talk about you, Charlie, I honestly believe. And we can
all thank the major for that."
"I shall thank him, for one!"
"Mercy on us! No, no. He doesn't know your story at all. He just
thinks Babbitt was circulatin' lies about Ruth--about your sister.
You mustn't mention the Middleford--er--mess to Major Grover."
"Humph! Well, unless I'm greatly mistaken, Ruth--"
"Oh, nothing. Never mind that now. And allowing that Babbitt
will, as you say, keep his mouth shut, admitting that the situation
is just what it was before Captain Hunniwell lost the money or
Babbitt came into the affair at all, still I've made up my mind
that things can't go on as they are. Jed, I--it's a mighty hard
thing to say to another man, but--the world--my world--just begins
and ends with--with her."
His fists clenched and his jaw set as he said it. Jed bowed his
"With Maud, you mean," he said.
"Yes. I--I don't care for anything else or anybody else. . . .
Oh, of course I don't mean just that, you know. I do care for Sis
and Babbie. But--they're different."
"I understand, Charlie."
"No, you don't. How can you? Nobody can understand, least of all
a set old crank like you, Jed, and a confirmed bachelor besides.
Beg pardon for contradicting you, but you don't understand, you
Jed gazed soberly at the floor.
"Maybe I can understand a little, Charlie," he drawled gently.
"Well, all right. Let it go at that. The fact is that I'm at a
"Just a half minute, now. Have you said anything to Maud about--
about how you feel?"
"Of course I haven't," indignantly. "How could I, without telling
"That's right, that's right. Course you couldn't, and be fair and
honorable. . . . Hum. . . . Then you don't know whether or not
she--er--feels the same way about--about you?"
Charles hesitated. "No-o," he hesitated. "No, I don't know, of
course. But I--I feel--I--"
"You feel that that part of the situation ain't what you'd call
hopeless, eh? . . . Um. . . . Well, judgin' from what I've heard,
I shouldn't call it that, either. Would it surprise you to know,
Charlie, that her dad and I had a little talk on this very subject
not so very long ago?"
Evidently it did surprise him. Charles gasped and turned red.
"Captain Hunniwell!" he exclaimed. "Did Captain Hunniwell talk
with you about--about Maud and--and me?"
"Well, by George! Then he suspected--he guessed that-- That's
Jed relinquished the grip of one hand upon his knee long enough to
stroke his chin.
"Um . . . yes," he drawled drily. "It's worse than strange, it's--
er--paralyzin'. More clairvoyants in Orham than you thought there
was; eh, Charlie?"
"But why should he talk with you on that subject; about anything
so--er--personal and confidential as that? With YOU, you know!"
Jed's slow smile drifted into sight and vanished again. He
permitted himself the luxury of a retort.
"Well," he observed musingly, "as to that I can't say for certain.
Maybe he did it for the same reason you're doin' it now, Charlie."
The young man evidently had not thought of it in just that light.
He looked surprised and still more puzzled.
"Why, yes," he admitted. "So I am, of course. And I do talk to
you about things I never would think of mentioning to other people.
And Ruth says she does. That's queer, too. But we are--er--
neighbors of yours and--and tenants, you know. We've known you
ever since we came to Orham."
"Ye-es. And Sam's known me ever since I came. Anyhow he talked
with me about you and Maud. I don't think I shall be sayin' more'n
I ought to if I tell you that he likes you, Charlie."
"Does he?" eagerly. "By George, I'm glad of that! But, oh, well,"
with a sigh, "he doesn't know. If he did know my record he might
not like me so well. And as for my marrying his daughter--good
NIGHT!" with hopeless emphasis.
"No, not good night by any means. Maybe it's only good mornin'.
Go on and tell me what you mean by bein' at a crisis, as you said a
"I mean just that. The time has come when I must speak to Maud. I
must find out if--find out how she feels about me. And I can't
speak to her, honorably, without telling her everything. And
suppose she should care enough for me to--to--suppose she should
care in spite of everything, there's her father. She is his only
daughter; he worships the ground she steps on. Suppose I tell him
I've been," bitterly, "a crook and a jailbird; what will HE think
of me--as a son-in-law? And now suppose he was fool enough to
consent--which isn't supposable--how could I stay here, working for
him, sponging a living from him, with this thing hanging over us
all? No, I can't--I can't. Whatever else happens I can't do that.
And I can't go on as I am--or I won't. Now what am I going to do?"
He had risen and was pacing the floor. Jed asked a question.
"What does your sister want you to do?" he asked.
"Ruth? Oh, as I told you, she thinks of no one but me. How
dreadful it would be for me to tell of my Middleford record! How
awful if I lost my position in the bank! Suppose they discharged
me and the town learned why! I've tried to make her see that,
compared to the question of Maud, nothing else matters at all, but
I'm afraid she doesn't see it as I do. She only sees--me."
"Her brother. Um . . . yes, I know."
"Yes. Well, we talked and talked, but we got nowhere. So at last
I said I was coming out to thank you for what you did to save me,
Jed. I could hardly believe it then; I can scarcely believe it
now. It was too much for any man to do for another. And she said
to talk the whole puzzle out with you. She seems to have all the
confidence on earth in your judgment, Jed. She is as willing to
leave a decision to you, apparently, as you profess to be to leave
one to your wooden prophet up on the shelf there; what's-his-name--
Jed looked greatly pleased, but he shook his head. "I'm afraid her
confidence ain't founded on a rock, like the feller's house in the
Bible," he drawled. "My decisions are liable to stick half way
betwixt and between, same as--er--Jeremiah's do. But," he added,
gravely, "I have been thinkin' pretty seriously about you and your
particular puzzle, Charlie, and--and I ain't sure that I don't see
one way out of the fog. It may be a hard way, and it may turn out
wrong, and it may not be anything you'll agree to. But--"
"What is it? If it's anything even half way satisfactory I'll
believe you're the wisest man on earth, Jed Winslow."
"Well, if I thought you was liable to believe that I'd tell you to
send your believer to the blacksmith's 'cause there was somethin'
wrong with it. No, I ain't wise, far from it. But, Charlie, I
think you're dead right about what you say concernin' Maud and her
father and you. You CAN'T tell her without tellin' him. For your
own sake you mustn't tell him without tellin' her. And you
shouldn't, as a straight up and down, honorable man keep on workin'
for Sam when you ask him, under these circumstances, to give you
his daughter. You can't afford to have her say 'yes' because she
pities you, nor to have him give in to her because she begs him to.
No, you want to be independent, to go to both of 'em and say:
'Here's my story and here am I. You know now what I did and you
know, too, what I've been and how I've behaved since I've been with
you.' You want to say to Maud: 'Do you care enough for me to marry
me in spite of what I've done and where I've been?' And to Sam:
'Providin' your daughter does care for me, I mean to marry her some
day or other. And you can't be on his pay roll when you say that,
as I see it."
Phillips stopped in his stride.
"You've put it just as it is," he declared emphatically. "There's
the situation--what then? For I tell you now, Jed Winslow, I won't
give her up until she tells me to."
"Course not, Charlie, course not. But there's one thing more--or
two things, rather. There's your sister and Babbie. Suppose you
do haul up stakes and quit workin' for Sam at the bank; can they
get along without your support? Without the money you earn?"
The young man nodded thoughtfully. "Yes," he replied, "I see no
reason why they can't. They did before I came, you know. Ruth has
a little money of her own, enough to keep her and Barbara in the
way they live here in Orham. She couldn't support me as a loafer,
of course, and you can bet I should never let her try, but she
could get on quite well without me. . . . Besides, I am not so
sure that . . ."
"Eh? What was you goin' to say, Charlie?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing. I have had a feeling, a slight suspicion,
recently, that-- But never mind that; I have no right to even hint
at such a thing. What are you trying to get at, Jed?"
"Yes. Why did you ask that question about Ruth and Barbara? You
don't mean that you see a way out for me, do you?"
"W-e-e-ll, I . . . er . . . I don't cal'late I'd want to go so far
as to say that, hardly. No-o, I don't know's it's a way out--
quite. But, as I've told you I've been thinkin' about you and Maud
a pretty good deal lately and . . . er . . . hum . . ."
"For heaven's sake, hurry up! Don't go to sleep now, man, of all
times. Tell me, what do you mean? What can I do?"
Jed's foot dropped to the floor. He sat erect and regarded his
companion intently over his spectacles. His face was very grave.
"There's one thing you can do, Charlie," he said.
"What is it? Tell me, quick."
"Just a minute. Doin' it won't mean necessarily that you're out of
your worries and troubles. It won't mean that you mustn't make a
clean breast of everything to Maud and to Sam. That you must do
and I know, from what you've said to me, that you feel you must.
And it won't mean that your doin' this thing will necessarily make
either Maud or Sam say yes to the question you want to ask 'em.
That question they'll answer themselves, of course. But, as I see
it, if you do this thing you'll be free and independent, a man
doin' a man's job and ready to speak to Sam Hunniwell or anybody
else LIKE a man. And that's somethin'."
"Something! By George, it's everything! What is this man's job?
Tell me, quick."
And Jed told him.
Mr. Gabe Bearse lost another opportunity the next morning. The
late bird misses the early worm and, as Gabriel was still slumbering
peacefully at six A. M., he missed seeing Ruth Armstrong and her
brother emerge from the door of the Winslow house at that hour
and walk to the gate together. Charles was carrying a small
traveling bag. Ruth's face was white and her eyes were suspiciously
damp, but she was evidently trying hard to appear calm and cheerful.
As they stood talking by the gate, Jed Winslow emerged from the
windmill shop and, crossing the lawn, joined them.
The three talked for a moment and then Charles held out his hand.
"Well, so long, Jed," he said. "If all goes well I shall be back
here to-morrow. Wish me luck."
"I'll be wishin' it for you, Charlie, all day and all night with
double time after hours and no allowance for meals," replied Jed
earnestly. "You think Sam'll get your note all right?"
"Yes, I shall tuck it under the bank door as I go by. If he should
ask what the business was which called me to Boston so suddenly,
just dodge the question as well as you can, won't you, Jed?"
"Sartin sure. He'll think he's dealin' with that colored man that
sticks his head through the sheet over to the Ostable fair, the one
the boys heave baseballs at. No, he won't get anything out of me,
Charlie. And the other letter; that'll get to--to her?"
The young man nodded gravely. "I shall mail it at the post-office
now," he said. "Don't talk about it, please. Well, Sis, good-by--
Jed turned his head. When he looked again Phillips was walking
rapidly away along the sidewalk. Ruth, leaning over the fence,
watched him as long as he was in sight. And Jed watched her
anxiously. When she turned he ventured to speak.
"Don't worry," he begged. "Don't. He's doin' the right thing. I
know he is."
She wiped her eyes. "Oh, perhaps he is," she said sadly. "I hope
"I know he is. I only wish I could do it, too. . . . I would," he
drawled, solemnly, "only for nineteen or twenty reasons, the first
one of 'em bein' that they wouldn't let me."
She made no comment on this observation. They walked together back
toward the house.
"Jed," she said, after a moment, "it has come at last, hasn't it,
the day we have foreseen and that I have dreaded so? Poor Charlie!
Think what this means to him."
Jed nodded. "He's puttin' it to the touch, to win or lose it all,"
he agreed, "same as was in the poem he and I talked about that
time. Well, I honestly believe he feels better now that he's made
up his mind to do it, better than he has for many a long day."
"Yes, I suppose he does. And he is doing, too, what he has wanted
to do ever since he came here. He told me so when he came in from
his long interview with you last night. He and I talked until it
was almost day and we told each other--many things."
She paused. Jed, looking up, caught her eye. To his surprise she
colored and seemed slightly confused.
"He had not said anything before," she went on rather hurriedly,
"because he thought I would feel so terribly to have him do it. So
I should, and so I do, of course--in one way, but in another I am
glad. Glad, and very proud."
"Sartin. He'll make us all proud of him, or I miss my guess. And,
as for the rest of it, the big question that counts most of all to
him, I hope--yes, I think that's comin' out all right, too. Ruth,"
he added, "you remember what I told you about Sam's talk with me
that afternoon when he came back from Wapatomac. If Maud cares for
him as much as all that she ain't goin' to throw him over on
account of what happened in Middleford."
"No--no, not if she really cares. But does she care--enough?"
"I hope so. I guess so. But if she doesn't it's better for him to
know it, and know it now. . . . Dear, dear!" he added, "how I do
fire off opinions, don't I? A body'd think I was loaded up with
wisdom same as one of those machine guns is with cartridges. About
all I'm loaded with is blanks, I cal'late."
She was not paying attention to this outburst, but, standing with
one hand upon the latch of the kitchen door, she seemed to be
"I think you are right," she said slowly. "Yes, I think you are
right. It IS better to know. . . . Jed, suppose--suppose you
cared for some one, would the fact that her brother had been in
prison make any difference in--in your feeling?"
Jed actually staggered. She was not looking at him, nor did she
look at him now.
"Eh?" he cried. "Why--why, Ruth, what--what--?"
She smiled faintly. "And that was a foolish question, too," she
said. "Foolish to ask you, of all men. . . . Well, I must go on
and get Babbie's breakfast. Poor child, she is going to miss her
Uncle Charlie. We shall all miss him. . . . But there, I promised
him I would be brave. Good morning, Jed."
"But--but, Ruth, what-what--?"
She had not heard him. The door closed. Jed stood staring at it
for some minutes. Then he crossed the lawn to his own little
kitchen. The performances he went through during the next hour
would have confirmed the opinion of Mr. Bearse and his coterie that
"Shavings" Winslow was "next door to loony." He cooked a
breakfast, but how he cooked it or of what it consisted he could
not have told. The next day he found the stove-lid lifter on a
plate in the ice chest. Whatever became of the left-over pork chop
which should have been there he had no idea.
Babbie came dancing in at noon on her way home from school. She
found her Uncle Jed in a curious mood, a mood which seemed to be a
compound of absent-mindedness and silence broken by sudden fits of
song and hilarity. He was sitting by the bench when she entered
and was holding an oily rag in one hand and a piece of emery paper
in the other. He was looking neither at paper nor rag, nor at
anything else in particular so far as she could see, and he did not
notice her presence at all. Suddenly he began to rub the paper and
the rag together and to sing at the top of his voice:
"'He's my lily of the valley,
My bright and mornin' star;
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul--Hallelujah!
He's my di-dum-du-dum-di-dum--
Barbara burst out laughing. Mr. Winslow's hallelujah chorus
stopped in the middle and he turned.
"Eh?" he exclaimed, looking over his spectacles. "Oh, it's you!
Sakes alive, child, how do you get around so quiet? Haven't
borrowed the cat's feet to walk, on, have you?"
Babbie laughed again and replied that she guessed the cat wouldn't
lend her feet.
"She would want 'em herself, prob'ly, Uncle Jed," she added.
"Don't you think so?"
Jed appeared to consider.
"Well," he drawled, "she might, I presume likely, be as selfish and
unreasonable as all that. But then again she might . . . hum . . .
what was it the cat walked on in that story you and I was readin'
together a spell ago? That--er--Sure Enough story--you know. By
"Oh, I know! It wasn't a Sure Enough story; it was a 'Just So'
story. And the name of it was 'The Cat Who Walked by His Wild
Jed looked deeply disappointed. "Sho!" he sighed. "I thought
'twas on his wild lone he walked. I was thinkin' that maybe he'd
gone walkin' on that for a spell and had lent you his feet. . . .
Hum. . . . Dear, dear!
"'Oh, trust and obey,
For there's no other way
To be de-de-de-di-dum--
But to trust and obey.'"
Here he relapsed into another daydream. After waiting for a
moment, Babbie ventured to arouse him.
"Uncle Jed," she asked, "what were you doing with those things in
your hand--when I came in, you know? That cloth and that piece of
paper. You looked so funny, rubbing them together, that I couldn't
Jed regarded her solemnly. "It's emery paper," he said; "like fine
sandpaper, you know. And the cloth's got ile in it. I'm cleanin'
the rust off this screwdriver. I hadn't used it for more'n a
fortni't and it got pretty rusty this damp weather."
The child looked at him wonderingly.
"But, Uncle Jed," she said, "there isn't any screwdriver. Anyhow I
don't see any. You were just rubbing the sandpaper and the cloth
together and singing. That's why it looked so funny."
Jed inspected first one hand and then the other.
"Hum!" he drawled. "Hu-um! . . . Well, I declare! . . . Now you
mention it, there don't seem to be any screwdriver, does there? . . .
Here 'tis on the bench. . . . And I was rubbin' the sandpaper
with ile, or ilin' the sandpaper with the rag, whichever you
like. . . . Hum, ye-es, I should think it might have looked
funny. . . . Babbie, if you see me walkin' around without any
head some mornin' don't be scared. You'll know that that part
of me ain't got out of bed yet, that's all."
Barbara leaned her chin on both small fists and gazed at him.
"Uncle Jed," she said, "you've been thinking about something,
"Eh? . . . Why, yes, I--I guess likely maybe I have. How did you
"Oh, 'cause I did. Petunia and I know you ever and ever so well
now and we're used to--to the way you do. Mamma says things like
forgetting the screwdriver are your ex-eccen-tricks. Is this what
you've been thinking about a nice eccen-trick or the other kind?"
Jed slowly shook his head. "I--I don't know," he groaned. "I
dasn't believe-- There, there! That's enough of my tricks. How's
Petunia's hair curlin' this mornin'?"
After the child left him he tried to prepare his dinner, but it was
as unsatisfactory a meal as breakfast had been. He couldn't eat,
he couldn't work. He could only think, and thinking meant
alternate periods of delirious hope and black depression. He sat
down before the little table in his living-room and, opening the
drawer, saw Ruth Armstrong's pictured face looking up at him.
"Jed! Oh, Jed!"
It was Maud Hunniwell's voice. She had entered the shop and the
living-room without his hearing her and now she was standing behind
him with her hand upon his shoulder. He started, turned and looked
up into her face. And one glance caused him to forget himself and
even the pictured face in the drawer for the time and to think only
"Maud!" he exclaimed. "Maud!"
Her hair, usually so carefully arranged, was disordered; her hat
was not adjusted at its usual exact angle; and as for the silver
fox, it hung limply backside front. Her eyes were red and she held
a handkerchief in one hand and a letter in the other.
"Oh, Jed!" she cried.
Jed put out his hands. "There, there, Maud!" he said. "There,
there, little girl."
They had been confidants since her babyhood, these two. She came
to him now, and putting her head upon his shoulder, burst into a
storm of weeping. Jed stroked her hair.
"There, there, Maud," he said gently. "Don't, girlie, don't. It's
goin' to be all right, I know it. . . . And so you came to me, did
you? I'm awful glad you did, I am so."
"He asked me to come," she sobbed. "He wrote it--in--in the
Jed led her over to a chair. "Sit down, girlie," he said, "and
tell me all about it. You got the letter, then?"
She nodded. "Yes," she said, chokingly; "it--it just came. Oh, I
am so glad Father did not come home to dinner to-day. He would
have--have seen me and--and--oh, why did he do it, Jed? Why?"
Jed shook his head. "He had to do it, Maud," he answered. "He
wanted to do the right thing and the honorable thing. And you
would rather have had him do that, wouldn't you?"
"Oh--oh, I don't know. But why didn't he come to me and tell me?
Why did he go away and--and write me he had gone to enlist? Why
didn't he come to me first? Oh. . . . Oh, Jed, how COULD he treat
She was sobbing again. Jed took her hand and patted it with his
own big one.
"Didn't he tell you in the letter why?" he asked.
"Then let me tell you what he told me, Maud. He and I talked for
up'ards of three solid hours last night and I cal'late I understood
him pretty well when he finished. Now let me tell you what he said
He told her the substance of his long interview with Phillips. He
told also of Charles' coming to Orham, of why and how he took the
position in the bank, of his other talks with him--Winslow.
"And so," said Jed, in conclusion, "you see, Maud, what a dreadful
load the poor young feller's been carryin' ever since he came and
especially since he--well, since he found out how much he was
carin' for you. Just stop for a minute and think what a load
'twas. His conscience was troublin' him all the time for keepin'
the bank job, for sailin' under false colors in your eyes and your
dad's. He was workin' and pinchin' to pay the two thousand to the
man in Middleford. He had hangin' over him every minute the
practical certainty that some day--some day sure--a person was
comin' along who knew his story and then the fat would all be in
the fire. And when it went into that fire he wouldn't be the only
one to be burnt; there would be his sister and Babbie--and you;
most of all, you."
She nodded. "Yes, yes, I know," she cried. "But why--oh, why
didn't he come to me and tell me? Why did he go without a word?
He must have known I would forgive him, no matter what he had done.
It wouldn't have made any difference, his having been in--in
prison. And now--now he may be--oh, Jed, he may be killed!"
She was sobbing again. Jed patted her hand. "We won't talk about
his bein' killed," he said stoutly. "I know he won't be; I feel it
in my bones. But, Maud, can't you see why he didn't come and tell
you before he went to enlist? Suppose he had. If you care for him
so much--as much as I judge you do--"
She interrupted. "Care for him!" she repeated. "Oh, Jed!"
"Yes, yes, dearie, I know. Well, then, carin' for him like that,
you'd have told him just what you told me then; that about his
havin' done what he did and havin' been where he's been not makin'
any difference. And you'd have begged and coaxed him to stay right
along in the bank, maybe? Eh?"
"Yes," defiantly. Of course I would. Why not?"
"And your father, would you have told him?"
She hesitated. "I don't know," she said, but with less assurance.
"Perhaps so, later on. It had all been kept a secret so far, all
the whole dreadful thing, why not a little longer? Besides--
besides, Father knows how much Charlie means to me. Father and I
had a long talk about him one night and I--I think he knows. And
he is very fond of Charlie himself; he has said so so many times.
He would have forgiven him, too, if I had asked him. He always
does what I ask."
"Yes, ye-es, I cal'late that's so. But, to be real honest now,
Maud, would you have been satisfied to have it that way? Would you
have felt that it was the honorable thing for Charlie to do? Isn't
what he has done better? He's undertakin' the biggest and finest
job a man can do in this world to-day, as I see it. It's the job
he'd have taken on months ago if he'd felt 'twas right to leave
Ruth--Mrs. Armstrong--so soon after--after bein' separated from her
so long. He's taken on this big job, this man's job, and he says
to you: 'Here I am. You know me now. Do you care for me still?
If you do will you wait till I come back?' And to your dad, to
Sam, he says: 'I ain't workin' for you now. I ain't on your
payroll and so I can speak out free and independent. If your
daughter'll have me I mean to marry her some day.' Ain't that the
better way, Maud? Ain't that how you'd rather have him feel--and
She sighed and shook her head. "I--I suppose so," she admitted.
"Oh, I suppose that you and he are right. In his letter he says
just that. Would you like to see it; that part of it, I mean?"
Jed took the crumpled and tear-stained letter from her hand.
"I think I ought to tell you, Maud," he said, "that writin' this
was his own idea. It was me that suggested his enlistin', although
I found he'd been thinkin' of it all along, but I was for havin'
him go and enlist and then come back and tell you and Sam. But he
says, 'No. I'll tell her in a letter and then when I come back
she'll have had time to think it over. She won't say 'yes' then
simply because she pities me or because she doesn't realize what it
means. No, I'll write her and then when I come back after enlistin'
and go to her for my answer, I'll know it's given deliberate.'"
She nodded. "He says that there," she said chokingly. "But he--he
must have known. Oh, Jed, how CAN I let him go--to war?"
That portion of the letter which Jed was permitted to read was
straightforward and honest and manly. There were no appeals for
pity or sympathy. The writer stated his case and left the rest to
her, that was all. And Jed, reading between the lines, respected
Charles Phillips more than ever.
He and Maud talked for a long time after that. And, at last, they
reached a point which Jed had tried his best to avoid. Maud
mentioned it first. She had been speaking of his friendship for
her lover and for herself.
"I don't see what we should have done without your help, Jed," she
said. "And when I think what you have done for Charlie! Why, yes--
and now I know why you pretended to have found the four hundred
dollars Father thought he had lost. Pa left it at Wapatomac, after
all; you knew that?"
Jed stirred uneasily. He was standing by the window, looking out
into the yard.
"Yes, yes," he said hastily, "I know. Don't talk about it, Maud.
It makes me feel more like a fool than usual and . . . er . . .
don't seem as if that was hardly necessary, does it?"
"But I shall talk about it. When Father came home that night he
couldn't talk of anything else. He called it the prize puzzle of
the century. You had given him four hundred dollars of your own
money and pretended it was his and that you had--had stolen it,
Jed. He burst out laughing when he told me that and so did I. The
idea of your stealing anything! You!"
Jed smiled, feebly.
"'Twas silly enough, I give in," he admitted. "You see," he added,
in an apologetic drawl, "nine-tenths of this town think I'm a prize
idiot and sometimes I feel it's my duty to live up--or down--to my
reputation. This was one of the times, that's all. I'm awful glad
Sam got his own money back, though."
"The money didn't amount to anything. But what you did was the
wonderful thing. For now I understand why you did it. You
thought--you thought Charlie had taken it to--to pay that horrid
man in Middleford. That is what you thought and you--"
Jed broke in. "Don't! Don't put me in mind of it, Maud," he
begged. "I'm so ashamed I don't know what to do. You see--you
see, Charlie had said how much he needed about that much money and--
and so, bein' a--a woodenhead, I naturally--"
"Oh, don't! Please don't! It was wonderful of you, Jed. You not
only gave up your own money, but you were willing to sacrifice your
good name; to have Father, your best friend, think you a thief.
And you did it all to save Charlie from exposure. How could you,
Jed didn't answer. He did not appear to have heard her. He was
gazing steadily out into the yard.
"How could you, Jed?" repeated Maud. "It was wonderful! I can't
She stopped at the beginning of the sentence. She was standing
beside the little writing-table and the drawer was open. She
looked down and there, in that drawer, she saw the framed
photograph of Ruth Armstrong. She remembered that Jed had been
sitting at that desk and gazing down into that drawer when she
entered the room. She looked at him now. He was standing by the
window peering out into the yard. Ruth had come from the back door
of the little Winslow house and was standing on the step looking up
the road, evidently waiting for Barbara to come from school. And
Jed was watching her. Maud saw the look upon his face--and she
A few moments later she and Ruth met. Maud had tried to avoid that
meeting by leaving Jed's premises by the front door, the door of
the outer shop. But Ruth had walked to the gate to see if Babbie
was coming and, as Maud emerged from the shop, the two women came
face to face. For an instant they did not speak. Maud, excited
and overwrought by her experience with the letter and her interview
with Jed, was still struggling for self-control, and Ruth, knowing
that the other must by this time have received that letter and
learned her brother's secret, was inclined to be coldly defiant.
She was the first to break the silence. She said "Good afternoon"
and passed on. But Maud, after another instant of hesitation,
"Oh, Mrs. Armstrong," she faltered, "may I speak with you just--
just for a few minutes?"
And now Ruth hesitated. What was it the girl wished to speak
about? If it was to reproach her or her brother, or to demand
further explanations or apologies, the interview had far better not
take place. She was in no mood to listen to reproaches. Charles
was, in her eyes, a martyr and a hero and now, largely because of
this girl, he was going away to certain danger, perhaps to death.
She had tried, for his sake, not to blame Maud Hunniwell because
Charles had fallen in love with her, but she was not, just then,
inclined toward extreme forbearance. So she hesitated, and Maud
"May I speak with you for just a few minutes?" she pleaded. "I
have just got his letter and--oh, may I?"
Ruth silently led the way to the door of the little house.
"Come in," she said.
Together they entered the sitting-room. Ruth asked her caller to
be seated, but Maud paid no attention.
"I have just got his letter," she faltered. "I--I wanted you to
know--to know that it doesn't make any difference. I--I don't
care. If he loves me, and--and he says he does--I don't care for
anything else. . . . Oh,' PLEASE be nice to me," she begged,
holding out her hands. "You are his sister and--and I love him so!
And he is going away from both of us."
So Ruth's coldness melted like a fall of snow in early April, and
the April showers followed it. She and Maud wept in each other's
arms and were femininely happy accordingly. And for at least a
half hour thereafter they discussed the surpassing excellencies of
Charlie Phillips, the certainty that Captain Hunniwell would
forgive him because he could not help it and a variety of kindred
and satisfying subjects. And at last Jed Winslow drifted into the
"And so you have been talking it over with Jed," observed Ruth.
"Isn't it odd how we all go to him when we are in trouble or need
advice or anything? I always do and Charlie did, and you say that
you do, too."
Maud nodded. "He and I have been what Pa calls 'chummies' ever
since I can remember," she said simply.
"I don't know why I feel that I can confide in him to such an
extent. Somehow I always have. And, do you know, his advice is
almost always good? If I had taken it from the first we might, all
of us, have avoided a deal of trouble. I have cause to think of
Jed Winslow as something sure and safe and trustworthy. Like a
nice, kindly old watch dog, you know. A queer one and a funny one,
but awfully nice. Babbie idolizes him."
Maud nodded again. She was regarding her companion with an odd
"And when I think," continued Ruth, "of how he was willing to
sacrifice his character and his honor and even to risk losing your
father's friendship--how he proclaimed himself a thief to save
Charlie! When I think of that I scarcely know whether to laugh or
cry. I want to do both, of course. It was perfectly
characteristic and perfectly adorable--and so absolutely absurd. I
love him for it, and as yet I haven't dared thank him for fear I
shall cry again, as I did when Captain Hunniwell told us. Yet,
when I think of his declaring he took the money to buy a suit of
clothes, I feel like laughing. Oh, he IS a dear, isn't he?"
Now, ordinarily, Maud would have found nothing in this speech to
arouse resentment. There was the very slight, and in this case
quite unintentional, note of patronage in it that every one used
when referring to Jed Winslow. She herself almost invariably used
that note when speaking of him or even to him. But now her
emotions were so deeply stirred and the memories of her recent
interview with Jed, of his understanding and his sympathy, were so
vivid. And, too, she had just had that glimpse into his most
secret soul. So her tone, as she replied to Ruth's speech, was
"He didn't do it for Charlie," she declared. "That is, of course
he did, but that wasn't the real reason."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"Don't you know what I mean? Don't you really know?"
"Why, of course I don't. What ARE you talking about? Didn't do it
for Charlie? Didn't say that he was a thief and give your father
his own money, do you mean? Do you mean he didn't do that for
"Yes. He did it for you."
"For me? For ME?"
"Yes. . . . Oh, can't you understand? It's absurd and foolish and
silly and everything, but I know it's true. Jed Winslow is in love
with you, Mrs. Armstrong."
Ruth leaned back in her chair and stared at her as if she thought
"In love with ME?" she repeated. "Jed Winslow! Maud, don't!"
"It's true, I tell you. I didn't know until just now, although if
it had been any one but Jed I should have suspected for some time.
But to-day when I went in there I saw him sitting before his desk
looking down into an open drawer there. He has your photograph in
that drawer. And, later on, when you came out into the yard, I saw
him watching you; I saw his face and that was enough. . . . Oh,
don't you SEE?" impatiently. "It explains everything. You
couldn't understand, nor could I, why he should sacrifice himself
so for Charlie. But because Charlie was your brother--that is
another thing. Think, just think! You and I would have guessed it
before if he had been any one else except just Jed. Yes, he is in
love with you. . . . It's crazy and it's ridiculous and--and all
that, of course it is. But," with a sudden burst of temper, "if
you--if you dare to laugh I'll never speak to you again."
But Ruth was not laughing.
It was a cloudy day and Jed's living-room was almost dark when Ruth
entered it. Jed, who had been sitting by the desk, rose when she
"Land sakes, Ruth," he exclaimed, "it's you, ain't it? Let me
light a lamp. I was settin' here in the dark like a . . . like a
hen gone to roost. . . . Eh? Why, it's 'most supper 'time, ain't
it? Didn't realize 'twas so late. I'll have a light for you in a
He was on his way to the kitchen, but she stopped him.
"No," she said quickly. "Don't get a light. I'd rather not,
please. And sit down again, Jed; just as you were. There, by the
desk; that's it. You see," she added, "I--I--well, I have
something to tell you, and--and I can tell it better in the dark, I
Jed looked at her in surprise. He could not see her face plainly,
but she seemed oddly confused and embarrassed.
"Sho!" he drawled. "Well, I'm sure I ain't anxious about the
light, myself. You know, I've always had a feelin' that the dark
was more becomin' to my style of beauty. Take me about twelve
o'clock in a foggy night, in a cellar, with the lamp out, and I
look pretty nigh handsome--to a blind man. . . . Um-hm."
She made no comment on this confession. Jed, after waiting an
instant for her to speak, ventured a reminder.
"Don't mind my talkin' foolishness," he said, apologetically. "I'm
feelin' a little more like myself than I have for--for a week or
so, and when I feel that way I'm bound to be foolish. Just gettin'
back to nature, as the magazine folks tell about, I cal'late 'tis."
She leaned forward and laid a hand on his sleeve.
"Don't!" she begged. "Don't talk about yourself in that way, Jed.
When I think what a friend you have been to me and mine I--I can't
bear to hear you say such things. I have never thanked you for
what you did to save my brother when you thought he had gone wrong
again. I can't thank you now--I can't."
Her voice broke. Jed twisted in his seat.
"Now--now, Ruth," he pleaded, "do let's forget that. I've made a
fool of myself a good many times in my life--more gettin' back to
nature, you see--but I hope I never made myself out quite such a
blitherin' numbskull as I did that time. Don't talk about it,
don't. I ain't exactly what you'd call proud of it."
"But I am. And so is Charlie. But I won't talk of it if you
prefer I shouldn't. . . . Jed--" she hesitated, faltered, and then
began again: "Jed," she said, "I told you when I came in that I had
something to tell you. I have. I have told no one else, not even
Charlie, because he went away before I was--quite sure. But now I
am going to tell you because ever since I came here you have been
my father confessor, so to speak. You realize that, don't you?"
Jed rubbed his chin.
"W-e-e-ll," he observed, with great deliberation, "I don't know's
I'd go as far as to say that. Babbie and I've agreed that I'm her
back-step-uncle, but that's as nigh relation as I've ever dast
figure I was to the family."
"Don't joke about it. You know what I mean. Well, Jed, this is
what I am going to tell you. It is very personal and very
confidential and you must promise not to tell any one yet. Will
"Eh? Why, sartin, of course."
"Yes. I hope you may be glad to hear it. It would make you glad
to know that I was happy, wouldn't it?"
For the first time Jed did not answer in the instant. The shadows
were deep in the little living-room now, but Ruth felt that he was
leaning forward and looking at her.
"Yes," he said, after a moment. "Yes . . . but--I don't know as I
know exactly what you mean, do I?"
"You don't--yet. But I hope you will be glad when you do. Jed,
you like Major Grover, don't you?"
Jed did not move perceptibly, but she heard his chair creak. He
was still leaning forward and she knew his gaze was fixed upon her
"Yes," he said very slowly. "I like him first-rate."
"I'm glad. Because--well, because I have come to like him so much.
Jed, he--he has asked me to be his wife."
There was absolute stillness in the little room. Then, after what
seemed to her several long minutes, he spoke.
"Yes . . . yes, I see . . ." he said. "And you? You've . . ."
"At first I could not answer him. My brother's secret was in the
way and I could not tell him that. But last night--or this
morning--Charlie and I discussed all our affairs and he gave me
permission to tell--Leonard. So when he came to-day I told him.
He said it made no difference. And--and I am going to marry him,
Jed's chair creaked again, but that was the only sound. Ruth
waited until she felt that she could wait no longer. Then she
stretched out a hand toward him in the dark.
"Oh, Jed," she cried, "aren't you going to say anything to me--
anything at all?"
She heard him draw a long breath. Then he spoke.
"Why--why, yes, of course," he said. "I--I--of course I am. I--
you kind of got me by surprise, that's all. . . . I hadn't--hadn't
expected it, you see."
"I know. Even Charlie was surprised. But you're glad, for my
sake, aren't you, Jed?"
"Eh? . . . Yes, oh, yes! I'm--I'm glad."
"I hope you are. If it were not for poor Charlie's going away and
the anxiety about him and his problem I should be very happy--
happier than I believed I ever could be again. You're glad of
that, aren't you, Jed?"
"Eh? . . . Yes, yes, of course. . . ."
"And you will congratulate me? You like Major Grover? Please say
Jed rose slowly from his chair. He passed a hand in dazed fashion
across his forehead.
"Yes," he said, again. "The major's a fine man. . . . I do
congratulate you, ma'am."
"Oh, Jed! Not that way. As if you meant it."
"Eh? . . . I--I do mean it. . . . I hope--I hope you'll be real
happy, both of you, ma'am."
"Oh, not that--Ruth."
"Yes--yes, sartin, of course . . . Ruth, I mean."
She left him standing by the writing table. After she had gone he
sank slowly down into the chair again. Eight o'clock struck and he
was still sitting there. . . . And Fate chose that time to send
Captain Sam Hunniwell striding up the walk and storming furiously
at the back door.
"Jed!" roared the captain. "Jed Winslow! Jed!"
Jed lifted his head from his hands. He most decidedly did not wish
to see Captain Sam or any one else.
"Jed!" roared the captain again.
Jed accepted the inevitable. "Here I am," he groaned, miserably.
The captain did not wait for an invitation to enter. Having
ascertained that the owner of the building was within, he pulled
the door open and stamped into the kitchen.
"Where are you?" he demanded.
"Here," replied Jed, without moving.
"Here? Where's here? . . . Oh, you're in there, are you? Hidin'
there in the dark, eh? Afraid to show me your face, I shouldn't
wonder. By the gracious king, I should think you would be! What
have you got to say to me, eh?"
Apparently Jed had nothing to say. Captain Sam did not wait.
"And you've called yourself my friend!" he sneered savagely.
"Friend--you're a healthy friend, Jed Winslow! What have you got
to say to me . . . eh?"
Jed sighed. "Maybe I'd be better able to say it if I knew what you
was talkin' about, Sam," he observed, drearily.
"Know! I guess likely you know all right. And according to her
you've known all along. What do you mean by lettin' me take that--
that state's prison bird into my bank? And lettin' him associate
with my daughter and--and . . . Oh, by gracious king! When I think
that you knew what he was all along, I--I--"
His anger choked off the rest of the sentence. Jed rubbed his eyes
and sat up in his chair. For the first time since the captain's
entrance he realized a little of what the latter said. Before that
he had been conscious only of his own dull, aching, hopeless misery.
"Hum. . . . So you've found out, Sam, have you?" he mused.
"Found out! You bet I've found out! I only wish to the Lord I'd
found out months ago, that's all."
"Hum. . . . Charlie didn't tell you? . . . No-o, no, he couldn't
have got back so soon."
"Back be hanged! I don't know whether he's back or not, blast him.
But I ain't a fool ALL the time, Jed Winslow, not all the time I
ain't. And when I came home tonight and found Maud cryin' to
herself and no reason for it, so far as I could see, I set out to
learn that reason. And I did learn it. She told me the whole
yarn, the whole of it. And I saw the scamp's letter. And I
dragged out of her that you--you had known all the time what he
was, and had never told me a word. . . . Oh, how could you, Jed!
How could you!"
Jed's voice was a trifle less listless as he answered.
"It was told me in confidence, Sam," he said. "I COULDN'T tell
you. And, as time went along and I began to see what a fine boy
Charlie really was, I felt sure 'twould all come out right in the
end. And it has, as I see it."
"Yes, it's come out all right. Charlie's gone to fight, same as
every decent young feller wants to do. He thinks the world of Maud
and she does of him, but he was honorable enough not to ask her
while he worked for you, Sam. He wrote the letter after he'd gone
so as to make it easier for her to say no, if she felt like sayin'
it. And when he came back from enlistin' he was goin' straight to
you to make a clean breast of everything. He's a good boy, Sam.
He's had hard luck and he's been in trouble, but he's all right and
I know it. And you know it, too, Sam Hunniwell. Down inside you
you know it, too. Why, you've told me a hundred times what a fine
chap Charlie Phillips was and how much you thought of him, and--"
Captain Hunniwell interrupted. "Shut up!" he commanded. "Don't
talk to me that way! Don't you dare to! I did think a lot of him,
but that was before I knew what he'd done and where he'd been. Do
you cal'late I'll let my daughter marry a man that's been in
"But, Sam, it wan't all his fault, really. And he'll go straight
from this on. I know he will."
"Shut up! He can go to the devil from this on, but he shan't take
her with him. . . . Why, Jed, you know what Maud is to me. She's
all I've got. She's all I've contrived for and worked for in this
world. Think of all the plans I've made for her!"
"I know, Sam, I know; but pretty often our plans don't work out
just as we make 'em. Sometimes we have to change 'em--or give 'em
up. And you want Maud to be happy."
"Happy! I want to be happy myself, don't I? Do you think I'm
goin' to give up all my plans and all my happiness just--just
because she wants to make a fool of herself? Give 'em up! It's
easy for you to say 'give up.' What do you know about it?"
It was the last straw. Jed sprang to his feet so suddenly that his
chair fell to the floor.
"Know about it!" he burst forth, with such fierce indignation that
the captain actually gasped in astonishment. "Know about it!"
repeated Jed. "What do I know about givin' up my own plans and--
and hopes, do you mean? Oh, my Lord above! Ain't I been givin'
'em up and givin' 'em up all my lifelong? When I was a boy didn't
I give up the education that might have made me a--a MAN instead
of--of a town laughin' stock? While Mother lived was I doin' much
but give up myself for her? I ain't sayin' 'twas any more'n right
that I should, but I did it, didn't I? And ever since it's been
the same way. I tell you, I've come to believe that life for me
means one 'give up' after the other and won't mean anything but
that till I die. And you--you ask me what I know about it! YOU
Captain Sam was so taken aback that he was almost speechless. In
all his long acquaintance with Jed Winslow he had never seen him
"Why--why, Jed!" he stammered. But Jed was not listening. He
strode across the room and seized his visitor by the arm.
"You go home, Sam Hunniwell," he ordered. "Go home and think--
THINK, I tell you. All your life you've had just what I haven't.
You married the girl you wanted and you and she were happy
together. You've been looked up to and respected here in Orham;
folks never laughed at you or called you 'town crank.' You've got
a daughter and she's a good girl. And the man she wants to marry
is a good man, and, if you'll give him a chance and he lives
through the war he's goin' into, he'll make you proud of him. You
go home, Sam Hunniwell! Go home, and thank God you're what you are
and AS you are. . . . No, I won't talk! I don't want to talk! . . .
He had been dragging his friend to the door. Now he actually
pushed him across the threshold and slammed the door between them.
"Well, for . . . the Lord . . . sakes!" exclaimed Captain Hunniwell.
The scraping of the key in the lock was his only answer.
A child spends time and thought and energy upon the building of a
house of blocks. By the time it is nearing completion it has
become to him a very real edifice. Therefore, when it collapses
into an ungraceful heap upon the floor it is poor consolation to be
reminded that, after all, it was merely a block house and couldn't
be expected to stand.
Jed, in his own child-like fashion, had reared his moonshine castle
beam by beam. At first he had regarded it as moonshine and had
refused to consider the building of it anything but a dangerously
pleasant pastime. And then, little by little, as his dreams
changed to hopes, it had become more and more real, until, just
before the end, it was the foundation upon which his future was to
rest. And down it came, and there was his future buried in the
And it had been all moonshine from the very first. Jed, sitting
there alone in his little living-room, could see now that it had
been nothing but that. Ruth Armstrong, young, charming, cultured--
could she have thought of linking her life with that of Jedidah
Edgar Wilfred Winslow, forty-five, "town crank" and builder of
windmills? Of course not--and again of course not. Obviously she
never had thought of such a thing. She had been grateful, that was
all; perhaps she had pitied him just a little and behind her
expressions of kindliness and friendship was pity and little else.
Moonshine--moonshine--moonshine. And, oh, what a fool he had been!
What a poor, silly fool!
So the night passed and morning came and with it a certain degree
of bitterly philosophic acceptance of the situation. He WAS a
fool; so much was sure. He was of no use in the world, he never
had been. People laughed at him and he deserved to be laughed at.
He rose from the bed upon which he had thrown himself some time
during the early morning hours and, after eating a cold mouthful or
two in lieu of breakfast, sat down at his turning lathe. He could
make children's whirligigs, that was the measure of his capacity.
All the forenoon the lathe hummed. Several times steps sounded on
the front walk and the latch of the shop door rattled, but Jed did
not rise from his seat. He had not unlocked that door, he did not
mean to for the present. He did not want to wait on customers; he
did not want to see callers; he did not want to talk or be talked
to. He did not want to think, either, but that he could not help.
And he could not shut out all the callers. One, who came a little
after noon, refused to remain shut out. She pounded the door and
shouted "Uncle Jed" for some few minutes; then, just as Jed had
begun to think she had given up and gone away, he heard a thumping
upon the window pane and, looking up, saw her laughing and nodding
"I see you, Uncle Jed," she called. "Let me in, please."
So Jed was obliged to let her in and she entered with a skip and a
jump, quite unconscious that her "back-step-uncle" was in any way
different, either in feelings or desire for her society, than he
had been for months.
"Why did you have the door locked, Uncle Jed?" she demanded. "Did
you forget to unlock it?"
Jed, without looking at her, muttered something to the effect that
he cal'lated he must have.
"Um-hm," she observed, with a nod of comprehension. "I thought
that was it. You did it once before, you know. It was a ex-eccen-
trick, leaving it locked was, I guess. Don't you think it was a--
a--one of those kind of tricks, Uncle Jed?"
Silence, except for the hum and rasp of the lathe.
"Don't you, Uncle Jed?" repeated Barbara.
"Eh? . . . Oh, yes, I presume likely so."
Babbie, sitting on the lumber pile, kicked her small heels together
and regarded him with speculative interest.
"Uncle Jed," she said, after a few moments of silent consideration,
"what do you suppose Petunia told me just now?"
"What do you suppose Petunia told me?" repeated Babbie. "Something
about you 'twas, Uncle Jed."
Still Jed did not reply. His silence was not deliberate; he had
been so absorbed in his own pessimistic musings that he had not
heard the question, that was all. Barbara tried again.
"She told me she guessed you had been thinking AWF'LY hard about
something this time, else you wouldn't have so many eccen-tricks
Silence yet. Babbie swallowed hard:
"I--I don't think I like eccen-tricks, Uncle Jed," she faltered.
Not a word. Then Jed, stooping to pick up a piece of wood from the
pile of cut stock beside the lathe, was conscious of a little
sniff. He looked up. His small visitor's lip was quivering and
two big tears were just ready to overflow her lower lashes.
"Eh? . . . Mercy sakes alive!" he exclaimed. "Why, what's the
The lip quivered still more. "I--I don't like to have you not
speak to me," sobbed Babbie. "You--you never did it so--so long
That appeal was sufficient. Away, for the time, went Jed's
pessimism and his hopeless musings. He forgot that he was a fool,
the "town crank," and of no use in the world. He forgot his own
heartbreak, chagrin and disappointment. A moment later Babbie was
on his knee, hiding her emotion in the front of his jacket, and he
was trying his best to soothe her with characteristic Winslow
"You mustn't mind me, Babbie," he declared. "My--my head ain't
workin' just right to-day, seems so. I shouldn't wonder if--if I
wound it too tight, or somethin' like that."
Babbie's tear-stained face emerged from the jacket front.
"Wound your HEAD too tight, Uncle Jed?" she cried.
"Ye-es, yes. I was kind of extra absent-minded yesterday and I
thought I wound the clock, but I couldn't have done that 'cause the
clock's stopped. Yet I know I wound somethin' and it's just as
liable to have been my head as anything else. You listen just back
of my starboard ear there and see if I'm tickin' reg'lar."
The balance of the conversation between the two was of a distinctly
"You see, Uncle Jed," said Barbara, as she jumped from his knee
preparatory to running off to school, "I don't like you to do
eccen-tricks and not talk to me. I don't like it at all and
neither does Petunia. You won't do any more--not for so long at a
time, will you, Uncle Jed?"
Jed sighed. "I'll try not to," he said, soberly.
She nodded. "Of course," she observed, "we shan't mind you doing a
few, because you can't help that. But you mustn't sit still and
not pay attention when we talk for ever and ever so long. I--I
don't know precactly what I and Petunia would do if you wouldn't
talk to us, Uncle Jed."
"Don't, eh? Humph! I presume likely you'd get along pretty well.
I ain't much account."
Barbara looked at him in horrified surprise.
"Oh, Uncle Jed!" she cried, "you mustn't talk so! You MUSTN'T!
Why--why, you're the bestest man there is. And there isn't anybody
in Orham can make windmills the way you can. I asked Teacher if
there was and she said no. So there! And you're a GREAT
cons'lation to all our family," she added, solemnly. "We just
couldn't ever--EVER do without you."
When the child went Jed did not take the trouble to lock the door
after her; consequently his next callers entered without difficulty
and came directly to the inner shop. Jed, once more absorbed in
gloomy musings--not quite as gloomy, perhaps; somehow the clouds
had not descended quite so heavily upon his soul since Babbie's
visit--looked up to see there standing behind him Maud Hunniwell
and Charlie Phillips.
He sprang to his feet. "Eh?" he cried, delightedly. "Well, well,
so you're back, Charlie, safe and sound. Well, well!"
Phillips grasped the hand which Jed had extended and shook it
"Yes, I'm back," he said.
"Um-hm. . . . And--er--how did you leave Uncle Sam? Old feller's
pretty busy these days, 'cordin' to the papers."
"Yes, I imagine he is."
"Um-hm. . . . Well, did you--er--make him happy? Give his army
the one thing needful to make it--er--perfect?"
Charlie laughed. "If you mean did I add myself to it," he said, "I
did. I am an enlisted man now, Jed. As soon as Von Hindenburg
hears that, he'll commit suicide, I'm sure."
Jed insisted on shaking hands with him again. "You're a lucky
feller, Charlie," he declared. "I only wish I had your chance.
Yes, you're lucky--in a good many ways," with a glance at Maud.
"And, speaking of Uncle Sam," he added, "reminds me of--well, of
Daddy Sam. How's he behavin' this mornin'? I judge from the fact
that you two are together he's a little more rational than he was
last night. . . . Eh?"
Phillips looked puzzled, but Maud evidently understood. "Daddy has
been very nice to-day," she said, demurely. "Charlie had a long
talk with him and--and--"
"And he was mighty fine," declared Phillips with emphasis. "We had
a heart to heart talk and I held nothing back. I tell you, Jed, it
did me good to speak the truth, whole and nothing but. I told
Captain Hunniwell that I didn't deserve his daughter. He agreed
with me there, of course."
"Nonsense!" interrupted Maud, with a happy laugh.
"Not a bit of nonsense. We agreed that no one was good enough for
you. But I told him I wanted that daughter very much indeed and,
provided she was agreeable and was willing to wait until the war
was over and I came back; taking it for granted, of course, that I--"
He hesitated, bit his lip and looked apprehensively at Miss
Hunniwell. Jed obligingly helped him over the thin ice.
"Provided you come back a major general or--or a commodore or a
corporal's guard or somethin'," he observed.
"Yes," gratefully, "that's it. I'm sure to be a high private at
least. Well, to cut it short, Jed, I told Captain Hunniwell all my
past and my hopes and plans for the future. He was forgiving and
forbearing and kinder than I had any right to expect. We
understand each other now and he is willing, always provided that
Maud is willing, too, to give me my opportunity to make good. That
is all any one could ask."
"Yes, I should say 'twas. . . . But Maud, how about her? You had
consider'ble of a job makin' her see that you was worth waitin'
for, I presume likely, eh?"
Maud laughed and blushed and bade him behave himself. Jed demanded
to be told more particulars concerning the enlisting. So Charles
told the story of his Boston trip, while Maud looked and listened
adoringly, and Jed, watching the young people's happiness, was, for
the time, almost happy himself.
When they rose to go Charlie laid a hand on Jed's shoulder.
"I can't tell you," he said, "what a brick you've been through all
this. If it hadn't been for you, old man, I don't know how it
might have ended. We owe you about everything, Maud and I. You've
been a wonder, Jed."
Jed waved a deprecating hand. "Don't talk so, Charlie," he said,
"But, I tell you, I--"
"Don't. . . . You see," with a twist of the lip, "it don't do to
tell a--a screech owl he's a canary. He's liable to believe it by
and by and start singin' in public. . . . Then he finds out he's
just a fool owl, and has been all along. Humph! Me a wonder! . . .
A blunder, you mean."
Neither of the young people had ever heard him use that tone before.
They both cried out in protest.
"Look here, Jed--" began Phillips.
Maud interrupted. "Just a moment, Charlie," she said. "Let me
tell him what Father said last night. When he went out he left me
crying and so miserable that I wanted to die. He had found
Charlie's letter and we--we had had a dreadful scene and he had
spoken to me as I had never heard him speak before. And, later,
after he came back I was almost afraid to have him come into the
room where I was. But he was just as different as could be. He
told me he had been thinking the matter over and had decided that,
perhaps, he had been unreasonable and silly and cross. Then he
said some nice things about Charlie, quite different from what he
said at first. And when we had made it all up and I asked him what
had changed his mind so he told me it was you, Jed. He said he
came to you and you put a flea in his ear. He wouldn't tell me
what he meant, but he simply smiled and said you had put a flea in
Jed, himself, could not help smiling faintly.
"W-e-e-ll," he drawled, "I didn't use any sweet ile on the job,
that's sartin. If he said I pounded it in with a club 'twouldn't
have been much exaggeration."
"So we owe you that, too," continued Maud. "And, afterwards, when
Daddy and I were talking we agreed that you were probably the best
man in Orham. There!"
And she stooped impulsively and kissed him.
Jed, very much embarrassed, shook his head. "That--er--insect I
put in your pa's ear must have touched both your brains, I
cal'late," he drawled. But he was pleased, nevertheless. If he
was a fool it was something to have people think him a good sort of
It was almost four o'clock when Jed's next visitor came. He was
the one man whom he most dreaded to meet just then. Yet he hid his
feelings and rose with hand outstretched.
"Why, good afternoon, Major!" he exclaimed. "Real glad to see you.
Grover sat. "Jed," he said, "Ruth tells me that you know of my
good fortune. Will you congratulate me?"
Jed's reply was calm and deliberate and he did his best to make it
sound whole-hearted and sincere.
"I sartin do," he declared. "Anybody that wouldn't congratulate
you on that could swap his head for a billiard ball and make money
on the dicker; the ivory he'd get would be better than the bone he
gave away. . . . Yes, Major Grover, you're a lucky man."
To save his life he could not entirely keep the shake from his
voice as he said it. If Grover noticed it he put it down to the
sincerity of the speaker.
"Thank you," he said. "I realize my luck, I assure you. And now,
Jed, first of all, let me thank you. Ruth has told me what a loyal
friend and counselor you have been to her and she and I both are
very, very grateful."
Jed stirred uneasily. "Sho, sho!" he protested. "I haven't done
anything. Don't talk about it, please. I--I'd rather you
"Very well, since you wish it, I won't. But she and I will always
think of it, you may be sure of that. I dropped in here now just
to tell you this and to thank you personally. And I wanted to tell
you, too, that I think we need not fear Babbitt's talking too much.
Of course it would not make so much difference now if he did;
Charlie will be away and doing what all decent people will respect
him for doing, and you and I can see that Ruth does not suffer.
But I think Babbitt will keep still. I hope I have frightened him;
I certainly did my best."
Jed rubbed his chin.
"I'm kind of sorry for Phin," he observed.
"Are you? For heaven's sake, why?"
"Oh, I don't know. When you've been goin' around ever since
January loaded up to the muzzle with spite and sure-thing
vengeance, same as an old-fashioned horse pistol used to be loaded
with powder and ball, it must be kind of hard, just as you're set
to pull trigger, to have to quit and swaller the whole charge.
Liable to give you dyspepsy, if nothin' worse, I should say."
Grover smiled. "The last time I saw Babbitt he appeared to be
nearer apoplexy than dyspepsia," he said.
"Ye-es. Well, I'm sorry for him, I really am. It must be pretty
dreadful to be so cross-grained that you can't like even your own
self without feelin' lonesome. . . . Yes, that's a bad state of
affairs. . . . I don't know but I'd almost rather be 'town crank'
The Major's farewell remark, made as he rose to go, contained an
element of mystery.
"I shall have another matter to talk over with you soon, Jed," he
said. "But that will come later, when my plans are more complete.
Good afternoon and thank you once more. You've been pretty fine
through all this secret-keeping business, if you don't mind my
saying so. And a mighty true friend. So true," he added, "that I
shall, in all probability, ask you to assume another trust for me
before long. I can't think of any one else to whom I could so
safely leave it. Good-by."
One more visitor came that afternoon. To be exact, he did not come
until evening. He opened the outer door very softly and tiptoed
into the living-room. Jed was sitting by the little "gas burner"
stove, one knee drawn up and his foot swinging. There was a
saucepan perched on top of the stove. A small hand lamp on the
table furnished the only light. He did not hear the person who
entered and when a big hand was laid upon his shoulder he started
"Eh?" he exclaimed, his foot falling with a thump to the floor.
"Who? . . . Oh, it's you, ain't it, Sam? . . . Good land, you
made me jump! I must be gettin' nervous, I guess."
Captain Sam looked at him in some surprise. "Gracious king, I
believe you are," he observed. "I didn't think you had any nerves,
Jed. No, nor any temper, either, until last night. You pretty
nigh blew me out of water then. Ho, ho!"
Jed was much distressed. "Sho, sho, Sam," he stammered; "I'm awful
sorry about that. I--I wasn't feelin' exactly--er--first rate or I
wouldn't have talked to you that way. I--I--you know I didn't mean
it, don't you, Sam?"
The captain pulled forward a chair and sat down. He chuckled.
"Well, I must say it did sound as if you meant it, Jed," he
declared. "Yes, sir, I cal'late the average person would have been
willin' to risk a small bet--say a couple of million--that you
meant it. When you ordered me to go home I just tucked my tail
down and went. Yes, sir, if you didn't mean it you had ME fooled.
Jed's distress was keener than ever. "Mercy sakes alive!" he
cried. "Did I tell you to go home, Sam? Yes, yes, I remember I
did. Sho, sho! . . . Well, I'm awful sorry. I hope you'll
forgive me. 'Twan't any way for a feller like me to talk--to you."
Captain Sam's big hand fell upon his friend's knee with a stinging
slap. "You're wrong there, Jed," he declared, with emphasis.
"'Twas just the way for you to talk to me. I needed it; and," with
another chuckle, "I got it, too, didn't I? Ho, ho!"
"Sam, I snum, I--"
"Sshh! You're goin' to say you're sorry again; I can see it in
your eye. Well, don't you do it. You told me to go home and
think, Jed, and those were just the orders I needed. I did go home
and I did think. . . . Humph! Thinkin's a kind of upsettin' job
sometimes, ain't it, especially when you sit right down and think
about yourself, what you are compared to what you think you are.
Ever think about yourself that way, Jed?"
It was a moment before Jed answered. Then all he said was, "Yes."
"I mean have you done it lately? Just given yourself right up to
Jed sighed. "Ye-es," he drawled. "I shouldn't wonder if I had,
"Well, probably 'twan't as disturbin' a job with you as 'twas for
me. You didn't have as high a horse to climb down off of. I
thought and thought and thought and the more I thought the meaner
the way I'd acted and talked to Maud seemed to me. I liked
Charlie; I'd gone around this county for months braggin' about what
a smart, able chap he was. As I told you once I'd rather have had
her marry him than anybody else I know. And I had to give in that
the way he'd behaved--his goin' off and enlistin', settlin' that
before he asked her or spoke to me, was a square, manly thing to
do. The only thing I had against him was that Middleford mess.
And I believe he's a GOOD boy in spite of it."
"He is, Sam. That Middleford trouble wan't all his fault, by any
"I know. He told me this mornin'. Well, then, if he and Maud love
each other, thinks I, what right have I to say they shan't be
happy, especially as they're both willin' to wait? Why should I
say he can't at least have his chance to make good? Nigh's I could
make out the only reason was my pride and the big plans I'd made
for my girl. I came out of my thinkin' spell with my mind made up
that what ailed me was selfishness and pride. So I talked it over
with her last night and with Charlie to-day. The boy shall have
his chance. Both of 'em shall have their chance, Jed. They're
happy and--well, I feel consider'ble better myself. All else there
is to do is to just hope to the Lord it turns out right."
"That's about all, Sam. And I feel pretty sure it's goin' to."
"Yes, I know you do. Course those big plans of mine that I used to
make--her marryin' some rich chap, governor or senator or
somethin'--they're all gone overboard. I used to wish and wish for
her, like a young-one wishin' on a load of hay, or the first star
at night, or somethin'. But if we can't have our wishes, why--why--
then we'll do without 'em. Eh?"
Jed rubbed his chin. "Sam," he said, "I've been doin' a little
thinkin' myself. . . . Ye-es, consider'ble thinkin'. . . . Fact
is, seems now as if I hadn't done anything BUT think since the
world was cranked up and started turnin' over. And I guess there's
only one answer. When we can't have our wishes then it's up to us
"Well, to what?"
"Why, to stick to our jobs and grin, that's about all. 'Tain't
much, I know, especially jobs like some of us have, but it's
Captain Sam nodded. "It's a good deal, Jed," he declared. "It's
some stunt to grin--in these days."
Jed rose slowly to his feet. He threw back his shoulders with the
gesture of one determined to rid himself of a burden.
"It is--it is so, Sam," he drawled. "But maybe that makes it a
little more worth while. What do you think?"
His friend regarded him thoughtfully. "Jed," he said, "I never saw
anybody who had the faculty of seein' straight through to the
common sense inside of things the way you have. Maud and I were
talkin' about that last night. 'Go home and think and thank God,'
you said to me. And that was what I needed to do. 'Enlist and
you'll be independent,' you said to Charlie and it set him on the
road. 'Stick to your job and grin,' you say now. How do you do
it, Jed? Remember one time I told you I couldn't decide whether
you was a dum fool or a King Solomon? I know now. Of the two of
us I'm nigher to bein' the dum fool; and, by the gracious king, you
ARE a King Solomon."
Jed slowly shook his head. "Sam," he said, sadly, "if you knew
what I know about me you'd . . . but there, you're talkin' wild. I
was cal'latin' to have a cup of tea and you'd better have one, too.
I'm heatin' some water on top of the stove now. It must be about
He lifted the saucepan from the top of the "gas burner" and tested
the water with his finger.
"Hum," he mused, "it's stone cold. I can't see why it hasn't het
faster. I laid a nice fresh fire, too."
He opened the stove door and looked in.
"Hum . . ." he said, again. "Yes, yes . . . I laid it but, I--er--
hum . . . I forgot to light it, that's all. Well, that proves I'm
King Solomon for sartin. Probably he did things like that every
day or so. . . . Give me a match, will you, Sam?"
It had been a chill morning in early spring when Charlie Phillips
went to Boston to enlist. Now it was a balmy evening in August and
Jed sat upon a bench by his kitchen door looking out to sea. The
breeze was light, barely sufficient to turn the sails of the little
mills, again so thickly sprinkled about the front yard, or to cause
the wooden sailors to swing their paddles. The August moon was
rising gloriously behind the silver bar of the horizon. From the
beach below the bluff came the light laughter of a group of summer
young folk, strolling from the hotel to the post-office by the
Babbie, who had received permission to sit up and see the moon
rise, was perched upon the other end of the bench, Petunia in her
arms. A distant drone, which had been audible for some time, was
gradually becoming a steady humming roar. A few moments later and
a belated hydro-aeroplane passed across the face of the moon, a